Japan Review Check: Professor Layton, Shining Ark, Dynasty Warriors

A quick look at the highlights among the games coming out in Japan this coming week, courtesy the review pages of Famitsu magazine:

- Professor Layton and the Azran Legacies (8/8/8/8, 32 points out of 40): The newest 3DS Layton, reportedly the last one to star the professor himself, gets the classic Famitsu "there's nothing new to this sequel but, eh, it's good enough" score set.

"Like with the other games," wrote editor Atsuhiro Fujiwara, "you're solving puzzles while proceeding along with the story. You get a lot more freedom to travel around on your airship in the second half of the game, which I like. The voice-actor cast is lavish as always, and a lot of the puzzles have some nice bite to them. However, some of them have some really confusing descriptive text to go with the package, which was annoying."

"Nothing's at all new about the play style," added freelancer Rolling Uchizawa, "but the interface here, refined down to the last detail, is still great. It just feels fun to get to grips with. There's some new gameplay elements brought in here via StreetPass and so forth, and overall it's a solid package that won't bore you."

- Shining Ark (9/8/8/8, 33 points): Famitsu didn't really gush at all on the latest in Sega's RPG series (still a PSP release), despite the scores. "You're gradually allowed to do more and more things as you build up your village," Fujiwara said, "so it's a pretty approachable game for beginners. There's a lot of neat elements to it, from the heroine's flaky personality to the battles and to the strangely broad role bread takes in the plot. It doesn't stand out much and I can't point at any super-impactful part of the package, but the laid-back world you get to explore is pretty charming."

"The game proceeds along at a relatively slow pace," chimed Uchizawa, "and the opening bits (which function as the tutorial as well) made me wish they'd just get on with it already. But once things like baking, mining and fishing become available, there suddenly becomes a lot more stuff to do. I also really like the battles, which have a majorly strategic bent to them."

- Dynasty Warriors 8 (9/9/9/9, 36 points): The top scorer of the week, and one where the reviewers spent most of their allotted space going over the little details behind the new features. Case in point, this except from writer Ranbu Yoshida: "The fact that weapons now have affinities for certain wielders make fighting enemy generals a lot more fun. Characters put at a disadvantage over this can fight back with the Variable Counter feature, too, and the result is a great deal more depth to the battles."

Or this, from Urara Yoshiike: "The fact that weapons now have affinities for certain wielders make fighting enemy generals a lot more fun. Characters put at a disadvantage over this can fight back with the Variable Counter feature, too, and the result is a great deal more depth to the battles."

- Risen 2: Dark Waters (7/7/7/7, 28 points): Why Ubisoft decided to localize this game for Japan at this point in time is unclear, but regardless, Famitsu was about as "eh" about it as the rest of the world. "I like the pirate-themed world and story," Fujiwara's review began, "but the interface is a pain to deal with, the messages small and hard to read, and loading much too frequent to let pass. The visuals are on the outdated side, too, and since there aren't any markets or minimaps to show where you need to go, light users might have trouble here."

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