Thursday, 3 October 2013

Retrospective: Madworld (Wii)

Today I'm going to do something a little out of the ordinary. I'm going to look at a Wii game. The Wii itself seems to be a console that divides opinion more than most. While theres people out there that think highly of it and that it deserves its lofty sales figure, Personally I think its the worst console Nintendo have ever made - possibly the worst console Ive ever played. I bought a nice swanky black version about a year ago and sold it about 3 months later. While it has an extensive library, there was only enough decent titles for me to last the few months. In truth, I probably used the GameCube backwards compatibility more. Still, it did have a few gems and I'm going to take a look at one of my favourites on the Wii - Madworld.
 Story (Wikipedia)
Three days before the game's event, the fictional Varrigan City became a target for a group of terrorists called "The Organisers", who severed the island city's transportation and communication ties with the rest of the world, and then released a virus onto its population that would kill them in less than 24 hours. However, the Organisers informed the populace that any person that killed another would receive the vaccine. The city was quickly transformed into the stage of a recurring game show called "DeathWatch", with announcers Howard "Buckshot" Holmes and former DeathWatch fighter Kreese Kreeley. The remaining citizens of Varrigan City as well as new hopefuls become the shows contestants, hoping to become the top-ranked fighter in the game and win a large cash prize. Jack Cayman, a man with a retractable chainsaw built onto one arm, enters the games and manages to gain sponsorship from "Agent XIII". The game's organisers, led by Noa, knows Jack's motive is more than just to win, and learn that Jack works with someone on the outside. They come to learn that Jack was a former marine, police officer, and rogue agent, but now seems intent on a mission. Noa surmises that Jack is after the mayor's daughter, who is still inside the city. While they could kill Jack at any time, they realise he became an audience favourite, with many sponsors and viewers betting on his success, and tries to kill Jack while he is in combat.

A highly controversial release by SEGA when it was due to launch in the UK, almost not receiving a BBFC rating which would have prevented its sale. What was so bad about it?

Playing like, according to Inaba, a 'pick up & play' version of God Hand the game sees you fighting your way through various arena's killing your enemies in the most gratuitous ways you can think of. Most levels appear to be open environments, allowing you to explore them freely within each section, although your progression at certain intervals will be stifled until you manage to acquire enough points to open up a new section. A few levels also have motorcycle sections where you are attacked by numerous enemies as you race down a track or in a small arena. You will occasionally have to complete a boss battle within a time limit, but you will need to acquire enough points to activate the boss battle. The more violent your kills, the more points you get! There are also other challenges, bonuses, or mini-bosses that become unlocked after the you accumulate enough points. A common feature of each of the levels is a "Bloodbath Challenge", In this you have a time limit to complete set objectives or executions for bonus score, An example would be you needing to swing a bat at foes to knock them into a giant dartboard to score extra points, or trap enemies in  front of a speeding train for more extras. Outside of the challenges, you are awarded extra points for using more unusual methods of killing your enemies ie using your environment. An early example in the game would be forcing a tire around your enemy before smashing them into the wall, earning you more points than just knocking them into a wall.How well the game plays will depend solely I suppose on how you perceive the Wii's Nunchuck & WiiMote combo to be of use. Madworld makes little use of the Wii's motion gaming shizz and focuses mainly on using the buttons for input. There is still the occasional flick of the controller needed for QTE's, but the IR sensor aspect doesn't get used at all. A bad thing? Not really. When you factor in that the Wii's control system only has a single analogue, it does give the game a bit more of that SEGA nostalgia factor for me. While I'm no hater of motion controls, I'm actually a big fan of the PSMove when its been used properly, I like how this game eschews that in favour of a more conventional control system.

It sure looks amazing doesn't it? Its style easily sets it apart from almost every other game out there. The look of Madworld is clearly that of a comic or graphic novel (noted by Platinum Games to have been influenced by Sin City), with the red blood emphasising its graphic nature. The game actually features a fairly complex engine that had to be designed to work around some of the Wii's limitations. Featuring a complex lighting system, normal mapping, multiple character textures, fully realised particle system, motion captured animations and full animation blending. That's only some of the engine features. A little pointless for a game that looks like a comic? Not really. To make any game world come to life, regardless of style, this stuff is still needed. I cant help but think sometimes of how glorious this would look running in a higher resolution with some AA. It still looks mighty fine of the Wii though. Not going to be everyones cup of tea visually, but you can't deny that it looks impressive. The soundtrack is almost as good as the visuals. Featuring an octane mix of rap, hip-hop & rock notably, its a very western sound to have in a game developed by Japanese developers. Most tracks were produced in-house by Naoto Tanaka with a few local bands giving some input. While it doesn't quite reach the same heights as the visuals, its still a decent soundtrack and fits the style of the game with ease.
Probably the most fun I had on the Wii, aside from SEGA's other gem - House of the Dead Overkill. While my time with the Wii was short, the few gems I enjoyed like this were welcomed and fairly memorable, but 3 or 4 games can't carry a system for long. With the prices of the Wii as low as £29.99 these days, is it worth picking one up and giving Madworld a run through if you never have? That's a toughie. Madworld is cheap these days, less than £4 easy, so it would combine to the cost of a new retail game on the likes of Ps3/360. With only a few games of note coming out lately, why not? lol But it would be silly to end up lumbered with a Wii Just to play Madworld. Best wait for a WiiU price drop and try it then! I hope if you still have your Wii or have had one, You have at least given this gem a try at some point. Its up there with the other titles Platinum Games have released and is one of the most stylish games you'll play for a long time yet.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Localization Prospect: Fairy Fencer F

With the news recently of an Idea Factory International office being opened in California and headed by former NISA president Harusato Akenaga. With IF now having their own localising/publishing branch in the west, I think its safe to assume that we may get more games from the likes of Compile Heart etc in the west. I'm not sure how it all pans out for NISA though as I'm sure they may not be too happy with losing franchises that, while niche, have garnered quite a following in the west. I hope this means we get the Neptunia Vita games in the west now! Ill scream like a fan-girl if that announcement follows soon. This all leads to some a new type of post for me to start. While I do Reviews, Previews, Retrospectives & News at the moment - I'm going to be doing these Localization Prospect posts now too. These will focus on Japanese titles that have a good chance of being localised, or are already in the process of being brought over. So today I'm going to focus on the soon to be released Fairy Fencer F, which has a good chance of coming to the west due to recent developments with IF and demand across the web seeming unusually high.
A long time ago there was a conflict between a goddess and an evil god. The two deities didn’t fight directly, but created a large number of special weapons for others to use. Eventually, these powers sealed each other and the power vanished from the world. Fast forward to modern times where these leftover weapons are called "Furies" and warriors that wield them are "Fencers." Fury weapons are said to be incredibly powerful, so Fencers constantly scramble to acquire them. By a strange coincidence, two fencers, Fang and Tiara, get caught up in the struggle between the goddess and evil god. 

The story does sound like it has potential to be pretty deep and intriguing. With it being developed by Galapagos RPG/Compile Heart, the Neptunia devs, I would hazard a guess its storytelling will be in a similar style to other series they are known for.  Yes, that means Visual novel-esque dialogue with the odd in-game engine cutscene. Compile Heart don't have the astronomical budgets that the more mainstream developers like SquareEnix give to their Final Fantasy series, so don't be expecting anything like sumptuous pre-rendered cutscenes with photo-realistic detail. Lets hope the potential for the story is realised though as most of the other aspects of the game sounds just as, or even more, promising. 
With the game not due to be released till the 10th October in Japan, there isn't really anything to go on from a gameplay perspective as Ive not found any videos to study at least. There is constantly a mention in articles of the game using a refined version of the Neptunia battle system. For those yet to try the Hyperdimension Neptunia series (shame on you! Victory is superb!) I'll give a brief description of how it plays. Basically, its a dungeon crawler. Most of the time you will be exploring dungeons, grinding to level up or collecting ingredients to synthesise, and the rest of the time will be mostly spent in boss battles. You are free to go to any dungeon or City on the map, but the game is not free roam as you are probably envisioning. The real bread & butter of Victory though is in its battle system, which Fairy Fencer F is no doubt using. Its your typical turn-based affair, which I prefer for my Jrpg's. The key to victory with its battle system though is in taking advantage of the Guard Break system. Under the enemies health bar is another that once depleted from attacks strong against the guard will leave the enemy vulnerable. Attacks do far more damage then, making it essential during boss encounters. Transformations are also in FF, which boost your character when done in Victory so its safe to assume the same here. Little else is know about how the rest of the game plays out here in the west. A recent Trailer showed some of the combat system so that's confirmed. I can see it playing similar to the Neptunia series, so if that's not your cup of tea then you may avoid it.
On the presentation side of things, its probably at its most interesting. Former Final Fantasy artist
Yoshitaka Amano & Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu have both worked on this title. This news alone was enough for the hype machine to start rolling online when it was announced earlier in the year. There are screenshots floating around so we can at least get a glimpse of how the game will look, I don't think these niche developers have the budget or the need for 'bullshots' so its safe to assume they are genuine. Graphically it looks to be similar to Victory, except those enemy character models look to be superbly detailed. Its not just me that sees that? You can tell the artist of the Date-A-Live anime has worked on this with the character designs. I'm just hoping that the framerate issue that plagued the Neptunia series has been fleshed out. It was defiantly baffling as to why it did have issues. I would recommend looking at as many trailers as you can find for the game to see if its style suits you.
I hope we see a localisation. Like I said earlier, with IF international opening in the west there's a good chance we'll see more of these titles. I reckon NISA probably would've localised this anyway with how popular it seems to be on the Internet at he moment. Having some former Final Fantasy stalwarts working on the title probably gives it that extra little something to make it appeal to some beyond its usual niche. For me the story sounds interesting, the art is beautiful, graphically it looks to be an improvement and the talk of it playing similar to Hyperdimension Neptunia: Victory is enough to ensure my interest. What about you?
Let me know on Twitter @MadchesterManc

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Retrospective: Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox)

With Rune Factory 4 being released today in the US I was considering writing a piece on it. Then I seen the EU release date being Spring 2014 and I thought Id leave it. I dunno about anyone else but that's quite a long gap, At most it could be 6 months! 6 Months! I guess there'll be a lot of information on the game floating around so a preview would be easy to write up and I could do one at a later date. To be honest I don't blame the publishers here, the blame falls squarely at Nintendo's feet for shafting their userbase and region locking the 3DS. With us being based in the UK, we have to share the pain of our EU readers and suck it & wait. At least on the PlayStation side of things we are able to import, Its just a shame about the 3DS. So whats today? Its another retrospective. I know you guys are probably getting fed up with these and want some info on new releases but I'm currently compiling a list of games to research so hopefully all next week should be upcoming releases of interesting games. Today's game is going to be the hugely ignored sequel to one of Sega's Dreamcast gems - Jet Set Radio Future 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Otaku mobile games!?

No blog post over the weekend. I know, I should have done one yesterday but there was some other things that I had to contend with so I didn't get around to it. Today though I'm going to be doing something a little different. For the past few days Ive been downloading all manner of games from Google Play that are Japanese and have been released on our store in the UK. Why? Simple. I wanted to see what games are played by our eastern comrades on their mobiles. The unfortunate aspect is that most feature no translation. I'm not fluent enough in Japanese to be able to play a non-localised Jrpg or novel-based game so Ive had to play games that seem easy to pick up or have some translation. I use an Android phone myself, but I'm guessing most of these may be available on the iStore for you iPhone users out there. In truth Ive no idea really as I'm not an Apple guy myself, sorry. I think Andi uses an iPhone though so he should be able to check if Japanese apps/games are available. Anyway lets crack on with a few Otaku mobile games!

 アニぱん!~アニメでぱんチラ!(Anipan: Panties in the anime) [Free]
Go on and have a guess what this games about. Go on. Don't be ashamed to say it. Yeah? Fine I'll let everyone know then. As you've probably guessed, this game involves swiping upwards on your screen to lift the girls skirt to get a peek at her panties. I'm not kidding. That's the entirety of the game. You get 30 seconds to try and get a peek when shes in her 4 different poses and there's also a few different types (Shimapan!) to mix things up each try. Getting a peek in each of the 4 poses apparently unlocks some extra stuff too. I say apparently as I gave the game half a dozen tries and only succeeding in getting a peek a few times. I'm not sure if its dodgy responsiveness or if theres a certain way of doing it, but it seems oddly difficult for such a simple game. Is it worth trying yourself? Probably not. Unless your the kind of Otaku that loves fan-service, this will bore you after a few tries as theres really not much to it.

Moe Can change! -Myroid 4 Life- (Android / iPhone) [Free]
OK I'm just gonna come out n say it. I love this game. It reminds me of those Tamagotchi's that we used to have as kids so I got a little nostalgic as soon as I fired this game up. Basically your given an android, that just so happens to be a Moe styled girl, that you have to care for and mould as you see fit. Having her complete some activities changes her stats, which in turn changes how your droid reacts to you in certain situations and having her work earns you money. During these your droid can be distracted by other players (this is an online game) but a quick waggle of the finger gets her refocused! This does boost her motivation but if you don't notice it then it does have a negative effect on her motivation, netting you less bonus's. There are other ways of boosting motivation too with items or by interacting with your droid eg stroking her hair while she sleeps. Each activity you do gets you XP points. Levelling up unlocks new ways to customise your droid and opens up new things to do. There's quite a bit to this game and its surprising that its free.Worth playing? definitely. Ive been playing now for 3 days and I doubt I'm going to stop playing anytime soon. Its nostalgic cyber-pet styled gameplay coupled with its anime styling makes it a must try for Otaku's. The game has also been fully translated into english! There's also an anime based upon this game which Ill have to look in to I reckon but I wouldn't be surprised if its a bit pish...

Ama-Hina (Android / iPhone) [£1.82/$1.99]
This one ain't too bad either. Its a side-scroller that see's you kicking zombie ass. The controls are so simple its immediately easy to pick up & play. One half of the screen is for attacking, the other half is for jumping and a swipe across the screen activates your special move. Movement is automatic. Your only focus is on beating down zombies and jumping over obstacles with the occasional boss to defeat. New levels are unlocked once you hit a certain distance in each level so ensuring you survive as long as possible is key. For £1.82 its not too bad. Theres a few levels to unlock & a second character that wields a sword instead of punching their way through the zombies. Surprisingly the game also has online leaderboards, but Ive never really been bothered by them much. Is it worth the money? I dunno. Its enjoyable, in a High School of the Dead kinda way, but with there being a bug at the moment making the 3rd character unusable it makes sense to wait it out if your interested for the release of a patch to fix it. A decent old-school styled game nonetheless with some nice sprite based visuals.

Dentaku Girl (Android / iPhone) [Free]
Not a game, but a calculator. It features a full voice bank, so its a great little tool for learning the numerical aspect of the Japanese language. Your also able to customise the character and background for the calculator. Like I said though its not a game so there isn't much to say. With me learning Japanese Ive found it to be a useful tool for learning the numbers which is why Its received a mention. Plus its a hell of a lot better than the vanilla calculator we get stuck with and its Free.

While there's more games I'm trying at the moment, I'm gonna leave the post at these few for now and would recommend that you at least try Moe Can Change! While most of the games end up being free, its time consuming sifting through the crap. There's far worse games than Anipan, trust me. They just wouldn't be Japanese games without quirky ones. How about paying £1.99 for a game that is literally just you spanking your maid? Im not jesting. Interestingly there is a developer/publisher called Kecmo that seems to have a lot of Jrpg's listed on the app store with some of them even being free, complete with english text. I may have a look into these for a later post in case you guys are interested. Mobile gaming in Japan is pretty big these days so I guess I'll cover the occasional mobile game that makes its way onto our shores. Ill try and keep it to games on both Android & iPhone to ensure maximum compatibility (I know theres also Windows, but...yeah..) and keep it to Jrpg's & Niche (wouldn't they all be lol) titles on our app stores.
Andi also mentioned to me earlier that its pretty much now been confirmed that Yakuza 5 will NOT be getting localised due to the Yakuza team not being large enough and they are currently hard at work on Ishin. erm, outsource it then, maybe? SEGA? Hello!? aah. Not interested.
Nagoshi has recently stated that he's interested in bringing Ishin to other territories if the Yakuza team have the money & resources to do so. A glimmer of hope for Ps4 then? Hell no! No doubt if its down to SEGA they ain't gonna want to bother with localising that if we aren't even going to be getting Yakuza 5. I could rant about this, but instead I'm gonna have a minutes silence because my lifelong love for SEGA is dyeing fast...