Jrpg Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Jrpg RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network GameSkinny's Best Games of 2022 https://www.gameskinny.com/h3xxb/gameskinnys-best-games-of-2022 https://www.gameskinny.com/h3xxb/gameskinnys-best-games-of-2022 Sat, 24 Dec 2022 14:56:02 -0500 Jonathan Moore

2022 was a fantastic year for games. God of War: Ragnarok, Horizon Forbidden West, Dying Light 2, and Pokemon, among many others captured our collective attention. That's not to mention the amazing indie that release this year, as well, such as Signalis, Prodeus, and Citizen Sleeper just to name a few. Across PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation and Xbox platforms, we've collected our highest-reviewed games of 2021 into a "best of" list. 

Since we're a small staff at GameSkinny, going the traditional "staff voting route" doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, as has been the case the past few years. Though it means there are more games here than on other lists, the best way we've found to highlight the best games of the year in 2022 is to include any game with a score of "8" or higher. So that's what we've done. 

The Best Games of 2022

Among Us VR

Image via Innersloth

Publisher: InnerSloth
Developer: InnerSloth
Platforms: Oculus Rift (reviewed), Meta Quest 2
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Simple is an overall theme for Among Us VR. At launch, the game lacks most of the advanced modes and options of the core game and only comes with one map. That said, when the original launched, it was just as limited in scope, and we expect regular updates in VR to make this version just as robust. Even with just the single map, this is a superb Among Us experience. Read the full review here

As Dusk Falls

Image via Xbox Game Studio

Publisher: Xbox Game Studio
Developer: INTERIOR/NIGHT
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: There are so many layers that I'll be unpacking for the next several weeks as I wrap on my second playthrough. I likely won't be the only one exploring everything that As Dusk Falls has to offer. It's a stellar entry in the interactive narrative genre that will only be exceeded by what its dev team has planned next. Read the full review here

A Plague Tale Requiem

Image via Focus Entertainment

Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Asobo Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PC, Xbox Series X, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: A Plague Tale: Requiem is an enthralling sequel that makes real refinements to the original. Its narrative manages to feel both utterly crushing and incredibly hopeful at the same time. And the degree of freedom in its gameplay options means there's never a dull moment. Read the full review here

Atelier Sophie 2

Image via Koei Tecmo

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is a vast improvement over its predecessor. Borrowing exploration elements from the Atelier entries while keeping its traditional turn-based combat system is a great way to help it stand out within its own franchise. On top of that, the battles have more depth than ever before. Sophie Neuenmuller’s new adventure is well worth it for veterans and newcomers alike. Read the full review here

Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium

Image via Capcom

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium continues in the fine tradition of the original Stadium with a great collection of classic coin-op games. While these retro compilations are largely for the overly nostalgic older gamer, there’s a lot of great action to be had here, especially with friends playing in the same room. Read the full review here

Capcom Fighting Collection

Image via Capcom

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: For fighting game lovers, the Capcom Fighting Collection is a treasure trove of '90s goodness. Aside from finally being able to play the Darkstalkers series again, the inclusion of Red Earth, Cyberbots, and others makes this a thoroughly entertaining package. Read the full review here

Citizen Sleeper

Image via Fellow Traveller

Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Developer: Jump Over the Age
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), Series X, PC, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: With mechanics inspired by contemporary tabletop RPGs, Citizen Sleeper feels fresh, tense, and engaging throughout its 6- to 8-hour run time. Balancing your actions, resources, and story progress is a tight-rope act that's engrossing the further you get into this stellar sci-fi world. Read the full review here

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion

Image via Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Whether you’re a returning player or you’ve had your eye on Crisis Core in the past, Square Enix has delivered again in its ongoing saga of overhauling FFVII for a modern audience. For better or worse, there are no surprises of the ilk seen in Remake, though I would have happily seen some liberties taken with the events here, even if just to tidy up the game’s finale a little. Read the full review here

Dying Light 2: Stay Human

Image via Techland

Publisher: Techland
Developer: Techland
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Dying Light 2 does so much so well. You never know what you are going to get when you venture out into Villedor. Every handcrafted quest and environment tells a story, something that many other games aspire to, but few achieve. The movement is thrilling, the musical score is tremendous, and there is a bounty of good, but optional content. Read the full review here

Elden Ring

Image via Bandai Namco

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: FromSoftware
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 10/10

What we said: What FromSoftware has accomplished with Elden Ring is staggering. The culmination of more than a decade of trial, error, and success, Elden Ring raises not only the bar for the genre but for FromSoftware itself. It will send a ripple throughout the industry at large, acting as the new standard-bearer for open-world games. If there's more Elden Ring to come, count me in. Read the full review here

Evil West

Image via Focus Entertainment

Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Much like Flying Wild Hog’s flagship series Shadow Warriortheir latest release in Evil West is again an entirely over-the-top and bombastic affair designed to elicit a chuckle as much as it’s meant to appease your lizard brain with its almost non-stop action. But Evil West has done something fairly remarkable by dragging the sort of shlocky, B-tier, 360-era action games into 2022 with basically all of the quality-of-life upgrades you’d expect from a modern title. Read the full review here

F1 2022

Image via Electronic Arts

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Codemasters
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: F1 2022 is a fantastic racing game and the best Formula 1 game to date. There are some very nice improvements to the gameplay, a smattering of new tracks, and a realistic representation of the changes the sport has seen in the latest season. If you really want to get your hands on the new era of cars and feel how they drive, F1 2022 is a must-buy. Read the full review here

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

Image via Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: I secretly wanted a "golden route" scenario with Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, a resolution to Three Houses' dangling plot threads where maybe everyone could be happy at the end. What Three Hopes actually delivers is so much better; it's a finely crafted expansion that's fresh and familiar at the same time, all with smartly designed tactical combat that stays entertaining in spite of class similarity. Read the full review here

Ghostwire: Tokyo

Image via Bethesda

Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Ghostwire Tokyo is essentially what I thought it would be, for better and for worse. It's charming but empty, ambitious but too formulaic, and it's got the most personality of any game I've played this year. I sincerely hope Tango has more Ghostwire in store, either as DLC or a sequel. Despite its issues, there's nothing else quite like it. Read the full review here

God of War: Ragnarok

Image via Sony

Publisher: Sony
Developer: Sony Santa Monica
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: God of War: Ragnarok is the very definition of a great game. Its scope is grand, with a polished presentation that looks and sounds spectacular. While the overarching plot is mediocre, the characters, anchored by some of the best acting performances of the generation, stand out for their depth, development, and empathy. The action is exquisite, further honing a winning combat formula while adding some refreshing variety. Read the full review here

Gotham Knights

Image via Warner Bros. 

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PC, Xbox Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Gotham Knights is a surprising game. On the surface, it looks like a lesser knockoff of the Batman games that came before, but underneath that rough exterior is a well-crafted action RPG with outstanding co-op, engaging characters, and a story worth taking time to enjoy. Read the full review here

Gran Turismo 7

Image via Sony

Publisher: Sony
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PS5
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Gran Turismo 7 strikes the perfect balance between accessibility and realism in a way that caters to casual players and veterans. It's a gorgeous racing game with a surprisingly addictive gameplay loop thanks to the new Café and Menu Books systems. While some modes are certainly not as strong as others, Gran Turismo 7 checks almost all the boxes of what a driving simulator should be. Read the full review here

Hardspace: Shipbreaker

Image via Focus Entertainment

Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Blackbird Interactive
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Hardspace: Shipbreaker is an enjoyable physics-based puzzle game with something for everyone. The surgical feel of dismantling ships, the lore, and the mix of beautiful graphics and folksy soundtrack lends itself to an enjoyable time. The campaign story is enjoyable and the cast of characters are relatable if a bit stereotypical. With its 1.0 launch, now is the perfect time to suit up. Read the full review here

Hard West 2

Image via Good Shepherd Entertainment

Publisher: Ice Code Games
Developer: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: 2022 is unexpectedly shaping up to be the year of the tactics game. Despite enjoying the preview, I didn't expect Hard West 2 to grab me quite as much as Triangle Strategy or the likes of Tactics Ogre, which is itself getting a remake later this year. However, if you're a fan of strategy at all, it absolutely deserves your attention. Read the full review here

Horizon Forbidden West

Image via Sony

Publisher: Sony
Developer: Guerilla Games
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: I hoped Horizon Forbidden West would shatter expectations and take the series to the boldest new heights. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the sequel, but it’s also impossible to ignore there’s so much material to warrant doing far more than just making prettier, bigger worlds with more breathtaking set pieces. Forbidden West is a very good game. It could just be even better. Read the full review here

Infernax

Image via The Arcade Crew

Publisher: The Arcade Crew
Developer: Berzerk Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), Xbox One, Series X, PC, PS4, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Infernax is largely exactly what you'd think at first glance. It's very retro and challenging with simplistic 8-bit graphics and gameplay. Where it excels is taking those old-school constraints and expanding on them to create a gory adventure that feels at once totally familiar but with enough depth to still be interesting and worthwhile all on its own. Read the full review here

Kaiju Wars

Image via Foolish Mortals

Publisher: Foolish Mortals
Developer: Foolish Mortals, Michael Long
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: While Kaiju Wars carries a feeling of familiarity, there’s enough here for it to stand apart from others in the genre. With good pacing, tactical play, and pop-culture moments, there’s plenty of fun to be had with the main campaign ... Add to that the near limitless amount of player-generated content, and Kaiju Wars is a game that emulates its namesake — it's something you can keep coming back to again and again. Read the full review here

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Image via Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Overall, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is exactly the sequel we'd expect. Despite the move to 3D, the gameplay is instantly familiar. While nothing here is anything close to groundbreaking or even innovative, it is a comfortable, casual, all-ages adventure worth taking. Read the full review here

LEGO Bricktales

Image via Thunderful

Publisher: Thunderful
Developer: Clockstone Software
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: LEGO Bricktales is a delightful surprise, even with its fiddly controls. Pairing puzzles with LEGOs seems like such a natural thing to do; I'm surprised it took this long to see it happen. And I sincerely hope it's not the last such puzzle game from Thunderful. Read the full review here

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

Image via Ubisoft

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: This creative approach to the tactics genre finally gives the series an identity of its own. It won't be winning any awards for its writing, but Sparks of Hope still manages to be a blast at nearly every turn. Merging tactics, RPG elements, and platforming, the Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is one of the best Mario spin-offs on the Switch. Read the full review here

Marvel's Midnight Suns

Image via 2K

Publisher: 2K
Developer: Firaxis
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Series X, PC, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: It's safe to say Marvel fans who are the slightest bit interested in Midnight Suns should check it out. The writing doesn't work for me more often than not, but if you're just looking to spend some time hanging out with Captain Marvel or Blade while you start a book club or go fishing, then you'll be delighted to find out just how much of that sort of thing is packed into the game. Read the full review here

Metal: Hellsinger

Image via Funcom

Publisher: Funcom
Developer: The Outsiders
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 9/10

What we said: All in all, Metal: Hellsinger is a short, sweet, and immensely enjoyable experience worth every second of your time. It more than earns its purchase price. I cannot wait to see what the team at The Outsiders makes next because if this outing is anything to go by, they have one Hell of a future ahead of them. Read the full review here

MLB The Show 22

Image via Sony

Publisher: Sony
Developer: Sony San Diego
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Ultimately, MLB The Show 22 is a powerhouse like most entries in the series, but it falls victim to the sports-game pitfall of yearly editions: it just doesn't add enough new features. Most long-time fans may not mind that, though if you're looking for an upgrade, this is just another season, albeit a good one. Read the full review here

Nobody Saves the World

Image via Drinkbox Studios

Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Nobody Saves the World is an excellent action RPG with unique progression and class systems. If you come to RPGs for their gameplay rather than their characters or stories, you’re going to be well-served here. Read the full review here

Pokemon Legends Arceus

Image via Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Gamefreak
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: I might have wanted more from Pokemon Legends Arceus, and it definitely deserves more, but I’m so happy with what I got. At last, Game Freak took the imaginative, fascinating world it built all those years ago and decided to build on what makes it special — the sense of wonder and, more importantly, the Pokemon themselves. Read the full review here

Prodeus

Image via Humble Games

Publisher: Humble Games
Developer: Bounding Box Software
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: [Prodeus is] still one of the better action games I've played this year, and I can see myself loading it up again whenever I'm in the mood for some stylized ultraviolence. Whatever issues I have with Prodeus become as irrelevant as its storyline whenever I liberate a demon's entire upper half with one four-barreled shotgun blast. Read the full review here

Rogue Legacy 2

Image via Cellar Door Games

Publisher: Cellar Door Games
Developer: Cellar Door Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Ultimately, anyone who played and enjoyed the original Rogue Legacy is going to love this sequel just as much if not more. Everything that made the first game so great is here, though it is all bigger and better than ever before. With a host of new classes, traits, and abilities along with some welcome changes to gameplay mechanics, Rogue Legacy 2 is everything you'd want in a sequel and one of the best roguelikes available. Read the full review here

Salt and Sacrifice

Image via Ska Studios

Publisher: Ska Studios
Developer: Ska Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Salt and Sacrifice is a labor of love for its genre, one that will scratch any veteran’s itch for more mysterious worlds to explore. It never reaches the heights of the best Souls-likes but never sinks to the lows of those that attempt and fail to work within the framework. Read the full review here

Saturnalia

Image via Santa Ragione

Publisher: Santa Ragione
Developer: Santa Ragione
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Saturnalia uses horror in smart ways to explore social topics – the town’s isolation, resistance to change and to outsiders, and the ugly social beliefs that those things inform. Those facets combine perfectly to make a game that isn’t just horrifying because of the monsters that stalk us in the night. It’s horrifying because of the monsters we make, too – and the things we’re capable of becoming. Read the full review here

Serious Sam Siberian Mayhem

Image via Devolver Digital

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Croteam
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Croteam has teamed up with truly passionate Serious Sam fans to make their vision for the game a reality, and it shows. Siberian Mayhem’s new weapons, enemies, and gameplay variations keep the experience fresh while sticking to the roots of what makes Serious Sam so great: ruthless alien-killing action with plenty of puns along the way. Read the full review here

Signalis

Image via Humble Games

Publisher: Humble Games
Developer: rose-engine
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: While it’d be remiss of me to discuss some of the specifics that truly elevate Signalis, particularly in terms of the story and its experimental delivery, you can believe that developers rose-engine have made good on their promise. They’ve delivered a top-tier game that marries cosmic horror with altogether more grounded points of conflict. Signalis is a vital experience for anyone who fondly remembers being terrified of vague pixel arrangements of early survival horror games. Read the full review here

Sonic Frontiers

Image via SEGA

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PS5, Xbox One, Series X, PC, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Always fast and sometimes furious, Sonic Frontiers gives me a sense of wonder I haven't had with the 3D portion of the franchise in a decade, and it does so with the sort of flair I want from Sonic Team. It's not perfect, but it is a huge spin dash in the right direction for the Blue Blur. The next game needs to build on what Sonic Team has put together here because this is a formula with long legs. Read the full review here

SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters' Clash

Image via SNK

Publisher: SNK
Developer: SNK
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters' Clash was a game I loved dearly at one time and have had a wonderful time coming back to in 2022. Fans of both SNK and Capcom can find plenty of enjoyment here, whether in the gameplay itself or just in the card art — just don't expect the bells and whistles one might expect from a modern CCG video game. Read the full review here

Splatoon 3

Image via Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Splatoon 3 is the most polished version of the concept yet. While it doesn't break any new ground, Splatoon 3 is still a unique joy within the shooter genre. There are the typical Nintendo design quirks built into the online experience, but they don't spoil the thrilling combat loop at the game's heart. More approachable than ever, Splatoon 3 is exhilarating family-friendly mayhem for competitive and co-op gamers alike. Read the full review here

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

Image via Aspyr

Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Aspyr
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II is still an amazing game and compelling sequel to one of the best love letters to the fandom. Pushing 20 years old, it is still a contender when it comes to story, mechanics, and audio, though the visuals are slightly dated. The Nintendo Switch port has some issues to be smoothed out yet, but they aren’t game-breaking and aren’t nearly as bad as some of the issues the original game shipped with. Read the full review here

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

Image via Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Team Ninja
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is an endearing action RPG that takes careful steps with its reappropriation of traditional Final Fantasy systems. The translation to Team Ninja’s brand of fast-paced combat feels amazing when it’s firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, it’s let down by technical issues and a loot system that actively pushes you away from messing around with its jobs in the way that it so desperately wants. Read the full review here

Stray

Image via Annapurna Interactive

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: BlueTwelve Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Stray takes about five to six hours to finish, but it makes use of that short run time to tell a touching story between a cat and a robot drone. Its controls feel great and impactful, whether you're jumping or running. There’s so much personality to the cat, too: being able to meow on command and do cat things like knocking over items and scratching on walls is a nice touch. Stray is a tightly focused journey that is worth experiencing at least once. Read the full review here

Tactics Ogre: Reborn

Image via Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a thoughtful re-release of a classic that adds meaningful changes to make the experience more approachable in relation to previous installments. Those changes, by and large, are a good thing, but the complexity of Tactics Ogre isn't lost in the process. Diehard fans will likely be happy to hear that, but it would have been nice to see Tactics Ogre: Reborn strive to be even more accessible for newcomers. Read the full review here

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

Imgae via DotEmu

Publisher: DotEmu
Developer: Tribute Games
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge works so perfectly because it’s clear the developers not only love the source material, but understand intrinsically how to recreate that beloved sense of nostalgia in a way that feels both authentic and evolved. This really does come across as a game that could have actually existed in a 1990-era arcade... If you have a soft spot for classic arcade brawlers of the 80s and 90s, Shredder’s Revenge is a damn near perfect homage and sequel to one of the best of the era. It doesn't get much better than this. Read the full review here

TemTem

Image via Humble Games

Publisher: Humble Games
Developer: Crema
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Temtem may play a lot like Pokemon on the surface, but a suite of tweaks to the battle system, exciting visual design, and heavy emphasis on PvP more than make up for the similarities with it and other monster catchers. While a deeper story would certainly be welcome, Temtem is a unique and rewarding experience for those with the patience to master its intricacies. Read the full review here

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story

Image via Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: I feel like The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story may have been better paced as an actual movie than a game given that the interactive elements bogged down the experience a bit. Even so, everything else about the title shines. The century spanning story is exceptionally engaging and I found myself wanting to continue on to the next chapter to see what happened next. It also helps immensely that the actors bring stellar performances to each case. Read the full review here

The DioField Chronicle

Image via Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The DioField Chronicle has some fantastic ideas, even if some of them feel a bit underbaked. This could be the foundation of something ambitious for Square Enix, and if another game could build upon the combat system and narrative style found here, it could really turn into something special ... The DioField Chronicle is easily one of the most unique games of the year and a breath of fresh air in the JRPG genre, even for its problems. Read the full review here

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero

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Publisher: NISA
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Trails from Zero might be missing a few features it could, and maybe even should, have had, but if you've never played it before, don't let that hold you back from giving it a try. This decade-old RPG lost none of its potency as time wore on and remains an essential experience. In short, Zero is a remarkable feat of RPG storytelling and worldbuilding; even 12 years after its original release, little else like it exists. Read the full review here

The Quarry

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Publisher: 2K
Developer: Supermassive Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The Quarry isn't exactly the scariest game out there, but horror game aficionados will find plenty to enjoy here thanks to its high-stakes gameplay and fantastic performances from its all-star cast. If that doesn't sound like your type of game, it becomes difficult to justify paying full price for a 10-hour experience. The game certainly doesn't attempt to reinvent the wheel, but still manages to provide players with a unique and rich interactive experience on par with that of Until DawnRead the full review here

Thymesia

Image via Team17

Publisher: Team17
Developer: OverBorder Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Thymesia is one of the best Souls-likes not to come from FromSoftware, full stop. It also stands firmly on its inspirations while finding its own character from within them. It's not perfect, with some of the most valuable aspects (story and level design) being some of its weakest points, but between its stellar boss battles and well-realized combat, there's a lot to love here. Read the full review here

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands

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Publisher: 2K
Developer: Gearbox
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Rating: 9/10

What we said: The game's similarities to Borderlands 3 make it an easy sell for longtime fans of the series who already know what to expect from these looter shooters. Still, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands puts its own D&D twist on things, which makes it a unique experience that can draw in new players thanks to its quirks and wacky gameplay. With an excellent loot system and stellar gunplay, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is easily one of the most addictive and satisfying FPS games in recent memory. Read the full review here

Triangle Strategy

Image via Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Triangle Strategy has in abundance the three things any tactics game needs to succeed: story, systems, and style. Whatever its shortcomings in character development and pacing in the first half, they're easy to overlook. This is easily one of the smartest and most interesting tactics games to release in years, and one I'll be playing for a long time to come. Read the full review here

Tunic

Image via Finji

Publisher: Finji
Developer: Tunic Team
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: TUNIC brings together a gorgeous art style, phenomenal gameplay, and old-school game design baked directly into the way you discover the world, delivering one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in years. Read the full review here

Two Point Campus

Image via SEGA

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Two Point Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Somehow, Two Point Campus manages to find a great middle ground between easy-to-pick-up gameplay and deep management mechanics. There’s an undeniable, joyful glee in spending hours meticulously placing items, seeing it turn into a massive well-oiled university. As stressful as you might think it’d be to run a school, Two Point Campus is nothing but fun. Read the full review here

Vampire the Masquerade: Swansong

Image via Nacon

Publisher: Nacon
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: While Swansong shares one of Earthblood's big flaws — both games throw you straight into the deep end of an established and complex setting, which makes them thoroughly inaccessible to newcomers — it's a much more solid project. Its horror is subtle, its puzzles are mostly difficult but fair, and it's got a surprising amount of replayability. Read the full review here

Warhammer 40K: Darktide

Publisher: Fatshark
Developer: Fatshark
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox Series X
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Darktide is a fantastic live service co-op FPS that is almost worth every penny. Almost. I love it to death, and it's ramping up to be one of my most played games of 2022, but it's not perfect. It will surely become one of the titans of the genre just like Vermintide and its sequel, but it's got a long way to go. Read the full review here

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Image via Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monolith Soft
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: A recommendation for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 comes pretty easily if you're a fan of previous Xenoblade games or just a fan of JRPGs in general. For others, it's tougher due to its complex mechanics and slow early pacing. Regardless, though there are rough edges, XC3 makes up for it thanks to areas of absolute brilliance, and it's a game well worth experiencing. Read the full review here

That's it for our list of the best, highest-scored games of 2022. What were your favorite games? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion Review – Zack Fair in Love and War https://www.gameskinny.com/5ike3/crisis-core-final-fantasy-vii-reunion-review-zack-fair-in-love-and-war https://www.gameskinny.com/5ike3/crisis-core-final-fantasy-vii-reunion-review-zack-fair-in-love-and-war Tue, 20 Dec 2022 17:03:23 -0500 Daniel Solomon

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is an easy sell for anyone like me. This shiny new version is the game you remember, not what the original has aged into. There are issues still, but so much has been done with this remake to keep its goodwill alive, especially for a game very much of its time mechanically. It’s not just a joy to revisit and see Zack Fair back in action, but it's borderline-vital for anyone invested at all in the FFVII CU.

All things considered, FFVII Remake is far and away the better game of the two. But Remake may well become the definitive version of the best RPG we’ve seen to date. So, it’s not an inherently fair to compare the two in the first place. That said, if you’d like to try out Remake but don’t want to commit just yet, Reunion could be the amuse-bouche to entice you further in.

Reunion makes sense as an entry point, too – set seven years before the events of FFVII, it provides some key context to the coming conflict. I’ve no doubt that everyone will recognize Sephiroth, the quintessential antagonist of the series. However, Crisis Core begins before his grand heel turn, while he was still a member of SOLDIER, much like our hero Zack, who works alongside him and the rest of their elite force in the final days of the Shinra corporation’s war with the neighboring nation of Wutai.

Over the course of 20-or-so hours with our ensemble cast of super-soldiers and their adjacent staff, Crisis Core tackles some heady stuff: corporate overreach, what it means to serve as a proponent of a morally questionable state, what it is to be human, and in classic fashion, doing the right thing, no matter the cost.

It’s plotty, campy, and draws you in from the off. And much like the original, the back third still falls down as the narrative threads come together. Key story beats are delivered in an off-hand manner to a bewildering effect, and some things are just plumb not explained at all. But for all this, the biggest moments still land as they should.

Image via Square Enix

So, what’s different this time around? The bulk of the changes in this fittingly-overtitled remaster are around the combat and aesthetics, and these changes are almost entirely positive. Great, even.

While fighting is still instanced and the random encounters remain, the whole experience has been brought in line with something akin to Remake. Most notably is a dedicated button for your normal attack. In the original, all actions are tied to a scrolling menu and a single action button, so if you want to use a spell or an item, you can't attack in the meantime. Now, your materia are tied to the face buttons when holding down the left shoulder button and items to B (or Circle), giving you much more flexibility and responsivity in your approach. 

The Digital Mind Wave, Crisis Core’s strange slot machine battle mechanic, has seen extensive work, as well. Its premise is that as you battle, it continues to spin until it lands on a combination, triggering either a limit break, summon, buff, or permanent stat boost. For an ostensibly luck-based system, it’s very generous. If an encounter takes more than a few swings of your sword, you’ll almost certainly see some benefit materialize, whether that’s a short window of no MP cost or a special move to clear the battlefield entirely.

Whereas in the PSP version, DMW routinely interrupts the flow of battle by chucking out your bigger attacks at random, limit breaks and summons are now assigned to button controls to be deployed when you deem fit. The animations are skippable now, which I feel reduced my overall playtime by at least 10%. 

The aesthetic work here has been improved across the board; assets from Remake surface to give a cohesion between the titles and serve to massively upgrade the original visuals. The score has been rerecorded and sounds fantastic.  As well as a re-translated script, the voiceovers have been updated with the Remake cast, which is mostly an improvement. This is home to the one weak link, however, as Zack is pretty hammy and wooden throughout. The performance ends up giving a few pivotal moments a somewhat surreal bent, as the cinematic feel slips into amateur dramatics.

Image via Square Enix

I’d like to have seen a little more being done to modernize the experience outside of combat and visuals though, such as stitching together portions of the map while exploring, rather than going in and out of loading screens, as fast as they are while playing on Series X. 

And if any content should have been trimmed, it’s the mission system. There are exactly 300 of these optional quests, ranging from two to 10 minutes on average. If we split the difference and call it five minutes each, you’ll need around 25 hours to beat them all, which is a fair bit longer than the main quest itself. They’re also where all the best gear is hidden, so you’ll need to interact with them a little to give yourself the upper hand as you progress into the late game. Luckily, Reunion does a good job of signposting where the good stuff is to save you trudging through all of them needlessly.

Bonus points, too, for actually being accessible on modern platforms for the first time in ages. I’m sure that even the most diehard Final Fantasy enthusiasts will have squirmed a little when faced with having to track down ancient hardware for an otherwise ringfenced game.  

Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion Review – The Bottom Line 

Image via Square Enix

Pros

  • Combat lovingly modernised in line with FFVII Remake.
  • Much easier on the eyes than the original.
  • Enough quality of life updates to make you forget this was a PSP game, for the most part.

Cons

  • New voice acting performances can be pretty ropey at times; Zack in particular has a few Wiseau-esque moments 
  • The under-cooked final act still has its issues.
  • There is still entirely too many missions.

Whether you’re a returning player or you’ve had your eye on Crisis Core in the past, Square Enix has delivered again in its ongoing saga of overhauling FFVII for a modern audience.

For better or worse, there are no surprises of the ilk seen in Remake, though I would have happily seen some liberties taken with the events here, even if just to tidy up the game’s finale a little. But given that the PSP version sold considerably less than the OG FFVII the first time around, Reunion will be new enough to most people to generate interest.

So far as remasters go, this is up there with the best of them. Faithful to a fault, gorgeous, and updated just enough to bring a great, if dated, game back into relevance. Conflict resolved. 

[Note: Square Enix provided the copy of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion used for this review. Featured image via Square Enix.]

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Dragon Quest Treasures Review: A Youthful Adventure https://www.gameskinny.com/eglsa/dragon-quest-treasures-review-a-youthful-adventure https://www.gameskinny.com/eglsa/dragon-quest-treasures-review-a-youthful-adventure Tue, 20 Dec 2022 11:04:47 -0500 Jason D'Aprile

Dragon Quest Treasures is an offshoot adventure of Dragon Quest XI, focusing on the child versions of two characters from the much-beloved JRPG. Taking the roles of young aspiring treasure hunting twins, Erik and Mia, Treasures definitely feels aimed at younger players in the same vein as Monster Hunter Stories. It’s bright and colorful and has plenty to do, but it simplifies many of the elements of JRPGs to make it more accessible.

At the start, the twins are aboard a Viking ship where they stumble upon two mysterious magical creatures. Hijinks ensue, they free the creatures, discover magical daggers, and find themselves in a strange floating island chain called Draconia. This series of islands (shaped, of course, like a giant dragon) is chock full of hidden treasures to discover, thus beginning the twin’s quest to become legendary treasure hunters.

The twins encounter other treasure hunting groups to compete with, an array of monsters, and friendly beings who just want to give them quests or sell them stuff. Their hub and base is a central train station island that can reach the other islands, and it's where they horde their loot, hire new monsters to the team, add facilities, and gain access to other side activities. 

Image via Square Enix

As you journey across the islands of Draconia, two activities in particular come to the forefront: treasure hunting and monster recruiting. Treasures plays out entirely in real-time, even the combat, and the landscapes brim with monsters to battle. In a very Pokemon-like move, however, you don't just battle them yourself. Instead, the team of three monsters you’ve recruited and chosen does most of the heavy lifting in combat.

To recruit a monster, you must first use the twin’s sling to hit it with a “buddy” shot, then defeat it in combat. This particular ammo increases the likelihood that particular monster will become friendly (after defeating it) and therefore recruitable back on the base. Combat itself is largely automated. The monsters on your team automatically attack other nearby monsters and are generally much more effective at monster killing than you are. 

The twins play identically and can attack with their dagger or shoot a variety of different ammunition from their sling. Some are spiky balls, others elemental-based attacks. There are healing shots as well, to shoot at your teammates when they’re hurt. The only commands you can issue to your team monsters are "go forward" or "circle around you". 

Each monster also has a special move or ability that can help reach new areas of the map. Slimes, for instance, can bounce you up to a high ledge, and bats can let you glide safely from a high point. Monsters can also help perform super moves with the twins for extra powerful attacks.

Image via Square Enix

The twins can summon a compass to point them in the direction of nearby treasure, too. When you get close enough, each monster provides a magical snapshot clue to the hidden treasure. Each monster’s picture shows the area with the treasure from a different angle, so you’ll have to seek out the right spot by recognizing landmarks like trees or buildings. When you get close enough, the ground glows, so you know exactly where to dig.

You can only carry a limited number of treasures at a time though, ensuring regular trips back to base to unload them. The more treasure you find, the higher your treasure hunter ranking and more money earned. It’s a fun constant form of side-questing to break up the regular combat and exploration. While you’re out adventuring, you can also send other monsters out on their own automated hunting and gathering expeditions. This helps them increase in level outside of direct combat and keep needed supplies incoming.

Each island has several train stations, as well. The main station for each gets unlocked early on, but the others on the island are unlocked through quests. These serve as good waypoints dividing the islands up between lower and higher level monster regions, while preventing overt backtracking through areas you’ve already explored.

The anime visual style of the game looks great, with cartoonishly detailed monsters and some lovely expansive sights to traverse. The soundtrack is very Dragon Quest and fits the world well. 

Dragon Quest Treasures Review – The Bottom Line

Image via Square Enix

Pros

  • Appealingly bright cartoonish graphics.
  • Fun monster catching and treasure hunting gameplay.
  • A variety of large maps to explore.
  • Team, monster-focused combat is distinctive.

Cons

  • Definitely aimed at younger players.
  • Combat is simplistic and can get repetitive.
  • No difference between the two main characters.

Dragon Quest Treasures isn’t a massive 100-hour epic like Dragon Quest XI. The game can still comfortably occupy a couple dozen hours at least. The islands are large and hold plenty of secrets, side quests, and monsters to discover. It’s definitely aimed at younger gamers to get them into JRPGs with its young protagonists, cute graphics, and monster collecting gameplay, but it's fun for all ages. 

[Note: Square Enix provided the copy of Dragon Quest Treasures used for this review. Featured image via Square Enix.]

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Star Ocean: The Divine Force Review — All Yesterday’s Parties https://www.gameskinny.com/kxbne/star-ocean-the-divine-force-review-all-yesterdays-parties https://www.gameskinny.com/kxbne/star-ocean-the-divine-force-review-all-yesterdays-parties Wed, 16 Nov 2022 09:00:01 -0500 Will Borger

Star Ocean: The Divine Force is a standalone game in the grander Star Ocean series, which began back in 1996. It has all the trappings of a classic JRPG and is a charming journey that evokes the PS2 RPGs of yesteryear while bringing the series up to modern JRPG standards.

Despite this being the newest Star Ocean game in a long-running series, you won’t have to be familiar with previous games to understand what’s going on. There are some Easter eggs and references for longtime fans, but if you're new to the franchise, you can jump right in.

The story has a pretty neat concept: Raymond Lawrence (Ray to his friends), a merchant captain with an awful haircut, has just crash-landed on Aster IV, an underdeveloped planet straight out of medieval times. While searching for his crew, he meets Laeticia, princess of the Kingdom of Aucerius, and Albaird, her loyal knight. Both have problems: Laeticia needs to track down a former royal semiomancer — think magic meets technology — to aid her kingdom, and Ray could use a hand locating the rest of his crew and navigating the planet. They quickly decide to team up. 

The Divine Force’s story escalates, of course; what happens on Aster IV has ramifications that stretch far beyond the planet, but the small scale of its opening hours is enjoyable. It lets you get to know the characters and get a feel for the world before thrusting you into the larger plot.

One of the cool things about The Divine Force is that you can choose whether you’d like Ray or Laeticia to be the main character (I picked Ray, for the record). You’ll be able to follow the story just fine either way, but each has segments you won’t get to see if you’re playing as the other that add context and flavor to the overall plot. 

It’s a neat feature that encourages you to replay The Divine Force — the game clocks in at around 30-40 hours, depending on how you play — but there’s no way to carry over your progress from one playthrough to another. If I wanted to play Laeticia, I’d have to start a completely new file, which is kind of a bummer, but tracks with something like Scarlet Nexus, which has a similar setup.

Ultimately, though, that’s not too much of a problem when you’ve got a cast that’s as diverse and fun as the one in The Divine Force. It's a mixture of Aster IV natives and folks from off-planet, and the interplay between the characters and the cultures they represent is pretty fascinating. On one hand, you’ve got a group familiar with androids and interstellar travel; on the other, you’ve got a group that has some surprising technology — thanks to semiomancy — but still mostly fights with swords. This makes for some really fun interactions in which both groups have something to learn from the other.

The characters themselves are often based on archetypes: Albraid is the curmudgeonly knight who takes his duty seriously but cares deeply about the people around him; Laeticia is a proper princess utterly dedicated to her friends and her people; Ray is easygoing and likable but takes his responsibilities to his crew very seriously, and so on.

The characters aren’t wholly original, but they are a lot of fun, and I enjoyed spending time with them in cutscenes, through conversations in the field, and in Private Actions. Private Actions are one-on-one conversations you can trigger with party members while you’re in one of Aster IV’s various towns. It’s here that you’ll learn the most about your compatriots, and it’s fun exploring their quirks and unique personalities outside of the confines of the story.

In one, I learned about Albaird’s insecurities about his youth and his wish to grow up faster to be of more service to Laeticia. In another, Laeticia praised Ray's swordsmanship, and when he admitted to having no idea what he was doing, offered to train him, though she admitted she only knew the basics herself. The Divine Force even lets you choose how your character responds on occasion, leading to different conversations, too.

The only downside to Private Actions is that they can be a little hard to find. While companions are marked on your map when they’re available in a given town, they’re no way to distinguish between a regular conversation and a Private Action. Sometimes you’ll find yourself fast traveling from town to town just to find new ones, which can be a bit of a drag. Still, they’re pretty much always worth it when you track them down.

When you’re not in towns, you’ll spend a lot of your time exploring the world and getting into fights. Thankfully, Star Ocean: The Divine Force has a fantastic combat system. Everything is real-time: you’ll see enemies in the world and fight them in that environment. There’s no separate combat screen or screened-off area. Fighting involves assigning your characterss combat abilities to one of three buttons.

You can assign additional moves in succession to create custom combos and bind other skills to holding one of three buttons, so there’s no shortage of moves available to one. The limit on your abilities is AP; each ability costs AP to use, so managing it in combat is key, though it does return quickly if exhausted. Since you can switch between any of your party members at any time, there’s no shortage of ways to approach combat.

The real trick, though, is D.U.M.A., a little robot that Ray, Laeticia, and crew find early on. D.U.M.A. gives the current character access to the VA Gauge, which opens up a ton of useful abilities. You can shield yourself or allies from damage or use special abilities that heal your party, depending on the character. The best part of D.U.M.A. is its dash attack, which allows you to close distance quickly while dealing damage. Even better is the ability to change directions mid-charge. Doing this at the last second, and hitting an enemy when it can’t see you, will result in a blindside attack.

Nailing blindsides is crucial; landing one will not only stun enemies, but it will also increase your maximum AP, allowing you to land much longer combos, though it will use half your VA Gauge. Getting hit will reduce your maximum AP until it returns to the standard five, though, so you’ll still want to be careful. Combine this with a dodge roll that rewards you for timing your evasions precisely, and you have a system that is constantly engaging and encourages smart play.

The only downside is that using items takes a long time, and you have to stand completely still to do it. In certain situations, where only one party member remains, it can be all but impossible to win since you can’t avoid being hit long enough to heal.

D.U.M.A can also be used to speed up traversal, rocketing you around the map to avoid enemies, find hidden goodies, and collect purple crystals that can be used to level up D.U.M.A. It’s a good thing, too, because The Divine Force’s environments are massive. While they’re largely flat plains, they’re gorgeous, colorful, and fun to explore, just like the towns you’ll find while traversing them. 

Things get a little murkier when it comes to the game’s presentation. The characters often look like dolls, and the lip-syncing is noticeably poor, at least for the English dub. It's not game-breaking, and I often found myself admiring the little touches in the character’s models, such as the way their clothing looks when they run, but it is a bit of a contrast when compared to the game’s gorgeous environments. The sound design, on the other hand, is quite good, with excellent battle and ambient music and hits that sound as meaty as they feel.

The menus are another problem. There are simply too many sub-menus, and everything is just a series of black boxes stacked on top of one another that aren’t labeled as well as they should be. It can often be hard to find what you’re looking for unless you already know where it is or remember the button command that will get you where you need to know.

It's a small nuisance but a bummer when you have to spend so much time in the menus leveling up your characters, building combos, and upgrading your gear. The in-game tutorial menu helps, but I definitely found myself using it more than I’d like.

Star Ocean: The Divine Force Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Loads of charm.
  • Fun characters.
  • An excellent combat system that rewards smart play.

Cons

  • The character models aren't as good as the backgrounds.
  • Menus aren't well laid out.
  • Private Actions can be hard to find.

I didn’t know what to expect the first time I fired up Star Ocean: The Divine Force. I had only passing knowledge of the series from watching a friend play Star Ocean: The Last Force in college and from others talking about how much they loved Til the End of Time. I can’t speak to what playing The Divine Force will feel like to series veterans or how it compares to other games in the series. But I can say that I really enjoyed my time with Star Ocean: The Divine Force; it reminds me of the PS2 JRPGs in the best possible way.

For all its faults, though, Star Ocean: The Divine Force is a relentlessly charming game that reminds me of the best PS2 RPGs. It won’t convert anyone; this is very much a JRPG, albeit a modern one. So if you don’t like the genre, this won’t change your mind. But if you’re looking for a fun romp across the stars, you’ll find The Divine Force to be a journey worth taking.

[Note: Square Enix provided the copy of Star Ocean: The Divine Force used for this review.]

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Valkyrie Elysium Review: So Nier, and Yet So Far https://www.gameskinny.com/jkxew/valkyrie-elysium-review-so-nier-and-yet-so-far https://www.gameskinny.com/jkxew/valkyrie-elysium-review-so-nier-and-yet-so-far Tue, 11 Oct 2022 13:33:02 -0400 Daniel Solomon

You’d be forgiven for not knowing Valkyrie Elysium is the fifth entry in a series. Forgetting the critically-panned freemium mobile effort that surfaced in 2016, this is the first Valkyrie game since Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume on the Nintendo DS almost 14 years ago. It’s also the first to move away from the series' JRPG combat trappings, instead offering a more free-form, character-action game experience. However, this is not the Final Fantasy 7 Remake moment that long-suffering fans of the series may have been hoping for.

You play as the titular Valkyrie, out traveling Midgard to purify lost souls in the wake of Ragnarok. Odin sits weakened on a gilded throne in Asgard, and you're sent to undo this calamity and restore his power, Naruto-running all the while. This quest is given to you because Odin says so, and as a Valkyrie, it's not your lot to question orders. Yours is to go out and fight. And this is much of the central plot shown in Valkyrie Elysium – that, and our protagonist's reckoning with what it means to be human. Stop me if you've heard that before.

The vast majority of your time with Valkyrie Elysium will be spent fighting the hordes of enemies thrown at you; the rest is either walking through a handful of fairly linear maps or watching cutscenes. The combat system is solid and, after you find a rhythm, incredibly satisfying Valkyrie zooms around the battlefield at pace, propelled by a grappling hook-style ability that is sorely underutilized. Your Einherjar, a woefully typical rag-tag bunch of warriors with archetypal, tropey personalities feed into this rhythm.

They function as summonable allies, each with their own elemental affinity that affects your normal attacks. In the instance that you summon Eygon, your lightning pal from pretty much the start of the game, your attacks are also imbued with lightning for the duration of his time on the battlefield alongside you. This helps greatly in exploiting enemy weaknesses, which are handily displayed alongside their health and stamina, as you don’t have to rely solely on your Divine Arts – Valkyrie Elyisum’s equivalent of magic.

Used in tandem, though, you’ll deal out serious damage, and the screen will also quickly fill with all sorts of madness. This, when you’re equipped for the fight, is fantastic.

However – and it’s a pretty big however – the UI for your abilities is ill-considered to the point of negligence. You can only equip up to four spells at any one time, one for each of the face buttons. Consider this against the fact that there are seven types of spells in the game. Five are required to gain an elemental advantage over enemies, one is for functional spells such as healing, and one is an anomalous sixth earth type, which in my playthrough, I didn’t see signposted as a single enemy’s weakness.

The encounters in the back half of the game routinely require that you change up your Divine Art usage  which there is no quick menu for  such as that found in FF7. To switch spells, you pause the game, navigate to your equipment menu, decide which spell you can do without, and then find a replacement from a list ordered neither alphabetically or by type.

You can find yourself doing this every few minutes as the game goes on. It’s exhausting and takes you right out of the flow state that the combat offers when the game isn’t getting in its own way. Some encounters even have enemies of four elemental types, forcing you either to do away with your heal or keep diving back into the equipment screen as you clear out enemies of whichever elements you do have equipped.

This would be less of an issue if there was another reliable means of healing mid-fight, but there’s no currency and, subsequently, no shop in Valkyrie Elysium. Any potions you’re to use must first be found in chests, and you have a limited carry capacity for them. You can carry up to four of the largest healing potion. Four. Any excess you find is left right where they are found, in lieu of a system where overstock is kept in the ether and replenished at checkpoints or between levels. This is to say that Valkyrie herself has some weird pockets, capable of carrying six hefty weapons but only a handful of bottles of juice.

All of these mechanical gripes serve to detract from Elysium's one redeeming feature, which with some minor tweaks, I’d very much welcome being lifted wholesale into a more considered title by developers Soleil in the future. But for a game that offers practically nothing but combat, the lack of considered design around the combat systems, and to be honest, anything else of note, relegates Valkyrie Elysium from the sort of title you’d recommend at a cut-rate price to one you should probably outright avoid.

In an attempt to justify the previous hyperbole, the lack of variety on display is quite easily quantifiable. Valkyrie Elysium’s nine chapters and myriad subquests play out across just five stages, which are reused time and again – much like most of the assets. There are 10 or so enemy archetypes, though they do have variations; the human enemy type that looks lifted out of Demons Souls’ Boletaria can be found carrying a sword, bow, or spear. They've only got one set of clothes, though.

There are no real set pieces to be found, either, which could elevate Valkyrie Elysium significantly. It's just wave after wave after wave. Boss fights repeat ad nauseam, too, with the worst offender turning up on four separate occasions. You won’t get away next time, our party says half-heartedly. But they do get away and will do so again.

This speaks to the half-baked quality of the plot and its delivery. The voice performances are mostly weak and sound like they were met with a resounding “that’ll do” by the recording engineer. The script does them no favors – the Einherjar are painted as sycophantic and servile, despite their initial protests in that classic Hero's Journey fashion. 

The wider writing is often clunky and, infrequently, outright jarring. The worst example by some margin is a reference to “the Goddess of marriage, Frigg herself.” Oof.

It’s notable that Motoi Sakuraba has returned to the conductor’s stand once again, famed for his soundtracks to the earlier Valkyrie games, as well as his Dark Souls score and many, many others. His input here, though, is a largely background affair. If you’ve played anything remotely action or RPG-adjacent over the last 30 years, you’ll have heard any number of similar suites of music before.

There is praise due, however, for how seamlessly the tracks swell and quieten when you go in and out of battles, as the arrangements grow in scope to up the intensity or cut back to allow you a moment’s peace. If only the game took these cues to heart and allowed for some dynamics in an otherwise one-note performance.

Valkyrie Elysium Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • When the fighting clicks, it's superb. 

Cons

  • There's altogether too much combat, to the game's detriment.
  • Unwieldy UI that often breaks the game's pace. 
  • Almost nothing else of note on offer. 

Your arc with Valkyrie Elysium will be entirely determined by your patience for subpar presentation and design, the latter being infinitely more frustrating. A few slight adjustments could salvage the almost-stellar combat from an otherwise forgettable game and make it fairly easy to recommend if you want to switch your brain off and rampage. As it stands, though, your mindless fun is consistently interrupted by systems seemingly built to prevent a flow state, perhaps as a lasting hangover of its JRPG heritage. 

Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you really want to play a character action game now, as opposed to when, say, God of War Ragnarok launches in a few weeks, then I'd still advise against it. Play Nier Automata again instead, which I found myself longing for quite soon into starting Valkyire Elysium. 

As the Weird Machine in Pascal's Village says, "there's an important lesson here: the more of a fool people take you for, the more you'll learn of their true nature." And I can't help but feel the true nature of Valkyrie Elysium is to get firmly in the way of any enjoyment you may take from it.

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The DioField Chronicle Review: For King and Country https://www.gameskinny.com/fjiyx/the-diofield-chronicle-review-for-king-and-country https://www.gameskinny.com/fjiyx/the-diofield-chronicle-review-for-king-and-country Fri, 07 Oct 2022 13:55:57 -0400 Hayes Madsen

The DioField Chronicle is a JRPG that punches above its weight, managing to overcome a clearly constrained budget and presentation to create a wildly unique experience that tackles fascinating narrative themes. There are some notable issues that plague the experience, but The DioField Chronicle has a vision that, for the most part, it manages to fulfill. 

In all regards, DioField isn't your typical JRPG in terms of how the narrative and combat play out. The game takes place on the titular DioField Island, where the ancient Kingdom of Alletain rules with the help of the Granvelle Church. You follow a small group of mercenaries named The Blue Foxes, who go from obscurity to playing a central role in shaping the future of DioField.

DioField's story is pretty heavy on exposition, with much of the narrative told through narrated scenes on the world map or lengthy dialogue sections between characters. The slow narrative presentation, coupled with sluggish pacing and writing, is where many players will likely end up hitting a wall, even if the eventual result has plenty of intrigue and fascinating characters.

Perhaps what's most compelling, however, are the themes of clashing ideals the game toys with. This is a kingdom steeped in tradition and reverence for the establishment, but there's a rising movement for democracy beginning. Your characters are on the side of the monarchy, and DioField superbly juxtaposes the flaws of both governmental systems. It's rare to see a game willing to question ideas in such a dynamic way, and it works to the overall narrative's strength. 

However, combat is where the game shines, using a hybrid of typical JRPG systems and real-time strategy. Each battle takes place on a self-contained map, and you can take up to four units into battle, with each unit accompanied by an adjutant. Characters are split into four different unit types  Soldiers, Cavaliers, Magickers, and Sharpshooters — that all function differently. Within these classes are sub-classes, providing even more variation. 

You move your units around the map in real time but can pause the action to select skills, use items, or select new positions. Skills are dictated by a resource called EP, while you also have powerful Magulimic Orbs that can unleash powerful creature summons. 

Right off the bat, DioField's combat feels wholly unique, and it's a system that encourages both strategy and experimentation. There's a ton of fun to be had in trying out different skills and equipment sets, then seeing how contrasting characters work together. Things shine when maps provide you with unique challenges, like ranged towers that fire at you, or alternate pathways by which to approach enemies. 

Between battles, you'll have a chance to run around the Blue Fox's base and upgrade your army in the process. There are a variety of options for expanding your army, from researching new weapons to upgrading various skills for your units, bestowing them with new power or alternate effects. 

While you can explore the base and talk to characters, it's mostly a static area that never changes across the experience. It's one aspect of DioField that feels as if it could have been something far grander, especially when compared to other strategy RPGs that let you explore dynamic locations, like Garreg Mach Monastery in Fire Emblem: Three Houses

DioField also puts a big emphasis on side quests, and there are a few instances where you're encouraged to grind to meet a level requirement for the next main story quest. It's in these moments that DioField's shtick starts to wear thin. While I love the strategy and variety involved in the core combat experience, the game's map design falters the more sidequests I played. The main missions do a great job of mixing things up, but so many sidequests simply boil down to taking on a bunch of enemies with a real lack of more complex objectives. 

It also feels as if there could be more variation in the presentation in general. While the game's hand-drawn portraits and art are absolutely gorgeous, the character models feel wooden and cold by comparison. At the same time, too much of the story is delivered through static conversations rather than the more active and flashy cutscnes. This same idea also applies to the fantastic score. What's there is great, but there just aren't enough tracks; hearing the exact same music in battle after battle after battle after battle gets old. 

The DioField Chronicle Review  The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Fantastic combat that feels strategic and unique. 
  • Complex and surprisingly ambitious narrative themes.
  • A ton of customization options for your army that encourages experimentation.

Cons

  • Side content doesn't have enough variety.
  • Slow-burn story that relies on exposition dumps.
  • Lackluster presentation that often falls short.

The DioField Chronicle has some fantastic ideas, even if some of them feel a bit underbaked. This could be the foundation of something ambitious for Square Enix, and if another game could build upon the combat system and narrative style found here,  it could really turn into something special.

DioField's story is a tremendous slow burn that might turn people off, but the combat has enough depth and strategy to make up for it. The DioField Chronicle is easily one of the most unique games of the year and a breath of fresh air in the JRPG genre, even for its problems. 

[Note: Square Enix provided the copy of The DioField Chronicle used for this review.]

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Soul Hackers 2 Review: Wrestling with Demons https://www.gameskinny.com/iywg3/soul-hackers-2-review-wrestling-with-demons https://www.gameskinny.com/iywg3/soul-hackers-2-review-wrestling-with-demons Thu, 18 Aug 2022 15:11:00 -0400 Josh Broadwell

In the middle of the 21st century, society has ground to a halt, disenchanted with empty promises of progress where rampant disparity breeds discontent among the masses. This isn’t a commentary on the real world, though Atlus doubtlessly intends it to be. It’s the setup of Soul Hackers 2, an unexpected and, frankly, underutilized spinoff that revises the long-dormant Devil Summoner series, albeit without the “Devil Summoner” name attached. 

If it sounds like Soul Hackers 2 has a bit of an identity crisis going on, that’s because it does. It’s a bold vision for a non-Persona, non-Shin Megami Tensei future with an excellent cast and skillful writing, but it also carries unnecessary baggage from the series’ past and never reaches its full potential.

Soul Hackers 2 Review: Hacked Back to Life

Rival gangs of Devil Summoners operate behind the scenes, keeping society safe in theory but getting up to all manner of shady doings in practice. One group, representing the will of everyone grown tired of society’s stagnation, moves to summon The Great One, who will destroy the world.

The weariness and desire for an end to existence is strongly reminiscent of Persona 3, and that’s part of the problem. The story isn’t particularly unique, not by Shin Megami Tensei standards at least, and it relies on its setting and context to distinguish itself.

Soul Hackers 2 is set in a world where a vast web of artificial intelligence called Aion works behind the scenes, monitoring humanity from a distance and absorbing information in a bid to evolve continuously. Ringo is a physical manifestation of Aion’s collective will and gets sent to the human plane to try and halt the apocalypse.

This is one of the most captivating settings in recent RPGs, but the game also does the least with it. That’s partly down to the pacing. Soul Hackers 2 is surprisingly short  for an RPG at least  and will probably take you about 35 hours to finish if you don’t do much optional content. That’s a bit of a mixed bag. So while the pacing is spectacular as a result, it means there’s hardly any chance to develop the themes, characters, and locations that really deserve more attention.

Sure, Tsuchigumo

What you get is still high quality. Someone at Atlus evidently played and liked Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Ringo and her reluctant band of resurrected malcontents form one of the more interesting casts in the genre thanks to their unorthodox and dysfunctional origins, though unlike Ichiban’s crew, they aren’t exactly the epitome of harmonious cooperation. 

These older, more jaded summoners are wracked with regrets and don’t necessarily want to be together, but thanks to the connection soul hacking has forged between them, they also don’t really have a choice. The clash of ideas and personalities is something you don’t normally see in the genre, and watching them grow, if not closer, then at least less likely to kill each other, is a much more endearing process than I expected.  

Ringo herself is an exceptional and exceptionally well-written protagonist, a significant departure from the silent heroes or stalwart do-gooders that usually headline Atlus games. Aion imbued her with a smart, slick personality, and while she doesn’t shy away from throwing out a sarcastic quip when the occasion calls for it, she’s also intuitive and kind. I didn’t expect a spinoff to produce one of my favorite Atlus characters, but here we are. 

And she’s incredibly fashionable, too, just like the rest of Soul Hackers 2. I’d even go as far as to say it manages to be more stylish than Persona 5 in battle, character design, and especially its gorgeously illustrated shop menus.

It does often feel like style over substance, either. Soul Hackers 2 is less personal than Persona and doesn’t have Shin Megami Tensei’s grand ambitions. It sits somewhere in the middle, weaving together some surprisingly heavy character stories in a city whose blinding lights belie its dark and derelict soul – but the trouble is it never goes deep enough. 

Same

Outside the safehouse, you can spend time with your teammates at the local bar to deepen your Soul Points with them, which slowly pieces together a clearer picture of who they were before Ringo found them and what they want out of their second shot at life. I enjoyed these conversations far more than most Persona social links. They feel natural and, more importantly, aren’t weighed down by gamification.

In most cases, however, they still fall short of letting these characters reach their full potential, mostly because there’s just not enough time for it. I suspect the Soul Matrix is designed to fill in these gaps, but it’s one of Soul Hackers 2’s least developed features. Ringo enters very bland dungeons, witnesses flashes of the person’s past before their murder, and resolves a psychological aberration to help them move on.

The idea sounds great on paper, but it’s mostly just tedious, made worse by the fact that the inner levels of a Soul Matrix are gated behind meeting Soul Point requirements. It ends up feeling like a filler task.

It’s much the same with quests. Some have a surprisingly gripping foundation and bring up facets of life as a summoner that the story never explores. And then the quest never really explores it. Others are just the usual SMT and Persona-style “kill five of these please” quests, which I really wish Atlus would stop making.

Dungeon designs continue trending toward disappointingly bland, despite being set in interesting locations. The introductory one, for example, is set in a grim, bleak dockyard but ends up being a few corridors of shipping containers. SMT started life as a dungeon crawler, and while I appreciate the throwback to the series’ roots, it gets old pretty quickly.

Removing the Press Turn system lets you focus on strategy and ailments to whittle down beefier foes instead of forcing you to desperately exploit weaknesses, but it still feels a bit too familiar. More skills or even different ways to coordinate party attacks, building on the soul hacking concept, would have made a substantial difference in giving this a unique persona. Stacking is a fun feature with strong visual flair, but it’s not quite enough on its own.

The city’s style has tinges of The World Ends With You, while the detective elements feel like something out of RGG Studio’s Judgment games. Then there’s the off-the-wall bits that are entirely Soul Hackers’ own, like the circus where you fuse demons. It’s easily the most original style and set of ideas we’ve seen from SMT in far too long, but the game’s brevity and a few instances of stubbornly clinging to the past mean Soul Hackers 2 never makes the most of any of it.

Soul Hackers 2 Review  The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Intriguing world.
  • Incisive commentary. 
  • Excellent localization and cast.
  • Engaging, if overly familiar, combat.

Cons

  • Overly familiar combat.
  • Dull dungeon design.
  • Pacing means no themes and characters get fully developed.

My biggest takeaway is that it feels tentative, that Soul Hackers 2 is a game with an identity crisis. The core experience is solid enough, but it's evident in places that Atlus perhaps wasn’t sure how daring or differnet to go with Soul Hackers – how to expand the social system, for example, or doubling down on the game’s themes. 

It’s been a long time since we last saw Soul Hackers, and I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait that long again. Soul Hackers 2 may be deeply flawed and perhaps even rushed, but it’s also one of the most ambitious RPGs of 2022. The parts are there for something truly great. Atlus just needs to give it the love and care it deserves.

[Note: Atlus provided the copy of Soul Hackers 2 used for this review.]

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Review: A Journey of a Thousand Miles https://www.gameskinny.com/fcgxq/xenoblade-chronicles-3-review-a-journey-of-a-thousand-miles https://www.gameskinny.com/fcgxq/xenoblade-chronicles-3-review-a-journey-of-a-thousand-miles Mon, 15 Aug 2022 16:00:49 -0400 Peter Hunt Szpytek

Knowing what to say about Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is hard. It's a massive game that I've put about 50 hours into — a raindrop in the ocean of its totality. The weird thing is, with just about any other game, that playtime is generally more than enough time to write a review. Still, I would probably need about another 150 hours to see everything that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has to offer.

That's not to say I haven't devoted myself to becoming a full-blown XC3 expert since launch, but it is an important truth to understand that adds context to this review. There's just a lot here. So, is Xenoblade Chronicles 3 any good? The short answer is yes. The long answer? Well, that's what the rest of the review is for. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 doesn't make the best first impression, but if you're able to muscle through its opening hours full of tutorials, you'll find yourself deeply engrossed in its story, systems, and world, keeping your Switch within arms reach at all times, just in case you end up with a few minutes to play.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Review: A Journey of a Thousand Miles

It takes quite a bit of work to like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 in its early hours. Without exaggeration, the main tutorial lasts roughly seven to 10 hours, easing you into the depths of its systems until your head is entirely underwater.

While it's hardly ideal, I prefer this method of tutorialization as opposed to other games in the genre like Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, which essentially push you into the deep end with little more than a pair of half-inflated floaties in the first two hours. That said, the hours and hours of tutorials XC3 throws your way certainly become taxing, making it tough to feel motivated to play between sessions in the early going.

The studio behind the game, Monolith Soft, knew this, bringing their A-game with the story in its first act. That narrative kept me coming back until XC3's mechanical ideas were fully baked and as delectable as one of Manana's delicious dishes. 

The premise of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is excellent: two warring countries have been fighting for longer than anyone on either side can remember, and three soldiers from both factions are exposed to the potential truth that the war is pointless. From there, the six go on a mission to find real answers to what's happening behind the scenes. On top of that, all people are bred for war, only living for 10 years before dying, so there's a ticking clock for the cast, some of whom are getting quite close to the end, all of which adds a nice level of drama to the mix.

Because I haven't finished Xenoblade Chronicles 3 just yet (remember: there's a lot here — really), I can't say if it sticks the landing on all fronts, but so far, I've seen some incredible character growth from just about the entire main cast that makes each cutscene exciting, simply for the sake of seeing what happens next.

In a recent session, one character has truly accepted the grim ending that awaits them and discusses the fear of being forgotten to time before they inevitably pass on. It's heavy stuff, but XC3 takes its time to make some of its more poignant points. Because of that, they resonate and feel earned; you understand each character's point of view before they start opening up.

The cutscene choreography also brings a cinematic flair to things that was completely unexpected but absolutely lovely. The fights are masterfully animated, and their visuals do a lot of heavy lifting to compensate for the Switch's hardware limitations that often result in low-resolution video.

On top of having excellent choreography, the camera placement is always interesting, making each cutscene feel uniquely handcrafted. While not every scene gets the full treatment, enough of them do, showing a lot of care went into its most emotional moments.

Another notable element is that fully animated and voiced cutscenes aren't a rarity in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Many optional side quests feature cutscenes so spectacular that you'd think they're essential to the main story. Because they aren't, there's always the sense that you're discovering meaningful additional content every time you stray off the main path.

While the story drives much of Xenoblade Chronicles 3's early hours, the combat mechanics ultimately share the spotlight when the training wheels come off. There is a glut of complexity in XC3's combat system, which gives the game a genuinely satisfying loop. Because it's so cooldown-focused and complex, it took me a while to understand just how active combat truly is. Once it clicked, however, I found myself engaging in every fight, completely invested in the combat systems. 

Usually, when a story really hits, I rush to the next beat and skip more of the mechanic-focused sections, but XC3's depth still has me fighting everything I can to get the immediate satisfaction of lining up multiple attacks, performing flashy Talent Arts, and pulling off team-powered Chain Attacks, which temporarily stop the action for what are essentially small math puzzles that deal devastating damage to enemies and bosses alike.

It's unfortunate, then, that the combat can be so obtuse in the early going, despite the hours of tutorials. Only after I watched a video explaining the sheer depth of its mechanics that I understood some of its vaguer elements. Because of that, it's tough to say that I felt adequately prepared by the game itself to face the challenges it had in store. Once it all makes sense, it's a wonderful system, but it's a shame that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is so poor at explaining itself.

Beyond that, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 struggles the most with its presentation. The Switch is pushed to its absolute limit here. Poor textures, low resolutions throughout, and frequent pop-ins could potentially be enough to put players off. It's the thing that makes you wonder what could be if the Switch received any performance upgrade. 

However, not all of Xenoblade Chronicles 3's presentation issues are solely the blame of the Switch's outdated hardware. Incessantly repeating (and irritating) voice lines, stiff character animations outside of proper cutscenes, and the very inclusion of the ever-grating Nopon characters highlight some of the game's rougher edges. While these things aren't precisely dealbreakers thanks to the heights XC3 reaches, they are little annoyances that can quickly stack up.

While the game certainly has its share of presentation issues, that didn't stop me from exploring as much of the open world as I possibly could. The various areas that make up Xenoblade Chronicles 3's Aionios are vast and fully realized, radiating a true sense of place no matter where you are — and all that makes the narrative that much stronger. Likewise, the optional side quests and Hero quests can do a lot to bolster that feeling.

In particular, the optional Hero quests that have you recruit new characters to your team, unlocking new classes and Combat Arts along the way, often feel like essential pieces of the game's story that shouldn't be skipped over. It's always exciting to find quests like these because, while the main story is compelling in its own right, there's something special about finding these missions that add unique elements to your journey.

That's not to say every quest is worth doing; there are some dull fetch quests here and there. It's a little frustrating that there's no real distinction between which quests are filler and which have additional story elements, but it's pretty easy to figure that out quickly and move back to the meatier quests at hand. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Gripping narrative with beautifully animated cutscenes.
  • Solid voice performances from the main cast.
  • Extraordinarily deep combat mechanics.
  • Excellent musical score.
  • Well-realized open world.

Cons

  • Overly long tutorial.
  • Presentation issues.
  • Irritating repeated voice lines.

Ultimately, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a testament to excellent mechanics and good storytelling. Although the depths of both can be overwhelming, especially to newcomers, they overshadow the game's weaker components, some of which could be enough to keep some from playing if they were in a lesser game. I'll put up with Nopons and a boringly simple traversal system if it means I can fight cool, big monsters with flashy team attacks set against a story about how we spend the precious moments of our lives.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is about a world where the dead are honored through emotional remembrance, which is how I'll likely look back on the game for quite some time after its credits roll. There's still so much to experience that I look forward to in the game's vast, sprawling world each time I pick up my Switch.

A recommendation for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 comes pretty easily if you're a fan of previous Xenoblade games or just a fan of JRPGs in general. For others, it's tougher due to its complex mechanics and slow early pacing. Regardless, though there are rough edges, XC3 makes up for it thanks to areas of absolute brilliance, and it's a game well worth experiencing. 

[Note: Nintendo provided the copy of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 used for this review.]

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Live A Live Review: Undercooked Time-Hopping RPG https://www.gameskinny.com/bkwak/live-a-live-review-undercooked-time-hopping-rpg https://www.gameskinny.com/bkwak/live-a-live-review-undercooked-time-hopping-rpg Fri, 29 Jul 2022 16:27:15 -0400 David Restrepo

Originally released in Japan in 1994, Live A Live garnered a cult following due to its non-linear structure — one in which each selectable character is given its own story. The Nintendo Switch HD-2D remake marks the game's first official Western release, which is great news for the JRPG genre. Considering the genre's shaky history with localization, any reintroduction to previously inaccessible titles is always appreciated. It simply means more options for non-native-speaking JRPG fans. 

Unfortunately, Live A Live's haphazard pacing and underdeveloped mechanics make a release that offers too little too late.

Live A Live Review: Undercooked Time-Hopping RPG

Live A Live's central issue resides within the very structure that makes it stand out from others in the genre. You can begin the game as any of the seven playable characters, each featuring their own gimmicks. The prehistoric chapter introduces item synthesis, for example, while the near future one features a protagonist who can read people’s minds.

On paper, the system is a canvas ripe for an expansive JRPG experience of unparalleled scope. In practice, however, it leaves much to be desired; chapters are too short and too self-contained. None of the stories overlap, leaving every character standing on their own. While some decent vignettes exist throughout, Live A Live’s chapters struggle to truly resonate. Ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, there isn’t enough to chew on.

The present-day chapter is one of the most egregious examples. After a brief monologue, you’re presented with a fighter-select screen. From there, you marathon six one-on-one fights with no dialogue outside of intro quips. After defeating everyone in your way, you take on the final boss, which features the chapter's only other cutscene. 

The distant future finds itself on the opposite end of that spectrum. The strife between its stranded crew members leads to genuinely interesting character moments with palpable tension. Unfortunately, the entire section is devoid of combat sans the chapter boss. There is an optional video game console with the chapter's only battles. While they play just like those in the main game, this turn-based distraction doesn't feature any progression, rendering it inconsequential to the grander picture. 

This lack of meaningful progression runs through the majority of a typical playthrough. Gameplay systems, plot threads, and characters are introduced and tossed at the drop of a hat. Any mechanical complexity is made moot by the brevity of each character's individual story. 

 A Climactic Showdown

Of course, there's a reason for all this. In a baffling design decision, the first 80-85% of Live a Live is merely an introduction to the final chapter. An eighth chapter unlocks after completing the levels associated with the first seven characters, and it's just as short as those for the initial cast. After a series of events that we won't spoil, the proper final chapter begins. 

Miraculously, this last act just barely salvages Live A Live. Without delving into specific narrative elements, you select any of the original seven characters as a party leader and recruit the others in preparation for the final battle. You're also given complete freedom in regard to party composition, which plays a role in this chapter's fairly extensive optional content.

This section is filled with optional dungeons that don't offer entry without specific active party members, and its dungeons house some of the most powerful gear for their respective characters. They range from straightforward 10-minute romps to expansive and convoluted mazes, many of which include secret bosses.

It's here, expanding on its RPG elements, that Live a Live becomes genuinely engaging and begins to shine.

But it's all optional content. If you don't care about the secret bosses or completing all of the dungeons, the epilogue boils down to spending 10 minutes recruiting three party members, grabbing a sword from a mountain peak, and heading to the final boss. 

You'll likely spend some time grinding out of necessity; characters have too few progression opportunities in their respective stories. But even then, there isn't much more room for growth. With every character acquiring their final skills at Level 16  which doesn't take long  Live A Live still feels underdeveloped.  

Live A Live or Live A Die

Even if the rest of the game offered the freedom and breadth of optional content present throughout the final act, combat doesn't offer much on the whole. Live A Live's battles take place on a grid, with turn order decided by a meter that fills gradually.

Every action, from activating a skill to orienting a character's position, causes everyone's meter to fill up simultaneously. The system sometimes requires keen spatial awareness with factors to consider, such as enemy speed, range, weaknesses, and resistances, but it never truly deepens. 

At its most difficult — namely during certain optional dungeons  it is satisfying enough to keep you invested. At its worst, it feels like you're on autopilot. The vast majority of Live A Live rarely tests your understanding of its mechanics. Even as late as the ultimate dungeon, spamming the same few AoE or devastating single-target attacks becomes the go-to strategy. With the absence of resource management and no magic points to consider, healing skills can be used without repercussions, and most skills just don't matter. 

Live A Live Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Final chapter opens things up considerably.
  • Some interesting stories and mechanics.

Cons

  • Takes too long to properly begin.
  • All chapters are too short.
  • Most chapters don't have enough combat.
  • Lack of MP management holds battles back.

Even at its best, Live A Live feels like a poorly mixed shot of adrenaline. The vast majority of its runtime is dominated by unremarkable, self-contained narratives and gameplay systems that are discarded as soon as they're introduced. By the time it expands upon its interesting elements, you're already within reach of the end credits. A poorly balanced battle system doesn't help its case either. 

[Note: Nintendo provided the copy of Live A Live used for this review] 

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Three Persona Games Are Making Their Way to PC, Xbox, and PlayStation https://www.gameskinny.com/bz0xz/three-persona-games-are-making-their-way-to-pc-xbox-and-playstation https://www.gameskinny.com/bz0xz/three-persona-games-are-making-their-way-to-pc-xbox-and-playstation Sun, 12 Jun 2022 15:05:23 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Atlus has revealed that Persona 5 Royal, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 3 Portable will be coming to PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, and Game Pass. The announcement was made during the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase as part of Summer Games Fest 2022. An update following the announcement confirms that the games will also come to Playstation. 

Persona 5 Royal will arrive on the platforms on October 21, 2022, with all previously-released DLC. However, Atlus is keeping mum on platform release dates for Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable with "enhanced graphics" at this time, with more news to come in the future.

Persona 5 Royal was released for the PlayStation 4 in October 2019, and we gave it high marks for its story, characters, quality-of-life improvements, localization, and visuals. It regularly makes appearances on many a "best RPG" list. Royal adds new characters to the mix, along with a number of other notable bits and bobs over the base Persona 5. It has previously only been available on PlayStation.

Like Royal to Persona 5, Persona 4 Golden is a souped-up version of Persona 4, which originally launched for the PlayStation 2 in 2008 before making its way to PlayStation Vita in 2012, PS3 in 2014. Interestingly, Golden isn't on modern PlayStation platforms, having only been released on PC in 2020.  

Persona 3 Portable is also currently missing from the modern PlayStation console lineup, having been released for the PlayStation Portable in North America in 2010. It, too, is an enhanced port of 2006's PS2 JRPG, Persona 3.

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New Details Emerge About Ouroboros Pairs in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 https://www.gameskinny.com/5wb2h/new-details-emerge-about-ouroboros-pairs-in-xenoblade-chronicles-3 https://www.gameskinny.com/5wb2h/new-details-emerge-about-ouroboros-pairs-in-xenoblade-chronicles-3 Thu, 21 Apr 2022 18:31:16 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Fresh off announcing a new release date for Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Nintendo has been sharing new information about the game's Interlink System and Ouroboros tag-team pairs. Though we've seen (more of) the upcoming JRPG in action by way of the most recent launch-date trailer, these new bits of information give fans a better idea of how the system works. 

Nintendo describes the Interlink system as an essential part of winning battles in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, where two characters can combine into a powerful Ouroboros giant once specific conditions are met (there's still more on what those conditions are to be shared at a later date). However, the melding of two characters only lasts so long before the Ouroboros "will overheat." 

Some of the tag-team pairs, which will always combine together, have more in-depth descriptions than others so far, but here's what we know from Nintendo of America's Twitter

  • Noah and Mio can combine into a powerful sword-wielding Ouroboros (which Nintendo says is "pretty cool" — and we agree). 
  • Lanz and Sena use their Ouroboros form to protect other characters while in battle. It's mentioned that "they'll be playing both offense and defense in this form," so it won't all be about protection, and we'll have to wait to see what kind of offensive abilities they bring to the battlefield.
  • Eunie and Taion will act as medics while in battle, with "the powerful ability to revive all fallen allies at once." As with Lanz and Sena, it's likely they will bring some other offensive capabilities to the fore, though that's currently unclear.

Originally set to release for Nintendo Switch in September, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will now launch on July 29, the same day as Digimon Survive. A brand-new launch trailer dropped alongside the announcement, and you can see it right over here if you haven't already. Stay tuned for more info in the coming months. 

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Atelier Sophie 2 Review: The Best of Both Worlds https://www.gameskinny.com/dexqe/atelier-sophie-2-review-the-best-of-both-worlds https://www.gameskinny.com/dexqe/atelier-sophie-2-review-the-best-of-both-worlds Thu, 24 Feb 2022 09:00:01 -0500 George Yang

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is a fantastic sequel to 2016’s Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book. It utilizes many of the new mechanics found in more recent Atelier titles while also keeping its own identity within the franchise. It’s surprisingly deep and offers a bright new adventure that builds upon the first game.

It follows Sophie Neuenmuller and Plachta after the events of the previous title. They both get sucked into a mysterious wormhole and find themselves in a new dream world called Erde Wiege. However, while Sophie comes out unscathed, she gets separated from Plachta.

Along Sophie’s journey to find Plachta and return to her hometown of Kirchen Bell, she’ll come across a brand new cast of colorful characters, including another young lady who shares the same name as Plachta, as well as another who looks similar to Sophie herself.

For those who didn’t play the first game, the title screen does offer the option to watch a brief video summary to catch up on the events so far. The first game’s conclusion was rather open and shut, so it was interesting to see how Gust and Koei Tecmo would attempt a sequel. By essentially putting both Sophie and Plachta into a new brand new world and expanding on their existing relationships, the studio really pulled it off — it’s quite the emotional journey.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream Review — The Best of Both Worlds

Atelier Sophie 2 completely overhauls its gameplay and exploration mechanics, making them more closely resemble last year’s Atelier Ryza 2. Like more recent entries in the series, time management isn’t nearly as strict anymore, and not every action moves the clock. The day/night cycle is still here, however, though it really only affects the types of enemies that are out in the field.

Following Ryza's cues, the overworld map is now split into different main areas, with about three sections in each. Sophie also now has different tools used for gathering materials, like a pickaxe, bug net, and fishing rod. For those who played Ryza, this exploration system will feel very familiar as it’s almost exactly the same. By incorporating these mechanics, Sophie 2 is much more streamlined and accessible than previous entries.

One aspect Sophie 2's exploration that separates it from Ryza is the emphasis on weather. Sophie can use an item that changes the weather in a surrounding area. If there’s a bed of water, for example, she can make it rain so that the water level rises. Then she can change the weather to snow, thus freezing the water so she can run across the new bed of ice and reach a treasure chest or access another area. Acting as the puzzle-solving element of the game, it’s pretty satisfying once you figure out how to progress further.

Character events are much easier to find as well. In the first game, players have to go around town and talk with every major character to trigger events. There’s now an icon of the character’s face next to their area, helping save tremendous amounts of time and effort by pinpointing exactly when and where certain events will happen.

Sophie 2 also cuts down the playable character roster by about one-third from the previous game, but that means there’s more emphasis on character development for each party member.

The Apex of Turn-Based Combat

While Sophie 2 feels very similar to the Ryza titles, it manages to carve an identity of its own through its battle system. It actually sticks with the traditional and strict turn-based Atelier combat system rather than transitioning to Ryza’s real-time and turn-based hybrid, the battles in Sophie 2 have much more depth compared to its predecessor.

You split your party members into two groups: the front line, and the backline. Frontline members do the most work in battle with their offensive moves, but backline members do more than just stand around. Before an enemy attack, you have the option to swap out whoever an enemy is targeting with one of your backline members. The member that comes up will take the hit, but at reduced damage, because they join the frontline while blocking. 

But it's not all about defense. These team members also have an offensive maneuver called Twin Attacks. This allows a party member in the frontline to attack with one of their skills, with a backline member immediately following it up with their own, joining the frontline while the other falls to the backline, a tactic especially useful in boss battles. 

Both of these mechanics combine to make an incredibly intuitive battle system that’s fun and snappy, while also including the whole party in each fight.

A Familiar Alchemical Process

Surprisingly, the alchemy system in Sophie 2 doesn’t see many changes from the first game. Rather, it's more streamlined this time around. The main mechanic that separates the Sophie alchemy system from other ones like Ryza is that you can place the ingredients for a recipe in a grid. Each material you collect from the outside world occupies a certain number of blocks in the grid.

When creating items, it’s imperative to try and fit every piece of material into the grid and not have them overlap each other. Overlapping means losing out on item bonuses that the material previously offered.

What’s certainly appreciated this time around is that there’s the option to auto-place the materials onto the grid. It makes the whole alchemy process much faster, eliminating the need to manually place everything one by one. It’s not ideal when you’re trying to maximize the potential of an item, but it’s great if you’re for making items in quick succession to fill out your recipe book.

The new Plachta that Sophie meets in Erde Wiege also gets her own alchemy pot, so you can now choose to synthesize items with either of them. There are certain items that only Sophie can make, and ones that only Plachta can make. It’s an interesting concept that makes sense narratively, but it doesn’t add or detract much from the overall alchemy experience.

A Bright Future for Atelier

The graphics in Atelier Sophie 2 are also much better compared to the first game, with fluid character models and animations standing out. As said in my Blue Reflection: Second Light review, I’m a big fan of Gust’s art style. Here, it’s no different; the 2D art style for the character portraits, main menus, and CGI screenshots are as crisp and clean as ever.

While I do have some gripes, they’re relatively minor. Koei Tecmo doesn’t really provide an English dub for their games anymore, especially for a niche series like Atelier. However, the first Atelier Sophie game does have one, so I was hoping that Sophie 2 would have one as well. Unfortunately, only the Japanese voice track is available. 

Christine Marie Cabanos, who is Sophie’s English voice in the first game, does an absolutely tremendous job capturing the character’s fun, friendly, and airheaded-yet-determined demeanor. It's a huge disappointment that she wasn’t able to reprise her role again for the sequel.

Additionally, there’s no native PlayStation 5 version for Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream, which is strange considering last year’s Atelier Ryza 2 has one. As a result, I played the PlayStation 4 version via backward compatibility for this review. The loading screens were a bit longer than I would have liked, especially on the PS5, whereas Ryza 2 had almost instantaneous transitions between areas. Still, the game runs flawlessly with no crashes on PS5.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Exploration and progression are clearer and more streamlined.
  • The turn-based combat is fun and snappy.
  • Graphics and presentation are very much improved.

Cons

  • No English dub voice track is available.
  • Loading times are a bit longer than expected on PS5.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is a vast improvement over its predecessor. Borrowing exploration elements from the Atelier entries while keeping its traditional turn-based combat system is a great way to help it stand out within its own franchise. On top of that, the battles have more depth than ever before. Sophie Neuenmuller’s new adventure is well worth it for veterans and newcomers alike.

[Note: Koei Tecmo provided the copy of Atelier Sophie 2: Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream used for this review.]

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Edge of Eternity Review: Ambitious But Ultimately Lacking https://www.gameskinny.com/pau6u/edge-of-eternity-review-ambitious-but-ultimately-lacking https://www.gameskinny.com/pau6u/edge-of-eternity-review-ambitious-but-ultimately-lacking Thu, 10 Feb 2022 04:00:01 -0500 Dylan Webb

At this point in my life, I’ve played more JRPGs than I can count. Persona, The Legend of Heroes, Ys, Monster Hunter Stories 2. They're all recent examples that had me hooked. I’m not always as fond of the older classics, though there’s something that remains captivating about them, and that’s what Edge of Eternity seeks to build upon.

A love letter to 90’s JRPGs, Edge of Eternity joins a growing trend of Western-developed genre titles. Developed by French team Midgar Studio – yes, that’s a Final Fantasy 7 reference – it originally launched on PC in June 2021, leaving console owners with a fair wait. It’s a competent effort, though it never captivated me.

Edge of Eternity Review: Ambitious But Ultimately Lacking

Set on an Earth-like planet called Heryon, the world is threatened by an alien army called the Archelites, and that threat quickly turns into a bloody conflict. Unifying Heryon’s nations under a new military alliance called the Consort, humanity quickly fights back. But now the Archelites have released a terrible plague called The Corrosion.

Playing a Consort soldier named Daryon, you're immediately thrown into the deep end, seeing your squadmates killed on the battlefield. Making matters worse, the Consort has been sacrificing their own troops for dark magic, used to fight off the Archelites. Needless to say, there’s some heavy subject matter at play.

As the unit’s lone survivor, Daryon heads home at the urging of their sister, Priestess Selene, after their mother becomes afflicted. Soon enough, you’re setting off to find a Corrosion cure, meeting new allies along the way.

Unfortunately, Edge of Eternity’s story is arguably its weakest element; it’s not especially original. That wouldn’t be an issue except the cast isn't that likable either. It's a feeling that does improve over time, but honestly, if I wasn’t reviewing it, I would have quit at the opening act. Between cringeworthy dialogue and a poor sense of humor, I didn’t feel inclined to stick around.

It was only once I began exploring the world that Edge of Eternity truly felt alive. For a small development team, there’s a surprisingly large 30-hour campaign here. If you’re going beyond the main story for side missions, that playtime could potentially double. Between killing beasts for Heyrs (currency), some minor puzzle solving, or oddities like the unusually direct “open 100 chests for this reward” side mission, there’s decent variety here.

That’s helped by some pleasant environmental design, which is finely detailed, colorful, and quite inviting. I just wish Midgar Studio put this much effort into the character models. You can see one of them in the screenshot above for reference and quite frankly, they don’t look right. It’s off-putting. Greater effort has been placed into the main cast, but some NPCs look absolutely dire.

Aside from the breadth of the campaign and nice environmental design, Edge of Eternity draws strength from its combat, which harkens to Final Fantasy’s Active Time Battle system. Much like it is represented there, each combatant has a timed bar that determines their turn order. Once it's an ally’s turn, you can choose between standard physical attacks, magical attacks with an MP cost, retreating, or drawing upon items.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t deviate much from the RPG standard. Enemies each have strengths, weaknesses, and other elemental resistances, so exploiting them effectively for bonus damage is critical for success. Interestingly, those stats are further affected by the local environment’s weather, meaning you’ll need to pay close attention to your surroundings.

Winning fights awards EXP, leveling up your party members and their equipped weapon. Once sufficiently leveled, crystals – often found in treasure chests and rewards for winning fights – can be attached to weapons, boosting your stats and/or granting new magic abilities in combat. There’s versatility in that, letting you tailor combat with relative freedom.

Admittedly, none of that is anything particularly new, though combat does employ a unique movement system. Characters move across a honeycomb-shaped grid and when an enemy’s planning an attack, your segment is clearly highlighted as being at risk. It’s a nice layer of strategy, though not hugely in-depth and annoyingly, moving uses up your turn.

Edge of Eternity Review – The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Active Time Battles are well implemented.
  • Lovely environmental design.
  • Plenty of content.
  • Old-school RPG fans will enjoy it.

Cons

  • Character models are questionable.
  • Story struggles to maintain interest.
  • Lacks polish.
  • Execution doesn’t match the ambition.

Edge of Eternity has heart and Midgar Studio should be proud of what they’ve achieved for a small indie team. I just wish I liked it more. Thanks to an uninspiring story, lack of overall polish, and some uneven visuals, the final product simply can’t match the developer’s ambitions, making this a hard game to recommend.

If you’re curious to dive in, there’s still plenty to like. With a versatile combat system, colorful environmental design, entertaining side content, and old-school design, JRPG fans may find something to enjoy here. It’s on Game Pass at launch, so if you’re playing on PC or Xbox, you could always dip in that way, but otherwise, you’d be better off looking elsewhere.

[Note: Midgar Studio provided the copy of Edge of Eternity used for this review.]

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Shin Megami Tensei V: Choose Lilim or Principality? https://www.gameskinny.com/jd6xt/shin-megami-tensei-v-choose-lilim-or-principality https://www.gameskinny.com/jd6xt/shin-megami-tensei-v-choose-lilim-or-principality Tue, 16 Nov 2021 13:16:27 -0500 Josh Broadwell

If you’re wondering whether to pick Lilim or Principality in Shin Megami Tensei V, take heart. The choice here is easier than it was in Minato when you chose between Apsaras and Leanan Sidhe, and you have a chance to recruit one of the demons almost immediately after.

Still, there’s a clear winner if you only take time to join with one of the demons, and it’ll make a big difference in your upcoming boss fight.

Choose Lilith or Principality in SMT V?

Depending on how you explore, you’ll likely run into Lilith first. There’s a group of them behind the destroyed train tracks near the Container Yard, and the leader tells you they want to visit the human world. Not for nefarious reasons, mind — at least, that’s what they say. If you want to help the Lilim, you’ll need to track down Principality in the Container Yard a little ways further on.

Once you get there, Principality gives you the chance to help them instead by defeating the Lilim who are surely up to no good.

As with the first such quest, choosing one bars you from picking the other. The Shinegawa boss uses dark and ice magic, which Principality and Lilim are weak to, respectively, but your choice actually matters a bit less here than you might expect.

Recruit Principality in SMT V

We recommend siding with Principality and defeating the Lilim for a few reasons. Lilim has two weaknesses, light and ice, which are easier to exploit than Principality’s sole weakness to dark. Once you reach the Fairy Village, you’ll run into Lilim up in the hills anyway and can recruit her then. Principality’s multi-target light spell will also be a big boon in the near future.

It’s a good idea to do so as well. Lilim eventually learns Dark Resist, which you can pass on to another demon via fusion. If you obtain the Lilim essence, you can also remove the Nahobino’s natural weakness to dark, which we strongly recommend doing before the Shinegawa boss fight.

That’s all you need to know about whether to choose Lilim or Principality in SMT V, but make sure to check out our other Shin Megami Tensei V guides for more tips.

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Shin Megami Tensei V: Where to Find Mitama Guide https://www.gameskinny.com/ymhn9/shin-megami-tensei-v-where-to-find-mitama-guide https://www.gameskinny.com/ymhn9/shin-megami-tensei-v-where-to-find-mitama-guide Tue, 16 Nov 2021 13:12:53 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Mitama in Shin Megami Tensei V are rare demons quick to flee from battle, but if you manage to take them down, you're in for some of the best rewards in the game. Finding them is part of the challenge, though once you know where to look, you can return and farm them at will. 

SMT V Mitama Drops

Each Mitama type drops a rare item or two, and defeating them also rewards you with a sizeable amount of experience.

  • Ara Mitama drop (Red): Grimoire, gives demon enough experience to level up
  • Nigi Mitama drop (Blue): Glory Crystals
  • Saki Mitama drop (Yellow): Rare relics, sell to Gustave for Macca
  • Kushi Mitama drop (Gold): Gospels, raises the Nahobino’s level by one

SMT V Mitama Weakness

The thing about Mitama is they have no set weakness. You could fight five different Ara Mitama consecutively, or even two in the same battle, and they’ll each have a different weakness.

If you’re going Mitama farming, make sure to take several spyglasses with you. Have the tool mastery Miracle unlocked as well, so your demons can use items. It gives you a better chance of taking down more than one Mitama in battle.

When you’ve found the weakness, it usually just takes one hit to defeat the Mitama.

Mitama Locations in SMT V

You can find Mitama in a few ways, though randomness governs most of them. There’s a small chance a Mitama will spawn in random battles and a greater chance one will turn up in an ambush battle at an investigation spot. These are the least favorable for you since the enemy almost always goes first.

Mitama run away immediately, or even worse if the enemy party has more foes, they cast Debilitate to lower your stats and then leave.

Some Mitama also spawn at certain points on the map. This isn’t an exhaustive list, as we’re still hunting them down, but here’s where to start looking.

Mitama locations in Minato

Ara Mitama locations

  • Onarimon

Kushi Mitama locations

  • None that I’ve found

Nigi Mitama locations

  • Kamiyacho, on the roof near a cluster of Magatsuhi

Saki Mitama locations

  • A little ways west of the Mita leyline fount

Mitama locations in Shinagawa 

Ara Mitama locations

  • Lurking near the ruins west of the Fairy Village
  • On a rooftop northeast of the Konan 2nd Block leyline fount
  • Sometimes, one spawns on the bridge over the Fairy Village

Kushi Mitama locations

  • A ruined building in Tennozu near the far northern edge of the map

Nigi Mitama locations

  • On the train tracks in the Container Yard area
  • On a hill in South Shinegawa

Saki Mitama locations

Shinegawa Pier. Follow the climbing blocks in the southwest part of the map and take the path around.

Mitama locations in Chiyoda

Ara Mitama locations

  • Under the bridge near Sukibayashi leyline. Hua Po wander around here, so you’ll know you’re in the right place.
  • Ochanomizu, southwest of the Kanda leyline fount. Hua Po also call here home

Kushi Mitama locations

  • North of Akihabara leyline fount on the rooftop

Nigi Mitama locations

Didn’t find any roaming the map in Chiyoda

Saki Mitama locations

  • Southeast of Mansei Bridge leyline fount

Mitama Farming in SMT V

It’s worth noting that Mitama won’t appear every time in these locations. If that’s the case, or if you lose a battle, head back to the nearest leyline fount, travel away, and come back. This usually gets demons to respawn, which increases your chance of finding Mitama.

Chiyoda is a fairly small and open region, and I had the easiest time farming Mitama there, or at least, Mitama that aren’t Nigi Mitama. 

That’s it for our SMT V Mitama guide, but check out our other Shin Megami Tensei V guides for more tips and tricks.

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Blue Reflection: Second Light Review — A Magical Girl Summer https://www.gameskinny.com/w15r7/blue-reflection-second-light-review-a-magical-girl-summer https://www.gameskinny.com/w15r7/blue-reflection-second-light-review-a-magical-girl-summer Mon, 08 Nov 2021 18:00:01 -0500 George Yang

Gust has always been a niche Japanese developer but also one of my favorites. When the first Blue Reflection launched in 2017, its interesting angle with a modern Sailor Moon-esque aesthetic and style captivated me. It was the developer’s shot at something a bit different than its flagship Atelier series.

I thought the Blue Reflection was a decent game, especially for a new IP. When Blue Reflection: Second Light was announced, I was excited because Gust has a particular knack for making good sequels, such as Atelier Ryza 2. 

Blue Reflection: Second Light is no exception.

Blue Reflection: Second Light Review — A Magical Girl Summer

Second Light introduces a new protagonist, Ao Hoshizaki, who wakes up in her school with only a few other girls that she has no memory of. She finds her school surrounded by a vast, endless ocean and can’t recall why she’s there, or what even happened to the school in the first place. She seeks answers to those questions on a journey to return home.

Throughout Second Light, Hoshizaki meets other school girls who also have no prior memories of their arrival. Like the first Blue Reflection, you take these girls out on friendly dates to learn more about their interests and personalities. It essentially works very much like Social Links from the Persona series. 

Dates also give the girls Talent Points (TP) to spend on learning new skills and abilities for battle. After each date, you receive a Fragment with a passive battle effect, which characters can equip. This creates a great gameplay incentive to learn more about the various characters.

While Second Light’s plot can be enjoyed on its own, you'll enjoy it much more if you played the first game; it also helps to watch the 24-episode Blue Reflection Ray anime series that acts as a prequel to Second Light. The first game’s protagonist, Hinako, returns as a playable party member and a few of the characters from Ray are playable here too. 

Out With the Old, in With the New

Second Light makes some big changes to its battle system to set it more in line with Gust's recent Atelier games. The first Blue Reflection is strictly turn-based, but Second Light is a real-time turn-based hybrid; it's very similar to Atelier Ryza. Both your party and enemies travel across a timeline, and the longer you wait in the timeline, the more Ether you accumulate, allowing you to perform stronger attacks.

As you unleash more attacks, your character's “Gear” level increases, letting them cross the timeline and build up Ether faster. Once a character reaches Gear Level 3, she transforms into a Reflector, gaining a new outfit and expanded combat abilities. As long as you keep attacking, you’ll also increase the Combo count, which multiplies your damage output as it gets higher.

This revamped hybrid battle system is more engaging, but the new one-on-one aspect holds it back. When a character breaks through an enemy’s defenses and induces the “Knock Down” effect, the character enters a one-on-one fight. You have four options in these encounters: Attack, Support, Dodge, and Counter. Attacking, Dodging, and Countering are all self-explanatory, of course, while Support allows you to buff your stats.

When the enemy attacks, you can either hit the Dodge or Counter button to avoid damage if you time it right. The problem is that timing these inputs is strict, to say the least. When your enemy’s icon crosses the white line in the timeline, it will attack, but such small windows adversely impact the flow of combat.

More and More Like Atelier

Another big change is in exploration, which again brings it more in line with the Atelier series. In Blue Reflection, players explore Common, which has four different types of environments, but this time around, players explore Heartscapes. Each Heartscape typically has 2-3 zones within it, which are manifestations of certain characters’ emotions, fitting around them like smaller versions of Persona 5's Palaces.

Second Light also places a lot more emphasis on item creation, just like Atelier. By gathering materials, you can create items to use during battle, as well as structures to decorate the school.

These structures can range from a shooting range to a flower bed. Each has a passive effect like increasing the party’s defensive capabilities by 10% or raising the material drop rate from defeating enemies by 5%. Additionally, these structures can be upgraded with more materials to heighten these passive effects even further.

Many of the blueprints for these structures come from side quests that the characters assign you. The structures also act as new Date spots for the characters too, unlocking more cutscenes and opportunities to earn more Talent Points.

Unfortunately, not every new addition lands. While the stealth mechanic — where you crouch to see the enemy line of sight and perform special attacks when attacking from behind — is fine by itself, some parts of Second Light rely on it exclusively. During these stealth missions, you can’t attack enemies at all. If you get spotted, you’ll have to start again from the very beginning of the area.

A Step in the Right Direction 

A change that's certainly a step in the right direction is the toned-down sexualization of the girls in Second Light. In the first game, many cutscenes show the girls in undergarments, and when it rains, you can see through their white school uniforms. It's really creepy and uncomfortable, especially considering they're minors. In Second Light, that's basically absent. 

The game’s PlayStation 4 version performs great on PlayStation 5 via backward compatibility, and Gust’s clean and crisp art style really shines through.

Whereas the first Blue Reflection was somewhat held back given it was also released on PlayStation Vita, Second Light shows the height this series can achieve in terms of graphics and animations. Each character has a distinctive mouth shape and the way they move their eyes convey a lot of emotion during cutscenes.

The piano-laden, calm, and serene soundtrack is a delight to listen to as well.

It's unfortunate that there is no English dub for Second Light; only the Japanese voice track was available for review. The first Blue Reflection doesn't have one either, but English voice acting would help immerse players who don’t understand Japanese, or would just like a second option.

Like many Japanese voiceover-only JRPGs, there are quips and lines that the characters say during a battle that aren’t actually subtitled. I felt like I was missing out on some flavor because I didn’t know what the characters were saying when they executed their attacks.

Blue Reflection: Second Light — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • The revamped battle system is engaging
  • Environmental variety, fantastic music, great presentation
  • Removal of weird and uncomfortable sexualization of minors present in the first game 

Cons

  • Annoying stealth mission mechanics 
  • Need to play the first Blue Reflection and watch the prequel anime series for the full context 
  • No English voice track


Blue Reflection: Second Light is an improvement from the first game on almost all fronts. The revamped battle system and the cast of characters are incredibly captivating. While there are some new features I don't completely jive with, I enjoyed my time with the game.

For anyone who wants to take on the role of a magical girl protecting the world from evil monsters, Second Light is well worth it.

[Note: Koei Tecmo provided the copy of Blue Reflection: Second Light used for this review.]

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Astria Ascending Review: Failed Ascent https://www.gameskinny.com/goinl/astria-ascending-review-failed-ascent https://www.gameskinny.com/goinl/astria-ascending-review-failed-ascent Tue, 05 Oct 2021 16:58:56 -0400 Josh Broadwell

It’s a day like any other, until the Migmies arrive. Noise plagues the Orchard, disrupting Harmony, so the Demi-Gods, outcast Peyska in tow, rush to the scene to restore order. Only then can the fish people swim, the bird people fly, and the cycle of death continue.

This is Astria Ascending, an RPG with as much tonal whiplash as the end of the previous paragraph and enough proper nouns to make Robert Jordan blush. Artisan Studios’ newest RPG is creative but underdeveloped. It's ambitious even while its own inspirations hold it back.

Astria Ascending Review: Failed Ascent

Astria Ascending topples the usual RPG narrative from the start. Nations choose Demi-Gods, heroes with unique abilities, to fight the Noise every few years and maintain the balance of Harmony. Harmony is a convenient plot device and little more, but the interesting part is how Astria handles the heroes. 

Being the chosen one is literally being marked for death. New ones rise up every three years because the old ones die at the close of the cycle. Instead of journeying across the world and assembling a party of heroes, your established group of dead-heroes-walking takes on multiple tasks in each of five regions to try and unravel a dark web of mysteries encasing the world.

It’s an intriguing setup for the first 10 minutes, but there’s a sense of having a well-defined main idea and giving less time or attention to the important pieces that connect it.

Most of Astria’s inhabitants have little to say, and wordy, awkward writing hounds conversations between party members. That’s off-putting in itself. Add dozens of unnecessary comments from party members who just have to pipe up and no option to skip through dialogue, and it’s downright obnoxious.

It’s not the only obnoxious thing in Astria. The cast is probably the least likable group of characters I’ve ever seen; it’s almost like they go out of their way to make you loathe them.

Astria is billed as a “mature” take on the genre, though its approach to heavy subject matter and character development never extends beyond general angst. The Demi-Gods divide themselves into cliques, argue frequently, and are generally unpleasant, as you might expect from a group of people pushed unwillingly to their own deaths. 

I hoped that might change throughout the story, that the heroes might adopt new and different views about their fate and even see some meaningful changes in their relationships. I hoped in vain.

Character and even world development remain shallow throughout, which does little to help the feeling of missed opportunity and just leaves you with a group of bitter people being snarky to each other.

They’re also unrepentantly racist. The Peyskas are aquatic people who wear fish bowls and apparently attract the unbridled racism of everyone around them. They smell, the food they eat is atrocious, they’re lazy, untrustworthy, unintelligent — whatever goes wrong in the world, the Peyskas are to blame.

If Astria Ascending lived up to its promised maturity and actually did something with this or took a stance, that might redeem it slightly. Instead, it passes the behavior off as friendly banter, something the Peyskas and Peyska party members should just take in stride.

Once the dialogue (finally) stops, you’ll explore some exquisitely drawn environments across Astria’s five themed regions, though the execution falls flat here as well.

Astria pulls from multiple sources for its combat system, but the result is, well… one that’s obviously trying to be like other games. There’s a skill tree, but the skills are mostly pointless stat enhancements. You can fire a magic ring to stun enemies in the field, as in Tales of the Abyss, but there’s no real need to.

Each character belongs to a specific class with (theoretically) unique abilities, though it’s difficult to see the distinctions as anything other than arbitrary. There’s no reason to have a summoner, sorcerer, and scholar when they all fill the same role and even have overlapping skills. Battle itself uses a fairly standard turn-based system revolving around the Focus gimmick. 

The party and enemies have their own Focus meters, and you can spend some Focus to charge attacks. It regenerates in abundance if you exploit the enemy’s weakness, and you can bulldoze through most battles just by spamming Focus. Astria shoves you into so many fights, and I’d have liked an extra layer to keep things interesting. Balancing Focus gets old before the first dungeon ends.

Astria Ascending Review  The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Lovely art style
  • The foundations of an interesting story that goes against the grain

Cons

  • Combat is too simple
  • Class and skill systems are unnecessary convoluted
  • Flat writing and characterization
  • Worldbuilding never expands beyond the initial setup
  • Overreliance on fantasy tropes
  • Someone please think of the Peyskas

Astria Ascending wants to be so many things, and perhaps that’s part of the problem. Instead of trying to be mature or recognizable, it should focus on its unique qualities and develop them into something interesting.

Whatever the case, it’s difficult to recommend Astria Ascending. There are dozens of other RPGs to give your time and money to, but if you’re curious about this one anyway, I’d strongly suggest waiting for a sale.

[Note: Dear Villagers provided the copy of Astria Ascending for the purpose of this review.]

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Square Enix Announces Final Fantasy Origin Release Date https://www.gameskinny.com/mvkaf/square-enix-announces-final-fantasy-origin-release-date https://www.gameskinny.com/mvkaf/square-enix-announces-final-fantasy-origin-release-date Fri, 01 Oct 2021 18:55:12 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Stranger of Paradise, Square Enix's reimagining of the original Final Fantasy, debuted during E3 2021, and now we finally have a Final Fantasy Origin release date. Final Fantasy Origin releases March 18, 2022, for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via the Epic Games Store, Square Enix announced as part of its Tokyo Game Show 2021 presentation.

Final Fantasy Origin is compatible with Smart Delivery on Xbox systems, and those who purchase it on PS4 can download a free upgrade for the game on PS5.

Square Enix is also offering a digital deluxe edition of Final Fantasy Origin that includes a digital mini-soundtrack and DLC missions available in a season pass for $89.99. Finally, anyone who pre-orders the digital deluxe or standard digital versions gets access to the game three days before launch, along with in-game items such as weapons.

If you need a taste of Chaos in your life before that, there's a new Final Fantasy Origin demo available for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. This one includes multiplayer support and is available through October 11.

While the original demo and trailer focused exclusively on the Chaos Shrine, the newest Final Fantasy Origin trailer shows off a lush jungle environment, barren cliffs presumably affected by the imbalance in the crystals, and much more polished graphics compared to the E3 trailer.

There's also a technologically advanced area, and while that seems out of place for the original Final Fantasy, anyone who's played Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Episode Yuffie likely won't think twice about Tetsuya Nomura playing by his own narrative rules once again.

Jack and co. team up with Neon at the behest of the king to investigate the darkness plaguing the crystals, but there's a key difference to the Final Fantasy narrative this time. Jack himself is Garland, the knight of darkness in the original game.

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How to Get Beast Mane in Tales of Arise https://www.gameskinny.com/vkps6/how-to-get-beast-mane-in-tales-of-arise https://www.gameskinny.com/vkps6/how-to-get-beast-mane-in-tales-of-arise Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:39:44 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Tales of Arise Beast Mane is a rare monster drop you’ll use for weapon crafting. Getting it takes a bit of patience, and not just because it’s rare.

Alphen’s Gale Wing sword unlocks long before you get access to Beast Mane, and there's not much else you need it for afterward. Here's where to find Beast Mane in Tales of Arise.

Tales of Arise: How to Get Beast Mane

Beast Mane comes from the Ice Wolf Leader zeugle in Cyslodia and Alpha Withered Wolves in Mahag Saar, but it’s the first one you want.

Alphen’s Gale Wing sword becomes available once you enter Cyslodia, but there’s no way you can get Beast Mane until entering Rudhir Forest, after Messia 224 (and the Hard Liquor quest).

The Ice Wolf Leader fight is a scripted encounter that triggers towards the forest’s Cysloden exit. You’ll know it’s close because the “mysterious light” that restores your HP and CP appears next to the merchant.

The Ice Wolf is weak to fire, naturally, so make sure you’ve got at least one Arte on Alphen with a corresponding Blazing Sword move. Toggle Shionne’s AI if you need her to cast Burning Strike more often. If the risk/reward nature of Alphen’s Blazing Sword moves puts you too far into the danger zone, consider switching characters and playing as Shionne instead.

Her perk and Ignis Celestra attacks deal heavy elemental damage without sacrificing any HP in the process.

You’ll also need Hard Bone and Razer-Tipped Feather to craft Gale Wing. You should have plenty of Hard Bone from the Calaglia zeugles, but Razer-Tipped Feathers only come from hawks on the White Silver Plain.

Gale Wing’s biggest bonus at this point is its boost to Alphen’s strength, but its wind attribute is a handy boon once you arrive in Elde Menancia, the earth realm, as well. Any other Beast Mane you acquire from Withered Wolves have no use. Gale Wind’s refined forms don’t use Beast Mane, so feel free to sell them for extra Gald.

That’s all you need to know about Tales of Arise Beast Mane, but make sure to check out our other Tales of Arise guides for more tips.

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Tales of Arise Bizarre Megacore Location https://www.gameskinny.com/igi4t/tales-of-arise-bizarre-megacore-location https://www.gameskinny.com/igi4t/tales-of-arise-bizarre-megacore-location Tue, 14 Sep 2021 10:08:40 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Tales of Arise Bizarre Megacore is one of many weapon upgrade materials. Like most, there’s not a whole lot to go on if you’re trying to find out which enemies drop them — unless you’re up for a long round of trial and error experimentation. Fortunately, you don’t have to be. Our Tales of Arise Bizarre Megacore guide points you in exactly the right direction.

Tales of Arise Bizarre Megacore Location

You’ll find beasts that could drop Bizarre Megacore in almost every area of Elde Menancia, minus Viscent and the palace, and some enemies in Cyslodia’s waterway.

  • Granilem (the golems on Traslida Highway and in the quarry)
  • Earthen Mass (Traslida Highway, Tietal Plain)
  • Forest Roper (Gilanne Woodland)
  • Ooze (Underground Waterway)
  • Creepzilla (Adan Lake, Mobile Fortress Gradia - this is a zeugle with invisibility powers)
  • Tempestuous Mass (Aqfotle Hills)

Tales of Arise Bizarre Megacore Farm

The Ooze monsters and Forest Ropers are the easiest ways to farm Bizarre Megacore just because there's so many of them. Ooze are all over the Underground Waterway, while Forest Ropers pop up around shining light in Gilanne Wood, just before the boss area.

The problem is, as ever, actually getting enemies to drop it. You’ll get the chain tutorial after arriving on Traslida Highway, so chain fights together until the meter turns blue. That’s your sign that rarer items will likely drop and in greater numbers. You can also use Happy Bottles to increase the likelihood of better drops.

If you’re farming these in Menancia, make sure to prioritize weapons with wind affinity or, at the very least, weapons that don’t have earth or water affinity. It’s no spoiler to say in the land of earth Astral Energy, you’re going to encounter enemies and bosses wielding earth.

Likewise, if you’re in Mahag Saar, prioritize fire gear, since fire trounces wind in the Tales elemental hierarchy.

That’s it for how to get Tales of Arise Bizarre Megacore, but make sure to check out our other Tales of Arise guides, including where to find all the owls.

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