Thursday, February 28, 2013

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Demo Impressions

I've posted previously about some of the 3DS games that will be coming out in the next couple months, and some of them I was really surprised to see getting demos after the last Nintendo Direct presentation (correct me if I'm wrong.) For Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and the Castlevania title (its too long) it was just what they need. In a fairly quiet eshop environment, these niche titles could easily catch the eyes of newcomers to the series, people on the fence with the allure of a free demo version.

Aside...[I still don't understand why they need to limit the demos to 30 uses, or less in some cases. What is the advantage of that? And in fact, its easy to get around it. It counts every time you launch the software...and in this Castlevania demo and the MH3U demo, you can restart a new shot of the demo without quitting to the system dashboard. I don't actually know what happens when you run out of uses, but I guess this aside rambling has gone on too long now...]

So I'll be doing some quick impressions of the game (at least based on the demo version they uploaded to the 3DS eshop.) I should add, that I'll be doing a second demo impressions post shortly afterwards, with impressions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. But for now, lets get into what I thought of the game, and my level of hype for this game, which releases on March 8th in PAL regions (at least the Europe portion of PAL.)
After seeing the trailers for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (see, theres a reason I was saying 'this game' instead of that mouthful) I was surprisingly ambivalent about the game-it was just lacking of the special ingredients that great Castlevania games have. The graphics, characters and just overall aesthetic of the game didn't immediately jump out at me from the trailers that we saw many months ago. I was surprised by how a new Castlevania could be announced and I could be a little disappointing that it wasn't an all new Castlevania-instead they looked to be interested in making the Lords of Shadow thing something of a mini franchise. Now I liked the game, but it lacked the x-factor some of the GBA and DS metroidvanias had. Anyway, would my opinions change with the release of the demo?

First things first, I noticed the screen resolution and what I can't really describe very well-the 'zoomed-out' 2.5D feel to the graphics. Everything on top screen (where your attention will be mostly) is a little smaller than I'd wanted. I miss the days of big bold sprites in the GBA games like Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow. Initially this was weird, as I couldn't really tell what the enemies were actually doing, but on getting used to the screens and controls, you start to get quite immersed, especially with the 3D, which I really think adds to the depth and grandeur of the backgrounds. Its done quite well, and I can imagine me leaving it on more than other games, although against one mini boss they did fling an enemy right at the screen like in those silly 3D films which are horrendously overpriced at the cinema.

The controls are nicely mapped, with a lot of different options for chaining together intricate combos of attacks, dodges and blocks. Once you remember there is a dodge button that can lead into back or forward rolls, you won't end up dying so much (I admit, I struggled early on.) I'm really looking forward to the game when you will slowly unlock artefacts and relics to upgrade your character and add to the pool of moves you can make. Its always a satisfying feeling getting the ability to double jump for example =)

Combat definitely feels nice and fluid, as does the platforming, with the ability to grab onto ledges, hang and jump from said ledges, use the whip to grapple onto objects, and perform a nice range of attacks. In the 42 or so minutes I played the demo for (I completed it once) I never thought it felt repetitive or stale, and the enemies used a range of attacks against me, using shields, charges, ranged attacks such as axes and bombs etc. The bosses required even more strategy, and you have to use moves such as the double jump or roll to get out the way of some of their nastier attacks.
I really hope the full game won't feel repetitive, as I thought that was one downside of the original Lords of Shadow game on the PS3. I'm not a huge fan of action games such as Devil May Cry or anything, and felt the combat got a bit mindless at times, with even normal enemies taking way too much of a beating. Hopefully this one is more in the direction of the metroidvanias where you can get some ridiculously overpowerful weapon such as the Claimh Solais and tear through the enemies with zeal!

One thing I really like the sound of is the world building and story tidbits that the demo shows. It adds to the atmosphere of the game in the little scrolls you find (I can't remember what they are called.) They give you a little experience points each time, and I suppose that is one way to add incentive, but I really like the way they have little excerpts of stories and tales in them, sometimes relating to the area that you are in. I entered an area called the Crypt and immediately was drawn to the backdrop of the stage, where I thought I saw some kind of ethereal apparition dragging chains along behind it for a few seconds. I move on, read one of these scrolls on the ground in front of me, and it tells us:

"Heading into the depths of the Crypt, I hear the pitiful sobs of a woman.

Consumed by love for a knight who betrayed the Bernhard family, she threw herself into the pit, searching for him.
For centuries, her sorrow has echoed off the catacomb walls, under the light of the guardian angel."

You start adding things up in your head, connecting what you see in the backgrounds and environments with these scrolls. The result is a real boost to the world the game is set in, making it more atmospheric and eerie.These little dialogue breaks from the action impressed me with only two or so of them included in the demo, and look forward to playing the game and finding more of these. I just hope they are well written and add to the game. I don't want to end up skipping past the dialogue without reading it.

So I should probably wrap up now and go to sleep. Definitely interested in this game more than I was previously before the demo came out, and its way up on my list of games that are coming out soon. In fact, I preordered it today from ShopTo, partly to get some awesome looking posters as a preorder bonus, but mostly because I really enjoy the Castlevania games. Even the poorer outings in the series usually end up being pretty solid games, and I believe this will be a solid title, building upon the lore of the previous Lords of Shadow game, and taking it 26 years later.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate releases for the Nintendo 3DS in North America on March 5th 2013, Europe on March 8th 2013 and in Japan on March 20th 2013.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Recent Purchases #6 ~ Holiday haul

So I've not done one of these posts in a while it seems...the last one was many months ago, in August last year. I wouldn't say I buy a lot of games, compared to some collectors and youtubers I know online, but probably compared to the average dude, I buy quite a fair few. Anyway, this post is a little about some of the games I picked up recently, whether it be presents, games I've bought for myself or whatever. In some of the Recent Purchases, I've talked about the gaming merchandise I've picked up, for example video game artbooks (something I semi-collect outside of games) and at the end of this post I'll talk a little bit about one of the anime I've been watching. I quite like the idea of talking about some non-gaming stuff briefly in these posts. Apologies for the blurry Blackberry playbook can't take brilliant photos, and then the lighting in my room was really crappy.

Anyway, on with the post! Hopefully it doesn't look like I'm trying to brag about the games I've been picking up! I don't get that many and I know myself I have smaller collections than many others, but what I like to go for are games that I've been really wanting. You won't normally see me pick up copies of Madden 06 or Fifa 99 just because I can get them for 20p, for example. A lot of the games I pick up are titles I've heard very good things about, or are in certain sub-genres that are appealing to me at any one time. For example, sometimes I go through 1st person dungeon crawler RPG kicks, or times where I'm really into focussing on my Strategy RPGs. A good example of a game like this where I've had a massive interest in the game for ages would be Radiant Historia (DS). I live in Europe and unfortunately we never saw a release for this game. It has had such amazing hype and praise from critics for the most part, and only the price had kept me from picking this one up. Importing through Ebay is fairly pricey, with a copy normally running between £30 and 40. So Christmas this year and I tried to pick my brain for games that were in this I'd really wanted to try and were a bit outside my price range. In a toss up between Radiant Historia and Skies of Arcadia, I settled for this one, ordered it and was reimbursed by my parents. Definitely looking forward to playing this really beautiful looking RPG with an interesting looking combat system and story concept. Time travel in RPGs is quite often good-Chrono Trigger anyone? Then again...FFXIII-2 was a bit of a mess..

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PS3) - This one was a bit of a surprise to me. My birthday was back in October and on the last day of term (December) one of my friends gave me this for my birthday. They'd apparently been trying to pick the game up on ebay for a while, with no luck from one seller on two occasions. Maybe it got lost in the post, or maybe he didn't send it. Either way, they ended up getting screwed out of a lot more money than they should have spent on me, for sure. Definitely looking forward to trying this game out. RA Salvatore is one of my favourite fantasy authors that I grew up reading, and he worked on the world design, or script, or some aspect of this game. The only thing that makes me a little wary is some of the design from Todd McFarlane (the Spawn guy) It looks a weird mishmash of styles in this game.

Zone of the Enders HD Collection (PS3) - This, along with Radiant Historia was the other game I had asked for over Christmas, and was really happy that I got it. My uncle had gone to a lot of trouble to get it, as it was really hard to find in shops it turns out :o I missed out on a lot of PS2 games as I never got the console until way afterwards, so in a way, these HD collections are perfect for gamers like me, who want an affordable and sensible way to pick up entire series, or trilogies. I've played the first Zone of the Enders for an hour or two so far, and I actually got stuck by the odd design and lack of direction. I'm at a bit where I need to knock out 2 forcefields, one on either side of something? Its pretty early on, but it kind of put me off because I was just backtracking to find passwords. I'll get back into this once I have access to my PS3 at some point soon. Currently I'm through at uni with only my DS, PSP and PS2.

Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City (DS) - I played the first Etrian Odyssey a couple years back and it took me a long time of on/off playing to get through, but I really enjoyed it overall. I originally purchased EO1 and EO2 from ebay (we only got the first game released in Europe...damn yous!) and I've really had the urge to play through more 1st person dungeon crawler RPGs recently, so picked up the reprint of the third game when I saw a fairly good price (preorder) on ebay. So this one will hopefully be with me soon. I suppose that means I have to play through Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard first though. Way too many games for my own good...

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS) - I picked this one, and Magna Carta 2 (Xbox 360) up recently when I was away up to Perth for a dental appointment (yeah, my Dentist is away up North many miles away from where I stay: see my previous escapade) I was trying to burn some time and thought I'd have a look in Gamestation in Perth. Well...Game and Gamestation (the same company essentially) had some problems last year and had to go into administration, and closed a lot of branches. The Gamestation in Perth was one that had closed apparantely, and I hadn't realised that because I hadn;t been up there in months. So I thought, theres a Game branch over in the shopping centre, and from what I'd seen of the stores that remained open, the majority seemed to be in malls or shopping centre complexes. Well anyway, they were still open so I went in to check out the games they had. Turns out they had a lot of games I'd been after, for fairly cheap (either preowned or in the sale.) Some of the ones I saw that looked interesting were (with some rough prices): Dragon Age: Origins Awakening (£5, Xbox 360), Infinite Space (£10, DS) and Aliens Infestation (£5, DS). I didn't pick them up, but regret not getting Infinite Space...that game is really hard to find online... So far I've not played either of Solatorobo or Magna Carta 2 yet unfortunately.

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) - I can't remember if I talked about this one on the blog just yet. But I held off on this one for absolutely ages to try and get it cheaper. It turns out that probably wasn't a good idea, as I heard all the hype and then rage about the story ending. I have somehow managed to remain spoiler free, and picked this one up after christmas in a sale in Game for £15. Really interested to see how the story will finish up. I liked the first two games, but I've been slowly losing interest in the franchise... a couple hundred too many DLC packs and stupid things like the Cerberus network. EA ruined Dragon Age and Mass Effect, which is so unfortunate...they had such good prospects..

Inazuma Eleven (DS) - this was a game I picked up right after Christmas. I received a gift token for HMV and decided to go for this one with it. It was a toss up between this and Ar Tonelico Qoga on the PS3 when I was in the store, and I'm definitely glad I went for this one. I havent played any of either series before this, and from what I saw of Ar Tonelico on the back of the box, I'm definitely happy with Inazuma. Its such an over the top game. Its like a good mix of anime like Beyblades, Yu-Gi-Oh and films like Shaolin Soccer. The only low point was some of the time it seemed to drag a bit at times(where you're just tracking across the map from area to area) and also...the horrendous English opening theme. But the game itself is really engaging and addictive once you get into it and realise how to control it best. The tutorials don't do a very good job so I ended up taking about 7 hours to master the systems (more or less.)

Eden of the East (Anime DVD) - This was a bit of a random pick up for me. I like to buy the odd anime movie or series when they release in the UK (but only at decent prices) We saw this one in a second hand shop "CEX" that has quite a lot of branches all across the UK. They do really well because they give cash for tradeins, and take anything from ipods, phones, computer components, games, dvds, and a lot more. Anyway, it was only a fiver. The synopsis sounded interesting, and I had heard good things. So, after a wee check of animenewsnetwork on my girlfriend's smartphone (I refuse to own one...FOR NOW! Gimme a break! lol) I picked this up. We've watched half of it so far, and its getting really interesting =) It has a dark edge, but its a lot more than just a dark, gritty anime. It has it's funny moments, it has a quite nice romance theme to it as well.