Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of An Elusive Age Review and Final Thoughts

Note: For this review, I’ll begin with a spoiler-free portion and then go into spoilers after a warning.

Dragon Quest 11 is an absolutely amazing experience. I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s a fairly cookie-cutter good versus evil story, but the manner in which they utilize the cliches feels surprisingly organic and original. I’m quite pleased with everything and I have no complaints about the interface or gameplay at all. I sank 123 hours into this game and I’m quite pleased to say that it never got boring, there’s so much content to have fun with, and I cannot recommend this game enough! Definitely get Dragon Quest 11, if you’re interested in purchasing it or are choosing between it and other games. From what my brother and a close friend tell me, it’s far better and feels more complete than Final Fantasy 15; they both played and beat both games recently and unfortunately, Final Fantasy 15 doesn’t really have much in the ways of coherent structure and half the game you basically have to watch or buy other content for. Dragon Quest 11 is a complete game with so many side-stories and sidequests that give a wealth of content. No stupid paywalls and no DLC scams like other games. I’m so happy that this game was released overseas. It’s a phenomenal experience. If you want a complete game without any nonsensical DLC scams or wish to support games that go against such scams, then please consider supporting games like Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.

Notwithstanding, this game is fantastic on its own merits. Here are some reasons why, from its weakest components to its strengths:

Music: 8/10. Quite possibly the sore spot for some people. The music is unfortunately the MIDI version which just doesn’t sound as good as the Symphonic Suite. If you played Dragon Quest 11 on Steam like I did, then there are mods to replace the MIDI files with Symphonic music which makes the game sound far better. I played the game on MIDI since I didn’t mind too much, but definitely consider using the mod if you really can’t stand the MIDI format of music.

Gameplay: 11/10. Hyperbole’s aside; It’s Dragon Quest 8’s gameplay on steroids. There are so many fun skills and combined attacks from pep-up (the Dragon Quest 11 name for the tension system that first began in Dragon Quest 8) that it never gets boring. The gameplay feels fast-paced as it isn’t slow by any stretch for turn-based games and you can even have characters move around the grid; even if it does nothing and is only cosmetic. The skill tree section seems a bit reminiscent to Final Fantasy X, but I would say it’s more similar to Digital Devil Saga 1-2, except it’s done way better than any of those three games. Unlocking new skills allows for all sorts of amazing benefits and actually feels like meaningful milestones within the combat itself unlike in Dragon Quest 8 where the moves barely did anything and didn’t even kill weak monsters.

You collect skill points as you level-up and you’re able to change them if you feel you’ve made a mistake by speaking to a cleric at a Church. The skills themselves look amazing on screen and there aren’t any slowdowns or unpolished attacks from what I played. Some Team Supermoves have a few short cut scenes but they go by quick and offer to further the exhilarating atmosphere.

Story and Plot: 9.7/10. The plot and story are done amazingly well; this is particularly surprising for a game with a cookie-cutter good versus evil theme. This game really shows that it isn’t always the specific style of story that disinterests people, but rather the manner in which it is shown to us. Everyone in the game had believable character motives, plotlines intersected in shockingly engaging and interesting ways, and – while the beginning is a tad slow – it really picks-up and is a blast from beginning to end once the third party member joins. Some plot elements which I had assumed was oversights in the very beginning were later  either clarified exceptionally well or specific characters were heavily alluded to having different character motives for their actions than what I had thought was the truth behind their motives. And please don’t be confused on this point, the perspective of these characters is at first shown to be one-sided, but then more story info and a clearer explanation from the characters themselves help to explain why actions that seemed like oversights were actually very well-developed and understandable actions from their points of view. I love when games do this. Dragon Quest 11 does this incredibly well. I still have some gripes related to the early portions of the game, like the Dragon Quest 11 Hero being so forgiving of certain actions taken by Heliodor, but that’ll be explained in the spoiler-section of this review.

Characters: 9/10. Four of the party members; Sylvando, Erik, Rab, and Serena get an amazing wealth of character development during major sections of the game’s story. Some of which isn’t until deep into the plot, but its handled beautifully and well worth the payoff. I was a bit taken aback by how much I could empathize and love this cast of characters and I couldn’t help but compare it to previous games. What really surprised me though was even side-character villains like Jasper have some of the best character motivations and development; I was honestly stunned. He seemed like a typical henchman and then they give you an inner look into his life and an explanation on why he became what he was. Veronica, Jade, the main villain, the Superboss (yes, the Superboss of all people), Hendrik, and the King of Heliodor get really good background character motivations. They all feel as enriching as Dragon Quest 8’s cast. So, they’re either really good or adequate, but they don’t really feel like they grow as characters like the aforementioned four others. Please don’t mistake my words, they’re not bad characters. They’re really good static characters, but they don’t feel like they develop beyond their background histories. They’re still very fun and enjoyable; they definitely enrich the story, but it seems primary focus was oriented more towards Sylvando, Rab, Erik, and Serena.

As is usual for Dragon Quest, if you spend time talking to NPCs, like I do out of fun, background characters like Veronica and Serena’s parents, Erik’s fellow thief Derk and other background characters later revealed, and Rab and his background history are fairly well-developed characters in their own right. It really surprised me and it really enhanced my enjoyment of this game. I had initially felt it was lame to be playing yet another Good Versus Evil / Light Vs Darkness story so typical in JRPGs and even more so in WRPGs, but to my chagrin I changed my mind after awhile. The characters were so developed and their trials so engaging within the scope of a really interesting plot that all I had left was a really enjoyable and fun experience.

I can’t help but compare this experience with Dragon Quest 8. This game’s cast far outshines Dragon Quest 8’s cast of characters. I was genuinely surprised, since this cast is much larger. With respect to comparisons, I would say that while Dragon Quest 8 had really fleshed out backgrounds and really fun party chat which helped flesh out the characters even further in their stories, it didn’t translate to the cut scene stories of the game which felt like a lot of their characters centered around their pasts or – with one particular character – a single conversation in their past being a defining moment for them which didn’t really make sense to me. Dragon Quest 11’s cast is just done far better than that to me. I would say this cast is second only to Dragon Quest V’s cast, but Dragon Quest V still remains my favorite and I’m obviously heavily biased in that regard. Heh. Erik, Rab, Serena, and Sylvando — like the Dragon Quest V cast and the Dragon Quest 9 side-stories — provide the best of both games along with an enhanced version of Dragon Quest 8’s gameplay that improves in every way.

Extra Content: Hands down, this game has some of the best extra content ever. Three extra dungeons (albeit rehashed designs), a litany of extra side-story quests for Post-game, an extra ending for beating the Superboss of the game, and 20+ extra story after you beat the Final Boss.

This is the quintessential Dragon Quest game and offers the best that the series delivers on. It definitely deserves Game of The Year, if nominated. I hope it gets such an award, because it absolutely deserves to. If you’re considering purchasing this game, I highly recommend it! It doesn’t have any dlc scams, it’s a complete game which you can spend 120+ hours on, and it has a really challenging and fun Superboss fight. Definitely consider purchasing Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age.

Overall, phenomenal game and I definitely loved it. The beginning was a bit slow up until the third party member showed up where it really got the ball rolling, the extra content is great, and the plot is written incredibly well and always manages to remain engaging and interesting. Thus, I’d rate it a 9.7/10.

Overall Score: 9.7/10.


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G-Senjou no Maou: A Captivating Narrative turned into an Incoherent Mess

This Review Contains Massive Spoilers

This might sound like some angry, stupid rant and I totally apologize. I just want to let it be known that I enjoyed this visual novel so much that I didn’t sleep for a whole day just to complete chapter 3-4. I played it non-stop because I was totally loving it. Completely captivating plot, wonderfully written characters, and amazing music… and then that stupid plot twist at the end of chapter 4 happened. And, I feel as if the game took a giant hammer and smashed my heart into little bite-sized pieces. Playing this game was like enjoying the first 7 Harry Potter books, only for the ending to turn into 50 Shades of Grey – essentially a fanfic parody of a terrible novel series. Most people say that the other paths make plot holes, but looking through it objectively, I’d say the true route is the plot hole ridden route and I will explain why below.

This story has completely disappointed me. I don’t know who the heck thought it was a good idea to introduce the generic evil brother twist, but it completely ruined the entire game.

Some points in it’s favor before I begin bashing the hell out of it, in the hopes of showing that I’m not trying to just be offensive or anything like that. I’ll give this game props for having a narrative that subtly points out the propensity of using children for acts of despicable human violence. It seems to be an underappreciated and obscure theme. When Maou talks about the use of car bombs from Northern Ireland and ten year-olds using guns in the Middle East, the author seems to be bashing the use of children in violence for terrorist purposes, and pointing out to the realistic nature of using children for the purposes of human violence.

That being said, this plot completely fails because of the evil brother twist. The saddest part? The plot was perfectly fine before then.

First problem: It’s beyond suspension of disbelief to believe that Kyouhei could fake his own death in a terrorist subway bombing in Great Britain, one that evidently made world news, just because they couldn’t find the body only to be hiding in Northern Ireland becoming a terrorist and then skip to the Middle East to learn more terrorist activities. From bombmaking in Northern Ireland to handling weapons in the Middle East, to gun smuggling in Russia. How was he not on the CIA’s hit list? Everything he did had to have left a trail. We live in an age where US Spy blimps can record the exact phrase people in Afghanistan make when they’re writing down on a piece of paper using pencils. It’s beyond disbelief to think he’d even be able to get back into Japan, or that he wasn’t noted to be the only young Japanese guy part of Northern Ireland and the ME’s terrorist cells, or that there was no eye witness or DNA evidence when he was learning and testing his skills. It’s beyond ridiculous to believe that he was “very careful” to avoid everything. Furthermore, how the hell could Haru be chasing after him? So apparently, this guy evaded the secret service agencies of Great Britain, the US, and whatever alliances the US has with various ME countries, but Haru was tailing him? This is incoherent.

Maou’s goal is to free his father; this goal becomes completely incoherent. Kyousuke and Kyouhei’s father is dead. The Psychologist mentions him having been executed in one of his talks with Kyousuke when admonishing Kyousuke for defending his father’s actions.

Now, a friend of mine who loves the game argued that “freeing” may have been freeing his father’s name from shame and that his goal was simply revenge. That’s consistent with killing Gonzou, but why didn’t he also just wire transfer money to Kyousuke and their sick mother, when Kyouhei is evidently so extremely OP that he can evade investigation and leaving any trails from the US, Britain, and Russia? He can keep everything off his tracks and play mindgames with Haru, but he can’t steal money to pay off his family debt – despite avoiding being on the radar of US spy drones, the CIA, the equivalent of Britain’s security forces, and agencies throughout the Middle East and Russia? Yet again, incoherent. If he could accomplish this with simply being careful, why not force Gonzou and the others into a massive debt or trick those organizations into thinking the Japanese Yakuza were a higher threat and needed to be taken down?

Back to the father, Kyousuke supposedly only met him once when seeing him in jail, but if he suicided after killing four people, then how did Kyousuke meet him once when his father was in jail? And also, why would Kyouhei’s goal be to free him, if he committed suicide? Yet again, incoherence.

Gonzou’s actions become incoherent too. Why let a sniper shoot him after evading a car bombing in the previous chapter? Why even say Kyousuke had psycho-amnesia? Perhaps, it could be argued, to put a red-herring on the twist, but that part comes off as pointless and nonsensical because of the generic evil brother twist.

Worsening this is that the distinction between the organizations fall into incoherence after Gonzou’s death. Gonzou is the boss of Azai and leading the Souwa Alliance, an amalgamation of different Yakuza groups working together out of necessity because police have largely put a stop to Yakuza crime over the past several years. However, after Gonzou’s death, the writing claims that Gonzou is the leader of Sannou, which loses all sense of narrative coherence.

Sannou is the corporation that they’re making backdoor deals with to maintain economic hegemony in Kyousuke’s city. In fact, the narrative made this clear since Sannou was trying to push for Makiko in the chapter 3 arc of the Skating tournaments, but the Azai group was heavily backing Azai Kanon – their interests didn’t align on that. Saying Gonzou – a city mob boss – is a CEO of Sannou loses all narrative coherence because he could have just asked Makiko to step down and that would be that.

Kyousuke’s character loses coherence too. The previous night, when heartbroken over his mother’s tragic death, and thinking over how shitty his life has been; Haru reveals her deep love and Kyousuke shouts at her and seriously threatens to rape her, if he sees her again because she’s the daughter of the man who ruined his father, mother, and his life and chose that time to apologize to his dead sister.

Now, if he felt this way, and was repressing his mind from thinking about Usami Haru being the daughter of Usami Yoshinatri – the man who ruined his family, then why did he suddenly decide on the next day – as the Yakuza are chasing after him to kill him – that she’s his woman and that he’ll protect her, no matter what?

I… What was that? He’s on high-stress, threatening to kill people, and going mad with the idea of being Maou – presumably losing all his sanity. But then, after Gonzou dies and the Azai group think it’s Kyousuke, suddenly Kyousuke decides that he actually loves Haru and will protect her… the day after threatening to rape her, if he ever saw her again?

The plot hole isn’t any of the other routes. The plot hole is the true route. Maou not being Kyousuke makes no narrative sense. Maou’s petty actions have more consistency, if he’s Kyousuke and bound to the Souwa alliance and trying to make a name for himself in Sannou.

Keep in mind, Kyousuke killing Gonzou would have made far more sense since he’d been mentally tortured by that man and living as a puppet under him for several years. Moreover, his madness driving him to hate and kill Haru… seemed to be exactly where the narrative was leading with the flashbacks. The twin brother twist just ruins that even further. Especially since Kyousuke’s disappearance spells stop making any sense altogether throughout the story.

The most bizarre thing about all this, is that the story feels perfectly consistent, complete, and *coherent* before the twin brother revelation. Which leads me to believe that – considering the off-line of raping Haru – the game was definitely suppose to end at the choking scene.

Purely a guess, but it seems like Haru probably had 3 distinctive “bad”, “normal”, and “good” paths for that scene before the awful twin brother twist. Bad ending was probably Kyousuke giving into his madness as Maou and either raping or killing Haru after choking her to unconsciousness. Good ending may have been some bittersweet chance at reconciliation before the Yakuza stormed the place and killed them both, and the ‘true’ was probably them both making amends, getting the hell out of there, and the happy ending of the epilogue with their 8 year old daughter. The reason I say that is, despite all the hardships each of the previous 4 story arcs go through, the theme of the game is about love conquering all. Tsubaki hugs her brother and apologizes because he has no concept of her sudden spite towards him, Kanon loves Kyousuke deeply but can never grow to understand him because they have to keep out of each other’s affairs and that prevents any true intimate relationship from forming but Kyousuke’s doing it out of a sense of family love just as much as his obligation to Gonzou but Kanon will never understand, Mizuha breaks down in tears because she always feels powerless to help the sister that has suffered so much and truly does love her – causing Tokita to have her own emotional breakdown because she loves her sister just as much but society keeps pulling them apart, and finally, Kyousuke loses the only remaining hope he had left of having a happy life with the mother who has suffered mental torture and has been taking it out on Haru through mindgames as a way of getting back at the world. Finally, he just snaps and his Maou personality takes over – the promise of being with each other as kids can either be seen as childish sentiment, meaningless, or something they decide to stake their hope on despite the bad blood and they elope together. Their love conquering the bad blood between them and the societal circumstances around them creating grudges beyond their control.

Side note: Haru’s submissive nature to Kyousuke – despite how guarded she was – was hinted at with Yuki Tokita. Tokita declares herself a sadist, Haru says she learned to follow her orders as friends, Tokita would play with her sexually, Haru calls Tokita her only real friend, and Tokita insists she’s the only one who can please Haru sexually. Haru and Tokita were into S&M, I don’t even mean that as a joke. They really were. Haru taking her clothes off to please Kyousuke… oddly enough fits the narrative because she’s heavily into being sexually submissive but embarrassed about others knowing. When it’s just her and Kyousuke on New Years, she does nothing but giggle and laugh at Kyousuke insulting her because she’s being sexually aroused by his insults. …Yeah.

That’s just my thoughts on it. The plot literally loses all coherence thanks to that terrible plot twist and I’m honestly disappointed. I don’t know what else to say. I really loved this visual novel up until that twist literally ruined every single thing about the game. It’s really a shame because I loved the mindgames between Maou and Haru and really felt this was the perfect Maou versus Hero rivalry and romantic love affair before that horribly atrocious plot twist ruined the coherence of the entire plot. The side characters were also absolutely wonderful. The emotional turmoil between the circumstances related to Tokita and Mizuha even made me cry a little by the end of their character arc. The realism of Tsubaki’s situation with her brother and Kyousuke assessing his own apathy towards life were genuinely great moments. Haru is also surprisingly one of the best female leads in a story. Her sense of justice, her fearlessness, and her rational outlook to assess and defeat Maou’s logic games make a very compelling narrative. Her emotional turmoil towards Kyousuke possibly being Maou made for a compelling narrative since it was already established that she didn’t have a good assessment of her emotions and tried to bury her feelings by focusing solely on her goal of revenge against her mother’s murderer. I would have given this visual novel a 10 out of 10 but regrettably, I can only give it a 5/10 and I feel like that’s stretching it. One horribly stupid plot twist really can ruin an otherwise great story.

5/10 Visual Novel.

A good visual novel, but unfortunately one egregious twist ruined it from being a truly amazing story.


Drakengard 3

An utter waste!

This action-adventure video game is, by far, one of the stupidest experiences that I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing through. It deceptively plays itself off as a mature video game meant for an adult audience but all you’ll find is overly cartoonish depictions of blood spatter as if that makes a game “mature”, pathetic half-assed attempts at humor that are so one-dimensional that you’ll never laugh, and utterly boring, monotonous dialogue that serves no real purpose.

The characters you meet are incredibly stupid and one-dimensional. Most of the dialogue and reasoning for the protagonist killing her sisters are contradicted with shallow depictions of “insanity” to justify the main character’s mass murder. By the end of the main story of the game, you’ll get some vague throwaway line by the main villain about how the main character is trying to “save the world” with no real context as to what is even going on. It’s so vague and poorly thought out that it honestly isn’t even a spoiler.

Most of the “story” of this game is random encounters with monsters, depictions of how “powerful” the main character is, depictions of the abusive relationship she has with a dragon that may as well be her son, and mostly just a bunch of stupid humor that seems out of place, awkward, and poorly formed. The lip syncing in the game isn’t exact to the english voice actors, which may make people believe they were poorly performed. In fact, I had to correct this initial assumption as well. The American voice actors are terrific; the characters, plot, and overarching story are what is total garbage.

Eventually, after the main story is concluded with no understanding of the “mystery” regarding the dragon and the main character, you get the post-game which consists of “alternate universes” in which different events happened. But these too have the same shoddy humor, terrible and meaningless character dialogue, and inconsistent storyline. For example, the ending of Route C contradicts the ending of route A. The Route C plot establishes that a certain character can only be killed by a dragon, but Route A shows us this character dying mercilessly by something other than a dragon. I had hoped for a deeper meaning to this plot beyond the awful humor, but evidently I was duped into believing there was more. The fact the game developers have to rely on multiverse theory just to make the plot look consistent and end-up creating more plot holes confirms that they had no real understanding of what they were doing when making the so-called “story” of this game.

Most glaringly of all, the game relies on artificial attempts at lengthening the game by requiring you to collect all the weapons in the database to even start Route D. This is an obvious and shallow attempt at lengthening the game and the fact they place it upon you in a very last minute fashion with no prior warning shows the depths of laziness in developing this utterly terrible game. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most of the bosses are rehashes of the initial 3 monster bosses that you fight but with either more defense, a fire gimmick, a quicker attack gimmick that is poorly implemented so that defending oneself doesn’t even work when pressing buttons quickly enough, or a area gimmick in which random, stupid objects serve to stop you from properly veering away from danger as if such annoying blockades serve as extra “challenge” against the same bosses over and over.

Of the four weapon types, one is utterly worthless. Combat bracers have no value whatsoever. Spears and swords are simply better at damaging opponents and utilizing combos; chakrams are adequate for hitting multiple enemies from distances. But combat bracers are wholly worthless and seem like a tacked on gimmick to make the game “edgy” instead of having any real depth like the other combat weapons. The fact you’re forced to use them to do “request missions” that demand only combat bracers against enemies virtually immune to any real damage from such weapons and against archers who can easily hit you if you use the slow, utterly worthless triangle button combos makes this worthless weapon all the more frustrating. It simply isn’t fun and it doesn’t do anything against enemies. Yet again, it seems as if these missions were put on last minute, especially since random and poorly made areas in these particular missions prevent you from hitting enemies and moving about quickly. It is simply a pain to do and has potential to make people quit the game at how poorly designed these particular levels are.

The DLC shows just how much was cut from the actual game to milk people for a few extra monies. Japanese voice pack is DLC? Really?

Overall a terrible experience, don’t bother getting this game.

Corrections: Having played through Route D and got to the True Final Boss, I will admit that the “plot hole” was in fact clarified to my satisfaction, but Route D’s final boss is the worst piece of garbage to ever be made. It attempts to be “artistic” on what is really just lazy game design and not artistic at all. Overall, this game gets a 1/10. I honestly tried to enjoy this game despite the purposeful deceptive marketing on what is really a comedy of action-adventure games and not a serious story, but the true final boss just clinches it. I don’t recommend this game or this series. It isn’t worth anyone’s time.

Grand Theft Auto IV

I’ve decided to skip over obvious remarks on graphics and decided not to speak of the music element either because the radio’s in this game are a pretty far range in musical taste.

If you don’t mind repetition then this game should be very enjoyable for you.

Gameplay: Repetitive, gets old pretty quick, constantly having to stock up on ammo and reusing bullet proof vests may get annoying for some, but it’s pretty cheap to use so it doesn’t really matter, and you can get ammo for free if you know where to look.

Cover system was a good idea but had terrible implementation; the game requires a bit too much precision and you’ll have to think quickly in most gun fights otherwise you’ll get a bullet to the head and red health very, very quickly. Not fun.

The friendship system is repetitive, boring, not exactly great as people always call or text and whine about hanging out, the dating makes it worse.

It’s not annoying to the point of it being excruciatingly frustrating but it’s always present and may serve as an annoyance to put-up with throughout the entire game.

The “Kill or Ditch” people feature was interesting, I enjoyed the moral questions and some of the characters.

Story: It was okay, not exactly one with overflowing substance, but it was there, and it was quite good for what it presented. Lots of fun moments and epic scenes, plenty to keep the player interested in. The ending was enjoyable.

There is a lot to explore, especially later when you can explore the whole city and don’t have to deal with the asinine police road blocks. Material like the comedy club or TV are an enjoyable watch for a little bit of time, listening to the radio and driving aimlessly was the most enjoyable leisure activity in the game.

The shoot outs were the most fun aspect of this game for me. Chase missions occurred too often, were annoying, and just seemed to drag the game to a longer time to artificially lengthen the gameplay. I despised the car chases. The boat chases were more fun but car chases…ugh, the game has a lot and you need to learn to get good quickly or get a fast car and learn to drive well enough so it doesn’t blow-up before completing the mission assigned to you.

Overall, good game, I recommend it, fun if you want to play a game with a decent story.

Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 2 (PSP)

Customization: Right from the start you get a very good variety of customization for the character you wish to create, a much more improved formula than the previous game. The classes, while only been giving a couple new ones, have been given a much more improved moveset for all of them overall. Add to the fact this game features downloadable content and more items than the previous game and its a pretty satisfactory recipe.

Gameplay: Superior to it’s predecessor. Much faster attacks, much more accurate attacks, more movesets at your disposal, and more Tales characters making the whole point of the game that much more fun.

Some drawbacks though, certain characters from the old game haven’t really been built up to shape with the speed of this game (Luke). Some of the characters lack a large portion of their moveset (Yuri). A significant amount of characters (Veigue) lack Hi-ougi’s/mystic artes.

I know I’ll get flake for this but I think the way the Hi-ougi’s were made (hitting the opponent, no matter what) creates a much more balanced and fair environment. I mean, who wouldn’t be upset if you pull off your favorite characters mystic arte in a boss battle only to have the entire thing miss?

Recruitment: The new recruitment system is eons better than the first game, where the characters would hate you for no reason. As you progress more into the game, everybody likes you more. The more you use certain Tales characters the more they like you. So yeah, vastly improved in this department.

Story: Let me say, Goede was interesting. But otherwise, I can’t really judge, but from what I got, the story was simply okay. I liked what happens in the end…aside from a certain long drawn out art event, I found it interesting when Goede appeared and when he asks you to help him destroy the world. I wish they had explored that further.

Overall: Good PSP game. 7.5/10.

Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (PSP)

It was lackluster; not bad but lacking in depth.

The customization feature that is so hyped from the manual and the back of the box is very limited and you can’t even choose the eye color (I like choosing eye color, it just makes the face to me, you know?). You can choose between male and female characters but its rather limited on both ends and most special armor items that are intended for early use in the game from shops seem to have more female options and isn’t even all that great looking.

The music is just bad. Compared to console Tales games, the unique music you can listen to from special spoiler battles seem to have the worst songs the individual console games had to offer. The only real song I personally liked was this one particular spoiler battle and even the final boss’s battle theme is rather bad.

The plot suffers from your cliche flying cockroach teddy bear-esque character essentially acting out your parts. However, admittedly I am probably being a bit too harsh with this part since the game allows you to have choices for different actions but they are usually only two choices and it’s really just choosing if you want to be the cliche type of hero or a complete jerk to other people. Some choices require you to pick out your favorite Tales bunch.

The Recruitment system just fails. It does not seem like a bad concept, and really I think it’s a pretty good one, but the implementation just is terrible. As you progress through the game characters will like you more and if you interact with them in skits and give them favorable responses it will usually boost your relationship but even the well-made relationships will sometimes lead to rejection when asking a particular Tales character to join you.

The Tales characters utterly fail battle-wise compared to the generic henchmen you can get to join you (The feature was originally intended to swap your created characters to put them as a mercenary for hire in another PSP users Radiant mythology game but the US version sadly had this taken out). Some Tales characters such as Leon are terrible at hitting with some of his moves and just terribly implemented.

The combat is horrendous. The A.I. is stupid. No way around it, they are just plain idiots. You’ll find yourself trying to resurrect them in important boss battles and have to deal with the idiocy all throughout the game. Worse yet, the combat system is terribly implemented. No matter how high a level you are, your attacks are ALWAYS slower than your enemies speed. This drop in speed is very noticeable and rather game breaking for some. So, don’t expect to pull off really fast and fluent combos like previous Tales games. The plot itself is rather generic; you meet some Sephiroth/Dhaos wannabe.

The game itself is a dungeon crawler-type game and has no real puzzles aside from finding things. Moreover, it is rather short; the more experienced Tales players may find that they’ve beaten the game within a day. Radiant Mythology could have been much better, there just isn’t much substance to it and it suffers from a extremely terrible gameplay mechanics compared to its predecessors.

I honestly don’t know what to give this game as a final score. It was a good first try by the Tales team despite it’s shortcomings.

Tales of Legendia

Tales of Legendia is part of the “Tales of” series from the company Namco. It’s had many sleeper hit rpgs due to poor marketing of the mostly great rpg’s that are the “Tales of” series.

I’ll start right off the bat with this game’s best quality:

Music: 10/10, some of the best scores I’ve ever heard in gaming. Compared to many other games, it sets a record of how outstanding music can be if given enough time and effort. This game’s music is by far, it’s most innovative and absolute best quality. Other Tales game’s should take a page from the music composer responsible for this game’s music.

Story: 1/10, Unfortunately, the story isn’t that great. Even compared to old super nintendo games, it isn’t all that great. The characters have “unique” weapons, some would say, and that it shows “originality” but really, I won’t mince words, it’s just tacked-on to make the characters seem more interesting than they are. And, really, what’s a mage doing with a hammer if he doesn’t know how to use it properly? The story degenerates to saving a mary-sue character. The entire plot and purpose for over half the game is saving a mary-sue character who, while has great development admittedly, is just talked about how great and awesome she is throughout the entire game. It comes to the point where she’s literally the most important person in the entire world and it gets a bit ridiculous how much emphasis goes into her entire importance to…. everything.

Worse yet, important kingdoms in the story are… mentioned rather randomly and just seems to be for plot progression purposes. It’s as if you’re expected to know about everything in the outside world of the ship when you’ve only first started out in the game and don’t know what’s going on. You’re stuck on a ship…island for the entire game so you have no understanding of the outside world and it’s never clearly explained to you… at all during the main story. It’s… pretty bad in my opinion… I personally found a certain character’s map which had no details on it and just had big blobs of orange with red markers for where you needed to go next insulting to my intelligence.

Characters: By far the worst cast of characters on any Tales game.

Senel, an apparent “alliance marine” goes from being excessively brash (and I mean brash to the point it’s one-dimensional) to generic RPG protagonist later with no real details or explanation on his change in behavior.

Will, the apparent Mayor of the town, is nothing more than the generic “teacher” archetype and is by far the most obsessively used for Japanese anime comedy in the game. Of which, there is an overabundance of.

Chloe is a one-dimensional “knight” character…, her excessive need to see justice is literally explained in one sentence, that being: “She’s a knight”. She’s apparently from a well-known family of knights and everyone on the island accepts the fact she’s a knight. Guess what you find out later, thus making no sense of anything? She’s not a knight, after all!

Norma: Completely random tacked-on character that is just an excessive use for mindless slapstick comedy that serves no real purpose and stops being funny after you see similar antics in almost every other scene.

Moses: Makes absolutely no sense. He’s from a tribe seeking a sacred power, thinks Shirley has the means of giving it to him (since she’s the most important thing in the world ever apparently) and later states the sacred power comes from fighting dinosaurs…. begging the question why he kidnaps Shirley during the entire first chapter of the game. He’s just tacked-on for gameplay purposes, really.

Grune: Random stereotypical “no memory” character that is tacked on for gameplay purposes and has no real story.

Gameplay: 2/10, The gameplay lacks compared to other Tales games. First off, ignoring the 2D plane, it really has nothing to offer in comparison to other Tales titles. 2D tales games have multiple finishers and combo potential. Other 3D Tales games like Abyss and Symphonia have customizable stat or move set items. Among Battle systems, Symphonia had party attack and party combos, Abyss had fields of elemental power that changed attacks and made them more powerful, and Legendia has… Climax… which is just a cheap “Time Stop” ability so you can combo enemies when they can’t fight back….

The name itself is… questionable regarding it’s meaning.

The game is linear, worse yet, it makes itself FEEL linear. You go run around to whatever specified location, constantly get a skit where Senel says to open up the “duct” outside of whatever dungeon your going to so you can immediately warp back to the city, heal, save, and come warp back outside that cave to fight enemies. This game is by far one of the easiest games ever made. There is simply no challenge to it at all. Worse yet, you don’t even need to open up the ducts like the skit tells you to since it opens itself up, which makes one wonder why the game pauses just to keep replaying the same (unvoiced) skit every time you’re near a dungeon.

Moreover, if you’re ever confused on where to go next or forgot because you haven’t played the game in so long, you can’t open up your map to see your current location, it’s on the right hand corner of your screen showing the small location you’re on in the ship but you can’t take your time to see where you are on the map and where you need to go. It gets irritating when you have to double-back behind mountain passes.

Overall: Not an enjoyable game. You’ll probably like purchasing the OST of the game though.

In conclusion, it’s unremarkable compared to other games in the series (and lacks in all forms compared to them) and quite forgettable even if it has an excellent soundtrack. Any atmosphere that could have been gained with it was shot down due to poor characters that only display cliche slapstick comedy that’s common in Japanese cartoons.

Final Score: 4/10.

Tales of the Abyss (PS2)

Tales of the Abyss was released on the ten year Tales anniversary which celebrated by Namco Bandai. In this particular title, Namco tried to do a more original story to be less cliche unlike with Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Destiny, and Tales of Legendia. It was made by Team Symphona, the only division that does a good job in creating realistic characters with a more realistic reactions from characters in a fantasy environment (Team Symphonia has developed the games Tales of Symphonia, Tales of the Abyss, and Tales of Vesperia).

The game starts off with your character not having his poor peasant village burned down by the final boss who is secretly responsible for every bad thing in the world. Instead your character is a rich noble who, while naive, is also rather arrogant and spoiled.

The game goes on to show the dynamic changes of this spoiled brat character and the other party members who come to join you.

Music: 8/10, the music isn’t all that great for the most part but the overworld music, the boss battle music, and a certain plot-related boss fight music is rather enjoyable to listen to. Typically, the more average songs are done by Motoi Sakurabe but a more enjoyable (what I personally think is the very best song this game has to offer and is worthwhile to listen to) music track was made by Motoo Fujiwara from the band Bump of Chicken (they were legally contracted by Namco to do the game’s opening, which is also pretty good).

Gameplay: 10/10, The gameplay is hit or miss, I suppose. It’s very enjoyable for me. Some people think of the controls as clunky but I disagree. You fight on a 3D field smashing the X button for normal attacks and O (with arrow keys) for “artes” (your special attacks). When you see elements drop down on the ground when you’re fighting, you can use them to make bigger elemental fields and power up your artes to do more damage. This “field” is called “field of fonons” (Commonly abbreviated as “FOF”). It’s fun to me so I’d give it a 10/10 especially when added gameplay effects such as “chambers” and your “Mystic artes” were implemented later in the game.

Characters: 9/10, Some were great, others not so much. As far as the main cast, some had great development like Luke (the main character), Jade, Natalia, Guy, and Tear. Anise… is questionable. Ion was someone who I couldn’t help but find likable. A certain story-related playable guest character, however, definitely received a significant amount of development that was only toppled by Luke’s own development.

Unfortunately the game isn’t all that perfect because there are some rather nasty glitches.

While some are thought to be great because they help make the guest character a permanent addition, everyone recognizes the nastiness of other, more notable, glitches.

On your second playthrough, you can use a certain “extensions” on Luke and Anise, that, while fun, end-up stopping characters from completing the spells they’re casting. Also, the worst glitch in the game, by far, is that boss’s who defeat you with their “mystic arte” will end-up crashing the game.

Overall, I give this game a 9/10, I wish I could give it a 10/10 but I’m already probably giving it too much credit due to the two notable glitches in the game. This game could have been better had it gone through more tests and not have been released without complete testing. But, many Tales fans have come to expect this from Namco Bandai.

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is widely recognized as one of the best in Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei series. It is known for its harsh, unforgiving, and mature atmosphere. The game itself delves into numerous philosophical concepts and demonstrates the desperation of the human mind in dire conditions where survival is crucial. This is an M-rated and mature game so if you have squeamish noisy parents, I don’t recommend purchasing this game. Part of the issue is that this game blatantly expresses religion in an unfavorable manner and among the six different endings; you can decide to go toward two distinct demonic paths.

Plot: Perhaps one of the most enchanting and intriguing plots in any role-playing game, ever. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is a landmark game that reaches into new innovative story elements to create a wondrous experience.

You are a human who has survived the apocalyptic end of the world and you’ve been forced into becoming a half-demon. Your goal? Reshape the world as you see fit by joining a particular philosophical belief system or abandon that to destroy the chance for the world’s rebirth for a different goal.

As you progress through the wasteland of the fallen remains of human civilization, you encounter other survivors who will eventually give you their philosophical doctrines (they’re called “Reasons” in the game) on what they believe to be the ideal utopian vision of what the new world should become. If you agree with their assessments, then new story options are open to you later in the game and you can change which side you choose to defend during different climaxes within the story.

The story itself takes a fairly linear route but you will, in the end, decide on what course of action you will take and whom you wish to side with. The game examines your choices and your ending in the final dungeon will be based on your choices and responses throughout the game. Overall, one of the best experiences that I’ve had.

Gameplay: One of the best turn-based gameplay mechanics ever created.

You, the main character, choose from different “Magatama” which change your stats, strengths and weaknesses, and what skills you can inherit. Story-wise, Magatamas’ are essentially demon cores that you ingest for different skillsets and powers. The game has twenty-five Magatamas in all.

Through the personal selection of skills and stats, that you can choose and boost at your whim, you can create any type of Hero that you like. A magic user, a physical user, or anything in between. It’s wholly up to you. However, once you delete a skill then it is gone forever. The game challenges the player to think carefully about their decisions in choosing stats and skills to maximize the main character’s performance in battle.

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is the first SMT game to introduce press-turns. These are an innovative gameplay mechanic that gives you an extra turn if you land a critical hit or strike at the weakness of the opposing demon. Conversely, if you strike at one of their strengths then you lose a turn in battle. This holds true for your opponent too. If they strike at one of your strengths then they lose a turn but if they strike at a weakness or gain a critical blow then it can mean game over for you.

Don’t be afraid of receiving game overs. Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne has no kiddy-gloves. It is a harsh and thrilling challenge to persevere through. The game pulls no punches and has a steep learning curve but not a horrendous one. You may not think the game is harsh at first if you’re playing on normal difficulty but you’ll realize early on that you need to be prepared once you face a certain surprise boss.

You can customize your party via the recruitment of over a hundred demons and fusing your demons to gain even stronger demons. During your first playthrough, you cannot have a demon stronger than your main character (unless they are one of the special demons that can evolve into another demon). Their skills are randomized so it’s a challenge to get the skills that you will want so that you can obtain the optimal efficiency in battle.

There are moon phases like all Shin Megami Tensei games. During a full moon phase, the game allows you to do special sacrifice fusions which are riskier but yield better rewards and cause demons in random battle to be slightly more punishing in their attacks. Most demons cannot be recruited during the full moon phase.

Remember, the game teaches you to learn and remember the weaknesses of opposing demons. It can be the difference between surviving and getting a game over message in many instances. But honestly, don’t feel overwhelmed by this. Speaking to NPCs and reading the game manual will be enough to get you through most of the challenges as you learn the inner tips and tricks of the game itself.

My overall experience is this gameplay is nothing short of spectacular.

Music: I personally felt that this was one of Shoji Meguro’s best works ever. My favorites consist of the normal battle music and two certain tracks near the end of the game. However, most of the musical scores are just phenomenal regardless. If you’re into Meguro, or into grim-dark guitar and drum battle music, then you’re sure to enjoy this game’s musical composition.

Characters: I honestly and truly believe that they are outstanding characters. They get a lot of hate for either their hypocrisies or extreme views later on as the game progresses but I personally felt that made them seem all the more humane. After all, can you honestly name a human being who hasn’t ever been a hypocrite in their lives? Can you name many who wouldn’t slowly lose their sense of self or their sanity after living through the end of the world and being forced to survive in a world filled with violent demons?

I think that many players became too myopic in their focus of how much of an advantage the Demi-fiend has in being able to fight back against powerful foes compared to two of the other human characters who had to survive whilst living under the constant threat of being killed on a whim by demons they had no chance of fighting back against. You see this in the early portion of the game and closer toward the end too.

It’s a story of tragedy, loss, self-destruction, excessive selfishness, and a proverbial fall from grace. That is why I cherish this game. These characters, their feelings, and their hypocrisies feel realistic.

Side notes:

– Any plotholes that players pick-up on are thoroughly elaborated and explained in the Labyrinth of Amala sidequest which leads to the hardest ending of the game.

– The overall length of the game is around 60-70 hours on your first playthrough. Subsequent playthroughs will probably take 30 hours or less unless you’re choosing to go through the Labyrinth of Amala for the most difficult ending. This is because that particular ending requires you to go through five extra dungeons which are harsh but rewarding experiences.

– Whilst some may find some endings disappointing, I felt that many plainly ignore the philosophical aspects and the story changes that you can choose to undertake if you pick a particular “Reason”.

– Dante from Devil May Cry is in this game and can be recruited very late in the game if you choose to go through the five extra dungeons.

Final Score: 10 out of 10. 10/10.

Dragon Quest V DS

Dragon Quest V is part of the “Dragon Quest” series. It was created by Yuji Horii with character and monster designs from the creator of Dragonball and Dragonball Z, Akira Toriyama.

It’s the fifth installment in the Dragon Quest series and the DS remake marks the second remake made for Dragon Quest V specifically.

This enhanced remake features a new option on whom to pick as a wife for old players of the game. The game is, on average, from 30-40 hours long and features much dialogue and a little bit of added plot from the original.

The game itself features a “generations” in which you grow up in the story and monster recruitment which, obviously, allows you to recruit monsters.

Story: 10/10

Now, admittedly, it doesn’t get right into the story when on the first dungeon but the first dungeon itself has an important story element to it. However, just when you think this game isn’t going to be that engaging, it throws fireball at you with a very engaging cut scene that really gets you into the story immediately. From there on, you feel varying degrees of personal emotion from story-based cut scenes and your own actions throughout the game.

It’s important to note that as a silent protagonist, the main character is YOU. You feel emotions in reaction to the events that befall the silent protagonist in the game because he IS you. That’s the sole purpose of a silent protagonist, it’s to BE the player.

The reason why this silent protagonist wasn’t given the option to be female in this game like Dragon Quest IV had to do with a very important plot element later on. I’d rather not spoil it for you if you don’t already know.

Music: 10/10

As with most Dragon Quest games, Koichi Sugiyama delivers great classical soundtracks with some video game synthesis to make it sound more action-oriented. They probably aren’t for everyone but I loved them especially the final boss’s theme.

Gameplay: 10/10

Something I should specify before I go and ramble on and fanboy about this game. I LOVE most turn-based RPGs. To me, they’re fun. That’s really all I care about in a game, if the gameplay is fun and this one’s implementation of turn-based gaming was definitely one of the best in my eyes.

In this game, you can recruit monsters. Okay, so you’re probably thinking: “Pokemon?” But WAIT! I’d argue that, assuming you like monster catching or monster grinding, it’s superior to any Pokemon game in terms of actual gameplay because you can choose to use from more than 4 moves in a battle and have more than 2 monsters in a battle at any given time.

Your Protagonist fights with the monsters and if the Protagonist dies then you can still continue fighting the enemy.

Recruitment of monsters is based on whom you kill last (only the last monster you defeat in battle will be able to be recruited) and it’s based on how rare or strong the monster is (obviously you have to work more to get more broken monsters unlike in Pokemon where you can trade strong Pokemon from other versions with Masterballs or save in front of a Legendary). The downside is that not all monsters in the game can be recruited but you have plenty to choose from of those that can be recruited.

Personally, I’m glad the list of monsters isn’t too ridiculous like the 500 something in Pokemon. I mean, I use to like Pokemon as a kid but they should have stopped before it had become too ridiculous and now they just milk the series so I’m glad Dragon Quest V has a shorter, more concise, list of monsters. You can recruit more than 80 in total (they’re left with a monster tamer for you to switch, drop off, pick up, or delete monsters from whenever you visit him).

One important thing I would like to make note of: You eventually do get human party members later in the game. The first time you have to pick among three choices for plot reasons (three save files means you can play through all three choices but, admittedly, there is little difference as far as the scope of the story but much difference in character development).

These party members, once obtained later in the game, will comment on virtually anything from almost every comment a random NPC makes in any town to their thoughts on the towns, dungeons, and world itself. The immersion and development of such this dialogue along with a hefty amount of translations needed from the Japanese version make this one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever played and really puts you into the game as the silent protagonist himself.

Overall, I recommend this title. I believe it’s very much worth the time of anyone who likes a solid turn-based RPG experience and I think it has one of the best stories ever made in a video game. It also proves, just like Chrono Trigger and many Shin Megami Tensei games, that you CAN have a silent protagonist that has character development. Not through what they say though, but through their actions and the cruel experiences they’re forced into.

Dragon Quest V is one of my top five favorites of all-time.

Final Score: 10 out of 10. 10/10