Category Archives: Playthrough

A Monochrome Boy and a Great White Shark

Life in general is a bit of a mess right now, thanks to the revisit of my old pal from spring, Mr. Shitty Lower-Back. These past few days have been all about painkillers, mostly good for determining whether I have only a rusty nail or a fiery hot pitchfork stuck in my other leg. That’s pretty much my excuse for the lack of updates this week, even if I still managed a couple of playthroughs. The first one was this month’s PlayStation Plus freebie, Hue, which turned out to be quite a charming little 2D puzzle platformer.

The titular hero of the game wakes up in a bleak monochrome village with a yearning for his lost mom. Still, she’s bound to be out there somewhere, so there’s no choice but to chin up, go out, and explore. At first, Hue is only capable of running and jumping but it doesn’t take long for the tyke to discover his first color. It’s only good for changing the background color of the game, but at the same time it also turns all objects and obstacles of the same color invisible. One hue alone won’t a puzzle game make but as the palette eventually grows to eight colors, brain cells are in for a treat.

Despite such a simple game mechanic – or perhaps because of it – Hue is surprisingly enjoyable. Its puzzle rooms, filled with movable crates, pressure plates, spike pits, lasers, hovering platforms, etc. are delightfully compact, and even if the game isn’t particularly sadistic at any given time, trying to figure out the route to the next exit often requires quite a bit of brainstorming. While most of the puzzles can be thought out leisurely, some of them require fast reflexes. Thankfully activating the color wheel with the right thumbstick grinds time to a near halt.

Hue’s journey is accompanied by a minimalistic, yet beautiful piano score as well as a female narrator who conjures up a decent story context. The adventure takes about five hours to complete, further extended by 28 flasks hidden around the game world. Sadly, though, their only purpose is to be found. Despite this minor blemish, Hue is easy to like. Sure, it’s a bit of a one-night stand but it’s still a tasty snack between more sizable gaming projects.

The same goes for the other playthrough of this week. Giant Squid’s debut game Abzû is kind of like an underwater Journey; a tranquil and enchanting expedition through some breathtaking surroundings. Following a majestic great white shark, the player dives ever deeper and deeper, encountering dozens of fish species, submerged ruins, fascinating coral reefs, wild jet streams, and eventually even artifacts of apparently alien origin. There’s not really that much to play but all the more simply to experience. Abzû is a thrilling two-hour-long journey of discovery with fantastic visuals and music to back it up. The sea is chock-full of beauty, and a symphony orchestra upholds the joys of exploration and discoveries in a top-notch fashion.

Abzû, too, has artificial collectibles strewn here and there just for the sake of collecting, but such lazy design is once more forgiven; when hitching a ride on the back of a manta ray, or breaching the surface of water in a joyous leap together with a bunch of orcas, experiential gaming art truly feels like a thing!

Fart Art

We probably shouldn’t be here…

Any plans I might have had for this weekend were instantly rewritten on Friday, when the postman delivered my copy of South Park: The Fractured But Whole a few days in advance of its official street date of next Tuesday. As it has already been over three years since the really quite splendid The Stick of Truth, I immediately felt like taking the sequel for a spin. Now, after more than 20 hours and a playthrough, I’m happy to state that the humor of Trey Parker and Matt Stone remains as fresh as ever. That’s not to say The Fractured But Whole would have a particularly novel story, though. While the kids of South Park are still in the middle of their fantasy play from the last game, Eric Cartman suddenly decides that superheroes are the newest, coolest thing ever. And sure enough, in an instant everyone has come up with their own secret superhero identity and chosen their side in a battle between two feuding factions. As simple as that, all of South Park once again transforms into a battlefield limited only by imagination.

As before, the player is known simply as The New Kid, an unvoiced hero (or heroine) who joins Cartman’s faction, wielding the power of – you guessed it – flatulence. It’s a questionable skill but as the adventure goes on, wee little squeaks eventually evolve into massive discharges capable of ripping the very fabric of time itself. In other words, anyone playing the game should go in expecting a huge amount of deliberately crass fart, poop, and pee humor. Still, amid all this vulgarity, the youngsters of South Park once again teach the player to laugh at the incorrigible idiocy of the humankind in all of its forms. Brutally pertinent social criticism leaves no one unscathed, be it racists, bigots, or just people suffering from moral superiority and finding offense in the smallest of things. This wanton but intelligent anarchy is what the game (and South Park on whole) is all about, and once again it works wonders!

Story missions are strewn around town, tackled by a team of four superheroes. During the adventure, the player befriends up to ten familiar South Park characters donning an alter ego, each having one awesome special move and three slightly less formidable ones. The same goes for the player, too. At first, it is only possible to choose from a small handful of character classes but as the game goes on, all skills of ten different character classes become available for mixing and matching freely. As per role-playing standards, there’s moves for doing brutal damage up close and from afar, various healing skills, and a miscellaneous bunch of actions causing buffs or debuffs. Given an eventual pool of 40 different moves, it’s quite easy to find those four that best complement one’s playing style.

Turn-based battles are fought on relatively small grids where everyone tries to position themselves to both dish out damage and avoid taking it. Even more important is to maneuver so that after a character’s turn ends, the next one won’t be blocked from carrying out their actions. Since nothing is sacred, enemies include not just the kids of the opposing faction but also parents, senior citizens, Catholic priests, crooked cops, bums, prostitutes, Korean ninjas, crab people, etc. Those with enough confidence can even challenge Morgan Freeman himself.

Collection fans are pampered with countless ever-so-popular selfie opportunities with the various citizens of South Park. As typical for this age of vanity, they are instantly posted onto the game’s social media, Coonstagram, where the aim is naturally to become the one with the highest follower count in all of South Park. There’s also plenty of yaoi fan art of the series’ beloved boy couple, Tweek and Craig, as well as dozens of costumes, hair styles, scars, masks, accessories, and whatnot. The customization options are so plentiful that anyone should be able to create a South Park look of their dreams. Furthermore, miscellaneous junk picked up from pretty much everywhere is used to craft new costumes, various healing items, and artefacts that enhance the player’s stats.

In broad terms, The Fractured But Whole is kind of predictable but still rather excellent. It holds together not just because of its delightfully prickly humor but also because – and I’m technically contradicting myself here – it never ceases to surprise. Hilarious minigames and totally unexpected scenarios pop up at a breathtaking pace, making it nigh on impossible to get bored at any point. Even if it pretty much just re-invents the wheel of The Stick of Truth, at least that’s a recipe that has already proven itself; after a break of a few years, coming back to South Park was nothing but refreshing!

Other new acquisitions this past week include Culdcept Revolt and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. The former is presumably some sort of JRPG slash card game slash Monopoly hybrid whereas the latter is probably a tough as nails strategy-JRPG. All in all, the harvest season of this year’s gaming crop is so bountiful that my wallet has been weeping for quite some time already, and I really wish that I, too, could fart myself more time. Oh well, at least this is a positive problem.

Please Concentrate, Sir

Not the way to manage but he does such a fine job!

Sure… Any game can feel challenging, especially when not paying attention. Last time, I sneered at the seemingly sudden difficulty spike of Nights of Azure without considering Arnice’s demon sword. After a bit of slipshod grinding, it had already reached a whole new level. For quite some time, I thought it merely got automatically stronger but it actually took an innocent press of a d-pad button to unleash its true potential. Oh well, no biggie; once this trusty demon hunter utensil turned twice as long and powerful as its wielder, that once-bothersome extra boss swiftly got what was coming. So did the one that followed, as well as all the familiar acquaintances from the first run. All this was rewarded with an ending quite a bit more pleasant than the first one, so I can finally consider the game beat in good conscience.

Or maybe not quite, as I’m still hesitating whether to do a bit of cleaning up by going for all of the game’s trophies or not. Sadly, when it comes to those, Nights of Azure is rather unimaginative. I’m mostly left with a bunch of “do X of this” baits that, at this point in the game, only raise questions of why they’re still even there. Arena trophies might go in the same wastebasket as well. There are a few dozen challenges that pit Arnice and her Servans against slightly puzzle-esque scenarios with time limits. In a way, I suppose they demonstrate the designer’s perception of how the game was meant to be approached from the very beginning but as I’m already pretty much done with everything, such lessons in strategy no longer hold any value whatsoever.

Given how positive I’ve been about Nights of Azure in general (well, it really is rather good!), I feel almost obliged to whine a wee bit more. First, it certainly isn’t much of a looker, even if that’s probably more due to awkward timing and a small budget. The game was released as-is on PS3, PS4, and Vita, so even those of us on PS4 won’t witness any additional graphical fireworks. Still, that’s a minor niggle in comparison to the sorriest localization effort ever. The translated script is chock-full of typos and missing words, and while Arnice is Arnice in the game, she’s Anders in the trophy descriptions, and apparently Aluche in the sequel that is just a few weeks away by now. Seriously, come on!

That’s all the naysay I can think of, though, as I’ll forever remember Nights of Azure as a game that was pleasant in length, pleasant in humor, and pleasant in being a bit of an odd bird. Sure, it might be pure B-class but at least it’s B-class that works!

Stress by Relaxation

Grumpy codger happily descending towards the nearest settlement

This Saturday of mine was more or less stolen by the Australian studio Prideful Sloth and their debut game Yonder: The Cloud Catch Chronicles. It’s a story about a youngster – boy or a girl, as the player chooses – who shipwrecks on a decent-sized island full of wonders and trouble. Actually, mostly just wonders. Sure, there are random spots taken over by ominous purple fog, and the most massive monument on the island, known as the Cloud Catcher, is in pieces but surely a haphazard hero with an allure to draw in utterly cute spirits will set things straight.

Yonder is remarkably mellow in its way of not featuring combat or danger whatsoever; it’s all about exploring one beautiful scenery after another while hoarding loads of resources. The local NPCs welcome the player with open arms, soon gifting him/her with a mallet, an axe, a pickaxe, a scythe, and even a fishing rod. That quintet is more than enough to harvest pretty much anything that cannot be picked up otherwise, so the first few hours are merrily spent just running around picking up a myriad of stuff. Of course, individual items are hardly usable by themselves so making use of craftsmanship and new recipes, they’re turned into more complex fabrications. The handy hero can even restore run-down farms to construct fields for veggies or stalls for the local wildlife, first tamed with their favorite food and then led to the farm to contribute for the greater good.

Not only do the residents want their cloud thingy fixed, they’re also a steady source of side missions. Even if those are essentially just variations of “fetch/build me this”, they keep the game rolling quite nicely. An industrious explorer can also find dozens of cats waiting to be rescued, as well as spirits that use power by numbers to purge the island of its depressing spots of purple. Not that those spots would be lethal or anything; they’re just an eyesore that needs to go away from a world otherwise so bright and jolly.

All this lovable pacifism is reinforced with online. Contact with other players only happens via geocaches they’ve left behind. Wherever you are, you can always select an item from your inventory to be found by someone else. It’s such a gratuitous and unselfish act that I used it a lot, purely out of sheer joy. Whenever you bump into a gift left by a fellow player you don’t even know, and especially when it’s something grand from your own perspective, it feels as cool as the unspoken bond in Journey!

Enthralled by all this, I wolfed down the roughly seven-hour story mode in one sitting, only to be left at a standstill after that. While post-game would be the perfect moment to genuinely start enjoying the world of Yonder, it’s also the moment when its weaknesses start shining through. Not until this point did I realize just how horrible the map design truly is. When trying to get to a point that is seemingly nearby, it’s easy to spend 15 minutes going around all sorts of insurmountable obstacles only to realize you’re now twice as far away from your original goal. Also, should you want to construct something, it’s way too easy to not have a single ingredient which then requires a couple of other ingredients which then require 3-4 other ingredients, and while trying to cope with all that, the game whines about how your backpack is full and could use unloading at the nearest farm and the nearest farm is not really that near at all and… No… Just… No. Most of this isn’t apparent during the story when everything is new and lovely but as soon as the end credits have rolled, the remaining content turns downright repulsive.

Prideful Sloth still gets two thumbs up for their absolutely lovely angle but for the next game, more streamlined inventory management and a more navigable map are a must.

Kthxbye

Thank you, Bandai Namco. Never EVER again.

Yawn… Another week, another post about The Idolm@ster: Platinum Stars. Still, this shall be the last of its kind, as listening to cutesy Japanese pop music for six weeks straight is probably enough to drive anyone insane. During this weekend, I briefly felt like I would be able to bid it farewell with grace, dignity, and feeling good. That brief moment of happiness, however, was just the game’s dastardly ploy to remind me that it’s still very much the same sadistic psychopath it has been these past few weeks. Here’s how it ended:

  • 141 hours: Everyone has seven million fans. I wander in the darkness. Nothing matters anymore.
  • 153 hours: Everyone has eight million fans. All is well in grind hell. Carry on.
  • 158 hours: Everyone has nine million fans. I spent all money earned from lives so far to publicity photo shoots. They helped me reach this point almost seven hours early. This producer is now not just tired but also very much broke.
  • 168 hours: Everyone has ten million fans! Could this truly be the glorious end of a long journey?
  • 171 hours: All idols have reached the platinum S rank! It took a while as everyone had to pass a rank up live consisting of three full songs, but it was still good times! Elation and tears of happiness for all! Since the game’s subhead is Platinum Stars, I now feel like I’ve bested it properly.
  • 174 hours: Ooh! Everyone in S rank has a solo live that unlocks a new costume! After almost a hundred hours, the long and dry clothing season ends with a flood of 13 new costumes. However, one costume still remains locked. Because irony.
  • 175 hours: All 20 songs have reached Legend status. In theory, this would have required playing each of them 200 times but at least the game is kind enough to (very) occasionally gift music magazines that shave off 10-30 repetitions. Even then, one probably has to be a bit of a masochist to get this far.
  • 176 hours: All S rank lives thoroughly completed. Since there’s basically nothing to achieve anymore, surely that one last costume would be a fine reward? No? Well sod off then.

Even if I now have plenty of platinum stars, getting the platinum trophy would still require that last costume. I also still need a bunch of vouchers for the local tailor, even if they’re total dicks and only accept them in bundles of five. All this stuff can only be obtained from gift packages that are occasional, random rewards after a live. Even getting a present comes down to luck, and for how it has been for a long time already, they’re almost guaranteed to contain nothing but useless items or duplicate costumes. Since some unlucky players have apparently spent over 500 hours to overcome this last ordeal, I call this farce off on my behalf. Never again shall I meddle with games designed around microtransactions, especially when they’re not even free but full retail.

Triple oasis of refreshment!

Hours spent on that time-waster were all the more agonizing as more interesting games kept popping up in the background. Everybody’s Golf is bound to feature familiar but entertaining casual golfing, Knack 2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by being a game that every critic seems to love ridiculing (in itself a good enough reason to buy it), and Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is still very much a mystery to me. Based on hearsay, it’s supposedly some sort of soulmate to Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, but one that doesn’t require you to sink hundreds of hours into it. Especially after my last escapade, that part in particular sounds awfully nice.

Redemption

That… Didn’t go well.

And thus comes Final Fantasy Type-0 HD to its end. The large-scale conflict eventually reached a proper conclusion, even if the game still managed to introduce a totally surprising finale that, sadly, wasn’t entirely bereft of awkward cliches. In the end, it managed to answer as many questions as it left others ambiguous. No can do; the workings of this universe have been given way more attention than coming up with a coherent story. The action-packed missions don’t jive very well with the slightly aimless free time parts, and even if there are cinematics, many of them are often too short or just plain irrelevant. I suppose I could follow my (hurried) 25-hour playthrough with another go in order to get a better overall picture, but hunting down little morsels of information to reconstruct in one’s own head isn’t really that alluring.

That’s not to say Type-0 wouldn’t have its fair share of memorable moments. The soundtrack by Takeharu Ishimoto, in particular, is perhaps the grandest and most impressive in the history of the entire franchise. Orchestral scores backed up by a big mixed choir blare with incredible intensity, evoking genuine affection. Of course, there are also more tranquil tunes. Especially when the one linked above starts to play with your team in the middle of the battlefield following their orders while other units relay their final moments over the radio is still something that brings a lump in my throat. Heart-wrenchingly beautiful!

Thanks to a bittersweet epilogue, I even slightly miss my own crew, even if forming an actual emotional bond with any of them would have required a lot more interaction and character development. As they stand, the cadets are more or less just a group of fighters from among whom you probably choose to prefer the ones suiting your playstyle. Sure, the game is an action-JRPG, but it kind of feels like too much emphasis is on action.

Despite everything, Type-0 doesn’t shy away from blood, violence, and the madness of war, and therefore manages to leave a stark impression. Such elements are hardly essential but were they used in a “proper” Final Fantasy (read: games VII-IX), it might be one heck of a ride. Type-0 is certainly worth playing through but while it has many good particulars, it fails to make everything work in unison.

The Builder Has Left the Building

Sod off! Not going anywhere before fixing that mess on the left…

Even if the Dragon Lord put up a commendable fight, peace has come once again. With challenges and everything, Dragon Quest Builders provided a merry 43-hour adventure that left a most positive aftertaste. Despite the lack of building space and the sense of urgency, the game didn’t go for strike three and I even got surprisingly used to living with its numerous minor flaws. Still, after completing four mini-stories, I’m now so exhausted that the free mode, Terra Incognita, is probably something to be sampled at a later time; even the story mode is comprehensive enough to quench a mild thirst of building stuff.

The game gets extra credit for its wonderful controls. One might think that building and, especially, managing dozens of resources with a joypad would be sheer impossibility. Against all odds, however, everything works just fine. Granted, nothing is as easy and intuitive as it would be with a mouse and a keyboard but the control scheme is still delightful. The player can only carry 15 different resources at a time but as soon as the home base gets a jumbo-sized coffer, it automatically stores everything that gets picked up. That chest is also manageable from anywhere around the world, so all resource hoarding journeys are eventually a matter of simply picking up anything that seems even remotely interesting.

Since this is a third-person view Minecraft, building stuff is slightly awkward and often requires the player to be positioned just right. Still, the outlines of anything to be placed are always visible and give a good idea on what will happen. With a bit of care, accidental placements can be avoided altogether. Then again, if that happens, it only takes a couple of swings from your weapon to return any resource or a constructed item back to your inventory.

When the hometown citizens require something a bit more complex and premeditated, the request is given as a blueprint. It’s a handy way to first determine how much space will be needed. After choosing a spot and putting it down, it only takes a single press of a button to see what the outcome should look like, and what and how many resources or items are needed in the process. Most user-friendly!

The battle mechanics aren’t particularly hot but not entirely hopeless either. It mostly takes time to get used to the pitiful range of melee weaponry. Sword slashes and mallet swings often miss even when you’re pretty certain they should connect. Inch closer, and you easily suffer contact damage. Just wielding wildly isn’t really a strategy here, given how earnest the feisty adversaries are to bring down not just your health, but also the number of your preciously crafted healing items and the durability of your weapons and gear. Instead of mindless button smashing, it’s often better to get used to dodging an attack and then delivering a couple of blows of your own. This makes the fights a bit slow but economical on the long run. In a worst case scenario, the battle is fought at home. This is when the inhabitants of your town join the fray and it usually results in total chaos where it’s hard to pinpoint individual enemies while pretty much every blow breaks apart blocks of previously constructed buildings. After a bout like that, it’s not uncommon to spend the next day just repairing the damages.

The day-night cycle is annoyingly short anyway; maybe 10-15 minutes in real-time. At night, visibility drops dramatically and pestering mage ghosts manifest to fling fireballs at your way. The most obvious plan of action would be to just call it day, go to sleep, and regain all health points in the process. However, if you’re interested in overcoming the (admittedly optional) time challenges, every moment should be utilized as effectively as possible, even if it means stumbling around in the dark with spirits hot on your trail.

In order for Dragon Quest Builders to have been legendary, it should have rolled all of its four chapters into one consistent campaign without any build area restrictions but a constant feeling of revising an existing design into ever-greater heights. Its days should’ve been longer and its nights shorter. It should’ve given players a chance to enjoy it at their own pace without that constantly nagging feeling of time passing by. Such simple (?) adjustments would’ve probably turned it into a genuine JRPG Minecraft, one that would’ve stolen hundreds of meaningful hours from its players. As it stands, it’s just a damn promising baseline that has all the required ingredients, yet makes it needlessly hard to willingly devote one’s every waking hour to the vision. Then again, perhaps it’s better this way.

Tokyo Mended, All Is Well

Taking a break from saving the world

Gigants have been bested not just in Tokyo but around the world as well. As it turned out, Ray Gigant wasn’t just an Ichiya Amakaze parade. As the story progressed, a couple of other Yorigami adopters were eventually located in England and the Caribbean. I kind of wish they weren’t, though, as the heroes were a remarkably dysfunctional bunch of people. The trio of a dunce, a psychopath, and a bimbo only interacted by bickering, ragging, and wallowing in self-pity, on top of which they all had a nearly identical story segment. After slaying a few Gigants, everything starts to go horribly wrong and someone dies. As the characters are repulsive and hardly ever get along, there’s very little drama even the first time around, let alone third.

Things didn’t get much better with dungeon crawling. The initial uncluttered mazes were eventually replaced with a jumble of hidden walls, teleports, and pits all aimed to make progress as arduous as possible. Since there are no random encounters, it’s still fairly swift to get through everything, and Ray Gigant is not nearly as sadistic as many other games in the genre (cough, Dungeon Travelers 2, cough). Still, dungeon design especially towards the end is as unenthusiastic as it comes. The game does feature a handy auto-pilot that enables you to quickly move to a map square visited before but even that gets so confused by teleports and conveyor belts that it eventually turns useless.

Fighting is the only part Ray Gigant almost gets right. The bigger the Gigants, the more awesome they look, and even if the game is relatively easy, slowly chipping away bosses’ massive health meters is always at least a little bit suspenseful. The final boss, though, was cheap beyond belief. About halfway into the fight, it put up such ridiculously heavy defenses that almost nothing seemed to work. In the end, I had to repeat the same boring move macro for almost an hour with even the biggest special attacks dealing only a paltry amount of damage. Even if he fell in the end, it was a dreary battle of attrition.

Thankfully Ray Gigant at least knows how to be moderate. Unlike most JRPGs, the whole adventure took only about 25 hours, and for the most part there were so many good bosses that the overall experience was at least slightly above average. Sure, its story is pointless drivel and there’s no character chemistry whatsoever, but at least everything moves at a brisk pace. On whole, the game is a passable light version of dungeon crawling. It doesn’t come even close to the undisputed (not negotiable) king of the genre, Demon Gaze, but it’s still a decent effort, especially for a lowly budget release. If nothing else, at least its brittle shell hides some neat and original ideas.

Nakama Power

Making new acquaintances in Akihabara

Halfway down this week I would never have believed just how big Persona 5 can be. Last time I expected to be on the final straight and wondered why the adversary I thought to be the final boss didn’t really exude an aura of epicness that they often tend to do. It ended up being no wonder at all, since after that the game kicked into serious high gear, featuring massive events and growing into a crescendo that almost felt ridiculous yet absolutely awesome. The last 15 hours were full of drama, suspense, a fantastic (actual) final boss, and an epilogue beautiful enough to get even the eyes of this cranky codger a little misty. Damn I’m going to miss these rascals!

At that point, I had already been playing for 77 hours. Even following a walkthrough, I managed to mess up my in-game schedule and miss out on some juicy tidbits here and there. Thus, there was no choice but to begin anew. Even if NG+ features a hidden boss, one new Persona, and a chance to get romantic with someone else from a selection of nine characters, that’s pretty much all there is. Thankfully money, personas, and social skills from the first playthrough carried over, so round two was mostly just fast-forwarding already seen scenes, enjoying plenty of extra time to do things, and completing a full 191 Persona compendium. The platinum trophy unlocked at 112 hours and I’m now dead tired but happy. Persona 5 would be even better if it allowed everything to be experienced in one go but the rerun was still fairly enjoyable.

Just like with its predecessor, the most memorable thing about Persona 5 is its sincerity and warmth. This is mostly thanks to the main characters who are more just everyday youngsters than they are actual super heroes (aside from the talking cat, Morgana, of course). The character chemistry is exemplary, and the game usually steers well clear of implausible conflict scenarios just for the sake of drama The Phantom Thieves are simply a bunch of extremely good friends who get along exceptionally well, overcoming all hardships as a team. This good vibe carries over to the player, too. I rarely get emotionally attached to game characters but this gang turned out to be people I came to genuinely care about and root for.

If anything is at fault with Persona 5, it’s because of its publisher. On PS4, it’s delightfully easy to grab screenshots and video clips for your own amusement, as long as the game allows it. Most of them do. Atlus, however, abhors spoiling jerks so much that it often restricts these features. On Utawarerumono, capturing content was disabled after the first 15 hours and on Persona 5, that happens after five minutes. Their products and their rules, sure, but it’s still a pretty drastic measure, especially as it can be circumvented with an ordinary capture card. The policy is more akin to taking a holiday abroad but having to leave your camera at the customs.

Still, it’s hard to be angry at Atlus. Persona 5 is a masterpiece that easily exceeded all expectations. It has to be a pretty darn impressive release to top this one by the end of the year!

To Be Continued…

Haku’s self preservation skills failing yet again

I guess I should have known that the very second I claim Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception not to be a harem adventure, Haku’s troupe is complemented by a couple of unabashed harem beauties. Thankfully Haku is such a genuine gentleman (no, he really is!) that the adventure still managed to continue in a fairly chaste manner. After almost 30 hours of lull, the story finally caught wind in its sails. That long sought gust was a little too rowdy, though, as the next 12 hours featured not just more characters but also a couple of sizable border wars and plenty of political scheming. As far as pacing goes, Utawarerumono is all over the place. It first spends a ludicrous amount of time just lollygagging before putting the pedal to the metal with loads of epic moments conveyed in rudimentary 3D scenes that require plenty of forgiving imagination to work out.

In a way, the game is still hard to put into words as even after those 42 hours, I’ve only experienced the first half of the adventure. After kicking into high gear, the game more or less just ends, leaving behind a number of (partly painfully asinine) cliffhangers for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth to follow up on come September. I should be a little annoyed with this twosome as it really feels like just trimming excess fat would’ve made it possible to tell the whole story in a single, more refined manner. Still, can’t say for sure until experiencing the other half, so I guess I have to give Mask of Deception a hall pass for now. Maybe its follow-up will focus on the cavalcade of characters that now felt way too numerous and largely underutilized.

To end on a slightly brighter note, I still admit that I’m intrigued by the fates of Haku and Kuon. Also, the frequency of the strategic battles towards the end almost felt normal at times. Big thumbs up for the final battle in particular, in which damage both given and taken was just plain brutal. While this might be my last endeavor into Japanese RPG stories cheekily split into multiple games, I guess my wallet still wishes to have an audience with Mask of Truth.