Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Defender's Quest DX rated for the Vita

Last seen as nearing completion in August, the five-year-old PC game, Defender's Quest from Level Up Labs is now rated 12 by PEGI, as it heads to console. A story-driven Tower-Defense/RPG mix, the DX Valley of the Forgotten version has improved visuals over the original plus improved items and missions.

In the game, unique, persistent, party members take on the role of the towers. It focuses on three things: tactical depth, customization, and story. Certainly, the trailer has a wicked sense of humour.

Secret of Mana HD western trailer

Yes, it's only getting a digital Vita release, but Secret of Mana HD will be a joy to own in any form. Here's a new westernised version of the opening movie from Square bringing back the memories of the SNES classic, if you're old enough to remember it.

The gameplay has been upgraded to modern standards too, and February isn't that far away now, if this is the last Square title for the Vita, looks like it will bow out in style.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Vita games crack the Japanese top 10

Vita sales are back on the downward slope this week, selling 3,535 according to Media Create chart data. That's even though a couple of new Vita entries break into the Japanese top 10, the first time in a while that's happened. Regardless, the Vita is long past the time of system-selling games, what it does need is a regular flow of titles, and Japanese publishers still seem to be popping them out.

I figured Itadaki Street wouldn't be up to much, and it was outsold by the latest Broccoli visual novel, Amazing Aria.  Even so, it is good to see some games near the top of the chart and doing more than the usual 4/5K sales.

05 Uta no Prince-sama: Amazing Aria & Sweet Serenade Love 19,904
06 Itadaki Street: Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary 18,784

Out this week are visual novel Sengo Muramasa DX and Shin Gundam Musou on budget release.

Radio Hammer Station to pump up some Vita jams

FK Digital and Arc System Works have a new Vita and PS4 title to show us with one of the brightest websites since Persona 4 DAN. Check out Radio Hammer Station, a rhythm action game with plenty of attitude.

Given the Chinese/Hong Kong site has an English page, I'm guessing a western release is on the way. Featuring 88 songs and a wide cast of characters, it looks like lots of fun with a story mode, track mode, random play and jukebox mode for your favourite songs. The only thing I can't see is a release date.

Tactical fantasy wargame Pox Nora arrives next week

Another from out of nowhere release lands next week with Pox Nora from Desert Owl Games. The game has been vaguely on the release list for ages, but is finally ready for release. For those already poxing and Nora-beating on other PS4 or PC, there's some good news.

All progress, runes and gold earned, and Owl Credits purchased will be shared between PS4 and Vita. While existing Pox Nora players who do not have a PS4 will be able to copy their PC or Mac accounts’ inventory over to their PlayStation Network account via the PS Vita. The account cloning will only remain available for a limited time.

Based on the developer's comments in the forums, some concessions have been made for the Vita version (note that's a desktop screenshot - chasing for Vita pics):
A word of caution to those of you thinking of getting a Vita just for Pox. There were many concessions made for that platform for it to be able to play the game. Although Pox is not a very large game and is not demanding for most PCs the extremely low amount of RAM and processor speed on the system versus most current mobile devices does take its toll. Further performance optimization is one of our big focuses moving forward because that will benefit all versions of the game.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cursed Castilla gets a limited Vita physical release

Eastasiasoft continues to deliver the goods with news that it has partnered with Spanish publisher Abylight Studios and developer Locomalito to bring the 2D arcade action platformer Cursed Castilla to PS Vita next month, landing on 9 November.

Cursed Castilla has long been on my bring the Vita list, as a love letter to classic action arcade games from the '80s and '90s, inspired by hard-as-nails platformers such as Ghosts 'n Goblins.

Along with the $11.99 digital comes a neat physical Limited Edition. Sold exclusively at Play-Asia.com for $34.99.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Yomawari Midnight Shadows launch screens

After the new trailer in the previous post, check out some screens from the deeper darker game, showing off a few more details of Yomawari Midnight Shadows. The game features:

  • A Complete Town to Explore - Enter abandoned homes, climb through junk yards and up mountains, or venture into dark sewers in your search.
  • Two Views of the Dark - Search the night and explore a town as either of Yomawari: Midnight Shadow’s two characters. What you find with one may serve as a clue, or even save the other.
  • Horrors, Oddities, and Mysteries - When Japanese spirits come to life, you’ll encounter horrors birthed in nightmares, oddities that will make you question what is real, and mysteries that may just keep you up at night.
  • Gorgeous Style - Enter the dark with haunting art to view the city and from above, and get close to the heart-pounding moments in beautifully imagined side-scrolling set pieces.

Yomawari Midnight Shadows out this week, launch trailer

Out now in the US and on Friday in the UK, the follow-up to 2016’s cult horror hit Yomawari: Night Alone is here. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows introduces two girls, Yui and Haru, to the perils of a typical Japanese night out, and the spirits that haunt their world.

Separated by a mysterious attacker, each girl will explore haunting and bizarre locations, face the terrors of the night, and test their courage and wits to survive and reconnect with one another.

Reverie gets an announcement trailer and limited edition

If you follow mine or Rainbite's Twitter, then you've seen almost daily updates as this most-engaging of developer created their New Zealand-themed RPG. But lots of people aren't on Twitter, so for them here's a trailer and a PSN blog post to tell all - but really you've been missing out! As well as a new PS4 version of Reverie (digital and limited retail with a manual, map, physical soundtrack CD and the game) features include:
  • Six dungeons to fight and puzzle through.
  • Many weapons and items to cater to different gameplay styles or be used in unique situations.
  • Story inspired by a Maori legend.
  • Explore a fictional island off the coast of New Zealand.
  • A wide variety of distinct environments to explore in the overworld.
  • Collect hidden feathers from New Zealand’s many beautiful native birds.

New Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory screens

The earlier news of a western release date came with some new imagery for Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory. Yes, they're from the PS4 version, but heaven forbid anyone see a few slightly less shiny Vita images! Picked these at random from 65 that Bandai sent over, hope you like them!

Arc System teaser is for World End Syndrome

Is that some thigh? Whatever is hiding behind the soon-to-be-revealed door of Arc's teaser site now has a name with details emerging through Dengeki. Developed by Toybox, the team behind Tokyo Twilight Ghosthunters, there's less than two days to go until the full reveal.

Its set in a school, but what Japanese game isn't these days? And the new info suggests its a love adventure, which if set against the end of the world, would add some urgency to the affair. That usually instantly sends most western gamers scurrying away, but who knows. Release in 2018, highly unlikely it would get a western release, but you never know!

Updated with first teaser trailer...

New trailer for Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory

Hitting Japan in December, Bandai's likely swansong major title (aside from Gintama Rumble) for the Vita is looking good. There's lots of English text, new characters and monsters as we in the west await the early 2018 release. Check it out for some more hints at the story, vaguely surprised there isn't a Switch version added to the PS4 and Vita editions, but wouldn't be surprised if there was a "total" edition later next year.

UPDATE: Replaced the Japanese trailer with an EU one. Also. Bandai has confirmed a western release date of 19 January (EU) and fleshed out the story with the following info...

Confusion reigns since the collapse of the wall between the real and the digital dimensions. Digimon are now in the real world and the Hudie hacking group seems to have been informed about this chaos. How did they know? Are they involved?
 Yuuko Kamishiro, the daughter of Satoru Kamishiro, the former president of Kamishiro Enterprise of EDEN who apparently killed himself. She has some doubts about her guardian Rie Kishibe as she suspects him to have some links with her father’s death and the strange events happening in the world. She decided to join the Hudie group to investigate the runaway hackers. Kyoko Kuremi , another mysterious character, is a private detective specialised in cyber-related cases, she often arrives on site before the heroes when she investigates. That’s surprising…
To help find the truth about these odd events, “Hacker’s Memory” can be collected in the main scenario and sub-quests. These “Hacker’s Memory” are full of information and data. They will be extremely useful in figuring the real agendas of different characters whilst collecting rewards!

Bandai still has a Gundam title and likely a few more "updates" for 2018, but after that it looks like rather an empty slate.

Kadokawa in charge of Metal Max Xeno

The teaser for True End of the Century that rolled out last week turns out to be Metal Max Xeno according to the latest issue of Dengeki. Expect images or scans to appear later today. The original was an early nineties SNES tactical combat game, with different characters in a range of vehicles affecting the outcome of a battle.

UPDATE: Here's the mini mag scan

This still looks like Freedom Wars tacked on to Bullet Girls, but we'll see. With this and Pixel Panzers paying a sort of homage to the original - a good weekend for those into their tracked killing machines.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pixel Panzers could storm the Vita

Among my new followers on Twitter is Canadian/Ukranian team Pixel Panzer's who self-titled MOBA is aiming to hit the Vita, guessing sometime next year. Early posts had it a possible for Vita, now they say PC, Switch and Vita, which I guess is more positive! I'm checking in with the developers to see what the latest news is.

UPDATE: news from the devs, Vita and Switch releases coming after the PC release! It will focus on PvP combat vs tanks with control points. But with tanks you can build during the battle and commanders will have abilities that level up.

A horizontal lane based WWII tank strategy game, Pixel Panzers certainly looks a little different, can't wait to hear more about it. A few weird MOBA-like titles came to the Vita including Invokers and some weird god game whose name escapes me, but this like a more practical proposition.

Their Twitter feed has loads of close-ups of armour, trains, landscape features and other elements of the sweet-looking pixelly game. They also have regular dev streams on Twitch, so take a peek.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Japan video Friday

Starting off with a PlayStation Japan teaser for an all-new PS4/Vita RPG called The True End of Century. It looks like someone slammed the cel-shaded tanks from Panzer Girls into the world of Freedom Wars, so yes - sign us up! There's no developer logo in the game, but it has to be third-party since Sony doesn't do Vita games anymore.

Even though we won't get them in the west, here's a gameplay look at Atelier Lydie and Suelle from Tecmo...

Idea Factory has a couple of 10 minute videos up for its latest visual novel Butterfly Incident, how can so little happen in such a length of time?

Finally, missed this earlier in the week, a first look at el Dia's remake/remaster of Doukoku Soshite, coming next April to Japan.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Demon Gaze II trailer unearths Asteria

The demons are the real stars of Demon Gaze II with epic skills that can turn the tide of a battle. Check out the batch for the NIS sequel. I hope the game proves as popular as the first outing, which was a decent global hit, with plenty of hits for the map pages.

The game is out mid-November with a boxed release for physical fans. PS4 sales might dent the Vita version a bit, but portable is the true home of these great DRPG adventures.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms blooms west next spring

Guess those niche visual novels are selling pretty well over here, as Idea Factory plans to bring another dose of romantic charm in Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms our way. One of the earlier stories, Kyoto Winds came our way a few years back, but the rise of visual novel localisations seems unstoppable.

For reference, a fighting game based on the series from Aksys, Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi, hit the PSP way back.

From the press release: This remastered telling of the beloved visual novel Hakuoki series is a continuation of the Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and focuses on the story set in Edo, the second part in this two-part series. 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!

Key Features include:
  • 12 Charming Bachelors - Start by choosing from one of 12 handsome bachelors and fall in love with Japanese history’s most famous warriors. 
  • Multiple Endings, One True Love – Explore the gorgeous world of Hakuoki through narrative choices that unlock branching storylines and up to 30 different endings. 
  • Beautiful History Comes Alive - The dramatic romance, friendship, and betrayal unfolds on your screen through fluid animation, vibrant art, and detailed CGs.

Tokyo Tattoo Girls companion trailer

NIS America trying to generate some interest in Tokyo Tattoo Girls today with a companion trailer - if anyone spots any gameplay in this product, call your mental health practitioner now! I think the idea is a card battle game done with tattoos, as the girls try to escape a walled-in Tokyo by dominating the 23 districts using the powers of your companion tattoos. Even the game's website doesn't make it that clear.

The Stig joins the Vita chart of doom

Some say this Vita sales chart mimics Donald Trump's ratings and when goes below 2,000, he will be removed from office.

Some say the chart represents an evil sigil that, when complete, will end the universe.

All we know is, its called the Stig's-only-source-of-data-for-Vita-sales-in-the-world's-cousin. And I'm damn well going to use it.

That jolly intro was because some people think all the chart-based-doom-mongering is serious! When obviously, its just a bit of a laugh to get us through the depressing sales decline and inevitable end of production announcement! Happy now?

In the week that Sony starts publishing games for the Switch, naturally, the sales news is fantastic with Vita sales up 400. That's despite only a lowly Prototype period Visual Novel landing at No. 20 in the Media Create chart, selling 3,400 units. Yoshiwara Higanbana is a port of a romance PC VN for what its worth.
The Stig (C)BBC  
In very short order the Japanese chart has become a Switch/PS4 love in. As the Vita retreats rapidly into its niche, it seems the focus is more on ports of old curios, so it'll be fun to see what publishers can drag up (like Saturn game Doukoku Soshite).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

As predicted, Sony starts to publish for the Switch

We all know Sony Interactive has given up on the Vita, but still has a good roster of games that it could use for other portables. Enter the Switch, and cue Sony wondering how it could switch, without looking like a total turncoat.

I figured this would happen not long ago - and Sony has now shown its hand by letting another part of the company, Sony Music handle publishing duties. For now, it is using the new Unties label (ho ho) to publish third-party content in Japan like Tiny Metal from Area 34 on Switch, PC and other formats.

But if the "experiment" proves a success, expect a roster of Sony titles like Locoroco, Patapon and so on to get a "third party" port. Guessing it won't be far into 2018 after Sony ceases production of the Vita that we see the first PlayStation game to make its way over.

Other titles on the way from Unties include Last Standard and Merkava Avalanche and DEEMO Reborn.  Japanese details of the news here.

Obviously, there's no shame in making money off a rival console, what is a shame Sony hadn't realised that portable/hybrid gaming could work, if it had shown some faith. For example, a simple mid-life HD and WiFi upgrade would have made a Vita2(ish) a more desirable remote player.

The wider Sony company hemorrhaging money during the Vita years didn't help, but this will be something of a gut punch for die-hard fans.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Gintama Rumble trailer wades into battle

Set for an early 2018 release across Asia, Gintama Rumble will only be available on the Vita in Japan, here's the latest trailer showing off the One Piece alike in action, The Asian English language version is PS4 only and it seems very likely that Bandai US/EU will pass on a Vita western version. Still, if you like these Musou-style games, then you might want to give it an import and enjoy the whack-a-mole battling.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Rogue Aces nearly ready for take off

With luck, Infinite States' Rogue Aces is now with Sony for QA checking on the Vita and PS4. Whisper it quietly but a pre-Christmas release could be on the cards for this fun shooter with the huge mustaches.

While folk may politely cough *Lufrausers* in its direction, there's a generation of gamers trained on Harrier Attack and many more. While we wait, check out the latest test video of the game in action, and get ready for lots of boring men talking about boring machinery! Woof!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Chaos Child out now in Europe

I've covered pretty much all there is to know about the world of Chaos Child and its place in the Science Adventure series in previous posts, but now the game is here for £34.99 on the UK PSN or in stores. Check out the launch trailer and hope it sells well enough to see PQube continue to release these fantastic visual novels in the west.

The game about violent murders and alternate realities from 5pb and Mages hits the US in a couple of weeks.

Review Son of Scoregasm

We may have to invent some new swear words for Son of Scoregasm, since you can't really play this in bed next to your significant other or in a room with the family and not get really, really mad at it.

Well, not mad at the game as such, but your poor judgments, control skills or perhaps just luck. This game is as tightly wound as a clock spring, and one mistake sees your quest to finish a tough level explode in pieces.

On the plus side, this game does prove we all have Jedi powers. There's no other way to explain how you can twin-stick and twin-weapon your way through some of the closing loops of enemies with your vision flicking all over the place without some kind of magic - if you ignore dying 50 times first.

Son of a gun

Son of Scoregasm is about trading off your score for survival, you can shoot your enemies down with guns, but don't score points. To get points you need to use your pulse shield to zap those at close range and collect the resulting power-ups to boost your multiplier. That will send your score soaring, the game's simple but brilliant mechanic. The more you shoot, the more powerful your gun gets but the more you use your pulse, its limited power will crap out on you at the worst second.

During this trade off, the nasties will be on your tail at all times, pixel close. One fractionally late button press or wrong choice and you're toast. Or biscuits, which is what the wafer-thin plot is all about, rescuing the King's biscuits. At least each level only lasts 60 seconds-ish, so you can be straight back in the action.

Out-run the enemy

Each level's enemies have different movement patterns, additional hazards like laser grids and crushers or force bombs. But once you learn the right pattern to move in, you can concentrate on building up a massive score to compete on the live leaderboards. There's also an easy or hard exit to the next level giving you some flexibility in how you play.

You can also pick any accessed level to play in score mode, to try and master it and earn a medal if you meet the high score requirement. With small but well-formed polygon graphics and a clever unified map, the game looks gorgeous with lots of little effects, but nothing that distracts from the heat of battle. The electronic soundtrack from John Marwin is suitably pacy and the effects are crisp on headphones.

As an older gamer, who thought nothing of a five-hour single game of Atari ST Tetris, this is intense stuff, I'll never be near the top of the leaderboard due to my now-creaky reactions, but I do love the challenge. Talking of, why are there only 30 people playing this game? Apart from Sony failing to put it on the PSN front page of the Vita app. Buy it now!

Oh, and then there's expert mode, don't even ask! Also, the trophies seem a little glitchy, so except an update soon.

Score: 8/10
More reviews
Price: £5.79 (PSN)
Size: 62MB
Dev: Charlie's Games
Progress: Across the board

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Son of Scoregasm out now on EU PSN

Stay on target, as the Vita gets another great shooter to add to the roster. Son of Scoregasm from Charlie's Games arrived overnight on the EU PSN, for just £5.79. A game of saving biscuits to a trippy electronic soundtrack, it is basically an excuse for vibrant shooty fun across the galaxy in a range of slightly twisted levels with changing rules, threats and lashings of bullet hell.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tokyo Clanpool flops as Vita countdown to extinction continues

DRPG Tokyo Clanpool sold just 5,200 at retail according to Media Create data in Japan, landing at No. 12, meaning that even a decent and well-promoted game sells no better than some generic visual novel titles. Digital sales may be helping Compile Heart's game, but from a public perspective, all Vita news is bad. That's reflected in the latest Vita sales that dive again to just over 3,500, down a couple of hundred in just a week.

Other recent flops include Kadokawa's The Lost Child selling 3,658, when even just a year ago all-new titles like Mary Skelter managed 18,358 sales while Furyu's Caligula sold 31,243 sales. Perhaps it is just DRPGs that are out of favour now, but week after week Vita releases are showing up with reduced sales.

Next up is the quirky Itadaki Street on the 19th, will flinging characters from Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest into a board game make more of an impact? Demon Gaze II will further test the waters for DRPGs with the Global Edition release in mid-November.

With Sony having missed all the seasonal opportunities to do anything to promote the Vita, the tick-tick-tick down to zero continues. Developers continue to flock to Switch and fans are left wondering what could have been if Sony had bothered with a HD, CPU/GPU upgrade a year or two ago.

Grab any Vita consoles you can because when production ends, prices are likely to shoot up, even though we still have a good year or two of games on the way.

Previous chapters in this sorry saga!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Text patch on the way for Ys VIII

I've noticed a couple of typos or quirky uses of phrases (like the below pic) in the latest Ys, but apparently, there are quite a few, which has put out some bad vibes around what is an awesome game. To that end, Takuro Yamashita, President and CEO of NIS America, has released an official statement regarding the localization of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA.

To All Customers of Ys VIII,

Thank you for all the feedback and support we have received since the launch of Ys VIII. It has
come to my attention that the quality of the Ys VIII localization has not reached an acceptable
level by our own standards, but most importantly by yours. As president of NIS America, Inc. I
want to apologize to you personally for this grave error. This situation should not have happened
– especially to a game as wonderful as Ys VIII and by a company that strives to deliver the very
best customer experience in each title. We have begun internally to investigate the causes of this
situation as well as to implement steps to ensure that a similar situation does not occur again.
As for Ys VIII itself, we will have a new translator and editor go over the entire localization to fix
grammatical errors, typos, inconsistencies, and also to take a fresh look at the dialog and
characterizations. For the script, where necessary, we will re-translate and re-edit the game
including updating voicework to reflect these changes. We plan to have this work done by the
end of November and will offer the updated localization free of charge for both the PlayStation
4 and PlayStation Vita versions of the game via patch. The Steam version of the game will
include this localization in its initial release.

Review Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle

From the brief stories about the Japanese version, this has always looked like a pretty basic title, relying on the characters and their skills to give it some depth. Unfortunately, Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle doesn't seem to be deep in any capacity, apart from making me hate it lots.

Breaking away from the RPG titles like Genso Wanderer, it lets the girls of Touhou engage in some one-on-one battling. Led by shield maiden Reinu, you go from stage to boring stage engaging in some of the worst fighting action since the Atari Jaguar tried to do Virtua Fighter.

Bland worlds, poor level construction, boring characters, boring "plot", crap effects, piss-poor special moves are just some of the problems that put this in line to be the worst Vita game ever. While the girls all have a range of magical powers, they are pretty much just variations on the same feeble ball lighting effects, and see you bounce around the level trying to avoid them with no tactical skill involved at all.

Yes, you can put in blocks to stop the "bullet hell" attacks, and special cards come into play from time to time, but the developers have clearly, never, ever played a fighting, battling or wizardly game. All we get is a sack of crap. as Meiling and others spout inane drivel at each other.

With only nine characters there isn't even much variety and given the super-niche nature of the game, good luck with finding someone to play in the game's online mode. Each girl has a story to follow, but they are so shallow and banal, few will even bother to wade through them all.

Ironically, the game does have a neat digital manual that shows all the commands and concepts off, but in action, Burst Battle quickly descends into a farce. To think, some people might get this for the PS4 or Switch, imagine how depressed they will be.

Some skills are overpowered, others are too annoying to even want to use, but whatever you try to do, you'll only come away from this game feeling either very disappointed or ripped off. Note that new updates add more stages and characters, but they really fail to make any difference to how poor Touhou Kobuto actually is.

Score: 2/10
More reviews
Price: £24.99 (PSN, DLC available)
Size: 670MB
Dev: NIS America/CubeType/Play.Doujin
Progress: Hating it with a passion

Cowcat bringing Xenon Valkyrie to the Vita

Diabolical Mind's Xenon Valkyrie+ is a sci-fi rogue-lite platformer game with RPG elements being ported to the Vita by Cowcat (of Demetrios fame) and promising lots of improvements over the PC original. Arriving this winter, it features three heroes battling across a scarred moon.

You must fight to the deepest part of a moon and halt the plans of a wicked witch. Along the ay, you find many weapons to fight through the unique, randomly-generated world. Encounter many characters, stores and enemies that tell a legendary story.

With traditional graphics and high-quality chiptune music, level up and get the amazing power of the Xenon Valkyrie!

Review Semispheres

Just when you think people are running out of ideas for puzzlers, along comes Semispheres, a twin-stick mental challenge with a roster of cunning twists to turn your brain into soup. Spread over 13 levels of four/five challenges each, your simple aim in life is to guide two drones to the finish portals.

The game arrived on PC earlier this year and is a pretty fast port to the Vita and other consoles, with a stack of kudos and awards behind it. So, well done to Eastasiasoft and Vivid Helix for getting it to console pronto.

The early levels have the two blobs helping each other out, avoiding relatively robotic guards, while remaining fixed on their half of the screen. But soon they can switch places on maps, make distraction sounds in each other's half through portals and other tricks to add a fresh level of mental dexterity. Imagine playing two games of Volume at once, and you're pretty much there.

There's no time mode that I'm aware of, and Sid Barnhoorn's ambient soundtrack leaves you to solve each puzzle in your own pace. Visually striking with a rich layer of detail and some pleasant lighting, it feels very charming, while trying to scramble your mind.

Complete a set of puzzles and you get to see a few frames of the story behind this adventure, but in play everything is pretty ambiguous. What are the guards guarding, are your twins blobs, drones, a symbiotic jellyfish? Who knows.

Nurse, pass the brain extinguisher, please!

Sometimes you need to finely time both characters' progress at once, on other levels its a step-by-step process with some back and forth. Being zapped by a guard can often be a useful tactic, and sometimes you can iterate one trick across the two halves to make progress, while at other times you are trying two very different tactics.

All of these tricks leave your brain trying to keep up as the puzzles get tougher, controls reverse as the drones swap over, across what is a deeply cunning challenge. Still, you're well rewarded with a solid stream of gold and silver trophies for making steady progress, for one of the more rewarding games out there. It is a little pricey for what's a very short game with little replay value, but those puzzles do make it a great couple of hours.

Price: £9.49 (PSN)
More reviews
Score: 8/10
Dev: Vivid Helix
Size: 360MB
Progress: Completed

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana

Okay, so we didn't get Trails of Cold Steel III, but damn has Falcom delivered with Ys VIII! If it does happen to be the last big Vita RPG, we go out with a charming and engrossing adventure that has the perfect level of appeal.

As ever, Adol Christin takes the helm in this latest Ys epic tale that starts out on the high seas, but soon moves to a deserted island. One that's anything but empty. Picking up a fine cast of friends and acquaintances to help out, what starts out as a quest for survival becomes a little gem of village and resource management.

Creatures litter the island, but they look like they belong here, unlike in many games. Most are easy to love, with little bugs, birds and others doing minimal damage to the party. The giant beasts that form set pieces are also gorgeously coloured and designed, but rarely stop this up to 80-hour show from rolling on.

Combat, exploring, item harvesting and management are all enabled so naturally and effectively, the game never wastes time diverting you from the story or disrupting the sense of adventure. Even chat and banter is kept to acceptable levels. Also, since key characters are running the stores and upgrades, they feel part of the story and not the usual tacked-on extras.

The story is driven by the arrival of Dana, who appears at first in Adol's dreams and then takes center stage in her own right, with her own adventure. It takes a while for the sagas to mesh, but becomes a great bit of pushing you on to see what happens next. To keep things ticking over, there's a murder mystery and several other sub-plots to keep the crew on their toes.

With a party of three warriors you can soon drop people in and out to suit particular battles or play with your favourites, and there's a pleasingly constant supply of upgrades, battle skills and new gear to go hunting with.

Combat is a mix of special moves, jumping, blocking and wielding a few big weapons to devastating effect. The wolves, sea horses, dinosaurs, spiders and other monsters look like they belong on this island, unlike the freaks most RPGs throw at you. The odd mid-ranking creature or fixed point boss adds a little action, but you rarely feel outgunned, allowing the story and fighters to scamper along at speed.

If you do feel under-powered, then there's plenty of DLC extras to buy, but the game never forces these down your throat. One note that in some places, you can't access what would normally be useful items, as the boss hems you in, one of quite a few quirks.

Not quite a Love Island

Okay, not everything has perfectly meshed in this adventure, waves of monster invasions take place, with everyone panicking like cats and an Interception battle taking place. Yet, I had time to do a couple of missions, upgrade my armour, explore the island and do loads more, because you have to trigger these events by talking to a specific person, which wasn't clear.

Similarly, some big monster set pieces are farcial as you can run away and pick it up later in the day. Then there's stopping to eat 25 steaks to rejuvate in the middle of a battle! While people often refer to things as-yet-undiscovered, as if the captain's parrot is an expert in woodwork being one example.

That kind of ruins the sense of urgency, and since it is easy to pre-complete a lot of many collecting sub-quests before you are assigned them, a little more flexibility is needed from the quests. Also, the game has rather cheekily blocked sections off that you need enough people to access, despite the fact our heroes are vine climbing, jumping demons, so seems rather trite blocking the adventurer's progress with a bit of a log or big boulder.

Yes, the PS4 version has been tarted up a bit and adds a few more features (for £15 more on PSN), but the Vita version is so gorgeous on OLED I don't think it matters with Ys' traditional awesome soundtrack, and being portable means I can enjoy this fantastic adventure anywhere. Ys VIII's engine could bring many more great tales to the Vita if Falcom is keen enough, here's hoping!

Score: 9/10
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Price: £34.99 (PSN)
Size: 3.2MB
Dev: NIS America/Falcom
Progress: Booking my tickets to Seiren Island

Squareboy vs Bullies launch trailer

Its another choatic week of Vita game launches to enjoy, from the tiny to the mighty. From Ratalaika comes Squareboy vs Bullies, a retro beat 'em up with retro pixel art graphics and OST featuring 14 chiptune tracks.

As the square, you'll take on the bullies in across your hometown of Squareburg, with a new Arena mode and bullies for the Vita version. At only £4.99 on the UK PSN, the game arrives on the 12th and is part of a herd of games out this week.

God Eater 3 announced, get out your Remote Play

Is this another Code Vein trailer or is God Eater 3 actually a thing, it is increasingly hard to tell the difference. Anyway, looks like the Vita won't be blessed with yet another episode of demon slashing, so we can either go back and play God Eater 2: Rage Burst some more, or use Remote Play if you are lucky enough to own a PS4.

Formats haven't been announced yet, except "home consoles" but a peek into the code shows no sign of a Vita (or Switch) version. Here's the blurb...

Many years have passed since the last battle. Earth is no longer a place where humans reside. Terrifying beasts known as ‘The Aragami’ are still raging around the world creating misery and destruction. To save the world and re-establish the balance, new heroes have risen, The God Eaters; those who have been gifted or cursed with new versions of the God Arc weapons (special implants powered by Aragami cells). Team up with your other God Eaters to take down these monstrous new Aragami that are tearing apart locations around the globe. But this won’t be your only mission, something is happening to the God Eaters and the line between dark and light has never been so thin… It’s time to break the cursed shackles that bind the soul of the God Eaters.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Yomawari Midnight Shadows trailer of spookiness

The original Yomawari was an innocent delight in scaring. Midnight Shadows seems to have a bit more depth to it, with a bigger town, more indoor scenes to explore and many things that go bleugh in the night.

Midnight Shadows stars, Yui and Haru, as they try to find each other and make it home safely in their own innocent little way against the dark. The game is out in just a couple of weeks and is a perfect counterfoil to all the must-to-more-gore games that line up each Halloween.

Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni Bikini Party Edition

PQube has just dropped its beer pong kit to release an ultimate version of Valkyrie Drive in the form of BHIKKHUNI Bikini Party Edition on PSN.  Featuring loads of combat, characters and sexy shenanigans, this version includes every bit of DLC from the original game, with the exception of the two DLC characters, Mirei and Mamori.

Japanese Vita video Friday

Quick peeks at new gameplay and trailers for Tokyo Clanpool from Compile Heart (mostly the hard-bitten politicians chatting and squealing at each other) and Idea Factory's latest VN Neo Angelique (lots of swooning) today. Leading them out is Gintama Rumble which has an 18th January release date.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Review Plague Road

The Plague Road is not a track anyone would want to take, yet somehow the path to a pox-ridden city is remarkably popular, practically crammed with people in distress. As The Doctor, one with no practical healing abilities, we play a mystery figure aiming to get into the city and solve the plague.

On the way, there are survivors to find that are sent to a nearby farm, where they will be revealed as various useful characters. The Doctor can shoot at distance or wield his sword for melee attacks in turn-based battles that soon become party affairs as you build up a team.

To explore further, we need a small party of warriors to help battle off the afflicted creatures in the plains, woods and beyond. Each encounter leads to a grid- and turn-based battle, with the collection of soldiers, engineers, witches and nurses all providing various levels of support. Each class can have different skills, with a few mass attacks but mostly its one-on-one ranged, magical or melee combat. 

Pros and cons of life on the road

When you meet a major figure, they usually need to borrow a couple of your folk to help them out with some request. In return, they help expand your farm, adding training facilities, storage and manufacturing, plus the big bonus of fast travel. Now you zip around the map, you can find loot crates faster and practice your battle skills against the growing ranks of enemies. 

The first thing to comment about Plague Road is the production values. With soaring music, fantastically created characters and a bizarre world that they live in, this is punching well above its weight in the presentation department.

It looks gorgeous and the characters scale in and out of the level so smoothly. The sound effects are punchy with some great weapon effects (love the rocket barrage), and the music is an atmospheric treat. Little zooms in-and-out of the battles are perfect, while the hellish parallax backgrounds scald your eyes. 

Missing in Action

But then we come to some missed opportunities. For a start The Doctor just blunders into a battle, with no real strategy or tactics. It would be cool to avoid combat but the lovely trees and other trimmings that make up many levels serve no purpose, even though it would be useful to hide behind them. There's no level progression in battles, and no real point in having them and no complexity like friendly fire or fire lines to make you think a bit more.

Also, you need to retire survivors to create skills in the farm buildings, this isn't explained anywhere and is just one of the confusing aspects of the game. Why are the levels procedurally generated every time you visit? That makes no sense, change them every playthrough yes, but not every time you visit somewhere you've already cleared.

There's also that horrible feature in any combat game where an enemy with just a few hit points requires you to wipe it out with a powerful attack, wasting stamina. Surely a little Worms-like nudge or standard-for-all punch attack to finish them off would have added a little more fun to the battles, or make the game feel more rounded. 

Some logical thinking around these, and a few other minor leaps of imagination would have helped make Plague Road so much more than it really is. Hopefully, a major update will add new features to the game, or perhaps the busy developers should rein in their ambition a little on future projects. A minor update to fix the random crashes would also be welcome.

Score: 6/10
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Price: £15.99 (PSN)
Size: 70MB
Dev: Arcade Distillery

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Vita sales back to flat in Japan

The latest Media Create data is out in Japan, don't get too excited now!

We have a duplicate of last week really, with sales nudging up by a few and one new middling Vita game arriving in the lower reaches of the chart. Can't see many people rushing out to buy visual novel Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu from Idea Factory, which managed to sell 4,629 to land at No. 18 as the only Vita game on the chart.

Trails of Cold Steel III landed at No. 1 on the PS4, but without a Vita or PS3 version in support, Falcom lost half of their sales, based on the 2013/2014 releases. That will be pretty damning for Falcom, who had no real reason to drop the Vita version for a few extra shaders and world with a slightly larger scope. Still, there's no guarantee it would come west on Vita, so perhaps irrelevant. 

Meet the cast investigating the Chaos Child

Ahead of the PQube's western release, here's an introduction for the precursor visual novel to the legendary Steins Gate. Chaos Child sees a series of bizarre deaths strike fear in the hearts of citizens in Shibuya, Tokyo.

When a streamer dies on-screen, a street musician dies horribly on the street. No one knows how or why. As part of the school's newspaper club, Takuru Miyashiro becomes fascinated with the mysterious deaths when he notices that the dates of the incidents match up with a series of murders that happened shortly before a fateful earthquake that killed his parents and changed his life years earlier.

 Together with his friends and fellow newspaper club members, Serika and Shinji, his adopted sister Nono, a mysterious fellow student by the name of Hinae, and a scientist named Mio, Takuru begins to investigate the phenomenon referred to as the New Generation Madness, and uncover hidden secrets that will put them all in more danger than they ever imagined.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Twin Robots landing on the Vita this week

Ratalaika continues to deliver fun games to the Vita (and PS4) with Twin Robots. Coming this week for $4.99, its a 2.5D platformer where you can switch control between two little robots that have been imprisoned and must escape.

Escaping won’t be easy though, so be prepared for a lot of running, jumping and puzzle solving, as a lot of each awaits you. The good news though, is you don’t have to do any of it alone as Twin Robots has co-op play for friends to jump in.

However, both robots are battery-powered so they consume energy with everything they do! Players will need to watch out for their battery levels and make sure they keep topped up, but in emergency situations, players can transfer energy from one robot to the other, thus allowing both robots to safely reach the exist.

Latest Sir Eatsalot snap

If you follow German dev Behind the Stone on Twitter, you'll have a seen a growing series of action and in-action snaps from the upcoming platformer Sir Eatsalot. If not, here's the latest one of the chubby knight getting ready to do battle against the evil witch Hysterica, who poisoned his Gluttington Kingdom with bitter lemonade!
The game is coming along well, but still no sign of a release date. Keep checking in for progress and lots of food-related foolery. As one of the last Vita exclusives, we should all be supporting it.