The Harvest Moon franchise has been running for fifteen years and the key to its continuing popularity is its ability to tweak its formula with each new addition to the series. While Tale of Two Towns shares most of its game engine and graphics with last year’s DS iteration, Grand Bazaar, it adds a new twist to the series by forcing the player to choose to focus on either growing crops or raising animals.
Archive for the ‘DS Reviews’ Category.
The Harvest Moon series boasts of a long history that hardly requires introduction. While detractors will likely only groan at yet another DS iteration, fans of the series will be tickled by the tweaks to the Harvest Moon formula that make Grand Bazaar a fresh experience.
Continue reading ‘Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar – Staff Review’ »
Dragon Quest is one of the biggest franchises in Japan, but it took much longer to catch on in North America. Americans did get access to the first four games, but after that, the series went into relative obscurity. We completely missed Dragon Quest V and VI. Were Dragon Quest games like largely unconnected Final Fantasy series, this would not be as big of a deal, but the Dragon Quest series is known for trilogies. The middle three games form what is known as the Zenithian trilogy, all telling a loosely connected tale about sacred equipment and the heroes that can use it. Despite coming third, Dragon Quest VI actually predates the others in the timeline and helps explain the origin of the myths that play such a central role in the set.
From Pokemon Gold and Silver onward, each new generation of Pokemon has improved on the basic formula of the series, refining the execution bit by bit. Pokemon Black and White continue follow this tradition, although the improvements are nowhere near as huge as the shift between the GBA games and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. Primarily a shift in interface and presentation, the core mechanics of the Pokemon series continue largely untouched from the previous cycle of Pokemon games, while the series’s habitually scattershot interface and connectivity receive the lion’s share of attention. Overall, it’s not quite the geological shift of Diamond and Pearl, but changes Pokemon Black and White introduce have been a long time coming, and they are most welcome. Continue reading ‘Pokemon Black and White – Staff Review’ »
Unlike North America, Japan has had a booming market for cell phone games for several years, and many popular RPG series have had mobile installments on Japanese phones. Kingdom Hearts: Coded was one such game, originally downloaded to phones in monthly installments. Fortunately, there is a trend to release some of these games on mobile gaming platforms like the DS and PSP with improvements in graphics and pre-rendered videos. This, in turn, brings us to Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, a prime example of how to use a handheld’s accessibility while maintaining the feel of the original game Continue reading ‘Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded — Staff Review’ »
I’d like to start this review with a simple promise: I will not make a single solar pun or reference. It’s just too easy to make comments like that, and I’m sure that most other reviewers have fallen right into that trap. After a while, it’s just tiring. So, here it is, a straightforward review of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.
Perhaps related to the success of Matrix Software’s DS remakes of Final Fantasy 3 and 4, Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light is a stand-alone Final Fantasy game deeply ingrained in the old school tradition. Unfortunately, the developer seems to have taken all the wrong lessons from the old school. Four Heroes of Light does push for overall simplicity of design, and that does capture something of the spirit of older RPGs, but it also features an obtuse interface, inconsistent difficulty, and direction so vague that it borders on the incomprehensible. Four Heroes of Light does do some things right — the class system is interesting, if a bit basic, and the game’s visuals are exceptional — but the game is unfriendly on a basic level and doesn’t offer the player much reward for getting past that. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light – Staff Review’ »
Two people could look at this game and come to entirely different conclusions. One could say that it’s the fifth verse, same as the first, another 160some pokémon and a whole lot worse. Another could say that the differences, though subtle, mix things up in ways that haven’t been seen in the series’ 15-year history. It’s a matter of how closely you’re looking. Continue reading ‘Pokémon Black Version – Staff Import Review’ »
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the most recent addition to the rather scant roll of the series’ mainline continuity, is a game with significance for the series as a whole. As the central pillar of the Shin Megami Tensei series, the mainline entries have always been fairly old school dungeon crawling affairs, considerably darker than the numerous side stories that have spun off of them. It has been a major point of curiosity to see which direction Atlus would take the series: outward into the younger, more upbeat world of spinoffs such as Persona and Devil Survivor, or back inwards, towards the darker, more chaotic entries of the early series. Interestingly, Strange Journey seems content to pick its own path, taking to heart many of the upgrades the series has seen in interaction and depth of character, while maintaining the disturbing, often sharply critical edge the older Shin Megami Tensei games had. The end result doesn’t quite have the same bite as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, but Strange Journey‘s excellent story, solid character customization scheme, and exceptional dungeon design mark it as an excellent game in its own right. Continue reading ‘Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey – Staff Review’ »
Over the years there have been signs and portents of a remake of Pokemon Gold and Silver, fan favorites in the series due to its sheer size and the fact that it was the first game to expand the Pokemon universe beyond the confines of the Kanto region. The final result, Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, is every bit as fully featured and chock-full of Pokemon goodness as the originals, but unfortunately, they also carry over some of the less desireable quirks of Gold and Silver. Most serious of these are bothersome balance issues, and a plot which is flat even by Pokemon standards. On the whole, HG/SS isn’t a bad game, and makes some definite strides in the areas of sound and visuals, but it probably won’t be of much interest to anyone but fans of the series. Continue reading ‘Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver – Staff Review’ »
It’s the early 21st century, and Atlus has finally deemed the time right to roll out a sequel to their cult classic RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne– Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. Is it worth the six year wait? Short answer: yes. Long answer: read on…
Over the course of the last decade or so, North America has seen a remarkable influx of games and series which, in the past, had been exclusive to the east. From Shin Megami Tensei to Fire Emblem, the widening acceptance of gaming in general has allowed for a much broader cross-section of Japanese gaming to be seen on our shores. However, there still remain a number of long running series which have yet to make the jump across the pond. Glory of Heracles, whose first game was released in 1987, is one of these, and although the game contains many elements that are carried over from earlier entries in the series, the fact that this is the series’s first international release works strongly in its favor. Continue reading ‘Glory of Heracles – Staff Review’ »
The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of the oldest action RPG series out there, and it is unique in that it has consistently offered a similar experience, whether it is played on a console or a handheld. Zelda is and always will be all about exploring dungeons, finding hidden items, and then using them to solve the puzzles within. It is this core experience that brings players back again and again, some in spite of the similarities from game to game and some because of them. When the franchise made the move to the DS, many questioned whether it could work with its all-stylus control scheme. Phantom Hourglass silenced many a naysayer, but sadly, Spirit Tracks does not have the same punch that its predecessor had. Continue reading ‘The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – Staff Review’ »
Part of the joy of writing for an RPG-centric website is that I can draw comparisons to some rather eclectic, obscure, and niche material, knowing that the reader will be able to follow my gist. It’s an amazing power, and one that I try to wield judiciously and in the name of good. However, Atelier Annie makes me wish that, rather than your standard RPG fare, my readers were versed in the equally insular world of German boardgames, particularly resource-management-centric, action-limited strategy titles such as Agricola, Stone Age, and Settlers of Catan. I’d probably have a much easier time of describing the cost/reward analyses, transportation efficiency concerns, and development strategies intrinsic to this Gust-developed JRPG. In lieu of such assumption, though, just take my word for it: Atelier Annie is an awesome, horizon-expanding game. Continue reading ‘Atelier Annie – Staff Review’ »
Ok. I’ll level with you. I’ve just scrapped my fifth attempt at an opening to this review. I’ve tried food analogies, tomato discussion, references to Halloween (the holiday and the movie), Tim Burton films, Okami, Phantasy Star… So, nuts to that. Settle in, kiddies. It’s story time.
Once upon a time, there was a little DS RPG called A Witch’s Tale. Her parents, Nippon-Ichi and HitMaker, were very famous in their own rights; one was a premier name in RPGs and the other was once a member of the famous Sega family. Though her pedigree shone, she was scorned from birth, partially due to the failings of her elder brother, Dragoneer’s Aria. As the young girl of the family, no one wanted to mention her in the same breath as her half-siblings Disgaea and Crazy Taxi. Realizing that she would have to seek her own fortune, she set out to prove her detractors wrong.
Since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, many players wondered what Roxas’s time in Organization XIII was like. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days answers that question: it was like being a real-life cubicle worker, a cog in a corporate machine that grinds away at its work. It’s almost like “Walt Disney presents Office Space.” And like Office Space, it’s at its best when things start to unravel.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is a game whose ambitious concept tends to be dragged down by a bit of leaden reality. The game presents a highly unique storytelling method, full of branching sub-plots highly responsive to the choices players make, but it can become rather fractured by the time limit imposed on players. The combat system provides a wealth of options, letting players tweak each member’s moveset with a surprising level of control, but the focus on raw levels and the speed by which new demons become old makes it exceptionally difficult to have a consistent strategy. Overall, Devil Survivor is a solid game and a very engaging story, and although it has more than its share of issues, the sense of pressure and the degree to which a player can manipulate the story make Devil Survivor a surprisingly satisfying experience. Continue reading ‘Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor – Staff Review’ »
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was an interesting experiment back in the days of the GameCube, a system known for its multiplayer prowess. Though the game could be played solo, it was clearly intended to be played with friends, but it came with one tiny hitch. In an effort to promote the GBA and the ill-fated GBA link cable, multiplay required separate GBAs with cables for each player. When the series made the move to the DS, Ring of Fates improved the situation tremendously by providing a game that could be enjoyed solo or with friends, but the multiplayer required a local connection. The third attempt, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time, is a valiant attempt to get it right, but in the end, it still falls short. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time – Staff Review’ »
The Ys (pronounced like the word ‘ease’) series has had a long and successful career in Japan with the seventh numbered entry announced, several remakes, and at least two spin-off games. Until recently, the only Ys titles ever translated for North American release were 3 and 6. Atlus decided to change all that by bringing over Legacy of Ys: Books I & II, a DS remake of the first two games. Continue reading ‘Legacy of Ys: Books I & II – Staff Review’ »
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume represents a bit of a step back in time for the series. Where Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria led the series in a more optimistic direction, Covenant of the Plume returns to the tragedy and gloom of the first game in the series, choosing the theme of sacrifice in contrast to Silmeria‘s hope. The game is designed rather well, and the plot is extremely well written, but an overall lack of consistency and an unfortunate rehashing of artistic elements from earlier in the series drags the whole thing down rather badly. Continue reading ‘Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume – Staff Review’ »