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Friday, November 25, 2022

Stray

Stray was a long awaited game by many cat lovers including me. When you first start the game you are shown a stray cat from the 3rd person. You can control it and your first task is to play with the other strays that are in the area. After watching several beautiful playful scenes including these kitties you embark on what seems to be a routine daily journey hopping from one pipe to another. At one point though the cat falls and lands in what seems to be an abandoned city. It turns out to be not so abandoned as the cat will encounter humanoid robots with human behavior. Your task is to get back to the Outside from which the cat came. The cat is joined by B-12 drone that helps the cat and the player to reach the goal.

Stray is a straightforward platforming game that includes several puzzles and offers additional sidequests. While the story and gameplay may be simple, the game bursts with life and cuteness even in this cyberpunk devastated and mostly abandoned city. You explore the world and discover more about the city and its history - about what actually happened.

While roaming you can also simply be a cat, you can scratch rugs, walk over keyboards, nuzzle robots, run under their legs, knock objects off, meow or simply sleep.

The platforming part is rather easy, you simply follow directions that the game provides in cues that are more or less noticeable and if you need help all you need to do is ask your companion robot. You use spacebar to jump and the cat does it automatically meaning that if you are really bad at jumping like me, you don't need to be afraid of playing the game. On the other hand it also takes the effort from you and for some this can be a downside as well. There are several chase parts in which you have to run and avoid mysterious creatures though.

The visuals of the game are wonderful. All the environments are nicely crafted. The combination of dark city with its neon signs blinking and with nature creeping in is wonderful to watch. The lightning all this creates is perfect for really nice shots but sadly cats don't take selfies.

The animations are what breath life into the game. This mostly applies to the cat itself. If you ever had a feline companion at home you will be able to see how truthful the digital cat's behavior is. You can truly feel like a cat playing this game.

Verdict:
Stray is a short (several hours long) puzzle platformer game that puts you in a role of a cat finding a way to its home territory. The game has a simple linear story but offers two open environments to be explored. The game is played from the perspective of a cat meaning that in order to traverse these environments the player needs to think like a cat - spotting a ladder and wanting to use it is not what a cat would do since it can simply jump. The player is free to behave like a cat and some of these cat activities will need to be used to solve puzzles in the game.

Recommended to anyone who just wants to enjoy a very well crafted beautiful game featuring a feline protagonist.

Ren (stsungjp @twitter)

Friday, September 30, 2022

Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate Episode I

Dyschronia is one of the games that caught my eye at TGS and there isn't many games that make me want to buy them on day 1, especially if they are for Quest (yay for my 1st review on this store). Since the name also involves 'Time' in it I expected a game featuring time travel and was very interested in how that would feel in VR, and the game delivered that.

The game takes place in an artificial marine city named Astrum Close where citizens are guarded from the contaminated outside world. All the citizens are connected via what is called Augmented Dreaming. Everyone shares their feelings there and whenever someone starts to feel bad a Supervisor can help them feel better. This way everyone lives in peace and crime practically doesn't exist - until day 1 of you - Hal Scion - being named a Special Supervisor. The city goes under lockdown when the city's founder is found dead, murdered. Hal is assigned to lead the investigation. Hal has a special ability that allows him to view memories linked with items he touches. Thanks to this ability you will have the ability to find information no one else can. These information though still need to be proven in order to be used at trial.

While the player is free to roam, the game progresses in a linear way. You could say that this game is a visual novel, but it is in 3d, in virtual reality, and you are the protagonist. It is a totally different experience and very immersive one. The story is very compelling. It may seem simple at first but with all the information you uncover, you will come to understand that there is way more going on than just 'almost impossible murder'.

Dyschronia also features one short 'stealth' part which is a nice refreshing - or frustrating - moment. It was handled very well from my point of view since it didn't feel forced but rather something you'd expect from that kind of situation.

The game play this is very easy, you walk around, talk to people by touching speech bubbles, scan objects, grab them, use them etc. You can also give headpats to Lily, little cute robot. The controls are simple and easy to use but they are meant for a right handed person and there does not seem to be a way to switch them to the left hand. The game offers free locomotion that is rather slow, teleportation and hybrid locomotion.

The graphics of the game are very good, the ideal kind that doesn't age (think Playstation 2 cell shaded Japanese RPG games) with time. The UI is stellar. I've played many games but this is probably the first game that made the UI feel like part of the world (which it is part of). It shows how we could actually use AR in the future - or at least how other games could use it. It added a lot to the immersion.

As for sound, there is music playing during the whole time which could make it less immersive for some. The music is beautiful but unfortunately is very loud compared to the character voices, especially when they are standing a little bit further away. I liked the voice acting a lot (Japanese), but sometimes it seemed to me that Hal was taking ages to say 'hmph' or something like that and these were always way louder than his usual speech level.

The only downsides of the game for me were constant load times (because of playing it on Quest?), floating in space (needing to recenter often) and sometimes not being able to hear what a character standing further away was saying. Apart from that, a truly amazing game.

Verdict:
Dyschronia is a story-driven adventure game, more of an immersive experience, in which you will truly become a Supervisor investigating a murder. The level of immersion is unlike from any other game I played. There is so much done right in this game, well chosen and done graphics, UI, story, characters, time travel. I highly recommend the game for the story and immersion to anyone who likes to experience being in someone else's shoes and just go with the story.

The game is much better than my review may make you think it is!

Big thanks to the developers. I can't wait for Episode 2 and 3. And thank you for thanking US.

Ren

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

DJMAX Respect V

I was introduced to DJMAX what seems to be ages ago when a rhythm game player came to me and asked if I can try the game out. I was like 'sure, why not'. What I did not know was that he let me play the hardest song in the game and see how I'd do. I cleared the song to his astonishment. I asked what the game it was and that is how I discovered DJMAX. It became one of my most played games on PSP.

Wait, another vertical scrolling rhythm game?

DJMAX is a game that had a very big following and could have reached mainstream if it was released on more platforms earlier. That decision came rather late. Relatively recently DJMAX made it to PC, that is with DJMAX Respect V. DJMAX is a vertical scrolling rhythm game with several button modes. You can start with 4 button play, progress to 5 buttons, then 6 buttons and eventually end up playing 8 buttons. Apart pressing the regular buttons there might appear a slide note from time to time, there are two slide notes (mapped to Shift keys on PC) and they add little bit more complexity to the game. Since this is a game that was meant to be played with d-pad and buttons the song charts are made the way that it is possible to play them with these - players used to play rhythm games meant for keyboard play may wonder why there's just certain combinations used in the charts.

There are long notes in the game that you need to press as well, just hold them and release them on time. Each note be it a regular note or long note are being judged - you get judgment from 1% to 100% depending on how close to being on time you were. The timing windows are actually huge which makes it easier to hit a note (if you miss by a chance you can just press it again to still hit it).

The timing in the game is very lax (feels even more lax compared to the PSP games). It is the combo, as in many Korean games, that counts the most with you keeping max Fever going. There is a Fever bar that fills with each note confirmation, when it gets full you need to activate it to get a 2x multiplier. Then you continue to fill it again. When you fill it and activate it in time you get a higher multiplier for everything (3x). The maximum multiplier you can get is 5x which will stay for as long as you manage to fill the bar and activate Fever in time.

Each song has a difficulty shown in stars. It ranges from the easiest 1 to the hardest 15 for the 'playstation control' charts. There is another scale marked SC which is meant for keyboard play and starts around 3 and goes to 15 as well and will introduce a playstation player to more patterns and chord combinations making it even way harder - a PC VSRG player will find these SC difficulties more familiar. Note that a SC 3 charts is more like playstation 8 in terms of difficulty.

There are several modes in which you can play, there is Air that lets you play a randomly chosen song or just watch and comment on it. There's Freestyle mode where you can pick any song you want and get the best score. Then there's Online play where you play against other players either using a ladder system or just playing for fun. Lastly there is Mission mode in which you complete a set of songs with certain modifiers or conditions.

So much music
DJMAX offers a wide range of music styles. Many of the songs may be new to non-rhythm game players but there is a lot to choose from and the music is good. For rhythm game enjoyers there are DLCs from previous versions of the game including Technika but also from other rhythm games like Chunithm, Deemo, Muse Dash, Groove Coaster etc. The base game gives you over 150 tracks (there are free tracks added from time to time). All these songs have music videos that you can unlock and watch in the game as well.

DJMAX has style
Korean games tend to look great and DJMAX is not an exception. It looks simply great. It has a great style, and not just one. You can unlock more skins and also customize the look of in-game when you are actually trying to read the charts and pressing buttons. Not many games can rival the look of this game.

In order to unlock customizations including songs you need to fulfill certain criteria. There is a lot of achievements to get in the game and are neatly presented to you. Some may seem impossible to get but when you get them you will feel rewarded. There is no other game that motivated me enough to actually hunt the achievements!

Not everything is great...
DJMAX is a great game that offers a lot to the player but unfortunately there are few things to note. First the game uses anti-cheat Xigncode which requires an internet connection. There is no way to play the game offline or with a bad internet connection. Second thing to note is that the game is very expensive. To this date the total of the game including DLCs would total for me to 388EUR. It is for a lot of content though but there is even more content that is behind a paywall. Each season you can get 'free' stuff, even a skin if you finish all steps. That you can only get if you get a battle pass though. You can even pay for it to automatically unlock at the end of the season. Means throwing a lot of money at Neowiz.

The last thing I'm not fond of is the fact that Steam achievements expect you to have those expensive DLCs. Perfecting this game means a lot of money spent.

Verdict
You can clearly see that DJMAX was created with love. It has everything players could possibly hope for in a rhythm game. It is beautiful to look at, offers 150+ songs of various genres, has different button modes and game modes and gets many DLCs with more great music. So far it may be the only game coming from a different platform that runs without any issue on PC. Unfortunately the game needs constant internet connection and is rather expensive.

I can highly recommend this game to anyone who likes to press buttons at high speed.

Ren

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Smile of You piano sheet music

The second sheet music I bring to you is for The Smile of You by NekomataMaster. It is a beautiful song that I know from Beatmania IIDX but it actually from a different game originally - Elebits.

Here you can watch a YouTube video MuseScore created of it. The link to the sheet music is in the description (if you subscribe, otherwise you can also contact me and I will send you the file, I believe you can figure out how to send me a message).

Enjoy!

Ren (stsungjp @twitter)

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Blind Justice piano version sheet music

A decade ago I created a midi files for several BEMANI songs because I wanted to try to play them using Synthesia. At the time I was sitting in front of my piano and writing down notes into staffs by hand because it seemed to be the easiest way to do so. Then I input the notes into Ableton Live (I believe) and exported it as a midi that I never used again. Nowadays there's MuseScore 3 that one can use to create great looking sheet music and it does not even take long. MuseScore lets you export a midi file, mp3 and the sheet music in pdf. Since it seems that the sheet music for some of the songs still does not seem to exist on the internet I decided to bring it to you. So if by a chance you are one of the BEMANI players who also like to play the songs on the piano I will bring you some of the songs.

The first one is Blind Justice by Zektbach, a simplified piano version. It is one of my favorite songs and I really like to listen to the piano version. Here's a YouTube video MuseScore created. The link to the sheet music is there as well (if you subscribe, otherwise you can also contact me and I will send you the file, I believe you can figure out how to send me a message).

Enjoy!

Ren (stsungjp @twitter)