City of Heroes RETURNS!

 

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The character creator in this game is just pure insanity… AND I LOVE IT!

You ever wonder what happens after a piece of fiction dies? What happens after a story concludes? What do the characters do next? How does this world live on? For popular franchises, the chance for a full-on revival is usually there. This stands true for video-games, movies, anime, cartoons, and comics. However, what about Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games?

MMORPGs are something that very rarely get revivals. At most, they may get a spinoff here or there. When an MMO dies it usually stays dead, but there are some exceptions to this rule. There’s this thing called “Private Servers”, which are emulations of dead servers done by fans. This allows people to play a long dead game and enjoy it, while also giving the game a new lease on life.

One such game that is getting resurrected is “City of Heroes”, which is one of the best MMOs I’ve ever played! City of Heroes was a special game, due in large part to it being the first superhero MMORPG ever made. Long before DC Universe Online and Champions Online; City of Heroes was the game that introduced PC players to a superhero world like no other.

This world was filled with interesting lore and likable characters. Missions that seemed generic at first would open into large grandiose adventures. For example, a simple meeting with a business-man could turn into a tournament against several powerful super-villains.

Not only were the missions fun, but the game allowed you to tailor your superhero/supervillain to your own preferences. Want to use electrical powers and invulnerability? You can do that! How about having the ability to fly and punch people with fists made of stone? You could also do that! Couple this with the amazingly extensive character creation system, and you have a game with unlimited customization options.

There was so much content and improvements made to the game over the years, to the point where it became something completely different from what it was when it launched. The game enjoyed a large community of fans throughout its life-cycle, but it was sadly not meant to last. NCSoft pulled the plug on the game back in 2012, while not giving any reasons as to why they discontinued it. Being the publishers of the game, they could do whatever they want with the license.

This meant screwing over both the developers and the fans, while not telling them why. Fans believe it was because the game bombed in NCSoft’s home country of Korea, which prompted them to write it off as a complete failure. We will never know if that was the main reason, but it seems the most likely.

NCSoft’s shutdown of the game forever tainted their name and drove fans away from their future products. The game’s shutdown also meant the loss of not only the game, but all of the user created content as well. Custom characters, costumes, and missions were all lost in the great purge. If you didn’t back up your character’s costume on your hard-drive, it was lost forever. I will always miss my original heroes and villains: Rom The Death Knight, Earthwolf, and Dr. Kickandsmack.

All of this amazing work and the game it spawned from were gone forever… Until two weeks ago. The existence of a private server that’s been operating in secret for six years was revealed to the world. This private server was created using City of Heroes’ data files, which were given to the team by an anonymous developer. With the framework for the game back in the hands of the fans, they reconstructed the game for all to play.

The team called “SCORE” were able to bring this game back from the brink of extinction, so that the players could one again partake in it. Will it be up forever? It’s doubtful, but one can hope that they’re able to keep the servers running for quite a while. Here’s hoping they can find a way to curb the large server costs, such as giving the fans a way to donate to them to help keep it running. Regardless, I’m just glad to have this amazing game back at all! It’s great finally being able to return to the greatest game of my teenage years.

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The Return of Dragon’s Dogma

There’s nothing I love more than a good medieval fantasy setting! I’m a huge fan of swords and sorcery, so pretty much anything involving the two always gets me interested. I love a good fantasy adventure, especially when it’s in video-game form! My favorite fantasy games include Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Risen 1, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

However, there’s one game that stands above them all as my favorite fantasy game of all time: Dragon’s Dogma. The game was similar to a lot of other fantasy RPGs at the time. It had you leveling up, defeating giant monsters, and slaying a dragon. However, Dragon’s Dogma sets itself apart from its competition in a number of interesting ways.

For one thing, the story revolves around your heart literally getting ripped out by a dragon! Your custom hero doesn’t die, but rather becomes an undead warrior known as an “Arisen”. You are then given a “Pawn”, which is a secondary custom character that acts as your sidekick. You can then recruit Pawns made by other players, who will help you in combat and exploration.

Your Pawn can also be recruited by other players, which will often result in her/him coming back with a ton of awesome items! Another unique feature of Dragon’s Dogma was its epic boss fights, which usually revolved you jumping onto a monster and grappling them. Once you’ve clung onto a monster, you can then slash at their vulnerable areas.

Taking down monsters in this game felt both epic and gratifying at the same time! Toppling the fowl beasts over and taking them out was one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. Couple that with the massive open-world, great character designs, and fun combat, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantastic game!

Dragon’s Dogma was one of those fantasy games that just felt right and worked well. Despite this, the game initially sold poorly in America. However, it was saved by its sales in Japan and the “Cult Classic” status it accrued over time. Despite low initial sales, the game eventually gained the attention it deserved.

As a result, the game evolved into a franchise. It received an MMO spinoff called “Dragon’s Dogma Online”, a standalone expansion, and several ports to many other consoles. Not only this, but an anime and sequel were also announced. With Dragon’s Dogma making a comeback, it was only natural that it would make its way to the hottest console available right now: The Nintendo Switch.

Yes, the extremely popular fantasy game is finally going handheld! To me, this is a great thing for the series. Having a handheld version of Dragon’s Dogma is going to bring in so many new fans, which would be a fantastic achievement for the franchise. Having a larger playerbase would definitely help for when they churn out the sequel.

I’m glad Dragon’s Dogma is coming back. The series definitely needs more love and attention, which it has slowly been garnering for over half a decade now. I’ve been looking for a reason to get back into the series, and I think Dragon’s Dogma for Switch is going to be that reason. Here’s hoping it’s a fantastic port like the PC version is!

Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission Review

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Crotch lasers?! What crazy concept will Dragon Ball come up with next?!

Yep, I’m talking about Dragon Ball for the 100th time on this blog! For some reason, I always find myself being drawn back into the crazy misadventures of a super-powered farmer, and his unquenchable desire to beat people up. Of course, Dragon Ball games featuring Goku and his many pals isn’t anything new. There are 100s of Dragon Ball games already out there with 3-5 of them being released on a yearly basis.

One DB game that’s been big in Japan for almost a decade now is “Dragon Ball Heroes”, which is an arcade card game that has you collecting thousands of cards to battle others with. Dragon Ball fans outside of Japan have wanted this game for the longest time, due to it having the largest amount of characters in any Dragon Ball game ever!

After years of begging Japan to release the game stateside, they finally caved in and did so. After releasing several trailers directly to their YouTube page, they released the game itself on April 5. I actually got the game on release day and I decided that it’s a good time to talk about this awesome semi-obscure game.

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Only in Dragon Ball Heroes can you see the likes of Super Saiyan 4 Goku and his Ultra Instinct counterpart hanging out.

After all, I’m just as obscure than this game, so that makes me more than qualified to talk about it! So, let’s get down to discussing “Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission”. World Mission plays identically to the arcade game from which it is based on. You start the game off with a set of beginner cards and gradually obtain new ones as the game progresses.

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Never thought a mouse-god could look so cool!

There are over 1100 cards in the game, which is an immensely staggering amount. The game will shower you in “Gacha Tickets” as you play it, which will allow you to buy the game’s many cards. Thankfully, you don’t have to pay a single cent for any card in the game! That’s right, this game has 0 micro-transactions in it!

The fact that you can obtain any card without having to shell out any cash at all is rather impressive. This is especially crazy when you consider the fact that all of these cards would’ve cost the Japanese equivalent of 17,800 dollars. What’s better than the lack of micro-transactions is the game’s massive amount of fan-service.

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That awkward moment when you realize this attack did barely any damage.

Almost every Dragon Ball character is playable in this game, which is absolutely crazy. There are characters from the movies, Super, GT, and even other Dragon Ball video-games! The only downside is that several characters don’t have cards attached to them, but the game thankfully has us covered there.

One of the best parts of this game is the ability to create your own cards! This game couldn’t just settle on having 1100, and decided top give the plays the ability to create their own! The card creation system is extensive, yet very simple. It’s easy to create cards that not only look legit, but are actually really overpowered! On top of this, you can also make cards out of characters who don’t have cards attached to them. This gives you free reign to use normally inaccessible characters. You can also create missions for other players to take part in, which is an incredibly fun thing to do.

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It’s sad that the highest rank custom missions are just lame farming quests…

Let’s move onto the game’s combat, which is both simple and complex at the same time. Both you and your opponent have up to 7 cards in a deck at a time, most of which have their own abilities and skills. Creating a team with perfect synergy is the key to winning a lot of the later missions.

Battles arenas feature two areas: One for support and one for attack. Any card you put in the attack area will act as your “Attackers” for the round, while the support area is used to help recover your cards’ stamina. Your characters will get stunned if they lose all their stamina, so be sure to make good use of the support area!

There’s a lot more to the combat than that, due to the sheer amount of different deck combinations you can make. Experimentation is the name of the game, and it’s the only way you’ll make it through the main-quest and the various other modes. Oh yeah, did I mention this game is packed to the brim with content?

You have a main quest that will take you 40-60 hours, an arcade mode with over a dozen varied and unique campaigns, offline and online tournaments that the player can participate in, special “Side Stories” focusing on the various party members your recruit, the aforementioned ability to create custom missions and cards, and online PVP with players across the world. There is so much here that it’s almost overwhelming! You are definitely getting your money’s worth for a game that costs 60-80 dollars.

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Yamcha-mania will forever be a thing.

Of course, it’s not a perfect game by any means. The graphics and engine are ported over from the arcade game, and end up being extremely dated as a result. However, the game’s bad graphics allow for the game to have as many characters as it does. Higher graphics would mean far less characters, which I think would kill some of its charm.

Speaking of the game’s charm, it’s impossible for me to talk about Heroes without mentioning the killer soundtrack. World Mission utilizes several of the theme songs used for the game’s many trailers over the past decade. On top of this, the game boasts some rather catchy original tunes as well.

Lastly, I wanna talk about the game’s story, which is unfortunately a mixed bag. The game is set in a universe where Dragon Ball is one of the most popular things ever, and everyone knows the entire story forwards and back. You play as a young boy who is just getting into the game for the first time. The nameless protagonist meets a mysterious swordsman named “Great Saiyaman 3” on one fateful day, and is hurled into an adventure that involves all of your favorite Dragon Ball characters.

 

While the plot certainly presents a lot of fun and entertaining “What If” scenario, you probably won’t get much out of them unless you’re a Dragon Ball fan. World Mission does a poor job at explaining all of these pre-existing characters, and the arcs that they originated from. Still, the amount of variety in the main quest’s silly scenarios makes up for its lack of proper explanation. The plot itself isn’t too original or unique, but it gets the job done.

With that being said, the game is certainly worth its seemingly high price tag. If you can get past the dated graphics and somewhat lacking tutorial, then you have a game with hours upon hours of great content to partake in. This game has a fantastic variety of characters to collect and things to do, an amazing card creation system, and a battle system that seems both fresh and familiar. I normally hate card games with a passion, but I couldn’t stop myself from falling in love with Heroes. It was great to finally play this game, especially after waiting nearly a decade for it to be brought over here. All in all, I’d say it was certainly worth the wait!

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Some snazzy outfits!

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Xenoblade 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country Review

Prequels are something that are hit-or-miss for a lot of people, since they often feel superfluous in the grand scheme of things. After all, most people come out of a film or show knowing most of the backstory already. Having the backstory expanded into its own larger thing can be aggravating for casual audiences. Look at Star Wars, which is a series that is 50% prequels.

Episodes I-III, Rogue One, and Solo: A Star Wars Story are all prequels to the main ongoing series. You don’t need to watch any of them to understand the story, but a lot of them are written with the intention of filling in gaps that the main series doesn’t. As a result, the films act as small bonuses to those who are keen on the franchise’s lore.

It’s not just films that do this, as video-games also like to explore what happened in the past as well. There’s no bigger example of this than the standalone expansion pack for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which goes by the name “Torna ~ The Golden Country”. Set in the universe of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, this expansion takes place a whopping 500 years before the main game.

Torna takes place on two “Titans”, which are giant monsters that act as continents for the world’s many denizens that live atop them. The game takes place on two of these continents, which are “Gormott” and the titular “Torna”. You play as a young woman named Lora, who travels with a guy called “Jin”. Jin is a “Blade”, which is a being created by a magic stone that follows her around and acts as Lora’s bodyguard. Lora is Jin’s “Driver”, which is a human being that a Blade swears loyalty to.

Along their journey, the pair meet up with several other Drivers and Blades. Together, they join forces in an effort to save Torna from an evil man known as “Malos”. That’s a brief summary of the plot, and it’s all I’ll say on the story. Spoiling any more of the plot would risk spoiling both the expansion and the base game, which is something I wish to avoid.

Regardless, Torna tells a complete and very interesting story. Torna’s gameplay itself is its real draw, however. The game features a very similar combat system to the base game, while adding in several changes. You character still auto-attacks the enemy, and you still have to wait for your moves to recharge before you use them. The biggest change to this is that you switch between the Drivers and the Blades they control in mid-combat, which have their own unique movesets.

Every time you switch out your Blade and Driver, they will inflict a status effect on the enemy. On top of this, switching out your party members allows the others time to heal. This adds a lot of strategy into choosing when and when not to switch out your teammates.

However, it’s not a perfect system. Since there’s only a single healer in your entire party, your options for reliable healing are very limited. Even switching out your teammates isn’t the most helpful during the really tough boss fights. There’s also the fact that the ally CPU is really dumb. I can’t tell you how many times Lora used an ability WHICH SPLIT HER HEALTH BAR IN HALF, resulting in her dying in 90% of the fights we were in.

It got so bad that I had stopped using the other characters and relied solely on controlling Lora and her Blades, even though I didn’t want to. Keep in mind that the game had two other sets of Blades and Drivers to control, both of which I’d rather use. Due to Lora’s tendency to use her suicidal ability however, I had to take control of her directly to stop any possible dumb actions.

Regardless, I still found the combat a lot of fun. It was simplistic at first, but the ability to stack status effects really added to it. I also dug how fast combat tended to go, and overall I found it fairly balanced. Let’s move onto my favorite part of the game, which is its open-world. While Torna’s open-world is much smaller than that of Xenoblade 2’s, it’s still packed with an insane amount of things to do and see.

There are tons of side-quests to do, secret bosses to fight, and secret areas to discover. While all of this stuff is fun to do, the game sadly makes a fair bit of it mandatory. In order to beat the game, you need to complete at least 50 different side-quests. This means that a lot of the side-stuff you would’ve done voluntarily is now forced down your throat.

As a result, it pretty much destroys the “optional” nature of these side-quests. Regardless of them being mandatory or not, I did find a fair bit of the side-quests to be fun. Now, let’s get down to the game’s visuals and sound, which is one of its stronger aspects. The game looks gorgeous, sporting fantastic character designs and detailed graphics. The characters look great most of the time, but had a strange glow around their bodies in most cutscenes.

I found this odd, and didn’t really understand the purpose of it. I wasn’t sure if it was a stylistic choice, or some kind of design bug. I found the sound design for the game to be truly fantastic, which featured a strong soundtrack and some good sound-effects. Unfortunately, the voice-acting just isn’t as good. A lot of the VAs tend to stumble over their lines, or just sound bored when reading them.

There are some standout performances here or there, but most of them definitely missed the mark. Another thing to note about this game is that it’s an expansion to Xenoblade 2, but you don’t need the original game to play it. You can easily play this as its own thing, and get the base game at a later date. Torna definitely does enough to stand on its own, while also being its own thing.

Torna is definitely a great game and expansion, while also being the game that brought me back into JRPGs. I stopped playing them for so long, but Torna got me really interested in them again. Torna certainly has its flaws, but they don’t detract too much from the final product. The game’s dark story, fantastic combat, and vast open-world make it a joy to play. This is definitely a prequel that’s worth your hard earned cash!