Etrian Odyssey IV goes straight to the killing

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Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (3DS)
Developed: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
MSRP: $39.99
Release Date: February 26

Etrian Odyssey scoffs at other role-playing games that slowly dole out options for customization. Pick five heroes among six classes to comprise your party. Here’s four skill points for them to assign. Purchase some equipment. Here’s an airship. Now go! There’s no story, no spoon-feeding of mechanics, and rarely ever guidance. For those seeking exploration and random encounters that immediately challenge, without the fuss of a narrative, this is paradise.

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Monsters are now rendered in 3D as opposed to static images, which lessens their detail but provides more personality. My issue with the visuals is the old-school first-person view of the battles. You pick, to a certain extent, how your party looks yet they’re never displayed in battle. It’s hard to get attached to your team when they’re getting hit off-screen.

It’s a tiny complaint in an otherwise airtight formula. Like the recently released Fire Emblem: Awakening, there’s even a casual mode that removes many of the distressing features that make this series somewhat daunting for the uninitiated. Those uninitiated should check this demo out. It’s a deliciously dense sampling of distilled role-playing.

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Fire Emblem: Awakening (without memory)

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Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: February 4
MSRP: $39.99

“Oh fuck you,” I moaned to my 3DS, mere moments into the newly released demo for Fire Emblem: Awakening found on the eShop. Not only did the thing tease me by restricting all customization options for my main hero Robin (a perfectly gender-ambiguous name), but it also starts with him having just been discovered with amnesia. For someone who has little interest in the series and the entire turn-based strategy genre, these two decisions put a sour taste in my mouth, and not the yummy Sour Patch Kids kind.

If you’re willing to look past the amnesia plot point (something I’m not at all willing to do. I stopped playing Tale of Graces f last year for this reason entirely.), what remains are all the things you’d expect from a Fire Emblem installment but now with some extra graphicals. Maps and character sprites lack detail, but the animations are silky smooth during combat with adequately detailed models. It switches between maps and battle sequences quickly and you have a few minor camera control options during the action.

Fans of moving archers, warriors, and mages tactically and advantageously on grid-based maps will eat this stuff up, but those who haven’t been able to get into the series or genre (me!) won’t glean much from trying it out.

Metacritic prediction: 80

Resident Evil: Revelations Impressions

Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS)
Developer: Capcom
Publsiher: Capcom
Release Date: February 7, 2012

The demo for Resident Evil: Revelations in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D was so sparse that its inclusion was peculiar. Barely a few minutes long, you controlled Jill Valentine through a small handful of rooms and fought a total of three Pale Man-looking monsters. Nothing about this demo was remotely enlightening (other than it taking place on a boat) and the gameplay was barer than the game it was featured in. There was even a blurb on the game’s case, promoting its feeble existence. But now on the 3DS eShop you can download what I would consider a real demo of Resident Evil: Revelations, one that is more indicative to the quality of the final product.

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Asura’s Wrath Impressions

Asura’s Wrath (PS3, Xbox 360)
Developer: CyberConnect2
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: February 21, 2012

No idea is too grandiose for Asura’s Wrath. Between the two levels available in the demo (found on both the Playstation Network and Xbox Live), I squared off against a demigod approximately three times larger than Earth, took down an airship, and dueled an adversary with an infinitely extending katana…on the moon. The scope of this demo alone is grander than any game I’ve played, but the underlying mechanics are too bare-boned, and often times non-existent, that even calling Asura’s Wrath a video game seems inaccurate. It’s more like an interactive anime.

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