February 11, 2014 in Gaming News
Evolve has a band of hunters facing off with a ferocious monster in four versus one combat, but which side will escape the encounter with their hide?
Read more here: Game Spot News
January 24, 2014 in Gaming News
You need to have the nostalgia gene to fully appreciate Might & Magic X: Legacy. I do, especially when it comes to role-playing games, so I did. But this is one of those “genre within a genre” retro affairs that self-consciously turns its back on modern conventions and embraces what us old folks were stuck with back in that antediluvian era known as the 1990s. Limbic Entertainment has created an old-fashioned RPG epic that might well have landed on some “best of” lists at the end of 1996. If you’re the sort of person who fondly remembers a time before the Might & Magic name meant nothing but turn-based fantasy strategy, this game is for you.
Noting that M&MXL is not for everyone isn’t necessarily an insult, either. On the contrary, it’s clear from the very first moments of the game that the developers are trying to be as unfashionable as a pair of acid-washed jeans. Everything about this game can be traced back to first-person party-based RPGs from the 1990s, like the original M&M games, the Wizardry series, and even the Eye of the Beholder D&D line. The campaign setting of Ashan is all new for this franchise, however, having been ported over from Might & Magic Heroes right down to the goofy winged helmets. Oddly enough, this approach actually makes M&MXL more of a traditional fantasy game than its forebears, as the original M&M role-players blended spaceships in with their swords and sorcery. Still, the general objective seems to have been to create a new game that picks up right where this style of RPG left off about 15 years ago.
And that mission has been accomplished. Well, mostly. Several core components of the game are well done. There is a fair amount of choice when it comes to character creation, with four races and 12 classes (three per race) spread along the might and magic spectrums. Don’t expect anything more revolutionary than the likes of dwarven defenders, human freemages, elven bladedancers, and orc barbarians in the beginning, but you have a lot of freedom to specialize once your party starts leveling up and you begin doling out points between attribute stats and skills. You can specialize in everything from maces and bows to a whopping seven schools of magic, allowing for the custom-crafting of almost any sort of heroic adventurer that you can dream up. The sheer amount of liberty even allows for some evolution during gameplay. I started off with an elven ranger who I thought would be good in ranged combat, but I eventually realized that she worked better as a second spellcaster who specialized in healing. A few levels later, and I had an impressive cleric wannabe curing poison and dishing out restoration incantations when she wasn’t offing foes with her bow and arrow.
It’s clear from the very first moments of the game that the developers are trying to be as unfashionable as a pair of acid-washed jeans.
Managing your party is more involved than in most RPGs, so you can’t just storm off looking for adventure. First, you need to take care of business by buying food. Without it, you’re not allowed to rest, which soon causes your party to grow tired and drop ability scores. You also need to rest to regain health and mana, because neither regenerates on its own over time. Not much of this is spelled out, and the tooltips offered up at the start of the game don’t do much to explain the basics. All becomes clear if you’re patient, though, or if you remember doing this stuff many years ago. Nevertheless, the game could use more hand-holding in the beginning.
Like most RPGs released when grunge was still a thing, M&MXL features a first-person camera and grid-based movement where you move one step at a time. This system works relatively smoothly. Yes, you’re stuck with an odd perspective that forces you to view the world as if the party were crammed into a car and looking out through the windshield, and the entire four-person party has to trudge as one through dungeons and forests, like a tank bristling with battle-axes and magic wands. But you soon get used to navigating in such a restricted fashion.
Movement has even been improved from the days of yore. M&MXL features turn-based combat, so you can’t gimmick the system. Back in the day, it was common to cheat through real-time battles with tricks like the Eye of the Beholder Two Step, where you would zip forward to hit a monster and then immediately retreat before it could hit you back. Here, you’re locked into battle once an enemy closes and the fight begins. So instead of dipsy-doodling back and forth, you’re stuck going toe-to-toe with the bad guys. This results in some grueling combat, since you have virtually no range of motion once melee combat has started and no ability at all to choose the better part of valor and run away.
Managing your party is more involved than in most RPGs, so you can’t just storm off looking for adventure.
In some ways, the game goes too far. Not only does it take away the exploits common to first-person RPGs in the ’90s, but it hammers away at you relentlessly (even at the lower “adventurer” setting). Combat is unforgiving right from the opening tutorial quest to clean spiders out of an underground lair. Monsters flank and surround you in almost every other fight, frequently spawning in out of nowhere to your rear. Just when you’ve got your hands full with that minotaur in your face, along come two more to hassle you from behind. Most monsters also have devastating special abilities. Almost every enemy has the ability to stun you, poison you, enfeeble you, petrify you, hit you with extra attacks, and more. Wolves and goblins can insta-kill party members if they get lucky. I don’t recall an easy battle in the entire campaign. That sounds sort of fun and intense, but really, I could have done without titanic half-hour struggles to best the likes of two goblins, a couple of cavemen, and a pack of panthers.
M&MXL isn’t impossibly hard, but the punishing difficulty can lead to tedium. You can (eventually) beat any monster, group of monsters, or even the game’s collection of brutally tough bosses by thinking about what you’re doing when it comes to strategizing and spellcasting. The extreme challenge is a natural fit for a revamped classic, but that doesn’t make the occasional bitter pill of a battle easier to swallow. When actually playing the game, I was too busy cursing out the nagas or spiders gooning me from all sides to appreciate the retro character of the battle difficulty.
How dated M&MXL is in other areas is harder to appreciate. The story isn’t particularly well developed. The opening preamble is about as exciting as listening to someone recite a tax return, and there isn’t much of a tale told during the game itself. Your party consists of a bunch of heroes, oddly called “raiders,” who are out to do good things for the human empire in a time of unrest. There isn’t much role-playing to be had here; the game is a dry tactical affair where combat is the first order of the day, followed up by the odd puzzle.
Monster stock is limited. Areas and dungeons are populated by just a few specific types of creatures or human thugs, and the pace can drag because fighting the same fight over and over again. Loot isn’t varied or particularly imaginative, either when it’s dropped or when you check out what’s available in shops. It gets better as you go, but there isn’t a lot of memorable “gotta have it” gear. As a result, you can go for hours with few serious upgrades of weapons and armor. How items are doled out is also strange. Monsters don’t tend to drop much when they’re slain, but chests loaded with goodies and gold are strewn all over the wilderness like some kind of medieval take on geocaching.
The throwback production values are as traditional as the adventure itself, though these elements have not aged all that tastefully. Animations can be choppy, especially in forests, and slowdown is a common occurrence in the wilderness and when there are multiple lighting effects on the screen at the same time. Sound is also sparse, with what seems like a handful of weapon and monster effects. Hero battle boasts like the orc warrior’s “I kill you!” are repeated constantly. Even worse, your heroes shout their cries of sadness about being knocked out or killed a few seconds before the blow is actually delivered, so you get advance warning when somebody is about to be taken down. This makes battles a teensy bit anticlimactic.
Might & Magic X: Legacy is a somewhat successful trip back in time to an era when RPGs were both simpler and more complicated than they are today, and a lot more demanding of players when it came to combat. If nostalgia drives you to visit this particular kingdom, you’ll not likely regret the time spend there. If your good old days weren’t brimming with games of this nature, it’s more difficult to appreciate the take-no-prisoners challenge and overlook the limitations.
Read more here: Game Spot News
December 16, 2013 in Anime News
Marie Mizuno, Shintarou Oohata star in monster action series premiering on January 4
Read more here: Anime News Network
November 22, 2013 in Anime News
The official site for the upcoming TV anime adaptation of Sayaka Mogi’s horror manga pupa finally announced today that the anime will be premiere on Tokyo MX on January 9, 2014, and streamed on Nico Nico Douga one day later. The new 1-minite preview is also posted online. The anime is produced by Studio Deen (Maria Watches Over Us, Hetalia, Rozen Maiden 3rd season) and 55-year-old veteran Tomomi Mochizuki serves as the director.
“Brother that became the live bait and sister who monster mosquitoes spin, brother and sister love story of the ultimate. TV anime “pupa” (Pyupa) broadcasting started in January 2014!”
Original: Sayaka Mogi “pupa” (Monthly Comic Earth Star series)
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki
Character Design: Maki Fujii
Music: Kayo Konishi ・ Yukio Kondo(MOKA ☆)
Animation Production: Studio DEEN
Utsutsu Hasegawa (CV: Nobunaga Shimazaki)
Yume Hasegawa (CV: Ibuki kido)
Shiro Onijima (CV: Koji Yusa)
Maria (CV: Kyoko Narumi)
Sachiko Hasegawa(CV:Mamiko Noto)
Hotoki (CV:Kenjiro Tsuda)
Utsutsu (childhood) (CV:Mariya Ise)
Yuhei Arita (childhood) (CV:Shiori Mikami)
Arita Sisters (childhood) (CV:Yurika Kurosawa)
November 17, 2013 in Anime News
Ready to continue the parade of Bakemonogatari Nendoroids? Kahotan showed us pictures of the upcoming Suruga Kanbaru Nendo, and they are full of chibi monster awesome. Get an eyeful of Suruga and her monkey paw:
She comes with a whole lot of books.
For that super monster look, Kahotan switched out her face with the one that comes with Hibiki Tachibana.
She can also hang out with Hitagi Senjyogahara.
She’ll be on pre-order November 19th.
Read more here: Crunchy Roll
November 9, 2013 in Gaming News
Diablo III on PlayStation 4 will have exclusive features and runs in 1080p at 60fps, Blizzard Entertainment confirmed at BlizzCon this weekend. Senior level designer Matthew Berger sat down with GameSpot to discuss the features next-generation gamers on Sony’s system will find in the game.
First, Diablo III on PS4 will be known as the Ultimate Evil Edition. In addition to the original game, it will include the Reaper of Souls expansion and DualShock 4 touchpad integration. The game will employ the touchpad “when it makes sense,” Berger said.
Players can use the touchpad for inventory management and to access the Skills user interface. In addition, users will be able to swipe left or swipe right on the pad to move up or down a category, Berger said.
What’s more, new social features not found on PC will be included on PS4 version.
The most prominent of which is a new Adventure Kills system, which Berger described as “by far the most fun.” Through this new system, when a player is killed by a monster, there is chance that the monster will level up and jump into a friend’s game.
The first player’s friend will be prompted with a message saying “Matthew’s bane is stalking you,” at which time the monster–described as elite and with special abilities–will appear on his screen. If the second player defeats the monster, the first player will receive a message saying their death has been avenged and the second player will receive loot.
If the second player is killed, the monster will grow even stronger and will stalk one of his friends, continuing the cycle, though it is not clear just how powerful the enemy can become.
“Sometimes we don’t give enough love to the monsters and we want to give love to the monsters as well,” Berger said. “It’s another way to make it so we feel connected as part of a greater community of players even when we’re not playing together.”
The other two new social systems are Player Mail (players can mail items to other players), and Player Gifts. Here, when a Legendary item drops, a second item will also drop with a friend’s name on it. This item, of appropriate rarity and tailored made for any character the friend wants, will be delivered to the friend.
“So once again, we’re not questing together, but we’re still part of a greater world,” Berger said.
It was also confirmed at BlizzCon this weekend (via IGN) that characters created on the PlayStation 3 version of Diablo III will be transferable to the PS4 version.
Lastly, Berger addressed the possibility of Diablo III coming to the Xbox One. He said, “For the moment, we’re only talking about the PS4 for the Ultimate Evil Edition.”
Read more here: Game Spot News
July 12, 2013 in Anime News
Review: Pacific Rim
By Evan Minto
Let’s not beat around the bush: anime has had a pretty rough time in Hollywood. Speed Racer, the first modern anime adaptation, was poised to create a new anime boom in the American film industry before it sputtered out in a brightly colored fit of cult-classic glory. Dragonball Evolution came five years too late and sent audiences alternatively booing and laughing from the theaters. High-profile directors and producers like James Cameron, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith have expressed interest in properties like Battle Angel Alita, Akira, and Oldboy, all of which have disappeared into production purgatory. And let’s not forget Neon Genesis Evangelion, once on its way to a high-profile live-action debut from The Lord of the Rings’ Weta Workshop, which died a slow death despite repeated reassurances from executives at anime distributor A.D. Vision. Hollywood isn’t buying anime, and it might be a long time before they work up the courage to try again.
But as any good geek knows, the fans will always find a way. Usually their method of choice is amateur short films and fake trailers posted on YouTube, but there’s one fan who’s lucky enough to have a much bigger stage for his geek fantasies — Guillermo Del Toro. The Mexican director made a name for himself on the Hellboy films and Pan’s Labyrinth, two films with astounding art direction. Fortunatey for us, Del Toro is a fanboy, and it was only a matter of time before his love of anime and giant monster movies got the better of him. Backed up by the studio muscle of Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, Del Toro has managed to create the best anime movie yet, and he did it by not making it an anime movie at all.
Del Toro’s latest effort is Pacific Rim, a big, loud action movie about robots punching dinosaurs. The story begins with a monologue and a montage; giant monsters called “Kaiju” (the word for the Japanese giant monster genre) appeared from a dimensional rift in the Pacific Ocean and immediately began to devastate population centers around the world. Humanity responded the way any 8-year-old boy would: with giant robots! The humanoid machines, called Jaegers (German for “hunter”), each require two pilots to synchronize their consciousnesses in order to control them, and the Jaegers’ movements are matched to the pilots’ movements inside the cockpit. Our hero is Raleigh (Hannam), an American Jaeger pilot fighting under the command of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and working alongside Jaeger expert and aspiring pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi).
Part of the magic of Pacific Rim is its innocent appropriation of Japanese genre tropes. Del Toro is obviously a fan, but his references play out like a little kid accidentally copying his favorite Saturday morning cartoons rather than a seasoned director trying his best to seem original. Somehow this makes it all the more endearing — yellow liquid in the pilots’ helmets (Evangelion), evil dinosaurs from underground (Getter Robo), and a freakin’ rocket punch (Mazinger Z) have just the right mix of campy reference and Del Toro touch.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s got a Japanese star in the form of Kikuchi, known internationally for her spectacular role as a deaf teenager in Babel. In addition to being a welcome Japanese face in a film so obviously influenced by Japanese pop culture, Kikuchi provides a convincing combination of strength and vulnerability as Mako despite her limited English. Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) lays on the swagger as Raleigh, but his attempts to turn his British accent into an American one make for a distractingly wooden performance. Speaking of Brits, though, Elba (Luther) is excellent as the gruff commander of the Jaeger team, combining a balance of strength and melancholy just as well as if not better than Kikuchi does. The cast rounds out with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day and Torchwood‘s Burn Gorman playing two rival Kaiju scientists who provide exagerrated (though not always funny) comic relief in between the action.
Speaking of action, Del Toro certainly doesn’t disappoint in the “robots hitting things” department, but his most subtle triumph is his restraint. Every time we see a huge honkin’ robot punching a huge honkin’ monster, things happen. Things are at stake. The level of destruction and even the visual style is reminiscent of Transformers, but Pacific Rim never gives us a city-destroying battle just to put some flashing lights on the screen in between dialogue scenes. Now, let’s not forget the monsters. Del Toro has a penchant for the grotesque, and his Kaiju are both cool and downright nightmarish. The Jaegers are a little less memorable, but their lumbering, mechanical movement is a convincing (and pretty badass) translation of the giant robot archetype. It’s frustrating, then, that every fight takes place in the pouring rain, and most of them occur at sea, shrouding Del Toro’s creations and making it hard to decipher the director’s close shots and quick editing.
Pacific Rim‘s marketing plays on the spectacle of robots vs. monsters, and while I won’t deny that there’s a large element of “wow that’s awesome a robot just ripped a monster’s arm off,” what keeps the movie watchable is its humanity — as simple and stupid as it sometimes is. Raleigh and Mako both cope with grief over loved ones throughout the film, and the post-Kaiju world that the characters inhabit feels like a plausible reality in the hands of a director as thoughtful as Del Toro. This is a movie populated by cartoon characters, including a British scientist who unironically says “by jove,” an Australian man who has a pitbull with him at all times, and a hilariously belligerent black-market entrepreneur (Ron Perlman). Despite all that, and maybe a little bit because of it, Pacific Rim has this odd charm to it, the sort of campy yet sincere bravado that made me fall in love with Joe Johnston’s Captain America film.
Still, I can’t bring myself to heap praise on Pacific Rim because it rarely does anything great. Its flawed spectacle lacks the visceral impact of other summer blockbusters, but its script is too silly and its acting too uneven to rise above its action movie trappings. Don’t misunderstand, though: Pacific Rim is never boring, and it never really does anything particularly bad. As strange as it sounds, I admire Pacific Rim even though I don’t really love it. This is a focused, original concept executed by a passionate and creative director, and it’s pretty fun to boot. If this is what we get when we let Guillermo smash his two favorite toys together, then I don’t want Pacific Rim to be the last of its kind. Viva Del Toro.
Read more here: Crunchy Roll
July 3, 2013 in Anime News
You can never tell how good (or bad) a game is going to be from preview material. Screenshots and video can only do so much, and even early hands-on coverage just gives a quick impression of a title. No, I feel you need to sit down with a game, and spend hours actually getting used to it before you can form a complete opinion on it. Thankfully, the hotly-anticipated Namco Bandai/Capcom/Sega crossover SRPG Project X Zone delivers on its promise of a fun, fast-paced crossover extravaganza. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done.
Project X Zone is a follow-up to the Japan-only Namco X Capcom, another crossover strategy-RPG featuring a diverse cast and an action-focused battle system, this time including characters from Capcom, Namco Bandai, and Sega’s stables. While I was excited for the idea of actually getting to play a dream crossover like this, there’s a reason a lot of these SRPGs don’t make their way overseas–they’re terribly-designed, fan-pandering cash grabs that confuse an endless grind for challenging gameplay (see also: just about everything Nippon Ichi does that isn’t Disgaea, or the standard Idea Factory SRPG).
Here’s something I need to make clear right now: Project X Zone isn’t a bad game. However, in a world where we have Fire Emblem: Awakening, X-COM: Enemy Unknown, and Valkyria Chronicles, it certainly qualifies as a pretty dumb game for its genre. Strategy, tactics, and formations aren’t all that important. You’re given plenty of chances to screw up, and you don’t really have to plan that far ahead. Healing items are plentiful, and you’re given a small army to fight most battles, so you’re never really short on manpower or resources. No, Project X Zone doesn’t expect you to be a good general, but it does expect you to be a good soldier, as the meat of the game deals with the fierce, combo-based tag-team battles.
Project X Zone‘s cast is arranged into teams of two (such as Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, or Yuri and Estelle from Tales of Vesperia), with a third slot open for interchangeable “assist” characters, ranging from famous headliners (like Tekken‘s Heihachi Mishima) to forgotten favorites (Space Channel 5‘s Ulala). While you can certainly mash buttons during the game’s battle sequences, that’ll only get you past the game’s early stages. Learning each team’s lines of attack, which techniques work best for follow-up attacks, and which assists do the most damage can create almost-neverending combos. Early-on, you can get by with just repeating combos and calling in assists, but as you get farther in, you’ll need better timing and knowledge of enemies’ hitboxes, which teams you should be putting on the front lines, and which ones hang back for cleanup.
I’m focusing so much on the gameplay because that’s the real star of Project X Zone–its story definitely isn’t anything to write home about. This is literally how almost every stage starts:
-Fade in on new characters in their home world. Introduce them, set up motivations. If they’re not in their “home” world, they’ll probably talk about how amazing it is that they’re in another world, and how it’s a mystery that must be solved later.
-BAD GUYS ATTACK! Characters exchange pleasantries/snarky comments and get ready to fight.
-MORE GOOD GUYS SHOW UP! Everybody talks about how amazing it is that they’re in another world, and how it’s a mystery that must be solved later.
-Sometimes, the bad guys get to say something here. If they don’t, it’s usually generic monsters making generic monster sounds. Everybody exchanges pleasantries/snarky comments.
-Cue fight scene!
I’m barely halfway into the game–it’s a long one!–and this has been standard procedure in every single chapter. And yet, I’m not tired of it so far! It helps that the pleasantries and snarky commentary are actually pretty damn funny–Dead Rising‘s Frank West, Resonance of Fate‘s Vashyron, and Endless Frontier‘s Haken are probably the best parts of the cast. This is definitely a case of the plot being weak and contrived, but the writing standing on its own two feet and making the whole process more bearable.
I originally thought these were simple “slide across the screen” stills, but they’re actually beautifully-animated, unusually bouncy cut-in segments
Between all the dream team-ups and frenetic combat, Project X Zone is a huge melting pot of fanservice (of all kinds, not just the boobs kind). Morrigan and Chun-li team up with a vicious Darkness Illusion into Shichisei Senkuu Kyaku combo, the Resonance of Fate trio can team up with Valkyria Chronicles III‘s heroes and fill the screen with a hail of bullets, and plenty more. Oh yeah, and for those of you who are connossieurs of shameless fanservice, Project X Zone fills your boobage quota with PXZ original Mii Kouryuji, Endless Frontier‘s Kaguya Nanbu, Morrigan Aensland and more, all lavishly-drawn in screen-filling “power-up” animations.
Even with the fast-paced battle system and the loads of fanservice, Project X Zone is hampered by some disappointing choices. Characters are locked into their two-person teams (so for instance, you can’t pair .hack‘s Kite with Shining Force EXA‘s Soma with God Eater‘s Soma as an assist for a Ridiculously Huge Swordapalooza), but this is more of a deliberate design choice and less of a dumb oversight. Also, as someone who has been hopelessly addicted to everything Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, it’s kind of annoying to have to use the 3DS’ Circle Pad for character movement on a grid map, and for the cardinal direction-based character specials.
Comparing SRPGs to my favorite genre, Fire Emblem is Street Fighter–it’s a codifier, it defines what the genre is capable of. It provides a hearty challenge for experienced fans of the genre, while giving newcomers a good starting point with a reasonable learning curve. With that in mind, Project X Zone is Dead or Alive–it’s flashy, it’s fast, it’s not particularly smart, but it definitely delivers in terms of fun factor. That’s about what I was hoping for.
+ Gorgeous sprite graphics and character artwork bring a dream cast to life
+ Battle system is easy to learn, but requires practice and forethought to truly master
+ Tons of references and visual nods to Capcom, Namco Bandai, and Sega games new and old
+/- God-awful story, but general character interaction and banter tends to be pretty hilarious
+/- A lot of fanservice, like almost an uncomfortable amount–watch who you play this around
- For a “strategy RPG,” it’s actually very light on strategy, tactics, and overall challenge
Read more here: Crunchy Roll