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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, '13, 12:59 am 
Interesting review!! :)


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, '13, 7:54 pm 
Another one from the archives.

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Sakura Wars- So Long My Love
Release date: 2004 (JP), 2010 (NA)
Developers: Red entertainment, Sega
Platform: PS2, Wii
Visual novel/Tactical RPG.
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Sakura Wars: So Long my Love, is actually the fifth installment of the Sakura Wars series, known as some of the best games that were never localized. This decision lies mainly at the feet of Sega of America chief Bernie Stolar, who was behind the notoriously poor launch of the Sega Saturn in the US, and was certainly not helped by letting out statements such as "The Saturn is not our Future". While the Saturn has its defenders, as well as some very good games in its library, the Saturn's fall and fall in America was largely the result of both mismanagement and Sega's poor reputation for system-extending gimmicks like the 32X, which was the result of miscommunication between Sega of America and Sega of Japan. However, the Sakura Wars games were one of the most heavily-imported game series for quite a long time, and this installment is the first one to be officially localized, so everyone could get a look what all of the fuss was about.

So, Sakura Wars takes place in an alternate steampunk 1920's where the First World War was interrupted by a massive outbreak of malevolent supernatural forces. This led to the creation of a number of mecha teams (universally masquerading as theatrical troupes due to Japanese pun)* around the world in order to guard against the new menace. This game sees Shinjiro Taiga, Japanese naval officer and the nephew of Ichiro Ogami, protagonist of the first four games, reassigned to America by his uncle in order to bolster the New York Combat Revue, the American branch of the anti-demon forces. Presumably Ogami didn't want to go because of the shenanigans involved in his own foreign travels. Arriving at the Broadway theater where the team is housed, he soon finds himself as an usher as a day job, and pulled into the defense of New York against the resurgent demonic forces under the command of Oda Nobunaga- However, considering his assignment, managing his teammates might well be the tougher part of his stay in New York City.

The gameplay is actually divided into two separate and distinct modes, Adventure and Battle. Since Adventure mode takes up the lion's share of time in the game, that gets covered first. Adventure mode is basically time between battles, spent either finding out what the enemy's doing, solving team problems, or Shinjiro generally just shooting the breeze with the various colorful members of his immediate team or the other denizens of Alt-history 1920's New York City. This mode consists entirely of navigating New York City and engaging in social interactions which is handled with visual-novel dialogue choices with Sakura Wars's particular flair, the Live Interactive Picture System (LIPS). All dialogue sequences and Action Events that mean anything are timed, meaning that you have a limited time to choose Shinjiro's responses, and what you say matters. Proper dialogue choices increase the trust between Shinjiro and his teammates, and increased trust affects the battle stats of Shinjiro's ladyfriends as well as the strength of their combination attacks, and sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Aside from actual dialogue choices, there are times you can affect how strongly Shinjiro says something, and other variations that the system is used for, from sword fights to jazz sessions and so on. There are plenty of events to find in New York City, and odds are that they won't all be found in a single playthrough- however, the game's length makes it suited for replays. It is here that the localization really gets a chance to shine. The game is genuinely funny, and the dialogue responses required to gain trust are rarely counterintuitive when the character's overall personality is taken into account. Aside from a couple of head-scratching name changes in the English version (Plum Spaniel -> Cherry Cocker. Wut?), the writing for the game is rather top notch, getting across the ridiculousness of the things Shinjiro has to deal with, not the least of which is his boss, Michael Sunnyside, who has complete and utter trust in Shinjiro to be able to do whatever ludicrous things he asks, among which are winning a mock trial to decide the fate of Harlem against a top-flight professional lawyer, or restoring his terminally ill niece's will to live. While this isn't the traditional between-mission scene for a game of this type, it's not something the player will find themselves skipping through because it is still an interactive and important part of the gameplay.

The second part of gameplay are the mecha battles. while there are only 11 or 12 of these in he whole game, and it's a little while before you even get to the first, that does not make them quick or necessarily easy. Each o them is quite involved, usually involving more than just "smash the bad guys", and each chapter is capped with a powerful boss mech that would be an endgame encounter in any other mecha tactics game. Because you can't customize or grind, battles are more about making do with what the game gives you rather than your gear or levels, the later battles more on the level of tactical puzzles than anything. These battles are turn-based and use free, gridless movement. all machines have their own attack ranges for their weapons, and attacks hit anything in that range, meaning that all machines can hit multiple enemies with each attack. All mecha have a set amount of action points, which are used for everything- movement, how many regular attacks they can string together, self-healing, and super moves which are usable when their super meter is filled up by combat. pilots can also do combination attacks, which hit all enemies that lie between the two mecha, with the damage modified by the pilots' trust level with each other. The player also gets access to strategies, which affect how much AP certain actions take, as well as team stats, and what actions are possible. For example, setting the strategy to Offense increases the damage pilots do as well as the rate they increase their super meter, but defense (a non-trivial ability) takes more AP, and self-healing is a forbidden action. Add to this that battlefields will often have multiple areas to transition through (including the sky, for air battles), and you end up with combats that are more complex than they might initially seem. However, because the game gives you almost all of your tools and huge, impressive bosses right from the get-go, the tactics portion of the game does not feel like an afterthought.

The game's 3D graphics are nothing at all special, as most of the effort in the art department was focused on the dialogue and interaction scenes. However, 1920's New York City is wonderfully rendered, and as a frequent visitor to the Big Apple myself, quite accurate. The designers got things correct down to the street level, and resisted the temptation to include the Empire State Building at a time when it didn't exist. Shinjiro even arrives through Ellis Island.

I have to say that this game is refreshing in another way- the fact that there are many, many scenes in the game that have nothing to do with leading up to or winding down from robot battles, and are mainly dedicated to just doing "normal people" things in 1920's New York, like kicking back with one of the team at a Harlem jazz club, actually helping out with the day-to-day stuff of running a Broadway theater, seeing the sights, learning to make coffee, and all that sort of thing that you just really don't get in most games, or at least in not nearly the same amount that one finds in Sakura Wars. It creates a feeling that there's more to the world at large than just being a conveyance from battle to battle, which one does not find all that often in tactical RPGs.

So, what's all the fuss about? Quite a bit, it seems.

(Ry's notes: A good chunk of the dialogue is voice acted, and the premium edition contains 2 game discs, one with the Japanese voice acting and one with the English voice acting. Both are pretty nice, actually.)

*The pun in question, as I've heard it, is that the words for "theater troupe" and "assault force" are spelled differently and pronounced the same.

Screenshots (Shamelessly ripped from other sources):

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And, as a Bonus- The intros to all five Sakura Wars games.



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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, '13, 9:43 pm 
Ah ! Sakura Taisen/Wars, what a great serie from Red entertainment :) i've only played a little on the three first of the serie, but as it was in japanese, that was a bit difficult to go very far in the different games but great experience ! I've never tried the fourth and five episodes but maybe one day.


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, '13, 2:35 am 
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Kessen III
Release date: 2004 (JP), 2005 (NA)
Developer: Koei Entertainment
Platform: PS2
Genre: Action Strategy
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Kessen III was the last game released in the Kessen series of strategy games by Koei. While the first game was a more or less straight retelling of the final victories of Tokugawa Ieaysu over his rivals for control of Japan, the second was more or less a Romance of the Three Kingdoms fanfiction from start to finish. The third entry for the series took a step back to Sengoku-era Japan for its inspiration, and given that Koei is the finest purveyor of strategy (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nobunaga's Ambition) and action (Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors) games that take place in the feudal eras of the Far East, Koei has had a good amount of experience with strategy games- even though the previous two games fell rather flat on the gameplay aspect.

So, the story of Kessen III returns to the historical retelling end of the spectrum, if rather theatrically dramatized. In the middle of the 16th century, the Ashikaga shogunate's power had collapsed, and was now powerless to stop the various feudal lords of Japan from warring with each other across the country. Almost every major lord in the country went to war to dominate their rivals and seize control of the country. The chaos spread throughout the country, and the battles did not just exist between the various provinces of the country. In 1551, the ruler of Owari Province died suddenly, and his various sons fought over the rulership of the province. The chosen successor, Oda Nobunaga, must rally what few allies he has to defeat his grasping brothers, convince his father's retainers to join him, and defend his province from the other feudal lords. Once that is accomplished, however, he might well look beyond the borders of Owari, and use means both forceful and fair to try to restore peace and bring an end to the chaos that has consumed Japan.

The gameplay is divided into two main sections- strategy and battle. Strategy is the preparation part of the game, where you handle everything but the fighting itself- such as buying equipment and assigning troops to your units. You have a number of generals at your disposal, and each has three stats- War, which is their attack strength, INT, which affects the strength of their special skills, and VIT, which is their defense strength. War and VIT serve tow purposes. First, they modify the stats of the troops they lead, and second, they are used in personal combat, described later. Each general also has effectiveness ratings with each of the troop types in the game, and there are a great many to choose- there are a number of types of infantry, cavalry, and ranged units, and later on troops with guns even become available. Thankfully, the latter are balanced enough so that they don't dominate the game, which is fairly realistic, as guns at this point are still at least a century off from becoming the supremely dominant weapon of the battlefield due to limitations of the technology involved. Characters can also be equipped with accessories and horses that increase stats or other abilities, as well as skill books- items that allow characters to use a skill a battle, and then permanently earn that skill through use. As far as troops go, it does come with the problem that any given general is best off specializing in a single troop type through the whole game in order to raise their skill and remain competitive at the end of the game. Each general also has a condition ranking, which is recovered to a certain point if they are left out of battle- this affects how quickly their skills charge in combat. The preparation screens are where you get to choose your battles, and the game is divided into a number of chapters, most of which generally have three kinds of battles- minor battles, which are against bandits, rebels, and other similar lewd and sordid persons, which are mainly to build up officers and money. The next is major battles, which are important battles against other lords, rivals, or similar opponents. In most chapters you cannot fight all of the major battles, so you have to choose carefully- and midway through the game there are a pair of very difficult optional battles where you get the chance to win battles where Nobunaga and his allies historically lost. The last type of battle is the Decisive Battle, which is an important milestone in the life of Nobunaga's rise to power and almost always marks the end of the chapter. Every battle has a difficulty rating from 1-10, so the player does know what they're up against when they take on the battle against Uesugi Kenshin, who was, in his own time called the God of War.

The second part of the gameplay is the actual battle. Preceding the battle is the War Council, where you get to assign which generals take part in the battle itself. Generals assigned to battle can be assigned as leaders or as support units, which follow and assist the leader units in battle. the player may also issue preliminary instructions on where units are sent to move on the map. Once in battle, the player commands his unit from a third-person perspective with a over-the-shoulder view. The player can take direct control of whatever unit he likes, but can only directly control one unit at a time- the others have to be ordered around on the main map. The player can move the unit around, attack, use the general's skills, and so on. In the actual battles, units have melee combos, and also charge-up special attacks that can do very nasty things to opposing units, which are dependent on what kind of troops the unit is made up of. A commander has a number of special skills, as well as a four level skill gauge whose starting level and charge speed is affected by the general's condition, and there are a variety of buff, attack, and healing skills that take varying levels of skill power. Skills level up as you use them, and skill books allow you access to skills at level zero- once that skill is leveled to one, it becomes permanently part of that general's skill set. A skill shared by every general is the Rampage skill, which allows the general to personally go in and fight the enemy troops in a pseudo-Dynasty Warriors melee, and killing enough troops forces the commander to come out and fight- defeat the commander, and the enemy commander's condition goes down a level and the victor's condition actually goes up a level. The battlefelds also contain items, equipment, troop types, and even officers to be found for later use. It's a fairly robust set of gameplay mechanics that require the player to think about future goals as well as the battle at hand.

The story progression may seem rather shocking who are used to the sometimes literal demonization of Oda Nobunaga in other games, such as Sengoku Basara, Onimusha, and well, Sakura Wars V. The entire story seems to be a rather overt backhand against such games, casting Nobunaga in the heroic role, struggling against the petty warlords and the weak but scheming Shogun in order to bring an end to the constant warfare of the Japanese feudal states. There's a definite sense of story progress as the game grows from what's basically "The Adventures of Nobunaga & Friends" into a vast, sweeping struggle for the fate of a nation. His character model even changes as the timeline moves forward over the years, as he changes from a roguish young man into a veteran commander. There is a decent supporting cast, and there is a certain level of artistic exaggeration in how the characters conduct themselves- however, this isn't the hardcore historical game- that's what Nobunaga's Ambition is for. However, the story manages to sneak in a number of semi-obscure historical details, such as Hideyoshi's nickname, how Nobunaga was friendly with foreign missionaries, and so on. Whileit does take a deep turn into alt-history territory later on, it is still fairly faithful to the general details of Nobunaga's rise to power, even if the characterizations of the people involved may, at times, seem a bit overblown.

While Koei's games have rarely relied on their raw graphics to be outstanding, they have relied on the actual spectacle more than anything. The battlefields are fairly varied, so one rarely has to look at the same field, except, perhaps in the minor battles. The character designs for the main and major supporting cast are very distinct and stylized. The soundtrack itself is not as rock-based as those found in the Dynasty Warriors series, instead opting for a more traditional sound in order to better sell what fidelity it has to the events in question.

While it would be a good idea to take a good look at the game's mechanics to see if the management is something that potential appeals, but if they do, Kessen 3 is well worth playing.

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Intro:


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, '13, 8:50 pm 
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Valis 3
Release date: 1991 (NA, JP)
Developer: Telenet Japan
Platform: Sega Genesis
Genre: Action Platformer.
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Valis 3, as the title suggests, is the third game in Telenet Japan's Valis series of action platform. It was the first game in the series not to be released on PC, as the Japanese PC scene was beginning to falter at the time, and 16-bit console scene had seriously taken off. As such, the third entry was released for two consoles- the Sega Genesis and the Turbo CD. As the Genesis version is the one I prefer, and the one that I have actually beaten at some point, that is the one that I will be reviewing. Valis 3 for the Genesis was also the first of the Valis games to be localized, being released in April of 1991. Valis 1 followed, being released in December of the same year, and then Valis 2, which came along with the US release of the Turbo CD in 1992. But, to the review.

The story thus far. Despite being attacked by the forces of both those still loyal to Rogles, as well as the armies of Emperor Megas, the true ruler of Vecanti, Yuko was able to prevail and defeat both sides. However, the cost was high. Valia was killed by the followers of Megas, and it was from her handmaiden that Yuko learned that she was the twin sister of Valna, princess of Vanity, the dreamworld, and that Valia was their mutual mother. Yuko then went forth and was able to defeat Megas, who fought her one on one, because as a man of Vecanti, he wanted to prove that he was the strongest, and thus most fit to rule all of the worlds. After defeating him, Yuko went back to Earth. However, with the passing of time, a new king has arisen in Vecanti, crushing all of his rivals with the power of the Leethus sword, the counterpart of the Valis sword that was entrusted to Vecanti when they helped defeat the power of the gods. While Glames is the master of his dark world, Vecanti is dying, and is about to be destroyed entirely by a magical disaster. To save the people of the Dark World, he has marhsalled his armies and begun an invasion of both Earth and the Dreamworld, with the aim of conquering and destroying their inhabitants so that his people can flourish. As he sees no ends to this course other than victory or death, it is now up to Yuko to somehow find a way to save the peoples of all three worlds from a nigh-invincible enemy- but this time, she's not alone.

The gameplay of Valis 3 shares some similarities with a couple of other games as well as within its own franchise. The player does have the usual moves that would appear in the remake of Valis 1. they can jump, high-jump, and slide. The slide does still cross gaps, and this particular property of sliding is actually necessary to complete the game. The player doesn't have access to varying weapon types, and their attacks are based around a charge bar. While attacking at lesser than full charge still does do damage, it may be at reduced range or power, depending on the character. The player does get three characters to switch between through the course of the game- Yuko, of course, Cham, a young warrior from the Dark World whose father was killed by Glames for objecting to his plan, and Valna, Yuko's sorcery-inclined sister and current ruler of the Dreamworld. There are also three subweapons that run off of a character's MP- Fire, ice, and lightning magic. However, the specific properties of each subweapon depend on which character is using it, making nine permutations in total. One of the things that takes some getting used to is that health is persistent- there is no automatic refill at the end of a level, so health can only be recovered from grabbing power-ups in stage.

The actual difficulty curve has some issues, however, as it's more of a difficulty right angle- the actual level and boss design is largely of trivial difficulty for about the first half of the game or so, and then ramps up very sharply for the last few stages of the game. While the bosses in the last few stages are certainly beatable, they are likely to be a fairly sharp shock to players new to the game. However, the positive byproduct of this is that the final boss is actually the most difficult opponent to be found in the game, something that is not always true in games of this type. there is a particularly obnoxious stage near the end of the game- while ice levels and their associated physics are generally difficult due to the platforming involved, this game's ice level borders on the obnoxious due to the character of its platforming and ice physics.

One of the things that does help is the story progression, however. The story is once again told in Ninja Gaiden-style cutscenes, but perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that, while it does set up throughout that there will be no easy escapes for Yuko this time, this is one of the rare games that actually follows through on the promise. There is no deus ex machina to set everything right at the end and it leaves the impression that there is no small amount of hard work left for those who manage to survive the story. It's an unconventional ending for the time, but one that is well-appreciated.

The art and sprite direction is very similar to that of the remake of Valis 1, so any comments i could have on that I've already covered. In fact, the use the exact same sprite for Yuko in this game that the end up using in the Genesis Valis 1 remake. the rest of the spriting is of decent enough quality, and there are still very few hitbox shenanigans. The music is not especially strong in this game. While the CD audio version of the tracks used for the Turbo version were pretty good, they did not transfer that well to the Genesis's own sound hardware, to there are a couple of rather weak tracks- and perhaps worst, the final boss doesn't even have his own unique boss theme, even though he may be the most important final boss in the whole of the franchise.

While the game isn't bad, per se, it's fairly obvious that Telenet was still learning how to use the Genesis as a platform for the Valis series. However, it is still a decent conclusion to Yuko's role as the Valis warrior.
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Naturally, a Let's Play happened.

Valis 3 part 1- Looks Like we got us a sword rustler.
Where I play Valis 3 Part 2- The Princess is in this castle for once.
Where I Play Valis 3 Part 3- Trial of Wait.
Where I play Valis 3 part 4- The Worst Winter Wonderland.
Where I Play Valis 3 Part 5- King of Swords, Sword of Kings.


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, '13, 10:14 pm 
Thanks for all the reviews and thanks for all the links to the videos too ! Great work :)


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, '13, 4:01 am 
I am not familiar with this game as yet so it was very interesting to read your review and find out something about it!! Very nice...Thanks!! :clap:


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, '13, 1:53 pm 
It's been ages since I played Valis 3. It's the only one in the series I actually have, I think. I didn't even remember how it ended, so I'm glad you had a video of that. :)


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, '13, 10:06 pm 
Thoul wrote:It's been ages since I played Valis 3. It's the only one in the series I actually have, I think. I didn't even remember how it ended, so I'm glad you had a video of that. :)


Well, glad to be of service. It's something of an unconventional ending, even nowadays.


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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, '13, 12:49 am 
Valis is a great series (despite Valis X), and III is surely the best offer. I have a something for Cham because she reminds me of another pointy-eared girl I love so much :D


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