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The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: July 9, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Genre: RPG
  • Similar Games: The Legend of Zelda III: A Link to the Past
  • Price: Estimated PHP995

Retro gaming will always have a place in the modern landscape. For those who grew up during the 8-bit era or even earlier, the appeal of retro type games is no surprise, having experienced them first-hand. Despite the technical limitations of the time, some titles have made their mark in gaming history eventually becoming iconic classics whether it be in terms of gameplay, story, or a combination of both. Enter developer Radical Fish who knows the importance of the past as well and shows it with their release of the PC, and now console, Role-Playing Game CrossCode.

As advertised, CrossCode is a retro inspired Role-Playing Game and it’s very clear from the moment you see it. The bright pixelated art style and graphics, the fixed top view angle, the blocky terrains and towns. All of it will remind you of the NES and SNES era RPGs like the original Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda.

CrossCode is set in the distant future, where you are a player inside CrossWorlds, a massive MMO Role-Playing Game where the story takes place. Without giving anything away, as the main character Lea, you will embark on a journey of discovery throughout CrossWorlds meeting different characters, exploring everything the game-within-a-game has to offer, and uncovering the mysteries that may very well go beyond the game.

If this all sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen shows with similar premises of being inside a game. Shows like Sword Art Online and .hack will likely come to mind. Of course story is only half of what CrossCode has to offer.

Learn the ways of the Spheromancer, Grasshopper

The gameplay of CrossCode is, in short, amazing. Having started with RPGs like The Legend of Zelda III, Final Fantasy III/VI, and Chrono Trigger on the SNES, I was expecting something similar, and I did get what I expected and a whole lot more. The initial impression would be that it’s a retro gameplay overhaul.

First off, the combat is really fast paced. It’s an action RPG so no turn-based mechanics anywhere here. As a Spheromancer (one of the classes in CrossWorlds) Lea has access to both close combat and ranged moves. She can get in close doing melee attacks or fire projectiles from a distance. Blocking is relegated to one of your shoulder buttons, there is a short dodge to move away from enemy attacks that you can execute using the PS4 controller’s analog, and the same analog is used to aim your Spheromancer Balls at enemies.

It was all pretty foreign at first on account of analog sticks not being available before, so to use it for aiming and dodging in a retro style RPG was a different feeling, but it certainly fit well and it should be second nature to you within minutes.

Lea will be able to level up and learn different Arts courtesy of the game’s Circuit System. It wouldn’t be wrong to say this is CrossCode’s version of Final Fantasy X’s Sphere grid because it is, only a bit simpler. You earn Circuit Points (CP) in combat and you use this to move around Lea’s Circuit Grid increasing attributes like HP and melee/ranged damage, and learning different Combat Arts based around Dash, Guard, Melee, and Throw.

The game is fairly generous when it comes to CPs but you will really need to choose wisely in what parameters to level up Lea in. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that said Circuit Grid will expand to accommodate Elements like Fire and Ice as you progress through the game, since elements are a staple of any RPG after all. It gets pretty deep, so RPG fans will definitely get a kick out of the system.

What I did find unique is that when presented with a decision to choose between 2 different Arts in a certain parameter, you’re actually able to swap between either and it won’t cost any CPs to swap. In other words, there is a bit of preference involved. For example in terms of Melee Arts do you prefer the Sphere Saw path which is a powerful attack in one direction or the Spin Cut path which is a less powerful spinning attack that can hit multiple enemies surrounding you?

Combat mechanics are fairly deep for something that’s considered retro but nonetheless a welcome feature as it keeps the fighting fast and fun. And you’ll need to get good as the foes and bosses you fight in the game don’t play around. Some fodder can be dispatched with a constant barrage of attacks, easy. Others though are not pushovers, and these are just grunts. Some will have weaknesses and hitting these will cause them to go into a Break state and it’s only here that you can deal massive damage.

Bosses you fight will also test you similarly, only these bad boys hit way harder and need a lot of trial and error to beat. It’s still a matter of finding patterns to memorize, weaknesses to exploit, and finding the right tools for the job , or in this case the right Arts to use. Not to mention fast reflexes and timing are a must. And each boss you fight just gets progressively more challenging.

To compliment your stats, in true RPG fashion, stores are available in the towns of the different areas in CrossWorlds where you can buy items, armor, and weapons. Not only that, but there are also trading posts where you can exchange goods. And these trading posts sometimes have some useful gear you don’t see in the stores so you’ll be really motivated to trade.

There is also a sense of aggressiveness the game encourages because in combat, there is a rank system where your rank increases relative to the number of enemies you defeat. And the higher the rank, the better rewards you get. We say aggressive because after every fight, there is a cooldown timer represented by blue borders that will return you to the lowest rank when they disappear. So to stay in the coveted S Rank, you got to keep on the offensive constantly finding enemies on the map to beat.

We should also mention that one of CrossCode’s really great features is your HP regenerates after every fight if you opt to take a breather instead of chasing after that S Rank. The other is that majority of enemies in the field will NOT attack you unless you attack them first. It made exploring a tad bit easier if you’re not in the mood to fight. Not all though will be just as passive and there will still be enemies that will attack you first. These two were really convenient features along with the ability to save the game anywhere. And that’s not all. The game also offers fast travel options provided you found the teleportation areas in the map.

Don’t think you’ll be doing all this alone too. CrossCode may be a single-player game but you will be able to partner up with certain characters you meet to help you in combat. You AI allies are fairly competent and you’re able to customize their behavior according to their targets and aggressiveness. If anything, it’s a little disappointing that Lea is your only playable character. Spheromancer isn’t the only class in CrossWorlds and trying out others like Emilie’s punch specializing Pentafist class would’ve been interesting.

So basically in CrossCode, combat is all about getting strong and being smart. And speaking of smart, your intellect and wits won’t be used just to dispatch your enemies.

Is this game CrossWorlds or PuzzleWorlds?

It really wouldn’t be too far off to call CrossCode a puzzle game disguised as an RPG, though at its core it’s definitely a Role-Playing Game and you do normally find puzzles in RPGs. In the case of CrossCode, the number of puzzles you will find in this game is just astounding, and definitely challenging.

Now puzzles to advance inside dungeons are a given, and they are definitely an exercise for the brain that will require almost everything you can think of whether it be timing, memorization, or trial and error. What can be a bit overwhelming if you’re a completionist is that similar puzzles can be found just travelling around CrossWorlds.

There is no jump button, but walking towards certain terrains will make Lea auto jump, whether it be a short elevation or jumping short distances to other platforms. The moment I realized this could happen I already knew I was in for a whole heap of puzzles as throughout CrossWorld’s different areas there are certain items that seem out of reach at first until you realize that exploring and finding paths you can jump to will let you reach otherwise unreachable areas.

Not only chests with items, but exploring and finding places you can jump to will also net you time saving shortcuts. And you’ll also need to think outside the box here as finding said hidden paths will sometimes involve you moving in between different parts of a map. Not to mention with a few new upgrades later, newer paths will open.

In other words, throughout CrossCode you’ll be constantly presented, may we even say bombarded, with puzzles to solve and though majority are just optional, for those who can’t ignore a challenge it’ll mean almost not running out of things to do. Albeit it can be a bit exhausting. And remember, you can’t avoid fighting enemies as you need to level up and get stronger too.

I am… whatever these quests ask me to be

Towns are also your source of side quests in CrossCode. Sure you can find certain NPCs with “!” their heads as you go around but the hub in the different towns should help you find where they are.

These will net you pretty neat rewards and experience points needed to get stronger. NPCs will have all heaps of things for you to do. If you don’t mind those usual quests of go do this, find that, go here, defeat this enemy, deliver x item to this place, etc. then maybe the tediousness and kind of boring grind won’t really get to you.

Now fortunately, if some of these mechanics overwhelm you, CrossCode offers accessibility options where you can adjust the game’s puzzle and combat difficulty…to a certain extent. CrossCode is definitely not an easy game, and it’s so-called “default” difficulty setting offers puzzles and enemies that can maybe cause you to tear your hair off. So there’s no harm in making the game a bit more bearable, like making some puzzle timings easier for example. If challenge is your thing though, then leaving the game in its default setting is the way to go. And there’s really nothing like the feeling of solving a difficult conundrum on your own.

Next Level Retro

CrossCode definitely gets points in presentation as it shows what a next-generation retro game can look like. Sure everything is clearly pixelated, there’s lots of repeat animations, and it’s easy to spot similar NPC sprites everywhere, but that’s the point of a retro RPG and simply put Radical Fish went beyond expectations. It’s especially a nice touch that you’ll see other NPC CrossWorlds players moving around towns and battle areas that it gives off the illusion of a constantly active online player community.

Character sprites and massive bosses move smoothly in-game and the portraits during conversations are very expressive. You’ll know this is true when you see all the faces Lea makes. It’s also neat how the developers try to give characters you meet a bit of a personality through the writing. And to think this is retro so no voice-overs.

You can clearly see Lea’s friend Emilie, for example, is French from all the French words in her dialogue that you can almost hear her accent. Not to mention hear her real world talk. CrossWorld is still an MMORPG after all, though a highly advanced futuristic one at that, so the players you meet are still real people with mundane real life issues.

There’s also an annoying loudmouth you meet early on that counts as a mini boss fight that you don’t need to win to progress. But let’s just say that when you meet this certain character, you will WANT to grind to oblivion and beat said character to the ground for the sheer satisfaction of it. You can’t help it. In any online RPG you’ll meet all sorts of player types.

Music in CrossCode is also something worth noting. Set in a distant future, you can definitely feel it from the music in this game when some of the game’s combat music starts up. There’s even a different track from when you reach the highest rank in combat and its fast pace really sets the tone for wanting to find more enemies to defeat. Not all tracks stand out though. Some are just the normal variety like town BGMs, but they do the job of setting the mood.

This all feels a bit too familiar…

Now with everything good going for it, CrossCode isn’t exactly the pinnacle of gaming. The story can be considered nothing new especially if you’ve seen other trapped-in-a-game type shows, so you might be able to predict somewhat how the plot goes. That shouldn’t stop you though from pressing on and finding out for yourself.

The characters too were fine but didn’t really feel all too memorable. It felt like checking boxes of what character archetypes did the developers want to put in CrossCode. The dialogue though was at times funny. They just don’t stick in your mind for too long. If anything, what you’ll likely remember are the faces Lea makes.

Some of the side quests too don’t really feel worth doing. They can get really tedious and can become the boring kind of grind, especially when some quest objectives tend to repeat. We did say only some as certain quests do pit you against strong foes so challenge seekers may find something worthwhile. Either way, the bottom line is at least you get items and experience points for your trouble. It may very well the only reason to tackle these side quests, save for maybe the drive to complete everything.

What we liked:

  • Smooth classic retro graphics
  • Deep combat
  • Challenging puzzles
  • Accessibility options for different players

What we didn’t like:

  • Average and predictable story
  • Generic characters
  • Tedious and repetitive side quests
  • Only one playable character class

Verdict: Buy it!

So in the end despite some gripes with story, characters, and quests, CrossCode is still actually worth getting on account of what else it has to offer players.  We want to be clear that the story and characters aren’t exactly bad, they’re just not exactly groundbreaking. But that shouldn’t stop you from experiencing CrossCode as the combat and puzzles make it worth the journey. And we have to mention this is available for $19.99 or roughly PHP995 so for a game heavy on gameplay and a beautiful retro look to boot, that’s really not a bad deal all things considered.

CrossCode is available via Digital download but for physical boxed version collectors, it is available also from the Inin Games Website.

CrossCode was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings! “Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above. “Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10. “Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: July 17, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4
  • Genre: Open-world action adventure
  • Similar Games: Horizon Zero Dawn, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, The Witcher 3
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP2,999

Highly anticipated and unafraid to release close to heavyweights like The Last Of Us Part II and the now delayed Cyberpunk 2077, Ghost of Tsushima is a breakaway hit for Sony’s first-party developer Sucker Punch, infamous for, well, Infamous. I’m going to come right off the bat and gush over this beauty of a game put together from what seems like the best features of similar open-world role models of recent years: Horizon Zero Dawn, Breath Of The Wild, The Witcher 3, and of course the North American studio’s own learnings from the aforementioned Infamous franchise.

Sucker Punch is certainly no neophyte in this stage and this is clearly their best work yet. While it hardly breaks new ground with its gameplay, Ghost of Tsushima (GoT) is a tour de force of cinema in videogame form, combining iconic moments nearly only seen in films with exciting and varied combat flowcharts and exploration elements that meld with a plot-pushing pace that strives to never lose its tempo.

Stare in awe at the iconic cinematography of a samurai movie in a videogame.

Let’s head into the thick of this romanticized take on the 13th century Mongol invasions of Japan and allow me to do so in the form of one of his hobbies – a Haiku (it’s one of MANY side-activities you can do in GoT; a more serious equivalent to Yakuza’s and Sleeping Dogs’ karaoke).

This review is spoiler free.

Story and visual,
Combine in sheer artistry,
Crowned by wondrous sound.

Our hero, the eponymous Ghost, begins the game as only Jin, the scion of a clan of warriors born and sworn to defend the island they call home. The tutorial area is a brutal introduction to real-world-inspired initial reaction of the Japanese to the Mongol horde – Jin participates in the defense of Tsushima, but is met by a foreign enemy employing foreign tactics.

I had qualms over the seemingly slow approach of the game, and the first “WOW” moment did not come immediately, but come it did after the game finished with its intro sections. GoT was slowly and surely weaving a tale founded on a rich lore of alternate history, with its characters as cornerstones with which the pillars of its master plan would hinge on. 

Jin and the other characters’ relationships are built over really well-acted dialogue, both in English and Japanese dub, although the facial animations and mouth movements might be a little bit disorienting as they are keyed into English scripts only. You would expect a Samurai game to be paired perfectly with Japanese dubs, but the English voice actors are equally as deserving of praise, oftentimes being the better option so as not to have the subtitles distract from the on-screen action.

The main characters each develop their motivations, actions, and emotions over the course of their own Tales, always inviting you to uncover more and more about them – and it is an offer that’s hard to avoid as they mesh together well in the grand scheme of the island’s politics and setting.

Nearly all the cut-scenes are from Jin’s point-of-view, and is centered on his journey around the island

We are soon presented with the central conflict of the game, a Batman-esque premise of the guerilla Ghost being the hero the people of Tsushima needs, while Jin’s rigorously trained samurai self is forcefully evolved by dire circumstances of a new and inscrutable enemy from beyond the seas. The Mongols are not afraid to use fire, hostage-taking, and other tactics samurai would consider dishonorable – and the Ghost learns to employ assassinations, stealth, and actual new technology (at least for warriors of the time in this portrayal of shogunate Japan) against them.

Eventually, the Ghost learns that the people have flocked to his name not only for protection, but to support him as well – Tsushima was not going to be saved by one man alone, but it sure does begin with his efforts in bringing down their oppressors, one peasant saved at a time.

We meet other like-minded individuals – some from Jin’s past, and others new acquaintances – that will share our journey, not as tag-alongs but as well developed characters that bare their motivations and energy in their actions. Together, along with legends, myths, and events from all the corners of the island, a living, breathing setting is borne and raised in the matter of anywhere from 40-60 hours, the amount of time it will roughly take to Platinum the game.

GoT is full of fights and encounters amidst iconic scenery.

The game shines in the presentation of its story in these regards, which, while it is a very Hollywood take on the honor-and-swordplay beats of samurai flicks, is very respectful, well-developed, and nurtured over a forgiving but adventurous pace, especially for an open-world game that comes with lots of side quests and distractions.

If you loved watching The Bride demolish gangsters and assassins, or Daigoro protect his cub, or Jack stand steadfast against time and a gigantic demon warlock, you will love GoT. I’ve heard it compared to Sekiro if only for its theme – while they are two games floating down diverging river paths, the love for the lore of bushido is embraced in both – GoT is just more grounded in realism, though not without dabbling in a little mythological spirituality.

The visual artistry is without a doubt, its most breathtaking aspect. The world is littered with views and vantages straight out of a feudal-era painting to enjoy. It is an experience that begs you to appreciate beauty even in the ravages of strife and suffering, if only to serve as a breather between the tense battles you have to take part in. High Resolution and High Frame Rate mode is present for PS4 Pro users, but we noticed hardly any frame rate dips so we opted to use High Resolution all the way, rewarded with some of the most stunning scenery in any game.

via GIPHY

The score and ambient audio provides bountiful support in immersing us through the various locales, feeling as authentic as a Kurosawa masterpiece. Speaking of the famed filmmaker, there’s even an option to up the cinematic feel – a

“Kurosawa Mode” graphic filter that turns the game black, white, and grainy (and the sound a bit muted and dull), which while most certainly a novel gimmick, is a cool addition; along with the “cinematic” camera pan speed (though the camera is not without its troubles – which we’ll later tackle below), making for some great shots to capture on video. Simply put, it you love fiddling around in Photo Mode, you will spend hours doing so, no question.

It is a creative marvel of passion – delighting with every scene, every vista, every muddy roll through the rice paddies and bloody slashes through flesh and armor. And I absolutely loved the ending credits song – can’t wait for the official soundtrack to be released.

Open-world ninja,
Samurai action hero,
Fluid, organic.

GoT is an amalgamation of the best bits of the action-RPG sub-genre, opening up once the initial mechanics, plot points, and characters are introduced. The core loop is familiar: unlock a quest line via meeting an NPC, follow them or their story to a place of interest, do battle or solve a puzzle, and reap the rewards.

It seems a pedestrian formula at first glance, but the implementation is streamlined to keep you always wanting more. Quests, or Tales, are manageable in length and will almost never feel like a drag because of wonderful writing for the most part, which could possibly stand toe to toe with The Witcher 3. Longer Tales are split apart in chapters that you can conveniently sidetrack yourself out of if you feel like taking on something else for the meantime. Exploring Tsushima’s nooks and crannies will, for the most part, be bursting with flavor.

Where will the wind take us next?

Tsushima Island itself is divided into three main regions corresponding to the game’s possibly film-inspired three acts. Each region is sizable, with so much to see and do that there is hardly a dull moment in the world. Across valleys and lakes and fields, each area has a noticeable theme that makes the region distinct and the map stand out in vivid color. As you ride into the sunset, you notice hardly any loading times except for the times when you employ fast travel, and even then loading times are short, averaging around 5 seconds, give or take, on a PS4 Pro.

The main navigation mechanic is presented as the Guiding Wind, a representation of the Kamikaze (literally Divine Wind) that was said to have helped drive away the IRL Mongol invasion. Swiping up on the Dual Shock touchpad calls forth a visual and aural cue in the form of a gusting wind, blowing towards the direction of the map entry you would have been instructed to track. Not only does this make exploration intuitive – it is also an immersive and clever way of merging game-play mechanics with character and plot development – Jin’s connection to the Divine Wind is explored pretty early on in a story cut-scene. Travel by horseback and just plain running around is also rewarded by the myriad activities you can do besides moving the plot along.

Question marks can sometimes appear on the map where the fog-of-war is wiped away by your world movement or mentioned by NPCs, and following these can lead to cleverly hidden mini-games, platforming challenges, or an outright trove of loot that’s still presented in a way that makes sense within the world. The map is immense, but points of interest are properly scattered that weaving to and from each point does not feel like a chore, highlighting a triumph in game design.

Be honorable and stylish at the same time.

The amount of vanity gear you can equip is enough to satisfy a huge range of tastes – dress like a wide and towering Oni-faced war leader, a rough-and-tumble my-own-rules ronin in a hakama (please do correct me in terminology of there is a better one – I’m an enthusiast, not an expert), or the eccentric weird hats of feudal longbow archers.

Past cosmetic upgrades, shrines atop mountain peaks and beyond precarious caves provide charms that can be equipped for stacking benefits like damage reduction, hot spring onsen in hidden coves provide healing and permanent boosts to health, and even a sort-of Simon-Says sequence in bamboo practice stands that increase your resolve, basically your ‘mana’ to pull off your techniques.

via GIPHY

Tsushima is mostly handcrafted goodness except for its random-battle system – these points in the map are fun to discover and complete and are meticulously scattered all over the island.

Always move forward,
Building your legend slowly,
Ghost or Samurai.

Experience and character progression is given form by the growing of the Ghost of Tsushima’s legend among the populace. As you conduct your exploits saving villages and their inhabitants from roving squads of Mongolians and native opportunistic bandits, the people take notice of your work and show their gratitude with meager gifts of supply rations (the game’s main currency – a refreshing alternative where actual money would not make sense for a wartime setting).

Completing enough adventures that contribute to the Ghost’s living legend grants us Technique Points that can unlock combat and exploration options, custom-fit to your choice of play-style.

So many ways to kill a man… or bear… or…

Plying your operations across larger and larger swathes of territory will have you returning to some areas where peasants and merchants are already able to return in safety to their habitations, thanks to your efforts in driving away hostile forces. This trend of give and take echoes all throughout Tsushima, giving players and Jin constant doses of gratification.

Craftsmen, that can improve your weapons and armor, and merchants, that provide more vanity options for playing samurai dress-up, pop-up in quest hubs big and small, eager to offer their services to the Ghost in support of his heroic deeds.

These are consistent qualities maintained throughout the whole game: everything makes sense in the scope of world-building an already well-known and often-depicted landscape that may be written off as an easy or safe choice for game developers.

The life of Tsushima and its katana-sharp romanticization are given life by mechanics that are gracefully intertwined with the fact that it is still a game that needs to played – everything from character statistic/skill upgrades, crafting, navigation and exploration as I’ve mentioned above, to the combat, side-quests for loot, and overall progression is backed by a story element.

And finally, the combat – we remembered Sucker Punch’s promise of “exhilarating” fights – and they for sure delivered on this guarantee. The dance of movement and timing represents the best elements of samurai/ninja-inspired action games of old: of Tenchu’s quick and brutal stealth kills, to Sekiro’s perfect parries and dodges, even to hints of Bushido Blade – the game allows you enough leeway to choose how to take on the Mongol hordes.

via GIPHY

A relatively fresh mechanic called the Standoff, allows you to challenge idle unalerted enemies to a duel that you can end in one strike – or fail and get punished to a sliver of your health instead. It’s another smart implementation of what is in the narrative as Jin keeping useful samurai tactics – again it makes sense in both gameplay and story.

Failing that, you can of course quietly approach an encampment and bring them down one by one without their buddies getting none the wiser. My slight gripe is that while there is a cool behind-the-paper-door insta-kill, there is no from-the-ledge kill, like from when you hang by a window or overhang and pull someone to their death. Still, the variety of executions you can commit in the shadows are varied enough.

via GIPHY

There’s also all manner of “Ghost” weapons, the side of Jin representing his acceptance of the any-means-necessary against the invaders and bandits – throw kunai at their necks and hear them gurgle blood as you rush other targets down, smokebombs to regain the advantage of stealth (and thus enable insta-kills even amidst alerted enemies), and even a technique similar to the Mongols’ that allows you to set fire to your blade.

It’s really your choice – build tanky and fight like the stubborn and bear-like Kikuchiyo in Seven Samurai, or trick your opponents with tools of misdirection both literal and strategic, like Kyuzo from the same film.

The combat and stealth sequences in the main Tales are wonderfully choreographed and seem to enable Jin and the player to exercise their creativity in the effort of mastering an obstacle in the most beautiful way possible without ever pressuring you with a score – it’s up to you too what’s cool or not in your book. Together with lilting crescendos nudging you ever forward from a quiet buildup as you approach enemies – the pace never lets up when it finds opportunity.

Most of these Tales are topped at the end by Duels, boss fights that work a bit different from regular battles – they’re great early on but by the end, some can be underwhelming copy-pastes and re-orders of sequences you’ve already conquered. Nevertheless, the fights never lose their flair, and these are some of the most intense and visually appealing moments in the game.

via GIPHY

Random battles also litter the landscape and offer challenges that sometimes reward Jin with information from rescued hostages – these is another appreciated break in the otherwise expected tediousness of manual travel as the battles are quick, and positioning and enemy group composition indulges you to strategize on the fly especially if you’re caught on horseback and seen from afar.

Other challenges that are prearranged but can be tackled at your leisure include Mongol work camps, the occupied village territory, and military installations filled with soldiers all waiting to be Ghosted. Terrain features await your surveying eye – be patient for the proper moments to strike undetected or be quick before you are seen and an alarm is raised.

Climb up to roofs and towers, crawl under floorboards, and squeeze through cracks in fences – they’re all here from Tenchu – done with modern-day video-game sensibilities and design in mind.

Close to perfection,
Details loved, flaws accepted,
Greatness still stands out.

It was a long and arduous journey we took to get here – it’s sure got that one-more-quest (one more game?) itch just waiting to be scratched and then it’s 3 AM in the morning. I’ve finished the game and still there was stuff to do. It behooves me to say that it wows in so many things, but we still have to talk about where it falls short, unfortunately.

via GIPHY

Enemy AI is exploitable once you get the feel from the first act – even if they do upgrade in their tactics and start ganging up on you, sometimes it feels like a crap-shoot when you pick them off one-by-one with your bow, and just wait for them to drop their alert level. For this reason I’d even recommend upping the difficulty to “Hard” if you feel that the Ghost is too much for his enemies and combat starts to feel like a chore (unlikely, but I’ve felt it a few times across the play-through).

The over-the-shoulder camera can be horrendous in the most inopportune moments. There is no option to have Jin and other characters outlined if they are behind opaque surfaces, and the sticky-as-molasses camera panning often gets stuck in a corner while you get pummeled by an enemy you’re struggling to see. I’ve come to the realization that it may have been a design decision to keep the cinematographic ambiance of the game to the max – but at least a way to deliberately adjust view distance above what the game’s display options offer would have been nice.

There are also quite a bit of weird and minor quirks that can be annoying (that oddly feel in-place in a large open-world game), like NPCs asking you to follow them but close the door on your nose. You’ll notice some NPCs look like some others that fulfill other bigger roles – a somewhat common occurrence for games of this size. And eventually, you can get hit by open-world tedium – you’ll begin to notice which patterns are being repeated, which voice lines keep getting said, and which places you’d probably hate to bother with because you know it’s cribbed from some other place you’ve been to already except that the water mill is in another place, or that there’s more dogs there than archers, and the like.

A Ghost must also rest.

For Breath Of The Wild, I think that’s both what made and broke it – experiences had a lot of variance even for the smallest side quests, but because of their sheer number, it can desensitize you to the remainder of what you can do in the world. In this case, I’m thankful they’re 100% optional like in Zelda, and the grind for materials isn’t as hard as i’d initially thought. And far removed from the (mostly) relaxed mood in BOTW, the goal of saving Tsushima is never out of sight and it is felt, alluded to, directly referenced, and rewarded for.

Overall, Ghost of Tsushima is probably the best recent open-world game to come out this year – but due to its mishaps (which, to be fair, are mostly minor), it’s a game that I love but cannot objectively say was a perfect experience for me. It comes hair-splittingly close for what I could consider our Editor’s Choice rating, and my actual editor will definitely contest me on this, but I ultimately feel that it definitely can do a lot better in terms of polish.

There are very small issues that I battled with (especially the camera) – but I have full confidence that those quibbles won’t take away anything too significant from this otherwise wonderful work of beauty (except maybe cost them the Game of the Year award).

It’s a magnificent endeavor that may have been too big for its own merit, or over-focused too far on some design elements, but it will definitely be a bad-ass katana-swinging contender with its moving story and spectacular presentation.

What we liked:

  • The most beautiful and cinematic open-world game yet
  • Quest writing that can stand up to the likes of The Witcher
  • Fluid and sensible battle mechanics
  • Very fast load-times

What we didn’t like:

  • Annoying camera behavior
  • Exploitable enemy AI 
  • Open-world fatigue can set it by the later stages of the game
  • Small details that feel overlooked

Verdict: Buy it!

Ghost of Tsushima is a technical and artistic marvel. Very few games can look and play as good as this effort from Sucker Punch, and that alone makes it worthy of a full price purchase. It’s an open world game that fully immerses you in the experience with its stunning presentation but also provides nearly the same amount of quality in all its aspects. It begs the question of how they’ve managed to fit everything in a ~40GB file size with minimal loading time. We may not know, but we are thankful and amazed that they’ve managed such a feat.

Ghost of Tsushima is the title that will catapult Sucker Punch to a status not many devs and studios can and will ever reach. It is a titanic effort and it will be to Sucker Punch what Horizon Zero Dawn was to Guerilla Games, a title that may very well be considered their greatest work.

Ghost of Tsushima was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review copy provided by the Publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: June 19, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4
  • Genre: Action adventure
  • Similar Games: The Last of Us, Uncharted
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP2,800 – 3,000

The Last Of Us Part II comes out next week Friday, June 19th. Before it hits shelves, your console’s drive space, or the many Youtube channels out there, we’re giving you this spoiler-free review in an attempt to fairly judge our experience after having finished the game multiple times (and then some). The sequel to Naughty Dog’s masterpiece take on the post-apocalyptic zombie action genre has been on every M-rated gamer’s mind ever since the ending of the first one blew our collective heads.

I had come into that game late, playing it only when the remastered version came out. Thankfully, I got to experience it spoiler free. I had many presumptions, being a horror and sci-fi nut in many mediums including videogames, and none of my expectations came close to encapsulating what a wild ride the first was: one truly had to see it to believe it – and that’s just saying something about the story. The sequel is an attempt to catch bottled lightning for the second time, and for a game that some will attest to needing no followup (indicating how perfect and complete the previous one was), it was going to be quite the feat to accomplish.

Life in the world is cold and hard, it’s difficult to expect otherwise

I’ll save you a few minutes of reading: it is the best game yet to come out this year. Maybe not best-selling, as Animal Crossing: New Horizons also just came out – but The Last Of Us Part II is already my contender for Game Of The Year, arguably, even over the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. We had to come up with a new rating past our usual Buy/Ignore/Wait verdicts just for this (and retroactively, for FF7R as well). I could end the review right now with just that, for fear of accidentally lessening the impact of how good the game is when played leak and spoiler-free, but If you still want to read more, thanks and go on ahead; we’ve got a lot of stuff to unpack – and I promise I won’t ruin anything for you.

This review is spoiler free.

Jackson, Wyoming – or where our story begins

The game is set a few years past the ending of the first, and we find ourselves back in the peaceful settlement our protagonists have joined. The timeskip alone tells us that a lot of time and events may already have transpired from the Joel and Ellie we know to the Joel and Ellie of this game. It’s pretty casual – drinks at a bar, awkward social situations, playing in the snow – life seems normal in the continental United States of Fungus. Well, yeah, except for that. The Cordyceps infestation is still very much a problem outside the walls of this prospering abode. We take control of Ellie, who’s now a lot taller from before, and even sporting a tattoo. 

Peace inside the walls is determined by action outside them

The small details in this first act begin to hint at a lot of things you will need to know: Ellie’s grown up, but the world is still the same as the first, seemingly normal and unperturbed by the disasters knocking outside the gates. One of our first tasks is to go on patrol around the settlement – and we are not told that “in today’s world, we go on patrol to check for clickers and other infected in the surrounding areas”.

We are shown Ellie going on a route and role that she hasn’t taken before, and therefore we, as the audience, inherit her eyes and POV. By this we know that Jackson is kept liveable by people who aren’t the same as the people from the outbreak – these are people who’ve lived decades past that (including Ellie and Joel) and that their collective experience in dealing with the Infected and life after the fall of the world has served them well. This is mere minutes into the game, but the rules of the world have already been set – and this is the first thing the game shows without outright telling, with little hand-holding.

Ellie knows what to do, and is raring to contribute to her community – but Naughty Dog still considers that not everyone has played the first before this one, and so we get a tutorial. Like in the first, controls and gameplay concepts are introduced as we go along a relaxed sequence after the introductory scenes in a cold-open narrative style (we jump into the story immediately, and merely observing and then trying lets us grasp what we have to do to play).

It’s a very convenient learning curve for anyone – even those unfamiliar with a PS Dual Shock controller

The controls feel very responsive and intuitive, even more than the first game – alongside the fact that numerous customization and accessibility options are provided well enough to aid any kind of player (so much so that it deserves a separate rundown and read through). Both the camera and how our character behaves with it have been streamlined in operation compared to the original, and it feels less constraining to lie prone or look over tight corners. In terms of controls and camerawork, The Last of Us Part II delivers with flying colors.

The tension is built up over the course of a few fights, QTEs, and a very open-world-ish series of “find an area and clear it of loot and enemies”. In a slight contrast to the first game, the world of TLOU2 appears more explorable and inviting; there’s even a dedicated jump button now, adding to the verticality of locales and your traversal options. There is stuff you can miss: it’s up to you whether you want to play this as quick as you can, or if you want to cross out every nook and cranny you can before going ahead – just be aware that environmental circumstances may not always allow you that leisure (i.e., being chased down by enemies).

That said, it feels natural where you can go and where you cannot: the areas are not so plagued by invisible walls, and the level design is very context-sensitive in that, as I’ve said already, observation alone lets you into a lot of information about what you can or cannot do. See that ledge? Does it look like you can step on top of it? Well, you can. If it doesn’t (there’s all sorts of garbage above it or something), then you can’t grab onto it and pull yourself up.

Up to you to set how overt these hints are; hooray for options!

It sounds so simple, and really, nothing groundbreaking – but there lies an astounding level of polish and attention to even small things that may not even get seen. I didn’t feel bad about possibly missing loot to grab because I did want to push the story forward (or I did not want to risk bothering a clutch of infected), and I found myself thinking, what would Ellie do? I also got the feeling that I was being taught how to play the game again even if I had played the first, because it was such a smooth and engaging experience to do whatever it is the game hints at to progress the story. 

That there is the key: TLOU2 has a habit of nudging you ever forward, egging you on towards uncovering more and more about the world and what’s happened to it, that the process of tinkering with what you find and dealing with obstacles you encounter already shows you a lot of the story – because the story is the juicy succulent meat of it all. The pacing shows us that this is a sequel to a game that made us cry and/or cringe at the horrors of both human and monster. It starts off slow, almost reassuring even, but the mounting suspense is grating and ever-present, and we are made to feel like Ellie does: a teenager that’s not so helpless against the world – but the world is still one unforgiving son-of-a-bitch too.

Taking it all in before setting out

Seattle, Washington – or where our story unfolds

Seattle is huge. When we arrive downtown, there is an absolute TON of things we can immediately do. Ellie’s obviously not from this particular city (and so are the lot of us who haven’t been to Seattle, much less a fictional one ravaged by a destructive and fatal contagion), and procuring a map allows both Ellie and we, the player, to make sense of the surrounding cityscape. We’ve talked about the Finding Nora sequence a bit in our preview, so let me regale you with another sequence that separates this game from the first. 

Downtown Seattle is a taste of The Last Of Us 2: Open-World: the less-than-linear approach was teased in the first act and now in this area, we really get to explore at our leisure. Ellie has the freedom to check out a number of spots on her (and our) own accord: we are not pressed by time nor circumstance – we can stay here for the rest of the game should we want to, looking for collectible trading cards or that one last bit of alcohol we need to make another molotov. Or simply, admiring the views, observing stupid roaming infected who can’t see us hiding in the grass, or riding a horse around pretending this is Red Dead Redemption. I’ve experienced minor clipping glitches such as the horse’s feet going through some stair steps, or Ellie getting stuck in midair after a short jump against a wall – nothing too bad as everything else looks gorgeous and well-placed. 

It’s a brave new world out there

And gorgeous is an understatement. The Last of Us Part II pushes the graphical boundaries of the PlayStation 4 Pro and just when you think you’ve seen great graphics, you haven’t seen The Last of Us 2 yet. Which leads us to think at what could be, with the PlayStation 5 just looming over the horizon.

This level of nonlinearity is reflected in the rest of the game after being introduced in a practically looser and less-hurried section of gameplay in downtown. At this point, there are encounters with clickers and other enemies, but nothing seems too daunting yet, so the exploration feels like something out of Skyrim where you’re more excited of what goodies you get to bring home rather than wary of what danger you can get yourself into.

Later on, the same non-linear concept is hammered on to everything you do – there are always multiple approaches to either combat or exploration, stealthily or not, and there will be loads of options presented as a situation unfolds. A wall may open up due to an explosion that alerts enemies but allows you a way through undetected, an infected may run after humans should one appear between you, and improvised weapons may become available from debris (so far, my favorite is a modified hammer). While it may have been a scripted event, the game always offers you a choice of how to go about things.

Get knocked down and you can still shoot – make it count!

We get a few more toys to play with in Seattle, some of which were shown in the official State of Play and other previews, such as explosive arrows for use with the bow, taped-together melee weapons like a bat with nails on it, and it seems like we’ll want to use each and every one of these because there are quite a number of encounters that seem like killing everything that movies might be the only way to progress. By this time we’ll be getting adept at how Ellie deals with threats, whether with projectiles or by bashing their head or stabbing their necks.

One of the things you are taught is that stealth is as important here as it was in the first game, maybe even more. The enemy AI is much smarter but at the same time, Ellie is much more capable, as brought about by her age.

She is much more agile, and the rhythm of dodging and striking is another cool improvement, albeit a somewhat repetitive one. Still, figuring out how different enemies react to melee attacks is a fun dance. There are only a limited amount of stealth kill animations and it can get cumbersome at some point – but kills on stunned or surprised enemies make up for that, with some so wildly shocking that you’ll probably select your own favorite weapon like how I did – by their hit/kill animation.

Wait for some opportunities that can allow you to pit human vs. infected – trust me: you’ll know when

Once we’re ready to set forth with supplies, a lot of which we’ve gathered from the unfortunate blokes who took time to write a lot of notes to tell us THEIR story, the plot is once again set in motion by Ellie finding clues that eventually leads her to what she set out to do by coming to the state of Washington. We’d arrived here clueless but driven, then after some preparing and equipping, we chase after our objective having survived a new city with its own brand of obstacles in a different state of dilapidation that riffs on the Salt Lake City and Boston of before: Seattle seems empty, but not quite.

While I was playing, I got to where I was without feeling like I was being told to do anything, like anything, or agree with anything: I got here because the game was showing me all these things that begged me to discover them. From the wayward note with a combination to a safe with medical supplies from an ailing husband to a pregnant wife now long-since dead and infected, to knowing that I was as disgusted as I was driven as I bury the blade of a machete into some screaming cultist’s bald head.

The clicker is in the details

Now that I’ve gotten most of what little of the story I can divulge (and the beauty of how it is presented), along with describing the gameplay that came along with it, I can wax further on everything else that made me fall for this game. 

First off, difficulty options are more varied and customizable this time around. As I’ve mentioned in our preview, you can play to your own style, and adjust the difficulty accordingly, since some options will present a different experience from the defaults (i.e., more action vs. more stealth, or more punishment vs. less consequences). None of the options, even the easiest nor the hardest one, have taken my fun away.

Customization is vast

Character progression is divided into item upgrades (via crafting recipes), equipment upgrades (via the workbench and scrap material), and passive upgrades (using vitamin supplements). Some parts of these are unlocked by finding magazines – “training manuals” – which I often wondered if they were possible to miss, but none have been required to progress in story, but all that I’ve tried sure helped in combat and staying alive while exploring.

The encounter variety is a huge plus too, considering I’d already found the first one a bit formulaic. Again, they already had a good formula, and it seems that Naughty Dog listened to a lot of feedback about the first game and its remaster, thereby now executing the same formulas with A+ levels of painstaking detail. It’s the same game, sure, but done by degrees better.

You know how in the first game you almost never got to use those bricks and bottles? You’ll be scrambling for them here in the second game. You know how in the first game the infected weren’t really THAT scary or intimidating once you get used to them? You will always learn to treat them with caution in the second game. Throw away your notions from part 1 because part 2 will chew it up and spit it out.

With enemies, there’s new forms of infected like the smelly-ass Shambler (Ellie describes how it smells vividly in both words and tone), and the soon-to-be-infamous Ellie-sniffing dogs, which is such a basic addition when you think about it, but it evolves the gameplay dynamics by leaps and bounds, forcing you to think and act on the fly.

I loved using silencers to avoid getting into cornered situations like these

On the human side, there’s the Washington Liberation Front (WLF), of which I’d rather not spoil anything about. Of course, there’s also the Scars – the creepy-as-hell madmen who communicate with surprisingly eerie whistles, who I don’t doubt you will both be excited and afraid to meet. I wish I could say more about them – but I’ll leave it by saying that they are as alive as our protagonists, calling each other’s names when someone disappears, crying for a dying teammate, and vowing revenge against us. They are all still human after all.

I still cannot get over how most everyone, if not everyone, in the world we encounter has a name, something we can connect their faces to. It makes everyone much more relatable, especially with the letters strewn around the world. Reading them is not a boring affair, and the world building accomplished by Naughty Dog is absolutely spectacular.

Farty McFartypants sounds exactly how you think it does

The audio-visual presentation is top-notch and is what I expected from a triple-A release from a triple-A studio like Naughty Dog. While I am no expert with the technicalities of videogame rendering breakthroughs of recent years – The Last Of Us boasts art direction and design that nearly no game I’ve ever played before has ever shown.

The sense and interactiveness of objects in and around the areas you can tread are a tour-de-force of handcrafted detail, with every placement feeling real and not a procedurally-generated decision. Everything in the world makes sense – a bottle of alcohol in a bar, or that pair of scissors in an office. There’s a logic and reason that pervades the world and it is seen through every detail.

The sound effects are as visceral as the graphical accompaniment, with each gurgle and scream you hear indicative of the pain you inflict or receive. Each moment and encounter in the world is an elevated experience because of the sound design, which creates such an atmosphere of dread and tension that is executed beautifully.

There is Johnny Cash in the soundtrack, and a few other gems I will not dare say because you yourself will want to hear it and go “damn, great taste”. The score is also very good in accentuating the penultimate word describing my experience, “tense”, but never forgets that there are calm and somber moments even in a world that’s already ended.

Even had time for a song

I could scarcely find anything else that was wrong or lacking aside from very minor nitpicks in the version I’ve played for 26 hours in the first run (a team member finished his playthrough in 35 hours), and another 15 or so (and counting) for my various revisits taking additional notes for this review (and replaying specific chapters at will). You read right, the game could take you anywhere from 25-35 hours, a far cry from the paltry game length of part 1.

There is no multiplayer just yet, similar to how the first did not have it at the outset, and I am excited to think about the possibilities that will present.

While the game plays at a steady pace of 30 frames, there are a few areas where it would dip, but not to the point of it being unplayable. Looking as good as it shows is already a feat on its own, so the minor fluctuations are forgivable.

That said, this release is already a monumental effort in terms of conveying a single-player experience that’s bound to stay with us for quite a while. It took me to school, and taught me a number of things I did not expect would get tackled in a videogame about zombies. I grew up, it seems, just like Ellie did, even if we aren’t the same age. This is one game that the story carries the gameplay more than most – but it is far from a cinematic novel. After all, my heart had skipped a lot of beats getting around insane humans and ravenous infected as much as my hands sweat from gripping the controller hard, especially in some really tight situations in the dark.

What we liked:

  • World building and attention to detail is phenomenal
  • Audio visual presentation is masterful
  • Vastly improved gameplay
  • Character animations are top notch
  • Impressive accessibility options

What we didn’t like:

  • Minor graphical hitches
  • Frame dips in some areas
  • Not getting to play it on the PS5 just yet.

Verdict: Buy it!

The Last of Us Part II is a triumph. Despite all the challenges, the game is strong enough to shrug it off and matter where it needs to the most. It’s not the most mechanically challenging or scariest game out there because it doesn’t need to be, instead it grips you in ways that you don’t really expect. Whether it be in the small details of the world or in its narrative twists, The Last of Us Part II is an experience that exceeds expectations.

The Last of Us 2 was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review copy provided by the Publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings! “Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above. “Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10. “Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.
Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: April 28, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Arcade Beat-em-up
  • Similar Games: Final Fight, Brawlhalla, Castle Crashers
  • Price: Starts at PHP549.95 (PC), USD24.99 or around PHP1,250 (Other platforms)

The acclaimed beat-em-up franchise from the heyday of the Sega Genesis (a.k.a the Mega Drive in North America) returns after a 26 (!) year hiatus, courtesy of French nostalgia-freaks Lizardcube (who made the Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s trap remake) and Dotemu, the dev/publisher responsible for a ton of new-age ports, including fighting game cult classic Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Final Fantasy VIII Remastered.

Lizardcube worked in collaboration with a multinational team, sharing co-development credit with Guard Crush Games (who brought in their Streets of Fury engine), and even having the original SOR series composer Yuzo Koshiro tag along for the ride once hype built up after 2018 announcement of the new game.

It’s certainly an experience from a bygone era of short playthroughs and simple overall mechanics, but it sure holds up not only as a faithful love song to the arcade culture of Japan and the 90’s idea of a dystopian near-future, but as a stalwart tentpole of the (long-thought-dead) genre of pressing a button to send your fist into a goon’s face while walking left-to-right.

Streets of Rage 4 is the new sequel to an old trilogy that hasn’t put out an entry since the 90’s. The art direction is snazzy (that’s some appropriate 90’s lingo right there) and crisp, portraying a down-on-its-luck urban landscape teeming with corruption. The animations are fluid and smooth, and there is virtually negligible input lag whenever you press something on your controller. Combined with a set of rad tunes (there I go again), and the option to play the retro soundtrack, it makes for an immersive old-school vibe with a pinch of today’s more modern sensibilities. It is by no means breaking new ground, but it doesn’t feel too left-behind in spite of its obviously dated gameplay.

The premise is simple – a horde of bad guys stand between you and peace for Wood Oak City, and they all need big dose of punching and kicking and throwing, and whatever your selected character does for a Star Move (a special signature area-of-effect attack).

https://youtu.be/nDXY1WRef0Q

How I learned to appreciate beat-em-ups as an adult

We start the game with only Story Mode and the 4 main characters unlocked: series vets Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding are joined by newcomers Cherry Hunter (teenage daughter of SOR1’s Adam Hunter), and Floyd Iraia (a cybernetically enhanced apprentice of SOR3’s Dr. Zan). The story doesn’t promise anything outside of the scope of your average Hollywood crime-doesn’t-pay cop show except there’s cyborgs and that bullets don’t kill you in one hit (oh wait, that screams Hollywood more than anything else).  But that’s okay: I barely paid any attention to the story and it’s STILL the most fun I’ve had in a while (well, at least since I’ve played Doom Eternal).

The story unfolds via animated
No in-engine cutscenes here, but the pretty animated comics sequences do the job squarely

I didn’t think it was fun at first: I had a hard time going about throwing my fisticuffs thinking that “hey, these used to be easy when I was a kid” – it was not, and I may have forgotten that I have rarely finished any of these games without help (including a ton of extra coins for the arcade).  Normal difficulty sets you with 2 full health bars, and earning a good score nets you extra lives mid-stage. Stringing together consecutive hits without getting hit back multiplies your score by quite a bit, and helps you get closer to a stage’s end-boss with a backup life or two. Sounds easy enough? WRONG. Hella wrong.

Your life meter is a resource (another special move with invulnerability frames also costs a bit of health), and the game is not going to hold itself back in taking it away from you if all you expect to do is mash buttons. It beat me back hard, forcing me to use the provided Retry Assists – extra lives at the cost of dividing my total score by a factor. I refused to go down to Easy difficulty because I’m trying to prove that I was as stubborn as some of the game’s enemies (looking at you Ruby and family).

Good ole police brutality
Good ole police brutality

After 4 hours of banging my head against the many brick walls I encountered, I finished Story Mode shouting, “what a bad game!”. I had many complaints: I had no dash and walking through the side-scrolling levels felt like a slog through a muddy swamp, the hitboxes of some enemies felt so unfair (you’ll learn to hate Galsia holding a knife), and the 2D plane of movement is going to fry your depth perception. I was so ready to write this off as an “ignore it” and tell you that I wasted my cold hard cash on it… until something just *clicked*.

I put the game on Easy, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, right next to buying a Wii U when everyone else was getting a PS4 (I will fight people). I had read on a forum that Easy is the mode you play at if you like everything about beat-em-ups except getting beat up.

Try not to get surrounded by these mooks
Try not to get surrounded by these mooks

Lowering the difficulty didn’t turn me soft as I had naively clung to previously: it instead afforded me a luxury that arcade beat-em-ups never did when I was a kid – it gave me a chance to learn the mechanics in a less-pressuring environment. Stage after stage and gangbanger after gangbanger, I grew more comfortable with how to best utilize the few buttons I had to work with, and even distinguishing my preferences for each character’s fighting style.  Cherry did have a dash, and it was her gimmick: run around the room and smash enemies with your flying knee and guitar before they and their cohorts had a chance to retaliate. Blaze had the ability to pick up grounded opponents for a few more hits, and her aerial Y-attack can cover a lot of distance, handy for escaping grenades and molotovs and other painful obstacles. Floyd? Well, he slow, he punch strong. These only expanded as I began to unlock more characters, starting from the pixelized SOR form of Axel (you can switch in-between stages).

Just keep playing to unlock characters, each pip on the lifetime score bar is a new one
Just keep playing to unlock characters, each pip on the lifetime score bar is a new one

After a full no-game-over run at Easy, I took my newfound skills to the test at Normal, and it felt more natural when I wasn’t button-mashing any longer. I waited for enemies to finish their turn first, then attacked conservatively, not pressing any more than I needed to. I learned which attacks of mine would allow me to juggle enemies as long as it was safe to do so: I had no idea beat-em-ups had these sort of mechanics, EVER, and I was like a gamer reborn, suplexed into the wet baptismal afterbirth of popped thumb callus. Every complaint I had about hit- and hurtboxes, of unfair attacks and punishing situations disappeared.

Two (and sometimes three) fists are better than one

It is short at 12 standard levels (there’s a Boss Rush and Arcade mode, too – plus some Easter eggs: try Taser-ing an arcade machine), ranging at around 1-4 hours per full run, but don’t think that’s all it has to offer. This is the kind of game made for couch co-op (however hard that is to achieve at this time depending on your circumstances). I fortunately have a housemate living with me, and definitely, plying the Streets of Rage with a buddy was the most fun way to play SOR4.  It feels like the general difficulty is also tuned for 2 players (the maximum is 3, as SOR tradition goes, apparently) as the enemies don’t increase in number or damage with the addition of another player. Playing with a friend means you can hit each other, so some amount of coordination and spatial awareness is needed before someone breaks a controller in half when they get hit with a thrown lead pipe for the 15th time. 

We enjoyed sandwiching bosses with punches and kicks amidst shouts of “WOMBO COMBO!” and “THAT AIN’T FALCO!”. 
We enjoyed sandwiching bosses with punches and kicks amidst shouts of “WOMBO COMBO!” and “THAT AIN’T FALCO!”.

I’ve also tried joining in online co-op games around maybe twice now before I started writing this article, and I think I ruined some rando’s weekend night by interrupting his throws with my excited mashing. I had played this game on Steam, and without cross-platform play, the open game list wasn’t too long at 2 or 3 options each time I looked, although the experience was lag-free and actually enjoyable too (I had learned from the people I joined). There is no quickplay/auto-join feature too, but maybe that’s for the best lest you interrupt someone’s session, but it would’ve been cool to have us join with a tag-in attack to help out some brotha that’s getting clobbered.

The concert level looks straight out of Scott Pilgrim
The concert level looks straight out of Scott Pilgrim

There’s also a PvP Battle mode, if you fancy beating your friends up as the actual goal of the game, but it’s sparse and seems like a bonus as opposed to a full-fledged game mode (after a match, you just get dumped back straight into character select, and nothing is unlockable via Battle, at least as far as we’ve played).

What we liked:

  • It’s a tried-and-true formula, but it’s going to school you still
  • Short and sweet, but easily replayable, especially in co-op
  • 17 characters!
  • Great bang for the buck

What we didn’t like:

  • There is little to do past beating people up and getting a higher score
  • No cross-platform means online play is sparse at the moment
  • Hitboxes and misleading depth can get frustrating

Verdict: Buy it!

It’s an easy choice to go for the PC / Steam version of the game for PHP550 but even as the PS4 and Switch versions are priced much higher, I’d still recommend it as a straight buy. It’s a throwback to the olden days that’s got hardly anything to prove beyond being a ton of fun in short bursts of play. I see myself playing this months from now whenever I need a break and don’t want to think about loading up anything more committal than a game that asks me to move forward and kick stuff. Hell, get it on Switch and thank yourself whenever you go to the toilet and want something to do other than your business and some “mild reading”.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: April 28, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Multiplayer
  • Similar Games: Overcooked
  • Price: Starts at PHP1,250

You’ve managed to escape a relentless Nemesis and even saved the world from a One-Winged Angel. But all that is just child’s play. Nothing could have ever prepared you for the most action-packed, grueling, and intense quest you’ll ever tackle in a video game: Moving furniture.

You’ve seen video games where you can be a cook, a doctor, a farmer, and even a DJ. Now, you can add being a F.A.R.T. to the list. In Moving Out, you are a Furniture Arrangement & Relocation Technician, or F.A.R.T. for short.

Somewhere out there, some developer thought that a game where you move furniture would be an interesting concept for a video game. So is it? Join us as we discover the joys of moving with the Smooth Moves Company in this review of Moving Out.

In Moving Out, you take on the role of a rookie mover as you work your way up in the town of Packmore, where somehow everyone just wants to have furniture moved elsewhere. You’ll be going to different locations where you will have to move a set number of items from a client’s location to your moving truck, and you will have to do so in record time. Sounds simple? Sure, but not as easy as it sounds.

Moving furniture will require some degree of strategy and planning as you will need to study routes and consider that furniture pieces are bound by the laws of physics. Smaller items like chairs and microwave ovens can be moved with no problem at all. Heck, you can even throw them into the truck to save on time! The challenge will be heavier furniture like sofas and beds that will require you to drag them. It’s especially more challenging for the more oddly shaped items like L-shaped and curved sofas.

There’s definitely no dress code when you’re a F.A.R.T.

Looking rad, Brad

One of the things we have to highlight in Moving Out is definitely the presentation. The visuals are bright and colorful, making them very pleasant to the eyes. The graphics can almost be compared to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the Switch and the choices of heads you can customize your avatar with can make you think the game is in the same universe as Parappa the Rapper.

Moving out is set in a fictional town called Packmore and believe it or not the developers have made the effort to put in a simple story about moving furniture to follow as you progress. You drive around the town of Packmore in your moving truck to your various locations that has this cute Simcity feel to it, just bustling with broken cars… Yes, broken, because you don’t have to worry about driving on the wrong lanes or crashing into other cars. You’re a professional mover, not driver.

Speaking of comparisons to other titles, there’s also references to pop culture and other games that can be found in the game’s visuals and dialogue like the Ninja Turtles and Frogger. It’s these small details that make Moving Out such a good and smart game to get into.

SimCity this is not. But it’s still bright and colorful…oh hey is that Bumblebee from Transformers?

Moving Out has quite a number of catchy tracks that can get you moving to the beat while throwing the furniture around, some of which might even get stuck in your head. The sound effects are also spot on like the sound of breaking windows, the howling of ghosts, to the sound of arcade machines giving off beeps and bells as you pull them off their sockets.

F.A.R.T.s can have fun

Your job as a F.A.R.T. is to move your client’s furniture in record time… by any means possible. One quote in the different loading screens states your customers signed a waiver so you, as someone who represents the Smooth Moves company, must move furniture as fast as possible even if it means breaking a few windows here and there to create some shortcuts. You don’t even need to get that TV into the moving truck in one piece, that’s just how it is!

The exchanges between your avatar and your moving partner are funny to read and really give off the vibe they just simply love their job. Just don’t expect the same level of love when it comes to handling your furniture with care (A moment of silence for all those game consoles that were thrown around and broken in-game during our playthrough). But hey as your boss said: “Move fast or die trying.”

It’s not Biped level simple but should still be easy enough to grasp.

Luckily, controls won’t be much of a problem as they are simple and easy to get used to. You move your avatar around with the analog stick and you use the shoulder button to grab and hold onto furniture to move them. You also have one button for throwing the smaller furniture around and another for jumping.

There’s even a dedicated button in the game for slapping. Yup, the best action in the game bar none. Your slap will be your best tool against stage hazards like ghosts (you can’t get any more badass if you can slap ghosts!) or if you want to knock some sense into your teammates. There shouldn’t be any problem getting the hang of controlling your avatar and while movement is a teeny tiny bit slippery, it shouldn’t be too much of a concern as overall, the control scheme is great and intuitive.

Ghosts and killer pianos are just some of the hassles in this haunted house. And this’s just one level.

Don’t think moving will be easy because there will be a lot of different locations you will be going to, each with their own challenges and hazards to face. In this 31 level (1 tutorial level included) moving experience, you’ll start with the more normal households but things will escalate as you move furniture in a haunted house avoiding pesky ghosts, to farms with hazardous rakes lying around as you try to move very unwilling farms animals, to even that Frogger inspired river level complete with moving traffic and floating logs.

Later locations will add even more puzzle elements will like switches and moving platforms. To add to the presentation, even the households vary as you’ll be visiting houses of professional athletes and music artists, as well as snowy lodges and muti storey apartments. We mentioned ghosts so you can be sure a couple of haunted houses and offices are in your list of clients.

Cluttered space, a mover’s worst nightmare.

There’s also the matter of your moving truck. You’ll have to be aware of the positions of your items in the truck. If you aren’t careful that basketball you threw may have already rolled out which is definitely a hassle. You’ll also have to ensure that everything you jam into your truck will fit as there’s nothing more frustrating that moving a whole heap of furniture only to realize you didn’t make space for that last L-shaped sofa.

Move fast for the gold.

Rewards in the game consist of Gold Coins and the aforementioned Pocket Watches, the latter of which will depend on how fast you are so you got either Gold, Silver or Bronze watches to earn. The Gold Coins on the other hand will depend because each level in Moving Out has different bonus objectives to compete. These bonus objectives can vary from simply kicking a soccer ball into a goal, shooting a basketball into a hoop, to breaking all of a house’s windows. What’s great is you don’t have to fulfill all conditions in one go. You can simply concentrate on one goal and just replay the level going for the remaining objectives, and it will all be registered as completed, so there’s definitely some degree of replayability.

Some of these Bonus objectives in later levels tend to be vague though and will require some investigation and exploring on your part and all these rewards will work towards unlocking more goodies in the game as Gold Coins will let you unlock challenging move based mini-games in the Arcade while Gold Pocket Watches will let you buy extra levels in the VHS Store.

This would be so easy to move with friends.

Movin’ together

There’s definitely a lot to do in Moving Out, even if you were to play the game alone. That said, the potential of this game is fully realized when you get to moving with a partner. While it’s fun to play alone if you’re just after beating your personal best records and completing bonus objectives, the solo experience just doesn’t cut it compared to moving furniture as a team.

Playing solo didn’t give us the urge to play one more level, and we had to take breaks in between to kind of reset a bit because after a few levels, the game does feel a bit of a drag. Unfortunately, for a game that fully shines in multiplayer, it was quite a glaring omission that there isn’t any online multiplayer mode, just the basic couch co-op. Sure it can be solved by a patch in the future, but it is just baffling to think why it wasn’t included in the game to begin with.

to three other players can join in on the fun and it makes moving the heavier furniture more convenient. If you’re moving a heavy object with a friend you can even work together to throw it into the truck. Even if the number of required items increases with the number of players, the fun really is how well you coordinate with each other. And definitely teamwork and maybe even friendships will be tested as you all coordinate your moves in finishing in record time.

There’s something familiar about this level…and that frog.

What we liked:

  • Bright and colorful graphics accompanied by catchy soundtrack
  • Bonus objectives encourage replayability
  • Perfect as a multiplayer experience

What we didn’t like:

  • No online multiplayer
  • Playing solo can be a bit of a drag

Verdict: Buy it!

At $24.99 or around PHP1,250, Moving Out sounds like a steal of a deal only if you have somebody to play the game with. Similar to our previous review of Biped, the single player experience is short but fun and if you’re fine with that, go ahead, but know that this game is built with multiplayer in mind.

Much like Overcooked, Moving Out the perfect multiplayer game that will require skill and coordination from both players. The lack of an online multiplayer mode is just surprising and while couch co-op magnifies the fun, it would have been nice to have the option to play with complete strangers.

Moving Out is a rather short game and finishing the 30 default levels shouldn’t take too long as it can probably be done in a day or so. That said, if you’re never going to be playing this with a friend, we’d recommend that you wait it out a bit until a reduction in price. Playing through all those 30 levels solo, we just couldn’t shake off the feeling something was missing when there’s nobody to move with.

If you are buying the game with multiplayer in mind, then Moving Out is definitely worth your time and money but multiplayer usage will vary depending on the level of your relationship with the other mover, as things may get a little spicy during your gaming sessions. Hey, at least you’ll have someone to split the non-existent repair bills with.

*Moving Out was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: April 24, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Similar Games: Secret of Mana
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,199

Seiken Densetsu 3 was a beloved action RPG released by Square, before they became the Square Enix most would know now, for the Super Famicom back in 1995. Trials of Mana, not to be confused with the remake, was its English moniker as it was ported and released for the Nintendo Switch nearly a year ago.

I say only for the Super Famicom and not the SNES, because Seiken Densetsu 3 would never reach outside of Japan for 24 years; and even though a direct prequel was released worldwide for the Nintendo DS in 2007, the original had remained a dream in many a non-Japanese-speaking JRPG fan’s head.

The series itself is a franchise with a lot of underrated history that could stand amongst the heavyweights: the Tales, Xenos, Final Fantasies, and Dragon Quests, but has been mostly quiet for the past decade… until around now, that is. 

Trials of Mana Remake is an action-RPG that did the multiple-POV gimmick long before Octopath Traveller did, offering replayability and variety right off the bat. The player follows the plot from the viewpoint of 3 out of 6 main characters to choose from: the swordsman Duran, the amazon Riesz, the mage Angela, the cleric Charlotte, the rogue Hawkeye, and the beastman fighter Kevin. 

Once you choose your team of three (1 main hero and 2 companions), your main character (MC) is introduced in their home nation and sets off on quest that brings them in contact with a cadre of villains, each representing nations of their own and seeking to exploit the world’s Mana Stones (sources of magic) as they seek to conquer the rest of the world. While the premise is as familiar as most JRPGs, players are presented with different perspectives depending on the characters they choose.

The characters look better than I had imagined, and both English and Japanese voiceovers are available

The world of Mana is rich and bright

The story is a light and charming romp across the locales where our characters live, even with the fate of the world hanging in a balance: I loved that fact that it still doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor project an edgy or hardcore feel. The 3D rendering of characters I knew from the original is done with a very consistent aesthetic, with the designs making sure our cast are distinct and memorable no matter your pick.

I played the PC version, which ran at a good 60 FPS at 1920×1080 resolution, although it isn’t the kind of game that I’d say benefits much from that. The PS4 Pro version plays at mostly the same clip, so expect good performance either way you choose.

The perpetual snow of the mage-country Altena glistens in a bright white in contrast to the lush jungles bathed in a moonlit night in Ferolia, where the beastmen reside: the world you travel in is a visual treat as you explore it, fighting monsters in real-time. Spending time in the world itself moves along the day-night cycle, with either Lumina (day) or Shade (night) Time conferring a few bonuses or enabling certain interactions.

The Li’l Cactus scavenger hunt was a neat new feature: find where he’s hiding and get rewarded with quality-of-life improvements like inns not charging you for resting anymore

Your face buttons allow you to jump, dodge, and execute two varying levels of attacks, which can be strung together in simple combos that have unique qualities (AOE, long-range poke, or a knockback), or in the case of your power attack, can be held then released to break an opponent’s armor (which some of them have). These elements combine with items (such as offensive Coins and defensive/restorative Candies and Herbs) and special learnable moves that exude a certain rhythm in combat that rarely gets stale, in the face of the monster’s equally varied attacks.

The D-pad interface for moves and items pause the battles while you take your pick at your own leisure, but you can also assign certain frequently used ones to shortcut button combinations (shoulder + face) that don’t halt the action.

Kevin turns into a stronger werewolf at night!

Enemies also have a variety of ways to hurt our party, ranging from normal bites, charges, and pokes with minute tells that warn you to dodge, or abilities that take some time to come out while forming a red danger marker on the battlezone that you will want to avoid. Engaging an enemy traps the party in a limited area of the map without having to load a battle sequence, and escaping is a simple matter of hugging the edges of the area until your escape meter fills out completely ( while avoiding attacks that cancel or slow it down).

The boss fights are inescapable showdowns with often huge and towering multi-hitbox fiends, and will test your skills in timing and positioning as your entire team is pelted by a barrage of attacks. Your player-controlled character is aided by the other two, whose AI can be set to settings like “Target: Range Enemies” and “Balanced Attack: switch between attacking and supporting allies.” 

One boss is an evil fireplace that stares at you intently in a room riddled with traps.

I played on Normal difficulty with Charlotte, Kevin, and Riesz for my first playthrough that took 23+ hours to complete along with a post-game section not in the original game, and am currently progression through New Game Plus on Hard, which allows you to bring all your items and Chain Abilities that can be equipped by any character, and even choose a new team.

It’s good, but is it great?

My younger self who played the original would blow his mind off on how it looks and plays, but now, I guess not. It’s got a lot going for it, but the general feeling I get is that it could be so much better.

Probably not something I want to be a part of…

The exploration is one thing that feels stunted: while maps are quite sizeable in scale, the feeling I’d expected to get when strolling around whacking monster heads was betrayed by the game handholding me every single moment and ushering me on to the next plot-mover.

In terms of interface, this was great – an icon kept you pointed in the right direction always, you will almost never be lost. But what if I had wanted to be lost? The fun in leaving the beaten path in search of hidden treasure is still there (examine shining points in clever hiding spots, breaking pots and vases to reveal free stuff), but with the rewards being mostly just a few potion-type items and lucre (the Mana series’ version of Gil/gold).

I also have this pet peeve where invisible walls that keep you on rails are somewhat inconsistent in execution, as there are places where you’d expect them to be, and places where I cannot fathom why the hell they don’t want me crossing through.

There’s a bit of platforming (and 2D sections in a throwback to the same in SD3) and verticality, but all the handholding made me feel like some clever level designs were wasted. Some maps just end up outright inaccessible… so why even let me go there? These are the hometowns of the characters you didn’t pick, which were treated the same in the original, but this is exactly one of the things I was expecting to be tooled up in a remake.

The class system, too, has been retouched (not revamped – it’s still a tree split into Light and Dark paths), which does create a healthy amount of options in combination with the completely new stat system that enables a couple of different builds for your characters. Your final class is locked to items that are based on RNG: if you don’t find the item for what you want, you’re forced to either stay at a lower class or grind/look for more ??? seeds (they turn into what you’ll need). A fourth class upgrade has been added to the mix, but unfortunately you can only use the new ultimate classes after you’ve defeated the main boss in your saga. 

I had to go Necro because I didn’t have the Warlock item, and all my seeds turned into the Necromancer’s

Story-wise, I felt alright with the exact same beats getting faithfully retained in this remake, but I’d felt a certain amount of polish lacking from how the narrative was unfolded. The game is pretty linear in flow once you get started: here’s a new area, explore it, get through it, fight the boss. That wasn’t a problem for me by itself, except that some parts of the game feel like they’re just moving the plot along – nothing is unexpected and while I’m thankful for a fairly fast and non-grindy pace, I feel like this could have been the opportunity to fill out more of the setting and backstories that weren’t possible in Seiken Densetsu 3.

Cutscenes (in-engine) would also sometimes end with little to show for it compared to what was said; this is a big factor for me that made me feel like while overall the effort is well-done… the creators have missed a solid chance to further develop what was great about the game: its charm.

Ok, lol, thanks

Charlotte, who’s an Elfin girl who ages slower than humans, speaks in permanent UwU-mode, which I never thought annoying, because it was tastefully done, and the ENG VA totally owned and killed the act: Alana Marie Cheuvront seems like a new talent in the industry, and her part in Mana I’d think would be well received for acing a potentially cringe-worthy affair. My fellow editors, on the other hand, didn’t like it at all. To each their own, I guess? Overall, the English VA’s are decent enough to not want to switch over to Japanese.

The world embraces the cartoony vibe of the old one and doesn’t get bogged down in explaining itself, for instance, why one of the fast travel options is getting launched by a cannon to your destination. Your moves and attacks feel impactful and fun without having to always be overpowered, and really shows the flavor of your team and the choices you made in building them.

And as a bold redeeming factor, I cannot help but compare (again) the multi-POV approach to Octopath Traveller (a game which was also well-done but ultimately fell short of greatness). Trials at least has your team interact with you and the world more than Octopath’s just- or barely-there teammates.

It gets hard to understand, sometimes

These and the experience as a whole at least made it easy for me to overlook what seems to me like details that fell over the wayside in the mad rush to release a finished product. Here’s hoping that remakes in general can again build from these subtle decisions that differentiate a remake from a remaster. I understand that some people would want things to stay with a degree of familiarity from the past iteration… but a remake to me means it’s the past-plus-more. More than just a fresh coat of paint and new tunes (which by the way, were still fantastically awesome, but can still opt to switch to the classic SD3 versions of the OST).

What we liked:

  • It’s the classic you’ve known and loved, from story to soundtrack
  • Battle system is fun and easy to pick up
  • Stat builds and Class trees make for massive replayability

What we didn’t like:

  • As a remake, more aspects of the game could have been explored
  • Load times are quite lengthy

Our verdict: Wait for it.

Trials of Mana is a Squeenix JRPG that competes well with other more recent franchises. To me it’s a better Octopath Traveller, but just a little short of Bravely Default or the new Tales games. I enjoyed my time with it but I’ll probably put the controller down soon – it’s like meeting an old friend from your childhood haunts, even if you know you’re not going to talk with ‘em everyday now like you guys did before.

If you’re a Mana fan, by all means, buy it now since we’ve waited YEARS for this. It’s a great Mana game that can stand toe to toe with JRPG’s of the current generation. It’s no Final Fantasy, so it’s quite understandable that not a lot of people may be familiar with the series.

If you’re on the other side of the spectrum (which is probably the majority) who are wanting to get your feet wet into the franchise, we recommend waiting a bit more for a sale. The steep price tag is hard to justify for something that straddles a fine line between a remake and a remaster. Trials of Mana feels more like it’s somewhere in between, with multiple missed opportunities that could have fully justified the “Remake” tag.

Trials of Mana was reviewed on the PC and PS4 via a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: March 27, 2020, April 8, 2020 for PS4
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Puzzle Platformer
  • Similar Games: Little Big Planet, Tearaway
  • Price: $14.99 or around PHP750

Platformers have come a long way. From Mario to Crash Bandicoot and even Little Big Planet, the genre has introduced fun and innovative gameplay throughout the years. When talking about innovation, Ape Escape easily comes to mind for the creative use of the PS1 dual analog sticks.

Enter Biped and its cast of sentient two legged robots called…. well, Bipeds. For the most part, Biped flew under the radar due to the game sharing a similar release window with arguably bigger titles. Inspite of this, Biped manages to stand tall in a crowded genre with its simple mechanics and engaging gameplay.

Here’s our review of Biped.

The premise of Biped is interesting but at the same time very straightforward. Basically, in another time where the Earth isn’t populated by humans, you are part of a team of Bipeds that was called to reactivate beacons on Earth that serve as a guide to space farers.

I did say straightforward, didn’t I?

Those looking for a story driven platformer like Celeste would be left high and dry because Biped does not really highlight that. Instead, Biped focuses on other aspects that make up for the lack of a good plot.

Biped is a platformer game where you control one of these titular robots. They really just consist of a body and two legs, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this will just be a simple game. Armed with just your limbs, you’ll need to traverse the various levels that the game offers, all while solving its cleverly designed puzzles.

Like how Ape Escape was innovative for its time, the unique feature of Biped comes from that fact that your Playstation 4 Dual Analog sticks control your Biped’s two legs. No shoulder buttons, or any other buttons for that matter. All you get are your analog sticks. If you’ve ever experienced participating in one of those three legged races, then you’ll know what it feels like to step in the shoes of one of these robots. Walking is a matter of alternating between the left and right analog sticks and while the concept is easy to grasp, being efficient with it is another thing altogether. Luckily the game begins with a tutorial that will teach you how to walk, slide, other things things you’ll need to master to finish the game.

Apart from actually walking, there are a host of other actions you can do throughout your journey, including grabbing and activating levers, swinging, wood cutting, and even boat steering. Remember, you’ve got no arms, so everything will be done by your legs through the analog sticks. Left leg, left analog stick. Right leg, right analog stick. This simplicity is where Biped actually shines.

The challenges you will encounter are creatively done and really fun to tackle. You will be challenged by simple things like trying to walk over unstable platforms and memorizing patterns to more complex tasks like timing you movements while jumping from platform to platform. They aren’t the most mind bending puzzles in the world, but managing your way through them with limited resources makes it all the more satisfying, as you realize that all this is just from using two analog sticks.

Scattered throughout each level in Biped are collectibles, along with mini games like collecting a number of special coins within a time limit to get rewards. These rewards are coins and stars which you’ll want to grab as much as you can to buy cosmetics for your Biped (more on those later).

At the end of every level, you’ll be judged on how fast you activate the banner, the number of times you “died”, and how many stars you collected. This brings us to another aspect that’ll make you want to retry all of the levels – getting good.

If the thought of trying to finish all challenges is hard enough, try doing it in record time! On an average, we finished each level in about 15-20 minutes each for our first run. Imagine our surprise when we saw that the record time for some levels was anywhere between 4-9 minutes, not to mention the limited number of deaths you can have. The game is generous, at least, to give you unlimited tries whenever you make a mistake.

Overall, we really dig the challenge the game offered throughout each of the 8 story levels. It wasn’t too easy but at the same time not too hard either, with all levels featuring immersive visual and audio quality that makes the game very easy on the eyes and ears.

Another aspect where Biped excels can be attributed to its graphics. Beautiful and bright, you will be going through different kinds of levels that take you from rainy forests, snowy fields, and even raging rivers, all beautifully rendered with vivid colors and shapes that you’d think they were straight out of Little Big Planet or Tearaway.

Your Biped can be dolled up with various customization options in game. Don’t expect sliders and palette options here. Biped takes the simple route and allows you to dress your Biped up with hats, glasses, and other goofy accessories that can be purchased with the coins you collect from the levels, giving them a fresh new, albeit wacky look.

Everything we’ve said so far actually just covers the single player experience, but what if we told you that you can enjoy all of it with a friend? Biped’s shining feature is actually co-op play and it’s equal parts fun and frustrating at the same time.

The single player mode is very short lived. It took us around 2 and a half hours to go through the whole campaign since we didn’t bother to beat the records per level but the local co-op mode is a different beast altogether.

Some parts of the solo campaign will have you work your way through certain puzzles with an AI controlled bot but in co-op play, you’ll have to work together with a friend or partner to face the challenges. Coordination is key, and while it adds fun, we would be lying if we didn’t tell you that it adds a lot of frustration as well. Relationships will be tested and you may end up blaming him or her after it is all said and done, but completing the game with a buddy is extremely satisfying, especially some of the later levels where the puzzles are much harder.

If anything, it’s quite a shame that Biped doesn’t offer any online multiplayer option just yet. While it’s something that could be added in a future update, the opportunity to run through the game with a complete stranger is something that should have been there in the first place.

What we liked:

  • Simple but innovative puzzles
  • Catchy music
  • Bright and colorful levels

What we didn’t like:

  • Controls can sometimes be frustrating
  • Fixed camera angles can get in the way of some parts of the level
  • No online multiplayer yet

Verdict: Buy it!

Overall, Biped is a joy to play. Despite its very short solo campaign mode, this game really excels because of the co-op mode. To sweeten the deal, Biped is priced rather temptingly, justifying the cost with its innovative gameplay that’s as fun to watch as it is to actually play.

If you play alone, this is a purchase that will not be very valuable to you at the moment due to the lack of online multiplayer but if you’ve got someone to play co-op with locally, then it’s a title that we can easily recommend to everyone.

Biped was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: April 24, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
  • Genre: Asymmetrical multiplayer FPS
  • Similar Games: Evolve, Dead by Daylight
  • Price: Starts at $39.99, around PHP2,000

During Tokyo Game Show 2019, we got a chance to play an early preview of the next offering from Illfonic, known for their previous title Friday the 13th: The Game.

While the thought of an asymmetrical multiplayer game was not new at all thanks to titles like Evolve and Dead by Daylight, Predator: Hunting Grounds sounded like a fantastic idea because of the standout IP it was using – that of the Predator.

On paper, the concept was sound. As the Predator, you stalk an elite group of soldiers named only as the fireteam and try to eliminate them by all means necessary before they, well, get to the choppa.

The final result, sadly, could not live up to the potential.

Patience is a virtue and you’ll need lots of it

For starters, it is never a good thing to be greeted by a notice that highlights matchmaking issues in a multiplayer game. Whether it was due to a server problem or due to a lack of players, the life of a multiplayer game hugely depends on effective matchmaking.

Based on our playthrough, it took us an average of 5-7 minutes to get into a match. 5 minutes in matchmaking feels like a lifetime, especially when a full match only takes around maybe 10-15 minutes on average. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and queue for less than a minute, but often times you’ll be on your way to browsing that next subreddit because of how long matchmaking can take.

The longest time we’ve had to endure was around 10 minutes. Well, 9 minutes and 42 seconds to be quite exact, and this was just us getting into a lobby that wasn’t even filled with players yet. Matchmaking alone is a huge hurdle to get by, but Illfonic have acknowledged the problem and are working towards getting that figured out.

A LOT of your time will be spent on this screen

You’ll be given a choice on whether you want to queue up as part of the fireteam or as the Predator. It’s not hard to figure out how many players would want to take on the role of the legendary hunter, so expect massively long wait times if you’re choosing that option.

Cosmetic conundrum

Whichever side you end up on, you’ll be greeted with customization options that sadly don’t do much for the game as a whole. Firearm skins look very basic and uninspired, with the highest tier of unlocks resulting in a simple pearlescent paint job that is just not creatively appealing at all. Some firearms have decent designs (as seen below), but overall the skins lack oomph.

Even the accessories that you unlock are rather drab – from simple bonnets to balaclavas and even to cowboy hats – there are quite a number of options and paint jobs but none of them are visually exciting. Nothing that would make you say “I want that!”

On the flipside, in-game currency is quite easy to earn, and within a couple of hours of gameplay you’ll be able to farm enough money to purchase 1 piece of the high-priced accessory and 2-3 mid-cost pieces. Considering that a $39.99 game should be worth your time, you’d realistically be able to purchase most of what you want… The big question, which we’ll get to in a bit, is how long you’ll want to keep playing the game.

Similar to various other titles, every level you gain will award you with what the game calls Field Lockers, loot boxes basically. Pray that RNG is by your side and you’ll be getting the loot for free instead of spending your hard earned currency. We’ve noticed that the field lockers are quite generous, allowing us to sometimes get 3 pieces of purple loot in a single box.

Part of the the charm of opening loot boxes is how rewarding the act makes you feel, apart from the rewards of course. Sad to say that even this could use a lot of improvement. Opening loot boxes does not feel as special as it should, resulting in a chore that you sometimes just want to finish up so you can return to waiting for 5 more minutes.

Class is dismissed

Jumping in as a member of the fireteam, you’ll be playing as one of four members, each with different weapon loadouts and classes that are broken down into either Assault, Recon, Scout, or Support. These classes are very deceiving, since all members are able to equip the same weapons and the same perks, rendering the actual purpose of the class to be useless. There are tiny differences in some stats like speed and total HP but is negligible enough to ignore. Badly put, classes do not really matter as much as we’d have wanted them to.

One thing that could distinguish you from other players are perks, which are basically talents that improve various facets of your character. If you want to level faster, there’s a perk called “Efficient” that allows more XP from all sources, if you want to take less damage from the predator you’ll want to equip the “OWLF Trained” perk, and so on. You can equip up to a total of 3, but each perk has a cost that will limit what sort of combinations you’ll want to have. Not all perks are particularly useful and you’ll end up having the same perks as other players for the most part and this is a function of the classes not having an impact on the game.

Weapons and their corresponding attachments are locked behind proficiency levels, basically having you use them to level up. As you level up the pieces of equipment you have, you’ll be able to unlock new sights, barrel mods, magazine mods and… that’s basically it. None of the usual grips or grenade launcher attachments or the like.

New weapons, on the other hand, are locked behind player levels, which you’ll naturally get while playing through the game. Overall progression is quite fast, as we ended up with our character reaching level 20-ish by the time our first session was over.

Hunt or be hunted

Congratulations, you’ve finally cleared the matchmaking lobby and now it’s time to hop into an actual match. Given the nature of asymmetrical games, matches could end very quickly, sometimes faster than your actual matchmaking wait time.

Another screen that will take up a lot of your time

While we can imagine that the PC version (Yes there is crossplay) should have no hiccups with the gameplay depending on your hardware, Predator: Hunting Grounds on the PS4 Pro is surprisingly very rough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s playable, but for something that doesn’t look as good as similar FPS titles like Apex Legends or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Predator: Hunting Grounds struggles to maintain a steady frame rate throughout the match.

The game is also graphically sub-par that it feels like a very early PS4 game, maybe even a PS3 game if we’re being brutally honest. It feels that Illfonic kind of went all in on the Predator, making his character model and animations as good as can be, leaving the rest of the game behind as a result.

Gunfight is also not as crisp as other shooters out there. Gunfire is not satisfying and there isn’t much of a difference across the weapons to merit numerous loadouts.

There are a number of missions in the game that will require you to just do a small number of things – destroy an item, activate a console, defend a point, or retrieve an item. Every match you go through will have you accomplish this paltry list of generic goals before you can finally call in the chopper for extraction, which is basically how the fireteam wins the match, apart from actually killing the Predator. There may be different stories and scenarios behind the objectives, like stopping the production of counterfeit bills for example, but you’ll be repeating the same laundry list over and over again throughout all of your matches, which can get really boring after a while. Couple that with all matches being set in well-lit jungles and you’ve got a recipe for burnout within the first few hours.

The Predator isn’t your only enemy in the game. You’ll also get treated to AI that frankly, do not really pose a threat to you. The AI could use a lot of work and they’ll just pop up from out of nowhere to try and stop you from achieving your objective. It’s not wise to ignore them though, since they could still overwhelm you with numbers, but they’re pushovers for the most part and act as mere distractions for the real star of the show.

Predator power, or the lack of

For something that seems so intimidating, with all of the tools like cloaking and high tech weaponry, you’d expect the Predator to simply slice through the competition. This could not be farther from the truth. In fact, while the Predator offers an exciting style that can be fun to play when you actually get the chance, it is actually very hard to win as the Predator.

The Predator utilizes a system called “Predkour”, or Predator Parkour (I cringe a little bit everytime I say the word), wherein you can navigate from treetop to treetop, just like the Predator would in the movies. If anything, props to Illfonic for getting this part of the game right. The feeling of controlling the Predator is great and while the controls are a little janky, jumping from tree to tree while stalking your prey is translated nicely by the game.

Being a 1v4 game, the Predator does have an advantage stat-wise. It is stronger, boasts of more HP, faster… just all-around better than a single member of the fireteam. With this in mind, you’ll want to be picking off the opponents one by one, trying to divide them the best you can as they move around completing their objectives. This is easier said than done because the Predator is plagued with balance issues that make it very hard for him to win a match if the fireteam sticks together.

In fact, it is almost impossible to win a match if the fireteam knows what they are doing, which is basically to just stick together. Fundamentally, the levels do not have objectives that require the fireteam to split into groups, which makes the job of the Predator that much harder.

The Predator is also not as invincible as you think, and simply rushing your way into the fireteam almost always means certain death. You can run away and heal yourself, which has an absurdly long cast time, or just as you’re about to die you can self destruct and just take everyone with you.

More than anything, you’ll need to use your wits to succeed as the Predator. Sometimes, the fireteam throws you a bone and they decide to just go their own separate ways, but don’t expect this to happen too often.

Similar to the fireteam, the Predator has his own set of weapons and perks to unlock, allowing you to change up your style as you see fit. I’ve found the most success when I tailored my playstyle to keep away from the fireteam, blasting them from afar with charged shots. It didn’t always work, but it got me a few wins here and there by being a pussy about confrontations.

If by some chance you face success as the Predator, you can treat yourself to his signature gruesome killer moves that pays homage to the film.

Unfulfilled potential

It would be totally unfair to disregard the game, because it does have its high points. If you’re lucky enough to get matched with players that actually know what they are doing, the whole duration of the match can be an intense and exciting affair. Between the fireteam not knowing where the Predator is and where he will strike next, it becomes a game of cat and mouse on steroids, which feels very good.

If and when you get a chance to get matched up with a good Predator player, it becomes a sight to see as he leaps across branches and rooftops, cloaking and moving like the wind to avoid direct engagement.

Sadly, the nature of the game lends itself to the fact that your enjoyment is highly dependent on the players you get matched with, which often times can be a very frustrating 10-15 minutes. As a fireteam member, I remember a couple of matches that we breezed through without any Predator sighting. Why? I’m guessing it’s as simple as him not finding us. There were also a couple of times that we got matched into a game with no Predator, essentially turning the game into a PVE session.

On the flipside, you’ll sometimes get lucky as the Predator and go into a match with just 2 fireteam members, which is basically a sure win for all intents and purposes. It’s small (and avoidable) matchmaking hiccups like these that really put a damper on the whole experience and just when you think that Predator: Hunting Grounds is slowly picking up the pace, the game just gets derailed by various issues left and right that make it such a tough sell.

What we liked:

  • Predator gameplay mechanics
  • Signature Predator finishing moves
  • Getting into a match with skilled players is a joy

What we didn’t like:

  • Severe balance issues
  • Unstable frame rate
  • Sub-par graphics
  • Useless fireteam classes
  • Uninspired cosmetic choices
  • Matchmaking wait time

Verdict: Ignore it… For now.

Predator: Hunting Grounds raised a lot of questions from us dating back to Tokyo Game Show 2019. It was full of potential, but also posed questionable design decisions that sadly made its way into the final product. At its current state, it’s hard to recommend playing the game especially at $39.99, which sounds like highway robbery to be quite honest.

A lot of games have been delayed recently and this would have probably benefited from a delay due to the absurd lack of polish that the game still needs. The overall lack of content, lack of variety in the levels, balance and technical issues… these could have been solved if the game had been given more time.

While a lot of our complaints can be fixed with patches, we’ll play it again and maybe reconsider when that time comes, but for now, Predator: Hunting Grounds is something we can cover in mud just like the fireteam keeping away from the Predator.

Predator: Hunting Grounds was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: March 26, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Action adventure, Beat em up
  • Similar Games: Dynasty Warriors
  • Price: Starts at PHP1,995

One Piece is a Japanese anime franchise that needs no introduction. It’s practically an institution! For the uninitiated, it’s an ongoing manga and anime series set in a fictional world where during his execution, the notorious pirate Gol D. Roger declares all his treasure, the titular One Piece, up for grabs, goading every ambitious pirate out there to claim the treasure and be declared the Pirate King.

One such individual is Monkey D. Luffy and with his crew the Straw Hat Pirates, they set sail to look for One Piece and fulfill each of their individuals goals, along the way getting into epic fights, gaining the respect of some, and incurring the wrath of others.

With a premise like that, it shouldn’t be surprising that a Musou game would be made based on One Piece, and courtesy of the creators of the Musou genre, Koei-Tecmo, no less! Is the 4th game in the series worth your treasured riches? Here’s our review.

Koei’s series of Musou games are basically evolved beat-em-ups. In a wide battlefield you control one hero type character and proceed to beat the living hell out of anything that moves, tens and hundreds at a time. At its core, they’re pretty repetitive and brainless but the appeal of these Musou games is the feeling of being a badass in a war, racking up kill counts, and beating all of your rivals with one fell swoop.

It’s an underrated feeling if we’re being quite honest, because after all of the rough and tumble out there, all you want to do at the end of the day is be the hero and feel like one.

Sounds like something that fits One Piece perfectly, yeah?

The same piece

Like its predecessors, One Piece Warriors 4 (We’ll refer to it as OP4 from now on) is pretty much the same game at its core. You control iconic One Piece characters like Monkey D. Luffy to Zoro and even Chopper, all while navigating this horde of enemies whose only purpose is to be your punching bag.

Stages are divided into sections where a base that spawns endless enemy soldiers will be your target and once you chop enough of the goons down, a leader will appear, standing between you and your goal of capturing the area.

It’s one vs. everyone else. The odds are definitely in Sanji’s favor.

You’d think that being in the same group as the Straw Hats would make the journey a literal walk in the park, but it couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Your AI partners are nothing more than distractions, even distracting you from the main goal since they withdraw so often that you have to continually revive them every single time. It’s a bit frustrating to be quite honest, and paired with a bothersome camera that doesn’t deal with tight spaces very well, it’s literally you against everybody else.

It’s not all doom and gloom, since OP4 has some pretty sweet moves that your character can use. In particular, the game places heavy emphasis on airborne attacks that can deal a great amount of damage to large groups as well as the addition of giant characters like Whitebeard during the Marineford Arc.

Speaking of story arc’s, the game will have you play through the Alabasta Arc all the way to the Wano Arc, meaning you will be controlling Luffy and his crew before and after the 2 year timeskip. Some stories will understandably be relegated to just being narrated like the Thriller Bark and Punk Hazard Arcs for example, unless you want to spend a long while with the game. You do know how long this Anime and Manga series has been going on, right?

Hang around these bases for a steady stream of thugs to beat up.

Captain’s log #927

The various modes in the game, called “Logs”, bring you on numerous adventures that are varied enough to provide a number of hours with the game. Dramatic Log has you playing through the narrative, with each arc being divided into 5 or 6 chapters. During the Dressrosa Arc for example, Sanji isn’t playable since he wasn’t around during that time. However once you finish a certain chapter, it will be available in Free Log and here you can pick anyone to replay that chapter! Fancy finishing the Wano Arc with Ace? Not so impossible anymore.

There is also the Treasure Log mode, basically non-Canon scenarios that puts One-Piece characters in various situations. It was particularly clever of the game to incorporate the characteristics of One Piece characters into the gameplay, like Sanji having a disadvantage in a particular stage because of female characters, and then finding that attacking female enemies which cause him to flinch. This is Sanji the ladies man we are talking about after all!

Yes that’s you as Whitebeard and wiping out everyone that isn’t your nakama.

The Straw Hat arsenal

OP4 has a pretty easy learning curve, so don’t let all the flashy and wave clearing attacks fool you. You only have Normal and Charge Attack buttons to manage and you can practically button mash your way to victory, we kid you not.

Musou games can look overly simplistic but OP4’s Skill and Special Attack systems do offer a level of strategy. Aside from your Normal and Charge Attacks, you can assign up to four Special Attacks that are powerful moves consisting of either crowd clearing attacks, grabs, or the stat increasing Full-Force Bursts. You start off with just a certain number but progressing through the game’s narrative and Growth Maps will unlock more Special Attacks, giving you a choice of what combinations you would like to bring to battle. Some Full-Force Bursts even lets you change form, which in turn gives you access to new moves.

On the other hand, Skills are buffs that you can equip and the more Skill slots you unlock in the Growth Maps, the more you can have at the same time, examples being skills that increases Berries you earn after a battle or makes it easier to capture areas.

Finishing levels in OP4 will net you not just Crew Points (Experience), but also Berries and Coins, the former being the currency in One Piece. You’ll need to be especially wary of completing the different main and sub mission objectives to gain a higher score in the end, which in turn give you more rewards as you use them for Growth Maps, OP4’s equivalent to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grids.

Each island on these Growth Maps represent a certain stat, be it levelling up Special Attacks, Skills slots, Defense, or Stamina. So the more Berries and Coins you spend on a particular island, the higher the stats bonuses gets. Fear not, as the game is quite generous with rewards but you will still need to be careful as you may have the coins needed but suddenly find yourself short on Berries, and vice versa.

It also goes without saying that the more islands you fill up, the bigger your arsenal gets in the form of more Special Attacks and Skills.

It looks overwhelming at first but the Growth Maps are fairly simple

Part of the fun in the game is getting to choose your favorite character and you’ll be pleased to know that you have access to a wide variety of One Piece characters, with their respective fighting styles faithfully recreated.

Power types, like Luffy and Zoro, have very strong and crowd clearing attacks. Speed types are weaker but are faster so some of your favorites like pre-timeskip Sanji and Sabo fall here. There’s also the Technique type characters, who have indirect attacks, requiring a bit of… Well, technique, to use effectively in battle. Examples of Technique types are Usopp, who fights with his trademark slingshot and can plant bombs and Robin, who attacks using her Devil Fruit ability.

And then there’s the Sky type fighters, whose attacks are more effective when they’re airborne like Crocodile and post-timeskip Sanji. Even Luffy can become a Sky type when you activate his Bounceman Full-Force Special Ability. Seeing these different types of fighters was a great motivation to try out each one, and although they control all the same way, the fun is finding which One Piece character suits your style the most.

Zoro vs. Mr. 1 Cinematic in CG.

Silly Monkey (D. Luffy)

Koei-Tecmo have proven themselves in terms of graphics and character models, and Pirate Warriors 4 is no different, though there are some letdowns. While the cinematic cutscenes play nicely, recreating certain iconic One Piece scenes, the in-game cutscenes are a mixed bag. They play fairly well but sometimes the faces just don’t match the situation, with Luffy looking neutral for a very emotional scene, for example.

Some in-game scenes, however, like Sanji and Luffy’s fight in the Whole Cake Island Arc, can be really heartfelt. It feels a little inconsistent that cinematics can show varying levels of emotions but the in-game ones don’t, which clearly shows a certain level of laziness with games like these.

Despite these though, the world of One Piece is faithfully recreated, from the setting to the characters. Progressing through the game even lets you unlock different outfits, especially since some characters have pre and post timeskip looks.

It’s also a nice touch that when you knock enemies into walls they will sometimes crumble, leaving a noticeable mess. This is just a great representation of One Piece given how destructive the fights can be, a Straw Hat trademark to say the least. Speaking of which…

Sound is another one of those mixed bag moments in OP4. On one hand, all the major One-Piece characters are faithfully voiced by their Japanese actors. The random grunts too are well voiced, especially when you hear them cowering and screaming when being blown away. The music too, is also well done, consisting of mostly guitar riffs that are sure to get your blood pumping as you head into battle.

On the other hand, it’s a shame not to hear a lot of familiar One Piece music. It was especially disappointing to not hear any of the opening songs from One Piece when booting up the game, clearly an opportunity missed to cater to fans of the series.

What we liked:

  • Mindless fun
  • Faithful recreation of the One Piece Universe

What we didn’t like:

  • Too repetitive
  • Very long unlock grinds
  • Of little value to those already familiar with the series

Verdict: Wait for it…

Like most Musou games, OP4’s fun but repetitive gameplay is both its strength and weakness. We understand this is intentional as the appeal of Musou games but it may not appeal to everyone. The game especially feels like a long grind when you do almost the same thing in each Arc, finishing a moderate number of missions even to just unlock other characters.

What could have saved it is the story. Unfortunately, like most anime based games, it’s treading on familiar territory. One Piece fans may not mind retelling the adventures of the Straw Hat’s, but the gameplay really doesn’t do enough to make you want to sit through their escapades.

Then again, sometimes, all you need is a simple button masher game and OP4 serve that purpose for you, especially if you are a fan of the Anime and Manga series. It’s good to have one or two of these games in your library, but it’s really not worth recommending at full price. Wait a bit, you’ll thank us for it.

*One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: April 10, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4 Timed Exclusive
  • Genre: RPG
  • Similar Games: Final Fantasy XV
  • Price: Starts at PHP2,995

Remember June 16, 2015? The day of the announcement that shocked the whole gaming world?

We do, like it was yesterday.

Here we are, after nearly 5 long years, witnessing the re-imagining of one of the defining titles in the history of gaming.

What started as a PS3 tech demo back in 2005 is now a full fledged remake for the PlayStation 4. After numerous spin-off games, a CG movie, and an anime OVA among others, the Final Fantasy VII Remake is here at last.

Well, at least a part of it.

Back in 1997, Final Fantasy 7 released for the PlayStation 1. Final Fantasy was a long running franchise from Squaresoft, now Square Enix, and this installment marked a massive leap into the mainstream for the series.

From a leap in graphics, gameplay, audio, and everything in between, Final Fantasy 7 was the first FF game for a LOT of people, prompting it to become their immediate favorite. And with good reason. It followed the story of Cloud Strife, a mercenary caught on the middle of an ongoing tussle between his current employers, the terrorist group Avalanche, and the Shinra Corporation.

In a series of events that is anything but unfortunate, a one time gig eventually led to a fateful meeting with an ordinary flower girl, a tale of conspiracy, tragedy, reunion, and even a confrontation with a long forgotten memory.

A simple 5 hour journey back in the PS1 is now, give or take, a 30-35 hour experience that we wouldn’t have any other way.

1997 is calling

The Final Fantasy 7 Remake (FF7R) starts off with a nostalgia bomb – a stunning recreation of the opening cinematic that leads to the first mission with Avalanche and your first look at Cloud 2020. It’s a drastic change but at the same time a fresh look into what you can expect with the remake. Photorealistic visuals, a revamped battle system, a rearranged soundtrack… Everything hits you at full speed that you spend the first few minutes reeling from the feeling of it all.

A part of us wishes that we had never played the original because if anything, FF7R is the sort of game that gives you an experience that you never forget. Having played the original, one thing FF7R does is faithfully recreate the feeling of nostalgia and balancing it perfectly with a fresh coat of paint.

One of the things FF7R changes up is the plot. While the overarching story remains the same, everything in between the first Mako reactor up until leaving Midgar is expanded and designed to flesh out the details. From relationships to backstories, everything was handled with care and respect to the source material. That said, you need not have played the original game to enjoy FF7R.

The story is interesting enough to newcomers and veterans alike since we never really know what was going to happen next and where the story changes will happen, thanks to the work of great writing.

Changing it up

The way things were narrated back in 1997, it was pretty clear cut who the heroes and villains were. Shinra bad, Avalanche good. Shinra Corporation is the so-called evil empire that’s exploiting Mako energy, the lifeblood of the planet and Avalanche, the so-called terrorist organization that’s trying to stop them from bleeding the planet dry.

FF7R adds a level of complexity in the writing that makes it more modern and dramatic, discussing more mature themes and insights in the process. How exactly do you argue against Shinra, whose technological advancements have benefited the lives of so many? Is Avalanche the bad guy in all of this? It was certainly a “Thanos” moment for sure.

This is one of the ways the writing and narrative has evolved from the original and it is something that will tug at you for the whole duration of the game. Sure there are some over the top moments and a few cringey pieces here and there, but overall the story is beautifully unfolded over fantastic writing and direction that never feels forced or out of place.

For something that is just part of a greater whole, FF7R shines in how the game manages to expand the roles of everyone, even adding in new characters that compliments the narrative. Characters like Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge have a ton of screentime making it feel like getting to know them again was just as fun as the first time around. Barret is the overly exuberant leader while Tifa is battling with her inner voices to justify everything. Everyone just has more character and personality this time around that makes you care about everyone right off the bat.

Audiovisual treat

Blocky PS1 characters back then were considered revolutionary, feeling like it was so ahead of its time compared to the 16-bit graphics of the previous generation.

FF7R just blows everything out of the water with crisp and vivid visuals that are simply breathtaking, pushing the PS4 to its absolute limits. You can never tell when the cutscenes end and the gameplay begins as the game moves so seamlessly as if you were playing an interactive CG movie. Dare we say the Remake looks just as good, or even better, than Advent Children in terms of cinematics and choreography.

Midgar is also recreated in a way that leaves nothing to the imagination, with its industrial form interrupted by slums and areas that feel so alive in between it all. NPC’s have unique spoken lines and you casually overhear conversations as you make your way through its busy streets, giving life to the once drab and silent walkways.

One thing to note is that FF7R has a problem with drawing textures fast enough, leaving walls and backgrounds a blurry mess at certain points in the game. While it does not happen often enough to take away from the experience, it was indeed something that should be said. FF7R looks great most of the time, but it also looks bad during these occasions.

FF7R, by all accounts, is not only a treat visually, but aurally as well. There are certain games that deliver a better experience by switching the voice language to Japanese and while that could be the case here, we can argue that the English VA’s did an equally phenomenal job, adding the right amount of character and personality to the cast.

Most of the complaints point towards Barret sounding just a bit overzealous but when you think about the situation and what he is fighting for, his leadership qualities and concern for the team more than compensate for his sometimes overly dramatic acting.

Aerith has the biggest overhaul personality wise, now sporting a playful and sassy demeanor that will sweep you off your feet, which is a far cry from her very softspoken persona from way back.

Oh and did you know that Tyler Hoechlin voiced Sephiroth in the game? It was a Super performance, for sure.

Purists from the original game may not like some of the decisions FF7R took with regards to how most of the characters look and sound, but taken as a whole, everything fits in together perfectly like the sector plates from Midgar.

Rearranged goodness

If there’s anything every Final Fantasy almost always gets right, you can bet your Gil that the music is going to be spot on. The rearranged soundtrack for FF7R does not only do justice to the original but elevates it in such a way that it’s like hearing it again for the first time, goosebumps and all.

You’re immediately greeted with tracks such as the prelude and even a tease of Aerith’s theme when you meet her and that familiarity brings such a weight to it that ties up the whole experience beautifully.

As you transition from one battle to the next, so does the audio in such seamless fashion. Tracks crossfading into one another is done so well that you hardly recognize a break in between the music, upping the immersion factor to great heights.

You’ll get a chance to listen to all of the tracks via collectible discs in the game, accessible throughout the various jukeboxes scattered around Midgar, something we did quite a lot of during the course of our playthrough.

The shining gem, Combat

Apart from the graphical overhaul, one of the most noticeable changes for FF7R is the combat system and trust us when we say that it is an absolute triumph.

Gone are the random battles paired with glass shattering, you’re now faced with real time enemies similar to Final Fantasy XV. That’s not the only thing FF7R takes from XV, in fact the battle system here is heavily inspired by XV, but also heavily improved. Battles take place on a cerebral level, as spamming Square will not lead you to victory for the tougher enemies and boss battles will be more of a deliberate dance that you’ll need to properly navigate.

Boss battles in FF7R are over the top and they are glorious. Each boss has unique phases that will require you to switch up your tactics and be thoughtful about your approach. What took a couple of minutes from the original game will easily take you 5, 10, maybe even 15 minutes in FF7R, with a frantic pace that will leave you breathless after the fight is over. They are exhilarating, for sure, but also deeply satisfying and rewarding.

Each character in your party has a special ability of their own, defining their playstyle. Cloud can switch between Operator and Punisher mode with the latter favoring offense, Barret has a charged shot that deals massive damage, while Tifa is a combo specialist that can charge up to unlock different moves.

Battles are crisp and clean, with hardly any slowdown whatsoever, even during the busiest of times but beware of the camera in tight spaces, as it can be that extra enemy to deal with when things get dicey.

You’ll get a chance to issue actions to members of your party or even opt to take full control of them, which is a stark departure from the original. Despite no longer being turn-based, there is still an ATB meter that constantly fills up that allows you to perform various commands. It at least retains the feel of the original but at the same time bringing a whole new level of strategy and resource management with it.

The Materia system is back as well, which many regard as one of the best systems across all titles in the Final Fantasy franchise. You can expect it to be mostly the same as with the original but there is also new Materia added to the mix which highly compliments the way battles are fought in the game, like Auto Cure and Deadly Dodge.

Summons also make a return but not in the way that you would think. In FF7R, Summons play the role of actual units in battles that you can issue special commands to until the timer runs out, which then prompts it to leave the battlefield via their trademark special attacks. It’s a visual spectacle all on its own, which makes you think as early as now as to how the hell the Knights of the Round are going to look like if it does return in the later parts of the game.

The Combat in FF7R borrows features from other titles in the franchise and also making an appearance here is the weapon upgrading system that is very similar to the Sphere Grid from FFX. You’ll get to boost certain stats and abilities depending on your equipped weapon, with each weapon having its own grid to fill up.

On the side

The game straddles the line between full on rails and an open world experience. Generic sidequests abound in the game which will give you a break from you main objective, adding to the expanded world of Midgar. Quests range from simple fetch quests to the typical battle based objectives and while the sidequests here are nothing of the likes of The Witcher 3, they are serviceable at the very least, offering a quick distraction, bumping up your total playtime by at least 5 hours more.

Speaking of distractions, there is quite a number of unnecessary fillers in the game, to the tune of Darts and Squats among others. These activities, while amusing, feel tacked on and don’t add any real value to the game. For the sole purpose of wasting your time, it does the job pretty well, although its probably something you’ll never go back to once you’re done with them.

At its core, FF7R is a game that is astounding, but not perfect. Expanding a 5 hour experience into 7 times the size is not an easy thing to do and while Square have mostly got it right, there are certain sections in the game that overstay its welcome, justifying its existence by giving the player something to do just because. Some of the missions also feel lengthened for no reason instead of giving a tighter experience, but a lot of the in between details that Square Enix handled with utmost care easily outweighs the nitpicks.

Being the first part of what we expect to be 3 or maybe even 4 installments, it wasn’t an easy task to end the game at a logical point without it feeling too short or too long. FF7R, for the most part, got it right, resulting in a title that closes this chapter out well but sets up the stage for the next in dramatic fashion. You’re left wanting more, but at the same time satisfied at what you had just experienced.

It’s anyone’s guess as to when the next title comes out but until it does, FF7R is surely something that is worthy of your time and all the hype it brought along with it.

What we liked:

  • Great respect to the source material despite changes
  • Impressive world building and character exposition
  • Graphically stunning
  • Nostalgic soundtrack
  • Fantastic voice acting
  • Crisp battle system

What we didn’t like:

  • Generic Sidequests
  • Some activities feel tacked on
  • Certain missions drag out
  • Lock on and battle camera issues

Verdict: Buy it!

FF7R was truly worth the wait after all this time. Despite knowing it wasn’t the complete experience, every hour spent in the game consisted of frantic battles and memorable storytelling, all wrapped up in a package that leads to an overly delightful experience from start to finish.

The recreation of the world is mindblowing and seeing the characters given life is like a burst of nostalgia that we cannot get enough of. The combat system is as polished as can be, satisfying and cerebral. Paired with a superb score, FF7R is just a brilliant recreation of the classic from way back.

It might be too early to tell, but expect this to be a shoo in candidate for Game of the Year.

*Final Fantasy 7 Remake was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.