REVIEW: The Last Story

A week ago, I finally got my hands on The Last Story. For those who don’t know, The Last Story was one of the games that was made out to be a Japan exclusive, but a couple weeks ago it was released to the states, much to the happiness of many a gamer. But does The Last Story live up to the hype it had before it was released to the US? I think so. Let’s jump in!

Plot:

The plot is your standard JRPG. I’m not going to go too in-depth, but to nutshell it, you’re Zael, a mercenary who finds a mysterious power and uses it to accomplish missions and strive to fulfill Zael’s dream of becoming a knight. Along the way, Zael encounters typical themes like corruption, power, following your heart, being the ‘chosen one’, worldwide disaster, etc… And while it may be typical story fare, it’s pulled off well. There are a few twists (although can be seen if you’re looking for them), but the plot paces itself nicely and it’s always interesting. The best part is the plot is almost entirely character-driven, with very few plot-driven elements. I found myself really enjoying it. The only part that was iffy is the somewhat rushed romance between Zael and Calista. There was so much potential for it.

Characters:

The characters are all great. They all have personality and definitely clash with each other because of it, and that’s great, because the dialogue is fantastic between the characters. And, they all grow by the end of the game and go through complete arcs, which is (sadly) pretty rare these days. The NPC characters in the hub world also have some personality, which is pretty surprising, but they’re all very cookie cutter in the way they act. Still, it’s better than them being ridiculously bland and being the same over and over.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

The Last Story is your typical atmosphere for a JRPG. A little bit of a steampunk, a lot of medieval, and plenty of ancient technology and magic. Still, like the other elements of The Last Story, these are represented really well. Lazulis City (the hub for the game) is awesome, and it really feels like a city. Stuff is always happening, and the entire city moves with the plot, so you’ll always see people talking about something different. The caves, Lazulis Castle, and the many other levels all are nicely detailed. I never once found myself bored with how the game looked.

The music is great. I have a thing for violins, so hearing the violin in the title screen music was already awesome, but the music in-game is also great, and it always feels like it’s supporting the mood rather than being completely intrusive. I got the soundtrack for preordering the game, and already have most of it on my iPod.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is interesting and incredible at the same time. It’s interesting because combat is, literally, running up to an opponent and attacking. You don’t press a button to attack. Now, I find that weird, and I still find it weird, but thankfully the designers thought, “Hey, most people use the A button!” and they give you the option to attack with the A button. That’s the only bad part about combat. Otherwise, combat is fantastic.

While some encounters are random and you fight, most of them are a sort of preview where you get to see the formations of enemies and you see the characters discussing a strategy. Sometimes they’ll tell Zael to decide what to do, but other times they give out orders and if you don’t follow them, the AI do get obliterated because they’re expecting you to do what they told Zael to do. And to lead into AI – they’re smart. They’re the best AI I’ve ever played with. They heal if they’re low on health, they take cover during stealth missions, and they try to cover you when you’re being attacked. Of course, you can command your allies if you want them to do a specific spell or unleash a special movie, but it’s really awesome to have competent AI that you don’t need to babysit. Even the enemies are smart; they take out mages first every time, and to combat this, you have a special power that makes every single enemy focus on you exclusively. However, having every single enemy focus you means that you die faster and it can be overwhelming, so you can’t just rush in every time with it, making it an interesting balance between using and not using the power you have. It’s a very tactical game for a real-time RPG, and pulling off tactics that you’re ordered to do and see it work perfectly is awesome!

Non-combat wise, the side quests and missions are actually pretty good, even though some of them are pretty lame (one of them is literally buying ingredients from a market), but a lot of them are awesome and are actually mini dungeons, which is really cool and helps you to prepare for the later levels. You can also revisit dungeons to get bonus stuff and face much harder enemies.

The actual flow of the game is nice. I never once had to legitimately grind in order to proceed. Tactics win the day over that, and that’s really nice. There are a few places where you can grind, but the focus is on progressing the story, so those are very few and far between.

Overall, The Last Story delivers, and I’m very happy it came to the states. If you enjoy JRPGs (or real-time RPGs), get this game. It’s worth every single penny!

Score:

Plot: 8/10

Characters: 9/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Final Score: 9/10

Just sayin’

REVIEW: Devil Survivor 2

Ah, Spring is here, and that means my Spring Break is over. Yeah, that sucks, but I enjoy walking around Chicago during nice weather, so I can’t complain, especially since I have some new games to play and review! One such game is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2.

I’ve always been a fan of Atlus. I love the challenge presented by their games, especially the Shin Megami Tensei series, and one particular series caught me since the first game: Devil Survivor. It is one of my favorite DS games to-date. I love the battle system, I love the characters, I love the story, and Devil Survivor 2 takes it and makes it better in more than a few ways, but it’s not without its small drawbacks.

Plot:

This is, actually, the one part I think is the worst part of this game (although it’s still a great plot). You are the 18-year-old Hero, and after signing into Nicaea, the dead-face delivery site, you view a death clip of yourself dying. As the scene plays itself out after an earthquake, a demon saves you, and you are born as a Demon Tamer. As you try to figure out what’s happening, you encounter JP’s, Japan’s supernatural special ops team designed specifically for crises such as this. You decide to help them figure out what’s going on, and as the week progresses you find a group against JP’s and that the world is being eaten by what’s called the “Void”. I won’t spoil anything, which is why the description is so vague, but compared to Devil Survivor the story is on a much grander scale, and while I enjoy the story, I liked that the setting was only Tokyo in Devil Survivor. I also liked the Heaven and Hell story more than the Void and supernatural beings that aren’t demons, but Devil Survivor 2 plays its story very well, and I still enjoyed it more than most games.

Characters:

Here Devil Survivor 2 does a fantastic job. It is definitely on par with Devil Survivor’s character, which is awesome because those characters were great. This time there are way more characters to use than in Devil Survivor, and they’re all great. I think the only characters I didn’t care too much for were Hinako and Keita, and that’s because they didn’t interest me more than the other characters.

There’s Io, too soft spoken and avoiding of conflict, Daichi, who is too immature and scared to really come to grips with reality, Makoto, the JP’s member who is too loyal to her group to think for herself, Jungo, the chef who dislikes fighting, and many, many more! They all have their own stories to tell, and some of them are really touching (especially Jungo’s. I almost shed a tear for his).

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

The graphics aren’t really anything new, although some of the cutscenes are very well done and surpass Devil Survivor’s. The music, however, has upgraded substantially for me. The battle music was good, but the theme for the Anguished One, the boss battles, and the mood music were great. All of it really captured most of the emotions of the scenes. Loved all of it! And the opening and ending themes were pretty awesome, too.

Gameplay:

Here it is, the big guy. Devil Survivor’s gameplay was fantastic. It brought a whole new way to summon demons through your cell phone with apps, and that gameplay is still here, and still great. In fact, some of the new skills (Like multi-hit/multi-strike), are really cool and give some characters (*coughDaichicough) a chance to shine where they normally wouldn’t. However, there are some little things I’d like to point out:

First is the fate system. When I first got this system, I said to myself, “Wow, really? This is dumb.”

Then amazing happened.

People had non-skill resistances, JOINT SKILL CRACKING, and SDTP. Resistances are self-explanatory. Skill cracking is how you gain new skills, and in Devil Survivor, many of the boss battles required you to really plan how you would tackle those skills because only the one who is set to crack a skill can crack it. Not this time. Now, if you get someone’s fate high enough, you’re allowed to have either of the two crack the skill. This makes cracking two skills on on character possible, where it wasn’t in Devil Survivor. This. Is. AWESOME.

I was able to crack 3 skills off one guy because I had two others with a high enough fate level. It’s incredible. INCREDIBLE!

SDTP is the ability to instantly send a demon to the Hero (and vice-versa). It’s not really that useful, but it saved me in a couple boss battles. It’s not as good as summoning a new demon, but it’s useful when you know it will be.

Next are some of the skills. Pierce and Assassinate are dumb. When you’ve got a nicely built team and you die because someone uses Assassinate and instantly kills you, it’s a little frustrating, especially when they go first because of the initiative bonus. Yeah, it’s great when you have it, but I still think it’s a dumb skill.

Pierce is next. Let me preface this by saying that there is absolutely no way around Null/Reflect/Drain Fire, Ice, Electric, Force, Curse. Yet, yet, there is something that completely dominates Null/Reflect/Drain Phys, and that would be Pierce. Now, this only applies to whoever holds the skill, but the very idea of being able to negate any Null/Reflect/Drain is ridiculous, especially when you can’t negate any of the magic resist skills. I used Pierce to completely wipe the floor with Daichi, and it required no strategic thinking or planning for demons because he literally went in with Multi-Strike/Pierce and killed everything that wasn’t a boss. It took away from some of the late-game planning because of that.

Those are but two skills, though. The rest of it is great. Auctioning, fusing, and the Demon Compendium are all still there, and they’re all still awesome. One new thing about fusing are add-ons, which are little boosts you can add to a fused demon. They vary from some of them give the demon access to all of your cracked skills of a certain element to increasing stats.

And that’s that. Overall, Devil Survivor 2 outclasses Devil Survivor, and I highly recommend it to any fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series!

Score:

Plot: 8/10

Characters: 10/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

Just sayin’.

Apex 2012: Meta Knight’s Last Hurrah

I would have posted this entry yesterday, but my head decided to transform into an anvil for a cold to strike down upon. I was sick three days before Christmas, and now, 17 days later from yesterday, I’m sick once again.

The other reason was the bracket for Apex  2012 had yet to be completely updated, which is what I’ll be writing about today. In the world of competitive fighting games, Super Smash Bros. has never really received a lot of attention (at least from I’ve seen. I could be wrong here). That ended last weekend when Over 1,300 entrants for both Brawl and Melee came (around 50 of those being international players) to attend Apex 2012, Smash’s biggest tournament in history.

While I wasn’t in attendance (I compete in Brawl), watching the stream was a lot of fun. I watched both Melee and Brawl, with a little bit of SFIV: 2012 and UMvC3 (two of the more traditional fighters that were also being played at Apex 2012). The highlight for me was Nairo vs Otori (Apex 2012’s Brawl champion). I usually don’t enjoy MK dittos due to most players not being too aggressive, but these two put on a show of skill souped up with flash, and it was very, very exciting.

If you’d like to see most of the videos from Apex 2012 (including Brawl, Melee, SFIV: 2012, and UMvC3), the links to those channels will be below!

Now, let’s get into one of the more interesting topics that I felt Apex 2012 really brought to the table: America‘s ban on MK.

Let me catch those who don’t know up. MK is the best character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. As such, a lot of players use him, and a lot feel that he is too good a character. Ever since I joined the Smash community a year and a half ago the debate for MK has been strong, and it had only continued to escalate in the past couple of months. After pages upon pages of debate, a consensus was reached: after Apex 2012, MK would be banned from all URC-run (Unity Ruleset Committee) tournaments.

Now, at Apex 2012 we had two Japanese players in Grand Finals for Brawl: Nietono, an Olimar player, and Otori, a MK player. While Otori plays MK, Nietono ran through many of America’s top MK players. I realize that Nietono is only one player, but this still brings a big question to the front lines of the ban debate – is the ban really the best choice?

I think it is, but not because of how good MK is. I’ll admit, I hate playing against MK, and all around me I saw players put in the work and beat him while I continued to lose to him. Apex 2012 gave me some new insight into how much work you need to put in to be the best of the best, and so I withdrew my stance that MK should be banned because of how good he is. Clearly, he can be beaten. You just need to put in the work. The Japanese have proven that.

However, I still support the ban because of how over centralizing he is. That’s simply it. A lot of players use MK. I believe over half of the players in America either main MK or use him as a secondary. And I believe that’s poisonous to a meta game in itself. I like variety, so I’m hoping there’ll be a lot more variety of characters now. I’m crossing my fingers that everyone doesn’t pick up Olimar.

What are your thoughts on Apex 2012? On the MK ban? Let me know!

Oh, and I think double MK is actually too good in doubles. One MK per team would be brilliant.

Just sayin’.

Link to apextournament:

http://www.youtube.com/user/apextournament?feature=g-u

Link to Jaxelrod:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Jaxelrod?feature=g-u