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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Godzilla: The Game review!

Ah, Godzilla. One of, if not THE most well-known movie monster of all time (partly because of Blue Oyster Cult's "Go Go Godzilla" song). Back in 2015 they released a Godzilla video game (technically speaking, this is the most recent game in the franchise) for the PS3 and the PS4, but it was panned by critics. Good news is, actual fans of the iconic radioactive dinosaur thing consider this game to be the best Godzilla game ever. It's not universally loved by the fanbase, but hey, the last Godzilla video game came out over a decade ago, and everyone wanted to see what a Godzilla game on current-gen consoles (PS4, Xbox One, etc) would look like.

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But what exactly IS Godzilla? Godzilla, the character, is a daikaiju (meaning "Strange Beast"), a type of monster capable of growing to absurd sizes in a short span of time. Godzilla made his debut in the horror film Gojira (released in 1954), where after a nuclear experiment goes horrifically wrong, a little lizard is mutated into everyone's favorite radioactive dinosaur (cause he's RADIOACTIVE! RADIOACTIVE! Whoa oh-oh oh, woah oh-oh he's, RADIOACTIVE! RADIOACTIVE!). He was promptly given the name "Godzilla" as it is a mutation of his original name, Gojira (literally meaning "ape-whale"). Since his debut, Godzilla has appeared in just about every form of media imaginable and is so well-known that slapping the suffix "zilla" at the end of something is universally understood as a Godzilla reference (Baconzilla, Burgerzilla, *Flonnezilla, etc). The interesting thing about the character is that Godzilla himself serves as a metaphor for the dangers of nuclear warfare, as Godzilla wouldn't exist if the government have tried developing nuclear weapons. The main movies are also infamous for their somewhat inconsistent portrayal of the titular creature. Some films portray him as a world saving guardian, others portray him as a malevolent, destructive villain, and others still portray him as a pragmatic anti-hero out to save his own skin. Not that people really care what role Godzilla's playing, as the main reason the Godzilla movies have been as successful as they are is simply because everyone loves seeing a giant radioactive dinosaur beat the tar out of monsters similar in size and power. I've personally been a massive fan of the franchise (I assure this review is not biased lol) basically as long as I remember, as one of the first films I've ever watched was Godzilla: 2000, which sported a tougher, more animalistic design for the Big G (WHICH ISN'T EVEN IN THIS GAME. Sadness), had a neat villain, and some surprisingly funny moments on the human side of the story. I've actually seen almost all the Godzilla films, the only ones I haven't seen being Godzilla vs Megalon (thankfully, from what I've heard, this one is the worst Godzilla movies ever made), Godzilla vs Biollante, which is ironic because Biollante is one of my favorite daikaiju due to her having a really cool design, Godzilla: Resurgence, a remake of the original horror film, and Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, because that's not coming to the United States until next year and I don't feel like going to Japan just to watch a movie. Keep in mind that while I do love the franchise as a whole, I don't think it's perfect. Like Son of Godzilla. Just... Why? Why does that film exist!?

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80's Godzilla vs. Type-3 Kiryu!

Which brings us to this game, Godzilla: The Game. Also, before I talk about the game itself, I just want to say the game's description on GameStop/GameFly made me laugh because it literally opens up with "Forget the Dragons from Game of Thrones, here comes the original (atomic) fire-breather!" or something similar, I'm obviously paraphrasing but the simple fact that they have a jab at Game of Thrones is inherently hilarious.

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Modern Godzilla vs Destroyah!

On with the review. Godzilla: The Game's story is pretty barebones, but let's be real, how many of you watch a Godzilla movie for the story? A better question would be "How many people know that Godzilla movies even HAVE a story to begin with?". Anyway, in the game's story campaign, after a devastating rampage from the Heisei Godzilla (also known as 80's Godzilla), humanity discovered a way to use G-Energy (the exact same kind of radiation that powers Godzilla) as an energy source, leading to a new era of technological and economical advancement. Unfortunately for humanity, Godzilla wants his G-Energy back. So you take control of Heisei Godzilla and mount a crusade to raid every city in the country, smash and grab that oh-so-precious G-Energy, and beat the tar out of any other daikaiju that has the guts to get in the way. Oh, and also there's some political drama where three governors argue over how to deal with Godzilla, with one being a daikaiju sympathizer who believes that treating everyone's favorite radioactive dinosaur with respect and compassion is the best thing to do, one adopting a "You don't mess with me I don't mess with you" attitude, and one that really wants Godzilla dead... Completely ignoring the fact that unlike a lot of movie monsters *cough cough* King Kong *cough cough* Godzilla is basically immortal, as he can never be permanently destroyed, thanks to him regenerating so quickly Godzilla could give Wolverine from X-Men a run for his money. That's right. The reason why Godzilla is impossible to defeat is not because he's invincible, but because he heals too quickly to make any lasting damage.

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Before I talk about the gameplay, Something I need to talk about first is the roster of playable monsters. You see, the reason I'm reviewing the PS4 version of the game, and not the PS3 version, is because the PS4 version lets you play as other daikaiju, each with their own campaign (the PS4 version also has multiplayer). Unfortunately, some daikaiju are absurdly overpowered while others are laughably weak by comparison. For example, you can cheese almost every boss battle in the game as Mothra's Larva form, simply because her hitbox is (relatively speaking) so small that most attacks sail over her head, with very few exceptions. Likewise, Biollante (pronounce "Bye-OH-Lawn-TAY") has absurdly far reaching melee attacks, letting her essentially juggle her opponents with almost no challenge whatsoever. An example of an underpowered daikaiju would be Jet Jaguar, who, while having some really fun combos to work with, suffers from being the only daikaiju without a projectile attack, meaning if he has to fight King Ghidorah (who can spam lightning bolts), Hedorah (who takes almost no damage from melee attacks) or Biollante (who has the aforementioned reach) he's going to have a painfully difficult time.

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80's Godzilla vs. Modern Godzilla! It's the ULTIMATE
SHOWDOWN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY!!!

Oh, and while this is kind of off-topic, something I wish was a thing was that Shin Godzilla and Plant of the Monsters Godzilla were in this game. For those not in the know, shortly after Legendary Pictures made their own Godzilla Movie (which I will refer to as Modern Godzilla), Toho (the company that owns and created Godzilla) released a live action film known as Godzilla: Resurgence, a remake of the original horror film that started it all, which became (in)famous for having a more demonic/eldritch design for the atomic dinosaur, which was nicknamed "Shin Godzilla" (because the Japanese title of the movie is Shin Godzilla). After that Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters was announced to come out sometime next year (Japan gets a theatrical release, everywhere else gets it on Netflix), and that is an anime series/movie, where Godzilla is no longer radioactive and now solar-powered, as well as bearing an uncanny resemblance to Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. I understand that neither of them existed when this game was released but the more I play this game the more I want another game in the same style (just with a better control scheme) with both Shin Godzilla and Planet of the Monsters Godzilla. Especially Shin Godzilla, as that incarnation is the living personification of Nightmare Fuel at it's finest. Seriously, that design is so grotesque it wouldn't look out of place in Dark Souls.

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Super Mechagodzilla vs the original Mechagodzilla!

On to the actual gameplay. The thing that hurts this game most is it's somewhat bizarre and dated control scheme. You can use the left analog stick to move, the right analog to adjust the camera, very standard things. But here's where it gets weird. Every daikaiju in the game has tank controls, a la Resident Evil 4. In other words, you have to hold a button down to turn your monster around, otherwise the daikaiju just strafes. The strafing would be nice if you could fire projectiles while moving, but you have to stand still to fire projectiles (unless your daikaiju can fly, in which case they can move and shoot simultaneously, but only in flight). Additionally, it's way too easy to juggle and get juggled in this game, due to the fact you only have two methods of blocking, the first being roaring, but the roaring animation on almost all the daikaiju is so slow you need near psychic reflexes to pull it off in time (and you can't roar if you're trapped in the opponent's combos), and the other being the Emergency Counter, a move every daikaiju has that pushes the opponent back, inflicts a fair amount of damage, and gives your daikaiju a moment to heal,  but this has to be charged up. While you do get used to the controls after a while, the fact there isn't a conventional block is rather irksome. Especially since the previous Godzilla game, Godzilla: Unleashed, actually DID have a conventional block.

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Anyway, the two main modes, God of Destruction Mode (play as 80's Godzilla and take back your G-Energy) and Invade Mode (play as any daikaiju of your choice and compete in a race against time to gather up as much G-Energy as possible), make up the bread and butter of the game. The former contains the game's story, and has a nostalgic feeling to it, due to it paying loving homage to the older Godzilla movies. However, Invade Mode is my personal favorite mode, as seeing my favorite daikaiju (Biollante, King Ghidorah, Gigan, etc) finally get a hard earned victory after spending decades as the Big G's punching bags is INCREDIBLY satisfying.

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Gigan vs Modern Godzilla!

Speaking of the daikaiju, you know how I mentioned that they can grow to absurd sizes? Well this game lets you grow daikaiju even to even larger sizes! The more stuff you destroy, the larger your daikaiju grows. The larger the daikaiju, the stronger it becomes. While you start the campaign at 50 meters (164.042 ft), you can grow a daikaiju up to 100 METERS. For those that don't use the metric system, that is 328.024 ft. Speaking of 100 meters, you need to reach that height in order to access the true ending and final boss battle. Keep in mind that if a daikaiju is canonically taller than 50 meters, they start at that height from the get go. The most hilarious example of this is Modern Godzilla, who clocks in at 108 meters, meaning he's at max size the moment you start his campaign (you still have to destroy everything to get the true ending/final boss battle as him though).

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Super Mechagodzilla can shoot RAINBOWS!!!

There's also Defend mode, a third set of campaigns that only Mothra, Mecha-King Ghidorah, Jet Jaguar, Super Mechagodzilla and Type-3 Kiryu can undergo. Basically, instead of destroying everything to grow larger and more powerful, the Defending daikaiju have to keep the damage to a minimum in order to grow. How the various Mecha- daikaiju can grow when they are all made of metal is beyond me. The only criticism I have here is they definitely needed more daikaiju compatible with this mode as five (technically six, Mothra's adult and larva forms count as separate characters) out of 25 playable monsters is not enough. At least have half the roster able to go on a Defend campaign! Not one fifth of it!

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Why are there so many pictures of Mechagodzilla!?

Rant about the available Defend-friendly daikaiju aside, Defend mode offers a nice change of pace from the regular stages. It would just be better if you could play as even more daikaiju besides Mothra and the various Mechas (and Kiryu). Although this mode is notably easier than the main campaign. There's also King of Kaiju mode, which is a boss rush where your chosen daikaiju must fight several bosses in a row. And you're being timed. This mode is not as fun or engaging as the other two, but it's good for grinding.

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Type-3 Kiryu in all of his glory!

Oh, did I mention grinding? Because there's grinding. You see, to can exchange Cells/Parts for upgrades for all the playable daikaiju. How do you get Cells and Parts? Either by playing as the daikaiju in question or defeating that specific daikaiju in either the main campaign or the Defend campaign. The quickest way to get Cells and Parts is to play as the desired daikaiju and complete a round of King of Kaiju mode.

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King Ghidorah vs 80's Godzilla!

Unfortunately, most of the daikaiju get the short end of the stick when it comes to upgrades. 80's, 60's and Burning/Meltdown Godzilla have by far the most upgrades, getting branching skill trees that unlock new attacks, provide upgrades to their respective Energy Beams, and even let them use the Emergency Counter several times in a row. What does everyone else get? Faster recharge times for their respective projectiles, and the ability to use projectile attacks up to three times in succession. That's it.

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Biollante is one of my favorite Godzilla
villains ever, but the English dub butchered
her name...

And finally, there's the Kaiju Guide and Diorama Mode, the former containing the origin story for each daikaiju (and even some daikaiju that were planned for this game but scrapped due to time constraints, such as Grand King Ghidorah, Monster X, and Ebirah), and the latter letting you pose collectible figurines and take snapshots with them, respectively. I haven't really touched Diorama Mode, mostly because I consider features of that nature to be boring, but that's really subjective. The Kaiju Guide, on the other hand, is actually one of the best things about the game, as not only does it contain the origin story of each daikaiju, it also contains trivia about the daikaiju in question, such as their exact measurements and the thought process that went into their designs. Did you know Godzilla was originally going to be a squid? He was changed to a dinosaur because Toho had difficulty making a giant squid rampage through cities and making it look like an actual rampage. The Dinosaur motif not only looked cooler, but also was much simpler, since having one man body-act everything while in a suit was less awkward than having 20+ people operate a giant squid puppet. Both creatures were radioactive and could shoot energy beams out of their mouths, though.

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Multiplayer!

As for the presentation, this is by far the best looking Godzilla game to date. Given this is a franchise infamous for it's cheesy visuals, that is not saying much. But seriously, this game looks really good on PS4. The daikaiju models are particularly impressive, as you can see each scale of the various Godzillas, and the immense foliage growing haphazardly on Biollante's body, or the surprisingly elaborate detail on Mothra's wings. The more metallic daikaiju look, well, metallic, which is a good thing, because, you know, they are SUPPOSED to be made of metal. All the special effects are also nice, as the older daikaiju (Mechagodzilla, Hedorah, etc) have a blurrier, deliberately cheesy aesthetic that matches the time period of their debut, while more recent daikaiju (Biollante, Modern Godzilla, Kiryu, etc) have a cleaner, crisper feel to them. The same applies to their abilities, as all the energy beams, explosions, and lightning bolts look like they've been pulled straight out of the movies.

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This is one of Godzilla's more ridiculous upgrades.

The environments are pretty forgettable, but hey, you're supposed to destroy as much of the map as possible while you complete the main objective (unless you're doing a Defend campaign). A neat little detail is that the more of the map is destroyed, the foggier the area becomes. By the time you destroy 80% of the map, the background is almost completely obscured by the smoke and debris caused by your daikaiju. Of course, this is a double-edged sword, as while it's thematically fitting and instills the feeling that you are an unstoppable force of nature, if you're trying to go for 100% destruction rate, that smoky haze is going to hide those last few buildings you need to smash for 100%.

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Also, the cinematics are nice. They are few and far between, but they're nice. The way cinematics work is that, with the lone exception of the various Godzillas (sans Modern Godzilla), every daikaiju gets a cinematic when you encounter them for the first time, and for the most part, the cinematics are fun to watch. Except for Hedorah and Battra (Larva form), as both use a lackluster shot of them walking up and firing their respective projectiles using the gameplay engine. Everyone else gets fully-rendered CGI cutscenes that are surprisingly faithful recreations of iconic moments from the films the daikaiju made their debut in, highlights include Mechagodzilla II doing his signature salute before flying out of the underground base from the film Terror of Mechagodzilla, a massive inferno suddenly appearing and then morphing into King Ghidorah, Gigan breaking free of his stone prison, and perhaps the most epic of them all goes to the game's opening cutscene, which you'll see when you turn the game on.


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Even MORE Multiplayer!

As for the sound, Godzilla: The Game has sound effects pulled straight from the movies, including but not limited to Godzilla's iconic roar (which is apparently transcribed as "SKREEONK!!!"), to the sound of Godzilla's footsteps. Heck, every daikaiju gets a pretty awesome roar. The only thing this game didn't do right in this department was Hedorah, whose quote-end-quote "roar" (which is more akin to really high-pitched beep than a roar) plays absurdly frequently when attacking, which is literally the only reason why I don't like playing as him/her (Hedorah was never given a canon gender), as it gets really annoying really quickly. As for the music, the only real songs in the soundtrack that stand out are the main theme (plays during the intro and whenever you fight any variation of Godzilla, sans Burning Godzilla), the Jet Jaguar theme (only plays when fighting against Jet Jaguar and sadly never plays if you play AS Jet Jaguar), and the final boss theme. But when these songs play, you know things are about to get serious. My only gripe music wise is they should have made it so if you are playing AS Jet Jaguar, his personal theme overrides the generic battle theme, instead of restricting it to his boss battle. And finally, the thing that I consider to be the worst part of the game, is the voice acting. Specifically, the English voice acting.

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Mecha-King Ghidorah vs 80's Godzilla (with Space
Godzilla in the background)!

Why do I have a problem with the English voice acting? My biggest gripe is with the pronunciation of the daikaiju's names, as their pronunciation is wrong at best, cringey at worst. For example, King Ghidorah is supposed to be pronounced, "King Guh-DOOR-ah". The English dub pronounces it, "King Gee-durr-ah". The biggest offender is Biollante, whose name is pronounced, "Bye-OH-Lawn-TAY". The English dub gives it the incredibly stupid sounding, "BEE-oh-LAN-tee". It's not just the pronunciation errors, either. Most of the dialogue comes across as corny, but then again, this IS Godzilla we're talking about. If a Godzilla film has good acting in it, then that's a stroke of sheer luck. The only movies that had good acting on the human side of things were Modern Godzilla's movie, the '98 Godzilla movie (yes, I praised the 1998 Godzilla movie, it's actually a lot better than every Godzilla fan on the planet would have you believe), and the Heisei-era movies, but that may be personal bias because the Heisei movies are my personal favorite out of the franchise. Back on subject, the governors and the G-Force Operator also have some particularly cheesy/melodramatic dialogue, and the game LOVES to reuse dialogue. I do like Hatogaya, the governor that sympathizes with Godzilla's need to replenish his G-Energy supply, though. Also, a minor gameplay mechanic exclusive to 80's era Godzilla's campaign, is every map has four "data points" and if you have Godzilla stand still at these locations, the camera angle will lock at a dramatic angle and the game will take a screen shot (which, along with reaching 100m size, is a requirement for the true ending). What's funny about this is the timer until the picture is taken is complete, you can hear a random soldier make a remark, all of which are hilarious. Highlights include "Say 'Cheese', Godzilla!" and "WHY IS HE LOOKING RIGHT AT ME!?".

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If you look at 80's Godzilla's face long enough,
he's actually kind of cute. Is that weird?

But overall, I give Godzilla: The Game an 8/10. The biggest flaws in this game are the awkward control scheme, the somewhat unbalanced roster, and the English dub being laughably bad. Or so bad, it's good. Depends on your tolerance. Oh, and this goes without saying, but add or subtract a point if you are either a fan or detractor of the Godzilla franchise. The films, with the exception of the 2014 Hollywood movie, are an acquired taste. And Godzilla: The Game is essentially a giant interactive love-letter to the older (read: before 2014 made Godzilla cool and mainstream) movies. But hey, once you get used to the controls, this is one heck of a fun, destructive, nostalgic, and EXTREMELY cathartic ride.

*- Disgaea references for the win!

P.S. Anyone who isn't jamming out to Blue Oyster Cult while reading this review is seriously missing out. I had it blaring off my laptop the whole time I was writing this!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The single most underrated game ever? Valkyria Revolution Review!

You know, I kind of feel bad for SEGA. First, their mascot comes out with one bad game and said mascot's reputation was forever ruined. Then, everyone hates on the game I'm about to review (also made by SEGA) right now like there's no tomorrow. What gives?

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Anyway, let's talk about Valkyria Revolution, the game that officially gets the #1 Most Under-rated video game ever made award. Seriously, this game got so much negative reception it's actually kind of sad. But on the topic at hand, Valkyria Revolution is the fourth installment in the cult classic Valkyria Chronicles franchise (I reviewed the very first game years ago), a franchise of Strategy/Third Person Shooter hybrid games that take inspiration from the Industrial Revolution as well as both World Wars. And with a little bit of Cyber-Punk thrown in because everything's better with Cyber-Punk! Anyway, lore-wise, the main thing about this franchise is it's emphasis on war as a plot device, and every game has at least one of the titular Valkyria, powerful creatures that (normally) take the form of a silver-haired, red-eyed woman ("Valkyria" is derived from "Valkyrie", a female angel from Norse Mythology who guides the souls of the deceased to the afterlife). Whether the Valkyria is an ally or a villain varies.

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Japanese UI for the WIN!!!

However, Valkyria Revolution is by far the oddest entry in the franchise, in that it is neither a strategy game, nor a third person shooter. It trades in the difficult to explain but satisfying to use combat of previous titles in favor of an Action-RPG system, with a heavier focus on magic and melee weapons than guns and technology. This is actually part of the reason why this game gets so much hate. The purists view the genre shift as an inherently bad thing, and them being overly vocal about it causes the BandWagon Effect to cause people who HAVE NEVER PLAYED A SINGLE GAME IN THE FRANCHISE to hate on it as well. Which, ironically, is also part of the reason why Sonic the Hedgehog gets a bad rep nowadays as well.

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Anyways, Valkyria Revolution has an interesting and actually really novel premise of a student and a teacher uncovering the truth surrounding a quintuple of war criminals known as the Five Traitors, who manipulated several counties into going to war with each other to enact their revenge against a tyrannical emperor. The student only knows what was published in the history books, which was obviously laden in propaganda, because, you know, history IS written by the victors. The professor, on the other hand, knows the truth about the Traitors' exploits. It's a simple narrative concept that I haven't seen any video game do, and it's really unique, and actually kind of immersive/impressive. Also, and I really don't want to pull this review into a political warzone because politics are one of the touchiest subjects known to mankind, but let's be real, the propaganda plaguing the history books (or anything really) is one of the reasons why public education is terrible. I will never forgive public school teachers telling you about how the universe is made of three forms of matter when in fact there are FOUR forms of matter (Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma), or how literally no one mentions that Christopher Columbus was made governor of a Spanish colony shortly after discovering North America, and then promptly arrested for abusing his power. Bet'cha you didn't learn THAT tidbit from a kindergarten class!

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But before anyone says, "Spencer! Stop trying to defend this trash!" I'm not defending it. I'm giving it a fair review, unlike literally everyone else. And my first major gripe with the story is it takes a while to get rolling, and the pacing is abysmal, especially early on. To give you an idea of how bad the pacing is, in the game's first hour (the campaign is roughly 50-60 hours long), only 10 minutes of that hour were spent in actual gameplay, as the rest were cutscenes. Depending on your tolerance for story-telling, this is either no big deal or a major annoyance.

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Something this game does get right, however, is the politics surrounding warfare. After all, the Five Traitors are clever enough to bribe major superpowers, manipulate the business industry to mass producing weapons of war, and even commandeer the newspaper and have news publishers pour out an endless sea of pro-war propaganda. It also shows how gullible the major population is, considering their opinions change at the drop of a hat, and go from encouraging the soldiers to go out and fight the good fight one day, and then bicker and complain that the war is nothing but trouble the next.

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Something the game doesn't handle as elegantly as it's political drama, sadly, is it's anime influences. It throws almost every anime cliche imaginable into the game, mostly for the sake of doing it. Is the main hero and leader of the Five Traitors a brooding pretty boy with a humongous sword covered in glowing marks? Yes. Can the playable characters cream entire armies while wearing nothing but casual street clothes? Yes. Does the main hero have to do battle against a mysterious, rival whose code of honor makes him refuse to kill the heroes until they've proven their worth as warriors? Yes. Do they defeat the villain through a happy little song and the POWER OF FRIENDSHIP? Most definitely. And then there's this game's Valkyria (Brunhilde!), who fulfills the game's role as the token "Make a female anime-character as impossibly attractive as possible and hope half a million weirdos buy the game because of their weird and slightly disturbing attraction to the character" archetype that makes everything harder to take seriously.

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Anyway, Something this game does better than the previous Valkyria games do, at least in my opinion, is handling it's main cast. There are nowhere near as many main characters as the first three games, but we got a case of quality vs quantity. I'm not sure if this is still true for the second and third games, as I've never played them, but at least in the very first one, the way it handled it's characters was kind of lazy, as you literally read the character's backstory in a file and that's all there is to a character from the first game (with few exceptions). Here, each character has a unique personality and semi-reasonable motivation for fighting in a war. And, one of the few things that this game shares with the rest of the franchise are the Potentials, passive abilities that activate when specific conditions are met, and are ALWAYS themed after the character's personality. Example, the extremely friendly Sara gets a boost to her attack if she's near teammates. Not all potentials are helpful, though, such as the timid Blum, whose stats start to plummet if he takes too much damage at once.

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Speaking of the gameplay, it's time we talk about it in full. You can move your character around in real-time, block incoming attacks, and switch between one of four characters instantly (which four is up to you), but you can't perform certain actions until a gauge next to your character's health bar is full. When it's full, you can press X (this game is, as far as I know, only on the Playstation family of consoles) to attack, and for particularly lazy folks out there, when your character attacks, s/he will do a full combo. Some people are indifferent to it, some people hate it, and I personally think it makes the game less "button-mashy", but the biggest problem with this system is you can't stop the combo no matter what until it's over, and I have gotten a few Game Overs due to not being able to move out of the way of an incoming attack due to having to wait until the combo is finished to move around again. But what you'll be doing most of the time is pressing Triangle, which freezes time and lets you select special attacks, known as Ragnite Spells, and cast them over a specified area. Time doesn't resume until you have casted the spell, and something I like is how each spell comes with a telegraph on the ground showing you how much ground that attack can cover. Although, I've had some weird experiences with the hitboxes (nothing like the *Plesioth Hip-Check, though, thankfully) where my attacks would hit enemies that were nowhere near the telegraph. Another major thing are the Formations, which you cycle through with L1. What the Formations do is change your team's target, with Squad Formation making all four party members gang up on one enemy (better for boss battles in my opinion), Partner Formation causing the team to split up into two groups, and Solo Formation making it so each party member will attack a different target (really good for clearing out mobs).

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But perhaps my biggest gripe here is with the cover and stealth systems. You see, both you and enemies can take cover behind sandbags or around corners. The problem here? Aside from looking kind of cool and matching the military theme the Valkyria franchise use so much, there is LITERALLY no reason to ever take cover, aside from getting a free, albeit painfully slow heal and only SLIGHTLY reducing the damage you take. It also doesn't help the fact that almost every spell in the game destroys cover. It makes you wonder why they put it in the game at all. Additionally, there are a handful of stealth missions, that fall flat on their face due to the game's combat obviously not being built with stealth in mind. You could sneak through, but enemies seem to detect you absurdly easily, and even then there's really no punishment for messing up the stealth segments, aside from having to fight an extra group of enemies, and in a case of irony, I found myself getting caught deliberately because the more enemies you defeat, the more EXP your team gets (and yes it applies to the entire time, and not just the four characters you are currently using). Again, it makes you wonder what SEGA was thinking when implementing this feature.

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One of the biggest game mechanics is the State of War gauge, at the top of the screen. This gauge shows who is currently winning the battle, and the more blue it is, the more powerful your characters become. Likewise, enemies become a lot tougher when the Star of War is in their favor. Sadly, there are too many ways to raise the State of War in your favor and not enough ways for the enemy to do the same. For you to raise it, you capture bases, defeat several enemies simultaneously, or defeat the mini-boss-like Aces (red-colored versions of regular enemies). For enemies to raise it i their favor, they have to call for reinforcements (and the amount of times they can do this is scripted) or retake an already captured base (even though most missions end when you capture a base or two). Some bosses possess the ability to temporarily lower it, but they don't lower it enough to make it matter. And once the State of War gauge is three-quarters blue, it becomes almost impossible to lose unless you actively try to. What I'm saying here is, this system, while a neat concept, is so poorly balanced that it trivializes most encounters.

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Something else I want to talk about is the mission types. These come in three different types. Story Missions, which progress the story (DUH!!!), Free Mission, which is a quick and easy mission you can do to grind for EXP and other goodies, and Tactical missions, which let you take over a territory on the world map (thus giving you a variety of buffs at the beginning of a mission among other benefits) or prevent an already taken territory from falling into enemy hands. The only problem with this system is it's completely random when Tactical missions occur, and they have to be completed (or at least accepted) eventually because if you let the Tactical Mission disappear (either through speeding through the story or grinding out Free Missions) you will lose control of that territory, and it could take you hours to get it back.

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Outside of combat, you can roam the hub town of Elsinore, which is divided into five areas, the most prominent being Promenade. While here, you can watch Circle Events, optional cutscenes where your party members will take a break from fighting in the war to hang out and be friends. They also unlock Priorities, things you can use to alter the AI of the party members (such as only using melee attacks or only attacking tanks and armored soldiers). I actually quite like these events myself, as they provide comic relief and provide a small amount of character development for the supporting characters. Additionally, if you use a certain character on your team enough times, you will unlock Note Book Events, which are only accessible in the main menu and most people don't realize it exists due to the game never once mentioning the Note Book. But basically, Note Book Events are essentially longer versions of the Circle Events, and will unlock new Potentials or, sometimes, replacing a negative Potential with a positive. Some of the Note Book-exclusive Potentials are pretty overpowered, such as Daryl's "For a Friend" Potential, which gives him extra ammo every other time he fires his currently equipped firearm, or the oddly motherly Brigitte's "Freedom Fighter" Potential, which dramatically increases ALL of her stats if she's fighting in Solo Formation.

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Additionally, you can make each party member stronger by visiting Basil's Factory (the second most important area in Elsinore) and while there you can spend money to Research and Develop new firearms, grenades, and other goodies, or you can customize your character's movesets with Ragnite Spells that you have collected. Or, alternatively, you can sacrifice duplicate spells to make each character's melee weapon stronger, increase stats even further, or expand the movesets so you can equip EVEN MORE spells to use in the future. You unlock more potential upgrades on a Skill Tree-style system that gradually expands as you progress (but only getting 100% unlocked once you defeat the final boss). I personally really like this system, as it gives you a way to get rid of junk you don't need but still benefit from throwing it away.

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Most reviews cite the gameplay as a boring mess of shoehorned mechanics that don't blend well together, and while I can see why people would say that (seriously, why does the cover system exist?) I didn't have a problem with the gameplay, in fact I daresay I enjoyed it. If anything, on the gameplay side of things, this game's fatal flaw is it's repetitivity. You have to grind A LOT if you are trying to get a specific spell or item, and the main story is kind of wonky when it comes to preparation. I've had moments where I could breeze through massive chunks of the Story missions, only to get walled by a sudden difficulty spike, forcing me to grind not only to level up my team, but also to get better spells. The level jump for the final boss is the biggest offender, as the mission before recommends a party of level 45+ characters, while the final mission recommends level 60+. Granted, if you have a particularly overpowered spell or two you could easily do the final mission at level 55 or lower. But again, if you want good spells you will have to grind. "But Spencer!" you cry. "You're the king of Monster Hunter, one of the grindiest games on the planet! You're a total hypocrite for complaining about grinding!". Allow me to explain. Monster Hunter's grinding is fun and satisfying, as you have to take down fantastical beasts to get the things you want, and there you at least know how to get the items you want (How do you get Rath Ruby? Fight literally anything with "Rath" in it's name!). In Valkyria Revolution, however, which spell is rewarded to you (and how many) at the end of any mission is completely random, so sheer dumb luck is a major factor in determining if you can go for a good setup.

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As for the presentation, I'm not going to sugarcoat it, this game's graphics are not that good. Which is especially jarring because it's a Valkyria game, a franchise famous for having a beautiful, half-water-color, half-cel-shaded art style akin to Renaissance painting. Valkyria Revolution trades that for what can best be described as a stereotypical shonen anime art style. The environments look fairly nice (albeit empty and vacant), but the character designs range from decent to downright awful. Grand General Maxim has, in my opinion, the worst design I've seen in any video game character, EVER. It's inconsistent in it's color scheme, has an oddly textured collar that clashes horrendously with the rest of the outfit, and the cyborg motif isn't really played up, and it's very easy to forget he's even partly mechanical because his "mechanical" features blend in TOO well. If it was a Terminator type thing, I wouldn't mind, but Maxim being a cyborg is INTENDED to be the first thing people in-and-out-of-universe notice about him. I don't really care for Maxim as a character either, due to him being at best a stereotypical anime rival, and even then he doesn't do anything to take the archetype in a creative direction. The animation could be a lot better as well, because quite frankly, the animations for everything besides gameplay feels really stiff. It's not helped by awkward camera angles and bizarre lip-sync making it difficult to tell who's actually talking during some cutscenes. The animations for gameplay are better, but the lip-sync is still off. But apparently, and I learned this shortly after doing some research on this game for the review, that the Valkyria Revolution staff were given an incredibly low budget to work with, and the final product's lack of funding definitely shows in it's more cinematic moments. There are some cutscenes that are actually decent (the one-on-one duel Amleth had with Grand General Gilouche for example), but those are few and far between.

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Here's this game's Valkyria, Brunhilde, who,
in addition to sporting some absurdly form-fitting
attire, is also based off the Grim Reaper. 

As for the sound, the voice acting is... Actually surprisingly good. By RPG standards. RPG's are infamous for having laughably bad voice acting, at least in the English dub. But here, the voices are alright. Everyone sounds appropriately, and the only voice I didn't like was Helena, due to her voice being annoyingly squeaky. But the music? It's also surprisingly good. Special mention goes to the Valkyria songs (which play during when the Valkyria is on screen). Additionally, the regular battle theme is also respectable, if a little repetitive. The soundtrack is easily one of the best things about this game.

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The Five Traitors!

After playing Valkyria Revolution, I can see why some folks hate it, but it's not a wholly awful video game (unlike Sonic '06 which is hands down the worst game I've ever played in my life). In fact, if one was to critique it BY ITSELF, it would be a decent, if flawed experience. But when compared to the rest of the franchise? It becomes so poor in quality that this game is laughable at best. Your enjoyment of this game comes down to one of three factors. One, are you looking for a political drama with an interesting premise and good music? I recommend the game, but not at full price. Are you a fan of the first three games in the franchise? Don't touch this game with a 10-ft pole, your previous experiences will spoil you heavily. Have you heard how amazing Valkyria games are normally and thinking about using this game as an entry point into this franchise? Don't do that either. At the end of the day, I give Valkyria Revolution a 5.5/10. It has an innovative premise and a surprisingly good soundtrack, but it's numerous flaws make it a mediocre experience. The ".5" is because even though Valkyria Revolution is so radically different from the rest of the franchise, it gets brownie points simply for being a Valkyria game. And before you be like "But Spencer! This isn't a fair review at all! Your score is way too low to be fair", believe it or not, my review is actually being GENEROUS to Valkyria Revolution. Most reviewers gave it 1/10's and every once in a while, a 3/10. I don't have a problem with people disliking this game, but what I have a problem with is purists hating on it for unfounded/petty reasons.

EDIT: Just to let you all know, I don't HATE this game, I did enjoy and I most certainly don't regret getting it, and I know my reviews are pretty generous, but given that I'm an optimist who can put up with some flaws relatively well, there are just so many flaws with this game that I couldn't ignore it. Hence the low score.

*-That is a Monster Hunter joke by the way. Read my Monster Hunter blog posts for context.