Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A quick play of the Dragon Quest Builders demo

Popping up like an autumn squirrel out of the leaves comes the demo for Dragon Quest Builders, now out on EU PSN, with the US version now also live. Square Enix's monster seller in Japan should easily generate a lot of love in the west, but how does it play?

A quick play of the first few quests shows the game as being easy-to-love, a Minecraft-lite with a gentle story to follow and a suitably gentle pace of events and action. You can mildly customise and name your character, and choose to play as a boy or girl, before unleashing them into a world lost to time, with people stumbling around like passive zombies.

They, Pippa and Rollo are the first people you meet, need a hero, a leader, and above all a builder, and possibly a plumber. Enter you with your noddy hat! You can soon start turning mud into walls, sticks into doors and beds before crafting basic essentials like weapons and tools. You know the drill, but this time you need to help them out rather than going and crafting your own luxury pad, recreating the pyramids or building a fleet of steel tanks.

In design, DQB is totally Minecraft, from the crafting benches to chests, and the way you gather and create. However, the mission structure and (in the demo, anyway) tight limits on resource types make it a lot more focused, but it retains the relaxed atmosphere of Creative mode and while there's sure to be big battles along the way, there's none of this in the early going.

The full game is out in a couple of weeks, digital only on the Vita in Europe.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Criminal Girls 2 is a UK No. 1 at retail

The UK retail chart of non-specific sales continues to provide a chuckle as NIS America's Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors storms to No. 1. They could at least have given it a UK spelling, how many do we reckon it sold, 100 physical units?

Last week's No. 1 Psycho Pass is on the express elevator to hell, down to No. 10 while God Eater 2 continues to show more legs than the Criminal Girls sticking around the top five after a month on sale.

FIFA 15 reenters at No. 17 and Lego games are surging up, suggesting people are stocking up for kids' Christmas presents, anyone know if EA bothered to update the FIFA roster?

1. Criminal Girls 2 NIS America
2. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Warner
3. Minecraft PS Vita Edition Mojang
4. God Eater 2: Rage Burst Bandai
5. Lego Marvel Avengers Warner

Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, (C)2016 UKIE Ltd

Over on Amazon UK's top seller list, Need for Speed at under £10 is currently top for Vita games, with pre-orders for World of Final Fantasy at No. 2 and FIFA 15 shooting up the wing at No. 3. Criminal Girls is down at 37, suggesting a very short sentence in the chart.

Out this week at retail are physical copies of the excellent Lumo, while after a few weeks' delay Valkyrie Drive finally revs up, courtesy of PQube!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Root Letter gets a pen pal edition

How to make visual novels interesting? When its about letters, how about a writing set? This mighty leap of logic from Rice Digital, actually makes it an interesting proposition. You can get the US version or the EU version (£60).

The collection looks pretty smart in a neat box, and includes either the PS4 or Vita version. Someone should point out to the big publishers that this is how limited editions work! It also comes with a CD, very stylish if unassuming print and art book,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Square's Collective may offer a Vita version for Legend of Lumina

Looking not too dissimilar to Square's own Dragon Quest Builders, Legend of Lumina from Apex Frontier is all about farming, monster raising and adventuring. The game is up for your vote on Square's Collective Page.

Vote for a Vita version and it could come our way, one day. The game is in the early stages of development, and built in Unity, but looks like it would fit well on Sony's portable, so sign up and give it some love.

Of the other new additions to the Collective list, A Dragon Named Coal has a 3DS option, so you may want to politely encourage the developers in the direction of a Vita edition for the smart looking 2D Castlevania type game.

Oceanhorn confirmed for PS Vita

FDG Games has the joyous news that Vita owners will be getting a port of its charming RPG Oceanhorn, developed by Cornfox & Bros. That's after a poll saw almost 4,500 show an interest in the game. I played Oceanhorn on an iPad a couple of years ago and it is a thing of beauty. They are talking to Limited Run about a physical release, which would be extra awesome.

While there's no time frame for Oceanhorn: Monsters of Uncharted Seas, you can grab a Vita theme here. Hopefully this level of interest will nudge FDG to bring Monster Boy from Game Atelier over too.

Interestingly, Oceanhorn 2 was announced as in development last month, so if the first game does well, hopefully the sequel, which is going full 3D, could just make its way to Vita a little faster.

Review: Claire Extended Cut

The Vita's run of PC indie ports continues with Claire, a 2014 Steam release from Hailstorm that provides yet another dose of highly-effective 2D survival terror. First thing to note: Claire has been extensively patched since launch to fix some bugs with saving and maps, resolving some panic issues and so on. If the game annoyed you on day one, try it again!

The Extended Cut version is far more than just a straight port with a move to a 2.5D engine in Unity that offers dynamic lighting, but the basic gameplay remains the same. Claire is a nightmare plagued girl, consigned to St. Barbara's hospital to look after her mother. It starts with a younger Claire dreaming (or is she?) about her home turning into a scene from Poltergeist. When the dreams start becoming reality, Claire has to navigate the halls and find a way out with a dark terror lurking in the shadows.

Out there, somewhere, there are people to find, some to rescue, light sources to find to keep the dark at bay and nameless terrors to avoid. This is no gung-ho game where our teenage protagonist suddenly becomes a first class ninja or gun mistress. Instead, running and hiding is usually the only option. To that end, Claire nips in and out of doors, using the map to find a safe cupboard to hide in or to aid exploration.

The Map To Claire's Heart

Actually the map screen is probably open more than in any game I can recall, as she moves between areas through passages, and you desperately try to find the right door. Exploring can get complex and navigating around a locked or barred area becomes pretty frustrating. To help out, items to be picked up sparkle slightly, but there's still plenty of nooks and crannies to dig for them.

Lock picks will help advance your progress, but which door do you use them on? Batteries will help power the torch, once you find it and so on. But there are still lots of questions at every turn, where did all the candles come from? Why are all the clocks stuck at 3:33? Is that a demon or just some flickering rubbish? Why can this healthy looking girl only jog about 5 steps?

There are lots of doors, behind, in front and to the side of many rooms in the hospital, which can confuse, especially as Claire has limiting sprinting capacity, a need for energy and, as with any person in a nightmarish hospital, can easily become panicked. There are a range of different endings to her story, so while the game might only be six to eight hours long, there's plenty to seek out among its dark passages.

The hospital is broken up into wings, and there's also a school where something equally grim is going on, but your main aim is to complete the objectives, as listed in your journal. With such limited visual information, sound plays a huge part in the game and there's all sorts of peculiar effects playing around the stereo space behind a haunting ambient audio track (tune is definitely not the right word).

Claire isn't quite as dramatic as the ambiance makes it out to be, basically a simple explore and puzzle game, but the story is worth sticking with, and this is a perfect handheld game for short doses of heart-fluttering scares.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £13.99, $14.99 (PSN)
Developer: Hailstorm
Progress: Let me out the closet!

Macross Delta Scramble TV spot and gameplay

Shout and cheer and they will come buying appears to be the theme of this advert with a few clips of gameplay and the voluble characters that feature in a long awaited Vita outing for the Macross series. If you want a better look at the action, jump into this video about 27 minutes and there's plenty of gameplay.

This game looks pretty sharp for a Vita exclusive with am impressive city backdrop, lots of detail in the mechs and multiplayer.

Feel happy with the Atelier Firis intro video

Missed this yesterday, an intro video for the chirpy, happy world of Atelier Firis, which I'd hope comes west after the good response to Atelier Sophie, was my first foray into this series. Certainly the gameplay videos for Firis look a step up for the series, on the PS4 at least, hopefully the Vita version will have a little extra polish to it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Get catty with Nights of Azure 2

Tecmo is keeping the gameplay of Nights of Azure 2 well hidden, but there's a cat! Which is about the highlight of this art heavy intro Rusewall Island and its characters. The PS4 game did head west, but I'm not so sure this will leave Japan, although plenty of Gust's other work has.

Vita sales shuffle up in Japan on Persona week

Japan explodes out of the summer lull as Persona 5 sells over 335,000 on PS4 and PS3, pretty sure a Vita version would have stomped on both of them. Other than Minecraft, the Media Create chart is bereft of Vita releases, yet Sony's portable managed to sell almost 13,000, a hefty boost on the summer flat line. The new PS4 slim model sold almost 95,000 units, which isn't bad.

Tactical visual novel Utawarerumono: The Two Hakuoros (Aquaplus) is out now, and will hit next week's chart, with the publisher claiming over 130,000 day one sales across all PlayStation formats, while Demon Gaze 2 (Kadokawa) should prove that classic RPGs can still be a big hit the following week.

A closer look at the summer of not much Vita action, no big sellers, yet somehow it manages to sell over 10K a week on average. Some very big sales weeks are needed in the run up to the holidays to help the Vita shift another million over the year.

Easy Rider goes ape in Fate Extrella

Another Fate Extrella clip showing Type Moon's endless pummeler in action, with a Rider taking to the battlefield on a Pegasus horse. It joins a long list of clips showing pretty much the same beatings happening to the same cookie cutter hordes, which with the deeply generic opening movie has me less than excited about this, especially with so many other games on the horizon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Psycho Pass Mandatory Happiness

Boy, this is not an easy game to love. It won't let you take screenshots (these are provided press shots), it disables the WiFi for no good reason, all the trophies are hidden, and it populates an interesting world with a cod lineup of detective characters out of the worst teen pulp fictions.

They are all here, the grizzled, wrinkled old cop. The angry youngster with the purple tie, sexy lady boffin and anally retentive smart arse Inspector, and you - the new kid on the block. Given most Japanese rooms are tiny, its a miracle they can all fit in most crime scenes!

The world lies somewhere between the futures depicted by Demolition Man, Minority Report and Logan's Run. Set 100 years in the future, people live well, monitored by intensive security cameras and their own personal Psycho Pass, yet still wearing cheap suits and ties.

If someone leans toward imbalance, criminal thoughts or antisocial tendencies, they can take medicine to curb those traits, or will soon face a visit from the Enforcers, who hunt down those that stray on the wrong side of the tracks.

Pain in the Psycho Pass

As a visual novel, based on a recent anime series, you're a new Inspector in PSB Division 1, forced to make multi-choice decisions to help guide the story. Go here, do this, talk to so and so. It'd be amazing, if your partners were in the slightest bit interesting, but they aren't - while managing to be largely incredibly annoying to converse with. Also, if you're the rookie - why are you making all the decisions?

You're fighting against a mystery puppet master who is using the invasive technology behind Psycho Pass to control other people to do their bidding. Using the drugs to create terrorist incidents things soon spiral out of control.

As ill-befitting such a society, blowing people's heads or legs off seems a really random way of sorting out the criminal class, but that's what several scenes boil down to. There's also the usual interpersonal dramas, the odd bit of social time and other personal choices to make. Do you take the medicine to keep your own Psycho Pass readings in check, or abandon them and see how it goes?

The story itself is vaguely interesting but let down by bad mixes of art and narrative. A crowded hospital corridor it says - while we look at a picture of an empty hall. A massive fight erupts, yet after none of the characters have a mark on them! And so on, it all contributes to breaking any grip the game may have on the audience.

You play again and again, trying to find the right routes, avoiding the bad endings and trying to dive deeper into the mystery, but its not a patch on Steins Gate in terms of plot, charm or execution. Even with cunning use of saves, its a long slog through Psycho Pass and the prose just doesn't keep me interested.

Score: 6/10
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Price: £34.99 (PSN)
Developer: NIS America
Progress: Logan's Run out of patience

See Saga Scarlet Grace in action

Now Tokyo Game Show is just a fading dream, the publishers are putting up videos of their live events. Check out 90 odd minutes of SaGa Scarlet Grace being demoed by men in suits from Square Enix and also the cool limited edition.

There's plenty of exploring and battling in the psuedo 3D world, with lots of English text already in place, which might hint at an easy translation job.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Psycho Pass beats MeiQ to UK retail No. 1

Two physical retail games out in Britain in a week? Madness I say, but the techno-thrilling visual novel Psycho Pass (review in progress) manages to beat RPG MeiQ, probably by about 100 sales to 75, judging by how Sony perceives the market. Kudos to NISA and Idea Factory for keeping them coming.

1 N Psycho Pass NIS America
2 N MeiQ Labyrinth of Death Idea Factory
3 = Minecraft Mojang
4 - Lego Star Wars TFA Warner
5 - Lego Marvel Avengers Warner
6 - God Eater 2 Bandai

Amazon's PS Vita Best Sellers list is a bit more random with pre-orders of World of Final Fantasy beating out Need for Speed (for £9.50) at the top of the list in the UK. God Eater sticks at No. 3 while Sonic's racer is at No. 6 - seriously developers, Vita owners want a good racing game!

Amazon UK Vita chart

Demon Gaze 2 trailer shows off the DLC

Demon Gaze 2 hits Japan at the end of the month, and the original is still one of the most active RPGs on the Vita, judging by the constant searches for it. The game will pack in a host of new characters and lines-up some DLC for later consumption, shown off at TGS. Call of the Grimodar will expand on the adventure further - hopefully a western release won't be too far behind.