Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain Coffee – Sunrise Summer Blend

Summer 2017 is finally winding to a close. In a just over a week it will be October and that means it’s time to fuel up on caffeine and stay up late playing horror games! But before we take the first official step into fall and all of the pumpkin spice variations we are sure to discover, let’s take a look at an actual Summer seasonal. A month or so ago, I saw an interesting seasonal coffee that caught my eye… Green Mountain’s “Summer Sunrise Blend”.  Most of the summer coffees that you’ll find are usually some variation of coconut so I was very curious to try a non-flavored variety.

First off, this coffee is labeled as a medium roast. This is true, but it’s certainly a very light medium roast. It’s not dark at all. It is actually very bright with a sort of citrus-sweet earthiness to it. It’s certainly a morning coffee. One that smells stronger during the brew than during tasting, which for hot summer days is actually quite OK.

I found this coffee to be very enjoyable. It’s a very nice blend with a mild, but complex flavor. It is perfect for warm summer mornings. Green Mountain certainly nailed it with this seasonal brew. I like seeing unflavored seasonal blends, and this is a prime example of how to do it. However, like most seasonal selections, this coffee will only be available for a limited time and summer is over… so if you want a box you’d better go hunt one down while you still can.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes.  Light-Medium roast with a unique flavor. Perfect blend of citrus and earth. Great for summer mornings.

Record Shop: Pearl Jam – Ten

This took a little longer to crank out than I anticipated. But, I’m finally back with my second RetroSensei’s Record Shop post. This time, I’m going to write a bit about another album that heavily influenced me in my early years of songwriting: Pearl Jam’s debut album – Ten.

As I mentioned in the last Record Shop post, Nirvana’s Nevermind was a major influence on me. That record helped inspire me to pick up a guitar and learn to play. However, it was Pearl Jam’s debut album that actually taught me my first lessons in the art of songwriting. These two records, while both released around the same time, were worlds apart in terms of style and composition. Nirvana’s Nevermind  was raw and full of in-your-face energy, Pearl Jam’s Ten was very polished and controlled. Sure, a number of the songs on this record pack a punch. There are some real mosh-worthy tunes on Ten. But the whole album has production value that’s altogether different. It’s much more… professional.

The music throughout the entire album is very well written and polished to a shine. The mix is perfect. When combined with Eddie Vedder’s unique vocal style, the whole package is just divine.

Like many, the album first came to my attention when the single “Even Flow” hit the air waves. This was followed by the smash hit “Jeremy”. A video that played on Mtv  with heavy rotation. When I purchased my first cassette copy of the album, I was pleased that nearly every song on the record held the same magic as the single releases.  In fact, people who enjoy exploring B-sides and other deep cuts will pleased to learn that almost every outtake and B-side from the record are just as good, if not better than some of the album tracks – but that’s another post for different time. For now, let’s take a look at the album track-by-track.

  1. Once – The album starts with fade in. A mellow, ambient trance-like rhythm that drones on for about 40 seconds before launching into a frenzied, rocking guitar riff. The intro is quickly replaced by the growling voice of Eddie Vedder. Themes of self-control, and a descent into madness are the focus of the tune. A fantastic start to record.
  2. Even Flow – The second track is just a strong as the first. Even Flow was the second single from the record and today remains in regular rotation on rock radio.
  3. Alive – This track is actually the very first single from the album and again, is another of Pearl Jam’s most recognized songs. The subject matter of this tune is a fascinating bit of rock and roll mythology.
  4. Why Go – This track is a favorite of mine. It’s another hard rock tune. Palm-muting, whammy bars – all classic hair metal staples – taken and completely transformed into a new type of rock music for the 90’s. Eddie’s classic angst-driven lyrics reign supreme on this track.
  5. Black – Finally, the first come-down on the record. This track became the band’s first unofficial single. It never received it’s own release but became a radio favorite nonetheless. It’s a power ballad and a long-time fan favorite.
  6. Jeremy – Here we have the third single from the album. Jeremy is a song that was played to death both on TV and radio, but it deserved it. It’s a fantastic song. The storytelling in the lyrics were fueled even more by a stellar music video that still haunts the minds of many to this day.
  7. Oceans – This is one of stranger songs on Ten. It doesn’t sound like anything else on the record. It’s a solid track, but despite actually being an international single, it pales in comparison to some of the other stronger songs on the album. That’s not to discount it… This track has a very mysterious and memorable quality to it.
  8. Porch – From the “strange and mellow” we go back to the “machine-driven” rock formula. This song, while solid is probably the one most people consider to be the first throwaway track on the album. That being said, its still a great song, so in many ways it’s a testament to how great this album really is.
  9. Garden – Here we have the second track on the album that many consider to be largely forgettable. However, to me, Garden is a personal favorite. Everything from the lyrics to the ambient instrumental – it all weaves into a perfectly magical track.
  10. Deep – In my opinion, this is probably the weakest track on the record. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly good either. Definitely a filler track.
  11. Release – The album ends on a mellow note. This track is soft and heartfelt. It’s really an amazing contrast to the rest of the record and it’s also a personal favorite of mine. The end of the track fades into several moments of silence followed by the tribal drone that opened the initial song. Putting a perfect capstone on the album as a whole.

 

Pearl Jam is one of those bands that really defined 90’s Alternative. And Ten is a classic example of why.

When listening to albums, I always suggest enjoying them on a nice Hi-Fi stereo system, or on a portable device with a good pair of headphones. When listening to classic records like this, I prefer the original release to many of the “remastered” editions. Often times, remasters are overly loud and actually contain a lower level of quality than the original album. There are exceptions to this, in fact, there’s even a special “redux” version of Ten that is completely remixed and remastered and it’s worth a listen. But, to me the original release is the definitive version of the album.

When listening to a record, always listen from start to finish. Unlike pop albums, many good rock records are sequenced in a certain order. Some songs tend to be more enjoyable when following the song preceding them. Put the record on while you’re driving, or doing house work. Let it play in the background. Listen it to a few times. Some records need to grow on you. Don’t skip around. Even if a particular song doesn’t grab you right away, let it play through. Your opinion may change.

DLC Review: Final Fantasy XV – Assassin’s Festival

July brought a new update to Final Fantasy XV and trailing just behind the update was a surprise bit of free downloadable content: The Assassin’s Festival! The festival is actually a special cross-over event with the Assassin’s Creed game franchise. It contains a full playable chapter complete with unlockable items that carry over to the main game.

Players who completed the previous Moogle/Chocobo festival were rewarded with a special “Dream Egg” item. Upon launching the Assassin’s Festival DLC, this item will hatch – unlocking a permanent costume for Noctis in the main game.  In case you missed the carnival event, SE has reactivated it for a limited time, to allow for the full “Holiday Pack” experience. So, this means you can partake in the carnival, get your egg, and then proceed right into the Assassin’s Festival event.  But be warned, this event is only active for a limited time. It ends on January 31st, 2018.

For me, this event seemed to come out of nowhere. It was released during my July-August hiatus from gaming, so perhaps I simply missed the announcement. Plus, it seems a bit odd to cross-over two completely unrelated game franchises like this, but – it actually works well! The DLC takes concepts from the Assassin’s Creed franchise and blends them perfectly into the main storyline of Final Fantasy XV. The gist of the event is simple;  in the world of FFXV, Assassin’s Creed is an extremely popular video game… But one that’s apparently rooted in “real life” mythology. So, every year they celebrate the Assassin’s Festival. Noctis and his crew arrive in town just in time for the festivities and must conceal themselves in costumes to sneak through town and thwart an imperial plot.  It sounds a bit strange, but to be honest it’s actually very well done. The scenarios and new gameplay mechanics are fun and for the pricetag of FREE, who can complain?

Aside from completing the quests included in the DLC, participating in the side content will provide you with medals that can be spent to purchase unlockables for the main game. (camera filters, frames, car decals, etc). So, there’s quite a bit replayability here.

Aside from the festival itself, the July Update also includes a number of other free downloadable costumes as well as some new features for the main game. This includes new quests, trophies and even a “chapter select” option from the main menu. All in all, this update/DLC pack is filled with goodies – all at no charge.  I suppose I’ll have to spent a few hours checking out some of the additions to the main game and seeing if I can manage to round out my trophy collection.

Overall Impression:  Free DLC is always good.  The amount of content included here is impressive. Even if shoehorning an advertisement for another game into Final Fantasy seems a bit awkward – the presentation is well done.

Value: Freebie! Aside from 800 MB of space you have nothing to lose!

Main Game:  Final Fantasy XV Review

Review: Thief II – The Metal Age

Again, I want to apologize for the long hiatus between game reviews, but I’m back now and continuing my “turn of the century” playthroughs. Today I give you my long-awaited review of Thief II: The Metal Age. I discussed the original Thief more than three years ago, in anticipation of the Square-Enix reboot. But it took me this long to catch up and play through the second entry in the original franchise. But finally, here we are.

For those unfamiliar with the original game, Thief took the concept of first-person PC games and turned it on it’s head. Instead of being a fast-paced shooter, this game required you to sneak around in the shadows and actually try to avoid killing enemies unless absolutely necessary. It was a smashing success and it was only a matter of time until it spawned a sequel. Thief II took everything that was great about the original game and cranked it up a notch. In fact, this sequel is a great example of developers actually listening to their customers. The folks behind the game took the feedback they received from the first title, and added more of what fans liked the most, and removed some of the concepts that seemed to garner the most complaints. The end result, is a game true to the original but largely superior.

This game takes place one year after the events of the original title. Garrett continues to make his living as a skilled catpurse, relying on no one other than himself. Since the events of the original game, a new faction has emerged in the city. One that believes in a future ruled by technology and machines.  As a result, the nature-worshiping Pagans have been driven out of town and into hiding.  None of this matters too much to Garrett, as he has other things to worry about. You see, there’s a new sheriff in town, literally – and he’s got his eye on putting an end to Garrett’s way of life. However, as one might expect, it’s not so easy to remain neutral. Before long, Garrett finds himself wrapped up in the middle of this conflict between the Mechanists and the Pagans. To save himself, he’s going to have to choose sides.

One thing to know before you decide to jump in to the world of Thief II; this is an older game and one designed for a different age of computing. However, just like the original – there’s a number of tweaks and unofficial patches available that will allow the game to run on modern hardware. I recommend something called “TafferPatcher”. This is a fan-made all-in-one patch that will both optimize the game for modern hardware, but retain the original look and feel of the title. Despite being unofficial, it’s widely respected and very much safe to install.

As I mentioned above, if you enjoyed the original game, Thief II is certainly worth your time. Every single thing that is great about the first title is expanded on here and there’s lots of it. To me, both the size of the levels and the number of mission objectives have increased and become much more engaging. There’s nothing better than sneaking around in the shadows right under the noses of the night watchmen and looting a place clean. The feel of the original game remains intact, but this time with a more engaging storyline.

From a technical standpoint, Thief II feels very much like it’s predecessor. I don’t really see a big difference in the bulk of the game engine. The environments look very similar to those founds in Thief. But, the character textures are greatly improved.  The enemy AI is also quite a bit better – in this game guards will notice more things that seem out-of-place. For example open doors or damaged environmental objects. So, tech-wise, Thief II does show signs of progression over the original.

To me, the Thief series represents a high point in PC gaming. It was a time where the industry was largely engaged in copy-cat behavior. But the Thief series took a bold step to stand apart from all the clones. It was a risk that paid off big. To me, Thief II represents the very best of the series. It’s a game that I recommend to retro PC gamers looking for a unique experience.

Difficulty: Variable–  Thief II offers several levels of difficulty. Increasing the difficulty level not only gives the player more objectives to accomplish during the game’s missions, but also going for Hard or Expert restricts you from being allowed to kill enemies. The game is certainly more rewarding on one of these two settings. But I recommend Normal for most players going on their first run.

Story: Thief II continues the lore and storyline established in the original game, and it’s quite well done. The game story develops a number of ways. First, there are cutscenes between levels. But, tidbits can also be picked up by eavesdropping on various NPC conversations or reading notes and journals that you encounter as you sneak your way through the areas of the game. Players who take their time and explore every nook and cranny will be rewarded with additional storyline elements.

Originality: The trail was certainly blazed with the original Thief. But the concepts laid out by it’s predecessor are highly refined and presented to players in this sequel.  Despite being a sequel, Thief II still manages to avoid feeling like a cheap retread of the original game.

Soundtrack: There not a lot here in terms of game music. But, that’s ok. This game is ALL about atmosphere. You have to listen for footsteps and other audible clues as you play. These sound effects are very well done. This is one of those games that still takes advantage of older surround sound technology – and it does it very well. Ambient noises aside, the voice acting in the game is also superb.

Fun: This kind of game may not appeal to all players. It requires patience and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. This will likely be a turn-off to some, but for those that enjoy stealth games, this one will provide hours of entertainment.

Graphics:  The first two entries in the Thief series are an odd mix of both really good 3D graphics and funky, blocky textures. However, Thief II does improve on the look and feel of NPC characters significantly. This entry also includes improved skybox and lighting effects. Regardless, it still looks very dated when compared to modern games. But it was quite top of the line for it’s time. 

Playcontrol:  No real issues here. The game runs on the standard WSAD keyboard layout for first-person PC games, with some modifications for the game’s unique features. Occasionally, climbing and jumping around on platforms can feel a bit awkward and cumbersome. But, it’s merely a minor annoyance at times.

Downloadable Content:  N/A. 

Mature Content: Mild language.

Value:  Thief II can be found on Steam for around $7.00. For that price, the game is well worth every penny. The amount of content in this game and the quality of this title overall makes it an absolute steal for that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Thief II, despite it’s age, still holds up as one of the definitive stealth-based first-person games of all time. Fans of the genre that have not yet experienced it, should not hesitate for a moment. This is one game worthy of your attentions. For players who are not sure if this type of game would appeal to them, the price tag alone makes it worth the gamble. You’ll never spend a better $7 on a PC title.

Available on: PC (Steam)

Original Trilogy:

Thief: The Dark Project  –  Thief 2: The Metal Age  – Thief: Deadly Shadows

Reboot:

Thief

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain Coffee – Golden French Toast

My first post since my month-long hiatus and…. it’s about coffee. For those of you that enjoy my gaming content more, I apologize. But for those who actually enjoy the coffee reviews (and I do here from some of you), here we go!

For this post, I’m going to be talking about a coffee that I’ve spent the last six months or so scouring stores for. I first caught wind of this flavor while browsing the Keurig site, but no one ever seemed to have it in stock. I’m talking about the elusive “Golden French Toast” flavored coffee.  This is one of Green Mountain’s seasonal selections – which season, I’m not really sure… because it seems to be out of circulation.  But as soon as I learned of a “french toast” flavored K-cup, I knew I had to have it. After many months of searching, a reseller finally listed a box on Amazon.

Once it arrived, I eagerly popped a cup into my brewer. I was immediately delighted with the strong aroma of maple syrup and roasted beans. It was a delightful mix. Once the brew was complete, I took my first sip.  This is a light roasted coffee, with a very heavy artificial flavoring. But, thankfully it’s a good flavor. It doesn’t taste “fake”. The coffee itself is somewhat weak. The first thing in the taste profile that stands out is the maple. But the coffee also has a smooth butter and cinnamon finish. The taste balance is very well done.

I admit that despite being excited to try this coffee, I didn’t have very high expectations. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. The Golden French Toast was actually quite enjoyable.

I feel that this coffee is best suited for early mornings, or as an after-dinner desert coffee. The flavoring is strong is could easily clash with a meal. But all in all, I was quite impressed. I hope to see this returned to shelves before too long.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes.  Smooth and silky. Light, enjoyable roast, but with a strong maple flavoring. Great for early mornings.

Brief Update

I would like to apologize for the lack of updates in the last month. In a nutshell, I’ve been away dealing with some real life issues. Some things came up that required my full attention. For the last 30 days or so I’ve been focused solely on dealing with these issues that I’ve not spent a moment thinking about games or other subjects that I frequently cover on this site.  Things are slowly starting to normalize, and I expect that within a month’s time I should be posting regularly again. I appreciate some of the kind words I’ve received and your support.

Anime: Castlevania – Season 1

Despite being a fairly mainstream nerd, I actually have a very unusual opinion on anime. As a general rule, I don’t enjoy it. In fact, several years go I made a post about my struggles with anime on this very blog: The Anime Conundrum. To date, the only real anime show that I’ve actually found enjoyable has been Sword Art Online. But, when I heard that Netflix was going to be debuting a show based on the classic video game series Castlevania, I knew that I was going to have to set aside my reservation and give it a watch.

I am a lifelong Castlevania fan. In fact, I have reviewed every single canonical game in the series on this site.  So to say I was pumped to be able to watch a Castlevania story unfold on the television is an understatement. But, I was skeptical. Movies and shows based on video games typically end up being very poor in quality. If you don’t believe me, just watch a few episodes of Super Mario Brother’s Super Show or even the Double Dragon motion picture…. YUCK.   –  Thankfully, this cycle has been broken with Castlevania.

This “series” consists of four 30-minute episodes. So, I really feel like this was one film that was actually refitted into a four-part series. I’ve heard several people comment that this is actually a bit of a test run, and if Castlevania proves to be successful, a longer full length series will follow. If that is true, I fully expect we’ll be hearing news of a second season before long.

The storyline is actually a retelling of events from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Symphony of the Night.  The show begins by telling the backstory of “Symphony”, it explores Dracula’s relationship with his wife and her ultimate fate. It then skips forward to events from Castlevania III and covers what is essentially the first half of that game. I was impressed by the level of detail included in the telling of the story. It is very apparent that the people who put together this anime have a deep knowledge and appreciation for the lore behind the Castlevania story. They absolutely nailed it.  I don’t want to spoil the show for anyone who has not yet watched it, but there are many details included from the game that I wouldn’t expect to see on the screen. And their inclusion does not feel forced or cheesy in any way.

My only gripe with the show is that it is for mature audiences only. The language and subject matter are very extreme. I have no problem with this on it’s surface, but Castlevania is a franchise beloved by people of all ages. Kids are going to want to watch this series and I’ll be honest and tell you that they should not. You have been warned. This show is NOT KID FRIENDLY.

All in all, this show holds the honor of being only the second anime that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching. I think I’m going to make a point of finally following up on some suggestions that have been given to me over the years and reviewing them on the site. So, if you’re curious about my opinions or even if you have a suggestion or two, please feel free to drop me a note of leave a comment.

Final thoughts: A surprisingly accurate portrayal of what is a classic video game story. The artwork is vivid and awe-inspiring. The voice acting is simply superb. I was hooked from the first scene. My biggest complaints are that the series is very short and much of the mature language seems unnecessary.

Score:  A

Check Up: Diablo III – Rise of the Necromancer (Patch 2.6.0)

It’s been a little over six months since I last checked in on the status of Diablo III. At the time, the game was just getting into it’s ninth “season” and the Diablo Anniversary event was in full swing. Now, Diablo fans have something new to celebrate. Just in time for Season 11, Blizzard has a released a new batch of paid DLC for Diablo III called Rise of the Necromancer. I call it DLC because the content does come at a cost and it’s contents are a bit more extraordinary than what you’d find in a mere patch, but also less than what you’d expect from a full expansion.

Essentially, for the cost of $15.00, you gain access to the new Necromancer character class, and all of the fluff that comes with it, but there are no new levels or main storyline content. The purchase does include a few cosmetic items as well. (A portrait frame and a pet).

Personally, I feel like this is a fair asking price from Blizzard. Asking $15.00 from players who are already well invested in the game is reasonable. But if you’re new to Diablo III or considering buying it in the future, it may be best to wait and see if there is going to be an “all-in-one” collection. But, if you’re impatient the existing Battlechest collection only costs $20. That includes the base game and expansion. So even if you purchased that and Rise of the Necromancer, you’re only out $35 total, which if we’re being honest, is a more than acceptable price for a full game of this quality.

Just like any other class in Diablo III, the Necromancer comes complete with it’s own skill tree, item drops and audio dialogue. So, this class is in no way a cheap tack-on. In fact, I found the Necromancer to be a the perfect fit into the Diablo III universe. I daresay that it might be my favorite class in the game! It has arrived just in time for the upcoming season. So, seizing this opportunity, once Season 11 starts, and friend and I plan to play through the game again as Necromancers. So, if you have similar plans (and I’m sure many do), feel free to look for me.

My final thoughts on this release are as follows: considering the  success that this DLC release has brought Blizzard, I can only wonder if they plan future releases using this model. Diablo III is now several years old, but it remains popular and profitable. Perhaps future add-ons to the game will come in the form of piecemeal DLC like this. Aside from character classes, maybe we’ll see new storyline areas or other paid content in the future? Blizzard has been very hush hush on such matters in regards to Diablo III, but we know from other games like Overwatch or even World of Warcraft that they tend to embrace paid content. We’ll have to see.

Dungeons & Dragons: Starter Set

As I promised a few months ago, I’m going to be making posts discussing each of the official Dungeons & Dragons supplements that are available. To date, I’ve only really discussed the core rule books and player supplements. But there’s a number of other products available. Today, I’ll be discussing the D&D Starter Set.

I want to start by discussing what this set actually is. If you’re someone who is interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons, most people will tell you that you’ll need to go out and buy a set of dice and a copy of the Player’s Handbook. That’s pretty accurate, but what if you’re still on the fence and you’re not sure if you want to sink a bunch of money into the hobby yet? Well, that’s where the Starter Set comes in.

The Starter Set is a great entry point into the world of Dungeons & Dragons. You can find it at most hobby shops or book stores. The set actually comes in a big cardboard box. It contains the following items:

  • Starter Set Rulebook  (softcover)
  • Lost Mind of Phandelver adventure (softcover)
  • a pack of pre-generated character sheets
  • a set of polyhedral dice

The Starter Set Rulebook is essentially a compact version of the D&D game rules. It’s enough to teach you the basics, but if you decide to get serious you will eventually want to purchase a copy of the Player’s Handbook. For existing players, there’s not really much of value here.

The next main object of interest in the box is the “Lost Mine of Phandelver” adventure. This is included in the box so that consumers will have a sample adventure to play. Aside from containing the adventure module itself, the booklet also contains a small bestiary of the monsters used in the adventure. (This eliminates the need for a copy of the Monster Manual). If you’re an existing player/dungeon master, this adventure is likely the main reason you purchased the Starter Set – as it is quite a good sized adventure that is designed for level 1 players. It is set in the Forgotten Realms game world.

As I mentioned above, the D&D Starter Set is really marketed towards brand spanking new players. For the price of only $20.00 they can get everything they need to take their first step into Dungeons & Dragons. That being said, if it’s a hobby that you enjoy and end up sticking with your next purchase will want to be the Player’s Handbook. I glossed over that book in an older post, but I think I’ll actually be making an updated post in the coming days that goes a little more in depth.

If you’re a Dungeon Master (game referee) or even a player who likes to read up on “behind the scenes info”, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual  are probably going to be your next purchase.  Another great book to pick up is Volo’s Guide to Monsters – this books serves as both an add-on to the Monster Manual as well as some in-depth information that bother players and Dungeon Masters will find helpful.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be discussing some of the adventure books that have been publish since the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Once we’re all caught up, I’ll be discussing items as they are released.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screen

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat   –   Storm King’s Thunder   – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss  – Curse of Strahd   –  Tales from the Yawning Portal

 

Review: Dragonia

It is with both shame and amusement that I type this review… As it is my ritual every summer in the weeks leading up to the Steam Summer Sale, I always take a moment to browse through the store looking for games that interest me. When I find one, I will add it my wishlist to ensure that I receive a notification if it goes on sale. This year, while perusing the store I came upon an interesting trend – I found a number of anime style games, of various types that were selling for $1.50 or less. Due to the extremely low price, I snatched up as many of them as I could. One of them happened to be an anime-style shoot-em-up by the name of Dragonia. After scrolling through the store page for the game, it quickly became obvious that this was an adult title. But, the game play looked interesting and the reviews were great so I bit the bullet.

Now, even knowing that the game contained some adult themes, I had NO IDEA what I had got myself into… to say this is a “mature” game is an understatement. This game is downright pornographic. On top of that, there’s even an “uncensoring patch” available directly from the developer, just in case you need absolutely nothing left to the imagination. In fact, I debated even reviewing this game at all, considering the content. But, as you will see, it’s actually a somewhat intriguing title. So much so, I decided to review it regardless of it’s extremely adult nature.

Let me take a moment to explain what this game actually is. First off, in it’s heart and soul, Dragonia is a bullet-hell schmup. You play the character of Feeney, a half-human, half dragon. Feeney is summoned by an old witch to help purge the land from the grip of several Evil Dragons. As it turns out, only Feeney has the ability to defeat and “purify” these dragons. As might be able to guess, to “purify” them, Feeney has to resort to her… seductive skills and… well… you can guess the rest.

(Censored by Sensei)

The basic storyline outlined above is easy enough to decipher. However, that’s about all you’re going to get out of the storyline text in the game. The English translation in this game can only be described as horrendous. It seems to literally be a copy paste from Chinese to English via Google Translate… Which in some ways is actually a godsend, because the text likes to describe in detail every single thing Feeney has to do to “purify” her enemies.

All of the adult material in the game is limited to the cutscenes that play before and after each game level. The gameplay itself is pretty much family friendly. You control Feeney from a birds-eye-view as she flies around and blasts her opponents from the air.  Enemies approach from every angle. It’s a classic bullet-hell scenario.

As you play through each level, Feeney will collect “souls”. In between stages, souls can be exchanged for a variety of things. You can unlock new modes of attack, you can increase your damage level, health, etc.  So in some ways, this game has a very RPG-like progression element to it.  You complete a level by defeating a certain number of enemies. Once you reach this number, the level boss is spawned. Defeating the boss allows you to proceed to the next area.  At first, the game levels are fairly simple but eventually you will come across a boss that you just can’t take down. This is where you’ll want to grind up some more health of damage output. Some bosses are weak to certain attacks (lightning, fire, etc). So unlocking specific attack modes is also part of the strategy.

In this way, despite the extremely high levels of fan-service, the game actually has some redeeming value to it.  I personally found the gameplay to be engaging and overall very well done. There’s no shortage of upgrades to unlock. So, this game gets quite a few things right. It’s hard to argue that the gameplay itself is bad. And, depending on your viewpoint, the cutscenes are either going to be a big plus or a big turn off.

The down points to this title are without a doubt the terrible localization and the UI/playcontol. The in-game menus look like they were designed by rank amateurs. There’s no logic to them at all. But with a little diligence, you’ll be able to figure out their quirks and limp through the UI. The game itself can be played using a keyboard, but I don’t recommend this. These types of game just work best with a controller. Personally, I played Dragonia using my trusty USB Xbox 360 controller.  Even on a controller, the control-scheme makes little sense. But, it is accurate and responsive. Normally, these types of complaints would be a BIG DEAL, because when I say they are bad, I mean they are really REALLY terrible. But, when the game sells for $1.50, it’s very difficult to complain. Especially for all of the content you actually get with that $1.50. Dragonia is a short game, but it’s longer than others that I’ve paid premium prices for.

If you enjoy schmups and bullet hells, this is a game that might tickle your fancy. Just know going in, that it is filled with unapologetic hentai visuals.

Difficulty: Easy–  This game is a curious case in terms of difficulty simply because as a schmup, it is exactly what you’d expect: bullets flying everywhere, endless enemies pouring from all sides, etc. Each level gets harder and harder. But, as mentioned in the main review, you can upgrade your life meter and even the damage that you deal. So, if you find yourself stuck on a particular level, the only thing you really need to do is be patient and grind until you are overpowered enough to blast your way through whatever roadblock you encountered. This mechanic actually renders most of the challenges in the game meaningless.

Story: If we’re being honest, the storyline for this game is nothing more then a vehicle to deliver some heavy doses of fanservice. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the game itself was developed separately from the dirty cutscenes and the two were cobbled together into the game that we see now. The in-game story is shallow and weird. But, admittedly mildly interesting. The translation is barely comprehendable.

Originality: Hentai games are nothing new. Neither are bullet-hells. But, I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever seen them lumped together in one title. Add in the the RP/progression element and you have a pretty original package.

Soundtrack: The game has a somewhat catchy soundtrack. But the sound effects can be a bit annoying at times. One weapon in particular sounds like high volume static. It is quite annoying. Overall, the audio in this title is pretty poor and unimaginative.

Fun: It’s hard to admit this. But, I had a pretty good time with the game. The gameplay kept me hooked. I enjoyed leveling and unlocking all of the weapons. The cutscenes are amusing, albeit shocking at times. A certain fraction of players will no doubt be able to have a really good time with the cutscenes.

Graphics:  The cutscenes are colorful, crisp and well rendered. Fans of anime-style art will be pleased. The game itself is actually quite-well rendered as well. The bullet effects are colorful and dynamic. Sadly, the UI is crudely chopped together and messy.

Playcontrol:  No matter what method you use, the playcontrol is rough and very non-intuitive. Playing with a controller is manageable, but it still just feels off.

Downloadable Content:  None. 

Mature Content: Pornographic content and extreme adult language.

Value:  Despite the many negative things about this game, it’s hard to argue with the price. Someone paying a little over a dollar for a game shouldn’t expect much. Considering the paltry cost for this title, you are getting your money’s worth ten times over.  Often, many adult-content games actually come with a premium price tag. It’s hard to go wrong here from a value standpoint.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Content aside, a lot of aspects about this game are well done and interesting. There’s quite a bit of content for a very small price. On the other side of the coin, the game suffers from bad localization, terrible UI and playcontrol. It’s an interesting but largely mediocre title, but one that will appeal to certain gamers.

Available on: PC (Steam)