Category Archives: 3DS

Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk Review – 3DS

Jake Hunter: Ghost of the Dusk is a detective game focused on several stories. There are also several side stories that you can unlock by inputting passwords. The game is centered around the titular Jake Hunter, who you control to find clues and solve crimes. The gameplay itself is minimal and directed by prompts, similar to other crime games like the Phoenix Wright series. For instance, in the first scene of the first story you have to interrogate a man who went to a house and saw a dead body. You gather this information from him by using three separate prompts: examine, speak, and move.

During crimes there is a fourth prompt, think, in which you put together clues to form information. This does end up making the player feel limited with their options. Later on you get to “search” where you use the stylus or d-pad to investigate objects within a space or a dead body. This ends up providing some more freedom to investigate, improving the gameplay slightly, and increasing the feeling of player freedom.

The answers you get are also linear, as certain things have to be done before even speaking on occasion. For example, you cannot talk to the man until you examine him first and you cannot leave before hearing his full story. This makes most of the game trial-and error. There is also no real way to fail, as the story is already set out, which may disappoint some who enjoy genuine consequences to actions.

This also means that the replay value is next to none, as the game’s only real hook is putting together the pieces of the predetermined mystery. The stories are well crafted though, and searching for the clues themselves can give the player a fair amount of enjoyment. Players will be engaged throughout the entire investigation process. Jake’s commentary on the clues was well written and descriptive, and never felt too drawn out. The crimes never were boring, and could be extremely interesting at their best and decent enough at their worst.

The game has great music overall. The tracks for investigations were especially good at conveying an atmosphere of mystery and dread, accomplishing their job decently well. The sound effects were also good and never really got annoying. Jake Hunter also has some really well drawn cinematics on occasion, the best ones are usually found at the beginning of the story. They do an amazing job of building the mysteries and peaking the player’s interest in the crime to come. The characters also have art that goes along with their dialogue boxes and does a good job at conveying the characters.

There was also a bit of weirdness with a few of the localization choices. Some lines are voice acted and some are not, but they’re all voiced in Japanese. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem on its own, but the localization team changed the setting from Japan to the United States, complicating a few things. This can end up annoying the players with the somewhat glaring inconsistencies throughout the game, and may even turn others off entirely. However, for those who can brush this type of thing off, it isn’t a big issue.

The game costs $39.99, and for the average player it isn’t really worth it. Jake Hunter is an incredibly niche title that only those invested in the crime genre will get any real enjoyment out of, and the rest will find painfully average.  So if you’re not encompassed within the crime games demographic, you should probably give Jake Hunter a pass. If these kind of games appeal to you though, you should definitely consider picking this one up. For the right player Jake Hunter is about a 3/5. It provided a fairly fun time, but was nothing all that special to play. 

The Alliance Alive Review – 3DS

The Alliance Alive is a JRPG that captures a feel similar to that of Bravely Default and similar games. The game itself is loads of fun, and offers many different choices that allow for tons of replay value, as it is literally impossible to do everything and get every item in one run.

The gameplay itself is entertaining and fast, with the standard turn based system of the genre. There are a few deviations from the standard formula, as you need “medicine packs” to access the full extent of your healing items, which made the system feel a tad clunky at times. Aside from that the gameplay was fun, and all of the bosses were challenging but fair. Although one of those bosses had one attack that was debatably pretty unfair, and any player will know what it is when they get to it.

The Alliance Alive also has a great choice system, there are places where you have to ask yourself if you want to let that character die to get a rare item. Or in other places you have to decide to let others die to preserve your healing items, and these choices have effects on other NPCs in the overworld. There were places where I genuinely felt bad for my choices, and resolved to do better in my new playthroughs.

The overworld is mostly open and fun to explore, do you want to ignore the story and sail off to explore islands? You can do it, and The Alliance Alive actively rewards it with new party members and rare items. The overworld provides surprises even on the second or third playthrough, when a player is likely to have end-game items to trigger events that they may have missed on their first playthrough.

The Alliance Alive has an art style that manages to be adorable and also not detract from it’s darker moments. The characters resemble chibis in style, and though they are cartoonish in design the models have their fair share of detail. During intense moments the characters are not held back by their simple design though, the emotional impact of certain events was not held back by the cutesy style.

The soundtrack was good, though there were places where the music playing was dissonant from the tone of the scene. One scene in particular at the end of the game had upbeat battle music playing over a scene that was supposed to portray an feeling of mystery and provide closure, and it really clashed. Other than that, the music was good, though not fantastic in any way.

The Alliance Alive costs roughly forty dollars, and for all the fun packed into this game plus its replay value, it’s more that worth that price.  The Alliance Alive is a solid JRPG that is bound to entertain just about anybody with its cute art style and its ability to keep you interested on subsequent playthroughs. Despite its faults, it is probably one of the more solid RPGs this year so far.

Creeping Terror Review – 3DS

When you think of 3DS games, you probably think of child-friendly adventures or action filled romps through magical lands, Creeping Terror is none of those things. It is a very scarce genre as far as the Nintendo brand is concerned, a horror game. It was honestly quite a disappointment to find that one of the only horror games on the 3DS store is lacking in scares. The game is attempting to pay homage to a bygone era of horror games, and is especially reminiscent of the 1995 game “Clock Tower.”

The story of the game is simple enough, a small group of friends gather together to try to record proof of a monster that is rumored to haunt a nearby house. As they explore, one of the kids falls down into a tunnel system hidden beneath the house, where she is pursued by the monster Shovel Man. The plot itself is rather unremarkable, it’s standard cliché horror movie fare, but in the horror genre the story is allowed to be weak. This is because while an engaging story is preferable, whether or not a person enjoys anything in the horror genre is dependent upon the atmosphere it creates, and whether the atmosphere is crafted well enough to instill fear in whoever is experiencing it.

Sadly, Creeping Terror falls flat on that front as well. While the game had several opportunities to create a genuinely tense and frightful atmosphere, it ultimately handles them in a way that robs them of any potential they might’ve had. Two perfect examples of this are the flashlight system and the monster scenes.  In Creeping Terror, the main character can use their cellphone to shine light on objects in front of them; however, their phone has limited charge and to replenish your battery you need to find charger packs. This would normally be a good way to induce stress, as management of a resource means the player must be conscious of their every move, but charger packs aren’t exactly scarce and you can carry more than one at a time.

The monster is a similar case of wasted potential, as early on you are given a clear method of defense against him. Avoiding capture is made quite easy, as a throw of a rock or button-mashing can make your escape trivial, making any appearance of the monster more frustrating than scary.

The price tag on Creeping Terror is rather low compared to many games on the eShop, only costing ten dollars. The game itself doesn’t make itself scary or entertaining enough to spend that amount without regret. The only way this game will make itself endearing to the player is if they’re desperate for a horror game on their 3DS or they’re a big enough fan of Clock Tower to want to play a much blander version of it.

To sum up, Creeping Terror is a game with tons of wasted potential and okay concepts that only a select niche of people will enjoy. It’s bland and forgettable, and will most likely fail to leave an impression on whoever plays it; I’d give it a 1.5/5.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Review – 3DS

As a longtime fan of Capcom’s Ace Attorney series for the original DS, I was pretty pleased when I heard that they were remastering the games for the Nintendo 3DS. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is the latest release, following the port of the original trilogy three years ago. This is a big deal because with this remaster, all Ace Attorney main games previously released for the DS are now upgraded for the 3DS and available for download in the Nintendo eShop.

For those unfamiliar, the Ace Attorney games are something of a hybrid between crime-drama/comedy visual novel and adventure game. Every game encompasses multiple episodes (Apollo Justice has four), each presenting a mystery for the player to solve. Gameplay is simple enough for even casual players to pick up. Chat it up with various wacky characters and investigate several scenes to gather evidence (in a point-and-click manner similar to traditional adventure games), then go to trial with the evidence you’ve found and use it to point out contradictions in testimony.

Thanks to the charmingly quirky (and often over-the-top ridiculous) characters, beautifully executed artwork, and engaging story, progressing through the game is much more fun than you might expect from such a simple concept. Because the gameplay and interface are so straightforward, with all relevant information easily accessible to you virtually at all times, the Ace Attorney games are excellent for intermittent gaming on the go, such as while commuting on the train. Retrying failures isn’t punishing, and you can save virtually anytime and later pick up right where you left off, which is especially great for those of us who rarely see long stretches of free time for gaming.

Apollo Justice primarily takes place seven years after the last game, my personal favorite so far, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations. If you’re new to the series, though, don’t worry. The game assumes no prior knowledge and starts fresh, passing on the Ace Attorney torch to a new cast of characters. This includes the titular Apollo, who happens to be a bit of a bumbling greenhorn defense attorney — much like Phoenix Wright is when we first meet him in previous games. This, and the reappearance of some familiar faces from the original trilogy, helps smooth over the transition to the new crew for series veterans. Thankfully, the next generation — including Wright’s magician daughter Trucy and snack-munching detective and forensic scientist Ema — is memorable and endearing in its own right.

The new 3DS remaster of this game is beautifully done, with dramatically improved graphics. Since I had the original DS cartridge on hand, I was able to compare the two games side by side, and it’s instantly noticeable how much rougher and more pixelated the original’s graphics look next to the new sprites, which are super crisp and look almost on par with animation cels. I love that the new graphics also take advantage of the full size of the 3DS’s larger screen, though with the minor trade-off that some of the backdrops are partially cropped due to the different aspect ratio — for me, most noticeably in the courtroom lobby where the painting above the couch is somewhat awkwardly cut-off). The game text, though, is larger and clearer, definitely easier on the eyes.

The remaster also adds an option for 3D, which essentially adds adjustable depth to the layering of the dialogue box, sprites, and backdrops. It’s a neat effect, if somewhat hit or miss: for example, Prosecutor Gavin’s fist slamming into the wall no longer looks like it’s hitting anything when his sprite’s floating on a separate layer from the background. Also slightly disappointingly, the cut scenes, even those that look rendered in 3D, don’t take advantage of the 3D effect. Overall, I could take or leave the 3D feature, since it causes me more eye strain when it’s turned on, but it’s easily toggled and adjusted on your 3DS, and I know others who’d enjoy the 3D enhancement.

The sound quality seems a bit better, too, but I’m not sure I’d have noticed if I hadn’t loaded up the two versions back to back. The remaster unfortunately doesn’t tone down the harsh treble of the ticks the game uses in place of audible dialogue. I would have loved it if the upgrade included more noticeable improvements in sound, but for all I know, it could be limited by the 3DS’s hardware. While I’m being wishful, though, let me just throw out there that voiced dialogue instead of the ear-grating ticking would have been amazing.

The remaster also includes some more subtle but much appreciated improved features, such as a toggle for automatically skipping all dialogue (useful if you’re doing a quick replay of the game), the ability to directly retry a failed game from the last event without reloading a save,  and the nice bonus option to play the entire game in the original Japanese. If you can read Japanese or find a script online, that last feature provides a rare opportunity to do a little Spot the Difference with Capcom’s meticulous localization changes from moving the game’s setting from Japan to the States.

Overall, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is a very solid (if not absolutely most bonus-feature-packed) remaster of the original DS release from 2007 (2008 in the US). At $19.99 for the download from the Nintendo online store, it’s not cheap for a game released a whole decade ago, albeit an attractively remastered one. I’d have liked to see more improvements or new bonus material, even little extras like the ability to listen to the soundtrack or view a gallery of concept art, at that price, but the game did hold up well and occupied me for about a week, playing mostly only nights at the pace of a full-time working parent. If you’ve never played this game and enjoyed the Phoenix Wright trilogy (or games like it), I’d certainly recommend checking this title out and getting this remastered version over the original DS game. Maybe we can look forward to ports of the Edgeworth spin-offs next?

Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop Review – 3DS

Another year, another….Cooking Mama game? Yes, it is a new game in the Cooking Mama franchise! If you haven’t heard about Cooking Mama before it’s essentially a great mini-game filled adventure where you cook up amazing dishes simply by tapping, swiping, dragging and swirling recipes in mini-game fashion to become the ultimate chef. This release titled Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop focuses on sweets creation as the name implies and then selling them in your own, wait for it…sweet shop.

Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop has an astounding 160 mini-games you will eventually encounter as you unlock more recipes for your shop. In my time playing I can say I never encountered a recipe so difficult I did not get a gold medal upon completion, so I can’t say if they were difficult in any way. Most mini-games, as I mentioned, consisted of simple taps and dragging and swiping ingredients together but there were other interactions such as changing the speed of a blender in between ingredients going in or carrying trays across a room without spilling. No matter what you are doing, it’s tied into the recipe itself.

Sweet Shop primarily revolves around creating dishes and then setting up your shop to sell them. It starts out very basic where you can have as little as one dish out for sale and customers will come in and purchase it after walking around a little exploring your barren shop. This part of the game frustrated me; I had 5 different dishes each getting more complex to make and they all sold for the same price. A crème éclair sold for the same price as a simple caramel apple on a stick. I racked up an impressive $300,000 from my few dishes in under an hour before I realized the money isn’t what unlocks new decorations and upgraded displays and such for your sweet shop. You just have to power through creating the recipes which unlock as previous recipes are completed then use the shop income to buy new scarves, aprons and even renovate your kitchen and shop.

Here comes my second frustration with Sweet Shop. You have to be in the sweet shop to sell those items, so if you aren’t around to click on the little customers walking in to check them out, your store doesn’t get any money to make it better, seriously? I can’t just hire someone to be a cashier? All that aside, you do eventually get a businesswoman come into the shop randomly who, if you have the item available that she is looking for, will then open up a store with that item somewhere in the world. That in turn opens up another mini-game for you to play and try to achieve a new high score, but sadly there are no leaderboards available for these locations and it is only about improving your score.

Cooking Mama Fans won’t be disappointed in the newest installment with Sweet Shop. The franchise keeps you busy with its many challenges and different ways to set up your sweet shop and still keeps that simple and colorful atmosphere. I personally did not get to experience this next feature but If you and three more people want to challenge each other to see who can earn the most gold medals you can also download the play mode titled “Let’s Play Together!” where you will play 15 mini-games against each other. There isn’t a winner per se, as you can end it whenever you want or keep playing and just continue to improve in your cooking skills.

Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is a title for the gamers who don’t want to take it serious and just want to play a few casual mini-games to pass the time or keep you busy. If you are averse to mindless distraction then it probably isn’t the franchise for you.

Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle Review – 3DS

Ninja Usagimaru: The Mysterious Karakuri Castle, released on Nintendo 3DS, is the sequel to Ninja Usagimaru: The Gem of Blessings, which released on the same device back in 2015. Developed by Arc System Works, players take control of Usagimaru, a wandering spirit who, upon returning to his home village, finds all of his fellow villagers kidnapped. By travelling across the land, Usagimaru must rescue these villagers from their abductors, by solving puzzles and leading them to safety.

Ninja Usagimaru plays as a navigational puzzle game, with each stage taking place over a single-screen 2D puzzle. Usagimaru is required to avoid traps and monsters, and use objects in the environment, such as rocks, to access otherwise inaccessible areas and defeat his enemies. However, before doing this, it’s heavily recommended that players plan out their routes and objectives, as one wrong step can lead to failure in the level. Usagimaru isn’t particularly agile, and has an incredibly small jumping ability, meaning that if you haven’t set up an escape route, Usagimaru could well be trapped, requiring a level restart.

Ninja Usagimaru has a pretty simple control system, and by using a mixture of attacks, blocks, and even a hookshot, Usagimaru can manipulate the environment to get him to where he needs to be. Unfortunately, with the 3DS’s small screen and d-pad, it can be easy to accidentally press a button too many times, or not quite catch yourself before you make a fatal mistake. Ninja Usagimaru is a pretty unforgiving experience, and there will be plenty of times you’ll end up cursing yourself or the game for the smallest of mistakes.

Levels are fairly small, being only a single-screen, but they don’t necessarily take a short time to complete. Some of the more frustrating levels are especially fiddly to navigate, requiring particular actions to take place in a specific order and with good timing, because otherwise you’ll have to start the level over.

Once you get the hang of the game’s mechanics and begin to learn the patience and forethought that the game requires of you, it becomes easier to figure out the best approach for each level, and once you reach this stage, Ninja Usagimaru becomes a game that’s actually quite well designed for a handheld, as it presents an experience self-contained enough that you won’t miss anything by putting it down, but challenging enough that longer play sessions are a viable option.

Perhaps the biggest downside to Ninja Usagimaru is that despite offering a lot of content, there isn’t enough variety on offer to encourage most players to slog their way through it. When combined with the above-average difficulty level, it makes for a puzzle game that feels distinctly one-note. This is a game for puzzle-game masochists more than anyone else, and I’m not ashamed to say that there were multiple times when I put the game down feeling like a complete idiot.

On a personal level, my favorite puzzles games are the ones where new elements are gradually introduced over time and by the end of the game you’re solving puzzles with many more layers than you first started with. Ninja Usagimaru doesn’t do this, however. It starts hard, and gets progressively more difficult from there, making for a generally miserable experience. There’s an interesting grab-and-go gaming concept here, but unfortunately it will likely be inaccessible for most.

Langrisser Re:Incarnation -TENSEI- Review – 3DS

I’ve played quite a few RPGs over the years but I recently got the chance to review the newest installment of a franchise that hasn’t been seen in North America for over fifteen years. While there are those people that remember playing a little title call Warsong back on the Sega Genesis it was definitely not on my radar back then. Warsong was in fact the first of the Langrisser series of strategy RPGs that makes its return to North American shores with the release of Langrisser Re: Incarnation –TENSEI- for the Nintendo 3DS.

tensei1Now I wish I could say that Langrisser’s absence has been leading up to its triumphant return here in the States but well that would be far from the truth. There are a few glaring issues that I will bring up as I go though Re: Incarnation –TENSEI- isn’t without its merits as the actual combat mechanics are quite enjoyable after a few tweaks and temporary button input reconditioning. Long story short folks the traditional A button for confirming and B button for canceling or going back are reversed for some reason. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the wrong button while playing this game.

Langrisser as I mentioned is a strategy RPG featuring fairly straight forward mechanics of the genre. Combat in Langrisser takes place on grid based isometric maps, like its predecessors, across a world heavily inspired by medieval European architecture. I’ve played more than my fair share of sRPGS and I have to say Langrisser has some of the largest maps I’ve ever seen in one. This includes even the starting city of Borcelaine where we meet much of the main cast and our protagonist Ares, new wielder of the titular Langrisser. I often found most of the maps to be entirely too big despite the need to have them in the first place.

tensei2Players will be able to control up to 8 main characters on the battlefield at a time though that is only the start of things. Each of the party members are known as Commander Units giving them the ability to hire troops, heal or use skills. So you can go from being outnumbered on the battlefield to standing a better chance at winning because you will almost always be outmanned by the people trying to kill Ares. To this end, having large maps seems fitting since as long as you have the funds you can pad your forces. On the downside troops cannot level up and are only as strong as the unit that commands them. They do gain stat bonuses if they are within their commander’s range of influence and are healed when standing around them.

It is vitally important to pay attention to both commanding unit, mercenaries and even summons as they all have exactly 10 health points. This goes for your side as well as the enemy so using healing skills is something that should not be skimped on. It should be noted that mercenaries no matter the flavor come in packs of ten with each troop counting as a single health point. This is made known by the painful battle animations that trigger every time you engage in combat. Seriously it’s a bunch of chibis bumping up against each other to inflict damage. These animations can be turned off though luckily.

tensei3Each level in Langrisser starts with a planning stage where you can purchase these mercenaries, or buy gear and weapons instead with funds that are rather hard to come by. This is also where you decide who to take into battle as some maps will only allow so many main units beside the ones that are required for that scenario. On a more pleasant note, between battles you have the chance to converse with up to three of you allies as a way to build camaraderie as you progress through the story in a way that isn’t just superficial. While it does give you an edge in battle it’s also a great way to get invested in the story.

One thing that I really liked was the questionnaire at the beginning given by Jessica that determined Ares personality and strengths. This effects Ares’s interactions with the rest of the cast as well as his prowess in battle which is good because he’ll eventually become a tank leaving most of his allies in the dust. The thing about Langrisser Re: Incarnation –TENSEI- is that the main unit that gets the kill on an enemy is the only one that gains experience and without a way to really grind to balance out the rest of your allies you’ll be relying on maybe 2-3 characters the entire game with everyone else falling behind or acting as fodder.

tensei4I’ll admit that the graphics really drag Langrisser Re: Incarnation –TENSEI- down along with other issues like the map sizes. Graphics are only one part of a title’s package but it’s the first thing people see when considering a purchase and well Langrisser just doesn’t come through for this player especially with battle animations as bad as the ones here. I will say that I did find the map designs and character stills to be pleasant to look at throughout my playthrough which is good becomes some of the battles can last a while largely due to map sizes and forces on the battlefield. The music in Re: Incarnation –TENSEI- is also pleasant to listen to and the voice acting while completely in Japanese is pretty solid as portraying emotion in the characters.

Langrisser Re: Incarnation –TENSEI- is adventure that is plagued with a few poor key choices in its development that makes it really hard to recommend, especially at the $40 asking price. Underneath the rough presentation there is a pretty solid strategy RPG here that I actually enjoyed with characters that I liked as well. With other much more polished strategy RPGs out now, Langrisser Re: Incarnation –TENSEI- is a hard sell but if you can get past the glaring faults you’ll find a deep sRPG experience.

Sadame Review – 3DS

I know it may be too soon in this review but there has to be some karma involved when your game’s title literally translates into the word Fate. Such is the case with the Mebius developed and Rising Star Games published action-RPG Sadame. Officially called Ishi-Sengoku-Den SADAME, this hack ‘n slash adventure takes you through a reimagined fictional version of the “Warring States” Sengoku period of Japan.

Now the last time I played a game featuring this time period, I’m pretty sure that Oda Nobunaga wasn’t a demon but rather an iron handed tactician of politics and warfare. I think I rather like the version portrayed in Sadame though. Nobunaga isn’t the only historical figure to make an appearance in Sadame as people like Takeda Shingen show up as one of the bosses as a giant tiger demon who has been transformed by their Karma.

In fact Karma is a big part of Sadame as you absorb the Karma from the big end level bosses to make you stronger for the fights to come. One of the things that I really did like about Sadame is the ability to choose one of the four character classes: samurai, monk, ninja, and rogue to engage in combat. Each one has their own strengths which effects how you tackle each encounter. I started out trying the rogue who uses a bow for ranged attacks and a stave for up close encounters.

What I found out was that in some instances having a ranged attack, magical or otherwise is great as it reduces the number of times I had to get close to mobs or bosses. On the downside it takes much longer to kill them all. Getting up close especially when using the ninja class paved the way for dispatching large numbers of foes at the same time, but it has one major drawback. It is entirely possible, as I found out on numerous occasions, to get stun locked and dropped by a group of enemies in mere seconds even in later levels.

The worst part is that Sadame plays by old-school rules as it has no midlevel checkpoints so if you get ganged up on or hit with a fatal attack you have play the entire level over from the very beginning even if you were on the boss fight. Now while this seems like an absolute brutal mechanic it actual isn’t all bad despite the sting of a cheap death. If you die you still keep the experience earned up until that point as you can save after each unsuccessful attempt.

After a successful completion of a level you will be able to see what loot you picked up from defeated enemies and equip them. The loot is completely random though so you may get something good and you may not. There is some complexity to choosing your items though as some give you great skills or overall stats they may not be the best choice. There are also gems that you can slot to items that have the appropriate shape, similar to what I experienced in KoA: Reckoning, to add effects such as elemental defense.

The more you upgrade and level your character you will earn spells and access new combos. Unfortunately I found using the beginning one and the Life karma skill to be far more than suitable to get through most situations than any of the advanced ones. While there are a lot of enemies the combat is a little flat when you can muscle your way through most encounters while using a little bit of tactics to keep from getting ganged up on.

What isn’t flat though is the graphics of Sadame featuring some rather awesome level and character designs especially the boss monsters. That giant skeleton with moving guts underneath was beyond cool. The character animations be it melee, ranged or spells are pretty solid despite the somewhat sluggish controls. The music is great and not overbearing or overshadowed by attack sounds during combat.

Sadame could be a really great game like some of the titles that I grew up with, but the actual combat really drags down the overall experience. I like challenges but if you’re going to make advanced combos and have spells there needs to be some level of balance so you don’t die the moment you try to use them. Adding that to the random spikes of difficulty and the harsh old-school death mechanic it took me several tries and a lot of patience to a good ways into the game. If you enjoy old-school combat mixed with some modern deep RPG elements the Sadame may be just right up your alley.

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Project X Zone 2 Review – 3DS

I’ll be honest, when I first took on Project X Zone 2 to review for 3DS this wasn’t the strategy RPG I thought it would be. I was expecting something more Disgaea in nature, but what I found was a cross between Disgaea and the likes of Street Fighter, Darkstalkers and Tekken and that’s not even quite right as a descriptor. Two words to describe Project X Zone 2 though would be “Addictive Crossover”.

While I never played the original Project X Zone, it would seem that I would have to time travel all the way back to the PS2 era and boarded a plane to Japan to play Namco X Capcom, the actual first game in this series. This third entry (second in PXZ series) starts off introducing players to a never-ending fight between rival good and evil groups Shinra (no not that one) and Ouma. They kick it off with returning protagonists Reiji Arisu and his 765 year old “Sage Fox” partner Xiaomu hitting the streets of sealed off Shibuya where mysterious golden chains start showing up as well as various characters across time and series.

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Project X Zone 2 brings some of the biggest names from Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom and Sega franchises to grace a screen at the same time with a few newcomers from Nintendo’s more interesting franchises this time around. Characters are usually paired up in units from their respective games like Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine from Resident Evil or similarly themed characters like ninjas Strider Hiryu and Hotsuma from Strider and Shinobi respectively in combat. Warning there are lots of ninjas in this game!

These folks are not alone either as several Solo Units will join up in interesting combinations like lawyer Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey being support for Darkstalkers’ badasses Dmitri Maximoff and Morrigan Aesland. Project X Zone 2’s story revolves around supernatural events where multiple different times and worlds being linked to one another via portals somehow makes just enough sense to be enjoyable. It was quite entertaining to see how Phoenix Wright and a medium would actually fair in a game involving combat but the developers put a lot of thought into making it work.

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The combat as I mentioned was not what I expected at all and surprisingly I found it to be fresh and exciting. Much like every strategy RPG players you start out on an isometric battle field where you must move your characters strategically towards your enemy so you can attack them. Once every one of your allies has been used your end your turn and the enemies get their turn. Players then usually have the option to counter or defend an enemy force unless it’s a major foe.

Instead of just attacking foes right on the battle map things switch from the Stage Map to the Battle Screen where things get interesting. Players will execute moves by inputting the desired attack and over the course of three attacks attempt to defeat their opponent. If unsuccessful you will have to either use another ally character on the field or wait for the next Player Turn segment. Visually I felt like I was playing a fighter calling in tag-team characters to assist me from time to time during these moments instead of the precise acts of chaining together attacks in an almost turn based setting to pull off the most damage possible. I got to admit that despite the actual technical aspect of the fighting it’s awesome to see you favorite characters laying the smack down on the bad guys with glorious combos.

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Project X Zone 2 does takes some cues from some sRPG titles including giving your Pair Units an slight increase in damage if you attack them from the side or a substantial one if done from behind. The tactical part is that your enemies benefit from this system as well so planning is everything to make sure you stay alive. The only way to fail events in PXZ2 is if everyone on your side gets wiped out as there are no other objectives to be found like trying to escape if odds get too great.

One of the nice things about Project X Zone 2 is that while most Solo Units are tied to Pair Units that make sense (most of the time), they are not exclusively limited to them as you can mix and match them to balance out potential weaknesses in the Pair Units. You can test them out in the unlockable Training Mode with a whole slew of options to account for all the different encounters you will ultimately face.

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There is a lot of customization for your roster of allies as well thanks to the added Shop feature where you can buy restorative items, and equipment to aid you in battle. I really liked the ability to spend CP points to increase the effectiveness of your individual attacks for both your Pair and Solo Units. These same CP points also allow you to equip skills that trigger by meeting their respective criteria.

As a crossover title, Project X Zone 2 hits a lot of the things that I feel are necessary for making this kind of venture possible. Chief among them is the care that was made in the script and localization to make it an interesting story. The game is voiced completely in Japanese so a lot of reading between fights is required so the developers had to get the script and written word just right. This isn’t just a game where different characters are thrown together in a cardboard presentation. Each character is written in the way that you would expect them to act in their respective series even while addressing foreign elements like the way that Chris and Jill react to most monsters as possible B.O.W.s (Bio-Organic Weapons) instead of what they actually are. It was even interesting to see Resident Evil 6 Leon S. Kennedy’s initial with Chris and Jill from Resident Evil: Revelations which I could understand having played both.

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That’s maybe one thing though that may leave some people lost when it comes to some of these characters. Monolith Software has pulled such a wide variety of well-known and even obscure characters together that even I has to look up a few of the characters as I was either never exposed to their games or never got around to trying them out like Resonance of Fate and Nightshade despite having heard of them. Though this may be a bit off putting to some players I took things I stride as I dove farther into the chaos and felt rewarding for doing so especially when characters that I was very familiar with got introduced like Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo from Tales of Vesperia complete with an instrumental version of the title’s theme song “Ring A Bell” playing in the background. They weren’t the only one to have variations of their music in the game though as all the main Pair groups did to great effect.

This attention to detail also extends to the artistic style of Project X Zone 2 as well. It was absolutely perfect when I was fighting in the Makai Realm (Darkstalkers) and Phoenix/Maya laid a big ol’ Objection complete in its signature look on an enemy as an attack. I can’t really express how happy that made me when it happened the first time. All the combat animations though are on point here though and things will get absolutely chaotic on the screen when you are triggering Normal attacks with Solo support ones. Not only that you have beautifully drawn animations that play when you trigger any signature attack which give you an up-close look at the characters that are executing them.

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Players will have a lot to do in Project X Zone 2 as there is even more fun to be had when you beat the game as you can take on a New Game+ version of the game called Advanced Mode. There is even an even harder mode called SP Advanced Mode available to purchase via real money with included bonuses if you are so inclined to try that out. Like the Advanced Mode you can’t try it until it unlocks upon your first game completion. There are 19 other pieces of DLC featuring usable items as well for purchase for $.99 cents apiece or together at a reduced cost. Something that I particularly liked about Project X Zone 2 is the at no extra cost Crosspedia that gives you a somewhat brief of each ally, enemy and organization as you come across them that you can view during each intermission which I used more than once when I just couldn’t place a characters game origin.

I’ve played more than a few crossover titles over the years covering a wide variety of gameplay styles and I’ve got to say, Project X Zone 2 is easily my favorite of the bunch. It’s well blended mix of a serious strategy RPG with the fast paced combat of the action RPG genre with enough intrigue and humor to satisfy any anime/manga/RPG fan. I mean that crack at Gunsmith Cats was great though might go right over some players heads even when it’s delivered by a 765 year old otaku. If you’re looking for that next interesting RPG for the 3DS and just happen to love all things videogames then be sure to check out Project X Zone 2 today.

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