Saturday, 15 February 2014

News - Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f Release Date

SEGA today have announce a release day for the Vita version of Hatsune Miki: Project Diva f.  Already released on the PS3 in 2013 and now heading to the Vita on the 4th March in th US and 12th March in the EU. 
Price has been set at $29.99 - no price for EU confirmed yet. 

As well as the Vita release SEGA announce a Cross-buy deal on the Snow Miku 2012 and Extra Character Modules DLC.  So if you already own these on the PS3 they are yours free when you buy the game on the Vita. 

Free stuff is always good :)

Class mating - are you ready?

More Than a Dating Sim

It looks like in Conception 2 pushes players to think hard about who you "Classmate" with. 
Your partner is not only there to support you but they can help you create even stronger Star Children - they call it a magical ritual.  But before this happens you need to grow a strong bond with the heroine and the stronger that is, the stronger your Star Child will be. Sounds simple.  Stats carry over and determine which class they can be part off.  There also are some anomalies too - think of it like Persona's fusion.
Whilst battling you can have four teams active; you and the heroine and three teams of Star Children, with three in each.  So for the best results you need to create teams who share the same mother or similar classes. I am assuming that some classes go better together than others. But you may think the perfect scenario is to have them all in the same class - well no it may not be. 
Altus state that there may some situations which require a specific class to get best and if you have specialised in one class type, well you will find your self failing a lot.  They recommend to experiment with classes and that certain classes can combine which allows access to unique Team Skills and Mecunite types. Meaning that the three Star Children on a team can combine and form a giant mech.

This all sounds rather crazy at first but I am very interested in what this game has to offer. 

For more details and some feedback from ATLUS themselves head over to the PS US Blog or check the video below.

Conception II is out on 3DS/Vita in Japan and is hitting the USA April 15.  Still no date for the EU though.

Japanese PS4 2nd TV Spot

Play & Peace

Believe it or not, but there are still some countries in which the PS4 has not been released yet.

One place yet to see a release is Japan.  The console finally releases next week on the 22nd Feb and to help push sales a second TV spot has been aired.

From the video you can see they are expecting one hell of a party!  Games showcased included WatchDogs, Knack, Assassins Creed IV, Metal Gear Solid V, Final Fantasy XIV, Yakuza: Ishin, Infamous Second Son, Fifa & Killzone: Shadow Fall.

I hope this week goes quick for those waiting.  I know your pain, the last week felt like an eternity!

South Park The Stick of Truth - 13 Minute Preview

Are we in for a real treat?

Yesterday we were treated by the South Park Studios to the first 13 minutes of game play from their upcoming RPG based upon the series of South Park.
The game follows the story of the "new kid" who has just moved to the quiet mountain town and he has a "special power" which the local kids want to use.  Moments after meeting Grand Wizard Cartman, you are thrown into the chaotic story of "The Stick of Truth" and how all the different factions want it.
If you were to walk in on some one playing The Stick of Truth, you believe you were watching an episode of South Park.  The art style is the same, the full voice cast is present and the scripting is spot on.

From what we see in the game play it is shaping up to be an excellent adventure.  The battle system is very similar to that of older Final Fantasy's and the Paper Mario series.  Turn based action on a 2D plain where you can either attack, use abilities or items.  Even earlier on, the enemies have certain status which force you to battle in different ways and this should keep the game fresh as it moves it away from single button action.  There are no random battles as all your enemies are visible on the screen but the number of enemies in battle are not shown until you engage them.
Your personal screen is based upon the Facebook home screen from the episode "You Have Zero Friends".  It contains all your generic RPG information (Level, HP, PP, Quest, Profiles etc).

Player's Personal Screen Neat Layout

This game has suffered many delays, the selling of the publishing studio but it is finally coming out next month!  We have been shown many smaller trailers but this is the first full insight we have had into this great looking RPG and from the Achievement list, it looks like it is packed with content.

Whilst we wait for the release, check out the game play below and post your opinions in the comments.  Also remember that this is a one of a kind game.  The studio approached Obsidian to create this game and not the other way round.  So this should be one hell of a ride :D

Friday, 14 February 2014

Nintendo Direct 13/02/14

Direct Roundup!!!!!

First I have to say that despite my best efforts while Live Tweeting the event, the stream was laggy & unresponsive thus making it quite the task!.

Overall nothing really was announced that would shock the world, Little Mac is joining the next Smash Bros game, Bowser's Minions (Koopa kids to you and me!) are in Mario Kart 8.

Steel Diver has a new FPS sequel which is free to trial at the moment on the E Shop, Nes Remix 2 was announced & Luigi Bros. Luigi Bros is basically Mario Bros 1 in reverse using Weegee's sprite! I know all that hard work & thought, it is still the "Fiscal" Year of Luigi after all!.

The main events were trailers and details on two of the WiiU's behemoths Bayonetta 2 & X!

First talking about X, it seems to be the spiritual successor to the Wii classic Xenoblade Chronicles, one of the most impressive games you can have on the Wii. Spanning huge worlds and a brilliant battle system it gained many fans upon it's release.
X seems to be much in the same vain, given HD graphics, BIGGER worlds & MECHS!. Yes we are looking at the RPG version of Titan Fall!, here is the trailer & some screenshots of this upcoming RPG

Bayonetta 2 followed this mighty game display & showcased just exactly why Platinum are so highly regarded. It's good to see they have found a happy home with Nintendo & if this & Wonderful 101 are products of this partnership I can only imagine what else they have in store for us!. A new playable character, new abilities for Bayonetta & a snazzy new haircut for the lady is just the tip of the iceberg for Bayonetta 2. Also announced was that it releases Summer in Japan & we will be getting it 2014 sometime. Not a solid date but still good to know how close it is! 


Also announced was that the WiiU will be getting GBA games on the Eshop during the year, Metroid Fusion was confirmed so it's more than justified!.

Still no release date for SMT IV though Nintendo! what are you playing at?! 

Teddie and Aigis come on down!


New trailers for upcoming Persona Q! This time focusing on comedic legend Teddie and Shadow Exterminator Aigis 

Persona Q is shaping up to be a special crossover game, dungeon crawling with Persona 3/4's battle system. Still nothing outside of Japan but as soon as we hear something you'll know :) 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Guest article: Bioshock

(Many thanks to Desmond Mayer for writing this article. We all look forward to working alongside you!)

Bioshock : How it changed a generation

"A man has a choice, I chose the impossible. I built a city where the artists would not fear the censor, where the great would not be constrained by the small, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality. I chose to build Rapture. But my city was betrayed by the weak. So I ask you my friend, if you live with pride, would you kill the innocent? Would you sacrifice your humanity? We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us." – Andrew Ryan

This is not a review of Bioshock.  Just my memories of why I fell in love with it and how I believe it created waves in the gaming ocean.

I will start this with a bold statement which has caused many arguments; Bioshock is one of the greatest games of the last generation and we would not be where we are now without it.

Cast your mind back to 2007.  A few years into the generation, the Xbox 360 and the Wii were dominating, the PS3 had just launched and the market was empty of creative games.  First person shooters were few and they all had weak stories, linear gameplay and lifeless characters.  We did not know any better at the time and this we accepted this.  If you wanted something a little different you got yourself a Wii and Twilight Princess.

But, on the 24 August 2007, everything changed.  The all mighty Bioshock was released and we all danced!  At this time in my life, I was a student living at home and not that deep into gaming as I am now.  I brought my Xbox 360 for a whole pound the month before and I was just drawn straight to Bioshock.  I remember returning home and being so excited that I had to play this game straight away.  I locked myself away for the entire weekend and completed Bioshock.  From the moment the game started I fell in love with it and enjoyed everything right up to the end.

I refer back to my opening statement and explain my reasons.
First off, the story telling.  Bioshock was the first game I had played which did not need lengthy cut scenes to tell a story.  The final scene was only just over a minute long.  It amazes me still that a game with such a bold story could finish like this and still leave you feeling satisfied.  The story was full of twists and turns which keep you involved in the story right to the end.  As you fight your way through Rapture you get rewarded with audio logs which give you the back story of Rapture and even yourself.  The twist that you were born in Rapture, you mature quicker due to mutations and you are hard coded to follow orders still blows my mind today.  It is such a complex conclusion to why you are there, but it was delivered perfectly.  Hints were dropped but I did not put them together as you are convinced that all the events were happening due to the corruption of Rapture.

 From the start you are convinced by Atlas that Andrew Ryan, the creator of Rapture, is the reason for all this and that he must be stopped.  I know this statement it kind of true as Andrew lost control of Rapture but Fontaine did not help either.  But this is what makes the story so good.  The fact there is no “good guy” or “bad guy”.  We have always been led to believe that this is how a story needs to be told.  Bioshock moves away from this and proves that all you need is a good narrative to tell a story.  There are many aspects in the game which can be used in the real world.  

The one which sticks in my mind are the final words Andrew Ryan says; “a man chooses, a slave obeys”.  Moments later you are ordered to kill him and you obey.

One section which I think about to this day is when the greatest artist of all, Sander Cohan, traps you and invites you to Fleet Hall for a performance.  

To leave this area you have to complete Cohan’s task of killing those who have betrayed him and placing their photographs in his masterpiece.  This is all to prove your worthiness to him.  This whole section sticks with me as I believe it is the darkest part of the game and it was just filler.

Think about it, you are tasked by a raging lunatic to kill four people who have wronged him.  Do you know this for a fact or is Cohan just paranoid?  By completing the task you are no better than the current inhabitants of Rapture.  But the question is; would you complete this crazy task just for your freedom?

Secondly is how the game builds an incredibly tease atmosphere.

Welcome to Rapture, and underwater Art Deco paradise full of the best of the best.  Well this is what the vision was.  Residents of the “perfect Rapture” felt that it would offer them a better life but it did not.  So a Civil War broke out and now even though the grandness of the Art Deco is still there,it has been brought to its knees.  It has been destroyed by the human condition for power and beauty.  There is also another creature wandering the halls of Rapture.  The Big Daddies.  Their one job is to make sure that their Little Sister can carry out their twisted task of collecting ADAM from dead bodies.  

There are not many enemies in games where, even with a full arsenal of weapons, you would run away without a second thought.  Look back on the first time you encounter one of them.  How did you feel?  I felt like dropping everything and hiding in a corner, crying, hoping it would leave me alone. 

The sound they made, the size and the power of them was just outstanding.  But, after overcoming the first one, I could not wait to find the next one and conquer it.
The biggest part of creating tension is by limiting your supplies.  Bioshock does this perfectly.  Items are in very short supply and can either be found around Rapture andbrought from vending machines.  The challenge is managing these supplies during fights.  If you use everything you have got a group of enemies or a Big Daddy then you have a serious disadvantage if you run into something else.  

Also if you die, your supplies are not restocked.  You start again with what you died with.  So the game forces you to plan ahead and to use your ammo conservatively.  There were many times I found myself running around rooms mashing the action button to quickly search for items.

Finally, the rewarding but simple choice system.  During the game you have one of two choices when dealing with the little sisters.  Either Harvest or Rescue.  Which did you choose and why?  Mine was to save them.  Why?  I have no idea – I seem to always choose to be the “good person”.  There have been many discussions on many forums about this and peoples always have their reasons for what they choose.  Either way, in game, there are rewards and benefits for both options.  If you harvest you get given a lot of ADAM all at once but if you Rescue you are rewarded little and often throughout the whole game.  Another thing the choice system gives the player is multiple endings.  

Personally, I think the good ending is fantastic.  Up to that point in my life, only films have moved me but that ending was powerful.  It showed that a child born for the wrong reasons has the power to overcomeanything.

So, three reasons why I believe that Bioshock is the best of a generation.  If it was not for this gem, games like Dead Space, Arkham Asylum or even The Last of Us would not have shone bright.  They all contain elements from Bioshock, whether it is the storytelling, atmosphere or choice system.  I believe it also helped developers create strong, believable characters.  Imagine The Last of Us where all characters were incredible dull.  It would have been a whole different game.

When I finished Bioshock I searched for another game similar to this but I could not anything which satisfied me.  The next game which left me with the same impression was Arkham Asylum, but that there is another story to be told.

To do this day Bioshock has won many awards.  Including Game of The Year, Best Story, Best Shooter and Best Visual Art.  On top of these, it also won the Bafta for Game of The Year in 2007.  In 2012, IGN gave Bioshock the top spot in a list of the top 25 Modern PC Games.  That is all games from 2006 onwards.  Even Time Magazine named it one of the top 100 games of all time (2012).  Of All Time!  What more proof do you need that this game is fantastic?

So, in the end what do I think of Bioshock? – I Love It!


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Otaku Review: Valkyria Chronicles 3 (PsP)

Today's review is a special one. The game in question has had a translation patch in the works for a good while now and was finally released to the public not too long ago. The process was a laborious one to correctly patch the game and a certain release was needed (Extended Edition. The patch doesn't work on the standard release) I guess the only question on your mind is - was the wait worth it? Well let's found out how good, if at all, Valkyria Chronicles 3 is on PsP.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Review: BlazBlue: Chronophantasma

BlazBlue Chrono Phantasma
Platform: PS3
Price: ¥6,800 (£40.50 at time of writing)
Release Date:   Japan: Out Now
                        USA: March 25 2014
                        Europe: TBD

It’s an odd situation I find myself in, reviewing Blazblue: Chronophantasma, as when reviewing any product reviewers will either offer a recommendation or discouragement of course. Here, with BlazBlue: Chronophantasma (hereafter referred to just as Chronophantasma), there are two potential audiences who might read this review: people who have never played any entry in the BlazBlue franchise or are otherwise not invested for perfectly valid reasons, and those who are veterans of the series who are already playing this latest iteration and therefore will find this review to be defunct, so in either case this review is probably sort of pointless. You could probably apply this to any number of games currently available only in Japan, but at the suggestion of Andrew as I myself have a digital copy of Chronophantasma, groups and redundancy be damned, let’s have a look at the game itself and see how it fares.

BlazBlue, for those who are unfamiliar, is a 2D fighting game franchise created by Arc System Works as a spiritual successor of sorts to their long running and well regarded Guilty Gear series. It’s plot, in so far as fighting games have plot, is set in the not too distant future (but sadly not way down in Deep 13) and centres around the SS class criminal Ragna the Bloodedge and his quest to destroy an evil organisation known as the Novus Orbus Librarium, or at least select figures within that cabal such as the god of trolls Yuuki Terumi, this series’ Joker to Ragna’s Batman.

If you’re a newcomer to the series then, even disregarding the inherent language issues surrounding importing Chronophantasma either digitally or physically as it will be almost completely in Japanese, you won’t find this instalment welcoming to new players in so far as understanding the context. The story at this point, set in Ikaruga (the fictional country, not the game), assumes you have played at least BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend. Unlike that entry in the series, which had a recap of the events of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, this one makes no provisions for people freshly arriving to the franchise. In some ways this is to be expected, but a catch up might have been nice for newcomers.
Then again, this is a fighting game, not an RPG, so onto the meat of things: the fights. Chronophantasma is, like all of Arc System Works previous games, a fast paced fluid 2D fighter with plenty of style and eye candy, as well as a fairly technical and in depth fighting system. Players coming from other fighters such as Super Street Fighter IV may find the system mechanics and pace of the game take some time getting used to but it is a rewarding fighter to play once you’ve invested some time into it. The game does feature a comprehensive tutorial mode as well as individual character challenges to teach you basic and intermediate combos, but apart from a time investment becoming truly skilled at Chronophantasma will require online research into frame data, videos of high level Japanese play, character specific matchups and the like. The game will give you the basic tools to get started but will not carry you through to the upper echelons. Much like with the plot, this is somewhat to be expected, but it would have been nice to have it contained within the game proper.

The mechanics of the game have not changed drastically although some significant changes have been made to shake things up a bit. Guard Primers, a defensive system from Continuum Shift onwards, have been ditched in favour of Crush Triggers, a move that each character possesses which costs 25% meter and when not Barrier Blocked will cause Guard Crush, opening the victim up for a combo. Crush Triggers also have their use in combos as damage boosters and compliment some characters’ play styles really well, such as Arakune. Bursts now also regenerate much like in Guilty Gear, but the old Gold Burst mechanic has been replaced with Overdrive, a system install for each character that enhances their supers and drive moves as well as making the opponent unable to burst mid-combo while active. Some character’s supers such as Ragna’s Blood Kain have been merged into the Overdrive mechanic as a result, and Overdrive combos are especially flashy and brutal if executed properly. Lastly, hitstop has been reduced across the board, which in layman’s terms makes fights feel much more fluid and fast paced, alleviating a complaint heard a few times about previous iterations of Blazblue, particularly from long time Guilty Gear players used to a more fast paced style of play.
The roster for Chronophantasma has now been expanded to twenty six characters, with seven newcomers in total, a decent amount for a new iteration in a fighting game franchise. These new challengers include Amane Nishiki, a fabulous disciple of Lord Tenjo who seeks to add Carl Clover to his troupe, Bullet, a mercenary who specialises in hitting people and weapon grade fanservice, Azrael, a man who punches people so hard they see the curvature of the earth, Izayoi, who is Tsubaki Yayoi having unlocked the potential of her namesake weapon and at the time of writing is hilariously weaker competitively than her regular counterpart, Yuuki Terumi, who is Hazama but without the sweet hat, Kagura Mutsuki, pimp mac daddy and Monty Python alumni as the Black Knight, and lastly long-time fan favourite and game balance destroying science queen Kokonoe. Terumi, Kagura and Kokonoe have various locks on them before they can be played, but otherwise the rest of the new characters are ready to play from the get-go.
All of the new characters feel fresh and unique. Amane specialises in chip damage, Azrael hits like a run-away eighteen wheeler, Bullet has a neat kind of command grab play style, Terumi specialises in building special meter ridiculously quickly, Izayoi is sort of like Hakumen mixed with a bit of Rachel, Kagura is the first charge character in BB thusfar and Kokonoe can control spacing effectively with her gravity move. They’re all welcome additions to the roster and I can personally vouch for how fun Azrael is to play. However, beyond Kagura (discounting Terumi, Izayoi and Kokonoe as they have appeared in previous instalments in varying capacities) the impact of the new characters is minimal, with Bullet’s story arc of trying to find her former commander going nowhere, Amane appearing as a cameo at best and Azrael only serving as a bump in the road who is beaten in a rather silly fashion.

It’s with some irony then that, as you might expect, Chronophantasma iterates on the balance of the various characters once again, adding new moves to all of them and changing things up, but where this irony comes in is that the balance remains broadly unchanged from Continuum Shift Extend. Top tier characters from that game still remain firmly in the upper ranks and the only real big movers are characters swapping from A to B rank and vice versa. Of all the new characters, only Azrael and Kokonoe sit in the competitive A and S tiers respectively, with the others being relatively weak as a result. That shouldn’t deter you from picking a character you like to play, but broadly speaking things are much the same as before. Valkenhayn, Taokaka and Litchi to name a few still sit comfortably in the S tier bracket and remain very strong characters.
Aesthetically you won’t find much that is drastically new in Chronophantasma either when compared to Continuum Shift Extend. The graphic quality remains the same for the sprites, which is to say it’s still really good for a 2D fighter. There are numerous new stages including the notorious Snowtown which is the bane of many an online match for causing additional latency, all of them as well done as the previous ones. Perhaps the highlight is the new music tracks however. For my money, Blazblue has always had a great soundtrack, and Chronophantasma features remixes of all of the previous themes from the earlier instalments and new tracks for the various new characters and certain character specific matchups, ranging from hard rock to metal to even classically inspired violin tunes. Some of the new remixes aren’t as good as the originals in my opinion, but overall the music remains one of the stand out features of Blazblue.
Online play is better serviced in Chronophantasma, featuring your usual one on one, team matches, multi match rooms and the like. An online training mode has also now been added, and ranked play now features a Dan system as well as Player Skill Ranking. But perhaps the coolest new feature is the presence of persistent online lobbies, almost like dedicated servers after a fashion, where players can move around between arcade cabinets to join matches with people they might otherwise never meet. In this persistent arcade lobby players take on an almost 8 bit style sprite of a character of their choosing and can customise it with items like hats. If that sounds a lot like Team Fortress II then you’d not be wrong, as ArcSys occasionally host seasonal events to offer free hats and the like for your arcade character, which is a cute touch. Overall the new arcade lobbies are a breath of fresh air and are a good way for you to just jump in and play some matches with people. However, the game’s netcode seems iffy in areas, and I’ve seen unfavourable comparisons to Persona 4: Arena which seemed to be fare better online with less lag, even though ArcSys also developed that title as well. For an optimal online experience you will want to seek players with 3+ bar connections, but even then there can be the occasional lag spikes such as one instance where my game froze for almost a solid second.

Outside of the online arena Chronophantasma offers a solid plethora of single player and offline options. Arcade, Versus, Score Attack, Challenge, Unlimited Mars and the pseudo RPG Abyss mode make returns. Story mode is also featured, and departs from the previous character specific plotlines to focus on specific factions within the Blazblue universe. I haven’t played through all of Story Mode, but I can speak of one specific moment I did see where Kagura hits on Noel, and her friend Makoto decides to intervene… by throwing off her jacket and attacking him while wearing her stripperific underboob sporting uniform. Given Kagura is a bit of a pervert, this is like trying to fight off a starving lion with a whip made of sausages, and you can take this pretty much as a solid example of what the writing quality is like for the story, which also features a heavy slew of technobabble and obscure, confusing plot points. Given Chronophantasma also now features a Mass Effect style codex this is hardly encouraging, but of course your enjoyment of the story mode will vary depending on your personal taste. For my part I continue to find it a bit too juvenile and occasionally moronic for my liking although there are some occasional good moments to be savoured. Completing Story Mode unlocks Kagura for play (who can also be unlocked with a paid for pass if you wish) and a secret single player mode that I wouldn’t dare spoil but I imagine will be very appealing to fans of a certain single player boss from Marvel versus Capcom II. Lastly, there’s also a ton of unlockable artwork in the Gallery mode too.
Chronophantasma is currently only available in Japan and can be imported or downloaded from the Japanese PSN store, although it is also due for release in the US in March 2014. A PS Vita version is also on the cards with, of all things, beach events to be added. You may want to wait for the US release (which hopefully won’t be region locked) if you’re new to Blazblue, but otherwise if you fancy diving into it now with the Japanese digital version you can find detailed instructions on how to import it digitally on Dustloop, which also features guides and frame data for the various characters.

Returning to what I said at the beginning of this review, I wonder if offering a final verdict would be prudent. As I said before, people interested in Blazblue have likely already picked up the Japanese version either digitally or physically and I can’t really recommend it to newcomers due to the Japanese only text and voices. But with an English language version pending in the US and the possibility of a region free release, I suppose I can summarise for people on the outside looking in that almost across the board, Chronophantasma is good, but it is not a product that welcomes new players or those otherwise not versed in the very anime style of storytelling it offers. With that, I suppose I can offer a cautious recommendation and a suggestion that you might want to try one of the earlier iterations if you can pick it up cheaply, as that will stand you in good stead for the plot and many of the gameplay mechanics. Overall, it’s better than Extend, but Chronophantasma still could (and should) aspire for greater things. 

-       - Shadon1010 once did over 9000 damage in a single Overdrive combo. Neighbours complained of him yelling triumphantly in a horrible English dub for ten minutes straight.