Game Review - Ryu Ga Gotoku: Of the End [aka Yakuza: Dead Souls] *No Spoilers*
This game was a 2011 release but it's only recently that I randomly decided to pick it up again, motivated by my sudden fangirly urge to introduce and share it with a fellow girl friend who, like me, is able to appreciate gruff and scrubby men. XDDDD!!
Story - A
Dead Souls is a spin-off of the Yakuza (aka Ryuga in short) series, which is an incredible brawler action RPG based on Japanese mafia in the game's own version of the Kabukicho District in Shinjuku, Tokyo. This time, instead of yakuza thugs you'll be facing the undead. It is ridiculous enough to imagine how there could ever come to a day when yakuzas would need to fight zombies and save the day so I had expected an absurd parody where it makes a fool out of itself but surprisingly, and amazingly, the story actually manages to take itself seriously, even with a fair share of humor and a surprisingly satisfying ending! It doesn't involve its traditional politics or conspiracies and is more straightforward in a manner that fits the zombie apocalypse setting and at a comfortable pace.
There are a number of recurring characters but it is not necessary for newcomers to have played the previous games in order to pick up Dead Souls. However, at the same time this means that only existing fans of the series will find nostalgia/value in some of the characters/events, or be able to catch any inside jokes/references to the previous games. For example, the fact that this is the first and only game where Majima is playable is a HUGE attraction to existing fans but he's just "another playable dude" to new players.
Akiyama, the friendly loan shark, is on his way to collect his money when he bumps into the town's very first zombie. The next day a portion of the town has been infected and quarantined and he goes on a quest to get his assistant, Hana, medicine for her fever. Majima, everyone's favorite mad dog, is enjoying his B-rated zombie movie in his office when real ones give him a surprise visit. Stoked, Majima goes out for an all-you-can-shoot buffet. Ryuji, ex-chairman of the Omi alliance of the Kansai region, is living a peaceful commoner's live as a takoyaki apprentice when an ex-mate comes by to persuade him back to their yakuza world. Later he barges his way from the quarantined zone into the safe zone in search of his mate. Kazuma, our resident hero and Dragon of Dojima, is enjoying a day at home when he receives a call from adopted daughter Haruka's kidnapper. He travels to Kamurocho to rescue her as the fate of the town lies in the hands of all four men.
Gameplay - C+ (for combat/gunplay only)
Dead Souls is basically Ryuga with guns instead of fists. There is no first person view, but there's an over-the-shoulder 3rd person view (hold L2 in type B controls) which works considerably poorly and is for the most part unnecessary because like all Ryuga games, you oversee your battles from a bird's eye view.
As much as I love the Ryuga series, I won't defend this game's flaws with excuses – its gunplay/combat is mediocre. It is important that players who give "Dead Souls" a try are prepared with the knowledge that it is more a game for existing Ryuga fans to enjoy something different (and whacky), than for joining the ranks of fabled zombie games. However, this doesn't mean that it is a bad game for newcomers. It just means that newcomers should know what to expect when picking up this game, that Dead Souls is a Ryuga - not zombie - game at heart.
The first trouble you'll find with the gunplay is the first person view (hold L2). It changes the view from bird's eye view to over-your-character's-shoulder with a crosshair. In this view you are rooted to the ground and will not be able to strafe. Strangely, as self-explanatory as it sounds, the over-the-shoulder camera does not always correctly point in the direction in conjunction with your character's point of view. For example, in normal view you could turn your character to the left and then hold L2 to enter third person shooter view, but for some reason the camera may not point to the left as it should and somehow points 50 degrees off to the right instead. This forces you to readjust your aim which wastes time and opportunity as the L4D and RE-like zombies are very aggressive in this game.
In normal view (bird's eye view) or by holding L1, you can run/strafe while shooting blindly in any direction at eye level - this tactic works well with the shotgun, gatling gun, and especially assault rifle. For handguns, it's best to spam automated headshots once you've acquired the first skill "Head Snap" by mash-tapping on L2 + R1. Other weapons include grenades and Molotov cocktails but it can be rather tricky throwing them due to the awkward L2 controls. There's a chance you'd blast/burn yourself in the process, or the grenade may phase through a wall and disappear.
The traditional Ryuga Heat moves are now replaced with Heat Snipe moves which you activate by interacting with explosive/inflammable objects in the environment, or with a partner. This is useful for crowd control assuming enemies are within the explosion's blast radius. You can also pull off specific Heat moves against certain enemies as a form of counterattack, and the amount of damage is dependent on the type of weapon used.
Like all Ryuga games, you are able to use surrounding objects as melee weapons, ranging from pylons, signboards, poles, couches to motorbikes. Unfortunately, there're no weapon heat moves in this game and it's impractical to rely on them. However, some areas provide unique weapons/tools such as the chainsaw, bulldozer, tank, etc… even a baseball grenade pitching machine.
In a glance the combat system is relatively shallow, especially since the shotgun/assault rifle is all you really need. Still, the game manages to get tough/frustrating in occasions where you are forced to fight in tight spaces with 30 zombies that outrun you and keep you in an endless loop of getting hit and getting back up on your feet. Some of the boss fights are also tedious at best and exceptionally rage-inducing at worst. Hence, it is recommended to always prepare and equip yourself with the best of everything you can get from Kamiyama, your friendly neighborhood weapons and gear dude, as well as a shitload of health items.
A new aspect of Kamurocho unique to Dead Souls is the fact that as you progress into the game, the infection spreads and more areas of the town get quarantined and the shops within those areas will become inaccessible unless liberated, which becomes a side quest. To liberate shops or do certain sub-story quests, you have to re-enter the quarantined zone via specific entry points. Inside, you are free to kill as many zombies (optional) as you like for fun or leveling up. Once you've liberated a shop, business will resume and no number of zombies outside is gonna stop them. Talk about passion! You can even visit liberated hostess clubs and take ‘em girls out for a shopping shooting spree, as well as the usual dating routine.
Sound/Music - A
I don't remember specific boss themes but the regular battle themes are pretty nice. One of those that you can't possibly miss/forget is Gary's theme, which got me laughing as soon as I heard it. I also love the ending theme 'I Won't Forget', even if it may be ‘unmanly' for a Ryuga/zombie game, but it's got the right feels and it works for me (perhaps only me?). Also, the voice acting is brilliant as usual, and I gotta say I enjoy Ryuji's comeback and to hear his so-damn-yakuza voice again (and Majima of course, even tho' he and karaoke don't mix well >_>;).
Replay Value - A+
Come on, it's a Ryuga game…! Like all the previous titles, Dead Souls is loaded with side quests. There're a total of 60 sub story quests (15 each character) and more than a dozen mini-games to master, including karaoke, UFO catcher, table tennis, body massage, golf, batting, darts, bowling, pachinko, fishing, casino games (western + Asian), etc. In addition, the total number of completed weapon modifications, Heat moves, food/beverages, etc constitutes to your completion percentage as well. (However, underground tournaments, also traditional of Ryuga, are not available as this is not a brawler game) In the end, if you spend 15 hours to complete the main story quest, you'll be spending at least twice more of that on all these side quests, namely the mini games, depending on your level of perfectionism/OCD. If you're not too invested in the mini games, like me, the 60 sub stories and weapon modification alone should add enough hours to your game. Considering this, the game is guaranteed to have far beyond 200% replay value. =D
Overall - Objective B / Subjective A
Despite the clunky controls and not-so-fantastic gunplay, all in all I still love this game. This is the thing with gamers – some prefer a better story with poor gameplay while others poor story with better gameplay, but there're also some who just can't make up their mind and complain both ways. I for one like anything that entertains me and it doesn't matter whether the enjoyment comes from the story or gameplay. In comparison with the other Ryuga titles Dead Soul is definitely inferior in combat but in terms of story, I find it equal with the rest cos' a simple whacky story is as good as a complex serious story. It's only a matter of preference with no conceivable right or wrong. I may not be keen to move on to the harder difficulties but I'm definitely motivated to clear everything I can on normal. For Ryuga fans, Dead Souls is a must whether or not you dread the differences, at least for Majima…!! For newcomers, I recommend that you try anyway for a taste of Kamurocho and its notable highlights, as well as its charming heroes! XD
Note: I give it a B for "objective" overall rating considering the fact that Dead Souls is the weakest Ryuga game in the series, but it's not at all a horrid game in itself.
Mar 2013, Thursday
Game Review - Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
I was told that this game was so very close to getting cancelled because Kojima didn't like what he saw, but we were lucky they decided to persevere and collaborate with Platinum Games. Konami worked on the story/characters while Platinum took care of the gameplay, turning MGR into quite an unordinary bastard child. Platinum only had a year to work on it so keeping this in mind, you might just appreciate just how well enough they did things considering the lack of time, as well as close an eye on some of its flaws.
Graphics - A-
I like the character models/alternate skins but the background/level design is lackluster – even MGS3 is better in that sense IMO. However, I do understand that they are very different games and shouldn't be compared unreasonably. I'm not particularly disturbed by it either but this does mean there's always room for improvement. After all, I presume this is due to the lack of development time.
Story - C+
To be honest I stopped comprehending after a while, not because it's (trying to be) profound and philosophical like MGS always is, but because even the things I 'understand' don't quite make sense so in the end nothing makes much sense to me. >_>; But to be fair, this is sort of almost always the case with MGS games (except MGS3) and I had expected to be confused so it doesn't bother me too badly. However, I still dislike the final antagonist and the ending. It's the kind of bad you'd end up laughing at even though it's not intended to be funny, and you'll either find it amusing or simply dislike it.
Raiden discovers that orphans are being abducted to 'train' them into cyborg-soldiers and he finds the need to save them in his attempt to prevent them from suffering the same kind of past he did.
Gameplay - A-
For a start it is likely to feel like a super hack and slasher where all you do is mindlessly mash  and /\ not knowing what they do. There may also be a learning curve where you'll slowly learn and figure just how blade mode and zandatsu work because the in-game tutorial does a poor job of clarifying them. But once you know what you're doing and how things work, the real fun begins ;D
The game remains a hack and slasher, but it's one of a different kind. Some things feel a little bit DMC (Raiden has moves resembling Stinger/Killer Bee) but it is not possible to play it too much like DMC due to the absence of a side dodge. Therefore, while relatively inferior in substance in comparison with DMC and other acclaimed action games, it still provides a fresh and entertaining experience with its signature slice-n-dice mechanism.
Parry – Guard/Counter
This is done completely in Raiden's spirit (kickass cyborgs don't evade, they fight you head on and parry/deflect everything that comes their way just like Raiden did in MGS4!) and it's a ton of fun as it is frustrating sometimes. Without a proper side dodge, parrying becomes the single most important thing to learn/master. Pushing the left analog in the directory of an attacking enemy and pressing  will allow you to parry him. If the timing of your parry is not 'perfect', it'll result in a normal guard (Raiden will raise his sword to block the enemy's attack). If the timing is 'perfect', the parry will result in a counter (Raiden will automatically follow up with a counter slash that may give you a chance for an instant kill). However, parrying is not always as simple as it may seem and you can easily be overwhelmed when crowded by several enemies attacking from all directions.
In this game, jumping does not grant you any invincibility frames, and even enemy ground attacks can still hit you in midair as long as you're in range. However, you will eventually be able to unlock a skill known as the "Defensive Offensive" which acts very much like a side dodge and after much testing, I've confirmed that it in fact grants certain invincibility frames…! This move is crucial for certain bosses/situations.
Raiden can slice and dice anything that shows up as blue in his AR vision (press up on dpad). Holding the L1 button will place Raiden in his blade mode stance. In this stance his feet are grounded and he will not be able to move around. The left analog will then control the camera angle while the right analog (OR  and /\) controls the direction/angle at which you slice a nearby enemy/object.
When your FC (fuel cell) meter is full, entering blade mode can immediately reveal the weak spot of weaker enemy types, allowing you for immediate zandatsu. Against stronger enemies, you'll have to weaken them first before blade mode/zandatsu can work on them. Against them, you can tell when it's ready for blade mode when their body/limbs turn a shade of cybernetic blue. Slicing those parts off in blade mode will effectively disable an enemy and limit his attacks until he's finally dead.
Zandatsu is the glorious act of spine pulling and crushing lol. While in blade mode, you will need to slash at an enemy's weak spot (marked in a red square) to execute zandatsu. Doing this will fully replenish your health and FC meter, as well as earn you more battle points (BP). When your health is low, zandatsu is your best remedy. This may sound like it could break the game, but trust me, the game gets hard enough on the harder modes that even zandatsu ain't guaranteed to save your ass. [Watch this vid to get a gist of Zandatsu]
As you defeat each boss you'll obtain a secondary weapon whose moves will replace some of those of the default blade when equipped. Otherwise, you can equip the blade only and stick to your blade-only moves/skills. One of these secondary weapons is a sai, and I'm extremely disappointed that they didn't give Raiden real, proper sai moves and instead turns it into some long-range stun weapon. Just how does a short range weapon turn into that and lose every other bit of genuine Sai awesomeness?!
These are the second weakest aspect of the gameplay. You can find grenades, jamming/smoking devices, boxes/barrels, rocket launchers/missiles and a holographic version of a sexy babes magazine throughout the game, but some of these stuff can be pretty hard/ineffective to use. The worst of the lot is the rocket launcher or missiles which are practically the same thing, except one locks onto the enemy for you. Holding L2 will put you into a ready position to throw/shoot/use a sub weapon, but by default it will automatically lock onto the nearest enemy on ground. It cannot detect airborne enemies unless you manually re-position your aim at them after you're forced to lock onto the wrong enemy on ground. Holding L2 also locks your position and you cannot move walk/move around while adjusting your aim. Because it usually takes too long for you to target and shoot at a particular enemy, doing this in the midst of an overwhelming battle usually does you more bad than good. The rocket launcher in particular even has a reload animation that you cannot cancel out of. However, as tribute to the Metal Gear series as well as for sneaking purposes, there is still... the cardboard box and barrel!
The camera (right analog) control is the biggest flaw in the game. It is screwy and is likely the reason for your death perhaps half the time, especially when fighting in smaller/enclosed areas or when you are cornered/pushed against a wall. The parry system, which is the most important thing in this game, requires that you push the left analog towards the direction of the enemy in order to parry, but when your sense of direction is fucked up because the camera flies all over the place, chances are you'd accidentally fail your parry, which directly corresponds to taking damage. R2 allows you to lock onto an enemy but even with this the camera still screws up. However, in larger open areas, the camera is considerably alright.
Sneaking / Ninja kill
MGR is not a Metal Gear Solid game. They share the "MG" and are from the same universe but they are two completely different genres of games. Snake will never be able to breakdance with a sword as much as Raiden will never be able to properly play iSpy. In fact, whoever the hell in Kojima Productions started calling cyborg Raiden a ninja must have been an idiot, cos' he's one of the least ninja-like ninjas in the world in both appearance and battle approach (everyone from Naruto being the worst).
MGR incorporates some sneaking elements mostly to give players the option of playing aggressively vs sneakily, the same way MGS gave players the option to sneak around and clear every chapter undetected vs saying "screw that". However, it's clear by now that MGR was born for action and sneaking is merely a bonus feature. Raiden is incapable of crouching and has only two running speeds (run or walk real slow). Once you sneak up on an enemy, you only have to press O to execute an instant 'ninja kill'. It doesn't matter if the enemy you just stealth-killed went kaboom and decorated the floor with cyborg juices - as long as other enemies are not looking in your direction they will not detect you even if they're just 3 feet away. Regardless of the flaws, you may still prefer to sneak for certain stages/chapters as it does help ease your way through.
Music/Sound - A+
I really enjoy the soundtrack of this game, especially the boss themes! Exciting and fitting of the game's style. Very well done!! However, I must mention that I do rather dislike why/how Raiden keeps changing his voice when he talks, sounding normal at times and Christian Bale Batman at others. It doesn't make any sense, sounds bad, and is very distracting. He actually sounded good in MGS4 – at least he was consistent throughout.
Replay value - B+
By the end of one run you will likely only have upgraded about 30% (or less) of Raiden. He has quite a number of upgrades, unlockable skills and weapons to purchase, costing a lot of BP that requires a number of playthroughs for you to earn so that's always one reason to replay. He also has several alternate costumes that you may like to equip for your next playthrough, some of which are DLCs.
There are a total of 5 levels of difficulties, the difficulty a huge leap between hard and very hard, making it a pretty tough but entertaining challenge for players who enjoy the overall gameplay. However, do note that MGR is a considerably short game. Once you're familiar with the gameplay and chapters, it may take only 3-4 hours to complete a single playthrough, assuming you didn't die/restart more than a couple times.
There are also 20 optional VR missions that you need to first unlock by finding laptops throughout the main quest. Completing VR missions will unlock a few alternate costumes/skins and weapons for Raiden. More DLCs will also be released, including one for Samuel, Raiden's rival, which is supposed to cover a little more of his past/background. I can't wait for this…!!!!
VERY important note: Never touch that "New game" option. When replaying, in order to carry forward the money/items you have collected/bought so far, you MUST NOT select "Story > New game". Instead, you must select from "Story > Chapter" and manually select the chapter + mode you wish to replay on, including the DLC chapters. This game auto-saves so if you select "New game" it'll immediately overwrite your previous save and you'll lose everything you've farmed so far. To be safe you can also make a copy of the original cleared file (the game has that function!). If you wish to start a brand new game from scratch, it's recommended that you select a new/blank save file (the game allows a maximum of 3 save files).
Overall – Objective B+ / Subjective B+
Despite being a short game (a game that was rushed and almost canceled at that!), MGR proves to be a fun and entertaining spinoff of the MGS series in Raiden's spirit. It is not the most ingenious game of all time nor does it have the most profound battle system, but still I enjoyed it thoroughly and by the time I'm writing this I've already played the game 5 times lol! But of course, there are many areas that can be improved….which is why I seriously demand a sequel! Tweak and improve all that is currently lacking and bring Sam back please…! I love him so much I'm missing him so bad already T__T!
PS: The easter eggs and other silly little jokes and stuff in the game also deserve a thumbs up! XD
Mar 2013, Thursday
Game Review - DmC: Devil May Cry
I've played this game for 80 hrs for Dante and 25 for Vergil now, so here's my honest review:
Graphics/Design/Presentation – A-
Clarity and details in textures are actually better in DMC4 than this (unless this is the 'texture style' they're going for) – can be improved.
Body/facial animations are natural – OK.
Level/stage designs are interesting with an acceptable concept and its own visual style – Good. (But DMC3 is still faaar better in this aspect with Temen Ni Gru, IMO)
Story – B The story had potential but they barely did anything with it. Dante's past is summarized in two chapters through a bunch of not-so-awesome flashbacks. They say that "The Order" is a bunch of revolutionaries but really it's just Vergil and Kat. The moment Dante joined them everything worked out immediately – he's all 'The Order' needs! But putting that aside, the rest isn't as bad as I expected (I expected real bad).
The differences in characterizations between this pair of twins and the classic ones are actually amusing to me and I see them positively as a different take on the duo, so stuff like Vergil behaving all nice and brotherly, using a gun, and making certain surprises, or Dante spouting vulgarity and sleeping around ain't a problem for me. Sadly, the ending is too short and rather abrupt – not sure if they're saving the rest for the beginning of a sequel but it lacks proper closure.
Gameplay – A
DmC introduces environmental kills into battle, which is actually fun though likely seen as a cheat by the classic DMC veterans as it simplifies your battles. Most of Rebellion and Eryx's (Ifrit/Beowulf/Gilgamesh equivalent) moves are the same/similar to the previous games but the other new weapons are interesting in their own ways.
Angel vs Demon weapon types
Dante has 2 of each type – Osiris & Aquila (Angel), Arbiter & Eryx (Demon). Angel ones are for crowd control and launching while demon ones for damage, smashing and projectiles. Rebellion is a balance of both while the guns (total of 3) are mainly for stalling (in midair) and stunning. All 8 weapons can be used at the same time. Vergil has only one weapon, Yamato, and summoned swords for guns.
Angel lift / Demon pull
Dante and Vergil can swing over to the enemy or pull the enemy over, making them 'cheaper' than Nero. Every lift/pull also resets your double jump limitation, which means you can double jump > midair demon pull > double jump again. This makes is easy for players of all levels (much to veterans' dismay) to battle in midair without touching the ground for a very long time. Demon pull also helps to break enemy shields. Unfortunately, this also makes it unnecessary for anyone new to DMC to learn/master the art of 'jump-canceling', a skill that defined the classic DMC games and which the players hold high regard for.
Some enemies are color coded – those in blue can only be damaged with angel weapons, those in red with demon weapons. This forces you to switch weapons whether you like it or not, hence making this the biggest hassle in battles where enemy types are mixed. As Yamato is neither an angel nor demon weapon, Vergil does not encounter such enemies.
There's a lot of flying, pulling and lifting in every mission due to the nature of the game's level design (concept of limbo) but it's all easy and quick, nothing like Prince of Persia or Uncharted.
Below is an example of a boss fight (no story spoiler)
For more DmC videos, check out my youtube channel.
Music – A-
Other than the main theme which is my least favorite of all time, all sounds and music to this game are pretty good. It fits the new style and some are relatively catchy even for someone like me who does not listen to this genre of music, but overall I personally still prefer DMC3's soundtrack.
Replay Value - A Secret missions/Lost souls
There're a total of 20 secret missions but each mission has to be unlocked via a key which you can find throughout the missions in the game. Lost souls are red soul-like figures hanging on a wall which you can find throughout the missions as well. The more of them you find in a mission the higher the score for the mission. Some locks/secret missions/lost souls can only be assessed on a second play through.
You can unlock alternate skins for Dante and some of his weapons. A new Dante skin is unlocked for every difficulty mode fully cleared. DLC skins are also available only for Dante. Vergil only has 2 skins - the default and one unlockable.
There's quite a number of art you can unlock, most of them requiring that you clear all the missions across all the difficulties one by one. Others require that you kill a certain number of each type of enemy, etc.
Like DMC4, there are Human (easy), Devil Hunter (normal), Nephilim (normal-hard), Sons of Sparda (hard), Dante Must Die (very hard), Heaven or Hell (very easy), and Hell or Hell (hardest). Beating normal will unlock hard, so on and so forth. I imagine most DMC fans are likely to play the game at least 3 times to get to and clear DMD.
Vergil's Downfall DLC
There are 6 missions in total, 2 new enemies and 1 new boss. For 8.99USD I personally think it's worth the money, and it's fun. Vergil shares many moves with classic Vergil but also has a fair share of new moves of his own. He has only one weapon, the katana, so a shorter moveslist is inevitable in comparison to Dante but he's still very fun. Unfortunately, they cheated with the cutscenes and used illustrated animation instead of proper in-game cutscenes.
Overall – Objective B+ / Subjective B+
Overall it's better than I expected, but this could be because I expected absolutely nothing. I expected it to be utter crap, and turns out it isn't too bad. It's fun in a DMC-GOW hybrid sort of way but is likely not to appeal to traditional classic DMC fans who may have strict ideas about how any game with the "DMC" title should play like.
15th Jan 2013, Tuesday
Tumblr, the most poisonous and awesomest blogger on the netz
I recently opened a tumblr account (catwesker.tumblr.com) on a whim. I haven't posted very much on it but it'll still be more frequent than LitterBox. General normal stuff like game reviews, figure rants, and travel logs (if any) will still be posted on LitterBox. My tumblr account, however, is for the more fangirly/yaoicentric stuff that are meant to be shared with fellow fangirls around the world, just so you know.
As usual I had been meaning to write a review for RE6, or at least about RE6 Mercenaries, but I have been so lazy and distracted that I never got around to it - it's a story you've heard only a thousand times, it's still quite original I hope. ^^;
And right now I'm hopelessly addicted to and busy with anything and everything of The Hobbit - it's been the center of my life for about 3 weeks now I'm absolutely possessed. God bless you Peter Jackson.