Final Fantasy XIII – Game Review

Final Fantasy XIII Info CardFinal Fantasy XIII released in 2009 as the first iteration of Square Enix’s long-running Final Fantasy series on the seventh console generation (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360). The game marked the beginning of the ‘Fabula Nova Crystallis’ series of games with the focus on crystal imagery and the recurring theme of a battle against Gods.

The narrative of Final Fantasy XIII can be described as convoluted in some regards, however, despite this the plot itself is fairly solid. The story of Final Fantasy XIII takes places across two different worlds: Gran Pulse (a form of Earth, for lack of a better description) and Cocoon (a ‘new’ planet floating about Gran Pulse, where humanity resides). Beginning on Cocoon, during a ‘Purge’ – the removal and execution of humans that had come into contact with a Fal’Cie (Demi-god) from Gran Pulse, the majority of the main cast assemble.

Here, they are entangled with the Fal’Cie itself and as a result are turned to L’Cie – humans with extraordinary power and the ability to use magic in exchange for being set a task they must complete (known as a ‘Focus’). Should they fail that ‘Focus’ they are turned into monstrous beings known as C’eith.

This bizarre naming convention is perhaps the single most complicated thing regarding Final Fantasy XIII – if you can wrap your head around that, you’re 90% of the way to understanding the game.

The overall narrative itself is very run of the mill. The main cast of characters are fighting to overturn an unjust fate that has befallen them. The journey along the way has a few fairly touching moments, and in my opinion, towards the closing hours of the game, the story hits its peak at just the right time. As a result, I was left was a pretty satisfied feeling at the end of the adventure that I think a lot of people could get enjoyment from.

However, I feel that the game falls short with its characters.

Barely any of the characters, be they main cast or side cast, receive any major forms of development. Even for those that do, their development is shallow and lacks any really meaning. While they are complete enough characters to tell the story and present and emotional enough conclusion, overall, I felt the experience was lacking substance.
The game could have done with a couple of extra scenes to allow, at least, the main cast time to break out from their pre-establish character roles to expand a little further.
Narrative aside, the game took a huge leap forward graphically between this and Final Fantasy XII releasing on the PlayStation 2. This boon in graphical power can be seen from the immediate onset of the game.

Final Fantasy XIII is undeniably a visually beautiful game.

The vast majority of background scenery is dynamic and full of life, leading to the immersion in the world that is being presented.

Unfortunately, these dynamic backgrounds are nothing more than that. Final Fantasy XIII is an extremely linear experience. Throughout the first ten chapters of the game, you are forced down narrow (so be it, graphically stunning) corridors, dispatching numbers of enemies along the way to reach the end.

Honestly, I don’t have an issue myself with the linear experience of Final Fantasy XIII, I believe that it lends itself well to the story that it is attempting to tell. However, when the world around the player is so vast-looking and vibrant, I’d love nothing more than to explore around me, venturing off over the mountains in the distance. Yet, ultimately, it’s nothing but scenery and that’s a disappointing revelation when playing the game.

As for the gameplay of Final Fantasy XIII itself, it seems to have taken gameplay elements from Final Fantasy XII and modified it – bolstering the Active Dimensional Battle combat system and converting it into a random encounter scenario, now referred to as the Active Time Battle (ATB) system.

The inspiration behind the design choice for XIII’s combat system came from the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children fight scenes. The developers desired to make combat appear more cinematic and action-packed.

The single action bar in Final Fantasy XII’s combat was evolved during transition to Final Fantasy XIII.

Beginning at two segments, and with a potential maximum of six, actions during combat – from regular attacks, to use of various magic – could be stringed together into fluid and dynamic combos.

Actions to be queued in the ATB bar can either be selected manually or chosen through an ‘Auto-Battle’ command that selects actions that the game decides are the best string of actions to use.

These battles are much more visually engaging than they had been in previous entries in the Final Fantasy series. Personally, I love the visual effect that the game achieves with this style of combat. The only discrepancy is that due to the ‘Auto-Battle’ feature, the game can devolve into simply mashing the action button in order to defeat foes quickly.
On the other hand, the most significant aspect to Final Fantasy XIII’s combat by far is the ‘Paradigm Deck’.

Each character has ‘Roles’ that they are utilise; these roles determine the types of commands that they are able to use. There are six roles to learn: Commando (Physical Hitter), Ravager (Magic Attacker), Synergist (Buffer), Saboteur (Debuffer), Sentinel (Defender) and Medic (Healer).

You can set which role you want a specific member of your battle team to be before battle, however, a character can only be in a single role at a time and thus only has access to a limited number of commands to use.

This is where the ‘Paradigm Shift’ mechanic of the game comes into play. When establishing your ‘Paradigm Deck’ you can create up to six different decks at once. During battle you are able to switch the active deck that you are using.
Due to this, you are able to think more strategically about how you want to approach each battle that you face.

I love the ‘Paradigm Shift’ mechanic – it combines the perfect level of forward planning with the added challenge of ensuring that you have set up the right types of paradigm to account for each possible outcome.

For example, if you’re up against a foe that has an extremely powerful desperation attack, set up a paradigm that consists of three Sentinels to lower the damage your characters will take.

This style of strategy also plays into another key feature of Final Fantasy XIII’s combat – staggering.

Every enemy that you will fight in the game has a ‘Stagger Meter’, the higher the meter is, the more damage the enemy will take from attacks. Once the meter reaches its limit, the enemy will stagger and not only will it take a lot more damage, but it will also be prevented from attacking.

The strategy here comes from effective use of paradigm shifting. The Ravager role is exceptional at boosting the stagger meter, therefore, by setting a load out with three Ravagers to quickly stagger the enemy, you can then switch to three Commandos to bring the pain.

This level of strategy is the highest point of Final Fantasy XIII. I absolutely love the combat system and how it makes the player think about their strategy before entering a fight, than in previous games in which you have near time to scroll through a huge command list to decide there and then.

Another feature that I like the concept of, is the levelling system.

Characters in Final Fantasy XIII don’t have set level-ups where they grow stronger. Instead, it’s more similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid, in which you can decide you path of growth.

Final Fantasy XIII’s characters level up via the Crystarium; after every fight, you earn Crystogen Points (CP). These points can be distributed across any of the roles that you have learnt by whichever point you are at. This grants you the opportunity to specialise your team in the way that would best suit your style of play.

Overall I love this style of level up, however, personally it led to me alienating certain characters from my roster because I could never find use for them.

I really enjoy the combat of Final Fantasy XIII, however, if you’re someone that isn’t overly keen on combat then this game certainly wouldn’t be for you.

There are only 64 side quests in the entire game, and all of them of monster hunts. All of them.

The side content for Final Fantasy XIII is pretty atrocious. Most of the monsters that you fight for these hunts are beefed up, or varied versions of monsters that you’ve fought hundreds of times. There are some that can present a genuine challenge, especially when trying to 5-star each mission, but if acing every challenge isn’t something you’d want to do, then you’ll be hard done by to find enjoyment in the side content of the game.

There is a lot to love regarding Final Fantasy XIII, from the style of story-telling, to the combat. Yet, there is a lot to dislike for some people too, like the style of story-telling, to the combat… It can be a very divisive game. Nonetheless, I loved my time with it all the same.

The characters may be one-note and archetypal and the game may be the most linear in the entire franchise, but the game developed and honed many features that had come from previous Final Fantasy titles and made them much better.

If you’ve never considered picking up Final Fantasy XIII before, I’d definitely recommend it. If you’ve played it before, but thought you couldn’t stand it, I highly recommend giving it another shot – yes there will be bad parts, but there is a lot to like about it too.

Final Fantasy XIII earns a

Scorecard 7.5_10

Thank you for reading my review of Final Fantasy XIII. I know that this title can be fairly divisive, but everyone’s opinion is valid – if you liked this game as well, let me know! If you didn’t, tell me why in the comments.

If you enjoy content like this, and want to see more reviews like this about games new and old follow: Black Disc Gaming. For more Video Game Reviews from us, click the link below to get taken straight to our ever-growing archive.

Video Game Reviews

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Game Review

Dragon Quest XI Info CardDragon Quest is perhaps the second most notable Role-Playing Game (RPG) series to be released by RPG behemoths Square Enix and, in 2018, the main series made its debut on the eighth console generation with Dragon Quest XI.

Long-time fans of the series will instantly fall in love with the game, while newcomers will find a new game series to become invested in.

Dragon Quest XI is an insanely large game, filled to the brim with content: story quests and side quests. Placing things into perspective, by the time I had finished the game through to its true ending, I had clocked well over 110 hours. Taking out the time I had spent completing side content, the main campaign took about 70 hours, and at no point to me did it feel padded – which is excellent.

The main story of Dragon Quest XI is a wonderful adventure, both world and character-driven. The locales in the world of the game are amazing: vibrantly detailed and expansive in a lot of places. Furthermore, the characters that fill it are well crafted too.

Each member of the ensemble cast are wonderfully designed and feel as though their place alongside the protagonist on his journey is genuine and has a greater purpose, beyond the trope of needing a ragtag group to fill ranks.

The game’s narrative is divided into three clear acts. The first act does a great job at getting you established in the world, its lore and your place within it. You set off from your home on a grand quest and assemble your team to fend off the encroaching darkness; leading you straight into Act Two.

The second act is by far and away my favourite stretch in the entire game. It’s here that all of the characters that have been by your side find their own personal development and grow. If you hadn’t already, the narrative of this act does an excellent job at making you fall in love with these characters. By the end, they feel fully fleshed out characters with their own lives outside of assisting you on your quest. Furthermore, you as the player become more attached to them through the acknowledgement and demonstration that you truly need them by your side.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the third and final act does away with the development that you may have had with these characters. Due to the requirements of the narrative, this growth is ultimately shallow and redundant. While the ending is still very poignant and has great ties to the greater Dragon Quest mythos that returning fans will adore, for me, how this third act handled events nearly ruined the end of the game for me.

Another thing that disappointed me was a lack of true voice acting for the protagonist. The voice talent was great across the board, exceedingly so for the main cast. However, there is only so much that the ensemble cast can achieve in moments of high tension and emotional weighting, when the main character is standing there like a bland character model.

There are genuinely shocking and emotional scenes in Dragon Quest XI and they could have been truly amazing, had the protagonist had at least a line or two to say about them.

Despite my discrepancies, the overall narrative of Dragon Quest XI was a wonder to play through, tying a fully realised world into a brilliant narrative, for the most part.

Outside of the main story, there is a vast number of side quests that you can engage yourself with as your journey through Dragon Quest XI. Many of these quests you can actively undertake without much effort on your part, as the requirements will come naturally. Meanwhile, there are other much grander quests in terms of expectation; these can take a lot of planning and effort in order to complete. Regardless, none of the side quests in the game ever feel as though they outstay their welcome. The provide a fun little diversion from the main story and can help you attain some solid equipment going forward too!

The gameplay of Dragon Quest XI is its strongest aspect, however. The game is a traditional turn-based RPG that is perfectly balanced in various ways. There is an abundance of abilities that can deal great amounts of damage against strong foes, while withstanding blows for immensely strong foes.

There is always an optimal amount of challenge present in the game’s combat, even during field encounters. Almost every single encounter while casually progressing through the game is relatively easy to dispatch, yet, as long as your party isn’t over-levelled the enemies won’t be defeated in a single round of attacks.

However, for those of you that are never overly concerned with challenge in combat, and as many Dragon Quest fans will know – the metal slime family make their return. The metal slimes are relatively weak enemies that are prone to fleeing, but if you can defeat them, you will be heavily rewarded for your efforts in terms of Experience Points – helping you level up far faster than normal!

Each party member in the game has their own sets of strengths weaknesses during battle. Some have immense physical strength, while others hit like a sponge and some have great magical prowess but others can have access to a single healing spell. As a result, though you can only have four members out on the field at once, there are occasions in which each member can have their own time to shine. This is especially seen through each members individual ‘Pep Powers’.

New to Dragon Quest XI, seemingly, at random a member of the party can become ‘Pepped Up’. During this period, they receive significant boons to their stats and, more importantly, have the option to use a ‘Pep Power’. This is one of a variety of different skills unique to an individual character, or in the case of many ‘Pep Powers’, unique to a group of characters.

These powers can have numerous effects on the course of battle – some powers can inflict guaranteed status ailments, while others could boost the amount of Experience Points and Gold earned from the battle and others just outright deal huge damage.

A huge benefit to these ‘Pep Powers’ is that they can be used at any time during the time that your character is ‘Pepped Up’.

Another strong aspect of the combat of Dragon Quest XI is the potential for party members to wield one of two different weapons. This can change up the ways in which you decide to build your party members; it can assist you in finding a place on your team for any characters that you have been struggling to utilise during previous setups.

Furthermore, alongside a choice in weaponry, each character also has access to abilities that are assigned to these weapons. For example, a character may have be able to wield a sword or axes; when equipped with a sword, said character could use an ability that could attack all enemies on the field. Whereas, when they are equipped with an axe, they lose they option to use this skill, but could now utilise an ability to inflict huge damage that can also lower an enemy’s defence.

Thus, it becomes a choice in strategy preference when it comes to how to loadout your characters – do you optimise their damage outputs, or do you take a weaker piece of equipment because it can grant you access to a preferred ability.

There is so much to love in Dragon Quest XI, both from a story perspective and definitely from a gameplay perspective. While I did become disillusioned with the final few hours of the story, I was by no means disappointed with the whole package; with excellent gameplay to consolidate the experience, the 100 hours plus that I put into Dragon Quest XI simply flew by. I would highly recommend this game to any fans of the RPG genre, and definitely as a starting point for anyone looking to dive into either an RPG or the Dragon Quest franchise.


Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age earns:Scorecard 9.5_10

Thank you for reading my review of Dragon Quest XI; I hope that you found it informative. Have you played Dragon Quest XI? If so, what were your thoughts, do you agree with my rating? If you haven’t decided whether to pick the game up or not, I hope that this review has helped you come to a decision.

If you’d like to see other Reviews that we’ve written, you can find our archives at the link below:

Video Game Reviews

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – Game Review

Professor Layton and the Curious VillageDuring 2008, people were swept up with a new puzzle game – introduced at the peak of the puzzle game era of the Nintendo DS, was Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Something that was able to set Curious Village aside from other games in the puzzle genre, such as Brain Age and Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Academy was the inclusion of a narrative.

Though during early development, Curious Village was not meant to have any form of story and be much closer to its kin, being comprised of multiple puzzles with no interconnecting context between them; this was quickly changed and the Professor, Luke and the village of St. Mystere were created.

Ultimately, the plot of Curious Village is predominantly basic in premise as well as execution and is apparent from the onset of the game – Professor Layton (a world famous puzzle solver) and his, self-proclaimed, apprentice Luke are heading to St. Mystere village at the behest of the wife of a late Baron. They are tasked with finding an elusive object – ‘The Golden Apple’, revealed to exist by the Baron on his deathbed.

Not long after entering St. Mystere, the Professor and Luke find themselves stuck inside the village with no means of leaving. As a result, they must solve the mystery of the village through solving puzzle after puzzle set to them by the residents of St. Mystere. I can’t help but find the narrative akin to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

The sense of growth that the game instils in the player through narrative progression is rather impressive too. When you first enter St. Mystere you are limited to the areas that you are able to visit and explore, however, the further you get in your investigation and the more things you bring to light, the more the village expands to you. The Village is much larger than you would first be led to believe, and I love that about the game – the narrative expansion is reflected in its gameplay.

Towards the end of the adventure, the narrative pace picks up a bit and takes it in a direction away from the realm of natural belief. However, the way that the game slowly introduces newer ideas helps to keep this evolution of the plot feel grounded and plausible.

The game was designed to be picked up and played by almost anyone, from perhaps as young as 10 years old, all the way through to later years, not just video game enthusiasts. This may be why the plot of the game is relatively straight forward, furthermore, the game does a great job at preventing player from being misdirected or losing where they had reached up to.

Upon rebooting the game after closing it down, the game starts with a ‘the story so far’ recap of the key events that you had played up to in the story. Also, when playing through the game, there are always little notifications that are able to direct you in terms of your current task needed to progress forward.

I think that this is great at remaining faithful to the players that cannot play for extended periods of time, or more elderly players that are more likely to have forgotten what they are required to do – an aspect that I feel many larger games forget to do nowadays.

Despite its simplicity, there is a lot to enjoy in Curious Village’s narrative and is quite the joy to play through.

The gameplay of Curious Village is almost entirely puzzle-based. At almost every turn, everyone in St. Mystere including their pets and the décor throw puzzles at you to solve. Throughout the main scenario of The Curious Village boasts over 100 puzzles to sink your teeth into in order to unravel to deeply knotted mysteries. Many of these puzzles can test various aspect of your knowledge – ranging from mental arithmetic, pattern recognition or play on words.

These variety of puzzles take great advantage of the Nintendo DS’s touch screen. Most puzzles require you to write in the answers to puzzles or circle the correct answer; others are entirely reliant on the touch screen to complete tasks through block-sliding or through placing chess pieces.

I think that the sheer number of puzzles in Curious Village is incredible and it gives you something new to solve almost every time.

I do, however, find that there are quite a few too many mathematic-based puzzles in the game, some of which can be very tedious to slog through.

This brings me to a main complaint I have with the way that the game handles your thinking process. There are some puzzles that allow you to make notes via the touch screen and stylus of the Nintendo DS, this can be a huge help with some of the more difficult puzzles. However, this functionality isn’t present during every puzzle. This can mean, unless you’ve got a piece of paper and pen to hand, you’re stuck keeping track of all of your workings out in your head. While I know that this is only a minor discrepancy, but due to the portable nature of the DS there’s a good chance that you’ll be required to keep a mental note in your head – this can be a complete pace killer when you’re on a particularly difficult puzzle.

Regarding puzzles that you run into difficulty with the game offers its chief currency in assistance – Hint Coins. Using the game’s touch screen capabilities, you can search around every screen that you visit; hidden about the screen are Hint Coins that you can amass.

As the name would suggest, these Hint Coins are used to purchase hints for puzzles that you are having trouble with. In every single puzzle you can use Hint Coins to unlock up to three hints. These hints get progressively more revealing about the solution of the puzzle providing you with more support in solving them.

I like this system, as it encourages you to investigate your surroundings, especially if you’ve been having trouble with some of the more difficult puzzles the game has to offer. Furthermore, by being constantly on the lookout for Hint Coins, you increase you’re chance of finding hidden puzzles that are scattered about St. Mystere.

I feel that the vast majority of the hints the game provides are extremely useful and can give you a great push in the right direction. Although, the hints that are provided will always be the same, therefore, your set of hints may offer you guidance on a later portion of the puzzle when you’re still stuck on grasping the basic aspects of them.

Be forewarned, these Hint Coins are by no means an infinite resource – eventually you’ll find yourself running low. If you’ve been spending them tactlessly because you couldn’t be bothered to figure out the answer on your own, then prepare to be penalised for it, especially towards the final gauntlet of puzzles.

Overall, there is a good selection of different types of puzzles that can keep you getting bored as you progress. Furthermore, once you have solved a puzzle you can go back at any time to re-attempt it.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a game that adequately blends puzzle-solving gameplay into the main story of the game, however, it is clear that the main focus is on the puzzles, as you’ll find yourself running into potential roadblocks that can prevent you from progressing any further if you haven’t solved enough puzzles throughout the game. If you’re more interested in the story, you may find yourself being pulled out the experience while you’re backtracking to solve a required number of puzzles.

Outside of Hint Coins, there are also a few other kinds of collectibles that the game has to offer. Some of these provide a little side activity to keep you busy while you’re mulling over a puzzle that you’re having some trouble with, while other can provide a much greater reward.

I will refrain from delving too far into these and focus solely on Picarats.

Picarats are the ultimate collectible in the game and your reward for solving each puzzle – a specific number of Picarats are assigned to each puzzle and they represent its difficulty.

A puzzle with only a multiple-choice option may only net you a maximum profit of 20 Picarats, but a late game puzzle may be worth 65 or even 80.

These Picarats don’t just build a score, they are used to unlock special rewards and bonuses for after you have beaten the game – different rewards are unlocked after attaining a certain number of Picarats.

Just to highlight a few bonuses you can unlock, you can gain access to the game’s soundtrack as well as character profiles.

This is where perhaps my favourite element of the gameplay comes in. As previously mentioned, each puzzle has a Picarat value. However, should you answer a puzzle incorrectly, the number of Picarats you will then be awarded for solving it decreases.

Picarats decrease a maximum of two times, but the profit can dip to half of its original value if you’re not thinking carefully.

I love this as it actively encourages players to think carefully about their answers, as well as incorporating the finite Hint Coins effectively to allow the highest possible Picarat total by the end of the game. It is entirely possible for you to prevent yourself from unlocking every bonus corresponding to Picarat count – this tangible reward for amassing a large amount of Picarats adds a lot of purpose to hunting down and solving as many puzzles as you can through your time with Curious Village.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is an excellent puzzle game that is coupled with a fun and endearing story. If you’re a fan of brain-teasing puzzle games, then there is certain something here for you to enjoy. If you’ve never given a puzzle game a go, I can whole-heartedly recommend for you to try this game if you’re looking for an entry point to the genre.

Of course, there is the nasty issue of replayability when it comes to any puzzle game, and unfortunately there isn’t much to break Curious Village away from this trope. However, while I wouldn’t recommend you replay the game immediately after beating it, due to the sheer number of puzzles, given enough time, the game can still present a nice challenge on a repeat playthrough.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village earns an 8.5 out of 10

Thank you for reading my review of Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I’m a huge fan of the Professor Layton series and so I felt like revisiting them and looking at them from a more objective viewpoint than I had before.

To find more content from us at Black Disc Gaming, click the links below:

Video Game Reviews     |     Video Game Discussions

Persona 5 – Game Review

Persona 5 Info CardThe development of Persona 5 was fraught with obstacles that resulted in continuous delays. Originally slated for a 2014 release, the game was finally released worldwide in 2017. Persona 5 marks the first game in the mainline Persona series to be released on the seventh and eighth generations of console.

The Persona series began its life as a spin-off of Developers Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei. Since its inception, the series’ popularity has grown exponentially becoming just as popular as its parent series.

Persona 5, despite being the fifth instalment in the main series, has no direct narrative ties to any of the previous entries. While there are some minor cross-overs that will provide enjoyment for players of the other games, brand-new player to the series do not need to know anything about previous games to get the fullest amount of enjoyment from Persona 5.

Beginning in miscellaneous territory, but equally important for the game: the music, supplementary sound design and overall aesthetics of Persona 5 are near impeccable and oozes personality and charisma.

With the theme of Persona 5 being Rebellion, the design of everything – especially the Heads-Up Display (HUD) – fits in with this theme. The game defies the expectations of how it should look, right down to the standard text boxes and I love it.

Furthermore, the almost perfectly captures the atmosphere of its contextual use. From the excitement of standard combat with ‘Last Surprise’, to the over-confidence the player feels on the last day of a Palace with ‘Life Will Change’.

I feel that my only issue with any of the music in the game is just the lack of an alternative standard battle theme against Shadows. As ‘Last Surprise’ is the only one, when devoting a lot of time to progressing through areas, entering fight after fight can get very repetitive.

The story of Persona 5 has you playing as a new protagonist that you are free to name whatever you like, however, the game dubs him the moniker of ‘Joker’ – so this is how I will refer to him from here on out.

Joker is a new transfer student to Shujin Academy in Shibuya in Tokyo. After finding the ability to travel into the distorted hearts of corrupt adults, he and his growing entourage of friends form a group known as ‘The Phantom Thieves (of Heart)’. It becomes their duty to steal the corruption from people’s hearts in order to reform society for the betterment of mankind.

The overall narrative of Persona 5 is, in my opinion, expertly paced and executed. The stakes that threaten The Phantom Thieves slowly escalate showing a true sense of growth for the tension of the game’s story, but also allows for subtle character development to shine through.

I feel that the game manages to strike the correct balance between present a new villain, that brings with them an unrealistic level of threat, and tying the reactions and responses from each of the main cast fluently enough to ground the concept in a sense of realism.

However, the compulsory story that you are given is only half of the true narrative of Persona 5. Should you play through from main story-beat to main story-beat, you may find your overall experience with Persona 5 to be relatively shallow.

This is because Persona 5 is a character-driven story. The true bulk of the game’s story lies in its optional content.

The main scenario of the game could take as little as perhaps 40 hours or so to finish, however, my first playthrough of the game clocked me just over 100 hours.

These additional 60 hours were spent getting to know the variety of characters scattered about the game. I can’t commend the writers of the game enough for breathing life into each of the ‘Confidants’ in the game.

You have the ability to spend time with about a dozen people in the game and form bonds with them. The deeper your bond grows, the more you get to know these characters.

Personally, as I progressed deeper into the bonds, I found myself becoming less interested in the in-game rewards that these bonds could reap, and more invested in how I could next see the growth of these characters.

I felt a true bond with each of these characters, and as a result, I had a much greater appreciation for the character-led narrative of Persona 5. Furthermore, without giving too much away, when the game enters into its final fight, all of the characters that you had taken the time to get to know properly will provide their own input to the scenario.

It’s something relatively small in the grand scheme of a 100-hour RPG, but it was just the finishing touch for me, to fall in love with the story and the characters of Persona 5.

As for the gameplay of Persona 5, the bulk of it is split between typical JRPG turn-based combat and with the social aspects that the Persona series had become known for as of Persona 3.

I think that the combat of Persona 5 has become my favourite style of turn-based combat.

As I have said previously, Persona 5’s combat is similar to a typical turn-based RPG, with a few twists and turns thrown in there. Party members and enemies alike will act on a, nearly, set structure that is determined by each party’s agility stat. Each member of your party of Phantom Thieves can act once during a rotation.

The key difference between the Persona series and other RPGs is the titular Persona system.

Each member that joins the Phantom Thieves awaken their own personal Persona – Their own Will of rebellion that taken physical form.

These Persona have the ability to use special or elemental attacks to provide certain buffs or inflict damage. There is a good variety of different elements that Persona can use – ranging from Fire, or Nuclear damage to Light or Dark damage.

Most Persona can have resistances or weaknesses to certain types of attacks. This is where the main aspect of Persona 5’s combat comes into play. By utilising the right weakness against an enemy, you are able to knock down an enemy; this grants the party member that knocked the enemy down another turn to carry out another action. This could be another attack, if there is another enemy on the field with a weakness that the character you’re controlling doesn’t possess, you are perform a ‘Baton Pass’ to switch over to a character that does in order to knock them down too.

If you manage to knock down all enemies at once, you enter into a ‘Hold-Up’. From here you’re able to carry out a couple of different options – you can either execute an ‘All-Out Attack’ to deal huge amounts of damage and can end most random encounters there and then. Alternatively, you can talk to the shadow, as long as it is a random encounter and not a boss fight. Talking to a shadow presents a few different choices for you:

You can ask the shadow for money, or for an item – this will not only net you some of the big bucks, or a potentially rare item, but it also ends the battle immediately.

The second option is perhaps the more important and significant, you can talk to the shadow and try to convince to join your pack of Persona.

Joker, as the protagonist, is different than the others in his pack of Phantom Thieves as he has the ability to wield and use a number of Personas at once – The power of ‘The Wildcard’.

There are well over 100 Personas that you can obtain throughout Persona 5. Once you enter a negotiation with a Shadow, if you say the right things, that Persona will join you and all of their power becomes yours to use.

Alternatively, once you have progressed a little bit into the story, you gain access to ‘The Velvet Room’ – which players familiar with the franchise will recognise (only looking a little more depressing than usual). In the Velvet Room, you have to ability to ‘fuse’ multiple Persona that you have gathered together in order to form new ones.

This is the best way to beef out your arsenal, through fusing Persona the Persona you create gain access to new moves and abilities that they wouldn’t have access to normally.

Thus, through the right methods or fusing and negotiating, you can ally yourself with an entourage of Personas that can cover every weakness in the game. Through Persona capturing and fusing in order to get the best Personas in the game with the best abilities, it adds a great new layer of depth to an already extremely enjoyable RPG experience.

The last key aspect, and roughly 50% of the entire game is the social aspects of Persona 5.

Persona 5 isn’t simply dungeon crawling and taking down enemy after enemy until you reach the credits. From day to day, you’re given the choice of how you wish to spend it – and there are a lot of different option to choose from about how you want to use your time!

You can do many smaller miscellaneous tasks, such as read a cacophony of books, play games, go to the movies and more. These tasks can provide you with boosts to your Social Stats – these stats determine how well you excel in five different areas: Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness and Charm.

Boosting these stats are more or less imperative to fully carrying out the main aspect of Persona 5’s social side: The Confidants.

Confidants are people that you meet along your adventure, some could be your fellow Phantom Thieves, while other could be people that you meet along the way – for fans of previous Persona games, these Confidants used to be referred to as Social Links.

Getting to know these Confidants can grant you a huge boon in your experience with Persona 5, through spending your time with the right people and having amassed points in the correct Social Stats, you can boost your Confidant level with specific characters. Some of these benefits can be as small as allowing you to buy additional items and equipment, whereas others can allow all members of the Phantom Thieves to gain experience points, even if they didn’t contribute in battle.

The Confidant system is the single most important aspect of Social gameplay in Persona 5. Spending time with the right people can make you progress through the game significantly easier, so manage your time well!

Furthermore, these Confidants play a huge role in developing the character-driven story of Persona 5. While not each Confidant is vital, or even overly interesting for that matter, others have excellent minor sub-plots that can help you relate greatly to the character.

Ultimately, these Confidants offer more than simply adding to the story of Persona 5. The higher you rank up each Confidant, the higher you rank up their Arcana sign: Tower, Hierophant, etc. These Arcana ranks grant you boosts in experience points when it comes to fusing different Personas – the higher the rank, the stronger the Persona you will receive.

What makes Persona 5 such an excellent game in my opinion is that everything that you can do, from Social Activities, to progressing further in Mementos, to reading a book has tangible and almost immediate benefit to your overall progression to the main story of the game. Nothing that you have the option to do is pointless in the grand scheme of the game.

Due to this, I constantly found myself struggling to put the game down! Each time I would finish one activity and reap its rewards, I would end up saying to myself: ‘well, I’ll just level-up this Confidant’, or ‘I’ll read this book tonight’. However, then I would open up something new that I could do.

It was a perpetual cycle and I couldn’t help but love every second of it.

Everything in Persona 5 is expertly crafted, and the game oozes with the love and care put into it by the developers. The story is compelling, the combat is a joy to play and the social aspects are as optional as you want them to be yet appealing in almost every way.

Persona 5 earns a 10/10.

Thank you for reading my review of Persona 5 and reading me gush about it for over 2000 words.

An updated version of Persona 5 is scheduled to release in the west in 2020, titled Persona 5: The Royal which is similar to previous updated versions, such as Persona 4: Golden. This version will most likely be vastly superior, however, until its release, I would still highly recommend picking up the base game!

You can find more content from Black Disc Gaming such as other Reviews and Video Game Discussions below:

Video Game Reviews             |           Video Game Discussions


Kingdom Hearts II – Game Review

Kingdom Hearts II Info Card.pngThe Kingdom Hearts series is one of the most well-received crossovers of all-time, especially in the video game industry. The series has been running strong for many years now, and soon, the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III will finally be released.

In the lead-up to the release of Kingdom Hearts III in January, I have been revisiting each entry in the series and reviewing them. My aim is to set a bench-mark identifying what has come before from the series, to compare against what we will receive in the future.

I hope you’ll join with me on this adventure across this ever-expanding universe, as I continue by reviewing: Kingdom Hearts II.

Note: This review is based on the HD port of Kingdom Hearts II available as part of the Kingdom Hearts I.5+II.5 HD Collection on the PlayStation 4.

Regarded by most Kingdom Hearts fans as the best game in the series to-date, Kingdom Hearts II became a staple in the video game canon as also one of the best games released on the PlayStation 2.

The game takes place almost a year after the end of Chain of Memories.

Much to Sora, Donald and Goofy’s dismay, the Heartless are still causing trouble across the worlds. However, this time they’re not the only ones. Pitted against a new force of darkness – Nobodies, Sora’s journey is more perilous than ever before. Alongside his pre-existing quest of freeing the worlds from darkness, he must now defeat the shadowy Organisation XIII that had first been introduced in Chain of Memories.

The Organisation are close to achieving their goals and as is the case for any Kingdom Hearts game, Sora is the key to it all – the only one capable of stopping them.

The stakes of Kingdom Hearts II are far greater than what they had been in the previous games, and as a result, the tension and story-telling are even stronger too.

The over-arching ride of Kingdom Hearts II’s narrative is truly wonderful, offering its fair share of touching and sombre moments, alongside those of extreme action and intense battles. However, I can only say this for the main plot of the game.

As is part of the tried and true Kingdom Hearts formula, you once again visit various worlds from the Disney archives – some are returning fan favourites, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas’s Halloween Town, while many others are new additions to the Kingdom Hearts universe.

In the first Kingdom Hearts game, the main narrative of the game was intrinsically connected to each of the Disney worlds that Sora and co. visited.

The results of Sora’s actions within each world aided with the progression of the narrative. Whereas in Kingdom Hearts II, each of the Disney worlds tend to offer little development to the overarching narrative of the game.

Furthermore, each of the sub-plots for the Disney worlds follow more closely to their cinematic counterparts instead of an original story. Thus, the Disney portions of the game feel very much like a secondary thought and as though they were only included in the game because Kingdom Hearts is marketed as a cross-over between two pre-existing IPs.

Don’t get me wrong. Each of the Disney worlds are enjoyable to play through and becoming a part of the Disney narratives is exciting.

Plus, there are a few Disney worlds that either do tell an original story or, particularly with returning worlds, intertwine the Disney film with the laws of the Kingdom Hearts universe.

It’s just overall that it doesn’t feel as cleverly pieced together and written as it had in Kingdom Hearts.

The gameplay of Kingdom Hearts II returns to the traditional form that was introduced in the first game of the series, as opposed to the card-based combat system from Chain of Memories. However, in comparison to the gameplay of Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II has been immensely improved upon. Every aspect of the game was given much greater depth, from the movement options, to combat, to even the returning Gummi Ship segments.

Sora is more agile than he has ever been, you can close the gap between you and your enemies much faster and more easily; as well as extend your base combos beyond anything you’ve ever been able to in the past.

The ability system that had been present in the original game makes a return, however, with the inclusion of new abilities with greater variety of capabilities, this system becomes the core of the combat of Kingdom Hearts II.

Rather than just the previous Combo Pluses and Air Combo Pluses in the first Kingdom Hearts, to boost the capabilities of your attacks, Kingdom Hearts II offers a much greater variety in terms of Combo Modifying abilities.

Furthermore, the most unique aspect of Kingdom Hearts II’s combat is the implementation of Drive Forms.

These are various temporary forms that Sora can enter that can bolster different abilities or change his combat setup entirely. Some Forms can provide him with a boost to his physical or magical strength, as well as some that grant him access to using two different Keyblades at once.

There is an abundant amount of new Keyblades to obtain throughout Kingdom Hearts II. Much like in the first Kingdom Hearts, each Keyblade has its own stat buffs to either Sora’s attack or magic power. However, in Kingdom Hearts this led to many of the earlier Keyblades obtained not being used once a strong one was acquired.

In Kingdom Hearts II however, each Keyblade also comes with its own special ability. These abilities can range from boosting the potency of items, halving the amount of damage received when in critical health and so.

With each Keyblade having its own abilities, which Keyblade you choose to kit Sora out with is less dependant on its damage output, and more based on how applicable the Keyblade’s ability is to your current scenario.

More than ever before, how you set up Sora’s equipment and abilities has a major impact on how easy fights throughout the game go. Each of the game’s systems are very well balanced, and you’ll find that you can play the game in the style that best suits you without the game restricting you into a specific playstyle.

The combat of Kingdom Hearts II is a key example of an optimised system that allows its players to take full advantage of everything that it has to offer.

Returning from the original Kingdom Hearts, traversing between each world is once again achieved through the Gummi Ship – a seemingly low-polygon, on-rails, starship bullet-hell shooter.

These segments were the weakest element of Kingdom Hearts, and the same rings true for Kingdom Hearts II, unfortunately. However, this time round it’s less due to these segments being weak, but more that every other aspect of the game is significantly stronger and more enjoyable by comparison.

A small part of me finds the Gummi Ship segments pretty enjoyable in Kingdom Hearts II. These sections are far faster-paced than in the previous game, as Gummi segments in Kingdom Hearts felt like a crawl to reach the end, with not much happening in the meantime.

Now each Gummi Ship route feels different from the last – well, at least most of them. The background visuals while still nothing to write home about are vastly more interesting too.

The abilities that you can modify your Gummi Ship with boost the action of each route tenfold. There are more enemies to destroy and more perils that you will need to avoid.

The Gummi Ship missions can still be relatively tedious to go through when you’re itching to make it to the next world, but regardless, the improvements made do make these sections a lot more enjoyable.

There is some much to love about Kingdom Hearts II. Every tweak and modification to the gameplay and the mechanics come from a place of love from the developers. Furthermore, the sheer scope of improvement between Kingdom Hearts to Kingdom Hearts II is immeasurable.

There is a reason why any Kingdom Hearts fan will tell you that Kingdom Hearts II is the best in the series – it’s because it is. Everything is far grander than anything that had come before; almost every change made was for the better.

The sub-plots of each Disney world are perhaps where the game is at its weakest, especially in comparison to the original Kingdom Hearts. However, this is nothing but a single raindrop in a river when contrasted against everything other element of the story-telling and gameplay of Kingdom Hearts II.

Kingdom Hearts II earns a 10/10

Thank you very much for reading my review of Kingdom Hearts II. It was such a great game to play through, and on Critical Mode it gave me one of the most enjoyable challenges I’ve had in a long time.

What about you? Have you played Kingdom Hearts II yet? If not I would highly recommend it. If you have, do you agree with my rating?

For more from BlackDiscGaming we post other reviews and discussions related to gaming, you can find links to them below:

Video Game Reviews Video Game Discussions

For the rest of my Kingdom Hearts reviews so far, you can find them here:

Kingdom HeartsKingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories

Have a great day!