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Reviews about Video Games

Impressions of "Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl" DEMO

The opinions contained herein are in regards to the DEMO version of Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl downloaded from the Nintendo e-Shop, NOT the full game.

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U.S. Box Art for Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl

The Etrian Odyssey series found its start in the Nintendo DS era utilising the bottom touchscreen for recording maps in addition to many features found typically in traditional RPGs. By creating your own characters, you have a personal link to the game and the story that unfolds.

After the release of the Nintendo 3DS, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legend of the Titan was released in mid-2012 in Japan and 2013 internationally. While keeping the elements that made Etrian Odyssey popular to begin with, new classes were included, graphics were updated to accommodate the 3D screens, and other items as well (F.O.E.s were updated graphically on the top screen during exploration).

Somehow, the Etrian Odyssey series had evaded my notice up until my acquisition of the 3DS less than a year ago when I played the demo for Etrian Odyssey IV.  The unique use of layering in the in-game menus, lush environments, as well as the music by the talented Yuzo Koshiro helped to get me more readily absorbed into the environment than just the character creation.  So effective, in fact, that I refused to buy the game until I was able to hunt down a FIRST-PRINT copy with the outtakes and drafts CD.  The game also made use of Streetpass and QRCodes to share characters from your party so that other players can potentially go on an adventure with your personally created character.

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl keeps these features and takes things further in the advances seen in the previous installment with various changes, such as minor graphical enhancements (the backgrounds in the town of Etria are now 3D rather than standard 2D art layered by the menus). The menu colours are now slightly different but keep on the same layered menu.

Probably the most noticeable change in this new entry to the series is the inclusion of a Story Mode, where a preset group of characters is made as your party similar to most standard JRPGs today. This is in addition to Classic Mode (unfortunately not on the demo), which allows you to create your own characters and party like previous games, so fans of character creation need not fret.  If anything, that the game includes both makes it easier for a wider variety of RPG fans to get into the game.

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From Left to Right: Raquna Sheldon, Simon Yorke, Frederica Irving, Highlander, Arthur Charles

Since there is a story mode, Atlus now included animated cutscenes into the game. These cutscenes are beautifully drawn and animated and fully voiced. The only complaint here (and frankly in this review at all) is that there is no option for subtitling. While I tend to play in the comfort of my own home, the 3DS is a portable device and many do take the device out in public to play where they may not be able to hear the dialogue easily.

In the Story Mode, you play as a Highlander (a class that has higher attack and whose skills sacrifice one’s own health/status to inflict greater damage to the enemy) who is duty bound to the Radha of Etria. Etria has been having issues with frequent earthquakes recently and after a small tutorial map, you find that these earthquakes are linked to activity in a nearby ruin.  After proving yourself, the Radha sends you to investigate the ruin in secrecy, whereupon you discover Frederica – the titular "Millenium Girl" – who seemingly was in some sort of cryogenic sleep and is suffering from amnesia. Shortly after, you are also joined by three members of the Midgard Library – an outside faction that is famous for its knowledge – that were also investigating the ruins. It is here that you begin your story to unravel the mysteries of the ruins as well as of Frederica.

The ruins are linked to a labyrinth and the demo ends when you reach B3F of this labyrinth. You are able to reach a max level of 10 and can carry over your demo save to the actual game similar to the system in Etrian Odyssey IV.

In story mode, you are locked to only the characters given to you (whether more party members will later join you or whether you can create characters in story mode beyond the demo is not known to me), so initially I had concerns that perhaps I would be "classlocked" through the game. However, there is also a mechanic known as the "Grimoire System" that allows characters the ability to gain skills not normally found in their respective classes. Grimoire Stones can be created through random "Grimoire Chances" that occur in battle. Once created, this new stone may contain a class skill or even an enemy skill, allowing for new combinations. While you can only equip one at a time, there is also the Grimoire Synthesis which allows the fusion of three separate stones to create a new one (The first two stones pass over skills while the third passes weapon proficiencies).  This allows you to either enhance the strengths or cover the weaknesses of each character.

The classes – from what I’ve seen in research – resemble the ones from Etrian Odyssey I with a few differences (probably because this is a retelling of Etrian Odyssey I to begin with!). For example, Simon is a medic, Arthur is an alchemist, and Raquna is a protector. However, the Highlander and Frederica are unique in that they don’t follow the old classes; the Highlander is in a class of his own (pun intended) and Frederica is a gunner, similar to a sniper in Etrian Odyssey IV but with guns.

Voice acting is also included in the game for the various characters, from the shopkeep to each of your party members. The "proximity gauge" that notifies the player of when to expect a monster encounter also is supplemented with voices exclaiming the potential danger. They will also mention if there is something to "Check" on a square.

Throughout the dialog between the Highlander and the party members, you can choose what to say, similar to Atlus’s more popular series, Shin Megami Tensei (Shin Megami Tensei IV was recently released for the Nintendo 3DS as well).  Whether or not this affects anything in the story or any other element remains to be seen.

While I am relatively new to the Etrian Odyssey series, as an Atlus fan, I have high hopes for the full product.  After all, Atlus has got my back when it comes to games!

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Um… yeah.

Disclaimer: The Etrian Odyssey franchise is the property of Atlus (should I say Index Corp or Sega now?)

.hack//G.U. Volume 1: Rebirth

.hack//G.U. Vol 1 Rebirth Cover

Title: .hack//G.U. Volume 1: Rebirth
Type: Action RPG
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: T
Available Files: Depends on the size of the memory card.
Special Notes for ESRB Rating: Fantasy Violence, Language
Summary: The first of a trilogy, Rebirth starts off where its animated counterpart – .hack//ROOTS – left off. CC Corporation – which published a popular MMORPG called “The World” from the other series of the franchise – released a new version of “The World” after its servers were damaged in fires. Rebuilding the game from the ground up (but still with elements from the past) with new character classes, new areas, new monsters, CC Corporation and its customers believed the game to be safe and fun… But, that wouldn’t make a very interesting story, would it?

“The World R:2” became a haven for “PKers” (Player Killers) which were previously frowned upon in “The World R:1.” The main character, Haseo, first starts playing the game but was PKed. His troubles with the game begin as he logs in for the first time…

A Disclaimer to all the readers: I have NOT finished the original four (Infection, Mutation, Outbreak, and Quarantine) games yet. I have played enough for SOME comparisons however.

My Ratings:

Graphics: 8.5/10
The full-motion videos/animations were very well done. The style had a touch of cel-shading. The areas have shown graphical improvement from its predecessor and even resemble the areas seen in .hack//ROOTS. However, the character animations while not in a full motion video are a touch subpar.

Story: 6.5/10
Alright, so for most of the .hack fans, story is of utmost importance. For those who have watched .hack//ROOTS, this series will seem like a continuation/finale. In that respect, it does not disappoint. However, after playing a bit, and players falling into comas again, the not-so-hardcore fans are more than likely to think, “Great… this again.” However, the way in which the gameplay is integrated with the story is better executed than its predecessors, as you will read in the following section.

Gameplay: 8.0/10
Alright, so gameplay. Those who have played the old games will be somewhat relieved that the gameplay isn’t QUITE as repetitive as before. The areas will at times seem repetitive, (I lie. They ARE repetitive.) but they throw in several “Arena” battles and “Sidequests” as part of the main storyline to further develop the bonds and characters that show the growth of Haseo. To this end, as Hiroshi Matsuyama – President of Cyberconnects2 – wanted to “create a ‘coming of age’ story… for a very long time,” they successfully plant the seeds for character development/coming of age.

Music: 9.0/10
I’ve been listening to the soundtracks in my car and iPod for a few months now. Doesn’t that tell you enough? 🙂

All joking aside, Chikayo Fukuda has done a great job with the music, developing a rather unique flavour to the environment of “The World R:2” with a variety of choral, electronic, easy listening, metal, and many other genres of music.

What prevents me from giving this a 10, however, are the “Mecha-Grunty” and “Piros the 3rd!” tracks. I cannot even stand to listen to those for the first few seconds. There are also a few tracks that seem reused (only because they were remixed, slowed down, or sped up).

Overall: 7.5/10

This is an okay game for the casual gamer and a definite for those who are fans of the series. The story is better integrated and told at a better pace in THIS VOLUME than the IMOQ games. However, although the main theme of the trilogy is of “growing up”, it is still told under the same circumstances of players being put into comas, of which some will undoubtedly be getting tired of.

Disclaimer: .hack//G.U. and all content associated thereof are the properties of BandaiNamco Games and CyberConect2.

Trace Memory

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Title: Trace Memory
Type: Adventure
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: T
Available Files: 2
Special Notes for ESRB Rating: Mild Violence
Summary: As 13 year old Ashley Robbins, you find out that your father, who was presumed dead, is alive and wishes to meet you on your 14th birthday. What ensues follows the memories of Ashley and a mysterious ghost by the name D. You must find the truth of each characters’ past utilizing puzzle solving skills.

My Ratings:

Graphics: 8.5/10
The surroundings are well done, and the illustrations and animations are well done as well. However, the bottom screen, in which you play with an overhead view lacks the refined touch (no pun intended) that the still image areas you investigate have.

Story: 10/10
Really, this is the best aspect of this game. The more you play into it, the more you want to continue. I started playing at night and proceeded til I finished.

Gameplay: 9.5/10
The usage of the DS’s features is nearly unparalleled by other DS games as of right now. The microphone, touch screen, the fold cover… Everything was utilized. However, it is minimal, because the game is fairly short. Though fun, it doesn’t last long as the game doesn’t last long.

Music: 5.0/10
Not very impressive. At times, it is quite… annoying. Kind of distracting sometimes. There are points where the music suits the moment, but most of the time, it’s just… “there.”

Overall: 8.0/10
A slight brain teaser. Something that most games lack nowadays. Although the game would have been one of the best games out there, it was sadly rushed too much. The game is barely even 3 hours long. Way too short for a game of its potential.

Disclaimer: Trace Memory and the pictures associated are properties of Nintendo and Cing Inc.

Nintendogs

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Title: Nintendogs (All three versions)
Type: Simulation
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E
Available Files: 1
Special Notes for ESRB Rating: Comic Mischief
Summary: You own a pet puppy of the breed of your choice, which will never grow old. You can train it for competitions, teach it tricks, take it on walks.

My Ratings:

Graphics: 8.0/10
When you first play it, you might be impressed by the “realism” of the dogs. And perhaps you may be impressed by the surroundings as well. But after a while, you’ll notice a few graphical glitches, and that the dogs… don’t really have “fur”…

Story: NA/10
Story? This is a freaking simulation! YOU MAKE YOUR OWN STORY

Gameplay: 6.0/10
If you’re a fan of this game, don’t kill me for this score here. It’s fun at first, but after a while, the activities seem more and more limited, and also tedious… after winning the competitions 20 times in a row with a few dogs… it sort of gets old. Not to mention, the commentators comments just get overused. When it gets down to the nitty-gritty… this isn’t really a good simulation of having a pet. In real life, they’re full of surprises… here, it really does get old… I do have to admit that it was innovative though.

Music: 5.5/10
Not a very impressive aspect of the game. Even the records that you find as items don’t really sound that good.

Overall:
5.5/10
Fun for a while, then it just gets old. I only played for about two weeks before I just started to stop playing it. Not worth the money. If you’re wanting a pet, get a real one. Or, if you just want to try it, just rent it. It’s a much better investment in this case than to buy it.

Disclaimer: Nintendogs and the pictures associated are properties of Nintendo.

Kirby Canvas Curse

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My Ratings:

Graphics: 7.5/10
The graphics seem a bit… GBA-ish. However, the color choices and background make up for it. There is also a detailed map on the top screen.

Story: 5.0/10
… Has there really been a Kirby game out there that has an excellent storyline? I mean, come on, Dreamland is in trouble, Kirby has to save it. Sure, Mario games are practically the same, but meh. At least there’s a new boss than Dark Matter…

Gameplay: 10.0/10
This is the first “full game” (as opposed to smaller applications like Yoshi Touch n Go) that has fully utilized the touch screen functions of the Nintendo DS. The controls with the Stylus, although one must get used to using one if they haven’t already, are very smooth and easy to work with. The only “working buttons” are the power switch and the start button.

Music:
7.0/10
The music in this game are comprised of remixed versions of the “newer generation” of Kirby game music. Many are recognizable from Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland. I can’t help but be a bit biased in this one, because I mainly played the “older generation” of Kirby games, such as Kirby’s Dreamland 2, or Kirby’s Pinball Land, etc. For those like me though, after collecting enough medals, you can unlock the classic songs in the Sound Test menu.

Overall: 9.5/10
Simply a fun yet challenging game. A must have for Nintendo DS owners. The first full length game for the platform that fully utilizes the touch screen and the dual screens. A lacking storyline, but like most Kirby games, the gameplay and sheer fun of the game make up for it.

Disclaimer: Kirby Canvas Curse and the pictures associated are properties of Nintendo and Hal Laboratories.