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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Criminal Girls Invite Only(クリミナルガールズ INVITATION)

Well, I just platinumed Criminal Girls INVITATION so I guess it's a good a time as any to review this awful piece of trash. As usual, the Japanese show a total immunity to seeing ALL CAPS as anything but some cool blob of English text. Thank god us Westerners are too enlightened to ever use a language without first properly understanding it.

What is this weaboo garbage?
So where do I even begin? First, do I need to remind the world that video games are an art form and this kind of lowbrow junk undermines the very fabric of our racially diverse, gender agnostic, politically correct society??? We should not tolerate this kind of thing if we are to ascend to a higher level of society that is cognizant and understanding of all people and their differing viewpoints.

The main problem with this game is that it doesn't try to play on a popular social topic of the times with an overblown sense of self-importance such as the indie masterpiece of mind numbing boredom and teenybopper first world problems game: Gone Home. All it succeeds at is being an extremely fun game with an addictive and original gameplay mechanic.

And no, I'm not talking about the "motivation" mini-games (PUNISH in Japanese). Since I have ABSOLUTELY ZERO interest in this kind of stuff, it was nothing more than just very simple mini-games to me. A bit of strategizing does come into play in terms of which skills to spend your OP points on, for example ice skills in the fire dungeon but there's not much more than that.

The pink fog was NISA censorship. The Japanese version showed EVERYTHING including the MRI Scan preorder DLC
No, the real fun comes when you unlock all the battle mechanics which is actually pretty far into the game. On the surface, it seems dead simple as there are no weapons or armor and you can only pick from 4 suggestions. But the real trick comes in trying to coax the right moves, especially in the boss battles by swapping in the right characters at the right time

The battle system starts out extremely simple so the "pro" contract reviewer paid to play 5 hours to knock out a review isn't gonna think it's so great
For example, one strategy I used was a chain (Yuko+Sako) continuous heal skill so you can unleash a powerful attack that only gets suggested at full health combined with an Attack X boost. Another example is a character that has two complementary skills: one keeps you alive when an attack >50% health would kill you and the other is an attack that gets stronger the lower your HP. There's nothing more satisfying than pulling off a huge move of 10K+ damage with a tiny sliver of health and coming back from the brink of death. You can really tell the balancing was well-tested because the true final boss has an attack that hits you a bunch of times with tiny hits to block this move.

Yeah, you can grind your way to the end but it's much more satisfying to go up against a boss under-leveled. Now, there are various endings to unlock by repeatedly beating the last boss so I just grinded afterwards to make it easier for myself but the first time was pretty epic. In addition, there's tons more to do after the first ending to get the true and true true ending so don't miss it.

The OST was nothing too special but this song was good

The story is microcosmic and very down-to-earth. If you insist on saving the world AGAIN, then it may not be the kind for you. Personally, I find themes such as getting picked on at school far more relateable that hits closer to home. (Disclaimer: As swim team captain with raiju girlfriend in High school and not the type to play weaboo shit, I'm just imagining what it must be like to be picked on at school.)

Score: 4 yet another obligatory disclaimer of how I'm totally not interested in these types of games out of 5 (47 hours to get final ending)

I had a lot of fun with Criminal Girls. Imageepoch has a knack for making deceptively simple and yet addictive and satisfying games (Fate/Extra review pending). If I was a "professional" reviewer, I could talk this and that and whatever diarrhea crap but at the end of the day, I had enough fun with it that it is in my book a great game. In fact, I may even try out the original PSP version for kicks one day.

The OG PSP version didn't have Live 2D and featured rhythm games
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ys I & II Chronicles(イース I & II Chronicles)

The first time I ever played a Ys game was on the SNES. The game left such a bad taste in my mouth, traumatically wasting a precious video game rental, that I avoided the series for about a decade until Ys I & II on the PSP.

Despite my self-delusional fantasy of growing up in Japan, my <sarcasm>wonderful childhood</sarcasm> in New Jersey left me deprived of all the good games from Japan and things like the PC88/98, MSX, and FM TOWNS were totally unheard of. Nowadays, every Joe Schmo thinks they're some sort of expert because they can use Google but back in the dark ages, we only knew about whatever was on TV or at the local video rental (or Toys"R"Us for the rich kids). So yeah, good luck on finding out about the TurboGrafx-CD version in 1990.

This is SO nostalgic in my fake Japanese fantasy childhood.
Starting up Ys I & II as a newcomer was quite a shock for me as a retro newb. I was frantically trying to figure out how to attack the enemies. Eventually, I got a sword and still it totally did nothing. Apparently, I wasn't retro enough to realize that your sword doesn't actually move and you just run into enemies. Now, if you have not played these games, just running into enemies sound completely boring and pointless but the trick is to not run at enemies head-on (this hurts you) but from at an angle or from behind.

You're better off going at it from behind (hardy harhar)
You may be tempted to think just running into stuff won't be a very fun game but you would be OH SO VERY WRONG. I beat both games on Hard and some of the boss battles are incredibly challenging. It will take all your reflexes, pattern learning, and coordination not to mention hours of practice to beat both games on hard. Be prepared for a very sore thumb and an intense feeling of satisfaction when you finally beat the game.

The first game especially was brutal at some parts. Yes, the bat boss in the first game was HARD AS HELL but at least you could grind for it. The last boss with the collapsing floor tiles was just ridiculous and there's no way to grind past the max level. I didn't really like how luck played a large part as sometimes you can get completely stuck if you're unlucky with a falling floor tile.

The second game is not as hard as they added magic and the ability to use your items during the boss battles. Having items during the battle made a huge difference in terms of difficulty but it's still no push over.

Shooting fireballs makes Ys 2 a bit easier even on the first boss
Overall, I shudder to think what the games are like on Nightmare mode.

The game has the original PC88, PC engine and a newly arranged soundtrack and it's all good even though I'm not normally a fan of rock guitar music. Koshiro Yuzo was one of the original composers so I don't think anything more needs to be said about that.

There are better tracks but you'll hear this one for so often, you'll never forget it

By now, everybody and their moms have talked the Ys series to death but I still have to add my two cents to say I&II is really a lot of fun. I would even go as far as to say I missed the bumping mechanic while playing Oath in Felghana. You have to do all this CRAP such as jumping and swinging your sword around that I'm just like UGH, I wish I could just run into shit.

Score: 3.5 OW MY THUMB!!!! out of 5.

I liked the PSP version so much that I even bought the PS2 version in case I'm ever in the mood for some good ol' bumping action on the big screen.

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Trails in the Sky FC Evolution(英雄伝説 空の軌跡 FC Evolution)

After several failed attempts at beating Sora no kiseki FC on two other platforms (yay Falcom), I finally marathoned this game on my trusty ol' Vita. See, what happened was Xseed (AKA the company that no longer does fan service games) FINALLY got around to localizing the sequel to this game. And in their usual classy manner, they decided to spoil this game in the first THREE WORDS of the steam description. I got so annoyed that I decided screw it, better finish this game and play SC (second chapter) as well before all the 'mericans spoil that too.

Guess which version is from the tasteful folks at Xseed?
Anyways, putting aside my disgust at Xseed's total lack of respect for spoilers, I'm glad to have finally finished the first game in a series that already has a total of 7 games so far. The trails series is the most recent and longest running series in the Legend of Heroes metaseries, which I first talked about in my last review of LOH3 or 2 or 2-1. In fact, this game was originally called Legend of Heroes VI as the sixth entry in the entire... oh, WHATEVER!

Of course, as a Jhipster, I am playing the Japanese exclusive Evolution remake for the Vita which features voice acting, sharp-ass graphics, and new artwork. I'm sure non-jhipsters can enjoy when it gets localized sometime around 2025, just in time for it to be completely obsolete with the PS5 super evolution 3d waifu Matrix VR remake... at least going by the current release schedule.

The first thing that really struck me about the Evolution version compared to the 2 disk UMD grindfest version or even the PS3 HD "port" (emphasis on the double quotes) was how damn sharp those pixels were on my fancy OLED screen. While the graphics remain mostly the same, the details on the shops, buildings, signs, and everything was just amazing. This is the only 2d RPG I know of so far where you can actually read the tiny signs without having to examine it.

Thanks for the ! but I can read the sign just fine already (click image for full size)
The other aspect that makes this game unique is just how much the NPCs have to say in the towns. Virtually every NPC has something different to say after every tiny, little story event. And if you have the patience to talk to every NPC over and over, tons of little stories will unfold. Some of them will react to the events of the story and others will talk about simple mundane things like the guy working at the bar babysitting his girlfriend's little sister while she goes to work. There's even a couple that are on a pilgrimage that you will see at every town as you travel from one place to another.

Enjoy as this poor guy's mom asks every girl in the village to marry her son
About half of the 75 hours it took me to beat this game was probably spent walking around town and talking to NPCs. Even if you aren't crazy like me, there is SO MUCH dialogue to the point where I'm tempted to put this game in the ADV category, which is why having the main story fully voiced is such a HUGE improvement. As an American, of course I'm offended when confronted with the notion of having to read so being able to listen to the dialogue with auto progress on is a huge bonus. The only annoying part is having to swipe every few minutes so the Vita doesn't go to sleep. I can't believe there is STILL no option to turn that off.

The voiced dialogue also features matching mouth movement in the character profiles and various expressions which is an attention to detail I really appreciate. Really, the level of detail and the hours and hours of voiced dialogue just boggles the mind when you consider Falcom is already releasing SC Evolution a mere 6 months after this one while Xseed took many years just to translate the text. (I've worked in Japan so I can imagine the poor salarymen slaving away at this.)

There was a free demo on JP PSN last time I checked

This visual novel even has an RPG aspect (lol), and the battle system is a very fun turn-based grid system. I played on hard and it felt like just the right amount of challenge. The level progression is VERY controlled. In other words, you level up right away in a new chapter and each level makes a huge difference but it rapidly slows down until the next chapter. The dip is sharp enough to the point where it's almost impossible to grind and become overpowered unless you enjoy watching your exp bar inch up a few pixels every battle (kinda reminds me of Fate/Extra in that regard). As a result, the boss battles were all fairly challenging for the most part.

If you've played the PSP Westerner newb edition, you may remember the option to retry a battle in easy mode and (apparently?) 100% success rate of escaping from battles. The easy retry option was never in the Japanese version and while I only played this game on hard, escape success rate generally starts around 60% (higher or lower depending on who has the initiative) and goes up after every failed attempt.

Sorry, no retry on easy or 100% escape rate here... NEWB
There is some strategizing you can do in terms of attack delays, and turn skipping to try to get the good field effects but not as much as a game like Grandia. Still, it's fun to fill up your CP gauge and take the enemies turn on a Zero craft field effect and get a special attack for free. However, it can get really annoying if, for example, a boss you've been pounding at forever gets a 50% heal field effect randomly.

That critical turn is gonna make this attack GOOOOD
As for the story overall, I obviously would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't spoiled at the outset. While it wasn't exactly jaw-dropping, most of the charm lies in the character interactions, which is ironic because that's exactly what was so sorely lacking in LOH White Witch. They both feature a male and female character traveling the land but unlike Julio and Chris, Joshua and Estelle actually have personality, back stories, and character development (OMG!!).

Now featuring back stories and personality
WHA??? Character development?
Score: 3.5 Jhipsters don't have to READ FOO (except 20+ hours of NPC gossip) out of 5 points (75 hours to beat)

Is Sora no Kiseki FC the best RPG of this decade as some who talk about the the same 5 games over and over and over and apparently hasn't played any other game since would say? Nooooot exactly, but it's still an above-average game, especially since it's voiced. I fully enjoyed my time with it and looking forward to the second chapter. Oh, and the updated soundtrack was a nice bonus too.

The OST was pretty good, especially this one

For those who have played previous versions of the game, you have to check out chapter 2 fully voiced. As those who played can probably guess, there's a part that's way more hilarious voiced rather than just reading the (copious) amount of text. I have to say, Joshua sounds way better than I expected at that part. Ha ha.

Bonus Vita wallpaper for smug Jhipsters to use while playing on their Vita (and I'm not talking about PSP archives)
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely