Review: Shining Resonance Refrain (PS4)

SFRR_PS4 coverAs a longtime fan of Sega’s Shining series (the import version of Shining in the Darkness was the first JRPG I completed way back in 1992), it’s been quite interesting (to say the least) watching the series evolve over time. While the first game, the assorted Shining Force entries, Shining Wisdom, Shining the Holy Ark and the portable Shining Soul have been the most engaging, some of the games localized after that point fall into the hit or miss category.  The last three I played, Shining Tears, Shining Force Neo and Shining Force EXA traded in the first person dungeon crawling found in SitD and Shining The Holy Ark and the more strategic play in the Shining Force games with seemingly simpler hack and slash action against some very powerful enemies that made combat quite challenging. While there was some enjoyment to be found in these despite a few flaws, the bloom was definitely not on the Shining rose during the PS2 era.

Shining Resonance Refrain ($49.99) isn’t quite the return to glory the series needs, but this enhanced port of the 2014 PlayStation 3 import manages to be quite enjoyable overall. Developer O-Two took the Media Vision original PS3 game and added an all new “Refrain Mode” that allows players to experience the game with two of its main foes as playable characters along with what seems to be a nice load of included  (on disc or as part of the digital download) DLC content added at no cost across all platforms. Yes, it’s best to explore Refrain Mode after you’ve played the main game, as plenty of spoilers abound. But if that’s your thing, you do you, I say. It’s also the first time a new game in the Shining series has appeared on current-gen consoles and PC and hopefully, it will do well among JRPG fans on those platforms.

 

 

The game hits all the expected notes many JRPGs take these days from lengthy expository scenes, a cast filled with familiar likable to annoying characters, a decent combat system, and more than enough strangeness that might knock the wind out of the sails of those new to these types of games when they see some of the game’s kookier moments. When your party members or enemies break out into song as part of an attack, it’s more than clear you’re not in Kansas anymore. But if you surrender, Dorothy, it’s all in good fun at the end of the day.

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Switching Things Up a Bit…

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In case you didn’t realize, Amazon does do Sunday delivery.  I got an email yesterday morning saying my Switch has shipped and in less than 24 hours, I hear the doorbell ring and almost ran into a door running to see who it was so early in the morning. Yep, it arrived and BONUS, so did the wired PS4 controller I ordered (in a separate package), which was SUPER important because the right stick on my Dual Shock 4 had finally given up the ghost as of much earlier this morning. Why a wired controller, some of you may ask? Well, you may need to wait for a review for that story, but it’s a good one (and so far, the new controller works like a charm after the firmware update).

Meanwhile, in new Switch owner world news, I haven’t set up the console yet for three reasons.

1. I have some articles to complete for a few people and I know they’ll never get done if I crack that box open.

2. I need to find somewhere to put the new baby and plug it in, so I guess that means the modded original Xbox gets stuck somewhere out of sight temporarily)

3. I could set up the console and create a profile (I gather my current one for the Wii U won’t do?), let it update and get it over with, but that will loop back to number 1 and that’s something that I don’t want to happen.

Well, let me shut up and get back to work here. I’m thrilled on one hand, but anxious on the other. Hell, I’m anxious about a lot of things (like quite a lot of folks these days), but I kind of like the more happy anxiety over the more crummy stuff that pollutes the online and real world atmosphere these days.

-GW

Review: Fox n Forests (PS4)

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If Bonus Level Entertainment’s excellent Fox n Forests was released on a cartridge for the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis back in the mid-90’s before both consoles were phased out in favor of newer systems, it would probably be a Game of the Year contender. Hell, it would even be a fine enough essential 2D platformer/RPG hybrid on the Saturn or PlayStation. Well, it’s out today and it’s a total blast from the past with excellent visuals, music and sound effects, replay value galore, and the perfect length (for those who know, most platform games weren’t over five or six so hours). The crowdfunded game arrives today on PC (Windows, Linux, Mac) and consoles (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch) and yes, is a must buy if you’re big on the retrogaming stuff (or just want a game that’s going to make you work hard in order to see everything).

It’s not a speedrunner at all (thankfully for us old and slow players!), so forget about direct comparisons to Sonic, Mario or other swifter mascot characters. The game combines its platforming with exploration elements out of the Legend of Zelda or Castlevania, but fans of classics such as the Wonder Boy games, Super Ghouls and Ghosts and Actraiser 2 will also see a few influences here. The Fox (i)n those Forests is named Rick and he’s conned into helping out the wise old sentient tree by a partridge named Patty he was planning to eat. Of course, that batty bird just so happens to own all the shops in the game, so guess who needs to spend his hard-earned gold coins at them?

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Moonlighter Trailer: Best of Show, Humor Award

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Okay, I don’t hand out awards at all. But if I did, this trailer for Moonlighter, the upcoming game from 11 bit studios and Digital Sun would take home a few trinkets and trophies. A direct poke in the eyeball to all those folks who get all frothy at the mouth over even the most subtle differences in cross platform games, here we see that yes, the perfectly solid pixel art in the game is exactly the same across anything it plays on. Lovely.

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Fox n Forests: Out of the Woods May 17th

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Fox n Forests logoWho said time travel was impossible? After a super successful Kickstarter campaign and a busy development process, Munich-based Bonus Level Entertainment and publisher EuroVideo Medien GmbH have announced that their gorgeous slice of 16-bit retro gaming nostalgia, Fox n Forests is headed to consoles and PC May 17, 2018.

Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac and Linux will all be supported and yes, this is yet another game I’ve been dying to get my own paws on. Check out that teaser trailer below and yes, add it to your watch and wish lists.

Hey, it’s very likely this will be the closest some of you will get to an actual fox and you won’t need to worry about rabies at all. Well, you may get a nice blister on your thumb from playing this too much, but you’ll survive.

-GW

Redbox’ March Game Week: Happy Madness Time

If you’re a Redbox user or are interested in trying out the service, well listen up: From March 6 – 12, in-app (iOS or Android, of course) or online users can get a free game rental during the March Game Week event. This is pretty cool for new users who don’t live near a location with a Redbox machine (raises hand high) or current users looking to check out a few games on their backlogs.

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That is all, commence the online stampede. Wait, let me get out of the way fir… (*RUMBLE…STOMP!) Ouch.

-GW

Switchy Business, Or: Blizzard, Just Do It.

So, yeah. A few days ago this happened on Twitter:

Naturally, a LOT of people jumped on this (including yours truly) and thought right off the bat that this cryptic tweet was not at all cryptic and meant we’d be seeing a Switch version of Diablo III at some point. Well, Blizzard says nope, it was all just a misinterpreted tweet. Boo. That said, I think they’re at the very least planning something and that tweet was a means of teasing and testing the waters as far as responses to a Nintendo version. While I despise speculation, I’m about to speculate on what’s up while adding a few thoughts on this matter.

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Review: Aperion Cyberstorm (Nintendo Wii U)

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Aperion Cyberstorm TSblockYes, I know this one’s out for the Switch and STEAM, but for those of you who still only own a Wii U, you’ll be very pleased to know Aperion Cyberstorm is also available on your console of choice, it’s pretty darn good and definitely a game you’ll want to check out if you love arcade-style dual-stick action.

Featuring a solo campaign and some fun couch co-op and great versus multiplayer modes, this is a fantastic little twin-stick shooter that makes for plenty of nostalgic blasting action in campaign mode and plenty of mayhem as a “grab up to four other friends and have a total blast” manner in the mutiplayer modes. Indie developer aPriori Digital has made a very challenging and really solid experience that’s going to make quite a few Wii U owners very happy to see there are still signs of life left in the system.

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Indies of Note (Part Two Billion!)

I can’t even begin to tell you how many small publishers contact me asking to check out their games in assorted forms of completion. No complaints at all on this as one thing I love is seeing how games come together. That said, I’m a wee bit backed up in codes thanks to all the medical stuff I’ve got going on, but I’ve been playing and compiling lists over the last few months on a few games you may want to take for a spin if you’ve a Steam or console account. Some of these are also on gog.com, gamejolt or itch.io, three of many other very awesome spots to get indie games you absolutely should check out even if you want to browse and be amazed at the variety on display. Actually, you can and should support indie games outright by at least playing demos where applicable and/or buying titles you like outright.

 

 

Mercenary Kings_PSMercenary Kings Reloaded Edition (PS4/PS3/Vita, Xbox One, Switch, PC) – Merry, merry, quite Contra-ry, what do we have here? A pretty damn awesome side-scrolling run ‘n gun from Montreal based independent game studio Tribute Games (Flinthook, Curses ‘N Chaos). Actually, it’s more like Metal Slug with a hefty crafting system and a more diverse cast of characters.

If you’ve played this previously, you’ll find the Reloaded edition adds a bunch of improvements that make this a great deal more accessible without lowering the difficulty. In addition to the stellar pixel art and animation, Tribute’s packed this one with tons of fun and challenge throughout, making a game that’s highly replayable and an excellent arcade experience that’s a must-buy no matter what you play it on. Now, if only Tribute would get Wizorb out on PS4, Vita and Switch, I’d be an even happier guy.

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Capsule Reviews, The Third: Some RPGs

Let’s see now. I’m trying to shoehorn a load of stuff into my schedule this year, so I’ve taken to compiling certain games and films into shorter, easier to digest capsule reviews that don’t drag on like my longer boring full meal posts. Don’t worry, those longer reviews aren’t gone at all. I’m just saving up my currently lower than usual energy stores for those more epic length posts. Anyway, let’s get cracking:

 

 

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One More Dungeon (PC/PS4/PS3/Vita/Switch/Xbox One) – Not quite a RPG and more of a cross between a first-person shooter and a perma-death packed randomly generated roguelike, OMD’s in your face pixel art will seem garish to some players, but I liked it quite a lot. The game is a challenging bit of fun that will kill your character off constantly, but somehow keeps you coming back for more. Points earned via playing can be used to unlock assorted modifiers that make playing somewhat easier or a great deal harder, so how tough things get is eventually your call.

There’s a sanity level to consider and the game’s overall vibe reminded me a tiny bit of Eldritch, another retro-style FPS, although that game had a more Lovecraftian vibe going for it. OMD’s low price point and speedy gameplay keep it fun going even if you end up buying the farm a wee bit too much. This is one of those games that you’ll go back to a over and over, provided you like what you see and/or it grows on you. Developer Stately Snail and Ratalaika Games (who handled the port) deserve a tip of the cap for this one.

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