Authors Posts by Allen Ray Francisco

Allen Ray Francisco

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Likes all kinds of genres except for sim racing and sports games.

Fairy Fencer F is a tough sell. It’s what most people like to call a ‘niche game;’ meaning a game that will only appeal to a specific minority of PlayStation 3 gamers. Set in a world that combines modern settings and medieval fantasy with magical beings that turn into weapons.

The game takes place in a time where two deities are locked in an endless grudge match. In an act of desperation, they both decide to seal each other with an innumerable barrage of swords. However, most of the swords miss and end up in the human world where they are known as Furies. These weapons have spirits within them that are known as “fairies” and those spirits engage in pacts with humans to release them from their seal in exchange for a wish granted to the savior. Humans who form these pacts are hence known as “fencers”.

Enter Fang, a lazy jerk wishes for nothing more than to sleep and eat all day. After pulling a sword from the ground, in the hopes to get an endless supply of food, He unwillingly gets pulled into a contract with an amnesic fairy named Eryn. He then sets off on an adventure to collect furies in order for him to recover Eryn’s memories. While the game’s main plot is nothing special, It makes up for it with an enjoyable cast of characters and fun events that add a tinge of lightheartedness.

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Fairy Fencer F shines most in its fun battle system which is a nice mix between turn-based and real-time elements. Anyone who has played the Neptunia games or Mugen Souls will be get used to it very quickly. During your turn you get to move around the field in real-time while your enemies hold still, providing you with all the time necessary to plan out your moves. Choosing From sword, knuckle, glaive, axe etc. attack types, you exploit enemy weaknesses to deal more damage. Further adding to dynamicity of battle is the “tension”, this gauge fills up as you deal and receive damage but goes down as you get healed and miss attacks. Tension increases your physical attack the more filled up the gauge is and at a certain point you can “Fairize” which greatly increases your stats.

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Outside of leveling you can augment your characters with “Weapon Boosting” in which you choose upgrades for your each of your characters separately with WP (Weapon Points) you gain from battling. These upgrades can range from as simple as stat increases to new moves and skills for exploration. The moves you take into battle are set in the combo editor where you customize each hit of your combo that is assigned to the cross, triangle and circle buttons. Equipping other fairies creates a “resonance effect” that gives bonus stats and other special effects that are strengthened by pulling the swords that sealing the gods.

The quest system on the other hand is shallow and doesn’t contribute anything to the plot. Most of these tasks are basic kill/fetch quests that tell you to “go hunt ten of these”, or go “gather five of these” which makes it feel more like chores rather than quests. The pub where you obtain quests usually has several missions at a time but don’t mistake that for freedom of choice. Nothing is keeping you from accepting them all because most of the tasks are naturally finished through your routine grinding. This makes quests no more than mere bonuses for grinding as opposed to meaningful tasks that reward the player for the extra effort.

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The overall look of the game is rather sub-par due to the fact that the game reuses a lot of assets from other games. While the 3D models of the characters are decent, most of the backgrounds and terrain are somewhat low-res and makes it feel cheap but the particle effects of moves are flashy enough to entertain. But the beautiful 2D art makes up for it and is brimming with personality. The soundtrack on the other hand shines with high quality songs that are reminiscent of classic final fantasy tracks. The voice acting on the Japanese side is superb but the English cast does manage a job in selling the characters as well.

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The main theme and atmosphere of the Fairy Fencer F is nothing you wouldn’t expect from the wacky crew at Compile Heart. With plenty of quirky characters who are parodies of stereotypes and 4th wall breaking jokes. Tons of fan service is not unexpected, with plenty of well-endowed women and lots of little girls that will satisfy everyone’s preferences. Unlike other Compile Heart games; However, It felt like the game was trying to tell a more compelling and serious story but its overtly cute art style doesn’t really help it.

Fairly Phenomenal:

  • Fun and engaging combat
  • Entertaining character interactions
  • Awesome Soundtrack
  • Deep upgrade system

On the Fence:

  • Sub-par graphics
  • Tons of reused assets

Prior to playing Battle Princess of Arcadias, All I knew was that it was a side-scrolling action RPG and somewhat resembles games like Dragon’s Crown or Muramasa: The Demon Blade. But that alone made me want to try out the game for myself and I was happy to have played it, for the most part.

Battle Princess of Arcadias is a downloadable PlayStation 3 game developed by Apollo Software and published by NIS. The story surrounds a battle princess named Plume and her quest to defend the kingdom of Schwert from evil monsters. But, as one might be able to deduce, the narrative here is anything but serious. As a matter of fact, that helps Battle Princess of Arcadias‘cause, as it comes off as a light-hearted stroll down fantasy lane with plenty of charming characters to boot. Despite this being a title that emphasizes gameplay above anything else, though, it still manages to take special care of developing a fairly large cast in a comprehensive way. In fact, the plot can become so front-and-center that certain scenes between dungeons can drone on for far longer than desired, simply because there’s quite a bit of text to read while the game tries to flesh out its world.

The game’s focus partitions into three distinct slices. Most common and obvious is the form of a traditional 2D beat ’em up. From Double Dragon to Muramasa, the need to roam across the land and smack the crap out of monsters is a call to adventure no one, battle princess notwithstanding, can deny. Arcadia’s modest attack suite, a light and heavy attack for each character, is confidently basic with the ability to string together different combos to spice it up. In the game, only one of three different characters at any given time. Blocking is not really encouraged due to the fact that it breaks your combo which goes into your overall rank at the end of the stage.

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Outside of these basic battles, there are also sieges and skirmishes that you can take part in. Sieges will have you and your brigades do battle against a single boss enemy. These battles are rather tricky, as you have to maintain your brigade’s formation and watch out for your own health and the enemy’s attacks. Formations are basic, a middle ground between attacking and defense. Attack formation is high damage but lowered defense and of course defensive formation is the exact opposite of attack. You must use the morale that you have gained during battle to switch out the different formations, with each switch reducing morale by a certain amount. There is also a retreat option if your brigade gets low in health. This option is great to try to quickly replenish your units but leaves you all along against a boss that you really cannot do damage against. Once you have done enough damage with your group, you can stun the boss and then with 100 percent morale, you can unleash a showdown move. This will have you button mashing the square button before the time runs out to attempt getting a high-powered attack.

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The third type of battles are skirmishes. These are sections that have players amassing troops to face off against an army of enemies. In this mode, players are asked to do what they did in the first but they are to also issue commands to their underlings. In this, we get a sort of strategic combat that really helps deepen the battles at large, as the straight-forward hacking and slashing components previously mentioned can be a bit shallow. It feels odd initially to go from playing the game in a typical beat’em up way to having to think tactically and adapt to situations on the fly; being able to order attacks, defensive maneuvering and retreats all come into play here, requiring a sound mind to topple the enemies that stand in a player’s way. In fact, these portions are extremely difficult simply because folks have to take on waves of enemies until a certain condition is met. It’s not a cheap difficulty, however; if players die, it’s on them, not some flawed mechanic 0verlooked in the development process. Lastly, we have the boss encounters. These work in the same way as the formation battles, except they’re usually a bit harder given the circumstances.

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From any point of view, Battle Princess of Arcadias’ looks quite nice. Or at, at the very least, it shows well does in screenshots. It’s also careful to make its characters sweet without feeling too saccharine, suggesting an appreciated amount of restraint in the art department. That being said, characters don’t animate particularly well – often times Arcadias feels like a highly polished browser game – but it’s something you seem to get used to after few hours have passed.The menu and interface are clean, intuitive and easy to navigate. The audio does a nice job complementing the aesthetics, with a soundtrack that is especially whimsical. Dainty compositions mixed with rocking anthems in boss battles were just the right blend to keep me hooked. There isn’t a dual voice-track option, which means Battle Princess of Arcadias‘spoken dialogue is all Japanese, which is perfectly fine with me but might turn some people off.

Pros:

  • Fun but somewhat simple gameplay
  • Deep equipment customization
  • Beautiful 2D art
  • Awesome soundtrack

Cons:

  • Uninspired  level progression
  • Shallow Story
  • Stiff animations

 

Battle Princess of Arcadias

Developer: Apollo Software

Publisher: NIS America (PS3)

Available for: PlayStation 3(Digital)

 

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I always appreciate it when JRPGs stray from the typical “saving the world” quest in favor of a more personal and focused one. With that being said, I’ve always had an affinity towards the Atelier series, whether it’s because of the beautiful anime art style or the deeply addictive crafting system, they always got their hooks into me and Atelier Totori Plus was no different. But if you’re a person averse to the overly cutesy, somewhat awkward, moekko brand of fan service that Japan usually traffics in then you’d probably want to stay clear from this game at all costs. But if you can get past that aspect you’ll be pleased to find a unique, incredibly addictive, item-driven RPG.

Atelier Totori Plus is a Vita port of Atelier Totori, a PS3-exclusive that came out in 2011, that brings over all the content from its PS3 counterpart, along with a few bonuses to sweeten the deal. This version comes with all the DLC previously released on the PS3 variant with a bunch of unlockable costumes and a new post-game dungeon that fans of Atelier Rorona would recognize. This gives returning players something to look forward to but not much.

You play as Totooria Helmold (Totori for short), a 14 yr. old girl (13 in the Japanese version) aspiring to be an alchemist in order to become a registered “Adventurer”. She wants nothing more but to see her mother who went missing a few years back and the story throughout remains focused on the people who cares and supports her and it never really develops into anything convoluted or world-altering and the game is better for it.

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Derp.

Thanks to Atelier Totori’s simplistic visuals and design, it was never an enormous drain on the PS3’s hardware which makes it perfect for the Vita. In fact, it looks better on the Vita’s smaller screen than it did on the PS3. It’s worth noting that there are minor frame rate drops and somewhat longer loading times but nothing that overtly ruins the experience. As for the art style itself, Atelier Totori touts highly detailed, hand drawn character portraits that you’ll frequently see throughout the story and is really brought to life thanks to the artistic vision of Mel Kishida. The core game features a light color palette and cel-shaded character models that add a certain je ne sais quoi to the game that makes it stand out.

As for the gameplay, it is divided into three different aspects, combat, exploration and crafting. From fighting monsters to synthesizing items, everything you do in the game consumes time and learning how to manage that is the key to achieving success. Side quests in Atelier Totori come in the form of bite-sized requests, which can be as simple as collecting ingredients to fighting challenging boss monsters. And like everything in the game, time management is key because all of these quests have deadlines and it’s pretty easy to overwhelm yourself when you take on too many at once.

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The game utilizes an old-fashioned system. And when I say turn-based, I don’t mean some sort of real-time/turn based hybrid; I’d place it in the same vein as Final Fantasy X or Lost Odyssey where you have allies lined up with a turn grid at the bottom of the screen. In regards to the actual combat, it’s rather dull at the start but picks up later on as the story progresses.

They also add in some features to add flavor to the battles. Sometimes, when Totori is about to be attacked, you’ll see button prompts over your other two other characters. Above the two will be L or R which, when pressed, will allow them to support Totori in various ways. For example, Mimi will jump right in to absorb the attack, and Gino will execute a follow-up attack.

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Exploration mainly comprises navigating through the world using map and running through a wide variety of areas that open up as you gain adventurer points that you earn from doing in game achievements. In these areas you will find gather points in which items are procured from.

Combat is further enhanced with the staggeringly deep crafting system that the series is known for. With the ingredients that you can find in the world, Totori can create a wide variety of items that can be used to heal, attack, or support the party. Every Recipe calls for at least two ingredients, which can either be one specific item or any item that falls into a category (like Lumber, Gunpowder, or Herbs).  As well, each ingredient has its own quality between 1(low) and 100 (high), and effects (such as lightning enchantments or smelling funny) that contribute to your synthesized item’s overall rank – which ranges from a quality A to a crappy E.  Although, just because you use quality ingredients, that doesn’t mean your alchemy will turn out.  As you synthesize more and more, you’ll level up Totori’s Alchemy rank, which you’ll need for the harder Recipes – as until you reach higher levels there is a chance you’ll fail and waste your ingredients.  Should you succeed, you will be able to add the sub-effects of your ingredients into the final product.This concoction, mixed with the ingredients’ overall quality and your rank makes just about every single item you create unique, with no two outcomes ever being the same.

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Atelier Totori Plus contains English and Japanese language tracks as well as a very unique musical score. I didn’t quite care for the English voicing, it worked but not well, Peter’s voice made me wish I was deaf. Atelier Totori Plus is a very silly and cute game; that doesn’t often translate well into English. So it was a welcome addition that Japanese tracks were included. From a perspective of the Japanese voice tracks, it was very well done. Hearing Mimi throw a tantrum after being thrown some prying words or Totori try to defuse an awkward moment was just classic. It’s also important to note that not all of the game was voiced in English. Many tasks such as synthesizing have Japanese voice over, but no English.

The music itself is hit and miss. There are some very beautiful scores that set a tone of adventure and immersion. However I found myself killing the music as some areas, like Totori’s hometown, features some really odd tunes. It might be me, but I didn’t find the soundtrack appealing at all.

Pros:

  • Accessible, and unlike most RPGs, ideal for short bursts of gameplay.
  • Unconventional design, opting for free-flow player progression.
  • Item synthesis compliments the core gameplay, offering plenty of depth.
  • 10 unique endings to unlock that extend replay value considerably.
  • Great anime art style and character designs.
  • Bite-sized quests that is ideal for on the go gaming.

Cons:

  • Minor frame rate issues and technical hiccups.
  • First few hours can be tedious.
  • English voice acting on the male side is weak overall.

 

Atelier Totori Plus

Developer: Gust

Publisher: NIS America (PS3) Tecmo Koei (PS Vita)

Reviewed: PlayStation Vita version