Thursday, December 13, 2018

BitDungeon + the latest Red Art Physical Release

Arriving on January 25th and limited to 2,000 copies, pixel dungeon rogue-like BitDungeon+ from Dolores Entertainment is another indie charmer getting a well-deserved boxed release. Trapped in a prison cell, you explore randomized dungeons and hack and slash your way through dangerous bosses.

The difficultly increases as you become stronger and stronger. Build your character how you want with deadly passive abilities. Just like the classic quarter crunchers of old, if you die you lose everything and start all over. Can you make it to the end and save the day?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Vita sales perk up to around 2.5K in Japan

It is very hard to get excited about any jump in Vita sales these days. but the old dog managed 2,484 in last week's Media Create figures as the holiday season sales start in earnest. That's just a tad lower than the Switch at 280,000, taking 75% of the whole Japanese hardware market, helped by the arrival of Super Smash Bros.

SSB sold 1.2 million copies, showing just how much Japan loves their Switches, with 8 of the top 10 games for the hybrid. No Vita games in the chart, but Atelier of the New Earth is out this week across all formats, so might not even make the smallest of dents.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Some Eve Rebirth Terror glossy pics

Japanese sites are full of glowing imagery from El Dia's Eve Rebirth Terror, here's a few of the more interesting shots. Check out the rest for yourself, plus the list of characters and crew. The sequel to Eve Burst Error, it very likely won't come west, so enjoy and wonder what all the fuss is about!

The game launches in Japan at the end of April, and continues the story after the original game, a year on with the failing Amagi private detectives struggling to find cases to make ends meet. As people start going missing again, there's mysteries to solve as this VN adventure picks up the pace.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review Va-11 Hall-a

When the world is going to hell, head to a bar. That sounds like good advice to me, and while the bar (well, pub) I have in mind for the upcoming Brexit nightmare is in a secluded beach cove with great views, needs must. So, the people of the dystopian nightmare that is Glitch City head to Va-11 Hall-a (Valhalla) to ease the pain and unload some of their woes on the local bar tender.

There's techno-terrorism, idol worship, business worries, personal dramas, pretty much anything you'd find working a real bar, just without the mopping up. The aim of the game is to get the drinks right, from a mix of five ingredients, with optional ice, ageing, mixing or blending.

Get that right and you earn hefty tips to help pay the bills, decorate the flat that passes for your home and buy some trinkets to keep you sane. Arcade games provide a small distraction, but you really need to focus on the orders, and not skip text in case you miss something.  Make enough mistakes and its game over, back to that last save point.

While Valhalla is classed as a visual novel, its actually pretty light on plot and there's no real choices to make. You just need to keep an eye on what your customers are ordering, ignoring the fact they might be a brain-in-a-jar, some mil-spec nut job or just a hack out for gossip. Approach in the right frame of mind and getting the drinks flowing is as pleasurable as the real thing, with the Vita touchscreen used to select the ingredients in the correct quantities.

With secret characters to reveal, various endings and a range of highly-sexed characters, some the game comes right out of Waifu 101, which might disappoint, but if you suspend your critical faculties, Valhalla rolls right along. In the breaks between shifts, there's your own social media to catch up on the latest gossip and the odd spot of downtime to enjoy. Regular branching saves are recommended, because you don't know if drinking all 12 beers on offer will open up a new route or not?

The art is gritty and neon-laced in a non-too-subtle retro style, with characters fading in and out. You can add scanlines for further retro-isation, but they don't add much to the experience. Holding the atmosphere up is an excellent soundtrack (well worth getting on vinyl), and you can pick your favourites to play during your day at work.

Just like Papers, Please, Valhalla takes a monotonous task and makes it quirky fun thanks to the injection of some rambling plot that you only see a few strings of. With a sequel, N1rv Ann-a on the way in 2020 (but not for Vita apparently), its good to know the tale doesn't end here.

Beyond the game, Valhalla is also a miniature cultural phenomenon, with huge amounts of fan art out there, check out @Sukeban for lots of it and insights into the game. Not a game to play in a rush, channel your inner Woody from Cheers, Quark from DS9 or Mike from Only Fools and Horses, and you'll have a great time with the irregulars that show up.

Score: 8/10
More Reviews
Price: £11.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Sukeban/Wolfgame/Poppy Works
File size 293MB
Progress: End of the bottle

Friday, December 7, 2018

XSeed's London Detective Mysteria gets a launch announce trailer

Wow, packing an M rating for lots of mature themes, this sounds more of a handful than it first looked. Visual novel London Detective Mysteria from XSeed is out on the 18th for Vita owners to dive into the frivolities of Victorian London’s high society and the mysteries that lie hidden in London’s darkest corners.

Playing as the heiress of House Whiteley, players will name their own Lady Whiteley as they investigate mysteries of London and interact with personalities inspired by famous fictional characters including Detective Holmes, Jack the Ripper, and more. Take full control over the experience by adjusting text speed or even the individual speaking volumes of individual characters and their original Japanese voices. Players must choose their words carefully as they interact with other characters, as decisions made throughout the story will not only affect special rewards but will also shape whether Lady Whiteley finds love or something more sinister in the shadows of 19th century London.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Vita games keep on coming for 2019

The Vita still won't go quietly as a bunch of fresh announcements keep us happy campers busy in games. Ratalaika continues its porting onslaught on the Vita, teasing its first 18-rated title for the handheld. The only clue I can give is that its a pixel horror adventure. Go figure! And that's just one of half-a-dozen they have in the pipe.

UPDATE: Add another one to the list, Signature Edition will be making an announcement on Friday

UPDATE to the update: And that release is Darkest Dungeon Signature Edition, which I hope would come with all the new DLC and extra goodies. They include a Darkest Dungeon comic book, enamel pin badges, soundtrack CD and collector's art card. Pre-orders start next week, so ignore the "sold out" splashed over all the formats.

Not far behind we have EastAsiaSoft teasing three new Vita physical releases for 2019, two of which will be announced soon.

UPDATE: Two of those have been revealed as Super Destronaut DX (review), out in 2019 with extra content including new game modes, new BGM, extra trophies and other new features. Also going physical is I am the Hero (review) available next week. Time to update the list of mystery.

Helping things along is a fresh trophy listing from Las Vegas-based puzzle specialist Powgi with letter game One Word on the way to add to its growing roster of fun. The firm has a long list of apps and console titles that could yet make it to the Vita, joining Word Search and Word Soduku.

Over in Japan, we have  Eve Rebirth Terror, a visual novel sequel to Eve Burst Terror  from El Dia announced for 2019. Also on the way is Kadokawa's dungeon crawler, KonoSuba: God’s Blessing, showing that the mid-size and smaller Japanese publishers are still taking an interest, and will hopefully push for translations to boost overall sales.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Vita PlayStation Plus titles going out in style

December's gems on Playstation Plus for Vita owners are Iconoclasts and Papers Please. Two excellent titles, both solo efforts from Joakim Sandberg and Lucas Pope, they show how far individual passion and creativity can go.

That's a big step up on recent efforts, which have felt heavily like filler content, as we count down until the March 2019 elimination of Vita and PS3 from the PS+ service. Oddly enough, I have both of these in my PSN shopping cart, but hadn't gone for either as I had a strange feeling this might happen.

Of course, this could be way to keep Vita only-owners to keep paying for PS+ for a few months longer while they polish off these games. Since I have a PS4 now, I guess that's plenty of reason for me to keep going, but Vita owners who moved to Switch or Xbox are going to be mighty pissed when they need to pay monthly to access old games, with no new content.

Review: I am the Hero

Everyone needs to play a good beat 'em up up once in a while, and here's Ratalaika delivering a punchy port of I am the Hero, the well-rated Steam brawler from Crazyant. Reduced to single player on the Vita, you wade into battle on the mean streets of somewhere, with only your fists and feet to deal in revenge for, maybe, some stolen chemicals from a hospital? I guess the plot isn't the strong point here.

Set at an oblique angle, rather than the flat levels of classic  brawlers like Double Dragon and Renegade, you're still on a flat plane, limited to left and right movement as modest waves of thugs from the rougher edges of the city line up for a kicking. Using directions and buttons, you have around 16 moves at your disposal, and stringing them together into devastating combos is great fun.

At your disposal are a range of kicks, punches, charges, mighty leaps and some special EX-Skills plus critical attacks, but there are no weapons to pick up. Instead, your main aim is to build up massive combos, ideally done by lining up three or more enemies in a row and pummeling them all at once. In the air you have ludicrous skills and can juggle enemies across the sky or bounce them into the scenery to great effect.

By the way of extras, there's challenge modes to overcome, and a smattering of hidden secrets to round out the trophies. For the expert pugilists out there, the game starts in Standard mode, and you unlock Hard and Critical difficulties.

Contender, Ready

I am the Hero looks good, with reflections off the wet roads in the opening levels, plenty of bright neon lights to illuminate the darkness. It doesn't take itself too seriously either, the hoodlums know they're in a daft game and pull silly faces, they have stupid cartoon weapons and animate well. However, compared to other versions it feels slightly jerky.

Across the levels there's the odd bit of street furniture to interact with or dodge, but not really enough to keep up the mad tone of the game, and the bystanders are a missed opportunity for some encouraging banter or vicious verbals.

Complete a level and you can learn a new skill or choose another character to play as (you can swap them out during fights). In standard mode you can pretty much wade through most levels, with the odd soda can or pizza helping replenish your health.

The game definitely isn't quite as smooth as the original, and with five or more characters on-screen feels rather choppy. Enemy attacks vary from dumb to all over the place, which might suit the tone of the game, but fighting purists probably won't like the big boxer character endlessly pummeling at thin air rather than coming to attack.

Also, your attacks can be way past an enemy and still hit them, which doesn't feel in the spirit of the game. The ability to corral enemies into a corner and wipe them out in one go feels cheap too. Still, with plenty of variety and imagination (of the bad 70/80s cop series variety) going into the enemies, the game doesn't get boring.

There's also some neat touches, like if you keep dying on the tricky lift level, which is easy to do, eventually it will let you survive the long fall to keep on with the battle. That, some new touches like the bomber drones and exploding chemical frogs, plus a curiosity to see what comes next should keep you going to the end. Yes, this is a pretty short game, but still worth having a crack at.

Score: 7/10
More Reviews
Price: £7.99 (PSN), currently £6.39 for PS+ subs
Developer/publisher Crazyant/Ratalaika
File size 213MB
Progress: 5th Round

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Sony patents new memory card, only $49 per GB!

Kidding about the price! But Sony has form for screwing over fans every chance it gets. It also continues to keep teasing new technology that would only make sense in a portable or hybrid capacity.

Update: Or not, its actually for the Toio gadget thing that Sony only sells in Japan. Quite why the patent only came to light now is part of the random madness of the Internet.

The PS4 doesn't need memory cards or cartridges, I have a 2TB external drive that attests to that. However, the PS5 might need a way to send lots of data between the main console and an on-the-go device, without resorting to slow mobile cloud speeds, until 5G is everywhere in about 2024.

As found by Dutch site Techtastic, a recently published document on the South Korean patent board, the patent shows various images (PDF) with what looks suspiciously like a proprietary port (doesn't seem like a USB C) to prevent people connecting them to PCs and hacking the data. Hey, it wouldn't be Sony if they screwed this up somehow!

Another image shows a hole behind the upper cap, likely so it can tied to a keychain or strap for portability. Otherwise your guess is as good as mine, as Sony struggles to find a valid reason for gamers to upgrade from the top-selling PS4 to whatever comes next. But since its called a "game cartridge", Sony won't need them unless it has something smaller than PS5 Blu-ray titles in mind. Also, this could act as a way to keep retail stores sweet for the next generation as physical disc sales continue to fall.

If I had to guess, that touchscreen controller or a dedicated remote play device has a slot for this card/cartridge. Players buy the PS5 game and a mini-version (without 4K textures etc) of the data is copied to the cartridge, plus save data is stored automatically. Then if they want to go portable, off they trot on their HD device.

I am the Hero punches the trailer

I'm reviewing this right now, but check out the trailer ahead of this week's PSN launch for I am the Hero. So far, the game is a punchy little number with lots of fun characters to pummel, an impressive line up of moves, and plenty of oversize bosses to take down.

Presented in a unique oblique perspective, it looks distinctive while remaining true to the pixel punchers of old like Renegade. It also daubs the screen with neon colours to light up the seedy bars, subways, dingy depots and other shitholes our anti-hero has to scrap his way though. Full review soon.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Root Letter getting the movie treatment

Visual novel series Root Letter is getting the Hollywood treatment, as was teased recently and confirmed in the image below. Popular among western Vita owners, thanks to PQube/Rice Digital, the tales of loss and love in as series of letters create a slow and soulful series of adventures. The original has sold over 400K units worldwide with a very long tail, likely over 500K by now, most on Vita. 

But, that's pretty much all we know, there's nothing up on IMDB yet and the partnership between Kadokawa Games and Akatsuki (an LA production company) still has wet ink on it. This looks like Akatsuki's first signed venture, so as with all things Hollywood, who knows if it gets made. 

Top Vita games for 2019!

I was planning to write a "Vita in 2019" piece, but @KeyBladeGamer has crafted this video together of the best games coming out next year, and that pretty much does the job perfectly. From the likes of Code Realize to Catherine (Japan only alas) and Pixel Noir, Hardcore to Seraphim, there's still a small barrel full of delights to come for Vita loyalists.

As for a Sony portable future, we can only hope PS5 in 2020 comes with some type of Remote Player device as standard to play in the hybrid era. I'm guessing not a huge percentage of users play their Switch undocked in the west, but it still has to be something Sony is aware of, and Microsoft also has its own plans for cloud and remote gaming.

As for the Vita, prices will go up as scarcity increases and it becomes a collector's item. But I hope we all realise development is at the very tail end, and it will take labour-of-love type efforts to get more new games. Even so, the Mega Drive and Dreamcast are still ticking along, so who knows what might pop up.

When Vita is finally officially retired by Sony, I do hope they show off their lab-grown successor devices that never made it to retail, just to see what could have been.

Japan's PlayStation Awards broadcast in English

Over the coming weekend if you want to see a barrel of PS4 worship, and perhaps five seconds of a Vita game getting a mention, check out Sony Japan's PlayStation Awards. Doubtless there will be lots of politeness about the top sellers and no mention of PS4 being caned by the Switch in Japan.

Given a Vita game has been a rare sight in the Japanese charts this year, not sure what there is to celebrate although the likes Va-11 Hall-a and Reverie got a lot of media coverage in Japan and likely sales on PSN, so here's hoping for a spot of kudos in the indie section.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Dragonfly Chronicles tells its tale on the Vita

Marco Ayala's Dragonfly Chronicles is a surprise December release for the Vita, a retro-arcade title with platform and shooter elements, it looks pretty primitive, but if it plays okay, then we can look past that at this stage of the Vita's life.

Launched in the summer on PC, it got no reviews, suggesting this is a very under the radar release. here's the game's bio. Dragonfly Chronicles is a 2D Action-Adventure game full of challenge and fun for single player. Play as Mark West in his path to find what happened to his father and what is The Dragonfly conspiring, make your way through each level, use powerfull skills to destroy deadly enemies and creatures, find different items to reveal more data, play in super fast levels as you escape from exploding facilities and enjoy awesome comic-book cinematic cutscenes!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Vita edges along in a Japan dominated by Switch and Pokemon

Good news, Vita sales were flat last week in Japan at almost 1,800, even edging up a few on the previous week. Bad news, Switch sales went stratospheric, leaping 4X to over 200,000, in other words a 100 times what the Vita sold and 88% of the total market. Pokemon Let's Go had something to do with that selling over 650K units.

Are you happy with your marketing and successor choices now Sony? Sobbing over the concept models that might have made Vita 2 a competitor and kept you in the game rather than letting Nintendo steal all your cake?

Even more good news, a Vita game sneaked into the chart, down at 20 admittedly, but VN Twilight Line is the first game for Sony portable to visit the chart in a good few weeks.