PlayStation – 1999
Koudelka was developed by Sacnoth and published by Infogrames in the West in 2000. It is a JRPG with a horror theme, which helps it stand to out among the numerous JRPGs on the original PlayStation. You control three characters, Koudelka, Edward and James, as they make their way through a gruesome mansion/ abbey. The game is spread across four discs yet it isn’t long (for a JRPG anyway). It manages to keep you moving forward well and I found I had to grind very little in order to get through the game. There isn’t a whole lot to it outside of the main quest as there is only one hidden boss but there are some hidden items that can be gotten by saving at particular times. The game manages to strike an excellent balance between its gruesome theme and its turn based combat. The enemies look excellent and the locale is suitably run down. The only downside I had with it graphically was that battles take place in a generic arena with no real background. The combat sees you move around a grid like a chess piece. It’s not quite a Tactical RPG but it does have some elements of the genre. The only thing to be careful of is if a character dies and the enemy moves past them, they can’t be revived. The game does focus heavily on magic as two of the three characters are spell casters. As you level up, you gain ability points to spend on a number of attributes, such as strength, vitality and piety. Magic and weapon skills can also be leveled up by using them. The music is wonderful (especially the final boss theme) and the voice acting isn’t bad. It’s definitely better than a lot of PlayStation games. The game does have three different endings but they don’t really require a full playthrough in order to see each one. Instead, you can save near the end and be able to see them all. I’d recommend picking this one up for your collection, especially if you like JRPGs.
PlayStation – 1998
Three Lions (or Alexi Lalas International Soccer in North America) was a soccer game developed by Z-Axis and released to coincide with the 1998 FIFA World Cup. At the time there were a few games based on the World Cup but this one does have some standout features. The graphics are decent for the time and the kits do look similar to the actual team kits. It has a wide range of teams to choose from, along with licensed players. The player faces look better than EA’s attempts at the time but are still horrifying (like most digitized faces from that generations). There’s only two game modes available: Friendly and Tournament. The Tournament mode is just the World Cup competition but you can choose World Cup Draw, Random Draw and Seeded Draw to give a it of variety. Completing the Tournament mode also gives you codes to unlock new teams, which increases its replayablility. The game-play itself is hit and miss (literally). The game has a target for shooting, which is a novel idea, but it also makes it hard to score. You control the target with the D-Pad but this means you’ll be moving as you try to line-up a shot. It’s also hampered by the fact that shooting is slow, which is odd because the passing, while not smooth, is relatively quick. The other issue is the camera has to move behind the player to show the target. The amount of chances I squandered because the ball would break to me but the camera wouldn’t turn quick enough. Defending is very awkward. Sometimes you’ll win the ball by bouncing into the opposition, other times they’ll win it straight back. I always found my defensive line parted ways when under attack, which was frustrating as switching player didn’t always give me who I wanted. There is only one stadium and no commentary, which is a bit of a let down, but at least you can hear shouts of “clear it” from the bench. The game also has some annoying quirks. Substitutions take a while and will only happen when the ball goes out but not if the ball is already out. Another thing is the X button simulates matches in Tournament mode while Start lets you play them. This caught me out when I reached the semi-final and accidentally hit X instead of Start. Overall, it’s an interesting premise that stands out from the crowd but doesn’t always bring it home.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
PlayStation 4 – 2016
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the game that introduced the Dragon Engine to the series. The graphics look wonderful and are a noticeable step-up on Yakuza 5. There are two maps to explore this time around, the familiar Kamurocho and a new location set in Hiroshima, Onomichi. Kamurocho is smaller than in previous iterations as both the Champion District and Kamurocho Hills are blocked off. Onomichi is a nice new area but it is small and lacks some of the items available in Kamurocho. The battle system has also gotten an upgrade. You’ll transition into battles quicker but the fighting isn’t as refined as Yakuza Kiwami 2 (the second game to use the Dragon Engine). One on one battles rarely pose a threat on the normal difficulty but you can get very quickly swamped when fighting a group of enemies and they can drain your health fast. The Heat mode has also been slightly altered. You fill up your Heat through battle, like previous games, and you can either use this for special attacks or unleash Extreme Heat mode. This is a great addition but the camera zooms in a bit too close, which is annoying. There are some features missing from previous games. The sub stories and cabaret clubs return but training is missing. Instead, you learn your abilities through gaining experience points. Clan Creator is also introduced and is a nice distraction but is very basic compared to Yakuza Kiwami 2. In terms of plot, I really enjoyed it. There’s a wide variety of people you’ll meet on the way and with you only controlling Kiryu, it felt more focused than the previous two entries. It has plenty of plot twists, suspenseful moments and a main antagonist that I really hated, which is a good thing. Oh, and it made Kiryu feel like the Dragon he truly is!