That being said, I've not been running that often to first-person dungeon crawlers, since Demon Gaze is only the second of them I'm playing. The first was Class of Heroes on the PSP; and although I'm forever grateful to that game for having introduced me to that new favourite subgenre of mine and had a decent amount of fun with it, it cannot hold a candle to the awesomeness of Demon Gaze.
So, where to start? Maybe with the specs of my run: I've been playing for roughly ten hours now, ten hours so engrossing that they feel like two hours at most. I've captured four demons so far, namely Comet, Mars, Chronos and Hermes, and I am well on my way to capture my fifth. And last but not least, I'm playing Solo. You didn't expect less from me, did you?
I'm glad to be able to say that Demon Gaze is a game that totally lived up to my expectations, and even gloriously exceeded them. And that's saying something, because for some reason, I had sky-high expectations regarding that game before playing it, as well as very positive feelings towards it. The only thing I was really not fond of was the appearance of the main character, with his odd eye and "look-how-edgy-and-tenebrous-I-am" looks; although these attributes are justified by the storyline, they were a little too cliché for my taste. But the game pleasantly surprised me by allowing me to choose between no less than 45 character models for my main character, males as well as females. Because indeed, should your thirst for fan-service be unquenchable, you can choose a female avatar—even though your main character is supposed to be male and always referred to as such. Even more peculiar, you can switch avatars whenever you want during your playthrough, should you get bored of staring constantly at the same non-animated character model. Oh, well. We've seen weirder premises in Japanese games, I guess.
Another pleasant surprise was the atmosphere. The official art had led me to expect a somewhat dark and gritty game, but this is actually the exact opposite: Demon Gaze gives off a warm, welcoming, nearly comfy vibe. The inn that serves as headquarters really feels like home, with its cosy rooms and lively staff, and the dungeons have a soothing quality that makes the roaming intensely pleasurable and the brutal difficulty of the game much more palatable.
Class of Heroes was not exactly making soloing easy, while Dragon Quest IX seemed to have been made for soloing—and Demon Gaze also belongs to that latter category. The game contains so many solo run-friendly features that I actually fail to understand why the option to assemble a party was put at all in the game, except as a nod or concession to old-school dungeon-crawling gameplay mechanics. There are pieces of equipment that allow the main character to learn precious skills belonging to other classes, such as slashing a whole row of foes at once, and the demons are more than fit to replace any party member when Boss Time comes. Granted, you can summon only one demon at a time, you cannot control their actions and they can be used only for a fixed number of turns, but they still get the job done beautifully, providing that you choose the right demon for the right battle. The money balance also becomes much more manageable when you only have one party member to attend to, and you can afford to pamper said only party member by decking him out in the best weapons and gear available. Isn't life sweet? A strange but most useful design choice is the one regarding Healing Staves: although they cannot be equipped by the main character, they can be kept in the inventory and used to heal yourself through the Item Menu. There seems to be no limit to the number of uses, and this is a delightfully expedient way to heal yourself free of charge. I have no idea if this is a glitch of sorts or a conscious design choice, but it sure is convenient for a solo runner.
By the time I finished writing this post, I captured fifth demon Neptune and I'm now joyously marching on towards the next demon in line. I should also be strong enough to defeat the Mimic in Star Curtain now, so I will give it a try and hope that I get a good drop for all my efforts. I'm getting more smitten with the game by the hour, and there will undoubtedly be more posts about it! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Although Nintendo is most pointed at and criticized when it comes to region-locking, they are not the only one indulging generously in it. The Playstation Store is also famously region-locked, each part of the world being allotted a different choice of games.
There are ways around this issue for the dedicated who want games from all regions, granted. They involve creating several PSN accounts with addresses located in the desired regions and feeding them with PSN cards from said regions. As far as the Vita is concerned, this also involves owning one Vita for each account or rebooting your Vita entirely every time you want to purchase games from a different Playstation Store, since each PSN account has to be tied to a specific Vita unit. All in all, this involves a lot of hassle—and that's without even counting the usual chore of needing to have memory cards prepped up and your PSN account(s) conveniently filled up. All that to get mere digital games that can't even sit pretty on a shelf and be gazed at amorously.
Up until now, the tediousness of that process alone was enough to deter me from even thinking of creating other PSN accounts. I created one a couple of months ago to get the three Atelier games, and did so only because they were not getting physical releases; this was already a huge step as far as I was concerned, since I'm usually reluctant to buy digital-only games, and other PSN accounts were definitely not on my radar. Things could have stopped at that, had I not made the fatal mistake of taking a peek at the North-American Playstation Store.
Oh, the delicious torture!! There are dozens of PSP and Vita games there that have never been made available in the European Playstation Store: PSone classics, obscure RPGs, dungeon-crawlers and Japanese Simulation games, you name them. This sheer overabundance made my eyes pop and is haunting my dreams now, and I'm very close to caving in and creating another PSN account to grab all these marvels. On the other hand... I'm very much afraid that I would be biting off more than I could chew by making such a move. I already have dozens, if not hundreds of games to play, and the numbers are inflating by the year. Do I really need another batch of games added to the list at that point? Do I really need my already enormous backlog to be weightened further by games that may turn out to be disappointing? The question is open, and the answer is still pending. A part of me wants these games, and another part of me wants to stop gorging on new games and to concentrate on the ones I already own.
I'd be curious to know if some of you fellow gamers have several PSN accounts and if you've been facing that same dilemma. And while I'm at it, and in case the greedy collector in me wins, which RPGs from the North-American Playstation Store would you wholeheartdly recommend? Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
I've had instant love affairs with so many great games in the last years that I somehow forgot that the opposite could also happen. Yet Xenoblade Chronicles shoved that unpleasant reality in my face, and I hate it all the more for that. Not that there was a lot of room to squeeze more hate, mind you: I don't remember having ever loathed a game that much upon the first minutes of playing it. Right now, thinking of XC makes me feel nauseous. I kid you not.
Of course, I won't stop at saying that I hate that game's guts. I will elaborate and get the whole thing out of my chest, lest these bilious feelings fester inside my soul. Be off with them! Here's an exhaustive litany of all the things that aggravated, antagonized and infuriated me during my hour spent playing XC. (Yes, my hour. I couldn't stand more of it.)
—The sheer ugliness of the game offends my retinas. The fact that the graphics are blurry and look like a giant pixelated mash is already insulting enough, but that rampant ugliness is worsened by the total absence of any discernable aesthetics. XC is just your dreary, tedious, run-of-the-mill attempt at photorealism, with washed-out colours and blonky character models devoid of any charm. I like my games to showcase a modicum of graphic stylization, and XC sadly shows nothing else than a total lack of inspiration in that department.
—The little I've seen of XC is already way too messy and complicated for my taste and comfort. There are way too many actions to execute and data to keep track of in battles, way too many items, way too much of everything. I fought only a couple of battles and yet XC threw at me a mountain of items and just as many tutorials. Have you ever heard of that thing called learning curve, game? And let's not even talk about those useless hindrances such as needing to readjust the camera or to lock on an enemy before being able to fight them. Why can't I just stomp over them like in good ol' Dragon Quest IX, damnit? The worse part is that this overwhelming complexity seems to have been shoved into the game just for the sake of it. But just like throwing tons of yummy ingredients into a pot is not enough to make a delicious soup, throwing tons of gameplay elements into a game is not enough to make said game compelling. Far from ravishing or impressing me, this sprawling, milling mass of gameplay mechanics left me overwhelmed and nauseated.
—Likewise, the sheer scale of the game world is just too enormous for my taste. Since I've been playing on portable systems for most of my gaming life, I'm used to game worlds that are much more compact and somewhat easier to embrace and assess, and the scales at work in XC seriously disorient me. I'm also not too fond of having to cover such humongous distances just to go anywhere. It took me literally five minutes of running through grassy areas to rally the first town in the game, and that's five minutes I could have employed to do something much more interesting. As much as I enjoy taking a five-minute walk to the grocery store in real life, I really don't want to see this kind of experience emulated in a video game. And just like the overabundance of gameplay mechanics, the enormity of the game world seems to have been implemented just because, probably with the secret intention of flabbergasting players and reviewers alike. Wooo, look at our huge game world!! You've never seen something that big, have you? Well, bigger is not always better, especially when your big game world looks fugly. I'm definitely not impressed, game.
—The little I've seen of the story left me rolling my eyes and facepalming myself. Yeah, I know that the story of XC is widely said to be stellar; but honestly, I have a very hard time believing that a story starting with two guys bantering before single-handedly taking down an army of mechas with a super-powerful mythical sword will be anything else than a milling mass of J-RPG clichés and platitudes, no matter how many references to Nietzsche and Jung are thrown into the mix. Also, I hate stories that pit humans against mechas. And given that hardly anything happened in one hour except for a couple of vapid dialogues, I can also tell that the pacing of XC is much too sluggish for my taste. The mere idea of spending seventy or more hours playing that snooze fest makes me shudder with horror.
—Last but certainly not least, the battle system is a pathetic joke. I'm still seething when thinking of it, seriously. I started frothing at the mouth and spitting in disbelief when I realized that the cursed game was handholding and patronizing to the point of triggering hits without my input when I got close to enemies. Colour me outraged and appalled. How fun can it be to butcher foes if said butchering is not the direct result of my generous button-mashing? This is like the worst of two worlds put together in one fighting system, as you have to suffer both the hectic and somewhat taxing pace of real-time fighting and the lack of direct input of turn-based fighting. There are also way too many moves to choose from on the fly for my taste; I like my real-time fighting to be a simple and streamlined affair, not some kind of multi-tasking test. The constant babbling and interjecting of the characters during fighting made focusing even harder, and I wished I could just shut them off. I've read that this fighting system makes room for an amazing amount of strategizing, and maybe it does later on; but in these early stages, I just found it messy, scattered and totally unfulfilling.
I've painted a very bleak picture so far, and you may wonder if there was really nothing in that game that appealed to me. Well, there was actually something: I was very fond of the British voice acting. However, I'm not going to suffer that game solely for the pleasure of hearing British accents. I was half-thinking of watching a playthrough, but I'm not sure I want to waste 70 hours or more of my life doing that, especially since I could clear one or two better games instead. So I'll probably leave it at that and try to forget that bitter gaming failure. I've already started, in fact: I've been playing a brand-new game for a couple of hours, and said game is so excellent that XC is as good as lost in the sands of time. More on that soon! As for my pitiful experience with XC, it taught me at least one important thing: don't believe the hype! Just because 97% of players and reviewers praise a game doesn't automatically mean that I will like it. (Heck, the opposite has happened often enough!) And also: be wary of home console ports, especially the ones bragging about their huge open world. Bigger is not always better, indeed, and I'd rather stick with the small-scale cosiness of portable gaming worlds. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Code: Realize-Guardian of Rebirth(Vita): So this is a visual novel, and an otome game to boot. Am I interested in otome games? Not that much, but I can always enjoy a good story doubled with a great art style. Code: Realize has the latter in spades; whether it also boasts the former remains to be seen and will determine whether I purchase this game or not.
Corpse Party: Blood Drive(Vita): I'm usually not too fond of survival horror and the like, but this is published by Marvelous, and well... I like Marvelous. They never disappointed me so far, and I want to keep supporting them as much as I can. And who knows, maybe I will lap it up and discover myself a new favourite gaming genre.
Norn9: Var Commons(Vita): Another otome game with a great art style that will have to boast a rock-solid story to gain admittance in my precious collection. I already know that the game contains a record number of endings, namely 24, which means a lot of replay value; and replay value is good, yes precious.
Sword Art Online: Lost Song(Vita): The first game in the series was never released in the West, the second was released digitally, and this third entry will benefit from a full-blown physical release. Now that's what I call progress! Anyway, this is an Action-RPG, which is enough to grant it a place of choice in my collection without even the shadow of a second thought. Next!
Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and the Monster Seal(Vita): Finding data about this one is a trifle hard: apart from the fact that it is a dungeon crawler, a spin-off to an obscure series and that it seems to sport an enormous amount of fan-service, there is really not much to work with. Oh yes, and it's a Sting offering! I love Sting so far, so that makes it an absolute must-by.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steal(Vita): Gee, what a great name! It sounds so evocative, so heroic—the kind of name that promises an epic adventure of massive proportions. Whether it will be the case or not remains to be seen, and reservations can be emitted. Although I loved the little I've played from Nihon Falcom, I've read enough negative opinions about the "Legend of Heroes" subseries to make me think that said subseries is very much an acquired taste. I will thus approach it carefully and brace myself for the worse—while hoping for the best.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes(3ds): This one looks suspiciously like a rip-off of the FF Crystal Chronicles games, with its emphasis on complementary abilities and teamwork to solve puzzles and progress through dungeons. That's fine with me, because I rather like this concept. I just fervently hope that the AI of your allies is not as abysmal as in Ring of Fates and that these cute little Link-alikes won't die on me by running head first into holes, standing under enemy fire or who knows what other display of stupidity.
Return to Popolocrois: Story of Seasons Fairytale(3ds): A crossover between Popolocrois and Story of Seasons, formerly known as Harvest Moon? Sure, why not? Weirder unions have happened in the world of videogaming. I really loved Popolocrois and I'd be glad to revisit that world again, even though I'm a little bit bummed that the developers didn't emulate the exquisite art style of the PSP version of Popolocrois and stuck to run-of-the-mill 3D instead. Oh, well.
Moco Moco Friends(3ds): I first read about this game on YvoCaro's blog, and I was glad I did, because it would have most certainly passed me by otherwise. I would probably have dismissed it as child's fare, and missed a colourful dungeon crawler with a Pokemon-lite flavour in the process. And since the game is aimed at children, it will probably sport a mellow and forgiving gameplay, which is just fine by me. I love playing easy-going dungeon crawlers once in a while.
That's nine games, folks! More than I can play in a single autumn, but that doesn't matter. I'm so glad to see that the release pace is getting brisker than ever, both for the Vita and the 3ds—even though, let's face it, this is a surefire sign that both systems are heading towards the end of their tenure. I wouldn't be surprised if early 2017 saw the pair bow out after a final glorious year of releases—because indeed, 2016 promises to be just as packed with exciting games as 2015. Time will tell, and in the meantime, There Will Be Games! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Six done, two to go! This whole grinding affair is working much, much better than even I dared to expect. I only have to bring Francesca and Adelheid up to the lofty 90s, and then I'll have a whole crew of overpowered characters ready to use for any subsequent playthrough of Lord of Magna. Life is sweet!
I'll explain in my final post about Lord of Magna why having overpowered characters is so important to me in that particular game. For now, I'd like to focus on the romance mechanics present in the game and on the function of said romance mechanics, which is more crucial than it seems to be at first sight. But first, let me get one thing out of the way: the term "romance" is absolutely misplaced here, for there is not the slightest shred of actual romancing in Lord of Magna. Although Luch's conversations with the girls often have a mild flirtatious edge, there are no genuine romantic developments to speak of and no specific romantic endings for each girl. What we get instead are innuendos, declarations of love that are taken back right away under the pretense of being joking (yes, that does happen) and a general coyness that is certainly quite endearing yet will very likely leave romance aficionados deeply unsated.
That's not to say that the misnamed romance in Lord of Magna has no purpose whatsoever, because it does. The most obvious purpose of the so-called "Heart Events" is to unlock specific fighting abilities that will be most welcome during battles; and then, there is a deeper, more secret purpose that can only be unearthed if you clear the game several times in a row. I learnt about this arcane purpose the hard way, and I want to spare other fellow gamers the pain of seeing a whole playthrough go down the drain due to a lack of understanding of the game's most secret gameplay mechanics. (Yes, that did happen.)
Now that the arcane rules of level conservation are laid bare, I will go back to my grinding and give the final push to raise my whole crew to lofty levels. I'm nearly there! Each playthrough is smoother and faster than the one before thanks to the increasing number of overpowered characters, and I'm enjoying this more than I would ever have anticipated. I'll come back to wrap this up with a final post, and very soon at that! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Although my collecting endeavours regarding the Nintendo DS are mostly over now, I still occasionally purchase a DS-related item: the odd RPG I've never heard of because it was so confidential, or a comfy pouch to host one of my many systems. Or, in this case, a brand-new system stamped with a series' name. Behold the gorgeous "Echoes of Time" Nintendo DSi!
It is a Japanese exclusive, and I became aware of its existence as I was idly browsing the Nintendo DS section of Ebay to check the current prices of DSis. I was instantly struck by the beauty of that piece of kit and searched for it on Ebay, but that search produced only a couple of unsatisfying results. I then turned to good ol' Amazon, and to my utter surprise, a search there yielded dozens of results. I had half-feared that this special edition would be hard to find nowadays, but that doesn't seem to be the case—all the better for me, as I promptly secured myself a fairly priced copy. That purchase was not motivated by an undying love for the Final Fantasy franchise or the Crystal Chronicles sub-series, since I know both of them very little, but rather by the sheer looks of the system. I love white consoles as a rule, and the fact that this one sported a picture of a stylized cat only added to my infatuation.
I was not disappointed when discovering the system in all its physical glory. It has a pleasant matte finish and is ever-so-slightly grainy to the touch, like most brand-new DSi. This little beast just looks gorgeous overall, and although it was mostly intended as yet another backup system, I may actually indulge in using it every once in a while.
While this was the first Japanese DSi I ever purchased, it may not be the last. I've had my eye on the SaGa 2 special edition for a very long time, and the Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days edition looks gorgeous too; and I'm pretty sure that there are other beautiful special editions out there that I've not even heard of. Yet. I'm going to hunt for them, and purchase them if they please my retinas. A collector's work is never done, indeed! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
It could have disappointed me, mind you: no matter how you look at it, there are still heaps of unanswered questions at the end of the game. Lingering unaddressed plot points at the end of a narrative usually have a way of irritating me to no end, yet they didn't do so in Danganronpa. They didn't do so because I got a satisfying and conclusive answer regarding the most burning question of them all, namely the identity of the Mastermind. Shedding light on that most challenging enigma left me deeply sated—so much so that knowing the actual state of the outside world didn't really matter that much to me after that. I am perfectly content with this Cube-like ending that lets us see nothing more than a dazzling flash of white light when our crew finally manages to open the school doors, and I'll wait patiently to play Danganronpa 2 and Ultra Despair Girls to get more information about the state of the world. Or not, because I really wouldn't be surprised if said state of the world were bound to remain an enigma throughout the whole series, just like the real identity of the Cigarette-Smoking Man in The X-Files. And surprisingly enough for someone who likes narratives to tie up loose ends in a neat and nice way, such an outcome wouldn't bother me either.
Story aside, I loved absolutely everything in Danganronpa: the colourful cast of characters with their obvious parodic charge, the amazing pacing, the cardboard cutout aesthetics, the slickly fluorescent lights in the corridors, Monokuma's theatrical musings, the limited yet brilliant voice acting, the endearing low-fi, budget quality, Hina's unholy love for donuts that made me crave some myself, and so on. I fervently hope that the sequel and the "Ultra Despair Girls" episode will be just as stellar as this first instalment, and I'm already licking my chops at the thought of playing them. The second episode is already mine to play and UDG will be released in just a couple of days, so the time may be ripe for a delicious Danganronpa marathon. But as always, my gaming instinct will have the last word! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!