You can check out the launch trailer for Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney after the break. Continue reading
The final chapter of Level-5’s Professor Layton prequel trilogy, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, was given its official release date during yesterday’s Nintendo Direct presentation.
Those who enjoy using their puzzle-solving skills should mark their calendars for February 28, 2014.
I look forward to seeing how Azran Legacy turns out, I really enjoyed Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, the previous 3DS installment.
Two new Professor Layton-related games were announced during today’s Nintendo Direct broadcast. First, the last game in the latest Professor Layton trilogy was confirmed – Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy.
Additionally, Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney was also confirmed for localization in North America.
Not much was revealed about the gameplay, but we can expect to see both The Azran Legacy as well as Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney sometime in 2014.
Last June – roughly one year after the Nintendo eShop was launched – I published a list article called “Top 5 Nintendo eShop Downloads”, picking the five digital titles I enjoyed the most in the service’s first full year.
Now, not quite a year later, the Nintendo eShop has evolved into a whole new beast – dozens of great games are available, from the all-new 3D-enhanced titles to the Virtual Console library and more.
To be honest, I don’t even think Xbox Live Arcade experienced such quick success. Though it hasn’t been two full years since the eShop launched, I would like to go ahead and publish my follow-up list; “Top 5 Nintendo eShop Downloads (Part 2)”. Continue reading
General Information ~ Crimson Shroud
- Developed by Yasumi Matsuno/Nex Entertainment
- Published by Level-5
- Released on December 13, 2012
- Price: $7.99 (via Nintendo eShop)
Review Notes: A review code was provided by Level-5 for review purposes.
Summary ~ A ‘Role’ of the Dice
Crimson Shroud is the third and final North American release in Level-5’s Guild01 series. Designed by Yasumi Matsuno (Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics, FF XII), this role-playing game is also the cherry on top of the series.
Rather than working around the traditional JRPG tropes, Crimson Shroud is based on classic tabletop role-playing concepts – dice rolls, dungeon master-style dialogue, and more. Matsuno’s little eShop project is decidedly short and sweet, and definitely far more complex than I had originally expected.
Crimson Shroud is driven largely by its text-based dialogue, from the plot to the exploration of the environments. Even without a lot of past experience with pen-and-paper RPGs, I can say with confidence that the exceedingly descriptive text does a solid job as a substitute for a proper “dungeon master”.
Indeed, the charm of the tabletop style is what holds it all together – from the characters, designed as plastic figurines; to the deep battle system, with its complicated elemental “chaining” system and all the various buff and de-buff skills. Alas, I’m getting ahead of myself – in Crimson Shroud, it’s the narrative and the little details that really shine.
The Dice Tells the Tale
Crimson Shroud is meant to be played as a “short story” rather than a long-winded epic. That being said, the progression of the game is decidedly slow, but the pace feels ‘right’. The plot revolves around a trio of adventurers who are searching for the titular Crimson Shroud, an elusive artifact said to have great power.
Throughout the game, their tale unfolds without the use of flashy cut-scenes – the text does all the storytelling, and to my attention-deprived surprise, it is very compelling. The protagonist, Giaque, is a “Chaser” – something of a treasure hunter mixed with a mercenary. Giaque is accompanied by his trusty companion Lippi, and a mysterious, young ‘Qish’ woman named Frea. The background details of these characters, including how they came to be involved with each other, are explained in 100% skip-friendly “Reminiscing” scenes; I always appreciate the option to skip through text, but Crimson Shroud managed to capture my interest and effectively ‘pulled me in’ to its lore.
Speaking personally for a moment, there were actually several fundamental concepts that would have normally turned me away from Crimson Shroud. For example, basic exploration is limited to pointing-and-tapping on the touch screen, and reading through the flowery, adjective-loaded text. Instead of meandering through the corridors and spotting the details on your own, you’re spoon-fed all the sights and sounds: Crimson Shroud’s dialogue fills in all the gaps and presents the little details that you’d normally take in with your eyes and ears.
What makes this all so impressive to me is that your imagination suddenly becomes part of the game’s design; you aren’t dazzled with flashy 3D cut-scenes, instead you’re provided with the means of painting your own picture of your surroundings. Again, I normally don’t have the attention span to facilitate such game design choices, but Crimson Shroud really pulls it off.
Moving on, the game isn’t all reading and resorting to the dictionary; the battle system and character development are two major aspects of Crimson Shroud that are nearly as unique as the tabletop theme.
The turn-based battle system should be familiar enough to RPG fans, but its underlying complexity rears its head after just a handful of encounters with the first simple foes. In my memory, I have never played a role-playing game with such an emphasis on “buffing” and “de-buffing” to turn the tide of combat: the process of properly ‘setting up’ your squad is instrumental to winning or losing almost any fight.
Moving on, there is a ‘chain’ bonus that is based on the elemental attacks used in battle. Some magic skills and attacks are based on fire, ice, earth, and so on…using different forms of magic is the only way to increase your current ‘chain’. Doing so rewards you with bonus dice rolls and other benefits. Even with the right preparation and attention to your elemental chain, a single ‘miss’ or a ‘fault’ on an important dice roll can have a dramatic impact on your chances. This may sound frustrating, but at the end of the day, I felt like the combat system rewarded proper strategy – something that doesn’t seem to be common these days, even in the best modern JRPGs.
Character development is handled in an interesting way; Crimson Shroud features no experience points, leveling-up, or progression of ‘base stats’. Instead, your performance in combat is directly tied to the spoils you receive after each fight. Basically, the better you fare, the more you’re allowed to collect. Your equipment can be “Melded” between battles by using special consumable items called ‘Pure Azoth’ in combination with identical pieces of equipment, or even magic scrolls that can imbue elemental properties. This ‘melding’ system is one of the only methods of character development, but nonetheless allows you to power up your repertoire. Your magic skills in Crimson Shroud are bound to your equipment – you can actually lose your abilities if you aren’t mindful of what you’re using and melding.
Fortunately, all three characters can also acquire some basic “Skills”, which are permanently added to their moveset. These Skills seem to be obtained at random, usually after a tough fight – again, there may be a lack of experience points, making it difficult to anticipate the growth of your characters, but the idea of “grinding” isn’t completely missing from the game. Unfortunately, many of these skills aren’t damage-inducing attacks, but generally work as buffs or de-buffs. On the other hand, Skills can be used before attacking (or vice-versa) in combat, so you can still work to ‘set up’ your party, even if you don’t rely on magic.
Conclusion/Recommendation ~ Play It.
Ultimately, though I feel like Crimson Shroud is indeed one of the eShop’s better downloads, I also feel like its difficult learning curve and hardcore pen-and-paper theme might be a deterrent for those looking for a traditional turn-based RPG. If you aren’t worried about reading a lot of dialogue or relying on dice rolls to determine a certain degree of your success, you should actually find a lot to like about Crimson Shroud. Not only does it end a particularly strong year for the Nintendo eShop (in terms of its high-quality releases), it also serves as the cherry on top of the Guild01 franchise, and definitely the defining part of Level-5’s mini-series.
Replay Value: (7/10)
Final Score: 8.9/10
Today, the eShop RPG – designed by Vagrant Story/Final Fantasy XII’s Yasumi Matsuno – was confirmed for launch in North America and Europe on December 13.
Crimson Shroud puts you in the role of Giauque, a “chaser” who basically goes out to find whatever his clients request from him.
In terms of the gameplay, the game is supposed to feel a lot like a tabletop RPG – dice rolls included – and looks fantastic, as you can see from the images below:
I’m not sure how exciting the idea of being a professional “fetch-quester” will really be, but I guess we’ll see when Level-5 releases it in a few short weeks.
Stay tuned for a full review; and be sure to check out the write-up for Liberation Maiden if you haven’t yet.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – General Information ~
-Developed by Level-5
-Published by Nintendo
-Released on October 28, 2012
-Price: $39.99 (MSRP, via Nintendo eShop), $34.99 (Pre-Owned @ GameStop.com)
To be honest, I really didn’t know much about Professor Layton before taking on this review of Miracle Mask – the first 3DS-exclusive installment in the popular puzzle series. That fact aside, it was only a short matter of time with Level-5’s clever little brain-stumper that I fell in love with the charming characters, art style, and tricky puzzles. Needless to say, Miracle Mask turned this reviewer into a fan.
My apologies if any of this review is common knowledge for fans of the Professor Layton games; again, this was my first experience with the series. Without further adieu, let’s take a look at what makes this one so special:
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask opens up in the city of Monte d’Or, with the titular professor and his young companion, Luke, attending a big festival. Things quickly take a turn for the worst when a mysterious, masked figure flies over the town, turning most of its inhabitants to stone. The Professor and Luke set out on a mission to discover clues and solve the mysteries surrounding the masked antagonist. Along the way they encounter all kinds of characters needing their quick wits and puzzle-solving skills for a variety of situations. In addition to this story arc, there are portions of the game that go into detail about the background of our favorite top hat-wearing professor. Unfortunately my unfamiliarity with the series made these moments harder to follow, but by no means is it lacking a compelling narrative or a solid script – in fact, while the puzzles are obviously the core component of the game, I felt like exploring the world and characters was equally fulfilling, and enjoyed being able to read more about the events in the professor’s trusty journal.
Again, the puzzles are the focus of the game, but you actually spend a great deal of time exploring and ‘investigating’ the different areas of the world. From conversations with chatty NPCs to discovering hidden Hint Coins and secret puzzles, the game yields a lot more layers to discover than simply stumping your own brain.
That being said, the puzzles are fantastic – always keeping you guessing, always making you pay for making a rash guess at the solution by taking away from the ‘Picarats’ you earn for finding the correct answer. Some of them are pretty simple, such as navigating a 3D corncob maze from the perspective of a bug, or finding the tool within a group of items missing its twin. Other challenges really force you to take a closer look, thinking pretty hard to find any sort of solution to the riddle. One early puzzle reminded me of the word problems I used to solve in grade school, providing vague clues and asking you to fill in multiple answers. These tricky ones really tempt you to dip into your collection of Hint Coins, which never fully reveal the solution…and can often provide another tricky layer of thinking games to get through.
Solving the puzzles is always rewarding, even when you blow through Hint Coins and still can’t earn any Picarats when you’ve finally figured out a tough one. If I have any complaint, it is that being stumped really halts the pace of the game – there were moments I simply wanted to progress the plot, but couldn’t move forward because I was legitimately at a loss for a few solutions. The pace of the plot is otherwise very good, and the game keeps you busy between all the puzzles and cut-scenes.
If there is anything that really surprised me, it was the amount of additional content, hidden puzzles, and the handful of mini-games within Layton’s menu. For instance, if you need a break from the story, there is an entire portion of the game involving navigating a robot through various stages and finding the path to the goal within them. There is also a ‘Rabbit’ mini-game with almost as much depth, trick-learning, belly-rubbing and competing as you would expect in Nintendogs. I wasn’t a huge fan of the rabbit game, but it is actually pretty extensive, and undeniably adorable.
In a nutshell, that very statement summarizes the visual style and the inherent charm of this series. Miracle Mask has something special about it, almost Disney-like, that is very appealing and can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.
Conclusion/Recommendation: Buy It.
I admit that I am still trying to wrap up the story of Miracle Mask, but I am no less confident in recommending it. If you are a fan of the series, waste no time in checking this one out. Additionally, it seems like the perfect game for a slightly younger audience, and would make the perfect holiday gift for any 3DS-owning kid from 8 and up. Finally, anyone that enjoys a good brain-teaser can’t go wrong: it is absolutely gorgeous, full of quirky charm and lightly-humored dialogue, and provides plenty of content beyond its riddling puzzles. You really can’t ask for more, and I can’t wait to see more of this Level-5 series in the future.
Replay Value: (9.5/10)
Final Score: 9.1/10
General Information ~
- Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture
- Published by Level-5
- Released on October 25, 2012
- Price: $7.99 (via Nintendo eShop)
Liberation Maiden launched on the North American eShop last week. This Level-5/Grasshopper Manufacture collaboration is a fast-paced mech shooter with some of the flashiest graphics and best use of 3D to date, as far as downloadable titles go. The fact that it’s developed by Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw), and the first part of the “Guild01” series are just other perks to consider.
Again, this eShop game boasts some of the flashiest visuals and greatest use of 3D to date for any downloadable title. With plenty of 3D, anime-style cut-scenes and full voice acting to boot, Liberation Maiden impresses with its stylish aesthetics and production values from start to finish.
It’s just too bad that the “start to finish” time is so short. If there’s any kind of deal-breaker to consider, it’s the length of the story mode: it took me all of 77 minutes to complete the five levels on my first play-through, and while I unlocked all of them for play in “Stage Attack” mode, I was absolutely crushed when I realized the game was over. To say that it would benefit from future DLC is an understatement; it’s such a great game that it absolutely deserves more stages & added replay value.
Back to Story Mode, here’s how it all works: you play as the President of New Japan, President Shoko. Your mission is to purify the land and drive away all of the overbearing technological forces that have infested the nation. To do this, the President flies above each area and attacks the numerous targets by locking-on to them and firing missiles. There are plenty of air- and ground-based forces to attack, but also a lot of anti-air missiles to avoid and shoot down. In case she takes damage, Shoko will need to allow her shields to charge by ceasing the firing of missiles.
This is where it gets a little tricky: in Liberation Maiden, your shields and missiles share the same energy supply. Basically, firing an entire load of missiles depletes your energy shield, leaving you vulnerable to attack. The game quickly becomes a challenge of balancing your volleys and charging your shields, particularly when you run into combat with the “lesser spike” mini-bosses and the “greater spike” boss battles.
Each stage boils down to a process of hunting down these lesser spikes and blasting away the energy shields protecting the greater spike that serves as the major boss for each mission. The combat against the mini-bosses gets pretty repetitive, even before the end of this terribly short Story Mode – but the battles against the greater spikes are usually pretty interesting, and end with a satisfying attack called the “Sacrifice Drive”, where you must take the stylus and spin frantically in circles to “drill” into the core of each boss character.
As I mentioned before, it might take longer to have a pizza delivered during Sunday Night Football than it takes to finish the Story Mode in Liberation Maiden, but it’s hard to call this issue a deal-breaker. As you play through the game, you unlock each stage in “Stage Attack” mode, which lets you challenge your own high scores on each difficulty setting. It’s too bad that you can’t upload these to an online leaderboard, but it serves as a nice way to challenge yourself and play the game a bit more. Also, there are unlockable “achievements” that reveal more of the background story & details about the characters. Again, it’s a shame that these details weren’t included into the game automatically, but unlocking them is nonetheless a decent way to extend the replay value.
Conclusion/Recommendation ~ Undecided.
Liberation Maiden was one of the most entertaining eShop games I’ve played through in 2012, but here’s the catch: recommending the download is pretty difficult, considering its price and lack of content. I would be lying if I told you that it’s not worth playing the game, but seeing as the only way to do so is investing $7.99 for the full download, you really don’t have another option.
If you plan to check out the other two Guild01 games that are scheduled to launch by the end of the year, I would recommend purchasing Liberation Maiden and looking forward to the other installments. Also, if you enjoyed games like Zone of the Enders and Robotech I would recommend checking it out; it’s definitely a lot of fun to play…just such a shame that it all ends so soon.
Replay Value: (3/10)