Category Archives: Review

NCG Review – AI: Somnium Files (Switch, PC, PS4)

Basic Info

“The mind never lies…

In a near-future Tokyo, Special Agent Kaname Date is on the case of a mysterious serial killer. Date must investigate crime scenes as well as dreams on the hunt for clues. From the mind of Kotaro Uchikoshi (Zero Escape series director), with character design by the Yusuke Kozaki (NO MORE HEROES, Fire Emblem series), a thrilling neo-noir detective adventure is about to unfold.”

TITLE AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES
RELEASE DATE Digital (PSN, NSW, STEAM): September 17, 2019
Retail (PS4, NSW) : September 24, 2019
PLATFORM(S) PlayStation®4, Nintendo Switch™, Steam® (PC)
PRICE Standard Edition: $59.99/ €59.99

Special Agent Edition: $89.99/ €99.99

PLAYER(S) 1 player
GENRE Adventure
WEBSITE http://spike-chunsoft.com/ai | Steam Store
RATING ESRB: M/ PEGI: 18 / USK: 16
LANGUAGE(S) English/Traditional Chinese text, Japanese audio/English audio
DEVELOPER Spike Chunsoft, Co., Ltd.
COPYRIGHT ©Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Licensed to and Published by Spike Chunsoft, Inc.

Story

A woman’s body is found with multiple stab wounds and missing her left eye.  She is bound to a merry-go-round in a long abandon amusement park. When the main character, Kaname Date, arrives he immediately recognizes the woman. Shoko Nadami, the ex-wife of his close friend and mother to the young girl he is housing.

You mission? Solve the mysteries around this murder. Can you find the truth behind the incident and capture the killer?90

Throughout the game you play as Kaname Date.  With no memories from 6 years prior and missing his left eye, Kaname Date encounters Boss.  Boss helps Date get hired at the Metro Police as a detective in the Advanced Brain Investigation Squad (ABIS) and replaces his left eye with Aiba, an artificial intelligence directly wired to his brain.  Aiba, who has been with Date for 6 years, assists him with his work as a detective by providing him with instant information, x ray vision, the ability to see long distances, and predict actions that will get Date out of some sticky situations.   Aiba also acts as Date’s avatar when he needs to “Psync” into another person’s consciousness within Somnium (the subconscious world of another character).  Along with Aiba, Date investigates Shoko’s murder to find her killer.c00

There are many twists and turns as you meet new characters and learn their connection and/or involvement in the murder. One story line, based on your choices in Somnium, will play out in a completely different way compared to another route.  Some characters will live in one line, and some characters will die in another.  Can you make it to the “true” ending?

Gameplay

AI: Somnium Files is a mash-up of visual novel and puzzle game.  The basic story line carries core elements of a visual novel, however, rather than reading text on the screen you’re given an opportunity to interact with the room and characters around you. This is all presented to you in a limited way (your character cannot get up and walk around the room or explore new areas on your own), but you have the ability to look around you and take in the environment.01

In additional to visual-novel elements, you’ll be presented with the ability to “psync”.  The concept of this is diving into the sub consciousness of another character and unlock a repressed/hidden memory, which you will need to do in order to further your investigation.  During the Psync, you need to solve puzzles to find the secret hidden in a characters sub consciousness.  In order to solve the puzzle you interact, through Aiba, with the items in an area.  Unlike the limited presentation of the “investigation” aspect of the story, you can control Aiba and move her through the Somnium space.  How you interact with the objects is the key to unlocking the “mental blocks” put in place.  A Psync can only last for 6 minutes (game time), but each interaction you make with an object depletes the remaining time you have.  There are TIMIEs you can use which will decrease the amount of time spent on an action but there are also Negative TIMIEs which will increase the time for your next interaction.  Interactions with the objects are not obvious and you’ll end up burning through time to find the correct interaction.  Fortunately, you get 3 retries but sometimes finding the right order of interaction will take you more than 3 attempts.  There are some actions you perform that will have a Negative TIMIE in order to progress so on your next action so you need to figure out how to maximize the use of your time.10

How you complete the puzzles in Somnium determines the path of story.  Based on which “Mental locks” you open, the story will proceed down that path. Not every Somnium puzzle has separate paths, but ones that have two will lead you down a different story line.AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190417131431

What really sets this game apart from similar titles is that you do not have to repeat the entire story to take a different path in the game.  Instead, you can go back to a “psync” and replay it. This increases the replay value and doesn’t make the game feel so tedious, which tends to happen with visual novels if you don’t know where and when to save.

Visuals/Graphics and Audio

Most visual novels can be very bland and fall flat when it comes to animation and graphics, however, the all dialogue of the game is voiced over which makes the story that much more engaging.  Characters are also animated when talking, moving their arms, making facial expressions and simple gestures, and this is a nice touch since it brings the characters to life.13

Verdict

Pros: Unlike most visual novels, the game doesn’t fall flat.  The story line itself is enough to keep the player intrigued and curious to know all the secrets of the game. Although frustrating at times, the puzzles are challenging.  You’re given hints on what you need to do, but finding the next action isn’t obvious. Although graphics aren’t “triple A” status, the animation and voice overs give enough to the player to bring the story to life.  While in Somnium, when performing an action, rather than the game telling you you’ve made a bad choice, the dialogue between the characters becomes ridiculous, either with Date and Aiba mocking each other or making jokes at Date’s expense.

Cons: The only real qualm I had with the game is the lack of opportunity to save before jumping into a Somnium puzzle.  Save points in games are incredibly important to me because I have to jump on and off of a game (hours of sit through game play? Not in my adult life!).  Sometimes a “Psync” will just start (it will be obvious when it does but almost unexpected) and I do not have the chance to save the game before jumping in.  You cannot save before or during a “psync” so I’m either stuck putting my game in “Sleep Mode” until I can play again, or hope that AutoSave will take me back where I left off.

I would rate this game an 8 out of 10.Score

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and even though the Somnium puzzles took me a few attempts, I found myself going back to unlock different story lines without much hesitation or feeling “too drained” to keep going.

Have you heard of this game? Will you pick up this title? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-

Heaven Or Hell

Coming almost 2 years from the last Guilty Gear release, Revelator joins the franchise as a polished and update version to the GGXrd series. Adding more characters, new mechanics, along with a continuing story from the last game, Revelator will bring players back, and help them learn more ways to punish their opponents.

Visual 

Guilty Gear is looking better than ever, bringing back the 2D feel with 3D rendered characters and backgrounds, along with the newly added lighting effects, Revelator will anyone who is a fan of the anime fighting game genre feel at home. During gameplay you can instantly see the difference from the previous Xrd visuals. From the character intro’s, newly added dramatic angle drop battle intro, to the epic 3D rendered spin at the end of a battle, this game will have you amazed. Stepping away from gameplay visuals, Revelator’s menus had some touch ups as well. Having an easy to navigate main menu with an added custom shortcut keys,  as well as the newly added Avatar that will have you navigate the online menu by controlling them, Revelator menu visuals are far more unique from what the original were.

Sound/Audio

The Guilty Gear’s series are widely known for the Fast, heavy and adrenaline pumping J-rock music that fits the Japanese visual aspect of the game, and Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator is no exception. With a track list consisting of character themes, terrific menu and fighting sound effects and older tracks from previous entries, you will understand why the game says “Let’s Rock” before ever match. There will be times when you find yourself staying in the different menu’s to just enjoy the music, or even selecting specific character themes for battle, just to pump yourself up during a matchup. If you’re looking for a new video game OST’s to add to your music collection, GGXrd Rev. is a must have for any fan of the series.

Gameplay

The fast pace gameplay that the Guilty Gear Series is known for is still here but with some added touches. Adding new mechanics, a continuing story, new fishing minigame to obtain unlockables, plus with 6 more character added to the original character roster giving players over 20 characters to choose from, Revelator will have you playing for hours. Some of the new mechanics to be noted are Throw Breaks, Blitz Shield Charge Attack, and the Burst Overdrive, making each match an intense face pace battle that can give anyone the advantage to punish. Throw breaks happen when you hit the input of a normal throw at the same time as an opponent, then both characters will back off and recover at the same time. as for the Blitz Shield Charge Attacks, this is essentially an attack after your Blitz Shield causing you to stun your opponent. Another added mechanic is the Burst Overdrive. Normal “Overdrive Attack” are a special cinematic move’s, which are also known as “Supers” in other fighting games, but this time around you have a Burst Overdrive Attack added in the game. These are an even more powered up version of Overdrive Attacks, giving players another way to make strategic use of the Overdrives. If you need a break from fighting, Revelator has also brought back the “Cinematic Story Mode”, in which you sit back and enjoy watching like any other anime. With no gameplay involved, and an option to save after each chapter, the story mode will have you sit through and continue from where the original Xrd story left off, along with more story content being released after the game launches June 7th, free of charge. As for unlockable’s, you will earn currency from the story mode, as well as playing the other modes to spend in-game for unlocking character colors, a new character named Raven, plus more visual content for your online profile, which is not bad knowing you can buy all this content as DLC.

Verdict

With the fantastic visual upgrades, new characters entering the roster and new mechanics in Revelator, this is a must have to anyone who is a fan of the Guilty Gear franchise. As for new players picking up the game, it is fantastic for your collection mainly because it is not solely focused on online play only and has a good amount of content for new players to emerge into and learn the mechanics. Be sure to keep an eye out for Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-, out June 7th 2016.

Stories The Path of Destiny: Review

A Long Story

Stories is an action RPG with a third person above view gameplay. The story drops you into a large crusade to find a book by a King who recently turned evil. Enter Reynardo, a former pirate who turned to a life of normality after his mother death. A chain of events forces Reynardo to be an unlikely hero.

At first glance, the game seems easy to play through, and it was. The first play through was a breeze, but as you play the world opens up with different levels and story lines with various endings and self-realizations. The combat is straight forward with several weapons to use and a skill tree to upgrade, improve combat, speed, and even stop time.

Each play through gives a different path to go down in between each level and is a fun way to choose what level you play next. The narrative style of the game will make you laugh and make you question the choices you make, but at the same making you feel ok with them. Kind of like a backhanded compliment or a mother saying “well it’s your life, do what you want”.

This was a fun game to play, but it was not particularly hard. The difficulty of the game may not justify the cost of the game but the story more than makes up for it. It will keep you playing, with as many endings enhancing Stories replay value. The more you play, the more endings you get, and the more endings you get the more skill tiers become available; keeping you interested is not be a problem.

NCG Overview: Grand Kingdom

Adventure Awaits

Summer is coming, and along with the seasons, their comes new games. Developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by NIS America, Grand Kingdom places players as the leader of a mercenary squad to lead across a battle scarred continent completing contracts for four nations. Players will also have the opportunity to jump online to form exclusive contracts with the four nations, or join the war with other players.

STORY
Uncover the mystery behind the fall of the Uldein Empire by traversing though the mercenary’s storyline, and exploring each of the four unique faction stories.

GAMEPLAY
Develop the ultimate mercenary troop  and pick from 12 unique classes for an elegant mix of unit placements. Using real time controls, develop different strategies to plan your next move to take out your opponent or jump online to compete in a war with thousands of players to help your faction prevail.

Be sure to click the link below to sign up for access of the beta of Grand Kingdom. Look forward to Grand Kingdom hitting store shelves June 21, 2016

http://nisamerica.com/games/grand-kingdom/beta/agegate.php?offset=-6

Corpse Party: Review

The horrors of Corpse Party make their way to the PC.  Originally a Japan only release, the original version of Corpse Party hit North America April 25th, 2016 for the very reasonable price of $14.99.

Story
After the school festival Kisargi Academy’s class 2-9 must say goodbye to their cherished classmate who is transferring schools.  To always stay together -in spirit, anyway- they perform the Sachiko Ever After charm.  Unfortunately, the charm is a ritual that transports the eight students and their teacher to the separate nirvana of Heavenly Host Elementary school: a school that looks like, well, a corpse party. As you play through the game you experience horrors that have taken place in Heavenly Host Elementary School and hope your characters make it out alive. Descriptive passages and complex puzzles make the game a horrifying, yet challenging experience.  Through the game, you must discover the mysteries and events that occurred within the walls of the Heavenly Host in an attempt to make your escape.

Graphics

Graphics are presented in 2D sprite graphics and 16-bit style, with top down game play and hand drawn anime-style portraits. Unlike the remastered PSP version, character design does not look fully finessed and you don’t get those extra creepy shots that make your skin crawl.  Sorry, there also aren’t any fan service shots either. The gore also isn’t overly visually represented.  Most of the text guides you through the grotesque so the graphic simplicity works well with the visual novel style of storytelling.

Audio/Music
Corpse Party includes the original sound track and voice acting.  For those who have played Corpse Party: Blood Covered on the PSP you’ll note some subtle differences with voice portrayal and characteristics, some original voices are better (Morishige), and some make you appreciate Blood Covered (Ayumi). Background music fits the tone of the story, and when you get those horrible moments of silence you can’t help but wish for the background music to kick back in.  Floors creak, ghosts echo ominously through the building; tension is built very well throughout the game. Even as an experienced Corpse Party player myself, the music still gets my heart racing. The best way to play this game is with a set of headphones in dark room… if you dare.

Replay ValueWhat I love the most about Corpse Party games is that they are not easy.  One wrong move and it’s a horrific end for your character.  Even after having played the game before, I still managed to get a wrong end! For the completionist, you’ll find yourself trying to obtain all the endings; wrong or right. And trust me, there are 20 different endings to experience. For those new to the franchise; good luck! You’ll be more than satisfied knowing you made your way to the end after all those horrible, horrible wrong endings.

Verdict
The original PC version of the game is the best choice for players not interested in the overly extensive back story and character development. Even without the creepy anime portrait cut scenes, the dialogue and description is so well done, your imagination fills in the gaps for you. Essentially, you get the game without all the filler which is nice when you just, you know, want to play the game.

Are you brave enough to face the ghosts and horrors or Heavenly Host Elementary School? Let us know what you think!