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Psychotic Reviews: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

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One of my favorite series on the original DS was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Each game was serious and completely whimsical at the same time. The characters are over the top and blown out of proportion in some cases, which only serve to make the courtroom scenes incredibly memorable as all of these personalities clash. The mystery element meant that the full picture of what happened was never entirely clear to the player until the trial and the investigations leading up to the courtroom scenes slowly reveal the whole story, or could also go down the rabbit hole at times. Its really a perfect blend of point and click puzzle adventure games with the narrative style of a visual novel, making the series stand out as the sum of its parts.

In contrast I’ve only played the first game in the Professor Layton series. I enjoy the game but can never sit down and play it for too long in any one sitting. Its really a gauntlet of puzzles. There are some point and click elements involved in this game as well, but they mainly serve as a way to find hint coins and hidden puzzles. The game is more of a slow burner compared to the Ace Attorney series, which will mix in dramatic courtroom scenes with the slower investigation to mix the pacing up.

These two series in terms of gameplay actually make sense putting together, and when I first heard about the crossover I was rather excited since I knew of Layton at the time and am a massive Ace Attorney fan. Despite only playing the first Layton game I was impressed by this game! The Ace Attorney style investigations mixed well with Layton style exploration and puzzle solving. It never felt like the gauntlet of Layton’s puzzles was getting to be too much of a grind since there is plenty more to enjoy and move through in the game.

In terms of story the world and area feel much more inspired by Layton. There is a village filled with magic where witches are burned after being found guilty at a trial. Professor Layton, Luke, Phoenix Wright, and Maya Fey all find themselves brought to this village. As Phoenix you play through a witch trial and work to get the first exoneration of a witch in the village’s memory! This case introduces a unique twist to the system of cross examination that was standard throughout the Ace Attorney series. In the courtroom scenes the witness testimony is all done at once, the witnesses line up and Phoenix cross examines them one after the other. This does allow the witnesses to collaborate with their stories and add in information that fills in any holes on the fly. This style feels stacked against you. No wonder there were so many guilty verdicts in a row before Nick and Maya showed up here!

After the two pairs meet up the overall goal of the game becomes to uncover the secret of the village and keep working to get rid of this stigma against witches. After all, magic shouldn’t exist in our rational, modern world of science right? This games does a fantastic job of leading you along through the story, with twists and turns helping to guide you. The drama of the courtroom spills out into the streets and these strangers soon become well known for their alien idea of ‘logic’. That’s right, this village has not been enlightened to the basic Western ideas of Greek logic.

Once again Capcom shows that they are the complete master of the crossover, but they had plenty of help from Level-5. Both companies worked together to add the elements from their respective games, and then to polish it up and make it presentable for the player. As a result of this the game is incredibly strong. If you’re interested in either series you’ll be pleased with the results here since Layton is more of the same and Phoenix has a nice change to make this game feel like a unique entry to the Ace Attorney series. Despite their differences the characters work well, but I feel like Layton himself solves these major puzzles because of hazy and unexplained reasons. This difference could be a result of Phoenix taking details in one at a time since everything in his series is evidence based, and only one piece is usually relevant at any one time. If you have a 3DS and are looking for a story based adventure jam packed with fun and wit, check this game out!

Psychotic Reviews: Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

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Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is the fourth game in the series of cooperative RPGs starring Nintendo’s two main plumber brothers. It was released around the world in July and August of 2013. Dream Team was developed by longtime series developer AlphaDream, which has made every Mario & Luigi game. Now, I have not played any games in this series since Superstar Saga, the first one. I’ve heard about how good and great the two DS games are, but never got around to them. So when I picked up my 3DS I wanted to jump back into the series with its newest entry.

The story of Dream Team is about the team from the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toadsworth, and random Toads, all going on a vacation to Pi’illo Island, an island that was once inhabited by talking pillow people. Now it has become a wonderful tourist trap. It turns out that the Pi’illo people have really been trapped in the dream world by the evil Antasma. After freeing the Pi’illo Prince, Dreambert, Mario & Luigi go on an adventure around the island to help wake the Pi’illo and stop Antasma and his familiar allies.

Sadly, I may have been better off saving the money I spent on this game and using it for one of the older DS games that I missed out on. While I still have not played Partners in Time or Bowser’s Inside Story, those are well regarded, while Dream Team is a mixed bag. Dream Team is one of those games that can be chalked up as a disappointment, or perhaps why mainstream gaming critics can complain about Call of Duty’s static gameplay from year to year while still awarding it high marks for being a great game in its own right. Dream Team is a fantastic game, when it lets you play it.

Every time you start to feel like you’re on a roll and you’re going to get some serious progress done then the game takes you on a detour, or introduces a new mechanic and spends five minutes explaining how to use it. This may be helpful for the first couple of skills, but when you’re 30 hours in and still being told to press A at the right timing to get this new ability of your’s to work, when the other 7 you’ve received in the game all have the same timing and same buttons, it gets annoying. The game treats you like you’re a 3 year old that’s never played a game before, which I find odd coming from Nintendo, the company that was the king of cryptic gameplay and secrets in the 8 and 16-bit days. They let you discover the game by playing it. Dream Team tells you how to play it. You never get a new ability and are allowed to play with it, you need to sit through an unskippable tutorial explaining the process you’ve already been through many times before.

The gameplay is varied, with three different battle systems at work here. In the real world it uses the classic system that goes back to the first game, with Mario and Luigi side by side in battle, working together to take down enemies. In the dream world Dreamy Luigi becomes a part of Mario during battles, which open up a different set of single group attacks. Dreamy Luigi also has a Godzilla option in the dream world where he grows to be about fifty feet tall and can start jumping and hammering massive bosses. Every attack in every battle mode has its own tutorial, and you don’t stop learning new skills through the game. So every awesome spectacle of Dreamy Luigi going Apache Chief is interrupted by Dreambert going on some tangent about how to use a hammer or how to get Mario to throw mushrooms in his giant brother’s mouth.

Free mustache rides!

 

Really the only major complaint about this game involves the volume of dialogue and copious use of in game tutorials. If you’ve played any of the previous Mario & Luigi games you know what you’re going to be doing most of the time. The game assumes you know nothing (Jon Snow) and uses dialogue in every major location you visit to teach you new things. Since every skill uses the same buttons it becomes a chore in tedium and monotony more than any real helpful advice. In the end there is too much dialogue because there are too many tutorials, which leads to too much dialogue. You see how it became a vicious circle that has lead to gamers complaining about this, and it can get bad enough to turn people off of the game before they beat it. I would not recommend this as a starting point to the series, and it may well be the low point of the Mario & Luigi series as a whole. I’ll play the others and get back to you on that, I have Partners in Time now.

Psychotic Reviews: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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Its finally time for a Zelda game to be reviewed! This is far from the first game I’ve played in the series, that honor goes to Oracle of Ages on the Game Boy Color. I played the Game Boy Advance port of the predecessor of this game, A Link to the Past on the next handheld I owned. I loved it and now own the original Super Nintendo release, and still have my original boxes for Oracle of Ages, GBA Link to the Past, and the Minish Cap. Since I went so long without a home Nintendo console its only recently in my collecting days that I’ve picked those up. A Link Between Worlds is the most recent original game in the long running series, releasing in 2013 for Nintendo’s 3DS. It uses the world design and map of Link to the Past as a base, and weaves a new tale in a familiar world.

The Zelda games always seem to have some identifying mechanic at their core to make each individual title stand out. Wind Waker’s sailing, Wolf Link in Twilight Princess, time jumps in Ocarina of Time, masks in Majora’s Mask, and so on. In Link Between Worlds you can turn into a painting on the wall and scoot along it, moving to floating platforms or through small cracks to get past certain rooms and into secret areas. There are some cracks on the overworld after a certain event that will be your method of travel between Hyrule and the replacement to the old Dark World, Lorule. High and Low, get it? Lorule is dark and its princess, Hilda, calls upon Link to help gather up the descendants of the Seven Sages to save both worlds. This is after you do the basic and familiar pendant gathering for fans of the first game.

This game really does feel like Nintendo’s version of fanservice. They take something familiar and dear to a lot of their old school fans, and modernized it. I feel like I’m playing A Link to the Past again, but the story’s different, and the wall running adds just enough to where it doesn’t feel like another Game Boy Advance port! The early dungeons and some of the bosses are quite familiar as well, but they may require different tactics to defeat than before since you have all kinds of fun new toys and abilities to play with.

Something that old school Zelda fans may miss is the way dungeons feel. You don’t unlock new items through doing the dungeons, you rent and later buy them. You can rent most of the items early on in the game, with any stragglers unlocked by getting through a certain area of the game. This style does open the game up, so it doesn’t feel like a completely linear run through the dungeons. The early part does, but once the world opens up and you can get to Lorule then there are few restrictions to which dungeon you go to. The sacrifice of finding items in dungeons actually opens the world up to different play and exploration styles!

There are not too many weaknesses about this game that I noticed. Any time I died or made a mistake it was entirely my fault and not one of the game’s by having a badly designed room or controls. Everything flows well. There are parts that may take a bit of trial and error or memorization, but its never enough to significantly alter the flow of the game. Since I have a 3DS XL I also tried out the game’s 3D capabilities. At first glance you may think that the feature is worthless in a top down Zelda. There were certain areas that felt easier and flowed better, and allowed for better timing while in 3D than 2D in my opinion.

What stood out the most to me was the game’s story. It felt like the darkest world with the most urgency since Majora’s Mask. It doesn’t go beyond that game of course but it delves deeper than one would expect into the purpose of the Sages and the Triforce’s impact and power on the worlds of Hyrule and Lorule. The ending was wrapped up neatly in traditional Zelda style. Everything is just peachy for Hyrule, Link, and Princess Zelda when all is said and done. The journey to the ending was one of the most rewarding gaming experiences I’ve had with a handheld game in a long time, and it comes highly recommended!

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