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NCG Review – Sakuna: of rice and ruin (Switch, PS4, PC)

I won’t lie to everyone, but Animal Crossing: New Horizon has basically gotten me through the entire COVID-19 pandemic. After many months of playing, I eventually needed to break away. I needed a new adventure and just a little more action, and yet, I wasn’t able to easily break away. That is, until Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. Developed by Edelwise and published by XSEED, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a farming simulator/side-scrolling action game. Combined with a new take on Japanese lore, this title is a fantastic combination of story-telling and gameplay.

Story

The story starts with a small group of humans who have had a tough lot in life. Somehow, they make it to the Lofty Realm; the land of the gods. Meanwhile, the goddess, Princess Sakuna, is living her best life celebrating , eating tons of food, and drinking lots of sake. Upon discovering that humans have made it to the Lofty Realm, Sakuna goes to send them back to the human realm lest their appearance cause an uproar amongst the other gods. The humans are just a little bit too clever and end of up getting the best of Sakuna, so much so, that Sakuna ends up blowing up Lady Kamuhitsuki’s store of rice!

Upset to have lost her rice offerings, head goddess Lady Kamuhitsuki bans Sakuna from the lofty realm to the Isle of Demons, where Sakuna must clear the island of all demons before sending the group of humans back to the human realm.

From there, the game progresses. Through the story, we learn about Sakuna’s hertiage, the cause of the demons on the island, the past of the humans, and, of course, about growing rice! The story has a wonderful touch of Japanese mythology and really brings perspective to the rice cultivating culture – it’s a lot of work!

Gameplay

There are two methods of game play: farming and side-scrolling action.

For farming, you need to pay attention to the seasons. Depending on what time of the year it is, you will need to know how to maintain your rice. In the spring time, you need to plant the rice; in the summer time you need to maintain it; by autumn you need to have harvested all of the rice; and by winter you will need to hull the rice, sift out the good seeds, and till the land. Meanwhile, you will need to keep the field weed-free, fertilized, and properly watered! Whew, that’s a lot, isn’t it? You can pass the tasks off to the other characters in the game, however, the quality of the rice is diminished and you won’t have the best results.

The farming, being one of the key parts of the game, feels somewhat clunky to me. I love growing my own rice, but I hate doing the physical actions involved in it. This is mostly because of the controls. The way Sakuna moves in the field, overall, feels very awkward to me and it’s hard to grasp her body position with how I want to use my controller. If I move forward, I want Sakuna to move forward, but instead her body position flips and the task I was trying to do messes up. It takes a lot of getting used to. I’m not sure if this is to emphasize just how difficult growing rice can be, but it definitely made this part of the game hard to get through.

The side-scrolling action part is just that, side-scrolling action. On the Isle of Demons, Sakuna needs to clear each area and learn more about the demons. Sakuna wields two weapons, uses normal attacks, uses heavy attacks, and uses skill attacks. Sakuna also has the divine raiment, a magical sash that assists attacks and helps traverse through the different terrains.

The game play is easy, and I like how I can mix up my buttons to unleash different attacks. Attacks can also be customized so you can put them in for whichever input is most comfortable for you. My least favorite part of the gameplay is the divine raiment. The divine raiment is great for battle to block, counter, and move around the screen to better position Sakuna, but I hate using it to traverse the terrain. This might be personal, but I hate having to jump around in stages! Although, I really like how they created this aspect of Sakuna, since the divine raiment has meaning within the story.

Through growing the rice and fighting demons, Sakuna collects food and supplies that help sustain life on the island.

Another important aspect of the game is food. Sakuna needs to eat. When she is hungry, her health won’t recover. Food also provides extra skills to Sakuna, giving her buffs and extra health. These are especially important when certain stages have challenges such as poison or lava.

This game has a lot of balance. You can’t just focus on farming or grind all the areas. Night will bring stronger demons, Sakuna will get hungry and her health will not recover, and, if you’re up too late you end up being too exhausted to explore new areas the next day. Luckily, there is no shortage of things to keep Sakuna busy. While playing you really have to balance farming and exploring. I think this balance helps pace the game and story.

Graphics/Music

The graphics on this game has a waterpaint cell shaded look. The characters are beautiful and the game runs incredibly smooth. I popped it on the PS5 and was awed by just how amazing the game looked. You get the same effect on a PS4 Pro. The overall look of the game is stunning!

The sound track mixes well with the overall style of the game. It has a traditional sound that places you right on the Isle of Demons.

Verdict

Pros: This game is beautiful! The story is it’s own blend of Japanese mythology with it’s own original story added into it. It also makes something that might not be that interesting (rice harvesting), into a rich storyscape. The characters are all memorable with their own quirks. The game play is fun and balanced so you can’t easily grind through the whole game. You really do need to take your time and cultivate your own land.

Cons: The farming can be clunky, and tedious. It sucks when you’re on a roll exploring a new area and then suddenly you have to go harvest your rice and get it hulled and ready before the spring time. On top of that, Sakuna is difficult to control during these farming actions.

Overall, I would give this game an 8 out of 10. I love the story, characters, gameplay, and overall look and feel of the game. I also love how it makes growing rice a unique experience. If I felt tired by having to farm in the game, can I even begin to imagine what it would be like to grow rice just to live?

Have you had a chance to pick up this title? If so, what do you think? Are there any games you have played that have made something you didn’t even think could be interesting, interesting? Let us know in the comments!

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenged announced

Publisher Dotemu has announced a new brawler, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. This title seems to go back to the roots of the TMNT games, with the sprite work style and beat’em up/ brawler genre they were known for.

The game is set to release on console and PC at a later date

You can read more on the press release below, as well as check out the trailer;

Heroes in a Half Shell

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge features groundbreaking gameplay rooted in timeless classic brawling mechanics, brought to you by the beat ’em up experts at Dotemu (Streets of Rage 4) and Tribute Games. Bash your way through gorgeous pixel art environments and slay tons of hellacious enemies with your favorite Turtle, each with his own skills and moves – making each run unique! Choose a fighter, use radical combos to defeat your opponents and experience intense combats loaded with breathtaking action and outrageous ninja abilities. Stay sharp as you face off against Shredder and his faithful Foot Clan alone, or grab your best buds and play with up to four players simultaneously!

Turtle Boys Don’t Cut Shredder No Slack

With Bebop and Rocksteady assaulting Channel 6 and stealing super gnarly devices to support Krang and Shredder’s latest twisted plan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge sees the Turtles battling across a righteous range of timeless Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles locations. From Manhattan and Coney Island, to city rooftops and dank sewers, help the fearsome foursome trounce Foot Soldiers, Triceraton Warriors, and Rock Troops all the way to Dimension X!

Turtle Power

Enjoy stunning full-color pixel art graphics and a vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vibe that will rock you straight back to the awesome 80s. Every character, vehicle, weapon, item, and background is directly inspired by the 1987 TV show, making you feel like you hopped into the television — with a dope mix of killer humor and action-packed adventures!

Key Features

  • Gnarly game design takes you back to the ’80s.
  • Beautiful full-color pixel art graphics.
  • Old-school gameplay enhanced with super-fresh mechanics.
  • Up to four players simultaneously.
  • Play with iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters and vehicles in diverse gameplay options.
  • Radical new story mode.
  • And totally more to come!

NCG REVIEW – SNK VS CAPCOM: THE MATCH OF THE MILLENNIUM (SWITCH)

This title was given to the NCG team for review purposes

OVERVIEW

Back in 1999, the handheld system the NeoGeo Pocket Color by SNK was released. SNK is known for their reputable arcade titles, sprite work, and addicting gameplay. SNK, at the time, released a number of ports and original titles for the handheld system. These title’s sold pretty well over seas, but did not gain much attraction in North America, which might be why many Westerners have never heard of the handheld, or even SNK VS CAPCOM: THE MATCH OF THE MILLENNIUM – a spin off title from the Capcom vs SNK Series, which was a big hit in the arcades.

SNK VS CAPCOM: THE MATCH OF THE MILLENNIUM had a lot of positive feedback from reviewers back when it was launched on the handheld, but we can see if it matches up to modern standards, if the game has aged well enough to meet the expectations of an audience new to the Fighting Game Community (FGC), and players that just enjoy old fighting game titles.

Presentation

When turning on SNK VS CAPCOM: THE MATCH OF THE MILLENNIUM players will be greeted to welcoming fists! The nostalgic presentation of classic SNK/CAPCOM fighting title screens of the mid to late 90’s, awesome animations, and sprite work immediate jumps out at the player. The title sequence has aged pretty well, and this is the same when it comes to actual gameplay. The animation of each fighter represents them well for a handheld from the era, and has not disappointed expectations for a re-release .

That does not mean there aren’t some flaws with the visuals for this port. The main gripe I had is that the game has a small aspect ratio, and the default borders that are supposed to replicate the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Sure you can take these off, and fix the aspect ratio, but I feel like they should of had it full screen to start with, especially since the Switch has such a large screen.

Sound

Not much to say other than the sound and music score is excellent for the title since it pulled music from a lot of SNK and Capcom titles in the form of chiptunes. Every hit feels good because of the SFX’s, and with that mixed with the music score. you can lose yourself to some familiar songs.

Gameplay

Gameplay is actually fluent and feels great for this title. It only offers two buttons, one for punch and one for kick, but the button response are fast. Best of all, the game has a tag team mechanic, which some veteran players will be accustomed to. With this mechanic, players can switch between two of the available characters from the SNK and Capcom games, just like the Marvel vs Capcom series, as well as a few unlockable characters.

Verdict

All in all the game has aged pretty well, everyone who enjoyed SNK and Capcom games will love the mashup. I recommend this title to anyone who has missed it when it was released, as well as anyone who is just a fan of the fighting game genre. My score for this port is an 8 out of 10, mainly because this title is not for everyone, but catered toward long-time fans.

SNK VS CAPCOM: THE MATCH OF THE MILLENNIUM is avaiable now for the Nintendo Switch.

Be sure to leave comments below and let us know what you think of the title, or if you will be adding this game to your collection.

Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack is Launching April 22, 2021

Publisher Koei Tecmo America has revealed Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack will be out this year for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.

This trilogy will include Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX.

You can check out the announcement trailer, screenshots and more info from press release below;

KOEI TECMO America and developer GUST Studios are proud to reveal the upcoming Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack, slated for launch on the Apr. 22, 2021 for the Nintendo Switch™ system, PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, and Windows PC via Steam®.   The three games: Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX, will come packed with a large amount of the previously released DLC for the titles, as well as all-new content for the DX versions — including a special digital artbook, photo modes, and the option to speed-up battles. This release also marks the first time that Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis will be playable on the Nintendo Switch™, enabling players to enjoy these adventures at home or on the go. The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy will be available for purchase as individual titles or together in a specially priced Deluxe Pack containing all three games. 

The first title, Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX, follows the adventures of young novice alchemist Sophie Neuenmuller, who discovers she is the owner of an enigmatic book imbued with a soul. This Mysterious Book seems to hold the secrets to the art of alchemy, and as Sophie experiments with alchemy throughout the story, she unravels the book’s forgotten memories and eventually sets out to uncover the strange tale of its origin. The DX version of this game includes a brand-new coming-of-age story for Sophie, as she struggles to step into the shoes of her late grandmother – the town’s reliable alchemist.  

Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX is the second entry in the ‘Mysterious’ saga, following the adventures of the enthusiastic Firis Mistlud and her loving older sister Liane Mistlud. The sisters have lived their entire lives in the isolated town of Ertona, where Firis uses her unique ability to see where material crystals are buried. By way of a fateful encounter, Firis learns of the Alchemy Exam and decides to take her first step into the outside world, setting off on a grand journey to become a certified alchemist and discover the mysteries that life has to offer! The DX version of the game adds four new vehicles and several exploration items to improve efficiency and speed, as well as seven new quests that lead to unlocking the powerful new foe Palmyra.  

The gripping conclusion to the MysteriousTrilogy, Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX, follows the tale of alchemist twins — the reserved but caring Lydie Marlen, and the eccentric and carefree Suelle Marlen. The young twins work alongside their father at the family atelier, but due to his inexperience in alchemy, they rarely see any customers. While working hard to hone their skills, the duo uncovers a mysterious looking painting, and as they reach out to investigate, the girls are drawn inside a world bountiful with rare materials perfect for alchemy! This fateful discovery is just the beginning of the twin’s adventure, leading them to their joint goal — to run the best atelier in the country! The DX version of the game introduces a new painting that connects Lydie and Suelle to the world of Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists. In order to help Lady Nelke develop the city, the twins will have to embark on new missions and fight against perilous new enemies!

SNK has announced Team Hero for KOF XV

SNK has released new screenshots as well as a new trailer for The King of Fighters XV, welcoming back Benimaru Nikaido.

The three playable characters, Benimaru Nikaido, Meitekun and Shun’ei have been revealed to be “Team Hero.”

You can check out the trailer, screenshots, more information on “Team Hero” below;

Benimaru Nikaido – Born into a rich family and raised by his Japanese father and American mother, this shooting star takes fighting to a shocking level. His slender frame enhances his electrostatics and his chiseled legs (built from years of shoot boxing) allow him to land kicks that hit like bolts of lightning. During this tournament, Benimaru’s friend and rival, Kyo Kusanagi, forces him into a position where he must watch over Shun’ei and Meitenkun.

Shun’ei – Though young, Shun’ei is a master manipulator of illusions. Shortly after mysterious hands form around his body and he is disowned by his parents, Shun’ei falls under the wing of legendary martial arts master Tung Fu Rue, the likes of which teaches him how to come to grips with his new-found powers. Following the defeat of a strange being known as Verse, Shun’ei continues his training in an effort to better control his powers. He enters the tournament with his friend Meitenkun to further push his abilities to the limit.

Meitenkun – With pillow in hand, this sleepy young fighter is a master of the hidden martial arts technique Hyakkyokuminminken, or Eight Extremities Slumber Fist. He considers his mentor Tung Fu Rue and fellow disciple/best friend Shun’ei his family. Many think Meitenkun is Tung’s secret weapon, as the extent of his explosive power and technique is a mystery to all.

The King of Fighter XV will release in 2021, platforms have not been announced.