Imagine a world where only females are allowed to play Pokémon. That pretty much sums up what Blade Dance of the Elementalers is. Borrowing ideas from Game Freak’s hottest property (and countless harem shows to boot) this series takes place in a kingdom where the daughters of nobility spar against each other by summoning Pokémon… um I mean spirits. The XX chromosome monopoly on spirit summoning has however been shattered by former child assassin Kamito Kazehaya. He’s the only known living boy who can form pacts with phantoms and has therefore been invited to study at the prestigious Areishia Spirit Academy. One lone bloke stuck in a school filled with hormonal teen girls. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?
If Blade Dance of the Elementalers’ premise sounds familiar I couldn’t blame you, as the plot resembles a fantasy take on Infinite Stratos. Both shows star male teenagers who enrol at a female institution, due to their abnormal gender defying abilities. In the case of I.S, Ichika Orimura can pilot mech suits that were previously thought to be female exclusive machines whilst Blade Dance’s Kamito can harness the power of spirits. We see this first hand in the opening episode were Kamito becomes the master of Terminus Est, a silver haired apparition that can assume the form of a dagger. In times of crisis Est can morph from a knife into a full-fledged sword… the increase in blade size is perhaps an allegory for what happens to her owner’s phallus in the presence of so many attractive girls.
The twelve non-OVA episodes contained in this set can roughly be broken up into three parts. As you would expect, the first few instalments focus mainly on introducing the cast that is made up of whip-wielding tsundere Claire Rouge, Rinslet Laurenfrost a prideful rich girl who is always accompanied by her busty maid Carol and the honourable prefect Ellis Fahrengart. Once the main characters have been established a new story arc begins were, at the behest of a sultry princess, Kamito is tasked with pursuing an evildoer who possesses the unique ability to command multiple spirits. Once that tale is wrapped up the series concludes with a fighting tournament, which pits our heroes against a corrupted knight.
My rating for Blade Dance of the Elementalers is a three out of five. Anime aficionados who enjoy harem shows that contain a mix of comedy and action should find the contents of this DVD entertaining. Viewers who only have time to watch the cream of the Japanese animation crop may however want to give this series a miss, as the show is severely lacking in originality. Gags, story beats and even character designs appear to have been lifted wholesale from more prominent anime properties. Light novel author Yū Shimizu, whose books this anime is based on, would benefit from an imagination injection – although in his defence he does at least ensure that the plot doesn’t get eclipsed by harem hijinks (something that the previously mentioned Infinite Stratos failed to do.)
From a visual standpoint the artwork drawn by the folks at TNK is decent, albeit unspectacular. In terms of fan service the eye candy on display is rather tame – especially when compared to the studio’s other offerings, which include the likes of Ikki Tousen and High School DxD. Not that I would expect anyone to watch Blade Dance of the Elementalers for the “stimulation” found in those other TNK productions. The more cartoony character designs used in Blade Dance give the cast a legally underage look, although that is to be expected given its similarities to Pokémon. Forget the Fountain of Youth – if you wish to avoid the ravages of age just stick to battling monsters. Ash Ketchum started his critter-collecting journey two decades ago and he still looks like a ten year old!
I have always wondered why adult games aren’t readily available to buy off the PSN Store or Steam. Sony’s console has age restriction features to prevent minors from playing mature titles and on the PC front you need a credit card to purchase software from Steam, which kiddies shouldn’t have access to. Deviants seeking smut have however been catered to in recent years. Developers are starting to sell all age versions of their products on Valve’s marketplace that can be uncensored through the wonders of patching. Thanks to this compromise under eighteens can safely enjoy Sakura Dungeon’s RPG gameplay whilst perverts get to ogle all the boobs they could ever desire by simply downloading a small patch.
Sakura Dungeon commences with a bashful adventurer named Ceri setting off on a quest to purge some catacombs of the monsters residing within its tunnels. Things don’t go well however when she awakens the dungeon’s former owner – a fox spirit named Yomi. After a brief tussle Yomi overpowers the knight, who interrupted her hibernation, before using sorcery to make Ceri her unwilling minion. With a new servant under her command, Yomi decides the time has come to venture underground and reclaim the lair she once ruled. Over the course of their travels Yomi and Ceri can bolster their ranks by recruiting defeated enemies to their cause. The well-endowed creatures guarding the dungeon won’t surrender willingly though, so violence (and garment stripping) may be required to humiliate the hostile monsters into submission.
Via the use of the capture command players can recruit an assortment of bunny girls, busty witches and anthropomorphic pandas to their group. By the time I finished the main campaign my party contained over forty voluptuous beauties, putting Tenchi Muyo’s harem well and truly to shame. In order to successfully capture a gal their health bar needs to be depleted first, which is accomplished by smacking them with special moves and magic spells. Every attack drains a character’s action points and has a chance of causing your target to suffer a wardrobe malfunction. With the adult patch enabled (which I only activated for the purposes of writing an accurate review) it’s possible to tear a cat girl’s attire so badly that her “pussy” will be exposed in more ways than one.
Anyone who has previously enjoyed Demon Master Chris should give Sakura Dungeon a download, as both games share many similarities. Providing that you aren’t prudish, Sakura Dungeon is a good title for players trying out a dungeon crawler for the first time because, when compared to other examples in the genre, its difficulty isn’t too taxing. That’s not to say that the game is devoid of strategy though. Clearing each maze will require that you manipulate switches, circumvent traps, exploit the elemental weaknesses of enemies and shrewdly manage your team’s action points. There are tough decisions to be made too; such as picking what embarrassing outfit Ceri should wear. Will you opt for the bikini, maid uniform or bondage suit?
My rating for Sakura Dungeon is a four out of five. It’s probably the best game Winged Cloud has ever developed, as the increased interactivity masks the mediocre writing found in their wordier visual novels. Although funny at times Sakura Dungeon’s script could be better, but it matters not as the onus is on exploring labyrinths, levelling up your characters and admiring the top-heavy character designs. My save file indicates that the story took me sixteen hours to complete, which compares favourably with the franchise’s other titles. The game’s duration is long enough to justify the current retail asking price and short enough that you shouldn’t strain your wrist too badly (if you know what I mean.)
What is one to do when you are bored and don’t have access to a real video game? Back in the day, the answer to that question was to kill some time on Windows Solitaire. There was Minesweeper too but I avoided it like the plague, as I seem to have a knack for clicking on explosives. Besides, playing excessive amounts of Minesweeper is probably a bad idea. Certain curmudgeons argue that playing violent video games can turn you into a homicidal maniac. Using that logic, playing Minesweeper could turn me into a terrorist bomber! I’d rather not don a vest strapped with TNT so given the choice I’ll stick with Solitaire… or I would had I not recently discovered a better card time waster on the iPad.
Card Crawl is an inexpensive Apps Store download created by Arnold Rauers. The game uses a fifty-four-card deck to simulate the adventures of a knight who is battling their way through a monster-infested dungeon. Each suit represents a monster, coinage, weapon, shield or health restorative potion. Shuffled into the deck are also five random ability cards that activate special effects, which can save you from a bind or earn you extra money. Amassing cash is important because the aim of the game is to survive the dungeon’s perils and procure the most wealth possible in the process. The amount of currency earned acts as your high score and can be used to purchase new ability cards.
Playing the game is fairly straightforward. At the start of each turn the dealer (who happens to be a beer swilling ogre) places four cards on the table. Your objective is to remove three of those cards, which will force the alcoholic fiend to deal out three replacements. The cycle continues until either the deck is exhausted or the player perishes. Cards representing weapons, shields, abilities or treasure can be sold, equipped on a free hand or placed in your backpack. Removing a monster is a little trickier however. Beasts will remain in play until you either slay them or make them attack the knight. The latter is usually unavoidable and will cost you some precious health points.
How much damage a creature deals is printed on their card, with values ranging from two to nine. The number on the card also signifies the enemy’s health, so hitting a four-ranked monster with a five-ranked blade would kill it. Whacking an eight-ranked foe with a two-ranked sword would reduce its health/damage to six and so on. In a similar fashion the number found on a treasure card reveals how much gold it is worth, the value of a shield card reveals how much harm it nullifies and the figure displayed on a potion card indicates how much health it restores. Hmmm. Does this mean than chugging down a can of 7-UP would give me seven life points back? Not sure, I would have to ask Cool Spot.
My rating for Card Crawl is four stars. It’s an ideal time waster for anyone who likes single player card games, especially if they are of a geeky swords n sorcery persuasion. The game can be enjoyed in brief bursts, as each run only takes a few minutes to complete, whilst still having enough features to keep you coming back for more. Grinding enough gold to unlock all the ability cards should keep most players occupied for a while and once that is done there are quests to tackle, user made levels to sample and daily leaderboards for anyone who likes posting high scores. My only complaint with the game is that it isn’t bundled with Microsoft’s OS. When bored at the office I’d rather play this over Solitaire. Hope my boss doesn’t read this!
Six months after debuting on the Nintendo 3DS, Image & Form’s sequel to the cult classic SteamWorld Dig has finally graced Sony’s systems. The wait has been worth it, as PlayStation owners get to enjoy a high res version of the game that can be played on their big screen TVs or on the go courtesy of the criminally under supported PS Vita. Set in the distant future, sometime after planet Earth suddenly exploded, players take control of space pirate Piper Faraday and her ragtag crew of steam powered automatons. Cruise through the cosmos, board hostile vessels and claim more loot than a Red Bull fuelled Diablo player who has been dungeon crawling all night.
SteamWorld Heist is a squad based tactical game (think Ghost Recon) that is played from a 2D side scrolling perspective. Players lead their squad of one to four bots through randomly generated levels that require tactical acumen and sharpshooting skills to complete. During your turn Piper’s pirates can be ordered to walk a few steps and perform an action, although when the need arises actions can be forfeited in favour of sprinting over greater distances. What makes the game unique is that attacks are not resolved via number crunching, but rather by where you point your gun. Successful headshots are rewarded with critical damage whilst blasting a foe in the legs will prevent them from moving that turn. I used to be a space pirate like you, until I got zapped in the knee.
In order to avoid the abovementioned Skyrim injuries it is advisable that you hide your faithful Steam Bots behind cover. Just be aware that no place is entirely safe. Barriers can be destroyed by repeated gunfire and if you are good with angles it’s also possible to circumvent defences by ricocheting bullets off walls. Hurrah! I finally get to make use of those pointless trigonometry classes they taught me at high school. The importance of cover shouldn’t be overestimated though, as bunkering oneself within a fortified position for many turns can be detrimental. Completing missions in a speedy manner is encouraged, as anyone who overstays their welcome in a level runs the risk of being overwhelmed by the continuous stream of enemy reinforcements that periodically show up.
My rating for SteamWorld Heist is four stars. I had a lot of fun playing through this downloadable adventure thanks to its comedic script, space western setting and tactical gameplay. Customizing my raiding party was especially enjoyable, as there is a vast selection of armaments from which to choose from. Some of the guns that Piper’s nine-man crew can brandish include beam weapons that are capable of piercing multiple targets, bazookas that deal explosive AOE damage and sniper rifles for anyone who demands deadly precision from their robotic minions. According to one of the load screens, SteamWorld Heist was partially funded by the European Commission – but given how many guns are obtainable in this game I half expected Heist to be sponsored by the NRA too.
There aren’t many things I can criticise SteamWorld Heist on other than the story’s length, which I wish was a smidgen longer. Based on my playthrough I estimate that most players will clear Heist’s content in around ten to fifteen hours. Not a big deal given the title’s modest asking price, but a few more levels would have been nice. For those wishing to continue their interstellar plundering and hat collecting, a new game plus mode is unlocked once the end credits roll. Hat collecting? Oh yes, I forgot to mention that it’s possible to nab headgear from foes by shooting them in the cranium. Avid collectors can hunt down close to one hundred caps, crowns and fedoras. Blimey, what is it with shooting games and hats? First we had Team Fortress and now this!
Despite moaning about Nintendo’s money-grubbing decision to split Fire Emblem Fates into two titles I was unable to resist the temptation of buying both games. What can I say? Gamers love to complain about how publishers swindle customers with day one DLC and bug-ridden products, but our passion for the hobby compels us to throw money away all the same. One small consolation is that owning Birthright allowed me to download Conquest at a slightly reduced price. You win this round Nintendo… although let it be known that I refuse to dump any more cash into this addictive strategy RPG. Huh, what’s that? Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation is due out in Europe tomorrow? Where’s my credit card? I must buy that digital exclusive third instalment ASAP!
Whilst playing through Conquest I must admit to feeling a sense of déjà vu. Both games feature levels that are fought on the same maps, but the experience is distinct enough to justify a second purchase. The enemies you face are different for a start and Conquest’s mission objectives are more varied. Rather than simply routing the opposing army you’ll sometimes be expected to protect a base for a few turns or safely retreat to a certain location. The biggest difference between Birthright and Conquest however is that in this title prince/princess Corrin elects to fight for his/her adoptive nation of Nohr. Prince/princess? Is Corrin a hermaphrodite? No, don’t be silly. You pick the protagonist’s gender during the character creation process you silly goose.
Two new tactical features introduced by Fire Emblem Fates are 2v2 battles and the Dragon Vein system. The former happens whenever a unit standing adjacent to an ally attacks. When this occurs the nearby comrade bestows his buddy with some stat buffs in addition to whacking the foe you have targeted, in effect giving you two attacks for the price of one. Alternatively you can choose to pair up characters so they both occupy the same tile on the map. Paired up troops are immune to double attacks, as the duo’s active warrior goes on the offence whilst their chum plays the role of bodyguard (cue Whitney Houston song) who is tasked with blocking secondary assaults.
Dragon Vein on the other hand relates to effects that are triggered whenever the royal members of your army reach a specified spot on the map. Depending on the level in question you’ll be able to heal soldiers standing within a highlighted zone, activate destructive earthquakes or even freeze a lake to form a shortcut that your forces can travel across. Royalty has the power of a dragon? Sounds like conspiracy theorist David Icke was onto something when he accused the queen of being a humanoid lizard. Just to be safe I recommend that all of you wear a tin foil hats whilst playing on your 3DS.
My rating for Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is five stars. I had a blast conquering the thirty-hour story’s twenty-eight levels and my inner architect also enjoyed the castle construction that you can dabble in between skirmishes. By spending the DVP earned through battles players can decorate their fort and build stores that sell handy items such as weapons. The reason I am giving Conquest a higher score than Birthright is because the cast of characters under your command are far more amusing. Instead of Birthright’s plain do-gooders, Conquest stars a bloodthirsty cavalier, an eternally young sorceress and an axe-wielding champion of justice. The wyvern riding big sister who is blessed with huge knockers also appealed to me because I like boobies… um I mean dragons.
If you are new to the franchise I would however recommend playing Birthright over Conquest, as it is more newbie friendly. Conquest is by far the toughest Fire Emblem game I have ever played and that’s saying a lot, as I have played all the series’ western releases (even the lacklustre Shadow Dragon.) Were it not for the option to disable perma-death my army may not have survived Conquest’s many trials. The latter stages are extremely challenging and unlike Birthright it isn’t possible to beef up your forces by grinding on random encounters. I especially loathed chapter twenty’s wind themed battle. Seeing critically injured characters get blown into a squad of enemies by an unexpected gust really “blows” (no pun intended.)
The Walking Dead: Michonne once again sees the folks at Telltale Games return to the franchise that made them famous. This time round players assume the role of the titular machete-wielding zombie slayer in a three-part mini series, which is supposedly set between issues 126 and 139 of Robert Kirkman’s comic. I wouldn’t know, as I ceased buying the graphic novels many moons ago. Despite being a quality read, the depressing tragedies that constantly befall Rick Grimes’ posse became too much for me to bear. I already see enough examples of horrible things happening to nice people by watching the daily news thank you.
Michonne’s downloadable adventure begins with a flashback sequence that explains how our suicidal protagonist joined the crew of a seafarer named Pete. In a world infested with carnivorous un-dead, who are unable to swim due to their rotting musculature, the ocean happens to be the only safe place left on this planet. Unfortunately for Michonne and Pete, when their barge suffers damage the pair are forced to travel onshore in search of replacement parts. As you may expect from a story set within the Walking Dead universe, the resultant scavenger hunt does not go well. After a run in with some sibling thieves our heroes are captured by the residents of an everglade town named Monroe. Escaping from the marshland fortress will require that players use diplomacy on their human captors and QTE dexterity to battle the area’s horde of hungry cadavers.
Like other entries in the series, this interactive movie is brought to life through the use of expressive cell shaded graphics. PS4 owners will be pleased to know that their version of the game is blessed with high definition visuals and a smooth frame rate, even if you are paying a premium for the experience. The iOS edition in comparison is more reasonably priced, although you may want to give it a miss. After skimming a spate of negative iTunes reviews, which lambast the jittery animation found on tablet devices, I feel vindicated in paying extra for the console port. On the audio front Samira Wiley showcases a strong vocal range in her portrayal of the lead character. Not only does Wiley pull off a convincing badass who is unflappable in the face of danger, but she also performs well in the scenes that reveal how emotionally fragile Michonne is when dealing with the subject of her departed children.
My rating for The Walking Dead: Michonne is four stars. The video game industry is often criticized for its lack of racial diversity, so it is good to see that Telltale has once again released a quality title featuring a non-Caucasian lead. From the various Walking Dead games that I have played, I would have to rank Michonne as my second favourite. Every episode succeeded in capturing my attention from start to finish, which was not the case in The Walking Dead: Season Two. Said sequel was strong in parts, but suffered from pacing issues that could have been avoided had its plot not been stretched out over five instalments. The Walking Dead: Michonne’s concise storytelling is however both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Three hours of entertainment for eleven quid isn’t great value, although I suppose the asking price is fair if you compare it to a movie DVD.
Whether you agree or disagree with my assessment of The Walking Dead: Michonne will ultimately boil down to your gaming tastes. Although it didn’t bother me, I imagine that some players may take umbrage with how combat is resolved through quick time events. Thankfully the button prompt sequences in question are easy enough to clear and at the very least they keep your trigger finger occupied during what would otherwise be a cut scene moment. I also expect that some gamers will bemoan how the choices made during Michonne’s journey only impact the narrative superficially. Yes that’s true, but doesn’t the same apply to most video games? David Cage’s high budget creations are no more interactive and let us not forget about Mass Effect 3’s finale. The way Bioware ignored a trilogy worth of decisions depresses me far more than a Rob Kirkman zombie apocalypse strip.