Tag Archives: PC

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!

NCG Review: The Caligula Effect: Overdose (Switch, PS4, PC)

Wanting to forget about the pain of our daily lives is something a majority of us are familiar with, after all, we spend countless hours glued to our phones mindlessly browsing through social media or playing games.  But what would happen if a sentient being created a world for us to live in and be forever happy? Would you want to live in this paradise?21.png

The Caligula Effect: Overdose takes us into the world of Mobius where the lines of fantasy and reality are blurred.  Will you want to live in Mobius?

Story

Created by the sentient vocaloid program, μ (Mu), Mobius is a place for people to forget about their everyday problems and re-live a blissful high school life.  In a setting where fantasy and reality are blurred, the “Go Home Club”, who have awaken to the falsehoods of Mobius, attempt to escape this false paradise.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite familiar with the premise of The Caligula Effect, but I had watched the first couple episodes of the anime and completely forgot about it.  After picking up the game I decided to revisit the anime series.14.png

I played the game for about 5 hours before jumping into the anime series, which was a decent amount of time spent on the game.  In many instances, I usually say the game is better since there is a lot of time to build the story, however, I hate to admit that the anime captures the emotional impact of the game in a clearer and more concise way.

While playing, I found it difficult to balance my interest in the story with the variety of game play elements.  When presented with story line topics, the game fell flat.  The characters want to escape Mobius, but in game there’s an overall apathy about actually trying to escape.  The characters don’t quite come off quite as strong in the video game.

Gameplay

What makes the Caligula Effect: Overdose stand out is the unique combat system.  Although battles are a turn-based, you have the option to customize your battle.  You can pick from your character skills and attack with a single character up to three times.  What’s really cool is that the game will go into a prediction mode and you can watch how the actions and battle moves will play out before you commit to them.  In addition to seeing how moves will play out, you have the option to adjust the timing of your moves.  You can adjust the timing of a hit to be delayed or for the character to attack sooner; it’s like crafting your own battle.  You can do this for each character on your team and strategize your attacks based on the character skills.  Of course, predictions are not 100% accurate and sometimes will not indicate when the opponent will be defeated.  You have to pay close attention and take some risks when designing your battle. Overall, this was an element I really enjoyed since it takes basic “turn based” game play to a different level.08.png

The Caligula Effect: Overdose is your basic RPG game so you have the options to complete missions and side quests.  Accessing side quests is a bit unique since it’s based on your relationship with NPCs.  All the students walking around are the people that inhabit Mobius.  Based on your social connections and reputation you can talk to them and learn about their problems and struggles.  When you reach a certain level of friendship you’ll learn more about what is troubling them and will have to help them resolve their issues. To take it a step further, you can access a sub menu called “LINE” and communicate with the friends you have made by sending texts.  However, the prompts are repetitive and even if you’ve already asked the question the prompt will reappear.  Responses are all generic and you can get the gist of the character personality, but there are so many characters to chat with it’s easy to get overwhelmed and bored with this function of the game.06.png

Audio

μ (Mu) is the creator of Mobius so it’s fitting to have her songs performing in the background.  It’s her music, after all, that influences the characters and keeps them brainwashed.  You get a really fun J-pop track playing throughout the level.  While the songs are all fun and catchy, I didn’t feel inclined to stay in a particular area too long since the chorus is on permanent loop throughout the level.

Verdict

Pros: The battle system is a lot of fun and the game offers a variety of game play elements to delve into.17.png

Cons: The story doesn’t hit quite as hard during game play.  After a while the music can start to irk your nerves.

Overall score:

I’d give it a 5.  It isn’t a must-have, but might be something worth picking up on sale. You might have a better time catching the anime instead.Score

Have you played this game? What did you think? Are you a fan of the anime?

Let me know in the comments!

 

NCG Review – Steins;Gate Elite (PS4, Switch, PC)

Steins;Gate Elite is a remastered version of the original titled. Based on the original game, 80,000 lines of text and over 7,000 anime scenes were analyzed in order to piece together this Elite version of the game.

I attempted picking up the original Steins;Gate visual novel, but struggled to make it through to the end.  Can players find themselves making it to the end of the Elite version?

Story

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Okabe Rintaro AKA Hououin Kyouma is a mad scientist set to oppose “The Organization”.  Most of this is part of his own self-created delusions, but his lab mems (lab members) Mayushii and Daru go along with his flow.  After discovering the body of Makise Kurisu at a conference about time-travel, something strange happens to Okabe when he makes it back to the streets of Akihabara.  After sending a text message to fellow lab mem, Daru, about Makise Kurisu’s death, Okabe finds himself alone on the streets of Akihabara. As the people come back, Okabe notices that his memories of the events at the Radio Kaikan building, where the conference took place, do not seem to match those around him.  Instead, the Radio Kaikan building has been closed down because a satellite has crashed into it and Mayushii, who attended the even with him, has no recollection of being inside of the building.

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It isn’t until Okabe finds Makise Kurisu, alive and well, that he starts questioning what has happened.  Events start to unfold after the re-appearance of a mysterious self-proclaimed time traveler (who no one remembers from 10 years prior), strange phenomena occurring with the use of the latest gadget “Phone Wave (name subject to change), and a living breathing Makise Kurisu.  What has happened to Okabe Rintaro? This story has a very clever use of time travel theories and the butterfly effect.  If you haven’t watched the series, you’ll find yourself wondering how the events unfold, diverge and reconnect together.

Graphics

Deviating for normal graphic novel story telling, Steins;Gate Elite incorporates anime into the overall game play.  Rather than looking at a static figure and dialogue, you experience the scene as though watching an anime.  This approach to visual novels makes the story so much more engaging! I struggled to stay awake while playing the previous game. The Elite version just feels more satisfying to play.

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My only gripe about this transition from static to moving is that the overall style of the original visual novel is removed.  The hand-drawn representation and unique look is removed in the Elite version and comes off very bland. I would have liked to see the original style in-tact.  This, of course, makes sense since scenes were taken from the anime itself.

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Gameplay

Graphic novels follow the same formula.  You are presented with dialogue, and when the protagonist needs to make a choice, you choose between 2 or 3 responses.  In turn, these responses determine which kind of ending you’ll get.

Steins:Gate is unique in that, rather than a pop up of multiple responses, the outcome of your story is determined by how you respond to other characters via text message.  This is a creative device since so much of the story is based around the usage of cellphones and text messaging.  Choosing a response, or lack thereof, can set you down your ending path.

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Steins:Gate Elite uses a very similar mechanic to the original.  However, the responses you will need to make will not align with the original game since new communications between characters have been added; this makes the game feel a bit newer and less like the original but still maintains the original story and pattern.  Elite adds new animations and scenes for each character route.  This will have you going back to see the variety of ways the story could end.  I am aiming for a Mayuri route! Needing to check the cellphone is a bit more guided.  When I first jumped into the original Steins;Gate I didn’t even look at messages because I didn’t realize you were supposed to! This takes away from the exploration aspect, but it also emphasizes the relevance of the communications, which wasn’t very clear in the original title.

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Verdict

Pros: Steins;Gate is definitely one of my favorite series.  I like all of the characters, and although the series is very harem, it’s not overly fan-servicey and sticks to the main plot.  The exploration of time travel through these characters is unforgettable.

Using animation for the story telling aspect is basically what I have wanted for every visual novel I have played. This is a win, hands down.

The addition of new animations to unlock and different story routes are what brings you back to the game; you want to get all endings.  The new animations are going to keep me hooked since I want to see scenes that were not in the anime.

Cons: While I really like the animated story telling, the overall style of the series is lost.  I felt the characters were really beautiful in the original title, but their overall design was lost in the transition.  I guess some sacrifices needed to be made.

I would rate Steins:Gate Elite a 9 out of 10.  Sure, you know what you’re expecting, but the Elite version is a new approach to visual novels that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Score

 

 

NCG – Review – Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] (Steam)

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Story

Being an updated version, the game introduces 4 new characters as well as a new story mode in which players can unfold the story of the world in a Visual Novel gameplay style. When I say Visual Novel, I mean Visual Novel! There is no gameplay in this mode, but that does not mean the story is horrible. Players of the anime community will really enjoy the twists and turns in the story.Under_Night_6

Visuals

The visuals are somewhat the same from the original, and that is not a problem at all of because the game has its own distinct look and manages to keep everything pretty simple. With a 2D drawn art style that still draws me in when turning this title on, I can say a lot of gamers will like how it looks. It reminds me of Anime mixed with a dark theme such as Darkstalkers.UNIST_25

During fights the visuals of each special attack work well and look great. The menu has more of an arcade look and is simple enough where new players can navigate with ease. Even the story mode looks awesome with the visual novel art style.

Audio

The soundtrack to UNIST brings back some of the previous titles tracks as well as a few new tracks, and the new tracks still holds up to the magnificent scores for combat and story telling.UNIST_EU_Announcement_2

Gameplay

I always felt Under Night never had any spotlight in North America, and is very under rated, but with the new update I hope that changes as this title is a must have for fighting game enthusiast. The core gameplay is the same as most anime fighters, without the air dash. So, it’s sort of like The King of Fighters meets Anime! Combos are limited to one button press for standing and crouching per button, and in the air so players need to strategize what they will do in each combo. It also has an  auto combo for players that bash buttons, but this limits button mashing to execute really short combos the game wants you to learn passing and how to get in without button mashing, and this is perfect for new players wanting to join the fighting game community.UNIST_EU_Announcement_5

As I mentioned, this is a great game for new players because there is a new tutorial mode where everything is explained for fighting games in general. From executing and getting in, to how to finish combos and set up for another; this is a way to learn UNIST as wells as any other fighting essentials.UNIST_EU_Announcement_6

Of course, there is also online Ranked and Unranked play, which hold itself together pretty well but not to a perfect degree. The netcode isn’t perfect, as some matches lag even with two solid connections, but for the most part it is playable more than half of the time. And as for Ranked matches, the lobby’s will be full of veterans of the title, so I would recommend new players to not approach Ranked until you are ready to take on the best.

As mentioned, UNIST has 4 new cast members, Phonon with her whip, Mika a child with gigantic robotic hands, Wagner holding her sword and shield, and Enkidu who is pure martial arts. None of these characters feel like a rehash of previous characters or each other, and new players will be happy to see each have a different play style.

Verdict

With Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] coming out after one of the biggest fighting games this year a lot of players might miss this title. With an awesome Story mode for single player, fantastic visuals, and many more new additions, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] is a must have in my opinion. Although it lacks in online play at the moment, this is a great title for any one who is a fighting game fan our even a competitive fighting game player. I rate Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] an 8 out of 10.Score

NCG Review – All-Star Fruit Racing (PS4, PC, Switch)

“All Star” is usually a name that pops up in video game titles after a series or company has a good reputation.  Does All-Star Fruit Racing meet your expectations?AllStarOnline_2

Visuals

All Star Fruit Racing is very colorful, filled with an array of terrains and courses that are vibrant  and eye-catching.  Characters themselves are colorful and portray a unique fruit.  However, everything visually just seems to fall short.  Although the visuals are vibrant, there is too much on the screen making the courses feel cluttered with graphics.  One thing that I look for in a racing game is enough to create a setting or theme, but nothing that distracts or overwhelms me visually while I am trying to navigate a course, and win.  Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the course is at and when you go off course, you’re not really sure how or why.  Characters themselves are quirky with a design that matches the fruit they’re based on, but characters fall short of being unique.  There’s a generic feel to the each character with few qualities to set them apart and make them memorable.AllStarDateAnnounce_5.png

Navigating the menu also imposes a challenge since the font is small and difficult to read.

 

Audio

If you’ve ever sat at a slot machine and kept pushing the button, then you’ll have an idea what a race course sounds like.  While playing, the course is filled with mellow tunes that fit the course design and chimes that interact with what your character is doing on the course.  Music intensifies as you lap around the course, but nothing particularly stands out about the audio tracks.

Gameplay

There are 5 game modes: Random Juicer, Juicer, Dragster, Elimination, Elimination Mix.  You’re given 10 characters to start with out of 22.

The button layout is more relatable to a modern-day racing game, but the overall game play style is similar to Mario Kart.  Each mode imposes a different challenge.  Random Juicer is the most similar to Mario Kart.  Juicer mode is a twist, where you need to race and collect fruit in order to mix all the fruits together, while racing, to get a juice.  After making a juice concoction, based on whatever you made, you can use it as a weapon or booster to help you through the course.  Elimination mode is a unique mode where players are eliminated at intervals through the race if they’re in last place. Elimination Mix is similar to Elimination, except, you never know when the counter will pop up during a race.AllStarOnline_4

While racing there is no real sense of speed.  You’re not rewarded with a boost after drifting or collecting items. The only time you feel a sense of acceleration is when you go over a speed booster, but even so you’re never really moving faster than the character in front of you. There also feels like a lack of punishment if you collide or crash around in the course. After you crash or bump into a wall, you immediately resume max speed.  Weapons feel very unbalanced and almost useless.  They impose some advantage, but they don’t feel like they’re doing much to other players since the game doesn’t provide heavy punishment when hit with the weapons.AllStarDateAnnounce_2.png

Car customization is an option, but this feature is cosmetic and doesn’t add any additional attributes to the vehicle. Characters have special abilities, but these abilities can only be accessed in the Random Juicer courses.

Verdict

Pros: While some aspects of the game feel lacking (i.e. lack of speed and punishment for messing up), you can tell that you need to be strategic about how you play.  In Juicer mode, the fruits you collect determine the weapon you send out.  You need to determine which fruits you want to collect, then you need to create and access the mixture which can be difficult to focus on while you’re driving.  The lack of speed makes sense since players will be multitasking while they race. Not only do you need to know what to mix, which fruits you want to collect, you need to know how the weapons will work since they can potentially back fire on you.  It’s a lot to take in at once but gives the game a unique challenge despite all the downfalls.

To help make load screens a bit more bearable, you get a lot of fruit facts.  Mostly trivia facts you wouldn’t have guessed… about fruit!  It made me want to sit through all the load screens and learn more about fruit!

Cons: As stated earlier, courses feel cluttered with visuals, it’s hard to read the menu, the overall design isn’t very eye-catching, and using your weapons can be frustrating.

The price tag is also a bit much.  The game doesn’t have as much to offer compared to other games of the same style.

Overall, I would rate the game a 6 out of 10.

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