Saturday, November 10, 2018

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition - Review

As many may know, Devil May Cry is a popular series created by Capcom, and it's main character Dante has become iconic in the video game industry. The original game's unique "devil may care" attitude helped it stand out from other games in the same genre, and fans quickly fell in love with it. However, after the release of the first game, the DMC series sadly took a sharp turn. Devil May Cry 2 was handed off to another team, and they were told to recreate what DMC1 had done before it. So they did... Sorta...

Although DMC2 was still an action game, it was much easier than the original, and it stripped away much of the game's personality. While DMC1 featured a Dante who cracked jokes and really didn't care what happened to him, DMC2 went down the serious route. This didn't go over well with fans, and the future of the series was put into question by many. That is until DMC3 came around.

Devil May Cry 3 is "the" DMC title that most fans will recommend others to play. It's the game that returns to the roots of the original game, while also expanding on everything that came before it. It's the game where Dante's personality really shines, and it's also one of the more challenging titles out there. Of course this did cause some backlash from fans, as the US release's normal mode was actually the Japanese version's hard mode, but thankfully this was fixed in the Special Edition release. But putting that aside... Just how is the game? It's considered to be one of the best action games out there, but is it a game you should check out for yourself? Maybe? Who knows! Let's find out if this one is a bust, or a jackpot.

The Story:

Unlike the previous entry in the series which was a sequel to 1, DMC3 is a prequel. Taking place even before Dante opened his Devil May Cry detective agency, the game focuses on Dante and his rivalry with his brother.

In the distant past a demon by the name of Sparda turned against others of his kind, and became a hero of justice. He fought back against the of the demon world, and then sealed it off from the human world as well. Because of this act Sparda would go down in history, and tales of the evil power located in the demon world would be passed on for generations. Sure, not everyone believed the stories they heard, but there were others who did...

Being the sons of Sparda, both Dante and his brother Vergil were not like other humans. They gained super human powers from their father, and neither of the two see eye to eye. While they were closer as kids, the two quickly become rivals, and eventually things take a turn for the worst. While Dante works on setting up his demon fighting detective agency, Vergil seeks the power of the demon world. This goal of his is what eventually sets the events of DMC3 into motion, and what brings Dante to face him once again.

While the original DMC featured a Dante who would sometimes make wise cracks, DMC3 is the first time we really see Dante's characterization brought to life. Rather than being angry at the demons who try to kill him, he does what he can to have fun with the situation. Jumping off of buildings, using the ends of weapons that have impaled him, using a motorcycle as a sword, eating pizza DURING a fight, you name it! Dante doesn't care, and nearly everything he does is over the top. And that's just one part of the game's charm. Of course Dante isn't the only character in the story. A girl Dante calls "Lady" has also shown up for the party, but her motives are unknown to him. The only thing that is certain is that she is almost as crazy as he is.

The Gameplay:

Like the previous games before it, Devil May Cry 3 is an action adventure game. Although the game is split into missions that act as chapters, it takes a page out of Resident Evil's book and has a nearly fully connected world. Most areas have fixed camera angles, and those from previous chapters can be accessed at almost any time, and often you have to back track through these older areas to achieve your new goal. Sometimes you'll come across a room you cannot access until you've found the correct key or item, and other times you'll have to solve a puzzle if you want to progress. This is where the exploration aspect of DMC3 come into play, as most of the time the game will not tell you where you need to be. On top of that there are also hidden "Secret Missions" for you to find, which will lead you to new areas with specific goals you need to complete. They are a nice distraction from the main story, and they reward you with upgrades if you complete them. Of course all of this is only a small part of what DMC3 really is.

Although the exploration is nice, the real main focus in DMC is none other than it's combat. This time around Dante as a bit more customization than in previous entries. Just as before he starts out with his long sword and twin hand guns (which have unlimited ammo), but he has new style options as well. These styles give Dante new moves and abilities, and they become stronger as you use them. For example the Trickster style allows Dante to quickly dash to dodge enemy attacks, but when it levels up it eventually gives him the ability to warp in front of the enemy he has targeted. Meanwhile styles like the Doppelganger allow you to create a clone of yourself to help in combat, and the Gunslinger increases the effectiveness of ranged weapons. Each of these styles have their own use, and by switching between them you can change up your play style to keep things fresh. This also gives you a reason to use the built in chapter select to replay previous areas, or possibly even try the harder difficulties.

Outside of styles, the rest of the combat has gone mostly unchanged. Dante can freely switch between his melee attacks and range attacks by simply pressing the designated button (triangle for melee, square for ranged), and the two types of attacks can be mixed together to create all kinds of combos. Depending on what directly you're pushing the analog stick, if you're locked onto an enemy or not, and when you press the attack buttons, Dante will preform different attacks, and these attacks can be chained together. As you pull off these different attacks the game will grade you on your combos, and pulling off longer ones (without repeating too many of the same attacks) will give you a better score at the end of each mission. Higher scores will give you more currency to buy items and upgrades, and that will in return help you progress through the game. Although the Special Edition of DMC3 is easier than the original release, it is still a challenge.

Besides your standard sword and guns, Dante does unlock multiple weapon types during his adventure. One of the earlier weapons he unlocks is a set of dual swords, and a shotgun. These weapons are more useful in different combat situations, and can be swapped in and out whenever they are needed. Dante can hold up to two melee and two ranged weapons at a time, but others can be equip by visiting the statues located throughout the game's map. These statues are also where you can buy items and upgrade Dante's abilities, and are often found near extra puzzles that require specific conditions to clear. In other words, even if you didn't bring the correct weapon with you in a stage, it's no big deal to just stop by and equip it.

On top of having different weapons and styles to use, DMC3 SE also has a second playable character to unlock. Vergil is usable once you complete the game, and he offers a new challenge all his own. While he doesn't have an actual story (as he simply replaces Dante), he has a complete new move set and play style. His gameplay mode is also more challenging than the main game, so it gives players a new way to push themselves. There is also a "Bloody Palace" mode to fight your way through, but it's something only the most hard core players should attempt.

The Good and the Bad:

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition really is a fun game, and a huge upgrade over the previous entries in the series. While the main tower might not be as interesting of a location as the castle from DMC1, the gameplay itself more than makes up for it. Dante feels great to control, the style system gives you a reason to experiment, and the weapon selection is sure to have something for everyone. The story is fun and entertaining, it's filled with unique characters, and you never know what Dante will do next. The game makes you want to keep going, and no one part ever feels like it drags on too long. Although there are moments you may get confused on where to go, being lost often leads you to discover worth wild secrets, and you'll never feel like you've wasted your time. The combat itself is also spot on, and the second playable character gives you even more of a reason to return even after the credits roll. However, that doesn't mean the game is for everyone.

There's no denying that DMC3 is an older game, and some parts of it might be challenging for others to overcome. The fixed camera angles can still sometimes cause you to get hit by enemies off screen, the dodge roll takes some time to get used to, and the game IS a challenge. Thankfully the Special Edition adds in some options to help with that (such as an easy mode), but if you're not willing to learn to get better, then a lot of the game's enjoyment will be taken away. Even so, DMC3 is still a great game, and it's one that action game fans should really give a chance. It's really no wonder why fans of the series like it so much.
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Saturday, November 3, 2018

MediaMoleclue Recreates LittleBigPlanet in Dreams

This is something interesting I came across. In honor of LittleBigPlanet's 10th birthday, the original developers behind the series decided to do something special. Using their brand new Dreams game, they actually recreated some levels from LBP itself! Although there's actually quite a bit more to it than that. While LBP was a 2.5D platforming game with a level editor and logic chips to create your own games, Dreams takes this all a step further and is nearly a full on game engine. It's a game that allows you to shape and mold the world as you like, and design and code your own features and mechanics. This is how they recreated LBP as well. Rather than using a simple level editor, everything was built from the ground up. The character models, the physics, the menus... Everything! It's truly an impressive tool, and the fact that it supports PlayStation VR only makes it even better.

But anyway, enough of that. Check out the video for yourself! (Or videos.) The first one is a little trailer for what they created, while the second is a full walk through with the dev team showing off what they exactly did. Skip to around the 25:00 mark in that one if you'd like to see the logic side of things.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

SoulCalibur VI is out and 2B is on her way!

Both good and bad news for fans. 2B from Nier Automata is officially being added to the game! How could this be bad news you might ask? Well that's because online is currently flooded with custom 2B characters, and this means their work was (mostly) wasted. Even so, I'm sure even those who lost time making their 2B will be happy to see the real thing being added instead. Along with this addition comes her new fighting style for the character creator, a Kaine (from the original Nier) costume, and some other extras like an Emile head attachment, and even a new stage to play in. While no release date was given for when she'll be added, a "coming soon" message was at the end of the new trailer. You can check it out for yourself below:

On another note, although we might've lost our custom 2B characters, at least this makes making a custom A2 much easier!
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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Devil May Cry - Review

With the PlayStation Halloween sale going on, I decided to once again take a chance, and try something new. In past years I used this sale to get back into series like Castlevania, but this time around I went for a game I have never touched in my life. That series being none other than Devil May Cry. Now as a Capcom fan this is one of the few games of theirs I simply wouldn't play. Wasn't a huge fan of the whole demon thing, and I never had a good reason to give the series a chance. That is until the complete collection went on sale the other day.

Anyway, with the entire series now downloading on PS4, I finally found the time to really sit down with the series to give it a chance. So with that being said, here's a review I never thought I'd do. A review of Devil May Cry 1 for the PS2/PS3/PS4.

Devil May Cry. It's a series that has quite the strange history. Originally it was being created as a brand new Resident Evil game, but it was eventually deemed too much of a departure from the series' roots. Rather than fighting zombies and what not, the game had more of a supernatural ghost theme, and for whatever reason it didn't sit well with the developers. However, rather than tossing the game out after canceling it, the team decided to save what they could and create a new IP instead. This is what would eventually become Devil May Cry on the PlayStation 2. Needless to say, the game was a pretty big hit back in the day, but how does it hold up now? Is this game really as good as fans say it is? Or could it be nostalgia? Well, after playing the game for the first time in 2018, I'm hoping to have that answer. This is my review of the original DMC.

The Story:

The story in the first Devil May Cry is pretty light. In the ancient past a demon named Sparda rebelled against his own kind. Rather than siding with the evil beings of his dimension, he decided to walk down the path of justice instead. Eventually Sparda sealed off the underworld, and defeated it's leader Mundus, but this came at a price. By locking away the demon world and it's evil power, Sparda lost his power as well.

Jumping ahead to modern day, Dante, the son of Sparda, is running a shop called "Devil May Cry." There he works as an investigator mercenary who specializes in strange paranormal activities. At the start of the game Dante is attacked by a young woman named Trish, and is then asked to help her take down Mundus once and for all. Dante, who is looking to avenge the death of his mother, accepts the job, and sets out for a strange castle to confront the evils within it.

At this point the story of DMC is mostly told by the environment. Similar to Capcom's Resident Evil, much of the plot comes from the places you visit, and objects you examine (such as the books on the book shelves). While there are cutscenes during key moments, they are few and far between, with other aspects of the plot only being implied. Of course this is understandable, as DMC1 is focused on gameplay over everything else.

The Gameplay:

Devil May Cry is an action adventure game, with some light puzzle elements incorporated. The game features one central location that you explore, but the story itself is broken up into smaller "missions." At the start of each mission you are given a clear cut goal, and the moment you complete it the mission will end and will trigger an intermission checkpoint. During these moments you're able to save your game and buy items or upgrades, but you're also given a rating as well. This is where DMC differs from most action games out there, as it rewards you based on your performance.

Although the game does have it's chapter based structure, the world itself is completely connected. Taking place in a creepy old castle, Dante must explore the world around him and solve puzzles as he progresses. Sometimes you'll come across doors that require a key to open, but that key itself might be locked behind another puzzle accessed in a later chapter. There are also side areas that will challenge you with extra missions (such as one that asks you to trick enemies into killing each other), and completing them will give you bonus rewards. Although most key items are given to you just by following the main plot, these extra areas give you a reason to explore and to backtrack to older areas. On top of that some weapons are completely optional as well, and can be missed if you're not careful. Again, these elements are reminiscent of Capcom's Resident Evil series, and will be very familiar to fans. However that's about as far as the similarities go.

While RE is a pure horror survival game with limited resources, DMC focuses on it's action. The game does retain the fixed camera angles from RE, but the environments are fully 3D with some more dynamic camera angles during fight scenes. Also while Dante's main weapon of choice is the sword, he also has a wide range of guns at his disposal as well. Although most of them have to be found by exploring, a handful are given to you as you progress through the game. Unlike in RE these guns do have unlimited ammo, and are meant to be used along with Dante's sword combos to help clear out mobs of enemies. However using the gun alone does come at a price, as it does not reward you with the stylish combo points needed to achieve higher rankings during the intermissions.

Although using guns in DMC is quite simple (as it's a matter of holding aim and then hitting the shoot button), Dante's sword and other melee weapons are not quite as straight forward. While triangle is used as the main attack button, depending on when and how you press the button will cause Dante to use different combos. Quickly tapping the button will give you a quick basic attack, but putting a pause between presses will result in a different type of attack entirely. There are also attacks that can be pulled off during a job, and you can use other moves like the dodge roll by holding the aim button and tapping jump while flicking the analog stick. It's actually a pretty complex system, and mastering it is the key to survival. Mix in some well aimed shots however, and you'll be able to pull off massive chain combos that completely destroy everything around you. But on the flip side... Fail to learn this combat system, and you'll be struggling your way through from start to finish. DMC is NOT an easy game, and it can be a very punishing one as well.

Despite being a challenging game, there are some things that can be done to help you through it. Killing enemies (as well as getting high scores on missions) will reward you with currency you can spend on items and skill upgrades, and health upgrade items can be found hidden throughout the world as well. There's also a special demon mode Dante can activate to give himself an edge, but this ability is limited use and needs to recharge after it runs out. If you're still having trouble with the game even after all of this however, there is an easy mode that can be switched to after dying enough times. This mode boosts your health bar, allows you to stay in your demon mode longer, and simplifies the controls to allow you to pull off auto combos. It's a way to help you get through the story if that's all you care about, but it does ruin a big part of what makes the game fun. On top of that it also locks you into easy mode forever, so you're unable to challenge the harder difficulties on New Game Plus... Which is something else that really adds to this game's replay value.

Once you have finished the game for the first time, there is still plenty to do. Finishing normal mode lets you roll on into the harder difficulty settings, and completing them lets you challenge yourself even further. Eventually you'll be able to master the game and experience the rush that goes along with it, but it's a long road before you get to that point. Even so, for the die hard players it'll be worth it.

The Good and the Bad:

Like many games released around this time period, Devil May Cry is an early PS2 release, and it shows. While the game can be a lot of fun, it's also one that takes quite a bit to get used to. Especially playing other action games this day in age. The fixed camera angle can often keep you from seeing enemies and their attacks, the forced platforming sections can be a bit of a challenge, and the lack of checkpoints during the missions can be frustrating. Mix in the fact that most enemies can kill you in a few hits, and you're greeted with a challenge that might be a bit harder than it should be. This doesn't stop it from being a fun game though.

If you can put aside it's age and design choices, DMC is a solid old school action game. While the camera might cause you to get by something off screen once in awhile, most of the challenging moments don't feel cheep. If you die or fail to finish something, it's typically because you aren't skilled enough yet or are simply doing something wrong. Dante has many different combos under his belt, and it's up to you to figure out which ones are the best to use, and when to use them. It's a nice system that keeps the combat from becoming too repetitive, and it prevents you from mashing buttons and hoping for the best. On top of that, the auto lock on guns feel great to use as well, and you can get pretty creative with your combos if you know what you are doing.

Besides the combat, the setting of DMC is a nice one as well. The dark eerie castle is shrouded in mystery, and exploring it's halls is fun on it's own. While it might not be as detailed as areas found in horror survival titles, it does give off a similar vibe and has plenty for you to discover for yourself. The hidden challenges are a nice addition to the main story, and finding new weapons or upgrades always feels great. Putting aside some clunky swimming sections, the map itself is perfect.

Overall Devil May Cry is a pretty fun game, with most of it's issues coming from it's age. It was the first title in a brand new series, and a lot of the ideas they tried out were new at the time. If you're willing to look past all of this, what you're going to find is a solid old school action game with plenty of replay value. It's also one of the few action games to really challenge it's players, and it's iconic main character only helps make things better. Sure, DMC isn't a game for everyone, but it is one that is worth checking out at least once.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Muv-Luv - Review

So typically around Halloween I share something horror related. Last year it was a creepypasta thing I was asked to pass along, a review of The Evil Within, and a few posts about my experience with horror games. So this year I'd like to continue that trend, but by doing something a bit unexpected. I am going to review one of the few games to ever truly scare me, but it's not what you may think... No, this game is one you'd never guess in a million years. (Unless you read the title of this post that is!) Anyway... This is my review of the visual novel Muv-Luv!

Visual novels were once extremely niche outside of Japan. Back in the day most gamers in the west had never even heard of them, and only a handful of people even watched the anime series based on them. Today's world is a different story though. Anime has become quite a bit more "mainstream" than it used to be, and thanks to series like Ace Attorney introducing the genre to the west, visual novels are becoming more common as well. Sure they still aren't as popular as in Japan, but at least western gamers are a lot more accepting of them now, and we've gotten quite a few releases because of that. The only problem is... Which ones are actually worth playing? Well, like with anything, it really depends on what you are interested in. Visual novels are typically fully story based, and if it's not the type of story you're into, then it's not something you should play. However sometimes a visual novel comes along that takes everyone by surprise, and isn't exactly what most think it is at first glance. One such game is Muv-Luv.

At first glance Muv-Luv is nothing special. The box art and promotion art features two girls and a heart on it's cover, and it seems to be your typical anime dating sim. It's not something a lot of people will pay much attention to because of this, and those who might play it based on that alone will only be getting it for the girls. Now there's no denying that this game did in fact start out as an adult only release on PC, but that honestly is only a small part of what it actually is. There were only a few of these scenes in the game, and the PlayStation Vita release slightly modifies them to retain the M rating. But again, this isn't what Muv-Luv is about. It is not your typical "dating sim," nor is it a game that you play for the adult content. All of this is here to trick you, and lead you into a false sense of security. What at first seems to be a high school dating drama series, eventually turns into a full blown sci-fi mecha psychological horror adventure, and it's one you will never forget. This is the not so obvious truth of Muv-Luv.

Muv-Luv Extra:

The original release of Muv-Luv actually consists of two games, with the first one being titled "Extra." This game follows the story of a young man by the name of Takeru Shirogane, and lets players experience his life day by day. While Takeru seems to live a normal high school life, one day he awakes to find that everything is about to be twisted upside down. After spending a day out with his childhood friend Sumika, he opens his eyes the next morning to find a girl sharing the same bed as him. With no knowledge of who she is, instantly Takeru freaks out, and receives a beating from Sumika after she catches them together. It's a typical h-game scenario one might expect from such game, but again, this is only temporary.

After the strange encounter, Takeru helplessly watches as the girl, who he learns is named Meiya, transfers into his class, and moves herself into his home. She claims the two are meant to be together and is fully ready to marry him, but Takeru is against the idea. Although he hopes she will leave so that he can go back to his normal life, things only get worse as time goes on. For the next months of his life, Takeru is faced with crazy situation after crazy situation, and your actions as a player decide how things will play out.

While strange rich girl Meiya and childhood friend Sumika are the two "main" love interests in Muv-Luv, they are not the only girls Takeru can become close to. The main story of the game is actually based around his daily life in general, with Meiya's craziness just sorta being there in the background. Sure a lot of weird things happen because of her (which help drive the plot forward), but other characters contribute to the story as well. You get to see Takeru and his best friend Mikoto go to the arcade to play their favorite game Valgern-On (which is this world's version of SEGA's Virtual-On), you see him getting in trouble with the class president, and you even see his relationship with his teachers at school. Muv-Luv Unlimited lets you see every aspect of Takeru's life, and it allows you to uncover more about the other character's lives as well. Depending on your choices you'll go down different story routes to unlock different pieces of information, but in the end there is only one true path that leads into the sequel. Even so, what you learn about the other characters is important, and by the time the credits roll you will care about each and every one of them. However; all of this is only the intro...

Despite Unlimited being a mostly "generic" dating sim like story, there are some things that really stand out about it. For one it's much more animated than most visual novels on the market. Rather than having static images and backgrounds, the camera will pan to different locations in the area, and characters have multiple animations to get their actions across. All of the characters (besides Takeru) are fully voiced as well! On top of all of this, the story is actually pretty funny, and it does a great job of making you feel like you're living Takeru's life. Although it can be a bit slow at times, the story is actually enjoyable on it's own, and makes it easy to overlook the sometimes generic plot points. This is one reason it's so hard to take what is yet to come.

Muv-Luv Unlimited:

Muv-Luv Unlimited is the "sequel" to Muv-Luv Extra, and the true start of the story. Continuing roughly from where Muv-Luv left off, Takeru wakes up in the morning as usual, but quickly he notices something is different. His childhood friend Sumika isn't screaming in his ear to "wake up," and the door Meiya installed to connect their rooms is gone. At first he's not sure how to process all of this, but considering how weird his life has been lately, he just sorta shrugs it off. Takeru leaves that room without a care in the world, with only his Game Guy (this world's version of the Game Boy) in his hand. That's when he sees it.

Upon opening his front door to leave for school, the first thing he sees is a sight he doesn't recognize. The world outside appears to be a wasteland, and the house next door to his has been crushed by a giant robot. "AWESOME!" Of course none of this upsets Takeru, as he loves giant robots, and now he's having the greatest dream of his life. Sadly the robot is a wreck so he can't pilot it, so he decides to walk to his dream version of school as well. This being a part of his imagination means anything could happen, and he can't wait to see what's next.

After arriving at his school, Takeru find something even stranger in it's place. Sure his school is technically "there," but now there are two armed guards at the gate, and the school itself has been turned into a military base. At first the guards ask him why he left the base, but when they see his uniform is missing any kind of identification, they are quick to apprehend him. This is when Takeru first starts to realize something. That this dream isn't actually a dream. What he's opened his eyes to is none other than the real world.

Having a hard time believing this fact, Takeru spends some time in jail, but is eventually freed by his teacher Yuuko; however, she has no idea who he is. Apparently she's one of the heads at this military base, and she has come to question Takeru. The fact that he doesn't know what is going on, and has memories of another world intrigues her, so she decides to take him back to her office for further questioning. Of course she's not completely sure if she can believe him yet, but the same can be said for Takeru as well. Neither one can accept the other's memories as truth, but Yuuko believes Takeru will understand if he enrolls at the military academy. So by using the guise of "you can pilot a giant robot if you join us" to convince him, Yuuko does manage to get Takeru to join them, and soon he does learn to accept reality.

Going back to Takeru's life, Unlimited once again does follow his story day by day. Upon enrolling in the military academy he eventually finds himself reuniting with his old friends, but just like Yuuko they have no memories of him. To keep from causing issues, and because Yuuko told him to, Takeru avoids talking about his original world with anyone else besides Yuuko herself, and instead has to treat all the others as if he is meeting them for the first time. Of course this world's versions of these people are slightly different from the ones he used to know, but Takeru has a hard time accepting that. To him they are the very same friends he's known all this time, and eventually he even starts using the same old nicknames he had for them all. But then reality starts to set in once again.

It turns out this world is at war with something called the "BETA." Vile creatures from space that have all but completely wiped out humanity. They appear in different parts of the world, and in no time at all they slaughter everything in their path. The humans of earth are fighting a losing battle, and it's only a matter of time before everyone is dead. Surface Pilots are the only ones who stand a chance at fighting back, but to reach that level students much pass their basic training. Of course all of this information doesn't really stick with Takeru (nor will it to the players), and it's all something that can easily be blown off. Yeah, it's aliens, and robots have to fight them. It's not the most original thing in the world, and Takeru doesn't see the big deal. Most of Earth is dead? Okay, it's easy to just say that but the whole thing is just so impersonal. How bad it truly is doesn't sink in, and is nothing more than background information. So Takeru takes it all with a grain of salt, and goes back to his training. Where he fails horribly.

The main story of Unlimited is focused on Takeru trying to survive in this new world. While all his old friends are military ready, he doesn't even know how to do the simplest of things. Tell him to take apart a gun, clean it, and reassemble it? Yeah, he has no idea. Ask him to run a few miles in full gear? He's dying after the first few steps. Takeru just isn't cut out for this life, and he has a hard time following the world's history. What is common knowledge to everyone else is far beyond him, and the whole alien thing continues to be nothing more than a dream to him. He's unable to understand just how serious his situation is, and nearly everything he does only holds the others back. Eventually though, he does have his eye's opened.

While it may not seem like it at first, Muv-Luv Unlimited is one of the few games that will really play with your emotions. At first you will feel completely safe with this game and it's characters. Extra was nothing but comedy and stupid situations, and the start of Unlimited seems to continue that trend in it's own way. It's a generic sci-fi aliens attacking story, and you'll feel like you already know everything that's going to happen. It'll be as if nothing bad will actually happen to these characters, and you'll expect it's plot to take familiar turns. However, that's where Muv-Luv truly is at it's best. What happens isn't going to be what you expect, and it doesn't take long for the overwhelming sense of dread to drown out all of your other feelings about the game. Eventually you and Takeru will both understand the truth.

The Good and the Bad:

So Muv-Luv isn't a story that's so black and white, and that can make it hard for some people to get into at first. When Extra first starts up it really does seem like a generic anime dating sim. Bright and colorful characters, most of the cast is female, and Takeru gets into a lot of stupid situations. It doesn't seem like anything special, and it's pretty easy for someone to be turned off by it. Despite all of this however, the game does a great job of introducing these characters, and it does a really good job of making you feel like you're Takeru. You easily become invested in this guy's life, and you can't help but want to see what happens next to him and his friends. Yeah it can drag on at times, but it's pretty enjoyable as well. The Japanese voice acting is pretty high quality, and the more animated scenes help liven up the story. It's these extra miles that help keep you drawn in, and make it easier to continue pushing forward with it's story. But even so, it's not actually until Unlimited starts up that the main plot presents itself, and it's possible many will drop the game before reaching this point. For those who do stick it out though, they are greeted with the start of one of the craziest sci-fi stories to have ever been written.

By the time Unlimited rolls around, players have already taken an interest in Takeru's life. They care about this character, and that's important for what type of story Muv-Luv evolves into. We get to see him march up to those front gates like an idiot, and we then get to see this new world beat him down again and again until he's molded into who he needs to become. At first the whole alien thing seems like a stupid generic plot point, but the way Muv-Luv expands upon that idea is unlike most series out there. Everything up until that moment leads you into a false sense of security, and it's not until you see it for yourself that you realize how serious this is. Muv-Luv is one of those few games that can really play with your emotions, and it eventually evolves into full on psychological horror. The very same feelings Takeru has while going through this endeavor will get passed on to you the player, and at some point you may even find yourself unsure if you want to go on. Although, this is mainly something seen in Alternative... The thing about Extra and Unlimited is, although Extra may be the intro to the full package, both of the games are only the beginning. And that makes Muv-Luv one of the greatest setups of all time.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

The World Ends With You: Final Remix releases tomorrow!

Hard to believe that it's finally here... It only seems like yesterday that I first heard of the possibilities of this, but in reality that was 6 years ago.

Back in 2012 I finally stopped being stupid and picked up The World Ends With you on the DS. Before that moment I flat out refused to play the game, and I basically avoided it at all costs. However with Kingdom Hearts DDD featuring characters from it, I slowly started to come out of my shell, and decided to give it a chance. Needless to say, I was blown away. (So much so I actually wrote this review!) After seeing how good the game was for myself, I wanted the world know as well. By that point it was already five years old, but I didn't care. I knew there were people out there just like me who had yet to play it, and this was my way of hopefully getting more to give it a chance as well.

Anyway not long after that Square-Enix launched a strange countdown website which got everyone excited. The only thing we knew for sure was that it was for a TWEWY related project, and that once the countdown ended they would officially announce what it was. Yeah, it turns out it wasn't what we expected...

The World Ends With You Solo Remix was a mobile version of TWEWY. It wasn't the sequel fans were hoping for, but it was actually a pretty game on it's own. Sadly the combat system had to be modified due to the lack of a physical D-Pad (which was used to control your partner character), but the core game remained in tact (as it was a touch screen game to begin with). As for what else was changed? Mainly the graphics and music. The new release featured enhanced graphics, high quality audio, and some new songs were added to the mix as well. For a game that focuses so much on it's pop style, these enhancements were actually pretty major. It gave long time fans a reason to rebuy it, but it was still no substitute for a real sequel. Then it happened. This was found.

Once you finished Solo Remix a secret image is unlocked that hints at a sequel. This once again reignited the flames of hope that fans had lost, and once again they began speculating when this sequel would come out. Would it be on 3DS? Would it be yet another mobile game? We had no idea, but we hoped we would find out soon. Yeah, it didn't happen. At least not until now.

TWEWY Final Remix is a Nintendo Switch exclusive port of TWEWY, but this time around it has quite a bit to offer. While the game itself is an enhanced port of the previous enhanced port, it also introduces a new story chapter, and adds in new enemies to fight and attack pins to collect. It's basically a the "Final Mix" version of the game (which is something the developers do with their Kingdom Hearts games), and it's where they finally make good on their promise from that teaser image. Sure, it isn't a full new game, but at least something has come from it... And who knows? Maybe this WILL lead to a true sequel? Only time will tell, but the odds are looking pretty good. Especially with how well the Switch is doing these days.

So, if you haven't checked out the game yet, here's your chance. It's a cult classic DS RPG that you really shouldn't miss out on, and it's releasing tomorrow. (Personally I can't wait to buy it for a third time!)
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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"NieR: Automata - Long Story Short" Out Today

Are you a fan of NieR: Automata? Are you sad that the game is over? Do you want to know more about the game's world? (Or any combination of these three?) Well you're in luck! Today is the English release date of "NieR: Automata - Long Story Short," the first of multiple novels set within the Nier: Automata universe. Now anyone who is a fan of the series may already know that NieR and Drakengard both have been expanded outside of their original games, but usually everything besides the games remain Japanese exclusive. With the exception of the Drakengard 3 short stories (which could be read on the website), rarely have we seen the extra content be translated! So it's actually a bit shocking that VIZ would pick up the NieR: Automata novels. But never the less, it's the good kind of shocking! So, what is it exactly? Well..

Long Story Short is a novel version of Automata that expands the story in new ways. While the book's contents are basically the "same" as what you see in the game, new details are introduced to the plot, as well as new characters who play a key role in the overall story. It's basically an expanded version of the story that is only meant to be read after finishing the original game. While it isn't completely new content, it does give new insight, and helps answer some key questions left over from the main game -- something many fans have been looking forward to.

On top of Long Story Short, Short Story Long will be releasing within the next few months as well. This novel will be a collection of short stories that expand the NieR universe even further, and they will take part during different periods of time. Of course saying too much about that novel's contents would be considered a spoiler, so I'll just leave it at that.

Anyway... If you're a fan of NieR, then both of the novels may be worth checking out. They're roughly only $10 each, so they are pretty easy to get your hands on if you're interested. Personally my copy arrived today, but I'm really debating getting it digitally as well. As a huge fan myself, it's something I'd like to keep with me to read anywhere, but nothing beats a hard copy.
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NGR Updates - 10/9/2018

So today I wanted to give everyone a heads up on some changes happening here at NGR, and on some changes that are yet to come. Honestly most of these were forced on us, but I'm sure it's better off this way anyway. With that being said, first up is:


Noooooo-oh well. When we first opened the NGR forums it was to create our own version of what we once had over at Capcom-Unity. I've had quite a bit of experience running forums in the past, and most of them were pretty successful. Typically the forums I created became populated with people who quickly became close like family, and a lot of long time friendships were made. Of course the problem with running such forums was the fact they were fan forums aimed at a specific game, and when interest dies in the source material, the demand for fan forums goes with it. So with NGR's forum I was hoping to bring that to a wider audience, but by then times had changed. When we opened in 2013 forums were already a dying breed, and that's something that has only gotten worse as time marched on. With even large official communities struggling to stay afloat, it's really no wonder we too met the same fate.

First of all I'd like to thank everyone who was involved with the NGR forums. While we weren't the biggest community in the world, you guys were great, and I am happy for the time we spent together. I just want to let all of you know that it isn't because of you that we decide to close the forums - in fact, this is what I meant when I said some of these changes were forced on us. Sadly the service that the NGR forums used was bought out by another company, and all existing forums were forced to migrate to a new service. This new service not only locks many key features we used behind further paywalls, but it removes the freedom of having your own forum, and instead turns it into a "group" that's a part of a much larger overall site. Basically that forum is no longer truly "ours," and it even asks that members make a full account for the service instead. So to put it simply, it's a mess, and not worth putting up with.

Now I'm not saying this is fully the end of the "NGR Community," but currently I have no plans when it comes to opening another forum. Sure I could migrate almost everything over to a new service, but at this point it really isn't worth it. Again forums are dying out, and with other options out there like Reddit or even Discord servers, there isn't much of a reason to go down the same path again. So basically what I'm saying is, the forums may be done, but that doesn't mean we won't replace it with something else in the future. But until then, feel free to leave comments on the blog, or even email us... And that leads into the second major change.

Google + is dead!

Google announced that they are putting an end to the consumer version of Google +, and that means there are some changes we will be dealing with as well. Since NGR runs on Google's Blogger service, Google + was actually integrated into the site as well. This was mainly seen in our comment section, but our accounts and some behind the scenes features were linked to G+ as well. Now with the service shutting down in the near future we have decided to make some changes of our own ahead of time.

First of all, Google + is no longer linked directly to NGR. Our new blog posts will no longer be shared to Google + as well, and you can no longer access our Google + page. (Not really that big of a deal honestly.) The second change is the fact that our comments no longer use Google + as well, so EVERYONE is free to say what they want. Now the comment section WILL default to your Google profile (or YouTube, or Gmail, or whatever else you might use Google for) so most of you will still be able to comment just as you did when we were linked with Google +. On top of that, you no longer actually have to USE that Google profile to comment. You can if you want to, but if you'd rather stay anonymous you can. Accounts are no longer required to post here, but that means we will be a bit stricter on moderation of said comments. Now sadly because of this change we have lost ALL past blog comments, but I'd like to think of this as a fresh start. What was said in the past has already been said, and now it's time to move forward.

As for our final changes? That's yet to be seen. We're still posting using our Google + accounts as our profile, so what happens to those profiles is for Google to decide. Again this won't be a change you guys will care about, but it does mean our usernames may be altered. (We'll see though.)

And as for the future...

A bit hard to say really. Not too long ago Google released a pretty massive update for all of Blogger. This update gave us new features to play around with, which greatly enhanced what we can or cannot do with this site. With that being said, I'd like to make some changes to the blog overall, but I simply haven't had the time to sit down and do that. I have some ideas of what I'd like to add/change, but I rather not announce those plans until I am actually ready to do them. In the meantime I'll be testing out some of my ideas to see if they are worth incorporating, but until then that's all I can really say. Although I do want to make it clear that I don't want to make changes just for the sake of change. I only want to do things that NGR would benefit from, and that will make you, the reader's, life easier. Sorry if it sounds like I'm talking in circles here, but I want to make it clear that changes will only happen if they are worth it.

Anyway that's all I have for today. Until next time guys!

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Monster Hunter World - Review

Monster Hunter. I'm sure you've heard the name at some point, but what is it? Up until a few years ago Monster Hunter was known as an obscure series here in the West. There were some PS2, and PSP games, but who even played them? Well, besides a small fan base, no one. The series wasn't a household name, and even those who did play it may have been turned off by it's challenging gameplay and controls. While the original PS2 releases controlled just fine for players, it's the PSP's "claw method" that pushed many away. A game where you controlled the camera with the d-pad? Yeah, no thanks. Sadly this was the mindset of most out there, and because of that the amazing hunting series was held back. Of course his only applies to the west.

While the series continued to struggle in the US, even with it's 3rd major release on the Wii, in Japan it was a different story. Monster Hunter was something that had completely exploded there, and thanks to the PSP releases it was something many gamers carried with them on the go. As the series became more and more popular there, it became much easier for fans to jump into a game for a few hunts wherever they might go. It was something fans could start up on the train ride to work or school, and simply play a few hunts while they waited. They could play solo if they wanted, but chances are another fan would be within range for some multiplayer hunts. Then when they got home they had the ability to boot up their PS3's adhoc Party mode, and then take their game online. It was perfect for Japanese players, and it didn't take long for the series' popularity to spread.

Jumping back over to the western side of things, MH remained a niche series for quite some time. With the release of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U and 3DS things did start to turn around, but it really wasn't until the release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate that things began to turn around. At this point more and more western 3DS owners were learning about the series, and became more willing to give it a try. Sure the same d-pad camera controls remained, but with extra monster lock on options and touch pad buttons players had an easier time managing it. The game was also one of the first to support the "New" Nintendo 3DS and it's right analog stick, so many of the issues players had with the PSP releases simply vanished. Throw in the fact that the 3DS was a popular console in the west, and you have a recipe for (possible) success. But did it succeed? Yes. Yes it did.

With MH4U doing well in both Japan and the west, it was a no brainer to release the follow up game Monster Hunter Generations as well. While it wasn't a full Monster Hunter 5, it was a game that built on the improvements introduced in 4, and it brought back many fan favorite monsters as well. It too did pretty well sales wise, but Capcom wanted to do more. Sure the games were finally doing well outside of Japan, but they figured it was time to finally make a game that would blow everyone away. Something that would bring new players to the series, and finally make it a full on hit world wide. This idea is what gave birth to Monster Hunter World.

Monster Hunter World is the 5th mainline entry in the MH series, and the first to really target the western audience. Needless to say this scared some long time fans, but thankfully most of those fears can be put to rest. Sure, there's no denying MHW is a different beast compared to the past, but for many that is a good thing. Although it doesn't completely reinvent itself, World does take some major step forwards, and introduces many quality of life improvements along the way. It's the first Monster Hunter to set out to fully realize the idea of having a living and breathing world filled with monsters, and it's also the first to feature a "real" story. So, just how well does it do all of this? Well...

The Story:

Don't be fooled. Although World does in fact have a story, it is still not a big focus here. The very basics come down to you, the player, joining an expedition group to what is known as "The New World." You start the game creating your character and meeting some supporting characters, and soon you are ship wrecked and thrown into the strange new world. It doesn't take too long to find your way to the camp the rest of the teams have set up before you, but the journey and settling in there is what acts as the game's main tutorial. As for what your goal is in this new world, you're tasked with a mission to discover why the elder dragons of the world are traveling to this place. It's a simple setup, and you do learn a bit more about this new world along the way, but that's about as far as the game gets with it's story. The main draw of Monster Hunter is fighting giant monsters, and that hasn't changed here.

The Gameplay:

Just as the games before it, World has a lot of different things going on. Sure it may seem like a simple boss fighting game at first, but it's actually a lot more complex than that...


Astera is the main hub of World, and where you will spend a lot of time. As a hub town you can expect to find a verity of shops and NPCs to talk to, but it is also where you will return to after every hunt. It's where you'll gain access to your farm, armor and weapon crafting, learn about the monsters you've fought, and where you can accept quests. Basically Astera is your lifeline as a hunter, and although you can technically remain out in the field indefinitely, you definitely do not want to do that. Learning how to use the different facilities there is key to surviving out in the field, and more features do get unlocked as you progress through the game.

The Item Shop -

The very first area you may want to access in the hub is none other than the item shop. Here is where you can buy basic healing potions, bombs, and other supplies to help you out in the field. Although the vast majority of items will be hand crafted, the shop does offer some items that can't really be gained any other way. Trap tools for example are used to create traps, and is the central ingredient. While you have to get the other pieces you need to construct a trap by going out into the field, the trap tool is a shop item you have to buy.  So even though you can get most things for free by gathering them yourself, the shop is still something you'll need to go to once in awhile.

Resource Center -

The Resource Center is a team of three NPCs who offer you different research related quests and rewards. By talking to them you can accept extra side quests that reward you with armor upgrade materials and Research Points (a type of currency used for some shops and services), and you can also complete weekly events for special rewards. On top of that, they are also the NPCs that allow you to accept special monster investigation missions, which unlock as you examine monster tracks during hunts.

Botanical Research Center -

The Botanical Research Center is World's version of the "farm" featured in previous games. Here you're able to give the team different materials to produce more of, and then come back later to collect the results. In other words, if you give the team honey, after every quest/hunt they'll have duplicated it for you. This means you'll get an unlimited supply of honey without having to worry about gathering it yourself. (Which is very useful considering honey is what is used to create Mega Potions.)  The Botanical Research Center also works with bugs and a wide verity of plants, so you can duplicate pretty much any material you'll need. (That is, as long as it isn't something carved from a monster, or mined...)

Ecological Research Center -

The final research center. Here is where you'll gain story related missions, and also be able to find out about monsters you've previously met. They'll show you the weakness of the monsters, what parts can be broken or cut off, and even what materials you can expect to get from them after taking them down. It's basically an in game wiki page, and it can be a lot of help.

Elder Melder -

The Elder Melder isn't unlocked until later on in the game, but once you do unlock it things become a bit easier. This NPC allows you to turn more basic materials into other special items, and it's also where you can trade in special tickets for rare monster drops. This makes grinding for those low percent drop items much easier, as you can simply trade for the ones you need instead of spending hours killing the same monster over and over again. Of course the tickets are rare themselves, but they are there for you if you need them.

The Canteen -

Food is very important, and it's the same in Monster Hunter. The Canteen is where you can go to eat a meal before you go out on a hunt, and different types of meals will provide you with different effects. As you play through the game you'll unlock different ingredients to use here, and that in return will unlock new and better buffs as well. For example, most food will give you more max health or stamina, but others will give you passive skills that will buff different stats, or even make it so you're more likely to find a rare item. These food skills will remain active until you either finish the hunt or die, and they become key to your survival when fighting the stronger monsters. Although you can pick dishes the chef himself recommends, you can also mix and match your own ingredients to get exactly what you want.

The Smithy -

Possibly the most important part of all of Astera (besides the quest board). The Smithy is where you can buy starting weapons and armor to use, and also where you craft everything else gear related. Whenever you find a material that can be used to create an armor set, that set will appear on the crafting list, and once you have everything needed, you can make it. Armor sets can also be upgraded at the Smithy with special upgrade items, but weapons are a little bit different.

While armor sets are simply made out of materials gathered, weapons follow a weapon tree. In past games in the series you had to either figure out what weapon became what on your own, or look up a guide online. This time around however, the full weapon tree is right in front of you. Once you have one of the base weapons, you can then go out and gather materials to shape that weapon into your desired end game one. You can even down grade your weapon if you decide to take it down a different weapon tree path instead.

The Quest Board -

The final, and main, part of Astera. The Quest Board is where you post all quests, and can find a list of quests other players have posted as well. There are different types of quests in the game, and you can even jump into hunts that have already started, but I'll cover that in a section of it's own. As for the board itself, all you need to know is this is where you go to play the real game.

The Weapons:

Before you can go off and kill monsters, the first thing you need to do is decide on what weapon you want to use. The game doesn't lock you into any choice you make, but it is very important that you find the perfect weapon type for you. Each and every single one is unique, and they can take some time to master. Different weapons have different systems to keep track of as well, and they all have different attributes and stats to go along with them. Elemental damage can be quite important when taking out some monsters, and the sharpness of some weapons will determine of they can even pierce a monster's skin. These are things you also need to look at when deciding what weapon path you want to go down, and something you'll need to keep track of when out in the field. Thankfully you can change your gear mid hunt this time around, so if you show up with the wrong weapon you can always change. As for the weapon types? They are as follows:

Great Sword -

A slow but powerful weapon. The Great Sword's main draw is it's ability to charge it's strikes to deal massive damage. In past games this was limited to only one or two charge attacks, but in World it has been upgraded to a full three part charge combo. You still have to stand still to charge your hits, but it's worth it if you can get the timing down.

Long Sword -

The Great Sword's "cousin." The Long Sword is a long reaching blade that has quick attacks. Due to it's speed the LS has high damage output,  and even has a special attack that can be activated. Although it can't be used as a shield to block attacks (as the Great Sword can), it makes up for it with it's speed. The weapon is fast and it relies on your ability to dodge as well.

Sword and Shield -

The "basic" weapon of Monster Hunter. This weapon has a single quick hitting sword held in one hand, and a large shield that is held in the other. It's a very balanced out weapon that allows you to quickly dodge and block attacks, and with the right build you can even use it as a sort of support class for other players. In short it's simply a great weapon, and easy to pick up for beginners.

Dual Blades -

The Sword and Shield's cousin. The Dual Blades drops the shield to add a second sword, and brings with it a lot more attack speed. Although this weapon cannot block attacks, it's able to quickly dodge attacks, allows you to run while the weapon is still drawn, and (like the LS) has a special demon attack mode. It's very fast, and very strong, and great for those who prefer speed and mobility.

Hammer -

The Hammer is one of the strongest hard hitting weapons in the game. It's faster than other heavy weapons, but it doesn't have the ability to block attacks. Unlike the previous weapons listed however, the Hammer is an impact based weapon rather than a cutting one. Because of this it is able to break parts, smash faces, and has a much easier time at knocking monsters out. It's a crazy strong powerhouse, and in World they even added a new power charge mode to it. (Which basically buffs the weapon and can be active at all times.)

Hunting Horn -

The other hammer of the game. The Hunting Horn is a unique weapon as it's also a support weapon. While attacking mostly comes down to bashing things over the head with it, the real draw of this weapon is it's songs. Different horns can play different songs, and different songs give you different buffs. These buffs can be anything from attack and health boosts, to even buffs that negate the wind pressure of monster's wings. It's a really great weapon, and very helpful when playing in groups.

Lance -

The tank class of the game. The Lance is a class built around blocking attacks, and stabbing monsters to death with the end of it. Just like with the Sword and Shield, the hunter will hold the Lance itself in one hand, and hold the shield in the other. At that point you can block as much as you want, and stab the poor thing till it dies. The Lance also has a charge attack, and a rush attack which hits multiple times. It also has the ability to side step, which allows you to reposition yourself when fighting a monster.

Gunlance -

Like the Lance, the Gunlance is a tank weapon which is built around being in a monster's face, and unleashing non stop combos. They have a shield so they can take a beating, and they have similar movement to the Lance (as in, side stepping). The main difference here though is that the Gunlance is also a gun that shoots at close range. Different types of Gunlances have different types of shots (such as a charge shot, or a wide shot), and unlike other gun weapons they do have unlimited ammo.

Insect Glavie -

The so called "pet class" weapon of Monster Hunter. The Insect Glaive is a pole like weapon that works in tandem with your hunter's pet bugs (which can be customized at the smithy). The pole itself is mostly a melee weapon, but it has the ability to shoot enemies at long range, and allows you to pole vault into the air to mount monsters. By using the shooting mechanic you can mark parts on a monster's body for your insect to attack, and in return it will bring back stored energy to power up the main weapon. It's a one of a kind weapon class, and perfect for those who prefer air combat over a more grounded fighting style.

Switch Axe -

Switch Axe is another unique weapon. Like the Gunlance that is both a gun and lance, the Switch Axe is both an axe and sword. It's a strong weapon that uses it's axe form to land quick hits, and it's sword mode to deal out devastating damage. The catch is that to use the sword mode you must fill up a meter by using axe mode first, and each sword strike after will use up that meter until the weapon reverts back to axe mode. (It also has a powerful explosive move that can be released all at once.) It's a powerful easy to pick up weapon, but to master it does take time.

Charge Blade -

Another unique weapon. The charge blade is a mix between the Switch Axe and the sword and shield. In it's sword and shield mode you're able to hack away at enemies to build up energy and store it. One enough energy is stored the weapon can then be switched over to it's Switch Axe like mode, and then used to unleash said energy for massive damage. It's a weapon that takes some time to get used to, but it's damage output is insane.

Bow -

The first true rained weapon of Monster Hunter World. The bow is a well rounded weapon that has both quick hitting shots, and stronger charge shots. It's great for hitting enemies both up close and from a distance, and it does wonders against monsters that like to stay in the sky. Of course, that's not all this thing can do. Unlike other weapons, the Bow allows you to apply different coatings to your arrows which have different effects. For example the bow can put monsters to sleep by using a sleep coating, or poison them using poison coatings. This means a bow user can be ready for almost any situation, and that makes them a formidable foe. (For the monsters that is!)

Light Bowgun -

The second ranged weapon, and the first of the two gun classes. A Light Bowgun is a weapon that allows for more mobility, but weaker fire power compared to it's cousin (the Heavy Bowgun). It can be loaded with different types of ammo (similar to the Bow's coatings), and its parts can be customized to have different features and change up it's stats. Overall the weapon is more support based, but it can still hold it's own when needed (as can every other weapon in the game).

Heavy Bowgun -

The "heavier" version of the Light Bowgun. This gun is the main damage dealer, and because of that it is also much slower. While the gun itself does have a shield (so you can block), everything else about it takes much more time than with the Light Bowgun. It takes longer to put away, the reload times are longer, and your movement in general is cut down greatly. On the flip side however, the gun is very strong, and it's a weapon you almost always use from a distance. In short, getting hit by an enemy won't be a problem for those who master it. (And yes, it too can be customized just like the Light version.)

The Palico:

Weapons aren't your only hope when fighting in this game. Palico's are cat like creatures that'll be helping you on your adventure. At the start of the game you're able to customize your own, and then you're able to take it out with you on hunts. As the Palico fights along side you it gains experience to level up and become stronger, and eventually you can unlock different pieces of equipment for it as well. While armor and weapons can be crafted back in town at the Smithy, special equipment can be unlocked by finishing side quests in the game, and they come in a wide verity of support options. So while the base Palico ability is to actually heal you, later on you could unlock buffs if that's what you'd prefer.

Sadly the Palico can only be brought with you when you're in a party of two or less players, so don't count on them always being there with you.

The World:

So, after you've walked around the town, picked out your weapon, and possibly bought a new armor set... What is there to do? Well, set out into the world of course!

Although Monster Hunter World is a game that really pushes it's "open world" aspect, it really isn't too much different from the games in the past. Rather than being a single seamless world, each area of the game is broken up into it's own map. The forest area is your starting area, and where you'll spend most of the intro quests, but not too long after the desert will open up. This area is completely cut off from the forest before it, but both areas are massive in scale. In fact they are so big, that while past games only had a single safe camp area to return to, each map in World features multiple camps instead. This is something that actually worried a lot of long time fans when they first heard about it, but I can safely say it isn't as bad as it first seemed. In fact, many people may even love the change.

In past Monster Hunter games the setup was quite a bit different. When you started a hunt you would be thrown into the area's camp, and each area would then be made up of multiple smaller areas. These areas were then split up by loading screens, and they each acted as a mini battle arena for whatever monster you were fighting. Because of this you could actually hide from monsters by simply going through the loading screens to get to another area, and you only had so many smaller monsters walking around as well. These older games tried to make their world's feel alive, but the disconnected map somewhat broke that immersion. As for how Monster Hunter World does things though... It's quite a bit different.

Since these maps are huge multi camp areas, the World map's feel more like multiple maps being brought together. The loading screens are gone (with actual paths connecting the major areas of a map), a multitude of animals and monsters roam the wilds, and monsters are free to go and do whatever they want. This means you can no longer hide off screen from a monster you're fighting, and instead must use plants to hide yourself if you are in danger. Health potions and other items can also be used while moving (in previous games you had to stand still while using them), and most items can be gathered as you walk past them as well. Other changes made due to the new open world is the inclusion of the scout flies that will help you track the location of large monsters, and the ability to freely fly back to any of the camps whenever you'd like. The grappling hook was also added to make it easier for you to progress through the areas, and the sling shot allows you to interact with your surroundings as well. Gone are the days of having to craft every single tool, as now you can simply shoot a rock at something and watch the aftereffects. For example, shoot a flash bug? It'll explode and blind everything in the area. Shoot an electric frog? It'll release a cloud of dust that'll stun everything that comes in contact with it. Basically the game does everything it can with it's new open world, but also tries to stay true to it's original Monster Hunter roots. But honestly, the world you explore is only a backdrop to the true focus of this game... And that's fighting monsters.

The Monsters:

Although the maps might be bigger, and the newly added tools might make your life easier, the main focus of the game has not changed. Monster Hunter is, and always will be, a boss fighting game. Each map in the game will have multiple big monsters walking around, and it's your job to find the one you need to kill, and then take it out as fast as possible. All quests have a time limit in MHW, and if you take too much time you will fail. On top of that other monsters will often attack you as well, so it's not like you can ignore everything besides your target.

Unlike past entries in the series, MHW actually does a really good job easing newcomers into the game. The first monsters you fight are a lot easier compared to what you have to deal with in other entries, and the larger world can work to your advantage. Being able to climb up ledges, or swing from grappling points is a great way to get out of harm's way, and allows you to easily mount the monsters. Knocking crumbling rocks down onto a monster's head is a good way to deal some extra damage, and sometimes you can even lead OTHER large monsters into attacking your target for you. All of this does make the game easier, but that doesn't mean it is a cake walk. (Although, it may be for some long time fans...)

In order to really take down a monster in MHW you have to learn both it, and your own weapon. If you're unsure of how your own body can move, then you're going to get pounded into the ground and die in no time. Then if you die three times? You fail the quest... For you and everyone else helping you... This means you can't just rush in swords swinging and guns blazing, and instead you have to figure out exactly what it is you can or cannot do. Once you've figured this out you then have to learn how to fight the monster itself, and what you can do to make your life easier. Different monsters have different weaknesses, and different parts of their body do as well. While some body parts might be resistant to piercing type weapons, others may receive more damage when struck with them. This includes the tail of most monsters which can actually be cut off in most cases. This cut off tail can then be carved for extra monster materials, and often will impact the monster's performance in a fight. The same can be said for other parts that get broken off, but maybe not quite to the same extent as a tail. (After all, most monsters do use their tails to attack, and without it their attack options become limited).

Even though large monsters are "bosses," they too act like living creatures. They aren't there to kill you, but rather to live their lives. This means they'll often consider their options before fighting you. Yes, some monsters will attack on sight, but others may walk by you without doing a thing. Of course the moment you attack them they'll attack back, but these things aren't your typical "bad guys" you have to fight. Instead they'll defend their territory (from both you and other monsters), and go hunting for food when they run out of energy. They'll also run away from you when they become frightened, and go to sleep at their nest to attempt to recover energy. This means you'll often have to chase monsters down, and pay attention to how they are acting to know what they might do. Monster Hunter World does add a pulse to help you see when a monster is close to death, but most of the visual cue's still come from the monster itself. It's a feature unique to the series, and something fans will be happy to see has remained the same. But that's not all...

Like in previous games killing isn't the only option. Weak monsters can be captured rather than killed, and doing so will give you more quest rewards on the result screen. Capturing also tends to be easier than killing in most cases, and can put an end to hunts much quicker. On the down side however, not all monsters can be captured, and you need to craft both traps and tranquilizers to catch them and put them to sleep. Of course this doesn't become a problem once your Botanical Research Center is upgraded, but early on in the game your resources are limited. However, there is one other use for capturing monsters in World, and it's a very welcomed edition.

If you capture a monster in World, a Special Arena quest for said monster will become unlocked. These quests are fights set in an enclosed area where you don't have to worry about tracking down the monster, nor do you have to worry about them running for you. They are full on death matches, and a great way to take out monsters quickly to farm for supplies. Although, that's not the only way to farm in this game.

Unlike normal quests, Investigations are randomly generated quests that are unlocked as you explore the map, and gather research data (such as by inspecting foot prints and what not). These quests have set restrictions, but offer rare items when completed. Although this doesn't insure you'll always get a rare drop, it does make it more likely, and speeds up the process of crafting new armor and weapons. It also means once you finish all of the game's main quests you have an unlimited supply of content to keep you busy after.

The Multiplayer:

The multiplayer mode in World is quite a bit different from how things used to be. In the past you had a multiplayer hub you could join which had it's own set of (harder) quests, and allowed up to four people to join you. In World however, all of this is gone. Instead the single player town is the same as the multiplayer area, and a large group of players can be in it at a time. This means you can technically play with a larger group of friends, but the quests themselves are still limited to four. On top of that any other player in the room can join your hunt, and you may not always want that. Thankfully there is an option to make private and offline rooms, but it really depends on what you want to do.

On the other hand, if you do want to play through the game in multiplayer, the new system is actually pretty nice. Sadly you can't join any hunts where cutscenes need to be watched (at least not until everyone has seen said cutscene), but that's only a minor inconvenience. Putting cutscenes aside, anyone who is in your room is free to join you in the middle of a hunt, and you can even shoot off an SOS signal to allow people from other rooms to join you. Past games required everyone to ready up and set out together, but now players are free to come and go as they please. The only real down side is that the Gathering Hall area MADE for the multiplayer is pretty much useless...

The Gathering Hall is a separate area to the town, and the only area where all the players in a room can see each other. You can talk and interact here all you want, but there's really no point. Most of the facilities you need to go back to cannot be accessed here, and the moment you return from a quest you're dropped at the bottom of the town instead. So why bother running all the way back to the Gathering Hub then? Yeah, there's really not an answer for that one... Although you can accept two player arena challenge quests here.

Although the multiplayer is pretty nice in World, there is one setback that some long time fans may not like. You see, originally the multiplayer hub was it's own area in past games, and they featured their own quests. These quests were harder than the ones you found in the base game (as they were balanced for multiplayer), and they were a way for solo players to challenge themselves even more. With the way World works however, this is a thing of the past. The story quests and multiplayer quests are one in the same. Now they do scale when a second player joins your quest, but there's no way to actually start the quest on this harder difficulty without having a second person with you. On top of that if a second person joins your quest and drops, the difficulty will not scale back to the single player version. It will remain as it's harder "multiplayer" counterpart, and (putting the monster's new HP aside) will make some simple tasks even harder for you. Sadly online players can use this free join feature to scale the difficulty to troll you, and there's not much you can do about it. Unless you lock the quest before hand that is...

Even so, the new multiplayer system in World is pretty nice overall. It does have it's down sides compared to how things were in past games, but the good does outweigh the bad. Plus full mic and keyboard support is always a nice bonus... And something that was missing from the previous 3DS games...

The Good and the Bad:

Monster Hunter World is not a game for everyone, and because of that it's really difficult to say what exactly is good or bad about the game. One thing that needs to be made absolutely clear though, is the fact that this is a boss fighting game, and not a story focused one. If you only want a story, then stop now. This game is not for you. If you want to challenge yourself by going against bigger and stronger bosses however, then by all means give this one a shot! On the plus side the game is really newbie friendly, it looks amazing, the combat feels great (once you get the hang of it), and the world really does feel alive. It's a game that finally makes good on it's promise of having a living breathing world like we expected to see with the first Monster Hunter, and it's quality of life improvements greatly improve the experience. It's also packed full of content, and can keep you busy for quite a long time. Really, for what it is, there's not much actually "wrong" with it. However not all long time fans may see it that way.

I guess when you come down to it, the "bad" part of World is actually it's lack of content. Now don't get me wrong, this game is filled with things to do, (Heck, I just said it was!) but it's nowhere near the scale of some of the previous titles. Now World is in fact the base game for the 5th generation, so it's really not too surprising that it doesn't have as many monsters or quests as something like 4 Ultimate, or Generation's Ultimate, but some may see that as an issue. Also some long time fans may be let down to see just how easy the game has become thanks to come of the quality of life improvements, but it's not like the game is a cakewalk either. Either way you look at it, this is the entry title for the next generation, and there is no doubt that more is to come. Free updates have been coming out every so often, and it's also very likely that an expansion will be released later on. This is the pattern most games in the series have followed up till this point, and its not something Capcom is expected to change anytime soon. So technically even these "bad points" may not be bad news for long time fans. This is a game that will continue to grow and evolve over time, but until then it is still a solid entry in the series. One that everyone should at least give a try.
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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Ben's Gaming Memories - Star Ocean

So it's been a few months since I've posted anything new here... Since my previous post a lot has changed for me, and I just haven't had as much time to do things as I'd like. Between starting a new job and things going on with my grandpa, it's been hard to find time to make blog posts. With the release of Star Ocean Anamnesis in the US though, I figured I'd take this time to share my story. You see, while many might see Star Ocean as just another JRPG, for me it's something much more. Now I actually brought this up about three years ago when Star Ocean 5 was coming out (it's seriously been that long?), but I never actually took the time to fully explain just what Star Ocean actually means to me. So that's what I'd like to do today. Here's my story of how Star Ocean changed my "gaming life" forever.

When I was a kid there was one genre I didn't really play: RPGs. Now I did play Pokemon (which I've also mentioned in the past), but that's about it. To me, Pokemon was a unique game unlike anything else, and it's RPG battle system was the Pokemon battle system. I had no idea that there were other turn based games out there, and I couldn't understand the fact that games like Earthbound were "similar to Pokemon." Friends tried to explain it to me when I was in school, but it was still hard for me to figure it out. "You mean Ness is like a Pokemon with a trainer commanding him?" Man, I must've sounded so stupid asking that. But anyway, it simply wasn't a genre I was into, and I actually avoided it later on when I started to learn more. It wasn't until I played Paper Mario on the N64 that I saw a turn based battle system outside of Pokemon, and it wasn't until Shining Force and Phantasy Star on SEGA Dream Cast that I saw a standard "fantasy" RPG. Both of these games turned me off though, and that's what eventually lead me to avoid RPGs. As for one of the major reasons for this? Well, it was magic.

I hated seeing magic in games. Something about it bothered me, and really that extended outside of gaming as well. If something had magic in it, or was about magic... I avoided it. I instantly labeled it as "crap," and refused to watch, read, or play it. I even got the teachers to let me leave the room in school when they watched the Harry Potter movies! I was so against anything magic related, I'd rather sit in the library reading books I didn't care about, than sit in class and have a free movie day. Then things started to change.

In high school I became interested in the Kingdom Hearts series. It had magic, and was an RPG, but I was willing to give it a try. Around this time I was getting tired of the turn based battle system Pokemon used, but since Kingdom Hearts was an action based game that wasn't going to be a problem. In fact it was the first time I had ever heard of an action battle system being used in an RPG (as my friends basically beat into my head that turn based was the only kind out there), and that alone made me want to play it more. Needless to say, I loved it and I couldn't wait for more. So I played more... The only way I could that is.

Although it wasn't actually Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy was the next best thing. Yes I had head of the series, but everything I knew about it turned me off. Playing KH got me interested in the characters though, so I gave it a chance. Despite getting tired of the turn based battles pretty fast, I actually did enjoy Final Fantasy 4 (and later on 6), but I had no desire to play anymore. Didn't care for turn based, and at that point I was already pushing myself to finish games like Pokemon Pearl. So I dropped the series, and never looked back (at least not for quite a few more years).

Jump ahead a few years later and now I'm a senior in high school. I bought a brand new Xbox 360 (it's now been 10 years since then...), and I was starting to get into new types of games. Before I was limited to mostly Nintendo stuff, but now I was finally able to see what else was out there. I guess this is what opened my eyes to trying new things and not being so "closed minded," but I still wasn't really feeling the whole RPG thing. Yes I went through KH1, CoM, 2, and FF4 and 6, but that didn't mean I was willing to play more games with magic in them. I made an exception for .hack, but that was a series set within an MMO world... It wasn't the same as other RPGs out there. In fact, I blew off a few friends at school who were trying to get me to play games like The Last Remanent, and didn't care about the upcoming new Final Fantasy XIII (funny that I'm saying that now). Instead I was more into Halo 3, Burnout Paradise, Lost Planet, and Skate. I didn't care about going back to RPGs unless they were Mario related, Pokemon, or a new Kingdom Hearts. But then it happened... One weekend everything changed.

Star Ocean was a SNES game released only in Japan, and suddenly I was hearing a lot of good things about it. The game had been fan translated, it was sci-fi based, and something about it just stood out to me. Not sure what that was really, but I figured I'd give it a chance. So, I got the game the only way I possibly could (as it was never sold in the US), and started playing it. Then stopped. While the game seemed interesting, it was actually a pain to play in it's fan translated state. Not everything was working as it should, and I didn't really care for it's battle system. While the story was holding my interest, it wasn't enough to keep me playing. Mainly because while I was playing I did a Google search and found that the game had been remade for PSP. So with a an official english (and much better) version released, I didn't see any point in continuing with the SNES fan translation.

Although I'm not exactly sure when it happened, a month or so later I finally decided to buy the game for myself. I went to Walmart one weekend, went right over to the gaming section, and bought one of the few copies of Star Ocean First Departure that they had. My next memories were of me starting it up on the car ride home, and then spending the rest of the night playing the thing. Around that time was also when my cousin started staying over at my house, and for whatever reason he began bringing his PSP with him as well. While I would sit there playing Star Ocean, he'd be on his own PSP playing Need for Speed. Although we were into different games, the two of us would sit there on the couch talking as we both worked our way through our game. This didn't last long however, as this was also around the same time a lot more free time opened up for the both of us.

During the last half of my senior year of school something unexpected happened. Our school was destroyed. Or rather, the grade-middle school building was. Due to this the younger students had to make use of our high school's limited space, and our days were cut in half. We had to be at school first thing in the morning (which was hard to do at first), but the trade off was that we got to leave at 11:30 AM. Yes, that's right. We met the minimum requirements by the state, and were then sent on our way before noon. We had the whole day ahead of us, and that's what I used to play Star Ocean!

It didn't take me long to go through the game because of that. In fact I'm pretty sure I finished it within a week or two. I was working at my family's bakery only when needed, so I didn't have to worry about going over there after school. Instead, what little I worked got me enough money to buy the games I wanted, and then I had the rest of my time to use on said games.So it didn't take me long to rush through the original game. Of course I didn't just stop there. Putting Pokemon and Kingdom Hearts aside, Star Ocean 1 was the first "standard" JRPG I got into, and I made sure to let the world know... By talking as many people into playing it as possible!

Although I only managed to convince GlacialLeaf and Cat (two writers here at NGR) to get the game, I think that was enough. The three of us talked about it quite a bit, and I continued to play it even after I finished it. Due to the game's multiple character system, there was plenty of reasons for me to return after I finished. Just because I had beaten it once it didn't mean I had seen everything, and I had to spend quite a bit more time going for the "best" ending possible. It was all time well spent though, and even after I finished I still wanted more. Thankfully SO2 was that more.

By this point Star Ocean had somewhat broken me of this whole thing of hating magic in games, but not fully. When reading the basic info about Star Ocean 2 I was sorta put off by this whole "sorcerer stone" thing. I figured there was something more to it than it just being some magic stone, but it still bugged me. Considering I loved the original game though, and how it handled magic, I put my feelings aside and got it anyway. Managed to track down a single copy at a GameStop quite a ways away from me, and once again I quickly got to work playing it.

With the school still being destroyed, and our half school days lasting for the rest of the year, I continued to put most of my free time into Star Ocean 2. Once again I blew through the game and got to the ending, but I messed up. Like Star Ocean 1 before it, the game featured multiple endings with multiple character paths, and I somehow skipped most of it. Ended up only getting a few of the characters, and skipped over some pretty interesting story arcs because of it. So, despite finishing the game, once again I had to start over from the beginning to do it the "right way."

Overall I ended up liking Star Ocean 2 much more than one, and I continued to play the game through most of the remaining school year. The characters became some of my all time favorites, and every time the credits rolled I found myself starting over from the beginning again. I must've beaten that game 3 plus times before I managed to find a copy of Star Ocean 3, and it was one I came back to even after I bought the others... Putting that aside though, I did continue on with the series.

When I felt I was finally finished with SO2 and ready to move on, I managed to find a copy of SO3 at a GameStop in a mall I'd always go to (which is one of the few malls still left in this area to this day). If I recall I got the game on a Sunday, so I had go to school the next day, and I didn't get home from that trip until later in the day. Sadly that meant I didn't have a whole lot of time to play it, but I was determined to get as far as possible before I had to go to sleep. So I sat down in front of the mini TV I had in the corner of my room for PS2 games, and started to play. Then my controller broke.

Yep, my original PS2 controller decided it wasn't going to work anymore, and do whatever the heck it wanted when it wanted. Analog sticks worked just fine, so I could walk around, but the face buttons and triggers would randomly go off, and not work when I actually wanted to use them. So off to Walmart I went, and I bought a brand new silver PS2 controller. (Looking back now, I'm lucky they still had one. Shortly after the PS3 fully took over, and I never saw a PS2 accessory there again.)

Despite loving the game in the end, Star Ocean 3 didn't actually hook me as much as the other two. Maybe I was getting burned out after jumping from game to game like that, or maybe it was how different it was. While it retained the whole action battle system that the first two had, it was slightly altered and a new weapon crafting system was integrated. Being new to JRPGs at the time, I didn't fully understand how things worked in SO3, and I actually struggled to get through it. There were bosses that stopped me in my tracks, and the whole MP death thing threw me off. Eventually I'd learn how to fuse stat upgrades into my weapons and become overpowered, but not before I decided to push the game to the side and get Star Ocean 4 instead.

I still remember the day I came home from our newly opened GameStop with a copy of SO4. The videos I had seen on YouTube made it look amazing, and I couldn't wait to try out the crazy rush attack system for myself. Seeing the main characters do flips and dodge behind enemies to dish out crazy strong combo attacks looked great, and the "realistic graphics" were pretty breath taking for their time. Seeing it compared to SO3 was a major jump in quality, and I was looking forward to seeing the origin story of Star Ocean. It was a game that took place before SO1, so I was already expecting a lot of great things from it. And then I realized the mistake I made.

Soooo, it turns out the Xbox 360 really wanted it's players to have an HD TV. Games that relied heavily on text also relied on it's higher resolution... Which my TV didn't have. I should've saw it coming when Project Gotham Racing was hard to read, but I never really thought about it when it came to RPGs. Again I wasn't interested in playing them on my 360, so why would I even consider it? Ended up struggling through the intro of the game, and had to put it aside for awhile. I eventually won another SD tv from my high school's post prom, but the game looked even worse on there. So before long I was forced to move my Xbox 360 into the living room, and was only able to play it for the few short hours between school getting out at 11:30, and my parents coming home at 3:00. So I went back to Star Ocean 3 quite a bit. (And good thing I did!)

While I was already half way or so into SO4, I did keep going back to 3 to finish it up. I managed to get to the major plot points I needed to see to understand some things in SO4, but once again I got stuck and spent more time on 4 instead. I actually had friends playing through SO4 around the same time as well (one being Vile who is also a writer here), so I spent quite a bit of time just talking about the game with them. SO4 basically became the game I spent all of my final days of high school playing, and one I would continue playing into the summer.

Despite having 3 and 4 to finish, I did go back to SO1 before finishing both. When we had our senior class trip that lasted for 2-3 days, I ended up bringing my PSP and my copy of Star Ocean 1 with me. Spent quite a bit of time playing it on the long bus ride, and I spent the nights in the hotel playing it as well. It was a game I still loved, and wanted to take with me as much as possible. I guess I could've taken 2 with me instead, but considering how many times I already beat it I settled on playing the original instead.

After I graduated from high school I did go on to buy an HD TV for my own room, but by then I was already at the end of SO4. Got to fight the final boss using that tv, but everything else I had already completed. Went back and finished SO3 soon after as well, but only after I finally understood the whole crafting system. Afterwards the game became a complete cake walk for me, and I finished it in no time. Sadly this was the end of Star Ocean, and I had nowhere else to turn... Or did I?

When I was in college it finally happened. Final Fantasy XIII was released, and despite how I felt about it before, I decided to give it a try. A few friends of mine were playing it, and it was the only thing out on the Xbox 360 that could even come close to filling the void Star Ocean left behind. Sure I saw some hate for the game here and there, but I figured it was worth a shot... And man, I wasn't disappointed. Sure, I may be one of the few people out there who can say this, but I actually loved FF13. I liked the characters, the story, and even the gameplay. As someone who didn't care for turn based games before, FF13 helped open my eyes to them, and eventually lead me to play the rest of the series as well. That's what lead me to where I am today. The JRPG genre has become one of my favorite, and I owe it all to Star Ocean.

Now last time this is where I ended it, but now things have changed. Star Ocean 5 was released, and we've even gotten HD remasters of SO3 and 4! Although I did enjoy SO5 for what it was, I don't really have too many memories to share about this one. I listened to it's theme song a lot while driving from work back home, but that's about it. Only one other friend of mine even bothered with the game (at this moment), so I was even limited on who I could discuss it with. Still I did enjoy my time with it, and would love to see 6 as soon as possible. As for the SO3 port, I really haven't had much time with it, but the SO4 port is another story. It's actually the game I started playing before my grandpa got sick... It's actually the main reason I haven't updated this blog in quite some time. I had to stop playing it soon after, as the next few months of my life were spent in the hospital with him instead. Something that still continues to happen off and on all these months later... But that's enough of that. Even with the few bad memories, the SO series will continue to be one of my favorites, and I can't wait to sink hundreds of hours into it's new mobile game. Thanks Tri Ace.
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