Monday, March 20, 2017

Cyber Danganronpa VR - "Review"

Danganronpa! A few years ago this was a little known name in the west, but now here we are two full games, one spin off, an anime series, and multiple novels later and it's something of a hit. Sure it's not a massive AAA title, but it has it's fanbase, and with releases on Steam, an upcoming collection on PS4, and a 3rd mainline entry just around the corner -- this series has grown quite a lot. So, what do you do with a popular (yet niche) series? Make a PSVR tech demo! That's what!

Cyber Danganronpa VR is a PSVR exclusive tech demo based on the series. It takes characters from the first game, throws you into a "class trial" after one character was apparently murdered by another, and it asks you to figure out who did it. Right from the get go the strange bear Monokuma starts explaining how to use "truth bullets" to shoot down the lies of your fellow classmates, and he also explains how pointing your "scanner" (which is your PS4 controller) will help show how likely it is someone is lying. And, that's exactly what you do -- the entire short time. Characters will speak, the words will take physical form in front of your face, and you'll physically point your PS4 controller at them to see which is a lie and which is the truth. It's a somewhat similar version of what you do in the main games (minus the scanning), and once you shoot a "truth bullet" at the lie, that character's argument will be countered and the trial will progress. Sadly after exposing a few lies, the game ends. Monokuma forces the trial to stop due to it being a demo, and you are treated to a scene that will strike horror into many who see it.

The thing about the Danganronpa demo is, it's not much of a demo or experience as others out there. There is even less content in this demo than there is in the Call of Duty VR demo, and it's really only something fans would enjoy. Sure, maybe the ending scene would be great to show off to others, but the real focus of this demo is to put fans into one of their favorite games. Standing in the class trial and being able to see your favorite characters "in person" is a great experience, and the creepy atmosphere really helps sell just how terrifying the events of Danganronpa were. Playing this game as a visual novel behind a screen is one thing, but actually standing there in their shoes is another. The demo does a great job to convey this, but it is still far too short. Thankfully the download size is quite small, but it's something you most likely won't be going back to after you run through it a time or two. Let's just hope that one day this becomes more than just a demo, and that we get to see a full VR game.
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Gaming Memories - Goodbye PS3

It always makes me a bit sad to write these types of posts, but it won't be my first, nor will it be my last. Earlier this week Sony officially announced that the PlayStation 3 would be ending production in Japan. The console that originally struggled to get off it's feet, only to go on to become what I'd consider one of the greatest consoles of all time, is now finally being put to rest. Although new PS3 games haven't actually been out here in the West for quite awhile, a handful of games were still being released for it in Japan -- mainly JRPGs that we got a PS4 port of. They were also actively supporting updating and supporting the console, but I guess it is finally time for them to move on to the PS4 full time. So today I'd like to take a moment to look back at my memories of the console, and ask that you all do the same as well. As for my story, it's not quite what you would expect.

When the PS3 was coming out, I was one of "those" guys who couldn't care any less, and thought it was stupid. I was still a kid in high school at the time, I had no job, the thing was over $600 bucks, and it had no games I even wanted! Heck I didn't even care about the Xbox 360 at the time, the Nintendo Wii was all I cared about. My mindset was pretty much "why would I buy a console with bad games, and that's expensive?" I still remember watching parody videos singing about how bad the PS3 was at launch, and how the Wii was beating it out. Although I didn't really consider myself one, I guess you could have called me a Nintendo fanboy at the time. Of course as I got a bit older the Xbox 360 started to move into my sights due to everyone talking about it at school, but the PS3 was something that seemed useless to me. Stupid piece of crap console with no games! I can still remember the conversations I had with friends on MSN about it as well, and they all basically shared my same view (including someone else you may know from reading this blog... Who now owns not only a PS3, but a PS4 and Vita as well).

After spending quite some time avoiding the PS3, I slowly started to question if I was in the wrong. When the bakery opened and I had the money to buy an Xbox 360, I actually did consider buying a PS3 instead. The PS3 had some of the games I wanted to buy on 360, but ultimately I decided against it because everyone else I knew had the 360 instead. Personally I'm still glad I chose the 360 over the PS3 at that time, but within a few years everything would change for me.

One day when I was home from college one of my cousins came over to hang out. We didn't do much, just sat around playing some games, but that's when we started talking about the bakery. I don't remember how it happened, but eventually he brought up the box of tip money I had sitting in the corner of my room and we decided to count it and see if I had enough money to buy some sort of new game. Well, I did! But that wasn't what shocked us the most. After throwing cash in there for who knows how long, I had built up well over $300 and could basically buy any game I wanted (or multiple games). That's when casually my cousin said something along the lines of "you could buy a PS3 with that!" And I sort of laughed it off. Little did he know though, he planted the seed inside my head, and I set out on the hunt for the newer slim model.

Finding the PS3 wasn't easy. I don't know what was going on at the time, but it was sold out of every store in the area. I must have called nearly every store within 100 miles of my house, only to be turned down time and time again. That's when a call to a K Mart about an hour away changed everything. "Yeah, we have it!" Those were words I wasn't expecting to hear that day, but my excitement was at an all time high, and I quickly rushed out the door as fast as I could. My dad was home at the time as well, with my mom working overnight, so he ended up going with me so we could also grab something to eat on the way back. Really I was glad he could go with me, as the city was one I wasn't familiar with at the time, and the store was located in a somewhat "bad" area.

Walking into K Mart, I was a little paranoid. The store wasn't in the best of shape, and being in that location I couldn't help but be on edge. The game section was in the back of the store, I noticed some people giving me funny looks as I raced back there (or maybe I just imagined it?), and when I finally walked up to the game display case I was crushed. No PlayStations! Or, so I thought. Turns out the PS3 was hidden behind a building column that was blocking off the display case. Why did they put a shelf in front of a column, and have the PS3s hidden behind it? Don't know, and at this point I no longer cared. The PS3 was mine, and all I had left to do was run over to the mall and buy some games. I was still a bit paranoid about walking out of the building with the PS3 in hands, but everything went fine. We did walk past some guy screaming at and cussing out his crying kid (which my dad made a comment about.... out loud.........), but everything else was ok.

At the mall I managed to find a brand new copy of Valkyria Chronicles, and LittleBigPlanet. While LBP seemed interesting to me, the only reason I bought it was to have something else to play. The main reason I was there, and the main reason I even went with my cousin's idea was actually because of Valkyria Chronicles. VC was a game that I had originally wanted since the day it was announced, but was unable to buy because it was PS3 exclusive. I always wished that it would one day come to the Xbox 360, and after watching the anime adaptation of it I wanted it even more. This game alone was worth it to me, and I was so happy to see they had a copy in stock. By this time though it was already getting late into the day, and I had to wake up early to go to work the next morning...

When I finally got home it was well after dark, and I only had about an hour to set the PS3 up and start playing it. Back then I still didn't know much about the PS3 or what would all be needed for it, and I didn't know about these so called "HDMI" cables that let me play games in HD (as my 360 used component cables). I was a bit sad to see the PS3 didn't come with one, but that's when I remembered a guy at Best Buy tricking me and my mom into buying one a few years before -- back when we got our very first HD TV. "Oh, you need this to even use your TV" he said, and went right over to the shelf and picked out the $80 one. We didn't know any better, and when we came back with it and the TV we both felt like we were taken. That HDMI cable sat in storage for a few years after that, but when I bought that PS3 it finally had a use. That night I would spend about 20-30 minutes playing Valkyria Chronicles, and about 10 minutes on LittleBigPlanet before I went to bed. Around that time I realized I didn't have much else I wanted on the PS3, but I figured I'd just go to the store later and see what I could find. Before long I was introduced to games like Infamous and Uncharted, and I couldn't get enough of them.

After that, the Xbox 360 would continue to be my main console for quite some time. I'd get a new PS3 game here and there (Another Century's Episode R was one of my earlier ones), but if it was multiplatform I would always go with the 360 version. That was a trend that continued up until the day my Xbox 360's disc drive broke, and I started buying PS3 games instead. Jump ahead to today and there are now shelves filled with PlayStation 3 games, and about just as many filled with PS4 and Vita games as well. The PS3 is what brought me back to Sony, and I'm glad it did.

Thanks for everything PS3!
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Journey to Switch

I know, I know, I haven't been posting much lately. Life has been getting in my way for quite awhile now, and honestly I haven't had a whole lot of time to do much of anything else. With all the storms rolling in and things I've had to deal with at work, video games have been the last thing on my mind -- except for the Nintendo Switch! Yes, that's right I actually managed to get one during the release weekend, but I can say this is the most trouble I've gone through for any system. Sure Nintendo announced that they would have enough to meet demand at launch, but the reality of that is... It all depends on the area you are in, and how many people want it. This is something I learned the hard way, and I'm still in shock that I got one. So, just how did I get my hands on it? Well, it wasn't easy.

The day the Switch came out was a day I had to work (Friday). I missed out on preordering the Switch because I was under the impression that preorders would go up much later (thank you Nintendo of Japan!), and when they did go live I was already asleep. The very next day I did try to secure one at multiple online stores, but each and every time I tried I would either be met with a sold out screen, or my order would fail to process after I hit send. I ended up having to give up on preordering the console, and then I moved onto my Plan B -- to go to the store and get it day one. Well, as I just mentioned, I had to work on release day and leaving to go get one was out of the question. Thankfully there were many in stock in the stores around me, and all I had to do was wait till lunch to run out and grab it. Then every store sold out roughly 15 minutes before I could leave... Yep.

After that didn't work, my next idea was to try to send family members after a unit close by them in other towns. A few stores like Target still had them in stock, so I had a good chance of getting one from them. During my lunch hour I sent out some texts and searched online to see everywhere that had it, but not long after my search began, it also ended. Again everywhere was sold out, and I had to call the whole thing off yet again. This was a pattern that would then continue on throughout the entire day, with me and other family members checking and calling every store we could possibly find -- all of them were sold out with no estimate on when they would get another shipment in... We had all failed. The next day I was still determined to find the thing. I started researching the same stores to check if any restocked, but sadly they were all still sold out. Once again I was getting ready to give up for the weekend, but that's when a phone call to Toys R Us told me that they had them in stock!

Rushing out the door as fast as I could, I quickly got in the car and began my 1.5 hour drive to the one and only Toys R Us in my "area." I hopped on the interstate, raced as fast as I could up there, and as I got closer the idea popped into my head to call once again to double check. The reply I heard? "WE ARE SOLD OUT!" Yes, that's right, sold out. I had driven all that way for nothing, and shortly after I was turning off on an exit, and then getting back on to head home. Needless to say, I was pretty let down by the news, but there was nothing I could do. Except, call again that is.

Not sure why I decided to call back, but I did, and this time the reply was different -- there was actually one left in stock! I have no idea why the previous guy told me they were sold out (maybe there was an extra one in the back they didn't know about or something), but he was wrong and I once again had a shot at getting the thing... The only problem being by that point I had already passed the closest exit, and I had to go quite a ways to turn back around. This whole process ended up taking about 30 minutes to get back to where I originally was. Ah well, no big deal right? Ha, yeah right.

Running into Toys R Us as fast as I could (a store I hadn't been in since I bought Mega Man X7 there 11 years ago), I made my way around the familiar shelving in the toy section, and made my way down the main path towards the electronics. The first thing I noticed was the lack of Nintendo Switch stuff around, and after giving up on searching for it myself I asked the first worker I saw. "Do you have the Nintendo Switch?" Hope still burning... "Oh, you don't? Darn, well thanks." I was crushed. Turns out the last unit sold roughly 10 minutes before I walked in. Considering I was delayed by roughly 30 minutes because they originally told me they didn't have one, I wasn't happy at all. I ended up wasting around 2 hours total to get to the store, burned quite a bit of gas, and found out I missed getting the last one by a very short window. So... I went onto plan C... Something I had never done before.

According to the workers in Toys R Us (and online research), Toys R Us was holding back Switch units to be sold on Sunday, and that anyone who wanted to get one should show up early and line up outside the building. Considering the store opened at 10 AM and that the store was roughly an hour and a half from my house... It really didn't seem like it was even worth trying for... So I woke up early and went for it anyway!

When I got to the store there were about 5 others waiting, so I sat down as number 6. One guy heard rumors that they had quite a few in stock, and shortly after a worker was out to hand us our tickets. At that moment, the Switch was mine! They had around 10 colored units left (red and blue joy con) and 10 or so of the standard gray, but what I saw next basically insured no one else would get them. As those of us in line got up and walked into the building, a van pulled into the parking lot, and a group of scalpers rushed in behind us. As we picked out any games and accessories we wanted to go with our Switch, they were ready to clean out the store... Thankfully they weren't allowed to buy anything until the rest of us got what we came for, but it was still sad to see people doing this just to make a cheap buck.

With all of that said and done, I was finally able to head home with the console I had been waiting for. It might've taken all weekend to get to that moment, but looking back I'd say it was worth it. While not all of it may have been a good memory at the time, I think one day in the future I'll be able to look back on this and remember it as one. It was an adventure, I got to spend time with family that helped me track it down, and I got to start a brand new adventure in The Legend of Zelda. Currently I'm looking forward to what this console's future has in store, and I can't wait till I can start talking about the Switch more here on NGR.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Final Fantasy XV's Beat Em Up is now FREE!

If you were one of those who preordered Final Fantasy XV at GameStop, then you may have already played through the mini spin off title "A King's Tale." This download exclusive is a retro style 2D beat em up featuring Noctis' dad on his adventure from days of old. Of course this version of the game is just a "retelling" (as he is actually telling a version of the story to young Noctis), but it still gives us an idea of how things used to be.

So, why am I telling you this now? That's simply: because it is now free! Yep, anyone who missed out on this game due to it being a preorder bonus can now download it and play it for themselves. It's also only around 2.05GB on PS4, so it's not like you'll have to wait too long to get started, nor does it take up too much space. For trophy hunters I'm happy to say it also has trophies to unlock (as all proper games are required to do), but there is no platinum.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go play it!

In other news, here's what I got for preordering... Post Cards I'll never use!

And some other cool stuff...

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Super Robot Wars Series -- It's finally in English, but what is it?

A few days ago something happened many people never expected to see -- Super Robot Wars has officially released in English! Now, why is this a big deal? Well that's simple. It's because it is a game that basically cannot be released in the West (but now there's ways around it)! So, why is it can't be released in the west, and what exactly IS this game? Well, let me explain.

The Super Robot Wars series is a Banpresto game that has been going on for many years now, with so many games that it would be impossible to list them all here (well, not impossible, but it would take too much time). It's a tactical role playing series, similar to other well known games like Fire Emblem, where you build a team of different characters, but rather than playing as units on foot, everyone is in some sort of giant robot. These robots and characters are taken from a wide verity of anime, manga, and game series, and the game gives you multiple ways to customize them as you battle your way across the story. You can buy and equip different equipment, you can upgrade and unlock different weapons and abilities, you can upgrade the different stats of each unit, and you can even unlock skills and level up the unit's pilots as well -- which can also be in different mechs unlock as the story goes on as well. There's a lot of dept to this system, and some games in the series take it even further by allowing you to group up units and have sub pilots, and there's also support attacks.

As for the main gameplay itself, maps are grid based with you moving each unit during your turn, and you are given different options on what each unit can do during their turn. Example, in the brand new SRWV characters can use spirit actions to buff themselves or activate other special moves, but when close to an enemy you also have the ability to attack them using a wide verity of weapons. Mechs typically have a wide verity of both ranged and melee attacks, and each one is effective against different types of enemies (some weapons have an ammo limit as well). The size of enemies you are fighting matters as well, and depending on what weapons the enemies are using it will determine if they can counter attack you or not. Example, you could use melee attacks on a giant long ranged cannon enemy, but that enemy would not be able to fire at you with such close range. This same concept applies for you as well, so when are are being attacked you are given even more options on how to respond. Rather than just using attacks, you can use a defensive state to try to block some damage, or you can ready yourself to evade. It's also possible to pull in other units as support if they are close by and have the abilities unlocked, which can sometimes be key to surviving.  On top of all of this, battleship units can fight and support your main units as well, and you can even recall units for repairs. Once you have finished your turn, the enemy will take theirs (which is where the counter attack and defensive options come into play), and then the game will switch back to you again. This is pretty typical of tactical games, but what isn't typical is how the mission structure plays out.

Rather than simply having a main goal in each map, the game also throws an optional objective at you. Completing these extra objectives will unlock "SR Points" that will reward you with extra money for earning them, but at the same time the game will get harder or easier based on how many SR Points you have. Get a lot of SR Points? Game is going to get harder for you. Start failing the optional objectives after? Game will go back to normal mode. It's a way the game tries to scale based on your skill, but it can be stopped by simply ignoring SR Points once in awhile. There's also split paths throughout the adventure, and multiple secrets to find and unlock. Thankfully the games have a New Game + mode where you can keep on playing to see what you missed.

Now hold on, does this seem familiar to anyone else? Well, if you're a Nintendo fan it should. Although Super Robot Wars has never been released in the West due to all the licensing issues (as it contains series like Gundam, Full Metal Panic, Macross, Evangelion, Code Geass, Zoids, and many, MANY, others -- depending on the game), "versions" of it have made it here. Starting on the GBA, Super Robot Taisen OG (Original Generation) has been released here. OG1 and 2 were both released on the GBA, and they follow their own stories with original characters and mechs that were both created for the OG games and have appeared in mainline SRW games. In other words, some characters and mech designs may appear to be similar to that of other series, but they are characters all their own thus there are no legal issues. Of course despite us getting 1 and 2, the following games were never released in the West -- nor were the remakes of 1 and 2. Instead what was released here after was quite a bit different.

Endless Frontier is a more traditional turn based RPG set within the SRWOG storyline, but it's history and legacy are both a lot more complicated than that. While it is a SRWOG game (set within another universe), the game itself is a sort of sequel to another Banpresto title called "Namco X Capcom." Yes, that's right, the Namco and Capcom crossover tactical RPG that we never got. This game was in a similar style to SRW when it came to it's tactical gameplay and crossover based storyline, but rather than picking attacks and watching the attacks play out in a cutscene, it introduced a new action like system where you press different buttons to use combo attacks. Each attack was set to a different button, and the goal was to dish out as much damage as possible during each turn. This is the very same battle system that was adapted for the Endless Frontier system, and it's one that 3DS fans may know as well (which I'll explain shortly). Besides using a version of the battle system from Namco X Capcom, the lead characters Reiji and Xiaomu also appear in the Endless Frontier story along with some other characters and crossover characters. Basically, Endless Frontier is a side story to the SRWOG story, that takes place after Namco X Capcom, and is important to the overall SRW story -- as well as to Project X Zone.

As mentioned above, the combat system from Namco X Capcom and Endless Frontier may sound familiar to 3DS players. Well, that's because it's a version of the one seen in the 3DS series "Project X Zone." Although Endless Frontier did receive a sequel that was exclusive to Japan, the 4th title in this line of games (or technically second mainline title) was released in the west, and so was the 5th. Project X Zone takes place after Endless Frontier 2, and once again plays a lot like a mainline SRW game. It's a tactical role playing game, it has it's own original characters, Reiji and Xiaomu are back, two of the main characters from Endless Frontier are here, and like NxC before it, it features a wide verity of characters from different series. Again, it's the same style of crossover game as SRW's mainline, but with characters from Namco, Capcom, and SEGA instead (and Nintendo in Project X Zone 2).  Still with me? Hopefully, that's a yes.

Although a few of the Original Generation games made it overseas, and Project X Zone happened, the main Super Robot Wars series was still too much of a legal mess to ever be brought over. Some games were automatically not allowed here due to the inclusion of the Macross series (which is one of the biggest legal messes you'll ever come across when it comes to entertainment), while others would have still been difficult due to the amount of crossovers in them. While series like Gundam and Cross Ange (which is in SRWV) wouldn't be an issue (considering Banpresto is a part of Namco which is a part of Bandai which owns Sunrise as well), series like Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and Getter Robo wouldn't be as easy. Considering this series isn't one that is well known in the west and is more for a niche audience, it may not even be worth paying for the licenses at all. Really there's a lot of reasons why this series hasn't been released here, and it may never be... But wait, then what was all of this about? Are you saying this game still hasn't been released in the west? Well, yeah. Yeah I am.

Super Robot Wars V is the latest entry in the mainline series, and it has not been released in the west -- instead it was released in Asia! Rather than dealing with all the legal issues, the game was fully translated into English, and released in Asia instead. The game still features a Japanese dub, but all menus and text are fully in English, and the cutscenes are subtitled as well -- the same as how things were handled in Project X Zone 1 and 2. Of course the down side to this is some funky grammar errors may pop up from time to time, but in general the translation is done very well (and A LOT better than SRWOG Moon Dwellers which was also released in Asia with English last year). Also since the game is on PS4 anyone who is willing to import it can play it, but you would need a second PSN account if you want to purchase the optional DLC.

So, now the question is... Is this a series you should get into? The answer to that is, it really depends on  you. First of all, unless you know Japanese you cannot experience the entire thing. Super Robot Wars V is the start of a brand new series within the mainline titles (so English speakers do not need to worry about the past), but if you want to see all of stories you have no choice but to play the vast majority of them in Japanese (I say vast majority as there are fan translation projects out there). Secondly, it's going to depend on what types of games you like, and if you know the characters or not. If you like TBS games, then this series may be worth it to you either way. They are a lot of fun with a lot of depth, but they are even more fun if you know the characters and stories that are being told -- and that's the main deciding factor. These games are pure fan service, and that alone will be the deciding factor for many. So, ask yourself. Do you like any of the series represented in these games? Then go for it if you do.

Ok, that's a lot to take in -- I know, but what about the games we do have access to here (officially)? Well, although I mentioned them all above, I figured I'd include a short list here at the end for those of you who are interested in this series and would like to try the games out in some form. So, here they are:

Super Robot Taisen OG - GBA Tactical RPG, and first game in the SRWOG series.

Super Robot Taisen OG2 - GBA Tactical RPG, and second game in the SRWOG series.

Super Robot Taisen Endless Frontier - DS RPG, with the combat system from Namco X Capcom and Project X Zone, and is a story set in another world within the SRWOG series. It's also the "sequel" to NxC.

Project X Zone - 3DS Tactical RPG featuring characters from Namco, Capcom, and SEGA games. It's the follow up to Namco X Capcom and the Endless Frontier series.

Project X Zone 2 - 3DS Tactical RPG featuring characters from Namco, Capcom, SEGA, and Nintendo. Sequel to PxZ1.

Super Robot Wars OG Moon Dwellers - PS4 Tactical RPG. Released in Asia in English, and is the latest in the OG series. It features characters from Endless Frontier as well.

Super Robot Wars V - PS4 Tactical RPG. Released in Asia in English, this is the first SRW mainline game to be officially released in English, and the reason I typed this to begin with.

Well, that about covers it! For anyone who has been waiting to play a SRW game for awhile, now is your chance! And for those of you who have never played the series or any related titles (like PxZ), then you have a good starting point as well.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gaming Memories: Team Ninja and their new game NIOH

Team Ninja -- that was a name I would often hear, but didn't really know too much about. I'm sorry to say this now, but my only experience with them for quite some time was none other than the demo for Dead or Alive 2 on SEGA Dream Cast. I still remember my cousin coming over and playing the demo disc, and I sat back and watched unsure of how I felt about the game. Did it look fun? I guess. Did I ever plan on asking for the game? No. Back then there were so many other games I wanted to play, and this "Dead or Alive" series just wasn't one of them. That was actually the last time I saw anything related to the series for many years (other than seeing DoA3 and what not in stores), and it wasn't until Metroid Other M was announced that I even bothered looking into them again. I really regret to say that MoM was actually my first full game by Team Ninja, but thankfully that was only the beginning.

Although I had known about the Ninja Gaiden NES games, the modern Ninja Gaiden was a mystery to me. When I bought a PlayStation 3 both Ninja Gaiden Sigma 1 and 2 were games I initially looked into, but something about them just turned me off. Maybe it was the monsters, or maybe it was the story (or "story"), but whatever the case I just wasn't that interested in the games after learning about them. I thought "maybe" one day I'd go ahead and give them a chance, but each time I came close I would turn around and get something else instead. That's how things continued for awhile, but then something unexpected happened -- and that something is what eventually lead me to how things are today.

Starting around 2005 I was a very active member over at the official SEGA forums. After the official Sonic Team BBS became a troll filled wasteland abandoned by the western branch of the company, I moved over to SEGA and spent a lot of my time there. I was a huge fan of the games, there were a lot of nice people there, and I just had fun with the site. Eventually one of my posts there (about a Silver the Hedgehog fan game) is what lead to me meeting my friend (and NGR Writer) GlacialLeaf -- but that's getting a little off topic. It's actually what happened years later that eventually lead me to trying the Ninja Gaiden series for myself.

One day I was randomly invited to a massive MSN group chat filled with SEGA forum members, and two members in particular would constantly go on and on about how great of a game Ninja Gaiden was. I'd argue with them, say that it couldn't be as great (or as hard) as they said it was, and I'd fight with them as they would insist the games I liked were "crap." We argued a lot, but strangely no one ever hated each other -- it's just how things were (in fact, "Gonzo" as he's known became a friend as well... And somewhat a member of NGR...). Of course because of this chat I was stubborn and basically "gave up" NG for good, but a part of me was still interested and everything they had told me about it also made me want to play it even more. I basically contradicted myself, and eventually my stubbornness lost.

After Dead or Alive Dimensions came out on the 3DS, and I wrote my first "real" review for NGR, I finally decided to check out Ninja Gaiden as well. The story and seeing Ryu in DoA was the final push I needed, and on 2-25-2012 (almost exactly 5 years ago) I rushed to the local GameStop and bought Ninja Gaiden Sigma (1). Originally I was going to get the Vita version once it released later on, but I couldn't wait any longer and just bought the PS3 copy... And then I began regretting missing out for all those years.

My first experience with Ninja Gaiden was, to put it simply, pretty great. I liked Ryu Hayabusa as a character, the setting really caught my eye, I loved the wide verity of weapons you had to use, and I REALLY loved all of the different combos and attacks you could pull off. The game gave you complete control over Ryu, and it felt a lot like a fighting game, except in the form of a full adventure game instead. Then there was the challenge. After hearing how hard the game was for basically years, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I slowly made my way through each area, blocking and dashing my way around enemy attack after attack, and I used every single exploit I could find just to survive. Enemies were killing me in a few hits, explosions and flying arrows were limiting my movement, and giant monsters were crushing me left and right. It didn't take long for the "easy mode" option to pop up, but I ignored it and continued to press on. Eventually I began learning how to actually control Ryu and use his better moves, I unlocked new weapons I liked more than the default Dragon Sword, and I upgraded them to unlock new even stronger attacks. At one point I even remember hording the game's currency just so I could constantly have a stock of potions to survive. The game really was challenging, but the more I got into it, the more easier it became. That feeling of progression is something I'll never forget about the game, and by the time I finally took down the final boss and saw the ending credits -- I wanted more (which I had)!

New: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2  (PS3)
Beat: Ninja Gaiden Sigma  (PS3)

The moment I beat Ninja Gaiden Sigma, I started playing Sigma 2. The night before I had saved pretty close to the final boss, so on my way home from college I picked up GameStop's last copy of Sigma 2. Unfortunately their used copy didn't come with the original box, but as long as I was able to play it I was happy. So that night I rushed home, continued working on Sigma, and then the very next day I finished it and started up 2. It was an instant favorite. Nearly everything about the game had been improved and refined (despite Sigma 2 being the "worst" version of NG2), and I became hooked. For the next few months I would go on to spend a lot of time just going through that game over and over again. I tried out different weapons, I worked on mastering the weapons I was already used to, I ran through stages on different difficulties, and even spent quite a bit of time playing as other characters in the Ninja Trial mode. Also while the game's story still wasn't anything to write home about, even that was interesting enough to me! I spent a lot of time digging deeper and deeper into the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive lore (even spent time reading articles while at school), and before I knew it I had become a full on fan. On top of that, this was also around the time I began having issues with my wisdom teeth with constant pain everyday, so in a way NG2 helped me through that as well...

When Ninja Gaiden 3 released a few months later I got it as soon as possible. While I had heard a lot of bad things about the game, especially compared to previous entries in the series, I didn't let the bad news turn me off. Yes both upgrades and monsters were removed, there was only one weapon to use, and the story forced some strange slow down moments (like Ryu breaking character and slowly killing a guy begging for his life), but I did end up enjoying it to an extent. Compared to NG2? It was a let down in a lot of areas. Compared to other games of it's style? I thought it was a pretty fun one. The areas were interesting to say the least, and the combat was still fast and fluid. While it didn't feel like a full on NG, it was a game I still enjoyed and played through a few times (heck, I think I even game it a good rating in my review). The thing is though, now days my views on this game are the complete opposite. It's a game I would never tell anyone to even look at, yet alone play! As for why though? That's because of something I never expected.

After Ninja Gaiden 3 bombed with fans, Team Ninja did the unthinkable -- they released a new version! Originally this "Razor's Edge" version of the game was exclusive to the brand new Wii U (and the main reason I even wanted the thing at launch), it was eventually brought over to the other main consoles as well. In this version of the game nearly all of the force slowed down moments were removed, the murder scene with Ryu was cut, all of the weapons and upgrades were added back in, gameplay systems that were removed were restored (such as the dismember system from NG2), and even Ayane and Kasumi from Dead or Alive were added to the game -- the former being in the story, and the latter being an extra character to play as in the brand new stage select challenge mode. Everything about this version of the game was such an improvement, and it once again brought me back to the joy I felt earlier that same year. While it still may not be the best Ninja Gaiden game, 3RE did become my favorite in the long run, and it's something I still play from time to time till this day -- although the I do play 2 quite a bit as well...

So, with all of that being said, how about today?

Looking back on Team Ninja and their games, a lot of good memories come back to me. The time I spent playing Ninja Gaiden is some of my best gaming memories from recent years, but sadly Team Ninja has been away for awhile -- making games like Dead or Alive X3 instead (which, personally, I couldn't care any less about). My time actually playing their games was pretty short lived, and all I could do is sit back and hope Ninja Gaiden 4 would come out sooner than later. Then, NIOH happened.

NIOH is a game I actually didn't expect much from. It was compared to the Souls series (which I'm not a huge fan of), and what little time I spent playing the demo didn't seem that great. Still when it finally released last week I spent the weekend trying to hunt a copy down, and I don't regret it. It took a lot of driving, multiple tries at reserving a copy online, and ended with me eventually buying a copy Walmart had in the back for online sale only. It was a lot of work, but when I got home and gave the game a real chance, I found that it was very much worth it.

While it's true NIOH has a stamina and level up system similar to the Souls games, I quickly realized it wasn't a Souls clone at all. If anything, the game felt (or rather, still feels) like a much more grounded Ninja Gaiden! While in NG you have complete control over Hayabusa as you dash, jump, run along walls, and fly through the sky, in NIOH you take on the role of a more grounded samurai instead. William is a normal human and not a one man army, and that's really what the stamina and level up system show. Instead of blocking everything coming his way, and dodging with unlimited energy, he has to watch his movements carefully and expend his energy in the most efficient way -- or rather, you have to. Once you realize this the game becomes a lot more like Ninja Gaiden, and soon that nostalgic feeling of playing NG1 came back to me. Finally after all these years, it was back.

Currently I'm not very far into NIOH, but it has been very similar to how it was back then. I'm taking my time learning the levels, I'm working on mastering the weapons (many of which are similar to ones found in NG), and once again I'm putting my skills to the test as I take on enemy after enemy. Thanks to my knowledge of past Team Ninja games, so far things haven't been as hard as they used to be, but that's not stopping NIOH from being any less fun. Running through the stages slaughtering everything in my way feels great, and learning the best way to fight each one I encounter is something I am really enjoying. Even the annoying one hit kill grab moves from NG aren't annoying me here, and the bosses are forcing me to actually learn attack patterns -- something rarely seen now days outside of games like Monster Hunter or KT's very own Toukiden (and the Souls series of course). On top of all of that, the Ninja Gaiden like level design really helps bring the whole experience home for me, and so does seeing the return of ranged weapons like the bow and items and magic that gets mapped to shortcuts on the D-Pad. It's all so familiar to me, but at the same time it's also something completely new. To put it simply, this is the Team Ninja game I've been waiting for, and it's sure to be something I'll keep coming back to for years to come. (Not to say I'm still not hoping for a Ninja Gaiden 4.)

Looking back at all that's happened over the past 5 years, I'm happy to see at least somethings haven't changed. While NIOH is very much a new game it's own, it's the first game in a long time to bring back the same feeling I got from playing Ninja Gaiden, and I personally cannot wait to keep going with it. Team Ninja really is one of my favorite developers out there, and I hope to see more from them in the near future. (Hopefully that Dissidia game they're working on!)
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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Looking Back on the 3DS

Oh how time flies. Would you believe me if I told you that the 3DS was 6 years old, would you believe me? Well it's true! The Nintendo 3DS came out February 26, 2011 in Japan, and March 27, 2011 here in the US. I still remember getting the 3DS just like it was yesterday -- getting home from working at the bakery, driving up to GameStop with my dad, and then stopping by my Grand Parent's house to see my cousin and eat. The memory is still fresh in my mind, and I can't help but think of the 3DS as a "new" system still. Of course, this is no longer the case. With the announcement of the Nintendo Switch (which is releasing this March) both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U will slowly start to fade into the background. Sure, Nintendo did confirm that the 3DS would both continue to exist along side the NS for the time being (as they've always juggled two consoles), but with the amount of games coming to these systems in the near future -- or rather, lack of games -- it wouldn't be too shocking to see it's end come sooner than we thought. So, with that being said I wanted to take a moment to look back on the Nintendo 3DS, and look at how it's fared over the years.

A Troubling Start:

When the 3DS launched things weren't as good as some might like to believe. The console itself showed quite a lot of promise, but not many people actually had a reason to buy it. At the time the Nintendo DS still had new games coming out for it, and the 3DS seemed to have next to nothing. One of the main issues was the fact that the console was $250 at release, it released at a time where nothing was really going on in the year as Christmas and what not was already over, and most of it's announced games were either ports of old games like Metal Gear Solid 3, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, and The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. It was just way too expensive, and offered very little. Even so, those who did pick it up got to experience it's new 3D gimmick right away, and they were eventually rewarded for it.

The 3DS itself was a nice console right out of the gate. Shockingly the 3D effect worked very well, the device fit nicely into your hands, and the DSi like customization home screen was pretty nice. Although there was no online store at the time, there were plenty of preinstalled apps for you to move around as you liked, and we could all see how useful the home menu would be in the future once it actually allowed us to download new content. The built in video by OK Go was also a nice touch to show off the console's ability for 3D video, and the mini AR game was a cool way to show off it's AR features as well. Nintendo didn't waste time showing us what features the 3DS had, and with the Mii Plaza mini game, they encouraged us to take it with us on the go to get "Street Passes" from other players. Of course this wasn't easy to do when not many had a 3DS, but thankfully it did improve over time -- depending on the area you live in that is.

As for the games that launched with the 3DS, they were really mixed. The brand new Pilotwings game was the perfect tech demo, and would have been a great game to include with the console, but sadly you had to buy it extra. The 3D effect was great, it used the built in Mii feature similar to Nintendo Wii games, and it was packed with things to do. While it wasn't exactly a "large" game, all of the missions and activities were more than enough to keep you busy for quite some time. It was a game where you got to pilot different air crafts, complete challenges in them, and find collectibles hidden across a pretty good sized island -- a perfect game for on the go play.Again, it wasn't anything to write home about, but it was still nice.

Of course the other games released with the 3DS also helped show off what the thing could do, but they weren't what you would call tech demos. Many were ports of older games (as I mentioned above), and others were new entries in long running series. These games allowed us to look into previously known worlds with a new 3D perspective, and they helped show the power of the console itself, but not many of the games were actually new ,which gave many little to no reason to buy the console. Street Fighter fans were sticking with the Xbox 360 version (which received a massive update not too long after the 3DS port released), Sims players continued to play the main version of 3 on PC, Rayman 3D was just yet another port of Rayman 2, and Nintendogs + Cats was a slightly improved version of the game we got many years ago, just with cats added. The only games that truly stood out were ones such as Samurai Warriors Chronicles, or the turn based strategy game Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. These were new entries in older series that fans would have most likely wanted to play, but the high price of the 3DS and the rest of it's library prevented many from jumping in. In short, things didn't look too good for the console.

The 3DS Returns:

After a troubling start, and what seemed like years of waiting (it wasn't that long), Nintendo finally set out to right what they had did wrong. They announced that the 3DS would have a massive price drop, that early adopters of the console would receive 10 free NES and 10 free GBA games to make up for it, and that multiple new games would be on their way. Soon the Nintendo eShop was live, it was populated with classic Nintendo games, DSi shop games and brand new indie titles to buy, and new "major" releases were showing up on store shelves. Third party companies were releasing games like Dead or Alive Dimensions, Resident Evil Revelations, and Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, while Nintendo started getting games such as Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus Uprising, Fire Emblem Awakening, and Animal Crossing out. As time went on, the Nintendo 3DS' library continued to grow at a steady rate, and new features were constantly added to the console. The original Swap Note messaging service was eventually replaced with the Wii U's "Miiverse" social network, a new stronger 3DS model was released with new built in buttons (which allowed for games like Xenoblade Chronicles to be on the system), SNES titles were added to the eShop, and even new games and activities were added to the Mii Plaza. Nearly everything about the 3DS expanded as time went on, and what was once a console not many owned, became one that almost everyone had. Gone were the days of carrying around your 3DS hoping for a street pass from others -- instead taking your 3DS with you almost always resulted in at least getting a few. Nintendo managed to turn the dying handheld around, and they made it something worth owning.

3DS of Today:

The 3DS of today is a console that has both seen it's prime, and has the staying power to stick around for years to come. With games like Fire Emblem Echoes just around the corner, and never ending games like Animal Crossing and the Monster Hunter series, it is very easy to picture ourselves still playing it in the years to come. While the Nintendo Switch will be taking a large part of the market, the 3DS is something that can still stand on it's own. Yes, it's end is coming, but that doesn't stop the 3DS from being great. It's a console that now has a large library of games, and anyone who decides to buy one now will have many options open to them. Most of these great games will never see the light of day on anything besides the 3DS, and that alone is what will keep it alive for many -- even when Nintendo has pulled the plug.

Looking back, the 3DS really was a great console. It's given us many memories over these past six years, and that's something we will never forget about it.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4: Road to Boruto - Gameplay

The latest Naruto game is here, and both GlacialLeaf and I decide to take a crack at it... All while having no idea what we are doing! Thankfully Leaf here decided to save all of the fights we had, so we figured we might as well share them with the world. If you're a fan of Naruto and have yet to play Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, or if you're a fighting game fan just looking for something new to play, then hopefully this playlist will be both enjoyable to watch, and help you get a feel for the game.

Note: At the time of this posting there are currently only 4 videos uploaded, but we expect this number to grow over time -- so stay tuned to NGR, and feel free to check out our YouTube page! Just remember, Mecha Naruto is Number One!

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ben's Gaming Memories: Fire Emblem Awakening

Well, this feels really strange. Four years ago today Fire Emblem Awakening came out in the US. It's a game I waited a very long time for, a game I played for many months to come, and it's also the game that really kick started the "new" Netto's Game Room. It's kind of funny really, the game that kick started this blog's home away from Capcom-Unity is now a treasured memory of mine that I can't believe happened so long ago. It seems like just yesterday, and a part of me still wishes that it were...

When Fire Emblem Awakening was coming out I was beyond excited. This was the first time I really looked forward to a Fire Emblem game, and I couldn't get enough of it. I would stay up late looking up all the information about the characters, I'd read every possible interview and news article I could find, and I would even watch every video I could find on the game. To say I was excited for this one is really an understatement, and when the night before it's release came, I really couldn't wait to head out in search for it the next day. I still remember laying there in bed playing Virtue's Last Reward on my Vita, and waiting for myself to get tired enough to fall asleep so tomorrow would come even faster. Then, when I finally put my Vita on my night stand and closed my eyes... It happened.

I'm not sure how long I was actually sleeping, I think it was around 11 PM that I opened my eyes, but soon a ringing phone woke me from my sleep, and the sound of my mom's upset voice got me out of bed. It was my grandma, she had woken up herself and noticed something was strange -- her eye. Even standing in the light, she could see nothing out of one of her eyes. Needless to say, my mom was soon getting dressed and she was rushing out the door to take her to the hospital over an hour and a half away. I ended up not going with her as they needed someone to stay behind and work at the family bakery in the morning, and before I knew it I was there working the front and talking to the upset regular customers who really liked her. Eventually my mom got back and let everyone know they were still doing tests on my grandma, and once again she headed off to the hospital but this time with me in tow. While the doctors thought my grandma would be okay, they still weren't sure of what actually caused the blindness, nor were they sure if her vision would ever return. Sadly, it didn't.

Although my grandma would never see out of that eye again, there was at least some good news. First of all, she was okay and it wouldn't be happening to her other eye. There were more tests they wanted to do, and other doctors they wanted her to see so at the time there was more hope for her eye, but either way we did know for a fact that it was an isolated incident. The other piece of good news was for me personally, and it was something that helped cheer me up and get my mind off of all of the drama -- Fire Emblem Awakening.

The thing about Awakening is that although it came out on 2/4/2013, it didn't actually "come out" then (or at least not for most people). Strangely the game was in very limited supply, and most stores wouldn't even get the game until a few weeks later. It was sent off to a handful of places, and if you weren't lucky enough to find such a place, then you weren't getting it. For me, there was actually no store within the area that had it. No GameStops, no Walmarts, no Targets, no Best Buys, nothing. Every single store didn't get a shipment, so no one living in this area was able to buy it. That is, except for one -- a Target closet to the hospital. Of course I didn't know this at the time, and I just ran in there because it was close by. I walked over to the game section, asked if they had the game, and the guy opened up the box sitting next to him on the counter and pulled out a copy. Afterwards my mom and I ran over to the hospital (as my grandma was finally out of testing and what not), and after spending the day up there we finally headed back home. By that time I was finally feeling better about the whole thing (again, we knew she would be okay at that point) and I ended up playing the game the entire way home. Looking back now it's kind of strange because I remember something my mom said to me as we were leaving. She mentioned how I had just finished college and that maybe someday I would be working in that town. I blew the comment off as I really didn't feel like going to a place that was over an hour and a half drive away each day, but I guess fate had other plans for me. Later that year I would be driving back that way myself for my first full time job.

As for Fire Emblem Awakening, it's a game I really did enjoy, and it's the game that really helped kick off NGR when we moved it away from Capcom-Unity. Heck, we even used to have a Fire Emblem based "placeholder" banner at the top of the page! I remember liking it for being Fire Emblem, but no one else writing for the blog did. Despite all of that, Awakening was one of the few games we discussed heavily here, and it's a game that me and my friends would continue talking about and playing for the many months to come. It really is hard to believe that all of this was four years ago, and like the characters in the game, I still sometimes wish I could go back to hopefully change the future. I didn't know it at the time, but 2013 was the year of drama, and my grandma was just the start. I've mentioned it before, and even posted here when it happened, but after the incident with my grandma, things only got worse. A few months later her sister's kid died in his sleep, a week later her brother passed away, and then the day after Christmas her son -- my uncle -- also died at a young age. We lost the bakery after that, and the chain that connected so many people together was broken. I'm glad that Fire Emblem Awakening was there to help me through some of this, but I still wish things would have turned out differently. Even so, I'll always treasure the good memories of that year, and Awakening will always be there to remind me of them.

Happy birthday Fire Emblem Awakening.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Fire Emblem Heroes - Things You Should Know

Now that Fire Emblem Heroes is out many players may have a lot of questions about it. So, after spending the past two days playing it myself, I've decided to put together a little tip guide to help anyone out who might be wondering about different aspects of the game. Of course I'd also like to point out that because this game is so new, information is still limited, and things I've personally found may be outdated in the future. This is a game that will constantly change, so please keep in mind the date this guide was written (2/3/2017).

First Roll -

When you first start the game you are given 15 free summoning orbs to get your first set of characters; however before you go through with it you may want to play the first 5 intro missions first. This will get you 20 orbs, which will allow you to draw 5 characters at once and increase your chances of getting a rare 5 star unit.

Rerolling -

Don't like who you got in your first roll? Well by deleting your save data you can restart the intro, get your 20 orbs, and try again. Keep doing this as many times as you like, and then move on once you're ready. (NOTE: DO NOT LINK A NINTENDO ACCOUNT IF YOU PLAN ON DOING THIS)

Nintendo Account and 10 Free Orbs -

Linking a Nintendo Account will unlock bonus content in game, and allow you to instantly get 10 free summon orbs. By clicking the fountain at the bottom right of your castle screen, and then by clicking the little shining icon at the top right of this screen, you can open up your Nintendo account's page and choose which rewards you would like. You can also click the "mission" tab on this page to turn in any missions you've competed for extra Nintendo Points -- these points too can be traded for other in game bonuses (such as items that instantly refill your stamina so you can keep playing without waiting).

Upgrade Your Castle -

Once you've done your first roll, you may want to upgrade your castle. By clicking the icon at the top right on your castle screen you'll be given the option to spend orbs to increase your EXP gain while playing. The first upgrade is 1 orb and adds a +20% EXP bonus, the next is 2 for +40%, then 5 for +60%, and so on. Eventually by spending 26 orbs total you can increase your EXP gain by 100% thus doubling the EXP you gain from every kill in game. This will help you level much faster (well, twice as fast), and save on stamina. Very helpful for the next tip.

Upgrading Characters and the Items You Need -

Although 5 star units are currently the strongest in the game, they are also quite rare and not all units can be summoned as a 5 star version of themselves. So what do you do if there's a character you like at a lower star rating? You upgrade them of course! Sadly this process isn't going to be an easy one, but it can be done with a little time.

  1. The first step in this process is to get your character to level 20. This isn't too hard, but it will take quite a bit of stamina. For some characters you'll reach this level just by doing the main story, but for any extra ones you want to promote you'll have to go to the battle tower. Thankfully the training tower is also required for this next step, so you may be able to kill two birds with one stone.
  2. Once you've finished getting your character to level 20, or once you're ready to level your character in the training tower, you can then start working on getting upgrade stones. Each day the training tower offers a different type of stone, and you will have to complete training missions to obtain them. In order to use these stones to upgrade your character, you'll need to get 20 of your character's color. Lower levels of the tower give you a lower number of stones, and higher levels give you more. If you already have level 20 characters you could play the higher leveled training missions and be done with it in a few wins, and if you level your characters here you'll also reach the required amount naturally. This step isn't bad at all, but it's only part 2... Sadly 3 will be the hardest.
  3. The final thing you need to rank up your character is collecting feathers. Once you've met the above conditions you can then "buy" the upgrade with feathers you collect from doing different things. The values required for upgrading depends on the star level you're going for, but the two most will have to deal with will be upgrading 3 star units to 4, and 4 star units to 5. The required feathers are as followed: 3 to 4 = 2,000 and 4 to 5 = 20,000 (19,700 if you've fused two of the same units once). Yes the upgrade to 3 to 4 isn't bad, but the 4 to 5 could possibly take months. As to how you can earn feathers? See the next tip...

Once you've done the above three steps, your unit will then be upgraded to the next star rating, and it's level will be reset to 0. Sadly you'll also lose any + bonuses you got from fusing units, but I'll touch more on this below.

How to get Feathers -

Feathers act as a type of currency in Fire Emblem Heroes, and they are not that easy to come by. The ways to get them area as followed:
  • Fighting in the Arena
  • Getting a daily bonus from a unit visiting your castle
  • Releasing heroes you do not need
There may also be other special log in bonuses and events that give them out, but the above three ways will be your go to options.

To get the daily bonus, all you have to do is look at your castle screen and look for any unit that is ready to talk to you. These units are typically ones that have come to visit from friends, but I have personally seen other units give me feathers as well.

Besides relying on the daily bonus, fighting in the arena is another daily event, and it'll also be your main way of obtaining feathers. Each day you are given three passes to battle in the arena, and every time you win in a row you'll gain a point bonus. Stronger enemies will give you more points, and if
another player fights against your own AI in the arena and loses, you'll also gain defense points. These points are then used to place you in a ranking system where you will gain feathers based on how well you did. For example, earning 3,001 offense points will get you 1,600 feathers when the current arena season ends (which is roughly 4 days according to our current timer), and earning around 801 - 1,000 will get you 500 instead. On the defense side, max is 251 points for 500 feathers, with the lowest being 1 - 100 points for 100 feathers. Basically what this means is, you'll be able to earn the 2,000 needed for a 3-4 star rank up quite easily, but the 4-5 rank up could take a month or so depending on how well you do in the arena.

The final main way of getting feathers isn't quite as easy, but it's a good bonus that'll help you get to your goal faster. For this all you have to do is release (sell) heroes that you no longer need. Yes this means you'll have to summon them so that you can release them, but considering you'll be getting doubles of weaker units you don't need, there's really no reason not to do this. The values for releasing units are as follows:

1 Star Units = 5 Feathers
2 Star Units = 10 Feathers
3 Star Units = 150 Feathers
4 Star Units = 300 Feathers
5 Star Units = 1,000 Feathers

If you want to release your units or not is up to you, but again it can be a nice bonus. However, I do recommend thinking twice before you release your 5 star units as duplicates can be fused together to increase their stats.

Fusing Units -

As I've mentioned above, duplicate units can be fused. While only bonus SP (points used to unlock skills on units) is carried over when fusing two units of different star ratings, fusing two units of the same star rating will result in a character becoming stronger. In my case I was able to fuse two 4 star Tharja's together to add an extra +1 to her overall level. The plus side to this is, your characters can go over the level 40 level cap this way, but the down side is that promoted units do NOT keep this stat. In other words if I were to upgrade my 4 star Tharja to a 5 star, she would lose her +1. With that being said, it's actually best to only fuse 5 star characters together, and trade in any unwanted 4 stars or below. Sure you could also work on upgrading your 4 star units to 5 so that they can be fused, but considering how much work it takes to upgrade, it may be best just to cash in for the feathers.

Leveling Crystals -

Besides fighting in the tower to level up, it's also possible to use crystals on your units instead. By completing different monthly and story related quests (fountain at the bottom right of the castle), it is possible to earn crystals. These crystals can be fused into characters to boost their level, and can help you get new units up to speed without wasting stamina on training them. Keep in mind though that these crystals are limited, so in many cases it may be best to just level the natural way.

Other Smaller Things -

On top of the tips above, there are a few other things you may want to know before going into this game.

  • Units cannot die - While this is a Fire Emblem game (which is known for perma death), characters cannot die in this. Yes they can be knocked out of the mission/fight you're in, but they don't die for good. Because of this you shouldn't fear unit deaths, but instead use them to your advantage if necessary. Characters that can give their health to stronger ones can be quite useful because of that skill, and putting a character between your ranged attacker and the enemy will keep them safe. Tactics that you normally would want to avoid in the main games will work here, so don't fear trying new things.
  • Use the weapon triangle - This game plays upon weaknesses so you should use them. Red > Green > Blue > Red. There's a little guide always on screen to remind you of this, but it's good to remember it without having to look. Gray units don't follow this pattern, but they do have their own strengths and weaknesses. Example, bow users can take down flying users with ease, but they must be two spaces away from an enemy to attack (meaning if a melee enemy gets in close, they won't be able to defend themselves). This is actually the most important aspect of the game, but it doesn't mean you always have to follow it. It is in fact possible to over power units you are weak against, but in general you should follow the triangle as much as you can.

And that about covers it! Again this game will continue to grow and change over time, but hopefully these tips will continue to help you guys for years to come.
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