I'd been hearing some chatter about the recent roguelike dungeon crawler from NIS called Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman (PSP) and I finally managed to lay hands on a copy. I'm a fan of the genre when it's done well and word on it had been fairly positive, so I had my fingers crossed.
Final verdict: mixed.
I played it for about a day and only got to the third tier of levels, so I just scratched the surface of the game. However, my general impressions of the play mechanics were very positive. Anyone who's ever played a roguelike will grasp things immediately, and the small tweaks to the standard formula were appreciated. Under normal circumstances, I think I probably would have been inclined to sink some time into this game, BUT I sent it back to GameFly before the sun set.
The reason? The story and characters.
NIS is famous for the irreverent style and wacky personalities in its titles, but I have to say that although I found the original Disgaea to be literally laugh-out-loud hilarious, every game they've put out since then has rubbed me the wrong way. The writing consistently misses the mark, jokes fall flat, characters are pulled from grating anime stereotypes, and the plots don't usually interest or involve me enough to get me to buy into whatever quest I'm supposed to be on.
I don't care how good a game is—if the plot, characters, cutscenes and general concept are bad, I find it extremely difficult to continue playing.
Sadly, ZHP’s cerebral elements were quite offputting. Not quite as offensively toxic as Valkyria Chronicles 2’s perhaps, but bad enough to instantly turn me off and cause me to focus my attention elsewhere. It's really a shame since I can recognize that the core of the game was solid, but there are just too many titles demanding attention to justify spending time with one that actively pushes me away with its infantile stupidity.
The wife just got an iPod touch as a gift yesterday, so we've been catching up with what we've been missing out on in the mobile scene. I haven't been doing much more than looking over her shoulder, but Tiny Wings and Thief Lupin both looked fairly interesting.
The wife also spent some time with Infinity Blade, and that looked pretty damned amazing, at least graphically.
After hitting up the folks on Twitter, I came up with this list of titles that I should check out:
Game Dev Story
the Doom RPG
Superbrothers Sword & Sorcery
It's a good start, but I'm still looking for more input. If you can think of any other excellent ones that are worthy of a look, I'd love to hear about them. Drop me a line and let me know if there are some must-play gems out there that aren't on this list!