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Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker Review – The Next Ninja Storm?

Developer: Soleil Ltd.

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Platform: Playstation 4/Xbox One/PC (Steam)*

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: August 31st, 2018

MRSP: $59.99

*The PC Version was used for this review

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is the first home console Naruto game to be released outside of the “Ultimate Ninja Storm” series since 2010. It does away the traditional three on three battle system popularized in the Storm games and introduces a new multiplayer oriented format that pits teams of four players against each other in a “Dragon Ball Xenoverse” esque hubworld. Does this game manage to prove that the series has legs to stand on outside of the Ultimate Ninja games? Today, we chakra dash right in and take a look.

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Story:
The story in Shinobi Striker is extremely slim and only serves to set up the various missions and online modes. There is a short explanation that the leaf village is hosting a “Ninja World Tournament” and that everyone who is worth anything is training to try and become the best ninja around. This leads into the singleplayer and multiplayer modes after a short tutorial. The only other aspects of a story are the short cutscenes before or during missions that can introduce boss battles or have short character interactions setting up for the task at hand.

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Graphics:
This game shines surprisingly well in the graphical department. The well crafted cell shading coupled with the great Unreal Engine 4 particles creates quite the visual spectacle in the middle of teamfights. All of the moves from the source material are done perfectly and translate really well to the 4v4 player versus player format without it being too over stimulating visually. As for the optimization aspect of things I was able to play at a 4K resolution with mostly 60FPS on max settings on an AMD FX-8370 and a GTX 970 respectively during the course of my playthrough.

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Audio/Music:
While there isn’t any way for Soleil to copy some of the more memorable tracks from the anime, they did a bang up job at crafting tracks that immerse you in Naruto’s deeply crafted world. Most tracks keep the adrenaline pumping while not being too outstanding or distracting from the fight. The sound design does a good job of capturing the feeling from the anime, with most of the sound effects being directly pulled from it. Other than that there isn’t much to say about the audio aspects of the game.

-Sample of the Soundtrack-

Gameplay:
Easily being the strongest thing this game has going for it, Shinobi Striker’s gameplay is a satisfying though sometimes frustrating experience. It plays like a beat em up more than an actual fighting game, with most game modes having objectives other than just defeating your opponents. There are four roles to pick from for your team with each having specific bonuses or abilities to contribute to the fight. Having a good balance is vital to your victory. The non PVP modes found in the game are the same four to five AI scenarios in which you either defend a target, fight off multiple enemies, or gather items as quickly as you can. They aren’t bad by any standard but they feel more akin to an MMO mission format versus a full retail release. The giant battles you’ll commonly fight yourself in are usually easy to keep track of and combat feels light and responsive. The camera is sometimes unresponsive when it comes to tracking enemies in the middle of the fight which can be very disorienting. While I had no issues with the online connectivity or getting into lobbies, the only other big problem I encountered was the balancing in the online lobby matchmaking. Most of the time one team would have a collection of low level players while the enemy team would be stacked with the higher level ones, which leads to an unfair playing ground due to the weapons and cosmetic you earn have effects on your in game stats. Despite a few setbacks, the combat is very fun and fulfills all your multiplayer Naruto fantasies.

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Content:
Here is where Shinobi Striker starts to hurt the most. The amount of stages can be counted on both hands. While they’re big, they start to become very repetitive when you play online. The “Story” can be completed in roughly 10 hours with the few post game missions unlocked taking another 5 hours or so. There really is not a lot of content to experience after you beat the game. This would be acceptable if there was more content for the multiplayer side of things but both the amount of levels and the progression systems are both lacking. The character customization on the other hand is actually quite nice with a good amount of options to choose from and the mentor system allows you to learn a good number of techniques to use in battle.

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Overall:
Shinobi Striker is a game with a solid foundation that just needs more of everything. The combat is great, and the customization options are plenty but a lack of game modes and unbalanced matchmaking create a sometimes frustrating experience. A lacking progression system and little to no post game content bring down what could have been a great game. Hopefully, it will receive the polish and content it needs post launch but as of now it isn’t worth full price.

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Mario Tennis Aces Review – A Refreshing Curveball

Developer: Camelot Software Planning

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: E

Release Date: June 22nd, 2018

MRSP: $59.99

Thank you, Nintendo for providing a review copy!

Mario Tennis Aces is the most recent in Nintendo’s line of Mario sports spinoff games. After the mediocre reception of “Mario Tennis Ultra Smashon the Wii U, Camelot Software has attempted to rekindle what made the earlier games in the series enjoyable while also adding a modern touch and new mechanics. Do they achieve the harmonious balance between the two? Today we dive in and take a look for ourselves.

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Story:
The story in Tennis Aces is… well its something. On one hand it has very creative and fun boss battles, and on the other hand it tries to tell you a story about a secret kingdom of tennis player and a demon possessed magical tennis racket. Yes, you heard that right. In a very Mario fashion, Wario and Waluigi are up to no good and come across a haunted tennis racket containing an ancient tennis spirit who wants to take over the world. As per tradition in Mario games, you’ll go from world to world, playing tennis matches and gathering the five infinity ge-….I mean “Tennis Stones” that grant the magic racket power so you can take him down. It’s silly, nonsensical, and honestly forgettable. It is not the worst story mode I’ve played in a sports game by any means, but Camelot would not be winning any writing awards for sure.

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Graphics:
Tennis Aces features a very vibrant color palette and great technical performance as any Mario sports game should. Some of the effects on special attacks look particularly good despite there being no antialiasing in the game. One weird visual design choice I noticed is the framerate going down from locked 60 fps to a locked 30 fps anytime you stop moving on the Adventure mode story map. Not a negative to the game by any means, but it did take some getting used to. The courts have a wide variety of visual styles and greatly help with making tennis seem a lot more visually stunning than it actually is.

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Audio/Music:
Most of the music found in Aces is your typical generic Mario fanfare. Most of the tracks are upbeat songs that occasionally coincide with the court you are playing on. None of the songs in the soundtrack were particularly bad but most of them just tend to blend in with the backdrop of the level instead of separating itself from it. The sound effects consist of your usual classic mushroom kingdom sound effects but there are a few sound effects such as the special shot that have a very good impact sound and make you really know you either did a good thing or messed up terribly.

-Sample of the Soundtrack-

Gameplay:
Gameplay is this games biggest strength. It has the perfect skill ceiling for anyone to be able to pick up the game and have a good time while rewarding players who sink a fair number of time into the game. New mechanics introduced add a ton of depth to the gameplay formula. With the ability to eliminate someone from the game by breaking their tennis racket, matches truly become fights with players having to balance keeping their racket’s health from getting low and returning special attacks sent at them. Zone speed allows players to use some of their special meter to slow down time to allow for better saves and ball returns. These abilities create situations that are almost as fun to watch as they are to play. The only major issue the gameplay has is found in its Adventure mode. During the second half of the story, the courses and enemies become less about the A.I getting increasingly better and more about introducing unfair mechanics that rubber band enemies to beating you with seemingly nothing you can do. It’s honestly one of the craziest spikes in difficulty I’ve seen in a long time.

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Content:
While Aces manages to easily beat out the amount of content found in Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, it is not by much. A Story mode called “Adventure” has returned for the first time since the Gameboy iteration of the series. It’s very short, clocking at about 5-6 hours in total including the bonus levels. There is no post game single player content or modes besides local play which is a huge bummer for anyone playing on the go or without an internet connection. There is a mode called “Swing Mode” but all it amounts to being is a basic vs mode with sometimes poorly functioning motion controllers. The majority of your time after you beat Story mode will be spent in the online modes which are not too bad but also do not offer a ton of variety. You have your basic “Play with friends” mode and your average casual online matchmaking. One fun addition is the tournament mode, which allow you to rake up online ranking points by playing in Smash-esque bracketed tournaments. If you get eliminated you can hop right back in at any time with a new tournament, as they are always going on. A nice bonus from playing this is you will unlock new characters added in monthly updates early for playing these modes. Unfortunately, aside from tournament mode there no fun mini games or non-vanilla tennis modes to play with online friends. The character and court roster are decently sized this time around, with 15+ characters and 7 courts with 1 night variation to choose from. More characters will be added with free updates for the next 3 months which is a nice touch.

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Overall:
Mario Tennis Aces is certainly a step in the right direction for the series. A short story mode, weird enemy difficulty scaling and lack of single player options keep it from being worth the full price game it’s being sold for. With that being said; fantastic gameplay, a great roster, and decent online functionality make this definitely one of the best iterations in the series.

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Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition Review – A Royal Comeback

Developer: Omega Force/Team Ninja

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: May 18th, 2018

MRSP: $59.99

Thank you, Nintendo for providing a review copy!

Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition is the re-release of the 2014 collaboration project between Koei Tecmo and Nintendo celebrating “The Legend of Zelda” as a franchise. This repackaging includes a load of new content not found in the original release as well as some updated visuals. Do these changes warrant buying the game again? Today we take a look and decide for ourselves. Please note that this will not be so much of a review as a comparison to the original release of the game not including any of its season pass DLC.

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Story:
The story is the original Wii U release of this game was surprisingly decent. It was not a masterpiece of storytelling but for a musou game it had a fun number of battles and the story never felt too serious or comedic for the tone of the Zelda series. The added DLC campaigns from the season pass included within the definitive edition re-release really help develop some of the characters who did not get too much time in the original story. The added the Wind Waker arc after the completion of the main story was a very fun addition as well. While there are your standard character misunderstandings that lead to battles, it checks out as a decent story mode. Nothing amazing, but it works for what it is.

5

Graphics:
The Wii U was not a technical powerhouse by any means, but neither is the Switch. While the original game ran at 720p 30 fps with an extremely variable framerate that often went below 20, the Switch version has made some pretty big strides. The Resolution has received a bump to 1080p and the framerate is now an unlocked 60 fps. While it is not stable, it makes a humongous difference in battle. The actual art style of the game is quite nice and compliments the various conflicting visual styles of the games in the franchise pretty well. Handheld mode on the other hand, is an absolutely atrocious experience. If you thought the Wii U version was a mess performance wise, the handheld mode will have battling constantly at 20 fps and below. It actually hurt my eyes at times, which alone is a testament to its poor performance.

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Audio/Music:
Musou games have been known to have very fun power metal variations on the themes and songs taken from the source material and this game does not disappoint. Most classic Zelda fan favorites are here with very fun and upbeat remixes. Most of the sound queues and alert noises are also taken from games throughout the franchise’s history. The sound design aspect of the original did not disappoint, and nothing has changed for the better.

-Sample of the Soundtrack-

Gameplay:
Hyrule Warriors has your standard musou gameplay of mashing X and Y a bunch of times to destroy hundreds of braindead enemies, but there are a few new additions to the mix. The new equipment such as the hammer will introduce new ways to go about fighting bosses. The “My Fairy” system allows you to tackle the Adventure mode with bonuses and adding buffs to your character. Another great added mechanic is the ability to switch characters, which makes multitasking much easier of a feat to accomplish mid battle. These are only a few of the mechanics not found in the original release, and I have yet to find one that hinders gameplay.

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Content:
Of all the musou spinoffs out there, this one is up near the top in terms of content. The main story mode including all of the extra missions takes about 15 hours, which is 5-6 more than the original game. Adventure mode which includes more than 5 maps each of which can take of upwards of 4-5 hours to complete, and there are almost twice as many characters in the roster compared to the Wii U release. The only major complaint in terms of content is that you’ll be repeating a lot of the same levels in the story mode, and especially in the extra side missions.

3

Overall:
Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition takes some of the best aspects of Zelda and musou games and blends them into a somewhat monotonous but mostly fulfilling experience. Fans of the Wii U release and newcomers will appreciate what they have added here. With terrible handheld performance and a lot of repeating levels being its only major drawbacks, this is definitely the better of the two Nintendo Warriors games.

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Attack on Titan 2 Review – Doubling Down on Titan Action

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Koei Tecmo

Platform: PlayStation 4*, PC (Steam), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: March 20th, 2018

MRSP: $59.99

*The PS4 Pro Version was used to review this game

Thank you, Koei Tecmo for providing a review copy!

Attack on Titan 2 is the sequel to the 2016 game adaptation of the popular anime series. In this iteration, Omega Force tries to provide a new perspective on the story by introducing an original character to play as instead of the original cast from the show. Does this new perspective change up the experience or are they just retreading old ground? Today, we dive in and take a look.

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Story:
Attack on Titan 2 covers the first and second seasons of the popular anime, though it is mostly a rough retelling of the story from the first game. You play as an unnamed recruit who happens to be present at every major event. It’s a nice change of pace from the first game. However it ends up being very boring for having the choice of one character during the games main story mode. This is especially disappointing after experiencing the predecessor’s small but diverse character roster. Even if the characters in the first game mostly played the same, the dialogue and aesthetic differences made the experience at least a little refreshing. The added character adds a few weird inconsistencies and minor plot holes in the story. On top of this, the character is silent, and contributes nothing to the conversation in any major story scene. There are fun side conversations that involve you learning a bit more about your fellow comrades but most end up feeling like the same two to three jokes being told on a loop. The season 2 content is the main draw of the game for me. It did not have any prevalence in the original. Sadly, the extremely short length of the season two content compared to season one content only means that about 20 percent of the games story is “new” material. The fact that the series is currently ongoing, the ending is just as abrupt and underwhelming as the first game is.

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Graphics:
In terms of the visual quality, this game is on the exact peg the first one stands on. Almost nothing has changed graphically, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The game’s menus have a nice aesthetic in tune with the world the characters live in and the motion blur was used surprisingly well. The character models are great and remained true to the show as one would hope. The particle effects are pleasant to look at and the performance is mostly stable with no major problems to report during my playthrough.

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Audio/Music:
It would be extremely hard to replicate Hiroyuki Sawano’s iconic anime soundtrack for the game, but there was a pretty good attempt. None of the tracks stand out as fantastic by any means, but they aren’t bad either.” The various titan noises are just as creepy and sometimes hilarious as they are in the source material. Pleasantly enough, there are a surprising number of songs in the OST. It’s a very average soundtrack overall, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.

-Sample of the Soundtrack-

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Gameplay:
There are a good number of improvements to the gameplay from the previous iteration. One of the original game’s strengths was its extremely fluid and satisfying combat which is back in full force. New additions in the game include: a skill system that allows you to spend free time with your squadmates and have them teach you new skills to equip your custom character; new equipment to attack titans with such as molotovs and attack buffs; and the tower system feature. The tower system is easily one of the best things they’ve added to the game. It allows you to build support buildings once you’ve cleared out an area on the map which can grant item bonuses at the end of a battle, an extra hand in clearing out titans, or buffing your entire team with defense/attack buffs. Out of battle you can upgrade them at your camp with a new currency called, “Wings of Freedom”, which you earn for performing well in battle. Unlike the original version, it actually rewards replaying through old levels for a better score.

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Content:
The singleplayer and multiplayer components of this game are packed to the brim with content, though maybe not new content. While the singleplayer content is mostly a repackaging and lazy expansion pack on the original game, the multiplayer feature has a ton of missions you can play with friends, with a small but explorable camp. The roster is vastly improved over the first, with an upwards of 37 playable characters compared to the previously playable 10 characters. Though they weren’t in the game at launch, a few fun versus modes that allow you to play as a titan were added free of charge. The main game’s story will take you anywhere from 10-12 hours and the multiplayer can take upwards of another 10 hours depending on what difficulty you decide to tackle. There are a few post completion game modes but they’re mostly new game+ or just higher difficulty modifiers.

Overall:
Attack on Titan 2 is the very definition of one step forward, two steps back. While the gameplay is massively improved over the first and the soundtrack is mildly enjoyable, the awkward retelling of the first game’s story mode with the very little new content leaves a lot to be desired. The character roster is every fan’s dream, though you’re honestly better off just playing the first game which does them much more justice.

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Dynasty Warriors 9 Review – Reinventing the War

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Koei Tecmo

Platform: PlayStation 4*, PC (Steam), Xbox One

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: February 13th, 2018

MRSP: $59.99

*The PS4 Pro Version was used to review this game

Thank you, Koei Tecmo for providing a review copy!

Dynasty Warriors 9 is the long awaited new mainline title in the “Dynasty Warriors” series of hack and slash games. This game attempts to completely redefine the series with an open and fully explorable world full of minigames, armies to fight, and sights to see. Will fans of the series have the next true evolution of musou games? Today we dive in and take a look.

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Story:
This series’ story has also been a constant retelling of the classic novel “
Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. This story explains the Three Kingdoms period in chinese history which is essentially a giant Chinese civil war. There are over 80 characters spread out across 5 factions, each of which have stories that carry over to various time periods throughout the war. Playing only one character will give you a story that wouldn’t answer a ton of questions and will constantly have you battling against characters you know nothing about. The more character stories you complete the more sense the overall story with make. The story itself is part cheesy, part serious war drama, and part anime. It isn’t bad by any means, but by the second or third character story you’ll already have seen all the major events at least once.

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Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada Review – Poster Boy Chronicles

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Koei Tecmo

Platform: PlayStation 4*, PC (Steam), Playstation Vita (JP Only), Playstation 3 (JP Only), Nintendo Switch (JP Only)

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: May 23rd, 2017

MRSP: $59.99

*The PS4 Pro Version was used to review this game

A retail copy was purchased by the reviewer for this review.

After a series of spin offs for the “Samurai Warriors 4” line of games, “Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada” seems to be bringing them to a close. Going for a much more linear, drama based story mode instead of the wide scale story angles told in the previous games we see a departure from the traditional Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors spin offs. Does Spirit of Sanada have enough original ideas and mechanics to set itself apart from the plethora of other history based musou games?

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Story:
The story of the Warring States Period is one the Samurai Warriors games will tell again and again until they can’t scrape any new details from the history books. Spirit of Sanada tells the story of these events from the Sanada clan, and does so rather well. The characters are well fleshed out and a lot more likeable than previous entries in the series. They are are only two major gripes I have. One is the pacing between the multi-stage battles has you doing very pointless and repetitive side missions which old within the first few hours. The second is the very confusing and underwhelming ending. It is very undramatized from history almost to a fault. For them to change small details about the events but not change the ending to be a little bit more fulfilling to the character is an odd choice.

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Warriors All Stars Review – A Gathering of Niche Heroes

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Koei Tecmo

Platform: PlayStation 4*, PC (Steam), Playstation Vita (JP Only)

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: August 29th, 2017

MRSP: $59.99

*The PS4 Pro Version was used to review this game

Thank you, Koei Tecmo for providing a review copy!

Warriors All Stars is a love letter from Koei Tecmo to the fans of their many franchises. From the darkest of stories to the happiest, Omega Force has compiled a large batch of characters to duke it out and save the world from an ancient evil. Does this game stand out in the large amount of recent “Dynasty Warriors spinoffs or does it fall to the wayside as a failed fanservice present? Today we dive and and take a look for ourselves.

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Fire Emblem Warriors Review – Giant Armies and Giant Expectations

Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo Switch*,  New Nintendo 3DS

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: October 20th, 2017

MRSP: $59.99

*The Switch Version was used to review this game

Thank you, Nintendo for providing a review copy!


Fire Emblem Warriors” has been the pipedream that fans of both Musou and Fire Emblem games have wanted for years. With Koei Tecmo game polls and fan UI mockups being posted on the internet for years, seeing the announcement at the Nintendo Switch conference earlier this year was a dream come true for so many people. Since then we’ve learned  information about the game that has become very divisive among fans. Does this game live up the expectations of both sets of fans? Or does it fall to being overly ambitious like so many other games today? Today we take a look.

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Rock of Ages 2 Review – Monty Python’s Rolling Katamari

Developer: ACE Team

Publisher: Atlus

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Steam)*

ESRB Rating: E

Release Date: August 28th, 2017

MRSP: $14.99

*The PC Version was used to review this game

Thank you, Atlus for providing a review copy!

 

Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder is the sequel to the cult 2011 indie game “Rock of Ages“. Rock of Ages is a series which takes elements from tower defense games as well as a few queues from the “Katamari” and “Super Monkey Ball” franchises to create something truly unique. Nearly 6 years after the release of the first game, does Rock of Ages 2 truly live up to the title of Bigger and Boulder? Today we take a look.

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Dragon Quest Heroes 2 Review – Honored Traditions

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Square Enix

Platform: PlayStation 4*, PC (Steam), Playstation Vita (JP Only), Playstation 3 (JP Only),  Nintendo Switch (JP Only)

ESRB Rating: T

Release Date: April 25th 2017

MRSP: $59.99

*The PS4 Pro Version was used to review this game

A retail copy was purchased by the reviewer for this review.

It’s been a few years since the release of “Dragon Quest Heroes,” a fun little ARPG tower defense game that served as a love letter to the franchise. With the sequel in the spinoff series going fully open world, and adding various new elements to the mix, will it stand up to the original? Today we take a look at Dragon Quest Heroes 2.

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