Game Review – HarmoKnight

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HarmoKnight (3DS)
Developer: Game Freak
Price: $15

Stripped of the singing and dancing, Glee’s high school dramatics are simple. Trite even. It revels in discussing social issues – like homophobia and, just recently, Chris Brown – to varying degrees of success. But that’s not the point. Other than the requisite Brittany quips and Sue Sylvester’s bullying, people are tuning in to hear their beloved characters sing “Call Me Maybe.”

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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.

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

The 3DS: When Form Fetters Function

When I bought the original Nintendo DS at launch, I picked up Feel the Magic XY/XX —the first game I played that used a touch screen to directly control gameplay. Dragging the stylus across the screen to guide my black-silhouetted character through a treacherous, spike-filled path was a completely unique experience. Many of the other mini-games don’t measure up, especially the ones where you tap charging bulls and pinching scorpions, but for a launch title, it got me sufficiently excited for future DS games.

Then came Kirby: Canvas Curse, Trauma Center: Under the Knife, WarioWare: Touched!, Elite Beat Agents, and The World Ends With You. These games took further advantage of the bottom screen’s touchpad. Guiding Kirby with rainbow lines was a radical departure gameplay-wise from previous installments in the series that no other platform (at the time) could hope to replicate. When that game released, it single-handedly proved that the touchscreen was not a gimmick, but instead a completely new way to play video games.

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Resident Evil: Revelations Review

Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS)
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

As consoles become more powerful, people expect new games to include increasingly further additions and mechanics that can result in an overall less unique experience. Resident Evil 5’s cooperative play and forced teammate management were out-of-place features for a survival/horror game – tension dissipates with a friend at your side and aggravations ensues when you need to rely on an idiotic AI-controlled partner. Expectations are high for triple A titles, so it makes sense that developers would include as many features as possible, even if they seem poorly adapted or even ill-suited. In the case of Resident Evil: Revelations, the limitations and restrictions of the Nintendo 3DS bring about more innovation than total creative freedom would have. These boundaries, in both control and raw power, force developers to rethink how mechanics should be incorporated to better suit the system’s strengths. Instead of forging new territory on fairly unknown territory (Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D does not count as a true Resident Evil experience), Revelations draws inspiration from previous installments, as it keenly discerns what aspects made them successful – over-the-shoulder gunplay, mansion-style overworld, limited inventory, etc. – and streamlines them. This delicate process of refinement creates the most successfully progressive and cohesive Resident Evil since 4.

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Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Review

Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (3DS)
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Seeing Mario and Sonic come together to compete in the Olympic games every two years illustrates how unifying these athletic competitions are. Sure, while the rivalries between Nintendo and Sega are vastly more insignificant than say, the struggle between USA and Afghanistan, it is nevertheless fun to witness universes colliding. It certainly is not the most riveting way for these characters to unite – we all know that a creative platformer that successfully merged Mario and Sonic’s gameplay styles would be a lot more exciting. If Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympics is any indication though, perhaps this partnership should remain ceremonious.

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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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