I'm currently looking for paid writing gigs, so if you might want anything written shoot me a message (craighats at hotmail dot com).
In case the contents of this blog don't make it obvious enough, I have something of an affinity for slightly "offbeat" titles, so if there's something out there that few others cover, there's a fair chance I'm at least somewhat up on it.
If there's any sort of (reasonable) inquiry you'd like me to address, please don't hesitate to be in touch.
Below are a handful of recaps and other links (oldest listed first by section), in case you're interested - asterisks mark promoted articles.
Hi again, all: as promised in the previous installment, I’ve got some more stuff to talk about regarding what I’ve been up to lately. Let’s get right down to brass tacks: though I haven’t written much here, there is one thing I haven’t stopped doing…
Keeping up with obscure gaming news.
That’s right – it’s been awhile since this blog’s recurring news feature, The Obscurer Tribune, stopped updating regularly, but that doesn’t mean my desire to spread the word about the oddball side of gaming has diminished one bit. Even after stepping back from DToid, I found myself, almost subconsciously, stockpiling links to notable stories – eventually it became clear that some things can only be put off for so long.
To be perfectly blunt – I am not again taking up a set schedule for either the Tribune or this blog. That ship, for the time being at least, has sailed. What I AM doing is publishing what you might call a special “Digest Edition” of the Tribune, composed of what I consider to be the most noteworthy offbeat gaming items I’ve glimpsed since I ceased blogging. It’s not as in-depth as previous issues, but hopefully it’ll make you aware of at least a handful of things you weren’t up on before.
Since this is a highly condensed edition covering several months’ worth of content, I’ve limited its scope mostly to stuff not covered on DT or in previous blogs, so if you observe something that’s missing it’s probably been mentioned elsewhere (though I’m still as open to outside material as ever!) Anyway, on to the good stuff!
I already discussed a couple of recently-released Cave shooters in the first “Up To” article, but there’s still more business afoot: first and foremost, the upcoming 360 port of Akai Katana, out in late May. Unfortunately, AK is going to be region-locked (the developer apparently hopes an outside publisher will pick it up eventually), but even if you don’t have plans to pick up a J360 you might still want to set up a Japanese account, because that’ll let you download a demo for the title. (Additional DT coverage here and here.)
Discouraged by the region-locking news above? Don’t be too sad: there are other unlocked Cave shooters to snag, and they just got cheaper! Mushihime-sama Futari (check out my “How-To” if you’re not familiar with it) earned a “Platinum” reprint back in November, and ESPGaluda IIjust got one this past month: if you’re holding off on importing because it’s “too expensive” you’re REALLY running out of excuses now!
Additional tidbits on the Deathsmiles front: first, the game is on its way to the iPhone – keep an eye out for further info as it develops. Also, back in February the US version of the game was patched to adjust slowdown levels and fix a few other things, so if you (like me) don’t hook your 360 up to the ‘net too often you might want to make sure you download that bit. Finally, the big one: Deathsmiles IIX is coming to America, as an untranslated, 30-buck “Game on Demand” downloadable title. Cave will be publishing itself, since Aksys, sadly, doesn’t seem interested in revisiting its role with the first game for the time being, though Rising Star is supposedly considering bringing the sequel to Europe.
Cave’s not the only one putting out new shooters, of course (though it can sometimes feel like it) – Wii importers can also pick up Milestone Collection 2, which keeps all three shooters from the first collection (Chaos Field, Radirgy, and Karous) and bundles two newer products, Illvelo and Radirgy Noah, in with them. Karous is also making a solo trip to the 3DS at some point.
The game is out in Japan, but there’s still no official release date for Otomedius Excellent in the West: that said, Gamestop is hinting that it might finally make its way here in July for a measly 30 bucks, though obviously that needs to be taken with a grain of salt for now. On a related note, a moment of silence, please: Konami’s planned Gradius for the PS3 has officially been canned.
Touhou fans have undoubtedly already been following this, but let it be known to everyone that ZUN’s next shooter, Ten Desires, is almost ready to go, and will be out over the summer: there’s already a demo out there if you want to sample it. Naturally, there are plenty of trinkets for diehards to pick up, though apparently ZUN is clamping down a bit in this area…
On the “it’s still technically a shooter!” front, “fight off the love-crazy schoolgirls” pseudo-lightgun game GalGun has been out in Japan for a bit now, as has a demo you can download with a Japanese XBL account: inexplicably, though, a patch has since been uploaded as well, which disables camera angles low enough to peek under enemies’ skirts, basically rendering moot the reason why 95 percent of buyers got the game in the first place (and does some other stuff too, not like it matters). Ecchi sorts, consider yourselves warned. The less-lecherous among us might be more interested in upcoming doujin run-n-gun Gun Lord.
Time for a little moichindising! Cave is selling some new (and expensive) stuff in its online shop, while fans of G. Rev’s Under Defeat might be interested in a newly-released Superplay DVD featuring near-impossible player footage, to make you feel even more inadequate! There are also a couple of new models floating around out there, though the links seem to be escaping me at the moment, except these bits of Touhou…in the meantime, look for the latest issue of Retro Gamer magazine, which features a writeup on Cave.
Finally, a quick downloadable/indie shooter roundup, for any of you wanting to use this feature as a jumping-off point: check out Strania (another one from G. Rev, which now has DLC available), 99 Bullets (which limits how many shots you can fire each stage), Viriax a hybrid from the guy who made Hydorah), Galaga Legions DX (no explanation needed), Gatling Gears (a co-op twin-stick release), Shield the Beat (a rhythm game with a shmup veneer), Level 2 (a metal concept album you can play), Lunaria (from the Bike Banditz folks), and Jamestown (about the well-documented British colonization of Mars). Oh, and don’t forget Trouble Witches Neo!
I know most of you have been primarily excited about the rebirth of CURLEH MUSTACHE (yay), the latest helping of TOASTY (meh), or yet another lazy and unnecessary appearance by Evil Ryu (boo), but there’s actually quite a lot of other stuff going on in the fighting world beneath the surface: let’s start with all-girl brawler Arcana Heart 3, which was just released digitally in the US. PAL gamers will be getting a physical version in June, including a nice LE, which I’ve already surrendered and pre-ordered: in the meantime, Siliconera’s posted a nice series of “tutorial” articles on the game. Here’s the latest, with links to the previous ones. Sega’s also got a dog in the fight with Chaos Code.
Going back in time a little ways, SNK’s obscure tourney fighters Aggressors of Dark Kombat and Savage Reign are headed for the Wii’s virtual console: too bad they didn’t go with superior sequel Kizuna Encounter for the latter, or, uh, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum for the former, maybe? Capcom, meanwhile is still plugging away at the promised online-enabled Third Strike, and announced that Alpha 3 will be joining it – gonna hafta keep holding your breath when it comes to Rival Schools, though.
Namco, meanwhile, is taking its sweet time on Tekken x Street Fighter, but somehow I think Soul Calibur V will tide a lot of you over. In any case, it’ll never top Tekken: Blood Vengeance, since video game-themed CG movies are guaranteed hits! Always! A slightly less-sarcastically-cited sure success would be yet another embarrassing Ivy figure, but if you ever wondered what on Earth the designers were thinking (aside from the obvious), there’s a system in place, and don’t you forget it!
Siliconera recently posted a two-part interview with Daisuke Ishiwatari (the Guilty Gear guy), which has him talking about a variety of topics, though most of you are probably too busy messing withBlazblue: Continuum Shift’s latest DLC. On a related and uplifting note, Aksys is selling Blazblue t-shirts to fund Japan quake relief.
On the “doujin” front, I would be remiss not to mention Skullgirls, which should finally see daylight over the summer, as well as offer a new video for Card Sagas Wars (is it truly possible for me to pine for a game with Master Chief in it?). Oh, and then there’s Under Night In-Birth, the newest effort from the guys who brought you Melty Blood.
Speaking of fighting games based on eroge, there are quite a few of those in the pipeline right now: Aquaplus has Aquapazza, BaseSon has Koihime Musou, Alchemist offers Ougon Musou Kyoku X, and, while not technically VN-based, 5pb gives us Phantom Breaker. There’s a demo on Japanese XBL for that last one, if you’re interested.
Finally, yeah, I’m still a total sucker for the silly things Kotaku sometimes posts, like this one, and this one…and what the heck, this too. Less-goofy readers than myself might still be interested in an upcoming Street Fightermotion comic, which will certainly provide you with your daily recommended allowance of Delta Red tuchus. Last but not least, take a gander at this interesting c-blog about a recent bit of tournament controversy.
I’m still not sure what to expect from the Black Rock Shooter PSP RPG, but one thing’s for sure: you hafta check out the bonus figurine from the limited edition! In other “what the heck IS this?” news, something called Black Sting is also in the works, but I know next to nothing about it, unless I’ve missed some manner of reveal since January. For something dwelling in slightly more familiar (though not yet localized) territory, read an interview with one of the folks behind Half-Minute Hero Second.
I’m a bit nervous when it comes to Gust these days after the disappointing Ar Tonelico Qoga, but I’m still happy to see screens and a trailer for Atelier Meruru…by the way, NISA, any chance we’ll be seeing Totori stateside?
Of course, the developer is already busy with Nora and the Carving Studio, a joint venture with the Etrian Odyssey folks…out on the periphery, you’ll have to import this figure, but Udon has come to the rescue on the art book front, as they’re bringing the Official Chronicle artbook for the Atelier games stateside! They’re supposedly doing the same for an Ar Tonelico book too…cue the Futurama “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” caption.
Of course, Gust isn’t the only bunch raising a pre-emptive eyebrow on my end…you all know I love Vanillaware, and that I’m eager to see more of Grand Knights History, but the underlying structure sounds odd…turn-based combat with an online multiplayer component? Well, it’d help to eliminate the sometimes-stiff real-time mechanics from Odin Sphere and Muramasa, but I’m still hesitant to throw myself at it with abandon.
Sting, after the brilliant Knights in the Nightmare, is also taking things in an unusual direction, with Gungnir, a “relatively traditional” SRPG…considering that the company’s more experimental games tend to be their best (IMO), I’m holding out hopes for Gloria Union instead. Weirdest of all, though, is the news that the Soldner-X guys are working on a downloadable SRPG for the PS3…saddest of all, Irem’s confirmed that Bumpy Trot 2is no more.
I’ve also been a bit nonplussed by good ol’ Atlus lately…while Persona 2: Innocent Sin looks good (and is hopefully coming our way eventually), I’m somehow having trouble getting equally excited about Devil Survivor 2 (and Overclocked, like 99 percent of the 3DS library so far, isn’t even on my radar).
The “weirdest name of the issue” award goes to PSP dungeon crawler UnchainBlades ReXX, “weirdest concept” is bestowed upon rhythm/RPG hybrid Sequence, and “weirdest theme” honors are claimed by the Wii’s Pandora’s Tower, which has you hunting down monsters and feeding their raw meat to a very hesitant vegetarian. In slightly less-strange sectors Square has two new entries in the successful Chaos Rings saga in the works for the iPhone, Gamevil is taking much the same route with Zenonia 3, and Tri-Ace has two more for us, namely Frontier Gate on the PSP and Beyond the Labyrinth for 3DS.
Out in figurine land, a trio of Falcom ladies will be getting new super-deformed Nendoroid releases: which ones? Well, we don’t know yet: people hafta go and vote for their favorites first! There certainly are plenty to choose from…anyway, another Plenair has hit the scene since last issue, as has an impressive papercraft of Aegis from Persona 3.
Cave Story 3D aka Pretty Much the Only Reason I Might Remotely Consider a 3DS At This Point, will be on our shelves in August, so I’ve got ‘til then to decide whether to cough up the 250 bucks…oh, and while I’m at it, Happy B-day, Pixel!
I personally wasn’t particularly taken by the Japanese Catherine demo (maybe being able to read the text would help), but Atlus’ recent decision to use tamer box art in some displays has sparked a bit of discussion on the c-blogs…not that any of this matters to the nutcases at Aksys, who responded to Atlus’ request for fan ad submissions with a not-so-veiled plug for Agarest War Zero. In any event, that IS a pretty nice LE.
Of course, then there’s the other Japanese-exclusive (for now) demo I tried, namely El Shaddai: Rise of the Metatron. Again, I wish I knew a bit more about what was going on, but I generally tend to concur with Herr Sterling’s thoughts – dang that’s pretty, dang that’s tough. I found the platforming controls a little stiff, though combat felt pretty good…wonder if they’ll include an unlockable plastic chibi mode to go with its accompanying fashion line? Ah, and check out this nifty early concept demo, if you haven’t seen it before (heck, even if you have, watch it again).
Two of the more interesting (IMO) gaming companies on the scene, namely Marvelous and AQ Interactive, are merging – to read some comments on this development from Xseed (who are owned by AQ and have worked with Marvelous), click here. On a separate front, both The Last Guardian and the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD package have been delayed (again), but some guy is apparently tinkering with a Game Boy-styled SoTC – sadly, LEGO Ico is just a fantasy, as is not having to import Solatorobo.
Several anticipated (by me) downloadable offerings have finally seen daylight, some after lengthy delays: to whit, we’ve got Cave mini-platformer Nin Nin Jump, Square’s Strider-esque Moon Diver, Ikaruga-gone-platforming Outland, and Capybara’s HD-ized and rebalanced port of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes. Oh, and some of you might be aware of Koumajou Densetsu, a Touhou fangame that plays like a Castlevania title: did you know they’ve got another one? WayForward fanboy that I am, though, I have a special place where my heart would be for Mighty Milky Way…
Of course, there are a whole bunch of others that we’re still waiting for, but all of the following are (apparently) still alive: Fez certainly comes to mind, as do the lovely-looking Bastion and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, despite a long hunk of downtime for all three. If you’re in the mood for the read even less traveled, you might prefer to keep an eye on Pickdun, Terraria, Perfect Cell, or Warp. One promising title that probably won’t be finished, unfortunately, is The Iconoclasts, by the guy who did Noitu Love – you can, however, download the unfinished product to see what might have been.
Yeah, I know, Portal STILL isn’t really obscure enough to deserve coverage in this pseudo-periodical, especially when I already mentioned it last time around, but frankly, I don’t care, especially when its sequel has a nifty comic tie-in, cool poster, and free DLC attached to it. I do hope Master Newell is pleased by my efforts bzzzt…the assimilation has already begun.
Aaaand it’s time to dump most of the stuff that wouldn’t fit anyplace else into a single paragraph: Japan has received SNK Arcade Classics 0 on the PSP, though I’m still hoping for a “Volume 2” with a better game selection. Speaking of PSP, dimension-hopping puzzler Crush is being remade for the 3DS, with a brighter vibe than before, though presumably not as gonzo as crossover card game Weiss Schwartz, which is being digitized, but never localized thanks to one of the biggest messes of copyright shenanigans since Super Robot Taisen.
A couple more miscellaneous articles you ought to read: first, a decent write-up on the so-called “hardcore” Japanese game development mindset. Second, though I’m not personally a Mega Man fan, shmups.com forum member undamned (who IS a big fan, obviously) made a neat discovery recently: Mega Man mini-pinball! Also, Scribblenauts stuff!
Mario (yeah, that Mario) is probably the least-qualified possible candidate for a write-up in the Tribune, but this video, as utterly wrong as it is, made me laugh too hard not to share it. Oh, and by the way, did you ever wonder why some of the “building block” levels in the background of Super Mario Land 2 had a “N&B” insignia on them? Now you know!
Well, I’ll have to leave it there for now: hope you enjoyed the temporary return of the Tribune. Hopefully I’ll be able to do another one like it at some point, though heaven only knows when that might be: ‘til then, thanks for reading and keep gaming obscurely!
Oh, but before I go, just one or two other things I’ll note quickly about what’s been happening in my neck of the woods.
When I first announced my semi-departure from blogging here, I mentioned that after months of unemployment (which was, incidentally, the catalyst that got me blogging in the first place), I’d managed to find a bit of work: part-time, but steady. In case you’re interested I’m still at the same job, and saving up for a sorely-needed replacement for my current car: it’s hardly an ideal position to be in, but it’s definitely better than where I was, so I’m glad to have managed to hang on as long as I have. Hopefully something better awaits, but for now this is it.
I also, to Wry Guy’s horror, got picked up for a seasonal gig at Gamestop this past holiday season, and they’ve kept me on since then to fill in various scheduling gaps: retail work is retail work, of course, but it was handy to have that employee discount when I was picking up all those new releases earlier this year. As with any such job there are countless stories to relate (even with my limited hours), but they’ll have to wait for another day.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, when I first announced that I’d be stepping away from this blog for awhile, I said I had other projects on the back burner: believe it or not, while I’m still working my way through the list, I have actually managed to finish a couple of them. You might have already noticed a few of them in the sidebar, but here they are in case you didn’t:
First off, I’ve done a bit more work for Racketboy, which offered me my very first “published” writing gig a little while back – as with my previous two projects, this one is a system-based shmupping guide, though I’ve shifted my focus from the 32-bit systems to the PS2. Did you know that such an “uber-mainstream” system actually has one of the greatest scrolling shooter lineups ever? Have a read and you may well be surprised! I’m currently finishing up another project for the site…keep an eye on that sidebar!
I’ve also managed to get myself a new outside client, namely Hardcore Gaming 101, home to a whole slew of articles on unusual games. Once again, my initial contributions to the page are shooter-related: specifically, we’ve got Deathsmiles, which was just recently released in Europe, and Espgaluda, whose second iteration was ported to iOS around a year ago. Both of these articles need an update, which I plan to do soon, but if you’ve ever been curious about those two series (or others; several shmup-centric posts by other writers have gone up there lately), hopefully these bits will tell you most of the “essential” stuff. I also hope to do more work here at some point; I’ll keep you posted as best I can.
Guess that’s about it for the time being. Hopefully you didn’t mind my catching up with you all a bit, as I’ve enjoyed getting back in touch with the community, if only for a short (by my standards, anyway) time: I don’t know when I’ll be able to blog here next, but until then you can rest assured that I’m still gaming and writing away, among other things. ‘Til then, see you around the comments, on the forums, or wherever. :)