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Sunday, April 26, 2015

New PSP Games in 2015 (and Beyond)

Well, this may come as a shock to some of you. It's the year 2015, the PlayStation Portable which struggled for years outside of Japan is gone, and the Vita has taken it's place. All of this is just common knowledge for those who follow gaming news, but what I'm about to say next is (somewhat) completely unexpected.

For anyone who had hoped to play PSP RPGs such as Summon Night 5, or Class of Heroes 3 -- well, now is your chance. Despite being on a dead console, both titles are officially being translated, and will be released on PSN in the near future. While Class of Heroes may not come as a shock (as the other titles were released in the west), Summon Night's main series has never been outside of Japan. Sure, we had Swordcraft Story and what not (which was an action RPG), but the main tactical role playing series has stayed a Japanese exclusive with no hints of this ever changing. Well, it's finally happening, and it really is quite a shock!

Anyway, if you still have your old PSP, or if you have a Vita, look forward to seeing both of these titles making their way to you soon -- assuming you like these niche titles that is.

Besides Summon Night 5 and Class of Heroes, fans can expect other PSP titles to make their way outside of Japan as well. For example the sequel for "The Legend of Heroes: Trials in the Sky" was confirmed for an English release awhile back, and there's plenty of other games which may still come out after all these years. Just because the PSP has been "dead" for years now, it doesn't mean it doesn't have at least some life left. Again, it's kind of strange to see, but that doesn't change the fact that it's great for fans. Really, it just goes to show you that waiting and hoping sometimes pays off.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Watch_Dogs Part 3

It's been a while since the last video, but it's time for us to meet "BADBOY17" in person....as well as pick up a few fun new things to use.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Want more Smash Bros characters? Submit your votes now!

If you aren't watching the Nintendo Direct, then let us explain. Nintendo has officially opened a site where you can submit ideas for new Smash Bros characters to be added in as DLC! Along with this announcement came the news of Lucas finally rejoining, but now it is up to you to decide who will be next. So, head on over to: https://cp.nintendo.co.jp/us/ and let your voice be heard!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Life Is Strange: Episode 2 Out of Time - Review

Well here we are again! After over a month long wait Life Is Strange Episode 2 is finally out. It's already becoming clear just how hard it'll be waiting for each episode, but one can't help but wonder if it's really worth that wait. Now that we are past the introduction episode, what is this game really like? Will the future episodes live up to our expectations? Well, truthfully it's a bit too early to say, but we can focus on what's currently in front of us -- that being Episode 2 "Out of Time."

Now although I've already reviewed Episode 1 (feel free to go back and read it if you haven't), I'm still going to be tackling this review as if it were a new game. The simple fact is each part of this game will be focusing on something different, and because of that no two episodes will really feel the same. Yes the basics are the same, but the way it changes and evolves for each player as the story advances will provide a different gameplay experience. The real reason one might read this review is to find out if the game is headed in a good or bad direction, but those who know nothing about the first episode will learn about the game as a whole as well -- so, with that being said feel free to keep on reading (no matter who you are), and let us get started!

The Story:

Life Is Strange, as some of you may know, is a game about a young girl named Max who discovers she has the strange power to rewind time. After witnessing a young girl being shot to death in the bathroom at her school, she reaches out in horror as the world around her goes back to how it was less than an hour ago. Upon discovering what she can do, she sets out to prevent the murder, and by doing so she gets wrapped up into something much bigger -- but what? Life Is Strange is a mystery, and throughout the first episode players were slowly introduced to it. The things Max does, the things she sees -- they are somehow connected, but how? As an intro chapter, none of the questions brought up were actually answered (as to be expected), but that's what keeps us going. If you've played the first episode, then you've already seen the questions, and are now coming back to hopefully learn more. You've learned about the shooter, you've talked to people around her school, and you've gotten involved in people's lives. Now it's finally time to see what happens next, and once again put Max's time traveling powers to work.

As to be expected, Episode 2 picks up directly after the first (and to avoid spoilers I will not be telling you how that one ended). Now that Max has had a day to mess with her powers, she's become obsessed with learning more about them. She's reading books, watching movies, going to science fiction websites, and even asking others what they know about the subject of time travel. She wants to know how she is doing what she is doing, and she wants to know why as well. How come she, a normal 18 year old, can do what scientists aren't even close to being able to do? Of course it's possible to travel forward in time -- as the future has yet to happen, but how can she go back? Well, she doesn't learn that over night (even with who knows how many rewinds to give her unlimited time). With no choice but to finally move on with her day, she walks out into the hall, and heads for the shower room.

Like with Episode 1, Episode 2 focuses on the world around Max, and the people in it. There's a lot going on at this school, and it's up to the player to decide if they want to get involved or not. This time around there's a much larger focus on one of Max's friends who's going through a pretty hard time at the moment, but it also focuses a lot on the choices you personally made. Due to this game being controlled by your actions, each player will actually go into this and have a different experience. While I am personally getting threats by text message for one of my actions, many of you may avoid it completely. With Episode 2 it already has become clear just how much Max's actions will change the game, and that's where this episode really shines -- of course there's much more to this episode's story than that, but like I said, no spoilers.

The Gameplay:

Not much has actually changed from Episode 1, but again that is to be expected. Life Is Strange is an interactive drama, and like most it has players controlling the main character and interacting with the world. As you walk around, objects can either be looked at (which results in Max making a comment about them), or interacted with, and there's also people you can talk to (or choose not to). This sort of thing is all standard for this type of game, and anyone who has played anything in this genre will instantly feel right at home. The whole game is based on immersion, not action, and is the sort of thing you want to play only if you are interested in the story.

The thing that makes Life Is Strange stand out above other similar games is the use of time travel. At any point Max can actually rewind time and undo things that you have done, and she will remember the original outcome of said actions. For example, early on into this episode you talk talk to a girl who will freak out on you for making a comment about her mean friend. During this outburst, she'll mention her mom, and Max will be able to rewind time and use that information to change the conversation for the better -- if you choose to that is. It's this sort of thing that makes Life Is Strange great, and it also allows you to see different outcomes for some of the more harder choices as well. The thing is though, unlike in the first episode, this one throws tough choices at you right from the get go, and even with your ability to rewind time, you will still walk away from these choices with an uneasy feeling. Did you do the right thing? Who knows! You can't let it get to you, and you just have to move on and face the consequences (if there are any). Either way though, Episode 2 really does make you make some hard decisions, and at least a few can GREATLY alter the future. (Trust me, you will see...)

Besides walking around, talking to people, and making choices as you progress through the story, Life Is Strange also has extra content which you can either completely ignore, or use to extend each episode's length. Max carries with her a journal and her camera at all times, and in it you'll find a wide verity of information and pictures. Each character has a bio which you can read, Max writes down her past experiences (including what happened to her before Episode 1 started), and she also has a page for "extra" pictures to be place. When it comes to the actual journal, this is where you can simply read about different events and characters in the game, and get a little bit more insight on the game -- meanwhile photos are collectibles you can find (or rather, take) as you do specific things throughout the game. Some of these photos require you to do specific things for them to pop up, sort of like a puzzle, but others can easily be found. The game also has a collection mode so you can go back and find them if you missed any, so they really are a nice extra (and they reward you with achievements/trophies).

Although Episode 2 isn't too much different than Episode 1, it does actually have a bit more gameplay, a lot more choices to make, and we see the results of some of your previous choices as well. If you're someone who liked Episode 1, but were hoping for something more, Episode 2 does provide it. It's roughly around the same length as the first, but with so much going on it is clearly an episode that you'll be revisiting quite a bit if you want to see all of the possible outcomes in future episodes.

The Good and the Bad:

Just as last time, Life Is Strange doesn't really have any "bad points." The mouth movements of the character's don't perfectly match what is being said (which can cause it to look a bit strange at first -- something you'll instantly notice), but it's something that is easy to overlook and you do get used to after awhile... It's just that it's been so long since the first episode that you will most likely notice it again. Other than that though, the game is pretty solid. It controls just fine, there's a lot to interact with, the story is very immersive, and the music is top notch. While some games have a promising start but begin to fall apart the more you get into it, Life Is Strange has thankfully not done that (yet). Of course we don't know what the future will bring us, but as long as this game continues down this road, it will be fine. This game is one that will hook you each time you play, and it will leave you begging for more as the credits roll. Of course, it all depends if you like this sort of game. If you're the type of person who wants action, and tons of gameplay, then this may not be for you -- it's more for those who want a story more than anything else.

Really it feels kind of strange to do this, but overall I'm going to have to give this game the very same score I gave Episode 1. It's an easy 9/10, with only some minor issues really holding it back. While these issues are easy to overlook (which means I may up the rating in future episodes -- or drop it depending on where this game goes), Episode 2 just isn't quite "there" yet. It's great, sure, but it is still early on and more of an intro episode just as Episode 1. Knowing this type of game, things may get crazy soon, so maybe Episode 3 on up will completely blow us away, and leave us talking about it for years to come. Who knows, but we'll see! Either way, if you liked Episode 1, Episode 2 was worth the wait.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Final Fantasy XV Demo - My thoughts and impressions

Final Fantasy XV, man, it's kind of hard to believe it's been so long since the original game's announcement. This thing was first brought up back in 2006 -- almost 9 years ago, and we are just now finally getting our first look at it. So much time has passed by since then, and I can't help but remember all of the times I sat here hoping for more news to come. Events would pass by, and time after time Square-Enix would say something like "oh, we'll have more news next time!" Or, "more news will be coming soon!" After awhile the started changing their story to "we do not have any news to share at this time," and they would just walk off the stage. Yep, fun times. This is a trend that continued for years, up until they finally showed off new gameplay, and we learned that our April Fool's day post here at NGR was right -- Final Fantasy Versus XIII had in fact become Final Fantasy XV, and it was being released on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

So, it's been a couple of years since then and now a demo is out. Finally after the long wait we actually get a chance to play the thing, and that's the whole reason I'm even making this post today. I know that other people have shared video (including us, as we have live streamed it) and their own impressions, but I wanted to share mine as well. The simple fact is, everyone is going to have different opinions of this demo, and mine is one that actually changed greatly as I played it. I really wasn't expecting this to be this way, but yeah... Anyway, let's get on with this!

When I first started up Final Fantasy XV's Demo, I was excited. I couldn't wait to finally play this game I had waited so long for, but it wasn't something I could just jump right into. First thing that stopped me was a long loading screen, and then the second thing was none other than a mini cutscene where the characters woke up, and slowly walked out into the world in order to find a way to make cash to repair their busted car (yes, no car in this demo). It was an okay cutscene that did show off some of the character models up close, but for once I actually didn't care -- I just wanted to get a chance to play. Yeah, the game continued to stop me even after that... Besides the cutscene, the demo makes you listen to the characters a bit more, and it slowly tells you which buttons to press to pull off different actions (ones as simple as moving the camera and walking). Never have I been so impatient during a game's intro, but once it finally ended I was ecstatic! Finally I could run around, I could try to figure out how to jump, and I -- could sit through a weapon and combat tutorial. Of course I had to do this, I had no idea how to play, but this is also where my initial disappointment started.

Up until now I had only really heard about the game's changes, how it went from a Kingdom Hearts style game to more of a Final Fantasy Type-0 game, but videos and interviews didn't really cut it. None of these things actually showed just how different the game would be, and that is something I had a hard time overcoming at first. As the tutorial explained to me, combat was done by either holding or tapping the button (tapping you seem to have more control), and you defended by holding L1 (PS4 version) and watching your character auto dodge. During this state you can also parry attacks after a dodge by pressing attack, and there's also a manual dodge which the game didn't even bother to explain how to do (pressing jump). The tutorial also explained how you can hide behind rocks and what not to recover MP, and that you can also warp to warp points high up on tall objects to do the same. There's also a teleport attack you can do by locking on and pressing X, but that's really about all there is too it. Weapon attacks are set in a menu you can open at any time, and depending on where you place each of your weapons your attack combos will be different. For example I have the standard short sword set for normal auto combos, my lance is set to the air attack spot, and the great sword to the heavy strike/finishing attack spot. It's a system that actually took me awhile to understand, but to be fair, everything confused me at first.

The thing is about this combat system, it's not really full on action like I had assumed it would be. The simple fact is, it's basically a turn based battle, that plays out with more control in real time. Basically it is all about switching between attack mode and defensive mode, and watching the enemy movements as you plan out your attack. The MP bar controls how much you can dodge, warp, and even the special attacks that are selected with a menu and used by pressing Triangle (it is basically the command system first seen in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, but with attacks tied to your weapons rather than having the option of switching them out freely). The game has quite a bit of waiting involved, and at first it just felt very clunky to me. I didn't know what I was doing, enemies were running from me, I was having issues hitting the wolf things, and the enemy soldiers that fly in from overhead (this game's version of a random battle as it seems) were just destroying me. Of course you can be revived by your party members, but each time your max hp lowers up until you run out and need to rest at an inn or camp. Still, this combat system was a challenge for me, and I didn't really care for it at first. Then, I started giving it a chance.

As I played the game more, I started to see just how much detail and character they put into this. Even with a framerate that drops from time to time (remember it's just a demo), and with it running only in 900P, the game itself looks pretty amazing. It's not really a bright and shiny game, but instead it uses light in a more realistic way which causes some things to look a bit darker, and more like how you would expect things to be in real life. At first it may not look all that impressive, but as you start to look around and actually see the things that they've done, and just how detailed the textures really are up close, you begin to see how good it actually is. First glance is a dull dusty world, but a deeper look shows off something much more real. That's not really what I found impressive though, but rather it's something I expected. We knew this game would look good, but what did catch me off guard is how much they actually put into the world itself to make it feel alive.

The monsters in this game are the wildlife, and they act just as a wild animal should. Some of the dangerous ones will attack you on sight, but others will only attack if you upset them, or harm them first. The area in this demo is basically an open field with a small forest area, a lake, and cliffs, and the animals (monsters) in it really seem to fit the setting. It's not something you notice at first, but when you realize this place is their home, and that they aren't just randomly spawning enemies, it is actually pretty nice to see what Square has done. For example as you try to walk through the brush (which will obstruct your camera, and make it hard to walk), sometimes enemies will be hiding in wait for you and attack you when you least expect it. It gives you the sense of danger, and causes you to always be on guard just as you would if you were walking through such areas in real life. You never know what is out there that might get you, or you never know who's nest you might trample through by mistake. Typically enemies in these type of games are just there, but in Final Fantasy XV, it really does make sense -- something I personally would like to see more games do, at least, I'd like to see them do it more on this level.

Although the enemy placement is nice and all, the thing that really stood out to me in this demo while I was exploring was the characters themselves. They interact with the world in a way I wasn't expecting, and they also talk among themselves as they explore. Rather than discussing the story's events as you get closer to your goals (like we see in most games), the characters in Final Fantasy XV bring up a wide verity of subjects, and it's more based on location than your progress. Sure they'll mention something about needing to fix their car from time to time, but for the most part everyone is more interested in what is in front of them. If they see something they are interested in they may call you over, but at other times they may see something and wonder just what it actually is -- such as the old abandoned building not too far from the game's gas station. It's pretty impressive to see just how much dialogue there is though, despite this being such a short demo. One really nice touch of detail though, actually comes from the gas station itself. As strange as it may be to stand in a 50s style gas station with cars driving by and parking out front, it actually was one of the highlights of the demo for me. The gas station itself had so much character, and walking around listening to what people had to say was nice. You can even stay in the trailer next to it for a small fee, and when you wake up in the morning you'll find your party members out doing their own thing. Walking into the gas station you'll find one talking to the guy behind the counter (who will then wish Noct a good morning), while the others will be out doing whatever it is they want to do. Each one will realize Noctis has just woken up, and even Noct himself will say "morning" to them from time to time. After being used to staying at inns just to heal, and the game not even realizing it, seeing this small detail make it in really threw me off, and it is easily one of my favorite moments I've come across so far (with the chocobo ranch playing the chocobo theme being a close second).

Originally when I started exploring this world, I felt a little bored. I didn't know what to do, combat was not what I wanted or expected, and I was having trouble finding things to even do. It took me awhile to realize there were side quests allover the place, and it wasn't until later that I realized there was even a dungeon and tons of hidden things to find and collect. I was just running around, doing nothing, wishing the game was something else. But then, as I started to really pay attention to the world around me, and started to see just how interactive it was and how much the party members and enemies were involved with it, it all began to change for me. The exploration went from being a running simulator, to a world I was being pulled into, and the entire game just started to click. Even the combat that felt like such a let down to me initially was something I began to understand! I started dodging, I started countering, I began pulling off crazy fast combos, I used my special attacks to clear mobs, I helped my fallen teammates, I warped high up onto towers and attacked the enemies from the air, I learned how to warp to and chase down them stupid wolves that were giving me problems, and I began leveling up and becoming stronger. I'm really not sure what changed, but the more I fought, the more I actually understood about the game, and before long I found myself having a lot of fun. It went from being something that annoyed me for not being what I wanted, to a combat system that I personally cannot wait to see more of.

Really, Final Fantasy XV's demo isn't something you can just judge by looking at it. It's a massive open world filled with life, and features a combat system that is basically an action version of a turn based battle. It still requires a lot of planning, but you're just in control of when you move and attack, It's fast and fun, but at the same time it isn't a button masher where you can hammer away and hope for the best. It's something you really have to experience for yourself to judge it, and even then it's something you need to spend more than five minutes with. As for the car, although I couldn't drive it, I quickly saw just how important it was. Of course the car's something you'll use more on the highway (I seriously doubt you'd be able to drive it through the forest and what not), but this demo makes it clear just how important it will be. Sure, you can walk, but trust me when I say that you don't want to. Although the demo is just a small confined area (which is actually pretty massive on it's own), more of the game is in this than what exists within the mountains and invisible walls blocking your path. By throwing myself into an oncoming car (as I did during our live stream), you can push yourself past that wall, and enter the unfinished outside. Here you'll find VERY long highways, massive hills, and tons of filed for you to trek through. After running for about 20 minutes or so, up until the game realized I had activated a glitch and gave me a game over, I quickly found myself wishing I could drive as getting anywhere in this massive world will take forever. It is simply huge. (Just imagine walking from one end of the map to the other in a game like Just Cause 2...)

So yeah, after who knows how many hours with the demo, I've come to realize that Final Fantasy XV is something I MUST play. At first I was let down, but now all that demo did was make the wait for the full game even longer. I had a lot of fun just running around, fighting, and exploring in that small area, and I can't wait to see the massive world in the full game... Darn you game over screen, if only you would have let me continue on past them barriers...