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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

Child of Light Review: Visual Poetry In Motion

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Good day to all my fellow gamers. Welcome back to my esteemed blog. I apologize for this insane delay in posting, but recently work and night classes have syphoned my personal time, but once again I have returned and with some very late—but nonetheless excellent and non-bias gaming reviews. The summer is finally here, and kids, teens, and the more paleolithic gamers like myself are always looking to invest countless hours in some gaming goodness. So, I have decided to start by reviewing one of four games on my platter that I am playing and very much enjoying. The first review will be Ubisoft’s RPG, Child of Light. This title has had a lot of expectations. Does it live up to all these expectations, or is it another disappointing letdown. Let’s take a look.

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Graphics: Elegance and beauty are understatements when it comes to describing the graphics of Child of Light. From the moment you turn on your console, even the “press start” screen draws you in like a spell. The colors and textures are beautifully drawn. The backgrounds are lush and vibrant with color and life, from the immense forests, to the dark and creepy caverns—It’s an eye-candy overload that fans will love. Ubisoft definitely proves to all of us that they poured their heart, sweat, and tears into providing us a product of pure visual delight. The characters of Child of Light are also brilliantly drawn in both story sequences and gameplay.

The creature designs are almost out of a child’s story, but not in a childish way. Each creature is well detailed and some can also be a bit fearsome. Being a person with a hummingbird attention span, I found myself constantly getting lost or distracted from my path, but I didn’t get frustrated with the game. I simply wanted to keep wandering and soak in the beautiful atmosphere of this amazing world. Score 10/10 

Sound: Canadian singer-songwriter Coeur de Pirate (Béatrice Martin) brings to Child of Light a musical score that is timeless and beautifully done. Every track seems to fit the environment of the game. From the soothing melody played in the forest, to the climactic boss battles, every piece of music is a joy to behold. Score 9.5/10

Gameplay: This game focuses on the heroine Aurora who, after falling victim to a physical ailment—wakes up in the world of Lemuria. She then begins her quest to save her father from the evil queen, Umbra. Thus, she journeys through mystical Lemuria, gathering very unique allies along the way. A bow-wielding mouse, a jester who can’t seem to complete one rhyme, a golem, and a wizard—yes these are some of the different varieties of characters that you will encounter through your 12-15 hour quest.

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While most heroes in video games tend to have a stereotypical look from an abnormally muscular hero, or a sexy seductive heroine—Child of Light has none of these stereotypes. It introduces pretty average characters that still make an impact without all the muscles and sexiness. The battle system is one that is familiar to many fans. It uses a turn based gaming engine similar to the Grandia series. Characters and monsters take turns while small icons in line on the screen races to the “action” button. This determines who gets to act first. This element provides a lot of strategic challenges, because your quick thinking will determine whether you can get the jump on your enemies before they can act, or fall victim to their onslaught. Aurora’s companion Igniculus also plays a vital role in your quest as a distraction blinding your enemies and slowing their progression on the action bar. It is a refreshing element and a fantastic tribute to the gaming franchises that introduced these engines. Score 9.5/10

Child of Light is a game that should be in everyone’s library. It is a beautiful tribute to past games, and it is a brilliant masterpiece to behold. If you have not downloaded this title yet, don’t wait another minute—download Child of Light today.

Final Score: 9.5/10

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 

Future Project-Should I go for it?

Hello everyone and welcome back to my esteemed blog.  I suppose I should explain the recent hiatus.  October was a very difficult month for me.  My family and I had a memorial service for my cousin who was murdered at his own birthday party.  Then of course my company had their annual conference which really sucked up a lot of my time.  However I promise to try and post updates and reviews at least once a week.

Now on to the subject at hand.  I notice that a lot of people on YouTube post these videos called IPATs or LPATs, or WPAT’s in which they tape themselves playing video games both current and nostalgic with funny or crude commentary.  I’ve been contemplating whether I should begin uploading some commentary videos.  I would love to hear your opinion on this matter.  Please send your feedback, I really appreciate it.  As always, thank you for reading my blog and be sure to follow.  I will give this post about two weeks before I tally the results and make my decision.  Tune in next time when I review Halo 4!  Til then!

Lucas