Review: Stranger of Sword City – Swinging Swords in the Dungeons of the Future

Pros:
+Strong combat mechanics that reflect upon classic row-based fighting
+Character classes offer unique blends in combat and require player awareness
+Difficult to start out, but lightens up as players progress
+Hiding mechanic offers a unique twist to dungeons
+Character portraits are top-notch as well as enemy portraits. Astonishing artwork

Cons:
-Typical “become the hero” plot that doesn’t leave this theory behind much
-Combat gets repetitive after a decent amount of time
-Difficulty scaling rapidly decreases and declines with time


SoSC English Screenshot (3)

It’s hard to admit that both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One have been making difficult strides to be hubs for JRPG titles. The Xbox 360 saw exclusives such as Infinite Undiscovery, Lost Odyssey, and a push at titles like Magna Carta 2, which has been reasonably well received all around. Microsoft’s attempts, however didn’t end there, and remain to keep right where they are at. That was until Sony’s beautiful handheld, the PlayStation Vita for those wondering, received a unique diamond in the rough. Luckily for the PlayStation Vita, this isn’t something all that odd nor is it something all that unique since the handheld thrives like a shining star thanks to JRPG games. Unfortunately for the Xbox One, it has not even come close to tapping into JRPG games as it did in the past nor does it seem even close to grabbing onto the JRPG market like the Xbox 360 had. Luckily? Stranger of Sword City managed to slip in between the cracks and attempted to fill this gap, but for the Vita? Does it even manage to fill a much needed spot in the latest of game releases? That’s where we come in to discuss this title by Experience Inc.

 

Be it odd, the world seems almost non-existent when it comes to modern day dungeon crawling JRPGs. Sure we’ve seen a few titles out there, but nothing that really sticks its nose out and tries to be unique. Yea we’ve gotten titles such as Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, Lost Dimension, and a few other various titles on the PlayStation vita, but none that went back to the traditional look of things. Unfortunately for the Xbox One this isn’t the case, which makes the catalog comparison rather difficult when it comes to Microsoft’s home console. However, the game takes familiar turns for some players that are used to the first person view RPGs that require them to tap multiple times to go in a single direction, block by block, which isn’t seemingly uncommon anymore. If you’ve ever played a title like Wizardy back on NES? These game types are a strong nod to the type of JRPG this one is. However, for some of you? You’ve probably imported the game since it originally released in Japan on PC/Xbox 360 back in 2014 and just now made its way stateside in 2016.

SoSC English Screenshot (8)

If you ever watched a show like Lost, imagine it has teamed up and had a child with a good game of Dungeons and Dragons, and that’s what the game delivers, but with an awkward start since players start out with a rather large plane crash. After it happens, the story takes place of our avatar waking up in a dimension unfamiliar to them where creatures known as “Lineage” have taken over and the monsters guarding them have overrun the world around the player. With a fair number of other humans and otherworldly creatures here, the avatar will be teaming up with other humans labeled as “Strangers” who are also strong and talented like your own, but that would be thanks to the lower gravity.

While players get underway, they are quickly going to witness their character being titled the “Chosen One” who will cause players to put into the middle of a rather large faction dispute. One where their new world is run by Three Kingdoms, all ruled by strangers, who are all combating for Blood Gems, which will allow them to gain god like powers that can only be obtained by slaying “Lineage Type” creatures. Surprisingly enough? Players will be able to support one of these three kingdoms in order to obtain Blood Gems and attempting to return home to your world.

SoSC English Screenshot (6)

Unlike titles such as New Tokyo Legacy Operation Abyss or Operation Babel, Stranger of Sword City is not an easy title nor is it an entry level JRPG. Instead the game starts out with varying degrees of difficulty that will leave players cringing with each step as they attempt to play. Even on the “Easy” difficulty the game has presented challenges a long the way that will cause players to cringe as they begin to find that even some of the easiest enemies are some of the hardest to fight against. Let alone are fights difficult, the menus for the game alone are quite difficult to explore while players will find themselves struggling to manage through them. Let alone are they hard, players will also find the leveling system is a bit more complex than just achieving the experience needed to level up, but also the fact that players will need to navigate the party menu in order to highlight the character they need before hitting LB/RB or L/R depending on if on Vita or XBO. Once done players can choose a single stat point to place depending on where they want it spent in order to provide a better challenge for enemy characters.

While in combat, players will find themselves cringing in pain while trying to revive party members. Unlike the main character, however, secondary characters can suffer from perma-death after being revived 2-3 times at max. Unfortunately, this mean training new characters. Players will need to prepare rather heavily when attempting to dungeon dive in order to keep party members at full health. This challenge provides a constant new face on the team if players make the fatal mistake that will lead to one of their party members being killed rather quickly. Their revival points? Are also determined on a characters age, which will come at players debating whether they want more skill points to assign of if they want more revives. This weight comes at heavy costs depending on how skilled players want their characters or how many times they want to bring them into combat.

SoSC English Screenshot (3)

For combat, players will want to spend a decent amount of time planning out their teams roster. For me? This meant creating 1-2 characters of each class and rotating them out as I went back to town to heal, but also to buy new equipment. The reason behind this? If a party member dies, it means that players will take 24 in-game hours to revive. If that’s not enough, players will find themselves rotating their characters out in order to keep the roster full. While this sounds fun and all, these replacement ally’s will start out on the spot fresh or where they left off in each dungeon, XP itself means that they will be under-leveled for a few hours in. Luckily, if you have back-up party members, they will gain experience while resting and as your main team goes through combat. Luckily characters generated by the player will scale to the players progress. It’s still suggested to get them the gear they need to provide a top-notch experience.

While a lot of these design choices are rather odd and offer a unique combat experience unlike New Tokyo Legacy Operation Abyss, players will find themselves managing everything quite easily within a few hours of gameplay. It is suggested to take some time reading the manual in order to learn controls, status effects, etc while players dig through the game itself. This will lead to payers appreciating these small stalling factors once they get underway with the title. Fortunately the complications begin to go away as players learn to upgrade gear, fetch quests, and take on random encounters that include ambushes that players can set up. These ambushes will carrying loot that players can take if the “boss” enemy is taken out in time. This means players can use the “Check Monster” in order to check their levels and types. This will also allow players to see what loot they are taking on that can include rings, weapons, underwear, and even usable items for player sin order to determine whether the risk of fighting these creatures is worth it or not.

SoC_Artwork_Comparison

Stranger of Sword City – PlayStation Vita [Reviewed] and Xbox One [Reviewed]
Developer: Experience Inc.
Publisher: NIS America
Price: $39.99 USD
Released: Available Now

If players decide the loot isn’t worth it, they can pass and wait for the next group, unfortunately doing so will allow for players to be ambushed in turn. If they decide to flee, they can leave this “Hiding” option in order to flee all together. This option can’t run forever, this means a completing a successful or unsuccessful combat means that players will use and or raise their Divinity Points that allow for unique experiences. This will allow players to hide or flee from combat if they are ambushed. While items are obtained in combat, players can use a “Identify” option to find out what items are. This means they can find rings, monster parts, and or strange items that may or may not have any other attributes to them. From here, players can choose to identify them constantly, but this option can fail due to a players luck. If the option fails the item becomes cursed and will be required to be cleansed upon leaving the dungeon so that players can use it with a party member. This doesn’t offset the amazing art styles that can be chosen through the games options menu. While this is minor it does offer a varied experience for those wanting a more realistic portraiture for each character.

While the games mechanics are thoroughly dismissed in tutorials, the options can be quite easily learned if players have the amount of patience needed for it. Even with this unnecessary learning curve, players can easily learn the game as time goes on throughout it. While it provides a unique experience challenges are present at every corner and welcome players to conquer them by any means necessary.


Our review is based on a copy provided to us by the games publisher.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 7 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on TwitterGoogle+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

Review: Megadimension Neptunia VII – Console Wars Gone Multidimensional


Pros:
+Insanely fun boss bottles
+New characters and zones add a good bit of comical hilarity to the game
+New battle mechanics for bosses recreate what a boss fight is for the series

Cons:
-Battles can be overwhelming for new comers


 

Megadimension Neptunia VII_20151110164428

If you are someone who has played any RPG, you know that things do change in the franchises first and foremost. You also know that the games will recreate themselves in subtle ways to make the games worth the while, but also to provide a unique twist to things players have become used to. The Hyperdimension Neptunia titles are not excluded from this trend. When the games first launched in 2010 exclusively on PlayStation 3, we were given a JRPG series that was noticeably not going to take itself seriously – it’s a direct pun at the gaming industry, more-so the “Great Console Wars” that many of us grew up to if you are old enough to truly remember them. If not, I’m sure you’ve become semi-familiar with the current day one, which is most commonly attributed to Sony and Microsoft firing shots at each other. Behind this concept the idea gave birth to a franchise that many have become fans of. More so to the fact these games are hilarious and intend to be while playing on simple mechanics. Over the course of the past few years, all this has been revamped, and meanwhile given birth to remakes of the original three titles that made the franchise known.

We saw reboots on the PlayStation Vita known as the “Re;birth” series, which did a good job at rebuilding the franchise from the ground up. In turn we saw tweaks to combat mechanics, storytelling mechanics, and even character personalities that made the characters seem more alive and aware of their silliness. However, this latest title begins to break that trend rather carefully as it peels away from the focus upon a singular story plot to three separate story plots. Why is this? The answer is simple. They are shifting from the classic console war to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Wii U console war. More-so letting Nintendo sit this one out this time around. Much like in previous games, however, our goal is simple; players are once more helping these hysterical heroines save peoples to an entirely new dimension that Neptunia and Nepgear have been sucked into. This means their shares are gone, their CPU form is gone, and it’s time for them to become used to the CPU Shift Period, which changes some of how the CPUs will view their world. Fortunately this doesn’t rid us of our favorite antics or characters we’ve come to love, but it does introduce the new console war era into the franchise while breaking away from the console wars of the 90’s and 2000’s that the titles were renown for.

Megadimension Neptunia VII_20151110165529

While changes are present in the story, the game itself has seen a few tweaks behind the scenes when it comes to combat scenarios while the rest remains widely intact. The biggest change is that characters are given a movement bar for combat. Here each character is given a set amount of distance they can move. Once out, those characters can’t move forward, but only side to side or backwards. They are still able to attack if enemies are available to do so with or even use items or abilities. This all does play a major role in the fact combat has been heavily altered since players can also edit character combo’s, bonuses, and placement rows. This does help in the long run once combat starts as certain characters won’t be as vulnerable when leading the charge. Interestingly enough, the biggest thing that has changed is the new system where players can put their characters into a team-based attack mode that deals rather devastating blows to enemies if they are surrounded. This does, however, require each of the CPU’s to be in regular form or HDD form for it to work. Irritating as it sounds, it pays off during difficult battles. This can be rather irritating when needing HDD forms for certain fights and needing to switch to basic forms. This attack is better utilized when planned ahead of time.

While combat remaking has been in discussion, one of the biggest enhancements, and the biggest improvement is the boss encounters. While we are familiar with the bosses being big, we aren’t used to them being big enough we are actually forced into moving across multiple platform placements for our characters to attack on. Instead, now we are given that, but alas, much hasn’t changed outside of the core mechanics for this. Let alone do they still hit hard, this tweak is rather nice, but is not utilized outside of core bosses, which in a way is saddening as it adds a nice change to bosses. While the aforementioned changes are nice, we still get to see some rather common enemies we’ve grown familiar with. Saddening, huh? Well, time will tell if that changes in any form.

Megadimension Neptunia VII_20151110164428

While combat has seen a few changes, so has the overworld map as players will no longer find themselves simply clicking on the zone they want to go to, and warping in. Now they are challenged with going from node, to node, to node, and dealing with any random battles if they pop up. while this is fun, it is quite annoying int he long run, and will grow irritating when players just want to complete a mission or ditch a dungeon due to difficulty. If this becomes a core component? It’ll wear quickly on most players who liked the old system more. For now it’s up to players to voice what changes they did or did not like. At least the graphics have seen a rather polished look as the series have finally gotten what they want. A really, really, shiny anime style game, one that offers character sprites that look crisper, and sharper than in previous entries. While voice acting is unquestionably on par as usual, fans of the Japanese dub will be required to go download the add-on. As for Vita players? Those without a PS4 are being left in the dark if they are wanting to sample the new and some recycled music from previous titles that remain rather intriguing and all-to-familiar.

Megadimension Neptunia VII – PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Developer: 
Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Publisher: 
Idea Factory
Cost: 
59.99 USD
Release Date: 
Now Available

With all this being said, it is hard to review the title since it focuses primarily on three things. Discussions in a graphic novel type setup, exploration, and exploring quite a bit to unlock new zones, abilities, and enemies that will be disposed of. If that’s your thing? This game is right up your alley and is a perfect addition to the console that is hurting for JRPG style games.


 

Our review is based upon the final version that the publisher provided us with.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 7 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on TwitterGoogle+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

Review: Ar nosurge Plus – Shining Bright in the Darkness

Ar-nosurge-Plus_LOGO


Pros:
+Sharp and crisp graphics that offer a PS3 like experience on the Vita
+Solid control scheme that won’t leave players stumbling when trying to play
+Added content such as costumes is an added bonus to the game
+Sound quality transfered well when the game was ported

Cons:
Frame rate staggers, hindering this beautifully rendered game
Combat is intermittent; requires leaving and returning to a zone to fight and level
Dives Points required to progress through the dive story arch requires points from combat


06_Save

A year ago I got my hands on this hidden gem on the PlayStation 3 when it originally launched as just Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. Honestly I was somewhat disappointed by the game since the hidden undertones of love, friendship, and the questioning of life as well as kinship seemed to stumble more than once. With the return to the PlayStation Vita I decided to tighten up my jaw, wipe my memory clean of my past experience and one more dive into the title I previously played on the PlayStation 3.

As many of you know, the PlayStation Vita has become a formidable handheld experience against Nintendo’s 3DS. Both having a rather robust catalogue of Japanese role-playing titles, it’s no surprise that the Vita has become the go-to place for them, and that’s easily backed up thanks to the constant barrage of titles that seems to land on the Vita. This time around? Gust has once more graced us with one of their titles, but this time in the name of An nosurge Plus. To be quite honest? Had I played the game here, I may have enjoyed it a bit more since it seemed more like a pick-up and go title that is filled with a rather unique adventure that is followed up by a quite amusing story if you take the time to play through it.

02_Felion

To give you a feel for the title, it takes place on a rather large spaceship that houses the remnants of a destroyed planet. Their sole survivors having gone to space in order to find a new home, and quite quickly? You are to be associated with a timeline of the events in the opening cutscene. Though from how the game starts you won’t instantly be intrigued by the unraveling events around you. It’ll take roughly five hours for this to happen. However, if you wait, there are plenty of twists, turns, and even head spinning moments that will eventually come to fruition when the events take place between Pulse and their enemy Sharls are on the verge of an all out war no-thanks to the enemy protagonist by the name of Zill. To put it in short? On one side you have a religious order known as the Genomirai Church who believes humans should work with the monsters known as the Sharl in order to survive, but at the same time they are killing off those who do not see things as they do and then there’s Pulse who seeks to protect humanity from all who seek to harm anyone.

Just like any JRPG out there, Ar nosurge Plus is slow to start off as it lets players become acquainted with their cast of characters, which is something that many should be used to when playing JRPGs such as this.

08_Genomap

What makes this game unique as possible is not the fact that the two factions can make you tilt your head or even find your brains gears turning in thought, it’s the hidden relationship system that is hidden quite heavily within the 30+ hours of gameplay you’ll encounter. This goes between Delta and Cass, whom have been friends all their lives, Cass being the Empress, but both working as special agents for Pulse. On the other side of the coin there is Earthes the mysterious robot and his master Ion. While there is noticeably a romantic build up between Deta and Cass, it’s not just their dialogue that makes their experience unique, but their memories as well as their little surprise event that occurs and throws a wrench in the story between the two and takes it for a rather amusing ride. However, the relationship between the tinman and Ion is also just as interesting due to how his role plays out within the story and her role in his story arc comes to play.

As explained earlier, the true story that drive the game home for me was through the graphic novel like moments regarding the games “Purification Ceremony” that ties in with the games “Dive System”, which we’ll cover both. Thanks to the game having many subplots and side stories; the Dive System is where players will take their characters into another character’s mind, spirit, whatever you want to call it, and see the world from within the other character. This can be related to their hesitance, love, despair and or whatever drives them to feel the way they do towards other cast members. Sometimes the outcome is quite hysterical and then there’s moments where players will tilt their head, scratch their chin, and turn away in a way that will leave others question to what they’re even playing. While the Dive System does play a major role and allows for Purification Ceremonies to happen, the idea behind the purification ceremony is odd since it heavily fills itself with sexual innuendos. During this time players can talk with their fellow cast members in order to find out more in depth dialogue regarding events, thoughts, and or viewpoints regarding certain topics. Doing this allows for trust building and provides a nice little relaxing moment that counters the constant action filled pace of the main story. Thankfully the game does not feed on the heavy handed sexual innuendos, but instead allows for a rather comedic moments that will allow for players to have a small chuckle and a shake of their head due to the hints of flirtation imbedded within the topics.

However, with the dialogue put aside, Ar nosurge Plus has quite a bit of new members players can bathe with or rather “Purify” with, and this includes the game’s main concept known as “Song Magic”, which plays a rather massive part to the titles main plot. Something that is strengthened when Delta and Earthes dive in order to protect their powerful song magic wielders who can use this powerful kind of energy into devastating attacks or even an ability to heal those that are wounded. Though for us? It’s to wound enemies and send the waves they are apart of dying.

13_Purification

Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star Plus – PlayStation Vita [Reviewed]
Developer: GUST
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Price: 39.99 USD
Released: Now Available

When playing the game I did find myself cringing here and there when having to go into the Dive system in order to enter a character’s subconscious in order to power up their bonds and their song magic. The nice part is? You’ll be even more devastating in combat, which is something the game is lacking entirely – even in this newly remastered version. With the combat system being as refined as it is and consisting only of the handhelds face button’s such as Circle, Triangle, Square, X, and even Start (to activate song magic); players will find themselves cringing since combat is very infrequent, which is uncommon among the JRPG titles we’ve all played and been introduced to. When it comes to combat attacks are performed with the aforementioned buttons, while players can use R and L to open up skills, they are often going to go unused outside of boss battles due to how fast Delta and Earthes can dispatch enemies before song magic can be used. However, there is the occasional chance to use it, and this is something highly recommended since those attacks can increase your turns in combat. With combat being just that minor, that’s all there is to really discuss about it since the game focuses so little on it, but instead focuses more-so on the graphic novel side of things, which makes one wonder – was this game meant to be a JRPG or a graphic novel or both?

Even with that aside the game does come across one thing that did become problematic was the game’s constant staggering between framerates. It wasn’t uncommon to see them stagger in highly graphic filled areas, which was a bit dumbfounding due to just how powerful the Vita is, and to some this could be a deal breaker, but it does not take away from both the powerful soundtrack, story or even gameplay mechanics that players will find themselves enjoying with the games 30-50 hour campaign. We just hope that North America gets a chance to see Ciel nosurge Re:Incarnation in the future.


Our review is based upon the release of the version that was given to us by the games publisher.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 7 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over onTwitterGoogle+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.