Today I am reviewing DAL Date A Live Spirit Pledge, a mobile game on android and IOS. Date A Live Spirit Pledge combines visual novel choice and consequence style dating simulation aspects with real-time action-rpg combat. It includes a skill-tree to customize your characters combat abilities and offers a little something for all audiences to enjoy.
Platform: PS4 (note this release combines various Kingdom Hearts games originally found on the PS2, GBA, Nintendo DS and 3DS)
Genre: Action Roleplaying Game ARPG
Publisher: Disney + Squarenix
Where to Buy: $49.99 on Amazon (at time of this writing)
Overall: 68/80 85% B “Very Good Game for Girls”
Geeky: 3/5 The games have fun gameplay, good graphics for the age of the games, and a great soundtrack. However, the Disney segments can be a bit too kiddie for some more serious gamers, and although the entire series is about the juxtaposition of light and dark, the light hearted disney characters can sometimes take away from immersing yourself in the deeper darker story of Sora and his friends.
Sweetie: 5/5 – This game is cuteness overload by combining well loved Square and Disney characters. It also has a surprisingly deep, relatively dark (for a Disney product at least), and mature storyline, which evolves and grows deeper and darker from game to game as characters grow and evolve.
Gameplay: 10/10 Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG. You play as Sora, a young boy who dreams of leaving his home town on a tiny island. When the game begins you are asked to choose a weapon. You may choose between shield, sword, and magic wand. You’re also asked which weapon you will give up. This allows you to customize your fighting style to match your preferences. You’ll also be asked a few questions. These questions do not have any significance on the story, but they do have a large impact on how quickly you will level up throughout the game.
A tutorial will give you a taste for how combat is in each of the games. You can run, jump, push and pull objects, climb, and use your chosen weapons as you chain attacks, dodge, defend, and parry to take down your foes. Enemies will drop small glowing orbs which can offer XP or sometimes restore health or other benefits. You will have to run around and touch the drops, because they do not get added automatically.
After settling into the game, you are allowed to freely explore the island, interact with NPCs, and engage in several minigames, such as fighting or racing with your friends on the island. You will see many familiar faces from both Squaresoft and Disney franchises.
Fairly early in the game, Sora gets his wish of leaving the island, and the rest of the game is played through traveling between different worlds, each representing a key franchise from Disney or Squaresoft. There are numerous battles to fight, areas to explore, sidequests, mini games, and hidden goodies. In fact, to find everything, across all games will take you almost 300 hours (and you’ll be awarded with an extra ending in each game). There’s plenty of content here to sink your teeth into, even for the most seasoned of gamers.
The action based combat is fun and snappy, while the mini games and interaction with a wide variety of characters gives you a break from the hack n slash combat, creating a well balanced game that equally values action as well as adventure.
Story: 8/10 I find it jarring at times how the story jumps between worlds, and I sometimes cringe at some of the Disney characters (and I consider myself a Disney fan! But it can really take away from the story, just when things are getting interesting to flash back to Goofy or Donald, especially with their well known silly voices and all). This can all make the story less immersive. However, at the heart of the story, you have a coming of age tale and a love triangle between 3 best friends. You watch throughout each game as Sora and his friends evolve and grow and change and how their friendships and relationships change as well. The story from each game is directly related from one game to the next. We’ve already watched Sora age by 2 years (and gotten a glimpse at a very young Sora as well). When Kingdom Hearts 1 starts, Sora is 14. By the end of Dream Drop Distance, he is 16. Many speculate he will be 16 or 17 in Kingdom Hearts 3. We witness Sora’s changing emotions as he transitions from adolescence to young adulthood. The main theme song in Kingdom Hearts 1 even hints at this with the lyrics of the chorus stating “Don’t get me wrong, I love you, but does that mean I really have to meet your father? One day when you’re older you’ll understand what I meant when I said No, I don’t think life is quite that simple.” Those lyrics perfectly describe the relationship between Sora and Kairi. An innocent love, a boy who still quite often views love/girls as “gross”, and a boy embarrassed by his emerging feelings of love for Kairi. And we witness not only how friendship can grow to love, but also how platonic friendships can change to rivalries when two boys love the same girl. The depths of both Riku and Sora’s love for Kairi is perhaps the best thing about the story.
I recently picked up Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 HD Remix. I had played the original KH1 and KH2 on Playstation 2 but that was over 12 years ago now. And I had not played the other side games.
Every game in Kingdom Hearts is connected, and contains the same 3 characters, Riku, Kairi, and Sora, and the story gets deeper and more complex as the games go on as more is revealed building upon back stories and prequels and sequels and spin off games. It can be intimidating for someone new to the franchise to pick up the games now with almost 15 years of games to catch up on.
Many people recommend the following order to play the games in to get the most out of the story:
Kingdom Hearts 1 (1.5 remix)
Re: Chain of Memories (1.5 remix)
Kingdom Hearts 2 (2.5 remix)
358/2 Days (1.5 remix)
Birth By Sleep (2.5 remix)
Re:Coded (2.5 remix)
Dream Drop Distance (2.8 remix sold separately)
0.2 Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage (2.8 remix sold separately)
X Back Cover (2.8 remix sold separately.)
Unchained X (free mobile game, available separately)
Kingdom Hearts 3 (sold separately – coming soon)
So you will need bare minimum to purchase 3 games
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 HD Remix
Kingdom Hearts 2.8
Kingdom Hearts 3
And optionally download and play Unchained X on your cell phone.
Some of the “games” above are actually “cutscenes” because they could not emulate the nintendo DS “touch screen” on the PS4. So each of these nintendo remakes are movies which reuse old, and add new cutscenes to tell the story.
You can alternatively purchase and play these Nintendo games separately. But you should be fine with just the cutscenes from an understanding the story standpoint.
Characters: 10/10 I really enjoy watching Sora and friends evolve, age, mature, and change over the course of multiple interconnected games. I also really do enjoy seeing favorite characters thrown in from Final Fantasy and Disney. It’s a strange mashup but it works surprisingly well. If you are either a Disney or Squaresoft fan you will love the cast of characters in these games.
Graphics: 7/10 – Taking into consideration the age of the games, I think the graphics are beautiful and memorable. They are vibrant, full of color, detail, and fun. The character designs blend Disney’s whimsy and charm with Squaresofts more stylistic approach. Sora also reminded me of a brunette Cloud wearing Mickey’s big “clown” shoes. The bobble headed appearance of the characters, makes them cute, but it’s almost a bit too juvenile, given that even when we first meet Sora and friends in KH1, they’re already teenagers. I feel like they look like Precious Moments dolls, and about 7-10 years old because of the proportions of their heads to bodies. — Luckily, the artwork does improve in later games.
Take a look below:
Sora from Kingdom Hearts 1 (Does he look 14 to you? Not even close in my opinion).
Sora from Kingdom Hearts 2 (He is supposed to be 15 here, looks about right.)
Sora from Kingdom Hearts 3 (Speculated to be 16 or 17 here) (meh this design is alright, I expected to see something like Final Fantasy XV quality here. There are very few details in the hair/face and almost no shading on the clothing, it just looks kinda flat/plastic-y… not what I’d expect from a PS4 title. He does look a tiny bit more mature, slimmer face, etc.)
Music: 10/10 I’m a big Utada Hikaru fan, and I love the opening theme “Simple and Clean” – as I mentioned, I feel the lyrics foreshadow the coming of age story and changes that our little island buddies are about to experience. She also sings “Sanctuary” the opening theme of Kingdom Hearts 2. And it has been confirmed that she will also be involved with the opening for Kingdom Hearts 3. My favorite Utada Hikaru song though will always be “First Love”. The Japanese versions of the tracks are also quite catchy even without knowing the lyrics or understanding Japanese. The background music is also fitting and full of adventure and wonder.
Voice Acting: 6/10 – The voice acting is definitely hit or miss for me. Some characters I think are perfectly cast, and others way off mark. Some give pretty convincing performances, while others are too overdramatic and/or the opposite, lack any feeling or emotion in the deliverance of their lines. The iconic Disney characters also can tend to annoy and detract from the story with their overly cartoonish voices for which they are so well known.
Replay Value: 9/10 Although the games are linear, there are multiple games in this “bundle”, and each game has a secret ending, usually only uncovered for completing all side quests, or playing on the hardest difficulty settings, which will take you around 270 hours total according to How long to Beat. Even if you don’t want to go for the secret endings, you’re still looking at over 130 hours of gameplay just for the main stories of each game. For just $40something, that works out to around 30 cents per hour of entertainment. Therefore your return on investment is quite high in this title, even if you might only play each of the games once.
I did a lot of research for this list. So the 40 2018 PS4 Games below are not ranked in any particular order.
If I had to pick a few favorites it’d be Detroit Become Human, Kingdom Hearts 3, Shenmue 3, Stein’s Gate Elite, Atelier Lydie & Suelle, Yakuza 6, Your Four Knights Princess Training Story, Shining Resonance Refrain, A Way Out, FF7, and Ni No Kuni 2.
This is not a full release list for the PS4 in 2018, but instead a collection of games I thought would appeal to other gamers such as myself based either on story, anime graphics, cuteness, or gameplay mechanics.
Leave me a comment below and let me know what games you’re looking forward to on PS4 this year!
40+ PS4 Games for Girls Releasing in 2018
A virtual reality game that features a mouse who knows sign language. The environment is beautiful and the characters are adorable.
2.) Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom
Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch is one of my favorite PS3 games. So it’s no surprise that I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel from Studio Ghibli and Level 5 on the PS4 in 2018.
3.) Red Dead Redemption 2
It’s not often that I enjoy a shooting game; however, I am quite fond of the original back on the 360. I enjoy the open world environment, myriad of quests, and choice and consequence system. The horseback riding was also fun.
4.) Detroit: Become Human
I think above any other title on my list, I’m most excited about this PS4 Exclusive from the makers of Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls. It’s a story driven game where the player must make choices at various points which will fork the story down different branches resulting in different endings.
5.) Shenmue 3
Shenmue 3 broke records when it debuted on kickstarter 2 years ago. Finally the wait is over as the title will launch in mid 2018. In case you missed the first two games, rumors abound about an HD remaster that will include both Shenmue 1 and 2 also arriving on PS4 in 2018.
6.) Knights and Bikes
This quirky cute co-op game aims to recapture the feelings of childhood innocence and fun. You can explore a colorful island, fight baddies with water balloons or race your friends on your bicycles.
7.) Bloodstained Ritual of the Night
This is basically a Castlevania game, except since Kojima left Konami, he’s not allowed to use the name Castlevania anymore. I’m also digging the anime style characters as opposed to the more photo realistic characters the series has been using recently.
8.) Final Fantasy 7 Remake
The wait is almost over for the Final Fantasy Remake with new stories, new visuals, and new combat systems. This is more than just an “HD Port” this is a reworking of the game from scratch, using the same characters, world, and story, but improving upon it in many ways.
Back in the 90s I barely played PC Games, because so few existed that appealed to my tastes. There were exceptions of course, Torment, Fallout 1 and 2, Baulder’s Gate, Icewind Dale, King’s Quest (and other Sierra titles), Ever 17 (and anything else by Hirameki International), Petz, Black and White, Creatures, Graduation 95, and a handful of other gems that weren’t available on my consoles.
But largely, console gaming was the highlight of my childhood. That’s where all the anime games or JRPGs or story rich games were, especially in the 16 and 32 bit eras, which still remain my favorite gaming period of all time. Genesis, Sega CD, SNES, Saturn, PS1, PS2, and Dreamcast, the majority of my favorite games, still to this day, lived on one of those great consoles.
But nowadays, I barely play console games anymore. Occasionally there may be an exclusive that catches my eye, such as Persona 5 on PS4, or Tokyo Mirage Sessions on the Wii U. I even bought a Wii U just for that game in fact.
But now, so many games are cross platform, and so many people like me, who grew up in the 16 and 32 bit eras are making their own indie games now such as To the Moon, Always Sometimes Monsters, Rakuten, Undertale, etc. This completely changes the gaming landscape. Now PC is by and far my preferred gaming “platform” of choice.
And where once, JRPGs reigned on Consoles, they now thrive on the PC or even on mobile devices, and in the past 5 years we’ve seen a huge explosion of visual novels and Otome games as well on both PC and mobile – and barely any of those have been released (at least in English) on consoles.
Where once the PC had almost no games that appealed to my tastes, now suddenly, more and more each year, I find the PC to offer so many games I want to play that I don’t have the time, nor money, to possibly play them all! I have over 700 steam games already (and a handful on Origin, and about 50 more on GOG, and then of course my old CDs from the 90s which have yet to get released digitally.) And that’s not taking into account the PC’s ability to emulate the console games I own (probably around 300+ games there too). And emulation is perfectly legal as long as you own the original games, which I still do.
This puts the number of games I can play on my PC right now today, without buying a single thing, at well over 1,000 games! — How many of those games I’ve actually played, is probably around 25%, and how many I’ve beaten to completion / all endings etc, is probably like 5%. lol. But the point is, there has never been a better time to play girl games on your PC. If you’re a girl, there’s plenty of games that you should check out on PC. This wasn’t the case 20 years ago; my how the landscape has changed!
Here is a list of games due out in 2018 that are on my radar! I’ve selected these games for one of the following reasons: Decisions Matter, Branching Plot, Multiple Endings, Cute/Kawaii Graphics, Excellent Story, Innovating (or at least really fun) Gameplay, and Customization. If you look for the same qualities in your games, check out the list below. Warning, it’s long.
This list is not in any order – largely it’s sorted by release date, because that’s how I was browsing the games while researching this post.
Our first recommendation reminds me of Horizons New Dawn, one of my all time favorite super nintendo games.
This visual Novel Has Some Beautiful Graphics
Til the Dawn, Waiting
This looks sad, and also features animals, a powerful combination to tug at any heart strings
Franky the Bumwalker
Super cute and colorful adventure game that probably doesn’t take itself too seriously.
This indie RPG features an extesnive crafting system and city building aspects as well as cute retro graphics.
Stunt Corgi VR
If you’re lucky enough to have a VR headset you might like this title that lets you create obstacle courses and watch a cute corgi try to navigate the courses you create.
If you like rhythm games, you might like this one with cute anime artwork. Plus it’s free to play.
The Mind Hero
An anime visual novel where you help 8 different characters overcome their trauma. It aims to teach psychology inside a video game. It’s also free and features a comic book style.
This looks to be a very emotionally engaging and beautiful pixel retro style RPG. The developers have said that the game uses real-life world war 2 letters that were written by soldiers to their families.
The ability to customize everything about your mechs and the appeal of mecha genres from decades of anime such as macross, robotech, go lion, voltron, evangelion, gundamn, etc, make this appeal to me, despite the more dark realistic graphics. The gameplay looks fantastic. And who doesn’t love giant robots?
In The Valley of Gods
Explore pyramids in this narrative adventure.
This game aims to balance the skills and economy of its players so that they are forced to work together. Sounds promising. Let’s see how that works once the game releases.
This just looks so utterly adorable!
With a name like Boyfriend Dungeon, how could this not make our list? It’s an otome dating sim and hack n slash RPG adventure, where the boys are weapons.
The Iron Oath
I am beyond excited for this game! True, it doesn’t have the visual aesthetic that I like, but nearly everything about the gameplay appeals to me greatly! Decisions matter, the guild management sounds fun, every character has a back story. Characters die / perma death, you recruit new characters, I’m ready to play this awesome looking tactical RPG.
Living the Deal
Business Management and Life Simulation Game. This one is high on my wishlist (despite how hideously ugly the characters look lol).
Play as cute wolves chasing cute sheep in a game which promises unlockable content and character customization.
Freedom Planet 2
Furrie fans and fans of old school Sonic games still love the original Freedom Planet, and soon the wait is over for the much anticipated sequel.
The Forgettable Dungeon
Co-op Action RPG that you can play with up to 15 friends.
With a new year, I decided to take a look at the upcoming releases for the Switch in 2018 and make a few suggestions as to what games girls should be looking out for in the year ahead. (There may be a few games that released in Q4 of 2017 also on this list as I wasn’t sure of a few of the release dates). Enjoy! And leave me a comment to let me know what games you’re looking forward to on the Switch in 2018. 🙂 I’ll also soon add a list like this for PS4 and PC games as well.
Top 2018 Nintendo Switch Games For Girls
1.) Project Octopath Traveler
Originally scheduled for a 2017 release, and part of our Top 2017 Nintendo Switch Games for Girls list, Octopath Traveler blends gameplay elements from 16 and 32 bit classics such as Chronotrigger and Saga Frontier. The retro game feel is sure to appeal to many visitors of this site. But that’s not all, Project Octopath Traveler also offers a variety of endings and a branching plot line that is shaped by decisions you make within the game.
2.) Kirby Star Allies
He’s pink, cute, and the gameplay is fun. Kirby has been a fan favorite of Nintendo gamers for several decades now. In his new adventure, up to four players can join in and you can combine different power ups, as demonstrated in the Nintendo Direct Video above.
3.) Toe Jam & Earl Back in the Groove
Toe Jam & Earl was a childhood favorite of mine. I spent countless hours (or days, or weeks) playing the original two games on Sega Genesis with my best friend. It’s one of the best multiplayer games of my childhood and this new take on the classic, originally slated for 2017, will grace Switch consoles now in 2018. For those unfamillar with the franchise, you run around colorful crazy worlds with zany characters and crazy powerups playing as 2 funky hiphop aliens.
4.) My Time At Portia
My Time At Portia is a cross platform title that features sandbox gameplay in a large open world enviornment. It blends together many gameplay elements from Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, Rune Factory, and Atelier. In this game you can raise animals, grow crops, and restore an abandoned workshop. The developers say the game takes place in a post apocalyptic world where humans are few and that you search for relics from the past to create inventions for the betterment of society. Also just like in Harvest Moon and similar games, all of the NPCs have their own schedules, they will go to work, school, and have their own stories for you to discover by interacting with them.
5.) Avabel Online
This is perhaps an interesting one to make the list. Avabel Online is a free to play MMORPG that is already available on many platforms, including Android and IOS devices which makes it already portable and playable on the go. Despite that, I’m including it in the list because I do think the gameplay will appeal to girls. Right now, for example, they are running a special Sanrio promotion (makers of hello kitty). You can get cute (sometimes strange) items to decorate your house or dress up your characters. https://avabelonline.com/landing/sanrio
A Shopkeeping RPG Simulation game with retro style graphics. You can explore and fight for valueable treasure, as well as craft your own items, and then sell them in your shop. You can also communicate with the NPCs to discover what items they want to purchase. The dungeons are procedurally generated and present new challenges and new loot each time.
7.) Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintingsread more
Bundle Stars just announced a big sale on Anime RPGs which seems to focus mostly on Idea Factory’s Hyperdimension Neptunia series with the largest discount being 70% off Hyperdevotion Noire and 50% off Hyperdevotion Noire DLC. Other titles also have 50-70% off in the Anime RPG sale which include Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth 1, 2, and 3, Megadimension Neptunia VII, and Hyperdimension NeptuniaU Action Unleashed.
I’m unsure on the dates for this promotion so if you’re looking to get some cheap anime PC games, here’s your chance!
Hyper Dimension Neptunia isn’t the only Idea Factory title on sale either! Amnesia Memories is also 70% Off, and Fairy Fencer F is 65% Off right now. Disgaea PC is also 25% off. You can see all the Idea Factory International titles below:
If there’s one thing that I love in a game, it’s a branching plot and multiple endings, as you’ll see from many of the games reviewed or news given here on this website. So I was really excited when Pixel x Pixel Games emailed me yesterday to promote their new Action-RPG.
This game looks really great for retro game lovers. It was clearly made with a lot of love and fond memories of someone growing up in the 90s playing all of the classic games.
I’ll just include the message I received from Pixel x Pixel Games below because it pretty much highlights all of the features that I would want to highlight about this game. I’ve bolded the bits that I thought were the most exciting. Check out what Pixel x Pixel Games has to say about Guardian of the Rose below.
Guardians of the Rose is a story of high adventure, taken on by a small group of companions, that are seeking to overthrow the Great Witches that have assumed control of the kingdom. You are a newly christened member of the Royal Guard, the magic-keepers of the king. With the Royal Guard now tainted by witchcraft you have no choice but to take it upon yourself to form a new Guard that will overthrow the witchcraft that has enslaved the kingdom. Encounters with river spirits, groundlings, giants, and dragons alike are some of the adventures that will befall you.
Open-Ended Adventuring – The world is laid out specifically so that you can choose to explore in any direction you want. You can choose to progress the storyline at your own pace while immersing yourself inside the lore and sidequests of the kingdom. These sidequests are not your typical “save my chicken” type quests but instead are designed to make the player feel like he is making a significant difference in the lands around him.
High Fantasy pitting Magic vs Witchcraft – Magic was taught to the people by a legendary hero that saved the world from the Great Witches long ago. Ever since, witchcraft has been outlawed and users of the craft have been hunted mercilessly by the Royal Guard. Now that witchcraft has risen to power again, you are tasked with saving the Kingdom but you have no magical ability like the great heroes of times before.
Compelling Story – Guardians of the Rose was heavily inspired by the classic tales of Homer, Viking Sagas, and high fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings and Winds of Fate. Not only is the main storyline compelling but there is a focus on enveloping the entire game in epic world lore.
Choose your own way to play – The player must choose what path to take, good or evil. The only goal of the game is to restore peace to the land. How it is done is up to the player. You can choose to incite revolution from the stealth of the shadows or you can wage all out war. With a completely customizable stats and skills system there is very little the player does not have control over.
Multiple Endings – Depending on how you play the game, which path you take in your exploration of the lands, and who you decide to party with, the game’s story and ending can change fairly drastically.
Guardians of the Rose is a story-driven 2D action adventure RPG. It controls like a modernized, fast-paced version of old-school Zeldaand Gauntlet games with the RPG elements of the Elder Scrolls Series.
Along with the inspiration from classic books and stories the games style was inspired by old school Arcade games that I would play as a kid at Pizza Hut and the local bowling Alley.
Check out the press release provided by Pixel x Pixel Games below:
The folks at Badland Games just emailed me their press release for their upcoming title: Anima: Gate of Memories which is based on a series of books. It is being developed by a small team and heavily involving the author of the novels.
This looks to be a really fun, story-rich RPG with multiple endings, choice-based dialogue system, beautiful graphics, and fun combat system. I’m seeing if I can get a key so I can share some more details and possibly stream or upload some videos for you guys – but until then, enjoy the press release and official trailer below!
Third-person action RPG *Anima: Gate of Memories* due June 3 on Steam (Windows/Linux), PS4 & Xbox One, N. American PS4 launch to take place June 7
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Action RPG Anima: Gate of Memories Available June 3rd (Steam, PS4, Xbox One)
North American PS4 Release on Tuesday, June 7thread more
You may want to read the review for Dark Cloud 1 first to get the fullest understanding of the Gameplay mechanics, as a lot of those same mechanics are carried over to Dark Cloud 2.
Dark Cloud 2, like its predecessor is an Action-RPG with real-time combat and unique weapon leveling system, procedurally generated dungeons and world and city building gameplay elements.
Title: Dark Cloud 2 (also sometimes referred to by the Japanese title, Dark Chronicle).
Publisher: Level 5
Where to Buy: Playstation Store has Dark Cloud 2 (digital version) for $14.99. Amazon has the physical disc with prices ranging from $32 to $92 at time of this review, depending on the game’s condition. http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Cloud-2… Amazon also has the digital version, the same as the Playstation Store, for $14.99 – accessible from the same amazon link above.
Overall: 77/90 86% B “Very Good Game For Girls”
Concept: 10/10 The concept of Dark Cloud 2 is very similar to that in Dark Cloud 1. It’s a Dungeon Crawler with randomly generated dungeons and real-time combat. There’s also multiple quick time events. The city and world building elements return in Dark Cloud 2. The weapon system, and the non-leveling characters also return. The game is enhanced with new features such as fishing and character customization through a unique costume system. Combat is improved, and the game is given a much needed makeover with adorable anime style cel-shaded artwork that looks like it came out of a painting or storybook. The Soundtrack is almost double the size of the original, and has some truly amazing tracks. It also adds voice acting to the game which helps highlight key events and scenes. Yep, in every single way, this game is much better than the original – which was already pretty darn great!
Gameplay: 10/10 Dark Cloud 2 takes everything that made Dark Cloud 1 so great, and then adds in some new features as I mentioned above, an improved combat system, a new fishing “minigame”, ability to customize your characters with different costumes, etc. But at the core, it’s still the Dark Cloud that we all know and love from the first game. You crawl through multiple procedurally generated dungeons, in which you will find artifacts called Geostones which when taken back to town, allow you to place objects, people, houses, even landscaping elements into your city. As you add more to your city, you will begin to recruit new npcs which will open new shops, give you new quests, and make your city come to life. The weapon system also makes a return in Dark Cloud 2. In the Dark Cloud series your characters do not level up or have any stats or abilities. Instead, it is their equipment which levels up during combat and can be refined back in town to add attributes and abilities directly into the Equipment. Also as in Dark Cloud 1, If you over-use the equipment and forget to repair it though you will permanently lose the items, which sucks for rare or high powered gear. However, this element of “risk” definitely makes Gameplay more fun and challenging.
Story: 6/10 Dark Cloud 2’s story is a significant improvement over the bare bones story of Dark Cloud 1. But to me it’s still just not “great”. I still think story is a weak point for this series overall. Dark Cloud 2’s story focuses on Time Travel. A Princess from the future is sent 100 years back in time to try to save her kingdom. To do so, she joins forces with our hero, who is able to also Time Travel (to the future). Using their powers combined they can freely go to the past, present, or future. As you make changes in your town, things begin to change in the future also. It’s a unique and fun concept. As the story progresses you travel between the past, present, and future re-writing certain events to prevent a terrible war from taking place while seeking help from the moon people. I just felt overall, the story lacked a lot of heart or emotion which prevents me from being able to score it higher. I enjoy the time travel concept, but just never felt as immersed or connected to the story as I have in many other JRPG.
Characters: 5/10 Here we have fewer playable characters, down to 2 from 6 in the original game. Also both characters are human looking in appearance and no where near as creative looking as in Dark Cloud 1 (a cat girl, moon person, etc). I just felt the characters themselves also, just like in Dark Cloud 1 were rather flat and didn’t engage me right away. I think maybe it’s the way they interact with other characters and overall a lack of character development that really hurt both games in this series.
Graphics: 8/10 The graphics are a tremendous step up from those in the first game. Gone are the grainy textures and poor lighting. Also gone is the more realistic art style. Instead we have adorable anime inspired cel-shaded artwork. I did deduct 2 points because the characters facial expressions and animations felt stiff as is often a problem with 3d games especially from this time period. Overall I feel Dark Cloud 2 is adorable, and beautiful to look at. Dark Cloud 1 looked more like a PS1 game, while Dark Cloud 2, clearly took full advantage of the PS2 Hardware. It’s not as beautiful and fluid as say, Dawn of Mana, which is another PS2 game that utilizes similar cel-shaded art styles, but it’s very attractive in it’s own right, and the added touch of being able to customize the characters with various costumes really made the game’s art stand out even more.
Music: 10/10 The soundtrack to Dark Cloud 2 has nearly 80 unique tracks (up from the 40-ish tracks in the original game.). Some of these tracks are amazing. It is really a hidden gem among retro JRPG soundtracks. The game is relatively obscure, but I’d rank Dark Cloud 2’s music right up there with other great JRPG such as Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger.
Voice Acting: 10/10 No expense was spared in localizing this game. Although I’m not really a fan of dubbed voice overs, most of the ones in Dark Cloud 2 are fairly decent. And it’s nice to have Voice Acting added to help highlight key scenes in the story. The game featured almost every high profile voice actor of the 90s.
Replay Value: 8/10 Still a linear (and not great) story, but with a plethora of new gameplay additions, enhanced combat, and already addictive and unique world/city building elements, the randomness of the dungeons, and great music score – this is a game that you will definitely want to replay.
Reviewing one of my all time favorite games today, Dark Cloud. I will also be reviewing the very similar, but slightly better, Dark Cloud 2 later today as well.
This game is extremely similar to Legend of Zelda. Our main hero even has a green floppy hat just like Link lol. But it brings with it some unique new features such as rouge-like random proceduraly generated level design, multiple playable characters, and most notably, a world-creation and city building system.
Also, if you missed out on this awesome game back in 2001, you can play it again now if you have a PS4 via the playstation store.
This was Level 5’s first game – and definitely a classic must-own for any JRPG collector. Interestingly enough, when the game came to North America, it was enhanced with new content and features that don’t exist in the Japanese version such as better AI control, an entire new dungeon, and dozens of new weapons.
Title: Dark Cloud
Release Date: 2001
Publisher: Level 5
Genre: Action RPG
Where to Buy: In addition to the digital versions on the Playstation Store, you can still find hard copies of the game on sites like Amazon. At time of this writing there’s about 10 copies on Amazon with prices ranging from $12 to $99 depending on the condition and quality of the disc, book, case, etc. Check out this page for more info: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Cloud…
Overall: 59/80 74% C “Good Game for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 As mentioned, this action RPG feels very Zelda-ish in design but brings with it a few surprises, namely the city and world building aspects along with procedurely generated dungeons. The dungeon crawling and city building style of gameplay reminds me a lot of Azure Dream which I reviewed here.
Gameplay: 10/10 This game combines real time combat such as that found in Zelda or Secret of Mana with Occasional Quick Time Events and of course, lots of world building and city building gameplay. The dungeons are proceduraly generated and it also features multiple playable characters each with their own abilities and fighting style. However, Atla (the items needed for city building) can only be found when playing as the main character.
In city building mode, you place the Atla retrieved from the dungeons onto your town. The atla may be something like a shop, house, or even something as simple as a tree or pond, or even a new NPC. As you continue to add Atla, and continue to talk to the NPC’s you will learn more about what they want you to build in their cities. Once you reach a certain level within that city, you can move on to create additional cities as well.
The game is also unique in how characters level up. In fact, your characters never level up at all. Only their equipment levels up as you battle your way through the dungeons. However, the weapons also break if not repaired between uses. Once a weapon breaks it is lost forever. Weapons can also be upgraded by attaching different effects to the weapon which can give it bonuses such as agility, strength, or elemental properties. Although it can be aggravating at times (to lose a really powerful weapon), I really enjoyed this weapon system and felt that it really added something to the gameplay to differentiate it from all the other Action RPGs of the 90s/early 2k.
The dungeon crawling aspects can get dull at times – but I feel it’s spiced up enough with plenty of other gameplay elements to keep it from getting overly repetitive. There’s just so many other fun things to do in this game.
Story: 5/10 Unfortunately, story is what misses the mark for me in this game. I just felt it was a little too slowly paced and that both the story and the characters felt bland and not very engaging. The story tells of a time when 2 continents existed peacefully governed by two moons. One day a Dark Cloud appeared over one of the lands (hence the title of the game). Anything touched by this cloud was destroyed (Sounds very Never Ending Story-ish with the Nothing destroying entire cities, erasing people, creatures, forests, etc – Unfortunately, Never Ending Story was actually exciting and interesting, while the same can’t really be said of Dark Cloud). To protect the people and places of the land, a benevolent fairy king sealed each of them away in a magic orb known as Atla. The Main character appears when his village is destroyed by the Dark Cloud. He encounters the fairy king who tells him how he can rebuild the world but that he must first find the orbs which have been scattered throughout the continent. While the bare bones for an interesting story are in place, it just doesn’t really captivate or connect with the audience.
Characters: 7/10 The physical design and appearance of the characters is quite cute and unique (aside from the main character who looks way too much like Link lol). But their personalities and interactions often feel like an empty shell. The characters include a cat who is stuck inside one of the dungeons that the Main Character encounters. She is rescued by the main character and taken by to the city where she is transformed into a human-like girl with cat ears and tail. Another interesting character is a robotics engineer who wears almost like a hazmat suit that’s very form fitting. He’s unique because he has large rabbit like ears and appears to have a custom suit built to take into account his large pointy ears. – So the concepts and creativity for the character design definitely gets high marks, but the dialog and interaction between them, not so much.
Graphics: 6/10 I take issue with how grainy the textures are in this game. However, I like the overall character design and game world. Dark Cloud 2 features a much cleaner (and cuter) art style.
Music: 7/10 I feel that the music just isn’t anything special overall. It’s not very memorable. Dark Cloud 2 has great music, Dark Cloud 1, on the other hand, is average to good, but falls just short of greatness. It’s also only half the size of the soundtrack in terms of number of tracks as compared to Dark Cloud 2.
Replay Value: 6/10 Although it’s a linear story, the world and city building aspects make it interesting enough to come back to.
Welcome to Part Three of our Secret of Mana Reviews. Today’s topic is Secret of Mana 3, a game which we never got to experience in North America, but which was thankfully translated by some dedicated fans. You’re probably wondering how you can play this awesome game so here’s a link to the Seiken Densetsu 3 fan translation.
I really recommend that you purchase a physical copy of the game. You sometimes can find it on sites like Amazon. At time of this writing, it is about $160 but it is so worth it. Buy Secret of Mana 3 on Amazon.com
I don’t condone piracy so I’m not putting a link to the rom here. You can find it easily enough for yourself.
I’m really excited to be writing today’s review because this is my favorite game in the Secret of Mana series (although Legend of Mana is a very close 2nd.)
Title: Seiken Densetsu 3
Platform: Super Nintendo
Release Date: September 1995 (Japan Only)
Genre: Action RPG
Overall: 74 / 80 93% “A-. Excellent Game for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 Seiken Densetsu 3 is an action RPG with real-time combat that is part of the Secret of Mana franchise. The game features 6 playable characters. When the game begins it asks you to select 3 of these characters to focus on, similar in a way to games such as Live-a-Live and Saga Frontier. Like Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu allows for you to play simultaneously with a friend. When playing solo, you can freely switch control between the characters, and have the other 2 characters back you up via artificial intelligence. Also like Secret of Mana, there is a ring like system which allows you to equip weapons or cast magic spells.
Gameplay: 10/10 The big differences and improvements over Secret of Mana focus on the leveling and class system. Upon level up the player chooses which stats to enhance for each character and at different levels the player can unlock different classes which each have a unique set of skills for each character, for a total of 5 (counting the starting class) classes for each character, times 6 characters, you have 30 unique classes and unique skill sets to explore. Although the classes are labeled as light or dark variations, they do not impact the storyline in any way.
There’s also a night/day cycle and a calendar system which similar to games such as Final Fantasy XI, gives a magic boost on different days to increase the effectiveness of corresponding magical spells. The calendar system also changes which in-game events occur and even what enemies you encounter.
Story: 8/10 Story has never been this series strong suit if we’re being honest. Despite that, I enjoyed the story in Seiken Densetsu 3 more than any of the previous titles in the series. This particular game has a unique approach to story that differentiates it from the other installments. As mentioned, when the game starts, you select 3 characters to focus on during the story out of 6 total. You also distinguish who your main character will be and this is the focus of the story. All 6 of their stories are intertwined, and to really experience the whole story you need to play the game multiple times using all 6 of the different characters.
Seiken Densetsu’s story is also unique in that it is the first game in the series to begin to establish some continuity between game worlds. In fact, there is a direct sequel for the NDS called Heroes of Mana (which I sadly have not played yet). I also find it interesting how the mana goddess in Seiken Densetsu 3 is a sleeping tree, and the tree is also a main symbol/character in Legend of Mana as well.
Characters: 7/10 Like any game with multiple stories, some are more interesting than others. Character interaction depends heavily on who you have in your party and that does detract a bit from the freedom given to pick and choose your party members. It was interesting in concept, but poorly executed, as more dialogue should have been written in for the other characters as well. – Still, overall, the plot and characters in this game remain much more detailed and interesting than the bare bones plot and characters in Secret of Mana.
Music: 10/10 The music for the game features many symphonic sounding tracks and melodic piano pieces which highlight the different scenes throughout each story. It is a huge soundtrack with over 50 different tracks recorded, making it quite possibly one of the largest soundtracks for an SNES game.
Graphics: 10/10 This game is just beautiful to look at, it really pushes the limits of what was thought to be possible with 16 bit hardware. When this game was released, systems such as Sega Saturn and PS1 had already arrived in Japan and I’d argue that this game almost looks as good as many of the early games for those consoles as well. I especially love the use of color, and the details given to the textures and environments.
Replay Value: 10/10 – unlike other games in this series, Seiken Densetsu 3 is a game which must be played 6 times to see the whole story. There are also significant differences depending on who else is in your party, making it actually possible to enjoy playing it even more than 6 times.
Overall: 74 / 80 93% “A-. Excellent Game for Girls”
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 :).
Secret of Mana is a series of real-time adventure RPGs from the 1990s. The “first” installment, which we’re reviewing today, is Secret of Mana for the SNES. This game was actually the 2nd in the Secret of Mana series, but was the first one to make it overseas. There’s also Secret of Mana 3 (Sometimes mistakenly referred to as Secret of Mana 2) which we also never got in the USA (but which has been fan translated), Secret of Evermore – which is a completely different, but equally fun game, which is what we got in America instead of Secret of Mana 3, and Legend of Mana on the PS1.
I say this review is part 1 of 4 because I plan to review the other installments in the series in the near future. I’ve never played the original “first” game (from Japan), so that one will not be included in the series of reviews. It may be available somewhere fan translated, I’ve just never sought it out. I have however, played the rest of the series, including Secret of Mana 3 which is among my favorites in the series. But we’ll start this series of reviews off with good old Secret of Mana, because it was the “gateway” for most english speaking players into this series.
Title: Secret of Mana
Platform: Super Nintendo
Release Date: 1993
Genre: Action RPG
Where to Buy: Amazon has the original SNES cartridge for as low as $67.00 – This is a good buy, as this game is a classic and sure to retain or increase in value among collectors. Just take a look at some of our other retro reviews around the site, similar RPGs from the 90s are going for upwards of $160 a piece. Secret of Mana is a bit more obscure than say, Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy, but it’s still an amazing little game.
However, if you are not a collector, I would recommend the mobile edition of this game which features a completely new translation. The original game had many bugs and a translation from Japanese to English which took only 30 days to complete. As a result, much of the original story was cut from the English version – Whether that was due to a hastily translated script and pressure to meet holiday deadlines from Nintendo, or as a result of the limitations of the cartridge format, the fact is, that the IOS and Android versions provide a much better experience – and cost a lot less than the actual Super Nintendo cartridge too.
You can get Secret of Mana on IOS here for just $7.99
Gameplay: 10/10 The most unique thing about these games is the weapon “wheel” in which you can quickly switch between different weapons. Every character in the party can use every weapon in the game, in sort of a class-less system. If you try to equip the same weapon on 2 different characters though, you will only switch their weapons instead.
The weapons can be upgraded with weapon orbs found in various dungeons. Also by using a weapon, it will begin to level up and unlock new special abilities.
Since all the combat is real-time (much like Zelda, Ys, and other Action Adventure RPGs) you have to be fast thinking and take into account the movements of your enemy as well as use the terrain to your advantage to kite your monster around the map.
The game features an AI system as well in which you can decide if your party members should engage enemies directly or stay in the back to minimize their damage.
There’s also a magic “wheel” but the main hero does not have access to this; however, the other party members can use offensive or healing magic to aid the hero. You cycle through and select spells in the same way that you cycle through and select weapons. And similar to the weapons, magic also levels up the more you use it.
Some spells will be specific only to certain characters, and others will be shared by both of the magic users in the game.
Aside from the unique wheel like mechanism for choosing spells and weapons, the game plays much like other action JRPG of the 90s. You control a party of 3 heroes, and complete quests, level up, go into dungeons, and progress through the storyline.
Story: 7/10 As I mentioned above, the original SNES translation (which to be fair, is the version I’m reviewing) suffered from time constraints and/or physical limitations of the technology of the time. While we did get the game just a few weeks after the Japanese release, we really missed out on a lot of the storyline and character development.
The premise of the story is very interesting. It tells of an ancient war fought with magic which resulted almost in the end of the world. However, a hero emerged and using the Legendary Mana Sword was able to bring peace back to the world. To prevent a similar war from occuring again, the mana seeds were sealed and scattered across the earth. Powerful guardians were charged with protecting each mana seed.
Foreshadowing tells us however that the peace will not last, and a time skip brings us to our main hero as he is playing outside the village with his friends. An accident occurs in which you get separated from your friends and must find your way home but your path home is blocked by thick weeds. Conveniently, there’s a sword sticking up out of the ground, so you figure you’ll just use that to cut your way through. However, as you pick up the sword, a voice speaks to you telling you that you are the chosen one (similar to the legend of the sword in the stone) and that you now posses the legendary Mana Sword. As you make your way home, you see there appear to be monsters closer to the village than usual, so you get to try out your new sword in some real combat practice. When you finally make it back home, the villagers blame you for the appearance of the monsters and banish you from the village.
As the story unfolds, you learn of the plan to release the mana seeds and restore the ancient technology from the first war. Knowing that this will again anger the gods, you become like the hero from the first war, destined to once again seal away the power of mana from the hands of man.
The story is actually pretty well written with some interesting surprises, and was very dark for a game of the 90s including suicide, spiritual possession, and themes of war and sorcery.
Characters: 3/10 But in the end it felt like there was more that could have been told here. Perhaps as a result of things lost in the original translation. I especially felt that the characters themselves were flat and never really connected with them in the way that I would in most other games. This made the game ultimately less enjoyable and less immersive than I would’ve liked. I should have been devastated when a major plot thread occurs which effects one of the playable characters and a love interest, but ultimately, I was just not moved or able to feel as much emotion for as grave as the plot had become, because I just didn’t care that much about any of the characters. And I am not a cold person, there are many games which have brought me to tears. This just isn’t one of them. To be fair, I’ve not played the improved new translation from the mobile games. I suspect a lot of what was cut from the script may have filled in this void in character depth and may be restored in the new mobile version.
Graphics: 8/10 I really liked how colorful and bright this game world is. Most of it features outdoor environments with lush green fields, bright blue rivers, and the character sprites are also very brightly colored.
Music: 10/10 Another iconic 90s Squaresoft soundtrack. Very memorable tracks which helped to set the mood throughout the game.
Voice Acting – N/A Not Voiced.
Replay Value: 2/10 This is a completely linear game with little to no replay value, aside from the fact that it is an enjoyable little rpg that you may wish to revisit down the road.