Monday, September 30, 2013

Vlambeer invites us to sit on the Nuclear Throne

With Luftrausers still making its way across enemy-heavy skies, Vlambeer's next project has had a name change, from Wasteland Kings to Nuclear Throne, due to potential confusion over the PC Wasteland series. The game is in development for Vita, PS4 and PC, with regular live streaming events covering the development process going on over on the game's site.

Japan still avidly playing the God Eater 2 demo

This has to be one of the longer rolling demos in history, with regular content updates to keep players interested in the long period between the launch of the demo and the November release date. Here's a look at a couple of heavy weapon toting players taking on a selection of tank-like demons, enjoy eight minutes of action and dream of a western release.

Another day, another crazed Japanese ad to sell the new Vita

Anyone have any idea what the hell is going on here? Apparently this is promoting the new PS Vita model which is out in just two weeks in Japan, but how? what? who? etc. I get the boosting, improving and super-charging concept, but really - this is the best Sony's finest marketing minds can come up with?

Compile Heart's big news is a new RPG from the Disgaea 4 boss

Compile Heart said last week it had more news coming, on top of the Neptunia announcements, and it seems that they have teamed up with Idea Factory and the Director and game designer of Disgaea 4 A Promise Unforgotten (a PS3 title), Masahiro Yamamoto to work on a new RPG. No news on its title, themes or unique features, yet. Just a piece of silhouetted artwork for us to wonder over.

FIFA 14 tops the Vita chart, but FIFA Football reenters to prove we're not all mugs

Despite the warnings, FIFA 14 is the new UK No. 1 dislodging GTA V from the all-formats and Killzone from the Vita (and PSP) chart. Are people really buying it for £44.99 on PSN? On the plus side, both FIFA 13 and the original FIFA football are still in the top 10, suggesting that more gamers are cottoning on to EA's shoddy practice.

Apparently overall sales of FIFA 14 are down almost a quarter on last year, which is a positive sign, wonder if PES is picking up the slack? I'll update when the Guardian charts adds the sales breakdown so we can see how many Vita muppets there were out of the pack.

Why is FIFA 14 even on Vita? 

Is a good question to ask. The answer simply is through the year, FIFA 13 on the Vita has been responsible for between 7% to 15% of all copies sold in the UK, regularly the third-placed format. That's not a huge number, but week over week adds up to a decent chunk of change (given the edging down price cuts over a year). 

Given the zero effort and cost of rebadging, it can earn that all over again, and presumably EA will only do a proper refresh when it sees those sales dropping off, or will just kill the effort as happened with Madden. Will EA surprise us in 2014? Yes, I think but not in a good way. 

1 new FIFA 14 EA SPORTS - 1
9 FIFA 13 EA SPORTS 5 53

Software charts compiled by Chart Track, (C)2013 UKIE Ltd

Coming out this month we have Dragon's Crown and Batman, plus a few others to shake up the chart, but with most of those games approaching a year old, Sony really needs to get its PSN sales added or do something to stop the Vita looking like last year's machine.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

PS Vita sponsoring UK broadcasts of Agents of SHIELD

The new Marvel spin off TV show is getting some gadget support from Sony, with a snippet of a PS Vita being stored in a SHIELD-style case before and after the ad breaks. After its UK premiere last night, Agents of SHIELD seems to be getting the usual mix of love it/hate it/give it time snap opinions, but I'm happy to give it some room to grow on me, while appreciating the humour and in-series references (shame about the whiny geek British characters).

Watch it on catch-up here.

Its kind of a shame there's only the LEGO Marvel game to go with the advertising, but at least it vaguely ties in. If there'd been any forward planning, a companion app (or the 4 On Demand app for the Vita) or an episode secrets guide would have been great.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Keiji Inafune to add a Vita goal to Mighty No. 9

The Mega Man revival title could come to the Vita if it raises enough money. That was mentioned by Shahid Kamal during his Eurogamer talk (while discussing doing deals on the last bus home, in his sleep; the Sony indie man is a machine).

The trouble is, the Kickstarter project has four days left to reach what will presumably be a $3,500,000 goal, the last unrevealed stretch on the list. I guess it could continue to collect, as it is well past its original $900,000 goal and is also harvesting cash on PayPal. The Japanese developer had previously mentioned portable versions, but only if the money was there.

UPDATE: Coo, its not going bad, just $150,000 needed in 14 hours to hit the mark needed for a Vita version. Well done all who contributed.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Vita version confirmed, funding reached (via the PayPal contributions, the KS page is still a little down). I'll add it to the release list.

OLDER UPDATE: As predicted, here's the additional stretch goal, which has gone live. Still can't see it making it though, just too late in the day. I haven't put it for this one, as it seems like more of a cash grab than most attempts to court Vita users.

Milestone bringing Motocross to the Vita

Not content with holding the World Rally Championship (out next month) and Moto GP franchises, Milestone is cementing its reputation for wheeled-sports with the addition of an official Motocross game. The Italian outfit continues to publish on Vita which also makes it one of the format's most prolific supporters. There'e only a rendered intro in the first bit of MXGP news, but it promises to bring all the mud and dust of off-road scrambling and racing to life in early 2014.

EuroGamer Expo showing off the best of Vita

Really must go to one of these EuroGamer events someday, but I'd just look old and haggard compared to all the young shiny people who do gaming these days. Anyway, Sony has a big presence at the show, waving its indie armada at all and sundry, and with some Vita games on show in the developer sessions.

Yesterday, FuturLab gave us a first look at the indoors sections of Velocity 2X, with some fast run-and-gun action added to the fast fly-and-gun action of the brilliant shooter.

Tearaway was first up on Friday, with indie guru Shahid Kamal showing off his wares later in the day, (4PM UK). Please check in and enjoy people who love their games talking about them, rather than the usual big-show ego-stroking. Saturday sees LEGO Marvel Super Heroes in action, among lots of next-gen stuff.

China lifts ban on games consoles, could be big for Vita

China's 13 year-old ban on games consoles is coming to end, after much discussion since the start of this year. Initially imposed to protect the nation's youth from harm, those kids are now part of the teams hacking the world's networks and stealing trade secrets for its own industry. So, that went well.

But, now Sony and others can soon flog their consoles against China's existing torrent of knock-off cheap Android devices, plus the higher-end iPhones and tablets that sell in the big cities. Will consoles make a dent in a market that's grown up with mobile? And just how much of PlayStation has leaked over the porous Hong Kong border and into Chinese culture already?

Sony's current China page makes no mention of PlayStation, links straight to the US site and there is no China option on the global selector page. Isn't it weird to think a billion people are behind a physical and net firewall to the whole games industry. This brave new territory could be fertile ground, specifically for the Vita which is easily portable and a sign of wealth, both big box tickers when new trends come around.

China is also setting up a development area in Shanghai to get local talent involved with big global publishers. While things will start out with cookie-cutter games, it'd be good to see some real Chinese innovation in gaming.

Natural Doctrine gets a new trailer

As well as showing off its new fleet game at its Autumn press event, Kadokawa has a new trailer for Natural Doctrine, its fantasy RPG announced at a pre-TGS event. Also a PS4 launch game, hope we get some more information soon as its looking only mildly pretty with only this "natural selection" vibe as to what will make it stand out from the crowd.

Kadokawa bringing a big gun title to the Vita in 2014

Kadokawa has a new site up for a Vita game, called Kan Colle Kai, which auto translates as 'This Ship Breaks,' but I'm guessing that's not the literal title, and its provisonal anyway. Announced during its Autumn briefing, the title is described as fleet-collecting strategy, the artwork is brimming with gun batteries and, of course, young girls. The game is down for a 2014 release, and looks distinctly Japan only.

Coming to the Vita in October: Danna nanna naannnaa Batman!

Guess we're officially into Autumn now, but there's plenty to look forward to on the Vita as winter draws on. Sure, no big hitters to really grab huge numbers of new Vita owners at retail this year, but enough to tide the fans over until next year. Batman has to be the standout game, but give WRC 4 a go if you're feeling sporty.

I've had a quick browse but can't see any of the big indie list arriving in October, beyond Atomic Ninjas, but am happy to be corrected.

European dates:

Atomic Ninjas (PSN) – 2nd
Worms Revolution Extreme (PSN) – 9th
Dragon’s Crown – 11th
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – 25th
World Rally Championship 4 - 25th
Angry Birds Star Wars – 29th

Compile Heart's new Hyper Dimension Neptunia trailer, teases more news for Monday

Compile Heart's Hyper Dimension Neptunia Rebirth 1 has picked up a lively looking trailer, featuring the pretty young things from the series, but the company is promising some more news on Monday, with a Vita version of Hyper Dimension Neptunia 2 likely or perhaps an all-new project.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Soul Sacrifice Delta rolls out the freaks

The original Soul Sac was pretty much brimming with boss oddities to get away from the dragons and orc-likes that infest so many games, but those guys have little on the freaks that are coming out of the woodwork for the Delta not-quite-sequel. PSMania has a host of in-game shots and post-produced efforts that have me thinking this game will continue to shine.

Sony UK comments on Vita sales, future and how gamers maybe saved the handheld

An interesting piece on CVG, with Sony UK boss Fergal Gara covers all things in the run up to the PS4 release, but his comments suggest a few interesting things about the Vita's troubled existence and its slow turnaroud.

For a start, the price cut hasn't boosted sales much, although Vita sales are well up on last year.
Well, we're very pleased with how PS Vita sales have picked up this year. I must say, in the UK we were promoting it hard before the price drop, so actually the difference before and after Gamescom isn't that noticeable in the UK. The difference between the start of the year and now, however, is much more noticeable. PS Vita is forecast to hit its sales target in the UK  
PS4 gamers are getting Vita to enjoy remote play:
We also believe that the rise in unit sales since Gamescom, considering there was no major Vita games in stores, is the result of our Remote Play announcement. That's what we think. I think Remote Play is a new weapon in our armoury. 
Vita owners have kept the Vita ship from sinking (hey, that's us - go us!)
Without positive feedback from owners, I think we would have good reason to lose confidence in the device and shelve it (remember, he's only talking about the UK). We're nowhere close to that decision now. There has been great positive feedback, but I want people to know that we do listen intently to the negative feedback too. 
Are Vita 2000 and Vita TV coming to Europe?
Well, no plan that we're prepared to announce today, but watch this space. 
There are similar themes expressed toward the bottom on a VG24/7 interview (guess he must have been sent around the houses), but the overarching theme is that Sony had the chance to kill (or discuss killing) the Vita, and it is partly down to enthusiastic users, coinciding with the indie wave and PS4 remote play that have dragged it out of the mire.

Nnooo bringing the award-winning ORBITOR to consoles

Not sure which consoles, that's to be confirmed, but this would look pretty slick on the Vita's OLED (in your face, soon-to-be Vita 2000 LCD owners). ORBITOR, currently on Steam for PC is described as a visually stunning action adventure game (and having watched the video its hard to disagree) which takes place in space themed environments ranging from nebulas to complex orbital systems.

Within each space system players must control a space probe named ORBITOR to lock it onto objects, orbit them to gather speed, destroy them and collect the energy life forms they release. The probe is an autonomous and self repairing Artificial Intelligence returning to its place of origin complete with upgraded abilities and a new mission - to stop its creator.

The developers say, "As the game is developing it is important that we make sure any platform it comes to is a great fit and that ORBITOR makes the best use of each platform's capabilities. We'll have more details in the near future." Nnooo describes itself as an independent game development studio and publisher focusing on Nintendo and Sony platforms, which sounds hopefuly.

Orbitor features:
  • Fast and addictive gameplay. 
  • Unique momentum-based orbiting controls and custom physics. 
  • Stunning visuals. 
  • Immersive sound design and awesome sound track (listen on Soundcloud). 
  • Super fast level-to-level progression and menu-to-level transitions for uninterrupted gameplay. 
  • Open and freely explorable environments and level selection. 
  • Constantly moving level objects and elements.

Persona 5 Reveal in November

Atlus has put up a teaser site for Persona 5 with the reveal coming in November. My guess is this won't be a Vita game directly, certainly not an exclusive, but there is plenty of hope to expect a port or spin-off. Persona 4 Golden was a fantastic success for the Vita but I'm not sure Atlus would have got the sales they were expecting.

Update: The site is changing, with some shaded faces earlier and now a collection of Teddies. What does it all mean? We'll find out on Sunday

Honeyslug bringing Super Exploding Zoo to Vita and PS4

You can't have enough exploding animals in a game, and this one is full of them. In the game you get to herd and corral exploding animals across 80 destructible levels, defending precious eggs from nasty aliens by using your herd as IEDs and blowing them up! Each animal has different exploding or other skills. Featuring endless randomly-generated levels plus multiplayer modes across both PlayStation Vita or PlayStation 4! Super Exploding Zoo is due out in 2014, more soon on the game's website.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sony France confirms Injustice Gods Among Us for the Vita with boxart

A tweet from a PlayStation France bod pretty much confirms what has been rumoured for months, with the cover art for the brawler from the Mortal Kombat team, NetherRealm. So that's two Batman games coming to the Vita now. Hopefully they've expanded the Vita engine to cram in more of the background detail and effects, but this is another welcome arrival to the format.

And you can get your fighting skills up to scratch by practicing on Street Fighter x Tekken which just gone free for PS+ subscribers (in Europe).


Street Fighter x Tekken and Katamari now up for PS+ users

I'm not sure which I love more, my 32GB Vita card or my EU PS+ subscription which allows me to fill it with content for next to nothing. Up this month on PS+ are Street Fighter x Tekken and Touch My Katamari, both available now (although I'm not sure when PSN is going down for maintenance).

PS3 users are still ahead in the style stakes with Far Cry 3, but hey, this is still a good week. Here's a neat comparison of the Vita version against its bigger cousin. Also, makes me wonder where Namco's effort, the Tekken x SF project went to? Last thing I recall they were saying it was a long term project.

Just a reminder, Lone Survivor is also out on Vita this week.

Sony and Namco need to set Vita Ridge Racer free

Anyone following me on Twitter will have seem some plaintive messages recently about starting back up in Ridge Racer. Having long lost my old save in the bad old days of small memory cards and before the handy PS+ cloud storage arrived, it was back to the beginning.

A few spot races, to refresh my twitch memory of the tracks (forward and reverse) and then it was into multiplayer. Or not. The only racers left these days are mostly Japanese guys with max-setting super cars, leaving me in my Fatalia Ford Fiesta in their dust at the back. With no level playing field it was back to the turgid single player for some grinding (in a racing game of all things).

Now up past level 7 and with some boosters acquired, I can stay in the hunt, and there are (all too rarely) a few mid-level racers to compete against. But if you were a complete newcomer to the Vita or Ridge Racer, you'd give up and toss it away before the pain got too much.

My one positive thought during all this was, 'why not give it away free with the new Vita and Vita TV.' The project was a Sony/Namco joint effort, via the Cellius partnership, so I'm sure Sony could wangle a cheap deal, and there's still the DLC to make some money from. That at least throws it open to a bunch of new gamers and once you get into it, despite the bad reviews, there is an addictive multiplayer racer to be enjoyed. Ironically, the latest Ridge Racer is a free-to-play title, as is most of Namco's new output, so how hard can this be to get moving?

Kudos to the Japanese hard core still playing, I should be up among your number if a few weeks of unbalanced racing at this rate. Which also made me notice some sentiment among Japanese Monster Hunter fans who have been 'forced' to buy 3DS to enjoy the latest hunting instalment. Many are saying they'll never buy another game for that system, which puts Capcom's single-format effort (and broken promises) starkly at odds with today's gamers.

These two very different snippets from the gaming cosmos show just how frail the games we cherish (or in some cases, hate) are and can be a) left to rot and b) manipulated horribly  by big business. Just remember that next time you're getting attached to a new release.

Japanese games sales Monster Hunted to death, PSP nears 20 million units

Here's the latest Media Create sales out of Japan and as the whole nation is apparently out Monster Hunting, no one could be bothered to go out. Still, another near half-million picked up the game as Capcom started to restock and the Vita gets a surprise No. 2 in the guise of what I think is a romantic visual novel "I'm in the Wrong Game Again!" or "Yahari Game Demo Ore no Seishun Love-Kome Hamachi Gatteiru" selling a piffling 16,500 with some more quirky PSP titles at the back of the top 10.

01./01. [3DS] Monster Hunter 4 # (Capcom)  473.739 / 2.188.799 (-72%)
02./00. [PSV] Yahari Game Demo Ore no Seishun Love Kome Hamachi Gatteiru. (5pb.) 16.469 / NEW

10./00. [PSP] La Corda d'Oro 3: Full Voice Special # (Koei Tecmo) 7.062 / NEW
11./03. [PSP] Brothers Conflict: Brilliant Blue # (Idea Factory)  6.865 / 22.162 (-55%)

Vita sales continue to slide, down to 5,100 as gamers wait for the new models (I and Sony hope), only a few ahead of the venerable PSP. The old stager should hit 20 million sales in Japan next week, surely worthy of some celebration Sony?

Warriors Orochi 2 Ultimate rages on the Vita

Throwing in some new fighters and content from across the various existing versions, here comes a big bundle of historical fighting for the Vita and PS3, with 140 characters to get punchy with. If this style of mass brawling appeals, then start asking Tecmo politely for a western version, I guess most other episodes have arrived here, so there's hope.

Frozen Synapse Tactics early look on the Vita

DoubleEleven's Frozen Synapse Tactics is coming along nicely judging by this video of some early code in action. Will it step on the toes of Mike Bithell's upcoming Volume? They seem to be different enough, the game was announced back in February and looks way beyond the original PC version.

Furmins to cause tribble on the Vita

Originally an iOS game, Furmins is a puzzler where the aim is to guide some fluffy creatures across fiendishly designed levels by rearranging a variety of items (in a Mousetrap or Incredible Machines style), as well as using bumpers and conveyor belts. Strategically placed items create pathways and physical chain reactions that guide the Furmins to the basket and level completion. Coming to the Vita via Housemarque and BeatShapers it should add neatly to the Vita's puzzler line-up.

The game is currently £1.99 on iOS, hopefully shouldn't cost too much more for the Vita vesion. Features include:
  • Unique blend of physics based set-up-and-go gameplay and real-time interaction
  • Multiple solutions offer players lots of creativity
  • 108 game levels across 9 game worlds (one as DLC)
  • Gorgeous HD graphics
  • Touchscreen or rear touch pad controls
  • Global and world scoreboards with filters (overall, friends, your score)
  • 12 PlayStation Network trophies

Arc System Work's Tokyo Twilight Ghosthunters trailered

Arc is expanding out of the BlazBlue world and into something a bit spooky, developed by ToyBox. Its hard to tell what the Tokyo Twilight Ghosthunters game is like, based on the lengthy exposition trailer, but I'm guessing there's some spiritual busting to be done, in between a lot of visual novel style studying. UPDATE: Someone has some in-game footage from TGS, still not much the wiser.

When the only bit of English is "Graphic Horizontal Object STreaming" then I'm at a bit of a loss. There's a website here where more info will hopefully enlighten us. While Arc were kind enough to bring BlazBlue to western gamers, I'm not sure this will really translate, but it does have a certain style to it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lone Survivor out now on EU PSN, new trailer

Jasper Byrne's Lone Survivor is out now on PSN, and there's a new trailer to celebrate. The game is a perfect fit for the Vita as most owners probably feel like Lone Survivors, plugging away through the odd big game release and now hunkering down among indie survivalists.

That aside, the game has bags of new features and improvements, and the game is a definite change of pace to most Vita titles. Between this and Walking Dead, it looks like we've got the zombie apocalypse covered. The game is £9.99 now, but I think it will get a PS+ price cut if you wait until the update tomorrow, previous coverage here. Reviews are appearing now and generally showing 8 or above, so what's not to like? Unless you really fear zombies?

Monday, September 23, 2013

La Mulana heads to the Vita, more 2D platform adventuring

Look at the website and you'd be thinking this is another game in the vein of Spelunky, but this is a more hardcore experience in the spirit of Metroidvania games. It is coming over from the PC and the Wii to the Vita with a heavy line in precision platforming and combat. The visual style has all sorts of classic arcade games styles stamped into it, should be good.

Last hurrah for the PSP as FIFA 14 and PES 14 hit the net

With the football season well under way, a quick reminder that PSP owners can still enjoy the beautiful game. FIFA 14 "Legacy Edition" is out this week on the PSP as well as the Vita, but if you really need FIFA on the Vita, then the '13 edition can be had for around £10, all you'll miss is some kit and team updates.

Pro Evo '14 hits the PSP via PSN (I don't think there's a boxed version), thanks to its continued popularity in Japan, but not the Vita due to lack of market demand. Don't feel too bad though, they did develop Pro Evo for the 3DS and no one bought it.

Funnily enough, there's no marketing for either game, so you may have to dig to find them. But, its not quite the end for the PSP. Also out now for the venerable handheld is the visual novel Sweet Fuse title available from Aksys in the U.S. and currently on import in Europe. Anyone else still bringing PSP games west? Let me know. Otherwise this looks like the last hurrah, the still thriving Japanese market and any happy imports aside, for the old chap.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The best-looking Vita trailer out of TGS? Legend of Heroes: Sen no Kiseki

Look at some of my recent posts and the TGS trailers have been pretty rubbish, either the most vague of teases or just crappy looking (even Gravity Rush is somewhat guilty). The Legend of Heroes: Sen no Kiseki really ups the stakes, with lots of different aspects of the game crammed into just 50 seconds.

The game is out at the end of this month, so should be finished, which does give it an advantage but some of the other contenders should take a long hard look at their efforts.

Knytt Underground gets a PSN price cut, free soundtrack

Nifflas is celebrating a range of Knytt-themed events in its little corner of the PSN indieverse. The game is getting a PSN price cut to make it more accessible to cash-strapped gamers. At £7.99, $9.99 or €9.99 with Cross Buy, its still a decent investment, especially for a game with over 1,800 rooms to explore (check out some of the gorgeous screens and videos in previous stories).

There is also the launch of the free Official Knytt Underground soundtrack; available here on PSN (Dear Sony, why can't soundtracks download to the Vita?). That and the arrival of the Killzone soundtrack make it a pretty good day for game music fans.

Airship Q gets funded for Vita in Japan

Just days after launching its crowd-funding effort on Makuake (Japanese version of Kickstarter) Miracle Positive has announced a successful funding for Airship Q, a low-cost sandbox action game for PlayStation Vita. Airship Q lets players solve mysteries by controlling an airship whose pilot happens to be a cat. Airship Q is one of the first Japanese sandbox action games delivered by an independent game developer, suggesting they're starting to get into indie and crowd-funded development.

That could lead to some great things coming out of their crazed dev studios. Development of Airship Q started from scratch about 2 years ago. Inspired by Minecraft and Terraria, which it shares a similar look to The creators decided to build an innovative sandbox action game by utilizing directional buttons, optimized for a handheld game experience. After countless trials, they are now finally approaching complete gameplay. The game reached 140% of its funding (half a million yen, £3,150, $5,000) in just 19 hours.

That's pretty small change for western teams, but if Japan starts small, it should soon get gamers on board to fund bigger ideas. Wonder who Shahid's Japanese counterpart is? As he's going to be a busy man. This could be the small beginnings of a very big story.

Due to the success of the campaign, a PC version is on the cards and based on feedback, the developers will continue improving the game to eventually deliver an advanced Airship Q for PS Vita. The game is Japan-only for now, but doesn't look like it'd be too hard to translate over.

TGS Akiba's Trip 2 trailer misses the point completely

Call me old fashioned but in a game where the aim is to fight and strip nubile vampires in daylight to defeat them, I'd expect a little of that action in the trailer. No such luck here in this new TGS clip, although the game does look miles above the PSP original. Still, given this is an Acquire game there's plenty of time for saucier trailers to come.

Still, this snap from the site, gives us an idea of what to expect from the juicier sections. Putting in a plea for localisation right now, but I'm pretty sure if the PSP game didn't make it here, we won't see this one. More about the game is being shown at a couple of TGS events on the 22nd, so expect more details soon.

Killzone Mercenary soundtrack now available for download

If you had the mental capacity to enjoy the music of Killzone, scored by Walter Mair, while battle raged, well done. For the rest of us, the gripping score can now be downloaded and enjoyed in more peaceful times. Ivor Novello nominated Mair helped capture the emotional drama, fear and undying courage of war (according to the press release). The official soundtrack is available for digital download via Sony Entertainment Network for £3.99.

The SEN site says its playable only on PS3 which has to be some kind of mistake, I'd like to listen to my music on the move thanks, not lugging a console and power lead with me.

Toukiden heads west in 2014, new screens

Tecmo Koei updated the world on the delayed arrival of Toukiden to the west at TGS, now landing next Spring. On the plus side, it has a neat subtitle, "The Age of Demons" and some new pics of it in action. The game features online play and NPC battles for solo players, and has sold over 300,000 copies on Vita and PSP in Japan, we're only getting the Vita version, which makes sense.

Friday Thought: Sony playing its Vita cards too close to its chest

Every trade show where the Vita has a weak (relatively speaking) line-up of headline titles, Sony answers its critics by dragging out the usual line that "big games are in development, we can't talk about them yet."


Why? Because Sony has managed to evolve to accept indies as a staple part of the gaming landscape. Every day or week, we hear about a new title or port. We see updates from the developers on a very regular basis, with some crowd-funded games, we get involved in that development. It helps engage us and value those games more, good stuff all of it.

Yet, at its core Sony's main development teams (and more likely Sony's marketing knobheads) remain mired in the "big release" syndrome or cringe-worthy trade show presentations (which are largely for their own corporate back-slapping), exclusive reveals and other guff. For PlayStation 4, that's probably fine, the market is gagging for it and will lap up what it can get. But for the struggling Vita, existing owners need reasons to keep their console and potential owners want a reason to buy. Sony needs to feed information now, not next month or next year. (Edit: third parties excluded, they march to their own beat, but it'd still be good if they took a more indie approach).

As the novelty of Killzone starts to wear off (for some, I'm still gripped), and Batman and Tearaway provide a distant lure, what the hell is there for Sony to shout about? Not very much. I've said before I think Sony won't launch its new Vita 2000 and TV hardware in the west until it has a game or two to sell them with.

But keeping that game or games hidden is a pointless gesture, a nod to the big reveal mentality. Sony needs to pull down the curtains blocking the light and give us a names, vague dates (spring, summer, whatever), some pre-rendered, target-system footage, or even alpha play and give gamers some reason to get excited, beyond the intravenous drip of indies that is keeping this whole Vita thing alive.

We see @shahidkamal and co. busting their balls on a daily basis, but whoever Sony's big-game guru is, seems to be sitting behind his/her desk sipping cocktails and ticking the days off a schedule to some pointless "big reveal." A mystery date that only frustrates and alienates gamers, which are after all SCE's main reason for existing.

Agree, disagree? Would someone inside the Sony fortress care to comment? I'm sure the developers of these games are working night and day to get things done, but Sony's mothership approach has got to change. I'd like to be proved wrong, but it sure looks that way to me.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth sexed up from the PS3 to the Vita

Okay, not that sexed up, but certainly prettied up a bit, with its bubbly girls and bubblier soundtrack. This new video compares the PS3 to the Vita edition of Compile Heart's action RPG and it does look a little cleaner. But, is this the sort of game that needs all that work? Surely just shovelling it over and concentrating on an older game that could really do with the work would see more sales and benefit.

UPDATE: Note that Hyperdimension Neptunia ReBirth 2 is also coming to the Vita, I guess some time after they get the first remake out the door.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 7 in action at TGS

Splurging across the whole PlayStation family, there's some unresolved anger in this voice over for Tecmo and Omega Force's latest outing, and the game itself definitely won't look like that on the portable.

Sega shows a long lyrical clip of Hatsune Miku 2nd F at TGS

Given the failure of the first game to appear in the west on the Vita, not much hope of us seeing this one except by import. However, if you're still tickled by the vocaloid croonings of Hatsune Miku and her friends, Sega will keep churning out the videos to entertain those of us who can't actually play the game.

Sony confirms Gaikai streaming PS3 games to Vita in 2014

America might be the place to be for the ultimate PlayStation experience in 2014. That's the only confirmed location for Gaikai streaming PS3 games to PS4, Vita and Vita TV, so far. The news comes from Sony's Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp on Twitter) talking at Tokyo Games Show.

The service will start with a limited number of games and build up from there, which sounds pretty odd considering Gaikai was a fully up-and-running service before Sony acquired it. However, as long as we eventually get a decent library of PS one, PS2 and PS3 games to play wherever, whenever, with cloud saves, I could probably die a happy gamer.

I do suspect the service will require an additional subscription beyond PS+, or there will be a super-bundle of Sony's Plus, Music, Video and Streaming services, which would be kind of cool, but I'm guessing rather expensive, especially with the constant broadband use on top. No word on Europe, but I've shot down Sony's bullshit on this before, there is no excuse for a big delay.

Video from the Tokyo Games Show floor, so we don't have to go

Sure, it'd be exciting and all, but that's a long way to go to peer at some screens. So, here's a good look at all the Sony Vita stuff being shown at TGS on Sony's stand without the airfare. There's the new models in all their coloured glory and the Vita TV in action, which lots of tech sites are reporting good things about, can't wait. Links to all the games at the show here.

Full trailer for the new Team Gravity Rush project

Sometimes pretty pictures, just won't cut it. Here's the proper Team Gravity trailer out of Japan Studio that kicks into life promising that gamers will "Fall again" with a brief burst of Kat in action. Looks good and based on that level of detail I'm guessing its not a PS4 title, although I'm pretty sure the series will head that way eventually. Links to all the games at the show here.

Madoka Magica Battle Pentagram unveiled at TGS

I have next to no idea about this one, beyond it being a popular series in Japan, but there's an official site and the local press are getting a little bit excited about it. Magica was first revealed last week in Famitsu and is launching on December 19. The trailer only kicks in around the 1:20 mark and from then on it looks like a very low-rent battle game. Any reason for anyone to get excited? Links to all the games at the show here.

Soul Sacrifice Delta angles in for a TGS trailer

Keiji Inafune's monster update of the original Soul Sacrifice gets a much improved trailer over the pre-show announcement, showing off the new realms of Avalon, Grim and Sanctuary plus some of new beasties. As with Gravity Rush 2, Sony needs to build on the kudos that its Vita-original games have built and start wrangling more out of the system and attracting more players, no easy task, but they have the solid core gameplay to build on. Links to all the games at the show here.

Phantasy Star Nova gets a Tokyo Games Show trailer

After a sneak peek 30-second job at Sony's pre-TGS event here's Sega's full trailer for the upcoming single-player focused, with multiplayer added-in, Phantasy Star title. With some of the prototype art and developer story told (in Japanese) it gives more of a look at the craft of the game, so we await some decent in-game action.

Another TGS, another Final Fantasy X HD trailer

In a case of just release the damn game already, for the third year in a row Square uses Tokyo Game Show to rub yet another lovely looking Final Fantasy X HD remake trailer in our faces. With a release date of this winter, we have to hope its the last time we see an FFXHD trailer at any game or trade show.

Gravity Rush 2 teased at TGS for the Vita

In one of the less surprising moves from Tokyo Game Show, Sony has apparently taken the wraps off Gravity Rush 2 (or Gravity Daze 2 as its known over there) via a teaser trailer of stills to highlight a new project by the GR team. The further adventures of Kat will bring our flying, sliding and generally ballsy heroine back into action, with hopefully a much updated engine and a new world to explore from top to bottom.

Not much info other than a teaser pic or two doing the rounds. Famitsu has more pics. and I've added a video below. Of course, any sequel could easily be for the PlayStation 4, but its likely there will be a Vita version too. UPDATE: see the proper version of trailer here.

Monster Hunter finally coming to the Vita, in Frontier G form

In what amounts to something of a sick joke, the week after Monster Hunter 4 storms the 3DS, Capcom finally waves some Monster Hunter at the Vita, in the form of the six-year old Frontier PC online game. Admittedly, the "G" tag comes from a recent upgrade for the PS3 version, but its still an olde game, also available on Wii U.

However, A) its Monster Hunter, B) Phantasy Star Online didn't do too bad and C) The Vita will take what it can get. The game is already pride of place on the front of Sony Japan's PSN site, but you have to wonder if its age will count against it when it hits the Vita, even if there are still many rabid hunting fans out there.

The subscription-based game may well be going free to play if it wants to match the success of PSO2 and Capcom has put up a site with some pretty screens to suggest it doesn't look all that bad, and here's a TGS trailer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monster Hunter sends the Vita into hiding in Japan

Somewhere in Sony's Japan offices is a man who's job was to manage third-parties. His mission was to keep Capcom happy and working on the PSP and Vita. I have no idea what he's doing now, but in Japan I suspect it involves a broom and "where the sun don't shine." While any fool can have predicted MH domination, the numbers aren't as high as the PSP launch of HM3, but it sold an extra 200,000 3DS handhelds over last week.

In light of that, and the new Vita 2000 models coming out shortly, Vita sales are unsurprisingly down to just 6,000, its lowest of the year, and only 500 more than the PSP. But things should pick up soon as the Vita lives on with some well-rated decent new releases in the pipe.

01./00. [3DS] Monster Hunter 4 # (Capcom) - 1.715.060 / NEW
02./00. [PS3] AKB1/149: Love Election # (Bandai Namco Games)  - 27.052 / NEW
03./00. [PSP] Brothers Conflict: Brilliant Blue # (Idea Factory)  - 15.297 / NEW 

13./08. [PSV] Killzone: Mercenary (Sony)  - 4.304 / 15.356 (-61%)

15./11. [PSV] Ragnarok Odyssey Ace (GungHo Online) - 3.969 / 44.975 (-58%)

Sony focuses on Asia for Vita growth at pre-TGS event

Ahead of the main Tokyo Games Show press event, Sony has just held an Asia-focused media briefing to highlight its moves across the wider region. The new hardware and games were pretty much what was seen at Sony's recent event, with the Vita 2000 arriving across Asia in November and Vita TV in January 2014.

Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and Asia president Hiroyuki Oda said that the Vita will lead Sony's march across Japan and Asia with improved performance (in Japan) and advertising, with those efforts handled by a new Singapore office.

All the big games including Gundam Breaker, God Eater 2, and Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD with their hardware bundles, plus Toukiden, Dragon’s Crown and Akiba's Trip 2 will appear in Chinese and other Asian markets from October. Now that China has relaxed its console rules, expect Sony to make big strides in the country.

Perhaps the surprise news was that PS4 will release across some parts of Asia well before Japan, arriving in December in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea. That suggests either Sony has plenty of factory capacity to roll out its new toys, or supply is going to be very tight come our Christmas.

Arc System Works lines up its TGS Vita download titles

While hard at work on its bread and butter BlazBlue series, Arc has been dabbling on the sidelines with some new Vita download games for PSN that are taking their bow at Tokyo Games Show. Pretty sure mech-blaster Damascus Gear will get a name change if it comes west, but the other two seem pretty innocuous and fun. Sega has already shown Tetris/Puyo Puyo but we're really waiting for any big new game news to come out of Tokyo (list of what's announced so far).

Damascus Gear

Fantasy Hero

Magical Beat (started out as an arcade game)

Life Beyond Monster Hunter, more good scoring Vita games hitting Japan

If you ignore the sales mayhem (1.8 million copies of MH4 and 300,000 3DS sales) about to be unleashed on the Media Create charts, good stuff is still rolling out of the Vita and PSP, its just a question of will anyone notice. Famitsu has a bunch of reviews this week and all decent performances across the handhelds and PS3, plus the usual bunch of Otome fodder.

Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (PS3/PSV) – 9/9/9/8
The Legend of Heroes: Sen no Kiseki (PS3/PSV) – 9/8/9/8
Meiji Tokyo Renka (PSP) – 8/8/8/7
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 12 with Power Up Kit (Wii U/PS3/PSV) – 8/7/8/7
Rui Ha Tomo Wo Yobu (PS3/PSV) – 8/8/7/6
Kosyoku Meikyu Rinbukyoku: La Role de fortune (PSV) – 8/8/7/6
Hyakumonogatari Kaidan Romance (PSP) – 8/7/7/6

Sega Buys Atlus, could be good, could be bad for the Vita

Sega has confirmed that it has acquired Atlus (via its parent company Index Corporation) for around $140 million. The Persona 4 Golden and Dragon's Crown developer has been running fine, but its parent was in all sorts of trouble, so this at least means Atlus' developers have a good home to go to. However, given Sega's shrinking global presence, not sure what will happen to the good folk at Atlus USA either.

However, while Sega has been a good friend to the Vita in Japan, its western output seems to be shrinking rapidly and there are imminent fears that any future games Atlus were working on for the Vita now won't head our way. Atlus had announced Persona 5 will be on show at TGS but we have no idea on what formats. That and Sega's focus increasingly on mobile titles leaves an uneasy feeling that whatever Atlus had in mind, might not reach fruition.

Lone Survivor blinks at the Vita's bright screen next week

The classically-styled but thoroughly modern survival adventure Lone Survivor will creep out from under the debris next week for EU Vita owners, bringing another essential indie hit to the handheld. It won't just be a mere port either, offering a host of new features and content.

Available as a Sony exclusive ‘Director’s Cut’ edition, from Curve Studios and Curve Digital. The North, the game focuses as much on insanity, loneliness and isolation as it does on external enemies. Directly influenced by classic survival horror and psychological thrillers like Silent Hill and Twin Peaks, Lone Survivor offers players many different ways to approach situations they encounter in the game. Avoid combat, or tackle your foes head on. Seek out companions or escape alone. Maintain your own sanity or risk falling into madness – Lone Survivor is a game that’s all about choice.

Byrne commented, “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to release one of my games on a console, and it’s been amazing to watch it coming together in the last few months. Lone Survivor on the PlayStation has gone from a simple port to nearly a completely new game that I’m very proud of.”

Along with a completely new lighting system designed to improve the games distinctive style both on HD televisions and the vibrant Vita screen, The Director’s Cut edition also features hundreds of tweaks and changes to the original game including new dialogue, over twenty new items, brand new endings, trophies and secrets. The console release also marks the first time Lone Survivor has been available in other languages, with fully localised German and French text.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Killzone Mercenary to lead the way in a six-month Vita TV campaign

In this week's MCV trade mag, Sony says that KZM will be used as the "hero" title for a six-month campaign across TV, online and print publications. That could translate into not much actual TV coverage, especially given its 18-rating, but it'll be good to see the Vita fighting alongside GTA V and other big games this Christmas.

With Tearaway likely to be used to promote the family-friendly aspects of the Vita, its up to Sony to really get a move on as it has no FIFA, Need for Speed, Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed bundles to help it out with spreading the word. To back that up, are a scary couple of stats from MCV. The Vita was worth 1.4% of the UK market by units and just 1.2% by retail value (excluding PSN) in August. I've still not actually seen GAME's Killzone Bundle in the flesh - is this real?

That should perk up thanks to Killzone's arrival in the chart, along with Rayman Legends but its a pretty pathetic tale. Interestingly, Sega has published some of its own digital sales data, to try and get the market to take notice of the "real chart" where its own Total War Rome II would have been No. 1 if they were including. Hopefully, other players will do the right thing.

A video comparison of the OLED and LCD Vita screens

Another day, another Japanese store, another look at the two screens in action, after the fuss of the original photo. Besides the innate colour and brightness of the OLED its pretty hard to spot any differences, although when the camera pans left and right a couple of minutes in, it looks like the view angle is a little narrower on the LCD display, but that's kind of what you'd expect (and who plays Vita looking in from the side).

One thing I would like to know is, are the speakers any better? Smartphones have got a lot better in the audio department, and it'd be a serious benefit to play games without being camped in my headphones. Unfortunately in this loud store, we won't be finding any answers.

Monster Hunter 4's dragons roost on top of the Japanese chart, here's what Sony could have won!

If it hadn't let Capcom sidle up next to Nintendo, Sony could be enjoying the biggest title of the year right now (just some of the massive queues, handily ahead of the typhoon now hitting Tokyo). The biggest hit in Japan was always going to be for the new Monster Hunter and Sony somehow let it slide off the PSP into uncharted territory. Despite Capcom's one-time promise of platform neutrality, and the rather weedy-looking Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the 3DS, here it is selling many millions in just a day or two. Expect the full chart on Wednesday to reveal just how insane 3DS and MH4 sales will be.

On the plus side, Vita owners do have God Eater 2, Freedom Wars and a revamped Soul Sacrifice to look forward to, but nothing sweeps Japan quite like a bit of Monster Hunter.
  1. Monster Hunter 4 – 3DS
  2. AKB1/149 Renai Sosenkyo (limited edition) - PS3
  3. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle – PS3
  4. Splinter Cell: Blacklist – PS3
  5. AKB1/149 Renai Sosenkyo - PS3
  6. Brothers Conflict: Brilliant Blue – PSP
  7. Disney Magic Castle: My Happy Life – 3DS
  8. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team – 3DS
  9. Killzone: Mercenary – PS Vita
  10. Puppeteer – PS3
  11. Ragnarok Odyssey Ace – PS Vita
In the UK chart, Killzone slides down to No. 15 in the all-formats chart but continues to dominate the Vita chart. Rayman Legends I guess most people brought on the big screen FIFA 13 is nearly a year old which means it is just about to be replaced by the equally lazy FIFA 14 update.
  5. FIFA 13 EA SPORTS 4 51

Friday, September 13, 2013

Who and what's doing the killing in Killzone Mercenary

So, one guy has logged 10 days play on Killzone Mercenary, a game that's been out a week! That's what I noticed when looking at the stats after a quick break in my multiplayer struggles today. Probably a reviewer, but he's still been online while we've been sleeping, eating and going to the loo. You can check out lots of other stats too over on the Blackjack site, as this PSN blog post has pointed out (also host to this neat vid since we're too busy shooting).

That post lists the favourite methods of dispatch and a few other nuggets, I love the heat maps on the Blackjack page that show where most of the action is! I'm spending most of my time in Guerrilla Warfare which is a more pure MP experience for me, which is your favourite battle type and level to hunt in?

$220,000 for a Taxi Journey? Another Kickstarter could make a cool Vita game

Taxi Journey is the latest Kickstarter game to add a Vita version as a stretch goal, at the $220K mark. It is already 5% funded on its first day and sounds like a distinctive and endearing game. Developed in France by Lexis, it is described as a puzzle adventure game and the team has some 20 years experience developing adventure and mystery titles.

Give it a go, if you have some spare beans, but you know I think most of us are still waiting for a proper remake of Captain Blood.

Note, an English version of this video is on the Kickstarter page.

Atelier Rorona gets a graphics update comparison video

Two trailers in two days marks the progress in the latest Gust RPG to hit the Vita. Remakes and remixes are increasingly in vogue, here's Gust's Atelier Rorona revamp, Alchemist of Arland, for the Vita showing off the new, slightly larger and more expressive visuals compared to the original. As usual, no word of a western version yet, but the Ateliers do eventually make it our way. Expect to see more of the game in action at Tokyo Games Show, check out the official site here. The second video seems to be the girls having a chat, wow!

Sega's Project 575 gets a sing-song trailer

Sega's obsession with music and singing continues on the Vita with Project 575 (looks like they've stuck with that for the final title, based on the haiku), which will also hit iOS devices. This new trailer shows off some the usual anime girls breaking into song and dance at the drop of a hat. Players keep tapping with the rhythm and have to insert the right word in the lyrics. Looks pretty fun and simple.

Don't be silly, PlayStation Vita TV is coming west

Twitter is still full of idiots moaning that Vita TV (pretty pics here) is Japan only. Some quick evidence to refute this. First, why on earth would Sony EU and US entice us lot of heathens to watch a Japanese specific event if the content (or some of it) wasn't meant for our consumption?

Now the PS4 Japan date was clearly for them only, some of the games shown off will never appear out of Japan. But the new Vita hardware is clearly something we'd be interested in, and the only logical reason western branches of Sony would clue the general user into this event.

Second: Yoshida-San is telling all those who will listen on Twitter that the Vita TV is not for Japan only. Comments from Sony's boss Andrew House have been reported in the press as saying something like it is: "Launching only in Japan for now" which isn't the same thing as never coming west.
Finally, the Vita TV sparked huge interest across the web, and raced to the top of Amazon Japan's wanted list behind the PS4. What damn fool company wouldn't follow that interest up with a wider release? So, at some point, we are getting Vita TV and the new 2000 model.

However, it would only make sense to release them over here when a big-name game is launching. That, with Sony's current paper-thin line-up, is a big sticking point, but we know some big games are in development. What those games are? And their release dates are a mystery, but feel free to speculate.

However, my guess would be 22 February 2014 or about that time, which is two years after the original Vita's launch date and also a good time for the first post-Christmas big releases. Feel free to argue in the comments, but it all makes sense, and all falls neatly into place once that big game (or games) have been announced.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Yakuza character art restored from the Ishin era

Sega is hard at work on Yakuza Ishin, or Restoration, and the art department is ahead of the game with plenty of great character pieces, which you can find on the game site's Cast Page. Packed with detail and brooding emotion, lets hope all that effort makes it into the game engine. The game, that takes us back to the Japanese mafia roots, is coming for PS4 and PS3 but should hit the Vita via remote play.

The trailer is pretty impressive too.

Tetris Puyo Puyo flipping out on the Vita

Sega has a clutch of new Vita games in the works, with lots of singing and dancing going on. Giving a little variety is Tetris Puyo Puyo, where both games are played at the same time, as if gaming wasn't confusing enough. In multiplayer, the two players switch games from time to time, give a competitive/collaborative feel to this odd experience.

It certainly looks polished enough and will arrive in 2014, surely a western version of this isn't too much to ask? It'll help bolster Lumines and Montezuma as the puzzle games of choice on the Vita. This is also coming out for all Nintendo consoles, so nice one Sega for thinking of the V!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sony Japan pushing some feudal anime to the Vita

Really struggling with the translation which is "Beyond My Death" or similar (UPDATE: Actually, Over My Dead Body 2, which makes more sense), or recognising the original game. But its from Japan Studio, and the sequel to a 1999 PS title which features young warriors fighting goblin type creatures. But the over-arching theme seems to be death, birth and dynasty. Anyone recognise the style? Shoji Masuda is mentioned, which might relate to this piece from a couple of years back.

PSP game tops the Japanese chart, Vita slide to end rather soon I guess

Killzone Mercenary managed to sell 11,000 physical copies to Japanese gamers, getting to No 8 in their chart, matching its UK performance. Not bad for a western FPS game in a country that doesn't really go mental for them. No. 1 went to a cute PSP music game while Ragnarok Ace managed to shift another 9,000+ copies to hang on the coattails of the top 10.

Vita sales are down another 1,000 to 7,400 and the really bad old numbers, but with this week's hardware news, I suspect things will be rather different come October 10, even earlier if gamers are worried about the OLED model becoming scarce. Wonder if Media Create will add the old and new Vita plus the Vita TV sales together? Also, will those sales last or plummet as happened with the original Vita?

01./00. [PSP] Uta no Prince-Sama: Music 2 # (Broccoli) - 68.415 / NEW
02./00. [PS3] Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Ubisoft) - 22.425 / NEW
03./01. [PS3] JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle # (Bandai Namco)  - 19.720 / 445.437 (-95%)
04./00. [PS3] Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate # (Koei Tecmo)  - 18.608 / NEW
05./02. [PS3] Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Real Reborn # (Square Enix) - 12.336 / 196.354 (-93%)
06./07. [3DS] Friend Collection: New Life # (Nintendo)  - 11.814 / 1.420.996 (-18%)
07./06. [3DS] Mario & Luigi: Dream Team # (Nintendo) - 11.466 / 293.166 (-31%)
08./00. [PSV] Killzone: Mercenary (Sony Computer Entertainment)  - 11.053 / NEW
09./05. [3DS] Disney Magic Castle: My Happy Life # (Bandai Namco)  - 10.740 / 255.309 (-37%)
10./09. [3DS] Youkai Watch (Level 5)  - 9.539 / 164.230 (-12%)
11./03. [PSV] Ragnarok Odyssey Ace (GungHo Online) - 9.383 / 41.005 (-70%)

Check out the old Vita OLED screen versus the new LCD model

Okay, this isn't a scientific test but someone took a shot of the old and new Vita side by side in a Japanese store and you can clearly see the extra brightness, vibrant colour and zing of the OLED over the LCD. Other than that though there doesn't seem to be a massive amount of detail difference, although seeing two games moving might show up some infinitesimal motion differences.

I think the new Vita will get happily snapped up by new Japanese buyers without a care for such things. But us first-gen owners know better, and in multi-Vita households, the guest, younger or non-main player will likely always be handed the LCD version for party gaming. Outside Japan, Sony aren't saying, but I guess they'll wait until there's a big name game to sell it with, probably in February next year. What that will be? few know.

Me I'll keep my OLED for as long as she runs, but if you have the funds, a back-up original might be a wise investment before they're swamped by LCD replacements. Anyone thinking of stocking up on OLED models, or does lighter and better battery outweigh the screen?

Sony's Andrew House has described the move to LCD as: "The main reason is that the LCD panel can now realize an image as high quality as that of the OLED panel, and makes it easier to slim down the PS Vita."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Star Wars: Balance of the Force heads to Zen Pinball

Zen Studios continues to craft tables for its PS3 and Vita pinball simulator, with another trio of chrome and mini-missions coming our way soon. A Return of the Jedi table, one based on the legend that is Darth Vader and one of the fleet ships in the series will all arrive soon. Check out this PSN blog for more details.

Oddball game Pavilion to light up the Vita and PS4

File under "what the heck do we do here..." as another Indie game gets ready to sweep on to the Vita and PS4. Described as a "fourth-person exploratory experience," players must offer guidance, influence and subliminal control to the characters, while manipulating the environment, which sounds like a highly stylised puzzle game to me.

With an ambient soundtrack and lush painted graphics, it could be amazing or just one of those odd, not-quite games that pop up from time to time. The game is due out early next year and will get its first full showing at TGS.

New Vita hardware raises the platform's profile massively

Say what you like about Sony's performance and current Vita sales, the announcement of new hardware has given the whole Vita ecosystem a bit of kick start. Getting the ball rolling, PS Vita TV was trending around the world on Twitter yesterday, and now the topic is only below today's iPhone launch on Google's news.

While this doesn't guarantee any great sales in future, the boost to the brand, consumer knowledge and general awareness cannot really be underestimated. Especially as this was a Japanese event, with a western unveiling likely to come later. The news could also change the opinions of tech news sites who haven't really noticed the Vita since its post-launch struggles which will also help boost its visibility among the mobile-obsessed.

I'll maintain that the Vita will likely never sell like the PSP or Nintendo's handhelds, but it is carving out its own niche in the world, helped by the indie surge and is far from doomed as the endless troll parrots keep saying. When these new devices arrive, it could easily move from "struggling" to "doing okay."

Even reasonable sales should attract more development, particularly from mobile devs seeing massive piracy on Android and a swampy glut of games on iOS. There's also still the promise of some big name games to come. If the timing is right and new hardware and a AAA title coincide, the Vita could be on for quite a ride.

Assassin's Creed Liberation HD lifts the fog from the Vita version

While its not that large, this first pic of AC Liberation in HD shows the extra colour, added detail and view range afforded by a full power console, compared to the more modestly specified Vita. Aveline's story didn't get the greatest of receptions, but the adventure was a solid one, even if the engine wasn't fantastic. At least now, all PS gamers can enjoy her exploits and Ubisoft will reap more revenue from the effort, hopefully leading to another Vita adventure, with an evolved engine.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero kicking off on the Vita

Somewhere between Rayman and the classic 16-bit platformers likes Shantae, a genie with attitude kicking her stuff over on Kickstarter. Already half-funded with weeks to go, it can also claim to be the first game sporting a Vita TV logo. The game comes from long-time developers WayForward who are branching out from contract development to do their own thing.

Check out the packing and content of PlayStation Vita TV

Amazon Japan has already got the PS Vita TV device up on its pages, ready for the November release date. Check out the launch video here, and the content of the Value Pack with an 8GB memory card, and sitting next to the DualShock gives us a good idea of the dinky size of this little pocket rocket.

New Vita models, pretty colours on the rear only

Only just noticed in these press shots (borrowed off Famitsu if you want a look at the other options), that the new range of colours for the new Vita models are only applied to the rear of the case, the fronts are only available in black or white. Still pretty tasty looking, and to be fair who wants to be staring at a neon-yellow surround all day? Of course, if you don't like them, there are the Limited Edition game versions to tempt you.

Phantasy Star Nova gets a TGS trailer

No gameplay in sight, except for a tiny possible snippet in the last few seconds, but here's a trailer for the Tri-ace developed, single-player focused Phantasy Star title to be published by Sega. Hopefully see some proper gameplay at the show, among inevitable requests for a western release.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Killzone Mercenary could go top five in Japan

Having hit the No. 8 spot in the UK all-formats chart, Killzone Mercenary could go a few better in Japan, appearing at No. 5 in Tsutaya's early sales charts. Sure that's based on limited information, but their figures a few weeks ago weren' too far off. Ragnarok Ace keeps going in the top 10, which is now a Sony haven. We'll find out the true picture with Media Create's chart on Wednesday, but KZM is rapidly looking like the Vita's biggest hit to date.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle – PS3
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – PS3
Splinter Cell: Blacklist – PS3
Uta no Prince Sama: MUSIC 2 – PSP
Killzone: Mercenary - PS Vita
Ragnarok Odyssey Ace – PS Vita

Thoughts on today's dose of Vita, Vita, Vita

In Japan, at least, the Vita is most definitely about to go nuts. The new Lite 2000 version, and all those bundles, will shift lots of units and developers will adjust to meet the new and wider demand. Sure, lots of titles will be family-friendly or Japan-centric fluff, but enough will have global appeal for us to notice the difference. Then, the Vita TV hits Japan and those not too keen on their portable gaming will flock to a console the size of a waffle to enjoy the Vita's monster hunting or "collaboration battle games" as Keiji Inafune calls them.

Of course, the new units and the Vita TV box have to appear over here, and then sell to a less-caring consumer. But even a modest boost, helped along by the indie wave, should create some additional momentum beyond the recent price cut and the arrival of Killzone and Tearaway. Even a few third-party games will help that along in 2014.

Sure Vita will be a mere cousin to the PS4's likely success in the west, but at least being in the same family will help it shine. And these new updates and additional devices will make it increasingly hard to ignore. Of course, the Vita TV will need an EU Netflix app and common services like BBC iPlayer and 4onDemand to win any plaudits as a TV device over here.

Ultimately, the Vita is unlikely to ever sell as well as the PSP, but that's a machine from a different era. The Vita exists in a world where your toaster or grandad's pacemaker probably has a range of games. But the handheld's growing line-up and wider range of hardware should see Sony's (probably last) portable project succeed before something more immersive takes its place.

Sony shows off a day with all things PlayStation

To encapsulate all the news out of Sony Japan today, there's a new video doing the rounds showing off the new world of PlayStation including the new hardware, and the links between the Vita and its bigger brother consoles. All things considered, it looks like PlayStation is the world to live in, and I'm pretty happy not upgrading my Xbox to the X1's freaky TV-as-we-say-it-is focus (I like NFL on-and-off, but not as Microsoft tells me to like it and my (now expired) Xbox Gold looks way weaker compared to PS+).

Check out the upcoming limited edition Vita models

Those new Vita models won't just sell themselves, no matter what pretty colours they come in. So, Sony and partners are giving them a hand with some Limited Edition game bundles. Final Fantasy X, God Eater 2 and Gundam Breaker get the back panel treatment, not sure about the Gundam one personally (perhaps that's a placeholder), but there you go.

Sony details Vita TV compatible games

The one problem with Sony's new Vita-TV-toy console is that without the touchscreens, quite a few games just won't work. Sony Japan has put up a list of compatible titles, but expect more to appear. A list of non-functioning games would surely be better, with Tearaway likely to be among the big losers. Killzone has made the sensible move of its touchscreen moves being optional, so I look forward to christening my import version with that title!

UPDATE: It has been confirmed that some touchscreen features can be activated by using the thumbsticks (pushing and moving a cursor) but its uncertain exactly what level of interaction is permitted, and some games will still not work as touch and movement are simultaneous inputs. Also, the FAQ says "releasing Japan first" which suggests a global release.

If micro consoles like Ouya and other Android devices, plus any expansion of Apple TV into a direct gaming platform (and not streaming off the iPad) then Sony has got them covered. I do wonder if the device will eventually be made DualShock 4 compatible, where it's dinky touchscreen could take over some of the features, making more games compatible. But I doubt it.

Kadokawa asserts its Natural Doctrine

The news keeps on rolling out of Japan today with Kadokawa putting up another Vita/PS3/PS4 title in the quirky category. Offering role-playing, combat and character development, it seems to focus on the tenets of natural selection to guide your choices (i.e., don't bring a Hobbit to an Orc fight). Certainly looks interesting and if it plays across all three formats, there should be a sizeable competitive multiplayer base.

Kagero: Darkside Princess coming to the Vita from Koei

Buried in the slides at Sony's events were some games announced by Tecmo Koei that will be shown off more at TGS. Leading the way is the all new Kagero ("Deception") Darkside Princess (also on PS3), along with Samurai Warriors 4 and Dynasty Warriors 7 (official site), on Vita, PS4 or PS3. Deception

Deception was a series of PS1 and PS2 games featuring tricks and traps, and should be a welcome revival for gamers with improvements in multiplayer likely at the forefront of this version.

Review: Thoughts on Killzone Mercenary

Okay, this is more a thoughts and feelings piece than a definitive review (many of those are already out there). So, to start with, I'd give Killzone Mercenary a very solid 8/10 if I was reviewing it for a magazine/site without hesitation. I'd also vote for it in any technical achievement category in the end-of-year games awards, as doing this on the Vita is a fricking marvel.

Why only 8/10 and not higher? Because I'm looking at the game, not the tech, and whatever comes next will undoubtedly be better, in many ways. If Sony farm out this engine to other teams, new developers will add more interactivity, plot, deeper degrees of exploration and refined character advancement features, raising the gameplay elements to new levels. Basically, someone could happily do SkyRim or Fallout or a decent CoD on the Vita. But for now we have:
  • A solid first person shooter with a fun, if rather fishy, plot. 
  • Brilliantly detailed world, where its a shame you can't explore more of it.
  • Awesome multiplayer for a portable.
  • True this-gen visuals on the go.
  • Reasonable depth and replayability (this is not a five hour game!).
  • A spirit guide to the future of Vita gaming

Where the game knocks you out is in the massive vistas, looking down from the top of a skyscaper, to a war raging over a city. Then charging a complex, with some pretty big indoor arenas, full of grunts and figuring out the most effective path to take them down. Rinse and repeat that and you have the core single player game. But watch for the details, the massive ships hovering in just the right place so you can see them out the shattered glass of the Courts building, the detail on the display screens in the same place (disabled access sign and all). KZM continues to impress, Helghast troops, while limited in variety, roll, fire from cover and die gruesomely at the end of your blade. Then they do something really dumb like not shooting your buddy in plain view, while your sneak around the side. Secrets are modestly hidden in corners and once you learn a level and stop looking at your feet, the combat flows fluidly.

There's also lots of nice changes of pace, especially when you bat for the other team, with a hellish assault and then some nice anti-sniper play. The game isn't long enough to have many of these but they are definitely welcome and well-choreographed, without being too restrictive or scripted. 

Where the (any?) game could be better is that unless you have stacks of funds from previous play, you're pretty much stuck with the weapons you have, bar some slow grinding, and while its hard to run out of credits (and bullets), the lure of ghost mode and stealth weapons is often more of a pipe dream. I'd rather have had three pre-loaded character types you can select for a level and play them different ways off the bat. In reality, you slug it out on the first playthrough, wondering what the possibilities of BlackJack's gear are, instead of enjoying them when you want to (surely the core of a portable game). You might disagree, but I'd prefer more pick-up-and-play-ness to this than the slightly stilted weapons progression on offer. 

While I'll happily play it again and again, I can see where the "reviewers" who did their write-up based on one play through are missing out. Carrying on, multiplayer, despite the big day-one patch, is still a work in progress. A delightful creation nonetheless, but it feels like more stability and tweaks are incoming in future patches. But for now, just get out there and enjoy the simple mechanics and endless shooting for what it is (assuming the connection or servers aren't glitching). 

Killzone packs in the spectacle for a Vita game with grand views, modest battles against tanks, hulks and other higher ranks, and an urgent tactical need to refine your skills and pick up new kit. The use of trophies extends the play nicely, going back to challenge a mission in a slightly different way, without throwing insane odds at you. It looks stunning and I can't wait to see what the rest of the game has to offer, so byeee!

UPDATE: Free DLC multiplayer maps and a low-cost Botzone mode add even more value to Killzone, MP lives on to this day (well into 2017) as a thriving community. If you see Killzone cheap and are new to the Vita, it may be a three year old game but is still one of the design pinnacles for the handheld.

Note that  Guerrilla has also kept the game website live with the latest stats, kills and credits being counted to this day. You can even watch map-view replays of battles to see where the experts set their traps and rack up the big kills.

Price: £21 (Amazon UK) / £14.99 (PSN)
Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge
Score: 8/10
Progress: Completed solo game, loving MP
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