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Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs for PC (Steam) (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

September 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” is a game with great immersion, dark overtones and compelling story.

“Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” is under the copyright of The Chinese Room/Frictional Games. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

TYPE OF GAME: First-Person Horror Adventure

PLATFORM: Steam

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: STEAM PC GAME

DEVELOPER: The Chinese Room

PUBLISHER: Frictional Games

RELEASE DATE: September 10, 2013

This world is a Machine. A Machine for Pigs. Fit only for the slaughtering of Pigs. From the creators of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Dear Esther comes a new first-person horror game that will drag you to the depths of greed, power and madness. It will bury its snout into your ribs and it will eat your heart.

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The depth-delving, horror survival is back in new form with ‘Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” a standalone developed by creators of the art game ,”Dear Esther” and horror mod, “Korsakovia”, The Chinese Room. As well as being produced by the creators of the original, “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” Frictional Games, The Chinese Room takes a different approach in ‘Machine for Pigs’ with the same Amnesia feel, but streamlined mechanics such as no inventory, sanity meter, and less interaction with objects in game, bringing more of the focus on the story, adventure and overall experience.

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In the same spirit of the first, you play Mandus who has been out for three months and now has amnesia after contracting a terrible illness. Much of the story there after is on delving into the depths to uncover what dark secrets lie beneath and how these dark secrets came to fruition being led by visions, voice boxes with a familiar voice, and journal pages scattered among the different levels.

With much of the mechanics from Dark Descent left out in Machine for Pigs the emphasis on story and experience is apparent when playing. Instead of managing inventory or adding more oil to your lantern the focus is shifted towards progressing in the story line and immersion. While those who favored Dark Descent’s mechanics may feel as if they received the short end of the stick, I felt that the story and immersion focus paid off overall.

While I was still spooked by Dark Descent’s immersion, “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” seemed to leave more of an impact with much of the game streamlined in comparison to the first. The creak of floorboards or phantom copies of kids darting past areas in the game left me panicked and cautious to what may lie across the long stretch of hallway.

As a result of the streamlined mechanics, much of the puzzles held much less depth than the first. This gave much of the puzzles a ‘put square block into square hole’ feel and much of the confusion was short lived. Since much of the games items and objects are nailed down and can not be interacted with this left the one item needed to continue stick out like a sore thumb in most cases.

Regardless of focus, “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” still has monsters about just as in the first that spells certain death if you find yourself cornered with one. While in “Dark Descent”, much of your time is spent finding hiding spots or planning ways of escape from monsters.

In “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” however most monsters are duped by running away since the most hiding spots you have are limited to hiding under tables or pipes. I find myself more in favor of the original way of dealing with monsters, but the slight difference doesn’t seem like a ‘make or break it’ in this regard.

Levels in the game are more dynamic than the first, from a mansion, to an industrial nightmare, to the calming yet unsettling streets of London. The changes to environment was nice part of “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” because it was enjoyable to have a change of scenery every once and a while in game and appealing to the eyes.

Story is of medium difficulty to follow, much of the story is grasped through the journal pages and putting two and three or four together is needed to grasp the entire picture. Much of the back story is also covered in the journal pages and explain the how and why of all that is happening. Voice boxes help to lead the character through the story and give direction to each objective.

Overall, I felt the story was done well and the tales told through the pages were well enough just as in the first.

 

 

Controls are mostly pointing, clicking and dragging to interact with everything in the game.

Which is better, keyboard or controller pad?

The controls are simple enough that it leaves the decision to personal preference. “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” features full controller support so those who favor controller pad are all set.

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Graphics for “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” were better and smooth looking and were aesthetically pleasing. Items and environment were clear cut with no apparent eyes sore graphical errors. At the start of the game you have a prompt to set brightness to a level to be able to see all within the game. Details on pipes, gauges, and various metalwork was done well with rivets and stats done in detail. Horror elements such as blood and bodies are clear in their distinction and add to the ‘scariness’ of the game. Cut scenes did not appear to be much different from the actual game and just made you lose control of your character during the various sequences.

Sound is also done well no discrepancies and I recommend using headphones for a immersion focused experience. Musical scores are also done incredibly well with appropriate lyrics and genre used. The most interesting of the scores plays to the tune “God Save the Queen” backwards and provides a haunting feeling as the main lyric sung is “Kyrie Eleison” or “Lord have Mercy”. Ambient sounds were done well in immersing the player in the game whether it is the whistle of steam through pipes, creaks of the floorboard, or cries of monsters from below.

 

 

“Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of replay value except for achievements. Since the story is a large focus after you know the entire story you don’t have more reason than that to play it more than once.

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I feel that “Machine for Pigs” did Amnesia justice with immersion and story focus.

Game play is definitely not for anyone such as kids to play due to some visually graphic horror parts of the game and the depressing and very dark parts of the story.

While much of the mechanics and intricacies that some may favor are left out, I was still satisfied overall with the game.

As a final judgement call, I’d say if you are a fan of the “Amnesia” games to give the game a try, much of the feeling from carried over and left it to be an enjoyable horror experience.

“Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs” is a game with great immersion, dark overtones and compelling story warrants a four out of five stars.

PROS:

+ Story focused

+ Immersion heavy

+ Dark overarching story line

NEGATIVES:

– Veterans of Amnesia may find streamlining unfavorable

– Puzzles and other mechanics oversimplified as a result

 

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Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate for the PlayStation 3 (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

September 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” is the best “Dead or Alive” fighting game made so far! While I do recommend the latest incarnation of this game, its list of improvements over last year’s “Dead or Alive 5” is not groundbreaking and the fact that DOA5 owners can’t upgrade to DOA5 Ultimate via DLC is unfortunate.  But if you area DOA fan, “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” is an enjoyable game and I definitely recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2013 TECMO. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate

TYPE OF GAME: Fighting

PLATFORM: Sony PS3 and XBOX 360

PSN DOWNLOAD SIZE: 6GB (two files need to be downloaded)

DEVELOPER: Team Ninja

COMPANY: Tecmo

RATED: M for MATURE

RELEASE DATE: September 3, 2013

DEAD OR ALIVE 5 ULTIMATE heightens the signature DOA fighting style with the inclusion of new modes from DOA5 Plus, dynamic new stages, and deadly new fighters to deliver the ultimate in fighting entertainment. Players will take on the roles of their favorite DEAD OR ALIVE fighters – as well as combatants new to the franchise – in an intense, action-packed brawler set in visually striking locations from around the world. The famed DOA hand-to-hand combat is enhanced with new content that extends the experience. Along with a rich array of single-player modes including story mode, DEAD OR ALIVE 5 ULTIMATE offers online options with arcade-style matches, tournaments, and social features making it the most definitive DEAD OR ALIVE experience to date.

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In 2012, the release of “Dead or Alive 5” was highly anticipated as it had been 15-years since the release of “Dead or Alive” to be followed by “Dead or Alive 5+” for the PlayStation Vita.  But a year later after the release of the first game,  “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” for the PS3 and XBOX 360 has now arrived and not only is it a much better game than the original, it features five additional characters plus enhanced tag team mode and more!

DEAD OR ALIVE HISTORY

Dead or Alive, the 3D fighting video game flagship title from Tecmo and developers Team Ninja has continued to go strong since its introduction back in 1996 when it was first introduced in the arcades and on consoles such as the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation.

Inspired with fighting gameplay similar to AM2’s “Virtua Fighter”, the games would emphasize on fighting mechanics, combos, air-juggles and most importantly, it’s countering system.

During the first game’s initial release, “Dead or Alive” was best known for its characters including Ryu Hayabusa from Tecmo’s “Ninja Gaiden” video game series, the series would also be known for its sexy female fighters and their bouncing breasts. While controversial at the time (note: There were other Japanese fighting games that incorporated the bouncing breasts), it would become the trademark of the series and to be less offensive, “Dead or Alive” would have a clever setting in the options to set an age of a person in order to give less or more bounce. The game would lead to a remixed version and allowed people to open up many unlockable costumes for the characters including remixed stage design and new characters.

“Dead or Alive” would introduce people to Kasumi and her half-sister Ayane, both are rivals. And for Ayane, she despises Kasumi for becoming a traitor to her own clan. While Kasumi, harbors no ill feelings towards her sister. The game would also introduce players to professional wrestler Bass Armstrong and his strict upbringing of his daughter Tina, who would follow in his footsteps.

The original plot of “Dead or Alive” would revolve around the first Dead or Alive Tournament and its main protagonist would be Raidou, Ayane’s biological father and the uncle to Kasumi. It is revealed that Raidou raped Kasumi’s mother Ayame, and Ayane was the daughter from the rape. In the first “Dead or Alive”, Kasumi was the winner of the tournament as she killed her father. It was revealed that Bayman would kill DOATEC chairmen, Fame Douglas and that Bayman was working for Donovan.

By 2000, with the release of “Dead or Alive 2”, Tecmo would introduce interactive stages and also showcase tag team mode. Released for the Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2, another remake of the game titled “DOA2: Hardcore” was released and would be an update over its more inferior Dreamcast version and the game . But the second game would receive one more tweak in 2004 along with the Sega Saturn version of the first game which was released on the XBOX with the title “Dead or Alive Ultimate” featuring a new character named Hitomi and also online mode.

The plot for “Dead or Alive 2” would feature a storyline of the chaos that had taken place in the world since the death of Fame Douglas, the sponsor of the “Dead or Alive” World Combat Championship. And now a new person who is corrupt and evil has announced the “Dead or Alive Championship 2” tournament.

The main antagonist would be Dr. Victor Donovan who is responsible for the death of Fame Douglas. As the later of DOATEC’s anti-Douglas faction and head of the Development Department, he created a state-of-the-art military fortress where Project Alpha and Omegas were developed. For Project Alpha, he created a Kasumi Clone (who would be one of the bosses) known as Kasumi Alpha. But also featured is the evil Tengu who has escaped from the Tengu World into the human world to create chaos and rule the world.

In 2003, the third “Dead or Alive 3” would be released as an XBOX exclusive was a minor update from “Dead or Alive 2” but featured longer counters and less emphasis on juggling combos. The game would also introduced four new characters.

The plot of “Dead or Alive 3” features the aftermath of Ryu Hayabusa stopping Tengu, but the Tengu of Destruction lead to a dense cloud covering the whole planet in darkness. The corporation known as DOATEC has lead to the development of Omega Project: Project Alpha and Project Epsilon, courtesy of Dr. Victor Donovan.

Victor plans to create a superhuman known as Omega, based on Genra, leader of the Hajin Mon ninja clan and foster father of Ayane. Meanwhile, Dr. Donovan kidnaps Fame Douglas’ daughter, Helena (who would inherit the position to become DOATEC’s new chairperson). Helena is challenged by Donovan to win the third DOA tournament in order to gain her freedom. Bayman seeks revenge for Donovan for using him to assassinate Fame Douglas. It is also revealed that Hayate, brother of Kasumi and Ayane was subjected to experiments by Donovan for his Project Epsilon and that Project Omega, was an augmentation of Ayane’s foster father Genra into becoming the ultimate DOA fighter known as Omega.

In 2005, “Dead or Alive 4” was released for the XBOX 360. The game would feature 22 characters (including new characters Kokoro, Eliot and Lisa plus an unlockable character, “SPARTAN-458” from the “HALO” series) and feature six game modes including “DOA Online”. All moves were updated and tweaked and also become the first main series game to be rated M for Mature.

The game would feature Helena becoming the new DOATEC chairperson, while Donovan was working Kasumi clones for DOATEC as part of Project Alpha, a project to create the perfect fighter. The original Kasumi clone known as Kasumi Alpha has now been turned into the evil Alpha-152, the ultimate DOA fighter.

Which lead us to…

DEAD OR ALIVE 5

“Dead or Alive 5” is the first DOA game to be released via multi-platform since the second game back in 1999. Developed by Team Ninja minus “Dead or Alive” creator Tomonobu Itagaki, the new game would be directed by Yohei Shmbori.

The fighting game would feature 25 characters. 18 characters from the “Dead or Alive” universe and would introduce new characters Rig and Mila but also feature Gen Fu and Alpha 152 as unlockable characters. The video game will also feature three major characters from AM2’s popular “Virtua Fighter” fighting video game series, Akira Yuki, Sarah Bryant and Pai Chan.

The story of “Dead or Alive 5” takes place two years since the last “Dead or Alive 4” tournament. Despite the destruction of the DOATEC TriTower HQ, despite the dissoution of the DOATEC Biotechnology Division and the Projects Alpha, Epsilon and Omega that Dr. Victor Donovan had control of and most importantly despite Helena now being the chairperson of DOATEC, it appears that someone is still working on those projects. Who are these individuals?

Meanwhile, Helena plans to hold the fifth Dead or Alive tournament, hosted by Zack, in honor of the rebuilding of a new DOATEC.

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Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate

For “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate”, the game now adds five more characters which include “Virtua Fighter” character Jacky, “Ninja Gaiden” characters Momoji and Rachel and “Dead or Alive 4” characters Leon and Ein.

The story remains the same as “Dead or Alive 5” which is one major storyline and you can’t choose which character to play but you get to experience all fighters.  But that is where arcade mode comes in and one can play solo or play Tag Team.  While there is no upgrading from “Dead or Alive 5” to “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate”, the game does reuse your save, so you don’t have to play storymode or try to unlock every clothing item again. In fact, the last game ofered 114 costumes iwth the game, “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” will come with 231 costumes.  Players will need to compete and win to unlock the entire section.

Ultimate also offers more in terms of character animations especially in Tag Team (Arcade), pair Hitomi and Leifang, Lisa Hamilton (or her wrestling luchadora persona “La Mariposa”) or Tina Armstrong, Ayane or Eliot, there are opening and ending sequences that allow interaction, otherwise pair people who don’t match or have no relationship and only the character that you played, actually does the speaking while the other just stands there.

There is a more intuitive training mode, for those who want to learn all the moves for the characters but also the inclusion of “Power Launcher” for juggle combos.  Online mode also adds Team Battle and a slight variation of trophies in which 50% of them should be quite easy for most people to achieve, while the other 50% requires more time spent online (such as fight 1,000 matches) and on training mode (complete everyone move which is difficult).

But the biggest addition and for those who want to try the game is “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters”.  A free download (a little over 3GB) which allows people to play four characters: Kasumi, Ayane, Hayabusa and Hayate and the option to pay and download additional characters.  While you can pay to own more characters, you’ll save money in the long run by purchasing the entire game (there are two download files available on PSN which include the Core Fighters and the DOA5 Ultimate which is about 6GB and can be need to be downloaded on PSN).

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Gameplay modes are a slightly different this time around for “Dead or Alive 5”.

STORY MODE:

Story mode is no longer playing a single player for their storyline. Now, it features a chronicle story mode that features every character and duration of this storymode takes about 4 hours. In the beginning, you can select two types of modes for casual gamers or those who are very good at fighting games.

As for the story, while the main story focuses on the Dead or Alive 5 tournament, there is also an underlying story of someone continuing the project of Donovan. Other storylines revolve around one wanting to win the tournament or wanting to find someone and fight them.

While each character’s storyline tend to have a connection with others. Story mode features anywhere around three matches or more with each character. There are missions that optionally can be played that requires you to pull of a move 1-3 times (which gets more difficult as you progress). Missions include, throwing someone while in crouch mode three times or blocking a hit three times.

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FIGHTING MODES:

ARCADE MODE: Arcade is a mode where you can play a character and take on other characters. By beating the game with that character, you unlock new costumes and titles.  There is Solo or Tag Team mode.  The latter which is the best to use if you want to unlock one character’s clothing easily.    During your match on arcade mode, the game will also alert you if someone had sent you a challenge/throw down (a blue symbol on the bottom right corner) or a chance to level up by going against a competitor online (via red symbol on the bottom right).  You can turn the throw down alerts off for either solo or tag team modes if needed.

VERSUS MODE: You choose who you want to fight.  Fight with a friend via solo or tag, up to four people can play.

TIME ATTACK MODE: How many characters can you beat in the shortest amount of time.

SURVIVAL MODE: Fight as many characters per stage (10 characters per stage). If you lose, game over.

TRAINING MODE: With a lot of moves, you can utilize the training mode to not only learn moves but open achievements.  Ultimate now includes free training, command training, tutorial and combo challenge.

ONLINE MODE: You can fight against anyone around the world via a simple match which you can start fighting immediately, a ranked match, lobby match and enable spectator mode to chat with other players.

Online training mode now offers 2 vs. 2 tag mode.  Players can also battle in ranked tag matches in order to become #1 in the world rankings.  Separate from solo matches, in tag matches Grade Points (GP) are earned for both team members with each win counting as two toward unlockable costumes.

DOA players can now attain the new “Prize Fighter” ranking.  Four different ranks can be earned by winning consecutive ranked matches: Bronze Fighter, Silver Fighter, Gold Fighter and Platinum Fighter.  Prize Fighters can earn extra Grade Points with wins and those who defeat another Prize Fighter receive a GP bonus.  Grade Points have been updated to now allow for players to earn up to Grade U from S+.  Bonus GP’s are rewarded when fighters move to the next grade level.

Also added to online competition is “Character Points” (CP) which displays a player’s skill level with each character.  With the inclusion of CP, players can check if they are using their best character and see where they place in the world ranking.

Tecmo also made improvements to online mode enhance gameplay and provides a smoother experience regardless of a player’s network connection and also cutting search times to find opponents ranked matches and unranked throw downs.

EXTRAS:  Now on Ultimate, one can be a spectator and watch a matchup online, take photos for your album, watch accessed movies from story mode or arcade, see your fight record and assign title(s) for your character during online matchups.

 

 

Controls are similar to previous “Dead or Alive” games. One button to hit, grab or throw a character. The game does include a power attack if you are under 50% health and knock them out (or into) a danger zone (and fall to another part of the stage). But there is a cliffhanger event, in which a character grabs on to an object on the stage before falling out and use it to activate an action sequence.

The game also utilizes a new critical system, such as critical stuns, critical combos and critical bursts. Which definitely affects gameplay and one needing to think quickly of how they would counter if a critical move is performed.

Overall, controls for a character in “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” are quite smooth during gameplay. I was pretty impressed of how responsive the characters were. The more difficult holds takes a while to get down especially the critical system, but the tutorial mode will help you through that.

During Online Mode, most matches went very well, surprisingly I did not have any significant lag of the many games I have played both DOA5 and DOA5 Ultimate, very few matches in which I had any experience with lag.

 

 

The graphics for “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” is fantastic! There is a lot of detail in the character models. This is the best I have ever seen of Kasumi, Ayane, Hayate, Tina, Zack and others. When you fight, the characters get grimy and dirty, they also sweat and you can easily see the drips of sweat through their skin or falling towards the floor.

The stage design is also excellent and pleasing to look at. I felt that previous games including “Dead or Alive 4″ felt too repetitive when it came to the arenas. But this time around, with the interactivity of an area and how detail many stages loo, I was very impressed!

If I have to be nitpicky when it comes to graphics, it would be for some of the text in story mode. Even playing on a 51” 1080p TV, the grunge typeface used for the text was a bit difficult to read at times.

As for audio, “Dead or Alive 5” sounds great!

Audio is crystal clear and you can easily change the audio to Japanese or English. Dialogue is easily understandable and while I am used to the Japanese voicework, which is awesome! The English dub is very good. So, fore those wondering if Tecmo provides both vocal soundtracks, they do!

As for sound effects and ambiance, some states are more immersive than others.  Especially one stage that involves tanks and artillery being shot out.

Audio in story mode is crystal clear and for the most part, dialogue and music are also very good.

“Dead or Alive” games are known for replay value, due to the amount of costumes given for each character. For completionists, not only will they be playing “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” for long periods of time to get all clothing or titles but even the trophies/achievements which one requires one to play up to a 1,000 matches or the new training sections which require quite a bit of a challenge to learn various moves.  But because of the online competition, one will want to play the game over and over to master a character or characters in the game, so replay value for “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” is high!

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Having had a chance to play both “Dead or Alive 5” and “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate”, the latest game in the series is much better than its predecessor.  But not a whole lot?

The additional characters, stages and songs are a major plus and they have beefed up the training mode considerably and you get the Power Launcher move in which people can do more juggling combo attacks.  But “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” also introduces players who just want to test the game thanks to its free Core Fighters release on PSN.

With that being said, as a new game and not a game that could have been updated via DLC, previous “Dead or Alive 5” players have to purchase “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” and can’t just pay to download the additional characters.  “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” is a more enjoyable game with better fight mechanics over “Dead or Alive 5” but previous owners will have to repurchase the game.

With the incorporation of “Virtua Fighter” characters, one would hope Tecmo Koei will someday add accessory or clothing customization.  While it’s great to have these unlockable costumes and some that need to be purchased online (which are mostly bikinis and Christmas outfits), people are going to want to see more if they are going to have to repurchase the game for another $39.99.  Other upgraded versions of other games did not cost as much and with the fighting game genre so competitive, you really need to stand out.  And I believe clothing and accessory customization and more than five characters would be a welcomed by fans.

As a long time fan of the series, one who has put a ton of hours into this series since the game has first came out, “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” is the best DOA game made so far! From the look of the characters, how smooth they play and the learning curve to learn other critical moves is impressive!

As a big Helena, Ayane and Kasumi fan, I simply love the gameplay and how I was able to to chain combos and after getting beat after a string of hits, being able to counter right back and just barely win. And it’s one thing to be able to be excited about how smooth the game plays during offline mode, but then going online and taking on many people and seeing how smooth gameplay was online with these characters, I was very pleased!

And on the topic of characters, I love the fact that “Virtua Fighter” characters and “Ninja Gaiden” characters have been added.  I’m still waiting for the “Dynasty Warriors” and “Fist of the Northstar” characters hopefully show up but Koei definitely has a characters they can tap into and bring to the DOA universe but also room for many new characters to be created as well!

And let’s discuss the stages. When “Dead or Alive 3” was released, it definitely broke new ground with the multiple level within a level scenery and with “Dead or Alive 4”, while the scenes looked amazingly beautiful on the XBOX 360, for me, the stages were very good and improved in graphics tremendously. But with “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” (and DOA5), I love how different the interactive arena’s were. Some levels could take a good amount of beating or certain move to really knock someone out to another level. Nothing is too easy, you need to learn those stages where as previous games, you pretty much knew that if you can sidestep and knock a character to a certain direction, they were going to fall.  But the cliffhanger moves definitely bring some excitement to the stages. But this time around, you really need to figure out the arenas and how to take advantage of the surrounding environments.

Graphically, I love the detail of the stages and how the lighting effects were done. I felt the arena’s in tandem with the beautiful character designs really made “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” such a visually stunning game. Audio was also well-done!

And as the game is visually stunning and gameplay is the best so far in a DOA game, for those who did care about the story of the series, Team Ninja, went all out in crafting a storyline that is much more easier to understand and makes sense than prior games.

To tell you the truth, past “Dead or Alive” games were getting near “King of Fighters” status in terms of storyline forgetfulness. But this time around, because of how the story mode was presented, you know what is going down with each character. And there are some twists and turns in the storyline that make you wonder who is truly “dead or alive”.  Is the story much more coherent after playing Story Mode?  Well, this is “Dead or Alive” afterall.

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So, the big question now is if this game is worth purchasing?  The answer is “Yes!”. And the good news is that if you want to try the game, you can download “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters” on PSN for free and start playing immediately.  You won’t have Story Mode but you will be able to utilize four characters and see if the game is worth your time.

But what if you owned “Dead or Alive 5”?  The answer is also “yes” but also depending on how important the new stages and five extra characters are for you.  There is also more added to training mode, new animations, new music and other changes included to online gaming mode.

Unfortunately, there is no DLC to upgrade your game or purchase the additional five characters or modes, you simply have to buy a new game and I know this may be disheartening for some, but it’s where a lot of companies are going with their fighting games, albeit it would have been much better if “Ultimate” was offered for a much cheaper price but that is subjective.

Overall, “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” is the best “Dead or Alive” fighting game made so far!

But is “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate” a major step up from “Dead or Alive 5″…slightly.  But it’s still an enjoyable fighting game but is definitely in need for newer enhancements, more new characters than the five and beefed up training mode provided for its pricepoint.

Still, I love playing this game and wholeheartedly recommend “Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate”!

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Divinity: Dragon Commander for PC (Steam) (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

September 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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I recommend “Divinity: Dragon Commander” to those who enjoy story and a mash up keystone genres to command and conquer as a dragon, a dragon with a jet pack no less.

“Divinity: Dragon Commander” is under the copyright of Larian Studios. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Divinity: Dragon Commander for the PC

TYPE OF GAME: Action/RPG/Strategy

PLATFORM: Steam

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: STEAM PC GAME

DEVELOPER: Larian Studios

PUBLISHER: Larian Studios

RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2013

You are the Dragon Commander. Your mission it is to reunite a broken empire and become the new emperor. Success depends entirely on your ability to efficiently rule your empire, build invincible armies and lead them to victory.

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Larian Studios comes through with their latest “Divinity” video game.

Finely blending combination of strategy and RPG elements with a sprinkle of real time strategy gameplay. “Divinity: Dragon Commander” is the name and dragon commanding is the game from outsmarting other nations by cards or clever unit placement to commanding armies on the battle field first hand to making hard decisions in the political arena. With a world torn by treachery and heavy war machinery only the Dragon prince can hope to have the final say.

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Overall gameplay focuses on role-playing as the Dragon prince turn “Dragon Commander” utilizing strategy, RTS, and role playing all in one package. As the last loyal of kin it turns to you to reclaim the kingdom from your treacherous brothers through strategy and a large commanding force.

Though you do not stand alone as many who join you along the way offer advantages such as upgrades and the ability to turn the tides with enhanced speed in battle or sleight of hand on the world map.

Strategy when commanding units and the like on the world map is simple enough with actions such as moving units, building units, and making various types of buildings. On this map you also have cards available to buff your own economy or attack another nations economy. Each turn taken gives gold used for units and research points used to upgrade either your dragon form or to buy and upgrade various units.

With each turn your opponents also move, upgrade units, and use cards against you. While simplistic in comparison to pure strategy games that have more depth such as assassination and counsel management, it is only one part of the three part package.

“Dragon Commander” utilizes RTS gameplay to decide battles when you choose to take the battlefield yourself. Each unit has advantages and disadvantages with some having abilities to turn the tides quickly in your favor. Building in the game is straightforward purchasing buildings using recruits and gold to build more units to siege your opponent.

Aside from the air and land units, sea units are helpful to assassinate an enemy building or provide much needed support near the shores. With all this said there still remains the one unit you can employ at the cost of recruits: the Dragon. Each time you summon your hero unit you have abilities to buff and debuff units, firepower, and a jet pack to zoom across the field to key points. All this allows for an enjoyable alternative the usual strategy game combat.

Although like it’s strategy counterpart, it lacks in comparison to the purebred RTS games which either point may turn away those looking for the whole experience when it comes to specific genres. I find it lacking due to the structured RTS gameplay where you can’t choose where to build buildings and at times end up mobbing for the win rather than a clutch maneuver. Difficulty increase could circumvent these cheese tactics, but still remains to be seen whether or not it would make difference.

Even though the game can feel like Jack of All Trades and master of neither, the story and role playing involved picks up the slack. You as the dragon prince have multitudes of choices and can shape the future kingdom how you see fit.

In the political arena, you allow or disallow touchy subjects such as drug usage, same-sex marriage, and wages for those you have dominion over. Relationships with your wife and your generals are also greatly influenced by some of your political decisions as well as dialogue choices with them could end with any one of them not enjoying your company. For those who enjoy going down an evil path, are also properly satisfied as there are options to deal in dark magics to give you an edge at a cost.

Those who enjoy the good path can skip the dark magics and make whatever choices add to the overall betterment of the kingdom. In the instance you are unsure of how someone will react to your choices each turn, you can save before then to ensure that it won’t be permanent damage to your save meant for doing only good, evil, or neutral. With so many choices, compelling role playing, and influential actions makes the RPG aspect of “Dragon Commander” stand out above all else.

 

 

Controls are straightforward such as clicking and scrolling to select units and keyboard bindings to use abilities and issue commands.

Which is better, keyboard or controller pad?

There appears to be no controller support as this game was only released on PC, and with RTS combat would be better to stick with keyboard and mouse either way. No noticeable problems with unresponsive controls.

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Graphics are outstanding with the amount of detail of the various characters met and the landscape of every battlefield you fight on. With noticeable subtleties such as trees crashing down as your machinery crosses over them or facial expressions and hair movement.

Surround sound audio seems to be a great asset when battling it out on the field as everything seems to explode immersing you more into the game. Audio is clear cut with no noticeable discrepancies allowing for an enjoyable audio experience.

 

 

“Dragon Commander” has some a bit more replay value than most story games out there as different paths are available as you decide how to rule your kingdom. There is also a multiplayer battle system where you can duke it out against other dragon princes and co-op campaign for those who prefer playing with friends as they conquer each nation.

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All wrapped up in one package “Dragon Commander” is a worthwhile game. While it may not appeal to those hardcore to the various genres mixed together, it still allows plenty of fun by appealing to a multitude of different players.

I recommend “Divinity: Dragon Commander” to those who enjoy story and a mash up keystone genres to command and conquer as a dragon, a dragon with a jet pack no less.

PROS:

+ Story/RPG heavy

+ Influential choice system

+ Save system for strategic errors and progress

+ Combination of complimentary genres

NEGATIVES:

– Lack of depth when it comes to RTS and strategy

 

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Guncraft (Steam) (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

August 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Guncraft” comes through with dynamic battlefield gameplay and unlimited customization in a FPS platform.  Recommended!

“Guncraft” is under the copyright of Exacto Game Studios/Reverb Games. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Guncraft

TYPE OF GAME: Shooter

PLATFORM: Steam

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: STEAM PC GAME

DEVELOPER: Exacto Game Studios

PUBLISHER: Reverb Games

RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2013

Marrying the addictive nature of block building sandbox games with the speed and competition of modern first-person shooters, Guncraft features gameplay that is instantly intuitive and addicting. Players can create arenas and levels based on anything they can think of, and once complete, utilize these stages for addictive fast-paced shooting action.

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Where fast paced FPS meets unlimited voxel-based game, “Guncraft” stands a part offering both and more. Finally, coming out after their successful Kickstarter in early 2012, Exato Game Studios seek “to break the traditional standards of indie game developers” with “Guncraft”.

The game features fast paced FPS combat, tons of different game modes and creative outlets such as creating your own guns and crafting maps submitted to the developers for approval.

This game also showcases completely destructible environments as well as complete customization each class from appearance to various kill streak rewards.

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Overall, combat in “Guncraft” is fast paced with no limit to sprinting, hook shots to get to hard to reach places, and vehicles such as hover bikes to get across the battlefield fast. Gun play in the game is interesting as there is no recoil, which may seem disconcerting to hard core FPS fans, but rest assured it does not limit the amount of fun that can be had from soaring through the air sniping any who pass through your crosshairs.

The destructible battlefield plays hugely into the game with rocket launchers doing more than just blowing up the enemy, but molding the battlefield to the carnage taking place. This adds more than just craters, but allows players to adapt using newly blown holes to take cover in or making your own nook as a sniper to conceal yourself in.

All together, this causes the battlefield to feel more alive so you have to do more than aim at that one building everyone camps in, but look for new additions to the map made by players whether blown out or built.

Building at first seemed to be impossible to work in such a high paced environment, but the thought was countered when looking at much of the “pre-fab” options such as towers, bunkers, bridges and more that builds itself in an intense environment. Of course buildings do not come without a price as the game uses an in-game currency to purchase the right to place buildings and individual blocks.

While you do not receive money from blowing things up, you do gain money from breaking out your building tool to break blocks at different speeds depending on your class advantages.

Each class uses full customization whether that be appearance or passive class benefits. Preset guns range from the usual assault rifle to a gun that looks like a bald eagle each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  Many preset appearances come with the game such as a pirate, gruff army veteran, or even Mr.T’s Caucasian counterpart Mr.W. Melee weapons each have their own perks such as one-hit perk at the cost of “pre-fab” buildings or all around melee tools that doesn’t do anything the best, but can be used in any situation.

Various perks are also at your disposal such as “Demolitionist” which allow players to use weapons such as the Blockbuster without worry of running out of ammunition. Construction bonuses allow you to choose how you want to build, whether that be purely pre-built buildings or high income perks from breaking blocks with the building tool.

Since the game is voxel-based, the amount of creativity and the number of maps that can be made is limitless. Some of the maps were developed by Exato themselves, but they also feature many community created maps that they approve in the map list of each lobby. Skins and guns can also be shared, voted on, and used among the “Guncraft” community as long as there is no obvious copyright infringements or vulgarity.

To accompany the wealth of different maps, come the many featured game modes in “Guncraft”. There is the run of the mill game modes such as Death Match, Team Death Match, and Capture the Flag.

Then there are the more unique game modes such as Spleef, Lava Survival, and Meteor Survival.

Those who played on custom Spleef servers in “Minecraft” will be delighted as it is an official game mode in “Guncraft” using the building tool in maps such as a bowl of alphabet soup trying to knock each other down into the fatal tomato soup blocks.

Lava Survival uses the same mechanic of knocking people into lava, except you can also freeze people by shooting them then breaking blocks under them. Meteor survival  uses the same freezing mechanic, but people are killed by random meteor showers that break the environment and the last one standing wins.

Though the game has so many game modes it has the one unfortunate pitfall, the number of players willing to play them.

On release there was a sizable number of people who wanted to try out the new game modes which were a great amount of fun. Over time much of the player base instead sticks to the usual Deathmatch and Team Death Match for their “Guncraft” needs, but hopefully it is a problem that solves itself as the game is out for longer.

 

 

 

The controls for “Guncraft” use standard W-A-S-D to move and left click to shoot for basics while building and other controls are best looked over in the settings menu.

Which is better, keyboard or controller pad?

Keyboard and mouse are definitely go to as the controls are much more manageable.  Some gamers who are used to using a joystick or even an XBOX 360 controller may prefer using them over a keyboard and mouse.

 

 

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Graphics are good for a voxel-based game as everything is clearly conveyed.  Similar to “Minecraft”, the games are never known to be great when it comes to modern gaming graphics, but for those who enjoy the visual style will also enjoy “Guncraft”.  There is good shading, especially around shadows behind letters.

While there is not, the most distinct or mind-blowing explosion sounds in triple-A FPS games, for what sounds there are it is clear such as gunfire, explosive sounds and death sounds. There is no real advantages to using headphone or stereo systems for bass or otherwise. All sounds are more simple and clear than intricate.

There doesn’t appear to be any music during the matches except after the two minute mark each match.

 

 

“Guncraft” has tons of replay value as there are so many modes to play and plenty of players with varying skill levels to challenge your metal against.

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With so much to offer such as mass customization, tons of game modes and destructible environments “Guncraft” is hard to pass up for voxel gamers. While it may not appeal to hardcore FPS fans, the game mashes many great elements together allowing for tons of fun among friends or with fellow Guncrafters.

It is unfortunate though that much of the game modes appear to be vacant due to the player base playing Team Death Match or Death Match, I hope this problem is fixed as more try the game.

“Guncraft” comes through with dynamic battlefield gameplay and unlimited customization in a FPS platform giving the game a 4 out of 5. Recommended!

PROS:

+ Destructible battlefield.

+ Tons of customization.

+ Huge creative outlet for fans of voxel games.

+ Fun and simple FPS fire fights.

+ Several game modes.

NEGATIVES:

– May not appeal to hardcore FPS fans.

– May not appeal to those who do not like “Minecraft” style graphics.

– More creative game modes appear vacant a majority of the time.

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The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief: Episode 1 for the PC (Steam) (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

August 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief” features detailed graphics and beautiful aesthetics, a great mysterious story premise and intuitive logic based puzzle solving. Recommended!

Screen Captures are from Steam gameplay. “The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief” is under the copyright of KING ART/Nordic Games. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief for the PC

TYPE OF GAME: Adventure Game

PLATFORM: Various Digital Distribution for PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: STEAM PC GAME

DEVELOPER: KING ART

PUBLISHER: Nordic Games

RELEASE DATE: July 23

Set across 1960’s Europe, The Raven combines the thrill of the chase ‘whodunit’ with the risk and reward of a heist story where players get to experience both sides of the story as the investigator and the thief. Paying tribute to Agatha Christie’s crime stories and gangster movies from the 60s and 70s, The Raven is set to be a thrilling episodic journey.

From  simple, Swiss police man to an, albeit unofficial, detective in training sleuthing with the best. King Art Games comes back with another point and click adventure game with the main character stuck in the middle of a mystery involving the notorious Raven. “The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief” challenges the player to question suspects, combine items to get past obstacles, and explore various areas and environments to find evidence and clues to unveil who is behind these thefts and dangerous occurrences.

King Art is a German game developer with hits such as “The Book of Unwritten Tales”, a fantasy point and click adventure game, and popular browser games such as “MyFreePark” and “MyFreeZoo.” They currently have a turn-based strategy game dubbed “Battle Worlds: Kronos” in alpha, which was a favorite among Kick starters as it received more than full funding. King Art Games cover programming and concepts across multiple platforms such as PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PS3.

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In ‘The Raven’ you control Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, a Swiss police officer who aspires to be as the detectives he reads about in the mystery novels he reads in his spare time. Constable Zellner finds his opportunity when he is assigned to police a train transporting goods expected to be hit next by the alleged successor of the Raven supervised by the man who was honored as the man who killed the original Raven. From then on, Constable Zellner works to prove his moxie to the highly respected detective and see this case to the end all placed in the world of the 60’s.

Most of the game revolves around talking to each character to garner enough evidence or clues to complete a part of the main case or an aside such as a missing purse. The other half is searching the environment you are on to find tool, items, or physical evidence to continue in each case such as finding a key. Each character has various dialogue options, majority of which concern evidence with the case, while the other concerns background on each character and interesting points concerning the personality of each character. When combining or using items usually the answer is logical enough for you to figure it out fairly quickly, as long as you find all that you can in each environment you should have the keys to each obstacle you face.

The game uses standard point and click interactions such as: click to interact, click on item then click on another item to combine if valid and dialogue choices. The game also has a mini game here and there such as picking a lock with wire. The mini games feel as if they interrupt the flow of the game, but if you enjoy a break from the usual sleuthing it could be just your ticket.

The game also includes a hint and highlight system which you can activate using adventure points. Adventure points are gained through completing phases of the case and spent on highlights or hints. This is greatly helpful if you cannot put your finger on the one thing in the room that you  missed. Adventure points also determine how well you did at the end of the chapter as it would be a clear indication on how much help you needed via the system.

A notebook is self-maintained as you go along, containing finer points of each character and other details that can be reviewed to help you to piece together parts of the case. This also has objectives written out to give you direction should you need it.

Music is well orchestrated and melds with the environment well, wherever you go and under which ever circumstance. For example, when you are in the care free environment of the train, the music matches with light, whimsical music to match the environment.

Cinematic scenes take you from one environment to the other after pivotal moments in the story happen, or to portray a scene of all the characters in a cinematic light.

As far as bugs go, I only ran into one occasion where I could not see Constable Zellner until I interacted with another object across the room. Though there may have been more bugs I did not notice, King Art Games seem to be diligent on bug fixing as the first patch was sent out not even a week after release.

 

 

‘The Raven’ uses standard control of a point and click adventure game, with no need to interact with your keyboard.

Which is better, keyboard or controller pad?

As a point and click adventure game it’s much better to stick to keyboard and mouse.

 

 

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Overall graphics are significantly above the bar of the usual adventure games. The various characters’ faces are well defined, while facial expressions are at times hit or miss, but usually on point. At times there is clipping or awkward occurrences with some of the characters’ faces, but usually isn’t a large enough issue to groan about. Aside from that, the voice work is superb with each of the characters’ personalities exemplified through their voice work with accents matching each character’s origin. Each environment is beautifully crafted with scenery such as the passing of mountain sides or crashing waves, and even small details in rooms are included such as a pen or askew book.

Audio is clear cut, no clear discrepancies or audio bugs. 

 

 

Overall, I don’t feel there is a whole lot of replay value. Most of what you are going to get out of the game is story based, and once you’ve played it once there is not much of an itch to play again.

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All together, episode one of “The Raven” make a great starting point to the rest of the game. The overall quality of the game cannot be stated plainly as only one of three are currently released, but with great looking graphics, a blooming story and the mystery still left unsolved it has great promise. Though I do not blame you if you decide to hold onto your money until the last installment is released late September allowing for the final word to be said on the game as a whole.

“The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief” features detailed graphics and beautiful aesthetics, a great mysterious story premise and intuitive logic based puzzle solving. Recommended!

PROS:

+ Detailed environment, characters, and individual rooms.

+ Logic-based puzzle solving

+ Compelling story-line.

+ Hint system for those who are stuck using earned in-game points.

CONS:

– Graphical clipping with facial features

– Voices at times not matching facial movement.

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Sword of the Stars: The Pit/The Pit: Mindgames for the PC (Steam) (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

July 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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I recommend “Sword of the Stars: The Pit”  on Steam to those who favor gritty aesthetics, unlimited replay value, or good old fashioned dungeon crawling. With so much time already logged, this game is definitely a steal at ten dollars for the base game and five dollars for the huge expansion in the DLC “The Pit: Mindgames”.

Screen Captures are from Steam gameplay. “Sword of Stars: The Pit: Mindgames” is under the copyright of Kerberos Productions. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Sword of the Stars: The Pit/The Pit: Mindgames for the PC

TYPE OF GAME: RPG/INDIE/CASUAL

PLATFORM: PC Steam

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: STEAM PC GAME

DEVELOPER: Kerberos Productions

PUBLISHER: Kerberos

RELEASE DATE: The Pit: Mar 8, 2013; Mindgames: Jul 3, 2013

Classic, dungeon-crawling, PC RPG, set in the Sword of the Stars universe. How deep can you go?

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Kerberos is a company composed of those hailing from Barking Dogs Studio and Rockstar Games Vancouver. Those working at Kerberos worked on hits such Bully by Rockstar GamesTeam Fortress from Valve, and Ghost Busters: The Video Game developed by Terminal Reality. Their most recognized work is the Sword of the Stars a space strategy game involving giant star ship wars and capturing sector’s of the Sword of the Star’s Universe.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit builds on Kerbero’s previous franchise’s world from Sword of the Stars space strategy game. Those who have played Sword of the Stars will recognize familiar races to play as in The Pit. Although it is under the same name, the Pit poses itself as a spin off to the original game from strategically fighting with ships in space to controlling a single hero fighting your way down several floors in a turn based,2D top-down, rogue-like dungeon experience.

 

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GAMEPLAY:

Sword of the Star’s: The Pit/Mindgames  involves controlling a hero to brave the depths of the pit. Each hero has different advantages and stats to accommodate each play style. Want to cast mental spells? Psion fits the bill. Want to be incredibly beefy, the Marine is your man. Utilizing these class advantages you fight a variety of monsters and transformed Humans and Tarka to reach your ultimate goal in the game: The Pit. Each monster has its own sleight of hand whether that be poison, disease, or hit and run.

Though caution is always advised playing the game because any step you take in this turn-based combat system could be your very last because death is permanent similar to The Binding of Isaac  or any other of the old school RPG’s featuring the rogue-like game play of randomly generated dungeons and monsters of varying difficulty depending on how far you venture into the rabbit hole that is The Pit.

As with most Role-play games, has a selection of stats to add to with each level, which increases the chance for some weapons to hit or actions to work, and become more powerful, or profitable. Also standard to RPG’s is a health bar and hunger bar as well as a Psi/Mana bar added in with the Mindgames DLC.

The game also features various difficulty settings from easiest to hardest: Easy, Normal, Hard, Insane, and Seriously?!. This allows for players from casual to hardcore to enjoy the game at their own pace.

The story of the game starts off with the hero you choose going into The Pit to find a cure for a rampaging alien disease that transforms organic beings into danger zombies. Overall the story is mostly progressed through translating messages at consoles which you may or may not get depending on your decryption skill.

Overall, combat feels good, click to attack, shoot with your current weapon, hot key abilities or items to quick slots to use faster than going through the menu.

For a turn-based game the combat is usually surprisingly fluid unless there are many enemies on the screen, then you might have to wait a few more seconds than normal as each turn has to be taken by the enemy as well. This also happens even if you are out of sight of the enemy as you will notice the turn taking system working when going down an empty corridor.

Interacting with items and objects garners benefits of finding items, helpful tools or food. Interacting with anything in the game has a chance to fail depending on your skills in the corresponding stat. For example, opening locked doors or supply boxes are influenced by the lock pick stat while prying open freezers are calculated by the mechanical skill.

Although it is interesting how each stat correlates to a different action possible, it sometimes makes the game feel too much at the mercy of luck. This also includes attacking where R.N.G (Random Number Generator) could slap you in the face with four misses in a row with your pistol that happened to have only four bullets left. This all influences how far you may get into The Pit because it could happen to just not be your day or vice versa.

Most of the weapons and psionic powers are unique aside from the standard pistol, assault rifle, and heavy weapon archetypes. Laser guns, mind control, and energy cannons are but some of the weapons available to you as you venture deeper.

The aesthetics of each floor changes the more you go down from a standard cave to a post apocalyptic station to natural biomes with new and more challenging creatures. Each monster having new or increasingly powerful abilities to challenge your advancements in skills, weaponry, and stats. Much of the game is naturally gritty as much of the floors of the facility have been abandoned due to the apocalyptic story premise.

The Mindgames adds a wealth of new items, monsters, areas, and classes with unique attributes, advantages, and abilities. Though there are too many new features to list, the ones that stand out are the new Psion and Ranger classes who adds a whole new twist to the original three classes. Also with the DLC is the new safety net added every five levels where you can bank experience, and items for future characters and start on those respective levels that you’ve reached when you start a new character.

 

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CONTROLS:

Controls for Sword of the Stars: The Pit are lag-free provided that you are not trying to attack during an enemies turn.

Which is better, keyboard or controller pad?

Sword of the Stars: The Pit/Mindgames does not have controller support according to the game’s steam profile.

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GRAPHICS & AUDIO:

The graphics are great as everything appears to be clear what the item might be or what it might be used for, as well as clarity in what is attacking you or how it is attacking you.

Audio is fine and reminiscent of old school games clear and unique. 

REPLAY VALUE:

As a rogue-like game with permanent death and randomly crafted dungeons with various ways to play the game makes Sword of the Stars: The Pit a hugely re-playable game.

Leader boards with high scores are also available to you to see how you measure up and strive for higher scores.

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Overall, Sword of the Stars: The Pit should be a hit among avid dungeon crawlers, rogue-like gamers, and those looking for a game to play casually on the side at your own pace. If you are looking for a game to fill time gaps each day, this game should suit your needs fine.

As well as having an addicting progression based game structure, the game has personality quirks within each of the classes and items that some may find enjoyable as well as the gritty apocalyptic setting reminiscent of the Fallout franchise.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit is user friendly in that the controls and combat are not overly complicated and its depth is more tied in with the strategy involved with the turn based system. Unique weapons and abilities add to the fun and strategy of the game as well as items to help lessen the RNG with the highly RNG based game play.

With all this said, it suffers from how chance some things can be, and too much bad luck could end with your hero in a tricky situation. This at times can get frustrating, but each classes’ advantages usually make up for it provided you are doing actions corresponding to their unique advantages. For example, this comes into play as a Engineer who has higher than average electronics therefore he has a less chance of getting hurt concerning actions with electronics.

As a final thought, I recommend Sword of the Stars: The Pit on Steam to those who favor gritty aesthetics, unlimited replay value, or good old fashioned dungeon crawling. With so much time already logged, this game is definitely a steal at ten dollars for the base game and five dollars for the huge expansion, The Pit: Mindgames via DLC.

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PROS:

+ User friendly controls/Not overly complicated

+ Tons of replay value with new classes, play styles, and difficulty.

+ Simple turn-based strategy game play.

+ Generally challenging due to it’s rogue-like nature

NEGATIVES:

– Heavily RNG based game play

– Frustrating at times due to bad luck

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Pool Nation for the Sony PS3 via the PlayStation Network (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

July 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a billiards fan and just love playing pool, in real life or via video game, “Pool Nation” is one of the most enjoyable and challenging billiard games I have played in a long while.  I’m really enjoying this game!  And for under $9 on the PlayStation Network, it’s definitely recommended!

Screen Captures are courtesy of Cherry Pop Games. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Pool Nation

TYPE OF GAME: Billiard/Sport

PLATFORM: Sony PS3

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: PlayStation 3 (PSN Download)

DEVELOPER: CherryPop Games

RELEASE DATE: June 25, 2013

Pool Nation is the ultimate pixel-perfect pool game for the PlayStation Network, featuring photo-realistic graphics, real-world physics and a wealth of game modes and rule sets.

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From CherryPop Games comes their first title, a billiards video game titled “Pool Nation” which is currently available on the PlayStation Network for $8.49.

Take on a variety of characters in a game of classic 8 and 9-ball games to Killer and the frantic Speed Pool, once you master these games, you can prove you are among the elite and take on the various exclusive tour modes. And with each competition, complete a challenge and you can unlock a ball set, decal, cue and more!

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When you begin your game of “Pool Nation”, you are given the following menu items:

  • Single Player – 9-Ball competition, go up against many competitors in game of 9-ball.  Hit the balls in the following order with the 8-ball being last.  8-Ball is a competition of who will play solids or striped balls, with the 8-ball being the final ball to hit last.  Battle various competitors to win each cup.
  • Endurance – Exclusive to “Pool Nation”, it’s you against the clock in a game of Pool.
  • Versus – Compete against a friend in various competition modes.
  • Online – Compete against a friend or someone who owns the game online.
  • Ranking – Check your current online ranking.
  • Help & Options – Help and options for “Pool Nation”.  Change audio, controls and learn how to play.
  • Download Content – Content that will be available for “Pool Nation”.

I spent most of my time playing on single player 9-ball and 8-ball competition. Take on men and women on the Pool Nation circuit.

Before anyone gets into competition, it is recommended to go through the tutorial.  The reason is that each competitor you go up against has three challenges that you want to accomplish.  From executing a combo shot to getting a consecutive number of shots, sometimes you will need to execute shots which require you to put spin on a ball or even jump above a ball.  So, learning how to execute the shots are important.

Challenges can also include having a 6-ball streak challenge to winning a best out of 3, 3-ball competition.

Achieve all three challenges and you can win that competitor’s decal (that can be used on a table), ball sets, cues and more.   Also, by beating certain competitors and unlocking their challenges, you may be able to access a bonus area that will open up a new area.

But while you may get through the first five competitors quite easily, the more you advance, the better the competition.  Some competitors where you need to apply strategy as some may knock every ball into the pocket during their turn.  So, there are times where you will need to plan out each shot perfectly and no chance for error.  Also, the further you get into a match, some opponents require a best of three frame competition.  So, who ever can win two frames is the winner of that matchup.

The good news is that if you lose, you don’t lose anything, nor does your rank go backward in a single player game.  You can keep trying over and over again.

There is also no waiting for the other player, you can hit the X Button and skip and bypass the computer opponent’s plays and get into the action right away.  So, for the impatient players, fortunately this is possible.

And while I have beaten the main characters of the Sky Lounge Cup (the entry cup) in both 9-ball and 8-ball play, I have not achieved the challenges of the more difficult players.  It’s not easy and you’ll find yourself challenging yourself for hours in trying to beat those challenges.  It’s not easy!

You can also watch slow motion replays and save replays of entire matches.

For online matches and tournaments, you can compete against someone around the world and also partake in speed pool online.

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CONTROLS:

The controls are very good and responsive.  Using the left analog stick, you can control where you want to hit.  Using the L2 and R2 buttons, you can make the stick go up higher, especially if you want to make the ball jump.  game directional button allows you to add spin, back spin or to make the ball curve and you can lock in how much power you want to add.  For beginners, you can have an assist beam which tells you where the ball is going to go after you hit it.  So, I usually use this, especially overhead mode, which allows me to play much better in competition.

But the controls are easy to pick up and learn, but I do recommend going through the tutorials and learning the advanced moves.

GRAPHICS & AUDIO:

The graphics for the game is stylish and the rendering of the balls are shiny and beautiful.  While you don’t get to see the competitor during a matchup, you do see their avatar and you can apply their images to a pool table.  But it’s important to note that if you are using the assist beam of where the ball is going to be hit, sometimes the colors may conflict with the table.  For example, by the second round of competitors, you will play on a blue pool table with hot neon pink background.  When you are hitting a blue or purple ball, it’s hard to see that directional beam as the color conflicts with the table.

But for the most part, the graphics for the game look great and probably one of the better looking billiard games I have played so far.

As for audio, the soundtrack is presented in DTS Dolby Digital 5.1.   You get the sounds of a stick hitting ball, ball hitting ball as is expected.  There is no crowd watching you, no voices but just the sounds of pool playing and  electronic music, which you can switch off if needed.

REPLAY VALUE:

With the the challenges for each competitor, the bonus areas and the number of challenges available, there is a lot of replay value in “Pool Nation”.  You can beat your competition, but you find yourself wanting to win all challenges.

PoolNationPS3_172

As a fan of video game billiard games, “Pool Nation” is one of the best look billiard games I have played, it’s also one of the more challenging billiard games out there!

It’s one thing for me to beat a string of competitors during the first Sky Lounge tournament but playing the second, not only does it take patience but you’re going to need a perfect game.  To make things even challenging are winning the challenges and mastering the back spin as many games I played, I lost because I scratched.

But it’s part of the enjoyment of “Pool Nation”, taking on a variety of computer opponents, each with their name and skill set that you know that if you run into them again at another competition, more than likely they are going to be a challenge to beat.

I found myself spending hours on these challenges and enjoying the competition, but realizing that to win the game and beat your competition, you probably will only get 1-2 messups, most of the time only one.  So, players will need to have their best game each time.

I also like the fact that you can win table decals, cues and balls if you beat a bonus round.  The bonus around is quite challenging and sometimes I felt I beat the opponent by luck but the bonus games add replay value in trying to access extra items and also acquiring a star to achieve all three challenges per competitor.

As for graphics, the balls look absolutely wonderful. The game is stylish and kept simple, so you won’t see human players or crowds.  It’s just the player, the competitor’s avatar and then playing at a variety of venues.  With that being said, some venues are tough, not just for its competitors but for those who need the assist beams/lights that help you know where your ball is going, sometimes a color of a table can prevent you from seeing those directional beams but you eventually learn to make do without it.

Audio is primarily music and special effects.  The special effects sound magnificent from the cue hitting the ball, ball hitting other balls to the sound of potting a ball.

And also there are other modes such as endurance, versus and online mode.   So, for a PSN game, you are getting your money’s worth because there is plenty of replay value with this game and it’s one of the better looking and challenging billiard games now available.

Overall, if you are a billiards fan and just love playing pool, in real life or via video game, “Pool Nation” is one of the most enjoyable and challenging billiard games I have played in a long while.  I’m really enjoying this game!  And for under $9 on the PlayStation Network, it’s definitely recommended!  A-

PROS:

+ Awesome and challenging pool competitions.

+ Additional replay factor with challenges, bonus rounds and multiple modes.

+ Wonderful graphics for the balls and also slow motion use.

+ Not easy, you are going to have to learn various advance moves to take on the more experienced competitors.

+ Physics are very good  on the PS3, smooth gameplay, no lag!

+  Affordable at under $9 and definitely worth the money!

NEGATIVES:

– For those expecting more than a pool table and balls and want to see crowds and CG characters, this is not that type of game.

– Some tables make support lights hard to see during gameplay.

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Star Wars Pinball from Zen Studios for the PlayStation 3 (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

May 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

SWP Key Art - Web

“Star Wars Pinball” feature awesome gameplay and challenging pinball with very good physics, beautiful table graphics, cool audio (in this case, also fantastic music) and special effects. “Star Wars Pinball” continues to raise bar for digital pinball games and for fans of “Star Wars” or pinball in general, you can’t help but be addicted to these games.   These tables are not just challenging but among the most enjoyable digital pinball games I have played. Highly recommended!

Screen Captures are from Steam gameplay. “Star Wars Pinball” is under the copyright of Zen Studios. 2013 Lucas Film Entertainment Company Ltd. or LucasFilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Star Wars Pinball

TYPE OF GAME: Pinball

PLATFORM: PC Steam, PC Windows 8, XBOX 360 and Sony PlayStation

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: PlayStation 3 (PSN Download)

DEVELOPER: Zen Studios

PUBLISHED: Microsoft Game Studios

RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2013

Use the Force to guide the silver ball in Star Wars Pinball! The first pack of tables includes Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars PInball_Balance of the Force

Having reviewed Zen Studios “Pinball FX2” for Steam, this time around, I take on “Star Wars Pinball” for the Sony PlayStation 3 (downloaded via PSN).  Star Wars Pinball features three tables – “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Boba Fett”.

Three pinball games based on the American epic space opera “Star Wars” franchise created by George Lucas, each of these three tables not only gives you more than one can expect from a digital pinball game but so many areas that pinball fans and fans of the films or animated series will be excited about.

To start off “Star Wars Pinball”, you have a choice to contribute your skills to the side of light or darkness.  The more you play, the more you see your skills go up and benefit you as a Jedi or Sith.

You can play single player or multiplayer.  Single player allows you to play each game and build up your level, while multiplayer for each table is about who can accumulate the most points and reach a certain goal and the game restarts once the person reaches that goal.  Multiplayer can automatically search for players and quite often, you may get an invite from a player you have played with before.

But one can play the game to be on top of the leaderboards, to open up PS3 trophies or to challenge oneself and opening and beating many scenes as possible.

With “Pinball FX2”, Zen Studios takes the concept of pinball for the digital realm by introducing various acts, special effects, audio and gameplay elements that you won’t typically experience on a real machine.

For pinball purists who have played a digital pinball game, yes the game requires you to shoot the ball, use your flippers to hit the ball and you can briefly nudge the machine (nudge it too much and you are in danger of tilting). You lose a ball each time it falls down through the center (between the flippers) or far left and right boundaries of the game. The good news is that if you quickly lose a ball not long after a launch, you are given another chance with a free play ball.

So, a lot of the newer tables add a lot of extra gameplay features that make it worth your time to learn, not only for achievements but also because of certain bonus areas or scenes that you may not know about and also finding out strategies on how to get a high score or how to open up various areas.

For example, one may focus on their main bottom flippers, but some games have flippers on the top that if you time your hit, you can see your score multiplying and building up to millions of points. Some require quick thinking where one flipper must be pressed and immediately released, so a ball heading towards the top flipper will not come in contact. Or other strategies that may initiate a kickback (most pinball games have the frustrating area on both ends that will make you lose a ball) or something that may pick up your ball and shoot it so quickly that by the time you hit the flipper, the ball has gone through the center hole and you lose your ball.

COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY:

Are there difficulty modes? While playing a table, you can pause and select “OPERATOR” on the menu, it allows you to install a difficulty mode such as extra easy, normal, extra hard, etc. BUT this is good if you do not want to play with other players and compete in leaderboards. Easy allows for extra balls and better scoring. But once again, it’s important to note that you will receive a warning that if you change settings, your high score will not be included in the leaderboards.

 

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First, let’s take a look at “Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back”.   Of the three “Star Wars Pinball” tables offered, this is the most challenging table.   The concept of pinball is the same of any pinball game in the fact that you use the plunger to send the ball for gamplay, use your PS3 triggers to move the flippers up and down (this will control and top flippers), the left analog stick activates a bump but do this too many times and you will tilt (flippers will no longer work).  Your turn ends if the ball falls down the center or on the far left or right sides. Fortunately, you get three balls.

Fortunately, Zen Studios implements a “Shoot Again” if your ball goes down the center early in the game, so you do have a second chance.  Also, if you hit the ball in the ramps multiple times, it will activate a “Lite Kickback” which kicks the ball back to play if it goes on the left or right side of the table.   Meanwhile, there are ways to get free extra balls as well.

With your plunger, you can send the ball to go to various areas (top, middle or lower) section and obtain a “Skill Shot” by hitting a spinner.  To score effectively, you want to spell out the letters, which require the ball to fall in certain areas or by sending a ball to various ramp.

Visually, it may seem simple but the challenge is that you have Tie Fighter targets on the lower left, orbits and ramps.  Sending a ball to the left of the ramp, you can spell “R2D2”, sending a ball to the left ramp can activate a “Lite Kickback” (left side), “Jedi Jackpot” and spell out the word “EMPIRE”, send the ball towards the center and you can spell out “VADER” (Super Skill Shot), send the ball to the right ramp allows you to activate “Lite Kickback” (right side), “Jedi Jackpot”, “Yoda” or “Cloud City”, while the farther right section allows you to spell “FORCE” and can lead to a free extra ball.

So, it’s one thing to play pinball by hitting the ball and getting mass points and be on top of the leaderboards but for a game like “Star Wars Pinball”, you find yourself holding a ball with your flipper and trying to see if you can master that ball by letting it fall down to the tip and see if you can spell out “FORCE” or get the ball to a Tie Fighter Target.

But this requires a lot of practice and time with the game.  But once you start mastering it, you’ll be able to not only increase your multiplier, assemble C-3PO, bring out Darth Vader and also take part in Jedi Training.

Jedi training is a little diversion from the pinball game as you will be taken to screen where you must deflect blasts from a droid using a lightsaber and get a free ball.

But a mode that comes on that most people will have fun with and increase their score is “Force Hurry Up Modes”, which will only happen if you light up all “FORCE” letters and from this mode, you will notice you can increase a massive amount of points quickly.

There are modes that allow for “Multiball” in which you can have several balls locked and sent out all at once.  While great for points, managing 2-4 balls at one given time is not easy.

“Star Wars Pinball” also offers scenes.  By hitting various areas on the table, you can activate up to six scenes.  For example, selecting scene one gives you 40 seconds to hit the left sink hole a total of three times.  Watching where the lights are flashing on the table gives you an idea of where to send the ball.  The challenge is how to come up with your own strategy to make the ball go where it needs to go.

But definitely one of the most challenging tables from Zen Studio.

clonewars

The next table is “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and is based on the animated series.  This table is the easiest in terms of amassing a large amount of points.  It’s also a table in which your top flippers are highly effective of earning a lot of points if you can keep the ball up in the top section.

While any of the ramps can lead to combo jackpots, it’s the maroon ramp on the right that allows you to activate the “Council” in order to take on various missions. Unlike “Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back”, the missions are non-timed.  “War on Christophis” puts up a purple shield and you need to find a way by collecting bombs on a ramp and then detonating it on the purple shield.

“Cloak of Darkness” features a fight against Asajj Ventress but the goal is to hit the ball where you see flashing ramps.  This one is timed and you have only 30 seconds to do it.

“The Monster” is non-timed and Savage Opress is on a floating platform, you just need to hit the platform with the ball but you have to be careful because each hit sends the ball back quickly and it may lead to the ball goiong down the center.

“Attack on Kamino” is about hitting the flashing lanes.

“Weapons Factory” is another that you have to hit flashing lanes or ramps to destroy a weapons factory.

The game also offers “Training Mode”, if you spell “Training” (left of the T6 ramp on top), you will be taken to a training playing field.  The object is to hit the ball on various areas with lights.  Sounds easy, until you need to hit the farthest left or right light, which requires patience and figuring out how much you should let the ball roll to the tip of the flipper.

But this is a table that I found to be a lot of fun and probably one where people may want to start playing first because of how much easier it is compared to the other tables.

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For the “Boba Fett” table, this table is probably the second easiest of the three “Star Wars Pinball” tables currently available.  It’s also one that you want to plan and figure out where you are hitting the ball as you can open up extra scenes if things are properly spelled out or amass a large number of points.

While you can open up various bounty missions by spelling words like “Boba Fett” by hitting the ball into those areas with letters, there are some bounty missions that require to hit the ball on each ramp or opening and you get a million points easily for each ball traveled into the area.

There are missions that require quick thinking and areas that require hitting the ball in the same area.  For example, “Escape from the Sarlacc” has Boba Fett captured by tentacles.  If you can hit the tentacle 4 times, you can free him.

A crazy mode is “Triump of Mandalorian” which requires you to play with five multiple balls at one time and you have 60 seconds to get as many point as possible.

Unlike the other two tables, you have only one top filter and one that I don’t find too effective but great to slow down a ball, just in case that you want to stop it in order to use your left flipper to hit the ball to a certain ramp.

It’s also a game where you can use homing missiles to destroy a flashing lane also a table where you can take part in a sharpshooter mini game.  There are certainly many modes I discover the longer I play but there are various bounty jobs in which Boba Fett can earn quite a bit of money.  But the game has a mix of easier elements for people to get into and also some challenging sections.

CONTROLS:

The controls for the PS3 is fast and fluid, no lag whatsover, even during multiplayer, I was able to play the game with no lag.

How are the physics of the game?

Some table physics are good, at times, it felt the physics were off. For example, I can tape on the edge of a flipper with great power and sometimes the ball only goes a short way up. Sometimes I hit a ball not hard enough but yet it goes farther than what I expected. But I never expect a digital pinball game to have a perfect replication of gameplay digitally but it comes close and once you get to learn each table, the better you will do each time you play.

GRAPHICS & AUDIO:

The graphics for each of the tables are absolutely gorgeous. A lot went into table design and character models but there was good planning when it came to the actual tables.  On my HD big screen, colors were vibrant, tables were amazingly well-detailed.  The game looks great on the PS3!

The audio for the game is also fantastic! “Star Wars” not only features the voices from the film but also the popular music from the film.

REPLAY VALUE:

“Star Wars Pinball” is a game with a lot of replay value if you are into getting high scores. With the number of tables available, it gives one a chance to focus on a table and learn it and move on to the next table and continue getting high scores, topping a table leaderboard and obtaining PS3 trophies.

clone2

Growing up, pinball machines were a big part of my life as a child. Playing them at the local burger shop, even receiving a Superman pinball machine as a child, pinball machines were fun, addictive and I continued to play them even when everyone moved towards “Pac Man”, “Street Fighter II” and other popular arcade games for each decade.

My pinball experience would eventually lead me to playing the game on NES, Gameboy and dedicating hours to getting the highest score on “Pinbot”. Then came “Super Pinball” on the SNES, “Devil’s Crush”, “Metroid Pinball” on the DS, “William’s Pinball” and “Akira Psycho Ball” for the PS2 and recently playing various pinball games on my iPad.

But Zen Studios have really taken pinball to bigger heights with innovative table creation, obtaining licenses to utilize popular franchise’s or iconic characters and making pinball so much fun again!  It’s not just about hitting the ball and getting the high score, there is strategy involved in playing a Zen Studio pinball game.

“Star Wars Pinball” is pinball crack.  Once you play, you become addicted to the game and find yourself playing it for hours and trying to figure out various strategies.  And while the single player game is fantastic, the multiplayer is OK.  It’s more or less a contest of who can reach the most points and the game restarts and you keep on playing.  What would be nice is to find out how some of these players during multiplayer can get up to 12 million points in a short amount of time, so if there was a watch mode, where you can see other players playing a game realtime, that would have been cool to see and also learn from.

These three “Star Wars Pinball” tables are also quite creative in gameplay and each are very different from each other, requiring different strategies, so one can expect to put a lot of time playing and replaying to see how things work, especially how to defeat various missions.

As for playing the game on the PS3 versus on a PC, I will say that I felt physics and fluidity and smoother gameplay was noticeable on the PS3 but for those who prefer having the monitor right near them, so they can see things clearly, I’m sure it’s subjective to each player.  But the PS3 feels smooth and experienced no lag.

With each table, some require strategy and quick thinking. For example, one would not want to let the ball roll too quickly down your flipper as momentum is so quick that by the time you press the button the flipper, the ball falls quickly through the center and you lose a ball. And sometimes, the placement of a ball will end up in the far boundaries, making you lose the ball. So, you come up with strategies of how to get a kick back (so, if the ball goes out on the left or right boundaries, the ball is kicked back on the table) or to regain a “Shoot Again”, so a lost ball will result in free play ball.

The most challenging is when you have multiple balls in play. This will give you a chance to rack up enormous points but it’s not easy when you have four balls all coming down all at once, so sometimes you act erratically by hitting the flippers repeatedly. So, it requires patients and finding out new ways to deal with multiple balls.

But the big part of the strategy for this game, for me, is to figure out ways to utilize the top flippers and where I should have the ball aimed. Some tables reward nicely if you use those top obscured flippers correctly.

So, each table, I have had a lot of fun playing and trying to learn what the game has to offer and with the addition of playing with friends via the leaderboard or gaining achievements, it adds to the replay factor of the game.

Overall, “Star Wars Pinball” feature awesome gameplay and challenging pinball with very good physics, beautiful table graphics, cool audio (in this case, also fantastic music) and special effects. “Star Wars Pinball” continues to raise bar for digital pinball games and for fans of “Star Wars” or pinball in general, you can’t help but be addicted to these games.   These tables are not just challenging but among the most enjoyable digital pinball games I have played.

“Star Wars Pinball” from Zen Studios for the PS3 is highly recommended!

PROS:

+ Awesome and creative gameplay and you discover something new each time you play the game.

+ Additional replay factor to challenge others and win trophies!

+ Wonderful graphics for each table!

+ Great use of sound effects, music and dialogue!

+ Physics are very good for these tables on the PS3, smooth gameplay, no lag!

NEGATIVES:

– Gameplay for some people may be a little frustrating.

– Purists expecting perfected physics may be disappointed.

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Pinball FX2 from Zen Studios for the PC (Steam) (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

May 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Pinball-FX2-Steam

“Pinball FX2” are exciting, enjoyable and challenging digital pinball tables that deliver in enhanced gameplay, beautiful table graphics and unique experiences for a digital pinball game but also carrying over the awesome storyline of heroes vs. villains of the Marvel comic book series and taking their storyline to a digital pinball game.  Meanwhile,  “Star Wars Pinball” offers what you love about “Star Wars” from table design, wonderful audio with magnificent music but intriguing and exciting gameplay!  I really do enjoy each “Pinball FX2” table offered and I can see myself playing and replaying this game for many years to come because it’s a lot of fun!   If you are a pinball or digital pinball fan, “Pinball FX2” on Steam is highly recommended

Screen Captures are from Steam gameplay.  “Pinball FX2” is under the copyright of Zen Studios. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Pinball FX2

TYPE OF GAME: Pinball

PLATFORM: PC Steam, PC Windows 8, XBOX 360 and Sony PlayStation

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: STEAM PC GAME

DEVELOPER: Zen Studios

PUBLISHED: Microsoft Game Studios

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2013

PC gamers rejoice! Pinball FX2™ is available on Steam as a free platform download for all users! Pinball FX2 has released with a huge lineup of in-game DLC including tables from Star Wars Pinball and Marvel Pinball series, as well as Zen Studios originals:

Star Wars Pinball
Marvel Pinball
Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue
Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles
Pinball FX2 Core Collection
Zen Classics

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Pinball, games that have been played since the 1600’s and would evolve overtime with the introduction of the spring launcher in 1869 and the coin-op version offering low-cost entertainment to people during the depression era-economy of the early 1930’s, while the 1940’s brought the use of flippers and digital displays during the 1970’s.

But as video games continue to evolve, pinball machines have also evolved with the use of digital displays, video, audio interaction with the player.  But for many video gamers, the introduction of digital pinball games have captivated players since the NES and Gameboy games of yesterday and now with high quality digital pinball games offering the latest in technology and unique gameplay.

One of the companies who have focused on digital pinball games is Zen Studios.  And in 2007, Zen Studios developed “Pinball FX”, a pinball machine video game created for the XBOX 360’s “Xbox Live Arcade” service.

“Pinball FX” first began with three tables and six more additional tables would follow featuring content from “Nightmare Mansion”, “Rocky and Bullwinkle”, “Street Fighter II Turbo”, “Earth Defense”, etc.  The game received positive reviews as the game physics emulating a real pinball machine would be a highlight of the series but also its enjoyable gameplay.

While selling over 360,000 copies on XBOX Live Arcade, a sequel titled “Pinball FX2” would be released in 2010.  And Zen Studios wanted to push themselves farther of what they can offer their fans of their games, may it be inclusion of other non-pinball games and taking it to the digital pinball realm.

While the “XBOX Live Arcade” would include a few of the first games as part of its “Pinball FX Classic” line and “Pinball FX2 Core” which introduced “BioLab”, “Pasha”, “Rome” and Secrets of the Deep” tables.  Zen Studios’s second pinball game would receive positive feedback when the studio released tables based on Marvel superheroes and teams.  “Marvel Pinball” would allow users to play “Blade”, “Iron Man”, “Spider-Man” and “Wolverine”.

While the console would also include “Ms. Splosion Man” and a “Plants vs. Zombies” table, in 2013, “Star Wars Pinball” would be released featuring three tables based on “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Boba Fett”.

And while fans have had the opportunity to play the new pinball games for the XBOX 360 and on Windows 8, PC gaming fans on Steam would get a chance to play “Pinball FX2” on Steam.

Steam gamers can purchase the following tables:

  • Star Wars Pinball: Featuring three tables – “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Boba Fett”
  • Marvell Pinball: Featuring four tables – “Blade”, “Iron Man”, “Spider-Man” and “Wolverine”
  • Marvell Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue: “Thor”, “Ghost Rider”, “Moon Knight” and “X-Men”
  • Marvell Pinball: Avengers Chronicles – “The Avengers”, “Fear Itself”, “The Infinity Gauntlet”, “World War Hulk”
  • Pinball FX2 Core Collection: “Secrets of the Deep”, “Biolab”, “Pasha”, “Rome”
  • Zen Classics: “Tesla”, “Shaman”, “El Dorado”, “V12”

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GAMEPLAY:

With “Pinball FX2”, Zen Studios takes the concept of pinball for the digital realm by introducing various acts, special effects, audio and gameplay elements that you won’t typically experience on a real machine.

For pinball purists who have played a digital pinball game, yes the game requires you to shoot the ball, use your flippers to hit the ball and you can briefly nudge the machine (nudge it too much and you are in danger of tilting).  You lose a ball each time it falls down through the center (between the flippers) or far left and right boundaries of the game.  The good news is that if you quickly lose a ball not long after a launch, you are given another chance with a free play ball.

But various tables offer more than just the ability to score more points.  It also allows you to fight various villains and take part in mini-games, if your ball is able to reach a certain location and certain goals are met.

For example, in “Star Wars”, hit the ball to the center and you will bring out Darth Vader, meet other goals and you can access a certain scene from the film or even get into a mini-game where you are Luke and are dodging laser blasts with your lightsaber using your flipper buttons.

For “Moon Knight”, you are able to get four acts which you can unleash various villains that will try to fight against Moon Knight.  You can select the scene and while playing pinball, watch as Moon Knight and his opponent walk up to each other and begin fighting.

For “Avengers”, you have access to use various balls that represent various Avengers characters (that are different not in just look but also what they can accomplish) and while fighting Loki, if you get the ball to meet certain goals to activate the Avengers aircraft, it will allow you to bomb various sections of the pinball area and taking on four balls during the game.

For “Infinity Gauntlet”, not only do you get to have Adam Warlock and Silver Surfer fighting Thanos but you get to see how Thanos tries to warp you into another table.  One game switches everything upside down in space and you have to literally play with the flippers above and this table features a good amount of sections that are unusual, fast-paced but a lot of fun.

So, a lot of the newer tables add a lot of extra gameplay features that make it worth your time to learn, not only for achievements but also because of certain bonus areas or scenes that you may not know about and also finding out strategies on how to get a high score.

For example, one may focus on their main bottom flippers, but some games have flippers on the top that if you time your hit, you can see your score multiplying and building up to millions of points.  Some require quick thinking where one flipper must be pressed and immediately released, so a ball heading towards the top flipper will not come in contact.  Or other strategies that may initiate a kickback (most pinball games have the frustrating area on both ends that will make you lose a ball) or something that may pick up your ball and shoot it so quickly that by the time you hit the flipper, the ball has gone through the center hole and you lose your ball.

COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY:

Are there difficulty modes?  Not on the menu screen but by pausing a game and selecting “OPERATOR” on the menu, it allows you to install a difficulty mode such as extra easy, normal, extra hard, etc.  BUT this is good if you do not want to play with other Steam players and compete in leaderboards.   Easy allows for extra balls and better scoring.  But once again, it’s important to note that you will receive a warning that if you change settings, your high score will not be included in the leaderboards and this change will stay, unless you reset factory defaults (also featured in “OPERATOR”).

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CONTROLS:

Prior to playing “Pinball FX2” on Steam, I played various tables on the XB360 and PS3 console.  On Steam, I will tell you that your mileage may vary when it comes to computer use and operating system.  For example, the first PC that I tested the game on was a dual core using Windows Vista.  While certain tables were able to play fine, there was a slight delay on the triggers.  This was a bit upsetting, so I switched from using a keyboard to plugging in an XB360 controller and all would work perfectly.  But problem was that certain tables like “Iron Man” and “Ghost Rider” would crash on me.

I then did a test by using “Pinball FX2” on Steam for Windows 7.  Sure enough, no lag on the triggers and no crashing of tables whatsoever.

But my experience with PC games is that depending on your system, how powerful or how non-problematic your computer is in running software, can lead to different experiences as one can read on the discussion forum for “Pinball FX2” on Steam.

As for common questions in regards to controls:

Which is better, keyboard or controller pad?

As for my choice on using an XB360 controller or the keyboard, it is subjective.  I tried both and enjoy both but I do recommend a keyboard if you have no lag, while a controller pad is much better to use if you do experience a little lag.

I’ve actually tested various heights of my keyboard to see which I felt comfortable with the keyboard and also what distance from playing the various tables.  As mentioned, I have  played these on my console, sitting about 10 feet away.  But playing it on Steam and having a chance to have the monitor up-close, I can see the flippers on bottom and top and table details much more clearly, so I felt I had better visual perspective in coming up with strategies of how to hit the ball and where to hit.

How are the physics of the game?

Some table physics are good, at times, it felt the physics were off.  For example, I can tape on the edge of a flipper with great power and sometimes the ball only goes a short way up.  Sometimes I hit a ball not hard enough but yet it goes farther than what I expected.  But I never expect a digital pinball game to have a perfect replication of gameplay digitally but it comes close and once you get to learn each table, the better you will do each time you play.

pinball4

GRAPHICS & AUDIO:

The graphics for each of the tables are absolutely gorgeous.  A lot went into table design and character models but there was good planning when it came to the actual tables, even some of the older classic/core tables.  I really had no problem with certain tables unless they were too busy graphically at the center of the table.  For example, “Avengers” went with a darkened color pallet towards the middle of the table, while “X-Men” can get a bit confusing with so much color that I felt it clashed with finding the ball at times.  But for the most part, graphics for “Pinball FX2” are awesome!

The audio for the game is also fantastic!  “Star Wars” not only features the voices and the music but “Marvel” and even the other games have great number of sound effects and spoken dialogue, so as the cut scenes has animated footage with dialogue, its great to see active tables with good music and audio.  And I was quite pleased with each table soundtrack!

REPLAY VALUE:

“Pinball FX2” is a game with a lot of replay value if you are into getting high scores.  With the number of tables available, it gives one a chance to focus on a table and learn it and move on to the next table and continue getting high scores, topping a table leaderboard and obtaining achievements.

pinballfx-7

Growing up, pinball machines were a big part of my life as a child.  Playing them at the local burger shop, even receiving a Superman pinball machine as a child, pinball machines were fun, addictive and I continued to play them even when everyone moved towards “Pac Man”, “Street Fighter II” and other popular arcade games for each decade.

My pinball experience would eventually lead me to playing the game on NES, Gameboy and dedicating hours to getting the highest score on “Pinbot”.  Then came “Super Pinball” on the SNES, “Devil’s Crush”, “Metroid Pinball” on the DS, “William’s Pinball” and “Akira Psycho Ball” for the PS2 and recently playing various pinball games on my iPad.

But a pinball game that has captivated me now for the past several years is “Pinball FX2” from Zen Studios for the XBOX 360 and the PlayStation 3.  Playing a few tables, especially the Marvel tables that were initially released a few years ago and I was in awe of how far digital pinball has evolved.  Great gameplay and challenging pinball with very good physics, beautiful table graphics, cool audio and special effects.  I felt that these games were among the best digital pinball games I have played.

But with the announcement that Zen Studios was going to release “Pinball FX2” for the PC on Steam, I felt that I had to give the game a try.  For one, I wanted to see how much better I would do while looking at a nearby monitor versus a television several feet away.  But also to see how controls would be using a keyboard versus a controller.

Having to review the game on PC, I wanted to try PC’s that were not top of the line or high end but common computers that are a few years old using Windows 7 and Windows Vista that many normal consumers would be using.  And as one can expect, the experience varied.

On Windows Vista, I experienced a few crashes for certain tables.  “Ghost Rider”, I couldn’t get past the initial ball launch and for “Iron Man”, it would constantly crash out on me, while other games would work perfectly.  While some tables were erratic, it was the initial lag of using a keyboard and hitting shift for the flippers to see a delayed reaction.  At first, I thought that it may be my computer but reading how others had experiences of slowdown, I realized that perhaps this may be a common problem with a certain OS or a computer that may have too much installed and slowing response time.  But I switched from using a keyboard to a Microsoft XBOX 360 controller and everything then became playable.  But certain tables would still crash while I was playing or when I got to a scoreboard.

I really couldn’t figure this problem out, so it was time to test it on another computer.

I then tested “Pinball FX2” on Windows 7 and  interestingly enough, none of the problems that I have experienced on my Vista machine happened on my Windows 7 PC.  No significant lag on the keyboard, nor did I have unexpected crashing.

And to finally play the game using a keyboard, I was amazed of how much better I was playing than on the XB360 controller.  No finger cramps but I just felt I had a better look at the tables during play, that using a keyboard proved to be instrumental in climbing on top of the leaderboards.  Granted, using a keyboard and controller is subjective to each individual.

pinball2

But once I was able to start playing the actual tables, I was having a lot of fun!  With each table, some require strategy and quick thinking.  For example, one would not want to let the ball roll too quickly down your flipper as momentum is so quick that by the time you press the button the flipper, the ball falls quickly through the center and you lose a ball.  And sometimes, the placement of a ball will end up in the far boundaries, making you lose the ball.  So, you come up with strategies of how to get a kick back (so, if the ball goes out on the left or right boundaries, the ball is kicked back on the table) or to regain a “Shoot Again”, so a lost ball will result in free play ball.

The most challenging is when you have multiple balls in play.  This will give you a chance to rack up enormous points but it’s not easy when you have four balls all coming down all at once, so sometimes you act erratically by hitting the flippers repeatedly.  So, it requires patients and finding out new ways to deal with multiple balls.

But the big part of the strategy for this game, for me, is to figure out ways to utilize the top flippers and where I should have the ball aimed.  Some tables reward nicely if you use those top obscured flippers correctly.

So, each table, I have had a lot of fun playing and trying to learn what the game has to offer and with the addition of playing with friends via the leaderboard or gaining achievements, it adds to the replay factor of the game.

While the Zen Studios pinball games, especially with the release of “Pinball FX2” is known for its enjoyable and fun gameplay (or frustrated, depending on how you handle lost balls and the manner that it happened or if you are experiencing significant lag on a PC), it is a bit pricey to get all tables.

If I had to select a favorite “Pinball FX2” table set, my choices would be “Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles” and “Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue”.  Both sets include my favorite tables and you get four tables with each set.  “Star Wars Pinball” is also fantastic but it does cost more and you only get three tables.  The older core and classic games are very good, some are easy to get achievements.

But for the most part, all table sets for “Pinball FX2” are recommended because each offer different styles of gameplay and enhancements, giving each game their own unique style.  I can only hope we see more new tables and also previous console tables such as the “Plants vs. Zombies” or “Street Fighter II Turbo”, newer tables based on other well-known video games or heck, how about anime pinball!  That would be awesome!

Also, the benefit of playing with a monitor than a large TV sitting several feet away, it just felt right and allows the gamer to think up strategies and how to better use the flippers on both top and bottom of the table.

With my praise for the game, are there any negatives?  Well, I have communicated with a few friends who have played the game on Steam and the primary three complaints are pricing (as some feel the sets are quite expensive to own all of them), varying experience of lag or crash issues on their computer and the last one is about physics.

While each of these arguments are valid and one can easily see people vocal on the Steam discussion boards, as for lag and crash, I experienced it on one computer with Windows Vista but didn’t experience it on my other computer with Windows 7.  Is it because of the OS, the computer?  I don’t know.  But I think that from reading the discussion boards, everyone has had different experiences and it would be hard to pinpoint what causes the lag or crashing, as each individual has a different computer setup.

As for physics, I can understand the argument, but at the same time, I’ve never expected any perfection of what you play in a real pinball game on a digital pinball version.  I have also seen physics issues with a few tables, but nothing that prevented me from enjoying or playing the game.  Physics are very good but only when you get to the the tip of the Flipper, some results varied but you learn to get around it and the more you play, you tend to figure out other strategies to overcome it.  But those who have issues with it, do have a valid argument but I was never expecting pinball physics perfection in “Pinball FX2” to begin with, so I’m not as disappointed as others.

Overall, “Pinball FX2” are exciting, enjoyable and challenging digital pinball tables that deliver in enhanced gameplay, beautiful table graphics and unique experiences for a digital pinball game but also carrying over the awesome storyline of heroes vs. villains of the Marvel comic book series and taking their storyline to a digital pinball game.  Meanwhile,  “Star Wars Pinball” offers what you love about “Star Wars” from table design, wonderful audio with magnificent music but intriguing and exciting gameplay!

I really do enjoy each “Pinball FX2” table offered and I can see myself playing and replaying this game for many years to come because it’s a lot of fun!   If you are a pinball or digital pinball fan, “Pinball FX2” on Steam is highly recommended!

PROS:

+ Awesome and creative gameplay and you discover something new each time you play the game.

+ Additional replay factor to challenge friends on Steam and achievements

+ Wonderful graphics for each table!

+ Great use of sound effects, music and dialogue!

+ Many tables are offered for purchase on Steam on launch day!

NEGATIVES:

– Depending on your computer and operating system, you may experience lag issues or constant crashing

– Table sets may be a bit expensive for some gamers.

– Purists expecting better physics may be disappointed.

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Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

February 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is a game that long time fans will be proud of. It’s a game that manages to bring Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s popular, violent and exciting manga series to the video game world with efficacy and combining it with KOEI’s “Dynasty Warriors” style of gameplay.   Unlike the first game, these are the characters and the battles that fans want to see and play!   If you are a fan of “Dynasty Warriors” games and a big fan of the manga or anime series of “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star”, give this game a chance, because I really enjoyed it!

Images courtesy of © 2013 KOEI. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2

TYPE OF GAME: Fighting

PLATFORM: Sony PS3 and XBOX 360

PSN DOWNLOAD SIZE: 9GB

DEVELOPER: Koei

COMPANY: Koei Tecmo

RATED: M for MATURE

RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2013

Kenshiro and over twenty other characters from the Fist of the North Star series are ready to unleash rage in another game from Tecmo Koei. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 has Legend mode that covers the entire manga storyline from the Raoh Saga to the Land of Shura. Dream Mode has original storylines made just for the game that often focus on minor characters from the Fist of the North Star series.

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is back!  And with the sequel comes a whole lot of changes to the overall gameplay but most importantly, an epic storyline that is heavily-based on the popular “Hokuto no Ken” manga series from Tetsuo Hara and Buronson.

The second video game adaptation features legend mode, over 20 playable characters, new moves, dream mode plus online co-op and versus play.

“HOKUTO NO KEN/FIST OF THE NORTH STAR” HISTORY

In 1983, the manga “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) was unleashed in Japan.  Illustrated by Tetsuo Hara and written by Buronson, the manga series was serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump” from 1983-1988 and has spawned anime TV series (one which lasted over 150-episodes from 1984-1988), two films, OAV’s, novels, video games and more.

Needless to say, in Japan, the story of “Fist of the North Star” has been a big part of Japanese pop culture as it was a story that showcased good vs. evil in a post-apocalyptic era in which the world is now unstable with fear running rampant across the land. Where power is justice and power ruled.  Those without power are left in fear.   Those who have power command great armies or a ragtag group of the men who have succumbed to evil.

So, popular the manga/anime series, the antagonist Raoh can be seen like a Japan equivalent to characters such as Darth Vader, Cobra Commander or even Megatron.  Villains with power and despite being evil, their fan following is tremendous.  In fact, Raoh is so popular that back in 2007, a mock funeral was held for the character in order to promote the theatrical release of “Raoh Den Gekito no Sho” (a retelling of the final battle between Kenshiro vs. Raoh).  And thousands of people attended the mock funeral, and many genuinely mourned Raoh as a man who touched their lives (despite not being a real person).

And suffice to say, both Kenshiro and Raoh are the two primary characters that are featured in this latest video game, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.

The storyline featured four adoptive brothers who were taught the “Hokuto Shinken” (aka “God Fist of the North Star”).  The four are eldest brother Raoh, Toki, Jagi and Kenshiro.  With the main storyline focusing on the eldest, Raoh and the youngest Kenshiro.

In the  series, Kenshiro has been chosen as the successor to the martial art known as Hokuto Shinken, a martial art that is 18-centuries old and involves using the body’s 708 vital pressure points to either destroy or heal a person from within.  Kenshiro is a man who is in love with Julia and instead of having a happy life, his evil brother Jagi uses his influence over Kenshiro’s good friend Shin, who is from a family which is a rival to “Hokuto Shinken” known as “Nanto Seiken” (aka Sacred Fist of the South Star).  If Hokuto Shinken is the Yin, Nanto Seiken is the Yang.  Two can’t exist without each other.

In the storyline, Kenshiro has been seen as the younger brother who is not at all strong.  His brother Raoh has chosen the path to be a conqueror of lands, Toki who is the healer is thought to be dead (due to radiation poisoning) and Jagi, the jealous older brother of Kenshiro who is upset his younger brother is thought to be a better fighter than he is.

So far in the storyline, Kenshiro’s girlfriend Julia was kidnapped by Shin and Shin defeats Kenshiro and leaving him for dead.

The first video game “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” is similar to the Dynasty Warriors games from Koei Tecmo.  The game introduced a LEGEND MODE which followed the original manga series in which you played Kenshiro (or other characters) as the story progresses, building up your characters skills and your character while gaining additional special moves.  With each character you encounter, once you beat a level, the key opponent/major character will be added to DREAM MODE, and those characters will be playable.  And an additional CHALLENGE MODE in which one can play Kenshiro and take on a string of opponents.

The game was released for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360.

And now, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of “Hokuto no Ken”, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” has been released courtesy of KOEI TECMO.

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: KEN’S RAGE 2 is the second game of the series which was developed by Koei, not Omega Force (who did the first game).  Unlike the first game, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is available for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Wii U (digital distribution only), while available as a physical release for the XBOX 360.  Also, the release was only two months after its release in Japan.

I will be reviewing the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

GAMEPLAY:

There are slight differences between the first and second game.  While the game keeps to the “Dynasty Warriors” theme, the game has removed the option to jump and is replaced by a dodging system.  During a game, characters can find hidden scrolls to help add to their character’s abilities.   After each battle with a key rival character, one can learn a signature move.  Saving the game takes place after a major chapter and while a chapter can be long, there are interim saves, but unfortunately, interim saves will not start where one has left off but at the beginning of a chapter.

As for the modes featured in the “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”:

LEGEND MODE

This is probably my favorite part of “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.  The first game didn’t really explain characters all that much, but this time around, KOEI decided that the story would be a primary focus for Legend Mode.

And instead of featuring short stories, KOEI allows for more character development, by allowing you to play these other characters.  But most importantly, developing a long story that covers the remainder of the “Hokuto no Ken” storyline revolving Kenshiro and his brothers.

So, one can possibly expect anywhere around 10-20 hours of gameplay, because some of these chapters are long, cut scenes also can be long but the biggest part that made me enjoy this game even more, is the fact that KOEI featured the following the manga series:

  • Kenshiro meeting Bat and Rin as children
  • Kenshiro storyline involving Shin and Yuria
  • Kenshiro taking on Rei and also introducing Mamiya
  • Kenshiro taking on those who represent Nanto Goshasei
  • Kenshiro taking on his three brothers Jaki, Toki and Raoh +  other opponents
  • The Golden Celestial Storyline featuring a grown up Bat and Rin and the Falco storyline
  • The Shura storyline featuring Kenshiro taking on those who know Hokuto Ryuken, and introducing and including battles with Jukei, Shchi, Han, Hyoh and Kaioh
  • Conclusion of the Bat, Rin Mamiya and Bolge storyline

These arcs are quite long and if KOEI wanted to, they could have easily stopped at the Raoh storyline and save the other for a third game, but instead, the Shura/Hokuto Ryuken is featured in “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.

The object of LEGEND MODE is to play Kenshiro and going through what was featured in the manga series.   Similar to Dynasty Warriors, hordes of enemies come from every direction and your character begins with either 3-4 signature moves.  Using your buttons, you can do straight hits, combo moves, grab, taunt, etc.  Scattered in each area are chests that contain a chicken or bread (for extra health), a canister (for extra aura) or scrolls that can enhance your character.

You can equip five scrolls and each scroll may have 1 to 4 symbols.  A green heart for extra life, a yellow flame aura which allows one to have a quick recharge to pull off a signature move, a red fist for attack, blue shield for defense and purple for technique.

Some scrolls allow for a special ability, such as RECOVER which can allow your character to recover faster, STAMINA for added stamina during battle, others that activate more defense, better aura when you are low on health and more.  Scroll levels start at level 1 but as you progress, you eventually find scrolls that feature higher levels and adds to your character’s life, aura, attack, defense and technique points.

But LEGEND MODE is a straightforward story mode with long cut scenes after each battle or after a segment during a fight against a key rival character.

To explain the bar segment (as shown on the image above), on the bottom at the screen during a fight with a key rival character character, you will notice their red health bar is broken down by three (or four) segments.

When one bar of segment goes down, the main fight will stop, transition to a cut-scene and feature a storyline in which Kenshiro or an opponent will get stronger, question a character’s fight style or continue a storyline with a new revelation.

Because LEGEND MODE follows the manga series, this style is much different than other games which allows you to take on a key rival character, fight to the death and then a cut scene.

Some are major opponents, captains or low ranking commanders and thus, some will not have a save point until after the chapter ends.  While there are interim save points, this is not one of those games where one has 10 minutes to play and hope they can find a save point.  Sometimes, some chapters are quite long, so for those wondering if they can play a game and save at any point of game, this is not one of them.

The game also allows other type of gameplay instead of fighting.  Some levels ask for one to be stealthy and sneak and kill an enemy guard without being detected, another allows objects to be thrown at an enemy from the distance and some enemies rely on different strategies and standard hits or kicks may not work.  Other levels have you protecting a child or a wounded comrade, while moving through a violent area.

But as the story progresses for Kenshiro and friends, LEGEND MODE is the most satisfying part of “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” because of  how much of the manga is presented in this mode.

DREAM MODE

Dream Mode allows one to play with characters that were opened up in LEGEND MODE.   The story is similar for those who have played Dynasty Warriors in which you are presented with a map which show where enemy forces have occupied several bases. Your job is to take back five of the bases (after beating the first base, you are joined with soldiers who fight for you) which have around 50 people plus two commanders or captains and after taking back five of the bases, you then take on a key rival character (which sometimes is followed by a second key rival).

The good news is that your soldiers actually do some fighting.  Where in the first game, even if an opponent is nearly dead, you could never trust your soldiers as they seemed weak.  And a lot of time, you had to go back to the bases you have beaten and reclaim them.  The issue is not the case with “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.

You can play over 20 characters (which represent Hokuto Shinken, Nanto Seiken, Hokuto Army, Hokoto Ryuken, Lone Warriors and Others), many characters who are available after beating their storyline in LEGEND MODE and level them up (all are level 1 with the exception of Kenshiro who maintains the same level for those who played LEGEND MODE first).

But the object is to defeat each map level by controlling your character on the map, reclaiming about five bases from the enemies and taking on the key rival for that area on the map.  It’s important to note that two simultaneous bosses/key rival characters on screen have been removed but there are two simultaneous commanders or captains that are featured during battle.

The bad news for those who loved the missions of the first game, the missions are no longer featured in DREAM MODE.  It’s now focused on claiming bases and taking on final key rival in that map area.

You can choose from a STORY MODE, FREE PLAY MODE and ONLINE.

For STORY MODE and FREE MODE, you can access one of the many characters and play up to 10 maps plus a challenge level for each character.  The main difference between the two is that STORY MODE contains an alternate storyline with cut scenes.

At the time of this review, there aren’t many people playing ONLINE MODE at this time (for the PS3) but what is available is CO-OP PLAY and TEAM MATCH.  The benefit of co-op is that you can access high level scrolls that are not available in the offline single player version of the game.

I do feel that KOEI is taking the risk of not letting characters be available for ONLINE MODE.  You are forced to play LEGEND MODE first and literally beat the entire game before going into DREAM MODE which one can play Kenshiro.  But I do understand the reason for this is because of the STORY MODE, which feature characters that can only be featured if you beat LEGEND MODE.  So, it’s a restriction that does hurt the ONLINE mode.

It would have been nice to have two-player co-op but because of the restricti0n, it does make people focus on the single player aspect of the game much more.

Also, available is GALLERY which allows you to view artwork and movies that were saved after beating LEGENDARY MODE or STORY for DREAM MODE.  You can also access SETTINGS to change difficulty, if you want a tutorial featured during play.

Also, DOWNLOAD for DLC content is available and as of right now, the characters Amiba, Nameless Shura and Han can be downloaded for $8 each.

 

CONTROLS:

For controls, you use the L3 stick to control your character, but most of the time, you will be using SQUARE and TRIANGLE to unleash a string of combos.  CIRCLE to unleash your signature move and other buttons to dodge, taunt or grab/strike your character (which is important in facing off against stronger, same-size opponents, as you will need to do combos such as SQUARE, SQUARE, TRIANGLE, GRAB.

I felt the fighting mechanics for the second game is much better but this is subjective as some will miss the jumping ability of the first game.

While controls are fine and I rarely had problems, I did have issues with camera.    Not all the time, but a few times during a fight against a major opponent, where I try to have my character pull off a string of combos, when the opponent circles around, it becomes a first person perspective.    Granted, I could easily move out and re-position  my character but during battles where timing is important, especially vs. Raoh or Kaoh, you don’t want these camera issues to happen and affect timing.

Once again, this did not affect me too much but it did happen a few times.

GRAPHICS:

The graphics for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” are good (don’t expect big budget graphics like “Final Fantasy” or “Mass Effect”).  But I enjoyed the character designs for this game.  The characters compliment Tetsuo Hara’s character designs from the manga and I was quite pleased to see how the emotion and violence was captured in this video game.

Because it’s based on the manga series, most are 3D based characters that are featured as still images, but there are moments when the characters are in full movement and are speaking.

For people familiar with the manga or the anime series, the series is extremely violent and bloody.  Characters are beaten, eyes are gouged out, heads explode, one scene has a character being drilled to death.  So, for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” you expect to see characters bruised, bloody and beaten and you see that in this game.

Did I experience lag?  Just once, during a scene where there were a ton of characters, there was a slight lag and choppiness but other than that, I was quite pleased with the game because having played many other “Hokuto no Ken” games, his is the best I have seen of a game so far.

AUDIO:

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” was quite immersive.  Listening it on a 7.2 system, KOEI definitely let a lot of the sound effects be utilized through the surround and rear surround channels.  Dialogue was crisp and clear but probably the highlight is the voice acting.  The Japanese voice acting is fantastic.  From the emotion coming from Bat, Rin, Yuria and Mamiya, to the evil that comes from Kaoh.  I was quite pleased with the overall voice acting for the game.

With that being said, not everyone likes listening to a video game in Japanese with English subtitles.  And those who prefer it to be dubbed, like the first game, may be disappointed to find out that the game is only in Japanese with English subtitles.

REPLAY VALUE:

While I considered LEGEND MODE to be the main mode for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”, the fact that there are over 20-characters that one can continue playing on DREAM MODE, adds to the replay value of the game.  It’s been a staple of the DYNASTY WARRIORS type games to include so many characters, that you get your money’s worth and the fact that each character have their own fighting style (and these are NOT clone characters), is a plus.  And the addition of an ONLINE MODE adds to the replay value of the game.

I was very fortunate to have grown up with “Fist of the North Star”.  The manga series that was released in the U.S. from Viz Communications and the anime series released on VHS easily made me a fan, but it was the old Streamline Pictures animated film that introduced me to “Fist of the North Star” and that was back in 1991.

I was captivated by the Mad Max storyline, a post-apocalyptic world where power rules over cash and the world turned into chaos because of it. And like many other anime/manga fans during the very early ’90s, we also played the import games and one of the first import games that I purchased was the side-scrolling game “Hokuto no Ken: Shin Seikimatsu Kyuseishu Densetsu” for the Sega Mega Drive, which I still own today.

And when I visit Japan, suffice to say, I still tend to look for anything related to “Hokuto no Ken” (First of the North Star) and another fighting series titled “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”.  And while both games have been released in arcades in Japan, I have hoped and long wished for the series to have an awesome video game release.

By 2003, with the release of the animated OVA series, “New Fist of the North Star”, I was hoping that there would be of interested in Japan for a new video game.  While there was a focus on bringing it out as a game, moreso for pachinko.

By 2008, I was excited about the release of “Hokuto no Ken: Hokuto Shinken Denshosha no Michi” for the Nintendo DS, just to find out it was a digital comic which required touching vital points.  In 2009, with the release of the animated OVA series featuring Raoh titled “Hokuto no Ken: Raoh Gaiden: Ten no Haoh”, I immediately purchased the video game which featured the characters of the OVA series and the game was a 3D fighting game, more on the “Street Fighter” side.

In 2010, I was excited to find out that KOEI would be releasing a “Dynasty Warriors” type of game but in the “Hokuto no Ken” universe and heavily inspired by the manga series.  For me, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” was awesome to see made for the current gen consoles, but what I wanted to see and play are the characters leading up to the final half of the series.  Kenshiro vs. Shin, Kenshiro vs. Raoh, Kenshiro vs. Kaoh, etc.

So, when I started seeing the promotional videos from Japan for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”, I couldn’t wait!  Because the version I wanted to see and play for so long, is now here!

Before I continue with my review, I need to say that I’m not a “Dynasty Warriors” hater.  Many reviewers who dislike the game, I feel should not be reviewing it in the first place.  They score the games low, they hardly play it and every year, they talk about how the game lacks innovation and can’t understand why people play them.

I’m not that kind of reviewer.  In fact, I have owned and played many “Dynasty Warriors”, “Samurai Warriors”, “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam” games, for a variety of consoles, and I enjoy playing the Musou games.

Perhaps it was because I grew up with games such as “Final Fantasy”, “Streets of Rage” and many others were you fought the same looking characters, repeat the same moves.  I’m so used to playing Japanese RPG’s, level grinding for hours upon hours and I don’t mind it.

And while there are a niche group who will forever support these games, I know there are people who don’t and they are vocal about it in their review.

In my case, I enjoyed playing “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.  In my opinion, this is the best game to come out featuring the characters and how awesome is it that the video game is based on the manga series.

The character design compliments Tetsuo Hara’s style, the voice acting is incredible and while the game leans more to the easier side (which can be fixed by difficulty select in the settings), the fact that Kenshiro has so many cool signature moves and find a way to defeat these herds of soldiers or psychopaths as quickly as possible is quite fun.  But what made it worth my while is the LEGEND MODE.

I realized that KOEI could have stopped anywhere after the long arc which involved Kenshiro vs. his brothers, especially Raoh.  But the story continued as it goes into the Falco storyline and just when you think that the game would end on a teaser for possibly a third “Ken’s Rage”, you are then presented a new long storyline revolving the Shura and the battle against those who possess the Hokoto Ryuken.

And just when you think the game was about to end, you are then presented with a new storyline revolving around the character of Bat.

Looking at my character profile and how long I have played, LEGEND MODE, I was near 20 hours.  Granted, probably 18 hours at the most as those extra two hours was testing interim save and having to replay a level again and finding a way to beat Kaoh underground in a sulfur pit, but playing this mode alone, I felt the game was worth the money because the interactive cut scenes based on the manga were fantastic and for any “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” fans, this longer LEGEND MODE was so, worth playing!

As for the DREAM MODE, this is where I can see some players being a bit upset with.  The mission mode is no longer there, the hordes of enemies that are featured in LEGEND MODE are now broken up into 50-men armies, many characters are not available until you beat LEGEND MODE and because some people don’t want to get involved in a long storyline with long cut-scenes to access players for DREAM MODE, I can see a few frustrated gamers.  And because of the lack of players, it won’t help much with the ONLINE MODE because everyone would have to play LEGEND MODE to unlock the characters.

So, I can see the frustration for some gamers for DREAM MODE in that aspect.  But if you did beat LEGEND MODE, you realize that because the games within DREAM MODE for story relates to many characters that have yet to be opened, it makes sense why KOEI went this direction.  But it was a risk for KOEI because it does hurt gameplay for those who want to play online immediately.

As for problems, the main problems that I experienced was just camera issues for a few matches against key opponents.  The camera would switch to a first person view when fighting that it easily distracts your rhythm if you are trying to create a string of combos.  Fortunately, it happened a few times and that was it.

As for lag, I didn’t see much of it.  Only one time, where I can remember it going slow with so many things on the screen but other than that, I had no issues with the game at all.

But I think that where people may have difficulty with this game are outside of the game modes, are repetitive  gameplay and the interruption of fights against key rival characters.  Rarely do we see boss fights in a video game that stop the momentum and go into a lengthy cinematic sequence, but it does happen in LEGEND MODE a few times for a good reason.  It adds to the storyline as it was featured in the manga, especially when it focuses on the turn of the battles.  Where the opponent may be kicking Kenshiro’s butt but then all of a sudden, he finds a way to make his comeback.  This is how those fights are set up, if you manage to beat the key rival character and see their health bar decrease by a segment (which I explain above in gameplay).

In the way it was implemented, I didn’t mind so much.  Unless one was low on time and had to leave or go to sleep, I can see why some may get frustrated because you could only save after the end of a chapter and some of these chapters are long.  It would have been great if interim saves would allow for a restart where you last saved, but because of the way the game was built, it’s not possible.  That was probably the only thing that did make me frustrated, not knowing how long the chapter would be and if a save would ever come.  There were times it took a long while just to get a save point.

Graphics were good, not great but the character design compliments Tetsuo Hara’s work from the manga series.  Audio was very good as it utilized the surround channels, but another caveat for some, may be the fact that only the Japanese dialogue with English subtitles are included.  While the Japanese voice acting was fantastic, those who dislike having to read subtitles, may have a problem with this game not having an English dub.

But the positives outweighed the negative for me.  I’m an avid gamer who enjoys “Dynasty Warriors” type of games and I’m a big fan of “Hokuto no Ken”.  While, I’m not sure if “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” will continue, especially with more stories that can be explored with “New Fist of the North Star” and “Fist of the Blue Sky”, if this is the final game in the “Ken’s Rage” series, I feel that KOEI gave “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” fans a game that was exciting and a storyline that kept to the manga series with efficacy.

As for differences between the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360 version, the PS3 is not available on physical media in the U.S. but as a digital download on the PSN store, while the XBOX 360 is available in physical media.  While I did not play the XBOX 360 version, I can say that the PS3 version is over 9GB long and you will need to have at least 18GB free to install it.

People who hardly play the “Dynasty Warriors” style games, may it be “Dynasty Warriors”, “Samurai Warriors”, “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam” or even “One Piece: Pirate Wars” will always complain about repetitiveness and to tell you the truth, that has been going on since “Dynasty Warriors 2” for the PS2.

“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is not perfect but by no means is it terrible.  I’ll proudly say it’s the best “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” made so far.  The LEGEND MODE is a reason enough to buy this game alone and the DREAM MODE was like extra content that added to replay value and I love that.  But for those in it for the ONLINE MODE, will be disappointed and will say, do not buy this game if your priority is online gaming or online co-op.

Overall, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is a game that long time fans will be proud of. It’s a game that manages to bring Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s popular, violent and exciting manga series to the video game world with efficacy and combining it with KOEI’s “Dynasty Warriors” style of gameplay.   Unlike the first game, these are the characters and the battles that fans want to see and play!   If you are a fan of “Dynasty Warriors” games and a big fan of the manga or anime series of “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star”, gives this game a chance, because I really enjoyed it!

PROS:

+ The Best “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” game made so far!

+ LEGEND MODE is awesome and fans of the series will no doubt love it.  15-20 hours of gameplay for LEGEND MODE alone.

+ “Ken’s Rage 2” features more characters that many of us have been wanting to play!

+  Fantastic voice acting!  And respectful design based on Tetsuo Hara’s manga designs.

+  Better fight mechanics than the previous game.

CONS:

– ONLINE MODE for DREAM MODE requires one to play through LEGEND MODE first.

– Camera tends to go astray a few times.

– Mission mode removed from DREAM MODE and 50-person battles per base may seem to easy.

– Some may find the halting for more cut scenes during major key opponent battles to be bothersome.

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