Persona 4

■  Platform: PlayStation 2                               ■  Category: Role-Playing

■  Publisher: Atlus                                           ■  Developer: Atlus

 

Persona 4 is something of a mix between a dating sim and a dungeon crawler.  Instead of dating though, it’s more like a friend sim.  As you level up your friendships called Social Links you gain bonuses that help you with the dungeon crawling aspect of the game.  That may sound simple, but it’s far from it.  Things get complicated after that.  Very complicated.  The battles themselves are simple; they’re turn-based and menu driven, much like the RPGs of old, you can also set other party members to auto-pilot or manual if you so wish.  At the same time you’re introduced to battle you are also introduced to Persona “Your true self”.   Be prepared for a crash course on Freudian psychology because things only get weirder.  Each team member gets their own personal persona, only the main character can swap out personas, allowing you access to a wide variety of skills.  while that doesn’t sound so hard, how you obtain your personas is.  You get the chance to collect new personas after a battle, if you fuse these personas with others you get newer, and perhaps stronger personas.  I bet your wondering where the dating sim bit fits in.  Well, in order to get higher level personas not only do you have to level up social links corresponding to the persona type, but your character also need to be a least the same level.  The in game tutorials cover the whole fusion system by taking the hands off approach.  Basically you’ve got to more or less figure it out yourself.

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Tales of Graces f

■  Platform: PlayStation 3                               ■  Category: Role-Playing

■  Publisher: Namco Bandai Games              ■  Developer: Namco Bandai Games

 

Namcos handling of the Tales series is notoriously dickish, so it was a pleasant surprise when Tales of Graces ƒ actually made it to market, and in a surprisingly un-dickish move, only the extended cut made it state side, though, that also means the original was out in japan for years and never made it across the lake…

Tales of Graces ƒ plays like any Tales game; battles are real time and special moves are assigned to different directions on the left joy stick.  Picking a direction and an attack type allows you to preform either basic or special attack chains.  Unlike most Tales games Tales of Graces ƒ does not use SP to cast spells or use special moves; instead you use CC that can be replenished by simply guarding for a short period of time.  Every moves requires CC to preform, and dodging at the right time allows you to store more CC than you could normally.  Also introduced are titles that you equip and level up, each level granting you a new permanent upgrade to either skills or base stats.  Each title also comes with a unique ability that is only available while that title is equipped making title choice fairly important during boss battles.

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Disgaea

■  Platform: PlayStation 2                               ■  Category: Role-Playing/Strategy

■  Publisher: Atlus                                          ■  Developer: Nippon Ichi

 

Disgaea first come out in 2003 and at first blush looks like a typical strategy game; there’s a number of classes you can create extra characters in, items to use in battle, and grid-based game play.   After that things get interesting.  The level cap for Disgaea is 9999, and at any point between level 1 and level 9999 you can have a character “reincarnate” and go through the whole leveling process again, but with a huge boost in stats (depending on the level).  If that doesn’t offer enough in game play, there’s also the option of leveling up any item in the game to level 100.  But just in case that wasn’t enough you could also petition for the Dark Assembly for any number of things; from better items in the item shop, to stronger enemies, or if need be, permission to take over the human world.

Oh right….and did I mention the game takes place in the Netherworld?

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Mass Effect

■  Platform:      PC/PS3/Xbox-360                        ■   Category:      Role-Playing
■  Publisher:    Electronic Arts                             ■   Developer:    Bioware

 

The story of Mass Effect spans three entire games, fully fleshing out a vast, almost dystopian galaxy plagued by the same problems we face today, populated by incredibly human characters from a myriad of races.  The balance between the story and game play is fantastic.  The story is deep and involving, the game play, which takes the form of a third person shooter is well balanced, challenging, and intuitive.  Biotics; the equivalent to magic in this universe, manipulates gravity, and the technology is so advanced that that it could be mistaken for magic.  A deep and well recorded history permeates the entirety of the game, manifesting in a codex that covers every topic under the sun, ranging from a list of every planet you visit over the course of the game, to exactly how all those niffy attacks you’ve been shoving down everyone’s throats work. Continue to Review →