The Persona Q 3DS XL Is a Bittersweet Victory

Atlus' Persona Q Special Edition 3DS XLPersona Q, Atlus’ mash-up of the Persona universe and Etrian Odyssey‘s masochistic dungeon-delving, is getting some hardware accompaniment when it launches this winter (November 25th, for those who crave such knowledge). It comes in the form of a special edition 3DS XL dolled up to look like a monolithic, blue grimoire. It’s a GameStop exclusive, with a retail price of $199.99.

I loved Persona 4. I had the good fortune to review the expanded Vita version of the game back in the day, and found myself playing it long after the review had been submitted, edited, and posted. As one might imagine, I’m also excited for Persona Q.

Additionally, I’ve been in the market for an awesome 3DS XL, as I’m currently using the much less ergonomic (though badass) Zelda edition 3DS.

Zelda Limited Edition 3DSI skipped the aesthetically disappointing A Link Between Worlds edition (sorry Josh, but it is) and, unfortunately, the Shin Megami Tensei IV 3DS XL never made it to the States. The Persona Q edition should scratch that itch, so why am I torn?

Because this comes right on the heels of Nintendo announcing a brand new edition of the 3DS and 3DS XL with distinct hardware upgrades and, in some cases, exclusive software. Now Atlus’ full-price last-gen 3DS XL (which doesn’t even come with the game it’s named for) is a short-sighted purchase at best, with an unequivocally better option on the horizon.

So, “Yay,” because the west is finally getting a Persona-themed 3DS XL and, at the same time, a deflated, “Ugh,” because all the damn thing brings with it is existential (and financial) conflict.

The Terrible Translation of Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment

SAO Hollow Fragment vitaOnce upon a time, shitty translations of Japanese games were de rigueur. The Japanese language comes at conversation from a completely different standpoint than English, and with a wholly unique cultural context. A lot of ideas that exist in one language and culture simply don’t in the other, or aren’t so readily expressed.

Games for older systems also suffered from character limitations. While eight characters from the Latin alphabet is barely enough to write “Wirtanen,” Japanese uses two syllabaries and logographic kanji; each of the latter represents an idea, and combining them can present an entirely different idea. Eight characters can be enough for an entire sentence in Japanese.

While size limitations are no longer an issue, the cultural divide still remains. By and large, translation has improved; in addition to translators, who perform the actual task of converting the script from Japanese to English, there are now often separate employees whose role is to take the raw, English translation and rework it into something that is more palatable to a native English-speaking audience, improving its flow and phrasing as well.

SAO vitaIt’s pretty apparent that Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment had no one like that on its team. The translation is incredibly rough, and clearly little more than a draft. The script is riddled with typos and grammatical mistakes, as well as awkward turns of phrase and just a general sense that these people are speaking very differently.

One major tell is that characters often refer by name to the person with whom they are speaking directly. This happens fairly regularly in Japanese, due to the way it’s structured, but is completely out of place in English, giving the proceedings an oddly juvenile bent.

The real problem is that this poor translation carries over to the in-game instructions, which are so obtuse as to be wholly indecipherable. It took me far longer than it should have to figure out how the game’s combat worked and, since it’s really just not that complex, I felt silly for taking as long as I did.

There are other weird examples; interactive conversations between Kirito and other characters are completely nonsensical in every sense, and it leads to one’s “choice” (you can pick between “…” and “Great!”) being an absolute shot in the dark.

This is one area in which I really wish Bandai Namco hadn’t skimped.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, Your Last-Gen Roots Are Showing

Sword Art Online gameA quick history lesson: while Hollow Fragment is the first and only Sword Art Online game released in the west, there was a prior game released on the PSP in Japan.

Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment followed Kirito and company through an alternate story in which a glitch meant that, rather than “clearing the game” on floor 75, the characters remained trapped and had to explore the last 25 levels of Aincrad. If this sounds familiar, it’s because that is also the core plot of Hollow Fragment.

Turns out, Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is actually an “HD remaster” of Infinity Moment, restructured and with additional content. The bulk of the additional content comes in the form of the “Hollow Area,” a new section of Aincrad that seems to exist outside of the standard 100 floor structure of the world.

But the core game is actually the same as Infinity Moment, from its plot and characters to its gameplay. It’s telling that, on the touch-screen Vita, the game has menus designed with the buttons and d-pad in mind (and requires their use).

SAO Hollow FragmentThe exceptions to these are the “Shift” and “Good” buttons, which are found at the lower-right and lower-left of the screen. They had previously been relegated to the down and up directions on the d-pad. I found myself using the shift icon on screen quite a bit, but it was easier to praise my party member (essential to keep one’s SP stores high and continuously launch powerful sword skills) with the d-pad.

Go figure.

I also imagine the camera is a lot more functional in the Vita version, now that the right stick is used to maneuver it. This feels a little janky at times, as it has odd acceleration, but it’s certainly manageable and beats absolutely any button or lock-on based system Infinity Moment may have used.

Sword Art Online Hollow FragmentThe absolute coolest Vita specific feature, though, is the completely extraneous ability to open the menu by swiping down on the screen. Yes, you can just press the select button, but considering this is how players summon their menus in the anime, it’s a really nice touch and shows that the team tasked with bringing the game over from PSP to Vita were fans of the source material.

The character models are relatively simple compared to what one might see in a native Vita title,  everyone from the show is immediately recognizable and they mesh well with the environments, which are certainly serviceable.

Still, Hollow Fragment is largely an upscaled PSP game. It does have a higher resolution — which comes with its own pitfalls when lots of characters are on-screen and the framerate plummets — but it definitely doesn’t feel like a next-gen title.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment Isn’t Afraid to Ask “What If?”


Leafa

NB: The following article contains spoilers for the Sword Art Online anime. If you haven’t watched it yet, get off your ass and do so.

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HD Remakes Look Exactly How I Remember Them

It was today that I first saw the initial batch screenshots from the upcoming HD remake of the original Resident Evil. This remake, based on the GameCube reimagining of the heavily pixelated PSOne original, has gorgeous new texture work, improved lighting, and a heavily boosted resolution that pulls the entirety of the frame into sharper focus.

But, to my mind, it looks exactly like the GameCube release. To a tee.

HD and REmake

For reference

Sources (left to right): Video Games Blogger and Laser Lemming

Place them side by side and, yeah, it’s obvious which is which. Just looking at the new shots by themselves, though, they don’t in any way strike me as a mind-blowing improvement over the original versions.

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Divinity: Original Sin — A Ball-Busting Illustration of Difficulty

Skeletons With Freaking BombsGeekParty’s David Roberts has hinted at how unforgivingly challenging Divinity: Original Sin can be.

Most of the time, this difficulty is welcome. It prolongs the life of the game and, seeing as Original Sin brings little in the way of randomness to the table (its world, and every encounter therein, has been painstakingly crafted by the developers), this means of extending your stay in the gorgeous and compelling world of Rivellon is certainly welcome. [Read more…]

The Multitudinous Boxes of Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin Containers AboundOne of the great things about Divinity: Original Sin is that it offers players a lot of freedom in how they interact with the environment. Almost any object can be moved around freely, as long as the character trying to do so is of sufficient strength. This is useful in puzzle-solving and trap-disarming alike, and also just adds to the texture of the game’s world. It also means that there are a lot of boxes lying around.

You can open all of them. Every. Single. One.

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Divinity: Original Sin Sails the Full Release Seas

Divinity: Original SinDivinity: Original Sin is out. I mean, you’ve been able to buy it for months now, but what you got was the game’s alpha and then beta phases. If you played, you would have frequently encountered setbacks as your progress was erased with practically every update, as the very structure of the game evolved and changed.

But as of June 30, the full release is on GOG.com. If you’re interested, you can pick it up here. That said, our goal at GeekParty is to provide a review of the game.

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Divinity: Original Sin Has Gained a Tutorial

beardy mcbeardsonEarly Access games are an interesting phenomenon, in part because they allow those outside the development community to see how things are prioritized. In the case of Divinity: Original Sin, my initial experiences back during its alpha (it’s now in beta, with the full release slated for June 30) were compelling, but rough around the edges. [Read more…]

E3 2014: The Open-World Zelda, and What Was Left Unsaid

Zelda E3 2014The single biggest new title announced during Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event was the suspected, but never confirmed, new Legend of Zelda game. We open on a field, Eiji Aonuma narrating as a man sits astride a horse, endless, grassy hills stretching into a mountainous distance, rocks and trees giving texture to the landscape.  As Aonuma explains that the technology has finally allowed them to create a Zelda game with the open world scope they’ve always wanted, the figure on the horse comes under attack, a mechanical spider-like beast stomping across the landscape, firing explosive blasts as the man and his steed take off into the forest. [Read more…]