Monday, May 23, 2016

Check out the new Kick Off in action

Revivals are all over the place these days, Elite is back, bigger and more dangerous than ever, but when it came to social gaming, few could touch Kick Off, except Micro Machines. Even so, Dino Dini's exploits will explode onto screens this summer, except for a small delay on the Vita version and here's a first look at the action.

Review: Virtue's Last Reward

Ahead of the arrival of Zero Time Dilemma, I thought I'd duck back in to Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. Firstly as I was shocked I hadn't put up a review before and secondly, because I'm diving into all the little bits I'd missed first time that make it so much fun. If "fun" is the word you use for murder, chemical warfare and general bitchiness.

The game starts with two people locked in a cell, you are Sigma, a man gassed and kidnapped from his car and Phi, a feisty young lady. A couple of simple puzzles later and that soon becomes nine people locked in a massive facility, all dragged in to play the Nonary game. These poor unfortunates have to partner up based on the colour of the funky watches bolted to their wrists. These contain lethal drugs that will be injected if they don't follow the rules.
Throughout the entire game, no one questions this woman's attire!
Behind all this villainy is a character called Zero and his sidekick puppet AI Zero Jr, a slightly buzzed rabbit. He appears from time to time to keep the plot rolling like the worst kind of TV host. Given the largely static visuals, simple animations and effects, it is really the characters, the relationships between them and their choices that drive the game.

Each set of rooms offers a series of simple or fiendish puzzles, depending on the setting (easy or hard) and your general approach to puzzles. Getting out of each room sees you being fed the next bit of the story, sometimes you die horribly, or are left to rot. At that point you can jump back in time timeline and try a different branch in the story. Whatever you do, use the same save game to keep all your progress, guess what I did once!
Most twists come from the secondary part of the game, Ambidex votes, where you can decide to Ally or Betray the people you solved the last room with. This results in points being added or deducted to everyone's score, with the aim to get nine points to escape the facility. Generally, if you see someone else approaching nine points, then you need to thwart them, but the pleasure of the game is partially derived from finding out just who you can, and can't trust.

Each puzzle room or area requires the party to open up a safe, and there are several levels of access, One provides the key to exit the room and passes for the next level, plus bits of information while solving harder puzzles gives you secret files that reveal a bit more of the back story. Some puzzles require a little logic, others hunting down some clues, but most things you find have an obvious purpose.
The story rattles along, especially when you skip previous tracts of text, although I could with skipping the annoying map and door transition scenes too! Along the way, you'll find extra bodies, plot twists galore and new puzzles. The only problem is it all gets a touch depressing with the same deaths lived over and over again,

Perhaps future tales will have more nuanced story telling where you can bend the plot more subtly, or access to alternate endings will be more spaced out so you're not running very similar variants of the story one after another. Either way, most endings are sad, tragic or heart breaking, so don't get your hopes up.

Score 9/10
More reviews
Price £24.99
Publisher Aksys (US) Rising Star Games (EU)
Progress: Wading through those blood soaked endings

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The hits keep coming for Hatsune Miku Diva X

Is there no stopping her? It looks like there's a bunch of new songs out of Hatsune Miku as DLC in Japan, With the inevitable new costumes, scenes and other fun, but will she ever come west in her latest guise? Given Sega's general state of crapness, I'm guessing that promise of an Autumn date might not happen.

Tune in to the strings of Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana OST

Falcom has popped a new YouTube clip with a few audio highlights from the Lacrimosa of Dana OST. There's a few impressive looking screenshots of the game in action to keep you interested, the game is out in July with the OST as part of the limited editions, maybe with the new Vita models. Also love the banners on the game's site!

Why do UK Vita retail games never make the main chart?

We've always known Vita games haven't sold well in recent years, well here's how few they sell, as a format. That answers the question why its so rare for a Vita game to hit the full chart. All hail our almost-digital-only-future!

Most weeks I chuckle and joke that any new Vita charting game sold maybe 300 copies. Turns out, I was right. This is why... the Vita barely sold 5,000 copies of boxed games in retail stores last month. The stat from font-of-all-sales-knowledge, ZhugeEX on Twitter, helps explain why you don't see games in stores these days. And with sales down nearly 70% on last year, that will never change.

I think Steins Gate in 2015 and Final Fantasy X/X-II in 2014 were the last Vita games to break into the all formats chart. That's a long way to fall considering Vita dominated the top 10 on launch, but all those games had gone within a month, and only bigger names like Mortal Kombat or exclusives like Gravity Rush, AC3: Liberation and CoD Declassified would really bother the main chart.

Largely because I guess most of these come from Amazon and other online retailers, not the few places that still put boxes on shelves. Also, most Vita owners are either digital only, especially with constant sales happening, or buy games from Limited Run or places likes NISA's store for limited editions, which don't register with retail sales. Finally, most of those boxed sales are probably Minecraft or Lego games, perennial top five lurkers in the Vita chart.

And, to think, the UK is one of the Vita's more popular territories, so expect even worse stats from around the west. Generally though, boxed software only has a few months more to live before it becomes either collectables only or history.

Friday, May 20, 2016

More battle action from Caligula, barely

Okay, so far Furyu was doing a good job of impressing me with previous videos, then along comes this dud of a gameplay clip. Bumbling about in an virtual reality aquarium or museum, we get a really static looking battle, then people blather on about their erosion rates.

At no point are the graphics impressive, while none of the battle moves make me think wow! Hopefully this is a just a one off, but Furyu's marketing people really need to think about what they put out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Japan's holiday week sees dozy sales

Nothing much happened in Japan last week, with PS4 Uncharted the only new entry at the top of the Media Create chart. Pro Jikkyou baseball and Minecraft hung around the top 10 for the Vita, but on much reduced sales, with Minecraft celebrating 1 million sales last week.

The Vita itself managed 12,300 sales, that's still over 21% of the market, which seems to be a stable niche. Next up on the release list are Dragon Quest Heroes 2 and Cladun Sengoku, landing on 27 May, expect a couple more quiet weeks until those figures come in.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Grand Kingdom gets DLC characters for free

Are you ready for pain? Are you ready for suffering? Then how about another bunch of characters to over-complicate the already complicated team dynamic of Grand Kingdom. NIS America is throwing them into the main game for free, mainly as no one would buy such a generic bunch of cardboard cut-out characters (I guess).

Set for a summer release, Vita owners don't get any of the special editions, but at least we get a physical copy. Fortunately the fantastic visuals and deep tactical gameplay should make it a worthwhile buy, or will you go for the more action-oriented Odin Sphere? Choices, choices!

Sony marketing fail No. 1734

Holy cow, Sony is trying to market the Vita, but only to existing owners. This email just arrived in my inbox, promoting the delights of Severed, Axiom Verge, Foul Play and Rocketbirds 2.

However, telling me - a Vita owner - about their existence is beyond useless. What Sony actually needs to be sending out to the world are YouTube sizzle reels showing off these games in action on the handheld.

Then, it needs to get the remaining major third parties together and put on some, any, kind of showing at E3 highlighting the successes of the year and the big games to come. Not every gamer needs to be shovel fed the next CoD, Battlefield and whatever other high-poly cannon fodder there is. Breaking this grim cycle of shows fixated on pointless revisions is not helping the industry.

Finally, it needs to stop show some balls and make an effort to halt this whole "Vita is dead" misconception. While it is perfectly understandable that it wants to drive focus on PS4 and PS VR, the company is now raking in plenty of cash and can afford to spread the love.

Sony has to face the fact that the Vita isn't going away, it might not sell in huge numbers, but Europe and Japan prove that it is doing well enough to merit some attention, beyond the occasional email to existing owners.

Yes, this may sound a bit ranty, but the Vita community puts in about 3,000% percent more effort to support the handheld than the company that made it. Which for a product that still on the shelves is pretty embarrassing for Sony!

Perhaps the mail-out will remind a few lapsed Vita users of the gaming goodness that awaits their dusty system, so yeah - there could be a point to it. But it still highlights the fact that Sony could, and should, be doing so much more.

Steamworld Heist sticks up the Vita in May

Continuing the fabulous roll of awesome gaming goodness landing on the Vita, here comes Image and Form's SteamWorld Heist, landing just a week after Downwell on 31 May.

The space pirate game I reckon riffs off good/bad sci-fi movie The Ice Pirates is Cross Buy with the PS4 version and will cost $19.99, €19.99 or £15.99 depending on where you call home, about the same as the 3DS version, so no moaning about price.

As a bonus, there's a 15% discount to knock off and the Outsider DLC will be available from day one for rampant completionists. You'll have to slum it with this PS4 screenshot until the developers turn up some Vita pics.

Sony at E3, move on Vita owners, nothing to see

In the past, I used to get a little excited come E3 time, but the last year has seen Sony desperately trying to hammer that last nail in the Vita's coffin. Sony being Sony, they can't even do that properly and we lurch on as a happy indie/retro/JP loving band of gamers.

So, with a month to go until this year's big show, expect a big fat zero from Sony as it focuses on VR gaming.

The criminal shame of it is, the Vita has had a roaring year so far, with Digimon Cyber Sleuth and Trails of Cold Steel being true AAA-class games with a mighty roster of indies (Axiom Verge, Risk of Rain, Severed etc) making portable gaming truly awesome.

Sony hasn't even managed to drop one sizzle reel showing all this potential off, and refused to address concerns that Vita hardware is being withdrawn from some markets. So, it probably won't care a damn about western releases for God Eater 2, Odin Sphere, Zero Escape 3 and other games that would be widely welcomed on any platform.

Hopefully the third parties will shine a light on the Vita, with those and many more titles still to come. Since Sony's press event is at 2AM for me, I'll be tucked up in bed not giving a damn what the company says. Ultimately, the Vita will get on fine with no news or support shown at E3, but it would be still be cool for Sony to give the smallest of cares!

Cancelled Elder Scrolls Oblivion on the PSP revealed

Stuff Indiana Jones, video games archaeology is clearly the business to be in. There are so many missing in action titles out there to uncover content for, and make a killing on YouTube. The latest game to come back to life is Oblivion a much-anticapted portable take on the mighty Elder Scrolls games.

UPDATE: Well, that lasted long, ZeniMax have pulled the clip, clearly confirming that a Vita version is in the works! :) 

New, working (for now) links are here.

There are two different clips from a year apart showing the advancements made, and how a decent looking product may have emerged. Sure the fighting mechanic looks a bit ropey, but this demo proves the power of the PSP and what could have been!

Add this to the Saint's Row PSP game that was uncovered earlier in the year and its easy to see how a little good luck could have raised the PSP's profile among core gamers, and (perhaps) made the Vita more relevant.

Instead, these were dumped, we were lied to about Bioshock and Sony shafted everyone by dropping support. Given the insane love for JRPGs on the Vita, can't someone blast out a classic 3D western tale on one of the many engines? Kickstarter beckons surely.

Lego Marvel Avengers gets Agents of SHIELD DLC

Wow, having been stiffed on some DLC in recent LEGO outings, it looks like the Vita version is nudging closer to console parity. TT Games is bringing the Agents of SHIELD crew over to the game for more superhero mashing fun. In the bundle of characters, you get Koenig, Cal, Deathlok, Fitz, May, Bobbi, Raina, Jemma and Daisy.

While the Vita version doesn't quite have the full open world, the portable experience is now a fair bit closer to the full-fat consoles and if we keep getting the DLC, then many thanks to Traveller's Tales. Next up is Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, can't wait to see what goodies we get with that.

The UK team has been doing Lego games for six years now, hopefully Warner will let them try something original soon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mystery Chronicle flaunts its pixelated nipples on the Vita

Spike has confirmed it is bringing Mystery Chronicle our way in summer with the endless scrolling RPG of death providing all news ways to become an ex-adventurer. Subtitled One Way Heroics, the trailer promises sexual themes and nudity! That's probably not happening while you march further into the non-stop game, pushed on by a wall or red flame. making risky diversions for loot and better equipment.

They could appear in the static artwork which litters the scenes. More info on the US PSN blog. The game is Cross Buy with the PS4 version, but we all know little pixels are better!

Dragon Quest Heroes II's cinematic looks like a mobile game ad

Ooops, I guess they don't get those grim mobile King of Thrones*, Game of Kings, Toilet of Princess game adverts on TV in Japan. Which is exactly what this Dragon Quest Heroes II opening cinematic looks like to me.

*In-game graphics look nothing like these cheesy renders!

I guess the demographic for Japan is slightly younger too, but it really does feel like a poor and deeply generic effort. The game is out in a couple of weeks and will still sell truckloads across all three PlayStation formats, but I reckon the Vita will lead the way. Now all we need to know is will this and Builders come west!