Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review

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The original Danganronpa trilogy concluded not too long ago, courtesy of an anime double bill. With the Hope’s Peak saga wrapped up, a new game has emerged and this time round it has been released both on PS4 and Vita simultaneously. I opted to purchase the game on Vita, as I find reading text heavy titles more comfortable on a handheld. That and I am also a cheapskate, so the Vita edition’s lower asking price helped to tip the scales in its favour. Like in past Danganronpas, Killing Harmony stars a group of sixteen talented youths who have been kidnapped and had their short-term memories erased. Trapped inside an Academy, they are forced to participate in a murder game. Is this latest release from Spike Chunsoft to die for? Read on and find out.

OVERVIEW

Escape from The Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles is only possible by committing homicide and not getting caught. When an assassination occurs players must investigate the crime scene and determine whom the culprit is, in the subsequent class trial. Deduce the killer’s identity correctly and you progress to the next chapter. Guess wrong and the evildoer is liberated, condemning you to a Game Over. The judge of the court cases is a mechanical teddy named Monokuma. He’s a beary bloodthirsty character. On this occasion, Monokuma is assisted by a quintet of offspring named the Monokubs, who are modelled off past Danganronpa characters. For the most part Killing Harmony plays like its predecessors. Scouring the environment for clues has been enhanced though, thanks to a new feature that allows budding sleuths to move onscreen objects.

What makes the Danganronpa games such a joy to play are its quirky cast of characters. Their humorous interactions are funny, which helps endear the sixteen hostages to players – making the moments when a victim perishes all the more poignant. Some of the students that feature in V3 include an accomplished maid, a bashful magician who insists that her tricks are genuine magic, a martial artist who detests men, a cosplayer who often quotes anime, a kinky inventor, a muscle-bound gentleman who is fond of insects, a spikey haired android and a compulsive liar (who tells more fibs than Hilary Clinton). My favourite character is astronaut Kaito Momota. In the first chapter Kaito comes across as a buffoon, but as the story progresses he proves to be a true bro.

VERDICT

My rating for Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a five out of five. The game was a blast to play from start to finish, with the narrative’s only blemish being that the final trial drags on for a bit longer than I would have liked. Speaking of finales, I suspect that the twist at the end will prove to be divisive. I personally thought that said reveal was cool, but some fans are likely to disagree as it makes the events of past games feel inconsequential. For readers who may be wondering how the Vita version performs – I experienced no crashes and for the most part things ran smoothly. I did however encounter a brief glitch that caused the background music to cease playing whenever someone spoke. Thankfully the bug remedied itself after a minute or two.

I highly recommend Danganronpa V3, especially to gamers who are fond of Phoenix Wright. Just like Capcom’s lawyer series, Danganronpa is packed with zany mysteries that will test your deductive skills. The trials feel more kinetic than Phoenix Wright, as they are peppered with mini-games that include block smashing and driving sequences where you cruise across the highway collecting letters. In terms of content, the story clocks in at a respectable forty hours. Once the end credits roll some bonus content unlocks too. Right now I am playing the RPG mode, which involves fighting through dungeons with a party that you level up via a Danganronpa themed board game. Murder and board games? Sounds like Cluedo, only with fewer candlesticks and more robotic ursine.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash Review

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Game of Thrones was correct. Winter is coming. Yesterday’s commute to work necessitated the use of a brolly, as precipitation poured down upon my noggin. Sigh, how I miss the warmer climes of July and August. Thankfully, regardless of the current weather, I can still enjoy the spectacle of bikini-clad babes thanks to the release of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. Marvelous and Tamsoft have once again treated us to a game starring their well-endowed female ninjas. This time however the teenage shinobi have traded their shurikens and swords for super soakers, as they compete in the titular water gun tournament.

OVERVIEW

It’s funny to see that the Peach Beach Splash competition is being streamed on a fictional site named New Tube. Somehow I doubt that the real life YouTube would support videos featuring half naked girls who cuss a lot. YouTube are currently waging a virtuous crusade against controversial content, which has seen many talented creators get whacked with the demonetization bat. Apparently this all started because a certain annoying Swede decided to go full Nazi, resulting in an advertiser boycott. Oh well, who cares. Let’s return to the more pressing matter of swimsuits and bouncy gals.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash’s single player content includes a five-part story mode, some bonus missions and various tournaments. There’s multiplayer fun to be had too, courtesy of ranked competitive matches and a co-op survival mode. Unfortunately I have yet to dabble with the online features because I can never seem to find any other players to group with. Perhaps splitting the niche community across regional servers is to blame… or maybe everyone sticks to single player, as revealing to the world that you like this game is embarrassing. A fondness for midget porn is easier to justify than a passion for Senran Kagura.

To be honest it’s a shame that the salacious content will put off some people, because the game is a fun third person shooter brimming with tongue in cheek humour. Many of the levels pit you against hordes of weak enemies, robots and fellow ninjas. Sometimes, to spice things up, you’ll also be expected to use your liquid spewing arsenal to extinguish flames within a lenient time limit. Missing from this edition of Senran Kagura is the series’ trademark destructible clothing. There aren’t any garments to damage as the cast is barely wearing anything to begin with! On the plus side it’s possible to make downed opponents part with their raunchy two-piece, by squirting them with a rubber ducky. Quack.

VERDICT

My rating for Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a four out of five. Fans of the franchise will be pleased to learn that the series’ temporary transition from brawler to shooter has turned out well. My only complaint with the game is that the main campaign can be cleared in a few quick hours, as the levels are shorter than the star of a midget porno (wow two hobbit adult-movie references in one review.) On the plus side Peach Beach Splash gives you plenty of reasons to continue playing once the story is finished. There are tons of unlockables to earn in the form of artwork, music and cosmetic items. Replaying levels also awards card packs, which contain new abilities/guns for your characters, pets that can be summoned in battle and stat upgrades.

Peach Beach Splash’s mix of action, comedy and eye candy will serve me well for the upcoming nippy period. Why bother venture outdoors and get drenched when you can stay inside and watch the virtual beauties get soaked instead?

Last Day of June Review

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I’ll start this review by getting the obvious observation (that everyone has already made) out of the way. Why is this game called Last Day of June if it was released on August 31st? I hate it when titles lie. Seriously though, the titular June is a young artist who tragically died in a traffic accident, one fateful day, on the way back from a romantic picnic. In this game players assume the role of June’s lover Carl. The bespectacled baldy was in the car when June passed away. Although he survived the crash, Carl sustained injuries that have confined him to a wheelchair. How depressing. Thankfully when Last Day of June begins Carl acquires the power of time travel. Can he use his new ability to undo the tragedy or will he discover that altering history is impossible?

OVERVIEW

Last Day of June’s intro sees Carl uncover four mystical portraits that depict his neighbours. Touching the watercolours transports Carl to the date when June perished and gives him control over the painting’s model. By possessing said villagers players need to find a way of averting the fatal collision. Sounds simple enough, but sadly the past is not so easily manipulated. Every time an event is tweaked some new disaster occurs that kills June. Early on I was able to keep the kid, whose dash across the highway caused the crash, away from the scene. This was accomplished by having him play with a kite elsewhere. Job done? Nope. In the new timeline June dies swerving off road to evade a cardboard box spillage further up the street. Those things are deadly, as Solid Snake will attest to.

At its core, Last Day of June is a third person puzzle game. You pick a character, use their unique skills to solve brainteasers and then see how your handiwork impacts June’s future. The little rascal I mentioned above for example is too scrawny to open heavy gates, but his short stature allows him to squeeze through fence holes. Another character of note is the local hunter, who has to use his faithful hound and a musket to chase after a medal-pilfering bluebird. Meanwhile the blonde with the nice rack can clear away slippery leaves. Um, did I say rack? I mean she uses her nice rake to clear away said foliage. Aside from the puzzles there are also collectables to locate, which reveal snippets of each character’s backstory.

VERDICT

My rating for Last Day of June is four stars. The gameplay is clunky, load times are long and the inability to skip cut scenes can be annoying, but it matters not because the emotional storyline is beautiful. It’s remarkable how expressive the characters are, in spite of the fact that their dialogue is limited to Sims style gibberish. Each time Carl is unsuccessful in rescuing June his rage and despair are palpable. I think the game’s soundtrack helps to accentuate the onscreen drama. The music’s quality should come as no surprise given that Carl’s tale is based off a Steven Wilson tune. Visually the game is impressive too. I dug the stop motion marionette like character designs and how the environments have an oil painting aesthetic to them.

Unless you have no heart I can highly recommend Last Day of June. Buyers will however have to deliberate if they wish to pay now for a title that can be finished within a few hours, or wait for a future price discount. Given the title’s linear structure there isn’t much replay value once you reach the ending. Watching the game via a Let’s Play would suffice for most people, although I think that walking a mile in Carl’s shoes and solving the game’s conundrums yourself adds to the experience. Technical niggles aside, developer Ovosonico deserve praise for a job well done. I’m so awed that I’ll forgive them for the deceptive title. Last Day of June? The game came out in August! Ovosonico why did July to us? May god forgive your fib. Okay the review is done, time to march off.

Review of Sonic Mania

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Sonic the Hedgehog hasn’t been doing too well lately. Gone are the days when the blue speedster was considered a genuine rival to Mario. Apart from a couple of exceptions, since 2006 most of Sonic’s games have been garbage. Sonic Boom’s reboot of the character flopped and the less said about the Princess Elise bestiality romance the better. Sega’s current creative team have no idea what made Sonic so special back during the 16-bit era. Thankfully someone in the company does at least have the sense to outsource their mascot’s next adventure to a programmer who does. Christian Whitehead seized the opportunity given to him by Sega and the result is arguably the finest post Genesis Sonic title to date.

OVERVIEW

One thing I like about Sonic Mania is that it goes back to basics. Gone are the convoluted plots of recent times. A dialogue free cut scene sets up the story. Eggman has gotten his dastardly mitts on the mystical Phantom Ruby. Just like sexual harassment, that’s no good. Sonic and chums race after Eggman, but upon confronting him get sucked into a portal and are transported to the past. Players must now guide the trio of heroes through twenty-four stages, which are inspired by classic Sonic levels. The playable characters on offer are Sonic, Tails and Knuckles… who since Sonic Boom appears to have cut down on the steroid abuse. If you want an easy playthrough pick Tails because he can swim and fly.

Although some of the zones are modelled off levels from yesteryear their design has been tweaked and there is a fair number of brand new areas to challenge too. That’s a relief because playing a Greatest Hits of old content would have felt like a rip off, especially given that Sega has rereleased the vintage Sonic trilogy more times than Square has recycled Final Fantasy One. Dashing through each zone is a joy, as the courses have been crafted in such a way that you can appreciate Sonic’s swiftness. The stages may only have one exit, but there are multiple routes you can take which encourages exploration. No two zones feel the same, as every act houses its own unique set of obstacles.

VERDICT

My rating for Sonic Mania is four and a half stars. If you enjoyed the nineties Sonic games, Mania is a must buy. Unlike the disappointing Sonic 4, Mania captures the spirit and feel of the Mega Drive era titles. It’s surprising how well the sprites still look and the music is as catchy as ever. The soundtrack boasts a nice collection of remixes and new electronic tunes. It took me around five hours to clear the story, which is long by Sonic standards. The fifteen quid asking price seems fair given that I have yet to replay the campaign with the other two characters. I also have to hunt down the Chaos Emeralds and tackle the epilepsy inducing 3D orb mini-game. Pikachu isn’t the only mascot that can trigger fits!

The sole gripe I have with Sonic Mania is that progress is only saved at the start of a new zone. Levels are divided up into a pair of acts. Should a player exhaust all of their lives during act two they will be forced to replay act one from the beginning. Not a big deal though, as the game isn’t difficult. Insta-death pitfalls are rare and Sonic is practically immortal, providing that he holds at least one ring at all times. Any frustration I felt with redoing a stage was offset by the game’s cool references to past Sonic titles. My favourite throwback came at the end of Chemical Plant Zone, where the boss challenges you to a Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine duel. I couldn’t believe it. Sonic has to beat “Eggman” in a puzzle game? You must be yolking.

Review of Pyre

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Every nation has different ways of punishing criminals. Some countries send lawbreakers to the electric chair, others try to rehabilitate their prisoners and in some places committing a felony only incurs a fine. In the Commonwealth crooks are banished to a land known as Downside. Those who are exiled there can only return home by participating in a fantasy sport tournament dubbed the Rite. In Pyre, the third title from indie developer Supergiant Games, players assume the role of a Downside inhabitant named the Reader. As a member of the Nightwings faction he is expected to guide his team in contest that is essentially Middle Earth meets the Super Bowl.

OVERVIEW

Some people have described Pyre as a sports RPG, which I don’t think is accurate. Due to the oodles of text you have to wade through, the game feels more like a visual novel than Inazuma Eleven. The title that reminds me the most of Pyre would have to be Banner Saga. Both games possess gorgeous hand painted style graphics and they both revolve around travelling across the kingdom in a wagon. Occasionally you’ll reach a crossroads and need to decide what route to take. Unfortunately for the Nightwings their carriage does not come with GPS installed. To determine what route they should follow, Readers need to rely on instinct and their knowledge of the stars.

A large chunk of my playthrough involved reading, but that’s not a bad thing as both the story and characters are solid. What begins as a generic fantasy yarn gradually develops into a political tale, were convicts seek redemption by using the Rite ceremony to overthrow the Commonwealth’s corrupt government. The Nightwing’s roster contains a colourful bunch of players whose ranks include a flirtatious harpy, a chivalrous fish dude and a weasel who sports a most dashing moustache. Every character is unique and brings their own distinct skills to the field during matches. The aforementioned harpy can fly over opponents for example, whilst the imp who joins later in the story can use Middle Eastern techniques to eliminate adversaries via self-detonation.

VERDICT

My rating for Pyre is a three out of five. The game is decent, but as is the case with other Supergiant releases, I didn’t like it to the extent that other publications have. It’s a pity that Pyre isn’t available to purchase on Vita, because when it comes to text heavy titles I much prefer to play on a portable device. Clasping a handheld close to your face, akin to a book, is more comfortable than reading paragraphs off a TV. The 3v3 gameplay, were you evade enemies whilst trying to ferry an orb into the goal zone, is fun. RPG fans will however be disappointed that the character customization is limited to picking talents off a skill tree and choosing what skill-boosting talismans your players should hold.

In terms of length, Pyre took me twelve hours to complete. There’s some replay value, as I hear that there are different endings to unlock. How the story concludes will depend on your performance during key matches. The computer-controlled opponents aren’t too challenging, although things get slightly tougher the further you advance into the campaign. Not only will you have to face mightier teams, but you also have to contend with losing players every time the Nightwings triumph in the Rite finals. Pyre’s best feature would have to be its stellar musical score. The game’s biggest flaw is that the multiplayer cannot be enjoyed online. For that crime I will sentence Supergiant’s staff to an eternity in the Downside. Parole will only be granted when they patch in PSN matchmaking.

Review of Miitopia

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I’m not the biggest fan of Nintendo’s design philosophy (friend codes and the Switch’s messy way of connecting online both suck for example) but one thing the company has got right are Miis. Compared to other digital avatars, I am impressed by how charming and customizable they are. Believe it or not, the Mii Maker has more depth than some RPGs when it comes to character creation. Ironic then that Miitopia happens to be a role playing game populated with the big-headed folks who made their debut back when the Wii was all the rage. Ah, memories. It feels like only yesterday that my granddad was thrashing everyone on Wii Sports bowling.

OVERVIEW

The kingdom of Miitopia is in trouble! A wicked spectre, dubbed The Dark Lord, is nabbing everyone’s faces and transplanting them on monsters. In order to save the day, players are tasked with assembling a party of Miis and leading them on a quest for justice. Standard fantasy fare perhaps, but it feels fresh given that the entire cast comprise of adorable Miis. I imagine most people will form a band of heroes made up of family/acquaintances, but since I have no friends my roster contained a rich smattering of celebrities. Watch out Dark Lord! If you don’t cease your theft of facial features a group whose ranks include Batman, Bayonetta, Homer Simpson and Donald Trump will punish you.

When creating Miis players need to select the character’s personality and class. Personality will determine how the adventurer behaves in certain situations. A kind Mii for example will share their healing items with a hurt buddy, whilst an airhead sometimes forgets whom they should be targeting in combat. Classes include DnD staples such as warrior and cleric, along with some less conventional jobs. Those wishing to construct a more unique party could recruit a healer who dresses like a flower or an imp, who encourages allies to attack by stabbing their pals in the posterior. Anime fans that have a fetish for cat girls will be pleased to learn that there is even a feline looking DPS class.

VERDICT

My rating for Miitopia is four stars. It’s funny and casual, so I would recommend it to RPG newbies. The game’s lack of interactivity may however put off hardcore gamers, who like to micromanage strategy. Miitopia’s turn based combat only permits players to directly control one character. The protagonist’s companions act however the AI decrees. You can however influence the flow of battle by buffing the team with sprinkles and transferring injured fighters to a safe spot, where they can recuperate away from danger. Just like combat, exploration is rather simplistic. Players pick where the party should travel and then watch the team traipse through levels that are more linear than a FF 13 dungeon.

Despite the repetitive gameplay and dearth of complexity I had a good time playing through Miitopia’s 30-hour story. The humorous skits kept me invested, as did the character progression. Miis can increase their strength by purchasing new gear, consuming snacks and improving their relationship with others, which unlocks new abilities. One thing that I disliked about the game though was how it prompted me to take a break every fifteen minutes or so. Damn it Nintendo, once again your design philosophy drives me up the wall. I am a grown man who can make my own decisions. Who are you to scold me for partaking in lengthy gaming marathons? It’s not like I can play for many hours anyway, as the 3DS battery life is crap. Evidently those dual screens consume a lot of juice.

Review of Monument Valley

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Ouch! I have just realized that it has been yonks since I last posted a video game review (third of June to be exact). Perhaps the anonymous reader who recently un-followed my blog is a gamer who tired of waiting for new content? Have I given up on gaming? Nope. I play on my consoles and handhelds every day, but I don’t like reviewing a title until I finish it. At the moment I am battling my way through two lengthy RPGs, which will take an age to complete as my current schedule limits me to just sixty minutes of daily gaming goodness.

THE VALLEY “HILLS ARE ALIVE”

To end the video game drought on this site, I decided to play a short but sweet mobile puzzler. Finally I use my tablet for something other than reading comics (if you are looking for graphic novel recommendations I endorse downloading Marvel’s hilarious Gwenpool books.) The brainteaser I decided to purchase (in case you suffer from an ailment that prevents the reading of titles) is Monument Valley. A sequel for this game came out two months ago, but I figured that starting with the original would be best. Like the babe from Sound of Music said – “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

Speaking of music, one of Monument Valley’s highlights would have to be its audio. The soothing tunes and sound effects are a perfect remedy for the stresses of office life. Now that I have finished the game whatever shall I do to unwind during lunch breaks? Guess I will have to go back to sniffing glue. Kidding! The Otaku Judge does not advocate solvent abuse. Inhaling adhesives may cause mental impairment, which would hinder your progress in Monument Valley. Despite wearing a pointy dunce cap, the protagonist of this adventure has to use her wits to advance past each stage.

M. C. ESCHER SIMULATOR

Princess Ida is the heroine who players must guide through a total of ten stages. The dainty monarch is trapped in the titular Monument Valley – a mysterious place constructed out of sacred geometry. With the aid of touch screen controls, players must find the hidden route leading to the level’s exit. To achieve this Ida will have to stand on panels and manipulate the isometric landscape. You have to think outside the box when forming paths, because the roads Ida travels are akin to Penrose Stairs (click here). When three-dimensional objects are represented in 2D the results sure can be funky.

A solo quest would feel quite sterile, but fear not because Ida encounters several entities during her pilgrimage. Phantoms that haunt the halls reveal titbits of lore about the structure you are navigating. Hostile bipedal avians will sometimes halt Ida’s march with a tirade of squawks. Thankfully not everyone you meet is so mean. A friendly golem makes an appearance, in some of the labyrinths, to assist Ida with overcoming certain obstacles. The golem is nothing more than a one-eyed pillar, but I still got attached to him. Who says that you can’t form bonds with inanimate objects? Rest in peace Weighted Companion Cube.

VERDICT

My rating for Monument Valley is four stars. I can see why this game won awards back in 2014. People often decry the quality of mobile gaming, but if you avoid the free to play garbage there are some real gems waiting to be found in the Apps Store larder. Monument Valley is an accessible puzzler that can be enjoyed regardless of your IQ. I am a complete blockhead and still managed to finish the game with little trouble. The well-crafted levels are designed in such a way that frustration is kept to a minimum. Despite the lack of challenge there is enough thinking involved that I felt satisfaction after sussing every conundrum.

Like I mentioned earlier, Monument Valley is a short but sweet experience. Some critics would say that it’s too short. I estimate that clearing the story took me between two to three hours. That’s fair when you consider that its current retail price is four quid. A fast food meal costs about the same and will last you a lot less, to put things into perspective. Quality over quantity is something we should all herald, especially in this age were everyone’s free time is at a premium. If you can think of other classics, which don’t require a Witcher 3 commitment to beat, let me know in the comments section below. Maybe I’ll check out your suggestion and not deprive the blog of gaming posts for another two months.