Capsule Reviews 1: Some Games You May Have Missed (Me Yak About)

Well, 2015 zipped by too quickly (he typed, knowing that the year isn’t quite over but hey, everyone else seems to be doing year-end articles) and I while didn’t get to write as many reviews as I’d have liked to, I took a ton of notes on things so I could sit down and catch up a some point. The best laid plans of mice and men (and Bemis!) often go wildly astray, so instead of long form full reviews, I’m going to do a bunch of capsule commentary on games, films and books over the next few days just so you have a little something to read when you pop by. Anyway, some quickie game impressions to get started: 

Tales of Zestiria Cast 

Tales of Zestiria (PS4/PS3/PC, $59.99/$49.99 respectively) – Namco’s Tales Studio pulls out all the stops in this latest installment in the long running JRPG franchise (15 Tales to date!) with a game that’s part throwback and homage to the first Tales (of Phantasia) back on the Super Famicom while bringing in an all-new cast, storyline and for the first time, an open world map to explore. Although PS4 owners get the better visual end of the deal on console, the PC version should more than please those fans who pick it up looking for something to play and show off to friends. The game is consistently entertaining from the fast-paced combat to the usual humor found in character interaction and dialog choices. Yes, the use of classic literary references, myth and other tropes is piled on thicker than your mom ever spread mayonnaise, but it works well enough to keep the game fun. I’m actually still playing this one because there’s an extraordinary amount of things to do, stuff to collect and some 93 hours in, I’m close to the endgame but will probably dive in again at some point to revisit a few save files. There are enough divergent paths and interesting encounters (make friends with the Normin you meet!) to keep this one in the play stack for a while. Score: A- (90%)
 

Sword Art Online Lost Song 05 

Sword Art Online: Lost Song (PS4/Vita, $49.99/$39.99 respectively) – Dropping the heavy emphasis on pillow talk dating sim stuff in favor of more gameplay elements (characters can now fly and fight simultaneously), Lost Song’s strengths come from an endless supply of quests and side quests, a pleasing visual style and an overall more user-friendly style that’s welcome. The simulated online game world has actual online play in this installment for you and up to three other friends in co-op or multiple PvP modes, but the main single player game has more than enough content to keep anyone busy for weeks on end. It’s too bad the PS3 version didn’t make it stateside from Japan as it would have been interesting to see how it would have sold here even as a PSN-only download. As with Tales of Zestiria, I’m still playing this one, but in this case, I haven’t a clue as to how far I am in the story because I just lose track of time running a few dungeons an flying around taking in the pretty scenery (often while being chased by monsters – whee!). Score: B+ (85%)
 

Damascus Gear_Vita_01 

Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo (PlayStation Vita, $14.99) – Two parts Armored Core, one part Diablo (sort of), this Vita exclusive from Arc System Works isn’t going to win any awards for stunning visuals, writing or sound design. But the bite-sized missions are great for those mech fans who don’t have a ton of time to play a longer, more depth-packed game. Two DLC packs (at $2.49 each) are also available, adding about 2-3 hours to the 8-10 it takes to complete the main game. While the mech customization feature is the biggest draw here, there’s no multiplayer or any way to trade or sell off excess parts to other Gear-heads. That’s a shame, as the game grows on you and the only way to share the experience is to get a friend to buy and play it all alone. Ah well. I usually don’t say this, but here’s a case of a game actually needing a multiplayer mode just so more people might give it a shot. Score: B (80%)
 

kung fu panda soll_screen_07 

Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends (Wii U/3DS, PS3/PS4, Xbox 360/Xbox One, $29.99 – $49.99 depending on console) – Sure, it’s a shameless Super Smash Bros. clone, but veteran developer Vicious Cycle sure makes it work extremely well as a licensed game worth a buy on any platform it’s available on. Po, Tigress, Monkey, Tai Lung, Master Shifu and more duke it out in a nice-looking and mostly speedy fighter for up to our players locally, versus, online or in tournament play. Given that there’s a third Kung Fu Panda film coming in January, the game’s definitely working its long legs and lead time as a fine way to keep the flame burning for fans of the franchise. This one’s great or both kids and parents, but expect some excess energy to carry over into the real world after a heated play session. That’s when you all take the family pet out for long stroll (even if it’s a bird or goldfish). Score: B (80%)

Okay, that’s it for today – Part the Second goes up tomorrow. Expect zombies, under-dressed ladies with swords, some old PC stuff and maybe a surprise or two…

-GW

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