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CAPCOM’S Monster Hunter series has stayed strong throughout its lifetime, and there’s no real wonder as to why. While not the most thought-provoking out in the market, it knows its strengths and is second to none in its unabashedly heavy focus on adventure and exploration. There’s simply no other franchise that can emulate the mystery its forests and jungles bring, or come close to approximating the dread, say, a Rathalos provides as it comes bearing down with fangs and claws extended. Even as it requires grinding to the point of excess, it invariably delivers on its promises of grandeur, riches, and glory that can only be the stuff of dreams.
DRAGON BALL has a rich, colorful history. From its humble beginnings as a fun, over-the-top anime series created by manga artist Akira Toriyama in 1984, it has evolved into a giant franchise pervading just about every book and cranny of popular culture. And even casual observers know and understand why: Its deceptively simple story of perseverance, heroism, and strength entertains and resonates among a loyal base of followers with otherwise-disparate tastes. It’s filled to the brim with good-natured humor and fun, with epic tales about godly powers and all-too-human frailties. Notwithstanding the countless competition, it has remained a favorite of both the young and young once, and with reason.
JAPANESE role playing games have come so far from their once-humble beginnings. The early releases struggled to gain a foothold in the West, but subsequent offerings from such franchises as Final Fantasy 7, Fire Emblem, and Dragon Quest managed to find homes in the hearts of gamers. Intellectual properties like these have reinvented the genre, however slowly, and their success underscores the core tenets of timeless examples: proper emphasis on deep stories, interesting gameplay mechanics, and immensely likable characters.
CONSIDERING that the Dead or Alive franchise first came about due to necessity, it couldn’t but have drawn inspiration from successful titles in its genre. Pressed to produce a videogame that would prop up Tokyo-based Tecmo’s flat sales figures, designer Tomonobu Itagaki saw fit to survey the landscape and take what he felt were the most popular features of the best titles on the market. Dead or Alive, the result of his exertions, combined aspects found in such notables as Sega’s Virtua Fighter, SNK’s Fatal Fury, and Midway Games’ Mortal Kombat series. And, even as it was so named in reference to his do-or-die mandate, it took coin-operated machines by storm in 1996 and promptly spurred work on Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation versions.
REAL-TIME strategy games on consoles are a dime a dozen, but few stand out. The problem isn’t in the effort; in fact, developers continually try to exceed themselves in lifting up the genre for home gaming platforms. Unfortunately, they’re hard-pressed to do so given intrinsic limitations. Broken down to basics, control sticks exhibit frailties vis-à-vis keyboard-and-mouse configurations of personal computers, thus requiring reprogramming of ports to present streamlined mechanics. The more successful titles — Halo Wars and They Are Billions, for instance — are fondly viewed as diversions that admittedly provide an enjoyable experience for casual gamers, but nonetheless fail to match the sophistication of dedicated rigs.
RED DEAD REVOLVER almost never came to light. Angel Studios began working on it at the turn of the millennium, and managed to move it forward enough to be officially announced alongside three other intellectual properties two years later. Despite the support of industry giant Capcom, however, it went on to miss production targets and wound up being canceled not long after. Fortunately, fate intervened, and holding company Take Two Interactive’s acquisition of its erstwhile developer paved the way for its resurrection at the hands of subsidiary Rockstar Games. Under the tutelage of Rockstar San Diego, it lived up to its promise as a spiritual successor to Konami veteran Yoshiki Okamoto’s vertical-scrolling arcade shooter Gun.Smoke on sixth-generation consoles.
TIME TRAVEL is a tricky concept to incorporate, whether in the gameplay or in the story of any given videogame. It requires from the developer a not insignificant attention to detail, lest the vagaries encountered in its implementation be lost in translation and its net result wind up being much less than the value of its parts. Thankfully, Nippon Ichi Software has it down pat in Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers. In fact, it’s the engine that drives the Japanese role-playing game as nine-year-old Sherry, her friend Pegreo, and a robot named Isaac designed by her father to protect her strive to uncover the mysteries behind the literal loss of time in the town of Clocknee.
DEVELOPER Numantian Games’ They Are Billions is one of Steam’s Early Access success stories. Despite its humble beginnings, it has managed to make a name for itself in a genre that many consider long dormant. Presenting a mix of city-building, tower-defense and real-time-strategy elements in a post-apocalyptic setting, it pits a budding human colony against innumerable hordes of the undead in the late 22nd century. Its gameplay forces the last bastions of the human race to build and develop a base of operations on which they survive, and then thrive, against a seemingly never-ending tide of flesh-tearing, brain-eating zombies.
RESIDENT EVIL was an instant hit when it came out in 1996. Its first on-screen text was cryptic, if awkwardly put together. “Enter the survival horror.” The words likewise spoke the truth, and to the point where they introduced a whole new genre in the industry. They set the tone on what the game wanted to do in a way no other release was hitherto able. It was less about breezing through enemies and more about rationing supplies and equipment. It was about grittily plodding on in a hostile, alien environment. It was about atmosphere and tension, about unsettling gamers with both anticipation and actual experience.
THOSE FAMILIAR with Koei Tecmo Games will undoubtedly not be shocked at the release of Warriors Orochi 4, a hack-and-slash video game that combines the Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors franchises and lets them loose in a world of myths and monsters.
PART brawlers, part Japanese dramas, and part open-world experiences, Sega’s Yakuza games have always been a ridiculous but compelling blend of action and adventure. While they initially seem like compilations of conflicted ideas from a fever dream, their interesting, over-the-top antics and enjoyable combat systems are truly anything. Their stories keep you invested, and their atmosphere, taken individually or collectively, is nothing short of engrossing. Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of 2006’s Yakuza 2, follows pretty much the same formula. Featuring better graphics and sounds, enhanced gameplay, and new story elements, it does its best to keep the spirit of its source material while tacking on some of its own unique flair.
MOST GAMERS are familiar with the modern dungeon crawler, with the likes of Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile proving to be critical and commercial successes. That’s not to say that every release in the category follows the same formula; such notables as Class of Heroes, The Dark Spire, and The Lost Child are superb takes on turn-based exploration and fighting in elaborate milieus. They’re not for everyone, though; while compelling, they generally rely on the slow burn of an interesting story to keep players hooked, and their often-complicated battle systems can be a doozy to navigate through, especially for newcomers to the genre.
WHEN producer Souhei Niikawa and principal programmer Yoshitsuna Kobayashi set out to make Disgaea: Hour of Darkness from scratch, they had no idea that it would stand the test of time. True, they were determined to meet the objectives set forth by publisher Nippon Ishi Software; they aimed to come up with a role-playing game that both adhered to popular mechanics and pushed the envelope in terms of execution. Even as they succeeded in doing so, however, they could not have envisioned an outcome that exceeded their highest expectations.
LONGTIME gamers remember Shenmue fondly for what it tried to achieve. The open-world adventure brawler was revolutionary in its ideas, trying its hardest to blend an engaging narrative, extensive exploration sprinkled with minigames of various types, quick time events, and combat sequences. Released back in 1999 as a Sega Dreamcast exclusive, it met with extremely positive praise, but somehow failed to parlay its critical acclaim into commercial appeal.
THERE CAN be no denying that FromSoftware’s Dark Souls is brutal and difficult, often bordering on the sadistic in terms of its capacity to challenge players. That said, it’s beatable, and while its gameplay borders on the unforgiving, it succeeds in its objective. You get a massive sense of achievement in persevering through it and conquering the even-tougher-than-tough parts. It’s an acquired taste, a pain to get into, really. It’s also harder to put down once you’re hooked.
IT’S NOT HARD to understand why Nihon Falcom and NIS America have moved to port Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana in the Nintendo Switch. Having seen the title generate positive reception upon its release on the PlayStation Vita in 2016, on the PS4 last year, and on the PC earlier this year, they understand its potential to reach a new set of gamers via the hybrid console. Their confidence is not unfounded, and not simply because they carry a lot of weight in the gaming industry. More importantly, their latest contribution to the Ys franchise has been praised as the best yet.
UNDEAD LABS’ State of Decay was a certified critical and commercial hit upon its release in 2013. Best described as a third-person sandbox-cum-survival game simulating a community in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, it tasked you with finding resources, interacting with other denizens, and clearing out zombies in an effort to survive. And, on the whole, it proved to be a compelling experience, its flaws notwithstanding.
TYCOON GAMES aren’t for everyone, but it isn’t hard to understand why they have a loyal following. They’re flashy, and they’re capable of producing a surprising amount of fun and complexity. From Sim City to Zoo Tycoon to Roller Coaster Tycoon, the process of building something from scratch and seeing it thrive and prosper brings about catharsis. And, by the same token, Kalypso Media delivers.
IT’S BY DESIGN that Vanillaware is best known for stylistic two-dimensional action-adventure games. In an industry proliferated with 3D titles, the Japanese developer has made a conscious effort to trod the less-beaten path. And, to its credit, it has had much success in this regard; via a proprietary programming process, it enables its artists to render pixel sprites in such a way as to uniquely project depth. It’s why gamers instantly took to Odin Sphere for the PlayStation 2 in 2007, as well as Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Nintendo Wii in 2009.
By Alexander O. Cuaycong FOR THE REVIEW of the prequel Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, please refer to this link: https://goo.gl/zmGgHu Released in Japan in September 2016...