Category Archives: Reviews

Undertale: A Game Full of Soul(s)

Mt. Ebott, 201X…

It has been a long time I’ve loved a game as much as I love Undertale. A game from humble beginnings, it truly is like coming across a mythical creature. Undertale is a unicorn in the gaming world. Odd, beautiful, and rarely, if ever, seen. I wholeheartedly recommend experiencing this game for yourself. If you have any intention of doing so, you’ve been warned: there are spoilers ahead.

Continue reading Undertale: A Game Full of Soul(s)

Erich’s Top JRPGs of 2013

If you haven’t observed already, I have a soft spot for JRPGs. To my joy, they were making a small comeback in 2012 and the trend continued well into the following year. In addition, thanks to a newly acquired PlayStation 3 at the beginning of 2013, I was able to enjoy a good number of JRPGs.

Which allows me to share the top 3 JRPGs of 2013 that I enjoyed most:


3. Tales of Xillia

Xillia

Not all Tales games are created equally, but they definitely tend to still be a cut above most JRPGs. In fact, the Tales series is arguably the third most popular JRPG series, just behind Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. It has a clear footing in Japan and a growing presence worldwide.

Unlike some games, JRPGs are largely reliant on plot. Xillia takes an interesting turn by allowing the player to play the game from one of two perspectives, Milla or Jude. I actually really enjoy having this option and the changes are different enough to keep things interesting. However, overall, the story inevitably suffers from a bit of pacing issues. I really didn’t find it engaging until I reached the city of Sharilton, which is a good 8 to 10 hours into the game. Even then, there are brief moments of lag. Things get much more interesting once the plot twists kick into action, and there are plenty of them in this game.

Also, I’m not usually a stickler for voice acting, but the English voice acting leaves a bit to be desired. Milla’s voice felt particularly off at first, but it eventually grew on me. To also be noted, Teepo’s voice was at times a bit harsh on the ears. However, the voice acting is not a deal-breaker, if you’re worried about that.

If there is one element from Tales games that shines above the rest, it would have to be its battle system. It’s something that manages to always improve with each Tales iteration. Stemming from Tales of Phantasia’s Linear Motion Battle System, Tales of Xillia now boasts the Dual-Raid Linear Motion Battle System and the new Link Mode (which allows you to team up with characters to utilize special combos). In a nutshell, this system basically combines RPG elements with those commonly found within fighting games. This makes battles fluid, fun, and engaging without relying on the commonly seen turn-base battle mechanic.

In the long haul, Tales of Xillia ended up ranking among my favorite Tales games. It doesn’t quite beat out Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss, but it has a good footing in third place.


2. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Kuni

Ni no Kuni had the honor of being the first new game I would play for 2013, and what a great start that was! For those unaware, Ni no Kuni is a special collaboration between LEVEL-5 and the famous Studio Ghibli. This is basically a match made in heaven, as this game managed to capture the endearing charm found in most Ghibli films and combine it with good ol’ classic JRPG gameplay.

As expected, the game’s artistic direction is absolutely gorgeous. There is so much detailed poured into each environment, whether it be the bustling streets of the homey, mid-20th century American town, Motorville, or the various settings of the whimsical and colorful fantasy world being overtaken by the Dark Djinn. It looks and feels as if you’re in a Ghibli film. Along with a plot focused on mending people’s broken hearts, it also comes with all the charm to boot.

Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of Studio Ghibli’s films, also lent his talents to this game. This resulted in a beautifully orchestrated soundtrack (all performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra) that certainly makes most games green with envy.

The battle system is like a mix of both Pokémon and Tales. Monsters called Familiars can be recruited and fight for the player. They all have their own stats, moves, and can evolve into other forms, just like Pokémon! However, unlike Pokémon, the human players can fight too and you can actively control the Familiars in battle just like in Tales games.

Ni no Kuni is definitely a gem. A big, shiny one. An excellent JRPG and a fantastic PS3 game. I certainly hope this isn’t the last that we’ll see Studio Ghibli involved in game development, because I would love to see (and play) more.


1. Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem Awakening

Surprise, surprise! Yes, Fire Emblem Awakening is not only claiming the top spot on my list for top 3DS games of 2013, but for JRPGs of 2013 as well. Which was a tough decision, because Ni no Kuni is pretty great. However, as a frequent player of traditional JRPGs and not so much tactical-style games, Fire Emblem had a much bigger hurdle to overcome. Which it did.

Needless to say, I did have a low standard set for Fire Emblem, as it was a game series which has struggled to keep my attention in the past. However, Awakening does an excellent job of removing hurdles which has prevented (new) players from enjoying the franchise in the past, while still maintaining elements previous fans enjoyed.

I also feel as the newly added “dating sim” mechanics ended up greatly benefiting the series by getting players more engaged in the story and growth of the characters. Seriously, I don’t often delay beating the game in favor of grinding just to unlock dialogue between characters. This may attest to the game’s writing, which successfully conveys the multitude of different personalities in this game in fresh and amusing ways.

The way the game carries you along is quite remarkable. Everything culminated so perfectly at the end with the dialogue, setting, music, etc. that the memory of it still strongly resonates with me. Once it was over, I hesitated moving on to another game. I simply wanted to experience that adventure all over again. It is moments like this that remind me why I love video games.

It is thanks to Fire Emblem Awakening that I understand the passion fans have for this franchise. If you were disappoint by Fire Emblem games in the past, or tactical games in general, then you should definitely consider giving them another chance with Awakening. Just like I’ve declared it to be the must-have 3DS game of 2013, it is also a JRPG worth its weight in gold (the Fire Emblem currency, not the shiny metallic stuff).


Now you know my picks, but what do you think? Was there JRPGs that I missed, that you think should be on this list? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

Erich’s Top 3DS Games of 2013

Long time no see everyone! 2013 is already nearly over, and what it year it was! There was a lot of fanfare behind the releases of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 back in November. However, 2013 really belongs to the 3DS, Nintendo’s latest handheld system.

It’s hard to believe that 3DS was once nearly regarded as a flop near its launch. Now, the 3DS is, by far, the system to deliver the most bang for your buck. This year, tons of great games came out for this handheld system.

It was a challenge to determine what was the cream of the crop, but here are my top five 3DS games of 2013:


5. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

In an interesting marketing twist, Nintendo celebrated 2013 as the Year of Luigi. Which is now confirmed to spread in 2014…so it’s more like the Fiscal Year of Luigi? Anyways, out of this emerged two noteworthy 3DS titles: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. While I was a big fan of Mario & Luigi games in the past, Dream Team is having a hard time gaining some momentum with me. Therefore, the honor of fifth place goes to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.

Dark Moon is a follow-up to the GameCube classic, and I’ll admit I have a soft spot in my heart for some spooky Mario…er…Luigi goodness and Boos. While the ghosts are a bit more generic in design than they were in the original game, they are used in a multitude of clever ways.

The common Greenies will be wearing cooking pots on their heads one moment, donning sunglasses the next moment, and then haunting suites of armor another moment. All of these different scenarios require a different approach for Luigi to use in order to capture the mischievous ghosts in his Ghostbusters-like contraption, the Poltergust 5000. However, it should noted that the bosses are far from generic, especially since one of them is a staircase. Yes, you did read that correctly.

There is a nice variety of worlds too, since Luigi is no longer confined to one haunted house. This is a game with surprises up its sleeve, and it’s certainly not one to leave you bored anytime soon.

Still, forget “Year of Luigi”, 2013 is the Year of the 3DS, which you’ll discover why as you read on.


4. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf delivers everything Animal Crossing players wanted in the past (like pants) and more. This latest entry is the best Animal Crossing has ever been. The potential for endless creativity has always been a staple in the Animal Crossing games, but with New Leaf, that potential has been even further extended.

Along with wearing pants, the new additions of swimming, hanging things on the walls of your house, saving patterns as QR codes, and customizing your town with public works projects are also welcomed additions. I only wish my villagers would recommend some new public works projects more often, because you can’t build them until they’re requested.

In part thanks to the introduction of public works projects, there’s a bigger dependence on bells (the game’s currency). Conveniently, there is a tropical island full of lucrative beetles not far offshore. Although, I would be careful with the beetle-farming as it can get old fast.

New Leaf even added the convenience of town ordinances (like the Night Owl or Early Bird ordinances), which helps assist with how a player wishes to play the game. I currently have the Beautiful Town ordinance set up so my flowers won’t die from neglect…yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve visited my town, Foxtail. However, due to the nature of Animal Crossing, which is a game based on real time, there is often always something to do.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is like a digital zen garden complete with little animal residents. Players take care to arrange their towns and their houses into what they please. The Animal Crossing experience is even more complete with friends, whom you can share your arrangements with. The 3DS is a platform that makes this very easy to do which makes Animal Crossing feel right at home on the system.


3. Pokémon X and Y

Pokemon X Y

There must be someone out there listening, because Pokémon X and Y are truly designed to cater to its players. Training Pokémon has never been easier thanks to things like the Friend Safari and newly added tweaks to breeding such as Destiny Knot. Not only does the series introduce some new (and very cool looking) monsters, it also embraces the old Pokémon that fans have loved throughout the years.

The introduction of Mega evolution helps to spread the spotlight to some of these old Pokémon like Mawile and Kangaskhan. Although, fair few were already in the spotlight without this new evolution (like Garchomp, Tyranitar, Scizor, etc.). Despite this, Mega Pokémon have proven not to overpower the game as feared and adds an interesting strategic element to battles. Also, the newly introduced Fairy type does a great job of putting once rampant Dragon (and Fighting) types in their place while not taking over itself.

From a non-competitive perspective, the Pokémon X and Y are truly the most gorgeous games out of the series. X and Y gracefully took the series into the third-dimension. I really fancy the shaders the developers took care of creating to mimic Ken Sugimori’s style. Shaders which are really at their best during battles (and while viewing the PokéDex).

While I didn’t find X and Y’s story as engaging as Black and White’s, there is no doubt that Pokémon X and Y delivers a solid and exciting Pokémon experience. Of course, the Pokémon games were never really noted for their deep stories in the first place.

For Pokémon fans or even beginner trainers, X and Y will guarantee to delight.


2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Admittedly, I was hesitant to play another handheld Zelda, which started having a trend of being lackluster in comparison with their console counterparts. I also didn’t grow up with the nostalgic appreciation that many gamers have for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which this game’s world and story is based on. My introduction to the Zelda series was Ocarina of Time…which is hard to top, despite how A Link to the Past is the foundation for much of Zelda lore.

Nevertheless, A Link Between Worlds, with its redirected focus on exploration, found itself placed among my top favorite Zelda games. I can easily say this is the most enjoyable handheld Zelda experience I’ve had since Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy/Game Boy Color. The newly introduce item rental system gives this game some very much welcomed flexibility, something I’ll admit Skyward Sword lacked.

I also can’t help but wonder if Nintendo took notes from the Zelda Symphony tour, because the music in A Link Between Worlds is top-notch. Most of the soundtrack consists of themes found in previous Zelda games (mostly notably A Link to the Past), but the overall quality of the music is great. I highly recommend having your volume up while playing this game, because the music itself really helps to add to the experience.

A Link Between Worlds has worked its way into the hearts of many fans and has even been crowned Game of the Year by some. The hype does not disappoint as this game successfully merges a nostalgia for the old with fun and new mechanics.


1. Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem Awakening

Choosing which game would claim first in my list was definitely challenge. Despite this, there was a game that stood out from the rest. The 3DS game that surprised me the most and impressed me the most was, by far, Fire Emblem Awakening.

It might have helped that I did not have high expectations for Fire Emblem Awakening initially. The only Fire Emblem game I’ve played in the past was Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. That was a game I eventually lost interest in and never did return to play. Therefore, I dubbed the Fire Emblem series as games that were not fun for me. I would only pick up Fire Emblem Awakening as part of a coupon deal along with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Of course, Fire Emblem took a back seat, while I was running around with Isabelle doing mayor-like duties for a spell.

Once I did play Fire Emblem Awakening, I was hooked. Fire Emblem Awakening’s strength lies within its writing, which helps bring its world and, most importantly, its characters to life. Awakening does a great job of taking what I can best describe as “dating sim” elements and incorporating it into a strategy RPG. In the process, I became really attached to the development of my characters, and I would even grind willingly just to see their stories unfold.

The pacing in Fire Emblem Awakening is simply fantastic. Very few video games achieve this, but Awakening is one of them. Through both its lows and highs, the game sweeps you along on a seamless adventure. Nothing can really compare to how the game builds up its finale, which in a brilliant combination of narration, music, and gameplay make you feel as if you finished a epic quest.

Fire Emblem Awakening will make you love its characters and long for more. While the competition was tough, Fire Emblem Awakening, in my book, is clearly the top 3DS game for 2013. I can’t recommend it enough.


Now you know what I think, but what do you think are the top 3DS games to come out this year? Let me know in the comments below!