Friday, October 20, 2017

Japan video Friday

Starting off with a PlayStation Japan teaser for an all-new PS4/Vita RPG called The True End of Century. It looks like someone slammed the cel-shaded tanks from Panzer Girls into the world of Freedom Wars, so yes - sign us up! There's no developer logo in the game, but it has to be third-party since Sony doesn't do Vita games anymore.

Even though we won't get them in the west, here's a gameplay look at Atelier Lydie and Suelle from Tecmo...

Idea Factory has a couple of 10 minute videos up for its latest visual novel Butterfly Incident, how can so little happen in such a length of time?

Finally, missed this earlier in the week, a first look at el Dia's remake/remaster of Doukoku Soshite, coming next April to Japan.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Demon Gaze II trailer unearths Asteria

The demons are the real stars of Demon Gaze II with epic skills that can turn the tide of a battle. Check out the batch for the NIS sequel. I hope the game proves as popular as the first outing, which was a decent global hit, with plenty of hits for the map pages.

The game is out mid-November with a boxed release for physical fans. PS4 sales might dent the Vita version a bit, but portable is the true home of these great DRPG adventures.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms blooms west next spring

Guess those niche visual novels are selling pretty well over here, as Idea Factory plans to bring another dose of romantic charm in Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms our way. One of the earlier stories, Kyoto Winds came our way a few years back, but the rise of visual novel localisations seems unstoppable.

For reference, a fighting game based on the series from Aksys, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi, hit the PSP way back.

From the press release: This remastered telling of the beloved visual novel Hakuoki series is a continuation of the Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and focuses on the story set in Edo, the second part in this two-part series. The young Chizuru, determined to find her father, will romance the famous warriors of Shinsengumi through a series of engaging stories and dramatic events. Now, experience new characters, love interests, and episodes in the world of Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms!

Key Features include:
  • 12 Charming Bachelors - Start by choosing from one of 12 handsome bachelors and fall in love with Japanese history’s most famous warriors. 
  • Multiple Endings, One True Love – Explore the gorgeous world of Hakuoki through narrative choices that unlock branching storylines and up to 30 different endings. 
  • Beautiful History Comes Alive - The dramatic romance, friendship, and betrayal unfolds on your screen through fluid animation, vibrant art, and detailed CGs.

Tokyo Tattoo Girls companion trailer

NIS America trying to generate some interest in Tokyo Tattoo Girls today with a companion trailer - if anyone spots any gameplay in this product, call your mental health practitioner now! I think the idea is a card battle game done with tattoos, as the girls try to escape a walled-in Tokyo by dominating the 23 districts using the powers of your companion tattoos. Even the game's website doesn't make it that clear.

The Stig joins the Vita chart of doom

Some say this Vita sales chart mimics Donald Trump's ratings and when goes below 2,000, he will be removed from office.

Some say the chart represents an evil sigil that, when complete, will end the universe.

All we know is, its called the Stig's-only-source-of-data-for-Vita-sales-in-the-world's-cousin. And I'm damn well going to use it.

That jolly intro was because some people think all the chart-based-doom-mongering is serious! When obviously, its just a bit of a laugh to get us through the depressing sales decline and inevitable end of production announcement! Happy now?

In the week that Sony starts publishing games for the Switch, naturally, the sales news is fantastic with Vita sales up 400. That's despite only a lowly Prototype period Visual Novel landing at No. 20 in the Media Create chart, selling 3,400 units. Yoshiwara Higanbana is a port of a romance PC VN for what its worth.
The Stig (C)BBC  
In very short order the Japanese chart has become a Switch/PS4 love in. As the Vita retreats rapidly into its niche, it seems the focus is more on ports of old curios, so it'll be fun to see what publishers can drag up (like Saturn game Doukoku Soshite).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

As predicted, Sony starts to publish for the Switch

We all know Sony Interactive has given up on the Vita, but still has a good roster of games that it could use for other portables. Enter the Switch, and cue Sony wondering how it could switch, without looking like a total turncoat.

I figured this would happen not long ago - and Sony has now shown its hand by letting another part of the company, Sony Music handle publishing duties. For now, it is using the new Unties label (ho ho) to publish third-party content in Japan like Tiny Metal from Area 34 on Switch, PC and other formats.

But if the "experiment" proves a success, expect a roster of Sony titles like Locoroco, Patapon and so on to get a "third party" port. Guessing it won't be far into 2018 after Sony ceases production of the Vita that we see the first PlayStation game to make its way over.

Other titles on the way from Unties include Last Standard and Merkava Avalanche and DEEMO Reborn.  Japanese details of the news here.

Obviously, there's no shame in making money off a rival console, what is a shame Sony hadn't realised that portable/hybrid gaming could work, if it had shown some faith. For example, a simple mid-life HD and WiFi upgrade would have made a Vita2(ish) a more desirable remote player.

The wider Sony company hemorrhaging money during the Vita years didn't help, but this will be something of a gut punch for die-hard fans.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Gintama Rumble trailer wades into battle

Set for an early 2018 release across Asia, Gintama Rumble will only be available on the Vita in Japan, here's the latest trailer showing off the One Piece alike in action, The Asian English language version is PS4 only and it seems very likely that Bandai US/EU will pass on a Vita western version. Still, if you like these Musou-style games, then you might want to give it an import and enjoy the whack-a-mole battling.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Rogue Aces nearly ready for take off

With luck, Infinite States' Rogue Aces is now with Sony for QA checking on the Vita and PS4. Whisper it quietly but a pre-Christmas release could be on the cards for this fun shooter with the huge mustaches.

While folk may politely cough *Lufrausers* in its direction, there's a generation of gamers trained on Harrier Attack and many more. While we wait, check out the latest test video of the game in action, and get ready for lots of boring men talking about boring machinery! Woof!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Chaos Child out now in Europe

I've covered pretty much all there is to know about the world of Chaos Child and its place in the Science Adventure series in previous posts, but now the game is here for £34.99 on the UK PSN or in stores. Check out the launch trailer and hope it sells well enough to see PQube continue to release these fantastic visual novels in the west.

The game about violent murders and alternate realities from 5pb and Mages hits the US in a couple of weeks.

Review Son of Scoregasm

We may have to invent some new swear words for Son of Scoregasm, since you can't really play this in bed next to your significant other or in a room with the family and not get really, really mad at it.

Well, not mad at the game as such, but your poor judgments, control skills or perhaps just luck. This game is as tightly wound as a clock spring, and one mistake sees your quest to finish a tough level explode in pieces.

On the plus side, this game does prove we all have Jedi powers. There's no other way to explain how you can twin-stick and twin-weapon your way through some of the closing loops of enemies with your vision flicking all over the place without some kind of magic - if you ignore dying 50 times first.

Son of a gun

Son of Scoregasm is about trading off your score for survival, you can shoot your enemies down with guns, but don't score points. To get points you need to use your pulse shield to zap those at close range and collect the resulting power-ups to boost your multiplier. That will send your score soaring, the game's simple but brilliant mechanic. The more you shoot, the more powerful your gun gets but the more you use your pulse, its limited power will crap out on you at the worst second.

During this trade off, the nasties will be on your tail at all times, pixel close. One fractionally late button press or wrong choice and you're toast. Or biscuits, which is what the wafer-thin plot is all about, rescuing the King's biscuits. At least each level only lasts 60 seconds-ish, so you can be straight back in the action.

Out-run the enemy

Each level's enemies have different movement patterns, additional hazards like laser grids and crushers or force bombs. But once you learn the right pattern to move in, you can concentrate on building up a massive score to compete on the live leaderboards. There's also an easy or hard exit to the next level giving you some flexibility in how you play.

You can also pick any accessed level to play in score mode, to try and master it and earn a medal if you meet the high score requirement. With small but well-formed polygon graphics and a clever unified map, the game looks gorgeous with lots of little effects, but nothing that distracts from the heat of battle. The electronic soundtrack from John Marwin is suitably pacy and the effects are crisp on headphones.

As an older gamer, who thought nothing of a five-hour single game of Atari ST Tetris, this is intense stuff, I'll never be near the top of the leaderboard due to my now-creaky reactions, but I do love the challenge. Talking of, why are there only 30 people playing this game? Apart from Sony failing to put it on the PSN front page of the Vita app. Buy it now!

Oh, and then there's expert mode, don't even ask! Also, the trophies seem a little glitchy, so except an update soon.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £5.79 (PSN)
Size: 62MB
Dev: Charlie's Games
Progress: Across the board

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Son of Scoregasm out now on EU PSN

Stay on target, as the Vita gets another great shooter to add to the roster. Son of Scoregasm from Charlie's Games arrived overnight on the EU PSN, for just £5.79. A game of saving biscuits to a trippy electronic soundtrack, it is basically an excuse for vibrant shooty fun across the galaxy in a range of slightly twisted levels with changing rules, threats and lashings of bullet hell.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tokyo Clanpool flops as Vita countdown to extinction continues

DRPG Tokyo Clanpool sold just 5,200 at retail according to Media Create data in Japan, landing at No. 12, meaning that even a decent and well-promoted game sells no better than some generic visual novel titles. Digital sales may be helping Compile Heart's game, but from a public perspective, all Vita news is bad. That's reflected in the latest Vita sales that dive again to just over 3,500, down a couple of hundred in just a week.

Other recent flops include Kadokawa's The Lost Child selling 3,658, when even just a year ago all-new titles like Mary Skelter managed 18,358 sales while Furyu's Caligula sold 31,243 sales. Perhaps it is just DRPGs that are out of favour now, but week after week Vita releases are showing up with reduced sales.

Next up is the quirky Itadaki Street on the 19th, will flinging characters from Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest into a board game make more of an impact? Demon Gaze II will further test the waters for DRPGs with the Global Edition release in mid-November.

With Sony having missed all the seasonal opportunities to do anything to promote the Vita, the tick-tick-tick down to zero continues. Developers continue to flock to Switch and fans are left wondering what could have been if Sony had bothered with a HD, CPU/GPU upgrade a year or two ago.

Grab any Vita consoles you can because when production ends, prices are likely to shoot up, even though we still have a good year or two of games on the way.

Previous chapters in this sorry saga!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Text patch on the way for Ys VIII

I've noticed a couple of typos or quirky uses of phrases (like the below pic) in the latest Ys, but apparently, there are quite a few, which has put out some bad vibes around what is an awesome game. To that end, Takuro Yamashita, President and CEO of NIS America, has released an official statement regarding the localization of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA.

To All Customers of Ys VIII,

Thank you for all the feedback and support we have received since the launch of Ys VIII. It has
come to my attention that the quality of the Ys VIII localization has not reached an acceptable
level by our own standards, but most importantly by yours. As president of NIS America, Inc. I
want to apologize to you personally for this grave error. This situation should not have happened
– especially to a game as wonderful as Ys VIII and by a company that strives to deliver the very
best customer experience in each title. We have begun internally to investigate the causes of this
situation as well as to implement steps to ensure that a similar situation does not occur again.
As for Ys VIII itself, we will have a new translator and editor go over the entire localization to fix
grammatical errors, typos, inconsistencies, and also to take a fresh look at the dialog and
characterizations. For the script, where necessary, we will re-translate and re-edit the game
including updating voicework to reflect these changes. We plan to have this work done by the
end of November and will offer the updated localization free of charge for both the PlayStation
4 and PlayStation Vita versions of the game via patch. The Steam version of the game will
include this localization in its initial release.

Review Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle

From the brief stories about the Japanese version, this has always looked like a pretty basic title, relying on the characters and their skills to give it some depth. Unfortunately, Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle doesn't seem to be deep in any capacity, apart from making me hate it lots.

Breaking away from the RPG titles like Genso Wanderer, it lets the girls of Touhou engage in some one-on-one battling. Led by shield maiden Reinu, you go from stage to boring stage engaging in some of the worst fighting action since the Atari Jaguar tried to do Virtua Fighter.

Bland worlds, poor level construction, boring characters, boring "plot", crap effects, piss-poor special moves are just some of the problems that put this in line to be the worst Vita game ever. While the girls all have a range of magical powers, they are pretty much just variations on the same feeble ball lighting effects, and see you bounce around the level trying to avoid them with no tactical skill involved at all.

Yes, you can put in blocks to stop the "bullet hell" attacks, and special cards come into play from time to time, but the developers have clearly, never, ever played a fighting, battling or wizardly game. All we get is a sack of crap. as Meiling and others spout inane drivel at each other.

With only nine characters there isn't even much variety and given the super-niche nature of the game, good luck with finding someone to play in the game's online mode. Each girl has a story to follow, but they are so shallow and banal, few will even bother to wade through them all.

Ironically, the game does have a neat digital manual that shows all the commands and concepts off, but in action, Burst Battle quickly descends into a farce. To think, some people might get this for the PS4 or Switch, imagine how depressed they will be.

Some skills are overpowered, others are too annoying to even want to use, but whatever you try to do, you'll only come away from this game feeling either very disappointed or ripped off. Note that new updates add more stages and characters, but they really fail to make any difference to how poor Touhou Kobuto actually is.

Score: 2/10
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Price: £24.99 (PSN, DLC available)
Size: 670MB
Dev: NIS America/CubeType/Play.Doujin
Progress: Hating it with a passion

Cowcat bringing Xenon Valkyrie to the Vita

Diabolical Mind's Xenon Valkyrie+ is a sci-fi rogue-lite platformer game with RPG elements being ported to the Vita by Cowcat (of Demetrios fame) and promising lots of improvements over the PC original. Arriving this winter, it features three heroes battling across a scarred moon.

You must fight to the deepest part of a moon and halt the plans of a wicked witch. Along the ay, you find many weapons to fight through the unique, randomly-generated world. Encounter many characters, stores and enemies that tell a legendary story. With traditional graphics and high quality chiptune music, level up and get the amazing power of the Xenon Valkyrie!

Review Semispheres

Just when you think people are running out of ideas for puzzlers, along comes Semispheres, a twin-stick mental challenge with a roster of cunning twists to turn your brain into soup. Spread over 13 levels of four/five challenges each, your simple aim in life is to guide two drones to the finish portals.

The game arrived on PC earlier this year and is a pretty fast port to the Vita and other consoles, with a stack of kudos and awards behind it. So, well done to Eastasiasoft and Vivid Helix for getting it to console pronto.

The early levels have the two blobs helping each other out, avoiding relatively robotic guards, while remaining fixed on their half of the screen. But soon they can switch places on maps, make distraction sounds in each other's half through portals and other tricks to add a fresh level of mental dexterity. Imagine playing two games of Volume at once, and you're pretty much there.

There's no time mode that I'm aware of, and Sid Barnhoorn's ambient soundtrack leaves you to solve each puzzle in your own pace. Visually striking with a rich layer of detail and some pleasant lighting, it feels very charming, while trying to scramble your mind.

Complete a set of puzzles and you get to see a few frames of the story behind this adventure, but in play everything is pretty ambiguous. What are the guards guarding, are your twins blobs, drones, a symbiotic jellyfish? Who knows.

Nurse, pass the brain extinguisher, please!

Sometimes you need to finely time both characters' progress at once, on other levels its a step-by-step process with some back and forth. Being zapped by a guard can often be a useful tactic, and sometimes you can iterate one trick across the two halves to make progress, while at other times you are trying two very different tactics.

All of these tricks leave your brain trying to keep up as the puzzles get tougher, controls reverse as the drones swap over, across what is a deeply cunning challenge. Still, you're well rewarded with a solid stream of gold and silver trophies for making steady progress, for one of the more rewarding games out there. It is a little pricey for what's a very short game with little replay value, but those puzzles do make it a great couple of hours.

Price: £9.49 (PSN)
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Score: 8/10
Dev: Vivid Helix
Size: 360MB
Progress: Completed

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana

Okay, so we didn't get Trails of Cold Steel III, but damn has Falcom delivered with Ys VIII! If it does happen to be the last big Vita RPG, we go out with a charming and engrossing adventure that has the perfect level of appeal.

As ever, Adol Christin takes the helm in this latest Ys epic tale that starts out on the high seas, but soon moves to a deserted island. One that's anything but empty. Picking up a fine cast of friends and acquaintances to help out, what starts out as a quest for survival becomes a little gem of village and resource management.

Creatures litter the island, but they look like they belong here, unlike in many games, and most are easy to love, with little bugs, birds and others doing minimal damage to the party. The giant beasts that form set pieces are also gorgeously coloured and designed.

Combat, exploring, item harvesting and management are all enabled so naturally and effectively, the game never wastes time diverting you from the story or disrupting the sense of adventure. Even chat and banter is kept to acceptable levels. Also, since key characters are running the stores and upgrades, they feel part of the story and not the usual tacked-on extras.

The story is driven by the arrival of Dana, who appears at first in Adol's dreams and then takes center stage in her own right, with her own adventure. It takes a while for the sagas to mesh, but becomes a great bit of pushing you on to see what happens next. With a party of three warriors you can soon drop people in and out to suit particular battles or play with your favourites, and there's a pleasingly constant supply of upgrades and new gear.

Combat is a mix of special moves, jumping, blocking and wielding a few big weapons to devastating effect. The wolves, sea horses, dinosaurs and other monsters look like they belong on this island, unlike the freaks most RPGs through at you. The odd mid-ranking creature or fixed point boss adds a little action, but you rarely feel outgunned, allowing the story and fighters to scamper along at speed.

If you do feel under-powered, then there's plenty of DLC extras to buy, but the game never forces these down your throat. One note that in some places, you can't access what would normally be useful items, as the boss hems you in, one of quite a few quirks.

Not quite a Love Island

Okay, not everything has perfectly meshed in this adventure, waves of monster invasions take place, with everyone panicking like cats and an Interception battle taking place. Yet, I had time to do a couple of missions, upgrade my armour, explore the island and do loads more, because you have to trigger these events by talking to a specific person, which wasn't clear.

Similarly, some big monster set pieces are farcial as you can run away and pick it up later in the day, while people often refer to things as-yet-undiscovered, as if the captain's parrot is an expert in woodwork being one example.

That kind of ruins the sense of urgency, and since it is easy to pre-complete a lot of many collecting sub-quests before you are assigned them, a little more flexibility is needed from the quests. Also, the game has rather cheekily blocked sections off that you need enough people to access, despite the fact our heroes are vine climbing, jumping demons, so seems rather trite blocking the adventurer's progress with a bit of a log or big boulder.

Yes, the PS4 version has been tarted up a bit and adds a few more features (for £15 more on PSN), but the Vita version is so gorgeous on OLED I don't think it matters with Ys' traditional awesome soundtrack, and being portable means I can enjoy this fantastic adventure anywhere. Ys VIII's engine could bring many more great tales to the Vita if Falcom is keen enough, here's hoping!

Score: 9/10
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Price: £34.99 (PSN)
Size: 3.2MB
Dev: NIS America/Falcom
Progress: Booking my tickets to Seiren Island

Squareboy vs Bullies launch trailer

Its another choatic week of Vita game launches to enjoy, from the tiny to the mighty. From Ratalaika comes Squareboy vs Bullies, a retro beat 'em up with retro pixel art graphics and OST featuring 14 chiptune tracks.

As the square, you'll take on the bullies in across your hometown of Squareburg, with a new Arena mode and bullies for the Vita version. At only £4.99 on the UK PSN, the game arrives on the 12th and is part of a herd of games out this week.

God Eater 3 announced, get out your Remote Play

Is this another Code Vein trailer or is God Eater 3 actually a thing, it is increasingly hard to tell the difference. Anyway, looks like the Vita won't be blessed with yet another episode of demon slashing, so we can either go back and play God Eater 2: Rage Burst some more, or use Remote Play if you are lucky enough to own a PS4.

Formats haven't been announced yet, except "home consoles" but a peek into the code shows no sign of a Vita (or Switch) version. Here's the blurb...

Many years have passed since the last battle. Earth is no longer a place where humans reside. Terrifying beasts known as ‘The Aragami’ are still raging around the world creating misery and destruction. To save the world and re-establish the balance, new heroes have risen, The God Eaters; those who have been gifted or cursed with new versions of the God Arc weapons (special implants powered by Aragami cells). Team up with your other God Eaters to take down these monstrous new Aragami that are tearing apart locations around the globe. But this won’t be your only mission, something is happening to the God Eaters and the line between dark and light has never been so thin… It’s time to break the cursed shackles that bind the soul of the God Eaters.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Yomawari Midnight Shadows trailer of spookiness

The original Yomawari was an innocent delight in scaring. Midnight Shadows seems to have a bit more depth to it, with a bigger town, more indoor scenes to explore and many things that go bleugh in the night.

Midnight Shadows stars, Yui and Haru, as they try to find each other and make it home safely in their own innocent little way against the dark. The game is out in just a couple of weeks and is a perfect counterfoil to all the must-to-more-gore games that line up each Halloween.

Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni Bikini Party Edition

PQube has just dropped its beer pong kit to release an ultimate version of Valkyrie Drive in the form of BHIKKHUNI Bikini Party Edition on PSN.  Featuring loads of combat, characters and sexy shenanigans, this version includes every bit of DLC from the original game, with the exception of the two DLC characters, Mirei and Mamori.

Japanese Vita video Friday

Quick peeks at new gameplay and trailers for Tokyo Clanpool from Compile Heart (mostly the hard-bitten politicians chatting and squealing at each other) and Idea Factory's latest VN Neo Angelique (lots of swooning) today. Leading them out is Gintama Rumble which has an 18th January release date.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Review Plague Road

The Plague Road is not a track anyone would want to take, yet somehow the path to a pox-ridden city is remarkably popular, practically crammed with people in distress. As The Doctor, one with no practical healing abilities, we play a mystery figure aiming to get into the city and solve the plague.

On the way, there are survivors to find that are sent to a nearby farm, where they will be revealed as various useful characters. The Doctor can shoot at distance or wield his sword for melee attacks in turn-based battles that soon become party affairs as you build up a team.

To explore further, we need a small party of warriors to help battle off the afflicted creatures in the plains, woods and beyond. Each encounter leads to a grid- and turn-based battle, with the collection of soldiers, engineers, witches and nurses all providing various levels of support. Each class can have different skills, with a few mass attacks but mostly its one-on-one ranged, magical or melee combat. 

Pros and cons of life on the road

When you meet a major figure, they usually need to borrow a couple of your folk to help them out with some request. In return, they help expand your farm, adding training facilities, storage and manufacturing, plus the big bonus of fast travel. Now you zip around the map, you can find loot crates faster and practice your battle skills against the growing ranks of enemies. 

The first thing to comment about Plague Road is the production values. With soaring music, fantastically created characters and a bizarre world that they live in, this is punching well above its weight in the presentation department.

It looks gorgeous and the characters scale in and out of the level so smoothly. The sound effects are punchy with some great weapon effects (love the rocket barrage), and the music is an atmospheric treat. Little zooms in-and-out of the battles are perfect, while the hellish parallax backgrounds scald your eyes. 

Missing in Action

But then we come to some missed opportunities. For a start The Doctor just blunders into a battle, with no real strategy or tactics. It would be cool to avoid combat but the lovely trees and other trimmings that make up many levels serve no purpose, even though it would be useful to hide behind them. There's no level progression in battles, and no real point in having them and no complexity like friendly fire or fire lines to make you think a bit more.

Also, you need to retire survivors to create skills in the farm buildings, this isn't explained anywhere and is just one of the confusing aspects of the game. Why are the levels procedurally generated every time you visit? That makes no sense, change them every playthrough yes, but not every time you visit somewhere you've already cleared.

There's also that horrible feature in any combat game where an enemy with just a few hit points requires you to wipe it out with a powerful attack, wasting stamina. Surely a little Worms-like nudge or standard-for-all punch attack to finish them off would have added a little more fun to the battles, or make the game feel more rounded. 

Some logical thinking around these, and a few other minor leaps of imagination would have helped make Plague Road so much more than it really is. Hopefully, a major update will add new features to the game, or perhaps the busy developers should rein in their ambition a little on future projects. A minor update to fix the random crashes would also be welcome.

Score: 6/10
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Price: £15.99 (PSN)
Size: 70MB
Dev: Arcade Distillery

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Vita sales back to flat in Japan

The latest Media Create data is out in Japan, don't get too excited now!

We have a duplicate of last week really, with sales nudging up by a few and one new middling Vita game arriving in the lower reaches of the chart. Can't see many people rushing out to buy visual novel Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu from Idea Factory, which managed to sell 4,629 to land at No. 18 as the only Vita game on the chart.

Trails of Cold Steel III landed at No. 1 on the PS4, but without a Vita or PS3 version in support, Falcom lost half of their sales, based on the 2013/2014 releases. That will be pretty damning for Falcom, who had no real reason to drop the Vita version for a few extra shaders and world with a slightly larger scope. Still, there's no guarantee it would come west on Vita, so perhaps irrelevant. 

Meet the cast investigating the Chaos Child

Ahead of the PQube's western release, here's an introduction for the precursor visual novel to the legendary Steins Gate. Chaos Child sees a series of bizarre deaths strike fear in the hearts of citizens in Shibuya, Tokyo.

When a streamer dies on-screen, a street musician dies horribly on the street. No one knows how or why. As part of the school's newspaper club, Takuru Miyashiro becomes fascinated with the mysterious deaths when he notices that the dates of the incidents match up with a series of murders that happened shortly before a fateful earthquake that killed his parents and changed his life years earlier.

 Together with his friends and fellow newspaper club members, Serika and Shinji, his adopted sister Nono, a mysterious fellow student by the name of Hinae, and a scientist named Mio, Takuru begins to investigate the phenomenon referred to as the New Generation Madness, and uncover hidden secrets that will put them all in more danger than they ever imagined.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Twin Robots landing on the Vita this week

Ratalaika continues to deliver fun games to the Vita (and PS4) with Twin Robots. Coming this week for $4.99, its a 2.5D platformer where you can switch control between two little robots that have been imprisoned and must escape.

Escaping won’t be easy though, so be prepared for a lot of running, jumping and puzzle solving, as a lot of each awaits you. The good news though, is you don’t have to do any of it alone as Twin Robots has co-op play for friends to jump in.

However, both robots are battery-powered so they consume energy with everything they do! Players will need to watch out for their battery levels and make sure they keep topped up, but in emergency situations, players can transfer energy from one robot to the other, thus allowing both robots to safely reach the exist.

Latest Sir Eatsalot snap

If you follow German dev Behind the Stone on Twitter, you'll have a seen a growing series of action and in-action snaps from the upcoming platformer Sir Eatsalot. If not, here's the latest one of the chubby knight getting ready to do battle against the evil witch Hysterica, who poisoned his Gluttington Kingdom with bitter lemonade!
The game is coming along well, but still no sign of a release date. Keep checking in for progress and lots of food-related foolery. As one of the last Vita exclusives, we should all be supporting it.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Son of Scoregasm finally arrives in October

Charlie Knight's Son of Scoregasm has been on the cards since early 2014, but as with most one-man developers, real life tends to get in the way. However, the wait is finally over and we can all enjoy a dose of frenetic twin-stick shooting fun in the vein of Tempest meets Geometry Wars in a couple of weeks.

Check out the PSN blog post for a few more details, but mostly thanks to Charlie for sticking with the project and seeing it through!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Steamworld Dig 2 hints and tips

Steamworld Dig 2 is another perfect slice of portable gaming. As you move through the terrific robotic adventure (review), you're more than likely to miss a few of the fascinating artefacts that are well hidden in each puzzle room, down among the lava beds and other locations across the game.

While not exhaustive, here are the ones that caused me a fair bit of grief, along with some of the solutions to tougher puzzles and the location-based trophies. To speed up your artefact finding, focus on upgrading your lamp as the Eye for Weakness mod will light up secret entrances.

Will add more if there's interest.

Demon's Crib: Make your way to the top of the level, don't bother worrying about the acolytes or barrels, just get there. Use the Hook Shot to hang above the exit door, making sure you don't accidentally leave. The lava will come up, but not to the top, then flow back down. Carefully drop to the bottom of the level and at the lower right is the entrance to the secret area.

Lava Shooters: The fossil artefact can be found on the last leg of this long run through fireballs. When you've done the long runs left, up, right and down, head inside the structure, look for the pair of jets shooting down and follow the rightmost up to a ledge where you can break through into the secret area.

Leaky Lodge: If you enter from the higher of the two doors, you will see a big 2X2 rock just waiting to fall down. However, dig an extra level under it and to the left of the rock is the entrance to this secret. The other hidden area is on a long left-to-right run at the top of the maze.

Mine Cart Madness: This is one of my favourite set puzzles in the game. The first is just a warmup really, move the higher minecart to the right and watch it fall, then move the lower cart into that. It will fall through the quicksand and into place, allowing you to advance.

For the second one, move the lower cart left, jump up and move the higher one to the right. Follow that down and move it left into the first cart. Hop over and hammer the first cart until it is destroyed and move the new replacement cart to the right. Now move the old cart right into new one, and it will fall down.

Finally, and here's where I had so much fun, there are three carts to move. Never mind me trying to explain it, this guy has a YouTube video you can watch!

Mushi Mushi Snuggery: The artifact is tucked in the lower left corner of the map, stand to the right and shoot over the bouncers to open it.

Swim Swam Sway: Two secrets are to be found in the depths here, which is why you might be confused about not getting the green tick. The first secret here is on the left near the bottom of the first descent among the spiky blocks. Then do the loop around to the section that heads up with more spikes and a few spitting purple beasts. On the left just above the first purple creature is a secret bit of wall, lurk next to it and the shots from the purple creature to your right should knock it out, revealing the way.

Yonker Brothers: There are three of these fellows, scattered across the map. The first is right above you at very start of the game, so when you have the power to jump or rope high enough, head back and meet Zebulon.

The second chap can be found by traveling to Below the Wall tube, there's a door just to the lower right of that tube, head there and further right of that behind a secret wall is Josh.

Finally, go via the tube to Lower Temple Shaft or Temple Cistern, head to the door on the right to enter Yarrow. A few steps ahead of you is a drop down, hammer there and enter the secret to find Luke, get his blueprint and claim the trophy.

When you collect all 42 aftefacts, you can head to the windy desert and find the secret area using a max-upgraded jet pack to explore the clouds for some more puzzles.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Vita tick down to sales extinction continues in Japan

With Andrew House spouting his usual "smartphone rules" crap (the only time Vita ever gets mentioned in the mainstream press) as rabid Switch buying continues, the Vita stands no chance out on the streets.

That rhetoric comes with another 150 sales drop off in the latest Media Create chart data. The countdown to hardware production extinction is definitely ticking (more on that last week). Whatever magic number Sony needs to keep producing Vita hardware can only be around the corner, or perhaps it will just give up after a final push for seasonal sales.

Since the original chart (still updated at the bottom for history's sake) is pretty meaningless now, here's the post seasonal Vita sales for 2017. Tick, tick, tick!

As an aside, The sales issue is not all Sony's fault, it looks like Japanese stores are loaded with second-hand units that make selling new models a tougher task, especially with no new colours or Limited Editions this year.

On the software front, another Otome title shifts 5,450 units to scratch the lower reaches of the chart but will vanish next week. Increasingly, even decent upcoming fodder Occultic;9 from Mages, out tomorrow, and the next major(ish) release Tokyo Clanpool from Compile Heart next week will do little better.

From a visibility perspective, the Vita is fading fast in Japan, and with a dwindling release list, even local publishers are turning to indies like Va11-Ha11-A. Enjoy these last months folks, and the extended gasp of brave developer support, it has been a fun ride!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review Steamworld Dig 2

With the belated review of No. 1 still in my mind, it was with great excitement that I started shoveling my way into Steamworld Dig 2. Many improvements are immediately obvious, the game has a lot more visual pop to it, blazing away on the Vita's OLED compared to the original's more muted tones. There's also a bit more lateral movement and a sense of the wider surface world to explore, with its own weather, providing the odd break from the usual digging down.

Our avatar has also changed, with heroine Dorothy (or Dot) taking on the role of the prospector in the quest for missing Rusty from the original. She soon finds a town of beaten-up droids and their optimistic mayor. He's sure the one-ratchet town will survive the growing trend of earthquakes, even as one local builds a rocket ship to get everyone out of there.

We are digging in a material world

Soon we're heading down into the mines, that are loaded with ores, secrets, treasure and portals to other parts of the world. Doors lead to puzzle areas where you can find a cog to improve your powers and a secret artefact that will encourage one of the townsfolk to give you blueprints to build more useful tools.

Exploring, mining or questing can be done together, or you can meticulously scour the mines of gems and secrets before moving to the next area. There are secrets everywhere, and a fair bit of back and forth is needed to track them down, so taking notes is recommended. Later blueprints in the game will give you tools to make finding things easier, but doing it yourself is far more rewarding.

Secret areas start out as just a hidden tunnel, cleverly located here or there, but soon you'll need to use tools or your enemies carefully, or pull off multi-step, multi-function leaps and swings with aplomb to find the buried loot. Getting a green "completed area" tick on the map when you finish off some of the tougher areas gives quite a sense of achievement.

Heading deeper, each section of map reveals some gorgeous detail and lighting to them, with a range of bizarre characters to meet along the way. One minor improvement is less reliance on water and light to power your journey, so there's a little less slogging back and forth for resources. But Steamworld Dig 2 generally remains faithful to all the fun bits of the original.

The game has a lot more trophies, making the journey feel more rewarding, while the higher value ones are still for various types of completion to appeal to the speed runner or collectors out there. Some games make it a drag when you have to revisit earlier levels, but SD2 is a delight, with new skills helping you solve previously impassable puzzles and finding all the cunningly hidden secrets!

Once you get to the lower levels, the bosses do toughen up a little, and there can be more a few more random deaths than some gamers would like, but stick with it. Hugely charming, with joyous music and suitably clanging sound effects, everything in SD2 is a delight, I'd save the last comment for the enemies, mostly cute and hapless but who through your blueprints can be made to explode causing cascades of damage and destruction that could be a fun mini-game in its own right.

May the Cult of the Destroyer bless Image and Form, and whatever they do next! I'd love it if they could update Steamworld Tower Defence to the Vita.

Score: 9/10
More reviews
Price: £15.99 (PSN)
Size: 160MB
Dev: Image and Form
Progress: Completed the story, all artefacts

Monday, September 25, 2017

TGS Zanki Zero trailer

Spike Chunsoft must be looking for new projects as Danganronpa V3 winds down after release. With aquatic-themed RPG Zanki Zero (announced back in April) coming along well, I wonder what surprises the company has down the line.

For now though, enjoy this new trailer from Tokyo Game Show, I had hoped this would be rather special and original, after seeing the scale and beauty of the first artwork. But it now looks like a pretty stock DRPG with a soggy theme, although the story could elevate it about the many contemporaries. Still no news on a release date beyond 2018.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Catch up on the TGS live streams from Sega/Atlus and D3

Overnight these guys had a lot to show from new Phantasy Star Online 2 content to Bullet Girls Phantasia, plus the usual bedlam of cosplay, shouty hosts and other goings on. Catch up on Sony's main press event (with English) if you missed it from earlier in the week.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Demon Gaze II character trailer

Stella's Place sounds like a bar I'd like my own stool at. But in Demon Gaze II it plays host to this line up of characters, most of which you'd probably want to avoid like the plague. For example, I'm sure everyone gets a bit nervous when their local version of Lezerem, a black-market radio dealer who supports the Revolutionists turns up with some dodgy goods on offer!

Steins Gate Elite first look

Are we ready for more drama and heartbreak in the world of Steins Gate? Well, there's Chaos Child on the way soon, to tide us over. But this new story from 5pb, based on the latest anime and more in tune with its visual style with full animation will be hitting Japan next year. Will the running ever end? And will the story lend itself to this more fluid style?

D3 shows off Bullet Girls Phantasia

Yep, the Bullet Girls are back for another triggy happy outing in Japan, with word of an English language Asian version if you're keen, and with D3 reluctant to bring the series west. This time they are fighting dragons and demons, while offering the usual fan service fun.

A Certain Magical Virtual-On first look

Shown off at TGS, we finally get a look at some gameplay of the worst-named cross-over title ever. A Certain Magical Virtual-On provides plenty of bot-on-bot action, which looks pretty basic on the PS4, but I suspect the Vita version will lose most of the little detail there is.

The bland looks will probably annoy PS4 owners more, and unless you're deeply into your mechs, I can't see this being worth an import, even with all the English language text floating around.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Battle Princess Madelyn first trailer

After its Kickstarter success, Casual Bit has a classy first trailer for Battle Princess Madelyn. And, while some developers leave the Vita version off the list of platforms as a to-do-list afterthought, they've had the decency to put it in there with all the others.

Hopefully, we'll be seeing the Ghosts n Goblins homage sometime next year, can't wait!

The slide continues for Vita sales in Japan

Japanese gamers bow before an influx of Winning 11 and F1 games this week, leaving no room for a new Vita title. Only Minecraft is left to represent the handheld, selling another 3,160 copies to pull it clear of 1.2 million boxed sales.

The Vita itself sees another tick down to 3,847 units according to Media Create sales data. That trend of losing 50-80 sales a week (excluding a Christmas spike) would see the Vita hit zero in around another year, approaching its seventh birthday. And, since Sony has shown no sign of a successor device, I guess production would end next summer. Snap them up while you can folks!

Vita cracks heads with Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo

Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo from Thomas Hopper and TACS Games is an action puzzle platformer about smashing skulls, designed from the ground up for the PS Vita. If it looks a little familiar, It is the sequel to PS Mobile game "Super Skull Smash GO!" Thomas' previous work includes "Out of Mind" and PSM game of the year "Console Saga".

The game features hardcore platforming action set over 30 levels across 6 world themes with giant retro boss battles. There's also plenty of secrets and easter eggs to find, all to an authentic chiptune soundtrack.

With this and Life of Pixel headed our way, wonder if any other PSM titles will get a second lease of life? Check out the trailer and some screens...


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SteamWorld Dig 2 launch trailer

Just a week to go until we get to enjoy SteamWorld Dig on the Vita. While the gameplay looks familiar, this launch trailer shows off the new interface, and a bunch of new levels and new types of gameplay mechanics.

Image and Form are a class act, and I hope this isn't their last Vita game (on the basis that sales will likely be tiny compared to the Switch edition), but if it is, they will be going out in style.

Review: Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony

Note: I'm still wading through the blood in the meat of DV3KH, and you can't take screenshots past the first chapter, so this review should be pretty spoiler free.

Review: Damn, that's one long prologue, Danganronpa V3 immediately feels like a beefier game than its predecessors, allowing you to explore more of the Ultimate School and meet a new generation of classmates who will soon be doing dirty deeds to each other. The game is certainly better and sharper looking too!

The long intro isn't helped by the charmless antics of the Monokub bears as they pop in and out to intercede. That's before the one-and-only Monokuma shows up to start proceedings properly. At least he has the decency to mock the length of the game's intro!

In between all the tutorials, we find the usual bat-shit crazy Ultimate this, that and other students. Around the school, there's lots of places for murdering to be done, and plenty of tools for job. If you've never played a Danganronpa game before, then it makes for a useful if extended intro, navigating the halls, using the map properly, looking for clues and guessing what will happen next.

Then, the diabolical plans come into play as the 16 students get the obvious "here's an easy escape route" out of their systems, via a neat 2D platform mini-game. They bunk in for the night and wonder how they will get out of the Academy sealed inside a very massive budgie cage, alive.

On with the killing

The first death and the ensuing class trial thankfully pick up the pace. Once the crime has been discovered, you learn to use the Focus View to see what's important in a room, clicking on everything is essential to progressing the story, sometimes more than once as views, people and rooms change.

Without giving too much away, it is easy to see where the various avenues of investigation fall down or stand up, especially if you've ever played a previous version or seen an episode of Dexter or CSI. Evidence and stories are gathered as Truth Bullets, with a smattering of dark humour, funny discoveries and huge amounts of cod emoting from the cast of increasingly defensive characters.

There are characters you will love, those that you hate, but most have dark histories that can skew your loyalties one way, then the other. Danganronpa remains one of the few games that can put you through such an emotional rollercoaster, even if the over-acting will take the edge off for some.

Then we're off to the trial, the one bit of the series I really don't like, with its increasingly infuriating truth bullets and seemingly random word blasting. This long, drawn out process of elimination is often confusing and badly-explained, especially at the higher difficulty levels and is definitely a trial to get through. The new games don't really add much other than variety, Scrum Debates feel pointless with the whole class shouting at each other, the rhythm section feels out of place, while the car racing Psyche Taxi game could make a good freebie title in its own right.

Trial by twists, and twisted by the trial

The further you get into the story, the deeper the plots the become, with more clues, more lies and deceit, and the body count soon mounts up. There's a neat retro trip into virtual reality, and a lesson in game coding, but it all ends up at the trials which more complicated as the numbers thin out, and the twists come thick and fast. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at times, but speeding through the pleas, anger and denial means you lose some of the raw edge to the game, so I recommend persevering and taking your finger off the advance button.

Between the trials, there's a little personal time where you can get to know your classmates better and befriend them with gifts, but that's always felt a rather tacked-on part of the series.

There are a few annoyances in D3, most of which run through the series. Primarily that if you investigate things randomly, then some of the information appears out of sequence. It always seems best to talk to people first, then look at the evidence, but that removes some of the freedom to explore how you like.

Then there are the annoying trial games, especially at the higher difficulty levels, even with the gimmicks and assists it offers. I'd be delighted if there was an option just to fill out the comic strip timeline, the last act of any trial, as a substitute for someone who just wants to play through the story.

However, the game is held together by its gut-shredding plot, some clever/annoying twists in the later rounds, capped by the gruesome finales and that stomach-churning need to know who will come out at the end. With superb, lunatic, character design, the game holds its charm, while the vivid, lurid, colours in the world help Danganronpa V3 rivet itself to your eyeballs.

Price: £TBC Amazon UK, $39.99 Amazon US, PSN: TBC
More reviews
Score: 9/10
Dev: Spike Chunsoft
Size: 3GB
Progress: Then there were five, and one was very mad

Semispheres bongs its way to the Vita

Radu Muresan's (aka VividHelix) Semispheres won many plaudits based on the PC release back in 2016, now us Vita owners get a go at this ambient, dual-sided puzzler thanks to Playscope and EastAsiaSoft.

Plan ahead as you work on the left and right on the screen, and trigger the parallel puzzles to get both of your half-heroes through to the end of the level.

Chaos Child confirmed for October with new trailer

PQube hopes to continue with the success of Stein's Gate and its sequel with the Chaos Child visual novel causing a ruckus among western Vita owners next month. Part of the sprawling Science Adventure series, it takes place in the same world, but has an interest in altenate realities rather than time travel, likely with the same twists and turns, and a high level of emotional involvement.

Chaos;Child will release in Europe on October 13, and North America on October 24.

13 Sentinels trailer shows off some stomping, skulking, running gameplay

The previous sneaky looks at Vanillaware and Atlus' 13 Sentinels have been purely art-based, but in this new TGS trailer, we get to see some "action", if you like people running, walking and the ankles of a great big bot doing a little stomping. The game, from Dragon Crown's George Kamitani's could still be anything, but is definitely the most interesting thing out of the show.

With a "coming 2018" tag at the end, and Vita still listed as a format, is this final farewell to big budget Vita games? Looks like it since there was no new hardware on show from Sony, so enjoy the Vita while it lasts.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ys VIII is your UK retail Vita No. 1

Falcom's new RPG only went on sale on Friday, so I'm assuming most of these were pre-orders, but Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is the Vita retail No. 1, for whatever that's worth. I don't see the PS4 version (same price) in any list, not even the PS4 dedicated chart, so while the figures are probably minuscule, the Vita version at least gets a bit of kudos for making an effort.

1. new Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (Falcom
2. + Metal Gear Solid HD (Konami)
3. - Minecraft (Mojang)
4. + Killzone Mercenary (Sony)
5 - Call of Duty Black Ops (Activision)

Chart information Copyright UKIE

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Take your VitaminX and Apples for your Vita (JP)

Guess Idol games are in vogue in Japan, here's a couple of new clips highlighting some of D3's VitaminX Destination action and whatever the heck Honeybee's Apple Polisher surprise movie is. Too tired to even look these projects up right now, comment if you know what the heck is going on!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Heart Forth Alicia coming 2018, new video

The gorgeous Metroidvania platformer Heart Forth Alicia is still coming to the Vita with work well underway. As is often the way with these Kickstarter projects it's taking a while, and developer Alonso Martin is battling multiple issues to get the game done. That's put it into a mid-2018 release period, but given the amount of Vita games out soon, that's no bad thing.

For backers, a PC/Mac demo is now available to see how progress is going, I'll let you know what I think of it. For everyone else, here's a video of it in action.

Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana launch trailer and exclusive DLC

Out now in Europe, Falcom's Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana is a massive RPG adventure and the PS Vita version comes with an epic limited edition and a bunch of exclusive DLC (list below). Check out the launch trailer to meet the characters and storyline.

PS Vita DLC List: Deserted Pirate Adol, Deserted Pirate Laxia, Deserted Pirate Sahad, Deserted Pirate Hummel, Deserted Pirate Ricotta, Deserted Pirate Dana, Tropic Swimwear Adol, Tropic Swimwear Laxia, Tropic Swimwear Ricotta, Tropic Swimwear Dana, Hug Hug Feena, Hug Hug Lilia, Hug Hug Dark, Stylish Glasses Set, Stylish Sunglasses Set, Ancient Mask Set, Free Set 1, Free Set 2.

Dangaronpa V3 character trailer as release nears

The latest bunch of unfortunates-turned-murderers line up for the camera as we rush toward the launch of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmong, perhaps the biggest of the last Vita releases.

I'm already wading into the review and rushing toward the second trial, the game is everything you'd hope for if you've experienced the first two murderfests! There's plenty of twists, bearish humour and some clever use of graphics. If you missed the demo, check out this gameplay clip.

Summon Night 6 finally nears release

After a protracted period of approval, the strategic RPG Summon Night 6 is almost ready for release, having passed QA with Sony Europe. So, Gaijinworks has dropped a new trailer to renew excitement for the game.

You might want to go for the physical release, as the game comes with a chunky manual that you'll want to refer to during the many battles that await. With a lengthy adventure ahead of you, there's also 60 Endless Domain's levels to conquer once you finish the main game. Hopefully it will ship across all areas on the 27th September

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ratalaika shows no Distraint with another Vita release

Psychological horror Distraint may look a bit cartoony, but it looks every bit as eerie and scary as Home and Uncanny Valley with sepia 2D visuals, haunting tunes and a disturbing story. As a Deluxe Edition, it comes with a revised interface, updated animation and audio on the Steam original.

The game offers a full dose of 2D psychological horror, developed by Jesse Makkonen, where you play an ambitious young man named Price. In order to secure a partner position within the famous company he works for, Price seizes the property of an elderly woman. In that very moment he finds out the price of his humanity. This is his story and the tale of his regrets...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vita sales lurk under 4K in Japan

Vita hardware sales are down just a few this week in Japan, at 3,913 according to Media Create data. How low can we go? Is the question on no one's mind, but these numbers have to have some impact and Sony and when it decides to kill off the Vita.

Even then, with decent levels of software support coming for at least another year. This week's new entry is the visual novel Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Syukufuku Wo aka KonoSuba from 5pb, based on the light novel series. This underwear stealing adventure sold exactly 7,000 copies to land just outside the top 10. The PS4 version sold just 44 copies more.

Down at the bottom of the top 20 Minecraft lingers on for Vita selling another near-3,000 copies! Out this week is Touhou Sky Arena from Mediascape, a girl-on-girl witchy flying combat game, which is unlikely to help sales of anything much.

New Tokyo Clanpool screens ahead of Japanese demo

Having just reviewed Mary Skelter, its kind of good to see the DRPG genre rolling on with Tokyo Clanpool. What's not so good is to see a complete lack of innovation in this latest Compile Heart game. Dress it up any way you like, it is still the same old format. Given Kadokawa's The Lost Child is heading west too, I guess this won't be far behind.

 That's to the extent that every DRPG now seems to have to have a boob rubbing fan service element (I've missed out that screenshot). Anyway, a Japanese demo is out on the 25th for those with JP PSN accounts, ahead of the full game release on October 5th.
 In the game, a top notch team of Japanese politicians of the “Cyber Tactics Cabinet,” - all girls, wade into battle against the latest demonic threat to menace Tokyo, an inverted tower city.

 While the interface screens have had some major work on them, the rest of the game is highly traditional DRPG territory. Check out the Japanese site here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares

Why can't Japanese developers put the basics in a manual? Why does the start of every RPG require half an hour of furiously tapping X for banal conversations with about 10 useful bits of information buried in the text, desperately wanting to just play the bloody game? (Yes, I know there's auto proceed and skip options, but they don't really solve the problem).

If you survive the mandatory preamble that litters the opening of Mary Skelter: Nightmares, then you have do indeed have a bloody (if pink) step-by-step role player to enjoy. Blood is at the heart of a collection of fairy tale characters dragged into a crazed sentient prison, with the surviving few trying to defeat the monsters that roam within. Blood powers their weapons, their transformations and you can lick your bleeding friends to gain health (yuk!)

The big eyes in the walls and giant clocks do sort of make sense for a nightmare prison, less so the comfy sofas. But, it soon becomes clear that the fairy tales are tied to the living prison, and as you clear Chapter 1, at least the pace picks up and the outbursts of chatter tail off.

In play, as in Compile Heart's Moero games, lone-boy Jack acts as a helper to the all-action girls. He feeds them supplies and health packs as they battle with swords, bows and playing cards, or use their range of elemental skill attacks against the demons. He must also keep them in check, as too much blood can trigger Hulk-like lady rampages that can rip your happy party to shreds.

Mixing saving the game using a Rabbit Hole pop-up tent with returns to base to stock up is always wise. That is, unless you find the wandering merchant, or benefit from one of the jail's regular bonus rounds. As you get going, there's a brisk pace with exploring, battling and scuttling away wounded.

As your party levels up, few beasts really pose a challenge until you get to the end of level Marchen guardian, when you suddenly find your health packs and attack skills are woefully inadequate. So, you'll need to grind, grind, grind a few levels to build up enough stamina. To make things worse, they can appear randomly and chase you to ensure you never really feel safe.

Jail House Rock

During this panicky run-around, you'll find the prison is also full of locked or sealed doors, gaps, holes you can't yet get over, cracks in the scenery and fences that you can tear through, or find a hidden switch to activate. Using the girls' blood abilities to overcome these obstacles, there's a fair bit of back and forth to explore all these nooks and crannies, but it adds to the fun and sense of completion.

At Dawn Base, a hero's retreat from the madness, you can go round the rooms and treat the girl's with gifts of interior decor pieces to boost your relationship with them. A laboratory allows party members to change jobs or boost the number of expansion slots, and muck around with their blood types. The Solar Order provide collecting missions, most of which you'll probably complete before you knew they existed, rendering these white-gowned loons rather pointless.
In Mary Skelter Nightmares, killer shoes are a feature
The Blood Weapon Factory can be used to modify blood attacks, all of which is just a complex way of upgrading weapons to take down the different types of demons that use the same old fire-water-earth-air weakness system. A store provides some basic essentials but is soon underpowered compared to what you need!

As a kind of mini-game, there's a rather tame touchscreen rub-the-lady feature to "purge" them of their impurities, likely an added extra inspired by Criminal Girls, but totally pointless and rather demeaning the game.

Deeper into jail

As you explore look out for Emotion Points, these help you get along with the prison, which has peculiar needs, but even this feature feels like a tacked on extra.

Getting deeper into the game and using the girl's job swap feature and their advanced skills, you can line up a formidable force to beat down the Marchens, but there's nowhere near enough coherent story or must-do-quests or side quests to really push you to the later stages beyond the Downtown and further.

While we await Demon Gaze II, Mark Skelter will do nicely, as its pretty much the same old experience. The enemy graphics have had a bit of a makeover, with 3D animations, but they still make little to no sense in the scheme of things. I suspect someone in Japan has a random-monster-create-o-meter for all these games!

The usual gripes also apply, why does every treasure chest hold some shitty bangle and not actual treasure, where's the variety of armour or special powers through unified kits? Can't the developers try anything in that direction?

Otherwise, the text UI takes too long, slows up play and is plain dumb. The game is also weighed down by too many systems, making it easy to miss something that could make your life a lot easier.

But, if you ignore the "Now that's what I call role playing 1997!" feel to it, Skelter a fun, slightly mad romp, that does little with the great history of the fairy tale characters it co-opts or goes far enough with the whole Nightmare motif!

Price: £39.99 Amazon UK, $39.99 Amazon US, PSN: TBC
More reviews
Score: 7/10
Dev: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Size: 3GB
Progress: Westside/eastside all the bloody same!