Steins;Gate (1): First excursion

I was planning to analyse a couple of other games first, but these plans were disrupted by my recent discovery of Steins;Gate and the subsequent clearing of one of the game’s six endings. This experience left me bewildered, my head swirling with contradictory emotions. I have to get these feelings off my chest lest they consume me!

But before I do that, let’s have a few lines of data. Developed by 5pb and Nitroplus, Steins;Gate is a visual novel that started its life on the Xbox 360 back in 2009. It was then ported to various systems and spewed a whole array of by-products—such as an anime adaptation, a manga and so on. Steins;Gate made its debut in Europe in 2015 with its PS3 and Vita ports—the latest being the one I own and played. Steins;Gate had the distinguished honour of being the first full-blown visual novel I ever played—but certainly not the last, perish the thought.

Haunting and mesmerizing

Now that the data part is over, let’s go back to my whirling feelings. I’ll be blunt: I was totally transfixed by Steins;Gate. It enthralled me and fascinated me more than any book or movie, probably because it combined the best of these two worlds: an glorious emphasis on text, concepts and exposition and a strong visual identity relying on a unique art style and the display of a few key locations that become engraved in the player’s mind. I swear that by the end of my run, I felt like I had spent my whole life in in-game Akihabara, even though said in-game Akihabara was nothing more than a couple of fixed screens; as for Okabe’s lab, it had become as familiar to me as my own flat. That is how incredibly evocative Steins;Gate is.

I have to admit that I was a bit suspicious at first, when I discovered that the narrative revolved around time travel. I am old enough to have seen my fair share of stories about the matter, and I was a trifle afraid that Steins;Gate would bring nothing new to the fold. That fear partly materialized, but not to the extent that I dreaded. Steins;Gate reuses a lot of concepts attached to the notion of time travel, that much is undeniable, yet it manages to combine them in an enticing way that feels fresh enough to avoid any feeling of déjà vu. Steins;Gate even steps as far as to pay homage to famous works of fiction involving time traveling, from Groundhog Day to Back to the Future.

The exposition part is quite lengthy yet absolutely fascinating. As far as I’m concerned, it was definitely the best part of the game, with its encyclopedic feel and dedication to cover many specialized subjects, from modern physics to otaku culture. I love gorging on knowledge, and it was a sheer delight to absorb all that data—some of it familiar, some of it brand-new to me. I also lapped up the overall tone of these exposition chapters: they were pleasantly self-derisive, filled with dark humor and poking fun at the otaku culture and the obsession with conspiracy theories. That self-derisiveness is gloriously summed up by main character Okabe Rintaro: self-dubbed Hououin Kyouma, this college student is the perfect chuunibyou, a young man full of himself clinging to delusions of grandeur and prone to bouts of paranoia. The rest of the crew dismiss him, sneers and pokes fun at him on a regular basis, and it was not long before I mentally started doing the same, grinning at the guy’s outlandish behaviours. Talking about the rest of the crew, they also convey a parodic charge, although less developed that the one shouldered by Okabe. That being said, these characters are far from being only parodic devices poking fun at anime tropes: they are deeply complex and interesting characters that beg to be discovered, and they turn out to be quite loveable despite their flaws—including unstable, near-manic Okabe. It certainly helps that the voice acting is nothing short of stellar, giving the whole crew an undeniable presence and charisma. I loathe voice acting in video games as a rule, but I absolutely lapped it up in Steins;Gate—to the point where I regularly hear the lines and voices of the characters ring in my head.

Loopholes (SPOILERS!)

Although I adored Steins;Gate, it would be a lie to say that I deemed that game pristine and perfect in every aspect. There were things that rubbed me the wrong way; and not surprisingly for a visual novel, these points of contention were all connected to the narrative. Since I only cleared one ending, it is too soon yet to assert the presence and intensity of hypothetical plot holes, so I won’t dive into that particular matter; instead, I want to expose the many small incoherencies present in the game. These incoherencies are minor and may seem rather innocuous taken separately; but once you ingest them all over the course of a full run, they sap the narrative and spoil the impact of the storyline. I divided them into three mains categories that go as such:

Are you rocket scientists or what?: If there is one thing that I thoroughly dislike while discovering a work of fiction, it’s definitely to be more perceptive than the characters themselves and to guess things long before they do. It breaks the immersion and prevents me from being as swept away by the story as I would like. In the case of Steins;Gate, the most gloriously irritating example is the Lifter issue: as soon as the crew started talking about the matter, I thought that the lifter was probably one of the many TV monitors present in the Braun shop downstairs. The PhoneWave only functions during the shop’s opening hours, so that should ring a bell, right? Well, no. The crew spends several chapters wondering what this mysterious lifter could be, and even supposedly genius scientist Kurisu doesn’t have a clue about the matter. Also, how can they not figure out that the supposed satellite imbedded in the Radi-kan building is very likely a time machine after having seen the PhoneWave go through the floor in similar fashion? They saw with their own eyes that a time machine “gains mass for unknown reasons” while operating, as Okabe himself states it, so why don’t they make the connection when I, reader/player, can make it without a hassle? Honestly, I find a trifle hard to take these characters seriously when it turns out that I can outwit them on a regular basis. (EDIT: after finishing the game, it turned out that these two facts are not related at all. Suzuha's machine is embedded in the building because the destination coordinates were a bit off, and the extra weight gained by the PhoneWave while operating is never refered to again. So not only was this weight matter totally useless as far as the plot was concerned, but it also allowed me to spot from afar what should undoubtedly have been one of the game's main plot twists. Great job, writers.)

Ad hoc arrangements with realism: AKA the Lukako affair. You seriously want me to believe that Lukako has the exact same physical appearance as a male and as a female? This is just… dumb. Dumb, and utterly lazy to boot. I’m starting to suspect that these similar looks are only a plot device to justify the fondling scene that occurs after Lukako’s sex change, and let me tell you: if it turns out to be the case, then I’m going to be intensely pissed off. Like, there will be blood. I will forgive this sheer display of complacency only if it turns out that Okabe is an Unreliable Narrator and that the whole narrative is only a mad fantasy born from the darkest recesses of his mind. Likewise, why does Faris still sport her cat ears, maid outfit and irritating “nyans” even after her D-Mail eradicated all trace of moe culture in Akibahara? That makes absolutely no sense. I could also mention the fact that Kurisu, who started the game giving conferences about modern physics, suddenly produces a PhD in neurosciences from thin air when the narrative calls for it. Hum, isn’t that a little bit too convenient? And these are only a few of many, many similar occurrences.

How could you miss that?: This category is the worst of the bunch, because it involves the characters not reacting to keys elements that they should react to. The most blatant and shocking example is the scene in which Suzuha exhorts Okabe to be wary of Kurisu; during that scene, Suzuha states that Kurisu is widely acknowledged as the creator of the time machine. When this happened, I stood gaping at the screen, my eyes bulging and my head spinning: this was as good as a confession from Suzuha—a confession that, as we suspected, she was hailing from THE FUTURE!!! And guess what Okabe does when hearing that bombshell? Well, I’ll tell you: nothing. He doesn’t react. He doesn’t even seem to register the information. Why on earth…? I’m sorry, but this is just too hard to swallow, even in the hypothetical context of a twisted narration by Okabe. Still, I hope there will be at least an attempt of sorts to justify this massive incoherency at some point, or I will be even more sorely disappointed.

These incoherencies aside, my main and biggest gripe with Steins;Gate is the subtle yet unmissable change of the narrative’s tone as the story progresses. I resent the game for slowly but surely becoming the very thing that it seemed to be taking the piss out of at first, i.e. a very classic and cliché Japanese anime storyline rife with tropes—the very tropes that were cleverly parodied in the exposition chapters, of all tropes! Oh, the dismay! And yet it is hardly deniable: our teenage characters (check) unearth a global conspiracy totally by happenstance (check) and put themselves in hot water in the process, which creates a strong and enduring friendship bond between them (check). As the story progresses, they try their hardest to shed any shred of subtlety and turn into complete anime tropes: Kurisu goes from clever, witty scientist to tsundere, Mayushi gets dumber and airier by the chapter, Daru goes from super-hacker to perverted otaku and Moeka turns out to be a secret agent—who obviously finds herself holding our heroes at gunpoint while donning a tight leather jumpsuit. Why, of course! And what about dear old Okabe, you may ask? Well, Okabe starts playing god and suddenly develops some romantic interest for its female comrades. I guess I should have seen it coming, given the increasing frequency of hentai sequences over the course of the game. Okabe peeping at the girls in the shower by accident, Okabe fondling Lukako’s privates, Suzuha stripping to put Okabe out of a bind, Lukako donning a skimpy cosplay outfit: you name them, Steins;Gate has them. After the delicious binging of data provided by the exposition chapters, this turn of events stings. HARD. On top of that, some perfectly decent self-derisiveness was wasted in the process: all the delicious irony displayed in the exposition is reduced to naught as both the characters and the narrative abandon the parodic sphere to move into full-blown cliché territory. For instance, Okabe’s hilarious chuunibyou-ness automatically loses all its satirical charge when it turns out that, drums rolling, there is a global conspiracy after all and he’s the one who uncovers it. That is a terrible waste, if you ask me, and definitely not what I had signed for.

That being said, my final judgement about that tone issue is actually still pending. I only uncovered one ending out of the six, and I still have to discover if Okabe is an Unreliable Narrator and if everything that happens in Steins;Gate is a product of his deranged mind. If that were the case, the initial irony of the game would not only be salvaged, but also grow more potent and enjoyable. Although I honestly disliked seeing the narrative morph into a cliché anime storyline, this evolution would take a whole new meaning and regain its parodic charge with full force if it were caused by Okabe’s chuunibyou-ness. So I will wait, and hope for the best.

Irreversible Reboot (SPOILERS!)

“Irreversible Reboot”, a.k.a. "Suzuha Ending", is the fifth ending of Steins;Gate and the one that I unearthed after six chapters and roughly fifteen hours of assiduous reading and button-pressing. This is a very unsatisfactory ending that ends on a nasty cliffhanger and raises more questions than it answers. On top of that, it feels both quite abrupt and awfully rushed: the time loop occurrence at the end of the timeline seems to come out of left field and is not really explored in depth. Okabe’s sudden romantic interest for Suzuha is hardly more believable and gives the narrative a mundane touch that is not exactly welcome at the point of the story, when the tension is supposed to be at its peak. The rest of the crew is neatly ousted in order to concentrate on this brand-new idyll—including Mayuri, whom Okabe was striving so hard to save from death just a few minutes before. Fickle crazy scientist is fickle! As for the cliffhanger at the very end, this is just downright sadistic, and I can only hope that the outcome of Okabe and Suzuha’s ultimate decision will be exposed one way or another in one of the other five endings.

Talking about the other five endings—which I obviously want to witness—I started wondering how difficult it would be to unearth them. Given the game’s insistence on the Butterfly Effect concept and given how reduced the gameplay input is, I suspected that the timeline branching would be influenced by minute choices, and that hunch was confirmed by the browsing of a couple of FAQs. The question now is to determine whether I try to navigate the game all by myself or if I rely on FAQ charts. If there is any kind of logic behind the mandatory choices to make for each timeline, I’m pretty confident that I can uncover it with enough patience; on the other hand, if these choices are completely random, then I don’t even want to think about trying to pinpoint them, and I will run straight to a time-saving FAQ.

The decision is still pending for the time being. The idea of navigating the game all by myself is undeniably tempting; even though it would imply taking notes, using save files by the truckload and globally losing a lot of time trying to figure out how the game operates, it would also be a thrilling challenge deliciously reminiscent of old gaming days, when internet was not around to get you out of a bind and you could only rely on your own brain cells. On the other hand, the use of FAQs would allow me to immerse completely in the storyline and to enjoy it to the fullest. I have to admit that the idea of playing the game with the Skip mode on is seriously off-putting; I’d rather reread the full story every time and get soaked in the engrossing atmosphere of Steins;Gate. There will be at least one more post about Steins; Gate, if not more, although I don’t know when these posts will come. For the time being, I am taking a small break from the game and digesting the whole experience; but I will dive back into it in a couple of days— after having printed a couple of FAQ charts just to be safe. For now, thanks for reading and be my guest anytime!  


Pokemon X: A certain je ne sais quoi ( a.k.a. the Delphox Solo Run )

Since Pokemon Diamond and its mellow, friendly gameplay had proven to be the perfect accompaniment to my 2014 summer holiday, I decided to reproduce the experience this year. No need to change a winning formula, right? As my Pokemon game of the summer, I elected Pokemon X, a game that has been sitting untouched in my collection since, well… last summer. 

First Pokemon iterations to grace the 3ds, Pokemon X and its twin Pokemon Y were developed by Game Freak and released worldwide in 2013, and were welcome by raving reviews. Critics celebrated the many innovations offered by the pair as well as the overall beauty of the game world—which was not based on a Japanese region like in most of the previous entries, but rather on the northern half of France. This, for me, was definitely the main attraction of Pokemon X. For, lo and behold, it is time to reveal another dirty little secret: I am actually of French descent, mesdames et messieurs. Although I’ve not been living in the country for a good number of years and only have the scantest knowledge of its northern half, I still know my way around more than enough to spot all things French in the vibrant world of Kalos. And boy, did I spot some! Kalos is more French than I had dared to dream of, to my utter delight—but also, occasionally, to my mild annoyance. I’ll expend on the overwhelming frenchness of Pokemon X later; for now, let’s start with a nice, juicy account of my run.

The Fennekin Solo Run

My solo run, should I rightly say. You didn’t expect less, did you? Although I had vaguely considered tackling a Nuzlocke run, I changed my mind when I discovered the starters. The little Fennekin was so adorable that I decided to play the whole game with her, and it succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. My Fennekin—affectionately renamed Fenny— soared all the way to Lv.100 over the course of my run, evolving from Braixen to Delphox. I was actually a trifle disappointed by this particular evolution process: I am not too fond of anthropomorphic Pokemons, and to see that lovely little fennec turn into a shabby-looking humanoid fox was really not to my retina’s liking. However, the unsatisfying looks of my Fennekin were more than compensated by her amazing fighting performances. She gained levels at the speed of light and no obstacles could stand in our way—to the point where the game actually became nearly too easy. By the time I reached Siebold, member of the Elite Four, wielder of Water Pokemons and thus only trainer who could have posed a serious threat, my Fennekin was so over-levelled that she could take down his ’Mons in one shot with fire moves. Talk about a serious unbalance of forces! Still, the overall experience was awesome, leaving me with sweet lingering feelings just like the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum trio did in its days. I get a warm glow in my chest every time I think about these eventful 20-or-so hours spent playing X, and it certainly won’t be too long before I tackle its twin Pokemon Y.

I only encountered a couple of minor annoyances during that delightful solo run of Pokemon X. First, I was sorely disappointed to discover that the famed Mega Evolution was not available for all Pokemons. Why introduce an awesome new feature only to dole it out to a precious few? My Fennekin was unfortunately not part of that lucky lot, hence the disappointment. Sure, the story forced on me a Lucario that could mega-evolve, so Mega-Evolution was available after all; but since I had decided to play solo, that didn’t change anything as far as my run was concerned. Another minor annoyance was that I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how the Pokemon-Amie feature worked. There was no tutorial whatsoever, and fiddling with the system didn’t yield any convincing result, so I quickly gave up and stopped touching the thing entirely. Not using Pokemon-Amie didn’t hamper my progression in the slightest, mind you; but if someone masters this puzzling application, they are more than welcome to enlighten me. Such knowledge could be put to good use in my future run of Pokemon Y! On a very trivial note, I was also disappointed by the absence of yummy treats to spoil ’Mons, such as Diamond/Pearl’s Poffins. This was a nice touch, and I would have loved to find it in X—all the more so as the French setting could have provided the most mouth-watering inspiration. How delightful would it have been to treat my ’Mons to sticky nougat bites or soft calissons! Now that’s a missed opportunity here, dear Game Freak. (Edit: after a bit of research, I discovered that there are treats after all, but you can only feed them to your 'Mons through the Pokemon-Amie application. Now that gives me a good incentive to learn to use the thing.)

On the narrative side, I was really not fond of the resident rival. Said rival is supposed to be my next door neighbour, a freak of sorts who decides on the very day of my arrival in town that we will be rivals in all things Pokemons. Well, excuse me, but who are you? And why do you antagonize me in such manner? Yet after that, they take that whole rival business so quietly and matter-of-factly that you’d swear that they are actually tackling an assignment for school. There is no passion, no fire, no competitive streak: it just feels like business-as-usual. Seriously, I’d have over-excited Barry from Diamond/Pearl ten times over this transparent X rival whose name I cannot even remember. I could also mention that bunch of useless kids that somehow ended up stuck to my soles like dirty old pieces of gum, stalking me from town to town during my whole run and ruining the thrill of exploring Kalos as a lone ranger. To close this litany of minor annoyances, I have to admit that I was somewhat disturbed by the fainting animations of defeated ’Mons, which were a trifle too detailed for my comfort. Granted, we all know that under the series’ cute varnish lies a brutal gameplay and that the road to the Elite Four is littered with Pokemons pummeled into oblivion, but was it really necessary to show the painful fainting of these innocent creatures in such exquisite details? I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt at the end of every fight—but maybe that was the purpose, after all. Maybe the game wants you to remember the price of becoming the best Pokemon Trainer ever, which is a lot of suffering inflicted on the very creatures you claim to love more than anything. Or maybe I’m just extrapolating wildly. Oh, well.

The unmissable Frenchness of Kalos

After this account of my run, let’s now fully explore the frenchness of Pokemon X, ladies and gentlemen. Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO of the Pokemon Company, has stated in an interview that "France is one of the many countries that has a focus on the beauty, and beauty was one of the themes that we had with Pokémon X and Y, so we wanted to see how we could express that beauty in the games". Well, they certainly managed to convey beauty in a brilliant way in X. I was truly in awe more than once while discovering the game’s many gorgeous vistas, and it certainly dazzled me much more than Diamond/Pearl. From the Palace of Versailles to the Mont Saint-Michel, from the Eiffel Tower to the Jura Mountains, without forgetting a slice of palm tree-laced Southern France, many real-life locations were included into the game to great effect. I had never associated the Pokemon series with staggering beauty, but that certainly changed with Pokemon X.

Beauty aside, Game Freak definitely knew their France. They probably did an awful lot of research on the spot, for they managed to nail the French atmosphere quite perfectly. Pokemon X feels exquisitely, achingly French, from the many different architectural styles to the flora, from the emphasis on style and fashion—with the delightful option to change your trainer’s clothes and haircut—to the omnipresence of coffeehouses and restaurants. There is definitely a very French je ne sais quoi, a unique brand of sophistication that sets the game apart from its predecessors.  This French atmosphere was so pregnant that it generated in me an intense wave of nostalgia and a longing for all things French. Somehow, I’m glad that the game didn’t include French food after all, or the craving would have become unbearable. I wonder if Japanese players experience such intense feelings when playing Pokemon entries based on Japanese regions? They probably do, actually. Gee, what a treat it must be to play Pokemon when you hail from Japan!

That being said, injecting a hefty dose of frenchness into the Pokemon series didn’t yield only pleasant results. My main gripe with X and its French-soaked atmosphere is the fact that exploration took a serious step back in the process. There are more towns than in previous entries, and the wild areas spreading between said towns have been considerably reduced as well as substantially manicured, in the pure tradition of the French formal garden. As a result, Kalos appears as a mesh of cities separated by small patches of tamed landscape rather than a compact rural region with a handful of towns acting as welcome resting points. Visiting towns is not as thrilling as exploring wilderness, and I really missed the whole exploration factor in X. In fact, this overabundance of towns and the presence of many monuments inspired by their real-life French counterparts made me feel like I was touring Kalos rather than exploring it—a feeling reinforced by the new “Photo Spot” feature. Everything was so polished, so pristine, so manicured that even peaceful Sinnoh feels like a cutthroat untamed area compared to Kalos. This is not bad per se, it’s just… disconcerting. That feeling of being on a tour certainly fits the reality of France, which is no less than the most visited country in the world; but I am not too sure that I enjoyed seeing that touristic aura somewhat transposed in a Pokemon game. Oh, well.

Apart from that main gripe, a couple of details rubbed me the wrong way for being on... the dark side of France, shall we say. France is not all roses and sunshine, and whoever decided to include the most unpleasant aspects of French life in Pokemon X should be severely punished. Lo and behold, here is the list of offenders:

—Hotels and coffeehouses up the wazoo: The presence of hotels in every town certainly fits the touristic reality of France; as for coffeehouses, or cafés, they are pretty much the epicentre of French city life. This all contributes to the French touch of Kalos allright; the problem lies in the fact that apart from contributing that French touch, these places have no purpose at all. You cannot sleep in the hotels nor order food or drinks in the cafés; the only thing you can do is talk to the few patrons present, which is not especially thrilling. These cafés and hotels are but empty shells, and another missed opportunity to implement interesting gameplay features; and to add insult to injury, there are a ton of them in Kalos. Lumiose City alone hosts a good dozen of cafés! Jeez, what a waste of space.

—Tipping till you're broke: Oh, the horror of it all! Tipping is one of the most annoying French customs, a form of brainwashing so ingrained in the culture that most French people feel terribly guilty if they don’t leave tips in coffeehouses or restaurants—despite the fact that service charges are comprised in the meal’s price. Whoever decided to implement a tipping feature in X is not only downright sadistic, but overzealous as well: even French people do not tip outside of the food business. So why should I tip the butler that gave me a tour of a mansion? That’s not French tipping, that’s throwing your money through the window. And just like in real life, tipping doesn’t bring you anything apart from the supposed gratitude of the recipient. That may be fine in real life, but not in a video game: when I saw that tipping didn’t yield any discernable benefits, I stopped doing it entirely.

—Lumiose bloody City: Pardon my French, but… Quel bordel! Lumiose City is one hot mess, as pleasant to navigate as real-life Paris—that is, not quite. The similar looks of streets and the constantly shifting camera angles make for a really disorienting experience, and finding your way can more often than not turn into a full-blown challenge. That uncomfortable situation was probably noticed by the developers themselves, since they implemented a taxi service to drive you wherever you want in Lumiose… for a fee just as onerous as the ones charged by real-life taxi drivers in Paris. I swear that I wept inside every time I needed to set foot in Lumiose City.

That being said, I’m starting to wonder if these points may have irritated me precisely because I know France to some extent. I’d be curious to know if other players were annoyed as well by said points or if they find them charming and saw them as pleasantly exotic slices of French life. Feel free to share your feelings about the matter, dear fellow gamers! At any rate, although I blamed more than I praised in this post—in terms of number of lines, that is—I can assure you that I really adored Pokemon X. It has its flaws, but it was still a delightful experience through and through. It was actually more enjoyable than the Diamond/Pearl pair despite the relative lack of exploration, and I will certainly indulge into more strolls through Kalos sooner or later. Maybe before the end of the summer, who knows? And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to indulge in a giant bite of smelly French cheese, along with fresh baguette, and daydream about my adventures in Kalos. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Coveted games: Summer games ’15

It is no secret that summer is usually a quiet time as far as game releases are concerned. Usually, but not always: for some reason, a lot of appetizing games are slated for release this summer, with release dates spreading evenly from July till September. Well, I am certainly not complaining; I have already purchased a good number of games in June, new releases as well as games a few months old that I didn’t get the opportunity to buy sooner, and I’m firmly planning to buy more before the summer is over. Without further ado, here are my coveted games for the season!

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven (3ds): To be honest, I am not too sure I fully understand the concept of that game. Is it supposed to be an RPG? A simulation? A mix of both? Things are a trifle unclear, if you ask me. At any rate, it looks interesting, and I have this peculiar fondness for Marvelous after liking a couple of their games, which led to an unavoidable purchase. And since I own a North-American 3ds, I went for the physical version.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3: V Generation (Vita): I discovered the series for good a couple of weeks ago when I cleared the first Vita instalment and absolutely adored it. (There’s a review in the pipeline, obviously.) As a result, every Hyperdimension entry became highly desirable, and that obviously includes Re;Birth 3—which is a remake of a PS3 game, just like the two other Re;Birth episodes released on the Vita before it. I am already itching to play Re;Birth 2, so I’m certainly not going to wait months before buying this third episode.

Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson (3ds): As I said above, I have a peculiar fondness for Marvelous, and I certainly commend their efforts to bring a large variety of physical editions of SKB’s sequel to Europe. These editions will be printed on demand, and I definitely would like to see more publishers adopt that particular practice. All praise aside, I really loved the first SKB entry, which automatically makes the second a must-have. It looks even flashier, campier and bustier than the first one, and I’m fully expecting a glorious festival of over-the-topness. Bring it on, Marvelous!   

Lost Dimension (Vita): I was interested by this game’s description at first, before becoming instantly suspicious when I discovered its uncanny visual resemblance with Freedom Wars. I expected a similar gameplay involving full-blown 3D and first-person vision, which would have made Lost Dimension an absolute no-go; fortunately, I was in for a pleasant surprise as the game finally turned out to be a tactical RPG à la Valkyria Chronicles. This will certainly be easier to stomach for my touchy balance system; and although I’m not too fond of Lost Dimension’s art style, I can certainly tolerate it if the game is really good—which I hope it will be, for I’m definitely buying it.

Danganronpa: Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita): I own the first two instalments already, so this one must obviously become part of my collection too. The fact that I yet have to play any of these games is but a mere detail, really; something tells me I am going to like them anyway. My gaming instinct sometimes failed me, but I still trust it to the core.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (3ds): Granted, I don’t own a New 3ds just yet. However, I’m really curious about that game, if only because of the whole mystique that surrounds it. The notion of a series that somehow collapsed under its own glorious weight is strangely alluring, and I certainly want to see for myself what the fuss is all about. I will thus purchase that game, and shelve it until I get my hands on a New 3ds.

Ar Nosurge Plus: Ode to an Unborn Star (Vita): I’ve heard about that game only very lately; but since it turned out to be an RPG, it instantly gained a spot in that summer list of coveted games. This sci-fi-oriented RPG will not benefit from a physical release, which saddens me a bit; but that is the way things are nowadays. That being said, a digital release is still better than no release at all, so I’m not really complaining. There will probably be a good bargain on that game sooner or later, so it’s just a matter of lurking in the shadows and waiting for the right moment to purchase it.

Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess (Vita): I initially thought that this game would be released on the PS4 only and I was mourning the absence of a Vita version—that is, until I learnt that there would be a Vita version after all, only digitally released. I’m actually quite happy and relieved, and I will wait for my moment, ready to jump at the perfect bargain.

That makes seven games on my radar for the summer—which is a quite a hefty number, given the season. Needless to say, I’m elated! On a more general note, I’ve been playing an awful lot lately; as a result, I have a handful of games to dissect, and I’m planning to do so in the next weeks. It was actually refreshing to get that writing break: although it was mostly forced on me by external circumstances, it allowed me to rest pleasantly and to reconsider the whole blogging thing with a new and fresh eye. I can now dive back into writing with renewed energy and gusto, but also with a lighter heart. I guess even one’s hobbies can use a little break every now and then! So, dear fellow gamers, I’ll see you soon with meatier posts. For now, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!