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The Borderlands series, developed by 2K Australia and Gearbox Software, is renowned for its shooter/RPG hybrid gameplay, the first game doing well enough to garner a sequel and spinoffs. Development of another entry of the franchise began after the release of Borderlands 2, this particular title proving an interquel bridging the first and second games, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, which provides an experience on par with its predecessors.

The Pre-Sequel! largely features the same shooter/RPG gameplay as its primary predecessors, not to mention the ability to revive when near death by killing an enemy after all health has been depleted, as well as mechanics dependent of the interquel’s lunar setting, such as different types of oxygen tanks and many zero-gravity environments. Aside from occasional inconsistent difficulty and certain bosses being walls preventing the player from advancing the main storyline (though ironically, this reviewer was able to beat the absolute final boss his first try), the battle engine definitely helps the game more than hurts.

One cannot say the same of control, which is only slightly above average, with the main story missions providing sufficient direction on how to advance, although completing certain sidequests can be difficult without a guide, given things such as obscure hidden switches and the in-game maps not providing information on things such as the location and directions of jump panels necessary to reach areas out of reach. There’s also the matter of limited inventory to a lesser extent, although the player can purchase a limited number of upgrades, and ultimately, interaction isn’t superb but certainly isn’t overly-detrimental.

The story is perhaps The Pre-Sequel’s highlight, occurring between the first and second main entries and having excellent writing containing an Australian flavor and a setting on the moon, with only a few minor errors in the dialogue.

Most Western RPGs, in this reviewer’s opinion, tend not to place as much value on the music as, say, Japanese roleplaying games, with only a few memorable tracks such as the ending themes, although the voice acting is top-notch.

The visuals also utilize cel-shading like The Pre-Sequel’s predecessors, character models and environs looking mostly nice, although there are some occasional graphical glitches that can, especially with respect to the last dungeon, potentially make things difficult to see.

As The Pre-Sequel! lacks an in-game clock, to determine overall playing time is difficult, although this reviewer spent an extensive intervention on sidequests in hopes of triumphing over one boss in the final chapter.

Overall, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is for the most part a solid interquel between the first and second main entries that hits most of the right notes, particularly with regards to its shooter/RPG hybrid gameplay, excellent narrative and dialogue, good cel-shaded graphics, and top-notch voicework. It does leave some room for improvement in regards to its inconsistent difficulty, confusing level design, unmemorable music, and occasional visual hangups, but is recommended to those that enjoyed other entries of the franchise.

The Good:
+Solid shooter/RPG gameplay.
+Excellent story and writing.
+Nice cel-shaded graphics.
+Plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Prepare to die often.
-Some confusing level design at times.
-Soundtrack aside from ending theme is unmemorable.
-Occasional graphical glitches.

The Bottom Line:
Another fun Borderlands game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: (no in-game clock)

Overall: 8/10
Many enthusiasts of Japanese roleplaying games are likely familiar with the developer Gust’s Atelier series, although they would ultimately branch out into another franchise known as Ar tonelico, which would last for three games. In 2012 in Japan only, they released a title known as Ciel nosurge that takes place in the same universe with many elements, and two years later released a continuation of the title called Ar nosurge. The following year they ported the game to the PlayStation Vita as Ar nosurge Plus: Ode to an Unborn Star, which provides an experience very much on par with the developer’s stronger titles.

Akin to spiritual successor Ar tonelico, Ar nosurge sports randomly-encountered enemies in dungeons, with a gauge at the top of the screen gradually turning red to indicate how close the player is to encountering enemies, definitely less frustrating than random fights without such an indicator. Next to this gauge is a number indicating the number of enemy sets in the dungeon, and when the game triggers an encounter, the player first selects one of a few Song Magics that the player gains from progressing through a songstress’s Genometrics and using Dive points gained from killing enemies to unlock various events that ultimately lead to magic acquisition.

Ar nosurge has separate player and enemy turn sessions, with players controlling an attacker in charge of defending their songstress while they gradually sing to empower their magic. Interestingly, the attacker does not have hit points, although the songstress does, and while total depletion of their health results in a Game Over, the player can use one item during each of their turn sessions, with consumable healing items fortunately common. Combat itself borrows elements from the second Ar tonelico title and the Valkyrie Profile franchise, where different attacks are assigned to the Vita’s face buttons.

Players can attack one enemy row at a time, and must kill the front enemy in order to attack those behind. Once the player’s attacker has run out of attacks (although turns can end prematurely oddly against a specific antagonist type), the enemy takes their turn, in which case the player must execute timed button presses that bring up a barrier on the songstress that lasts a second or two. Successful defense reduces the damage the songstress takes, while foes inflict maximum damage if the player fails. The player has only a certain number of turns to kill foes, although luckily, doing well in the area of attack may net them bonus turns.

In a twist, once the player has defeated an enemy set, another comes, the number of encounters in the dungeon decreasing by one, repeating until the player has eliminated all foes or the number of turns expires, in which case the game goes to the results screens for distribution of money, items, and experience. It’s pretty common to gain more than one level for both the attacker and his songstress especially if the player is skillful at fighting enemies, and aside from the oddness of turns ending prematurely against one particular enemy type, the battle system is definitely fast, fun, and inventive, with items also synthesizable at certain shops in towns possibly being the difference between victory against tougher battles, particularly near the end.

Control is superficially decent, with an easy menu system and save points that aren’t too far apart, and while dungeons lack maps, they’re mostly simplistic and hardly troublesome. Another aspect inherited from the original Valkyrie Profile is the ability to view past dialogue during a cutscene, useful if the player accidentally misses something story-wise. Always welcome, furthermore, is the common ability with some exceptions to scroll through dialogue, voice or not, depending upon whether gamers would rather read dialogue than listen to the characters’ voices. The biggest shortcoming in this area, however, is the absolute terrible direction on how to advance the main storyline at frequent points, which necessitated this reviewer to reference a guide; this is not something anyone should ever have to do when playing a game. Ultimately, interaction could have easily been much better.

The same goes to the story to some extent, with the terrible direction definitely being a mark off, although the narrative itself is actually fairly enjoyable, following two different sets of protagonists, with an encyclopedia keeping track of all terms and names encountered in the game, a feature inherited from Wild Arms 3 being the occasional bolded keywords that the player can get definitions of if they’re unfamiliar with the terms. Some kind of synopsis of events from Ciel nosurge would have been welcome and there are some minor parts where the localization seems rushed, but otherwise, the storyline helps the game more than hurts.

The soundtrack is excellent as it was in the Ar tonelico titles, with enjoyable voicework, as well, although characters sometimes have a tendency to say things no human would naturally say.

The visuals use a nice cel-shaded style with rare anime cutscenes, although there are occasional blurry and pixilated environmental textures, alongside occasional choppiness and palette swaps.

Finally, the game will last players somewhere from twenty to forty hours, with various things such as trophies, adjustable difficulty, and multiple endings enhancing replayability.

Overall, Ar nosurge Plus is another solid Gust game, with much going for it such as its innovative and enjoyable battle system, nice narrative, superb soundtrack, good visual style, and plentiful lasting appeal. It does have occasional issues, however, particularly with regards to the common awful direction on how to advance the main storyline, also a mark off the plot itself, some rushed aspects with regards to localization, and some visual choppiness at times. Even so, this reviewer can easily recommend the Vita version to those who enjoyed Gust’s other titles and the Ar tonelico franchise, even if, while certainly being a great game, it falls slightly short of the title of masterpiece.

The Good:
+Excellent innovative battle system.
+Enjoyable narrative.
+Superb soundtrack.
+Great visuals and voicework.
+Trophies, adjustable difficulty, and multiple endings add replayability.

The Bad:
-Frequent terrible direction on how to advance.
-Translation feels rushed at times.
-Graphical choppiness at times.

The Bottom Line:
Another great Gust title.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10
Nearly a decade has elapsed since the release of the second main entry of Square-Enix’s Kingdom Hearts franchise on the Sony PlayStation 2, and information has almost just only begun to trickle in on the third primary and forthcoming entry on the PlayStation 4, with the company content to put out HD rereleases and spinoff games. Among the latter is the franchise’s first and thus far only entry on the Nintendo 3DS, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, which provides an experience on par with the better series entries.

The main storyline of 3D focuses of keyblade wielders Sora and Riku undertaking the Mark of Mastery examination under the guidance of King Mickey’s Master, Yen Sid, which necessitates the duo to venture into a series of “sleeping” worlds that reveal some backstory in the Kingdom Hearts mythos, particularly with regards to Mickey himself, his consort Queen Minnie, his chums Donald and Goofy, and his nemesis Pete. There are some minor instances of the game rehashing the storylines of the movies from which it borrows, mainly regarding the City of Bells, the world based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but otherwise the storyline is a nice diversion from the gameplay, with a long and rewarding ending having a bit of a twist.

3D features the franchise’s classic hack-and-slash gameplay using the system from Birth by Sleep of allowing players to assemble a deck of combat commands including consumable items, physical skills, and magic spells, with each having a recovery time after execution, though players can hack away at antagonists with Sora or Riku’s keyblade. A twist distinguishing the game from others in the series is the ability to create friendly versions of the antagonistic Dream Eaters known as Spirits from various materials purchased and/or gained from vanquishing foes.

Although one can easily forget the potential of Spirits, given the ability to take them across ability matrices similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid system, doing so can grant Sora and Riku shared abilities, some of which can actually be the difference between victory and defeat, as this reviewer discovered when getting his healing interrupted by the daunting endgame bosses, the Leaf Bracer power mercifully protecting them during health recovery. There is minor issue with the camera and the game often not detecting the C-stick on New Nintendo 3DS systems, but combat is more than enjoyable and a main draw to the game.

There are, however, some issues with regards to the control, with unique field abilities necessary to advance the game easily forgettable by the player, in some cases driving this reviewer to reference a walkthrough, alongside the annoyance of the main menus to typically have a “New” indicator flashing whenever accessing it, not to mention the inability to scroll through voiced cutscene dialogue if the player doesn’t want to sit and wait for characters to speak their entire lines, not to mention the map on the bottom screen indicating not the camera’s direction, as well as the overly-long endgame. This aspect isn’t a complete writeoff, though, since it rectifies the common Japanese RPG problem of wasted gameplay time with options upon death to restart the current area of the world or exit a lost boss battle to the previous save point.

In spite of some recycling at times, music has largely been a high point in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, with 3D disappointing not in this regards, even containing remixes of tracks such as that in Traverse Town, not to mention classical music in the world based on the movie Fantasia, as well as superb voice acting including Leonard Nimoy’s final performance as Master Xehanort. The comical voices of characters such as Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, though, can certainly sound out of place in a game devoid of comedy, but the aurals don’t disappoint.

The visuals are some of the best to grace the 3DS, with superb character models (those in the Tron Legacy world being among the most realistic on the platform) and distinctive Dream Eater designs having minimal palette swaps, not to mention polished scenery with only minor textural blemishes, as well as nice use of the system’s three-dimensional capabilities.

Finally, depending upon the player’s grasp of the mechanisms, completing the game can take a little under twenty hours, although for a significant intervention this player forgot about Spirit abilities, thus upping his playtime to a little over twenty hours, with plentiful lasting appeal in the form of adjustable difficulty and in-game trophies.

All in all, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is another feather in the franchise’s cap, with its solid series gameplay having plenty twists, a narrative contributing well to the pantheon’s mythos, superb audio, and gorgeous graphics that look even better when the Nintendo 3DS is set to three dimensions. It does have quite a few issues with regards to interaction, among these problems being the drawn-out endgame, but those who can look beyond these flaws and have enjoyed prior franchise entries will very likely enjoy this spinoff.

The Good:
+Solid Kingdom Hearts gameplay with nice twists.
+Narrative adds nicely to series mythos.
+Great music.
+Nice graphics better in 3-D.
+Trophies and variable difficulties add lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Drawn-out endgame.

The Bottom Line:
On par with other games in the series.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 15-30 Hours

Overall: 9/10
fursuit-tutorials.tumblr.com/p…

Based on this, you could get art from me pretty much dirt cheap, not that I don't mind.
  • Watching: The Last Ship - "Uneasy Lies the Head"
  • Playing: Ar nosurge+, Borderlands 1.5, Kingdom Hearts 3D

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jmg124
J. Michael Gallen
Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
United States
I'm mostly a writer and RPG critic, but occasionally an artist.
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:iconwraithwolves:
WraithWolves Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the watch! ^^
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome.
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:iconnewanimationbug:
newanimationbug Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the Watch :hug:
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome.
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:iconnewanimationbug:
newanimationbug Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:hug:
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:iconyuuike:
yuuike Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ahhhh thank you so much for the watch bby:iconmuahplz: I really appreciate it <333

If you like my art feel free to check me out on YouTube ,Tumblr , or Facebook  :iconasdfghbeeplz: //shamelessly advertises LOL
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome.
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:iconrangerwolf:
rangerwolf Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Welcome aboard!
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks.
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:iconrangerwolf:
rangerwolf Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
You're welcome!
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