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Posts Tagged ‘PSP’

Ys Seven (PSP)

Ys (pronounced “ease”) is a little known and often overlooked cult favorite action RPG series that spent most of its time being brushed off as a simple Zelda knockoff. With this latest installment, those days are over. It’s taken a chunk out of the Secret of Mana series as well, and cranked the action up to 11. Don’t let the dated graphics fool you. Ys Seven indeed retains the nostalgic old school gaming spirit, but it’s also modernized away the woes from days long past.

PROS

  • Old school gameplay style
  • Modernized mechanics and gameplay
  • No more grinding thanks to a scaled EXP system
  • Exciting, challenging boss battles
  • Addition of party members to series greatly alleviates repetition problems of other entries in the series (max party of 3)
  • 13 skills of varying effects, unique super attacks, and passive party buff for each of the 7 playable characters adds more variety and combo possibilities
  • Soundtrack generally lives up to Falcom’s reputation for excellency in the area
  • Nearly nonexistent load times

CONS

  • Graphics are about on par with Parasite Eve on PS1, which came out over 12 years ago
  • Pretty bad aliasing issues
  • Simple polygons
  • Missing model animations
  • Many characters have one dimensional personalities. Some have nonsensical sudden personality changes
  • Quite a few key characters are underdeveloped
  • Agonizingly boring, unimaginative, and repetitive dialogue
  • Incredibly cliche plot
  • No extra content at all
  • No reason to play through more than once
  • Dungeons later in the game really start to drag

Regardless of its glaringly obvious and quite severe shortcomings, this has been one of the funnest action RPGs I’ve ever played. It’s not pretty to look at, and in fact, the ugliness actually does cause issues in a few very chaotic boss fights, where you may lose yourself amidst all the aliased effects, but that’s really the biggest issue. The writing is horrible, but it seems they knew this when making this game and have added a built in fast forward feature for cutscenes and dialogue, so that’s not really a problem. Overall, it’s still a very fun ride while it lasts, but there’s absolutely no reason to keep it around once you’re done with it.

VISUAL: 3.5/10

One of the game’s greatest faults. Quite frankly, if it was any uglier, it could pass as a DS game. The polygons are ridiculously simple, as are many textures. Their idea of a shadow effect is a texture with the edges darkened. Many textures are essentially a solid uniform color. And then there’s the model animations. For some bizarre reason, many transitional animations are just outright missing. For example, instead of showing a character crouching, what they’ll do instead is fade out the old character model, then fade in a new one of the character already crouching. Fortunately, this happens primarily in cutscenes, which many of you are most likely going to skip anyways. Battle animations seem to all be intact.

Octagonal moons sure are mystical.

This game also has some of the worst aliasing problems I’ve ever seen on the platform. The jagged edges are so bad, it almost looks as if the 3D render doesn’t even run in the system’s native 480×272 resolution, and is actually upscaled from a lower res. This causes problems in some of the chaotic boss fights (of which there are many) where the screen is littered with so many aliased transparent effects, that everything kinda just blends together in this mess of pixels and you can’t actually see what’s going on anymore.

That said, it isn’t all bad. There are occasionally some pretty advanced blur and lighting effects that look almost out of place. Sadly, they’re far and few in between, and rather hard to appreciate when it’s set onto a backdrop of jagged edges and simplistic polygons. At the very least, the battle special effects are generally much higher quality than the world and character models with much less aliasing, and they will often fill your screen. The artwork also looks quite nice.

Probably the prettiest area of the game, showing off some lush (though non-dynamic) lighting effects on the flowers and a trailing blur effect when the screen moves. It looks pretty out of place in the midst of those octagonal “circles” and low quality models though.

AUDIO: 8.5/10

Although there a few pretty terrible tracks (*cough*Raud’s theme), the music you hear most often are among the best. Many of the town and cutscene tracks are fitting, but forgetable and generally unmoving, though there are a few great ones among them too (I’m particularly fond of Kylos’s music). This is a very action heavy game, and most of your time will be spent in the overworld, dungeons, or a boss battle, and most of these tracks are excellent. They’re bassy, hard rocking, and exciting, greatly adding to the fun of chopping up enemies. You would be doing this game a great disservice to play it without decent headphones, as almost all the bass is lost with the PSP’s pathetic little speakers. This is definitely a game you’d want to have the soundtrack for, if you’re into that.

There’s no voice acting outside of battle grunts, which is actually rather refreshing after the Prinny English VAs made my ears bleed and Lunar ones made me grate a full cm off my teeth in about 5 minutes. Otherwise, the sound effects are rather unremarkable, other than they manage to sound old school but without the low quality of old days.

PLOT/WRITING: 3.2/10

Although 2 or 3 major plot points will drop your jaw, most of it is cliche and boring. You’re a goody two shoes adventurer, Adol, and you randomly stumble upon a quest to save the world. In order to do so, you must visit 5 dragon shrines and gain their power. Along the way, you meet a bunch of people who happen to have problems, so you help out. And that’s about it…for the first half of the game. I won’t spoil the second half for you, since the plot really gets going after a major plot twist halfway through, but I can tell you it does get better. Sadly, due to character underdevelopment issues, it still wasn’t commendable nor memorable, outside of one major twist near the end.

The plot isn’t the worst part though. Probably the single worst thing in this game is the dialogue, especially from NPCs, and it ruins the already unimpressive plot to a point where it actually hurts to keep reading. I kid you not, there are literally dialogues that go:
“We’re looking for the Eldress of Shannoa, Fatima.”
“Is that so…”
“Are you Fatima, the Eldress of Shannoa?”
“Yes, I am Fatima, the Eldress of Shannoa. What can I do for you?”
“We need your help, Fatima.”
“Oh, and what can the Eldress of Shannoa do for you?”
“There are some problems Altago is facing that we hope you could shed some light on, being the Eldress of Shannoa.”
“Oh, what sort of problems? I, Fatima, will see what I can do.”
And that was from a plot cutscene. Talking to NPCs is even worse. Most of them won’t say anything you won’t hear about 5 million times from the main story anyways, and when they don’t, it’s about some mundane, completely irrelevant subject like government politics or fashion. It’s so bad, that the best piece of dialogue in the game is a blatant reference to Aeris from FF7 and the controversy over the spelling of her name (Aeris/Aerith). When the only way they can make dialogue interesting is to refer to a character from another game they had no part in making, that says a lot about the general quality of their writing.

Thanks for the newsflash, captain obvious. Thanks for the great shadow “effects” too, Falcom. At least the art looks good.

I’m normally pretty adamant about talking to everyone in RPGs, but I honestly couldn’t bear to speak with another NPC again after the first town and simply used an FAQ to find quest NPCs. I strongly advise you all to do the same.

GAMEPLAY: 8/10

Finally, there’s the meat of the game. Gone are the stale repetitive mechanics of old Ys, as there are now 7 unique characters to choose from to form a party of 3 of your choice, each with a unique passive party buff (such as increasing damage dealt or EXP gained), and 13 unique skills of various effects. They can do anything from sucking in a mob of enemies, launching them, knocking them down, inflicting status ailments, pushing them away, pulling them towards you, firing projectiles, jumping into the air for safety, and many other properties. You can equip up to 4 skills at a time and use them by holding R and pressing the corresponding face button. Skills in action RPGs are nothing new of course, but what is impressive about Ys Seven’s is the variety and possibilities with them. They’re not just things you spam for damage. There are skills meant for direct damage of course, but generally you use them for special properties. Against normal enemies, it’s much better to launch or knock them down with a low SP skill then wail on them with regular attacks than to waste a high SP damage attack on them, for example. You’ll also find yourself in some situations against bosses where you have to create distance to dodge an attack, then close the distance with a fast traveling skill first before laying down the hurt. It’s not ground breaking, but for what it is, it is exceptionally well done and adds a lot of combo and tactical possibilities so it never feels like you’re just doing the same thing over and over.

The AI is also excellent. While they are excellent at staying alive and only take half damage, they also only deal half damage and will only attack when you do. What it essentially boils down to is that the AI pretty much holds onto 2 characters for you while providing minor support, but the one you’re controlling is always the star of the show. If you want to reap the full benefits of another character, you’re gonna have to control them yourself.

The super meter from Ys 6 is back, now known as the Extra Gauge. It slowly recharges by itself, and also from using skills (more depending on number of hits) and flash guarding (more on that later). Unlike skills, extras aren’t that different from one another that it makes a difference, and quite frankly, there’s no reason not to use the strongest extra every time, seeing as your whole party shares the same meter. Only 2 party members have non-direct damage extras, and one of them is completely useless, since all it does is increase that character’s normal attack damage.

Also new to the series is flashing guarding. Basically, you hold R and press L right before you get hit. You’ll take no damage, gain a large chunk of SP and extra, a short moment of invincibility afterwards, and about 2 seconds where all your attacks automatically crit. However, if you mistime the guard, you in turn, will be critted. A double edged sword (no pun intended) that adds more depth to battles. Although severely overpowered when mastered, it’s wholly unnecessary for completing the game, even on nightmare difficulty. But it does give you more ways of beating a boss than just dodging and hitting back, further alleviating repetition issues of old games. However, attempting to overuse flash guard may lead to occasional frustration, since many bosses momentarily freeze when hit, and your AI party members may still be pummeling the boss while you’re anticipating an attack, causing you to mistime your guard and taking massive damage for it.

PROTIP: To get the most mileage out of your hard earned Extra attack, only use it after a successful flash guard.

Speaking of difficulties, there are 4 in this game: easy, normal, hard, nightmare. The differences between them are minor, most important one being that bosses use their full repertoire of moves on hard or nightmare. Due to the nonexistent replay value of this game, I strongly advise you to play on at least hard if you want to experience everything the game has to offer in one go. Nightmare simply isn’t more difficult enough beyond normal to warrant another playthrough, especially since the normal mobs don’t change, other than possibly being more tedious as it takes another hit to take them down. At least it doesn’t just turn battles into a lame grindfest like Crisis Core’s hard mode though. Your kill times across difficulties should be similar (besides easy, where you do so much damage, there’s no point in playing it at all).

Probably the most welcome addition of all is the introduction of a scaled experience system. Basically, you get a huge bonus to exp gain when you’re a lower level than the mob. What this means is that you can basically skip every normal encounter in the game if you want, and just get a few kills right before an obvious boss battle. Although it’s also entirely possible to just not grind at all (with dodging and flash guarding at your disposal, it’s not that difficult to never get hit once you get really good), this isn’t recommended. Level difference is the primary determinant of damage dealt and taken, which I feel is also a good thing. You can pretty much never spend a dime on armor thanks to this, and you can skimp on weapons for your backup characters too and they’ll still be able to do significant damage. To give you an idea of just how great this system is, lemme give you my example. I hate grinding, so I’m always underleveled. After the last boss utterly destroyed my level 51-55 party (the last boss is level 57-59), I grinded the first mob outside the last checkpoint for 5 minutes, and now all 7 of my party members are 58-59. Without bothering to grind for ultimate gear, I went back in and kicked the last boss’s ass.

As with other Ys games, boss battles are challenging and exciting. Unlike most RPGs where you pretty much just duke it out until they die, the high damage/hp nature of Ys bosses forces you to learn their patterns and formulate strategies accordingly. This is enhanced further with the introduction of party members and 3 damage types (of which each character may only use 1 of, besides Adol). A popular strategy is to use the archer to farm for SP, Adol to spam DPS skills, and the hammerer to use the extra gauge. This is just one of the many ways to take down a boss.

That all said, the gameplay isn’t perfect. While the early dungeon designs are decent enough, they quickly descend into tedium due to linearity, length, and forced backtracking to artificially extend the game. Although the below screenshot looks open ended and complex, there’s actually only one path. You just have to go in circles a lot. As you can see, the terrain isn’t exactly interesting to navigate either. Many dungeons fall into this pattern of thin halls followed by a big room with baddies, followed by another thin hall. Although tolerable early on when dungeons are only a few zones long anyways, it won’t be long before you find yourself lamenting every time you zone and find out the dungeon isn’t over yet.

Regardless of how it looks, there is actually only 1 perfectly linear path through this zone. Also, you can see that the aliasing problem is so severe, even this simple map has aliasing.

CONTENT: 5/10

I’ve only played through it once on nightmare mode, which took 33 hours without grinding (though I spent quite a bit of time testing damage multipliers). Most report around 25 hours per playthrough. A healthy manageable length, and just about right for what this game has to offer. In the end, you feel just satisfied, perhaps a little relieved. In my experience, I did feel the game begins to drag by the last 2 dungeons, but I’ve always been allergic to monotony.

There are absolutely no extras at all. No boss rush, no uber optional bosses, no bonus dungeon, not even any sort of gallery or music player option. Because of this, there is absolutely no reason to keep this game once you’re done with it. It’s unlikely you’d want to see more dungeons and more normal mobs after the tedious final dungeons, and the only motivation to keep playing would be for the soundtrack and maybe to see some of the artwork again. You can google the latter, and you’re really just better off buying the soundtrack with the money you get back for this game.

Visual: 3.5
Audio: 8.5
Writing: 3.2
Gameplay: 8
Content: 5

VERDICT: 7.8 (not an average)
VERDICT: 8.5 (not an average)

 

Although moderately lengthy and generally great fun while it lasts, the absolute lack of extras gives you no reason to keep playing and tedious dungeon design deters you from playing it again. It’s a great leap forward for the series, enough to put it out of Zelda’s shadow and warrants a purchase from action RPG fans, but this is by no means a keeper. The abysmal writing will disappoint people who play RPGs for plot, and the graphics are quite an eyesore. None of that matters though, and I still love this game. It’s a gamer’s game that’s all about the playing, like the games of old. I originally grabbed it because Kingdom Hearts wasn’t out yet and I needed something to hold me off until Patapon 3 and the new God of War hits, but what I got was so much more. Flawed it may be, but trust me when I say this, this is a Ys game that you do not want to overlook.

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Before I get the inevitable OMFG ONLY 7.8!??! DIS GAME NOT BELOW AVERAGE DESERVE 9 OR BETTER! comment, please keep in mind I use a 0-10 grading scale, not the industry standard 6-10.

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Assassin’s Creed has become one of the highest acclaimed series of its kind, especially after the second console game came out. As such, the announcement of this game coming to the PSP was met with high expectations and anticipation. I must apologize again for taking other people’s screenshots, but this time, you wouldn’t be fooled to think bad of this game from the fact that I no longer have it.

PROS

  • Altair is very well rendered and smoothly animated
  • There’s a wide assortment of freerunning moves

CONS

  • Everything else in the game is fugly and bland
  • You only use 2 freerunning moves for 99.9% of the game: climb and jump
  • Forgettable soundtrack
  • Pointless plot
  • Possibly the single worst combat engine ever made
  • Maria (the heroine) is fugly in ways which they have not yet had need to invent words to describe
  • Severe lack of content
  • Retarded AI
  • Very short draw distance
  • A very high random spawn rate
  • Boring boss battles
  • Not very intuitive control scheme

As you can probably already tell, this isn’t a very good game. If you’re deciding whether or not this game is even worth the time to play for free, let me tell you first that the answer is no. Just no.

PLOT: 1/10

Nothing gets resolved by the end of the game. Nothing. Other than seeing how Altair meets Maria, which happens on the first level, absolutely nothing of importance happens. The dialogue consists mostly of telling you who to kill next for reasons you won’t care all that much about and have no relevancy to the main plot anyways. Small wonder why that didn’t get resolved.

AUDIO: 5/10

Some say the voice acting for this is an improvement over the console ones as Altair now has an accent instead of that generic tough guy voice. They also argue that since no one knows how people spoke back then, it’s more historically accurate than talking like a rugged american action hero. Well, I may be going out on a whim here, but I’m quite willing to bet my arm and leg that ARAB ASSASSINS BACK THEN DID NOT SPEAK WITH A RUSSIAN NERD ACCENT. And it still wouldn’t change the fact that he delivers all his lines completely flat, along with everyone else in the game. Though, that may just be the pointless dialogue at work.

The ambience and musical score is forgettable. At the very least, the sound effects are crisp, for those of you who love the artificial sounds of metal cleaving through flesh and meeting the bone. It’s probably the second best feature of this game.

The satisfying sound of metal on bone isn’t very well represented in this screenshot. The ugly non-Altair models, however, are.

VISUAL: 0/10

Yes, Altair looks awesome and you can even see his beard. Yes, his cloak flows in the wind. You might think that alone would earn it one point in this category, but it’s sadly counteracted by Maria’s model. It is so ugly that in fact, there isn’t a single screenshot of her available on the entire internet. A pretty big letdown considering it would’ve really drove home the point, but perhaps its absence is informative enough. You can find 2girls1cup and the lotus boob on the internet, but you cannot find a screenshot of Maria in AC:B. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, trust me, don’t look them up. I promise you that you’ll be sorry you did.

Seriously, if women in real life looked like that thing, the well off would pay to be castrated and straight would be a derogatory word.

The creators obviously disagree with me, since cutscenes use ingame graphics where they liberally zoom in on people’s faces when they talk so you can really enjoy in full detail the marvels of 16-bit textures upon a cube with slightly rounded edges.

Ok, so maybe it’s set in the Cthulhu realm and everyone is fugly. But what of the world itself? Surely if they didn’t spend time on the character models, they were spending it on creating a lush vibrant environment to freerun around in, right? I’ll tell you what they did, and what they did was find about 3 textures with quality that has been unseen since Wolfenstein 3D and modeled about 5 structures after cardboard boxes and proceeded to copy and paste them on top of each other, a la RPG Maker. The game spans 2 cities and several castles, and they all look exactly the same. It’s a level of blandness that could easily compete with that in Superman 64.

Welcome to the world of AC:Blandness.

Surprisingly, that isn’t the end of the graphical problems. Apparently a majority of the GPU’s power is used to render Altair’s cloak. Distant structures are hidden by a heavy fog, as you can see above. But that’s really a minor detail when compared to the fact that Altair can only see about 15 feet around him. Towns feel pretty empty, and that’s also a minor detail, as the draw distance causes major gameplay problems.

GAMEPLAY: 3/10

I’ll have to be honest here, I did enjoy AC:B for the first 5-10 minutes. There’s freerunning and you get to kill people. How can you possibly go wrong with that?

Griptonite obviously saw that statement as a challenge, because they’ve managed to do everything wrong. There’s nothing terribly wrong about stealth killing, other than the fact that the ai is retarded and will watch you slaughter their fellow guard, and then keep walking past as if nothing happened. Unfortunately, that’s about the best aspect about the gameplay.

The combat engine is like a detuned version of Blood Omen 2’s. That game came out in early 2002. They have actually managed to make a combat engine that’s more limited than something that was made over 7 years ago. You have 4 different weapons, but 1 of them doesn’t work in combat, another has more recovery than hitstun and they hit you right back for more damage afterwards. That leaves the sword and throwing knives. The throwing knives are your cheap limited 1 hit kill projectile attack, so you’re going to be using the sword almost exclusively. You have a tackle, but the ai counters it 100% of the time, INCLUDING WHEN THEY HAVEN’T SPOTTED YOU YET. Right, so that’s useless.

You’re left with the option of attacking, dodging, or countering. There’s really no point in dodging (except against the final boss), so it’s just attack or counter for 99.9% of the game. Except bad guys attack once every 30 seconds, so you mash on attack for about 98% of the time you’re in combat. Fortunately, there’s a gameplay feature (or glitch) where you actually deal full damage with your attacks even if they block it with a giant shield. On the plus side, this makes things go a lot quicker. Unfortunately, it degrades combat to mashing attack a lot, and sometimes pressing counter until everything dies.

There are different mobs, but they all behave and are dispatched of in the same way, including every boss until the last. Bosses attack slightly more often and don’t suffer from hitstun. That’s about the only difference. The last boss has a lot of uncounterable attacks, so that’s the only time you’ll touch the dodge button. The only exciting thing to know about boss battles is that they won’t randomly respawn. Sadly, that doesn’t apply to regular battles. The way the game deals with the poor draw distance is to have entities randomly spawn anywhere within a 15 feet radius of Altair, including right in front of his face. This happens every 5 seconds or so. So basically, by the time you managed to kill one guy, another 1-3 have already spawned and are up your ass.

That won’t bother you though, because fortunately, you can use the draw distance to your advantage to “stealth” past all normal guards. You do this simply by running in a straight line at full speed. That’s it. They will have been deleted from existance by the game’s draw distance limit long before they can realize you’re an assassin and shout out to the rest of his guard buddies. Funny how they’d think you’re an assassin just because you’re running, but don’t suspect a thing when you pounce someone they were talking to in the back and stick a knife in it.

Farewell, fugly world. Me and my cloak are too beautiful to exist within the likes of thee.

Of course, combat and stealth are only 2/3 of what AC is about. This series was also highly acclaimed for the freerunning. Sadly, they managed to screw that up too. Altair has a huge variety of ways to get around, including wall jumps, swinging, backflips, etc. Sadly, the level designer has about as much imagination as a gnat, and you’ll only use his ability to climb and jump for pretty much the whole game. There’s one optional Limassol coin that requires you to backflip off a climbhold, about 2 instances where you can swing from a bar, and not a single spot in the entire game where wall jumping gets you anywhere. Every zone in the game is designed this way. You can’t even freerun for the fun of it because any route that goes anywhere is only accessable by either climbing or jumping.

Content, Replayability, Extras: 0/10

Play the first 5 minutes. Repeat until the last boss. That’s the entire game in a nutshell. Mercifully, including all sidequests (besides the hidden Limassol coins), the game is only about 4 hours long. I’ve heard one report of a playthrough lasting 16 hours. Clearly, he didn’t notice that blocked attacks still deal full damage and countered everyone to death. That’s 11 hours of staring at the screen waiting for something to happen. You really literally are better off watching paint dry. At least paint won’t cost you $40 a pop.

Hunting for coins might sound like good fun for those treasure hunting fans out there, me included. Sadly, they also suffer from the draw distance limit, and you can only see a coin if it’s within 15 feet of you. As you might be able to tell from the screenshots, the areas are quite large. Scouring the city of blandness 30 feet at a time is tedious and boring. It also means an faq can’t help you because every part of the city looks exactly the same as every other part.

There’s also an upgrade system but none of it does anything significant besides increasing your max hp and maximum number of throwing knives.

There’s also some achievements you can do. I think they might unlock some stuff in the PS3 AC2 but I’m not sure. In any case, you get nothing from this game for completing them, and most of them are simply get all coins in X area. There’s also one for getting 100 counter kills. You’ll have plenty of fun with that one.

Plot: 1
Audio: 5
Visual: 0
Gameplay: 3
Content: 0

Verdict: 3/10 (not an average)
Verdict: 6 (not an average)

You’d probably have expected a lower score according to my grading scale, but most of the problems in this game can be bypassed, so it isn’t quite agonizing to play through. The real problem is that you’d have bypassed pretty much the whole game and not a single moment of it would’ve felt entertaining. You’d be better off not playing the game at all, unless you have a serious fetish for watching Altair and his flowing cloak on the go. You’d probably enjoy reading this review more than you would playing the actual game. It’s like a Steven Seagal movie really. Quite a lot of fun to make fun of, not terribly fun to actually watch.

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First of all, I’ll have to apologize about the screencaps. I’m stealing them from the kind folks over at GameFAQs and Gamespot since I don’t have the game anymore at the time of writing. But don’t let that fool you. This game may not be a keeper, but it is a very good action game and you’d be missing out if you don’t at least rent it.

PROS

  • It’s a second-rate God of War clone
  • Good combat mechanics
  • Large moveset
  • A lot more boss battles than GoW
  • A good mix of brutal combat and engaging platforming/exploring

CONS

  • It’s a second-rate God of War clone
  • Badly made. Quite a few graphical glitches (including a fatal one) and abrupt cutscene transitions
  • Camera is too zoomed in. You’ll often not be able to see where the bad guys are
  • Beast riding sections are unvaried and get dull and pointless quickly
  • Sound effects are lackluster
  • The very hard difficulty is barely any harder than normal
  • Most of said large moveset is completely useless
  • Bad hit detection
  • Quick time events (QTE) aren’t very varied or interesting. Mostly you mash your O button until it falls off.

At first glance, you can see that this game has quite a few imperfections. You’d find more as you look deeper, but for a game like this, none of it will really matter. It’s a brutal beat ’em up, and the only thing you’ll care about 99% of the time is the combat, and it doesn’t disappoint.

GAMEPLAY: 8/10

Dante is given 2 weapons at his disposal fairly early in the game. Death’s scythe allows for quick melee attacks or devastating aoes and ranged combos. Although scythe combos are very flashy, you’ll find that most of the game is more effectively played by spamming Beatrice’s cross. It’s slower, but shoots out many projectiles, giving it great range and damage potential. Dante can also learn to charge up his cross attacks for massive aoe damage, and even an aoe stun attack to set enemies up for any combo you desire. Fortunately, most of the game is easy enough that you really can just kill them in any way you feel like.

The game has an upgrade system where you can level up either your scythe or cross by choosing to punish or absolve hell’s residents, increasing their damage. You also gain souls from kills, fountains, and Judas coins that you can spend to buy new moves or abilities, given that your scythe/cross proficiency is sufficient to learn them. The system isn’t terribly deep, and you’ll find yourself going through most of the game killing everything with the R button, which allows you to punish or absolve your weakened foe. This isn’t terribly exciting, but at the very least, there is an absolute overabundance of exp you can gain in this game that you’d max out both weapons long before you near the end. The same doesn’t apply to souls however, so choose your upgrades wisely.

An extendo scythe. I wonder where they got that idea from?

While there are a large number of mobs for you to eviscerate, they generally fall into 3 categories. You have your 1 hit kill fodders (undead, babies, fliers), big slow guys that you can run away and spam cross at (goats, gluttons), and 3 enemies that require a somewhat unique tactic to kill effectively. While not terribly interesting on their own, they often come in large groups and a variety of combinations, which keeps the normal combat interesting. The boss battles are much more engaging, I’m glad to say. You won’t beat them just running around and spamming your cross.

On certain enemies, after you’ve sufficiently weakened them, you’re given the choice to initiate a finisher QTE. This is nothing new, but I must warn you about a glitch where you’ll sometimes get pushed off the stage after the QTE and then fall to your death. It doesn’t happen that often, but can be frustrating when it does, especially if you were on the last wave of enemies in the final circle of Fraud, on infernal difficulty, which has happened to me. Twice in fact.

You’re also able to hijack and ride a giant beast. While it looks very cool the first few times, and the one beast puzzle is pretty neat, most of it is going to be pretty dull due to the fact that your beast is completely invincible and yet, not very damaging. You’ll find yourself repeatedly pummeling wave after wave of minions with one of 3 moves which do more or less the same thing and wonder why it isn’t time to move on yet.

That leaves the puzzles and platforming. The puzzles are generally obvious as day, with one or two exceptions, and likewise, the platforming is generally pretty easy, except for 2 optional souls. There’ve been complaints that they took out many of the puzzles and platforming sections that were in the console versions, but trust me, they’d just ruin the pacing.

PLOT: 3/10

It’s retarded. Don’t pay attention to it. Their idea of an endgame plot twist is telling you that you’re already dead. Well gee, you’ve only met with death and have spent the last 8 hours wandering around hell. I thought I was still in Kansas. Another example of their brilliant plot twists: revealing that Beatrice is Dante’s wife and not his sister. I mean, wow, you’ve only pronounced your love to each other like 5 times and had sex. It was totally my first instinct to assume that you were in hell for incest.

Visual: 7/10

Hell is very nicely rendered, and some areas do look unique enough to be memorable. A large majority of it is going to be a lot of rock with brown, red, and orange hues. Character models look good enough that they all look just “right” at all times. They might be very well detailed, but if they are then I can’t tell on the small psp screen or with the camera zoom level. Fortunately, the combat effects are spectacular. You’ll enjoy watching Dante hack up the armies of hell into a mess of blood, guts, and brightly colored orbs.

Another room standing on a rock, surrounded by a whole lot of other rocks with a not so faint red ambience. Lovely.

Cutscene and area transitions are pretty much non-existant, and I don’t mean in a good way. You’ll often times be walking around somewhere, then the screen just blacks out for a second and a cutscene of a place that looks nothing like where you were just walking will start up. After the cutscene ends, you’ll probably find yourself somewhere else that has nothing to do with either where you were before the cutscene or during. It’s good for a quick laugh, but those looking for an immersive experience are going to be seriously put off by it.

There’ll also be quite a few glitches due to the camera going through walls and the like. Some parts of the level will disappear, but that’s really details compared to having the enemies disappear behind the camera. Especially in the last circles of Fraud, you’ll often wish the camera was done better so you can stop getting mauled by enemies charging in from offscreen.

Do keep in mind of course that this is an M-rated game. There will be quite a bit of nudity and people being eaten and buzzsawed and giant vaginas. Some of which have items inside to help Dante on his journey. Some say this sort of presentation is a bit over the top, but keep in mind that this is a GoW clone. GoW has minigames where you have sex with prostitutes, for crying out loud. With that in perspective, the mature content in this game is absolutely appropriate.

Audio: 6/10

This is a hard one for this game. The voice work is very well done, especially given how incredibly bad the plot related dialogue is. Dante sounds like the bad-ass he is, Virgil sounds omniscient, etc. The ambience is pretty good too. It’s subtle and fits with the scenary to generate the right kind of mood. The big problem is with the combat sound effects. All your moves look very devastating, but they sound incredibly understated, which really takes away from the feeling. Anyone who’s watched Ong Bak before knows what I’m talking about. Although everything looks devastating, it doesn’t sound devastating, and thus, it doesn’t feel very devastating, and is thus, less satisfying. Considering how much of the game is spent hacking enemies to pieces, that’s a lot of potential satisfaction lost in an otherwise great experience.

Content, Replayability, Extras: 7/10

A casual run through the game will take the average gamer 6-8 hours. The pacing is generally quick enough that you’d still enjoy this game a second time around (with the exception of Fraud, which is just one long gauntlet of battles). You can unlock the infernal difficulty by beating it once, but you’d be disappointed if you were expecting a hardcore experience like GoW’s god mode. Infernal mode in this game adds a few more enemies, makes you sap less hp/mp from foes, and makes spells use up a bit more juice. But really, you go through the game pretty much the same as you would on normal.

The game offers some extras in the form of souls and Judas coins. Souls are residents of hell that you can choose to punish or absolve for large quantities of exp and, well, souls. Some are in plain sight, but many are hidden, out of the way, or hard to reach. Judas coins are hidden in very out of place red fountains. For those of you who love exploring every nook and cranny looking for goodies, this is the extra for you. There are 30 coins in total, and while you’ll be able to find around 20 of them with just basic searching, a good chunk of them require very keen attention to details to find. Or an faq. I helped with the coins section for the GameFAQs one, btw.

2 runs through the game (one on normal, one on very hard) and finding all souls and coins took me 14 hours. For the average gamer, it’d last around 16-20 hours if they decide to do an infernal mode run. Take out about an hour for Fraud, which isn’t quite very enjoyable, and you’re paying for around 17 hours of hellspawn eviscerating goodness.

Gameplay: 8
Plot: 3
Visual: 7
Audio: 6
Content: 7

Verdict: 7.5 (not an average)
Verdict: 8.5 (not an average)

Although the game suffers from many flaws, the important bits are well done enough to make it highly enjoyable. It’s not original, and it’ll feel like a bootleg GoW, but that isn’t a flaw, regardless of what IGN and Gamespot say. You’ll be sorry if you’re a fan of action games on the go and don’t make an effort to rent or trade-in for this second-rate GoW clone, especially since no new GoW for psp has been announced yet, and you’re probably craving some with the advent of GoW3.

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