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!

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Pokémon: Yellow – Game Review

Pokemon Yellow Info CardNote: This review is based on the Virtual Console release of Pokémon: Yellow, played on a New Nintendo 3DS XL console.

Pokémon: Yellow was originally released in 1999 and is the first case in the west of a third entry into a Pokémon generation. With the exponential growth in popularity with the Pokémon anime, Pokémon: Yellow aims to capitalise on this. As a result, Pokémon: Yellow is a hybrid game, taking the gameplay and main game narrative from Pokémon: Red & Blue, however certain story beats follow closer to the adventures of Ash Ketchum from the anime.

The key changes present in Yellow are fairly small in number, however the ways in which the affect and improve the player experience makes Yellow the definitive way to play the first generation of Pokémon.

The first, and key marketing change for Pokémon: Yellow is that, as opposed to Red & Blue, rather than choosing a starter out of: Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander, you are given a Pikachu to begin your adventure.

This change was clearly made to resemble Ash and Pikachu from the anime; the Pikachu even stays out of its pokéball and follows you around.

Furthermore, following suit to its source material the Pikachu you obtain is unable to evolve.

Personally, I really despised this element of Yellow. I absolutely loved the concept of your Pikachu following you; it aided the connection that you, as the player, can form with your starter. This was the first instance of this in any Pokémon game and it is a really endearing feature.

However, without being able to evolve poor little Pikachu, by the time you reach the third gym, its stats will see it fall to the bottom of the team fast. The other members of your team that have evolved and grown stronger overshadow your Pikachu greatly.

Therefore, you may end up finding yourself doing what I did – placing it in a storage box to rot in favour of having a more offensively viable electric type, such as a Jolteon.

I found it a real shame to have to ditch my partner, but it was making my experience more unenjoyable through having to return to a Pokémon Centre every 5 battles to heal.

Despite not being able to choose from the original starter Pokémon of Red & Blue, throughout the game, you are still able to obtain all three of the Kanto Starter Pokémon.

Once again, they are obtained in a very similar way to how Ash encounters them in the anime. Obtaining and using these Pokémon is entirely optional, and dependant on the type of team you want to build, you may end up not using them.

I loved that you could obtain all three starters in Yellow. Not only did it mean that I could add three powerful monsters to my team, but in order to obtain them for your Pokédex you didn’t need to trade for them.

That being said, if you’re out for a full Pokédex you’ll still need to trade to ‘Catch ‘em All’.

Cosmetically, Pokémon: Yellow gave nearly every Pokémon a new front-facing sprite. The purpose of this was to have each Pokémon more closely resemble their appearance in the anime. It’s due to this that many Pokémon design were unified and updated – maintaining their looks from Yellow in every subsequent game after this.

I like the new appearances for each Pokémon, especially when comparing some of the new sprites to the originals in Red & Blue – looking at you Golbat.

Although, the back sprites for every Pokémon remained unchanged, so some Pokémon still retain their nightmare-fuel status.

Outside of these changes, the core gameplay of Pokémon: Yellow remains almost identical to the original Red & Blue. Many of the original faults in the games’ code have also been carried over into Yellow, in which many of the mechanics in the game either work differently to how they were intended, or they simply don’t work at all.

One example in this much longer list, is the type-effectiveness of Ghost-type moves. Ghost-type moves were intended to be super effective against Psychic-type Pokémon, however, due to an error in the design of the game, moves such as Lick are rendered completely ineffective.

Furthermore, due to Ghost being negated by Psychic and Bug not having any strong damaging moves, the Psychic-type was extremely overpowered due to a lack of counters.

There are many more of these coding issues that can truly hinder a player’s strategy or even their enjoyment. However, with a firm understanding of these faulty mechanics, this discrepancy is almost negated. In some instances, you can even use them to your advantage.

The combat of the game is a turn-based RPG, which each side being allowed a single action per turn. This is a great, albeit simple, design for combat. It makes each decision important, especially in particularly difficult encounters and can allow for a deep level of planning and strategy to overcome your opponents.

An issue with the combat system in this game, as well as in Red & Blue is that when a Pokémon is put to sleep, waking up is considered its action for the turn.

This is also the case for when a Pokémon is restricted from movement by moves like Bind and Wrap.

Should a Pokémon be slower than the one inflicting these kinds of moves, when a Pokémon is freed from these statuses, they consume their turns and may potentially become inflicted by them immediately after.

When this happens repeatedly in a single battle, any pacing is immediately halted. It becomes a chore to take down these Pokémon.

Despite the issues with faulty coding and abusable mechanics, the rest of the game is very well balanced to provide a reasonable, yet enjoyable challenge to the player.

As you explore the Kanto region, you’ll find yourself fraught with challenge, be it from Gym Leaders, to the sinister Team Rocket, to just making it through a route or dungeon. Resource management and understanding of the game’s mechanics are what you will be tested against.

Understanding the advantageous type matchups and keeping on top of your Pokémon’s health (HP), or their moves (PP); ensuring that you have enough potions to keep you going to the next Pokémon Centre – this is your challenge as a Trainer in Pokémon: Yellow as you strive to become the Pokémon Champion.

Pokémon: Yellow doesn’t often give you a lot of things for free. As a result, to keep your Pokémons’ levels on par with upcoming challenges and making sure you have the money required to stock up on necessary items is entirely down to you.

To cope against the strongest trainers in the game, you’ll need to fight against every trainer you find. However, the developers have done an incredible job at ensuring you’ll never need to grind levels against weaker wild Pokémon so long as you face every challenge.

As far as game design goes, this is pretty excellent. You’re never really required to do any work outside of what is put in front of you – while you can skip as many trainers as possible, you won’t reap the benefits.

The technical issues can bring the game down, and a few of the design choices in the combat can become cumbersome and tedious. Despite this, however, Pokémon: Yellow is an immensely enjoyable experience. The game doesn’t do much to split itself apart from the previous Red & Blue, but the few tweaks it does make, makes this version, in my opinion, the true generation one Pokémon experience.

Pokémon: Yellow earns a 6/10

Thank you very much for reading my review of Pokémon: Yellow. I figured that I would return to cover this game prior to the release of Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! & Let’s Go Eevee! so I could compare between the two iterations.

Have you played Pokémon: Yellow? If so, what did you think? If you haven’t, would you consider revisiting it?

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Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Game Review

Assassin's Creed Origins Info CardIf you were to ask almost any fan of the Assassin’s Creed series how they felt about the quality of the games back in 2016, they would most likely have told you that their quality had taken quite the nose-dive.

As of 2010, following the release of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ubisoft had cemented their intentions of making new Assassin’s Creed titles release annually. It’s my firm belief that this is what resulted in this sharp drop in quality.

This pattern of consistent, annual releases persisted through to 2015, with the release of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. The game was, by far, more polished that the previous Assassin’s Creed: Unity. However, at its core, the game was the same as it had always been since the franchise’s inception in 2007.

It was becoming apparent that Ubisoft needed to innovate and evolve the franchise to attract new fans and keep long-time fans enthusiastic.

Enter Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Having taken a highly-needed year’s hiatus and boasting a huge mix-up to the gameplay foundations, the game released in 2017. The questions on everyone’s minds: can it deliver a breath of fresh air into the series, or will it remain just as stagnant as it had become?

The answer to this… a little bit of both.

As the title of the game would suggest and through the promotional material leading up to the game’s release, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is referred to as the ‘Birth of the Assassin Order’.

From this, I was expecting a plot with more purpose. Instead, I was met with a haphazard narrative that left me viewing the origin story of the Assassins as more of an accident than anything else. I’d say that it was only the last half an hour of the story that any semblance of the Order could be seen.

Due to the way that the narrative was presented, I couldn’t really see that anything had changed for the series – Our protagonist, Bayek of Siwa’s backstory is nothing different from anything that we had come to see from previous protagonists.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if I found out that the game was intended as a joke, or spoof of the other games in the franchise. Everything tradition and symbolic representation of the Assassin Order, that you would expect to have some form of significant meaning, is accidental and almost meaningless.

In the first Assassin’s Creed, the Assassins lack a ring finger. The reason was given as requiring full commitment from those that wield it. The meaning that this concept represented helped me to immerse myself in the lore of Assassin’s Creed. However, this concept is not carried over into Origins and I can’t help but feel that it suffers from it.

I’m no more clued into the rise of the Assassin Order than I was before starting the game.

Despite, my feelings towards to plot of Origins, Bayek, as a protagonist is fun and enjoyable. His character delivers on what has been sorely lacking for a long time – a connectable character.

Arno from Unity and Edward Kenway from Black Flag brought a strong sense of humour to the table, and Jacob and Evie from Syndicate demonstrated the two halves of Chaotic and Lawful Good. However, Bayek returns the humanity of the Assassins.

The Assassins of late had started to become two-dimensional and near god-like in their abilities. While I said that Bayek is nothing different from what we’ve seen before, the approach taken for his character is.

His inciting incident is nothing short of tragic and in a way, it was provoked entirely from his own actions.

Bayek is a Medjay – a protector of his people. He keeps his people safe from harm, and through being this symbol of protection, it marks him by his enemies. He is a character that loses almost everything.

Despite this, in his quest for vengeance, he never forgets his role as Medjay. Ubisoft utilise their setting in Ancient Egypt and the beliefs that its people hold to their full advantage. Bayek’s religious beliefs are what anchor him down and work together with his role as Medjay to portray a wonderful and enjoyable character.

There has been a lot of care and effort gone into to allowing players to connect with their primary character – Bayek has been brought to life in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time and I hope that they maintain the principles of his character’s creation going forward.

I just wish that I could say the same for the other characters in the game. Assassin’s Creed: Origins ushers in the return of the split narrative between the historical era and the present day.

I was glad to see that Origins was attempting the bring relevance back to the present-day narrative threads that had been set up since the resolution of Desmond’s arc in Assassin’s Creed III. Furthermore, the present-day narrative even returns to a third person perspective. This time we follow a female character called Layla – but she’s so dull!

Unlike Desmond, there is no authentic connection to Layla. We aren’t given any real reason as to why we’re following her. She is uninteresting and the only character traits that she displays is arrogance and anger.

We’re constantly told about the bad blood she has with Abstergo Industries, but aside from one small instance, we’re never shown their conflict. What worked so well with connecting to Desmond was through his close proximity to them; everything that Desmond did was from a direct result of Abstergo, we were clearly shown the antagonistic role. There is hardly any of that with Layla’s character.

Layla needs considerably more screen time to develop her character, screen time that just wasn’t present in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Layla isn’t the only character that I didn’t find myself enjoying. Aya, Bayek’s wife and secondary playable character. The dual historical narrative that was introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate makes a water-down return.

Aya acts as a background character that serves to provide Bayek with the necessary equipment or information to pursue his next goal. I actually appreciate the ability to play as Aya to see what has transpired, rather than just being told. It isn’t here gameplay that I have an issue with, rather her character in general.

I tried to engage with her, I really did. However, I couldn’t help but groan every time she was involved with a scene. This feeling was only augmented whenever she shared a scene with Bayek. Aya is a bland character; there is no natural change or growth to her character throughout the game. She only seemed to have four emotions on her spectrum: anger, love, love-fuelled anger and anger-fuelled love.

As a result, in the scene that she shares with Bayek, he would constantly steal the show with both a more compelling narrative and approach.

If I had to say anything about, it’s that she wreaks of missed potential.

Narrative and characters aside, the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is truly something new and exciting yet remaining familiar.

Ubisoft have taken the well-known gameplay formula of Assassin’s Creed and twisted it to become more of an RPG than ever before. While the core basis of an action-platformer is still present, they have been heavily supplemented by a slew of new features and controls.

Origins seemingly takes inspiration from other popular, western RPGs such as The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. The game offers a new level of depth to a multitude of gameplay features that had been introduced in previous entries in the Assassin’s Creed series.

The weapon system has drastically evolved since Syndicate, there is now a much larger number of weapons and weapon types, each that have varying damage outputs as well as different weapon perks and abilities – these abilities can range from Bows having faster charging speeds, to Sickle Swords having the ability to poison on contact.

This is a great improvement as it provides a huge boon to the amount of customisation for your character, this helps to make the gameplay experience in Origins feel unique to each player.

Furthermore, combat in general has been immensely overhauled. The button-mapping is more intuitive than it has ever been, different commands are allocated dedicated buttons. Rather than a ‘fast’ counter-kill system each combat scenario, for the most part, involves reading your opponents and reacting to their attacks. For example, you now have a dedicated dodge button as well as the return of light and heavy attacks; you can avoid incoming enemy attacks, use a heavy attack to lower their guard and then defeat them with a string of light attacks.

The stronger you get through the game you’ll still find that beating your enemy into submission is still a viable tactic. Now, however, the combat feels like just as much of a forefront thought than just the platforming from previous titles.

The combat provides a new challenge to older veterans of the series, engaging them more than they ever have been before. Meanwhile, this improved gameplay feature offers a fun and enjoyable experience for newcomers as well.

Demonstrating this greater focus on RPG elements, Assassin’s Creed: Origins offers a dedicated levelling and skills system. Through killing enemies, completing sub-areas and complete quests you are rewarded with Experience Points (XP). With enough XP, you level up and receive a buff to your maximum health and damage output.

With each level up, as well as through complete specific side objectives, you are given Ability Points that you can use to purchase different abilities on a Skill Tree. These abilities can either help you in combat by giving you new commands to carry out, or something more passive such as auto-looting enemies when you’ve killed them.

This levelling system works very well to produce a soft restriction on the activities you can undertake – and I love the way the game deals with this!

In previous Assassin’s Creed games, you were required to complete specific parts of the story to progress around the world map. However, outside of the opening sequence of Origins, these barriers are gone.

From after the opening hour of the game, you are free to explore the rest of Ancient Egypt. However, this is where the levelling system comes into play. Not only are you given a level, so is every enemy in the game. Therefore, to have any chance of taking them down, you’ll need to be close to their level.

This means you’ll need to do quests that are on your current level in order to grow and be able to tackle these higher areas.

I love that there are no real restrictions on how much you are able to explore, but you’re just restricted on how much you are able to do for the time being. This works great because Assassin’s Creed: Origins offers the largest world map in the Assassin’s Creed series to this point.

Exploration is 50% of the game, maybe more. Like a solid 70%.

While you have all of Egypt to explore, only half the map is compulsory to visit during the main game. Therefore, if you were powering through the main story, you’ll have a huge amount to do in post-game!

Each area and sub-area of the game is indicated by a ‘?’ icon. Each of these locations has its own set of objectives that it wants you to complete. These could be either killing the Captain of the area or looting the treasure that reside there.

I couldn’t help but feel compelled to track down each of these ‘?’s and complete each objective. It was always immensely satisfying seeing the ‘Location Complete’ text blaze across the screen.

Perhaps one of the biggest staples of the Assassin’s Creed series is Eagle Vision. Across the series, the ability has grown and adapted. In Assassin’s Creed: Origins we’re treated to its earliest days – literal Eagle Vision.

Origins grants the player control over Bayek’s Eagle, Senu. Senu can do everything that previous iterations of Eagle Vision was able to – from the skies, Senu can scan the environment to highlight enemies and treasures and tag them for Bayek to follow.

Senu is an ingenious addition to the gameplay of Origins, and probably my favourite addition to the game. Her presence felt organic and never interrupted the flow of the gameplay. It takes the concept of what Eagle Vision has always been but improves it in every way.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is without a doubt the best Assassin Creed title to be released in recent memory. Though it’s a shame that it isn’t really that much of an achievement.

The game adapts and evolves the formula that had become synonymous with the Assassin’s Creed name and improves on a lot of stale features. However, the game still lacks a spark that made the earlier titles so remarkable.

To reach the heights of the Desmond saga, Ubisoft still need to develop a solid idea of where they want the series to go and decide on the end goal that they want to reach. With that being said, I can firmly say that Assassin’s Creed: Origins is at least worth your time, so give it a try. This is finally a game that feels complete, and most importantly, fun!

Assassin’s Creed: Origins earns an 8 out of 10

Thank you for reading my review of Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Have you played the game yet? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments, do you agree with me in my verdict?

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Last Window: Secret of Cape West – Game Review

Last Window Info CardLast Window: The Secret of Cape West was released for the Nintendo DS in 2010 by CiNG Inc. – a now defunct game developer – and is a sequel to Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Despite this the game doesn’t require you to have played the previous game in order to understand it. There are references to events of Hotel Dusk, however the information that you need to know is told to you within Last Window.

The game is an adventure-puzzle game that doubles as more-or-less an interactive novel. You are Kyle Hyde – an ex-detective that now works in the business of retrieving ‘items that don’t want to be found’. Upon returning to your apartment at Cape West, you are met with an eviction notice as the building is to be demolished at the start of the new year. As well as this, you find a mysterious letter requesting you to find the Scarlet Star – an object that went missing 25 years prior.

The art direction of the game is a fairly unique one too. The background surroundings of what you see and interact with are in 3D, with the characters and cutscene dialogue entirely in a sketched 2D style.

You’d think that this combination of design would be heavily jarring and in all honesty, it is for the first hour of gameplay. However, as you become accustomed to it you begin to view this design style as charming.

As a player, you need the more detailed backgrounds to discern one object from another to aid in your investigation. Though this doesn’t work to the extent that it is needed. There are some occasions when you aren’t provided enough detail on screen to see what you’re actually looking at.

Each area is nearly filled to the brim with items to examine and click on. So, when you’re looking for one item in particular, it can become a slog to find the item you require. This is only made worse when you’ve skipped over what you’re after all because it looked so similar to another item you had clicked on previously that hadn’t been what you needed.

This doesn’t happen often, but there were one or two occasions when I was genuinely scouting a single room for twenty minutes because I constantly glossed over an item that I thought was pointless.

As a result, you may find yourself clicking on every item you see just hoping you’ll find what you need.

Outside of the 3D environment of the game, you get the feeling that above all else, the developers wanted the games story and writing to shine through. Every item has some tight description, and some even offer insight into Hyde’s own personality.

The plot of Last Window as a whole is very tightly written and in my opinion,  it is very strong and compelling. As comes with the territory for detective-based narrative, you are thrown an adequate amount of twists and turns along the way. A few of these are quite the shocking revelation that you wouldn’t have seen coming. At the same time, there are a couple of story beats that you could have seen coming a mile away.

Regardless, the way that the game is paced, you’re rarely going to find yourself bored with each new development and will want to carry on with the story.

The gameplay takes place entirely in Cape West, your apartment building. As you progress through the game, you learn more about the building, its secrets and the people who live there.

Each character is very well developed. There is no speech in Last Window only text, but despite this with how each character is written, it is clear to distinguish each character’s personality and in some instances even their dialect and speech-patterns.

There are only one or two characters that are as fully-realised as the rest of the ensemble, yet, there lack of presence is hardly needed. In fact, by these few characters having a little less screen-time than other gives the building a sense of life. All of these characters lives don’t revolve around Hyde cracking the case.

This is an aspect of narrative that I think even Triple-A titles nowadays lack, so to see it come from a 2010 DS title of all places is a real pleasant surprise.

Although being an adventure-puzzle game, there are very few actual puzzles in Last Window. Rather than the game bog you down with puzzle after puzzle, like in the Professor Layton series, the tasks you have to complete are relatively mundane with a narrative-focus behind it. This could be something such as, taking money from out of a money box, to re-attaching a doorknob.

This may seem extremely unappealing and tedious to some extent at a first glance, yet there is a lot more depth that this brings to the game. While the Professor Layton games expect you to perform some form of mental arithmetic or pattern recognition, Last Window challenges you to think laterally when you approach problem-solving.

This is aided by CiNG taking complete advantage of the Nintendo DS’s hardware capabilities. I don’t think a single feature of the system goes unused within the game. The touch screen is the part that you will be using most to progress through the game – from general movement about the apartment to overcoming obstacles. However, it isn’t always used in a traditional sense; while you have one stylus, sometimes you need more than a single touch at once.

Furthermore, Last Window also takes advantage of the microphone and even the ability to close the lid of the DS of all things.

Last Window compels you to think beyond what you need to do in the game, it makes you think what actions you as the player need to do in the real world.

Overall, the game is a pretty linear experience, you are following an interactive novel to its conclusion after all. The game provides you with an ample amount of hints pertaining to each situation you find yourself in and what you’re supposed to be doing next. An example of how this works is, if you are looking for a specific item or clue, you’ll reach invisible barriers that prevent you from straying too far from where you’ll find what you’re after.

Last Window does an expert job at telling you what you’re supposed to be doing without telling you how it’s meant to be done. The can allow for immense satisfaction when you find the solution on your own merit. Rather than feel as though Hyde has completed to task, you feel the success and in some instances can feel pretty damn proud of yourself.

What’s even better, is that how you go about solving puzzles isn’t set in stone a lot of the time. Some puzzles don’t have a single solution to them, there can be instances where there a multiple different ways to reach a conclusion. How you find your answer will depend on the kind of thinker that you are.

Though you’re pigeon-holed into staying in a designated area, and the overall narrative of the game is on rails to the conclusion, that isn’t to say that it’s impossible to fail either. Throughout the game, you’ll find yourself where you can fail resulting in a ‘Game Over’. This can come from either fail at pushing forward in interrogations to letting slip information to someone that you shouldn’t have.

I absolutely love this element to the game.

Rather than rushing through to the end, you actually have to stop and consider the actions that you’re taking as well as listen to what each resident of Cape West tells you. Going against what they say or simply not listening can and most often will result in a Game Over.

Unfortunately, this added variety doesn’t do much in the long run. Though there are multiples way of solving puzzles and areas that can result in a Game Over, there is only a single path for you to ultimately follow.

This game could have benefitted drastically by having another couple of potential endings – even if they weren’t canon to the novelisation that is being built up as you play through the game. Although, this is a DS title from 2010, so I can cut it a little slack, as the story that is delivered is very strong.

As for penalties that come from getting a Game Over, there aren’t really any. If you reach a Game Over, you can retry immediately from the start of the string of actions that led you to fail. So, if you don’t take advantage of being able to save before a long conversation, or even in the middle, you’ll probably find you’ve set yourself your own penalty.

Though there could have been added benefit to having more of a penalty, which would encourage the player to take more care, I believe that this lack of any penalty plays into the game’s strengths.

Though having no added pressure of a penalty for failure, being dropped straight back into the task at hand leaves you with a feeling of: ‘I know what I need to do right this time’. As a result, with the compelling narrative and engaging tasks, you’ll easily find yourself sinking a lot of time into the game in a single sitting without even realising it.

Last Window isn’t that long either. If you’re a slow reader (like me), you’ll probably finish the game in around 15 hours or so. This is where things become a little bitter-sweet; the tragic part is that at its core Last Window’s most engaging aspects are its puzzles. Once you’ve beaten the game once, you aren’t likely going to return to the game for a while.

There isn’t much to do after the credits role. As I said earlier, the game is an interactive novel and once you’ve completed the entire game you unlock the complete narrative in novel form. There is a completion bonus of unlocking an epilogue that fills you in on what a few characters got up to after they left Cape West, but beyond that – nothing.

I can easily recommend this game to anyone that enjoys puzzle games, but only so long as you don’t mind the lack of replayability. If not then it’s entirely down to your discretion.

Regardless, I loved this game. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down for hours. It’s a greatly compelling narrative woven together perfectly with expert design choices and enjoyable puzzles. Though it does have a limited life-span, I can’t recommend this game enough to those who want a challenge.

This is a game that will stick in your mind, and whether for the story or the puzzles, you’ll want to play it again.

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West earns a 9/10
(7/10 if you’re wanting something with replay value)

Last Window is a fitting name for this game in more ways that one. Not only is the Kyle Hyde’s last window of opportunity to gain closure on the past, but it was CiNG Inc.’s last window to save themselves from bankruptcy. It’s a shame that CiNG couldn’t stay around, this was a fantastic game and I can’t help but feel that there is still more that we could have seen from Kyle Hyde’s story. Unfortunately, we’ll never get to know.


Thank you for reading this review and making it to the end. I hope that you’ll consider picking up Last Window if you haven’t already.

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Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories – Game Review

Yu-Gi-Oh Forbidden Memories Info CardYu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories or Yu-Gi-Oh! True Duel Monsters: Sealed Memories as it was known in Japan, when it first released in December 1999, was the first Yu-Gi-Oh! video game to have a western release.

I loved this game when I was a kid, and I would sink hours and hours into it every weekend. Although, I wasn’t very good and couldn’t really get past some of the earliest fights in the game. Regardless, I enjoyed finally being able to play the card game against people – something I could never do in the real world as no-one would play it with me.

The plot of Forbidden Memories (very) loosely follows the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga and anime and takes place after the Duelist Kingdom arc. Not that it matters, as the majority of the game takes place long before the anime in ancient Egypt.

You follow the nameless Pharaoh – or Atem as he is now known to be. You are tasked with obtaining all of the Millennium Items to stop the evil Mage Heishin from taking over the world. The plot is nothing ground-breaking, but for an original PlayStation title, it was nice that there even was one at all and it sets the stakes pretty nicely too.

As you would expect from a video game based on Yu-Gi-Oh! the gameplay is nothing but duel after duel, with no variation to it.

The gameplay mechanics of duelling is practically identical to the first season of the anime; it’s no-where near as complicated as it is now with not a pendulum in sight.

Each player can only play one card per turn and, in battle, the card with the highest number wins. The aim is to reduce the opponents Life Points to zero.

Most of the game mechanics have been significantly watered down from the Trading Card Game’s official rules.

Outside of monster cards, there are equip cards that have been slightly. Attack and Defense points increases now operate on a level system. Most equip cards boost a monster’s Attack and Defense points by one level, which equal to 500 points.

The only new mechanic introduced for Forbidden Memories is the Guardian Star system.

Each monster card in the game is allocated two different Guardian Stars that you choose between when you play it. These Stars act as a rock, paper, scissors system with each Star having another that they are either superior or inferior to.

The superior Guardian Sign has their points boosted by one stage against the opposing card.

So, for example, the card: Twin-Headed Thunder Dragon (ATK: 2800/ DEF: 2100) had the Guardian Star signs of Pluto and Moon. If you were to set the monster with the Pluto sign, it would have an advantage over Neptune signs. However, up against Uranus it would have the disadvantage.

Due to this, duels became more about which card had the highest power. Instead, there was strategy in place to help either player take down an opposing monster that their basic power may just be a few Attack points short of beating.

You would be rewarded for having a working knowledge of how these Guardian Star signs worked against each other – or if you had a table of how they worked alongside you while playing.

Card fusion was also present in this game as well, though it was made a lot easier for either player to pull it off.

In Forbidden Memories, fusing cards worked through card type and attack power rather than specific criteria.

So, once again using the Twin-Headed Thunder Dragon as an example, if you were to fuse a Dragon type monster and an Electric type monster and at least one of those monsters had Attack points above 1600, the result would be the Twin-Headed Thunder Dragon.

Through this mechanic, you could be as creative as you wanted to be to create the card that you’re after. Furthermore, through this style of fusion in the game, experimentation is key to success – at least for the earlier parts of the game.

Once again, you’re rewarding for understanding how cards fuse as well as understanding your own deck.

As a result, you’re able to forge really power cards without having to own them directly so long as you knew the correct combinations. This can allow for the tide of any duel to turn in an instant. With the right fusion, either you or your opponent can take control of the duel – this can make for extremely satisfying duels when you overcome an obstacle that you didn’t see coming.

This is a really beneficial tactic, and fusing monsters is practically compulsory to beat this game.

My younger self wasn’t just bad at this game, like I had once thought. No – this game is just incredibly difficult!

Almost from the get-go, the game is seemingly always against the player – attempting to give you the hardest time possible.

There are constant difficulty spikes; opponents will very quickly overpower you by having cards much more powerful that you at a point in the game that you can’t access them yourself. As early as Pegasus, only one third into the game, he can summon the Meteor B. Dragon (ATK: 3500/ DEF: 3000) – the single strongest, stand-alone card that you can earn in the entire game as a card drop.

The card drops in the game are (almost) entirely random. Even from the final duel in the entire game, you could either win the best cards in the game or some of the weakest. There isn’t a lot of downward scaling in card drops, as a result this makes the game feel heavily against the player.

While speedrunner of the game have found ways to manipulate the RNG (Random Number Generation) to get the cards they need more easily, but for casual players to get the best cards, grinding is a necessity.

If you aren’t ready to commit yourself to spending at least five hours of your life – most likely more, to grinding out cards from duels, then you won’t be having the best time with this game.

This is where the free-duel mode of the game comes into play. Within the main campaign if you lose a duel it’s Game Over. However, in free-duel mode, you can go back and rematch any opponent that you’ve beaten in the main story.

This is where you’ll find yourself spending most of your gameplaying time, and where you’ll be spending your time grinding for those cards.

Cards aren’t the only collectible you’ll be grinding for in this game though. Forbidden Memories also has a currency: Star Chips.

As you win duels you’ll earn Star Chips dependant on the ranking you receive, ranging from D to S, where you’ll win 1-5 Star Chips respectively. You’re ranking is determined on how fast you beat your opponent, how many Life Points you have at the end and so on.

These Star Chips can then be transferred for new cards – this is where I think it gets pretty cool. Every Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game card has a ten-digit code on the bottom left of it. For almost every card up until those made in 1999, those codes can be input into the game to be unlocked in the game.

The cards still cost Star Chips however, and it’s only a one-time purchase for them all through this method though.

So, you’re probably thinking that if you’re willing to spending some time grinding out some Star Chips to earn enough to buy the best cards in the game, and make things easier on you, you’d be right.

BUT DON’T DO THIS AT ALL!

Y’see this is where things get a little ridiculous.

Say you’d want to buy one of the most iconic cards from the series: Dark Magician or Blue-Eyes White Dragon, it’s gonna cost you 999,999 Star Chips – for just one of them.

Just to put that in perspective for you:

The most Star Chips you can earn from one duel is 5. To earn 999,999 Star Chips, you’ll have to win a minimum of 200,000 duels with the highest rank. Presuming that you can speed through a duel in an average of three minutes, you can get 480 duels done of a 24-hour period.

Therefore, to get the amount you need to buy one card at this value, equates to about 416 days and 14 consecutive hours of duelling.

There are around 50 cards worth 999,999 Star Chips – that’s 57 years of non-stop duelling.

So yeah. Don’t bother trying to buy these cards. It’s far easier to grind out the cards you want through drops and squirm your way through the duels you’re struggling against than to buy one of these cards.

This is why I wish that the card drop rates were a little more in the players favour, so that obtaining stronger cards was much easier. The way it is, it feels more like unnecessary padding more than anything else.

If this were the case, you could probably beat Forbidden Memories in around two hours.

So, if you’re up for it, get ready for a lot of free-duelling.

This feels like a perfect time to talk about the music in Forbidden Memories.

Overall, the music is pretty solid. There are a few stand-out tracks that are great to duel to. As for the free-duel music, it’s alright – it’s certainly one of the catchier tracks in the soundtrack, which is good as you’ll be listening to it a lot.

This is the problem though. As you’ll be spending the majority of your time in free-duel, so that track is all you’ll be hearing for a lot of the time. Furthermore, all of the amazing tracks that play during boss fights are lost forever once you progress beyond them.

The game could have benefit from having a track select option for the free-duels where you can pick the track you want to play to for hours on end. Or there could have at least been a variety of tracks that play, just something to break up the same song that plays over and over again.

This isn’t a huge issue, but it just could have helped improve the experience of endless grinding.

In honesty, I love this game! I loved it as a child, and going back to it now, it still holds up and is easy to get stuck into whenever.

Yeah, it’s unfair for players and grinding is a requirement to have an okay time, but this artificial difficulty plays to game’s strengths in some regards.

The mechanics are simple to grasp, and the duels are quick to finish. If the odds are against you in one duel, you can jump straight back in to another one and try again.

Some may see it as a little too simplistic, but for an original PlayStation title, the game does well with its capabilities to give players a fun time.

It may be a little divisive – if you’re not up for grinding for hours then it may not be for you, but if you can get past that, you’ll find a game that is easy to enjoy and fun to play.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories earns a 7/10

Thank you for reading to the end, we hope you enjoyed this review. What do you think? Did you agree with what we said?

If you haven’t played Forbidden Memories, do you think you’ll give it a try?

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Top 5: Ratchet and Clank Games

There will be a few spoilers about the games that I discuss sprinkled throughout this post. If you don’t want to be spoiled for any of the games in the series then I highly suggest turning away now – that has been your PSA.

Ratchet and Clank has always been my favourite video game series of all-time. Though not all of the games in the series are exactly what you would call: good, the games that are shine like gems.

So here is a list of my five favourite entries in the series – the number one position obviously being the number one game, however, the other four titles are not in any particular order. They are all great games and it’s virtually impossible to pick one about the other.

It goes without saying that this is a list comprised of my own opinions; therefore, these thoughts may be very different from your own. If you disagree with anything on this list then let me know: what is your favourite Ratchet and Clank game?

Now, without further ado:

#5 – Ratchet and Clank (Future): A Crack in Time

A Crack in Time (ACiT) is, to me, the last true Ratchet and Clank game in the main canon story-line. This game feels like the last time the series truly knew where the story was heading.

The narrative that had culminated throughout the previous two games in the Future Saga reached a perfect peak in ACiT.

The game had a clear goal that it set out to achieve and practically everything in lead to reaching this goal. Furthermore, the emotional impact that every twist and turn had were well-paced and effective.

The unanswered questions that had arisen throughout both the previous games in the Future Saga as well as the Original Saga were, for better or worse, answered and rounded up nicely.

The gameplay was nothing to scoff at either. The physics and mechanics were fine-tuned to compensate perfectly for Ratchet having to cope without Clank. The Hover Boots were a great inclusion and felt like a great evolution from the Charge Boots of yester-year. Plus, rather than being a throw-away feature to aid movement, the boots had story relevance and were enjoyable to *ahem* boot.

Plus, as has come before with other Ratchet and Clank games, the weapons were wacky, zany and fun.

#4 – Ratchet and Clank (2002)

Of course the first game would find a place on this list!

Without this game, the rest of the series wouldn’t have come to exist in the first place.

The first Ratchet and Clank game, while by no means perfect or even better than almost any game in the series, established the core formula that most of the games has followed over the course of its sixteen year lifespan.

A near perfect combination of platforming to combat made the game engrossing to play through. For a first entry it’s no wonder why, out of all 3D platformers of the early 2000s, Ratchet and Clank is the one to have survived to this day.

No, the plot wasn’t as deep as it would become in later titles, especially as strong as it was in ACiT, and Ratchet could be a borderline insufferable. However, the simplicity and growth of the primary characters, and seeing the start of Ratchet and Clank’s friendship is what shine through about the first game.

Ratchet and Clank was the perfect benchmark for the series, Insomniac had found a winning formula and it was only onward and upward from here.

#3 – Ratchet and Clank (2016)

It’s a little peculiar going back-to-back from the first game in the series to the latest.

Rebooting the series, starting at the origin story, was the perfect opportunity for Insomniac to show off everything that they had learnt in developing the series – after all, hindsight is 20-20.

Having taken the time to experiment with mixing the formula in later titles in the series, with All 4 One and (Into the) Nexus, Insomniac returned to form with the best formula for gameplay in a Ratchet and Clank game.

Personally I think that the story of the re-imagining is not as strong as what it could have been – we have the tie-in with the movie to thank for that. But it isn’t by any means a terrible story; just trying to be more clever than it needed to be.

The gameplay for the re-imagining is by far the strongest the series has ever had. The combat and platformer are close to perfect in every way. The game is an undoubtedly fun experience, bringing together everything that had made the previous games so fun, and improves upon it all.

#2 – Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando/ Locked and Loaded

While the gameplay in this game is by no means as strong as in either ACiT or the re-imagining, the best immediately improvements from one game to another goes to Ratchet and Clank 2.

This game took every single element that had made the original title such a success and drastically improved it.

The game had more of an RPG feel to it. Players were rewarded for both using their favourite weapons, experimenting with others and actively seeking out the carnage that comes with a Ratchet and Clank game, rather than avoiding.

An upgrade system was implemented. Health and Weapons could now be upgraded – what is better than killing enemies with your favourite weapon? Easy, killing enemies with a much stronger and flashier version of your favourite weapon!

The game’s design was perfect. Weirdly enough, this was my entry point into the series, but I didn’t need knowledge of the first game to thoroughly enjoy myself with the second.

Instead of alienating new players by focusing heavily on references to the previous title, the game actively compelled me to continue the game without feeling lost, why intriguing me enough to want to play its predecessor.

#1 – Ratchet and Clank: Full-Frontal Assaul- nahh, I’m just kidding.
#1 – Ratchet and Clank (Future): Tools of Destruction

This may be an odd choice for some people. I’ve placed its stronger sequel earlier in the list, so why does this game take the place of my favourite Ratchet and Clank game?

Marking the first entry in the Future Saga, this brought with it the winning formula that had almost been perfected across the original trilogy/ quadrilogy. However, this time the game had a much greater focus on narrative than ever before.

Tools of Destruction had the opportunity to present a fresh start for the series, and from this it starting setting up for an overarching plot to span this new Saga. Furthermore, alongside this idea of a clean slate, the game was the first game to have taken the jump to, at the time, next gen.

Due to this greater focus on the narrative, the characters in the Ratchet and Clank universe had never been so well realised. The new characters introduced were developed far more than new characters in the original trilogy.

For example, in Tools of Destruction we learn more about Talwyn and her character than we ever do for Sasha in Ratchet and Clank 3. Both of these characters shared an equal footing in screen-time in their games, but Talwyn is a character that feels a lot more fleshed out and memorable character.

Another example is Tachyon.  He is my favourite villain in the series. Dr. Nefarious is an extremely close second, but I can’t help but prefer Tachyon. He is menacing, a tad threatening and a condescending villain and as the player, I couldn’t wait to smash that little gremlin’s face in.

Probably time for another unpopular opinion – I enjoyed the ship sections too. It could have benefit from some form of customisation, much like in Ratchet and Clank 2 or even ACiT, but the on-rails style of battle was really engaging to me. It was very reminiscent of the Gummi Ship missions in Kingdom Hearts II, but with a little more of the ‘ooh-ahh’ factor.

The gameplay doesn’t feel as strong as it does in the later entries, especially the re-imagining, but it is still superb.

Not to mention how god-damn satisfying it all is! Bolts are earned so fast and seeing those big numbers makes me feel super happy because it fulfils my desire to earn a stable living.

Perhaps my absolute favourite thing, while entirely aesthetic, is the upgrade screen for each weapon. I’ve never felt so empowered!

I could stay here all-day and just gush about everything I love about Tools of Destruction – I just love it that much.

In my opinion, there aren’t any inherently ‘bad’ Ratchet and Clank games in the series – just different. I love this series with all my heart, and can only hope that we’ll continue to see the interstellar duo for many more years to come.

What did you think, did you agree or do you think I overlooked something?

This post was written by: Sam


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Sword Art Online Re:Hollow Fragment – Game Review

Sword Art Online ReHollow Fragment Info CardSword Art Online has become one of the most popular anime in recent history, spanning two full seasons, a third underway and a movie. So, it comes with the territory that a show about a video game would spawn a few games itself. However, just like the anime itself, the games have so much potential that it just misses.

Sword Art Online: Re:Hollow Fragment is a remake of the original Sword Art Online game released on PSP: Infinity Moment. The game itself takes place in a separate continuity to the anime, setting itself up as a ‘what if’ question to, what if SAO didn’t finish at floor 75? Alongside this, the characters from later arcs in the series are brought in too, those being Leafa and Sinon.

The concept of Re:Hollow Fragment isn’t bad at all; while exempt for the main cast of characters, ranging from Kirito to new characters Philia and Strea, the game maintains the threat of death. Any side characters can die during the game and remain dead; the game offers challenge to the player to attempt to keep every single character alive throughout the remaining 25 floors of the game. Plus, while the story isn’t anything huge and as actively engaging as other games of the genre, it has its points of interest that can engage with the fans of the anime.

Furthermore, regarding the anime, each character, aside from Kirito, have their anime 2D character design which is used for conversation cutscenes. The in-game character models of the main cast look pretty good and translate well into 3D as well; even more so with the 3D action cutscenes that take place every now and again.

The only issue this has, is regarding the character customisation. The player can stylise Kirito however they want. They can change, hair style and colour, sex, voice and so on. This is only cosmetic to in-game, because in these 3D action cutscenes, Kirito is returned to his canon appearance. The ability to allow the player to immerse themselves into the world of SAO by creating their own character is completely negated by ignoring these changes during cutscenes. While I understand that the game is an upgraded port of a PSP title, why include this as an option if any characterisation of the player character is removed?

When it comes to the gameplay, this is when the game really starts to struggle. Throughout Arc Sophia, the hub of the game on Floor 76, when there is an abundance of character models in the room, the game lags a lot. Frame rate drops so drastically that all you receive is a slideshow of what’s going on. This problem translates into other areas in the game, in dungeons and so on. It’s ambitious for the game to put in so much at once, but, for me who played this on the PS4 port, it makes me wonder how bad these sections would be on the original system.

In terms of combat – the main focus of the game, Re:Hollow Fragment attempts its best to emulate the combat style of MMORPGs. The idea is interesting, however, there is little depth to it. It is always difficult the replicate the MMO structure on console, as the use of a mouse cursor allows for a wider variety in play style than what can be done with a controller. This feels even more underwhelming with the PS4 port, the port doesn’t take advantage of the extra rear L2 and R2 buttons that the PS4 controller has that the PS Vita doesn’t. The port could have allowed for additional actioned to be mapped to these buttons to stream-line combat, but instead it feels like a missed opportunity. The only instance where they have taken advantage of the PS4 controller is through the touch pad. Half of the touch pad adjusts the map, and the other half opens a set-up menu.

The game feels as though it throws too much at you without really explaining any of it all too well. For instance, the ‘Implementation System’ offers a new level of depth to growth in the game. The Implementation System offers rewards for completing certain tasks, such as new abilities, but there is very little explanation of how these work in order to make full use of them. It took until several floors into the game for me to be curious enough about it, to google how it works.

Another aspect of the game that seems very polarising is the extent of grinding there is in the game. While, yes, this is an RPG and it’s to be expected of the genre, there is an ungodly amount present here, especially towards the beginning of the game. It takes forever to get any of the side cast up to par with Kirito, so if you don’t want them to die and get a game over you have to grind on the weaker enemies to get them strong enough to fight stronger enemies to level up faster. It’s a slog. But levels aren’t the only thing you’ll be grinding for. When it comes to Lisbeth’s Blacksmithing shop, it cost 3 Million Col in order to forge a weapon, not to mention all of the materials you need to grind for to get a hope of attaching boosted stats for the weapon.

Honestly, the grinding doesn’t bother me all too much – it’s even therapeutic from time to time, but I know that it isn’t for everyone and the extent that you have to grind is obscene.

If you’re aiming for some of the game’s trophies, grinding will be a necessity to collect some of them, specifically: ‘Col Tycoon’ – “Earn a hundred million Col” and ‘It’s Not What It Looks Like!’ – “Reach maximum affinity with all heroines”. Most importantly, unless you’re on top of your game when fighting bosses, it may take multiple playthroughs to complete the game obtaining all last attack bonuses and without losing any members of the assault team.

While I could go off on a tangent regarding the dating sim aspects and the fan-service; I at least think that the game stays true to its roots in this aspect. Particularly considering that above all, the game was made with fans of the anime in mind. There is no doubt that it was made with any other express purpose.

At the end of all of this, I see Re:Hollow Fragment in the same way I see its source material, highly disappointing. Much like the anime, Sword Art Online Re:Hollow Fragment had a lot of potential to give fans of the anime a taste of what the world of Aincrad is like. However, its depth is shallow and is, if nothing else, a time sink. The game could have been good, if not great, had they chosen to develop the features of the game further without asking for hours of grinding to accomplish seemingly simple tasks.

Sword Art Online Re:Hollow Fragment earns a 4/10

Thank you very much for reading this review of Sword Art Online Re:Hollow Fragment. Let me know your thoughts, do you agree with my opinions or do you see the game differently? I’d love to know!

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