Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Vita in 2018, a look ahead

We made it, thanks to developers small and large, with ambition and desire, the Vita had a pretty darn good 2017 and is looking remarkably strong into 2018 with around 100 games still on the release list.

The news that Catherine is coming to Vita caused outage and apoplexy among some gamers, but shows just how much Japanese publishers admire the machine's longevity and place in the market. This strong Japanese translated line-up and growing smaller developer interest, physical collectables and strong retro vibe make the Vita a good place to be.

So, to 2018 and there are several questions to ponder:

Is Vita be powerful enough for low-poly games? There are lots of titles out like Morphite in development, but ports seem to be struggling to get over. Either someone needs to craft a Vita-focused engine, or a clever coder needs to show that ports are possible. If so, that's a healthy raft of new PC and mobile games that could come our way. Full on FPS titles like Killzone prove it has the power, but getting small indes to harness it through generic engines is a different matter.

Will Sony budge on firmware/apps/games? There's so much Sony could do to improve the Vita's lot in life, with only small tweaks needed. An update to the Bluetooth stack would help Vita run with more headphones and sound systems.

Updating the Twitter app to the new character count would help, while making it easier to auto-post screenshots, or refine the cludgy photo-copying nightmare would improve shareability. None of this takes much effort and would show a little love that only updates firmware to clamp down on hack exploits. Netflix for Europe, please, anyone?

Also, why on earth isn't there an indie-hits bundle on western shelves? Sony is in the business of making money, and even a small production run would generate interest, help sales and encourage more games.

The bigger question is games, is it really too much for Sony to divert some development effort to small but fun Vita games to help jolly the ecosystem along, create some buzz and help attract more developers? Talking of...

Who's new to the party?

A lot of people are putting in major effort to work on the Vita, but we can't rely on their grace for long. While PlayStation Mobile was running, a decent number of people learned to code on the Vita, and gave us a fun bunch of games, some of which have returned as fully-fledged Vita titles. A developer-friendly relaunch might be one way to attract future talent, and help patch over the fact that most dev tools have dropped Vita support in their latest versions.

I see signs of developers interested in Vita, but there really needs to be a consolidated point of effort to make things happen (as when ROM 2064 devs crapped miracles to get it on Vita).

The bigger problem for Sony, Vita 2 or nothing? 

Sony has no clue how the Vita is still going, and the company's clueless executives probably wince every time Vita gets mentioned. At home in Japan where the PS4 continues to get pummelled by the Switch (aka the Vita 2 that Sony should have launched), things must be pretty grim - Sony can't launch a PS4 Pro+ or a PS5 yet, while the huge gap in the market for a Vita 2 is being rapidly filled by massive Switch sales figures.

So, Sony is out for the count, richer thanks to PS4 after years of losses, but unable to address the problem that a Vita 2 would fill. Which leaves our little box of aging hardware to do battle against the world into 2018. Handily the growing success of indies and niche titles means it can fight so far above its weight that it is almost unimaginable. With games focused on the Spectrum, MegaDrive, C64, 16-bit and other eras hugely in vogue, the Vita can handle these easily, and as long as developers report some sales success it will remain a tempting port or development target.

What do you want to see in 2018? Let people know in the comments or on Twitter!

Metal Max Xeno trailer and artwork

At a concert for the 25th anniversary of Metal Max, Kadokawa dropped a new tailer and showed off some more detail about the new game for Vita and PS4. You can translate the Famitsu piece for the information, but the video shows off plenty of interest.

And the art looks pretty neat too.
Expect more information in early 2018. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Review One More Dungeon

Let's game like its 1992, as Stately Snail's One More Dungeon takes a leaf from the original flat-plane pseudo-3D Wolfenstein game and wraps it up in a dungeon-RPG style randomised adventure set over nine compact levels.

Sealed underground, your rogueish character armed with a magic wand and a short sword must explore and survive the blocky-pixel horrors within. Bats, rats, spiders, ghosts and traps are just some of the perils as you squint down each mossy corridor, hoping for health or a top-up for your fire, ice or other magic weapons, but mostly its monsters or annoying dead ends.

You'll probably waste a lot of ammo at first, figuring out that the oddly animated eye-ball or gloopy plant isn't actually an enemy, while the hidden secrets will keep you running around a level for ages, looking for every last bit of help. There's the odd bout of crate bashing for items which might provide a bonus, or might not, all the while praying you don't get jumped by a lurking beast that can sap your last bit of health.

With most enemies lobbing rocks or poisonous spit, keeping them at arm's length is essential, so our hero relies on magic to kill from range. Learning how close you can get to a monster before they activate is a key survival skill. Upgrading to better weapons in a randomly-appearing shop, operated by a very strange naked caveman, or finding them by luck will help. But keeping up your magical ammo and maintaining health by trading coins is another random option.

Even so, too often, you are faced with an unwinnable situation, thanks to a gathered horde. To lighten things up, portals can zap you to other bonus areas where coins, magical powers that consume your mind energy, or tougher enemies might be on the menu, but finding each level's overlord and taking the key to the exit from its corpse is the main aim.

Blockbuster or blocked?

With a lot of roguelike Vita games available, unfortunately, the random nature of OMD counts against it, as there's so much that can be lost in the jumbled clutter of each level and the sudden onset of death. Many other games make their progress system fairer or more enjoyable.

OMD relies on mutators, earned after collecting enough points, that change the game state to make it easier (or tougher) to play next time out. But, they don't make it more entertaining to play, which is a shame. The lack of any story, or a little humour, also flattens the experience somewhat.

It is good to see the old blocky 3D engine making a comeback and there's plenty of scope for Stately Snail to add more features, skins and build some proper adventure, action or RPG experiences from their underlying tech.

However, this is one of the first games I've been able to compare on my Vita and new Switch, and it is obvious to see the Vita's sluggishness. Therefore, any evolution of the engine is likely to bypass the aging Sony hardware.

I'd like to love this game a little more, but - while strangely addictive - it really isn't that fun compared to Xenon Valkyrie + or many of its pixelly brethren. Why can you auto-pick up some things, and have to press X to grab others? Why is there often a shop on the first level or a load of chests when you have no coins or keys? I guess, sometimes, too much random can be a poor substitute for a well-designed game, especially when something as iconic as Wolfenstein started the ball rolling.

Score: 6/10
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Price: £6.49 (PSN)
Developer/publisher Stately Snail/Ratalaika
File size 125MB
Progress: Last level

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Vita seasonal hardware sales happy in Japan

The Vita sold 14,041 units in Japan, according to Media Create figures, a numeric palindrome to celebrate its best figures of the calendar year! Again, sales are around a quarter of what they were week-on-week in previous years, but that's still a healthy amount of hardware until you see the Switch sold over a quarter of a million units last week alone, and 500K in two weeks.

Even so, the word "viable" is all we need to hear, and for Sony to pay the slightest bit of attention as the Vita has a solid roster for 2018, as the PS4 continues to get caned by Switch.

No games to note in the software Media Create chart, with Atelier Lydie & Soeur failing to beak the top 20.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

New Persona dancing games show off some moves

Hot on the heels of the Catherine news, Atlus is showing off its continued Vita support with new looks at Persona 5 Dancing Star Night and Persona 3 Dancing Moon Night. Anyone else about to dig out Persona 3 to get reacquainted with the characters over Christmas? The games are dated for 24th May with various editions in Japan.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Catherine: Full Body, full JP trailer, game CONFIRMED for western release

As the Japanese trailer pops up,  with news of a late 2018 launch, Atlus has just confirmed Catherine: Full Body will get a western release. The teaser site has no detail yet, and platforms and date are TBD. But, if it doesn't come to Vita, I'd imagine Atlus' bosses will have to assume new identities.

From the press release:
Is it a nightmare or a dream come true? A new test of Vincent Brooks' morality is about to take the stage.

ATLUS today announced that Catherine: Full Body will be coming to the West. This new twist on the original Catherine, a mature romantic action-adventure puzzle game from the makers of the Persona series, will include a new love interest, "Rin," with distinct storyline elements for the character, and additional puzzle content. Vincent's love life has never been so complicated and dramatic!

Vincent's apartment hasn't seen the last of the sensual people in his life. With new storyline elements for both Catherine and Katherine, players will have ample opportunity for new experiences in Catherine: Full Body.

As for release date and pricing, ATLUS reveal that later, slowly.

Truth is, I really didn't get the PS3 game all that much, but didn't put a great deal of time into it. On the Vita though, this looks like a different proposition.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Check out the Skull Pirates box art

Skull Pirates is funded on Kickstarter and wading through the stretch goals, with 10 days to go and $33K raised. The latest campaign update shows off the box art for the physical versions. So, get backing or upgrade your tier if you want one of these shiny baubles in 2018.

Cheers to the Vita community for a great 2017, and by some miracle a good-looking 2018

There's so much I wanted to write in this year, but never had the time or the reality to proceed with. For example, there's no "Here's how good movies look on Sony's HD Vita OLED successor" or "10 new cool features in the latest Vita firmware update."

I'd also love to spend time recording quality videos for YouTube but it has long been established I have a face for radio and a voice for mime! However, others have been producing sterling work, and doing Sony's job for them, supporting the Vita through Hell and low puddles, alongside my little blog here.

Somehow, by the miracles worked from the people below, despite Sony having moved on and the specialist press only getting excited at hacks, games they want to talk about or feature removals, the Vita is looking at a strong 2018! Well done everyone for making and talking about the games.

Love your developer

First are foremost are the developers still crafting games, hustling ports and working their butts off to bring us entertainment well into 2018 and beyond, for what it has to be said, is a minimal reward. You can follow those active on Twitter, on this list. Free free to nudge me with any additions.

Be kind to content makers

Quite a few people are still maintaining the community with Vita sites and blogs. Kresnik Ahtreide‏ has put a huge amount of effort into a fine set of articles on the output of key publishers from Sony, Atlus, Aksys, Sega, Devolver and others who have helped keep the ball rolling.

Sites like Vita Player continue with a wide range of news and reviews, and there are many more in other languages from Poland to Spain and far beyond. Check out the full list on the Vita Family page.

Blue Maxima's YouTube channel or 2old4gaming are good places to head for gameplay clips of the latest games and news. Gadget Girl Kylie has plenty of walkthroughs for the likes of Digimon, Sword Art Online and other epics.

Then we have folk like 6axis who provide regularly scheduled multiplayer get-togethers, to keep games like Freedom Wars, Killzone and God Eater together.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017's best performing game launches in Japan

With faith restored in Vita game sales by the decent impact of Hacker's Memory in the Media Create chart, I figured now is a good time to look at the best selling launches in Japan over the year. Note, these numbers exclude digital sales!

For a start, we can see why Super Robot Wars X is on the schedule for 2018! The little robots and the psycho killers from Danganronpa look like the only standout series left running on the Vita, when it comes to sales.

1. Super Robot Wars V (Bandai Namco) - 83,733
2. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony  (Spike Chunsoft) - 76,166
3. Accel World Vs. Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight (Bandai Namco) - 38,653
4. Uta no Prince-Sama: Repeat Love (Broccoli) - 29,008
5. Dungeon Travelers 2-2 (AquaPlus) 27,381
6. Digimon Story Hacker's Memory (Bandai Namco) 24,636

Elsewhere, it is mostly long-running series or crossovers helping keep up the Vita's profile. The rest are an endless series of visual novels, love adventures and so on, with literally 100s of the little rascals not making this list.

Scattered among them a few poor showings, with new RPGs like The Lost Child and Tokyo Clanpool failing to make a major dent. Bandai clearly remain the leading publishers, but there's a healthy supporting cast helping to keep the Vita moving in 2018. As long as they are happy selling 5,000 copies per games, perhaps that enough to see them into 2019!

7. Uta no Prince-sama: Amazing Aria & Sweet Serenade Love (Broccoli) – 19,904
8. Itadaki Street: Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary (Square Enix) – 18,784
9. Valkyria Revolution (Sega) - 18,219
10. Warriors Stars  (Koei Tecmo) - 17,866

Blue Reflection (Koei Tecmo) - 13,850
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3 Ultimate (Koei Tecmo) - 13,682
Sukitomo. Tsukiuta. 12 Memories (Bandai) - 12,763
Re:Zero - Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu - Death or Kiss (5pb.) - 11,762
Osomatsu-San: The Game - Hang-Up Finding Employment Advice (Idea Factory) 11,579

Konoyo no Hate de Koi o Utau Shoujo: Yu-No  (5pb.) - 8,858
Omega Labyrinth Z  (D3Publisher) - 8,821
Gun Gun Pixies (Compile Heart) 8,675
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows (Nippon Ichi) - 8,255
Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon (Koei Tecmo)  7,168

Shiin (Experience) - 7,099
Kono Yokubukai Game ni Shinpan o! (5pb.) - 7,000
Kenka Bancho Otome: Kanzenmuketsu no My Honey (Spike Chunsoft) - 6,931
Chaos;Child: Love Chu Chu!! (5pb.)  - 6,240
Kamaitachi no Yoru: Rinne Saisei (5pb.) - 6,140

Nil Admirari no Tenbin: Kuroyuri En'youtan (Idea Factory)  5,450
God Wars: Future Past (Kadokawa) - 5,291
Tokyo Clanpool (Compile Heart)  5,197
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni - Bikini Party Edition (Marvelous)  - 5,078
Sousei no Onmyouji (Bandai Namco) - 4,681
Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu: Kanmitsu Hana Emaki (Idea Factory) - 4,629
Occultic;Nine (Mages) - 4,595
Hana Oboro: Sengoku Denranki  (Idea Factory)  - 4,522
Shiro to Kuro no Alice (Idea Factory) 4,385
Black Wolves Saga: Weiss und Schwarz (Idea Factory) - 3,890
New Game! The Challenge Stage!  (5pb.) - 3,662
The Lost Child (Kadokawa) - 3,658

Depending on interest, I may do a total sales version of this, but first week sales are pretty decisive in Japan, especially for a niche format like the Vita. Only Minecraft on Vita had legs for more than a few weeks in the chart! Let me know if I've missed something!

Digimon Hacker's Memory outsells PS4 version in Japan

Bandai's Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth Hacker's Memory is the biggest selling Vita game for ages, shifting 24,636 physical copies, and reasonably spanking the 20,890 copies sold on PS4. At least it proves a big enough name will sell on the Vita and gives further reason for the Vita to succeed in 2018 with the likes of Catherine on the way.

On the hardware front, Vita sold 9,049 units last week, another nudge in the right direction but dwarfed by the 221K Switch sales. Guess this is mostly seasonal sales and users upcycling, although new games could be driving some buyers to the stores.

Last week's figures here. Since I'm the lucky recipient of a Switch, I'll soon be able to do a proper comparison between the two. But, clearly, Nintendo has caught the wave with the right product at the right time, crushing PS4 sales.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Where Are My Friends? multi-genre platformer heads to Vita

Many years ago, games like Beach Head, Raid Over Moscow and a few others used to throw all the genres plus the kitchen sink into their releases, creating various challenges for players.

Today, enter Where Are My Friends? A game just released on Steam in October from Russian dev Beard Games Studio, it heads to the Vita according to a trophy listing. With a hand-drawn look and a sort of uni-cycling eyeball for a hero, there seems like lots to do as four genres mash, bringing puzzling and platforming together.

Catherine Full Body revealing on Vita

Atlus in Japan has announced a remake/refresh of the PS3 title Catherine. It revolves around the nightmares of a man dating two women, Catherine and Katherine, with a third lady added to the party for this update. Hitting PS4 and Vita next year, more news on what is now Catherine: Full Body is due in a couple of days.

UPDATE: Famitsu has published with a raft of details that are floating across various sites.

The new version features different endings, FMV and "sexy" events. To help get people through to the end, there's a fuller range of difficulty levels and gameplay tweaks. The third girl is called Rin who works at Vincent’s usual bar, creating a set of new branches for the story.

No word on a western release, yet.

The update is being worked on by Studio Zero, with Katsura Hashino, the director of Persona 5 taking the helm. There's a website here with the new information coming via Nico Nico on Friday.

Friday, December 15, 2017

All the big Vita games coming to Japan in 2018

Even while stabbing away at updating the Japanese part of the release list, and dropping JP videos across the week, I have no hope of keeping up with all the new Vita games coming to Japan.

Fortunately, some clever soul has put together a video of all the key games in one place (excluding Catherine: Full Body, which was only just announced). Some are familiar, some are already out in the west and others will come as a pleasant surprise.

Vita titles are in the first half of this eight-minute celebration of gaming!

Gunhouse unloads on Vita next week

The fun continues next week on PSN with Xenon Valkyrie +, but sneaking into the release list is a revamp of a PSM game from Necrosoft, the folk that gave us OutRun-esque hoof-hitter, Oh, Deer.

Their latest release came out on PSM originally, then reappeared on iOS a year ago, and now comes full circle on the Vita. Gunhouse is a cartoonish tower defence puzzler, that looks pretty distinctive, and after all the PC indie hits its good to see developers going back to some of those overlooked PSM titles.

Still waiting for Life of Pixel SE from Super Icon, anything else from the PSM roster you'd like to see?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Vita on a tear as sales soar*

*by 2017 standards

Vita sales last week in Japan were 8,483 according to Media Create figures, helping drag the Sony machine a little away from obsolescence in the seasonal sales. The numbers are tracking currently at about half of last winter's figures. Over the year, the portable is headed for around 350,000 units, so down two-thirds in a year.

Things would be a lot better if Sony had launched a HD Vita/PS4 Remote Player a year ago as Switch continues to eat its cake, lunch and babies, with 165,000 sales over the week! That double the PS4's combined sales and pisses all over Sony as the company runs out of steam and ideas fast.

Again, there are no Vita games in the software chart, but Digimon Hacker's Memory and the Japan-Vita-only Atelier Lydie are out this week, which should make a decent dent.

On the plus side, Vita is outselling the New3DS and 2DS, Xbox One and Xbox One X, Wii U and PS3 showing how stunning the hardware was for its time, with its seventh birthday in Japan next week!

Last week's figures, here's the historical chart for a giggle!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Steamworld games go physical this week

Probably mentioned this before, but Steamworld Dig and Steamworld Heist go physical this week thanks to Limited Run Games for $24.99 each with a 3K production run. PlayStation TV compatibility is a new feature.

Image & Form's critically acclaimed SteamWorld games will be available as complete physical editions on the PlayStation Vita. Each is fully patched with any applicable DLC included on the cart.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review Xenon Valkyrie +

Fabrice Breton brings Vita owners a delicious slice of arcade roguelike action in the form of his Vita port of Diabolical Mind's Xenon Valkyrie +. The plus indicates the game has various gameplay improvements over the PC original, but since I'd never heard of the game until recently, its all new.

A blocky little pixel actioner,  you land on an imperiled planet where an evil witch has taken control of the machines. Starting off by picking from one of three crew, weak but nimble, strong but slow etc. Initially, you have a couple of easy levels to explore, learn the ropes and level them up to face the first boss, with much tougher battles beyond that.

Your crew ventures out into that first Ancient Techforest. Armed with swords, guns with limited ammo, grenades and the odd special move like a super-leap to reach higher areas. More importantly, they each offer a slightly different route through the game, with a few special areas to uncover.

Whoever you chose, they stumble around the randomly generated levels, as you learn how to deal with the killer robots on patrol, the radar comes in handy in this respect. Note there's no penalty/death for falling, but deciding when and how to use your sword or gun is a key life skill.

Another tactic is wall climbing and learning how far you can jump or how to get into the narrow gaps where chests packing health and credits may be stashed. Spend a little time learning the ropes, like letting the enemy kill each other, and you can save a lot of pain!

Most levels feature a locked treasure chest that might have a better weapon, a useful tool or just a random piece of crap. Also, if you finish the first level without losing your shield, you get some extra bonus strength points that make your weapons more powerful!

Leveling up your strength and defence is key, but depends on the weapons you find. Also, finding cash is important as, at the end of each level, you can buy some stock goods like shields, ammo and health. There's a surprising amount of thought that can go into each run, but still, there's nothing quite like racing through the level leaving a trail of carnage in your wake.

A key trick when you reach the portal is the ability to return to the top of each level, a wise move if you missed a chunk out through a big fall or found a good chest but couldn't reach it from below. Sure it takes time, but could add valuable coins and experience levels to your haul, a lovely touch!

In the early going, learning about the game is vital. Some enemies can be easily killed just by whacking them from a safe ledge above or below. Others will explode after a few hits, so you need to worry about damage or plan to have them blow a useful hole in the scenery. Later enemies leap around madly, requiring careful planning or luck (in fact, mostly luck) to survive. Figuring out who does what and how to get around will help build your character up for those boss battles.
In these, the screen is dominated by a trigger-happy fiend who will take a little more figuring out how to kill. Beat him, her or it, and you can take a breather before the next battle. If you've found enough rare metal Teamerite, you can trade it in for some proper rare weaponry, before setting out again to the deeper levels.

As the opposition gets tougher, and the levels more complex, you can use grenades to blast rocks and create your own paths, ideal for accessing that hard to reach reward or to make it easier to kill sterner enemies. But, with leaping, exploding creatures all around survival becomes a serious challenge the deeper you go. Get even further and some robot drones can be hired to help with extra firepower or other useful abilities.

If you want a closer look, check out 12 minutes of gameplay here. With lots of little rules and skills, you do need to pay attention. Pure fun to play, Xenon Valkyrie is packed with challenge, for such a little game. The desire to do better on my next run after yet another permadeath hasn't worn off yet, and to find out what the other tools are weapons are. The chiptune soundtrack is sumptuous and the tiny graphics work well on the Vita's screen.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £7.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher Diabolical Mind/Cowcat
File size 90MB
Progress: Deeper underground

Super Robot Wars X physical announced in Asia with English subs

Fancy some Super Robot Wars that isn't all Japanese? Bandai Asia is releasing a subbed version over there. Available on PS4 and Vita in digital and physical form, if you're heading to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines or Indonesia after 26th April, pick one up or get importing.

Wow, Bandai really is pushing the boat on this, here's a translated interview with producers Shinya Satake and Takanobu Terada explaining what's new and fun in this version.

Bandai shows off more Cyber Sleuthing Digimon action

This seven-minute clip is probably lots of stuff we've seen before, I don't have the time to go through all of Bandai's previous output for the new Hacker's Memory game to check. Either way, enjoy it, and wonder why they didn't go the Pokemon Go route and add an AR mode? 

The game is out in Japan this week, coming west in early 2018, and since the first outing was pretty fantastic fun, expect plenty of love for the game as a new generation of beasties are bred and evolved.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Papers, Please gets documented on Vita next week

How funny is that? In the previous story on Stardew Valley I casually mentioned that all we need is Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please on the Vita and we have the essential indie set. Lo and behold, just a day later, Lucas tweets his game is coming out next week.

UPDATE: here's the trophy list

Check out the original PC trailer, not that there’s much to see in a game of passport control paperwork. Any other indie games left that we really need?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Merry Christmas, Stardew Valley heads to Vita in ‘18

Probably the best news we’ll get before Christmas. The Stardew Valley dev blog has confirmed a portable edition of the popular farm game. That comes after a few non-committal comments over the year. All that leaves is Papers, Please and we have pretty much all the key indie games that will likely fit on a Vita. Thanks will be Cross Buy with the PS4 version, but no multiplayer, can live with that!

With even low-ploy games struggling to run on Sony’s ageing hardware do shout if you think there’s anything else we need.

Japan trailer Friday

More Gintama Rumble, 13 minutes of gameplay this time to enjoy/.

A new sing-song VN tale of love and happiness in Fortissimo, with a couple of trailers from Idea Factory, hitting the high notes in March 2018.

And finally, the latest Code: Realize trailer with about nine minutes of talking gameplay.

Idea Factory shindig shows off Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms characters

Idea Factory had its little west-coast party last night with a few new bits to share across PS4, PSVR and Vita. The upshot for portable lovers was a new trailer for the visual novel Hakuoki Edo Blossoms, out next spring.

It features some pivotal moments in your quest to romance handsome samurai bachelors. The young Chizuru, determined to find her father, will romance the famous warriors of Shinsengumi through a series of engaging stories and dramatic events. Now, experience new characters, love interests, and episodes in the world of Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Party in One More Dungeon next week

Here's the launch trailer for Ratalaika's One More Dungeon, a rare FPS outing for the Vita. Somewhere between the original Wolfenstein 3D and Hexen era, it offers a roguelike shooter, with procedurally generated levels and pixel-art graphics. The game is Cross Buy and Cross Play with the PS4.

Your mission is to reach a final level deep within the dungeon and destroy the obelisks that are used by forces of Evil to invade the world. Using melee weapons, magic staff and antique artefacts to wade through the hordes of enemies while finding the many secrets!

Features include:

  • Procedurally generated levels.
  • 30+ types of enemies and 80+ items.
  • A Sanity level that can reduced by using artefacts acquired in-game.
  • Customisable gameplay in the form of modifiers that can be tweaked prior to playing, to tailor make the gameplay to one of your choosing.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Iconoclasts to take on the Vita in January

Some two years after the original reveal trailer, Iconoclasts finally has a release date, on the 23rd January. That's what comes of one man taking on a crazy mission to recreate his own vision of platforming perfection, step forward Joakim Sandberg, aka Konjak.

Here's a fresh launch trailer and you can read more on the PlayStation blog. It looks epic in scale and I hope all those crystal and snow scenes really pop on the Vita's OLED.

There's also a new website to check out!

Vita sales on the up in Japan

Could the comeback be on? While the Switch manages to sell 125,000 in Japan last week, Vita sales stormed past the 6K barrier to 6,127 units! That's thanks to seasonal sales, which while still poor compared to previous years should convince developers that the Vita will be viable in 2018. Spring still looks pretty strong for the Vita in Japan with new games being announced daily.

Unfortunately, while Switch games boss the Media Create chart, there are no Vita games to be seen in the top 20. Over in Famitsu land, Bandai's Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory on PS Vita and PS4 grabbed a feisty score or 9/9/9/8  for 35/40 to be the best-rated game. It lands in Japan next week, so could make an impact.

Last week's figures

Trailer trash Wednesday, Certain Magical Virtual-On vs Shantae DLC

UPDATE: Prototype's Alice: Heads & Tails romance VN has a fresh trailer with a gorgeous soundtrack, the rest looks pretty by the numbers with derigeur pastel art and doey eyes all over the place.

More madness from Sega Japan, with a decent look at Certain Magical Virtual-On, we've seen the intro clip before but stick around for some gameplay, multiplayer and even a hint at the PS4/PS Vita Cross Play mode.

Over here, Shantae gets another bunch of levels thanks to the Friends to the End update, the last part of the Shantae: Half-Genie Hero story. When Shantae falls prey to dark magic, it’s up to Shantae's BFFs Sky, Bolo, and Rottytops to save her from a Nightmare Realm of her own imagining!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Super Hydorah shoots into action next week

Abylight helped bring Cursed Castilla to the Vita recently, and they're firmly on the retro bus now with Super Hydorah. This classic-looking shooter with heavy-on-the-scanline effect display looks like it came right out of the Psygnosis or Thalamus era.

In Super Hydorah, an evil force has launched an invasion of the Omios star. As the most skilled and deadly pilot in the galaxy, you face the dreadful menace of the Meroptians, bio-mechanical creatures set in a ruthless war of conquest. Equip your ship, select a route and fight planet by planet against the hordes!

Well-rated on Steam, the Vita version is limited to single player only, but still has lots to offer. Including:

  • 21 levels divided into 35 sublevels, 35 bosses and more than 100 enemies
  • Non-linear level layout with route selection
  • Dangers of different nature in each level (not just bullets)
  • Weapon selection and power-ups in every mission
  • Memorable and epic original soundtrack by Gryzor87
  • Secrets, multiple endings, achievements plus rank system
  • Robot chase minigame adapted to single player
  • Trophies and cross-buy option
It seems a little pricey at €19.99, but with plenty of shooters on the Vita, including Sky Force I guess there's a roaring trade. 

Attack on Titan 2 dated 15 March for Japan

No western release for the Vita, but you should be able to import the Japanese version and play along, since it looks broadly similar to the first game. And, after all, the endless shouting is pretty much the same in any language. Famitsu has some fresh art and screens, while the new trailer shows off how good it will look on the PS4.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Demon Gaze II stares again at Japan

With the western release of Demon Gaze 2 in the bag, Japan gets another dose of the squinty gazer as the Global Edition with all the updates and features comes home to roost. Kadokawa will try and revive interest, but it looks like the love has long gone from the original fun and fast RPG over there, with the first version of the sequel only selling around half of the original on launch.

Tack on another year and more gamers will have moved on, but you can't fault the publisher for trying to squeeze out a few more sales. 

UK Vita retail chart, Danganronpa back on top

Lots of shuffling in the UK retail chart from the ChartTrack this week, Danganronpa is back on top of the pile while Ys VIII and Chaos;Child show that recent games can stick around among the laughable line up of old titles that kids will find in their Christmas stockings.

1 + Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony NIS America 2 9
2 - Minecraft: Playstation Edition Mojang 1 160
3 = Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Activision 3 220
4 + Farming Simulator 18 Focus 10 26
5 Assassin's Creed Chronicles Ubisoft 4 84
6 + Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Warner 7 104
7 - Need For Speed: Most Wanted EA Games 5 106
8 + Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana NIS America 18 12
9 + Lego Marvel Avengers Warner 14 69
10 + Chaos;Child PQube 11 8

Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, (C)2017 UKIE Ltd

Best of screenshot Saturday

In case you missed them on my tweet stream, here are the Vita games that got some #screenshotsaturday love from developers. I also mentioned a few other games that looked like they would be a good fit for the handheld, never hurts to ask politely.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review The Walking Dead Season Two

Ouch, ouch, horrible, horrible, make it go away. No, that's not the zombies, but this horrendous update to one of my favourite adventures on the Vita. Firstly, sorry for the long delay in getting to this review, I picked it up on-sale earlier this year, £4 makes it a bargain right?

With a lot of hindsight, 2013's first season was an epic tale, and I remember feeling every punch and shot as Lee and Clem tried to protect each other. So much so, I could overlook most of the game engine's wonky moments.

However, the sequel - which I'm now glad I left it so long to play, so I wasn't too invested in the emotional side - comes across as even worse, a less-polished jerky mess. And even if its the engine's fault again, this feels like a dark stain on the Vita. I kind of see why Telltale gave up on Sony's handheld shortly after.

Any sense of involvement rapidly vanishes when action scenes fail to work. Drama fails when huge loading delays mean you forget why you were on the edge of your seat, and poorly worded or stupid touch commands don't make sense or don't work.

That aside, Clem is a little grown up now, and surrounded by expendable characters or people you actively want to die, so there's very little of the love that I felt toward the poor survivors in the first game. Sure, things hot up a bit toward the end and the inevitable big-scene climax, but God knows what the third series is like!

Over five chapters, there's a mix of chat scenes, a litany of hard choices, extreme violence and the odd decision that doesn't add up to a hill of beans, it seems. So, in summary, avoid unless it is on sale at a very good price. Having played this mess, certainly won't bother with Telltale's other efforts, on any platform!

Score: 4/10
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Price: £15.99 (PSN)
Publisher: TellTale
File size 300MB per episode average
Progress: Complete

Japan video Friday, new Code Realize clips

More Code Realize is on its way to Japan, which should come our way, given we got Guardian of Rebirth. Check out a couple of clips, plus whatever else I can dig up on another fun filled Japan video Friday...

And finally, for now, a tease of something new from VN funsters Dramatic Create, Superior Dynamis. School girls, uzis and clouds, what's not to like.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Boob-obsessed Omega Labyrinth Z heads west in 2018

Oh, boy! Or oooh, cheeky! Depending on your point of view. PQube is bringing the boob-obsessed Omega Labyrinth Z from D3 west in 2018.

Billed as the most tantalizing rogue-like RPG of 2018, the big haul is a magical grail that can grant any wish. Legend has it that the grail is hidden in a secret cave, that only reveals itself on opening day of the Academy each year.

Naturally, that means Aina Akemiya, a young self-conscious student at the academy, and her friends are going to try and take advantage of it for their own, deeply personal, use. In the game, you battle through the usual dungeons with random maps, monsters and loot. It features:
  • Tactical turn-based combat – Control the battlefield with expert positioning and use of skills!
  • Explore lengthy dungeons – Randomly generated dungeons brimming with loot is yours for the taking!
  • Item management made easy – The ‘Purse' system allows you to send items back to town if your inventory fills up in a dungeon. 
  • A shopaholics dream – Purchase items with Omega Power, even the dungeons have shops!
I'll leave all the boob-fetish stuff to the official site which should go live soon, but draw your attention to one of the Japanese videos of the game in action. 

Sony's massive new Vita launch nets around 3,000 extra sales

The launch of the new Vita (no) Value Packs in Japan has seen sales rocket from 3,090 last week to, um, 5,964 according to Media Create figures. That's a not-quite doubling of sales, showing just how low Sony's ambition has become, perhaps it put 5,000 on the shelves tops?

Not that most Japanese gamers need a new Vita. Switch sales dominate the hardware market at 68% of all sales, while no Vita games are in the top 20 again.

Side note: I was wondering if the new 3.67 firmware was due to these new units having some new components. If anyone has one, can they investigate?
With no Sony-developed titles to promote the bundle, the company is relying on a deflating liferaft of third-party games. But the problem didn't start this week, year or even last. When Sony bet everything on PS4, which has bankrolled the company for a couple of years, it now has nothing to counter Switch and no handheld/hybrid play left.

So, come on Sony, a HD/WiFi/GPU upgrade, capable of handling PS3 ports and Remote Play is all you need and you're back in the game for Japan. Even if it is three years late. How hard can that be? Back to 3,000 next week? Although on the plus side, it was only 500 below the PS4 Pro :)
What next Sony, the PS4 Pro Plus?

Energy Invasion brings Breakout back to full charge

Miss the odd game of Arkanoid, or any of the other Breakout clones? Well, Energy Invasion has just popped up with a Vita and PS4 trophy list and looks to add some fresh polish to one of the oldest genres. Published by Sometimes You, who brought us Alteric, Energy Cycle and Spiral Splatter among others, they may not be the classiest of titles, but at this point everything is welcome and this looks pretty trippy.

The Longest Five Minutes takes place next February

After a fair old delay, we now have a date for NIS America's Longest Five Minutes western release.

In what appears to be the spirit of 30-second Hero, here comes another pixel-fun RPG. An amnesiac hero, presumably taking the piss out of all other RPGs where you wake up concussed must take on a Demon King.

With no memory of finishing moves, his hometown, and even the reason he's trying to defeat the Demon King in the first place, things will be tough. Look out for this on 16 February, digitally on Vita. Official website here.

Time Recoil, 10tons Vita swansong

Finnish developer 10tons has delighted us with Neon Chrome and Xenoraid among others, but it looks like Time Recoil will be their last outing on Vita. That's as the system struggles to keep up with their newer efforts, and the pain and time cost of porting outweighs any financial benefit. Fair enough, and thanks to the team for being upfront about it.

Time Recoil is a top-down shooter loaded with slow-motion gunfights, epic special moves, time attack mode, and a time travel storyline. In Time Recoil, players have a freakish, Matrix-like superpower: Kill to slow time. Subsequent kills give more time in slowdown and enable you to conduct unbelievable slow motion feats!

Or maybe that's just the Vita grinding to a halt? Either way, kills in slowdown grant special moves, allowing you to dash through walls and enemies.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A better look at SkullPirates and WarTheatre

Yesterday's Twitter videos didn't show the new Arcade Distillery games off at their finest, but crank this up to HD and full-screen for a better look at the more action-focused SkullPirates and the strategic WarTheatre in early action. These and 3D platformer Manufactured Beauty will definitely add some colour to the Vita next year.

UPDATE: Skull Pirates needs a Kickstarter campaign to get funded, launching on 1 December, check it out here.

Pixel Noir latest trailer from the wrong side of the cyber tracks

Now that SWDTech has a publisher (BadLand) for its adventure game Pixel Noir, things are steaming toward a release next year. Here's a new trailing showing off the latest beta build of the game.

"Living on the streets of a shithole like Pinnacle City, there’s only two things to keep you going: A pack of cigarettes and the feeling that there’s more than this. There was something rotten in that rundown place. You were in over your head, but you were too proud to admit it. It was your pride that killed your partner. With the hospital burned to the ground and nothing to exonerate you, they threw you in jail."

Outlands' North to mess with your mind

North is one of (many) games I know nothing about, but the review highlights up on its Steam and home page suggest something interesting is coming our way. The game has a set of Vita trophies appeared, so I guess a release is coming soon thanks to publisher Sometimes You.
“NORTH feels like a breath of fresh air in an indie gaming landscape that is quickly becoming saturated with titles that address hard hitting topics, but still feel as though something is missing. One can only hope that other developers take notice.” - Motherboard
“NORTH is a fantastic blend of sci fi adventure and social commentary in which you explore a bizarre futuristic Blade Runner-esque city, filled with strange creatures and strange customs.” - Free Game Planet
This video makes a fair effort at explaining it without giving anything away, and while it might be a short game, it looks well worth investigating and support the developer and publisher.

Monday, November 27, 2017

MoonBear's Pocket Build could come to the Vita

Over in the wilds of Reddit, a dev asked if Vita owners would like to see his latest mobile game on Sony's platform. A sandbox free-building game, you can create what you like, how you like, with no threat or wider ambitions to fulfill. Feel free to drop in a comment of support.

From the iOS version page, "Have you ever wanted to make your own little fantasy world? A farm, some kind of castle, or just an epic fantasy city? Pocket Build is an open world game where you can build with no limitations or restrictions. Build whatever you like, whenever you like, however you like. The possibilities are endless!"

Arcade Distillery's Manufactured Beauty their third game announced today

Hot on the heels of SkullPirates and War Theatre, Arcade Distillery has another game on the go, somewhat further from completion. Called Manufactured Beauty they aim to make a game that pushes the technical limits of the PS Vita. Given that title is currently held by Killzone, that's a brave challenge to undertake.

However, this game is more likely to be compared to Sly and other 3D platformers, loosening the comparison a bit. In the game, you are a robotic rabbit, Mr. Cuddles stuck in a 3D platform world of remnant creature and robot parts.

Cuddles will bump into other mechanical animals and needs to find out where they are all there, and presumably who put them all together.

Luc Bernard announces SkullPirates for Vita and PS4

Arcade Distillery continues to support the Vita with some fine looking games. Next up is action RPG SkullPirates, revealed in this tweet just minutes ago. Following that is War Theatre, a strategy RPG. Fill your boots!

Update: SkullPirates is set for a Halloween 2018 release!

Hopefully, it will have more refined gameplay than Plague Road, which looks awesome but was a little stilted, but with a fast learning curve. They seem to have borrowed the visual tone of Plague Road, but folded it into a more action-based game with RPG mechanics, can't wait. Time to tick off one of the Vita's unannounced games list from the release schedule.

Again, the visual theme is familiar, but the volume of characters and the level of aggression has been kicked up a few notches.

Rainbow Skies limited edition in pictures

Pre-orders are up for the Rainbow Skies limited edition on Play Asia, with some neat pics of what's in the box. At just £28 for UK buyers (plus postage) or the basic physical version for £19, this looks like a game well worth snapping up.

Check out the game trailer in the previous story.

Rainbow Skies teaser trailer and LE

Classy-looking RPG Rainbow Skies is on the way in 2018, with a hysical limited edition from Play Asia. A Rainbow Moon LE will also be arriving if you want to match the set. They include maps, CDs and a guide book.

The new adventure features monsters you can tame, upgradable characters, with a wide range of customization and character development possibilities. There are plenty of optional and endgame content, side and treasure hunt quests, a humorous story and plenty of content.

The story goes as follows: It's a big day for Damion with a final examination as a monster tamer, an important profession in his hometown, which is constantly threatened by monster attacks. However, after a terrible hangover, Damion completely messes things up and not only fails the examination but also destroys the entire monster compound.

When he tries to cover up his mishap with his examiner Layne, things turn from bad to worse and through a number of unforeseen circumstances, they find themselves between two rival superpowers.

Enjoy the new trailer as Damion and his friends get to work sorting out the mess.

Friday, November 24, 2017

VA-11 Hall-A hits the charts in Japan

Missed this earlier in the week as the first Media Create chart only goes up to 20, but the Famitsu chart digs a little deeper. And congratulations go to Sukeban Games, for VA-11 HALL-A reaching No. 29 and selling 1,968 copies, between 40% to 60% of its limited print run at ¥3.000.

The cyberpunk bar game generated plenty of interest and positivity with drinks in real bars and loads of fan art being created. That, a fantastic soundtrack and some true grass roots appreciation make this more than a modest success, not bad for a western indie on a dead platform that no one loves.

It gets to be on the same list as new Pokemon, Star Wars Battlefront and Dragon Quest releases. Can't wait for the EU release.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Raspberry Pi-powered Pip handheld nears KS success

I've had a lot of fun with my Rasberry Pi microcomputer over the years, as a media server, emulator and general gadget. The maker community gets another version soon, a Kickstarted portable is very nearly there, made by UK company Curious Chip.

UPDATE: Main funding goal reached!

Some 90% funded with three weeks to go it looks a bit like a Playmobil Switch, but can be used as a kid's creative tool or as a portable gaming unit, playing Minecraft and other games.

The components are more battery-life-friendly versions of the current third-generation Pi, with a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 800*480 60Hz screen, SD card storage and detachable controllers.

It might not be a modern Linux game player, but could make fun little emulator box if you install Raspian. I guess it would be somewhere between a PSP and a Vita in performance, but stick a MAME on there, and there's fun to be had.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Vita sales in Japan at risk of dropping below 3K

We accept the Vita is dead hardware in the west, but Japanese sales show just how fast it is falling to the Switch onslaught on Sony's home turf.

I've dug out the big old chart to show how Sony's poor management of the Vita has left the console now. At a time when in previous years, big releases and new colours or models would help spike sales, it remains in perma-decline. There isn't a single Vita game in the new Media Create chart and the Vita managed just 3,090 sales.

Note, in the Famitsu chart, Va-11 Hall-a sneaked into the top 30, top job Sukeban!

Sure, it might shuffle up a little this week as the new non-value packs arrive, hitting shelves today, but with no new colour or game bundles, this really is the last gasp of a company consigned to portable defeat. Digimon Story is the next major release in mid-December.

And here's the current year chart showing just how fast decline has come to the Vita. Seriously, Sony all it would have taken is a HD upgrade in 2015/16 with a better WiFi chip and SD card support! On the plus side, it could be another year until sales fall low enough for Sony to end production, which would bring it to eight years old not a bad innings!

December 15 western release for Romancing Saga 2 confirmed

Developer Akitoshi Kawazu has finally confirmed a western release date for Romancing Saga 2, a game with a deeper and sorrier tale of its publishing than any game based any soap opera! Note he promptly clarified December 2017!

UPDATE: release confirmed as December 15th! There's a new PSN blog post with a producer interview and new pics.

Now it is just down to Square for the details, I'm guessing a physical release is very unlikely. Given this is Square, I'd still say there's a good chance of the release not happening! Romancing Saga 3 is down for a 2018 release in Japan, with a western release also promised by Kawazu-san once the port of RS2 has finished. Busy man!
Romancing Saga 2 Android version 

Enjoy this look at Atelier Lydie & Suelle on Vita

Since the Vita version isn't coming west, here's probably our only peek at the new Atelier game on Sony's portable. And if you compare it to the Switch video of Alchemists of the Mysterious Painting, you can see why developers and gamers are moving on.

UPDATE: Another trailer has popped up...

Even so, would it really have hurt for Tecmo/Gust to nudge a digital version our way? That would be helpful for long-term fans to complete their collection. Personally, I really enjoyed Atelier Sophie last year, but I'm not too sure how much more cutesy potioning I can take.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] heads west in February

Quick, add a stupidest game name to those game of the year polls, I think we have a late entry (but, I think that's the point)! In related news, Arc System Works' latest anime brawler hits the west across all PlayStation formats on February 9th thanks to PQube on publishing duties.

  • Thrilling cast of characters – A varied cast of 20 characters, including series newcomers Phonon, Mika, Enkidu and Wagner!
  • 19 glorious stages – Including 4 beautiful new areas, Cafeteria, Children's Playground, Momiji Alley and the Cathedral of the Far East.
  • Re-balanced gameplay – Old favourites have new abilities and new gameplay elements have been added, including the ‘Veil Off' system that opens up new combo opportunities.
  • Mission Mode – Learn new skills in a dedicated combo challenge mode and take on some of the hardest challenges in the game.
  • Tutorial Mode – An expansive tutorial mode has been added to the game that teaches all the skills necessary to level up your game.
  • Chronicle Mode – Discover the narrative of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] in a dedicated story mode experience.

Star Wars Battlefront II review

A long time ago, 12-years, in a galaxy that had never heard of loot crates, there were plenty of Star Wars games to go around. From strategy fleet wargames, third and first-person action titles to the world of Battlefront where you could slog it out between Rebels and the Empire, gaming was good.

Who knows what is happening now, except rampant corporate greed. But over in portable corner, you can still have a spot of MP LucasArts Star Wars fun. The PSP game, only 595MB in size, plays on the Vita and multiplayer still works using local network.
Camera phone shot of the PSP game
Programmed by Pandemic with Savage Entertainment on duty for the portable version, Battlefront II offers single player challenges, Galactic Conquest mode and Instant Action, while multiplay is quick to setup and go via WLAN. Play is obviously better on the Vita with dual sticks, but manageable on the PSP.

Battles take place across a range of worlds from Dagobah to Endor, Hoth to Naboo and a handful of lesser planets with space battles set over Yavin and Coruscant to mix things up. Sides from both the original and prequel series are available to fight with on any mission.
Camera shot of Battlefront II running on the Vita with filtering enabled. 
In theory, the PSP exclusive features of Rebel Raider, Imperial Enforcer (mission 1: kill all the Ewoks) or Rogue Assassin tours of duty add some cachet to it, but most people will prefer the four-player online mode with familiar troops and equipment.

This 2005 game does look basic with blocky structures and blurry textures. Outdoors is presented in various shades of mud.  Still, the characters are recognisable and the music is as awesome as you'd hope, to make up for the limited range of sound effects. But, when General Grievous turns up dual-wielding lightsabres, that more than makes up for any ropey visuals.

In action, the game is reasonably smooth, aiming is tight on the Vita, not so much on the PSP, and the action is fast and furious on the indoor maps, with a little more leg room outside. Swapping troops or getting to play as Yoda or another hero makes any battle unpredictable and dumb fun for all ages. And then there's the multiple weapons to try out, stomping around in an AT-ST, all in a game the size of PS4 save file!

That's the good news, the bad is looking for it on the EU Vita PSN store app shows no results. I downloaded this from my history list, so it is there, and I can see it on the PC browser store, but not sure about other regions or stores! Wonder if EA asked for its removal to avoid "confusion!"

Score: 6/10
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Price: £3.99
File size 600MB
Progress: Feeling the Force