Thursday, February 28, 2013

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate demo now available


Long game title is long. Starting today players can get an idea of what the latest Castlevania installment is like by checking out the demo in the Nintendo 3DS eShop. For those who haven't been to the eShop in a while, demos have also been recently released for Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Tranformed, Naruto: Powerful Shippuden, and Etrian Odyssey IV. Check out Castlevania's latest trailer below.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

10 DS Gems You Might Have Missed


Now that the Nintendo 3DS has taken the reigns and the DS is dead from a production standpoint, it'll become increasingly more difficult to find games for it, let alone ones worth playing. As a self-proclaimed DS aficionado, I feel a moral obligation to inform you, the reader, of what's worth tracking down before it's too late. Alas, I am only human, and while I tried to compile a diverse list, everything here is from my own collection, so my tastes may differ from your own. Without further adieu, put your thumbs together for...

#10 - Tokyo Beat Down 

http://www.estarland.com/images//Extra_Product_Images/NintendoDS/tokyo_beat_down.jpg

Released:2009-09-31 Publisher:Atlus Developer:Tamsoft
Streets of Rage and Final Fight were two of the big arcade beat 'em ups of the '90s and hold a nostalgic place in many people's hearts. For players who can't get enough classic arcade action, Tokyo Beat Down does not disappoint. The gameplay is solid, the protagonist ridiculous, and the story, humorous.

#9 - Rhythm Heaven

http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/563707-rhythm-heaven-nintendo-ds-screenshot-love-labs.png

Released:2009-04-05 Publisher:Nintendo Developer:Nintendo, TNX
Mini-game compilations are notorious for being shallow, repetitive cash-ins, usually being released shortly after a console launches to take advantage of the lack of competition. While it is a compilation of  mini-games, Rhythm Heaven is one of the most unique rhythm games out there, with a deceptively simple control scheme masking hours of fun, challenging gameplay. Full Review

#8 - Bangai-O Spirits

http://media.gamerevolution.com/images/games/ds/bangai-o-spirits/small/bangai-o-spirits_013.jpg

 Released:2008-08-12 Publisher:D3 Developer:Treasure
Take a schmup, hack-n-slash, and puzzler, throw it into a blender, then drink that Bangai-O smoothie. Spirits features 200+ levels of smooth, fast-paced action, and a comical amount of destruction. There's also a custom level creator, which is always a nice touch with a game like this.  If there's one thing Treasure excels at, it's making a game fun. Full Review

#7 - Solatorobo: Red the Hunter

 http://www.gamepeople.co.uk/screens/ds_solatorobo-red-the-hunter_shot1.jpg

Released:2011-09-27 Publisher:XSEED Developer:CyberConnect2
The main appeal of Solatorobo is its environments. The gameplay is a little shallow and not very challenging, but for anyone that enjoys story, atmosphere, a finely detailed world, and good music, this is one to look for. It was bundled with a soundtrack. Sorry collectors. Full Review

#6 - 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors 

Released:2010-11-16 Publisher:Aksys Developer:Chunsoft
This is a visual novel with puzzle solving elements. Anyone with a disdain for heavy reading should probably give this one a pass. With that said, 999 is very well written, masterfully builds tension, and is no walk in the park. Five of the game's six endings are false, so there's plenty of replay value here. Full Review

#5 - Custom Robo Arena

 

Released:2007-03-19 Publisher:Nintendo Developer:Noise
Choose from dozens of pods, guns, and boots to customize your robo in this action-packed game. Custom Robo Arena, like Pokemon, is simple on the surface, but leaves a lot of room for mastery. Also like Pokemon, there is an overworld and a plot in which all conflicts are resolved by battling. The real fun begins with online battles (no friend code needed). Just remember to feed your pets. Full Review

#4 - Elite Beat Agents

  http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/original/0/8828/273497-rizk07_elitebeatagents_104.jpg

 Released:2006-11-06 Publisher:Nintendo Developer:iNiS
Elite Beat Agents will make a rhythm master out of anyone robust enough to make it through to the end. Tears will be shed, objects may be broken, despair will be felt, but it all serves to make the satisfaction of completely owning a stage that much sweeter. This may very well be the most fun DS game in existence, and for about as much as a Subway sandwich, there's no reason not to pick it up. Full Review

#3 - Retro Game Challenge

http://www.sleepygamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/retro_game_challenge.jpg

Released:2009-02-10 Publisher:XSEED Developer:indieszero
Retro Game Challenge is a love letter to the '80s, and is sure to fill anyone who grew up in that era with warm nostalgia. I was a 90s kid, and this game still made me feel nostalgic for the '80s. Its numerous original games are clear tributes to '80s classics, but they're great in their own right. It's a shame it didn't sell well. Full Review

#2 - Knights in the Nightmare

 http://www.gamepeople.co.uk/screens/ds_knightsinthenightmare_shot1.jpg

Released:2009-06-02 Publisher:Atlus Developer:Sting
The above screenshot may look complex, and Knights in the Nightmare's battle system is a lot to grasp in the beginning, but once everything starts to click, there's nothing quite like it. It's a mixture of real-time tactics and bullet hell, and is deeply satisfying. It brilliantly tells a story and has incredible music to boot

#1 - The World Ends With You

  http://www.unwoundshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Screenshot-4.jpg

Released:2008-04-22 Publisher:Square Enix Developer:Square Enix, Jupiter
Square may get flack for Final Fantasy, but nobody can complain that The World Ends With You is just another rehash. Unique doesn't begin to do it justice. A rich, philosophical story; fast-paced, innovative, engaging gameplay; a soundtrack that will stick in the brain for weeks and a lovable cast of characters  make for one hell of a memorable experience. Full Review


What did I miss? Leave a comment with your own gems. 

Have a look at Shin Megami Tensei IV's exploration and battle systems


The DS Shin Megami Tensei games, Devil Suvivor 1,2 and Strange Journey, used isometric tactical grid-based and first-person dungeon crawling gameplay styles, respectively. Shin Megami Tensei IV uses third-person exploration, and relatively unique battle system. The stories in this series have always been enough to keep me engaged, but I'm looking forward to a fresh style of gameplay. Check out the trailer below:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Year Walk

I know Simogo from two previous games, both of which I love. First there's Bumpy Road, which I love for the adorable visuals, innovative gameplay, and wonderful music. Next there's Beat Sneak Bandit, which I love for the adorable visuals, innovative gameplay, and wonderful music. Notice a pattern? Well now they've released their fourth game (I never played their first), Year Walk. And aside from the fantastic visuals, gameplay, and music, it's nothing like any Simogo game I've played. It's not like any game from anything I've played.
First of all, it's based on Swedish mythology. Off the top of my head, I don't know many games that are based off of Swedish mythology, so there's a plus. The vintage feel of the wintry landscapes, plus quiet singing in the background, give the game a peaceful and pleasant feel. It's almost eerie, as it gives a vibe of calming loneliness. I jump a little every time I do come in contact with another person as I forget there are other people in this world. It's a little hard to explain.
I don't want to say anything about what you encounter, as the surprise and curiosity is what drives the game. The controls are vaguely Myst-esque, as you move through different screens and interact with puzzles, many containing symbols that it would be wise to write down. I haven't finished the game yet, so I don't know if its length justifies the $4 price tag, but Simogo have released a free "Year Walk Companion" app, so I will assume it's a hefty journey. In short, it is too unique of an experience to turn down, and the originality and quality-over-quantity attitude that Simogo has displayed makes them one of my favorite iOS developers out there.

UPDATE: I'm not ashamed to admit that I am scared easily. This game gets scary, in the most artistic way possible. The Companion app goes into detail about the folklore that is incorporated into the game, which gives you a better understanding as to what the hell is going on. But be warned: even though the beginning is calm and eerily peaceful, past a certain point it becomes a nightmare.

Find it on iTunes

Developer: Simogo Handelsbolag 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review: Liberation Maiden


The Nintendo eShop has some pretty nice games out there already, but most of them lack that console quality polish that people are used to seeing in bigger games, such as Mario or Metroid.  Enter Liberation Maiden, a game developed by SUDA 51 and produced by Level 5.  Liberation Maiden was one of the games developed to be a part of the Guild01 compilation of games.  For those not familiar with Guild01, it was a 3DS cartridge containing four different games made by four different developers. Liberation Maiden was one of those games, and two of the other four,  Aero Porter and Crimson Shrowd, are also now on the Nintendo 3DS eShop

Now, then back to the game at hand.  Yes, I said that this game was made by SUDA 51, and no, it is not your typical SUDA 51 game.  Unlike his most recent games which were very much mature and jammed pack full of sexual innuendos and violence, this is definitely one of SUDA 51's more normal games.  So, the story goes as this: it is the future and your character, named Shoko Ōzora, has just been elected President of New Japan.  As her first order of business, Shoko heads off on her mech called the Kaihoki Kamui, or Liberation Maiden, to free Old Japan from the harmful technology that has eaten up all of the nature of Old Japan.  Yeah, the story sounds a bit weird, but the funny thing is that it sounds normal for something that comes from the mind of SUDA 51.


So the gameplay takes you across five levels in an action-shooter type of game.  You control the Kamui with the Circle Pad and then lock on/take aim at your targets with the stylus.  To fire, you release the stylus from the touch screen, and you will shoot at whatever the Kamui was locked onto.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, you need to manage how many shots you fire, as the energy that allows you to take your shots also acts as your shield.  If you take damage, it will take away your ability to fire a ton of shots and to shield you from oncoming damage.  If you fire too many shots, you will leave yourself vulnerable for taking direct damage, so you really do not want to get hit too often.  The good news is that defeating enemies adds to your shield/ammunition.


The game is fun for what it is, but most of the missions are to just find and destroy smaller enemies to reveal a semi-big enemy, before you can make your way to the boss fight at the end.  Along the way, you can complete extra side missions for some extra points. These are entirely optional, but undoubtedly required to get that high score.  However, the five levels do not like to stray too far from the basic find- all-enemies-and-destroy-them mechanic.  The levels will try to do something such as a stealth mission, but these slight changes to the gameplay only last so long, and quickly revert back to the sane old fast-paced shooting action.

Overall, Liberation Maiden is an excellent game, and it shows the potential of what the Nintendo eShop can deliver.  Some complaints are a control scheme that tailors to right-handed people and ignores left-handed people such as myself, and the gameplay can get a bit repetitive.  However, the game is still so much fun to play.  It might not be something that people would turn to very frequently, but every now and then, it can provide some quick fun.

Released: 2012-10-25
Publisher: Level-5
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tunes to Go - The Best Handheld Gaming Music



Music is an important part of everyone's life. Whether you are a sucker for a sad song or not, it is undeniable that music is a major part to any good game. Some games sport generic loops throughout the entire adventure while others go above and beyond with incredible compositions that will unfortunately never be remembered simply because they were part of video games, which according to this generation can not be mature unless there is a school shooting, in which case video games are suddenly completely mature and are to blame for all violence.

Sorry, getting a bit sidetracked. Or maybe I'm not, these songs I have selected can fill even the saddest soul with emotion. These are masterpieces and should be regarded as such. Music like this, especially on handhelds, should be highly appreciated. I'm not going to share my thoughts on each song, I'm just going to let you listen to them and think what you want. Music should be left up to interpretation.


Pokemon Black/White - Emotion




Mother 3 - Love Theme



Chrono Trigger - Wind Scene



Ok, ok, I know. Way too many feels for one day right? Have no fear, this last song will perk you up. Take a listen to this ultra funky chiptune version of the Metal Gear Solid theme! It is from the surprisingly good GBA kart racer called Konami Krazy Racers, which I think is even better than Mario Kart.

Konami Krazy Racers - Cyber Field

Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: Atari Touch Me


We're all familiar with Simon, the electronic game that has players repeat an ever-increasing pattern of colored button pushes, but let's go back to the roots of handheld gaming and take a look at Atari's Touch Me, the originator of the concept. 

Touch-MeTouch Me actually started as an arcade machine, but wasn't faring so well against the pinball machines and video games of the day. Milton Bradley saw an opportunity and created their own portable version in 1977, which featured colored buttons and tones to accompany them. It was  a huge success, seeing countless variations and knockoffs over the years and is still sold today. In 1978, Atari wanted a piece of the pie (can you blame them?) and released their own version, Touch Me. Could there be a bigger contrast between the two designs? Simon is round with large curved buttons, while Touch Me is full of 90-degree angles and features buttons no bigger than the nail on your pinky finger. Simon's design may have won out in the end, but I prefer the Touch Me's design as it fits into a pocket and can be easily held like a Game Boy to rapidly hammer out the patterns, but Simon is clearly better suited for more than one player. 

The game is a circular disc divided into four quarter circle buttons each with a different color. In the center are the game mode controlsAtari's handheld does have a few things going for it. For starters, there's an LED display to keep track of score. The 'skill' button is used to choose lengths of 8/16/32/99  for games 1 and 3, or 8/16/32 presses for game 2. Game 1 is the standard mode, starting at one button and subsequently adds one for every successful iteration. Game 2 is a little different, and provides only the first button in the sequence. The player is responsible for the rest, so it's a self-test of sorts. Granted, one could just press the same button repeatedly and win, but where's the fun in that? Game 3 plays like an elimination mode. When one of the 2-4 players either misses their turn or hits a button out of order, they're eliminated and that button is disabled. The sole survivor is the winner, and is rewarded with a raspy rendition of "We are the Champions." How cool would that be.
Believe it or not, this thing runs on a 9-volt battery. I'm not sure how long it lasts, and I love my thumbs too much to find out. Atari's Touch Me is a piece of handheld gaming history and just goes to show how far technology has come.

An Always Up-to-Date Guide to Buying a Gaming Tablet



The sad truth of 2013 and beyond is that dedicated handheld gaming systems are fading out and much more powerful and capable tablets are taking over in the gaming world. However, with the literally hundreds, possibly even thousands of tablet choices, finding the right Android or iOS gaming device can be tough. Portable Platypus is proud to present a definitive guide to buying a gaming tablet that will remain relevant as technology advances. Below are the technical specifications that you should look for in a tablet that provide a good balance of price/performance/battery-life. Remember that these specs are what you should look for when buying a tablet for gaming rather than a productivity/multimedia device.

Android:

CPU/GPU - NVIDIA Tegra 3 clocked at 1.2 - 1.6ghz
Why Tegra 3 and not Snapdragon S4? For starters, Tegra 3 is a quad-core chip which many mobile games are taking advantage of these days. Tegra 3 also supports real-time physics and lighting bringing gaming on a tablet very close to the quality of console gaming. Of course, the selection of THD games on the Google Play Store is growing quickly as well. THD, for those who don't know, is the term for games optimized for Tegra 3. Shadowgun is a great example in which the THD version looks far superior to the standard version.

But I can get a 1.8ghz Tegra 3 tablet for not much more money, why not get the higher clock speed? Simple, this is a guide that aims to give you the best price/performance/battery-life balance. Keyword there is battery-life. Literally every game in the Google Play Store will run great with no lag or dropped frames with a 1.6ghz chip, so there is no reason to go for a higher clock speed in the first place. Higher clock speeds will only drain your battery, not help with gaming performance at this point in time.

RAM - 1 - 1.5GB
RAM (sometimes referred to as memory) will be the least important factor to look into when buying a gaming tablet simply because 1GB or more has become the standard for most tablets now and that is all you need, but some budget tablets only have 512mb of RAM. If you're thinking, "Wait, my computer has 8GB of RAM and I can still barely play games at max settings how is 1GB of RAM enough for my tablet?", the answer is tablet games are far less demanding because tablet hardware in general is far inferior to desktop hardware due to tablet hardware having to be miniaturized and have low power consumption. Since tablet games are less demanding, 1GB of RAM will do you just fine. Android is also a much simpler OS than Windows 8, therefore not being nearly as heavy on your RAM. If you see a tablet with 2GB of RAM don't pay anything more than you would pay for a tablet with 1.5GB of RAM because 2GB of RAM is complete overkill and there is no reason to pay extra for it.

Display - 7-10''
Let's be real, as nice as big screens are, gaming tablets are supposed to be portable. You may stumble upon premium tablets with large displays, but it is best to stay in the range of 7-10 inches. This is the screen size games are optimized for and this is the screen size that keeps your tablet more portable than your laptop.

Ports/Features - SD Card Slot, HDMI
Neither of these are necessities for a gaming tablet, but if you are paying 300 dollars or more for a nice Android tablet you better be getting at least one of these. Mini-HDMI ports are really awesome for gaming tablets because that means when you get home from a long day of gaming on the go you can plug your tablet into your TV and play it like a console. SD Card slots are good because games can be pretty darn big in terms of file size, especially games like Nova 3 which are the types of games you will probably be playing if you are spending a decent chunk of cash on a high-powered tablet.

Storage - 16GB +
Any tablet that is going to be playing graphically intensive 3D games needs at least 16GB of storage. This is pretty standard for most tablets, but you'll find a few black-sheep out there trying to rip you off by giving you only 8GB of storage. Like I said earlier, games are big. Do you really want to be able to hold only 6-8 games on your tablet at once? No, I didn't think so. Get at least 16GB of storage; you will not regret it.

iOS:

CPU/GPU - A6X
The good thing about buying Apple is that your choices are limited and streamlined. The bad thing about buying Apple is that your choices are limited and streamlined. When buying an iPad for gaming all you need to look for is that it has an A6X chip. This is Apple's new flagship chip that is super fast and beats pretty much anything else out there in terms of sheer speed of a tablet. This is the chip used in the latest retina display iPad. However, this chip is not used in the iPad Mini.

Recommended Tablets for Gamers:

Google Nexus 10 (Has a 1.7ghz Tegra 3 but has a better than average battery-life.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Top 5 Special/Limited Edition Handhelds

As a video game collector, something I enjoy even more than collecting games is collecting limited or special editions of game consoles. Handhelds just happen to have some of the best special editions ever, especially Nintendo's handhelds. Let's look at the best special edition handhelds to date, based on appearance and overall awesomeness.


#5 - Zelda Limited Edition 3DS


This beautiful 3DS perfectly captures the simplistic yet unique style of the Legend of Zelda series. It features the series' trademark gold color and a glossy black finish that looks phenomenal. However, the Legend of Zelda series has gotten plenty of special editions of everything, putting this handheld at #5.

#4 - Pokemon Gameboy Color


Hey, what can I say, I'm a sucker for a blue D-Pad! Wait no, that's not right, I meant to say I'm a sucker for anything even mildly Pokemon related. Can you blame me, who isn't right? This Gameboy Color is extremely bright and vibrant and is covered in colors, which is a good thing unless you are a minimalist. Of course it is also Pokemon themed, which keeps this Gameboy Color only at #4 not because Pokemon themes are bad (they certainly aren't), but because Pokemon special edition consoles have been done to death.

#3 - NES Gameboy Advance SP


No special edition console, handheld or home, has ever been as great of a retro homage as the NES Gameboy Advance SP. Flashing the NES colors and textures, but with the powerful guts of a back-lit GBA SP capable of awesome 32-bit graphics! Unfortunately, the line of NES remakes released along with this handheld was lazy and weak, putting this at #3.

#2 - Mother 3 Gameboy Micro


What even needs to be said? If you've played Mother 3, whether it be in Japanese or the fan-translated English version, you know the game is amazing. Fans have been pushing for Nintendo to officially release the game in the West for years, however I highly doubt our dreams will ever come true. In Japan though, they didn't just get Mother 3, they got this amazing special edition handheld as well! It is a mix of glossy shades of red and it is a Gameboy Micro, which is a really cool handheld by itself. Of course the best part about this is that is represents a very special game, Mother 3.

#1 - Coca-Cola Game Gear



Here you go SEGA fanboys. To be honest, I don't even like the Game Gear as a handheld, but this is easily the greatest looking and most awesome special edition handheld ever made. Everybody's favorite soda, or at least my favorite, combined with a pretty good handheld. The Coke red makes this handheld very visually appealing, but the real thing that made me fall in love with this is the fact that it is Coca-Cola branded. Call me a Capitalist Pig, call me completely biased, I don't care. This is my favorite special edition handheld, now I'm gonna go drink a Coke.

Zelda Limited Edition 3DS - ebay
Pokemon Game Boy Color - ebay
NES Game Boy Advance SP - ebay
Mother 3 Game Boy Micro -  ebay
Coca-Cola Game Gear - ebay

Monday, February 11, 2013

Birds and Beans and Metal Torrent Among the Latest Club Nintendo Offerings


Club Nintendo's latest downloadable titles were unveiled today. Among the bunch are Birds and Beans and Metal Torrent. While they're both DSiWare games originally, only the 3DS eShop has the functionality to redeem the codes. Both of these titles have been up for grabs in the past, so the fact that they're back is a testament to their quality.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: Devilish


Have you ever sat down to play Arkanoid, Breakout, or a similar game and thought: “What this game needs is plot; a sense of adventure. I need a reason to hit a ball with a paddle and break things”? Neither have I, but for anyone that has, or is just curious to try a different take on the classic genre, Devilish is a thing that exists.

Released in 2006, Devilish, like many early DS releases,  is a revitalization of an older series, and can be found on the Sega Game Gear and Genesis. In contrast to something like Arkanoid with fixed-screen levels, Devilish features sixteen levels spread across five worlds which require players to navigate maze-like corridors, break down walls, defeat monsters, and collect powerups with the goal of finding the warp at the end within the time limit. For veteran brick breakers, the first two or three worlds will be a cakewalk, and as the motivation to continue comes into question, remember that Satan needs to be defeated in order to reclaim the kingdom... or something like that. There are a few lines of unmemorable story to read between each world, none of which really matters and is very ignorable, but upon setting paddle into world four, I found a new motivation: pure rage. 

Devilish has not one, but two paddles. The top one can be moved in all directions, and the bottom follows along the X axis. Despite being able to move the top paddle freely and having eight directions of rotation, once the ball picks up speed it becomes frustratingly stubborn and pretty much goes where it pleases. I found myself really only using the forward-facing flat position and the left and right 45 degree positions. In fact, I cleared the majority of some levels without even touching the d-pad. The ball would repeatedly bounce off a wall, hit the paddle, bounce off at a 90 degree angle, hit a wall, bounce back, and so on. Whenever I stumbled upon one of these sweet combinations, I didn't touch the paddle unless it was completely necessary. There's nothing like spending ¾ of your time trying to pass a single obstacle and then with less than thirty seconds on the clock, the sacred combination manifests, taking the ball through the rest of the level in a matter of seconds.

http://199.101.98.242/media/shots/46124-Devilish_-_Ball_Bounder_(J)(Wario)-5.pngCounter-intuitively, each world's boss battle is actually a reprieve from the rest of the game and are ridiculously easy to defeat. They're all fought on a fixed screen, so there's not much difficulty in keeping the ball in play, even while they're actively trying to throw it off course. I was a little disappointed that none of the bosses or enemies affected the paddle directly, either by temporarily stunning it, spinning it around, or something along those lines. Instead, they hurl debuffs, which among other things detract time, shrink the paddle, or speed the ball up. Powerups can be found in chests to counteract these, which slow down the ball, increase its damage, or turn it into a rocket able to tear through multiple layers of obstacles, to name a few.

Devilish can be completed in little more than an hour, and while it isn't as solid as some of the other brick-breakers, I found it unique enough to be worth a shot, and for only a few bucks, I wasn't disappointed.

Find Devilish on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2007-05-09
Publisher: UFO
Developer: Starfish  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Riviera: The Promised Land


It's no secret that there's a consensus that JRPG's have suffered a decline in quality this generation of gaming. Arguably it's less of a decline for JRPG's and more of an incline for WRPG's as the rise of popularity for latest installments of already established series such as The Elders Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3, although when your genre's poster child is Final Fantasy XIII then something needs to be addressed. However, any JRPG apologist can point to the best JRPG's not getting any mainstream attention. Nippon Ichi is frequenctly brought up in this regard as its ouevre of polished strategy games, each with their own innovative battle systems and genuinely interesting storylines makes it a good example of a company that was willing to try something different with each game they made. However for as much praise as Nippon Ichi gets it is NOTHING to compare to the balls-to-the-wall insanity that Sting puts into each and everyone of their titles. The fact that Riviera is modest in comparison to the rest of their titles is a testament to how insane the game is.



The plot is as generic as animé JRPG plots get. You start the game barraging into the various layers of heaven with your companion under the guidance of an archangel. The immediate difference between you and your ally's strength should make it obvious that he's not permanent but it's fun while it lasts. After that animé trope No. 4372 starts where you get separated from your friend and end up joining the opposing side culminating in a fight against the arch angel himself. Sting's plots got less formulaic as they went on with Yggdra Union's dark medieval plot that's reminiscent of Valkyrie Profile and cresting with Knights in the Nightmare. All in all it is a standard plot but as with the Tales of series, the cast of characters does enough to make it bearable.

If not for the story then Sting games should be played for their highly experimental gameplay. When a battle starts you can change between melee or magic oriented, changing the formation of the characters. This sounds superficial but in order to do well in the game it needs to be accounted for. The most important thing about the combat is that the game has a weapon degradation system. It'd be fair to automatically dismiss any game with a weapon degradation system because for the most part it's usually terrible, but with Riviera it feels like a byproduct as you have to cycle through your weapons (and manage them) Vagrant Story style and it feels natural and actually rather awesome where you save up that ultimate weapon  you found earlier in the game to rip through a particularly egregious boss's health.


http://s.uvlist.net/l/y2012/12/102311.jpg

Presentation counts for a lot of the game. For an unknown company Sting did a great job with the soundtrack that creates a tone that doesn't clash with the games aesthetics. the character designs aren't anything you wouldn't have seen before (it's as though Sting had a checklist for the ideal five woman harem for the stereotypical protagonist). the actual enemy designs fare much better, allowing them to draw from a myriad of sources to create unique designs to set themselves apart from the standard tropes found in other JRPG's. One of the most bizarre parts of the game is that for a JRPG, it contains a lot of quick-time events. They determine whether you have enough equipment or not, whether you have enough health to fight the next boss and whether you can gain any of the unlockable extras the game has (there are ten extras in the game and in my playthrough I didn't get any of them).

Whether Riviera was a success as a genuinely good video game is debatable. It's original, no denying that, but all of the elements never really mesh together to create something that can be viewed holistically. It's worth looking at from a design perspective although I'm hard pressed to recommend it if you want to have fun with it. The game was released for the GBA but later got ported to the PSP with better graphics, sound, and more options, making this the definitive version if you're that curious.

Find Riviera: The Promised Land on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2007-07-10
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Sting