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XBlaze Code: Embryo PS Vita Review: A Compelling Argument for Illiteracy

Arc System Works combines shopworn anime tropes and thoroughly hateful design in one repellant package.

Review by Bob Mackey, .

It's more than a little self-centered to presume all media must cater to our specific tastes—regardless of how wonderful this world would be before the combined misery of surrounding billions suffocated any opportunities for enjoyment. That said, I only played a tiny amount of XBlaze Code: Embryo before I took a step back and said, "Yeah, this game really isn't for me."

That's not to say I don't possess the right set of tools to analyze XC:E, though. I'm a huge fan of visual novels, especially when they incorporate adventure game elements, and I've played and loved Snatcher, Policenauts, the Phoenix Wright Series, Hotel Dusk, Danganronpa, and others—all while being fully okay with the fact that there's not much "game" to be had in this genre. And it's not like the visual language of anime—something XC:E trafficks in—is an altogether foreign concept to me: I actually cut my teeth on anime reviews as a young freelancer, and watched countless series for years until the dark cloud of moe descended on the industry and made everything... icky. With some sort of mastery in each of these overlapping fields, I feel absolutely confident in stating the following: XBlaze Code: Embryo is a terrible anime, and even worse at its fumbling attempts to be a video game.

Code: Embyro takes the form of a prequel to the BlazBlue fighting game series, so fans of the latter may find the story more meaningful than I did. Despite its connection to this group of bizarre characters, XC:E finds itself squished into the most common anime mold, that of the Tenchi Muyo variety. In short, these stories typically involve a personality-free, milquetoast protagonist (with a mysterious past) who finds a series of beautiful, superpowered women throwing themselves at him, and can only react by screaming in abject terror. This "harem" setup, popularized and done to death within the past two decades, finds our hero coping with superpowered humanoids called "Unions," and a gaggle of equally superpowered girls who latch onto him like barnacles at every given opportunity. If you have any familiarity with this kind of premise, you can probably guess the specifics of the crazy, sexy situations that follow, and your subsequent boredom.

That's not a knife—THAT's a knife. Oh wait, it's a sword. Carry on.

The plot in XBlaze Code: Embyro is just as dull and predictable as any C-tier anime, so Arc System Works resorts to familiar tactics to dress up this very basic storyline: Neologisms! Towards the mid-point of the game, it's not uncommon to see two to three newly invented words per sentence, even if these convoluted terms are just synonyms for "bad guys" and "special powers." Eventually, you get the feeling Code: Embryo is less interested in giving you a story than it is a vocabulary lesson—so much of Touya's conversations with his female companions involve overwritten discussions about these new terms. Given that XC:E is a visual novel, though, its story stands as the main attraction; but if I were watching this play out in fully animated form on Crunchyroll, I would've given up after just a few episodes. It also feels as if Arc System Works bit off a little more than they could chew by making a visual novel about superpowered warriors fighting to the death. XBlaze Code: Embryo makes clever use of its limited assets during dialogue scenes, but its attempt to simulate combat by sliding character portraits around comes off as unintentionally hilarious.

Xblaze Code: Embryo would be just another forgettable visual novel if not for its one "gamey" element, which pushes it from "mediocre" to "aggressively terrible." While you make absolutely no decisions in the story itself, Touya possesses a PDA called TOi that collects info from the world around him for you to read at your leisure. When XC:E introduces this element, it tells you "Depending on which articles you read, or don't read, the course of the story, or even its very outcome, can change!" Since Code: Embryo didn't tell me much more than this, I assumed TOi stood as a way to incentivize digging into all of the extra content—visual novels as a whole typically reward the player in some way for exploring the periphery. So, as I suffered through the story, I would visit TOi every time it updated, reading stories, character bios, and the like. My character would only remark "interesting" after each article read, so I really had no way of knowing how consuming these articles could possibly affect my progress.

Unless you're okay with looking at anime butts in public, XBlaze: Code Embryo is a game you should really play away from the judgmental stares of fellow mass transit patrons.

I found out the hard way when, upon loading a save about halfway through the game, Touya was visited by one of the villains, who proceeded to murder him instantly after delivering the cryptic line, "Those who wish for nothing will ultimately receive it." Game over. Huh? I loaded the same save again, thinking there had to be some way out of this situation. Nope, still murdered after a few lines of dialogue. My next line of thinking was, "Surely I could jump back a few chapters and avoid this untimely death, right?" You can probably guess the answer to this question.

It turns out the TOi system had secretly railroaded me into an early death, with no way out of it but to restart the game entirely from the beginning. The "extras" screen—available from the main menu—provides information about what articles you have and haven't read, but, like in the game itself, says absolutely nothing about their significance. Did scrolling through all of those articles about swimsuits communicate that I had some sort of nihilistic streak? Whatever the case, I assume you're supposed to play through XBlaze Code: Embryo over and over until you can figure out which combination of its 100+ possible articles need to be read in order to achieve some satisfying ending. I can't remember the last time I've come across a game mechanic so preposterously hateful.

Above all, I'm just astounded that Arc System Works shoved such a downright evil mechanic into their game, because it only serves to rob players of their free time by forcing them to restart again and again (skipping all of that dialogue again and again) with absolutely no clue as to what went wrong. As I said before, this game definitely wasn't made for me, but really, I'm not sure who it's for. If you're a masochist who wants to fill your deathbed with regrets over time lost on a lousy visual novel, you might be in XBlaze's target demographic. If you value your free time and happiness, stay very far away—there are much more entertaining ways to waste your life.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Visuals: Code Embryo does what it's asked to do, and makes the most of its limited 2D assets. When it tries to do anything more ambitious than dialogue, though, it isn't pretty.
  • Sound: Ultimately forgettable. The (Japanese) voice actors do their best to elevate the substandard material they're working with, but I rarely stuck around long enough to hear their voices.
  • Interface: Seeing as you're mainly skipping through dialogue with a single button, there's not much of an interface to speak of. What's there gets the job done.
  • Lasting appeal: You're intended to play through Code Embyro multiple times, but for all the wrong reasons. If you actually feel the need to do such a thing, consult your local radiologist for a CT scan.

XBlaze would be thoroughly unremarkable if not for its utter—and possibly record-breaking—contempt for the player. If you're interested in visual novels as a genre, the Vita has a handful of titles significantly better than this one. And if you're somehow compelled to explore the rich back story of the BlazBlue universe, there's always fan fiction.

0.5 /5

XBlaze Code: Embryo PS Vita Review: A Compelling Argument for Illiteracy Bob Mackey Arc System Works combines shopworn anime tropes and thoroughly hateful design in one repellant package. 2014-07-03T21:45:00-04:00 0.5 5

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Comments 64

  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #1 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    I'm really surprised that USG would publish a review for a game by someone who outright admits the game wasn't meant for him.

    First of all, I don't like moe harem visual novels either, but there are a lot of people who do. What good is a sports game review done by someone who hates sports games? This is no different.

    The death mechanic where you have to start over from the beginning is 100% normal in traditional Japanese visual novels. I don't like the mechanic either but it's in countless visual novels and is hardly unexpected by actual fans of visual novels. Also, skipping back to the point of divergence doesn't take very long in most visual novels.

    Playing Phoenix Wright and other puzzle solving visual novels does not make you a fan of traditional Japanese visual novels. They really are notably different in build and story. Frankly, I agree with your opinion. I really like Phoenix Wright, 999, and the Cing games. And I probably would dislike Xblaze Code as much as you. That's why I know not to play it and not to review it. It wasn't made for me, but I have several friends who like that sort of thing.

    Maybe such friends have poor taste. Maybe all harem games are vapid dissonance. But if so, then to review one would be like a film critic reviewing children's cartoons.

    So what's the harm? I don't believe game reviews should have scores but I understand the unfortunate necessity of scores, a lot of which has to do with metacritic. If USG is to give in to scores and thus influence metacritic, then they shouldn't doom a game on metacritic by having someone who doesn't fully appreciate or understand the genre review it.

    I hope USG will reconsider it's policy on who reviews what games. I love most of USGs reviews and view them as some of the only reviews I can trust. I've been following Bob Mackey ever since he got his start in game journalism. Bob is who convinced me to try Dark Souls. Bob stood up to a million fan boys when he went against the norm and pointed out things he didn't like in Skywardsword. Bob is a good writer and reviewer, but this review is unfair and shouldn't be. And that's coming from someone who would also probably hate this game.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #2 bobservo 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage I've played plenty of visual novels, as I stated in my intro, and each of these games allowed me to start over at a reasonable distance from any of my "deaths." This one does not--if you've made it halfway through the game, you have to return to the very beginning, which I feel is completely unreasonable for a video game published in 2014. As I stated in my review, the game does a terrible job of communicating why you failed -- regardless of the genre in question, this is a monumental flaw, made even worse by the whole forced restart issue.

    I also don't believe editorial outlets should be choosing their reviewers based on who will give the highest score -- we are critics, not cheerleaders. For the record, I was given this review because I have a great deal of experience with the genre. There are lots of great visual novels! This is not one of them.
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #3 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @bobservo As I said in my post, it is normal for visual novels to require you to start over. You say you've played several visual novels, but how many have you played that weren't on handheld systems and included puzzle solving? There are literally hundreds if not thousands of visual novels released only in Japan for PC and this game in question seems to be in that style. In Japan they don't really even consider games like Phoenix Wright to be a visual novel (I'm not pulling that fact out of my ass. I've lived in Japan and had Otaku friends). It's a whole other genre that has built upon itself since the early 90's and having played danganronpa doesn't mean you understand it. The mere fact that you were so taken aback by the common mechanic where you have to start over or load a save and skip around kind of suggests you don't understand it.

    Also, I certainly did not suggest "editorial outlets should be choosing their reviewers based on who will give the highest score". Either you didn't read my post very carefully or I am outright incapable of making a clear point using the written word. I hope for my sake it's the former.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #4 bobservo 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage "It's supposed to be infuriating and bad" seems like a disingenuous argument to me -- I don't care if these are genre traditions, it's bad game design in my book. Policenauts, a game released 20 years ago (and one with very little interactivity to speak of) let me quickly restart again after dying, so why can't this one? Again, "tradition" is a lousy excuse. And if the game was going to follow these old rules, it could have at least alerted me to this fact so I could have prepared.

    And I apologize if I misinterpreted your comment, but it seemed you were saying outlets should be handing out reviews to those more likely to be positive towards the game in question.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #5 link6616 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage I think you missed an important part of this.

    Had this VN been a typical flowchart/multiple choice kind of scenario, like Tsukihime, Fate, Hakuoki etc I'd agree with you more. I think the major complaint comes not just from the death, but the sheer lack of ability to navigate the game with any understanding of where it might take you.

    Here, I understand there is a data log style mechanic and THAT serves as your method to make choices... except it has absolutely no clear payoffs whatsoever, and can easily lead to death without suitable warning. At least I can assume "Go have lunch with Ciel Senpai" will let me have lunch with Ciel, sure I might not know that'll lock me into her route perhaps, or that it'll give me the essential +1 affection I need for the true end.

    This sounds infinitely more painful than any VN I might have run across, even Tsukihime which was quick to kill you was better because it was easy to lock down a mistake somewhere along the line.

    Also, VNs have gotten a lot better and in general have far less clearly game over ends that are more than one choice away. Sweet Fuse for instance, usually when it presents choices that 'kill' you, can be solved by simply picking the other option of the previous choice which the game takes you back to.Edited July 2014 by link6616
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #6 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @bobservo You make a good point that "it's supposed to be terrible" is a shallow stance. I am not capable of defending the game, as I have not played it. Nor can I properly defend the genre since I probably share a taste in games that is more in common with you. But I will say two reasons why you as someone less than fully initiated with traditional visual novels may have not been the perfect choice for this review. And then I'll let it rest.

    1. You were probably playing it wrong. Traditional visual novels expect that the player make several saves and jump around those saves if he messes up. To make it easier there is a super fast-forward button/option that allows any previously read scene to be skipped through in seconds. This is the way such novels are traditionally played (unless you use a walkthrough I guess) which give them the feel of a choose your own adventure book, where you can explore several scenarios playing out. The game did not alert you to these rules because it assumed the super niche target audience would already know.

    2. It's very difficult to understand what is good about something you hate or have no interest in. That's true in how perception works for everyone. Now I realize you are a fan of visual novels that have been officially released and localized in the U.S. which include puzzle solving elements. And it would be ignorant of me to say such games are vastly different from traditional visual novels. But I would say this: based on this review I kinda of doubt you personally would enjoy any traditional visual novel. Have you ever played one outside of the time you spent on this game? Would it not be unfair to ask a reviewer to have at least played one other traditional visual novel before reviewing one. Right now you have nothing to compare it to outside of those DS games you've played, and your review gives off the vibe of "I wish this was more like that other thing I like".

    It sounds like where we are in disagreement is whether the games you've played qualify you to review this title. That's not a fun debate and I've said my piece so I'll leave my stance as it is.
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #7 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @rowanidriscarmichael Is that true? Does this game not have a normal means to navigate it such as in Tsukihime, Fate, Hakuoki, ect? If so, than perhaps I've made an erroneous assumption and wasted a lot of time typing out of my ass.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #8 Funny_Colour_Blue 2 years ago
    Pete, where are you?
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  • Avatar for link6616 #9 link6616 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage

    Point 1, multiple saves, really doesn't work with the system Bob has described. Remember, this is a datalog style system, not a clear cut selection of choices. It is much harder to trial and error your way through the system described than a traditional VN with multiple choices.

    Oh and yes, you are right, the ADV genre PW, Dangan and all that fit into is different, but I would argue, enjoying the VN genre itself separately, is similar enough that if you enjoy japanese ADVs, and can cope with less "game" you are pretty much fine and good to go.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #10 link6616 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage

    Maybe, here is the paragraph

    "Xblaze Code: Embryo would be just another forgettable visual novel if not for its one "gamey" element, which pushes it from "mediocre" to "aggressively terrible." While you make absolutely no decisions in the story itself, Touya possesses a PDA called TOi that collects info from the world around him for you to read at your leisure. When XC:E introduces this element, it tells you "Depending on which articles you read, or don't read, the course of the story, or even its very outcome, can change!" "
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #11 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @rowanidriscarmichael Well I guess depending on how easy it is to skip through scenes that could be awful. Though really, I would want to hear how it works from someone who has played the game more than a "tiny amount" in Bob Mackey's case and not at all in our cases. Regardless, I should not have made the assumption that this game played like a normal visual novel and I apologize.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #12 bobservo 2 years ago
    @rowanidriscarmichael Yep, thanks for writing all of that. Again, BC:E would have been much more approachable had the game taken any effort to explain just how important TOi is and how it could lead to early death/complete restarts. Instead the game is like "Here's this fun thing! Have fun with it!" And there really doesn't seem to be much of connection between things read and their immediate effects to the story -- and if there is, the game doesn't bother communicating this information at all.

    But really, we're all missing one important thing, here: Why is reading articles on the Internet changing this guy's fate? Is this something we should all be worried about? Sleep well, friends.Edited July 2014 by bobservo
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  • Avatar for bobservo #13 bobservo 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage For the record, I played roughly 6-7 hours before getting railroaded into a restart. The "tiny amount" I mentioned was the time it took me to realize just who this game was made for.

    And I tried to make this clear, but there's no way to navigate to completed chapters after a death/ending. It's back to square one for you.Edited July 2014 by bobservo
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #14 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @bobservo So what's it like after you gotta restart? Does it play out identically? Can you skip to the point where you died really fast while making the appropriate changes to not die? (I apologize if you detailed that in your review and I missed it).
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  • Avatar for bobservo #15 bobservo 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage You restart from the very beginning. Even worse, you lose all of the "information" gained (via a glossary) from past playthroughs. As far as I can tell -- and I did a TON of experimenting -- there's no way to jump right to where you died, mostly because the variables you're changing to affect the story (via those read Internet articles) are SUPPOSED to be hidden from you. So you can't just say "Oh, I better not do this thing this time!" Such a terrible, terrible idea.Edited 2 times. Last edited July 2014 by bobservo
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #16 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @bobservo Okay, that sounds God-awful. I should not have assumed you just didn't know how to play visual novels. Especially since your other reviews are notably fair and examine games in ways I want to read about.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #17 link6616 2 years ago
    @bobservo I suspect you are lucky you "lose" all that information, because otherwise a repeat play would broach impossibility given the system that seems to be at work.

    I mean, which swimsuit article should you read? Maybe you could get killed before the first scene ends if you read ALL OF THEM FIRST CHANCE.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #18 link6616 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage Also, to be fair against VNs, a genre I love...

    Now that I've played Virtue's Last Reward with it's built in flowchart, it is PAINFUL to play anything with more choices than Song of Saya. It's a very interesting medium, but man would I like people to implement some things like that.
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #19 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @rowanidriscarmichael I don't disagree. Though a lot of visual novels do skip forward swimmingly fast, only stopping when there's a dialog choice.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #20 bobservo 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage Don't worry about it -- I went out of my way in this review to qualify my experience with these sorts of games, because otherwise it would be easy to assume I was picking on it just for being a visual novel. Instead, I'm picking on it for being a bad visual novel, which is completely fair.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #21 Stealth20k 2 years ago
    is this the lowest score in the sites history?
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #22 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    Just to step in here, I assigned this review to Bob knowing exactly two things about the game: (1) It's a visual novel and (2) it has something to do with BlazBlue. Since Bob plays a lot of visual novels, it seemed a natural fit. There was no agenda here. I assigned BlazBlue Chrono Phantasma to Mike at the same time that this assignment was given, because Mike plays a lot of fighting games. It's as simple as that.

    I disagree that reviews should be assigned to people predisposed to write a positive review. Reviews should be assigned to people capable of giving an informed, fair opinion. I was surprised by the low score on this one, to the point I talked to Bob about it before we published it. But he made his case about the mechanics, and I confirmed it for myself, and I think his criticism is fair. He made it clear he would have given it a middling score if not for the way the endings are handed out.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #23 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @Stealth20k I believe Pete gave Flappy Bird the same score a while back.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #24 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    And this is what I was afraid of with Pete's departure. You are welcome to hate a game, but frankly I don't like reading stuff like this. And, yes, I am completely fine with looking at anime butts in public without caring what people think. To me it makes a lot more sense then enjoying murder simulators like Assassin's Creed or Mortal Kombat. I respect anyone a lot more for watching hentai then watching Saw.

    I do actually enjoy this Visual Novel, I've unlocked 2 of the endings so far and plan on unlocking the rest. I've been a fan of Blazeblue, although still prefer Guilty Gear a bit more, and this was a nice story for me to round out the BB universe a bit more. Also I want more Japanese developers to bring more visual novels out in the US. I enjoy the ones I can get, but would also not mind at all more on my Vita or iPad so I can read them at work. As compared to other Visual Novels I would give this one about a 3/5 stars, but just for enjoying it for what it is, and also rounding out the BB universe, and for the pleasure of them actually releasing a VN on consoles in the West, I would have given it a 4/5 stars.

    I also didn't have the problems he had with saves or having difficulties knowing which path to take. It's pretty obvious and is basically explained outright as long as you are paying attention. The ToS system, which determines your endings, is given a contextual reason for existing in the world, but that is your path brancher. Frankly among Visual Novels I had some of the easiest time figuring out how to get the different paths as it's pretty obviously pointed out with even icons showing you which ones. Instead of most VNs just giving you a response without much context.Edited July 2014 by SigurdVolsung
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #25 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish "I disagree that reviews should be assigned to people predisposed to write a positive review"

    I may have put my foot in my mouth in other areas, but everybody, please stop implying I ever said anything remotely along these lines!
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #26 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @SigurdVolsung As you are someone who has played the game and likes it, I would be interested to hear your take on Bob's main complaint about the game. How you die with no knowledge as to what mistake you made, and are forced to replay from the start.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #27 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage Well, it's not really spoilerific, so let me just break it down a little. You read the ToS system to determine paths you take. Any time the game Autosaves, that means that new ToS articles are up. Your first time through you just read all of them. Reading all of them will give you a specific character's ending. The next time through you can choose to skip all previously read texts, but it will still stop every time the ToS updates. But this time you should make note of the character's portrait next to each article. Now you should start only reading the articles with the portrait of the the character's ending you want to receive this time. The truly bad endings, "Black Beast" endings, come from not reading the ToS at all or stopping reading it at various points. Like you get a different bad ending from not reading it at all than you do from stopping to read in Chapter 6.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #28 bobservo 2 years ago
    @SigurdVolsung This is good to know. But it would have been even better had the game tried to communicate any info about this central mechanic!
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  • Avatar for pashaveliki #29 pashaveliki 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish "I disagree that reviews should be assigned to people predisposed to write a positive review. Reviews should be assigned to people capable of giving an informed, fair opinion."

    Agreed. It is the editorial focus of this site and moments like this that have made USgamer my go to gaming site.
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  • Avatar for pashaveliki #30 pashaveliki 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage And this is why USGamer rocks.

    On any other site this entire exchange would have devolved into a heated flame war, but here? People discussed points in a flame-free environment, willing to take the other person's point-of-view into consideration.
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  • Avatar for orient #31 orient 2 years ago
    Basing your progression on supplementary reading material: terrible game design. Not telling you about it up front: the worst game design.

    *Comment box is glitching out.Edited 2 times. Last edited July 2014 by orient
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  • Avatar for mobilesworking #32 mobilesworking 2 years ago
    @SigurdVolsung "To me it makes a lot more sense then enjoying murder simulators like Assassin's Creed or Mortal Kombat."

    Yes, yes, yes.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #33 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    @captainN2 Opinions are not objective by nature, they are subjective. Many things that people take for granted are extremely subjective and the more that you travel to vastly different cultures like I have (around 20 countries so far), the more that becomes apparent. I accept that he and I do not feel the same about this game. But on top of that I subjectively feel that I do not need critics of art/entertainment to even be objective. I think that is a total ridiculous objective. You are telling me about what is coming, what you think of what has already come, and your experiences with something. But subjectively I do not like to read about negative experiences, I do not use gaming reviews to convince me not to buy something or to feel validated about my own personal views if they feel the same way. I want them to tell me if they love something, how they love it, and why they love it. If they convince me, maybe I've found some new experience to enjoy. Not every opinion of theirs will I agree with, but nor should I.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #34 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    I realize it may seem weird, especially to Americans, but my favorite gaming site would probably be one that gave every game a 5/5. As long as it was honest. And only had advocates for the genre and the games writing for it. I realize not everyone feels the same. But there is always Foxnews already out there if I really want it.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #35 Funny_Colour_Blue 2 years ago
    Deleted July 2014 by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #36 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    @bobservo Let me explain the ToS system in a bit more detail so I can tell you why I like it. This is spoilers, so be warned for anyone planning to play this apparently controversial Visual Novel. First of all, all of this I found just by playing the game, not with any outside help. So I think you may have skimmed by or not understood a conversation or two. But here it is. ToS is a newsfeed and opinion aggrigator, think of it like Facebook/Twitter. If you go through the first path reading everything on it, they will eventually tell you that not only is it doing that, it's a version of the T-system that is not only collecting information on everyone, but subtly influencing their behavior, hence the multiple routes. And it is in fairly subtle ways. In the upper right of the screen you will get the large blue box with ToS stating that you can use it now (or a lock on it for when you can't). But if you and another character read the same article on ToS, you will get a small rectangle in that same spot at some point in the chapter that also says ToS, and that's a ToS event. It means you wouldn't have had that conversation if you both didn't read the same article. And the event or conversation revolves around the content of that ToS article, and your/their behavior is subtly altered. Juxtapose this with the court case this week trying to halt Facebook from doing almost this exact thing in the real world and it can be a bit of a mind warp. But either way, that is how this game's route system works. By the way, if you read an article during a route in error, as in not for the character you wanted, the game does allow you to mark it back as unread without having to load up a save. You just have to do it before either that ToS event happens, the next chapter occurs, or a ToS update happens that wipes the previous clean.
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #37 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @captainN2 Sigurd is stating his opinion in a respectful and constructive manner. To sarcastically suggest that his posts are stifling is the epitome of hypocrisy.

    I really feel like your comment is mean and unnecessary.
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  • Avatar for DogNozzle #38 DogNozzle 2 years ago
    I, for one, am shocked - shocked! - that this reviewer doesn't share my opinion. I demand validation!
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #39 Mad-Mage 2 years ago
    @captainN2 Have you even read my posts in this tread? I do a bit of eating crow in presuming Bob per-emtively judged the game. But if you even read what I had to say you wouldn't be judging me as a fervent defender of the genre. Much in the same way you have judged anyone who has said anything negative about Bob's review as irrationally defensive. Let people express their thoughtful opinions. Stop trying to polarize everything.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #40 VotesForCows 2 years ago
    We miss Pete, but we love Bob. Lets not fight anymore!
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  • Avatar for orient #41 orient 2 years ago
    If your opinion stems from either:

    - You're not playing it right / you didn't quite 'get it'
    - You're not enough of a fan of the genre
    - Everything must be positive

    ...then you can't expect anyone to take you seriously.
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  • Avatar for Hoolo #42 Hoolo 2 years ago
    Reviews are, by definition, exactly that: subjective. Did Bob like the game? No, and his reasoning is explained in the review. Would Pete have liked the game? Maybe. Is there a (civil) conflict in the commentary section? Definitely.

    Games these days are often loaded with tutorials. Xth game in the series? You're still going to be stuck with a tutorial. But with what I've read from the other comments, "true" Japanese Visual Novels are different. They tell you nothing, and expect you to know everything. (Or that's what I got from it)
    I understand things like Ace Attorney and Zero Escape are not VNs in a true fashion, possibly, and Hotel Dusk and Lost Window come closer to what is considered a true VN, and I guess it shows. If, as I take from this review, XBlaze gives you nothing except journals (with character pictures?) you can read, and the manner in which you read them determines the outcome of the game, then that's probably a unique and interesting mechanic.
    However, if this is accompanied by "sloppy" other game mechanics, that detracts from the game.

    Maybe we're spoiled. While 999 didn't have such a nice jumping interface as VLR (at least not in the NDS version), it seems like there are fewer different outcomes than in XBlade Code.
    Maybe we're not used to games like XBlaze Code: Embryo. Bob admits this isn't a game that is 'for him'. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, games can surprise you. But more often than not, it gives the game a disadvantage. Certainly in something like a review on a gaming site.
    And maybe we are too harsh on a game only a few in the comments section seem to have played. You can't win 'em all.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #43 Funny_Colour_Blue 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish
    @bobservo

    …I really don’t like this guys review. All I got from this review is that this game has an incredibly unfair, archaic gameplay mechanic for a visual novel and that this particular game simply wasn’t meant for Bob Mackey, which he admits.

    Negative reviews like this one, don’t work – Bob hates it when games waste his time with unreasonable game design choices and I get that - but as an interested consumer, that doesn’t really tell me anything:

    The scenario Bob mentions in the article, that sounds exactly like what happens in Clock Tower 2: The struggle within (1999) and I really liked that game, because as frustrating and similarly inane as that game was, it made me dread achieving a poor ending even more – and there were so many of them, it was endlessly fascinating!

    So this games sounds like something I actually might be interested in - What I would have really liked to know is how well it serves as a prequel to BlazBlue because that might also be a series I want to check out as well.

    But because you assigned this game to someone who it simply wasn’t meant for, there is still so much I don’t know about this game now since he’s already dismissed it by omission.

    This is why negative reviews, like this one, don’t work. It’s not very thorough or very informative. All I understood from this review is how much it doesn't appeal to Bob's personal preference, which doesn't really serve anyone except for those who are already willing to dismiss it.

    Though, I can understand the predicament, you really should not have assigned this review to Bob Mackey. He leaves a lot of stuff out in his reviews - like how the Wii U version of Another World can only be played on the Gamepad - which is something I would have really liked to know before I bought it guys.

    EDIT: To be clear, I do not have anything against negative reviews. What I am against is when you don't tell me enough about the game beyond whether or not you liked it. It's absolutely infuriating.

    I want to know everything about a game before I buy it.Edited 3 times. Last edited July 2014 by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #44 renatocosta90 2 years ago
    If Bob hadn't written exactly the words "Yeah, this game really isn't for me.", how would people actually react to his assessment?

    I enjoyed Pete's reviews as much as next guy, but to say that Bob was not objective in this piece is misguided. He clearly states the game mechanics (and that the game surely does not do it), the plot setups, the writing style and exemplifies the visual presentation.

    His main gripe is the arcane mechanics that, in his opinion, should not exist in a game in the year 2014. I agree. I also agree that some consumers are attracted to that type of mechanics, so, he does not agree to the conclusion that those design choices are inherently bad, but that does not mean that the reviewer did not inform the reader of that. I don't think that the criticism is unfounded, but if the issue presented is not really an issue for you then, well, that's ok, you still have the means to take the information from the piece, play the game if you wish, and have your own opinion or take on the subject.
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  • Avatar for nipsen #45 nipsen 2 years ago
    @Mad-Mage: "First of all, I don't like moe harem visual novels either, but there are a lot of people who do."

    You know, I used to think that as well. Until someone introduced me to the commercial -- and polished, standardized, not inappropriately sexual (which is some kind of weird official standard that allows 13 year olds, mothers and everyone else and their uncles in underwear as long as sex is not suggested directly) -- visual romance novels. And I'm really starting to think that no one really enjoys them, not even the people who play them religiously.

    Like the guy in "The World No One Knows" says. The characters are bland, the graphics are horrible (and they still are blocky and weird thanks to the infatuation with 3d modeling collapsed to 2d, that barely works on Ghibli budget productions), the mechanics are glitched.

    But the game has to be completed! All of them! So people play these games and figure out the paths and mechanics to get the best, relatively speaking, ending. And end up liking the mechanics and the effort put into that process rather than the visual novel itself.

    So here's the breakdown of reviewing a game you end up hating. You explain why. Bob explains exactly why. He explains that he likes story-telling and the visual /novel/ aspect of a visual novel. The game doesn't impress him because he appreciates story-telling.

    I agree he should have used more examples of exactly why the story telling is horrible, though. There's something missing here when it comes to what the setup is. For example, "The World God Only Knows" is a Moe harem campfest. And it's still a good story as only Arisawa Mamizu can write it. So maybe what we want to know is if it's taking itself completely seriously, is too much of a serial production to really waste time on, etc.

    Is it possible to review something like this positively, though? Of course. You highlight the camp, you describe with amazing dishonesty the fact that it is an immense challenge to skip through the same dialogue over and over again, from repeated playthroughs with minimal changes -- because you want to get to the "good" ending. There's no such thing as too many lousy devices or obscure and opaque mechanics - because that's the challenge!

    And I've seen a few reviews like that. Some of them weren't even written sarcastically.

    In fact - isn't that method really what most reviewers adopt? You review Skyrim. There are a billion things that are horribly wrong with the game. But you still review it for the people you know on beforehand will adore the game no matter what. Because eventually, after having grinded for enough hours - you will be able to kill the dragon and hear the three sentence speech by Patrick Stewart. And all the absolutely excruciating and pointless challenges you need to get through to get there - is actually a positive aspect of the game. Because it halts you in your track and makes you spend effort into completing the game.

    Obviously, those kinds of reviews are common, even if they're not as obviously honest.

    So when someone decides to write down their opinion in a review and disqualify the title as a game that will actually give fans of the genre some value for their money -- visual novels in this case, or adventure games, or action games -- after explaining the criteria for why. And not only that, but then also going out of it's way to explain why the mechanics themselves are obscure and cannot be skipped or replayed except from the beginning. Then you simply can't fault the review for being negative.

    You can disagree with the premise. That the visual novel genre isn't about visual novels. It's a reasonably valid point of view like explained. Perhaps the tough mechanics is a worthy challenge, and the more worthy the more impossible they are. Perhaps they aren't even difficult enough, and that this prevents you from going higher than a 4, what would I know.

    You can insist that in spite of the grind, that the actual story-telling is good. Perhaps that would work. Perhaps even the worse and more campy story is more hilarious? Perhaps?

    But you can't review the game positively from those points of views - without explaining exactly how you thought the game was actually good. That is, without lying your arse off.

    And that's the problem here. When "critics" on the internet not only demand that their point of view should be catered to. But that people who write the reviews should lie to everyone about why you like the game as well.

    I had a huge fight with an editor over a review like that. We never really agreed, and my piece didn't run. Eventually, a second and third writer turned up with their own reviews that were also scathingly honest critics of the game and the series, as well as the genre. And the guy printed those reviews. Some die hard fans were livid. Everyone else loved it.

    And you know what they told me later on? They said that in hindsight, the proper solution to this problem wasn't to minimize the criticism, or to make the criticism more respectful or pleasantly sounding. No, the solution was to make the criticism thorough. So thorough that the fanbots wouldn't have any avenue to complain afterwards.

    Because like people say: this is an opinion. And you have to be extremely fanatical to deny people an opinion - if it is well argued, and you get something out of it. You might disagree with that, and have reservations about it. But that's how it actually works.

    We've come to be impossibly sensitive to people's likes and positive happiness when they visit the sites. But the truth is that if you have time to read through a review in as many words as that - then you have time to derive some enjoyment from it outside of spying the headline and the first three sentences on n4g.

    Or you're reducing the criticism into "I just want the score to be more to my liking based on the category of the game, which I want everyone to play". Fine. Say that.

    That's just how it works. So if you don't have some actual criticism of the review that goes into the substance of it. Or that explain an alternative point of view that no one thought about. Then you really don't have any criticism of it that should be taken seriously.

    I mean, really - "You should have liked the game better, because I really think you should!". Haven't internet comments on gaming sites evolved even tiny little bit in ten years?
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  • Avatar for docexe #46 docexe 2 years ago
    @SigurdVolsung “I realize it may seem weird, especially to Americans, but my favorite gaming site would probably be one that gave every game a 5/5. As long as it was honest. And only had advocates for the genre and the games writing for it. I realize not everyone feels the same. But there is always Foxnews already out there if I really want it.”

    I agree with your previous comment about the nature of reviews and opinions, and how there is no such thing as an objective opinion or objective review, and how expecting “objectivity” when criticizing something that everyone experiences in completely different ways due to personal taste, personal experience, etc. (like art or entertainment) is pointless.

    But this point you make here is something that I have to disagree with. I understand that you dislike reading negative opinions (I don’t really know why, I suppose you are probably irked by the level of negativity that pullulates in many gaming sites, but that is only assumption on my part), but when it comes to reviews, pure positivity is not really helpful or constructive either. It can actually contribute to skewed perceptions.

    As long as a critique is emitted with honesty and stating in detail the thought process of the reviewer to reach his/her conclusion, that critique has merit regardless of whether is positive or negative.

    And honestly, something that I have realized in recent times is that you can appreciate something better when you read critiques and reviews that highlight both the positive and negative aspects.
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #47 GaijinD 2 years ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue In this case, there's a demo for both the Vita and PS3 version. I haven't gotten around to trying it yet, but I imagine it's likely to answer any questions Bob didn't.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #48 Funny_Colour_Blue 2 years ago
    @GaijinD Thanks, I'll definitely check it out then. :)

    EDIT: Yeah, I know that Bob. I know you reviewed the 3DS version. But it would've been nice to know what it was like on the Wii U as well.

    Regardless, you still have this really bad tendency leave out information on subjects that simply don't adhere to your personal tastes. It's in everything you write and research and it's absolutely infuriating - I don't care whether the game is good or bad, I still want to know more about it, especially when it's something you don't like.

    Please be a bit more thorough. Tell me absolutely everything that you can about the game before you dismiss it.Edited 11 times. Last edited July 2014 by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for bobservo #49 bobservo 2 years ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue BTW, I never reviewed Another World for Wii U -- the article in question clearly states in the title that it's about the 3DS version: http://www.usgamer.net/articles/virtual-spotlight-another-world-20th-anniversary-edition-3ds
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #50 Stealth20k 2 years ago
    @jeremy.parish For the record I am ok with it. An opinion is an opinion. If Bob feels that way, that is that.
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  • Avatar for J0HN-L0CKE #51 J0HN-L0CKE 2 years ago
    @bobservo I'm interested in the handful of visual novels on Vita that you mentioned. As far as I know there is Danganronpa and VLR... and that's it.
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  • Avatar for J0HN-L0CKE #52 J0HN-L0CKE 2 years ago
    @ZenRain Oh no, I know. I love Danganronpa and can't wait for Danganronpa 2 in September. I loved VLR (and to a lesser extent 999) too.
    After these games I have found that visual novels are pretty much my favorite genre.

    But they don't make/localize them in the West. So that's why I want to know what these "handful" of VN games are on the Vita, that the reviewer mentioned. I only have knowledge of these 2, and trust me I've looked for more.

    I mean the only other VN's I can think of available here are a few otomes on PSP (and DS) like Hakuouki (in fact I just got one of em for the PS3)... but that doesn't count.

    I pretty much feel like I can't ignore a game like Xblaze if I want to play VN's regardless of any shortcomings. By all means, direct me to better options.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #53 bobservo 2 years ago
    @J0HN-L0CKE This handful includes Danganronpa and Virtue's Last Reward and... that's about it for now. But trust me, you don't want to play XC:E just because you like visual novels -- in case you couldn't tell from my review, it isn't a good one!

    (Oh yeah, and DR2 this fall, of course.)Edited July 2014 by bobservo
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #54 GaijinD 2 years ago
    @J0HN-L0CKE I'm not into VNs, so I don't think I could really point you in the right direction for titles of actual quality, but I do know for a fact that there are quite a few visual novels available in English on PC. Also, the very existence of something like Ren'Py shows that they are made in the West, even if mostly on a hobbyist level. Again, someone else would be better suited to giving you recommendations, but I can say that if you think nothing is out there you're simply looking in the wrong places.
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  • Avatar for Mackill-Yourself #55 Mackill-Yourself 2 years ago
    Deleted July 2014 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #56 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    @Mackill-Yourself Please check our Code of Conduct before contributing to USgamer in the future. There are more civil ways to register your disagreement.

    http://www.usgamer.net/conduct

    Damn, internet lag causing multiple posts.Edited July 2014 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #57 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    Deleted July 2014 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #58 MHWilliams 2 years ago
    Deleted July 2014 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #59 renatocosta90 2 years ago
    @MHWilliams oh man, reading the conduct code, does it mean we will get user forums? That should be exciting
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  • Avatar for aros #60 aros 2 years ago
    Strongly agree that it's extremely unprofessional for a Metacritic linked site to allocate a review to someone who actively does not like a genre. I have enjoyed this site till now but unfortunately the pathetic EG mindset and' quality' seems to have infected USG. Consider this another lost reader. FWIW this is not my type of game- as such I would reject the chance to review it.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #61 bobservo 2 years ago
    @aros You must not have read the review, or the subsequent 66 comments if you think I dislike visual novels.
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  • Avatar for orient #62 orient 2 years ago
    @bobservo The truth is, people were used to coming here to have their anime tastes validated by Pete, who would almost always give every visual novel / JRPG a glowing review. Now they're horrified because that comfort's been taken away.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #63 bobservo 2 years ago
    @lonecow I'm not sure where you get that impression—I'm fine with modern Japanese entertainment, just not the bad stuff. In fact, 90% of my favorite games at this year's E3 are made by Japanese developers. I have no axe to grind, and the reason this game wore me down so much (outside of the terrible mechanics) is because I've seen these same story beats played out SO MANY TIMES.
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  • Avatar for EnderTZero #64 EnderTZero 2 years ago
    An XC:E Review,
    starring
    BOB MACKEY
    as
    RICHARD III.

    Seriously, you wrote a review of an awful visual novel guaranteed to generate a bulk of its traffic from hate-reading worshippers. You, sir, are determined to be a villain if it kills you. I mean, I have delighted in the carnage above and in the comments, but, you know, don't get yourself impaled on my account.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #65 brionfoulke91 2 years ago
    Well... I'm just gonna say it again. No offense Bob, but...

    I really miss Pete.
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  • Avatar for garethcruz82 #66 garethcruz82 A year ago
    I rather enjoyed this visual novel. It's sad when niche Japanese games get bashed by Western media because the reviewer assigned to cover the release isn't into the genre. Why give XBlaze to someone who dislikes the harem genre?

    It's hard to believe that the writer is a visual novel veteran. Play the game from the start because you locked yourself into a path? When tackling these type of games you are pretty much expected to make multiple saves to reduce backtracking. All that said the fast forward feature does cut the time needed to skip text you have already read.
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  • Avatar for Milla-Glagolika #67 Milla-Glagolika A year ago
    I love most of USGs reviews and view them as some of the only reviews I can trust. I've been following Bob Mackey ever since he got his start in game journalism. Bob is who convinced me to try Dark Souls. Bob stood up to a million quadrinhos when he went against the norm and pointed out things he didn't like in Skywardsword. Bob is a good writer and reviewer, but this review is unfair and shouldn't be. And that's coming from someone who would also probably hate this game.Edited December 2015 by Milla-Glagolika
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  • Avatar for kampret #68 kampret A month ago

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