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Review: Bladestorm: Nightmare

Mar 17 // Josh Tolentino
Bladestorm: Nightmare (Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS3 [reviewed])Developer: Omega ForcePublisher: Koei TecmoReleased: March 17, 2015MSRP: $59.99 (PS4/Xbox One), $49.99 (PS3) [Note: Screenshots used in this review are taken from the PS4 version of the game.] As an aside: this game, based on 2007's Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War, is one of the weirdest choices anyone could've made when deciding on which games to add to the growing number of "remastered" titles popping up on current-generation consoles and PC. Despite initially generating excitement among the Dynasty Warriors-loving crowd as a long-desired European-themed entry to the franchise, the original game came and went without much comment. That was thanks to its odd-duck design, which even led Jim Sterling, a much bigger Warriors fan than yours truly, to call it a real-time strategy game in his review. I'm not quite as inclined towards that drastic recategorization, but ol' Jim does have a point: Bladestorm is, for good or ill, of a more thoughtful mind than most of Omega Force's  offerings. Indeed, whereas typical Warriors games take history's leaders and convert them into armies unto themselves, Bladestorm takes the player and molds him (or her) into a leader of their own squad of troops. If Dynasty Warriors is about being a human Cuisinart, Bladestorm attempts a wartime version of Katamari Damacy. More on that in a bit. [embed]289070:57824:0[/embed] Bladestorm: Nightmare comes with two main modes. "The Hundred Years' War" mode is essentially identical to the original 2007 release, aside from graphical/mechanical tweaks, and drops player-created mercenaries -- or "merthenaries" to hear the comically bad European-accented voice-acting say it -- on the battlefields of medieval France. There players can work for the French or English factions, supporting one or the other as pay and scruples dictate. They'll interact with luminaries of the era like Edward, the Black Prince, Philippe the Good, and Gilles de Rais, and participate in key engagements like the Battle of Crécy and the Siege of Calais.   The second mode, "Nightmare," is a more linear, scripted campaign set when a monster invasion interrupts the Hundred Years' War, forcing France, England, and the merthenaries they employ to ally against hordes of hellbeasts commanded by none other than Joan of Arc herself. Interestingly, though Nightmare mode is clearly designed to be played after finishing off The Hundred Years' war, players can switch between the two freely, with progression data like levels, money, equipped gear, and distributed skill points carrying over with virtually no restriction.  Graphically, Bladestorm works best on newer hardware. Aside from the added special effects and improved draw distance and environments, the frame-rate drops that I experienced on the PS3 are absent on the PS4 version. Additionally, the Nightmare campaign on PS3 is prone to drastic loss of frames as well, likely due to the much larger squad sizes and the hordes of monsters.  Both modes essentially boil down to an expansive form of territory control. Each of the battlefields is divided into numerous forts, towns, and castles defended by allied or enemy troops. Most missions ("contracts" in merthenary lingo), particularly in the more open-ended base campaign, will task players with conquering one or more settlements by killing off their defenders and beating their commanding officer. The bigger the settlement, the tougher the commanders, and some particularly large castles are basically defended by mini-boss enemies with distinct attack patterns. In Nightmare mode, those defenders can even include dragons, cyclopes, or grim reapers. Doing the killing involves taking command of a squad of troops. Though broken down roughly by weapon type, each soldier type is unique, with strengths, weaknesses, and a set of special attacks mapped to the face buttons. Players can pick up or drop squads they find in the field, or summon reinforcements directly. New to Bladestorm: Nightmare is the ability to create multiple squad leaders, commanding them separately via the battle map or attaching them to a personal unit as a bodyguard, ultimately allowing for up to 200 troops to move and act as a single unit, rolling everyone in the way (hence the Katamari analogy). This type of of structure provides Bladestorm with the same kind of dynamic as the typically more action-oriented Warriors games. Like in those titles, players in this game are often "fire-fighting," moving as quickly as possible between crisis zones, keeping scores and rewards up by plowing through everything along the way. Though ultimately shallow, Bladestorm's battle mechanics do lend the game an impressive sense of scale, particularly when playing as a cavalry leader. I must have done it hundreds of times in my hours with the game, but it never gets old to trigger a charge and flatten dozens of enemies under the hooves and lances of your soldiers. It also never gets old to watch horses slide across the ground like they are hovercrafts, a testament to how rough-hewn the game can be at times. Balance issues are also a concern, as properly leveled cavalry units basically trivialize the whole game except at the highest difficulty levels. I'd actually be more mad that cavalry are so overpowered if they weren't already the most fun class to play, but that's neither here nor there. Bladestorm: Nightmare isn't a Dynasty Warriors game, but it doesn't aim to be, and still ends up being good time when taken on its own merits. In fact, it's a little ironic that its unusual qualities doomed the original release commercially, but help this new release feel much more fresh and engaging than even the latest "core" franchise entries. [This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Bladestorm review photo
Merthenary Lyfe
Bladestorm: Nightmare is not a Dynasty Warriors game. That bit of information might be good or bad news, depending which side of the fence one falls on with regard to Tecmo Koei's long-running brawler series. At the same...

Senran Kagura 2 photo
Senran Kagura 2

Senran Kagura 2 bounces westward this summer

Kenichiro Takaki continues to wrap the world in happy boobs
Mar 10
// Kyle MacGregor
Once upon a time, XSEED seemed pretty cagey about publishing the Senran Kagura games. Nowadays the plucky localization studio can't seem to bring the danged things over fast enough. Yes, you probably read the headline where ...
Toto Temple Deluxe photo
Toto Temple Deluxe

Headbutting for goats in Toto Temple Deluxe!

Mar 09
// Caitlin Cooke
For better or worse, sometimes you just have a hankerin’ to steal a goat. Those of us at PAX East with said craving headed over to Toto Temple Deluxe, which delivered goat-stealing gameplay in a fast-paced keep-away bra...

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide goes all in with hectic co-op action

Mar 03 // Alessandro Fillari
Set during The End Times, Warhammer's take on the apocalypse, the world has been plunged into chaos as war breaks out, forcing the many factions and groups to take up arms and fight back. Set within the city of Ubersreik, five heroes must defend the massive metropolis from the hordes of Skaven, a race of quasi-rat creatures, that wish to sack one of the remaining bastions of the world. As a co-op action brawler, players will be able to select a class of hero and take them through several stages throughout Ubersreik. Each with their own weapons and abilities, the characters feel unique from one another. Some classes can jump into the fray, while others might be better off at a distance. The four classes that have been announced so far -- the Witch-Hunter, Imperial Soldier, Wood Elf, and Pyromage -- have an individualized backstory and arc, which unfolds as you move across the city. During my session, I got to play as the Soldier and Wood Elf, and each had their own banter and point of view regarding the End Times. [embed]288516:57596:0[/embed] In case you haven't quite picked up on it, Vermintide channels a lot of Left 4 Dead, which is actually a really good thing. Gameplay-wise, players will travel from one end of the level to other while using melee and ranged abilities to fight off waves of foes and complete objectives -- and on a narrative level, the story happens in real time. While on one hand it feels a bit more subdued and smaller in scale than what Warhammer tends to dabble in, the focus on these characters in such a smaller setting creates a greater connection to them, which was also one of Left 4 Dead's greatest strengths. I'm looking forward to exploring the city with these characters, some of whom don't seem to get along that well. As you travel though the city, you'll come across many different variations of Skaven that seek to eliminate those remaining in Ubersreik.  Often times you will come across the common types, which can be killed with a single blow but can easily overwhelm; there are tougher variants, such as the gatling rat and heavy-armor Skaven, and rats wielding poison bombs that aim to separate your group. What's impressive about these encounters is that the A.I. will randomly spawn enemies and special hordes. During my two rounds of play, the types of encounters were different, and we even got ambushed much earlier than expected. This dynamic aspect of Vermintide is very interesting, and will definitely keep repeated play exciting. As you clear levels, you'll be able to acquire loot for your characters, such as new weapons and trinkets. Each class has their own type of drops, which encourages experimentation. If you're especially adventurous, replaying stages on higher difficulties will lead to much greater rewards -- though be warned that the encounters are much more perilous and the foes are far more cunning. It's refreshing to experience a Warhammer game with a deep focus on action. While the strategy and online games were fun, I always kinda wanted a game set in the universe that allowed you to get up close and personal. Though there's definitely still much work to be done here -- what I played was in pre-alpha -- there is certainly lot for Games Workshop fans to look forward to in Vermintide.
GDC 2015 photo
Warhammer: Apocalypse Edition
I've long been an admirer of the Warhammer franchise. While a lot of people seem to put more of their attention towards the 40K universe, the high-fantasy setting of the former is so rich and features such...

Fatal Fury Final photo
Fatal Fury Final

Fatal Fury Final, a fanmade beat-'em-up, is now out on PC

For free of course
Feb 20
// Chris Carter
As we all know, Fatal Fury started off as a traditional fighting game in 1991. But over the years the cast has seem some genre crossover, even into the shoot-'em-up arena with one of my personal favorites, KOF Sky ...
Brawlhalla beta keys photo
This game looks nuts
Destructoid has partnered with our friends at Blue Mammoth Games to give away a TON of closed beta keys for their upcoming brawler Brawlhalla! Brawlhalla is a super fun, fast-paced, 2D platform brawler for the PC where champ...

ZHeros photo

ZHeros looks like a pretty neat robotic brawler

Coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC
Jan 02
// Chris Carter
Developer Rimlight Studios is hard at work at a new brawler that looks deliciously oldschool. It's called ZHeros (yep, not Heroes) and it has a futuristic theme as well as a neat looking visual style. The announcement t...

Review: The Legend of Korra

Oct 21 // Chris Carter
The Legend of Korra (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Platinum GamesPublisher: ActivisionReleased: October 21, 2014 (PC, PS3, PS4) / October 22 (Xbox 360, Xbox One)MSRP: $14.99 For those of you who don't follow the Avatar/Korra cartoons, here's a quick refresher on what to expect. In the realm that Korra inhabits, there are four core elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Through rigorous training, benders can master any one of these, but the "Avatar," a living god-like entity who is reincarnated over time, can master all of them. Korra is one such Avatar. The game picks up in a strange spot having explained almost none of her backstory (outside of the aforementioned Avatar setup), and you're dropped into the action in Republic City right away. This is both a good and bad thing, depending on what you want out of Korra, as the story and any sort of real narrative takes a backseat throughout the adventure. Cartoon cutscenes are spliced in throughout, but they often last 30 seconds at most and serve as nothing more than quick, jarring transitions to the next area. The story plays out like a basic episode of the show. This time, the gimmick is that an evil seer has stripped Korra of her powers, and you'll have to earn each element back level by level. Every bending style has its own level system and sense of progression, and by the end you'll have everything at your disposal. [embed]282722:56009:0[/embed] Korra herself is a cool character, and tends to take a more hot-headed approach than Aang, the protagonist of the original Avatar series. She also has a pretty awesome friend in the form of Naga, a giant polar bear thing that you can ride during specific Temple Run-like sequences. Since the story bits are so short, you don't get to see a lot of Korra's personality, though. Like any Platinum game, the devil is in the gameplay details. You'll have light and heavy combos at your employ, as well as the power to use each element in tandem with one another -- water serves as a projectile of sorts, fire allows for quick melee blows, earth is slow but powerful, and air is more of an area-of-effect element. Korra can guard and counter (when guard is pressed at the right moment) for extra protection, as well as dodge when needed. All of this plays out like a "light" version of Platinum's previous games. Combos aren't as deep as the rest of the studio's action catalog, and while everything is rather smooth, you can often rely on the same few moves to earn success. It works as advertised though, and the game's visuals perfectly complement the smooth engine -- it really looks like the show. The game also tends to bank far too heavily on counters, which wouldn't be a bad thing if they weren't so finicky. For one boss in particular, anything outside of counters will do a pitiful amount of chip damage. The only problem is he randomly queues up some non-counterable attacks (lightning-themed abilities cannot be countered in general), and sometimes it can take a few minutes to get the "right" randomly generated counter move. It's not a huge deal considering these encounters only come around every so often. Each chapter is broken up by small hub worlds, which are connected to challenge rooms of sorts, putting up barriers to block your escape. There's not a lot of exploration -- mainly short hallways to locate elemental chests to break (some of which force you to replay levels with new powers). There's a small amount of platforming to master but not as much as I would have liked. Moderation is a recurring theme in Korra in that nothing is too frustrating, but nothing is too exciting, either. As you play you'll earn spirit energy, a form of currency used to buy health items and talismans from the shop. You won't need any of these items though, as normal mode is fairly straightforward in nature. Sadly, you'll have to complete the game on normal first before you unlock the Extreme difficulty. I get that it's a show aimed at younger audiences, but it would have been great to have the option to start there if you're a Platinum fan seeking a challenge. If you're keen on replaying the game there are a ton of unlocks, especially if you go back and try to find every elemental chest. There are also new costumes, including one for completing Extreme. One playthrough will last you around four hours over the game's eight chapters, and there's a "Pro-Bending" league to play afterwards with different rankings -- these are basically small arena-like encounters with special rules. At the end of the day, I wish The Legend of Korra was a fully-featured retail release. While Platinum has done a great job in terms of delivering a solid action romp, the jarring cutscenes and open-and-shut story leave little in terms of replay value. Avatar and Korra fans will likely rejoice at the fact that they're finally getting a decent game.
Legend of Korra review photo
A nice but brief romp with Korra and Naga
One of the biggest surprises of 2014 had to be the announcement of a Legend of Korra game, published by Activision and developed by Platinum Games. Yes, that Platinum Games -- the current master of action titles. It...

Croixleur PS4 photo
Croixleur PS4

Doujin brawler Croixleur Sigma coming to PS4

Devil May Cute returns! Again!
Sep 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Croixleur Sigma is coming to PlayStation 4, Playism announced this week at Tokyo Game Show.  "We're hoping we can get a western release out as soon as possible," Playism marketing manager and localization editor Nay...
Senran Kagura Vita photo
Senran Kagura Vita

Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus hits Vita next month

The ninjutsu showdown begins October 14
Sep 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is cutting a trail to North America on October 14, XSEED Games announced today. The PlayStation Vita brawler will strike Europe the very next day. The story is a continuation of Senran Kagura Burst, wherein groups of teenage ninja girls fight one another with stuff like giant frogs and huge stacks of pancakes. You know, because reasons.
Warlocks photo

Warlocks takes its cooperative fantasy brawling to Kickstarter

Like Risk of Rain with magic and moonwalking
Sep 03
// Darren Nakamura
Risk of Rain was pretty cool, so anything that reminds me of that catches my attention. Warlocks looks to have a similar feel in some ways, bringing frantic 2D battles to a fantasy world. I typically shy away from fantasy in...
Akiba's Trip photo
Akiba's Trip

XSEED dates Akiba's Trip, confirms PS4 version

Coming to PS3/Vita in August and PS4 this holiday season
Jul 23
// Kyle MacGregor
XSEED plans to release the PlayStation 4 version of Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed in North America this holiday season, the publisher confirmed today. The PS3 and Vita iterations of the vampire-husking RPG brawler will launch on August 12.

I'm going to miss tripping in Super Smash Bros. 4

Jul 12 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]277959:54854:0[/embed] Tripping (also know as prat falling) was a new aspect of the Smash Bros. gameplay system added with Brawl, the third game in the series. When playing on solid ground (meaning not on ice or wet ground) you have a 1/100 chance of falling every time you go from a still position to a dash or a roll. Chances of tripping increase on ice and wetness. There are also attacks specifically designed to make others trip. After tripping, you'll remain vulnerable to attack for half a second.  This was enough to enrage many Smash Bros. fans. They took the inclusion of this mechanic as a personal attack -- as an intentional move to get them to enjoy Brawl less than other games. It wasn't the only reason they were upset with the game. Compared to Melee, the characters in Brawl generally move a little slower and have longer hang times after jumping. Throw tripping on top of all that, and it was just too much. This is despite the fact that most human beings wouldn't be able to see the difference in how the games play unless presented with a head to head comparison. Even then they may not be able to see it. Unless you're accustomed to the lightning fast pace of competitive Melee play, the differences may be undetectable.  [embed]277959:54855:0[/embed] So if the differences are minor, and tripping is a rarity, why did Brawl cause Melee devotees to feel so robbed? It's because contrary to what many may think, the core appeal of the series isn't watching a bunch of  Nintendo characters hit each other into space and then explode. The thing that really makes playing Smash Bros, particularly Melee, feel different than other fighting games is the absurd level of control that it allows you to take over your character.  Smash Bros. was created by Masahiro Sakurai. He also created Kirby, a series that was designed to be the philosophical opposite of Super Mario Bros. when it it comes to control and empowerment. Where Mario has to constantly weigh the rewards of running (increased jump distance and speed towards the end of the course) with the risks that come with it (decreased character control and potential to speed into a deathtrap), Kirby allows the player to move their character almost anywhere they want at all times, and at little cost. Kirby doesn't have to worry about getting a running start and jumping over the giant pit at the very last second. He'll just fly over the thing, with the spirit of "whatever" firmly planted on his face as he floats on by. Go up against an enemy that has an ability greater than yours? No need to cautiously approach and wait for just the right time to attack. Just swallow them whole and you're done. Just don't forget to make that "whatever" face. It's so alpha.  [embed]277959:54856:0[/embed] Smash Bros takes that "go anywhere, do anything anytime" edict and applies it to the fighting game genre. Every character has at least two jumps, can block in the air, and advance with invincibility while rolling. Almost all fighters have projectiles, attacks that strike in two or more directions at once, or help them to travel vertically to help them recover after a jump (or two). In Melee, there are even unintended abuses of the system (like L-canceling) that allow for even greater levels of power and safety. This is all without the prerequisite complex stick and button combinations that most fighting games require you perform before you do anything "special." Like in Kirby, Smash Bros. allows you to do the most amazing things without really trying.  When every character in a fighter has this many abilities, the game becomes not so much what strategies you choose, but how fast and efficient you are in implementing them. This eventually turned most high level Smash Bros. Melee play into a race to get in there then start a poke and fake routine until your opponent makes a mistake. Any sort of long distance game, alternating between closing in and backing off, or anything but fast, short range normal attacks has been mostly thrown out the window. The most statistically successful and commonly used characters (Fox, Sheik, Captain Falcon) all are all about speed and risk reduction, making the game a contest of reflexes and dexterity more than anything else. To put it bluntly, competitive Melee has become a game that attracts impatient control freaks who want full authority over their player character and their opponent at all times, leaving nothing to chance and no time to wait and see how a situation will unfold. [embed]277959:54857:0[/embed] This is why the inclusion of tripping in Smash Bros Brawl felt like a slap in the face to them. The idea of having a 1/100 chance of being vulnerable and out of control for even a split second is the exact opposite of what they wanted. In part due to fear of tripping, play-style culture in Brawl quickly became geared towards the static and defensive. Chatter in competitive circles told of horror story loses due to tripping. Videos of comically tragic trip fails spread across Youtube. The consensus began to preach that if you wanted to maximize your chances of winning at Brawl, you has to minimize your chance of tripping by dashing as little as possible. This lead the most dedicated Brawl players to master the art of playing defensively, while the majority of Smash Bros die-hard community just played Melee.  This return to the familiar happens in fighting games a lot. Time spent learning new characters and mechanics means time spent losing to less adventurous players who stick with the standbys. When Street Fighter 3: The New Challengers  [Edit: The game is actually called Street Fighter 3: New Generation. Error fixed. My apologies] (another game shunned for not rewarding aggressive players enough) was first released, it had replaced the entire cast of Street Fighter 2 with (you guessed it) new challengers, except for series mainstays Ken and Ryu. What Capcom and the fighting game community discovered is that most players cared more about winning than experiencing something new. Most Street Fighter 3 players played it safe and stuck with Ken or Ryu, robbing themselves of most of the new content that Capcom had dished up for them. The same is true today. Even on home consoles, where you don't have to worry about losing a quarter or two when you lose, Ken and Ryu are still the most played characters in the Street Fighter series across the board.  Tripping doesn't fit in a culture that values winning and being in control over experiencing new things and overcoming new problems. This is why I love it. Tripping forces the players and the spectators to remain on the edge of their seats all the time, watching and wondering if something "unfair" is about to happen, and what that will lead to. Tripping just means you can't just follow a series of recipes from the "How to win at Smash Bros" cookbook. It means you have to be ready for anything.  [embed]277959:54858:0[/embed] In Brawl, every dash is a test of character, a display of willingness to play the odds. That kind of acceptance of random elements is what elevates a game to a sport. When a pitcher stands on the mound, or the batter steps up to the plate, they aren't going to back down because there is a chance that wind, rain, or other random environmental variables may cause an "unfair" loss of control. If a fighter in the UFC accidentally slips on his or his opponents spit/sweat/blood, he or she wont demand that the rules of the game be changed so that "tripping is taken out". They're willing to face the fact that in sports and in real life, some amount of chaos and discomfort is inevitable. It's their love of the game and their passion for self improvement that pushes them to face their fear of the unknown.  Truly passionate athletes are playing more against themselves and less against their physical opponents. They know that losing is just an idea. The real game is in their own minds. Winning is maintaining optimism no matter the hardship, and achieving by your own standards, not just by the standards of a scoreboard. Losing "unfairly" just drives them to try harder, to plan their next game where they'll set the record straight. Real athletes don't quit a game just because they might trip. [embed]277959:54861:0[/embed]  That's part of why I'm sad that tripping has been reportedly removed from Smash Bros for the Wii U and the 3DS. While I respect that decision, I feel it would have been better to give players the decision to turn it on or off, or better yet, have the option to make the frequency of tripping even more likely. A game where 1/50, or even 1/5 dashes lead to a trip would be an exciting, hilarious decent into barbarism.  Even better than that would be a mode that punishes players for attacking an opponent after they've taken a random fall. We instituted a system like this back at my local arcade when Street Fighter 2 was new. Everyone who played in our town knew each other, and we all agreed that throws were against our rules, as they were "too cheap". If you accidentally threw your opponent, you would willingly agree to take your hands off the stick and the buttons and count to "three Mississippi" as a penalty. It may be hard to imagine that kind of sportsmanship in today's world of online rage quitting and near constant anonymous trash talk, but that's the way it was.  [embed]277959:54862:0[/embed] To have those kinds of rules built into the next Smash Bros could make for an extremely interesting dynamic. If you take a "cheap" hit on an opponent and a red or yellow card is thrown in, you're going to have to face consequences. Maybe the player who was fouled on would get a free Smash Ball attack in compensation, or worse, the offending player may be removed from the game. In Ice Hockey (both in real life and on the NES), those kinds of risks are taken regularly, sometimes as part of a larger strategy. It may be smarter to take out a particularly opposing player with a cheap shot, even if it means being taking out of the game with them. That kind of thing is a lot grosser in real life, as it's real people getting physically assaulted, but in Smash Bros, it's just a relatively harmless foray into calculated crime and punishment.  These types of risk vs. reward, self preservation vs. sacrifice, ethical vs. practical, law vs. chaos conflicts happen in sports all the time. That differs from eSports, where every effort is usually made to remove variables that detract from overall "fairness". I'd argue that valuing "fairness" too much only works to make games feel fake. All games, including sports, are based on the way we naturally order our lives. Consciously or subconsciously, we all conceive of arbitrary win states to strive for and rules to follow in order to make those wins "fair." We assess our capacity and our worth by our ability to obtain those wins "fairly." What makes that experience feel "real" is balancing those fixed rules and goals again the mushy, inconsistent nature of existence. Living things are not a series of ones and zeros. We're all amorphous, ever-shifting blobs, whether we like it or not. [embed]277959:54859:0[/embed] Personally, I prefer games that give me the opportunity to safely practice dealing with a flawed, unfair world and an even more flawed, fallible person (myself) than games that work to provide a perfect fantasy where I have total control and predictability. If that's what I was looking for, I'd just play Checkers. It's got the best balance, responsive controls, and is 100% free of unfairness. That's exactly why it's so boring. 
Smash Bros.  photo
Also, some Melee bouts from EVO 2014
[Art by Fallen Party] [Update: Some of you are pretty upset about the article! Sorry about that. Also, a few people pointed out a couple of mistakes I made. First, I wrote that you can block in the air in Smash Bros. Looks li...

Senran Kagura 2 photo
Senran Kagura 2

Senran Kagura 2 trailer sure is very Senran Kagura

That ground-pound also sure is something
Jul 05
// Kyle MacGregor
Marvelous is keeping its cheeky money-printing machine going strong with Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson. The latest effort from self-proclaimed "huge boob producer" Kenichiro Takaki is due to be unleashed in Japan starti...

Kyoto Wild is a quick but thoughtful Bushido brawler

Jun 20 // Brett Makedonski
The premise is simple. Each player tries to get to five kills. Once they hit that mark, they turn gold. After they turn gold, they must be the last player standing in a round to win the game. Upon winning, they grow to become a giant gold figure for just a few seconds to really rub in the achievement. The demo that we saw was a bit pared down from what Diefenbach projects for the final game. In our build, there were three maps on a constant rotation and swords were the only available weapon. When Kyoto Wild releases, every single respawn will equip players with a new set of weapons (such as rakes, knives, and paper fans), and each one will control differently. Although we only got to use swords, it did a fine job of showing off how Kyoto Wild won't just reward players that dash in and melee as quick as they can. There's a pronounced pause with every swing that ever so briefly opens the attacker up for an easy kill if he's reckless or just unlucky. That, combined with the prospect of being hit with a projectile, create an atmosphere where you never feel safe until you've won the round. The fact that Diefenbach hasn't put a ton of time into Kyoto Wild yet shows. Right now, it's a bit bulky with regard to the controls. It's the subtle weight that wouldn't matter much in most genres of games, but it's notable and makes all the difference in a Bushido brawler. Despite some roughness, I had a great time playing Kyoto Wild. Upon ending each match, it was only a matter of seconds until someone fired up a new one to everyone's delight. Once it's polished, it'll be a fine brawler -- the kind you and your friends can use to declare supremacy over one another over and over again.
Kyoto Wild preview photo
Murder, rinse, repeat
Teddy Diefenbach is a busy guy. He's one of the developers on the high-profile indie title Hyper Light Drifter, but when he isn't doing that, he's making more games. Kyoto Wild is his side-project, and Diefenbach says he...

Guacamelee! photo

Guacamelee! coming to Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 in early July

With the bigger and better Super Turbo Championship Edition
Jun 19
// Jordan Devore
DrinkBox Studios' Guacamelee! was part brawler, part platformer, and loads of fun. Enough so that double dipping isn't entirely out of the question -- far from it! The game is coming to new platforms soon with an expanded ver...
Senran Kagura 2 photo
Senran Kagura 2

Marvelous AQL reveals new Senran Kagura 2 gals

Introducing Daidouji and Rin!
Jun 01
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is coming to Japan on August 7, and I'm sure we'll see the Nintendo 3DS brawler here sooner or later. In the meantime, Marvelous AQL has unveiled a couple faces that will be joining the titl...
Akiba's Trip 2 photo
Akiba's Trip 2

Hashtag all filters: Akiba's Trip 2 has a weird editor on PS4

May 29
// Steven Hansen
Akiba's Trip 2 is being ported to PS4 in Japan in a couple months (we get it on PS3 and Vita in August) and Acquire has some videos full of swimsuits and bouncing breasts to show off (below). There's also a weird "visual editor" (above) that lets you change sky color and, for some reason, all color. I get the Instagram "vintage" filter, but what's with the EVERYTHING IS GREEN filter?
Akiba's Trip 2 photo
Akiba's Trip 2

Akiba's Trip 2 acquires a flashy PlayStation 4 trailer

But will XSEED publish it here?
May 13
// Kyle MacGregor
Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed is a game where you, erm, beat the clothes of vampires. You see, their skin is weak to sunlight, so forcibly removing their clothes makes perfect sense actually. Earlier this year, XSEED ...
Akiba's Trip photo
Akiba's Trip

Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed will feature dual audio tracks

Also, 'strip portraits' for male characters as well as the women!
May 09
// Brittany Vincent
Infiltrate virtual Akihabara in Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed, an upcoming brawler that XSEED Games has gone to great lengths to localize properly. XSEED announced today that beat-the-pants-off-of-your-enemy Akihabara ...
Shish keboob photo
Shish keboob

Senran Kagura 2 trailer is jiggly and embarrassing

Shish keboob
May 09
// Steven Hansen
But! Credit where credit is due, fighting with a giant, food-skewered kebab instead of a sword? That's up my alley. The rest of Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson? Not so much. Anyway, you may proceed in telling me how I hate anime and am closed-minded towards Japanese culture.
Senran Kagura Vita photo
Senran Kagura Vita

Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus jiggles to North America this fall

And there will be a limited edition physical release
May 08
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is coming to PlayStation Vita in North America this autumn, XSEED Games announced today. The plot of Shinovi Versus unfolds shortly after the events of Senran Kagura Burst, revisiting t...
Croixleur Sigma! photo
Croixleur Sigma!

Croixleur Sigma is hard to pronounce, but fun to play

Devil May Cute returns, and is better than ever
May 05
// Kyle MacGregor
Doujin hack-and-slasher Croixleur debuted on western shores early last year, and it packed quite a punch. The game drew inspiration from the Devil May Cry series' Bloody Palace mode, pitting players against waves of...
Dynasty Warriors photo
Dynasty Warriors

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete hits Steam this month

Launching May 13 for PC
May 02
// Jordan Devore
Tecmo Koei has honed in on the North American and European PC release date for Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition -- it's coming to Steam on May 13, 2014. The publisher included a handful of screenshots along with the announcement, including a shot of the graphics menu if you'd like to see what settings are customizable. Find those below.
BloodRayne out now on PC photo
BloodRayne out now on PC

BloodRayne: Betrayal takes a bite out of Steam today

The dhampir femme fatale returns with an enhanced PC release
Apr 30
// Kyle MacGregor
Majesco is looking to lure in unsuspecting victims today, as BloodRayne: Betrayal sinks its teeth into the PC market with a Steam release. The polarizing WayForward side-scroller initially landed on PlayStation 3 an...
Yakuza Restoration photo
Yakuza Restoration

Yakuza Ishin came to PS3 & PS4 to do right by fans, just not western ones

Please understand
Apr 25
// Steven Hansen
Yakuza Ishin, released in concert with the PS4 in Japan as the best selling (not-bundled) software, is probably never releasing outside of Japan. SEGA sidestepped localizing Yakuza 5 to put all its efforts towards developing ...
Free Xbone photo
Free Xbone

Play this crappy Raid 2 brawler & you could win an Xbox One

The game sucks, but free is free
Apr 08
// Steven Hansen
The Raid is a great action film. It's sequel comes out this Friday. I assume it's also good. I saw a "making of" GIF where they pass a camera through a car window to the passenger seat, which is actually a disguised person, w...
Japanese indie games! photo
Japanese indie games!

Doujin fighter Magical Battle Festa strikes PC today

Japanese indie multiplayer brawler localized for western audiences
Apr 08
// Kyle MacGregor
Magical Battle Festa is hitting PC today, courtesy of the localization team at Playism. Set in a future where mankind has averted crisis by harnessing the power of magic, this arena fighter pits up to four-players in an all-...

Review: The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville

Mar 23 // Darren Nakamura
The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: RadiangamesPublisher: Cartoon Network GamesReleased: March 14, 2014MSRP: $7.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit In standard fashion for the genre, the Powerpuff Girls lose all of their powers at the onset of the adventure. Mojo Jojo builds a device that erases their procedural memories, causing them to forget how to use all of their powers. He also kidnaps Blossom, Bubbles, and the Mayor, leaving Buttercup to try to save the day. At the beginning, Buttercup can do nothing more than walk left or right; she cannot even punch or jump. With robots on her tail, she has to stay on the run. It is sort of interesting to be so completely disempowered, but thankfully the section does not last long. One of the first memories Buttercup regains is how to punch. Shortly after that, she remembers how to fly and things really start to feel right for the Powerpuff Girls property. One design decision that comes off as slightly strange at first is that there are two attack buttons, with one for leftward attacks and the other for rightward attacks. It takes some getting used to, but it quickly becomes clear why it is the way it is: a short time into the game, Buttercup gains a projectile attack, and the control scheme acts as a sort of simplified twin-stick shooter. With independent attack directions, players can fly left while shooting right, or vice versa. [embed]272334:53091:0[/embed] At that point, what appeared to be a brawler becomes more of a shmup. Some enemies put out an unhealthy amount of glowing purple bullets. Though it never reaches the point where it would be called bullet hell, the girls do a fair amount of dodging and shooting from afar, in addition to their more powerful melee attacks when the situation calls for it. Eventually, Buttercup rescues Blossom and subsequently Bubbles, and the player can switch between the three at will with a quick button press. All three have most of the same basic abilities, but each has her own unique projectile attack. Buttercup has a wave beam-esque pulse that can pass through walls, Blossom throws fireballs that deal splash damage and melt ice, and Bubbles has an ice attack that has the widest spread and can freeze open certain barriers. The girls' unique abilities provides one of the avenues for blocking progress and backtracking, though other universal abilities are used for this as well. As far as these types of games go, Defenders of Townsville is more open than most, with multiple paths available at any given time, and not much direction on which path makes the most sense. This highlights one of the weaknesses of the game: the map is less helpful than it should be. With such a nonlinear environment and the backtracking that entails, the map gives no information on what was previously blocking progress. It does show whether a room has a powerup to find and whether it has been cleared of enemies, but little else. It ends up not being a huge deal, because the area to explore is not too large, and the girls' ability to fly makes traversing it a relatively quick endeavor, but it does seem to be a step back for the genre, which has taken steps in recent years to minimize wasted time and effort. After completing the first quest, a second one opens up, but the progression is a bit different. In Mojo's Key Quest, the Powerpuff Girls keep all of their regained memories, and sections of the map are locked off by collectible keys rather than by abilities. To compensate for starting almost fully powered up, the robots to fight are more numerous and more formidable than before. It is in this second quest that the combat really starts to get demanding. With some practice, players are able to fully utilize some of the cool abilities that show up late in the first quest. The girls can punch projectiles out of the sky, use defeated enemies as explosive weapons, and perform devastating charge attacks to drop the robots. Some may find the combat in the first quest to be too easy, but it becomes much more satisfying in the second quest. Mojo's Key Quest has its own map issues, despite the change in progression. While it does clearly distinguish locked and open doors, it is a larger area with certain doors acting as two-way teleporters. The big thing missing from the in-game map is which teleporters lead to one another, requiring a rote memory component for something that could have easily been represented on the map screen. Graphically, Defenders of Townsville matches the recent visual reimagining for The Powerpuff Girls, and while I hated it at first, I got used to it by the end of the first two-hour quest. However, series purists and those who cannot get over it have the option to use the classic, thick-outlined art style, which changes not only the character sprites, but also the whole environment. Otherwise, I experienced a bit of noticeable screen tearing, but nothing too distracting from the experience. The soundtrack is a decent chiptune collection, but it does not especially fit the franchise. It has a bit of a grungy sound to it, rather than the expected sugary pop that many associate with The Powerpuff Girls. It is not bad by any means, but it just does not match. All in all, I came out of The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville pleasantly surprised. Not only does it nail the look and feel of flying around and beating up robots as a Powerpuff Girl, but it also stands in its own right as a unique take on the metroidvania genre. Where most focus on platforming as a means for getting around, the girls' constant flight and projectile arsenal puts an emphasis on shmup gameplay instead. Though it suffers from a few design oversights, Defenders of Townsville is a good, solid game. It handles the franchise well enough, but it would be good even without the Powerpuff Girls property. At about four hours of total gameplay, it does not overstay its welcome, and it definitely does justice to the franchise.
Powerpuff Girls review photo
Sugar, spice, and almost everything nice
Fifteen years ago, The Powerpuff Girls was my jam. I used to watch it (along with Dexter's Laboratory) just about every day after coming home from school, but before firing up a videogame. A couple weeks ago, when The Po...

Senran Kagura Bust photo
Senran Kagura Bust

Senran Kagura Burst box art was almost even sexier

This is a brawler, by the way
Mar 14
// Steven Hansen
Marvelous AQL didn't shy away from titillation with apparent porn game Senran Kagura Burst's European box art. The initial plan was even more blatant. The original box art design, prototyped above, was a slip cover. The outer...

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