Finally released roughly 4 years after the project got funded on Kickstarter Koji Igarashi's latest gothic action RPG is now on sale. I expected a classic Metroidvania game, hoped for a very good one and feared a terrible mess. The result has something of all these.
Although you can call me a fan of Atlus games, having played a good number of their games, this one went right past my radar. I only learned of this games' existance through accident while browsing an online import game store in 2016. The title and cover immediately appealed to me, and realizing it was a game produced by Atlus I bought it without thinking twice (the condition was great and it was only 20 bucks). When I got the game I shelved it, expecting it to be extraordinarily text heavy - and at the time I felt I should come back to this when I had improved my japanese - in the end it took me until 2019 to find the time to actually play it because I kept prioritizing fresh releases over my backlog. It turned out there was no reason to worry about the amount of text in Stella Deus, the game has comparatively few lines of text for an RPG.
Alright I went into this one with low expectations because of how mediocre Final Fantasy XIII and XV were. Some of these concerns turned out meaningless because at its core Kingdom Hearts III is still a proper Kingdom Hearts game. It's got the action RPG gameplay fans are used to, no overly focus on an open world and fetch quest shenanigans. Props for that. However the game feels really rushed towards the end, so much that I'd argue they had to finish the game earlier than planned to assign resources to the Final Fantasy VII remake. More on that later.
If the Dancing games weren't enough, here's another fanservice Persona game. New Cinema Labyrinth plays a lot like its predecessor, people who've played the 2014 release of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth will feel quite at home. However there's still some notable changes and differences between the two games. For one, there is now only a story route from the perspective of the Persona 5 protagonist. The teams and characters from P4 and 5 are back as well, but the protagonists from those games aren't voiceless. Their names can still be chosen by the player, though. The combat has been adjusted to play more like a Persona game. Hitting an enemy's weak spot now inflicts the down status, and downing all enemies allows for an all out attack which is now easier to execute. On the downside just hitting all weakspots and executing said all out attack is rarely enough to wipe out a monster party. New Cinema Labyrinth retains the strong point of coming with a battle system that requires some strategy to competently make it through the dungeons. Aside from no longer triggering all out attacks the game keeps the boost status unchanged. Downing enemies may trigger support from characters outside of the party to help downing enemies that remain standing, and later on can trigger a new feature called Unison Attack. Unison attacks are special attacks in which multiple characters pitch in to deal large damage to enemies. One might think of them as light variants of all out attacks that have a unique animation each.
Let me be honest and admit that I was really sceptical of this game. Early footage looked good enough to get me interested in this release, but fans of the franchise grumbled about how they couldn't understand that Sega chose "the worst in the franchise" to bring to the west. Then I read some opinions that made it clear this wasn't the classic JRPG I was expecting and hoping it to be. But I bought and played it anyways and there are no regrets.
It's easy to call this indie gem a mix of Metroidvania and Dark Souls. I'd however say it's really the former with inspiration taken from the latter. For a true mix it's missing the RPG elements used by the Souls games. Hollow Knight has no leveling and no equipment variety. You boost your silent character by collecting power ups, upgrading your main weapon and collecting charms that provide passive benefits. You lose your money upon death and have the ability to reclaim it if you make it back to your place of death, but it's strictly for purchasing stuff like the aforementioned and maps.
I started playing this very shortly after its release in Japan - that was back in february of 2016, at the time of this writing almost 2 and a half years ago. And I'm still playing it, but I'm pretty much at the final boss so it's a good time for me to write my review.
When people are asked about their favorite 16 bit RPG they usually answer with a Squaresoft title like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana. Or at least that's the impression I have concerning the popular opinion on the matter. It's a shame Lufia II (just Lufia in europe) isn't rated higher by RPG fans because it's an excellent game.
This one's really polarizing, it seems most people who played this either really liked it or really hated it, and I think I can see why. There's things the game does very well, and then it screws itself by asking too much of the player. The game plays at a movie aspect ratio, so there's black bars on top and bottom of the screen present at all times. Lots of people complained about them, but they didn't bother me. It rather seems like the developers made good use of the graphics processing power they saved from those pixels, because the game looks really good for a PS3 release with great character models and proper visual direction. The Evil Within actually manages to create a scary atmosphere by restricting the draw distance, so when it's dark in game it's really dark and you stare into a deep black (assuming your monitor is properly calibrated). Most games today get this wrong and merely display dark areas in a tint of dark grey that looks flat and boring - apparently not many devs know about the importance of contrast in creating impressive visuals. I found the game worthy of playing for this alone. After all there's not many games with a real, oppressive horror atmosphere coming out these days - you gotta take what you can get.