Playing: Lollipop Chainsaw (PS3) (XBOX 360)

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There’s not a lot I can say about Lollipop Chainsaw without communicating just how over the top the game really is. Joining the forces of game and Hollywood, with Suda 51 and James Gunn (Slither) respectively, it’s reminiscent of a good ol’ B-Rated horror film, spiced up with a little Japanese humour and a whole bunch of fan service. Although the premise may seem superficial and highly… questionable, this pleasant blend of zombies and sunshine is sure to leave you both dumbfounded and poppin’.

Like I said earlier, the game is, essentially, a B-rated film. Our protagonist, cheerleader and hot chick Juliet just so happens to be a zombie hunter. When her high school is suddenly raided by zombies one day, she takes it upon herself to stop the undead horde, battle zombie overlords, figure out why all this started and maintain her relationship with her unique family and (what remains of) her boyfriend.

The game itself is hilarious and its interesting to see the way in which American society is displayed. And don’t worry, it doesn’t confine it’s humour to any single aspect of American culture – jokes range from hillbillies to potheads and from rockabillies to jocks and cheerleaders. All in all, it’s really one giant joke. Aside from that, one of the most important aspects of the game are the lines spoken by Juliet and Nick (The line “DON’T BE RACIST AGAINST COWS NICK” being one of my favourites), and the nods to other zombie-related works (Such as Romero, Korewa Zombie Desu-ka?High School of the Dead, etc.), making playing the game a whole lot better if you’re into zombie culture.

The game incorporates a bunch of different game genres, but for the most part, it’s an action hack and slash game. You battle the undead while waving your chainsaw in all sorts of ways, using your skills as a cheerleader to your advantage. The ever-so-helpful head of your boyfriend acts as a special weapon, being used to deal large stun damage to enemies and you use a variety of chainsaw upgrades to help you fight through your enemies. Game modes include timed and scored runs of the story levels, both of which depend highly on the totes awesome Sparkle Hunting (a multikill of 3 or more) to boost scores. It’s all pretty rad once you get the hang of it.

The graphics of the game happen to be one of the most distinct and visually pleasing styles that I’ve ever seen. The game is filled bright visuals, sunshines and a whole lot of rainbows amidst dark backdrops and chaos. It’s even better when it’s set across a pile of rotting corpses that just make Juliet shine across the field. That being said, story cutscenes, American comic book-like renders and boss stages are anything but just divine. In fact, the boss battles and the story scenes are among some of my favourite parts of the game. The only short fall of these graphics are the few, if not rare, awkward camera angles, which made it difficult to play. Voice acting roles were without a doubt perfectly played and the whole Juliet x Nick storyline is made all the more convincing because of it. Although these visuals are great though, in my opinion, the highlight of the entire game was the soundtrack. Featuring songs like “Lollipop” by The Chordettes, “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by the Dead or Alive, “Mickey” by Toni Basil and “Cherry Bomb” by  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the music of the entire game is absolutely in-cre-di-ble.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting the game to be much more than a giant mixture of sexual innuendo and cheap laugh. I’m certainly glad it was more satisfying and more entertaining than what I originally expected. In saying all this, the game measures up to be a pleasant mix of retro and modern gaming, making it a good time for old and newer gamers alike. But beware though – it’s not exactly a hardcore or a big production game, and it’s definitely not one for saints. And if that’s no problem for you and you’re looking for an easy play, be sure to check out Lollipop Chainsaw.  It’s SOOOO COOL.

Bry Rating: 4.25
Recommended? Don’t be a total buzz kill! Play it.
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture

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Playing: Record of Agarest War (PS3) (XBOX 360) (PC) (Android)

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The Japanese role playing game Record of Agarest War, also known as Agarest: Generations of War, has become a project for me for awhile. Although it sports amazing storyline visuals and the overall plot is interesting, the game (And mind you I’ve never quite said this) drags on for far too long.

The story spans five generations of heroes, starting with Leonhardt – a knight that is disgraced after he saves an elven girl. After sustaining a fatal blow from the mysterious Dark Knight, he manages to live through a pact that ties his destiny, and the destinies of his children, to the end of the darkness that plagues his world.

Before you keep reading, please understand – this is a hardcore strategic JRPG. For those familiar with games like these, play throughs typically last 50+ hours. For those less experienced, you’re looking at about 100+ hours worth of playtime. This would most likely be due to the level of customisation in the game as it quite literally depends on it.

The gameplay of the RoAW is an interesting mix of different games – it’s essentially a Final Fantasy Tactics – type strategy game with elements from dating simulators and choice-driven games. At first, it can be extremely overwhelming to deal with all the battle and story related game mechanics. These are, as always, quite useful though, but only later in the game. 

Battles are fought in a generated board with a 2D team the player can construct. Characters have distinct roles in their style of fighting, something the player must take into account when building playable characters. The player must also be aware of other things such as the concepts of AP costs, Combined attacks, Fields,  Extended fields and SP. These things, which are trivial at first, can mean instant defeat or victory near the end, especially if characters are under-leveled or the battle has taken more than an hour.

In the over-world, destinations are either towns, dungeons, battles or story points. The number of “turns” are taken into account and can affect certain the story in different ways. In towns, players can visit the shop to purchase items, the Blacksmith’s Guild to create and enhance items, the Adventurer’s Guild to earn titles and the Horoscope to see the compatibility between the hero and his love interests. The “Soul Breed” system is also of particular interest in the game: at the end of each generation, the player can choose to wed one of the three available girls. The catch? Depending on who you choose to marry, the stats and weapons of the future heroes are affected.

Although the battle visuals are disappointing and the story itself can be long, the storyboard art is excellent, as is the CG images that can be obtained if the player makes the right choices. The music for the game is also great, but the best part of the game must be the voice acting. It’s extremely well done and gives all characters distinct personalities and qualities.

Overall, RoAW is an average JRPG balanced by its pros and cons. With an interesting plot, high level of customisability and exceptional art and audio, it fails in its length, battle mechanics and nearly unfair “True End” path (Which must be followed to a tee to fully complete the game. It can be found here if needed). Although I mostly enjoyed it, it is virtually unplayable after one full play through. I only recommend it for those absolutely in love with JRPGs, but be warned – this is not a game one can simply complete on a weekend.

Bry Rating: 2.5/5
Recommended? Only for the Hardcore JRPG Gamer
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Idea Factory; Compile Heart; Red Entertainment 

Playing: Bayonetta (PS3) (XBOX 360)

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Let’s face it: SEGA’s games have lately been on the decline, not only in quantity, but in quality. Of the few gems that it has to offer, Bayonetta stands out in all its raunchy, addictive and intoxicating glory. It’s an action packed, hack-and-slash third person shooter – so naturally, its was impossible to pass up.

Bayonetta, an Umbra Witch that has lost her memories, sets out to uncover the mysteries of her past and the “Eye of the World”, a jewel she has owned from as far as she remembers. Sporting a wide of range of weapons, four guns being her favourite, she battles the armies of Paradiso Angels who impede her progress. Why they do this delves deeper into the world of Bayonetta (which is in turn, beyond the realm of this blog). She meets a handful of character who she seems to be connected to somehow – of interest a small girl named Cereza who calls her “Mommy”.

Bayonetta herself is a fiery, smart-mouthed, glasses-wearing woman with a flare for… sexual innuendo. Whilst on the surface she may seem like eye-candy for the teen male, her character is fleshed out through her relationships with other characters. Her development as a selfish character to one that acknowledges the value of compassion demonstrates not only the way people can change through life – but also how “sexual” characters in games (Especially women) can have a perfectly good story that adds depth.

Admittedly, the story of the game is hard to follow, choppy at best. In “compensation” players are given the satisfaction of an extremely intriguing and flashy form of fighting. The player controls Bayonetta as she glides across the screen performing amazing combos. It’s awfully satisfying – gaining momentum, performing timed backflips and executing a string of commands that makes her dance (Seriously). The game also has two additional mechanics when fighting – Witch Time and Torture Attacks. With Witch Time, the player has to narrowly dodge attacks to slow down the passage of time whereas with Torture Attacks, players complete a series of QTEs to finish of their enemies  (in an ever-so-flashy manner). Items that can be equipped consists of an array of weapons (ranging from katanas to magical ice skates) and magical ornaments whereas consumable items appear in the form of lollipops.

The visuals of the game are definitely encapsulating, especially when you consider that this was pre 2010Enemies are detailed and interesting to view, although in the later game colour pallets are swapped to make room for new enemies. Character designs in particular stand out though – they range in shapes and sizes but are all believable and executed well. As for the music in the game, all I can really say is that I’ve downloaded “Fly Me To The Moon” and “Let’s Dance Boys” and both are on the top of my playlist my phone. And computer. And music player.

All in all, Bayonetta is remarkable game that utilises incredible fighting mechanics, powerful visuals and a striking soundtrack. Although the story lacks a sense of clarity and is begging for more (Pst, Sequel), the characters in the game more than make up for it through their quirky personalities and backstories. If similar games like Devil May Cry bother you, or you have an unreasonable hate towards the rings from Sonic (Oh Sega references), then this game is probably not for you. But if you’re more than happy to experience the diamond that is Bayonetta – “Let’s Rock Baby!”

Bry Rating: 4.25
Recommended? Of Course
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Sega ; Platinum Games