Connect with us

Game Reviews

‘Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice’ has one of the most emotionally gripping narratives of the entire series

Published

on

On average, the Ace Attorney games have been about the same quality throughout. Each provides a new set of cases to explore and great new characters to meet. Some games obviously stand out with better examples of these two elements, but all of them are good for their own various reasons. And while Spirit of Justice is no exception to this pattern, it branches out surprisingly far from the rest of the series.  

Image result for spirit of justiceMuch like other Ace Attorney games, Spirit of Justice begins with an introductory trial that helps jog the memory and perhaps introduces some story beats that will be important later. This is also where Spirit of Justice starts to show its differences. Phoenix immediately finds himself in a foreign courtroom in the Kingdom of Khura’in with rules that only work against lawyers. In fact, one of these laws — the Defense Culpability Act — states that if a lawyer’s client should be found guilty, said lawyer will receive their same punishment.

This raises the stakes of the gameplay to a whole new level. Since all of Phoenix’s clients are accused murderers, and Khura’in’s punishment for murder is the death penalty, if they’re found guilty both them and Phoenix will be executed. It’s literally a life or death scenario. Also, because a pivotal event in the Kingdom’s past, all of its citizens absolutely despise defense attorneys. Seeing Phoenix cope with these issues adds another layer of interest to his already awesome character. Unfortunately, these off the wall circumstances make the regular court cases seem a little too familiar.

Image result for spirit of justice khura'inReturning to the states, you play as both Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes — the two other lawyers working under Phoenix Wright. Playing as them, the situations that you’re placed in feel almost like an expansion on the previous game in the series (Dual Destinies). Neither of them have any new abilities, but Athena’s returning Mood Matrix mechanic livens up a lot of the trials, much like they did in Dual Destinies. However, after playing in the foreign courtroom and having to deal with all sorts of new rules, all I wanted to do was return to Khura’in and continue the story. Because of this, the two cases that are set in the U.S. feel almost like filler. While they each provide their own little nuggets of character development, they don’t feel like the main focus.

In fact, the only thing these two courtrooms have in common is the prosecutor, who is definitely the least interesting in the series. He’s a monk from Khura’in that is devotedly religious and has a mysterious past that seems to interweave with one of the major characters. His backstory is constantly prodded at during the first half of the game and is really the only thing likable about him until the very last trial. His “shtick” is that he’s a servant of the Holy Mother and can predict the karma of a trial before it even starts. Though, neither of these ideas really come to fruition. Compared to Simon Blackquill, a death row inmate serving as a prosecutor, or Godot, a mysterious masked stranger that challenges Phoenix’s skill in the courtroom, this prosecutor is nothing special. He feels more like a side note than anything else, which should never be the case in a Phoenix Wright game.

Image result for spirit of justice prosecutor

Nahyuta Sahdmadhi, this game’s prosecutor

But, Spirit of Justice’s exceptional writing helps fill in a lot of what the prosecutor doesn’t bring to the table. It’s hilarious (as usual) with constant, sarcastic jokes and kind of hard to spot puns. If you see a name that seems a little weird, just say it out loud and it’ll reveal itself as some sort of joke. Take Puh’ray Zeh’lot, a dedicated monk from Khura’in, for example. That one really got me.

Alongside its humor, the writing and story also go over a lot heavier beats than usual. Death is not a new concept for the Ace Attorney games, but seeing series stapled characters being affected by it is pretty rare. But, it’s there and it’s plenty. I even got a little misty eyed near the end, which is mostly due to the writing being so personable and real. I felt for the characters and what they were going through; I respect the writers for making certain personalities be more than just a blip on my radar.

Ahlbi Ur’Gaid: your guide

The music and visuals also add a lot throughout the campaign. It’s amazing how much effort was put into the characters’ animations this time around. They have particular movements for very particular moments; some animations were only used once throughout the entire narrative, which is incredibly impressive and really helps emphasize the situations that Phoenix Wright and company find themselves in. The music, much like any other Ace Attorney game, is definitely something to adore. With the more serious circumstances, the music conveys some pretty harsh emotions but, it can also be joyous, goofy, whatever fits the bill.

Unfortunately, not all of Spirit of Justice’s audio and video elements are top notch. While Dual Destinies had some neat anime cutscenes, this game brings them into full 3d frequently to some disastrous results. When the characters start to move in these 3d cutscenes, they look decidedly silly. They have stilted, awkward movements reminiscent of old school PS1 FMVs. It makes it really difficult to take anything they’re doing seriously, and the truly cringe-worthy voice acting doesn’t help. Neither of which would be so bad if they weren’t forced into regular moments so often. They feel like a preventable pothole in a mostly smooth ride.

Image result for spirit of justice cutscenes

The 3d cutscenes may be ugly, but the anime movies are still pretty nice.

Of course, there’s more to Ace Attorney than just the trials. As an attorney, you have the chance to investigate, speak with witnesses among other interesting individuals, and gather evidence. In the first four games, investigating was the most open part of the game, which resulted in a lot of frustration as the player wasn’t sure what to do next or what was required, so they’d end up searching in random places and being generally confused. On the other hand, the fifth game only allowed for the player to search the crime scene itself, but in full 3d, resulting in a faster paced Investigation. But it was less satisfying to complete since the game was hovering over you the entire time.

Neither of these problems are present in Spirit of Justice. When in a location other than the crime scene, the player can search around all they want and find some cool references, new dialogue, and evidence. The difference being, the game will let them know if there’s nothing left to be found or still some required evidence waiting to be obtained. Then, when they actually investigate the crime scene, they can search in full 3d just like in Dual Destinies. It’s a brilliant way to combine the best of both worlds and it essentially perfects one of the biggest annoyances of the entire Ace Attorney series.

There’s also a flashy new mechanic that really spices up the Khura’in trail segments. Known as the Divination Seance, this new mechanic allows the court to peer into the last moments of the victim. While this should theoretically answer all questions, it often only proposes more. It’s up to Phoenix to point out the inconsistencies between the Divination Seance and its description, which results in some extremely mind-boggling twists. The citizens of Khura’in are actually aware of the Divination Seance’s existence, so they work around it and use it to frame your clients. It’s a natural progression for the series, and I love everything about it.

Image result for Spirit of Justice divination seance

The first Divination Seance, which shows all five of the victim’s senses.

With this new mechanic under its belt, Spirit of Justice feels like a complete package. The new Kurah’inese courtroom is an interesting and varied change of pace. And even though the U.S. cases seem comparatively familiar, they’re still bursting with that Ace Attorney charm. The new prosecutor may be a bit dull, but that doesn’t stop this game from having a tear-jerking conclusion. The investigations are the best that they’ve ever been thanks to the brilliant combination of old a new. And while they voice acting and 3d cutscenes are hard not to laugh at, Spirit of Justice has one of the most emotionally gripping narratives of the entire series.

Ricardo Rodriguez may have a near crippling addiction to video games, but at least he can pull himself away long enough to write something about them. His slowly deteriorating corneas won’t stop him from following his passion, and he’s got a semi-adequate haircut to boot! If you can’t find him withering away in front of a game store at five in the morning, he’s either writing for Goomba Stomp or on his blog flipsidegamereviews.com

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Game Reviews

‘Heave Ho’ Review: Us & Chuck

Published

on

Couch co-op is a phrase that’s used pretty infrequently these days. In fact, it seems that couch co-op wasn’t even a phrase at all until it wasn’t the norm anymore. With the modern emphasis on online experiences, the delights of a room full of screaming maniacs stumbling through a party game is largely a lost remnant of generations past. This, however, poses a difficult conundrum to any reviewers unfortunate enough to be unable to fulfill the most vital component for a couch co-op game review: a full couch. Treading in the wobbly footsteps of party classic Mount Your Friends (and clasping at the slippery tentacles of Octodad), Heave Ho is a game fundamentally for social people.

Its premise is a very similar task that involves swinging your wacky avatar’s limbs around, desperately trying to grab hold of any nearby surfaces. The game is more concerned with getting your character to the end of an obstacle course than clambering over your opponents like in Mount Your Friends, and there are a distinctly smaller number of limbs to control (and appendages to laugh at).

Couch co-op is a phrase that’s used pretty infrequently these days. In fact, it seems that couch co-op wasn’t even a phrase at all until it wasn’t the norm anymore. With the modern emphasis on online experiences, the delights of a room full of screaming maniacs stumbling through a party game is largely a lost remnant of generations past. This, however, poses a difficult conundrum to any reviewers unfortunate enough to be unable to fulfill the most vital component for a couch co-op game review: a full couch. Treading in the wobbly footsteps of party classic Mount Your Friends (and clasping at the slippery tentacles of Octodad), Heave Ho is a game fundamentally for social people.

Its premise involves the very similar task of swinging your wacky avatar’s limbs around, desperately trying to grab hold of any nearby surfaces. But Heave Ho is more concerned with getting your character to the end of an obstacle course than clambering over your opponents like in Mount Your Friends, and there is a distinctly smaller number of limbs to control (and appendages to laugh at).

Fingertips count in ‘Heave Ho’

There’s really not much to Heave Ho that warrants more explaining, as expressed via the world’s shortest tutorial at the beginning of the first level. Use the left analog stick for moving both of your character’s arms, press L or ZL for grabbing with the left arm, and press R or ZR for the right; that’s it. At least, that would be it, unless — and this is admittedly a somewhat niche bugbear — you’re a user of the neon red/blue launch Joy-Con, because their colors are flipped on the game’s assistance gloves. You can tell yourself you won’t be affected, but if you’re playing handheld and staring at bright blue and red in your own hands, you’re naturally going to associate those colors with the in-game hands.

A lot of the game feels flat solo, but these moments are still great

Upon acknowledgement of the incredibly basic controls, players are promptly (and literally) dropped straight into the level, left to fumble your way around the various objects and pitfalls en route to the goal. Striking a balance between careful, methodical navigation and reckless flinging is the key to success, with the former being more reliable and the latter being a hell of a lot more fun.

Heave Ho does feels a little forced in terms of its attempts at humor; it’s all very noisy, colorful and silly, which is obviously the point, and playing a game where you chuck a gangly anthropomorphic blob around with little-to-no coordination is never going to be the way to get your fill of sophisticated chuckles. I guess goofy wigs and obnoxious voices are funny to some people, but as the game gets harder and the challenges begin to frustrate, the humor is less of a mood lifter and more of an annoyance.

It all looks like fun and games here, but this world is horrific

The strength of a game like this will typically be measured in the number of laughs emanating from a packed living room, but its longevity will always be judged on how it endears as a solo experience. This is even more vital in the absence of online multiplayer, meaning you’re either playing with a house full of mates, or by yourself. I don’t have a house full of mates all that often, so the majority of my time with the game was playing solo, and that really doesn’t feel like the optimum way to get the most out of Heave Ho. The wacky, party-gaming hijinks sharply degenerate into a frustrating, often tedious slog when played alone.

The moments of intense satisfaction when nailing a long swing to a distant platform, or completing a particularly tricky level, shouldn’t be ignored, but they are too often mired by either boredom or anger. Easier levels require very little thought or technique to complete, and late-game ones are rage-inducing. This is exacerbated by the inexplicable decision from the developers to force players to complete all of an area’s levels in one run. There are no checkpoints after individual levels, so if you find yourself at a wall on the final level of a run and need a break from the game, you’re going to have to go back and complete all its preceding levels just to get yourself back.

I ain’t even gotta look!

This is a real mood-killer, and I found myself apathetically averse to trudging back through older levels to merely match the progress of a previous day’s attempts, especially when that previous day ended in frustration anyway. The type of game that Heave Ho is — one that builds itself on rapid-fire, bite-size challenges — just cannot benefit from forcing players into marathon sittings, especially when multiple people are required for optimum enjoyment.

Having online options would help, and it’s baffling as to why couch co-op and online co-op are mutually exclusive in some games. Playing an online game of Worms back on Xbox 360 was one of the most hilarious experiences I’ve had in any multiplayer game, and it’s such a shame to be denied even the potential for this with Heave Ho instead of being left to drag my tired fiancé to the TV for some forced hilarity. It might have been the worst possible litmus test for a party game, but were she writing this review it would have consisted largely of how “stressful,” she found it. I saw a few smiles, but perhaps the game isn’t as inclusive as it tries to present itself.

Two heads are definitely not better than one here

With the fiancé out of the potential player pool, I may bring Heave Ho out at a more receptive social occasion in the future, as the potential for communal hilarity is definitely there, but solo play is definitely not going to be something to engage in again. Perhaps if the necessary quality of life improvements were made — chiefly, being able to swap the colours of the assist gloves around and having a checkpoint after each level — then players might be more inclined to hammer away at it, but unfortunately, it’s likely to be just squirreled away as a potential curiosity rather than a go-to source of fun.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Creature In The Well’ Review: Dungeon Crawling Pinballing

‘Creature in the Well’ is a unique blend of genres, and an absolute must-try for audiences of both the pinball and puzzle games.

Published

on

Creature in the Well Review

A top-down, pinball-inspired, hack-and-slash dungeon crawler? That certainly may be a genre combination never done before. But in reflection to the sciences of chemistry, sometimes grouping elements into a mixture can create something that is definitively unique and distinguishable from its initial ingredients. Creature In The Well is a whole new breed of game design — by blending various genres, developer Flight School has created one of the most distinctive and satisfying puzzle games in recent years. The closest comparison you can probably make is if Hyper Light Drifter collided with a classic pinball cabinet and Breakout.

Acquiring a New Beat

Creature in the Well tasks the final remaining BOT-C unit in a mysterious world to venture into the desert mountain that lies in wait next to the imprisoned city of Mirage, a land captured by a deadly sandstorm. Inside the mountain rests an ancient facility in need of power; but there’s also a fearsome creature who stuck in a state of despair. It is the bot’s job to reboot the machine, stop the monster, and save the city of Mirage from the never-ending storm that shrouds the land.

Creature in the Well hub

Although it may sound like a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, Creature In The Well is not a test of strength against all odds; it’s a quest of knowledge that utilizes timed actions. The BOT-C unit is not on a bloodlust to its goal; it’s in a fight for survival through various puzzles that demonstrate adaptability. The game is a test against the active mind.

After obtaining a sword and learning quicker means of movement through dashing, it would be easy to assume that fighting comes next. However, the reality of the situation is that the BOT-C unit’s sword and secondary weapon are never swung directly at an opponent — not once throughout the entire journey. Instead, weapons are used as flippers in a sort of active pinball game, continuously knocking around orbs of energy at various machines that will grant voltage. This energy must be spent to open hydraulic doors throughout each dungeon that block progress, but it can also be used to upgrade the BOT-C unit’s gear via a blacksmith, or to find upgrades secretly scattered behind different pathways. The more thoroughly a dungeon is explored, the more voltage there is to claim from conquering puzzles of higher difficulty.

The environment then ends up becoming the greatest threat, as there are no true enemies to wield weapons against. A variety of projectiles can cause damage, forcing players to move around. Well-placed shots and timely swings are the keys to progression, and the only way of reaching the endgame. Adapting and using creative ways to solve puzzles is the foundation of Creature In The Well. Mastering Breakout and Pong-like movements for multiple projectiles at the same time is the recipe for success.

Creature In The Well makes magnificent use of the Unreal Engine, showcasing a nightly overcast atmosphere with a bleak, dark color palette, but it also manages to remain bright and colorful thanks to the illuminating projectile lights and flashy animations. This ultimately amounts to a game that is not only satisfying to play, but satisfying to watch. It’s a distinct art style that is welcoming to the eyes rather than a confusingly chaotic bunch of unrecognizable firefights.

Repetition Recognition

Creature in the Well urges players to progressively think smarter as they traverse the eight vastly different dungeons. Each puzzle room slowly improves upon the last, as the game consistently and smartly reuses mechanics while introducing new gimmicks to accommodate the metronome-action movements. These gimmicks can range from the way in which energy orbs damage to adding new obstacles like electrical flooring or spiraling death traps.

Puzzles can progressively become more and more challenging, but most are either not mandatory or don’t need to be completed immediately, as there are branching paths and enough energy to skip some roadblocks. This ultimately comes off as a negative or positive aspect depending on the individual player, as puzzle difficulty drastically changes depending on the order in which dungeons are played. Creature In The Well’s lack of a recommended dungeon order might make you work harder in the early-game, which results in a rather carefree late-game that sees you blasting through puzzles with ease — or vice versa.

On the other hand, this gives the player breathing room, allowing them to experiment with routes and return to previous challenges. Skipping or leaving puzzles unsolved lessens opportunities for rewards, so a handy in-game map system allows players to keep track of exactly where they have not completed rooms on designated paths. An unyielding challenge can become an underwhelming enigma with proper dedication and practice. That said, although the endgame can become less challenging than the beginning, the pinball-inspired mechanics are so entertaining that a decline in difficulty never truly becomes an issue. Creature in the Well is never a slog to play through, even when revisiting old dungeons in the latter half of the game.

All of these dungeons conclude with thrilling matchups with the main power sources, as well as the creature who lives beneath the land. Creature In The Well does not have what many would consider traditional dungeon crawler boss fights, but simply sticks to a its puzzle gameplay and challenges players with a larger and more complex version. These battles involve the creature, who extends its arms from beneath the dark abyss in an attempt to attack you.

Embrace The Storm

Creature In The Well is a captivating case of a fresh experiment gone right. Flight School took risks in attempting to dabble in multiple genres at once that seemingly don’t correlate to each other. Yet, the end result is a fascinating concept built on the gorgeously-used Unreal Engine, with the potential to be further expanded upon. Albeit short, the journey to delve into the deepest parts of the mountain to solve new high-speed kinetic puzzles while avoiding a mysterious, calamitous creature never grows stale over the 5-7 hour journey. It is by far the most distinct ‘break the mold’ type game to be released this year, and an absolute must-try for audiences of both the pinball and puzzle game genres.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Daemon X Machina’ Review: Beautifully Bombastic Mech Action

With its customization and accessibility, ‘Daemon X Machina’ is a refined action game that should please mech fans of all types.

Published

on

Daemon X Machina

There’s something beautiful about Daemon X Machina. More than just its striking visual style, however, the game’s mere existence is special in its own right. It’s been some time since a classic mech-based action game in the vein of mainstays like Armored Core has burst onto the market, and given that much of the original staff of that monumental series have moved on to Daemon X Machina, this has long seemed like a noteworthy release for fans of robotic action.

However, it’s no secret that Daemon X Machina has had a bumpy road to release. Between its sub-par initial demo and its severe lack of pre-release hype, it hasn’t been easy for Marvelous’ Switch exclusive to get the spotlight. Thankfully, the result largely overcomes these roadblocks to create a refreshingly polished and much-needed revival of the genre. Daemon X Machina certainly has its share of issues with story and mission structure, but overall it’s a refined action game that should please both new players and genre veterans alike.

For the most part, Daemon X Machina checks off every box for ideal mech action It wastes no time in putting the player in control of a massive, customizable, explosive robot suit called an “Arsenal,” which allows players to zip recklessly around the post-apocalyptic environments to wreak destruction with wild abandon. There’s a delightful simplicity to this; with its easy-to-grasp controls, there’s no excessive complexity, allowing for the visceral joy of blasting enemies out of the sky with extravagant missile launchers to shine through.

Daemon X Machina

But that is not to say that Daemon X Machina is merely a mindless romp. Instead, the plentiful variety of different mission types ensures that you’ll have to think on your feet with every objective. Some missions will have you simply gunning down every foe you see, while others task you with protecting specific units, and still more pit you against massive bosses — which are easily the game’s most memorable missions. With so many different objectives, each mission becomes an enticing prospect.

Unfortunately, this variety gets a bit strained towards the end of the fifteen-hour campaign. Far too often, late game missions merely stick you in an arena with a few other full mech fighters then make you fight to the death — and considering that these are easily the most tedious fights in the game due to how chaotic and difficult it is to attack fast-moving robotic suits, this gets frustrating fast. Likewise, the enemy variety leaves something to be desired, with the vast majority of foes consisting of mere drones or tanks, with the occasional mech thrown in for interest.

Daemon X Machina easily stands out for its polish, style, and accessibility.

However, these negative factors only partially distract from what makes Daemon X Machina so special: its ludicrous action. There’s also plenty of customization available to wreak havoc, allowing you to tweak your Arsenal to your liking. Want to focus on hand-to-hand combat? Install some new legs optimized for speedy ground maneuvering, and some arms for katana-wielding. Taking to the skies? Lighten your load, increase your memory capacity, and pack on the guns. The game presents the options to fight with your mech the way you see fit, allowing for action-packed scenarios straight out of your mechanized fantasies.

Daemon X Machina

But Daemon X Machina doesn’t entangle itself in unnecessary complexity, unlike so many other mech-based RPGs or action games. None of the customization mentioned previously is strictly required to complete the story; instead, the only thing that matters is your ingenuity. In fact, you can likely make do exclusively with the weapons you pick up on the battlefield, and never have to bother with the game’s weapon shops or factories. Daemon X Machina ensures that the most important thing in each of its battles isn’t the weapon you wield, but rather your ingenuity in using it. If one gun isn’t working in the current mission, just head back to the hangar and try a new loadout.

For instance, one point in my playthrough saw me stuck against one boss with a seemingly endless HP bar that was difficult to whittle down, no matter how many shots were fired. However, after numerous frustrating failed attempts, some new types of weapons made short work of this previously daunting adversary, turning the boss into a shattered wreck. Daemon X Machina might be an action game, but by no means is it mindless. This freedom of strategy, combined with the flexible customization and accessibility, is what makes the gameplay loop so addictive.

Daemon X Machina is a balanced, deep, and approachable experience that should please players new and old.

It’s a shame that this excellent action is obscured by the game’s truly dreadful story. Of course, action games aren’t necessarily known for their poignant narratives, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but in Daemon X Machina’s case, the poor storyline distracts from the action. The story begins with a simple premise: a portion of the moon has exploded, and its remnants have corrupted the world’s robots to rise up against humanity. Beyond that beginning, the story devolves into a complex feud between different corporations and mercenary squads, often acting less like a sci-fi adventure and more like a political drama — and not a particularly good one, either. Worse yet, this story is populated by one-note characters who often spend minutes at a time musing upon the nature of warfare and humanity, using dialogue that would fit right in with any generic fantasy novel. At the very least, the voice actors all do a great job, bringing their cardboard characters to some degree of life.

Daemon X Machina

Thankfully, there is respite from the dismal narrative in the form of side content like the ‘free missions’ and multiplayer mode. By forgoing the confusing and uninteresting story, these features focus solely on the strong gameplay loop. That said, it is nonetheless disappointing that one of the game’s most significant modes is tarnished by such shoddy execution.

However, the visuals don’t suffer in this way. Instead, Daemon X Machina features a breathtaking cel-shaded graphical style with a vivid color palette of stark reds, oranges, and greys that makes much of the game look like it flew straight out of a particularly stylish manga. The Japanese rock soundtrack does provide a fitting backdrop, but the tunes generally don’t manage to be quite as memorable as the graphics.

Daemon X Machina easily stands out for its polish, style, and accessibility, giving players the freedom to choose whether they want to focus on the best customization or craft the most creative strategies of their own. There a few rough edges due to its repetitious missions and uninspired story, but when the core content of the game is so enticing, most players should be able to overlook them. All told, Daemon X Machina is a balanced, deep, and approachable experience that should please players new and old.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘River City Girls’ Review: Brawling with the Best

Kyoko and Misako are getting their boyfriends back by any means necessary in one of the best beat ’em up joyrides in recent memory.

Published

on

River City Girls

In a generation defined by massive open world experiences, there’s something decidedly cozy and cathartic about settling down with a well-made beat ’em up. The prospect of Wayforward (the lauded developers behind the Shantae series, A Boy and His Blob, and Ducktales: Remastered, among others) working on a modern take on the Kunio-kun franchise was a delightful surprise when it was revealed this past spring. Several months later, River City Girls has largely exceeded its lofty expectations.

Revenge Never Tasted so Sweet

Best friends and high school ruffians Kyoko and Misako are lazing about in detention when Kyoko suddenly gets a text showing their boyfriends (series mainstays Kunio and Riki) being kidnapped. Enraged and worried, the girls set out across the expansive River City to track down the kidnappers and get their beloved boyfriends back.

It’s a fun twist on the classic series premise, and River City Girls has an absolute blast playing off of that. Though the personalities of the girls are a bit one-note (the classic “sweet and sour” archetypes are alive and present here), the stellar writing elevates the colorful cast of modern day River City. Just like with Wayforward’s beloved Shantae series, the studio absolutely nails bringing major and minor characters to life in the most endearing of ways. This is only exemplified by top-notch voice acting across the board, especially in the case of Kyoko and Misako. Chatter between the girls is natural and entertaining, and their interactions with the other whacky characters in River City are a treat.

The search for Kunio and Riki spans across six large sections of the city ranging from the high school to the docks to the skeezy streets of downtown. Every location is segmented into roughly 15 screens that can often be explored via branching routes, with some inaccessible until a certain quest or story requirement is met. There’s plenty of creativity in the level design here; though screens never feature drastically different layouts, they’re all visually distinct and flow together to paint a full picture of everything the city has to offer.

No Punches Pulled

Story, characters, and level design are all well and good, but beat ’em ups are nothing without tight, addictive combat. Luckily, River City Girls has this in spades, and demands quite a bit of arcade-smart skill from players even on Normal difficulty. Kyoko and Misako boast the same base movesets with unique animations: light attacks, heavy attacks, and aerial attacks with ground attacks and a basic block thrown in for good measure. The repertoire is concise but offers a variety of ways to string together fluid combos that feel great to execute. A laundry list of unlockable moves can also be learned in the Dojo, providing plenty of depth to those who want to fully customize their fighter.

Be it with the base moveset or more advanced maneuvers, taking the time to master the combat is a must. Though running into enemies and light attacking them to death might work for a bit, it doesn’t take long to learn that River City’s hooligans are no mere punching bags. Bouts require less focus than a 1v1 fighter, but mindlessly spamming moves won’t get anyone anywhere on their first run. This is essentially ensured by brutal boss battles that bookend progress between sections of the city.

As one might expect, it’s these boss encounters that are the real highlights. Some require proficiency of certain mechanics (side-stepping, wall-jumping, etc.), and have patterns complex enough to warrant several attempts before succeeding. Each boss encounter also feels like an event, featuring beautiful introduction cutscenes and Vs. screens before the showdown. The only downside to these is that they have to be manually skipped upon every subsequent attempt; the game doesn’t remember that they’ve already occurred.

Another issue is that anything bought in the game and used during a boss fight completely disappears after losing. While most games would load in the player’s inventory from before the battle, River City Girls punishes item usage when it counts the most. Having to grind enemies for cash isn’t particularly difficult, but that coupled with needing to backtrack to a shop (since there’s never one right before the boss encounter) is unnecessarily tedious and slows momentum down considerably.

A Cloudy Diamond

This string of minor yet gradually grating issues extends beyond boss battles. The menu system is needlessly cumbersome, requiring players to cycle through six screens to find the right options. Story and quest-specific NPCs are easy to miss because they don’t have any kind of outline or indicator making them stand out. Furthermore, items in shops are marked with “???” until after they’re bought and used or looked up in the inventory menu. This makes it easy to waste tons of cash on items only to be disappointed by their luck-of-the-draw effects.

And yet, for all those niggling design flaws, River City Girls is simply a blast to play. It especially excels as a handheld experience. Feeling the impact of every hit with HD rumble made fights more engaging, and the classic beat-em-up structure makes it perfect for whipping out in short bursts. There’s a good amount of content here, with the main game running about six and a half to seven hours before New Game+, which adds additional playable characters with their own unique movesets and animations (albeit with no new dialogue, making character interactions and cutscenes rather awkward).

If you’re looking for tight beat ’em up action with some truly impressive production values and lovable characters, you can’t go wrong with River City Girls.

Continue Reading

Game Reviews

‘Super Kirby Clash’ Review: Star Allies Meets Clash Deluxe

Published

on

Sub-games: a highlight of the Kirby series. Megaton Punch, Samurai Kirby, Strato Patrol EOS, Snack Tracks, Speedy Teatime, Kirby Quest, and the list goes on. HAL Laboratory has time and time again created memorable mini-games in the Kirby series that have outshined even the core campaigns in fan discussions. These are bite-sized games that every Kirby fan has fond memories of whether it be a master showdown that involves quick reflexes or an eating frenzy that would make any other video game character explode.

Sub-games have always been an integral part of the Kirby franchise ever since Kirby’s Adventure on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In recent years HAL Laboratory has debatably mastered the art of creating more intriguing sub-games than core campaigns for their fired-up super tuff pink puff’s latest entries. Some of Kirby’s side-activities have gone on to spawn their very own entries outside the main series.

Team Kirby Clash is one of the many sub-games that appeared in the Kirby 3DS entries, specifically 2016’s Kirby: Planet Robobot. Team Kirby Clash went on to receive its very own Nintendo Eshop free-to-play exclusive spin-off game on the 3DS alongside Kirby Fighters, King Dedede’s Drum Dash, and Kirby’s Blowout Blast. The sub-game transformed into Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, but now the side series has taken a drastic leap from the Nintendo 3DS to the Switch- and for the better.

Super Kirby Clash Review

It is no surprise why Super Kirby Clash would be HAL Laboratory’s first choice for a Kirby sub-game spinoff that could make a comeback on the current Nintendo hardware after a mainline entry. Clearly, it was the perfect sub-game for the handheld home console hybrid that shares an emphasis on local multiplayer. Just as in the vein of Kirby Star Allies, the game is easy for anyone to pick up and play together; it is simple entertainment where you can easily find yourself a few local or online buddies and bang out a few levels in less than an hour.

The concept of the entire game is to defeat the level enemy and move on to the next, while continuously upgrading your Kirby at Magalor’s shop with an assortment of various weapons, armor, special items, and emotes that resemble different callbacks to Kirby’s history- that is all there is to it. It is your standard Kirby game control-wise, except no copy abilities or repurposable enemies and the hero with an insatiable appetite has been thrown into a boss rush of over 100 enemies to battle it out with.

Microtransactions are typically the major fear when it comes to free-to-play games, but this is certainly one of the very few exceptions of a game from the genre where you will likely never have to think about spending a single dime unless if you are completely impatient with minor grinding or perhaps you just want to show the developers some love. The in-game currencies [gem apples and vigor] are given out after matches, waiting certain periods of time, can be harvested (gem apples only), and collected in batches through various secret passwords inputted through a small statue found on the right side of the hub world.

Super Kirby Clash is, for the most part, more Kirby Star Allies and even more Team Kirby Clash Deluxe with a new coat of paint and that’s great for both casual and hardcore fans who are looking for more Kirby games to play while holding them off for the next core entry. Microtransactions never feel forced, the four-player co-op can be entertaining yet hectic just like previous games in the series, the online works flawlessly, and the amount of content will keep fans of the pink puff locked in for a couple of hours without having them to worry about paying for an entirely new game.

For being a free-to-play game, this is well worth the few minutes it will take to download. It is just right for the fans and for those looking for some quick fun. It is definitely no masterpiece or something to run home about, but once again it is free. Go grab three friends and give it a shot! You can never go wrong with more Kirby!

Super Kirby Clash is a good time!
Continue Reading
Freelance Film Writers

Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Indie Game reviewers.

Learn more by clicking here.

Advertisement

Trending

Share
Tweet
Reddit
Pin