FUGA: Melodies of Steel Review (Steam)

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When you think about it, stumbling across, and piloting, a monstrous tank is the best way to deal with most of your problems. That’s especially true when said problems include your quiet little village being invaded by a powerful army and all the villagers being abducted. That’s why it’s so easy to empathise with the children of Petit Mona taking up arms (or should that be cannons?) against the Burman army in the gigantic Taranis.

The time you spend with the children takes several different forms, but the main one sees you engaging adversaries with the tank in turn-based battles. On your turn, you can change the child currently operating the weapons, allowing you to change the type of damage done by your attacks to target weaknesses. A hit with a weakness will delay the turn of that enemy unit, so switching out your strengths is key to success.

Then you have to factor in each child’s individual Skills into your strategy, as Hanna’s healing abilities are pretty much a requirement during protracted battles, while Boron’s powerful attacks can end the battle before it really starts. Each child has their own set, with a few crossing over between users of similar weapons, which grow in scope and power as they level up. Also, consider who will be in the background, as their Support Skills can affect the flow of battle too, with boosts to critical hits or regenerative abilities for example.

These battles are interspersed along a timeline that the Taranis travels along once each objective is complete, occasionally crushing boxes containing health packs for the tank and items that restore your party member’s special points. Once you reach the end of a chapter, you will have a far more difficult encounter to overcome that will test your skill and strategic prowess. In fact, these battles are likely to have you on the ropes if you aren’t careful.

Here is where the gut punch comes in with this game both mechanically and narratively. If you are close to failing an encounter, the Taranis will grant you the use of a weapon called the Soul Cannon. This devastating attack will defeat any adversary, and therefore bring you the victory no matter the odds. However, and this is big deal, the use of this weapon requires you to sacrifice the life of one of the children to power it. 

We can’t understate how harrowing this is, not only because of the concept of what you’re doing, but how guilty the remaining characters make you feel for doing it. The only advice here is to try to not use the Soul Cannon unless you absolutely have to and, I’ll be honest, I preferred to fail and retry the scenario instead of going through that experience more than a couple of times. Oh, and there’s an ending involving not using the Soul Cannon at all, so there’s that.

Outside of battles, the chapters contain at least one Intermission, where the focus moves inside the Taranis to give you a little of time with the cast of character (you know, so potentially sacrificing them is even more difficult to take). The beginning of each Intermission grants the player a certain number of points to use in the segment, and each action you take will use these points, so you have to consider how you’re spending this time to best grow your power.

You can switch between the children to interact with the others to build their affinity using one point, which will show you a skit between the two for each level and even grant the use of a powerful Link Attacks to use in battle if you pair them up in a weapon station. For more points, you can fish for upgrade materials, spend time and resources upgrading various elements of the Taranis, cook meals which give all of the children temporary stat boosts for the coming battles, and other activities you unlock as you progress.

The Intermission segments also give you a little diary, detailing the things that the children want to do. These will range from the vagueness of wanting to eat something right up to very specifically wanting an all-girls sleepover. If you then complete these tasks, the children will get a boost to their mood, meaning that they are likely to perform better in the coming battles, and come closer to activating a Hero Mode that grants them a huge boost for the next five turns.

You can occasionally find Expeditions, short and slightly bland dungeons that require a team of children to explore and often grant pretty decent loot. These can be explored again from the Taranis during Intermissions, if you missed anything or want some easy experience. Also, in between missions you can visit towns and villages to receive items from the townspeople and barter with the shopkeepers to trade items and resources for their enhanced versions.

Aesthetically, Fuga: Melodies of Steel more than lives up to its predecessors. The art direction is stellar, going with a cartoonish watercolour design for its characters and world that is expressive and colourful, instead of dipping into the blandness of visuals often seen in games ostensibly about the horrors of war. The music exceeds the previous games, doing so with fewer tracks but a far stronger consistency across the score. 

This is a far darker spell in the Little Tail Bronx universe than we have seen before, with the weight of war hanging heavy over the narrative and gameplay in a way that Solatorobo only hinted at. What Fuga: Melodies of Steel achieves is the seamless merging of the heart and excellent characters the franchise is known for with some excellently considered strategic combat, enhancing the gameplay beyond the arguable monotony of the previous games. If only it weren’t so damn upsetting at times.

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Preview

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After more than a decade, we are tantalisingly close to the end of a saga that was put into motion all the way back in Final Fantasy XIV Online back in 2010. The story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark, and the culmination of 11 years of world building, character development, and more will end with the upcoming Endwalker expansion on 23rd November.

Quick note before diving into thoughts from hands on time with the expansion, we need to remind you that this article is based on play of an in-development build of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, and content in the final version is subject to change. Also, there will be mild spoilers for an early game dungeon and for the new Jobs; Sage and Reaper.

Going Under Review (XBO)

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Anyone who knows even a little bit about me knows that I’m pretty fierce in my anti-capitalist stance on the world. A view like this, however, is often not reflected in video games with the medium rarely even loosely mentioning the topic for fear of upsetting “The Gamers” with their politics. So when I head about an anti-capitalist rogue lite from Laura Kate Dale and Conrad Zimmerman, I absolutely had to give it a try.

Bravely Default II Review (NSW)

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Do you remember the scene from the opening of The Incredibles where Mr. Incredible says that he feels like the maid and just wants the world to stay saved for a little while? That’s how I feel about the Crystals in the world of the Bravely franchise, and Bravely Default II doesn’t buck the trend. Beginning with throwing together your rag tag band of misfits, led by Seth, you venture into the world to save the Crystals.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition Review (NSW)

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Just over a decade ago, we were blessed with a movie based on the excellent graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. This was followed by an equally great (if not greater) video game. Then, due to licensing issues the game disappeared from all storefronts… until now. That’s right folks, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is back on consoles and PC!

The game follows the titular character and terrible person Scott Pilgrim and/or some of his friends as they fight their way through Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes so that Scott can continue dating her. Whether or not Scott actually deserves Ramona (because she is too cool for him anyway and he’s as much of a manipulative abuser as an ousted Ubisoft executive) is up to you.

SWORD ART ONLINE: Alicization Lycoris Review (PS4)

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The first, and lasting, impression that SWORD ART ONLINE: Alicization Lycoris gives is anime, and plenty of it. All of the well-trodden tropes are present here. Blue-haired swordsman protagonist? Check. Fast-paced and heavily over-cut intro? Check. Inexplicable amnesia? Check. Anime waifu goodness? Check, check and check. 

This also means, however, it suffers a couple of the pitfalls too.

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review (NSW)

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As divisive as the Paper Mario series has been, it’s undeniable that the brightly coloured and playful likes of our truly 2D plumber are welcome in all the current doom and gloom. Revealed only a couple of months ago, and promising a whole load of fun around origami, it was honestly hard not to look forward to another instalment of ‘Nintendo messing around’ in 2020.

Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum ‘N’ Fun Review (NSW)

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I am bad at rhythm action games, however, I will happily gorge myself on any one I come across simply because I find them so fun. From playing Dance Dance Revolution in the arcades to tapping away with Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, I genuinely adore the genre. So, when I heard that the legendary Taiko No Tatsujin series was coming to Switch, I simply had to play it, even if I was going to be terrible at it.

Pokémon Smile Review (Mobile)

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A couple of weeks ago, during the Pokémon Presents broadcast, we were shown the timely return of Pokémon Snap for us to flaunt our amateur photography skills prompting much fanfare. But, I was much more intrigued by another little project, a little app designed to help children brush their teeth properly and continued proof that any random word can follow the word “Pokémon”.