Knack

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After the goblins attack a human settlement, wielding weapons far beyond what they were believed capable of, a group of human leaders come together to decide on how to respond. It is decided that a small expeditionary force will confront them. This group is composed of the Doctor, his apprentice Lucas, their good friend Ryder, and a titan of industry Viktor, as well as his assistance Katrina. The Doctor believes their solution may lie in relics. Relics are a technology left behind by an ancient civilization that produce endless power, and are the foundation for civilization. The Doctor is the worlds foremost expert on these, and furthermore together with his apprentice discovered and awakened a sentient relic, which they named Knack, who can absorb relics to grow in size and power. The Doctor chooses to use this expedition as a way of testing out these abilities in Knack. However, Viktor finds Knack especially interesting, and seems to have big things planned for him.

***

Knack is infamous for apparently being one of the PS4s worst launch titles. The most common complaints against it are that its game play is lacking because the combat is shallow and repetitive and the platforming is barely there. I somewhat agree to that part about it being repetitive. However, I didn’t find the combat to be shallow or the amount of platforming to be off. The combat is incredibly simple, however that is in a way a part of its charm in my opinion. The basic loop of dodging and just using simple attacks against a wide array of enemies kept it feeling fresh. In hard mode, victory definitely does take skill to be able to do well, requiring being able to read enemy patterns and plan out attacks with the right timing, which even if simple is certainly satisfying. Furthermore, it uses the growth mechanic very well. You start out each level tiny, fighting small enemies, and slowly build up from there. By the end of each level, enemies that you thought were difficult early on you can defeat crowds of with ease. That doesn’t add to the depth much, but there’s definitely something about it that makes it satisfying. There wasn’t a lot of platforming and none of it was especially great but what was there was good enough to help the pacing and keeping it from dragging on. So it wasn’t groundbreaking or tremendously polished, but I felt the game play was enjoyable.

The story was completely mediocre, and the dialogue was awful, though there were some funny moments. The character designs and the art style aren’t all that great. Contrary to popular opinion though, I thought Knack looked fine actually, but the other human characters were strange looking. The environments were quite nice looking though. The soundtrack was forgettable. The credits were cool enough to take note of.

A game that ha simple but solid enough game play on harder difficulties, though very lacking in terms of story.

7/10

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Sword Art Online Re:Hollow Fragment

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Note: The game, and this review, include spoilers for the main series pretty much immediately.

Kirito faces off with Heathcliff on the 75th floor with the possibility of bringing the death game they were all trapped in to a close. However, in the middle of their battle, things start behaving very awkwardly, and at some point, Hearthcliff just completely disappears. The clearing group think for a moment that that must mean that they’ve won, and that the game is about to end, but as time goes on, it becomes apparent this is absolutely not the case, and that they must continue progressing through the game and clearing the various floors. To make matters even more complicated, a number of glitches appear in the system. A lot of gear and other parameters that they’re all using becomes corrupted. And furthermore, anyone that reaches the 75th floor becomes locked out of all floors below it. Still, using the 75th floor town, Arc Sophia, as the new base of all operations hence forth, they continue onward.

Kirito and Asuna are essentially fine, though their gear and some key parameters got corrupted. But when Lizbeth comes up to congratulate them, she discovers that she can no longer go back to her old shop, and must start from scratch again in Arc Sophia. When Silica arrives on the 75th floor town for the same reasons, she is also shocked, because she is quite under leveled for questing on the 75th floor, and hence has to be innovative in how she proceeds. Furthermore, Kirito’s sister, Suguha, in her avatar form from another game as Leafa, suddenly appears as well and joins the group, though being new faces challenges in getting started on the 75th floor. And similarly, when a girl named Sinon falls from the sky, having no idea how she got there or what she’s going to do, also faces similar challenges. On top of that, they also meet a new girl Strea who is incredibly cheerful and outgoing, but can act quite strange at times. And to make matters even more complicated, at some point Kirito gets magically teleported into a completely new area seperated from Aincrad, the Hollow Area, where he finds a girl names Philia who needs to proceed through the Hollow Area before she can return to Aincrad, but has a number of mysterious issues surrounding her as well. Still it’s not all bad, as the glitches that screwed up the system also somehow bring back Yui. Hence, Kirito and his various allies proceed with progressing through Aincrad and the Hollow Area.

***

Hollow Fragment is very much a game targetted at Sword Art Online fans, to the point that I would say that if you don’t already enjoy the series, it is unlikely you will enjoy the game. In terms of plot, it starts right off in the middle of the climax of the Aincrad arc, but takes it in a completely different direction. Hence, it expects an understanding of everything that occurred prior to that. But beyond that, it also introduces a number of characters from arcs beyond where Hollow Fragment branches, and hence expects a knowledge and appreciation of those aspects as well. While the main plot I think you would be able to understand even without all this knowledge, I don’t think the plot itself would be all that enjoyable, as a key element to the plot seems to simply be to cater to fans. In addition to the main plots, clearing floors and the Hollow Area, there are a number of heroine focused events. These I would say take up much more of the story portion than the main plot line. These generally involve a VN like set up with text, sprites, and CG, all done very authentically to the spirit of the franchise and quite enjoyable if you already like the characters and world, but I don’t see them creating fans if you already don’t. Now, this might seem strange as some of these characters, particularly Strea and Phillia are completely new, but even with them, unless you already have an appreciation for the world, factions, and systems in place, I don’t think you’ll be able to appreciate their character arcs. To summarize, the story is incredibly tied in with the spirit of the series, which makes it far more enjoyable to fans, but will likely feel strange, possibly hollow, to newcomers.

In terms of game play, there are essentially two games included in Hollow Fragment. Infinity Moment was originally released for PSP, but got essentially an expansion for Vita including all the content from Infinity Moment released as Hollow Fragment. That got remastered with better integration for DLC updates to Hollow Fragment as the PS4 release Re:Hollow Fragment. Now, while there is certainly some level of integration between them, the Infinity Moment component, meaning clearing floors in Aincrad, and the Hollow Fragment component, meaning journeying through the Hollow Area, proceeding through them feels like going through two different but very similar games. For the sake of doing a complete play through on the first run, I would recommend doing the entirety of the Hollow Area first, and then proceed through Aincrad, at each floor clearing the event list before proceeding to the next floor as otherwise there are missable events. The exception to that is the last floor, where you want to complete the ending at least once before doing the main event on that floor, as otherwise you miss CG. The Hollow Area game play loop involves proceeding through a number of interconnected areas until you can defeat the area boss to move to the next area. While doing so you can do Hollow Missions, which give Hollow Points and give the chance to do Hollow Challenges, both of which allow to use Implementations, which can result in a number of modifiers, ranging from giving abilities and items to adding entirely new game play systems to combat, mainly the OSS system which for all intents and purposes is valuable enough that I consider it essential. The Aincrad game play loop involves proceeding through a floor with three objectives: defeating a certain elite enemy, completely a certain quest, and discovering the Floor Boss room door. Upon completing all of these, a raid against the floor boss can be initiated. There are also a number of side quests that can be done on each floor, though ultimately they feel like a waste of time. And of course, both areas result in character driven events appearing as you progress through them. The game play loops are pretty simple, and the Aincrad loops started getting a bit stale towards the end, though things do change a bit at that point. Still, while fatigue is definitely an issue, the loops themselves are pretty satisfying.

In terms of actual combat it is somewhat simplistic and very MMO like, but enjoyable for what it was. While in combat, Kirito is always doing damage when targetting and enemy, but upon manual selection can do strong attacks that use up a burst gauge, a gauge that is also tied to using dodges. However, these for the most part make up little of the damage, with the majority of damage being done through Sword Skills. There are a number of different weapons that can be learned with their own Sword Skills, and a number of general Battle Skills as well. However, I essentially stuck to only Dual Wielding, grinding out skills in other areas only to unlock certain Battle Skills for Dual Wield builds. Furthermore, there is a limit to how many buffs you can have on at a time, and hence at some point, far from the end of the game, you reach a wall in terms of growth and just stick to the build you have there for the rest of the game, which contributes to the fatigue you’re building from the game play loop also getting repetitive. While it certainly is possible to choose to use different weapons, within the context of the game, it certainly didn’t feel right, and overall I don’t think forcing yourself to use a weaker build is a good solution to fatigue. Assisting in battle are AI partners, which are generally heroines, ovver which you have some degree of control in terms of their tactics and growth. However, their deaths also results in a Dead End (game over), which for certain enemies could be quite annoying and required a lot of micro managing of the AI. Lastly, floor bosses are special in that they involve raids by large groups. Having your partner die results in a Dead End, but during these fights anyone else dying allows the game to continue, though there are bonuses for keeping everyone alive. Furthermore there are last hit bonuses, which can be obtained through some quick micromanagement of the AI near the end. In terms of extra content, there isn’t much in Aincrad beyond a certain secret boss who is awesome. However, the Hollow Area has quite a bit of extra content in what is called the Abandoned Area and the Classified Area, featuring a large number of bosses, so its certainly quite good in that regard. Lastly, there’s also a mechanic of grinding Affinity with the various heroines, which is necessary for obtaining all CG, but involves a mini games where you have to make conversation choices that make absolutely no sense, are incredibly repetitive, and furthermore takes forever to the point of being incredibly annoying.

The CG, sprites, and background were incredibly good, though the last Strea CG was clearly tacked on. The 3D graphics however left a lot to be desired, which makes absolute sense considering it is essentially a remaster of an enhanced PSP game, but considering it still wasn’t able to maintain a stable 60fps I felt that the technical deficiency it was worth mentioning. There’s also a heavy reuse of assets for environment and enemies, which is yet another aspect that contributes to fatigue at times. There were a number of small things in terms of systems, which really aren’t that big in terms of being issues, such as animations acting strange or weird hitboxes, but made the game feel a bit janky for lack of a better word. The soundtrack was pretty good, though a bit too different from the main series in my opinion. I certainly appreciated reusing the OP/ED from the main series though.

A game that gets a bit repetitive, has a lot of rough edges, and seems targeted precisely at already current fans, but is that comes out to be something that’s quite enjoyable for those fans.

8/10

The Order: 1886

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In 1886, the British empire still reigns. The world is full of technologies far advanced for the time period, but also dark secrets such as monstrous half-breeds, who are hunted by The Order. The Order is an organization of knights originating in the Knights of the Round Table, who while not immortal, have far extended life spans due to drinking from the holy grail. They have the sole goal of defeating the Half-Breeds, though they also work very closely with the crown and other organizations such as the United India Trade Company.

Grayson is in a squad of such knights, led by mentor Malory and also including long time friend Isabeau and in training knight Marquis de Lafayette. They are put on the task of dealing with rebels, however they end up encountering a number of half-breeds. Malory breaks protocol to go after them, and ultimately Grayson is pulled into a vast conspiracy forcing him to take matters into his own hands.

***

The Order 1886 isn’t a bad game, rather I think it was enjoyable enough, but it is incredibly generic. The game play is a third person shooter with the vast number of encounters involving a small number of simple enemies. There are also a couple encounters with Half-Breeds, the basics of which involve a bit more movement, and the boss level of which are entirely QTE melee. There are some interesting weapons, but the vast majority are incredibly generic. The encounters are decent enough and I had fun with them at times, but nothing that really popped out as unique or too interesting. There are also some stealth missions, which are annoying as they’re instant fail on detection, though simple enough to plow through once you get the hang of them. There are also some lock picking mini-games, which are decent. These seem to largely have the purpose to help with pacing. Overall, the game play wasn’t bad, but also nothing exceptional. The plot was a lot like a B-Tier movie, though for a game that’s actually not too bad. It was incredibly predictable with some awful lines. Still, combined with the atmosphere generated by the incredible graphics, cinematography, and soundtrack, I had no problems with the overall story implementation. The ending wasn’t much of an ending, leaving a lot of story elements hanging, which is unfortunate as there will likely never be a sequel. The game doesn’t have anything in particular that I especially like it for, but also nothing that I particularly hate it for, but all in all because of how short it is, I feel it was interesting enough for what it was.

A game that has really strong visuals, soundtrack, and atmosphere though somewhat mediocre gameplay and story.

7/10

Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-

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The keyblade master Aqua continues to wander the realm of darkness as she has for a decade, fighting heartless and confronting her own inner demons along the way. But things are changing, and she is faced with many a world she had visited before, but that had been lost to darkness: Castle of Dreams, Dwarf Woodlands, Enchanted Dominion. She continues through them searching for the truth on whats going on, and possibly a way out.

***

0.2 Fragmentary Passage, while being incredibly short to the point of being a demo to some degree, is the first true console entry in the series since Kingdom Hearts II, and has hence been met with major anticipation. Due to it’s lack of length, the story isn’t anywhere near as elaborate as other entries. However, it does very well with what it has, showing off how amazing Aqua is quite well, who is tied with Riku for my favorite character in the franchise. It also fills in some key gaps, and seems to be structured around the sole purpose of setting up Kingdom Hearts III, especially the epilogue, which in and of itself makes its story contributions incredibly worthwhile.

In terms of game play, it plays incredibly well. Due to being short, it starts out with Aqua already being quite powerful, being at level 50 with Level 3s of the four basic spells and all the enhanced core movement abilities, all of which is incredibly satisfying for veterans of the series. The core combat is similar to standard Kingdom Hearts, having a menu of attack, magic, and items. However, there is a major addition in that of situational commands. Situational commands are similar to the command gauge in BBS, in that they involve a bar that fills up as you perform actions, and depending on the actions taken, it can give you special attacks or allow you to enter a command style, wherein in the demo the only available styles being Spellweaver and then Wayfinder. These styles are entered into when most of the gauge is filled with simple attacks. Special attacks on the other hand, which are entered into upon filling the bar with spells, take the form of Level 4 spells, which are incredibly powerful and satisfying to use. Due to it’s short length, there isn’t any advancement in the combat system beyond the tutorial, completely lacking anything like shops or abilities gained through growth, however, for what it is the combat is fantastic and true to the other games in being quite flashy, which leaves my very optimistic and hyped for Kingdom Hearts III. There aren’t that many enemies, six if I remember correctly, and four bosses, with some degree of repetition among them, but due to it’s short length that’s perfectly fine, not feeling repetitive even on multiple consecutive playthroughs. The bosses were all pretty good as well, phantom Aqua in boss rush mode especially, in that while the mechanics were somewhat sparse it really feels like you need to master all of them. There is some incentive for multiple play throughs: critical mode, objectives that unlock visual customizations, and post game collectibles that unlock a boss rush like mode being the main ones, and while there still isn’t enough to consider it a long game even if you’re going for 100% completion like I did, I am still quite satisfied with it… for now.

Lastly, the game is beautiful. Some of the character models feel kind of off during cutscenes, but playing through the actual game with the flashy combat and the open areas is amazing to behold. And it has a great, though short, soundtrack too. Also, I quite liked the remix for the opening.

Short to the point of being a tease but a really good tease very true to the franchise.

10/10

So hyped for KH3. Give it to ME!!!

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance

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Sora and Riku under the supervision of Yen Sid undergo their Mark of Mastery Exams. However, due to various circumstances, their’s is a lot more complex than previous ones. It involves going into the realm of dreams to fight and tame dream eaters and using them to find the keyholes of 7 sleeping worlds, worlds that were taken over by darkness but did not return. While they start out together, they are quickly separated into their own separate dreams, however even across dreams they still work closely together towards completing their tasks. However, they’re not the only outsiders journeying through the realm of dreams, a young Xehanort and Ansem seem to be wandering through the sleeping worlds as well, with plans of their own.

***

Dream Drop Distance is closest in terms of game play to Birth By Sleep in that combat is through a command deck of commands with cool downs, and also similar in that it has a decent amount of verticality in combat as well as some platforming when exploring. However, it has two mechanics that are completely different from previous systems and make the game play out very differently. The first is the Dream Eater system. With items that you obtain, you can craft dream eaters. These dream eaters fight at your side as party members, allow you to link with them for special abilities and styles, and upon leveling up give you abilities and stat boosts. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the Dream Eater system at all. The linking aspects weren’t as nice as the command styles in BBS, but were passable. They were also fine as party members, though not as good as world based party members. What was quite annoying though was that they were incredibly bulky as a means of getting abilities and commands, taking very long amounts of time and feeling very scattershot. Furthermore, the mini games involving them while not necessary, weren’t as good as the mini games in other entries. The other mechanic that’s different is flow motion, which allows much more rapid and flashy movement both in and out of combat. It feels great when you get the hang of it, but at the end of the day it didn’t really feel like it added all that much. Rather, it felt like it made exploration and such redundant as you could just flow motion anywhere. Furthermore, while the areas at some level seemed bigger than the areas in previous entries, in part because of flow motion, they felt smaller, and even emptier. There were also some other combat and movement additions such as Reality Shifts, but they didn’t add much. The gummi ship system was replaced with the drop system, which was pretty similar to the gummi ship system in the first game, though not as annoying. Now as for the core combat, which is the most important part arguably, it was decent, though felt like a step back. It was a lot less flashy than BBS, and just didn’t feel as good to play through normal groups of enemies. Furthermore, the bosses for the most part weren’t all the great either. The exception to that was the last world, The World That Never Was, where the final set of bosses were all quite great, and a major departure from the rest of the bosses in the series, hence making the finale by far the most enjoyable portion of the game to play through.

As for the story, overall it felt lacking up until the ending. For the most part, the overarching story doesn’t really go anywhere from the introduction up until you reach The World That Never Was where the story actually takes off. This would be fine if the worlds stories were good, but for the most part, the Disney oriented stories felt weak as well. A major cause of this was that the Disney worlds involved playing through each world twice, once with each character, but with the stories of each being completely disconnected from each other, and hence feeling repetitive and rushed. The other non Disney world, Traverse Town, was also a major exception to that, feeling incredibly familiar but greatly expanded, which was great to see, and also having a great set of characters and an awesome story based around The World Ends With You. Like the Disney worlds, it was heavily disconnected from the main plot, but it was still quite enjoyable. Now, upon arriving at The World That Never Was, the plot becomes tremendously more interesting and involved, which in traditional Kingdom Hearts fashion means becoming far more convoluted to the point of ridiculousness, but to be quite frank this is something I quite enjoy about the series at this point. It’s quite the amazing finale, and hence I would consider the overall story pretty good, though it certainly takes time to get there.

In terms of the style, I really wasn’t much of a fan. There really didn’t seem to be any reason to use the faces and base designs of KH characters instead of KH2. The dream eater designs were also quite lacking, being far too colorful and only being far too colorful. The soundtrack had some good new tracks, such as young Xehanorts theme, but overall the new tracks weren’t as great as previous games either.

A game that isn’t all that great in terms of its additions, and is also lacking in terms of its core pillars for the majority of the game, but that has a return to form in a grand finale.

8/10

I’ve never played TWEWY but really want to now.

Yumina the Ethereal

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Ayumu is a guy that just wants to take it easy. He’s the adopted son of a body guard who put him through intense training as a kid, so for a change of pace now that he’s at the boarding school Jinbu Academy, he does his best to relax and do as little work as possible, just barely passing. His closest friend is a girl named Yumina, who is similar in that she also doesn’t know her parents, though she grew up at an orphanage. But she’s also Ayumu’s opposite in many ways, in that she puts in tremendous effort, but still doesn’t manage to pass.

Due to a series of circumstances, including those involving Ayumu, it seems that she’ll be forced to repeat a year, with absolutely nothing in the rules that gets her out of it. Desperate to get around that, she runs around school asking anyone she can for help, ultimately coming upon Kirara, a small (though it would be dangerous to call her that) and somewhat sadistic girl, who is also the head and sole member of the debate club. She says that there’s a single way for Yumina to avoid having to repeat a year. If nothing in the rules allow it, she must simply change the rules, by participating in the upcoming election and becoming student council president. Yumina, being easily led on, quickly agrees and Ayumu also joins. And later on a mysterious, strange, and food obsessed girl names Ai transfers to the school and also joins.

The complete debate club works hard on their election versus the varying other clubs in the school. However, it’s important to note that the election at Jinbu academy is very different from other elections, involving a tournament style elimination structure, and being centered around debate battles that involve Ethereal technology, which works kind of like holograms. And even beyond the issues with dealing with the various competitors they must face in the election, there also seems to be something mysterious happening behind the scenes at Jinbu Academy that seems far bigger than the election itself.

***

Yumina the Ethereal is primarily a visual novel though it does have a good amount of game play in the form of combat during debate battles and otherwise. The game play is a turn based RPG with combat during the main story as well as in a fantasy themed dungeon crawler portion called the Ordacle that exists pretty much completely separate from the main story and has a storyline that can only be told across three playthroughs. The combat is decent at best, having some unique mechanics, but not really much depth, in that there are a lot of abilities, but there isn’t a lot of variation among them. The battles can also feel very slow, even when sped up, but for the most part are paced well enough with the main story that this never becomes an issue. The Ordacle itself, was very annoying at first, because doing side quests in the Ordacle is completely and utterly annoying. Thankfully, I quickly discovered its possible to ignore them all and do your best to avoid combat in dungeons and still be perfectly fine in terms of being properly leveled. That made combat much more bearable. I would like to note that there were some elements that were incredibly annoying such as essentially being required to have certain abilities, mainly chain stasis and hydroblaster, at the right levels for certain bosses without any prior warning, wherein if you haven’t gotten the abilities yet it may require reloading a much older save. I would also like to note that an extra combat type is added about half way through that adds a good amount of diversity to the combat, which did help a good amount in preventing it from feeling repetitive, though it still ended up doing so somewhat. So all in all the game play wasn’t particularly great, but it was good enough for what it was in keeping the player involved and at the minimum wasn’t a hindrance.

The structure of the visual novel portion is centered primarily around choosing what events to do, in that you are able to do two events a day, one morning and one evening, with a limit on the number of days. These events often chain together, and hence the order they are performed in needs to be carefully considered. These VN portions can ultimately give you abilities to use during combat, but they are also the primary means of telling the story. I felt that this structure was somewhat lacking, in that it was somewhat hard to follow and quite easy to do events in such a way that it feels out of order. This was especially true if you take the Ordacle related events into account. The game is also divided into two portions, the first of which takes place at Jinbu Academy and goes through the election, and that sets the stage for the next phase, which takes place in space. Jinbu Academy is also where you choose which route you end up on in the second half, with the choices being Yumina, Kirara, and Ai. The academy portion was pretty laid back, very slice of life feeling, though there were some obvious things that were bizarre with a major mystery lurking in the background. The space portion was far more intense and exciting, being at a whole other level than the election portion. However, to go through the various routes, its necessary to go back and forth between them, which I felt was pretty awkward, though the true ending did wrap things up nicely.

The routes, in terms of my playing order, which in hindsight I think is the best order:

Kirara’s route was interesting. She’s a very interesting girl being somewhat sadistic but also gentle, though her route was also somewhat depressing. Her character design I wasn’t too fond of, and though at first I really liked her personality, to be honest that decreased a bit as the story went on . The backstory on how Galeorn became someone she despised was interesting and one of the most important plot points for her, but how she didn’t get revenge at all in the end was somewhat unsatisfying, though I can understand the point they were making about moving on. I was worried they were going to sort of end it on a cliff hanger, but they fully developed the ending with the flash forward ten years later and it was great to see everyone doing well. Her ED was also great, though it wasn’t really unique to her. Also, how she was suddenly in a relationship was really random.

Ai’s routes plot seems to take the base story from Kirara’s route, and extend it, exposing a whole host of other characters and taking things further, such that the overall lore of the universe comes together much better. The plot itself from a character development point of view was also more interesting than Kirara’s, with a plot oriented around whether she should be her own person or to continue on the goals that were given to her when she was young, which ultimately amount to chasing after her sister. The ending was where the majority of the story was told, which resulted in it proceeding very differently from what I expected, but in terms of structure it makes sense, and ultimately it came to a reasonably satisfying conclusion. Her ED was decent and fit her pretty well.

Yumina’s route is the route that takes things the furthest, in terms of lore and plot. It builds upon everything introduces in the other routes, and adds quite a bit more. It also has a lot of unique moments, such as going through everyone else’s perspectives for certain events. Yumina is also someone who I didn’t like much at first, but as her character was developed she quickly became my favorite character. She’s an airhead that pretty much derives power from her airheadedness while also being kind and overtly selfless, but learning to be selfish. Her route came to the most solid conclusion of the three, which was also quite satisfying. I should also note that this route has the most music, which was great, and her ED is both good and fitting.

The conclusion route, thats unlocked upon finishing all other routes and finishing the Ordacle, was a solid way to wrap up everything bringing everything from school and space together in one epic finale. Though not exactly, it pretty much picks up near the ending of Yumina’s route, but goes in a different direction. There’s a focus on having a lot more depth to it, that primarily manifests itself in existentialist concepts being discussed when arguing with Barais, and although that in itself was rather weak and didn’t make much sense, feeling very awkwardly put together, the emotional aspects surrounding it were reasonably strong. The ending was interesting in that it doesn’t quite end for the main characters, even though a lengthy conclusion is given for the side characters. That the story is very much still going is kind of awkward in that it clearly hasn’t reached a conclusion yet, but the characters seem perfectly happy and it allows them to stay together, which was especially nice to see in the journal, but they’re still drifting outside the universe. Ultimately, it’s a rather strange feeling to be completely done with the whole novel like that. It doesn’t feel like it’s completely over, and it makes me kind of miss them and want to know what they get up to afterwards.

As for some overall comments, the music was fantastic, which makes sense as it was a core story portion. The art was decent though not exceptional, across sprites and CGs. The character designs were decent as well. The voices were fine, though it was weird to only have Ayumu voiced in some scenes.

A VN with passable game play that has a major genre shift that somehow works pretty well.

8/10

It’s disappointed the fandisc will never happen.

Also I’m surprised they translated all the info of each skill and item. That must have taken forever and was completely pointless as few would read it. I’d rather they have just saved the time and money.

Also, it’s really hard to find good images of this game to use for the header. :/

Rain

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Rain is a game that has a similar feeling to Ico. In terms of plot its simple in that it simply involves a boy and a girl escaping from a mysterious evil, but that’s putting it incredibly lightly. It’s not the plot that’s important but rather everything else. Just like Ico, there’s a certain essence to it that makes it feel more magical, which is why many often refer to Ico when they want to give an example of  magical. Despite there not being much of a plot and it being told through incredibly minimalist storytelling, just because of the way the game plays, it makes you very invested in the how the game progresses and especially the fate of the girl you’re chasing, to the point that eventually there’s just an automatic feeling of dread whenever you’re separated from her. All of this builds up, making the ending a very satisfying payoff. That it was able to do this in such a subtle way is the greatest aspect of the game. This is combined with a very unique aesthetic reminiscent of a rainy night in Paris with a fantastic soundtrack to match giving a tremendous amount of atmosphere.

However, I should point out that the gameplay itself is pretty weak. It’s primarily composes of traversing through the world essentially solving puzzles to keep continuing, with those puzzles being incredibly easy and not really requiring much though. Ultimately, it felt like the gameplay itself was only there to involve the player in the narrative, rather than to actually provide a challenge, so it isn’t really a game that I would call fun. The pacing is also somewhat awkward, being very slow at the beginning, and then also seeming to carry on too long at points. Furthermore, there’s also a mechanic of collectibles called memories within the game, that give tidbits about the underlying story, and that I think add a lot of value to the narrative, but are only possible to be picked up on the second play through. I feel that there was little purpose to this, as they don’t really spoil anything, and could be easily tweaked to not spoil at all, and I feel they would have mad the first play through more impactful.

A game that does a tremendous job of capturing the essence of what made Ico great, but not quite to that degree.

8/10