Sunday, January 31, 2016

PC review: Fallout 4

After their release of the fifth major Elder Scrolls title, Bethesda has returned to the post-apocalyptic setting of the Fallout series, with Fallout 4 being set in the Commonwealth, formerly the area surrounding Boston. Fenway Park has been reorganized into the central hub known as Diamond City, and the cityscape is a hodgepodge of old New England brick buildings with towering paneled steel skyscrapers. Following the example set forth by Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4 effectively allows players to roam freely once the hour-long run of tutorial quests has been cleared.

Prior to the core game taking place, players bear witness to life before the bombs dropped in the small suburb of Sanctuary. Character creation grants a great degree of customization options, including the gender of the protagonist, and for the first time in the series, the main character speaks to allies and enemies alike. After being visited by a Vault-Tec representative and reserving their space in Vault 111, the happy family life is interrupted as news breaks on the television of the first bombs dropping. Grabbing their infant son Shaun, the protagonist and his/her spouse run for Vault 111, and are sealed inside just as a mushroom cloud paints the horizon.

Inside Vault 111, the couple and their baby are ushered into cryostasis pods, where they are frozen in time to outlast the nuclear radiation above ground. However, the protagonist’s sleep is interrupted early after a small band of scientists and a raider crack the seal on their spouse’s pod, and kill them in a struggle to steal their baby. The protagonist is forced to watch helplessly as their child is taken away, and they are left as the only surviving adult in Vault 111, drifting back off to cryostasis-induced sleep for a bit until their pod is finally cracked open, and they are freed to venture forth into the wastes of the Commonwealth in search of their son and the individuals responsible for his kidnapping.

Fallout 4 suffers from a similar problem as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, in that the main story doesn’t offer a particularly compelling narrative, and that side quests relating to the game’s various major factions are consistently more interesting, more widely varied in their offerings, and generally more challenging. Simply playing the main story missions will not last particularly long, and the ultimate goal of finding one’s lost son pales even in the company of bringing clean water to the people of the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3. It is far easier to sink hours into establishing the band of regional do-gooders known as the Minutemen, helping human-like Synths who wish to escape their Institute overlords via a new-age Underground Railroad, and uncovering the twisted goals of Vault-Tec in the other regional Vaults.

While the option to roam largely wherever one’s heart desires early on is very much appreciated, the game world, though large, is still much smaller than other open-world contemporaries like Grand Theft Auto V or Xenoblade Chronicles X. Still, the Commonwealth is littered with many locations to discover, and exploration feels rewarding. Leveling up in Fallout 4 proceeds faster than in Fallout 3 or New Vegas, and Fallout 4 technically lacks a level cap. This is partially due to the much broader offerings of the perk system – classics like Bloody Mess, Lady Killer, and Mysterious Stranger make their returns, but a whole slew of new ones round out the list, and all serve comparably useful ends. The V.A.T.S. system, which slows time for players to hone their attacks to specific body parts on enemies, remains effectively unchanged from the last outing.

A core part of the Fallout series’ identity stems from its 1950’s retro-future aesthetic, while the games are also largely recognized for their dark humor. Bethesda has selected many catchy tunes for Diamond City Radio to broadcast, though a good handful of these songs are reused from Fallout 3. The humor in Fallout 4, meanwhile, is split quite evenly between dry, situational humor and the less effective instances of characters taking a none-too-subtle push of exclaiming just how much violence and death can be entertaining in this decayed world. It’s an unfortunate step backwards, as both Fallout 3 and New Vegas excelled at the much more engaging approach of ‘showing over telling’.

Fallout 4 also utilizes a small selection of dialogue options when interacting with quest-specific characters or companions. Generally, two of these options end up resulting in the same responses, while one is a negative response or decline of engaging in conversation, and the fourth and final option is almost always a sarcastic statement. The sarcastic options rarely add anything valuable to the conversation, while the three other options are often vague descriptors for the full sentences that your protagonist will ultimately dish out. Dialogue options that are colored in yellow, orange, or red are persuasive and threatening approaches, and their respective color is dependent on how far you have leveled up their associated perks. Nine times out of ten, though, it feels like the dialogue options serve more to boost your affinity ratings with companion characters than they do to progress whatever quest you are currently undertaking.

In a similar vein, Fallout 4’s quests and indoor environments are more linear in design than those in Fallout 3, New Vegas, or even The Elder Scrolls titles. While they may not be as expansive overall, these locations are much easier to navigate, reducing the likelihood that you will find yourself lost in some deep and winding labyrinth. The wait times as these areas load is longer than one would expect from a game of this generation, and Fallout 4’s bugs and glitches are plentiful. While I never encountered any hiccups that were game-breaking, I did find three or four glitches each time that I fired the game up – whether it was a stray bullet that ricocheted off a car and caused it to fly forward like a Frisbee, NPCs pushing one another around during dialogue sequences, full sentences being skipped for no discernible reason, or Deathclaws clipping through buildings only to launch sky-high and immediately die upon their return to the ground, Fallout 4 lacks a considerable amount of polish in this department.

Conversely, character models look quite good on the whole. Standouts include companion characters like Piper (whose animations are highly expressive), Nick Valentine (with a network of mechanical pieces visible through his cracked facial structure), and the Mr. Handy models (whose eyes are constantly zooming and retracting, while bobbing up and down, independent of one another). In fact, the companion characters are one of the game’s strongest points. While human-friendly Super Mutant Strong and canine pal Dogmeat operate almost exactly the same as their equivalents in previous games, Piper is a reporter determined uncover a Synth conspiracy in Diamond City, Nick Valentine is a slick trenchcoat-wearing private eye with considerable knowledge of the Commonwealth, Deacon is a ‘far-out’ beatnik master of disguise assisting The Railroad in their aims of freeing runaway Synths from the enigmatic Institute, and Curie is a pre-war Miss Nanny robot who fills the role of questioning ‘where do the lines between man and machine blur’ with her insistence on research and finding a way to be inspired beyond her programming. On the whole, Fallout 4’s characters are a nicely varied bunch, with a few being among the best the series has seen to date. Upon reaching maximum affinity levels with each companion, players earn an additional perk specific to that companion’s behavior, while some companions can even be romanced.

Helping NPCs on various quests can unlock new settlements for you to establish and build structures, defenses, workbenches, food, water, and energy. It’s a welcome addition that not only increases the play time value of Fallout 4, but also finally makes use of the various junk items you discover in your journeys. Cans, toy rocket ships, fallen trees, turret switchboards, old cameras, and many other assorted items can be taken to workbenches and broken down into base resources, which can then be recycled for constructing settlement necessities. While this settlement management system is neither the most fleshed-out, nor the most actively rewarding version of such an addition to an open-world game, it does bring something fresh and coherent into the mix.

Additional workbenches can be used to concoct health items, and customize weapons and armor. Pieces of Power Armor can also be repaired here. The iconic Brotherhood of Steel Power Armor functions differently than in previous games, effectively acting as a limited exoskeleton or vehicle, able to take its own damage before you yourself are physically wounded. Power Armor also runs on energy cores than can be gathered from generators scattered across the Commonwealth. The more of these cores in your possession, the longer you can make use of the Power Armor. Pieces of the many versions of the Power Armor can be swapped out and paired with one another, and there are many Power Armor frames in the Commonwealth to scavenge these pieces from. The Power Armor is especially useful for taking on stronger foes like Deathclaws, which appear more frequently in Fallout 4 than in previous games, and can also make short work of Super Mutants or Ghouls, two enemy types which travel in generally larger numbers than before. It is not uncommon for eight or more Ghouls to attempt to overwhelm players, while Super Mutant ranks often include one suicide runner who will attempt to rush players with a Mini Nuke in hand.

As is tradition for the series, Fallout 4 requires you to keep an even eye on your health bar and your radiation level. The higher your radiation level, the greater portion of your health bar it takes up, temporarily reducing the maximum level you are able to heal to until you are either able to find RadAway or pay a doctor NPC with the Commonwealth’s bottlecap currency. By and large, Fallout 4 feels surprisingly less the part of an RPG than its predecessors. It isn’t uncommon to find high level, specialized weaponry during one of your many quests, even during the game’s earliest hours. This sort of negates the need to hold onto common weapons for customization. The wide selection of perks is truly a high point of Fallout 4’s ‘play-as-you-want’ design, but the game feels more like an open-world adventure/survival title with a mild amount of RPG elements thrown in than a proper RPG.

My rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Anime Update: Iron-Blooded Orphans and Unbreakable Diamonds

As mentioned in my year-end posts for 2015, I did not complete nearly as many anime series in 2015 as I had hoped, despite my best intentions. However, I intend to make up for that in 2016, and I’ve already hit the ground running, finishing series that I started last year, and doing my best to catch up on as-of-yet-ongoing series.

First out the gate was One Punch Man, and that is almost certain to be the subject of my first anime review of the new year. I also viewed the second film in the Berserk Golden Age trilogy shortly after Christmas, and plan to follow up with the third film before the end of January. I will be reviewing that trilogy as a whole, as opposed to providing three distinct reviews for each individual film. For my first direct exposure to anything from Berserk, it’s proven decently entertaining, though the films are hardly consistent in quality, which is a point that I will cover more in-depth in my full review of the trilogy.

I’ve also devoted some time to the two latest Mobile Suit Gundam series, Iron-Blooded Orphans and the four-episode OVA known as Gundam Thunderbolt. While I only have five episodes of Iron-Blooded Orpahans under my belt, and there has only been a single episode of Thunderbolt released as of yet, I feel both are off to incredibly strong starts, and bring a wonderful mix of ‘something old, something new’ to the table. Meanwhile, I’m itching to get back to Ninja Slayer, as it was one of the most utterly bananas shows I’ve viewed in many years.

In April, the fourth part of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure will see its anime debut with the first episode of Diamond is Unbreakable. Stardust Crusaders crushed the competition in 2015, becoming one of my all-time favorite anime series. I can’t wait to see Okuyasu, Josuke, Koichi, and Kira animated, as David Production has done an absolute knockout job with adapting all of the previous parts of Hirohiko Araki’s long-running action/comedy series.

Other series on the horizon include Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, Gundam Reconguista in G, season three of Sgt. Frog, and the original Mobile Suit Gundam. All of these are series that I have watched within the past year, but have simply been watching with a lower priority. But, considering that I am nearly halfway through each of them, and they have proven quite entertaining, by and large, I feel compelled to follow them through to completion.

Perhaps there will be other series that join the pool in 2016 – the Digimon reboot is something that I would like to look into, and Daisuki has proven a strong go-to website for the general variety and quality of anime it is hosting. Depending on the release schedule of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, it may also join the ranks of my 2016 reviews. And I have yet to view Tekkon Kinkreet, a movie that I purchased a couple of years back, and have neglected to pop into my DVD player, despite hearing only good things about it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Top 3 Anime of 2015

While I did manage to start quite a few anime in 2015, I was not able to finish half of them. Part of this was a result of my attempting to juggle too many at a time, part of it was due to personal events outside of the blog that demanded my attention late this year. Despite this setback, I did manage to complete three series that stood as a cut above the rest. I’ve nearly finished two anime properties that I hope will kick my 2016 anime reviews off with a bang. Until then, here are me picks for the three best anime that I viewed in 2015.

#3) Mobile Suit Victory Gundam: Considered by many to be the height of series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino’s ‘kill-‘em-all’ presentations, Victory Gundam carries a melancholy tone - more so that most other Gundam anime projects - which provides a curious but surprisingly effective contrast to the positivity exhibited by young protagonist Uso Evin. The hand-drawn animation still holds up quite well today, and avoids reuse of stock footage whenever possible, only increasing the perceived production quality for its day. The efforts of the League Militaire against the Zanscare Empire mirror the fight that the A.E.U.G. took to the Titans in Zeta Gundam, while also harkening back to the severity of losses during original Mobile Suit Gundam’s One Year War. The mobile suit designs are at their most bizarre for a Universal Century setting in Victory Gundam, with many of the Zanscare Empire’s bearing insect qualities. There are a couple laughable moments of gaps in logic, but on the hole, Victory Gundam still holds up well more than twenty years after its original release.

#2) Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine: A return to the flashy and upbeat action the series is known for, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine also displays a sultry, mysterious side befitting of the titular character. Effectively one of the earliest tales in the Lupin III chronology, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine focuses in part on how the classic cast first crossed paths with one another, but also explores Fujiko as a complex individual – the motivations behind her life of thievery, her sexuality, ghosts of her past, and the image others have of her versus how she perceives herself. While it certainly does not skimp on exciting chase sequences and zany humor that the franchise has become known for, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine treads into darker, more serious territory than most of its predecessors, to a mostly-successful payoff.

#1) Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders – Battle in Egypt: Building upon the already-stellar previous half of Stardust Crusaders, Jotaro, Joseph, Avdol, Kakyoin, Polnareff and newcomer Iggy face their toughest challenges yet from Dio’s Nine Egyptian Gods on their journey to defeat the time-stopping vampire. With each new installment in the Jojo’s anime series, the animation improves upon greatness, with wild color palette swaps, intense Stand battle sequences, and tactfully drawn-out scenes of drama and grief. This second half of the Stardust Crusaders anime adaptation wonderfully brings to life some of the most memorable encounters from the grander Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure storyline, balancing its action, humor, and mild horror elements with absolute perfection. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders is the best anime adaptation of the classic manga storyline fans could have hoped for. The absurd attention to detail and labor-of-love conveyed through this series make it easily one of the best anime of the past year, as well as among the most masterfully-executed anime of a generation.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Comic Book Review: Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z

Penned by Rick Remender, Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z is a two-part storyline that reintroduces Steve Rogers as part of the Marvel NOW! comic run. Dropped into an alien realm ruled by the maniacal Arnim Zola, Captain America must escape a technological fortress and battle horrific alien tribes if he hopes to survive and make an escape home. Neon blues and purples decorate the bizarre backdrop of Cap’s new surroundings, and, in many ways, it feels like the First Avenger has been dropped into Remender’s other dimension-hopping series, Black Science.

Castaway in Dimension Z opens with a bang, and despite Cap’s ability to escape from Zola’s clutches, he ends up furthering the wrath of the Nazi-turned-robot villain by taking Zola’s artificially-created son with him as he escapes from the facility. The two encounter plenty of challenges over the many years they remain in Dimension Z – the monstrous wildlife is plentiful, and the two are nearly killed by a tribe of rock-like beings, only managing to come to peaceful terms with them thanks to a universal communicator that Cap has on him. But Cap did not escape Zola unscathed – he was infected with a technological virus that haunts him more and more as time passes, and Zola attempts to break Rogers’ mind.

Cap’s decision to take the boy (who he names Ian) from Zola, is brought into question as something of a morally grey action. As is later revealed, Ian was not the only child Zola intended to raise, but he did intend to brainwash both of them to do his bidding. Meanwhile, Zola’s virus torments Steve Rogers with questions of the justification of tearing the boy from his home, teaching him his own values and sense of right and wrong. As readers, we certainly know that Cap’s virtues will always trump those of Zola, but in the eyes of a child who has never known anything beyond this tumultuous and bizarre reality, it’s a lot to take in.

Less compelling to this narrative is Steve Rogers’ out-of-nowhere decision to finally attempt an escape plan after many years spent in this hellish domain, and a full beard grown. Certainly, Zola has many scientific monstrosities at his disposal, and storming his technological fortress is no small feat, but there is practically no explanation as to why Cap decides to wait until Zola’s plans for invading Earth are nearly complete before taking any sort of heroic actions. Visually, it’s an interesting setting to have Cap stranded in, and breaks from the familiar Hydra or A.I.M. bases that the First Avenger so frequently storms. Plot-wise, Castaway in Dimension Z is slow-going, and doesn’t offer many satisfying answers.

My rating: 6.25 (out of 10)

Top 5 Comic Books of 2015

In similar fashion to my year-end ‘Top 5’ lists for video games and anime, the stories detailed below are the five best comic books/graphic novels that I read between January and December of this year. Some of these series may have been released in years prior, but I simply did not get around to reading them until recently. Also, keep in mind that while comic book reviews are one of the newest additions to my blog, having only started in April of this year, that some of the earliest reviews posted here were of comics I read in 2014 or earlier, and are thus ineligible for making this list.

#5) All-New Ghost Rider: Perhaps the strongest debut in the Marvel NOW! launch next to Nova, All-New Ghost Rider sees teenager Robbie Reyes raising his younger, wheelchair-bound brother without parental aid in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood. Surrounded by frequent gang shootings, drug lords, and common school bullies, Robbie works twice as hard to earn money as an underpaid mechanic to afford basic necessities for his brother’s medical care. When he is granted the powers of the Ghost Rider, Robbie decides to try and clean up the town, and hopes to make it a safer place for his brother, himself, and increase the overall quality of living for locals who – whether directly or not – are affected by the criminal goings-on.

#4) X-Men ’92: Exactly as its name implies, X-Men ’92 is a trip down memory lane, as the cartoon counterparts of the classic X-Men team debut in comic book form as part of the 2015 Secret Wars event. An original story that takes place after the Brotherhood of Mutants have been defeated, the miniseries sees Jubilee, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Gambit, Rogue, Beast, and Storm reunited for one more adventure, as they investigate a suspicious rehabilitation facility run by one Cassandra Nova. Other faces drop in as well, such as the X-Force team, while the finale offers plenty of satisfying, slightly goofy homages to the X-Men history, and still manages to successfully tease future storylines, as X-Men ’92 has since been greenlit as an ongoing series post-Secret Wars. X-Men ’92 is strikingly self-aware, occasionally breaking the fourth wall to land a joke about the X-Men arcade game, or the 1990s censorship rules regarding what could or could not be said on a children’s television program

#3) X-Men: Age of Apocalypse: A bold reimagining of the X-Men universe from the mid 1990s, Age of Apocalypse details an expansive ‘what if?’ scenario, where Charles Xavier was killed by his unstable, time-traveling son Legion, leading Magneto to champion all of Charles’ ideals and form his own team of X-Men. As the years pass, Apocalypse rises to power, corralling humans into prisons and pens, only serving to further strain relations between humans and mutants. Despite all this, Magneto and the X-Men strive to help those humans still living in the futuristic dystopia created by Apocalypse and his four horsemen, and intend on striking directly at the villainous conqueror, no matter how greatly the odds may be stacked against them.

#2) Guardians of the Galaxy: The Complete Collection: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians of the Galaxy run stands as the highest point of the already-superb Marvel cosmic renaissance of the mid 2000s. A broad cast of strange, yet oddly intriguing characters drive a plot that is just complicated enough to suck readers into to these spacey adventures, without getting lost within its own backdrop. This series stands masterfully on its own as the premiere cosmic Marvel storyline, while also acting as an effective bridge between the two Annihilation events and The Thanos Imperative finale.

#1) Black Science: A wild and unrelenting ride into outlandish realms and alternate realities, Black Science is bold; unafraid to mash vastly different scenarios together. Much of the series’ visual spectacle comes from equally fantastical and terrifying backdrops that include of a World War I-era battle between ill-prepared German soldiers squaring off against Native Americans who have repurposed hyper-advanced alien technology for their own needs, a tribal conflict between fish people and frog people on a moving island set on the back of a giant turtle, a society of territorial snow monkeys who are skilled in both clockwork and steam-based mechanicals, and a fallen Roman Empire where troops travel by jetpack while a virus has killed the majority of the populous. The plot, meanwhile, revolves around Grant McKay and his team of scientists, as they are stranded in these increasingly dangerous locales. One of the team members has broken the Pillar, the device that allowed them to make the initial jump through time and space, and as such, the series begins with all of them becoming suspicious and distrusting toward one another. The other significant conflict is Grant attempting to reconcile with his children, who have also been swept up in these events, over years of being emotionally and motivationally absent from their lives, and for causing his marriage to their mother to fall apart due to an affair with one of his co-workers. These interactions between the core characters ground the series in relatable terms, and the character progression therein is surprisingly satisfying. There are a few twists along the way, and the payoff of each proves worthwhile. Though there is still plenty to be explored in future releases, these first three trade paperback volumes do well to cap off what is essentially the first story arc of Black Science.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Top 5 Games of 2015

#5) Shadows of the Damned: Labeled as “a Suda51 trip”, Shadows of the Damned continues Goichi Suda’s legacy of grindhouse style, wacky humor, and exhilarating action. Demon Hunter Garcia Hotspur pursues his girlfriend’s soul after it is taken to the depths of hell, and squares off against a host of sadistic and twisted foes, armed with three different firearms that all handle quite differently but pack an oh-so-satisfying punch. Much of the game’s best banter results from Garcia’s edgy coolness and his transforming weapon/guide/friend Johnson. Shadows of the Damned isn’t afraid to experiment, throwing in bowling and pachinko minigames, a turret sniping section, and a couple of horizontal shoot-‘em-up sequences. Shadows of the Damned also delivers one of the freshest visions of hell seen in a video game in quite some time, with impossible spaces and outlandish visions of locations that could easily appear in the real world, were it not for the fire lake below a rock bridge or the hazy blue and black sky above.

#4) Fast Racing Neo: That hole left by the many years without a new F-Zero-style game has finally been filled, thanks to Fast Racing Neo, one of the most buttery-smooth futuristic arcade racing titles I’ve ever had the pleasure of engaging at blazing speeds. Fast Racing Neo lives up to its name, and doesn’t shy away from throwing a ‘trial by fire’ at players – even the most frustrating series of crashes play into the learning curve. Fast Racing Neo is hardly unfair, shying away from ‘rubber band’ catch up effects with opponent racer A.I., but it does add a welcome spin on the established genre by requiring players to shift between two colors in order to maximize boost strips. This is a game all about course memorization and careful timing of turns and boosts. And what a sight to behold those courses are, as your hovercraft zips by vibrant colors and chrome structures at an almost-always-perfect 60 frames per second. Aside from controlling as wonderfully as anyone could hope of a spiritual successor to F-Zero, the game is easily one of the best looking titles on any console this generation.

#3) Splatoon: The freshest IP on the block this year, Splatoon is a stylish and colorful team-based shooter that opts for cooperation in covering the map in neon shades of orange, green, blue, and pink over racking up kills against opponents. The weapons are wonderfully inventive, and while each player will find their preferred Roller, Charge Rifle, or – yes – even Bucket, each loadout is surprisingly well-balanced. The lack of a voice chat is actually to the game’s benefit, as objectives are straightforward, and maps are never too large to lose track of your relative location. Every inch of this game oozes style, from its downtown Tokyo-inspired hubworld, to its Jet Set Radio-influenced soundtrack. Splatoon is a great game for players new and old to jump into, and it’s easy to sink a few hours at a time, whether it’s the objective-based ranked game types, or standard Turf Wars.

#2) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: The final Metal Gear title to be led by Hideo Kojima, The Phantom Pain is set in the 1980s, and fills in some of the last remaining pieces of the series’ lore. Plenty of familiar faces show up, including Ocelot and Kazuhira Miller, while the villainous Skull Face and his powerful Metal Gear stand at the center of all the conflicts Snake and the Mother Base soldiers will take on. The Phantom Pain boasts what is easily the most slick and enjoyable gameplay in the entire series, as well as among the majority of the games released within the past year. The two major maps Snake is left to explore are expansive, and there is plenty of room to experiment with some of the game’s wackier offerings, like Fulton balloon recovery, the prosthetic Rocket Arm, and the less-than-stealthy robotic D-Walker. The story, however sparse it may be, is impactful and tense when it comes into play, and paints a terrifyingly convincing case for how and why Snake and his brothers-in-arms would come to be recognized as villains many years after they were hailed as heroes. Unfortunately, the greatest weakness facing The Phantom Pain is that it is simply an incomplete game – there is one major plot point left hanging that throws a bit of a wrench in the entire series, and while footage has since revealed what was meant to be delivered in this final mission, its absence having been replaced by retreads of previous missions certainly stings.

#1) Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth: One of the best spin-off titles of any well-established series I have encountered to date, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a love letter to fans of the series. It may lack the depth of Persona 3 and 4’s Social Links, and the dungeon-crawling may bear a striking resemblance to the Etrian Odyssey series. Still, Persona Q offers a complex system of fusing new Personas as you level up, as well as a well-rounded cast of characters to build your party. Each dungeon is masterfully crafted, offering greatly varied puzzles, enemies, and aesthetics as the story progresses. The final hours of the game are both challenging and incredibly rewarding, while the 60+ hours you will spend getting there is an absolute joy, and makes Persona Q one of the strongest entries into the 3DS library to date.

2015 Year in Review: Video Games

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

My rating: 8.5


My rating: 7.5

NES Remix

My rating: 5

Pokemon Shuffle

My rating: 7

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

My rating: 9

Forza Horizon 2: Fast and Furious

My rating: 6

(Mario Kart 8)

DLC review – Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8

My rating: 7.5

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

My rating: 8.5


My rating: 8.75

Shadows of the Damned

My rating: 7.25

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

My rating: 7.75

Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater

My rating: 8.75

Fast Racing Neo

My rating: 9

2015 Year in Review: Anime

Resident Evil: Damnation

My rating: 7.75

Persona 3: The Movie – #1: Spring of Birth

My rating: 7

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

My rating: 8.25

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders – Battle in Egypt

My rating: 9.75

Mobile Suit Victory Gundam

My rating: 8.5

2015 Year in Review: Comic Books

Saga (volumes 3-5)

Black Science (volumes 1-3)

My rating: 9

Captain America: Hail Hydra!

My rating: 5.5


My rating: 4.5

Captain Marvel (volumes 1-3)

My rating for volume 1: 8.75
My rating for volume 2: 7

Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition

My rating: 7

Doctor Strange: Season One

My rating: 7.75

Guardians of the Galaxy (volumes 3 and 4)

My rating for volume 3: 7
My rating for volume 4: 7

Nova (volume 4)

My rating: 8.5

Moon Knight (volumes 1 and 2)

My rating: 8

Moon Knight: The Death of Marc Spector

My rating: 8

Avengers: Rage of Ultron

My rating: 8.5

Deadpool vs. the Marvel Universe

My rating: 7.5

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Complete Collection (volumes 1 and 2)

My rating: 9.75

Gambit (volumes 1 and 2)

My rating: 6.75

Avengers: Ultron Unbound

My rating: 6.5

Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: The Black Vortex

My rating: 6

Divinity (volume 1)

My rating: 6

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse (Prelude, volumes 1-3)

My rating for the Prelude: 9
My rating for volume 1: 7.5
My rating for volume 2: 9
My rating for volume 3: 8.5

Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies

My rating: 7.5

Uncanny Avengers (volume 1)

My rating: 7.25

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin (volume 1)

My rating: 6

X-Men ‘92

My rating: 9

Guardians of Knowhere

My rating: 6.25

All-New Ghost Rider (volume 1)

My rating: 8.75

Inhumans: Attilan Rising

My rating: 8.5

Thanos Rising

My rating: 9

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse (2015)

My rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Ghost Racers

My rating: 8


My rating: 8.5

Armor Wars (2015)

My rating: 8.25
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