Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: Shin Megami Tensei IV

Review by Pokefreak

Title: Shin Megami Tensei IV (translated as True Goddess Reincarnation IV)
Developer: ATLUS
Platform: 3DS
Bottom Line: Expensive and difficult, but rewarding and classic.

The Shin Megami Tensei name is commonplace for any RPG fan. From the original Famicom games to the wildly successful Persona series, everything about it clicks with JRPG fans. And ATLUS has decided to present us with another entry in the main series, the first since 2009's Strange Journey on the DS and even moreso since the last main entry, 2003's Nocturne on the PS2. As an avid fan of the SMT name, with Persona 4 being my all time favourite game, I couldn't turn down getting a chance to look at the series that started my obsession over these games.

Now before you continue, I need to point out. THIS GAME IS NOT PERSONA. It seems that numerous other reviewers have constantly looked down on SMTIV because it doesn't feature the same RPG/dating sim elements that Persona 3/4 have. Persona is a spin-off series of this, friends. Get used to it.

Now, before we get started, the game itself is pricy. Currently, the only versions of the game you can buy physically are the limited editions. These cost as much as a typical console game, nearing $60. Is the extra stuff in the box worth the extra $20? Well, let's see what's in the box.


Inside the package is a small game guide/artbook from famous guide developers Prima, a soundtrack CD, and the game itself. It's not a bad value if you're like me and like having physical objects rather than download codes. It's a good value if you like that kind of thing. The only issue is that it's still more expensive on the eShop than most 3DS games, even without the extra feelies. Not exactly a smart move, ATLUS. Another problem is that the Prima guide doens't cover the entire game. It really only covers the first quarter of the game and only has information on the demons featured in that quarter. What the hell, Prima?

Let's jump into the actual game. You play as Flynn, a young man aiming to be a Samurai in the eastern kingdom of Mikado. You succeed, and team up with your Samurai friends Walter, Jonathan and Isabeau. But as you protect the kingdom, you learn that you might not be the only ones in the world, and that underneath your world is something much more terrifying... the land of Tokyo, where demons roam free and humans have barely managed to survive. On top of that, there's someone called the "Black Samurai" who is turning people into demons!

Gameplay is MegaTen standard. You need to make use of a Pokemon-like system where some attacks do more damage to certain demons. On top of that, you have to recruit demons and fuse them to make stronger demons to keep yourself on top of the game. It requires a fair bit of strategy, despite being more action-based than most titles in the franchise. And there are over 400 demons in the game. Good luck.

Graphically, the game looks amazing. The game moves between 2D stills for cutscenes and battles and 3D for overworld exploration. The 2D has a certain charm to it that reminds me of past MegaTen games, especially Strange Journey. The 3D aspect looks better than its PS2 prequel and controls well too. The 3D feature of the system does the overworld wonders, while the battles and cutscenes just look flat. It's a weird thing where the game can look either amazing or awful.

All in all, the game brings a little of what we know, revamps and polishes it, and presents us with the beautiful on one side, sorta rusty on the other gem that is Shin Megami Tensei IV. If you want a good RPG, this will definitely strike your fancy.

The Good:
+Fantastic music by Mr. Shoji Meguro himself
+Classic SMT story featuring both Law and Chaos routes
-Engrossing gameplay with amazing overworlds.

The bad
-Graphics are a double-edged sword
-Game can be difficult and mocks you for drying
-Recruiting demons is one of the worst endeavors ever.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Animal Crossing New Leaf

Review by EggBeatr8 

Title: Animal Crossing New Leaf
Developer: Nintendo
Platform: 3DS
Bottom Line: New Leaf perfects everything that was great about past AC games. An absolute must-buy for any 3DS owner.

It had been four years since the release of City Folk that Nintendo announced that there would be an Animal Crossing game for the 3DS. My only initial response to the news was a long winded "uuuugh" in the back of my throat. No way would I play another AC: my love for the GCN original faded with the mixed bag release of Wild World, and City Folk felt nothing more than a ho-hum expansion pack. I was afraid AC had turned into a never ending cycle of repeats to milk money rather than improving the experience- I presumed New Leaf would break my heart once more. I was wrong. I was so very wrong.

From the get-go, New Leaf proves that the 'New' in its title isn't deceiving: this fourth outing in the series (fifth for Japan) doesn't have you thrown into the town, forced into catering for Tom Nook, the pesky home salesmen/store employer, in order to pay off your home loan like every previous AC game had started out before. No, this time around you play as the town's Mayor. For the first time ever YOU are in control of how you play the game. You can set up Town Ordinances, to say boss your neighbors to help clean up the town, or create a Town Project and gather donations of Bells (the game's currency) over time to help build new bridges or water fountains- and it's always your choice. Sure, you still need to pay off your home loan to get a house, but you don't have to work for Tom Nook in order to do it (you start out in a tent in the beginning of the game, but there's no rush to upgrade unless you want space). You are completely free to do whatever in NL, but if you decide to take Mayor duty seriously, your Cocker Spaniel personal assistant Isabelle will give you helpful info at the Town Hall whenever you ask her. There's a great sense of progress to paying off debts, because you never now how much your new project will benefit your experience.

If there's one factor about AC that hasn't changed is its amazing spunky charm that has captivated fans of the series, new and old alike. This is prominently clear in New Leaf: from the new furry texture on the animal neighbors to their hilarious little outbursts and the way they wave/bow at you when you leave their home is adorable beyond words. Neighbors don't just pretend to hold unto items either- they occasionally do fish, catch bugs, shake trees, pull weeds and water flowers, which makes following neighbors around as much fun as listening to what they have to say. The game also looks and plays so perfectly on the 3DS that I can't see myself playing it on a home console again; the wonderful charm of AC and recommended brevity is objectively better on the 3DS. I honestly can't stop coming back for more, and I confess that I've been cheating and have found myself playing the game in longer intervals than I should have been (even my neighbors tell me I should take a break...though I believe this is another one of Nintendo's dirty little tricks to get me outside). It may take some time to unlock and see everything that's new in NL (I was a bit touchy about reviewing this game even after two weeks, because I knew I would miss something worth noting), but the pace at which things happen is at a nice slow motion; perfect for gamers on the go.

The island from the GCN Animal Crossing is back, and it's better than ever. If the many things you can do in your village doesn't satisfy your gaming pleasures, the island offers a huge assortment of mini-games called "tours", where you have to beat the clock under various conditions to win tokens that you can exchange to get exclusive items at the giftshop. Though many of the ocean fish and insects aren't exclusive to the islands anymore (you can catch pretty much every fish and insect in your town) the island is the only place to get the Wet Suit, which let's you swim in the ocean; collecting a new assortment of bottom dwelling marine life, expanding an already impressive Collectopedia. Avid kleptomaniacs will have to wait over a year to catch and collect everything that the game has to offer, maybe even more. But remember: it's not a game meant for 4-7 hour play sessions, so waiting isn't a major concern.

Lastly, your experience with AC:NL is purely random and unique. You might not like the neighbors you get or the dumb shirts they hand you in exchange for that fish you tried so hard to catch (which also was based on luck) but it's not like that everyday. That's the beauty of AC: you never know what's going to happen next. And with New Leaf I can totally stand behind that philosophy even after playing every previous game in the series. NL is a brand new fresh experience, and the 'New' in the title is in no way unambiguous. I absolutely can't recommend this game enough- this review barely does any justice to describe everything that this game has to offer. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a wonderful journey that 3DS owners of any age cannot miss; whether you played all the AC games prior or it's your first time. Animal Crossing has finally found a way back into my life...and I will never let it go again.

The Good:
+Fantastic replay value and content, both old and new.
+Pacing is perfect no matter what kind of gamer you are.
+Charm is unmatched by any game I've ever played.

The Bad:
-Unlocking new content and items can be a slow process.