Thanks to the folks at Galdra Studios for allowing me to review their debut visual novel, Arcadia Fallen. As a first release from an indie game publisher, Arcadia Fallen definitely exceeded my expectations in many ways. First of all, the game’s high production values from voice acting, to character portraits, and even a catchy anime opening song and animation, all pull you right into the game. From there, the characters and story and unraveling the mysteries of the game keep you glued to your gaming chair. For those that find routine visual novel gameplay a bit dull, you might like the puzzle aspects in Arcadia Fallen because it has a nice crafting and alchemy feature.read more
My first experience with an Atelier Game was Playstation 2 With Atelier Iris back in 2005. Almost 20 years ago. Today for an Easter present, my fiancé gifted me a Nintendo Eshop Gift card – what a good fiancé, right? lol. So I decided to buy some of the older Atelier games in the digital deluxe trilogy “packs”. These packs are also available on PS4. And many of the games are available as stand-alone entries too. Steam on the PC is another good place to look for Atelier games because they actually have some of the older games that have been re-released for PC. Plus there’s always steam sales – although these titles almost never ever go on sale. Boo.read more
I just purchased Calico and began playing it over the weekend. Calico is a cute anime style Cat cafe game. The gameplay is simple and relaxing. You collect cute animals and run errands for towns folk while baking cute treats to sell in your cafe. You can also buy and unlock new recipes, new furniture, and new outfits.
What I love most about this game is how inclusive it truly is. You can be fat, slim, short, tall, black white, or green, or yellow, red, pink, whatever. You can have long hair, short hair, curly hair, straight hair, bangs, no bangs, side bangs, etc. I mean my character looks almost exactly like me in real life. And within game, the NPCs are various body/skintone types too. read more
Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists Ateliers Of The New World is a brand new game by Koei Tecmo Games to celebrate 20 years of the series. Wow has it been that long already? I still remember the first 2 games way back when. And you know what else I remember, a little-known Nintnedo DS offshoot game in the Atelier Series called Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island which came out about 10 years ago.
So why Am I mentioning Atelier Annie? Because, if you’ve ever played it, then you know what to expect from Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists. Both games are unlike any of the rest of the Atelier Games, and instead put you in a role of managing a city and completing missions to advance.
Nelke has some really negative reviews – at least on Steam, but I purchased Nelke anyways, on a hunch it’d be like Atelier Annie, and you know what, I’m not disappointed. If you liked Annie, you’ll like Nelke. Conversely, if you hated Annie, you’ll hate Nelke, and if you’ve never played either game, well there’s only one way to find out then, and that’s by giving it a go for yourself.
The reviews on steam are complaining how different Nelke is — and to some — how boring it is… But honestly Atelier Annie was one of my favorites in the series. I loved the humorous story / humorous main character, and yes, I enjoyed the more “Sim Like” gameplay of building a city.
Nelke is not without flaws however; Unlike Annie, it lacks the humor and charm, and feels a bit dry and dull so far in the story. I’m 4 hours in at this point… which brings to another flaw, in that 4 hours in, I’m still in the tutorial… This game is very very very linear in the tutorial… Like almost everything will be on lockdown… for a long while… expect your first 8+ hours to be linear AF….
After that though there really is a TON of stuff to do in this game. It is NOT boring at all. You can craft items, gather materials, build new buildings, talk to your villagers, discover new recipes, sell items in your shops, and invest in new routes and tools to use in your adventures. There are simplistic turn based combats and different characters to recruit to your village.
You have to complete some required, and other optional tasks within a set number of days within the game. This can make it difficult and frustrating, so save often and in multiple save slots to try to minimize time lost if you miss a goal.
The game either runs slow on my laptop, or just is really slow by design, to the point where its a little frustrating. It may just be my laptop though and can probably be improved if I adjust some settings.
The main complaint a lot of people have is that while exploring you do nothing but watch your characters walk by on the screen. They will converse, gather items, and occasionally run into random enemy encounters. The battles are also slow and tedious. I do agree with these basic gameplay flaws. However, they don’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the other aspects of city building and mission completing and watching my city grow and evolve based on my decisions and choices made in where to invest and what to build next, etc.
The graphics are insanely adorable as always with the Atelier series.
Unlike a lot of the other games in the Atelier Universe, this one does not have English voice acting. I do like to have the original voice actors, but I also sometimes like to have an English cast too. I was disappointed they didn’t offer both.
I assume replay value is high because each city you build will be pretty unique and you will attract different stores, different npcs, and different quests based on how your city is developing.
All and all I’d rate the score card like this:
Title: Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists – Ateliers Of The New World –
Platform – (for this review The PC version was used.) It’s also available on PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Where to Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FMZZYK1?tag=amz-mkt-chr-us-20&ascsubtag=1ba00-01000-org00-win10-other-nomod-us000-pcomp-feature-scomp-wm-5&ref=aa_scomp
Geeky: 3/5 – Points for bringing back some of the popular characters from this series over the past 20 years.
Sweetie: 5/5 – For the casual gameplay and kawaii art
Overall: 53/70 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”
Gameplay: 7/10 – I do love the sim aspects, having been a huge fan of Atelier Annie (easily one of my top 3 games in the Atelier universe). But I do agree that the game is slow and the wait for the payoff/reward is pretty steep. The game also doesn’t run great, can’t tell if it’s just my PC though maybe.
Story: 3/10 – I’m not loving the story, or lack there of. I’m 4 hours in and there’s not much of any story to be found; it does keep hinting at solving a mystery about a fruit from a legendary tree. But compared to other Atelier games the story feels less engaging so far.
Characters: 10/10 – I love seeing popular characters from the Atelier games return all in a brand new game. I also love the new characters that were created just for this game.
Voice Acting: 7/10 – The original Japanese voice cast does a great job and sounds super cute, but where’s the dual English voice acting? A bit disappointing especially for a 20th anniversary edition, you’d think they would have put a little more time and effort into the localization on this one. It feels cheap and rushed to not have both to choose from.
Music: 10/10 – Always love the music in the Atelier games, and Nelke doesn’t disappoint here either.
Replay Value: 8/10 – I think replay value will be very high, but I’m not looking forward to dredging through 5+ hours of linear handheld tutorials each time.
Overall: 53/70 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”
Overall I would recommend this game to anyone who does not mind slower paced casual simulation games, or to anyone who remembers playing Atelier Annie on the DS. I like Atelier Annie a lil bit more because of the humorous story; but Nelke’s story may pick up and become more interesting. I may come in eventually and update my review scores if I find the story to improve as I get further into the game. Gameplay wise though it is almost identical to Atelier Annie, so if that’s your thing, be sure to check Nelke out.
Hi, and welcome to part 2 of a 4 part series covering Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Secret of Mana III, and Legend of Mana. In today’s review we will take a look at Secret of Evermore which is what North America got as a sequel to Secret of Mana, instead of Secret of Mana III.
NOTE: While maybe not technically correct to refer to it as a sequel, because they had completely different development teams, and stand-alone stories and worlds, the gameplay, as well as the name, are so similar that most squaresoft fans (myself included) hold the opinion that this is (more or less) part of the mana series. Squaresoft however has pointed out numerous times that this is not part of the “mana” franchise.
If you’re wondering what happened to Secret of Mana II, well that is what North Americans know as Secret of Mana – that’s right there was actually another game in the series before Secret of Mana, but like many JRPGs it remained only in Japan. I have not played it, but I have played the entire rest of the series, including Secret of Mana III which also never left Japan, but which has been translated by the fans.
For whatever reason, Squaresoft didn’t think Secret of Mana III would sell well in North America, so they brought over Secret of Evermore instead. More accurately, they didn’t “bring it over” but instead actually “developed” the game in America and geared it towards a “western” audience (supposedly). In fact, this game never got released in Japanese. It is perhaps the only North American “exclusive” (though I believe its also in Europe too) JRPG developed by Squaresoft.
If you look at the credits, you will see many English sounding names. See the details from wikipedia below.
Actually a Japanese version was planned to release after the American release but was cancelled because they didn’t think it’d appeal to the audiences over there.
Still, this game does play very much like a JRPG. Actually I might have liked it a little bit more than Secret of Mana though not as much as Secret of Mana III. Critics may not agree, as the game is widely considered inferior to other Squaresoft RPGs.
Title: Secret of Evermore
Release Date: 1995
Platform: Super Nintendo SNES
Genre: Action RPG
Where to Buy: Amazon has Secret of Evermore for SNES ranging from $30 to $45 which is a good buy for a rare retro Squaresoft JRPG
Overall: 54 / 80 68% D+ “Average Game For Girls”
Concept: 10/10 This is a game about a boy and his dog. It plays very similar to Secret of Mana with Real-Time battles and the same Weapon Ring and Magic Ring from the original game. Unlike Secret of Mana, this game only features two characters, a boy and his dog. They travel throughout many different places and times from history lending the game a sorta educational feeling, though blending it with elements of fantasy as well. It also features an alchemy system.
Gameplay: 10/10 Gameplay consists of taking control of both the boy and his shape-shifting dog as they travel through time from the stone age, ancient egypt, and even into the future. As mentioned one of the key mechanics is an extensive alchemy system that allows you to craft your own consumable items as well as key items needed to progress the story. Magic was also reliant on alchemy ingredients which were often scarce in supply. This is an often criticized feature of the game’s alchemy system. I didn’t mind as much though, since when I play a game, I explore every nook and cranny of every room, dungeon, city, etc. I enjoyed the alchemy system even if it was flawed to a degree. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the game as much without said alchemy feature. Then again I enjoy similar games such as Kamidori Alchemist Master, Students of Mana Khemia, and the Atelier series, where you ‘grind’ and search for ingredients for various alchemy recipes. In fact in the end, from a gameplay perspective: this game resembles a mashup of Secret of Mana, Chronotrigger, and Atelier Iris.
Story; 6/10 Like most western RPGs, story is not as strong as what is commonly found in most JRPG games – I feel this is where most of the criticism for Secret of Evermore comes into play. There are a few plot holes, and the story just seems to jump around without much of an overarching plot other than trying to return to your own timeline and the adventurous ‘scamp’ like nature of a boy and his dog, painted against a wild fantasy pseudo historical setting. Though the bare bones for some continuity between worlds exists it is tied only together loosely by a malfunctioning time machine and evil robot invaders.
Characters: 5/10 Likewise the character development is another weak point for most western developed RPG games. There’s really only two characters in this game, a boy, and his dog. Though there are numerous NPCs, they don’t connect with or endear themselves to the audience. The concept of a shape shifting dog was very fun, but the boy feels very flat and unappealing as a main hero leaving the player little reason to care about what happens throughout the story.
Graphics: 8/10 While most critics applaud the graphics in this game for being very detailed and more realistic than most other RPGs, I can’t help but miss the more “anime” feeling graphics of Secret of Mana. And while Secret of Evermore is a very lush and visually stunning game in it’s own right, I miss the more “cutesy” feeling and bright color palettes of other Square RPGs.
Music: 5/10 – The music in Secret of Evermore is composed by Jeremy Soule. This was his first ever videogame soundtrack. He has gone on to work on numerous other RPG soundtracks including Skyrim, Icewind Dale, and Guild Wars just to name a few. Unfortunately, being inexperienced, the soundtrack in Secret of Evermore is often very weak. He dared to be different though, so I’ll give him credit for that. Most of the soundtrack consists of a lot of dead noise and ambient sounds instead of the bright and colorful music found in most JRPGs. Ultimately though, using such a minimalistic tactic makes the background music do just that, fade into the background. It is no where near as memorable as other Squaresoft soundtracks.
Replay Value: 2/10 This, like most other 90s games, is a linear story. It’s also much shorter than other squaresoft RPG – to be fair, I have read that a lot of the game was cut due to cartridge size limitations. Still it is a fun, unique, little RPG that appeals to anyone who loves themes of time travel, or just simply anyone who loves their dogs :).
I hope everyone had an excellent holiday. Today I’m reviewing Steambot Chronicles for PS2. This is one of my favorite games because of the amount of things to do and see as well as the unique steam punk setting within the game.
Title: Steambot Chronicles
Release Date: 2006
Where to Buy: Amazon seems to be the only way to go (aside from ebay of course). The game was a commercial failure in north america, so not many copies exist; and it was before Atlus “struck gold” (and attainted a cult following) with games like Persona 3 and 4. There are currently 2 copies available on Amazon at time of this review for $90 – $120. You can keep checking back. Here is the page for the game on Amazon right here. Edit: Actually there appears to be 2 pages on Amazon; and this one has 11 copies of the game available; some for only $45 – You can check this page also for where to buy Steambot Chronicles on PS2.
Overall: 71/80 89% B+ “Very Good Game For Girls”
Concept: 10/10 Steambot Chronicles combines traditional JRPG elements with a rhythm game. Mechs also play a huge role in the game, as the player can buy or find new mechs, new parts, and customize their mechs to their play style with either fast moving, but weaker mechs, or more heavy duty but slower mechs. Similarly, you can customize your concert experience by purchasing new instruments. You can also find and purchase new outfits and accessories for your characters as well. At the beginning of the game you can customize your hero’s personality by taking a personality test (similar to Tactics Ogre – which I have reviewed here) which will change some of the dialog throughout the game in terms of how the other characters will interact with you. The game is mostly linear with the illusion of choice, with lots of options for you to choose but often resulting in similar outcomes; except for one important choice near the end of the game. In all, the game has a total of 3 different endings. There’s also cooking, dating, and minigames that add to the depth of the gameplay as well.
Gameplay: 10/10 Gameplay is really two fold – the main focus of the game is battling in mechs similar to games such as Xenogears or Robopit. Combat is in real time and you can run, jump, and try to out maneuver your opponent. You pilot your mecha with the two analog sticks and issue commands with the controller buttons. You work on upgrading your mech or can purchase or find new mechs and parts throughout the game. Mechs are used for everything, from travel, to battle, to even mini games. The other main focus is on music, you, and the other members of your party travel around the world putting on concerts. During these events, you, the player, interact with the game in a rythym game that’s similar to games such as Parrapa the Rapper and Umjammer Lammy. There are also other interesting “side” elements to the game such as a stock exchange, dating simulator, city building / interior decorating, cooking, arena battles, and dungeon crawling. There’s also day/night cycles and other elements which make the game feel more lively and immersive.
Story: 6/10 I’ve only played the “good” side. You can also be evil in this game, if you want to, which drastically changes the second half / end of the game. In both sides, the story focuses initially on helping a girl named Coriander whose mother is very sick. This prompts you to join a band with the young girl and several other quirky characters who become your comrades and orchestra members. Most of the conflict and drama in the game comes from rival gangs which are taking over the cities and causing corruption. In the evil side, you cut ties with the band in order to join one such gang in exchange for profits and power. Police will be chasing you and most of the missions will involve things like stealing or breaking and entering. In the good side, you stick by your band members, but like most bands, there are growing pains, and conflicts arise which cause the band members to eventually go their own way. The ending is left somewhat “open” and you can continue to play in sandbox mode after completing the main story. The story is at times heart warming, and even heart breaking, but it takes a back seat to the gameplay. This is not really a game that you play for “story”. The story is not bad of course, but in no way is it the main focus of the game.
Characters: 10/10 Each of the characters are truly unique and it shows through deep attention to detail in character development and the way in which they are all connected through a tragic backstory. It throws a few punches and has a few surprises in store for you when the story is played out and the cards are on the table. The band as mentioned above, has some “growing pains” and the cast who were once all childhood friends, face losing these friendships, or learning that perhaps certain people were harboring dark secrets all along. Actually you become very attached to the characters and when it throws its punches as it will, it will break your heart.
Music: 10/10 – Music plays such a huge role in this game. Similar to Atlus’ other quirky musical rpg (Rhapsody), the localization of this game, in terms of voice acting and singing, is actually very well done. I am usually anti-dub, but I guess when it comes to musical games like this, I enjoy a game where I can “sing along” (in my head lol). I really liked all the tracks in this game, and the way it engages the user with the rhythm game aspects which makes you really pay attention to the music and appreciate it that much more. Also the music itself ties into the storyline and helps you feel closer to the cast of characters.
Voice Acting: 8/10 – The voice acting is good, for a dub. I would have preferred the option left in for Japanese voice acting; but to be honest, not sure I would have played it in Japanese, because I prefer to play similar games such as Rhapsody in English (the later released portable edition of Rhapsody removed the English tracks; and kinda “ruined” the game for me). I think when it comes to a “musical” rpg it just “helps” to have it in your native language. I do listen to jpop and kpop music and enjoy it; but in this case, in Steambot chronicles, the music helps explain the story and helps tell key scenes or helps you to sympathize with the characters. So it’s one of those rare cases where I feel I’d probably enjoy the dub more than the sub. Rhapsody and the upcoming SMT X FE # are two other cases where I could see myself playing the dub more often. I think dubbing it was a smart move in the case of Steambot Chronicles. The dub is not “bad”. It had some big name Anime Voice Acting talent of the 90s.
Graphics: 7/10 – The game is cel shaded and done in a cute and colorful anime style. You can see your outfits which gives it a sorta dressupgame style. You can see the customization to your mech too. The world is lively with traffic in the cities and day and night cycles. The overworld is large with mountains and bumpy terrain (the original japanese title is Bumpy Trot). There’s lots to see and lots to do. But the graphics have some pretty poor textures and the special effects in combat leave a bit to be desired. Still, overall it’s cute with lots of customization, so it gets high marks on graphics from me. The cel shading is not of the quality of say, Catherine (which I’ve reviewed here); but it is also one generation older than that, and a PS2 Game. I think given it’s timeline, the graphics in Steambot Chronicles are quite adorable and vibrant.
I just discovered =&0=& which according to the developer,=&1=&is an action-packed magical =&2=&. You play the principal of an academy, tasked with training your students to save the world, all while finding missing cats, delivering love letters, and helping elderly ladies to cross the road… oh and fighting monsters.”
Unique 2.5D graphics
Real-time battle system
Manage and build your school
Recruit and train your students
Promote your students into various class levels
For Pc, Mac, and Linux, Available on Steam and DRM Free
Job Class System similar to FF5
The gameplay is 2 fold, focusing on managing your students so that they graduate, and then selecting a job class for them similar to Final Fantasy 5. Your students then go out and battle monster with a real-time active combat system.
Also, if you back the kickstarter, you get access to kickstarter exclusive backer reward “Night Mode” In which you may be surprised by your students’ behaviors after hours. Such things, remind me fondly of Graduation 95 by Mixx.
Where to Buy: Sometimes Appears on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Animamundi-Win-Mac/dp/B000EYXDTM or JLIST / JBOX: (no link available) and sometimes available via Playasia: http://www.play-asia.com/animamundi-dark-alchemist/13/701xnb — It’s out of print, and rare, and a highly regarded game so it can be difficult and expensive to find, but I promise you; this one’s worth it!
Release Date: May 31, 2006
Language: English text with Japanese voice acting
Overall Score: 63/80 79% C+ Good Game for Girls
Story: 9/10 You play as a young man trying to find a way to save his sister. In the opening of the game, your sister is accused of being a witch and is beheaded and her body burned at the stake; remarkably somehow, her head survives; and her soul/spirit/etc are all in-tact. she’s able to communicate with you, and it’s still your dear sister that you love so much. You hide her head under your cloak and make your way to the palace, where you take on a job as an alchemist, in order to have access to ingredients to perform experiments to create a chimera (a new body) for your sister. However, her head repeatedly rejects all of the transplant attempts. Seeing no other way to save your sister, you head down a dark path, including alchemy, deceit, murder, and intrigue. It’s a very emotionally moving storyline; you’ll feel fear, anger, and sadness right along with the characters. It’s also a fairly unique story for this type of game. The story suffers a couple of typos and some censorship from Hirameki International when it was brought overseas. I deducted 1 point for that; otherwise I’d honestly give this a 10/10 for story; it is a must play if you’re a fan of story rich games. There are a lot of romance options, including several “yaoi” or “boys love” “BL” routes. However; romance is not the main focus of this game; it’s more about horror and death. Where as, most visual novels give romance the center stage, this is a refreshing change of pace and offers something a little more heavy and dark which will keep you up at night thinking about the ethical and emotional questions that are presented within this game.
Gameplay: 8/10 Standard visual novel faire here; you progress through a story, without combat, or much “gameplay” to speak of, by reading and occasionally making choices that determine which parts of the story you will see and ultimately which ending you will reach. If you don’t like this style of game, then this game is not for you obviously. I however, enjoy visual novels, and I find this one to have a nice amount of choices and a plot that branches early on in the game. There are a few mini games along the way which help provide clues as you learn alchemy and uncover more bits of the story. They are pretty simple, but give a nice break from the read and click format of these types of games.
Concept: 10/10 The story is very unique, very dark, very sad, touching, and beautiful. The characters are all interesting, and the minigames are simple but fun. The nature of it being a visual novel, also ensures lots of routes and plot branches which increase the replay value. It’s a very original concept for a visual novel; I’ve not played anything quite like this. It’s executed well and given life by a talented team of voice actors and beautiful anime gothic styled artwork.
Characters: 6/10 The love between the brother and sister and their two characters are very well developed; however, I feel most of the other characters are forgettable and not as well fleshed out as the main characters.
Graphics: 8/10 It has a unique art style, reminds me a bit of Vampire Hunter D. I prefer a more clean / kawaii style; but that obviously would not fit with a game like this which is gothic and dark. The character designs are more european with the longer noses and more stylized lines. The clothing and fashion in the game is very beautiful and reminiscent of the Victorian era. – Loses 2 points for not having anime cut-scenes, but the sprites and backgrounds are still lovely.
Music: 5/10 Nothing special here, it fits the mood of the scene; but I can’t recall any tracks which stood out in my mind. Just “average”
Voice Acting: 10/10 I love the voice acting in this game, I think it really fits the characters and fits the dark mood of the game, they have so much emotion, and really make you feel the characters’ pain and desperation. I really appreciate that they left the Japanese voices in the game, which is what fans of these styles of games want. I wish more companies did this.