Gurumin 3D:
A Monstrous Adventure
27-10-16
Posted by Mark at 17:44

For all the handwaving and suggestion that it isn't the case, there's not a lot of getting around that, now Switch has been announced, the 3DS is approaching the end of its life. So obviously what's going to ease it gently into that good night is a port of a ten-year-old PSP game based on a PC game released two years prior.

Developed by Ys studio Nihon Falcom, Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure follows Parin, a young girl sent to live with her grandparents while Mum and Dad swan off abroad to do some archeology. The mining town that her grandparents live in is also home to a number of monsters, which are only visible to children.

The monsters themselves are split into two factions, one friendly one in Monster Village, accessible from a portal in the back of the town, and another, which attacks and destroys the village. Conveniently, Parin is able to take control of the Legendary Drill, and sets off to help the monsters rebuild their home.

The world beyond the Village has been shrouded in a thick fog, brought on by the monsters' sadness at losing their homes. The fog can be made to recede by cheering the monsters up, and you do this by getting their stuff back, which has been scattered at the end of a series of dungeons.

In this regard, Gurumin seems like the Zelda to stablemate Ys' Final Fantasy, which isn't entirely inaccurate. When I brought up Ys in a What We're Playing last year, I noted in passing that its combat system made it seem a little simplistic by comparison to other JRPGs, and that continues when compared to Zelda- the dungeons are very light on puzzles and as such this is perhaps better described as a combat platformer than it is an action RPG.

This isn't, however, a bad thing- the Drill is a much more versatile weapon than it initially seems as button-combo special attacks unlock as the game progresses, which goes some way to distracting from the lack of the new toys that Zelda would trickle into your hands and encourages more involved play. Even if you do want toys, there's a range of accessories Parin can wear which come with various buffs and bonuses for any situation.

The story, which doesn't give any middle of the road kids' show writers anything to worry about, at least can pull up a smile on occasion, particularly with Parin's sarcastic streak which is just pitched at the right level to stop the game taking itself too seriously without having her come off as a smartarse.

Your performance in dungeons is also ranked, although the ranking is based mainly on what percentage of the monsters you killed and the random pots you smashed, which threatens to bring the game a little too deep into collectathon territory, but thankfully not so much that getting the best rank becomes the main objective.

What does let the game down are a few technical glitches- for the most part the 3D works well, except for the speechbubble which appears over Parin's head whenever she's in front of something she can interact with, which annoyingly is right at the front of the scene alongside the HUD, which seems like a minor issue, but as it's always right in the middle of the screen directly in front of what you're trying to focus on it can lead to very confused eyes. Additionally all the enemies and NPCs inexplicably seem to be running at half the framerate Parin does, which is just odd.

The jaunty soundtrack and the involved enough combat and levels which put up just enough resistance to pull you out of autopilot without demanding all of your attention, coupled with being on handheld all gather together to help Gurumin fit perfectly into a niche- not quite as much as a console RPG (or for that matter, some of the more bloated 3DS RPGs) but notably more than what passes for RPGs on mobile, this is a very easy game to recommend.
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Stella Glow

16-03-16
Posted by Ben at 17:48

Atlus are a company well known for their rpgs, however, outside of the Shin Megami spin offs, I can’t think of too many Strategy rpgs from them that have caught on, Stella Glow is their chance to rectify that. Not unlike classics of the genre such as Shining Force and Fire Emblem, Stella Glow’s combat requires you to pick a team, and move them around a grid as their turn allows. Attacking from the side and back increase your chances of success, and each character has their own abilities and attack range. It’s all pretty simple, and pretty good for that matter.

Stella Glow is a bit of a mix of styles, almost to its own detriment. Accompanying the traditional strategy rpg mechanics is some Persona style relationship building. Outside of missions you're given days where you can spend some free time. Here you have the option of doing a job, sadly with no haunted hospitals and the like, exploring with the possibility of finding an item, or spending time with your teammates. Doing so builds your relationships, giving characters new perks, it's hard to see why you wouldn't pick this option. That said, I found myself skipping a lot of the text, some of the stories do eventually go somewhere, but most are clichéd and predictable, and really I was only interested in getting the perk.

The odd mix of styles runs throughout the game. It's quite twee looking, in fact I love the chibi look to the battle animations, they work great with the limitations of the 3DS, but pairing them with some of the girls outfits, contrasting J-Pop with a suggestive penetration scene, at the very least it raises an eyebrow. The clash runs in the story too, with clichéd anime fluff bouncing off the horrors of war and the tragedies of drugs on individuals and society. I will say though, Stella Glow's story really does go somewhere. It's not the first time I've encountered the story, but even knowing where it was going I've been really enjoying it. Granted we're talking 30 hours in, but it's nonetheless a credit to the game's storytelling.

The combat is really the core of Stella Glow, and it's something that develops as the game progresses. Eventually you move beyond the standard srpg combat, characters have progressed to the point where you can rely on them to counter attacks, to dodge arrows, whatever their strength is. Not only do character's skill sets increase but so do the witches song selection, something that you're locked out of initially. I can't say I got a lot of use out of the stat boosting songs, but the attack songs are worthwhile. Similarly using Alto's 'conduct' skill to stop enemies from performing actions, or healing your entire party for multiple turns, they almost make the game unfair they're so effective.

Levels feel very designed, more like ‘scenarios’ rather than cobbled together battles. The landscape will mean certain character’s movement, or lack thereof, makes them unsuited, similarly enemy types will mean you’ll be better off leaving some people behind. If you have a level with lots of narrow lanes then you’re going to need people who can attack from a distance. Need to cross a map quickly, then you’re going to have to think about that as you build your team. Eventually you have enough options available to you that you can start to ignore the characters you don’t like. Ewan is one of the few characters with a healing spell, and it’s reasonable, but he charges you gold to use it the Tory fuck. Keith, self proclaimed future ruler of the world, for a ranged arrow user doesn’t half miss a lot. Both those characters are now relegated to appearing in cutscenes and me hoping there aren’t too many missions left where they’re required.

For a fair old while I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of Stella Glow. I knew it was good, but it hadn’t clicked with me to take it to that extra level. Now the story has moved on, now the characters strengths have developed, now the levels have got more interesting and I’m loving it. It’s a bit of an eye-rolling cliche to say of a jrpg that it “really gets good” tens of hours in, but there’s no doubting Stella Glow reaches its potential in the back half of the game, once it's dispensed with a lot of its fluff. It’s just a shame Stella Glow spends so much of its early game bathing in cliches and banality, with a bit more punch it would be truly special
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Legend of
Legacy
17-02-16
Posted by Duane at 07:56

It often feels to me that despite the current love for all things retro (especially graphically!) there's a distinct lack of old-school JRPG's missing from the market. I've said this to others and have been told that Bravely Default is what I'm looking for, I'll have to admit I've still not got around to grabbing a copy of that. However, for all intents and purposes Atlus' Legends of Legacy looks like it could be the plug for that hole. Or is it?


Things are a bit odd in Legends of Legacy, it definitely ticks the boxes for being old-school. It encourages exploration, has a fantastic looking land to explore, feels traditional and has an excellent turn based battle system (more on that in a moment). However, developer FuRyu have made some notable alterations to that familiar formula. There's very little in the form of structure, you're given the basic outline of a story and then left to your own devices to go and explore, you don't acquire additional party members, the entire troupe is available to use within the first couple of hours and levelling up has now been assigned to the battle systems formation system. It makes for an odd but interesting experience.

That battle system is the games focal point, you'll head off to a new location intent on exploring and opening up the entire map (which can then be sold), battling rather bland enemies as you go. Aside from the beasts, which mostly appear as a variety of shadowy blobs, the game looks utterly gorgeous, so the lack of imagination in the appearance of enemies when you're battling is a huge let down for an area you're going to be spending a lot of time in for a couple of reasons. The first is that its actually rather interesting, even if its not really explained particularly well by the game itself. Your party members can occupy one of 3 places in battle which then defines how the battle goes. You can change the formation at the start of each turn and experience is applied to your character's stance within that formation once the battle has finished. This in turn enables you to acquire move sets for each weapon you're wielding which also allows you to balance some of the more traditional style jobs for the genre (which aren't named within the game but its pretty obvious once you're beginning to progress that you're developing a tank, a healer etc. based upon your approach to each and every battle). The battle system is most definitely Legend of Legacy's saving grace, if it weren't for the fact that you will definitely find yourself having to be in battles far too often just to be able to be strong enough to head to new areas then it'd be almost reason enough to stick at the game.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, its been applied to a game that doesn't really want you to progress. There's a decent script with some very basic but likeable characters here, but they the lack of any thorough plot or hook just leaves any potential that they or the games stunning world have utterly wasted. Its one thing to have an excellent battle system, after all its the one part of these types of games you always have control over, but there's nothing here to really tie it to. Which is an utter shame, there's the building blocks of something really promising here, and FuRyu should be commended for trying something different whilst trying to appeal to traditionalists but Legends of Legacy is, sadly, a failed experiment where I cant help feel like the creators lacked a bit of direction and just maybe needed to be reeled in just a little in order to tie the whole thing together.
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Etrian Odyssey Untold 2
The Fafnir Knight
10-02-16
Posted by Ben at 02:03

Etrian Odyssey Untold was my game of the year the other year. A remake of the original DS game, with a spruce up, some new features, and a story inserted with set characters and class types. It's a superb dungeon crawler, simple and colourful, with enough depth to keep it interesting. Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 is more of the same, which is probably its biggest problem.

Etrian Odyssey is more about its gameplay than probably any other rpg I can think of. Sure there's a story inserted now, and it's fine, you and your partner are sent to Etrian's labyrinth with a princess to perform a ritual. You're not told what the ritual is, and progress is stuttered as you must use the labyrinth and its denizens to open up pathways to the ritual chamber. You meet a few interesting characters along the way, some of whom join you, if only temporarily. Most of the stories you encounter though are small things, missions you pick up and people you help. There's some nice interactions with your teammates as you progress through the game. You never quite shake off that the narrative feels stuck on, there's not a lot to it, however there's development of the characters. I'd have liked more development for the main character, plus Arianna the princess, but Bertrand turns in to an interesting character, enough that he maybe damns others by comparison

You can, if you so choose, ignore all of this and play the game closer to its original form, however there's something to be said for playing as the game intends. There's a structure to your party, and eventually a balance, shaped to suit your play style. You have 3 party members up the front during combat, strong fighters with good defence, and equipped with skills that raise their attack and defence, and deal lots of damage. At the back you have an agile range character, quick and hard to hit but with lower defence and HP. Same for the support character Chloe, she doesn't deal a great deal of damage, isn't quick, has little defence, but is your go to healer and buffer. It's through perks that you start to shape the team how you like and find a bit more balance, if anything it's something I think the first Etrian Odyssey Untold does better, but you can eventually get the skills to play how you want to.

There’s also ‘grimoire stones’, stones acquired during battle that hold skills or raise stats. In theory you can equip characters with skills they could only dream of, but in practice most of your rewards are a bit dull, and the most interesting ones cost huge amounts of TP. You can though equip people with the healing spell or magic attack you’ve been missing, so it’s best not to ignore them.

There's not a lot of ground to cover in Etrian Odyssey Untold 2, instead progress is slow. You'll find that for a while you'll struggle to get off the first floor, then the 2nd. Instead you'll have to trudge back to town, heal up, and sell the items from your rapidly filled backpack. Sold items unlock better weapons and armour, and ingredients can be used to make meals that offer perks in the labyrinth (healing while walking, more TP etc). There's only 10 floors to the labyrinth but it's going to take you a while to get through them all.

Which, if I had to criticise Etrian Odyssey is where I would do. You retread a lot of the same ground, both from previous games and in the Fafnir Knight. Due to the small inventory size there's a finite amount of time you can spend in the labyrinth even if it's not causing you problems. The limited amount of TP (used for magic and skills) means there's only so many enemies you can face before you gave to go back and rest. I could do without the town building too, it doesn’t really add anything, and messing around finding the right dish for your customers limited tastes isn’t the most exciting use of your time.

Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 is a game of increments. Enemies that previously caused you problems will all of a sudden pose no real threat. Progress through a floors hastened with shortcuts and quick jumps to the stairwells, and are why the map making is both key and useful . The giant FOE creatures seem impossible when you first encounter them, with your best attacks barely making a dent in their health bar, whereas their standard attacks almost wipe out your entire party.

It's hard to praise Etrian Odyssey enough, not that it's flawless, more that I can explain what the game is, but the simple premise and uncomplicated gameplay belie what is a fantastic rpg. It's a game that I intended to review earlier, but that kept me playing so long that I'm late writing the review. If you want a way in to the dungeon crawler genre, or even a different rpg from the norm, then don't ignore Etrian Odyssey Untold 2. It's superb, and that it hasn't received more attention is a shame, the Etrian Odyssey games are quietly becoming one of the high bar rpg series.
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The Delusions of Von
Sottendorff and His Square Mind
29-01-16
Posted by Mark at 08:28

In a sort of bizarre rotation of the traditional First Play/Review/What We're Playing chronology, I've covered pretty much the size of Von Sottendorff already. It'd be like I was making some clever joke on the slide puzzle element of the game, had I not only just thought of it.

We will, however, quickly recap: Baron Von Sottendorff has gone a little bit cuckoo and retreated into his own mind. Said mind seems to be limited to imagining small worlds made of cubic rooms, most of which can be manipulated around one another in a manner similar to a slide puzzle. In order to escape his own imagination, he must re-arrange those rooms to make it easier to traverse them, collecting together various mementos- and presumably, his marbles- as he goes.

Like the inside of the Baron's bonce, the game is made up of a handful of small compartments, not all of which sit entirely comfortably next to one another.

Let's start with the core, puzzle element- this is nicely done. The sliding rooms need to be shifted around so that the doors at their edges match up and can be passed through, reaching otherwise inaccessible ledges. This is expanded upon with platforms which are invisible until triggered by- of all things- a quick blast on a horn, hatches on the floors and ceilings, and later more complex structural puzzles.

Of course, where there are platforms, there is platforming. As a mechanic, this lives and dies, as James has taught us when discussing Umihara Kawase, its physics. Von Sottendorff struggles with this. It's frequently difficult to judge exactly how far a jump will take you.

This rubs up awkwardly, as mentioned back in the WWP, against the game's mostly-fixed camera, and the level furniture's stubborn refusal to get out of its way, leaving you often not knowing where you are or where you're going. Coupled with the physics, this can often mean missing the generally small platforms. Missing a platform means manoeuvring all the rooms to get out of where you've fallen, in order to be able to re-manoeuvre them to get to where you'd fallen from. Or just giving up.

Another game which shares these three elements, also a 3DS eShop favourite, is Pullblox- while it also gets the physics a bit less wrong, the ability to rewind gameplay a short way helps to take the focus off the platforming and put it back onto the puzzling- meaning that when the game does risk frustrating, it frustrates for the right reasons.

The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and His Square Mind comes recommended, but with the above caveat. This is a good concept, well pitched for handheld, it's just that everything can come crashing down far too easily.
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Rodea
the Sky Soldier (2015)
08-11-15
Posted by James at 12:24

It’s finally here. Despite being announced for Wii nearly five years ago, Yuji Naka’s spiritual sequel to Nights is finally in players’ hands, and on the more modern Wii U and 3DS no less.

It’d be foolish to assume that Rodea is necessarily better for being on more modern platforms, though. Despite its Wii origins, this is a game made around the free-form nature of the Wii remote pointer, and Nintendo not bundling a Wii Remote with every Wii U appears to have forced a rethink of the game in the four years after Rodea the Sky Soldier's (2011) development on Wii was completed.

Perhaps it’s telling that every time Yuji Naka gives an interview about his game, he brings up the Wii original, stating how it’s closest to his “original vision”. Either way, has Kadokawa Games' reimagining of Rodea the Sky Soldier turned out for the better or worse?

At its core, Rodea the Sky Soldier is best described as a point-and-click flying action game. Pick out a location or enemy and Rodea flies toward it in a semi-loop.

You can do this as much as you want, so the idea is to get into a flow of sorts, picking new locations to fly to, and adapt your flight path as you go along. Enemies can be defeated by boosting into them, and despite the reliance on pointing and clicking, you can travel anywhere so long as you find a good view of it, and keep your Graviton (flight) energy topped up.

However, without that Wii remote and its pointer control loveliness, the act of flying feels quite laboured on Wii U and 3DS -- you're steering a large reticule about, which as you'd imagine is slow and clunky, not slick and effortless.

As a result, this version of the game is slower paced to accommodate these changes. What used to be unlimited flight time is now heavily restricted, meaning you'll need to take frequent breathers on the ground to recover. This works both against and in the game's favour, but it generally feels like a confused, odd design decision given the game constantly pushes you towards flight.

The idea is that you can use items from defeating enemies to upgrade particular attributes like flying speed and weapon ammo, so over a long period of time you'll make up the speed difference, but getting there requires defeating dozens of enemies to gather the required resources, and upgrading Rodea's flight speed does not improve his flight efficiency.

Attempts to diversify the action by introducing some obnoxious ground-based enemies only serve to break up the pacing, as the controls fail to prove their flexibility for close quarters encounters.

Rodea's level design as a flight game doesn't really progress from world to world, as you run into the same scattered islands (differently themed, of course) and navigate over the same land formations. Where things do move on are the areas where it stumbles -- enemies tend to become more challenging by widening their window for attack, for example, and more intricate puzzles push an already erratic camera system to breaking point.

The game is at its best when the level design serves up an open path and a bunch of tools to navigate through it. From zip lines to groups of Graviton crystals to airborne enemies, there are moments where you'll be deftly flying from point to point, trying to keep up as large a combo as possible and maintain your Graviton energy levels.

And therein lies the problem: this version of Rodea dilutes that promise. Speeding through stages and chaining together massive combos takes a backseat, and it just doesn't *feel* great to play when you're wrestling with the aiming reticle and awkward camera.

Pointing at a specific location isn't instantaneous enough, and limiting flight time puts greater emphasis on slow exploration and planning in levels that aren't as good a fit for it. The new upgrade system, which strips Rodea of his speed, further impacts the game's pacing relative to its promise on Wii.

The quality of the 3DS version -- itself a down-port of the Wii U game -- doesn't help matters either, as Nintendo's humble handheld is dragged kicking and screaming beyond its limits.

The framerate hangs in the low twenties and the camera only moves in 90 degree increments, leaving you with more work to get the aiming reticule where you want it to.

The 3D effect, one thing that could alleviate the lower resolution of the 3DS's screen and make it all look easier on the eyes, does everything but. Cutscenes have been retrofitted to almost laughable, paper-cut-out look. Worse, the aiming reticule lies in the foreground, making it impossible to aim into the distance.

With the 3D off it's just about playable, in face of the lower resolution and limited draw distance for item pickups and hidden secrets. Still, playable just isn't good enough as far as this game is concerned; most of the time it feels like work, especially when you're trying to get a better view of a Guardian boss that’s many times the height (or length) of you, or trying to navigate around an enclosed space.

Rodea the Sky Soldier certainly gets points for effort. Content-wise it's as fully fleshed out as it could be, but it's all built on shaky foundations, foundations that work better with a certain controller on a certain platform.

What's also interesting is Yuji Naka's studio, Prope, don't appear to have been involved with the development of the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game -- their website states they only developed the Wii version. This lines up with Yuji Naka's comments that he never had as many arguments with a publisher than he did during Rodea's development.

3DS is also not the ideal to experience this remake. First print copies on Wii U include the original Wii game the way it was meant to be designed -- and played -- and a version of the reimagining that, while still incoherent and disappointing, is less technically impaired.


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Gunslugs II

01-11-15
Posted by at 18:42

One day I'll get to review something that looks like it's come from the modern era.

Simply in its choice of name alone, Gunslugs 2 isn't hiding that it's taken much of its influence from the king of the platform shooter, Metal Slug. A less charitable interpretation of its name might be an attempt to associate itself with a better series.

The less charitable approach is one that initially seems like the right one. The level designers seem to have forgotten the 'platform' part of the platform shooter, with a long, slightly undulating but otherwise almost featureless flat path taking the place of the game's levels.

The graphics don't inspire much, either- nondescript blobs whose only claim to pixel-artdom is that they're low-resolution, neither emulating the styles of the games of yesteryear, nor dragging them into the current age.

The good news is, it picks up.

Rather than being a simple point-to-point run, the levels are only complete when you switch off all the its beacons, which are all located at the top of towers. Entering these is where the fun begins.

The procedurally-generated towers offer a better platforming challenge than the world outside them- a denser platforming experience, with more interestingly-placed enemies and other hazards, leading up to the switch at the top of the tower, which switches off the beacon- or more accurately, explodes the tower in true 80's action movie fashion.

Hidden in each of the towers is another member of the Gunslugs, each a parody of some star of the same era- and while they lack the wit and thematic charm of their equivalents in Broforce, manage to raise a smile on recognition alone.

The screen-filling bosses also add a little more variety to the campaign, although it starts to rub up against the 3DS' low resolution very quickly, and the lack of feedback on taking damage can make them feel very unfair very quickly.

Cleverly, the developers have identified that the bulk of the game's fun comes from the towers, and has included a Daily Challenge mode, seeing you try and make your way to the top of an endless tower, which should offer longevity after the main game is spent.

Gunslugs 2 is definitely a game worth sticking with.
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Etrian
Mystery Dungeon
20-10-15
Posted by Duane at 06:13

It's no secret that I'm a bit inexperienced when it comes to the Etrian Odyssey series, I've played many many similar games, but having not really spend much time with Nintendo's handhelds over the years, the series has mostly past me by. The same also applies to the Mystery Dungeon series, although I had a brief relationship with the first European Pokemon entry and, again, have played a fair few similar titles, most memorably Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God (which I found to be quaint and humorous, if a little frustrating at times). Both genre's appear, to me at least, to be rather punishing, or challenging (depending upon how you want to look at things), but really rather rewarding once you get around their mechanics. But what's interesting here is that Spike Chunsoft (who mash out a huge number of games in both genres) have now made an attempt to combine the two with Etrian Mystery Dungeon.


This particular release takes more cues from the Mystery Dungeon series than the other half of the relationship, with the latter offering up the games character design, however the vast majority of the games graphical style, that being when you are in dungeons, is also taken from Mystery Dungeon and is definitely a case of function over form. This leaves the game looking uncluttered, which is definetly a good thing as there can be a lot to take in whilst exploring Etrian Mystery Dungeons... dungeons.

The “Rogue-like” nature of these sorts of games is what makes them challenging, which is what attracts most people to them. It's far too easy to head into a dungeon unprepared and quickly find yourself overwhelmed and out of your depth. The games mechanics want you to explore but can just as easily punish you for doing so as your stamina slowly depletes and then chips away at your health. Being limited to the number of items you can carry means no trip back to town is wasted, although it will refresh your progress in any dungeon you are in. Speaking of the dungeons themselves, Etrian Mystery Dungeon has randomly generated dungeons for you to explore, thankfully though they don't always remain that way, if you're happy to spend the “En” (the games currency) you can place a Fort on any level that you have already explored, which will then prevent the dungeon from being randomly generated on further visits, making gathering resources and completing quests much easier.

Progression is split up in two manners, you can obtain Missions, these tend to be designed to further progression through the game itself, usually in advancing the story or unlocking somewhere new to explore, whilst Quests give you tasks to do in locations you have already visited, providing you with rewards of cash or items. It's this element of segregation that encourages you to take the “baby steps” approach to advancing through the game that results in you feeling like you aren't getting very far, but take a chance every now and then to push further and you'll be rewarded with the sense that your party is actually stronger than you'd assumed they were.

Forts come in handy with character progression too. You can have a Guild featuring a number of members, however you can only take four characters in a party to go and explore, those left at your Guild HQ will gain some experience whilst you are away, but they're progression will be incredibly slow, however by placing upto 4 members into a Fort, they will gain more XP by just being “out in the field” so to speak and level at a higher rate than those left at HQ, this all means its much much easier to juggle different combinations of parties allowing you to tailor your exploration group for each time you head into a dungeon rather than feeling like you are stuck with the initial four members that you create.

The game is constantly trying to throw new challenges at you, from random floors (usually on lower floors of a dungeon) containing monsters that have received a buff, to rooms that contain an inordinately larger number of enemies than others. Boss figthts too can be difficult and tend to thrown the games “just hit whatever enemies closest” mechanics on their head by requiring you to take control of each party member individually (something you can do at any other time too, if you so wish) and act in a strategic manner, providing buffs for your party, drawing attention to particular team members or areas of a room to take advantage of traps, that kind of thing. Things don't tend to let up if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where a party member is defeated either, as the creature that deals the killer blow will receive a strengthening buff resulting in them being not only hitting you harder but being able to take more damage. Etrian Mystery Dungeon's quaint appearance is certainly misleading, whereas Dark Souls (which shares many similarities with the dungeon crawler genre despite its playing perspective) looks foreboding, Etrian Mystery Dungeon looks cute, cuddly and easy. These things it is not, and some might say its all the better for it.
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Senran Kagura 2
Video Review
27-08-15
Posted by Ben at 16:31

As a companion piece to our Senran Kagura 2 Deep Crimson REVIEW, here's a video showing a couple of fights, some of the characters, and a few other things the game offers

I'm not going to go in to a huge amount of detail here, there's a review and a video for that, but Senran Kagura 2 is good, mashy but good.

The video isn't the best quality, we're not fortunate enough to be blessed with the means to capture directly from a 3DS, if I win the lottery I promise I'll sort that. Until then, enjoy the video

Show/hide video

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Senran Kagura 2
Deep Crimson
27-08-15
Posted by Ben at 05:04

Where to start with Senran Kagura 2, I guess that it's a fast, mashy brawler, where teams of female shinobi fight demons and rivals, both to develop as people and to save the world. The problem with writing a review for Senran Kagura 2 though is it's hard not to "get in to it", so let's.

Boobs. Senran Kagura heavily features, and is quite often entirely about boobs. It's gratuitous, and depending how deep you delve it only gets more so. Go in to the character customisation area and there's selectable poses that might as well just take you straight to a disgusted Tumblr post. During win and prematch poses the girls breasts are so big and move so much they'd have stretch marks like Freddy Krueger's face by the time they reached their 20s. During fights, take enough damage and your character's clothes will explode off, revealing panties and bra. It is gratuitous.

What it also is is humorous. I mean, it's not funny, not very often at least, but I believe the game is sincere in its playfulness. I guess if we have (had) the Carry On films Japan has Senran Kagura. My point, it is what it is. Feel free to condemn it, but if it doesn't seem like your thing then save yourself the anger and avoid it. Not that the issue isn't worth talking about, just maybe we aren't going to solve it in this review.

Senran Kagura is also a better game than you might think. It could do with a bit more depth, there's not really a counter system, no blocking, just attack. I found that the best technique was to take to the air and slam down, launching the enemy repeatedly until I could land some proper hits. There's specials that involve transforming and becoming more powerful, once you get to that point you can start playing the game more how I suspect it's meant to be played.

There's combo trees with moves to unlock, and there's a levelling system, which does make a difference, particularly in how much damage you can take. While every character kind of has her counter, the girls all play differently, it's easy to have a favourite based around how they play. It's why it's a shame there isn't a bit more to the combat, the characters can play as differently as they like, but your strategy never changes

The story is told using 3d models, voiced and with subtitles. Initially I was fairly impressed, the game could just be still portraits and text, it's indicative that Senran Kagura has some effort put in to it. The problem comes when the narrative involves more than just the girls stood talking to each other, as that's all that's animated.

The story itself is, mostly, like the filler episodes of an anime. There'll be times when the most important thing that's happening is one team of shinobis going on a trip to the city, or maybe all the girls bump in to each other at a bathhouse (of course they do!). It threatens to get bigger, the youma (evil spirits) are spawning, the girls must work together to wipe them out before a good spirit fully awakens and wipes them out without the regard for civilian casualties. You're probably not playing this for the story, but there's a lot of it and it kind of gets in the way, so it's something to consider.

The game runs pretty well. Turning off the 3D sharpens the image quality, and unless I’m imagining it, increases the framerate. Not that the framerate is bad, I kept waiting for Senran Kagura to fall over but it never does, although get a bunch of large enemies in to a corner and things will slow a little. The 3D is used well, so to speak, although, and this isn’t an issue of the 3D, I wish the camera would zoom out a little to help you keep track of enemies you’ve just launched across the screen

I like Senran Kagura 2, it’s not pulling up any trees, but there’s a breezy kind of fun to it, until the last few bosses at least. It’s good natured, seemingly, although some of the larger enemies raise an eyebrow, and the customisation stuff is enough that this review could easily have gone the other way. I hope they build on this with a 3rd game, build on the right stuff, make more of the combat, if they do then Senran Kagura could become a very good game
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