Project X Zone 2 – Bandai Namco

Project X Zone 2
Bandai Namco Entertainment

Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS XL
Street: 02.16

Project X Zone 2 is the love child of Bandai Namco, Capcom and Sega, and it features all of your favorite characters from various animes and JRPGs. It’s also the sequel to Project X Zone. Tales of Vesperia, .hack//, Resident Evil, Sakura Wars, Streets of Rage, Yakuza: Dark Souls, Street Fighter, Tekken, Fire Emblem, Megaman and even Sonic the Hedgehog characters make appearances in Project X Zone 2, and that’s not even all of them. This has easily got to be one of the best examples of fan service I’ve ever seen, and I’m not necessarily complaining. I mean, I never thought I’d see Sonic and Knuckles kicking some ass next to Phoenix Wright and Ryu from Street Fighter. If you’re really into Japanese RPGs, obscure anime series and crossovers, then Project X Zone 2 is the game for you. The storyline is simple: Trans-dimensional beings are crossing over to your world through a series of portals randomly placed throughout the now abandoned city of Tokyo. It is your job to rid the city of these beings and close the portals for good. The artwork in this game is beautiful, and the pixelated graphics that accompany it (during gameplay) make me feel nostalgic.

Project X Zone 2 really only fits into the JRPG genre of gaming, so if you’ve never played a JRPG, prepare for a little culture shock. If you’re not new to the world of JRPGs, then you’ll enjoy a traditional, tactical, battle-based strategy game. The battle mechanics are pretty simple to use. The only complaint I had is that the attack/defense menu is on the bottom touch screen. So while you’re deciding if you want to attack/defend/counter, you also need to remember to touch the option on the menu screen below before pressing the A button to finish your turn. If you accidentally forget this step, there’s a very real chance that you’ll end up skipping your turn. However, considering that you literally do this a billion times in the game, you’ll get used to it—I just don’t think it was the best layout they could have gone with.

The narrative in Project X Zone 2 is unintentionally hilarious and obnoxious at the same time. There’s a lot of slightly sexual comments that definitely got lost in translation. The obnoxious part comes in later during the game when you’ve gathered up a large group of characters and each character just has to say something during the dialogue cut scene, every single time. This means that you’re button-mashing the A button like crazy while trying to skip all these ridiculous, two-word dialogue boxes while missing the instructions to the next part of the game. If each individual character isn’t attempting to finish the last character’s sentence, they’re just repeating what they said in a slightly different way. It’s like being at a house party with really loud music while trying to hold a conversation with your group of friends, but everyone keeps yelling over each other and nobody is actually hearing what anyone is saying. 

But, if you can get past the silly narrative, you really will enjoy wandering around abandoned Tokyo and fighting bad guys. Luckily, since all of these beloved anime and video game characters are having to fight over screen time, it makes the turns go by quickly so that each enemy encounter doesn’t take a solid 10 minutes and you can progress through the game at a good pace. Each character has its own set of attacks and counters that are reminiscent of their respective video game or television series, which makes it impossible for the battle encounters to be repetitive, since there are so many characters to choose from and ways to K.O. your enemy. The large selection of characters is also Project X Zone 2’s downfall. Once you get four or five characters from your team fighting against three or four enemies, the screen just becomes a clusterfuck of chaos and explosions. It looks super cool, but some of the time, I’m not really sure what’s going on until the “K.O” banner flashes across the screen. Who cares, though? It’s still pretty—so pretty.

At the end of the day, Project X Zone 2 really only appeals to a certain niche of people. There are a lot of inside references and jokes from the many anime and video games franchises that are included in the game, but it’s not necessary to understand all the references to fully grasp the story of this specific game and enjoy it. I can fully admit that I enjoyed this game purely for its fan service, since I loved a lot of the franchises and characters featured in Project X Zone 2. As someone who has experience playing JRPGs like Tears to Tiara and the Final Fantasy series, I can really appreciate this dumbed-down JRPG for its simplicity. –Nicole Stephenson

One Piece: Collection Eleven

Funimation
Street: 02.03

One Piece: Collection Eleven is part of a series of DVD sets containing episodes for the popular anime One Piece. One Piece first aired in 1999, contains 700 episodes, and is continually considered one of the top 10 animes to watch. If you haven’t seen any of One Piece, I’d recommend watching the series from the beginning if you have the time—if not, then you could start off with One Piece Collection Eleven and catch on to the current story arc. One Piece Collection Eleven finishes off one of One Piece’s best story arcs to date and starts a seemingly more epic one towards the end of the disc set. Luffy and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates, have been keeping me entertained for 14 years. I have never given up on this anime and it has never disappointed me. FUNimation also never disappoints with their beautiful DVD sets, which include extras like cast and crew commentary, behind the scenes exclusive, and textless songs. If you have never seen One Piece, then this is probably the best time to jump in to the show—no need to watch previous episodes (although I highly recommend it). –Nicole Stephenson

Samurai Jack: Volume 4
Writers: Jim Zubkavich, Andy Suriano
Artist: Andy Suriano

IDW Publishing
Street: 09.03

In just the 10 pages of the review copy I read I was hooked.  The comic book looks just like the cartoon does in its signature clean cut art style that pays homage to samurai films. On the last page of the review copy the Master of Time informs his large audience of followers that he has a new invention called the Time Talisman, which ensures that everything is in its proper place in the time stream. If you know anything about Samurai Jack, you’ll know how incredibly monumental this invention could be for him, as he is a time-displaced samurai warrior whose duty it is to go back in time and defeat the evil demon Aku. The comic ends on a massive cliffhanger where Samurai Jack is standing amongst the crowd of followers listening to the Master of Time talk about the Time Talisman. If Jack could get his hands on this Time Talisman he could defeat the evil demon Aku. As someone who loved the cartoon I’m absolutely stoked for the comic books because I want more Samurai Jack. If you are new to the Samurai Jack series I recommend reading this from the first volume and watching the cartoon on Netflix. –Nicole Stephenson

Epanalepsis

Epanalepsis
Cameron Kunzelman/Mastertronic

Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 05.21

Epanalepsis is a narrative point and click RPG that is done in an 8-bit art style and also features its own soundtrack , included with the game download. You play as three different characters from various time periods—the 1990s, 2010s and 2030s—and your goal is to find out the connection between the characters and their time periods, all while getting hints from people in your subconscious mind. The writing in this game is absolutely incredible, and the artwork is all done by hand. I can definitely appreciate all of the hard work that went into the creation of this game, though I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed playing it. I think that this game is catering to a small niche of people and not to a broader audience, and I respect that, but I’m not part of that niche. The gameplay wasn’t bad, and the artwork was great, but I personally prefer a little more interactivity. Steam’s description of the game even details it as a “New Wave science fiction, cyberpunk dystopian” story, which is pretty specific. If you are into unique video games that focus purely on the story, then this game is definitely for you. –Nicole Stephenson

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 3 – “Catch a Ride”
Telltale Games

Played on: PS4
Also on: Steam, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac, Android, iOS
Street: 06.23

This has to be my favorite episode so far. Not only does this have the classic one liners from the main Borderlands game series that I love so much, but they also really amped up the humor in this episode. They also made a few jabs at the Borderlands series. The writing in this game is just phenomenal, and I really believe that Tales from the Borderlands is Telltale Games’ best series. Not only did they improve this episode with great humor, but they also fixed the glitches that I experienced in the first two episodes for a much smoother performance. The time to make decisions is still a little too short, but it keeps you on your feet. In this episode, the characters escape the planet and begin a galactic adventure that takes them to multiple locations, and it even includes a few cameos from previous Borderlands characters. This episode will have you questioning who is truly friend or foe, and you might end up getting someone killed (I know I did, oops). You really get to watch Rhys and Fiona grow into their roles and become a dynamic duo instead of constantly second guessing each other. I’m excited to see what they’ll do in the next few episodes. –Nicole Stephenson

Turmoil
Gamious

Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: 06.05

Turmoil is an economy-building/money-making game that was inspired by the 19th century oil rush in America. The idea of the game is to drill oil, buy land and build up your town in a race against other oil-obsessed NPCs. The dialogue in this game is a little cheeky, and I love that. The artwork is also colorful and visually stunning in its own way. Turmoil features a casual playing mode as well as a campaign, so you could practice finding oil before continuing on your campaign—and trust me, learning how to find oil is a bit of an art. While the gameplay itself is simple, mastering it is quite difficult—don’t plan on winning this game. I really hope that a multiplayer or online gameplay option is made available in the near future, since this would be a fun game to play with friends. This game has a lot of potential for growth and there’s a lot more they could do with it if they chose to. I found this game addicting and would recommend it to anyone who loves economy-building games or any fan of the Sim City games. –Nicole Stephenson

Doctor Who

Doctor Who: The Daleks

BBC/Technicolor
Street: 7.14

Technicolor has put together a two-disc set of all the best Dalek episodes from the most popular Doctor Who seasons—from Christopher Eccleston (ninth doctor) to the newest doctor Peter Capaldi (twelfth doctor). The first disc not only caters to all the hardcore Dalek Doctor Whovians, but also plays hard on the feels. Some of the most emotionally scarring episodes from the Doctor Who series are on this disc, from the kiss between Rose Tyler and doppelganger Matt Smith (eleventh doctor), to the introduction of my personal favorite companion, Amy Pond. While I did enjoy the Daleks, I can’t say that I’m obsessed with them; however, I loved this Dalek compilation because of the big moments that happen between the doctor and his companions. The second disk includes special features like Genesis of the Daleks and Dalek Origins. Genesis of the Daleks details the first major Dalek episode that took place during Tom Baker’s time (the fourth doctor), and features the full episode. Dalek Origins is a short documentary that features concept art, the creation of, and a detailed explanation of the Dalek’s and all of their gadgets. Even if you aren’t a Dalek obsessed Doctor Whovian, you should check this disc set out, but prepare your feels. –Nicole Stephenson

One Piece: Collection No. 12

Funimation
Street: 04.21

I will wholeheartedly admit that this set of episodes had me bawling like a big baby. If Robin’s heartbreaking backstory doesn’t rip your heart out, then Luffy’s devotion to protecting her in the next episode will—unless you’re a robot or something. This collection of One Piece has got to be one of my favorites by far. Aside from all of the wonderful backstories and flashbacks that you get about Robin and also Luffy, there are a ton of epic battles and fights in this collection. Luffy and his gang fight the infamous CP9, and Chopper finally fully transforms, which is something I feel we have been waiting for far too long. Overall, this set of episodes features some intense battles, fight scenes and incredible character development. You learn a lot about Luffy’s childhood and why he fights so hard to become King of the Pirates. My only real complaint with this collection is the amount of random filler that the first 2 discs have—I really don’t need recap on an episode I just watched. Otherwise, the last few discs are action-packed and impossible to stop watching. If you haven’t already gotten into One Piece, you are truly missing out on a fantastic anime. –Nicole Stephenson

Animal Gods

Animal Gods
Still Games

Reviewed on: PC
Street: 10.12

Animal Gods is a beautiful, 2D, top-down puzzle/exploration game that is reminiscent of the old Zelda games. The layout of the map and the dungeons are incredibly similar to that of the top-down Zelda games, but the controls are much simpler. The first thing you’ll notice about Animal Gods is the stunning artwork, which mixes modern and cell-shading styles to create a truly unique style of artwork that belongs only to Animal Gods.

 

Animal GodsThere is absolutely no tutorial for the game. You start off by speaking to a mysterious cloaked character about the lay of the land, and the only direction you are given is to travel north, east, south or west. The character explains that each direction will hold a different type of adventure, good or bad, but the overall feeling of the game is pretty ominous no matter which direction you choose. The opening cut scene with this mysterious character is about seven minutes long, and then you begin the game. You get no tutorial on how your controls work or what your character is capable of doing. You explore the map with the direction pad on your keyboard or the WASD keys until you come to some strange black and purple gates that look dangerous. Then, you are given short instructions on how to cross the gates by using your spacebar to dash or warp across them. This is where it gets tricky: You only have a maximum amount of time you can warp, but you can also do short warps by tapping the spacebar really quickly. While you are exploring the map, you’ll come across these different types of gates that are placed in multiple directions, meaning that your timing with the spacebar has to be impeccable as there is truly no room for error. Luckily enough, there is no limit to how many times you can die. If you don’t time your warps just right, you’ll end up at your last checkpoint and have to start that area or part of the dungeon over again.

 

The story of Animal Gods is slowly revealed to you as you complete the dungeons and you collect pages of a diary written by a woman named Juliette, an occult-leader named Jessuh and a scientist named Sven. These pages make absolutely no sense at the beginning of the game, but about halfway through you’ll start to piece together the story. You learn that your goal is to free the Animal Gods who were once sacred and powerful but have become beasts that are lost to a toxic wasteland. Your character, Thistle, is a quick and agile warrior whose goal is to destroy the curse of the Animal Gods and set them free. You find out Juliette, Jessuh and Sven’s involvement as you read their diary pages and free each Animal God.

 

Animal GodsIt doesn’t matter which direction you start the game in—you can complete each dungeon in any order you choose. As you progress through, you gain new abilities and items that help you kill enemies and defeat bosses. After having witnessed the stunning artwork of Animal Gods for at least a good 30 minutes before coming across enemies that I had to kill, I have to say that I was quite disappointed with the way the enemies looked themselves. All of the character artwork—including the mysterious cloaked figure you speak with at the beginning of the game and even the character you play—are as beautiful as the maps and dungeons. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about the enemies you have to defeat while playing through the map. They are literal boxes, yes—boxes. After expecting great characters from this game they give you boxes to slash and hack at with your amazing bronze sword. It doesn’t fit the game style whatsoever, and considering that you have quite a few Animal Gods to free, it’s very underwhelming when you’re supposed to be in the heat of battle.

 

Overall, the game felt incomplete, and not because of the lack of tutorials or even the way you are just thrown into the game without any story … The entire game took me two hours to complete. One minute I was fighting a boss (which isn’t even that difficult to beat), and then just as suddenly as I was thrown into the game, the credits were rolling. I was genuinely confused, left with more questions than answers—I still hadn’t figured out the entire story behind the game or why my character wanted to free the Animal Gods anyway. I wasn’t super impressed with the gameplay itself, but I was absolutely stunned with the artwork. I see Animal Gods as a piece of art more than a game, to be honest. Unfortunately, I’m no good at reviewing art, so as a game, I wouldn’t recommend Animal Gods unless it goes down in price to $5.99 or $6.99 on Steam—it’s currently selling for $9.99. I think Animal Gods has a lot of potential to be a good game, but it wasn’t really complete. I’d be willing to play through it again if they added more content to it, or even if they explained the story a little better.

 

Overruled

Overruled

Overruled!

Dlala Studios
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: PC, Xbox One
Street: 09.15

Overruled! is a multi-player brawler that is best enjoyed with a group of friends. It also has a single player mode that is basically a bunch of mini-games, but it’s really not any fun. The multi-player battle mode is absolutely frantic and fast-paced—the rules in this game are constantly changing, so there’s never one person who is always winning. The idea of the game is really simple. All you need to do is collect the most points, but the rules change every 30 seconds, so you never know how you are going to get the points. You can play locally or online with complete strangers. I had a difficult time getting online due to their servers being packed, so hopefully they will have that sorted out soon. You can buy the game on Steam for $12.99, on the Playstation store for $14.99 or on the Xbox One store for $14.99. Steam also sells Overruled! in a four-pack for $38.99, so you can play with your friends. Overruled! is really only enjoyable in multi-player mode with friends, but the single-player campaign is pretty dull and repetitive. If you have a couple friends who are looking for a new game, I’d recommend Overruled!. –Nicole Stephenson