3D Streets of Rage 2 Review

The Sega 3D classics range has offered us up some excellent revisions of games from the company’s golden era. So far the games that run ‘into’ the screen such as Outrun and Space Harrier have come out on top but there’s no denying that Streets of Rage 2 is a genre and generation highlight so even if the 3D effect didn’t add much then we were more than happy to dive into this.

Streets of Rage 2 is a classic scrolling beat’em up in the vein of Double Dragon or Final Fight. You can pick from four characters who differ in terms of speed, power, jumping ability and throws and then take on eight stages where colourful goons with silly names line up to be knocked out. It is a defining game for the 16 bit era and on the Mega Drive this is the pinnacle of the genre. It’s only real rival of the time was Final Fight but as the SNES version of the game lacked a character and the 2 player mode this is really as good as it gets on the home consoles of this time.

You get a fairly decent amount of moves to use with a punch/kick combination, several throws, a super move (which depletes some energy), and the odd hidden special attack. Lack of moves is what always leads to the feeling of repetition in games of this kind but there is enough variety in enemy type and location to ward off the feeling longer than in pretty much any other game of the time. The level design is particularly imaginative in places and certainly raises the game up a level past the Rival Turfs of this world.

In terms of what has been added someone has clearly tried to make this as definitive as it can be. You can play around with a host of different options such changing the lives and difficulty of the game. There are also options to change the version of the game from the international one to the Japanese ‘Bare Knuckle’ version, a casual mode and the ability to change the screen to mimic an old arcade machine. You can even change how the sound is emulated if you prefer the Mega Drive 2 to the Mega Drive 1.

Upon completion of the game you get a few new modes to play with as well. One lets you kill everything in one punch while the more interesting unlockable is a mode that gives you one life with each of the four characters to try and get through the game with.

It’s bursting at the seams with content and the 3D effect actually works as well (and you even get to choose if you want the effect to pop in or pop out). A big criticism of these types of game is that you can’t tell which level enemies are moving on. If you turn on the 3D effect this is no longer a problem and makes the game much fairer as you aren’t hitting air shots.

Overall, this is the best possible revision of Streets of Rage 2 we can imagine. There’s so much to play around with that fans of the original game will love it. There’s a lot of fun for newcomers as well with the only real criticism being that characters can be a little slow when walking around. It’s the definitive version of a generational classic and you’d be mad not to give it a look.

3D Fantasy Zone 2 Review

Fantasy Zone has always been one of the best series on Sega’s consoles and the Master System games are arguably the best of the bunch, so it was great when they were announced for the 3D Classics range. It’s a little odd to be getting the second game first but the fact it’s here at all is something to be celebrated.

A mixture of cute and surreal, the Fantasy Zone series has long been known for its very bright and colourful graphical style and the fact it’s also pretty damn tough. The move to the 3DS has allowed for the graphics to really come alive and the limitations presented by the Master System are obviously not now in place. This means we get the true vision of the game developers wanted and it’s never looked better.

The 3D effect is not particularly amazing and certainly not up to the standard of Outrun or Space Harrier (for obvious reasons). It does however provide a subtle extra spark to the game without making it mind blowing, but there is only so much you can do with a game set on a 2D plane anyway.

Players are tasked with flying their little ship left and right with the aim of blasting all the bases that produce monsters. Once the last base has been destroyed you are thrown into a battle with the end of level boss. It’s a bit like Defender without the rescuing mechanic. You can also move over to the ‘dark’ version of each level if you want an extra challenge.

Bosses are inventive and huge. They often have small weak spots which you need to blast and fast reactions will be needed to have any chance at all. For instance – the first boss is a giant tree who requires his Pinocchio-esque nose to be shot back into his head. While doing this you need to navigate a constantly moving maze of logs. It’s tough and it only gets more difficult the further you get.

Luckily, there are a few things to help players along the way. First of all a new level select has been added to allow players to start from any level they have previously reached. As you only have three lives to complete the game this is most welcome. You can also buy upgrades for your ship but most of them have a very limited timed use so don’t expect to be taking on the boss with some kind of super laser.

The main thing is that the game is still fun to play in short bursts. The bosses can present big sticking points but then this is a title that first came out in 1987. The core game is still very good and the subtle improvements and additions should make it just about palatable for gamers used to more modern fare.

Overall, it is great to see a game like Fantasy Zone II make it into the 3D Classics range. If you are a fan of the original then there is nothing here to put you off and you should check it out right away. Newcomers may find it tough, but it’s an inventive game that still stands out and if you are up for a challenge then there is a lot of fun to be had.

3D Out Run Review

For many a retro gamer mentioning Out Run conjured up memories of racing at high speed through a host of idyllic locations in a Ferrari. There have been numerous remakes over the years but only the Xbox version in 2004 really managed to capture that spirit of freedom and speed that the original had. That’s all about to change as this could well be the definitive version of Sega’s much loved classic.

For those not familiar with Out Run – the goal is to race through the stages against the clock while avoiding traffic and other obstacles. There are multiple routes that can be taken and up to five possible final roads to travel down should you reach the last stage. Hitting traffic slows you down, while hitting obstacles at speed can flip and roll the car causing the driver and his blond passenger to fall out and eat up much needed time.

Though fairly simplistic at heart – it can also be tough to complete at times. You have a high and low gear to help control your speed but sometimes those corners come out of nowhere and you’ll be flipping into the nearest corn field. Luckily for us the controls are wonderfully responsive so anytime you do find yourself viewing the brutal crash animations you know it’s your fault. It’s about speed and control and if things get too tough (or easy), you can alter the difficulty and your time allowance in the options menu.

This is a conversion of the arcade game so you are getting the original experience with some nice enhancements. The two most obvious of these are the framerate and new 3D effect. The framerate has been bumped up to 60FPS which makes everything zoom by at breakneck speed and certainly captures the thrill the original game had upon first release. The 3D effect is also impressive and really adds to the experience. These two additions, coupled with the classic graphical style, really help to elevate the game and it makes everything a whole lot of fun.

There are a few other things thrown in as well, such as some new songs and the ability to track your times and scores on each course. It all shows that a fair amount of care and attention has been put into this and someone clearly cared about the franchise during the process.

Overall, 3D Out Run is both a wonderful version of a classic game and something that is still fun and relevant today. It’s a game that always brings about a smile when playing and it comes from an era when the sheer joy of the experience was heralded above all else and there is no better game to illustrate the point than this.

Titan Attacks Review

Puppy Games has been making its neon-styled retro shooters for a while now and it always seemed only a matter of time before they took the step on to console. Titan Attacks was the first game to make the jump and serves up its own take on the Space Invaders theme.

Set across five worlds, the player controls their tank at the bottom of the screen as enemies approach from the top. It may remind you of Space Invaders but aside from the obvious nods there is much more going on here than simply trying to produce a clone. The first thing to take into account is the scoring mechanic. A multiplier continually increases through the levels and when you take a hit it returns to zero.

You can also gain points and money by achieving skill shots. This occurs when you shoot an enemy and instead of it exploding it begins to fall to the ground. Shooting the careering vehicle may also see an alien jump out in a parachute; collecting these little guys will give you a further bonus, while letting them drift off the bottom of the screen will result in a penalty.

Any money you gain during a round can be spent before the next one starts. You’ll start off buying extra shields and smart bombs but the power-ups are extensive and you can add bits to your tank to fire rockets and lasers as well as giving yourself multiple shots or reducing the recharge time between firing. In truth, it can make the game a little easy towards the end but it’s always a fun way to spend a few minutes. The game also seems to have been slightly rebalanced to present more of a challenge in this 3DS version.

The game is set across five worlds, starting on Earth, moving onto the Moon, through Mars and Saturn before finishing on the alien home world. Every few levels you get a chance to get gain bonus points and prizes by shooting down special flying saucers and the end of each world sees you square off against a mother ship. The enemy types and patterns continually change and the later levels are hectic which helps to keep everything fresh and moving. The lack of 3D though is a bit of an issue as it makes the port seem less polished than it otherwise could have been.

There’s no denying this is a fun game while it lasts but there are a few things which hold it back from being a classic. Though the bosses are a bit tougher now, the game is still a little on the easy side and you’ll likely blast through it in a couple of attempts. It’s certainly fun and you do get to start again on harder versions of the levels but we were expecting a bit more of a challenge.

The second problem is that the scoring mechanic isn’t really intricate enough to cause the massive adrenaline rushes you can get from other games. There’s very little you can do if you’ve been building a multiplier and get hit, other than slowly build it up again. That’s fine for anyone who wants an enjoyable arcade shooter but for those looking for a game to master this will let you down.

Slight issues aside, the question that matters is, are you going to enjoy playing the game? The answer to which is yes you will, it’s a blast, with a fun style that cleverly evokes just enough of Space Invaders to hit the nostalgia button while producing something fresh. It won’t last you forever or put up that much of a challenge but for a fun few minutes of blasting, it certainly ticks all the right boxes. It’s also especially suited to handhelds. Overall, this is a good if not great game that everyone will enjoy. It’s a promising start from Puppy Games and we look forward to their next project.

 

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Review

Maybe it’s because I was expecting Ocarina of Time 2, but I never truly appreciated Majora’s Mask back in 2000. Despite repurposing a lot of the assets, it felt wildly different, mainly in tone.

Set in the new land of Termina, Link has three days to stop the Skull Kid from causing the moon to come crashing down. The three days are able to be restarted Groundhog Day style thanks to Link’s trusty Ocarina. Doing so though will lose certain items and even dungeon progress. And that’s really the aspect that can be a turnoff for some.

The time limit can be harsh, that is unless you know of the inverted Song of Time, a song that doesn’t actually have to be learnt at any point in the story. Just play the Song of Time backwards and you’re able to slow down the passage of time. And trust me when I say it’s pretty much required, unless you want an ungodly amount of stress.

On my initial N64 play through, I hadn’t learnt of this song till quite late in the story, now that I’m aware of it from the start the whole experience became much more manageable. It almost felt like cheating, but the Zelda series has been about exploration, and when you’re constantly looking at the clock, the ability to soak in the atmosphere almost gets lost. And boy do you want to get sucked into this crazy world.

Majora’s Mask is the most dark and weird world ever seen in the Zelda series. Right from the start you’re greeted to the moon with its evil face looking down on Termina, inching closer and closer as each day passes by, until the final day when the world is literally shaking. You witness characters over these three days going about their busy lives, seemingly oblivious (or in denial) that in three days they’ll all perish. Conversing with certain characters can trigger side quests that are handily recorded in your Bombers Notebook (a feature that wasn’t in the original). This is a living, breathing world that hasn’t been seen before or since in the Zelda universe.

It’s this constant sense of foreboding that is really Majora’s Mask’s greatest accomplishment. On the first day the soundtrack is lively and vibrant, and on the third it gets given a dark underlying score. “Dark” looks to be word of the day when it comes to this review, it’s not exactly survival horror dark, but for a series that has largely been in the realm of family entertainment, it’s a definite change of style and direction.

The world of Termina itself does feel smaller than the Hyrule of Ocarina of Time, unsurprising when you consider the game was developed in a year, compared to the three that OOT took. The size difference though is merely cosmetic. Hyrule Field in OOT was vast, and just riding Epona across from one end to the other was one of the highlights of that generation. In comparison, Majora’s Mask feels a lot tighter. The world may be smaller, but the amount of content crammed into this small space makes it feel massive.

The central area Clock Town is full of life and quests, then going through one of the exits places you onto Termina Field, again it may be smaller than its OOT equivalent, but graphically it looks so much sharper with plenty of detail and obstacles to overcome. Then there are the many areas that Termina Field connects, from the swamps to the high Goron mountains. It’s a glorious world to get lost in.

While the basics haven’t really evolved a great deal from Ocarina of Time (hit things with swords, explore dungeons, solve puzzles), the new mask mechanic adds its own flavour. There are a huge number of masks to be found, most are just obtained by completing sidequests and don’t really affect the gameplay as such, whereas a few of them allow Link to transform into a Zora, Goron or Deku Scrub. Each one comes with the unique traits specific to that species, such as the Goron’s roll attack and the Zora’s ability to swim underwater. Naturally with each transformation, certain characters treat you differently, apparently Clock Town not getting many Goron visitors, such was their shock at encountering one.

More than just a remake, it’s surprising how much care and attention to detail has gone into this 3D iteration. While other companies would just quickly throw it out as a quick cash grab, Nintendo and co-developers Grezzo have finely tuned it to the handheld format. Saving is now a lot more straightforward, the touch screen use for the inventory is brilliantly handled and it just looks so damn good.

Initially you may think to yourself that it looks just as good as on the N64, of course your mind can play tricks on you when you think back to the graphical power of yesteryears games. Only by going back and looking at the original N64 version can you see how much better it looks. The horrible, trademark N64 blur is eradicated and there’s even some new animations to gawp at. This is the sort of remaster that other companies should aspire to.

It may have taken fifteen years, but I’ve finally decided to embrace Majora’s Mask for what it is. A weird and wonderful game that tried to take the Zelda series in a brave and unusual direction. Hopefully others who were put off by the time mechanic all those years ago are willing to try it again and hopefully, much like myself, they too will finally learn to love it.

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom Review

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom is at its core a passable Legend of Zelda clone, no more not less. It lacks the charms of a Zelda title and the mechanics offer nothing new. On the 3DS there are touch screen options to manage you inventory, select things and the like, but that is pretty much it.

You go through a story doing various missions, killing enemies along the way, as you find new items and powers to allow you to access other parts of a map that you haven’t previously. It does all of these things competently, but still not as good as a Zelda game.

There really is very little to say, which makes it very difficult to expand on. A competent clone of an existing best of genre game, that is covered in a skin aimed at fans of a series. Nothing more nothing less.

So what we will do instead is help you decide if you should get Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom.

Just answer these two questions:

1. Do you like Zelda Games?

2. Do you like Adventure Time?

If you answered:

YES/YES
Then go out and buy Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. As a fan of Zelda games and Adventure Time, there is nothing to stop you losing a few hours as you play this game to the end. There are plenty of references to the lore of Adventure Time and it is quite humourous  if you understand the show and the fact this is a Zelda lite type game, means you should be able to jump in have some fun and move on.


YES/NO
Well, it depends how desperate you are for a Zelda type of game. The mechanics don’t do enough to carry you past your dislike for Adventure Time and they certainly aren’t a match for Zelda, but hey, if you have exhausted every other Zelda option out there, then you may find something in this to pass a few days. Otherwise you are best off avoiding.


NO/YES
How much do you dislike Zelda? If the concept of the genre is enough to make you sick, then don’t expect anything here to change your mind. However, if you are a big fan of Adventure Time, the mechanics of the game are simple enough that you can enjoy the world and the characters that you know and love. You’ll get enough from the game on the whole to make it worthwhile having a look at.


NO/NO
Well clearly this isn’t the game for you. You hate Zelda (you monster) and you hate Adventure Time, so there is nothing for you here in the slightest. Find something else to play.

So there you have it. Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. It is simply run of the mill, but that is fine depending on how much you like Zelda type games, or Adventure Time.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Review

“Why is someone in a bear suit hitting on teenage girls?” is a perfectly reasonable question you might have after a few hours of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. Other questions may include “Why are there so many characters?”, “What’s a Velvet Room?” and “How does that robot girl understand the dog?”

As the first installment of Atlus’ Persona franchise to appear on a Nintendo Console, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a bit of an oddball. Described as “first and foremost, for fans of the Persona series” by its producer, Katsura Hashino, this is a stripped-back traditional dungeon crawl featuring all your favourite characters from Personas 3 and 4.

Let’s set the scene. The members of SEES (P3) and the Investigation Team (P4) hear a bell tolling in the distance, and are then sucked into a mysterious alternate reality where they are all trapped in Yasogami High’s culture festival. A strange clock tower has sprung up outside the school, the other students seem oblivious to anything outside of the festival, and Zen and Rei – Persona Q’s two new characters – are found milling around with no idea why they are there.

It’s down to the two teams to work together, explore the labyrinth and discover the reason they have been transported there – helping Zen and Rei recover their memories along the way.

That plot could quite easily pass as fan-fiction, and it’s also worth noting that if you’ve never played a Persona game before, much of it will make little sense. Without previous knowledge of the series, you would be forgiven for thinking that Persona Q was a game based around crawling dungeons, and teenagers arguing about beef.

The meat (argh) of the game takes place in the various labyrinthine dungeons scattered around the school. You’re tasked with exploring each floor and defeating the monster at the deepest point of each labyrinth. Battles are dished out at random, there’s treasure to find and giant monsters, called FOEs, to avoid. Each floor is packed full of puzzles and goodies to discover, and once you’ve solved a puzzle, a shortcut will become available enabling it to be skipped on subsequent visits. It’s largely standard dungeon crawling fare packed full of daft vignettes of the two teams getting to know one another. These will either serve as a reminder of the superb characterisation from Persona 3 and 4, or for those whom Persona Q is their first foray into the series, come over a mixture of amusing and completely baffling. Why IS the guy in the bear suit hitting on all the girls?

The snappy but throwaway sketches make it feel like the cast are taking part in a sitcom rather than an adventure. Each character is almost a caricature of themselves – Akihiko speaks only of protein, Junpei is forever trying to attract the girls, and if Yukari were any more coy she might excuse herself from the game entirely. Herein lies the biggest issue with Persona Q – it is difficult to fathom and almost impossible to describe without constantly referencing back to previous entries in the series.

Zen and Rei are fun additions to the cast. Zen is quiet and moody, at odds with the rest of the happy-go-lucky cast. His no-nonsense attitude inadvertently makes him come across like Team Dad much of the time. Rei, on the other hand, is a one-hit wonder – tiny, brimming with enthusiasm and obsessed with food. It is a miracle how she ended up not only being tolerable, but very amusing at times. Even her voice acting is good – though the same can’t be said for the game’s stubborn insistence on referring to the protagonists (whom you have to name yourself) as “Leader”, which sounds clumsy and forced.

The combat system will feel a little uncanny valley-ish to players of previous Persona games. It’s had a slight overhaul from the puzzly nature of previous games, and is now a more traditional JRPG turn-based combat fare, with a twist. Each enemy has a series of weaknesses – a specific type of magic or melee attack. Landing a hit against an enemy’s weakness will put the attacking character into a boosted state – if they take damage they’ll lose that state, but if they survive until the start of your next turn without taking a hit then their skill/magic use for the following turn is free.

It’s a great incentive to attack smartly, and to formulate a battle plan against each group of enemies encountered. It prolongs the amount of time you can spend in the labyrinth as Skill Points (SP), the currency you exchange for magic use, are pretty scarce. Each character can also equip an additional Persona, which will grant them a set of additional skills to complement the ones they naturally learn, and crucially, a buffer of HP and SP that refills at the end of every battle. This deals with the issue of paying for your first, pre-boost, magic use in a very elegant manner.

Making the most of the tools available to you is important, as Persona Q can be harsh on mistakes. Enemies are powerful and will be quite happy to wipe team members out given half a chance – and while they can be revived in battle with items, once your team start dropping it can be a mad rush to get out of the battle before the whole squad are wiped out. You even have to fill in your own map! Points of interest like shortcuts, doors and, er, walls have to be put in manually, and forgetting will lead to frustrating hours of wandering a seemingly-complete labyrinth until the door you forgot to mark is located.

Persona Q is a curious game, especially as a debut entry on a Nintendo platform. It’s a giant in-joke with a really competent dungeon crawler stapled to it, and while you can definitely still have a great time crawling dungeons and laughing at daft antics, it’s just so much better with that extra knowledge. If you’re looking for an entry point into the franchise, this isn’t the best place to start; even so, I really enjoyed myself with Q, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the absurd standards I’ve come to expect from this series.

Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Review

What initially may seem as a bizarre combination has actually turned out to be quite ingenious. Despite different approaches to everything from character designs to gameplay, the courtroom drama of Phoenix Wright and the puzzle solving antics of Layton have melded into something that not once felt out of place. It wasn’t long before we were sucked into the world and wanted to uncover every last mystery of Labyrinthia. 

Labyrinthia being the mysterious town Phoenix, Layton, Maya and Luke find themselves in after an opening prologue where we’re re-introduced to the two gameplay styles present. Layton’s puzzle solving skills are required again, there are a good range of puzzles here, some of which required a lot of thought (or Hint Coins) if you happen to have them. Phoenix Wright once again enters the courtroom with testimonies, evidence and objections all present and accounted for. That’s not to say each character is locked to their specific gameplay style. Phoenix will often aid in tackling puzzles and Layton himself will be no stranger to the courtroom as the game progresses.

Set around the world of witchcraft and magic, both series’ have always had to endure a leap of logic when it comes to the plot, but none quite so drastic. If you’re not on board with the story from the opening few scenes then you may never be. Admittedly it took us a while to truly be on board as Phoenix Wright, who is usually grounded a lot more in the real world, albeit an incredibly fantastical one, was seemingly transported into a magical book. Even though the game manages to wrap everything up quite neatly, toning down the absurdity in the process, there were still questions left unanswered that the writers probably hoped people had forgot about. Chances are you’ll be carried along for the ride though, it’s only when you’re given time to really reflect on what you played that a few holes start to appear.

What really helps you be taken into the story, no matter how weird it gets is the writing, which has always been a strong point in both series. Writing is sharp and witty with all characters getting suitable time to shine. Newer characters, such as Barnham, who often clashes swords with Phoenix in the courtroom, are also great additions. Even the more irritating characters, such as the loud mouth drunk that you bump into numerous times, has his charm.

The gameplay then manages to mesh both styles surprisingly well. This is also the case with the music. That great Phoenix Wright theme manages to transition effortlessly into Layton’s. And yes, when it’s all coming to a head in the courtroom the music ramps up, and with one solid “Objection” that theme begins to play. This usually accompanied by the traditional finger pointing animation, with Layton now getting in on the action. Graphically the game looks lovely, with only a few dropped frames, usually when more than one character is animating, but it’s barely noticeable.

Despite playing two both fanbases, it’s not just about taking what already exists, at least with the courtroom portion. For the first time in the series there can be multiple witnesses giving testimonies at any one time. So as one testimony is given the other witness could appear shocked at something heard (accompanied with a sound effect) it’s at this point the person could be questioned. It doesn’t change the gameplay in any major way, but is a nice new addition that could work well in future, solo, Phoenix Wright adventures.

A successful combination of both Layton and Wright. Maybe a little lengthy for its own good, with a story that could have ended a couple of hours earlier, it is nevertheless a great celebration of both series.

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl Review

A remake of the 2007 DS original, Etrian Odyssey Untold manages to capture that old school RPG flavour that people loved about the original, but also creating some of its own ideas along the way. Some of these ideas though being more successful than others.

At its core Etrian Odyssey is a first person dungeon crawler RPG where your character and fellow adventurers are tasked with exploring the Yggdrasil Labyrinth, a massive area complete with multiple floors and threats, as well as the ruin of Gladsheim. The big difference with Untold compared to the original is the addition of another game mode – Story Mode. While Classic Mode is still present and like the original features custom characters and maps, the Story Mode now has a narrative with pre-set characters, cut scenes and voice acting. As the Story Mode is the new addition, this is the one we spent the most time with.

While the addition of these new story elements would be welcome for some, the problem comes from how cliché a lot of it is. The moment an amnesiac character is introduced eyes began to roll. The main story is also not as intriguing as it needs to be in order to get people hooked. Initially revolving around being sent to the labyrinth and ruins in order to seek out the cause of tremors that appear to be rocking the region, it takes a while to start going anywhere. Although throughout the story you are given other quests (such as kill monsters, find missing people etc.), it takes around ten hours for any sort of interesting narrative to evolve. That aside, The Millennium Girl does do everything else really well.

A first person dungeon crawler at its core, the most unique of gameplay traits is the way you have to actually draw the map as you explore. With a grid based layout, as you wander around you’ll be using the bottom touch screen to create the map. It being imperative you draw it correctly, unless you want to spend the next half an hour looking for a way to the next floor because you foolishly drew a wall in the wrong place. With traps and multiple paths there are plenty of things in the world to keep you on your toes, as well as the random battles.

Battles are a straightforward turn based affair, with standard attacks, special skills etc. Levelling up though allowing you to place points into specific skills. So you can strategically plan out how you want each character, for instance placing points into defence for your main healer or spending all the points on attack and go in all guns blazing. There are also Grimoire Stones that can be combined and equipped to your party members to improve stats or skills, these being obtained through fights, like everything else in the game. Most floors in the labyrinth are also filled with FOES. These enemies are actually viewable in the world and are much tougher than other, more standard enemies. Like yourself they also move one tile per turn, so memorising their patterns is a must if you choose to avoid them. But of course, beating them earns many rewards.

All these items you collect being sold at Etria, the hub town that acts as your safe haven. Unfortunately you can’t walk around in any capacity; it’s simply a menu with options. Whether it is spending time to recuperate at the inn, collecting quests from the local pub or buying items from the store. It does the job, but there was slight disappointment that it wasn’t a real, living, breathing world that you could explore, especially as graphically everything in Etrian Odyssey looks rather nice. It would have been great to explore a town at your leisure without the fear of a monster jumping out and biting your face off.

If there’s something in Etrian Odyssey that we truly hope gets stolen for other JRPG’s, it’s the ability to change the difficulty mid-game. Finding a section too difficult? Then go to the options and lower the difficulty, there are probably other JRPG style games that have done this, but it doesn’t seem to be very prevalent in the genre. But maybe we’re just getting bad at games in our old age.

The Millennium Girl may have a plot filled more with cliché than originality, but the exploration aspect makes up for it. The plot may offer little new, but the gameplay itself brings with it enough fresh ideas to keep you playing till the end.

Senran Kagura Burst Review

With manga, anime and multiple games, the Senran Kagura series is certainly quite popular in Japan. And it’s no surprise really; it’s one of the most Japanese games you’ll play this year. A bunch of busty, high school ninjas wearing all too revealing outfits with clothes that can quite literally fall off. It’s one of those games that really shouldn’t see the light of day in Europe, but it has. Even more surprising is if you dig beneath the layers of creepiness, there is a solid game there, but my word you have to do a lot of digging.

When using the word “busty”, it’s certainly no exaggeration. Breast sizes that even Team Ninja would think have gone too far, it would be offensive if it wasn’t so painfully stupid. With misogyny and the depiction of women being a big talking point in the games industry of late, it’s surprising that nobody seems to have picked up on Senran Kagura’s fixation with the female anatomy. But then it is a niche game. And quite frankly it’s so ridiculous you’re more likely to laugh than be offended, especially when damage can result in clothes getting torn and falling off. It’s not some in depth damage system, after taking a number of hits the game will actually quickly cut to a five second sequence of your character in a precarious position with her clothes coming off. This can happen twice during each mission until you’re wearing nothing but the swimsuit underneath. Or if you so choose, you can start the level in a swimsuit by pressing L and R at the start to active frantic mode.

The creepy nature doesn’t stop at the visuals; the dialogue manages to be just as bad. Characters asking if they can “motorboat” one another, an alarming amount of pantie references, and characters hiding things in their “secret” place (their cleavage if you didn’t already get it). It’s one of the few games played where we wondered what the hell we are doing with our lives. At least the dialogue is entirely in Japanese so nobody who happened to walk past understood what was being said.

Get past all this and you do find a solid, if basic, side scrolling beat em up. The game being split between these action segments and an alarming amount of cut scene gibberish. Once the scene has been set and you’re actually able to control your chosen character the game does come to life. Fights are fast paced and action packed with a number of enemy variants. Combo’s and special attacks are added to mix things up, and there is a fair bit of content. Story missions (indicated by a key icon in the mission select) are to progress the story, usually forcing you to play as a specific character (each having their own set of attacks) with side missions also scattered throughout the mission select. Completing these may not advance the story, but they do help you level up characters, levelling up gaining additional health and skills making the later missions a lot easier. Not that it’s specifically needed. Death only really becoming a problem during the final chapter.

On top of the regular story where you control the good Shinobi’s, there is another side story where you take a look from other side, giving more backstory for the evil Shinobi’s. These two groups of ninja basically being at war with each other. So there is plenty of content here, even if a lot of it is padded, the first part of the evil Shinobi storyline literally revolving around one character having smaller breasts than the other girls.

Performance wise, the framerate is a little choppy. Even during the main hub area where you can walk around, selecting missions and playing dress up (not joking) the framerate is noticeably poor. Shame really, as graphically it’s not that bad. It’s funny that during gameplay we could barely notice the 3D effect (a good sign if ever there was one), until we actually realised the 3D light was turned off and the game for large portions of the game, actually isn’t in 3D. It does move to the third dimension during the small sequences of girls getting their clothes ripped (of course it does) and the story segments, but other than that, nothing. So for pretty much the entire game it was turned off, a first for us.

You could probably call Senran Kagura Burst a seedy look into the minds of the creepiest people Japan has to offer. It really wouldn’t come as a shock if the design document just had a massive pair of breasts on every page. That aside, there is a game buried underneath that does have its moments. It just depends on how much time you’re willing to put in to find it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

If the rumours are true then the next Wii U Zelda game is heading in a more open world format, if this is the case then Link Between Worlds could be considered an experiment. It’s by far the most open of Zelda games yet, while the majority in the series shepherd you from one area to the next, only opening the next environment when you’ve discovered the correct equipment, Link Between Worlds lets you go anywhere. Once all the dungeons have been marked on your map it’s up to you where you head first, and it’s definitely the game’s greatest strength.

While the openness is unfamiliar territory, Nintendo have coupled this with the familiarity of Link to the Past, possibly the series’ most beloved entry. Set in the same world as LTTP, the map is largely identical. Link’s house is located in the centre; the mountains are to the north, forest to the west and so forth. So if you’ve played LTTP you’ll know exactly where to go in Hyrule. The other world of Lorule though? Not so much.

The game’s key mechanic is the ability to blend with the wall, turning yourself into a living painting and being able to travel along the walls surface. This also being used to travel through ominous looking gaps in the wall that lead to the other world of LoRule. A world that, as the name suggests is a little more depressing than the vibrant colours of Hyrule. In this land ruled by Princess Hilda it’s your job to stop Yuga and rescue the seven sages who have been trapped inside paintings. This is the where the openness of Link Between Worlds comes into play.

Once you’re told where the Sages are being held each one is marked on your map. And where you go next is completely up to you. However each dungeon will require the use of a specific item (much like Zelda’s of old), this is handled by Rovio, a guy who sets up shop in your house allowing you to rent or (at a later time) buy items. If the item is rented then when you die each item will be returned to Rovio, however, despite getting killed a few times this never really had much of an issue considering rupees are absolutely everywhere. Chests containing a hundred rupees became a common occurrence in most dungeons. There were so many that we just ended up renting every item right at the start, but then this could be preferred to constantly chopping down grass to scavenge one rupee a piece. Another good point about this system is that you have a magic bar next to your health, this depletes once an item is used, but recharges after a short while. This means no more hunting in pots for bombs or arrows; everything uses this bar, including the new painting mechanic.

While the world is largely the same as LTTP, the dungeons are anything but the same. Nintendo have certainly excelled at using the 3D technology to complement the gameplay in such a unique way. So in Link Between Worlds a lot of the dungeons are vertical in nature. Many dungeons have multiple floors and more often than not you’re able to see down to the floor below. With the 3D fully cranked up it looks great and really adds to the tension when you’re slowly moving across thin platforms or being forced to jump down and land on a moving platform. Looking at screenshots really doesn’t do the game justice; it’s one of those games that has to be seen running on the system to really appreciate it.

On the whole, the dungeons are some of the best seen in the Zelda series. Puzzles mix some of the olden days Zelda tricks (lighting torches, pushing blocks onto switches etc.) and the new, the ability to walk along walls courtesy of the new painting mechanic. As mentioned pressing A against the wall allows Link to blend with the wall and walk along it. This used to full effect as a way to reach previously unreachable ledges. It’s all very much a master class in design.

As a game that is steeped in nostalgia it’s no surprise that on top of the same world as Link to the Past, it uses a lot of the same music and jingles. It’s clear as soon as you start the game and are re-introduced to the same menu music from LTTP. From there it uses largely the same music, now with a fuller, orchestral sound that will make all Zelda fans grin like a loon.

Link Between Worlds ran the risk of being nothing more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane, revisiting one of the most beloved games in the series, thankfully Nintendo have manage to couple the LTTP memories with some of the best, more unique design seen in the Zelda series in quite a while. If the more handholding nature of recent Zelda games has dampened your enjoyment then the open world nature of Link Between Worlds will be a blessing. In a holiday season dominated with next-gen talk, Nintendo have come out and shown that resolution and graphical power mean nothing without games. And that’s what this is, a damn great game.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies Review

It’s been a while since Phoenix Wright last stepped into a courtroom. Trials And Tribulations being the last time back in 2008. Since then we’ve had Apollo Justice take charge for the fourth instalment before anti-hero prosecutor Miles Edgeworth got his own spin-off series. Now set eight years after his last court appearance, Phoenix Wright is back in what is best described as, quite literally, an explosive return.

What the Phoenix Wright series has always done best is tell a fascinating story, with twists and turns, which more often than not leaves the player unsure as to where the story goes next. Dual Destines carries on this tradition. Starting with a courtroom bombing, you’re thrown headlong back into the action with Phoenix Wright and his new addition to the team, Athena Cykes.

It’s a start that brought back memories of previous games, and Dual Destinies while sticking close to the formula does bring new elements to the table. Cross-examinations and presenting evidence are still the crux of each courtroom scene. And the return of psych-locks and Apollo’s bracelet do make a return from previous games. The newest gameplay addition comes in the form of Athena and her necklace Widget. Athena having the ability to read people’s emotions. During certain sections you’re able to activate Widget, this then showing four different emotions (joy, fear, shock and anger). By following the witness’ testimony you can figure out if any emotion they’re feeling contradicts what they’re saying. There really is no better feeling than finally finding a contradiction in someone’s statement and with one shout of “Objection!” you’ve finally gotten to the truth. Only now the finger pointing is in 3D.

This is not just due to the 3DS hardware, but also the characters. Gone are the paper like characters that adorned previous games and in place are fully 3D models. Not just that but all the best Phoenix Wright animations from games gone by are here, now with proper 3D movement and they look glorious. This new technological advance also plays a part in the investigation phase of each case. Now you have the ability to move around each investigation area. It’s not free moving as such, they’re still fixed on perspectives, but you’re able to now look at each scene from different angles.

A complaint with the previous Phoenix Wright games is the ability to miss a certain thing to help the story progress. Many times becoming stuck because you didn’t check a small corner of a room or failed to present the most inconsequential evidence to a character. Dual Destinies alleviates that by now explicitly telling you when everything has been checked and offering hints when a piece of evidence needs to be shown. Some would say this takes away part of the difficulty; our view is that takes away a lot of the unneeded frustration. Once in the courtroom however and it’s a different story. Characters will offer subtle hints, but other than that you’re on your own. And with a life bar in place, making too many mistakes and it’s over for the defendant.

What has always been a staple of the series is the excellent translation and characters. Dual Destinies doesn’t disappoint as the writing is as witty as ever, with a dash of risqué humour thrown in for good measure. Constant references to Trucy’s “magic panties” and prosecutors complementing witnesses on “their fine box” makes us think this was translated with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Or maybe it’s in part thanks to our childish sense of humour. Nevertheless, each of the five cases found in Dual Destinies are filled with a colourful cast and have stories that are suitably bonkers and outlandish, yet when it all comes together each story seems weirdly plausible. And none of which would anyone see coming. You may figure out the killer right off the bat, but their methods are always indecipherable till the very end.

While the third in the series Trials and Tribulations remains the high point in the Phoenix Wright saga, Dual Destinies comes up as a very close second. Managing to wash out the bad taste the Edgeworth spin-off left, this is an incredible return to form for the series. With each case being as intriguing as the last it’s a game that is hard to put down till you’ve reached the games dramatic conclusion.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers Review

Playing Soul Hackers was like taking a virtual reality trip back to the late 90’s. Not just the gameplay, but also the story. Memories of all those movies dealing with computers, hacking and virtual reality written by people who had no idea what they were talking about came flooding back as soon as the game begins. This is not so much a bad thing though, as there’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia when it’s this enjoyable.

Soul Hackers was originally released for the Saturn in 1997 which goes a long way in explaining the style and feel of the game. Graphically, aside from the addition of 3D (which adds nothing by the way) it feels very basic, with disappointingly no new graphical update that we can see. Travelling through the hi-tech Amami city is done with a dot on a map, the first person dungeons are very basic in design and the battle animations are almost non-existent. So in that sense it’s a shame more care wasn’t taken with bringing it to a new audience. That aside, play for long enough and there’s still something here that will suck you in.

This could possibly be the diverse cast of characters you’ll encounter or the dual worlds you’ll be exploring. Dual because not only is the reality of Amami City available to explore, but also the virtual reality world of Paradigm X. A sort of MMO which has become the new big thing. Of course, it turns out that all is not as it seems and Paradigm X becomes a central plot point as you progress through the story. The story, which while initially starting off slowly definitely hooked us, and made us put up with the experience of learning the many mechanics found within.

Soul Hackers definitely takes you back to a time before hand holding became the norm. Coming into this as your first Shin Megami Tensei can be a pretty daunting experience. Tutorials are nowhere to be found and it’s really up to the player to discover how to best approach the game. It isn’t long before you’re thrown straight into your first turn based battle and really it’s all down to experimentation, something we actually quite enjoyed. Letting the player figure things out for themselves is definitely something that’s been lost as games have evolved and Soul Hackers has shown that not telling the player exactly what to do can make the game a rewarding experience.

Those new to the SMT series may be a little baffled by the battle system as it is, at first, quite daunting with options layered on top of options that can overwhelm quite easily. With each turn based battle you have six spaces for humans and demons that you collect. At the start of each turn you make each characters selection, whether it be magic, attack, item etc. Then the battle commences until all turns are done, and repeat. What sets this game apart from other RPG’s is the use of the demons that you can have join your team. In order to convince them to join you can use the Talk option at the start of each battle. Conversing with the demons will more often than not bring up multiple choice answers. This is where it gets weird. Demons seem to have as many problems as humans, with them asking questions ranging from the meaning of life to favourite foods. It’s all a bit surreal. Answering the question correctly from the multiple choices you’re given and it could very well lead the demon to join your party. Answer incorrectly and it could lead them to attacking you or just leaving in a huff.

Believe it or not that’s just the basics; from here you need to build up the trust of your demons. Lose trust and the demons could very well ignore your commands and just do what the hell they please. Then there’s fusing, a mechanic those who are familiar with the SMT series will understand, and others will initially be confused by. Fusing demons together making newer, more powerful ones, a crucial element in order to progress through the harder dungeons.

The dungeons being one of the real stars of Soul Hackers. As already mentioned, dungeons are played out in a first person manner, navigating the corridors and running into random battles. Dungeons each have a different style to them and can consist of tricky puzzles tiered across multiple floors. Disappointingly though these, like much in the game, are very old fashioned, only being able to move in four directions as opposed to full 3D movement.

The first appearance of Soul Hackers outside of Japan is a most welcome one. It may not have had the graphical update some would’ve hoped for, but the story and characters are interesting enough that it will grab you till the end.

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan Review

The forth edition of the Etrian Odyssey series, makes its debut on Nintendo 3DS. What can you expect from Legends of the Titan?

Anyone who has played an Etrian Odyssey game before will know exactly what to expect from this latest version. The turn-based combat, dungeon crawling RPG is as notoriously difficult as its predecessors. However the transition to 3DS has included a couple of changes designed to entice a new audience.

A casual mode as been added which supposedly should help ease new players into the series. In fairness to Atlus, they have managed to do this. The explanations early on are well crafted and do a fine job of making sure the player is informed as much as they need to be. What impressed most about the casual mode, was that it assumed a bit of player intelligence and doesn’t overly hold your hand. The game prepares you for what is to come and it is up to you how much help you really need.

It does cover everything from how to create a party, but without taking you through long boring screens of endless text, to how to use and draw your own maps. Veterans of the series aren’t forgotten either, as the casual mode is purely optional, meaning they can enjoy the games difficulty as originally intended.

Generally we at Gamestyle play our 3DS games with the 3D effect turned off and there is no exception in Etrian Odyssey IV, however we were impressed by the 3D visuals when we tried them. It added something to the gameplay experience rather than feeling like something tacked on for the hell of it, or poorly implemented. It added depth to the screen when navigating through the various mazes, which actually helped use the map too.

The gameplay does remain pretty much unchanged from the previous titles, which is nice as it it had a nice balance. The dungeon crawling and exploration is entertaining and any battles you take part in are challenging. With the ability to create a party from seven different classes, you can and should be prepared for any eventuality.

Being able to change the names of characters in your party is maybe a minor thing, but one that is incredibly useful. We found that remembering what class was ideal for what scenario could be a little tough, so renaming party members to something that was more relevant to us personally was ideal. Using names of members of your favourite sports team, film, tv show, band etc is a great way to jog your memory of who can do what.

Anyone who has played the Persona series will be at home with how the various world are laid out, as they combine larger labyrinths with floors that you will work through, taking on various enemy sets, leading to a harder boss at the end. That’s not to say that this aspect is exactly the same, just that it is one area that new players may feel comfortable with. There is a lot more depth to this part than there is in Persona, with interior levels contained within much larger over-worlds. It is very well structured and for sure there is plenty to take in.

There are some nice touches that will keep your interest and stops this being another by the book style JRPG. One that really stands out is the ability to use the touch screen to draw out your own maps as you move through the winding mazes. Whilst this seems like a daunting prospect early on, you start to find it second nature, as you plot your progress and if anything you find this element vital later in the game, This is one area where the dual screen of the 3DS works well and shows the system to be a perfect fit, as you aren’t having to switch away from one screen to load another, then back again. It helps the game flow nicely, rather than being a messy stop, start affair.

The game of course isn’t just about exploring and battling, as there are also elements of resource management, which works alongside the basic upgrading of characters, with stat boosts and basic longer term upgrades. Most of this is recognisable in other RPG games but is packaged well here. Etrian Odyssey IV is far from a short game and hours upon hours can be lost without actually doing much. That is no bad thing though and highlights how engaging the game actually is.

Etrian Odyssey IV is an example of just how engaging a JRPG can be, but also doesn’t stick exclusively to the traditional roots. It is accessible, but the difficulty remains, as it blends what the genre does best with modern elements making sure it finds a wider audience. Whether you are a series veteran or coming in fresh, this is a wonderful game to get stuck in to.

Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon Review

Anyone who owned a Gamecube will have fond memories of the original Luigi’s Mansion. The humour and clever game design created a charming and unique game full of character. Now Luigi is back on the 3DS in what is one of most anticipated games on the console. Was it worth the wait? Venture forth, torch in hand to find out.

The game starts with our cowardly hero being summoned by Professor E.Gadd. The Dark Moon which keeps the ghosts under control have been shattered and they are now terrorising a number of old mansions and buildings. Along with your trusty converted vacuum cleaner it’s up to you to save the day.

Though similar looking, Luigi’s Mansion 2 has undergone quite a drastic change in terms of mechanics and level design. This is indeed a proper sequel rather than a rehash of the last game. The first thing you notice is the change in the enemies you come up against. The original game was mostly about finding a unique ghost in its room, then working out the puzzle of how to get it to reveal its heart with the torch so it could be captured.

Mansion 2 pretty much does away with this style of play completely. Now the ghosts are more generic and not tied in with the puzzles you come up against. There are also more of them at any given time. The game often becomes a series of locked arenas –  as you walk in the door locks and the mischievous ghosts appear. Once all the ghosts in a room have been dealt with the doors will open and allow you to continue.

While the ghosts are no longer individual they still contain all the humour of before. You start out coming up against standard green ghosts with new types being introduced regularly as you progress. Some of these are strong or super smart, while other will fling goo or leap out and scare you – causing you to drop your capture beam. Even the basic green ghosts change, not in look but they get more intelligent as you go on. This starts off with them wearing sun glasses to avoid your torch glare. From then on they will try anything to avoid being captured such as using shovels to hide behind or wearing buckets on their head that can’t be vacuumed off.

The capturing of ghosts has also changed. It is now much more about quick reactions and quickly flashing multiple ghosts with the torch at once. This then allows them to be sucked up. In the first game this was achieved like a mini fishing game while here it is about keeping in line with the ghost long enough and pulling in the opposite direction to fill a meter. Once full, pressing A will give a strong tug on the ghost and hopefully drag it into the vacuum. The changes work for the better and it turns the game into a much more action and score focused affair with bonus coins and gold bars given out for multiple captures at once.

Puzzles have changed as well. The game is now full of secrets and small puzzles which need to be navigated. Most puzzles are used to hide entrances and exits with the more complex ones hiding hidden gems and the elusive BOO’s that lurk around each stage. You are also given a dark light torch which is used to reveal things the ghosts have hidden. This creates a strange ‘spot the difference’ feeling as areas can have different things hidden depending on which mission you are doing. It works well and keeps you on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.

Yet another change is the new mission structure. Instead of one big mansion to explore there are now five areas, each of which is set out in a number of missions. Once a mission is complete you are brought back to E.Gadd’s lab. This change in structure has both good and bad points. On the down side, it feels frustrating not to be allowed to fully explore a whole level at a time and even makes the idea somewhat redundant as objects can move around depending on the mission. It can also be frustrating not being allowed to save in a mission as though they are meant to be fairly short, if you get stuck on a puzzle you could be wandering around for a very long time.

There are positives to the approach though. When the mission structure works it feels perfect for mobile play as you are doing bite sized chunks of the game. The different mansions and buildings are also very unique and full of clever design choices and fun things to see.  It also allows the game to be replayed as a score attack game with any mission re-playable to find extra gold or ghosts to capture. Either way it certainly doesn’t ruin the game, but it can’t be ignored when it impacts negatively on the experience either.

Level design is excellent throughout with literally every room filled with something to tinker around with. You’ll be using the vacuum to roll rugs up, spin ceiling fans and drag objects which opens all sorts of secret passages and routes through the game. Another great touch is that almost every time you come to a window or spy hole you can peak through to what the ghost are up to on the other side. Sometimes this starts a small cut scene while others it just allows you to see what type of ghost is floating around causing trouble. They are always worth checking and genuinely funny.

Graphically, the game might not be quite as sharp as we were hoping but it looks good enough and every area is unique and overflowing with character. The title also offers another example of the 3D effect working incredibly well. This is one of the few 3DS games where you will want to play every second of it with the 3D turned on full. The sound is equally full of character with playful effects mixing with the spooky theme tune. You’ll soon notice Luigi nervously singing along as he walks around, which is a nice touch.

  Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a difficult game to nail down. It has faults relating to the structure of the game and ability to save and when they strike it can be very frustrating. But the feeling of frustration is uncommon and in the next minute something fun will have distracted you from it. When the games allowed to flow it shows itself as an undeniable classic, and it does flow well for very long periods.  The game also seems to improve as it goes on and it’s here the true magic at work comes into play. There’s also a multi-player challenge tower which allow for ghost busting pals to team up and try and take on a number of time and score attack style missions.

Overall, there are some very good and fun ideas that work very well here. It’s a great progression in many ways from the original and at times it’s a truly sublime experience.  It’s also different enough from the first game for fans to want to own and enjoy both. It’s not perfect, but when it works (Which it does most of the time), there are few other games that bring such a smile to your face and it’s hard to argue against that.

Castlevania: Mirror of Fate Review

We are massive Castlevania fans at Gamestyle so any release of a new game is treated with the excitement you would normally associate with some kind of red carpet premier. That said, we have been looking for something new in the franchise of late. We knew Mercury Steam’s take would be a little different but it was with hesitation that we ventured forth into Dracula’s castle once more.

Let’s get this out of the way from the off. This is not a Metroidvania style Castlevania game. You do explore a castle but it’s in a much more linear fashion than the previous games on the DS and GBA. If you want that style of Castlevania there are currently seven games you can choose from to scratch that itch and looking back, if we’re honest about it, few of them are as perfect as Symphony of the Night.

Instead, Mirror of Fate takes us back to the style of the original games and is much closer to something like Dracula X or Super Castlevania IV. This is a bold move, but from our point of view we are delighted someone has taken a chance and tried to mix things up a bit. Bouncing around rooms is all well and good but sometimes you want to smack something in the face and swing around a bit, and this is something that Mirror of Fate offers up in abundance.

The first thing that hits you about the game is how astoundingly incredible it looks. This has to be the best looking game on the 3DS to date. The 3D effect simply blew us away. If there was any doubt about the difference the 3D component of the console could make then this is the game to show it off. The layers of depth and character it adds is simple unbelievable. When used in conjunction with the gothic comic style during the cut scenes it brings the world to life in a way never seen before.

The visuals are boosted by some stunning use of music and sound. Almost all the cut scenes are voice acted and the gruth Scottish accents mix with the forbidding visuals to create an imposingly bleak fairy tale. The grandeur and impact of the music is also of the highest standard. We never believed sound like this could come out of the 3DS. They are much more dramatic orchestral scores than found in classic Castelvania games and add a more serious and dramatic tone to the world. The only slight issues we found with the sound is that you need to make sure your 3DS is turned up as sometimes the softer tones can completely disappear.

The graphics and sound create a much more serious and hard edged tone – much like Castlevania: Lord of Shadow. This game looks and sounds brutal and every second of it feels like an epic and bleak life or death struggle. This is something we really like as it adds gravity and an almost Dark Souls like edge to the atmosphere.

Of course all the window dressing in the world can’t make up for a bad game. Mirror of Fate is much more combat orientated than other games in the series and the developers have taken care to instigate a robust and flexible system to fight off Dracula’s hordes. The developers said they were looking to take influence from Street Fighter for their system and it shows. There are numerous combos, dodges, blocks and launchers which can be unlocked as you progress.  This allows players some flexibility in how they fight. Admittedly limited, special powers and sub weapons are also on hand to help you through.

Once you get to grips with the system you’ll soon be despatching monsters with relative ease, and the system is more fluid than seen in previous Castelvania games that follow the hack and slash route. Combat is the emphasis of the game and you will often find yourself locked into arenas or needing to kill monster to progress around the castle. Players used to being able to duck and dodge their way through the metroidvania style games may well get a rude awakening here.

Boss fights are one aspect that lets the game down a little. They simply feel somewhat less inspired than before and often begin to become repetitive. They can also be fairly merciless which is offset by the fact the game saves what seems like every two minutes. Indeed, the game even saves at checkpoints within boss fights – which may seem stupid until you actually come up against one of the tougher ones. At that point you’ll be glad of them as it stops players hitting bricks walls in their progression. Also, using quick time events really isn’t a good idea.

During your adventure you will play as three different characters but aside from small changes (such as Alucard being able to breath under water without a timer), there is little to distinguish them. In one way this is good as it means any unlocked moves remain throughout, but it would have been nice to see some variation in combat techniques and a more varied way of tackling the castle. Collectibles are also fairly standard with scrolls that expand on the games lore and chests which raise magic and health just about all you are going to find.

Negatives aside this is a bold and risky direction to take the franchise in and in the most part it’s successful. Ok, so the castle isn’t really there to be explored and there isn’t much point in searching out every last corner, but the more combat heavy approach is implemented well and the graphics and sound are incredible. It’s easy to forget that Dawn of Sorrow was merely solid and Order of Ecclesia took half the game to come to life. The Castlevania franchise needed to be shaken up and we are more than happy with the direction.

Overall, this is a game that will likely divide Castlevania fans. Taken on its own merit we can only recommend this to 3DS owners. It’s a dark and forbidding fairy tale told with skill and it conjures an atmospheric adventure which leads into the darker, more brutal side of the Castlevania universe.