Sep 132011

The 3DS is going to be getting a lot of love in the future. What’s this? Nintendo isn’t actually going all bankrupt and burning down their houses because the 3DS sales weren’t as huge as they thought. Bah, listen up fools, the 3DS is about to sucker punch all the non-believers with some great stuff. One of which is this RPG. We don’t get a lot from the video, a few gameplay clips but they look promising. At this point, the name is the only real thing that bothers me. Its just kinda clunky to say, here you try saying it. Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. Wasn’t that odd? Well watch this teaser and tell us what you think on our fun forums!

Mario fans rejoice as they show off Super Mario 3D Land which looks like every Mario fan’s dream.

A title that I’ve been wanting for ages gets a gameplay trailer. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime 3. I played the second one for the DS and it blew me away with how fun it was. This version looks like more of the same great fun and I am super pumped!

Capcom is helping too with cult favorite Monster Hunter 4. This game looks magnificent!

That’s four titles that I am especially excited about. There are a bunch more, and our pals over at PopArma has the full list.


Sep 092011

Just when gamers start crying that the JRPG genre is dead, Nintendo pulls a doozie like Xenoblade Chronicles out of their bag of many tricks. This game promised to be the complex, sprawling RPG that Wii owners had been begging for. Unfortunately, everyone got it except North Americans, much to the chagrin of those behind “Operation Rainfall“. It’s very unfortunate that Nintendo made this decision, because my experience with this game so far has lead me to believe it is not only the best RPG for the Wii, but maybe one of the best JRPGs of this console generation.


*If you haven’t seen any trailers or such for Xenoblade Chronicles there could be some spoilers in the ‘Story’ section.

The opening cinematic of Xenoblade Chronicles portrays two seemingly robotic titans, named Bionis and Mechonis, battling each other. It’s hard to tell who wins this battle, but eventually you are shown that there are human-like creatures called Homes living on the creature known as Bionis. Their nemesis, mechanical beings known as the Mechon presumably live on the titan called Mechonis. Get it? Biological beings on Bionis and mechanical entities on Mechonis. How clever!

Through a series of unfortunate events, the game’s protagonist, Shulk, realizes he has the ability to wield a weapon known as the Monodo. It is an energy-based blade weapon which is the only thing that can damage the minions of the Mechon. Over the course of the game, Shulk will gain new abilities, called Arts, that he can execute on his own. He also learns a separate set of Arts that are related only to the Monodo. Just where this weapon came from, what it’s full range of abilities is, and why only certain people seem to be able to wield it will be just one set of mysteries you will be trying to uncover as the game’s events unfold.

The story sticks to JRPG clichés: there is still a young boy who teams up with some lifelong friend and uses his newfound and amazing abilities to save the world, but the development team at Monolith managed to make it easy to swallow. Perhaps this is due to the unique setting of the game, or it’s mostly straightforward storyline. Or it could be that everyone seems to have clear motives, ranging from revenge to protecting loved ones. Nothing feels obscure or convoluted, which is a departure from the standard storytelling methods in JRPGs lately.

Slashing Mechon to bits with the Monodo


It would be all to easy to write a thousand words based solely on the gameplay in Xenoblade Chronicles. The game is the most delightfully complex thing ever played on a console, so it would be impossible to cover every nuance here. Instead, we will focus on what seem to be the essentials.


The developers went through great lengths to make sure the game was accessible to both seasoned JRPG vets and new players looking to break into the genre. They did this by including simple design elements like giving the player complete control over the time of day without any penalty. This was great for triggering time sensitive events without standing around and waiting for the in-game time to advance. Another thing they did was include a simple to use fast travel system that allows players to travel instantly to certain areas or landmarks once they have been discovered. Xenoblade Chronicles also allows for saving anywhere you want, which is essentially unheard of in a RPG of this caliber these days.

Quests & Collections

While attempting to complete the main quest of you will come across NPCs that want you to complete sidequests for them. These are all fairly typical for an RPG, and involve finding a certain item or collecting a number of another item. Unlike other games in this genre, you usually will not have to return to the NPC that issued the sidequest in order to complete it. There is a trade off, however, because you will not get any help from the game’s mini-map like you would with main quest objectives. Completing these quests will net you rewards in the way of experience, gold, and items.

As you’re running around finding lost earrings and collecting bird feathers, you will come across blue orbs laying about the world. Grabbing these items will complete an entry in the “Collectipedia”, and if you collect everything for a certain category you will be awarded a special gem that can be affixed to weapon or armor to enhance its attributes.


Combat is turn-based, though you are not limited in terms of where or when you can move your characters. You simply need to be in range of your target to initiate an auto attack, which will hit persistently as long as you are close enough. If you’ve played Final Fantasy XII you will feel right at home in Xenoblade Chronicles battles. In between auto attacks you will have the option to execute one of the many Arts available to your character, provided your talent gauge, which you keep full by successfully landing auto attacks on enemies, is full enough. Once you defeat a monster, you will be awarded experience points, gold, skill points with which you can level up your Arts, and occasionally items. Some of these items will be crystals that can be made into the aforementioned gems by way of a very simple mini-game.

This is one of very few console games where managing “aggro” (if your unfamiliar with the term, aggro just means the monster is focusing all of its attention on you) is important. Knowing each character’s strengths and weaknesses will be very important for getting through a battle victoriously. For example, Shulk, a well-rounded character as far as stats go, has substantially less HP than his lifelong friend Reyne does. Reyne is a warrior type character built for taking hits and keeping all an enemy’s attention focused on him. It is prudent to let Reyne keep aggro so Shulk can maneuver around the target to use his attacks, because most of them are only effective beside or behind a monster. Constantly spamming Arts will pull aggro off of Reyne, so it’s vital to use a good balance of auto attacks and Arts. For emergencies, Shulk does come with an Art that reduces his aggro level but it’s not fool proof. It’s easy to tell who has the baddie’s attention, because the character will be marked with a red ring around him so you can easily tell when it’s time to get Shulk the heck out of dodge.

Some monsters are simply enormous in scale.

Another well-implemented feature of combat in Xenoblade Chronicles is the Party Gauge This blue gauge at the top of the screen fills up a little with each successful hit on an enemy, or you can get one of the three bars filled up instantly if you are able to cheer one of your teammates on at the right time when prompted. You must have at least one bar in the Party Gauge to revive fallen party members or warn them of an impending attack — but more on that later. You also can expend a completely full gauge to execute a Chain Attack, in which time temporarily freezes and you issue a command to each party member to carry out. These Chain Attacks, if used properly, will net huge damage bonuses compared to standard attacks, and will be absolutely crucial for certain bosses.

The last unique, and possibly most interesting, combat element is Shulk’s ability to use the Monodo to predict certain events in the near future. In combat, the image becomes slightly distorted and wavy, so you will instantly be able to tell when Shulk is having a premonition. Then at the top of the screen, you will be able to see which of your party members the monster is going to attack, what type of attack they will use, and how much damage it will deal. After the vision is over, you will have a few seconds to warn the target of the attack and select an appropriate move for them to counter the attack with, but this only works if you have at least one full bar in your Party Gauge There are other methods you can use to keep your party safe that you will unlock as the story progresses. It would be a great loss if players look at all the complexities of combat and become overwhelmed or think this isn’t the game for them to play. The game features an in-depth tutorial system that you can access at anytime which will teach you all of the game’s finer points.


The graphics in Xenoblade Chronicles are, for the most part, great looking. The environments are finely rendered and give as much of a “photo-realistic” feel as I’ve seen on the Wii to date, with the exception of Monster Hunter Tri (a game I will obviously be gushing about forever). Battle animations are smooth and fluid and special effects are completely top-notch. Cutscenes are rendered with the in-game engine, which is nice because your characters will be wearing all the actual gear they’re wearing during a battle or otherwise. The only shortcoming for the visuals is that up close. Characters’ faces look flat; as if someone drew a picture of a face and wrapped it around a Styrofoam ball.

There is a wide variety of terrain in the game. There are environments ranging from lush forests, dank caves, and sprawling prairies. These vistas are beautifully detailed and really give you a sense of the scale of the world you’re traveling in. Caves were rendered a little too darkly, but a quick visit to the game’s settings menu was all it took to move the brightness to an acceptable level.

The soundtrack is superb. It’s fully orchestrated and the composer was really able to capture the grandeur and epic scale of the story he was scoring. I found the voices to be a little cheesy, but that could be because they’re very British. The general consensus is that the voice acting is good so we can chalk any perceived hoakiness up to my American ears.

Battling it out on the open plains.

Since the Wii released almost five years ago, one of the major complaints of its naysayers has been that there are no “in-depth” games for the system. While that was mostly true at the time, it is obvious that Xenoblade Chronicles was just the game that these people and long-time Wii fans were holding out for. It’s unfortunate that by the time this game was created, the JRPG has become mostly a dead genre in the eyes of Western gamers. This colossal title offers a sprawling world, an intricate battle system, and a great story all wrapped up in the package with some of the best graphic on offer from the Wii. After playing just a portion of the game, it left me hoping that there will be more games this accessible and ambitious in the console generations to come…and hopefully with a North American release.

Xenoblade Chronicles

ProsGreat story, excellent graphics, intricate yet easy to learn battle system
ConsCharacter faces look a little flat, caves are way too dark. That's it really.
VerdictXenoblade Chronicles is the definitive JRPG of this console generation.
Sep 012011

I’ve been keeping my eyes on Dragon’s Dogma for some time. The upcoming open-world RPG from Capcom® promises to deliver the epic boss slaying of Monster Hunter Tri along with a deeper and more robust RPG system. The official North American cover art has been revealed, leaving me longing for more news before this game’s 2012 release.

Continue reading »

Aug 262011

This is the EU bundle, that comes packaged with a red Classic Controller.

For a few months, rabid Nintendo owners across the globe were petitioning the publisher to release a series of “hardcore” RPGs in the United States. Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the central titles in this effort known as “Operation Rainfall”, but it failed to influence Nintendo’s decision to exclude North America from this game’s release. This behemoth of a game did not make it Stateside, but thanks to being translated into English for the European Union release ,and the ingenuity of internet hackers, I have had the pleasure of playing this game.
Continue reading »

Aug 252011

Wow, nothing is EXPENSIVE in this town.

Instead of picking on one game in particular, this week we’re making fun of a whole genre! Fellow staffer Jessie has been singing the praises of Xenoblade. I got me thinking about RPG’s in general and all their wacky logic. I enjoy the lighter RPG’s myself but can’t really get into the extremely deep 70+ hour games. I like my arcade style titles, thank you very much. Still, the fantasy realms do offer a few moments for humor.

See you next week.

Aug 032011

2K Games has confirmed that a follow-up to 2009′s hit FPS/RPG, Borderlands, is on the way. According to the publisher’s blog, Borderlands 2 is expected to arrive during the next fiscal year, and will feature plenty of changes from its predecessor. The game’s developer, Gearbox Software, is promising new characters, skills, and weapons, smarter enemies, a more diverse environment, and an updated mission system.

Since the announcement was only made this morning, many details concerning the game are unknown, but with Gamescom kicking off August 17 we expect more information will be available soon.

Borderlands 2 has been confirmed for XBox 360, PS3, and PC.

Jul 192011

Dragon’s Dogma is an upcoming open-world RPG from Capcom. It is set to release in 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. In it, players will control a small party that battles against a bunch of enormous looking monsters. What sets this game apart from similar titles, is the developers are saying you will be able to climb on all the bosses and attack any part you can see. Given how much I was completely enamored with Monster Hunter Tri, this title really grabbed my attention! Check out the sceenshots below! I’ve also included the trailer from this year’s E3 if you missed it.

Click for full-sized image.


Click for full-sized image.


Click for full-sized image.


Click for full-sized image.


Click for full-sized image.


Jun 272011

It’s pretty obvious that Dungeons and Dragons has had a HUGE impact on video games, especially western RPGs. The Dungeon Siege series is no stranger to that D&D feel and the third one does not disappoint. It has everything you’d want in a hack and slash dungeon crawler.

Upon starting, you have four characters to choose from. Lucas is the typical knight in shining armor from a noble family bloodline. Anjali is an Archon, which is a spirit of fire that can transform and blast foes with fire. Reinhart is a mage, but not your typical spell caster. All his magic comes from logic, math, and science. Finally there is Katarina who has really large breasts, a semi-Russian accent and various guns. As the story progresses you can form your party with the other three characters. The party size is limited to two, but you can make some fun combinations.

I chose Anjali, mainly because she uses spears and I am a sucker for a polearm weapon. She has an interesting play style for sure. She is a great melee fighter against large groups and can clear distances with a few of her abilities. She can also transform into her spirit form which is essentially a female human torch and start blasting fire balls at people from far away. Each character has two stances they can swap from to give them some versatility.

The game itself starts out kind of slow. I could only play for a handful of minutes at a time without getting bored, it seemed. I think it has to do with just having basic abilities and simply smashing X over and over. That being said, the more I played, the more time would elude me as I was really sucked in. So, while the game does start of slow, it gets far more action-packed, especially when you start leveling and getting new party members to swap in and out. As you level up, you will either learn new abilities or earn points to add extra effects to them like maybe a stun effect, bleeds, or more damage. You will also be able to put points into talents which better your character in other ways. You can also use your abilities enough to unlock empowered versions of them, which do extra things.  It kind of reminds me of the movie Audition. It starts at a snail’s pace, then out of nowhere you feel like you were just hit by a truck.

Typically, combat is the tried and true hack and slash standard of throwing a large group of enemies at you, which you must dispose of quickly before you take too much damage. While most of the time these skirmishes can be fun, sometimes they can be quickly unfair or surprisingly difficult if you are not prepared. Turn a corner and suddenly a large group of ranged enemies blast you from afar all at the same time, totally destroying you. On the upside, if your party member lives, they can bring you back to life. Boss fights can be very tough or very easy. I’d say usually tough, because if you try to fight it normally you will probably die. The reason I say they can become very easy is if you have a character that can swap to a ranged form, essentially you can just kite the boss around. This kind of hurts the who strategic approach, and I tried really hard not to do it this way.

The graphics won’t win any awards or anything, but they do look nice for what they are. Decent amount of detail went into the backgrounds. The soundtrack does its job as far as giving you an ambiance for the place you’re in. Other than that I doubt I will remember the score. The voice acting isn’t terrible. I was surprised. Unless of course you pick Anjali who sounds like a female robot. Perhaps this is how Archons talk, but man it’s annoying.

Good ol' Two player action!

One of the great features of this game is the couch multiplayer. It’s only for two people, but it feels good sitting next to your buddy hacking and slashing enemies. It reminds me of the good ol’ days playing contra, double dragon, and the TMNT games. I know there are still plenty of couch games, like Smash Bros, but you can definitely see where developers are slowly fading that mechanic away. There is also an online multiplayer that supports four players, which is pretty fun, but nothing beats the couch multiplayer.

Could you repeat that? I was uh, distracted.



Dungeon Seige III

ProsCouch multiplayer! Fun skills and abilities. Katarina has large breasts. Generally fun Combat.
ConsForgettable story, enemies can overwhelm you if you are not careful. Exploitable bosses. The game starts out slow. At least 6 hours before it starts getting fun.
VerdictIf you've played the other games in the series, this will be a fine addition. Hack and Slash fans will probably really dig this game.
Jun 162011

This should be the armor choice for many RPG heroes.

I have played a lot of RPGs in my lifetime. They’ve always been one of my favorite genres filled with story and action and heroes that are able to overcome the odds at any cost. I guess I just sort of went with it, and never actually thought about these characters. Upon further investigation, to be the hero in an RPG, you have to be absolutely mad! That’s right, only the most unstable of minds are fit to save the world apparently. Here are just a few points to back up my accusation.

Communication skills-

There are two types of hero generally in an RPG. There’s the guy who knows he’s the only guy who matters and he doesn’t have to say a damned thing. Why should he? Everyone just does whatever he wants because after-all he is the chosen one. Either that or he is physically mute or just so crazy he’s afraid to talk. Then you have the guy who talks too much. They Just go on and on and makes moral choices and quippy remarks that no one laughs at. Usually their answers to tough decisions are very limited. It’s like they can only comprehend a very linear course of action despite what any rational human might come up with. Their communication abilities are quite in question. How are we to invest our hope in these people when they can’t even communicate properly?

Privacy means nothing to them-

The tried and true topic of many a RPG gamer is the fact that “our hero” can just barge into people’s houses and do what they like. No one cares that you just smashed all of their pottery. No one cares that you just rifled through the underwear drawer. Maybe this is partially the occupants fault for letting them do as they please. In few worlds however, things are different. In the world of Elder Scrolls, such actions if seen will cause consequence. Even still, our character still has these urges and cannot be trusted to abide by simple laws. How can we possibly give the task of saving the world to such a criminally minded person?


World in danger? I got this!

When the planet is in need of saving, luck happens to shine down on someone who is actually capable of saving it. Can you imagine if I was the main character in an RPG? We’d be screwed. Sure I am good at some things, but I have never weilded some magical gigantic weapon with cannons strapped to it. Nor did I go to some wacky flying military school or live with a band of theives. Chances are if you are depending on me to climb down some ancient crater and fight some multiple forms of badass, it won’t end well. Maybe this isnt quite a mental issue, but ultimately it can cause these chosen few to become quite unstable.

No concept of time-

Um.. Shouldn't you be saving the world?

In Many instances these “heroes” are challenged by some maddening villain bent on destroying the world. It is the hero’s duty to bring this villain to justice. The thing is, often these heroes are busy doing other things before they can stop the evil doer from destroying the universe. You know, they are off doing much more important things like watching giant birds have sex. Hey, that guy is going to blow up the planet, I know, lets go snowboarding! Instead of saving the world, we can travel from town to town playing card games! Better yet, we can explore all these caves, that in the event we don’t save the world, that will still be here, but we’d rather explore them NOW! Then there is the hero’s favorite hobby. Mindlessly walking in a circle in the forest killing things. Which brings me to my next issue with the typical RPG hero.

No regard for life-
Our hero is now wandering the forest, just killing for sport. Until I heard this song I never really noticed what heroes frequently do after the deed is done:

It’s true! They are actually dancing! The hero kills who or whatever it was and dances right next to the corpse. I can SORT of see it if you kill a giant monster that was a tough battle. Eventually though they kill other humans. I know, they are soldiers and are trying to kill you, but show some respect man! It’s always “We kill you! HA Let’s dance or show off our weapons! Strike a pose!” Once I would like to see “I wonder if he had a wife, or perhaps children?” I mean, what kind of heartless sack of shit are we depending on to save our skin? Does he even want to save us, or are we just one more corpse for him to dance on?

So there you have it. Next time some rambling nut job with a giant weapon barges in your house to kill your dog and rifle through your belongings as he dances around, just remember one thing: He’s probably about to save the world.

Jun 032011

Zombie killers better get ready to shell out some extra dough for the special edition of Deep Silver’s Dead Island, as its going to pack a punch. Filled with extra weapons and free DLC upgrade, gamers looking forward to this title might want to consider these extras.

According to Deep Silver:

The Dead Island™ Special Edition, available exclusively for early preorder customers at GameStop, will include the game and offer the upcoming Bloodbath Arena DLC. A $10 value, the Bloodbath Arena pack features single and multiplayer challenges in four different arenas. It’s a pure fight for survival when wave after wave of deadly zombie attacks, one more gruesome than the next! Characters can also gain additional experience points and items and bring them over to their single or multiplayer campaigns. What’s more, players can  show off their skills in zombie fighting via the Bloodbath Arena’s Leaderboards. Finally, Bloodbath Arena includes a new exclusive weapon, the brain wave bomb, to ensure some highly explosive combat experiences.  The Bloodbath Arena DLC package will be available for download shortly after launch.

In addition to the Bloodbath Arena DLC, the Dead Island Special Edition will sport an exclusive piece of cover art and the blueprint for a special weapon, called the “Ripper”: A destructive combination of a baseball bat and a buzz saw that leaves attacking zombies battered and bleeding to death. Only players who pre-ordered this edition of the game will be able to craft this unique weapon and share it with friends.


So there you have it. Zombie/Action/RPG sounds like just what I need.