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Review: Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX

Sep 04 // Kyle MacGregor
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: SegaPublisher: SegaRelease Date: September 8, 2015MSRP: $39.99 While Miku's looks will never fade with age, she certainly has received a bit of a makeover in her latest outing. In Project Mirai DX, a spin-off of Sega's successful Project DIVA series for Nintendo 3DS, the digital singer and her band of vocaloid pals sport a super deformed chibi aesthetic.  Inspired by Nendoroid toys, the characters all feature massive, distended heads and petite frames, reminiscent of toddlers. The new art direction is one I can't say I'm terribly fond of, as it gives rise to some awkward moments where the infantile performers unadvisedly attempt to exude sex appeal.  The new look isn't the only notable change to the established formula, though, as the rhythm game portion of the package has seen some revisions. The basic premise is the same, with notes flying in from off-screen, challenging players to keep time with the beat of the music. Players must either press specific buttons or tap the correct portion of the touch screen at certain times, the accuracy of which (in the aggregate) will determine the level of one's success or failure. The touch controls are a new and entirely optional way to play the game. On easy mode, players will tap a single circular area on the portable's lower screen, with each subsequent difficulty level adding another zone to tap on. This initially seems more forgiving than using the buttons, but on normal and hard mode, with multiple areas to worry about, I actually found this was more challenging. Keeping track of the action on the top screen while needing to tap certain sectors below can be quite the feat, particularly in an up-tempo song when the notes are coming in rather quickly. The touch controls can also be rather finicky, though. It's not only easy to tap the wrong portion of the screen, but sometimes the inputs don't seem to register at all. At other times, the game will ask the player to slide the stylus in a particular direction, which can be difficult if you are already pointing at the edge of the surface and are asked to move in a direction where there's no room to go. In contrast with the Project DIVA titles, where notes fly in from every which way to a variety of targets, Project Mirai introduces a single rail system, which I actually found to be a helpful change in most instances. There are times where this can be convoluted, with a crowded rail looping in on itself, or seemingly unfair, where the speed will change at a moments notice and throw off your rhythm, but for the most part it seems to be a better, more straightforward system. Another aspect where Project Mirai is remarkable is the sheer amount of content included in the package. The rhythm game mode vaunts 48 tracks in total, which span all sorts of genres and visual themes with minimal repetition, keeping the experience fresh and varied throughout. There are a lot of secondary aspects of the experience, which didn't necessarily appeal to me, but at the same time don't take anything away from the game. You can play dress-up and house with a selection of characters. There are mini-games and a somewhat limited mode that allows you to design your own compositions. By far my favorite throw-in, though, is PuyoPuyo 39!, a fun little Miku-themed version of Sega's tile-matching puzzle game that even incorporates local competitive play. One thing Project DIVA veterans might not appreciate about Project Mirai is it's a much easier and more lenient experience. On the other hand, some people find those games to be incredibly difficult and have a high barrier for entry. Personally, I was just fine with the challenge on the hard setting, but some rhythm game masters may be left feeling wanting for more in that area. Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX retains the essence of the Project DIVA series, but it's definitely its own unique thing. It may not appeal to all fans of the vocaloid songstress' previous work, and it's certainly my least favorite outing of hers in the realm of games. However, that all said, I still generally enjoyed my time with Project Mirai. Despite its missteps, this is a decent game that has a lot to offer for both rhythm game enthusiasts and Miku devotees alike. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Hatsune Miku 3DS review photo
FINE
In many respects, Hatsune Miku symbolizes my interest in Japan. It doesn't matter how much I learn about the virtual pop star or the amazing/bizarre subculture that has taken root around her; it's tough to imagine ever truly ...

Review: Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence

Sep 03 // Kyle MacGregor
Nobunaga's Amibition: Sphere of Influence (PC [reviewed], PS4, PS3)Developer: Koei TecmoPublisher: Koei TecmoRelease Date: September 1, 2015MSRP: $59.99 My journey began by acquainting myself with Sphere of Influence's comprehensive (perhaps a tad too comprehensive) tutorial, before jumping headlong into one of the title's nine historical campaigns. There, players have the opportunity to act as one of Japan's elite families during the country's "warring states" period in the 16th century. Whether you choose to recreate history as the Oda clan or blaze your own trail, the aim remains the same -- to unite the fractured nation. How you get there will require a careful synthesis of conflict, management, and diplomacy, as the path toward bringing dozens of warring territories under a common banner requires a multi-pronged approach. This begins with building up a small province, developing it into a rich, bountiful launching pad that can support a growing empire. The backbone of the realm is the labor force, which is, of course, limited in supply. Daimyos must allocate their workers to projects mindfully, whether that means paving new roads, constructing new buildings, improving fortifications, focusing on trade or food production, the list just goes on and on. Rest assured, manpower is always at a premium. That line of thought extends to the nobility as well as the commoners. With only so many officers to go around to carry out diplomatic missions, govern territories, lead military units, and oversee civic projects; managing the ruling class is of the utmost importance. Individual leaders have varying skills, and knowing how and where to employ them can make a drastic difference in how quickly and effectively a clan enacts the wide swathe of policies these officers must take charge of. [embed]305046:60241:0[/embed] If that sounds incredibly intricate and exacting, well, that's because it is. Despite being a game where the end goal is conquering (or subduing) an entire nation spanning dozens of factions and hundreds of settlements, Nobunaga's Amibition doesn't shy away form minutiae. No task, from appeasing the local hill tribes to planting an orchard or setting up a suggestion box for citizens to voice their concerns, is too small a concern to deal with. And in the aggregate these sorts of seemingly minuscule moves tend to pay dividends when clashing with neighboring daimyo or getting them to join your coalition. It isn't all about raising armies and sending them off to battle. Not that combat isn't a large part of the game, because it most certainly is. After players finish managing their towns, the experience switches from a turn-based affair to a real-time one, where armies will march off to besiege enemy villages or clash with hostile forces on the battlefield. The battles play out automatically (as depicted above), but can be controlled manually, with players taking control of each individual army as a unit on the battlefield. This facet of the experience might seem a little primitive in comparison to some of its genre peers, but it's not entirely without depth. While there isn't much in the way of unit variety, each commander has his or her (no, you needn't marry off all your daughters to forge political alliances) own abilities that buff their troops with improved defense, melee attack, and a myriad of other temporary strategic supplements. Skirmishes aren't always a numbers game, either. I've frequently found myself using guerrilla tactics, surrounding a large battalion with several smaller ones and harassing them from all sides. This negates their numerical superiority, since a block can only attack in one direction at any given time, while forces with smaller, more plentiful detachments possess the ability to be more nimble. Throughout the experience, players are treated to historical vignettes, which not only follow key events pertaining to your chosen faction, but other clans as well. If significant affairs are happening across the country, chances are you'll be given a front row seat. These aren't always assassinations and coups d'état, though, sometimes they're a tad more trivial, pertaining to the romantic lives of clan leaders or the arrival of western missionaries spreading Christianity in certain provinces. There's a lot going in Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence, to be sure, and much of it is done well. After pushing through some initial bewilderment associated with coming to grips with its mess of elaborate systems, I discovered an experience that rewarded the time I put into it in spades. Its pace may be too plodding for some and it certainly seems somewhat backwards or dated in relief with other modern strategy games, but Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence still remains an ornate and absorbing title that kept me engaged for hours on end and surely will continue to do so. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Nobunaga's Ambition photo
Sublime Sengoku-era strategy
My first experience with Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence nearly broke me. I collapsed into a heap over my keyboard, weeping softly, wondering just what I had got myself into this time. Even as a seasoned strategy gam...

Banner Saga 2 is 'basically the same' as the first

Sep 01 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]308796:60226:0[/embed] It might have been a refreshing moment of honesty, you know, if the statement were actually true.  While The Banner Saga 2 may not be a drastic revision that goes out of its way to reinvent the core experience, intimating it's a carbon copy that merely continues the story might be underselling it. In my limited time with the game, I witnessed a number of notable tweaks to the existing formula that figure to go a long way in addressing players' complaints about the original being somewhat of a repetitive slog. The sequel feels like a more dynamic, varied evolution on what's already been established, thanks to little touches like how battles arise and play out. The Banner Saga 2 reinforces one of its predecessors greatest strengths -- how consequences born from player choice ripple throughout the experience like stones cast into a pond -- by having them directly bleed into combat, starting out battles with scenes that stem from your decisions, rather than have them play out exactly the same way regardless of how a particular situation came to pass. Once a skirmish begins, you'll encounter new foes, such as four-legged creatures that can cloak themselves and ambush more fragile units (such as archers) that you figured were safe behind the front lines. New support units will also force you to make difficult decisions between targeting the enemy's bruisers or the guys making them even more imposing than they otherwise would be. Even outside of battle, players will have new options to manage their caravan. Clansman seem to be of more use this time around, as they can be recruited as fighters. However, much like everything in Stoic's universe, there are drawbacks to this; these new warriors will no longer focus on collecting supplies, making your caravan's precious resources dwindle at a faster clip. At a glance, it may not seem that too much has changed since The Banner Saga launched in early 2014, but upon closer inspection, the development team at Stoic appears to be making subtle, yet impactful changes to a blueprint that already worked in an effort to take its game to the next level.
Bad PR photo
Except not really
Game previews are an inherently strange part of this business. You wouldn't read a few pages from an unfinished book and render judgement about the final product. Likewise, we don't often have the opportunity to sample a song...

Pac-Min photo
Pac-Min

Awful new Pac-Man redesign spotted in the wild


Despicable
Aug 24
// Kyle MacGregor
The new Pac-Man redesign is pretty gross; but hey, whatever keeps you in business, Namco. [Photo Credit: Kyle MacGregor]

Attack on Titan photo
Attack on Titan

New Attack on Titan PS4 game is lookin' good


A shade or ten prettier than the 3DS one
Aug 23
// Kyle MacGregor
No offense to Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains, which I'm sure Spike Chunsoft put a lot of hard work into, but this is more like it. This is the sort of Shingeki no Kyojin game I've been waiting for. This time around ...

Boston police arrest two armed men at Pokemon World Championships

Aug 23 // Kyle MacGregor
Norton and Stumbo were subsequently arrested at a hotel in Saugus, Massachusetts for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Unlawful Possession of Ammunition, and other firearm-related charges.  Both men are listed as invitees in the Pokémon Trading Card Game's masters division competition. Kotaku dredged up the following post made by Stumbo on a Facebook group: The Pokémon Company International has made the following statement regarding the matter: "Prior to the event this weekend, our community of players made us aware of a security issue. We gathered information and gave it as soon as possible to the authorities at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center who acted swiftly and spearheaded communication with the Boston Police Department. "Due to quick action, the potential threat was resolved. The Pokémon Company International takes the safety of our fans seriously and will continue to ensure proper security measures are a priority." Keeping Boston Safe: Officers Arrest Two Suspects, Recover Two Firearms after BPD Notified of Online Threats to Pokemon World Championship [Boston Police Department via Kotaku]
Pokémon  photo
Firearms recovered after alleged threats
At this weekend's Pokémon World Championships in Boston, local police arrested two armed men who allegedly threatened to harm tournament attendees over social media. After catching wind of the threats on Thursday, priv...

VVVVVV photo
VVVVVV

One of 2010's best games is finally coming to PSN


VVVVVV jumps to PS4, Vita this Tuesday
Aug 23
// Kyle MacGregor
Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV is coming to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita this Tuesday. The indie platformer was one of my favorite games of 2010, largely thanks to brilliant level design that makes the most of simplistic mecha...

Podtoid 303: A Good Amount of Cocaine

Aug 23 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]307560:60110:0[/embed] What We Discussed Darren sings "Rapper's Delight" Bad SyFy movies Should you drink your own urine? What's a good amount of cocaine for a 15 year old? Resident Evil 2 Remake What N64 era games would you like to see remade? Rare Replay Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Volume The Goonies Tales from the Borderlands What animal has the weirdest dick? Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Is lore bad? The future of Metal Gear Pokémon Burmese hacky sack Recent Episodes Podtoid 302: Virtual Reality is the Future Podtoid 301: The Least Interesting Man in the World Podtoid 300: Randy Pitchford's Little Asshole Podtoid 299: Blast Ball Podtoid 298: Tales of E3 and Batman: Arkham Knight  Send any and all questions, tips, and Darren Nakamura fan art to [email protected]
PODTOID photo
The Steve Hansen Show with Steve Hansen
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. The Podtoid boys return to discuss the latest video games and sexy turtle-on-roller skate action.

Grandia II photo
Grandia II

Grandia II HD Edition renamed, probably because it doesn't look very HD


Anniversary Edition coming to PC Aug. 24
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Grandia II may be pretty good, but it is not pretty. Not even the recently-announced "HD Edition," which (based on these screenshots) looks hardly any better than did the original Dreamcast version. Perhaps cognizant of this,...
Monster Strike photo
Monster Strike

Japanese mobile game making $4 million a day


Monster Strike is just printing money
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Monster Strike, a mobile action RPG developed by Japanese social networking service group Mixi, made $387 million between April 1 and June 30, according to the company's latest financial report. As Tokyo-based consultant Dr. ...
Final Fantasy XIV photo
Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV tops 5 million registered users


That's a lot of Chocobos
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Final Fantasy XIV has amassed more than 5 million registered accounts across the globe since Square Enix released the popular MMO two years ago, the publisher announced this week. That figure doesn't quite rival market leader...
Duke Nukem photo
Duke Nukem

Gearbox owns Duke Nukem following lawsuit


Rights dispute settled out of court
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
The legal battle between Gearbox Software, 3D Realms, and Interceptor Entertainment over the Duke Nukem franchise has ended, leaving Gearbox the "full and rightful owner" of the property. To avoid going to court over the disp...
Nintendo photo
Nintendo

Nintendo patents console without a disc drive


Speculation, ho!
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Nintendo just filed a patent application for a home console without an optical disc drive, which might indicate the company plans to forgo physical media with its upcoming system, codenamed NX.  Or it could mean nothing....
ATLUS photo
ATLUS

Persona 4: Dancing All Night launches in Europe this November


Not the worst delay, I suppose
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is coming to Europe on November 6, NIS America has announced. As per usual (as far as Atlus goes), the PlayStation Vita-exclusive rhythm game's PAL version is launching a tad later than its North American counterpart, which debuts September 29.
Senran Kagura 3DS photo
Senran Kagura 3DS

Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson launches September 15


August 27 in the UK and Europe
Aug 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Senran Kagura 2 will release on September 15 in North America, XSEED announced today. The Nintendo 3D-exclusive beat-'em-up will be available for $40 via the Nintendo eShop or as part of the $50 boxed "Double D Edition," whic...
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 photo
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 may come west after all


Provided there is enough demand
Aug 18
// Kyle MacGregor
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is in development for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, the latest issue of Famitsu reveals, while also giving fans in the West some hope of seeing a localized release. Though Koei Tecmo currently onl...

So you thought localization was easy

Aug 17 // Kyle MacGregor
Translation is usually what we think about when localization is brought up, as if the process of bringing a game from one region to another were little more difficult than running the script through Google Translate and calling it a day. No. Again, it's way more complicated than that. Translation isn't a quick and easy thing. There are cultural references, idioms, and turns of phrase that just don't, well, translate. But even once the herculean task of converting a mountain of text into a language your target audience can understand is finished, the job is far from over. Just go take a peek at XSEED Games' blog, where localization consultant Jessica Chavez recently discussed the state of affairs surrounding The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky SC, a role-playing game for PSP and PC that the studio has been working on for... God knows how long. There are reasons for that, of course. And I'm not going to get into all of them here out of respect for the parties involved. But chief among them is the fact that Trails in the Sky is a massive game. To illustrate that point, Chavez recalled trying to pull up a document containing the game's full text on her computer, only to have the machine buckle and blue-screen under the weight of the file. Quality assurance sounds like a total headache, too. Even once you cram all those words into the game, the battle is far from over. For example, you are then likely to get problems like this: In addition to randomly inflating words and spacing issues (that sometimes require the localization team to rework entire lines of dialogue) there's all sorts of other bugs that need to be addressed, like glowing doorways to nowhere, whatever is going on in this .gif, and disappearing scenery. And that's just the fun stuff that Chavez decided to share. I'm sure there are other untold horrors. Every game is unique, with its own problems and challenges, all of which can make the process more difficult, lengthy, or just not commercially viable for the publisher or development team. In December 2012, Capcom's then-senior vice president Christian Svensson told fans why the company wouldn't be localizing the gorgeous PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS shooter E.X. Troopers as "all of the text is 'hard coded' as actual art. The text isn't just standard 'text' that could be swapped relatively easily. To localize a release, one would have to redo a ton of art in the game." More recently, Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki said that while he would love to bring his latest project, a rhythm game called IA/VT Colorful, to western markets, it just wasn't feasible due to all the rights involved with the music. According to XSEED's Tom Lipschultz, the royalties involved with licensing would have bloated the game's budget and made it unmanageable.  So maybe the next time you're about to curse a company's name and hammer out an angry comment here or elsewhere on the Internet when word breaks that a game you really wanted was delayed or isn't coming here, stop and think. Maybe there's a good reason behind the decision. That all said, God fucking dammit, Sega! Bring over Valkyria Chronicles 3 already, you monsters!
Localization photo
Yeah, no
I think we're all guilty of underestimating just how difficult a process localization really is. There are reasons why some games never make it out of Japan. We rarely hear exactly why, but it's probably more complicated than some executive at Nintendo wanting to rain on your parade.

Mii too photo
Mii too

Chinese console knocks off PS4 and Xbox One


Shameless, utterly shameless
Aug 16
// Kyle MacGregor
You'd think China recently ending its ban on foreign video game consoles would end this particular brand of malarkey, but here we are talking about the "OUYE," yet another shameless knock off box. The manufacturer of this And...
3DS photo
3DS

South Korea is getting the smaller New 3DS


Coming this September
Aug 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Remember back when the New 3DS released, and North America only got the XL version? Well, it seems we weren't alone. Following the system's North American and European launches in February, the upgraded portable came to South...
Star Wars amiibos photo
Star Wars amiibos

Disney Infinity's new Star Wars: Episode VII toys


These things will print money
Aug 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Today at Disney Interactive's D23 Expo presentation, Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast members Daisy Ridley and John Boyega helped reveal Disney Infinity 3.0 figures based on their characters. So yeah, that's Rey an...
Kingdom Hearts III photo
Kingdom Hearts III

Kingdom Hearts III has world based on Big Hero 6


Baymax!
Aug 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Today at Disney's D23 Expo, Square Enix just announced Kingdom Hearts III will include a world based on Walt Disney Animation Studio's 2014 computer-animated film Big Hero 6. 
Red Ash photo
Red Ash

Red Ash returns to crowdfunding for more cash


Studio 4℃ wants to make the anime longer
Aug 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Mega Man Legends wannabe Red Ash needs more money. No, not the game. Keiji Inafune and company already secured a publisher prior to the project failing to meet its lofty Kickstarter goal. Animation group Studio 4°C i...
Phantasy Star Online 2 photo
Phantasy Star Online 2

Sega announces Phantasy Star Online 2 for PS4


Not for the West, obviously
Aug 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Phantasy Star Online 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 in Japan next year, Sega announced today. The free-to-play online role-playing game initially launched on PC in 2012 and came to PlayStation Vita the following year. Last spri...

Gallery: Our favorite cosplay from Comiket 88

Aug 16 // Kyle MacGregor
[Images via なんだかおもしろい, @M_Schmitt1, @7thpolaris, @Buffy_0926]
Comiket cosplay photo
Show us yours!
This weekend in Tokyo, roughly 550,000 people attended Comiket (Comic Market, if you're nasty), a biannual event where independent creators sell games, manga, and other items directly to the fans. It's also a hot spot for the...

Ironfall: Invasion photo
Ironfall: Invasion

Nintendo pulls 3DS game over homebrew exploit


Ironfall: Invasion removed from eShop
Aug 15
// Kyle MacGregor
Ironfall: Invasion is a decent little shooter for Nintendo 3DS that you likely haven't heard of; and now that you have, you can't play it, as Nintendo has removed the game from its online store. The move came mere days after...
Splatoon cosplay photo
Splatoon cosplay

Splatoon Squid Sisters cosplay staaaays fresh


'Hold on to your tentacles'
Aug 15
// Kyle MacGregor
Splatoon's "Squid Sisters" Callie and Marie (or Aori and Hotaru, as they're known in Japan) seem to be a big hit with the Comiket crowd, as there are more than a few pairs of cosplayers have been spotted wandering around this...
Comiket 88 photo
Comiket 88

This Chun-Li cosplay is fierce!


More like a spinning beard kick amirite?
Aug 15
// Kyle MacGregor
Comiket 88 is well underway and the cosplayers are out in force in and around the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center, so you can expect more wonderful photographs like this throughout the weekend.
Dragon Quest XI photo
Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI's first screenshots look amazing


No matter which version you choose
Aug 12
// Kyle MacGregor
Square Enix unveiled Dragon Quest XI for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS late last month at an event in Tokyo, where the publisher gave attendees a nice long look at the game. Today, the company has shared the first ...
Rodea: The Sky Soldier photo
Rodea: The Sky Soldier

Rodea: The Sky Soldier delayed again


Now planned for November
Aug 12
// Kyle MacGregor
NIS America has once again delayed the release of Rodea: The Sky Solider. After initially planning on a September release, the publisher pushed the game back a month. Now it's happening again. The new target dates are Novembe...
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey photo
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey

Final Fantasy vets, Scottish studio making a RPG


Introducing Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey
Aug 12
// Kyle MacGregor
Final Fantasy VII writer Kazushige Nojima and composer Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy Tactics, Valkyria Chronicles) have joined forces with French developer Kobojo's Scottish satellite studio to create Zodiac: Orcanon Odyss...

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