Sega’s Yakuza series is perhaps one of the most misunderstood franchises out there to people who haven’t played it.
Prior to its original release, it was assumed that the game would be a Japanese clone of Grand Theft Auto. Then people saw its real-time combat and started assuming it was a brawler.
It is neither of these things. It is, in fact, one of the most well-disguised JRPG series you’ll ever play.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.
Continue reading From the Archives: Yakuza’s Modern-Day Questing Makes a Fine JRPG
Any self-respecting gamer knows that if you really want to impress someone with your dexterity and prowess, you don’t fire up a Souls game, you fire up a bullet hell shmup.
Notorious for their screen-filling bullet patterns that seemingly demand superhuman reflexes to navigate, bullet hell (or, to give them their more “proper” name, danmaku) shoot ’em ups are a frightening prospect to get involved with. But you might be surprised at quite how approachable some of them are.
One such example of a danmaku shmup that is both accepting to genre newcomers and monstrously challenging to veterans is Gundemonium Recollection from Japanese doujin circle Platine Dispositif, originally localised for PS3 and PC by Rockin’ Android. It’s a game that isn’t afraid to slap you about a bit, but also a good place to familiarise yourself with some conventions of the genre.
And, well, it’s just a really good game to boot, too.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Gundemonium Recollection
The Raiden series is a venerable one in the world of video games, albeit one that is not quite as prolific as some series of similar age.
Originally appearing in arcades in 1990, the original Raiden followed the mould of vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups that had been established some eight years previously by Namco’s Xevious and later expanded on by other classics such as Capcom’s 1942 (1984), Nichibutsu’s Terra Cresta (1985) and Konami’s Twinbee (1985).
Raiden didn’t reinvent the wheel, in other words, and it could be argued that its subsequent installments haven’t, either — but the series remains nonetheless a distinctive, noteworthy entry in gaming history, with second-to-latest installment Raiden IV: Overkill being one of the best, most satisfying yet.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Raiden IV: Overkill
Nier: Automata is a fascinating game in its own right, but it becomes even more of an interesting story when you take it in context of everything that led to its creation.
In order to understand Nier: Automata and its predecessors, it is particularly important to understand creator Taro Yoko, one of the most distinctive “auteurs” in all of video game making — albeit one who, until the release of Automata, had largely flown under the radar in stark contrast to his contemporaries such as Hideo Kojima.
Yoko is a creator who, it’s fair to say, has consistently pushed back against the boundaries of what is “accepted practice” in video game development — both in terms of subject matter and mechanical considerations. And the results of his resistance to conventions and norms are some of the most distinctive and interesting — albeit sometimes flawed — creations in all of gaming.
Continue reading Nier Automata: Introduction and History
Speak to anyone who claims to be a fan of Konami’s Castlevania series and ask them what their favourite entry in the series is, and doubtless each one will give you a different answer.
Some will prefer the purity of the NES originals. Some will cite Symphony of the Night’s genre-defining nature. Some will extol the virtues of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS titles. Some even have a soft spot for the 3D Nintendo 64 installments in the series.
One title you won’t hear a lot of people cite as their favourite Castlevania, however, is 2010’s Harmony of Despair, a digital-only game that originally released on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 platform — not typically a hotbed of Japanese games — and which subsequently came out on PlayStation 3 a year or so later, featuring a number of enhancements.
It’s a game that wasn’t received all that well on its original release, primarily because it deviated fairly dramatically from the Metroidvania format we’d come to expect from the series by this point. But although this game is far from your typical Castlevania of the era, it remains worth a look, particularly as its age means you can now pick it up pretty damn cheap.
Continue reading Harmony of Despair: Castlevania’s Red-Headed Stepchild
Nier is possibly one of Square Enix’s most misunderstood games.
Released to a rather lukewarm critical response back in 2010, this Cavia-developed PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 action RPG, directed by Taro Yoko, is actually a fascinating game that is well worth your time and attention — so long as you have a bit of patience to deal with its idiosyncrasies.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.
Continue reading From the Archives: Birds Suddenly Appear Every Time You Are Nier
Since its original appearance in 2010, the Neptunia series has grown from a niche-interest RPG into one of developer Compile Heart’s biggest success stories.
This is a particularly remarkable achievement, given that the first installment in the series didn’t have a strong critical reception at all — while review score aggregation isn’t an exact science by any means, the fact that the first Hyperdimension Neptunia game sits at a not-so-proud score of 45 on Metacritic should make it fairly clear that this is not a game that the mainstream press liked. At all.
And yet here we are, six years later at the time of writing, celebrating the release of the seventh (or fourth, depending on how you want to look at it) installment in the mainline, canonical Neptunia series, and the tenth overall release to carry the Neptunia name in the West.
How did this happen? How did a series that started with a game almost universally panned by professional critics become one of the most recognisable Japanese franchises on the worldwide market?
Continue reading Megadimension Neptunia V-II: Introduction