Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

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Gameplay – 8/10

The opening cutscene is super cool imo.

+ Had a lot of fun with this entry in battle sequences.
+ Anyone can learn any skill tree, allows for a lot of flexibility. I especially liked how Void options were just party nulls but you can only apply one at a time.
+ Lots of strategies for fights, and you can’t cheese your way to an early power charge or good attack all the time.
– I enjoy 4 press turn sequences more than 3, but only a minor nitpick.
– Lategame ailments were pretty bad in this game.

Visuals – 8/10

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+ Cutscene fluidity was actually super cool in this game. The opening cutscene was one of my favorite parts of the game actually.
+ Standard SMT fare locales and demon designs.
+ Battle animations are fast so even if you get into a lot of encounters the game speeds by pretty quickly.

Story – 8/10

+ The story had an interesting premise for sure, but it was pretty barebones as well.
+ The characters were quite interesting and had their own motivations.
= Fighting each faction is pretty standard RPG fare.
– A lot of setup and unanswered questions so the story feels unfinished until DDS2.

Content – 7.5/10

+ Game was the perfect length to me, had enough content and ended before it’d get boring.
+ Skill progression was neat and tidy.
– Some sidequests and bosses were a little annoying or felt a little uninspired.

Music – 7.5/10

+ Meguro at it again with another quite good OST. Track list is a bit on the smaller spectrum though.
= Dungeon themes were pretty standard, but battle themes were great.
+ Standouts in this OST to me were Muladhara, Hunting, Hunting – Comrades.
+ I love Hunting so much that for being the games only standard battle theme it never got old. It’s so mellow for a battle theme it makes me feel right at home.

Extra Notes

39/50

Silverae Notes

– I really hate how status effects are balanced in this game. I’d sometimes just get stunned on purpose and not cure it because it was better to be stunned than to have any other status ailment.
– I liked Gale and Cielo the most for characters. I found it interesting how Gale wasn’t part of the “main” group that was in the alternate universe.
– Favorite dungeon was the castle with the story about the Evil and Good Prince. It felt so strange for a SMT game but it set the tone for that area very well with Heat and Serph’s dynamic at that point.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

Ys I & II Chronicles

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Gameplay – 5/10

+ YS1 Bump system was quite fun. Dark Fact was a challenging boss and every run of it is different.
– YS1 felt a little level gated with how much damage you gain per level and the HP you get.
– YS2 magic was overwhelmingly strong and broke the game for sure, as soon as you get the homing upgrades there’s not much of a point to fighting things normally.

Visuals – 4/10

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+ Environments looked pretty nice.
– A lot of the samey areas or areas that felt similar.
= Not many animations as you basically just run into things.

Story – 3/10

= The books of YS and their descendants were an interesting concept at least.
+ Reah and Feena being recurring and seeing the faces from YS1 in YS2 again was cool.
– Nothing really interesting about it though.

Content – 5/10

– Very short games.
+ Some neat sidequests that are hidden here and there or items you can get.
= Low level caps mean you can’t grind yourself out of an undesirable situation. Some fights can remain hard if you aren’t prepared.

Music – 8/10

+ Not Falcom’s best work, but definitely has some good tracks. Bless JDK.
+ Notable tracks include First Step Towards Wars, Tower of the Shadow of Death, Dreaming, Tender People.

Extra Notes

= Some funny stuff in this game, like sleeping in other girl’s beds or sizing them up. Adol is quite the guy, even way back.

25/50

Silverae Notes

– I actually wanted to play this entry eventually especially because of the Zanmai version of First Step Towards Wars.

Ys I & II Chronicles

Tales of the Abyss

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Gameplay – 7.5/10

+ This game is considered the blueprint for future Tales of games, sporting free run and the HP/TP system. AI isn’t too challenging with free run though, and the game does just have better artes for certain characters (Void Tempest, Rending Thrust, etc).
+ Boss battles were fun, especially the six God Generals, All 6 characters were pretty fun to play at times as well.
– Higher difficulties can be statchecky at times, see Unknown mode Liger Queen.

Visuals – 5/10

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– Bad framerate makes things look choppy.
+ Some artes/FOFs are pretty cool looking, but overall leave a lot to be expired. Jade’s spells are a highlight.
– Models and animations outside of battle seem choppy or slow.
+ General art assets are fine.

Story – 9.5/10

+ I really enjoyed all the characters in this game, they all have their own motivations for what they do, including the antagonists.
+ Sidequests bolster the amount of lore and backstory between characters like Tear and Legretta, or even minor characters.
+ The world is pretty well built, Auldrant has some really neat lore behind it.
+ I really think life being bound to prophecy and religion was an interesting concept and it was executed well in this game. It was really interesting how the characters fell into the prophecy and the decisions they took regarding their own destinies.

Content – 8/10

= There is always a lot to do in the story, although it doesn’t always feel fulfilling.
+ A lot of sidequests that are meaningful. Jewel of Gardios, Cecile/Frings, and various costumes are nice to have. I like how every playable character has their own artes sidequest line as well.
– Lots of backtracking.

Music – 4/10

= Standard Motoi Sakuraba fare of music. Some really boring music like the Baticul sewers but some pretty good music at times. Motoo Fujiwara’s contributions to the game are very enjoyable though.
+ Standouts include mirrors, finish the promise, abyss.

Extra Notes

+ FOF circles were the gimmick in this game, they actually make the game way more enjoyable in combat. (+1)
+ Multiplayer was good in this game, the camera zooms out further the more players you have. Doing the Arena Team Exhibition Battle with my sister was really a highlight of my younger years. (+1)

36/50

Silverae Notes

– Loading times are pretty bad.
– I love this game despite the lower score, I played it a ton with my sister and I have a lot of nostalgia for this game, but replaying it kinda let me see it’s flaws as well. It’s really fun to play with someone.
– Sunlight Chamber on Guy is super fun.
– I like Jade, Guy, and Tear a lot.

Tales of the Abyss

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 ~ Torna: The Golden Country

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Gameplay – 10/10

+ Felt like a step up from the original Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Battle System.
+ Swapping Blades and Drivers with unique switch arts as well as freestyle blade combos was nice, even though it kept the extra depth with special blade combos.
+ I already loved the base game’s battle system, but it felt a lot nicer to be able to play as different characters in battle.

Visuals – 10/10

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+ Honestly felt like the graphics improved from the base game, and that they mastered the system.
+ Cutscenes were still great as ever, a particular favorite of mine (spoilers).
+ Landscapes and level design were nice as usual from the Monolith team, and combat specials felt smooth and nice to look at.

Story – 5/10 (8/10 if you’ve played Xenoblade Chronicles 2)

– I feel like the story left us still with a lot of questions, especially if the base game has been played.
+ Some things were done well, such as the explaining of the Tornan Titan and how Lora meets Addam amongst other things.
– They could have used some more time developing characters with Hugo and Aegeaon coming to mind specifically.

Content – 4/10

+- A lot of sidequests to do, this is good because it adds gameplay and exploration, however they pad the story content with mandatory sidequests. This has good plot connotations because of the fact that Addam is seen as a hero though, however.
– A lot of the game would be better if the story was just a little longer.
+ Camping and crafts were a nice touch.

Music – 10/10

+ This is impossible not to give a 10/10, considering I had this theme on loop for like 3 weeks straight.
+ I would give it a 10 just for that theme, but here are some more. Gormott, The Acting God, The Kingdom of Torna (Day),
+ Mitsuda, Kenji Hiramatsu, ACE+, and Kiyota do it again. The use of different instruments for arrangements from the base game is super nice. The Kingdom of Torna is super relaxing.

Extra Notes

+ All in all, I think Nintendo and Monolith Soft did a great job with this expansion DLC, it felt really fruitful to play and I enjoyed it a lot.

39/50

Silverae Notes

– I can’t believe they did almost the full combat tutorial in one battle.
– I really enjoyed Minoth, Haze, Hugo, Jin, and Addam in this DLC.
– The themes in this game carry over to the base game really well, and I felt terrible for Jin. Jin is such a good boy. I ship Jin and Lora for sure.
– I wish we could have seen where Lora resonates with Haze, since Haze seems to be a special blade. And maybe a bit of Hugo and Addam’s interactions in the past, but I just wanted to see more since I love Xenoblade Chronicles 2 so much.
– Gort was really creepy.

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Protect this hecking good boy, please.

 

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 ~ Torna: The Golden Country

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

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Gameplay – 8/10

+ Grid-based strategy elements were pretty good, crack systems and buffs are better utilized than in Devil Survivor 1.
+ Good amount of characters to build teams you like, but there isn’t much of an incentive to need to use other characters.
+ Press turn system is implemented in a unique style, giving you extra battle turns if you hit weaknesses.
– Early game fights felt really grindy, especially with the fairy healing skills.

Visuals – 6/10

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+ 2D sprites and maps. Demon art by Kaneko is always nice to see.
+ Consistent artstyle between characters however with traits that separate them well. (ie. Fumi’s cheongsam, Jungo’s toque)
– Lack of interesting animations.
– Definitely more charming DS/3DS games out there.

Story – 7/10

+ Concepts and otherworldly concepts were interesting.
+ Characters were mostly well developed, especially when it comes to the Triangulum Arc.
+ The Triangulum Arc is what the the Septentrion Arc should have been, although it is better with the extra context as you feel more for the characters. I’d give the Septentrion Arc a 5, and then add 2 for the Triangulum.
– The story feels like it runs around in circles pretty often until the end.
– You either have an idea of what’s going on, but the characters don’t so you run around for a while.
= Characters can be permanently killed, which changes some events.

Content – 9/10

+ A lot of character events, since there are so many characters.
+ Playing both the Septentrion and Triangulum Arcs is an easy 80~ hours if you like grinding extra battles.
+ There are even sidequests within the game, and new game + bonuses.
+ There is a lot of voice acting, and it is basically all done very well. There’ll probably be voices you don’t like, but there’ll also be voices you will really enjoy as well.
= Multiple endings with a lot of rehashed content, good for replayability if you really like the systems.
– A lot of reused content, specifically in the last days of the Septentrion Arc.

Music – 9/10

+ Kenji Ito did a wonderful job with this game. The soundtrack grows on you the more you play it. I felt a little lukewarm about the music at the start, but I’ve come around to really enjoy some of it.
= There is a lot of forgettable music, though it does fit the scenes it is played in.
+ Favorites were Exploration, Septentrion, Battle of the Brave, Will of the Species, Providence.

Extra Notes

– Amount of extra battles, demon cracking could have been a bit simpler.
+ QOL is very nice in this game, things can be done really fast. (Auction, Fusing, Character setups, etc.)

39/50

Silverae Notes

– A lot of likable characters in this game. I liked Daichi, Io (Triangulum), Ronaldo, Yamato, Miyako, and Fumi.
– My favorite character is definitely Otome though, I prefer her more balanced distribution to Fumi’s while still being basically as strong magic-wise after a certain point.
– Lategame demons were kinda hard to get, especially without getting Fate 5 on a lot of characters, though it’s usually like this in SMT games.
– I’d like to see another Devil Survivor game.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

Tokyo Mirage Sessions

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Gameplay – 10/10

+ Session System was very intuitive, felt like a fun spin-off of SMT games for sure.
+ Feels very rewarding to do big damage, and boss fights weren’t gimmicky and just felt challenging.
+ Weapon Triangle system was fun to implement and gave me (has FE background) a sense of when to use certain party members to hit weaknesses, yet had elemental guessing.
+ Had a fun cast of characters that were all viable and easy to use. No penalty for switching out characters in battle as well, which gives an incentive to use other party members.

Visuals – 9/10

+ Really colourful game, and a lot of animated cutscenes (I don’t know how high the budget was for this game, but it surprised me for sure)
+ Session animations were fun to watch for sure.
+ Colourful palettes and nice artstyle.
– Models were a bit stiff at times.

Story – 5/10

– Story conflicts are managed easily, and without a lot of buildup. (Yashiro’s motives for fighting, Ayaha)
+ A lot of FE1/FE3 fanservice here, which personally I really enjoyed but need FE background.
+- Sidestories were hit or miss, but a lot still required FE background to get the true value of it.
+ This game is basically carried by the likable characters.

Content – 7/10

– Sidequests required a lot of backtracking and were very annoying with little reward.
+- Dungeon designs were very hit or miss.
– Sidestories that didn’t have chapter bosses were very flat.
+ Lots of things and systems to upgrade.

Music – 8/10

+ Overall quite good, dungeon themes were a little lacking to me.
+ Liked most of the vocal themes more than I thought I would. Raindrop Memories is probably my favorite song, then Black Rain is the followup vocal song.
+ Battle themes in general were great. The beats and rhythm in Extra Battle.
+ Standout themes: Battle Theme, Bloom Palace, Extra Battle , Quest Battle, Dual Battle, Dream Catcher-inst-.

Extra Notes – (-1)

– Lack of QOL and skipping watching sessions especially late-game.
– Probably way too much backtracking.
+ Systems of gaining abilities through weapons and unlocking weapons with drops was very fun, gave incentive to fight.

38/50

Silverae Notes
– Touma is probably the best sidekick character I’ve ever seen. Shows up and doesn’t give any fucks, and helps your gang out already having the power to fight unlike needing help like most sidekick characters. He kinda got shafted later, but he has mostly everything down and his side story just feels like hanging out with him.
– I love Mamori and she must be protected.
– Yashiro is a really fun character that goes through a lot of growth, I feel like his side-stories were done best and you can definitely feel like the growth is natural. I don’t typically like edgelord characters, but he’s got the good touch of friendliness. I didn’t like Black Rain at first but it really grew on me too and now it’s one of my favorites.
– I’m really happy with the amount of Shadow Dragon fanservice, I thought this game would pander more to Awakening fans. Although instead of Awakening characters stealing the spotlight, I guess Tsubasa kinda did.
– Gold was pretty useless in this game.
– This game really did feel like a Persona 5 prototype.
– People should give this game a chance for sure.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions

Best Presentation/Cutscenes/Graphics in 2017

Best Presentation/UI

subject to change as I play more games

Winner – Persona 5

Is this even a surprise? Persona 5 was lacking in a couple of things for me, but UI and overall feel of the game was definitely not. The theme of red and black in menus and flipping artwork of the MC was way too clean for me to not put this as the winner, as it should be. The thematic definitely carried all the way through and everything just felt right, from Takemi’s blue shop menu to Iwai’s green weapons shop aesthetics and all the color contrasts were done beautifully. A complete overhaul of the battle menu system is what games should be looking to utilize in the near future as well.

Runnerup – Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

Fire Emblem Echoes went for a minimalistic and nice visual feel using maroon-like colors. Stats were easy to read and the palette with the full portrait of each character’s art (which Hidari did beautifully) was always very nice to look at.

 

Most Appealing Graphics

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

While this game might not run optimally on the hardware it’s on, I can say without a doubt Alrest is a world I never want to leave. It’s truly beautiful, as well as all the 3D Models are environments that come with it, and the world is truly expansive enough to keep you in that wanderlust of wanting to see what comes next because everything looks so nice.

Runnerup – Probably every other game released this year

I’ll be honest, my eyes didn’t hurt playing any game this year and in fact I’m pretty sure my eyes were pleasured by looking at all the different aesthetics, artstyles, and general graphics this year. From the slick artstyle of Persona 5 to the mechanic and sharp feel of Nier: Automata.. nothing could go wrong this year.

Best Cutscenes

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

One of the things I was most excited about when XC2 was announced was the return to the style of XB1, and not Xenoblade Chronicles X for the very reason that XC1 had very enticing cutscene direction and music was composed to fit the cutscenes, kind of like how movie composers get to work with film. Monolith definitely didn’t disappoint me either, cause this game had a plethora of cutscenes and they were very fun to watch. The music syncing of Counterattack with the fight scene below is truly astonishing.

Runnerup – Nier: Automata

This game’s cutscenes were heartwrenching and impactful, and if you played the game you’d know exactly what I mean and which cutscenes I’m probably envisioning as I type this up. I won’t link anything as the game is very concise so it’s already easy to look up what you need, but you should just play the game.

Best Presentation/Cutscenes/Graphics in 2017