Review games you've completed.

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Review games you've completed.

Postby Ash on Wed Dec 28, 2016 9:49 pm

Root Double: Before Crime (PC):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
This is a visual novel game of the reading and occasionally inputting a choice variety. Unlike a lot of other "pure" visual novel games though, which usually present the player with concrete choices which determine the ending or route the novel goes down, Root Double uses the "Senses Sympathy" system, where at certain times, you'll have to input your current feelings on one more more character, using a bar. Depending on how positive or negative your feelings are will dictate the current playable character's thoughts, words and actions. This can have a minor effect, or could lead to major consequences. To help guide players, Senses Sympathy decisions are colour-coded. A blue decision means that it's a minor decision. A yellow decision means that your choice could impact the ending, or have serious consequences. Finally, a red decision is basically a fatal choice. Choosing wrongly here will almost certainly lead to a bad ending.

The premise of the story is that the Nuclear reactor in a facility call LABO has had a meltdown. An elite rescue squad, Sirius, is dispatched to search for survivors, but while Sirius are carrying out their rescue, they find themselves sealed in LABO, along with several survivors, and must find a way to escape.

When you first start Root Double, you have a choice of two routes. The After route, and the Before route. The After route covers events after the meltdown, and comes from the perspective of Watase, the captain of Sirius. The Before route mainly covers events up to the meltdown, and comes from the perspective of Natsuhiko, a student. Despite the names, and Before taking place before After, the almost universal opinion is that After should be played first.

After is somewhat reminiscent of Zero Escape: 999. There are nine main characters in Root Double, and each corresponds to one of the Enneagram personality types (Watase is the Investigator, and Natsuhiko the Enthusiast); Senses Sympathy options are done against an Enneagram, and each character is labelled with their type. The lockdown in LABO is due to be lifted in nine hours, but with radiation levels rising, and very limited quantities of anti-radiation medication, and more and more fires breaking out, simply waiting the nine hours out is not an option. There are even some scientific lectures at points, though these start really taking off in the Before route, rather than the After route.

The After route is also where the Senses Sympathy system comes into its own the most; as an interesting, but somewhat flawed mechanic. With the threat of both fires and radiation, there are a lot of times where Watase, or someone else will find themselves in mortal peril, and you'll use Senses Sympathy to determine Watase's course of action. Since you're deciding how you feel about someone though, rather than deciding to, for example, fight a fire, or run away, sometimes the actions taken as a result of your choice can be the opposite of what you intended when you made the decision. In one scenario, giving Watase a high value in Senses Sympathy may cause Watase to decide against taking a dangerous action and retreating to safety, but in a later scenario, a high value for Watase may make him overconfident, and plunge headfirst into danger. This can be frustrating, but it does seem like the developers may have realised this - most decisions that lead to a bad end in the After route initially appear as a yellow decision, and if you do make a wrong decision, the game will usually allow you to change your mind; this time as a red decision to alert you to an incoming bad ending. Additionally, if you do get a bad ending, the game will give you hints on how to avoid the bad ending; these can be switched off for players that prefer to experiment and find their own way through the story.

As with 999, there's little visual gore in Root Double, but some of the bad ends in After route are somewhat... descriptive. I wouldn't say it gets quite as bad as 999, but it may still make some players feel a bit uncomfortable/squeamish.

Before route is more "slice of life". I'd probably compare it more to Ever 17 than Zero Escape, as Natsuhiko goes to school, and listens to science lectures as a chain of events start that result in him and a few of his friends being trapped in LABO after the nuclear meltdown. Personally, I found Before to drag a little at times, after the After route, though this is by no means a general consensus. I also didn't like the student characters as much as the adult characters; I found Natsuhiko to be quite unlikeable. It's also a lot easier to avoid bad endings in Before than After. I liked the tension of not knowing whether a choice I made would lead to a bad end, and that tension made me think before making a decision, but others may prefer the straight-forwardness of the decisions in Before route, especially if the unpredictability of Senses Sympathy was an annoyance in After route.

Once the first two routes are complete, the final route opens. It doesn't drag the way Before route does, but, despite a few tense moments, doesn't really feel quite as intense as After does either, in my opinion. Once the true ending in the final route is seen, the Xtend episode is unlocked, this a collection of scenes for each of the nine characters that provide further insight, or information into the characters that wouldn't have fitted into the main narrative.

Overall, I enjoyed Root Double, even though the ending left something of a bad taste in my mouth. The story is interesting, and a lot of the cast are likeable, even though most of them have rather limited character development.

A few completion hints; I'll put these under a spoiler, but I've tried to be as vague as possible.
[spoiler]- You need to see the After route good ending to unlock the final route.
- You'll need to play After route three times to get the full epilogue and bad endings.
- You'll need to play Before route twice to get all the bad endings.
- There's a certain yellow decision fairly near the start of the last route. Whatever choice you make there will close off some of the endings. If you'd prefer to leave the true ending until last, you should decide in favour of the person making the decision in your first playthrough.
-Not digging too deeply will also close off some of the endings, but it also leads to unique scenes.


Final Fantasy XV (PS4, XBone):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
This game is quite divisive, and with it's history, and the conception that the game has been in development for ten years, it's not surprising that people either had very high hopes for this game, or thought it would be abysmal.

I enjoyed the game myself, but I feel that SE should have either delayed the game further, or completely cancelled Versus, and created XV from scratch. There's so much potential in just about everything in XV that isn't realised, it's almost depressing when you consider the game it could have been, had it been allowed more time.

The open map is very scenic in places, but it's also quite sparse, and with a few exceptions, most of the outposts seems to have been somewhat copied and pasted. Lucis is also the only place with an open map; there are other locations that you'll visit later in the game that limit you to a fairly small space. There are invisible walls all over the place, and it can sometimes be frustrating to go exploring the countryside, only to come up against an invisible wall. On exploring; the Regalia (the car) can be irritatingly slow (though you can buy soundtracks containing select tracks from previous Final Fantasies to play whilst driving), and difficult to drive at night due to the "daemons" that come out at that time, and force you to stop driving - there is a sidequest at one point to get some headlights that will stop the daemons from blocking your path, but that quest can only be done when you're over halfway through the game. The Regalia can also only drive on roads. You can hire Chocobos a short way in; they can go off road, are faster than walking, and you can ride them away from enemies, but you currently can't play any music when riding them - you may get annoyed of the infamous Chocobo theme after listening to it non-stop for half an hour.

The story is also rather sparse. The basic premise is that two nations, Lucis and Niflheim have been at war for years. Realising that Lucis cannot win the war, King Regis is forced to accept a peace treaty; relinquish control of all of Lucis, save the capital to Niflheim; and the marriage of Prince Noctis to the former princess Luna. In return, Regis will be left with free reign over Insomnia, the capital of Lucis. Uncertain of Niflheim's sincerity, Regis arranges for the wedding between Noctis and Luna to be held in the city of Altissa, outside of the country of Lucis. Regis sends Noctis off on a road trip to the wedding with three friends that Noctis has known for years, but after leaving Insomnia, but before leaving Lucis, Noctis finds out that Niflheim has betrayed Regis, and all of Lucis, including Insomnia is now in Niflheim's hands. Noctis vows that he will reclaim his throne, and free all of Lucis from Niflheim. Final Fantasy XV probably has one of the shortest stories in the series (around 15-20 hours if you don't do any side quests). It's a shame, because there is a story there, but the presentation of it is lacking. There's a lot left vague, or glossed over. Like Versus (supposedly), Final Fantasy XV has a rather sad, dark story underneath the road trip but the scarceness of the story means a number of the emotional points may not have their intended effect on the player - there's one in particular that's receiving quite a bit of ridicule around the Internet. While there is DLC planned to introduce further cutscenes to the main story, and a scenario for each of the three non-playable party members, I personally have doubts how effective the DLC will be.

Combat - I've seen a lot of recommendations to change the default control type (A) to either B or C; as it makes combat a lot more fun. I did play through using control type A, so I'm not sure if using B or C really does make that much of a difference. Combat is in real time, as opposed to the Active Time Battle previously used in Final Fantasy games. Random encounters are also gone; you'll see enemies on the map as you walk around, and a red bar will appear at the top of the screen to indicate how much notice the enemy is taking of you. When the red bar extends all the way across the screen, the enemy will attack. You only play as Noctis, you can't control the other three members of the team, or set up gambits for their behaviour; although each of the three has various techniques that you can call upon. Each character can only have one technique assigned at a time, but the game does allow you to go into the menu and swap a characters technique during a battle, if needed. Noctis can use all weapons, allowing you to decide whether you prefer greatswords, with slower, but more powerful blows, or daggers, for quicker, less damaging attacks. Noctis can also have four weapons equipped at a time, swapping between them is done with a press of the D-Pad, and eliminates the need to go into the menu to change weapons. Magic must be created from energy Noctis can take from fire, ice and lightening deposits, and stored in a magic flask. Magic is quite strong, but given that it needs to recharge between uses, and that it can also hurt your party, I only used it a few times during the game. You also can't use summons at will in Final Fantasy XV; summons (called Astrals) have their own minds in this game, and will only help Noctis out if certain criteria are met. If this criteria is close to being met in a battle outside, the sky will darken, and different music will start to play. Soon afterwards (Astrals can be summoned indoors as well), a prompt to press L2 (may depend on your control type) will appear, and after holding down L2 (it does have to be held down, not pressed or tapped), an Astral will appear (you can't choose which Astral; they each have their own criteria for summoning) and usually one-shot your opponent. I thought the Astral summonings were impressive, and in keeping with how powerful the Astrals are said to be in the games lore.

Sidequests and Hunts are where most people will spend most of their time in the game. There are a lot of sidequests in Final Fantasy XV. Most are marked on the map, but some you will only come across if you explore. Reaction to the sidequests are mixed, quite a few of them are fetch quests; "go to this location, and run around in a circle shown on the map until you find x item". This didn't really bother me, there was only one sidequest that I found frustrating, but again, opinion is divisive on this. Some sidequests will take you to optional dungeons; I was a little disappointed with the dungeons in that the ones with the more boring and repetitive design were much longer than those that had more interesting and varied designs (in my opinion), but some of the dungeons are atmospheric and fun to explore. One thing to note about taking on sidequests is that unless you wear an accessory to stop gaining EXP, you will end up highly over levelled for the main story if you start doing the sidequests straight away. For an example, I believe the recommended level for the last quest in the main story is somewhere in the 40's - I was in the 50's in chapter three. Hunts was something I wasn't too keen on. To start with, there isn't a centralised location to sign up to a hunt; you have to go to every diner separately to check on the hunts that diner is currently offering, though you are allowed to turn in a completed hunt to any diner. To compound this, diners add more hunts as you gain levels; you might have done all the hunts that a diner offers, but as soon as you level up your hunter rank, you'll need to check that diner again to see if any new hunts have been added. You can also only sign up for one hunt at a time, so you can't just sweep all the diners and sign up for all the hunts currently on offer. Another thing I disliked about the hunts - a lot of the targets just seemed to be minding their own business. The posters say that the targets are causing habitat destruction, but there's no visual evidence of that, and I honestly felt bad killing animals/monsters that didn't seem to be doing anything wrong. It felt odd to me that the four were okay with some of the hunts; given that Noctis and Prompto are both established as being animal lovers, and I think that apparently not having any peaceful species that existed with humanity (with the exception of Chocobos) actually detracted from the world a little.


Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice (3DS):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
This game is digital only in the West.

This game is unique so far in the series that some of the trials take place in a fictional country called Khura'in; situated in the west of Asia. The first case takes place in Khura'in, where Phoenix, whom is on holiday before he meets with Maya, who is in Khura'in training, ends up defending his tour guide.

Trials in Khura'in introduce a new gimmick - at every trial, the princess of Khura'in (Rayfa) must perform a "Divination Seance", which allows everyone in the Court to view the victims last moments. Any sensations the victim experienced, such as sounds, appear as words in the seance. After Rayfa has performed the seance, she provides insights as to how the victim was killed. You then have to pick out the sense that contradicts with Rayfa's insights. It's an interesting gimmick (and helps build Rayfa's character quite a lot), but opinions as to this new gimmick are mixed.

One of the main parts of the overall story is the hatred Khura'in has for defence attorneys - it runs to a law that states that if a defence attorney fails to get a "Not Guilty" verdict for their client, the defence attorney will be deemed to be aiding and abetting a criminal, and will suffer the same sentence as their client. As a result, by the time Spirit of Justice starts, Phoenix is the only practising defense attorney in the country.

This does add some tension to the trials, as Khura'in does have the death penalty, but the game goes a little overboard with trying to make the point that defence attorneys are hated in Khura'in - it starts to get more irritating than anything else.

Unfortunately, the main prosecutor (Nahyuta) of this game comes from Khura'in, and he suffers from the same problem; he spends far too much time repeatedly calling the defence (Nahyuta takes cases in both Khura'in and LA) putrid over and over again. I personally would honestly put the Nahyuta as the worse rival in the series, and that's including the rival from Investigations 2. As the main prosecutor, Nahyuta does get some development, but for me, it was far too little, and too late.

Though you do get to play as all three attorneys in the Wright Anything Agency during this game, the story focuses the most on Apollo this time around. Maya and Ema both return, the latter finally having made it into the Forensic department. Maya herself plays a relatively small, but crucial role.

Gameplay remains much the same as always; Psyche-Locks, Perceive and Mood Matrix all return. I felt like both trial and investigation segments were too long in some cases to the point of starting to drag. What would have covered two trial or two investigation phases in previous games is covered in one. Difficulty-wise Spirit of Justice did feel as though it was more difficult than Dual Destinies. There are a couple of instances where the game is a bit picky about what evidence needs to be presented; there's more than one piece that will prove the point you need to make, but the game will only accept one piece of evidence as the right answer, though that's been an issue for most of the series.

In a list of the main Ace Attorney games, I'd probably rank this in the lower half; mainly due to Nahyuta, the occasionally overlong trials and investigations, and because I personally found some of the twists predictable. That said, there are a lot of Ace Attorney fans that rank this game as one of their favourites of the series.


Hometown Story (3DS):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
This is a Harvest Moon spin off by Natsume - rather than running a farm, you're running a shop instead.

One of the main draws of this game is that it's supposed to be "your story"; no two playthroughs will be exactly the same. Unfortunately, this mindset seems to have been taken a little too far; upon starting the game, you're told how to put out a shelf in the shop, and place an item up for sale, change the price of an item and that's about the complete tutorial in the game.

Aside from running the shop, you're also tasked with trying to complete a blue feather; while in the Harvest Moon games, the blue feather was used to propose, in this game, although the blue feather can be used to propose to one of the three bachelors/bachelorettes, it can also be used to grant a wish. You're not told how to earn additional fragments of the blue feather, and given that the whole reason you're in town is to run the shop, you could reasonably think that doing well in the shop will unlock more fragments, when in fact the feather fragments (at least for the first feather) are unlocked by seeing events.

You're given a limited amount of stock to sell at the start of the game - you can get more items to sell by gathering herbs and truffles, fishing (if you have an EU version of the game) buying from a store in the town, or from a merchant that comes to the shop every day at 2pm (whose inventory changes every day). The shop is open everyday, you can't leave your house without opening the shop, but you are able to leave the shop at any time - although you can't actually close the shop, if you do leave the shop for a noticeable period of time, any customers will simply leave the item they were trying to buy, and the item automatically goes back into your inventory.

Stores start out with quite a limited inventory, but if you sell them a tool they use in their store (for example, selling a frying pan to the restaurant), the store will upgrade it's inventory, and start selling more items. Yet again, though, this is not explained in-game, and in order to beat the game, you will need to upgrade the blacksmith store at least, as they are only way you can upgrade your own store. Somewhat bizarrely, the tool required to upgrade the blacksmith store is a hammer...which is sold by the blacksmith - unless you manage to get a hammer from the 2pm merchant, you literally have to buy a hammer from the blacksmith, and then sell it back to them if you want to upgrade your store. It can also be a bit of a pain waiting for a person from the store you want to upgrade to come into the shop; characters in this game do not seem to stick to a strict schedule, and if you put tools up for sale, they will generally quickly be bought by faceless NPC's.

Items that you sell are automatically priced at 10% more than the price you would pay for the item, this is definitely a benefit, as although you can change the cost of items, as your shop expands, it becomes more and more time-consuming and tedious to change the price of the items you have for sale.

As mentioned earlier, blue feather fragments are unlocked by seeing events, which are usually triggered by stocking an item previously requested by a character. These items are called "Key Items", which are generally bought from the 2pm merchant. Unfortunately, the merchants selection is randomised each day, and only a few Key Items seem to be gated; you can buy Key Items for events that will happen towards the end of the game early on, and it can take days to get a Key Item you'll need near the start of the game. There are also a couple of Key Items where you can buy more than you'll actually need - your inventory is unlimited in the amount of different items you can carry, but there is no storage, so you'll always see those extra items in your inventory when you're in the shop.

Once you do have a Key Item, it can sometimes be a little tricky to find out what you need to do with it (some Key Items trigger an event without being previously requested); sometimes as soon as you put a Key Item on a shelf in the shop, someone may come in and buy it, sometimes a character may buy the Key Item when they come into the shop as a normal customer, and sometimes you need to deliver the item to them - when this happens, you generally need to deliver the item to the character in a certain location, fortunately, there is a map that tells you where each character is. A lot of people that played Hometown Story ended up alternating between leaving their Key Items for sale in the shop, and picking them up, and running around town with them. This can be quite frustrating; a quest log really would have improved the game.

On the events; most of the characters have a story arc - some of these feel complete, some don't - there was one arc in particular that I was sure I hadn't seen all the events for, and kept trying to catch the person involved to try trigger more scenes, but it turned out that the arc was complete. The main downside of the events though, is that despite them being the key to completing the game; the characters don't act any differently outside of the event, repeating the same few phrases they do if you talk to them any other time. One example: at one point, there's an event chain which starts with an epidemic, you see most of the townspeople falling ill, but once the event is over, everyone is apparently fine again, until the next event in the chain when they're all ill again. This is jarring, and detracts from the gravity of some of the events in this game.

Harvest Moon games are generally quite lighthearted; Hometown Story, with the bright colours and generally cheerful music also gives that impression initially, but Hometown Story is somewhat darker than most Harvest Moon games. The first sign of this comes fairly early in the game when you find out the reason one of the characters is in a wheelchair is because she was attacked by monsters after she went on an adventure after her boyfriend was late for a meeting. This isn't a game you want to play when you're after a light, fluffy, happy game, especially when you're near the end.

If you can look past the flaws, you'll be looking at around 35-50 hours to complete the game.


Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright (3DS):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
This is a 3DS collaboration between Capcom and Level-5.

Gameplay:

The game is divided up into chapters, much like in the Professor Layton games. Chapters alternate between Court cases, and exploring the town, where talking to, and examining the scenery may lead to a puzzle. There aren't as many puzzles in this game as there are in any Professor Layton game, and they are, on the whole, not quite as tricky.

Court cases play out much the same as they do in the Ace Attorney games. One thing that has been added is cross-examining multiple witnesses at the same time. When this happens, while you are pressing one witness, another witness may react to whatever the witness being pressed is saying, giving you the option to then question the other witness to see why they reacted. This can be quite interesting, but it does cause slowdown sometimes when you have a number of witnesses on the stand at the same time. You also don't have the option to speed up text that you've already seen, so if two witnesses react to one statement, you'll need to go through the first witnesses statement at least twice to be able to question both the witnesses that reacted.

Hint coins also return, and these can be used both for puzzles, or in the court. Using a hint coin for a puzzle works in the same way as the Layton games, you can spend a coin for each individual hint, except for the last "super" hint, which costs two hint coins. In the Court using a hint coin will point you to the statement you need to press, or present evidence at, and if evidence is required, the hint coin will also reduce the amount of available evidence.

Picarats are used to score puzzles, the higher the Picarat score, the more difficult (usually) the puzzle is. Answering a puzzle incorrectly will lead the number of Picarats you receive when you do answer the puzzle correctly to be reduced. You cannot lose the game by answering puzzles incorrectly, the loss of Picarats are the only consequence. In the Court, you are able to make five mistakes before losing the trial (as in the first Ace Attorney.) Losing a trial will lead to a game over.

Story:

The story starts with one of Professor Layton's former students, Carmine Accidenti escaping from a place known as "Labyrinthia" with one of it's residents, a girl called Espella Cantabella. They are pursued by shadowy figures that appear to be witches, and Carmine ends up injured in a car crash. Espella is unharmed, and manages to make her way over to Professor Layton's office, where he and Luke decide to protect Espella from the witches that are chasing her.

At the same time, Phoenix and Maya have just arrived in London as part of some kind of legal exchange program.

The witches break into Layton's office, and a chase ensures, which ends with Espella on a ship, and Layton and Luke in Labyrinthia. While on the ship, Espella is accused of theft and assault, and Phoenix ends up defending her, only for the trial to end with Phoenix and Maya arriving in Labyrinthia, where they meet Layton and Luke, who decide to work as a team to uncover Labyrinthia's secrets.

I personally feel that the game sometimes went a little too heavy on the whole friendship between Layton/Luke and Phoenix/Maya, and how anything could be solved as long as they worked together.

One criticism I have read from several players about this game is that Layton is stuck-up. I didn't think Layton really acted any differently in this game than how he does in the Professor Layton series (though it must be said, I'm not fond of Professor Layton as a character), but I did find him a little intrusive in some of the court chapters. You don't get the option to distract him by waving a shiny puzzle in front of his face either. :sad:

Espella, a central character in this game is unfortunately rather bland. She's very kind and brave, but lacks any sort of quirks or anything that really makes the player invested in her and her welfare.

The Prosecutor is probably the nicest one in an Ace Attorney game to date, even more so than Klavier. Not a bad thing in itself, but after Klavier and Blackquill, whom while he wasn't the friendliest of prosecutors, did fight completely fairly in court, you do start to miss having a prosecutor that you really fight against, rather than work with.

The story was written by Takumi, the writer for the first three Ace Attorney games. Despite this, the story, and definitely the ending, are more reminiscent of a Professor Layton game, rather than an Ace Attorney game.

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright takes around 15-20 hours to complete, depending on whether you want to search everywhere to find all the puzzles. If you have an interest in either the Professor Layton or Ace Attorney games, I'd say this game is worth a play, just be aware that you won't be getting a full Layton game or a full Ace Attorney game experience.


Layton Brothers, Mystery Room (Android, iOS):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
Gameplay:

The gameplay in Layton Brothers is quite simple - the case starts with news of a murder. Using a crime reconstruction machine, you are given five minutes to look around - the crime scenes take the form of a room that can be rotated around, with yellow circles indicating points of interest. Clicking on one of these circles takes you to a zoomed in view, where you can look for evidence. A check mark will appear inside the yellow circle once you have found everything there is to find in that area.

Once the five minutes are up, you are asked to make a guess on whom you believe to be the killer, based on the evidence and testimony's you have so far. After that, the suspected culprit (unfortunately, based on Alfendi's theories, rather than yours) is called into the office for an interview - this comprises of rechecking the crime scene to find items such as the murder weapon, or to look for additional evidence. You will also have to answer questions about the crime.

Following that, there is then a final showdown with the real culprit. This takes place in the station interview room, and main comprises of answering more questions, and presenting evidence to show contradictions in the culprits statements. Unlike Ace Attorney, you will always argue against one single statement at a time, you are not given a testimony comprised of a number of statements, and asked to find the one that contains the contradiction. During the showdown, the culprit appears with a stone mask over a heart, and as they take "damage", the mask will slowly chip away, until finally the heart turns to stone and cracks.

Layton Brothers is a very forgiving game; you are not penalised in any way for picking an incorrect piece of evidence, or answering a question incorrectly, aside from a brief scolding. Some people like this, others don't.

Layton Brothers has no voice acting, but several of the characters do have phonetic accents, including Lucy. I'm just pointing this out since I know that annoys some people, also, some reviews of this game mention that they didn't initially realise that Lucy had an accent, and thought that the game had been terribly translated.

Music:

Not something I usually comment on when I review; but in this case, some of the music was done by Yuzo Koshiro, who also composed some of Shenmue's songs. The soundtrack is okay, it's mainly jazz type songs, which is not my favourite genre of music, but the soundtrack is pleasant enough, and there are a couple of tracks that I did really like.

Story:

You play as Lucy, a new police officer from Northern England. Despite having done quite badly in her exams, she is transferred over to the Mystery Room in Scotland Yard, a place where all the unsolved crimes are sent to, to work as an assistant for the brilliant Inspector, Alfendi Layton. After testing Lucy by asking her to work a murder case, Alfendi offers Lucy a position as his assistant.

At first, Lucy and Alfendi seem to have a number of similarities to Luke and Hershel, Lucy is quite outspoken, and can be quick to jump to conclusions, but is also compassionate, and determined to find the true culprit in any case. Alfendi appears to be much like his father, Hershel, quiet, even-tempered, polite and considerate though without so much of a fixation on puzzles, and gentlemanly behaviour - however, it is made clear right from the outset that there's a little more to Alfendi than meets the eye - under certain circumstances, Alfendi has quite the drastic personality change, from even-tempered and somewhat oblivious, to angry and intense.

There is a main story arc in the game, though it doesn't really start until the middle of the game. The first cases are mostly self-contained with some foreshadowing for the main arc. Although this game is a murder mystery, it's often more about how the killer did the deed, rather than whom the actual killer was.

The writing is quite good, the story isn't quite up to the earlier Ace Attorney games, but it does unfortunately suffer the same occasional issue that Ace Attorney did; where Phoenix, who was generally competent, had a few occasions of overlooking something blindingly obvious, or doing something rather ridiculous in order to move the story along/have Phoenix be dramatically rescued. In Layton Brothers, Lucy is fairly consistent in her detective ability, but Alfendi can be a little erratic as Phoenix could - there is one case, where the culprit proceeds to mention something only the killer would know three times, and every mention apparently flies straight over both Lucy and Meek Alfendi's head - Meek Alfendi ends up going into Angry Alfendi mode, and almost immediately calls the killer out on it. It comes across as both bizarre that Meek Alfendi overlooked such a glaring contradiction, and almost like the writers were struggling to find a way to shove Angry Alfendi into the case.

The ending isn't the most satisfying; it is clear that Level-5 were thinking of a sequel, but rather than going for an ending that more or less ties everything up, with a "To be Continued", or just leaves a minor plot point open for further exploration in further games, there are a number of unanswered questions at the end of this game. It's not on the levels of the protagonists being left in a cave, but still somewhat frustrating; especially since this game seems to have rather mixed reactions, and I'm not sure how well it did sales wise.

I hope the game does have a sequel, the story isn't quite up to Ace Attorney's standards, nor is the gameplay, but there's definite potential; the writing is quite good, and many of the characters are likable. It should also be noted that the decision to place this game in the Layton universe wasn't made until quite late in development, something that wouldn't be an issue for any sequels.

There are nine cases in the game, but all are quite short; I finished the game in around five-six hours. The first couple cases are free (at least on Google Play), with there being two packs that cost around £2.00 each to unlock the remaining cases.


Rune Factory 4 (3DS):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
Rune Factory 4, like previous Rune Factory games, combines the farming aspects of Harvest Moon, with action adventure. Where as you are given a rather vague, long-term goal that is rarely mentioned in the Harvest Moon games, in the more story driven Rune Factory you are given more defined goals.

Rune Factory 4 is quite laid-back; you're free to rush through the story, or invest most of your time farming, and progressing the plot at a slower pace. As with most of these games, there are four seasons, each with four days. There are festivals as well, although you will need to unlock some of them first. The Request system also returns, completing certain requests will allow you access to new seeds, forging and cooking recipes.

This game is considerably larger than Rune Factory 3, which had four levels, one for each season. I'm unfortunately not familiar enough with the other Rune Factory games to make a comparison to those. The story of Rune Factory 4 is split into three arcs; arc one has five levels, arc two has four levels, and arc three has one level. While you do need to finish the third arc to see the whole story, the game actually considers the end of the second arc to be the official end of the game.

The cast generally have a lot more dialogue than in recent Harvest Moon games. There are little side-stories, called Town Events, which are both a positive and negative in this game, and there are also little repeatable single day dialogue only events such as everyone talking about the temperature of the baths in the Inn the previous day, only to have the Inn Owner admit that she accidentally added some spicy herbs to the bath water.

Although the cast do have their quirks, on the whole, they are more down to earth than some recent Harvest Moon/Rune Factory characters, you won't find anyone running around yelling "RAINBOW" in Rune Factory 4. Some people appreciate this, others have found the Rune Factory 4 characters boring.

The most frustrating part of this game can easily be the Town Events. These are events that trigger about once a week. The problem with Town Events though, are that they are completely random; you have no choice over which event you'll get each week. This wouldn't be such an issue in itself if Town Events only covered little side stories, but they also cover marriage events, and worse, the final arc in the main story. I have heard of players waiting up to an in-game year to trigger the random Town Event that opens the final story arc, or spending ages soft-resetting, which can lead to game glitches.

Unfortunately, Rune Factory 4's element of randomness is not just confined to the Town Events. If you decide that you want to start dating a marriage candidate ( you can play as either a male or female character this time), you need to get that candidate to at least seven love points, and then confess your love to them - however there is only a small chance that the candidate will accept your confession at seven points. The chances that the candidate will accept your confession rises with their love points go up, but there's always a chance, even when you've raised the candidate to ten love points, that they'll still refuse you. Once you have successfully confessed to a candidate, you need to go on a date with them at least three times before you may marry them - it doesn't happen too often, but sometimes your partner will refuse to go on a date with you for absolutely no apparent reason.

Festivals are another issue. In Rune Factory 4, it will become harder and harder to win festivals each year - you won't be able to keep submitting the same level ten Turnip to win the crop festivals. This is good in a way, it keeps the festivals interesting, as you will need to work to win, but the results of the other villagers vary so widely, that it can feel like winning is more down to luck, than actual skill.

One definite improvement from Rune Factory 3 is the weather system - in Rune Factory 3, typhoons could more or less appear any day, any hour. In Rune Factory 4, you will nearly always get advance warning of typhoons, provided you speak to the three characters that will warn you of a forthcoming typhoon, and you have the ability to buy or make "Wettable Powder", which you can sprinkle onto your crops, which will increase their defence against typhoons.

The game is quite solid through the first two arcs, but unfortunately begins to decline at the end. As mentioned earlier, just unlocking the third arc is completely random, and even once you've unlocked it, the difficulty in the third arc dungeon is quite a leap from the difficulty in arc two. This isn't an issue so much in itself, but to get through arc three, you will need boss drops in order to forge weapons and armour that are strong enough to deal with the enemies encountered in the third arc. The problem with this is that you aren't always guaranteed a boss drop when defeating a boss, and bosses can only be fought once a day - this can quickly become frustrating, especially, whereas in arcs 1 and 2, you can usually use the same weapon for two or three dungeons before you're forced to upgrade, in arc 3, you have to update your weapon every couple of floors. Additionally arc three has a rather lackluster "ending".

Rune Factory 4 can be quite a time drain, especially if you prefer to take your time with the game; many players have put over 100 hours into the game, and really, if you do want to get everything out of the game, you'd probably still be looking at around 30 hours.


Ace Attorney Investigations 2 (DS):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
Just finished this after the release of the full English fan-translation patch.

I'll preface this by saying that many people that have played the game are saying that they would rank it as one of the better AA games, and that my issues with the game are not related to the quality of the translation.

I commented once that Ace Attorney Investigations 1 was my least favourite game in the series, to the extent that I actually lost some of my enthusiasm for the series. Ace Attorney Investigations 2 did not improve on any of the issues I had with the first Investigations.

Gameplay wise, AA2 is almost identical to AA1 - you gather clues by moving Edgeworth around a map, use "Logic" to make connections, and "cross-examine" witnesses and suspects. Little Thief, a machine that can simulate scenes of the past also returns. The new gameplay mechanic in AAI2 is "Logic Chess" - when Edgeworth doesn't have the evidence to interrogate someone, he now plays a mental chess battle with them. Logic Chess sections are timed, and consist of Edgeworth throwing questions and statements from a list of choices at the opponent. Edgeworth can pick up "clues" from statements made by his opponent, and use them to ask additional questions. If you try to pursue a line of enquiry that is "locked" before getting the clue, you'll lose time since you aren't told straight away that you don't have the clues needed to proceed, but rather the questioning will proceed (with the timer going down) until you reach the exact moment that the clue is needed to proceed, and then Edgeworth will mention that he can't proceed. When you do get the clue needed to open the locked line of questioning, it starts from the beginning again. Also, the opponents in Logic Chess will often become emotional, and you'll have to decide when to question the opponent, or to wait until they've calmed down. Selecting an incorrect question/statement, or waiting/questioning at the wrong time will lead to a penalty to the time bar. Luckily, the time bar is quite long.

The Environments in AAI2 feel even smaller and claustrophobic than those in AAI1 - you are constantly limited to one area, and can only move to the next area as the plot demands. As an example, in case 2 of AAI1, at times, you could move around to different parts of the plane. In AAI2, the second case takes place in a building that has a workroom and a corridor. You start off in the workroom, and the game won't let you move into the corridor until you have found everything in the workroom. Once you've done that, the plot moves you to the corridor, and then won't let you go back into the workroom, even though there's nothing plot wise that prevents you from doing so. This does help streamline investigations though.

The Storyline honestly seemed a little mediocre as well. I think a part of it is the characters. They aren't unlikable so much, but there was only one character that I actually sort of had any emotional feeling for.

Edgeworth is, my opinion, a poor choice for the main character (I recall reading somewhere that Ema was originally going to be the main character.) His internal struggles, both in AA1 and AA2, really feel like it's just rehashing his development from the original trilogy. It's hard not to start feeling a little impatient when he starts contemplating how the truth is the most important thing in a court of law after the amount of times it's already been done. Without trying to spoil anything, I think going deeper into the theme of how even those that are the most fervent believers in the truth will lie to protect those they love would have been more interesting, and could have made for a more emotional story.

Kay honestly feels a little "tacked-on", and also doesn't really seem to get much development.

The main rival was, for me, the most bland of all the main rivals so far. I thought Simon Blackquill was a little too normal for the series, which is known for it's quirky characters, (though I did think he was a good prosecutor) but even he had his moments. As an opponent, the rival isn't the worst, but there's never really a feeling of victory when you disprove their arguments.

This is a trend that I felt followed with the culprits. The culprits of cases three and four didn't really put up that much of a fight, and the case five culprit didn't last that much longer. The culprits of cases one and two seemed to last longer and be more intense, but that may be more due to the length of these cases. Long cases themselves aren't a problem, but there's part in case one especially that just comes across as padding.

One thing that I feel this game did improve upon at least as far as AAI1 goes - the culprits are considerably more fleshed out.

This review is entirely critical, but AAI2 in itself isn't a bad game, it's just when put up against the other games in the series (even AAI1), it's lacking.

One thing that I did like that I feel hasn't really been done in the AA series so far:

The Case Five culprit being portrayed as being reprehensible and sympathetic at the same time. The flashbacks to their past self, contrasted with their gloating as the person they'd become was quite effective, I thought. Usually the focus is on how terrible the culprit is, or on how tragic their back story is. I think Edgeworth's understanding of the culprit and their circumstances goes deeper than Phoenix, Apollo or Athena's would have as well, with his own past as the "Demon Prosecutor" - this is the one exception to my issues with Edgeworth as a main character.
[/spoiler]

Mickey Mouse - The Power of Illusion (3DS):

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
Picked this up after hearing that it was based on the old Castle of Illusion. The start of the game does indeed seem to point to that, but unfortunately it goes downhill quite quickly. There are only three worlds, with worlds one and two having four levels each, and the third world having three levels. Each world is based on a Disney film; and all levels within that world are based on that world. It's not like Castle of Illusion where each level had it's own distinct theme.

The lack of levels is compounded by the lack of difficulty. Although the game does ramp up the difficulty for world three, the fact that you can basically generate treasure chest after treasure chest indefinitely to recover energy takes away from the challenge somewhat.

The game does have a number of side quests that are given to you by the Disney characters that you meet during the game. Unfortunately, all these quests boil down to is revisiting the old levels to try locate another character or an item. It really feels more like padding than anything else.

The gameplay itself is quite fun, although the painting may feel a little tiresome at some points.

Overall, it's an flawed, but enjoyable game, but it's one that I would recommend waiting for until it's discounted, rather than paying full price for.


James Noir's Hollywood Crimes. (3DS)

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
In this game, you play as a contestant in what is supposedly Hollywood's most popular game show - Puzzle Masters. The prize for winning the show is an all expenses paid, one year trip around the world. The main host is a fame-loving presenter, whom, jealous of his own waning popularity, and the fame the contestants receive, latches on to each contestant in the hopes that their popularity will rub off on to him. The show has a female co-host whom is tired of everyone just seeing her as an object, as well as a rather cold Producer. After passing the first round, you are approached by your former boyfriend/former college roommate, whom is now a F.B.I agent - there's a killer on the loose whom is apparently targeting former winners of Puzzle Masters. At the scene of each murder, the killer leaves a puzzle hinting at the location of where the next crime will be.

The gameplay is basically entirely comprised of puzzles; the TV show puzzles, in which you are presented with a choice of twenty puzzles per round, allowing you to pick and solve the puzzles until you reach the target score for that round. You are allowed three hints for a puzzle, and if the puzzle proves too difficult, can exit freely and choose another puzzle. The other puzzles are the "story" puzzles - puzzles that you must solve to move ahead in the story. These puzzles are linear, but if you really get stuck, the hint system allows you to use four hints for story puzzles, with the fourth hint solving the puzzle for you.

Unfortunately, a lot of these puzzles are the same; just with different levels of difficulty. For example, there are six levels of a puzzle where you have to move worms around a maze. There isn't really that much variety.

The game is also on the short side - you can complete it in around six hours.

The story could also have been better. It does have some promise but never reaches full potential. The use of the photograph taken of you (the actual player) works well, the ability to choose between playing as a male or female had some thought put into it, and there are some genuinely tense moments. On the negative, although everyone involved in the TV show is supposedly a suspect, the game all but smashes you over the head with a concrete slab with regards to whom the writers want you to suspect. There's only a few half-hearted hints pointing towards any other character being the killer. The protagonist being almost silent doesn't help the story either, in my opinion.

If you enjoy puzzle games, this game can be fun, especially since it's selling for around £5.


Crime Scene (DS).

Spoiler: (Highlight to read)
The premise of this game is that you play as a new detective, whom has the authority to carry out forensic investigations. The first case is the apparent murder-suicide of the family of another detective, but as the game goes on, it becomes clear that there's more going on than first appears.

The gameplay is bascially a (small) number of mini-games, as you take blood and saliva samples, dust for finger-prints, and extract evidence. This alone would be enough to deter some gamers, as these mini-games are repeated over and over for all five cases, but there's also the fact that the game is rather glitchy, and, while it is rather lenient in how much tape you cover a print with in some cases, in other cases, it demands almost pixel perfection. This isn't helped by the fact that you have a "life" bar; make too many mistakes while investigating, and the game ends.

On the story side; the game has five cases, which are all tied together by a central storyline. It does all tie together quite well, but the fact that relatively small details from case one are brought up in case five means that this isn't a game that you want to stop playing for a few months and then go back to.

Unfortunately, the game does start going a little downhill come case five. There is a very twisted ethical issue that comes up mid-game, but a late-game revelation turns it from a twisted ethical issue, into a simple horrifying plot point.

All in all, people whom enjoy crime stories may enjoy this game; but you will need a lot of patience to be able to play all the way through it.
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