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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Figment: Dilly Dali Puzzler Slides Onto Switch

As someone who loves quirky games. seeing Figment arrive on the Switch pleases me to no end. I mean just look at it:

 

 

As a new Switch owner (yeah,I know, FINALLY), it’s just 100% great to see well-crafted indie titles like this that poke at the imagination and reveal strange new worlds to explore and enjoy. That and hey, we all could use fun games that make us think as we try and solve the puzzles it lays out. Plus, it’s got great voice acting and music, which should make it a treat for the ears as well as eyes.

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That lovely art is like Krazy Kat with a Tim Burton twist!

The game is also set to arrive on PS4 and Xbox One at some point, so you fine folks won’t be out of the loop on this gem. Keep an eye peeled and a grin ready, I say.

-GW

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

E3 2018 (1): When The World is Running Down, You Make The Best of What’s Still Around

Soooo, so THAT’S What Death Stranding is about (that’s an in-joke, by the way).

Oh, now this is (not so) amusing. I wrote up about 2000 or so words on a few upcoming games shown at E3, but WordPress failed me in not saving my draft (I’m staring at the “! Saving of draft failed” note in the upper left of the screen as we speak, grrrr) so here we go again, but in shorter form because I’m a bit ticked off about needing to redo what was a pretty decent post and I’ve got a few other writing tasks to accomplish. Anyway, it’s really hard to enjoy gaming as much thanks to the real world madness creeping into the hobby side of things, but there are way too many interesting games on the way to avoid.

 

 
Yeah, death, DOOM, and gloom are all the RAGE 2, but it’s going to be a beautiful ballet of bullets and bombs bouncing all over. Bethesda’s presser was pretty amusing because Todd Howard knew how to balance self deprecating humor with the business side of things as the company poked fun at itself and some gamers who tend to either not have a clue about game development (it’s not an easy thing) or maybe think some franchises are a bit overworked. On the other hand, this is one of those always fascinating developer/publishers where sequels are eagerly anticipated each time one is revealed.

I have no clue what Fallout 76 will be about, but I’m going to guess it will feel like the Fallout Shelter (which just dropped onto the PS4 and Switch) but set in a world four times the size of Fallout 4 (which is pretty massive). As my laptop died, I eagerly downloaded it from PSN (it’s free) and ended up playing longer than I thought. Or: I ended up saving my game so I could take a nap. I woke up a bit later and accidentally clicked on the YouTube button on my Wii U and ended up catching the beginning of the PlayStation press event. I was very surprised that I liked pretty much all that was shown I’ll get to those in separate posts after the show), but Media Molecule’s Dreams stood out as a game I really need to try out. Well, that is if SCEA ever invites me back to a press event in NYC. They seem to have cleared out their press list and I don’t hear jack from them these days. Boo.

I didn’t watch Microsoft’s presser because I don’t own an Xbox One (too many awful experience with Xbox 360’s dying on me). But I did check out the plethora of game trailers and found they do look nice overall. I’m not much into the Halo games (although I own them up to ODST and have played bits of Halo 4 at a friends place), but that teaser for Halo 5 showed off a pretty impressive engine. As for the AAA developers (EA, Activision/Blizzard, Ubisoft, etc.) I’ll be looking at those trailers over the next week and maybe posting thoughts. A lot of AAA titles seems set in a certain reliable sector where you get what you expect (which is both good and bad based on your desire to pay for extra content, season passes and the like), but I tend to gravitate to single player games or those where playing with others is an option.

What else? Um… Namco Bandai, Sega, Xseed/Marvelous, Devolver Digital and a ton of indie devs have WAY TOO MANY GOOD GAMES COMING. To the point that it’s just daunting seeing what they’re doing and where everything is going. I need clones, stat. Capcom will make a bazillion dollars with that Resident Evil 2 remake (which means we’ll be getting RE 3: Nemesis at some point hopefully before the planet explodes. As for Nintendo? Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to them in a day or so. I know they tend to do things differently, so they’re going to get er, special treatment. The Switch is selling like hotcakes, third party and indie devs are filling the roster with excellent games and yes, the first party stuff is the mostly evergreen stuff they’re well known for. Back in a bit – I have a few demos to try out.

-GW

Review: Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Redux (Nintendo 3DS)

SMTSJ_boxI’ve been a big fan of Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei games for a while now (okay, close to 25 years – yes, I’m old) but I’d say one of my favorite portable entries in the series was Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey, released back on the Nintendo DS in 2010. Like the other SMT games, the first person dungeon crawling (like some of Atlus’ early Persona games, was inspired by Sir-Tech’s classic Wizardry series), the mix of sci-fi, horror, and mature dialog all made for a pretty compelling experience. Remade and expanded for the 3DS, Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Redux ($39.99) still manages to be an excellent game well worth a replay or even a first experience for those new to the long running series.

New to the game are a new character with her own side story, a new multi-floor dungeon and new side missions, a great new animated intro and optional DLC (which is one reason this review is a few days later than expected). Additionally, 20 save slots (the DS game had a mere two!) allow for a bit of experimentation with the game’s demon fusing mechanic as well as let you tackle certain tough sections and deal with the potential outcomes or just mess around trying to cause demon fusion accidents, some of which can be rewarding in the long run. Oh, and for those who’ve played the DS version, yes, some of those old demon passwords still work.

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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

Figment – Music to the Ears (and Eyes) Headed to Switch

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With all that’s going on these days, stressful times call for less stressful entertainment and thankfully, we have games such as Bedtime Digital Games’ multiple award-winning indie musical adventure Figment to help lighten the daily load somewhat significantly. The formerly PC/Mac/Linus-only game is headed to Nintendo Switch on May 31, 2018 with PS4 and Xbox one versions to follow. Check out that trailer below, won’t you?

 

 

Charming, right? For some reason, the art style reminds my well-aged brain of George Herriman‘s wildly imaginative Krazy Kat, so this one is going to get looked at with a smile if the gameplay is appropriately invigorating. Keep an eye peeled for this one on the eShop and later, PSN and Xbox Live. Or hey, if you have a PC or Mac that can run it, gog.com or Steam are whispering to you as we speak. Hmmm. I’d close this post with a “‘pleasant dreams”, but it’s 11:15am and I think it’s a wee bit too early for a nap.

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-GW

Review: The Alliance Alive (Nintendo 3DS)

 

There’s something warm and familiar about Cattle Call’s new RPG, The Alliance Alive that really pulled me in from the beginning. While not flawless, the game has the look and feel of one of those multi-disc original PlayStation JRPGs and while not quite an “epic” experience, it’s solid enough and certainly packs in enough characters in its massive maps while hitting pretty much all the bullet points it needs to that make it an overall decently nostalgic 3DS game. I’m a big fan of much of Cattle Call’s work since the quirky PS2 sleeper Tsugunai: Atonement, so seeing the familiar color palette and simple but intriguing battle system also had me smiling throughout.

Still, it’s also a case where you sort of wish the game was on a system that was a bit to a good deal more powerful. It’s not at all hard to imagine the developer making a Switch (or heck, PS4 or even a Vita) game with higher resolution art and even more detailed characters and environments. On the 2DS or 3DS, the game’s animations and numerous cut scenes are excellently handled. However, the large overworld maps tend to be a bit bland, there’s a bit of background pop-in and if you have a poor sense of direction, it’s a bit too easy to get lost unless you choose the option to be guided to and from certain story-related areas.

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