Death end re;Quest
PS4/PC via Stream
Moero Chronicle Hyper
Table Top Racing: World Tour
DEATH END RE;QUEST offers a tantalizing hook that even jaded gamers will find hard to resist. Its narrative finds the consciousness of developer Shina Ninomiya somehow stuck inside World’s Odyssey, an unfinished role-playing videogame she helped start but was then shuttered for some reason. Enter lead programmer Arata Mizunashi, who, after learning of her plight from the outside, strives to help her escape from the milieu in which she is required to literally fix bugs. Making things more complex for them in their objective of both crafting and completing the game in its best form is its artificial intelligence, inexplicably at an advanced state and determined to keep the status quo.
Largely told in gripping visual-novel style, the story of Death end re;Quest provides the savory flavor for, and adds uniqueness to, the meat that is its gameplay. Progression requires menu-driven investigation for Arata looking in and interaction with other characters also in insect form for Shina. And even as it compels gamers to explore dungeons and face enemies in traditional Japanese role-playing fashion, its combat system carries its clever capacity to blur the lines between reality and fiction. Battles are turn-based, first set up by the identification of three specific actions to be done (possibly, with the “Tri-Act” effect, all at once), and then enhanced by distinctly original options.
In this regard, Death end re;Quest benefits from its conceit. When up against enemies, characters can trigger field bugs that raise their contamination level and, at a given threshold, enable them to go into “Glitch Mode” and temporarily become more powerful versions of themselves. Meanwhile, Arata does his part in eradicating the field bugs via the “Battle Jack” menu interface, which allows for: actual participation in combat via “Summon; changes to battle conditions through “Code Jack,” effectively cheats; and modifications of the rules of battle — say, to those of a third-person shooter — with “Install Genre.”
Death end re;Quest’s immersive experience is enhanced by its aesthetics; character and background art strikingly support the premise and underscore the prevalence of “glitches.” Parenthetically, it offers an outstanding mix of eclectic music and English voice tracks that underscore the game-within-a-game vibe. It’s an audio-visual standout on the Sony PlayStation 4, and especially on the personal computer with the latest build update installed. And with controls intuitive and easy to navigate on either platform, it’s a definite recommend that figures to give some 50-odd hours’ worth of enjoyment. (9/10)
No doubt, Moero Chronicle’s absence of any pretensions was what made it inaccessible to PlayStation Vita owners outside Asia upon its release half a decade ago. From the outset, it clearly had as its objective the presentation of fan service at every turn. Even its storyline didn’t skip a beat in underscoring its purpose: Io, its lead character described to have “a tender heart,” is compelled to save the world by going up against hordes of monster girls brainwashed out of a hitherto-peaceful co-existence with humans by an unknown entity. There’s just one problem, though; he’s afraid of them because, well, he thinks of them all the time in ways he shouldn’t and is thus wary of being labeled a pervert.
That Moero Chronicle has found its way to the Nintendo Switch — in “Hyper” form, no less — all the same speaks volumes on the slickness of its gameplay, which both underscores and overcomes its commitment to push the boundaries of objectification. Setting aside the statement it effectively makes on the contrast in cultural sensibilities of the East and the West when it comes to sex (and, in the opposite manner, violence), it comes off as an engrossing dungeon crawler with a creative interface and battle system. As Io traverses through Monstopia, he gets to recruit monster girls with the help of his unaffected friend Lilia and seal mascot Otton en route to overcoming the greater evil behind the disruption of the status quo.
Moero Chronicle Hyper unfolds with unabashed raunchiness that’s played for humor. Enemies have sexualized designs and need to be “worn out” prior to being turned into allies — which is to say relieved of their outer garments in battle by Io’s party of five already-coopted monster girls. Recruitment is then completed via a mini-game in which the targets are purified through the identification of points of weakness in their bodies. Unfortunately, its success in generating laughs is sometimes lost in translation. In its localization to English, the information its dialogues was able to convey well in Japanese occasionally becomes muddled.
Still and all, gamers who find themselves investing the 40-something hours to see Moero Chronicle Hyper through to the end will not be disappointed. It certainly strives to be different, and, assuming its proposition to be acceptable from the get-go, ultimately manages to provide good value at $19.99. (7/10)
TABLE TOP RACING: WORLD TOUR — NITRO EDITION
Table Top Racing: World Tour — Nitro Edition delivers fun in spades. Featuring 16 Matchbox-type vehicles patterned after real-life counterparts, it’s a creative cross between Micro Machines and Mario Kart that keeps gamers on the edge of their seats with nonstop mayhem. There are 12 championships up for grabs via nine gameplay modes, with each specifying unique sets of requirements for completion. Eight powerups and six wheel upgrades serve to hit and slow down enemy racers as they go through eight themed locations and 32 tabletop tracks all told.
Table Top Racing: World Tour on the Nintendo Switch is by no means perfect. Loading times are far from a breeze and controls can take some getting used to, especially with accelerate and brake directives limited to the analog stick on the right Joy-Con. At the same time, car customization is a must to progress in career mode, which necessitates the accumulation of resources through grinding. That said, its relative maturity makes for wondrous variety; that it’s three years old helps in terms of content and interface optimization. Moreover, it earns its “Nitro Edition” appellation with the introduction of a local multiplayer option from split-screen vantage points.
Given the dearth of similar titles on the eShop, Table Top Racing: World Tour — Nitro Edition aims to serve a need. And, to the credit of developer PlayRise Digital, it’s an extremely competent port on the Switch. It lends well to portability, and, with ample replay value, gives good bang for the buck at $24.99. Recommended. (8/10)