Tag: RPG

Vera Blanc: Full Moon Review (Nintendo Switch)

  • Genre: Adventure, RPG, Simulation
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox, Playstation, PC, Android, iOS
  • Developer | Publisher: Winter Wolves Games | Ratalaika Games
  • Age Rating: PEGI 12 | ESRB T (Teen)
  • Price: UK £4.99 | US $4.99
  • Release Date: 13th November 2020

Review code used, with many thanks to Ratalaika Games!

Vera Blanc is a series of interactive comic books with paranormal themes. Full Moon is the first of the series to make the leap to Switch – has it whet the appetite for the (hopefully) others to follow?

Story/Characters

Vera Blanc is a rich girl with a secret – she can read minds! And yes, that is as cool of a mechanic as it sounds. She started out as a very clever, but very unfortunate young woman; a brain tumour put an end date on her short life. After a ground-breaking surgery – that I’m not entirely sure was legal, but I suppose money opens all kinds of doors – she found herself with this new ability. Instead of using it to get ahead in business, or take advantage of others, she decided to try and help people.

Cue Brandon Mackey, an experienced FBI-agent-turned-PI with a vested interest in less-than-ordinary cases. Rumours of a lupine serial killer lure the pair to a quaint town in rural Germany, where everyone seems to have a secret. Is the mysterious bombshell, Ava, more than she appears? Or could the short-tempered Mayor be behind the suspicious goings-on? In a paranormal-hued adventure where death is waiting around every corner, can you solve the mystery of the werewolf?

Vera Blanc: Full Moon was a bit of a strange one for me, story-wise. It reads like an epic adventure but plays as more of a B-movie thriller that somehow manages to be excessively corny and predictable, yet simultaneously amusing. Think along the lines of its-so-bad-its-good. I personally loved the story, finding it almost addictive and easy to consume in a single sitting. The characters were full of personality, and there was plenty of humour to be found in the somewhat serious adventure.

Gameplay

Vera Blanc is an interactive comic book, and a great way to spend an hour or so with a cup of coffee. Pressing A will advance the scenario, or there’s even an Auto button so you only need hands on the controller for making a choice or playing a minigame. These are the two progression mechanics. 

Sometimes, you’ll be presented with a number of options and only be able to perform one, or make a number of choices. This may take the form of investigational options, such as examining different aspects of a scene, conversational options such as which questions to ask, or action options like hitting an opponent or running away. Depending on the scenario, this can result in a death situation, so save often!

Minigames consist of either spot the difference, remembering numerical sequences, hangman, or finding pairs of numbers. These are sometimes timed, and failing the minigame will result in a failure of the task e.g. if you lose too many lives during a mind-reading session, you’ll fail to decipher the message and lose the opportunity to attempt anything else. Again, failure can also result in death, so keep those saves up to date.

There are 2 final endings, and a variety of ways to die, so some replayability is available although there’s no way to track which endings have been achieved.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

The old-school comic book art style gives Vera Blanc a lot of charm. I suspect the game would feel disappointingly corny and lacking in substance if designed differently, but the graphic design really pulls it together into an oddly nostalgic experience. If this were an actual comic book, I’d be buying it in a heartbeat.

The punchy 90s soundtrack keeps the nostalgic theme going, and had me bopping my head with a silly smile on my face more often than not. It switches up dependant on the scenario, meaning that the somewhat repetitive tune changes before it gets annoying.

There were no noticeable performance issues in either docked or handheld mode, though I wouldn’t have expected any considering the static nature of the comic strips. Also, although the text size was a little small in handheld, certain minigames were much easier – I accidentally quit out of a timed pairing game multiple times because I moved the control stick a fraction too far.

Conclusion

Vera Blanc: Full Moon is a relatively short game that’s full of cheesy character. Despite the charming art style, amusing characters, and perky music, I suspect it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Breaking up a thriller comic story with kooky minigames sounds like a bizarre idea on paper that should ruin the entire vibe of the game, but it somehow works in this fun little interactive comic.

Verdict
A quirky experience that shouldn’t work on paper, but has me eagerly anticipating a sequel.

Undead Darlings: No Cure For Love Launches September 28 For Ps4, Switch, and PC

Dungeon RPG Undead Darlings: No Cure for Love will launch for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC via Steam on September 28, publisher Sekai Games and developer Mr. Tired Media announced. A demo is available now for PC via Steam.

Here is an overview of the game, via its Steam page:

About

Journey with a crew of half-zombie girls as you crawl through dungeons, beating up twisted creatures that were born from the fall of society in fast-paced turn-based RPG combat, and ultimately deliver the only known cure for what ails your party members to a place where it can be mass produced!

Story driven portions of the game contain a multitude of branching dialogue paths that, based on the choices you make, gives deeper insight into the different characters, while the RPG portion of the game uses a familiar but refined turn-based battle system with unique twists. Both of these gameplay features are contained within a first-person perspective dungeon crawler with dungeons built like mazes and filled with traps and hidden paths.

Story

Reginald “Reggie” P. Happenstahnce wakes up from an alcohol-related coma (courtesy of his own father, no less) by his childhood friend, Pearl, and is told that society had crumbled due to a virus outbreak that turned most everyone into zombies while he was sleeping. This includes Pearl herself. However, Pearl has managed to hold onto her human conscience, and she relates that she is not the only one in a similar state. As with every half-zombie Reggie will run into, she may be undead, but her heart is still human.

Your role as Reggie is to be the girls’ loot donkey and carry the things they find in dungeons. Since Reggie is a human, the girls will prevent him from getting infected by fighting in the front lines! Go them!

While on this adventure, you will learn more about the undead girls’ lives from before the outbreak, but whose tale you will hear is based on the choices you make during the visual novel scenes. Perhaps one of them will connect with you, open up about their hardships, and maybe even develop romantic feelings… The ultimate result of these interactions will determine whether or not any of these girls trust you enough to take the biggest risk of their undead lives—volunteer to be the first test subject for your father’s cure!

Key Features

  • Explore a multitude of complex post-apocalyptic dungeons—a total of over 20 huge floors to explore! Discover loot, secret event scenes based on your current battle party, and more!
  • Become invested in a novel-sized epic adventure—a script of over 300,000 words and more branching dialogue choices than you can shake your boomstick at await! The adventure is filled with comedy, slices of romantic life, and the horrors associated with surviving the zombie apocalypse from a zombie’s perspective!
  • Key events give you the chance to grow closer to the girls, and by doing so, you will access specific character story arcs that come with gorgeous HD images of the characters for you to unlock! Over 20 unlockable images in total—gotta collect ’em all!
  • Six playable, awesome half-zombie girls lead the charge!
  • Nine endings based on your choices and how close you grow with the characters!
  • No currency or stores exist in the post-apocalypse, so you will need to fill up your war chest by finding loot in dungeons. Be careful, though—weaponry will break if used too much!
  • Exploit multiple enemy weaknesses simultaneously in the unique Exponential Exploitation battle mechanic! Increase your damage multiplier and utilize it for a one-time attack that can deal tremendous damage!
  • Set up custom battle strategies with the Macro function! Use this wisely in tandem with the EE System to create efficient tactics against your current roster of foes!
  • When all is said and done, you will enjoy a 50-hour adventure unlocking everything!

Rune Factory 4 Special Review (Nintendo Switch)

  • Genre: RPG, Action, Simulation
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Developer | Publisher: Marvelous Inc/Neverland/Hakama Inc | Marvelous Europe/XSEED
  • Age Rating: PEGI 12 | ESRB T (Teen)
  • Price: UK £32.99 | US $39.99
  • Release Date: 28th February 2020

No review code was provided, and any opinions contained below are my own. I actually went all out and bought the Archival Edition – I couldn’t help myself!

Rune Factory is a series that sits near and dear to my heart. As the first series to really get me into gaming, and one that I’ve followed religiously (the handheld variants, anyway) for many years, I was delighted when Rune Factory 4 got a fresh coat of paint for the Switch, but did it live up to my lofty expectations?

Story/Characters

If you haven’t played a Rune factory game before, they generally have the same premise; the protagonist rolls into town with no memory of who they are, where they’re from, or why they’re here, and with the assistance of the pushy but kind-hearted townspeople end up with a home and a very overgrown farm. After a short time of peace, something goes wrong that causes you to investigate one of the dungeons that lie nearby, and so begins your quest to fix whatever calamity has occurred and therefore save the town you’ve come to love. It’s a very basic premise that allows for a lot of variation, and differentiates Rune Factory from it’s combat-free sister series Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons.

The characters you’ll encounter along the way give the game much of it’s charm; from the wonderfully reliable Volkanon to the exuberant Procoline, each townsperson has a very distinct personality and background that really emphasises the fact that you’ve just been dropped into the middle of these people’s lives. As your relationships improve with various people you’ll learn more about their pasts, and gain insight into their current problems. Selphia really does feel like an organic town, and provides a wonderful escape from the outside world. 

Gameplay

Anyone familiar with the Harvest Moon series will be familiar with the majority of the mechanics in Rune Factory, but they’re nice and simple. You have one active equipment slot on B for weapons or tools (such as swords, hoes, and seeds), four ability slots (X, Y, R+X, and R+Y) for spells and rune abilities, left control stick to move, and A to interact. + is your bag, level tracking, and settings, while – is your quest list – if there’s a limit on how many quests you can have active at once, I haven’t encountered it yet. You collect quests from either talking to villagers or picking them up from Eliza the talking request box.

Combat is hack-n-slash, using both your equipped B weapon and rune abilities/spells. The higher you level in the associated skill, the lower the RP cost will be, but the higher your weapon level the higher the RP cost e.g. you could forge a Lvl 10 amazing short sword at Lvl 99, but if your Short Sword skill is only level 20 you won’t get many swings out of it before your RP is gone. Monsters each have an associated strength/weakness from the following; physical, fire, water, earth, wind, light, dark, and love. Figuring out these weaknesses is key to defeating higher-level bosses, as with the right equipment loadout you can make all damage nullified or even heal you for a small amount.

Farming is also primarily done using the B button, in combination with A. B uses the equipped tool, for example a hoe or watering can, and A is used to pick something up. Depending on the seed, each type of plant may only grow in a certain season, or take a very long time to grow (dungeon fields are a saviour in this case) so think strategically when planting! Rune Points are also used when doing farming tasks, so during the early game you won’t be able to do a huge amount during a day – interactions don’t cost RP though, which is nice!

Crafting is broken down into 4 sub-categories; cooking, chemistry, forging and crafting. Each has its own set of tools, for example cooking is performed on a selection of tools such as the knife, steamer, pot, oven etc, and a chemistry set, forge, and crafting table are available relatively early in the game. Each recipe has 6 ingredient slots, though I haven’t yet found a recipe that uses all 6, and recipes can be learned by eating recipe bread obtained from either the restaurant or winning festivals. If you know a recipe but haven’t got a high enough level in that skill, or have a high enough level but don’t know the recipe, then an item will cost more RP to make, whereas if you’re both too low a level and don’t know a recipe, then you’ll just fail. These skills are very important when you prepare for combat.

Relationships are the final cornerstone of Rune Factory. There are three primary types; friendships with townspeople, romantic relations with townspeople, and monster friendships. Not all townspeople are marriageable, so some will have a friendship meter while others will have a love meter (essentially the same thing, but a love meter indicates a character with whom you can begin a romantic relationship if desired). These levels can be raised by speaking to people daily and giving them gifts – if you want a quick guide on what to get whom, and when their birthdays are, there are loads of websites that list it all nice and neatly! Monster friendships work in a similar way. Once you’ve built a barn, and tamed a monster (usually by throwing lots of stuff at it and brushing whenever it isn’t trying to attack you) it’ll move in. You can then take it as a companion on adventures, receive things like wool and milk, or set it to work on the farm once your friendship is high enough.

Both monsters and townspeople can join you in exploring the nearby dungeons. For characters their relationship level must be high enough though; you then start a conversation and press either L or R. Once the conversation is over, you’ll have a few extra options – this is also how you confess your feelings to an eligible bachelor or bachelorette, so it’s a handy one to remember! No matter who accompanies you out in the field, they’ll gain combat experience and level up accordingly. Gifting equipment to humans will make them equip it, so be sure to load them up before [ in the item description) will increase their base stats. 

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

This game looks beautiful, especially when placed alongside its 3DS predecessor. The graphics are still rather simple, but the game oozes charm with the uncomplicated animations and vivid colour scheme. Each character feels truly unique, with completely individual designs and voices (with a choice between English and Japanese!) and are easily identified on the zoomable mini-map. Whether in handheld or docked or Lite, the graphics retain their nice clean edges and everything is easy to see.

The music has had a slight upgrade from the 3DS version, having been cleaned up and made smoother, but the only major change is the intro song. Personally I preferred the original, but the new one is a good fit for this relaxing yet challenging game and really seems to fit the town you’re in.

Also – no performance issues in any mode, win!

Difficulty

Difficulty options galore! Along with the traditional Easy, Medium, and Hard, Rune Factory 4 Special gained an additional difficulty; Hell mode. I haven’t tried it personally, because I love to play on easy and just enjoy the game, but my friend plays on Hell and she’s found it a major headache – it’s called Hell mode for a reason! Even on easy, it isn’t the easiest game; I breezed through the first ⅔ until the final major dungeon absolutely destroyed me, not to mention the challenge maze you can unlock! It’s definitely a grind-y game, but enjoyable enough that the grind doesn’t feel like a huge problem.

Conclusion

Rune Factory 4 Special had big shoes to fill. I’m delighted to admit that it filled them and then some; it was a thing that I didn’t know needed to happen until it did, and I’m so glad that we’ve got a Rune Factory 5 confirmed, even if we don’t have a timescale yet. The classic story has been updated with some adorable married life content, the graphics and soundtrack got a beautiful overhaul without losing the charm of the original game, and the Another Episode DLC is a very cute little add-on, but I may be biased as I got it for free during the launch promotional period.

Verdict
A must-try for any farming sim/RPG fan, Rune Factory 4 Special is a worthy successor to the DS and Wii titles. It may be nostalgia speaking, but it’s my favourite game at the moment and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
10/10