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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!

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Composer Compendium: Yoko Shimomura

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When it comes to the world of video games some of the biggest and most influential names all come from the male gender. You got your Nolan Bushnells, Yu Suzukis, Shigeru Miyamoto, Nobuo Uematsu, Yuzo Koshiro, Warren Spector, the list goes on and on and seems nearly endless. So, I wanted to start putting the spotlight on video game music, something that most of us love and can quite easily make or break an interactive experience.

To start this series off I wanted to avoid the overdone artists, it does not take much time to find any information on Nobuo Uematsu or Koji Kondo for example, and what better way to start than with the rare female composer who has worked on many popular titles but still exists largely in the shadows?

Without further ado, the Compendium opens and begins reading an entry on Yoko Shimomura.

Yoko Shimomura graduated from Osaka College of Music in 1988 and quite quickly found herself working at Capcom during its Golden Years in the arcade. It would take her a year before she ended up working on music for an arcade game though. That game? Final Fight. She only did one song and was uncredited for the work however.

She went back to the Famicom World where she created the soundtrack for Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, and it turns out that she has quite the affinity for Disney! The next game that she did most of the songs on that the Western World saw was the NES game Code Name: Viper.

She would soon find herself back in the arcade realm where she composed the music for the beat’em up The King of Dragons and finally moving onto a little unheard of game called Street Fighter II. You have probably never heard any song in this strange, quirky, and stereotype ridden fighting game, but least of all this one.


Go home and be a family man!

For the rest of her years at Capcom she was mostly just a member of a large composing team for such games as Mega Man 5 and Breath of Fire before she left Capcom in 1994 and began working at a totally non-influential fringe developer Squaresoft.

When she first started at Square all of her work (like the entire company) was limited to the Super Famicom with the games Live A Live, Front Mission, and a game that no gamer could possibly dislike, least of all its music, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.

That’s right, in less than 10 years Yoko Shimomura found her music gracing arcade fighting tournaments worldwide and also the most beloved Mario games not made by Nintendo. Quite a resume is building up so far.

She would continue working at Squaresoft through the rest of the 1990s. Her list of games continue to build and her credentials grow higher and higher with games like Parasite Eve, which shows a more suspensful part of her writing range. She ended the decade composing the mixed PS1 release of the Mana series Legend of Mana.

And that foreshadowing I blatantly threw in your face back at the beginning of this text comes back to finally pay off! Yoko returned to the world of Disney to compose the soundtrack for Kingdom Hearts, every game in the series.

After the release of Kingdom Hearts she broke away from Squaresoft to work as a freelancer and was hardly alone at this time since the mighty RPG giant merged with Enix and bled talent for a few years. But, Square-Enix kept her on the staff for the Kingdom Hearts series where she enjoys success to this day.

Kingdom Hearts is not the only series that has been built up by her music. She returned to the Mushroom Kingdom to work on one of the spiritual successors to Super Mario RPG, the Mario & Luigi series. She has done the music on all of them so far, but no word that I can find if she returned to work on the upcoming Dream Team.

She also returned to the Mana series with Heroes of Mana, but we all forgot about that game.

In recent years she has worked to build musical scores for another new series, composing the music for the Wii classic Xenoblade Chronicles alongside her fellow Square alum Yasunori Mitsuda and returned to the world of Aya Brea in The 3rd Birthday alongside one piece of the talent that Square did not bleed, Tsuyoshi Sekito.

Gamers will also be treated to her music in her first foray in the Final Fantasy series with the soundtrack for Versus XIII whenever that decides to come out, until then we will probably play some more games that she had her hand in, hopefully a few more of us will be able to find out if Yoko Shimomura put her stamp on it.

Why Did I Play This? Episode 11: Capcom Fighter Power Stick

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When it comes to retro arcade sticks there are a few which everybody knows about, the NES Advantage, Super Advantage, Sega’s Genesis Stick & Saturn Stick, and then the Capcom Fighter Power Stick. But, it has been 20 years since this bulky controller has released so does it hold up?

You’ll just have to stay tuned and find out!

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PSP Farewell Part 1 of 2

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With the recent release of Sony’s new Vita there are many out there who are ditching their PSP and the many games and UMDs available for the once lukewarm selling system. So while many are saying farewell to their PSP and personal library I am saying ‘Hello!’ to the world of Sony handhelds. Why is that? I only recently picked up a PSP and a handful of cheap games the same night, only about a month ago. So here are some reasons why another collector should be saying ‘Hello’ to this system as well!

First point: Timing

There is no better time to set your sights on a new system than shortly after it is deemed obsolete and the general public has a shiny new toy that is trending to talk about. Because everybody is offloading their PSP and games in lieu of the Vita’s ability to download some games then it means the market is being flooded with fresh, new titles that will hopefully soon make it to everybody’s favorite haunts. This means prices are dropping for all but the most coveted and sought after titles. From here on out, we will be talking about some of the big marks for a collector of physical media and why the PSP should not be ignored.

Second Point: Imports

The PSP is region free, just like its brothers the PS3 and Vita, so there are many reasons an importer will find this system friendly. I am just entering the realm of importing, and I am also a fan of the Suikoden series, so the system already offers me at least one personal title to pursue as I fill in the rest of the small holes in my own personal collection of that series.

Genso Suikoden I & II

Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki

There are a few other reasons for the import friendly RPG fan to be excited about the PSP library. For example a remake of Breath of Fire III was released in Japan and the EU, so it is perfectly friendly for any BoF fan that only speaks English to go after the EU version of the game. Other options include Sega’s Shining Hearts, Valkyria Chronicles III, Falcom’s Zwei!, Namco’s Tales of Eternia and the quirky Nendoroid Generation. If you know what a Nendoroid is then you should have an idea of what to expect. There are also quite a few options for the fan of the good old Shoot ’em Up, with Taito’s Dariusburst topping my list of desires. A remake of R-Type is available from Japan and Europe’s PSN to add to the list,

A vast majority of import options are based on the most popular anime in the Land of the Rising Sun, and as such can be just what you expect, or maybe even worse than that.

Valkyria Chronicles 3

 

Third Point: Remakes/Re-releases

Right here is where the PSP library will shine for any fan of Japanese developed, console RPGs, and where I will have a hard time even starting the list!

Atlus starts with an A so I might as well mention that Personas 1-2 were completely remade, graphics and sound were upgraded to make use of the PSP’s superior capabilities. Persona 2: Innocent Sin was also released for the very first time in English on this system! I’m proud to say the collector’s edition of that game was one of the first ones I grabbed. Eternal Punishment is currently in the works from Atlus, no word yet on if it will come across the Pacific. Both 1 and Innocent Sin had soundtrack’s released in a collector’s edition for North America. Persona 3 was also ported, however it is more recent and the upgrades were given to the combat system to make it function like Persona 4’s, but story was cut out that was in the PS2’s FES edition. Where’s Persona 4 you ask? Well its being re-released on the Vita, so this trend looks like it will continue, at least from Atlus. Outside of Persona the great Atlus also re-released the cult-favorite Game Boy Advance title Riviera: The Promised Land.

Capcom has the aforementioned Breath of Fire III re-release to check out if you wish to import a copy from Europe.

Falcom remade and re-released Ys 1 and 2 in a collection called Ys I and II Chronicles. I can say with experience that these are some fun games to play if you just want to run around and grind mindlessly. Button free combat, Peter Molyneux must be completely jealous that Falcom did that in 1987! The collector’s edition came with a soundtrack and this is one series that certainly deserves it! More Falcom re-releases include entries in The Legend of Heroes series. I personally have not grabbed any of these yet, but Trails in the Sky has been tempting me.

Game Arts also threw their hat into the RPG remake ring by releasing Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. If you have been wanting to experience the first Lunar but do not want to shell out a pretty penny for either the Sega CD or PS1 release then I would go for this one!

And last but not least (maybe for their newer games) for the RPG side Square Enix. As you can expect I am going to be mentioning a series that has Final and/or Fantasy in its title. Sure enough Square re-released Final Fantasy 1, 2, and 4! Their release of 4 for PSP also includes the various spin offs that have been increasing in number for the past few years.

Before I lose all of your attention I will mention some re-released arcade games that came to the system. SNK’s Metal Slug Anthology piles 7 classic run and gun games onto a single UMD. And Konami’s Gradius Collection crams 5 classic shmups onto one UMD as well. Natsume brought Harvest Moon to the system with a re-release of the PS1 classic Back to Nature. On this system it is known as Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl.

Next Week I will return with a focus on titles built specifically for the PSP. No remakes, imports, or remade imports in Part 2!

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