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There are a lot of things I like about co-op gameplay.  Being able to coordinate with teammates to reach an overall objective is, in my opinion, the best way to play games.  Sometimes a single player campaign will catch your eye or stick with you, but for the most part when the campaigns are over most of us turn to multiplayer or co-op to get the most out of our games.  Occasionally, a company will design a game with little to no campaign and just focus on the multiplayer and co-op experience, but this is typically hamstrung by the fact you need to buy items in game or fork over a huge amount of cash for downloadable content to get a more rounded out game experience.  Destiny is a huge example of how you need the dlc to even play certain levels to get the most out of your game.  While I get the need to provide more content and make money at it, I feel that gamers without large wallets are starting to become victims of this pay to play mentality.   Thankfully, Evolve is changing this for the better.

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Evolve is the newest title from developer Turtle Rock Studios and publisher 2K Games.   Evolve is pretty straight forward in terms of basic gameplay, but where it shines is how you approach the various scenarios with your team.  Think of it like chess; easy to learn, and hard to master.  Evolve is a fully co-op game without a campaign mode and I know some of you are rolling your eyes already.  Patience.  The main concept of Evolve is that you are a 4-person squad tasked with your basic bug hunt, except that one of your compatriots is the monster.  This is a 4 on 1 battle for survival where the best man/woman or monster can win.

 

The overall story is that your group of hunters is dropped into hot areas and needs to assist the local scientists, rescue survivors, destroy nests, or defend certain points.  The hunter group consists of 4 players (or AI) each of varying classes; Assault, Trapper, Support and the Medic.  Assault is your basic tank/damage dealer, the Trapper is great at locking down the monster and slowing it, while Support buffs the team with different abilities depending on which character you selected. The medic is pretty obvious and tries to keep their teammates in the fight for as long as possible. This squad will be pitted against a certain monster in one of the previously listed scenarios.  One of the nicer points is that each class has 3 different characters to unlock as you become more proficient with your character’s particular abilities.  For example: Eva is your starting Medic and the group’s sniper.  She has a healing beam that continuously heals damaged players, and a bolt action sniper that has armor piercing rounds.  Now after you level her up, you will unlock Lazarus who is also a Medic, but he can cloak and revive fallen comrades instantly.  Each class progresses the same way and has enough variations between new characters to keep you engaged and entertained even if someone picks the class you wanted for the next round.

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If you select, or get selected, to be the monster you’re in for a treat.  There are a total of three: Goliath, Kraken, and the Wraith.  Like the hunters, each monster has their own strengths and weaknesses, be it brute strength, flight, or cloaking.  I won’t divulge too much on the monsters’ individual abilities because unlocking them is all part of the fun.  The monster, to me, is where the fun is at.  You get to hunt indigenous wildlife and feed while avoiding the hunters.  The reason you want to avoid them initially is because the hunters working in tandem are a force to be reckoned with for a fledgling monster… until you evolve.  When you start as the monster you assign a certain amount of points to the attacks and special abilities you want to use.  From there you gain evolution points every time you feed until it’s time to evolve.  Once you begin your evolution (5-10 seconds) you’re vulnerable in your egg until you assign the new points and emerge, bigger and meaner.  In total, your monster can evolve a total number of 3 times and once it hits level 3, the entire game changes.  At this point hiding really isn’t something to be worried about as you can knock a lone hunter across the screen and pummel them into submission.  Think of Hulk tossing Loki around in the Avengers.  Thankfully, the game gives you a total of three monsters to upgrade and unlock.  So that’s a total of 12 hunters and 3 monsters without purchasing any dlc.  That being said, there will be more hunters and monsters all available for download if you want to pay for them.  There’s even a season pass available so you can get all the content for the year as well.  The difference between Evolve and every other game DLC that’s out there (Destiny, listen up) is that all future map packs will be free.  The developers have gone with a concept that I think is stellar.  You get all future maps at no charge and the only thing you do need to pay for is characters or monsters.  That way if you go into a match with people who have dlc you can still play on the map and experience the new dlc and see if you actually want to buy it.  Whereas games like Destiny leave you in the cold, because the maps and weapons/armor are part of the DLC.  If you don’t have it then you’re out of luck.

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I think my favorite part of Evolve is that you can you play on random maps with random people or you can even customize your own battle experience.  This is one of the few games where if you make a custom/private match you actually keep the xp you earn toward leveling up.  So you can have a private match with 5 friends or you can do a match with just you and another person.  In that case, I can be the monster and my friend can actually control the remaining AI characters simply by quick swapping via the directional pad.  A word to the wise, if you play solo as the monster against the computer, be ready for a fight.  The AI is relentless and can spot you across the map and will hound you the entire match.  Now I know how any monsters who fought the X-Men felt.  That being said, the planet of Shear is highly inhospitable to both hunters and monsters, as you find some of the local fauna can take a monster out just as easily as a hunter(s).

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Just to mention a side note as well.  The game does also have a companion app for Android or iPhone users called Evolve: Hunter’s Quest that plays as a puzzle game, but will also unlock extra damage and abilities in the game once synced to the server.  Some of the unlockables for certain characters are definitely worth the time playing so you can upgrade your damage, healing duration, aoe, etc. for your hunter on the PS4/Xbox One/PC.

All in all my time with Evolve has been fantastic even though it’s only a co-op game at it’s heart.  That being said, with you able to play online with strangers or set up any sort of custom match you want, and being able to get free map dlc, this is the sort of game that offers a replay value that most gamers want and need.  So if you’re game, and think you have what it takes, grab a couple of friends and join the hunt.  The question becomes, are you the hunter or the hunted?

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For those gamers looking for a lot of action similar to the Batman: Arkham series mixed with some high fantasy, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor could be a good choice.  Set in the Lord of the Rings universe between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, Shadow of Mordor is a great game for LOTR fans.  But, is it enjoyable for people who haven’t read the books or seen the films or for those who are not into the series?  Yes, one can play this game without any knowledge of the series.  However, it will be more enjoyable for LOTR fans.

The game was a sleeper hit when it came out in September of 2014, a hidden gem in a sea of mediocre games that had come out that year.  Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bro. Interactive Entertainment, it came out for PC, PlayStation 3 and 4, and XBox 360 and One.  For the purpose of this review, I will be exploring how the game felt for PlayStation 4.  The game is considered an action RPG and utilizes a more open world map.

The short version of the story is basically The Crow meets Lord of the Rings.  If you haven’t seen or read either, first of all I would suggest that you remedy that right away.  However, that might take some time so here is the synopsis: it’s a revenge tale about a Ranger named Talion (voiced by Troy Baker) who is killed, along with his family, and brought back to find those that killed them (the Uruks).  It’s an interesting revenge tale, and it’s fun to see familiar LOTR characters in the story as well.  Since the game takes place between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one can see Sauron’s minions getting stronger throughout the game.  Along with Talion, there is another undead wraith, Celebrimbor, who is helping out and giving him cool powers.  The relationship was a very similar feel to when Aragorn recruited the undead in Return of the King.   

 The biggest problem with the story is that, as a whole, it’s not strong enough to hold what I would say is the “average” person’s attention.  Sure, it’s fun, but it’s not super compelling.  Big-time LOTR fans would probably love it.  However, when I played it, I was playing more for the game play and not for the story.  As good as the beginning of the game started, it very much fizzled out over the end.

The story is in interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The story is an interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The game play, though, is very good, except for a few issues.  If you are familiar with the Batman Arkham games, Shadow of Mordor will be very easy to get into.  The game play is almost exact, and you level up in a similar way.  You fight in a similar way.  You can even change (most) attack commands mid-stride, making it easier to stop and counter and enemy.

The “RPG-aspect” (or leveling up system) of the game is very similar to the Batman: Arkham games as well.  Shadow of Mordor is not really the traditional RPG that I thought it was going to be.  When I heard it was open world, I was thinking more “Elder Scrolls.”  The game is very open world, and it’s very action oriented.  The leveling system is very interesting.  There are two skill trees to level up: Ranger and Wraith.  Each are interesting and fun to play.  There are ability points for getting enough XP, and the player can use those points to add certain powers and moves from the skill trees.  There are also options to upgrade the sword, bow, and dagger with runes that the player obtains from killing Uruk Captains (more on this later).

Overall, the basic game play mechanics of the game are very fun, but that’s not the crowning jewel of the game.  Technically, most of the game play is nothing new, since it borrows heavily from the Batman games’ mechanics.  However, the Nemesis System totally and utterly blew my mind.  It is new, original, and highly creative.  All year, I was looking for something new in gaming.  I was getting really tired of game play that is borrowed from ten or fifteen years ago.  Instead of relying on arena-style boss battles and push-the-button-oh-look-more-enemies, Shadow of Mordor gives us the Nemesis System, which I would describe as a roaming boss battle that remembers.

As you play the game, you meet Uruk Captains that can be pretty tough bosses.  If you kill one, you upset the balance of Sauron’s army.  If you or the boss run away during battle, the guy will remember you.  If one kills you, he will get more powerful when you come back (you’re already dead, so you can die as many times as you’d like–see the next segment for more details).  Not only that, but he may challenge a higher ranking Captain and change ranks.  If a normal Uruk kills you, he will get promoted up the ranks and so on.  If you die from something random, a lot of Uruks among the ranks get more powerful.  These bosses will remember that they killed you previously and comment on it.  You also can interrogate Uruks to gain information about bosses in the higher level ranks.  Each boss has strengths and weaknesses, and you have plan your attacks accordingly.

I have honestly not seen anything quite like this system.  I thought it was revolutionary when BioShock had the roaming boss battles, but Shadow of Mordor has improved upon that even more.  Sure, it can be a pain when you have a boss that has killed you several times and has gotten really powerful because of it.  But let me tell you, when you finally kill the guy, you will be cheering.  I also really enjoyed the strategy element that comes in when attacking these bosses.  You can’t go about doing things in just one way because what works for one boss might not for another.  Plus, you can make decisions such as allowing one boss to live so it will take out another (Uruks like to fight each other for power).

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

Here’s the only problem with the game play: besides a lackluster story line, the game can be very monotonous.  The side-quests are extremely repetitive and the nemesis system, which should be awesome, is very overbearing.  It’s hard to do ANYTHING without a boss targeting you out, which ends up being extremely annoying after about ten plus hours into the game.  The game play doesn’t translate well overall, unfortunately.  With a poor story line, the repetitive game play ends up being boring and hard to get through.  Sure, you can blast through the man quest with no problem, but for those who like to really get into the game, it ends up being very disappointing.

The graphics are fairly good, though there are much prettier-looking games out there for this current generation.  The overall look and feel of the game was a little dark and somewhat dull, which added to the monotony of the story after awhile.  However, I can understand the developer’s choice in this color palate, since it fits well with the dire tone of the story line.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

Overall, the game is pretty decent: it makes great strides with the Nemesis System, but unfortunately does not do the same with the story.  However, it is refreshing to see a developer in the gaming industry try to do something different for a change, and I have to give Monolith productions a lot of credit for that.  Although I do not feel the game is a full price buy, now that it’s been out for several months, it would be a good addition to anyone’s gaming library at bit of a discount.

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I love me some zombies. Seriously, anything from Resident Evil all the way to Dead Nation, as long as there’s shambling corpses waiting to have their heads bashed or detached I’m game. In 2011 developer Techland graced us with a first person, open world romp called Dead Island and the sequel, shortly after call Dead Island: Riptide. This tasked us with picking one of several survivors (each who had their own strengths) and setting about the island with miscellaneous quests and lots of blood. This was one of the first zombie games I had played in a while that actually felt visceral in regards to the damage you could inflict and how an actual outbreak would be like if your were in the middle of such a situation. Needless to say, when I heard Techland was doing another open world zombie-fest I was excited. Then they said it included parkour style locomotion I was sold. Enter Dying Light.
Dying light is another open world adventure from Techland with a first person perspective that pits you against the undead in a more suburban type sprawl than in Dead Island. The main protagonist in this quest is an undercover operative named Kyle Crane who is dropped into the fictional city of Harran. Harran has recently been swept up in an outbreak that turns the infected into to the usual zombie fare. Crane is sent in to recover a file that’s key to the outbreak by the group he works for called the GRE. After parachuting in and almost being eaten alive Kyle meets up with a local group of survivors to begin his adventure. I don’t want to get into plot points here, but lets just say there are a LOT of side missions and quests to keep you occupied.

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Before we get too far I need to point out there are quite a few similarities between Dying Light and Dead Island. I mean, to the point where I thought I was playing the wrong game for a second. The combat, crafting , loot, etc. all feel like a sequel to Dead Island. This is good in it’s own right, but I was curious why this wasn’t just called Dead Island 3, then I started to notice things. First off, the graphics and sounds are excellent. Dead Island did a great job on PS3 for looking good , but the new consoles make tropical settings and suburban environments all the more realistic. Shadows are cast in very natural light as the day slowly progresses towards night, and when the sun rises in the morning. The infected even received an overhaul in regards to appearance and realism. The modeling accounts for layers so when you haul off and hit a zombie in the head with a sickle you get a pretty realistic result. They’ve even added a “stun” feature so when you hit a zombie with a critical it goes into an x-ray view to show the bone damage a la Sniper Elite.

The next thing that really changes things up is the infected AI. They’ll do their normal shambling and staggering, but with the new infected runners will come looking for you if you make too much noise. These runners make the ones in 28 Days Later look like pansies. I made the mistake of throwing a Molotov too close to an exploding barrel once, and although the resulting explosion was amazing the echoing shrieks that emanated from surrounding neighborhood let me know I was in for it. A pack of runners showed up and I figured I’d parkour my way out of the situation.

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This is where the free running aspect comes in big time. You can freely run, jump over obstacles, grab ledges just like Mirror’s Edge. Based on how much you run you level up your skill for Agility which in turn grants you more moves like sliding, vaulting, and even leg sweeps to break your pursuers limbs to slow them down. On top of it all of the mo-cap for the parkour moves was handled by the founder of parkour himself, David Belle. So when the runners closed in on me I thought I had it made when I climbed to the top of the house next to me. This is when I realized theses are not your run of the mill fast zombies, these are parkour zombies spawned straight from hell. They hone in on nearby sounds and will search for you until they find something else that interests them (IE another noise distraction). If they make eye contact you better get to running and try to break line of sight.

Needless to say, after being torn apart and re-spawning I made more of an effort to be aware of my surroundings. Then night fell. The voice over the loud speaker will tell you to find a safe house until morning. Now if you want to level up fast running around at night is the way to go. They give you double power and agility points for everything you do, but at a cost. At night is when the hunters come out. Aptly named, the hunters are night stalkers that can leap from rooftops out of the night to dispatch you quickly. This adds even more a difficulty because these hunters will chase you like the runners during the day.Dying_Light_Screenshot_12

On top of the next gen graphics, sound effects, and new aspects of game play there is also drop-in/out co-op for up to 4 players. This has worked seamlessly so far with hardly any issues. The inclusion of the “Be the Zombie” DLC rounds off the co-op and lets you invade another players game at night as a hunter. There’s also more DLC lined up with a season pass available through the PSN Store so the zombie goodness can continue.

Dying Light is definitely in the same vein as Dead Island, but with more crafting options, bigger and better zombies, and the inclusion of night time missions it certainly not the sequel people assume it is. This is one of the more fun open world adventures you’ll go on in a while. So, if vaulting off a zombie in to a crowd of the undead brandishing Excalibur (it’s an Easter egg) to remove some limbs sounds like your kind of party, pack up 3 of your best buds and see if Dying Light whets your appetite, or leaves you running scared.

 

By Charles On 3 Feb, 2015 At 12:30 AM | Categorized As Conventions, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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“You should go to Magfest”

I remember the first time I was told this, way back in 2012. As someone who attends a lot of conventions in a year, names of new events are tossed my way by friends eager to show me something I hadn’t been to before. Most of them are, of course, anime cons: because when you write your thesis on anime convention culture, and spend countless weeks traveling to said cons to speak, everyone you have met AT the con wants to tell you about their favorite events here and there, in hopes of bringing you along and sharing the love. This is nothing new, and is a lot of fun when your friends come along with you.

But Magfest was something else. I had a lot of friends who would “boost” for the convention, telling me about how laid back it was, how it felt more like a party than a con, how it was a lot of music and a lot of games, so there was always something happening. And of course, it was always finished by “you should go to Magfest.” 

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Well, delving into Citizens of Earth, a new turn-based RPG from Eden Industries and Atlus, I was only expecting it to be a short, basic, easy game that may or may not be fun. It turns out to be a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. What is seemingly a small digital title hides what easily could have been a full retail release, yet it only costs a quarter of the price. Citizens of Earth offers much more than your average AAA games released today.

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Within the first few minutes of starting the game I was already hooked on its charm. Even more so after the next few minutes when a clever parody of a well known coffee chain surfaces, Moonbucks. The first few groups of enemies including Cappuccinerds and Decaffinators already had me laughing to myself, even further as the story continued, with more zany enemies and characters to be discovered. The game is definitely not short on witty puns and references to other fabled video game franchises that will have you cracking up whilst playing. There is no rigidly set way for how you choose to continue on, with many side quests and challenges to complete. One must also pay careful attention to detail, including what is revealed as clues, many times only being revealed once and could leave you wandering the world aimlessly in hopes of finding what is required. Although there is a HUD available for the current section of the map there is no overall world map. Combined with the default zoom level, the intricate and specific ways that many areas need to be accessed add to the overall challenge. There were some minor bugs that made it a bit more confusing, like part of Chapter 3 was showing it still needed to be completed, while chapter 4 had already been finished. The game itself crashed a couple of times but the auto save is very liberal, leaving little to no progress lost.

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As the Vice President of the World, your quest begins with investigating all the strange on goings in your hometown. As you progress, you recruit more citizens to help on your journey. They also are responsible for not getting your hands dirty, as the VP, they will fight all you turn based battles while you cheer them on (no the battles aren’t automatic, the VP just becomes an NPC cheerleader during them). In total, there are 40 citizens that offer varying degrees of quests to recruit. Not only does each one have a level that increases with XP earned in battle, they also have unique talents that also increase with talent XP. Some of these talents are required to progress while others are very helpful, such as fast travel, difficulty slider (which offers differing bonuses base on setting), and removing obstacles on the map. Combat is basic turned based, with 3 citizens of your choosing, partaking in battles. As with their talents, each have unique combat skills, an unlock more through experience, the depth and variation of which can greatly alter the outcome. The voice acting is intentionally cheesy, yet puts shame to some other big name video game appearances of late that were rather lackluster. The VP especially, left me constantly reminded of an Adam West type performance.

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Overall, Citizens of Earth is an intricate, detailed, fun filled experience. Those that may scoff at it for its appearance of a small or indie game are truly missing out. Some have said it’s a knock off or a lower version of games of old, yet it is nothing of the sort. Of course there are similarities based upon the game’s inspiration, but it has enough merit to stand on its own. I enjoyed all 43 hours and 3 minutes that it took to achieve 100% completion and now that I have a full idea on the layout and progression, I look forward to a second play through. Those looking for a throwback, turn based RPG cannot go wrong with Citizens of Earth, especially at $15.99 (or less with PS Plus and Steam sales). So hop to it and save the world today.

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By Isabel On 23 Jan, 2015 At 02:19 AM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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What is Richard & Alice? Well it’s a game that is not gameplay driven, but mostly about narrative the same way visual novels are.

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It’s a point and click game but at its core is a modern work that uses the video game medium to tell its tale.

The scenery is dreary and lifeless, unimaginative at most, the pixelated characters and scenery leave much to the imagination that itself doesn’t make the world it brings forth much more exciting. This works in favor of the game.

Richard & Alice is about the struggle of a woman to survive after a cataclysmic change. She is Alice, and the other titular character Richard is the character you use to learn about her. Richard and Alice both find themselves in prison for very different reasons and since he finally has a cellmate and hasn’t talking to anyone but guards since his arrival he eagerly tries to learn about her. You can play as both Richard and Alice, with the game going through days and the same pattern of action taking place. Play as Richard in the prison and then play as Alice when she continues recounting her experience.

Alice’s story is one very much like The Road, a book Richard actually has in his cell, since it shows the strain a guardian must endure to protect a weaker and innocent child from a harsh reality and how to bring one child to adulthood without damaging them in the process. Where The Road had ash Richard & Alice has snow. Blanketing the world, delegating it to a reality far from the one that used to be.

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My only real critique is getting places takes a long time since your characters move rather slow and the character illustrations next to the dialogue look rather amateurish. I really think having the characters better drawn wouldn’t have taken anything away from the dreary pixelated scenario and made the game stand out more. Other than that not much else. The writing is superb, the characters multidimensional, and based on your actions there are various endings with realistic outcomes. I recommend this for literary geeks like me, and gamers who want to play a great story driven game.


By Isabel On 30 Dec, 2014 At 08:51 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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I love the first Cherry Tree High game. A lot. It set itself apart from most visual novels I’d played because unlike most visual novels it was highly interactive. Usually you just get the dialogue and a few choices, playing more like a pick your own adventure novel. It is a medium with endless possibilities and lends itself to some splendid storytelling. The medium however is only widely used in Japan, with most western VNs being subpar cash ins for anime fan money. Cherry Tree High was a visual novel and a strategic video game at the same time. You can read all about why Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was so good in my previous review.

Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is the follow up I never expected to actually happen. When I saw it in the Steam store I could barely contain my excitement, and from the first episode with the subtle humor I’ve come to expect from the series out in full force I was greatly looking forward to some fun time with Miley and all her friends.

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Wait what’s going on? Why are all the names Japanese?” was the sentiment that followed. When I first played the game it was westernized, with the setting in America along with appropriate name and reference changes. This was really alienating after playing through the westernized game. I couldn’t help but wonder if they made an original version of the first game so new players can seamlessly go from the first game to the follow up. Turns out they had.

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I’ve learned about some wonderful things in Japan by replaying the original version.

Now as to why they’ve deviated from localizing this particular game unlike the previous one can be attributed to an entirely Japanese phenomena. Idols.

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As to what idols are; you could equate them to pop stars but the culture surrounding them is so much more different than that of the west, it’s a difficult topic to explain. Unlike the first Cherry Tree High game where the plot involves happenings that can occur almost anywhere, the emergence of an idol in the story now makes it impossible for I! My! Girls! to take place anywhere but Japan.

The events of I! My! Girls! take place where the original game left off with the comedy club’s founding and all potential club members recruited. This new chapter in the Cherry Tree High series involves an idol, real name Ai Fujino, who finds out about the comedy club’s revival and decides to attend Cherry Tree High to pursue her dream of being a comedian. This of course is something that poses a problem since she is an idol.

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The story, while primarily focused on this new character and Mairu the main character, also gives time to tell the stories of the other club members while introducing new characters.

Unlike the previous game, this one is purely visual novel. There are no choices, the story is told and slowly revealed. The game is broken up into “episodes” each with a chapter of some sort.

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To me this actually felt more like reading a manga than playing a game since there are no choices. Did I like it? Yes I enjoyed the game for what it was. But do I think someone who knows nothing of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club should buy this game? No, this isn’t a story one would enjoy unless they are already acquainted with the characters and setting. It is knowing the character and seeing them carry on with the promise of the previous game that make I! My! Girls! satisfying.

Mairu faces challenges to her comedy club from rivals, you learn more about the adult characters from the previous game, about the Cherry Tree High Comedy Club’s history, you see character bond with each other, and so on and so forth.

I don’t want to describe the plot further since I wouldn’t want to spoil it but any CTHCC fan would like it. You get the atmosphere of the previous game and the same easygoing slice of life dialogue while being told a new story. The game ends on definite note of  more to come, and as much as I enjoyed this, I hope the next installment is as interactive as the first game. It’s a good companion to CTHCC, but as a standalone game it lacks footing.

What is it that I find most disappointing about I! My! Girls! is the fact that this is not a game I could show to my non-otaku friends as an example of how visual novels can be for anybody, that it is not an obscure medium, and they can tell wonderful stories anyone can enjoy. Unlike Cherry Tree High Comedy Club it doesn’t lend itself to wide appeal outside of Japan.

The creator can’t be blamed. This game was made with a Japanese audience in mind, foreigners are the last thing doujin circles try to cater to. In a Japanese market obsessed with Love Live! School Idol Project and used to simple VNs like these there is no obligation to be innovative. I’m not saying the creator wrote to pander, it’s obvious through his writing he enjoys what he does, but the fact I! My! Girls! was so different from CTHCC disappoints me a bit.

Conclusion, play Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and then Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! If you’re unfamiliar with VNs and not a big fan of slice of life anime I suggest sticking with the first game unless you’re willing to take risks. Luckily, both games come in a bundle deal for max savings. Happy gaming!

 

By Jessica Brister On 5 Dec, 2014 At 09:25 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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When SimCity was “rebooted” in 2013, it had major launch issues that gave Maxis and EA a bit of a black eye.  However, a year and a half later, after making some major corrections, the new SimCity might now finally be a smart and extremely fun purchase.

SimCity (2013) is a city creation simulation game developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts.  It is considered to be an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) because it has a large work-together online component of city building, which is a new game play aspect for the franchise.  It was originally released in March of 2013 for Windows and eventually for Mac as well.  Though there was a decade between the release of SimCity 4 and this newest version, there were a lot of very critical reviews when it first came out.  Despite having a lot of cool new elements, the online multiplayer component was panned because it forced players to be “always online” and had a lot of bugs and connectivity issues.  It got so bad that it pretty much rendered the game as unplayable because players could not connect to the online servers and therefore could not play the game.  Eventually, these issues were fixed, including a desperately needed offline single player mode.  On November 14, EA released SimCity: The Complete Edition, which includes the base game, all of the city sets, and the expansion pack, Cities of Tomorrow.  People who passed up game because of the original bad reviews might want to give the game a chance now that there have been some updates.

For the purposes of this review, only the single player mode will be focused on, since this was one of the game play elements that turned people off from the game initially.  However, for those who are interested in online game play, the multiplayer functionality has been much improved from when the game was originally launched.

The new SimCity is very different from previous SimCity games.  Players who are used to older versions may be very surprised to see how much the game has changed.  The game focuses more on regions and collaborations than having players try to build large utopian megacities.  In fact, if a player tries to build a megacity without any outside help from other cities in the region (either from other players online or another city that the player controls), it can get very difficult very quickly.  The individual cities are not that large, but working as a region, there’s actually a lot to it.  Unlike previous SimCity games, each cities absolutely must specialize in something, instead of trying to have it all.  A city can specialize in anything from mining to tourism to technology, which is very different from previous SimCity games.

Cities are smaller in the new SimCity, which forces the player to specialize in an industry.

Cities are smaller in the new SimCity, which forces the player to specialize in an industry.

The game engine has changed a lot from previous SimCity games.  It focuses on the happiness of individual Sim people that players can actually see on the screen, instead of hypothetical ones that are delineated by graphical arrows on screen.  If there is a fire, it can actually be seen in the city, and players can see fire trucks going to it and responding to it.  Everything affects everything else.  Traffic issues in a city can mess with education, fire, and crime because the services and citizens can’t get to where they need to be.  If there is not a good education program, it will affect crime in the city and whether or not the people will want to recycle or not.  A player must also worry about ground pollution and running out of water and resources, which is quite different from previous versions.  One must play slowly and strategically in order to be successful.  Even the design of the roads and the placement of utilities and services can affect how things go in the city.

Regions are very important, whether a person is playing single or multiplayer.

Regions are very important, whether a person is playing single or multiplayer.

The Cities of Tomorrow expansion that comes with the Complete Edition adds a futuristic element to the game play.  Citizens can live in massive towers, travel on monorail-type systems, and visit cool-looking parks.  It’s not a bad expansion, and it’s value really shines when it comes with the base game and other city sets in the Complete Edition.

Obviously, the graphics are a big step up from previous SimCity games.  The game looks pretty slick, and it’s cool to be able to see the individual people in the city.  For this review, the game was played on a laptop with an integrated graphics card only, so everything was unfortunately set on low.  Despite this, it’s been very enjoyable and very pretty to play.

Just like with any SimCity game, the new one is quite addicting.  It’s one of those games that a person can get lost in for days and weeks.  The learning curve was, unfortunately, very steep, especially for players who have played older versions of the game and expect the game to play a certain way.  It can take many practice cities before it really clicks with how the game should be played.  Maxis could have done a much better job with tutorials and their game manual as well.  Sometimes Google and YouTube ended up being the best bet to figure out how the game mechanics actually worked.  Overall, it was still quite enjoyable and was a blast to play.  Obviously, when the game first came out, many people were not having a lot of fun, considering they could barely play the game.  However, with the bugs fixed and single player mode in operation, this game has improved quite a bit.

Overall, this game is a much safer purchase now that the bugs are corrected and connectivity issues are fixed.  Plus, the game is quite a bit cheaper now than when it was previously released.  For those people who decided not to get this SimCity because of the horror stories, this might be the time to get it.  The game play is a bit different from previous SimCity games, but it is a change that–for the most part-is for the better.

By Akodo On 14 Nov, 2014 At 04:24 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
Sony PlayStation 4

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PS4The PlayStation 4, will officially be one year old tomorrow. And I will give it a round of applause as Sony and the PlayStation brand have made a resounding start off of the now current generation. Even though the PS3 started off slow and finally gained traction, it still lost a large swath of its fanbase during last generation. Now, learning from its mistakes, and that a name isn’t the only thing that is needed for a console launch. They went back to basics, and making sure that the console put the gamer first, and nothing else. It went to developers and talked with them, and asked what they needed to make a solid, A+ game in their eyes. They essentially went back to basics. And its paying dividends!

The PS4 has led all ten months since its release one year ago, and hasn’t stopped. They have mounted one of the biggest, “We Hear You” campaigns since the console was launched. Listening to what we, the gamers, the consumers, the casuals, the hardcore, the every once in a while, to come to the fold, either switch, stay, or come back. Admittedly, it is tough when you friends continue on with the Xbox, or vice versa, since this generation will probably be determined by where your friends are, kind of gaming. But the ecosystem of the PS4 has gone from the multimedia hub that it was as a PS3, to the more streamline, games and broadcasting arena, that allows gamers to play, solo or quickly connect with friends before launching into a game. And with the features that were promised during that fateful shift at E3 a year ago, being released in a massive update (2.0, and 2.01), Sony is hitting strides at the right time, and giving games something to want during the Holidays this season.

With the massive influx of streaming content, ala YouTube, Twitch, or UStream, it makes the living almost akin to a theater and people watching you play. Some features like, recording to a separate device wasn’t available at launch, but Sony listened, and they removed the black box that was HDCP, and allowed YouTubers to rejoice and use their PS4s to stream. Additionally, they have polished up those interfaces giving the user, the gamer, more things to do from better comment sections during streams, to better usability for uploading clips and such to social media, and now YouTube directly. They even gave the gamer, a small tool, that does wonders for editing, albeit not like you could on a computer, but “Share Factory.”

playstation plusAs I have seen and heard from forums to in-person, people are switching, and happy about it, and the potential it has, or is currently showing them. But this is the reason why, I Akodo of Real Otaku Gamer, think that day one reviews of consoles are rather asinine in the fact that, you have a console, barely hours old, and not much to it, since it was just released. You can judge the wares it has and come with, but it can only go so far. At the year mark, you can judge the console, in its entirety. For instance, let’s talk about the PSN. Since the PS4 launch and the premise to play online service, for only the games, and not putting something you already paid for, behind another paywall, for the instances of netflix or Hulu or the ilk, you still have a solidly functioning console. As with the PSN you get automatically with the year subscription of PlayStation Plus, which allows you to  get a free game each month on the PS4, sometimes its something great, like Splunky, other times its something else like Velocity 2X. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it misses. But the PS+ always is adding. And with it being pay, means that Sony can upgrade infrastructure and improve the service as a whole, but that too takes time.

The games, the games are the main selling point of a console, for what is to come and what will be there the day you buy. And the lineup for the future is looking strong with games like Uncharted 4, and Order 1886, to name console exclusives, two unknown “AAA” titles being announced sometime in early december, and with the undoubted shift in developers going towards the console with the bigger base, means 3rd party exclusives that haven’t been announced and will, and current exclusive like InFamous, Knack, Killzone, and The Last of Us: Remastered. Side note: Didn’t think the masterpiece that is “The Last of Us” needed a remake, but its a damn gorgeous game, and for those who have turned to the blueside, i.e. Sony, from being on the 360 and not experiencing the master piece. To indie games, that as of right now, console exclusive like No Man’s Sky, and out now on the PS4 and exclusive, Octodad, Resogun. The PS4 has given a plethora of games to be played on it, and from now, and to the future.

The interface of the console, gone are the cool and sleek Cross Media Bar (XMB), and more individual folders, this has left much to be desired. And I believe with how receptive SOny and its Playstation team have been, the nuances will slowly take shape, and change to a more manageable feel. Another thing that was annoying at launch, seeing the notification for every single person doing something on their PS4. For instance, Person X joined a party chat. THis has been curdled a little but still, its less frequent. But a little thing from the PS3 that has been brought to the PS4 is the dynamic themes, so that’s a plus.

DS4 Wear!But as the good, of a console, there is bad. Although the revamped DS controller, now, DS4 has the worlds greatest feel, and is much of an improvement over the last in every degree, the DS4 knobs of the analog sticks wear out quicker. I have a DS3, from launch that still is functioning, and has its knobs intact. Gone are some of the functionality of the PS3 that was a sign on minimalist in the sense of moving to the PS4. The overall media hub that the PS3 was, like the music limitations, or the immediate USB support, and bluetooth as well. The cheap attempt to get gamers to talk with its cheaply made headset. But now the USB functionality are fixed in an update, and the headset market is entirely better!

So after a single year, the PS4 has grown with its audience, implementing things that the consumer wants, and continuing Sony’s drive of the “Gamer is first!” or more simply put, “Games!” Or like Steve Ballmer so elloquently said: “DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS!” I wonder where Sony will go with its massive momentum that it has gained in its entire first year, forcing the competition to rethink their entire way forward. And return to the Sony brand that dominated during the era of the PS2. But as we all, as gamers is, Watch and See!

Steve Ballmer

By Akodo On 13 Nov, 2014 At 02:04 PM | Categorized As PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4, Reviews, Toys and Merchandise, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments
Assassin's Creed Unity

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20141111_193321I’m not going to lie, I have no earthly idea why I keep buying Collector’s editions of game, but for some reason, certain games will always garner that extra $50 bucks from me. And this time, Assassin’s Creed: Unity has gotten my money. And I’ll go piece by piece.

First, there is a small, music box, that if it was handcrafted, it would be amazing. The faux wood has on it the emblazoned Arno and Unity’s specific Assassin’s emblem. Inside, the interworking are tight and well put together. Although the grinder doesn’t allow for compiling the pressure in order to play the melody of the music box without constant tuning. But maybe mine is broken. And that moves me onto the melody. It’s a haunting, almost melodic tune that is played. The tune is the remixed version of the Subject Matter music.

The music from the Collector’s edition is a joy to listen, as it will instantly kick off a random memory of the game, if you payed attention to the music throughout the game. It’s nothing on par with the music of Destiny, that I could sit and listen to, without ever playing the game, but the music of Assassin’s Creed: Unity is definitely worth the listen, even if its French. The next to last piece of the Collector’s edition is the magnificent art book. The art of Assassin’s Creed never fails to impress, and this batch is more of the same stellar craft and penmanship! Giving each character, although small, a page to themselves, and then the various locations, and villains, and random redshirt guys… There are really redshirt guys who you can kill, and they wear read.

20141111_193226The coup de gras of the Collector’s Edition, is the 16” statue of Arno, that comes with French flag with the Assassin’s emblem blazoned on it, to fly behind Arno in his defiant stance on a Gargoyle. Arno is also armed with a French basket Rapier. The detail of the statue is penpoint, and on mine there are no visible blemishes, or spots of imperfections. Compared to the harlequin jack-in-the-box of Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood, I enjoy this statue. The last piece, which I haven’t played yet, both single player, “Killed by Science” and “The Chemical Revolution.” For the MSRP of $129.99 it’s not a bad price for a Collector’s Edition in my opinion.

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