Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's back to Gameindustri in MashButtons' latest review

Our friends over at NIS America provided us with the retail version of Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, the sequel to last year's Hyperdimension Neptunia out now. In mk2, fans will be taken back once again to Gameindustri, but now the four CPU's have been captured by the Criminal of the Free World, Arfoire, and it is up to you to control the CPU's younger sisters to come to the rescue. Nepgear, the younger sister of Neptune is supported by If and Compa, now the lovely ladies will set out to regain prosperity in the amusingly named land of Gameindusti. Of course, you will run into new and old friends along the way in this hilarious and off the wall JRPG, so let’s see how this holds up to its predecessor. 

JRPG fans have a lot to rejoice about lately, with the surprising success of Final Fantasy XIII-2 and now another follow up with mk2, this is by far the definition of JRPG as it is something you want to play when no one is watching. Why do these games make me feel like a creep when playing and the bigger question is why do I keep coming back for more? One reason could be the scantily clad CPU’s, but good luck getting me to admit to it. I will say that the well written story is the biggest reason for me to play, mainly because it is based on real world issues with the game industry as a whole and being someone in the know, it does provide enjoyment seeing issues arise in satirical humor. The other reason I fell in love with this sequel would be for the gameplay and character progression, as NIS America seemed to have taken notes on issues from the first title and took them to heart and it is a lot more entertaining, being deeply story driven, with easier menu and combat interfaces, and a classic anime feel in HD graphics. Random battles are gone, okay calm yourselves,  you can now see where the familiar looking baddies are and preemptively attack or make your way to the save point before engaging, depending on your confidence of your lackies’ abilities.
My only issue with mk2 would easily be navigation through the maps and dungeons. When on the world map, you are able to see new places to traverse, but as more locations become available, it is hard to determine which destination to go to for accepted guild missions. The issue I had with the dungeon maps was the lack of destination indicators, mainly due to battle encounters. Once you complete a battle you are placed back in the dungeon trying to figure out which way you were headed before the skirmish, often times back tracking just to have to turn around and wander back to make sure the area is free of enemy threats. Lastly, and this may be a personal issue, but I found the “shares” aspect to the locations on the world map a bit confusing. Not sure if others share the same confusion but I was still able to play through, complete missions, and progress through the story without a firm grasp on the new feature.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with how much better this played in comparison to last year’s title. It didn’t take me long to get into the story, which is great, filled with satire and real game world issues. While the story got me hooked, the battle system had me coming back for more and constantly changing my party’s equipment and abilities. I do recognize that this is a very niche genre here in the west, but also a gem to fans of series and the genre, as this is a “Not another JRPG” equivalent to JRPG’s we have grown up with played over the previous generations of both handheld and console gaming. Thanks NIS America for the sequel I didn’t know that I needed. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Konami takes MashButtons to the Cold War in Snake Eater review

We are going back in time for this one, the year was 2004 and Hideo Kojima and Konami had put out their third installment to the Metal Gear Solid series, seven and a half years later and it is still in the top ten list of PlayStation 2 games on GameFAQs. Though I had previously attempted to get into the MGS games a couple of times, but what can I say, I was young, dumb, and hooked on Tony Hawk titles.  Now that I am older and wiser, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to review this staple in gaming in 3D nonetheless. The premise is simple and something that can be related to as if makes reference to a number of actual events, such as the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis, but the events just lay the groundwork for what is to come.  In case you did not play the first time, there is a scientist, Sokolov, that the US helped out of Russia, but end up giving him back in order to bring peace between the two countries, but the US catches wind of what Sokolov is working on and now it is back to capturing the scientists before a new age of fear is born, by using one soldier with a lot of support via radio.
I am happy I decided to go back and give the series a chance now that I have a longer attention span, albeit starting on the third title, but the 3D was calling to me, and it was a good reason to put the Vita down for a while. I will get this out of the way first, but the game looks amazing and has a great story to go with the visuals. Story is what the Metal Gear Solid games are all about, I may not have gotten into the series, but I wasn’t oblivious to them either. Though the story hasn’t changed in the past eight years, it does say something when it is still incredibly strong, better than many current games for a game closing in on being a decade old. I found this little change interesting, but instead of finding and shooting Kerotans throughout the games, they have been replaced with Yoshi's, I mean who doesn't like Yoshi, and those that do hate, you get to shoot Yoshi. A photo camo system is also new to the handheld port, which uses the 3DS' camera to take a photo of essentially whatever you want, then use that image to make a camo skin for Naked Snake, and depending on the image, you will get an advantage in certain elements. Lastly, and I feel this helped with item management significantly, but you are able to equip items and access the menu through the bottom touch screen.
Here is where I think I may have enjoyed the console version more, as the controls are a bit of hindrance without the twenty dollar circle pad pro peripheral. The game is playable without it as I am at the end of my first playthrough without using, but from speaking with other journalists, the addition of the second circle pad does help greatly. Secondly, there are a lot of cutscenes, anyone that has played a Metal Gear Solid title will know this, but those long cut scenes on a portable device makes picking up and playing on the go a bit more difficult as you will likely be interrupting your viewing experience with the daily grind. These were the only two issues in which I found on my playthrough and can be easily resolved with good time management and either learning and practicing the controls or dishing out twenty dollars for the additional peripheral.
I had a lot of fun with Snake Eater and plan on doing another less violent playthrough on a search for all the Yoshi's. Aside from the issues with my time management and lack of the second circle pad, I quickly forgot about these quips after about my fifth hour of gameplay. This is a great title for both newcomers and diehard fans alike, and may possibly be one of my favorite titles for the 3DS with exception to Street Fighter IV and Mario Kart, as the story alone is emotional and engrossing while adapting to decisions made.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Turtle Beach cuts the cord for our X32 review

Those gaming audio gurus that have brought gamers a plethora of headphones both wired and wireless over the years have provided MashButtons with their latest wireless cans, the X32, to review and let you all know what we thought. I will get the cold hard data out of the way before we get into the comfort, performance, and all the other good stuff that you look forward to in my reviews. The X32 is the successor to what has been described as the most popular wireless integrated gaming headset, the X31, fully equipped with 2.4/5Ghz Dual Band WiFi radio technology, Chat-Boost, EQ presets, stereo expander, 50mm drivers, microphone monitor, and last but not least an auxiliary input.
Turtle Beach has been around for a while now and I still use my X11’s at least 4 times a week, so when these showed up in the mail I was quick to plug these bad boys in and not mess with annoying wires. My TV sits about fifteen feet from where I comfortably play and review my games, so having to find headphone with a long enough cable is a daunting task as the majority of the lines out there have proprietary cables making it either impossible for expensive to get an extension to reach, and this is before even getting into the cleanup which is more annoying. Wireless is convenient, and that is the best way to describe these headphones. Some other great ways to describe them are to say that they are loud, comfortable, and give an upper hand in games without anyone complaining about the noise. The upper hand in which I feel that the X32’s provides are the Sound Field Expander presets, which the easiest way in which I can describe it as amplifying the sounds coming in from the left and right sides to help locate your enemy before he locates you. I don’t know about some of you but I like to have a variety of games to play at any given time and most games have different soundtracks and effects, and the X32 multiple EQ preset provide variations of bass and treble boosts to help complement whatever I happen to play. Possibly most important is how well they work by transmitting sound without interruption, over the numerous hours spent with this headset being put to the test, I can only recall sounds being lost twice, but I was also using them beyond the suggested distance from the transmitter. 
There were a couple things in which I noticed that I would have liked to be different out of the box. Primarily the ability to recharge the headset over having to replace batteries, mostly because I have to replace batteries in my Rock Band instruments, controllers, fight stick, etc. Another thing that would have made my experience more enjoyable would be some sort of insulation or vents to keep your ears cool as my ears were hot and on the brink of sweaty just after a couple online rounds of Modern Warfare 3. These are also not completely wireless, as you will have to connect the headset to your controller if you plan on interacting with people, but if you are playing a single player game that you want to blast without disturbing others, they are wireless and work as intended. Lastly, this can be chalked up to user error but I am confident I had followed the instructions on pairing the transmitter and the headphones, but I did come across a bit of difficulty when trying to pair the two. A very responsive tech team did get in touch with me shortly after being informed of my inconvenience and provided a number of solutions to try and ultimately disconnecting, reconnecting, and re-pairing got these cans working.

There is really only two reasons in which someone would use a headset, the first would be for a person that has a wife a child that go to bed early and can't sleep with the living room war zone rattling the walls, while the other would be the single person, living with roommates or neighbors that complain at the slightest amount of bass heard through the walls, I can safely assume most of us are either one of these. The X32's are a great way to experience the games you love, the way they were meant to be enjoyed, all while those around you are able to get an uninterrupted night's sleep. They do come with a price tag of $99.99, which seems a touch on the high side, without including a charger and rechargeable batteries out of the box, but being "mostly wireless" is a very nice thing, as those that have had wired headphones know the cord can be quite a pain.

Mashbuttons takes the throne of hell in latest Vita review

It’s another Vita review here and this time we will be sharing our impressions on Square Enix’s launch title, Army Corps of Hell for the new handheld. Army Corp of Hell is twisted little strategy game, where you take control of the King of Hell to command an army of up to 100 goblins that can be divided into three classes, soldier, magi, or spearman. Each class performs differently, so it is wise to learn each ability in order to kill a variety of enemies and large bosses keeping you from reclaiming your throne. I have spent quite a few hours playing and replaying levels, grinding to see if I can top my best time, earn medals, and items from fallen foes. So now it is time to let you all know about my time spent losing sleep to this game.

Sounds serious right, nooo, the developers threw in over the top dialogue and a heavy metal soundtrack to the mix. The best way to describe the game would be that it looks and sounds like Brutal Legend, while playing like Pikmin. I especially enjoyed the learning curve as it doesn't take long to learn the controls and principles behind the strategy needed to charge through levels and decimate huge bosses. I am not a metal fan, but there are times that hard rock music is just fitting and retaking your throne as the king of Hell just happens to be one of those times. It is easy to go back and replay levels to either get a better medal and/or items to alchemize equipment or life drums. The levels aren't too long but it is easy to play "just one more" to see what else is unlocked with each successful mission, making it far to easy to lose yourself to commanding your goblins in a bloody good time. Once you unlock alchemy recipes, curiosity will kick in and you will HAVE play that next level just  to see how much easier it now is to wipe out those that stand between you and your throne.

Once again, we have another great title for the handheld but also once again, it seems that the biggest thing missing is online multiplayer. Sure this is considered a handheld, but it is also leaps and bounds ahead technology wise in comparison to the 3DS, so much so that I continuously find myself comparing titles to those of consoles and not the previous PSP or Nintendo handhelds. I digress, there are times in which I find myself dying at certain boss fights and am not able to immediately determine which part of my strategy was flawed, but going back and replaying levels isn't too daunting as I think the longest level I have come across has taken me just shy of twenty minutes. However when you do lose and find yourself without any life drums to revive yourself by banging the backside of the Vita like a bongo to replenish your health, you will be restarting the level from the beginning,  but I do suppose it does make sense that hell would not have checkpoints.

I had a great time with Army Corps of Hell and will continue to do so to see what I can alchemize and equip next to give me the upper hand against those that stand between me and my evil throne. This game is a strategy title through and through so if that isn't your cup of tea, then you may want to wait until a price drop, you can find a demo, or have a friend in which would be willing to let you try out as I feel this can be a very niche title, but if strategy is more of what you look for in a game then you will not be disappointed and lastly, do not let the heavy metal turn you away, because as a person that is not a fan of the music whatsoever, I did continue to catch myself rocking out to the metal riffs and comedic dialogue, as it fits so well with everything this little portable game has to offer, which is a lot of content, even without the online multiplayer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ubisoft provides us with their Vita launch lineup

The Vita is now on store shelves and those that have gotten it may now want to know what out there is worth getting. Ubisoft has a pretty solid lineup for the launch and decided to provided us with the downloads of all five titles available for the stunning handheld at launch. In this post I will provide you all with my impressions of these titles along with some of the things that got me hooked or made the experience less than entertaining. Also for those of you looking to purchase your titles digitally, the largest title took up just shy of 1.5 gb's, and took less than a half hour to download, install, and play from the store on the system. So let's get down to brass tacks and see how each game performed, in order of my enjoyment, it is on to the reviews, starting with Rayman Origins.

Rayman Origins, what more can I say aside from the fact that this is a gorgeous, fun, and the perfect launch title for the handheld. The levels are hand drawn and kooky is a good description of it, while the soundtrack is just as fitting. We had previously reviewed the console version and loved it, but was a bit apprehensive as to how scaled down this would be on the Vita, and the only noticeable difference would be the lack of coop multiplayer. Load times are not bad at all in comparison and with over 60 levels to play and replay, had me coming back for more to try and find all the little secrets to unlock more. There are some unique features to the Vita which add engagement and removal of fingers from the buttons, none which I really used often aside from the pinch to zoom to get a closer look at the gang. You notice I had notice bad to say about this gem, well that’s because it is close to being a perfect platformer for the system, only thing I wish was available is the coop multiplayer.

Lumines: Electronic Symphony has been described as euphoric by many and it is exactly that. Lumines was the first game I owned when the first iteration of the PSP came out, and just like the last, it is a great way to lose yourself to everything around you, all by just matching squares of four blocks. This is the game in which I use to show off the Vita's visuals and when I am trying to go to bed, as the music is not only fitting and soothing, but changes from level to level with the background, sound effects, and block designs to throw you off and get you back into your groove. There are now power ups to help level up and free up space on the playing field in which you can refill quickly by tapping the back of the Vita to the beat, unfortunately, you can spam this method to refill quickly, and I do feel that it can give an unfair advantage. This would be greatly remedied if it only took into account the beat of the song to the pattern of tapping. You do level up to unlock avatar and skins, by playing any of the various modes and get bonus XP by contributing to the daily elimination of the World block. Moves can be input by tapping the screen and sliding blocks, but this proved to be more frustrating than the traditional gameplay of the original, luckily you are also able to use the classic method, which is what I mainly used to progress through levels.

Dungeon Hunter Alliance is a title in which I was torn on. It is a dungeon crawler we have seen on numerous mobile devices and PSN at a fraction of the price. So what has me torn? That would be due to having physical buttons that do not appear on the screen along with online multiplayer, which I never had a problem finding people to play with. I am a fan of the genre and of course looting, which Alliance has plenty of along with a multiplayer that works rather well, as the only time I encountered any lag was whenever someone would join my game. There are also three available classes which means I will be putting many, many hours grinding and looking for rare loot on my numerous builds. Boss battles are also very satisfying as they are large, require strategy, and had me looking forward to what I will be encountering next. Though it does have its issues from time to time, my biggest gripe with it was playing online and someone decides to hold up the party by managing their inventory while the other three of us have to wait until they are done to carry on with the story. If you were a fan of Untold Legend on the PSP or Dungeon Hunter on the mobile devices or PSN, you will not be disappointed as it does have a lot to offer, but will also have a niche fan base, luckily this is a game which doesn't end when beaten, as you will still have two other classes to build and items to loot.

Michael Jackson The Experience HD was surprisingly entertaining. At first I took this title as shovelware and didn't even want to give it a try. But that saying about the curious cat rings true, as I went on to look for gameplay videos on youtube and from the playlist alone I wanted to give it a shot. I mean obviously if you are not a King of Pop fan, then this title probably isn't for you. That aside, it is not a dance game either, but more a rhythm game that makes use of the touch screen, front and back. It is as simple as tapping the screen, making gestures with both hands, and moving Michael around by touching the back. Now add some of the greatest pop songs of the past and present along with snippets of the videos in HD audio and video for an entertaining time. Though I did have a lot of fun with this title and is something I will be going back to whenever I have some short amounts of time to kill (and access to my headphones), it felt as if it was lacking content for being a retail launch title.

Asphalt: Injection was the only title in which I wanted to like more as a fan of the arcade racing genre. It had the key elements needed to make it fun at first, but the physics just didn't feel right and instead of looking and playing like a last generation Need for Speed game, it just looked the part and drove like a Cruis'n or Rush racing game. You will be rewarded for winning races, with sponsorships, performance, and visual parts if you enjoy the racing physics. Now this, coupled with having online multiplayer makes it a good fit if you have a PSVita and need a racing game that has wheels instead of spaceships, because it will get fast and boost will be plentiful, just prepare to ride some walls.