Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright Review

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It’s funny how fickle some video game publishers can be. Apparently the folks at Nintendo were planning to scrap the Fire Emblem series due to the franchise’s lack of popularity. All that changed however when Fire Emblem Awakening was released to both critical and mainstream acclaim. Now instead of seeing the series vanish without a trace we are getting two new Fire Emblem games at the same time. Much like the evergreen Pokémon games, Fire Emblem Fates has been split up into two titles. Seems like a bit of a cash grab to me, as I would rather have both campaigns housed within one cartridge. On the plus side owning one version will allow you to download the other edition at a discount price.

OVERVIEW

Fire Emblem Fates chronicles the war between the nations of Nohr and Hoshido. Players assume the role of Corrin a human/dragon hybrid that was born into the Hoshido royal family, but was raised by Nohr’s king. Torn between both kingdoms, in Birthright gamers choose to side with the Hoshido forces. Just as well given that Nohr are clearly the bad guys in this conflict. The Nohr army all dress like Goths for a start and are guilty of launching unprovoked attacks on their peaceful neighbours. Let this be a lesson to countries everywhere. Never trust the guys across the border if their head of state is best known for evilly cackling like the Star Wars Emperor.

Gameplay wise, Fire Emblem Birthright sticks to Awakening’s successful strategy RPG formula. Levels are fought on maps that have been segmented into tiles, where each side takes turns to move their units. In most stages routing all the enemies or defeating your opponent’s general is necessary to achieve victory. Just like its predecessor, Birthright gives players the option of disabling Fire Emblem’s infamous perma-death mechanic. Setting the difficulty to casual means that fallen allies will return to battle at the start of the story’s next chapter. Those seeking a challenge can however play things the old school way, meaning that slain characters will not resurrect. Only masochists need apply because there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your MVP perish to an attack they had a 99% chance of evading.

Although Birthright and Awakening are virtually identical some notable tweaks have been made to streamline play. For a start de-buffs are more prominent, allowing you to whittle down foes via the reduction of their defensive stats. My favourite improvement however is the eradication of weapon durability. It’s such a relief not having to worry about your sword snapping mid-combat or spending hours at the store buying replacement bows for your archers. I never understood why blades had a finite number of swings in the older games. For anyone who cannot comprehend my frustrations imagine having to replace a bulb every time you flicked the light switch twenty times. That analogy pretty much sums up what weapon maintenance was like in the previous titles.

VERDICT

My rating for Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is four and a half stars. If you have enjoyed any of the previous titles in the series I am certain you will love this latest instalment too. Developer Intelligent Systems has been a little stingy with respect to original ideas, but the new features we get do enhance the gameplay experience. Constructing your own castle in between levels was fun for example and altering a battlefield’s terrain, through the use of draconic powers, does add some extra tactical depth to proceedings.

The only reason I am not awarding the game a perfect score is because the cast of characters under your command isn’t as memorable as their Awakening counterparts (even if I do have a soft spot for the clumsy maid and the absent minded fletcher.) I also feel that the game should be penalized due to the needless censorship inflicted upon it. Thanks to shoddy localisation by Nintendo Treehouse western gamers have been denied the ability to use the 3DS touchscreen to pet their beloved waifus. Nintendo ethics decree that murdering hundreds of Nohr citizens is okay, but affectionately caressing 2D ladies is not. Bah, if this sort of thing continues I may be forced to find a real flesh and blood girlfriend. That’s something I would rather avoid, as romantic meals and expensive dates would cut into my precious gaming budget.

MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies

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In a weird way the Hyperdimension Neptunia video games remind me a little of the One Piece anime. Both properties contain an abundance of great characters – shame then that an annoying protagonist fronts each series. Given my low threshold for buffoonish leads, it’s great to see that Idea Factory is contracting third party developers to make spin-off Neptunia titles. First up was Noire’s excellent strategy RPG Hyperdevotion Noire and now Blanc gets a moment in the spotlight courtesy of MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies. Blimey, what’s up with Japan’s fondness for overly elongated video game names?

OVERVIEW

MegaTagmension Blanc takes place in an alternate universe where the CPU goddesses attend a human high school. Despite boasting a student body that contains cute anthropomorphic console girls, Gamicademi is in danger of closure due to an enrolment shortage. If this were Love Live our heroines would try to save the academy by forming a pop group. Film club president Neptune has other ideas though. She will attract new pupils to the institution by filming a horror movie scripted by her partner in crime Blanc. Makeup and props can be expensive, but fear not because the CPU filmmakers can simply record scenes by smacking the real life zombies presently besieging the school!

Gameplay wise MegaTagmension Blanc resembles Senran Kagura Estival Versus, which should come as no surprise given that Tamsoft coded both titles. The only difference between the two is that in one game you smack easily disrobed ninja girls whilst in the other you assault undead hordes. The simple to grasp combat boils down to executing combos, achievable by pressing the square and triangle buttons in a particular order. With each successful strike a character’s SP meter charges up. Once enough SP has been accumulated you’ll be able to perform special attacks or transform into a mightier spandex clad alter ego. If things get dicey players can tag out their injured character and replace them with a reserve, giving the hurt lady time to recuperate from the sidelines.

VERDICT

Looking back through my review archive I note that I previously gave Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed a score of three and a half stars. I will award MegaTagmension Blanc the same rating, as both games are essentially the same. Technically speaking MegaTagmension Blanc is the superior of the two thanks to its larger roster of playable characters, smarter boss AI and a story boasting more plentiful cut scenes. I wouldn’t want to give Blanc four stars though, given that the twelve-part campaign only lasted me a single day. Short levels that can be cleared within minutes and a lack of difficulty make the thirty quid asking price hard to justify. I could have bought sixty delicious eggplants with that money.

Most players will find MegaTagmension Blanc’s repetitive combat and woefully short story to be underwhelming, but I can still recommend the game to diehard Hyperdimension fans (once it gets discounted.) Even if the gameplay lacks depth there is fun to be had watching the Neptunia girls act in a terrible horror movie. Blanc better not quit her day job because the script she penned makes Troll 2 look like a work of art. The inclusion of a multiplayer mode redeems the game in my eyes. Playing with others makes the zombie slaying more enjoyable, plus you can solo the multiplayer stages – giving the title some much needed challenge and longevity. MegaTagmension Blanc isn’t anything special, but it’s arguably the second best Neptunia spin-off ever. Depending on your opinion of the franchise that alone may make it worth a purchase.

Review of Witch and Hero II

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Just like the Twilight movies, Witch & Hero 2 proves that critical reviews are no deterrent when it comes to making sequels. Most reputable reviewers lambasted the original game, but I rather enjoyed it (poor taste like that may explain why GameRankings.com declined to add my blog to their list of accredited video game websites.) Taking place years after the first title, Witch and Hero 2 begins with the protagonists of the original getting captured by a wicked Demon King. With the world’s saviours encased within a block of ice, the safety of the kingdom falls upon a new 8-bit looking duo.

OVERVIEW

Witch & Hero 2’s main campaign, which spans across thirty levels, plays much like its predecessor. Completing a stage requires that the titular fantasy warriors battle wave upon wave of cartoony monsters. Slain beasts drop blood, which is used to power Witch’s spells, in addition to gold and crystals (used for purchasing new gear and raising their HP/MP stats respectively.) Were the game differs from the original is that both characters are now controllable. The analogue stick is responsible for Hero’s movements whilst the face buttons direct Witch’s steps. Simultaneously controlling a party of two, amidst the chaos of combat, can be tricky at times… although I would say that, as I am a guy (my gender is infamous for its weak multitasking skills.)

For the most part Hero is expected to engage in melee combat whilst Witch pelts enemies from afar with spells. Tanking damage with the sorceress is not recommended, as the game will immediately end should her health hit zero. Hero on the other hand is more resilient. When the brave knight’s HP depletes he will collapse for a few seconds, but after a brief nap he will recover – allowing him to return to the fray. One thing I noticed when controlling the valiant twosome is that Witch walks much slower than Hero (despite wearing light robes as opposed to heavy armour.) Are the developers insinuating that females are less sturdy and nimble than males? How sexist! Anita Sarkeesian will have a field day with this game. Well, she would… had she not abandoned her controversial video game series. She has left that project unfinished and is now begging for more cash to start a new line of documentaries (what a shyster.)

VERDICT

My rating for Witch & Hero 2 is three stars. In terms of visuals and gameplay Witch & Hero 2 is virtually identical to the first title, which is great news for anyone who enjoyed the previous instalment. Aside from controlling two characters, the only difference I spotted between the two games is that the sequel features bipedal treasure chests. If you wish to seize their contents you’ll have to chase down the buggers. Wow, the mimics in this handheld RPG sure are cowardly. Shame that their Dark Soul counterparts aren’t this docile. Over the years those carnivorous fiends have dined on many of my unfortunate high calorie From Software characters.

If you seek a short and sweet action RPG, for the Nintendo 3DS, Witch & Hero 2 isn’t a bad choice. For the measly sum of three quid you get a few hours worth of entertainment, complete with humorous cut scenes and some delightfully quaint visuals. When compared to the first game, the sequel is much easier thanks to a less taxing final boss and the ability to position Witch away from danger. At the time of writing prospective buyers can download a free demo off the e-Shop, to see if the full game is to their tastes. Whether you love or loathe Witch & Hero 2 will ultimately depend on what you think of the simplistic combat system. Casual players should have fun, but anyone who demands depth may dislike how the encounters simply require that you bump uglies… um I mean bump into uglies. Heaven forbid that a Nintendo based release contains smut!

Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault Review

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Crap! A giant monster has appeared on the city outskirts and is heading towards our base! Quick, summon Voltron to repel the hostile titan’s assault! Those three sentences pretty much sum up the plot of the cartoons I used to watch as a lad… and for the most part cover the main idea behind Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault. In this PS4 tower defence game (also available to buy on the Vita and PS3) players are tasked with protecting their settlement from colossal beasties. Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints, you cannot construct a lion themed mech to guard your city – so you’ll have to make do with plain old tanks, rockets and energy beam weapons.

OVERVIEW

Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault’s storyline is broken up into twenty-three chapters. In order to advance the narrative players will have to fulfil the objectives set by a bearded admiral, who somewhat resembles Captain Birdseye. The tasks on your agenda will range from researching new technology, eradicating a predetermined number of monsters or bolstering your population via the acceptance of immigrants. Donald Trump may not approve of that last mission, but hey it’s not all bad. Many citizens equal more tax income that can be spent on shoring up your metropolis’ defences. Just be sure to keep the populace happy with circus events and waterparks or they will move out of town.

Compared to other tower defence games Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault’s battles aren’t very interactive. It’s impossible to manufacture units (or grow zombie repelling spuds) once a level begins. What you can do however is rotate the four districts that make up your city. Invaders are attacking from the south? No worries. Just use the gamepad’s shoulder buttons to reposition your north facing armaments onto a spot where they can target the oncoming threat. Nifty weapon design I must say, although my heart does go out to the townsfolk. The poor sods must get awfully dizzy during attacks, given that their residence will “spin” around the place more than a dishonest politician.

VERDICT

My rating for Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault is a three and a half out of five. I enjoyed the game enough to snag all the trophies on offer, but it’s debatable whether other players will share my sentiments. My suspicions are that most people will tire of the gameplay after a few hours, as the battles aren’t very stimulating. The biggest flaw Aegis suffers from is that success can be achieved with little strategy (which may explain how a dimwit such as myself easily managed to earn a platinum.) Although you have a bevy of weapons to choose from (rockets are effective versus crowds, Gatling guns work best versus speedy critters etc.) you can pretty much turn your city into an impenetrable fortress by exclusively erecting missile turrets.

Despite the lack of challenge, I still managed to have a good time playing through Aegis of Earth. Part of the reason why I liked Protonovus Assault would have to be the quirky roster of subordinates that appear during the story (my favourite character being Towa, the twenty-six year old commander who desperately wants to get hitched.) I also felt a sense of satisfaction seeing the cities under my watch prosper. Who knew that upgrading power stations, terraforming land and maintaining residential zones could be so much fun? Takes me back to the days of Sim City – only that when Godzilla shows up you can now save your utopia from destruction by pelting the oversized lizard with warheads. Haha, revenge!

Review of Golden Time (Collection Two)

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Sometimes persevering with a show pays off. Although I can’t say that I had a “golden time” watching Collection One of this Animatsu licenced series, the concluding twelve episodes were much more to my taste. Episodes 13-24 continue to chronicle the tumultuous relationship between Koko Kaga (an affluent stalker with robotic dance moves) and her new boyfriend Banri Tada (an amnesiac who is literally haunted by long term memory loss.) Refreshingly the script avoids using a potential love triangle to stir up drama. The onus instead falls on the young couple dealing with the strains caused by Banri’s mental illness and the small matter of a phantom who wishes for them to break up. Quick someone call the Ghostbusters… the original ones (no one wants to see the new team.)

OVERVIEW

Watching this second instalment of Golden Time reminded me a little of Clannad. Both shows have sweet romance, wacky comedy and supernatural elements. Clannad’s paranormal ventures are however superior to the annoying spook found in Golden Time. Said gloomy poltergeist is a representation of Banri’s lost memories. Unable to let go of old flame Linda Hayashida, the apparition does its level best to sink the Banri x Koko ship – be it by tampering with the weather or momentarily possessing Mr Tada. The spectral cock blocking thankfully ceases for a while, during a story arc were Koko gets involved in a traffic accident. Wracked by guilt, after dozing off behind the wheel of a car, she retreats to the sanctuary of her bedroom and refuses to interact with anyone. Can Banri cheer up his temperamental partner? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Golden Time’s final act deals with the return of Banri’s missing memories, which come in the wake of a trip back to his old stomping grounds. Meeting up with his folks and attending a high school reunion causes Banri to gradually remember his lost past, although the recovery comes at a price. As more memories return Banri begins to forget events that occurred after the accident responsible for his amnesia. In effect the past is erasing the present day version of Banri and his dreams of a future with Koko. The scenes that follow can be hard to watch. Banri struggles to recognise the friends we have seen him make over the course of the series and the pain of it all is too much for Koko to bear. Worst of all he attended two years of law school for nothing. I don’t fancy his chances of passing exams after a term’s worth of lessons disappear from his scrambled mind.

VERDICT

My rating for Golden Time (Collection Two) is four stars. As mentioned above I found the second half of Yuyuko Takemiya’s light novel adaptation to be stronger than the first, hence the slightly better score. Koko is less of a brat in these episodes, which immediately makes this DVD set more watchable in my eyes. Another plus in its favour are the funnier gags, which serve as a nice counterbalance to the script’s moodier moments. The supporting cast’s knack for pouting and Banri’s frenzied reactions would have been intolerable without the levity provided by irritable neighbour Nana, Koko’s backbreaking exorcist routine and one of the most hilarious (yet cringe worthy) sex scenes I have ever witnessed. Kudos to the Japanese voice cast for delivering both japes and emotional dialogue with aplomb.

Despite my lukewarm reaction to collection one, Golden Time eventually won me over. I was impressed by how it avoided the tropes one usually associates with rom-coms. A show about a couple in a steady relationship is different, as was the lack of a full-blown love triangle. I kept expecting Linda to use the turmoil in Banri’s life to rekindle his lost passion for her, but instead she remained nothing more than a trustworthy confidant. Not all of Golden Time’s unique ideas worked though. The narrative would have been better without the ghostly sub-plot. At one point I predicted the series would conclude with Banri fist fighting his ethereal doppelganger for ownership of his body. Thankfully things didn’t quite pan out like that. Leave the ghost eradication to Peter, Ray, Winston and Egon… not the new team (like I said before, no one wants to see them.)