Monthly Archives: December 2015

Yakuza 5 Review: Honor, Revenge, Sidemissions

By Jason Parker (Ragachak)

 

Yakuza 5 Review

Three years ago, Yakuza 5 released for the PS3 over in Japan. It took about that long to get it localized and brought over to America. Three years later, when PS3 titles are well on the way to the proverbial heap. I can understand why Sony didn’t want to pay to have it updated/spruced up for the PS4, but that is what I would have infinitely preferred. That having been said, the Yakuza series has been going strong for years, perhaps never getting a really good footing in America (more a cult following than anything), but the digital release of Yakuza 5 is a pretty good thing for the series. It will keep the game in peoples’ line of sight for the upcoming launch of Yakuza 0, which will be releasing in America in 2016 for the PS4. If they want it to have any relevancy it’s imperative to have another title out, and after all it’s better late than never. 0 is the prequel to the series, and it is my sincere hope that the success of these two will spell updates for the older games in the franchise.

Yakuza 5 Review

Again, I’m a very large fan of the Yakuza-styled games, and it amuses me a great deal to know one of the more recent Yakuza titles have been play-tested by actual members of the Yakuza for authenticity’s sake. That’s a fantastic thing to have read. Yakuza 5 may as well be called “Yakuza All-Stars.” It boasts well over 80 hours of gameplay, and that’s not including all of the side missions, sidestories, and exploration. Kazuma Kiryu, star of the series from its inception, is one of the several characters to come back. Haruka Sawamura has been a key element to the franchise, and is playable in 5! Shun and Taega from Yakuza 4 come back, and then there’s a newcomer, Tatsuo Shinada, rounding out the squad of ‘heroes.’ There are five distinct and unique locations to wander, which will give me much to do far beyond the scope of this review! I’m nowhere near the end, but it is a very important game to see even in the post PS3 era.

Yakuza 5 Review

I absolutely cannot get over how much is going on in this game. Calling it huge is an understatement. Each character relates to the events involving the turbulent events going on around Japan’s seedy underworld. An example of this is Kazuma Kiryu, who over his course of the story has almost 80 side stories, where he interacts with people old and new in his life as he adjusts to his surroundings. Playing as so many different characters kind of frustrated me at first, but the knowledge that they all tie together in a great overarching tale, instead of simple individual stories, really grabs my attention. I also feel I should warn players that it is a 50 GB game; not having a Playstation 3 anymore, I had to borrow two, because one of them did not have enough space at all! It is a humongous game, and it does have some pretty ridiculous load times as well. This is a Playstation 3 game and as such it loads about as much as one might expect.

Yakuza 5 Review

While there are a lot of different things to do, and it is incredibly easy to get lost in all the varieties of activities, to me there are probably TOO MANY things to do. Part of Kazuma’s tale is him being a taxi driver called Suzuki Taichi; part of his task is to be a perfect cab driver. Don’t accelerate fast, make small talk, stop at Stop signs and lights! Watch for pedestrians, turn carefully and slow, it turns into a real example of the film “Driving Miss Daisy.” But thankfully you don’t have to do these for the most part. This is all side stuff as pertains to his new personal life. The other driving option turns the game into Initial D or The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift as he battles street racers the only way he knows how: In a Taxi Cab.

Yakuza 5 Review

When given infinite options, I typically go with doing nothing. Sandbox games become frustrating to me because I want to do everything all the time and ultimately get distracted. There are so many different mini games and things to see and do. Fishing for huge tuna out in the sea, snapping photographs of important locations, snapping photographs to trigger memories and new abilities, combat training, taxi racing, chicken breeding/racing (Yes. That’s really a thing, and it’s amazing.), working at a Ramen stand to serve up famous noodles for hungry customers and so much more. One of my favorite things is the Sega Arcade though! You can play Taiko Drum Master, Virtual Fighter 2, get photos done in a booth, and even play crane games! You can definitely spend hours, even days just wandering the areas of Japan doing any amazing amount of things.

Yakuza 5 Review

And if that’s not fun for you, wander the streets and pummel the life out of punks, racers and Yakuza thugs in the streets. The combat is a big take away for this game, and while it’s not the only part of the game, it is definitely a fun part of the whole experience. It’s easy to get into and you can fight however you want, from melee, kicks and throws, to wielding a katana or a pistol, slicing down your enemies in a violent mad frenzy! One part of combat I enjoy is if you drop the leader of the attack, his cronies are likely to be demoralized. If your assault is severe enough, they tend to try and flee! Unfortunately if they do get away you don’t get rewards/xp for them. The game is not perfect by any stretch, but it is ridiculously fun.

One of the biggest flaws is simultaneously a good thing. The first couple of hours of gameplay were almost entirely exposition, cut scenes and dialogue. While I love a good story, at the start of the game I’d really love to… play the game and not be subjected to Metal Gear Solid 4-2: Guns of the Plot Device. You spend so much of the game listening and watching, to have a brief bit of combat, and to go back to the story in more places than I’d care to think about. Yakuza 5 is fun, but the story can definitely weigh one down after a while. I find myself doing a part of the story, then wandering the area I’m in to do side stories and be “productive.”

 

Yakuza 5 Review

Initial Y[akuza]: Great

I always worry about sandbox games that struggle to do too much at once, but I’m actually very glad for the plethora of side content. The story can not only weigh you down with how lengthy the dialogue is but also the actual story itself. It’s dramatic, but on your down time you can do anything from visit hostess clubs and try your hand at wooing women, gambling, hunting, and channeling your inner drift racer. It’s a slice of life into the underworld of the Yakuza without it feeling hokey or false. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching an anime series, but you are living the lives of these characters.

Visual Appeal:

+ Cutscenes look quite sharp for the PS3; the crowded areas are a delight. Listening in on the conversations of others as well as enjoying the quiet of the outdoors, it’s all so immersive and delightful.

  • Except for the driving; it looks so terrible unless you’re doing a special move. The driving scenes look hokey and boxy, as if they are emulating a classic style driving game. If that’s the case, brave; otherwise, it’s a bit of a letdown.

 

Yakuza 5 Review

Talk to Me:

+ The actual dialogue between major characters and story are phenomenal. It all feels legit, and the emotion was fantastic. I loved the story as a whole, in addition to its parts.

  • However, the dialogue between fights is freakin’ awful. They always seem to say the same things, and it comes across as obnoxious and lame. Most of the dialogue outside of the story can feel repetitive and boring.

Mini-Games:

+ Some of these games are so much damn fun! Snowball throwing, Gambling, Fighting, dishing out Ramen! Yes, even that’s fun. It is a terrific reflex/rhythm mini-game to go along with the others. The arcade is a lot of fun, probably where I spent the most time. And not at the Hostess Club minigames. Honest.

  • THERE ARE TOO MANY THINGS TO DO. I spent far more time in Chapter 1 than I’m willing to admit because I wanted to do everything there was for fear that I couldn’t come back and do it later. I can’t even imagine when I’ll get to the end, because I always have to stop and do something.

Yakuza 5 Review

Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey Review

by: Ojogo

 

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

If there’s one thing that I feel is lacking in mobile games it’s a new title that’s a true-blue RPG that brings back the RPG feels of old. The type where you keep on grinding through dungeons with an amazing story to tell that’s not a Final Fantasy game, or any pre-existing titles. There have been some games that tried to provide that experience, but with the current business models game dev companies have taken in their titles, they still fall short in what could’ve been a great RPG experience.

 

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

Overview

Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey is a mobile RPG from Paris based company, Kobojo. The game follows the story of Cael (the name is changeable), in the world of Orcanon. You’ll follow Cael’s adventures as he accidentally touches the celestial shards, a revered material in Orcanon, which propels him into the truth of the world he lives in. Along the way, Cael will be met with characters of each tribes represented in Orcanon as they continue to find out not just the truths they were not meant to be seen. This of course ties into Cael’s past and his ancestry connecting him to the overarching story.

 

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

Gameplay

Zodiac’s gameplay is reminiscent of old school RPGs where everything is static but beautifully designed. You get to experience the story through clicking the NPCs that surrounds each area you visit. Instead of the usual text-filled lore exposition, you get to figure out a lot of how relationships work in Orcanon through the game’s conversations.

 

Battles are turn-based and initiative centric while character development is level based. Story progression is thrown in via storyline quests. You can head back to previously completed stories as higher difficulty tiered dungeons with the highest level being the only dungeon difficulty that respawns enemy units.

 

Speaking of enemies, Zodiac allows you to avoid enemy encounters by letting you see monster mobs as blurred circular objects on the screen. You can also farm items by tapping green orbs or red orbs scattered throughout the map.

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

Skills on the other hand can be unlocked in a grid-like manner reminiscent of FF X. You can follow a certain path of unlockable permanent stat boosts or active skills using skill points you earn per level.

 

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

Stunning Visuals

Another thing of note in Zodiac is that the game puts a bit more effort in storytelling. I already mentioned that the game does away with the usual text blocks of exposition. Instead it world builds via beautifully illustrated cutscenes. You can in fact go back to these “discovery scenes,” as the game coins them, and check as to what is happening in the world of Orcanon.

 

It’s clear that there was a lot of effort done in the visuals of the story telling. In fact, I like that the game feels like a wonderfully drawn pop-up book that’s engaging and visually appealing at the same time.

 

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

Critique

What Zodiac brings into the table is a self-contained world filled to the brim with backstory and lore. I actually love the fact that Kobojo put a bit more effort into world building than most mobile devs out there. Instead of slogging through tons of text that explains what the situations is within the world, you are given a glimpse on how the world of Orcanon is through dialogues with people who live within the game. You get to figure out that the Geckals are the barbaric douchebags of Orcanon by reading through how people react to them in their dialogues. Or that you get to feel the pompousness of the Fawlkon race through their words rather than being flat told in some obscure description screen. As I continued to play through, the animosity between races become more prominent while staying organic in its development.

 

And then we move on to how the game successfully makes you feel for the characters you play. They aren’t just cardboard characters that you’d often see in game titles that you can choose to forget and let go. Every experience is viewed through the eyes and narrative of your characters, rather than a voiceless unfeeling narrative.

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

We then get to the point where the game design kills the experience somewhat. Since the game tries to make itself like a RPG, the game makes you feel like the game is a grind to go through. A few elements alleviate the issue such as your beast riding partner impacting the adventuring experience. But the game doesn’t offer much anything else beyond the core gameplay, causing the novelty to wear off real fast. That’s bad news in a game with such a deep and lengthy story to tell, if you can’t endure the gameplay to the end.

 

Zodiac Orcanun Odyssey Review

Conclusion: Great

Overall, my experience with Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey has been a good one since the game really does hail back to RPGs of old. You have the usual suspects for the start of an adventure. A turn-based battle system, and a beautifully designed set of characters. It’s fun, it’s engaging and it’s grindy, just the way RPGs are meant to be.

 

For a premium game, Zodiac is a really good buy. And the promise of future DLCs, while I’m assuming isn’t really necessary, would at least establish more of the world Kobojo has initially set up with Zodiac. This at least allows a bit more longevity for a world that is good enough to make you feel for the characters, but engaging enough to keep you pushing forward to find out what happens next.

Eternal Clash

Eternal Clash is a mobile tower-defense RPG with action elements. It is set for release in 2016; there is no English version currently available.

Features:

2D Side-Scrolling Action: Rather than just sitting and building towers, you can take your units into intense battles in a 2D style as you push and defend.

Multiple Heroes: Players can choose from a variety of heroes, each with their own strengths and abilities, to lead the charge.

Battle Bosses, Summon Gods: Face against huge enemies and summon the power of the gods to smite them!

Demong Hunter 2

Demong Hunter 2 is a mobile RPG by Zeptto Mobile. As the #1 mobile action game in Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and Korea, start your second adventure in Demong Hunter with more powerful actions, and in-depth storyline, numerous stages and special characters.

Features:

Hunters galore: Unlock 12 unique Hunter characters with over 72 powerful skills

Team-up: Stage to difficult to clear? Bring a friend with the new Raid system!

Core System: Empower special abilities to Hunter’s equipment with special cores.

Town system: Experience the town upgrade system and enjoy new improvements as your town gets stronger with your hunter.

Moon Hunters: Exclusive Beta Look

By Jason Parker (Ragachak)

 

Moon Hunters Beta Preview

My first experience with Moon Hunters was an exclusive indie party during Pax East earlier this year. DizzyPW and I played it for a good half hour or so after quite a few drinks. But I had very fond memories of it and the development team that’s working on it. It’s a four player retro top-down RPG, very reminiscent of the 8-bit games of my youth. It’s not really 8bit as it’s cleaner and sharper; the character portraits remind me of a more western Fire Emblem, and that’s just beautiful. The ultimate goal is for your character’s deeds to be written in the stars above as one of the constellations, which is a pretty cool goal for any hero, and one that they ought to aspire to anyway; it’s fun, it’s fun without question. It’s not quite ready for release though, but I’m excited for when it is. The characters play differently with four already available and 2 more coming soon. The dialogue is interesting and your choices actively matter for gameplay. With four players impacting progression, things can get pretty interesting. On that note, playing solo is a serious gauntlet, but buying a pack to play with friends won’t be too pricey. It’s an indie title, and the price will almost certainly fit the amount of gameplay you get out of it.

Moon Hunters Beta Preview

Which leads me to the most critical thing for me to point out: It is short. Very short. Sure there are about several characters to choose from, and four starting points, but you have three days or so to complete the game. Win or Lose against the final boss, and begin again. Depending on how you treat people, you get assigned various traits (Foolish, Flirty, etc) and some caves/shrines/rooms cannot be accessed unless you possess one of these traits. There are cool things that can happen depending on what you say though; I got to take a Griffon to the final boss fight on one character because I convinced it to follow along with me. What you do builds a reputation in this myth-building roleplaying game! I appreciate that what I do matters, and people won’t always appreciate me being aggressive or rude as a hero. But sometimes… it pays off.

Moon Hunters Beta Preview

The zones are procedurally generated, so there’s lots of replay value throughout. Lots of secrets, and no real one way to go about the game. Every time I’ve made a character I’ve done it a different way, wandering to different parts of the map, unlocking new foods to cook, boosting my stats in hunts, talking to new NPCs, and dying. I did die a lot in single player, and if you die, you crawl away, losing some of your opals (currency) and losing a day of your quest. After you complete a zone, you go to your camp where you can do a variety of things, such as cook foods for stat bonuses, contemplate the stars and look at the constellations, hunt, or simply rest. Events can occur during these times too, so be on the look out and try different things.

Moon Hunters Beta Preview

You can play using a keyboard and mouse, just keyboard, or a controller, but I have to say, I’m genuinely surprised that the Xbox One controller does not work with it. PS4 controller was just fine, but for a Steam game, I was shocked and amazed. The controls are smooth though, easy to get a hold of and only facing a few more bugs before being launch ready. I had a playthrough where I somehow had two characters bound to one controller and played an entire scenario that way, as a Druid and a Witch.

Moon Hunters Beta Preview

Unlike most RPGs, this game is easy to pick up and put down whenever you get the itch for some mythology writing. While it is short, I have to say that it’s kind of nice to be able to complete a game, and come back another time, and try it a different way. For adults who don’t have time to spend hours playing games like Fallout that consume lives, Moon Hunters fills the void. Playing a session with close friends every other weekend is always a blast and seldom feels repetitious.

Moon Hunters Beta Preview

Moon Hunters is fun, and while my big complaint is how incredibly short it is, I don’t feel like that’s going to make it unplayable. As I said, it’s pretty easy to pick up with a few friends and kick evil asses, and come back to it at your leisure. There are so many different ways to play; will you forgive someone who lies to you, or destroy them as a lesson to others who may try and deceive you? Or even more simple choices like, killing a bird for food, or letting it stay alive in a village where it can grow, and leave eggs for others. It’s unique, it’s fun, and it’s a modern game with that retro spin on it. There’s no way you can go wrong with Moon Hunters when it drops in February.