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Lost Dimension’: There’s a Traitor in Our Midst…



Famed Persona developer, Atlus, will from time to time take a niche Japanese game created by a smaller developer and publish it in North America. Several years ago they did this with a little game called Demon’s Souls, and audiences in the west responded by bolstering the game’s sales enough to eventually put it in the PS3’s Greatest Hits library, and since then FromSoftware’s Souls franchise has only continued to grow in popularity. Now Atlus is at it again, taking Lancarse’s strategy RPG titled Lost Dimension and bringing it to North American shores. Has Atlus discovered another hidden Japanese diamond in the rough?


The game’s overlying plot is not complicated: a mysterious being has appeared on earth, unleashing a wave of destruction resulting in the death of billions, and threatening to launch a barrage of nuclear warheads to every corner of the globe in 13 days. The antagonist, who names himself “The End”, erects a giant spire like building, called “The Pillar”, and tells the people of earth that in order to save their planet, someone must ascend The Pillar and defeat him. The United Nations attempts to send in the military, who of course fail spectacularly, leaving the UN only one option: sending in “The Gifted”. You play as Sho Kasugai, a natural born leader and one of very few people who possesses abilities called “Gifts”. After the game’s opening cut scene, Sho wakes up on the base level of The Pillar, he isn’t sure how he got there, but he quickly remembers his goal. Surrounded by 10 similarly gifted individuals, Sho and crew begin their ascent.

Right off the bat its clear the game’s presentation is lacking in originality, from its campy opening cinematic to its extremely generic “guy who wants to destroy the world” plot. Each of the 11 characters in your party seem to fit one stereotype or another, from the stoic ex-military solider and the intellectual medic, to the loner and the overly aggressive rude guy, and of course the main character, Sho, who is the level-headed, well-mannered, natural leader. As the game progresses Sho can pursue dialog options with each party member to delve deeper into their personalities, but each storyline is as predictable as could be. All of the characters use very bland weapons, all of which can be upgraded several times throughout the game, but the upgrades only change your stats, leaving each character to wield the same plain looking pistols and machine guns all game long. Armor upgrades can also be purchased, but again these upgrades don’t provide any visual changes to the character models.

The overall generic feel isn’t only limited to the plot and characters, but also the environments and the enemies who occupy them. The Pillar has five different floors, each of which has its own theme. It’s easy to distinguish one floor from another, based on the color palates alone, but all the levels are covered in boring and uninspired textures. Level design gets more complex as the game progresses, but none of the levels in particular stick out from one another. You’ll face the same arsenal of enemies for the vast majority of the game: the small and weak robotic drones, a variety of humanoid enemies who serve as the mid-tier foe, and the large tank-like enemies who are to be the most feared. The enemies serve their purpose, but do so in the most basic and uninteresting way possible.


While the character’s personalities leave much to be desired, their Gifts make each of them interesting. Each character has a deep tree of different abilities; as they level up they gain Gift Experience, which the player puts into Gifts of their choosing, which in turn opens up more branches in the tree, unlocking more powerful Gifts. Most character’s trees are so large that you will not be able to attain every skill on your first play though, unless you intentionally grind for levels. Each character has their own specialties and defining skills, which makes the player feel as if they are controlling an X-Men like squad of super heroes. While the character’s corny dialog may make you cringe, you’ll learn to love them for what they bring to the battle field. From Mana’s ability to soak up huge amounts of damage for the party, to Sojiro’s great area-of-effect healing, and Zenji’s ability to link with any of his allies and mimic their Gifts, all 11 members of the team have their uses.

Each mission requires the player to select 5 characters to join Sho in battle. The player will undoubtedly gravitate towards certain characters for a variety of reasons, and become attached to them, which makes the game’s unique twist all that much more interesting. Upon entering The Pillar, The End reveals that there are actually traitors in your group. In order to ascend from one floor of The Pillar to the next, the player must enter the judgment room, where the characters will vote for who they believe is the traitor, which results in the person with the highest votes being permanently killed off. On your first play though, the traitor on the first floor is scripted, in order for the game to explain how the process works, but going forward, on each floor after that, a traitor is randomly selected. This means that a player could potentially devise their entire combat strategy around a certain character or characters (for example: giving Mana all of her Gifts which make her extremely durable, and using her to always lead the way in battle), only to have them turn out to be traitors later on in the game. While this may seem frustrating, it actually adds a great sense of tension, urgency, and mystery to the quest. Losing a character that was core to your team will sting, but it forces you to adapt, look at the other characters more closely, and devise new tactics. Upon reaching the 2nd floor, players are given the tools they need to root out the traitors, thanks to Sho’s Gift of Vision.

Through mixing and matching party members, Sho can eventually narrow the potential traitor down to 3 suspects, and then use a limited resource called “Deep Vision Points” in order to confirm whether or not a person is in fact the traitor. After each successful mission, random party members will ask you who you believe the traitor is, and if the player has strengthened their bond with the person asking them (through exhausting their dialog options), then they’ll be able to sway that characters vote. It doesn’t actually harm you in any way to have a traitor on your team during battle, and it’s not strictly necessary to vote out the traitor if it turns out to be a character you like. You could actually just vote off a character you simply dislike, but be warned: there will be consequences later in the game for players who intentionally (or mistakenly) keep a traitor in their ranks. When a character is sentenced to death, they will reveal whether or not they were a traitor, but the traitor’s reasoning for betraying the group remains a secret until the end of the game. The whole “destruction of the world” plotline takes a back seat to the intrigue and secrecy behind the motive of The End and the traitors, and this mystery, in combination with the game’s solid SRPG game play, should be enough to propel most players to the end of the 25+ hour journey.


For players who are unaccustomed to the strategy-RPG genre, be warned: they’re quite different from your standard role playing game. In Lost Dimension you are either in the Hub area (where you can talk to your team mates, buy gear, use your Gift Points, and do a couple of other things) or you’re doing missions. There is no over world, towns, or talking to random NPCs. The meat and potatoes of SRPGs are the battles. Battles are turn-based, with the player’s team going first, and the enemy team going afterwards. During the players turn each character can move and do one action: a basic attack, using a Gift, using an item, or deferring to another character. Once a character has completed their action, they’re typically done for that turn, unless another character defers to them. Deferring allows a character who’s already had a turn to go again, at the expense of the person deferring to them not being able to attack, or use an item/Gift. This is an extremely interesting mechanic, and could potentially allow your most powerful character to attack 6 times in 1 turn. While the combat may seem pretty basic during the first couple of missions, its depth and complexity becomes rapidly apparent with time.

There are two key mechanics players will need to master if they intend on achieving an S Rank on every mission: assists and Berserk. When a character attacks, if one of their allies is in range, they will provide an assist attack. Proper movement and positioning is paramount. Before moving any of your characters, it’s vital to assess the position of each enemy, and how you can position your squad to maximize the damage from assist attacks. Using any of your characters Gifts, deferring to an ally, or taking damage will lower a character’s sanity meter, and once their sanity hits zero, the character will enter the Berserk state for a couple of turns. When a character goes Berserk their HP bar will refill to its maximum and they’ll do tremendous damage, but they will attack wildly, hitting anything in their range, friend or foe. Sending a low health ally into a group of opponents, using a Gift to force them to go Berserk, and then watching them take down all enemies surrounding them is extremely satisfying.

Players need to keep in mind that the enemy can also capitalize on assist attacks, and enemies will counter attack if they are in range to do so. Each mission can be done a variety of ways depending on your party members, and the preferences and style of the individual playing the game. The intricacy and tactical depth provided in combat might be enough to make you forget the extremely dull enemies and environments, but it isn’t flawless. Often times knee high walls will prevent you from attacking an enemy who is in clear sight, and occasionally enemies who are standing mere inches from you, with no obstructions in-between you at all, will simply be untargetable. For a game that’s already severely lacking in presentation, these gameplay flaws tarnish the experience.

Lost Dimension is far from a triple A title. It’s rough around the edges, lacks polish, and could use a whole lot more originality. However, despite all its faults, at its core it has some fantastic qualities. The intrigue of having traitorous teammates makes for an interesting emotional attachment to the game’s cast, especially when your favorite member stabs you in the back. Each character has an expansive array of abilities they can learn, and the combat is both deep and tactical. While it doesn’t reach the heights of Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, or Valkyria Chronicals, Lost Dimension is still a good entry in the genre, and a worthy buy for anyone interested in strategy RPGs.

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Game Reviews

‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming



Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.



max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter

On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.



Metal Gear Solid 3

“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”

On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.

The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.

Taking the Narrative Back

Metal Gear Solid 3
“Snake, try and remember some of the basics of CQC.”

Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.

Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsSnake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.

Revolver Ocelot’s gun-slinging pre-boss cutscene was completely animated through motion capture footage.

Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.

Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.

A Whole New Meaning to Survival

When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.

Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.

On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.

The Beginning of Product Placement

Fun Fact: Kojima has gone on record saying that Naked Snake’s favorite CalorieMate Block is the chocolate-flavored line (rightfully for promotional reasons!).

The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.

The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”

When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.

A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank

At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.

Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.

Snake Eater 3D Limited Edition Bundle included a ‘Snake Skin’ themed standard 3DS (only released in Japan).

2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collectiona compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.

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