Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir Review (PS Vita)


Odin Sphere launched late into the life of the PS2 and along with GrimGrimoir brought a slice of 2D JRPG action to the Sony console. While GrimGrimoir focused more on strategy, Odin Sphere was the action title and offered up a mix of levelling up and bashing things that is now much more common.

Odin Sphere has always been a classic but now it is far more accessible to a wider audience with this remake. This is mainly down to the changes made to the combat system which makes it more fluid and brings it closer to systems found in Muramasa: Rebirth – another gorgeous looking 2D game remade for the Vita. Veterans of the game need not fear though as you can play the original version of the game also (although sadly not with the extra lovely visual overhaul).

Speaking of the visuals they are stunning. The game always looked good but the crisp Vita screen makes everything sing and sparkle in a way that hints at magic beneath the surface of the world just waiting to be released. Characters are highly detailed while lighting and glow effects illuminate beautifully illustrated backgrounds. The story is one of magic and fantasy and the world fits it perfectly.

The structure of the game has you taking control of a number of characters as a story of prophecy and armageddon is told via a girl reading a book. You start with Gwendolyn, Valkyrie daughter of the king and switch to four other characters as you progress. You’ll be with each character for a large period of time though so don’t expect to be switching around every few chapters. It’s very much a case of finishing one story before moving onto the next. It can also be quite jarring after you’ve spent six to eight hours with someone to move to the next character that has a completely different fighting style.

As the different stories are told the protagonists will often clash with each other. This eventually leads to a final book where players must pitch the right characters against the right enemy in order to achieve the ‘happy’ ending and also reveal a final hidden text.

The structure of the game is fairly straight forward. You move to an area and then progress through a series of linked 2D arenas. Some contain battles while others will have rest spaces, treasure or simply be pretty to look at as you run through. Each location is ended with a boss fight and normally has a few smaller bosses along the way as well. You can also explore away from the main areas to find extra items and skills. Skills can then be further leveled up through points gathered from enemies and ‘Phozons’ that are released by butterflies, certain plants and dead monsters.

Aside from bashing things your main focus is on food. You can plant seeds and grow fruit and also collect ingredients to have cooked into meals by wandering chefs for you. Each time you eat you not only recover health but also slightly boost you maximum hit points and also get experience to level up. This makes the eating part of the game key to progressing as without constantly munching you may find yourself too weak for later levels.  There is also an alchemy system at work which lets you mix potions with collected ingredients.

It’s a wonderfully characterful game and there certainly isn’t much out there like it. The high fantasy story isn’t anything particularly knew but it is an interesting tale with a number of decent twists that should keep you occupied through the many hours of gameplay. The change in systems really helps the game to flow and while it certainly seemed to make the game easier that is no bad thing as the original was one of the toughest games we’ve ever played with progress constantly stopped by leveling walls, awkward combat and super powered enemies. We loved it but we certainly won’t be loading up the classic version of the game any time soon when we have this absolute joy to play with.

Overall, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a perfect fit for the Vita. It sits very nicely alongside Muramasa and Dragon’s Crown as a combat heavy RPG while also being an all-round better experience than both of them. The new approach to the combat and revitalised visuals make it feel fresh and relevant and it’s about as essential as any Vita game has been for a very long time. It’s deep, satisfying and gorgeous. It always was a classic and certainly still is.

Overall 9/10

Friday, 24 June 2016

Guilty Gear Xrd - Revelator- Review (PS4)


Following hot on the heels of the superb Guilty Gear Xrd comes the next instalment in the much loved series and my oh my it is a thing of beauty. While everyone is still waiting for Street Fighter V to be somewhere approaching finished REVELATOR has possibly the most content yet in the world of 2D fighters.

The tutorial mode alone is massively in-depth and will take players through the absolute basics such as movement to the advanced techniques of the game. Unlike most tutorials this one is actually quite inventive as well as you jump over obstacles, pop balloons and combo creatures. The more familiar process of producing special moves and combo strings is also included and even players who have never played a fighting game before will find a level where they can work on becoming an all-conquering warrior.

The game sees the cast of the original Xrd return along with a handful of new characters with more following as DLC. Of some surprise is that the returning cast haven’t really been tweaked or rebalanced. That said the first game was pretty much flawless anyway so it’s easy to see why the team decided to leave things as they were.

It’s tricky to go into all the different systems of Guilty Gear but the approach has been to tweak what was already in place rather than to bring in something drastically different. It’s intimidating for even veteran players but it also gives the tutorial mode yet more time to shine as it takes you through step by step. 

Though we would have thought it was impossible the game looks even more eye-meltingly amazing than its predecessor. Characters are large and detailed with flourishes a plenty and anime style entrances to each stage. The stages themselves buzz and hum with activity and lights. It’s glorious and stunning and any other words you can think of that describes something so utterly spellbinding. If there’s a more talented art team working in video games we’ve yet to see it.

The visually visceral design is not restricted to the backgrounds either. In motion the game is a thing of beauty with huge special moves and characters zinging around the screen. It can be difficult to keep up with it all at times but once you get used to the frenetic pace it makes you feel like some kind of joystick Jedi and with all the options and techniques each fighter has there is a real depth of choice to pick from.

As well as a depth of characters there is also a wealth of modes to choose from. Unusually, the arcade mode actually acts as a precursor for the story mode and goes through events that happen just before it starts. This gives players extra incentive to spend even more time with the game and encourages the use of all the available characters to get the full picture of what’s going on. These modes are joined by the M.O.M mode where players compete for in game currency and medals that can be used to level up characters to take on tougher challenges.

As you would expect the online options are also excellent with the usual ranked and player matches present. The presentation is very different though with players walking their avatars around an area and challenging players they come in contact with. There’s also a weird fishing game where you can fish out items in exchange for in game currency. This mode also allows players to change region so they can look elsewhere if their particular area is empty of players.

Overall, Guilty Gear Xrd – REVELATOR- is yet another master class in how to make and present a 2D fighting game. Every time the team produce a game it’s hard to think how it could be bettered and yet they keep finding new ways to improve, add and keep jaws dropping. There’s certainly a lot to take in and get to grips with but once you get it there is no other fighter out there with the same levels of depth to explore. The fact this depth is packaged with so much style is the final, beautiful cherry on top of the cake.

Overall 9/10

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