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Tales of Xillia 2 Review: Take me back to Rieze Maxia

The new antagonists, Ludger and Elle

The new antagonists, Ludger and Elle

Welcome back everyone to my esteemed blog.  The crickets have been chirping quite a bit on the blogging front, but there are a couple of reasons for this.  First, my company recently had their annual meeting, which really took it out of me.  So, after the conclusion of that successful meeting, I took a few days off and just relaxed.  I also had to attend a wedding or two, which involved quite a bit of traveling.  Now fans can rejoice, for I have returned.  Let us begin.

Bandai Namco is best known for the Tales series.  Now they have brought us the direct sequel to Tales of Xillia.  Tales of Xillia 2 takes place one year after the events of the first game.  With the huge success of the first installment, does this sequel measure up to it’s predecessor?  Let’s review.

Graphics:  There isn’t much to be said about the graphics of Tales of Xillia 2, reason being, it looks exactly the same in and out.  The characters both new and returning still retain the same design and art direction, minus a few wardrobe and hair changes (it has been a year since the first game ).  Score:  8/10

A little of the new mixed with the old.

A little of the new mixed with the old.

Sound:  Tales of Xillia 2 brings back some familiar tunes along with some new tracks to spice up the roster.  Motoi Sakuraba brings his delicate touch back to what is already a great franchise.  The voice acting is done fairly well, with the original cast returning to compliment the new characters.  On a sad note to some, Teepo is back.  Ayumi Hamasaki brings her vocal talents back with the intro theme “Song 4 U.”  Fans of the first Xillia title soundtrack won’t be disappointed with this second dose of gaming music excellence.  Score:  8.5/10

Gameplay:  As with most Tales games, this is where it all comes together.  Tales of Xillia’s core gameplay is in the fighting system.  When you’re fighting monsters, it feels more like a fighting game and less of a “select your attack and wait” kind of game, which is pretty cliche in most JRPGs.

Outta my way!

Outta my way!

The story, which is excellent, picks up one year after the events of the first game.  There is a twist, you don’t get to play as two separate protagonists, instead you only have one hero, Ludger Kresnik.  I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed with Ludger as a protagonist.  Although his story involving his brother Julius is well plotted, his portrayal as the more often than not silent protagonist is very off-putting, and while you make selections on Ludger’s responses and choices-it feels bland all together.  Elle is the other protagonist, a non-playable character who is also a huge element of the story, although not being able to use her caused me to disassociate myself from her almost entirely.  I much preferred Jude and Milla.

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The story progresses smoothly, except for times when you are forced to pay off your ridiculously exorbitant debt.  This results in you having to sidetrack your mission to accomplish fetch and monster slaying quests.  Except for the “elite” monsters, I found the remaining quests to be very tedious.

Battle of the brothers!

Battle of the brothers!

The orb system has had an overhaul as well.  I was a huge fan of the “Illium Orb” system in the first Xillia game.  The new orb system called “Allium Orb” is something that I am not too fond of.  You equip each character with an orb that slowly levels up and earns you new and upgraded skills and artes.  Think of it as a Final Fantasy 6 esper system, but much more detailed.  The only downside to this system is that with everything going on in this game, you are forced to do some severe micromanaging.  To some this is ok, but for others, it can be somewhat of a burden.

Meet the new Allium Orb system.

Meet the new Allium Orb system.  I’m a fan of the japanese version, sorry folks.

One addition that I thought was an excellent touch is the character story lines.  This allows Ludger and Elle to go on separate quests with each of the original characters from the first game, thus learning more about that individual character and increasing the bond you have between them, and you can earn a costume accessory here and there.  Score: 9.0/10

Tales of Xillia 2 is an incredible story that brings this tale to a wonderful close.  Any Tales fan should definitely add this to their library.  One thing, if you never played the first Tales of Xillia, I would recommend playing that one first.  It helps bring events of the sequel to better light.  Thanks again for following my blog.  I am reviewing a niche title called Fairy Fencer F.  Stay tuned for my review coming soon.  Thanks everyone!

Final Score: 8.5/10

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Upcoming Titles To Look Out For!

Welcome back everyone to my esteemed blog.  It’s been an idle couple of weeks, mainly due to the preparation of my Clicker costume for ACEN next month.  There is also work and the gym that seem to intervene.  That being said, it’s time to keep the gaming news and reviews going.

Many gamers I assume have had their hands busy with several new titles, including Dark Souls 2, Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster, and Bravely Default.  I’m here to give you an update on what’s coming up in the next few months.  Without further adieu, let us begin.

Three games on the radar:

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Conception 2:  This is a unique dungeon-crawler RPG from the creators of Persona.  It’s a rather unique title, one that will be next on my to review list.  If you’re familiar with Persona 4, then you will definitely have to check this out!  Conception 2 launches April 15th for the Vita and 3DS.

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Child of Light:  Ubisoft is bringing a visually stunning RPG entitled Child of Light available for digital download on PS3, PS4, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Xbox 360 at the end of this month.  It is literally an interactive poem that you are in control of.  You play as Aurora a princess on a quest to restore the lost sources of light from the sun, moon, and stars-and put an end to the culprit, the black queen.  Child of Light is available for download on April 30th.

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The Last of Us Remastered:  Yes folks, the game that won 200 game of the year awards is now being remastered exclusively for the Playstation 4.  The Last of Us Remastered will be brought in 1080p with better character models, shadows and backgrounds, and the complete expansion sets, including Left Behind.  It is scheduled for release this summer, but no exact release date has yet been given.

We have quite a few games to look forward to this spring and summer, so start planning on breaking your piggy banks over the next few months.  I will definitely be reviewing these games upon their release so stay tuned, and as always-thanks for your continued support and spread the word about my blog.  Happy Gaming!

 

Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD Remaster Review

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Welcome back fellow readers to my esteemed blog.  I must apologize for my long absence, but circumstances have severely limited my blogging time.  But now we can press on with the gaming goodness.  It was 13 years ago when Square-Enix (back then Squaresoft) released Final Fantasy 10 for the Playstation 2 game console.  This title would be hailed as one of the greatest installments in the franchise’s history.  Now in 2014, Square-Enix has bestowed Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD Remaster for the Playstation 3 console.  The question on everyone’s mind is, can a title that is over a decade old still strut it’s stuff in HD?  Let’s find out.

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Graphics:  Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD Remaster is absolutely gorgeous on Playstation 3.  This is the makeover that fans have been waiting for.  The polygons and pixels have been thoroughly smoothed out, and the colors in both the character and background art have received a nice polish that really pops on the screen.  The CG cutscenes are just as beautiful as the day they premiered in 2001.  The character’s facial models also received a bright overhaul, but seem rather awkward looking especially in cutscenes.  The menu screens received several touches that really stand out, and the sphere grid remains true to it’s prior 2001 release.  There are titles that often suffer from graphical clashing (i.e. Tales of Symphonia HD Chronicles), but thankfully Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD Remaster has received the perfect HD upgrade that truly does the game justice.  Score: 9.5/10

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Sound:  Final Fantasy X received a completely remixed musical score courtesy of Masashi Hamazu.  Some of the tracks are very vibrant and catchy.  I did however prefer some of the original musical tracks by Nobuo Uematsu as opposed to their remixes.  Not having an option to select between the original and remixed musical score during gameplay is very disappointing.  It will be hit or miss with fans of the original.  Final Fantasy X-2 did not receive a musical makeover, and thus remains the same, which isn’t a bad thing at all.  Score: 9/10

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Gameplay:  The story of Tidus and Yuna trying to save Spira from the evil of Sin remains true and just as beautiful even today.  The many additions to both games will be a joyful treat to fans.  First off, both of these titles are the international director’s cuts that were never released in North America.  This of course means more content, story, and of course hidden bosses for those of you looking for bigger challenges. For those of you trophy hunters, I am happy to say that both titles have fairly robust trophy listings.  While some are easy to obtain, others will take quite a bit of skill in order to obtain them.  Unfortunately, the poor syncing of voice acting and lip movement of the characters still run rampant in both titles.  

 

The battle system is just as fast paced and fun with similar and new opponents aiming to challenge you at every turn.  The storyline progresses rather smoothly, and the option of open-exploration as the game progresses is a great thing to have.  The storyline for Final Fantasy X is timeless and among one of the most touching love stories ever within a Final Fantasy title, while it’s sequel offers a very distorted storyline, but ultimately (provided you get the correct ending) brings the story to a fitting conclusion.  Score: 10/10

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Whether you are a fan of both titles, or looking for a fantastic RPG, Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD Remaster is definitely bang for your buck!  You are getting two uncut RPG titles, each with over (and I stress OVER) 50 hours of gameplay.  I urge any RPG or Final Fantasy fan to add this title to their collection.  You won’t regret this investment. 

 

Final Score: 9.5/10

I am in the process of reviewing Dark Souls 2, and a niche RPG, Atelier Escha and Logy.  These will be posted in the next week or so.  Be sure to follow my blog and tell your friends about it, until then, happy BlitzBalling!

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 Demo Review

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Welcome back friends to another edition of the gaming angel.  Things have been quite frigid in my neck of the woods, so frigid that my internet was blown out.  I also celebrated my birthday so that took up a large majority of my weekend.  Now that my internet capabilities are restored, I can get back to the gaming goodness, and give to you all my unbiased feedback.  Without further adieu, let the blogging begin.

Square-Enix or Squeenix, as they have been referred to in recent years has suffered a lot of financial setbacks.  They are not only suffering financial setbacks, but they suffer from a deficiency of bringing quality games to fans.  Early this week, Square-Enix released the very small downloadable demo of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 for the Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 gaming consoles.  As many of you know, this particular installment of the once amazing franchise has been called the worst of the entire series.  Most complained about the extreme linearity of the first, whilst complaining about the very defragmented and confusing story of the second.  Now, we have the third installment of the Final Fantasy 13 saga.  The question is does this installment look like a worthy follow-up?  Read on to find out.

Graphics:  LRFF13 is beautiful in terms of presentation.  The few areas of the demo were very vibrant and impressive.  The characters are similar in design, and of course the CG movie sequences are as amazing as before.  This is definitely a sugar overdose in the eye candy department.  Score: 10/10

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Sound:  Masashi Hamazu does a very admirable job with the musical score but, it will never be as beautiful as the work of Nobuo Uematsu.  Score: 8.5/10

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Gameplay:  The battle system of the game has had a very shocking makeover.  It has been remade into a more real-time battle system consisting of using only Lightning.  You can actually move her around the battlefield in a defensive pace.  Lightning possesses an ability called schema (job class).  To those who are familiar with the garb system from Final Fantasy 10-2, you will be more than acquainted with the schema system.  You can equip up to three schemas for battle purposes, each with 100 ATB.  You have set skills assigned to a particular button.  You can use these skills until the ATB for that schema is depleted.  Once it is, you must quickly switch to another schema while the depleted one replenishes.  It allows for fluid gameplay, while adding a strategic element when fighting an opponent with a particular weakness.  This is a vast improvement over the battle system of the previous installments.  The storyline is still difficult to grasp this early in the game.  We can only hope that Square-Enix will give us an impressive story to make up for the previous two games.  Score: 8.5/10

Demo Final Score: 9/10

Since Final Fantasy 13 has not been doing well, I say give the demo a shot.  By all means let me know what you think.  Stay tuned when I review Bravely Default.  Until next time dear gamers.

The Guided Fate Paradox Review

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Welcome back friends to another edition of The Gaming Angel.  I hope your Halloween holiday was full of tricks and treats.  Over the last decade, Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) has become known for their very niche gaming titles such as Atelier Iris, Mana Khamia, Ar Tonelico, and of course their most famous franchise, Disgaea.  Now, we look at their latest release entitled The Guided Fate Paradox for the Playstation 3 console.  With NIS titles, it is usually hit or miss with their releases.  So is this another sleeper hit like Disgaea and Atelier Iris, or is this a title you should miss at all costs?  Let’s review shall we?

Graphics:  Fans of the Disgaea series will feel right at home with The Guided Fate Paradox.  The characters are bright and colorful, while the monsters have a very similar design pattern to Disgaea.  The art design of the environments and dungeons are very lush and colorful.  Score: 8/10

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Sound:  Yosei Teikoku does a brilliant job of bringing music that is fitting to the situation of the game’s story, while at times, some of the music is a bit too cheerful and perky for the dungeon environments.  Some of the english voice acting is on par, but there are others that make you want to turn the vocal option to Japanese.  Score: 8.5/10

Gameplay:  Like most NIS RPG’s, this is where the proof in quality comes into play.  The Guided Fate Paradox is a dungeon crawler RPG that has many similarities to the Chocobo’s Dungeon series.  You come across a dungeon and explore freely until you encounter a foe or foes, depending on the situation.  When you encounter an enemy, it becomes more turn-based and strategic.  You take turns moving around the map.  When you move, they move-when you attack, they attack.  Click on this link to view an example of the gameplay.  It is a nice change of pace that RPG fans will enjoy.

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The story of The Guided Fate Paradox is very interesting and definitely unique to say the least, but not unheard of by RPG standards.  You take the role of Renya, a boy who after winning the lottery, is chosen to be god.  Now he must answer the prayers of those that pray to him.  It is indeed an interesting twist to your standard RPG cliches of someone attempting to be a god and trying by any means to achieve it.  In this game, you simply spin a raffle cage and presto, you are now God.  Score 9/10 

NIS faithful fans and Disgaea fans will definitely love The Guided Fate Paradox.  Whether you are an NIS fan or a fan of RPG’s, you should definitely add The Guided Fate Paradox to your gaming library.  It takes a pleasant step away from the typical RPG cliche’s in both gaming and story.

Final Score: 8.5/10 

As many of you know, Playstation 4 comes out next Friday, November 15th.  So I will be back November 18th, with a review of the PS4, and Knack, one of the premiere titles.  Until then friends, be sure to subscribe, take care and Happy Gaming!  

 

Beyond Two Souls Review: Is it more than just fancy polish?

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Welcome back and happy Friday dear readers.  I wanted to get this review up and running because Pokemon X and Y will be launching tomorrow morning, and that review is going to take me some time.  Quantic Dream has been known for their unique approach to video games, making it more of an interactive movie experience.  They are best known for previous titles like Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain.  Now they have released their newest title, Beyond Two Souls.  This title has been highly anticipated since Heavy Rain was a huge hit.  Does this newest title live up to the reputation of previous games?

 

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Graphics
:  To say that Beyond Two Souls’ graphics are amazing is an understatement.  Quantic Dream achieves graphical perfection in this interactive cinematic game.  The character models and animations are beautifully executed, and the locations that are explored through Jodie’s eyes are lush and quite beautiful to see.  When you take control of Jodie’s spiritual companion Aiden, you see a different perspective that is again beautifully executed.  Quantic Dreams even went as far as to model the characters after the actors who played them.  This is something that is rarely seen in video games, and Quantic Dream should be highly commended for it.  Score: 10/10

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Sound:  Lorne Balfe along with Hans Zimmer bring a fantastic soundtrack that draws you into the game.  From intense action sequences, to even a simple dating scenario, Balfe and Zimmer bring forth a fitting musical score that fits every situation perfectly.  Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe give fantastic performances.  Score: 10/10

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Gameplay:  The gameplay of Beyond Two Souls can be described as a “love it or hate it” situation.  You are more or less a companion that watches Jodie’s life unfold from childhood to adulthood.  During action sequences you make decisions throughout the scenarios that dictate what Jodie will do, or whether or not an action she performs will be successful.  For example, in a fight scenario Jodie picks up a pipe and swings at a foe.  You must press the right analog stick based on Jodie’s body movement and where she is going to swing from.  Therefore, if she is swinging to the right, you press the analog stick to the right.  This applies to even mundane activities such as cooking dinner and eating.  It is a mechanic that is unique and may not appeal to gamers that are well adjusted to intense action and nonstop button mashing.  You will also assume the role of Aiden, Jodie’s spiritual companion and assist Jodie in both mundane and intense situations.  You utilize Aiden to make objects move or break to impress or scare other people depending on your situation.  In intense situations Aiden uses his abilities to choke enemies, or possess them in order to kill others.  This is a unique approach to gaming which can be fun, but at times it can be tedious.  

The areas in Beyond Two Souls are so gorgeous, and it is a huge shame that the game is linear, and exploring locations is scripted and severely limited.  It’s a downer, but still a joy to look at.  Unfortunately, the story in Beyond Two Souls tends to jump around far too much, which results in a person asking questions of how Jodie landed in the situations that you find yourself in.  There are also points in the action sequences that can be very cumbersome.  Jodie’s body movement is fairly easy to understand at first, but as the game advances her body movement becomes a bit too difficult to read, which results in making a wrong choice.  This wasn’t a big deal, but other gamers out there may find this very frustrating.    Score: 7.5/10

Beyond Two Souls is as I said earlier a “love it or hate it” title.  Fans of Heavy Rain may not be as impressed by Beyond Two Souls and it’s shortcomings.  However, the characters are deep, the story although fragmented is very well told, and it is an experience that every gamer should have just once.  

Final Score: 8/10

Thanks for reading everyone!  Be sure to follow my blog and tell your friends.  Tune in next week when I give my full review of Pokemon X.

 

Tales of Xillia Review: Does this Tale tell it all?

ImageWelcome back friends to another edition of my esteemed blog.  The Tales series is celebrating its 15th anniversary, and what better way to ring in the year then with the release of another Tales title.  This time around they have brought Tales of Xillia to our Playstation 3 console.   Let’s see if this tale is as telling as the others.

Graphics:  These days a lot of people are interested in soulless polish.  Although Xillia does feature anime style characters and interesting environments, the graphical quality is not up to snuff with other titles such as Ni No Kuni.  However, despite its lack of graphical muscle, it still delivers a visual experience.  Score:  8.5/10

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Sound:  The music is pretty well done.  Fans of previous Tales titles will enjoy this wonderful work from Motoi Sakuraba.  This soundtrack tends to draw you into the game, especially towards the climax.  The voice acting is well done overall, except for the voice actress who plays Milla.  I found her voice to be slightly substandard and performed with little effort.  Score: 8/10

Gameplay:  The story of Xillia takes place from the perspective of two protagonists, Jude Mathis, a medical student trying to discover the reasoning behind the absence of the spirits, and Milla Maxwell, lord of the spirits on a quest to regain the “four” that have been stolen from her.  Even though you have the choice of playing one of the two protagonists, they’re individual quests intertwine with one another. 
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The combat system is as fun as ever, with a few new additions to it, that being the new link system.  The link system allows the character your controlling to link with another character.  You and that character work together as a team, one character will hack and slash at an enemy, while the other attacks or binds them from behind.  There are also special attacks that can be performed with each linked character combination to deal an even more devastating and flashy blow to your opponents.  The status leveling system is more than just gaining a level and increasing most of your status attributes automatically.  This time, there is a grid leveling system similar to that of Final Fantasy 10.  While not as diverse and robust as FF 10, it is still a nice addition that adds depth to the process of level grinding.  There are also numerous side quests that add to the journey.  All in all, a good blend of depth that adds to the amazing adventure.        Score: 9/10 

Tales of Xillia is a great way to ring in the 15th anniversary of the series, and with the sequel already in the works for a state side release, we can only wait in anticipation for the sequel to an already amazing adventure.

 

Final Score: 8.5/10

Dragon’s Crown Review

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Welcome back friends to my outstanding blog.  I apologize for this delayed review but, as many of you are well aware I am in the process of reviewing two very anticipated RPGs for the Playstation 3 console-both of which are extensive and very engaging-Dragon’s Crown and Tales of Xillia.  Rather than delaying the flow of blogs, I decided to just review one title at a time.  First up is Dragon’s Crown.

Dragon’s Crown is the newest title developed by VanillaWare, a small niche company that is responsible for titles such as Princess Crown, Odin Sphere, GrimGrimoire, and Muramasa The Demon Blade.  Originally this title was going to be published by XSeed however, they scrapped the project due to what I believe was financial reasons.  So, Atlus heard the calls from their fans and brought Dragon’s Crown to the United States.  With all the near misses in porting this title stateside, was the effort worth it?

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Graphics:  To say that Dragon’s Crown is a visual masterpiece would be the biggest understatement of 2013.  The most unique attribute about Dragon’s Crown’s graphics all the in-game backgrounds, characters, creatures and effects are painted by hand.  This approach adds a very unique touch that differentiates from other titles, and Vanillaware definitely deserves praises for this beautiful achievement.  Some gamers out there will also notice the extreme detail that is in every character, especially in the females, the sorceress being the biggest example.  Score: 10/10

Sound:  The musical score is very fitting for the world of Dragon’s Crown.  There are several tracks that stand out above the rest,  like the over world theme.  Besides a few sounds the characters make in battle, and of course their quotes when highlighting them during the selection screen, the only voice work is that of the narrator, which is well done.  The narrator however becomes consistently annoying repeating your objective every time you leave a tavern or shop.     Score: 9/10

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Gameplay:  This is where the meat of the package is at.  Fans of Golden Axe will feel right at home with this title.  Dragon’s Crown may seem short with only nine dungeons to explore but, there are two paths per dungeon to explore with two bosses at the end of each path.  The game can be either a short ride or a long excruciating challenge depending on the character you select.  You can recruit other fighters to join in your quest by finding their bones in dungeons and resurrecting them.

There are numerous quests that will keep you more than occupied throughout the adventure,  but the biggest and most unique feature is the loot system.  Throughout each dungeon you will find a plethora of items and equipment that will remain un-appraised until completion.  Once you complete a dungeon, you can spend your gold to appraise the item, or simply cash in your chips and sell it straight out.  Keep in mind, there are LOTS OF ITEMS to find in Dragon’s Crown.  Also in Dragon’s Crown are hidden jewels and trinkets that you discover hidden in the backgrounds of the dungeons which will increase your score.  The campaign mode per character class takes about 20 hours to beat but, fans who are looking for an action RPG with tremendous depth will end their search with Dragon’s Crown with it’s 100 plus hours of gameplay for those looking to earn that platinum.   Score: 10/10  

Issues:  Dragon’s Crown is available for PS3 and PSVita.  Unfortunately the Vita version does not support cross-buy or cross-play.  This is a huge letdown, especially for those Vita owners that want to play with friends.

This is a title that should be in everyone’s possession.  The style of the game is nostalgic, but unique with it’s art style and design.  Definitely recommend this title to everybody.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Be sure to follow my blog everyone.  Thanks again, and see you next time with my Tales of Xillia review.

Upcoming Titles, which ones are you waiting for?

Welcome back friends to another edition of The Gaming Angel.  I must admit that there have been a huge announcement of new game titles since E3 2013’s conclusion.  Here are a few titles that I am looking forward to on both current and next generation consoles:

Dragon’s Crown (PS3, PS Vita)–August 8, 2013
Tales of Xillia (PS3, PS Vita)–August 8, 2013
Ys Memories of Celceta (PS Vita)–September 24, 2013
Mario and Luigi Dream Team (Nintendo 3DS) August 11, 2013
Pokemon X and Y (Nintendo 3DS) October 2013

So, my question to you is, which titles are you most excited for?  I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading and giving your feedback.  Be sure to click the follow button to follow my blog, and tune in this weekend when I review Shin Megami Tensei IV for the Nintendo 3DS.  

Lucas

The Last of Us Review

ImageWelcome back fellow gamers to my esteemed blog.  As many of you know, one of the most anticipated titles for Playstation 3 is finally here.  The Last of Us is a game developed by Naughty Dog, the company responsible for many successful gaming sagas such as Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted.  Naughty Dog is famous for their action and adventure titles, and now they are dipping into the pool of survival and horror.  Does Naughty Dog succeed at this attempt?  Let’s review.

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Graphics:  The Last of Us is a visual masterpiece.  From the moment you begin the game, the level of detail and design is mind blowing.  Character models and environmental details are beautifully done.  The world is very interactive with breathtaking environments, and at certain points I couldn’t tell whether I was playing a game or watching one of the game’s many CGI movie sequences.  This is a level of detail and perfection that is rarely accomplished in a video game title, and Naughty Dog should definitely be commended for this accomplishment.  Anyone who is a huge fan of eye candy will be having a giant sugar rush with this title.  Score: 10/10  

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Gameplay:  Fans of Uncharted will be drooling over The Last of Us.  The gameplay is not so much action based as Uncharted.  The Last of Us is a game about survival, and you are forced to do just that.  Items are not laid out for you to grab and instantly use.  Instead, you have to collect anything from bottles, and bricks, to pipes, and two by fours to survive.  Survival also consists of finding pieces to construct modified weapons such as shives, healing items, and finding supplements to upgrade your status.  Ammunition is extremely scarce in this game, as you mostly depend on your survival instincts and wit to traverse through the desolate world that awaits you.  

What truly makes The Last of Us stand out besides the eye candy, is the story and characters.  The story takes place in a post apocalyptic United States that is devastated by an outbreak of a modified cordyceps fungus, which instead of infecting insects attacks humans.  You take on the role of Joel, a man who from the beginning is stricken with grief, loss, and a destiny to fulfill.  He is later joined by Tess, and they are ordered to escort a young girl named Ellie to a rebel group known as the Fireflies.  For the sake of spoiling the story, I will not go into anymore detail, but the storyline is fantastic.  During the course of the game, Joel forms an inevitable bond with Ellie through conversation as they progress further towards their goal.  As they learn about one another’s past, they begin to build a foundation of trust for each other.  This combined with the overall story of The Last of Us brings together an amazing blend of dynamic story and characters who will be unforgettable now and in the future.  

Joel and Ellie’s quest is not an easy one by any means.  There are numerous foes that wish to cut their journey short.  There are hunters, human survivors in Pittsburgh who are trying to impede your progress since they resent Joel and Ellie.  Then there are the infected, humans that are consumed by the engineered cordyceps fungus (this is a real life fungus that effects only insects, click here to view the background on cordyceps).  The infected come in five stages of evolution.  The are runners, stalkers, clickers (in my opinion the freakiest and scariest due to that noise they make), bloaters, and spore cadavers.  These foes are not easily outsmarted or thwarted in any way.  The AI in the Last of Us is very impressive.  Human opponents do not just simply stand around when you’re hiding instead, they are constantly searching for you, which means very little time to relax.  Constructing items also requires an element of strategy.  You construct and modify weapons in real-time.  This means that if a foe catches you, he, she, or it can attack you and interrupt your operation.  The infected are a deadly force to be reckoned with.  Evolved forms like the clicker, require stealth and timing to avoid, and confrontation can be very deadly since attacking them bare fisted will infect you.  They also infect you in one bite (one hit kill) which can damage a smooth operation.  Naughty Dog put a lot of energy into all the gameplay elements of The Last of Us, and it shows beautifully.  Score: 10/10

Sound:  The musical score for The Last of Us is absolutely brilliant.  Gustavo Santaolalla truly brings the emotion and mood of the game to life through his amazing music.  The voice actors do a fantastic job with Troy Baker leading the helm as Joel, and Ashley Johnson holding the fort as Ellie.  The voice actors truly pour a lot of energy and emotion into their roles, as opposed to voice actors who merely want to speak in order to get a paycheck.             Score: 10/10 

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The Last of Us is truly a masterpiece that I believe is a shoe in for game of the year.  The story is gripping, the characters are lovable and memorable, and the feeling that you get when accomplishing the game is absolutely satisfying.  Combine this with a high replay value, and a multiplayer mode, and you have a truly beautiful piece of gaming art.  If you own a PS3, and have not played this amazing title, then I suggest scraping some nickels and dimes together and grabbing this piece of gaming greatness.

Final Score: 10/10