The Game Corner: March 2021. What are you playing featuring Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Welcome to the Game Corner! This month, I’ll cover a bit of my backlog featuring Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and a few other quality titles. If you like JRPGs and Fighting Games, you’ll surely find a favorite here!

Thanks to Pyra and Mythra’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Fighter Pass 2, I hopped back onto the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 hype train. Having played them a bit, I gotta say I enjoy their playstyle. They may have what it takes to become my new secondaries. But in addition to trying them out on Smash online, I figured it would be worth exploring the stories they’re from as well.

In the meantime, I also managed to beat a Zelda title after a 10-year span and even jumped back into an old fighting favorite: Dragon Ball FighterZ. In the meantime, I continue my playthrough of Final Fantasy XV. Though to be fair, I haven’t touched it in a week so I’ll be omitting it from this list. Rest assured, I will have it beat before Final Fantasy XVI comes out.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, I postponed my playthrough of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Since I’m less than halfway through the game and Square-Enix announced the Intergrade and PS5 version enhancements, I’ve decided to wait until its release to resume my playthrough.

For those of you Final Fantasy fans looking to bite into a classic type experience, though, I recommend checking out Bravely Default II for Nintendo Switch. I watched my girlfriend beat this game and it really strikes the right chord for classic Final Fantasy fans. If you love the Job system of Final Fantasy V, you’ll surely want to sink your fangs right into this one.

With that being said, let’s get into this week’s Game Corner, shall we?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

While I’ve been regularly playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2 since the beginning of the year, the Pyra/Mythra Smash release hype bug bit me. I’ve only just now reached Mor Ardain, however, and am about 30 hours in.

Can I just stop to say how much I love this official artwork by Matsusugu Saito?

When Shulk was announced for Super Smash Bros. 4, it prompted me to finish my long-delayed playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii. I guess you could say history repeats itself here. Speaking of which, my girlfriend also started her playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch. While I’ve beaten the original game and don’t intend to play it, I look forward to watching her discover the worlds of Bionis and Mechonis for the first time!

While I intend to finish the storyline of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however, I don’t see myself finishing the side-quests. I’ve heard they become quite repetitive and to the point that it would lose my interest. However, since I purchased it pre-emptively, I have a mind to do the Torna – The Golden Country DLC episode once I beat the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Beating Spirit Tracks was an adventure 11 years in the making. Having gotten this game in 2010, I never beat this game on my DS. I ended up losing it in late 2011 and never found it until recently. Or rather, my girlfriend found my lost copy several months ago. With that said, I finally got to beat the one Zelda game that I never finished. Despite my last entry being in the Fire Temple, I picked the game back up relatively quickly.

Spirit Tracks really brought me back to another era. The blocky, low-resolution character models still charmed me with their glorious facial expressions and animations. The dated touch-screen controls were fairly gratuitous with Link being able to tap-and-hit enemies. I do recall it being a quality improvement over its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and it held up even a decade later.

Overall, I wouldn’t say it was the most special or must-play Zelda title by a long margin. Despite the long train rides and some annoying padding, though, Spirit Tracks can win over any Zelda fan.

The beautiful soundtrack harmonized perfectly with the unique story and writing in the final chapter of the Wind Waker era. However, in spite of the good dungeon design, boss battles, and funny moments, I would be okay with Nintendo never releasing another Zelda game with touch controls.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

What’s this? I’m playing another fighting game? Since several of my friends are doing it, I figured I may as well join in. Dragon Ball FighterZ resonates with largely balanced gameplay, long-strung combos, and entertainment to all player levels without ever being BS. Though if you follow the competitive scene, you might disagree after the release of the latest DLC character: Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta.

While I’m playing online in worldwide matchmaking, I’m  rather upset that casual battles aren’t sorted by rank. This makes fighting people on my level more difficult outside of friend battles. In other words, either I get bodied by players well above my level or I fight a player who ragequits after losing one character.

I’ve been experimenting with a number of characters and team choices. But to make it short, basically any variation of Goku, Vegeta, Gogeta, Vegito, Gohan, and Trunks are on my team along with the occasional Piccolo. While I said I would main Vegito or Gogeta at one point, I’ve been chugging along at my own pace. I’m trying out Blue Vegeta right now and some of his combos make me feel like I might have a future in this game after all. On top of that, I’m also only 4,000,000 zeni away from unlocking the final trophy!

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection

Speaking of challenging titles, this one brings me back. You love 2D platformers and Capcom games, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection sends the perfect love letter on Nintendo Switch. It brings me right back to Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on SNES albeit without a double-jump ability.

Despite that, it’s way more forgiving than most of the past games. You have no lives or continues and multiple checkpoints. You can adjust the difficulty between deaths and use a skill tree to learn new magic spells.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m playing on Squire and enjoying it just fine. I don’t even play this series for getting destroyed repeatedly. I love the art style, music, and overall gameplay. Dying a dozen times per stage is just a side-effect to me.

Speaking of art, this has some of the creepiest yet most charming artwork, monster design, and backgrounds you will ever see in a side-scroller. And despite what I’ve seen from some reviews, this game isn’t really any cheaper than past entries and, like I said, a bit more forgiving. More like Contra than Castlevania, it does rely greatly on pattern-recognition and memorization. But if you’re fine with that, I think you will like this game.

Pokemon Sword

Finally, after all these years, I’m back on Pokemon once again. I think the 25th-anniversary presentation struck a chord with me to get back into Pokemon. I loved this series as a kid, grew out of it as a teen and came back into it as an adult. Granted, I was never as obsessed and hype about it as I was back then. Still, I like to keep up.

The upcoming releases of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, as well as the Pokemon Legends Arceus, got me wanting to finally start my run of Pokemon Sword. Well, I’m in Galar with my Raboot, Stufful, Corvisquire, and a few others. I’m on Route 4 and about ready to enter my first gym battle.

I’m not saying I’m partial to Fire-type starters, but…

As it stands, I’m not sure when I’m going to transfer my Pokemon to Sword. Part of me wants to finish my Pokedex in past entries while the other says to just transfer my favorites to the game, like Sylveon and Pangoro. Not like I would be able to use them until I get gym badges but I still want to build a team around my favorites.

Anyway, the game is quite fun so far and I like the open-world landscapes of each route. It’s structured much better than the samey, minimal paths between major areas like in other JRPGs such as Tales of Xillia. Battling moves fast, character design remains strong as always, and I’m looking forward to my next Pokemon adventure!

Final Thoughts

Believe it or not, I also started a playthrough of Yakuza 3, Last Window: Secret of Cape West, and Persona 5 Strikers. I also started up The Champion’s Ballad DLC in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Since I finished Twilight Princess HD and Spirit Tracks, I figured it was time. But I suppose discussion on those will have to wait till next time.

Right now, I want to focus on clearing a number of backlog titles. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Final Fantasy XV top my list of games I want to finish before moving onto others. Plus I want to keep my skills in Smash polished. Since I got my first COVID vaccine, I’ll be getting my second one next month. I would love for tournaments to return around May or June.

Until my next entry, feel free to share your journal in the comments. Whether you’re playing a new hit or an older classic, or you’re keeping your skills ahead of the curve in a competitive game, share your current play log in the replies!

Also, be sure to follow our social media links and stay up to date with our gaming and anime features. Until next time!

Fire Emblem Heroes: What’s new for March 2021 featuring A Hero Rises!

Welcome to our first monthly entry for Fire Emblem Heroes! Nintendo’s mobile gacha RPG took the world by storm when it released in February 2017. Celebrating its 4th anniversary, Fire Emblem Heroes features a plethora of units and skills coming out this month. Among these include the 5.3.0 update.

As an avid player myself, I’ve been keeping up with the releases! As a recent subscriber to Feh Pass, I already got my monthly unit, Tana. Coming off the recent Voting Gauntlet, we got a new Forging Bonds event as well. You can see all the current and upcoming details below.

A Hero Rises Results for 2021

Congratulations to the winner of A Hero Rises, Lyn: Ninja-Friend Duo. The duo-unit came through in the Final Round of the recent Voting Gauntlet. While Seiros was initially the chosen favorite and ranked the highest in the early voting stages of A Hero Rises, the ever-popular protagonist from Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade snuck the win in classic ninja style. As such, all players will be awarded a free Lyn + Florina unit!

New Units and Forging Bonds

This month introduces a new banner featuring four characters from Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Dedue, Marianne, Linhardt, and Ingrid. These four characters also come with a new Forging Bonds campaign.

I feel bad for Linhardt, though. He got the short end of the stick and received no new abilities. He’s a copy-pasted mage unit who will serve as a fodder 4-star unit. However, Dedue’s defensive ability reflects similarly to Gustav who appeared in last month’s Day of Devotion banner. He can swap places to take close-ranged damage. We’ll also be getting another free unit to go with them.

If you don’t remember this old bastard, he was causing major problems through the first arc of Three Houses.

Final Thoughts

The Three Houses banner follows up with the Legendary Claude banner so I’m always happy to see this game get represented. However, I feel that the Ashen Wolves banner cannot come soon enough. The DLC of Fire Emblem: Three Houses featured four prominent characters who quickly became favorites. I would love to add them to my team.

In other news, I can’t lie about my feelings for A Hero Rises. I was really hoping to get Seiros in my army. Granted, she is best girl in Three Houses. As such, I can’t help but vote for the Hero who kept peace in Fodlan for nearly a millennium. However, since I don’t have Lyn: Ninja Friend Duo in my army yet, I suppose I can take solace knowing I get a new unit.

As far as Book V goes, I’m enjoying the story right now. I love Norse Mythology and seeing the contrast between Nidavellir’s dvegar (dwarves) and Jotunheimr’s giants. With that said, perhaps we will get to add the Jotunheimr princesses to our army in the next year or so.

I look forward to playing through this month’s story chapter and meeting the Jotunheimr princess, Nott.

Finally, we’ll be updating you with Fire Emblem Heroes monthly so be sure to keep an eye out. As always, follow our social media links and stay tuned for our quality gaming content. Also, be sure to keep up with Fire Emblem Heroes on Twitter or whichever social media platform you prefer.

Until next time!

New Pokemon Snap, Diamond and Pearl Remakes, and Legends coming to Nintendo Switch!

Nintendo and The Pokemon Company recently showcased a new presentation featuring three upcoming titles for Nintendo Switch. This showcase was presented in February 2021 which marks the 25th anniversary of Nintendo and Game Freak’s illustrious monster-catching RPG!

Among the featured titles, the first game showcased New Pokemon Snap while the other two were new announcements. Nintendo has finally confirmed the remakes of Diamond and Pearl! But perhaps even more intriguing is the announcement of a brand new Pokemon game: Pokemon Legends Arceus.

New Pokemon Snap

In the recent presentation, New Pokemon Snap received a new trailer going further in-depth with the title. Taking place in the Lental region, you’ll get to snap pictures of wild Pokemon across various landscapes!

This successor to the 1999 N64 hit, Pokemon Snap, will feature the same on-rails gameplay. You’ll use various items to goad Pokemon into posing for your pictures and send them to the professor. Better pictures mean a higher score!

New Pokemon Snap will also come with modern-day features like filters and stickers to add to your photos. You can also post them online and get ratings from other players. The game is set to launch for Nintendo Switch on April 30, 2021!

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Originally released for the Nintendo DS in 2006, the fourth generation of Pokemon games introduced online play to the series. This included both online battling and trading as well. Newly titled “Brilliant” and “Shining,” these remakes will retell the Pokemon story in the Sinnoh region.

As opposed to remaking these titles in full 3D, like Sword and Shield, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will retain the original 2D look. This art style will reflect much closer to the original DS releases.

Nintendo previously used this approach for their remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

While past Pokemon remakes included elements of the “third” game, such as HeartGold and SoulSilver borrowing elements from Pokemon Crystal, we cannot say if this will take cues from Pokemon Platinum in the same vein. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will be released in late 2021 for Nintendo Switch.

Pokemon Legends Arceus

Finally, on top of remaking Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, Game Freak and Nintendo are creating an original storyline set within the same region of Sinnoh. This will tell a story around the “God” of the Pokemon universe, Arceus.

By appearance alone, it differs vastly from the traditional Pokemon storylines and settings. There’s no telling if there will be a goal to fill up a Pokedex, or the past-era equivalent, or how much it will deviate. However, this story not only features prototype Poke Balls but also an open-world setting!

Pokemon Legends Arceus is expected to release for Nintendo Switch in 2022.

Final Thoughts

As a Pokemon Snap fan from the N64 era, I can definitely say I’m looking forward to the new release! It will feel good to revisit the photo-catching gameplay once more. While I previously downloaded Pokemon Snap to my Wii U Virtual Console, I’m definitely looking forward to this one.

Believe it or not, I never played Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum. I started moving away from the series after Gen III and, as such, feel like I skipped out on an important chapter in the series. After watching this presentation, I finally started my Pokemon Sword playthrough. With that said, these remakes couldn’t come at a better time.

Finally, the big announcement came from Pokemon Legends Arceus. Revisiting Sinnoh in an era set in an ancient eastern world, this original storyline looks a bit darker and more focused on a fantasy storyline. This looks to be one of the biggest spin-offs in the Pokemon series’ history. As opposed to the typical catch Pokemon and become League Champion story, this original storyline will tell its own tale.

Be sure to keep up with us for future updates on the upcoming Pokemon titles. And visit our social media links to stay tuned with us for the latest on quality gaming content. Till next time!

Impressions: Square-Enix releases demo for Strategy/RPG Project Triangle Strategy.

Earlier this month, Nintendo released their first Nintendo Direct in well over a year. The presentation included a number of upcoming titles for the Nintendo Switch. Among them includes Square-Enix’s latest RPG, Project Triangle Strategy.

While the title features the “Project” initially used in their past Switch RPG, Octopath Traveler, this upcoming title also features the HD-2D sprite work from the former game. Additionally, not only does the name indicate that this is a Strategy RPG (SRPG), but the entire layout feels reminiscent of a 90s Square-Enix on the PlayStation: Final Fantasy Tactics.

Final Fantasy Tactics (1998)

Players familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics will immediately resonate with the sprite work and the politically-charged storyline. However, for those who never tried Final Fantasy Tactics, this game plays on a grid-based map with an isometric viewing angle. Square-Enix’s tactical RPG hit is perhaps the most well-known title of the SRPG genre outside of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series.

Among the Project Triangle Strategy credits include Bravely and Octopath Traveler producer, Tomoya Asano, and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood composer, Akira Senju.

As such, unlike Team Asano’s previous title, Octopath Traveler, this will feature you recruiting and sending out a larger number of party members to attack from various angles. You’ll have to use the environment to your advantage which adds a new layer of depth to combat.

What to Expect from the Demo

Project Triangle Strategy’s demo will offer roughly an hour and a half of dialogue and two separate battles. For the record, this entails three maps in total but you will play through two maps depending on the choice you make. As the demo denotes, expect to get somewhat confused about the story itself but enjoy the game and the atmosphere of the world. It takes place in Chapter VI and Chapter VII of the game which is likely still early on in the story.

Fighting in a wheatfield? This will be your second battle depending on your choice in the Scales of Conviction.

As Serenoa, the heir of House Wolffort, you’ll guide your team to victory commanding them in battle. The story will revolve around one of the rival kingdoms waging war on your territory and your struggle to counter against insurmountable odds.

If you love tactical-based gameplay, you’ll surely fall in love with the battle elements. You can interact with the map such as hitting statues to ignite large structures and engulf your enemies in flames. You’ll use elevation to position yourself to higher territory and fire arrows at enemies. Make sure to take care of your allies or risk losing them for the rest of the battle.

Story Elements

In between your battles, you’ll get to explore small maps, such as a bridge, a town, and the resting quarters. You can use this time to investigate for items and brief with your comrades. Finding information is crucial to tipping the Scales of Conviction in your favor.

This is because Triangle Strategy features you making storyline choices based around Utility, Morality, and Liberty. As such, these choices will affect the game’s route. As such, you’ll choose from one of three choices when prompted on what to do.

In order to convince your comrades to pick a choice, such as fighting to defend Prince Roland instead of sending him to the enemy, you’ll collect information before briefing with them. Using this information selection, you can persuade them to join your cause, opting to fight the enemy instead of surrendering.

Final Thoughts

Square-Enix is awfully generous with their demos. There’s enough writing in the game to last more than an hour and keep you entertained. This is another pretty game that borrows the same beautiful look as Octopath Traveler. Whether we will see the trademark Job system or not has yet to be determined.

Octopath Traveler (2019)

Outside of Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Shining Force, I have scarcely found myself playing this genre. Yet whenever I do get into Strategy/RPGs, I often get hooked for hours. Given the polish and quality of Team Asano’s past titles, including Octopath, I have little doubt that this game will become a major hit on the Nintendo Switch.

Look for Project Triangle Strategy when it comes out on Nintendo Switch in 2022. You can download a free demo in the meantime. Square-Enix will also send out a survey to players asking for feedback which you can contribute to as well. Until its release, we will continue covering information on the game as it becomes available.

Be sure to follow our social media links and stay tuned with us. Until next time!

Bravely Default II: Demo Overview and Preview.

With February around the corner, Square-Enix is primed to release their latest JRPG, Bravely Default II. With the visuals and gameplay of an older Final Fantasy title, Bravely Default II features the Job system allowing players to change the classes of their party members. The newest demo offers you up to 5 hours to clear two bosses in the game’s Chapter 1.

Last year, Square-Enix offered players a brief demo for Bravely Default II. The first build also came with a feedback survey. The newest demo incorporates much of that feedback along with a bit more gameplay to enjoy.

What to Expect from the Bravely Default II Demo.

If you have yet to try it, Bravely Default II will take place in Chapter 1. The game will offer you the four protagonists off the bat: Seth, Gloria, Elvis, and Adelle. Each one comes pre-equipped with one of the early-game classes, such as Vanguard, Black Mage, White Mage, and Monk.

Adelle’s name sounds like the name of a sorceress from Final Fantasy VIII, Adel. Bravely Default’s Edea was also named after a sorceress from the same game.

You’ll garner one new Asterisk, or class-change, before the end of the demo: Bard. This performing art will be used to buff your allies’ stats. You can also make it your default class, thus leveling it up, or as a sub-class. It’s entirely up to you on how you want to approach it.

In my experience, I found the demo to be fairly challenging. The new weight system means I can’t stack defense equipment on my party members and need to balance out what to give them. I ended up losing several times to the second boss, Anihal, the Beastmaster asterisk, before preparing once again in the shop with more items and better equips. Thankfully, this forgiving title gives you Teleport stones to warp out of dungeons and even warp points to move closer to the boss fight when you return.

For Newcomers to Bravely.

Bravely Default II comes from the titles that predated it on Nintendo 3DS: Bravely Default and Bravely Second. The first title came out in 2014 and offered one of the greatest soundtracks on the system’s library. If you’re familiar with composer, REVO, he composed the opening theme songs of Attack on Titan and Sailor Moon Crystal.

Bravely Second came out on 3DS in 2016. The direct sequel to Bravely Default followed the tales of the four heroes with two of them being main party members alongside new characters. Unfortunately, Bravely Second had both cast another writer and a different composer, Ryo, who’s known for the second opening theme of the anime, Fire Force.

Despite these changes, I found Bravely Second to be superior to its predecessor in a number of ways. While the title never quite became as successful overall, the gameplay quality-of-life improvements included stacking battles for EXP, balancing several classes, and removing a dreaded time loop of sorts that plagued the second half of Bravely Default.

Even with its glorious references to Puella Magi: Madoka Magica and Fullmetal Alchemist, Bravely Second was a standalone JRPG that could rank among the best on the 3DS. It astonished me to see the developer of the game apologizing for his past work due to its lackluster success. It explains my confusion for why this title wasn’t called “Bravely Third” and as such, I stand with fans when I say Bravely Second doesn’t warrant an apology.

However, after Bravely Second, the development team created Octopath Traveler on Nintendo Switch. This highly successful sprite-based HD-2D JRPG became an instant hit and one of the console’s best games. Following this act, it’s also great to see Tomoya Asano’s team working on the Bravely series once more.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited to try the final version of the game. While Bravely Default had its heart in the right place, I was a huge fan of Team Asano’s later works. Bravely Default II will join up the Nintendo Switch’s stellar lineup of JRPGs. Among them include Dragon Quest XI S, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Xenoblade Chronicles, Pokemon Sword and Shield, and the studio’s past work, Octopath Traveler.

Bravely Default II will come out for Nintendo Switch on February 26, 2021. Be sure to try the demo if you haven’t already. Finally, be sure to follow us on our social media channels below for our next batch of gaming content.

Until next time!

Demo Reel: Persona 3: Dancing in Moon Light and Persona 5: Dancing in Star Light.

Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight are two rhythm games developed by AtlusP-Studio, published by Sega, released for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Following Persona 4: Dancing All Night, these titles are spin-offs of their mainline JRPG series, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona. Featuring the characters of each respective title, you’ll play as the characters in a rhythm game setting.

Fans familiar with Dance Dance Revolution, Taiko no Tatsujin, or Project Diva will feel right at home with the gameplay. To put it simply, you time your button presses to the rhythm of the song. You’ll watch the characters dance with snazzy moves and can even customize their appearance. The soundtracks include remixes of songs from their respective Persona title.

With that said, I went ahead and played the demo for Dancing in Moonlight and Dancing in Starlight. Since they’re both more or less the same game, barring characters and aesthetics, I want to cover them both in a single article and share my thoughts with you. If you’re a fan of Persona or Japanese rhythm games, then you will likely be interested.

What to Expect

The Persona Dancing titles feature a six-button scheme. Corresponding to the screen, you will hit one of three directions or one of three face buttons. Use the analog sticks to do a record scratch effect on certain waves while you match the buttons to the rhythm.

Background dancing will captivate you. Fortunately, it will not distract you from playing. While they’re available at the beginning, I strongly recommend clearing the tutorial before playing the two songs in each demo. For reference, try playing on Easy mode first to get the hang of it.

ペルソナ5 ダンシング・スターナイト_20180604223122

While the game’s tutorial advertises other modes within the full game, you cannot play them in the demo. Consequently, it never gives you the chance to really explore what the game has to offer. It might be worth checking YouTube to learn more about the extra modes before pouncing on any of them unless you’re sold by the gameplay immediately.

Final Thoughts

Atlus and Sega are masters of marketing. Keep in mind that the Dancing spin-offs follow Persona 4 Arena, the fighting game which served as a storyline sequel to Persona 3 and Persona 4. This fighting game was co-developed by Atlus as well as Arc Systems Works, the latter of which developed BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. For fans of Koei Tecmo’s Musou (Warriors) series, Persona 5 Scramble will likely come out to the west in the next year or so.

Persona 5 Scramble (Japan, 2020)

While Atlus tends to branch off to various genres in order to promote their games, they succeed in the process. In this case, from the demo, Dancing in Moon Light and Dancing in Star Light played like bona fide rhythm games. As a huge fan of Shoji Meguro‘s soundtracks, the music will certainly invite Persona fans to try the games.

I only played a little bit of DDR throughout my life. Some games, like Jubeat and others, appear at southeast gaming and anime conventions.

Until COVID clears up and people can venture out to conventions again, it might not be possible to recreate that experience for a while. With that said, if rhythm games are your thing, I recommend trying the demo (P3D and P5D) first before you leap to buy them.

Do you plan on playing the Persona rhythm titles? Let us know in the comments below. As always, be sure to follow our social media links below to take our latest, entertaining gaming content with you!

Retro Review – Ys Origin: An Epic Action/RPG Worth Your Time

Ys Origin

Ys Origin was developed by Nihon Falcom in 2006. The title would later be published by XSeed in the west in 2012 coming to PS Vita, PC, PS4, Xbox One, and finally Nintendo Switch.

The Ys series (pronounced “Eess”) features hack-and-slash RPG gameplay with real-time combat, puzzle-solving, and challenging boss battles. Ys Origin features three playable characters with the last one being unlocked by clearing the other two routes. With that being said, I found Ys Origin to be quite enjoyable from start to finish.

ACT Ys Origin Rado's Annex

Despite being released in 2006, its gorgeous character sprite work, boss design, and incredibly fast-paced and intuitive gameplay held up more than well enough. While I think it could use a few more exploration routes, this title was an absolute blast to play in all three playthroughs.

Story

Ys Origin takes place 700 years before the start of the series. Taking place inside of the enormous Darm Tower, it features a group of heroes seeking the goddesses – Feena and Reah – to inquire about their departure and the arrival of powerful demons.

The game features three playable characters: Yunica, Hugo, and Toal. Each one follows their own route, interaction, and even a few unique boss battles. They all have their own writing as each character experiences their own growth and development progressing throughout the story. Despite being only 10 hours long, I’m surprised at how much the protagonists grew in such a short span of time.

ACT Ys Origin Hugo Epona

One thing I absolutely love is a major twist that’s only featured in the final playthrough. It brings everything together in a way that could not be explained in Yunica or Hugo’s route. Along with the surnames of the characters (Tovah, Fact), veteran Ys players will meet familiar faces in the series. Fortunately, Ys Origin makes for a perfect entry point for series’ newcomers as well.

ACT Ys Origin Saul

Audiovisual

If there’s one thing the Ys series excels at, it’s music. The rock and smooth jazz accompany such amazing beats and bass lines thrown throughout the soundtrack. Anyone will also fall in love with the heavy metal riffs that play during boss fights. Falcom’s sound design is as sterling as ever. For some reason, the soundtrack gives me major Castlevania: Rondo of Blood vibes. Some of my favorite pieces include “Dreaming,” “Oboro,” “Tension,” and “Beyond the Beginning.”

Despite being overlaid on a 3D plane, Ys features 2D sprites. Yet they meld surprisingly well, hand-in-hand, akin to some of the older PlayStation JRPGs like Valkyrie Profile, Star Ocean, and Tales. Both the sprite animations of the characters and the bosses look magnificent even today. Plus the character art looks gorgeous and detailed and the characters feature different expressions. Falcom truly cares about the artwork as much as their music and it shows by how well it’s held up today.

Gameplay

Like past Ys titles, Origins features real-time hack-and-slash combat. You can jump, slash with combo attacks, and also use magical relics to deal additional damage. The puzzles within the game are enjoyable and nothing too hard. Rather, you’ll find additional relics that will either function as keys or new abilities which can open new paths or increase your movement.

ACT Ys Origin Yunica Boss

You’ll get three playable characters. Yunica, your battle warrior can use an axe while Hugo, the mage, attacks exclusively at long range. When you clear their paths, you’ll unlock Toal’s story. He can also attack at close range but is much faster and deals incredible damage with his claws.

ACT Khonsclard Ys Origin
Several bosses take cues from bullet-hell titles.

Each stage has different layouts. You’ll encounter plenty of different enemy types and stage obstacles. Even though it’s confined to a tower, each floor offers plenty of variety. Quicksand, lava, water, and powerful enemies help make up this game’s 25 floors.

ACT Ys Origin Mantis

If you ever find yourself struggling, it’s worth leveling up a bit. As much as I dislike level grinding, thankfully it never takes more than 2-3 minutes tops to get to a new level. You can save right before a boss room, grind levels for a few minutes, and end up at a high enough level to take them on. Ys Origin is quite forgiving by allowing you to continue at the boss fight if you lose.

Final Thoughts

Ys Origin offers solid replayability in spite of its short length. With 3 stories, it totals up to around 25-30 hours of solid writing, character development, and even tragedy. When you clear the game, you can also unlock boss rush and trial modes which in-turn unlock secrets.

ACT Ys Origin Roo

I enjoyed the game’s thematics. I enjoyed Yunica’s story of feeling held-back for not being capable of using magic or even the goddesses’ own human nature and flawed existence. Meanwhile, both Hugo and Toal fought against their own fate. They’re human and they’re written in a way that seems to defy a game released in 2006.

ACT Ys Origin Toal Reah

I feel like they could have opened up more avenues to explore. Granted, for exploring outside of the beaten path you will get better armor and accessories. However, as much as I love the game, I could always use more. It’s like a cross between the original and Metroidvania titles of Konami’s Castlevania series. While it moves on a linear path of stages, each stage offers a chance to explore a bit. Ys Origin is not perfect as it does feel quite linear. Yet it’s also well-written with some beautiful aesthetics and a fantastic soundtrack to boot.

If you enjoy classic 2D gameplay akin Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda titles, enjoy hack-and-slash games, and want a solid story that paces itself well, Ys Origin is a great choice. It’s a definitive hack-and-slash title and one of the best games in the series out there. Even if you don’t play other games in the series, it’s a quality standalone title that will make a solid entry in your library no matter what system you’re playing on.

Score: 8.5/10

ACT Ys Origin Feena Reah Yunica

 

Retro Review: Ys I & II Chronicles – Outdated Upon Release.

Ys I & II Chronicles is an Action/RPG title developed by Falcom and published by XSeed for PSP, mobile devices, and PC. The latest remake of the titles Ys I & II from the late 1980s, this title brings the original gameplay style to newer consoles featuring an updated visual style, arranged soundtrack, and animated cutscenes.

The original Ys I & II titles were ported to various systems. Originally released on PC-88, the title’s first remake, and perhaps the most prominent, came out on the PC-Engine which was known as the Turbografx-16 in America. This version featured animated speaking cutscenes with full voice acting and an exceptional soundtrack with surprisingly quality instrumentals for a release in the early 90s.

Unfortunately, Ys I & II’s gameplay is woefully dated. Its gameplay style featured the “bump combat” system. That is to say, instead of having an attack button, you would bump into enemies to damage them from an angle. If you were higher level, you wouldn’t take much damage and would win the exchange. If you were low level, you had to frequently grind levels.

While you could save nearly anywhere, the amount of grinding needed to survive became ridiculous. Moreover, the title did not offer many guide points to avoid getting lost and also featured major pacing issues, especially in the final dungeons of each respective title.

For the record, I beat the PSP version on my Vita. If you have hand cramps or carpal tunnel syndrome, then I strongly suggest playing on Steam or mobile.

Story

Ys I begins with the protagonist, Adol Christin, shipwrecked on an island. Ys fans will tell you this is par for the course and that’s 100% true. In this case, the island he’s on houses two goddesses, a black pearl, and a slew of demons that have invaded the island. The progression is tight, simple, and paces itself fairly quickly. After all, Ys I can be beaten within 10 hours with a lengthy chunk of time spent in the final dungeon.

However, Ys II covers a bit more about the goddesses and the villains which have invaded the world. It’s standard JRPG fantasy fare with a bit of tragedy woven in. Perhaps what’s most impressive about the story is the level of consistency that carries over throughout its sequels as well as Ys Origin.

Audiovisual

Make no mistake. This visual update looks gorgeous. The updated character art and the game designs and levels just look great for a game of its time. Ys has some undeniably strong character designs. I’ve always been fond of the artistic style of the Ys series. Taking character designs from the 80s and remastering them in the 2000s, the designs look gorgeous even today.

I’m in love with Reah, so what?

I can’t say enough good things about the epic music. Dungeon, town, and battle themes alike all hit strongly and are memorable tracks. I’m quite fond of “Holders of Power,” “Tower of the Shadow of Death,” and “Dreaming.” Ys excels as a musical adventure which may very well be the best part of the game.

Gameplay

Unfortunately, the gameplay is where Ys quickly slides down to rock bottom. As mentioned earlier, it features the “bump” combat system. However, this is perhaps the tip of the iceberg of problems featured within the game. I say this because this title was also released on DS as Legacy of Ys: Books I & II. The DS version even featured an attack button. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s better when you consider everything else holding the title back.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II for Nintendo DS (2009)

For starters, if you’re playing on Normal, you will need to grind levels. This happens early on and lasts for the rest of the game. If you do not want to grind, pick Easy mode. It will balance out the challenge which is something I discovered when playing Ys II.

One of the saving graces of Ys II is the ability to use magic.

The bosses themselves are a pain partially because of “bump” combat but also because of the limited window you get to attack them. You will certainly take damage in every fight you’re in. If you’re under-leveled or lack strong armor, you may die almost instantly. One boss even features two floating heads and makes taking damage nigh-unavoidable.

They become endurance matches for your HP rather than a skillful battle of proper timing like, say, Link’s Awakening. I say this because it’s entirely possible to trivialize these very bosses with a bit of grinding making it an incredibly lopsided challenge.

Now, let’s also take a look at the two final dungeons of each game: Darm Tower and Solomon Shrine. In the former, you’re climbing up a lengthy tower, but you will need to go back down several floors, several times, to pick up items and progress.

In the latter, you will find yourself in a less interconnected dungeon, but one that will have you moving all over the place. Not only will you certainly get lost multiple times but you will have to exit the dungeon, multiple times, to finish your progression. These dungeons can take several hours to finish. But the level of warping to-and-from might drive you insane.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I cannot in good faith recommend Ys I & II Chronicles to any but the most patient and curious fans of Action/RPGs or nostalgic fans who played an older version of these games. Both games can be finished in an accumulated 20 hours. While the levels outside of the final dungeon pace themselves relatively well, the momentum halts once you need to grind some more.

If you’re playing on Easy mode, which I strongly recommend, you’ll have to grind less. Unfortunately, the final dungeons will still be lengthy, repetitive, and force you to backtrack for hours. It’s such a shame because I love the audio, visuals, and character designs in this game.

Despite its ambitious audiovisual style and attempt to update the oldest Ys titles, they only hold up well to the most dedicated, hardcore players with enough patience to last through both games. Those seeking a challenge will certainly find it, and then some, in Ys I & II. But aside from its audiovisual presentation and story, you’ll be better off picking another game in the series, such as Ys Origin or Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.

Score: 4/10

Why Skies of Arcadia Deserves to Be Remastered on Modern Consoles.

Sega‘s heralded JRPG, Skies of Arcadia, originally released for the Dreamcast in 2000. When the Sega Dreamcast ended its early run in the console market, Sega opted to port some of its hit Dreamcast titles to consoles of the era. Among them included the JRPG, rebranded now as Skies of Arcadia: Legends, for the Nintendo GameCube.

Skies of Arcadia starts the Sky Pirate, Vyse, and his childhood friend, Fina. They’re Sky Pirates initially taking jobs before fighting against the Valuan Empire. Along the way, they meet Fina, a girl from the Silver Civilization, and more companions along the way. During their resistance against the empire, they’ll build a crew for their airship, fight through dungeons, and even battle airships.

While Skies of Arcadia was loved for its character design, soundtrack, and setting, hindsight is only 20/20. Despite its wondrous and popular aesthetic, Skies of Arcadia suffered from some more common JRPG flaws, These will appear later in the article.

While Skies of Arcadia has only made cameo appearances in Sega titles since the GameCube release, players want to revisit this world again. Ideally, perhaps Sega could not just re-release the title for modern consoles but remaster it with modern quality-of-life improvements.

Rogue’s Landing stage from Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. (2012)

What Made Skies of Arcadia Special

People embraced Skies of Arcadia for its character design, music, and unique setting. Unlike any other game past, you were a Sky Pirate who sailed across the sky. The world was divided by islands and you used an airship to explore.

Its battle system entailed the use of SP. In addition to MP for magic spells, SP offered another layer of depth. These powerful strikes offered impressive cinematics while your character unleashed a devastating blow on the enemy.

The locales, the characters, and even having a pirate crew charmed its players. Perhaps also due to its limited releases, its novelty value remains high among its fans.

What a Proper Remaster Could Entail

Despite its best intentions, Skies of Arcadia suffered from its own series of flaws. Even though Legends attempted to lower the encounter rate, in comparison to other JRPGs, it was still considerably high. It was also no secret that the player would get lost at times without consulting a guide.

Skies of Arcadia’s ship battles moved like molasses. Thanks to the over-emphasis on cutscenes, the animations, and long HP bars could make fights take up to 45 minutes long. This was followed by a boss battle which, if you lost, you would have to do all over again.

The title does not need to focus on improving aesthetics outside of your usual HD Remaster such as Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. Rather, some quality of life improvements would breathe new life into the game.

ACT FFX HD Remaster Comparison
Final Fantasy X (2001, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (2013, 2015)

Final Thoughts

I feel ambivalent towards Skies of Arcadia. On one hand, I love its characters, especially Gilder, Fina, and Vyse. On the other hand, it was a slog to play through. I hated that I lost near the final boss fight because I was under-leveled and forced to grind.

Despite this, I know it has the potential to be an even better game. I would love to see it return, better than before, by Sega’s grace. Whether through an HD Remaster, remake, or even a sequel, here’s hoping Sega will revisit the Blue Rogues once more.

Did you play Skies of Arcadia or Legends? Let us know in the replies below. As always, be sure to follow our social media pages below to bring the latest gaming content with you!

 

 

Hello, readers!  I just to say that SEGA Forever was buzzing a little bit about Skies or Arcadia.  While this isn’t a guaranty, we thought it might show promise.

‘Sorry to people that thought that my promotion of the article made this click bait.  It wasn’t my intention or John Rinyu’s fault.

‘Sorry for any confusion and/or frustration.

-HERETICPRIME

Persona 5 Royal Review

Persona 5 Royal is a Japanese RPG developed and released by Atlus, in 2020, for PlayStation 4. Being a re-release of 2017’s Persona 5, Royal features new features, storylines, quality-of-life improvements, and characters. This improved version of the game echoes Atlus’ previous re-releases in the series: Persona 3 FES (2008) and Persona 4 Golden (2012).

In Persona 5 Royal, you’ll play as the leader of the Phantom Thieves. This group of vigilantes becomes known for erasing the distorted desires of villainous beings. As you live your daily life in the outskirts of Shibuya, Japan, you’ll hang out with friends, enter dungeons, and even play mini-games. The social link-building, well-paced gameplay, and epic music will surely charm fans of the genre.

When I played Persona 5 back in 2018, it introduced me to an immense world. I’ve never played something so stylish, so polished, and yet, so long. Spending over 100 hours, I found it to be one of the greatest games I ever played and finally understood the hype surrounding it. This past year, I’ve beaten both Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden and admit they’re easily as engaging as Persona 5. With that said, I knew it was time to return to Shibuya for another round with Royal.

If you want to view a quick list of updates and additions in Royal, check out the list here.

Story

Persona 5 Royal features the high school transfer student, Ren Amamiya, trying to live life after being convicted of assault. Sentenced to probation he now attends Shujin Academy as an exchange student. Living at Cafe Leblanc, he must spend a year away from home while trying to manage school and his life as the Phantom Thieves.

What I love about Persona 5’s story is its ability to touch on real-life social issues. Your first villain is a teacher/coach who commits sexual abuse against female students while bullying the students on his volleyball team. You’ll fight plenty of demons, shadows, and other mythological beings. But Persona 5 does a handy job of exposing the worst of society by reforming them and changing their hearts. Of course, it’s with plenty of humorous moments along with being dead serious.

What makes Persona 5 Royal’s story especially interesting is its gray morality. The Phantom Thieves become a hot debate in society as to whether their actions are righteous or illegal. It becomes even more complicated thanks to the third semester. If you unlock the right conditions, the third semester’s story will open up. This will bring you to an even grayer area on whether it is alright to rob people of their escapism in order to pursue happiness.

Character Design

Persona 5 offers a colorful cast of appealing characters. Engaging in their social links allows you to develop your relationship and help them solve their life problems. You can even enter romantic relationships with them. The game’s writing brings the player close to the characters with such clever writing as to immerse them in the story. Their pain is your pain.

I love the character design just for how well-animated the characters are. I’m especially fond of Morgana for your being the occasionally smart-assed, sensitive cat friend. Amidst the heroes, villains, and those in-between, you’re bound to find characters you bond with. Also note that, even with as much dialogue in the game, the game cleverly paces it with strong writing.

I should also mention that one particular character received outstanding character development. While their story expired late into the original Persona 5, the 3rd semester brought forth their inner, true self in the grandest way possible. It turned a character I strongly disliked and spun a complete 180 on them in the best conceivable way.

Aesthetics

Persona 5 features gorgeous animations and visuals. It offers a robust, stylish, UI, smooth battle transitions, and feels wonderfully polished in every possible way. Persona 5 Royal now offers 4K support for PS4 Pro as well. The battle animations, anime cutscenes, and portraits breathe life into the game.

Persona 5 Royal_20200308234501

Persona 5 Royal also boasts an exceptional soundtrack. Jazz, rock, and J-Pop all meld together perfectly. Shoji Meguro also composed for Persona 3 and Persona 4 and now brings a more smooth jazz style to P5. Honestly, this could be the greatest soundtrack I have ever heard.

Gameplay

The turn-based Persona gameplay continues its traditions here. You can attack, cast spells, gun down your enemies, and even hold them up. What I love about Royal includes some of the new improvements. You no longer need ammo for your guns, you can unleash powerful Technical attacks, and it features the new Showtime abilities which are both powerful and incredibly flashy. These become your finisher attacks that occur during a desperate situation and work to even the odds in your favor.

Persona 5 Royal rewards players who pursue building their social links. It’s incredibly beneficial to boost them with party members and NPCs alike. Whether it’s to add to your battle repertoire or so party members can shield you from lethal attacks, this game rewards the notion that you go out of your way to care about your allies.

The calendar system progression offers you a set amount of days to complete all your tasks. Knowing which social links to manage becomes entirely up to you. In fact, you choose how to spend every day of your life. Whether you want to boost a social link or boost a social skill, you can talk to allies, eat at restaurants, or even invite them to mini-games. The level of variety in this game offers you a bevy of fun activities with the dialogue that goes with it.

Also, while Persona has a history with randomly generated dungeons, Persona 5 added Palaces. These feel more like your traditional dungeons which feature puzzle-solving elements. As Phantom Thieves, you’ll also engage in stealth gameplay while you hide from and ambush Shadows.

Mementos, the randomly generated dungeon, also features a complete overhaul. In addition to new songs playing at deeper levels, you meet a new character – Jose – who shows up as a merchant. You’ll collect flowers and stamps in order to buy items and boost your EXP, Money, or Item Gain in Mementos. This alone makes it a major step up from the previous release’s Mementos.

Value

Persona 5 Royal is important for the JRPG fan, the Persona newcomer, and even the Persona 5 fan. Newer fans will certainly appreciate one of the greatest JRPGs out there while veteran Persona 5 fans can unearth dozens of hours of new content. Royal features a full-on story expansion that offers new social links, mini-games, activities, unlockables, and an entire third semester.

This comes along with various improvements to battle gameplay, exploration, and the abilities you gain. To be honest, I found Persona 5 to already be a near-perfect game. Doing the unthinkable is to polish it and add more to a game I already valued so highly.

If I had to say I had any gripes with Persona 5 Royal, it’s that it can admittedly become too easy. Even if you download the DLC Personas in the Velvet Room, that alone is not enough to break the player. You’ll still need to be on your toes so you don’t get one-shotted or ambushed.

However, strategic management of social links will allow you to gain these high-level Personas sooner. Meanwhile, your continued support of your allies, especially NPC social links, will grant you abilities that will significantly boost you against powerful enemies. By the time I finished the third palace, I was playing on Merciless difficulty and died only a small handful of times.

Despite this, Persona 5 Royal offers a level of flexibility that can enable players to become godlike or even balance their challenge. While you can, in fact, become quite broken partially due to DLC Personas, it’s entirely up to you whether you choose to or not. Even then, you will surely face challenging bosses and need to keep your guard up from enemies who can KO your protagonist in a fell swoop.

Final Thoughts

I cannot say enough good things about Persona 5 Royal. It might be quite possibly the greatest JRPG, if not the greatest game, I have ever played. The 172 hours I spent immersing myself in this experience is among the greatest I’ve ever enjoyed in a game. I’ve played countless hours of other JRPGs, including Persona 3 and 4, and I’m not sure if anything will ever be possible to top this.

Nothing feels quite as immersive as getting to live as your character, indulge in social links, and invite them to play darts or pool while boosting your stats along with them. Everything you do grants incentive and rewards the player. This includes anything from building social links to implementing battle strategies. The gorgeous, shiny graphics, the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies you, and your daily life brings immense levels of world-building within your little corner of Tokyo.

Overall, this is a must-play for any RPG fan including, again, those who played the original Persona 5. The amount of content far surpasses the price tag while the quality improvements raise the bar to the highest possible standard. With that being said, I hope you will enjoy this game as much as I did.

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