Cris Tales Review (Nintendo Switch)

If I could tuuuurn back tiiiiiime…

The best video game of all time, in any genre, on any system, is the classic Super Nintendo Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) Chrono Trigger. This is not up for argument, or even civilised discussion – it is just fact. I could talk about the amazing time-travelling adventures of Crono and his friends for hours on end. In fact, if you have never played Chrono Trigger before, just close your browser and go play it right now because it truly is a masterpiece.

This review is not for Chrono Trigger though, this is a review for a new JRPG with time travel elements known as Cris Tales. Well, the style is ‘JRPG’ but the developers Dreams Uncorporated and Syck are both actually based in South America. Can this modern take on one of the oldest genres of video games live up to the legacy of a legendary title like Chrono Trigger?

Plot

The plot of Cris Tales is typical JRPG fare to the point of cliché. The main character, Crisbell, is an innocent teenage girl, and an orphan no less, who is awoken at the start of the game with a strange vision. She sets out on a seemingly innocuous fetch-quest before a strange turn of events thrusts her into the role of world saviour.

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Character Crisbell
Rosy cheeks and huge eyes = innocent.

We learn that the evil Time Empress is amassing an army to conquer the world and apparently a young girl is the only person with enough free time to bother doing something about it. Fortunately for Crisbell, she discovers that she has the magical abilities of a ‘time mage‘ after coming across a magical sword that seems destined for her and her alone.

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Antagonist Time Empress
Surely her plan can’t be THAT evil…right?

Crisbell makes her way around the world helping the residents of the towns she visits. Only one with the power of a time mage can solve the predicaments that these people find themselves in. Along the way Crisbell is joined by a varied team that matches the typical JRPG crew. It is difficult to go into more detail here without risking some spoilers. I don’t think there was anything mind blowing here – at least nothing particularly new for JRPG or anime fans. The story is solid and wanting to know the secrets of the Time Empress and the mysteries of Crisbell’s past is more than enough to keep you pushing through the game to its satisfying conclusion.

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Key Art Style
The crew.

Gameplay

If you have played a JRPG before, then you know what to expect here: visiting towns, completing quests, recruiting party members, solving puzzles, random encounters and crazy boss battles. The standard JRPG package is here with elements of time travel interwoven through almost everything we do.

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Quests characters
Let’s go and help some people. Surely the teenage girl can solve the problem the giant armoured knight can’t fix.

A strong and engaging battle system is essential for a JRPG, as typically this is the thing we will spend most of our playtime doing. The basics of classic JRPG turn-based battles are here with some elements borrowed from other games that are welcome quality of life additions. At the top of the screen the turn order is easily seen (similar to Final Fantasy X, Grandia, and other titles) and this order will change in real time if enemies are slowed, or our team is hasted. Furthermore, for almost every physical or magical attack (either dealt by or to our team) if the attack button is pressed at the right time additional damage will be done (or prevented if we are on the receiving end of the attack) – you may remember this from Final Fantasy VIII or Super Mario RPG.

Over the early part of the game one of our crew members, Wilhelm (another time mage), teaches us how we can use our abilities of time manipulation to swing difficult battles in our favour. We can change the scope of time for the enemies on the left side of the screen to the past, or those on the right side to the future. Each enemy type will have a ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’ version with different stats and sometimes different strengths and weaknesses. We can also use the passage of time in tandem with skills for additional effect – like poisoning an enemy in the present and then sending them to the future where the poison damage will be significantly multiplied. This is an interesting mechanic, but its usage is very limited to specific situations and it feels like they really didn’t make the most of this interesting idea.

Outside of battle, a froggy friend shows us the ways that manipulating time in the towns we visit can progress our adventure. Yes, Cris Tales also copies Chrono Trigger’s idea of featuring a talking frog as a main character. Matias is not a fighting party member though. He plays the role of our guide as we learn the ways of a time mage, just like Navi from Ocarina of Time except for the fact he is a green frog, with a cute top hat. Similar to battles, our screen view in towns often switches to a triplicate view, where the left side of the screen is the past, the middle is the present, and the right shows us what will befall the town citizens in the future if we do not intervene. A great example is one town that appears to be completely flooded and underwater.

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Environment Time Travel
I hope you brought your swimsuit.

It is not us that jumps across the time barriers though, we only have the power to send Matias forward and back in time to speak to people or access items that don’t actually exist in the present. It is a cute system that throws a curveball at the typical puzzles and fetch quests.

Whilst the above does generally sound positive, there are some frustrations here that I need to mention. There is a ‘quest log’ in the pause menu that keeps track of the tasks we are doing (that’s good). However, there is no labelling of towns throughout the game, and the only way that you know the name of a person is by talking to them – the quest log won’t actually tell you where to find them (that’s bad).

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Rojo Character
This is Rojo, I hope you remember where you met him.

Presentation

Where gameplay is somewhat lacking, strong audio-visual presentation is even more important. Fortunately, Cris Tales has excellent and unique presentation that give it a wow factor, particularly when entering new vistas for the first time.

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Art style Gorgeous
It looks…magnificent.

The art and graphics are done in a hand drawn style that is like flash animation come anime – I guess anime as seen through the lens of the South American development team. I haven’t seen another game that looks exactly like this before and it is gorgeously striking, particularly during the few ‘cut-scenes’ that play out to expedite the story through our adventure.

Supporting the great visuals is a similarly great quality audio presentation throughout the game. All of the games background music is orchestrated and excellent. I never got bored of the soundtrack, including the battle music which with Cris Tales being a JRPG we hear very often. Cris Tales is also fully voiced, and the voice actors here did an excellent job bringing the traditional and somewhat cliché script to life. The look and sound of the game definitely do a great job in making us want to come back and experience more of the game, even when the gameplay itself starts to drag late into the game.

The main battle theme – you’ll be hearing this one a lot!

One thing that really frustrated me was the god-awful loading times. It is possible that these issues are not present on other versions of the game that are played on more powerful hardware (PC or PS5), however, I found that for the Switch version every screen transition dragged on WAY too long. Given this is a JRPG you will be transitioning screens A LOT. Going into and out of random battles, entering different areas on the world map, and even moving between rooms in buildings and dungeons causes a loading screen wait of 5-10 seconds. Maybe I’ve just been getting too used to the power and insane loading speeds of the PS5, but this was extremely frustrating for me – particularly on return trips to areas I had visited before and entering random encounters that were about as difficult as putting on your underpants in the morning. More than being frustrating, it simply just breaks up the flow of game play.

Another issue that I came across on three occasions over around 30 hours of gameplay was the game actually crashing and forcing a system restart. This happened to me on three separate occasions (completely different areas) through my playthrough, and a cursory read of other journalists work shows that I was not the only person that encountered this issue. For a JRPG that does NOT use an auto-save feature, a bug that can cause the loss of more than 1 hour of gameplay is just not acceptable.

Cris Tales Review Nintendo Switch Main Save Point
Accio savepoint!

Conclusion

Cris Tales is a game that is wonderfully presented. It also brings some new and unique gameplay ideas to the table, but then makes poor decisions in how to flesh these out over a 30+ hour adventure. This is a game that definitely looks and sounds great, but the cracks in the gameplay and functional stability of the game itself create drawbacks that may cause some people to give it up before seeing it through to an exciting, if not somewhat predictable conclusion.

Overall, I did enjoy my time with Cris Tales despite the frustrations that held it back from being considered to be near the top echelon of its JRPG genre. It is definitely no Chrono Trigger, but then again no other game has ever reached those lofty heights.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for the work that these devs release in the future.

So, why should you play it?

  • You want to the ability to fix the mistakes of your past.
  • Looking for some JRPG battles with an interesting new mechanic? It’s right here.
  • Cracking soundtrack and voice acting enjoy while you save the world with your friends.

But, why shouldn’t you play it?

  • JRPGs aren’t your cup of time-travelling tea.
  • The art style in the pictures above rubs you the wrong way for some reason.

A review code on Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review.

Mass Effect 3: Legendary Edition (PC) Review

To talk about Mass Effect 3 and not mention its ending is a bit of an impossibility, so rest assured that we’ll get to that later on. But, let me start in saying that this is the quintessential sci-fi action experience in spite of what takes place in its conclusion. When I think about playing a hero in a game, I want to control an all-powerful, versatile, masterful warrior that is respected by comrades, feared by foes, and earns their high regard every step of the way – I feel no game franchise creates this fantasy better than Mass Effect, and it comes to a head in its final instalment.

Garrus Vakarian: calibrated for 4k.

GAMEPLAY

Mass Effect 3 sees Commander Shepard face an overwhelming Reaper invasion – so when Shepard takes to the battlefield, they have to be at their best in sync with tons of biotic/tech powers to survive the onslaught. There’s more freedom in choosing what powers Shepard has in 3 instead of being locked to a few in 2 – my go-to Vanguard loadout sees Shepard jump from enemy to enemy with Biotic Charge, unleashing Nova to topple nearby enemies, and busting out Shockwave in tight spots. To manage the recharge time on these powers, I limited the weapons to a light shotgun and the overpowered silenced pistol unlocked in The Citadel DLC.

Outside of combat, Shepard can navigate a few locales within the Citadel, carefully scan Reaper-infested galaxies for points of interest, and converse with squadmates aboard the Normandy. Conversation paths have been simplified to two options in most conversations, but you’ll still have to dedicate to Paragon/Renegade for vital conversation points – especially in the final minutes requiring a perfect score to unlock the final dialogue option, something I still didn’t manage to do in my playthrough.

Familiar faces will return at every corner – rewarding players for choices in previous titles thanks to imported saves.

VISUALS

The most recent of the three titles included in the Legendary Edition, not much had to be done to make an already-pretty game look even better. That being said, it’s still an improvement seeing Mass Effect 3 in an even better light than it previously was in, thanks to more graphics options and the upres to 4K. A silky-smooth unlocked framerate was the cherry on top, with not a single slowdown occurring even in heated battles and flying across the map taking place. Draw distance is excellent, and large vistas make for great photo mode usage.

AUDIO

Mass Effect 3 employed new musicians to handle the game’s score, and, unfortunately, there isn’t much to write home about when it comes to memorability. While the music is never inappropriate, I can’t recall a single standout track like I could for the first two games. The best I can say is that it’s serviceable and gets the job done, but isn’t on the level of what Jack Wall crafted in the past. On the other hand, weapon fire and Reaper invasions sound massive – the bloodcurdling cry of a Banshee overbearing everything else on the battlefield still gives me chills. Plus, the voice acting performances are amazing – your friends are endearing, your foes menacing.

Oh boy. Here’s where it gets interesting.

PLOT

I’ve purposely saved the plot of the game for last – it’s the most contentious aspect of Mass Effect 3 and is still being talked about to this day. To continue and conclude a space epic was no small task, but BioWare provided quite a lot of closure to this saga. Almost every significant (and a ton of not-so-significant) character returns in some form in the events of Mass Effect 3; you’ll see squadmates from 1 and 2 lay their life on the line for you – or loathe you, depending on your past actions. You still have a lot of say over how the game plays out, thanks to plenty of turning-point dialogue options and courses of action. It’s exceptionally hard to save some lives as certain conditions have to be met, but it’s possible with enough effort and know-how.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING?

And here’s the hot take – I think Mass Effect 3 has an excellent ending. You are given three courses of action, all of which are vastly different, and you see the weight of your actions directly after your choice is made. Everything you’ve accomplished to this point culminates in one last choice that speaks about the kind of Shepard you’re playing. There’s pros and cons to every single choice, and large implications about the future and the past that go into what you decide.

Back in 2012, when Mass Effect 3 was released in its original form, there was a lack of closure to this ending – this was later remedied with free DLC to showcase what Shepard’s sacrifice meant. In the Legendary Edition, with all of the paid DLC attached, I feel like I fully completed Shepard’s story in all of its bravado, so this lasting final choice to destroy the Reapers – a goal since early on in Mass Effect 1 – was a perfect, logical action. Earning the “Shepard Lives” ending made it that much sweeter. Now, if only BioWare embraced the Indoctrination Theory

So, why should you play it?

  • The best combat in the series, and arguably in sci-fi action gaming.
  • Tons of full DLC that you may have missed is included.
  • See your old characters get a fulfilling ending/conclusion.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • You’re still bitter about the ending and your mind can’t be changed.
  • You skipped ME1 – you’ll miss out on a LOT.

Scarlet Nexus Review (PlayStation 5)

Plug in your brain and dive into the Scarlet Nexus in this brand new anime game.

For as long as there has been anime, there have been tie-in videogames. These date back to as early as the 1980s in which early Japanese animation paved the way for the popular media format. The iconic film Akira, and series like Lupin III, Yu Yu Hakusho, Fist of the North Star, Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop all received the tie-in game treatment. This tradition of tie-ins gained momentum throughout the ’90s and still continues today in which modern anime are adapted into videogames, many of which manage to achieve critical acclaim.

Some have have sought to reverse this concept, making anime series based off videogames. It’s not a new concept by any means, as popular titles like Street Fighter, Mega Man and most prominently, Pokemon, have spawned animated adaptations. It only makes sense that a game created with such an animated style would make for an eye-catching and engaging animation to attract different audiences to the series.

But how about taking that concept one step further – creating a videogame that IS an anime? New series have begun to blur the line between videogame and anime, and that is certainly the case with BANDAI NAMCO Studio’s brand new IP, SCARLET NEXUS. A videogame that not only looks, feels, sounds and plays like an anime, but is also being released almost simultaneously alongside a SCARLET NEXUS animation. We’ve finally come full circle.

So for those wanting the anime experience without the need to commit to 700+ episodes, does Scarlet Nexus manage to deliver an authentic gripping sci-fi/brainpunk anime series condensed into an action-RPG? Well, plug in your brain and dive in, because you’re about to find out.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Kasane Yuito

Story

The story begins with what is the most important choice in the game, the player is prompted to choose between male character Yuito Sumeragi or female character Kasane Randall. Depending on which character is picked will vary the perspective on story dramatically, though they do run parallel to each other and overlap on numerous occasions. Honestly, these two distinct stories have enough individual content to have been divided into two different versions akin to Pokemon (maybe something like SCARLET NEXUS and AZURE NEXUS).

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Other Naomi
One of the horrific Others.

Playing as your chosen protagonist, you begin as a lowly recruit to the OSF – the Other Suppression Force – a group of highly-trained and specialised soldiers tasked with defending the metropolis of New Himuka (which is basically a fictional Tokyo). Members of the OSF are revered within society, as they possess unique psyonic abilities they can utilise to fend off the “Others”, interdimensional monstrosities who manifest in the Extinction Belt in the sky and wreak havoc upon the earth. The sole purpose of the Others are to pursue and kill humans and consume their brains, and the origins of these hideous creatures are initially unknown but are explored through the game’s story.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review General Karen
The badass generals of the OSF, one of whom is called Karen. How unfortunate.

Within the first few hours of gameplay dozens of characters belonging to the OSF are introduced, each of whom belong to several unique teams that carry out regular missions to pursue the Other invasion. Eventually Yuito and Kasane become squad leaders, each with a team of their own that you’ll interact with throughout the story, though their stories soon diverge and will again reunite at a later point with vastly different motivations.

I cannot discuss in-depth many aspects of the story without spoiling it significantly, though I will say the game has far more beneath the surface than it seems once you explore past the initial anime clichés. Political motivations, corruption, betrayal and deceit feature heavily as some of the themes at play in Scarlet Nexus, and there are multiple plot twists that will take most players by surprise.

Gameplay

The gameplay is divided into three main aspects: Story Phase, Rest Phase, and dialogue/cutscenes.

Story Phase is exactly what the name would imply: it’s the portion of the game that focuses on the main story. Taking control of the main character and their squad, you’ll be heading out on important story missions that involve exploring locales, defeating enemies, solving simple environmental puzzles, and inevitably duking it out with a boss at the end of the phase. Once the boss is defeated, you’re given more insight into the story and the characters around which it revolves. It’s a completely linear, simple experience, which though repetitive is still satisfying thanks to the game’s characters and combat.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Hyper Speed
Using hyper-speed on an abandoned highway during the story phase.

Each new area in the story phase features distinct Other foes that will often require use of different abilities to dispatch, and you’ll be faced with waves of these enemies as you explore. Defeating these enemies will steadily accumulate XP which automatically improves character attributes and allows the player to spend points on a skill tree to improve the main character’s combat abilities. There is also some incentive in exploration, as going out of your way will reward you with collectible items and materials that can be used to upgrade weapons, create gifts for your team members, or unlock unique cosmetic items.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Brain Map Abilities
Unlocking more of the brain map will help considerably during combat.,

Rest Phase is Scarlet Nexus’ version of the “Social Link“, providing conversation and insight into characters through light-hearted interactions. The squad base (which feels strangely like a college sharehouse), is where the characters regroup after a mission and relax after a hard day of slaughtering Others. During these segments characters will be able to interact and strengthen their Social Links bonds which will in turn provide incredibly helpful added bonuses during combat. Using materials gathered during the story phase you’ll also be able to create gifts to help level up character bonds a bit faster. These interactions are initially amusing, but quickly lose their novelty, as each bond conversation is essentially 5 – 10 minutes of small talk and become very tempting to skip.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Kasane Kyouka
Attempting to make friends in one of the more rest phase interactions.

The rest of the game is comprised of cutscenes and dialogue that are focused almost entirely on story, which is intriguing and unravels over the 30+ hour journey. At times it feels exactly like watching an anime, and at other times it’s more like reading an interactive manga. Thankfully these sections are far more interesting than the rest phase interactions, and are likely to keep you engaged and keen for more snippets of story.

Combat

Going into Scarlet Nexus completely blind and spoiler-free, I had little idea of what to expect from its combat. From previous experience I’ve noticed that most anime games generally seem to fall within the category of turn-based combat, or generic fighting game (with some exceptions). In this case, however, Scarlet Nexus has gone above and beyond with some of the most gripping, fluid, fast-paced and enjoyable combat I’ve ever encountered in an action-RPG.

Playing as one of the two main characters, most of your main combat abilities are focused on psychokinesis, the ability to control objects with your mind and use them as weapons against the enemy. Discarded items can be flung as projectiles, trains can slam into and destroy enemies instantly, or environmental ornaments like chandeliers can be flung around like a deadly spinning tops. Using psyonic attacks will deplete a meter which can be refilled through weapon attacks, all of which will slowly deplete the enemies’ break gauge. Once the enemy has been broken, a finishing attack can be performed which will unleash a devastating move that will either completely destroy the enemy or remove a large chunk of the bosses’ health. Though that’s really only the surface of the combat.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Special Move
Using a powerful finishing move on a downed Other.

Combat really ramps up when you get other OSF team members involved. As you progress through the game you’ll have several other recruits added to your squad, each of whom have a unique ability that can be used both inside and outside of combat. Activating their ability applies a modifier to your own skills, such as turning you invisible, giving you super speed, duplicating yourself, or adding elemental attacks. What initially starts off as a fun mechanic becomes engrossing when you unlock the ability to apply 2 or even 4 of these modifiers at once. You’ll be able to decimate enemies in seconds thanks to the abilities your team-mates confer. Turning invisible and activating hyper-speed to 1-hit KO an enemy with a sneak attack is supremely satisfying.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Brain Field
Activating the Brain Field is always satisfying.

Finally, the most satisfying element of combat doesn’t appear until you’ve dived deep into the game, when the ability to activate the Brain Field is finally unlocked. Plugging in and entering a space beyond reality, your attacks become overpowered and amplified, and can be used to quickly overwhelm the enemy. This is accompanied by a distinct visual sequence that transforms the world around you. Though this must be utilised with caution, as Brain Fielding for too long will be harmful to your character and can even kill them completely.

Visuals

Quite possibly the most anime aspect of Scarlet Nexus is its visuals, particularly in regard to its character designs and animations. Models for characters are clean and crisp, especially when playing on PlayStation 5 where the games runs at 4K and a buttery 60fps. Despite being rendered in 3D, the game achieves a character style that feels authentically anime, and the designs of the characters emphasise this with their varied characteristics, hairstyles, physiques and weapons. Each character during combat has distinct attacks and colours – these look great and help the player to distinguish which character is making an action or active in combat.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review Akihabara
Just going for a walk around Akihabara New Himuka.

While the cutscenes too look excellent and are well-animated, it’s disappointing that the majority of the game is presented as bland static scenes with character panels overlayed. It’s a simplistic way to convey character interactions, but just not particularly engaging, especially when you’re made to sit through lengthy scenes of exposition. Thankfully there is always a skip button available if you’re finding a conversation to be bland or tedious.

Scarlet Nexus PS5 PlayStation 5 Anime Visuals Combat Review
Most interactions are static with character overlays like this.

Most of the environments unfortunately are nothing to write home about, and occasionally feel quite generic. When out on missions you’ll explore locations like factories, abandoned quarries, mysterious libraries, suspicious research facilities, and overgrown highways, often revisiting these areas on several occasions. It’s not that they look bad, but they’re just not impressive or eye-catching. This is made even more obvious when you’re exploring the city of New Himuka, which looks comparatively brilliant with its hustle and bustle of neon lights and busy walkways.

Audio

Unusually, the composer Hironori “Guts” Anazawa, isn’t known just for his contributions to videogame music. Though he has prepared and composed music for prominent games like Pokemon Sun/Moon, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and Daemon x Machina, he’s also responsible for music heard in the anime Prison School, and featured in multiple Japanese TV commercials. An interesting and varied portfolio!

The music he has created for Scarlet Nexus presents a plethora of genres, spanning multiple musical styles. With songs consisting of synth/electro through to lounge/acid jazz, J-pop and hard rock, all the way to industrial metal, there’s something here that will appeal to almost everyone. Tracks feel distinctly futuristic fitting with the game’s setting, and music ramps up in response to your combat, increasing both the pace and pitch when certain abilities are activated.

This track gives off Persona 5 vibes, good thing too, because you’ll be hearing it a lot!

Thankfully a game featuring a truly colossal (and sometimes overwhelming) amount of dialogue also features some excellent voice acting performances. When beginning the game you’ll be given the option to pick between English/Japanese voiceovers, which is a nice touch for an anime-style game and will satisfy subtitle purists as well as dub heathens. Having played exclusively in Japanese, I can vouch for the quality of the Japanese cast, who could easily convince you into thinking you were actually watching an anime. The quality of these voiceovers certainly helps during some of the arduous dialogue.

Conclusion

Thanks to its intriguing story and truly excellent combat, Scarlet Nexus offers one of the better original anime game experiences in recent years. Although the game achieves some phenomenal highs and will almost certainly appeal to those seeking brilliant sci-fi action, there are unfortunately many moments where interactions and excessive dialogue feel like bland filler episodes and will tempt you to skip them entirely. Thankfully the enjoyment of the more important parts of the game vastly outweigh its drawbacks, and overall anime fans would be foolish to avoid Scarlet Nexus because of this. Bandai Namco have created a brand new series that I’m already eager to see return, even to the point where I would happily consider playing through the game once more to experience the other protagonist’s perspective.

So, why should you play it?

  • You’re a fan of anime, particularly those with an emphasis on sci-fi/action.
  • Truly brilliant combat system that is engaging and fast-paced.
  • Intriguing story with numerous unexpected plot twists.
  • Colourful cast of characters.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Excessive dialogue can be tedious and bland.
  • Gameplay can feel repetitive at times.

A review code on PlayStation 5 was provided for the purpose of this review.

Diablo II: Resurrected Technical Alpha Impressions

Evil has resurrected. But after 20 years, has Diablo II aged like a fine potion, or has is it dated and shrivelled up like a wrinkly Deckard Cain?

Over the last four days I have been almost non-stop bingeing the Diablo II: Resurrected Technical Alpha on PC, which ran from the 10th – 14th of April and gave select individuals the chance to try out this revamped version of Blizzard’s classic dungeon-crawler RPG. Players were given the chance to participate by signing up, however I managed to score a code through fellow gaming website, IGN Australia, who I had the opportunity to play on behalf of.

Remember the South Park WoW guy? That was me over the last few days.

Much to my delight, I soon discovered that Resurrected is truly the definitive version of Diablo II that fans have always wanted. In sticking with the original gameplay Diablo II has become so well-known for, Resurrected adds unmatched graphical detail, finesse, and multiple quality-of-life changes to truly bring this cult classic into the realm of modern gaming.

But what’s so good about Resurrected anyway?
If it’s the same gameplay as it was 20 years ago, is it worth playing again?
Well you might find out if you’d…


What did the Alpha involve?

Though I was hoping for the chance to once again venture all the way from the Rogue Encampment through Hell and into the fearsome Frigid Highlands, the Alpha included only Acts I and II of the game without any option of choosing difficulty. This gave a short snippet of the game: enough to keep me occupied for the few days while the Alpha was active, but certainly left me wanting more. It felt quite jarring to finish Act II without the ability to leave Lut Gholein and sail East towards to Kurast.

Choice of class too was limited. All seven familiar faces stand in front of you around the campfire at the “Select Hero Class” screen, however you only have the option to choose from three: Amazon, Barbarian, and Sorceress. Having played primarily as Paladin and Druid in the past, this came as a bit of a shock, but it forced me instead to step outside of my comfort zone and pick a class I normally would not. Eventually I picked Barbarian, not because of his well-defined rock hard quads that you get to admire each time you boot up the game, but because his emphasis on dual-wielding and melee abilities was more suited to my style of play.

After completing Act II with a Barbarian and dying against Duriel multiple times, I decided to play through the game again choosing the Sorceress class. This came as a massive shock after playing such a resilient melee character. Replayability of the alpha was limited to playing through these same two acts as the three different classes, but still kept me entertained and occupied.

What has changed?

You’d have to have a light radius of 0 not to see the biggest change of all in Resurrected: the visuals. A game that once ran in 4:3 at an impressive resolution of 640 x 480 (and increased to 800 x 600 in Lord of Destruction), now has been brought into the realms of modern gaming in full 3D. Finally you can experience Diablo II in glorious 16:9 without the need for a mod! Graphical options are plenty and can be adjusted to suit your PC – I ran the game at 2560 x 1440 at maximum settings and had a consistent framerate of >60fps, though the game can be run at higher resolutions if you have the capacity.

Plenty of graphical options available to cater to different systems.

What impressed me most about this 3D visual upgrade was the game’s ability to retain the dark, gothic aesthetic of the original’s environment and enemy designs, all while adding a level of detail as if it were a game created only recently. You’ll immediately be able to recognise every single character, item, enemy and small environmental detail from the original game despite the graphical overhaul. Even the game’s UI and menu’s are significantly more detailed while retaining the feel of the original. As an added feature, at any point in the game by pressing “G”, you’ll be able to swap between Resurrected and Legacy graphics, which is a nice touch even through it likely has little functionality.

Press G to travel back 20 years.

Aside from the graphical changes, there are a few other improvements to the interface, options and gameplay that help to update this now 20-year-old game. The character selection screen now feels like logging into World of Warcraft or Diablo III, instead providing a detailed view of your character, their equipment, and an intricate backdrop of whichever area you most recently saved in.

I don’t remember those quads being in the original.

There are also several new settings compared to the original, including accessibility options for those with low vision or colour blindness. One of the most satisfying changes is “Auto Collect Gold” which is set to default, meaning that you won’t have to spend time frantically clicking on coins after they fling out of a chest. Simply walk over the gold and your character will pick it up. A game-changer!

What hasn’t changed?

Literally everything else. This is Diablo II: LoD gameplay almost completely untouched. Every movement, attack, spell and interaction feels 100% as it did all those years ago, and fans of the original will appreciate this far more than newcomers to the series. Every dungeon and encounter has been lovingly recreated in the updated art style, blending traditional gameplay with an attractive modern aesthetic. Most notably, the boss fights still feel exactly as they used to, as I especially noted while facing off against Duriel, trapped in the tiny arena chugging potions rapidly.

The worst boss in the game has not changed one bit. He’ll still mess ya up.

Through my time playing the alpha there were several other elements that had not been changed – the audio including sound effects and soundtrack, while having been remastered, is almost identical, though now sounds crisp and clean. As a massive fan of Matt Uelmen’s atmospheric and ambient score, I’m glad there have been no significant changes made. The inventory system also is identical – same number of slots, ability to swap between two sets of weapons, and the use of your character’s stash (both personal and shared).

More inventory space for all your gems. And Wirt’s Leg, of course.

Reportedly cutscenes have been completely remastered, though in the technical alpha you’re presented with the original cutscenes (which now appear incredibly pixelated!) along with a VISUAL PLACEHOLDER stamp in the bottom right to give you the impression that these are not being kept.

Were there many bugs?

After playing for approximately 20 hours, bugs I encountered were few and far between. In fact, the most common bug I encountered tried to kill me and shot electricity when I attacked it (damn you, Death Beetles!). Though in all seriousness, the game played almost flawlessly. There was the occasional graphical glitch, such as a model popping in or the odd enemy clipping through a closed door. One of the more amusing bugs I encountered was after breaking down the door to Duriel in Tal Rasha’s tomb. After assembling the Horadric Staff, a beam of energy shatters the wall leading to the boss fight. Upon exiting this area there wall would return intact as if to say, “Don’t go in there, Duriel will f*ck you up.

Chamber’s closed, better go home.

Though my experience was mostly uneventful, other players found more interesting bugs, such as one that gave the ability to easily duplicate items. This is the purpose of an alpha test, after all.

Final Thoughts

Although changes are minimal, Resurrected will make you happy to double-dip into what is essentially the same game with a fresh coat of paint. Those who spent hundreds of hours in slashing away in single player or online attempting to climb the ladder will undoubtedly feel right at home. Having played through Diablo II: Lord of Destruction only months ago, booting up Resurrected was as simple as jumping back into the game I already knew so well.

Newcomers to the series may be surprised by Resurrected’s simple, looping gameplay, as in the last couple decades RPGs have become increasingly complex. By today’s standards the game is easily approachable and does well to ease you into a challenge. Hopefully this will also expose a new generation of gamers to an experience often considered as one of the most iconic, influential PC games ever made.

In conclusion, Diablo II: Resurrected is without a doubt the game Diablo fanatics have dreamed of for years. While Resurrected has revitalised the game’s visuals tremendously, it manages to do so while retaining the most important aspects that fans have grown to love: traditional RPG gameplay, and a dark, gothic aesthetic. So, will it be it worth playing? Yes, without a doubt.

The game launches later this year. You can find more info via the official website:
https://diablo2.blizzard.com/en-us/

ENTER THE REAPERS’ GAME ON JULY 27 – NEO: THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU LAUNCH DATE CONFIRMED

New Trailer Highlights Characters, Gameplay Alongside PC Version Announcement

SQUARE ENIX® has announced that the action role-playing game NEO: The World Ends with You will release on July 27, 2021 for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and Nintendo Switch™ system and confirmed a PC version of the game will be available on the Epic Games Store this winter (ANZ).

Some familiar faces appear alongside the new cast of NEO: The World Ends With You.

The long-awaited follow-up to the RPG classic The World Ends with You follows protagonist, Rindo, as he explores the heart of Tokyo to uncover the mysteries behind the sinister “Reapers’ Game,” a life-or-death battle for survival in which he has been forced to take part. A new trailer, that debuted today, offers an introduction to a new cast of characters, a vibrant and fashionable equipment system, the game’s hyper-stylish action battle system, and much more. The trailer is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xSVYX1FLMGQ

A screenshot of a video game

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The pin-badge system is back again, and as stylish as ever.

NEO: The World Ends with You combines a striking, anime-style Shibuya with fast-paced gameplay, an amped-up soundtrack from composer Takeharu Ishimoto (THRILL Inc.), and an intriguing story to create an unforgettable experience. Players can explore and enjoy the sights, sounds, and culture of this bustling city, fight monsters alongside their allies in flashy battles, and complete missions as they learn more about the “Reapers’ Game” and fight to change the fate they’ve been handed.

The iconic Shibuya scramble crossing. Just with a lot less people.

You can find out more about Neo: The World Ends With You, which launches on July 27th 2021, via the official website:
https://square-enix-games.com/neotwewy/en-us/

Persona 5 Strikers Review – PS4/PS5

They might be Strikers, but this time the Phantom Thieves have hit another home run.

Warriors spin-off games are everywhere. No series is safe.

What originally started as a fighting game similar to the Soulcalibur series, soon evolved into a genre of its own with the PS2 launch title: Dynasty Warriors 2. This game coined the term “crowd-combat“, placing the player on an open battlefield fighting 1 vs 100 against swarms of enemies at once interspersed with stronger bosses in what is often referred to as a musou game (literally translates to Warriors in Japanese). Originally these games were focused on the Three Kingdoms period in China and featured historical settings and characters locked in feudal war. However, it was not long before the influence of these games began to spread to other series:

The Legend of Zelda became Hyrule Warriors (and Age of Calamity).
Fire Emblem became Fire Emblem Warriors.
One Piece became One Piece: Pirate Warriors.
Gundam became Dynasty Warriors: Gundam.
…the list goes on!

And now Persona is the latest series to fall victim with Persona 5 Strikers.
But the catch? It barely feels like a Warriors game at all. Read on to find out why!

PLOT

Set only months after the events of Persona 5 (the base game, not Royal, so no Kasumi), protagonist and leader of the infamous Phantom Thieves, Joker, decides to get the gang back together again for a reunion. Upon gathering the crew, the group discover a popular new phone app known as EMMA taking the world by storm. After attending a public meet and greet with pop star, Alice Hiiragi, the Phantom Thieves are given a calling card and discover they can use the app to enter the Metaverse allowing them to explore new “Jails” to confront the shadow versions of people behaving abnormally in real life. It’s a premise much the same as those of Persona 5.

Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Jail
Yeah, I don’t think real life jails usually look like this…

Several new characters are introduced and are key to the plot of the game. Early on you come across an artificial intelligence affectionately named Sophia, who becomes a playable character in the metaverse and essentially lives inside Joker’s phone. In the place of Sae Nijima (the prosecutor from the original game), the team now begin working alongside police inspector, Zenkichi Hasegawa, and must determine whether he is friend or foe.

Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Characters Zenkichi
“How do you do, fellow Phantom Thieves?”

Shortly after the initial events set in Tokyo/Shibuya, the Phantom Thieves set off on a road trip. Literally. In an oversized camper van that becomes their mobile base, you explore new settings around Japan and discover new jails to uncover those responsible. It feels almost like a coming-of-age story, but makes for an amusing setting and a creative way to explore new regions.

Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Futaba Holiday Road Trip
Even the Phantom Thieves need to take time off occasionally.

GAMEPLAY

Many Persona staples make a return in Strikers, making the game feel far much more like a follow-up than a Warriors spin-off. I had to regularly remind myself I wasn’t playing a true sequel to Persona 5, as it’s quite easy to forget. And that’s a good thing!

Elements like Persona collection and fusion return, and will see you making regular trips to the Velvet Room in-between missions. Managing your team and their equipment is still an important aspect – the only difference is you no longer visit physical stores (so no more Airsoft Shop or Takemi Clinic), instead all of your items are ordered online and delivered directly to the Hideout. There is also still plenty of character interaction and amusing dialogue, though “social links” now have been completely replaced with a simplified “bond level” that allows you to unlock and upgrade various abilities.

Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Lavenza Velvet Room
It’s real velvet.

Overall the gameplay is quite simple and easily approachable: as you progress through the story you’ll trigger scripted events in which you explore new Jails (which are essentially large dungeons). These dungeons involve solving puzzles, clever areas of platforming, and of course plenty of combat which is certainly the highlight of the game. You’ll fight swarms of enemies and bosses to progress further through the Jail, and eventually confront the Monarch at the end in order to change their corrupted heart.

Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Gameplay Jail
The first Jail, which has an Alice in Wonderland theme.

COMBAT

It really wouldn’t be a Warriors game without button-mashing combat and swarms of enemies, but Strikers does incredibly well in allowing this combat to feel as much like the original game as possible. Although it is no longer turn-based and instead gives the player full control over their character’s movement, it incorporates many of the aspects of Persona’s combat:

  • Personas: during combat you can call upon your Persona. If you’re playing as Joker you can pause time, swap Personas mid-combat, and cast spells and abilities on the fly.
  • Your party: you can play as any combination of 4 of the Phantom Thieves (and some guests!) during combat and swap between them using the D-pad. Though characters other than Joker are limited to using only their own Persona.
  • Strengths, weaknesses, and all-out attacks: choosing your abilities is crucial in combat, and by exploiting enemy weakness you’ll be able to knock them down. Once enemies are down then in true Persona fashion a stylish and devastating all-out attack can be performed.
  • Ambushes: enemies can be attacked from behind or above and be swiftly and stealthily dealt with.
Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch All Out Attack Take Your Heart
The all-out attacks are still as satisfying as they were in the original game.

There are also new additions to the combat not previously found in Persona 5, most of which work in favour to make the action-based combat much more engaging:

  • Environmental attacks: each area has unique aspects that you can use during combat (for example, a party-themed area may have party poppers that can be activated to stun an enemy).
  • Ranged weapons: each character has their own ranged weapon with a limited amount of ammo.
  • Showtime attacks: defeating enemies will charge your Showtime Gauge which, when full, allows you to unleash a devastating and visually-impressive attack to clear the battlefield.
Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Showtime Attack
The showtime attacks definitely are the star of the show.

Considering it’s such a massive part of the game and will probably take up the majority of your time, it’s satisfying to know that the combat not only takes many elements from Persona 5, but somehow manages to improve upon them all while maintaining the game’s distinct visual style…

VISUALS AND STYLE

Of course one of the most impressive features of Persona 5 is its stylish visual aesthetic. Every character movement and action is done with flare and an effortless coolness. And it’s not just the animated cutscenes, environments or combat that are impressive; even the game’s loading screens, menus and inventories are an absolute pleasure. Well thankfully Strikers does the series justice and manages to maintain the distinct elegant graphics in its environments, animations, UI, and animated cutscenes (which swap between pre-rendered CGI and stylised anime).

Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Stylish Menu
I could seriously watch these menus for hours.

In keeping the distinct visual style, Strikers manages to feel like a legitimate follow-up to Persona 5 rather than a simple spinoff. However, visuals are only part of P5’s style, as it’s the smooth acid jazz soundtrack that really tops it off.

SOUNDTRACK

Originally composed by series sound director, Shoji Meguro, the music to Persona 5 ranges from smooth jazz and lounge music all the way to big band, electronic and intense upbeat tracks like Rivers in the Desert. Though he was not involved directly in the music for Strikers, many of the tracks from the original game have been incorporated, rearranged or remixed, and are also available if you have a Persona 5 or Royal save file.

The brand new compositions in Strikers feel right at home among the original tracks, and have a much more upbeat tempo fitting of a Warriors game. In particular, many of the battle themes really stand out in this soundtrack and will hype you up while facing off against a challenging enemy.

CONCLUSION

So what’s most impressive about Persona 5 Strikers? It’s the fact that it feels more like a legitimate follow-up to Persona 5 than it does a Warriors spin-off. In retaining the best aspects of Persona 5, Strikers manages to blend its action-based gameplay perfectly into the world of the Phantom Thieves, and unlike other Warriors games does not at all feel forced, repetitive, or unnecessarily padded.

If you’re a die-hard Persona fan and love the series for its characters and story, then Strikers is a rewarding return to the world of the Phantom Thieves. You won’t be turned off by the combat either, as it manages to incorporate aspects of turn-based combat to create an almost hybrid style of battle. My only gripe is the lack of Social Links/Major Arcana, instead being replaced by a dumbed-down “bonds” system that does not feel anywhere near as engaging or rewarding.

Persona 5 Strikers Joker PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Ann

So why should you play it?

  • You crave more Persona goodness and enjoy the series.
  • Stylish anime visuals, combat and cutscenes appeal to you.
  • Turn-based combat tends to get a bit boring.
  • The satisfaction of destroying swarms of enemies and over-the-top attacks is unparalleled.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • As a JRPG fanatic you’d only ever play games with turn-based combat.
  • Social Links were the most enjoyable part of Persona for you.

Persona 5 Strikers is available on both Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch. A review code (PS4) was provided for the purpose of this review, though the game was played on a Playstation 5 and performance may vary.

Atelier Ryza 2 PS5 Review

A surp-Ryza-ngly thrilling JRPG!

The Atelier series of games began over 20 years ago, with the first game in the series, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, releasing all the way back in 1997 for the Sony PlayStation. An “atelier” is a workshop or studio, and this title is definitely reflected in the series, which have a heavy focus on alchemy, collection and creation of items. Thanks to their cute characters and unique gameplay, Atelier games have gained quite a cult following over the last couple of decades.

Atelier Marie Playstation 1 PS1
Atelier Marie, Sony PlayStation, 1997 (Japan only)

Developed by Gust, a division of Koei Tecmo, there are now 22 games in the main series, and numerous spin-offs, remakes and ports. And yet, this is the first time I’ve ever played an Atelier game. What have I been doing wasting my life without these games!? Well weep for me no longer, because I have finally seen the light, and experienced the sweet charm that is cute girls doing alchemy with Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy for Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation PS4/PS5.

A direct sequel to Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, the game centres around the peppy and spirited Reisalin “T̶h̶i̶g̶h̶z̶a̶ Ryza” Stout: a budding alchemist, teacher, and a friend to absolutely everyone she encounters. In typical JRPG fashion you control Ryza as the main character, and recruit several party members during progression of the game’s story, many of whom are characters from the previous game. Despite not having played the original game, I still managed to gain a decent understanding of who all the characters were and what they meant to Ryza and the game’s story. If possible I would recommend to play the original game first, but if you’re in my situation, I don’t think it detracts much from your overall enjoyment of the game.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Voluptuous Thighs
Main character, Ryza, known for her voluptuous… personality.

Gameplay is fairly straight-forward: collect items for alchemy from different areas of the map, take them back to your Atelier and use them to craft various items. The more you are able to craft, the more areas of the map you can explore, the more efficient you can become in combat, and the further you can progress the main story and side missions. It’s a very simple concept but incredibly satisfying – coming across that rare item out in the field and bringing it back to be thrown in the cauldron to create something completely different becomes very addicting. There’s also quite a bit of skill needed to synthesise high-quality or complex items, as each ingredient has a particular level of quality and various skills that might be transferred to the synthesised item. This is an essential gameplay mechanic, and certainly enhances other aspects of gameplay such as exploration and combat.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Synthesis Screen
The synthesis screen, allowing you to add materials to create an array of items.

So the game is completely peaceful, right? No fighting, just strolling around picking flowers and creating items to gift to townspeople?

Wrong. Ryza LOVES to fight.

Adorable sheep, sludgy slimes, rare dragons, immortal suits of armour, Ryza slaughters them all with ease to collect their contents and throw them into the boiling alchemy pot. This is done with the assistance of two other active party members, and another party member that can swap in during combat. You have the option to swap between characters and perform attacks, blocks, special skills, and use items to defeat the helpless creatures. Combat also utilises an “active time battle” system, which makes fighting much more engaging than traditional turn-based JRPG battles. Performing particular skills at the request of your allies will trigger your party’s skills and cause a chain of attacks for massive damage. It’s quite satisfying when a single attack ends up becoming a barrage from all of your characters at once. This means most of the time combat will be an absolute breeze and you won’t even have to consider your actions, but scattered throughout the world and as you progress the story are various bosses, and these can be a bit more of a challenge.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Combat
The dynamic combat screen, which allows you to swap between characters at any point.

It’s not all about crafting and killing though, as a large component of the game involves exploring ruins, unravelling mysteries, and revealing the truth around a mysterious character who hatched from an egg known as Fi (no, not the talking sword). These essentially acts as “dungeons”: separate areas with a unique visual style, specific enemies to fight and items to collect, and a boss at the end. While exploring the ruins, fighting enemies, and using various crafted items, your goal is to piece together fragments of each area and discover the history of the location through snippets of text. Ryza is also in possession of a magical compass that guides her towards points of interest in each location. How convenient! Overall I found collecting and piecing together these fragments to be a little bit tedious, but the reward is worth the hassle as it allows you to gain points needed to synthesise new items. Exploring these ruins is not an optional part of the game, and is required in order to progress the main story.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Exploration Underwater City Ruins
One of the game’s ruins: an ancient underwater city. Doesn’t look very ruined to me!

In addition to the main story there is plenty of extra content to keep you hooked on Atelier Ryza. Numerous side quests involving the game’s main characters and townspeople, levelling up the shops located in the town, unlocking new parts of the skill tree, upgrading weapons at the local blacksmith, and befriending and sending out an adorable Puni (slime) on missions to collect alchemy items. There’s even a screenshot mode where you can pose Ryza, other characters and enemies and take some amusing shots (pictured below) – an essential part of any modern video game! I had a thrilling time with all these optional parts of the game, and they definitely add much more gameplay value than just powering through the ruins and main story.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Photo Mode alchemy pot
Ryza only uses the finest ingredients in her alchemy.

With a crisp anime art-style, 4K resolution on the PS5, vibrant colours and lighting, and detailed character models, Atelier Ryza is one of the best-looking JRPGs I’ve seen yet. Some of the environmental models can look a bit jagged up close, and animations during character interactions are noticeably robotic, but overall it’s a very visually-pleasing game. Combine that with a brilliant acoustic score from composer Kazuki Yanagawa, who has composed music for almost all the main Atelier games, and you’ve got an incredibly charming aesthetic for the game. His music has a refreshing, calm, folky sound with plenty of acoustic instruments and catchy melodies, and the occasional intense upbeat song during the game’s combat and boss fights – it’s a perfect fit for the series.

After playing Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy on PlayStation 5, I’m intrigued by the rest of the series and will certainly be playing some of the earlier titles for more alchemical action. And if you’re like me and have never played an Atelier game before, don’t hesitate to try out Ryza 2, even with it being a direct sequel.

So why should I play it?

  • You enjoy JRPGs, particularly those with a focus on collecting/crafting.
  • You’re an anime fan and enjoy series with cute characters.
  • You’ve never played a game in the Atelier series.
  • You want a decent JRPG to play on the PS5.

But why shouldn’t I play it?

  • You don’t enjoy games with a focus on collecting/crafting.
  • Cute anime girls might make you embarrassed.
  • If you don’t have the time to commit hours to a lengthy JRPG.

A review copy of the game for PlayStation 5 was provided for the purpose of this review.