PS Vita Review: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

Hypedevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart Title Screen
Hypedevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart Title Screen

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a tactical Role Playing Game developed for the PS Vita by Sting and Compile Heart and published by Idea Factory International. It is a spinoff of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series of games. the game also works on the PlayStation TV micro console.

(Note: This review is my opinion only. All pictures are captured in-game with the PS Vita’s screen shot feature.)

The CPUs are back.  This time, Noire takes charge!
The CPUs are back. This time, Noire takes charge!

The game takes place in an alternate version of the Neptunia series’ setting called Gamarket (as opposed to Gamindustri). Instead of Neptune, the game centers around Noire, the CPU for Lastation (PlayStation) The CPUs fight for control of Gamarket with their armies, and Noire is close to total victory. When a mysterious woman named Eno shows up with a way to achieve peace, however, Noire decides to trust her. It turns out to be a trap and Noire and the rest of the CPUs are stripped of their powers and that land is thrown into chaos. Noire manages to regain a bit of her power and, once she convinced the other CPUs to help her, sets out to recruit an army and free the land.

Noire in her HDD form, Lady Black Heart
Noire in her HDD form, Lady Black Heart

Her army is made up of former generals that followed the CPU in the Console War. Like the CPU, who are avatars of the different game consoles, the generals represent games. Again, all of them are cute anime girls. Some of them represent well known games. Lid, a sneaky lone wolf soldier with a bandana and electronic eye patch, represents the Metal Gear Solid series. Lei Fei, a ‘road pugilist”, is a nod to Chun Li and the Street Fighter series. Lady Wac represents Pac-Man. Other are from lesser known games. Each has their own unique abilities.

Lid (right) is a soldier that likes stealth and hiding in air ducts to spy on people.
Lid (right) is a soldier that likes stealth and hiding in air ducts to spy on people.

The game play is mostly your standard tactical RPG. At the beginning of the battle, you choose what characters to take with you. You assign a leader which gives you certain bonuses depending on which character you choose. You can have up to 5 members in your party. During your turn, you can move your characters and have them either attack, use a skill or use an item, and move.  If you have enough Lily points, you can transform the CPUs into their HDD forms.  One all your actions are used you finish your turn and the enemies them move. The battles end when you complete your objective (usually defeat all enemies of a boss character) or all of you characters die. Some levels however have special rules, such as defusing all bombs within 15 turns or using a switch to access the rest of the area.

Move your units on the battlefield
Move your units on the battlefield
Some areas  have tricks to them, like this train and swtich.
Some areas have tricks to them, like this train and switch.

Like games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, you have to equip your characters and upgrade their weapons Giving you characters better weapons and equipment will increase their attack and defence. Characters will also gain experience and level up in battle. At the end of the battle all characters not K.O.’d , even if they did not participate.

Lily Boost can give you an advantage.
Lily Boost can give you an advantage.

Strategy is also important as you progress through the game. There is a system called Lily Boost in which you can reduce the number of skill points used by having other characters right next to them. when you use a skill or special attack, the characters next to you give you a kiss for good luck. the more characters next to you, the less the action cost. There is a short scene with the girls pecking the attacker on the cheek and the character says a quick line (Neptune sometimes goes, “Wow! Feeling kinda funky!” OF course having al you characters so close leave then open for an area attack, \but you have to decide if it is worth the risk.  You can use the points gained by this to transform the CPUS into their HDD form.

It is so nice to see the girls get along.
It is so nice to see the girls get along.
The more girls the better.
The more girls the better.

The game is well done with the story told in a similar style as the main Neptunia games. The English voice acting cast is back, so the CPUs sound like you expect them to. The graphics are good, with the characters taking on a 3D chibi (big head, small body) look which suite the tone of the game. The cinematics have the characters looking like they do in the main games. There is a lot of fan service too, with scenes of Noire and others in bikinis or in the shower (with strategically placed soap bubbles). These can be viewed at the CPU hotel n the main Lastation hub.

The story is told like in the other Neptunia games.
The story is told like in the other Neptunia games.
Gotta have some fan service!
Gotta have some fan service!

Also in this hub is the mission HQ, where you choose your mission, a store to buy items and equipment, the Basilicomm, where Noire lives and items and disc development where you develop new items or discs to give your characters new bonuses. There are also “locals” you can talk to that may or may not have anything interesting to say.

Lid can be a bit...intrusive.  Noire will sort her out.
Lid can be a bit…intrusive. Noire will sort her out.

I had only started playing Neptunia games recently but this is one of my favorite. I liked Final Fantasy Tactics for the PS1/PSP and, while this one is more tongue-in-cheek, it is as enthralling. The cast of characters are interesting and it is nice to see the focus on one of the other CPU instead of Neptune. Noire, with the rough way she treats her allies is different from Neptune’s easy going yet lazy personality. It is interesting to see Noire try to be a better friend and leader to her teammates.

2015-03-28-221401 2015-04-16-215237 2015-04-13-213443 2015-04-13-213815

Hyperdevotion Noire is a great game for fans of Tactical RPGs and the Neptunia series. It is available as a physical copy or digital download. It is rated T for Teen. Check stores and online for price and availability.

4.5/5

Obvious nod to MGS in Lid's special attack
Obvious nod to MGS in Lid’s special attack
2015-04-13-205923
Compa (pictured) and IF are in the game, but as paid DLC.

2015-04-12-225521 2015-04-12-230809

Advertisements

PS Vita Review: Criminal Girls: Invite Only

Criminal Girls: Invite Only
Criminal Girls: Invite Only

Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a Japanese role playing game developed for the PS Vita by Live 2D and published by NIS America.  It is a remake of the Criminal Girls game released for PSP in Japan.  This game is compatible with the PlayStation TV micro-console.

In this game you are a newly hired warden in the most unusual place Hell.  You are tasked with the rehabilitation of 7 girls who died stuck in the middle of good and evil.  You goal is to rehabilitate them as you move those the maze like prison, fighting monsters beyond redemption.  Once you reach the top level and have rehabilitated the girls, they will be restored to life.

Kisaragi is one of the girls you hope to rehabilitate.
Kisaragi is one of the girls you hope to rehabilitate.

The girls don’t trust you however.  They even refuse to fight, even if they are attacked.  So as part of their rehabilitation, you have to discipline them so that they become an effective member of your party.  To do this, you take them into the rest area/infirmary and beat the temptations out of them.  You can tell this isn’t going to be your typical JRPG.

Ran is pretty stubborn and distrusts male authority figures
Ran is pretty stubborn and distrusts male authority figures

You start the game with four of the girls under your control.  While you get to choose one girl to automatically fight for you, the other three have to be disciplined to unlock their ability to attack.  To do this you must go to the save point (infirmary, which are purple portals appearing in different levels) and choose Motivate, Using C M points you gain from battle,you play a mini-game in which you touch the touch screen or real touch pad to whip the temptations, appearing as little creature on-screen.  You do this over a picture of the girl in a suggestive pose with their clothing in disarray.  So pretty much, this is an S&M simulation.

The Motivation mini game is a bit creepy.
The Motivation mini game is a bit creepy.

The rest of the gameplay differs a but from you standard RPG.  Once you motivate the girls to fight with you, you do not actually control them.  During combat, each girl will offer a suggestion on what to do, either attack or perform a skill.  Once you choose that, that’s your turn.  No other girl attacks (unless that was what the girl you chose suggested) and then the enemy goes.  When they attack, all enemies get a turn. Some of them will even attack before you do.  But you do get some advantages.  Item use does not take up an attack, those you can use one item per turn.  You can also switch girls at the beginning of every round.  So, if one of the girl’s hit points are low or their attack is ineffective, you can swap them out.  It definitely adds something to the combat, but the only attacking once or twice a round can leave you hurting all too easily.

At the start of each turn, the girls offer suggestion on what to do.  Choose wisely
At the start of each turn, the girls offer suggestion on what to do. Choose wisely
Sometimes the girls team up for special attacks
Sometimes the girls team up for special attacks

The graphics are okay, with the levels having some variations.. You do not see the monsters on the map, unless it is an event monster or level boss.  During the fights, the monsters are represented by a static picture,flashing when they attack.  If they appear on the map, the monsters mostly look like a purple of pink blob. You can also find treasure chests while exploring the map, which have either items, skills or CM points.

This is Shin.  You have to do some motivational Maintenance to get her to fight for you.
This is Shin. You have to do some motivational Maintenance to get her to fight for you.

The characters themselves are done in the typical anime style.  On the map, they appear in the standard, super-deformed style (big heads, small bodies,), but appear normal during cut scenes and during, ahem, motivation activities.  The girls run the gamut of anime girl stereotypes.  While all have some part of the striped prisoner outfits in their costumes, their looks varies.  Some are waifish Lolita types while others are busty.  some have ill-fitting prisoner uniforms on while others are busting out of their clothes.  They only changed costumes for the Motivation mini game in which they wear gym clothes, those they seem to show more skin as you get higher in the mini game.

Tomoe is busting out of her prison...kimono?
Tomoe is busting out of her prison…kimono?

Now, I not that prudish when it comes to a bit of fan service in video games.  I didn’t mind the scantily clad females in games like Senran Kagura or the Hyperdimension Neptunia series.  As long as there is some sort of story or gameplay, it is all just ere candy.  But with Criminal Girls, there isn’t enough story for me.  The Motivation mini-game seems to be there just to shock and titalate.  You have to do it level up your character’s attacks,  Even though the Western version had been toned down by adding a pink haze and removing the girls’ yelps at you “spank their temptations”, it is still a bit disturbing,

The pink mist is NIS America attempt at self censorship.  I think it makes it worse.
The pink mist is NIS America attempt at self censorship. I think it makes it worse.

This is one of those game that is not for every one.  It is not for me.  The RPG gameplay is different, but a bit too frustrating with only being able to attack with one or two girls per round not choose what skills they used.  And with the Motivation mini-game being as it is, this is one game I won’t be playing in public or with an audience

Criminal Girls: Invite Only is available on a game card or as a digital download.  Check online for pricing.  It is rated M (17+) by the ESRB in North America.

2.5/ 5

2015-04-09-213512 2015-04-09-212514 2015-03-31-191502 2015-04-09-194318

10 Years… Of a Whole Lotta Nothing!

On this day, 7 April 2005, I did the first blog post on Xcalibar’s Space.  Back them, it was part of the Windows Live Spaces, which all got transferred to WordPress back in 2011.  I started this blog on a whim, just to write about what interested me.  I did my first review a few days later (on the PlayStation Portable/)  I tried to blog frequently, but life, as always, often makes you shift priorities.  So in the past ten years I have done 77 blog post.  77!  Not much of an output, that is for sure.

The past few years, I have tried to post more.  The PS Vita, with its screen shot capabilities, makes I easy to add photos from games without taking them from elsewhere.  I also find blogging fun.  Sometime it might be a while between games or I get too busy to blog, but I always come back.  Since the new year I have tried to do a post weekly, and even picked up new games to have something to review.  I got at least two new games to review for the next two posts (Criminal Girls and Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Blackheart) but I might not post again until May afterwards.  But this blog is still alive.

I will continue to post reviews of games, mostly PS VIta and PS4 (maybe even Xbox One, if I can get my hands on one) with the occasional book or movie review (and I plan on reviewing Avengers: Age of Ultron when it comes out.)  I will continue this as long as it is fun and I still find it fun.  It gives me an outlet to write (something that I wish I kept up)  and an excuse to buy and play games.

So I hope all ten (not all of you are bots, right?) of my followers have enjoyed the past few months.  Here’s to 10 years of blogging and lets hope I can break 100 posts before the end of the year…

PS Vita Review: Freedom Wars

Freedom Wars
Freedom Wars

Freedom Wars is a third person action role-playing game developed by SCE Japan Studio, Shift and Dimps and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.  It is a first party-developed Intellectual Property (IP) developed exclusively for Sony’s PlayStation Vita system.  It also works on the PlayStation TV micro console.

Your Crime: Amnesia Your sentence : 1 000 000 Years
Your Crime: Amnesia
Your sentence : 1 000 000 Years

Set in the far future of 102014, the Earth has been devastated by years of war and neglect.  Humanity survives throughout the world in 50 different underground City/States called Panopticons, where they try to find a way to restore the surface.  Resources are scarce though, and the Panopticons find themselves at war over them, especially over people with skills and knowledge they need.  To fight these wars, they employ convicts turned soldiers called “Sinners.”

Sinners earn time off their sentences by performing missions "For the Greater Good."
Sinners earn time off their sentences by performing missions “For the Greater Good.”

A Sinner is a person that is deemed to be a drain on the Panopticon’s resources.  They have no skills or talent that makes them a useful member of society.  In fact, the act of being born is considered a crime and, unless you prove to be a valuable resource, you are sentenced to 1, 000, 000 years for your crime.  Each sinner is given the opportunity to reduce their sentence by performing missions for their government, battling other cities for resources on the surface and saving citizens from giant robots called Abductors.

You create your Sinner at the start of the game.  This is Helen.
You create your Sinner at the start of the game. This is Helen.

You start the game creating your Sinner, who was injured and battle and lost his/her memory (my Sinner was female so I will refer to the main character as female).  Your character, stuck between life and death is approached by a mysterious girl named Aries.  She acts as a guide, telling the Sinner that she will meet a girl soon, one who can changes the world forever.  You choose you characters sex looks and name, (in my case Helen) with a minimum choice in wardrobe at first.  You also choose the sex and look of your Accessory, a humanoid robot that acts as you prison guard, counsellor, supervisor and partner all in one.

You can also customize your "partner" called the Accessory.
You can also customize your “partner” called the Accessory.
Aries is some horned (?) chick that appears to you from time to time.  She has a role for you to play that will change everything.
Aries is some horned (?) chick that appears to you from time to time. She has a role for you to play that will change everything.

Combat in the game is simple.  You can choose melee weapons such as swords and polearms  for close up combat or use ranged weapons, like machine guns, rocket launchers and gatiling guns,  You also have something called a thorn, which is a vine like tendril on your left arm.  You can equip three types of thorns:  Binding, which lets you grapple onto the enemy or walls; healing, which creates a healing aura around you and your comrades; and Shield, which raises the defence of your team.

Nina is a Sinner you will meet.  She likes to party.
Nina is a Sinner you will meet. She likes to party.

Speaking of teams, you will rarely fight alone in this game.  At the very least you will have your Accessory with you.  You can arm them with weapons you buy/find/make and give them simple orders in battle.  You will also work with other Sinners, who you can also order to help with the battles.  It is important to lean how to give commands, especially during missions in which you have to rescue civilians before the enemy takes off with them.  You can also go online and have other players fight with you.

Abductors hold Citizen' captive within their body.  AS the game progresses they get tougher.
Abductors hold Citizen’ captive within their body. AS the game progresses they get tougher.
Missions are complete when all of the Civilians are rescued.
Missions are complete when all of the Civilians are rescued.

In between missions, your Sinner is in a cell.  You have no rights at first; you are not even allowed to lie down (Helen got ten extra years for that.)  You can earn that rights as well as others rights by spending Entitlement Points, which can also be used to by weapons and equipment.  As you earn more rights, you eventually can go outside your cell and talk to other inmates and progress to citizens, which can lead to more missions and opportunities.  As you progress to the higher level of Sinners, you will get better accommodations, freedom and time off of your sentence.

At least your cell has a large screen TV.  Too bad nothing is on.
At least your cell has a large screen TV. Too bad nothing is on.

This game is pretty fun. I like the character creation mode in that it lets you create the protagonist of the story that you are playing.  The gameplay is great, too.  I understand it is similar to the Monster Hunter franchise in execution (another series I have not played. much to my dismay) when it comes to co-op and taking down large monsters (in Freedom War’s case, the Abductors).  It takes some strategy to beat the mission and knowing how to used your allies effectively helps

Your Panopticon praises you as you progress but never fails to remind you that you are scum.
Your Panopticon praises you as you progress but never fails to remind you that you are scum.

Freedom Wars is available on physical card or through download via PSN.  Check stores and online for prices in your area.

4.5/5

You choice of wardrobe is limited at first, but you .can earn the right to mre choices
You choice of wardrobe is limited at first, but you .can earn the right to mre choices

2015-04-04-182417 2015-04-04-182353 2015-04-01-222430