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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review Slain, Back From Hell

Slain should be my perfect game. It blew my ears with a doom-laden, yet epic and at times subtle, metal soundtrack. Its visuals are pixel-retro brilliance, yet laden with effects and drenched in blood, and its gameplay is decidedly 16-bit.

After an abortive launch, the uprated edition, Back From Hell, is now on the Vita, and patched to fix an annoying bug. It is a most visually and sonically impressive beast. As Bathoryn, a warrior raised from the dead to fight evil (yet, again - poor chap, no wonder he's a touch gloomy) you wade into battle, knee deep in blood, hacking away at skeletons, flying ghosts, thorny bushes and larger demons.

Aside from the sound, the first thing that hits you in Slain is the weather, it has the best climate since Skyrim. There's gales, fog, mist, rain and thunder all slapping you in the face or obscuring the view. Although this is an undead, and depressed world, there is hints of movement and life everywhere.
With some light platforming, the key is really on the fighting. While you can wipe out the footsoldier minions with little consideration, any bigger battle takes finicky timing and a lot of luck to be successful. Are you supposed to dodge, parry, use magic, retreat or go all in with sword whirring? Learning how to take down bosses takes time and effort, andlots of annoying backtracking.

Once you clear the first level, you can at least pick a couple of routes through the game, through witch-infested highlands or the murky Wolfwoods, but its the same battling wherever you go. And, as for all the no-damage trophies? Really, I have no idea how some of those are achieveable without an insane level of commitment?

Magic spells and brutal attacks can help you win battles, and help win back some much needed mana, while continue points litter the landscape. But, even these seem misplaced or positioned more to annoy you. And, just one missed jump and back you go a few painful steps! I keep looking for secrets everywhere, only to find the odd less-than-secret bone; waiting for a special move or power-up, only to be left with more simple sword swinging.

The engine created by Wolf Brew is fantastic, and could be used for some great retro games, if the dev keeps going, but the core mechanics of blocking and then laying waste to your enemies feels clumsy and gets very samey after a few levels, with the difficulty meaning you can spend ages just rying to figure out the right pattern to defeat one beast. Just a little variety or flexibility would have helped immensely.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £11.99 (PSN)
Developer: Wolf brew
Progress: Shot stuff, died lots

Review #Killallzombies

Like these zombie TV series and movies, there's a stream of fun, quick, enjoyable to play games lurching on to the Vita from publisher SPL. KillallZombies is a speedy, violent, upgrade-packed arena shooter that sees your anonymous character surrounded by the undead, with the simple challenge of surviving as long as possible.

This can be done in either Arena mode or Vault Defence where you get to protect the last survivors, but mostly its just about staying alive. Pick a weapon and run around, searching for upgrades to save your bacon. There's a melee attack, but basically if you get surrounded, then you're zombie Pâté, but even in death, some power-ups give you the chance to do massive damage or score big points, so its all fun.

The Vita version of the BeatShapers PC original has lost a chunk of the graphical detail, while it arrives on Vita a couple of years after the PS4 version. Even so, the core fun factor of the game is still there. The view is a lot closer, and moved to overhead, and there are a lot less zombies out there, but once you have a big gun in your hands, with some big end-of-wave beasts to try and take down, that doesn't really matter.

Shipping crates fall from the sky to squash zombies and provide power ups, while the grid can deform and provide obstacles. Useful defences, or other random extras that add a little spice to the game. Perks can range from flare guns to air strikes, clones and all sorts of randomness that may raise a smile or a grimmace, if you're in a tight spot.

With online scoreboards to compare against friends, this is about as casual-hardcore as gaming gets with intense bouts of survival, but it is barely worthy of the original's name. The waves aren't really waves, and the trophies are hardly worth the effort, but if you want some mindless shooting, this is good cheap fun.

If you want a slightly more tactical zombie game, then OMGZombies from a few years back is still on PSN.

Score: 6/10
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Price: £3.99 (PSN)
Developer: BeatShapers
Progress: Shot stuff, died lots

DariusBurst DLC celebrates game's first birthday

One year on from its launch, Cave's DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours continues to deliver the goods, with three new lots of DLC from the worlds of DeathSmiles, DoDonPachi Resurrection and Ketsui.

Arriving on 14 December, they will cost $5 each or as a bundle for $12. with new ships, missions and gorgeous soundtracks. This isn't a game I've got round to playing, but am sorely tempted by these glowing visuals.

This follows on from an earlier collection of DLC that included RayForce, Night Striker, and Metal Black, plus Space Harrier, Galaxy Force II, and Fantasy Zone from Sega. The main game is a rather pricey £32 on PSN, but well worth watching for if it goes on sale.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Media Create chart dominated by Final Fantasy XV

Twitter today is full of pics from new buyers, showing off their red or silver models, no sign of the Minecraft LE though, although they could be in the post. Those sales will count for next week's chart, but in the Media Create chart up to 4th December, the Vita did okay as seasonal sales kick in, selling over 20,000 for the first time since the spring.

Final Fantasy XV romps away with the no. 1 spot this week, selling almost 700,000 copies and helping the PS4 sell over 118,000 units. No new entries for the Vita, but SD Gundam GG and Minecraft stick around the top 10. A couple of Vita games made it into the latest Famitsu reviews, with the so-so looking Square title getting a decent score.
  • SaGa: Scarlet Grace – 8/8/8/8 [32]
  • Adventure Time: Nameless Oukoku no Sannin no Princess – 7/7/7/6 [27]

Bard's Gold hits the Vita (in Asia)

Pixel Lantern's PS4 and Steam rogue like Bard's Gold is getting ported for the Vita in Asia, thanks to Eastasiasoft. The VGA-style graphics look pretty fun, but unless you have an Asian PSN account, i guess we don't get to play. Checking with the publisher to see if it will hit western PSN stores (it came out in the US ages ago, no sign of it in Europe).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All the (old) Final Fantasys on one Vita card?

Oddest story of the day is the news that Square is releasing Final Fantasy I to IX in one bundle to celebrate the series' anniversary. Given most JRPG fans will have played through them a few times over by now, is this really a good idea?

Crisis Core, will you ever come back to us? 
I played FF I and II on UMD on my PSP, VII on the original PlayStation (many years ago) and then Crisis Core (missing again from this Anniversary Edition) on PSP. Can I really be bothered with the others? Will the fact later versions are the more recent updates going to make this more interesting? Will they fit on one card, or is Square going to con people into some downloads?

There will be a limited edition, but only the PS4 is getting the super-duper version with statues, plushes and more. More info over on VGLeaks.

Demetrios lands on the Vita for a big adventure

Hope to have a review of Demetrios up soon, but for now, enjoy the launch trailer of the CowCat adventure. The game, after a brief delay, is up now on the EU PSN for £7.99 (€9.99, $9.99 in other parts of the world). Other  developers should note that the game features an increased font size to make it easier to read.

Vita features include:

  • Gamepad controls make use of sticks, D-Pad and buttons for quick selection and shortcuts, with sensitivity options
  • Touch controls are available, including a "magnifying glass" for spotting small hotspots, like cookies!
  • Interface and fonts scaled up to be easy to read
  • Compatible with PlayStation TV
  • 38 trophies to unlock, including a Platinum!
  • Memory card space : 250 MB
  • Fully translated in 6 languages : English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian

Monday, December 5, 2016

Review Lara Croft Go

A surprise addition, although not unexpected, to the Vita roster, Lara Croft Go was the first in Square's efforts to bring its big-name game line up to mobile devices. Belatedly arriving on the Vita, and in the wake of Hitman Go's Definitive Edition earlier in the year, Lara gets a bonus episode to up the value, but is otherwise the same tour de force in finely-tuned mobile gaming.
Mixing your puzzle solving and observational skills, the first few levels see Lara elegantly leaping and tumbling around the levels, using her trademark moves, finding ways pasts serpents and spiders. All the while you have to be on the look out for jewels or artefacts. They may only appear from behind a distant pillar or tree when viewed from one specific tile on the step-by-step board. Vigilance is always required even if the game is pushing you to run like heck.
Otherwise, most of your time is taken up navigating trial-and-deadly-error puzzle solving, with switches, levers, collapsing squares, rockfalls and increasingly complex animal movement patterns that will drive you feral, trying to figure out the solution,

The new episode ups the complexity, with Lara and here mirror twin having to navigate dual-puzzles at the same time, which adds a deft element of trickery to proceedings.

In focusing on the puzzles, or getting the urge to run, you'll probably miss a gem or two, but can go back through each "storybook" from the menu to find where you missed them. As a distraction and reward for collecting the gems, you get to dress Lara in various costumes from her adventures, plus a few borrowed ones from other Square titles.

All of this fun is soundtracked by a neat collection of semi-ambient tunes, with crisp effects throughout (literally, some of beast movement sounds like someone rustling a bag of crisps). The graphics, slightly downgraded though they are, still look pixel-sharp on the Vita, with the game's giant beasts providing suitable menace. Sure the loading could be a little faster, but there's nothing to stop Lara Croft Go from being a brilliant burst of fun that will lighten up any gamer's evening.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £7.99 (PSN)
Developer: Square Enix Montreal
Progress: Platinum

While #PSX2016 delivered, it failed to answer the big question

Is the Vita dead or alive? Does Sony still sell it, or not? 

In the real world, people do actually want to buy a PlayStation Vita, but they can't as stores don't have them. They look online only to find second-hand units, which many won't buy as a Christmas present, or for fear of screen damage, dead pixels or sticks and so on. 

These people may not be Sony die-hards, just casual consumers, or late-to-the-party guests. Not everyone wants a PS4, or PSVR, but for them, a Vita would do nicely. For those of us on #VitaIsland, the 'is Vita dead or alive?' joke wore thin long ago.

Sony need to make some type of statement, any statement. It can say "yes, no more Vita units for America" (Europe and Japan seem to be going on fine). Or offer some - any type - of support. 
Which is why it seems rather disingenuous of Sony to wave a Vita around at PSX2016, when announcing a handful of new third-party games. What's the point if people can't buy one? Is part of some mad challenge for buyers, to go digging on eBay or Amazon's third-party sellers? That's bad press waiting to happen. 

The show might have been for Sony fans, but the news spreads, and now Ys fans or WindJammer champions from decades ago might feel the need for a Vita! Is it really too much for Sony to make that statement, to say look: "cool, handheld with a library of over a 1,000 low-cost games, across four generations of PlayStation with Remote Play. In Stores Now" How cheap can one multinational be? 

How hard would it have been on the 22nd anniversary of PlayStation to drop just the one original gray limited edition? Or, a bundle with the recent LEGO or Square titles. That would have got both fans and newcomers excited. If Sony really can't be seen to "kill" the Vita as third-party support would dry up then, at least show some retail support. 

So, yeah, sort things out Sony! Give the Vita a decent formal ending in 2017 and let nature take its course, thriving for years as an indie machine, but don't leave the retailers and customers hanging! 

Danganronpa V3 Limited Edition

NIS America is going all out with the Limited Edition for Danganronpa V3, there's a pair of headphones, luggage, a cap, plus audio CD and artbook along with the physical game in Vita or PS4 form. It will be available on their Europe store from Noon Tuesday (UK time).

Remember that the A Rose in the Twilight LE is also worth checking out, if not quite as fun-packed. 2017 may be the last well-supported year for the Vita, but it is kicking off in style!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

All the Vita videos from PlayStation Experience

Right, now the gloss has worn off the PlayStation Experience keynote a bit, Vita owners have a couple of newish games to look forward to. Here's the latest video clips from the show.

Announced at last year's show, SNK's Garou Mark of the Wolves finally releases today, but is replaced in the retro NeoGeo list by WindJammers, a Data East frisbee game.

A little more contempoary is a update of the PC edition of Ys Origin from Falcom, an action RPG, and in the not-at-all-news category, confirmation that Danganronpa V3 is headed west, where it will pick up the subtitle Killing Harmony.

Also in the out-today category is Lara Croft Go, so it looks like Hitman Go did enough business for Square Enix to keep the Montreal team working on a Vita version. And then there's Fallen Legion which will have a different story to the PS4 version.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

#PSX2016 Vita news, let's roll!

When it happens, any news will appear here.

PSILoveYou's pre-show is live now. They know lots of things that are probably PS4 or PSVR-focused, but who knows!

Here's the live stream...

It started with Uncharted: The Legacy (PS4), and Shawn Layden,  SIE Worldwide Studios, at least he was wearing a WipEout tee-shirt.

Will someone stop that woman (I think its female) from yelping like that in the audience...

As expected, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite (PS4) first peek trailer with gameplay to follow.

WipEout Omega Collection (PS4 in 4K) is a remix of the PSP and Vita games, so why the fuck did Sony bin Studio Liverpool???? We could have had something new and wonderful.

Ace Combat 7 (PS4) - no F-35???

Oh, look Patapon and LocoRoco are getting PS4 remasters, but no acknowledgement of their portable roots.

Gio Corsi is here holding a VITA!!

First Vita game getting a look in - Danganronpa 3, confirmed for the west as Killing Harmony

An actual new Vita game - Ys Origin coming 2017 (well, an updated PC RPG, but we'll take it) from DotEmu.

Next up, WindJammers (um, yeah!) a 20 year old Data East arcade game. Also from DotEmu.

Finally, Lara Croft GO is out today, with a new expansion.
That seems to be our lot for now, but again enough to show that someone, somewhere cares!

Catch a replay of the one hour show here...
And games already confirmed at the show including:

Shakedown Hawaii
Fallen Legion and Cosmic Star Heroine
Full Throttle Remastered
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment

Friday, December 2, 2016

First Full Throttle Remastered trailer

Yes, its been a long time coming, and no it isn't The Dig, and yes the trailer says PS4 only - but Double Fine say it will come to the other formats eventually. Other than that, get ready to enjoy Full Throttle, one of the classic PC adventures, with a hard as nails biker Ben on the run. One of the first CD-ROM only games, the new look brings it thoroughly up to date, while maintaining the chrome plated charm of the original.

Check out the Rose in the Twilight limited edition

NIS America continues to deliver the goods with A Rose in the Twilight Limited Edition coming in early 2017. The package includes:

  • A Rose in the Twilight for PS Vita (physical)
  • Collector's Box
  • Soft Cover Art Book (36 pgs.)
  • Soundtrack (15 tracks)
  • Double-sided Rose Rubber Strap
  • Giant Stress Ball (5")

New Mosou Stars HD trailer

Here's the HD version of that Musou Stars trailer that was copied off the low-res Nico feed yesterday. Check out all the heroes lining up for some bashy bashy action. There's also a peek at the Treasure Box version at the end for collectors.