Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable Review

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This review of Persona 3 on PS2 has been updated to include a review of Persona 3 Portable, which was re-released on Xbox platforms and PC. The original review was written by Kevin VanOrd, while the re-release was written by Jessica Howard.

The PlayStation 2 may have reached its twilight years, but there is no shortage of great games being released for it. Enter Persona 3, the latest in the Shin Megami Tensei series to reach American shores. Luckily, you won't need any previous experience with the Persona franchise to appreciate its uniquely dark sensibilities, though series fans will find plenty of familiar references in which to revel. This is a quality role-playing experience that weaves distinctive gameplay elements into a fascinating story that unfolds slowly but keeps you constantly guessing. It's also atypically mature, but then again, any game that features your party members repeatedly shooting themselves in the head isn't for the squeamish. Indeed, the game's signature mechanic is this: To summon your inner self--or persona--you point a pistol at your head and pull the trigger.

At the outset of the game, you name your character, who has just transferred to Gekkoukan high school. But it's clear that not everything is kosher at the seemingly average campus. Mysterious creatures called shadows are threatening the locals, spreading an enigmatic disease called apathy syndrome that leaves their victims as listless as the name implies. However, their activity is generally confined to the dark hour: an hour sandwiched between midnight and 1 a.m. Most people are oblivious to this hour, while others are distinctly aware of the creepy dark hour in which the undulating gloom seals most of humanity in gothic coffins. Those unseemly heroes are in touch with their personas, which can be summoned to fight shadows in the realm of Tartarus, where most of them are restricted. At Gekkoukan, known persona users have created the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad and are determined to wipe the shadows off the face of the earth.

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Hi-Fi Rush Review - Good Vibes Only

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The very first boss fight in Hi-Fi Rush pits you against a giant robot that wants to crush and eat you. In order to defeat this mechanical titan, you need to wail on it with a guitar that's cobbled together from scrap metal, timing each of your attacks to the up-tempo beat of Nine Inch Nails' "1,000,000." Developer Tango Gameworks is obviously known for its whimsy, but it was previously confined to a horror genre that Hi-Fi Rush most definitely does not belong to. Instead, Tango's latest is a surprisingly vibrant Saturday morning cartoon of a game, capturing the spirit and electric energy of a Dreamcast or GameCube title in the best way possible. It's tremendous in almost every respect, meshing its toe-tapping combat with genuine humor and a massive helping of both confidence and style.

At its core, Hi-Fi Rush is an interesting mix between a character-action game like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta and a rhythm game. Its melee action will feel immediately familiar to anyone who's well versed in the former, as you use your Flying V guitar to pummel enemies with combos consisting of both light and heavy attacks, juggle foes in the air, and dodge out of the way of incoming danger. The best character-action games are able to lure you into a trance-like state as you gradually become more proficient at dispatching large groups of enemies, yet Hi-Fi Rush takes it a step further by baking this rhythmic flow into its very design. You can still succeed by button-mashing your way to victory, but timing your attacks to the beat of the game's soundtrack lets you dish out increased damage and clear areas in a much more efficient manner. Enemies also attack and move on the beat, making each fight feel like an improvised dance where you're the main attraction.

In order to help you find your rhythm, the whole world of Hi-Fi Rush pulsates with the beat of whatever music is currently playing, providing you with both visual and audio cues for nailing its timing. Elevators jerk up and down on the beat, computer lights blink with each snare hit, and the barriers that lock you inside combat arenas are made from equalizers that undulate along with the music. The sound of mechanical gears, steam pipes, and the thud of your own footsteps even coalesce with the soundtrack to create a harmonious noise. There are other optional visual cues you can add for extra assistance--like a metronome--but the basic timing concept remains the same throughout, even outside of its slick and satisfying combat.

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SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake Review - F.U.N.

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In 2003, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom was released and became a touchstone for a generation of children already obsessed with the cartoon. While nostalgia plays a large factor, I, like many people around my age, hold that game in high regard, even if the experience doesn't quite hold up all these years later. Now, two decades later, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake has been made as a spiritual successor and, for better and for worse, it plays the way I remember Battle for Bikini Bottom.

In The Cosmic Shake, SpongeBob and Patrick stumble upon a Mermaid named Kassandra, who sells antique and mysterious items. SpongeBob purchases bubble soap that supposedly grants wishes, running around town and asking everyone he knows for their wishes. Unfortunately, all of the wishes kick in at once, tearing holes in reality and sending the citizens of Bikini Bottom off into the multiverse, with SpongeBob and Patrick left to pick up the pieces.

This opening sets up the seven levels players will explore throughout the game, each one with a different theme and environment. The aesthetic design of these levels is one of the places The Cosmic Shake shines, pulling together references to iconic episodes of the show, while adding new elements that fit within the game's story. A movie-set-themed episode combines SpongBob's obsession with karate with an action movie, and a pirate level has an enemy ship constantly firing pie bombs at you.

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Dead Space remake - Before You Buy

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Dead Space remake - Before You BuyDead Space (PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S) is a full and faithful remake of the classic sci-fi survival horror game. How is it? Let's talk. Subscribe for more: ▼ Buy Dead Space: Watch more 'Before You Buy': #DeadSpace

Dead Space Remake Review - Hits The Marker

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14 years is a long time in the video games industry, yet it still doesn't feel like quite long enough for EA’s Dead Space. The original 2008 game is a modern classic that holds up exceedingly well by today's standards. There's very little that feels dated about its design, and the strategic dismemberment that forms the basis of its combat still offers a unique and gory thrill that's yet to be replicated. The remake's leap in graphical fidelity breathes new life into its stifling horror, but public discourse has centered on whether it really needs to exist in the first place. That might be a cynical viewpoint, but it's no less valid. And after reaching the end credits myself, I'm still not entirely convinced it needs to either, yet I'm extremely happy it does. Remaking Dead Space in 2023 may not feel especially necessary, but EA Motive has crafted a game that manages to improve upon its excellent progenitor in a variety of ways--even if only marginally so.

These improvements begin with its story, which has been expanded via a number of alterations to both its characters and storytelling. The basic beats that make up the original game's narrative remain intact, starting with your fateful arrival on the USG Ishimura. After responding to a distress signal, you find the hulking planet cracker-class ship floating lifelessly above the planet of Aegis VII. Once on board, things take a familiar sharp turn downhill, but now once-silent protagonist Isaac Clarke has been given a voice to react appropriately. I'm generally not a fan of silent protagonists, although there's always a danger of vocal characters being overly chatty, especially in a horror game where atmosphere and tension are so delicate. Thankfully, that's not the case here, and Isaac's newfound agency makes him feel less like a simple tool to be ordered around. Actor Gunner Wright reprises the role after bringing Isaac to life in Dead Space's sequels, so there's a level of continuity here that's also reflected in other aspects of the remake's design.

Much of the script has been rewritten to accommodate Isaac's speech, and the tale it weaves is still engaging. The church of Unitology--a cultish religious sect that plays a significant role in the Dead Space universe--is much more prominent this time around, especially early on. Characters mention the infamous church in a way that feels natural, discussing the sect before they're aware of just how substantial its impact will be on future events. Kendra Daniels--one of Isaac's colleagues and your main point of contact throughout the game--has also been rewritten in a manner that elevates the remake. Previously she was prickly and leaned into some needlessly antagonistic behavior, but she's now been transformed into an empathetic character, which pays off down the line in a more effective way than before.

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