Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Import Reviews - Speed Round Vol.1

A not-too-long ago post I did was Import Impossible, which was a hasty write-up about a couple of import exclusives that I'd played but never wrote about. In that blog the reason why was because the Language-Barrier defeated me; when you can only play the first hour or so of a game there's very little to say meaningfully or fairly about a game, and so I never did.
But that isn't always the case, and while recently failing to write about a title (which is #1 on this list) I remembered that there were many more imports I had played completely through but never wrote about. As it is, I'm going to throw them into this Speed Round because either A) I played through the game a long time ago and have since sold it off, or B) I just really don't care to play through them again so that I can write a more adequate review. For the most part, every game within this speed round is 100% playable without knowing Japanese (#4 is available in English, mind you), but whether or not they're worth your time is where the writing comes in.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle (PS3/360)
This is the title that inspired me to catch up with all these titles. Originally I begun writing what I called a "Not-So-Review," but in the end I just couldn't muster writing anymore. The issue is that Jojo, while a 100% playable Japanese Import and a downright excellent game, is also a very "special" game. While only the 3rd portion of the Jojo's Bizarre Adventure manga has been localized in English (Stardust Creators), there is readily apparent in All-Star Battle a supremely affectionate and careful recreation of the more than thousand-chapter manga that is the commercial powerhouse Jojo. Each of the many characters are immediately unique from one another, from cosmetic to their in-game animations/atmosphere, and there's so much variety in the form of stage gimmicks, special-moves, taunts, recreation moments, and unlockables that All-Star Battle exists not solely as a downright awesome game, but as a refresher and introduction of the Jojo series as a whole.
The largest reason I couldn't write about this game is that it reminded me a lot of when Dragonball Z: Budokai released. As a kid Dragonball Z was my Jojo, and I remember playing Budokai for months not as a fighting game, but as a way to recreate all my favorite moments from the show. It was a very special game to me, and one that was special because I was able to experience everything it had to offer.
While Jojo is not as recognizable as a Dragonball in the west, All-Star Battle is looking to change that. As far as the game goes, I think All-Star Battle has absolutely earned that directive, and that anybody looking to experience this game truly should wait for the version that supports their native language releases. There's so much good stuff here, from the surplus of unlockables through its over-the-top, flamboyant, utterly fascinating cast, and I believe that All-Star Battle is going to do for many as it did for me, which was inspire me to get involved with this long-running series. Without knowing the language it's a bit of a hassle though, and because of that I say wait for the English release. There's plenty of story sequences and unlockable chapter/character bios, and, again, All-Star Battle exists as much as an introduction of the series as it does a love-letter.
Just wait. The game is amazing, but it'll be even stronger when understood.

Gal*Gun (PS3/360)
I didn't really play all of Gal*Gun, although I could have. Reason I didn't though is because I just didn't find the game to be any fun, and a big portion of why is because I don't know Japanese.
Gal*Gun looks like an On-Rails Shooter, but really that's only half of it. The other side of Gal*Gun is that it's a dating-simulator, and a pretty invasive one at that. Most missions both begin and conclude with your partaking in a lengthy conversation with either your intended love (which you've four girls to choose from), or the Cupid that is the catalyst for the entire game (she accidentally lights you up with love arrows; that's why every girl at school wants your bod). There are also four various stats that indicate what your personality is currently like, which ultimately reflects your conclusion with your intended love.
Obviously I couldn't comprehend any of that, and so I can solely critique the On-Rails segment--- which is awful. You mash one button, occasionally trigger a lengthy Bomb sequence that involves you performing a close-up with a girl, blasting her ticklish parts and watching her blush/shy and other ecchi stuff like that, and--- well, that's it. You mash one button, shoot the same ten types of girls over and over, and eventually the level ends. It just wasn't any fun, and without knowing Japanese and being an appreciator of dating-simulators there is genuinely very little game here. While Gal*Gun is a cosmetically fascinating game, it's ultimately a hybrid take on Dating-Simulation; whether or not the simulator segment is worthwhile I don't know, but if you're getting into this game for the Rail-Shooter then you're going to be severely disappointed.

Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (Vita)
Senran Kagura is a series about girl's stripping each other and the player being able to molest the big-breasted characters in a locker room. Allegedly there's a story involving rival ninja schools, but it's pretty weak. If plot is your goal then hopefully that means tits and ass; otherwise, you'll be disappointed. For that matter, the same applies to gameplay also; unless you dig sexy virtual girls, there's very little to experience here.
Shinovi Versus (Shinovi), the 3rd entry in the Senran Kagura series, is a "Musou" game (Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, etc), a genre that has remained niche in the west following its initial debut. A common critique of this genre is that combat is ultimately shallow, there is mind-numbing repetition throughout, and reward is little. All of that is apparent here in Shinovi, and to a greater degree as well. With little more than, if not less than, 10 combos per character (with the strongest being mashing Square for all of them anyway), only a handful of levels that lack any sort of interactivity, and an abrupt brevity that is welcomed solely for it ending the repetitive trudge, Shinovi embodies just about everything wrong with the musou formula. If you've played a game like Dynasty Warriors and found it tiresome and dull, then that's certain to be the case here.
That said, I'd be lying to say I didn't have some fun with Shinovi. While the game is extremely basic and repetitive, the 20 available characters are its saving grace. Each of the well-endowed, moe-infused, hyper-ecchi girls are independent from one another, and no matter each obliging the same combo routines they all perform them differently. Technically it's all the same, but cosmetically they vary significantly from one another, and experiencing each character's animations and special-moves is a real treat. And of course, blasting a sexy teenager into jiggling nudity is, however shameful, a powerful motivation to keep playing.
Shinovi is not a good game, but it's an interesting one. I'd suggest it for fans of anime, hentai, or musou games, but otherwise you're truthfully not missing out on much.

Inazuma Eleven Strikers (Wii) *European/English Import*
Ask anyone who has played the Inazuma Eleven DS titles (also a European/English exclusive) and they're almost sure to tell you that it's one of the strongest series available for the platform. With phenomenal writing, meaningful characters, and a radical touch-based gameplay system expertly crafted, Inazuma Eleven is yet another model series from company Level-5, and as of this blog the series has crossed over a dozen titles and multiple animes in Japan with a bright future still ahead.
All that said, Inazuma Eleven Strikers, the series debut console entry, is an extremely poor entry for so rich a series. Essentially, Strikers strips everything the series succeeds by, eliminates even the remotest similarity to realistic football, and offers a gameplay system far too typical of other anime sports titles equally as dull for their obscurity. Strikers reminded me of Eyeshield 21 in all of its worst ways, and in the end only a slightly greater involvement of the player separates Strikers for the mildly better.
The most shocking thing about Strikers is how minimal it is. No matter that the core of Inazuma titles has been interacting with your team on a more intimate scale, in Strikers you solely use them. There's no dialogue, no cutscenes, no involvement; it's just a football game, and while that maybe could have been acceptable Strikers nullifies that quickly. A'la most anime titles, Strikers is fixated on Special Moves to the point that you're not actually playing anything but a game where you perform Special Moves (which makes them significantly less special, you see). In Strikers, a football game, you can't score unless it's a special move, and not only that but it's a broken system as well. A special move can be used from anywhere on the map and it has an equal chance of going in. The only way a special can be disrupted is in the off-chance a defender has a special for defending, but of the dozen teams I only spotted one that had such defenders. What this means is that you can idle all the way back with your keeper until your special meter charges, use a special shot from across the entire field, score, and then repeat.
It's not broken, because you don't have to play like that, and can instead focus on trying to imitate real soccer as best you can--- but that's your fantasy. Strikers isn't a realistic football game, but is instead yet another anime title a little too caught up in trying to hit the Thrill-buttons of its kid audience with flashy special moves while minimizing its source to something arbitrary and dull. It's a bad game all around, and why Level-5 decided it was passable with their brilliant history of games is beyond me. Just stick with the DS titles; they are far superior.

Rebuild of Evangelion: 3nd Impact (PSP)
This was a weird title for me, particularly because I know nothing about Evangelion and have never watched a single of its episodes or films (I'm aware this needs to change though). But one week I was really into Grasshopper videogames and so--- expensive import because of thoughtless spending habits.
Rebuild of Evangelion: 3nd Impact is a conservative rhythm game that has some interesting cosmetics and ideas but ultimately is a much too brief and shallow experience. With 30 levels of often repeated tracks, 3nd Impact differs from other rhythm games in that it has four different gameplay styles within. None of them come near to being above the grade or genuinely unique though, and oftentimes I found them downright bad.
Quite simply there was nothing within 3nd Impact's offerings that "did" anything for me, and while this could be because I'm unfamiliar with the Evangelion series that still does not excuse the game being exclusive to those who are, although even then I question whether die-hards would enjoy it.
It just isn't any fun. For the few songs that support background videos they are impossible to witness due to the middle-of-screen gameplay design, and the music is, while thoughtfully composed, not the type of music that is really too engaging for a rhythm title. When a level actually has real music to it it tends to be moody, sad orchestra music--- perhaps its just me, but 30-second tracks of that isn't how I'd like to pass the time enjoyably speaking.
For fans of Evangelion I'd suggest researching some gameplay videos before jumping; just remember that this is a very limited game that was seemingly built to apologetically rip the money out of Evangelion fans hands before they wise up enough to look at a review. For those who aren't familiar with Evangelion, keep walking. There's truly nothing but a license-game cash-in here.

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