Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Review: The Waiting Game

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Review: The Waiting Game

On paper, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT sounds like an action-oriented Final Fantasy fan’s dream come true. Featuring three-on-three online battles between some of the most recognizable faces in the series’ 30 year history, Dissidia NT fully embodies its role as a vehicle for fanservice. Cloud, Terra, Zidane, Lightning…the gang’s all here, spoiling for a brawl, stuffed to the brim with quips and visual callbacks to the iconic RPGs they hail from. Given the splendid execution of the two Dissidia games to come before it—a pair of speedy, polished fighters woefully limited by the reach of the PlayStation Portable platform they were shackled to—NT seemed poised for success.

After some 15-odd hours with a final retail copy of the game, any hope I held onto that it might improve upon the unimpressive beta version has been ground into dust.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

Dissidia NT is a winding labyrinth of poor design choices. Where do I even begin dissecting the myriad ways it goes wrong? I can scarcely recall the last time I was so vexed by a video game, much less one that should, by all rights, cater to my sensibilities. First, the game does a miserable job of preparing the player for combat. A basic tutorial gives an adequate rundown of how Dissidia NT works as a whole, but stops short of outlining each character’s quirks and gimmicks. Nowhere in Dissidia NT is there a proper move list, let alone a breakdown of what it means to “master a job” as Bartz, how to time Squall’s attacks for explosive bonus damage, or any other character-specific idiosyncrasies. This information is available, but not where one might expect: The breadcrumb trail leads to an external website, of all places, creating a significant skill gap between players who dive in headfirst and those who take the time to research their characters outside of Dissidia NT itself.

I stand by my assertion that the core three-on-three ruleset simply does not engender balanced competitive play. The essential Dissidia functions—namely, speedy combat utilizing an array of flashy Final Fantasy abilities—are here, but they are warped, having passed through a filter to make them palatable for team play. The presence of a single unskilled player can often spell certain doom for an entire team, because every death counts toward a cumulative total—three strikes and you’re out. Not only does this punish newer players, who can quickly find themselves overwhelmed, but it indirectly discourages experimentation with different characters and ability loadouts. (If only there was an in-game explanation of how these things worked, or even a simple training mode that doesn’t require a player-engineered workaround to function properly! Alas.) The high stakes of failure make learning to play Dissidia NT an intimidating prospect, particularly when compounded by its generally sluggish controls, laggy netcode, and convoluted pre-battle setup process.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

While battles themselves have the potential to be enjoyable, Dissidia NT‘s menus are an inexcusable mess. Never before have I seen a game so hell-bent upon making itself a chore to play. The sheer drudgery of navigating through layer after layer of nested menus to accomplish anything outside of battle is exhausting. Want to jump into an online match? First you’ll select a mode, then a character, then an ability loadout (which cannot be changed at this step in the process—no, that must be done in an entirely separate menu outside of any battle mode), then wait to be matched with other players, then select a summon, then wait for every player’s vote, and then, finally, enter the skirmish itself. It is no exaggeration when I say that during my time with Dissidia NT, I spent longer waiting for any given match to be prepared than I did actually engaged in combat.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

Dissidia NT incentivizes continued play with cosmetic bonuses and unlockable story cutscenes, but these too are hindered by the game’s unwieldy design philosophy. Every character sports a variety of fascinating costumes, many of which call back to classic Yoshitaka Amano artworks, unused character designs, or other delicious bits of Final Fantasy esoterica. Yet the majority of these are acquired through random treasure drops (in-game loot boxes, which are thankfully not purchasable with real money), and they must be assigned to cosmetic sets in a mode accessible only from the main menu. Music, another element crucial to the Final Fantasy experience, can also be tailored to the player’s liking through customized playlists, but these are also gated behind a cumbersome menu. Want to switch things up on the fly? Forget it—everything in Dissidia NT demands equal parts preparation and patience.

It is baffling that Dissidia NT would eliminate the functional story mode of its forebears in favour of tepid, disconnected cutscenes that unlock through entirely separate modes. The player spends a currency called “Memoria” to view these scenes in sequential order, and though some feature interstitial battles, there is little in the way of glue to form a cohesive narrative. Make no mistake: this is fanservice, fun and loose and ultimately superfluous. Dissidia NT does explicitly canonize the proceedings of the previous two games by referencing their stories, which is interesting considering its complete disregard for their gameplay mechanics.

My objective as a critic is never to generate outrage or silence dissent, but to draw attention to issues that I think could stand to be corrected. I want to love Dissidia NT, truly; not that it makes me more of a fan than anyone else, but I have no less than four Final Fantasy tattoos permanently emblazoned upon my flesh. To say that I have affection for its source material would be something of an understatement. I bristle with vexation at this new direction for Dissidia because it strips away everything that made the series a success up to this point, thereby robbing Final Fantasy of the considerable magic it has always possessed. The spell is broken. My frustration is a symptom of that dejection.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) – images for this review provided by Square Enix.

I can think of few words less apt than “success” to describe Dissidia NT in its current state. It is a mystifying, bumbling leap backwards that squanders the abundant potential inherent to its premise. It stands as a testament to its developers’ hubris, rich with audiovisual spectacle but completely lacking in even a basic understanding of effective multiplayer game design principles. The Final Fantasy brand has not been so thoroughly dragged through the mud since the launch of Final Fantasy XIV. Dissidia NT needs its own dramatic overhaul in short order if it is to ever crawl its way back from the precipice of disaster.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Derek Heemsbergen’s  reviews, such as  Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth and his second look at Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age!

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Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) Review: Super Saiyan Levels of Gameplay and Presentation

The Dragon Ball frenzy of the 90’s has returned to North America in a spectacular resurgence, with a new show being dubbed by the original cast, a new trading card game hitting local game shops’ shelves and now the upcoming release of what may be the best Dragon Ball game to date. The moment it was announced at the E3 2017 during the Xbox press conference I knew I had to review Dragon Ball FighterZ. I was just that excited. Developed by the passionate developers at Arc System Works and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, FighterZ captures the essence of the source material fans have known for decades and has masterfully tuned it into a competitive 2D fighting game.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

At its core, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 3v3 fighter akin to the Marvel Vs. Capcom series. Players comprise their 3-member team out of a diverse 24-character roster from Dragon Ball Z as well as newly cherished characters from Super. I adore the detail put into the visually stunning models and stages, but what really captures my heart as a Dragon Ball fan is how every attack these characters perform are ripped straight from manga panels, anime scenes and even previous games. The gameplay of Dragon Ball FighterZ is fun and accessible to all skill levels of fighting game players, with powerful light and heavy auto combos baked into the core system for every character to utilize. Specials and super attacks are also simple to execute by using a basic quarter circle motion.

However, that doesn’t mean FighterZ lacks the depth of a traditional fighter. The intricacies of the combat system will be on full display in the coming weeks as the competitive community learns which characters play well off one another as they start to string together powerful combos by tagging in their teammates and stacking supers. The pace of the combat in Dragon Ball FighterZ is as fast and furious as the anime, with energy blasts, assist moves, high-speed dashes and vanishing attacks quickly filling the screen as players exhaust their meters in a flurry of inputs. The combat system is so focused on aggressive play that it can be overwhelming for some players to keep up with the action and the few defensive responses available rely on proper timing to execute if the pressured player is stuck in the corner.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

The original story of Dragon Ball FighterZ revolves around Akira Toriyama’s newly designed female character, Android 21. The gist of the story is that the world is in peril by the hordes of clones created by Android 21. Unfortunately, the Z-Warriors and their recently revived rogue’s gallery can’t rise to the occasion as heroes because their immense power is being suppressed by energy waves. That’s where you, the player, comes in to save the day. Acting as a disembodied spirit, the player links to the playable characters and unlocks their suppressed potential so they can fight and stop Android 21 from accomplishing her oh so diabolical scheme. While the actual plot is rather lacklustre, I still enjoyed the story and how it serves as a long-form tutorial to prepare players for competitive play. The complete story is told in three arcs, and upon completion, unlocks the playable Majin form of this mischievous new character. My favourite parts of the story, however, where easily the multiple humorous interactions between characters as players create different teams, which I won’t spoil for eager fans. Once players complete the lengthy story mode, they can further improve their skills by tackling arcade mode and local battles before jumping into the online arena.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

I love that Ark System Works reused the lobby system of Guilty Gear Xrd: REV 2 and tailored it to Dragon Ball. The lobby essentially acts as the player’s menu system as they jump around to the various game modes available as a chibi-avatar of their favourite character. The real fun comes in online lobbies where up to 34 players can populate a single server and interact with each other by chatting, using emotes or sharing stickers. It’s not a system that works for everyone, but I think this kind of lobby adds another layer of flavour to the presentation of Dragon Ball FighterZ and I enjoy its implementation. What players might not enjoy is that certain avatars and colors are locked behind a loot box system. Thankfully these loot boxes don’t require any actual money to purchase as players accumulate the two forms of in-game currency by playing the game whether their online or off. Zenni is the primary currency and is used to purchase basic capsules. If the capsule contains a duplicate item, then the item becomes a Z-coin which can be used to purchase premium capsules and only contain unobtained items.

My only worry with Dragon Ball FighterZ is the quality of the online play at launch, which I can only talk about from my previous experience as both a closed and open beta participant. Over 85% of my matches played smooth and with minimal frame delay even when I was playing with mediocre connections, but the open beta incident threw that level of consistency out the door when the sheer traffic of players crashed the game for close to an entire day. It’s my hope that Ark System Works has remedied this problem in anticipation for release because both Dragon Ball fans and fighting game enthusiasts alike are ready to swarm in the moment the clock strikes 12.

If it wasn’t obvious, I love Dragon Ball FighterZ. The perfect marriage of source material enriched gameplay and original presentation has created a fantastic experience that a wide audience of players are sure to enjoy. The gameplay is simple enough that any level of player can pick it up and recreate infamous attacks from the show, while at the same time it’s mechanics are so deep and unexplored that the game feels ready to support a competitive community of fighting game enthusiasts. Ark System Works has outdone themselves here and I’m eager to see what other anime properties they will be allowed to play around with in the future.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) – images for this review provided by Ark System Works and Bandai Namco.

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Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Cole Watson’s reviews of Assassin’s Creed Origins and Gundam Versus!

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Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4) Review – Street Fighter V, For Real This Time

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4) Review - Street Fighter V, For Real This Time

When Street Fighter V was released a few years ago the reception was understandably mixed. The fighting mechanics were rock solid. Obviously. This is Street Fighter that we’re talking about. The problem was that everything else around it felt like a shell of a full game that was meant to be completed through DLC greed. It didn’t kill the reputation of the franchise because Street Fighter is one of those legacy video game titles that will always be adored by anyone who enjoys the carpal tunnel syndrome inducing joy of mastering a fighting game. It did, however, feel like somewhat of a slap in the face to anyone who had stuck by the franchise for so long.

It took a while, but Capcom listened to the complaints and finally made things right. Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition fills in all of those irritating gaps in the original release. Best of all, for those who bought the original release and felt disappointed, all of the new content will be automatically updated for free. For those who held off, now you get everything all at once including the 12 DLC characters that were slowly passed out to those disappointed fans who picked up this game too early.

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Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4) – gameplay screenshots for this review provided by Capcom.

The first big addition to the game is ideal for all my fellow Street Fighter nostalgics out there. It’s an arcade single-player mode that allows you to fight through a tower of opponents themed to Street Fighter I-V. Each challenge contains only the characters from the original game (in the old-timey costumes no less) and even the barrel breaking bonus stages and old music return. There’s also a vast number of endings available depending on which era you beat with which character. In accordance with Street Fighter convention, it’s still art with text. But, they are always playful and reverent to the franchise. Unlockable artwork tied to the character’s journey will also appear, so gaming hoarders have hours of obsessive fun ahead of them through this mode alone.

The rest of the new additions are slightly less substantial and will roll out after the release. There’s a Team Battle mode that’s a pretty simple way for a group of up to five players to organize a couch co-op mini tournament with some minor tweaks available like how much health is carried over for the winner between rounds. There are Extra Battle and Special Challenges with unlockables (costumes, exp, fight money, etc.) available to players who enjoy such things, some of which will be available only for a limited time to get achievement hoarding gamers addicted. There’s also an update in training mode that allows you to view colour-coordinated frame data for each move so that you can spot hidden weaknesses and openings when learning new fighters or learning how to defeat ones who always give you trouble. A little update, but one that could help a great deal when you enter the painfully competitive world of online fighting games. Overall, there’s nothing too much new here for anyone other than the Street Fighter obsessives, but it still helps fill out the overall content.

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Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4) – gameplay screenshots for this review provided by Capcom.

In terms of gameplay, it’s essentially the same as the original release with the addition of new V-triggers. These are special moves that players acquire after taking a substantial amount of damage during a fight and are essentially defensive attacks that can transform any repetitive attack that your opponent has been laying on thick into a devastating counter that can turn a whole fight around. It’s a nice addition that should add a new level of strategy to online play until certain players inevitably find a way to turn them into cheap ways to garner easy comeback victories. But you know what? In cases like that, you’ve got to turn that old adage around and hate the player, not the game. It is quite a clever new strategic feature to add to the Street Fighter playbook that has been going strong for over 20 years.

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4) Review - Street Fighter V, For Real This Time
Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4) – gameplay screenshots for this review provided by Capcom.

So, there’s no denying that Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is a vast improvement on the lacklustre original release. All of the lacking content is finally here and there are a handful of clever new editions to keep players coming back. It’s certainly nice that Capcom made the Arcade edition a free upgrade for players who felt let down by the original release and there’s no denying that anyone who hasn’t picked up Street Fighter V yet should rush to this version instead (especially since it comes with all of the DLC that came out between the two editions as well). However, something about the whole thing still leaves an icky taste in my mouth. Players who paid full price for Street Fighter V back in 2016 should have gotten all this content.

It’s only when you add everything together in the Arcade Edition that Street Fighter V feels like a full and satisfying triple-A title release. It’s a shame that we’ve all accepted our place on the commercial treadmill that gaming developers have created, where we have to assume that any game we buy at launch is at least ¾ of what’s actually planned for the title. We have to decide whether to slowly keep buying more DLC add-ons (don’t worry, there’s still another new season worth of DLC characters coming for you to buy) or wait a few years for a complete edition, by which time the game is passé. It’s really irritating and Capcom deservingly got called out for holding back content on the original release of Street Fighter V. Sure, it’s nice of them to release all this content for free to players who have stuck by the game for two years, but that feels like too little too late. Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition would have been an absolutely fantastic fighting game had all this content came out on the original release date. It’s still a damn fine fighting game now, but the motives behind how long it took for this full game to finally hit shelves and hard drives remain questionable and frustrating.

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Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4) – gameplay screenshots for this review provided by Capcom.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT,  Star Wars Battlefront II, Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, and  Super Mario Odyssey!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

Never miss when new CGM articles go out by following us on Twitter and Facebook!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) Review – It Wants to Take You for a Ride

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) Review - It Wants to Take You for a Ride

I grew up playing Capcom’s seemingly forgotten Marvel-themed fighting games from X-men: Children of the Atom to Marvel Super Heroes and the vs. Street Fighter follow-up. I loved them all, mostly because I was a huge X-men fan and Cyclops’ super move was a beam that filled the screen and as a young boy that was all I could ask for. Yeah, I’m a Cyclops fanboy, so what?

Now, over two decades after Children of the Atom’s release, the fourth game in the Marvel vs. Capcom series is releasing into a world filled with tons of competitive fighters, including the popular DC Comics-based Injustice series made by the creators of Mortal Kombat. Does Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite do enough to stand out in an already crowded genre?

I think so.

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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) – gameplay images via Capcom.

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is an ugly game, let’s just get that out of the way. The character models are less than impressive with faces that resemble knockoff Halloween masks of popular comic book and video game characters. Mega Man X has what I’d call ‘dead eyes’ that stare off into the distance and Ryu has a permanently scrunched up nose like a dog growling at something. Basically, every human character just looks off. This fact is highlighted by lengthy cutscenes in the story mode that often show close-ups of characters speaking where, at times,  the words don’t even remotely sync up to their mouths.

Once you accept that and move on, there is a pretty decent fighting game here.

The story mode took me around three-and-a-half hours, which I’d say was split nearly evenly between cutscenes, fighting, and loading screens. The cutscenes feature all the heroic characters from both Marvel Comics and Capcom games joining forces to stop a common enemy that has used the Infinity Stones to converge their universes together. Cutscenes seem to vary in quality depending on whether or not they are pre-rendered or using the in-game models, which isn’t so bad (unless you’re looking for it).

The voice acting is hit and miss, with characters like Chris Redfield of Resident Evil,  Frank West of Dead Rising, and Iron Man faring pretty well. Iron Man’s voice actor does a pretty good Robert Downey Jr. impression, which helps, even if the character isn’t written nearly as witty as he has been in recent Marvel films. Other characters are bland or just plain bad such as Morrigan, the Scottish succubus who either has a voice actress that does a terrible attempt at an accent or I’ve just become used to overstated Duck Tales-like Scottish accents.

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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) – gameplay images via Capcom.

The selection of characters here includes those that are popular in the Marvel cinematic universe right now and a hodgepodge of Capcom characters, many of which the company itself seems to have forgotten. The Devil May Cry 3 version of Dante is in, as well as the “hot dog armed” Spencer from the remake of Bionic Commando—for some reason. Also in the game are Arthur and Firebrand from the Ghosts N’ Goblins series, a series that hasn’t seen a proper console release in over a decade. While the character choices are strange, as a fan of old-school Capcom games I can appreciate including lesser known characters.

Sadly, many of the characters in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite are played and acted in a very serious manner which doesn’t mesh well with a game where characters include a talking raccoon that rides a tree person and a shirtless mayor that beats people with steel pipes and throws metal barrels. However, there are a few times where characters get downright campy which are the best moments of the entire story. The narrative would have been so much better off if it wasn’t played so straight-faced for the most part.

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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) – gameplay images via Capcom.

While I enjoyed the story, it wasn’t anything all that impressive (especially when compared to some recent offerings from NetherRealm Studios) and mostly consists of the heroes splitting up and flying or teleporting to areas where the Infinity Stones are while also engaging in some witty banter. Perhaps unsurprisingly the female characters mostly take a back seat to their male counterparts, on whom the spotlight is heavily focused. However, the developers did find time to give a lot of screen time to the scantily clad Morrigan, because of course they did. That said Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite may have some of the best and most well-defined male butts in a game, which I quite enjoyed. Captain America clearly does not skip squat day at the gym.

I’d estimate the battles in story mode consist of 50 percent fighting boring Ultron Drones and 50 percent fighting the few villains in the game. I don’t understand why Capcom would make you fight such dull basic robots so many times when it has such a colourful cast of characters at its disposal. It wouldn’t be so bad if the drones didn’t have rather basic move sets that make these fights feel more like a beat ’em up brawl instead of a match in a fighting game. At least the final boss is enjoyable, foregoing the steep difficulty fighting game bosses are known for.

When it comes to the fighting Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has something for both casual players and pros alike, although I don’t know if the latter will adopt it as heavily as past games. The story teaches players the basics of the game without being a boring tutorial (there is a separate Missions mode for that) including how to tag between your two characters, perform an auto-combo that just requires mashing the low punch button over and over again, as well as the use of the Infinity Stones.

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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) – gameplay images via Capcom.

One of six Infinity Stones is selected before each match outside of story mode, each with their own special move and mode to activate with added effects. One stone lets players dash back and forth quickly, another shoots a ball of energy just in front of them, while others quickly fill up your super meter’s energy or allow you to temporarily fight with both of your characters at once. While some stones feel stronger than others, none of them felt overpowered. However, it is still early for the full competitive metagame to develop.

Most of the special moves are done via a quarter circle followed by an attack button, with supers pulled off by doing a quarter circle and pressing both low and high attack buttons at once. Alternatively, for the less savvy players, there is the ability to simple press high punch and kick at the same time to activate one of their character’s supers.

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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) – gameplay images via Capcom.

In a world with so many fighting games that require split-second reflexes, it is nice to see Capcom include options for new players (or aging players with failing reflexes) to be able to enjoy Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Auto-comboing will make anyone feel like they are kicking ass, even if the combo each character does is nearly identical in execution. Being able to pull off a super move without doing half circles is welcome as well. I do wonder, however, if the accessibility will drive some competitive players away, perhaps dismissing it as a fighting game for casuals. I suppose only the future will tell.

I attempted to play online via matchmaking without success on the release night of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, as every search for a game came up empty-handed. It is unclear if this means there is something wrong on the technical side of things, or if players just opted to get the game on platforms other than Xbox One. I was eventually able to search for and find a lobby with seven other players in it. The fights were smooth and it felt like I was sitting in the room with the other player—aside from one match where my connection to the other player wasn’t the best. That match was basically unplayable thanks to constant stuttering, hitching, and lagging.

Results may vary.

Otherwise, from a technical standpoint Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has a couple niggling issues. One being the aforementioned load times, which can range anywhere from 30 seconds to around a minute in story mode, usually when switching from a cutscene to a fight. While this might not seem like a lot of time, I don’t feel like I was exaggerating when I said it made up close to a third of my time in the story mode. The other issue was a smidgen of framerate stability issues during the slow motion, last hit of the fight. Thankfully it doesn’t impact gameplay.

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Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Xbox One) – gameplay images via Capcom.

If you’re one of those people annoyed by DLC characters being included with the base game “on the disc” then prepare to be… annoyed. The story mode has a section with both Black Panther and a lady Monster Hunter character, both of which are to be released as DLC, as well as Ultron Sigma as the main villain, who is also part of the season pass. Surprise! It’s a AAA video game in 2017 with a season pass for content seemingly on the disk (at the very least partially).

I went into Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite bracing for the worst, but once I got past the ugly character models I discovered a rather decent fighting game that is approachable for old players and newcomers alike. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or do anything all that original, it’s still a fun romp and one that I could see kids absolutely loving like I loved the video game forefathers of this series. Oh, and you can play as Nemesis from Resident Evil, who takes up the whole screen and shoots a rocket launcher, so there is that.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out what Jed has to say about Songbringer and Knack 2!

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Pokkén Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch) Review – I Bruise You!

Pokkén Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch) Review - I Bruise You!

Pokkén Tournament was a game that kind of just came and went despite a ton of positive reviews, and I don’t really understand why. A proper tournament fighter with a Pokémon theme, it was slick, stylish, easy to get into while being difficult to master. And yet, not a lot people talked about it, and it kind of just faded away, most likely by virtue of being on the Wii U. A year later and it’s round two for Pokkén Tournament, and believe me, it’s coming out swinging with an updated game on a thriving console.

Pokkén Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch) Review - I Bruise You!
Pokkén Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch) – gameplay images via Bandai Namco

As the winner of the FanExpo 2017 Pokken Tournament DX Tournament, I’m more qualified than anyone to review the Nintendo Switch re-release of the game. However, since my review of the original is still not only comprehensive but crafted as if written by angels, I shan’t spend too much time reiterating it. Much of the game remains the same: the controls are unchanged, the story mode and many of the game’s features remain, and combat still consists of beginning a fight in the Field Phase and shifting to the Battle Phase.

However, major additions come in the way of added characters, previously released only in Japan and on the arcade versions of the game. Newcomers like Darkrai, whose ability to pull opponents into dreams gives him a strength boost and expanded moveset; Scizor, whose increased strength quick attacks are balanced by his slower movement; or Croagunk whose tricky movements and technical attacks make him a formidable enemy; add a wider amount of variety to the character roster than its predecessor. While the initial roster sat at 15—16 with the Shadow Mewtwo Amiibo card—Pokkén Tournament DX boasts 21, including Shadow Mewtwo, and exclusive to the Switch version: Decidueye, the Grass/Ghost Owl Pokémon from Sun and Moon, and while I still find it weird that some of the more well-known Fighting-type Pokémon are still missing, the roster is still incredibly robust and varied.

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Pokkén Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch) – gameplay images via Bandai Namco

Interestingly in Pokkén Tournament DX, all the Support Pokémon, who needed to be unlocked in the Wii U version, are all made available right off the bat, including one new Support Duo exclusive to the Switch version. While this may seem odd that ultra-powerful support Pokémon like Reshiram and Cresselia are available to newbies and veterans alike, and it removes some of the incentive to play through the campaign to unlock them, it does create a level playing field for players of any skill.

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Pokkén Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch) – gameplay images via Bandai Namco

Pokkén Tournament DX looks amazing too. You’ll recall in my initial review, I noted how Pokkén Tournament lacked polish. This is no longer the case. Actually, I noticed this after a major update in the Wii U version, character textures no longer look plasticy and weird. They now look smooth and much more natural. Special effects are crisp and dynamic and the whole production looks great both on the Switch screen and on the dock. If I have any complaints with the visuals it’s with the Switch split-screen. A lot of the screen is covered with the HUD and the frame rate can get a little choppy. It’s nothing that impedes the fun of the game, and the game does bypass this with Switch-to-Switch multiplayer, but it does need to be mentioned.

As I find is often the case with these Switch re-release reviews, Pokkén Tournament DX serves as yet another example of the viability of the Switch as a platform. Not only is it a great game to be able to sink a few rounds of practice into while commuting or during a lunch break, as an adult with a job, a big part of the problem I had with the original was getting people to actually play it couch-multiplayer style. Having the ability to take this anywhere, and play it with anyone makes for a good competitive portable game to have while we wait for a Switch Smash Bros.

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Pokkén Tournament DX (Nintendo Switch) – gameplay images via Bandai Namco

I have every hope that Pokkén Tournament DX will get the second chance it deserves. It is an excellent game for fans of Pokémon and fighters alike. Take it from me, the winner of the FanExpo 2017 Pokkén Tournament DX Tournament: this game deserves a spot in your Switch library.


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Nidhogg 2 (PC) Review: New Coat of Paint, Same Fun Game

Nidhogg 2 (PC) Review: New Coat of Paint, Same Fun Game

It has been three years since the original Nidhogg released to some fanfare, and now its sequel, Nidhogg 2, is finally here—but what exactly is different?

Well, not much.

Nidhogg 2 (PC) Review: New Coat of Paint, Same Fun Game 5
Nidhogg 2 gameplay images courtesy of Messhof

Nidhogg 2 is nearly identical in its combat and format: two players battle it out via fencing with swords in an attempt to get past each other and reach the end of the stage where they sacrifice themselves to a giant flying worm. There are some new weapons introduced including short daggers, heavy swords that can knock the original thin swords out of players hands, and a bow and arrow. Aside from that, there’s a new not-so-memorable soundtrack featuring artists such as Doseone and Daedelus, an online matchmaking mode (which I haven’t been able to test), new stages, a new graphical style, and the ability to create custom characters.

As I’ve said, the combat is largely unchanged. You can still jump kick, throw your weapon, change your stance from high to low, do slides, somersaults, and pick up dropped weapons. The biggest change here is the variety of weapons, though they don’t make a huge difference, apart from the bow and arrow as it forces players to jump or deflect shots far more than a single sword being thrown. One issue I had with the weapon variety is that in the arcade mode you’re eventually spawning with random weapons and they don’t seem evenly matched, as the dagger is too short to be useful against the heavier long sword or bow and arrow and so forth. That said, games in the fighting genre rarely shake up their core combat much between entries, but even so, I couldn’t help but feel I wanted something more here.

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Nidhogg 2 gameplay images courtesy of Messhof

The graphical style of the original Nidhogg looked heavily inspired by the bland yet memorable aesthetic of classic Atari games, where Nidhogg 2 is reminiscent of PlayStation 1 era 2D platformers like Rayman. Whether or not you like the graphics comes down to personal preference. I don’t mind them, though the animations aren’t my favourite as they have that thing going on you’d see in some early flash animations where it seems like the animator simply moved the joints instead of going frame-by-frame.

While I much preferred the smoother animation of the first game, I love the stage art in Nidhogg 2. Stages seem to reference a lot of classic games, such as a living forest with faces on the trees (Mortal Kombat 2), a nightclub stage (like every beat ‘em up ever), and some of the more original stages which are just downright grotesque in the best way—like an airship with a worm meat factory or the insides of giant worms.

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Nidhogg 2 gameplay images courtesy of Messhof

If only the stage designs were nearly as enjoyable. Many of the stages have holes or gaps that players can fall through, and because every time you die you’ll respawn from your side of the screen moments later, it sometimes leads to spawning essentially on top of the holes. I don’t think I ever spawned on top of a hole, but many times I’d spawn and immediately fall upon moving—which can be comical during a “for fun” scenario but will surely frustrate more competitive players. There is always the potential that forcing your opponents to spawn in specific places becomes a part of the meta, but it isn’t something I enjoyed.

While I appreciate any game that gives me the ability to customize characters, Nidhogg 2 is just too basic to be good in this department. You can only change the hair, clothes, and skin colour of basically identical brightly coloured muppet-like characters. There are far too few options for it to be deep or memorable in the way that most games offer character creation.

If you liked Nidhogg, Nidhogg 2 is more of the same—which is probably enough for most people. A few new weapons, a shallow character creator, cool stage backgrounds and online play are the biggest changes you’re paying for here. I just wish there were more substantial editions aside from those.

The King of Fighters XIV (PS4) Review

The King of Fighters XIV (PS4) Review

Unlike other recently released fight games (looking at you Street Fighter), The King of Fighters XIV manages to release as a full-fledged product with all the bells and whistles one would expect when buying a fighting game. In this package, you’ll find 50 characters to choose from each with unique play styles and moves, a story mode with 3D animated cut scenes, various multiplayer modes, training, and some challenge modes. While it isn’t perfect, it makes other fighting games on the market look like rip-offs with their lack of content and gross amounts of DLC.

The King of Fighters XIV (PS4) Review 11This is the first time that a core King of Fighters game has been fully rendered in 3D (matches still play out on a 2D playing field like the other games in the series), though the graphics aren’t anything to write home about. By comparison to Street Fighter, they practically look last generation. Characters movements, animations, and stage backgrounds just aren’t as interesting or eye-catching, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a solid fighter.

Combat in King of Fighters XIV feels snappy without being unwelcoming to newcomers. While button inputs for unleashing combos and special moves are pretty fast, there is a rush mechanic that is new to the series that will at least make casual players feel like they are doing something. If you’re able to land a series of low punches with any character, it will automatically do a small combo and end with a big move that makes you feel like you’re a real fighting game champion, that is until you go online and get obliterated.
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Matches play out in a three-on-three team battle format, with no healing between rounds unlike most games with this kind of system. There is no tagging, so once you select your order of combatants at the start, you’re stuck with them until you win or they fall in battle. It is a nice change that sets King of Fighters XIV even further apart from the rest of the genre, and keeps it feeling fresh. For those looking for something a bit more traditional, there is also the option to have old school one on one fights.

The King of Fighters XIV (PS4) Review 13I’ve only been able to dabble with the multiplayer a bit, but even when my opponent’s connection was not as strong as it could be, it didn’t seem to impact the gameplay at all. One annoyance was the tournament style mode I played had a large box that stayed over the right side of the screen with the name’s of myself and my opponent displayed, though I’m not sure if that is intended or a glitch, due to just how much of the screen it takes up. This box is transparent so it didn’t impact the matches but is still an eyesore that seems out of place.

The single player story mode consists of 10 matches and a boss fight, with a few conversations between fighters sprinkled in between matches as well as a couple of cut scenes. Calling it a story mode is kind of a stretch as there isn’t much content. The conversations do little to tell a narrative other than how the fighters feel towards each other, and the cut scenes are just of the current champion discussing the tournament. There are ending videos, but only for a select few fighters, and they are rather brief. While I appreciate the inclusion of the story mode, and did get a good chuckle out of the few cut scenes in The King of Fighters XIV, I just wish there was a bit more substance.

Despite the lackluster story, there are 50 characters available in The King of Fighters XIV that are quite diverse and come with plenty of fighting game tropes. You have the blonde dude with crazy hair, the old Chinese man with a beard, and a handsome Japanese guy wearing a headband with Japan’s flag on it. You also have a bit more zany characters such as a buff luchador dinosaur, a Freddy Kruger clone, and a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu lookalike that even says “Pon Pon Pon” (the artist’s most well-known hit). Suffice to say with so many characters available you’ll find a few you love that fit your playing style.
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The cherry on top of this enjoyable package is the gallery filled with unlockable illustrations, sounds, background music, and movies. Movies are unlocked in story mode, artwork is unlocked by winning rounds in story mode, and the rest can be unlocked via other special requirements such as battling with a specific combination of characters. There are hundreds of things to unlock for those that care more about completion as well as competition, which will add some longevity to the game for some players.

While The King of Fighters XIV isn’t as glamorous or flashy as other games in the genre, it certainly has a ton of content that will please both casual players and competitive fighters alike. I have a feeling this might just be the go to title in the fighting game scene soon, but only time will tell. If so, it certainly isn’t a bad choice.

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late (PC) Review

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late (PC) Review

I still can’t believe we, as gamers, have this many fighting games to choose from. With a resurgence of the genre on Steam this year alone combined with the biggest EVO showing to date, it’s a great time to be a fan. There’re just so many games to choose from, with even “western” themed fighters like Killer Instinct giving players a respite from the so-called “anime” category that typically dominates the scene. But there’s always room for more anime fighting games, including Under Night In-Birth Exe:Lates recent Steam release.

French Bread (the actual developer, as Arc System Works is merely publishing) is no stranger to fighting game development. They’ve crafted the well-known Melty Blood series as well as Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, and really come into their own in the past several years. The Under Night franchise itself has had several years of fine-tuning, the culmination of which is one of the most accessible entries to date.
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Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late is a fast game, yes, but accessible. Players can air dash and flutter about the sky, but they’re never out of control and commands for all 16 characters are manageable, as most of the characters have access to a variety of zoning and combo tools (with a weak, medium, and heavy three-button setup). Much like Guilty Gear‘s tension system, Under Night’s fighting system encourages people to play aggressively, granting them Grind Grid meter (GRD) for performing actions and taking it away for retreating or taking damage. If you happen to have more GRD, at certain intervals (roughly 15 seconds) you can dole out additional damage or choose to boost your super gauge.

No, it’s not a new concept, but it’s a mechanic that I adore in that it generally creates more intimate matches, especially when playing with strangers. If you’re too reckless, you’ll just get punished into oblivion, but it’s the mindset that I dig. The way attacks can be chained is also very intuitive, as many characters have a super of sorts tied to their heavy attack, with multiple variations set to the light and medium buttons. In other words, you can use the same command to send out, in some cases, four or five different abilities. It’s not too taxing to actually perform them, but it is a lot of memorization. Half of those characters, mind, have an amazing set of animations and designs (like the intimidating Waldstein with his giant claws, or the freaky Merkava), but the other half follow the same “classmate” archetype that make them blend in more than they should.

Outside of local versus there’re a few distractions, like an arcade mode, score attack, survival, and time attack game types — the usual stuff, with light dialogue interactions and not much in the way of an actual “story.” Under Night‘s biggest holdup on Steam, however, has to be its online play component. It’s just…not reliable, at least during my testing sessions with it. Some matches will be silky smooth and others will lag out entirely even if both combatants have good connections. It does find people quickly though, and the community isn’t as inactive as those of other similar indie fighters.

If you have time to dig into the indie fighting scene, past the massive towering monoliths of Street Fighter and Guilty Gear, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late should suit your needs just fine.