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Japan Review Check: Toukiden, Atelier, Etrian Odyssey

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The last full week of June is going to be a busy one for the Japan games market, filled with intricate JRPGs and the best of the West all coming out at once. Here are the highlights:

- Etrian Odyssey Untold (9/9/9/9, 36 out of 40 points): The new 3DS game in the dungeon-RPG series earns the highest scores the franchise has seen yet. "The fun of adventuring and mapping is still there," wrote reviewer Urara Honma, "and now there's a story with fun little quirks like how party conversations can change your search missions. The use of 'grimoires' to let you access friendly or enemy skills also adds a lot of flexibility to gameplay. The choice of an easy difficulty level, as well as a mode that lets you play with the first game's system, is also nice. The music's great, too!"

"The game supports a wide variety of playstyles," added Jigoro Ashida, "from the difficulty selection to the choice between the story or classic modes. It's also fun to collect grimoires and use them to customize your characters. You can fast-forward or auto-fight the battles as well, and overall the game's fast-paced and very easy to enjoy. You'll get lost exploring the game and raising your characters."

- Toukiden (9/8/9/9, 35 points): Namco Bandai's PS Vita shot at the Monster Hunter genre scores pretty well, although the PSP version was docked a few points, scoring 33 out of 40. "There's something fun to the battles," writer Reona Ebihara began, "where you have to figure out new attack methods to take down the oni foes piece by piece. I don't like how few weapon types there are, but thanks to the large variety of 'mitama', you can still fight in a wide variety of styles, which is nice. It supports Infrastructure Mode as well, which makes co-op play a snap."

"The action here is breezy and exciting," chimed in Ashida. "There's a lot of uniqueness to each weapon's actions and movements, but I think it would have been better if there were more obvious differences between using each type. Also, compared to the PS Vita, the [PSP] controls are a little rough and the graphics and camera controls don't keep up with the Vita, although it's still pretty great for a PSP game."

- Atelier Escha & Logy (10/9/9/8, 36 points): The latest in Gust's own long-running RPG series continues to hit it big with the Famitsu crew. "It's neat and fresh how the two heroes craft and create items in different ways," Ebihara wrote. "You're always given direction in what needs to be done, and even though you're given a lot of freedom in this game, you're never completely lost, which I like. The improvements to the gameplay system, including the new movement shortcuts, are really great as well!"

Honma mostly agreed, but had one major complaint: "The game's good at guiding the player around stress-free, giving them tasks big and small to keep the tempo fast and make it feel like you're achieving things. However, your camera perspective is fixed when moving around the field map, making it hard to grasp your full surroundings."

- The Last of Us (10/9/10/9, 38 points): The top-scoring game in a really competitive week's worth of Famitsu reviews. "Seeing this broken-down form of daily life makes it seem incredibly realistic and scary," Honma said. "There's a lot of survival-horror and stealth-action aspects to it, and you're always at the edge of your seat. It balances out quiet scenes with blood-curdling horror in a really deft and exquisite way, and the drama is deep enough that you can't help but get pulled in."

"The stellar graphics create a simply wonderful game world," Ashida added, "and while some scenes are shocking, you're easily drawn into the dramatic storyline. The battles (which let you get through them in a variety of ways), as well as the item-crafting system, combine to add to the tension, greatly boosting the feeling that you're fighting for survival."