Friday, October 21, 2016

Rice Digital may have some news at London ComicCon

Among its impressive line up of visual novels on show at MCM ComicCon in London (October 28-30) the company has a mystery announcement buried in its stage show schedule. The company is playing host to Marvelous Europe and its sister publisher PQube, so there's a fair chance it could be for the Vita.

12pm - Fate/EXTELLA Chat with Marvelous
1pm - Mystery Announcement & Game Presentation!
2pm - Root Letter Chat with PQube
3pm - Steins;Gate 0 with PQube
4pm - Tournament Top 4s!
5pm - Giveaway Extravaganza

Vita shopping guide for Christmas

Saw the first advert with baubles on UK TV last night, so I guess we are okay to talk about Christmas (or the festive season as its now called). If you're searching for a new Vita for the holidays, either as an upgrade, a kid's present or a Remote Play gadget for your PS4, then this is the place to find the best deals. I'll also cover the top games and best priced memory cards.

The PlayStation Vita Handheld

In terms of stock, no one seems to know (and Sony won't say) how long the Vita will remain on shelves for. Also, b e aware that with the price of the UK pound still free-falling, UK retail prices could soon go up. The only advice on that basis is - get one while you can!

Certainly in the States, reports suggest they are few and far between, while here in the UK, online seems to be the place to shop. Individual consoles seem pretty thin on the ground, unless you want to go second hand, with plenty on eBay or through Amazon resellers. But there are still a few new bundles to be had, which nets you a memory card and a bunch of games.

Smyths has the PS Vita LEGO Action Heroes Pack for £175.

But if you have some Amazon vouchers, then their £180 starting price may come down a bit.

NOTE: Some reviewers say these aren't coming with the 8GB memory card - do check it is included before you buy, and return it pronto if it doesn't! 


Since 2014, all Vita models have had a LCD display, if you can find an original 1000-class model new, then that has a blacker, brighter screen, but the difference isn't massive and if you buy a new 2000-class model, you won't know there was ever a difference.

Vita Memory Cards

Despite their outrageous pricing, Sony has never noticeably cut the cost of memory cards for the Vita. The rule is buy the biggest you can afford, a 32-GB model will store plenty of games. The 64-GB models are Japanese imports as they were never officially released here.

Amazon has a range of cards or bundled cards with download codes for games, like the Disney or Mega packs to spice things up a bit, ideal if you are getting them for a gift, as the basic cards are pretty tiny and pointless on their own.

There's a suggestion that the 64-GB cards corrupt more easily than the others, so always keep a back up of you games and saves on a PC.

Grips and Decks

The Vita has a range of cases from hard plastic to canvas. There are also some grips available that can make it more comfortable to use, and add triggers to save tapping the rear screen on some games. They range from dirt cheap to modestly priced, just remember to check they are for your model of Vita - some generic types cater for both.

Games and Content

I can't tell you what games to buy, check my reviews to find games that match your interests. However, I'll have best of 2016 and what to get in 2017 pieces coming soon. Do note that some Vita games are available in physical form from stores, others are only available to download from PSN.

Physical copies could well increase in value over the years, and will boost the value of your Vita collection if you ever decide to sell it, so buy those if possible, especially if they are Limited Run titles with small production runs. Going physical will also save you messing about with lots of expensive memory cards as that collection grows.

A first look at Berserk on the Vita

Having done a pretty decent job with Attack on Titan, the early looks at Berserk: Band of the Hawk had me wondering how Team Ninja could get that working on the Vita. Again, there was no need for concern, as it looks pretty smooth, if a little muddy with more muted lighting than the big-screen version.

Obviously, this could be the high-effort first level and the game could badly fall down later on, but Berserk is yet more proof that the Vita has plenty of power in it, even if this is just a reskinned AoT game with some new tweaks, now characters don't have to fly through the air at high speed! The game is out in Japan next week and comes west in 2017.

Just for comparison here's the latest clip from the PS4 version in action, having a boss fight.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Creating Root Letter, a producer's view

PQube continues to deliver content to get the west excited about its upcoming visual novel Root Letter. Unlike all the other Japanese games slavishly set in Akihabara or some other trendy area, the rural scenes and pastoral music for Root Letter set it apart. But, just because something is set outside the big cities, perhaps with hints of older world Japan, doesn't mean it can't make for a great story.

10 Tons posts a short clip on Neon Chrome in action

There's a huge list of indie games still plodding their way out to the Vita, and its always cool when one turns up after a period of wondering if it will make it or no. Neon Chrome is the latest to show itself, a top down shooter with those must-have rogue elements may explode onto PSN in November if all goes well.

Will Nintendo's Switch be the Vita 2 Sony never made?

Sony had lots of good ideas with the Vita (and several duff ones). A powerful portable, practically a mobile device, playable on TV (when PS TV arrived). It had Remote Play for a few PS3 and then all PS4 games, and eventually supported apps, indie developers and smaller games, alongside the big titles.

Crap app support, horrible WiFi speed, proprietary memory cards and failing to market it were just some of the drawbacks.

Nintendo, with a longer legacy in portable gaming has always kept things low power, stayed away from bringing the big-screen experience to the smaller screen, it has also fudged its way through recent generations, with the botched 3D effect on the 3DS, and a continued failure to encourage third parties outside of Japan and so on.

Believe it or not, the people at these companies are pretty smart. It is just politics and some inner-need to be "different" that screw things up. Xbox One's media focus, Wii U's name, PlayStation 3's Cell obsession and so on are among the big ticket cock-ups.

Which brings us to today's Nintendo news, the company that has a lot riding on whatever hybrid device NX turns out to be. We know it won't be a PS4 and X1 challenger, in the raw power stakes, even though the new Hyrule trailer looks pretty swish. Consensus is NX will combine portable and TV gaming, but how, we'll find out soon.

UPDATE: The console is called Switch and splits out its controllers so you can use it like a Vita, as a small screen with wireless controls (Joy-Con), or plug it into the big screen via a dock and play with a proper controller. Watch the video, its easier to explain that way. In part it's a gaming tablet, with a decent screen size. Specs should follow soon, although Nvidia chips are running the show.

The press release says, "Developers can design their games supporting a variety of play styles, which gives gamers the freedom to choose an experience that best suits them." which I guess most developers will hate or ignore - look how many used the Vita or Wii U camera.

If done rightly, this could easily become a device that has massive broad appeal across age groups and types of gamer, courting mobile, retro and modernistas. With Sony out of the portable space, the floor is Nintendo's - don't balls it up chaps!

Hopefully there are more colour options than dull grey, and while there's a modest list of publishing and middleware partners, to show Nintendo is truly in the groove, there really should be a massive list of indies too!

Does this set the stage for Sony to push a PlayStation 4 Portable remote play device, or is the company too defeated and embarrassed to try? As it is Vita owners still playing may have dozens of games they treasure, so won't just ditch Vita at the sight of a new Nintendo. However, Switch is a logical upgrade path that Sony has gifted them for portable gamers to move on to.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea comes west in January

Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is coming to the Vita in January with a neat £49 Limited Edition thanks to NIS America. The game tells the tale of Shallistera, the daughter of a tribal leader who embarks on a voyage to find a cure for her ailing father, and Shallotte, a struggling alchemist who wishes to bring success to her family’s Atelier.

They both are joined by a diverse cast of characters which will help them throughout their journey. Players will encounter the quick-thinking Kortes, Shallistera’s childhood friend and bodyguard, Wilbell voll Erslied, a magician in training, Jurie Crotze, a lone-wolf treasure hunter, and Miruca Crotze, a childhood friend of Shallotte’s who works as a blacksmith.
Limited Edition Includes:
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea Physical PS Vita game
Alchemist Handbook (48-page softcover art book)
Original Soundtrack (30 tracks)
Microfiber cloth (6" x 6")
Collector's box

Game DLC Includes:
Administrator's Battle Outfit
Atelier Series Special BGM Pack - Famitsu bonus
Atelier Series Special BGM Pack - Dengeki bonus
Shallotte Costume ”Hero Girl”
Shallistera Costume "COSMO FIGHTER"
Premium Box Bonus for Shallistera, Sophie Style
Premium Box Bonus for Shallotte, Plachta Style

Mary Skelter dashes into the Media Create chart

The latest Media Create chart is out in Japan, as we hit full bore release season, Mary Skelter is the only Vita entry at No. 4, selling 18,500, not far behind Paper Mario Color Spash and Tomb Raider. Out tomorrow in Japan are Macross Delta Scramble, Idol Death Game TV and Reco Love.

Vita sales continue their gentle decline to 8,772 for the week, with only World of Final Fantasy likely to give it a boost before the new colours arrive. PlayStation VR sold 51,000 units, with PS4 sales up over 30,000.

Also out today, the latest Famitsu scores for a bit of a laugh, given that Berserk on Vita scores the same score as the PS4 version - is it really as good? Guess we'll find out when the gameplay clips turn up on YouTube. SAO gets the same score as the PS4 version too, do they even check? Most of these are out next week on the 27th.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk  – 9/9/9/8 [35]
My Teen Romantic Comedy  – 8/7/7/8 [30]
Neo Atlas 1469 – 8/8/10/7 [33/40] (yep, a 10 from one reviewer)
Saka Agari Hurricane Portable – 7/7/7/6 [27]
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization  – 9/8/7/8 [32]

Smach Z handheld hits Kickstarter again, races toward goal

I talked about the Smach Z last year when its Kickstarter was cancelled as the creators considered their options. Many months on, and they are having another go, with a slightly more refined offering. Still powered by Steam OS, it brings Linux PC, with a Windows 10 option, gaming in a truly mobile format.

While we can argue all day about the games coming to it, and the potential for emulators and piracy, and so on. The huge interest on day 1, $200K of its $250K main goal shows there's plenty of interest in portable gaming, if a company is brave enough to find the market!

Check out the new campaign and imagine a Vita 2 with these innards!

UPDATE: The campaign has passed its first funding goal!

Square fixes SaGa Scarlet Grace load times

Ahead of its December release, Square Enix shows it is capable of handing criticism (sometimes) by already patching the load time issues that were causing grumpy comments from players at the company's TGS booth. A new video shows the update shaves a few seconds off load times, but it still isn't exactly what you'd call spritely.

Anyway, since Square is fixing its cock-ups, let's build that list:

  • I am Setsuna Vita release
  • Western release for Dragon Quest Heroes I and II
  • Tomb Raider and Deus Ex Go please
  • Final Fantasy: Crisis Core remaster
  • Oh, and if we could get the Limited Edition of SSG over here, that'd be cool too
  • Cross Play/Save for DQB and WoFF

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Exist Archive gets a western launch trailer

With a physical and PSN release, Exist Archive is all over the place today. You may have seen the screenshots earlier. Now, here's the official launch trailer for the game, showing off a few clips of in-game battling from the Aksys game localiser team who's sturdy work got the game over here.

Unworded adventure due a Vita release

Bento Games has won many awards for the concept of its unWorded,  a narrative tale that's pretty strange even by modern indie standards. According to the game's site, the story is about a book writer, who was hospitalised after a serious accident. As his wife at his bedside reads fairy tales of his own creation, the player is in his mind, sharing his last thoughts as he reminisces about his life and work, standing with him at the death's door.

The game is mentioned for Vita, after the iOS release, I'm checking with the developer for any details. It is developed in Unity, but doesn't seem to be doing anything that would overly tax the Vita hardware.

Berzerk opening movie

I'm going light on coverage of Berserk because I suspect the Vita version will be a somewhat reduced effort compared to all the gloss off the PS4 trailers. As it is, Band of the Hawk still looks pretty meaty.

Here's the main trailer for those keen on the headed-west in '17 release from Tecmo. Can't go wrong with the scope of the game, and while I admired Tecmo's effort on Attack on Titan, this just seems bigger and bolder for the little old Vita to cope with - hope I'm wrong but we can all still enjoy the trailer in full fidelity.

Akiba's Beat coming with Japanese and English voices

XSEED Games had a little news from its AkibaFest in Little Tokyo, with Akiba’S Beat coming west with dual audio voiceover support, including both English and Japanese language dialog options covering each of its nearly 22,000 spoken lines. Among the voice artists are Alexis Tipton (pictured), Brittney Karbow, Chris Patton and Ed Bosco.

Both voiceover languages will be present on-disc for the PS4, while Vita owners can download the Japanese-language voiceovers separately as a free DLC item. In addition, the company announced that the game’s “cute little uggo” mascot character, Pinkun, will phase into reality as a 3.5” tall pocket plushie that will come with all pre-orders at participating retailers while supplies last.

The game is due to land in Q1 2017. There are two sides to the gameplay: first, players will wander the streets and question the quirky Akihabara residents on a variety of subjects related to the mystery at hand, ultimately unlocking fantasy-themed dungeons known as “Delusionscapes” which are infested with monsters called “deluseons.” These deluseons are encountered on the map and fought in a party-based action battle system, putting players’ skills to the test and creating a uniquely challenging experience that seamlessly blends a real-life locale with the secret delusory world of its residents’ innermost desires.

Exist Archive crosses EU PSN to The Other Side of the Sky

Spike and Tri-Ace RPG Exist Archive, translated by the kind folk at Aksys is now available in the west, with a blend of 3D, 2D and what looks like hand-drawn art. The 3.2GB game, subtitled The Other Side of the Sky is an RPG where Kanata and friends have been imbued with pieces of the dark god, Yamatoga's soul.

To find out why they have this curse/gift, they are sent to Protolexa, battling enemies while searching for teammates, completing quests and side events. The game features 50 hours of gameplay, Dual voice with both English and Japanese, power ups, skill customizations, hidden dungeons and secret items.

The game is currently £26 for PS+ subscribers. If you don't have 3GB spare the retail version is rather more expensive, as a US import, since there's no EU retail version.