Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Megadimension Neptunia VII Review (PS4)


Written by Natalie Houghton

It may seem like there has been an onslaught of Neptunia games recently and whilst this is true, most of them have been remakes of the original PS3 games which have in turn come to PS Vita and Steam, there actually hasn’t been a main release in the series since 2013. So welcome to Megadimension Neptunia VII (that’s actually V-2 not 7!)

It is one game split up into 3 sections, each with their own typically flamboyant title and opening screen which makes for a nice touch. The first entitled ‘Zerodimension Neptunia Z: Twilight of the Desperate CPU’ is set in a dying world which is essentially a world mimicking the last days of the Dreamcast - this acts as the tutorial for the game and features some of the best characters found in a Neptunia game for a while. Uzume Tennouboshi aka Orange Heart is the only CPU left in the wasteland and she’s on a mission to defeat the source of this darkness, a giant mecha known as Dark Purple. 

As usual Neptune & co come crashing down from the sky in order to help out and save the day. Joined by Uzume’s companion - a talking fish named Umio (first male character in Neptunia!) who in whichever language you choose (Japanese language is available as free DLC) has quite a sexy voice. Despite his ridiculous appearance... fish body with a human head, he is probably the most sensible character in the whole Neptuniverse. 

Neptunia has always managed to be a slightly lewd series but never before in my opinion has it crossed the line from cutesy bath scenes to sexy bath scenes, these are of course the obligatory Neptunia fare by now and if you enjoy these kinds of games (and take them as I believe it is intended), as a reasonably light hearted silly tales then prepare yourselves for an interesting surprise as some of the scenes now leave almost nothing to the imagination.

The second section of the game features a standalone story with each of the main CPU’s – yes, you do have to do them all! and finally the third section ties everything together and wraps it up nicely. The narrative is one of the best that Neptunia has offered so far. Unfortunately, the same old dungeon design which I’ve seen for the past 3 games rears its ugly head to detract from the fast paces combat. Even though it’s set in the same world, changing things up from the same stale old designs that have been lurking since the first game would have been nice. Come on Compile Heart... new dungeons please!

There are also some subtle changes which are absolutely pointless. For example - instead of having a radius in which you can move, there is now a bar that slowly decreases. This is a change that makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to the game play. Another examples is instead of travelling to places automatically when clicking on them as before, you now have to pay credits in order to ‘build a road’ which monsters will then randomly attack you on as you travel down it. These things really make me wonder about the design choices made as they are nothing but frustrating. 

Most of the other game mechanics work in a similar manner as before – Neptune will run around yelling ‘like a kangaroo’ every time you jump which gets annoying after about the 3rd time. Battles operate via the same types of combos as before; the biggest difference is than as opposed to Victory / Rebirth 3 there is no longer a break gauge so you don’t have to spend time whittling down an enemies break gauge in order to then damage them. Take from that what you will, personally I did not mind it as it has sped up battles quite considerably and everything runs smoothly on the PS4 – there is almost no lag or downtime waiting for the system to process anything. That said the visuals have had quite an upgrade from the previous games on the PS3, everything is nice and smooth, it isn’t spectacular but it is fluid, bright and everything fits together well in an aesthetically pleasing manner but I can’t help but feel like this isn’t pushing the PS4 at all. 

All special moves require SP as before and there are a lot which can be unlocked and utilised but it isn’t really until the end of the game that the big guns come out and some truly ass kicking combos can be unleashed. One of the best new modes and things that V-2 actually does right is the introduction of boss battles where each character is on a platform and you can only use moves involving SP in order to hurt the boss – line your characters up in a triangle around the boss and you can unleash some awesome moves – unfortunately these big scale awesome battles don’t happen too often.

Levelling up also happens fairly quickly so there isn’t really much need for grinding unlike before, I really wanted to like V-2 more but with the addition of a few annoying features and the constant re-use of old, done and dusted dungeons managed to take some of the sparkle away from an otherwise good game. It simply doesn’t do anything new enough to make it stand above the rest of the series although it is friendly enough to deal with any newcomers as whoever is on screen will introduce known characters from a previous game. 

The most competent game in the series so far and there is definitely some sort of addictive brain potion mixed into the battle system. The plot is the best yet but there are unfortunately a few annoying additions which really should have been left out.

7/10

Friday, 25 March 2016

Retro 101 takes on Final Fantasy VII for Teddy (10AM GMT)

Non-stop and without dying. It's time to play Final Fantasy VII for Teddy. You can donate and read the full story of Teddy and what he overcame here - https://www.justgiving.com/Gareth-Chappell2/

Anyone who donates £5 or more can send their email receipt to our friends at Gamestyle.com to have a chance of winning a copy of FFVII. Please send any receipts to coxy [at] gamestyle.com to enter.

The play-through of the game is to raise money for the Southampton PICU who saved Teddy’s life. Friends of PICU is a registered charity in the UK who collect money to buy equipment, fund major projects and help towards buying new ambulances for the Childrens Intensive Care unit at Southampton General Hospital.

Watch live video from retro101uk on www.twitch.tv

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Day of the Tentacle Remastered Review (PC)


A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away point and click adventure games used to be all the rage. Lucas Arts were well known for its skill in making graphic adventures and Day of Tentacle is one of its most famous titles. Now in its new spruced up form we get to see if the game still stands up today.

The sequel to Maniac Mansion, Day of The Tentacle starts with Purple Tentacle drinking some toxic sludge which causes him to develop super intelligence and the urge to take over the world. Enter our three heroes Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie who arrive fresh from receiving a note, delivered by hamster, from Green Tentacle asking for help. The original Maniac Mansion is also hidden away in the game but it hasn’t had the same graphical overhaul sadly.

Dr Fred, the man responsible for all the trouble attempts to send the three back in time to yesterday so they can turn off the machine polluting the water. However, something goes wrong and Hoagie, a fat rock loving stoner and Laverne, an insane spaced out drip, end up stuck in the past and future respectively. Players have to solve the puzzles in the different time frames to bring everyone home and then work out a way to stop Purple Tentacle.

The game has a unique graphical style which has really helped it to keep its place in many people's hearts. No other game out there looks quite as weird as Day of the Tentacle and the oddball graphics help portray the characters and complement the twisted humour really well. The HD re-working of the graphics sticks to the style well and give the player more of the game on screen by removing the interface commands at the bottom. If you just want to experience it in its original glory you can do that too at the push of a button.

There are a few new interface options to replace the old system. You can use a controller now if you wish or mouse commands which now revolve around holding down the right button to bring up an action wheel. It’s similar to the interface used in Full Throttle and most ‘classic’ styled point and click games now.  We found ourselves naturally slipping into it and it certainly does the job well.

The biggest plus about game, the crazy humour, can also be its biggest frustration. It's almost impossible to get through Day of the Tentacle without using some kind of guide as the puzzles often require you to think in the oddest and most obtuse ways possible. This would be a major problem if it wasn't for the fact that the game is so incredible hilarious. Every line is delivered perfectly and the three main characters all bring their own quirky nature to proceedings. The excellent voice cast also adds a whole new level of genius to the game.

The puzzles, although quite clearly programmed by the insane, also raise a smile. It's hard to describe any without giving the game away. Needless to say, Hoagie crashing the signing of the declaration of independence and Laverne being sent to a future where earth is run by tentacles and humans are kept as pets offer up a plethora of opportunities for madness. Throw in a hamster and a talking horse and you really can't go wrong.

It's good to see that after all these years that Day of the Tentacle is still worthy of all the praise that gets lavished upon it. There has never been a funnier game and if more titles had characters as well thought out as these then the industry would be a much brighter place. Even though the puzzles can drive you to madness it's all worth it to experience one of the most unique and original adventures out there.

Overall 8/10

Monday, 14 March 2016

Blazeblue Chronophantasma Extend Review (PC)


Over the years Blazblue has taken up the position of the hardcore alternative to Capcoms Street Fighter IV. Most of the characters require hours of dedication to get to grips with and the crazy plot that includes time travel, magic, science, civil wars and alternate worlds can baffle anyone. Now the series is back with the extended third chapter of the story.

Chronophantasma takes place after the first two games and follows the characters as they move to the ruins of Ikaruga in search of the next magical McGuffin. We aren’t going to try and some up what’s happened so far or what's next as it’ll only confuse everyone. Just know that bad things are going to happen and some people want it to and others don’t. There is of course a puppet master behind the scenes as well trying to put everything into place.

This isn’t an easy game to get into for newcomers to the series. There’s a ton of things to take in and trying to tie up the story will take a serious investment. There’s a helpful ‘Teach Me Miss Litchi’ section which recaps the lore and events but the handy summation of the first two games from vampire Rachel Alucard will set you up nicely. 

The game comes jam packed with different game modes and there’s almost limitless hours that can be put into it. Aside from the Arcade and survival modes there is Abyss mode which has your character working their way through ever increasingly difficult maps containing opponents set at different computer AI levels. There is also the Blazblue version of score attack which pits you against some of the hardest encounters known to man for bragging rights and a host of other things. There’s even a manga to get through called Remix Heart which follows Mai Natsume at the military academy. 

The story mode continues in the style of the vanilla version of Chronophantasma with three main branches that need to be completed with characters aligned to different factions in each. There are also sections featuring the new characters which came as DLC in the last version of the game. There is still too much talking and not enough fighting to start but once it gets going it’s a good tale and enjoyable, especially for fans of the series. The wealth of training modes also return with everything you need to teach you the basic mechanics and then take you into ridiculous depth with your chosen characters. 

The original cast have been rebalanced and in some cases retooled with moves and special moves and this is still a bone of contention for some fans. Jin is the most notably different with the range and speed of certain moves changed and the removal of his mass-hitting spam everything quickly with the sword move (much to the relief of everyone who uses other characters). Things soon begin to click again but we got absolutely hammered just diving into arcade mode and then wondering why nothing was working.

The previously new characters are now joined by those available as downloadable content to give an impressive cast of fighters. The previous version of the game was hardly light on content and now it is bursting at the seams.

The game holds true with its previous changes such as the implementation of the 'Overdrive' meter which replaces the ‘Gold Burst’ move. When activated this it allows for more damaging distortion drive techniques as well as stopping the match timer. The lower your health, the longer the effect lasts. Guards have also been changed but the drive is still the new big thing and players will have to drastically change their game plan in close matches.

The main thing is that after you get to grips with the changes everything flows as beautifully as before. This is still one of the most spectacularly intense fighting games on the market and this version of the game is a very strong showing in an ever increasingly crowded genre. 

Overall, Blazblue Chronophantasma Extend is a must for anyone who is into their fighting games and this is right up there with anything in the genre. Fans will be desperate to see the new additions to the story but anyone who’s up for a challenge will appreciate what the game has to offer as well. It may not be the easiest title to get into but once you do there is little else out there as rewarding or satisfying.

Overall 9/10