Freedom Wars was a game I had specifically ignored for a long time when it was launched because everything I saw about it in promotional materials led me to believe it was primary an online, multi-player experience.
I don’t do MMOs.
But then a couple of months back I found myself suddenly reading some retrospectives about the title and also learned that it had an achievable by mere mortals Platinum trophy status. Both of these bits of info peeked my interest and shortly after that I ended up with the game so I decided I’d give it a shot.
I am so glad I did. I’ve been looking for a Phantasy Star fix since playing Conception II and many times had almost broken down and picked up my PSP to get the job done. Freedom Wars totally did the trick. Imagine my surprise when I booted the game and discovered that it was actually a single-player story. Short of a couple of really bad grind points the game progressed nicely. Play control was tight and NPC AI satisfying. The graphics where console grade.
Granted the story was a little confusing at points and when you get to the credits you’re left feeling like something more is coming in the story… and that’s when the final stages become available. Unfortunately those final stages don’t resolve the story and it is unlikely there will be a sequel since the creative mind behind the game left the studio to move onto other projects.
Online multi-player is certainly a part of the experience of this game though and some co-op gaming is required to get your last couple of trophies, but it’s never required to actually complete the game. On the note of online, I’m glad I checked it out. I found a pretty friendly community who are happy show you the ropes and take turns on grind missions “For the Greater Good!”
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I’ll get back to Corpse Party, but I ended up firing up Freedom Wars instead and I’m really happy I did as it’s totally getting me my Phantasy Star Portable fix I’ve been looking for. I’m struggling with some end game grinding right now but once I wrap that up I’ll do up a review post.
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Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward gave me a strong introduction to the world of Japanese visual novel adventure games. While I had long been aware of visual novels like this, none of them really grabbed my attention. Finding that I simply can’t wait for Zero Time Dilemma (the conclusion of the trilogy) to get my next fix I decided to take a shot at Steins;Gate since almost every conversation swings back to it being the defining title for the genre. While originally released on the XBox 360 in Japan, it has gone on to be released on other platforms and spun off anime, manga and a sequel that I hope to be able to play some time. For this review I played the Vita release.
If you’re looking for a great read, Steins;Gate has you covered. Unlike most of the games in the genre which are more akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure story, Steins;Gate doesn’t have bad endings. Just different endings…
The story is riveting and very hard-core science fiction on the topic of time-travel. It also deals with topics of identity and relationships. No puzzles. Just branching story elements that lead you to one ending or another. Also the story may seem slow to start but as you get into it you realize you’ve been getting critical plot elements right from the beginning. Then throw in a smörgåsbord of hacking and Otaku cultural references along with a dose of heavy innuendo to keep you snickering. Did I mention the story is really great?
I know that purist are going to hate me for this but I enjoy games like this with a good spoiler free branching guide at my side while I play in order to experience all of the story arcs and endings without having to take away from the experience by thrashing around, wasting hours on repeating things I’ve already read. These guides take the form of “At this prompt, Save and pick X for ending #3 or Y for ending #5, reload from here to resume to the ending you didn’t watch” with no context so you really need to be reading the story and paying attention, but this saves you time at guessing where the critical forks are. I know for some people that’s part of the experience, but I’ve got a life and I’m just here to read the full story. Yes, I could simply watch a video but that’s really just not the same.
The bottom line is if you like this genre and you haven’t played this game yet then YOU GO, YOU GO NOW.
Next up… the Corpse Party series (PSP/Vita)… we’ll see how that goes unless Zero Time Dilemma comes out first… or I break down and watch the Steins;Gate anime. Much dilemma.
Junpei in awe of Lotus the supa hacka from 999.
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So all I wanted was some old school RPG action. Honest. What I got was Criminal Girls: Invite Only on the Vita which was a fantastic, 100% solid, old-school, 90’s RPG experience if you don’t count the bizarre, pervy mini-games that unlock your team member attacks. No seriously, I could have really done without the mini-games and those alone make this game almost un-recommendable to pretty much anyone who… hmm… yeah, I got nothing. I almost regret playing this game. For comparison this was way worse than Conception II which reaalllllly bothered me as well. 🙁
The game… you are in hell and you are escorting a group of “teen” lolly girls (they really make a point to age them as all high-school graduates… yeah) out of hell by directing them to fight monsters. The pervy mini-games for boosting their skills consists of one-on-one sessions where you drive out their temptations by spanking, tickling, etc… Just typing this out is making me uncomfortable again. Look, I know there are people that like this stuff but frankly I can’t imagine how this got released outside of Japan. Worse yet, they made a lame-assed attempt at censorship of the mini-games for the Western market that really didn’t make the mini-games any less pervy to the point where they probably shouldn’t have even bothered since all it did was get everyone online bitching about the censorship. Why am I playing this again???
Mini-games aside though the RPG part of the game was great fun, the music was fantastic, very much a solid 90’s style RPG experience. Hat tip on grind management as well. At one point you can get a spell that allows you ward off monsters (not bosses) while you wonder dungeons, and a second spell to summon a monster encounter at will. This allows you to perform grinding on top of the save marker. Fight a few battles, rest, save, repeat until you’re ready to continue the game. I never really felt like grinding was a chore, or atleast I never felt like the task of grinding was going to risk me getting killed where I would have to repeat level building for the sake of not being able to save. Dungeons were pretty linear with minimal back-tracking that was fairly straight forward when it did happen.
Now I have to debate whether I leave this review up and admit to playing the game. I need a shower and some eye-bleach.
Next up we’ll cover Steins;Gate.
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If you’re looking for some weekend gaming where you can knock out 100% solves over a couple of days and collect a set of trophies for your trouble, Volume and SOMA should be on your list.
Volume is a pretty basic 3/4 perspective stealth action game, and is very mindful of Escapee Go! (DSiWare) which you might have seen if you did much Nintendo DSi/3DS gaming. I’ve also seen it compared to the Metal Gear VR Missions… but with the bonus of not dumping all the crappy Metal Gear baggage on you. The story is pretty bland, you’re a kid/rebel/hacker using a stolen security A.I. to puzzle out home security of the rich people in town. You’re apparently live streaming this to the world so that others can do the break-ins like some strange modern Robin Hood? Hmm. IDK. Needless to say, don’t worry much about the story.
The game itself can be played by simply brute force, slamming through all of the stages in a few hours, or if you’re really up to the challenge you can go for high-speed stealth solves to see how you rank on the public leader-boards. Either way is fun.
Next lets tackle SOMA. SOMA is a first-person, survival horror game by the same author who created Amnesia. While it is a first-person platform game, I personally identify it as more of an interactive novel with light puzzles. One of the key selling points is the graphically detailed, fully fleshed out world you traverse. Frankly I think they did the creepy undersea base full of monsters way better than BioShock managed (and I love me some BioShock). There’s also no run-and-gun, just run and hide. There’s even some zomg running in a panic to get away from chasing monsters though, including the “I don’t know what was chasing me and I hope it doesn’t get through this door I’ve just locked shut but I sure wish it would stop banging and shrieking at me while I go change my underwear” moments. Yeah, it really has some good moments of scaring the crap out of you.
The story was excellent as well and constantly kept you on your toes, so be sure to dig into it. Everything adds to the mood starting right out the gate with the Total Recall hat tip to Philip K. Dick that leaves you wondering what’s real and adds extra weight to some of the narrative exploration around just what it means to be human. An excellent game for a weekend escape.
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