Reviews

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Fantasy Life is a game about filling up bars. A collaboration between Level-5 (Dragon Quest IXNi no Kuni) and 1-Up Studio (Mother 3Professor Layton and the Last Specter‘s London Life mode), it’s filled with fetch quests, grinding up skills and crafting items and equipment. These aren’t ways to pad the game length or diversions from the main attraction — they’re the reason you’re here — and it’s not ashamed of that for a second.

And that’s okay, because Fantasy Life is a really good game about filling up bars. READ MORE

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Pier Solar and the Great Architects is a return to the 16-bit glory days of the JRPG genre and was originally released for the Sega Genesis in 2010, over a decade after the last official release for the system. It was conceived as an attempt to emulate the core concepts that made other RPGs of that era so memorable, and it largely succeeds in doing so, both for better and for worse. Pier Solar developer WaterMelon ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 to remaster the game in HD for release on modern consoles (along with — of course — the Dreamcast), and it is this “definitive” version of the game that will likely gain exposure to a wider audience as copies of the limited-run Sega Genesis version can be very difficult to find. READ MORE

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Developer Shin’en has become known for two things during its long run of supporting Nintendo download platforms: fast-paced shooters and quirky games that get a lot out of limited hardware. Art of Balance is certainly representative of the second group, a simple-on-the-surface stacking puzzle game with a zen-garden aesthetic that allowed for some cool water and lighting effects in a minimalist environment. The first game was a WiiWare standout, and after a foray on the 3DS eShop, the franchise heads to the Wii U in a form clearly shaped by the experiences developing both previous entries. READ MORE

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Borderlands doesn’t step tenderly around anything, and the developers’ devotion to a joke or a theme is to be applauded. Dogged determination doesn’t always work out, though. Not every moon is our moon, and recreating the sense of slowness seen in footage from ours does not translate well to Pandora’s moon, Elpis. Some other additions and changes are good, however. I don’t ever want to play another Borderlands game in which my only option is to sell trash guns back to Marcus. Throwing them into the Grinder — and admittedly often receiving more valuable trash guns — is too enticing to empty my backpack every time I pass a vending machine. READ MORE

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Most of the time, it’s the object of a review to evaluate a game on its artistic merits, like what it’s trying to communicate and how it goes about delivering on that vision. With some games, though, like this fourth installment of the Skylanders series, what we’re looking at is undeniably a product: a collection of bullet points loosely tied together and pressed on a disc for consumption by mass-market shoppers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for every game, but it does make the “film criticism” school of reviews largely inappropriate.

So I’m going to follow Trap Team‘s lead and package together some bullet points for you. READ MORE

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Relationships between party members have always been a mainstay of JRPGs. Why these seemingly random people who look like they have no business with each other on a normal day come together for a united purpose is usually beyond us. These relationships are usually touched upon, but never really go incredibly in-depth. But what happens when one developer decides to make that the central theme of the game? Japanese developer Gust gives us that answer. READ MORE

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It’s always been a bit crazy how Japan has managed to remain so different when it comes to video games. Senran Kagura is probably one of the biggest examples of this: a game based on Japanese myth, mixed with more modern themes, but not one that simply takes game mechanics from something already popular. While Shinovi Versus continues where Burst left off, the series really doesn’t feel like any game before it. Shinovi Versus builds on the earlier games, but adds quite a bit to it thanks in part to the increased power and control available on Vita. READ MORE

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When I first heard the concept behind Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord, I was skeptical. I was expecting yet another game in which a male main character goes through a reference-filled plot that only exists to tie battles together, with a bunch of women swooning over him the whole way. Given the series’ roots in mature visual novels, I figured that was only natural, but I am happy to have my assumptions proven wrong.

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Few films have inspired a generation of action-focused science fiction, both in games and other movies, more than James Cameron’s Aliens. While the titles inspired by Aliens are generally excellent, the ones based directly on that property haven’t fared as well. This is where Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation comes in. Based entirely on the original horror film that spawned the franchise, Isolation is a subtler take on its source material and, as a result, manages to make more of an impact.

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Do you remember the end of Skyward Sword? When Link had to plow through wave after wave of bokoblins as he made his way to the center of the Sealed Grounds? Wasn’t that an awesome change of pace for the Legend of Zelda series? Well, if you liked that, you will absolutely love Hyrule Warriors, which takes Koei Tecmo’s successful Dynasty Warriors franchise and applies Nintendo’s world of Hyrule and its storied history. READ MORE