Monday 28 November 2016

Castlevainia: Circle of the Moon Review (GBA)

Written by Dan Gill

Launch games play an important role in selling a console on release day; Super Mario World, Halo, Sonic Adventure, Tetris, Wipeout – all great games, all big successes.  By its launch in 2001, the Game Boy Advance would’ve sold if the only game released was a tarted-up port of Super Mario Bros. 2 (OK, that was released, and was pretty good to be fair), but the GBA was blessed with a handful of great titles to choose from on day one (certainly in Europe), but probably the biggest and most “home console”-like game on offer was Castlevania.

Following on from the critically successful Symphony of the Night rather than the N64’s 3D titles, CotM has you taking protagonist Nathan Graves through a labyrinthine castle in the hunt for his mentor, Morris Baldwin.  Morris is captured by Dracula in the opening scene, so the player needs to make their way through the castle, exploring all its nooks and crannies for items, magic and abilities to aid in their quest to rescue Morris and destroy Dracula.

The items in question range from new abilities to access previously unavailable areas, spells, clothing and armour, and your standard secondary weapons.  This is the big draw of the title; the exploration aspect firmly puts CotM in the “Metroidvania” section of Castlevania’s history. Seeing unreachable areas and returning to them at a later point once the relevant ability has been required. 

The series’ staple whip (although not the “Vampire Killer” from earlier games) and secondary weapons return, but this time they’re joined by new abilities which are acquired from boss fights.  These expand Nathan’s move set, giving access to more of the castle.  Standard stuff, but the real addition to the game comes in the form of the Dual Set-up System (DSS).  The system utilises cards randomly (and rarely) dropped by enemies.  Each card is either an action or attribute, and takes its name from gods and goddesses from Roman myth.  When one action and one attribute card are combined and triggered by pressing R2, they’ll take effect.  These effects range from increasing attack to offering a protective poison cloud to summoning creatures.  The combinations are varied, and can only be discovered by trying them out (in the case of summoning, a button combination needs to be used).  It adds real variety to the game, and can help out in some tricky moments (namely the boss battles).

The difficulty throughout is pitched pretty well; you level up as you beat enemies RPG style, so there’s a real sense of progression when you return to weaker enemies later on.  The only point at which you may run into issues is when fighting the bosses of the castle.  While they start off being reasonably challenging but beatable, the challenge quickly ramps up a few bosses in (damn you, Adramelech!), and requires either amazing dexterity, a high character level or a good DSS combination (or any amalgamation of the above) to overcome each one, but as tough as the bosses are, they’re never unfair.  There are attack patterns, there’s always a window of opportunity for retaliation, and finally overcoming one of these behemoths grants a great sense of achievement.

An ever-expanding map, hidden areas, backtracking, this has it all; it’s fun to navigate and looks nice with it.  It’s just a shame that the colour palette is so dark. While playing this on a GBA SP or Game Boy Player avoids this issue, remember that this came out at a time before Nintendo included any built in lighting as standard for its handhelds (Game Boy Pocket Light being the only exception at the time).  If playing on an original GBA you’ll struggle to see some of the enemies, and will really struggle to see doorways on the Castle map.  It’s a shame, as some of the gloomy artwork is very atmospheric and fitting for the title, but it seems that it wasn’t designed with that dark screen in mind.  The only upshot of this is that you won’t quite be able to make out the few frames of animation used for the player character.  Nathan often looks like a two page flick book animation when walking. It’s a shame, as most of the animation for the enemies is much better.

Where the title really stands out is in its presentation is the music; a wonderful soundtrack pops out of the GBA’s little speaker, harking back to the 16 bit tunes of Castlevania IV and The New Generation.  It’s a catchy score which is most likely to encourage you to pop in headphones and show it some appreciation. This is due in no small amount to using a combination of old tunes with new. Personally, I never tire of hearing “Vampire Killer”.

So, is CotM as good today as it was fifteen years ago? In short, yes.  The exploration remains enjoyable, and you can normally find where you’re supposed to go next.  If you’re collecting the cards for DSS combinations you may grow weary of the low drop rate, even if you have equipped Nathan so that his luck stat is through the roof.  There’s also a fair bit of level grinding required to take on some of the game’s bosses (many a save game was re-loaded after losing to the Zombie Dragon), but no more that you’d find in a JRPG.  It’s a game that brought the gameplay style of Symphony of the Night to a handheld, which was a pretty big thing at the time, and it’s a game well worth revisiting if you never beat it the first time around.  Even if you have, there’s the option to reply through the game as a magician, fighter or thief version of Nathan, forcing you to change your tactics through each play through.

Sure, it’s been bettered by a few of its successors, but some of its traits remain unique to the title, and it’s worth a few more hours of your time; especially as you now have the option of playing it on a backlit screen, just prepare yourself for those boss battles.

Overall 8/10

Friday 5 August 2016

Homefront: The Revolution Review (PS4)

Written by Bradley Marsh

So hear me out for a moment. At the back end of 2015 I came to a decision that I wanted to step down from Gamestyle. Life got in the way and I couldn’t dedicate the time I felt the site deserved. There was another reason though.

I just didn’t enjoy writing about games any longer, or to be more precise, I didn’t enjoy reviewing games and having to give an arbitrary score at the end of a review. How you see a game is personal to you and witnessing the reaction to not only some of my review scores, but those of fellow writers, I felt it just wasn’t worth it.

So why am I writing about Homefront: The Revolution?

Simple really, it is the exact sort of game that, in my mind at least, sums up my issues with reviews. I know if I had to score this objectively, it would have to be a low score, but for other reasons, I’d want to give it a much higher score and therein lies the problem.

From a technical standpoint this iteration of Homefront is bad, it is a broken, buggy mess of a game, highlighted by a few years of development hell. Had it have been cancelled I honestly don’t think it would have been a huge loss to the wider gaming world. It’s not like we’d be losing out on seeing the next Half Life, Halo, Metal Gear Solid or the likes.

It would be simple to list off the things that are broken with this game, such as sound issues when using the game’s ‘phone camera’. The shocking A.I that just seems to have no cohesion, the lack of graphical polish for a 2016 current gen only title, the awful story, the made up racial slur used to describe your enemy and so much more.

However you have likely read or listened to other reviews that have covered this in detail as have I and I can’t argue against those. Many of them are fact and can be seen for yourself as clean as day.

One special mention thought to the use of ‘Norks’ for the made up racial slur, because as a British person, norks means something else entirely and just makes me laugh every time I hear it used in the way the game intends.

Anyway, for all the bad in the game, there are some decent ideas too. Rather than follow the linear path the original Homefront went for, this has more of a Far Cry feel to proceedings and in my opinion does the open world things rather well.

The idea of having a large map, with areas you need to take over by completing objectives works well and drives things forward in a way that give the whole game a decent flow.

Now it doesn’t live up to the gameplay of a Far Cry, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to say, I wasn’t looking for reasons to quit out and move on to something else. The opposite was in fact true.

I would complete an objective, spend my various upgrade points and look for what to do next, as on the whole, each objective is fairly well paced, not outstaying its welcome or becoming tedious by making me try and do too much.

There are some really nice touches too, with the way you can upgrade and switch weapons. Using a base model, you find and purchase upgradable parts, which you then just attach to the base section, consisting of essentially just the trigger mechanism, allowing to create a decent number of variations to different types of weapon.

Some of these are pretty well out of place to the tone of the game, such as one which allows you to fire pyrotechnics at enemies and a very patriotic red, white and blue. Honestly, this is so stupid and out of place it shouldn’t work, but it brought a smile to my face.

That is the thing with Homefront: The Revolution. If I was to go through and bullet point all the things wrong with the game, it should be awful and in all honesty it is, yet for some reason I found myself enjoying my time with it. Occasionally I got to a point where I felt I had enough and should move on, but I actually looked forward to booting the game up for my next session.

For me, it is like one of those awful, straight to TV movies you’d see on the Syfy channel in the middle of the afternoon. You know the ones, with bad acting, bad writing, really awful special effects and in general from an objective point of view should never have been made. Yet you suddenly realise, you are at the end of the film and despite knowing it is bad, you have watched the entire thing, wasted 90 minutes of your day, but not come out of it any worse than what you started.

It is the same there. I know it is a bad game, but the time did just pass and I got to a point where the problems, well, they just didn’t matter. I was happy to finish it off before moving on to something else.

I honestly can’t recommend this game as one to buy, especially at full price, but I can say that should you happen to find a copy in your possession, then do give it a go, you might surprise yourself.

It is a game that I cannot also give a score to, because I feel by giving it a very low score, I am lying to myself, because I enjoyed it on the whole, but then I can’t give it a higher score, because it really doesn’t deserve it. 

So maybe I give it a Shark vs Volcano, out of Titanic

Sunday 31 July 2016

Phantom Brave PC Review

While Disgaea has gone from strength to strength in terms of releases, Phantom Brave has remained fairly dormant aside from a PSP and Japanese only Wii release since it first arrived on the PS2 back in 2004. With Nippon Ichi looking to test its franchises in the PC market the game has been given another lease of life and if anything it’s even more complex and hardcore than Disgaea. 

It follows the story of a 13 year old girl named Marona who is protected by a phantom named Ash after losing both her parents to an evil spirit some years before. Marona is a young Chroma – a sort of sword for hire, and your initial goal is for her to earn enough money to buy the island she lives on. 

The humour and art style is very much in keeping with other Nippon Ichi games though it is perhaps a little less full on than when Etna appears in Disgaea. This is a PS2 game at heart and there is little chance of disguising that. There is a blurring filter and the menus now look lovely and HD but you are still going to be stretching and scaling the picture with effects to fit modern displays rather than the game being rebuilt from the ground up. Level textures look decidedly muddy, Sprites are pixelated and it is hardly a graphical tour de force. 

The interface is also clunky. If you’re not using a controller there is a quite counter initiative mouse and keyboard system in place. You may be able to move characters with the mouse but you can’t for instance then use a scroll wheel to cycle through options. It took a while to get used to. Save yourself the hassle and just use a controller.

Clunkyiness aside there is a really good game here and the depth of the thing begins to come to light quite early on. It shares a fair bit with Disgaea in terms of it being a turn based RPG and in terms of classes and skills levelling but there are key differences that the game is built around. The most obvious is the fact that you no longer have the grid system and instead everything is done with range circles. This really took us some time to get used to and to be honest it seems an odd design decision that doesn’t really add anything. 

A more significant and important difference is the summoning system which is the games whole ‘thing’. Instead of lining up characters to take into battle your game will revolve around Marona summoning phantoms to aid her. Marona confines phantoms to objects which then come to life for a set period of time. For instance, if you want a tough fighter then confine them to a rock to give them strength and defence bonuses. Mages are best confined to plants as that boosts their magic ability. The options are long, complex and incredibly deep. The catch is that after a set number of turns the phantom will turn back into the original object and not be summonable again. This means that if you aren’t careful you won’t be strong enough to down the enemies and complete the level.

The range of classes you can summon is huge and then you can give them all sorts of weapons and objects as well. You can also give phantoms bonuses by confining them to objects which are receiving environmental bonuses. There’s the whole being able to pick up and throw things off the map as well but we suspect your head is already spinning enough.

Overall, Phantom Brave is showing a bit of age in its presentation and its mechanics in terms of controls are a little clunky. That aside this has got to be one of the deepest and most rewarding games out there. It’s a massive level grinding dream which is easy enough to get into but will take hundreds of hours to master. There is also a stupid amount of secrets in here and if you had this and Disgaea PC you’ll probably not have time to play anything else in your lifetime (You get all the PSP and Wii content as well so get ready for the long haul). Even if a lifetime of grinding doesn’t sound like you it’s well worth giving this a try as it remains unique and how many games can say that?

Overall 9/10

Thursday 28 July 2016

Lumo Review (PS4)

Written by Bradley Marsh

Back in my early days, I had a ZX Spectrum, both the 48k rubber key and 128k at different times. I loved those machines, I had great times with them. One game that stuck in the old memory banks was Head Over Heels.

This was a game that had an isometric view and was split across different rooms, which you had to solve to progress, using a lot of logical thinking. It also didn’t hold your hand much, leaving you to work it out yourself, which in fairness, I remember a lot of games doing back then.

It is a game that I have always wanted to see make a comeback, but over the 29 years since its original release I have yet to see anything, bar being able to play it on emulators.

I want to go back a few months though, when I saw Lumo for the very first time. I watched the footage and immediately my memory was taken back to Head Over Heels and whilst there is one fundamental difference I could see a Head Over Heels for a new generation.

Lumo looks in every way to be a re-imagining of that wonderful game, using the isometric single room puzzle style and basically dumping you in the world and leaving you to your own devices.

Nostalgia made me interested in Lumo, yet everything about the game itself kept me involved.

You start the game in an empty room with nothing but a door, no instructions, no tutorial and no guide. The game just asks you to start exploring, it doesn’t use any kind of narrator to fill you in on backstory, nor does it give you any clear indication as to what you are expected to do to progress.

So there I go, heading towards this door into discovery, wandering around the map, room by room, blindly, working out what I am to do and what is to come next. There are a few indicators that make it clear I will need to seek some kind of upgrade to reach new areas, but no real indication as to what these are or where to find them.

This isn’t a Dark Souls style learn as you go, where you will die many, many times and adapt, this is a slow meticulous game, where you stop and take stock of the situation. You look over a room and work out the best approach to get through.

I clearly cannot get to this part, as I cannot jump high enough, but this box over there doesn’t seem to fit with layouts I have seen in previous rooms. What happens if I approach it? Oh it moves! I can move it to here and use it to reach this higher area.

It is a simple logic, but knowing you have worked that out for yourself is very satisfying, you then build on that discovery to move forward even further. Eventually guiding you to a new powerup that allows you to reach previously inaccessible areas.

There isn’t a map for you to follow either, you need to remember where you have been and plot it yourself, until such a point you find a room that has a map in it. Which is great, but by then you have already covered a lot of the area already, this should be annoying, but it serves as a really nice reward for your exploration.

Whilst most of the rooms you encounter are pure logic based, there are some that require timing, such as using moving platforms to navigate to the right part of the room to find the exit. The one part that for me at least doesn’t sit well are rooms with giant boulders that you must jump on and move by walking on them.

There is on specific room fairly early on, where you must move across the room on the boulder, but only on a very thin ledge, before jumping from the boulder to a platform and then to safety. This would be fine, but the isometric viewpoint and the controls make this very fiddly, to the point where it just doesn’t feel like it belongs with the spirit of the game.

I won’t lie, I very nearly gave up at this specific room, because it went from simply using logic and exploration to solve, to something very different indeed and unfairly so.

Thankfully this kind of thing is very few and far between, seeing the rest of the game sticking to the formula that makes it as satisfying as it is. For me this is the only real blip on an otherwise flawless game.

The game itself looks stunning too, with some amazing lighting effects that really show off the game’s beautifully crafted world. That is mixed with a score that whilst not in your face, does a wonderful job of drawing you in and immersing you.

The main game may well be about making your way through this amazing world and you are fine to do just that. However, there are also a ton of collectables dotted around. Some are easy to spot, such as the rubber ducks, though they may not always be easy to get. But others are cleverly hidden away for you to discover.

This again shows how well thought out every inch of Lumo is. Shelves, for example aren’t just there for decoration, if you can reach it, then it may well be the window to a hidden room. There are tons of tiny visual clues that highlight where you may be able to reach, but they aren’t signposted, you really do need to take in the environment and remember what you have already learned.

It is the game’s ability to grow with you that keeps it feeling fresh from start to the very end. Yet it doesn’t do this in clear moments, it does it in a subtle way that feels organic and it works wonderfully.

Had it not been for one or two puzzle elements that felt out of place, this would be getting a perfect score. But don’t let that stop you from picking up and enjoying one of the best and freshest indie titles in quite some time.


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.


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 -

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

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

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Disgaea PC Review

Written By Natalie Houghton

It may be slightly late to the JRPG PC party but Disgaea PC is here and struts in up a veritable bag of mixed feelings. Touted as the ‘definitive edition’ which is quite a big claim, it has prompted ire from numerous fans of the series as it hasn’t quite managed to live up to this lofty aspiration.

At this point in time, there are still many issues with this buggy version of the game, said issues may be fixed and I know that it is developer Nippon Ichi’s first foray into the slightly discombobulated world of PC gaming but honestly why, yet again is a PC game released in such a shoddy state? I have numerous questions all along the lines of  ‘was it not thoroughly tested?’ ‘Are there no standards on Steam anymore?’ and ‘Why is there no option to change the resolution?’ I could probably write an essay on the subject of poor sub-par ports of PC games… I’m looking at YOU Tales of Symphonia. In this case, the developer does appear to be listening and there have been a few patches which have fixed some issues (I could actually get the game to run on my laptop after a few patches which initially didn’t even start up). 

For reference I played the game on two PC’s, one desktop (i5 6600K, 16Gb DDR4, 8Gb Radeon R9 390) and one slightly older laptop (i5 3210M, 8Gb DDR3, Geforce GT 640M). The game was flawless on my desktop and horrendous on my laptop so I managed to experience both sides of the same coin. 

Disgaea PC is essentially a port of the version which was originally released on PSP. This means that the ‘Etna Mode’ – an alternate version of the game where Etna accidentally kills Laharl whilst trying to wake him up is available, however Plenair from the DS version of the game is not included. 

Interestingly enough, it is possible to play the whole game with a mouse as long as you have a fairly dextrous and precise hand. Playing with a keyboard is fine but it feels slightly awkward. I’d recommend playing with a controller if you have one – if you’ve ever played the Playstation versions of Disgaea then this works in exactly the same manner - queue nostalgic breeze.

If you’ve never played Disgaea before and don’t mind giving it another whirl and you’re lucky enough to have a PC that runs it without any issues then this is worth a go but if you played Disgaea the first time around and enjoyed it enough then I probably wouldn’t bother. It is the same deep grid-based strategy game that it has always been, complete with likeable characters, amusing banter and gazillions of levels to be gained.  

Story mode is really only a small portion of the game, the bulk is found in the Item World (A dungeon world within items), with its randomly generated levels and the addiction of the seemingly never ending levelling process – you can level up anything, if it is counted as an item in the game, no matter how obscure or weak it starts off, you can level it up so that it becomes fantastically powerful and capable of trouncing all those who stand in its way. 

The game does involve some grinding but it really depends on how you play – if you are strategic about it then it won’t involve much grinding to clear the main story. After that, it really is a mad loop of levelling up, gaining new skills and transmigrating characters – this is essentially a reincarnation process where they start at level 1 again but have better stats and keep some of their skills from their previous incarnations. 

Mana is gained each time you slay an enemy on the battlefield, this can then be used to create even more powerful characters and to petition senators within the Dark Assembly to do things such as approving new classes, levelling up enemies along with the weapons and armour available to buy in the shops, extortion is even possible – although you’ll have to be quite strong in order to be able to pass that through as a law!

Each stage allows you to deploy 10 units to conquer and berate the enemy with, the best tactic as always is to start throwing your units around the map (as well as monsters into one another – they level up as you throw them and the experience multiplies exponentially. This is also useful when attempting to persuade senators in the Dark Assembly… simply throw them into one senator whilst making sure they still agree with you). This can be awkward to line up correctly sometimes but when it pays off it really is a great feeling. 

I played Disgaea a long time ago, back on the PS2 originally (I’ve never played the PSP or DS ports) and I had hoped that this would be a fresh re-invigorating lease of life for this title considering how the gameplay hasn’t really aged at all but alas it wasn’t to be at this point in time. 

Ultimately, Disgaea PC is a sold tactical RPG mired by a terrible port. 

Second Opinion by Gareth
While I agree with most of what Natalie says here I think she is being somewhat harsh. The game still runs along nicely enough to overlook the rough edges and even now the humour and level of depth available are not easily found elsewhere. That said I didn’t have half as many issues as Natalie did with actually running the game. It may not be as polished as the more recent Disgaea games and there is a lack of options but it’s still very enjoyable and quite unique compared to the mass of PC strategy games out there

Natalie’s Score 6/10 (would easily be an 8/10 if the port were not so bad)
Gareth’s Score – 8/10

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – The Graphic Adventure Review (PC)

Written by Dan Gill

Writing retro reviews can be a funny old thing.  As a writer you try to judge a game on its merits, on how it plays right now.  In some cases there will obviously be some bias towards a title due to having played and enjoyed it in the past, no matter whether it was any good or not.  For example, I quite enjoy Gremlin’s C64 version of platform/shoot-em-up Future Knight, despite the fact it isn’t a particularly well designed title (and received a critical panning and little commercial success upon release), and a close friend (who shall remain nameless) enjoys 3DO’s mostly awful Army Men titles.  Still, despite all this we reviewers need to put our past selves away and play a game with fresh eyes.  With that in mind, I take on one of Ron Gilbert’s early titles for Lucasfilm Games.

Readers of my somewhat sparse and sporadic past wordblurts will know how fondly I look upon LucasArts’ point-and-click library, of which I still feel the pinnacle is The Secret of Monkey Island, a game about which many words have already been written. The same can be said of Maniac Mansion, the debut of the SCUMM engine.  However, poor old Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – The Graphic Adventure (a snappy little title if ever there was one), is often overlooked in favour of the aforementioned games, and its own sequel – the rather spiffy Fate of Atlantis.  Despite being a movie tie-in, Crusade manages to avoid the early nineties trend of only being loosely affiliated with its source material and dressed up as a platform/shooter/beat-em-up (like Wayne’s World on the Game Boy for example).  Well, The Graphic Adventure does anyway (an Action Game was also released.  It wasn’t great)

The story follows the plot of the film where Dr Jones is on the search for the Holy Grail, all the while dodging troublesome Nazis, reuniting with his father and bumping into Hitler.  The game looks pretty good for a title from 1989, losing the giant heads of Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracke  and recreating the environments from the film in 16 glorious colours (although I played the CD ROM re-release which uses an eye-melting 256 colours).  Given the limitations of the time, the team did an impressive job of creating the locales.  From the university to the library, the backdrop to Indy’s search looks much nicer than anything being produced by Sierra at the time.

Of course, such things are moot should the game not play well.  Thankfully, Crusade retains the humour of its predecessors while tightening up the adventuring a little.  A point system is introduced (the Indy Quotient), which scores you on how you overcome obstacles with some puzzles having multiple solutions that affect the score you receive.  This is quite novel for a LucasArts title and adds a bit more replay value.  On the whole, puzzles are fairly logical and manage to keep the player thinking without being too obtuse.

The one aspect of the game I’m not particularly keen on is the awkward fighting system.  Using (ideally) the numpad on the keyboard allows Indy a variety of blocks and punches with which to take on opponents.  My trouble with this was that it deviated from the adventure gaming I was used to and seemed awfully fiddly and random.  On a couple of occasions fights ended up with me loading an older save to replay an entire section in order to attempt to retain health, or to avoid the fight completely.  Since this is an earlier SCUMM game it is possible to lose/die and after being downed by a single punch over and over I lost my patience and had to leave the game for a while.  Perhaps this is more a sign of how games have coddled me in recent years, or maybe indicative of how adventure game design has improved over time, be it Monkey Island’s insult sword fighting or The Walking Dead’s QTEs.  Either way, this is my only real gripe and it didn’t sully my experience too much.  It did also teach me to man up and get on with it; another trait required of retro reviewers.

So, is Crusade worth playing?  If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures, absolutely.  It’s a game from a time that Lucasfilm was at a turning point, where they would lose the cul-de-sac trappings of adventure game design for future titles (at least for the most part), and one that shows the great writing and design the company later became renowned for.  Sure, Crusade would be improved upon by its stablemates, but it’s still worth revisiting.  And I say that on viewing it with a fresh pair of eyes rather than through the warm, fuzzy fondness often observed through the Retroscope™.  Should you choose to play this, be safe in the knowledge you’ve chosen wisely.

Sunday 31 January 2016

An Update from Gareth

My son Teddy was born December 11th and everything seemed fine. A few days later we were admitted to Stoke Manderville Hospital with a suspected chest infection. Three days later Teddy almost died and was rushed into theatre. We were basically told he was going to die and when two of the nurses left the room crying, well that will stay with me forever.  As it turns out he had a very rare heart condition that only around five children a year are born with. Amazingly they managed to get him to hang on.

Teddy was then retrieved by the specialist Southampton PICCU unit who cover the whole of the south. We then spent 27 days in intensive care with him as they tried to get him ready for an operation. It turned out Teddy has a small left ventricle in the heart, a long narrowing and a defective Aorta. His surgery had to be brought forward as he reversed his circulation and filled his lungs with blood. An amazing consultant and doctor spent 24 hours with him keeping him balanced and he had different pulses all over his body. We were given a twenty percent chance of him coming through the operation which again he amazingly did.

After that things improved and he moved from intensive care to the ward and then eventually to Oxford Hospital. Incredibly, seven weeks later he is now at home and recovering. He will never be ‘normal’ and will have to be monitored for the rest of his life but he is like a baby should be at least for now.

The point of all this ( aside from just telling someone about it), is that two charities very much helped us through this. The first was Ronald McDonald House who provide accommodation around the hospitals for parents of sick children. Without them we would have had a four hour round trip each day to Southampton or simply slept in the car park. They helped us again at Oxford to stop our 100 mile round trip each day. The second charity is the Friends of PICCU charity which raises money for the specialist children’s unit at Southampton

What I need from you guys is some kind of gaming related fund raising ideas. I’m probably not good enough to break any world records so I was thinking maybe something more endurance based like completing Final Fantasy VII in one sitting or completing a game from each game system (I have access to most retro stuff). I’m open to ideas.

A few ideas I've had some far include:

1. Playing awful games for a marathon.
2. Picking a system and say 100 games, every time you die you change game and see if you can last 24 hours ect.
3. Playing normal games with the bath mat (but that excludes a lot of retro systems).
4. some kind of Street Fighter marathon.