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5/28/2013

REVIEW: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (Xbox 360)


The original Ninja Gaiden 3 was such a terrible game that it literally crushed the hopes of the vast majority of fans in the franchise worldwide. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did went wrong. So when Team NINJA (also makers of Dead or Alive) decided to remake another version originally for Wii U, I didn’t really expect much and even though I’m a huge fan of the original Ninja Gaiden Black (one of the best games ever for me), Razor’s Edge didn’t get me excited at all. But given Team NINJA’s positive history with remakes, I ultimately decided to give a try to the Xbox 360 version given that it was fairly cheap.

In the vanilla version, pretty much everything is really bad. The technical aspects like the graphics, sound and overall performance of the game. The plot is also terrible, being a shame to everything Ryu Hayabusa represented in the Original Xbox game and the gameplay felt more like a mediocre Dynasty Warriors than a Ninja Gaiden game. There were way too many things to change, things to improve and completely scrap from the first version. So I just didn’t think Razor’s Edge would be much of an improvement. Fortunately, I was very wrong.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is quite possibly one of the most impressive remakes I’ve played in my history as a hardcore gamer. The graphics have been completely improved just like the overall sound performance. In gameplay, Team NINJA made the correct decision of destroying unnecessary parts and add a lot of new content like three extra characters, new weapons, ninpo spells, boss fights, enemy models and many more and though it still doesn’t reach the level of brilliance of Ninja Gaiden Black, I can tell you for sure that Razor’s Edge is truly a fantastic game.

Before jumping to the good stuff, I’ll mention the only bad thing about the game, which is ironically the only thing it still shares with vanilla: The storyline. NG3 starts with a terrorist attack in London where the bad guys, led by a boring villain that calls himself an alchemist are demanding the presence of super ninja Ryu Hayabusa to use him to create a Goddess. After battling him, Ryu’s arm is cursed because of the thousands of people he’s killed with his Dragon Sword and so begins a quest to both heal himself and stop this ridiculous group of alchemists from remaking the world or whatever it is they wanted.

The plot is laughable at best and no matter how I try to explain it, it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not interesting at all, it’s much worse that I can put into words and I see it as a disrespect to the badass personality the same developers gave to Ryu in the first game. There, Ryu almost didn’t talk; he didn’t care for anything (even an incredibly hot busty blonde that followed him around), only his revenge and kill demons. That’s all that was necessary, but now Team NINJA decided to make an epic quest, even making Ryu turn friendly to a little girl. They failed of course but fortunately, you’ll only have to endure this once as now, 90% of the game revolves around gameplay outside the plot.

The graphics are excellent and make most of the remade environments look beautiful. Ryu and the new playable girls look incredible and have excellent animations on them, just like the enemies that now move gracefully around places and have more intense and badass-looking attack patterns. The gore from the original Ninja Gaiden II is back so you’ll see enemies drop fountains of blood and lose limbs in pretty much every fight. The game is extremely fast unlike others in the same genre like for example God of War and yet, has a very solid framerate that never slows down even when too many things are happening at the same time, which is almost in every fight. The textures are much better than in vanilla, especially on the important characters.

Musically, Razor’s Edge is a bit generic but not bad at all. Many of the most iconic old songs from Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 make a comeback like Ayane’s theme or the Boss Battle themes that played when fighting against Doku or Zedonius in the previous games. It’s cool overall but it doesn’t really offer any new iconic musical scores. One of the things I have to thank to the Gods is the removal of the annoying lines the human enemies used to repeat in vanilla. Those are gone for the most part and now they just scream in rage or agony as they fight, just like the non-human enemies.

In gameplay, Razor’s Edge feels much closer to the first two titles than to vanilla as now, enemies have a very solid AI that make them perform very intense attack patterns that can be very difficult to deal with. Enemies now feel real instead or the lifeless models the game put before you to kill before. The annoying parts from the first version are either gone, like the uncomfortable scene with a terrorist asking Ryu for mercy only to be killed anyway, or extremely reduced like the “stealth” section in Chapter 1 or the part where Ryu had to carry a little girl around a hallway filled with ugly monsters for a long while. Now, those only take about 10 seconds to complete and feel more like a connection between cool fights rather than an annoyance. They’re only present in Story Mode too, which means, never.

A radical change in gameplay was added. Now, you’ll earn Karma Score with each fight and use it as currency to unlock skills like the Guillotine Throw or Flying Swallow technique, better versions of weapons and Ninpo spells and of course, costumes for each playable character. Golden Scarabs are also back and collecting them will give you pretty cool bonuses and Obliteration Techniques also make a comeback from Ninja Gaiden II. If an enemy loses a limb while fighting, you can kill it with a single excellent-looking attack. These Obliteration Techniques replace the crappy quick-time events from Vanilla.

Ryu himself got several new weapons like the Dual Katanas that allow him to use two blades at the same time for intense-looking attacks, the Lunar Staff or one of my personal favorites, the Kusari-gama, a weight attached to a small scythe with a metallic chain that has excellent animations and works excellent for both one-on-one and area-of-effect damage. The returning weapons now feel very different and trust me when I say that each of them has its uses. Many of the enemies will be more susceptible to certain attacks while probably being more resistant to others. I truly recommend avoiding sticking to a single weapon in Razor’s Edge as all six are really excellent.

After completing the crappy plot, you’ll earn access to the Chapter Challenge mode that allows you to play any chapter without the lame story cinematics and best of all, with any of the three new playable girls, Ayane, Momiji and Kasumi. Each of them has their own gameplay style that does not resemble Ryu’s at all. Ayane is extremely fast with her two daggers and exploding shurikens, Momiji is slower but deals tons of damage with her Naginata and Kasumi (who makes her first appearance in Ninja Gaiden) uses a single short Katana in reverse-grip for some beautiful and elegant attacks.

Besides Chapter Challenge, there’s a mode called Shadows of the World where you’ll engage in some extremely cool Ninja Trials that put your character-of-choice in a set area to kill a specific set of enemies that may or may not end in a boss fight. These trials are all very cool and have some of the most insane enemy combinations. As you advance on them and unlock new ones, the fights against normal enemies and bosses will get more and more difficult, even to ridiculous points where you’ll most likely wonder what the hell you have to do to survive. Fan-favorite bosses like Doku, Alma and Genshin return in Ninja Trials. These are all excellent for gamers looking for a challenge and beat Karma score records in the online Leaderboards.

Shadows of the World also has a level-up system where you’ll be able to take control of an Unknown Ninja and unlock weapons, skills and even parts of costumes to him. In gameplay, he’s just a clone of Ryu but unlocking the stuff and leveling up his skills and weapons is actually very fun. You can also take part in Co-op challenges with a friend online, these are VERY hard and Clan Battles are a return of the shitty multiplayer from vanilla. This time however, glitches and bugs are fixed, the maps are better designed and the overall performance is better. Defeating other players online will prove to be just as difficult as the AI-controlled enemies with their mechanics.

It’s truly a shame that Team NINJA decided not to change the storyline because that’s probably the thing that still keeps Razor’s Edge below Black in overall quality. Still, I can say for sure that this is an amazing game in every other aspect. The vast majority of the bad things are gone and in their place, many excellent ones were included. New weapons, enemies, characters and game modes make Razor’s Edge the true Ninja Gaiden 3, with countless hours of replay value. We can now add this game to the increasing number of excellent remakes made by Team NINJA who somehow always manages to do an excellent job when remaking their own games like in the cases of Dead or Alive ++, 2 Ultimate, 3.1, Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Sigma 2.


Pros:

-          Tons of new content like weapons, modes and characters.
-          Obliteration techniques replace QTE.
-          Excellent graphics.
-          Extremely solid gameplay will test your abilities.
-          Ninja Trials and Clan Battles add a lot of replay value.
-          Intense boss fights.
-          Annoying sections of the original version are gone or heavily reduced.

Cons:

-          Extremely bad storyline.
-          Soundtrack is a bit generic.


-          Graphics and Visuals………....9
-          Music and Sound Effects…......7
-          Gameplay……………………10
-          Replay Value………………...10


-          Overall Score……………….. 9 / 10

5/21/2013

REVIEW: Dynasty Warriors Next (Vita)


The Dynasty Warriors franchise and the Musou genre in general are something really big in the gaming industry in Japan. There are dozens of games in the genre that keep on being some of the best-selling titles in the country to the point where many popular Anime franchises like One Piece, Saint Seiya and even Gundam have been used for Musou games. While the western popularity of the genre isn’t even close to the Japanese one, we’ve been lucky enough to see most of the important titles get localized and fortunately, the PS Vita’s first Dynasty Warriors game is available to us.

Dynasty Warriors Next is a very simple Musou game with several nice and pretty touches of motion sensing and touch-screen gameplay to take advantage of the PS Vita’s capabilities. For the players out there not familiar with the Musou term, it’s the name of a gaming genre that focuses entirely on large-scale beat-em-up battles where the player takes control of a character and kills hundreds of enemies in a single battle, usually against innumerable hordes of enemies and many times accompanied by large groups of AI-controlled allies.

The game takes place in a fictional version of China from many centuries ago where different dynasties and kingdoms are in constant war to claim control over the entire territory. There are dozens of different characters but the main story focuses on three of them named Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. Each of them controls a different part of the country, have different ideologies, objectives, allies and personalities. We get to alternate between each of their campaigns and in general terms, we end up getting a fairly interesting storyline that is better that we might think at first.

It’s going to be easy to notice that graphically, the game is mostly good. For a portable Dynasty Warriors game, it looks pretty, especially on the playable characters, the ones with names, specific animations, dialogs and so on. The rest of the units, that can appear in the hundreds in a single map, are usually generic models of a Chinese man wearing some random outfit or armor that is present at all times and is used as either an enemy soldier or ally unit and that honestly, don’t look as cool as the important characters.

Still, these soldiers tend to spawn out of nowhere when the player gets near to the areas. This is one of the most criticized aspects of the Musou genre, they simply can’t have that many characters on screen at the same time so, while the Vita is a very powerful portable console, it still can’t do this part of the genre the right way. But at the same time, it’s going to be really easy to get used to this and to be honest; it doesn’t really hinder the experience with the game at all.

Most of the maps are similar in looks but have different layouts and tons of objects scattered around them like forts, rivers, small hills, random debris and things like that. Besides, some of them have effects like rain or snow that while they don’t look that good, add some necessary variety to the environments in the game. In general, the game looks pretty and feels like a much better-looking version of the DW games that were available on the PSP, especially on some excellent pre-rendered cutscenes that sometimes play in the Campaign.

The soundtrack is not bad, but nothing special either. It mostly consists of a random generic rock beats for both the menus and the battles. There aren’t many songs so you should get used to listening to the same group of songs over and over. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack isn’t really bad, much less annoying but when I think of the immense popularity this genre and especially this franchise has, I suppose the guys at Koei could do a better job at this. I guess not.

The voice acting is pretty nice for the story-telling, it comes in English only but it seems to have been dubbed in a good way. The story conversations and narrative are nice and help you keep in track to what is happening in the plot. Most characters sound pretty good too except two or three that you won’t be seeing much. The crappy part about this is that, like in most Musou games, characters tend to say random lines during battle that sometimes specify something that is happening on it. There aren’t many of these lines so they’ll get very repetitive, very fast. This is possibly the worst aspect of the game and one of the most annoying ones.

When it comes to gameplay, Dynasty Warriors Next is actually a very fun game. I’m personally not a fan of the series and only own a couple of games of the genre including this one but surprisingly, each time I played this, I was normally planning on doing just a couple battles and usually ended up glued to the game for a couple hours or more. As I explained before, DW Next features huge battles with literally hundreds and hundreds of enemies controlled by the AI that we can kill with the many combos the playable characters have.

There are many of these, dozens of them in fact, each with their own weapons and play-styles that go from the normal sword or spear wielders like Cao Cao and Zhao Yun to others that fight with bows or crossbows like Xiahou Yuan and even some strange girls that fight their enemies by playing a flute or even an giant harp like Zhenji and Cai Wenji. Yes, some of the characters use musical instruments to create magical waves that damage enemy hordes, it’s pretty cool. Each character will have to gather weapons and items during battle to equip them later and of course, they’ll have to upgrade their equipment to guarantee a better performance in the harder fights.

The battles don’t only consist of committing mass murder of course, the actual objective of the game is to capture different bases the fill the entire map. There are many types of these and by capturing them, you can get bonuses like extra attack power for your allies, animal units like wolves, tigers and panda bears to fight for you, catapult attacks to enemy bases and of course, many more allied units to your army. Usually, the main objective in each battle is to capture the main enemy base that most times will be completely sealed off until the smaller enemy camps are yours.

During the battles, you’ll encounter several nice minigames that use some of the PS Vita’s cool features like the motion sensor to look for soldiers who ambush you, touch-screen to stop incoming arrows from distant archers and some one-on-one duels with enemy officers that require good reflexes to stop their attacks and counter them via touch screen. The rear touch pad is also used for some special attacks several of your characters will have. These minigames are nothing special to be honest but they’re nice, add tons of variety to the pace of the game and usually don’t take more than a few seconds to complete and go back to the normal battle.

Besides the main Campaign Mode that features the stories of Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan, there’s a Conquest Mode that allows you to play a conquering game against the AI where you’ll try to capture as many territories that belong to it while it tries to do the same with yours. Coalition Mode lets you play the game with friends via Ad-hoc, which is very nice, Gala Mode will let you play any of the minigames I mentioned before at any time and Edit Mode will allow you to create a character from scratch, using several costumes, weapons and things like that. Finally, there’s an Encyclopedia that gives detailed explanations on the many characters, territories and events. This one is an excellent addition to players who are unfamiliar with the series’ universe.

In short, I can say that while it’s definitely not one of the best Vita titles, Dynasty Warriors Next is a very cool and fun game that can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. Being a Musou game will make many players out there think it’s short on content and variety but in all honesty, Next is all the contrary to that. There are dozens of characters to use and many minigames, missions, events and modes to enjoy. I personally enjoyed it quite a bit and while I’m sure it’s not even close to being one of the gems in the console, I consider it a strong Vita title.


Pros:

-          Dozens of different characters to use.
-          Several modes to try out.
-          The story is interesting.
-          Thousands of enemies to kill.
-          For a Musou game, it’s varied and has tons of content.
-          Takes advantage of most of the Vita’s features.

Cons:

-          Battle dialogs are way too repetitive.
-          Not very strong graphically or in sound.
-          Online features aren’t very good.


-          Graphics and Visuals………....7
-          Music and Sound Effects…......6
-          Gameplay……………………8
-          Replay Value………………...8

-          Overall Score……………….. 7 / 10

5/18/2013

Personal to-be-reviewed games

Just taking a small record of the games I need to review on short term and long term:

SHORT TERM

Vita:
- Dynasty Warriors Next
- Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2+
- Dead or Alive 5+
- Little Big Planet

3DS:
- Code of Princess

Xbox 360:
- Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
- Persona 4 Arena
- Forza Horizon

PS3:
- Atelier Ayesha
- Portal 2

LONG TERM:

Vita:
- Soul Sacrifice
- Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus

3DS:
- Fire Emblem: Awakening

Xbox 360:
- DMC Devil May Cry
- Metal Gear Rising
- Tomb Raider
- Farcry 3
- Zone of the Enders HD
- The Witcher 2
- Resonance of Fate
- Eternal Sonata
- Lost Odyssey
- Blue Dragon
- Fallout 3

PS3:
- Mass Effect 2
- Mass Effecr 2
- Killzone 3
- Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3
- Atelier Totori
- Atelier Meruru
- Hyperdimension Neptunia
- Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2
- Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
- Journey
- Star Ocean: The Last Hope International
- Devil May Cry 4
- Dead Space 2

Wii:
- The Last Story
- Pandora's Tower

PSP:
- Persona 1
- Persona 2
- Gods Eater Burst
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
- Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time
- Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

5/15/2013

Razor's Edge FINISHED!

I just finished Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge and what a pleasant surprise that game was. A year ago when the vanilla version came out, I predicted it was gonna be really bad because we could simply tell from the trailers and gameplay videos comparing them to Ninja Gaiden Black (one of my favorite games ever). Of course, the final product ended up being terrible and in my personal case, I prefer to think I paid for the DOA5 Alpha demo and got NG3 as a free bonus. 

When Razor's Edge was announced for the Wii U and later for PS360, I was really doubtful about it because there were so many things to fix and change that it seemed impossible to make anything good out of that mess but once again, Team NINJA has surprised me with yet another fantastic remake. Razor's Edge is extremely good.


The gameplay completely changed so Obliteration Techniques from Ninja Gaiden II are back, the fights now feel like a Ninja Gaiden game instead of a Dynasty Warriors one. It requires tons of skill because healing items are gone so we need to administer the little health we have with a new gameplay mechanic called "Steel on Bone" that allows us to counter attack certain enemy throws for some really brutal one-hit kills that give some extra health.

While the Dynasty Warriors feeling is definitely gone, the fights in Razor's Edge feature a lot of enemies that keep appearing as their buddies die but this time, it's just more fun and it simply feels right. Ryu got several new weapons that weren't present in vanilla like the the Kusari-gama, Lunar Staff and Dual Katanas. All weapons feel different and have their uses. In fact, some enemies are weaker to some especific weapons this time. Ninpo spells taken from Ninja Gaiden II are back like the Art of the Wind Blades and the Black Hole Ryu shoots. 

Ayane has a couple of stages in Story Mode and she feels much better than in Sigma 2 where she was already incredible. Momiji is playable in Ninja Trials and Chapter Challenge (two new Game Modes) and while Rachel is nowhere to be seen, we got Kasumi in her place and she's INSANE. I really never thought I'd see Kasumi dismembering enemies so brutally without any mercy after so many years of seeing her innocent childish attitude in Dead or Alive. I like this Kasumi much more than the sweet girl from the fighting game.


The gore is back, just like in Ninja Gaiden II where enemies drop fountains of blood. It reminds me of a Mortal Kombat game. It's that exaggerated but it looks amazing. Several of the shitty sections from vanilla are either gone, like the soldier begging for mercy only to be killed anyway by Busa, or heavily simplified like the part where Busa had to carry a little girl on a hallway filled with monsters. Now that part is just two monsters trying to take away the girl and it can be dealt with in about 10 seconds.

The only thing that didn't change was the plot itself. That one is still pretty bad and laughable. I really wonder if Team NINJA even have writers on their staff sometimes because Ninja Gaiden and DOA games seriously have shitty storylines but well, nothing can be perfect. The incredibly good gameplay and overall remade game more than makes up for the crappy plot. 

I haven't had the chance to try multiplayer yet and I'm not expecting much but who knows¿ I could be in for another cool surprise. For now, I'll just focus on Ninja Trials and Chapter Challenge with the four characters to unlock all their skills and costumes. Damn, this game is seriously good!

5/14/2013

REVIEW: Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360)


If there’s one thing the current console generation has seen, is a huge rise in the amount of shooter games developed and released in every platform. Call of Duty, Borderlands and other franchises are taking the spotlight from other games and some of us can’t help but wonder if it’s worth it. So every time a game of the genre is released, gamers like me with different tastes tend to doubt its quality and look at it with some skepticism. Fortunately, every once in a while, a true gem of the industry comes out in the genre and trust me when I say Bioshock Infinite is one of these. This is definitely a game that will be remembered forever.

Developed by Irrational Games (System Shock 2, Bioshock 1) and published by 2K Games, Bioshock Infinite is a fantastic first-person shooter that mixes many different ingredients that, on paper, don’t seem like they’re going to work out well but end up being the perfect recipe in the end. In it, we take control of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent in 1912 United States that is given a mission to hand over a girl to some unknown characters to erase his huge debt to them. After being left stranded on a mysterious lighthouse, he boards a rocket that takes him to the incredible and beautiful floating city of Columbia, where American exceptionalism is the strongest point of its population.

After a short while, Booker will find the girl he’s looking for, named “Elizabeth” and they will have to work together as a real team to escape Columbia and overcome the hundreds of dangers that the story will put before them like the citizens of the city calling Booker the “False shepherd” and attacking him or a huge bird-like construct trying to take Elizabeth away from Booker. During Bioshock Infinite, we’ll easily notice the game has a strange but perfect mix of Steampunk elements in the design of the floating city but at the same time it has tons of guns, heavy references to physics and alternate realities and universes, robotics and yes, even magic in the form of Vigors, some spells really similar to the Plasmids from Rapture’s two games.

Bioshock Infinite looks great on the Xbox 360. Most of the textures, use of colors, animations, lightning effects and framerate are really good but when compared to the PC version running in a good machine, it’s easy to notice the 360 one running a little short. Still, it’s very, very good. I especially loved the animations in Booker’s hands while playing, like reloading his weapons, his hands changing from the use of Vigor spells and how he usually interacts with objects around the city. Besides, the lightning is excellent and helps with the overall design of the city that floats among several islands in midair and its great atmosphere; the excellent movements of the enemies are also really good, Columbia itself being extremely beautiful and the best of all, Elizabeth’s facial expressions that make her come to life in a fantastic way. To be honest, Elizabeth has to be one of the best female leads in gaming ever created.

The soundtrack is amazing, composed by Garry Schyman, who also worked on the previous Bioshock games and others like Resistance: Retribution and Dante’s Inferno. It fits in a perfect way with the environment and events of the game and really makes you feel like you’re in the United States of 1912 among a heavily racist and religious population that works like a powerful sect. It also has a great pace, changing immediately but not in a sudden way when the events go from exploring to violence and so forth.

Another of the strongest points in the game is the voice-acting. Every character is voiced perfectly and they really fool you and make you think you’re either watching an action movie or participating in the events yourself. The plot in Bioshock Infinite is extremely confusing with tons of weird terminology and events that the player seriously need to pay attention to if he/she doesn’t want to get lost and the voice-acting in the game really helps with the narrative and does each of its parts right. One of the many things that make Booker and Elizabeth an awesome team is their interactions and conversations.

In gameplay, Bioshock Infinite has everything you would expect from a first-person shooter campaign. It follows a formula where Booker will explore a certain section of the city trying to complete a given objective and in the way, he’ll have to engage in different firefights with a lot of very dangerous enemies that go from Columbia police and rebels to even giant robots that resemble American patriots and mounted turrets. All usual kinds of weapons are there: pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles but in this game, most weapons profiles have different types so, unlike Bioshock 1 where for example, the machine gun had different kinds of ammo, in Infinite we’ll have access to different machine guns each with their own attributes like rate of fire, anti-armor abilities and such.

In addition, Vigors spells come in different kinds. One of them called “Possession” allows Booker to take control of a machine or human being so it becomes friendly for a short time. He can also shoot lightning, fire and even a bunch of deadly crows at enemies among other interesting things. Vigors can be used together with firearms by pressing the left trigger (guns use the right one) and along with melee attacks (Y button) make a perfect combination to emerge victorious in the hundreds of firefights Booker and Elizabeth will participate in the game.

The most unique thing about the gameplay is that Booker is almost never alone. Elizabeth will accompany him most of the time and her AI is truly excellent. She can open locked doors and safes using lockpicks and also open portals to alternate universes and make items and objects come out of them like friendly turrets, health packs and even some weapons and ammo that will surely come in handy in a specific firefight. If Booker is injured or running out of Salts (mana used to cast Vigor spells), she’ll usually be able to throw a health pack, ammo or Salts bottle at him when she’s nearby.

Elizabeth is actually invincible gameplay-wise so there’s simply no way she’ll be killed in a fight. You never have to worry about it. She’ll hide or run around the place but the enemies will never attack her (because according to the story, the enemies are trying to rescue or take her away from you). With this, the game avoids being a really long escort mission. She’s pretty useful, is almost always close to Booker (even when he’s riding one of the Skylines, some rollercoaster-like railway system used in Columbia) and has her uses all through the game. Besides, she has a fantastic personality that makes her a little bit similar to a Disney princess at the beginning but that matures and becomes quite independent and intelligent as the game story advances and the dark and heavy atmosphere of Columbia emerges. As I already stated, Elizabeth is one of the best female leads in the gaming industry and the team she makes with Booker is legendary.

Several other interesting things are present in Bioshock Infinite. Like a really HUGE metallic construct that resembles a bird called “Songbird” that is in charge of protecting Elizabeth and will try to hunt you down several times throughout the game. It is really scary and at least in the first playthrough, will have you in high alert at all times because you simply don’t know when it’s going to show up. Other sections of the game include dark scary places with a terror atmosphere that actually manage to be really creepy and scary. These often use the portals and alternate universes thing against Booker. So the pace of the game is extremely varied between all those, the firefight and the normal exploration.

While the game is mostly linear, most areas have a lot of hidden rooms, passageways and Skyline rails that will take Booker and Elizabeth to optional places where they’ll be able to find health, weapons, ammo, Salts and money to spend on robotic vending machines scattered all over Columbia where you’ll be able to purchase upgrades for your weapons and Vigors, and other important things. Voice records that fill key elements to the story are also hidden all over the place, just like in Bioshock 1. Finding and listening to them is vital to understanding a lot of important parts of the confusing storyline the game has.

One of the things that could turn people away from Bioshock Infinite is the lack of multiplayer. The game does not have any kind of competitive or cooperative modes. It’s just the campaign. But to be quite honest, after seeing how many interesting shooters have been negatively affected by the addition of multiplayer, I personally think the decision to not include one in Infinite was for the best. The campaign alone makes this game a really fantastic gem.

Finally, I can say that Bioshock Infinite is definitely the way most first-person shooters should play like. It has all the technical stuff we could ask for, like great graphics, soundtrack, voice acting and gameplay but in addition to that, the storyline, narrative, design and team-based gameplay between Booker and Elizabeth is pretty much perfect. This is a game that will go down in history as one of the gems of the generation and it truly deserves it. Bioshock Infinite is a game that must be played by anyone with an Xbox 360, PS3 or a good PC that can run it. It simply cannot be missed.


Pros:
-          Great graphics, soundtrack and voice-acting.
-          Excellent storyline.
-          Booker and Elizabeth make a fantastic team.
-          Elizabeth’s abilities are truly helpful
-          Thousands of hidden objects and extra stuff to find.
-          Tons of weapons and Vigor spells to use.
-          Columbia is an extremely beautiful and well-designed floating city.
-          Firefights, exploration, story and scripted events make an excellent pace.
-          The Songbird.
-          THE ENDING.


Cons:
-          Dying doesn’t really bring any negative consequences.
-          Even on Hard, the game is not very difficult.


-          Graphics and Visuals……..…..9
-          Music and Sound Effects…......10
-          Gameplay……………….……10
-          Replay Value………………....10

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.8 / 10

5/13/2013

REVIEW: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)


The JRPG genre has seen a very sudden decline in the number of games available this generation. A genre that reigned in the late 90s and early 2000s when games like Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears were the kings now has its fans literally digging among mountains of first-person shooters and other mainstream games to find a good RPG of Japanese origins and most of the times, we end up with titles like Atelier Ayesha or Tales of Graces f that, while definitely not bad, don’t even come close to the quality standards of those past years.

For that reason, when games like Ni no Kuni come to the industry, it’s definitely a reason for joy and celebration because it means the genre can still come back to what it was. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a JRPG created by Level 5 (Dragon Quest VIII, Dark Cloud) with the art style of the animated movies by Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli (Mononoke Hime, Laputa, Tonari no Totoro, etc) that mixes several key points that end up being a fantastic game in almost every aspect. In its plot, we players take control of Oliver, a seemingly common boy that lives in the town of Motorville, where after a certain accident, he loses his mom for which he ends up alone.

One night, while Oliver cried, one of his tears falls on his favorite toy, a rather ugly plush doll his mom gave him when he was little. For his surprise, the toy comes to life and introduces himself as the High Lord of the Fairies, Mr Drippy, who convinces Oliver that if he goes to another world and becomes a Wizard to defeat the evil Shadar, he might have a chance of saving his mother and bring her back to Motorville with him. With that, the seemingly harmless Oliver will go in a beautiful and incredible adventure that will take him to dozens of places where he’ll make friends, enemies and fight thousands of battles.

During the entire game, the plot will be told with a great narrative and pace where new key aspects of the magical world will be presented, questions will be slowly asked and many important events will happen one after the other. The storyline in Ni no Kuni is brilliant and definitely one of the strongest points in the game that will keep anyone following it on the edge of his/her seat.

Graphically, Ni no Kuni is spectacular. The textures, colors, animations and the innumerable details on the game’s areas make the Studio Ghibli art style come to life stronger than ever. It’s really impressive how, unlike other JRPGs, Ni no Kuni has tons of objects, different plants, cracks on walls and many other details that decorate the environments to avoid different places looking the same which is most of the times monotonous and even boring. Besides, the game will occasionally play an Anime-style cutscene where Miyazaki’s style is also present and trust me when I say they look really, really good.

The music in the game, made by Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi (from several of Miyazaki’s movies too) and performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, is of the best quality. Practically every song is very memorable with soft rhythms that fit perfectly in every single moment of the game’s adventure like battles, towns, the world map and dungeons. The main theme, called “Kokoro no Kakera” is especially good and comes in both Japanese and English. Just like the voice acting that is present in both languages. It’s a little strange when this happens but to be honest and after trying both for a few hours each, the English voices seem better than the Japanese ones mostly because the original is filled with cliché lines really typical to other games and Anime series of the same style

In terms of gameplay, Ni no Kuni stays loyal to classic formulas in some ways and innovates heavily in others. Like in most old-school and famous JRPGs, the game has a world map where towns are smaller than the character until the players enter and they can be visited in all splendor. The enemies can be seen before battle so they can be avoided. This is another game that proves random encounters are a thing of the past. Outside battle, as usual, we’ll be able to interact with countless NPC, finish sidequests, search for enemies, open chests, solve puzzles, buy and sell in stores, etc.

The game is unique in its battles. It uses a system where Oliver and his party can tame the monster called “Familiars” they defeat in the fights. There are hundreds of these monsters each with their own abilities, stats, attributes and play styles. The idea is that the players must control these Familiars and equip them to the party members (Oliver and co.) to be able to summon them in battle to do their thing. What makes this system so unique is that, though the game focuses on the Familiars, Oliver himself and his friends can also take part in battle and do things like attack, cast spells and such so switching between the characters and the Familiars is a key point when learning how to play Ni no Kuni.

You could say the battle system is like a mix between turn-based fights and action ones. The leader of the party and his/her Familiars can be moved freely around the area while the rest of the group will be controlled by the AI under certain parameters like “Keep us Healthy”, “Conserve MP” or “Go all-out” that can be chosen by the player. Commands are chosen from a list and each time one is used, a cool down begins where the player must wait a short time before being able to do that same action again. So switching between characters, Familiars and alternating their actions and commands heavily is also pretty important in gameplay.

Still, the AI in the game doesn’t always work like you want it to. There’s a girl named Esther that joins Oliver in his adventure pretty early in the game that is an expert in wasting her MP casting expensive support spells at the end of common fights against normal and weak enemies no matter what AI style is chosen for her so it’s a little annoying to play trying to stop her from running out of mana in the middle of a difficult boss fight or dungeon where resources might be tricky to get a hold of. Fortunately, the player will be able to change the leader of the party mid-fight so you can actually alternate between Oliver, Esther and other party members and their familiars if you see them doing the wrong actions.

As usual in JRPG games, the more fights you win, the more Exp you will have and this is important to advance in the story as your characters’ stats will grow and they’ll learn better and more powerful skills. In the case of Familiars, they can also evolve to different and better forms and the player will have to administer skills in a limited number of slots they’ll have available in battle. In addition, they can be given food to increase their familiarity with Oliver. This will give them nice stats, extra skill slots and other nice bonuses that will really come in handy later in the game. All of this makes the public compare Familiars with Pokémon in their own games.

Besides battles and exploration, each town has a lot of sidequests to play available for Oliver in which he’ll have to do errands like find hidden items, kill specific enemies in bounty hunts and other tasks for the townsfolk. The most common ones are quests where specific NPC characters will lose a piece of their heart (soul) like kindness, love, enthusiasm or courage and Oliver will be able to heal them with magic by finding the missing part of the heart they require. These are the most common sidequests but they can be completed easily and quickly for some nice gameplay bonuses at stores.

Finally, I can say that Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is simply a fantastic and amazing game, definitely a must-have for any PS3 owner regardless of his/her tastes in games. It has great graphics, music, voice acting, narrative, plot and battle system. This is an instant classic that will always be remembered as one of the strongest PlayStation 3 exclusives. Now, we can only hope that games like this one, Persona 4 Golden and Xenoblade only mean the slow and much deserved revival of a genre that is missing in the industry.


Pros:
-         Fantastic art style from Studio Ghibli’s Miyazaki.
-         Excellent plot, narrative and pace.
-         Battle system is innovative and fun to play.
-         Oliver and Mr Drippy make an awesome duo.
-         Great soundtrack.
-         Intense boss battles.
-         Lots of end-game content.


Cons:
-         Takes a little while to get going.
-         Esther’s AI is really bad.
-         Lots of Familiars require tons of grinding to become good.


-         Graphics and Visuals…….…..10
-         Music and Sound Effects.........10
-         Gameplay……………………9
-         Replay Value………………...9

-         Overall Score……………….. 9.5 / 10