Friday, January 13, 2017

#TeamHandheld Report - 01/13/2017

For those of you who are awesome enough to read these, sorry that it's been awhile since I last posted a #TeamHandheld Report. I took a few weeks off to spend with family, unwind, and play some games. But I couldn't get lazy and not share the handheld love. I have a few brief updates on the games I played during that final part of the year as I get back in the swing of things.

Now Playing

Hue (Vita)

I wasn't sure what to expect from Hue, as I'd not been following it that closely. Thankfully, what I got was a fantastic little puzzle game that reminded me of a colorful version of Limbo, if Limbo had been fun. In Hue, you reach puzzle rooms and have to shift between different colors to make jumps or moves through variously colored blocks and such. It sounds more confusing than it is when you play it, and the puzzles really make sense once you get going. It ended up as one of my top 10 from last year, as it was just dang charming.

-A lovely, colorful adventure-

Neon Chrome (Vita)

Now Neon Chrome is pretty sweet, but unfortunately I really am kinda bad at it. It's a dual stick shooter with some roguelike elements to its progression, as you try to get as far as you can without dying. When you die, you get to start over again. You can unlock various boosts throughout, so that helps you if you're like me and get killed a little too easily. I can see this being addictive for some, but the random nature of games like this make it tough for me to want to stick with them. Had fun with what I played, so I can't fault Neon Chrome for my inabilities.

-Fast, furious, fun...time to start over-

Slain: Back from Hell (Vita)

Slain: Back from Hell reminded me of my time with Volgarr, but it was a more forgiving 2D action game, and as such more enjoyable. The checkpoint system was much more forgiving, which I greatly appreciate. It's still a tough game, though, as it's still quite easy to get struck down. I found there was a nice variety in the stages, but I'm just not that great of an action gamer, so it's unlikely I will get through this one. Someone please stop me before I go on a Dark Souls rant about how difficulty should work. This is better than some, but I appreciate more assist features when I'm bad at a game. And easy mode isn't always the answer.

-NES hard is still a thing, but is it a good thing?-

Lara Croft Go (Vita)

I was a big fan of Hitman Go when it hit Vita earlier in the year, so when I heard this was coming I was really excited. So far Lara Croft Go has been about the same, but more puzzling in places than Hitman was. Both are using the same formula, but for some reason I keep getting stuck in Lara Croft Go more than I did in Hitman. It's like the easy parts are easier and the tougher sections are more confusing. I'm far enough along in it that I want to finish, but keep going round and round in one area. Just gotta get over that hump.

-Watch out for those giant spiders...-


Well, I'd heard that VVVVVV existed, but had no idea what it was until I got my hands on it. Even now it's tough to describe, but the time I spent with it involved removing and restoring gravity in order for me to jump between spikes and traps on the floor and ceiling. While I got a grasp on the movement and concept of the game pretty quickly, the level structure caused me to lose track of where I was and where I needed to go next. A more linear approach would have helped me get further in this, but what I played of it was unique and got my attention.

-I have no idea what I'm doing, but it's fun-

Space Overlords (Vita)

Now Space Overlords was an odd one, as I couldn't really get a good idea of what it was like from the initial description and screens. What I got was a game where you get to move around a small planet and destroy everything in sight. While doing this, you'll be assaulted by people who don't want you to smash up their planet, but you can't be a good space overlord unless you crush everything and rule all. It was pretty straightforward, but not for me. It kinda reminds me of a 3D Rampage.

-Time to smash everything-

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (Vita)

Now I'd seen Shantae around for quite some time, but had yet to actually get my hands on one of the games before now. This gorgeous 2D platformer was more fun than I expected. Getting through the first area of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero and to the first boss fight was a blast, though there were some platforming segments that felt a little awkward at times. Falling down an entire area after one bad jump is never fun, especially when it seems like you should have made it. That said, I'm now curious to check out more of the series, so I'm glad I picked up the two PS4 versions as well...if only they were on Vita, too.

-Fun, but falling and having to start over is too old school-


Asdivine Hearts (Vita)

I've never really gotten deep into a Kemco (Exe-Create) RPG before, but there's a first time for everything.

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star (Vita)

I'm kinda sad this isn't an RPG like Aksys's Fate game, but I'll give it a fair shake.

Deemo (Vita)

Another curious rhythm game on the Vita is never a bad thing. I imported this one and are ready to dive deeper.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Alex's Top 8 Handheld Games of 2016

My other online life as Managing Editor at RPGamer means that my personal favourites lists are regularly dominated by RPGs, and this year certainly had plenty of releases on that front. This was also a good year for the PlayStation Vita, as far from being dead, it dominated my personal rankings in terms of the number of games played and completed, but the 3DS got its fair share of great titles as well. It's been a great year for handheld releases across the board, and my list really is only a microcosm of the huge list of fine handheld titles released this year.

#1 Steins;Gate 0 (Vita)

Despite my primary focus on RPGs, I have a fondness for visual novels, particularly when they're as good as the Steins;Gate games. Steins;Gate 0 is a more than worthy follow up to the brilliance of the original game. It's a testament to the game that despite it having a somewhat depressing premise and situation, it absolutely sucked me in and I needed to know what happened next, frequently at the cost of sleep. The path to Steins;Gate is one I'd recommend all travel on.

#2 The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (Vita)

Ideally I'd be able to label these top two 1A and 1B. Steins;Gate just edged it out for it's slightly greater ability to suck me in completely, but Trails of Cold Steel II comes close in that regard. Nihon Falcom has quickly established itself as one of my favourite developers (helped massively by fantastic localisations from XSEED Games) with its recent amazing entries in The Legend of Heroes series. Both Cold Steel games maintain the incredible world building and storytelling that came with Trails in the Sky, once again providing a thoroughly engaging tale, accompanying it with a high-quality combat system.

#3 Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS)

The Bravely series has revitalised turn-based combat, and Bravely Second ably picks up where Bravely Default left off. The strategic aspects of using up to four turns at once, at the possible cost of being defenceless next turn, are again used to superb effect in combination with the vast selection of jobs on offer. New cast members Yew and Magnolia are excellent additions to the cast, with Tiz, Edea, and Agn├ęs ably supporting them. Although Ryo doesn't quite have the same bombastic quality as Revo's, his musical contribution is still excellent. Lessons have been learned from those aspects in Bravely Default that didn't go over well and the changes made have helped result in another excellent offering.

#4 God Eater 2: Rage Burst (Vita)

I've never been a fan of the Monster Hunter series. The lack of any real story and substance to its setting means the series just has no appeal to me. However, I have enjoyed games that couple its general gameplay style with some narrative substance, and God Eater proves to be one of the best by providing an interesting futuristic setting where the world is overrun by creatures called Aragami and coupling it with highly entertaining gameplay. The criminally-underused Go Shiina also returns to surpass the already excellent soundtrack from the first game. Fantastic music, great gameplay, and an interesting setting and tale make for a winner in my book.

#5 — Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma (Vita)

The Zero Escape series flew under the radar initially, but eventually picked up the recognition it deserved. Admittedly, this third game in the series doesn't quite have the same pull as Virtue's Last Reward, if simply because of how it has to cope with the raised stakes from that game's compelling finale, but it's a worthwhile follow-up for those who enjoyed both VLR and 999. It may seem like I'm a bit down on the game compared to others in this list, but that's really because it has to draw comparisons to VLR, one of my favourite titles of all time. ZTD just has the misfortune of simply being great against something outstanding. Hopefully, series director and writer Kotaru Uchikoshi returns with a new release (either with the series or something fresh) soon.

#6 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice (3DS)

The Ace Attorney series is one of those at the stage where there is a danger of it becoming stale. However, its developers did an excellent job avoiding that in this, its sixth mainline title. Spirit of Justice makes great use of characters from throughout all of the series, freshening up by taking things to a new setting. Entertaining characters new and old combine to make courtroom drama fun once more. While it strikes a bit of a dud with its fourth case, but the twists and turns of the final one ensure it will be remembered as one of the series' greatest.

#7 Root Letter (Vita)

The second visual novel on my list, Root Letter doesn't offer the same narrative excellence as Steins;Gate, but what it does do is help transport people to a lovingly-crafted setting. Set in the real-life city of Matsue, the game takes places to numerous real locations that have been faithfully and beautifully recreated in its artwork. The game also helps craft an engaging mystery and allows it to play out in multiple genre-spanning ways depending on how players respond at certain points. It's worth checking out just for how much care went into the setting and seeing how differently the mystery gets resolved between routes.

#8 Ray Gigant (Vita)

I've never been a huge fan of dungeon-crawlers, but I very much enjoyed Ray Gigant. The game has been referred to by some as a dungeon-crawler for those who aren't fans of the sub-genre, taking the base gameplay aspects but making them much more accessible. This went over well with me as I didn't have to spend ages trying to figure out the minutiae of character growth aspects that so often accompany such titles. The game is also notable from using a generally effective perspective-based graphical style, which did a good job showing battles against the game's gigantic bosses.

Honorable mention: Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, which would have made this list had I not played it on PlayStation 4.

Friday, December 16, 2016

#TeamHandheld Report - 12/16/2016

Please enjoy the rare, all 3DS #TeamHandheld Report. I've been playing some new and old releases and just wanted to share my thought on them. Some really good stuff this time.

Now Playing

Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle (3DS)

I'd seen passing talk about the Mercenaries Saga games, but it wasn't until Mercenaries Saga 3 was confirmed for North America that I started looking closer at these games. I found a demo for Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle on the 3DS eShop and saw that save data transferred to the main game, so I figured why not check it out. After the demo ended, I quickly bought the full version. From the looks of things, I incorrectly assumed this was just another copy and paste TRPG, but I was very wrong. Mercenaries Saga 2 is a fantastic game, as it does almost everything I like in a TRPG. It reminds me a great deal of Shining Force and Vandal Hearts, as each character has a unique combat role, but there is still customization available.

Skill points are easy to come by with skills that can be unlocked and upgraded as things progress. New classes are available at level 10 and level 20, and though the class upgrades require skill points to unlock, they are not permanent. Characters can swap back and forth between any unlocked jobs, and skills from all jobs are available to use. One of the big changes that Mercenaries Saga has is that MP isn't full at the start of battle, but increases each turn instead, adding a new strategy to the mix. The story isn't bad, but not too exciting so far. That said, all of the systems are there and it's just a blast to play. This is exactly the TRPG I've been craving, so as soon as I finish this I plan to jump right into Mercenaries Saga 3.

-A fantastic TRPG, just what I've been craving-

Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)

I'm a bit of a newcomer to the Kirby series, having only really played Epic Yarn, so when I picked up Kirby: Planet Robobot I was pleasantly surprised. I can see why people love these games. Many might complain that they are too easy or too simple, but there's nothing wrong with either of those things in my eyes, as it's been fine. I found that progressing through each stage, transforming into different versions of Kirby has been a blast. The mecha-Kirby versions that are playable are powerful and add a bit of variety to the gameplay. On top of that, the boss battles have been varied and engaging enough to keep my attention. Playing this has just made me wish I'd played more Kirby games prior.

-A great platformer with a lot of variety-

Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS)

When Metroid Prime: Federation Force was first announced, it received a lot of hatred from those who wanted something else out of a Metroid game. There was no Samus, no Metroid-structure since things are broken into missions, and a general feeling that things were different than prior Metroid games. And all of those things are true, but the game is still enjoyable to play if you can get all of those things out of your mind. It's hard to not want all of those traditional Metroid staples, and I do want another game with those, but taking this one on its own merits is best. The title is solid, but it's just not for me. I don't care for the 3D perspective, but that's nothing new as I've not been a big fan of the Prime games. Having the game broken into missions instead of being set in a large open environment just feels dull, and that's not just because Federation Force lacks the Metroid structure, but because it just feels empty. I don't dislike this game because it's "not a true Metroid game," but mostly because I just don't care for the design. Combat and controls are much better than expected.

-Not my thing, but not just because it's not typical Metroid-

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

After lots of talk about new Mario games, I wanted to go back and play Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, but found myself replaying Super Mario 3D Land again instead. I love both of these games, though World edges out Land just slightly. This was a happy replay, because it just solidifies how much I enjoy this duo. They are great experiences throughout, and I love the fact that this feels like a 2D experience while still being in 3D. Each stage tries something new, and everything feels fresh. The power ups here are not super exciting, but they work well enough. The pacing of the game is just right, though I find that the Bowser battles remain a little dull and repetitive. The final fight is decent, but still feels like more of the same. That's my only real complaint about this one, but it's still one of my favorite platformers.

-Still great all these years later-


Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS)

Curious to see if this one has a more tolerable length than prior entries.

Neon Chrome

Played a little of this, but am saving up time to get this more of a shot.

Slain: Back from Hell

This reminds me of Volgarr, but is slightly more accessible.

Lara Croft Go

I loved Hitman Go, but this one is a tad different. Going to finish it before speaking more about it.


No idea what this really is, as I've ignored most coverage on it before now. PS+ has given me a change to change that.


It's been out on PS4 for a while, but I'm ready to check out the Vita release soon.

A Boy in His Blob

I remember longing wanting to play this as a child, but never getting around to it. Curious to try the new version, as it was really cheap on PSN recently.

Crypt of the NecroDancer

I've been curious about this one for a while and was waiting for a sale, that's finally happened so time to dive in.