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8/13/2013

REVIEW - Code of Princess (3DS)


When Code of Princess first came out, I was really excited about it. It looked like one of those obscure but awesome Japanese games that always make their sneaky way to portable consoles without many people noticing. I immediately started to pay attention to it until I finally bought and played it. Now that I’m done with it I can say that despite the game being pretty good and solid, I am slightly disappointed with the final result.

Code of Princess is a 2D brawler with RPG stats mixed in. It reminds me a lot of old-school games like Double Dragon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games for the NES that put us in a 2D space with a single character, or a friend, to fight hordes of enemies and a boss battle here and there. This game is just like that but some aspects make it a modern version of those two I just mentioned like for example 3D effects, a leveling-up system that allows you to freely upgrade the stats you want and an anime-style for the visuals that is very common in many Japanese games in the present.


There’s a story to be told in Code of Princess. The game takes place in the medieval kingdom of DeLuxia and the protagonist is Princess Solange, a very beautiful blonde girl with big breasts and a ridiculously skimpy outfit that uses a huge sword called DeLuxcalibur and goes on a journey to save the land after an evil Queen takes the throne with an army of knights and monsters. In the journey, Solange will make several friends and enemies like a thief called Ali, a bard named Allegro and a zombie-like necromancer girl called Zozo and we’ll get a chance to play as any of them.

The story is very generic and not very interesting to be honest. It’s the usual tale about a princess fighting for justice and good and friendship and eventually winning against evil. Code of Princess tries to add humor to the formula with characters that make silly jokes almost all the time and that don’t seem to take the adventure seriously. In fact, the game itself doesn’t seem to take itself seriously at all, which can be nice but I honestly didn’t find it very funny and the low-quality English voice-acting doesn’t help it get any better. I wish there was an option to play in Japanese. What a shame.


Musically, Code of Princess is nice and some of the songs are catchy so if you’re lucky you should have an OST CD that comes with all physical copies of the game (I think). I believe it’d be very nice if most games these days were sold like this. Code of Princess comes not only with an audio CD, but with a small but pretty art book with the backgrounds and profiles for the important characters in the game and a pretty box with everything inside.

In gameplay, the game is a 2D brawler like I just mentioned. You pick up a character, add some equipment to him/her and then go to a stage to fulfill some objectives like killing all the enemies, defeating a boss, protect someone or just survive a specific amount of time. There are three layers of depth in the stage that can be changed pressing R+Up or R+Down, this allows you to evade attacks, chase an enemy in a different layer from yours or run away if you need to. It’s nice because some characters can take advantage of it when attacking while others, like Solange herself are very linear when fighting.


There are several different stages to visit, like forests, graveyards, towns and castles and they usually have objects to break to grab some items and some can be very long. The stages look pretty but nowhere near what could be considered good graphics in a 3DS game, this brings me to the whole visual aspect. The game is definitely pretty but I can’t help but feel that this looks like a DS game with a 3D effect put in for the sake of it. The characters are just 2D sprites that while well-animated, don’t look very good for a 3DS game. This is a shame because the character models could have been very cool.

Each of the playable characters has their own moves, style and attributes. For example, Solange, the princess, uses a sword so she’s naturally a melee-oriented fighter that deals tons of damage up-close with fantastic combos. Zozo, the necromancer, casts spells with area-of-effect damage that can hurt enemies even if they’re in a different layer. Others are faster, have longer combos, ranged attacks and such. In total there are about 50 characters to play with including silly things like enemy models and townspeople that are useless so in reality, there are about 10 to 15 good characters to play with.


Besides the single-player campaign, there’s a free play mode that allows you to play any stage with any character just to level up or have fun. There are also some extra quests added for challenge. Code of Princess also has local co-op so you can play any stage with a friend and online multiplayer includes both cooperative and competitive play over the net, if you’re lucky to find anyone to play this with.

In short, Code of Princess is definitely one of those nice but very obscure and rare Japanese portable games like I said in the beginning. But this is surely not an underrated gem or a cult classic. It’s a very good game that can be extremely fun by yourself and better yet, if you find someone to play it with. Sadly, the mediocre graphics and voice-acting hinder the experience by a lot. Still, I believe it’s a game that deserves an opportunity and I consider it a very nice addition to anyone’s 3DS library.


Pros:

-          Very fun brawler and RPG gameplay.
-          Lots of different characters to choose from.
-          The game comes with an audio CD and small art book.
-          Catchy soundtrack and pretty anime art style.

Cons:

-          Online multiplayer is a barren wasteland.
-          Graphics are mediocre.
-          The game tries to be funny, but it isn’t.
-          English voice-acting isn’t good.


-          Graphics and Visuals………...5
-          Music and Sound Effects….....7
-          Gameplay……………………8
-          Replay Value…………….…..8


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

8/12/2013

REVIEW - Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 (PS3)


I admit that I wasn’t very used to the Musou genre and honestly didn’t appreciate it or understand why so many of my internet buddies loved it so much. That has now changed. In the last year, I’ve tried a few of them, some good (Dynasty Warriors Next) and others bad (Gundam Musou 1). But now, after a fantastic experience of 70 or so hours I must say that I’m completely in love with Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3, a game that seriously got me not only into the Musou genre, but into the whole Gundam franchise.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is the last installment in the franchise that uses the Musou gameplay with the awesome and giant mechas of the Gundam anime/manga universe. Just like in the Chinese-themed games, you’ll be using a specific Mobile Suit and kill hordes and hordes of enemies while capturing fields, fulfilling objectives and protecting allies. All in fantastic-looking cel-shaded graphics that make Gundams come to life in a videogame like never before in the West.


The game is a crossover from most, if not all, Gundam anime series, from the very first Mobile Suit Gundam from 1979 to Gundam 00 and Unicorn. There are dozens and dozens of pilots to choose from. Protagonists Amuro Ray, Heero Yuy or Setsuna F. Seiei are joined by antagonists like Char Aznable or Ribbons Almark and many others like Duo Maxwell, Ramba Ral or Lunamaria Hawke. If you like a specific pilot character from the Gundam universe, chances are you’ll be able to use him/her in the game.

As with the pilots, there are also several dozen Mobile Suits to use like the 00-Raiser, F91, Strike Freedom and tons other that are joined by the weaker ones that are usually destroyed with no mercy in the anime series like the GM or Zaku. The variety of pilots and Mobile Suits to use is simply incredible, each one has its own attack animations, strengths, weaknesses and stats and equipment that can be upgraded by purchasing plans for them while the pilots can be leveled up to upgrade stats even more, get skills and determine the length of combos and strength of special attacks.

The story is rather weak, telling the tale of how all those characters from the series and their Mobile Suits found themselves in a strange otherworldly dimension where they have to fight each other to go back home. Honestly speaking, the story isn’t very good or interesting but the extremely fun gameplay makes up for it. Besides, there are some cinematics here and there that are very cool and the mix between characters from different series in a single battlefield is very pleasant.


Of course, story missions aren’t the only ones in the game. As you advance and unlock new Mobile Suits and pilots, you’ll also gain access to Tutorial Missions that do a great job teaching you the basics of the game and how to play correctly, Friendship Missions that help you increase your relationship with a specific pilot for several benefits and even some Challenge Missions that can only be played in Hard difficulty and put you in some nasty and extremely tough situations. Then History Missions will allow you to play a very quick but nice version of each Gundam series to get familiar with them.

Graphically speaking, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 looks very good. Using cel-shaded visuals instead of a common style like the two previous games did. The game benefitted a lot from this because it’s probably one of the best-looking Musou games out there and in general terms, I believe the game is strong graphically. There are also a lot of areas and stages to play in that randomly generate different types of fields so each mission will be different even if they take place in the same map. This is very nice and adds tons of variety to the already-good visuals.

The Mobile Suits are the best looking things in the game of course, they have excellent animations and the battles with them look fantastic. Being a Musou game, you’ll encounter several hundred enemies and allies in a single mission and they all do a lot of stuff at the same time. Gundam-type Suits like the Unicorn, XX o Reborns have useful and very powerful area-of-effect attacks that make battles look flashy and very fast-paced. Another cool thing to mention about the game is that despite being normal to see several dozen enemies at the same time in the screen, slowdowns in framerate almost never happen. The game runs smoothly at all times and I never had troubles with this like with the first Dynasty Warriors: Gundam game or the Xbox 360 version of Dynasty Warriors 8 that recently came out.


There are two voiceovers to choose from: English and Japanese. They’re both very good and seem to have been done in the right way. If you’ve ever played a Musou game, you know that during missions, characters tend to say random lines over and over and this is no different. After a few hours of gameplay, you’ll notice the same lines being repeated several times but I didn’t find this annoying. On the contrary, I enjoyed the voice acting in both languages quite a lot.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 also offers a nice soundtrack with different catchy tunes. None of them come from the anime series though unlike the Japanese version of the game that apparently does. I read somewhere that the original version has a lot of the best songs from the series that had to be cut down in the western release to lower the publishing prices. This is yet another case of the American/European public suffering from this, oh well.

In gameplay, DW Gundam 3 is just like any Musou game. The basics include picking up a Mobile Suit and destroy hundreds or thousands of enemies while capturing fields. This game has its own personal touches though. For example, all missions here end when you kill the enemy commander instead of then you capture the enemy HQ. Doing this will only stop enemy reinforcements from respawning (which is extremely helpful). There are many different types of fields, some are catapults that make you instantly move to a far-away place in the map, others increase the allies’ moral and performance and some will even refill the Armor gauge of your ace pilots (HP).


If you play in Easy or Normal difficulty, enemy units and ace pilots will be extremely easy to kill, especially if you already have a strong pilot, Mobile Suit and some of the best skills and equipment that make things easier, but in Hard difficulty, things are completely different. The hordes of enemies that would normally stand there doing almost nothing will be aggressive, take a lot of HP from you and support their ace pilots and these will be like boss battles. They’ll block your attacks, punish you from making mistakes and they’ll have no mercy. I seriously recommend playing in Hard difficulty if you want the best experience.

As I mentioned, there are dozens of pilots and Mobile Suits to choose from, each with their own gameplay styles, strengths, weaknesses, equipment and combo animations. If you’re like me, you’ll spend a lot of time just messing around with different mechas to test them out and see if you like them or not. At the beginning I was hooked only to the Unicorn, XX and 00-Raiser but by the end of the game I was using like 25 different Suits consistently and correctly. The variety in this is fantastic and improves the replay value of the game by a whole lot.

Most offline missions can be played cooperatively with a friend in split-screen. This is very nice because you can make nice strategies to emerge victorious, especially in Hard difficulty. Even in co-op, the game runs very nicely and there are close to no slowdowns in framerate. Some of the difficult Challenge missions and History missions can’t be played in co-op though, which is a shame. This also helps you boost leveling up pilots and Mobile Suits much faster than if you were playing alone.


Then there’s an online multiplayer mode that allows up to four players to play cooperatively in a map to fulfill different objectives like capturing specific fields, kill enemy ace pilots and team-up to destroy a giant boss. These are usually very nice and even today you can find a lot of players active in it. There’s also a gallery where you can learn a lot about the pilots and Mobile Suits available in the game and read some info about where they come from, backgrounds and such but they will spoil the anime storylines so watch out if you haven’t watched them and are planning to.

For closing comments, I can say that this is possibly one of the most surprising games I’ve played in my PS3. I bought it because someone recommended it to me and without having watched a single Gundam anime and now I can say I’m officially both a Gundam and Musou fan. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is an extremely solid game that looks fantastic with its cel-shaded graphics, it has great music and voice acting both in Japanese and English and the gameplay is definitely the best I’ve seen in a game of the genre (without having tried out Dynasty Warriors 8 yet). Even if you’re not a Musou player or know anything at all about Gundam, this is a game that deserves attention and praise.


Pros:

-          Excellent and varied gameplay styles and objectives.
-          Several dozen pilots and Mobile Suits to choose from.
-          Hundreds of missions to play and unlockables to get.
-          Great visual presentation and soundtrack.
-          Voice acting is solid in both languages.
-          Online is active and very fun.
-          History missions do a great job of explaining the storylines.
-          Plans, equipment and skills improve gameplay a lot.

Cons:

-          Many Mobile Suits just suck compared to the Gundam ones.
-          Original soundtrack was cut from the Japanese version.


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

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.6 / 10