Saturday, April 02, 2016

What a difference a vacation makes (or, impressions of the Bravely Second demo, Final Fantasy Explorers, Return to PopoloCrois, Witch & Hero II, Yo-Kai Watch and more)

I don't know how many of you noticed, but I haven't played too many games over the last few months.

That wasn't because of anything negative or dramatic, mind you. Mainly, it was because I just "wasn't in the mood."

You know how it is sometimes, I'm sure. Thanks to trying to fit a whole bunch of things into a single day or week--my day job, freelance gigs, maintaining this blog, making dinner, exercise and more--I had a hard time mustering the energy and even the interest required to properly dive into any of the many games that are hidden throughout my house at the moment.

All of the above came to a halt when my husband and I went to California for vacation a couple of weeks ago. While there, I spent a surprising amount of time playing the handful of games (and demos) name-checked above and detailed below.

I've played each of the following for more than three hours so far, by the way--well, with the exception of the Project X Zone 2 demo, which I blew through it about 45 minutes.

Bravely Second (demo)--To be completely honest, I dreaded starting this demo. Online impressions of the Japanese and European versions of the full game left me assuming it would pale in comparison to its mostly awesome (in my humble opinion, of course) precursor. Although that may prove to be the case after I tackle the retail release, this demo currently has me in good spirits. It's gorgeous as all get-out, naturally, but that's just the icing on the case as far as I'm concerned. Far more important to me is that the characters are likable and the battles are just as engaging as they were in Bravely Default.

Final Fantasy Explorers--Here's another game I didn't expect to enjoy. I put an hour or two into its Japanese demo ages ago and walked away from it thinking it was little better than ho-hum. Still, I bought a physical copy of the North American release basically to prove to the powers that be at Square Enix there are plenty of people who'd like them to localize their 3DS titles for Western markets. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself having a blast with this Monster Hunter wannabe (although Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles wannabe might be a more accurate description). I can see how its gameplay could become stale over time, but for now I like its focus on fetch quests, its varied environments and its nostalgia-satisfying selection of enemies.

Project X Zone 2: Brave New World (demo)--Of all the games and demos I've spent time with in the last few weeks, Project X Zone 2 was the most disappointing. By far. That's not to say I hated every one of the 45 or so minutes I put into it, mind you. Actually, I found its fight scenes to be pretty thrilling--if far from "deep." They weren't enough to make me want to track down a boxed (or even digital) copy, though. Project X Zone 2's ridiculous wordiness has something to do with that, I'm sure, as does the confusing nature of its battles. (Yes, the latter are exhilarating, but only to a point--mainly because they feel very random and button-mashy.)

Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale--This is the first of all the titles mentioned here that I stuck into my trusty 3DS while traveling to California. Curiously, I liked it so much early on that I thought I'd play little else during my trip. In reality, I gave three hours to it, found it "nice enough" (far from great, in other words) and then moved on to something else. (Final Fantasy Explorers was next up, I believe.) Don't worry, I'll circle back to it soon, and I plan to finish it at some point. Still, I'd be lying if I said it's blown me away up to now. I'm not entirely sure why that is, though I have a feeling its rather dull battles are largely to blame. Here's hoping things pick up in that regard after I return to it.

Witch & Hero 2--Although I put about two hours into the Japanese version of this game in the days following its release, I felt a little out of sorts during that time. I guess the new gameplay "hook"--you can move the witch as well as the hero in the sequel--really threw me for a loop at first. Thankfully, I've felt a lot more comfortable while making my way through the first 26 or so stages of the North American iteration. Being able to control both characters is a nice addition, by the way, as are the new tunes, locales and baddies. What isn't so nice is that, after the Witch & Hero II's tough opening salvo, the journey veers toward cakewalk territory.

Yo-Kai Watch--I've looked forward to playing Level-5's Pokémon competitor in a language I fully understand since the first game hit the streets of Japan back in 2013. Because of that, I fully expected the final, localized product to let me down. Guess what? It hasn't. Yo-Kai Watch is as charming as can be--from its setting, to its soundtrack, to its characters (including the titular ghoulies), to its battles. The latter really have me by the short and curlies right now, I've got to say--even though the associated micro-games probably make me look silly during my morning and afternoon commutes. The side-eyes are worth it, though, because the just-mentioned mini-games add some much-needed zip to an RPG component that's more often than not bored me in recent years.

See also: all of my 'Shall We Do It?' posts

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Let's ogle some Japanese PS4 and Vita box art

OK, so not all of the PS4 and Vita box covers that can be seen below are all that recent. In fact, two of them are kind of old. Still, I'm including them in this post because I didn't want it to include just three or four pieces of art.

Caligula (Vita)--This may be my favorite of the bunch. Why? The color scheme--black, purple, pink, red and white--is the main reason for that, although I'm also pretty fond of the illustration, the layout and even the rather simple logo.

I can't say I know a ton about the game itself, although I believe it's supposed to be some sort of Persona spinoff. Which sounds cool to me--as long as it's a high-quality (or at least medium-quality) spinoff.

Cladun Sengoku (Vita)--When this game was revealed, I was surprisingly uninterested. I say surprisingly because I'm a big fan of the two Cladun titles that were made and released for the PSP a few years ago. A third entry set in Japan's Sengoku period, though, doesn't really appeal to me.

Or so I thought. I mean, I can't say I'm all hot and bothered about this Cladun sequel's setting now, but I'm intrigued enough by it that I'm seriously considering picking up a copy of this game in the coming months. (The only reason I haven't already pre-ordered it is that I'm waiting to see if someone localizes it for a North American release.)

Coven and the Labyrinth of Refrain (Vita)--I've got to be honest here: I don't completely love this particular piece of cover art. Oh, it's nice enough overall, and I like the soft, cool colors it showcases. The layout's kind of awkward, though, don't you think?

Still, I decided to include it here because: a) I like its flowery, Etrian Odyssey-esque logo and b) I like the little I've seen of its gameplay.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)--Am I itching to play Square Enix's next mainline Final Fantasy title? Not really, to be completely honest. Granted, I haven't been all that interested in the company's main moneymaker for years, and although I think Final Fantasy XV looks grand--literally and figuratively--I don't see myself running out and buying a PS4 later this year just so I can experience it. Stranger things have happened, though, so who knows? Maybe I'll have a change of heart between now and then.

In the meantime, I'll gladly ogle the game's Japanese box art, which adeptly conveys the "epic road trip" that seems serve as the backbone of this particular Final Fantasy adventure. I'm also enamored with Final Fantasy XV's "Deluxe Edition" box art. How about you?

Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator (PS4)--No one's ever going to accuse me of bring a fighting-game nut. In fact, I haven't been into fighters since Street Fighter II's glory days. Still, I know--and like--a good cover illustration when I see one, and I'd definitely call Revelator's cover illustration "good" (if not "great").

I especially like the inventive use of color on display in this piece of box art, by the way. In fact, I'd say that's its main selling point.

Republique (PS4)--I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I know nothing about this game aside from its name. I'm going to do my best to educate myself about it in the next few days, though, as I like its cover imagery enough that I'd buy it if its gameplay is compelling and it won't cost me an arm and a leg to add to my collection.

Rose to Tasogare Kojo (Vita)--I'm already rubbing my hands together in anticipation of this upcoming Vita title arriving on my doorstep. That's mostly due to its htoL#NiQ-ish gameplay, of course, but owning a game box that looks as slick as this one's does is more than a minor factor.

You know what kills me, though? In the past, a game like this would come with a similarly stellar instruction manual. Today, we'll be luck to get a single piece of paper that explains its controls. Oh, well.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pixelated service announcement: Witch & Hero II is now available in both Japan and North America

If you own a Japanese or a North American 3DS system and you've got $4 to spare, you could do far worse than go to your region's eShop and buy a copy of Circle Entertainment's Witch & Hero II. (Side note for folks who have Australian or European 3DS systems: the game is set to hit your eShop in April.)

You may remember that I was (and still am) a big fan of the first Witch & Hero. In fact, it was one of my favorite games of 2013.

As a result, I've eagerly anticipated this follow-up, which is both more of the same as well as a breath of fresh air.

I'll explain why that is in a post that'll be published in a couple of days. For the time being, just know that I've already plopped nearly three hours into the North American version Witch & Hero II (after putting about two hours in the Japanese release) and I expect I'll devote at least three or four more to it before all is said and done.

After all, I played the original Witch & Hero for just over seven hours, and this sequel seems to have quite a bit more content.

Speaking of the original, if you've never played it, I'd highly recommend picking up that--it's also $3.99, although it's often on sale for less than that--before you tackle Witch & Hero II. The first game serves as a nice introduction to the series (imagine that!), plus I think some folks might be a bit overwhelmed by jumping straight into the second entry.

Are any of you similarly ardent fans of the Witch & Hero series? If so, feel free to share the love in the comments section that follows.

Also, if any of you know the name of the person who created the brilliant piece of art showcased above, please let me know. Developer Flyhigh Works shared it via Twitter a couple of days ago, but I couldn't suss out who's responsible for it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Nippon Ichi Software just announced what appears to be a Half-Minute Hero rip-off for Vita, and I'm more than OK with it

After all, it's not like Marvelous, the maker of the Half-Minute Hero games, seems all that interested in continuing the series. So why not let the folks at Nippon Ichi Software, who have shown a similarly deft touch when dealing with quirky, sprite-centric titles, have a go at it?

This is assuming the just-announced Vita game, whose title apparently translates to something like World’s Longest 5 Minutes, actually is some sort of Half-Minute Hero rip-off or clone. At the moment, all we have to go by is its name and the image of what appears to be its pixelated protagonist that's placed front and center on its teaser site.

It's quite possible, of course, that the final product won't be a clone of the series that's called Yūsha Sanjū in Japan. Even if that's the case, though, I have a feeling I'll be interested enough in World’s Longest 5 Minutes to want to pick up a copy of it at some point down the line.

Actually, I might want to pick up a copy of it at launch. I'll probably hold off on that a bit, though, as you never know--some brave company may decide to bring it to North America. All bets are off in that regard, though, if World’s Longest 5 Minutes winds up with great cover art.

How about all of you? Are any of you intrigued by this game, which will be released in Japan on July 28, despite the fact that you don't know a whole lot about it? Or do you need to see it in action--or at least see a screenshot or two--before you can make that kind of decision? Share your thoughts one way or another in the comments section below.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The decision has been made: I'm getting a New 3DS (instead of a pink OG 3DS)

Actually, I already bought it. On Saturday. It won't be in my hands until late this week or early next, though, so I've got plenty of time to decide which of my six (yes, you read that correctly) cover plates I'll attach to this shiny new handheld first.

Don't take this to mean I'll never acquire the "pearl pink" OG 3DS I've pined for since that color was first announced, by the way. A part of me thinks I'll still buy one at some point--and possibly sooner rather than later.

Who knows, though? Maybe I'll fall head over heels in love with my New 3DS once it's in my hands and that will kill my interest in the OG variety once and for all.

Some of you may be wondering why I'm unsure if I'll love the New 3DS that's on its way to me.

After all, I bought a Japanese version of the system late last year. (Read about it in my post, "As I've always said, you can't have too many Animal Crossing-themed things or 3DS systems.")

The thing is, I've yet to actually use that system. Which, I realize, is completely ridiculous. Perhaps even insane. Rest assured I didn't purchase it to let it sit in a box. Truth be told, I'm terrified I'll screw up the process of transferring all of the games and saves from my gold Pokémon Center 3DS LL to my Japanese New 3DS, and that is what has kept me from playing the latter.

Thankfully, moving everything from my "flame red" OG 3DS to my North American New 3DS should go a long way toward helping me put those fears to rest. Assuming it does, I'll finally be able to put some of the Japanese 3DS games I've picked up over the last few months through their paces, as the saying goes.

In the meantime, do any of you own a New 3DS system? What do you think of it, if so?