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Short video game reviews

This article will contain reviews of games that I either don't think deserve a long one, or didn't bother to write one yet. This will be updated whenever I play a new game; some of these might also get proper reviews later, so watch this space.

PlayStation Portable

Wipeout Pure

Futuristic racing game with shooting in it! Very clever way of handling difficulty - when you clear tournaments at a certain speed level, you unlock the faster ones. So newbies are forced to get good to be able to progress. Game is unforgiving - it's hard to make turns especially at the higher speeds, while the AI will of course make them perfectly unless an opponent intervenes. As if that wasn't enough, the AI also "cheats" by almost always having the same guy win the race (if you don't do it instead). Decent variety of cars, all with different statistics - though they don't seem to matter that much in the actual game. For example, the Speed stat just concerns the top speed which you will rarely reach, and Shield is easily rechargable so a low one is not that much of a handicap. Weapons could be done better - there's the overpowered Quake weapon, while the Plasma is so hard to aim with as to become almost useless. And there is no way of affecting what kind of weapon you get, which IMO would be a great tactical addition to the game. The weapon symbols are also pretty unintuitive - you don't really know what you've got since it's just geometric figures - at least until those stick into your mind. They could have drew an actual rocket instead of some green square or whatever. It might seem I'm just shitting on this game, but in reality I heavily recommend it despite the small flaws. Stylish, colorful graphics, nice animations, amazing soundtrack, unlockable cars and tracks makes this a staple. And of course it pulls you in, which seals the deal in the end. I don't even like racing games, and yet I've spent way too much time on this - so you don't need to be a fan of the genre to enjoy this one. Recommended.

Wipeout Pulse

Sequel to the above, adding new modes (Eliminator mode, which focuses on destroying cars instead of actual racing, is super fun), tracks, cars (but removes the unlocks...), weapons, a "loyalty" system which can add skins to your favorite car, and a grid campaign structure. It also removes the cheating AI so that the same opponent won't win almost every race. This makes it easier to clear tournaments, though the unforgiving speed is still there. Soundtrack is a little worse than Pure's. Not much more to say - if you liked Pure, Pulse will not disappoint either. Note: GET ALL THE DLC if you want to try these games. Recommended.

Corpse Party

A showcase of how not do to game development. It begins with talking, talking and more talking that isn't interesting at all and could fit in three times less words. Oh, something came out of the door! Is that a ghost? Is this where the action begins? No, it was a student making a joke. And all the lead up suggested it was a ghost...this would have been such a good opportunity to end the damn talking and get interesting, but it was wasted. And now, more useless talking. Then, you get introduced to all the other students - the worst possible way to present the game's characters; and you probably won't remember any of it. Finally, I can control my character! Okay, let me walk here...fuck, something interrupts me. Let me guess, it's more fucking talking. I've stopped playing when this multiverse shit got revealed, since in addition to all the other crap in this game, I just hate this trope. There is no soundtrack or anything at all to keep you engaged. As usual, it's possible the game gets better later, but I won't get the "opportunity" to discover it. By the way, I don't hate visual novels - Corpse Party just happens to suck. You will see later how a good one differs from this. AVOID!

Puzzle Quest - Challenge of the Warlords

Candy Crush on steroids...and some really strong ones. Actually, this is a role-playing game where the fights are done through matching gems. It will really test your focus - forget about smashing through your enemies, at least for the bigger part of the game. Every opponent will require a different strategy - from the gear and spells you pick for the fight, to the movements you make on the actual board. There are four different mana gems which will add to their respective mana pool. The variety of spells is massive - damage, HP or mana recovery, gaining additional turns, destroying certain colored gems, and many, many others. Different classes get access to different ones. You also have to pay attention to the opponent's spells. A perfect example of the kind of thinking this game requires is the Troll - he has the Regeneration spell and will keep spamming it if allowed - you have to keep "stealing" his blue gems so he can't use it; otherwise he will just wear you down. The choice of items is another significant one - and the variety is just as insane, especially considering the fact that you can craft them. For that, you need runes which you get from beating enemies in certain places. The better the item, the harder the crafting minigame will be. The mechanic is pretty well balanced since the really strong runes only appear later; though, if you do it right, you will be unstoppable for the last 1/4 of the game or so (probably the game's biggest flaw - but try to find an RPG that doesn't suffer from it). As if that wasn't enough, you can also capture enemies and learn their spells if you beat them a few times (this requires yet another minigame). Don't forget this is an actual RPG - we've just covered the fights but the overworld aspect is just as developed - quests, shopping, capturing cities, earning money, building, leveling'd be hard-pressed to find a game with more depth. There is also quite an extensive story which seems kind of wasted on this game; though some of the characters are funny (Drong!) or mysterious (Darkhunter). Add to that nice, colorful animations and fitting sound effects, and you've got a gem of a game. HEAVILY RECOMMENDED!

Class of Heroes

Turn-based dungeon crawler about school students going on an adventure to explore some labirynths. This game has heavily impressed me at first, and if I wrote this review earlier, it would very likely get the highest rating. But the longer I played it, the more my fascination with it dropped. The first thing you see is the character and party creation - and since it is deeper than the Pacific Ocean, you will be pulled in - and put up with the game's numerous flaws. Dungeons are long and repetitive, and for some of them you need to find one specific square to step on out of the whole width of the map. If you guess wrong, you might even get sent to the beginning of the dungeon, and have to go back to seek that square again. Other times, you might be walking through "dark space" that you can't light up and have to find your way blindly. Though most of these are pretty short and easy, there are ones that will make you pull your hair out. While traveling, you get to listen to the same background music all the time...except when you get attacked by random encounters (which you can't avoid - only run away from) - where it is replaced by a single battle music. The fights themselves are not very deep - though there is a variety of enemies, spells, weapons, etc...once you get your party set up well, most of it doesn't matter - you just click Attack. Unless you meet a boss, which can make all your preparations irrelevant while it one-shots your party.

With games like this, there is always great potential to make good puzzles, but Class of Heroes is lacking those. I found a good one based on a clock in one of the late dungeons, and that's pretty much it; but I didn't finish the game, since it bored me. Maps are pretty much required to traverse the dungeons, and if you want to keep them with you at all times, much of your bag space will be taken up - and with all the loot to pick up, that's a problem. Many missions are heavily luck based, requiring you to find three different types of wine that never fucking drop, for example (for those missions, it is often easier to find the required items in stores). Arranging the loot after going back from a dungeon takes fucking ages. You could say "just get good", but there's the good kind of difficulty and the annoying one, and Class of Heroes is heavy on the latter. There is little story, bland environments, annoying sound effects (the levitation sound, ugh)...Since I've shat on this game until now, let me mention some of the good things. As said before, character and party creation. Class, skill, item, spell, enemy variety (though much of it is wasted - either it's useless or absolutely required). Alchemy system allows you to create weapons from the resources you pick up (and you will need it since the buyable stuff mostly sucks). And, unfortunately, I can't say much more good about this game. I've shat on titles like Hitman GO or Plants vs Zombies, but the gameplay of those is much more engaging. The meat of Class of Heroes - dungeon crawling and battling - leave a lot to be desired. Though I DO recommend at least checking out this game for a while - even if only to see the character creation system - I can't give it a better rating than Not recommended.

Gladiator Begins

Welcome to the Roman Colosseum in a unique fighting game where you are a fucking gladiator, looking to ascend from slavery (and a one million debt that you apparently have by sheer existence). To accomplish this, you will need to perform in shows (really, fights) hosted by four different patrons to which you will be individually introduced at the beginning. Later in the game, you will be able to choose which shows to partake in - earning you that particular patrons' trust, eventually allowing you to reject all the others and finish up your chosen patrons' storyline. To counter a common criticism of modern games, you can just press the Start button to skip any dialogue if you don't care about it - but it is actually mildly interesting.

The game begins with character creation, with just the basic stuff like bodytype, skin color, head and hair style. Then, you get to distribute your stat points between Strength, Vitality and Endurance which will significantly affect how you play the game (don't worry though, you get more points after winning shows). The tutorial will introduce you to basic controls, movement, equipment usage and the four different game styles. Gladiator Begins, despite looking simple, is actually very deep and suffers from not explaining things well enough, I think (and after getting it, you're already quite far into the game - though there is New Game+ that is actually worth playing). This could also be considered somewhat of an advantage, though; as it leaves more to discover for the player (I'd at least like refining objects to be explained better - I only got that at the end of the game pretty much).

So let us talk about the variety the game has to offer. First of all, the fighting styles: Single weapon (alone or with a small shield), Big shield, Dual weapon and Pugilist (using fists and kicks). All four differ in regards to your speed and offensive / defensive capabilities (for example, Big Shield style slows you way down but protects from most attacks that even a small shield can't). More importantly, you can level up the styles by using them, which will provide access to lots of unique skills that each style has in addition to the four basic movements (attack head, legs, left side or right side). You can knock off equipment which - funnily enough - can change the entire fight into "defend the helmet" since the AI opponents will usually be very eager to get it back as fast as possible. You can also change your style in the middle of the fight by losing your equipment, dropping it on purpose or picking something else up from the ground. Nothing prevents you from doing something dumb like using a helmet as a shield, either.

The equipment game is almost as deep as the actual fighting. Each item has three basic stats (Attack, Defense and Weight), but it also differs in range (hey, we've got spears here!) and the style which will use the it (small versus big shield, or swords / maces etc versus stuff you put on fists). Equipment can be bought or grabbed from the defeated enemies (amount depending on how much your performance has satisfied the crowd - another big mechanic which would take some time to explain). These "stolen" items are usually better than the store-bought ones and you can find some blessed stuff there, which can be refined. Some of the blessed items will actually increase your gladiator's stats and by combining them with other blessed items you can truly create a Super Soldier. Mastering that skill takes some time and, since you can bring your equipment back for a new playthrough, makes New Game+ a completely different experience.

The shows themselves consist of a few different modes - Team Battle, where you get another guy to fight with against others, Survival where you just got to live for a certain time; Or Battle Royale where you have to be the last man standing. There are also some really tough boss fights and you can take their unique equpiment as well as moves after winning. So as you can see, the game is really fucking deep; and I didn't even mention all of it. The "pleasing crowd" mechanic, back attacks, combos, dodging, managing stamina, positioning which matters heavily in this game...Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter can go hide in a corner with their shallowness.

What more is there to be said? The game is fucking amazing and has captured my full attention from start to finish which rarely happens these days. There is nothing bothersome against the graphics, soundtrack, and animations either - in fact, with seemingly hundreds of character and equipment models - the attention to detail is insane. You can even fight women which only appear as bosses and are actually some of the strongest ones; as well as a fucking elephant at one point in the game. In summary - drop everything you're doing and play Gladiator Begins right now! HEAVILY RECOMMENDED!

Nintendo DS


Demons are trying to get your cookie recipe and you absolutely cannot let that happen! To accomplish that, you build Ninja huts and let the Ninjas destroy the enemies looking to get through. Sounds simple but there is quite a bit of depth in this game - lots of variety in Ninjas and demons, with different kinds being more effective against certain types of enemies. You get cookies for every killed demon and can use that to upgrade the buildings or buy new ones. Then there is the strategy of where to put which kinds of Ninjas - for example, you don't want the slow, strong ones right where enemies appear, since they will just skip them. Instead you put the fast ones first, which will make the demons stop to fight - then the damage-dealers can come to beat them up. There's also power-ups you can use in case of emergencies, when your Ninja army just isn't enough. You get rated for your performance at every level, and getting the best rank can be quite tough. On the later levels it requires careful balancing of the amount of buildings versus their strength (one super powerful ninja isn't going to do much against a wave of demons); good resource management (gotta save up sometimes), good timing (do I build the ranged ninjas this turn, or can they wait?) and placement. This adds even more depth for "hardcore" players who want A rank everywhere. Visual design is nothing to write home about, though it's at least colorful and kind of humorous. On the other hand, the audio is just annoying. There's also a little too much focus on not-very-interesting story stuff. Whatever, the game is fun, varied and challenging, and I still recommend it. Somewhat recommended.

Plants VS Zombies

Similar concept to the above - zombies are invading and you've got to rely on your plants to stop them. That is where the similarities end though, because the game is very much inferior. First of all, all the action happens on one screen, instead of Ninjatown's...well, town. This is similar to the difference between 2D and 3D shooters - regardless of what the former does, it just won't recreate the benefits of the three dimensions. Though Plants VS Zombies does try - there is lots of plant and enemy types, and later levels introduce nighttime or different terrain. But the depth is still not so great especially with some bad design decisions that the game makes. Sunflowers are the only way to earn currency required to buy plants, so any level will start with trying to plant as many of them as possible, as early as possible. Until the zombies start appearing, then you switch to the 100 Sun costing pea shooters, or the free Puff shrooms (which actually do the same amount of damage...though the range is lower) when you get them. The developers seemingly tried to combat this by introducing enemies such as the mirror-holding zombie - or the pole vaulter which can jump over plants, but it doesn't do enough. At least all the levels from the first two worlds are beatable by this simple strategy plus a well-placed bomb plant if you get in trouble. You can safely ignore many of the fun plants such as the Chomper or the Hypno-shroom. Another bad design decision is the requirement to wait between buying plants of the same kind. This is just a fake way to increase difficulty - similar to shooters just adding more HP to their enemies - because it was clearly beyond the devs to require actual strategy to beat the levels. There is also no rating system to reward more hardcore players. The game clearly does have a soul in it - the enemies are well designed, have humorous descriptions and funny voices (Brains!!!), plus it doesn't bother you much before jumping into gameplay. All in all, Plants VS Zombies can be fun to just whip out for a few plays, but don't expect too much from it. It's so sad - it would seem simple to improve this game - simply make the fun plants actually required to win, instead of being able to rely on just the basic shooters. In the end, due to the issues mentioned earlier, I have to - with a heavy heart - give Plants VS Zombies a rating of Not recommended.


The "game" begins with a scientist running around for half a fucking hour, talking about some useless shit, asking dumb questions and annoyingly "breaking the fourth wall". Then, when you can finally begin to control your character, you walk up to a sheep which starts doing damage to you even though it doesn't even look like an enemy. And "your" character fights it without your input. Now you're at low HP and the scientist complains. So you've got to avoid the enemies while you go to wherever. And that's when I stopped playing. There might still be a good game hiding behind this nonsense, but first impressions matter, and Contact doesn't make a good one. AVOID!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

I can't get caught... Not like this! Gotta find someone to pin this on... Someone like... him!

Not only are you thrown in the middle of a murder right at the beginning of the game, but it's also your friend that is being accused - and your job, as a rookie defense attorney, is to clear him off the charges. I can't think of a better way to start the game if the goal is to get someone "in the mood" - and as Contact shows, first impressions matter. After the introduction, you get to talk to Mia, your boss, who tells you she's impressed that you're taking on a murder trial so early in your career. See? This is the game telling you shit is serious right at the start, which, along with the perfectly fitting soundtrack, keeps you focused. Then you meet up with your accused friend who's crying, since it's his girlfriend that was killed. That's it, two main characters quickly introduced through gameplay, and we can begin the trial. Your friend tells his version of events, the prosecutor says he's lying and summons a witness - who is the actual murderer. Here you learn how to challenge the witness' statements and use evidence to disprove them - tutorial done through gameplay, the holy grail. When you make the correct challenge, the witness will get visibly anxious and modify his version of events, until that is untenable and he's either kicked out or convicted of the crime if he's guilty. Okay, you won the first case, what's next?

The pressure is on! Your boss got killed and the name of her sister was written with blood on a piece of paper near her body. So now your task is to defend the sister from the charges. Here you will learn the second part of the game - gathering evidence from the crime scene and by talking to people. You get introduced to another two of the main characters - Maya, your boss' sister, and Detective Gumshoe. Now Phoenix Wright becomes a true adventure game of "go here, talk to this guy, go back, show the other guy this item". But it is kept engaging all throughout. In fact, if you're looking for a game that impacts you emotionally, you cannot get better than Ace Attorney. All of this is supported by an amazing soundtrack that somehow always manages to fit the situation, great and often animations, well designed characters and dialogue, immersive stories...This is how you do visual novels, my friends! You'd never think a game inside the courtroom could be so fun. Now drop everything you're doing and go play this fucking game! HEAVILY RECOMMENDED!

Ace Attorney: Justice for All

Sequel to the above and often considered the worst game in the series - a view I agree with. The cases are pretty weak except the last one - which is probably the best in the series in terms of emotional impact. Soundtrack is also significantly worse - you will quickly tire out of the sad courtroom theme. Though it has to be mentioned that the original has set a very high standard in terms of the soundtrack. Anyway, Justice for All is still an Ace Attorney game and includes all the fundamentals which made the first game great. Plus it introduces a fun mechanic in Psyche-Locks (these appear when someone is lying, and you have to disprove their lies to break the locks). Recommended.

Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations


Puzzle Quest 2

Scroll up to the PSP section and read the Puzzle Quest review. Now, forget about everything you've read, because the sequel killed it. Puzzle Quest 2 suffers from all the common modern pitfalls such as casualization, hand-holding, equalization and simplicity (the bad kind). There is not that much difference in enemies anymore - at least in terms of how you fight them. Every fight feels the same and for the time I've played, I haven't ever felt in danger of losing. The addition of the "action points" mechanic makes it way too easy to beat up enemies, since you can just whip out your sword or whatever anytime if you've matched enough action gems. In fact, a good strategy is to simply ignore mana and skulls altogether and focus on the action points. This removes most of the depth such as "do I choose this spell or that spell" or "I need this amount of mana for this spell which will create an opening". Just get action points for you OP weapon and smash. The "tutorial" never ends since you get an annoying arrow showing you which gems to match. There is no punishment for an illegal move anymore either. The original had a different stat for every type of magic resistance - here, it's all just one - removing depth and variety. Quests are done terribly since the slight "open world" aspect is replaced by dungeons with a quest marker telling you where to go. And you have to use the menu to switch quests anytime you want to finish another one, since you need the quest marker to get around - in contrast to the original which allowed you to do many quests at once and you knew exactly where they are at any point in time. Forget about capturing enemies or using them as mounts - instead you get a shitty looting minigame. Gone are castle sieges and item crafting. Graphics, animations and the soundtrack took a huge hit as well. In short: this is yet another example of a sequel that completely misses the point of the original, and ends up destroying everything which was good about it. Again, I didn't play it for long, so it's possible it gets better, but for now my verdict is AVOID!

Donkey Kong: Jungle Climber

A different spin on the long-standing platformer series. This time, the focus is mainly on climbing instead of running and jumping on enemies, which opens up venues of gameplay that simply are not available in titles such as Donkey Kong Country (though most of the game is still similar). The always-funny Cranky Kong will guide you through the short tutorial, teaching you the basic controls. He will keep appearing during the levels whenever any new mechanic is presented, showing you how to use it (but you can ignore him if you want to). The pacing of the game is great - you're not required to learn everything at once but are also kept focused by regular introductions of new stuff. Unlike most other platformers - like Mario, where enemies are out there for you to easily stomp on or shoot - in DKJC, you are vulnerable, and the game makes great use of that fact. Attacks are hard to execute (you can only do it straight up from the ground, or while climbing which you need to aim first), and even if you are accurate, you better wish you didn't hit the enemy's stinger or some trap. Though usually the bad guys just follow their set patterns, certain ones like the fish will launch a direct attack if you get close. Often, it's smarter to just avoid the enemies - which reminds us more of the Thief games than the usual platformers. Climbing alone is dangerous in that if you fall (and that's very easy if you are attacking enemies or picking up collectibles) you can either die or just have to climb up again, depending on where you end up.

This brings me to my next important point and a great thing about the game: you can choose your difficulty through gameplay. All the levels have the KONG letters as well as five banana coins stashed around in various (usually hard to reach) places, and depending on your skill you can try to pick them all up at once, skip them or just clear the level a few times to get them all eventually. Some levels make it really tough to pick certain letters, and if you get one but die before leaving its section, you have to pick it up again, wasting lives. And if a section has two hard to get collectibles, it might be wise to only claim one of them unless you like seeing a Game Over screen. Despite the simple controls and basic mechanics, the game manages to create a lot of depth and variety out of them. For example flowers which you have to hold that "shoot" you in a certain direction, as well as ghost enemies you have to stop climbing for to avoid falling (so your usual way of movement is blocked) - both based on the idea of being vulnerable. I'm only 26% through the game but I'm already impressed with how much stuff it has managed to include. It truly defines "doing a lot with little", unlike many other games that throw together a million mechanics which ends up in a mess. Here, everything flows perfectly.

I did not even mention the sound and visual design, which are also top-tier. Nor the various interesting minigames. There are secret stages you can reach if you pick up all the oil barrels in a world, and these are really fucking hard (again, choose your difficulty)! Truly, this game contains no flaws that I can see, and if there are some, they would be nitpicks. A shame it's seemingly never mentioned anywhere, when it should be topping the tier lists. I hope this review will change the situation somewhat. Obviously, the rating is HEAVILY RECOMMENDED!

Etrian Odyssey

A mysterious labirynth has been discovered under the town of Etria and suddenly became a tourist attraction. The Chief, then, orders its exploration, bringing popularity and funds to the dying city. You, of course, end up eventually leading the way, getting where no one's been to before and uncovering the labirynth's darkest secrets. Though the plot isn't the focus at all (you could easily ignore it and barely notice), what is there is well set up and will move you emotionally a few times.

So what does Etrian Odyssey offer over the other games of the genre? First of all, it requires constant focus for many reasons - the chief one being that you have to draw your own map! Yes - finally, the Nintendo DS touch screen has a purpose besides gimmicks or being a shoddy replacement for real controls. If you fail to draw the map properly, you will not know where to go later and can even get yourself killed if you didn't mark some important foes. About FOEs...that is an actual name of a particularly strong enemy class. This is another reason for EO's attention requirement, because you need to carefully watch their movements to be able to avoid them (and you really don't want to fight them early on). Later, you can come back to beat them up for experience points and to possibly claim some great equipment.

The item system of Etrian Odyssey is another very strong point in its favor. Each monster has up to three defined drops upon being defeated, with some of them appearing only if it was killed in a certain way (such as by a fire attack). When you sell enough of them to the shop in Etria, the craftsman can begin forging the items which required the sold materials (most other similar games fuck this up by making it useless to kill mobs except to gain a paltry amount of experience; their drops are only a nuisance). This gives huge incentive to explore the lower parts of the labyrinth as soon as possible in order to meet new monsters and take their drops. This, of course, brings a certain amount of danger - since the new monsters will be likely stronger or attack in unexpected ways (risk versus reward - a principle of good game design). The variety of those is massive and each fight brings with it a different challenge. Whereas you can power through most RPGs, forget about that in Etrian Odyssey. You will meet monsters resistant or even immune to your attacks or ones that will turn your huge attack stat against you with confusion. You will be put to sleep, poisoned, blinded, have your stats reduced, magic nullified, skills disabled and will even witness monsters working together to beat you down. Etrian Odyssey can be very unforgiving if certain preparations are not taken, which is where we come to the best feature of this game...

...Which is, of course, the setting up of your party. You've got 7 classes available at the beginning with two more added later game. As you can only take five members with you, which ones to give up is an important decision. Do you want reliable healing, stat boosting, magic to beat down physically defensive enemies, skill disablers to have it easier against bosses or handy overworld skills (allowing you to pick items up from the ground or avoid enemies, for example)? It's all up to you. There are many viable combinations of classes and their skills and way more non-viable ones. The game, fortunately, tells you the skill trees right from the beginning so you can plan everything in advance. But, you will likely have to modify your strategies while encountering new stuff in the game. If you do screw this part up, you will find this game a bitch to clear.

I'm not going to cover those in depth but this game also includes standard RPG features like quests; various events scattered around the labirynth (with positive or negative effects, or even both at once), treasures and lots of well-written dialogue. All of this is supported by great visuals and soundtrack. Battle themes are intense and the overworld themes go from comfortable to eerie over the course of the game - just as more of the dark story gets revealed. This game does have significant flaws though - some of the later dungeons are grindy, luck-based, require way too much attention and just annoying in general (all the damn traps, one wrong step and you have to do it all over again). The game also doesn't tell you enough about how skills work so it is really easy to invest in something that disappoints later and ruins your strats. Most egregious, though, is the fact that you absolutely need certain skills maxed out to deal with the endgame bosses and there is no way at all to expect that beforehand. I still wanted to slap a heavily recommended rating onto this one just because of all the things it does great (while everyone else flops), but since the later installments of the series do fix the issues I've stated (among other improvements), the final mark is a strong Recommended

Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard

Sequel to the above, with a totally new labirynth (including a really fun ice sliding puzzle) and story. Includes many very welcome quality of life changes such as more map icons, being able to touch the top-left corner of the map screen to center on your current square, a better font, and most importantly - the Suspend Save, which allows you to save your game anywhere when your battery is going out. What about actual gameplay related changes?

Two new classes have been added - the War Magus and the Gunner. Now - while the War Magus is pretty underwhelming (the War skills in particular absolutely suck, while the Magus skills just mean healing) - they truly went all out for the Gunner. Though he's frail, he can sit in the back row to do massive damage. He has all the toys including binds for all bodyparts, multihit shots, all elemental shots, and even a fucking party-wide status healing shot (outclassing the Medic at medicine, can you believe it?). He can also stop FOE movement on the field with his Haltshot (though it does not work on many FOEs - a mistake IMO).

Old classes have been rebalanced, which in many cases just mean weakened - such as the Survivalist, who now lacks many of his useful skills like Trickery which increased evasion party-wide. At least the Ronin is available right from the start, and he does perform pretty well. Later, you also get the chance to unlock the Beast class, which is focused on protecting the others and has its own specific equipment. However, it is apparently bugged in that it uses the targeted character's defense (instead of its own) for calculating damage.

Other changes in the game include certain weapons having elemental enchantments. This adds depth to the choice of equipment - you might want to scout the weaknesses of the monsters in the dungeon you're going to explore, and pick the weapon accordingly. Sometimes, that might be the weaker one with the appropriate element. There is an increased focus on avoiding FOEs instead of fighting them. You get skills like the aforementioned Haltshot and Racket to control them. What this also means, though, is that there is no experience to be gained for fighting them, which is an absolutely terrible decision. It's also pretty easy to get ambushed by them (even invisible ones are included - get the Esc Up skill ASAP to prevent frustration! Though, if you're facing the wall, you still can't flee - ugh) At least they still provide materials for new equpiment...

Not much more to say about this game. Keeps the good (while improving some - labirynth design is much better, for one) and - unfortunately - most of the bad. Consider this an Etrian Odyssey 1.5, and you will enjoy it just like the first one. Recommended

Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

If you're expecting yet another "expansion pack" tier sequel as Heroes of Lagaard, you will be very disappointed in this game. Because it took what was a rough, unpolished rock (EOI and II) and made it into a beautiful diamond. It is the Hitman 2: Silent Assassin compared to Codename 47. Or the Pokemon G/S/C compared to R/B/Y. So, what was so great about it? In terms of convenience features, not much is new except an autopilot feature (allows to automatically move according to a certain path, like a macro in text editors, I guess), the game being faster and the clinic now residing in the Inn. So let's move on to the meat of it.

The most important thing in any dungeon crawler - the class and skill systems - got totally revamped. All old classes have been dumped and replaced by nine (+2 unlockables) way cooler and more balanced ones. Each class has a unique and powerful class skill which gives all of them a personality. You can't put points into stats like Vitality anymore which leaves more of them to focus on the fun stuff - skills. Whereas EOI and II have mostly focused on boring skills such as multihit or elements (which EOIII has too of course), here we have summoning beasts, cloning yourself, recovering HP / TP from your allies' deaths or even killing them yourself to raise attack. We also finally get an exploration focused class, with skills such as harvesting (no more wasting points on Take, Chop or Mine for classes which would rather fuck shit up), camping, avoiding encounters, nullifying traps or teleporting to town. But since we only have five slots in combat, wouldn't the overworld-focused Farmer bring us down? Well, yes and no. Though he does have a few moderately-useful combat skills, the real feature that allows him to perform even there is...

...Subclassing! Yes, that's the thing where (from the third stratum on) a character can have two classes at once. This creates tremendous depth and allows even the weak Farmer to gain access to buffs, debuffs and weapon masteries; or a knight to become a fucking mage (this isn't a good combination, by the way). Some cool things you can do with this are subclassing the slow and often targeted Gladiator as Hoplite to gain the Parry and Magic Parry skills to draw and nullify the opponent's damage completely. Or the frail Buccaneer can raise his evasion as the Ninja, and also perhaps clone himself and get an additional chance at a head bind if he's running Rapier. There is, though, way more chances to fuck it up than do it well, and the game is absolutely unforgiving in this regard. The first time I encountered subclassing I went Prince -> Shogun, which was a total failure since both of those classes require a lot of skill points to be viable. The bloodthirsty Shogun likes attacking every turn (some of his skills even benefit from being frail - which is incompatible with Prince's high Vitality), while the Prince prides himself on being the ultimate buffer. They're totally incompatible classes and there's lots of such combinations. Fortunately, you can reassign the subclass at the cost of five levels.

Another major added feature is forging equipment. Any weapon which has enchantment slots can fill them with properties such as elemental damage, infliction of binds or status, raising stats, filling the Limit gauge, increasing critical hit rate, and others. To be able to do that, you need to find a hammer related to the desired enchantment. You find those on the map or earn for completing missions. Of course, this costs money and materials - and the stronger the weapon, the more it takes to forge it. You can also buy pre-forged weapons - but you cannot remove their enchantments. This feature makes for way more variety for building parties. For example, if your party has Ice and Volt damage, but no fire - you can fill that up with a fire-enchanted gun. Or, if you lack a Wildling with Venomfly, you can inflict poison with a specially crafted bow. A weapon can also have multiple enchantments! A Volt-type gun which can bind the opponent's legs and also blind him? Sign me up! Often, the best weapons are those with the strongest enchantments, instead of highest base power.

As if that wasn't enough, Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City includes a game within a game called Sea Exploration. Briefly - you equip a ship, bring some food, and have a certain amount of steps to reach places before being forced to return to the port. The eventual goal is to restore the glory of Armoroad by finding routes to various other ports. In your way stand currents, whirlpools, reefs, swamp, pirates, and your own puzzle solving skills. At first, you are able to sail only for 6 squares, but, by finding an island with Sheep Cheese, you can bump that up to 8. This allows you to reach yet other places. This goes on and on until 28 at the end of the game. Each piece of equpiment costs money which you can regain by fishing - or lose by failing to fish enough, being trapped into a whirlpool, attacked by a pirate or a giant fish. This can become a money source or a money sink depending on how it goes. There is another dimension to this game called Sea Quests. After restoring the road to some place, you can fight the monsters in it alongside NPCs. This brings experience and unique enchanted items. The most impressive thing about Sea Exploration is that it's totally not required to complete the game!

Lots of combat system improvements including Limits - special attacks you can cast whenever your Limit gauge gets filled. These include elemental damaging moves, buffs or even a move which prevents you from being killed once per fight (leaving you with one HP point instead). Of course, to use a Limit, all the assigned participants must be alive. Etrian Odyssey I and II had something similar, but way worse since the gauge took a year to be filled and there wasn't any variety in Limit choice. Monsters now also form true combos, such as the Ant Queen throwing her ant summons at you for massive damage (and killing the ants).

Story wise, we have three endings depending on your choices throughout the game. The two of them are split by choosing one or the other faction to side with mid-game; the third one has other special requirements you aren't likely to get without looking them up. You can't unlock two of the unlockable classes in one playthrough since they depend on the chosen faction (you earn their class) - but fortunately, there's a New Game+ which allows you to easily see the missed content. Replayability is high - lots of fun or stupid party combos you might be eager to try - and again, much of the enjoyment of this game comes from having a strong party since the game is so demanding.

This game is so great I could spend a year praising it, but this is the Short video game reviews after all (fuck it, I must have filled the Limit gauge several times over here). So does Etrian Odyssey III have any flaws? Not that I can see, except nitpicks. The Monster Codex could be improved with information about where a certain monster is found (or information about its weaknesses / gold drops if discovered by the player). Same with the Item Codex - which monster does this item belong to? (or where do I harvest it, etc). The difficulty might be slightly too high - though it does depend heavily on the quality of your party. Do it properly (easier said than done) and the game will feel just right. You'll need a way to deal - as well as take - enough physical and elemental damage; have buffs, debuffs and healing; deal with status and TP shortages, choose good subclasses and to cobble all that up in a way that meshes well together - good luck! Some bosses and FOEs (by the way, these are back to giving experience again - fixing a major EOII flaw) also have gimmicks which require specific strategies. This is clearly a game for an enthusiast, not a weekend vidya warrior. But for the intended audience, the rating simply must be HEAVILY RECOMMENDED!

Nintendo 3DS

Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies

The first installment of the series on the newer console, it unfortunately succumbs to modern gaming diseases. You can only investigate certain places (instead of everything - missing out on optional dialogue), you get told what evidence to present to whom in order to progress (Notes menu), Psyche-Locks are immediately unlockable without penalties (older titles had you find evidence to be able to do that). What about the courtroom battles? Casualized just like the investigations. Too often you're simply told what's the suspicious statement - and even if you incur all five penalties (unlike older titles, 20% is the maximum) - you can simply try again from the same point. As if the series wasn't short on gameplay anyway, they just had to destroy the remnants...Okay, we've got the bad out of the way - let's focus on the good. Soundtrack is good as is expected from the series. A fun mechanic known as the Mood Matrix is introduced - Athena (the newly introduced defense lawyer) has an ability to sense a witness' emotions, and you have to pick out an emotion which conflicts with his testimony. Nice-looking 3D models of all characters. Three well-developed, well-balanced defense lawyers - Phoenix does not steal the spotlight (like in Apollo Justice). Miles Edgeworth is also back at the end, and Simon Blackquill might be the best character in the whole series. Story is great and keeps you on your toes until the end. All the cases are connected to finally reach an unexpected conclusion, like in Trials and Tribulations. A few fully voiced cutscenes add to the emotional engagement. I'd like to say that what Dual Destinies lacks in gameplay, it gets back with the story - but it would not be entirely true. Though the story is top-tier, the amount of casualization is simply too much, and I cannot give the game a better rating than Somewhat recommended.

Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice

The most recent game in the series unfortunately suffers from the same issues as Dual Destinies (except the fact that you can now "examine" everything). Since nothing has changed in the gameplay, let me talk about the story. Much of the game takes place in another country (Khurain), with different customs. Like the law called the Defense Culpability Act which makes lawyers suffer the same sentence as the accused if they fail to defend him - which is why they all fled the country. The verdicts are made according to "Divination Seances", which can peer directly into the deceased's final memories and are considered infailible. Phoenix Wright, of course, isn't phased by all this and wins the first trial in 23 years. The goal of the game is to overturn the unfair legal system in Khurain. Case 1 is pretty boring and drags for way too long, but it is necessary to understand the rest of the events. Second case is cool but unconnected to the main story - though it does shed light on some events from the previous games. Case 3 is awesome with plenty of twists and turns. Case 4 is totally irrelevant to the main story and bravely fights for the title of the worst case in the series. But the last case makes up for it all. It has everything: twists and turns, blackmail, in-fighting between the main characters, tales of families being reunited and broken up again, and finally - a revolution which brings down the Queen herself. Lots of interesting characters are introduced (like Dhurke and, well...mainly Dhurke), as well as an interesting mechanic of analyzing the victims' last memories. All in all, there is not much to fault in the story itself, but as the issues of Dual Destinies remain, the rating can only be Somewhat recommended.

PS Vita

Virtua Tennis 4

Game, Set, Match, Player One! The only tennis game available on the Vita - and it does a great job of representing its genre. Nice practice mode will teach you the basics, there are also Arcade and Exhibition (custom) modes - but the real meat of the game is the World Tour. There, you get to create your own tennis player (and the customizability is massive - from height, muscularity and facial features to the way your player will hit their groundstrokes), whom will then fulfill his dream of becoming, hopefully, the world's best tennis player! The overworld takes the form of a board game on which you move using "tickets" that allow you to move a certain number of steps. The goal of the game is to earn as many stars as you can, climbing up the rankings to eventually challenge The King of tennis itself. The board game part is pretty deep in itself - after every movement you get a random ticket; the most common are the ones allowing you to move 2 or 3 spots. You have to decide on which spots to step on - do you want to do a media interview (adding stars but decreasing money), meet the fans (again adding stars but decreasing condition), restore condition (needed to play tennis at full capacity), buy additional tickets, do one of the many training minigames available (which will increase the skills of your player, unlocking one of the many playstyles), or play the actual tennis matches? You might also be put into a sticky situation where you can step only on accidents, if you have all tickets of the same number, for example - forcing you to plan ahead.

The season is split into five parts, each with a major tournament and some lesser ones. The amount of stars you have determines which ones you can join; getting further in them gives you more stars. You get to face actual tennis players such as Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray or Maria Sharapova - and even recruit them as doubles partners. The attention to detail in this game is insane - not only do these players play eerily similar to their real-life counterparts, but even lesser players each have unique animations made for them. Okay, let's talk about the other part of the game - the actual tennis. The developers did a great job of simulating the real tennis season - you get to play on all the surfaces which have different physics. Each opponent also has his own playstyle and will require a different strategy. All the usual shots are included in the game - slice and spin serves, backhands and forehands, volleys, drop volleys, diving volleys...dropshots, lobs, smashes. slices, and even game-winning power shots. Mastering them all will be essential to succeeding in the Virtua Tennis 4. Okay, you've cleared the World Tour - now what? New Game+ is even better than your first playthrough, since you get to keep all the money, skills, unlocked playstyles and doubles partners. It's easier to concentrate on earning the required amount of stars if you don't have to worry so much about training or having money for the charities, etc. Now you are also a better player so you might be able to beat the Federers and Djokovics that used to kick your ass. There's much more to this game (like buying gear - you can use a fucking frying pan as your racket!), but I've already rambled on for too long - the rating, of course, is HEAVILY RECOMMENDED!

Hitman GO: Definitive Edition

Agent 47 is back on the Vita! Except this game has very little to do with the actual series. You take turns moving your piece through a board and your objective is to either reach a certain spot, or kill a target. Already here we find the first hiccup, which is that turns work inconsistently - usually, you move first and all the enemy pieces after you (so your action takes precedence). But if you step on a teleporter, an enemy can move in and kick you out before you are able to teleport (his action taking precedence). And, if your move would get you killed by a laser guy, but an enemy would block it in the same turn, you won't be killed (both actions taking place at the same time). None of this is explained anywhere and can only be found through trial and error - which is how most of the game works as well. During the first 4 worlds there's precious few levels where you have to do any thinking at all. The fifth and sixth one, as well as the ones (very loosely...) based on Silent Assassin and Blood Money are somewhat better; disguises appear more often and there's more levels that require you to actually stop and think. Autistically counting turns is also required less often - too bad that you unlock these sets only after completing the first 4, when you might already be bored.

Every level except the first few has two additional challenges like "don't kill anyone" or "reach target in X turns or less", for which you get additional points that help unlock the next worlds. The problem with this is that often, there's only a one step difference between the two "solutions" - so you have to replay a level just to make that one move different (cheap way to artificially lengthen gameplay time). To say something positive about this game - it does the "tutorial through gameplay" thing pretty well. Not a word is ever said while new mechanics are introduced, and a level usually focuses on one of them, letting you become familiar. There are different types of enemies like the "bouncers" that don't move until you come close to them, the runners, the dogs that follow you through the level, etc. Some other fun mechanics include guns and disguises, which allow you to bypass a certain type of enemy - unfortunately, this Hitman staple only appears for a few levels - what a blunder! Anyway, that is where the good news ends. There's no soundtrack to speak of (except the few times they play Ave Maria theme lifted from Blood Money), animations are basic (they couldn't even show 47 Fiber Wiring a target?), graphics something out of Windows 98, sound effects limited, no story, no depth. All in all, this is a mobile-tier barely-a-game which claimed the name of Agent 47 to increase sales (expected, since it was actually made for mobile first). Could be fun to pass a few minutes while waiting for someone, but if you expect something more than you would from Candy Crush, then prepare to be disappointed. Not recommended.

Wipeout 2048

Unfortunately, a clear downgrade compared to the previous titles. Though there are some very welcome additions (track shortcuts, proper weapon icons, "prototype" cars with special features...), the negatives severely outweigh those. First of all, there is only the campaign mode! That's right - the custom race mode present in pretty much all racing games ever is missing for some reason. You'd think they would make the only available mode actually good then, but no. Only one car is unlocked at the start! In contrast to the previous titles where you could earn one of three medals in every event - here you can only "pass" an event (which for most of them is very easy) and "elite pass" it (often almost impossible - like for the time trials). Couldn't they have put something in the middle? What was wrong with the old medal system, anyway? How about if you have a problem passing an event at all? No matter, after a few tries a prompt will appear, asking if you want to skip it (what a joke - makes the whole campaign structure pointless). Another causalization "feature" is the "pilot assist" thing which allegedly helps you clear tough turns. We didn't need that in the previous installments, so why now? Your opponents are almost indistinguishable since they can even use the same cars, so the strategy of focusing on one opponent to destroy in Eliminator mode is pretty much gone. Soundtrack is worse than the previous games, too. The fun Wipeout gameplay is still there though, which is what saves this game in the end. Somewhat recommended.

Secret of Mana

A remake of the legendary SNES RPG (which I've also played very long ago). Gamers have long been used to classics being shoddily revived in order to cash in on nostalgia; some examples are HOMM3 HD and Duke Nukem 3D: World Tour. Is Secret of Mana one of those? Well, yes and no. Clearly lots of effort has been put into the lively, colorful, 3D graphics, the voice acting for all characters and the remixed soundtrack. However, in cutscenes, the characters' mouth movements are either not in sync with the voices or not there at all. The acting itself is of average quality and some of the remixes sound like something a YouTuber who has just discovered FL Studio whipped out in a weekend (you can switch to the original soundtrack if you want to, at least). Combat got somewhat improved (more free movement helps) but lots of the old quirks were inexplicably left in there - you can still just attack a single enemy repeatedly while he lies there and cannot do anything at all about his imminent death, for example. Which is where we come to the main issue: Secret of Mana was never really good. The remake had a choice to either fix what they can (ending with something quite different than SoM) or stay true to the original - and they mostly chose the latter (but the purists still hate the remake, so whatever). The most important problems of the SNES classic are kept - and the sad thing is, the remake could have chosen to fix some of them without much backlash but didn't - let's check out some of these.

There is not much differentiating the weapons aside from longer or shorter range. It takes some serious grinding if you want to specialize in more than one as well; more than that - the higher levels are not always better, exchanging a good side effect (say, confusing enemies) for a bad one like more damage against lizards. Couldn't they have made it so that you can choose to keep an upgrade or ditch it if you don't like it? Magic also has levels which you need to grind for, but you get some of the spirits late in the game so they end up being useless. You're unlikely to be using the low-level (and high MP cost) Lucent Beam when you already have a level 6 or so Blaze Wall (and the final boss happens to be weak to Lucent Beam), or the Sprite's MP Absorb which would be really good if it stole a high enough amount of mana. Not that it really matters because the game's difficulty is a joke and a downgrade compared to the original; even the bosses don't feel much different from regular enemies so you don't have to care about their weaknesses. There is a significant difficulty spike in the Pure Land - but all this means is one of your characters might actually die, and you can just revive them with Angel's Grail or the Revivifier spell. The allowed item amount by default is 4 - like in the original - but can be increased to 10 in the options, worsening the causalization; there is also never a shortage of cash so you can always buy the best equpiment, nullifying any strategy in choosing what to wear (not that less money would help, since there's usually only one correct equipment choice - the newest and best one). Charged attacks are still useless since they miss too much and the damage increase is small. AI is still shit. Annoying menuing is ubiquitous; the remake's shortcuts help somewhat but only two are available when it'd have been easy to create more. I could go on and on - long story short, Secret of Mana is a shoddy attempt to modernize a game that doesn't deserve it in the first place. If you expect anything more from this game than being able to hit stuff with some cool animations and sometimes funny dialogue, you'll be disappointed. Not recommended.

Mary Skelter - Nightmares

Let's get the good things out of the way first - since I will whip out the heavy Criticism Hammer later. The setting is amazing - the whole concept is the Jail (where the game happens) mimicking locations from the human world - but not necessarily in ways you'd expect. So, you will see lanterns submerged underwater, random traffic lights, frogs locked behind bars, vines coming out of walls and even doors made out of cakes. The monsters are also made out of human objects (or living creatures) randomly put together. So, you'll be fighting chess pieces, chairs with sharp teeth, keychains, women's shoes with teeth inside them and a tongue sticking out, green peas with eyes instead of the edible stuff, and even spiders with freaking sombreros on their heads. Every monster has a few variations and although most are just simple recolors, some have had quite a bit of detail added such as a different facial expression.

The story alone is a reason to check out Mary Skelter - I won't spoil it here so play the game if you want to see it, or look it up (but it's not the same). There are 10 girls to "befriend" and fight alongside. The lewd content is off the charts; but the actual characters are also pretty well developed (they are actually based on stories from the human world, fitting the setting). Depending on which girl "likes" you the most, you can get a different ending. Unfortunately, it is a formality to get all of them to "like" you - you just have to give them the right gift items; they are cheap and money is plentiful. Every character has a different costume for each of the five jobs they can undertake and also two other ones for the battle states (including an almost-naked one which just happens to be the strongest...). Since I've mentioned battles, let us move on to that section already, since they are the bread and butter of dungeon crawlers anyway (alongside the actual exploration).

And the battles, my friends, are where this game takes a huge dive in quality. At least, this happens when you realize multi-target moves break the game right open and take its guts out. Nothing remains after this - all random encounters are reduced to "click the respective full-party attack". Almost always, they are over in one turn and when you get Mortal Force (available pretty early game) - in one attack. That also ruins the exploration part of Mary Skelter since the items you pick up end up just taking space. Healing, damage, revival, even mana recovery items end up useless since the girls can regain their own mana in Massacre Mode that they access if they deal enough damage. The other battle state, Blood Skelter, could serve as a counter to that (since you lose control of the characters then and can even full party wipe yourself) - unfortunately, it can be reached only by taking damage, so it's not too dangerous.

Luckily, at least a part of the game is available where the above doesn't apply. It takes a while before you get a full party and even longer to get the necessarily skill points to max out the multi-target skills. However, when you do so, the game becomes a piece of cake - so enjoy it while it lasts. Before that moment, losing is a pretty real possibility and healing items are in high demand (though damaging ones still suck). You might have to think then whether you want to explore further in the dunegon or not, especially since Nightmare chasing is a thing. Let me talk about that a bit - every dungeon has a Nightmare guarding it, and after a certain amount of time, it will start running after you. You cannot leave the dungeon or even see the minimap until you get far enough away from it. The Nightmare can even block your way and you have to fight it then - they are unkillable until the Core of the dungeon is destroyed, so you have to knock them out and run away again until you are able to leave its "zone".

And that is the other point where multi-target moves stop being broken. Every dungeon has a Nightmare as its boss, and obviously, it's a single enemy so full-party attacks are pointless. However, these fights can be trivialized by attack debuffs - if you lower the Nightmare's offense twice, it might as well become an ant then for all the damage it will be doing. At least some of the boss fights are legitimately tough - like the first two, where you might not have the proper skills or items yet. Or the one in the Temple, which has overworld aspects to it. The last one also presents some challenge, so it's not all bad in terms of difficulty in this game - at least, you're not really having your hand held and have to figure out the proper strats on your own. The Nightmare chasing concept is amazing, actually - it's too bad it's relevant only for a short while. On the other hand, if you're not being chased, you can leave the dungeon anytime either by item or one of the girls' ability (which you have right from the beginning). At least, the developers could have made that tougher so you couldn't travel through the dungeon fearlessly forever.

Now let's come back to the positives again, because this game does have a lot of them. Soundtrack is decently high quality. Voice acting is good, but limited in the English version. Menuing is great (this is where a lot of dungeon crawlers struggle) - you can even skip dialogue and battle animations if you so desire. Traps are more interesting than the usual spikes or lava, but don't do an amount of damage that matters beyond early game. There's a significant amount of weapons, skills, jobs, and other fun battle gimmicks such as various statuses or licking blood for boosts. It's unfortunate that all those become mostly useless because of that one glaring flaw. You can even learn the skills of the monsters you fight if your girl takes the Mimic job - but again, it's only relevant for a short while. Every Blood Maiden (what the girls actually are) has a certain ability that can be used in the overworld, which adds certain depth to the exploration and brings with it some puzzles to solve. You can satisfy the Jail's three desires to gain some bonuses, which is a great concept and fits with the story but again, the boosts are mostly useless (aside from +gold and new area unlock). Wandering Merchants are a great idea which allows you to get some rare items if you find one and he happens to have those items at hand. Upgrading weapons is a possibility, and is one area of the game that is actually done properly - Blood Crystals are limited so you have to think hard what do you want to upgrade. The crystals can also be spent on Blood Devolution (which allows re-assigning skill points) and changing jobs, so there's no issue here. Too bad the developers did not take that approach elsewhere. Because, if they just nerfed the multi-target moves a little, we could have had a great game on our hands. But as it is, the most fitting rating is Somewhat recommended.

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