Japan review check: Animal Crossing, Dynasty Warriors, Silent Hill

A recap of the most interesting games coming out soon in Japan, courtesy of the reviews section in the latest issue of Famitsu magazine:

- Animal Crossing: New Leaf (10/9/10/10, 39 points out of 40) There's no doubt whatsoever that Nintendo's new 3DS title (which, sadly, isn't coming out here until next year) was the winner of the week.

"You're still enjoying the same kind of easygoing lifestyle in the game as before," one editor said, "but with the mayor thing and other new features, there's some novel stuff going on here as well. It's all balanced extremely well, and being able to visit the villages of people you don't know also expands the gameplay. Becoming friends with someone allows you to exchange messages with them without all having to congregate in the same village, too, which is killer."

Everyone agreed that there's nothing extremely new to this Animal Crossing...but, then again, if it was too new, then it wouldn't be the supreme world sim/timewaster that it is. "The core of it hasn't changed at all," said another writer, "but between exploring the ocean and building up your village with public works, there's just a ton of new features. There's really nothing difficult about it, so even if you're new to this, I think you can really enjoy it. It's a really deep game that way, one that you can play in all kinds of different styles."

- Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires (8/9/9/9, 35 points): The make-your-own-general Empires version of DW7 is...well, about what you'd expect: the epitome of the "if you like this, get it; if not, don't" school of game reviewing.

"From playing the traditional role to doing these truly evil things," one reviewer began, "you can really live out completely different lives based on the positions you choose to take. Thanks to all the detailed edit functions, you can really get into the general you've made for yourself. The control response is good enough, too, to make this a stressless experience."

Not everyone on the crew was satisfied, though: "The only merit to capturing an enemy base is to open up their main force for attack, so battles tend to get a little samey. That's the thing with simulation games like these; if they're simple enough such that anyone can play them, they're not going to be fully satisfying to some people."

- Silent Hill: Downpour (8/8/8/7, 31 points): We aren't getting Animal Crossing for a while yet, but at least that's generally agreed to be a good game. Downpour wasn't, and perhaps because of that, Konami waited eight months before releasing it in Japan...as a PlayStation 3 exclusive, no less.

Like their overseas counterparts, Famitsu's reviewers had a mixture of praise and complaints for Downpour. "The game really throws you into this creepy world and makes you fend for yourself in it, which keeps things nice and exciting," one began. "However, from the lack of variety in the creatures to the extremely standard battles, there were more than a few issues for me. There's nothing novel here, but at least there are side quests to explore for the first time in the series."

Another reviewer was harsher: "The graphics give the game a really unique atmosphere, but the fighting is just so bland. The controls also add to the stress, particularly in the way you drop your close-range weapon when you ready your gun. The frame drops that crop up now and again are another concern."

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