Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 26th April 2020.
Trust GXT 488 Forze (PS4, £29.99)
THERE is plenty of reason for thinking a decent headset will hit you hard in the pocket — any Google search or price comparison site will prove that. But technology is always moving on and there are some sets now that will cost you less than a new title. Take Trust GXT 488 Forze — they check in at just £29.99. Some firms will charge you more than that just for the stand to rest them on. There is also plenty to suggest that you get what you pay for. That is also true here. These, almost inevitably, do not have the same finish as the high-end big boys or the variety of options. But, for a plug-and-play headset, they do a pretty decent job.
They are officially licensed for the PS4 and come in three different flavours — black with blue trim, Artic camouflage and blue camo for those of a certain age who want to look cool when they’re playing Fortnite. The headset has a fairly short lead which means it is basically designed for use with a controller, but you could get away with a laptop thanks to the 3.5mm jack plug. Then there are inline controls on the lead that manage to do a limited job. The 50mm speakers deliver good sound reproduction but expect bleed for you and those around you. The mic does its job, but is a little tinny overall. This is a great option for younger gamers. If they break, you won’t be crying. They look the part and do a good job especially at that price.
Persona 5 Royal (PS4, £49.99)
SOME of Japan’s greatest gaming hits are now making waves across the world. The Yakuza series was a prime example — massive in the Far East and now a real staple in Western gaming. Persona is another and it is proving to be a right little goldmine for developers Atlus. They are backing up each instalment with what is, in effect, a game of the year edition that adds a ton of tasty content. The latest to join the pack is Persona 5 Royal. It takes the outstanding core Persona 5 and adds icing and sprinkles to the cake. That is more than enough sweet encouragement for fans to head back, but also creates a great starting point for newcomers to dip their toes in the Persona pond.
Atlus have taken the JRPG formula and given it a twist — this game is set over one full year of the school calendar. You spend your days working hard to make friends and forming relationships while trying to do your best at school. Then, at night, you battle monsters and demons while raiding dungeons. Now, that’s a way to fill your day. You and your team invade the minds of corrupted adults with the goal of changing their hearts — and each one delivers a handmade dungeon themed around the target. That all means no two are the same — an idea that spices up the challenge you face as well as keeping everything feeling fresh. The combat is a turn-based affair focusing on a mix of range, melee and magic attacks But the original game has been tweaked for the Royal edition, so the combat is rebalanced. They have looked at how you use firearms and given them a major upgrade that makes them a handy — if not vital — attack option.
Another new aspect is the ShowTime attack — a powerful special assault that launches you into epic and stunning animations which change depending on which two characters are doing the move. It is a fun and massively over the top way to end an epic battle. However, Atlus have done more than give the battle system a nip and tuck — the game has also been extended. That means a whole new semester tacked on to the school term. It adds a palace, areas to explore and a storyline to discover. It all adds significantly to the running length and the value. When you’re not caught up in battle your time management will be key to your success. You can buff your skills by picking from a number of side tasks like heading to the movies, getting a part- time job or just hitting the books at home. But you also have to get to know more than 20 confidantes and it really is worth taking the time to work out each one because they can reward you with a meaningful buff as well as giving each a neat backstory to discover.
Just as in real life, there are only so many hours in the day so your choices are vital. Do you spend time with a friend? Head to the movies? Earn some cash working a job? It’s not easy but this creates a replay edge because you can’t spot everything on your first play through. Royal adds two new confidantes to the mix — Maruki and Kasumi come with tales to tell and plenty of baggage for you to work through. The edition has also reworked some of the tales from the existing confidantes — with one in particular getting a heavy overhaul. So, if you have played Persona 5, things may not go as you remembered. The game is simply stunning to look at — it drips with style and razor-sharp detail from start to finish. Add in an outstanding soundtrack with some stonking tracks that have more than a few strong jazz vibes and you have a winner on your hands. Kudos to Atlus — they have listened to fans and taken on board what they wanted. That has helped them turn a great game into an outstanding title. This is easily the ultimate edition of the game. If it is new to you, then track it down. If you played Persona 5, forget what you knew. This is better. This is a belter. Just be ready to lose more than a few hundred hours in its world.
Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4, £49.99)
ASK Final Fantasy what their favourite title is in the series and the chances are high that they are in VII heaven. Follow that up with a question about how they see the series developing and there would be an outcry for VII reincarnation — a remake. It has been teased and teased over the years but without ever turning into reality. There were even fears that Square Enix had shelved the whole idea. At best a full-fat remake was a maybes aye, maybes naw situation. But new hope was born when the long-awaited Death Stranding and Shenmue 3 games landed last year. If they could be completed, why not Final Fantasy VII Remake? Never say never was the mantra. That faith and belief has paid off. Square Enix have delivered . . . and it is a truly special creation even if the hardcore crowd are not very happy with it. That is no real surprise.
Retelling one of the key cornerstones of gaming — one that shaped the way the West looks at JRPG — was always going to tough deal. Square Enix were never going to please all the people at the same time, but they gave it a damn good go. Now let’s deal with the elephant in the room — this isn’t the full game. It’s an instalment that tells the first part of the epic tale. So don’t walk in expecting the original game to be retold. That fact alone will cause argument and debate across the gaming divide for years to come. Get past it, or put your grievances to one side, and fire this up and you will discover a mind-blowing reimagining of a true classic which takes the source title and breathes new life into the characters and also the world they exist in.
The section we get takes place in a beefed-up Midgar. There is new content — missions, events and characters and all the key points and moments from the original are here — but they come with a few twists. Square Enix have taken the scalpel and carried out some surgery on the story — it now opens up new threads and possibilities for future instalments. But, overall, the tale feels complete by the close. The game takes place over a number of areas without ever being a free roam. Some of the zones are a fair size so take your time to go exploring. It may also only be a segment, but you can still expect about 40 hours of gameplay on your first outing. Complete that and you unlock chapter select and hard mode for loads more entertainment. That is an impressive upgrade on a section that took just a few hours in the original game.
The combat is more focused on action than the turn-based affairs of the past although that’s not to say planning and strategy won’t boost your chances of success. You have a number of attacks but the fun comes when you head into the command menu which slows time and lets you work out which tactics you’ll adopt once your ATB gauge is full. There are four characters to pick from — all very different from each other. Cloud has a huge Buster sword. Barret comes with a hand cannon. Tifa and Aerith round out the pack and you and switch between them in the heat of battle to get the most from their attacks and get the upper hand. Just beware — in the heat of battle the camera can lose track of the action for a few moments which can prompt bit of a “Grrr…”. The Materia system from the past game returns, but it has been refined. The deep upgrade and buff offers a system that starts out at a basic level but soon ramps up to the point where you have some impressive possibilities to create interesting characters.
Square Enix have made the most of the remake opportunity to polish the look. There are some breath-taking scenes like busy streets or cold, sterile underground facilities. The cast of characters looks amazing — but there’s a special shout out to the monster designs which bring classic foe to life. That’s not to say it is all perfect — there is a little texture popping. It is not a huge issue but it is noticeable. The result is a strong outing for a much-loved title that hints at some real treasures in the pipeline. But, given how long we waited for this to land, it might be as well to enjoy and cherish this in its own right before calling for new delights. Who knows when the next chapter will arrive. It’s got the story, the combat and the quality.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…