Overview – developed by Zoo Corporation and published by Eastasiasoft, Pretty Girls Tile Match is the latest entry in the Mahjong Solitaire sub-series. However, this title has a unique twist on the formula as the player needs to match 3 tiles to clear them away. This title is available on Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation family of systems, with a link to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Eastasiasoft for providing the copy of Pretty Girls Tile Match that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as there is no plot for this release, so I will be going directly into covering the gameplay of Pretty Girls Tile Match.
Gameplay – this release is an expansion on the traditional Mahjong Solitaire, where the player must clear all tiles on the field but with a twist. In this entry of the series, the player must match sets of three tiles to clear them away, rather than just matching pairs like the other games. This makes Pretty Girls Tile Match the most unique title in the tile Solitaire series.
The game is made up of 120 stages, split between the 6 different girls that the players can select from. When in a stage, there will be a unique tile layout for that stage, with random patterns of tiles that need to be cleared away. In order to clear away the tiles, the player can select the lit up tiles, with inaccessible tiles greyed out when another is on top of them.
To help the player accomplish this, the player can select up to 7 tiles at any one time into their “hand”, clearing them away when a set of 3 have been collected. If there aren’t any sets available, the player has a few different options they can use. These options are shuffle to rearrange the tiles, undo to put a tile back, move to grab an inaccessible tile and hold to keep a tile for later on the side.
Now even though this is a rather casual puzzle title, it is possible to fail the stages in two different ways. The first is by not being able to make any moves, having exhausted all of the assist items. The other is to run out of time, as there is a timer that will count down between tile clears. When a set is cleared, the timer will reset and give the player more time to complete the stage.
During a stage, the player will earn points for each successful tile match, with a combo meter that counts down between set clears. When the tile clears are chained together, a combo will be built up and increase the bonuses that players can earn. This makes speed important for players who want to reach a high score, as the combo timer will deplete at a faster rate the higher the combo.
Outside of the stages in the main mode, there is the dressing room/diorama mode that players can play with, which allows them to create settings and images with the different girls. There is also the shop where players can use points earned by clearing stages to get new costumes, which can be added to the girls in the dressing room to change their looks when viewing them.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – this title uses a cursor system, with button inputs for the different functions that are available. This works fairly well when connected to a TV, with a decent speed for the on screen arrow which has an adorable panda head on it. However, the best way to play this game is in handheld mode using the touch screen, as it allows for faster more precise inputs.
Difficulty – there is a rather moderate difficulty curve to this title, with the randomised tile patterns that can be used for the different layouts. This provides a challenge that is relatively unique during each attempt of a stage. The player can make each of the stages more challenging for themselves, attempting to clear them as fast as possible to get the best score they can.
Presentation – this is another visually pleasing release in the Pretty Girls series, with characters that have appeared in other titles returning here. The game field maintains the same simplicity of other entries in the franchise, making for an easy pick up and play experience. The sound is pleasant in this title also, with good quality music and a Japanese voice over for the different girls.
Final Thoughts – I have played a fair number of the Pretty Girls games, including the Mahjong Solitaire titles and this is another solid release from Zoo Corporation. There are plenty of stages for players to get value from this release, especially when the game itself is priced so low. I can easily recommend this title to everyone looking for a decent puzzle title to fill their time with, I just wish there was an online leaderboard to post scores.
In the end, I give Pretty Girls Tile Match a final score of 4.5/5. This is another solid release in the Pretty Girls franchise, which takes the familiar system of Mahjong Solitaire and adds a unique twist to it with the new match 3 rules. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below.
Overview – developed by Zoo Corporation and published by Eastasisasoft, Pretty Girls 2048 Strike is the newest game type in the puzzle game series. Engage in battle with monster girls in new sliding puzzle action, dealing increasing amounts of damage by combining numbers. This title is available for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation family of systems, with a link to each version of the game at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Eastasiasoft for providing the copy of Pretty Girls 2048 Strike that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own. All images used are provided by Eastasiasoft.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as there is no plot for this release, so I will be going straight into discussing the gameplay of Pretty Girls 2048 Strike.
Gameplay – the core premise of Pretty Girls 2048 Strike is to slide numbers, combining them to make bigger ones and using them to damage the monster girl target. The game is made up of 50 stages, with 5 different monster girls to battle. The girls must be unlocked by clearing all of the stages for the previous girl, increasing in challenge as the player progresses.
The game field is made up of a 5×5 grid, where the player can shift all of the number blocks on screen at once by pressing one of four directions. When pressing a direction, all of the blocks will move, damaging the monster girl if a number is touching the opposite side. If the numbers match as they touch, they will combine increasing that block total up to the maximum value of 2048.
The monster girls will have a health bar that will be depleted when damage is dealt, defeating them when it is reduced to zero. These health bars will increase as the stages progress, reaching higher and higher numbers the further the player gets into the game. There will also be extra monster girls who appear in some stages, needing to be defeated to in order to clear the stage.
But be aware of the position of the different blocks, as it is possible to fail a stage if there are no moves that can be made with the number son the grid. This makes for a very challenging and strategic gameplay experience in the later stages, as there are blocked spaces that appear in some of the later stages. This can make every move critical as the targets get stronger.
When starting a stage from the main menu, the player can also select a character to use for the stages. Each of the four heroes have their own special skill that can be used during stages, including combining blocks and dealing the highest number on the field as direct damage to the enemy. But the player isn’t the only one with special powers, as the monster girls have abilities they can use too.
Outside of the main stages, the player can take on a special endless mode, where the objective is to deal as much damage as possible on one of three grid sizes. However, this is no easy feat as the game will be over if the grid is filled and the player is unable to combine numbers. The three grids available to play are 3×3, 4×4 and 5×5, offering a different level of difficulty with each grid size.
The last thing to discuss is the dressing room and unlockable costumes. By clearing the stages in game, the player will earn special points that can be used in the dressing room shop. These points can be used to unlock new costumes for both the heroes and monster girls, which can be used to create diorama images. The costumes for the heroes can also be used in the main game mode.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to discuss the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls system for this title is incredibly simple, using only the four basic directions to shift blocks and navigate menus. The face buttons can also be used in the stages to activate abilities, as well as moving through menus and the diorama mode. There is also touch screen support for this title, which can make it more comfortable and casual for players who play the game handheld.
Difficulty – there is a moderate difficulty curve to this release, with the stages getting tougher over time. This is due to the increased health that the target monster girls will have, alongside their special abilities and the changes to the game grid. It is possible to fail in the main game stages, but as long as the player takes their time and thinks ahead, they should have an easy enough time with this.
Presentation – the visuals for this release have a pleasing look to them, with the anime style designs of the well-endowed heroes and monster girls that appear on screen. This works well with the rather simple design of the game field and blocks on the grid. The sound in this title is pleasing to the ear, with a variety of music tracks in the stages which are accompanied by Japanese voice over for all the girls.
Final Thoughts – I have played many of the Pretty Girls games and this is a fairly unique entry with a new set of gameplay mechanics. I quite enjoyed the simple and easy to pick up sliding puzzle gameplay, which is new for the Pretty Girls franchise. I have no issue recommending this title to fans of both puzzle games and the series overall. The only thing missing is online leaderboards for the main and endless modes.
In the end, I give Pretty Girls 2048 Strike a final score of 4.5/5. This is a solid puzzle title that introduces a new gameplay mechanic to the Pretty Girls series, offering a fun challenge for all players at a price that is easy on the wallet. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below.
Overview – developed by Khud0 and published by Eastasiasoft, Run Bean Galactic is an endless runner where an astronaut must survive a deadly planet by running around the diminutive globe. Take on a randomised challenge and try to survive for as long as possible, with online leaderboards to compete worldwide. This title is available on all console platforms with a link to each version at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Eastasiasoft for providing the copy of Run Bean Galactic used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as there is no real plot to this release, so I will be going straight into discussing the gameplay.
Gameplay – this title is a simple yet challenging endless runner, with the sole objective being to survive as long as possible. To achieve this objective, the player must run in circles around the surface of the planet, avoiding hazards and reacting to sudden direction changes. The hazards of this inhospitable planet will kill the player instantly if contact is made with them, which are made up of spikes and traps that the player must avoid.
In order to get past the traps of this hostile planet, the player must jump the spikes and roll under the traps. There are also keys that must be collected to open gates, as well as bombs and direction change gates. The score will increase periodically as they travel around the surface of the planet, with bonus points as stars that can be collected when they appear on the stage.
The player has a single life and if they make contact with any of the hazards, the game is over and the highest score will be recorded and added to the global rankings. Due to this titles random nature, there is virtually limitless replay value for players, challenging themselves to get the highest possible score that they can.
There is also a simple customization system for players to change the look of their astronaut. With each run of the game, the player will accumulate points that they can use to unlock costumes for the character. There aren’t many costumes to unlock, but they do provide something nice for players to add a little variety to their gameplay experience.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – this title uses a very simple two button system, as the game is an auto runner with the movement controlled by the game itself. The jump and roll buttons are duplicated on both sides of the controller, allowing players to choose the most comfortable way to play the game for themselves. This title is comfortable regardless of the control methods used.
Difficulty – as this is a title that uses randomized elements, there is a fluctuating difficulty curve to this release. As the speed increases, there is a chance for players to encounter very difficult obstacle patterns, but it is just as likely for an easy pattern to occur. This can be frustrating for players, as there is always the chance for repeated failure when getting used to the game.
Presentation – this title has a very minimalist design to it, with only a single screen for all of the assets that are used. This makes for an easy to pick up title that anyone can get into with little difficulty. The sound is as simple as the visuals which compliment the overall package that the game provides, creating a cohesive gameplay experience.
Final Thoughts – Run Bean Galactic is a rather basic title that has a lot of gameplay value for the very modest budget. The gameplay is simple yet satisfying, with the score based focus of the title offering almost endless replay value for all players. I can easily recommend this title to everyone, as the challenge of this title is simple to get to grips with, but can take a lot of time to get a good rhythm for good scores.
In the end, I give Run Bean Galactic a final score of 4/5. This is a rather simple title, with a challenge that is easy to pick up and play, yet is hard to master as the randomly generated hazard patterns make the difficulty fluctuate. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below.
Overview – developed by Shinyuden and published by Ratalaika Games, Cyber Citizen Shockman is an action platformer that will be getting a release in the west for the first time ever. Originally released for the PC Engine back in 1989, this is the first official release of this once forgotten game. This release is available for all console platforms, with a link to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Cyber Citizen Shockman that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story. Please note, I will mostly be referring to the game simply as Shockman for the sake of brevity.
Story – Cyber Citizen Shockman is the story of two Japanese school kids named Tasuke and Kyapiko, who are in fact androids built by a mad scientist known only as Doc, who built Tasuke and Kyapiko with the ability to morph into armoured superheroes known as Shockman. Their plight is to battle the evil forces of Dark Skull.
Doc’s first attempt at a cybernetic organism who went rogue and established a gang of goons called the Skull Force. The Skull Force is trying to take over the city and have captured civilians in various locations. As Shockman, you must take back the city, one building at a time, rescue the hostages, and defeat Dark Skull and his gang.
Gameplay – Cyber Citizen Shockman is an action platformer, where the core objective is to clear each stage by defeating the boss at the end. The player has a total of 18 days to beat all 15 of the stages, split into day and night stages. From the home base, the player can select the stage that they want to challenge on a map, with three options to start and more stages opening up as the game progresses.
In the stages, the player must battle enemies with their sword and traverse dangerous platform challenges. The different areas contain deadly pitfalls, flying creatures and robots that stand in the way of the player reaching their goal. To battle these threats, the player has a sword that they can swing to damage and defeat enemies, with different enemies needing more hits than others to take down.
The sword can be used while standing and jumping, but cannot be used while crouching which is unfortunate as it can prevent dodging some enemy attacks. The attack is quite snappy, but if the player presses the button rapidly it is possible for inputs to be missed. The platforming is challenging as there is a momentum system implemented, with the player gaining a little speed as they move and continuing to move after letting go.
The jumping is a little slow, which can be troublesome when players are getting used to it. This is most noticeable when there are moving platforms, with the very real possibility of missing the jump or hitting an enemy/hazard. This does get easier when getting used to the momentum system, but will likely be a frustration when getting used to the game at first. All combined, the movement and attacks do work well making for a solid experience.
As the player progresses through the stage, they can collect money from enemies that are defeated which is added to their total. There are also special power-ups that can help the player get through the stages, with the drops including health recovery items, limited time invincibility and a temporary super jump. These items will usually drop randomly, but there are some sections that have predetermined drops.
At the end of a regular stage, the player will encounter a boss that must be defeated in order to progress. The bosses will follow set patterns in that battle, but the majority of encounters will be different from each other. There are two types of battle that the player will encounter, with the first being the Robot, which is rather straight forward. The other is the Dragon, which will need more care and skill to battle due to the varied patterns.
When the stage is cleared, the player will often receive a reward for defeating the boss and saving the citizens. The rewards that the player will earn are important as they are made up of upgrades, recovery items and the most important being the ShockBeam. This beam is used by holding down the attack button to charge, then when flashing let go, if timed right the player can take out a lot of enemies but it can only be used when standing still.
On the main map screen, the different paths will open up as the player makes their way through the game, with stages lighting up when cleared. When a path has been connected to the final stage, the player may challenge it as there is a non-linear progression system in this title. However, if the player is not careful, then defeat will find them quickly and that can be a real set back, as the player will lose money and their score.
When deciding what stage to challenge next, the player has additional options that they can select. There are three options available aside from map, which are Repair to heal all damage, Shop to buy upgrades for the Shock Beam and Hint to get extra information. All of these options will require the player to pay out for them, with Repair costing 1000Yen, Hint 300Yen and Shop has two prices, which makes earning money important.
If the player is defeated during a stage, they will be sent back to the main map screen where the Doc will repair them for a hefty chunk of change. The timer will move forward and the player may even lose a health upgrade, while also losing the score that they built up. This can be a significant setback, making the later stages much more difficult, especially for players who are not the most skilled at action platform titles.
This title is available to play in both single and multiplayer, but there is a caveat to take into consideration when taking on evil in tandem with another. In this release, both players take on the stage together, but they will share a life bar, meaning any damage that one player takes will affect both of them. This means that when one player takes fatal damage, both will perish simultaneously, so be prepared for this possibility when playing co-op (unless you use invincibility).
As a modern port of a retro title, there are some enhancements that have been made to this release of Shockman to bring it to a new audience. The first major enhancement is the translation, with the game being fully translated into English for the first time ever, while also offering the original Japanese release too. Then we have the implementation of save/load states where players can freely pause and resume their progress, allowing for a better pick up and play experience.
For this release there is also the inclusion of cheats for invincibility, for those who want to practice or just have fun, as well as a maximum money option to help out those who may struggle. The last thing to mention here is the gallery, which features special sketches of different characters from the game, alongside scans of the original manual and the box art/HuCard (game cartridge). All of these new features make the game accessible for a new audience.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to cover the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – as Shockman is a PC Engine title, the game only uses two buttons, with one for jumping and the other attacking. With the porting of the game to modern consoles, there are also quality of life improvements that have been made to the game. These changes include new UI navigations that players are familiar with, as well as the ability to modify the controls to suit the individual preferences of each player.
Difficulty – this is a very challenging title, with an escalating difficulty curve and a need to learn the patterns for the different bosses that appear. For players that don’t play older action titles, this may prove to be a steep challenge, due to the beginners traps and rather unfair hazards. However, with the enhancements and modifications added to it, including the ability to rewind the game, this difficulty can be lessened for those who struggle.
Presentation – visually this is a very nice 2D title, with sprite work and backgrounds that are nicely detailed, along with cute character designs for the playable characters when in the menus. The sound comes through clean and crisp, with a soundtrack and digitized voice samples that are pleasing to the ear. There are also filters and adjustable resolutions that can be applied to the game, emulating a look that is closer to the original release for those who desire it.
Final Thoughts – I myself am a fan of the PC Engine and I had the fortune of playing this game, as well as the others in the series here and there. Being able to experience it on a modern system has been a real treat, I am very happy to see this title finally getting a release in the west and even if it does have a few scuffs to it, it is still a good time. This may not be for everyone, due largely in part to the high difficulty, but it is an excellent challenge to take on.
I can happily recommend Cyber Citizen Shockman to everyone that is a fan of action platform titles, as it is one of the hidden gems of the PC Engine. It may lack a little of the shine that its contemporaries in the genre have, but the day/night cycle and the map system make up for this, along with a unique charm that allows the game to stand on its own. I am hopeful that the sequels for this title will be released in the future, to sit alongside this excellent game.
In the end, I give Cyber Citizen Shockman a final score of 4.5/5. This title is an excellent action platformer that was a hidden gem on the PC Engine, with a progression system that was rather unique for its time and challenging action that will test the skills of most players. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below, the game is scheduled to release on May 19th 2023.
Hello! I have an update about the upcoming title Star Gagnant from Regista, Be Brave and the legendary Meijin Takahashi. I have previously published a press release for this title, with details about the game which can be found (HERE).
Today I have some details about sales that will be available for both the European and North American eShop services, with links to both stores.
On May 11th, Register Co., Ltd. began pre-orders for the Nintendo Switch™ download version of the shooting game “Star Gagnant,” supervised by Meijin Takahashi. The release date is scheduled for May 25th,(Start date for gameplay.) Here are the details of the sale and game.
Title: Star Gagnant
Number of players: 1 player (1-4 players in some modes)
Overview – developed by Sting, Idea Factory and Compile Heart, with publishing handled by Idea Factory International, Dokapon Kingdom Connect is a hybrid of digital board game and turn based RPG. Adventurers must battle it out with monsters and each other, with the victor saving the kingdom and claiming the Princess as their bride. This title is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch, with a link to the game at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Idea Factory International for providing the copy of Dokapon Kingdom Connect that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story of Dokapon Kingdom Connect. Please not I will only be covering the core aspects of this title, as there are many nuances and secrets that are best experienced first hand.
Story – Everyone in the Dokapon Kingdom loves money, however, one day in this peaceful land, monsters appeared and began attacking nearby towns. The economy collapsed from these attacks and people were at their lowest, with takes no longer being paid. So with this terrible situation, the king decided to take action.
He sent out a call for the bravest adventures to rescue the towns. In exchange for their service, the one who collects the most money will be rewarded with the princess’ hand in marriage and the throne of Dokapon Kingdom. And thus, an adventure to claim the most money begins, where absolutely anything goes.
Gameplay – Dokapon Kingdom Connect is a digital board game where at least 2 players (with COM players if playing alone) compete to earn the most money. The action is turn based, with players able to choose from several actions during each of their turns, with 7 turns being classed as a Week. When a week is completed, there will be a score ranking for the players, totalling up all the money that they have earned as assets. With positions being determined by the most wealth gained.
When starting the game, the player must pick the game mode that they want to play. There are three options for players to select from before they can get into the action. They are the story mode, where players can go through chapters that each have their own missions, dialogue events and can be played alone or with friends. The next is the normal mode, which runs for a set number of weeks with the goal to be gaining the most money before the turn limit is up.
The final game mode is Battle Royale, which has three distinct modes for a more varied experience separate from the standard modes. These sub games are Town Race, where players race to save a designated town, Kill Race, where a set number of player kills must be achieved and Shopping Race where a set of items must be obtained for the king. The different game modes can be played online with friends, allowing for players across the globe to join in the fun.
But before the fun can begin, players need to create their adventure with a selection of hair styles, faces and classes to choose from. The characters can be either male or female, with their own unique set of customization options to select from. Once characters have been created, named and adjusted if they are COM players, the game can start. At the beginning of the game the players must race to the castle, collecting starting gear and learning how to play.
When players reach the castle, they will be provided with any items they are missing, along with bonuses to their stats. The different stats that players have are related to the battle system, covering the traditional elements like health, attack and defence. The bonuses provided upon reaching the castle are vary depending on the order that they arrive, with the first player getting the most points and reduced with each other arrival.
At the start of a turn, the most common option that players can select is to move across the board by using the spinner. The spinner itself has numbers from 0-6 with players moving freely up to the number that they get. Players can also use items to affect themselves and their opponents, giving them an advantage over the following turns. The items are collected when landing on specific spaces (discussed further below).
Depending on where a player lands on the board several things can happen, with many of the spaces having the possibility for effects to occur. Here is a quick breakdown of the most common spaces on the Kingdom board;
Empty Space – these are the most common spaces that players will land on during their adventures. Landing on these spaces will most often result in battles, either with a random enemy or with another player if they occupy the same space. There is the chance for a special event or effect to occur on these spaces, so keep an eye out for those.
Equipment Space – there are different equipment spaces that players can land on, with the chance for weapons and shields for players to collect during their quest. The weapons and armor can provide additional bonuses depending on the class of the character chosen.
Item Space – these spaces will provide the player with a random item, which include bonus spinners, crystals that move a set number of spaces and special support items.
Magic Space – the magic spaces are identical to the item spaces, with a random magic item given to players either as battle magic or board magic depending on the variant of the space landed on.
Treasure Space – these spaces have to potential for great riches, as they can give money or loot depending on the icon that they land on. But beware that some of the treasure spaces can have negative effects, which will be a setback for players.
Shop Space – throughout the world of Dokapon, there are shops that adventurers can land on, providing the chance to buy weapons, magic or items from their stock. These shops can also be used to sell items that players don’t want to gain extra money.
Town Space – these are the most important spaces in Dokapon Kingdom, as they are controlled by powerful boss monsters and the adventurers must liberate the towns. The player that successfully saves the town will gain control of it, adding to their assets and allowing players to invest in them. The towns offer a safe place for adventurers to rest but if an opponent owns it the player must pay.
Castle Dokapon – this is where the king is found. Returning to this space will let players change parts of their adventurer, altering their job and hairstyle if they wish. The king will also heal the player and the player can give gifts in an attempt to impress the king.
When landing in an empty space, or a space occupied by either a boss monster or player, a battle will occur (this can vary with the empty spaces). The combat in these battles follows the traditional turn based formula that is synonymous with RPG titles. The order of attack is chosen at random, with the turn player selecting from two cards, with both sides selecting actions to be made during that round of combat.
The actions that can be made interact with each other, with each action having an opposing option that will reduce the damage the defending player will take. However, if the wrong choice is chosen, there is a significant amount of damage that can dealt to the defender, but if they are lucky, the attack will miss entirely. The battle actions and their responses are as follows;
Attack – this is the standard attack using the equipped weapon. The defender option for this is Defend, which will reduce the amount of damage that is dealt.
Magic Attack – there are many types of battle magic that can be used, each having a different effect on enemies. The defender response for this is Magic Defence which can protect the defender from some damage.
Strike – this is a quick attack that can deal a lot of damage to an opponent with this attack. The defender option is Counter, which will deal damage to the attacker while avoiding all damage to themselves.
Skill – this is for characters to use a special skill to prepare themselves for the next turn, the defenders option here is Give Up, where the player will surrender and be timed out.
If a battle continues after both sides have attacked, the words “To Be Continued” will pop up on screen and the next player will make their turn. The battle will resume when the players turn comes back around, continuing until there is a victor. If the battle is between players, the battle will occur during each of their turns while both players are still standing. At the end of a battle, the winner will receive experience and money if they are fighting monsters.
When enough experience has been gained, the adventurers will level up, being granted points to increase their stats and make themselves stronger. Their class can also level up at set milestones, providing the option for players to gain new skills and make themselves more powerful. But there is a caveat to this, as the adventurers can only have one skill at a time so the player must decide if they want to keep their current skill or swap it out.
However, if an adventurer is defeated in battle, they will be timed out for a number of turns before they can return to the board. This is shorter if the player surrenders in a battle, but they will still be penalized. A defeated adventurer can also suffer an additional penalty, ranging from losing money or liberated towns, to having their appearance changed by losing their hair. These punishments and penalties add some humor to the proceedings, but can result in frustration.
The kingdom of Dokapon is vast, with many different areas for players to explore. But some areas of the kingdom will initially be locked off, opening up as the adventure continues. There is also the chance for boss monster events to occur, which can affect the players by stealing money and inflicting negative effects. The player can also encounter NPC characters that can give them missions to do, as well as quests from the king like collecting an item for him.
The different special events add an element of surprise to the adventures of this release, with the chance events making each playthrough different from the last. There are many twists and turns that can occur in Dokapon Kingdom, creating a fun party experience that can be a lot of fun for players to enjoy. There is some frustration that can be had, due to the chance of encountering strong enemies or having a particularly spiteful AI opponent, but this isn’t a significant issue.
At the end of an adventure, the hero with the most money and assets will be crowned the winner, gaining the throne of the kingdom. There are additional bonuses that can be gained based on various factors, like gaining the most favour of the king by providing gifts or liberating the most towns. These additional bonuses for players can increase the tension of a close fought game, as the player in last place could suddenly jump up to the top of the rankings.
Now with the core gameplay experience covered, it is time to cover the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls for this release are relatively simple, with all of the inputs that players can use appearing on screen to help keep the game running smoothly. When playing alone or online, the Joy-Con controllers are perfect for playing the game in handheld mode, providing a comfortable experience. The pro controller and Joy-Cons work equally well when playing the game on the big screen, as well as single Joy-Con support for players to enjoy a game anywhere they want.
Difficulty – as a digital board game there is the chance for a lot of fluctuation in terms of difficulty when playing against AI opponents. This is most noticeable when the player is in the lead, as the COM players can aggresively target the human players with effects and try to battle them. To compensate for this, there are several difficulty settings that the player can select from, adjusting the way that the COM will play during a game.
Presentation – Dokapon Kingdom has a very cutesy look to it, with super deformed characters in the chbi style for the adventurers, monsters and NPC characters. The environments and models are pleasing to the eye, fitting the board game setting very well and adding to the experience. The sound design for this title is very good, with music that has a very upbeat feel to it and the use of voiced dialogue in English which adds an extra layer of charm to the game.
Final Thoughts – I had seen Dokapon Kingdom in the past, when it was released on both the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii. Unfortunately I never got a chance to play the previous releases, so I jumped at the chance to cover this version and I can safely say that I had a lot of fun playing this rather quirky party game. There are some frustrating elements to it, like the CPU opponents playing in an unnatural way, or outright cheating in some cases, but these aren’t deal breakers for me.
With that being said, I am happy to recommend this game to those who enjoy RPGs and party game titles, as there is a lot of fun to be had either alone or with friends. The inclusion of online play is an excellent addition with this, as it can let players from around the globe enjoy the weird and wacky shenanigans that can unfold. However, if you want to start a story mode game with friends, make sure you have a lot of free time, as the game can take quite a while to finish.
In the end, I give Dokapon Kingdom Connect a final score of 4/5. This is a fun and charming party game, with the unique feature of having RPG mechanics and turn based battles. There is a charm to this with the wacky shenanigans that can unfold, as well as the cast of characters that the player can meet, creating a fun party experience for all players. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to the game will be below.
Overview – developed by Route 5 Games and published by Ratalaika Games, Gematombe is an arcade style VS puzzle game based upon the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box. Using mechancs taken from brick breaker and bubble pop games, clear or crush your opponents to achieve victory in the puzzle battle. This title is available on all console platforms and Steam, with a link to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Gematombe that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as there are multiple plotlines that players can experience, so I will be going directly into covering the gameplay.
Gameplay – Gematombe is a competitive puzzle title, where the player must battle their opponent in puzzle battles. The objective of the battles are simple, clear the screen of all gem blocks before new ones can appear or make your opponents blocks reach the bottom. During these battles, the player must aim and fire their ball, trying to hit multiple blocks in combos to clear the screen as quickly as possible.
The blocks can be destroyed one by one, but if there is an active chain, multiple blocks of the same color can be broken if they are touching. In order to start a chain, multiple blocks must be hit at once, with the chance to preserve it by catching the ball. When big chains are secured, the player can send additional blocks to the enemy to try and crush them. However, if the player misses the ball when it returns, the blocks will move down risking them being crushed.
There are six characters that the player can choose from in this title, each of them inspired by the Greek myth of Pandora and the box. These characters have their own special abilities that they can use during battles, affecting the blocks on the opponents side of the field to try and gain an advantage. These character skills include generating more blocks, locking gems from being broken and even changing their colors.
The main game mode for this release is the story mode, where players can challenge all the characters in battles with a plot and ending for each of the characters. There are additional game modes for players to challenge, with a quick break down of all modes to round off this segment;
Story Mode – single player campaign with a unique story for each of the playable characters.
Practice Mode – take some time to get acquainted with each of the characters, hone your skills and prepare for battle.
Survivor mode – take part in endless battles against random opponents. Climb the tower to the sky, but if you are defeated, you must start again from the beginning.
Local Versus mode – take on a friend in head to head battle on the same console.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – this title has a control system that is easy to pick up, with only a few inputs needed to play this title. The controls are simple enough, with the launcher being moved/aimed with the D-pad and thumbstick, as well as the launch and move speed buttons on the face. The game is comfortable regardless of the controller that is used, but I would recommend an arcade stick to play this game for the authentic brick breaking experience.
Difficulty – this game is a mixed bag in terms of challenge, due to the competitive nature of this title the AI and block drops can be randomised. This unfortunately can lead to quick losses when the AI is able to clear the screen quickly at later stages, or if the player can’t chain combos and clear blocks fast enough. These minor issues can lead to some frustration for players, especially when losses are completely out the players control.
Presentation – the visuals are reminiscent of the titles it is inspired by, with sprites and character designs that are similar to that of Puyo Puyo, as well as other classic titles. These visuals compliment the feel of arcades that the game attempts to create, but there are some minor issues with slowdown at times during play. The sound adds to the experience, with music that fits each of the character themes, giving more depth and life to the overall presentation of this release.
Final Thoughts – I had a good time playing Gematombe, as the arcade style of the gameplay was a lot of fun to get to grips with. However, there is a level of frustration with the difficulty and semi random nature of the character skills. There is a lot of content on offer with this release, with secrets to discover and plenty of challenges with the different game modes which do make up for some of the frustrations.
I am able to easily recommend this release to everyone that likes arcade and puzzle titles, as this offers enough for players to sink their teeth into. The extra game modes increase the time that players can get from this release, along with the local multiplayer battles that can be enjoyed at home or on the go with a single system.
In the end, I give Gematombe a final score of 4/5, this is a fun and challenging arcade style competitive puzzler, with a feel that is reminiscent of the titles that inspired it. There is a plenty of content in this indie title, with more than enough for players to get their money’s worth. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below.
Hello, I have some exciting information to share with you from our friends at Regista Co. about Star Gagnant, an upcoming title for the Nintendo Switch. Check out the information in the press release below to learn more about this title that will be released on May 25th. All of the details below have been graciously provided by Regista, along with assets and links to the Nintendo eShop for this title.
The company Regista Co., Ltd. (Headquarters: Tokyo) has announced the release of a new shooting game “Star Gagnant” supervised by the legendary Meijin Takahashi from the generation of Famicom, famous for his “16-shot”. The Nintendo Switch (Digital version) of the game will be released on Thursday, May 25th, 2023. Pre-orders and a demo version will be available starting on Thursday, May 11th.
About the Game
“Star Gagnant” is a 2D vertical-scrolling shooting game with a classic and simple gameplay reminiscent of the golden age of shooting games in the 1980s and 1990s. The title means “Champion of the Stars.” Players must dodge a barrage of incoming enemy bullets and unleash shots in all directions for an exhilarating experience. Once hooked, players are sure to become addicted to this game.
In this work, Takaaki “Kinoko” Takeaki Kunimoto, who was responsible for the BGM in the classic shooting game “Star Soldier,” provides some of the music, and ”Mr. Urban legends” Akio Seki participates in enemy character design, with a friendship with MeijinTakahashi. The game is only available for download, but the official website https://stargagnant.net/ also features a special flyer designed to resemble a packaged version, which is worth checking out.
The gameplay filled with love for “button mashing.”
The biggest feature of this game is undoubtedly the game system that utilizes button mashing. While adopting the auto button-mashing system that activates rapid fire attacks simply by holding down the button, which isfamiliar to most shooting games, players can intentionally “button mash” to power up their shots more and more when facing tough enemies or powerful bosses that they want to defeat quickly. This innovative system not only allows players to physically enjoy the button-mashing playstyle that is synonymous with Meijin Takahashi but also incorporates it as a solid strategic element.
A variety of game modes
This game includes four diverse modes.
Arcade mode – In arcade mode, you will clear seven stages along the story. The mission will be completed when you clear all the stages. There are 4 levels of difficulty. After finishing HARD difficulty, MEIJIN difficulty will be unlocked.
Caravan mode – In caravan mode, compete for high scores on a dedicated stage for only 2 minutes.
Challenge mode – In challenge mode, your control skills will be evaluated in each challenge, and your overall rank will be displayed at the end. You will be able to objectively evaluate your control skills and use them as opportunities for improvement.
Rapid Fire mode – In rapid fire mode, simply compete for rapid fire speed. Up to 4 players can play local matches.
Meijin Takahashi in-game！
In the game, the legendary gamer Meijin Takahashi appears as a character named “Master TAKAHASHI”. He is a former ace pilot who fought against the invading army ORBIT and is now the commander of the space defense force ALTAIR. He supports the main character in their fight against the re-invading ORBIT. Meijin Takahashi provides the voice for his character in the game.
The game development history
“We want to make a shooting game that you can enjoy by mashing buttons!” This project was born from Meijin Takahashi’s strong desire to create a shooting game that could be enjoyed by everyone from the Famicom generation to the Switch generation, while also being retro, simple, and brand new. Meijin Takahashi was a driving force behind the Famicom boom in Japan.
He teamed up with Register Ltd. to start the project and develop the game. To fund the game’s development, a crowdfunding campaign was launched in September 2022. Fans from all over Japan enthusiastically supported the campaign. The project raised more than double its funding goal within just one month.
Profile of Meijin Takahashi
Born in 1959 in Hokkaido, Japan. Meijin Takahashi joined the video game company Hudson in 1985 and made his debut as a “master” at a software PR event. He gained fame when his signature technique of “16-shot” was introduced in the children’s magazine “KoroKoro Comic”, and he became a hero for kids.
Since then, he made numerous appearances on TV shows, debuted as a singer, and starred in the movie “Game King Meijin Takahashi vs. Meijin Mouri : Showdown! The Ultimate Battle“, became a symbol of the age. After leaving Hudson, he continued to contribute to the development of the gaming industry also working as a talent.
Title: Star Gagnant Genre: Shooting Number of players: 1 player (1-4 players in some modes) Release date: May 25, 2023 (Thursday) Price (DL version only):＄38 (including tax) CERO rating: “A” (suitable for all ages) Compatible platforms: Nintendo Switch/Nintendo Switch Lite Supported languages: Japanese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese Star Gagnant official website: https://stargagnant.net/en/ Star Gagnant Twitter: https://twitter.com/StarGagnant
Link to the game on US Nintendo eShop can be found (HERE)
Link to the game on EU Nintendo eShop can be found (HERE)
Overview – developed by Idea Factory and Compile Heart, in collaboration with Cocone Corporation and published by Eastasiasoft, Mugen Souls is an anime-styled JRPG with a comedic edge. Join Chou-Chou on her quest to conquer the universe and its seven worlds, using her powers to turn the most powerful beings in the worlds into her servants. This title is available exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, with a link to the digital and physical releases at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Eastasiasoft for providing the copy of Mugen Souls that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Mature Content Disclaimer: Mugen Souls has been rated M, this is due to the inclusion of sexual themes, content, partial nudity and interactive intimacy scenes. If the inclusion of this type of content is something that you find offensive or you are under the recommended age in your region, please proceed at your own discretion.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story for Mugen Souls. I will be covering the core elements of the gameplay to prevent spoiling the surprises that this game offers, covering the base components of the experience.
Story – In deep space, Chou-Chou was floating with no memories of her past, but she knows that she wants everything in the universe to be hers, especially the 7 Worlds because they are pretty. To achieve this goal, Chou-Chou, proclaiming herself to be the Undisputed God of the Universe, sets out to conquer these worlds with the assistance of her followers Altis and Ryuto. However, not everything is as it appears, with many twists and turns that occur along the way.
Gameplay – Mugen Souls is an anime-styled dungeon crawling JRPG, with the player taking the role of the Undisputed God of the Universe Chou-Chou as she seeks to take over the 7 worlds. The story takes place over several chapters, with the various twists and turns playing out in cutscenes and VN style character interactions. The gameplay loop is centred around dungeon crawling, turn based battles and the completion of objectives to push the narrative forward.
The majority of objectives in each chapter are shown as event markers, which are displayed on screen and the map to guide the player to them. When the marker is activated, an event will occur which can be a story scene or battle for the player to encounter. As the story progresses further, there will be the potential for players to alter the course of the narrative for players, leading to a different ending depending on the choices made.
While exploring the dungeons, the player will encounter enemies that are roaming the map. When these enemies make contact with the player in the field, battle will be initiated, with the possibility of an advantage being given to either side. During battle, the combatants take turns that are determined by the turn order at the top of the screen, split into enemies and allies. When the players turn begins, they have access to a range of skills and actions.
In battles, the player may encounter hazards, enemies and crystals that provide different effects on the field. During each turn, the player has the ability to move freely within a specific range, then an action can be made. Here is a breakdown of the main actions that can be used during a battle;
MOE KILL – this is the special skill that Chou-Chou can use in battle. If an enemy or Crystal is within the range of attack for the Ultimate Goddess, the player can activate Moe Kill before they make their main action, attempting to turn those in her reach into loyal servants called Peons. However, depending on the choices that the player has made, this can make the enemies stronger by enraging them.
Change Form – Chou Chou has multiple forms that she can switch into, with each of them tied to a different personality trait that she can use. These include a tall red haired form wearing a bondage themed outfit, a tsundere form with a waitress dress and a purple haired gothic form to name a few. The ability to shift forms in battle is limited in battle, with the number of changes reset when leaving the field zone.
Link Attacks – when a units turn occurs, the player may be able to perform a special attack with the other members of the party. These special linked attacks may not deal the most damage, but they each have their own unique animations when they are used. When a party member isn’t able to perform a linked attack, a standard physical attack will occur.
Skills – party members have access to skills that they can use in battle, with different character classes having their own unique skills. These skills use up SP, with different characters excelling at those tied to their class. There are some special attacks that can be used in the skill menu when requirements are met.
Blast Off – when using skills, the player can activate the Blast Off ability which will launch the target/s across the screen and dealing damage to everything that they make contact with. If a crystal is hit by an enemy being launched, there is the chance for the Crystal to be broken and additional bonuses to be activated. Be aware, the blast off skill has its limits and can be depleted if the player is careless.
Item – the active character is able to use items to perform a variety of benefits. The items that can be used include healing items, restoring missing health and curing party members of their negative effects.
Switch – the active character can switch with a reserve party member, allowing players to mix and match their party as they want to change their strategy mid fight. This can be done once a turn so make the switch count.
Retreat/Defend – if players don’t want to battle the enemies they have encountered, they can attempt to escape the battle by selecting the retreat option. If this fails, the turn will be skipped and the next unit will move. There is also the option to put a party member in a defensive position, which will allow the player to skip a turn while minimizing damage taken.
When all enemies have been defeated, or have been turned into peons, the player party will be rewarded with EXP, Money and Mugen Points. The rewards that are given are affected by the damage done, the special skills that have been used and the overall performance of the player party. There is also the chance for bonus rewards for the player to gain in battles, which will be added to the player inventory.
Outside of battles in the field, the player will come across item points that will provide treasures for the player to collect. There are also special points that can be targeted to be turned into Peons on the map itself. When these points are encountered, the player must attempt to use Moe Kill upon them, with success leading to the point being captured. However, if the player is unsuccessful with Moe Kill, a battle will occur before they can try again.
When the different points in a world are successfully Moe Killed, a world meter will be filled up and a special effect will occur when it reaches 100%. But bear in mind, the master points of a field will appear over time being locked until there is a requirement reached. The different points will have a unique requirement to them, including the need for a specific Chou-Chou form or an amount of money needed to make them a Peon successfully.
When not in the different Worlds the player will spend time a significant amount of time on Chou-Chou’s airship the G-Castle, which functions as the home base for the player. While on the G-Castle, the player can access a variety of different resources, stores and features. There are also high intensity battles that occur during the story between the G-Castle and the airships of other worlds, with the challenge increasing with each fight.
The facilities at the home base are key to the success of the player, as they offer the ability to buy new equipment for their party, buy support items and even create new specialised Peon units. In the G-Castle, the player is able to use Mugen Points to make custom units to add to their party in the Peon Salon. This is where unique units can be fully customized, with character classes, cosmetic items and even the face themselves can be customized.
While in the base the player should take the time to give themselves the best possible gear that they can, ensuring that they are ready for each battle ahead. The gear that can be equipped will alter the stats of each member of the party, with bonuses for those who are proficient in the weapons that they have equipped. All of the character units can be altered cosmetically, with accessories and costumes that can be added for extra visual flair.
The last thing to discuss is the Mugen Portal, the entrance to a special dimension where the player can battle enemies in several different routes, where some story threads can become clear. While inside the Mugen Field, the battles will be randomly generated and provides a chance for players to grind a lot of points and resources. This special dimension is split into different sections, with special requirements and restrictions based on the stage they are in.
The Mugen Field is made up of 100 floors, with preset points where the player will be given the choice to continue or quit and escape with earned rewards. In order to continue from the rest points, the player must reach the requirements for at least one route, or they will need to exit the Mugen Field. Also while at these points the player will be able to purchase special upgrades for the party, new classes and more using collected points.
To enter the Mugen Field, players must make a wager to gain access, with the amount of points paid in determining different factors of the battles that will be faced. This makes the almost endless dungeon environment one of the most useful tools for players who want to farm resources, experience and more. But be aware that defeat in the Mugen Field will come at a heavy price, with all rewards that are earned being lost if the party is wiped out.
There is so much more that I could discuss about the gameplay in this title. However, I feel that there are many things that players should uncover for themselves, including the titillating, lewd and saucy secrets that this special version holds. This is due to the restoration of content that was cut from the previous release, along with the inclusion of all additional DLC content, giving players the ultimate Mugen Souls experience in one complete package.
Now with that covered, it is time to discuss the other aspects of this release starting with the controls.
Controls – the control layout for this game has a comfortable feel to it, which is important for long play sessions as this title can demand a lot of time at once. All of the key features and functions are in positions that players can learn quickly, with on screen displays for functions that can be used as a guide during play. This title plays well in both handheld and docked play, using either Joy-Cons or pro controllers, with the only flaw being the lack of touch support for certain elements.
Difficulty – the difficulty curve for Mugen Souls is balanced well, making the game approachable for all players to get right into the action. However, the difficulty can escalate quickly depending on the decisions made by the player. This isn’t a significant stumbling block and can be remedied by grinding some earlier areas. But if players want to breeze through the majority of this adventure, the bonus DLC content will give a significant advantage from the jump.
Presentation – the visual style of Mugen Souls has that artistic charm that most titles from Idea Factory share, with character art and model designs that are pleasing to the eye. This is most noticable when it comes to the varied design aesthetics of each of Chou-Chou’s forms, with colors that match their distinct character traits. The environments are well designed with background art that compliments the settings and cutscenes that take place in them.
The sound for this title brings the whole experience together, with music from composer Tenpei Sato who uses his distinct style to knock the title up a notch. There are elements of the soundtrack that are reminiscent of his work in Disgaea, which work well to emphasise the off-beat nature of this release. There is English and Japanese dialogue available in this release, with the English VO featuring the talents of Johnny Yong Bosch (Trigun) and Kira Buckland (River City Girls).
Final Thoughts – sadly I missed the initial release of Mugen Souls back on the PlayStation 3, but I am happy that I was able to fix that by getting to play it on the Nintendo Switch. The setting, story and characters all have a unique charm to them that really enhance the whole experience, making for a fun and engaging experience. The overall presentation and gameplay reminded me of Disgaea to a point, with the wacky attack animations and soundtrack which I really enjoyed.
There is a lot of content in this package, with all missing and extra content making for a solid JRPG offering, with the only flaw being some very minor slowdown after loading items in. The sexualised interactive scenes may border on the edge of bad taste for some, but as they are optional they can be skipped entirely. I have no issue recommending this title to fans of Japanese RPG titles, especially those who have played other titles within the genre as it is a fun and charming experience overall.
In the end, I give Mugen Souls a final score of 4.5/5. This is a fun and engaging JRPG adventure, featuring a story and characters that kept me pulled in for the entire play time. There is a wealth of content for players to sink their teeth into, with the inclusion of all missing/extra content making this the definitive way to experience the game. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to the digital and physical release will be below.
Overview – developed by Idea Factory, Compile Heart and Sting, with publishing handled by Idea Factory International, Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord is the latest entry in the fantasy JRPG series. Join the duo of Fang and Eryn, as they embark on a journey to collect relics known as Furies, battling dangerous threats along the way. This title is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation systems and Steam (out May 23rd), with links to the game at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Idea Factory International for providing the copy of Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story (from the official website). I will be referring to the game as Refrain Chord during the review, while also focusing on covering the core systems to prevent spoiling any surprises this game has.
Story – long ago, the people were given knowledge by the Goddess, and civilization flourished. They built towers stretching toward the heavens, and a weapon so powerful they could pierce the gods themselves. However, that civilization was decimated shortly after a violent conflict between the Goddess and the Vile God. Ages have passed since then.
This story begins with a young man named Fang who has become a Fencer, a swordsman who has the ability to wield a special weapon imbued with a Fairy known as a Fury. Along with his companions, Fang is on a Journey to find the Furies and resurrect the Goddess. One day, he encounters a woman who can save people with her song, as well as one who can brainwash people with hers.
Along with the mysterious power of the women who call themselves Muses, Fang’s destiny begins to unfold.
Gameplay – Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord takes the established characters, setting and world, but puts them in a new strategy RPG system. This time, players will take part in grid based battles in a variety of locations, with familiar mechanics being used in a new way. In this title, the majority of the gameplay takes place split between visual novel style character interactions and stage battles. Between the battles, the narrative plays out in the through chaptered visual novel story segments.
These segments are divided into two types, main and side quests which are shown via a red or yellow marker in the game menus. The optional story segments give the player additional information about the games world, giving extra character depth to those that the player will encounter during the game. These VN segments can also provide bonus missions for players to play. These segments have many twists and turns as the player explores the world of Refrain Chord.
The main quests make up the core of the gameplay experience, with the player working their way through the different battle stages. These stages will increase as the player progresses, introducing new areas and enemies to fight in each chapter of the story. The stages that players can select appear in the world map, with each of the unlocked areas available for players to battle on. There are also extra battles that can occur in each stage for players to earn extra bonuses.
When the player selects a stage to battle in, a story scene will play out if they are tied to a quest. Then the win/loss condition is provided and the battle prep screen appears, where players are able to prepare their party, scope out the enemies and ensure they are ready for the battle ahead. The units in the party can have their equipment, skills and other aspects changed, giving the player more tactical options during battle stages.
While the player sets up their party for a battle in or out of battle, they can equip weapons, armor and more to provide a boost in combat. The player is also able to equip a Sub-Fairy where available, increasing the power that character units have, as well as providing access to skills depending on the characters that they are equipped to. Learning how to synergise the fairies and equipment of a character can provide an edge in battles.
The members of the party can be freely customized, but there are some units that are mandatory for use, like the Muse Fleur, who is an integral part of the game when she joins the player. Once the battle stage starts, the turn order will be determined based on several hidden factors and the action begins. In battle, players have access to a variety of options that can be used in combat. Here is a breakdown of the actions players can use during their turn;
Movement – the player can move the active unit around the field. The total movement distance is determined based on the movement stat of that specific unit, which can also be affected by the terrain and position of other units. The player can make one movement action during their turn, before or after using a skill.
Attack – the player can use a regular attack, dealing damage to the enemy without using SP. The attacks that units can perform will vary based on their weapon, with different power, range and reach depending on the weapon that is equipped by that unit.
Skills – each unit can use a variety of skills that are separated into four different categories, each with their own unique characteristics based upon the character themselves. The four types of skill are Physical, Magical, Trap and Special, with each skill requiring SP to be used.
Item – character units can use items in battle. The items can vary depending on the quality of them and the number of items that can be used per battle is limited.
Wait – this will end the turn without making any additional actions, when a turn ends, the player can choose a direction to face, this is important as damage against both enemies and allies will change if they are hit from behind or the side.
Fairize – when a Fencer unit fills up their Fairize meter they can activate a special skill, which will transform them into a powered up form for a limited time. This special mode can also increase the players base stats, provide special attacks and more for that player unit.
The Muse’s Song – this special skill is unique to the Muse characters, called a Fairy Aria. When this is activated, an area of effect appears on the map surrounding the Muse. The units within the range of the song will gain extra effects depending on the song that is used, increasing based on different factors in combat.
Avalanche – this is a very special attack that can be used when the Avalanche meter has been filled up by units making actions. When the meter is full, unleash a massive attack that will damage all enemies within ranched, with an enhanced version called a Harmonic Avalanche if activated with the Fairy Aria.
Throughout a battle, the player units will gain EXP points and FP points for every attack and skill that they use. When enough experience points have been earned, the unit will level up, increasing their stats and making them more powerful. The amount of EXP earned is dependent on the level of the unit that the action is made against, with the stronger the target the higher the reward. The EXP and FP will carry over if the player is defeated in battle and chooses to retry.
When a battle is completed, the player will be given rewards based on their performance, with the character that did the best earning a special bonus. There are also items, crafting materials (discussed further below) and more that can be rewarded when victory in a battle is earned depending on the quest that is being taken on. Players can earn a lot of rewards if they choose to take the time to grind out stages in free battle after clearing, which can speed up their growth.
The FP (called Fairy Points) that are earned in battle can be used to power up the Fairies that are paired with the main Fencer unit. By spending FP, the player can unlock new skills for a Fairy unit to pass onto their Fencer, increasing their power and overall level to increase their power while in battle. Increasing the level of a Fairy/Sub-Fairy can provide additional benefits during the course of the game, so it is important to make effective use of FP points.
Outside of the quest battles and story segments, the player can take part in other activities. The player can take part in Location Shaping, where they can hunt for treasures by using their Furies into locations on the world map, providing rewards if successful. These rewards can be increased based on the element that they use, with the potential for chains to generate more rewards from this system and even unlock hidden battle stages.
The player is also able to use various features in their home town, using different facilities that become available during the course of the game. Here is a breakdown of the different things that players can do while they are in the town;
The Pub – the player can go to the pub, where players can take on a variety of order quests, which are special missions that can provide special bonuses and increase the quest meter with each successful mission.
The Fountain – this is where the player can interact with side characters, adding a little comedy with humorous interactions, as well as gaining access to special side quests from time to time.
The Inn – while at the Inn, the player is able to take part in special interactions with the various characters, playing out through special VN segments that can have different effects and possibly uncover some special things about the characters in the party.
The Shop – the player can visit Tomoe’s shop and purchase items, equipment and more from her using the gold earned from battles, as well as selling items that the player doesn’t need. This is where players can also use materials to craft different items from recipies, which can be collected from missions and location shaping.
There is so much more that can be discussed and this only scratches the surface by covering the core gameplay, as this has a lot of complexity when it comes to the deeper game mechanics. So with the core of the game covered (so we don’t give spoilers), it’s time to cover the different elements of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – as a Strategy RPG, the controls can appear confusing during play and navigation, however, the on screen display throughout has handy control icons to help players. This can be very useful when first starting to play the game as a learning tool, or for those who may take a while between sessions. The controls themselves work very well and are laid out in a comfortable manner for the most part, but some navigation can be a little sloppy at times when there is a lot on screen.
Difficulty – there is a fair balance to the gameplay in terms of challenge, with three selectable difficulty options for players to choose from. The three difficulty options offer something for all players, with easy for those who want to enjoy the story, normal for a balanced overall experience and hard for those who want a punishing challenge. There aren’t any severe difficulty spikes, meaning everyone can enjoy the game no matter their skill level.
Presentation – Refrain Chord has the distinct look that Idea Factory and Compile Heart are known for, with gorgeous artwork for characters and backgrounds throughout. The in game visuals are good for the Nintendo Switch hardware, with some good 3D visuals for the battle stages and animations. However, there are some minor issues with slowdown when there is a lot going on, especially during moments where there are a lot of visual effects on screen at once.
The sound for this title is of the usual high quality that titles from the team at ZIZZ STUDIO have, with excellent compositions that cover a wide range of musical genres. This is most present during the VN segments, where the music is perfectly tailored to the scene that is unfolding. The dialogue audio is entirely in Japanese, with voice over that is performed by a talented cast of actors, as well as a wide range of vocalists used for the different Fairy Aria songs that Muses employ.
Final Thoughts – I very much enjoyed my time with this game, due to being a fan of the other titles that I have played from Idea Factory and Compile Heart, I went into this with some expectations. These expectations were exceeded, not only in the way that the story pulled me in and kept me engaged, but the way that they made the Strategy RPG systems feel unique. This is most prevalent with the implementation of musical spells that the Muses use.
The whole package for me is another homerun for all involved, with the entire experience being enjoyable throughout the entire time playing the game. I have no issue with recommending this game to everyone who is either a fan of the developers or the genre. There are a few minor hiccups when it comes to performance, but given the limitations of the Nintendo Switch hardware this is not unexpected. However, these minor issues don’t interfere with the overall experience.
In the end, I give Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord a final score of 4.5/5. This is an excellent Strategy RPG with the importance of music/singing helping to make it feel unique, which combines well with the engaging story, characters and battle systems to create a cohesive experience. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below.