Lucien’s Review: Persona 5

First things first – fuck Atlus for their stupid policies about people live-streaming this game.  It’s bullshit, and I guess they don’t like free publicity.  Nintendo should tell them how well that is working out for them.  That being said, hopefully this company’s asinine decision doesn’t ruin your drive to play this game, because this is one HELL of a JRPG.  I haven’t played a JRPG this fun in years.  With how this genre has scaled down to the point that it seems like it’s on life support, for a game this good to come out is truly a marvel.  This is my first game in the Persona series, and hot shit.  This game is nigh flawless.  There is one major thing that just eats away at me, but we’ll get there when we do.

Never has the idea that delaying a game until they get it right hold more weight than it did here.  I am so glad this game got delayed.  The polish on this final product is fantastic.  This game is incredible, and I cannot recommend it enough.  Sony really is putting their best foot forward lately.  Seems they are aware of how they are not doing so well, but they have come back swinging this year with two exclusives that are beyond the pale.  And if this is a sign of things to come, I am so stoked for the other exclusives of theirs that I am waiting for.

This game has you playing as the Phantom Thieves, a little band of high school kids (of course they are) who are going into a parallel universe to steal the hearts of people twisted by their own desires.  This game has a lot of REALLY dark themes, and not once do they shy away from it.  In fact, the way this game tackles the dark subject matter head on is actually pretty impressive.  I expected them to get kind of antsy about going this deep into the scary stuff.  But nope!  Not once do they shy away from the twisted shit that is in this game’s villains hearts.  Not to mention some of the darker implications of what you are doing to these people stealing their heart’s treasure.  The moral implications of some of what you do can get a little disturbing.

Which brings me to the acting.  A game this twisted can only be sold with great performances.  Every role in this game is fantastic.  Your character is a silent protagonist, which admittedly isn’t as fun as I would like, but I can overlook that with a superb cast of supporting characters, all of which have their own personalities and quirks that they bring to the table.  Not to mention the relationships that you build up over time and how your actions with each character can change all sorts of variables in the game.

So let’s talk about the visuals.  Oh my Groj!  This game looks amazing!  The use of color is fantastic.  The punk aesthetic that they were going for is all over this game, and bless it for that.  I love every second of the visual candy that I see.  The real world is even pretty nice, with every area having a lot of personality.  But the Palaces are where the game shines the most.  Each one is unique and has a design that will blow you away.

The thing which will make or break this game for a lot of people is the combat system.  If you don’t like turn-based strategic combat, you are going to hate this game.  It’s that simple.  Fighting in this game took me back to Final Fantasy X.  Every move is a carefully planned decision, paying attention to your enemies, your stats, and what Personas you have equipped.  Which brings me to the primary way you will be fighting.  Each of the side characters can only have one Persona, which is fine.  The idea of micro-managing an entire team of interchangeable Personas gives me a headache just thinking about.

You have a TON of customization options in this game.  Whether it be the skills you teach your Personas, the Persona crafting system which has some dark implications on its own, or the customization of your characters and the sheer amount of items there are to collect, you will never find yourself in a position where you don’t have options to play with.  The sheer amount of stuff to do in this game is incredible.  Which brings me to my one and only beef with it.

For coming so close to a perfect score and crashing on this, it is a little frustrating.  This game has a time based system, and here’s the problem with it – the game will often fight with you about it.  Instead of allowing you to make use of your time as you see fit, there are so many points where the game will fight you.  Why can’t I spend a little time at the gym and a little time at the baseball cages?  Why can’t I do a little studying and then catch a movie?  This game’s limiting factor in what you can do is so frustrating.  This is made all the worse because leveling up your personality traits is a HUGE part of this game, and you don’t get the time to really do a lot with it.  I don’t like when this game fights me, and it does that a lot.  To some this might seem nit-picky, but when I have the option to eat ramen and then chill at a bathhouse, I don’t want to have to choose between the two when I could so easily do both!  It is so frustrating at times.

This is not a game for everyone.  The pace is slow, and you will find yourself wishing you could get more side-tracked with stuff.  It doesn’t help that leveling up your personality traits is so fucking inconsistent.  If only I had more time to do the stuff necessary!  But if you love JRPGs, then you owe it to yourself to play this game.  It is a cut above its contemporaries, in every way.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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Lucien’s First Take: Persona 5 Gameplay Trailer

In the world of gaming, you almost never meet a casual fan of the ‘Persona’ franchise.  You are either completely in love with it, or you totally don’t care/know about it.  There isn’t a lot of middle-space in that.  I am a fan of JRPGs, and have been hearing about this game for a while.  What I have seen has intrigued me a little, but it never really got me that attached.  Then I saw this trailer.  This awesome trailer that had so little, but said so much.  It’s telling how good a trailer is when you can get someone who is on the fence to be ready to throw money at a game.  Now I just need a release date and we’re set.  Oh, you all should see the trailer too, long as we’re here.

The first thing about this trailer is that this game OOZES with style.  The vibrant music, the color scheme, the neon lights.  Style is something that nobody can deny that this trailer has, in droves.  Enter a masked, enigmatic protagonist and you’ve got yourself a damn good hook!

Who is this masked man?  What is he fighting against?  They show a man who I assume is a villain character.  He’s not the most imaginative.  He looks about as cartoon-y as a villain can get, and he is chewing on his finger, which I can only assume is a substitute for chewing the scenery.

As for the style, the art style of the world appears to be street art.  From the colors to the font to just the way that images are shown.  It’s made to look like a mix of anime and graffiti.  Not gonna lie, that’s pretty freakin’ cool.  In fact, this actually makes me think of a punk style comic book.  Yeah, there’s a motif!  This game looks and feels like a comic book.  From the menus, which mix both the graffiti and comic book aesthetic almost-perfectly, to the battle system, which only needs the cliche sound-effect markers in each attack to make the look complete.

This looks really cool, and it has got my attention.  I don’t get hyped for a game much, but this one has my attention.  We’ll see whether or not it can deliver, assuming that a release date is ever given to us in the near future.

Initial Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Final Fantasy XV and the Screw-Ups of Square Enix

Why have I made so many posts about this game?!  At last year’s E3, Square Enix dazzled the world with the re-reveal of their newly-minted Final Fantasy XV.  A game that was first announced in 2006, this game has been in development for eight years and the hype for it just kept growing.  When the new name and the new trailer debuted last year, fans of the game were all clamoring for what they believed was going to be a release date in either 2014 or 2015.  However, since E3 of last year, this game has been so tight-lipped, and what is coming out about it is making a lot of gamers nervous.

Once-again, this game and the long-anticipated Kingdom Hearts III are no-shows.  Square Enix just put out their list of games that are going to be at the Tokyo Game Show this year, and neither of them are on it.  Needless to say, I’m not the only one who is pissed.  After the big re-reveal, we expected to hear a TON of stuff.  We were expecting some dub work to hit the stage at this year’s E3.  We were expecting to maybe have a playable demo or something like that out this year.  After all, word was going around about the game coming out in May of 2015.  But nothing, absolutely nothing has come out of Square Enix since then about a game whose hype has now reached critical mass.  People don’t even care about the other projects of Square Enix these days.  I don’t give a shit about Final Fantasy Type-0.  Seriously, who is stoked for that game?

The JRPG scene is doing bad these days.  Real bad.  With the announcement of Capcom selling itself to whoever has the money, it isn’t looking good for Japan’s major developers.  In fact, I was postulating to a coworker a couple weeks back, following the announcement of Capcom being up for sale, that Square Enix was likely to be next.  More and more Japanese studios are going into mobile gaming, where the market is easier and development is cheaper.  These companies just don’t have the money to compete with the major players anymore.  It doesn’t help that Square Enix has made a lot of bad decisions lately.

I don’t suppose I have to tell all of you about the debacle surrounding the making of Rise of the Tomb Raider either exclusive or a timed exclusive for the Xbox One.  Either of those choices are terrible ones.  The former being the worst possible choice that Square Enix could have made.  With bad press continually coming at them, their total and utter silence about their most anticipated project doesn’t bode well.  I mean, I would think that they would be running to get news out.  For real, screenshots, trailers, gameplay footage.  Anything to keep the masses eager.  Instead, they are not saying a single thing.  Why?  What could possibly be compelling them.

However, there might be an even darker implication.  In a recent posting on NeoGaf, Square Enix said, “Oh, so FFXV is finally entering development.”  You have got to be kidding me!  You’re just now entering development?!  All of what you’ve shown, you are just NOW entering in development?!  What the hell is going on with you people?!  This can’t be right.  This can’t be.  After everything we’ve seen, if they are just entering development, then that means that this game might not be coming out for even more years down the road.

To put this into perspective – this game has been in development for over 8 years.  For a AAA game, over four years in development is a long time.  I am not about to fault a creator for wanting to get their product just so, but this is ridiculous!  The lack of any kind of commentary from Square Enix about this is even more unsettling.  Like they have something that they don’t want to talk about with the rest of us.

Square Enix doesn’t seem to realize what kind of weight they are shouldering.  The entire future of the JRPG genre could be resting on the shoulders of this one game.  If it sucks, then that could signal the end of an era, forever.  With this kind of pressure, choosing not to say anything is just leading to more speculation.  The expectations for this game are now so high that if it is anything less than stellar, the fans are going to tear Square Enix apart.  Why on Earth are you not talking to us?  For real, who on Earth is the person in your PR department who is telling you that this is a good idea for publicity?  Whoever it is, they need to be fired.  If you want to temper the expectations of potential fans of the game, then talk to us!  Don’t let us get an image in our heads of a game so amazing that no real game can match it.

Doing what Square Enix is doing is playing with dynamite.  With so much at stake, not just for their company but for an entire genre, not talking to the fanbase is the very last thing that they should be doing.  As it stands, I was hoping to see this game in 2015.  Now, it looks like 2016 is the earliest that I will be seeing it.  That’s ten years since this game’s original announcement as Final Fantasy versus XIII that the game gets released.

Not to sound like a bummer, but remember that other game that was in development for ten years?  I do – Duke Nukem Forever.  Square Enix might have painted themselves into a corner.  The question is – can they make a comeback, or will history repeat itself?

Think about that.

Until next time, a quote,

“Serenity now, sanity later.”  -Lloyd Braun, Seinfeld

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Tales of Xillia

Tales of XilliaIt has been a LONG time since I indulged my inner anime nerd and got a JRPG.  The Tales series has a habit of being either decent marks or total bombs.  These are the kind of games that are very niche, so I can’t recommend this for everyone.  But, if shameless abandon to the genre is something you like, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised.

So, I have never had to summarize the plot of this kind of game, and I am now seeing why.  This is going to be hard to explain.  I’ll try and keep it simple.  You are given a choice at the beginning as to which character you want to be telling the story.  There is Jude Mathis, a medical student in a city called Fennmont, and Millia Maxwell, a lord of all spirits.  Regardless of who you pick, the story plays out relatively the same.  The nation of Rasagaul is experimenting with weapons that drain mana from the world.  As the spirits are starting to die, Maxwell decides that she has to do something about it.  Jude, on the other hand, is a kid who gets in over his head very quickly, finding himself dragged along for the ride as dark forces are gathering who want to employ powerful weapons in a way that would change the world forever.

Yeah, that’s the best that I can simplify the plot for you.  Like most JRPG’s, it gets REALLY complicated, really fast.  It’s not bad, because you are able to follow the story, but it’s hard to explain to an outsider in a way that makes sense.  The narrative does flow well-enough in the game, but yeah, anyone who likes these kind of games knows what I’m talking about.

So, the first thing I will talk about is that this game follows the formula of the Tales series.  From the different kind of potions and how they work, the name for special attacks and magic and the combat system.  It should all seem very familiar.  But, with that said, there is something of a learning curve to being able to play this game well.  The combat system is deep, no doubt about it.  Using the different Artes, making combos, linking with different characters and playing around with how that works and also their kind of Overdrive system is the learning curve is steep for people who have never played this kind of game before.

But one thing that is nice is that they have a new kind of level-up tree that is modeled after a spider-web.  While the concept is nice in theory, choosing to value one kind of play style over another is rather immaterial at first because you are able to level up everything pretty well.  It is only later, when you get high up in the levels that finding a niche is important.  So yeah, it’s nice, but not essential and not particularly taxing.

The voice-work in this game isn’t as bad as some.  The Tales series has a bad habit of having some pretty bad voice-work in the dubbed version.  This one is pretty good.  Sure, some of the minor characters are a little wooden and the major ones aren’t A-list material, but it still works well for the kind of game it is.  The emotional moments still carry over and the main characters are fun to get to know.  The heroes become a nice little gang of scoobies who bond and grow and become all family-like and what-have-you.  I hate to be a broken record, but it works for the kind of game this is.

With that said, my biggest gripe with this game is associated with the characters.  And this is a gripe that I have with most of the games in the Tales series.  The endless talks about friendship get REALLY old after a while.  They are hardly ever mad at each other and even when they are, it is usually resolved unrealistically quickly.  Sometimes the problems that characters have seem very fair to me, but are then resolved so fast that I am left wondering who would buy this.  It’s the reason that Alvin was my favorite character in the game.  His motivations were complicated, his reasons subtle and often down-played (but coming into play in a large way later) and his emotional reactions about plot points feel realistic.  Sure, he yin-yangs on loyalty from friend to foe, but it never feels mean-spirited.  He is just trying to do what he thinks is right.

The music in this game is nothing to get excited about.  This is something that the Tales series has a bad habit of.  It’s not distractingly bad, but it fades into the background pretty well.  With one exception when you reach the world of Elympios.  The upbeat jazzy sound is a definite change from the par-for-the-course music that the series overall has.  Even the darker tunes in this world have the same jazzy tone.  It is a nice break and works well.

The real selling point, for me, is the visuals.  Despite the cell-shading and the anime style, there are some levels in this game that really pop.  The sparse anime cutscenes are also really cool.  But yeah, I actually was really drawn into some of the environments of this game.  They are the thing that steals the show.  It reminds me of some of Studio Bones’ work with anime, if they made video games.  Though the voice-work isn’t on that level, still.

So, what rating to give this game?  On the one hand, it’s fun, the story is enriching and the characters are interesting.  On the other, this is a very niche game with a very niche audience.  And this game isn’t ground-breaking or mind-blowing.  Not in the way that some of the games that I have played lately are.  This game is anime escapism in the form of a video game.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but I have to acknowledge that for what it is.  With that said, I think that I have come up with a Final Verdict that can please everyone.  If you like these kind of games, you won’t be disappointed.

Final Verdict:
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick