AKIBA’S BEAT Review! (PS4/PSVita)

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Ever have a desire to geek out on anime, games, and do absolutely NOTHING else? So does Asahi, the hero of AKIBA’S BEAT, and his lazy dreams are shattered by the pro-active Saki and her talking plush toy–er, familiar–who drag him into a monster-fighting quest to shatter people’s delusions. Get pumped for some J-Pop, Idol worship, and otaku-fueled hijinks in Japan’s famous “Electric Town” in this 3D action RPG!

Akiba’s Beat is a decent action RPG that lacks flash, but has above average elements, such as a great real-world setting, awesome music, and peerless voice acting. The story is entertaining enough, but the zaniness of prior Akiba’s games is gone, leaving an absence felt right to the core of the experience.

Is it worth it? To otaku freaks like us, sure–Akiba is still a totally cool place to experience, and while the look and actual licensed content is limited, the story and NPC commentary build up a social outline of the anime-fan lifestyle that those of us outside of Japan can only imagine. But if that’s not your thing, you’ll probably find too much loading, and too little visual flare to keep on fighting other people’s delusions.

Check out my full review with screenshots at KeenGamer.com!

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OPERATION ABYSS: NEW TOKYO LEGACY Review!

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Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is an excellent dungeon romp through a near-future sci-fi Tokyo.Finish that high-school class quick, so you can gear up and dive headlong into a quest for missing students that’ll lead you into fierce battle against bizarre enemies. Best of all, this dungeon-crawler won’t make you crunch more numbers than math class! (Unless you’re into that.)

For those unfamiliar with Wizardry games, especially their later Japanese-spawned entries, suffice it to say that they consist of first-person dungeon wandering through grid’ed environs, where players control a party of characters in turn-based combat and have a metric ton of stats, gear, and spells to play with. Operation Abyss contains all of those traits, but trades the more common sword and sorcery theme for a near-modern future filled with high-tech laboratories and medical facilities hidden beneath local high schools.

Where Wizardry games, and their recent ilk such as Stranger of Sword City, often lose people is in the complexity of their numbers’ systems. Players need to be aware of no less than two dozen stats and traits to fully utilize their party, and often the mere act of equipping a new sword can take minutes. The fun comes from eventually fine-tuning your crew into the ultimate monster-slaying heroes, but it can come at the price of playability. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy skips this terrifying time-sink by using story progression as a way to spread out the introduction of new stats and systems. Certainly this is nothing new to the gaming world, but being able to plunk your way through a few dungeons before having to worry about crafting is a nice change of pace, and makes learning the complexities of the game engine a gradual pleasure, rather than a brick wall on the highway.

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is both fun and approachable, like the best guest at a party. It doesn’t bore you with convoluted ways to make your guacamole taste better, but you know it could if you asked for it. It’s as complicated as you want it to be, and a nice challenge no matter what.

Check out my full review on KeenGamer.com!

THE SILVER CASE Review!

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Suda51 fan’s, unite! The Silver Case, the cult-developer’s first title from the PSX era, comes to U.S. consoles for the first time in a remastered and expanded edition. A visual novel with graphic crime content and supernatural undertones, The Silver Case grants players a rare chance to see the beginnings of a great game-maker, and experience one of the strangest visual novels ever to grace the genre.

Anyone looking for something different to pop into their PS4’s will never find something as different as The Silver Case. It’s proof-positive that Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture were breaking the mold right out of the gate, and those willing to fight with a UI better left to history will be rewarded with an experience like no other.

If, like us, you’re rabid Suda51 fans, then consider The Silver Case a must-buy. The influence of it on later titles like Killer7 are visible almost immediately, and the story is yet another example of how Suda51’s versatility is unmatched. If, however, you’ve only ever played the lovably wonky No More Heroes series, but think the idea of a visual novel sounds dreadful, then you may have to pass on this one. Unless, of course, you’d like Grasshopper Manufacture‘s other quirky titles to get re-releases (or better yet, sequels!)–then you ought to do yourself a favor and give The Silver Case a try.

Check out my full review, plus a ton of screenshots, at keengamer.com!

RAIN WORLD Review! PC / PS4

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Rain World is indie developer Videocult’s new survival platform title published by Adult Swim Games. Taking place in a world of deadly rainstorms and vicious carnivores, players take charge of a single lonely slugcat, who must evade and survive long enough to reunite with it’s family. Will you be able to get back to the safety of your home, or be pounded into oblivion by a torrent of crushing water?

It comes down to is this: Rain World is a gorgeous game with great storytelling and a very slow pace. It has some bits and pieces that are more in favor of art than fun–such as non-skip-able animations and a dreary color palette–but there’s still great gameplay and a huge amount of content for all that (over 60 hrs. on the first play-through!)

If you’re the kind that likes to sprinkle some art house movies in between binge-watching cartoons, then you ought to consider Rain World a must-have, a 10/10, an insta-buy. However, if you’re just looking for the average Mario-Meat Boy-Hedgehog experience, then consider that you’ll be getting a game more focused on careful planning than twitch reflexes. Consider also that you’ll be getting a beautiful story, though–for us, that’s worth it.

Check out my full review with more screenshots at KeenGamer.com!

TOUHOU GENSO WANDERER Review! – PS4

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Touhou Genso Wanderer is the first Touhou rogue-like to come to the west, as well as a rare chance for PS4 owners to experience a traditional Japanese rogue-like. With fun characters, charming graphics, and a MASSIVE quantity of randomly crafted loot, Genso Wanderer will steal your life. Grab your controller, silence your phone, and put on your anime-watchin’ Snuggy for this rocking randomized experience!

Touhou Genso Wanderer is a fangame made by indie developer Aqua Style, which takes place in the famed Touhou Project universe. If you’re unfamiliar with Touhou Project, check out my review of Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet, which gives the lowdown on the series.

Gameplay for this entry is primarily top-down, turn-based exploration and combat through a series of floors (essentially dungeon crawling). Each floor is made up of a series of randomly generated rooms, and when the player either moves or takes an action (uses an item, ability, etc.), all enemies on the board also take an action. While this is traditional fare for Japanese rogue-likes, there are lots of extras that Aqua Style has thrown into the mix that spice things up and improve accessibility. As far as accessibility, there are a plethora of simple controls that make dungeon crawling easy-peasy. With loads of traps, enemy types, cute characters, and loot, loot, loot, Genso Wanderer has it going on.

If you’ve never played a traditional Japanese-style rogue-like, and the idea sounds even remotely interesting to you, then you owe it to yourself to give Touhou Genso Wanderer a spin. It offers one of the most accessible rogue-like experiences available, and succeeds in doing so without sacrificing the content or sheer fun of the randomized dungeon-looting experience.

Read my full review with more screenshots at KeenGamer.com!

EXILE’S END REVIEW – PS4

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Overall, Exile’s End is a true retro game in play style, visual style, and cinematic approach. With experienced talent from the NES‘s glory days, Magnetic Realms and XSeed have brought players a game that feels less like a retro-themed indie, and more like a re-discovered, unreleased Amiga disk bought at the world’s coolest yard sale.

If you’re in the mood to play something that won’t hold your hand, and gives you a storyline straight out of the Alien knock-off section of the video rental store, then give Exile’s End a playthrough. You’ll be yearning for a CRT monitor and awful ergonomics in no time, and be damn happy about it.

Exile’s End is indie developer Magnetic Realms’ homage to the CRT-monitor classics of the Amiga, and a follow-up to their first title Inescapable. While Inescapable garnered rough reviews due to it’s linear nature and lackluster graphics, Exile’s End boasts art design by staff from Secret of Mana and Mother 3, a soundtrack by NES legend Keiji Yamagishi (Ninja Gaiden, TecmoBowl), and gorgeously pixelated cut-scenes by OPUS (Half-Minute Hero). If that’s not reason enough to grab your gamepad, than nothing is!

Exile’s End is a true retro game in play style, visual style, and cinematic approach. With experienced talent from the NES‘s glory days, Magnetic Realms and XSeed have brought players a game that feels less like a retro-themed indie, and more like a re-discovered, unreleased Amiga disk bought at the world’s coolest yard sale.

If you’re in the mood to play something that won’t hold your hand, and gives you a storyline straight out of the Alien knock-off section of the video rental store, then give Exile’s End a playthrough. You’ll be yearning for a CRT monitor and awful ergonomics in no time, and be damn happy about it.

Check out my full review at KeenGamer.com!

TORMENT: TIDES OF NUMENERA Review! – PS4

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Torment: Tides of Numenera is the spiritual successor to the quintessential RPG Planescape: Torment. As the highest funded RPG on Kickstarter, Torment has high expectations, and comes to the table prepared. Great stats building, combat, world-building, and the best writing to ever run across a text box await, and it’s all available with console controls, to boot. Don’t wait, dive in to the Ninth World, and experience the madness!

While Torment runs on the Pillars of Eternity engine, there are some radical mechanical departures that make the game feel very different. First, this game is focused on conversation. What does that mean? Lots and lots of reading. We’re talking novels here, folks; however, since the writing is so fantastic, and your dialogue options majorly alter story outcomes, this reading is a joy.

All in all, not enough can be said for how enjoyable Torment: Tides of Numenera is. With a very lengthy game-time for those willing to dig into the content, the (honestly) best writing seen in a game to date, and rewarding conversation and combat mechanics, it’s an experience that will keep players coming back to explore again and again.

If you like reading, bizarre worlds, and have a console or PC, you’d be well-advised to give Torment: Tides of Numenera a try.

Read my full detailed review at KeenGamer.com!

HOLY AVENGER Preview!

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Holy Avenger is the new beat ’em up based on the Brazilian comic sensation of the same name. Although in Early Access, the game is already shaping up to be a welcome blast form the past. Battle with fists, swords, spells and yo-yo’s in this cell-shaded tribute to classic gaming and classic comics!

Holy Avenger is still early in its life stage, and is correctly identified by the dev team as being in alpha. The great news for those of us eager to play the game is that a lot already works great–the animations are mostly smooth, the graphics are pretty, and the action is enjoyable.

The graphics are done in a cell-shaded, Double Dragon: Neon style, and the backgrounds and objects are very World of Warcraft in feel; this isn’t a surprise, given Holy Avenger artist Erica Awano’s work on the Warcraft: Legends manga-style comic from TokyoPop. There are great animation effects that happen on-screen in the background, also, such as lighting effects, falling signs, and scampering fauna.

There are bugs, such as one that zoomed the camera in too close, and a few instances where enemies became locked off-screen, making it impossible to progress. These didn’t keep us from enjoying Holy Avenger, however, and at the alpha level, we’ve played a lot of games far less complete and less functional. Hopefully, this means Holy Avenger will make it to a worthwhile full release; if it sounds up your alley, then consider contributing to the project, and moving it one step closer to awesome!

Check out my in-depth hands-on impressions here, at KeenGamer.com!