Guilty Gear Strive: A Look at the Open-Beta and What to Expect from the Full Release.

Guilty Gear Strive is a 2D fighting game being developed by Arc Systems Works for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC. The latest entry in the series will follow Guilty Gear Xrd. Among the most defining elements of this title includes the addition of rollback netcode. For those looking to try a prime fighting game online experience, longtime fans and newcomers can expect to try the game later this year.

I tried the Strive beta this past month. As a fan who played Guilty Gear XX back in the day for PS2, I can’t say I’ve followed this or BlazBlue closely by any means. While I always liked the music and aesthetics, Arc Systems Works’ games have always pushed me away due to being too complicated for me. I always preferred Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and other traditional fighters. However, my time spent with Dragon Ball FighterZ has given me an avenue to try an ArcSys game that doesn’t feel intimidating.

Feeling a little more warmed up to it, and thanks to all the hype, I went ahead and tried Strive’s open beta. Just before it ended, I got to get a few online matches in and play around in Training Mode. As a casual fighting game fan, though, this one might begin to capture my interest. Not only does the rollback netcode seriously entice me, but I daresay it looks much more user-friendly than any game ArcSys has put out before. If I can play a Guilty Gear title and not feel overwhelmed by all the menus and options, I feel I could definitely add this into my lineup.

What to Expect

When I played the beta, I was given the tutorial, training modes, and online lobby. Now, since this was a beta, I could forgive the fact that I was taking more disconnections than I was actual matches. Despite that, when I did play matches, it felt incredibly smooth like I was playing offline.

The fast-paced fighting action that Guilty Gear is known for will not disappoint veteran fans. Furthermore, newcomers who may have played other fighting games will surely feel welcomed in the tutorial mode. You can also learn about techniques, such as Roman Cancel and Psych Burst, on the official website.

Strive seems to switch around several mechanics and gives them to you without a lengthy and intimidating tutorial. As someone who didn’t play ArcSys games often before, I feel geared up to try this one. Strive might be the fighting game that defines the next generation. However, since I downloaded the beta late, I only played it for a day before it disappeared.

Unless they release a second beta, your best bet to learn some of the game mechanics will come from videos such as this one.

Despite Guilty Gear Strive being delayed, discussions run rampant about a second open beta before the game’s release. Be sure to stay tuned with us for that announcement should it happen!

Final Thoughts

I love fighting games. I primarily keep up with Smash Bros. but have always wanted to jump back into traditional fighters as well. I’ve been eyeing my “secondary” tournament fighter to play and have bounced around a number of titles. Right now, Dragon Ball FighterZ has my attention. But even then, people will tell you the netcode is outright bad.

Guilty Gear not only excels in its music and fast-paced gameplay but will come out with rollback netcode as well. For those wondering, rollback netcode is becoming the standard in online fighting games especially during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Developed by the same studio, Arc Systems Works’ next game might be the best fighter they’ve ever released. I feel many of the FighterZ fanbase would jump ship to Guilty Gear Strive just to get an optimal online title to play. With that said, I may well do the same.

Even though I’ve spent years avoiding most of ArcSys’ games due to them being comparatively complicated, I feel this one is warmer towards your casual fighting game fan. The user-friendly introduction and tutorial certainly help and I am willing to give this one a try. Plus Sol Badguy’s one of my favorite characters so it goes without saying I already have a character I can jump right to using.

With that said, look for Guilty Gear Strive to come out on PS4, PS5, and PC on June 11, 2021. Keep up with All Cool Things by following our social media links. We’ll keep you up to date with Guilty Gear Strive news as it becomes available.

Until next time!

Resident Evil Village Preview: New Details on Trailer, Demo, and Alluring Antagonists.

Earlier this month, Capcom unveiled their Resident Evil Showcase. This presentation featured several new ways to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Resident Evil survival horror series. But moreover, they showcased a new trailer for Resident Evil Village as well as a PS5-exclusive demo. Prior to the game’s release, Capcom will release a new demo for all platforms featuring the title.

One of the biggest eyecatchers involves the new villains featured in the demo. Among them include Lady Alcina Dimitrescu, an 8 ft. tall voluptuous woman with a vampire complex. Aiding her are three girls, dressed in black, which are presumed to be her daughters. Needless to say, the internet quickly became smitten with her.

“Welcome to the family, son.”

What we know about the trailer features a castle similarly to Resident Evil 4. Moreover, much of the setup features a sort of gothic atmosphere as the women chasing you around seek your blood. As such, you will find pools of blood within the catacombs.

What to Expect from Resident Evil Village.

Resident Evil Village is romanized as “VIII,” indicating this is also Resident Evil 8. As such, it is the direct sequel to Resident Evil 7. Featuring RE7’s protagonist, Ethan Winters, his wife Mia Winters goes missing once more. He must also rescue their newborn daughter, Rosemary, from their kidnappers.

The first-person view returns from Resident Evil 7. It will also feature an inventory setup akin to Resident Evil 4. Additionally, a merchant will appear to sell you wares.

Capcom released a PlayStation 5-exclusive demo called Maiden. This roughly 20-minute demo features you playing as an unknown protagonist attempting to escape the jail beneath the castle. It will introduce you to the basic mechanics of the game.

Additionally, Capcom revealed a new multiplayer title. Tiled RE: Verse, this will feature major characters from across the series duking it out in free-for-all gunfire. While Capcom received lukewarm reception for releasing Resistance alongside the Resident Evil 3 remake, this title will also be released alongside Village.

Final Thoughts

I can’t say I’m not excited for Resident Evil Village. I adored Resident Evil 7 and found it to be one of the best games I ever played. I strongly recommend it to everyone reading this article right now. I hope Capcom will polish Resident Evil Village just as finely as they did with 7.

I honestly cannot take my eyes off the new antagonists either. Resident Evil scarcely features an antagonist as attractive as Lady Dimistrescu. She’s easily my favorite new female villain design in the series.

Resident Evil Village comes out on May 7, 2021. It will release for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. Be sure to keep up with us and follow our social media links to get the latest coverage on the title!

Until next time!

Publishers of Sense – A Cyberpunk Ghost Story Refuse to Censor Their Game.

Earlier this week, news came to Nintendo Switch owners that an M-rated visual novel title would debut on the system. The marketing of large-chested anime-inspired designs inspired outrage from viewers on social media.

Despite the title having been released on Steam, the upcoming release for Switch has also caused social media users to attack Nintendo as well for releasing the game on their system. While the Switch is no stranger to Japanese otome games, the outrage perhaps stems from people’s views of Nintendo maintaining a family-friendly image.

The summary of outrage stems from a Facebook post by Shogun Get-chan. Here, it showcases the Twitter backlash towards the publisher and developer. The last post shows the publisher responding to the backlash and refusing to kowtow to the critics.

Top Hat Studios followed up with a post summing up many of the hateful, critical messages sent to them.

Likewise, developers who have had their games published by Top Hat Studios also chimed in with their response.

About Sense – A Cyberpunk Ghost Story

Titled Sense – A Cyberpunk Ghost Story, this visual novel showcases a narrative surrounding a supernatural mystery. The player will solve puzzles while exploring in 2D, not unlike Atlus and Vanillaware’s 2020 hit, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.

Censorship in Recent Games

This past decade was no stranger to censorship. Sony, in particular, has been in the hot seat for their policies regarding western releases of Japanese games. Titles, such as Senran Kagura 7EVEN, would not receive a western release on PS4. Moreover, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 did not receive an overseas release despite the previous two titles being localized. Additionally, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet was also censored even in Asian countries. Furthermore, Mortal Kombat developers were accused of kowtowing to the censorship crowd due to designing the female characters to dress more conservatively than in their past incarnations.

You can also date some of the censorship issues back to the mid-2010s with the release of certain titles for Nintendo systems. The 3DS featured Fire Emblem Fates and a heavily localized script that deviated from the original release. Furthermore, Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water on Wii U lost several costumes in the localized release.

What This Means

The shift in politics goes hand-in-hand with the growing culture of social media. Game developers do their best to cater to fans and avoid getting canceled and being labeled as bigots. However, Japanese game and anime developers continuously show that they will do their own thing whether or not western consumers complain about their moves.

Likewise, people promoting censorship and politically correct culture have called out developers. People like Katsuhiro Harada, the developer of Tekken, have expressed their own views on western politics. People seeking clout on Twitter have, as such, chosen to start their own campaign.

However, just as the culture mounted into attacking game publishers and developers for their right to express their art in their works, perhaps Top Hat Studios’ stance will take one step against the overly-sensitive political culture within the gaming industry. The outrage has, in turn, drawn the attention of potential fans who may have never heard of Sense otherwise.

Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is currently available for PC. It will release for Nintendo Switch on January 7th, 2021. You can download the title from the Nintendo eShop. Keep up with us as we keep you up on AllCoolThings’ latest and greatest gaming content. Be sure to follow our links on social media below!

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

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Review – More of the Same, But Better.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a side-scrolling platformer released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The sequel to 2018’s Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, this Castlevania-throwback experience features new characters, stages, and even 2-player co-op. Having recently beaten the game’s Final Chapter, I’ll briefly discuss the best and not-so-best parts of ArtPlay and IntiCreates’ latest title.

For anyone wondering, Koji Igarashi‘s studio, ArtPlay, developed the spiritual successor to Castlevania, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Inti Creates, known for Mega Man Zero and Gunvolt, developed the 8-bit Curse of the Moon titles. While they feature similar characters and settings, Curse of the Moon’s storyline spins off from Ritual of the Night’s. Thus, the two are not interetwined.

While I find CotM 2 to be quite an improvement over the first game, I think it still clings to some of the previous title’s fundamental flaws. For one, I don’t really need an excuse to replay a game just for a few different gimmicks. If I want to replay the game, i would rather do it on my own terms instead of being cheesed into unlocking the true ending. That aside, however, its presentation offers a stellar job with boss battles, levels, and gameplay.

Story

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 follows the plot of the first title. However, Zangetsu is now accompanied by new companions. These include Dominique, the exorcist from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a sniper named Robert, and a mech-piloting corgi named Hachi.

The story’s straightforward narrative involves going to a castle and slaying the demons to save the world. However, it takes some interesting twists within the game’s replay formula. Each one follows an ending, a new chapter, and an opening. Each of these chapters also affects the lineup of your party.

While little changes regarding the level designs, the final boss will be altered in both Chapter 2 and the Final Chapter. There are four different chapters and the final one features the true ending. Additionally, some of the dialogue among party members ends up rather humorous. Between that and the cutscenes that play between chapters, it becomes a bit more worth replaying the chapters with a slight change of pace.

Audiovisual

Much like its predecessor, Bloodstained follows the classic NES Castlevania aesthetic. The 8-bit title features an array of gorgeous colors and boss animations. Similar to Shovel Knight, the game presents various levels, bosses, and design choices far surpassing the NES’ own capabilities.

The chiptune music provides a selection of fast-paced music fitting for a Castlevania-esque title. I found the tunes to be catchy and at times quite engaging, such as The Demon’s Crown. I was also quite fond of the boss theme.

Gameplay

The 2D action gameplay features platforming, the ability to switch between multiple characters, and exploring non-linear stages. This means you can choose different paths to clear the stage depending on the characters you have available. Additionally, each character has their own playstyle.

Unfortunately, I was not at all fond of using Robert. While he served to be a sniper with long-range capabilities, he had no way of protecting himself up close. He felt woefully out of place in this game since his mechanics made clearing stages or bosses extremely difficult if not impossible.

Another slight issue I had was with Zangetsu. He gains a more powerful sword later in the game which gives him vertical slashe and multi-strikes. After Chapter 2, however, if the player didn’t hunt down the secret sword, they would lose it to the basic Zanmatou in the EX Episode. I feel downgrading abilities from a player is a big no-no.

Bloodstained also once again goes the route of “beat game and replay” ad nauseam. They try to write a different chapter of the tale but you’re really just repeating the game again with a slightly different roster in the 2nd chapter or the CotM 1 cast in the EX Chapter. By the final chapter, you have everyone, albeit briefly, to collect parts to reach the final level. But you’re just doing the same stages over again.

The developers would benefit greatly from creating more new stages to go with each stage rather than force the player to do the same game four times to get the final ending. Sonic Heroes is one example of a game that makes the player replay the exact same game, with slight differences, just to get the best ending.

Final Thoughts

I will admit that I greatly enjoyed the co-op in this title. The 2-player co-op allows players to jump in and exit anytime. While it’s limited to offline play, it still offers players to work together to defeat bosses or even access hidden areas.

Another good part was the difficulty level. The Veteran difficulty was tough as nails. Casual Mode offers its own challenge as the stage layout and enemies don’t change. After Episode 2, I switched to Casual Mode because I didn’t feel any need to play the same game again. I just wanted to finish the story. Furthermore, the bosses just become HP sponges on later chapters and it’s no longer enjoyable to fight them and mimic the same pattern each time.

Bloodstained does a great job of presenting a classic 2D platforming experience. However, it still relies heavily on gimmicks like forced replay or unbalanced characters in a side-scroller. Even compared to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, it was at least possible to solo the game with Trevor, Sypha, Grant, or Alucard.

Despite these mild shortcomings, Circle of the Moon 2 is well-worth the purchase. Even if it’s just one playthrough, you’ll surely find an enjoyable challenge and experience through the title. If you’re missing classic 2D Castlevania action or just enjoyed the first Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon title, it’s recommended giving it a try. I found the level designs to be vastly improved and more varied than the first Curse of the Moon title.

Whether you decide to continue with the replay chapters or not is up to you. However, I recommend at least playing through it once to all classic gaming fans who seek a real challenge.

Verdict: 8/10

Review Plus: River City Girls.

Welcome to our first edition of Review Plus!

You will find our review shortly after the introduction. In addition to our review of the game, you will find useful tidbits of information covering River City Girls. Plus, this review will address the beat ’em up genre and the direction it’s moving in.

River City Girls is a 2D beat ’em up developed by WayForward. Known for the Shantae series, WayForward adapted the River City Ransom (NES) title which is known as the Kunio-Kun series in Japan. Featuring animated cutscenes by Studio Trigger, River City Girls features classic 2D pixel artwork along with anime transitions for the opening, boss fights, and endings. In addition, you will find part of the story told through manga-like cutscenes.

Despite its good intentions, I believe River City Girls falls short of its potential. While it features incredibly strong brawler action, a few issues hamper an otherwise decent revival of the 2D beat ’em up genre. However, the classic style gameplay remains both the focal point and the game’s strongest suit.

Story

The game starts off with Misako and Kyoko receiving a mysterious text that their boyfriends have been kidnapped. Contrary to the stories of games, like Double Dragon, the premise of the story reverses the role.

Perhaps the most pressing part of the story comes from the game’s ending. It turns the entire plot on its head in a surprising way and emphasizes the girls’ true role. I give major props to WayForward for this one.

Misako and Kyoko play foil to each other throughout the game. These single-track-minded women just want an excuse to throwdown. Despite their idiocy, you can’t help but feel charmed by their tenacity.

Unfortunately, I did not find much of the story and dialogue to be amazing. Aside from a little bit of witty banter, I found it to be cringeworthy. While much of the boss dialogue feels like wasted banter, one particular character, Godai, seriously bothered me.

Your resident creeper-stalker feeds you information while trying to get into your good graces. Even without Godai, much of the dialogue in cutscenes felt like forced humor. I honestly wanted to skip most of it but didn’t want to leave out any possible useful information.

For better or for worse, River City Girls maintains a cast of wacky characters.

Visuals

One of the high points of River City Girls comes from the artwork. The character designs and backdrops feature well-drawn details. I’m especially particular about the shop designs. Several shops have their own art of the girls shopping while a different shopkeeper takes their order.

River City Girls features 2D sprite artwork somewhat reminiscent of the 16-bit era. However, I’ve seen this style before used in multiple indie games which it honestly feels more like than a mainstream title. While WayForward tends to use a more cartoonish art style for their flagship series, Shantae, this reminds me more of games like Katana Zero.

Katana Zero (2019)

What I strongly dislike, however, is how small the text is on the menu. The menu is displayed on the character’s smartphone. However, I had to come up to my 52″ HDTV just to check inputs or side-quests that I could not read from my usual sitting position.

Unfortunately, I also ran into multiple frame-drops throughout the game. They didn’t prevail literally the entire game but were noticeable when they did. Even after a year’s release, I’m surprised WayForward still has not patched them out.

Audio

You’ll feel a solid amount of satisfaction breaking your fists on enemies and crashing weapons over their heads. However, I found some sound effects lacking. I don’t get why an enemy slamming a hammer on concrete produces no sound. On the other hand, bashing enemies feels satisfying as you might expect and keeps you wanting more.

Despite middling feelings on the sound effects, most of my enjoyment came from the music. Much of it was catchy and, along with a number of sound effects, featured 8-bit cues you would hear in the NES River City Ransom. Several of the vocal sounds featured some catchy beats you would enjoy while fighting.

Gameplay

This game presents its beat ’em up gameplay in a manner that says the genre never even left. It feels so seamless to beat down enemies with combos, throws, stomps, and weapon attacks. Despite this, however, the game will not count your combos.

One of my favorite parts of gameplay was the ability to recruit enemies to join you. If they surrendered, you could grab them and enlist them as summons. Similarly to Marvel vs. Capcom, they would hop in, use their signature attack, pose, and hop out. You would not be able to use them for a set time.

My problem came from the inconsistency of combos, however. This isn’t Tekken, but you will maximize your damage by juggling your enemies. Unfortunately, your timing must change based on enemy types. This threw me off multiple times.

Gameplay Issues

Another problem I had came from how invincibility frames work. Congratulations to the developer for not giving the characters invincibility frames while using throw moves. It makes them useless when you’re getting pounded in the back of the head. From my experience with other games in the genre, this is a big no-no.

Also, I had a moderate issue with the equips. The Frilled Bra and Frilly Bottom might be the only useful accessories I used. Everything else gives around a 5% increase or a 5% chance to activate. These passives were so useless that you could easily get through the game without using them. I wouldn’t bother buying them and would save your money for the Dojo or healing items instead.

Unlike other beat ’em ups, this also features an RPG system where you equip gear, level up, and can use items to heal. For anyone who remembers Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, this is where these elements came from. The Scott Pilgrim game paid massive homage to River City Ransom and used many of the mechanics as well.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (2010)

Let me also mention this game is full of load times transitioning between each screen. If it was another large area, I could understand that. But I feel they put no effort into good transitioning for a 2D game released in 2019. This will likely annoy you especially if you’re making trips back to shops to pick up items or new moves.

Co-op

This game is best experienced with a friend. However, not everyone is big into beat ’em ups. If you’re flying solo, you might have a harder time with it than others. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for others to play with, this game does not feature online co-op.

However, for a 2019 brawler, this feels woefully outdated. Multiple games of its genre, released in the last decade, feature online co-op. Even the recently released Streets of Rage 4 features online co-op. I do not understand why WayForward opted not to release a feature such a basic option in a multiplayer game released today.

Extras

This game encourages a level of exploration. Unlike the stage-by-stage games prevalent within the genre, the River City titles have you moving through destinations in multiple directions. You can also find statues of Sabu and destroy them. Completing the quest of destruction unlocks the true hidden final boss fight.

Additionally, you can unlock New Game Plus. Doing so not only lets you carry over your gear from the first playthrough but you can also unlock two characters. Riki and Kunio, the main characters of River City Ransom, become available.

However, this will otherwise not change much regarding the game itself. The only other incentive is a cat side-quest that unlocks infinite SP. Keep in mind, however, that Riki and Kunio are only a glorified palette swap. Nothing about the story changes as the sequences are still voiced by the girls.

The Future of the Genre

River City Girls was the first game in which I recall to pave the way forward for brawlers in the current generation. Previously, WayForward released Double Dragon Neon for PS3 and Xbox 360. Plus, Double Dragon IV came out to a lukewarm response. WayForward’s advertisement at least shined a light on a bright and colorful attempt to bring attention to the new game.

One year after its release, we now have Streets of Rage 4. Sega’s shining star beat ’em up series came back after a 25-year hiatus. Furthermore, even Raw Thrills released an arcade-exclusive TMNT title that pays homage to Konami’s titles of the past.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018)

2D beat ’em ups feel largely obscured by their 3D evolution. Modern games include Platinum Games’ Astral Chain or Sega’s Yakuza series. It’s hard to find the interest generated in beat ’em ups in an era without the 90s interest of arcade games. However, the demand for the genre remains real and strong enough for developers to take notice. The genre is not dead and, with this momentum, might become a mainstay for the decade once more.

Also, the creator of Scott Pilgrim noted that Ubisoft, developers of the game, reached out to him.

Final Thoughts

Overall, River City Girls excels in combat despite several flaws hampering both gameplay and story alike. I found it hard to put down as I was pummeling enemies, bosses, and even cars. It even served a heavy enough challenge for me to retry bosses several times over.

However, its addition of annoying dialogue, incredibly short length for a game released in 2019, and a few bothersome issues to gameplay made me want to end the game once I was over halfway through.

While it was cool back in Double Dragon to have enemies that looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 80s. No, it is not funny today to have these same enemies that make “Ahnold” noises with Terminator references.

WayForward’s cheap humor stems from the Shantae series which is hit-or-miss. They could do without forcing comedy and that alone would boost the grade. If you want a better, cute beat ’em up based on anime aesthetics, you could always go with Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds.

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds (2013)

However, if you’re after a beat ’em up and you don’t mind the cheesy dialogue and voice acting, then go right for it. Even then, it features undeniable charm from the character designs. It’s at least 8 hours of fun enemy-bashing and button-mashing.

To summarize, I recommend it for enthusiasts of the genre or those seeking to play some couch co-op action with a friend or a loved one. You’ll enjoy the music, the cutscenes, and the retro homages. It’s easy to pick up and play. However, I don’t think it qualifies as being a game for everyone.

In this era, there are scarcely any releases you will find in the genre besides re-releases of classics. If you passed up River City Girls, you wouldn’t miss much more than some solid aesthetics for an otherwise alright game in the genre. Depending on the systems you own, you could download classics like Double Dragon II, Streets of Rage 2, or even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. If you want a modern release still available on current systems, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds would surely endear you.

However, if you like beat ’em up action, then these issues might not stop you from trying a decent brawler. I recommend it to enthusiasts of the genre but I wouldn’t expect it to be anything impressive outside of the aesthetics and your standard brawler fanfare. Despite this, it should still entertain you for a few hours. While it’s not a bad game, it could truly be better.

Score: 6.5/10

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Dragon Quest XI S Coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.

Last week, Square-Enix confirmed that Dragon Quest XI S would come to major consoles and PC later this year. Originally released in the west, in 2018, Dragon Quest XI came out to rave reviews when it debuted on the PlayStation 4 and PC. While the original Japanese version came out for 3DS, Square-Enix prepared a re-release for the title shortly after its overseas debut.

Dragon Quest XI S, a Nintendo Switch exclusive re-release, featured the 2D mode showcased in the Japanese 3DS version. However, this version of the game also added new cutscenes, storylines, bosses, and even endings to the game. This stellar level of content warranted a replay for veteran fans while introducing new ones to a fantastic JRPG. However, the latest announcement by Square-Enix ensures that Dragon Quest XI S will now be playable for owners of any modern console.

The Significance of Dragon Quest XI S

This title showcased a phenomenal level of polish from a 110-hour game. While America always struggled to embrace Japan’s long-loved series, Square-Enix added an extra dose of marketing to appeal to a larger fanbase. However, Nintendo took it even a step further the following year.

In 2019, Nintendo announced Dragon Quest XI S for Nintendo Switch. This is followed by E3 2019 where Nintendo features the game’s Hero as a new character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Shortly after, they would follow it with a new trailer for the game. Upon its release, Square-Enix would later go onto mention the game succeeded.

For PlayStation and PC fans, this is a return to form with new content not featured in the original release. For Xbox fans, this is the debut of Dragon Quest. This is also the first JRPG featuring Akira Toriyama’s creative designs since Blue Dragon released on Xbox 360 in 2007. Ultimately, everyone can now enjoy the definitive edition of this legendary title.

Final Thoughts

I found Dragon Quest XI to be one of the best games I ever played. I personally rank it up with Persona 5 Royal as one of the best JRPGs of the current generation. Its charming character design, writing, aesthetics, and battle system all hit excel points. It never forced level grinding, save for an optional encounter, and proved to have a solid challenge for those who sought it.

I did not play Dragon Quest XI S, however, as I felt satisfied with my first playthrough of the original release. Despite this, I’m currently entertaining myself with Persona 5 Royal which grants me a 100+ hour replay after beating Persona 5. With that being said, I can’t say I’m not considering playing through Dragon Quest XI S at some point.

If you’re looking for a title that paces itself well, both in story and in gameplay, Square-Enix’s masterpiece will suit your needs. It’s a worthy addition to anyone’s library. With the multiplatform release of the Definitive Edition, I strongly recommend playing this title.

Dragon Quest XI S comes to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on December 4th, 2020. You can pre-order the game now. Be sure to follow up with us on AllCoolThings by following our social media pages below!

Koji Igarashi Announces Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2.

Earlier this week, Koji Igarashi (IGA), founder of ArtPlay, announced a sequel to 2017’s retro 8-bit love-letter to the classic Castlevania series, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. The title will receive a sequel featuring Zangetsu, main character of the first adventure, as well as three new playable characters replacing the playable cast from the first title.

About Bloodstained

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon serves as the spin-off precursor IGA’s larger project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. With the former title, developed by Inti Creates, it served as a tribute to the NES Castlevania titles. Ritual of the Night, however, served as a successor to IGA’s own produced Castlevania titles. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon 2, however, already shows more promise given the trailer’s use of new stage design choices.

While Curse of the Moon felt like a proper love-letter to the original Castlevania titles, its design scope felt limited beyond a few incentives to replay. The sequel, however, already shows the kind of promise you might expect from a quality indie platformer such as Shovel Knight.

What makes Bloodstained special?

The NES Castlevania titles were known for their critically-acclaimed platforming. The original Castlevania title remains a favorite among NES fans to this day. The first entry featured Simon Belmont, the gothic horror enemies, 5 different sub-weapons, a killer soundtrack, and the first of many epic battles against Lord Dracula.

Koji Igarashi’s Metrodivania titles integrated even more storyline into the narrative ranging from Alucard fighting his father, Dracula, to Soma Cruz, protagonist of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, discovering he was Dracula’s reincarnation. The exploration and map system borrowed heavily from Nintendo’s Metroid series while the RPG elements allowed you to equip weapons, armor, spells, and level up with EXP.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon continued the former’s tradition by allowing you to switch characters like in Castlevania III. Ritual of the Night took over Symphony of the Night and onward’s formula, allowing you to explore the castle to your heart’s content. Also note that Circle of the Moon (CotM) itself is a reference to Castlevania: Circle of the Moon which was released on GBA in 2001.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy platforming titles, we strongly recommend checking out Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. As with Shovel Knight, it serves as a love-letter to classic 8-bit platforming with a polished sheen, epic boss battles, and even replay incentives.

I found Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night to be a fine game. The series already shows that it features the spirit of Castlevania in many ways. As someone who also feels great disappointment in Konami’s performance – or lack thereof – over the past decade, IGA has yet to let us down.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 will release on July 10th, 2020. Keep up with us as we cover ArtPlay and IntiCreates‘ latest title. The title will also feature a 2-player co-op mode. If you are seeking more info on Bloodstained, follow us on our social media links below. We’ll keep you updated with Curse of the Moon 2 here.

5 Essential Resident Evil Titles You Must Play

With the recent release of Resident Evil 3, Capcom has surged the series back into full mainstream. Following Resident Evil 7’s revival of the series and Resident Evil 2’s heavily successful remake, we want to promote the five best Resident Evil titles. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or have played one or two games, this list will help you find the best games to play in the series. And the good news is that all of them are currently available for modern consoles and PC.

#5 Resident Evil 3

Starting with the most recent release, Resident Evil 3 successfully breathes new life into the 1999 classic. Featuring Jill Valentine, you’ll escape from Raccoon City while being pursued by a powerful B.O.W.: Nemesis. This variation of the Tyrant comes armed with heavy weaponry, moves faster than Jill, and will confront you throughout the game.

Utilizing the RE Engine from RE2 and RE7, this title features gorgeous animations using the over-the-shoulder perspective and the survival horror experience. Despite being only 12 hours long, with only one scenario campaign, Resident Evil 3 packs a punch from start to finish. Every element feels incredibly well-polished.

Original vs. Remake

To be honest, though, I struggle to pick a version of the game to recommend here. I have a soft-spot for the 1999 release. I loved the Live Selection and I preferred the structure of Nemesis’ pop-up encounters over him becoming a chase segment in the remake. For impact, I found it to be the best of the original PlayStation trilogy due to adding elements like ammo crafting, dodge step, and 180 turn.

On the flip-side, however, Carlos and several other characters got some amazing redesigns. The gorgeous visuals, sound, and animation really make the remake pop-out and breathe new life into it. If you loved the Resident Evil 2 remake, I can recommend it. If you’re not willing to spend full price on a shorter adventure, though, wait for a price drop.

However, keep in mind that major parts of the story were altered, as well as the level designs. Unlike Resident Evil 2’s remake, this feels like a total re-imagining in every conceivable way. With that said, I recommend the remake for newer players. But if you’re curious and want to see how Resident Evil 3 started, I cannot recommend the original enough. You can pick it up for $5.99 on the PSN Store for PS3 or Vita. It doesn’t have the gorgeous resolution of the Dreamcast or GameCube releases, but it’s the original version of the core game and definitively worth the price and then some.

#4 Resident Evil Remake

When series director, Shinji Mikami, stated that the 1997 Resident Evil hasn’t aged well, he set out to remake the title. Rebuilt from the ground up, Resident Evil (dubbed REmake) featured a new mansion layout, dialogue, voice acting, and boss battles. While it was largely the same game, it became a massive improvement over the original in every conceivable way. The gorgeous visuals stood out well enough to still be considered among the best on the GameCube even today. This definitive classic set the precedent for survival horror and what a proper remake should be built like.

In the past decade, REmake was released for HD consoles as well. Scaling up the resolution made a pretty game even prettier. On PS4, the title also runs at 60 FPS. And on the HD version, you gain access to new costumes as well as the ability to move much easier. You can choose to keep the infamous tank controls, but you also gain the option to run freely for smoother control.

Perhaps the best way to play this game is to purchase Resident Evil Origins Collection. You’ll pick up REmake as well as Resident Evil Zero in one fell swoop. But you can also purchase REmake standalone digitally. It’s all up to you if you want the main game or to take a dive on the series prequel as well. In addition to PS4, Xbox One, and PC, Resident Evil: Origins Collection is also available for Nintendo Switch.

#3 Resident Evil 7

Go tell Aunt Rhody.”

The chilling song in the opening tells the story. It tells the story of a man trying to rescue the wife he thought dead. As he enters the Baker Household, he finds grisly sights, dead bodies, and his wife, now turned by some kind of mind control.

Resident Evil 7 tells the story of the revival of survival horror. Bringing back tight corridors, monsters around the corner, and limited ammo, your attempt to escape this madhouse brings horror to a new level. Not only are you fighting zombies and members of the household, but you’ll come across grisly sights that will test your nerves. In a way, it’s RE’s foray into psychological horror as well, disturbing the player with gory sights wherever you turn.

I would argue Resident Evil 7 has the best narrative in the series. Even though it originally seems disconnected from the rest of the series, you’ll eventually read documents that help tie in with the rest of the series. Some lore alludes to the Raccoon City incident. Meanwhile, you’ll also discover involvement with Chris Redfield, who even has his own DLC campaign. It will also delve further into the mind of a psychopath featured in the main story.

Resident Evil 7 offers multiple modes and mini-games as well as two DLC campaigns. If you buy the Gold Edition, these come with the game for free. They’re several hours long each and worth the purchase to bring the story full circle.

As a whole, Resident Evil 7 revitalized the genre in the best way possible. Resident Evil 7 isn’t just a numbered title in the series, but a revolution. If you want the true meaning of horror, disgust, intrigue, and tragedy, I cannot recommend this one enough. Finally, be sure to check out some of the accolades befitting this title.

#2. Resident Evil 2 Remake

Using the aforementioned RE Engine, Resident Evil 2 successfully delivered a remake of the classic 1998 title. Featuring the over-the-shoulder camera from past Resident Evil titles, the engine allowed for fantastic animations, controls, and lighting. Dimly lit rooms of the RPD obscured enemies with all but a flashlight. Despite facing even tougher enemies than before, the ability to aim, craft ammo, and save without ribbons gave players much more control and freedom in the survival horror world. Note that if you played on Hard Mode, you would need to procure ink ribbons to save. In doing so, it offered a challenge for everyone.

Featuring two campaigns to get the true ending, the game would take roughly 20 hours to finish, if not a little more. Even after you clear the game, you could play some of the extra modes. These served as sort of escape missions where you fight off hordes of zombies to make it to your goal. They offered a score attack element almost akin to The Mercenaries from past titles. If you died, you would do a little better next time.

Resident Evil 2 excelled past expectations and brought forth a new definitive chapter in survival horror experience. It would later go on to be nominated for 2019 Game of the Year at The Game Awards and win the GotY award for the Golden Joysticks.

#1. Resident Evil 4

It goes without saying Resident Evil 4 tops this list. This revolutionary title introduced a camera angle that not only standardized modern Resident Evil, but many other popular games as well. Titles like God of War 4, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Horizon: Zero Dawn all use this angle as well. While loyal fans saw the direction of survival horror drift towards fighting off hordes of undead, the gameplay offered perhaps the single most polished experience in the series.

While fighting off impressive enemies and using various close-combat mechanics, Leon was given many ways to defend himself. Along with vaulting over rails and hopping out of windows, this gave the player tons of freedom over control. In doing so, it optimized the gameplay and set a new series standard. Even after you beat the game, you could play a New Game+ and carry over your goods and unlocked costumes. Those seeking a challenge could also try their hand at Professional difficulty.

Even after you beat the game, you could play through The Mercenaries mode. You could play as 5 characters in 4 different maps. This score attack mode pre-loaded you with an inventory, arming you to take down as many B.O.W.s as you could while extending the time. 5-star rewards would unlock weapons.

All-in-all, Resident Evil 4 is the defining gameplay experience with some memorable dialogue and narrative. The extras it offers remains unparalleled to this day. Plus, every release after the original GameCube version featured Assignment Ada – an extra story mode – as well as new costumes. Resident Evil 4 is currently available on all modern consoles, in full HD, including on Nintendo Switch. If you’re looking for one of the single greatest games of all time, I cannot recommend this one enough.

Final Thoughts

Resident Evil’s best games range from quality survival horror to groundbreaking titles that were heralded among the best of all time. They all feature impressive enemies, boss battles, exploration, and music. If you want to try the series, these are the best ones to start with. Depending on your experience, you may want to start with Origins Collection to play the story in order. Otherwise, you can jump into RE4 to play the best game, 7 for the new start, or 2 and 3 if you want to try the latest remakes. It really doesn’t matter because which one you start with. Each title sets itself apart well from the others, offering their own experience. Go with the one your heart tells you to because you’re in for a treat if you enjoy survival horror.

Do you have a favorite? Which one appeals to you the most? Let us know in the comments below.