Category Archives: Games

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – Update (NSw)

Well, it didn’t take long for half my review on this to become outdated. Which is awesome. The latest patch (1.3) has corrected some of my most aggravating little issues. Locking blades. More sort options on menus. The ability to skip the entire core crystal resonate animation. Sending party member default blades on merc missions, which allows you to level those pesky “Kill X of specific monster” nodes without actually needing to locate which of the improbably named beasties is the one you want. (Now we just need a “repeat mission with last party” option.)

And then NG+ which allows you to keep all sorts of progress that would’ve been annoying to do again. Not to mention adding a whole lot of fun blades that are NG+ specific and I can’t wait to try out (although I still have a laundry list of things I wanted to finish before starting an entirely new game to get them).

I’m still not thrilled at the only one save file restriction, but I’m very happy that a lot of the minor annoyances are no more. I’m still (slowly) working my way through various postgame things and will probably get around to NG+ a long while from now.

So if the little issues were stopping you from playing the game, the patches actually are improving things a whole lot.

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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (NSw)

Title: Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Rex is a salvager who dives into the Cloud Sea for ancient artifacts to sell. But when a contract with a huge paycheck goes sour, he finds himself in possession of a legendary Blade called the Aegis. Her name is Pyra, and much of the world is out to claim her for themselves. . .

This is the first Xenoblade game I’ve actually finished, so I’m not going to be able to speak to how it stacks up to either of the previous.

I enjoyed the plot. I went into this blind since I bought it on release and have been playing steadily since then. The cutscenes had dynamic shots and a lot of movement (and quite a lot of things that blow up, which is always fun). And the plot had a lot of interesting twists, especially early on (the Gramps scene at the beginning of chapter 2 was especially funny). I think Morag was my favorite character, for her dry professionalism and inability to make jokes.

That said, I tended to take the plot very, very, very slowly. The game rarely traps you in one place (even if technically you are stuck on a ship or something, the warp functionality still works and you can go back to buy stuff or explore), the maps are big and full of secrets, and once you unlock the ability to summon more blades, there’s always another rare to draw or level up. Even at 171 hours I didn’t get close to maxing out the affinity charts of all the rare blades (this wasn’t helped by needing 165+ hours to pull the last 2 randoms, and the last sidequest blade took forever to finish the prerequisites).

Much of what I spent all that time on is optional, however, and it’s perfectly possible to clear the plot using only story-provided blades and minimal grinding. One nice benefit to being over-leveled, though, is that enemies won’t notice you if you’re too strong for them, so by the end of the game I was walking through all the story dungeons without having to fight anything.

The dub was good. The European accents were a nice change of pace, and I liked most of the voice acting. I downloaded the Japanese voices but haven’t tried them yet (I like being able to tell what my teammates are yelling during battle, as they will often have a “need healing” or “death” quote that reminds me to pay attention to them).

The battle system is really boring at first, but as you progress the plot it does layer on subsystem after subsystem, so by the end of the game instead of waiting on your turn it’s more about juggling what you want to do right now. Using your pouch items well can also speed things up tremendously, as boosting the recharge rate of your arts and/or specials means you’re able to unleash high-powered attacks more often.

The game does have some small annoyances that add up over the course of the game. Some of them have been getting patched out, so it’s possible that by time all the patches are available a few more of these complaints will be addressed. But for now, here’s what really needs an update. It didn’t bother me much the first time, but I could probably have cut 20 hours from my playtime if some quality of life things had been different.

The blade menus need more sorting options, like bonded driver, boosted stat (like trying to find Luck or Agility boosting blades), ability (being able to sort for something like Salvage Mastery would be amazing), or in the Merc menu, “best suited” or something that could prioritize blades by the number of requirements they meet. Because right now it takes too much time trying to find a blade that has the specific characteristic I need. In the same vein, Merc Missions desperately need a “repeat with same blades” option to help grind out the repeatable missions for affinity chart completion. In addition, if the affinity chart nodes would actually fill out when the requirements were met, rather than when the chart is LOOKED AT, Merc Mission completion screens could be simplified considerably, and regular battles/quests unlocking nodes could apply the bonus without forcing me to go back into the menu, find the relevant blade(s), and open the chart to update.

The Accessories and Aux Core menu is similarly a mess that could use more sorting options, like by type so you can see everything that does the same boost together and pick the strongest. And I’m not clear why it won’t stack similarly-rated copies of the same accessory or Aux Core (unrefined aux cores stack, so why not the refined ones?). This means if you’re selling them to clear out room, you have to sell them ONE AT A TIME. Again, this may not be a lot of time individually but it makes managing things harder than it needs to be, especially if you’re swapping out accessories like luck boosters to increase the chance of rare blades and then going back to your old build.

The rare blade random pull mechanic was fine in the beginning, and if all you’re trying to do is get through the game you can probably get a good number of them just by cracking open a few cores every chapter or so. But the gatcha system doesn’t appear to have any stop logic that will say something like “okay you pulled 100 cores so here’s a rare.” This makes getting the last few blades really annoying as it can take hundreds of cores. You can’t release blades on the screen where you summon them, meaning every so often you have to go back to the Manage Blades menu and clear them out. And there’s no good way on Manage Blades to see the stats together in a way that would make it faster to figure out what to junk. Actually, I’d settle for a way to “lock” blades I intend to keep (for field skills or other abilities) and then it would be more obvious what wasn’t a keeper.

Compounding the problem of blades is the fact that transferring them between users is tied to an extremely difficult to obtain item, the Overdrive Protocol. So you just got a tank blade on the healer? Great, either spend your limited supply to move it to someone who wants aggro, or bench that blade for the duration. By end game it’s at least POSSIBLE to grind Overdrive Protocols, but this involves maxing out an affinity chart on the rarest 4 crown common, and then releasing that blade. So tweaking team setups is possible, but not easy once you’ve run through the initial stack of Overdrive Protocols that you can find in game.

And I would have liked more 5 crown blades with less individuality per blade. The game gives each of them a personality, a sidequest, heart-to-hearts, and unique dialogue from the driver, which adds up to a frustratingly limited selection of 5 crown commons. No weapon has full elemental coverage. For example, if you want an Ether Cannon that isn’t dark/light/water/electric, you’re going to have to use a common blade. Some blades have great skills but an element that doesn’t mesh well with the team. And the story blades have a lot of overlap—three fire blades (one can be swapped, but that takes some effort to grind out Tiger! Tiger! if you didn’t get the expansion pass and its ether crystals), three water, a wind blade and an electric blade that overlap with some of the better 5 crown rares. . .

And the game ties certain driver combo (Break/Topple/Launch/Smash) to certain arts on certain weapons for each character. So if you want Rex to use Smash, you’re stuck with his Wind story blade because he has no other weapon type with Smash, and it’s not possible to get duplicates of that weapon. Since battles are basically just trying to set combos on the enemy, whether elemental or driver, having these limited cuts down on the kinds of parties I can build.

As of this writing, there is still some future DLC promised. New Game+ is my most anticipated inclusion, as there should be additional blades available (and, hopefully, the ability to retain the rare blades I spent so much time maxing out in this playthrough).

In the end, most of what annoys me isn’t required to beat the game or even do well at it, but it does drag down the presentation. If the gatcha could be rebalanced, some of the menus adjusted, the maps could get an actual compass, and a few more arts qualified for driver combos, this would be a much better game. As it is, if you like JRPGs, this is still good game to try. I rate this game Recommended.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS4/Vita)

Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Systems: PS4/Vita

Series: Ys

Adol Christin is an adventurer, but he isn’t planning to embark on his next one quite so soon. When the ship he’s on sinks, he and the rest of the castaways must survive on a deserted island. Only this island has far more in store for them—Adol’s dreams connect him to a mysterious girl, Dana, whose story has great importance for their own . . .

I have never played a Ys game before this one, but this has little enough to do with its surrounding series that it wasn’t a problem. Adol’s adventure is pretty self-contained, with only minor references to what I presume are series staples or callbacks.

The game was excellent. I loved exploring every corner of the island, unlocking its secrets one by one. The gameplay is action-based, and fights generally go very quickly, so there isn’t much grinding required (even if you’re like me and have to horde healing items for longer dungeons, the fruit regrows pretty quickly, and the ingredients for potions are easy enough to gather).

I liked how there isn’t any money in this game–you’re on a deserted island, with only fellow castaways, so what use would it be? Instead there’s a trading system that allows you to trade up or down for various materials.

And I wish the journal was something all RPGs implemented. It keeps track of the expected basics, like a plot summary and the tutorial screens that you’ve seen so far, but it also keeps track of every fish, monster, and material, which makes figuring out how to craft anything a breeze. And the menus are cross-linked, so you can start with a material, pick a monster that drops it, and go right to the screen with details about that monster. It’s such a little convenience, but one missing from pretty much every other game I’ve played.

Because of features like this, you don’t actually need a guide to get 100%. Just keep an eye on the quests in the village after every major story event and things will take care of themselves.

The graphics are admittedly dated, showing the game’s Vita origins. Still, I like the bright, colorful world, and the tropical locations are beautiful. The setting is the ancient Mediterranean very thinly disguised (Greek is the name of the country? Really? I suppose they speak Greece there).

The characters are mostly good as well. I was never fond of Laxia, who has the unfortunate distinction of being humiliated for fanservice right at the beginning of the game. It’s things like this that make it really hard for me to get non-anime fans into these games. They see a dropping-the-towel scene like that and figure the game will be smut, especially since this comes barely an hour into the game. And it makes no sense for her to even have a towel at that point in the game, much less feel safe enough to take a bath, given that she’s just washed ashore from a shipwreck and the local wildlife is decidedly unfriendly.

However, others, like Sahad, Ricotta, and Dana, were much better. Hummel is just kind of there to be comic relief.

I should probably mention the localization is getting an update, though as of my playthrough I only saw the original. It would be nice to get a few of the place names updated to something with less awkwardness in English (the Archeozoic Big Hole is probably the worst offender), but I didn’t find it a game-ruining experience.

Overall, I am very glad I picked this up (would also like to get the soundtrack, and if there is an artbook I want it, because the monster designs are awesome). I beat it in 77 hours, but that was with a lot of exploration, the final boss, true ending, postgame dungeon, and various points early on trying to subvert the need for double jump to get some chests (hint: the characters have different jump distances, and this can also be altered somewhat with moves. So Sahad, if you can get him to do his 4-swing attack in the air, has a lot of horizontal distance, or Laxia has a charge attack that can move her forward). I only missed the platinum because I decided to play on Normal and not Nightmare. I rate this game Recommended.

Star Ocean 4 (Xbox 360/PS3)

Title: Star Ocean 4

Systems: XBox 360 / PS3

World War III left Earth a ruined wasteland, so mankind turned to space. Edge Mavrick is one of the specially trained expedition forces on the lookout for habitable planets and extraterrestrial life. What he finds is an adventure he never expected.

This is the first Star Ocean game I’ve put any significant time into. It’s supposed to be the second-worst, but I found it a fairly good game, albeit with a lot of things I wanted tweaked for quality-of-life improvements.

The story was okay (although most of the PAs you can trigger on ship journeys range from mildly interesting to extremely cringeworthy), though there was one big, big decision Edge makes in the middle that had me wondering how on earth anyone would be that stupid. And the rest of the crew doesn’t help, either—they not only unanimously agree it’s a bad idea, but they turn around and say they’ll still follow Edge’s every order. Even though he’s just gotten a lot of people in a lot of trouble.

And then, following that, Edge goes off the deep end in the other direction, equating showing off in the Coliseum with his big stupid decision. Even though no one copying his moves could possibly do a fraction of that damage.

Also I’m just shaking my head on the reasons why spacefaring civilizations are using swords and bows, even if I don’t care to fight everything with some form of gun.

From a gameplay perspective, everything I liked usually came with a “but I wish they’d done this.” The action fighting system is much lighter than a Tales game, which could be better or worse, depending on how much you like the often-intricate Tales systems. What I missed most was the ability to assign shortcuts to teammate attacks, so you can request healing or a certain attack without having to switch characters (because the AI almost never does what I want once I leave my chosen character). The targeting system is awful. Play a melee oriented character and s/he will consistently target an enemy that runs away—and rather than change targets to the enemies YOU ARE RUNNING PAST, will stick on that first enemy. This makes going for the lots of kill trophies really annoying if you’re trying to do them without setting everyone else to “Do Nothing”. Add to that it’s hard to cancel out of attacks, your spellcasters only fast-cast if you do it manually, stealing requires a knockdown attack . . .

Or take Item Creation/Synthesis. This can only be done on the Calnus. So if you pick up a new party member or finally gather/mine the ingredients you needed, you have to trek all the way back to wherever you parked your ship to use it. From a story standpoint this makes sense, but it’s one place in particular that I wish they’d ignored logic and just let you do it as long as the correct characters were in your party. Oh, and you can only carry 20 of any item, which includes materials only used in IC/Synthesis. And some recipes will call for up to 20 of one ingredient. (And using IC at all means dealing with Welch, who is supremely annoying and badly needs an option to turn off her voice.)

Also I am enough of a Synthesis nut that I went and bought the Xbox 360 version for any future playthroughs because I like being able to break the game when possible, and the rebalancing for the PS3 version cut out a lot of the more interesting synthesis possibilities.

The trek could have been less horrible if there was some way to fast travel. Nope, your advanced spacefaring explorers go everywhere on foot. The best you’ll get (eventually) is a bunny that’s not only marginally faster than your dashing (because it doesn’t hit the slowdown at the end of each dash). Also it takes a while to be able to summon the bunny where you need it, so until then have fun running to the two areas where they are found wild to pick one up for a trek across the giant maps. Which if you are coming from your ship is no help at all.

The Coliseum is fine . . . except the only good way to earn points for the prize shop is to use the bunny races. Because fighting below your level nets you 2 coins, so the only way to earn anything is to advance in the ranks, or try to advance two characters far enough for the reward to be worth it and then keep switching so they can fight each other and swap places over and over. But you’ll still earn more faster from bunny racing. Which isn’t really “racing” because you don’t drive the bunny, you just control whether it dashes or jumps. Also the PS3 version apparently interprets “50 consecutive solo wins” as “must be done in one sitting because reloading from save resets the counter.” Since you don’t get items or monster book data from Coliseum fights (why not? Seriously, this would make it at least a tad less annoying if I could farm for drops/percentage) this is just monotonous. (For the record, I only wanted 50% trophy completion to unlock level cap for postgame, so I could at least attempt Ethereal Queen. I don’t need to spend hundreds of hours for 100%.)

Finally, the postgame dungeon desperately needs a save point, or a fast travel checkpoint. Doing everything in one run would be fine if it didn’t take HOURS to get to the top due to the horrible way it gates the floors. And you have to redo those every single time. I like the challenge of creating ultimate equipment and trying it out against a superboss. I don’t like the assumption that I have no life and can throw away better than a half a day any time I want to attempt that challenge.

Overall, this was decently enjoyable, but the little aggravations were enough to prevent it from being a favorite. I beat the main game in about 100 hours (mostly because I’m OCD when it comes to things like filling out a monster encyclopedia to 100%, but I eventually gave up because beating 100 of the monsters that only spawn one to a mob got too tedious). Recommended if what’s detailed above doesn’t scare you off.

Toukiden 2 (PS4/PC)

Monsters known as Oni are invading the real world from the Otherworld. Ten years ago in Yokohama, the Oni broke through—and threw you through a gate ten years in the future. Now you are tasked with defending the village of Mahoroba from the Oni as a Slayer.

There isn’t much to talk about plot-wise for this game. It proceeds mostly as you might expect (although I was pleasantly surprised by both Benizuki and Kuyo). I like that there is a story mode, though, which helps add some variety and meaning to otherwise randomly going out and killing monsters. The Professor was easily my favorite character, for her snarky attitude and rather dangerous inventions.

Toukiden 2 boasts a world map in addition to missions that can be taken through the base town. I would’ve liked the world map a LOT better if you could warp to any of the portal stones (you can use any stone to go back to HQ, but you can only transfer from HQ to your bases, which makes getting to certain points on the map a trek every time). Also, I was frustrated by the fact that you get a grappling claw that lets you vault over cliffs…. but you still often need to walk around relatively minor barriers, which made some maps (Age of Grace in particular) more like mazes. I am also not fond of the “miasma exposure limit” still being a thing even after you purify an area. It feels like a way to artificially limit how much you can explore without going back to some kind of base.

That said, it was still nice to have actual environments to explore. The game provides both shiny object pickups, various crests, and wooden markers with some backstory as an incentive to poke around every corner.

Your teammates are good at dispatching the Oni, so picking companions for me usually involved picking whomever I needed to max out relationships with. You don’t get any control over their skills, and you have limited ability to direct them in battle (which I never used because I forgot the button combination).

I didn’t play too much with all the weapon types, but there is a good amount of variety. I mostly stuck with knives because I like fast-hitting weapons, although a major downside is that they offer no defensive capabilities. Tutorials are available for every weapon type, and every skill type, and these can be repeated as desired, so it’s easy to sample the various weapons and choose a favorite.

Skills are handled through Mitama, which are spirits that choose to help you. They range from historical figures to literary figures to a few gods and goddesses. Each one gets a nice portrait and a little voice clip, and has a number of skills that can be learned and equipped. These can be earned through the story, sidequests, or by slaying Oni. It can be a big job to collect them all, but just going through the story and doing a little extra will get plenty for a more casual run.

I didn’t care for most of the Oni designs, sadly, with Drakwing (a more traditional western dragon) being a major exception. They do offer a good challenge, though, and fighting them feels more interesting because of a tendency to transform at about half health, which can completely change attack patterns. If KO’d, you get a limited amount of time to be revived, and if KO’d again, your revival time picks up where the last time left off, so whether or not you can even come back depends on how quickly your teammates can get to you, even the first time. This likely isn’t as much a problem for more skilled players but I die enough to find it annoying, especially when certain fights include multiple Oni and it’s easy to get slammed by the one you weren’t attacking.

On the plus side, the auto save functionality, plus the ability to manually save anywhere except inside a fight, means you probably won’t lose too much progress if wiped out, even if you were exploring the Otherworld at the time.

Overall, I had fun with this, although God Eater is definitely my hunter game of choice due to several different mechanics (ranged and defensive included on all weapons, a less arbitrary revival system, the ability to earn unlimited tickets for material crafting, more colorful monsters which are more visually interesting, better story, epic music). That said, I’m still poking around in postgame trying to collect more Mitama, craft a better weapon, finish collecting crests, and so on. I have no idea what my hour count was because the save files only indicate the last time you saved, not the total hour count, and it’s been pretty fun for the most part. I rate this game Recommended.

Tales of Berseria (PS4/Steam)

Title: Tales of Berseria

Platforms: PS4, Steam

Demons roam the land, spreading terror and death in their wake. Even Velvet Crowe, who lives in the small village of Aball, has lost family to their attacks. But her brother-in-law Arthur is an exorcist, and he’s protected them . . . until the Scarlet Night when everything she thought she knew is torn apart. Now Velvet herself is a demon, out for revenge against Arthur, the man who stole everything she had left.

This is a much more solid Tales entry than the last several. It’s connected to Zestiria, but as a distant prequel, so no knowledge of Zestiria is necessary to enjoy this game (although certain nods are often given). However, playing both games does help expand the world.

The plot stays compelling throughout. Tales games have a tendency to lose focus along the way, surviving more on the character interactions than the main plot, but this one stays strong. And the cast is generally very good too. I was fairly sure going in that Eizen would be a favorite, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed everything he’s in—he’s even more fun to play than Velvet against trash mobs, where he can go into full shadow-dragon fury. And his dour outlook, Reaper’s Curse (basically Murphy hates him), and nerdy interests kept him fun from a story perspective too. Pretty much every favorite skit I have involves Eizen in some major way. (See the skit Two Headed Coin for a great example).

Gameplay was generally solid, but the new Souls system led to a rather unbalanced feel overall for me. This is the only Tales game I played the majority on Hard from the beginning (moving up to Chaos by the final dungeon) because the enemies died too fast otherwise. On the other hand, especially with bosses, getting stunned/statused down to one soul means a really not-fun time trying to get it back when you can only do one attack at a time. I liked the equipment mastering system, but overall I preferred Zestiria’s system. I got the 30 hour menu achievement NORMALLY playing through this game because I was micromanaging my equipment so much. At least with Zestiria it was possible to both create a build, and feel no need to upgrade it until you had a better one in mind.

The game also contains a number of minigames (the card one is especially fun), a decent number of in-game costumes, some optional areas, and the usual postgame dungeon. So there’s a lot of content, and what isn’t fun is usually skippable.

The New Game+ option unfortunately doesn’t let you carry forward some of the more useful items, like the geoboard, which doesn’t come in until late in the story, or any of your equipment (although you can choose to carry forward mastered skills). But you can carry over various gameplay features, and the usual bonuses to grade/exp/gald.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this game. I beat the main story in about 112 hours, but mostly because I’m slow, I micromanage equipment, I let the card game distract me for way too long, and I had to keep redoing sections of the final dungeon. It does make me sad that Zestiria couldn’t get the same attention to detail as this game. Despite being set in the same world, Berseria got the depth it feels like Zestiria failed to reach—little things like how Eizen will talk about Edna here, but Edna basically never mentioned Eizen in Zestiria. On a personal level I think I enjoyed Zestiria more, because I like happy-go-lucky stories better than the grimness of a revenge-focused narrative, but objectively Berseria does a lot of things better. I rate this game Highly Recommended.

God Eater Resurrection (PS4/Vita/Steam)

Earth has been overrun by a new lifeform dubbed Aragami. These creatures will eat anything, and in a short period of time have devastated the earth. An organization called Fenrir has succeeded in creating artificial Aragami as weapons, and the so-called God Eaters who wield them are the only force capable of standing against the remnants of humanity and total destruction.

I can see why people think the plot of the first game is better than the second, although to my mind the anime actually did a better job of fleshing out the earliest story arc. Lindow doesn’t have much time to make an impression before things go haywire, and the aftermath feels a little strong for someone the player will hardly know. It’s almost more fun in the second arc piecing together who he really was, and what he’d been doing, and why he got into such a mess. And I like Ren, who is hugely critical of Lindow to the point where you can’t really tell if he thinks anything much of the guy everyone else admires. (And Ren pretty much requires rewatching a few of his cutscenes later on in the game to notice something that isn’t spelled out until later.)

Character-wise Soma, Ren, and Shio were the only ones who really made an impression. Soma has a very interesting backstory, although the game never gets really deep into it, but it’s interesting how he struggles between doing what his father commands and hating him for it (and then trying to deal with all the fallout from his father’s actions), along with the unusual circumstances of his birth.

The gameplay for this remains strong, although I struggled a lot in the beginning until figuring out ways to compensate for lower-damaging moves. Thankfully the Aragami can all be killed with melee only, although once you progress far enough to unlock the best sniper gun line (level 4) and the best blast gun (level 10), guns offer a handy alternative to those monsters you just aren’t in the mood to fight again. New type God Eaters are still a rare thing, so you don’t get more than a handful of characters who can both shield themselves and shoot you a healing bullet, which makes HP management a bit more of an issue here.

Resurrection, since it takes place before Rage Burst, doesn’t offer some of the enhancements found in the later game, but it does have its own unique gameplay in the Predator Styles. Basically, the devour function that allows you to steal enemy bullets and a bit of a power-up was revamped to allow for different moves, such as a dash-and-devour, arial devours, etc. In addition, the five different devour actions allow you to equip bonuses (basically free skills) that will apply once that form of devour is used and remain until that particular burst bar runs out (or in the case of melee/gun boosting, until your next melee/gun attack).

The menus have also gotten a welcome revamp. Now each weapon type has its own page, so you can more easily find just the recipes you’re interested in crafting. I was a little frustrated that it was harder to keep a non-elemental weapon early to mid-game (at least for Spears), but the crafting system in other ways is less frustrating because you have more missions featuring only a single Aragami, so it’s much easier to go after the particular ingredients or tickets you’re missing.

Overall this is a great bonus to have bundled into the God Eater 2: Rage Burst game, which is how I would recommend buying it, as you can get both games for a reasonable price. I beat all the plot missions around 55 hours, but am still working on missions I missed completing and trying to platinum the game. I rate this game Recommended.