Friday, January 29, 2016

Ten minutes of Uppers in action

Marvelous is putting some macho in Vita gaming with Uppers. The latest trailer shows off a fist load of anime and a bunch of pummeling and head stomping action. It doesn't look the most complex of brawlers but if you can cope with the game's sense of humour, bromances and cookie cutter school girls, it could be a lot of fun.

The game is out in April, with a demo on the way.

Trails of Cold Steel launches with new trailers

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel is out in the UK, and NIS America has released a couple of new trailers to celebrate. Check out my review and bask in one of the bigger games, in all senses, to hit the Vita this year.

If you like your Falcom games, check out Spotify which has most of the company's soundtracks now available for a listen.

One Piece Burning Blood comes west in a smart case

One Piece Burning Blood hits Europe on 3rd June for PS Vita. With a stylish 13,5cm x 17cm metal case for pre-orders. There’s also a One Piece: Burning Blood Marineford Edition: which includes a copy of the game, two exclusive figurines of Whitebeard and his grave along with a beautiful 100 page artbook. Not sure if that applies to the Vita version, but here's hoping,

Gundam Breaker 3 gets a new battle trailer

If you like the idea of mechs fighting each other in endless clanging of metal on metal, enjoy. Otherwise move on! Mixing classic, mini and custom Gundams, it looks about as dull as ever, so while the series is a cash cow for Bandai, I hope they put it to rest soon!

Sony's $1 billion profit in latest results

Mobile phones are still failing Sony, along with its image sensor business as the whole mobile market loses its gloss. PlayStation, on the other hand is driving the company with games consoles up 10% on the last quarter.

PlayStation operating income was up 45% to over 40 billion yen (around $336 million). Most of that will be PS4 business, but expect those profits to take a hit when PSVR hits the market to be met by modest at best uptake.

Read all the dull biz details here. Sony seems to be pretty tight on inventory now, so if it sells around 1.5 million Vitas in 2016 (1 million in Japan, 500K elsewhere, guessing), then it won't have to do another write down on portable stock. Will it try and support those new sales? Probably not.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Punch Line trailer makes you wonder what the joke is

Okay, its in Japanese, but I'm sure its pretty damn funny. The game was announced yesterday by Mages and 5pb. It will arrive at the end of April and appears to be a mix of spiritual powers crashing into every day life.

There's some illicit spying, panties and cats! Why do I have the feeling this is like a very light-toned Danganronpa? Anyone else get the vibe?

MechRunner gets closer to a Vita version

One of my favourite looking Kickstarter backed projects from 2014 is getting closer to the finish line. Sure, these things take longer than everyone expects, but the MechRunner team, SparkPlug Games, updated backers with news of improvements.

We wanted to post a quick update and let everyone know that we're close to wrapping things up. This means that the PS4 and PS Vita builds are getting closer too. We've been working out some of the kinks brought to light by the early access release of the PC version on Steam, and so the last big pieces are now falling into place. Specifically the bosses. We want the boss fights in the sewer and industrial regions to be epic, so we're doing our best to make them fun and memorable.

Trillion: God of Destruction gets English pics

Trillion definitely has me tempted. Check out the first English screens of Idea Factory's enticing RPG. Check out the previous God of Destruction stories for an idea of how the game plays. It pits a lithe and funny combat team against the ultimate, ultimate enemy and many other challenges. How can it go wrong?

Stranger of Sword City gets new trailer, release date

There are so many good Vita games on the way, I don't mind the odd one slipping. So, it's no real worry that NIS America's Stranger of Sword City has been pushed back to the end of April. Check out the new subbed character trailer and the first English screens.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth gets free DLC in February

Bandai has dropped some news of all the DLC you can pick up once the much awaited Digimon game lands next week. Get a host of extra Digimon creatures, themes and useful items. Hope everyone buys the game so future releases are more likely to come our way!

More Dragon Quest Builders at play

Got a couple of hours to kill? Check out the latest mega Square Dragon Quest Builders presentation panel. Once you get past the first ten minutes of those crazy live action adverts and the various trailer, it gets pretty good.

Our, rather restrained hosts, show off plenty more gameplay, in some of the more advanced areas. There's also all of the goodies that are hitting the shelves alongside the game.

There's even cake to celebrate the launch. The game is out in Japan now, and some folk are already unboxing those lovely Metal Slime PS Vita limited editions!

Asterisk War gets a JP unboxing video

Japan and your bundles, how envious I am! Check out Bandai's latest exploration of the contents of the Asterisk War limited edition, with cartridges, discs, more discs, stickers, booklets and other goodies.

While there's a disturbing lack of ceramic figures, fluffy toys or other goodies, it still seems an impressive haul compared to the weedy fluff we usually get, except for Odin Sphere - and that's only for the PS4 version!

<runs off for a sob>

We Are Doomed explodes onto the Vita soon

We Are Doomed is full-on looking twin-stick shooter where a scary space eye ball zaps everything on the screen with its huge laser beam.

Players get into the action, charge their beam up to zap everything out of existence. With bright colours, a touch of 3D to the 2D action and a paint shop full of colour and explosions, its another one to add to the Vita's roster of fun shooters.

Developed by Vertex Pop, the game lands on February 9, and is Cross Buy if you have the PS4 version.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Vita sales 15K in Japan on MuvLuv's modest entry

New entry MuvLuv managed just 4,366 sales in Japan to land at No. 16 in this week's Media Create chart. The game is coming west via Kickstarter, and seems to be a port of previous versions.

That's as the country's Vita gamers wait for Dragon Quest Builders, out this week. Once again Minecraft is the top seller, shifting another 10,400 at No. 11, just ahead of last week's No. 1 Odin Sphere, which dropped to 9.3K.

On the hardware front, the Vita was one unit off 15K, with interest in the new Yakuza, Biohazard and Just Cause 3 fighting for top spot and putting the focus on the PS4. All back here next week for some hopefully massive Vita sales!

Skullgirls on Vita is complete, celebrate with blurry cam

After worrying that Skullgirls was never going to make it to the Vita, the game is finally complete, and here it is in action, if you squint a bit. The game is with Sony for final approval.

The voice over highlights a couple of slow loading time points and perhaps the odd dropped frame, but generally, it looks pretty solid if you like quirky 2D brawlers and don't have enough of them in your collection.

Sony talks about the Vita at a press event!

Sony had a keynote press event (via Famitsu) ahead of the Taipei Game Show overnight, and while it focused on the new and sexy PlayStation VR, there was a healthy mention of Vita titles including a new Sengoku BASARA, Uppers, √Letter Root Letter, Moero Chronicle and visual novel Corda 4 among others.

No video I can find yet, so I can't get a true sense of the level of coverage. However, it seems Sony is starting to realise that sales aren't dying in Asia as expected, so perhaps it may revisit the early foreclosure on all things Vita.

Setsuna, Sacrifice and Snow gets Vita theme

Once it has got Dragon Quest Builders out of the way, Square's next digital release in Japan, a nod to classic JRPGs. The game will get a set of neat Vita and PS4 themes for owners. In a land of perpetual winter, Setsuna must sacrifice herself to appease some God.

UPDATE: The game has been announced for the west, but not on Vita. Sigh....

The game is out in February, check out the gorgeous wintry themed website, with that art making up the theme backgrounds. The recent trailer shows off some highly atmospheric lands and some modestly epic gameplay.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Odin Sphere Liefthrasir metal case is awesome

Atlus are dragging this out a bit now, but following on from the reveal of the artbook, here comes the limited edition's steel case. Yes, it is very pretty and, yes, its still PS4 exclusive but there's still time for Atlus to come to its senses and offer a Vita version! The Vita version will, at least, be a bit less expensive!

Check out some gameplay from the Japanese version at the bottom.

Fancy a Windows 10 handheld gaming machine?

With Sony abandoning the handheld scene, JXD is doing a pretty good job at Android portable gaming devices. And now another Chinese firm, GPD, is having a shot with a potential Windows 10 portable device.


These are only concept images and the specification is not firmed down. If there's enough interest it would basically be a micro PC with a bunch of controls built in. The screen is just half-an-inch bigger than the Vita's and it would run Windows 10 Home. It all looks rather cramped, and while the Atom chip won't play the latest first person games, it can manage the likes of Diablo III and similar games. 

Internally, it could offer:

SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8500 / Z8550 quad-core Cherry Trail.
4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC + 128GB via micro SD slot for storage.
Display – 5.5-inch 1280×720 resolution touchscreen.
Video Output- micro HDMI Audio Output – micro HDMI + 3.5mm headset jack
Connectivity – WiFi and Bluetooth USB – 1x USB Type-C port, 1x USB 3.0 host
Battery – 6000 mAh non-removable Li-Po battery, good for 6 to 8 hours of online games.

Yes, the keyboard looks pretty crappy, but hey - it could work. Since the Android consoles thrive on emulators, I'd imagine this one would make a great historic machine. It has competition in the form of the US-based and Linux-driven DragonBox Pyra.

Atelier Arland Trilogy Goes Plus Size on PSN

Tecmo has just announced a neat bundle for new Gust fans with Totori, Meruru and Rorona all available in their Plus sized versions.

The three games are all around 3GB each, and currently retail on EU (UK) PSN for:

The Apprentice of Arland £32.99
The Adventurer of Arland £34.99
The Alchemist of Arland £19.99

UPDATE: The bundle is out now for £44.99 in the UK, and weighs in at 9GB! 

That's a lot of card space, with no sign of a physical box set, and a lot of RPG-ing.  Hopefully the bundle will be fairly priced, due for release on 17 February.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Square is ready to unleash Dragon Quest Builder on Japan

There's madness in train stations, adverts galore online and plenty more hype as Square Enix gets ready to launch Dragon Quest Builders in just a couple of days. Which will sell more though, the PS Vita version or the PS4? More to the point, will it replicate the success of Minecraft which has probably sold around a million on Vita in Japan.

Uppers puts its dukes up

Marvelous are trying something new with Uppers, and it shows in the live action trailer, mixed with bursts of gameplay. With cel shaded school dudes and chicks blatting it out across a range of class, urban and industrial scenes, its testosterone fueled stuff that should be as fast and furious as any brawler on the Vita.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Volition was working on a Saints Row PSP game

Its funny all the stuff leaking out of those office archives. Eurogamer has reported on a Volition worker who found a Saints Row PSP early demo that never saw the light of day, as the publisher didn't think it could match the standards of the series.

Considering RockStar managed two GTA titles on the PSP, perhaps Volition, or the unnamed developer it got to do the work, just didn't have the coding chops back in 2009. I wonder what else is lurking in dev units buried in the back of desks and cupboards around the dev scene!

Fun-looking Tribal Isle from Fresh3D was another game cut down before its prime, can you think of any more? There was suppoed to be an Elder Scrolls game - wonder how far that got?

Similarly, how many Vita games have been pushed aside because publishers have been scared off of putting any funds into developer as Sony abandoned its own console?

Another coulda woulda shoulda Vita patent appears

Submitted to the Japanese patent board in June 2014 and only revealed last week, Sony put up plans for clickable sticks in a Vita design, making a potential new handheld more useful for Remote Play, PS Now and a possible PlayStation 4 Portable.

However, given the time elapsed, and Sony's general downer on the Vita it seems highly unlikely this will ever come to market. There's some vague hope in that the Vita 2000 was announced in the US in Feb 2014, so now would be a good time. But that was originally revealed in Japan in September, 2013. So we've probably missed that boat.

Even though Japan still has strong Vita sales, over a million a year and huge third party support, if they weren't going to announce it there, then Sony won't reveal it anywhere.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Raising the Banner Saga when it comes to Vita ports!

Its a strange day in gaming when a modest indie RPG port to the Vita is the talk of the big gaming sites. Kotaku has a piece on how Sony 'saved the day' in getting Stoic's The Banner Saga Vita version up and running again, while Gamasutra discusses the issues of porting the game from PC.

That's an insightful follow up on the piece from the same site about porting Bastion to Vita, all of which highlights the budgetary and technical difficulties that smaller developers face. It casts a cautionary note for anyone thinking porting is cheap, or easy.

Clearly, with more games failing to arrive on Vita, including Not A Hero, Never Alone, Skullgirls 2 (rumoured, UPDATE: actually some good news has just been promised!), Galak-Z and BroForce, Sony's handheld is struggling to keep up with the march of progress.

The Vita struggles on with five year old hardware and a small but fervent audience, while even small developers have huge mobile opportunities, and the newer consoles are easier to developer for than in the PS3-era. While a bunch of pixels flying around the screen may look low-tech; multi-threading, visual design and coding systems have moved on at pace (says a non-coder, feel free to comment if wrong).

The porting tools in use seem niche and time-consuming. After that, huge optimisation is still required to get a 2016 game running on 2011 hardware. Kudos goes to the porting specialists like BlitWorks and Just Add Water who can get the job done. But its a shame there isn't more expertise, or that Sony isn't taking some responsibility and helping to spread these skills.

It is only the loyalty of the Vita fan base, and a couple of die-hard fans within Sony like Gio Corsi who can help get things done. Be it through crowd funding, emotional support and raising awareness, we're all in this together.

So, well done those still supporting the Vita, and those helping in the background to keep the games coming. But mostly, an annoyingly loud BRAVO to the fans who make enough noise and pay up to ensure developers remain interested in our little handheld.

A final note, remember when a developer cans a Vita version, it usually isn't for lack of trying. So, go easy on them, and try to politely find out what the community can do to help!

Looking into 2016, where do we go from here? Are there enough resources for new, quality, Vita ports, are they worth the developer's time? Are the porting tools transportable? Or are just a few coding ninjas holding the whole scene together?

Wizardry catches up with the Vita in Japan

A couple of recent (well, 2011) Wizardry titles are picking up Vita ports in Japan soon. Acquire is on the case with Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls and Wizardry out not too long ago, and Town of Imprisoned Spirits arriving early in February 5.

Promising more crypts to explore, monsters to battle and heroic parties to build up, with the usual ensemble of dwarves, elves and human types. Catch the latest intro trailer here, but expect that deeply traditional gameplay.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

GalGun heads west thanks to PQube

Gal Gun Double Peace is getting an English version, the shooty girl school game will head to us via PQube. Gal Gun is an on-rails shooter, set it a school full of loved-up girls. Armed with pheromone shots to keep them at bay, there's a lot of ecstasy and romance to get to grips with.

Here's a look at the original Japanese version's gameplay. Features include...
  • Gorgeous anime-styled rail-shooter action. Use your targeting cursor to fend off the advancing girls!
  • Story Mode: Play through the story and see if you can successfully confess your feelings to the girl of your dreams.
  • Score Attack: Play specific levels to achieve the highest scores.
  • Collection: Take a look at your achievements, image gallery and information on all the lovely ladies at the Academy!
  • Choose your own love interest. Your choices will change the story and the path you take throughout the game.
  • Doki-Doki Mode: This is for when it's time to break out the big guns! Turn the girls' happiness up to 11 with this heart-throbbing technique as you aim for the coveted 'Double Peace' result! Their outpouring of love even has a 'bomb' effect which clears the screen of oncoming girls!
  • Closet: Change what the girls are wearing in-game. Different outfits and costumes can be applied to various characters as you see fit. New costume DLC can be also be purchased.
  • There are 450 underwear designs to discover!

New Digimon World Next Order trailer

Looks like 2016 will be the year of Digimon, with Cyber Story arriving in the west in a couple of weeks and the rather more exotic looking Next Story hitting Japan soon.

With gameplay clips, a peek at some of the areas and interface actions, it looks like a great deal of fun. Hopefully this will follow Cyber Story in a westerly direction.

Feast on new Kamen Rider Battride War Genesis gameplay

Basically eight minutes of men in tight suits looking a bit like bugs kicking many asses! If you like that thing its coming to Vita and PS4 at some point in the year. Just how many games do we need with various heroes kicking endless clone armies in the 'nads? The game is out in a month thanks to Bandai, if you're keen.

UPDATE - 4th Feb - Bandai has posted another gameplay video (top one), different characters, multiplayer same pummeling of hapless clones.

New Attack on Titan trailer, snacking on the little people

Tecmo have been busy bunnies today, with a new trailer for Omega Force's Attack on Titan. Its got everything you want from a trailer, monsters eating people, some very Freedom Wars style combat, buildings being flattened (not sure how that will translate on the Vita) and men on horses shouting.

At the end are all the goodies in the Treasure Box version, so get drooling. The game is out in Japan in a month, and hitting the west later in the year. Right at the end is a new creature revealed, wonder if he's helpful at all?

That Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 video in high quality

Sorry to go all tabloid on you readers, but the game that is BANNED IN THIS WEST gets a new video! It was shown off in blotchy streaming form yesterday, but here's the proper thing with every glowing, fleshy pixel in perfect HD.

It shows off ALL THAT SICK FILTH of ladies wearing clothes (not much, admittedly) and having a bit of a roll around! Koei Tecmo's smut fest hits the PS4 and Vita in Asia and Japan on the 24th March and has English subs if you want to import it in a brown paper bag!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir getting limited art for western release

Having taken Japan by storm this week, the western release of Atlus' Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is something to look forward to. The bonus-laden "Storybook Edition" for the PS4 was promised as coming with a Mystery Art Print, that has been reveled as featuring Alice and her faithful feline Socrates!

That is confirmed for the US market only, no word on if Europe will get such luscious goodies. Hopefully Atlus will pull a vita LE version out of the hat. Check out the official site for more details.

PSN's top 10 downloads for 2015

What do gamers want on the Vita? Big brand action games according to the overall 2015 sales on the EU PSN. This list seems dodgy as HellDivers spent ages at the top of the Vita's Top Seller list, so I wonder just how poor the numbers are?

1 Minecraft
2 FIFA 15
3 Assassin’s Creed III Liberation
4 Killzone Mercenary
5 Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
6 LittleBigPlanet
7 Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified
8 Mortal Kombat
9 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories [PSP]
10 Unit 13

In the US, the list is a little different with a bit more love for Japanese games,

1 Sword Art Online -Hollow Fragment-
2 Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition
3 Gravity Rush
4 Freedom Wars
5 Soul Sacrifice Delta
6 Persona 4 Golden
7 Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z
8 LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
9 Mortal Kombat PS Vita
10 The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Odin Sphere No. 1 in Japan, Baby!

Atlus kick off the first releases of 2016 by storming to No. 1 in Japan with the Vita version of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir ahead of the PS4 edition by over 1,000 at 43,400 units. The PS3 version managed just 9,000, suggesting there isn't much life left in Sony's Cell-powered system.
At the other end of the chart, DariusBurst Chronicle sneaks in at No. 20 selling 3,600 according to Media Create's fresh data. Old stager Minecraft trundles along with another 13,000 at No. 9, bringing it to 621,000 boxed copies, with digital sales it must be near the million mark. Also moving along neatly is Gundam Extreme, now over the 125,000 mark at No. 13.

Vita sales drop down to 18,800, for 17.5% of total hardware sales. That's following the usual seasonal trend for a quiet January, but are already about 10K up on 2015's early numbers. The 28th sees the launch of Dragon's Quest Builders which could seriously shake things up with that stylish hardware bundle.

Note, changed the 2016 colour to red, as people couldn't see the gray line. 

EU PSN goes on a sale adventure

A bunch of RPG and adventure games form the latest sale on PSN, with the January sale still rumbling on for a couple more days.

This new sale puts up the likes of Disgaea, Sword Art Online, Dragon's Crown, Lost Dimension, all the Final Fantasy titles, the PSP awesomeness that is Third Birthday and Dissidia, plus much more.

That's just some of the game, and there's definitely a few bargains worth grabbing.

Dragon Quest Builders ads are just screwy

Japan, a country of noble tradition and respect for its elders, demonstrating a love and affinity for the Dragon Quest family as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. You'd think.

Or, take this bunch of twonks, buffooning around pretending to advertise Dragon Quest Builders. Why, what, who and how aren't important. Know only that this sort of thing is just not on, unless they're marketing the game exclusively to four year olds who have been on a heavy irony diet.

Some more relevant and practical clips can be found here.

UPDATE: More nutters in a third clip at the bottom, but at least they are actually playing the game in a 20 minute demo.

Shrugs, moves on! The game is out next week in Japan, note that even the dancers look depressed about being forced to make this.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Baseball Riot pops up on EU PSN

Baseball Riot from 10Tons is a popular mobile game and semi-sequel to funster Tennis in the Face. It hits the EU PSN on Wednesday 20 January for Vita and PS4, bringing some simplified slugging action, as you try and solve a range of physics based puzzles.

Features include:

  • Easy to pick up physics based puzzle gameplay 
  • Funny slapstick knockouts with ragdoll characters 
  • More than 100 increasingly challenging levels 
  • Three star scoring system

A Boy and his Blob spills the beans on EU PSN

We're getting a very heavy retro feel today. Not only is Oddworld back on the scene, but remastered and refined, A Boy and His Blob from WayForward also hits the Vita. Once upon a Wii game, this cute 2D romp of exploring and adventure features your ever-changeable Blob.

He's always on hand to provide a new mechanic or skill to advance through the game, if you feed him enough jellybeans! At £9.49, its not exactly an impulse purchase, but still looks pretty impressive.

Atelier Escha & Logy Plus launches with new trailer, costumes and screens

Atelier Escha & Logy Plus hits the EU PSN this week. It represents the second standalone installment in developer GUST’s latest Atelier trilogy: Dusk and comes to us courtesy of Koei Tecmo.

Preceded by the bittersweet Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, its more of the same slightly twee role playing in a world going rapidly sour.

The Plus edition offers a more balanced game compared to the PS3 version, all the DLC from the that edition, plus more costumes, extra missions and tougher bosses,

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth gets a western trailer

Ahead of its February launch, Sony has popped up a neat looking Digimon teaser with a little of the generic backstory behind the Cyber Sleuth adventure. The western version comes with a couple of extra Digimon, and will hopefully sell enough to tempt Bandai to bring Next Order our way as well.

There's a western gameplay trailer in a previous post.

Review: Oddworld Abe's Odyssey New 'n' Tasty

Abe has been a fantastic poster child for innovation in games throughout his quirky career, and we have been fortunate enough for his adventures to bless the Vita. 3D adventure Stranger's Wrath and Munch's Odyssey hit the Vita a couple of years ago, and now here comes the original.

Abe's Odyssey might be approaching 20 years old, but it has lost none of its charm, challenge and intensity. The HD remake lit up the PS4 last year and it finally makes a bow on the Vita, having lost very little in the translation, perhaps some shine and sparkles. The portals look a lot simpler and there's a few less mines and furniture, and the lighting is toned down.

If you can be patient, a physical limited edition release for Abe's has been confirmed, so hang on if little plastic cards are your thing! If you're not buy the PS4 version, which is Cross Buy for £6 on PSN, and save around £9 on the Vita listed price.

It looks a little more pastelly than the PlayStation's original cartoony palette, but otherwise is visually sharp and fluid. You can't open other apps while playing it, so I guess it uses the recently freed-up extra Vita power and RAM.

The aim is to rescue your fellow Mudokon grunts from the meat farm and other hellish menial tasks they have been assigned. You can either avoid, trap, destroy or take over the minds of your captors, and get them to do some of your dirty work for you. Hopefully when the grunts vanish into the portal, they go to a better place.

Through a mix of trapdoors, platforms, teamwork and cunningly (or annoyingly) placed save points, the action drives you relentlessly forward in the hunt for more chaps to rescue. The mix of platforms, sensors, bombs, mines and need to throw grenades or distracting bottle tops in the right place cause burst of delight and angst as you pull off a tricky rescue or cock it up at the last step.

Jumping, rolling, dodging, hiding in the shadows and other skills must all be used at the right time, with the right timing to proceed. At least getting it wrong usually only knocks you back a few steps. Then you need to keep an eye out for doors that lead into the scenery or to other hidden areas where a Modokon might be hiding.

Of course, you don't have to rescue them all, you even get a trophy for "accidentally" topping one. But, having gone to all the trouble of putting such a fine game together, it seems rude not to try. New tricks through the levels keep things fresh, talking to your fellows through whistles and farts will never get old.

If there are issues with the game its that the original controls were very digital whereas the Vita's analogue stick can see Abe sometimes jump forward instead of up. There's also the odd lag between pressing the button and the desired effect taking place, defusing mines being one such annoyance.

Otherwise, tuck into this feast of puzzling fun that feels so thoroughly modern, it seems almost rude to call it retro.

Kudos to Just Add Water for adding a little touch for Vita owners, you can play with lights on the screen, by using the rear touch panel during loading scenes!

Score 8/10
More reviews
Price: £15.99 on PSN (note, the PS3/4 version is currently onsale at £6.19 until Jan 22, it is CrossBuy, so use this method to save some money)
Dev: Just Add Water
Progress: Paramonia, the art of noise!

Another Vita firmware downgrade, 3.57 in the works

Yep, Sony continues to strip features from the Vita (and the PSTV & PS3 to be fair) at a slow crawl. This week's new firmware downdate removes support for the Facebook app - no great loss - and Facebook links. If it frees up some extra power for games, then yay! Otherwise, is there really any point?

UPDATE: Now Live, don't all rush at once!

So, carry on about your business, although it is still staggering to think that at no point did Sony think of adding the screenshot sharing as a direct feature (rather than doing it via manual labour).

Hopefully they will continue to support the Twitter app which I use a fair bit! The update hits Japan on the 20th, so may be out later today on western systems.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Rocketbirds 2 gets the usual announce trailer

We've all known it was coming, but here's the usual PSN spiel about the feathered flocking action that makes up Rocketbirds 2. Ratloop's next adventure involves bigger guns, bigger baddies, more environments and lots more avian humour.

More info on the new modes, and luscious looking visuals in the post, so check them out.

BlackHole still in development for the Vita

As a couple more games slide beyond the event horizon, never to reach the Vita, some good news is that Black Hole from Fiolasoft is still in active development on the Vita. Here's a pic from the now available PC version.

The game sees the crew of a crashed space ship have to escape the weird worlds that exist around the edge of the black hole, solving puzzles and surviving the many challenges. Gravity plays a major part of the game and can be twisted to help you pass the many obstacles that face you.

The small team is working on the main console versions and then the Vita edition. Developer in GameMaker, it shouldn't be a horrendous port, but while there's no guarantees, it is great to see a team committed to the handheld. 

Review: Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel

You've got to love Japanese developers. They don't need to worry about twitch FPS gameplay, HD graphics presented in Dynavision and ludicrous weaponry. Just give them a class of kids that mixes a bit of If, a dash of Toy Soldiers and some Dead Poet's Society, and you have a recipe for an epic slice of role playing.
This school, Thor's Military Academy, takes the best of the best (of the best) and the richest of the rich to churn out future leaders. Now, imagine if the current leaders are about to be dragged into an almighty war by some mysterious masked third power and a mercenary force. Enter the kids for a po-faced Scooby Doo style adventure (without the dogs, although there is a cat, and plenty of monsters).
In the same way Scooby Doo has some useful life lessons, given the pointless education today's kids get, perhaps the latest Legend of Heroes can also act as a useful political point. The upper classes are always trying to screw people over, or bomb the crap out of rivals, regardless of how smiley their press conferences are - Donald Trump, this one's for you ...

So, while a typical school day might involve sorting out the usual boy/girl issues, keeping staff supplied with their favourite magazines, and studying for those important exams, there's a lot more at stake in Cold Steel than a gold star from teacher.
Set in Erbonia, a first for the Trails series, you can travel by train, on foot, horse, or by handy automap to get around. The world does look gorgeous, ignoring the Vita's limited memory meaning there's a lot of reused textures, but in most cases the artists have done a fine job creative vibrant towns and epic vistas.
The Class VII you, Rean Schwarzer, get lumped in is a special one, mixing the toffs and a few urchins. They're soon throwing class war strops and hissy fits, before slowing bonding to form an arch team capable of going out and about, waving swords, staffs and firing off shotguns to prevent the villains from carrying out their plots.
Targets start out as little roadside bugs on your first practical outings, but soon ramp up to giant spiders and demonic hordes and the actual villains of the piece. This being an RPG, some kids are a little bit magical, with a huge range of spells and skills powered by the ARCUS Orbments - a neatly employed skill system driven by Quartz power.

As the plot rockets along, all sorts of curious folk cross the team's path, helping out or obstructing them. Some of it is ludicrous - the minute you arrest a bunch of enemies threatening world peace, you don't let one of them whip out a monster-summoning flute (twice)! Some of Cold Steel is deeply emotive, with a nomadic tribe threatened by gathering armies and young relatives used as pawns by the various powers in play.

But everything is on a grand scale, with challenge and betrayal on all sides. The epic scenery, for a Vita game, can chug in some of the cut scenes, but otherwise this is a fluid and exciting romp, and just when you think you're on the up, its back to delivering parcels for teacher!

They don't like the feel of Cold Steel up 'em

I'll keep the plot vague, as that would spoil one of 2016's must-own titles, which can be played as deeply or as lightly as you like. You don't have to fight every random battle out in the sticks, you can ride or race past most of them, and the difficulty can be adjusted if you find yourself up against a new rock hard beast. Side quests can, and should be ignored, as they are basically trophy fodder with no other reason to exist.

Battle is naturally repetitive, but rarely boring. You'll need to scan your enemy for its weakest point of resistance to the best physical and magical attacks. Then, swap out your party for the most effective warriors and lay waste to them. Special links are the reason why this team is so strong, bond pairs together and you get extra defensive skills or bonus attacks dealing massive power. The main annoyance is the team's constant moaning about a tough battle that you just waltzed through, due to a slightly borked narrative. There also no link between them looking wrecked after a battle, despite the cake walk you just waltzed through.
The only drag is the highly repetitive quest system and some of the noddy tasks you get, even though its obvious world peace is under threat. Fortunately, most of them are optional, but you need to raise your skills and powers somehow,  and getting some social points to spend quality time with your chums is useful, so don't ignore them all. Who will Rean end up dating is a midly itching issue throughout the plot.
With such a fantastically realised world, and some glorious orchestration to provide the soundtrack, it is a shame that your freedom to explore is limited. There are some decent characters among the usual RPG fodder, and while you might not like being able to decide their stat progression yourself, there's still the fun of juggling orbments, upgrading weapons and other tweaks to take up the downtime between quests.

While the first three quarters of the game is mostly fast-paced and fun, the last couple of chapters drag and drag, and drag some more. Guess the script writer was being paid by the word, but it really saps your will at times. Keep with it if you want to be prepared for Trails of Cold Steel II coming later in 2016.

This episode is easily a 50 hour plus game, and lunatics may consider it worth a second playthrough in a higher challenge mode, essential if you want all those trophies. With the sequel already well underway, expect this game to dominate Vita discussions in 2016. Not only does it shame western developers who claim they can't do much with the Vita but it is a hugely well-crafted adventure and universe that I look forward to exploring further.

Score 9/10
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Price: £29.99 on Amazon
Dev: Falcom
Progress: Completed story