Friday, July 31, 2015

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1

GENRE: Role-Playing
PLATFORM: Playstation Vita

Neptunia Top Sellers
Neptunia Games
Neptunia Art Books Description:
  • About the Hyperdimension Neptunia series: "Hyperdimension Neptunia" is a series of RPGs setting place in a paradox world called Gamindustry. The games feature powerful Goddesses and their friends who embody different generations of game consoles.
  • Turn-based System With A Free Roaming Style Battlefield: When the player's turn comes around you are able to move your characters freely within their moving ranging. Attack range will depend on the weapons equipped and by the skills they have.
  • New, Returning, and Collaboration Characters: There will be new and returning characters, along with collaboration characters and story with various video game developers like Bandai Namco, Marvelous AQL, CyberConnect2, Broccoli, Falcom.
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 offers a joke-filled storyline that pokes fun at the gaming industry. Each collaboration character is a personified version of the "actual" company it represents. Enjoy in-game English & Japanese voices.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 >>> by Jason Ong
In the land of Gamindustri, there has been a conflict going on for centuries between four divine beings called CPUs. Each of them rule over a nation, and their conflict has been called the Console War.

The four goddesses each reside over their own nation, with each nation representing a game console with Planeptune being the only one vague, but is actually representing the Sega Neptune.

The rest of the characters are personifications of famous game companies with their avatars and/or movesets reminiscent of the famous game/s that the said company has created. Even the creator companies, Idea Factory and Compile Heart, make an appearance.

What I think draws people in the game is the characters themselves. They all have colorful (though stereotypical) personalities. At a glance, we can immediately guess what kind of personalities they have, or at later moment, once we hear them speak (We can actually take this a step further for those JP VA fans, you can make an educated guess immediately once you hear whose voice it is. I mean, hearing Kana Ueda might tell you something about the character.) The usual character tropes can be found here as well.

The game's main characters are purely female, so we can expect a lot of "boom, boooing" action. (This actually happens in-game). Admittedly, this game was really catered to the male demographic, but it at least caters to each of the preferences of people regarding women.

Other than that, the one thing of note that will grab people's attention is how the goddesses look. I'm pretty sure women wearing skin tight suits is a sure way to get your eyes peeled, especially since they are the "main" characters. Adding the jiggle physics we have in the game, I'm pretty sure we have a lot of ogling happening, especially to Green Heart's "Green Hearts".

Though the severe lack of important male characters, can give rise to hints of the characters being gay. Although it is only implied (sometimes, a tad heavily), it doesn't have an effect in the game. The players might get excited or appalled, but it depends on them. lol. In any case, the pairings are shown in the game for the player's enjoyment.

One interesting part of the story, is how they break the fourth wall a lot, though with some edits, you can still enjoy the little references they dish out from time to time.

Overall, there are a lot of things that keep Nep-Nep alive for the player, but arguably the all female cast would be the biggest factor on why players will try the game in the first place.

Friday, June 5, 2015

From Game Reviewer to Game Dev: The Struggle

I have had this site since I was a student in 1997, back when the Otaku Fridge was still hosted at GeoCities. It has launched my career in web development and eventually helped me get into the game development industry. I have written so many game reviews that are more detailed than my anime or manga reviews. You may have noticed, however, that I haven't been reviewing anything for the past few months.

I still could write game reviews when I became a game writer/tester and eventually a producer because the producer job entailed making sure all the developers were delivering on time while keeping the budget in check. Thing is, the longer I spent in the game industry, the harder it became for me to write reviews.

And that became even more difficult when I decided to go indie and become a developer myself. I look back at all the reviews I have written and I wonder how many developers' morale I have crushed with my words. Let's break it down into smaller, chewable pieces:

1. We already know our games' flaws before reviewers even mention them.
We learn a lot in video game studies and game design classes. We know all the design principles. We have testers to tell us what's wrong with our designs. Thing is, the implementation is not as easy as it looks. I've spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to make conflicting features work with each other and yet frustratingly fail about 60% of the time. Which leads us to cut some features out or we'd never get the game shipped. Sometimes, we only learn how to fix conflicts in the next iteration, the next game project. So yes, we know what reviewers want to say and we'd like to do it the way most reviewers say we should. Truth is, we can't always.

Many of us don't want to end up like these devs, whom I'm guessing have worn themselves out.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Persona 3 The Movie: 1 Spring of Birth

CREDITS: 2013 Atlus, AIC ASTA, Aniplex
DIRECTOR: Noriaki Akitaya
WRITER: Jun Kumagai
MUSIC: Shōji Meguro
PRODUCERS: Akira Ishida, Megumi Toyoguchi, Kōsuke Toriumi, Rie Tanaka, Hikaru Midorikawa, Mamiko Noto, Kazuya Nakai, Isamu Tanonaka, Miyuki Sawashiro

Persona 4 games
Persona 3 Movie: 1 Spring of Rebirth
Persona 3 Games
Persona 3 Action Figures
Persona 3 Books and Manga Description:
"If I told you that there's more than 24 hours in a day, would you believe me?"

"The Dark Hour:" the time which exists between each day. During those hours, the town stands still, the people are transformed into mere objects, and countless monsters called "Shadows" run rampant through the town. Only the Personas, beings with special powers, are able to combat these creatures. Makoto Yuki, a transfer student at Gekkoukan High School, is suddenly awakened with the powers to control a Persona. Yuki is recruited to join other Persona summoners of his school in the "Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad." As they continue to investigate the situations surrounding the Dark Hours, they all come face to face with their shocking fate...

Running Time: 91 minutes

Better if you've played the game. >>> by skysenshi

I have to admit that of all the Persona games I've played, Persona 3 is what I liked least. I saw the game as a transition from the darkness of the first three titles in the series and into the fun lightheartedness of the fourth.

But if there's one thing you will remember from Persona 3, it will always be the supporting characters. For me, specifically, it would be sophisticated and intelligent Mitsuru Kirijo and the boxer Akihiko Sanada.

I had no love for the silent protagonist, Makoto Yuki, so I was very detached from him when I finished the game. Heck, I even forgot the game's ending. To this movie's credit, Makoto's development as a character could actually be felt. He starts off seeming like a sociopath but then gradually develops a personality as he interacts with the other characters.

The women, Mitsuru and Yukari Takeba, are as fierce as they had been portrayed in the game. And Akihiko...well, I wish I could see more of him. The problem I noticed while watching Spring of Birth was that the events flow too fast. I appreciated that it reminded me of many game scenarios that I had forgotten but there were also some really fun aspects of the game that weren't shown due to the limited time. I wish they had turned this into a series, like Persona 4: The Animation, but I can also see that they might have problems keeping it as accurate as possible.

As usual, I have no complaints about the music. Yay for Shōji Meguro! If there's one thing that's constant throughout the Persona games, it would always be my appreciation for their soundtracks. I'm glad to see that they're utilizing the music to its fullest in the movies as well.

The visuals are also beautiful! Without so many words, the film visually conveyed the darkness that surrounded Makoto's environment and Makoto himself.

I haven't seen the second movie and I'm wondering how they're going to pull off the entire story with just three installations. I hope they slow down the pace a bit. (Which was exactly the opposite of my complaint about Persona: Trinity Soul, a spin-off non-canon series based on Persona 3, but that's for another review.) I was also disappointed that Makoto was the protagonist, actually. Yes, he is the canon main character, but his female version, for me, had better gameplay and story experience. She has a personality, too, and it showed despite her silence. It would have been more interesting to have her as the protagonist.

I can't say much else, except that it's a good addition to your gameplay experience. Again, a rarity in movie/TV adaptations of video games. That's the thing, though. I felt that the Spring of Birth would be incoherent to someone who has not played the game. It's just too fast-paced and have little time for character development. So game first, movie after.

Individual Rating: Art 10; Story 7; Characters 10; Sounds 10

Monday, July 28, 2014

Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist

Haven't done live action reviews in a while and this is a backlog post. Sorry about that!

Anyway, I'm not going to do a full-blown review because this series is so short, anything too descriptive might be too...spoiler-y. What I'm going to say is this: If you had your childhood destroyed by the 1994 live-action Street Fighter movie, this rebuilds your childhood and takes it to the greatest of heights.

At first, I had my misgivings about Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist despite seeing a very promising trailer in its Kickstarter page. But private backers resulted in it being pulled out of Kickstarter (thank goodness!) and I was not disappointed. The casting was perfect. (My first thought was: Oh, wow, they found a Ken who actually looks hot even when he seems like he is in dire need of a bath.)

And the story, though short -- it's a 14-episode series with 10 minutes run time per episode -- was very cohesive. Though I've seen some people complain about not seeing their favorite Street Fighter characters, I find that it leaves just enough for one season.

Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist revolves around the origin of Gouki and Gouken, plus the development of Ryu and Ken's relationship as brothers-in-arms. If you're not after the story, which, by the way, is as close to the game as it can possibly get (with a few compromises here and there), you'd have lots to enjoy from the fight scenes as well.

Anyway, don't just take my word for it. Go and watch it! This indie effort needs a lot of support and it has already proven that it can deliver. They also work quite fast, as they been showing some indications that they're already working on the second season.

You can watch the playlist through this:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bravely Default

GENRE: Role-Playing
PLATFORM: Nintendo 3DS
CREDITS: 2013 Atlus
DIRECTOR: Kensuke Nakahara
PRODUCER: Tomoya Asano

Bravely Default Collector's Ed
Bravely Default for the 3DS
General Merchandise
The RPG You Should Be Excited About! (Demo Review) >>> by John Santillana

Bravely Default is a new RPG by Square Enix which was developed by Silicon Studio, the studio that created the game "3D Dot Game Heroes". It's a classic, turn-based RPG similar to the traditional Final Fantasy games. Basically, in this demo, your party is tasked with aiding the people of Ancheim. You talk to the townsfolk and get quests from them. You are also tasked with rebuilding the village of Norende (more on this later). So you run around town talking with the NPCs to fulfill their requests. There's a world map and specific areas/dungeons where you will be venturing to to complete the various quests in the game. Completing these quests grants you bonuses for use in the full version of the game. The interface and menus are simple and this is good for an RPG as it can get irritating if there are too many items to go through just to access one thing (I'm looking at you Mass Effect). Graphics are also simple yet beautiful both with the 3D slider turned off or on.

Bravely Default's gameplay system is similar to classic Final Fantasy which is turn-based with a twist. The game has a "Brave" and "Default" system which uses "Brave Points". Brave Points dictate how many actions you can do in a turn. If your Brave Points are 0 and you activate Brave, you basically borrow future turns in order to do multiple tasks in one turn. Be it using items, using a skill or just simply attacking. The drawback to using Brave is depending on how many times you use it, you leave your character open for a number of turns after based on your Brave Points. In contrast to "Brave" you can also decide to "Default". Doing so puts your character into guard mode. You take less damage from attacks and you gain 1 Brave Point. So now its up to you whether you would like to build up your Brave Points first or go out all from the start and risk taking the damage. Levelling up your characters (level cap for this demo is 20) is just like in any RPG. You just need to grind for it. You can also adjust the battle speed during encounters. Pressing the Right key on the d-pad increases battle speed (or fast-forward) while pressing the Left key decreases the speed and can even pause the battle. Battles occur randomly when walking around the world map and dungeons.

There are a total of 9 different job classes for the characters in this demo. These are Freelancer, Knight, Black Mage, White Mage, Red Mage, Ninja, Performer, Valkyrie and Swordmaster. But even though you select one of the classes, you are also allowed to choose the command abilities of another class. For example, if you select Black Mage as your main class, you can select the White Mage job command to access white magic spells. Levelling each class (the maximum level in the demo is 4) grants you access to specific abilities for that class. This system allows you to mix classes to what suits you. I personally love mixing the Knight and Swordmaster classes. You have the defensive abilities of the Knight and the counter abilities of the Swordmaster. Their look also changes with each of the different job classes. It's just awesome!

The game also has a "Summon" feature of sorts which makes use of StreetPass. When you recieve StreetPass from another player, you recieve whatever character they chose to send. You then bind that character to one of yours and they can summon the character from StreetPass. When summoned, they do a move which was selected by the player who sent it. It's a one time use thing though. If you want to re-use it, you'll have to pass that person again to restock.

Another part of the gameplay in the demo involves you managing people to do certain tasks to restore the Village of Norende. This part of the game I call Facebook-game-ish. How it works is you tap on an item on the town map to choose a task. Be it build a shop or clear a pathway to expand the village. Each task will require a specific amount of time to be accomplished. So you select the task then assign a villager to work on it. The more villagers assigned to the task, the less time it will take to be completed. You will only have one villager to work with at the start. If you want more, you will need to StreetPass other players who also play the game. Though at some point, one of the NPCs will send you one additional villager so that at least sort of helps. The one problem I noticed with this part of the gameplay though is that if you exit the game, the counter stops. So if you plan on building up Norende, you're not allowed to exit the demo (3DS on sleep mode with the game running is fine).

Final Word:
Overall, the demo has me exicted for the full version. It took me 13+ hours to finish it mainly because I was grinding to level up and max out all the job classes (I ended up maxing out their base level too!). The full game will be released on February 7, 2014. It's less than a month away and I can't wait! ^ u ^ 
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