Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Deer God is Red Art's final Vita physical

The end is creeping up as the last rush of Vita physicals get ordered and roll out the factory gates before Sony's spring cut off point. Red Art has provided collectors with a curious mix including The Bard’s Tale, Ice Cream Surfer, Demetrios, Bit Dungeon + and Riddled Corpses EX.

All have value and hopefully have found homes with real Vita collectors, not the resellers. The French publisher’s teams final contribution to Vita collectibles is The Deer God, with a 2,000 copy print run for €25. A 3D pixel art adventure, it has you solving puzzles and avoiding the hunters while exploring a vast and wonderfully curious world, all soundtracked by Evan Gipson.

Note, the publisher and developer are looking into remaining gameplay issues including slowdown, bugs and crashes that still affect the PSN version.



Vita waves bye to PS+ with a trio of games

I was kind of hoping Sony would say goodbye in style with some clever curio or previously unpublished project, but in the end we get the great fun Rogue Aces (review) Iron Galaxy's Divekick and the quirky Gunhouse (originally a PSM game, then upgraded to full Vita status just a year ago.
PlayStation Plus arrived on the Vita at the end of 2013, with a lively roster of games that soon tailed off as Sony gave up on the portable. But its been a good five year run, and while my subscription has come and gone as funds dictated, I picked up a load of ace games for when I finally got my PS4. It also means I'll never sell my PS3 as there are loads of great games still on that box, and adding Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots as the last PS3 title is an example of how Sony should have bowed out on Vita.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Review: Dreamwalker

Sorry for the delay in this review, despite paying for it, the download was stuck in Sony's "we don't care" loop of uselessness. If I'd had any sleepless nights over it, Dreamwalker (originally a Nintendo DS release) could have helped calm me down.

A simple yet challenging puzzler from Code Mystics, you need to guide a dreaming chap, Walker, resplendent in his pink striped pajamas and floppy hat into the dawn light without waking him up prematurely through a series of cloud-formed mazes.

The early levels are simple, click on a star and you rotate the clouds adjacent to it, creating pathways through the stars for Walker to sleepwalk along. As with most puzzle games, the aim is to do it in the least moves or amount of time as possible, while dodging the increasing numbers of alarm clocks and nightmares that threaten to wake our somnolent pal.

The further you get, the more complex things become with teleporters and different-coloured stars moving in harmony, either making or breaking a well constructed path. Rainclouds can vanish once walked over creating dead ends and other hazards. An additional challenge also has Walker collecting all the sheep in a level, and there are plenty of other quirks and fun diversions along the way.

Always urging you on is the score timer counting down in the background. The early levels take places on a single screen, but soon you're scrolling around looking for the sunny exit and numerous ways to keep the clocks at bay. Screw a level up and you can restart in a flash.

With cheery animation throughout each level, a jolly tune in the background and bite-sized puzzles that make up each of the 50 levels, plus mini-games, this is pure and simple gaming fun with plenty of short term challenge, and quick-play appeal.

Score: 7/10
More Reviews
Price: £1.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Code Mystics
File size 45MB
Progress: Wake up Boo!

Classic shooters form the Vasara Collection, head to Vita

Strictly Limited and Braziliant devs QuByte continue to deliver the goods on the Vita with a physical and digital release of the Vasara collection, as teased last year. Down for a first or second quarter release, the collection consists of acclaimed Japanese arcade shoot ’em ups – Vasara (an arcade cabinet release from 2000) and sequel Vasara 2.

Across both games, science fiction meets history set in an alternate timeline of feudal Japan where technologically advanced weaponry see heroes use flying motorcycles with amazing firepower and fierce melee weapons to destroy their enemies. More detailed info on shmups.com


Fight against warships, battle tanks, giant robots, evil soldiers and rogue Samurais to prevent 1600’s Japan from being taken over by tyrannical forces.

Features include

  • PlayStation TV and PS Vita TV support (2-player co-op)
  • Tate and vertical mode support
  • Eight playable characters inspired by real Japanese historical figures
  • Fight robots and Samurais using traditional shooting and powerful melee attacks
  • Easy mode for starters
  • Branching paths and multiple endings according to your characters and in-game actions

Updates on Heart Forth Alicia and Monster Crown Kickstarters

There's part of me now that fears opening a Kickstarter email, wondering if they've dropped the Vita version. But no worries today as both Heart Forth Alicia and Monster Crown seem to be progressing well. While I guess none-to-few developers would add a KS Vita stretch goal in 2019, there's still a few to come, check the list.



On HFA, Alfonso Martin writes, "Work these past months has been concentrated on all fronts of development. On the graphical side, Deryk and I have continued hammering away at all the missing pixel art assets for these and other later areas of the game.  This, at times, can be an arduous process considering the sheer volume of work. Yet, the diversity of locations which range from abandoned culverts to beautiful cathedrals, has made these past few months especially engaging to develop."



And for Monster Crown, Studio Aurum is pretty perky, "I find myself standing on a bit of a precipice. The Kickstarter was a huge event in my life and a very exciting time for us (and I know for you too!). Since then we've found a publisher, began work on console ports, and used updates as an opportunity to show off new areas, new features and new monsters. At the same time I look into the future, and see announcements on the way, info, footage, starting in just a few weeks and continuing to hit like a ton of bricks!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Necrosphere, Drowning and NightCry out this week

Necrosphere is at the lighter end of this week's Vita releases, with Drowning and Nightcry (trailer) offering more somber gaming.

Necrosphere comes with a fresh set of trophies listed (10 bronze, 2 silver, 1 gold). The well-rated PC two-button metroidvania from 2017, puts up a stiff challenge for its lurid lycra-clad hero, and for those who want to bag all the trophies, with a distinctly old-school style to it. To get around the hero has to use bounce pads and bubbles to navigate the short and furious levels.



Drowning is a journey through a tale of depression. A short game about a boy who quickly discovers he has depression, it takes you through a variety of beautiful low-poly environments as the story unfolds about how he learns to live with his inner demon.

Atelier series celebrates 20 years in Japan, waves bye to Vita

Ahead of the release of Atelier of the New Earth Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists from Gust, the company is celebrating 20 years of the series, with some impressive art on Tokyo's subway. The series has been a faithful servant on the PlayStation, PSP and Vita, if passed over in the west for the last couple of entries.


On the plus side, we've had Atelier Firis, Shallie Plus, Ayesha Plus, Escha and Logy Plus and my favourite Atelier Sophie (review), along with all 9GB of the The Arland Trilogy. Throw in the host of missions, costumes and music DLC on PSN, and publisher Koei has done pretty well out of the series on the Vita.

Next release, the much delayed Nelke is likely the last Gust Vita release with Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland missing out the Vita completely in Japan and the west, so goodbye and thanks for all the potions.

I do wonder why they don't farm out the perfectly good Sophie-era engine to other developers who might want to craft their own RPG series?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

NightCry shudders on the Vita this month

Playism brings up Project Scissor's Night Cry, the long-ago Kickstarted horror game, at the end of January in Japan, and presumably the west. The point-and-click 3D adventure is a murder mystery, set on a boat where suspicion and dread terror lurk behind each porthole and cabin door. Featuring Monica and Rooney as two students, they must survive the branching storylines to find the one ending where, presumably, they don't end up as mincemeat.

Coming a couple of years after the PC version, it at least reminds the world that 3D does work on the Vita, even though this trailer (perhaps deliberately, but I doubt it, sees the game crawling through glue). Regardless, well done to Playism, Hifumi Kono and Takashi Shimizu for sticking with the sequel to Clock Tower.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Revenge of the Bird King getting a physical or EU release?

Released last year on Switch and in the US on Vita as part of the Gunworld series, Revenge of the Bird King is an 8-bit-style retro platformer with some light Metroid-style choices to make. Developed by Joe Modzeleski (aka @SuperNESJoe), I guess its coming to Europe's PSN or more likely getting a physical release soon (he was talking to Limited Run last year) as a new set of trophies has popped up.


Either way, for only $5 in the US, it seems worth a play and if it pops up in Europe - great!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Japanese otome games still popping out for Vita

Variable Barricade, Golden Corda Octave (out mid-February) , Panic Palette (already out), Nora and Princess and Stray Cat Heart 2 - so many mad names, and still a few games or DLC headed to the Vita. Check out the clips dug up during my latest trawl through the Japanese publisher YouTube channels.

What was good to see is the number of playthroughs for even pretty obscure titles that came west (or didn't with people relying on fan subs of Google translate) to get through the stories.



Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Heroes Trials goes questing on Vita thanks to Ratalaika

Shinyuden's RPG adventure Heroes Trials has made its way over to the Vita thanks to Ratalaika, landing on January 22/25th on PSN with a Platinum Trophy up for grabs. Two heroes with different attack styles go exploring in a four-hour-or-so compact adventure that dumps the endless cinematics and plot waffle of big-budget RPGS for rapid action and progress.

Check out the trailer and we'll have a little competition with codes and Heroes Trials toys soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Firmware 3.70 arrives for Vita, brace yourselves!

Things Sony could do in a firmware update:

Improve the LiveTweet Twitter app to support 280 characters and multiple image uploads.
Update the Browser to better support YouTube and other vital popular sites
Show free card space on the information bar at the top of the screen
Tweaking the PS4 Link app for stronger WiFi connection, or give us more data, than just the weak connection icon, as Remote Play is an increasingly common use.
Make global sharing with PS3 happen so we can play any game remotely too.

Things Sony's latest 3.70 firmware app does:

Stability.

Seriously Sony, a little love as you kick the barn door shut?

Specifically, the Vita homebrew community has had a look and notes changes to the Calendar and Near Apps, presumably to defeat any future hacking attempts, rather than improving them for users.

Dreamwalker pops up on the EU PSN store

Code Mystic's Dreamwalker hit the US PSN around new year, but takes its bow in Europe today, hot on the heels of a pesky firmware update. The game may only be £1.99 but it has an official site, which is more than most titles get these days.

Note, it is on the UK store, and I've paid for it but the game isn't downloading yet, may be up later in the day.

A puzzle maze game, the hero is walker, a character after my own heart who just wants a good night's sleep. Rearrange the clouds to create a path through to sunrise without getting woken up.

Do support Code Mystics, they managed to get the coming-soon Atari Flashbacks Classics on Vita, and if sales do enough hopefully future titles too!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Fresh Catherine Full Body JP trailer

Okay, so there are some very quiet murmurs that the Vita version might not be coming west. But in a minor "up yours" to Atlus I recommend we all buy the Japanese version (the Dynamite limited edition is excellent) and spam Atlus's Twitter feed with photos of it, every minute of every day after release on 14 February.


UPDATE: Note the new screenshots out of Japan show a smattering of English in the game...


Here's the latest trailer, to get you suitably excited.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Media Create Vita sales firm at the end of 2018 in Japan

The delayed Media Create sales figures for the last week of 2018 have turned up, showing that the Vita sold over 3,500 units, making for almost 13K sales in the month of December, and trundling along nicely, if you ignore that it sold over 14K in one week alone in 2017's holiday sales.

Things perked up a bit more for the first week of 2019, with the Vita shifting over, 4,100 units. Surely exports are now playing a key role in those sales?

This is probably the last chart I'll write up, unless there's some crazy sales move or a Vita release actually hits the game chart, but will continue to tweet the sales figures and chart over 2019, as far as it goes.

Total sales are over 5.95 million, already a million down on the newer Switch, a couple down on Japanese PS4 sales and trillions below 3DS/2DS sales. So, not a sales success, but still an awesome piece of hardware.


Life with a Vita in 2019

As we settle into 2019 like a new pair of shoes, Vita life seems remarkably good for a dead console. New developers like kFunction are delivering great games with Scintillatron, and Sony is still providing dev kits to coders (probably grudgingly by now).

Also, random trophy listings continue to pop up out of nowhere, and there's still plenty of activity from physical publishers even as the cut off for physical cart production in the west looms.

As a day-one Vita owner three things still worry me, what happens when Sony stops making the memory cards - and why hasn't it cut the prices to encourage people to stock up? Also, shouldn't there be a mandatory notification period before any game (cough, LEGO!) vanishes from PSN?  Finally, what happens when all the Vita hardware is gone?

ps vita 2019

Those concerns aside, here we are and there's still a decent list of games on the way, even if a few drop off the radar due to developers not having the bandwidth or struggling to port titles to an ancient bit of silicon. But what a piece of hardware, iPhone has moved on six or seven generations since the Vita launched, yet Sony's portable continues to deliver games that shame or on a par with most mobile fodder.

Even as the games drop off, more people seem to be finding the Vita as their favourite way to play visual novels, the Tomb Raider archive, JRPGs, other PS One classics (especially after the PlayStation Classic Mini farcical launch) and indies-on-the-go.

Remote Players are also getting on-board, perhaps spurred, ironically, by the success of the Switch. And, as Microsoft looks to some sort of hybrid future, there's still a good chance that Sony will respond with a PS5 Remote Play unit - HD, many triggers and a good WiFi stack. Maybe there is a Sony portable future of some kind - which we'll need as Vita prices continue to rise, and old hardware inevitably begins to fail - how do we pass preserve these valuable single-format game collections or pass them on to others?

Game On in 2019

Back to the good stuff, and a few hundred thousand (at a guess) western Vita enthusiasts are still loving handheld life. And why not, with a device that still looks this good, that happily plays many recent pixel games and whose launch titles still look better than most of the Switch's output (while laughing at Nintendo's idea of battery life), what's not to like? Gamers are snapping them up from Japan and second hand stores, getting on board and finding what makes Vita so special.

I can understand attention-deficit types getting fed up of their old hardware and moving on, but anyone who has invested time and money in a decent Vita collection, why sell it? If you have eight years of games to play, with many that aren't on any other system, why give them up.

I've forgotten most of the finer details in Uncharted, Assassin's Creed Liberation, Killzone many of the other major league efforts - and with fewer new games there's more time for a replay, with most collectors having a healthy rotation of old and new to keep us happy. Even with a Switch, PS4 and Xbox One in the house, I could play any game on anything, but the Vita is still my perfectly-formed OLED play-anywhere box.

About the Apps, Sony

Even the apps still prove useful, getting #PSVitaShare images up via the old Twitter that's still limited to 140 characters and loads the browser to show tweet links. Until recently, YouTube worked fine and I've found plenty of lite or text-only sites that provide news and information far faster than the modern mobile sites can manage.

Yes, the store app is poorly updated, with Sony's crack-addled trainee failing to add new games on a regular basis. Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight still isn't on the front of UK store (perhaps two similar games confused the poor fool).

All these features need is the tiniest bit of Sony love and Vita could easily be fit for some purpose in 2020 and beyond, but hey - we can't have everything right?

A Fond Farewell

What does irritate me most is that Sony has no idea how to do a good sendoff. There must be a number of near complete games or easy updates lurking in the archive and all it takes is a bit of effort to say thanks for sticking around with a Vita version of LocoRoco or something else.

But will Sony bother? No, because generating any news about Vita goes against its forward-looking philosophy, which is just damn weird. I still kinda hope another company buys the Vita designs and IP, and launches a vanilla non-PS console just to keep the life flowing. Perhaps that a question someone can ask a Sony boss next time they see them.

But, all the biz lunacy aside, let's get gaming into 2019, the rest of the world might not care, but this is my gaming life, and Vita is still great fun!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Pic-A-Pix Pieces on PSN

The Pic-A-Pix series continues to bloom on the Vita offering fun puzzling wherever you go. Now on PSN for £6.49, the latest installment, Pieces, offers a big sack of picture logic games, where whimsical pixel-art pictures are created by solving puzzles.

In Pic-a-Pix Pieces, large pictures have been split into a number of smaller pieces. Each piece is a puzzle grid, and by solving them all you’ll form a mosaic that reveals a spectacular final image. A flexible colourblind mode has previously received high praise for allowing access to players who are often excluded from colour-based puzzles.

The time-trial trophies from previous games have gone, leaving players to finish them without a time pressure, and there's a Platinum if you complete the game, which is Cross Buy with the PS4.




Monday, January 7, 2019

Latest UK retail Vita chart (a one off for 2019)

Its the most meaningless chart in existence, and I'll only run it once in 2019, as its a quiet start to the year. But, here's what's selling in UK retail land on the Vita, perhaps a dozen retail copies each? maybe more for the recent Muv Luv releases.

Given that most Vita game sales are second-hand these days, not sure what the point of collecting the data is, but here we go:

  1. Meiq: Labyrinth Of Death         Idea Factory 
  2. Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified      Activision    
  3. Xblaze Code: Embryo     Funbox 
  4. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection     Konami       
  5. LEGO Marvel Avengers    Warner 
  6. Muv-Luv     PQube 
  7. Muv-Luv Alternative       PQube 
  8. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair      NIS America 
  9. Chaos;Child      PQube 
  10. World Of Final Fantasy   Square Enix 
Looking further into the future, I wonder if the LEGO Hobbit and Lord of the Rings games will pop back up the chart soon as the PSN versions have vanished? Check out the Japanese chart data for more meaningful numbers.

Lightwood brings more Pic-A-Pix Pieces to the Vita

The Pic-A-Pix games are a charming picross niche that Lightwood has a firm handle on. More simple-to-challenging puzzles are on the way to the Vita according to a new trophy listing (with a Platinum). What better way to ease into the new year before all the crunchy arcade titles turn up, checking on a release date now!

Update: The game hits PSN this week, so get ready to boost your brain power in 2019!


Almost There: The Platformer heads to PlayStation

Seems appropriate that I start 2019 with a simple-looking yet fiendishly challenging mobile title, Almost There: The Platformer heading to Vita, PS4 and PS3. A one-man band game from Bony Yousuf, the bright primary colour scheme hides many deaths and retries to get past the many tightly packed obstacles into each level.


There's a Platinum trophy on offer for anyone who can successfully sprint between saw blades while dodging homing missiles and duck under all those lasers while the floor crumbles beneath you.

Almost There was designed specifically for fans of the hardcore platforming genre - you've been warned.