Most anticipated games for 2017

Valkyria Azure Revolution (PSVita)

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I’ve been waiting for it a lot more politely” since the horrendous Autumn demo. The Action-RPG focus that has been reconfirmed doesn’t fit with Valkyria’s universe, and the battle system itself is fishy at best. Yet the prologue on PSVita was a little more satisfying, so maybe we can end up with a decent RPG of cool design.

Cyberdimension Neptune (PS4)

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The moment of truth for the Neptunia IP. Compile Heart took more than 1 year to think, work and offer us a game powered by Unreal Engine 4, which is a visual revolution. Still, little is known is this Action-RPG taking place in a MMORPG itself. We don’t know how the developers have calibrated fan-service and innovation, two key-elements to drive the series forward. The producers made very clear promises not to disappoint fans, so they better stick to it and avoid bland compromises this time.

NieR Automata (PS4)

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The demo was exactly what I expect from this game : precise and rich gameplay, Platinum touch in the camera work, an attractive main character, a intriguing world… March can’t come soon enough.

Nights of Azure 2 (PS4)

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Not especially a high priority until a few weeks ago, Gust’s next game suddenly made itself indispensable by its latest video. The least you could say is that there’s quite some “movement” here… Gameplay also looks like to benefit from dramatic improvements as the tag battle system seems quite lively with lots of charming allies. The developer was undoubtely right to postpone it.

Musô Stars (PSVita/PS4)

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How not to be excited when the spiritual successor to the excellent Orochi Warriors 3 Ultimate is almost within reach? For the first time, KoeiTecmo picks characters in all their IPs for a single action game. We’re therefore gonna be able to ease our stress on dozens of ennemies with unexpected dream teams involving Plachta, Oka, Kasumi or Marie-Rose to cite a few.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash (PS4)

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Already called Splatoon PEGI18 by some, the sequel to Senran Kagura Estival Versus trades ninja weapons for water guns, in which you have fancy models like snipers. Takaki-san likes it wet (well, wet cute girls at least) and promise to deliver aquatic entertainment with a few surprises here and there.

Gun Gun Pixies (PSVita)

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While the general feeling of Cyberdimension Neptune remains shrouded in mystery, Compile Heart’s new PSVita exclusive is very clear from the start. Part of all the nice projects lately, Kochiwa producer presents a game close to action Netpunia U, with some novelty in the plot. You play as two very tiny alien girls whose mission is to infiltrate a girls’ domitory, which means a lot of private life scenes.

Blue Reflection (PS4)

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Boasting Gust’s most advanced 3D engine to date, Blue Reflection comes at us as a turn-based RPG featuring magical girls fighting dark demons. Like Persona 5, there will be lot of emphasis on spending time with classmates (including a clone of Hifumi, in a somewhat younger self).

Dungeon Travelers 2-2 (PSVita)

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Only game that ever had me shut down a handheld system in a hurry while I was commuting, Dungeon Travelers 2 had to reconfirm its direct sequel. It’s now official and the base scenario should keep providing juicy situations : the main character of the first game, Freid, has lot to the final boss and was turned into a insolent young boy. All the girls of the previous game have turned into demonic women. Let your imagination do the rest.

Wipeout Omega Collection (PS4)

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Quite nostalgic of the legendary futuristic racing game, the reveal of this ultimate collection at Playstation Experience was pure delight. I can’t wait to compete again on board those distinguished little ships for more speed, violent weapons and cool techno music.

Legend of Heroes Sen no Kiseki III (PS4)

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Falcom will need to be particularly clever if they want to justify Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III as a PS4 exclusive. Graphics are barely sharper so no one will believe that a Vita version wasn’t possible at this point. Despite Altina’s already confirmed return, believe me that I’ll be extra harsh on this.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

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Yes, I’m still waiting for Final Fantasy XV. The game released end of November isn’t FFXV, because it fails to comply with basic rules of FF. No choice but to wait until Hajime Tabata fixes his mess by eventually offering a more compelling experience, with an enhanced narrative and more playable characters.

Dragon Quest XI (PS4)

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While FFXV has seen rampant westernization, Dragon Quest XI is so faithful to its roots that I’d want to hug it. Here’s what I call a JRPG cast with varied styles of characters, and the first trailer clearly shows it will remain true to its genre.

I’m also eager for Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom (PS4), Gran Turismo Sport (PS4), Itadaki Street (PSVita), Tekken 7 (PS4), Gravity Daze 2 (PS4), Happy Manager (PS4), Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4).

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Review – Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls

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Bad weather for the Neptunia series. The sales hit a low in Japan when Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls was released in November 2015. The game was unlucky to follow the rather disappointing MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies. But did it really have the qualities to turn the tide?

Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls is a spin-off of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series focused on IF (who came 2nd in the latest poll) and characters personifying the Sega consoles, that is to say Neptune, Nepgear, Uzume and Plutia. That means you won’t won’t see Noire, Blanc, Vert or any other characters of the main series. However, this crossover welcomes lovely guests : the Sega Hard Girls, characters representing Sega consoles in another IP. Megadrive, Game Gear, Saturn and Dreamcast (who you might have seen in Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax) take the form of cute girls called as such.

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The world of this game is thus not the gaming world in general but the Sega’s situation throughout the years. As a big Easter egg, an entire level reproduced Sega-Sammy’s theme park Joypolis, situated in Tokyo bay. The story starts in a barren world, current state of Sega who has lost the console wars, where IF comes across an amnesiac girl, Segami. From the Great Library which they use as headquarters, IF and Segami will cooperate in order to fix History and build a better future. You’ll therefore have to go back in time, like going back to Megadrive era (symbolized by Antiquity) or Game Gear’s (shaped as the industrial revolution). But that’s about it, since time travel doesn’t impact the story very much, far from being a new Chrono Trigger for example.

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Your final goal is to slay the History Eater, which eats small eras by falsifying it. This final boss can be faced almost right away, but it’s a lot too strong at the beginning of the game (because for example its HP regenerate very fast). So you do have to clear a number of story or sidequests, since every quest cleared weakens the boss (or to be more accurate, the boss cannot reinforce itself by eating the uncleared quest). The big problem here is that Superdimension Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls quickly becomes a game where you do nothing but pointless sidequests. You know the sidequests in Neptunia? Find that item, beat that enemy, etc. The vast majority of the game is about rummaging around dungeons to find that enemy or that object. Those dungeons are still of very basic architecture and doesn’t change much from the Rebirth games available on the same system. I don’t find the efforts made in Megadimension Neptunia VII to achieve a more complex level design, that despite vertical zones.

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Very much like MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies, the story part is pretty short and the narrative feels kinda flat. The game only tells the phoney war between Neptune’s side and the Sega Hard Girls, with not that much parody, not many illustrations either, and features rather dull characters event compared to what we had on the past. We can expect far better form Compile Heart in that department. It still has a good sense of humor, thanks to Neptune who is more hilarious than ever : turned into a motorbike in this episode, the main protagonist of the series keeps joking about her being a bike all the time! Technically speaking, the 3D engine in use since ReBirth1 feels a bit old after the astonishingly beautiful MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies, but it’s still above average graphics for a handheld. I’d want to stress the good soundtrack, which has great boss themes like Going Down.

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The developer Felistella overhauls the system in use since Hyperdimension ReBirth1 : combo building is no more and a action gauge appears. Every move you make (walking, attacking, using an item, etc.) consumes the above mentioned gauge. You can thus manage your turn by doing various things, before filling the gauge, which would delay the character’s next turn. Paradoxically, you might want to go this far to use the overcharge : it’s a final combo that you can lauch by keeping the attack button pressed, sending the gauge in the red. This way, you can deal a powerful blow just before the end of your turn, after doing other actions. An interesting change on the strategic side : should the character replay fast? How should I place her to fulfill her role?

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For the first time, Superdimension Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls introduces a job system. Not modifying the look of the characters nor their equipment, this system is actually closer to the «titles» in Tales of. In any case, the girls can now become Witch, Adventurer, Paladin, Scholar, Berserker, etc. which changes their stats and allows them to acquire new skills. Another interesting point is that the game will ask you to choose a formation, which can grant great advantages in both offense and defense. Those formations, which you can unlock by collecting base-ball balls (!) hidden in dungeons, have impressive effects like defense & magic defense+100, attack+100 or the privilege to go beyond the 9999 damage cap. Big problem though : your MPs don’t recover when you’re back to base. MPs regenerate very slowly in battle and your must hold back using magic or goddess form. Annoying.

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Superdimension Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls isn’t linear. You quickly have access to many eras and many dungeons. You’ll realize pretty fast that some places are a lot more dangerous than others, and it’s up to you to find the logical order of the missions. The bosses in particular are extremely strong. So powerful that for some, you’ll be forced to come back a dozen of hours later ! The freedom in gameplay is real and it’s a nice innovation compared to the past episodes. The various characters being very progressively added to your team, the game takes the generous initiative to give you «copies» of the characters (officially, reverse engineering done by Histoire, Manager of the Great Library of Time) so that you can train them earlier.

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Despite that care, the leveling is still too slow in this game, for a very stupid reason : Felistella decided to implement a level cap on jobs. Worse, to remove this level cap, you must clear… more sidequests! That’s where it becomes really tiresome, because extending skill slots and getting more jobs also asks you to find rares items or foes. Some are seriously difficult to obtain, so you can be blocked at level 20 for hours. The end of the game is downright tiring because of that, although the easy mode (accessible at mid-game) and Megadrive’s damage boost softens the challenge.

The year of Neptunia ends like it began : by an lukewarm title unable to inherit the core ideas of the franchise. Superdimension Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls is the final symbol of a lost year for the series, trapped into an identity crisis and unable to solve its contradictions of gameplay. Despite good humor and renewed battles, this episode is still poor in its narratives and situation to be one to remember. To the lack of ideas and guts, adds a unbalanced progression system. Cyberdimension Neptunia Online will have to fix all those issues next if the Nep team wants fans to stay.

Review – Hyperdimension Neptunia ReBirth1

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Released in 2010 in Japan (2011 in the West), the very first Hyperdimension Neptune was objectively not a «good» RPG. Terrible exploration, repetitive combat, abusive DLC, sub-par graphics, the cons were pretty clear and no one missed them. Niche gamers nonetheless appreciated its strange universe, sharp humor and its characters now well-known in JRPG circles. This more than justified a remake of the founder of the Neptunia series, and you have it now on PSVita.

Let’s immediately stress that Hyperdimension Neptune ReBirth1 (Re1) has cut all ties with the original title (almost). Even though it borrows a lot from previous episodes (battle system, enemies, musics, 2D models), Re1 definitely feels brand new. All the technical aspects have been adapted to fit to Vita’s power, but above all, the game has been re-written and re-designed. While keeping the broad outline of the original, the story becomes more modern and richer : it has a better pace but maintains its terrific sense of humor, its hilarious parodies (the game starts with Luigi’s double saying «at long last my time has come!»), and welcomes more characters more progressively. Those characters enrich Re1 which ends up more dense and fresher than any past episode.

Remember the hassle to obtain Noire, Blanc and Vert at the end of the first game? That’s no longer the case : Noire joins pretty quickly, Vert and Blanc 1 or 2 chapters after. The game also has the wonderful idea to make the transition with Mk2 by the «birth» of Nepgear, Uni, Ram & Rom. NPCs such as Financier and Cyan have now a character design of their own, which makes the narration a lot nicer, like a bunch of other design choices that it would be too long and useless to discuss here. But that’s not all! Re1 includes every DLC character from Hyperdimension Neptune Victory, which makes a total of 16 playable characters in game (+ Histoire, Plutia and Peashy in DLC).

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Technically speaking, this remake transposes with some refinements the graphics of the latest PS3 Neptunia. True, Neptunia games have never represented technical prowess… but the referential has changed! We are now on the handheld market and Re1 is beyond doubt one of the most beautiful portable RPGs ever made! Far from the derelict 3D engines used on 3DS, here characters are incredibly detailed and the game goes as far as animating the mouth of the girls when they speak! Backgrounds are still rather simple but the 3D is neat. Movements suffer from drops time to time but remain on par with home console versions. Believe me it’s quite a sight on the OLED screen.

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Gameplay-wise, it’s still Mk2’s system with tougher difficulty : you will bite the dust, at least in the first half. But the good people of Felistella have you covered. You will have the possibility to lower the enemies’ level if you’re stuck, or even reinforce them if you’re yawning during battles. It’s part of the «memory» system introduced in this remake. The Flag/Scouts system is gone : now, the game grants you a amount of «memory» that you are free to use for the following : discover new dungeons, modify enemies, modify drop items, item creation, gameplay tweaks (including difficulty).

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The fighting in itself knows little change. The tactical-like turn-based system with free moving around the field is still on the agenda. That said, the higher difficulty and the different styles of the various characters make combat more fun, strategic and varied than ever. You really have to weight your decision in managing heal, magic, relay or Ex-Drive. Note that you’ll have again a your disposal the creation of CDs (accessories) to boost your characters in battle.

The only drawback I can think of is that the fan-service level has been reduced to a bare minimum : artworks, inherited from the original for most part, aren’t risqué in any way and too few new ones were made for the occasion. Except this, ReBirth1 is exactly the concentrate of humor, beauty and variety the fans have been dreaming to hold in their hand.