Friday, April 29, 2016

Results season from Japan shows up some fun figures

So, the PS4 sold 40 million, big whoop! Sony's number fest now focuses solely on the big boy console, with the Vita barely mentioned. However, PSN sales are now growing fast and I'd like to think the Vita is chipping in, given the higher cost of most PSN games and the usual small premium, even on modest indie titles.

Follow ZhugeEX on Twitter for all the graphs and details, but out of Tecmo's recent news comes some decent Asian sales figures, across all versions.
With two of those coming west, those numbers should rise pretty smartly later in the year. I wonder how many DoA sales were from frustrated importers? Will update as more numbers come in from the various publishers. 

Compile Heart's 2016 roster featuring Mary Skelter

Mary Skelter is the Vita star of Compile Heart's 2016 line up (around the 1:30 mark) with a sneaky look at the new Neptunia game, Cyber Dimension Online, which doesn't have a platform attached to it, right at the end.

Here's a slightly longer teaser for Mary Skelter, although it still doesn't give much away.

More Otomate fun from Idea Factory

As ever, I have no idea what's going on in these trailers, but Idea Factory continues to role out the Otome titles for the Japanese market. Will they ever come west, who knows? Collar x Malice certainly has high production values in this more actiony-than-usual trailer, and a hefty dose of English!

Not so sure about 7 Scarlet, which definitely has a more run of the mill look to it. Given I rather enjoyed a couple of play throughs of Amnesia Memories, I think that western Vita owners could do with a little more otome in our lives.

The latest on some long lost Kickstarter Vita games

I've been diving into the depths of Kickstarter list and seeing what's happening on some of the projects I fancied or backed over the years.

First up, Game Atelier, who canned their KS project when they got backing, said earlier this month of a potential Vita version of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom...
About platforms: We hear you loud and clear! There's PS Vita, WiiU and even more. We totally agree that these platforms need to get Monster Boy, too! However, it's impossible for us to work on all ports at the same time. Also, the game needs to sell well enough so we're able to finance the porting work as it can be very time consuming. Since we don't have any guarantee for success, we just can't announce additional platforms at the moment.

As if often the way, many projects are focusing on PC first. My much anticipated copy of SWDTech's Pixel Noir will have to wait awhile as the team is at:
Development on Pixel Noir is going smoothly! As of today, we're 40+% through our project plan for development of our initial, alpha systems.
Soul Saga is also storming ahead on the PC Steam version, but it looks like console owners will be waiting a while for our turn to play:
Soul Saga's development is cruising along and I'm crunching in as many humanly feasible hours as possible to get you the best game I can this year!

Cosmic Star Heroine is just about to hit PC beta, but still sounds very rough,  so still seems like there's some way to go before that ever lands on the Vita.

All is quiet on the MechRunner front with not much in the way of updates or social media comments from the arcade shooter team. We heard in January the PS Vita version was getting closer, so hopefully some news will drop soon. 

Being a bit more proactive is Alfonso Martin whose gorgeous Heart Forth, Alicia continues to astound. Check out his weekly livestreams of progress! 

As ever, let us know of any progress on Kickstarter or other crowdfunded games you're following. 

New Sword Art Online Hollow Realization trailer

Bandai has dropped a new video to show off the huge world of  Sword Art: Origin, teeming with new characters like Strea, Philia and the mysterious NPC Premiere who will stand alongside Kirito and Asuna in their many battles.

During their adventure, players will discover many different landscapes, such as the exciting Valley Map and its aquatic environment. But they will have to be careful, these beautiful landscapes hide terrible monsters among the environment. The game hits the west in Autumn.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Square Enix shows off Vita Dragon Quest Heroes II gameplay

Square continues to push the Vita in Japan, while having all but abandoned it in the west. We still live in hope for some Dragon Quest  Builders fun, but getting DQ Heroes II seems like a long, long, long shot.

Dive into YouTube and you can compare this video with a version running against the PS4, which is naturally smoother and shinier, with more detail, but the Vita version looks pretty tight, running at native res and 30 frames per second. There's a bit of pop-up here and there, but you can see that on the PS4 clip.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sky Force Anniversary confirmed for the Vita

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Infinite Dream's shmup, Sky Force popped back into the Vita collective consciousness when Trophies for the updated version of the 10 year old shooter appeared.

That's been confirmed now with a PSN story and trailer on the superb retro shooter modernized and souped-up. The game will be $9.99 on the US store running at native res and 30fps, out this summer and Cross Buy with PS4 and PS3.

Oswald is the latest Odin Sphere star

Oswald? Not much of a name for a hero is it? However, he definitely has a dark side to him and he's the star of the latest of the Odin Sphere Leifthrasir heroes to get an outing on video. He shows off his feisty short sword play and zippy battle tactics. Not long to wait now until the game arrives in early June.

If you couldn't already tell by his appearance, Oswald isn't quite like the rest of the characters unveiled so far. A born warrior prone to extreme violence and cruelty, but what did you expect from the most powerful soldier in the Ringford army? At first, Oswald serves Melvin, the eventual usurper of the Ringford throne, but a series of events leads him to serve Queen Odette, the ruler of the Netherworld, in exchange for a cure to a mysterious weakness.

Burning Blood boils to the top of the chart in Japan

The PS4 version of One Piece Burning Blood managed to outsell the Vita version by a nearly 3,000 units as Japan gets back to buying games. There were a hefty five new Vita releases to keep Minecraft company, with Bullet Girls 2 and a pair of Otome titles kicking around the chart.

The latest update to Phantasy Star Online 2 sold a rather poor 7,000 physical copies, according to Media Create, helping to build up the game's user base very slowly. The Episode 3 release managed over 25,000 sales.

01./00. [PS4] One Piece: Burning Blood (Bandai Namco) - 35.496
02./00. [PSV] One Piece: Burning Blood (Bandai Namco ) - 32.682
04./00. [PSV] Bullet Girls 2 (D3) - 17.224
11./00. [PSV] Phantasy Star Online 2 Episode 4: Deluxe (Sega) - 7.043
12./00. [PSV] Nil Admirari no Tenbin  (Idea Factory) - 6.987
15./07. [PSV] Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition (Mojang) - 6.254 / 743.558 (-3%)
18./00. [PSV] Kamigami no Asobi InFinite (Broccoli) {2016.04.21} (¥5.800) - 4.828

Despite all that, Vita sales remained flat in Japan, up just a couple of hundred despite the new entries. This week sees Rose and the Old Castle from NIS and Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2016 from Konami landing, which probably won't help to spark hardware sales.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: Severed

Take a dash of Fruit Ninja or Iron Chef, a slice of Dungeon Master, add a whiff of mystery and get Leonid Afremov to choose the colour palette, and we have Severed, possibly the last western Vita exclusive. Thanks to Drinbox for that, who also brought the delightful and equally radiant Guacamelee to the Vita.

A tale of revenge and hacking things up, Severed pitches you as a warrior girl, Sasha, into some light dungeon puzzling and a lot of slashing. The game starts with your home trashed and your family missing. A little searching through some old-school RPG rotate and square-by-square advance mechanics find you exploring the remains of the house and a nearby woods for clues.

Each area has a few secrets in them, often indicated by flash as you pass by, so paying attention is critical. As an old school gamer I'd prefer to find the secrets myself, so I tapped every twig, brick and statue in the place, mostly to no avail - something that Severed could have better utilized.

In the first castle-like levels, puzzles, tricks and traps abound (do take notes) but that all goes out the window when you see a wisp in the distance indicating an enemy. To defeat the denizens of Severed, you need to get your blade out and go chopping via the touch screen. Advance further and you travel through dungeons, the innards of giant worms, and other more depressing locations - all smartly lit with increasingly tough combat along the way.

On the guitar, Slasha!

Your efforts at combat have to be both precise and furious. You might start off slicing crazily away, at a single enemy, but you'll soon learn that chipping away at a weak spot, and then blocking accurately as your enemy tries to strike is the only way to win.

Get things right and you can dispatch them with ease, and cleave off their limbs to collect as ingredients. Get it wrong and your feeble health ticks quickly down. In between battles you can restore energy with fruit found growing on a few trees.

Unlike most RPGs, where the opposition lines up in front of you, as you venture further, these curiously designed freaks will gang up around you. Timers count down to when they attack, so you have to face the right way, at the right time, remember the rules for each hellish creature and flick or slash with efficiency to win the battle. Fortunately, death only takes you a few steps back (and refills your health), allowing you to retry until you master the patterns - if Drinkbox had added a rhythm action section, this could be up for the best genre mash up of the year.

Build your stats, Stat!

To add a little complexity to the game, most beasts if severed correctly will drop limbs or organs that you can use to conjure up some greater powers, or you can slash open large jars around the mazes . There's several skill trees to build up through to improve your defences and attacks through uprated stats and skill percentages. Get a little way into the game and you can transmute these organs into different types to help craft the character more to your liking.

Also, as you beat the bosses, you can pick up greater armour that offers more skills and powers to turn that slip of a girl into a serious warrior. These have their own skill trees, so every big step you take in the game, gives you something new to play with. To make things harder later in, the enemies have their own skills, better defence, faster attack, so you need to reconsider your order of battle. They can also limit your powers, but you can steal theirs later on - which makes the battles a little less fun, and you'll hate retrying the tougher encounters again and again.

That kind of dulls the impact of the game for me, a shame as it was all going so well for the first few maps. So, Severed is a pretty rapid, simple but focused game with fiendishly designed mazes, with the skill coming from your ability to slice and dice as accurately as possible. The maps, tricks and traps all play their part, and the gorgeous colour scheme and soundtrack keep you immersed. In fun terms, it is not up there with Guacamelee, and is seriously hampered in replay terms. I've even avoided showing monsters and key locations in the screens to prevent spoiling them!  

Score 7/10 (8 for the physical LE)
More reviews
Price: £11.99 on PSN (£10.79 for PS+)
Dev: DrinkBox
Progress: Wormfood

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sword Art Online Hollow Realization lands October in Japan

Bandai's latest long version of the SAO: Hollow Realization trailer comes to celebrate the announcement of the game's release in Japan on October 27. The game is also confirmed for a western release, with PS4 and Vita versions getting a stylish special edition, in Japan anyway.

More fun and games with a new Caligula clip

Caligula's first trailer gave us a glimpse at an impressive looking game in the spirit of Persona, given it is led by the guy who wrote the early Persona stories. The second one has more characters, school and town scenes, a few brief battle snippets, mystery people behind TV screens (that old chestnut) and that mostly white costume effect that gives things a slightly ethereal edge.

Nippon Ichi gives us more Claddun

A second gameplay video for Nippon Ichi's Claddun Sengoku shows off a bunch of the editing potential and features within the game, plus some more RPG gameplay toward the end of this second half-hour clip. Last week's showed off much more gameplay, but all this customisation should appeal to tweakers, although not too sure about the character image created for this clip.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS Force invading America

On top of all the God Eater and Sword Art Online news, Bandai has also announced that Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS Force is arriving for the Vita in the States. The release date is 12 July, but there's no word on an EU release.

There are many Japanese videos of the game in action, still waiting for some western clips or pics to appear.

New God Eater 2 Rage Burst screens

These God Eater 2 Rage Burst pics are from the PS4 version in HD, but just squint a bit, since they're based on the Vita (if not the PSP) graphics and things won't look much different on the handheld. Remember buyers get God Eater Resurrection for free!

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization gets customisations

Alongside the God Eater news, Bandai also has news of some new information for Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization. Among the new features announced, players will be able to fully customize their characters and Kirito’s avatar: including their name, gender, weapons and physical appearance (from eye colour to the sound of their voice!)

With their newly customized avatar, players can evolve their character in an original online mode which teams up 4 players with 4 AI characters: where you will explore the world and undertake quests in a party together. This MMORPG-like system will provide a never-before-seen experience in the Sword Art Online universe!

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization hits the Vita and PS4 this Autmn. All this and Bandai still hasn't acquired the Vita hardware from Sony!

The Sun and Moon to orbit the Vita

Digerati has just announced the Ludum Dare winning title, The Sun and Moon, is coming to PS4 and PS Vita as a Cross Buy release, for $9.99 on April 26th (SCEA) and April 27th (SCEE).

The Sun and Moon, the winner of Ludum Dare 29, is a platformer with a unique mechanic: you can dive into the ground. Momentum is conserved but gravity is reversed, letting you fling yourself high into the air or deep beneath the surface. The Sun and Moon, the winner of Ludum Dare 29, is a platformer with a unique mechanic: you can dive into the ground. Momentum is conserved but gravity is reversed, letting you fling yourself high into the air or deep beneath the surface. The goal is always straightforward - collect the three orbs in the level and jump into the wormhole - but spikes, endless drops and impossible heights make this more and more difficult.

God Eater news, buy Rage Burst, get Resurrection free

As PAX East opens up in the States, Bandai is first out with the press releases, confirming God Eater and Sword Art Online news for the Vita. Up first, new information and features for the Action-RPG God Eater titles.

Taking place 3 years after Resurrection, God Eater 2 Rage Burst features a brand-new story where new characters stand alongside former faces. Looks the EU gets a phyiscal release. New screens here.
Players will uncover fighting styles and even bigger challenges to face. More info on the new site. Both games will be available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on 30th August 2016. Best of all buy Rage Burst and get Resurrection free!

When buying GE2 Rage Burst physically, you will find a serial code inside the box. Redeem that on the God Eater site to get a PSN code for a digital copy of Resurrection free. Digital buyers will get both games at once.

Claddun Sengoku gameplay

A bespectacled wizard armed with a cricket bat? How very English, but this game is deeply Japanese and is packed with plenty of characters and character, even from this early gameplay look. Nippon Ichi's Claddun Sengoku has a brilliant site to explore, and the game is out in Japan at the end of May.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Get strategising with the Dynasty Warriors Eiketsuden trailer

The strategy version of Dynasty Warriors Eiketsuden has a first trailer with Tecmo showing off the usual shiny renders and some hints of the board-game like gameplay. Not much more detail than that at this point, but can it drag the series out of its endless repeats and upgrades?

First Toukiden 2 footage to air on Sunday

Check back on Sunday for a live stream, when Tecmo will show off the latest batch of heroic voice acting talent. It will also unveil the first Vita footage from the demo of Toukiden 2 to the world. At least it is on YouTube and not the crappy NicoNico!

Famitsu has the art/renders and photos of the characters and their voice artists.

UPDATE: Okay, so the video was only shown in 360p and its the usual gurning, grinning idiots on presentation duties, but somewhere in the 90-minute show is some Vita footage of the game (around the 1 hour 10 minute mark I'm guessing). Basically impossible to categorically tell how good or bad it is until we get better quality, but slow and chugging were the first two words that came to mind.

Further update: Most fans seem to think the move to open world has killed the Vita version. With an end of June release data, Tecmo has little chance to improve the Vita performance, with feeble draw distance just one concern. What do you think?

Last Wings will wing over the Vita in summer

Last Wings is another Brazilian developed game from Vertice heading to PS4 and Vita later this year. With some old-school online and offline modes it looks like some simple fun, but with a range of modes to add to the action.

  • Score Attack: Winner is the first to kill 20 opponents, but be warned, it's free for all! 
  • Team Attack: Work together to hunt down the enemy team, first to reach 30 kills wins. 
  • Conquest: Attack the enemy base but don't forget to defend yours. Winner is who destroys the enemy base. 
  • Hardcore: Similar to Team Attack, but every player has just one life. Are you strong enough to survive? 
  • Random: The game will choose of of the 4 game modes randomly at the end of each match.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What the hell is going on in YIIK

Strange by name, strange by nature. YIIK is defintely an RPG with a difference as this new trailer shows. Set in the nineties, it offers massed battles, dungeons to explore and lots of peculiar goings on, beyond that, who's to say what over madness likes within. Expect to find out more later this year.

Vita sales tick down as Japan prepares for Golden Week

Twas the week before Golden Week and all across Japan not a mouse was stirring, or buying consoles or video games. Vita hardware sales tick down another 1,000 and there are no new entries, with Minecraft sticking around in the top 10, Skullgirls didn't make the Top 20.

Next week sees the start of Golden Week in Japan, but that hasn't help sales much in recent years. Bullet Girls 2, Phantasy Star Online 2 Episode 4: Deluxe and One Piece Burning Blood are out this week in Japan, which might give the Vita a little nudge. However, few games seem to be able to do much to buck the spring slump.

Last Blade 2 slicing up in May

Good old SNK, no matter what trends there are in gaming, the company, well SNK Playmore which owns the IP, is still churning out its hits. Revealed late last year, Last Blade 2 will arrive swinging away in May, a pixel perfect emulation, it adds online multiplayer plus Cross Play and Cross Save with the PS4 version.

Caligula gameplay looks the business

In an new trailer from Furyu, who gave us Lost Dimension, we get to meet some of the stars of Caligula and check out a few game play snippets. Unsurprisingly, coming from one of the Persona guys, it does all seem remarkably familiar, but with juicy combat and a distinct art style, it looks like another one for the memory card.

Zero Escape character trailer tastes the fear

Spike's Zero Escape is going to be grim, and I can't wait. In fact I feel compelled to redownload Virtue's Last Reward (won't link as most of the videos seem to have vanished over the years) and have another go to tide me over until this hits the west in June, thanks to near simultaneous global release.

In this clip, meet the new unfortunates, who were teased over weeks on Twitter, a team who must do the unthinkable while trying to plot an unlikely escape. UPDATE: Added English version.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Aliens vs Pinball gets an Isolation trailer

Zen brings some more cuddly characters to its pinball roster with new Aliens and Predator tables soon. Featuring some of the icon locations and characters from the series, and some of the killer sound effects that make them so ominous, here's a look at the first of them, admittedly the male voice is going to be as annoying as hell, but the rest of it looks pretty cool.

MilitAnt on the trail to Vita

First hinted at over a year ago, MilitAnt is finally making its way to the Vita this spring. The latest video is nine months old which suggests not much in the way of push from the developer, but check it out and the website for some screens. They haven't updated their tweets either, but a press release describes the game as a fast twitch side scrolling blastacular action platformer.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault gets a new trailer

PQube's spinning-around tower defence game from Acquire is out on Friday and there's a new English trailer to kind of explain what's involved. Will tower defence and city management game styles really gel together, guess we'll find out in a few days.

CyberThreat stalking the Vita in 2017

A third game to add to the Vita's 2017 release list section, CyberThreat is an indie RPG, developed by Conor McKenna. It has a little bit swords and sorcery, a little bit System Shock to it from the very early sneak peek. Find out more about the game via the dev Twitter feed and there's some screens on the new game site.

Danganronpa 3's Monokuma gets a voice change

As is the way of things, Japanese developers continue to tinker with much loved and established figures. So, for Danganronpa 3, the vocal talents for the role of Monokuma will now swap from Oyana Nobuyo to Tarako. I can't see this making much difference to western enjoyment of the game, but I'm sure there will be the usual over-dramatic playing up of the change from people who should, you know, grow up! Now if they got Christopher Walken to do a western dub, that'd be news.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Shovel Knight sold around 50K on Vita

Its very rare we get a sales data point for a Vita game to chew over, but on a post for Gamasutra, developers Yacht Club Games are celebrating reaching over a million sales with some detailed information. Congratulations to the team!

In around a year since Shovel Knight arrived on Vita, it has sold 4% of the 1.2 million copies sold, which is around 48,000. Not bad for a game that was out on Nintendo and PC for some time previously and got physical releases on other formats. That's more than the PS3 version and almost on a par with Xbox One.

UPDATE: Shovel Knight is now onsale on the US PSN for $10 for one week, with a Vita theme due out next week. No sign of a price cut in Europe, yet. UPDATE to the UPDATE: EU price now £7.99

Another unrelated fact, since Shovel Knight arrived on the EU PSN, 95 more games have been released for the Vita, which isn't bad for a niche platform.

With Shovel Knight still growing as the team work through other Kickstarter goals, it'd be good to see the game get a boost with the promised upcoming sale. Shovel Knight has rarely been discounted, so hopefully the team have made a decent return. If you've missed out, then do grab it as the game is a world of peculiar fun!

One Piece Burning Blood Vita gameplay

After naturally focusing on the PS4 version, Bandai has finally come around to showing off the Vita version of One Piece Burning Blood in action. Compared to the PS4 clips, I was expecting to bleat on the usual stuff, like drops in background detail and character quality, but comparing them side by side, apart from the shine and reduced blade effects, not that much seems missing.

Meet Mercedes, the fairy queen of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

Atlus continues to tease with character information for the upcoming Odin Sphere remaster. Mercedes' story is about great strength in the face of hopelessness. As a young fairy princess, the forest kingdom of Ringford is a carefree playground. But in an instant, the death of the great Queen Elfaria, her mother, at the hands of Demon Lord Odin forces Mercedes to assume the responsibilities of the kingdom on the brink.

The newly appointed Fairy Queen must learn her place as a leader by waging war against Ringford's enemies, but then there's the matter of her overly ambitious cousin with his eyes on the throne.

Get your slicing fingers ready for Severed

Drinkbox Studios, the heroes behind the crazy fun Guacamelee are bringing out that rarest of beasts, a western Vita exclusive at the end of the month. For that reason alone it deserves your support, but it looks like such a primal touchscreen game that you'll love it anyway.

As with this week's Risk of Rain, it has a cracking soundtrack you can check out here. The last few weeks have been rather a purple patch for the Vita, with high class games pouring in, yet coverage has remained light outside the community. Hopefully Severed will get the major sites discussing the Vita, rather than navel gazing at the latest Destiny patch!

The download is only 225MB, another nimble slice of Vita goodness that won't require a major rejig of the memory card.

New Atelier Sophie clips and pre-order DLC

Check out the introduction trailer and a battle gameplay clip to see if the charming Atelier Sophie is up your gaming alley? If so, then you might want to mark 10 June down as the Vita's digital-only release date.

Buy Atelier Sophie during her first month on sale and get an in-game bundle of useful items boosting attack (uni bag), Hit Points (sweets), or Mental Points (sotea) to give players a sneaky advantage.

In this episode, subtitled Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, players must always be aware of two elements that greatly affect successful mission completion and material harvesting: Time and Weather. The time of day and the weather conditions should be carefully considered before heading out to a mission as some monsters will only show if the time and weather are favourable.

Similarly, some necessary materials can only be harvested in specific times and weather conditions. Atelier Sophie: the Alchemist of the Mysterious Book also introduces a fatigue-based Life Point system, which can weaken attacks when a character has spent too long adventuring, gathering materials, and/or fighting without resting.

A quiet week for Japan's Media Create sales

Look at that, bang on queue Vita sales drop as we enter the quiet patch of mid-April to the end of May. Vita sales were 13,278 down just under 4K, with nothing major happening in the software chart.

Only Idea Factory's Brothers Conflict: Precious Baby managed to creep in at No. 15, while Minecraft retains its near-permanent place in the top 10 and Hatsune Miku is already heading to the exits with a total of 84K sales.

That's not to say nothing is coming out over the next month, Japanese gamers have Phantasy Star Online 2: Episode 4 Deluxe and One Piece: Burning Blood next week, with Rose and the Old Castle and Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2016 the following week, but those aren't likely to threaten the top of the chart.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review: Risk of Rain

Wow, I haven't seen graphics this small since Oids on the Atari ST. Still, lurking behind these diminutive pixels is a fiendish, deep and fun challenge. Risk of Rain sees the player surviving a cargo ship space crash, starting off on a random level, exploring the area and meeting the locals.

A variety of crates survived the crash and provide extra health, money or equipment. Bigger crates require money to open, while stores offer a limited or random choice of upgrade. To get to any of these you'll need to whack the native life with a wide range of weapons. The ultimate aim is to find the crashed main part of the ship and figure out a way home, but its mostly about the exploration!

Shotguns take a few seconds to reload, SMGs deal light but persistent damage, and with 12 characters (eventually) to choose from, you can be tossing bombs or delivering head shots with the best of them as you find a favourite combination. Other characters have various skills like electric fields, grappling hooks to shoot them across the screen and so on.

The clever trick that makes Risk of Rain a must-play is the ever increasing difficulty level, the longer you hang around exploring a level, the harder it gets. Yet, the more you explore the better equipment you can discover to fight off the increasingly tough aliens that range from blobs of jam to giant colossus and raging imps. Judging the balance makes for a fine and highly randomised line between reaching new heights or yet another death.

To exit each level you need to find a portal, activate that and you have to defeat the boss character while surviving for 90 seconds. You can survive first and then defeat the boss, but you still have to tidy up any other stragglers before you can leave, the game's only rather redundant feature.

Killing gains experience which boosts your health, but there are lots of other ways to stay fighting fit and dealing out death, finding the right combination, and getting them on a run, is the key way to progress. Sometimes you can't quite jump high enough to explore everywhere so a new route or a handy jet-pack may be needed.

You should definitely start playing on the Drizzle difficulty setting to get the hang of the mechanics and to get an idea of what some of the weapons and bonuses do. After that, Rainstorm provides it's true challenge and will wipe that smug grim off most gamer's faces. The less said about Monsoon mode, the better.

With a range of characters to pick from and a huge arsenal of bonuses, buffs, weapons and extras to pick up, there is a fair chunk of flexibility in how you approach the game, but each play-through is largely down to luck. If you pick up a couple of drones and the right gear, you can happily march through until the game gets to the higher difficulty levels, without worrying too much about strategy.

There's also multiplayer, with up to four of you scampering around the level, which can be fun, unless you die, in which case you become a spectator until the next level. At the higher levels, you really need to choose your equipment wisely, a drone repair unit can be priceless, but how about faster health regeneration or a sackful of mines? Really kicking ass can depend on luck and keeping moving, but Risk of Rain is one of those games that makes you feel alive.

Fortunately, even on the Vita the tiny graphics are pin sharp, and the small text is perfectly readable, other games could learn from this approach. While the screen can get cluttered with your buffs, there doesn't seem to be any slow down.

Aside from the Monster Logs, a slightly sad omission is that exploring is just about escaping, there's few real secrets to discover, except for some artifacts tucked away. Look for a curved artifact gate on a level and then figure out what the secret is to get it to spawn. There's also not much attempt to populate the world with "wow" bits of landscape or hints as to what the hell is behind this planet's mysteries. But that's more an observation, not a criticism, and probably down to the procedural landscapes that present a slightly varied map each time.

While its perhaps not as more-more-more as Spelunky thanks to the longer play times, Risk of Rain is definitely a game I'll be coming back to a couple of times a day to see what new toys I can discover. A final word goes to the soundtrack, which is superb, like having Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield doing mashups - awesome stuff and perfect for the game.

Score 8/10
More reviews
Price: £7.39 on PSN
Dev: Hapoo
Progress: Escaped, but only 36% complete

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Zen bringing Aliens vs Pinball to the table

Zen continues to roll out the great tables to its Zen Pinball 2 platform. The latest addition, following on from Marvel and Star Wars, is Aliens vs. Pinball, packing those skittery Xenomorphs and Colonial Marines in to pinball form, with a guest appearance from the mighty Predator.

Check out the Zen blog for the details, but the game is due on PSN April 26, highlights include:

  • Join Ellen Ripley as she confronts her nightmares and help the Colonial Marines rid LV-426 of its Alien infestation in Aliens Pinball
  • Watch out for the merciless Alien stalking you on the Alien: Isolation pinball table
  • Defeat Xenomorphs and rise in Yautja society on the Alien vs. Predator table
  • Original iconic voiceovers and sound effects from films and videogames set in the ALIENS Universe
  • Leaderboards, score tracking, exciting social features, and more

Today's Japanese video clips

After plenty of recent clips of girls in bikinis, we get back to more manly fighting action for one Piece Burning Blood with that crazy guy at the back of the video doing more strange things. With the game just a couple of weeks from release, there's Burning Blood content everywhere, with TV spots, and trailers galore.

On a more placid note, Idea Factory has a couple more visual novels in the pipe with 7 Scarlet and Amadeus, which is mostly about shouting at trees!

There's a Risk of Rain on the Vita

Hopoo's Risk of Rain has finally arrived on the PS Vita, many years after its PC launch, bringing multiplayer rogue-liking to the handheld. Packed with challenges, death, easy access multiplayer and more death, your tiny character must blast his way to victory, reaching the level's teleport device, then survive long enough to beat the boss and for the teleport to activate.

Different skills and weapons, plus a range of difficulty options really make the game a serious challenge, a shame there's no demo to try as it might not be for everyone. Should hopefully have a review up soon. There's a longer explanation of the game in an earlier piece and you can listen to the well-respected soundtrack here

Update, here's a look at the game in action on the Vita, from YouTuber ItsBradazHD, in case you were worrying about those tiny graphics. 

Rainbow Moon and Soldner-X2 get Limited Run physical releases, new trophies

The physical release run continues with RPG Rainbow Moon arriving along with Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype thanks to Limited Run and Eastasiasoft. To sweeten the deal, Rainbow Moon has a new trophy set while Soldner has new trophies, improved language support and updated dialogue,

Cosmic Star Heroine from Zeboyd is also coming soon, along with a host of previously announced titles including Futuridium, Oddworld and more, making this a hive of Vita activity, for which we should be truly grateful.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Psycho Pass Mandatory Happiness gets a limited Vita physical edition

Are the publishers finally listening? Here comes a Vita game, not only in physical form but also with the fancy Limited Edition for the portable version as well as the PS4. Out in September, the boxed version features a Deluxe Softcover Art book, Soundtrack CD in Jewel Case, 3 Pencil Boards, Microfiber Cloth, and a Collectible Box.

Check out the website for more details, but for now bask in the splendour of another edgy detective adventure headed our way.

Set in the near future, advanced technological developments have allowed one’s mental state and disposition to be quantified and profiled.For the public’s welfare, all emotions and thoughts are documented and managed by the Sibyl System. This system measures the quality of each person’s life by what is known as the Psycho-Pass, a reading of an individual’s mind. Broken down into two main components, the Psycho-Pass is the system’s omniscient eyes of justice. One of these components is the Hue, which is a visual representation of the Psycho-Pass that conveys a person’s stress level. The other is the Crime Coefficient, which is a numerical value that represents a person’s criminal capacity. This number determines whether an individual requires enforcement by the detectives of the Public Safety Bureau. Detectives are divided into two groups: Enforcers, who are tasked with the investigation of crimes and the apprehension of criminals, and Inspectors, who are charged with managing the Enforcers.

The player can choose between two new detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigation Department’s Division 1; NadeshikoKugatachi, a calm and serious Inspector whose memories were wiped, and Takuma Tsurugi, a hot-headed Enforcer who is searching for his missing childhood friend. You must decide the best course of action for each given situation, but regardless of the hierarchy that separates Inspector from Enforcer, players must be mindful that every decision has its own repercussions. With an intricate decision-making system, PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happinessoffers a twisted plot and compelling cases, providing a number of different endings.Ultimately, depending on the choices made, Hues may deteriorate beyond recovery, cases may be left unsolved, and the game may end quicker than expected

Some belated #screenshotsaturday for your enjoyment

I love browsing Twitter on the weekend, as the #screenshotsaturday images come in. Such creativity and enthusiasm for hundreds of indie games is kinda thrilling to see, from someone who can barely string a few words together. Note, that whole Saturday thing seems more like a guideline, new stuff appears all week.

Not many of them are for the Vita alas, but a few are coming our way including Va11-hall-a and Best Buds... that treated us to some new snaps this week. Check out their work and the snippets of other concept art, pixel craft and pics from brilliant designers and artists. If you do notice a game that might get a Vita version do share and praise it to the rafters!

Assassin's Creed Chronicles crashes into No. 1 across the UK charts

The UK Vita retail chart is practically buzzing with a string of recent releases in the chart. The latest to go straight in at No. 1 is Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Chronicles,developed by Climax. It also hit No. 36 in the all formats full price chart. It replaces Trillion which drops rapidly down to No. 7 and Senran Kagura lurks just outside the top 10.

1. Assassin's Creed Chronicles Ubisoft
2. Minecraft Mojang
3. Lego Marvel Avengers
4. Lego Jurassic World
5. Lego Ninjago

(C)2016 UKIE Ltd

The PSN top sellers list is dominated by western classic remakes, but Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth continues to show awesome legs, wouldn't be surprised if that was the best selling Vita game behind Minecraft this year. Pretty sure AC:C will go top when this list updates.

1. Day of the Tentacle Remastered
2. Civilization Revolution 2 Plus
3. Xcom: Enemy Unknown Plus
4. Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth
5. Trillion God of Destruction

Over on Amazon UK, Assassin's Creed Chronicles is also on top of the Amazon Top Vita Sellers list. FIFA 15 and Need for Speed are also in the top five, showing that EA could have continued with these games and still made a decent return on modest updates. Next out in physical form are MegaTagmension and Stranger of Sword City, which might be rather more niche affairs.

One Piece Burning Blood advert gets real

Burning Blood hits Japan next week on Vita and PS4, and the live action advert for it is actually pretty subtle, by Japanese standards. Bandai's latest beat 'em up featuring the Straw Hat crew
Sure, it focuses on the PS4 version, but what are the odds on the Vita version outselling it, again?

Alongside that, Bandai has popped up a few more brief gameplay and character clips for our viewing pleasure. Long clips were posted in previous weeks.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ray Gigant English screens and art

Looking forward to the latest Experience RPG, brought our way thanks to Acttil, if it maintains some vague sense of proper RPG battling that is. A May digital-only release, get read for a new "Innovative Battle System Unlike" that is claimed to be unlike ordinary turn based RPG battles,

UPDATE: Release date confirmed for 3 May in Europe and the US, and the game is PSTV compatible!

Ray Gigant adopts a unique style where you will be fighting massive enemies from different distances and perspectives. Your party is comprised of 3 characters, Ichia, Kyle and Nil, each with their own unique abilities to engage in 3-way view battles.

Also use the rhythm-based, Slash Beat system to unleash deadly attacks while feeling the fate of the heroes and heroine resonate through their bodies! If that doesn't make the game really annoying, then it looks like classic Experience RPG fodder, so if its a patch on Demon Gaze, should be great fun.

Friday, April 8, 2016

New Dragon Quest Heroes II content including today's live stream

Square has just put up a stack of new videos for Dragon Quest Heroes II, with a live stream the icing on the cake plus a new trailer.

Check them out and then let the company know how much you want this in west, given they seem to have decided not to bother with Romancing Saga 2, despite a huge appeal from the western Vita audience.

Get a dose of Burning Blood gameplay

After some character-focused trailers in recent weeks, here comes a clip with pretty much nothing but pure gameplay from Bandai Namco. One Piece Burning Blood gives the crew and their enemies another chance to beat the crap out of each other with a one-on-one or team focus. Quite how close the Vita version will get to these PS4 fluid fighting shots remains to be seen!

New LucidSound wireless headphones for quality Vita audio

I love being immersed in sound when playing on my Vita, unless the game has that horribly compressed audio quality. Over the years I've gone from a cheap pair of Turtle Beach cans to a still cheap pair of Sennheisers, but am looking for something wireless, assuming my horse wins the National.
If you're in the same boat, here comes LucidSound, a new company from some of the folk behind the funky Tritton range. Available in black or white, they aren't insanely expensive and provide high quality uncompressed wireless gamer audio, 15 hour batter life, chat with microphone monitor. They work with big consoles, mobiles and the Vita or 3DS and anything that does away with miles of string has to be good.

Available at the start of May, keep an eye out for them!

Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls smacks down this autumn

Its a good week for western translations, hot on the heels of Attack on Titan comes Idea Factory with Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls. Unlike AoT, you'll be able to buy physical copies of the latest Infiniti bunch of fun.

Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls is a single player collaboration project between ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Bunko and Sega, borrowing the Hard Girls from various Sega consoles, including the Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, and Mega Drive, teaming up with Neptune and IF for an all-new adventure!

Root Letter's second trailer

Missed this last week, some scary and then introspective goings on in the world of Kadokawa's Root Letter. This is the first in a series of planned adventures, dealing with a lad trying to find his pen pal fifteen years after they stopped writing, with a lost final letter now setting off a series of mysteries.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Attack on Titan Wings of Freedom action trailer

Following on from the release news and teaser in the previous post, here's a better look at the action (PS4 version naturally) in Attack on Titan Wings of Freedom. The Tecmo game arrives late August digitally on the Vita.

In other heading-west news, it looks like Xseed has grabbed the Fate Extella domains for our consumption, while the developer of Uppers and Valkyrie Drive has suggest that his products may also head our way.

Attack on Titan heads west

Having seen the series on Netflix, I now understand what all those grim trailers for the Japanese release were all about! Just as well, as a western release is confirmed for the summer. Releasing on all formats including the Vita, it gets a name tweak to A.O.T Wings of Freedom, presumably to sound less sci-fi.

The plot concerns humanity hiding behind massive walls to keep out the lumbering, people-eating, titans. When they break through its up to the scouts, who ping about on wires and grapnels to attack their only weakspot, the back of the neck.

My main concern has to be the speed and control of the characters, given the Vita's ageing specification and the visual whizz of the PS4 version. Hopefully a decent balance has been struck. All the press pics are from the big screen version, so I'll ignore them for now.
Hopefully there is also a lot less shouting than in the manga, I mean it never stopped with angsty psychopaths bawling at each other for half an episode in between the cool set pieces. Then again, we're getting a subtitled version only, so may have to put up with that emoting! Anyway, here's the new logo and a teaser trailer.

:Looks like a digital release only, shame as I'd love a LE with one of the characters, but them's the breaks!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rocketbirds 2 nesting in April

I didn't get into the first one as much as I thought, so hopefully there's more fun to be had in the second edition of Rocketbirds from Ratloop. A new trailer hatches alongside a release date of April 26, and much improved multiplayer on the Vita. Check out information on the new Rescue Mode and other features on the PSN blog.

Vita sales pipped at the Winning Post in Japan,

Perhaps the Japanese are waiting for the new firmware update and all its glorious features before buying a new Vita? Or not, either way sales, which have averaged around 23,000 per week so far this year are down to 17,150 according to the latest Media Create figures.

That's still around 20% of the market, and not bad for a quiet week with only the tiny Winning Post 8 update as a new entry. Minecraft and Hatsune Miku Diva X both sold just over 10,000 to remain in the top 10, while the horse flogging game could only sell 6,000.

Things are pretty light on the release front for the next few weeks, with a PSO2 Ep.4 physical release, One Piece Burning Blood and Jikkyou Baseball across April, the we're into the May sales dive with not much happening until Dragon Quest Heroes 2 at the end of spring.

The new predictor function I put in my spreadsheet shows the Vita likely to just nudge past last year's sales, hitting around 1,050,000. Of course, lots could happen to change that in either direction.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sky Force blazing back on the Vita?

Vertical shooter Sky Force from Polish developer Infinite Dreams is one of the few classic retro shmups available on the Vita, as a Mini release for £2.49. But if you hang a while though, it looks like the Anniversary version of Sky Force is getting a full PSN release with trophies and improved visuals.

This uprated version hit the PC around a year or two ago, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the original. The team is already working on Sky Force Reloaded (bottom video), which might be a touch too much for the Vita to handle, but who knows?

Would still love Xenon II and SWIV to get another lease of life if any classic developers are keen!

Your daily whack with new One Piece Burning Blood and Uppers trailers

More loony fighting from the east, with what looks like Japan's version of Pete Tong and Oddjob getting in on the action to save us more animated lunacy from the One Piece gang. To be fair, this is slightly more rational than last week's clip. Where will it all end?

While we are on the subject, Uppers is back up and running after the recent delays and has a new trailer to show off some love, in between all the violence.

Kick Off Revival dev chat ahead of Rezzed showing

Dino Dini is responsible for many late and sleepless nights thanks to Kick Off parties back in the day (early nineties I guess).  His Kick Off Revival game will be on show at EGX Rezzed 2016, taking place in London on the 7th-9th April in partnership with BAFTA.

Here's the first installment of a three-part developer diary series. Find out about the man behind one of the greatest football game of its time! Check out some early screens here.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Trillion takes modest damage in the UK chart

Idea Factory's Trillion makes it No. 1 on the UK retail Vita chart, while NIS can rejoice a bit too as Hyperdimension Neptunia Perfection comes out of nowhere for a chart reentry. Otherwise its business as usual, as fewer games come in retail packaging.

1 + Trillion: God of Destruction Idea Factory - 1
2 =  Minecraft Mojang 1 73
3 = LEGO Marvel Avengers Warner 2 10
4 - LEGO Jurassic World Warner 4 43
5 = LEGO Ninjago Warner 6 54
6 re Hyperdimension Neptunia Perfection NIS America - 4

Over on Amazon UK's Top Selling Vita games, Trillion is only lurking at No. 6, with Lego Avengers at No. 1. Between them are a bunch of Vita essentials, oh and Black Ops Declassified now seemingly consigned to the bargain bin in the top five.

Going digital on PSN, Day of the Tentacle slithers to the pinnacle of the Top Sellers list, with the on sale Resident Evil 2 making a dent. Hopefully XCOM (and Civ) is selling enough to convince Take 2 to keep its stealth mobile ports coming.

1. Day of the Tentacle (Double Fine)
2. XCOM Enemy Unknown Plus (Take 2)
3. Digimon Story (Bandai)
4. Resident Evil 2 Revelations (Sony)
5 Metal Slug 3 (SNK)
6. Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel (Falcom)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Cornelius stars in latest Odin Sphere clip

Meet Cornelius, the latest star of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir to get a star turn in Atlus series of character videos.

Cornelius wields the powerful Psypher Sword (which he obtains early in his story) and is able to combine his years of royal swordsmanship training with his agile Pooka body to devastating effect. He'll slice and dice his enemies with dazzling speed, and his new skills in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir make him a veritable whirlwind of destruction.

Silverio Vendetta: Verse of Orpheus hits Japan this week, wins best tune award!

A tiny update to nag-flogging sim Winning Post 8 is probably the biggest Vita game out today in Japan, but no doubt about the best song, that goes to Silverio Vendetta: Verse of Orpheus, an Otome adventure from Views. Expect them to be crushed by Star Ocean 5, more release dates here.