Two weeks ago, I spent a good chunk of time playing this month's PlayStation 3 Instant Game Collection offerings. Dead Space 3 and Vessel both surprised me for different reasons - Vessel even ended up surprising me a second time. This week, I spent some time with the two Vita titles, Doki-Doki Universe and Muramasa Rebirth. While I wasn't surprised by either title, I also wasn't super-enthralled.
If you're familiar with the classic SEGA Genesis game, ToeJam & Earl, you'll likely spot occasional glimpses that Doki-Doki Universe was born from the mind of the designer of that ol' chestnut. Some of the characters and musical cues hearken back to the fun loving nature and quirky style that the titular funky duo introduced to SEGA kids back in the day.
You play as QT3 in Doki, a robot left behind by its human family and on its way to the scrapyard - newer model robots are capable of feeling and understanding humanity ("doki-doki" is a Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound of a throbbing heart). An alien named Alien Jeff swings by to tell you as much, but gives you a chance to redeem yourself by letting you try to learn to be more human before becoming scrap metal. To do so, you must visit different planets to discover what it means to be proud, loving, amiable, self-centered, sad, devoted, and other things. This also affords you a chance to try to find your human family and reunite with the young girl for whom you already care.
Along the way, you can visit smaller planets to take short, multiple choice quizes which shape a personality profile of yourself. It surprised me how accurate Dr. Therapist's (that's his name) profile of me ended up being, based on how I answered questions like "with which alien do you best associate," or "what's going on in this scenario?" This was far and away my favorite part of the game.
(A quick aside: Almost every Cross-Buy game handles saves and Trophies in a different fashion. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale doesn't offer Cross-Saves at all; you have to do everything twice to get the Trophies in both versions. Ben doesn't mind this method, but I hate it. Sound Shapes not only does Cross-Save - progress carries over from one system to another - but the Trophies pop when you start up the game on a different system. And yes, that means you get three times the Trophies for doing one thing in Sound Shapes; this is my preferred method. Yet another way to handle Cross-Saves and Trophies is how games like Fez and Another World handle, with one Trophy list across all three systems; this is fine too.)
If you plan on splitting your play between the Vita and PlayStation 4, Doki-Doki Universe does a great job of keeping your progress synchronized via the magic of the cloud. My problem here is that the game locks some Trophies to a single, story-driven event that only pop once. For instance, the "Out Standing In His Field" Trophy unlocks when you help Scarecrow throw a party for a bird. If you did this on the Vita, you can't redo this event on the PS4 without deleting your save and starting the whole game over. This was almost my least favorite part of the game.
The game looks great on all three Sony platforms (I spent the majority of my time on the Vita, but wanted to see how this Cross-Buy title faired on the other two systems). The hand-drawn graphics are full of quirk and personality. For as seemingly simple as the game looks, however, load times were a problem for me. On the Vita, the game crashed, having encountered an "Unexpected Error" three separate times. I couldn't tell you how to avoid them if you're playing on the Vita, but these were my least favorite parts of the game.
That, and poop jokes. Lots of superfluous poop jokes.
Doki-Doki runs great on the PS3 and PS4. But the Vita version - the one Sony is advertising as free this month despite being Cross-Buy - is the one that crashes and takes the longest to load. This makes me not want to continue playing on the Vita at all.
I'm torn on this one. Muramasa is not a disappointment, but my expectations were probably way higher for this game than they should've been. It's a pretty game that controls well. Combat is a breeze and the switching of your swords mid-combat adds a bit of a tactical element to what is otherwise a pretty straight forward hack-n-slash game. But that's all it amounted to for me: A pretty straight forward hack-n-slash game.
When you start the game, you have the chance to select which of the two protaganists you'll play as, Princess Momohime or Kisuke the ninja. The controls are the same for both - Momohime feels like she traverses a tad slower but is quicker with her blade, while Kisuke runs briskly throughout the levels and his attacks feel slower, if not more forceful.
Each character has their own story going on, but I don't know that I ever felt invested enough in either for it to be what'd drive me to see the stories through. Being able to craft newer, more powerful swords is a little appealing, but outside of the ability to access new areas with blades of different colors, I wasn't wowed by the special powers each new blade contains either.
As with any form of entertainment, mileage may vary with how much you buy into hype versus how much you end up enjoying it. Brent experienced a similar sense of not having his high expectations met by what Muramasa Rebirth ultimately offers. Trophies compel us both, but Trophies alone might not be able to keep this game in either of our regular play rotations.
What can one do? Wait for next month's Vita offerings, I suppose.
Did Doki-Doki Universe make your heart throb? Do more than Trophies compel you to keep on keeping on with Muramasa Rebirth? Talk to me in the comments!
And come back next week for the stunning conclusion to July's PlayStation Plus Offerings, when I'll be sharing my thoughts on both Strider and TowerFall Ascension (having probably played it all by myself).