Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cross Anjou, angels and dragons to set pulses racing

This has been popping up on Japanese news sites for a few weeks now, but here's the first trailer showing off a feisty team of heroes for Bandai Namco's latest arcade game for the Vita where these angels battle the dragons in what looks like a fun piece of aerial combat. More on the source anime series here.

Naturally, the Japanese press are currently dutifully going through the character roster, hopefully there will be a little more about the gameplay from developer Sunrise soon. The battle sleds/mechs look pretty cool, there's a few decent screens over on Dengeki.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Flying Hamster morphs into Monster Boy

Here's some fun news from one of my Kickstarter backed projects. What was going to be Flying Hamster II (which then got picked up by a publisher and cancelled) will become Monster Boy, riffing on the Monster World (Wonder Boy) games with input from the Sega series' legendary Ryuichi Nishizawa and music from Michiru Yamane.

Since the hamster game was broadly a jolly retro platformer with gorgeous bright graphics, it was well on the way to imitating the Monster World games, and this really looks like the business, with modern visuals in a superbright style. The game is slated for PC first with PS4 and other console formats to follow, hopefully they'll stick to their original plan for a Vita version.

UPDATE: FDG say they will discuss the Vita with Sony!

Lego Ninjago Shadow of Ronin gets all arty

Ahead of the release on 27 March of Shadow of Ronin, a Vita and 3DS exclusive, Warner has dropped the game's cover art which looks pretty spanking. Based on the TV series, the first Ninjago game didn't seem to do that well, but hopefully some more marketing and effort will go into this one. With Jurassic World and Marvel Avengers coming too, guess the Traveller's Tales Games folks are pretty busy right now.

Still not much to go on but the usual PR text... In Lego Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin, players will take on the role of their favourite Ninja warriors and use an array of exciting new vehicles, mechs and dragons to battle their way through the Ninjago universe. A new enemy named Ronin enters the game and has the ability to steal the memories of Ninja warriors by using the Obsidian Glaive weapon. Players must locate these weapons and retrieve their powers before Ronin succeeds in completing his evil plans.

Seasons After Fall snags a publisher

Now dated for 2016, Seasons After Fall made quite an impression at Gamescom and Tokyo Games Show last year. The indie title being developed by Swing Swing Submarine has now picked up a publisher in the form of Focus and is TBA for consoles, hitting the PC first. Just hoping a Vita version will still be viable in 2016, will pop it on the release list just in case!

Seasons After Fall encourages the player to explore a gorgeous 2D graphical world, accompanied by an enchanting soundtrack recorded by a live string quartet.
In this magical world, you are a wild fox embarked upon a perilous adventure, with mystical powers that allow you to manipulate the life of the forest through dynamically changing the seasons. Powers that allow you to modify the environment by summoning one of the four seasons, whenever and wherever you want.
Changing the seasons will modify organic platforming elements that will move or expand based on which season you switch to, altering your relationship with the game and its characters. Summon Winter to freeze a waterfall to pass, or call for Spring to make plants and flowers bloom, guiding you to previously inaccessible zones.
Travel across forests, rivers and caves, and manipulate an ecosystem that is as uncanny as it is marvelous to unveil the secrets of this world, reunite the Four Guardians of Seasons and restore order in the Forest.

Dragon Masters to ride the Vita

This popped up out of nowhere recently, a very distinctive looking metroidvania-type game called Dragon Masters. Developed by Radiate Games and Bluefish, a South Korean team. in the game, the player can ride dragons but rather than open skies seems to be limited to exploring various dungeons.

Dragons can be caught and evolved to reach new areas through different skills and weapons, certainly looks cool. No sign of a release date, but it will hit PS4 and PS Vita.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

OlliOlli2 Welcome to Olliwood Trailer

Skating back to the Vita and PS4 in 2015, OlliOlli2 welcomes more mad stunts and levels thanks to the team at Roll7. Packing in five new worlds, and 50 levels plus 250 challenges there's also the Daily Grind, Spots Mode and RAD Mode to drive you mad.

The sequel boasts all new ramps and epic hills allowing for monster air and multi-route levels. Also, OlliOlli2’s combo system has been expanded, so if you felt like a right klutz in the first one, get ready for more pain. The joy of Manuals, Reverts, Revert Manuals and Grind Switching giving you more control and expression than ever before.

Kick and Fennick coming for free on PS+ in February

I've rather liked the look of Kick and Fennick since first seeing it last year, and the good news is that its coming to the Vita for free as part of the PlayStation Plus subscription for both EU and US PSNs. The bad news is, that's pretty much it, since most of us should already have Rogue Legacy, the excellent but not particularly new and shiny roguelike.

In the new title, from Dutch developers, Jaywalkers, young lad Kick wakes up in a strange, barren yet colorful world. He soon becomes partners with a flying droid they go on a series of platform and puzzle adventures to find the robot a new battery. Hopefully there will be some content to share beyond the old Gamescom trailer soon.

Lego bringing Jurassic World and Marvel Avengers to the Vita

As some of the most popular games on the Vita, there was little doubt that Warner and its partners would continue to shovel out the ports, but at least we'll have one all-new world to explore in the form of Lego Jurassic World which should be out in June. A new Marvel Avengers game will follow later in the year. No pics yet, not they'll show off the Vita and other mobile versions.

Jurassic World will borrow from the whole series of films, while Marvel Avengers will take up the plot of both movies and run with them in fun and furious ways. Time to update the release list.

PlayStation initiative event in Feb, retooling PSN?

In New York, on February 13, Sony has some new initiative to unveil to the press. That doesn't sound like a product launch to me, but PlayStation could sneak something in under the radar, a cheaper Vita, a proper launch for PS TV now that PS Now is live, or a slim PS4 perhaps.

More than likely, it will relaunch PlayStation Network (aka Sony Entertainment Network, but no one ever calls it that) as something more media friendly, based on its recent Spotify tie-in and other changes to its dismal media offering.

Perhaps the Xperia line will also be branded PlayStation (or get some PS hardware models) as sales are down the toilet for those too? Either way, Sony's crapping all over the Vita means there's little reason to get excited, but who knows if that was part of some bigger plan?

That notion is based on Sony not being able to announce Spotify for a product they haven't unveiled yet... just a thought.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

No Spotify for Vita owners, Sony officially hates its own portable

In Sony's continued, deliberate, efforts to piss off the entire Vita user base, the company today announced on the PSN blog (and in a press release) that Spotify is coming to PlayStation, as part of PlayStation Music. Expect for..... the PS Vita. The PS3, Xperia smartphones and tablets (which have sold a lot fewer units than the Vita) get a look in, even as Sony focuses on the PS4, but the Vita, a mobile device designed for entertainment apps, umm, no!

Across both the US and EU blogs, there are many commenters asking about the Vita version. However, Sony can't be bothered to reply to those users, helping to alienate even more people and disrespect Sony fans - that's so incredibly shit of them, it makes me feel rather angry. The only glimpse of hope is this February Sony event, where, just perhaps, it has something new to announce (and can't talk about it yet?)

Presumably this service is replacing Sony's Music Unlimited that was always way too limited for anyone to care about. So, having already canned a bunch of apps, the bad news continues for Sony's premier portable gaming device. What a bunch of turds!

Why is this different to the earlier closures? Sony had the opportunity to show some goodwill, and once again has completely failed to deliver. They clearly see the Vita as dead, beyond a low-end games machine (outside Japan). Cheers, Sony - how about opening up app development, so the community can take over?

Latest Media Create chart action

Still not much in the way of chart action from Japan, as the latest Media Create figures follow the usual seasonal lull. However, another 15,580 units is still a decent number with not much going on and still above the PS4's sales. Overall, the Vita had about 20% of the Japanese market, still dominated by the many 3DS variants.

Tecmo's latest Atelier RPG Escha and Logy sneak into the Media Create chart at No. 6, selling a modest 15,778 while Experience's Stranger of Sword City creeps in at No. 8 selling only 11,559 which probably won't do much for either publisher's Vita ambitions.

Sword Art Online: Lost Song gets yet another trailer

Bandai sure are singing SAO's praises to the rafters with the latest in a series of videos showing off the new features in the update/spin-off/whatever it is. This clip shows off the new continent and sky city that your party can explore along with more of that flying fun.

The game hits Japan at the end of March and should come west based on healthy sales of the Hollow Fragment episode.

Maps, Near and YouTube toasted by Sony

Sony is ditching support for, removing apps and generally crippling a few of what were the Vita's key features at launch. However, since launch I doubt few people have used or care about them, so its no massive loss. Maps I've used once, but never really cared about, and it only made sense for the few GPS/3G Vita models sold, even in Japan.

As for Near, the Maps part of that is being turned off. I turn it on from time to time, got the odd challenge or reward (which I guess will still work). But, since few games use it properly, I won't miss it and its nothing like Nintendo's Street Pass which makes far more sense. Quite why Sony didn't try to innovate with it, or mimic Nintendo over the years, I have no idea.

YouTube, well Sony aren't deleting the app, but it won't be available to download from the January 28th. And you can access the videos via the browser which is probably a neater solution, since the web app is updated more often than the bubble app. This follows Skype being removed from the store, I guess these apps still work if you already have them, but haven't tried it myself.

So, its no big deal really. But its another sign Sony is slowly moving its focus elsewhere, and there's also no carrot to go with these stick beatings. No sign of Sony trying something new, clever or experimental. I guess it also means Europe will never get the Netflix app or anything else vaguely entertaining.

I just hope no one had some brilliant game in development that relies on Maps or Near to do something really cool. Other than that, it won't affect any games, but you can bet the Vita-beater sites will use this as more Vita-is-doomed fodder. These changes kick in with an upcoming Firmware update, hopefully Sony will add at least one interesting feature to make up for the loss.

UPDATE: Oh, look. Polygon, Engadget and others all run cookie-cutter "Vita losing features stories", with no sense of a user anywhere in sight. But, you notice they never write when anything positive happens to the handheld? I know US sites have no concept of balance, but just one positive story, sometime?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dragon Fin Soup gets a gameplay trailer

It has been a long time coming, but Dragon Fin Soup, a retro RPG that was funded back in April last year, is finally getting it together. The five strong team at Grimm Bros raised $120,000, after only asking for $25K and have put out an alpha trailer to show off their progress.

It looks a lot of fun, the trailer appeared on the PlayStation YouTube feed, so expect an update post, perhaps with a release date soon. Check out more Kickstarter games here, including newly launched Children of Morta.

Grim Fandango rakes in the good scores

Are you ready for some proper adventuring? Aside from Broken Sword, there isn't much of it about, but hopefully the success of this (and its raking in a lot of good review scores), will spark more interest in the genre. Personally, I'd still rather play The Dig, which was an awesome Sci-Fi adventure, or some real classics like Discworld, or even the Magnetic Scrolls adventures. Still, this should be off to a great start, and should look just as good on the Vita.

Note, quite a few people are reporting crashes on Twitter, so maybe you'll want to wait for a patch before commencing your Manny adventures!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Get ready to have your Krinkles Krushed!

Oh look, they've moved the perspective of Plants vs Zombies and put some different animals and graphics in it (says the cynical me). There's a plot in Krinkle Krusher, but that involves magic cake awaking an army of nasties, so you'll forgive me if I'm not too excited/stoked/whatever for this one.

The game comes from Spanish mobile game team Ilusis, so why there isn't a little more hot-bloodedness to this, I'm not sure. I imagine it'll be free on PS+ sometime soon, so no rushing out to get it early! Still, they did bring StreetKix to the PSP, so cheers for keeping the Vita in mind guys!

Htol#niq gets a freshly baked batch of screens

Is anyone else calling this game Hotel Nick, when they read the title? Some sort of prison metaphor perhaps? Maybe just me, anyway, NIS America has posted out a new bunch of screens to poster over that hole in the cell wall. If you like them perhaps you'd like the limited edition that NISA has lined up.

The actual game, perhaps better known by its subtitle as The Firefly Diaries is set in the depths of a labyrinthine ruin, where a young girl named Mion rises from a deep sleep. Lost, alone, and with no memory of how she got here or where her parents are, she is greeted by two fireflies—one composed entirely of light, and another who lurks among the shadows.

By shifting between a world of light and a world of shadows, these two fireflies must work together to recover Mion's memories and lead her out of the ruins, where voracious shadow beasts, ancient machines, and treacherous traps lie in wait to bar her path. But what secrets do Mion's lost memories contain? What is the connection between her, the ruins, and the fireflies lighting her escape? The answers may reveal a deeper darkness—one that must be faced from within.

Operation Abyss Limited Edition pre-orders for Europe

For those really keen on their JRPGs, and after some uncertainty last week, Europe can now pick up the Limited Edition version of the Operation Abyss for the Vita from the NISA Europe store. The New Tokyo Legacy LE version is now available to pre-order from their store featuring a 112-page art-book and 16-song soundtrack in a collector's box.

There's a peek at the pages, hot off the press of the art book. It does have the usual bonkers price of £54.99, but that's the breaks of playing a niche game on a niche console in a small pond. Here's some pics from last week, if you're not sure what all the fuss is about.

Rugby 15 gets into the chart scrum

Not much movement at the top of the chart this week, but Bigben, the publisher of the upcoming WRC 15 makes a decent dent in proceedings, landing at No. 5 with its Rugby 15 title. That neatly launches ahead of the Six Nations and this year's Rugby World Cup. The game lands at No. 8 in the all formats, so we're hopefully seeing the rise of a new publisher to support middle-ranking games.

2 = FIFA 15 EA SPORTS 2 18
6 new RUGBY 15 BIG BEN - 1

A quick squint at the EU PSN store Top Sellers shows a nice variety of games, and as things go increasingly digital, I maintain my call for Sony to start showing some numbers for these to keep the Vita relevant:

1 Minecraft
2 Atelier Ayesha
3 Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragfemnt
4 Danganronpa : TTH
5 Unfinished Swan

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Persona news broadcast coming early February

Japan is having a big Persona musical performance "Night of the Phantom" on the 5th of February, live from Budokan. Before that there will be a Persona news event from Atlus, presumably with news on the in-development games, including the Vita Dancing all Night title. Perhaps there might even be some news of new games? Guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Operation Abyss waves some new screens from the depths

Getting good looking screenshots for the Japanese version of Operation Abyss was a nightmare as the native publisher just wanted to focus on pics of girls and their cleavage. Thankfully NIS America is on the game here with some cool looking shots of New Tokyo Legacy in action.

The limited edition will be availble to pre-order in Europe from Monday. The game is out in mid April and will be right up the streets of the many fans of Demon Gaze. Enjoy...

Toukiden Kiwami pre-order bonuses lined up

Tecmo has announced a collection of bonus content available to fans who pony up for a pre-order of the upcoming Toukiden: Kiwami. Releasing in Europe on 27th March, it will hit the PS4 and Vita. Check out the new trailer, and here's the word from Tecmo on the bonuses.

Specifically, pre-orders through Game will receive additional armour for their slayer, fashioned after new-comers’ Soma and Reki’s costumes. For those who prefer the armours of Toukiden’s six original NPC slayers they will be available as a pre-order bonus from Independent retailers through CentreSoft. Lastly, for players who would prefer to put on the façade of a monster, and the PlayStation Network will offer 2 pieces of armour, a set of Tenko gloves and a Chthonian Fiend Mask!
The games aren't even up on Amazon yet, so keep an eye out to see where you can actually pre-order it from.

Square just rubbing in the Final Fantasy Type-0 HD stuff

Yeah, yeah, you've made a game better than a four-year old PSP original, well done and big whoop to Square Enix for that. The thing is, this is still nothing that couldn't run on the Vita, if you drop the shadows and a smidgeon of detail, as Square adequately demonstrated with the company's recent HD updates. Why this isn't on Vita I will never know, given the Vita system selling performance in Japan that FFX-HD had.

Sword-swinging AeternoBlade dated for February

Developed in Thailand by Corecell, AeternoBlade is a classic side-scrolling fighting game for the Vita. Originally a 3DS title, it has been visually tweaked, upscaled, had shadows added, booted up to 60fps, given a lick of paint and generally tarted up.

A 2D scroller, the game has a bit of PS one feel to it, which is fine and focuses on Freyja, a heroine forced into battle against the villainous Beladim, using the power of her time-warping sword to avoid nasty issues like death (but not taxes, I guess). The Vita version also gets some extra costume DLC, and there's a range of exotic characters across the game.

AeternoBlade will be released in PlayStation Store in the US on 10th February and in the EU on 4th February 2015.

Thought for Friday: 2015 getting better all the time

What a strange week! Shed loads of good news, led by the likelihood of God Eater Rage Burst arriving in the west (as long as Bandai remember to bring the Vita version along with the PS4 edition). Plus the likes of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters and Operation Abyss headed our way. They join the likes of Stein's Gate and many other cool Japanese titles I want to play.

Even the western developers are getting a bit of a move on with WRC 5 coming to the Vita, Flame Over look more top-notch by the week and plenty of releases to enjoy in what's usually the quiet patch. A few more announcements wouldn't hurt, with Kickstarter seeming particularly flat.

Then, on the flip side, we hear news that Naughty Dog (possibly) were working on a bunch of cool Vita games, all of which failed to be green lit. And then IGN ask the thorny question (via a reader), will there be a Vita 2? Despite the valid and interesting discussion, it puts kind of a downer on what should be a good week, let's just focus on what we do have, and could realistically get!

As I said at the end of last year, the Vita is already looking like having a better 2015 than many expected, and is certainly clinging on to life rather well.

Sony 10% PSN discount code goes live, delays forecast

Like it or leave it, I guess! Sony's "we're not very sorry" apology of a 10% discount due to the Christmas outage on PSN is live (excluding pre-orders, movies, etc). Here's a list of all the country codes, gamers in the UK can use T6R3KB529K. PlayStation Plus users also get an extra five days on their account. Party on, Wayne!

The discount runs from now until 9AM Monday morning (hands up, who gets paid Monday morning?), and will work with existing sale items. Note, you need to use the code on the PC webstore, it doesn't work on the Vita's own PSN app.

In related news, Sony will delay its next corporate figures due to the hack (any excuse to bury bad news I guess). Since everything at Sony is down the toilet except the PS4, I guess things will be even worse than expected. The company will have a conference on 4th Feb to discuss its forecasts, but there will be no hard numbers until the end of March.

Bigben and Kylotonn bringing WRC 5 to the Vita

This is curious, as Milestone are the rally experts and have released the previous versions of WRC, I'd expect their name to be plastered all over this. However, Milestone has just announced the less formal Sébastian Loeb Rally Evo while Bigben has this video up for WRC 5. Their game is being developed by Kylotonn, who have a low-key truck racing game and some in-progress projects under their belts.

Milestone dropped the Vita from its list of platforms with the recent Ride announcement, and there's no sign of a Vita on SLRE. BigBen do mention the Vita on its Facebook page for WRC 5, but not in the video, which focuses on PS4 and X1. Still, as long as it plays well, guess we'll find out soon enough. Bigben also published Rugby 15, which needed more work, but hopefully they're ahead of the game on this one.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

God Eater Rage Burst gets an EU trademark

Some clever spotter has noticed on the EU trademark site a submission today (the 22nd) by Bandai for Rage Burst. That's some pretty big news right there, and I'm sorry I don't know who to credit for the spot. Naturally it gives no details, but the game, soon to go on-sale in Japan would easily be the biggest Vita western release of the year.

There's plenty of stories about the game in previous posts, with massive weapons and even more massive monsters. But, frankly, I hadn't even dreamed, even with Bandai's carefully growing support for the Vita that it would bring the God Eater series here in Vita form (we did get to enjoy the PSP editions).

Unrelated to that news is this new Asian trailer that comes with English subtitles, so we have a clue what the hell is going on!

Of course, there's a long way to between registering a name, and the actual game appearing on a shelf, if it does happen. But I'll keep an eye out for any more news.

Visual novel Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters new western trailer

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters from Arc System Works is coming west thanks to NIS America. The spooky visual novel will be arriving in Europe on March 13 for PS3 and PlayStation Vita in retail and digital form.

From the developers of Deadly Premonition and featuring music from Nobuo Uematsu, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is a brand new visual novel that offers a unique battle system and an immersive tale of life, death, and the space in between. As an ordinary transfer student you start life at Kurenai Academy in Shinjuku. On your first day touring the new school grounds, you quickly encounter something supernatural, which throws you headfirst into the world of ghost hunting. You must come face to face with ghosts as you blur the line between life and death.

PlayStation TV launching in India soon

I have no idea what the Vita user base is in India, but I'd suspect its not massive. Still, that could get a boost with the budget micro console arriving on Indian shelves as Sony continues to push the unloved pup around the global market in search of a taker.

Amazon India is listing the price of the PlayStation TV, DS3 and 8GB card at 12,990 rupees (a rather steep £139), with Killzone and three indies thrown in as download vouchers (still a better gaming deal than the UK got).

Will that see any buyers? Orders are limited to one per customer, but I can't imagine there's going to be much of a rush. It sounds like a decent bundle but I'll ask around any Indian gaming sites to see if there's much interest.

I have no idea if they export, but the cheapest place to find a PS TV seems to be Singapore with them retailing at S$109 on Qishan, that's just £53. Even with some postage, that could be a great deal!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Flame Over fires up some video

We've seen plenty of pics, but not much action from Laughing Jackal's Flame Over. Set in a rotating world 3D view, your job is to keep the fires down, which sounds simple, but there's all sorts of different threats to our hero and a host of different tools at his disposal.

With other people around the building needing your help, cats to rescue and power, gas and other sources of trouble to cut, there's plenty of other tasks to keep you busy, all against the clock. This 10 minute video gives us the basics, but it looks a high quality production that offers some great gameplay.

Looks good, fun and suitably pyrotechnic. More info on a PSN blog post.

More on-sale indies on the EU PSN sale

While Take 2 discounts a load of cool console games, Borderlands 2 on the Vita isn't on the list, so its just a bunch of indies and the Senran Kagura titles that get a price cut. More details on the PSN blog.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter 50% off – Original price £7.99/€9.99
Guacamelee! 60% off – Original price £9.99/€12.99
SENRAN KAGURA Bon Appétit! 40% off – Original price £11.99/€14.99
SENRAN KAGURA SHINOVI VERSUS 40% off – Original price £24.99/€29.99
Urban Trial Freestyle (PS3/Vita bundle) 80% off – Original price £11.49/€13.99
Jet Car Stunts 60% off – Original price £5.79/€6.99
Minutes 50% off – Original price £6.19/€7.49
PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate 60% off – Original price £9.49/€11.99
Rollers of the Realm 50% off – Original price £7.99/€9.99
OlliOlli 70% off – Original price £7.99/€9.99

Note that Minutes is getting a patch soon, to make the game more intuitive and ensure level progression is smoother.

Review: Citizens of Earth

I am the second most powerful man on the planet, and my first job is to hire my mother! Sounds like the kind of sneaky nepotism these gleaming-smiled tosspots would get up to! But there's a serious side to hiring people in Citizens of Earth, while its your job to tell them what do to, it is down to them to do the dirty work, in this case the RPG style scrapping with your many gonzo enemies.

Yes, this game could have started off in an executive office, with many screens on the wall, but no, you need get around your little home town, fighting off the protesters and hiring all and sundry to your cause. The early going is a little simplistic, with many fetch and carry quests to get the ball rolling, and the humour (sorry, humor) might not gel for all, especially anyone who's anti-superpower in a particularly militant way.

As artificial as the VP's hair, the plot is pretty daft and romps along haphazardly between alien coffee beans, hopped up school kids and other threats to the locals. You battle these by recruiting your friends, then the local business folk and others. They can be mixed and matched in combat to best effect, and you're only a quick rematch away from trying a different strategy if something goes wrong or doesn't work at all.

In terms of mechanics, Citizens of Earth borrows shamelessly from a host of JRPGs and popular Japanese gaming ideas. It then paints a very western disguise over them and runs to the hills with the idea, throwing political one liners along the way. Its not big or clever, but it is sometimes funny and often raises a smile. Sometimes it feels too grindy for a game that should be about having fun, which may and the bright and breezy visuals can't get it over that hump.

Other issues are the weirdly lagging loading screen, instantly followed by the wheel of saving, what gives there? And the constant barrage of level-up screens does grate, along with the VP's constant chatter during battle, I'm often pleading for some battles to be over just to shut him up.

But for a daft wheeze through American underbelly of local life, coffee and donut shops, alien(?) invasions with neat tricks like enrolling characters in school to boost their skills, and other ways to advance your party, there is enough to like, and despite some nervous tics, it does move along at a decent pace.

File size 1.6GB
Not compatible with PlayStation TV

Developer: Eden Industries/Atlus
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Price: $14.99/€11.99
Score: 7/10
More reviews
Progress: Aliens, or coffee fiends?

Japan dozes through the latest Media Create sales figures

Sales continue to dive all across Japan's dozing gaming industry with the Vita losing just under 5,000 sales on last week. New releases are arriving soon, so perhaps things will pick up, but tis the season not to look at the numbers and hope things get better soon.

On the games front, Gundam Breaker 2 clings on to the top 10 of the Media Create chart with another 6,600 sales while the latest Diabolik Lovers, an update on a PSP visual novel squeaks into the chart with 4,000 sales. There's plenty of big releases coming to suggest the Vita should have a decent year once we leave winter behind.

09./07. Gundam Breaker 2 (Bandai Namco Games) 6.670 / 117.899 (-29%) 
14./00. Diabolik Lovers: More, Blood - Limited V Edition # (Idea Factory)  4.083 / NEW

Review: Minecraft

There's not really much I can add to the voluminous tomes already published about Minecraft. Sure the Vita is about the last format on the planet to get it, but it was worth the wait. As far as I can tell, there's little difference between this and the PS3 (which you can enjoy cross platform play with) or Xbox version that I've meddled with in the past. It may be a little slower, but the Vita does provide something more, in an intangible way.

There's nothing quite like being tucked up warm in bed at night, checking on the paddock that's home to the cows and chickens, doing a late-night spot of mining for some elements that I'll need for a planned trophy grab tomorrow. Or, rushing up my tower to use some creepers for archery practice. Minecraft on a proper portable, not the Pocket Edition, is just that bit more personal and attractive as a game that grows with you wherever you are.

All the nuances of the latest version of Minecraft make it a perfect balance between the gentle sway of farming, mining and the odd spot of trading, then summoning the equipment and strength to take on the challenges through the portals. I love it, and I've really only scratched the surface. Now I have plans, big plans. And perhaps that's the key point of Minecraft, no matter how lowly the Vita is in the gaming hierarchy, you truly feel like a great architect with this in your hands.

Sure, there's the skins and texture packs, but they're for the kids I guess. But, Minecraft is really about the limit of your imagination. Every time you start a game, you're hammering at the wood with your bare hands like the starving wretch you are, but you know within a few hours there will be palaces and running water, mine cart roller coasters and massive edifices, all built by your own (and perhaps some friends') hands. That's a big dream to have on a little portable, and one I can spend many years with, no matter what Microsoft does with the title in the future. Seriously, I could be playing this 2045 and not have exhausted the possibilities, how many games can you say that about?

File size 267MB
Developer: Mojang/4J Studios
Genre: Sandbox Adventure
Players: 1-4
Price: £12.99
Score: 10/10
More reviews
Progress: Going deeper underground!

Sword Art Online Lost Song ready to fly in Japan

The Bandai pseudo-sequel is getting a TV trailer and more support in Japan ahead of the launch. This clip shows off Alicia Rue and Sakuya in action, The game lands in Japan on March 26, so they're rolling this stuff out early, presumably in the hope of keeping up the momentum and ahead of some news on a proper Sword Art Online 3.

Operation Abyss gets trailered, more dungeon crawling fun for the Vita?

Been looking forward to this since the Japanese original broke cover, so thanks to NIS America for bringing Operation Abyss, New Tokyo Legacy our way. Developed by Experience, the studio that made the hugely popular Demon Gaze (still get loads of visits for the maps), its a sci-fi dungeon crawler RPG set in a near future Tokyo.

With the city under the constant threat of Variants, genetically engineered monsters, and the emergence of portals leading to a mysterious dimension called the Abyss, the government has established the Code Physics Agency to investigate these mysterious phenomena. The Xth Squad, a unique group of teens modified by the CPA's Code technology, must evade traps, face down powerful monsters, and investigate the mystery behind the Abyss.

The game is out mid-April, on the 17th in the EU and the 14th in the US. There's some pics from the Japanese version here. It looks to use a slightly neon version of the Demon Gaze engine, which is no bad thing. Features include:

Robust Customization System
Recruit and train a unique group of six Xth members to venture into the Abyss. Customize each member from one of ten distinct Blood Codes. Each Xth member's appearance, class, personality, morality, and stats may be molded to the player's preference.

An Accessible, Yet Deep Dungeon Crawler
The labyrinthine dungeons of New Tokyo offer 40+ hours of dungeon crawling action with traps, secret doors, challenging enemies, and gorgeous art throughout.

A Unique Sci-Fi Story
Dive into the unique dungeon crawler setting of Operation Abyss and lose yourself in the gorgeous world, featuring real-life locations rendered by Tetsu Kurosawa and Oxijiyen. A gripping story blends heavy sci-fi elements with a setting to give the game a unique feel.

The US NIS store has a limited edition if you're really keen, $54.99 gets you a box, art book and soundtrack CD.

Sega keeps the content rolling for Hatsune Miku 2nd F

Sega is keeping the Hatsune Miku bandwagon rolling with a host of new content for 2015. The ladies of Project Diva F 2nd. get new Rhythm Game Songs Sekiranun Graffiti by ryo and Ai Kotoba by DECO*27, plus five free skins, and the following six costume modules:

  • School Girl Club for Akita Neru
  • Gothic Purple for Yowane Haku
  • M.S.J for Kasane Teto
  • Nostalgia for Sakine Meiko
  • Shiny for Hatsune Miku
  • Type 2020 for Hatsune Miku

All Costume Modules are available individually or School Girl Club, Gothic Purple, M.S.J, and Nostalgia can be purchased as a bundle. There's also a song and costume club to bundle buy all of a particular content type at a discount, and it all works on the PS3 too. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Scram Kitty DX curls up to the Vita

Dakko Dakko, the crazed developers behind Rotating Octopus and other PSP and Vita curious delights are bringing a new title to the Vita and PS4. Scram Kitty DX is a fast-paced 60fps shooter with the kitties clinking to the walls of various frantic-looking levels to bring their guns to bear.

Migrating from the Wii U, the game has some great reviews and the DX version features, a new PlayStation-exclusive Challenge Mode, independent stages, global leaderboards, trophies and it is Cross Buy and Cross Save across Vita and PS4.

God Eater 2 Rage Burst new promo

Looks like the new God Eater has all the bases covered, with anime, swords, guns, monsters to fight and characters to customise with beanie hats. Is there nothing left to add to the genre? Bandai Namco, I'm sure, will try and cram in even more through the inevitable DLC.

Until launch in March, check out this new retail promo for the game, showing off the PS 4 and Vita cross play. At the back of the trailer is news of the anime DVD, audio CD and other goodies that collectors will lap up.

Vita 2014 game sales in the UK down 19%

To prove the market for boxed sales is dying new stats appeared over the weekend, based on UK retail (physical only) sales. They show the Vita is down to just 408,000 games sold, down 19% on 2013's number. In value terms that £8.3 million, which is down 20%.

The stats are here, with the Vita at the bottom of the league table. I'm assuming they're from a sensible source, since NeoGAF has a no VGChartz policy.  Sales will be further down this year as there's no Football Manager 2015 on the Vita, which did good numbers in the UK in previous versions.

All of which only increases the need for Sony to start getting its digital sales numbers out there, no matter how modest they may be. Doing so will prove that there's some money to be made from the Vita's captive audience of eager digital buyers.

Friday, January 16, 2015

More tricks and traps set up for Deception IV sequel

Deception IV: Another Princess will hit the Vita and other PS consoles in Japan and March, and hit them pretty hard judging by all the devious ways to die that the game has lined up. Expanding on its predecessor Blood Ties, which you can pick up over here.

There's more nastiness as you can see from the clip and Tecmo will be hoping for better sales with the last one managing around 26K before falling off the chart. Not sure why these games don't do better, but I'm keen!

Criminal Girls post some more saucy snaps

Can you say saucy without sounding like a 70s relic? Dunno, anyway, the Criminal Girls are hard at work, in training, on their way to an early February release. Check out some of the motivation pics they have for fans.

If you're wondering what all the fuss is about, take seven jailed delinquents, seven sins, and only one way out. Just hired for a new, mysterious job, you soon discover that this isn't your normal prison gig. You've been entrusted with the care of a crew of girls whose sins have damned their souls to Hell and an eternity of punishment. Their only hope of salvation is for you to recognize their unique histories, and to guide them along the path to redemption. Navigate through the four trials of the Redemption Program, and motivate your crew of delinquents to learn the skills to redeem themselves.

NISA is running low on stock of the Limited Edition, if that's your thing. It comes with a softcover art book, heart shaped key chain, collector's box and soundtrack CD. Or you can pick up the regular boxed version from Amazon.

Fire up the latest Flame Over screens

Some new pics have emerged from Laughing Jackal for their upcoming Vita rougelike Flame Over that offers fire-fighting action with twin-stick controls, dynamic fires, random levels and great equipment to play fireman with. More news will be released next week, so keep a look out.

PSN's top Vita downloads for 2014

Having just berated Sony for not being progressive and forthcoming with its digital numbers, here comes the 2014 roundup of the best digital sellers on PSN.

In the U.S., they loved:

1 Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
2 Minecraft
3 Killzone: Mercenary
4 Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z
6 Terraria
7 Need for Speed Most Wanted
8 The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season
9 Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition
10 Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate

In Europe, we preferred:

1 Minecraft
2 Assassin’s Creed III Liberation
3 The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season
4 Terraria
5 Need for Speed Most Wanted
6 Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
7 The Walking Dead: Season Two
8 Killzone Mercenary
9 LittleBigPlanet PlayStation Vita
10 Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment

But without numbers, the information is meaningless. SAO sold some 70,000 in the US according to Namco, Wonder if we can get some Mincraft numbers out of Mojang!

Digital sales, Sony, we need the numbers

Last year, sales of boxed, physical copies plummeted in the UK, down to below a billion (£948m according Chart-Track via MCV) overall, and portable boxed games sales fell by 34%. Now, more than ever, publishers need to produce hard digital sales data to convince the market that:

  1. Portable is still a viable platform.
  2. Digital sales are the future and publishers need to focus on this.
  3. The Vita has a thriving digital user base. 
Its no good Sony merely shouting Minecraft was the top seller last month. Owners, the industry and potential buyers need to know there's some traction going on, profits are being made and there's a market opportunity. The odd indie success story doesn't cut it. 

Me, I've picked up two boxed games in the second half of last year Borderlands due to its size and Minecraft for the boxart. Everything else has been digital from the indies to the quirky Japanese title. That, in part, explains why Vita displays are shrinking and vanishing in stores, so Sony needs to get the message out that, just like iOS and Android, the digital marketplace is where its at. 

I'm delighted that boxed copies and limited editions are still being produced for those without fast broadband and fans of particular games, but really Sony, now is the time to trumpet digital and tell the world what the sales possibilities are!

You can obfuscate the numbers as much as you like, mix them all together into global sales and price everything in Yen, but you need to get them out there, otherwise the vanishing of the Vita will continue in 2015. 

EU PlayStation Community awards kick off

Sony seems to think 2014 was a good year, so why not linger on those fond (or not so fond) gaming memories and vote in the EU PSN community PlayStation Game awards. Voting runs until the 18th Jan with the winners announced next week over the 21st/22nd/23rd.

 A jury composed by a panel of 15 of the most active Community members from every PlayStation Forum have been appointed to select the nominees of each category. Categories include:

  • The game where you loved the villain
  • The game where you loved the hero
  • The game you were not expecting to blow your mind, but did!
  • The best game offered on PlayStation Plus
  • The game which you found the hardest to finish
  • The game which has spawned the best share moments
  • The best Indie game
  • The best Community event

Shame there's no "piece of hardware that Sony forgot existed" category, although I think that'd be a foregone conclusion.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Don't mess with the Yakuza special edition Vita and Vita TV

It is funny that the Vita isn't even getting a new Yakuza game, only a companion app, yet it is still worth Sony getting the factory to turn out these neat limited edition models that will only be on sale via Japan's PSN store. The Yakuza 0 game from Sega is for PS3 and PS4 only but, I guess some will want to Remote Play while feeling the part with their ornately crafted hardware.

The Vita version is also available in black, but the white model looks particularly spectacular.

No fun at the movies on the Japanese PSN

I know Sony is strapped for cash, but this whole walled curtain thing around the PSN stores is starting to get really annoying now. Sony needs the money, so why should it worry about what country it (and its partners) get the revenue from?

New on the Japanese PSN movie section is this Special Edition of Appleseed, I'd watch this subtitles or not, quite happy for however many Yen they want. I'd also happily pay for a subscription to Sega's PSO 2 and slog through that, not understanding a word (perhaps with a laptop open with one of the many westerner's guides.

I know there are ways to set up a Japanese PSN account and if I had a second Vita I probably would, but why not just open the floodgates and let then cash roll in?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

No, a network error has not occurred, you stupid Vita

The earlier firmware update has provided a bit of a boost to my Vita's download speed, so good for that, and for Sony for keeping plugging away. But then I got playing some games, and realised something horrible is happening that Sony really should fix across all titles.

Basically, whenever your Vita goes to sleep or you turn it off for a while, most recent games have a panic attack about network access. No there isn't a network error, I merely turned off this so called smart computer, or it turned itself off, in which case it should know about the change in state.

So, Sony, for your next piddly .01 of a firmware update, how about you make this message go away. It never affects us, except in multiplayer, when you'd get kicked back to the lobby anyway. The network soon picks back up again, and all is well, making this a pointless, redundant warning that just gets in the way. I never see smartphones do this, so why should the Vita?

All hardware sales dive as Japan enters the dead month

As expected, hardware sales come crashing down in Japan in the latest Media Create figures, as we being the long hard winter toward Spring. Vita and PS4 sales halved, while 3DS and Wii U sales crashed by two thirds. However, there are plenty of good Vita games hitting Japan early in the year, so perhaps the Vita will be the least worst affected console across the winter.

There are no new games in the chart, but Gundam Breaker 2 maintains its place in the top 10, now over 111,000 sales. Atelier Aesha and Logy is out next week along with a few niche Vita titles.

Bandai's Cross Ange trailer shows dragon battling

Looks like Bandai Namco is single-handedly supporting the Vita with big games in 2015, in Japan at least. Check out this natty trailer for Cross Ange, a manga based title, with the full name Rondo of Angels and Dragons. The tiny bits of gameplay show flying battle mechs battling giant dragons, the rest is all the usual cute girls. But, hey! mechs vs. dragons! How can that end badly!

The official website HAS only just opened, but there's more pics of girls, completely ignoring this Whole mechs Vs Dragons Thing. Do the Japanese Have no clue? It does put the release Date down as Spring, so hopefully not long to wait.

Citizens of Earth launching with a cheap political bribe to tempt you

Actually, I've already got a review code to play, and its looking suitably subversive, while putting its RPG mechanics into a highly unusual setting. To tempt the voters, it will launch with a 20% discount in the US and something similar, yet to be specified in the EU.

It launches on PS4 and PS Vita in North America next week on the 20th, for $11.99, if you're a PS Plus. We'll know more about the EU deal soon, since that launches the following day. The game so far, involves pummeling protestors, recruiting people to your cause and has a great sense of humour. My review will go up on launch day, so keep an eye out.