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Mind Zero photo
Mind Zero

Mind Zero crawling to PlayStation Vita next month

Persona-like RPG hitting North America and Europe in late May
Mar 28
// Kyle MacGregor
Get ready to go crazy, because Mind Zero is coming west next month. The PlayStation Vita dungeon crawler will debut as physical and retail release in North America on May 27 before making its way to Europe exclusively via do...

Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed flashing PS3 & Vita this summer

XSEED wants you to save Tokyo by disrobing vampires
Mar 05
// Kyle MacGregor
The sweltering summer heat is just around the corner and with it comes Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed, an action role-player with a surprisingly apt title. Tokyo's famous electronics district, Akihabara, has been overru...
AMZN buys Double Helix photo
AMZN buys Double Helix

Amazon acquires Double Helix Games

Killer Instinct and Strider developer purchased by e-commerce company
Feb 05
// Alessandro Fillari
It's been known that Amazon has had its eye on diversifying into the gaming space. Not just from a sales standpoint, but for publishing and producing its own unique titles. And now, the mega online retailer has made its first...

Review: Rain

Oct 01 // Jim Sterling
Rain (PS3)Developer: PlayStation CAMP, AcquirePublisher: SonyReleased: October 1, 2013MSRP: $14.99 Rain is the story of a little boy who accidentally becomes invisible. More than that, the town that once was so familiar is shrouded in darkness, assailed by a downpour of rain, and plagued by mysterious beasts intent on doing him harm. Visible only when the rainfall covers his body, he comes into a contact with a similarly afflicted girl, and together they must try to find their way through the storm and avoid the sinister forces out to get them.  PlayStation CAMP's tale is a simple one, but it's delivered with a subtlety and poignance that manages to hit the right note, whether it aims to make you sad or delighted. With no voice acting to speak of, the narrative unfolds by way of text placed stylishly around the game's world, something I always appreciate in a game, but one that can prove just a touch distracting during the more platform-oriented sections. Nevertheless, it's a pleasingly presented, thoughtfully told story that ends on a most enamoring note.  Drawing from platformers, stealth, and puzzle games, Rain smartly turns its central conceit into a variety of interesting ideas, never dwelling on one neat trick for long. The unnamed boy cannot fight back against the beasts that stalk him, but he is only visible to the creatures when standing directly in rain. The most common way of avoiding peril, therefore, is to sneak past by walking underneath roofing, canvas, and anything else that provides shelter from the water. Of course, since the boy is invisible in such circumstance, spatial awareness (and an eye on wet footprints) is crucial to ensure one knows where they're going.  New twists on this idea are dripped into the adventure as time progresses. Creatures themselves start wandering, invisible and deadly, in sheltered areas. Large puddles can give the boy's position away, while mud clings to him and renders him visible in any condition. Some monsters must be lured away from passages by noise, or huge passive creatures may be walked under for moving cover. Worst of all, the lurching Unknown is constantly in pursuit, and his regular harassment makes for some surprisingly frightening sequences.  When the boy and the girl unite, they'll need to cooperate to progress. Rain doesn't go out of its way to be too inventive here, with a whole bunch of block puzzles, boosting to higher ledges, and mutual opening of gates providing some standard environmental hindrances. Despite the relatively unimaginative puzzles, however, it's a unique pleasure to watch the two invisible friends interact with and help each other.  Rain excels at providing moments of serenity punctuated harshly by jarringly sad or scary occurrences. When the game's calming music is playing, and the children are padding through the drumming of the rain, it's hard not to smile. Such elegant sequences are, however, tinged with fear of the Unknown rearing its misshapen head, or soured by the evocatively animated sadness and confusion of the silent heroes. Bittersweet is a word best reserved for experiences such as this.  While Rain is a largely pleasant experience, some blemishes dampen the adventure in less literal ways. Controls are a little finicky, with the boy sometimes either feeling not responsive enough for his jumps, or too responsive and twitching off a ledge or away from an interactive object. A few of the chase and stealth sequences are overly reliant on trial and error too, albeit without it being as smartly woven into the design à la something like Limbo. There's nothing that will ever keep you stumped for more than a minute or two, but sometimes the game suffers from making you try to predict what the developers were thinking.  It's also a shame that, for all its clever little tricks, none of Rain's ideas quite feel as fleshed out as they could have been. The first time you see just a mudstained pair of feet clomp in a roofed corridor, it's a joy. However, such unique spins on the central premise are showcased once or twice, and never really given much time to shine or reach their potential. Some of the simpler uses of Rain's gimmicks seem to exist purely to showcase how clever the whole idea is, and make you look at the cool visual style. While it is, indeed, cool, it can be frustrating to think about how shallow the use of these ideas are, when juxtaposed against the possibilities.  I will also say that, as much as I found the Unknown to be an intimidating enemy, the sheer number of times he pops up to spook the player tends to have a diminishing effect over the course of the game. By the end of it, he's come back more times than Jason Voorhees, and he starts to make eyes roll rather than close up tight. Still, he's very unsettling for the first half of the game.  Nevertheless, Rain is a pleasure, and its visuals are indeed sublime. Aside from the general enjoyment one gets from the weather and invisibility effects, the profound animation is what really makes Rain as gorgeous as it is. The way the children slide on rain-slicked tiles, or cover their faces from the incoming water make them feel incredibly alive, giving them a sense of believability and sympathy that most photorealistic, Hollywood-acted games would kill to achieve.  The art design is impeccable, too, most notably with the monsters. Abstract, and yet unnervingly familiar, the vaguely formed beasts that hound the player are wonderfully designed to resemble common animals while maintaining an alien and utterly cold form. It's an effective style, that works well against the great, dreary, yet hauntingly pretty background.  Rain is not quite the model of refinement that some of its PlayStation Network peers have been, but it's an overwhelmingly amiable, effectively cultivated little adventure. Calming and scary, amusing and sorrowful, Rain is a game that jogs calmly through a gamut of emotions, rather than sprints headlong into mood whiplash, and it's incredibly difficult to ever dislike it, even during its twitchier moments. Rain is, above all, a most balmy experience.  Also, it's nice to see the PS3 finally getting a rain-themed exclusive with a good story.
Rain review photo
Sony has a stable of impressive top-tier game franchises -- Uncharted, Killzone, God of War, the kind of blockbuster productions every console needs to open eyelids among the mainstream users. I, however, will remember Sony's...


Rain out this October for PlayStation 3

October 1 for NA, October 2 in Europe, October 3 in Japan
Aug 21
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Rain will be coming to your PlayStation 3 on October 1 for North America, October 2 for Europe, and October 3 for Japan. It'll cost $14.99/€12.99, and if you pre-order the game you'll be given three bonus items: a music...
Get lost in Rain photo
Get lost in Rain

Get lost in this Rain developer diary

Rain drops this fall, whet your appetite with this video
Aug 02
// Steven Hansen
Rain is a neat, affective collaboration between PlayStation C.A.M.P. (Tokyo Jungle) and Acquire (Tenchu). I liked what I saw of the PSN title when I previewed it during GDC and Dale North seemed equally impressed sitting dow...
Mind 0 trailer photo
Mind 0 trailer

Persona-styled JRPG Mind 0 gets trailer

Where is my mind? Zero originality
Jul 12
// Steven Hansen
Really, "Persona-styled" might be doing this game from Acquire and Class of Heroes developer Zerodiv a bit too much justice, because it reads like a knockoff. The cast is a group of highschoolers (not uncommon for a JRPG set...

Rain is another feather in Sony's cap of new IP

Mar 28 // Steven Hansen
The most affective part of Rain for me came early on in what I was shown. The invisible boy, hereafter referred to as the Boy, is wandering aimlessly around the city to a pensive, somber, delicately keyed piano accompaniment. He wanders into an alleyway, at which point he completely vanished from view. Yes, your player avatar is entirely invisible when you’re not getting wet, save for some initial footprints in dry areas, damp vestiges of the feet that should be seen. Going through this hallway invisibly, the Boy stumbles into all sorts of debris and obstacles, causing a cacophonic clack of tumbling crates and the like was surprisingly poignant. There’s something profoundly sad about his -- in turn, the player’s -- inelegant fumbling and stumbling around. While the Boy may be able to recognize his own existence when he’s invisible, he almost becomes nonexistent to the player, a fleeting remnant of what is there. Even when you’re initially scanning the ground for his footprints, you’re only ever seeing where he once was as you progress. There’s something to that metaphor. Not surprisingly, the idea of creating an entirely invisible protagonist has been quite a challenge for the development team. Even now as they currently work their way towards their 2013 release, director Yuki Ikeda has explained challenges still arise from their undetectable main character. Exposition text occasionally fades in and out of the screen in stark white offering some commentary on what’s going on as you navigate the Boy throughout the world. The portion I was shown saw the Boy following an equally invisible girl who always seems just out reach. It’s not all somber navel-gazing, though. At one point, two Tim Burton-esque, dog-like monsters get a whiff of the Boy and give chase. Like the Boy, they’re invisible, given form by the rain, so finding covered areas is the key to safety against them. You have to effectively lose yourself to save yourself. It’s like a 90’s alt rock lyric. Additionally, there was another chase scene, as well as a hints of organically integrated stealth-based gameplay and puzzle solving. Stealth makes sense, as you navigate covered (safe) and uncovered (unsafe) portions of the environment while the dog-likes patrol, snarl and snap. What I saw was a little facile; pattern recognition and sprinting between cover, but it works well enough. As for puzzling, one scene has you teetering across some scaffolding. The dog-likes bark menacingly below, chomping at the bit to get at you, eventually knocking it over. A little later, some scaffolding is blocking a path you need to take, and so you intuitively realize you should go in the other direction and lure the dog-likes smashing into the scaffolding to break it down. Hooray for human bait. There is a cool unrecognizable familiarity to Rain’s washed out cityscape. It doesn’t draw influence from a particular city, but influence from many different ones can be felt metastasizing in the cobblestone floors and Metamorphoses and Casablanca posters on the walls. Everything comes together with the music, though, as Ikeda has carefully chosen tracks from the overall score to fit into the style and pacing of various points of gameplay. it won’t all be pensive and somber, either. While it falls back on some traditional gameplay mechanics, I’m definitely excited to see more of Rain and explore it unique design feature, as well as its slightly nostalgic, rain-soaked world. I’m a sucker for rain.
Get wet with Rain photo
Rain, rain, don't go away
Keeping in line with the offbeat and interesting games that come from SCE Japan Studio, we have Rain. It’s being developed by Japan Studio, Acquire (Tenchu, Sumioni), and PlayStation C.A.M.P. (Tokyo Jungle, Echo Chrome)...

Mind 0 photo
Mind 0

Acquire's next PS Vita title is called Mind 0

Are you alive?
Mar 20
// Josh Tolentino
When Acquire started teasing a new PS Vita game with satellite photos, Jonathan Holmes suspected they who made Way of the Samurai were making a sequel to PSN Centipede classic The Last Guy. I, on the other hand, fig...

Review: Orgarhythm

Oct 25 // Chris Carter
Orgarhythm (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Neilo, AcquirePublisher: XSEEDReleased: October 23, 2012MRSP: $29.99 Orgarhythm functions very similarly to a lot of classic RTS games, but there's one major caveat: you play the role of a god controlling your army, and that god walks a set, non-negotiable path through each map. As you stomp through each area, you'll have to take things on as they come, as you don't get a zoomed out view of the rest of the world -- as a result, things are very frenetic, and more action-oriented than most strategy titles. The god is able to deal with his enemies with his three troop colors: blue, red, and yellow. Blue counters red, red counters yellow, and yellow counters blue. All of the enemies are set up the same way, so you'll have to order them accordingly to both take out opposite colors and stay out of harm's way when the AI sends counter forces back at you. All three troop colors have the option to utilize hand-to-hand combat, ranged attacks, and siege weapons. Essentially, you're playing a strategic game of rock paper scissors (color) inside of another game of rock paper scissors (troop choice). For instance, you may need red melee troops at the drop of a hat, then quickly order out some blue ranged troops somewhere else on the map. On higher difficulty levels, it can get intense, and as a result, more satisfying. Even though he is essentially on-rails, the god himself can use five abilities, which range from buffs, to heals, to a "heavenly bolt" attack. Your god does have a health meter -- if it reaches zero, the game is over. To order your troops around, you have to hit their icons with the beat, earning a "bad," "good," or "excellent" rating for each choice. If you hit all "excellents," your troops level up and grow in number. I can't stress how cool this is, as it keeps you on your toes constantly. If you can't keep a beat, your army is going to be weak, and you will struggle. As you can imagine, Orgarhythm is best played with high-quality headphones. Once you get used to it, it's not terribly taxing. All you have to do is choose your color, type, and tap the area where you want them to go. If this does sound too confusing, there are 10 tutorials to get you acclimated to how the game operates, so it doesn't just throw you to the wolves. First thing you might notice after jumping in is that there are no button inputs. Everything, even the menus, are controlled entirely with touch controls -- and you know what? They actually work pretty well. When you hit that groove, and everything comes  up "perfect," Orgarhythm is not only fun, but it's rewarding as well -- kind of like a tactical Demon's Souls. Each stage features the god stomping through the level to the beat, encountering various enemy troop types (which mirror your own), until you reach the boss encounter at the end -- which, in my opinion, is easily the best part of the game. Boss fights get really intense, to the point where you're ordering all three colors around at breakneck speeds, changing their tactics, positions, and troop type on the fly. They often take you by surprise as well; the big bads themselves are varied from stage to stage, all of which require different tactics. For a musical game, the soundtrack obviously has to be good -- thankfully, it's beautiful. Featuring a solid selection of electronic and rock tracks, the music will not only get you pumped, but ease you into hitting the beats at the right time. Oh, and the better you do, the more musical tracks are laid onto the level. Ayako Minami's experience really shows here and I'm eager to pick up the Orgarhythm soundtrack as we speak. The only major problem, gameplay wise, is that doing the same thing over and over can be draining if you don't increase the difficulty. At the end of the day, like most strategy games, you can still distill the experience to "ordering around troops," and with the god's limited role/requirement to stay on-rails, gameplay variety isn't really the name of the game here. More than a few times I found myself putting the game down for a while -- but when I reached those boss fights, it was all worth it in the end. Additionally, Orgarhythm is very short. (On normal, you can beat it in under five hours.) So unless you plan on going the score attack/completionist route, you probably won't get your money's worth. If you choose to dig, however, you'll find a ton of new skills to earn (48 in total). There's also a Co-op and Versus option available via ad-hoc local play, but sadly, I was not able to test this out since I don't know anyone within 20 square miles that owns a PlayStation Vita. If you're willing to go at it again and again with Orgarhythm, you'll find that it's a pretty rewarding experience, and you'll have a ton of fun in the process. Sadly, your purchasing options are limited: you cannot obtain the game through retail means in the US, as it's only available via download.
The mysterious strategy rhythm game Orgarhythm is here, and boy does it have a pedigree. First you have Tak Hirai (Space Channel 5 Part 2, Shenmue, Meteos) at the development helm, and Ayako Minami in charge of music directio...


NIS announces Clan of Champions for PSN and Steam

Jun 21
// Dale North
NIS America has plans to release Acquire's latest multiplayer action title, Clan of Champions, later this summer on the PlayStation Network in both North America and Europe. Later this year the game will also launch on S...

Cut a bitch with this new Way of the Samurai 4 trailer

May 10
// Dale North
You'll see that they mean business with this new Way of the Samurai 4 trailer. There's the typical blowing sakura petals and sword slashes in the beginning, sure, but the action and pace continually ramp up as the trailer pr...

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