Tales of Symphonia Review [GameCube]

-by Dylan DiBona

As a young kid, my father heavily encouraged GameStop’s trading in old games policy. I would play a game for a week or two and if I didn’t like it, I’d trade it away for a new game. It was a stupid thing to do in hindsight, as I’ve been re-buying some old classics slowly in the past few years. I can’t remember for how long, but I’m certain I owned Tales of Symphonia, a game I played on the Wii for probably no more than five hours. I loved the sequel Dawn of the New World (which oddly enough is considered terrible, I have to revisit it!) so much that I beat it.

Needless to say, the original Symphonia didn’t do it for me and I traded it away. Lately I’ve been on a JRPG binge and in an attempt to dust off my GameCube, I decided to pick up Tales of Symphonia once again. Was the elementary school version of me right the first time, or did I unknowingly trade in a classic adventure?

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When it’s all boiled down, the Tales of… series is known for two main things: it’s anime-like characters and unique battle system. It’s always been a bit of a third or fourth ranking JRPG series, underneath the behemoths of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but Tales of Symphonia is the game that put the series on the radar, especially in the West. Like I said in my GameCube Retrospective, whenever a third-party exclusive came to the system, it must’ve felt like magic and Symphonia is no exception. Inside the two miniature discs hold a world full of colors and excitement.

Lloyd Irving is a young man living in the village Iselia with his best friends Collette and Genis. Since birth, Collette has been known to be The Chosen. The Chosen must go on a quest to unlock four seals and bring mana back to the world of Sylvarant every few years. Through a series of messed up events, Lloyd and Genis end up accompanying Collette on her journey to renew the world, only to experience numerous unexpected plot twists along the route.

Usually when people revisit the plot of Symphonia they cite it as clichě, but instead I found the game to be flirting with the idea of being clichěYeah you’re saving the world but it’s more complex than that, and with a huge revelation around the ten hour mark, the whole game changes. It’s kind of like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past where you may think the game is over once you slay Agahnim, but really it’s just starting. In my experience, the characters were quite enjoyable and not susceptible to classic anime tropes. I can easily see why GameCube lovers and even just JRPG lovers remember this cast of characters so well. Almost every character save maybe one is jammed into my brain and will be for quite some time.

Before, I mentioned a unique battle system which would be called the “Linear Motion Battle System”. This style of gameplay keeps the action going 24/7 on the battlefield; allies are controlled by AI but can be given direct commands, and Lloyd is controlled by the player. With the control stick and A/B buttons, the player can unleash physical and magical combinations. It feels almost like a 2D fighting game, mixed with some action-adventure. I completely forgot until the first fight that Symphonia wasn’t turned-based, and it was a huge breath of fresh air. Focusing on Lloyd’s moves and trusting my good AI controlled allies made for a refreshing feeling during battles.

My only critique with the battling system is that AI companions don’t use items, which I understand, but I was almost constantly having to open up menus and spam certain items to keep everybody’s stats up or even alive.

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One of my absolute favorite things in JRPGs is the ability to bond with your comrades outside of battle. Sadly not many games do this, but Tales of Symphonia does. The game offers “skits” which are non-voice acted conversations that can be skipped 95% of the time. These skits will often be comedic but may sometimes lead to revelations of character backgrounds and even some deep moments. They don’t give any rewards but the conversations themselves feel like rewards for progressing.

In the Tales of… games, there is a system called “Titles” if a player goes through a certain experience, they gain a title. By equipping this title some of their stats may go up. So for example if Lloyd levels up high enough he may be able to equip the “Master Swordsman” title for a boost of Attack and Defense.

Another aspect I loved were the bite sized dungeons. Dungeons could be completed in about 20-30 minutes. They usually had one main puzzle with enemies swarming the halls.

So we have a unique and fun battle system, a great cast of characters which you can bond with and small dungeons. where’s the negatives?

I have to be honest and say I didn’t care about the story of Symphonia, only the characters. Some events felt unnecessary and dragged out what could have been a 25 hour game into a 35 hour game. Certain dungeon puzzles felt obscure and had no hints given to the player, one in particular I spent almost two hours on and finally gave up by looking for the answer online. And finally the gigantic overworld was pretty empty; no hidden chests or items, just monsters and landscapes.

Tales of Symphonia is a fine game.

It almost feels like a guilty pleasure game to me with it’s anime art style and goofy characters, but I love those aspects. This is one of those few JRPGs I’ve heard nothing but nostalgia for and luckily it’s not misplaced I have a great time playing through this GameCube classic.

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Confused about my review scale? Click here.

So there you have it! Does anybody here have a favorite Tales of… game? Do you like Symphonia? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply!

Sony E3 Press Conference Review [E3]

-by Dylan DiBona

Sony’s press conference might just be the only one I review during E3 2017 for a multitude of reasons:

  1. It’s honestly the one I’m most excited for (I think a lot of people agree).
  2. It’s one of the few conferences I’m fortunate to catch live.
  3. The PlayStation 4 is and will be my preferred console for the next couple years.

Now with that out of the way, it’s time to discuss the big announcements, the aftershock from them, and any hopes I had that were unfulfilled. E3, the best time to be a lover of video games!

Let’s get the “bad” out of the way…


Skyrim Again?!

Okay so I respect Sony’s desire to fill up the PSVR with great games. The new hardware is supposed to immerse gamers into experiences never seen before…so why are we going back to Skyrim for the umpteenth time? I won’t lie, the idea is interesting enough, and it might even make the combat better! But right next to Final Fantasy VII, I can’t think of another single game being milked so hard.


And then the “eh”…

Uncharted 4/Horizon DLC

Starting off a press conference with trailers of DLC for already released games wasn’t the strongest way for Sony to go out this year. Granted I am excited for the Uncharted DLC, and Horizon looked interesting, but E3 is all about the new and yet to come, so it was fun to get some information on what’s coming to some already great games, but it didn’t start us off with the bang I had hoped.


Final Fantasy XV…Fishing?

Did you like the giant worlds and epic fantasy story of Final Fantasy XV? Then surely you wanted a PSVR game completely dedicated to the fishing that was totally irrelevant in that game!

A seriously bizarre idea, and I can’t help but see this game being joked about by YouTube gaming comedians in a few years. A weird fever dream come true.


Why are these VR?

My next entry explains that I’m happy the PSVR is getting some exclusive games, but some of them seem really odd. There’s a 2D Platformer, and a Puzzle-Adventure game, both with 3rd person camera perspectives.

Couldn’t those two games easily be on PS4 with touchpad control?


Ending on Spider-Man

While Spider-Man is tied for my favorite superhero, nobody is going to claim this game as one of the best ever for a Sony system, nonetheless PS4. Was this really the last thing we should’ve seen this year? It was an interesting trailer at least.


And of course the “good”!

PSVR Showcase

Unless I win one in a contest, I’ll never own a PSVR, I see no need and have no desire. I was actually afraid for early adopters that it would be another ditched peripheral device, but I’m being proved wrong! It’s a full fledged console with its own games.

Sony showed off a handful of interesting looking titles, and one silly looking Skyrim rehash.


Shadow of the Colossus “HDer”

Okay so this should really be in the “eh” section, but this is my review and I love me some Shadow of the Colossus!

The very brief trailer Sony showed presented us with some stunning graphics, and scary realistic looking colossi! I cannot wait to platinum this game and experience this gm one again.


God of War/Spider-Man Release Window

I don’t really care about God of War, but I might get this entry for the sake of it seeming like a new entry point. Plus the story seems cool. I realize this is a HUGE game for Sony, so props for them for giving us a trailer and release window.

Although I’m disappointed at a lack of a specific release date, seeing that extended Spider-Man trailer was great fun for a hardcore Spidey fan like myself.


Overall

Ehhhh. Sony didn’t really answer any of my biggest prayers this year. No new Team Ico game, no news on the Persona 5 spin-offs, no Dragon Quest XI news, and no PS1/PS3 games on PS4.

I’m disappointed that Sony really relied on last years lineup to keep their momentum strong, because it worked decently well, but not as well as I had hoped.

Sony had a meh conference at E3 2017.


What did you think of Sony’s conference this year? Who is winning E3 in your eyes? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.

Confused on my review score? Click here for an explanation!

Emily is Away Too Review [PC]

-by Dylan DiBona

For full comprehension, I think it would be best to quickly read through my review of the original Emily is Away. If you don’t want to, then here are a few quick things you should know about the first game:

  • It’s about 30 minutes long
  • It’s free
  • Gameplay is simple IM chatting with one person

I forgot about the cleverly named Emily is Away Too until about week before its release. Being a big fan of the original for its down to Earth tone, I was excited. It wasn’t until the day after release that I realized the sequel wouldn’t be free, this time the ticket fee was five dollars. I wasn’t sure if such a simple game deserved it, but I decided “why not?” and picked it up. But was Emily is Away worth double dipping and actually paying for?


Story:

You play a high school student who is entering his senior year. You have two good friends. Emily is the video game loving, semi-nerdy girl who doesn’t go to parties, drink or smoke. You and her are alike in interested and personalities. There’s also Evelyn, who is passionate about music, does go to parties and delve into that other stuff. Through the “EOL” instant messaging program, you have conversations with both of these people.

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As the artwork says, this is not the same Emily from the first game.

Due to teenage angst and other life problems, the story has many emotional ups and downs. It’s an enjoyable experience and I won’t spoil anything. I will say, one minor gripe I should’ve brought up in my review of the original came back up in the sequel; sometimes certain dialogue or situations seem a little unfounded. To best enjoy the Emily is Away games, imagine these teenagers as more anxious and emotional than most.


Gameplay:

The game is split up into five chapters which take about fifteen to twenty minutes to complete depending on your reading speed and reaction time. Like before, gameplay primarily consists of replying to your friends’ messages. I’m not sure if it’s just my keyboard, but with both of these games, typing the responses can be unresponsive at time. I switched over to the auto-type option, which does exactly as it sounds once I click my dialogue choice.

By far the greatest addition is all the immersion tools that developer Kyle Seeley implemented. The girls will often send you links to music videos on “Youtoob” which you can actually click on and listen to music. This gives the games a soundtrack in a sense. They will also send you files that you have to actually download onto your desktop and check out (they’re all safe files, don’t worry). The game actually opens up with allowing you to choose a desktop background and asks you to apply in reality. Sometimes you’ll be able to go onto “Facenook” and check out your friends profiles. The best part of these segments is figuring out which pages you can actually click on, it’s like finding secret immersion.


Presentation:

What can I say? It’s exactly like how I used to IM online friends back in 2006-2009. The game is set in early 2000’s and it captures the aesthetic perfectly. You can hear the hum of an old computer and all the real life AOL sound effects. In-game websites are decorated with fictional comments, logos and images.

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Once again, immersion.


Roundup:

By textbook definition, Emily is Away Too is exactly what a sequel should be. Instead of thirty minutes, it’s an hour to an hour and a half. Instead of only talking to one person, you talk to two (actually more through the power of easter eggs, which are so very well implemented, but I’ll keep those a secret because they’re funny). There’s not just one ending, there’s a bunch of them.

The simplicity of IMing isn’t an easy concept to expand on, because how do you do it without getting boring and repetitive? If Kyle Seeley goes for a third game, he has a challenge ahead of him for topping this entry. I went back for a second ending and with the hidden “profile pic” collectibles and my desire to see all dialogue, there’s a decent amount of replayablity here.

Emily is Away Too is an astounding game.

I really do hope there are more Emily’s in my future.


This is so far the highest rated game on my site since I’ve started using my new review scale! If you’re curious about Emily is Away, I recommend downloading the first game for free on Steam; it should take you just as long to finish as a cup of coffee. As always, thanks for reading.


Confused on my review score? Click here for an explanation!

Super Castlevania IV Review [SNES]

-by Dylan DiBona

One day when I’m elderly I’d like to sit down in a chair and know I’ve tried most (if not all) of gamings biggest series and games. I still have some pretty huge gaps until I get even close to halfway there, and one of those glaring holes was Castlevania. With an animated Netflix show coming June 7th, I thought what better time to try and jump into the series?

Can I just say before I start, I absolutely love the imagery of Castlevania. The dark and dreary Gothic architecture, ominous vibes and sense of necessity all make the series feel so epic (cliche word, I know). The original Castlevania was so close to being my favorite NES game of all time, but I find that it suffered in its latter half due to needlessly painful enemy placement and overall difficulty. With a little surfing of the web I discovered that Super Castlevania IV is somewhat of a remake of the original game, and with my love of the Super Nintendo I decided that it would be my second shot at an entry point.

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It’s never been officially stated by Konami if Super Castlevania IV was a remake of the original, but let’s go that route for the sake of this review.

SCIV places you in the role of Simon Belmont. Every 100 years the forces of good inevitably weaken and a once dead Dracula comes back to life, seeking to reign evil across all living things. The Belmont family (or clan) has taken the duty of slaying Dracula and all creatures of the night for hundreds of years, this time it so happens to be Simon’s turn.

I absolutely love this concept, knowing exactly who the final boss will be and having a familial line of protagonists gives each game a sense of connection. The Belmont’s remind me of the different Link’s from The Legend of Zelda, or each unique Jojo in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure; connected but unique.

The presentation jumps full force with this story in mind; the title screen is a decaying brick wall with creepy crawlies running around. The 16-bit music imitates organs you’d hear in a church while mixing it with that classic Super Nintendo sound; not every song is memorable genius, but most are catchy and fit the tone. The sound effects all work well but I felt like the whip could’ve used more “oomph”, it sounded like a cat hissing every time I swung it.

Image result for super castlevania 4The gameplay is responsive and improved from the original NES adventure. Players get eight directions to swing the whip instead of two, and can even jiggle their whip around for some reason. Definitely the best improvement is being able to control your jump in mid-air. I do miss the simplicity of a two direction whip, but I understand why SCIV decided to go all out- what better way to spell out “enhanced remake” then by upgrading the main way of attacking? Items are back and serve the same purpose but to a lesser extent. In the older Castlevania games, items were great for taking down hard hitting enemies and bosses. You’d want to save a specific item like the Clock or Cross for a certain boss, however Super Castlevania IV is generally a bit easier and practically any item will be useful for every boss. Back when Egoraptor used to make insightful videos on gaming, he made one on this very topic. It’s worth the watch.

The first four levels were great, they were slightly challenging but no so much where the player couldn’t learn and get better with time. Unfortunately Super Castlvania IV suffers from the same issues as its original counterpart: latter half difficulty. I won’t lie, some enemies from the original like Bone Pillars and Axe Knights are incredibly easy now, but by the time Stage 6 rolls in enemies are everywhere and move around much faster than Simon; obstacles get crazier like falling gears in a clock tower or giant mechanical buzz-saws. It becomes total mayhem at points and without my cheap use of save states, I wouldn’t have beaten the game. I give credit to SCIV for making a lot of aspects easier, but some things like intense knockback is just plain obnoxious and when four or five enemies are flying around the screen, I felt hopeless.

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The amount of damage enemies do is brutal too. Let’s again use the example of five enemies flying around the screen. Simon has sixteen rectangles of health and each enemy does two points of damage. If you mess up once or twice you could be looking at very low health or death. And this is Castlevania, not Zelda; you don’t get health for killing enemies, but for finding chicken hidden in candles or the walls. I think even the developers knew they messed up with scaling enemy damage because in the final boss battle with Dracula, one of his moves actually gives you chicken to heal up. Why would a developer make a boss heal you unless he did far too much damage?

Super Castlevania IV did a really good job at impressing me with its monster vibe. It made me feel like I was in the mid 1990’s where I could go to a video rental store and pick up a werewolf or zombie VHS. It feels classic and in many ways, it is. I believed the game to be possible without my use of save states until the end when it just kept serving up bosses and intense obstacles; I know people can do it without save states, but even bosses like Death require cheap exploits like staying hidden in a corner. I really do believe the Castlevania series would have been better off ditching the concept of over the top challenges.

Super Castlevania IV is a fine game.

I’ll gladly return to it one day in hopes of being better. I’m genuinely happy it was the first Castlevania game I’ve beaten, here’s hoping to many more.


Any Castlevania fans here? What do you think of this entry in the series? Do you agree or disagree with my comments? Let me know down below and I’ll try to reply! As always, thanks for reading.


Confused on my review score? Click here for an explanation!

Emily is Away Review [PC]

-by Dylan DiBona

I have a more than a few games I’ll be trying to cram into this three day weekend and one of them is Emily is Away Too, a sequel to the free to play indie game Emily is Away. The sequel drops today and in celebration I thought I’d quickly go over the short and memorable original game.

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Emily is away is mostly enjoyable because of its simplicity. In it you play a high school graduate boy who is moving away for college. One of your best friends is a girl named Emily who is the same age as you and also moving away. You navigate through a late 1990’s/ early 2000’s AOL chat-room while talking to Emily, trying to progress through a slightly emotional story.

If you’re an older player, the idea may seem novel and cute for nostalgic purposes, but the truth is this game will more than likely hook you in emotionally. The game allows you to pick your real name, screen-name and profile picture for the in-game chat-room. Whenever Emily said a sentence with the name “Dylan” in it, it stuck a chord within me.

I have friends who I’ve met through gaming websites, people who I’ve never seen in real life, I bet most gamers do. Emily is Away takes advantage of this concept and really runs home with it.

The gameplay is cute and simply, mindlessly typing buttons on your keyboard while an in-game message appears, and clicking on whatever you can find. There’s no music, but it really fits the overall presentation. To put it simply, Emily is Away is an absolutely solid thirty minute experience. I implore you to download this game for free and get a fun half-hour out of it. You’ll leave with a broken heart and a smile.

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Another short post today because of work guys, sorry! But honestly, you need to play this game! It should hit home with almost everybody, and with the sequel being released today, why not jump on the hype! Anybody already play this game? Let me know your thoughts below and I’ll do my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading.

Yooka-Laylee Review [PS4]

-by Dylan DiBona

It couldn’t have been more than three years ago when I first discovered the Rare classic, Banjo-Kazooie. There was a sale on the original and it’s sequel on the Xbox 360 marketplace and I decided to pick it up. Being about 16 or so, the ship had long since sailed for Banjo to be a “childhood gem”. I hold no nostalgia for Banjo-Kazooie, which is why I say proudly that it’s one of my very favorite games.

When the KickStarter for Yooka-Laylee was first announced, I was on a half-sized school bus going to school from a volunteer field trip. I gripped my phone with joy. I remember my utmost excitement, I wanted to contribute to the fundraiser but I had no money at all. I was pumped for about a year and then forgot about the game entirely

Finally it released last month to some questionable reception. Some hated on the game for being what it was advertised. Some didn’t like it’s technical flaws. Others absolutely adore the game. What exactly is Yooka-Laylee?

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It becomes clear for Banjo fans that Yooka-Laylee is less of a homage and more of a “let’s pick up from where we left off”. Granted we have new heroes but this is a very self-aware game, it knows very well of the era it exists and the era it’s trying to replicate by constantly cracking next gen and old gen gaming jokes.

From the first second you play the game, it feels pretty perfect. Yooka has a correct sense of weight to him, there’s a double jump which Banjo didn’t even have, a spin attack, and Yooka’s tongue works to pick up health in the form of butterflies. Much like it’s spiritual predecessor you can get new abilities the more you play the game. Each ability was useful and made backtracking to old worlds feel exciting. All of these abilities control well except for the flight mechanic, for some reason Yooka and Laylee always leaned left in the air. Yooka-Laylee is a platformer with tons of possibilities, but thankfully I never felt as if the amount of powers were overwhelming. I’m going to use the word ‘overwhelming’ to jump into another topic: the collectibles.

Now these “Collect-a-thons” obviously should offer a good amount of goodies for the player to grab. I couldn’t find a reliable source telling me all of the totals in Banjo-Kazooie, but if memory serves right, there were 100 Jiggies, 1000 music notes and 50 Jingos. The equivalents to those items in Yooka-Laylee are Pagies, Quills, and Ghost Writers respectively. There are 145 Pagies, 1010 Quills and 25 Ghost Writers, not so bad until you realize that this new game has half the amount of worlds as Banjo’s. Every new world felt slightly intimidating my first time entering it because each one had 25 Pagies and 200 Quills, doubling the amounts in each world in Banjo. Another part of the worlds I wasn’t too fond of were the “expansions”.

You can unlock a world for a price of Pagies, but that’s not the whole world actually. You have to come back more with extra Pagies to expand it fully. It seemed like the developers tried making this mechanic slightly strategic as they explain it to you as a crucial choice: “explore for new worlds or expand old worlds”, but honestly there is such a surplus of Pagies that it never felt like I had to make a big decision. It also doesn’t help that the worlds themselves are gargantuan and make finding items a pain towards the end of your hunt. Certain Tonics (game alterations) can help you find tricky items, but nothing can stop the inevitable hour long search for the last Quill in a world. I think it worked a bit against Playtonic to make five giant worlds instead of seven or eight small ones. This brings me to my last issue with the worlds, the themes. How many times can we explore a grass world or an ice world? And I never understood the appeal to explore gross swampy worlds. I will give credit however and say there’s one world in particular that I found truly unique.

So the gameplay is great, the worlds are good at best and the collectibles are certainly manageable, but may intimidate newcomers to the genre (I 100% completed the game and it wasn’t too brutal, it took about 30 hours). How’s the presentation? Everybody remembers Banjo-Kazooie’s legendary music and colors.

Luckily the almighty Grant Kirkhope returns to compose Yooka-Laylee and once again he’s written some classics. Not all songs are a home-run but some like the title theme are instantly catchy. The world themes are also dynamic and change slightly depending on where you are. With post-release updates adding stuff like a pause menu theme and a N64 graphic style Tonic, there is reason to come back to Yooka-Laylee after a first run. The graphics themselves are pretty but nothing I felt the need to write home about. It’s the Unity Engine, something anybody can use, and it felt like that with certain areas.

It may seem like my reception of Yooka-Laylee is lukewarm, but it genuinely isn’t; I had real fun with this game and it also made me physically laugh a few times, something a game can almost never makes me do. Playtonic wholeheartedly deserves a shot at a possible Tooka-Laylee. Imagine how solid a sequel could be if they had the backing of a major company this time. Thank you Playtonic for keeping your word and filling a very huge void in the world of modern day gaming.

Yooka-Laylee is a good game.

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Any Yooka-Laylee fans here? How do you compare this game to Banjo-Kazooie? Do you believe there should be a Tooka-Laylee? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

Persona 5 Review [PS4] *No Spoilers*

-by Dylan DiBona

It’s quite a difficult task to review a Persona game, mostly because they inevitably become emotional. Taking a massive amount of time until the credits roll (in this case 120 hours) and having a specialized focus on player to NPC bonds, it’s hard saying goodbye and digesting everything. Internally there is a battle between my emotions as a human and critiques as an analyst.

Well today I’ve finally done it, Persona 5 has been beaten. Much like it clearly did from the developers, it took an extraordinary amount of time and care to finish this game.

Persona 5

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It’s apparent from the first hour of Persona 5 that things are different this time around. Ditching the Shin Megami Tensei in it’s title, it’s fair to say that Persona is no longer a sub-series, but instead it’s own massive franchise. Initial planning of Persona 5 began back in 2008 alongside the fourth entry in the series; plenty of time and thought has been put into this game.

Having beaten Persona 4 only one week before the release of 5, every improvement within the new entry was obvious. Much like past entries, this game features a linear calendar with some days forcing story moments and others being free for the player to do whatever- study for exams, hang out with friends or just be a loner and go to sleep. What’s new is how the game plays with the concept of this calendar for the sake of an intriguing story. That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers, but this is indeed a tale worth going into as fresh as possible.

Through your journey you’ll meet new friends who become party members for the actual RPG section of the game. The combat shines from the moment you hear the first few violin notes of the main battle theme. Crucial yet obtuse things from Persona 4 like trying to get an ambush on your enemy, gaining new personas or even the actual flow of battle have been greatly improved here. There’s been an increase in stealth allowing for easier ambushes; don’t worry, I don’t like stealth games but the sneaking mechanics here are simple and fun. The rock paper scissors style combat from past entries and most evidently Pokémon makes a return; this time there are some new elements and with the innovative “Baton-Pass” mechanic there are endless combinations you can unleash onto your foes, making it easier than ever to perform the classic “All-Out Attack” where you and all your teammates chop up every enemies on field at once.

The main theme of Persona 5 is thievery and there is more to reflect that than the aforementioned stealth. If you manage to get the upper-hand on all enemies in the battlefield with elements, you can stick them up with a “Hold Up” and negotiate with them. A negotiation can reward the player with money, rare items or if you play your cards well- a new Persona. Alongside typical melee weapons and now guns which act as their own element and have their own set of moves and possible strategies.

Needless to say, the battle system in the Persona series has taken one enormous leap forward with this newest entry.

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Another apparent and welcome improvement is in aesthetics. Everything to the HUD, to the cel-shaded graphics feel like they have a life of their own. Persona 4 has you running around the quiet country side of Inaba, but Persona 5 places you in the New York of Japan, Shibuya. You’ll ride the train to school and explore the underground mall, you’ll walk down Central Street and stop by the local arcade or diner to increase some stats that will reap benefits in both the battlefield and at home.

When you aren’t fighting monsters you’ll be living a normal life as a high-schooler. Basically Persona 5 is like a superhero anime but in JRPG form- and it’s addictive. It’s a common opinion to cite the social aspects as your favorite part of a Persona game. No other JRPG series allows you to take optional steps deeper into characters stories. It’s this feature that allows “party members” to become more than just that, they turn into actual friends. Maybe I’m too sentimental but I don’t care if we’re talking virtual or reality, these peoples stories left a mark on me and gave me a lesson to think about by the time the game was over; they are indeed my friends- no questions asked.

The story and the characters in this game are top notch and unlike with Persona 4 where I thought the story jumped the shark a little bit in it’s last ten hours, 5 holds up nicely all throughout it’s ginormous playtime. It’s not always that you get characters so worth spending time with in video games; so even though it pains me to do it, I won’t even mention a single name of a character. Like I said above, this is one game you want to jump into blindly.

So far I’ve only spoken of improvements and I have one more to bring up: dungeons. Persona 4 reminded me immensely of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, endless hallways with staircases being the goal. It was enough, but it didn’t live to it’s fullest potential. In 5 dungeons are fully fleshed out environments that don’t repeat- they never get stale. I was taken to some fantastic places thanks to this game and with all the loot and monsters within them, there was more than enough keeping me exploring.

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Without a doubt the coolest squad I’ve ever seen in any game. Also, the greatest silent protagonist ever made exists within this game.

So are there are negative aspects about Persona 5? Less than a handful of times I questioned safe-room placement within dungeons (safe-rooms are the only places you can save in dungeons). But other than that I had no real issues with Persona 5. I was going to say that maxing out all social relationships in one playthrough seems impossible, but it’s obviously not since there’s a trophy for it. I could see some people complaining about the easiness of the game; for some reason I decided to play on Hard Mode which I never do, but beat the game with only about five really frustrating experiences. One person on social media brought up the easiness of the bosses, but each boss save one, required me to go back and grind out a few levels and get better gear. The bosses felt perfect when compared to 4 which had overly difficult bosses even on Normal Mode.

I can’t really say I dislike anything about Persona 5.

This game has been making me look in the mirror and reevaluate what I like about video games. It even made me question The Legend of Zelda as my favorite series of games. I’ve never seen a sequel ameliorate so many aspects of it’s predecessor. I even wondered at times if Persona 5 could be my favorite game ever made (as of now it isn’t, but the power of hindsight is strong). I won’t be replaying Persona 5 for a very long time but that’s okay, it makes it all the more sweeter.

Persona 5 is an absolutely masterful video game.

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So there you have it, my full spoiler-free thoughts on Persona 5! Have any of you played it or are currently playing it? Let me know what you think down below! Have you never played a Persona game and are interested in jumping into the series? Ask me a question in the comments and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.

 

Steven Universe: Attack the Light Review [IOS]

-by Dylan DiBona

It’s not often I’ll review a book, and almost rarer I’d review a mobile game. Seeing as I’m on vacation and decided not to bring my 3DS; I brought my phone alone for some quicker gaming experiences.

I was surfing through my “Purchased But Not on This iPhone” and came across Steven Universe: Attack the Light. Immediately I regretted not finishing the game last time I downloaded it, so I decided to give it another go.


There’s one thing you should know before we start this review: I absolutely adore Steven Universe, it rivals for my all-time favorite TV show. Of course it was the incentive for me to purchase Attack the Light, but my next comments are as unbiased as possible.

Attack the Light is a Paper Mario inspired RPG. It mixed turn-based combat with spontaneous button clicks that can enhance moves. Players explore dungeons by swiping scenes. You’ll battle plenty of enemies, open tons of trashed chests and even unlock badges for upgrades (yes I said badges, a la Paper Mario).

Each of the four characters all feel unique and can be devastating when combined with other moves. Attack the Light offers replayability with Diamond-Mode difficulty, achievements and reatively easy 100% completion.

I’ll keep this review brief seeing as I’m typing it on my phone. Attack the Light is my favorite mobile game, and I’m saying that aside from being a Steven Universe fan because the story here isn’t even all that grand. The very little dialogue is cute but the story is minuscule in comparison to the TV show.

It’s actually not that hard to recommend this game for non Stevn Univese fans. The small story is non-intrusive and fans of RPGs or even just Paper Mario should find something to enjoy. It’s a mobile game so it’s not something I’d recommend binging for hours, but it makes for great 20-30 minute sittings.

Steven Universe: Attack the Light is a great game.

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Any other Steven Universe fans here? What are your favorite mobile games? Let me know down in the comments below and I’ll try my best to reply!

Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc Review: Hope VS Despair

-by Dylan DiBona

When I was a kid glued to my DS, I always knew there was one series of games only I was playing in my 6th grade class: Phoenix Wright. Everybody played Pokemon or Mario Kart, but Phoenix Wright was like a hidden gem for only me to enjoy. Sure I had fun jumping on Goombas, but in Phoenix Wright I was solving crimes and locking criminals away into prison. I was sold on visual novels.

I played 999 a few years later and enjoyed it. Escaping a demented game was interesting, but it wasn’t as fun as solving crimes. Finally years later, Danganronpa came into my life.

Danganronpa is a series of murder-mystery visual novels. It’s like a combination of 999 and Pheonix Wright; murder happens because of a sick game held by an even sicker mastermind and you have to figure out the killer in court. For the sake of full enjoyment, I won’t spoil anything serious about a truly addicting story.

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If you can’t tell by the artwork above; Danganronpa is an extremely Japanese, weird and hyper stylized game. It is full of anime tropes, bizarre moments and pink blood. If you’re one to typically enjoy that kind of stuff along with mysteries: you’ll love Danganronpa. Get the 1.2 Reload on PS4 right now, it’s only forty dollars.

If you’re not to crazy about this style or even visual novels, let me try to sell you onto it.

Danganronpa 1: Trigger Happy Havoc

Amidst the world of Danganronpa stands a high school known as Hopes Peak Academy. You cannot apply to Hopes Peak; they choose who is eligible for the school. How do you get chosen? Be the very best at what you do. Students that are the best are called “Ultimates”. There are characters who fit these categories realistically like the “Ultimate Programmer” and “Ultimate Swimmer”. Then there are the weirder ones like “Ultimate Fanfic Writer” and “Ultimate Motorcycle Gang Leader”.

I told you this game was bizarre.

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The fifteen main students of Trigger Happy Havoc are invited as freshman to attend Hopes Peak. What happens after is the main pull. These students are held captive in the school by Monokuma, the half-cute half-scary bear you see above.

Monokuma lays out this rule:

The only way to escape Hopes Peak is kill a fellow student and get away with it.

Once a body is discovered (because of course the bodies will start piling up), a class trial will be held. If you figure out the killer during this trial, they will be executed. If you cannot, the killer will get out free from the school while everybody else dies. To put it simply, the stakes are always high in Danganronpa.

Each character has their own quirks and unique personality you’ll either love or hate about them. That’s part of what made the overall experience to me. With some characters I’d think “Please be the next victim, please!” and with others “Oh God, please no, stay with me!”

Part of what’s great about the characters is the ability to hang out with them and learn more about them. It’s reminiscent of the support conversations in the 3DS Fire Emblem games. My only complaint here is the relationships have no value on the actual story, and don’t do much but give you certain abilities later on that don’t even feel too helpful.

Now onto the the main chunk of gameplay. In Danganronpa you walk and talk. This is a visual novel, so there are tons of dialogue and while some is voice acted, most isn’t. Get ready to read and think. The main trials aren’t too puzzling. I set my difficulty to kind (medium) and it was a cake walk. People who want any type of challenge should go to the hardest setting. The trials consist of minigames like hangman, a rhythm game and more unexpected stuff. I’m a little disappointed that the trials weren’t more Phoenix Wright style. In Phoenix Wright it felt like I was solving everything and turning the case to better my point of view; in Danganronpa it’s more of watching what unfolds and chiming in every now and then.

I’ll be honest, Trigger Happy Havoc is not the most exciting game you’ll play. I found it to be a very good palette cleanser. In between my JRPG’s and Action-Adventure games I like to just read a good story. And that’s the thing, if you like anime then you’ll love this story. By the way, there is an anime adaptation but I’ve heard bad things about it.

I wholeheartedly recommend Danganronpa not just anime fans, but for people interested in jumping into the visual novel genre. If you like reading, but haven’t had a good book to read in a while, I’m serious when I say try out this series.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a great game.

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Any Danganronpa or visual novel fans here? What’s your favorite game in the genre? Any questions about this game? Leave a comment down below and I’ll try my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

The Unfinished Swan Review (PS4)

-by Dylan DiBona

I have a soft spot for “artsy” indie games. Today they’re coming out every single day so I don’t pay them much mind. The ones that do get a lot of praise from critics and fans end up on my radar. I may be very late to the party, but The Unfinished Swan by Giant Sparrow is definitely a type of game you’ve never played before.

The story of The Unfinished Swan is a very basic yet cute setup for the gameplay mechanics. You play as Monroe, a young boy whose mother has passed away. Monroe’s mother was very good at starting things but never finished them. When she passed, she left Monroe with hundreds of unfinished paintings. At the orphanage he could only keep one; so he kept his mothers favorite, an unfinished swan. One magical night Monroe hops into the painting and our journey starts.

The start of The Unfinished Swan can be confusing, as you’re only looking at at blank white screen. If you tamper with the controller, you’ll realize that you can actually shoot balls of ink. Splatting the white around you with ink will reveal hidden scenery. The Unfinished Swan is all about getting through said scenery while also listening to the narrative unfold.

I remember playing the first level of this game at a local GameStop and being amazed by the concept, I had never played a game quite like it. Unfortunately after finally playing the full game, The Unfinished Swan felt like a one trick pony.

The core splatting mechanics are fine, but after the first forty-five minutes, they grew repetitive and kind of boring. The triggers and bumpers on a Dualshock 4 don’t feel like the type of buttons I want to be pressing a hundred times a minute, and you will be with this game.

Aside from getting to the end, the game offers not-so-hidden balloons you can throw ink balls at. Doing this will allow you to purchase”toys” which can add some fun replay value.

Getting to the end isn’t the most rewarding feeling; as you can tell the story is quite child picture book-esque. Adults might hear themselves going “Oh, cool”, but I was never amazed with the overall product. My favorite part was Act 3 of 4, which initially scared me (it takes place in a forest at night), but ended up making the ink mechanics quite puzzle-centric and thoughtful.

The biggest disappointment with The Unfinished Swan is it’s playtime. The game will only last you about two hours, and that’s only because of one stupid factor: Monroe’s speed, or lack of. Monroe might be the slowest video game character I’ve come to control and there’s no convincing me that he was made that way other than to pad out a truly hour long game. If you’ve ever been interested in this game, get it now as it’s on sale for three dollars, otherwise it’s absolutely not worth the normal fifteen dollar price.

The Unfinished Swan is a cute Sunday afternoon game with barely a handful of reasons to come back to it. It’s not the most intricate game made, and it’s not particularly deep- but it can be fun.

The Unfinished Swan is an okay game.

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Have you ever played The Unfinished Swan? Did you like it more or less than me? What are some similar games you like? Let me know down below and I’ll try to reply! As always, thanks for reading!