Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bonus Post: Jet Set Radio HD's Soundtrack Has Less Cuts

Despite previous claims of the remake of Jet Set Radio having just over half of the total tracks the comprised the different releases of the game, Sega has used the above video to assure us that the list isn't quite that short.  Featured is the remix of Dragula by Rob Zombie that was featured in the North American release of the game.  It's one of the more divisive tracks on the overall OST, but more importantly, it's one of the songs that wasn't listed in the original release of what songs would grace your speakers (or headphones) for the remake.  This means that, if there was a song you were absolutely hoping for that seemed like it didn't make the cut, have faith, for Sega might just be able to pull this one out.  Now, if only they could go back in time and expend this much effort for the Crazy Taxi remakes.

Side-note:  After watching a Let's Play of Jet Set Radio to get me in the mood for the game, I have to say that I am really grateful for the locked frame rate that the game seems to have from the trailers.  Also, I'm pretty sure it was said that it would be locked, but that's kind of the norm for the releases.  I don't know if it's just because the guy is playing on an emulator (while owning a copy of the game) or if the original version was so choppy, but it gets near -painful- to watch sometimes with how low the FPS dips.  No matter what the issue is, I'm assuming that it -won't- be an issue when I'm rockin' the game on my Vita.  Best not disappoint on that, Sega.

Update!:  So, for once, "Stay Tuned" meant "For just a little while" instead of a month or so, and it's since been revealed that Jet Set Radio will have "99.9%" of the original soundtrack of 30 tracks.  Only two are confirmed cut (Which means it's 93.3% but details) so that means most of the groovy memories will come back to you while playing the game on whatever console you desire.  I am going to post the full tracklist now, which I admit that I am stealing wholesale from Chance because, hey, he pointed it out to me. (Also go to this page if just to see the trailer there because I'm not embedding it too.)

By Hideki Naganuma (SEGA)
“Grace and Glory”
“Humming the Bassline”
“Let Mom Sleep”
“Moody’s Shuffle”
“Rock It On”
“Sweet Soul Brother”
“That’s Enough”

By Guitar Vader
“Super Brothers”
“Magical Girl”

By Deavid Soul
“Dunny Boy Williamson Show”
“Miller Ball Breakers”
“On the Bowl (A.Fargus Remix)”
“Up-Set Attack”

Also including such popular tracks as …
“Electric Tooth Brush” by Toronto
“Everybody Jump Around” by Richard Jacques
“OK House” by Idol Taxi
“Bout the City” by Reps
“Funky Radio” by B.B. Rights
“Mischievous Boy” by Castle Logical
“Yellow Bream” by F-Fields
“Just Got Wicked” by Cold
“Dragula” by Rob Zombie
“Slow” by Professional Murder Music
“Improvise” by Jurassic 5
“Patrol Knob” by Mixmaster Mike
“Recipe for the Perfect Afro” by Feature Cast
“Funky Plucker” by Semi Detached

Joystiq informs me that Deavid Soul's "Yappie Feet" and O.B. One's "Many Styles" are the two missing tracks from the soundtrack which is a shame.  I've heard "Deavid Soul" being tossed around a lot as one of the soundtrack highlights, so that one of his songs is off will likely be a little bit of a blow to the overall product.  Still, provided you have ways to get that song (legal ones, I'm watching you), you can likely play it while playing the game if you have the Vita version.  Or..the 360 version.  Maybe the PC version.  Not the PS3 version.  Sadface.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

E3 Rumor: Playstation Plus Vita Support Inbound

A fairly typical Plus month.

It's that magical time of the year just before the other magical time of the year - The E3 leaks.  (Of course, the other magical time being E3, I figured you all knew that and okay, shut up Mogs)  However, thus far, there hasn't been an actual whole lot that's rumored to appear or anything that', super big.  Even what I'm going to talk about tonight is less "big awesome surprising news" and more "Hey, -just- this side of being late-to-the-party", but it's welcomed and appreciated nonetheless.  And while a lot of us preface rumors with a whole lot of "Now, it's a rumor, so don't look into it too much", but just think about it like this:  When was the last time there was a reported rumor that didn't come true?  Even silly things like MercurySteam making a 2(.5)D Castlevania end up being true, so it's hard to -not- believe these things when you hear about them at face value.

Regardless, today's 'rumor' states that Playstation Plus is coming to Vita alongside a sort of revision of the service; an upgrade, really.  The upgrade is set to have 'top-tier titles' for subscribers (I...don't know what this means) as well as, obviously, exclusive updates for people who might just happen to be Vita-only subscribers.  This will likely mean one PS3 and one Vita game free per month, as well as some meted out discounted/free DLC among the two systems, ensuring each individual store gets roughly the same amount of content, so as to not show 'favoritism', considering Plus subscriber will mean just that, regardless of whether you're PS3-only, Vita-only or both.  I'm not too sure if they'll be able to integrate the Auto-Update thing into the Vita proper, but I imagine it'll get access to the Cloud Saves (which would be extra handy for it, considering some data is stored with the actual game data itself and is a hassle to back up by other means) on top of everything else.

Of course, I imagine this functionality will need a firmware update and this is just me speculating and is no way included in the rumor itself, but while they're updating the firmware.....I'm still hoping that PSOne functionality for the Vita is included.  Not even because I'm planning on using it, not even because I'm miffed that it's not in already (I'm not so much, though), and not even because I'm getting tired of seeing it whined about everywhere, but just because that would be a great fuckin' move.  There was a lot of shit-flipping when Nintendo announced that not only was the Wii going to support SD saves or whatever a few years back, but that it was going to support it right now because 'hey we just pushed out the firmware for it while I was speaking about it'.  People really like that sort of "I'm waving my hands and MAGIC happened!" effect, so long as it's not announcing a brand new console that is in stores this very moment, and for something big like that, it would be a big boon.

I've said it a few times, but it would make a lot of sense for their presser, especially with Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale being showed off since I imagine a lot of classic characters will be in the game.  Well, -games- because it's quite obvious that the game will see a Vita version, but that's neither here nor there.  Something like "since we're honoring characters that really built the Playstation brand, it's only fair that we allow everyone to see these Playstation Classics for themselves.  To that end, PSOne games are now available to be played on your Playstation Vita" or something like that.  A little more flowery or whatever, but I'm sure you get the angle that I'm suggesting the take on it.  It's a pretty standard one, really, but always a crowd-pleaser, especially if it would mean that people get to play their Final Fantasies and other RPGs and Tomba! games and whatnot on the go.  I admit, it's technically a little far-fetched to expect, so I'm not exactly expecting it, but if it happens, oh man, will I be bragging about it.  After all, I'm really just suggesting timing since PSOne Support is an inevitability, clearly being worked on in the months since the Vita saw release.

Still, no matter what does or doesn't get added to the Vita at E3, it -is- heavily suggested that you go ahead and dip into Playstation Plus, at least for E3 (which means grabbing a 3-month voucher as I plan to do) since there are some 'surprises' lined up for Plus members apparently.  From the head content manager for SCEE's PS Plus means that it will likely be a -thing-, and hopefully not exclusive to PAL.  (I really doubt it will be, of course)  Granted, they're supposed to hype this stuff up, but I imagine this is genuinely something pretty 'cool', so I'm going to go with it.  At the worst, I'll just open myself up to a few time-sensitive free games and discounts that might push me into grabbing some Playstation cash despite being low on the real thing.  At the best....well, who knows?  And that's part of the fun.  Only a few more days until we find out!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3DS Castlevania is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate

So, last week, we heard tell of a possible Castlevania game for the 3DS involving MercurySteam or possibly not, it was kind of sketchy and now, thanks to a reveal through Nintendo Power Magazine and sites covering it, of course we now know the full extent of the game's ambition.  And, boy is it ever ambitious.  Also potentially off-putting to everybody who might have been interested in the game for their own reasons, as the reality seems to be some weird sort of amalgam of everything that both rumors (which were the same rumors, technically) could have been.  But at the same time, I think that this could just in fact be a really neat thing for Castlevania fans out there.  Though, hey, there are clearly just people out there who are never happy with anything ever, so no real surprises when there's a sort of skepticism (at best) for the game already, despite it only having a little bit of info and a screenshot above.

The game, officially titled Castlevania:  Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, because bitches love subtitles, is a companion piece to Castlevania:  Lords of Shadow released 2010 on consoles and PC, as part of it takes place two and a half decades following Lords of Shadow.  Though, the direct connection, I'm not sure about since I never played LoS, and the posts only mention Trevor and Simon Belmont, but no Gabriel Belmont.  Of course, since some of the lovely commentors decided to spoil LoS possibly, I might have an inkling as to why (which, if that's the case, ugh), but regardless, that's not what I'm interested in.  What I -am- interested in is the fact that I said Trevor and Simon Belmont are both involved in MoF and are, in fact, both characters.  You see, Mirror of Fate is set to have -four- characters playable through the entire thing of it, of which the two Belmonts are the only announced characters.

Obviously, considering that the game is using both of those Belmonts at least, time travel is going to be an element of the game, but whether it's you as the player actually traveling through time, or just the story time-skipping for you between characters remains to be seen.  I imagine it will rely moreso on whom the last two characters in the game will be.  Of which they could literally be anyone, given the tenuous link here is "takes place in Dracula's castle" which is, in itself, a twisting nether of a labyrinth that seems to have a different layout every time it's summoned into existence for whatever reason.  Meaning, I assume, that -anyone- who's been in Dracula's castle at one point or another could potentially be a character in the game, as well as leaving the door open for yet more new ones for whatever reason.  Because the likes of Soma Cruz and witches and such just aren't enough, I guess.

So, in terms of how this matches up with the rumors, it's a pretty simple case.  MercurySteam was rumored to be attached and they are, lo and behold, thanks to the Lords of Shadow connection.  Despite that, the game was rumored to be 2D and, apparently, Mirror of Fate will be 2.5D as you can see above.  Perhaps more than just a new perspective on the camera as that looks, but not true 3D, nor not completely 2D.  Given that the game is focused on 'non-linear exploration', I would say that that qualifies it as a Metroidvania, so there's that as well, but I may just be wrong on that, of course.  And, of course, while I don't think this counts as -the- Lords of Shadow sequel, it certainly is -a- Lords of Shadow sequel, so there's that one as well.  Blam, blam, blam, what was the possibility of two rumors is neatly folded into one complete rumor that was proved to be an actual thing, which is....a little surprising, I must say.  I imagine we'll see the game in motion at E3 and might even possibly see the new characters for it.

For my part, I'm kind of lukewarm to the news, but considering that's the high-end of what I could be for it, I'd say that's good.  If the game had ended up being a 3D Castlevania game on the 3DS, I wouldn't have been interested at all (considering the N64 ports on the 3DS, Castlevania 64 would be fresh on my mind and...eurgh, that game...) and might have in fact been anti-interested, but a Metroidvania game (which this more or less -is-, damn the extra ambition to it) certainly wouldn't light a fire under my backside for a 3DS anymore than anything else would.  The fact of the matter is that I'm unfortunately just resigned to getting a 3DS at some point, as I'm sure we all are, so this will likely be a game I pick up when I finally take that plunge.  But it's not, nor could it be, a system seller for me, no matter how it turns out.  Of course, I am in the minority here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Thoughts: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale Line-Up

Now that we know that the game is officially a thing, but it lacks a roster to look at just yet (likely an E3 reveal), it gives us all an opportunity to have mini-arguments about who should be in the game and why.  And there's obvious characters out there that will be in the game, even if it's just a rumor at this point (Cole, Drake and Snake, looking at you three) which we don't even need to talk about.  But without knowing just how big the official roster (minus DLC) will be, that gives us quite the bit of space to work with in terms of just who and how many people will make it in.  Clearly, I like to make baseless, terrible predictions about things, so you know I'm going to get in on this, and I hope I don't whiff too many of the ideas here, though I admit openly that some of them are going to be more "Wouldn't it be cool" versus "What I actually think".

Who:  Crash Bandicoot
Why:  He's friggin' Crash Bandicoot.  Many a person's first experience with a Playstation console, and, for a time, one of the 'Unofficial' Playstation Mascots.
Now, I know I just said I didn't want to go with the obvious characters but, unfortunately, Crash might not be as obvious (or possible) a choice as you might think.  As many of us remember, Crash started out as a game brought to us all by Naughty Dog (who remains as a second-party studio to Sony to this day) and saw four titles released under their guidance (the three main Crash entries and Crash Team Racing) before the series went off to other companies and eventually other platforms such as the original XBox and GameBoy Advance and the DS.  Despite that, I imagine that Crash is a character that is still solidly associated with Sony Consoles, which would make him a good choice.  To that end, I would like to remind everyone of the commercials that featured Crash in that sort of Playstation Vs. Nintendo spot at the very least, which I'm sure a lot of us remember, if we haven't been pointed in that direction before.  As an added bonus, looking over the summary on Wikipedia leads me to think that Activision might have the IP rights who, as we all know, also have another series that could do to see an inclusion in the All-Stars.

As for his fighting style, being that my knowledge of Crash limited and vague, I'm not too sure on just what he'd be like.  Punches and kicks as standards, maybe a fruit-throwing move to give him some range, and a headstomp as an aerial attack.  Of course, I think that the movesets will be more focused towards what finishers and/or specials they have than anything else.  To that end, a callback to Crash Team Racing is a must, where he hops into a rally car and, well, drives around, taking out anyone in his way.  Everything else could be something of a wash, so long as he has that friggin' car to drive over some people, especially since I do believe that Crash Team Racing is quite highly regarded by racing and Crash fans alike.  Even going so far as to be the better Kart Racing game even when put up against Mario Kart, though I'm not sure just how much actual competition is there.

Who:  Cloud Strife
Why:  Because Squeenix sells, especially anything with a connection to Final Fantasy VII.  On top of that, you'll find a lot of people who got into RPGs out there specifically because of the game, which likely makes it one of Squeenix's most popular commodities.

Taking advantage of the fact that Third-Party characters have been confirmed to be in the game, this is the one I'm throwing down as a 'should' if not necessarily one that I think will be in.  There's no real two ways about it:  Final Fantasy VII and the Playstation 1 as a result of that was a massive success, and despite there being a PC port of the game (Yeah, you might not have known that.  I have a copy....somewhere.) many still think of it as a Playstation-exclusive game.  It helps that, from Seven to Twelve, the Final Fantasy series was pretty much Playstation-exclusive and even still leans more towards the Playstation brand while throwing ports here and there at the DS and GBA.  Cloud, I think, would be a big boon for the roster of the game, which is my primary reason for the suggestion, as I know his inclusion alone would put the game on a lot of radars.  Though, even if not specifically Cloud, I'll be surprised if there's not a presence from Squeenix at all; that being said, my second guess here would be Tidus from Final Fantasy X which was, as we know, the first FF game to come on the PS2, insanely popular (sales-wise), and is the only Final Fantasy game that is getting a PS3/Vita Port.

Cloud's (or Tidus', depending on who they go with) movelist would be, likely, the easiest one to make out of many of the possible entries, considering that fighting is kinda what he does.  As well as the whole Dissidia thing, which, while they wouldn't directly take that move-list, there's a good chance you'll see a lot of influence from it.  The Special Attacks are similarly easy as they could just be Limit Breaks corresponding to the levels that exist.  Omnislash (or the upgraded version) would be the Level 3, whereas Level 1 one could be Braver and Level 2 could be any of the Level 2 or 3 Limit Breaks like Blade Beam or Finishing Touch.  I mean, it pretty much writes itself here, so if nothing else, it would be incredibly easy.  Also flashy, which helps the game's overall look as well, being that they're really going for the flashy aspect.

Who:  Alucard
Why:  Because of a little game called Castlevania:  Symphony of the Night that saw a whole lot of success on the PSOne.

This one......okay, this one is a bit of a reach, admittedly.  Maybe even a -lot- of a reach, but, like Cloud, I imagine Alucard's inclusion in the game would be a big boon to it, even if he's not the most noted character.  That my only real reasoning is because of Symphony of the Night on PSOne (later on, having been redone in the Dracula X Chronicles for PSP, also known as "The game where you have to play that other Castlevania game to get SotN") and its cult-hit popularity is a bit telling, and while I'm not an uber-fan of the game, a lot of people -are-.  Which means that you cannot tell me that you don't know anybody whose ears wouldn't perk up at the mention of Alucard being included in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale.  He even fits the general bill of inclusion, what with being an "All-Star" that happened to be featured in a "Playstation" game that was, as a bonus, incredibly popular.  Stranger things have happened, after all!

Similar to Cloud, I imagine Alucard's moveset wouldn't be all that difficult to imagine and implement, though it might end up a little 'strange' if it goes as I imagine.  Considering the wealth of weapons that appear in Symphony of the Night that Alucard wields, different attacks could simply be attached to the more-known ones there, as well as some of his latent son-of-Dracula powers, like the whole Fireball thing.  Then again, those powers might be better served for the specials, depending on just which ones they're anticipating on using.  Being that I don't think Alucard got to make use of Item Crashes, that leaves that out technically, but who knows.  Even outside of that, the special moves don't necessarily need to be actually from the game in which the character is possible, so long as it's something the character would obviously be able to use in certain situations where a lot of power is needed.  Regardless, I don't think there's a lot of "Gee, what can he do" when it comes to Alucard, were he to be in the game.

Obviously, these are just my predictions, and I admit that I did try and go for the more "Hmm" choices (Crash aside) rather than the obvious.  I might do another post about the more obvious choices (as in, things that use First or Second Party Characters), but for now, this is good.  Seeing as we're this close to E3 without some good leaks, it might be a slow news week anyways, and whether I get Resistance:  Burning Skies tomorrow or not is not a guarantee.  Though I will be getting the Gravity Rush demo and will have likely played it at least twice over by the time I sit down for a post.  Hmm.  I guess we'll see!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unfortunate Downtime with Dynasty Warriors Next

So, if there was one thing that I expected with 2012, it was certainly not having a period of downtime in terms of gaming, yet since I beat Trails in the Sky, that is precisely what I've found myself in.  This is only because I can't/won't play my PS3, of course, since my backlog mostly exists there and the damned heat of the Spring/Summer prevents me from taking a shot at it, and I don't have a lot of Digital Copies of PSP games and the one that I do that I would be playing (Phantasy Star Portable 2) doesn't work (goddamnit, Sega).  So I'm stuck with the PSP games I do have digital copies of (Persona 3 Portable, Final Fantasy Tactics:  War of the Lions and, of course, Legend of Heroes:  Trails in the Sky), and my two (three) Vita games.  I have no reason to throw Uncharted:  Golden Abyss back into the Vita, and minutes with MotorStorm RC shaved entire months off of my overall lifespan, so that leaves the last choice with.....Dynasty Warriors Next.


I have a very love/hate relationship with the game as you might be able to figure out, even if you haven't read the many many posts I've written about it, but considering I have $3.07 to my Playstation Wallet and the money in my actual wallet committed elsewhere, meaning no way to any other games, I'm pretty much stuck with it until Tuesday.  At that point, I'll get Resistance:  Burning Skies that will likely have bullshit Multiplayer trophies that will keep me quite busy until the next thing that I want comes out, namely Gravity Rush.  (By the by, we're getting the Gravity Rush demo this week as well.  Eeeeeee~)  And so on and so on - Hopefully in the break between Gravity Rush and LittleBigPlanet (or, with any luck, the Beta for it) I'll get access to a little more cash to throw down on another PSP RPG or something that will be a good time-user (not waster) so that I won't have to worry about this whatsoever.  Because falling back on Dynasty Warriors Next is less than optimal as you might guess from my previous rantings.

The only reason that I'm not done with Next is the fact that it takes 54-78 hours for a few of the trophies meaning that it's a semi-endless grind.  Having that means that it's 'convenient' as a game to pick up every now and then for a few hours of gameplay that ends up with minimal progress.  A second Officer card or two, some weapons, a few sworn/spouse relationships, yet when it's held up against the great wall of necessary progress, it's almost infinitesimal.  And of course, with forced duels in every single map you play, any fun that could be derived from the actual playing of the game is drained rapidly, leaving you with a husk that used to be fun and almost makes you realize just why the series is despised by game reviewers.  Almost.  Of course, their reasons are not these and merely cosmetic at best, so all you share is a dislike for the game, despite the wildly different approaches for it.

Regardless, seeing as there's not enough time to pitch back into Persona 3 Portable or mayhaps even a Trails in the Sky NG+, yet there's too much time between now and Burning Skies, I find myself at quite the impasse.  Given how many times I've come back around to saying this, I imagine you can understand the frustration that this is a game in a series that I enjoy, not to mention a portable version of it that I can technically enjoy, and yet in playing it, I simply....don't.  In what was originally just a minor annoyance, the Dueling system has evolved into something that truly makes me loathe the play the game, when if it was not there, I would merely resent the style in which I have to play to ensure that I get the most 'bang' from my playthrough 'buck' as it were.  Barring the other unfortunate side-effect of the randomizer in Force Numbering on top of the Dueling, the game would be enjoyable to start and devolve into merely 'playable' for the last bit of the grind, yet those two items make it a chore, and one that I don't want to invest my time with, honestly.

Regardless, when the game isn't sucking my soul out painfully, I am happy to say that I am still making progress with it in the only way that's completely possible.  After wrestling with the way Second Officer Cards work (which is...uh....not at all like it should be.  You'd think that having one person in play means they can only show up as their alternate, but apparently you can have three of one person on a board at the same time as I did with Wang Yuanji) I got about four or five plays in before I just became bothered with it, leading me to turn it off.  Those plays meant that I filled out a few weapon slots, I got Wang Yuanji's Second (and only her; this is so much more of a pain than it has any right to be) and formed a handful of new bonds.  Actually, I learned something on that front as well:  Using Daqiao as a ruler for a handful of female sworn officer bonds, I discovered that it is actually impossible to form a Sworn Sibling oath with her sister, Xiaoqiao.  This is a level of detail that is all at once astounding and terrible, as it makes -far- too much sense and actively impeded progress for me earlier.  Of course, this will not be an error I will make again in the day or so left I'll spend with the game.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Zone of the Enders 3 Is a Thing In Development

Now, while it might not officially be called Zone of the Enders 3, as ZoE 2 was simply called Zone of the Enders:  Second Runner, the game that is in development is likely a third game in the main ZoE series.  Well, okay not -likely-, as the above image of the newly re-designed Jehuty means definitely and I just....I couldn't be happier about it.  I contemplated actually writing about it yesterday because that's when the news of it broke, but I held off because I imagined that something like this was outside of the realm of possibility, an impossibility if you will, and figured that it would come out that this is all just for something else, but nothing of the sort has been mentioned and in fact it just looks more and more like a reality.  Just the way the situation unfolded seems like one of those things you talk about with your buddies and say "Wouldn't it be cool if" and then talk about how a company, in anticipation for something, announces something related to it to build off the hype because it actually makes sense.  Yet it never happens.  Except, well, this time it did.

As it's simply an announcement of development being started, there is practically zero information about it, but at this stage, the fact that it exists is quite enough for now.  Semi-officially, the game is being called simply the "Enders Project" for now and whether that will end up being the game's subtitle or have nothing at all to do with what the game is called (aside from having Enders in it) is up in the air because of the lack of outside information.  That means platforms, time-frames, setting, all of that is just non-existant at this point, which makes it hard to write down anything other than "Eeeeeeeeeee!" and other such exclamations of excitement.  On the other hand, I don't want to just bullet-point the two pieces of information on the game and then run off, since that just won't do.

They did state that the game might potentially be developed using the Fox Engine which does mean a few things as a base, of course.  First off, I would suggest that this is your first reason (if you didn't have one already) to be excited for the next round of consoles (that likely won't come out til 2014, not counting the WiiU) since the Fox Engine has been stated as a 'High-spec' engine, which cuts a few things out right off, like the 3DS and the Wii if not more.  Considering that the game was just officially announced as being a thing and thus will likely be in development for a few years, I wouldn't expect it on the PS3 or 360 since those consoles aren't likely to be kicking around for -that- much longer.  Second off, that sort of explains the above picture of a sculpted model of a Jehuty with a slightly new look to him.  For the Fox Engine (not specific to all projects, but at least with this one) they're making models of the Mechs used to be scanned in as a base to work off of for the animation and modeling.  Which is just....-awesome-.

That's pretty much the entire gist of it, unfortunately.  "Enders Project" is a Zone of the Enders project that features Jehuty and is almost definitely a third game in the proper Zone of the Enders series.  (We don't count Fist of Mars)  It's almost certainly going to use the Fox Engine (slight editorial on my part, but -come on-) and as a first step towards that, they're crafting models of the Mechs to be scanned in so they can be worked with in-engine.  With all the foresight in the world, they decided to announce this right alongside a release window of "Fall" for the Zone of the Enders HD Collection (for the Consoles, at least, apparently the Vita version might not be same-day unfortunately) and now I'm just looking forward to getting my hands on the Vita version (sometime) and playing the hell out of it whilst I wait for more information on all this.

Of course, since Kojima seems in the mood to make dreams come true, I'm just going to float the idea of Metal Gear Ac!d 3 on the Vita (or digital versions of 1 and 2 or an updated twin-pack or -something-) and doing something video game related with Snatcher.  You know.  Just leaving those two things on the table here, feel free to do whatever you want with them, Kojima.

Just sayin'.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jet Set Radio Set to Groove on the Vita

Ever since its announcement, Jet Set Radio [HD] (I guess they're not saying HD anymore, despite being HD) for PSN, XBLA and PC has been quite the thing to anticipate as it was one of those dreadfully missing gems from the previous batch of Dreamcast games that were ported to the above systems.  And I, in my deepest hopes, timidly imagined a day where I might experience Dreamcast games on my Vita beyond PSP ports of games (If I wanted to buy Crazy Taxi that way, for instance), though didn't expect it to materialize for a while yet.  But, to my great surprise, that day is going to come sooner than expected, specifically sometime this Summer, when Jet Set Radio releases for the Vita alongside the other versions of the game.  Despite my hopes, I can honestly say that this is something that surprised me completely, and when I saw it in my LiveTweet updates, I didn't know what to think.  Of course, that got straightened out really quickly, as what I need to think about is simple:  How to fit this game into my schedule and how awesome it's going to be that I'll get to play it.

I don't recall much of my time spent with Jet Set Radio back in the day when I played it on my Dreamcast (which I still own both the game and console), but I chalk that up to not being very good at it, meaning that I didn't play it quite so much.  I attribute that mostly to me just being not that great back then, or at least not willing to exert a little bit more in an attempt to really crack into a game to find the creamy goodness that is fun within.  Especially during that era as, and I shit you not on this, I almost passed on Skies of Arcadia because the first boss kicked my ass because I wasn't even really trying.  I bought it, played to that minimal point, lost and promptly threw in something else.  When talking about it with a friend of mine later, I told him about that, to which he lost his shit.  "Go play that game right now, goddamnit." he said and reluctantly, I complied and went on to enjoy the experience of one of my favorite RPGs to date.  (Make no mistake, I don't mean to throw that title around, even though it might seem it what with the Trails in the Sky review last night and now this.)

There's not a whole lot of information about the game that's available at the moment beyond the already announced fact that the soundtracks won't be completely untouched from their original releases (licensing issues, unfortunately, meaning some tracks will be cut), and that the Vita version will include some features for the cameras and touch screen.  The latter of which will most likely, if not assuredly, be implemented into the Tagging, whether it's for the actual -doing-, the customization (if you'll be able to do that) or both, making it just a touch (ha!) different from its console counterparts, but not terribly so.  I imagine that it might also see something similar to Sly Cooper:  Thieves in Time, framerate-wise; as in if the Console versions run at 60 fps, we can likely expect the Vita version to run at 30, though I hope this isn't the case.  Still, I don't think I notice the jump from 30 to 60 and so long as it's locked, I can't say I'll care too much.  It's when framerate starts to dip and fluctuate that it bothers me, as I imagine is the case among many.

With the official announcement and reveal of the title for the Vita, as well as an affirmation of my hopes, I can't help but let that flourish and now expect more.  Why should/would it stop with just Jet Set Radio?  Should we expect that the rest of this next batch of Dreamcast games will see Vita versions in the line-up alongside the console ones?  What of the games that are already out like Sonic Adventure (one would expect Sonic Adventure 2 is part of this second batch, so to get the second before the first would be....strange) and Crazy Taxi?  Maybe after this batch fills/pushes out, we can expect some late-to-the-party releases of the four games already out, though I certainly wouldn't be too fussed if we just saw Sonic Adventure on the portable from the first batch.  Now, with this second batch rumored to include Shenmue 1 and 2 and Skies of Arcadia.....yeah.  I'm waiting for it.  I'm expecting it.  Don't disappoint me, Sega, even though you're oh so good at it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review - Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

In the current state of gaming, there's not a whole lot of Classic RPG action to be had unless you look towards the portable systems and even then the pickings are fairly slim.  In many ways, I imagine we can all blame this on how RPGs became the 'cool' thing to make for a while there after the successes of Squeenix (then Squaresoft) and other such well-known RPG makers which ended, as it always does, with an entire cadre of games that not only miss the point of being an RPG in some fashion (poor story, poor gameplay, etc), but sour entire chunks of gamers to the genre itself.  Combine that with the fact that some of the fore-front of RPG Makers lost sight of how to make a good one (debatable of course, but the idea that Squeenix is not the Square of old is a popular one, likely with good reason) and it's easy to see why it's a rather neglected caste of gaming.

It's not until a game comes around that is so undeniably good at defining what the genre is and what it can be that you get people reinvigorated, people that are now hungry for this, as they have tasted of the fine cuisine and look towards the rest of the banquet for more.  For some, the game that did that was the punishing but lovable Persona 3, whose care for not only its own story, but for its characters, soundtrack and gameplay elevated it from something standard to something great.  For others it was a game that likely started this hunger rather than reignited it like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VII, whose mastery of the essential RPG make-up served as the best intro to RPGs that one could hope for.  And I guarantee to you with full weight and understanding of what this means to say that, for some people out there, one of these such games was Legend of Heroes:  Trails in the Sky.

When Trails in the Sky was heavily recommended by fellow Vita owners over at Penny Arcade for people looking to delve into the PSP back-library, I took a look at the $20 pricetag and said "Well, there's other stuff that I should buy first, but this game will actually be new to me.  It's been a while since I've really played a -new- RPG" and promptly slapped down my purchase of it alongside Persona 3 Portable and Final Fantasy Tactics:  War of the Lions.  (At least, I think I bought them all at the same time, but downloaded them at different intervals, it doesn't matter much though.)  As faithful readers of the blog know, I crawled, ran, jumped and powered my way through Persona 3 Portable, clawing and scraping at its precipice before pulling myself up and over it, having finally conquered the challenge that was playing and beating the game.  Satisfied with this victory, I decided that it was finally time, in this interim before Resistance:  Burning Skies is released, to play Trails in the Sky as I was still rather in an RPG-playing mood.

I was greeted by a game that simply oozed charm with its engaging characters of Estelle and Joshua Bright (related by semi-adoption) as well as their father, Cassius, who was what they aspired to be:  A Bracer.  In the world of Trails in the Sky, a Bracer is, essentially, a person who mediates problems, whether they be big or small, who is then compensated fairly for the task.  In simpler terms, they are Adventurers who are tasked by the citizens (through the Bracers Guild) to do whatever they desire for them.  From looking for a specific mushroom in a monster-infested forest to exterminating rather large and unique monsters near cities to investigating the disappearance of an heirloom, Bracers do it all, meaning their skills cannot simply be focused in combat.  To that end, Cassius is a full-fledged Bracer and, from what the intro makes it out as, a rather important one as well, where Estelle and Joshua are only now able to begin to qualify as Junior Bracers or, put simply, Apprentices.

Without getting into it too much, the distinction between Junior Bracers and regular Bracers is not only in the type of jobs they're able to take, but just -where- they can take said jobs.  To qualify as a Full Bracer, one has to work in every main branch of the Bracers Guild long and hard enough to receive a Recommendation of Full-Fledged Status.  Five of those later, and you're qualified to then take on jobs from any branch, which said jobs will also entail more and more danger, relying on your heightened level of skill to surmount.  Being that a main plot element of the game is that Estelle and Joshua are Junior Bracers on their path to be Full Bracers, I felt it was important enough to detail a little.  Aside from that, I just think it's a really neat little idea that, while not ground-breaking, manages to push the story along in a way that isn't contrived as well as have an impact on actual elements of the story.

Like the rest of the game, the Bracers Guild is alive, is vibrant and detailed enough that it feels like something that is very natural, something that frames the game well, and, most importantly, the Guild is not loved by one and all.  I find that if you have something that the main character is a part of that the rest of the game world either A.) Doesn't know anything about it or B.) Unconditionally adores and/or relies on, it starts to lose some of its luster as it just doesn't seem like a reality.  Regardless of how petty the reason is, you're likely to have some detractors no matter what you do, or even something of a rival organization that shows up.  And, indeed, a rival to the Bracers Guild is mentioned, but the full impact of it, I'm not about to even begin to spoil because that's something you just have to play the game for.

My point with talking about the Guild was to say that it feels well-established, and nicely thought-out, much like the characters of the game.  I credit it to any game that manages to make their characters feel like people since, well, so many games don't accomplish this, falling either to making them stereotypes or tropes or, in the case of several RPGs, simple plot points or exposition machines.  It should be a basic requirement for anyone wanting to make a game, especially an RPG, that they can make real, tangible people cast as the characters, but it's such a rarity that it's a little unfortunate, yet telling of the situation RPGs are in, as explained above.  Still, the degree to which Trails in the Sky manages would be lauded even in better conditions, as I find myself feeling genuine things for the characters, despite only being in contact with some of them for short stints.

Particularly wonderful in this is our main character Estelle who I think is a prime example of a properly done RPG main character, in all honesty.  What makes Estelle a great Main Character is the fact that she doesn't know everything, but she's not so clueless that everyone has to rather clumsily explain every little thing that a denizen of the world would likely know even if they lived under a rock.  It's played off by her ditziness, her inability to pay attention to most things that aren't fights and simply her personality, but she offers a way for the player to be informed of things in a very natural and well-reasoned way.  She's not about to pull out some random fact about this town or that statue, because you don't know about it, because she doesn't know about it, which is mostly because of her naps during school and lectures and the like.  For random trivia and a wellspring of knowledge, we have Joshua who is presented as a character that just knows something about everything, making it, again, natural and well-reasoned.

Something I have been, and will continue to try to hammer in, is the amount of charm, care and detail that's been put into the game, which is something that you pretty much have to experience first hand.  I mean, I can tell you about how the dialogue is engaging and entertaining, sometimes outright funny, making every conversation enjoyable.  Or I can tell you that the amount of "This chest is empty" lines that are in the game is staggering, to the point where I honestly thought that every single chest had its own unique empty message until about the halfway point where I finally found a repeat.  I could go on about how the sprite work and animation is rather lovely to watch and seeing the details incorporated in certain moments is almost amazing, but really, you just need to play the game to understand.

Something that I can apparently go on and on about, however, is the mechanics of the game which are not entirely divorced of the charm that permeates the rest of the game pleasantly.  I don't think I need to elaborate on the Cooking System anymore, of course, except to say that of course right after I figured out that trick about the Apple Ice Cream, money no longer became an issue.  Of course.  Regardless, that little exploit about the system isn't wholly unrealistic, at least not too egregiously, so it's not even like it's poorly thought out or anything, it's just supply, demand, and markets.  I would like to reiterate that it was a pretty fantastic idea for making sure you could keep your team well-supplied and in good health without relying on just buying the equivalent of potions here and there.  If you want to be purely technical or, well, just a purist, there's really no reason -to- touch Cooking, provided you can get the cash for regular healing items, but the option is good enough that it doesn't feel tacked on or anything, nor does it overshadow regular items.

Another nice little mechanical facet of the game is the Quartz system which is what is in place for all your Magic needs.  It works in a way that is not wholly different from the Materia system in Final Fantasy 7 in that you equip a piece of Quartz (that may or may not be an orb ala materia) to your Orbment to be able to cast spells of its elemental type.  Red/Ruby Quartz will allow Fire-based magic and Strength buffs, Green/Emerald Quartz is for Wind-based magic and Agility buffs, etc. etc.  The types are Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Black, Gold and Silver, where the former four are the elements, Black is time, Gold is mostly support (Move bonuses, Cuts EP needed to cast Arts, etc.) and Silver is a different kind of support, mainly covering how visible you are to enemies on the map and such things.  They all have their own elemental values so you won't lose out on potential spells if you throw down a couple Silvers or Golds, either.  The Quartz themselves also offer buffs for simply equipping them, meaning that the system can be as deep as you desire.

One of the mechanics that I am unfortunately not in love with is, and this is kind of a big deal, the battle system.  Of course, it's not at all that I dislike the battle system, as I like it, but it definitely has a few things in it that just make me want to poke it because it feels like they're sticking out unnaturally.  The main thing being the Tactics-lite movement system that is incorporated into the battle system as a base mechanic.  I say Tactics-lite because when you go to move somewhere (whether it be to attack or just use the 'move' command), your available range shows up as a grid, showing the furthest points available, ala tactics game.  Unfortunately, it's a bit superfluous for attacking as, unless you've really messed about with your battle formation and such, you're pretty much -always- going to be within walking range of an enemy and vice versa, meaning that moving outside of range is something that doesn't always work.

What's worse is that the "Move" command is, in all but the slimmest of scenarios, absolutely worthless since Moving takes your entire turn while not offering extended movement range or anything.  Its only use is for moving out of the way of Arts that are charging up and can be move out of range for, which is half of them at most.  Arts that set area limits (without targeting a character) or use a straight line as a guide, these are the only Arts that can simply be sidestepped rather than the ones that just need to be stopped through the use of Impede, be it from an innate Quartz or a Craft (special attack) that specifically says it has Impede as a side-effect.  Or you could just kill the enemy before it fires off, of course, since the action list on the left side gives you a good gauge of what happens when, being its only job and all.

Well, not its -only- job and I have to applaud this part of the battle system at the very least.  As you might notice in the above picture, there are little icons next to the portraits in the List, and these represent different bonuses that the person or monster in that slot will receive at the start of their turn.  Much like Final Fantasy X, the list order can be played around with through the use of speeding up and slowing down fighters (friend or foe) to ensure that your team gets the bonuses whenever possible, adding a nice layer of strategy to the battles.  Also useful in this venture is the S-Break system which, as you might imagine, sort of mimics the Limit Break system and other variants on that.  After attacking and being hit, your Craft Points accumulate and you can use these for Crafts (attacks and support things, mostly) or, if it hits 100, you can use an S-Break that can be activated at anytime, effectively 'stealing' a place in the action list.  Particularly useful utilization of this is activating one when it will coincide with a Critical or Strength Up bonus.

Regardless of my gripes, limited as they may be, about the Battle System, they're pretty much the only real cons I can attach to the game.  The rest of it is solid and then some, taking something that's good and elevating it to something great just as simply.  I think, if anything, that's the real strength of Trails in the Sky:  It doesn't do anything really outlandish, deciding on sticking to the basics and ensuring they're used to their fullest extent for quality.  It's not going to blow you away until you realize that it's simplicity, its willingness to not try to 'innovate' everything and instead work on what works to its fullest potential, is what should blow you away.  I could harken it to Chrono Trigger in this aspect, which is a tall comparison, simply because its simplicity allows it to truly shine as something truly great.  It's for that reason that I opened this review by stating that it is likely someone's "This game made RPGs good for me [again]" game.  And it's for that reason that I'm basically frothing at the mouth for the next game in the series, because I want it now.

The Good
  • The characters are well-defined and crafted with care, definitely filling their own roles without being tropes
  • The story is elegant and simple, yet offers enough mystery and intrigue to keep you interested until the end
  • The Cooking System is a welcome addition to "Ways your characters can heal", as it provides something cheap and non-standard (as well as a cashflow that won't stop)
  • The Quartz System for Arts allows for simplicity or depth, depending on whether you balance "Who has what Spells" versus "What buffs/bonuses can I give to these characters"
  • The world feels alive, and has its own nicely established lore that isn't clunkily handed to you in lectures
  • It's honestly just so charming and old-school that it'll harken back to the "Good Days" of RPGs
  • That Ending
  • Estelle is a fantastic main character
 The Bad
  • The Music in the game is nothing to write home about
  • Monsters don't drop Mira (money), so you can't effectively farm cash (outside of abusing the cooking system)
  • The Difficulty curve gets a -little- off-kilter at parts, but not dramatically so
  • The Movement part of the Battle system is useless and drags the whole thing down some
  • By design, it's actually sort of linear in that, once you leave a city (in the main story), you generally can't go back for some time
  • I don't have the next friggin' game in the series
Mogs Says
Look, I'm going to lay it on you really simply here.  Look on the Playstation Store on your PSP or Vita.  Find out how much the game is.  ($20 for North America)  Procure that amount in Playstation Cash and buy it.  That is, of course, if you have -any- interest in RPGs whatsoever, and aren't put off by a "Simplicity is best" system, since it's not going to introduce Squeenix levels of complexity at any point in the game.  This is a heavy recommendation from me because the game has more than wormed its way into my heart which is rapidly growing by the years to have more and more spots for "My Favorite Games", which honestly sort of surprises me.  I enjoyed the game that much.

Bonus Post - Helloween4545 Reviews Nier

Now, I realize this is pretty different, even for me if just for the fact that there is not a post before this one today, meaning that it is not quite a Bonus Post, but there is a reason.  Well, two reasons, actually, but the big one is going to be pretty obvious if you're a faithful reader of this blog.  Before that, though, I just wanted to say that the reason this is a Bonus Post is because I'm writing it to get it posted up before the review of Trails in the Sky that will also be going up tonight, hence the second post.  I want this first because, quite simply, I want my review to be the top post for at least a night, since I don't know how many casual browsers just check the first post and then move on.  I would suggest that it is a number that is more than one, however, and while this post is important to me, clearly, a review that I'm going to spend hours poring over whilst writing it gets higher billing than a post that will, in the end, take me about twenty minutes to write.

This isn't the first time I've talked about Helloween4545, nor will it be the last, I'm sure.  As I've mentioned, he's a fairly well-known horror-centric 'Let's Play'er and is rather funny and good at what he does.  And it just so happens that he is a man of good taste as well, as, not only has he been A-Ranking Valkyria Chronicles missions on his newly-bought (well, refurbished, YLOD got his first) PS3, but he just so happens to be a fellow enthusiast of a little game called "Nier" which as you know, is kind of one of my favorite games ever.  I've only prattled on and on about Nier and Drakengard (the first, with which Nier shares a bit of connection with) for countless posts including three posts dedicated specifically to tracks off of the OST (which is still fantastic, by the way), so yes, it is kind of obvious, and I make no motion to hide it or anything because, well, why would I?

Anyways, lately Helloween has taken to trying his hand at video reviews of games that he's either LPed already or, well, just games that he knows of in some way, enjoys, dislikes, what have you.  They're reviews, so, that pretty much tells you what you need to know.  Having just finished his Let's Play of Cry of Fear, a Half-Life mod (which, despite its many, man flaws, is a pretty comprehensive mod), he put out a call on his Twitter for game suggestions for review, to which I sort of jumped on.  He was pretty receptive and we chatted about it a bit before it was pretty much just set in stone that he was going to do up a little something for Nier.  Now, I'm not so egotistical to think that I had anything to do with his decision to do that (since he pretty much said he's wanted to do something like it for a while), but I do find it rather cool that I talked about it with him and, well, it happened.  (I'm being link-crazy tonight I realize, sorry about that)  Because it -is- pretty cool.

Unfortunately, Nier is a hard game to try and review because, as I've elaborated on several times here, there's just so much stuff that would actually spoil something about the game or the story, that it's worth it to try and dance around that.  Because the story in Nier is absolutely fantastic and definitely worth experiencing first-hand whenever possible.  However, that's not an option for everyone of course and while a Let's Play would be the next best thing, we can't really expect one from Helloween anytime soon as he simply doesn't have the hardware to capture Console video reliably.  At the same time, because it is honestly part JRPG, it would be a really hard game to LP (not to mention some of the parts in the game are....different.  Incredibly so.), but as a labor of love, it would be something to watch.  Maybe some day he'll get the shot at it, but only time will tell.

I strongly recommend that you watch the review/gushing (Yes, I'm linking it twice) because it is really enjoyable to listen to and Helloween does a good job of trying to skirt around the spoilers and the landmines thereof while broadcasting why the game is worth your time.  Because it certainly is, we are in major agreement of that.  Regardless, I strongly recommend watching any Helloween videos if you're a fan of Let's Plays as he produces some professional, quality ones while also managing to fumble around in the games like only a person playing the game blind can.  It's part of the charm of the whole set-up, however, and some of the games he plays are likely better experienced second-hand, rather than first since....well, not all Horror games are well known for their stellar controls after all.  So go on, watch the review if you haven't already, and if you like it, grab a snack and kick back with one of the playlists for his other LPs.  Particularly the ones of Dead Space and Dead Space 2 might interest some of you out there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

First Information on Yakuza 5

So, you might know that I kinda sorta like the Yakuza series, so when any information comes out for games in the series, I generally, you know, just take them in stride and certainly don't jump on them with teeth gnashing as a rabid dog with a meal before him.  Certainly not.  Silliness aside, you know that I'm kidding and that as soon as I saw that there were tidbits of Yakuza 5 info out there, I knew what I was writing about tonight and there's no way to mince words about it.  This is, to be frank, my turf, so let's just get what's known covered so I can go on being relentlessly excited for it, yes?  In all reality, there's not a whole lot to talk about, but there's enough that I can extrapolate pretty well on it, being a long-time fan and enthusiast of the series that I am.  Also being totally long-winded.

So first off, which is probably the biggest thing about the game is that Five is definitely the theme of the game, much as Four was for Yakuza 4.  Yakuza 5 will be starring Five Main Characters, and the story will take place through five different areas: The regular Kamurocho of Tokyo, as well as Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka and Hokkaido.  I'm gonna be honest here and say that I'm not -exactly- sure which of those locations have been in previous Yakuza games, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that only Osaka is a place the series has strayed before (in Yakuza 2) meaning that three of the locations will be all new.  Suspiciously absent is Okinawa, where the Sunshine Orphanage that Kazuma runs is located, but given his new job, I'm sure that will get explained somehow.  At least, I kind of hope it will be, since that would be a rather big hole in things.

As I said above, there will be Five Main Characters in Yakuza 5, which will include returning favorites Shun Akiyama (Three games strong, woo!), Taiga Saejima and, obviously, Kazuma Kiryu.  Joining them will be yet another new face in Tatsuo Shinada, an ex-baseball pro and possible gambling addict who is getting chased down by debt collectors as well as...uhh...Haruka.  As in, "I was 9 or 10 years old in the first game" Haruka, all grown up (16 or 18 now, it's kind of hard to pin down just how old she was in previous games, mostly because it's -incredibly creepy- to try and find out) and in Osaka to be a Pop Star.  Because the last time she was in Osaka went just ever so well, of course.  Being a playable character is confirmed, but as to what role she will actually play in the game (as in, can she fight?) is unknown at this point.  I would hope that being with the Dragon of Kamurocho for seven years would lead to knowing how to protect herself, as she certainly has the will for it, but we'll just have to see.

Kazuma has, in the time between the end of Yakuza 4 and the start of Yakuza 5 (which I imagine will be just over two years, since Yakuza 4 came out in 2010 in Japan and 5 is slated for December of this year) become a Taxi Driver in Fukuoka in one of the most random job switches I've ever seen.  And this is the same guy who went from "Yakuza" to "Orphanage Owner".  With just a cursory googling, I have discovered that Fukuoka (as well as the rest of the locations used for 5) do have some pretty high-up mentions regarding Yakuza activity, so to expect Kazuma to stay out of the biz for a while is a fairly foolhardy endeavor.  Similarly, the other returning characters are more or less doing just what they do - Akiyama is heading to Osaka, likely on a whim or for business (though what a Loan Shark would do in a location other than his HQ is beyond me) and Saejima Taiga is back in prison for some reason.  (Likely for being head of a Yakuza family or, even more likely, being framed for something.)

If you can't tell, this will be the most ambitious Yakuza title to date, even more so than the giant Genre-Swap that was Dead Souls/Of The End, mostly because they've taken an extra year to work on development, rather than sticking to a yearly release.  (Which, to be fair, we all rag on other companies for doing yearly releases, so maybe we really shouldn't, since Yakuza is a series that shows quality can happen in a year)  On top of doing up five entirely different areas (well, four, Kamurocho is likely just going to be touched up), they've been handling a lot of tweaks here and there as well as overhauling (or outright replacing) the game engine to ensure that transitions between Battle and Adventure modes is seamless.  In previous games, there was always a little bit of loading as the enemies were introduced which felt fairly natural, but was obviously a loading screen of sorts.  I imagine by making it seamless, they also intend on making the battle mode more dynamic; perhaps by including people running through the crowd or, when the fight is on the streets, having cars, er, -not- stop and/or disappear from the road completely.

What -I- worry about here is not the game itself, but rather the burning question of:  Will I get to play the goddamn thing?  While other games have had a hurdle regarding a physical release when it comes to only having Japanese audio, the Yakuza series has never had that issue.  However, after Sega's restructuring, Read: Gutting, of Sega of America and Sega of Europe, I just have to wonder A) if there's enough people left to localize the damn thing and B) If there is, do I have any hope of getting the damn game on a disk?  Sega has, after all, mentioned a 'Digital Future' for all but their four or five main franchises, of which Yakuza is not listed as one.  On the other hand, I would almost suggest that any Yakuza game, especially 5, given the above list of reasons why it's a very expansive, ambitious project, would simply be too big, file-size-wise to actually be realistically considered as a DD-only title.  But on the other, other hand, this is Sega, who seems to thrive on finding new and exciting ways to shoot themselves in the foot.  It'll be a while before we hear word of it all, however, since it won't even be releasing in Japan until the end of this year, and I certainly expect the usual year-long localization, but here's hoping for positive word.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2013: The New 2012

Now, I know I keep hammering in the point, but 2012 is pretty much jam-packed with a bunch of games that I am going to have to buy which is an entirely new scenario for me (I think the count is up to twelve), and in pointing that out a lot, I've complained that, well, they're all coming out this year.  And it seems that a lot of studios have realized this as well and have delaying their games to the first Quarter of 2013.  Like, all of them.  This doesn't so much as handle a problem for many (Including me, unfortunately, as not a single game that has been delayed was one I was really really looking into buying, save for -maybe- Tomb Raider and South Park), but rather pushes it further off into time.  As in, the start of the year.  Of course, we have kind of been introduced to this concept in the last few years, wherein Q1 tends to....'affectionately' get referred to as "Christmas 2" since it's basically the Holiday Rush after the Holiday Rush.  There's really no simpler way to put it.

If you need a little scope on the amount of delays we've had, here's a little list for you:  Tomb Raider, South Park:  The Stick of Truth, Aliens:  Colonial Marines, DmC Devil May Cry, X-COM, Bioshock:  Infinite, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards HD, Ni no Kuni and Metro:  Last Light.  Mind you, the bulk of these are only fairly recently relayed as delayed, with a little bit of digging required for the last few, but just because they weren't delayed this week doesn't mean anything.  This is on top of the other games that were delayed that I haven't spotted, as well as the games that are, well, just slated to release in Q1 2013.  I don't know of very many and searching isn't producing very many results, but I'm sure there are some and especially so after E3, since I'm sure a lot of the games announced there will be slated for late 2012 (damnit all) or early 2013.

So, the above, that right there is a list of nine games that are, essentially, overspill, since while some of them are being moved so that they'll be done, I imagine a couple of them are there so as to try and avoid competition which...isn't going to work too well now.  And of those nine games, at least three of them are pretty high-profile releases where two others are definitely games to watch out for, if not high-profile to a certain niche of people.  (Looking at you Ni no Kuni.  As I always am.  Sigh...)  This is....well, this is completely the scenario of this year repeating itself into the next and it's fairly worrisome.  Especially for me since, well, I already have enough Vita games I'm looking at through to the end of the year, and it's going to start hitting its stride next year as the games that all the other studios who -finally- got a Vita Dev Kit, having chosen to not get it before the system came out for one reason or another, or have just been bad at time management, will start seeing announcements and releases as well.  Because there are games, I assure you.

I suppose it's only a good thing that there is this much of a glut of games coming out to be excited about, since it means hours upon hours of entertainment for us.  Of course, that comes at the price of, well, the prices of all these games, as they are not cheap individually, and especially so when you have several coming out in a cluster as they seem to be doing for...well, every season between now and Spring of next year.  As such, we all have to just figure out which can be held off on for times when wallets are not so strained, nor is the time.  Of course it might seem like those times do not exist and, in all reality, they might not for a while, but again, that's the good part about it all.  You just have to remember that those good experiences will definitely be worth it, provided they're good enough to make a real impression on you and for the games that are in the line-up from now until Q2 2013, a lot of them carry just that potential.  We'll just have to see how many of them actually make it, though.

Update!:  This isn't really an update so much as it is thumping my chest.  Obviously, the delays are a big enough deal that Joystiq got the same idea I did, to write up a little post about the games that have been delayed.  Our lists are pretty similar for obvious reasons, but they neglected to mention X-COM and Leisure Suit Larry HD (I wonder why.), where I didn't list Prey 2 because I have no idea what Prey 2 is other than a game that sure isn't coming out in 2012 nor Q1 2013, which is what I tried to focus on.  Well played, Joystiq!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Castlevania 3DS Game at E3?

It's more likely than you think.  Of course, you -should- have thought it was very possible, considering the three Castlevania games on the DS were all pretty well-received as well as big draws of a known franchise.  And it has been one of the fairly conspicuously missing franchises on the 3DS which, well, isn't that surprising, given the rather long stretch of port games and all.  Of course, I'm not about to turn this into one of those posts, but I think I am fairly justified in saying that the 3DS is not yet a home for the franchises that were fairly big for and/or on the DS.  (Just look at how Animal Crossing isn't even on it yet.  It's been a year.  People complain about things not being on the Friggin' Vita, grumble grumble.)  So, bringing Castlevania to the handheld is not so much as a surprise, but something that's quite long overdue.  Though, looking it up on Wikipedia, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow was released on the DS about a year after the latter's release too, so maybe that's just a thing.

It's not all cut-and-dry simple, of course, as things never are.  Already tapped for the project, according to this leak from a Dutch site, are David Cox and Enric Alvarez of Lords of Shadow fame which....has apparently been received poorly from fans?  I thought people liked it and, while one should never pay attention to comments on things anywhere ever (except nice blogs like this one and The Games of Chance), it seems like a lot of hate is levied at the game in dark corners of the internet that I haven't been exposed to.  Because it's apparently just a clone of God Of War which is apparently a crap game and clones are bad, logic be damned and blah blah, god my head hurts.  Anyway, they're apparently attached the the game in the leak, but they're kind of denying it?  At least, someone asked them about "Mirror of Faith", the apparent Subtitle for the Castlevania game, and the guy said "Nah, not really" in so many words.

What this means, of course, is that whether or not the Castlevania game bound for the 3DS is going to be 2D, ala the previous Castlevania DS games, or 3D, as in the Castlevania games that haven't fared so hot, is kind of up in the air.  Being that MercurySteam only has 3D Castlevania experience, a lot of people are assuming their inclusion means just that, but it's not always that simple, of course.  For that matter, I do expect that what perspective the game is set in will have a very broad impact on its initial reception and sales, as I imagine not too many people are interested in a 3D Castlevania, no matter who's behind it.  Nor do I expect the 3DS could do one justice, but that may just be me underestimating the thing.  Regardless, it could all be a sort of a farce, as MercurySteam has sort of hinted at working on a Lords of Shadow sequel, meaning they wouldn't really be available for a 3DS outing.

Regardless of whatever lack of details surround it, I do wholly expect that a Castlevania game will be announced for the 3DS at Nintendo's E3.  Though they'll be focused on the Wii U, they need a few things to throw out at the 3DS since it started to pick up steam and ports of their back-catalog won't keep it afloat forever.  (Looking at Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D specifically)  Some actual release dates for things would be nice as well, as I have said that when the 3DS has both Animal Crossing and Rune Factory 4 on it in North America, I will look into getting one.  Perhaps the new purple one or a flare red one, even though I would -love- to find one of those Legend of Zelda ones, but they're, uh....rather rare and fairly expensive to boot.  Still, it would seem that I have quite a bit of time to spare in that category as I can't recall a date for either game in question.  Which is good, since I don't need anything else on my list this year.

Anyways, my prediction is that the game will be another attempt at the Metroidvania style, no matter who's at the helm, which means the 2D style.  This seems to be the best course of action, of course and I imagine they'll try and do something neat with the 3D, but I don't really care about that.  The franchise pretty much has proper use of touch screen fine enough I think, though this is only with experiences with Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin under my belt.  While I haven't picked up Order of Ecclesia, I've heard it's the best of the three which....doesn't surprise me in the least.  The first two don't set the bar very high, you see, as I remember them both being fairly short with limited options in terms of replayability unless you really just like opening up Dracula's Castle.  So whatever comes with this new installment, I'm sure it can't be too bad, but we won't really know anything til E3.  Or maybe just before E3, since you know, leaks and such.  Like this.  But bigger.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wii U Controller Gets a New Look

Ever since the Wii U......'s Controller was shown off at E3, completely overshadowing the actual Wii U console itself, there's been quite a bit of wonder for it, at least from me.  There's really been no specs to speak of, nor has there been any real news about it at all lately, aside from a recent patent idea that is....certainly a thing.  The only thing we've gotten recently is the above picture from a twitter account of a QA guy for TT Games, who have their hands in the various Lego franchise games.  People who have a good eye might notice that that controller looks a mite different from the one that was in all the glamor shots around E3-time, and from that we might be able to extrapolate a few things.  Of course, the information we might glean from such a manner is pretty minute, but we'll pretty much take anything at this point.

The biggest thing here to note is that the sticks, plural, on the thing are different in a very clear way.  Where the first pad had little analog slide-nubs that we were all apparently sick off back when the PSP was new (yet we don't complain about them for the 3DS...), the new design has something that resembles -actual- analog sticks.  As in the kind the Vita has, or perhaps some that can even be used as buttons themselves with a push-in, ala 360 and PS3 controllers.  The latter would certainly be a sign of jumping in whole-hog, but I'm not quite sure they can actually swing it.  Still, actual sticks, no matter what range you can use them, are better than not, I think we can all agree on that front.  Will it make the Wii U more tantalizing just on that alone?  Certainly not.

The next thing that I noticed is that the entire bottom section of the controller tablet (I'm calling it a tablet not because, come on, it's a friggin' tablet) has been shifted about and rethought out.  From left to right, the Wii U logo is there, the Select and Start buttons are no longer there,  there's a power ring around the Home Button, and between the battery light and power button, there is a strange new button.  The circle around the Home button is fairly standard nowadays, of course, so that's not really something to throw up arms about, and the logo is whatever, but the other stuff is pretty interesting to talk about in a way.  Thankfully the select and start buttons are where they are now, as they just seemed to be fairly awkward before (Much like the 3DS' awkward placement that unfortunately made it through), so there's another plus for the tablet.  Now, the last, unmarked button between the battery light and the power button is the weird outlier here if just for the fact that it is unmarked when it clearly looks like a button.

You'll notice that a similar thing is located beneath the D-Pad of the tablet, but, and I don't know if this is just a perspective thing or what, but it doesn't look like a button like the other one does.  Of course they could both be buttons, they could be not (though if not buttons, I haven't the faintest on just what they'd be) or one could be where the other isn't.  Aside from that, the overall shape might have changed a slight in the whole depth department, and there might be a few new things here and there, but that's about it unfortunately.  Overall, I still don't know what to think of the thing as we haven't seen a whole lot of anything substantial regarding the Wii U, but it is certainly still a thing.  I do kind of wonder how it feels to actually play with, however, but that's something we'll all find out eventually.

Of course, we won't be finding out much more from the guy who tweeted the above image, giving us a little look into Nintendo's closest guarded secret, apparently.  The tweet is gone (well, as gone as something on the internet can be, which is not much) and I -believe- he's taken down his twitter account even (but am too lazy to check), probably in an attempt to keep his job.  Not that Nintendo can directly do anything to him for just taking a picture of the thing, but I imagine it might violate this and that which can make Nintendo mad at TT Games which can in turn, turn all of that on this guy.  I hope not, of course, but I doubt we'll be hearing much about him.  In the meantime, I guess we can all just wonder just what we're going to see come E3, since Nintendo'll likely be going full-boar with this thing to try and 'win' the event.  And, given the, uh, Nintendo faithful opinion through the internet, I'm sure many will claim that they will.  But, as we all know, it's about time for some hard numbers, a price, release dates and such, which can all turn the public against them if it's outrageous enough.  (Moreso than $250 for a 3DS anyway.)

Gaming By The Numbers - Trails in the Sky

Unlike the last Gaming By The Numbers that I did, this post certainly isn't a complaining post, but is, rather, simply a post sharing a little bit of number goodness I've discovered in Legend of Heroes:  Trails in the Sky.  I believe I've mentioned it a few times, but this is what I've been playing lately, and I absolutely adore the game for the most part, but I'll try to leave a lot of that out since I do intent to write -something- about the game when I finish it, be it a review or just a general "My Thoughts On" type of thing.  This post is just another one where I show off how much I enjoy math for some reason when it applies to things that I can quantify through a game, whether it be hours spent or, in today's case, money spent.  (In the game, of course, not real money)  I do hope these types of posts aren't too boring to read, of course.

Now, a feature that I quite enjoy about Trails in the Sky is a crafting system of sorts, geared directly towards cooking up meals, whether they be for a sit-down or to create an actual item (To-Go) out of it.  As you might expect, this is purely a method of giving you options for healing your characters as, if you only bought the potion equivalent all game, you'd be hurting for money (Mira in the game) all the time.  While cooking is meant to be a cheap alternative, it can get pretty expensive when buying ingredients regardless, and some ingredients can't even be bought - these ones you get as random mob drops.  Monster Eggs, Wings, Meat, pretty simple stuff, but, as I said, the only way you can get those ingredients is from battle.  Which isn't too bad if you know where to go for what, but that's a whole other matter entirely and one that I don't intend to really go over right now.

As with some other games with crafting systems, the one in Trails in the Sky offers a little bit of a hole that you can run through with a truck once you're ready to.  And, as with the aforementioned other games, it can pretty much lead to untold amounts of wealth, though not quite as easily, quickly, nor spectacularly.  How the cooking system works, basically is that, to get the recipe for something, you first have to eat it or, in a certain few cases, get the recipe straight from someone else.  Obviously, the recipe tells you what ingredients you need, generally 3-6 things and straight from the recipe if you so desire and have the ingredients, you can make whatever the item is.  If it's a To-Go item, it'll just go into your inventory, or if it's a Sit-Down meal (the advantage to this being that everyone gains HP), you just make it and then HP gets restored and you're good to go.  I kind of hoped there'd be an eating animation with the group (whomever is in it at the time) but oh well.

Now, if you're particularly astute, you might already know the way that you can break it wide open as it's rather simple, but to plainly state it there are some recipes that do not require any ingredients beyond things you can buy.  In these rare instances, there are a few that, when you take the ingredients at value, their sum is less than the total you can sell the item they make with.  You expend no costs to cook things or anything like that, so there's no hidden costs, just the price of the ingredients and you're good to go.  The profitability of these items aren't stellar but at the same time, it's pure profit which, when you consider there's no realistic boundaries set around what you can do, means that you have an infinite source of money provided you have the time and the patience to dip into it.  I have the patience at least, and given the fact that I 'have' time in that I'm playing/focusing on this game, that means I kind of have that as well.

So, getting to the point here, the item in particular I'm using is Apple Ice Cream, though in my, er, 'research' (basically writing down ingredients and costs until I got tired of doing that) I've found two other items with profitability ranges that I'll share as well.  The Apple Ice Cream recipe calls for four ingredients:  Maple Sugar, Fresh Eggs, Fresh Milk and Ripe Apple, just one of each.  Maple Sugar costs 4 Mira, Fresh Eggs cost 10, Fresh Milk, the big cost of the recipe, costs 50 Mira, and Ripe Apples cost 20 Mira a piece.  Adding that all up, you get a cost per Apple Ice Cream of 84 Mira.  What does it sell for, you ask?  125 Mira, making a profitability range of 41 Mira per item.  As I said, it's not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination but that is what bulk work is for.  You see, multiplying everything by 99 (the max amount of an item you can hold) makes the above numbers 396 (Maple Sugar), 990 (Fresh Eggs), 4,950 (Fresh Milk), and 1,980 (Ripe Apple) and in turn brings the cost of 99 Apple Ice Creams to 8,316 Mira.  At 125 Mira a piece, you sell the whole batch for 12,375 Mira, earning you a net profit of 4,059 Mira.  Considering the entire process takes about a minute, maybe two, it adds up fairly quickly.

The beauty of the Apple Ice Cream recipe is that you get it fairly early into the game, so you can make use of it early to ensure your budding career as a Bracer is as a well-equipped one.  (Of course, I didn't figure this out til the last chapter, but oh well)  The other two items that I've found out about (though I'm sure there are more) are quite a bit later into the game, I believe, and they have their own pitfalls beyond that.  Still, I'll share them because I like the numbers of it all.  The Royal Crepe requires one of each of the following:  Milled Flour, Fresh Eggs, Maple Sugar, Fresh Milk, Royal Leaf, and Bear Claw which cost 4, 10, 4, 50, 20, and 10 Mira respectively.  All together, that brings the cost up to 98 Mira, where the Royal Crepe actually sells for 150 Mira, meaning the profitability of it is 52 Mira, a full 11 more Mira than the Ice Cream.  Up that by 99 and the bulk profitability of it is 5,148.  However, the reason I don't use this is because it takes six ingredients rather than four, meaning it takes (just a little) extra time.  It's not wholly unreasonable, even though it's still about a minute or two for every full run of it.

The other item, the Seasonal Tart has only four ingredients like the Apple Ice Cream.  They are Milled Flour, Luscious Orange, Ripe Apple and Azelia Fruit which are, respectively, 4, 20, 20, and 20 Mira a piece.  That brings the cost of one to 64.  Unfortunately, the price of the Seasonal Tart upon creation of it is only 100 Mira, meaning that the profit range is only 36 Mira.  In bulk, that's 3,564 Mira and while still respectable, when you have something that can make a full ~500 more Mira per run, you just run with that and don't worry about it.  Clearly, as I showed with the Royal Crepe, it's not -all- about profitability, but that is a big factor of it when it gets right down to it and since the Seasonal Tart isn't any quicker to make, I don't want to really bother with it.  Because clearly, I don't have the time to write down ingredients and their prices and run the numbers or anything, which means I don't have the time to spend on making less Mira than I could be!

It's kind of a silly thing, I realize, but at the end of the game, I really need some friggin' Mira and monsters don't actually drop any.  They drop ingredients and quartz, both of which I can monetize in ways, but I want something big and spectacular because it's fun.  Granted, 4,059 Mira in two minutes isn't spectacular unless you think about it for a minute, or maybe that's just because I'm too used to Star Ocean's "Sell this item for 420,000 Fol" scale, but it certainly does the job.  And being something that lets me enjoy Trails in the Sky that much more and that much longer, well, that has to be a good thing.  Because it's a really good game, you see.  Wait for the review or whatever I decide to write, but be assured - it's definitely a recommendation from me.