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Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people have been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girl’s their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spirit healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has it a weird charm. At one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding death bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason of the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have, is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul power fully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since, there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of the UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. In some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flash light.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives of eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you in every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth it’s price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

And with that said, I have really said everything I could say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

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Creative Christmas #11 – I Promise That …

OrnamentsTrim_treetoppers99792-171002_1506972985225It’s the final day of the year. So, it’s time to make promises what we shall try to accomplish next year. If we do this collab with LaterLevels again next year, I might be able to come up with an overall theme, but for now, I’ll stick with the theme I have been using. A random introduction where I talked about not having a theme and getting distracted by the question asked. Oh, I shouldn’t have revealed this until the end of the series? So, tomorrow will be the final question in this collab? Oh. Well, let’s first answer today’s question.

Midnight rolls around and it’s time to pick a New Year gaming resolution to see you through the next 12 months. What’s your choice for 2018?

If I’m allowed to make promises with myself of what I want to accomplish in 2018 in terms of gaming, I think I’m going to repeat something I said in my “10 games I look forward to playing in 2018” list.

I want to play a lot of the games on my backlog. I do have a long backlog of games that I still want to play and/or beat. Thankfully, a few of those games get a port or a remake of a system that I own, or about to own. If you want to know more about that, read my previous article.

skipper and skeetoWill this mean that I stop collecting for a year? Not at all! I’m actually going to try and find copies of games I’m missing in a series. For example, I recently bought Skipper And Skeeto 3, since I didn’t own that game yet.

If you don’t know Skipper & Skeeto, I wouldn’t blame you. Since it’s a Danish edutainment title made by Ivanoff. The Belgian company Transposia brought this series to Belgium and the Netherlands. I live in Belgium, by the way.

So, in 2018 I’m going to continue to try and complete my Transposia collection. I have around 36 games already, but that’s far from complete. Since they brought so many games here to Belgium and the Netherlands, I can’t count them all.

Besides that, I’m going to try and finish the index I was working on. The last index I made from my collection dates back to three years ago. And since then, my collection has grown quite a lot. Besides that, it’s just a simple word document listing all the titles I own. I want to create something bigger, a sort of Excel sheet I can use to quickly filter if I own the game already or not.

But, that’s a project for when I find the time for it. If I would finish that, it would take quite a long time to produce and develop. Since I want to be able to also draw numbers out of that file and that means I need to set it up quite well or otherwise it will have wrong numbers.

bundle_color_box

Besides that, I’m planning to buy a Nintendo Switch in March 2018. While I’m a huge Nintendo fan, I wanted to wait a year to buy the Nintendo Switch.

The reason for that is, I wanted to see the system first build up a library of games I’m interested in before I went out and bought the system.

Now, I have a lot of titles I’m looking forward to being playing DooM and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I’m actually tempted by buying The Legend Of Zelda – Breath of the Wild again for the Switch, to be able to take the game with me. But, on the other hand, I think my money would be the best spent elsewhere since the library of games for the Switch is large and other games deserve my attention.

You know, this is the curse of being a game blogger and (retro) game collector. I keep finding new games to play and enjoy, and I rarely finish them. Including some developer requests, I keep enjoying myself with those games quite a lot, but I don’t finish the games.

In conclusion, I want to create a database/index of my collection that I’m happy with. I’m also planning to buy a Switch in March of next year. Besides that, I’m planning to try and finish a lot of the games on my backlog that I still want to play or beat games that I haven’t finished yet.

So, I’m quite curious if I’ll be able to do all these things in 2018. Since I’m quite a busy fellow and I don’t always have the time to finish every game I started. Maybe I should try and do something about me being so curious to buy new games.

In any case, you will be able to continue to read my adventures through the land of video games by simply reading my blog and/or my twitter feed. So, thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

First Impression: Lufia II (SNES) ~ Some Dutch please

Wikipedia entry

A few years ago, my uncle gave me his SNES with a few games. One of them, was a boxed version of Lufia II – Rise of the Sinistrals. After some research, I realized that my copy of the game is rather rare in a way. The cartridges of the game go on eBay for 80€ and up, but the catch is, I have a Dutch version. Since there aren’t too many Dutch speaking people in the world, less cartridges are produced so making the game even more rare. But hey, I don’t think that every collector wants to own a cartridge of a game in a different language they might not understand while there is a version available in their native language. In any case, let’s take a look at this game. Is it even worth that price now or should you pass on it? Here are my impressions after the first few hours of gameplay. Also, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the article.

Sidenote: while I know that this game got a remake called Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals on the DS, in this article I’m focusing on the SNES game; simply because I don’t own the remake and haven’t played it.

Casual start

When you start this game, your first mission is “The Training Dungeon”. In this training dungeon, you get the basic explanation of the game mechanics.  But more on that later, first let’s talk about the story of this game.

This game tells the story of how the Sinistrals came to be. Now, this sequel tells a prequel story. But here is the annoying thing, the original game never reached European shores. To make matters even more confusing, they dropped the II from the title here in Europe. Yeah.

So far, the story and writing is very enjoyable. The only complaint is that the Dutch translation feels so out of place. Which is normal, since I’m so used to the English names of items and suddenly seeing them in my native language sounds so foreign to me. But, I haven’t gotten too far in the story, so I will leave that for when I review the game.

But something I really enjoy from the writing is the fact that NPC’s react differently depending on the story. Even when little events happen like somebody cooking some bad food. This gives the game a more alive feeling and I think that’s a serious plus in my books.

If you would start playing this game, beware of the glitches.  Due to the rushed localization, there are a lot of strange bugs and some are save corrupting. This happened to me once and I lost my save and had to start over. Take a good read to avoid bugs before you start playing.

Random no Random encounters

So this game has random no random encounters. I mean with that the game has random encounters and no random encounters. When you are on the overworld, the game has random encounters. But in the dungeons, you don’t have any random encounters.

The meat of the game is mostly in the dungeons. In these places, you can also use your skills. A very useful skill is the Reset Spell. With this spell, you can reset a room to its original position. So, if you screwed up a puzzle, you can reset the room without having to leave it. And this doesn’t cost any mana.

This game is a blast to play. This game is a typical RPG when it comes to battles and exploration. But, it has various elements of The Legend Of Zelda sprinkled in. The gameplay in the dungeons reminded me so much of the Zelda games. If you want to form a picture, think of the Zelda dungeons but instead of beating enemies when they are on screen, you have a RPG-battle screen.

A very useful feature is that you see on your screen how much EXP you still before your level raises by one after you defeated an enemy. It also shows your goal total. The only thing I don’t really like about the battle screen is that in sometimes the health bar and such are simply bars and you don’t see how much health or mana you have left.

I’ll go more in-depth about the gameplay when I have beaten this game and when I write a review of this game. It’s a lot of fun and with great controls, you can’t go wrong. The only thing I would have changed about the controls is the “X” button. This button is used as the menu button, but I think that the Start button would have been a much better choice for this.

Soundtrack Gold!

If you would start talking about the best 16-bit RPG soundtracks, a lot of Square and Enix RPG’s would be mentioned. I honestly think that the soundtrack of this game should be mentioned in those kind of talks.

The soundtrack of this game is amazing. It’s one of the best soundtracks I have heard on the system in my opinion. And believe me, various tracks got stuck in my head even when I had put the game down for a while.

Visually, this game looks amazing. I love the details in the dungeons and the animation is great as well. The artwork for this game is impressive and colorful.

This game is well balanced. There isn’t too much grinding in this game. And honestly, I don’t mind the grinding too much in this game. Something I really like is that you have save platforms right before you go into a room with a boss. I really appreciate that since that way I don’t have to do a whole dungeon over again when I die at the boss.

Speaking about saving, that’s one of the only things I don’t really like about this game. You can only save at save points like a church or on save points in dungeons. But, honestly, that’s nitpicking. No?

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. So far, I’m enjoying myself a whole lot with this game and I can only praise this game. If you look at other reviews of this game, you will read the same praise. And believe me, this game is worth a lot of praise.

Thank you for reading this article! I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Gaming Nostalgia: Where is the skip button?

5562ecfd-2740-4c50-b148-64b882408fa0.jpgWe all have these moments in games we don’t like to play. Even when you are playing a great game, sometimes it can throw some very irritating or just badly designed areas. In this article, I’m going to talk about a few things that I wish I could skip or use a glitch to skip the section. But sadly, most of the times, I have to do it in order to progress in the game. Do you dislike the same things or do you like them? Feel free to let me know in the comments. You could also comment on the content of the article and/or things that irritate you and I haven’t mentioned. Oh, a while ago, I wrote a rant about 10 things that frustrated me, and don’t worry! In this article, I won’t repeat what I said in there. 

Rope Jumping Puzzles

120px-TWW_Link_Rope.png

I love adventure games. I love exploring caves and finding treasures. That’s why the Tomb Raider and Zelda series are one of my most favorites series ever made.

But there is something that I wish that I could skip. And that are the jumps you need to make when swinging on a rope. In the Legend Of Zelda the Wind Waker, there is a section to get an important item you have to swing on some ropes. To make matters worse, it’s timed and if you fail, you need to restart the whole thing.

I seriously hate this section of the game. Since the ship also moves, so the ropes move too. This way I can’t always correctly judge the distance between the ropes. I was able to finish this section when I was lending this game from a friend after an hour of trying. Now, I’m at the same section in the Wind Waker HD and I’m currently trying for around a half hour.

But hey, the rope jumps in the old Tomb Raider games weren’t much better. I have heard some veteran Tomb Raider players complain about the pixel perfect rope swinging in the first five games. I have to agree from my own experience. Since the next rope isn’t always visible when you are swinging.

In the past, it was even worse. I wasn’t that good in jumping puzzles of any sort. But after I played games like Mirror’s Edge, I have improved quite a bit. But the rope swings still stay a problem. The weird thing is that when I’m playing a game like Indiana Jones and use the whip, I can swing just fine. In Tomb Raider Legend with the grappling hook, no problem. But dangle ropes in front of me and say I need to play Tarzan and swing from rope A to B… And I’ll be busy with that section for a while.

Jumps of faith & death trap.

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Ah, today I was stuck in a level in DooM II because I didn’t notice one jump of fate you had to do in order to progress in the level. It was in the Citadel level. But here is a fun story. I’m talking about the part where you need to get on a high spot in the citadel and jump over the border into the river, so you can go to the other side to a room that opens to a room with 5 teleporters. If you have played DooM II, I think you will know which part I’m talking about.

Well, I was able to glitch myself there. By running at the corner of the barrier and suddenly, I popped passed it and I was able to progress.

Delver is another game that does the same thing. In some cave levels, there is a certain level geometry where you need to do a jump in order to progress. Like DooM II, Delver doesn’t have a jump button, so you don’t think it’s possible in the first place.

But what annoys me the most are jumps of faith above a death trap. I don’t think I need to explain myself here.

I’m not finished talking about the death traps. In Delver, there are traps like a transporter and a poison trap. But you can’t see the difference between both. While this suits the game better, since it’s a roguelike dungeon crawler. But a small hint on the tile would be nice.

But in some games, like in Star Tropics on the NES, there are secrets that lead to instant death. I made me shut off the game twice since I lost a lot of progress. Since the game sets you back at the start of the area you were at.

Going back to DooM II, a nice example was at the same level I was talking about earlier. There is a barrier that goes down and you need to run passed it. But, when you mistime your run, you get stuck underneath it. Without a way to escape. Man, every time it killed me, I got more and more annoyed.

Wrapping up

Well, I think I’m going to wrap up this article right here. I was planning to talk about more annoying things in games, but I decided to keep those for a sequel to this article. It felt better to talk a bit more in-depth on why I get annoyed at those things.

Also, I have already talked about my biggest frustrations with the gaming market in the past. I have linked to that article at the start of this article.

Anyways, thank you for reading this article and I hope you like it as much as I liked writing this article. I’m looking forward to the comments on this article since I find it very interesting to talk about what is frustrating in games so we can suggest improvements for future games.

I hope to welcome you in another article on my blog, but until then… Have a great rest of your day! Game on and take care.

Gaming Music – My Favorites #13: Not unlucky.

photo-1024x768Link to my previous music articles.

It has been a while since I wrote one of these, is it not? Well, it’s time to fix that. I wanted to do something special for the 13th article of this series, but the only thing I was able to come up with is 13 tracks. I’m sorry, but that’s a bit overkill. Anyways, for the people who don’t know this series on my blog… In these articles I talk about some game music tracks and why I think they are really good. I try to always link to a sort of extended version or at least a high quality one. I have a rule where I can’t talk about more then one track of a game (series) per article. I think I might have broken my other rule of trying to always get unique tracks. If you see me do that, feel free to point it out! That way I will try to do something unique in the next article. Anyways, enough talk! Put on your headset and get ready for some, according to me, amazing game music! (And as always, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the music, games and/or your own favorite game music.)

Europa Universalis 4 (PC) ~ Battle of Lepanto

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedI think this is one of the best tracks in the entire EU IV soundtrack. It starts off kind of calm but around the 2 minute mark, that completely changes. When I close my eyes while listing to this I imagine an epic battle, where the camera slowly pans around like in those medieval war movies.

The chanting is perfect. It adds some additional flavour to the track and it makes it that more exciting to try and win your battle.

And what I adore even more about this track is that near the end, it goes to a calm-ish vibe again. Like it wants you to take a step back (or zoom out) to look how the situation is. Maybe I’m looking way too deep into this track, but it’s the vibe I actually get from this masterpiece of game music.

First Impression of this game.

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (3DS) ~ Battlefield – Dyed in ScarletSoulFinal

If you read my previous article, then you should already know that I’m enjoying this game quite a lot. I also praised the music for being ear-candy. If I didn’t, well, then I do it now.

This is the music that plays when you fight one of the bosses. And this sounds just amazing. It really sets the mood for an epic battle. And let me tell you, the battle with that boss is tough. You won’t be able to beat it that easily. The build-up to the boss is also incredible. Making the music sound that much better.

I have to admit that once I just put my 3DS down to enjoy the music and forgot about the battle I was in for at least 5 to 7 minutes. Now, that is proof that this is good music to me.

Kirby’s Dream Land (GB) ~ Bubbly Clouds

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When I was looking through my game collection for some inspiration for this list, I found this gem of a game. I got this game as a present from my aunt. I was a bit jealous of my sister, since she got the sequel, where the copy ability was present.

But did that stop me from enjoying this game? Oh hell no. The first time I finished this game was on one of those long car rides from Belgium to Austria to have a nice relaxing walking holiday in the summer. Man, I remember bringing my gameboy into the mountain woods and play this game. Reaching this level, the 4th one if I recall correctly, and then looking around me to take in the scenery… Those are some amazing childhood memories.

SmoothMcGroove did his magic on this tune. Go listen to it right here. 

Doom (PC) ~ E1M1 At Doom’s Gate

Doom_cover_art

So, first of all… this is one for you buddy. MiseryLC, my best friend loves this game to death. And I think he has a very good point. I used to play the demo of this game over and over again.

I haven’t grown up with any oldschool console or PC games. I grew up with a Gameboy. But each time I felt like playing some old school games, since my pc couldn’t handle newer games… I kept coming back to idSoftware.

This song takes me back to those memories. But lately, it’s reminding me of the amazing friendship I have with my best friend at the moment. Also, his birthday is in the near future. Here is to more years to come man! We shall make it a wonderful day!

Editorial note: the game I actually played the most is the more fantasy based game: Heretic. Just something in that game was a bit more interesting to me then Doom. I’m not saying it’s better then Doom… Nah, in my eyes, they are equals.

 Ace Attorney – Miles Edgeworth – Investigations 2 (DS) ~ Objection 2011

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First Impression (of the fan translation)

Man, is this a great game. Finally, we get a better look into Miles and his friends’ personalities. If you thought that the first game was great, then go play the fan translated sequel.

The music is also just great. I love hearing the familiar, yet very fresh tune. One of my favorite tracks in this game is the one I selected for this article. It plays when you finally proved the lies you expose. It’s so upbeat and adds to the rewarding feeling you get.

Also, I have almost fully finished the game. So, that means I might write a full review on this game in the near future. So, stay tuned for that.

Wrapping up

So, there you have it. 5 songs added to my ever growing list of amazing game music. I hope you enjoyed listening to them. If you have suggestions, never be afraid to contact me.

I love gaming music. Quite a lot. To the point that I listen to this amazing website called RadioNintendo, every day at work and lately when I’m writing articles. Well, certain articles…. because with articles like reviews, I play the game soundtrack in the background so I can better visualize the game while writing.

But check the site out guys, the owner is quite a cool guy and the small community is starting to grow over time. It’s quite lovely to see. While the site might have a hick-up here and there, it’s some quite impressive coding.

In any case, I think I’m going to wrap up this article right here. Thanks for reading and until the next one. Until then, take care & game on.

Review: Fantasy Life (3DS) ~ Joyful RPG at it’s near finest.

Fantasy_Life_box_artLink to the Wikia – First Impression article

And the award for the most generic title goes to… Fantasy Life… Wait, what? I’m copying my buddy’s latest article title and making my own joke out of it? Oh sorry, I’m sure he won’t mind. I have been delaying this review again and again. But after nearly putting 75 hours into this game, I think it’s fair for me to review it. While I haven’t completed it 100%, I am already far beyond the point of beating the full game and the DLC story. So, without me reading the first impression article, this is the taste this game left in my month. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the content of this article and/or this game. 

Story time

Fantasy_life_e3_2014_screenshot3

So, one of the weakest points of this game is the story, apart from the DLC story. But don’t read me wrong: the story is solid and the characters are memorable. The huge issue is that thanks to the 12 different paths you can take, there are so many. Too much even for my young brain to remember. On the other hand, this makes each life unique with different characters and personalities.

The main story is a bit generic. It stands out in it’s writing, though. That’s extremely well done. People would easily skip over the story since it’s one you have experienced before: save the world. Yet, when you actually take the time to enjoy the story, you will be pleasantly surprised with it’s well done execution.

This is one of the first Level5 games I played where there is no voice acting. Well, apart from the few grunts from enemies, but I can’t comment on that.

So, let’s move on to the DLC. It truly expands on the main game nicely. It even adds more story and expands the game in nearly every area. The DLC is truly worth it, because the story alone has such a perfect ending, it actually touched me and made me laugh. Just the way how it’s written… Amazing.

All right, enough said about the story of this game. Let’s dive right into the other parts of this game. First of all, the sound design and music.

Just that

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The music and sound design is good. Just that. Good. It isn’t bad, nor is it great. It helps to immerse yourself into the game, but I don’t see myself listening to the soundtrack on my mobile any time soon.

While I think Level5 generally makes great scores for their games, some tracks got annoying to me. “The theme of intrigue” is an example of a track I don’t like. While the “Theme of Courage” is such an amazing track and really hyped me up.

Also, the enemies don’t have a distinct cry. Well, not all. And in my mind, this is a really big issue. Some enemies start to feel bland, generic and cut-outs. Some enemies have some nice sound effects, but not enough.

For the sound design or music, it isn’t worth it to get yourself a headset to enjoy it. As I said earlier, it’s good, but it won’t be memorable. Some tracks are catchy and I remember some battles but that mostly wasn’t because of the sound and music design. It helped, but it wasn’t the most important factor.

The design of this game is something that is actually really well done. Apart from one major issue I will talk about later.

The game world looked bright and colourful or dark and gloomy when it needs to be. They give off the right atmosphere and the area’s are pretty well crafted. The animation looks crisp and neatly done. Some could argue that due to the overload of dialogue some voice acting would benefit the game, but the animation does such a nice job that the voice acting isn’t really needed.

So, about that major issue I had with the design. Well, it is something I feel really mixed about. Visually, it looks lazy… but game design wise, it is a great move. Some enemies, like the spirits, return in various area’s, but they have just a different colour. Looks lazy right? But on the other hand, in some lives, you get the quest to kill a certain amount of some enemy. This makes finding that enemy in later area’s much easier.

Oh, and one minor design flaw is that it’s sometimes really tricky to read an enemy’s name. Because if you come too close, the target marker pops up above their head.

The other parts

112516_3ds_fl_merc_pr_ukSo, in my first impression I think I touch upon the controls. They are quite well done. Apart from the mercenaries life. They are quite flawed. It’s really unclear how you pull off certain moves in that life. Sadly enough, you need to do them in order to finish that life. “Press 4 times A”. Ehrm, I tried it and I wasn’t always able to pull off that move.

I still find it very remarkable that they made such a neat looking and easy to understand interface to display while you have some much content to offer. A nitpick I have is that the bounty clerks are sometimes too far apart.

The main story and the DLC story will take you around 15-20 hours to complete. Nice length. But the game can be a lot longer then that! You won’t be able to complete each and every life in even double the time. I have played this game for over 60 hours and I only fully completed one life.

The difficulty of this game is decent. While some area’s present some challenge, I barely died in this game. The game is also very forgiving in that regard. When you die, you can either revive (if you have a Life Cure) or go back to the nearest check point, or go home. You loose nothing. Also, when you are trying to mine a major gem later in the miner’s life… When you run out of SP, you can stop mining and drink some potions. When you then continue to mine the gem, the gem didn’t heal enough to loose that much of your progress. You aren’t able to do that in the fishing life and that’s one of my other nitpicks.

Before I wrap up this review, let’s talk about some of my other nitpicks. One is that some lives play similar to each other. While they are different and require a different play style, they can give off the same vibe. Mainly the crafting lives, they are all quick time event based. The animation is different, but the core mechanic isn’t.

Talking about crafting lives, the menu system is a bit flawed here. You aren’t able to see your quests when you start working.

The next nitpick is one that annoys the heck out of me. Certain lives have a dedicated shop. Like the carpenter and the woodcutter have a dedicated shop. But when you want to craft all the carpenter items, they won’t sell all those items in that shop. This means that you run around sometimes to get each and every item.

The next nitpick I have is that Flutter and your pets can only be accessed in one house: your starter house. Maybe I haven’t unlocked it through the bliss system, but I don’t think you will be able too.

So, the game is a nice experience but flawed. It’s really addictive and hard to put down for the people who enjoy these kind of games. But it lacks some polish. That also shows in the map. You can’t control the map at all. You can have an overview of the map, but you can’t see where all the shops are located.

Well, I think I talked about everything I wanted to talk about in this review. Time to wrap this one up.

Conclusion

The bad;

– While the writing is excellent, the story is one we have seen in different games a million times over. (Apart from the DLC one)

– The music and sound could have been done better.

– The game is overall too easy.

– The lack of bounty clerks in some area’s.

– Some small issues can hinder the experience and make it irritating.

The good:

+ Amazing visual world.

+ 12 different play styles to enjoy.

+ You can switch class when you want.

+ Very neat UI.

+ The character creation has a lot of features.

+ The animation is extremely well done.

+ Addictive.

+ …

Conclusion

So, is this game worth playing? If you enjoy games like Harvest Moon, Tomodachi Life or anything similar, odds are you feel right at home here.

The characters are memorable but they suffer from a weak(ish) story. The writing is funny and won’t get boring, but they also suffer from the weak story.

This game lacks some polish. While the game has a lot of polish in certain area’s, not every part of this game has been polished enough. This is one game that could have benefited from a bit more development time.

Be warned when you play or start playing this game, it’s difficult to put down. I haven’t played many other games for over a month because I wasn’t able to stop playing this game. It truly took me be surprise how fun it can be.

I love this game, I think it’s near perfection. But the reviewer side of my character disagrees and sees the flaws in this game. It isn’t perfect, but it’s near its finest form.

So, that wraps up my review of this game. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. (and playing the game in order to write this review.) And I hope to meet you another time here on my blog, but until then: take care and game on~

Score: 85/100

HappyLatte’s Case: Can video game violence make the world a safer place?‏

happylatte

A few hours ago, I got a press release in my mailbox. This had the title of “Can video game violence make the world a safer place?”. And they asked me to write an article of it. As usual, I will talk about this subject in all honesty and talk about related things and the amazing idea HappyLate has! I want to thank the staff from HappyLatte for giving me this opportunity. While this article was a hard one to write, I finally got a way of writing this article that I’m happy with. Before we continue, I want to warn you guys that I tried my utter best not offend anyone. While this is a controversial subject, my goal is to raise attention that video game violence isn’t the main cause of the violence around the world. Anyhow, I stand behind HappyLatte’s idea. And I’ll explain myself in this article. As usual, feel free to leave a comment about this article and or your opinion about this matter. Thanks in advance. 

Introduction

doom5So, HappyLatte was able to release their article on a big website. Non other then PocketGamer. I advice you Neko’s (that’s how I call my readers.) read it first before you continue to read my article. Here is a handy dandy link that opens in a new tab.

The idea is simply amazing. This is one of our chances to prove that video games can have a good influence on our society. I can’t deny that there are various studies that have proven that games are good for us but HappyLatte is one of the only companies I can name now that does something with these studies.

Some games are too violent. Some horror games have such an extreme violence level, that it’s just stomach turning. I even reviewed such a game a while ago. Corpse Party is quite a violent 2D visual novel adventure game. Am I glad that it’s fake.

Own thoughts

_45949102_pegiratingsAs usual, in these kind of articles, I leave some space to speak up my own mind. What do I think? Can video game violence make the world a safer place? Well, honestly that depends. I personally can’t say 100% yes but there is a truth in the statement.

It actually depends on the violence itself. The violence in Saints Row for example is mostly meant to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s so overdone that you know it’s fake. Like a good action movie.

When the video game violence stays in certain limits, you can be sure that it can make the safer place. And not alone by stopping criminals from doing a criminal deed.

It could be quite possible that lives can be saved from playing (violent) video games. I mean, there are even video games used in schools to educate children or to raise awareness. As a college student to become a teacher, I have seen games to raise awareness of bullying and driving drunk. The latter was a bit more violent but it quite shocked me and I’m sure to never ever drive drunk.

The most important thing is the execution of the violence, like I said multiple times by now. Is it meant to entertain or to shock? It must have a good foundation. HappyLatte’s game Day’s Of Crime has nailed that. They have developed this game with the help of an algorithm called the IAP. When you want to read more, I suggest reading the interview with the inventor.

Wrap-up

daysofcrime_headerimageHonestly, I think I did a good thing writing about this game. While I first was sure of this being legit, I think I made the best decision. Why was I not so sure that this was real? I didn’t find many other sources talking about this. When this isn’t real, I could use the game to help me relieve my frustrations.

But then I researched the company, and then I was convinced. This is legit, even when this sounds too good for words. Since this is a starting company with only 2 other games released, this is an extremely noble cause to get some more attention.

HappyLatte, I salute you! You guys and girls help making the world a safer and better place with the use of video games. Something that needed more positive attention in the first place. And I have to admit, I want to sign up now to see what the game is all about. How this actually works. Maybe I’ll download it and play it when I can get my hands on it. (Possibly the developers send me a copy of the game as a thanks for writing this article.)

So, this was a challenging article to write. I honestly restarted writing this article a couple of times. Now I have finally said everything that should be said be me. I hope you enjoyed reading this interesting article and I will surely keep an eye on the development of this game. This article might possibly get a “tail”. (No cat pun intended.)

Update:

Well, lesson learned. Apparently I was mistaken. When I mailed HappyLatte that I’m done with this article… It seems that I went wrong. I was focusing so hard while trying to write the best article that I forgot parts of it could be a joke. So yeah, this is a quote of Tim Metz, part of the marketing staff.

Appreciate the articles you wrote very much. Unfortunately I didn’t expect you would take everything in the press release and website serious: we do believe that the game has the potential to keep more young people in house and refrain them from criminal activities, but the special technology mentioned in the press release and website was actually a joke and doesn’t really exist.

So yeah, even I get things wrong. Thanks HappyLatte for the correction. I will review this game when it comes out and I’ll surely tell how good it is in achieving it’s goal. Maybe they could use the technology in the plot? I’m looking forward to it.

Before I leave you guys, when you want to be up-to-date with my latest things I do, click on the follow button on my Twitter. It will update you with all the latest things in my live and you can easily see when I posted a new article. And just in case, here is a link to my twitter. So yeah, talk to you later.