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6/27/2013

I think my backlog actually goes up to 50 games or more if I include the ones from the N64 era and even some from before, like Secret of Mana. This makes reviewing games a mess a actually much more confusing that it might seem at first. That's the reason why I don't usually care about reviewing games that have been in the market for quite a while or even very old ones. This post is to make a small list of games I need to review in short term to get them out of the way and keep shortening my backlog:

- Forza Horizon (Xbox 360)
- Atelier Ayesha (PS3)
- Soul Sacrifice (Vita)
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2+ (Vita)
- Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (Vita)
- Code of Princess (3DS)
- Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)
- Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)
- DMC Devil May Cry (Xbox 360)
- Farcry 3 (Xbox 360)
- Metal Gear Rising (Xbox 360)
- Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 (PS3)
- Hyperdimension Neptunia (PS3)
- Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 (PS3)
- Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (PS3)
- Atelier Totori (PS3)
- Atelier Meruru (PS3)
- Malicious (PS3)
- Little Big Planet Karting (PS3)

The PS3 RPGs will most likely take a while since they don't really have that much priority and there are other waiting for the spot like Resonance of Fate, Star Ocean 4 and the Fallout and Mass Effect series... Christ Almighty. I need to stop buying these things or else I won't ever finish the backlog. 
I have decided to limit the use of this place exclusively to game reviews, at least for now. During the last two years, I've been into this blogging and I just know I don't have the tools or enthusiasm to turn it into a popular thing. I think I've done quite a good job with the reviews and slowly, the blog turned more into a review archive rather than a gaming diary, which was the original idea. During the time I've been writing here, I've come up with tons of good ideas like using the site for Anime content, which I did for a while, Figures photo galleries, which I also did for quite some time and then other different gaming sections like a video one, a retro one, etc. Sadly, I just don't have the knowledge, enthusiasm and manpower to make all of that a reality and with the huge boom of the social networks like Twitter and Tumblr, I think it's just a futile attempt.

Now, this doesn't mean I'm gonna quit or anything. I'm just keeping the blog more exclusive to game reviews, which I've done quite nicely, I think 2013 has already seen more reviews than both 2012 and 2011. My reviews are usually liked and that motivates me to keep them coming. If I find the enthusiasm to go back to blogging and other things. I'm of course gonna do it, this is my fucking place anyway but I just felt like writing this. Still, I think it's sad that so many days go by now without me making any entries. I wish I had the equipment and manpower to turn this into a bigger thing but I just don't.

So, for now, reviews it is.

6/26/2013

REVIEW: Dead or Alive 5 Plus (Vita)


Ever since Sony released it, the PS Vita has become the home of several fighting game ports from many developers. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat and Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend have found their way to the new portable console with excellent results. But in the case of 3D fighters, the first is Team NINJA’s Dead or Alive 5+, a portable version of the PS3 and Xbox 360 brawler that will finally allow for a solid DOA game wherever we go.

Back in September 2012, Team NINJA made the fifth entry to their Dead or Alive series, which is famous for its fast-paced and fluid combat, stage interaction not available in many other franchises and of course, the beautiful girls. Seven years it took for them to make a new game and the results were quite nice. The PS Vita version is pretty much an exact replica of the console one with of course, weaker graphical power, which is completely understandable.

In fact, the portable version of DOA5 offers some content that hardcore fans of the series have considered vital for competitive environment of the game like a much enhanced training mode and a combo challenge that allows for better understanding of what each character is capable of.


Dead or Alive 5+ looks fantastic on the PS Vita. Team NINJA managed to replicate the character models and stages in an excellent way in the portable console. It is of course weaker than the home console version, but for the Vita’s standards, the game definitely looks incredible. The animations, lightning effects, colors and textures are quite good so I don’t really think anyone competent will find any issues with the visuals. The frame rate is extremely solid as well and makes the game run exactly as anyone would want a portable version of DOA5 to do so.

Just like the console version, the game comes with Japanese and English voices. I personally prefer the Japanese ones because I’m used to them and find them quite good while some of the English ones are extremely annoying and don’t seem to fit the characters (This is especially Leifang’s case). The entire soundtrack from the PS360 version is here too with the addition of an option to play with the characters´ songs rather than the stages’. This makes for the inclusion of each fighter’s DOA4 theme plus new ones for Rig and Mila, the debuting characters in the fifth iteration.

Every mode is available in this port with the sole exception of Tag Battle, which is gone for some reason (a shame). Arcade, Time Attack and Survival make a return with many different difficulty settings for the AI which go from extremely easy to broken hard. These modes are good options to unlock costumes for each of the 24 available characters, including the Virtua Fighter guests, Akira Yuki, Pai Chan and Sarah Bryant.


Story Mode is there but I personally didn’t enjoy it at all and skipped through most of the cinematics (which I had already seen in the PS3 version). The plot in DOA5 is very, very bad. It’s boring, silly and makes little to no sense. You’re off completely ignoring it if you want to actually enjoy the game. Trust me on this. Still, if you must go, you’ll find a plot about some ninjas trying to destroy a corporation and a martial arts tournament for big-breasted girls to participate in. Ugh…

One of the very cool things that 5+ adds is the option for Cross-play and Cross-save data from the PS3 version. If you’re like me, you probably already have all characters and costumes unlocked in the console version. So all you need to do is to connect the Vita to your PS3 and DOA5+ will recognize your data and add the stuff you already unlocked. This is quite nice. It’s also possible to fight a PS3 player online but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Another new mode is touch fight where you choose a fighter and use the PS Vita’s touch screen in vertical position to fight an AI opponent. The mode is fun and does have potential but there’s really not much to do on it and it gets boring quickly. Training Plus offers a much enhanced version of the console’s training mode (which is already excellent) with extra data like recovery frames for each move, better content to understand the stun system and even numerical values to know if a juggle will hit or miss a character depending on his/her weight class. It’s VERY good and honestly, I’ve found myself now training exclusively on the Vita instead of the PS3 and Xbox 360.


The fights themselves are very intense and extremely fast. DOA5+ offers 24 different characters each with more than a hundred different moves that include punch and kick strings, throws and counter-attacks (named Holds) to stop an opponent’s strike. The game allows for excellent-looking combos and each stage has walls, explosive floors, low ceilings and other threats that can be activated on them and used in your favor. This is something I personally enjoy quite a lot from the DOA series, using the stage interaction in my favor.

The cast is excellent and offers many different fighter profiles like fast-paced ninjas (Kasumi, Ryu Hayabusa), slow but strong wrestlers (Bass, Tina) and more balanced fighters that can appeal to many different players that might want to get into the game. I personally find the game to be extremely well-balanced. Each character has more than enough options at his/her disposal to win against anyone so it’s just a matter of player skill level.

Versus mode works excellent with a local player and will prove to be very fun and no different than the same mode in the PS360 version. Sadly, online netcode is not as strong as in other fighters like Persona 4 Arena, even with the option to cross-play a PS3 player, so it’s going to be common to encounter some lag in online matches. It doesn’t happen all the time and sometimes it’s not even noticeable, but it’s there. Overall, the fighting experience in Dead or Alive 5+ is about the same as in the home consoles, something I find extremely positive after being a little disappointed with the 3DS game, Dead or Alive Dimensions.


Dead or Alive 5+ is a fantastic port of the console versions. It’s more than we could have asked for and to be honest, I’m very pleased with the result to the point where I can actually say it’s the best portable fighter I have ever played. Tag Mode was cut for unknown reasons but the improved Training Mode and Combo Challenge make up for it. The graphics and sound quality are of the best I’ve seen in any Vita game and the frame rate is very solid; a very important thing for a competitive fighter. With this game, it’s proven once again that Team NINJA seems to be going in the right direction with a franchise that always struggles in the fight for popularity against Soul Calibur and Tekken. Now I’m even more excited for DOA5 Ultimate.


Pros:

-          Excellent graphics and sound quality.
-          Very solid framerate.
-          Training Mode is fantastic and has a lot of useful information.
-          Combo challenge helps understand a character’s options.
-          Cross-save option.
-          Fast-paced and very fluid gameplay.

Cons:

-          Tag Battle is completely gone.
-          Story Mode is very weak.
-          Online netcode is not very strong.


-          Graphics and Visuals……..…..9
-          Music and Sound Effects…......8
-          Gameplay……………………9
-          Replay Value………………...9


-          Overall Score……………….. 8.8 / 10

REVIEW: Persona 4 Arena (Xbox 360)


The Shin Megami Tensei sub-series Persona has grown in fame quite a lot in the last few years mainly because of Persona 3 and 4, a pair of excellent JRPGs for the PS2 (later remade for PSP and Vita) that gained the respect of gamers worldwide. Now, the series has changed completely and in the hands of Arc System Works (Blazblue, Guilty Gear) has turned the newest console game into a 2D fighter, and one of the best the industry has seen lately.

Persona 4 Arena is a game more similar to Blazblue or The King of Fighters XIII than its own predecessors. It features beautiful 2D sprites to make the characters of Persona 4 and 3 come to life in a new way to kick, punch, shoot and summon their powerful Personas in battle against each other. It’s a fantastic-looking fighter that resembles the crazy and colorful art style of Blazblue (made by the same developers).


The animations are incredible, they feel smooth and look like one of those fast-paced fights we sometimes see in some of the best Japanese video games and anime series. You’ll see characters throwing fireball, shooting guns, jumping around and summoning their huge Personas to fight for them. While the game shares the same genre as other orthodox fighters like for example SSF4AE, Persona 4 Arena is more about flashy attacks and combos that may not look as elegant but still require quite a lot of skill to learn.

The game has a story of its own, taking place a few months after the end of Persona 4. It mixes in some Persona 3 characters and manages to mix nice cutscenes with a fight here and there in each character’s own storyline. These take about two to three hours to complete and they’re very entertaining though they don’t focus that much on the fights themselves but rather on the storytelling. If you’re familiar with the events of both Persona 3 and 4, better yet.


Pretty much all the modes you want in a fighting game are there. You can go straight from Story to Arcade Mode to practice against the AI, Versus Mode is there to fights friends offline and you can also use Free Training and Combo Challenge to polish your skills and find good combos and effective ways to use your limited number of special summoning attacks. In the online scenario, I got to say Persona 4 Arena is possibly one the best fighters I’ve ever played. The Xbox 360 version (after the patch) has a fantastic netcode, I don’t have the best internet connection in the world and I never have lag on it, unlike in other similar games like Dead or Alive 5, Blazblue or Tekken Tag 2.

Just like the JRPGs that came before it, Persona 4 Arena has an amazing soundtrack. Most of the songs are completely new but some iconic themes like “Your Affection” and “I’ll face myself” make a return both untouched and in remix form and they’re more than welcome. Persona games never seem to stop delivering excellent music, no matter if they’re a fighter or an RPG. The voice acting is also fantastic. I played all the way in English and the same voices from the RPGs are present in Arena and they fit, feel nice and the lines they say are very cool and funny.


In gameplay, Persona 4 Arena works differently than other more classic 2D fighters. There’s an auto-combo button that works with all characters and gives a nice chunk of damage if you land it. This might give a fake impression that the game is easy to learn and not very good competitively, but the truth could not be farther than that. P4A also takes a lot of skill to learn, each character needs to know how to administer his/her own meters for specials, they have exclusive skills and of course, each one excels in a different kind of gameplay style.

If you’re familiar with the cast in Persona 4 and 3, you’ll notice that Yosuke is extremely fast but he needs to land a lot of hits to deal a lot of damage. His movement is confusing and hard to defend against but other characters like for example, Kanji, focus on slower but stronger strikes. Kanji doesn’t have Yosuke’s mobility but he can still use other skills to emerge victorious. Yukiko and Naoto excel in ranged attacks and others like Yu and Chie are more balanced. The cast in this game is excellent and there’s definitely someone for you.


In short, Persona 4 Arena is a fantastic 2D fighter that joins the ever-growing number of games available in this nice revival of the genre. It might not be as popular as say, Street Fighter 4 but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. On the contrary, Arena is flashy, fast, takes a lot of skill and always offers something new to learn either with character skills, meters, match-ups and different playstyle each player might apply to a certain fighter. The graphics are incredible, probably the best sprite-based 2D out there and like all other games in the series, the soundtrack is simply amazing. Even if you’re not an RPG enthusiast, Persona 4 Arena will cater to the tastes of everyone who enjoys a good and solid fighting game.


Pros:

-          Excellent sprite-based graphics and animations.
-          Easy to get into it but hard to master.
-          Fantastic soundtrack and voice acting.
-          Story Mode is actually very nice.
-          Extremely solid online netcode.

Cons:

-          Auto-combos are easy to abuse.
-          No frame-data in training mode.


-          Graphics and Visuals…….…..9
-          Music and Sound Effects….....10
-          Gameplay……………………8
-          Replay Value………………...9


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

6/18/2013

REVIEW: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f (Vita)


Hatsune Miku and her Vocaloids are back for another Project Diva rhythm game on the PS Vita. Ever since I played a demo of one of the PSP titles back when I created my Japanese PSN account, I’ve been a fan of Miku and her charming style and really cool songs. So I personally found Project Diva f an excellent game for the portable console and a more-than-welcome addition to its catalog of games.

Project Diva f is a very simple rhythm game that focuses entirely on pressing set button combinations at the right time to follow some adorable and very cool J-pop and J-rock songs performed by Hatsune Miku and the rest of the Vocaloid band, which is made entirely of voices created by synthesizer software. The game is surprisingly fun, charming and really easy to get into, though to be honest, the higher difficulties are much tougher than in the PSP ones.

It has very good graphics with tons of excellent animations and an extremely charming and adorable anime art style. Visually, the game is very colorful and it’s very fun to just look at it. It doesn’t exploit the entire capabilities of the console but the graphics are very good. One very important thing to mention is that this game is only available in Japanese since it’s actually not localized outside that country. This means you have to import it from the internet to get your hands on it. Still, the menus are very easy to handle and even without any basic Japanese knowledge, you’ll be able to find what you want easily.

There are dozens of different songs in the game and the vast majority of them are truly excellent. They’re some of the most famous Vocaloid songs in Japan that include fan-favorites like Weekender Girl or Time Machine. I personally found Project Diva 2nd soundtrack slightly better because I really love songs like Innocence, but the Vita game has a truly fantastic and varied playlist.

In gameplay, the songs usually feature either Hatsune Miku or other Vocaloid members like Luka or Rin singing and dancing to a very pretty song. The objective is to try and press the correct button combinations at the right time to gain points, combo as many notes as you can and break high scores. There are four difficulties available that feel very different from the Project Diva games that were available on the PSP. Hard and Extreme now feel much harder than before and they’ll truly test how fast you can press buttons with the set timing.

In the beginning, only the Easy and Normal difficulties will be available. These feel very easy and sometimes a bit boring but as you finish them, you’ll start unlocking the harder versions and that is the point where the game will truly shine. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself playing the hardest version of a song you like because you want to break your own record (or someone else’s) or try a perfect combo chain. Project Diva f makes a great addition to the notes, now a touch-screen swipe note will appear on-screen among the face buttons ones so you’ll have to pay attention to not only press the buttons but change to the touch-screen while following the rhythm.

Fortunately, the game is not only playing the songs by themselves. By finishing them, you’ll earn money that can be spent on dozens of different costumes for Miku and the other Vocaloid members. These can be equipped for any song and add a lot of variety. One of the new things in the Vita games are accessories; you can add things like glasses, cat ears, bags and other cool things to the characters and they’ll wear them while they sing and dance in Free Play mode.

Diva room also makes a return. In this mode you’ll be able to decorate the room of your favorite Vocaloid member with tons of items and listen to the songs without playing the rhythm, which can be very nice. You have to spend money on the Diva Room items so expect to find yourself playing a lot to earn the required money. Another cool thing is Edit Mode where you’ll be able to edit the notes and their on-screen location in Free Play so you can play your own version of the rhythm game. This is particularly nice and though it seems hard to understand (especially since it’s in Japanese), it’s actually easy to get into it. There also a nice AR mode that uses a nice card included in the physical version of the game. You can take pictures of Miku with anything while she dances.

In short, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f is a very cool and fun game that the majority of the Vita public in the West will probably never hear about. It’s surprising how difficult it is for Sega to localize it taking into consideration the huge fame Miku and the Vocaloids have gotten in the west, especially among the otaku public. Still, I have to say that the target audiences for this game are either otakus or simply people that like anime-style games like me. But if you have the opportunity to import it, don’t think twice about it. It’s a fantastic game and definitely one of the best in the Vita right now.


Pros:

-         Beautiful and colorful art style.
-         Excellent soundtrack is catchy and varied.
-         Challenging but very nice difficulty.
-         Lots of songs to play.
-         Edit mode is very good.
-         Tons of costumes available to buy.

Cons:

-         Diva Room feels a little pointless.
-         Menus are only in Japanese.


-         Graphics and Visuals…….…..8
-         Music and Sound Effects….....10
-         Gameplay……………………8
-         Replay Value………………...9


-         Overall Score……………….. 8.8 / 10

6/06/2013

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII on PS3



New Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII trailer released today! Features the return of Snow as well as a few storyline scenes with Noel and the new girl: Lumina. It also offers a few short glimpses at gameplay sections both outside and inside battles.

I. Can't. Fucking. Wait.