Tales of Hearts R is the JRPG I’ve been waiting for

It’s been way too long again, and life has been super busy. Since my last post, I left my retail job, moved to London, and started a PR internship. From November, I didn’t have any time for gaming, as I was concentrating so hard on doing well at the internship, which would hopefully turn into a full time, permanent position. Thankfully, from January 5th 2015, I am a permanent, full time graduate trainee, and I’ve started to make some time for my favourite things again. Of course one of those things is video games.

And now that Christmas has been and gone, new games have made their way into my life, and for the first time in a while I’m trying to make my way through one game before moving onto another, and Tales of Hearts R is that game at the moment.

13929800394_942a49d208_zTales of Hearts R has really taken me by surprise. I’m a fan of the Tales of series anyway, but there’s something special about this one. One of the things I’ve noticed, is that I’m actually using the battle system properly, instead of just button bashing. In the past, I have never used the guard function, so I just went in all guns blazing, and it usually worked in my favour. However, this time I find myself guarding a lot more often as it has a real function, instead of just reducing damage.

1119639573The story is also pretty damn good too. It’s totally generic, and the characters are huge JRPG stereotypes, but I’m absolutely fine with that. Readers of this blog will know that I’m a sucker for an old school JRPG, and this serves old school style up in droves. I’ve not been bored for a single moment, and even the random encounters battle system hasn’t frustrated me too much. The character conversations are cheesy, but I’m genuinely invested in how party relationships are evolving.

Tales-of-Hearts-R-FMV-Footage-1-747x309I’m about 15 hours into the game at the moment, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. If you’re a fan of classic JRPGs, and are looking for a great PS Vita game, you can’t go wrong with Tales of Hearts R. Unfortunately the DLC is ridiculously expensive at £7.99 for each set of costumes, but the outfit additions you get throughout the game satisfies the need for humorous character customisation, without the hefty price tag.

Other games I got for Christmas were Borderlands The Pre Sequel and Danganropa Trigger Happy Havoc. After I finish Tales of Hearts R, I’m planning to move onto Danganropa, as it’s something I can dip in and out of on the way to and from work.

Am I missing any amazing games on the PS Vita? Let me know in the comments!

Updates from the Gaming Girl

Well, May has come and gone, and I still didn’t post any updates. I’ve been settling back in at home, and getting myself a job, so I’ve only just got time to get back to updating this really. I’ve got a big list of things to post about, but it’s just a case of finding the time.

So, what have I been up to? Well, I graduated on Monday, and I’ve somehow managed to net myself a first-class degree in Journalism from uni, which I’m pretty damn pleased about. So I’m trying my best at the moment to put that to good use by applying for as many jobs as I can find really. That should mean that I’ll be updating this more often as well. I’m going to try my best, in between working weird shifts and job applications, I’m going to try to play as many games as I can (new and old) and keep my ponderings updated.

Speaking of games, I have such a huge back catalogue of games now thanks to PS+ that I’m even sure where to begin really. I’ve been really enjoying Tomb Raider on PS3, and also been scaring myself witless with Lone Survivor. It’s been nice to get such a variety of games to play for free, I really can’t sing the praises of PS+ any more.

In my down time I’ve been having a go at Shin Megami Tensei Digital Devil Saga, which I’m not overly in love with. I was expecting it to be more like Persona than it is, but I think I need to give it some time. I’ve currently had a bit of a rage quit from it, but I hope to get back on track with that in the coming weeks.

I’m planning on buying a couple of games I missed out on as well, including Assassins Creed Black Flag, and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of The Sims 4 and Tales of Xillia 2 (once I’ve finished the first one…).

So, in the upcoming weeks/months, I’ll be posting my ponderings on a lot of things really. Also, apologies to anyone who missed my E3 live stream this year. I was just way too tired after moving back home, generally sorting out the house, and I just wanted to watch E3 in all its glory for the first time in several years. I’ll post a belated E3 pondering soon as well.

Long Time, No See

It’s been two months since I last updated this blog. It’s not because I haven’t wanted to. Believe me, updating this is one thing I really do want to do, however, I finish university on May 7th, and that is consuming my time at the moment, understandably. Along with having very little time to update, I am saving up to move down to London with my other half at the moment, which is eating into my gaming fund.

I just thought I would take this opportunity to do a quick update about where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, and my general gaming ponderings at the moment.

This Christmas just gone wasn’t a heavily gaming based one for a change. My parents bought me a PS Vita, which I absolutely love, but due to the financial situation I’ve only been able to download the PS+ games; I don’t actually own a physical copy of a PS Vita game yet. I’m not even sure which ones to buy to be honest, because I’ve just been sucked in by all the PS Store sales, so I have Spelunky and Hotline Miami that I’ve actually purchased. Oh, and FFIX, but I just couldn’t resist the Square Enix sale. Ironic that the PS Vita Slim is announced just as I get the original, but to be perfectly honest, I’m glad I’ve got the original. The Slim doesn’t really appear to add anything else, aside from £’s.

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Aside from that, my gaming time has been very scarce. Lightning Returns has been released, and I have to say I’m quite glad I don’t have time for it at the moment, because it looks terrible. It’s almost like Square Enix have thrown away everything that made Final Fantasy good. I can’t believe they’ve taken such a bad character and made her the focal point of a terrible trilogy. It’s received some terrible reviews from the public and the critics. All I can say is, bring on FFX/X-2 HD next month.

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I’m still waiting for Bravely Default to drop in price, but again, I probably won’t be getting hold of this until May time. Bravely Default looks to be the JRPG of the year so far, but it’s early days.

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That’s it from me for now. As I said, May 7th is my final deadline, and I’m optimistic I’m going to graduate my Journalism course with at the very least a 2:1. It’s been a tough three years, and I’ve neglected this blog a lot in favour of my degree, but I hope that what I’ve learnt I will be able to transfer to here, and start making this blog as great as I want it to be. If you want to keep up to date with what I’m doing/ranting about until I return in May, then follow me on Twitter @Debus42. Is there anything you want me to write about upon my return? Let me know in the comments. I’ll try to post before then, but I can’t promise anything.

Bravely Default Demo Ponderings

After a lengthy 3DS update a day or two ago, I downloaded the Bravely Default demo. Readers of this blog will know my love for JRPGs, and especially Square Enix. I’m hoping that the end of the horribly bad FFXIII franchise will signal better times for Squeenix, and by the look of Bravely Default, I could be right.

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I’ve probably only spent about two hours with it, but I’m really enjoying it. I love the side scrolling layout of the town/s, and the battle system is just what I like to see from a decent JRPG: some good ol’ turn based combat. I also absolutely adore the little sprite animation. I’m such a sucker for little chibi style characters, and I love the way that Squeenix have been taking the visuals of their handheld games recently.

It’s interesting to see the class system put into place so well, and implemented outside of a tactics game. I’m so used to the class system (black and white mages, warriors, ninjas etc) being in frustrating tactics games, that it’s quite refreshing to see it put into a straightforward JRPG. I know it’s been done before in other Final Fantasy games, but something about Bravely Default seems different. I can see that I’m going to be spending a lot of time leveling up certain classes and finding out my parties strengths in the future.

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It appears to have a few steep difficulty curves from the brief amount I’ve played, but that’s nothing a little bit of grinding can’t solve. I hate it when a game holds your hand and lets you sail through, so I’m looking forward to the challenge, and having the time to dedicate to it.

The main plot of the game isn’t really revealed in the demo, or at least it hasn’t been yet, but I’m excited to get my hands on it after Christmas. I’m in the period of time before Christmas where I give myself a self-imposed game buying ban, just in case I receive any from friends and family during the festive period. I’ll definitely be getting my order in for this as soon as I can though, as it’s been getting good reviews, and I really need a decent JRPG back in my life.

Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch PS3 Review

Traditional Japanese role-playing games are becoming harder and harder to find. They have become increasingly more westernised, lacking all the beauty and frustration that many fans have grown to love. There’s a new PS3 exclusive that’s come back fighting though, and it’s a real beauty.

Ni No Kuni follows the story of a young boy named Oliver, who lives in the quiet town of Motorville. All seems rosy in Oliver’s life, until one day his mother passes away and his whole world appears to fall down around him, and he ends up blaming himself. Seeking comfort, he turns to Drippy, the small cuddly toy his mother made him years before, and as his tears roll onto Drippy, he magically springs to life.

Oliver and Drippy soon embark on an epic journey into a magical land in an attempt to save his mother, and the lives of many others in the mysterious land that Drippy comes from.

Ni-No-Kuni-LogoOne of the best things about Ni No Kuni is arguably its core goal; save the people of the magical world from being brokenhearted by the evil Shadar. It’s a bizarre concept, but it certainly keeps the player engaged. See, people in this world are having parts of their hearts stolen. Some have lost their positive outlook on life, and others have lost their generosity, among other things. How can you help them? Simple; go find someone with an abundance of what that person needs, scoop a little off the top, and give it back to them. It’s extremely basic, but clever in its execution, and can have some rather touching consequences as you get further invested in the plot.

When it comes down to mending the broken hearts of major characters, you must first find their soul mates in the human world. This normally involves looking for someone in Oliver’s hometown with similar facial features, or similar personality traits. The game tends to hold your hand throughout these parts, telling you exactly who you need to find most of the time, but this doesn’t really take away any of the challenge it has to offer in other areas.

It’s not all about digging out bits of people’s hearts however. Ni No Kuni has a lot of very traditional gameplay mechanics that you would expect from a JRPG. First of all, it follows a real-time battle system, but instead of using Oliver and his other human comrades to fight (although you can), you instead use monsters that you capture along the way. These monsters are called familiars and fight in your place, levelling up the same way you do and acquiring new skills and magic spells as time goes by. They are limited to their time on the battle field by their stamina gauge, but swiftly recover so you’re not stuck running around without protection for too long. You can also take three of these little critters into battle with you, so you’re free to balance your party with a healer, a magic user and a physical attacker.

This method of capturing and training monsters for your own gain is similar to concept to Pokemon and even Dragon Warrior Monsters. The problem is with the familiars, you tend to get your starter ones, and not really bother with any others. It takes a very long time to level up towards the end of the game, and it sometimes feels like a bit of a chore to get your newly captured familiars up to the same level as your original ones. Even grinding in the locations where you’re guaranteed to get some serious experience, it can still take a very long time, and it sometimes feels a little bit too much like hard work.

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Battles can be simple button bashing at times, but they’re still good fun

If you’re sick and tired of grinding through your levels though, there are some handy little side quests to distract you every once in a while. One of the best things about Ni No Kuni are all the different errands and bounty hunts you can accept. If it wasn’t for these extra quests, then Ni No Kuni may be a much shorter game than it is. The bounty hunts sometimes require you to do a little bit of level grinding depending on where you’re at in the game, and the errands will occasionally see you flitting between locations on a mission to collect many different items. Naturally, some of these errands seem like much more of a chore than others, but the rewards are always worth it. Ni Ni Kuni adopts an interesting system using a stamp card. For every errand you complete, as well as bounties, you receive stamps in your card. With each card you fill with stamps, you can purchase new  abilities. These range from anything between the ability to jump on the world map, to gaining more money at the end of each battle. It’s an excellent incentive to do as many errands as possible.

There is no doubting that No No Kuni is an absolutely stunning game, and that is all down to the skill of the animation studio. It’s not just a brand new Level 5 JRPG, it’s a Studio Ghibli JRPG, and any fans of this Japanese animation studio will know exactly how beautiful they like to make their characters and environments. Level 5 have always had beautiful graphics in their games, but Studio Ghibli have really upped the ante, bringing their own unique art style into this world to really give it a boost of life.

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Ni No Kuni is bursting with life and colour thanks to Studio Ghibli

The soundtrack to Ni No Kuni could easily allow it to be mistaken for a Dragon Quest game. The background tracks are absolutely beautiful, and feel very similar to a Koichi Sugiyama soundtrack. There are no loud, abrasive tracks to be heard here, just calming and soothing songs to guide you through the game, only picking up the pace when it comes down to battles. The voice acting is also top-notch, even the English dub isn’t too bad. The game allows the player to choose between a Japanese voice track or an English one, so for the dub haters out there don’t fear, you’re more than catered for.

Ni No Kuni is a beautiful game, albeit a little bit too childlike at times, but the ending is simply too abrupt. For a game that lasts nearly 50 hours, such an abrupt ending is almost inexcusable. There may be more things to do once the game has ended, but it simply isn’t enough. Ni No Kuni has all the regular trappings of a traditional JRPG, but it really needs some DLC to satisfy the more hardcore fans of the genre.