Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Death Idol Game TV bombs in Japan's Media Create chart

Hopefully some games sold a few copies in Japan as the big selling season kicks in. Remember that across all areas, sales are down and falling fast for console games, and the landscape since the glory PSP days has changed irrevocably.

Macross Delta Scramble from Bandai raids the top five, in at No. 4, with 24,600 sales, just ahead of Reco Love Blue Ocean/Gold Beach with a reasonable 16,000. Idol Death Game TV pretty much bombs with 5,800 sales, which makes supporting new ideas just a little less likely for the Vita from Japanese publishers.

That said 3DS churns on, with over 21 million lifetime Japanese sales, even as the country gets ready for Switch next March, showing what loyalty to your product can get you. This week, despite all the chart activity, the Vita sold 8,850 in Japan, up just a few on last week.

Next week's arrival of WoFF might help some, but I guess all eyes are now on the new colours and limited editions in December to give sales a kick. Meanwhile over in Famitsu land, the latest review scores are in, with Gareth Noyce's Lumo getting creditable sevens across the board:

Atelier Firis: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Journey – 9/8/9/8 [34]
Lumo – 7/7/7/7 [28]

Last week's figures

Exile's End ends up on the Vita today

Exile’s End is a dark and futuristic 2D side-scroller that immediately brings back memories of Robocop and Shadow of the Beast to 16-bit era gamers. It offers a mix of adventure-style puzzles, tightly-controlled platforming, and dangerous aliens to take down. Through a combination of Marvelous, Xseed, Magnetic Realms and original PC developer Matt Fielding and his Japanese team, it is quite the all-star effort.

The game was developed as an homage to early ’90s action-adventure PC games, drawing heavy gameplay inspiration from classics of the genre as well as thematic influence from ’80s sci-fi films and anime. Boasting uniquely stylised cutscenes, multiple endings, and an atmospheric soundtrack by Keiji Yamagishi of Ninja Gaiden and Tecmo Super Bowl fame, Exile’s End will have players investigate a massive, interconnected alien world and experience a story filled with ancient riddles and modern-day hubris.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fate Extella confirmed for January release with physical LE

Fate Extella has been down as "early 2017" for a while now, and Marvelous have been good to their word with a January release date for the game that will have a physical release with some smart limited editions both for the PS Vita and PS4.

Players will experience the story of Fate Extella: The Umbral Star from the independent perspectives of the three heroine Servants and face off against foes from a variety of Fate productions, including characters from Fate/EXTRA, Fate/stay night, Fate/Zero, Fate/Apocrypha and Fate/Grand Order, in fast-paced action. The ‘Moon Crux’ battle mechanic debuts in this entry to match its series-first gameplay style, transforming the player-controlled Servants and granting them considerable powers that allow them to devastate enemies and take formidable challenges head-on. The game will contain the original Japanese voices with English text.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Oddworld Stranger's Wrath gets physical with Limited Run

Oddworld is one those fun series that refuses to give up the ghost, and rightly so. It is up there with Rayman as one of the most loveable and enduring platform series in gaming. New n Tasty has already sold out on Limited Run, so its only fair that the earlier editions get their time in the sun.

The series' 3D outing Stranger's Wrath enjoyed a HD remake on PSN in 2012, thanks to Just Add Water and now gets a fresh lease of life via Limited Run. Packing fearsome reversible artwork, a map, poker cards and the game in a format Sony can never take away from you, get ready to jump on this latest great boxed offering.

Suspect that the third game in the series, Munch's Oddysee HD won't be too far behind - sure the chronology is all screwed up, but enjoy these games forever in boxed format while you can.

Limited Edition SaGa Scarlet Grace models for Japan

By the quick application of some spray paint to the existing Vita models, Sony and Square have come up with a host of new styles for the release of SaGa Scarlet Grace. The red one is the real standout, with the others using fairly dull black on white or vice versa. Not a patch on the Metal Slime DQB bundle.

These hit Japan mid-December, check out all the different models of Vita available if your import budget stretches far enough.

Rogue Raiders, a Vita exclusive we all have to support

Okay, there's been a fair bit of excitement over action RPG Rogue Raiders in the last few weeks, the WIP screenshot news have been easily the most popular stories. But, now its time for the Vita family to put its money where its mouth is!

The Kickstarter is live now, and there's no hiding behind other formats. If we want this game, its down to Vita owners to back it! Cristina Ramos (aka Dangerous Alone) has already done spectacularly as a lone developer, the early work looks amazing, and her ideas for the game sound amazing.

It has already raised over €2K of its modest €33,000 goal in the first hours, but the community needs to donate, to share and to shout about this game. Not only to get it done, but to prove to other developers that the Vita is a viable option for their work.

No more talk, time for action! There are stretch goals, mostly aiming to add extra features, and get more developer support, but let's do this one step at a time.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Vita finally joins the Bridge Constructor crowd

Okay, this game was big on iOS years ago, but Bridge Constructor is finally coming to PS Vita and PS4 according to trophy listings. As I recall, it was fun but deeply frustrating during its five minutes of fame as the iPhone game de jour.

Its another one of these ghost releases, with no news from the publisher, no idea who the port developer is and so on. Still, it should be worth a blast, just to find how many ways there are NOT to build a bridge.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Rice Digital may have some news at London ComicCon

Among its impressive line up of visual novels on show at MCM ComicCon in London (October 28-30) the company has a mystery announcement buried in its stage show schedule. The company is playing host to Marvelous Europe and its sister publisher PQube, so there's a fair chance it could be for the Vita.

12pm - Fate/EXTELLA Chat with Marvelous
1pm - Mystery Announcement & Game Presentation!
2pm - Root Letter Chat with PQube
3pm - Steins;Gate 0 with PQube
4pm - Tournament Top 4s!
5pm - Giveaway Extravaganza

Vita shopping guide for Christmas

Saw the first advert with baubles on UK TV last night, so I guess we are okay to talk about Christmas (or the festive season as its now called). If you're searching for a new Vita for the holidays, either as an upgrade, a kid's present or a Remote Play gadget for your PS4, then this is the place to find the best deals. I'll also cover the top games and best priced memory cards.

The PlayStation Vita Handheld

In terms of stock, no one seems to know (and Sony won't say) how long the Vita will remain on shelves for. Also, be aware that with the price of the UK pound still free-falling, UK retail prices could soon go up. The only advice on that basis is - get one while you can!

Certainly in the States, reports suggest they are few and far between, while here in the UK, online seems to be the place to shop. Individual consoles seem pretty thin on the ground, unless you want to go second hand, with plenty on eBay or through Amazon resellers. But there are still a few new bundles to be had, which nets you a memory card and a bunch of games.

Target Stores in the US have the Vita discounted to $139

Smyths has the PS Vita LEGO Action Heroes Pack for £175.
But if you have some Amazon vouchers, then their £180 starting price may come down a bit.

NOTE: Some reviewers say these aren't coming with the 8GB memory card - do check it is included before you buy, and return it pronto if it doesn't! 

Don't buy a Vita expecting the latest western big-name games, Sony and major western developers have long since abandoned the Vita, but even launch games like Uncharted still stand up incredibly well. One-time Vita exclusives like Gravity Rush and Danganronpa may well now be coming to other formats, but the portable versions are still the go-to editions.

There are still 100s of indie and Japanese games still to come for the Vita running into 2018, and with a cheap back catalogue, second hand scene, and plenty of PSN sales - a new Vita will still provide a life time of gaming.


Since 2014, all Vita models have had a LCD display, if you can find an original 1000-class model new, then that has a blacker, brighter screen, with more pop. But the difference isn't massive and if you buy a new 2000-class model, you won't know there was ever a difference.

Vita Memory Cards

Despite their outrageous pricing, Sony has never noticeably cut the cost of memory cards for the Vita. The rule is buy the biggest you can afford, a 32-GB model will store plenty of games. The 64-GB models are Japanese imports as they were never officially released here.

Amazon has a range of cards or bundled cards with download codes for games, like the Disney or Mega packs to spice things up a bit, ideal if you are getting them for a gift, as the basic cards are pretty tiny and pointless on their own.

There's a suggestion that the 64-GB cards corrupt more easily than the others, so always keep a back up of you games and saves on a PC.

Grips and Docks

The Vita has a range of cases from hard plastic to canvas. There are also some grips available that can make it more comfortable to use, and add triggers to save tapping the rear screen on some games. They range from dirt cheap to modestly priced, just remember to check they are for your model of Vita - some generic types cater for both.

Games and Content

I won't tell you what games to buy, but there probably over 1,000 titles so far. From PS one (100+), PlayStation Portable (250+) and Vita (650+) games available, depending on your region. Since it doesn't get the latest big-name games, you can spend plenty of time diving in and out of the back catalogue, with many games available cheap in retail and PSN sales.

Check my reviews to find games that match your interests. However, I'll have best of 2016 and what to get in 2017 pieces coming soon. Do note that some Vita games are available in physical form from stores, others are only available to download from PSN.

Physical copies could well increase in value over the years, and will boost the value of your Vita collection if you ever decide to sell it. Buy those if possible, especially if they are Limited Run titles with small production runs. Going physical will also save you messing about with lots of expensive memory cards as that collection grows.

The Vita is still very much a viable proposition for a gaming fan who's not just after the latest Call of Duty. With a gold mine of quality titles, it might not be for everyone, but it has the best gaming community since the Dreamcast and it annoys the hell out of Sony every time someone buys one, so go on!

A first look at Berserk on the Vita

Having done a pretty decent job with Attack on Titan, the early looks at Berserk: Band of the Hawk had me wondering how Team Ninja could get that working on the Vita. Again, there was no need for concern, as it looks pretty smooth, if a little muddy with more muted lighting than the big-screen version.

Obviously, this could be the high-effort first level and the game could badly fall down later on, but Berserk is yet more proof that the Vita has plenty of power in it, even if this is just a reskinned AoT game with some new tweaks, now characters don't have to fly through the air at high speed! The game is out in Japan next week and comes west in 2017.

Just for comparison here's the latest clip from the PS4 version in action, having a boss fight.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Creating Root Letter, a producer's view

PQube continues to deliver content to get the west excited about its upcoming visual novel Root Letter. Unlike all the other Japanese games slavishly set in Akihabara or some other trendy area, the rural scenes and pastoral music for Root Letter set it apart. But, just because something is set outside the big cities, perhaps with hints of older world Japan, doesn't mean it can't make for a great story.

10 Tons posts a short clip on Neon Chrome in action

There's a huge list of indie games still plodding their way out to the Vita, and its always cool when one turns up after a period of wondering if it will make it or no. Neon Chrome is the latest to show itself, a top down shooter with those must-have rogue elements may explode onto PSN in November if all goes well.

Will Nintendo's Switch be the Vita 2 Sony never made?

Sony had lots of good ideas with the Vita (and several duff ones). A powerful portable, practically a mobile device, playable on TV (when PS TV arrived). It had Remote Play for a few PS3 and then all PS4 games, and eventually supported apps, indie developers and smaller games, alongside the big titles.

Crap app support, horrible WiFi speed, proprietary memory cards and failing to market it were just some of the drawbacks.

Nintendo, with a longer legacy in portable gaming has always kept things low power, stayed away from bringing the big-screen experience to the smaller screen, it has also fudged its way through recent generations, with the botched 3D effect on the 3DS, and a continued failure to encourage third parties outside of Japan and so on.

Believe it or not, the people at these companies are pretty smart. It is just politics and some inner-need to be "different" that screw things up. Xbox One's media focus, Wii U's name, PlayStation 3's Cell obsession and so on are among the big ticket cock-ups.

Which brings us to today's Nintendo news, the company that has a lot riding on whatever hybrid device NX turns out to be. We know it won't be a PS4 and X1 challenger, in the raw power stakes, even though the new Hyrule trailer looks pretty swish. Consensus is NX will combine portable and TV gaming, but how, we'll find out soon.

UPDATE: The console is called Switch and splits out its controllers so you can use it like a Vita, as a small screen with wireless controls (Joy-Con), or plug it into the big screen via a dock and play with a proper controller. Watch the video, its easier to explain that way. In part it's a gaming tablet, with a decent screen size. Specs should follow soon, although Nvidia chips are running the show.

The press release says, "Developers can design their games supporting a variety of play styles, which gives gamers the freedom to choose an experience that best suits them." which I guess most developers will hate or ignore - look how many used the Vita or Wii U camera.

If done rightly, this could easily become a device that has massive broad appeal across age groups and types of gamer, courting mobile, retro and modernistas. With Sony out of the portable space, the floor is Nintendo's - don't balls it up chaps!

Hopefully there are more colour options than dull grey, and while there's a modest list of publishing and middleware partners, to show Nintendo is truly in the groove, there really should be a massive list of indies too!

Does this set the stage for Sony to push a PlayStation 4 Portable remote play device, at least to keep 5.5 million Japanese Vita owners in the family (by the time Switch arrives)? Or, is the company too defeated and embarrassed to try? As it is, Vita owners still playing may have dozens of games they treasure, so won't just ditch Vita at the first sight of a new Nintendo. However, Switch is a logical upgrade path that Sony has gifted portable gamers to move on to.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea comes west in January

Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is coming to the Vita in January with a neat £49 Limited Edition thanks to NIS America. The game tells the tale of Shallistera, the daughter of a tribal leader who embarks on a voyage to find a cure for her ailing father, and Shallotte, a struggling alchemist who wishes to bring success to her family’s Atelier.

They both are joined by a diverse cast of characters which will help them throughout their journey. Players will encounter the quick-thinking Kortes, Shallistera’s childhood friend and bodyguard, Wilbell voll Erslied, a magician in training, Jurie Crotze, a lone-wolf treasure hunter, and Miruca Crotze, a childhood friend of Shallotte’s who works as a blacksmith.
Limited Edition Includes:
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea Physical PS Vita game
Alchemist Handbook (48-page softcover art book)
Original Soundtrack (30 tracks)
Microfiber cloth (6" x 6")
Collector's box

Game DLC Includes:
Administrator's Battle Outfit
Atelier Series Special BGM Pack - Famitsu bonus
Atelier Series Special BGM Pack - Dengeki bonus
Shallotte Costume ”Hero Girl”
Shallistera Costume "COSMO FIGHTER"
Premium Box Bonus for Shallistera, Sophie Style
Premium Box Bonus for Shallotte, Plachta Style

Mary Skelter dashes into the Media Create chart

The latest Media Create chart is out in Japan, as we hit full bore release season, Mary Skelter is the only Vita entry at No. 4, selling 18,500, not far behind Paper Mario Color Spash and Tomb Raider. Out tomorrow in Japan are Macross Delta Scramble, Idol Death Game TV and Reco Love.

Vita sales continue their gentle decline to 8,772 for the week, with only World of Final Fantasy likely to give it a boost before the new colours arrive. PlayStation VR sold 51,000 units, with PS4 sales up over 30,000.

Also out today, the latest Famitsu scores for a bit of a laugh, given that Berserk on Vita scores the same score as the PS4 version - is it really as good? Guess we'll find out when the gameplay clips turn up on YouTube. SAO gets the same score as the PS4 version too, do they even check? Most of these are out next week on the 27th.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk  – 9/9/9/8 [35]
My Teen Romantic Comedy  – 8/7/7/8 [30]
Neo Atlas 1469 – 8/8/10/7 [33/40] (yep, a 10 from one reviewer)
Saka Agari Hurricane Portable – 7/7/7/6 [27]
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization  – 9/8/7/8 [32]