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SlowPokemon

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Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« on: November 14, 2012, 03:24:20 AM »

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
Hotel Dusk: Room 215
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Little Inferno
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
The Starship Damrey
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

Best of 2013
Best of 2014
Best of 2016

Top Ten Pokémon Ending Themes

Game Review: Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
System: Nintendo 3DS
ESRB: M (Blood, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence)

About three months ago, I was urged to play a small-name, obscure Nintendo DS title: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. As a big fan of games that rely heavily on plot, I absolutely adored the game. When I found out there would be a sequel, I was ecstatic. And indeed, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is incredibly faithful in structure to the first installment, similar in gameplay but with a new story.

The game’s plot shows admirable effort on behalf of the writers. It’s clear that the story wasn’t developed in a day, and likely took much longer than that. Sigma, a twenty-two-year-old student, is kidnapped on December 25, 2028. He awakens in an elevator, with all doors locked and no company save for a mysterious girl roughly his age. Not long afterward, a screen near the elevator buttons flickers on, and what seems to be some sort of rabbit appears on the screen. The rabbit introduces himself as an artificial intelligence program called Zero III, and cheerfully notifies Sigma and the girl that their elevator is going to fall in a few minutes. Well, crap. Soon enough it is discovered that seven others were also kidnapped. In addition to Sigma and the mysterious girl, Phi, there is Tenmyouji, a grumpy old man who can hold his own; Quark, a young boy with whom Tenmyouji seems to be acquainted; Alice, a dark-skinned woman who is apparently so unashamed of her body that the only article of clothing covering her huge breasts is a large necklace; Clover, a 21-year-old girl familiar to most players; Dio, a conniving, straight-shooting man sporting a spiffy top hat; Luna, a soft-spoken, timid girl who trusts her peers a bit too much; and, perhaps the weirdest of this most bizarre bunch, K, an amnesiac who woke up in heavy robot armor which is impossible to remove. And, of course, they all have watches firmly attached to their wrists.

Sounds a bit familiar? That could be because it is--Zero III announces to the group that they will be playing the Nonary Game, Ambidex Edition. It’s all very similar to the previous Nonary Game, with a few tweaks--most notably, the Ambidex Game, which forces Sigma to choose between allying and betraying the contestant he just worked with to reach a goal. Needless to say, this entails some painful situations.

But we’ll get to that. Let’s talk about ways this game improves upon 999. First and foremost is the presence of voice acting. All dialogue outside of the escape scenes are fully voice acted. The Japanese audio is an option, but you’ll quickly ignore it in favor of the amazing American cast. Tenmyouj in particular has a great voice. Fans of the cult anime hit The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya will recognize Wendee Lee as Clover. Diehard Professor Layton fans might be interested to know that Dio is voiced by Liam O’Brian, who performed the voices of Dr. Stahngun and Clark Triton (among others) in the Layton games. But most satisfying of all is the voice actress who performs Zero III. Oh my goodness. Talk about over-the-top performances. This woman does a fantastic job emulating Zero III’s psychotic nature, switching from the signature squeak to southern hick or ditzy blond girl or even a mock-Japanese voice mimicking cheesy voices from old animes. The only characters I felt who had poor voice actors were Quark (it’s really off-putting to hear what is clearly the voice of a grown woman coming from a ten-year-old boy) and a character whom I cannot name without fear of spoilers. Most of the voices are entertaining, and it’s fun to set the game to “auto” and hear the conversations play out. The only negative is that Sigma does not have a voice actor, but there is obviously a reason for that and you’ll get used to it fairly quickly.

In addition, the multiple endings aspect is far and away superior to that of 999. Rather than restarting the game, going through the same puzzle rooms multiple times, and trying to guess which door to pick to avoid getting that damn bad ending AGAIN, there is a flowchart, which is easily the best innovation in the game. Not only does the game set things up so that you are never required to play an escape room twice (unless you complete an escape on easy mode--which is not recommended, for hard mode and gold files are required to unlock the final ending), it lets you jump to any key point in the novel to choose a different path. While this does take away some of the gravity of the Ambidex game (it won’t be so hard to pick Betray knowing you’ll be back later to choose Ally), the rest of the game benefits from what is ultimately a great tool.

Escape rooms are refreshingly set up so that the player learns as he goes, and puzzles are delightfully unforgiving. In an age where the definition of a hard video game is one in which only one tutorial is given, it’s great to see a puzzle game that doesn’t patronize players. There is an easy mode for those who don’t have the potential or patience to work out the puzzles, but as aforementioned, it’s in your best interest to complete them on Hard the first time.

The horror-centric soundtrack is pretty much exactly in the style of the first game, with several songs being directly ported and a few others remixed. Shinji Hosoe is a master of the technological aspect of music, making excellent synthesizer pieces that are more mood music than they are standalone experiences (which is why I’m pleasantly surprised there was another official OST release). The ending credits, one of the few remixes of a piece from 999, is one of the most beautiful pieces of video game music in existence, and the escape themes use catchy percussion rhythm and synthesized sound effects to effectively hype up the tension.

"Virtue's Last Reward ~Orchestra~"
"Blue Bird Lamentation"

Graphics are lackluster. I played the 3DS version of the game, and though the 3D character sprites look pretty, their movement is really no different from 2D sprites. The game itself contains few 3D elements--the closest it gets is having the background far away while the text is glued to the screen. 3D is wasted on the gorgeous scenes. In addition, the 3DS version apparently has a bug which was not fixed during localization, which causes the player’s save data to be corrupted when he saves during one of several escape sequences. I never had that particular issue, though the game did freeze out of nowhere several times, forcing me to replay an hour or so to catch up. Finally, the 3DS has a measly one save file as compared to the PS Vita’s three save files, making the PS Vita (from everything I’ve heard) the preferred console--though it is easier to take notes (a frequent necessity) on the 3DS.

Now let’s talk about the actual story. 999 had a great story, dark and scary and full of plot twists and intriguing characters. Virtue’s Last Reward has a story that is slightly less gripping. Part of the suspense of 999 was that you need to get out of this room and escape because you are on a fucking sinking cruise ship. In this game, the alarm factor is significantly diminished, seeing as you could theoretically stay in the facility as long as it takes for everyone to get 9 BP and escape. The slower pace also makes the player restless, especially considering that every time Sigma moves to a different room, there is a map sequence that shows him entering and exiting every room on the way; this occasionally takes several minutes. Setting aside that factor, the story is largely engrossing. You still won’t be able to put it down. The characters are believable and everything is a perfect mystery. That is, until the true endings. There is where the player will have to do two things that a visual novel should not provoke: firstly, he will have to think too hard to understand the story. 999 was complex, but not impossible to understand. In one version of the true ending, a mechanic is introduced that literally had me puzzling hours later after I had finished it. The characters were discussing this, and even though there was a diagram to explain the situation, it’s still a very difficult concept to grasp and requires more thinking than it’s worth. The second thing is that parts of the ending are so out in left field that even I, who enjoy the outlandish Professor Layton plots and even the crazy story of the first game, decided that they required too much suspension of disbelief. The game seems to acknowledge its craziness at one point, including as a file “Knox’s Ten Commandments” of a mystery. Of course, all of the commandments are broken within the story, including the ones ruling against supernatural elements and twins or doubles arriving unannounced. This is all fine as 999 broke most of these too, but the story has to be excellent enough to stray from the mold.

Another thing that annoyed me about this game was how it set up a definite sequel. 999 didn’t have to have a sequel--it left it so that there were plenty of things a sequel could do, but also made it good as a standalone title. This game? Nope. The game’s final file teases the reader with a decoding mechanism as far as what the next game will be about, and it feels like I’m being manipulated, only getting half the story. To clarify, I didn’t dislike the true endings to any degree. I just thought the resolution could have gone in a better, more believable direction.

In addition, while the eleven character endings/true endings were at least conclusive to some degree, the vast majority of the endings were tacked-on “game overs” similar to five of the six endings in 999. This is of course to be expected in a game with twenty-four unique endings. However, these are neither conclusive nor satisfying, and it seems that they could have gone on longer rather than ending abruptly, seeing that Sigma doesn’t die in all of these. The locks on some of the endings are also a bit annoying, forcing you to play for a long time only to discover you need a pre-requisite ending elsewhere, then coming back ages later only to forget what had been happening during that timeline.

That being said, the story up until its bizarre final act is excellent. Plot twists abound throughout the adventure are fairly predictable (one in particular was hinted at way too much before its actual reveal), but there are at least one or two genuinely shocking twists before and even during the true endings. The puzzles are great (if occasionally too difficult), the soundtrack is effective and fitting, and the story is good, if unsatisfying and unfinished. This game was not without its flaws, and didn’t quite surpass 999, but it was still a great game and one of the best on the 3DS system thus far.

Graphics: 6/10
The graphics are nice, but the 3D effect isn’t utilized at all. That combined with the 3D models which fail in comparison with the excellent ones from the latest Professor Layton makes the visuals seem sloppy and a lost opportunity.

Sound: 10/10
Top-notch voice acting and a horror-style soundtrack make turning the volume up a necessity.

Gameplay: 10/10
Same great novel-escape sections in a nice balance, with a great flowchart feature to avoid any confusion or double-tracking.

Plot: 9/10
Excellent and engaging, but with a slightly unsatisfying ending that requires a third installment to fully understand.

Overall: 10/10
« Last Edit: October 07, 2017, 08:31:16 PM by SlowPokemon »
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2013, 07:34:40 PM »

So, I'm going to attempt to review all of the 3DS games I own at some point, and as I just finished playing this game (as well as it being my favorite 3DS game along with Virtue's Last Reward), I think it's a good time to revive this thread.

Game Review: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
System: Nintendo 3DS
ESRB: E 10+ (Mild Violence)

    It’s no secret that Professor Layton is my favorite video game series. The first time I played Professor Layton and the Curious Village, I knew I had found something special, and as the series continued to evolve with increasingly polished installments, it became apparent that the puzzle genre had a new leading contender. Today I’m taking a look at the fifth entry in the series, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, and evaluating it not only as a standalone experience, but as the 2D Professor’s first step into a 3D world.

    The gameplay has been slightly altered from the DS entries, the main change being that the focus has moved from the lower screen to the upper screen to utilize both the bigger screen and the 3D effect. Finding hint coins, collection items, and puzzles is accomplished in a different manner as well--rather than tapping around the bottom screen aimlessly, you can instead enter Investigation Mode. While in Investigation Mode, you can slide a magnifying glass around on the top screen using the bottom screen. When the magnifying glass lights up, you can tap the bottom screen to get a hint coin, collection item, puzzle, or just hear the party’s thoughts on the object you’re tapping. It may sound complicated, but the system is very fluid. It also allows for bigger backgrounds, as you can sometimes zoom into the background to discover other areas.

    Moving around is also slightly easier, as the map is always displayed on the bottom screen. The player simply has to tap the next area to walk there. And it might seem like a small thing to be impressed by, but in Miracle Mask, the screen doesn’t fade to black when you move to a new area. The camera simply zooms to the next area, making it feel as if you are indeed walking around in one big town, rather than moving to and from separate areas.

    The puzzles themselves remain as addictive as ever, while being fresh and new. The 3D effect isn’t necessary to solve any puzzles, but it does make some of them easier. For example, there’s a puzzle which requires the player to look through a shop window and deduce how many people are in line; however, there is a large poster on the window, obscuring the view. Turning the 3D effect up brings the poster to the forefront, allowing the player to better distinguish the people behind it. And yes, Layton still triumphantly points his pointer finger at the screen, though in this case he’s literally pointing through the screen.

    The minigames are easily the best of the series. As usual, Layton receives three minigames to tinker with during his adventure. The first is a toy robot that, much like the toy car in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, must reach a goal while avoiding enemies. The catch is that the robot can only walk in sets of three steps, meaning that you might start out right next to the goal but be unable to reach it. The next is a shopping game in which the player needs to stock shelves in such a way that customers will want to buy everything for sale--a great example of taking something that sounds boring and making it addictive and fun. The final one is of course a pet, in this case a rabbit. Luke must train the rabbit in a format not unlike the Nintendogs series, and then have it act in a series of plays in an attempt to convince a tough ringmaster to allow it back into the circus. All three of these minigames are endlessly charming, and they’re all a lot more fun than they should be, considering they’re meant to be a bonus game, a distraction from Professor Layton’s adventure.

    And while we’re on the subject of Layton, you may notice he looks a bit different in this adventure. That’s not your imagination; all characters in this game are represented by moving 3D models, rather than hand-drawn two-dimensional models. Don’t bother worrying about whether any of the game’s traditional atmosphere has been sacrificed--if anything, the wildly gesturing 3D models only serve to bring more charm to Layton’s world. Whether you’re watching Layton stroke his chin as he proposes a theory, a circus clown juggling as he bestows a puzzle on you, or even our old friend Inspector Grosky literally hurling himself off the screen to fight crime, the 3D models are a pure delight. 2D animation enthusiasts, fear not; not only do the backgrounds remain traditional Layton art, the animated cutscenes that so frequently crop up in the story are still in 2D. The cutscenes are also viewable in 3D, with two basic layers, and this use of the 3D effect is the most clever I’ve seen on the system thus far.

    As a side note about the 3D models, they’re not entirely good. While they add a lot to the text-based parts of the game, there are at a few points in the story where they use the 3D models for cutscenes, which just does not work very well. The models add a lot of expression to the previously-inanimate 2D characters, but they don’t have nearly enough expression to act out these pivotal moments, and Level-5 would have been better off either sticking to text or going ahead with a 2D cutscene. Thankfully, these moments are mercifully few in number.

    The story, which takes place after the events of Professor Layton and the Last Specter and the subsequent movie Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (which I only mention due to it being referenced within the game), is the classic formula: Layton receives a letter, requesting that he go investigate a series of mysterious events in a town. This time, he’s visiting Monte d’Or, which is pretty much the equivalent of Las Vegas, if Las Vegas were in the middle of the desert in Britain (just go with it, okay?). The one writing is Angela Ledore, a woman with whom the professor had been friends as a teenager. She’s concerned about one Masked Gentleman, who has been appearing in town and wreaking havoc with so-called “dark miracles.” As is usually the case with this series, nothing is what it appears to be and you’ll have a wonderful time strolling through the streets of Monte d’Or and talking to the eccentric townsfolk, solving their puzzles in exchange for clues and information. In addition, there are several chapters in which you play as a teenage Layton, reliving through flashbacks a terrible event involving his best friend, Randall, who was dating Angela at the time.

    All of this is backed by a European, accordion-laden soundtrack, which benefits from the enriching soundfont of the Nintendo 3DS--the strings, in particular, have an absolutely lovely sound that the Nintendo DS simply could not produce. A few favorite pieces from earlier games also get a soundfont upgrade, and the main theme of the game (heard over the title screen) is a live orchestra performance! Given all of that information, it seems odd that this is the only entry in the series without an official album release.

"Mask of Miracles Theme"
"Monte d'Or: City of Miracles"
"Stansbury: Halcyon Days"

    Also in the sound department, voice acting is as high quality as ever. Christopher Robin Miller continues to be the perfect voice of reason for the professor. Lani Manella is on triple duty this time voicing three major characters (Luke, Emmy, and Angela Ledore). Liam O’Brien, in his third major supporting role for the series as Henry Ledore, is as great as ever and offers a stark contrast to his role as Dio in Virtue’s Last Reward. Rounding out the cast is Yuri Lowenthal, most famous perhaps for his role as Sasuke in the Naruto series, as Randall Ascot. All of these actors do such a phenomenal job.

    Finally, the game’s post-credits sequence is shockingly dark, and sets up very intriguing plot points to be resolved in the professor’s final adventure, which promises to be excellent.

    As if the game’s content weren’t enough, Nintendo is offering free DLC for the game--one downloadable puzzle per day for a full year after the game’s release. That’s 365 puzzles! They’re all just as fun as the main story ones, with a little bit of extra challenge due to there being no hint coin option.

    Everything comes together to make one charming little package and a game that is undoubtedly one of the most polished and fulfilling on the Nintendo 3DS system. Everything has been tweaked to perfection, be it the interface or even the in-game font! It seems petty to focus on the text font of a game, but it legitimately makes the game look more professional. You’ll see what I mean. You’ll spend hours and hours with the various minigames and puzzles, and you’ll definitely want to go for a second helping of the story.

Graphics: 9/10
Lovely blend of 2D animation and backgrounds with 3D models that add lots of character and charm. I’m taking away a point for those rare-but-there “cutscenes” featuring the 3D models, which do not achieve a very good effect.

Sound: 10/10
A typically Laytonesque soundtrack heavily using the accordion and violin suits the game marvelously. You’ll be waltzing right out the door upon hearing this lavishly orchestrated music. Voice acting is very high quality, as usual.

Gameplay: 10/10
Find hint coins, gather clues, solve puzzles, rinse, repeat. What’s not to love?

Plot: 8/10
Watching Layton solve the mystery is a blast, and the story surely trumps that of Last Specter, but one can’t help feeling that some plot twists are too predictable, and the conclusion feels less grand in scope than the professor’s earlier adventures. Points for that post-credits scene, though.

Overall: 9/10

You’ll like: The fontSolving puzzles, meeting the highly entertaining cast of characters, and viewing those lovely animated cutscenes.
You’ll dislike: The occasional predictability of the plot, the occasionally slow pace, and the infrequent but off-putting cutscenes featuring the 3D models.
You’ll love: Teenage Layton’s hairstyle. Looks like that terrible event isn’t the only thing the professor would rather forget.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2013, 04:20:12 PM by SlowPokemon »
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FSM-Reapr

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2013, 06:23:20 PM »

Slow curse you XD

I've been meaning to do a 3DS review thread next week and now you come and ruin the fun since my reviews will be nothing next to yours :(

KIDDING

my reviews will be a lot better
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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2013, 06:57:12 PM »

Great review, Slow!
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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2013, 06:31:44 PM »

Quote
Also in the sound department, voice acting is as high quality as ever. Christopher Robin Miller continues to be the perfect voice of reason for the professor. Lani Manella is on triple duty this time voicing three major characters (Luke, Emmy, and Angela Ledore). Liam O’Brien, in his third major supporting role for the series as Henry Ledore, is as great as ever and offers a stark contrast to his role as Dio in Virtue’s Last Reward. Rounding out the cast is Yuri Lowenthal, most famous perhaps for his role as Sasuke in the Naruto series, as Randall Ascot. All of these actors do such a phenomenal job.
You didn't even mention the villian's voice actor, who is absolutely fantastic.....  ;)
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Mario, Pokemon, Donkey Kong Country, Advance Wars, Professor Layton, Ace Attorney, and all of their music

SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2013, 04:24:17 PM »

I took a leaf from Blueflower's book and added music selections to both reviews--it really is a good idea. I'm going to try to stick with two or three per review.

Also, I added my next review to the list. :) Hope everyone looks forward to it.
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2013, 06:40:13 PM »

Game Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB: T (Blood, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes)
 
                When Capcom’s Gyakuten Saiban (lit. Turnabout Trial) hit the Game Boy Advance in 2001, it was met with great praise in Japan. However, Capcom was understandably hesitant to bring the game overseas. Text adventures don’t typically have much of an audience in America, where mixing reading and entertainment is taboo. The time was right, however, when the company ported the lawyer to the Nintendo DS in 2007. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’s original, limited run sold out fairly quickly once word got out that this adventure was worth playing, calling for more prints and the sequels to be localized as well. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All is the second game in the Ace Attorney series. Does the defense attorney continue to entertain, or is the gameplay getting a bit tired? Read on to find out.

    Most instantly noticeable is the look and feel of Justice For All--that is, it is exactly the same as its predecessor. Some locations are exactly the same, with some returning characters having the same clothes and animations. That’s not really a bad thing, though. The low-budget, 2D art gives the Ace Attorney series a certain timeless quality, and ensures that the games look natural on any system, be it Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Wii, or even (as recently released) smartphones. It’s impossible to deny the charm of the art style, as its imperfection invokes a certain nostalgic feeling. It’s not like the graphics are top-notch, but I think the game benefits from this.

    The gameplay, too, is largely unchanged from Phoenix’s first adventure. The player, as Wright, investigates crime scenes, speaks to witnesses, and gathers clues while in the field, and attempts to prove the client not guilty during the courtroom sections. It’s not that simple, though--prosecutors are almost always portrayed as ruthless sociopaths who will sacrifice anything for a guilty verdict, even if it means letting the true killer go free. These prosecutors keep Phoenix on his toes and ensure that the game never becomes too easy; on the contrary, the puzzles in the final case become something of a nightmare to solve without a walkthrough.

    The ante is upped ever so slightly by the addition of Psyche-Locks. This feature, which appears in the investigation sections, allows Phoenix to physically see witnesses’ secrets as a locked chest, as the witness is suddenly covered in chains. It makes the game a bit more challenging, as this feature could theoretically let the player lose the game while in the investigation sections, which was previously impossible. However, these don’t end up feeling like a significant addition to the game, especially considering their linear nature. It’s fairly obvious which piece of evidence you need to present in order to unlock each Psyche-Lock; the only time it becomes challenging is when you do not yet have the evidence you need.

    The courtroom sequences are as thrilling as ever, as Phoenix uncovers revelations abound and cross-examines the witnesses’ testimonies for flaws or contradictions. The only major change here is Phoenix’s health bar, which is used instead of the previous game’s “five strike” system. It works slightly better, because more intense decisions will cost you more health if you answer incorrectly. However, the bar only refills during a recess, meaning a poor decision early in the trial will linger as you approach a checkpoint.

    All of this is underscored by music which reminds the player that Justice For All was originally for the Game Boy Advance. Despite the low quality of the sound, the music fits perfectly with the game. I can’t imagine a better score, and the first case’s use of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue,” complete with dramatic pipe organ, is absolutely flawless. The “beep boop boop” in most of the pieces complements the old-school feel of the game, and the melodies themselves fit well with the tone of the game. In addition, while some of the music is from the first game, most of the music is brand-new or at least a brand-new arrangement, making for a unique soundtrack. Voice acting is limited--Phoenix audibly shouts “take that,” “hold it,” and (of course) “objection,” while other prosecutors have their own version of “objection.” It would be nice to have at least the court sequences fully voiced.

“Ace Attorney 2 - Prologue”
“Reminiscence ~ Scars Carved By Fire”

    You may have noticed that thus far I’ve avoided talking about the plot itself. That’s on purpose. It would be criminal--no pun intended--for me to spoil the twists and turns throughout the game’s four cases, the last of which will run you a good eight hours or so. More than just the story, though, the game truly excels with its character design and script. Rarely in a game have I as thoroughly enjoyed the cast of characters as I did in Justice For All. The prosecutor for most of the cases literally whips the court into shape when things aren’t going her way, and curtsies mockingly after presenting decisive evidence. A security woman dressed as an astronaut shoots Phoenix with a toy ray gun when she gets frustrated. A ventriloquist is too awkward and shy to speak without his dummy, who argues with and physically abuses him on the stand. In one case, a man is so calm and serene that his personal flock of birds follows him into court. The list goes on and on, and I found myself constantly laughing out loud at the various situations Phoenix lands himself in. I really enjoyed that the credits was mixed with a cast roll of sorts, with various characters giving Phoenix an update on their life.

    In addition to the new lot of characters, there are plenty of familiar faces to see. It feels like catching up with old friends when you meet bumbling detective Dick Gumshoe, “heart of the heartland” photographer Lotta Hart, and of course your spirit-savvy assistant, Maya Fey. With so many familiar faces, however, it does tend to narrow down the options for the true murderer, considering it’s fairly obvious that no one who was in the first game will be your culprit.

Almost funnier than the characters themselves are Phoenix’s reactions to them. Back by popular demand are Phoenix’s court animations, the best of which is easily his “I’m f***ed” face, sweat pouring off of his forehead. And his thoughts on his situations are consistently hilarious. He’s often victimized by everyone around him, even his allies, so there’s an amusing ring of truth when he ponders “Why is it lately, all I want to do is cry...?” Everything adds to that marvelous soap opera style of the plot.

All of that being said, this game is not without its flaws, most of which are simply carry-overs from the first installment. For instance, the court logic gets extremely tiresome. It’s funny the first time Phoenix’s points are ignored while the prosecutor manhandles the judge, but by the fifteenth time, I really started wishing the court would give Phoenix a break. Phoenix mutters at one point “Why can’t you be on my side for a change?” and it’s too much of a legitimate complaint to be funny. In addition, some of the characters’ gimmicks (such as the aforementioned whipping prosecutor) are hilarious at first, but are overused to the point where I can’t even crack a smile when she cracks her whip. As a final note, there are a LOT of spelling and grammar mistakes, far more than the first game. I’m not sure why, but although the writing continues to be fabulous, the localization team’s spellcheck seems to have completely broken before beginning work on this game. I could hardly go through one section of a case without a handful of noticeable grammatical errors, and it’s even more annoying when the same one is used frequently (I’m looking at you, comma before “however”).

Its flaws notwithstanding, the game is a gem for fans of visual novels, and offers more adult material than its cousin series, Professor Layton. I can’t help but feel that Wright would be well-suited to a game-length case, like Layton games, rather than bite-sized cases. Either way, this game has made me a serious fan of Phoenix Wright, whereas before playing it I was only a moderate fan. I’m eager to finish Phoenix’s trilogy, and I'm even more adamant about wanting the Layton crossover in the US!

Graphics: 7/10
The 2D art may be old-school, but it complements the story. And the character animations, particularly the ones used when a witness gets flustered on the stand, are brilliant.

Sound: 8/10
Catchy GBA-era music suits the story well; some of it has merit outside the game. Voice acting is fun, but there needs to be more of it.

Gameplay: 7/10
Investigating crime scenes, speaking to witnesses, and cross-examining testimonies is loads of fun, but the system gets repetitive after a while and sometimes it’s pretty difficult to figure out which evidence you need to be presenting. Psyche-Locks are neat, but ultimately a bit weak.

Plot: 8/10
The true story of the murder is rarely that surprising, but the script and characters are so well done that it’s hard to give this category anything less. You won’t mind scrolling through text when it’s this entertaining.

Overall: 8.0/10

You’ll like: Meeting the eccentric cast of characters, reading Phoenix’s inner monologue, and the overall feel of the gameplay.
You’ll dislike: Backtracking, solving those rare difficult puzzles, and the judge’s constant siding with the prosecution.
You’ll love: Shouting “Objection!” into the mic, because who cares about the people around you?
« Last Edit: August 10, 2013, 02:42:00 AM by SlowPokemon »
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2013, 02:58:30 AM »

Game Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB: Mild Blood, Mild Violence

Playing through the final game in the trilogy of Phoenix Wright, I was struck by how surreal and wholly unique Phoenix’s world is. Where else does confetti rain from the courtroom ceiling when the defendant is pronounced not guilty? Where else is it acceptable for prosecutors to hurl hot cups of coffee at the defense when things aren’t looking well? And where else could an old man with a waitress fetish pelt the court with birdseed when angered? All of these crazy circumstances, and more, are found within Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, the last game in the original Ace Attorney trilogy. Yet, however outlandish the situations get, the player never once questions them, and more than once I found myself wondering why that was the case. And upon finishing, it suddenly hit me--Ace Attorney is simply well-written enough that it could create any scenario, however bizarre, and I would go along with it.

I can’t help but feel that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All was where the series started to take off, with elements like the Psyche-Lock and Phoenix’s health bar providing some much-needed innovation to the original game’s slightly flawed gameplay. The gameplay of Trials and Tribulations is entirely unchanged from that of Justice For All. Returning characters (for the most part) have the same 2D sprites and animations, and entire settings like the Courthouse, Detention Center, and Criminal Affairs Department are reused again. How, then, does this third installment differ from its predecessor? Simple: it’s much better. Whereas that second game had a few stumbles throughout (notably in its rather weak filler cases), Trials and Tribulations is a pure delight from start to finish, with all five of its cases being not only entertaining, but rewarding as well. And not only is there a lot of continuity between its own episodes, Trials and Tribulations also relies on events from past games, particularly the second episode of Justice For All, to weave its story. This means that players who haven’t experienced the first two games are in trouble, but it also feels much more rewarding for those dedicated players who have been with the series from the beginning.

There are fewer returning characters in this game as opposed to its predecessor which felt saturated with cameos of fan-favorites from the original. This lack of familiarity doesn’t hurt the game one bit, as the new characters are as memorable and well-written as past ones have been. Everyone from a cross-dressing chef to a demonic teenage girl is written wonderfully, thanks to a great script and Capcom’s stellar localization team. The most intriguing new character is the mysterious, coffee-addicted prosecutor Godot, who has “returned from the depths of Hell” to do battle with Phoenix Wright, who of course is clueless as to who Godot is. Godot becomes vital to understanding the central storyline, and he is a worthy successor to the previous game’s whip-happy antagonist. As for the story itself, I can’t give anything away. Just know that every single case in Trials and Tribulations is Ace Attorney at its best, with even the filler episodes feeling rewarding and worthwhile.

The music is among the best in the series. Newcomer Noriyuki Iwadare does a great job of remixing older pieces while throwing in new musical themes for various characters. Godot’s theme music gets special mention here -- a saxophone-led piece which sounds great for a track that originated on the Game Boy Advance.

“Godot ~ The Fragrance of Dark Coffee"
“Luke Atmey ~ I Just Want Love”
“Larry Butz ~ When There’s Trouble, I’m Usually There”

If you aren’t a fan of Phoenix Wright, this game will not change your mind. But for fans of the lawyer, Trials and Tribulations offers the best of the series and plenty of courtroom drama. Not even Detective Gumshoe is stupid enough to miss out on this game.

Graphics: 7/10
Same 2D style makes for a nostalgic aesthetic, but reused sprites and backgrounds do feel a bit tired.

Sound: 9/10
Best soundtrack of the lot, with lots of unique character themes to distinguish personalities. Plenty of reused and remixed music as well. Voice acting is great, though Phoenix remains the highlight.

Gameplay: 8/10
While it’s the same as its predecessor in terms of gameplay, it’s slightly more enjoyable due to the lack of annoyances such as backtracking. Puzzles also feel more polished, rarely being too difficult.

Plot: 9/10
The best in the series. The humor is especially well-done in this installment, and the final case is easily my favorite case of the series.

Overall: 8.5/10

You’ll like: The hilarious NPCs.
You’ll dislike: The fact that the witnesses get seemingly infinite opportunities to revise their testimonies.
You’ll love: Godot, because he’s the coolest guy I’ve ever encountered in a video game.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2013, 06:49:38 AM by SlowPokemon »
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2013, 07:09:54 AM »

Game Review: Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB: T (Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violent References)

I’m sure Japanese gamers were very confused upon starting up the fourth title in Capcom’s Ace Attorney series. While the American title makes it clear that Phoenix Wright is no longer in the spotlight, the Japanese title is simply Gyakuten Saiban 4. Why not make a distinction? As revealed fairly quickly, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney takes place seven years after Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations. Shortly after the events of that game, Phoenix was apparently forced to turn in his attorney’s badge due to a fateful trial. Seven years later, in comes greenhorn defense attorney Apollo Justice, armed with powerful “chords of steel” and a headstrong personality to take the reins from Wright.

Wright hasn’t just disappeared off the face of the earth, however. He appears in the first few minutes of the game, as a man sadly devoid of meaning in his life now that he can no longer defend, and he continues to cast a mysterious presence over the rest of the game. Indeed, as more details of his past are revealed, it’s clear why the Japanese titles use a simple numeric system--this is definitely a continuation of the Ace Attorney saga, and it’s just as much Phoenix’s game as it is Apollo’s.

This brings up some issues, however. With the introduction of Apollo, there is a very cool new protagonist...who, in the game’s climax, is shoved aside in favor of more screen time for Phoenix. Apollo is kind of forgotten in his own game, and while it’s great we get more info on returning characters, it feels a little odd to so thoroughly switch the focus to a different character.

In Apollo Justice, more so than even Trials and Tribulations, the cases, seemingly unrelated at first, all come together in the end to form one giant story. While this makes the ending even more rewarding, the first three cases, particularly the second and third, can be something of a chore to go through. Episode 2 ranks as my least favorite case of the entire series; it’s even more tedious than that big top case in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All. Even beyond the basic plots, though, the characters simply aren’t as interesting or funny this time around. The prosecutor for this game is one Klavier Gavin, who is the lead guitarist for a rock band on the side. He certainly has some great moments--my favorite animation in the game is his imaginary guitar solo, fingers expertly animated with impressive dexterity--but he never evokes any belly laughs, like the hilarious Franziska von Karma, nor does he achieve the same level of coolness reached by the coffee-drinking Godot. Indeed, he’s portrayed as something of a nice guy, in one episode giving Apollo discount prices on backstage passes to one of his concerts, which makes him far less interesting as an opposing force to Apollo.

As a replacement for bumbling Detective Gumshoe, Ema Skye (who was previously seen in Episode 5 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) takes over, with her Snackoo addiction and various gadgets utilizing the touch screen. She was my favorite character of this game, and made a great addition to the cast.

The biggest problem with the cast is, sadly, Apollo himself, along with his assistant Trucy. While they definitely have distinguishing characteristics, it’s hard not to notice that they’re essentially carbon copies of Phoenix and Maya. Their chemistry is exactly the same, and their reactions to various situations and objects is so similar it’s almost ridiculous.

All story elements aside, though, it’s hard to ignore just how much this game improves upon its predecessors in gameplay aspects. Needless backtracking has been all but eliminated, with Psyche-Locks gone as well. New animated cutscenes, though few and far between, add a lot to the experience. And music is of a higher technical quality than the previous entries: while a few pieces are reused, the majority of the music is brand new, and it all sounds great. The third case revolves around music as a plot element, to a very good effect.

“Klavier Gavin ~ Guilty Love”
“Recollection ~ Forgotten Legend”

This game ranks as my least favorite of the Ace Attorney series, sadly. However, it’s a solid continuation of the series after a three-year hiatus, and I look forward to seeing Phoenix and Apollo together in Ace Attorney 5.

Graphics: 7.5/10
Slightly more fluid animation, but the art is largely the same--which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Sound: 8.5/10
Great soundtrack on par with the excellent music from Trials and Tribulations. Not as much voice acting, and what is here just isn’t as distinctive as the previous games’ voice acting.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Largely the same, with several tweaks, improvements, and additions to the tried-and-true Ace Attorney formula. None of these are game-changing, but they are appreciated.

Plot: 7.0/10
The first case is intriguing, the last case excellent, but the second and third aren’t quite on par with the other installments. In addition, the wacky humor that made the first three Ace Attorney games so memorable is an element largely absent here.

Overall: 7.0/10

You’ll like: Playing as a different protagonist for a change.
You’ll dislike: The fact that the new protagonist is largely ignored in favor of the older one.
You’ll love: Ema Skye, because not many detectives would pelt you with Snackoos when moody.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2013, 01:44:13 PM by SlowPokemon »
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Yugi

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2013, 11:05:04 AM »

What would you consider your favourite case in the series Slow?
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2013, 01:45:22 PM »

In no particular order: 1-4, 2-4, 3-3, 3-5
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2013, 04:54:39 AM »

Game Review: Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
System: Nintendo 3DS
ESRB: E 10+ (Mild Cartoon Violence)

Alpha-Dream’s Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga really threw Gameboy Advance owners for a loop back in 2003. Rather than a simple sidescroller like Mario’s other GBA endeavors, Superstar Saga was an RPG in the style of earlier games such as Paper Mario--only much better. Clever writing, bizarre situations, and knowing references to Mario’s history were complemented by an intuitive mechanism for controlling the brothers and a truly well-executed battle system. Throw in two excellent sequels--Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story and you have what is not only one of the best Mario series, but one of the best RPG series out there. So it was with not only interest but great excitement that I started up Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, expecting the best and hoping for better. Does it live up to expectations? Read on to find out.

Dream Team was clearly meant to be a return to the series’ roots in many aspects. It’s the first game since Superstar Saga in which Mario and Luigi are the only characters you control. That alone, combined with the foreign setting of the game--Mario explores Pi’illo Island rather than the Mushroom Kingdom--as well as the surprise return of a few iconic characters, makes Dream Team bear more than a passing resemblance to the bros.’ original GBA adventure.

Immediately noticeable is the graphics overhaul. Mario and Luigi, and in fact all characters, are pixelated, making them slightly blurry but also adding a wonderful charm to the atmosphere. The work that Alpha-Dream put into all of the characters’ sprites is noticeable and impressive--for instance, Mario raises his left fist whenever he jumps, regardless of which way he’s facing. A small, easy detail? Think again. This means that instead of just mirroring his sprites, they created 16 unique ones--one for each direction on the circle pad. And the same goes for Luigi, who raises his right fist. The payoff is well worth it, as the game looks polished and confident in its unique art style. Backgrounds, meanwhile, have gorgeous 3D features; and even better are the graphics during “giant battles,” which replace the giant Bowser battles from Bowser’s Inside Story. They look as good as anything I’ve seen on the 3DS before. The 3D effect is not often needed, and in fact is a bit annoying during battles (especially during the attacks utilizing the gyroscope), but in general it adds a touch of depth to the setting; and during the side-scrolling areas, it makes the backgrounds pop.

The battle system, too, is so fluid and near-perfect that any RPG-lover will be in heaven. There are a lot of enemies to be beaten here--according to my end of game stats, I defeated nearly 4200 enemies throughout the course of the game--but when the battles are as smooth and downright fun as they are in Dream Team, you’ll barely notice how much time you’re spending stomping Goombas.

The only reason you’ll want to avoid enemies is to allow Yoko Shimomura’s beautiful score go uninterrupted. Her music for this game rivals her best work in the past, and the lavishly orchestrated overworld themes are complemented by electronic “dreamy” remixes. A truly masterful score, and easily the highlight of the series in this respect. The soundtrack is so excellent, in fact, that I won’t even post any of it here. It’s so good that it deserves to be experienced within the game itself. Besides, I can’t narrow my choices down to just a couple tracks.

The plot starts out very promisingly. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and the gang visit scenic Pi’illo Island for a vacation. However, this being a Mario & Luigi game, one bizarre thing leads to another and soon the evil bat king Antasma escapes from the dream world and joins forces with Bowser to take over Pi’illo Island. As a result, the bros.--with the aid of Starlow and newcomer Prince Dreambert--must travel across Pi’illo Island, dipping in and out of the Dream World to rescue the ancient Pi’illo race and locate the fabled Dream Stone. It sounds like standard Mario & Luigi fare, but unfortunately many staples of the series are gone. This installment certainly has more than its fair share of chuckles--the Massif Brothers’ dialogue is downright “unbebeefable”--but I very rarely found myself laughing too hard. Fawful’s prominence in Bowser’s Inside Story is greatly missed here. And Antasma is a delightful villain, but has little to do with the story. He and Bowser pop in every now and then to remind you what great characters they are, but there are long stretches of time between these scenes. It seems like most of the game the player is just completing menial, tedious tasks connected by a paper-thin plot that could use some substance. And even these tasks are bogged down by unnecessary, overlong tutorials. Seriously, even newcomers will find these tutorials patronizing, as none of the mechanics are that difficult in the first place.

My gripes with the plot and gameplay aside, I can’t deny that when Dream Team hits its stride, it’s a truly fantastic experience. The level of polish and care put into the game is fantastic, and you’ll probably find yourself having fun more often than not--a large feat in a game that will take you a minimum of 35 hours. Coming after Bowser’s Inside Story really hurt Dream Team, but I think even viewed as a standalone experience it’s something of a misfire. Hopefully the Mario & Luigi series can only improve from here.

Graphics: 8/10
The pixelly sprites complement the beautiful backgrounds surprisingly well, and the graphics during the giant boss battles are beyond anything the series has provided before.

Sound: 10/10
The best soundtrack I’ve ever heard on a 3DS game, as well as perfect voice acting led by the bros.’ vaguely Italian-sounding gibberish and Antasma’s bat screeches.

Gameplay: 8/10
Move from area to area (to area) defeating enemies and solving simple puzzles. Earns points for an addictive battle system, loses points for overlong explanations of simple mechanics.

Plot: 8/10
The writing and story is the low point of the series, but in a series renowned for its hilarious writing, perhaps that’s not such an insult. Characters like the Massif Brothers and the...flamboyant Bedsmith make their scenes a riot, while characters such as Antasma are sadly underused.

Overall: 8.0/10

You’ll like: The unfailingly fun boss battles and the eccentric characters.
You’ll dislike: The tedium of the overworld and the abundance of unnecessary tutorials.
You’ll love: The soundtrack. This is the best work I’ve ever heard from Yoko Shimomura, period.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2013, 11:36:20 PM by SlowPokemon »
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SlowPokemon

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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2013, 09:18:06 PM »

What would you consider your favourite case in the series Slow?

After some consideration, I think my favorite is case 3-5.
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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2013, 10:31:47 PM »

Could you review Mario kart wii?
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Re: Slow Reviews Games: A NinSheetMusic Column
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2013, 02:55:35 AM »

I think he's mainly reviewing portable games.
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