Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms Is Eating My Free Time’s Lunch


Okay, Idea Factory International, cut it out with putting out games that are too damn good. I’m still playing Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms on my Vita thanks to a few things like packed backlog and this follow up to Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds being such a solid visual novel that I’m trying to follow as many story paths as possible and failing miserably because they’re all so well localized. So, what should you do while you’re waiting for my verdict? Um, maybe read my review of the first game and get your wallets ready for more?

Well, that’s what I’d do, but I’m kind of predictable. Give me maybe two days, ladies and gents.



Review: Midnight Deluxe (PS4/PS Vita)

Midnight Deluxe PSA gentle “Fore.” with a sly smile is what you may find yourself whispering with a grin on occasion while playing Midnight Deluxe, Petite Games (ported and published by Ratalaika Games) sweet little indie, now available on PS4 and Vita. This is an initially simple on the surface but eventually fiercely challenging game where all you do is attempt to hit a cube-shaped fairy into a hole in each level.

It’s an easy enough to write description, but the fun and friskiness here comes from the “How the *hey* can I get that thing from here to there?” in increasingly complex maps where taking less than five shots seems impossible. Well, until you knock that fairy into the occasional well-placed hole in one or otherwise clear what you thought was a super tough stage under par.

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Capsule Reviews, Too: Things That Go Boom (And Quite Frequently, At That)

2017 was an incredibly busy year and that doesn’t include me being laid up in the hospital for almost a month and missing out on a load of fun stuff. Anyway, I’m compiling a short list of recommends here if you’re doing some post-holiday gifting for yourself or someone else. Most of what’s here will be indie/small studio focused thanks to too a few of these games getting (intentionally?) overlooked by bigger sites because they’re not going to get a ton of clicks or some other such nonsense.



JYDGE PS4 JYDGE (PS4) – I’m surprised that this excellent kinda sorta follow up to Neon Chrome didn’t come to Vita as well, but given Sony’s rapidly losing interest in their HD handheld in terms of first party support, I guess it’s no surprise at all (except that Neon Chrome isn’t a first party game). Still, if you like your top-down action games tough and pretty darn fun, going to town with this one for a spell will bring a big grin to your grill.

You are the law in this fun, violent riff on Judge Dredd meets Robocop with a slick neon-lit coating straight out of Blade Runner or some other futuristic flick. Fast-paced and highly replayable missions await if you’re a fan of top-down shooters that aren’t easy and demand precision over panic. There’s a great arcade-like vibe here that has you unlocking weapon and armor upgrades and hopping back in to press forward or go back and try to beat tight times for taking out assorted baddies as quickly as possible while avoiding civilian casualties (an instant mission failure, as it should be in a game such as this). There’s even a solid co-op mode if you want to team up with a friend and Jydge the hell out of some well-armed creeps who’ll get what they deserve but good.

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Review: Revenant Saga (PS4/Vita)

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RS_PS4Kemco and veteran developer Exe-Create have had a particular formula with their mobile games where they cook up simple, nostalgic stories with casts of the usual JRPG suspects, sticking them in games that reuse some assets and range from OK to pretty darn good. You’ll also get a relatively straightforward game on the surface that’s actually hiding a ton of optional content for those willing to grind up hundreds of levels and gain some incredibly powerful skills.

Initially released on mobile back in 2014 and ported to PS3/PS4 and Vita back in May (and now on Switch) Revenant Saga does a pretty fine job of recapturing some of the glory days of the 16-bit era while adding a few modern twists that reflect the game’s mobile origins. While its mix of nicely done sprite art clashes with the polygonal battle scenes, the game works well overall in delivering a decently nostalgic experience. Granted, you’ll really need to work to get to some of the more challenging content. But if grinding appeals to you, there’s a lot to love here.

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In the game, you’re Albert, a young man who volunteers for an experimental process that is supposed to help cure a plague that’s run rampant. Unfortunately, the mad doctor passing for helpful doing the treatment turns out to be using humans as hosts for Revenants, powerful demons that are part of a few plans (some of which the not so good doctor is totally unaware of).

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Review: NeverEnd (PS Vita)

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Indie developer/publisher Sometimes You also ports and distributes some interestingly nostalgic budget indie games for PC and consoles that aren’t perfect, but provide a bit of fun and challenge at a decent price point. Developed by Duck Devs, NeverEnd is a decent, simple looking top-down rogue-like/lite 3D pixel single player dungeon crawler (say that three times fast!) that’s influenced a tiny bit by The Legend of Zelda (without the overworld sections) with a tricky combat system that relies not only on weapon usage, but blocking and avoiding enemy attacks. While controls seem initially very clunky and off-putting, once you get the game’s mechanics and can deal with permadeath, things get much better. Granted, the game probably won’t win a ton of industry awards come the end of the year, but for $2.99 you’re getting your money’s worth and then some.


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The Bard’s Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled (PS4/Vita): Not A Review (Yet)

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A few years back, when I liked certain games I tended to go mildly berserk and buy a few versions of it (if it made it to multiple platforms). Hey, don’t look at me like that! I’m far from the only one who dis/does this (although I’ve cut down on that significantly over time thanks to me not exactly rolling in dough these days). Anyway, InXile Entertainment‘s The Bard’s Tale from 2004 was one of those games I snapped up on anything it appeared on thanks to its use of Snowblind Studios’ wonderful game engine and often hilarious parodying of RPG tropes including subtle nods to the original game.

Flash forward to late last month when The Bard’s Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled appeared without fanfare as a digital-only release on PSN. Ten bucks for a cross-platform HD remaster (PS4 and Vita) with a cross-buy/cross-play feature that allowed players to take the game on the road and use cloud saves to continue at home? SOLD. I didn’t hesitate at all or bother to even bug InXile about a review code. This was certainly going to be the best version of the game to date and yep, the ability to play anywhere and go home to continue was going to keep me grinning long into the wee hours. What could possibly go wrong?

Well… a few things folks. Thankfully, cross-play and cloud saves are flawless, but in terms of other things on the technical front, this version of the game (done by Square 1 Games) needs patching. Badly. I was initially going to write up a full review, but have decided to wait a few days to see if the problems can be fixed as the older console versions were great overall and this remaster needs to be as good or better in terms of consistent performance. Right now, it’s not.

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Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares


MSN_bg_pcIdea Factory/Compile Heart games can be hit or miss affairs, but their latest, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is (for my money) one of their best games (and best dungeon crawlers) to date thanks to taking chances with a few tried and true formulas and smacking most them right in their sweet spots. It’s got the turn-based dungeon crawl aspects of the Wizardry series mixed in with real-time chase/combat scenarios, excellent production values and yep, a bit of M-rated fan service lightly sprinkled on top for good measure.

While parts of the plot can be somewhat pedestrian in their usage of familiar anime/manga tropes, things take a few interesting turns as the game goes on. The use of well-known mostly female characters from popular fairy tales works quite well provided your brain properly detaches them from any imagery you might recall (or: you need to re-imagine everyone as anime gals). Of course, the gameplay is where it’s at and what’s here will keep you hooked in to the very end (and then some).  If you’re a fan of the aforementioned Wizardry, Etrian Odyssey, Demon Gaze, and Dungeon Travelers 2 among other dungeon crawlers, this one’s a drop everything and go kiss your Vita if you own one event.


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Just An Update Or Two

“When you wake up and the world hasn’t ended, that’s at least good enough for a second cup of coffee.”

Ah, senior citizen logic. No, not from me, silly. Some older guy in the elevator here spontaneously said that the other day and it made me laugh out loud. Anyway, it’s kind of busy on a few fronts these days, but yeah, yeah – more reviews are incoming.

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This one’s fun and weird so far, so heads up if you like those Idea Factory/Compile Heart dungeon crawlers that borrow heavily from the classic Wizardry series while adding a few interesting JRPG twists. There are a few other (mostly) RPG-related reviews coming as well, but we’ll get to them over say, the next week. It’s tricky to make it through some recent games where you’ve got cut scenes that feature a novel’s worth of text with a novella of lore to wade through and you want to read every word.

I’ve been plowing through a stack of movies as well so my to-do pile is now a comfortable collection I can stroll past without feeling like I have to watch a film or three I’m not in the mood for. Amusingly enough, I’ve been stacking by genre and country, so you may see a few too many posts in a row about Japanese, Italian, or French films I’ve received. Or not, as I’m playing this my ear at the moment.

Was that a Blue Velvet reference? Oh, I don’t know. I think I need a new nap or something. Back in a bit.


Review: Hakuōki: Kyoto Winds


HAKU1_PackArtIf you or someone you love are suffering from FVN (Fear of Visual Novels), Idea Factory International has a great solution at an affordable price. Hakuōki: Kyoto Winds is a great introduction to otome games for Vita owners willing to try something different that’s well made and quite enjoyable.

Yes, longtime fans will recognize this as “only” an enhanced port of an older game they may have previously played. But they should also recognize the fact that every day someone might just want to try something out of their comfort zone they’ll probably like. Hey, an expanded fan base can be a good thing when all is said and done, right?

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Review: Valkyria Revolution (PS4)

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Valkyria Revolution PS4 (Custom)Well, veteran developer Media Vision gave it the old college try, but as a set in the past side story to the fan favorite Valkyria Chronicles series, Valkyria Revolution isn’t so thrilling as a game experience. Packed full of overlong exposition, mostly pretty visuals ruined by stiffly animated characters, and somewhat weak gameplay, this one manages to be somewhat lifeless despite trying very hard to appeal to longtime fans and players new to the series.

That said, the music is great, some of the timely political intrigue is interesting enough, as is the main storytelling device of a teacher and student discussing events that happened decades earlier. But the core gameplay never rises above mediocre thanks to somewhat loose controls and a “tactical” side that really doesn’t add much challenge. It’s not a “bad” game per se – it’s just one where you may feel too much time was spent on making a game packed with too much of some stuff and too little of everything else.

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