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Ghost of Tsushima won’t strike gamers long familiar with the action-adventure genre as transcendent at first glance. Those who have spent countless hours captivated by, say, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Lord Of The Rings: Shadow of War won’t find its grounded setting appealing from afar. That said, all it takes is one spin, however short, for doubters to conclude that even its well-made trailers don’t do it justice; it’s like a cake that looks nothing out of the ordinary in appearance, but hooks the reluctant with just a single taste. Certainly, its unique sense of style and presentation entices even the most skeptical to binge on it with nary a care for the time.
Not surprisingly, The Last of Us Part II dominated gaming news since the leaks spread on the internet in late April. Anticipation, already eager to begin with given the proven value of the source material, was further fueled by third-hand information. On the flipside, not a few quarters found cause to draw thoroughly unfair conclusions; after all, the game had yet to hit retail shelves, and any discussions on particulars of that title, or argued lack thereof, bordered on speculation. If there was any benefit to all the talk, though, it was that Sony wound up committing to a release date. Earlier in the month of the leaks, it was postponed indefinitely due to the novel coronavirus pandemic‘s effects on international distribution.
VISUAL Novels (VN) aren’t often seen in Western markets, and for good reason. Most VNs are characterized by design choices that may well appear childish and cartoony to those otherwise predisposed to realism. Add to this often-cheesy stories from the more unimaginative offerings, and it’s easy to see why the genre hasn’t taken off as well as others outside of Japan. That said, a good number of VNs do manage to overcome their seeming fate in the dustbins of mediocrity. Such notable series as Phoenix Wright, Zero Escape, and Danganronpa distinguish themselves from competitors by injecting interesting gameplay elements alongside rich storylines.
IT HAS been 16 years since Atlus thought to release Revelations: Persona on the Sony PlayStation. Expectations were modest then, with the title taking on many of the features of the Megami Tensei franchise from which it drew inspiration. Regardless of outlook, however, it wound up being a sleeper hit, in the process building an extremely loyal fan base and jump-starting a series with immense crossover appeal. For all its humble beginnings, it spawned an intellectual property giant. Boasting of memorable characters, killer soundtracks, and storylines that transcend genres, it now carries a name synonymous to great gaming — a veritable seal of quality that ensures unparalleled entertainment value.
WHEN Just Cause 4 was announced at E3 2018, Square Enix foresaw a quick turnaround time. In fact, Avalanche Studios was tasked to oversee a June-December affair, no mean feat given the weight of expectations accompanying the projected release of the latest title in the action-adventure franchise. Still, confidence accompanied the development, spurred in no small measure by upgrades to the Apex game engine; most significantly, the souped-up version of the software environment figured to enable the in-game portrayal of extreme weather effects. Needless to say, the feature was right in line with the over-the-top predilections of the decade-old series.
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.
IT’S NO COINCIDENCE that the birth and growth of Shin Nihon Kikaku (SNK) as a video-game developing, publishing, and manufacturing company coincided with the industry’s rise in popularity. The transition to the 1980s saw the proliferation of gaming arcades and the inevitable releases of home-console versions of popular titles, and it was determined not just to take advantage of the boom, but to ensure its sustainability through constant innovation. Soon enough, it became a major player in the coin-operated business, and it astutely leveraged its experience to penetrate the expanding home market.
IT’s a testament to the critical and commercial success of Life is Strange that Dontnod Entertainment had already begun work on a sequel even as its final episode was just being released. When the French developer confirmed the piece of news in January 2016, sales had already reached the three-million mark and physical copies were already making their way to store shelves. Episodic adventure games weren’t new to the industry, and yet it managed to present a choice-driven, coming-of-age narrative that transcended the genre. And, understandably, it wanted to build on its singular achievement.
WHEN noted video game producer Keiji Inafune left Capcom at the turn of the decade, not a few quarters figured the Mega Man franchise, to whose success he contributed much, would grind to a virtual halt. And, for a while, those from the outside looking in were right; longtime developers in the company understood that the responsibility of taking on a successful intellectual property required following in giant footsteps. Only until Koji Oda of Resident Evil fame decided to do so last year did longtime followers entertain hope for a revival of the series.
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.
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.
CONSIDERING that Metal Max Xeno is just the second in the series to be released in the West after Metal Saga on the PlayStation 2, it’s hard to believe that 27 years have passed since the original Metal Max made its way to the Nintendo Family Computer. And how the title evolved from concept to fruition is a story in and of itself. Following the dismal sales of Metal Max 4: Gekko No Diva (3DS, 2013) and of the mixed reception to Metal Max: Fireworks (smartphone, 2015), publisher Kadokawa Games saw fit to swing the pendulum back to consoles and green-lit the latest iteration for the PS4.
WHEN KADOKAWA GAMES released God Wars: Future Past on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 last year, it put forth a tactical role-playing game awash in Japanese lore. Its story, which began with a Queen’s sacrifice of a daughter to appease the gods and continued with the other daughter striving to find out why, offered a stunning look into the history of the Shinto-steeped Land of the Rising Sun. Parenthetically, the hope that the narrative would pull in and not alienate Western audiences was answered with success on retail shelves.
CLOSE to the turn of the decade, animator Pendleton Ward developed an idea that took root back when he was still enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts and germinated from a short that subsequently aired on Nicktoons. Inspired by his experience working on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, he fine-tuned his concept and steered it to fruition. His creation wound up being an immensely successful Cartoon Network series. Indeed, Adventure Time pulled in a loyal viewership that generated high ratings across all age demographics, with the young ones, the young once, and those in between appreciating its unique blend of cutting-edge humor, hand-drawn visuals, and storyboard-driven narratives that tugged at the heartstrings.
YOH YOSHINARI’s Little Witch Academia is an anime franchise about young girls, witchcraft, and friendship. Following Akko Kagari, a student enrolled in the Luna Nova Magical Academy, it focuses on her journey to master the arts of magic. Akko slowly gets accustomed to what she can do. And while not naturally talented, she is able to show that with perseverance and a little help, trials and tribulations can be overcome.
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 WOULD BE an understatement to describe Sweden-based SkyGoblin as a small independent video game developer. Composed of a handful wearing a variety of hats, the company burst into the mainstream following the release of free ware adventure game The Journey Down: Over The Edge at the turn of the decade. Smartly, it leveraged the success to come up with a much-improved and highly expanded version that serves as the starting point for a point-and-click series of the same name. Given the limited resources it has had at its disposal throughout production, the commercially released Trilogy is nothing short of remarkable.
SINCE ITS DEBUT early last year, the Nintendo Switch has been a haven for makers of rhythm games. It’s certainly with reason; the hardware boasts of touchscreen and multiple-controller configurations, backstopped by portability and ease of use. It’s why such notables as Deemo, Superbeat: Xonic, and VOEZ have been ported over, and why even offbeat — pun wholly intended — titles like Frederic: Resurrection of Music, Crypt of the NecroDancer, and Hiragana Pixel Party have thrived on the hybrid console.
THERE was a time when fighting games were little more than button-mashing exercises. Perhaps the relative lack of complexity was due to the genre being in its infancy stage. Perhaps it was borne of the publishers’ intent to be as inclusive as possible. In any case, gamers still found them irresistible for the most part, if for no other reason than because they afforded the opportunity for instant gratification. In comparison to, say, sports titles, fights involved short matches and rematches. Bragging rights were passed on quickly and often, and the speed with which they were earned, lost, regained, and desired anew served only to ramp up the intensity of the competition.
OBSIDIAN ENTERTAINMENT boasts of a stellar resume built on classic role-playing games. As exemplified by such notables as Neverwinter Nights 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II — The Sith Lords, and Fallout: New Vegas, it’s keen on drawing players in through compelling storylines and inventive quests. In this regard, its Kickstarter-rooted release in 2015 proved to be no exception. Paying homage to Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate and Black Isle Studios’ Icewind Dale, Pillars of Eternity deftly mixed old-school role-playing gameplay with the graphics and quality-of-life features of modern titles.
THOSE NEW to role-playing games should be forewarned. Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory is an acquired taste and takes some getting used to. As a definitive collection of titles and content previously released on the PlayStation 4 and the PS Vita under the Flames of Rebellion and Sins of an Empire banners, it packs a whole lot of wallop. The Switch version, published by NIS America, presents you with a choice to start: Be on either side of a conflict in Fenumia, an empire bent on territorial expansion, with set objectives, and their attainment, dependent on point of view. In the end, though, the need for a full appreciation of the presentation and the content may yet spur you to go through both campaigns.
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.
SINCE its inception in 2005, Sega’s Yakuza series has invariably churned out virtual masterpieces. While a bit all over the place at times, this part family drama, part mafia flick, and part martial arts and adventure franchise has always boasted of top-notch quality in terms of presentation and humor. In this regard, Yakuza 6 does not disappoint; it offers the same blend of action, comedy, and emotional heft via traditionally outstanding production values.
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.
FAR CRY 5 will not come as a shock to those who have been following the series since its inception in 2004. Characterized by open-world gameplay and satisfying gunplay, each of its releases has consistently strived to be bigger and badder than the previous one. And while its iterations don’t stray too far from its tried-and-tested formula, every new addition brings good things worthy of praise, Far Cry 5 included.
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...
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