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Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Tokyo Beat Down

For those who enjoy challenging Japanese beat ’em up video games, “Tokyo Beat Down” is reminiscent to games like “Renegade” with an ’80s flair.

TITLE: Tokyo Beat Down (野獣刑事 東京同時多発テロを鎮圧せよ!)

DEVELOPER: SUCCESS/TAMSOFT

PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: T for TEEN – Alcohol reference, Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence

The sweet satisfaction of classic coin-op beat ’em ups returns with the Beast Cops! With an ever-growing threat of violence, crime, and terrorism, these cops will do whatever it takes, inflict as much damage as necessary to restore peace and security to the streets of Tokyo.

  • Beat ’em up that lets you shoot ’em up – When fisticuffs aren’t enough, add guns to deliver a whole new brand of justice to the mean streets of Tokyo. Pick up a variety of weapons, ranging from handguns to rocket launchers, for intense action on each level.
  • 70’s cop shows have nothing on this – Outrageous style, over-the-top substance, and no holds barred hardboiled police action mix with madcap humor and sharply-written dialogue. Dishing out justice to the seamy underbelly of Tokyo has never been this satisfying.
  • Multiple characters & endings – This sordid tale of Tokyo’s criminal set unfolds through the eyes of three different cops with unique play styles. Story branches lead to multiple endings that determine whether you’ll get your shot to beat down the ultimate crime boss.

Ah! I’ve been wanting a video game similar to what I enjoyed back in the early ’90s such as the popular coin-op arcade games such as “Renegade”, “Streets of Rage” “Final Fight”, “Double Dragon” and several others that I grew up playing at the arcade or old school consoles.

But then I heard Atlus was releasing SUCCESS’s Nintendo DS game “Yajuu Deka” stateside! Granted, I knew nothing about this game but having wanted a beat ’em up game, I was hooked by the artwork. It reminded me of Ryoichi Ikegami’s work on his ’80s manga series “Crying Freeman” mashed with old school “Miami Vice”.

“Tokyo Beat Down” is a game about the “Beast Cops” of Yaesu Station. World famous as police officers who take on the baddest of the bad in Japan.

The Beast Cops are:

* for playable characters

* Captain Takeshi Bando – Responsible for the Beast Cops and keeps them in line. Although his tactics can be a bit excessive. An offensive character.

* Sr. Patrol Officer Lewis Cannon – The hotheaded, reckless cop who enjoys kicking butt. A well-balanced character who keeps telling bad jokes.

* Patrol Officer Rika Hyodo – Not scared of getting into Cannon’s face if he is out of line. A tough, agile character with a bad mouth.

Sergeant Hiro Suzuki – An all-purpose officer known to give good advice and when the going gets tough, he can get you from point A to point B.

Chief Eiji Watanabe – The head chief who dresses up in cool duds. Older gentleman who reminisces of the old days.

Patrol Officer Shin Koga – The rookie cop who goes by the book and doesn’t like Lewis’s fight first talk later. Shin believes in communicating.

Officer Madoka – Keeps the file room organized.

Inspector Jean Saburo – An elitist sent from the main office to work at Yaesu Station.

GAMEPLAY:

In “Tokyo Beat Down”, you play and start off with the character of Agent Lewis Canon. Fighting goes from right to left, similar to “Final Fight” and yo get hoards of enemies coming at you. Some punch and other shoot guns. Meanwhile, your job is to take them out. Fortunately, there are crates, garbage cans and vending machines that you can break and pick up an item for energy.

During the course of the game, you get to play with three different characters and depending on how you play the game, you can get three multiple endings.

CONTROLS:

The controls are straight forward. Control pad to move your character in a direction. B to jump, Y to punch and X to kick. R to guard and L to break out your gun (note: bullets are limited). The “A” button is used to communicate with others. Using a combination of buttons such as Y+B allows you to throw, pressing on a direction twice and quickly allows you to dash and R+Y or R+X allows you to do special attacks. Although, special attacks use up some health.

GRAPHICS:

Graphics are like Playstation 1 style graphics. Not the prettiest looking game but fortunately, the art work of the still-art of the characters are pretty cool to look at with the ’80s style of art

AUDIO:

So far, the background music I’ve heard is a bit jazzy and a bit of funk and most of the noise from the characters are grunts and clicks and gunshots.

So, far I’m really digging the game and its artwork. For those looking for innovation, you’re not going to see anything new. It’s more or less along the lines of beat ’em up games like Taito’s 1986 game “Renegade” but in this case, you are part of a kick-butt police agency and you have hoards of enemies from street punks and people in camouflage all going at you at once and shooting you. Timing is very important in this game and also listening as a click is a precursor to bullets shooting at you. Although, you can’t see the bullets, you just have to time your movements and hope you dodge it.

As expected, the game gets pretty tough. In the beginning, I was flying through the game but when you have people surrounding you on both sides and shooting at you, it makes things quite challenging. Especially when you have a weapon and you hope that he can get it out in time but it’s not as quick as you hope, so you need to improvise. But I still have yet to beat the game and will follow up this review upon completion.

The negatives are quite a few in this game from repetitiveness, repetitive enemies with different color pallets for clothing, repetitive scenes and unresponsive special attacks plus a difficult and challenging game. It all comes down to your patience and learning which moves to beat the enemies but even then, the repetitiveness gets to become too tedious at times.

So, is this game worth it? For me, I love these type of games and it’s an Atlus game, so I’m going to pick up no matter what. Again, it’s not a pretty game but if you want pretty games, then you would be playing on an XBOX 360 or PS3. For the DS, it’s good. But another positive selling point for me was that Gamestop sells it for $14.99 and that’s pretty cheap for an Atlus game.

Overall Review: 75%

Pros:

+ A Japanese beat ’em up game for the DS

+ ’80s style characters inc. bad humor

+ The ability to learn more moves for your characters

+ Ability to play different characters

+ Cheap price

Cons:

– Repetitive enemies and repetitive stages

– Enemies all wear the same clothes but different colors

– Graphics and music are not that great

– Cheap bosses and enemies makes this game quite difficult at times

– Control issues and unresponsive moves

Nintendo DS Video Game Review: The World Ends With You

“Stylish, unique and very fun to play. For those who dig Japanese pop culture and artsy games, will definitely enjoy this game. From a unique storyline to capturing a side of Shibuya on a video game never seen before. Highly recommended!”

TITLE: The World Ends With You

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: TEEN – Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Welcome to Shibuya…

Wake up, shaken up, plastered on asphalt

Phones can’t block the voices of the masses

Seven days left between you and Death

Better race, place, Reapers won’t give up the chase

Welcome to Shibuya in the latest video game release for the Nintendo DS by the folks at SquareEnix. The game was developed by the team (Jupiter and Square Enix) behind the successful “Kingdom Hearts” games and features character designs by Nomura Tetsuya and Kobayashi Gen.

Many are familiar with Nomura’s work from his character designs of “Final Fantasy VII, VIII and X”, “The Bouncer”, “Parasite Eve” and of course, “Kingdom Hearts”.

The game focuses on the character Neku, a pessimistic, anti-social type of person who somehow ends up in the alternate side of present-time Shibuya. For those familiar with the anime “GANTZ”, you can see where I’m getting at (sans the licky licky dog and the carnage).

Neku doesn’t know where he is but he knows that he has these mysterious pins and meets a girl named Shiki who is also in a similar predicament as Neku and both learn that if they don’t complete missions within seven days together, they will be erased (killed) by the Reapers.

Nevertheless, Neku and Shiki go through Shibuya taking on monsters known as “noise” and accomplishing their missions.

GAMEPLAY: The main parts of the game is based on “pins” which are literally buttons that allow a character to use a special move. By fighting more monsters, you build your pins level. So, for example you have pins such as “pyrokinesis” which allows you to use your stylus and by dragging an empty space on screen, you create a path of flames.

“Thunderbolt” allows an enemy to be struck by lightning, “Force Rounds” which is shooting a bullet at a monster, “Shockwave” allowing to slash an opponent and countless number of pins that allow you to use a variety of special attacks.

So, during a fight with a monster, on the top screen is Shiki and the bottom is Neku. A glowing green ball randomly highlights a character from time to time, thus you play both characters.

By winning, you build up your level and stats.

The overall gameplay in a way kind of reminds me a little of the NES game such as “River City Ransom” (Downtown Neketsu Monogatari) when it comes to the city sequences and shops which increase stat attributes. The cool thing about this game is that it mimics Shibuya with the crowded city dwellers walking around. You get Hatchiko the dog, you get the AX-Shibuya concert hall (know as AX-East), 109 known as 104 and many more Shibuya-references

Where “RCR” had a variety of stores in that game, “The World Ends With You” also features a variety of stores in Shibuya that allows you to purchase clothing and food to increase stats.

And of course, because it’s in Shibuya, that means you can hit trendy shops, expensive shops and gothic lolita shops. Some clothing only are unlockable if you complete certain quests, some clothing also give points. May it be defensive, offensive, health or some sort of increased attribute.

And the names of the people working at the stores are a play on names of popular Japanese performers. Tak Kimura, Yumi Sheena, Aily Ueno, Ayu Hamaguchi and the list goes on.

GRAPHICS: The world of UG (Underground) Shibuya and the fact that they incorporated the crowdedness of people walking through Japan and each character, even minor characters all in different outfits and stylish. Very Shibuya-esque. The overall environment of the buildings and street corners are very fun to see on this game. But most of all, Nomura and Kobayashi’s character designs are just really artistic.

SOUND: The sound is pretty cool. You do get a bit of the audio of the characters but during a battle or just walking around Shibuya, a full song is playing in the background. In fact, the game features a variety of songs which was great to see done for this game since Shibuya lifestyle is also big on not just style but also music. The main song is sung by J-pop artist, Jyongri and features a variety of musical artists for this game.

CONTROLS: This game requires you to use a stylus. When you see multiple “noise” monsters on screen, using the stylus, you are constantly clicking on the screen when the monsters are around to send a lightning bolt, bullet or some offensive attack on them. But once you get a hang of the controls, the game becomes much easier.

Currently, I’m on the 4th day of the game and enjoying it immensely.

Personally, I’m glad that Square Enix released this game in the US. It’s so different from their “Final Fantasy” and “Dragon Quest” games that I hope that this will be a beginning of a series that will spawn several more “THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU” sequels or unique games by the creators.

I really enjoyed the J-pop references to the names of the characters and the style of fashion clothing offered from the ingame stores.

But I still have more game to go but so far, putting several hours into this game already, I’m really enjoying it. The game features unique gameplay, cool character designs and just the overall game because it is so different.

So, for what I have played so far, I’m enjoying it a lot and this is a game that Japanese music fans, Japanese pop culture fans wouldn’t want to miss. Even those who dig Japanese style of video games. This one is very cool!

UPDATE: I beat the game and seriously, the whole entire game from story to gameplay was so fun. To see your character level up and of course, the clothes one can purchase and the overall challenge made this game so enjoyable. Definitely one of my top games made for the Nintendo DS! Hands down!

+ Unique game. Fun, trendy, stylish, cool character designs and great gameplay!

+ Captured the cool, trendy and capturing the crowded but yet cool side of of Shibuya and allowing the character to try on Japanese fashion but also the various clothing stores was cool to see!

+ Easy to pick up and learn

+ The music actually are songs sung by the artist. No midi or instrumentals.

– The price. The price of this game is $39.99 for a DS game. This alone, may sway people to not want to purchase it because it’s expensive for many gamers.

– No option to select to Japanese dialogue

Nintendo DS Video Game Review: SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS (熱血高校ドッジボール部)

“Kunio makes a return to the US as with the whole Nekketsu and Hanazono gang for the latest installment of ‘Super Dodgeball’ for the Nintendo DS”

TITLE: SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS (熱血高校ドッジボール部)

DEVELOPER: MILLION

COMPANY: ARKSYS GAMES/ARK SYSTEM WORKS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: E for EVERYONE – Cartoon Violence

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

The Perfect Game for Multi-Player Mayhem! Compete in a traditional game of dodgeball against a friend or take part in a multiplayer street brawl with up to 8 players with a single game card.

Over 100 Ball-Busting Special Attacks! Dish out a variety of pain with over 100 special attacks with their own special animations and effects, like the Cactus Attack and Panda Shot.

If there is one video game series that I have always been fond of, it’s the Nekketsu series which has had over 20 or so games in Japan.

The Nekketsu series has its ties to the arcade machines but many more people who were playing video games back in the NES days will remember Technos fighting classics such as “Renegade”, “River City Ransom” and “Crash n’ the Boys” and “Nintendo World Cup” (of course, of all the Technos games released in the arcade and consoles the most remembered is “Double Dragon”) , games that were localized heavily in the US and never really carried the Nekketsu name but fans new by the superdeformed brawlers that it was a Nekketsu game with its hero Kunio of Nekketsu High School.

From various sports games such as soccer and basketball, the most popular was the Dodgeball series. “Super Dodgeball” was one of those games that sucked a lot of quarters from gamers at the arcade and those with an NES back in the day, this game was just one of the most enjoyable sports games to own on the system.

The object of the game is a four vs. four battle in dodgeball which you have two buttons, throw and pass. Press both buttons and you can jump (and then jump and throw). By using the directional pad, you move your character around and then by stepping back, dashing and using a specialized attack.

Of course, part of the excitement of a Nekketsu game is fighting. And with crates, bananas, bombs and missles, you can use those weapons to your advantage against high power teams.

The releases of Super Dodgeball has not changed since Technos has gone out of business. Fortunately, former employees of the company formed “MILLION” and Million has since released two Dodgeball games. One for the GameBoy Advance and for the Nintendo DS with “SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS”

GAMEPLAY:

“SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS” features several modes:

  • Tournament
  • Vs. Match
  • Brawl
  • Locker Room
  • Options

In “Tournament mode”, you can choose one among two dozen or so on the country list or play Kunio’s Nekketsu High School team or Riki’s Hanazono High School team. And similar to the original NES version, the USA is the team to beat with an S rating while Kunio’s team has a B-rating and Riki’s team with a C-rating.

Where the arcade version allowed for controlling up to six players and the NES with three, fortunately the DS allows for the control of all four players. Each player has its strength and weaknesses (you have seven people in your team but four can play. You can switch teammates if you want) and when you play, you see a bar on top of the screen for each player.

If one of your players gets hit by the opponent with the ball, they lose a bar and when they lose all their bars, they are eliminated from the game.

With each win, you get money and the money can be used to shop for various items which can boost power, agility, stamina, catching, defense, etc. and can be equipped for that character.

You compete in seven matches, get to the semi-finals and then to the finals and win the tournament.

In “Vs. Match”, this allows you to use your team and go against other countries.

In “Brawl”, this is pretty much an all out brawl where only the best survives. People in your team/school vs. other rivals. Grab chains, bottles, baseball bats, trash cans or the dodgeball in a fight. Last one standing is the winner. And this feature allows 8-players to compete in multiplayer action with one DS card.

In “Locker Room”, you can create your own original team and characters.

For “Options”, mainly just audio changes.

CONTROLS:

With “SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS” for the Nintendo DS, there is really no use for the stylus. This is all about fingerwork. The only use for the touchscreen is to activate a major attack. Although, for those who are newbies may be looking towards a site like GameFaqs to learn how to activate a move because the manual, despite being a bit thick (because it’s in multiple languages), really doesn’t go into how moves are done.

I’m not really disappointed that there is no stylus usage because really, this game is all button-work.

GRAPHICS:

Well, “Super Dodgeball” is not a grame that you are looking for great graphics. Especially when the characters are super-deformed. In fact, people might think its comparable with what was released on an SNES console. But all in all, the game doesn’t look outdated or pixely.

I will say that for some reason, I felt that backgrounds were being reused a lot during the matches. Part of the fun of the NES games if I can recall was that each country had its own special background and I felt that some countries competing areas were just redundant.

MUSIC:

Like the original game, you do hear music specifically made from that country and I have to admit, I recall the original NES version, the music sticking in my head. But really, for the Nintendo DS version, I don’t think I really listened (nor did I really pay attention) to the music all that much.

OVERALL:

So, all in all, “SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS” is an enjoyable game that will help pass the time for a short time.

I emphasize “short” because I literally have breezed through the game in probably a half hour’s time. Fortunately, you can select easy, normal or hard difficulties and to add to the gameplay, you can create your team for hours of fun (note: you have three saving blocks).

As for multi-player, this is one of the major positive aspects of the game. The ability to go against others via DS wireless or DS Download Play. The game is not wi-fi in the sense that you can compete against people all over the country though. So, you can compete against friends in a match or via brawl.

A lot of the reviews have been average at most for “SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS”. For me, there are several positive aspects that made me enjoy this game.

  1. Kunio/Nekketsu fans will be stoked to finally play the guy and fellow high school mates and rivals in this game and hopefully this will be a beginning to possibly more “Nekketsu” releases in the US.
  2. Back in the 80’s, especially with sports games on the NES, one of the games I loved to play were Jaleco’s “Bases Loaded” baseball games, Tecmo Football, SNK’s “Little League Baseball” and Technos “SUPER DODGEBALL”. Mainly because you played teams that are not “official licensed teams” and you sort of feel a bond with the team, noticing their strengths and weaknesses and take them to the tournament and just winning.
  3. “SUPER DODGEBALL” is just an overall fun game.

With that being said, as much as I enjoyed the game, I wish there was more planning that goes into the tournament mode. That would be wonderful if in a later installment, we actually see somewhat of a season play. More than eight games.

There have been exciting sports games from Japan such as “Tennis no Oujisama: Crystal Drive” which has you going against various schools but as you progress, they get harder and harder.

I really do believe there is potential for this game for some innovating gameplay because its more or less almost the same game twenty years later. I would like to see MILLION really spruce up the tournament mode.

And of course, the possibility to go Wi-Fi against others around the country would be awesome.

But of course, that all comes down to the company and what MILLION can afford to do.

Last but not least, I’m not sure if this game had a low print run but there have been reports of people around the country having difficulty finding this game. Hmm…

If anything, I hope MILLION continues to release more Nekketsu games. There have been Nekketsu collections released for the Game Boy Advance and I would be curious if they followed CAPCOM’s “Ace Attorney” direction and tweaked those collections for the Nintendo DS because I’m actually up for that.

All in all “SUPER DODGEBALL BRAWLERS” is an fun game, a bit short but for what I was expecting to get, that’s what I got. Wished there was a bit more innovation in game play since the 1988 original’s NES release but take what you can get and I’m stoked to have a Nekketsu game stateside.

+ Nekketsu/Kunio is back!

+ Enjoyable and very fun to play

+ Multiplayer with a single card

+ Great game for busy people! Matches can last less than ten minutes.

– You will probably beat tournament mode in a half hour or less and locker room/create your own team mode a few hours.

– Not much innovation since the original 1988 NES release

– The manual is not going to help newbies all that much

– Would be great to have wi-fi competition with people nationwide

Nintendo DS Game Review: Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (燃えろ!熱血リズム魂 押忍!闘え!応援団2)

I loved the first game and the sequel continues the fun! Just an awesome game worth importing!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (燃えろ!熱血リズム魂 押忍!闘え!応援団2)

PLATFORM: Nintendo DS

COMPANY: Nintendo

Currently playing “Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2”. I loved the first game and I enjoyed the US incarnation ala “Elite Beat Agents” (both for the Nintendo DS) and was stoked that they released a sequel.

The game is about different scenarios of people in different workplaces or certain life experiences which they are either stressed out or facing unbelievable challenges. They scream “ouendan” and a trio of cheerleaders helps them through their ordeal. View Commercial

Presented in a colorful manga like presentation, what makes this game special is that it features contemporary and classic songs from Japan. While the song plays, you see certain circles and rings getting closer to the circles. The circles are coordinated to the song.

Touch the circle precisely when the rings touch it and your good. But throw in several of those circles and with some having two rings (requiring two clicks on that circle), some requiring you to follow a ball with your stylus and spinning a wheel with your stylus. Sounds simple but it takes good eye/hand coordination. And those who do well unlock more songs and more difficulty settings (with more cheerleader characters).

The tracklisting for this game are:

  • Sukima Switch – “Zenryoku Shonen”
  • Kaela Kimura – “Real Life Real Heart”
  • Ken Hirai – “POP STAR”
  • Hitomi Yaida – “Go my way”
  • The Checkers – “Julia ni Shoshin”
  • Going Under Ground – “VISTA”
  • Home Made Kazoku – “Sh®≠nen Heart”
  • mihimaru GT – “Kibun Jojo”
  • Hotei Tomoyasu – “Bambina”
  • SMAP – “BANG! BANG! Vacance!”
  • AI – “Believe”
  • Kishidan – “Zoku”
  • Porno Graffitti – “Music Hour”
  • HYDE – “COUNTDOWN”
  • Sambomaster – “Sekai wa Sore o Ai to Yobundaze”

Unlockable songs by:

  • Orange Range – “Monkey Magic”
  • NANA starring Mika Nakashima – “Glamorous Sky”
  • ZZ – “Samurai Blue”

Similar to popular games like “Guitar Hero” that utilize another singer, the same for “Ouendan”. I will say that I was surprised the song for SMAP was sung by women.

You can read plenty of reviews of this game on the web but I’ll give my quick impressions for those who haven’t purchased it yet.

  • REPLAY VALUE: The fact that the game introduces a rival group for each difficulty and introducing a female team for advanced gamers is very cool. You’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
  • EASIER OR DIFFICULT: I’m not one to spend time playing to beat each difficulty or stay with one game too long to enjoy it completely (own too many games and have to move on to the next) but “Ouendan” is not exactly the easiest game but on easy, if you played the game before, it will be a breeze. Never played it, it will take you several tries on one scenario and possibly yanking out some of your hair. So, far…I’m at the last level and I noticed that aside from the first six songs, the next half… I was able to get by with a C and a D <yes, I suck!>. The first time I played “Ouendan” (first game), it would take me several tries. Again, I’m not anywhere near the hardcore gamers who actually beat the game in the most difficult setting.
  • GREAT GAME FOR THE BUSY PERSON?: Oh yeah! Each scenario lasts about the typical song length with extra story sequences but if you have 15-30 min. playing days, this game is great and it saves after each completion.
  • WHAT’S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PART 2 and PART 1?: The additional rival(s), difficulty settings to be unlocked. Also, you get a second chance. If you mess up, you will be given a second chance to redo that part you messed up on. Also, you can save many replays, so you can compete against your “ghost” replay.
  • NON-JAPANESE GAMER FRIENDLY?: Yeah, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what is easy and what is hard. The storyline though for the second may not be as clearcut as the first game but nevertheless, you should be able to understand what is going on.
  • MUSIC: This game features a lot of cool songs from artists that I listen to. Although, I do enjoy the first “Ouendan” songs more.
  • J-ENT FACTOR: The usage of contemporary music (popular songs) from Japan is just too awesome to ignore. The storyline of each scenario and just the main characters in all are just simply cool and stylish. I dig it!
  • THE NEGATIVE ZONE: Main negatives that people may bitch about is not understanding some storyline scenarios. Some scenarios may be too difficult. Or that the versions of the songs used are not all faithful to the originals.

So, if you enjoyed the first “Ouendan” or “Elite Beat Agents”, you are going to enjoy this game period. It’s addictive, awesome gameplay , presentation is cool and lots of replay value. Highly recommended!

Nintendo DS Video Game Review: ONTAMARAMA (おんたま♪おんぷ島へん)

“A fun and very Japanese rhythm game that quickly gets frustrating as you progress.”

TITLE: ONTAMARAMA (Japanese title: おんたま♪おんぷ島へん/Ontama Onputouhen)

DEVELOPER: Noise Factory

PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: E for EVERYONE – Cartoon Violence

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Ontama, Onpu Island’s musical spirits, are being captured! It’s up to you to top, circle and blow enemies away! Can you master the beats and return music to the island?

Groove to rock, hip-hop, jazz and more!

Unlock new songs, new items and new ontama!

Challenge yourself with 3 play modes and multiple difficulty levels!

“Ontamarama” (or Ontama Onputouhen) was released in the US in the Summer of 2007. As interest for past ATLUS games are at an all time high and knowing that print runs are often low for ATLUS games, “Ontamarama” was a game that was immediately in my video game hunt list.

I’ve had my share of purchasing rhythm games in Japan and I learned that when it comes to rhythm games you either play it for the enjoyment, the party game to share with friends and enjoy the music and there are those who just love the sheer challenge because many rhythm games feature ridiculously difficult levels.

“ONTAMARAMA” is a game that features manga-cute characters, voice acting and schlocky music (not licensed songs or J-Pop either) in which someone is capturing “Ontama”, these puffy, almost ghost looking musical spirits. You manage to find one Ontama and as you try to help it and make your way through the island, you come across a variety of challenges from those who want your ontama.

Each of these people you challenged are brainwashed or forced to work for the main bad guy of the game but challenge them and beat them, you get through the map to the next level. If you don’t, you lose.

GAMEPLAY:

The gameplay during competition against rivals features your ontama and your opponents ontama (or musical notes) on the top. On the top is a bar where you see different colored ontamas sliding to the left. On the main screen is you will see ontamas show up primarily in blue, green or orange colors. And you use the directional pad or buttons) to sync to the top sliding bar (the clef) when the otama reaches this big ball.

See a lot of ontamas show up with the same color, you use the stylus to draw a circle around the group.

When there are too many ontamas, during battle, you get to use a blow command that eliminates the ontama. Of course, these are quite limited.

The challenge is to watch the screen and click or circle the ontama or group of ontamas while using your directional pad to sync and play a note.

The difficulty is that too many ontamas can show up on screen (especially if they are different colors and next to other different colored otamas) and you can easily get a screen filled with ontamas and lose a battle.

There are a variety of modes:

STORY: This is the main game where you can play the character of the boy named BEAT or the girl named REST. Advacing through story mode will add new modes and items to the store. And if you clear story mode once, new things happen in the background if you play in hard mode.

After beating a rival/challenge, like most rhythm games, you are given a letter grade and of course, you want the better score for points to use at the shop or if you just love the challenge and enjoy achieving the best score.

TUTORIAL: Standard tutorial on how to play the game.

FREE PLAY: Pick and play songs you cleared in story mode.

CHALLENGE: Play 4 preset songs in a row

SHOP: Buy songs and items with points acquired during the game

CONTROLS:

After you click on the ontama, with your stylus on screen Look at the top bar and when the ontama slides to this ball, you use your direction pad. If it’s a green note you hit right; blue note, you hit down; red note, you hit up and orange note, you hit left.

You can also use the A/B/X/Y buttons instead of the directional pad.

GRAPHICS:

The character designs are anime or manga-like. Cute characters. Colorful setting and since it’s a rhythm game, graphics don’t really come to full play. If anything, your eyes are on the screen busily trying to convert ontamas to musical notes.

AUDIO:

The music is standard synth or guitar music. There are variety of music that you compete in but the only stage where I found the music to be cool is the goth mode but everything else was ok. No vocals. No J-Pop or licensed music.

Overall, for me, any rhythm game from Japan that is quirky is appealing. I expected rhythm games to be difficult and “ONTAMARAMA” is very difficult and challenging as your progress through the game.

There is an easy level mode that removes a lot of the major challenges of the game and people can easily breeze by and win items and points but those who love rhythm game challenges and the difficulty of it, and like quirky Japanese rhythm games are the ones who will dig it the most.

Especially those who want to receive every item and get perfect rankings.

Otherwise casual gamers who don’t play as much rhythm-based games will probably yank their hair out as they try to play hard mode.

I’ve beaten the normal mode for both characters but once playing hard mode, things get insanely difficult and with so many ontamas thrown into the screen, I swear I think my eye and hand coordination must be off because I’m losing all the time.

I know there are those who thrive on these difficult challenges and this game may be your cup of tea.

In terms of replay value, With so many items that can assist you during your challenges, it definitely helps. Items available at the shop such as increasing the breath command to easily wipe out otamas, increase of performance gauge, stylus line increase, less damage/guard. There are other items that you can purchase that eliminate notes as they approach the clef. By playing a lot and getting the points, it will definitely help you in your quest in beating those difficult levels.

But all in all, to me, the music is not great but as a rhythm game, it is challenging and it is fun. Average game at best for me. Again, it’s very difficult in hard mode but if you are looking for a rhythm game on your Nintendo DS that is challenging and fun, you may want to give “ONTAMARAMA” a try.

+ Enjoyable and very fun to play

+ Interesting concept and utilization of the Nintendo DS via the stylus and breath command.

+ For those looking for a challenging and difficult rhythm game on the Nintendo DS, this game is for you!

+ Replay value. Once beaten in normal mode, for those that want the better score or to get 100% items, you can do that.

– Difficult. Hair-pulling, piss you off, throw your Nintendo DS on the ground difficult in hard mode.

– Music is not that great.

Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Luminous Arc

“A Japanese anime-style tactical RPG game with a fun and engaging storyline but with an average at best gameplay. Still, one of the more interesting tactical RPG games on the Nintendo DS”

TITLE: Luminous Arc (ルミナスアーク)

DEVELOPER: Marvelous Interactive

PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: T for TEEN – Alcohol reference, language, mild fantasy violence, suggestive themes

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Protect the Light, Condemn the Dark!

A millennium of peace is about to be torn asunder by the spread of darkness. A war with the witches 1,000 years ago nearly destroyed the planet and now they have returned. Character designs by Kaito Shibano, music from Yasunori Mitsuda and solid storylines combine to give tactical RPG fans the kind of portable gaming experience they’ve been craving!

I have to admit that ever since playing “Final Fantasy Tactics” and “Disgaea” on the Sony PSP, I’ve been purchasing nearly every Japanese strategy/tactical RPG that has come out for all the consoles and I realize that there some gems and there are some clunkers.

For many years, I avoided the anything tactical or strategy-based RPG to come out. But since playing these games, I’ve been like fanboy-ish and purchasing not just the Japanese games but even going back and purchasing hits on the PC of U.S. games.

l I really love the strategy and the challenge (and thrill) of beating a difficult group of enemies and then enjoying the various systems, may it be weapon or armor-based, financial base… you name, I’ll enjoy it my own way. And balance that with an engaging storyline and I’m all up for it.

With Atlus announcing the second “Luminous Arc” by Marvelous Entertainment to be released in 2008 in the US, I figured that I better kick things into gear with the first game, which I bought when it first came out.

Since its release, I have been level grinding for many, many, many hours (I tend to focus this style of gameplay with RPG’s) before getting into full-story mode.

The main storyline revolves around the Garden Children. A group of orphans trained by the Arc Knight Heath to fight monsters and follow their goal to condemn the witches who have appeared in the world after being sealed for a thousand years.

As the Church prepares battle, the Garden Children prepare to battle with the witches. The Garden Children are:

Alph: The leader of the Garden Children and dedicated to the goals of the Church and follows the footsteps of Heath. Fights with a sword and uses rifle-based skills.

Theo: Alph’s younger brother. A bit naive and a young kid but excellent with a bow and arrow.

Leon: The oldest member, a bit cocky and the guy who gets all the girls, with the exception of Garden Children member, Cecille. Uses a sword but is very powerful and like his father “The Lion King”, has some really cool skills.

Cecille: A priestess dedicated to the church. The healer.

Saki: A ninja who collects intelligence data. Very professional and mature. Uses various magical, skill attacks.

Nikolai: Loves Cecille but infatuated by witches. Gets on the nerves of the Garden Children but joins to offer his knowledge on witches. Has the ability to improve stats of members during battle and able to do long distance attacks.

And of course, these are just a few of the characters that you get to play. As you progress through the game, you meet various characters who you get to control and each have their own cool, special ways of attacking.

So, the many characters involved definitely enhances the game as well.

Each character and witch also opens up a special attack called “Flash Drive”. You have a meter and when a character does a certain action (like increasing tech or speed during battle), your meter goes up and you unleash a powerful attack or cause status ailments to enemies.

Assigned to help the Garden Children is a maid named Lucia who Alph finds out is a witch and encounters with other witches. But what happens when the Garden Children find out that like humans, not all witches are evil? What will happen when the Church forces the group to continue with their goal to eliminate the witches? Will Alph and team follow or will they end up going against the church that raised them?

GAMEPLAY:

Similar to other JRPG tactical games, the battlefield shows enemies and when it’s your turn, using that character you move (as far as that character can go) and plan which direction they are going to go and assign your 5-8 characters to that direction. Have them use an action to battle or use magical skills or to heal.

Throughout the game, there is a storyline which allows you to shop for better weapons, armor and accessories. Or talk with various people and possibly get more items. Also, a library with detail from the witch or church perspective of the battle between the two.

Shown is a map where you can battle in certain areas (aka keep level grinding over and over) and go to the next village for which the next storyline begins.

After each battle, you can talk to a member of the team and build a relationship and get “Philia” points and after each battle is a short story titled “Kopin”. Mysterious creatures that live with witches. Touch the screen and certain things may happen.

Then there is Vitae – Appraisal and Imbuing. Vitae are stones that have the power of the Rune and you can add these stones to weapons or armor to strengthen effects and abilities.

MULTIPLAYER BATTLES: You can do multiplayer battles with another player that has a “Luminous Arc” cartridge and participate in battles with up to eight units. This will open once reaching Chapter 13.

EXTRA DUNGEON: A hidden extra dungeon is available but is not relevant to the storyline.

NEW GAME +: After finishing the game, everything can be carried over to a new game and this is for those who want to get better intermission screens with the characters and earn more Philia points

CONTROLS:

With your stylus, you can assign where your characters go. The only problem that I found is that you can’t rotate the battle screen. You can move up, left, down and right but when monsters and your team are together. Because you can’t rotate, selecting that enemy during battle becomes cumbersome and you may end up selecting your own character that will get the brunt of a hit or magical spell.

So, because of that…. “Save often”.

And of course, selecting the actions, skills, magic, flash drive or using an item during battle.

GRAPHICS:

The anime-style illustrations are pretty cool with character designs by Shibano Kaito. known for his work on PC games and trading cards. Cool to see the animated opening sequence. The cut-scenes are not animated but various illustrated still shots. The in-game battle are fine for a tactical RPG, nothing major. The use of the “flash drive” shows an animated sequence but nothing super.

All in all, I really enjoyed the character designs for “Luminous Arc” and Shibano’s artwork is just beautiful to look at.

AUDIO:

When I first started the game, it was cool to get the J-Pop theme at the beginning and then to find out that many of the cut-scenes include full audio. That was pretty cool!

The audio featured is in English. That would have been cool if the Japanese audio was included but with the amount of dialogue included, not sure if it could all fit in a DS flash card.

OVERALL:

So, far I’m halfway through the game. I think that perhaps I’ve spent too much time level grinding because the enemies are fairly easy for me to beat. One or two-hits and they are dead and really, there is no really strategy like I had in other tactical RPG games.

I just go all-offensive and really never had to use any defensive measures. Hopefully, things change as I further progress but without any real strategy at this time, the game is too easy and cumbersome.

If anything, the storyline and the characters are engaging and so far has kept me in. I really like the storyline and the variety of characters introduced, that will join your team.

All in all, I have been enjoying “Luminous Arc”. It’s not a deep storyline but I like the fact that it has a fun, humorous and lighthearted storyline but as you progress, you can tell things are getting darker.

I like the fact that you get more and more people with their own skills to join your team but I felt so much time was taken to level grinding and I’m a patient man but I feel like my patience of level grinding was starting to wear thin.

If anything, the engaging storyline, the ability to develop relationships (or stronger friendships) with your teammates depending on your answer is pretty cool.

But so far, so good. A bit easy so far but I think things should get a bit more challenging. The controls (of selecting an enemy when it’s populated with a lot of enemies or your own people was the only problem. But very minor.

All in all, the overall gameplay for “Luminous Arc” is enjoyable, not in the same level as “Final Fantasy Tactics” or “Disgaea” but still quite fun.

I will have a more in-depth review after I complete the game.

+ Many cool characters, unique storyline, cool attacks

+ You meet many characters who you can play as the game progresses.

+ Audio during most of the cut-scenes

+ Definitely cool for additional gameplay for multiplayer or after you beat the game

– Minor control issues

– Not much strategy as I would of hoped. The game is fairly easy if you are a level grinder but probably challenging if you don’t put time into level grinding.

– Level grinding is tedious because you literally play the same map, same enemies, same positions each time.

Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Bleach DS 2nd: Kokui Hirameku Requiem

Another awesome “BLEACH” fighting game for the Nintendo DS from Treasure. Many characters, awesome gameplay!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Bleach DS 2nd: Kokui Hirameku Requiem (BLEACH DS 2nd 黒衣ひらめく鎮魂歌(レクイエム)

PLATFORM: Nintendo DS

COMPANY: Treasure/Sega

What can I say? I’m addicted to the anime series “BLEACH” and what I enjoy even more are the video games.

When it came to anime games featured in video game 1-on-1 battles, I have to admit that the “BLEACH” DS and PSP games have been very fun and entertaining and yes, worth owning.

Of course, the first DS game received a lot of hype because it was developed by the company TREASURE known for classics such as “Gunstar Heroes” (Sega Genesis), “Radiant Silvergun” (Sega Saturn), “Wario World” (GameCube), “Ikaragua” (GameCube) and many other titles, TREASURE similar to Nippon Ichi and Atlus has a cult following of gamers who just love their games.

This takes us to their fighting game “BLEACH” for the Nintendo DS.

With many fighting games on the DS teetering to absolute suckage (with the exception of both “Jump Superstars” and “Bleach” games of course), “BLEACH” is a fighting game that features the cast of the popular anime series. And this anime series has A LOT of characters surpassing even “Dragon Ball Z”.

The game is a 2D fighter which utilizes top and bottom areas and with each character given different fighting characteristics and special moves, your character is given support cards that can enhance battle by giving you a better offense or defense, give you more health, increasing your Reiatsu & Reiryoka spirit meters (that allow you to perform your special moves), etc. So, imagine fighting an opponent but the rules for that certain level are to fight with less health or to not press a certain button, etc.

You get the story mode (for a lot of characters), arcade and vs. modes, points won can be used to purchase more clothing or support cards and the best part of all, is to play people online via wi-fi.

At the time, the DS was the way to go for a “BLEACH” game and the first game did not disappoint.

Now, here we are in 2007 and the second DS game titled “Bleach DS 2nd: Kokui Hirameku Requiem” is out.

WHAT IS THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DS 1st and DS 2nd?

Well, the main thing is that there are 40+ characters in the game. So, you can imagine that story mode is definitely longer this time around.

Also, because so much has happened in the anime and manga series for these characters, much different movesets.

WILL I BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND IT ESPECIALLY SINCE I CAN’T READ JAPANESE?

Yes, for the majority of it, you should be able to find out. It may be tricky for some characters (esp. if you haven’t watched the series or read the manga) because some are healing characters and one level is about healing people onscreen. Another level features characters that jump from top plane to bottom plane continuously and you realize the level is about how who can get the most jumps on the counter.

So, it takes a while and fortunately, there are some forums/faqs that translate or explain what must be done on certain levels.

THIS OR “BLEACH: HEAT THE SOUL 4” for the PSP?:

Well, both games are different. The PSP game is a fighter that utilizes cel shaded characters, 3D background and support characters. The DS game is a 2D fighter that utilizes character support cards.

In the past, I would have recommended the DS over the PSP game but because the PSP version incorporates similar style of missions that the DS has, also many characters (72 inc. support characters) and the PSP is more 3D background with large cel shaded characters, I found the PSP much more enjoyable this time around because the DS, although has more characters and features, it’s a similar style of game in terms of gameplay from the first DS game.

Although “BLEACH DS 2nd: Kokui Hirameku Requiem” is much better than the first, it felt too similar to the first game. The same can be said for “BLEACH: HEAT THE SOUL 3” and “4”.

But I recommend picking up both because both have a lot of positive qualities. But if you want to choose one, for me I enjoy the latest PSP version.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVES?

With so many characters, the good news is that each character is different in battle. The bad news is that some characters are not as fluid as the others and some fight clumsily. Also, with too many characters, not everyone has a lot of cool movesets.

Other than that, I really didn’t find too many negatives. I enjoyed this game tremendously.

Really, you can’t go wrong with this game. A lot of characters, very fun to play, long replay value with so many things to unlock, easy to figure out esp. if you don’t understand Japanese and it looks great on the DS.

It’s a shame that this game won’t come out soon to the US because the anime series is still behind in episodes compared to what is aired in Japan.

But the good news is that import DS games are not expensive, many different places to order import DS games and the ability to play against other people via wi-fi.

Just too awesome of a game to pass up!