2021 has been a pretty good year for my gaming experience, and while they weren’t brand new titles I still experienced them for the first time, from retro classics to various genres that I generally don’t approach like horror or tactical RPGs.
I was able to finish a total of 38 different video games over the course of 2021, and while my goal was to finish at least 40, I did manage to complete more games in 2021 than I had done in the previous years.
Like my 2020 post, I have compiled my thoughts over on Anime UK News but here is essentially a collection of my overall thoughts for each game and what I thought of them. It’s long but I didn’t want to trim down my thoughts as some of this info might make you interested in these titles.
Due to the length of the post, I have decided to split the list into two parts. Part 1 will cover the first 17 games I completed, which were during January to June.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
After playing the second Yakuza game via its Kiwami remake before 2021, I decided to begin the year by jumping straight into Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, the sixth (technically seventh if you include Yakuza 0) main instalment in the long-running SEGA franchise and also the final game for Kazuma Kiryu.
Yakuza 6 is a character focused storyline. There’s very little focus on the Tojo Clan and Kiryu’s old friends and instead we have what is essentially the “Yakuza 3 for the current fanbase generation”. I honestly had no problem with Kiryu having more spotlight than others as this is his story than everyone else’s (it’s like how Toy Story 3 ended with a bang, while Toy Story 4 wraps up Woody’s character arc – Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 6 basically did just that). The story takes place between both the regular Kamurocho area and also a new place called Onomichi set in Hiroshima. While the former has a ton of variety with a few cut areas, the latter is quieter and more local so there is a difference in content and exploration. As for the story itself, I liked it a lot and it’s rather impressive that every single dialogue was actually voiced which is different to the other games (Kiwami 2 which came out afterwards didn’t do this either). The ending itself is pretty good and is a good way to conclude his storyline.
The game has a lot of story cutscenes to go along with its core gameplay and I am perfectly fine with this considering Yakuza has always had a big emphasis with its story-telling and dialogue. The gameplay is basically the same as I had mentioned with Yakuza Kiwami 2, which I need to reiterate that it came afterwards and basically took this game’s system, though saying that Yakuza 6 felt a lot more challenging. The combat felt slower at first, likely to represent Kiryu’s age as he has gotten older over the course of the franchise, but the EXP system does take a while but can be rewarding as you progress with the story and side content. I also noticed earning money has been more difficult this time but you can more-or-less progress without too much hassle – though like many other RPG type games, you shouldn’t rush the story because the difficulty will creep up on you.
For earning money you can do either the sub stories which make their return once again, also voiced all the way through as well, or the Clan Creator (which did return in Kiwami 2). The Clan Creator is a lot of fun and basically a tactical-type mini-game where you have a group of people who you command to defeat various different enemies in one area or more. You can also unlock other characters with a cheat code if you need to which I do recommend if you wish to speed up the pace, but I did manage to finish the clan storyline without doing this or with too much difficulty. The other mini-games like SEGA’s old classics and Karaoke do make a return alongside newcomers like the RYZER gym which is pretty neat.
As for criticisms, I have no issues with the story, the characters and the gameplay itself, and my only main issue has been towards the engine itself. It should be no surprise that a lot of people do not like the game’s engine because it’s not very well optimised. The 30 FPS with the base PS4 is tolerable but it can hamper the fun a times. The real issue I have is the loading because there are a lot of them and especially during cutscenes which just feels quite rough in terms of quality check. My game even crashed due to the loading not doing its job at one point which is concerning.
Overall, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is very good and well worth playing when you have finished Yakuza 0-5. The gameplay is pretty good, the clan creator is a fun mini-game, graphics look pretty good and the story is worth a watch. It’s a shame the performance isn’t perfect though. I spent 29.5 hours playtime going over all of the main story, maxing out Kiryu’s stats and finishing the entire clan creator storyline so it’s just a bit longer than Yakuza 1-3 were.
GOD EATER Resurrection
In the latter half of 2020 I ran a Twitter poll for folks to choose what game I should play next, and the order ended up being Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, Tales of Xillia 2, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization and GOD EATER Resurrection. However, because these games were rather lengthy I decided to focus on shorter games before going back to starting GOD EATER Resurrection.
And after 57 hours of playtime, I finally finished GOD EATER Resurrection. This is a remake of GOD EATER Burst, which was an updated version of GOD EATER – both of which were released on the PSP, and adds a number of additions including tweaks and more ways to fight the Aragami monsters.
This is an action RPG esque game where you go on a mission to defeat one or many Aragami and in return you earn materials to upgrade your gear. Your gear includes your main GOD EATER weapon (a sword, hammer or giant block of sorts), a gun (sniper, shotgun or meteor type), and shield as well as additional upgrade slots you can use and your abilities from Abandoned God Arcs that can be slotted onto your gear. The amount of customisation available is really cool, though it can be very overwhelming especially when you get into the bullets part which you can actually create how you want your guns to shoot them and it’s nuts.
Many people online have made recipes of simple to over-the-top bullets and it’s incredible. Granted all of these stuff depends on how far you progress in the story and the gear you own. I should mention that the bullets are split into four elemental types (Blaze i.e. Fire, Frost i.e. Ice, Spark i.e. Thunder, and Divine) so you want to have each one setup and ready as well as at least two weapons before going out to fight Aragami because there can be enemies where they have protection against an element.
Combat against Aragami is also interesting. While GOD EATER has been said by many to be a Monster Hunter clone, GOD EATER forces you to make use of both the sword and gun tactic. Your gun’s ammo is based on OP and when you have more than enough ready, the amount of damage the gun can do to Aragami is super helpful, but again it depends on your gear and bullet setup.
You see, my biggest gripe with GOD EATER Resurrection is how you advance your gear. The idea isn’t that bad as you essentially need to acquire the right materials to upgrade them, but the issue comes down to the fact that many materials and upgrade opportunities are locked behind later Ranks, which is not entirely fair because it means you could potentially be stuck in a situation where you can’t pass a story mission if you don’t have the correct setup. And from that, the only solution would be to grind for hours until you have the correct gear. I don’t like this tactic because it ruins the pace of the game and it basically forces you to waste many hours to progress.
My experience with GOD EATER Resurrection basically got worse as it went along due to the difficulty spikes closer to the end game. Granted it is a challenge and can be very rewarding to beat them, but in a lot of cases I had failed tons due to my gear not being upgraded at its best because those materials are locked to levels that are after the one I was struggling to beat. There’s also the fact that you can’t retry a mission during combat so if you want to ensure your items are kept as it was, you’ll need to leave the game and re-load it. That being said, the Endurance system allows you to recover if you lose your HP as long as your teammates can get you back up to your feet before the timer ends (or else you lose more endurance which can reduce your chances of recovering during combat).
That being said, do I think this game is bad? No because there’s a lot of good things that are in this. The music is really good, the cast of characters are pretty great and its English dub fits really well, the main story is very interesting though the Resurrection storyline is very filler-esque, and the character models look great. In fact the Aragami monster designs also look great as well.
Overall, GOD EATER Resurrection is an okay game with a pretty challenging setup of enemies during its latter half. It’s hard to recommend this game to be honest, though I have heard GOD EATER 2: Rage Burst is pretty much similar.
GOD EATER 2: Rage Burst
So after my criticisms with the first game, I found out it was released after the updated version of GOD EATER 2 called GOD EATER 2 Rage Burst and because I was still in the mindset for the gameplay I figured I would give the franchise another chance sooner than later. GOD EATER 2 Rage Burst is an updated version of the Japan-only PlayStation Vita game GOD EATER 2, and it’s basically similar to how GOD EATER Burst was in terms of essentially being the same game but with additional content or tweaks to enemies or combat.
GOD EATER 2 Rage Burst I can say, was a much better experience gameplay-wise. In a sense, both games were pretty much the same in terms of graphics, gameplay and general concept, but as a sequel, it introduced a number of new additions that benefits you greatly during combat. The first is ‘Blood Arts’ which provides additional attack damage during combat as well as offering extra bonus support depending on the chosen teammates in your team – for instance one user will provide Link Burst support (which is a mini-mode that gives you some boost in ability), another user can offer Extra Damage support against enemies, and another even offers a free revival when you lose all of your HP. Another new addition is ‘Link Support’ which adds additional help during combat, for instance 30% extra armour between 2-5 mins of combat, Level 3 Burst mode at the 5 minute mark, or bond damage against Aragami is 30% more likely to appear etc. You can have up to four link support slots as long as the chip count totals up to 100, as well as you cannot use the link support for characters that are in your party (with the exception of your character).
GOD EATER 2 Rage Burst also has character episodes which are a set of additional missions with your teammates, where you can interact and get to know their backstory or general thoughts. They have pretty interesting scenes and are worth the extra time spent as completing these will give them the ability to use Blood Arts. In addition, one of the characters, Ciel, will allow you to unlock the ability to utilise ‘Blood Bullets’, which are the chips that can be attached to your bullets during customisation and these will provide extra support for your guns. This is integral to your combat because those chips will add extra power to your bullets and deal tons more damage against Aragami. You could literally destroy everything on-screen if you had the right recipe and equipment from that alone. Literally.
Also included in GOD EATER 2 Rage Burst is ‘Blood Rage’ which is unlocked as part of the Rage Burst storyline. It’s basically a special ability that makes you invincible and do extra damage against enemies, on the condition that you are able to complete some requirements during battle. I actually did not use this as much as I would, because I found that it was best to savour them for bigger fights because the progress bar for the Blood Rage ability carries over to the next mission so you don’t have to worry about grinding before fighting constantly.
It’s thanks to these new additions that I found the gameplay to be a lot more tolerable and during my playthrough I tried out both the Assault and Blast guns to go with my Short Blade weapon. The Assault Gun worked pretty well at first with the bullet recipes that I had, but as the gameplay gets more challenging I realised that it wasn’t strong enough and would result in more time being spent on every mission. Therefore, I switched to the Blast Gun, which helped greatly when it came to dealing with Aragami that have a large amount of health (to the point where you could just consider them as sponge).
As for the story, it is a weird one because I liked the ideas they provided, but I did not think it was as strong as the first game. That being said, the Rage Burst portion was better than Resurrection’s new content especially in terms of providing a closure, though Rage Burst’s storyline goes very anime on some of the big moments. The characters I found to be surprisingly likeable though you can tell they basically have similar traits to the characters introduced in the first game. A majority of the characters from the first game do make a return and they can even tag along with you as teammates which is nice, though most of them only show up until the Rage Burst storyline.
The gripes that I have with the level up system for the equipment still remains, though this time you won’t know what the materials needed to upgrade are until you find them first which is rather annoying. The skills system actually did not click with me until the last second so you can use the Item Upgrades, Link Support, and your general equipment to get as many important skills as possible. For instance for the Blast Gun, you would want Frugal and Trigger Happy to reduce the OP cost of your bullets and allow more usage in a shorter time period during combat. One feature that is not included in GOD EATER 2 Rage Burst are Predator modes, which to be honest I can do without as I found that only benefited me when I had to grab materials from devouring the Aragami after they’re defeated.
The game has a ton of missions; story, free, hard difficulty, specials and character episode content. Having a lot of content is perfectly fine by all means, but because of the game’s simple idea of “select a mission, defeat Aragami, rinse and repeat” it can get very repetitive pretty fast so it was a bit too much content if I had to be completely honest (and apparently because GE Resurrection had fewer missions in response to general feedback).
The game took me 30 hours to finish the base-game storyline and 32 hours to finish the Rage Burst storyline. The difficulty was still there, but because I had used the Blast gun and managed to keep my equipment updated and with the best skills possible, it was a lot more tolerable to deal with. I recommend users who want to play GOD EATER to try out the Blast Gun and make use of the recipes the game has (HOH recipes allow the bullets to hit Aragami from above, which is super helpful for combat and distance). Much like the first game, the game’s music, characters, and monster/character designs are all very good. The English dub is pretty solid as well, though I have noticed some lip-syncing issues from time to time. The Japanese audio is not included as I recall this was a decision done by Bandai Namco before release (though I would not be surprised if the PC version patched this back in).
Overall, GOD EATER 2: Rage Burst was a much better experience and while the story is not as strong as the first (though not bad), I do think folks should skip Resurrection and jump into the franchise with this instalment mainly because the game’s additional gameplay mechanics helps you greatly and there’s more variety of Aragami monsters and levels that helps reduce a bit of repetitiveness.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star
Back in 2018 I picked up my first Fate video game with Fate/Extella, the third instalment in the Fate/Extra series. While Extra and Extra CCC were RPGs, Fate/Extella is actually a Musou game. The game is split into two parts; the main story which follows Red Saber aka Nero, the ohoho Fox girl Tamamo, silver-haired girl Altera and one final story campaign that wraps it altogether. The other part is the side stories where you can play as Blue Saber aka Artoria, Gilgamesh, F/SN’s Archer, F/SN’s Rider, F/SN’s Lancer, F/A’s Jeanne d’Arc and more.
Going to start off with the story first because to be honest this is the weakest element of the whole game. I like aspects of it but it was just overstaying its welcome and ruins the momentum of the gameplay. Because the gameplay itself for a musou game is pretty good, and while the enemy variety is very weak, the combat is good enough. Plus, you have to be pretty tactical in terms of which area you want to capture as the enemy will always invade one of your own pretty quickly which is not something I often see in other Musou games unless it was scripted.
Once you capture enough areas you will then collect enough keys to unlock the final boss of that map which is a servant. Your combat is split into different parts; Extella Maneuvers is a move that you will use a lot to get rid of a bunch of enemies on the screen in order to get the Aggressors out who take control of the areas (kill all of them in an area, and that area will be yours), the Moon Crux/Drives which is a special where your strength and power is better than usual so you can whack more damage against others and of course Noble Phantasm which requires you to collect three items before you can use it against the enemies on the screen.
There’s also Code Cast where you can use items like additional damage, more protection or switch to a different servant during combat. In-between combat areas, you can check your skills and add better ones which if linked together can increase its ability by a certain percentage. I would say the side story stuff is more interesting than the main campaign as each of the servants you can play has different abilities and fighting tactics which is both its strength and weakness as some characters don’t work well compared to others.
Overall, Fate/Extella is decent enough though I have heard that Fate/Extella Link is a much better game between the two so I’ll check that out some time as it’s also in my backlog. Also a minor nitpick but I don’t personally think the artstyle works for the characters in this game as I found it quite jarring, though it works with the Tamamo girl.
Gal*Gun Double Peace
Another game I started playing parallel with Fate/Extella was Gal*Gun Double Peace, the second game in the on-rails shooter anime series. The first game was previously Japan exclusive for PS3 & Xbox 360 (and I own the PS3 version which I had yet to properly start), but it did get released on Switch & PC for the west as a remaster. That said, I decided to begin the franchise with this one, which has been in my backlog since September 2018 (in fact I actually bought this game alongside Fate/Extella).
For those who have never heard of Gal*Gun, basically imagine House of the Dead but replace the zombies/monsters with anime girls wanting to date you. Despite the insanity of its concept, it’s actually genius and I’m surprised nobody in Japan bothered to make this sort of game back in the 90s and 00s era.
Gal*Gun Double Peace‘s biggest weakness are the fanservice mini-games in-between the episodes during the main story routes and questionable is probably the best way to summarise it (not my cup of tea to put it lightly). The other issue I have is actually with its gameplay and controls during these segments – it does make use of the PS4 DualShock touch pad which at times does not function especially when there are moments that require a clockwise or anti-clockwise twirl.
Outside of that though, and I guess the Doki Doki segment but you can easily skip it during gameplay, the rest of the game is actually pretty solid. The framerate is really solid so you can get good shots without too much hassle, which was a big issue with the PlayStation Vita version. The episodes are short but provide branching paths so you won’t get the same outcome at times. The boss battles are very good and provide a solid amount of challenge to the mix, and the way each girl has their own weak spot is cleverly done by the colour of the symbol that appears next to them so it’s up to both skill and memory to get the highest score possible.
These anime girls will want you so much they would surprise you in lockers, caves and even the vents.
The story for Gal*Gun Double Peace is very simple but there’s some fun humour throughout. Voice-cast also features Yui Horie (Monogatari’s Hanekawa) and Yukari Tamura (Higurashi’s Rika) who play the angel characters helping the protagonist during his journey to find a girlfriend otherwise he’ll be forever alone 24 hours later. The game has six main routes; Shinobu, Maya, Sisters, Angel, Demon and Patako. The latter three are technically part of one route but will branch out depending on your choices and specific requirements. After completing each one you will then unlock the ‘Unseen Destiny’ route which is where you can choose your own waifu from the 70 or so girls that are hunting you down in the game.
Gal*Gun Double Peace is short, about 8 hours to go through each of the main routes, but I decided to spend an additional 20 hours to get the rest of the trophies because during one of my playthroughs I was able to acquire the Godlike rank which is earned by reaching 1,000,000 points. The choice to get the rest of the trophies was quite draining because it was basically the definition of insanity, having to redo the same levels all over again to get the profiles completed. Then there’s the images gallery which requires all of the true ends, all of the bad ends, the ending where you get the Ghost Girl, and specific dialogue choices during the main route that have different images. Either way I was able to get the Platinum trophy so I’m happy about that (Gal*Gun 2 is apparently a lot easier to Platinum from what I heard, though I’ll need to double check that).
Overall, Gal*Gun Double Peace is actually a fun entertaining on-rails shooter and while the fanservice in parts is not that great the rest of the package is good fun.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a remaster of the classic 2007 Action RPG game developed by Vanillaware (13 Sentinels, Dragon’s Crown) and published by Atlus. I bought the game back in July 2018 and finally played it. From the get-go, the game’s art design is breath-taking and the English dub is really good, though the dialogue taking breaks during discussion due to the bubble text is rather off-putting. You do have the option to play the game with Japanese voices of course.
Anywho, this is about a young girl and her cat reading stories centred towards five different individuals who you can control and each have different fighting styles. Most of them are sword based but you also have a bow gun and a whip weapon of sorts. The game’s level up system depends on you defeating enemies or simply eating food that you can either grow, have them made in an outdoor restaurant or spend the money at a village cafe. The money can be earned by finding random coins on the go or defeating enemies in a special zone where earning enough points gives you better rewards.
The story of Odin Sphere is covered through different books, with each book also structured as seven chapters plus a prologue and epilogue. In each chapter, you go through a set of areas/corridors that are either empty, have hidden paths to secret items, a battle against foes, a mini-boss fight or a major boss battle to wrap up the chapter. The battles can be done quickly and have a variety of enemies so it doesn’t end up being too samey unless you revisit that location. Each chapter can take you at least 30 minutes if you get every Photon item and recipes on the map. Photons can be used to unlock new abilities that can be upgraded, while the recipes are there to make new potions (for support or to be used against enemies) or add more food options in the outdoor restaurant.
Gameplay is very good in general and having different characters with different playstyles adds a variety to the mix to avoid repetition. The story is also strong though it can be a bit messy in the narrative due to the individual stories taking place at different parts of the timeline, for instance one is set before the other and vice versa. The final book also has different alternate scenes so your choices in that part of the story can make a difference to what ending you get. A Boss Rush mode can be unlocked after story completion which is located in the Epilogue chapter for each character that has an area with 30 different boss fights.
Overall, Odin Sphere is a really solid game and the art design, music, dub and gameplay were all very good with only minor issues in general. I also acquired the Platinum trophy with a playtime of 26 hours. The trophies are essentially finishing the story, acquiring all of the Photons, recipes and scenes during the final book, plus you’ll want to eat the food at the outdoor restaurant as you progress to save yourself a lot of time. You do not need to fully upgrade your Photon abilities and only one character is needed to have all of the boxed abilities acquired (which are earned with a point that is achieved when you level up, with 65 in total needed to complete it).
Kandagawa Jet Girls
With Sony being more restrictive on fanservice, Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki eventually decided to leave Marvelous for Cygames and before he left, he worked on one more project with Honey Parade Games called Kandagawa Jet Girls, which is also a multimedia project because there was an anime adaptation also (which got released uncensored in the UK via MVM).
With Senran Kagura focused on being an action/musou type brawler, Kandagawa Jet Girls is a racing/shooter done in teams of two people. One person controls the Jet vehicle while the other shoots at other opponents or obstacles on the path. The idea of this game is actually pretty well executed as the concept works fairly well on the controls and gameplay, it’s simple and adds a bit of uniqueness to the mix. I guess in a sense you could argue this is basically an anime version of Mario Kart: Double Dash.
The gameplay does have some flaws however. The level design is not varied enough and while they do offer tons of alternate paths and angles, it’s pretty much the same locations and I feel they missed the opportunity to be a lot more wild on the settings. In addition, the difficulty is very easy for the most part against the AI. The controls work for the most part but drifting and turning feels imperfect and doesn’t always work at its best. I feel that if the game did manage to get a sequel they should try and make the gameplay more fast-paced and improve its drifting mechanic like Ridge Racer and F-Zero to add extra fun and replayability to the mix.
That being said, the mini-games are super fun and I love them a lot. Fanservice games generally have what I like to call the ‘punishment’ mechanic which is pretty much why Sony is asking Japan to tone it down a lot – Kandagawa Jet Girls does not have this type and instead goes for different variety like cleaning a vehicle, mopping up puddles on a path, exercising on a machine and doing drift stunt work. There’s no prodding anime girls like Senran Kagura had, though the girls’ chests do jiggle which is perfectly fine by me. What I’m basically trying to say is that this game is a good example of how other fanservice games should have tackled their mechanics than being super ecchi and risk getting into infamous media mess. Slightly off-topic I know but as someone who loves fanservice I do want a good balance that doesn’t make me feel too awkward when playing certain games these days (like Gal*Gun’s main gameplay is great but the mini-games does make me question the decision making at times).
Anyway, back on the topic of things, Kandagawa Jet Girls has a nice variety of characters. You have the regular main girl who is cheerful, the rich drill-haired ohoho girl (my favourite), idol girls, foreign girls, shrine girls, gyaru girls and also a chubby girl which is not something you see every day in anime land. Voice-acting for each of the girls is also good and their banter during the race is nice. The story is mostly non-existent but it’s short and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
You can customise your character in terms of hairstyle, accessories, clothes and also their vehicles in terms of improving their speed and handling. The jet customisation is important if you want to complete the mini-missions in the story campaign. Each race has 3 stars, one for 1st place and the other two can be anything from not hitting a wall, not using the special weapon (Square), shooting a specific amount of balloons, a specific speed and various others. It’s mostly doable without customisation and only 60% of the stars are needed for the trophies.
Overall, Kandagawa Jet Girls is not that bad of a game and for the price I paid which was £32 but came with first print items like the OST and artbook it’s definitely been worthwhile. The game is short, about 15 hours overall or maybe less, but it’s an easy Platinum trophy if you like trophy hunting.
Touch My Katamari
When Sony initially announced plans to close their store, I decided to revisit my Vita (which needed to be recharged due to age) and one of the games I decided to check out was Touch My Katamari, a Vita instalment in Bandai Namco’s wacky puzzle type series about dragging everything from tiny pieces to whole planets on a ball.
The Vita version is actually pretty good in terms of gameplay though it’s timed and can be quite challenging but the modern controls approach I selected worked out pretty well. It’s a very short game though, basically a digital title that got a physical release in the end, but overall worth a visit if you want something short and quick to play on the go.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case
A visual novel spin-off and sequel to the cult classic PlayStation game The Silver Case by Suda51. This one was originally released exclusively on a specific cell phone type but is now back as a remake and more ‘complete’ compared to its original. It continues to provide the blend of visual novel storytelling and adventure gameplay elements which works as well as it did in the first game.
Personally I am overall conflicted in how I felt about the overall plot of the game because it did not invest me as much as I had wanted. The second story arc I quite liked a lot, probably because it made the most sense in storytelling. There’s a lot to like with The 25th Ward overall but it’s not going to top the first game basically.
I did manage to get the Platinum trophy however I should warn you that one of the trophies requires spending 8-9 hours straight going through 99 different endings with no way to speed it up and it is boring and bizarre as hell. One ending for instance you do something and suddenly you reincarnate as cheese, like what on earth. Playtime is about 14 hours before the 99 endings route.
A couple of years ago I got heavily invested in the Vita version of Everybody’s Golf because it’s the type of game where it’s challenging but addicting to continue and try to overcome the obstacles. I liked it so much that I eventually acquired the PS4 instalment but for some reason it did not click with me in the same way that the other did.
Fast-forward to recently, I decided to revisit the PS4 version as I never really finished it for the collection and thus I continued progress. The game is very different in style due to its open-world look and online focus, but the gameplay is really great and the graphics look great. The issue I have is the continuous repetitiveness in the re-using of maps because I feel having to replay the same map every time, even if its mirrored or has additional wind speed/direction changes, does not justify its issues. What the game needed was more variety of maps without having to spend DLC just to resolve that issue.
Eventually as you go up the ranks, you do unlock more maps but the issues still remain. But overall other than that it’s still a solid game in general. While I reached the game credits, I haven’t 100% the game but I plan to save it for the PS5 since the Pro version has 4K and 60fps.
428 Shibuya Scramble
428 Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel developed by Spike Chunsoft that was originally released on the Nintendo Wii before eventually getting a western release on PlayStation 4 many years later. This takes the usual formula and replaces the anime visuals with live-action shots that gives it the same feel and look as though you were watching a J-Drama series or film.
428 was known for having the perfect 40 rating from Famitsu when it first came out, but to be honest it deserves it because the storytelling in this game is really good and concludes on a very satisfying note. You follow many protagonists and your choices will drastically impact everyone’s fates so it’s up to you to try and make sure they don’t end up in a BAD END which can be funny or an oof depending on what the character was doing. It’s pacing is also very good and even though there’s no voice acting it works really well.
Speaking of BAD ENDs, there are over 80 in the game and most of them are different to each other which have their own quirks. The game is also designed where even if your choices are correct for one person’s route, they can still hit a BAD END or KEEP OUT (this means you can’t proceed until someone else’s actions reach a certain point) unless another person is able to make the right choice in their path. It gets very important during the final moments of the story because every choice matters.
The main storyline can take about 24 hours which is plenty, and there’s tons of bonus post-game content also. One scenario is called Suzune which is a heart-breaking story of love, while another scenario is called Canaan which some of you may be familiar with. Canaan is the only part of the whole game where it’s actually presented in an anime style because it’s written by TYPE-MOON (Fate, Tsukihime).
Overall, 428 Shibuya Scramble is a fantastic game and highly recommended. It’s so good that it’s reinvested my interest in playing more visual novels lol. Of course this game is very unique in its approach but the story-telling is what makes the game so good.
From Koei Tecmo and Gust is an original JRPG game about magical girls and school life. Blue Reflection can be compared to Persona quite a lot as it has a fair amount of similarities, from interacting with your classmates to managing what to do each day to going out of your way to fight monsters in another realm. The difference here is that while Persona is time-based i.e. you have to properly manage what to do before game over, Blue Reflection gives you infinite amount of time to do virtually anything and there is no game over outside of major boss battles from select end chapters.
This is a turn-based traditional RPG that actually has some very unique and solid gameplay mechanics. It’s this where the game really shines the most because the combat, while very easy, is really engaging and the concept is well handled from choosing what to do before the enemy begins their turn to being able to unleash an ultimate attack if you focused on healing/defence for a while. The game has a percentage meter which once it hits 100% allows you to make use of that ultimate attack, but you can do a specific number of special moves at one turn if you have to.
Blue Reflection also has a fixed team where you control your main character as well as a pair of twin-sisters. Each character has different attack moves and they work pretty well against the enemies, since the enemies have their own weaknesses based on specific elements which is similar to other JRPGs. The biggest issue I have with Blue Reflection is that the game for some reason has a very bizarre approach in that you don’t level up through combat, but through the bonds you have with your classmates. This approach effectively makes the whole combat aspect of the game virtually pointless or obsolete. In other words, you could probably get from the beginning to the end of the game without really fighting anyone unless you had to get certain items for a fetch quest.
As for the story, I personally did not get attached to it so I skipped the dialogue. It’s a shame but if it ain’t going to interest me then I may as well keep moving on. The characters themselves are interesting in their own way, though I am surprised they aren’t going to tag along with you during the usual combat parts. That being said, they do assist you during the big major boss battles which is a nice added bonus to the mix.
One thing I forgot to talk about is the visuals. The UI design is actually fantastic and I love the way they have approached them. The artstyle of the cast of characters is also pretty good, though I do wish they put more effort into the combat world because it can be very easy to get lost since there is no map available. You also cannot save during these realms but then again you cannot die either. The music is also pretty good.
Overall Blue Reflection is a pretty decent game, and while I wasn’t that particularly interested in the story and dialogue, there is a lot of potential for the franchise so I hope the second game will fix a lot of those issues. I do have the Platinum trophy as it was possible within a 30 hour playtime.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3
Back in November 2018 I was able to acquire a copy of the original version for Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, which at the time got a newer version to include more characters (which can be acquired via DLC for Fortune & Venus) however it was affected by Sony’s policy so I decided to stick with the original since it was unaffected.
Fast-forward to present time and I finally decided to have a go at the series since it was one of the older PS4 games I own that has yet to be played. What started off as a volleyball spin-off series eventually became a super fanservice adventure. With new console generations comes newer engines and more realistic characters so Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 takes advantage of this a fair bit. Now despite the whole fanservice debate, this game is actually not that bad in terms of what you can expect but it is not a perfect experience by all means.
The general concept for Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is that you spend in-game 14 days with a character, and for each day it is split into four parts (Morning, Day, Late Afternoon, Evening/Night-time). In each part you have a mission objective that can range from buying a swimsuit, playing pool hopping, providing a gift to someone and even accomplish a task within a requirement like no loses during volleyball or climb up a hill within a specific amount of time. The missions come at random but for each character they have seven major missions that are crucial to unlock the best outcome, which if you aren’t able to complete within that 14-day period can continue from where you left off in a new playthrough so there’s no need to try and perfect it in one sitting.
The characters that are included in Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 were chosen by a popularity poll with Marie Rose and Honoka winning the top two votes so they were the feature characters. You can also play Kasumi, Ayane, Kokoro, Nyotengu, Hitomi, Momiji and Helena (Leifang is DLC and also included in the Scarlet version with new character Misaki). I like many of the characters shown here though they are very picky when it comes to providing gifts to them, for instance one missions states they want a specific bikini, so you buy that bikini and gift it to them but for some stupid logic they don’t want it, like why must you make me suffer? It’s even more daft when they still gain hearts (which is how you build up their satisfaction meter in order to get the best outcome of the game) when they reject it.
Before going over the mini-games, the vacation is split into two modes; Owner and Girl. Owner mode is basically you interacting with the character you’ve chosen for the vacation, while Girl mode is choosing the mini-games and playing them while also being able to gift other girls to build up the bonds.
Now let’s talk about what exactly the mini-games are in this game – it’s split into two groups; the activities and the casino. The activities include Beach Volleyball, Beach Flag (lie on the ground and run to the flag before your opponent gets it), Pool Hopping (jump on floating platforms based on the buttons shown), Butt Battle (Keijo basically), Tug of War (give them the rope and the opponent falls off immediately lol) and Rock Climbing. You can also have the character relax which is a quick cutscene of them doing something to slip that part of the day, and also buy items like swimsuits and gifts. I liked each activity and the volleyball gameplay took some use to but I got pretty good at it unless it’s on Hard difficulty where the AI will just destroy you.
The second group, the casino, only has three mini-games which are Poker, Roulette and Blackjack. The luck for some of the specific combinations is very tedious but I found a lot of fun and enjoyment playing these three especially the roulette one. That being said, save scumming is going to be needed if you want to earn a lot of money to acquire specific items for mission tasks.
Each vacation playthrough depending on how well you can manage the missions, takes roughly 2-3 hours playtime and if you are able to accomplish all 7 missions before the end of Day 14 you can get an S+ rank to help level up your Owner rank. For the Platinum trophy you will want to reach Owner Level 50 which will take a whole ton of grinding unfortunately but I was able to reach at least Level 35 after finishing all 9 character playthroughs, and 7 of them have S+ ranks at least.
Overall, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is a fun time and it’s got a lot of fanservice, including the girls getting tanned over time and the ability to use skincare items to alter their physics though they mostly reject your gifts if you do that so no point, especially during your early playthroughs. My favourite girls from this game were Nyotengu (she has a lot of ohohoho energy) and Momiji (nice person).
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory
Released in 2020, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a music rhythm spin-off (but still canon) to the ridiculously over-convoluted franchise. The game is basically all about hitting various enemies on-screen to the beat of the rhythm for a specific soundtrack or song from each Kingdom Hearts release, from the 2002 game all the way to Kingdom Hearts III. There are roughly 140-150 songs in total and each one lasts mostly around 2 mins.
World Tour is where you will want to spend time unlocking songs as you go along and once you reach the end, you unlock new story segments that continue after the events of Kingdom Hearts III ReMIND. The content is small but acts as a crucial element to where the next story saga is heading (and what they revealed is literally taking notes from Star Ocean: Til the End of Time and it’s insane). The journey is actually pretty well-paced if you are mainly going through a song on one difficulty at a time, but I decided to spend additional time earning all of the challenges to help complete the trophy list since it requires finishing each song on all difficulties.
I played through the whole of World Tour on Beginner mode but did go through roughly 40% of the songs on Standard & Proud mode along the way. The gameplay is split into three parts; the main core element is your trio (Sora, Donald & Goofy, or the characters from Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days and Riku & his Dream Eaters from Dream Drop Distance) hitting enemies using L1, R1 or X (you can use any of the three to hit a single enemy – so don’t worry if an enemy is on the left lane as you can hit it with X or R1 for example), jumping to avoid obstacles or hitting flying enemies (using Circle followed by attack), or gliding to grab the green notes (holding Circle). This is roughly a majority of what the gameplay is like.
The second part is called a Memory Dive where you are automatically gliding, but you need to use the analog sticks for specific notes. There are also some notes where you have to hold the button and let it go at the end of its path. Other than that, the rest is very similar by using L1, R1 & X. The third is the disappointing part where the game doesn’t provide enough songs dedicated to it and that’s the Boss Battles where it’s very similar to Memory Dive but the lanes are side-ways and there are segments where you have to hit the notes successfully otherwise you’ll get damage from the enemy. It’s pretty fun but only very few songs use this feature.
Outside of World Tour, you also have a Versus mode against the AI and the option to play all of the unlocked tracks you earned from the main campaign. You will also need to synthesis to unlock more songs in a similar fashion to the mainline games using gems, crystals etc. There’s also no punishment for using additional items like HP items, EXP Boost and King Mickey assisting you along the way.
World Tour will take roughly 15 hours playtime if you are aiming to unlock all of the challenges and songs for the game. There’s also an additional 15 hours playtime if you plan to finish all of the trophies including the 100,000 enemies defeated which is a grind-fest and unless you’re very good at Dark Domination and Wave of Darkness on Proud mode, you will be spending a very long time on that trophy. Other than that, the game is fairly easy to Platinum since you only need to full chain (hit all notes without missing) about 50 of 150 songs on each difficulty which is easier than you think as there’s tons of variety for the difficulty.
Overall Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a very enjoyable game and especially if you are a fan of the franchise. I do think that the game is worth owning at a discount price which is what I did as I waited until it was £19.99 before picking it up.
Time Crisis: Razing Storm
Time Crisis: Razing Storm is a collection of light gun games packaged together in one single release for the PlayStation 3. Each share the general on-rails gameplay, but they have different mechanics, themes and concepts.
Razing Storm is a spin-off of Time Crisis which you control a soldier who can also use a shield and a whole bunch of assault weapons. The game is split into two modes; the Arcade mode which has four stages with the last one only unlockable if you can beat the missions that are in the third stage – which were very hard if you are using the controller by the way. You can progress through the arcade with unlimited continues which is useful at least. Other than that the story is basically non-existent in that mode which is why you have the other mode called Story mode which is actually a first-person shooter.
The FPS gameplay is not great to be honest, without the ability to be able to aim more accurately it feels very rough and the difficulty is surprisingly tough so I had failed numerous times progressing through the story. Also you can’t jump which is a weird experience and it uses motion controls for cover which doesn’t work very well. Overall length for this campaign was about 4 hours which is alright at least.
Time Crisis 4 Arcade version is basically the arcade mode for Time Crisis 4. Time Crisis 4 was released for the PlayStation 3 back in 2007/2008 era but this re-release offers support for the PlayStation Move controller. While I have been using the DualShock controller (as I don’t own either the Move or Camera devices), it actually plays really well and you can progress through the whole game without thinking to yourself “I wish I had that Move controller”. Obviously the Move controller would be a much better experience, the DualShock controller does the job very well.
The game has 3 big stages and through Free-Play mode, it starts off with a limited amount of continues and everytime you get a game over, you unlock an additional continue slot which if you rinse and repeat you’ll eventually unlock 9 continues and 9 health bars which will make the experience much better. You can also choose between the two main characters which play the game route but have slightly different angles which changes the experience a bit.
Then we have Deadstorm Pirates, another Namco light gun game that actually has some really cool ideas presented. In addition to your usual shooting gameplay, you also have scenes where you need to rotate the wheel on the screen using your Analog stick to avoid obstacles or control a boat which was pretty cool. The Arcade mode has five stages with four of them you can choose at any order.
The setting feels more similar to SEGA’s House of the Dead than it does to Namco’s Time Crisis, as you will have moments where you need to hit an enemy at a certain weak point within a short time window. Unfortunately playing this game with the DualShock controller is not that great compared to Razing Storm and Time Crisis 4. You will get a much better experience if you had access to a Move controller or GunCon.
Overall the Time Crisis: Razing Storm collection is worth picking up if you find one for cheap as it’s going up in value in the US it seems. I don’t believe the collection is available on the PlayStation Store so you’ll have to make do with the physical version which is exclusive to PlayStation 3. If you have a Move controller, you will love this.
And that concludes Part 1 of my list of video games I played throughout the year of 2021. You can view the rest of the list here!