I'm excited to present the third edition of my Quick Reviews blog series. There was a ton of really excellent games released in the last three months and so I'm eager to share my thoughts on the ones I got to play. As such I'm just going to get right into it.

(As always I will not discuss spoilers for any of the games, so read on without fear!)

Pikmin 3 (Wii U)

I am a really huge fan of Pikmin 2 so I was excited to finally play through an all new Pikmin adventure. The core gameplay of Pikmin remains untouched in Pikmin 3, but different design decisions and technological advancements really impact the experience in positive ways. I never felt the three partner dynamic created interesting puzzles, but I really appreciated how the combination of three characters and the Wii U Gamepad opened up new multi-tasking capabilities that let you focus on the most interesting parts of the action. I was also impressed by how much the Wii Remote and Nunchuk control scheme really improves managing your forces. Pikmin 3 has a really good campaign backed up by interesting co-op and competitive modes, but I do miss some of the variety brought on by the dungeons in Pikmin 2.

Verdict - Pikmin 3 is the best the Wii U currently has to offer and is a worthy sequel to Pikmin 2.


Tales of Xillia (PS3)

Tales of Xillia is the first Tales game to feature two main characters. While they share the same journey, you can follow your chosen character when they break off from the group and have greater insight into their thoughts and motivations as a result. This is a huge deal since the story is so character driven (though the larger plot is more interesting than usual). One area I was at first disappointed in was that it seemed the trademark skits were a little lacking. While the skits were less exciting overall, the good tradeoff was that during side quests there are more voiced cutscenes. I really came to care about Tales of Xillia’s excellent cast of characters, so I was pleased with the greater emphasis on character development across the board. The actual combat and character growth management in Tales of Xillia is as engaging as ever. Even though I did find one strategy that was way too overpowered and easily abusable, the flexibility and variety of strategies you can employ make the occasional design mistake easy to ignore.

Verdict – Tales of Xillia is the game I enjoyed the most during the summer. With an excellent cast and amazing combat I happily played through this 50 hour epic.


Dragon's Crown (PS3, Vita)

When I started Dragon’s Crown I was able to play alongside two of my friends in local co-op. Multiplayer is definitely the ideal way to experience Dragon’s Crown as it made the action far more exciting and dynamic. It does take forever to manage your inventory and direct your character growth in between levels, but once you return to the action all is quickly forgiven.

After a few co-op sessions I began playing the rest in single player. Thankfully you don’t have to be truly alone as you build an army of AI characters through collecting and reviving their bones. Since there is less chaos in single player, I really was able to dig into the depth of Dragon’s Crown’s combat. I played as the Elf and I really enjoyed dodging attacks while positioning myself to let loose a flurry of arrows. I really appreciated the depth and variety in Dragon’s Crown’s campaign enough that I continued to play the new game plus hard mode for a while after the credits rolled.

Verdict – Dragon’s Crown is an awesome co-op experience. It is a beautiful brawler that is fun and deep enough to keep playing even in single player.


Saints Row IV (360, PS3, PC)

From the premise alone, where you, the President of the United States, gain super powers to combat an alien invasion, it becomes obvious that Saints Row IV is outrageously ambitious. As a result of trying to be everything at once, Saints Row IV inevitably cannot compete with Saints Row: The Third, but really that’s ok because it is still a very fun game. The biggest problem with Saints Row IV is the Superman problem. Since you are dealing with a character that is so overpowered there is nothing that can threaten you. It’s best not to dwell on this because it is very entertaining to run like the Flash and glide through the air while being able to kill hordes of aliens with your super powers and dubstep gun. A big factor of why I enjoyed Saints Row: The Third was its bizarre sense of humor. While Saints Row IV has a very different tone, I ultimately was laughing and enjoying the game all the same.

Verdict – Saints Row IV may come up short of its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t a really good experience that is often very funny.


Hatsune Miku Project Diva F (PS3)

I wasn't actually a fan of Hatsune Miku before I played this game. I knew who she was, but not much beyond that. After I played the demo at Comic-Con though, I knew I had to buy the game when it came out. Hatsune Miku Project Diva F taps into what I really loved about Guitar Hero and Rock Band: increasing your ability and high scores in your quest to attain rhythm perfection. Unlike recent rhythm games with imprecise touch controls, Hatsune Miku asks you to use the PS3 controller's far more reliable buttons. The rhythm game itself is well designed and complicated enough to feel really good and engaging. I really enjoyed the high production values and attention to detail of the game. Each song in the game has its own personal music video complete with unique dance moves and backgrounds. Since the list of songs is surprisingly really diverse, each video is very different from the last. The game has an extensive amount of modes and options too, which makes the whole package feel all the more impressive.

Verdict - Hatsune Miku Project Diva F came out of nowhere to be one of my favorite games of the year. It's a really fun rhythm game backed up by a great, diverse soundtrack. It really made me a fan of the popular vocaloid.


Lightning Round!

Rayman Legends (360, PS3, Vita, Wii U) – Rayman Legends is an awesome platformer that constantly pushes forward new ideas. There is a ton of content in the game when you consider the new levels, the remixed Origins levels and the addicting challenge mode, but I blitzed through and 100% completed all of it very quickly because it was just so much fun. I still wish it was longer and more difficult, but I certainly left satisfied.

Grand Theft Auto V (360, PS3) – I’m only about fifteen hours into GTA V and I'm really enjoying just ignoring the missions and driving around. The game is mechanically sound no matter what you are doing and the open world itself is super impressive especially because it really captures the look and feel of Southern California (where I live). My big concern thus far is the characters and the story, but I haven't met everyone yet, nor have I done any of the big heists so that could change.

Killer is Dead (360, PS3) – While the game itself is fairly fun, and the soundtrack and visual style are both pretty awesome, the story of Killer is Dead is just terrible. While other Suda 51 games often have a simple hook with entertaining characters and situations, Killer is Dead is just a random mishmash of ideas which makes it hard to care about it.

Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS) – Shin Megami Tensei IV is a really awesome RPG. While I’m normally a fan of more character driven tales, I’m enjoying SMT4’s focus on tackling tough psychological questions that don’t always have easy answers. Combat is also really fun with the Press Turn System and meaningful monster collection. I wish I was farther in this game than I am, but I know when I get back to it I'm going to have a great time.

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (360, PS3) - I skipped DOA 5 when it first released so I was excited to play the ultimate version. Combat is as fast and furious as it was in DOA 4 and the game just feels really good to control. DOA 5 is really featured packed with tons of modes and unique characters. 3D fighting games don't get much better than this.

The Wonderful 101 (Wii U) - Whenever The Wonderful 101 isn't charming the pants off of you, it's incredibly infuriating thanks to its finicky controls that make an already difficult game all the more brutal. The game becomes an emotional roller coaster with outrageous highs and heartbreaking lows. I ultimately enjoyed the game, but I find it hard to recommend.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX (PS3) – This HD collection is absolutely worth picking up just for Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. The graphics look as good as you remember (the character models perhaps even better) and the new cutscenes and abilities are also a nice bonus. What really pushes Final Mix over the top though is the new camera which makes the game significantly easier to play and enjoy. 


I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews! Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section and also what games you have been playing recently. I always enjoy reading your comments!