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%)
 
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Tales of Zestiria Launches: Your Royal Time-Killer Hath Arrived


 

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No, I haven’t even started Tales of Zestiria yet. But that’s only because my review copy hasn’t arrived. This is actually a good thing because once I start the game (yes, I’m going to be playing the PS3 version just to keep my ancient launch day console happy), I’m not coming up for air any time soon. I’m already buried under backlog stuff from all sides, but a Tales game demands to be played in huge chunks of time so that players become fully immersed in the story and world Tales Studio has so carefully crafted.

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That said, based on my hands-on time a little while ago, it’s safe to say that PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Steam/PC users are the very lucky recipients of one of the best games in the long-running franchise to date. I know that some Steam users are already reporting some mild performance issues (which is what happens when you port a game to be played on consoles to machines with millions of different user and factory configurations), but no one is screaming for their money back.

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If you’re thinking of grabbing the game for yourself or as a gift, listen up. Bandai Namco is giving away a free DLC pack for the first 30 days after the release of the game. Players will be able to download the epilogue chapter “Alisha’s Conviction” free of charge on the PlayStation Network store (for PS3 and PS4) or through Steam if they own the PC version. According to the press release:

the epilogue follows Alisha and Rose with hours of additional story elements and gameplay taking place after the events of Tales of Zestiria. The “Alisha’s Conviction” downloadable content will be priced at $9.99 after the 30 day promotion ends.

Tales of Zestiria is rated T for TEEN by the ESRB and is available for purchase at video game retailers today in North America and Latin America for the PlayStation 4 (MSRP $59.99) and PS3 system (MSRP $39.99). The PC version (available now on Steam) is $49.99.

Tales of Zestiria Hands-On: Old Reliable And The New(ish) Platform

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In the case of and for Namco’s long-running Tales franchise, familiarity certainly doesn’t breed any contempt at all. Some hands on time recently with the PlayStation 4 version of Tales of Zestiria reveals producer Hideo Baba and the development team at tri-Crescendo in fine form with a game that’s a throwback to Tales of Phantasia and its more epic medieval fantasy approach in terms of character design and settings. There are also some changes to the combat system and even better, battles now play out on maps without those brief transitions from previous games in the series. Continue reading

Friday Mail: More Work (and I’m Not Complaining)…

NamBan Thank You Man
 
Well, there’s nothing like coming home after a trying day to a nice surprise or two. Tales of Hearts R is being played as we speak (or as I type) and so far it’s quite a bit of fun. Er, wacky humor aside. I think this may be the kookiest localized Tales game I’ve played, but let’s see how it goes. I haven’t seen nor heard “rapscallion” used in a sentence in about three months, but I’d guess that some of you out there have never heard or seen the word at all. What does it mean? Um, you know how to use the internet, don’t you, ya whippersnappers? Look it up!

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Um, spoilers? Nah, not really, angry Tales fans wanting to beat me with a busted controller right about now. These two scenes happen so early in the game that you’ll not get the context unless you’ve played the import already. Even then, I’d bet the original Japanese isn’t as goofy.

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Anyway, back to it. It’s going to be a stupidly busy weekend and upcoming week here. CES Unveiled, some reviews to catch upon, too many previews and hopefully a certain developer will get back to be about a really bag bug in a game I need to review. There’s nothing worse in a game about killing bugs than a game-killing bug that stops things cold is all I’ll say. If it’s not my console acting up and in fact it IS a bad bug, then at least one review I’ve been pointed to by a friend needs to come down.

Granted, any fix probably won’t change the reviewer’s opinion one bit. But hell, it’s best to be fair to the developer and say you’ve actually completed the game you posted an unfavorable notice about rather than just knock out something that’s not constructive at all that doesn’t even mention the issue.

Corrections Dept: Xillia’s Kitties Can’t Do Magic That Well!

Tales of Xillia 2 Standard EditionOkay, I’ll tweak the post tomorrow when I’m more awake, but I made two goofs in my Tales of Xillia review regarding the exploits and some side quests monsters vanishing. One: In Kitty Dispatch mode, Rollo WILL come back faster if he’s carrying certain sub-items with him or you save and come back later in the day (that system clock seems to work for that as well as the bonuses).

Two: while some low-level monsters may disappear from the Job Board when your Badge level increases, those TOUGH sub-bosses stay on their own sub-menu and never disappear. I was up for roughly 37 hours on that last chunk of my playtime, so when I sat down to write from a few notes I’d taken, I ended up adding in a thought I had based on me being half-awake while playing and confusing the Job list with the sub-boss list. Hey, it happens! Anyway, I’m in the final stretch of the game, but I’m saving that until tomorrow or Thursday because if I don’t sleep now, I’ll probably be as dead as some of those monsters Ludger and company go hunting throughout the game…

See you all tomorrow. Zzzzz…

Review: Tales of Xillia 2

Tales of Xillia 2 Standard EditionPlatform: PlayStation 3

Developer: Namco Tales Studio, LTD.

Publisher: Bandai Namco Games

# of Players 1-4

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: A- (90%)

tox2-screen02 Tales of Xillia was one of last year’s great JRPGs, offering up an intriguing plot, a party of interesting characters designed by different artists, the series trademark fast-paced battles and plenty of the usual JRPG tropes all adding up to a lengthy and memorable game experience. The follow up, Tales of Xillia 2 changes up things a bit with two new main characters, a much darker tone, even faster combat, a different skills leveling system, loads of reused maps (this is a good thing – more on this below) and a fair amount of humor thanks to a localization team having a blast with their translation efforts. The result is a game that will pull you in for the long haul as it takes Ludger Kresnik and company on a journey spanning a few familiar and all-new areas (well, all-new to those who haven’t played the first game)… Continue reading

Tales of Xillia 2: Missed the First Game? Here’s The Deal So Far…

 

ToX_BannerYou actually don’t need to have played Tales of Xillia to fully enjoy Tales of Xillia 2, but in case you didn’t and are wondering what you missed, this under six-minute recap of key cinematic moments from the first game should get you psyched for the new adventure ahead. I’ve been playing since yesterday evening and will have a review up on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on how far I get in the game. I should take my time with this and try to get as close to 100% completion as possible, but there’s SO much to tackle in this game that if I tried to blaze through too quickly, I’d definitely miss out on a lot of content. On the other hand, if I get caught up in all those side-quests and cat-catching (I’ve caught 23 out of 100 so far), this review isn’t going to get done until November (of next year, ha and ha!)…

Back in a bit…

WHAT Summer Drought? This Week’s LOADED With RPG Madness!

 

Yikes. Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is out (PS3 and PS Vita! BUY IT!), as is Disgaea 4: A Promised Revisited (PS Vita, BUY IT). Next week (all arriving on the 19th!), it’s Tales of Xillia 2 (PS3, BUY IT!), Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment (PS Vita, BUY IT!) and the summer/fall/winter/forever eating madness that is Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition (PS3/PS4, Xbox 360/Xbox One, BUY IT!).

 

Finally, the close of the month (well, August 26) brings in DLC for Dark Souls II in the form of the Crown of the Old Iron King content (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, BUY IT!) and Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (PS Vita – the jury is out, but it does look cute!). If you like your RPGs a bit more (well, a LOT more) European, Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) and Sacred 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) are out NOW, and while the reviews aren’t “stellar” for either game, I’m gathering both will find their niche among more open-minded RPG fans.

 

Well, now that your wallet is gasping for air and you’re curled up in a fetal position wishing you had more time to PLAY all those games, I’ll consider my work here done as I bid you adieu (for now)…

Gallery: Tales of Xillia 2

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Elle&Lulu LudgerThe past year plus has been quite good for fans of Namco’s Tales series here in North America as we’ve been getting some nice games and more on the way in a relatively “speedy” manner. Granted, not ALL of the games in the long running franchise have made it stateside, but Hideo Baba did promise last year at the Namco event I attended that fans would see some nice surprises over time from the eternally busy Tales Studio.

Tales of Heart R is one big surprise for Vita owners and here, Tales of Xillia 2 is the other, as it coming this August exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Screens below the jump and that $129.99 Collector’s Edition is below. Yes, pre-ordering this or the plain vanilla standard edition is probably a good idea as some retail locations will only stock what their customers have actually put down some money for and Tales games have the tendency to sell out rather quickly.

ToX2_CE_ShotAugust isn’t really that far away, you know…

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Tales of Hearts R: Your Vita Will Want You To Get This (Or Else)…

 
Now, I haven’t yet heard of any cases where someone’s Vita attempted to do them bodily harm, but I’d gather if anyone who does own one of Sony’s handhelds who considers him or herself a JRPG fan somehow doesn’t pick Tales of Hearts R up, there’s going to be trouble on the home front. If you don’t pre-order this or snap it up on launch day (or within the first week or so), you’ll be in the bath or shower and hear a noise close by… it’ll be your Vita trying to leap into the tub to literally give you the shock of your life. Hey, it COULD happen, you know.

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Kohaku Hearts Kor Meteor

Granted, Hideo Baba and Tales Studio wouldn’t make a game that’s deliberately going to harm someone, but you know your Vita has a mind of its own sometimes. That would explain the games you buy on a few occasions, I’d gather… anyway, this winter, you’d best remember to get some Tales action up in the house or else…