First Impressions: Persona Q – Shadow Of The Labyrinth (3DS) ~ Crossin’ Over At Least Once

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

When I’m playing console exclusives, I love it when said exclusive does something unique that is difficult to replicate on other consoles. That’s why I love exclusive to the Nintendo (3)DS or Wii U so much. Since, most of these games use the console gimmick extremely well. And today I want to take a look at a game in the Persona series that crosses over with one of my favorite Nintendo handheld exclusive series, Etrian Odyssey. But, that isn’t the only cross-over in this game. Oh no, the cover of this game already spoils that. The characters of Persona 3 and 4 are meeting each other. Are they meeting each other for a tense and amazing adventure or will this an adventure you can skip over? Let’s talk about it while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Crossin’ over at least once

Like I said in the intro, Persona 3 and 4 characters are meeting each other. And you can choose with which cast of characters you start playing. Since, I played a decent chunk of Persona 4 Golden and haven’t played Persona 3, I decided Persona 4 cast to start out with.

So, in this game, your cast somehow gets transported to a different dimension. Something that’s really cool is that the opening of the game depends on the cast you chose and fits the world and themes of the original game like a glove.

As soon as you enter the first dungeon, the storylines merge and are almost the same. In the first dungeon themed after Alice in Wonderland, you meet two strange characters named Zen and Rei. Both have amnesia both know that the dungeon is extremely dangerous. It doesn’t take long before they join your party to explore this strange world.

A world where the normal Persona rules are somewhat flipped on their head. Now, the hero lost their Joker ability which caused them to wield any Persona and now everybody has the same unique additional ability. They all can wield a 2nd Persona that they can choose and change.

On top of that, in this strange world, there are several dungeons. The main hub of the game is a school where a strange clock tower is standing in the middle of the courtyard. What is that clock tower doing there, and how can they unlock it? That’s what are heroes are trying to find out.

Explaining more about the story is bordering on spoiling parts of the game. So, if I have sold you on the game, I think you should take a look at it. Now, you don’t need to have played ANY Persona before jumping into this one but some jokes, references, and story bits will go over your head if you haven’t played Persona before. So, yes, this game is extremely welcome to veterans and newcomers.

Now, the voice talent of in this game is beyond amazing. Listing off all the voice actors and their credits would make this article not only go off track quite fast but also get extremely lengthy. The excellent voice acting make the story even more enjoyable. I especially love the little voice clips in the dungeon and during fights since they give the game so much more character. I love it in Etrian Odyssey and I love it here.

Let’s draw that map

If you have played any Persona game before, you’ll feel right at home in this game. It’s your typical dungeon crawler with themed dungeons with a lot of RPG mechanics. And if you have played any Etrian Odyssey games, you’ll feel right at home as well.

Just like Persona 5 Strikers was the perfect mix between hack-and-slash and the Persona formula, this game is the perfect mix between Etrian Odyssey and Persona.

Something that’s quite unique in Etrian Odyssey is that it’s a dungeon crawler where you have to draw your own map to some degree. The game draws out where you walk automatically, but you have to draw where the walls are, place the location of doors, treasure boxes, traps… You even have to take notes.

FOE’s return in this game as well. And let me tell you, in this game they aren’t a pushover. I really advise you to avoid them at all costs. FOE’s are huge monsters which roam around the dungeon on a set path. Each FOE has their pattern and quirks, and sometimes you have to manipulate them to solve an environment puzzle.

The FOE’s are the only enemies you’ll see roam around on the bottom screen map. All the other enemies are encountered by exploring the dungeon. Like in Etrian Odyssey, you have a counter at the bottom left of the top screen that indicates how close you are to a battle. Battles in this game are turn-based. Something that really annoyed me in Etrian Odyssey is the MP management. For some characters, it is too easy to run out of MP and be useless. Unless you either heal that MP with the rare and/or finite amount of times you can heal that in the dungeon or their MP is just drained way too easily.

In this game, a solution to that problem has been found. In this game, each character that has a second Persona equipped, gets a low but certain amount of MP at the start of each battle. And not only that, when you have a critical hit OR hit the weak spot of an enemy, the next round the character won’t use MP. And you can chain this in a combo if you learn the weak spots of each enemy. So, it’s quite helpful to learn who is weak against what and create the best team and couple them with the best Persona’s.

The difficulty curve of this game is somewhat unforgiving. There is no auto-saving in this game when you reach a game over, you’ll have to restart with the last save. Thankfully, you can lower the difficulty at any time in the hub if you are stuck at a hard enemy or boss unless you have chosen the highest difficulty.

In this article, I have mentioned a Persona several times. Allow me to explain this to people who don’t know what Persona is. Depending on the Persona game, the theme is a bit different, but basically it’s a monster created out of strong emotions that’s bonded in a way to somebody. This bond allows them to use special abilities and magic during battle. You can read and discover more about the concept on the Persona wiki but beware spoilers on that page.

Risk and reward systems

This game isn’t easy, even on the lower difficulty settings. You really have to think on your actions and be mindful on what you are doing.

Should I save my money since the higher your level, the higher the healing costs become OR should I buy this strong weapon/armor? It’s just an example of the thought you have to put into this game. This game nails that fine balancing act of being challenging and rewarding.

At the end of the first dungeon, you meet the other cast of characters. This doubles the amount of useable characters in this game. And this makes this game very replayable to a certain degree. While the lay-outs don’t change of the dungeons, you can only carry five characters in a dungeon. And that means that you can make each playthrough of this game quite different.

Now, something I really miss from the Etrian Odyssey games that isn’t in this game is the simple fact that you can’t floor hop. Remember when you almost finished the whole map in Etrian Odyssey and you found the entrance and exit, so you can warp to that floor’s entrance/exit almost immediately? That isn’t present in this game. On the other hand, this game has a mechanic I wished was in more Etrian Odyssey games. You can choose the color of the elements you place on the map. So, you have way more options in placing things on the map making it a lot easier to mark for example certain traps or moving tiles.

Being able to draw the map myself is one of the biggest selling points to me of the Etrian Odyssey games. In a way, you draw a part of the UI. Speaking of which, the UI in this game is extremely solid. It took me no time at all to learn the controls of this game and get going. The fact that this game also has amazing visual presentation is great as well.

The attention to detail is superb and gives the game such a great atmosphere. Visually, this game is eye candy to me. To such a degree, that when I tried this game with the battle animations disabled in the option menu, I felt that this game was missing something. While I totally understand that the game and battle system might be a bit too slow with them on for some people, I love how accessible this game is with the option menu.

Not only the visual presentation and animations are amazing, but the soundtrack is on point. It hits all those strong beats you are used to in a Persona game. It also reminded me sometimes of the Etrian Odyssey games and I got nostalgic sometimes.

Something to be wary of is that the Nintendo 3DS eShop is closing in the really near future. This game has some DLC as well, expanding some features. Mostly, they add some optional additional Persona’s or voice packs. So, if you are interested in this game and want all the content… But warned that you have until late August 2022 to do it.

And with that said, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say about this game for now. If you enjoy dungeon crawlers, Persona, RPG’s and/or Etrian Odyssey, I urge you to give this game a chance. To be honest, I fell in love with this game and all it quirks. While this game isn’t for everybody and certainly the difficulty might turn some people off, I have a hard time to say anything negative about this game.

This game is a must-play for every Persona and Etrian Odyssey fan in my opinion. I can’t wait to see where this game is going next, and I’m also quite hyped that this game has a sequel Persona Q 2 – New Cinema. Which I might review in the future. But for now, I have the original to beat here. So, I have to wrap up this article, publish it and after that I can get back right into this game trying to finish it.

And with that said, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this article. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: DooM (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Give Hell, Hell!

doom-2016Steam Store pageWikipedia EntryOfficial website

Since I upgraded my graphics card late last year, I wanted to play a game I wasn’t able to play before. I had a GTX 660 in my machine which was just not strong enough to play DooM 2016 at a decent framerate. So, when I installed my NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti, I bought myself a copy of DooM 2016 and started playing it. Ever since DooM came out, I wanted to play it. But yeah, 2016 was jam packed with other amazing titles I wanted to play. Rise of The Tomb Raider, Rayman Legends, Stella Glow, Zero Time Dilemma and Bioshock Infinite to name just a few. So yeah, I’m sorry that I haven’t played DooM when it came out but let me make that up by reviewing the game right now. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. But now, let’s give Hell… Hell.

Those pesky demons.

379720_screenshots_20160513232709_1So, in this shooter, you play as the slayer. The Doom guy that took down all of those demons all those years ago. Like the original two Doom games, you are a silent protagonist. The story itself takes a back seat for the gameplay. Most of the story and exposition is told through runes and the environment. This made me few scripted cutscenes tipping on the edge of immersion breaking for me. 

The voice acting in this game is pretty well done. But, that didn’t save the story of being predictable. I was able to predict the ending from a mile away. Around the mid-point of the game, I was able to call out the ending. I wouldn’t consider this a negative if the game didn’t take it’s lore so seriously. So yeah, the story didn’t click with me at all. 

Yet, the voice acting in this game is just amazing. First of all, there are just a few voice actors for this game but they did their job almost perfectly. While hearing the same voice line from the intercom for the 20th time was a tad bit annoying, it didn’t make the line have any less impact. It started to feel a bit calming to hear the ending when all the demons where dead. Couple that with amazing grunts of the demons and the voice acting is something that actually kept me interested in the story believe it or not. 

Before I continue this review, I do have to mention that I haven’t spend any time with the multiplayer. That’s because I’m not that fond of playing multiplayer games in general. So, I’m sorry but if you want a review of the multiplayer component, you will have to look elsewhere. 

Fun in repetition

DOOM-1If you want to know how this game plays, well, then just think of the original Doom games but now you are able to jump, double jump and preform way more brutal kills. This might sound harsh but the core gameplay of this game is basically just that. 

You go from monster room to monster room, where you have to defeat all demons before you can move on. Of course, the difficulty ramps up with every monster room you encounter, but I have to be honest… I was so glad that there were moments of platforming and exploration to give some diversity in between the shooting or I would have called the game too repetitive. 

This game divided into several levels, called missions in this game. You can always go back and replay those missions to try and find the collectibles you have missed. There are also hidden classic Doom maps that just pull on my nostalgic strings even more than the nostalgic gameplay. I do have an issue with the collectibles though. You can find these vinyl figurines of the Doom guy scattered everywhere. Most of these give you access to models of the demons. That reward would be worth it if only I would have been able to see them. For some reason, they are completely transparent in my game. 

Anyways, I might be riffing a bit on the gameplay here. But please don’t get me wrong. While the core gameplay loop is quite basic and repetitive, I don’t mean that it isn’t fun to play. The game is an enjoyable ride from start to finish. The shooting feels just right with the various amount of weapons and abilities you have and the amount of various demons you have to fight. Also, in this game, there is a lot of variety in the ways that demons act. 

Some demons charge at you and stun you, others climb up walls to try and get an advantage. You have to keep moving and be aware of your surroundings in order for you to survive. Also, people who play a lot of modern shooters will have to get used to the fact that you don’t regenerate health automatically. 

There are two ways to get your health back up. You either find a medkit or you preform a glory kill on a demon. Now, glory killing a demon doesn’t 100% guarantee you health drops, but the chance is quite high. Now, what is glory killing? Well, that means you have wounded the demon enough to put it in a stun. At that moment it starts flashing blue for a while. When it starts to flash orange, your time to get a glory kill is almost up. 

So, when you press the button when you are close to an enemy that’s flashing, you finish said enemy with a rather nice animation. The first few times, seeing this animation is pretty satisfying. But, I felt that it got old nearing the end of the playthrough. Since there are just a few animations that it could be, so after seeing it 50 times, I just wanted an option to be able to skip it. 

Now, speaking of options, I want to take this chance to talk about some strange design decisions that were taken for this game when it comes to the menu design. First of all, you are only able to access the options menu when you have loaded a save file. The reason why this is an issue is that I recently got a new monitor that can handle a resolution that my GPU and CPU can’t handle to output this kind of game on the higher graphic settings. The lag was just extremely annoying and took a lot of time to change. 

Secondly, why is there no apply button in the settings menu? I get the impression it’s there somewhere since when I change a setting the game asks me that if I’m sure about my new settings since I didn’t save nor applied them. 

And finally, and this is something that isn’t 100% UI related but… There are these rune missions that you can do to get new abilities. When I have finished a mission and I find a new rune challenge, I get kicked out of the mission. Why does this happen? Since that doesn’t happen during the first time I was playing the mission. 

And before I talk about the abilities, can I mention how annoying I think that autosaves can be? Image this, you want to stop playing after you finally defeated a challenging room. So, you quit the game, saying “Unsaved progress will be lost.”… That’s fine, but when was the last autosave again? Oh, and you can’t manually save. Oh, fun for the whole family! With that rant over, let’s talk about abilities. 

Too much red and brown.

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So, you do have different abilities. These can range from weapon abilities to abilities of the Doom guy itself. Now, I’m not going to spoil them but they are quite worth looking for the ways to upgrade them. Since they will help you during your quest to slay the demons. 

I especially loved the weapon challenges. The pistol one was a fun one to do, since I only found out of this mechanic near the ending of the game. And that’s killing demons with a charged headshot and take a wild guess how few weak enemies there were in the later levels. Yup, close to zero. 

Most of this game is quite linear. You go from room to room with platforming sections in between. You do have the radar at the top of the screen to guide you in the right direction when you don’t know where to go next. But, the map in the tab screen can be a great help as well, especially when you are looking for those missed secrets. 

Now, I do have to mention one thing. If you want some challenge and you have played games like Tomb Raider or any other shooter in the past, do yourself a favor and don’t play on the easiest difficulty setting. When you are fully powered up near the end, the game just becomes a cake walk then. Most of my playthrough was on normal and I didn’t had a lot of trouble with it, so I don’t dare to think how easy it will be on the lower difficulty settings. 

So, I do want to talk about the audiovisual design that is presented to you in this 10 to 12 hour adventure through hell and back and on Mars. There is too much brown and dark early evening colors used. But, that isn’t such a big deal in my opinion. You can paint it red with the blood of your enemy demons… 😛 Anyways, visually the game looks amazing. One minor detail is that I often had moments where I had a ton of loading issues. Not that the game loaded slow or weird, but that the details loaded in way slower then models. I think that the technical term for that is calling issues, but I’m not too sure. But that might be an issue of my slightly older hardware I used to play this game, so when you are running a more modern computer, you might not run into this issue. If you are wondering, I’m using an i7-4820K, 16GB of 666MHz DDR3 RAM and a GTX 1050Ti, so it ain’t that bad of a machine. It’s a shame though, since the visual design of this game is really well done and detailed. 

Anyways, I loved the visual design of Hell the most. I can’t explain why but I really enjoyed the design of the scenery. Maybe I’m a bit burned out on seeing abandoned factories or ships with broken walls and wires hanging everywhere and then the overload of blood on walls, I think it was the breath of fresh air I needed. 

On top of that, you have the amazing visual design of the demons you can fight together with their amazing animation. In some battles, I really felt the adrenaline pumping through my veins. The game can get that intense. Especially during the boss fights, those were great. And those were puzzles in itself and as soon you had solved them and found the weakspot of the boss, it felt so amazing to finally kill them with an amazingly animated glory kill.

That brings me to the music and audio design. Let’s talk about the music first. The music is a mix between electronic and metal music. The main focus is on the metal in the soundtrack. While I prefer electronic music over metal music, I do have to say that I enjoyed this soundtrack quite a lot and I’m quite happy that I was able to get the soundtrack on Steam as well. I have already added it to my music library and my writing playlists. 

The audio design is equally as great. The monster grunts, the sounds that you make while jumping or shooting… Man, it’s gratifying. The sound effects are the perfect tool to aid you to do the right thing admits the chaos of fighting hoards of demons. The only weird thing I want to mention is that, when I got out of range to hear what a rune was saying and I came back, the rune just stopped playing it’s voice clip. Even when it wasn’t fully finished. 

Anyways, I have talked about almost everything I wanted to say about this game. If I would continue further, I would either start rambling or start nitpicking and I think it would be a better idea then to go on to the conclusion of this article. 

Conclusion

The bad:

-The story is a bit meh while the lore that’s there could have made it so much better.

-The gameplay is a tad bit repetitive sometimes. 

-Some strange UI/menu decisions. 

-Some calling issues that quickly fix themselves. 

-The easier difficulty is a tad bit too easy.

The good:

+ Even when the gameplay is repetitive, it’s still a rush to play. 

+ Amazing locations to shoot through.

+ A ton of nostalgic throwbacks. 

+ An amazing health system that rewards players to get close to dangerous enemies. 

+ …

Final thoughts:

Was Doom 4 worth the 4 year wait I had to do to play it. Let me put it this way, I’m glad I play it but it isn’t the best game I have played in recent years. Most of it has to do with the sometimes repetitive gameplay. For some reason, I want to compare it to the Tomb Raider games. While those games are completely different, I still felt that they are somewhat similar in structure. With the ability to explore around, fight enemies in closed spaces and find secrets to upgrade your gear or find additional lore. And once that comparison got into my head, I just wanted to play more Tomb Raider since I enjoyed those games more than Doom 2016.

Now, does that make DooM 4 a bad game? Oh heavens and hell, no! The game is still a rush to play through from start to finish. If you enjoy shooters or games in the style of Tomb Raider or Bioshock, I think it would be a shame to skip this game. But, I do think that this game is a tad bit overhyped. It’s not THAT good since I could have done so much more especially in terms of exploration. 

Maybe Doom Eternal fixes a lot of the gripes I have with the amazing DooM 4, but I do have to upgrade my rig first for that. So, maybe in a few years you might see a review of the sequel from me. 

But in all seriousness, Doom 4 is a really good game. While it wasn’t always my cup of tea and it didn’t always pull me in like I expected it would or compared to other games, I’m so happy that I played this game and I’m even considering replaying this game in the future like I did with all the Bioshock games and Tomb Raider games recently. 

And with that said, I really said everything I wanted to 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 one but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. 

Score: 80/100