Operation Backlog Completion 2017
Jun 302016
 

Unchained-X-EphemeraWhile I consider Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ to be a pretty fun game, the story has been somewhat lacking.

If you, like me, are frustrated with the tedious mission-to-mission stories and have clung to the few scattered pieces of the overall plot, don’t worry. The major plot of Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is beginning!

Yesterday, the official Twitter account for the game sent out a reminder about the survey they’ve issued to players. If you haven’t taken your survey, do so. Not only can you give your feedback on the game, but you’ll also get 600 jewels for taking it.

But what was even more interesting was that the Tweet included a picture of a scene you might remember from the Kingdom Hearts 2.8 trailer featuring Ephemera (whose voice actor in χ Back Cover also voiced Mikleo in Tales of Zestiria).

Emphemera is one of the original characters of Unchained χ. While that scene itself won’t appear in the North American Unchained χ yet, today’s story update does include Ephemera!

Or… Ephemer, as his name seems to be localized.

Ephemera or Ephemer aside, we now have missions 351-375, where we’ll see another focus on the plot. In particular, they should answer questions about canon players have had. (Like why certain things exist when they shouldn’t yet.)

Best of all, we’re marching toward when the plot really kicks in. The title card appears in Mission 400. Yes, we’re sort of still in the prologue.

Unchained χ may not have the strongest plot so far, but it should take us to some interesting places soon. I’m excited!

Have you been playing Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ? Are you looking forward to the arrival of the actual plot? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Jun 272016
 

Steins;Gate-coverWhen I got my PlayStation Vita, one of the first games I bought was Steins;Gate.

Steins;Gate (which is also available for the PlayStation 3 and PC, although the PC localization is older) was described to me as a visual novel about a self-proclaimed mad scientist. Since I love mad scientists, that was enough to catch my interest.

It could have lingered in my backlog of doom, but after I got it, the Vita subreddit had a post encouraging people to play one hour of an unplayed Vita game and report back with their impressions.

I chose Steins;Gate. One hour was about enough to get me through the prologue, and I was hooked.

Before we get into the review proper, here are a few basic things you should know about Steins;Gate:

  1. It’s about time travel, and includes discussions of the theories, paradoxes, and science behind it.
  2. Visual novels aren’t short. Steins;Gate took me about 30 hours to complete everything.
  3. When I say “play,” I really mean “read.” There are small gameplay elements, but you mainly read Steins;Gate.

Sound good? Then keep going, because Steins;Gate is a fantastic read.

The main protagonist, Okabe Rintaro, is indeed a self-proclaimed mad scientist (and he prefers to be called Hououin Kyouma) who claims a sinister Organization is out to get him and that he intends to bring chaos to the world.

I found his mad scientist act funny and endearing. However, you might find it irritating, especially with his accompanying arrogance. However, even if his attitude bothers you, don’t give up. Okabe is a nicer person than he initially seems, he undergoes excellent character development throughout the visual novel, and he actually has a good reason for being “Hououin Kyouma.”

Instead of dialogue options, like many visual novels have, Steins;Gate lets you answer emails Okabe receives. You have a choice of phrases to respond to, although you don’t get to see the responses themselves until he replies. Different email branches lead to trophies, teach you more about the characters, or put you on the path to the True Ending.

Steins;Gate-email

Okabe runs a “laboratory” with his friends Daru (a hacker and otaku) and Mayuri (a ditzy cosplay enthusiast), and one of their inventions accidentally leads them to discover time travel technology.

More characters become involved with the lab as the story continues, most notably the genius researcher Kurisu. As they delve into the secrets of time travel, they get mixed up in a conspiracy led by SERN (i.e., CERN).

There are many layers to Steins;Gate’s writing. Sometimes it is hilarious, between Okabe’s quirks and the many wacky characters he knows (with occasional moments of sexual humor, usually led by Daru, who is an unabashed pervert).

Steins;Gate-screenshotOther times, it’s scientific. It takes the time to analyze the theories of time travel and why they’re impossible, and later explain the scientific principles behind its own time travel.

If you love talking about time travel, these sections will delight you. And if you don’t, don’t worry. Someone like Daru or Mayuri inevitably asks for the explanation to be framed in less scientific terms.

And other times, Steins;Gate is intense.

I spent the start of Steins;Gate interested in the science and conspiracy and enjoying what seemed to be a lighthearted story with some darker elements. Then I hit the turning point, and I was glued to the screen in tense anticipation.

From then on, it was a thrilling and emotional ride. When Steins;Gate drops its silliness for seriousness, it doesn’t pull any punches.

The intensity of its themes is matched by the quality of its writing, which is why I call it one of the best games I’ve ever read. It is incredibly well-written and caught me up in the struggles of its characters more than I expected. This is most easily seen in its multiple endings, each of which is satisfying and emotional in its own way.

Steins;Gate has 6 different endings. Most of these are determined by choices you make at key points during the story. On your first playthrough, it doesn’t make these choices apparent. You, like me, will probably get the disturbing ending achieved early on if you make no choices.

Subsequent playthroughs (even if you just reload your save after reaching any one ending) make it clearer. A special icon appears when you can take certain actions.

Steins;Gate-phone-trigger

Fortunately, it’s easy to replay for different endings (and trophies). Steins;Gate includes a “skip” feature that speeds through the story, stopping whenever you reach new content or a phone trigger.

The one thing I’d criticize about it is that the True Ending almost requires you to follow a guide, since it relies on you picking the correct responses across multiple emails. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth it. The True Ending brings everything together in such a way it made me realize just how well-written this story is.

It was an epic and entertaining ride, and I’m thrilled Steins;Gate 0 is being localized. There’s so much more we could talk about, but it’s better you experience it for yourself.

So while we wait for the sequel, check out Steins;Gate for the Vita, PS3, or PC. (If you prefer digital games, you’re in luck, because Steins;Gate is on sale right now on PSN.)

Thoughts on Steins;Gate? Questions? Let me know in the comments.

El Psy Kongroo.


Buy Steins;Gate (Vita) from Amazon
Buy Steins;Gate (PS3) from Amazon
Buy Steins;Gate (Vita) from Play-Asia

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Jun 242016
 

New-Layton-artworkI’d planned to review Steins;Gate today (short version: it’s fantastic, buy it), but my review will have to wait. We’ve got exciting news to discuss.

A new Professor Layton game is coming!

And no, I don’t mean Layton 7. This is a true Layton game.

It will be announced at Level-5 Vision 2016, on July 27, but CEO Akihiro Hino gave a sneak peek of the new Professor Layton game, as well as the new Inazuma Eleven game.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, which was great, is the final game starring Professor Layton himself. As such, this game will have a new protagonist.

Hino didn’t give any details about the new protagonist except to confirm it isn’t Alfendi Layton. (At least they remember he exists… Layton Brothers 2 when?)

Fans have often thought Luke or Emmy might carry on the series. However, it could be someone entirely new.

Hino shared several pieces of art for the new game, including character sketches and locations.

New-Layton-new-character

New-Layton-new-character-2

You can check out all the pictures over at Gematsu.

I’m thrilled to hear the main Professor Layton series isn’t finished for good, and I can’t wait until we get new details next month. Who do you think the new protagonist will be? Are you excited for a new Professor Layton game?

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