"Destiny," "Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call" and More [GAMES ROUNDUP]

Seemingly every console gamer’s sudden new obsession is Destiny, the MMO-inspired, open-world first-person shooter with touches of Halo, Mass Effect, Starcraft and Diablo.  Feeling fun, fresh and innovative despite doing so much recycling, the shooter is bold and ambitious to an overwhelming point. Another new release, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call on 3DS, freely draws from nostalgia conjured by the Final Fantasy name, challenging you to tap the screen to the beat of classic tunes, helping your party lay the beatdown on enemies. If it’s massive-scale, button mashing battles you crave, Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate 3 is for you, while those in the mood for a low-key RPG Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.

Reviews by Phil Villarreal. Phil is an authorblogger and Twitterer. Publishers provided review copies.


(PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, $60, Teen)

Developer Bungie didn’t stray far from its Halo well when it dreamed up the mechanics for its interstellar space opera. No matter which class you choose, you feel very much like Master Chief as you romp through desolate planetscapes, mowing down any enemies foolish to jump in your path.  But Destiny doesn’t stop at the silk-smooth FPS gameplay and adversarial multiplayer on which Bungie has built its empire. Ther universe floods with options to hook up with and compete with or against players on the server. Loot-bearing raids will make Diablo players grin, customization options rival what Skyrim had to offer and the apocalytpic storytelling and relationship building reeks of Mass Effect. If you go lone wolf, you’re missing out on 90 percent of the game’s charm.
Although the game bursts with creativity, depth and life — never lacking for things to do — you can fall into a rhythm that makes it feel more like a grind than an exploration. It’s too easy, especially for Halo vets, to nail down a rhythm that lets you dispatch enemies over and over again with similar tactics, all in the name of scrounging for the next item or attribute boost. It helps that the enivronments are gorgeous and creatively designed, providing a rush to hook up with strangers who quickly become friends as you work toward common goals. Destiny is no game to dabble in. The more you put into it, the more you will get out. But unlike many dense adventures of its ilk, the game is as easy to pick up as any lowest commond denominator shooter. Destiny may be a run-of-the-mill Halo game as a single-player experience, but can be something transcendent for the socially minded.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment

(Vita, $40, Teen)

Based on a franchise that is popular in Japan in book, animation and comic form, Sword Art Online finds similar footing as a methodical, thinking-person’s RPG. Rough overly wordy translations, obtuse storytelling and sluggish controls make the game something of a chore to get into, but it has a way of sinking into your subconsciousness once you become accustomed to its mechanics, which echo MMOs such as World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Rings Online.
I won’t even try to summarize the ridiculous story. I rarely had any solid idea of what it was I was trying to do or what my motivation was, other than survival. There’s a haunting nature to the storytelling that makes it resonate beyond what’s on the surface. The game’s determined obstinance is sort of charming, and makes me want to pop in a movie or order up a manga to see if I can crack the story through a different medium. For most, though, this is a bizarre curiosity that is a tough sell based on the $40 price tag.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call

(3DS, $40, Teen)

Following the 2012 original Theathrythm Final Fantasy, Curtain Call tightens up the timed-tapping battle formula. You select your party members and skills, then help them take on enemies by responding to screen prompts that correlate to the theme music. What would otherwise seem like rote, tedious battles become Guitar Hero-style thrill rides,. Even when you triumph, you’re always tempted to double back and try again to strive for perfection. You don’t need to be versed in the franchise’s deep, winding lore to appreciate the game, but the music and visuals are a feast of nerdy references for those who grew up chasing Chocobos.
The fear going into the sequel was that all the best and most recognizable songs from the franchise would have been used up already. To some extent, that’s true. As a casual fan of the series, I recognized few of the new background grooves I was stabbing and casting to. But even though this may be the B-team soundtrack, the series is so rich with well-composed music that what’s left is still strong enough to stand on its own. Signs seem to point to this being the end of the Theatrhythm offshoot, but with the way Square Enix has run so any other Final Fantasy side stories into the ground, I’d expect plenty more to come.


Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate

(PS4, Xbox One, $60, Teen)

Just like its spiritual cousin, Dynasty Warriors, the Warriors Orochi series values quantity far more than quality. You hop into battlefields swarming with hundreds of clone-like enemies, racking up incalculable combos by swinging your sword and unleashing field-leveling special moves without concepts of strategy or precision ever entering the picture. Ultimate expands the 2011 game into the current generation by upping all aspects of the production. Characters have more detail backgrounds look richer and more vibrant and cut scenes sear the screen with stuning visuals.
Boiled down, though, this is very much the same game fans are accustomed to. Which isn’t that big a deal, since Warriors Orochi 3 was very much the same game as its predecessors. The Warriors Orochi series is something you either have a taste for or don’t, and this game does nothing to bridge that divide. It’s disappointing the asking price is so high, because even though the hacking and slashing is prettier and slicker than ever, not enough has been done to reinvent the old release for current technology.

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