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3:47 PM on 03.26.2012

First Impressions: Dead or Alive 5 Demo

This is actually a repost of my private blog post from last week but seeing as it's video games based and still kinda recent, I thought that some would be interested in it, esp since I doubt many ppl visit my personal blog here! Having said that, this comes with additional info after spending an even more extended time with the demo along with playing with Ayane after picking up my limited edition NG3

Hurray for boobies!!! Wait... nope, I got it right!

Seriously though, I am a pretty big fan of the Dead or Alive series. Afterall, I've played every version of the game and own all but DoA2 hardcore on PS2 and DoA for PS1. Heck, DoA dimensions is by far my most played game on my 3DS! Still, I have to say that the series did lose its lustre after the last few games. DoA Ultimate wasn't too great and it introduced that stupid "forward + hold" to counter just mid kicks which I hated with a passion. DoA4 has cheating AI, a fickle counter system and just felt less accomplished than earlier titles. For me, the best in the series were (and still are) DoA2 and 3.

Dead or Alive Dimensions did a pretty good job of scratching a small itch but when Dead or Alive 5 was announced, I was cautiously optimistic. This is, afterall, the first original DoA game since the departure of Itagaki (Dimensions doesn't count cos it was basically a remake) but my hands on with the Ninja Gaiden 3 demo at the Eurogamer expo last year left me with some major concerns on how the final version of NG3 will play, concerns which proved to be fact if the online reviews are to be believed. That leaves some big questions about how well Team Ninja will be able to handle DoA5.

I have the PS3 collectors edition of Ninja Gaiden 3 on the way but I was able to acquire a code for the 360 demo from a member of Destructoid (thanks, Chris Carter!) so I spent a while blasting through the demo which had Hayabusa and Hitomi as playable characters!

So, how was it?

The first thing which struck me was a sense of familiarity. Controls are still the same and the moves still have the same feel and impact to them but there were several noticeable changes to the formula. The most obvious one, from the videos released, was an increase in the interactivity in the stages. The demo has the rooftop stage which was shown on the very first video and if you hit some of the danger areas, the level will change as debris makes the stage smaller and the stage tilts slightly, opening up new tactical possibilities which are opened due to your character potentially being higher than your opponent. It also opens up a new danger area which will knock the opponent to the lower level. That's the bit from the video with the opponent hanging on the edge of the building. The DoA series were always the best at handling interactive stages out of all the fighting games and the new dynamic changes while you're fighting really takes things up a few notches. However, there's also a slight problem in that, at times, the screen is simply too busy. Especially with the debris falling. With all the parts falling down and potentially causing damage, it's easy to lose focus on what's happening with your character. This is particularly evident when using the new "dynamic" camera which has a tendency to move a lot to give a view of the moving debris while you continue fighting. This can be turned off in the options menu but then you have no idea where, for example, the overhead steel beams are so you could end up launching your opponent into them, which prevents you from following up with, say Hayabusas inazuma drop.

The next big thing is a new charge move which is triggered by pressing p+k+g together (or whichever button is mapped). Pressing the button causes your character to begin charging DBZ style and, should the following hit connect, the character will perform a short flurry of moves which conclude with a heavy attack which causes the screen to go into slow motion. During this time, the background become monochrome save for active danger areas and you are able to rotate the camera to a certain degree in order to line up your opponent with the obstacles and hit them into them to trigger set animations which will cause damage to your opponent. The most well known ones so far from gameplay videos are when you hit your opponent into some steel beams on the rooftop, which triggers an animation where the opponent holds onto the side of the building before you kick them off and a flying car which you can hit your opponent into when fighting at ground level. With regards to the flying car, theres a brief QTE which ensures that you do hit the opponent into the car. Not great but it could have been far worse but many (myself included) will bemoan the introduction of a QTE into DoA.
The charge itself is fairly brief but long enough to give opponents time to react. At this point in development, I think that will need to be tweaked before release as I don't think it'll be of much use when playing against human opponents right now. It just takes too long to pull off. pressing up or down while charging also controls the sidestep, and this will probably be used far more in high level play.

The counter system has also been reworked quite a bit.. I wasn't sure initially due to the fact that I was playing with the crappy 360 dpad but after playing on PS3 as well, I'm certain that the window for successful counters have been shortened quite significantly. It's still not too hard to pull off but it does feel less spammable compared to earlier games. Damage has also been reduced considerably. And at least they kept the retarded forward+hold counter for mid kicks out of this game. God, I hated that!
However, I can't say that I'm a fan of the new look for the characters. Dead or alive has always had exaggerated character designs which were more inline with anime characters than photorealism. So the sudden change in look which went more towards realism is rather jarring, particularly with the female characters. Ayane got off lightly but kasumi and hitomi do look off. There's some real "uncanny valley" work going on here! It's not all bad though. There are some nice touches like how the characters get dirty as the match goes on and if you look at them at the end of the fight, you can see sweat beads rolling off their faces. Of course, if you're playing Hitomi, it seems that she sweats like a pony, which isn't great when you're wearing a white top... or is it?

And from my playtime with the demo, I can say that fans of Hitomi don't have anything to worry about. If you played as her in any of the previous games (but mostly dimensions) then she'll be instantly familiar. Hayate has a few new moves but it won't take long to adjust. I've never played as Hayabusa in any DoA game so I can't say too much about him, but Ayane plays rather differently. She's got quite a few new moves which have different properties to her old repertoire. Her basic tactics still work but you won't be able to just jump in and get her if you've used her in previous games (as I found out!)

Otherwise, the alpha demo does look promising. Dimensions was a lot of fun, though I have heard people complain about the dumbing down of the system (like namco did with soul calibur 5) but that's really only people who take he game way too seriously. DoA is never going to reach the level of complexity or dedication of the likes of streetfighter IV or blazblue but it's a solid fighter in its own right. Team ninja may have dropped the ball with ninja gaiden 3 but it looks hey they are more intimately familiar with dead or alive and with dimensions already under their belt, I think we have room to be a little optimistic when it comes to #5. And there's always the boobies!!   read

3:03 PM on 02.27.2012

Mini Review: Malicious

Some of the community members may know that I keep a small blog. Normally, I post about my garage kit projects, how they're progressing, what they look like once I'm finished, etc but every now and then, I break off and post about current anime seasons and (more frequently) I write mini-reviews for some games I've completed recently.

Most of the time, I don't bother cross posting here as the games are often the big titles which people already have opinions of or they're so late, I don't see the point in posting them again elsewhere.
OK, maybe I could have posted my review of Gundam Extreme VS...

But this time, there's a small PSN game which I think IS worth posting about, partly because it doesn't seem like it's getting much coverage anywhere! And since this is the first review I'm cross-posting, I guess I should say that my style is kinda kotaku-like. I'll give a little backhistory about the game and some of the gameplay mechanics on it and then explain a few points which I liked and hated about the game before summing things up at the end. But before we begin, here's an obligatory warning about the wall of text you're about to see. You can find the original here. If you like this style of review, let me know and I'll consider throwing more out when I write them. The next one is likely to be either Catherine (which just recently got its european release) or the Last story.
Ready? Well then, here's my mini review of the PSN download title, Malicious:

And now for something a little different! Up until now, my mini reviews have been on boxed titles and I haven't really done a review for download titles found on XBL or PSN. The reasons are many, like how I often don't pick them up until much later than release or that, due to their nature, I don't really have that much to say about them. Even the best ones, like hard corp: Uprising, tend to fall into either category or both but a few weeks ago, I bought a PSN game which kinda needs to be talked about, mainly because nobody is!! That game is Malicious!

I first learned of the game via some gameplay trailers from youtube. It was released on the Japanese PSN back in 2010 and the trailers gave it an almost Bayonetta like flow to the combat and I was immediately interested.

This was the original launch trailer for the game. But afterwards, we didn't hear much until late last year when it was announced that the game was to be given a western release. And it arrived earlier this month in the UK!! There is pretty much no story to the game. You are a vessel given a power to defeat a great evil but are told that other beings contain parts of your power and you need to beat them in order to be powerful enough to defeat the big bad! There is a backstory which is contained within the game and it's loooooooooooooong! When the game itself gives you a bookmark to allow you to come back to reading it later, you know it's long! It does provide the setting though and also hints at the name of your avatar.

You can choose between a male and female character, though the impact on gameplay is negligible at best. Your character attacks with a mantle around their neck. Initially, only 2 abilities are available (excluding guard). Punch and shot. they're pretty self explanatory but you get more as you progress. The game starts in a white hub world and gives you access to the first 5 stages and you are able to tackle them in any order you wish, though ones tackled later will be considerably more difficult compared to if you took them on earlier. The stages themselves are rather small and the objective is to take out the boss which appears at the start of the stage. To do so, you are expected to take out the smaller enemies which appear to collect "aura" which can be used to augment your attacks to make them more powerful. Each boss holds a special ability which is passed onto you once you defeat them. For instance, one boss wields a sword and defeating her allows you to change your mantle to a similar sword which allows for wide, powerful but slow attacks.

There's no lifebar as such in the game either. Instead, when you take sufficient damage, the screen flashes red and your character loses a limb. If you lose 4, then you go into a "sudden death" like state. Limbs can be restored by using aura and the more limbs you need to repair, the more it costs. Sadly, you can't restore 1 at a time so if you lose 2 or 3 and don't have enough aura to restore them all in 1 go, you aren't able to!

That's pretty much the game in a nutshell. So, how well does it play?


Beautiful to look at - for a downloadable game, it looks really stunning. This isn't the kind of art-y "look at me" style of limbo but genuine "this could pass off as a boxed title" beautiful!
surprisingly deep - despite only having a rather limited set of moves, even after you unlock them all, the game still has a lot of depth and allows you to combo attacks surprisingly easily
Instant gratification - by making the stages somewhat small and showing the boss off straight away, you get right to the thick of things and take things on with aplomb from the offset!


Ridiculous difficulty spikes - Some of the stages are just insane. I did the red queen last and she was able to completely destroy my character with a handful of moves if I was not careful. None of the other bosses came close to that level of power, save for the final one.
Really crap camera - Remember how crap the camera was in ninja gaiden? Yeah, this one is at that level. It easily gets stuck around corners, locks onto the wrong enemy and can leave you totally blind in certain moments.
Story? What story?? - For all the effort the makers went to in order to establish a setting and story in the prologue, it means jack shit when you actually start playing!
Really short - With only 6 stages available and each one taking an average of 30 minutes for me on my first run, that doesn't add up to much gameplay time, but what it does provide is fantastic!
Lives? in 2012?? - The game provides you with 3 lives at the start of the game which allows you to continue exactly where you left off when you die to make things easier for you but there's no way to gain any more so if you use them frivolously at the start of the game, you'll end up in great difficulty on later stages. But if you don't use them, you have to start the stage you're on from the beginning. And just in case you didn't get this from the description, that's 3 lives for the WHOLE GAME! if you find youself stuck on a later stage and have no lives left, you have 2 choices, get a lot better so you can complete the stage (and subsequent ones) on 1 life or start from the beginning!

With its emphasis on boss fights and short stages, Malicious reminds me of Alien Soldier, a treasure game for the Mega drive/Genesis which was basically nothing but boss fights! Malicious isn't terribly long but it's wonderful to play while it lasts and you can't really argue with the pricetag of a mere £7. The game was able to distract me from Catherine until I managed to complete it, and that says something (not sure what though, as I can't say I was a fan of Catherine. I'll probably post my thoughts on that game soon). There's also a vita version in the works. If that gets a UK release, I'll be sure to get that too since my purchase of a Vita is pretty much a forgone conclusion. It's just a matter of when! This is definitely one PSN title which deserves more exposure than it has been getting and a genuine but pleasant surprise! Just go play it!!   read

3:26 PM on 02.06.2012

Say hello to my little friend!!

I will be the first to admit that I have a little vanity in me. Not the usual physical type where I love looking at myself in the mirror (hell, I wouldn't even count myself as even remotely handsome) but more to do with what I collect.

Being a big fan of Japanese anime figures, I've collected a number of figures and model kits over the years but unlike many others, I don't simply buy completed figures from online shops to display. That kind of thing has never appealed to me. Afterall, what's the fun in collecting and showing off things if your items are exactly the same as everyone else who bought the same item? As a result, my usual poison is making garage kits, Super limited items which require me to assemble and paint them myself. The end result being a completed figure which is uniquely mine. See where the vanity comes in?

This also stretches over to video games as I have a tendency to lean towards limited edition versions of video games (or at least steel case versions) when they are available. But the nature of video game buying means that you can't really stamp your purchases as your own. Other people will buy limited edition games as well afterall, Sometimes, you can make them stand out by getting them signed by the developers. I Managed to get Kitamura to sign my Final Fantasy XIII (the only reason I haven't banished the game from my home), Hideo Kojima for metal gear solid 3 and 4 among a few other trinkets but otherwise, my collection is pretty non descript.

But for a while now, I've been getting into fighting games and, as many similar gamers will tell you, it's all about using an arcade stick! So about a year ago, I purchased a Mad Catz Super StreetFighter IV TE:S fight stick. And one of the first things I did was to contact someone on a local forum to get it modded to run on both PS3 and 360. But it didn't stop there. After a little bit of thought, I figured that I would mod my arcade stick as it's one of the few things which I could stamp as being uniquely mine. And because I'm a big fan of Blazblue, I decided to wear my allegiance on my sleeve, or rather, my stick!!

It's taken quite a while to get to this stage. I bought the stick back when Continuum Shift was released a little over a year ago. Here;s how it looked for a long while

Aside from the dual mod, I also replaced 6 of the buttons from the standard Sanwa to Seimetsu for 2 reasons. The first was because I've never been a fan of the "squishy" feel of the Sanwa buttons. I prefer my buttons to give me a little more resistance when I press them. That and I always felt like I could accidentally press the sanwas down if I so much as rested a finger on them...
The second reason was because Seimetsu do clear buttons which let you do some cool things with the artwork! Take a closer look again!

The clear buttons allowed me to put some of the artwork into the buttons to give it a look of being unbroken.
As for the artwork itself, it was commissioned by myself and I asked Radiant Dreamer to do the honours. He and I have been friends for a while since we met up on Danny Choos website before he (and it) really took off and have been in contact on and off for a while. He was also the illustrator for the cover of the UK release of BB:Calamity Trigger. Not the best advert for his skills cos the cover sucked (even he admitted that he didn't like it as much as his other entries but that's what his client asked for) but at least it meant that I knew that he would be familiar with the source material. He also showed me a few other pieces which he submitted and so we started talking. The end result, after months of talking and throwing ideas back and forth, is a pretty damn cool custom artwork which is mine, and mine alone! No, you can't have it! (seriously, I'd get into trouble if I just handed it out)

The main section of the art is obviously, the Noel Vermillion who adorns the left hand side. Bet you can't guess who my main is!! I did also toy with the idea of having Tsubaki in there as well, but the cost would have gone way up and as we discussed it, it became clear that the art would have probably ended up too complex so the idea was shelved early on. Poor Tsubaki...

The right side was what took up the most time to decide on as I wasn't happy with the idea of leaving it too plain but couldn't decide on how I was going to full up the empty space. Radiant helped me out here and we went for Noels Emblem.
The Chibi characters are the ones used in the "teach my Ms Litchi" segments from the game as well as the Bururaji radio show from the game. If you haven't listened to them, find them on youtube. Some are absolutely hilarious! Sadly, there weren't any sprites for Makoto in her combat outfit at the time so I had to make do with the uniform. I was given the pst file from radiant so I should be able to update it later will little fuss.
There was a little worry that they would provide too big a distraction on the artwork as a whole but I stuck with it and I think it turned out pretty well!

But that's not all...

I also have the stick signed by Yoshinori Ono

... And Katsuhiro Harada

OK, it would have been even cooler if I had it signed by Mori Toshimichi and Ishiwatari Daisuke when they visited the UK last year but I got something else signed instead cos I wasn't able to take my stick to the event...

Well, that's enough about me showing off. Time to put the stick through its paces. And just in time for soul calibur V!
And for those curious, I wrote a personal blog post which went into a little more detail about the assembly process.

Can't wait for CSII:Extend!!   read

11:18 AM on 12.10.2011

Xenophilia: Time heals no wounds but mecha fixes everything!

Being a person based on the east side of the Atlantic (UK), I couldn't help but chuckle when I read the bloggers wanted topic this time around. Afterall, Europe is still widely regarded as the toilet of the games industry when it comes to releases. We've missed out on so many classic games, that we would probably make this c-blog post a list of games which were never released over on our shores and shout "any you guys complained about not getting Xenoblade?"
And the more things change, the more things stay the same. We don't even get Catherine until a year after the Japanese release!

But we're meant to be blogging about games which we loved but had to import to enjoy. And in my case, trying to choose just one would be difficult. Of course, I could talk about Final Fantasy tactics on the PS1 or Valkyrie Profile. Two of my favourite games which never reached our little island until many years later when they were re-released on the PSP. But at least they got here in the end, right? But eventually, I chose to try and work around a theme. A very loose one, to be fair but one which allows me to endulge not only my love of games but also of a certain type of anime show which I have loved since childhood. To this end, I will be talking about 2 video game series which I hold close so I apologise about this post being rather long in advance. First up, we have the the Xeno- series

It seems fitting to start with the series of games which inspired this particular Bloggers Wanted topic. While Europe got Xenoblade before the US (for once), it's easy to forget that aside from Xenoblade, the series which spans a total of 5 games had only one other game in the series released in Europe. And it was the weakest one! I suspect that quite a few european readers will share the same reverence to the one which started it all as I do. Xenogears was, and is, one of my favourite games of all time. as an impressionable teenager, fresh off Final fantasy 8, Xenogears showed me something different. Even though I did not get the intricacies of the plot until much later (especially the Religious stuff), the game captivated me with its battle system which felt so familiar yet so alien. The way it forces you to pay attention and diversify your attacks was a stark contrast to the "mash X button" from the final fantasy games and it was a hook which worked brilliantly. It has been said that for an RPG to work, it needs either a strong plot or a great battle system. And this one was leagues ahead of anything else I had played at the time, and that includes FFVII (Hush, FFVI wasn't available to us Brits yet!)

The mecha designs were also something to behold and Xenogears remains one of the few games I went out and got the OST for. Second disk aside, the game is phenomenal and still stands the tests of time. I bought a physical copy several years ago and bought a digital copy on the US PSN but the game seems unlikely to ever be released in Europe, seeing as it's stuck in a licensing limbo.

But lets not forget the Xenosaga games, the pseudo-sequel developed by Monolithsoft. I picked up Xenosaga Episode 1 on a whim off ebay after acquiring a modded PS2 to play it on. While it was really showing its age by the time I got it (the game was over a year old by the time it was released in the US!), there was a firm sense of familiarity in the game battle mechanics and other elements which made me feel at home. It also introduced me to KOS-MOS, One of my favourite character designs from any video game. I love her so much, I paid over �600 to import a japanese resin kit...

which needed to be assembled...

And painted

Totally worth it too!
The series in general never touched the heights of Xenogears but they were enjoyable in their own way. Except for episode 2. And it was episode 2 whch was also released in Europe for whatever baffling reason. The game came with a DVD which contained the cutscenes from episode 1 and was meant to fill in the plot from the first game for those who jumped straight into episode 2, since the plots were linked. Except the DVD was useless. It was also a pre-order bonus for the US copy and I had it. It was a complete mess which was impossible to follow since scenes jumped over the place and made no sense since there was no gameplay elements to explain how the characters got to where they were. No wonder episode 3 was never released in Europe as Episode 2, understandably, flopped. Who the heck wants to start a story in the middle? It's a shame that the series got cut short and episode 2 was pretty lame but episodes 1 and 3 gave me a fun time and gave KOS-MOS to the world so I thank it and Monolith soft for that! The mecha connection is a little weak for the Xenosaga series but lets not forget about the (admittedly useless AWGS from episode 1 and the ES units from the other games! ES Dinah was a beautiful unit to look at. I think that puts the games under the mecha unbrella!

But now, lets go onto the second series I'm planning to discuss. It's a series which has been around for years but only in its native Japan. It's the Super Robot Taisen series!

For those who don't know, the games are a Strategy RPG (think Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics) which incorporates mecha shows from the 1970s and beyond into a twisted mass of awesome which takes elements from the series to make a story which combines them all.
And it was 8 years ago when I played my first one. Super Robot Wars R.

I owe a great debt to my Korean friend who introduced the game to me by way of an emulator. He gave me the game to play on my PC and explained the basic controls which were all in Japanese and a few tips to help me on my way. So, armed with a rather limited knowledge of the mechanics and the 2 of the ability enhancing "pilot spells" I ventured into a brave new world. And what a world it was!

I still remember the first time I watched the battle animation for the Aestavales units from Martian successor Nadesico with a massive grin as I recognised the attacks and the midi music being played on the screen. Same for when I used the Gundam W units. My knowledge of anime shows in general was much smaller than it is now but I knew Nadesico and Gundam W. (I have to thank the Super Robot Taisen series for introducing me to shows which I would have otherwise missed. )

But it wasn't until my first SRW game on the PS2 when I really took a liking to the series. It was the second SRW game released on the PS2, dai-2-ji Super Robot Taisen Alpha (lit: the second super robot wars alpha)!

It was the game which introduced the squad system to the series so I ended up having to learn the whole game system all over again but it was worth it. Compared to SRWR, Alpha 2 had a much larger selection of mecha anime series and beautifully animated battle sequences and fantastic music. I remember singing along to a few of them as well as I played! And I couldn't contain my glee when I unleashed Shin getter robo for the first time! The plot in these games can be a little hard to follow but usually, it takes a few series as the core plot so if you know how the story goes for those, you know what happens in the game. For example, Alpha 2 introduced King of Braves GaoGaiGar to the series and covered the first half of the show, so you fought all the way up to the battle with EI-01 and defeat him near the end of the game. The penultimate stage was one where Char tries to crash an asteroid into the Earth, mimicking the end of the movie Char's counterattack, which also neatly ties with the ending for Crossbone Gundam where something similar happens with a different antagonist. And so, you get the idea!

From then on, I never missed a beat when it came to the main console Super robot taisen games. There were a few spinoff games but the core titles were released on the PS2 at the time and I got them all. I also played the ones on the GBA and DS. All in all, I have played the entire SRW alpha series (2 games on PS1 and 2 on PS2), all the DS games (3 of them), most of the GBA games, SRW MX and Z on the PS2 and Z2 on the PSP as well as all the super robot wars Original Generation games!!

Ah yes, Super robot wars original Generation. I guess a little explanation is in order here. In each Super robot taisen game since the second game, there have been original units designed by Banpresto (the developers) which do not belong to any anime series. Then, in 2001, they decided to release a game which contained just those units. This was significant because the first 2 games are the only official super robot taisen games to be released outside of Japan! And by that, I mean the US. Again, Europe got shafted!!
The reason why the super robot taisen games have never been released until then was because of licensing issues. A game which contains so many different anime shows would require permission from all the license holders in the region which it was trying to be released to. It's not so much of a problem in Japan where license holders are more flexible and having a series in a super robot taisen game is good publicity, especially for older shows. But in the west, it's not so easy. Heck, half the series aren;t even licensed, so who do they go to ask?
Legend has it that there was an attempt to release the first super robot taisen alpha game in the US but it fell through as ADV films, the license owners for Evangelion, supposedly asked for so much money to use the license that it made the venture unprofitable...

But the original generation games neatly sidestep those issues, which is why the first 2 games on the GBA managed to get a release late into the handhelds twilight years. Those 2 GBA games were later combined and remade for the PS2 and one more game was released, called SRW OG gaiden. And now, fans of the series are waiting for the first PS3 release in the series called, confusingly, SRW OGs 2. Sadly, only the GBA games were ever released in the US.

But I have a lot to thank the Super robot Taisen games for. As well as introducing a few of the older mecha series for me to watch, it also improved my understanding of Kanji, as I needed to know what all the buff pilot spells did! And, while completely following the plot is still beyond my meagre language skills, I have more than enough knowledge to understand the options for upgrading my units, pilots and also all the pilot catchphrases they say in the battle animations. Still, it's not like you need to know all this stuff to understand how the game plays. All you need is a desire to watch your favourite mecha kick some serious ass!!! The rest just falls into place.

At this point, I think this post has gone long enough. There's still the matter of the spinoff series like the Super robot taisen saga games and the ACE (another century episode) games, but lets take a break, shall we? Perhaps I will be able to talk about those games another time if readers are interested (the ACE games are particularly good!)
If you want to jump on the bandwagon without the intimidating language barrier, there are a few fan translations for some of the games (specifically, SRW A for the GBA and Alpha gaiden for the PS1) and you might stumble across the GBA releases of the Original Generation games if you look hard enough.

Years on, and us Europeans are still getting hurt by delays and non-release of games, far more than the US. But if you tread off the beaten path, you may just find some games which stick with you for life, and the entry barrier is getting lower all the time!   read

3:34 PM on 11.14.2011

Travelling to a Distant World from London!

[one of these days, I'll post a more timely c-blog post about a DtoidEU event!! But it won't be this one. I wrote a more lengthy recollection on my personal blog for those who aren't afraid of walls of text!]

November 5th 2011. Just over 11 months after after tickets were put on sale, Distant Worlds, the music of Final Fantasy finally arrived in London for the first time. Of course, the concert has been around the world several times, landing in numerous American cities, Singapore, Vancouver, Sydney and a whole bunch of other cities but not the UK.
And, despite the very long wait (regular tickets were sent to buyers months ago!), you could tell that people were looking forward to this! Heck, when people start applauding the orchestra when they're just tuning their instruments, you know that they're ready to go!!

The Legend of Zelda 25th anniversary concert was held a scant 2 weeks prior and enthralled and annoyed people in abundance. However, as I am a much bigger fan of the Final Fantasy series than the Zelda games, I was looking forward to this concert far more than I did the Zelda concert.

And as soon as you enter the venue of the Royal Albert Hall, the difference is like night and Day! Distant Worlds is a tried and tested production and they know how to put on a show! The seat where the above photo was taken was actually part of the VIP section, where (supposedly) the best seats in the house were. Well, I don't think I have the knowledge to argue and the tickets themselves cost considerably more than the regular ones outstripping the Zelda concert VIP ticket price once the booking fee was taken into consideration! It would have been cooler to sit closer to the floor and be closer to the orchestra but then you would really have to bend your neck to be able to see the screens, and the music would probably be blasting your ears into oblivion!

And here was the setlist for the evening. A piece of music from every mainstream Final Fantasy game released so far. Even FFXIV (which even Arnie Roth took a quick swing at, saying how it was "still struggling to be released!") which they fit in around memoro de la stono.
The concert was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Voices, the same duo who performed at the Legend of Zelda concert so we knew that we were in good hands, for the most part. There were a few duff notes played on a couple of tracks in the first half of the show but we won't hold that against them. More damning was the fault of the sound balance. The brass section of the orchestra pretty much overpowered all the other sections at times so great tracks like JENOVA and Blinded by Light were mere shadows of what they should have been as you could not hear the string sections clearly!
But when we had such an expertly performed Don't be afraid and Zanarkand, not to mention Dancing mad, the good vastly outweighed the bad. Besides, they had me at prelude, the very first piece of Final Fantasy music I ever heard, back on the PS1 when I was playing Final Fantasy VII for the first time in christmas 1997!

Of course, as promoted by the website, Nobuo Uematsu was present at the event and, as an encore, he joined the London Voices to sing the vocals of One Winged Angel!! I was also really impressed by his command of english!! But for me, the defining moment of the evening came right at the beginning!
After Liberi Fatali, Arnie Roth Addressed the audience and the orchestra played the victory theme to truly kick off the concert! He then went on to talk about how most of the music being played that night was composed by Uematsu and then asked the audience to show their appreciation for the man behind such memorable themes. At this point, one would expect him to appear on the stage and take a bow. But that didn't happen. Instead, a beam of light appeared on the left hand side of my vision to illuminate a part of the audience... And there he was. Just a few seats away from where I stood was Nobuo Uematsu. I could have taken a few steps to the side and I would have been able to put my hand on his shoulder! That was how close I was to him and he sat there for the entire evening, enjoying the concert just as much as the rest of us (I suspect!)!!
The benefits of VIP! The ticket also gave us access to a meet and greet after the show so I didn't leave that to chance!

I also got the programme for the evening signed...

And also both Distant World CDs

Sadly, the meet and greet was very strictly controlled (a far cry from the Zelda concert debacle) and we were only allowed to present 1 item to each guest to sign as well as 1 photo op. So yes, there is a photo where I am with Nobuo Uematsu, Arnie Roth and Susan Calloway and no, there's no way you are going to see it!
Arnie Roth also took some time at the beginning of the concert to say that Distant Worlds was going to return in a years time! November 17th 2012 and you can bet your ass that I will back then as well!!!

Of course, I was not the only member of Dtoid EU present and to close off, I'll give the other guys the spotlight!

Have you seen such a sexy group before?

Now, if only Yasanori Mitsuda did a concert with the Xenogears and Xenosaga music, I would be in bliss! Heck, I'd settle for a short concert where the orchestra played the Myth Album!!

Fellow Dtoid member Nik Monroe was also at the concert and has given permission to share some of his pics! His seat was further away than mine but his camera was better suited to the job. EXTREEEME ZOOM!

Where he was sitting

The orchestra

Nobuo Uematsu

The soloists for the concert

and some more dtoid sexy!!

Tickets for next years concert should go on sale early next month and I highly recommend that you join us there! Even if you're not a fan of Final Fantasy, it's still a night to remember!
And I don't care if I have to wait on hold for nearly 1/2 hr like I did last December, I'm going for the VIP ticket for next years concert too!!   read

9:21 AM on 10.31.2011

The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Concert in LONDON!!

[Note: I know this is kinda late. I posted this up on my personal blog and then forgot to write up the C-blog. Still, better late than never, right?]

Nintendo do like pulling off a load of bluster for their icons don't they? Mario got a load of special edition items for his 25th anniversary and for the 25th Anniversary of the legend of Zelda, Nintendo announced a set of concerts to celebrate the music of one of the most highly regarded and lauded video game series of all time. There were already 2 concerts, one in Tokyo and one in LA and the last one was held last night in London! So, with VIP ticket in hand, I went along to the concert with other members of the Destructoid UK community.

The event was held at the Hammersmith Apollo theatre and tickets went on sale a few months ago, a far cry from the Distant Worlds tickets which were on sale around christmas last year! The event isn't happening for another week!!

The doors opened at 6:30pm but the queue was pretty big by then already. As a VIP ticket holder, there was a separate, shorter queue which I was instructed to go to in order to reach the box office so I could get my VIP tag for the post show festivities. Except that there were no signs explaining that. I only found out by asking one of the stewards where the heck the end of the queue was (it really was that long) and by the time I actually got into the venue, most of the regular ticket holders were in! For VIP tickets, one didn't feel very important when holding one...

Never one to miss out on a merchandising opportunity, there were stalls inside which were selling 3 types of posters and 2 types of T-Shirts. See those prices? Nope, they weren't a bad joke!! Still, I did nab one of the "25 years of the legend of Zelda" posters, which had a link from each of the games so far. I also got it signed, but more on that later...

As well as costing almost twice as much as the regular tickets and giving us access to some post show shenanigans, the VIP tickets also gave us some pretty sweet seats in the theatre! Well, sweet from an aural point of view, terrible for photography...
I landed a seat right at the front, near the right side of the stage.

See? Pretty close, right?

And here's the programme for the event. It came with some messages from Miyamoto Shigeru (who wasn't in attendance), Aonuma Eiji (the producer) and Kondo Koji (the music supervisor).

And here's a closer look at the programme list of all the pieces they were playing for the night.

There were also 2 pages at the back which left a few notes about the tracks that were played.

Anyways, the venue was pretty busy when the show got started.

And when the whole thing kicked off, we had Aonuma-san stand up on stage and speak to everyone with the help of a translator as he didn't think that his english was strong enough. He basically started off with the usual thanks to the audience for attending and what he thought the music meant to the player and how it helps identify the series. He also asked people not to record the concert and upload it on youtube. Someone probably did though...

Terrible place to take photos because of the lighting but it also didn't help that he wouldn't stop moving!!

After that, he introduced the conductor for the evening, Eimear Noone and we then got our first track of the evening.

And then after a few words from the conductor, we were introduced to the person who would basically introduce the remaining tracks to us and explain a little about them (not that anyone in the crowd needed an explanation) but that was when we were told that our "guide" would be Zelda Williams! You know? the hot daughter of Robin Williams who did the adverts for the Ocarina of Time 3D with her dad? And the good, down to earth kind of hot, like Natalie Portman and Audrey Hepburn, and not the sexpot kind of hot.

Ms Williams wouldn't stop moving either, but she's forgiven because she was clearly nervous. heck, she even made a gaffe later on in the show by saying Kakariko Valley instead of Village. But at least she managed to correct herself before the audience did (barely).

Then what followed was a couple of hours of sweet orchestral music, punctuated with a mix of live video of the orchestra playing and some gameplay video of the legend of zelda games. Now, here's where a little criticism comes in. It was billed as a 25th anniversary concert but it would be more accurate to describe it as a 13th anniversary concert as almost all the music was from either ocarina of time, Wind Waker or Twilight princess. Wind waker and Twilight princess got a whole piece each which basically took us through the whole game in a matter of minutes while the bulk of the concert was taken up by Ocarina of time. Being a fan of the earlier games, I was a little disheartened that very little time was taken to update some of the music of the earlier games. Links awakening and Zelda 2 had no presence at all but I did have a big smile on my face on one of the later tracks, the 25th anniversary melody as they put the dark world theme in along with some gameplay video of a link to the past, my favourite game of the series by far!

Other than that, I have to admit that, since I'm not as big a fan of the series as other people are, I found that many of the tracks gave me a sense of familiarity but not nostalgia. That doesn't take anything from the concert itself but perhaps I didn't enjoy it as much as the others. Some of the other Dtoid members who were in attendance loved the Wind Waker symphonic movement piece for example.

There were also some other minor bits of criticism as well, pertaining to the vocals. There were a set of vocalists at the back of the stage who were most prominent when they sang the song of time, but they used microphones to project their voices. That was disappointing for me as I would have preferred clear, natural vocals but then, they were situated at the back and would have had to fight against the orchestra to be heard. I guess that's more of a criticism of the venue rather than the skills of the vocalists. The other major criticism was when they played Ganondorf's theme. The theme itself is very organ heavy, since Ganondorf is seen playing it in the Ocarina of Time but since there was no organ present at the venue, they had a pre-recorded track for the piece, which the orchestra accompanied. And you could really tell it was a recording from where I sat. You could hear a lot of distortion in the music being played through the speakers. It made me wish that they had chosen a different track to play.

The concert ended pretty much the only way it could, with a rendition of the theme for the legend of zelda, a piece which has been in the games since the very first one.
Afterwards, Kondo-san took to the piano to give us one more piece from Wind Waker before giving us a speech in english and thanking the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for their performance. Aonuma-san then took to the stage one more time to plug the new game, skyward sword. Rather awkwardly, he spoke of a new Zelda game which was being released in November and asked the audience if they knew what it was called. But he said it in Japanese, which I understood and I nearly shouted out the answer before he handed the mic over to his translator to ask everyone in english. Man, that would have been embarrassing if I was the lone guy shouting it before. Then again, there were people shouting random japanese at him earlier in the evening. Not sure if they actually knew Japanese or if they were just shouting what they knew. I don't think 大丈夫 was the correct reply to what he was saying at the time. Aonuma-san also told us that the game will come with a CD of the concert so if you want to listen to what was played, go and buy the game!! And to round things off, the Royal philharmonic orchestra played the theme to skyward sword as the encore to end the concert.

That was it for the concert, but for VIP ticket holders, we got to do a meet and greet. And this is where the knives come out.

The meet and greet was advertised along with the VIP tickets so we knew it was going to happen but there was no indication as to who would be there. And man, was it a disappointment. Now, I was at the back of the queue as I chose to wait for some of the Dtoid crew who needed to pick up their VIP passes so we ended up waiting a while before we got into the area as they were only letting in a small number of people at a time. To kill time, we got some freebies like plastic ocarinas and keychains.

When we finally got into the little room where the meet and greet was held, it was already late but when we got in, we saw that the people present were The conductor, Eimear Noone (cool), Zelda Williams, (also cool) and... The producers of the show... WTF?? No Kondo Koji and no Aonuma Eiji, even though we knew that they were present!! Bearing in mind that the VIP tickets were almost double the cost of the regular tickets, this was incredibly lame. It's possible that they were present earlier and left but that makes it even more lame and suggests very bad organisation. Why provide a limited number of VIP tickets if not all of them get the same treatment? Then again, this is a nintendo event and Ninty are known for kicking their biggest fans in the balls at almost every opportunity so perhaps this was to be expected. In any case, it soured what was otherwise a great night.

In short, if you paid £67 for the upper class regular tickets and got good seats, you got the best deal. The £125 VIP tickets were totally not worth it and left a really bad taste once all things were done and dusted. Not even getting my poster signed by Eimear Noone and Zelda Williams and getting a photo with Zelda made up for it.

Well, maybe just a little.

Now, lets see what Distant Worlds will have for us... They're already better organised that's for sure. They have an itinerary and everything!!

Roll on Nov 5th

[EDIT: looks like the lords and lady of DtoidEU have given their permission to post up some of the special pics we took late into the night at the event. Totally SFW so no worries there, though one may be somewhat rage inducing...]

Don't worry. We already have a squad of highly trained professionals hunting down that guy in the last pic. Gents, your tears of blood will not be in vain!!   read

4:10 AM on 12.22.2010

Last call for the Valkyria Chronicles Fan Project.

Hey Guys,

Remember my previous post about a Fan project to create a book to wish the composer of the Valkyria Chronicles games a happy Birthday? Well, this is the last call for those of you who want to take part. If you have already contacted the organiser with regards to taking part, the group will need your message by the end of the year!, Dec 31st. If you've just read about this project and want to help out, then the deadline for you will be Jan 15th so you have a little breathing space and time to enjoy the festive holiday once you have contacted the organiser.

Just to remind you all, the project is to give Hitoshi Sakimoto a habby birthday by giving him a printed booklet of hand written messages from the fans of his works.
The organisers are mostly into Valkyria Chronicles and the games are part of his better known works but any game which he has provided the music for will be fine (I thanked him for the Odin Sphere OST in my message!)
All you have to do is tell the organiser of the project on this page that you are interested and then write a small message either on A4 or A5 paper by hand, scan it to your PC and email it to the organiser. That's it! There's not even any cost to you aside from time and you will get a PDF of the book once the project is done! I'm not kidding, No need for any skeptical faces now!

I hope that many of you will take part. It's really not much work involved and you don't need to do anything fancy but it's a far more personal way to send the message of thanks to Sakimoto-san compared to just a massive number of tweets and FB posts.
Let's put in a bit of effort and get this done! Tuxedo Hans is watching you!!

You don't want to annoy Tuxedo Hans, do you?   read

6:12 AM on 12.03.2010

Counterpoint: Valkyria Chronicles 2 is NOT better, partially because it's on PSP

Normally, I'm a guy who lets people crow over their own opinions and just go on my own way but Josh's post about why he thinks that Valkyria Chronicles 2 is as good, if not better than the original actually made me more than a little angry because it is false! The saying goes "there's no smoke without fire" and after discussing it with many video game playing friends and communities who are fans of the series as a whole, I can only say to Josh "The vast majority can't be wrong." Well, I can also say STFU! but that would be pointless at this stage.
I should also elaborate that many people whose opinions I have read or have discussed the game with DO own both the PS3 and PSP games and we all agree that VC2 does not compare to VC1. In fact, after a few of us completed VC2, we went back to our PS3s to remind us just how good it is!!

Since this is meant to be a counterpoint to Josh's post, I'm going to *ahem* steal his images and structure my response to counter his article. I would also like to state that I do not think that Valkyria Chronicles 2 is a bad game! Far from it, it's a good and fun PSP game, but it doesn't hold a candle to it's predecessor in most ways. It's the part which Josh says that VC2 is as good, if not better than VC1 which I take issues with. Not that VC2 isn't a good game!
With that being said, on to the first point!

1. we are not jealous!

As I stated above, a lot of people who I've spoken to or read opinions of owned both a PSP and PS3. We all played both games and we all agreed that VC2 was not as good. And we all felt that it was the same points which the game fumbled at. Yes, there are some fans out there who are bitterly disappointed that the game is a PSP title and they don't own a PSP but in general, I have seen that they don't simply say that the game is terrible, they ask those who have played both what they think! Guess what those people say? The fact that their opinions are not quite their own and eschews the numbers in favour of the haters is a valid point, but when those opinions come from people who have played both and considered the pros and cons of both games, is it right to say that the haters are simply Jealous? They are, afterall simply going by what people who have played both games have said to them!

2. No, We are, in fact, NOT playing it wrong

While I will agree that Valkyria Chronicles is geared towards speed play, I will disagree that VC2 is closer to the "ideal" than the first. To do well in VC1, you had to take a good look at the map, think of a plan which would allow you to accomplish the objective with minimum risk, choose your squad for specific tasks which need to be completed and then excecute said plan. In that respect, the closest comparison from another game would be the original Rainbow six games!
VC2 has none of this. the map is mostly void because it's very restrictive in the paths so you can only go in certain directions and enemies are not initially shown so you could find an infantry destroying tank right in front of you from the start. so much for the plan! The maps are also so small that scouts are able to traverse entire areas using a couple of CP with shocktrooers not far behind. So all you really need to finish the levels fast are a load of scouts and a few shocktroopers to take out the harder infantry. Maybe a lancer to take out the tanks if they get in the way. There are no tactics involved, it's simply a matter of getting your troops from A to B in the quickest way possible. In that respect, battles can often feel hollow in VC2 while lacking the scale and sense of worry on every move in VC1. The swapping of troops and maps also only serve to slow the whole battle process down, which is contrary to what the "ideal" of the game is meant to be, according to Josh.
Even so, just by running down the shortest path, it's possible to complete most of the stages in 3 turns or less and that's just by running through the stages, no tactics needed, no planning required. There is a gauntlet. Run through it! There is more to making a system like this interesting than just speed, even though that plays a huge part. Turning battles into an effective sprint is not one of them.

we ARE looking! It ISN'T all there!!

The biggest point that Josh tries to drill in home here is that the subtle undertones and contexts in VC2 are equal or greater than those of VC1. And I would agree... if it wasn't for the fact that the enemies adhere to more clichés and stereotypes than most of the rest of the cast!
While the Imperial leaders were given multifaceted personalities and you see that they are not inherently evil but shaped by their experiences (something which the anime decided to gloss over to make them more obvious bad guys), in VC2 we have an overbearing noble who is willing to sell his country out to get what he wants. He's basically the VC2 equivalent of Prime Minister Borg in the first game, who was the most boring NPC in the game. Even Damon was better than him! The other enemy bosses were just fundamentalists and a guy strapped into a suit of armour for added muscle.
Between these characters who are hard to take seriously and the schoolyard bumbling around of your main characters, it's almost impossible to take any of the plot seriously.
Even when they try to tug on the heart strings, there's a massive disconnect because the cutscenes on the PSP aren't up to the task, like when you try to stop a darcsen "purge" your characters arrive too late and all we get is a portrait of Avan going "dammit, we're too late." Would it be that hard to show some fleeing darcsens trying to escape to try and hammer home the gravity of the situation?
While I admit that the points that Josh made are there, like he said "you just need to look" very VERY hard! Almost to the point of overanalysing before one can see it and ultimately, because of the way the plot is handled, the points are paper thin. Almost like a footnote which is called up to make the enemies more human by providing them with a "reason" to fight before it gets tucked away again.

Soldier: I'm feeling that fighting is bad!
Baldren: We're fighting to remove the evil Darcsen from the country!
Soldier: Rawr!!! I feel angry. I want to fight again!

*Repeat ad infinitum*

The characters and story in general simply lack the depth and complexity of the first game. You could almost say that VC1 was a story for adults which children can enjoy. VC2 is a story for children which adults can (kinda) enjoy.

4. we ARE getting more than character Dossiers. But who wants them?

Funny how in his example, Josh calls out Melissa and Helmut. He makes a good point. Helmut does have an interesting back story and Melissa doesn't. The problem is that there are more characters like Melissa than Helmut. His is a minority with only the main trio getting fully fleshed out stories to follow, the rest has scenarios like an overbearing older sister, beating up other students to clear the way for one of your members to have an impromptu concert, running through an enemy base to find a flower to confess to the persont they fancy??? If that's the level of storytelling the characters are getting then I say they can keep it!

5. Yes, we know that making games are expensive...

But here's the million <insert currency here> question. Is it cheaper to redevelop a game engine and shoehorn it into a platform it really wasn't designed for or to use the same engine and development tools used for the already existing first game and tweak them to make a sequel? While it is very possible that the PSP VC2 would be cheaper than a theoretical PS3 sequel, I doubt the difference in cost would be as great as some people claim primarily because the foundations and main engine of the game already existed for a PS3 sequel Many assets could also be reused and I'm sure gamers wouldn't have complained so long as it wasn't to the same level of crackdown 2! Some AAA sequels are basically money sinks as developers try to make everything bigger and better than the original, but Valkyria Chronicles doesn't need to be bigger necessarily and if they played things smart and looked at what needed changing rather than going through the traditional sequel route of "more everything"

And I would also disagree that the depth of the game was preserved in the shift over to the handheld platform as well. Just look back at my ramblings about how shallow the battle system can be now that "speed" governs all. Also, a larger install base doesn't necessarily mean that the uptake will be proportional to the increase in userbase. Just ask the developers of "core" titles for the wii! While it is a different type of beast to compare, the PSP in japan is pretty much known for one game only. First week sales of VC2 in Japan weren't too vastly different from VC1 (wikipedia quotes 94k sales for VC2 and 77k for VC1) and the difference can easily be accounted for the increased name recognition because it's a sequel! Guessing on possible sales figures on a game which was never made is pointless but I am confident that a PS3 VC2 would have exceeded the first week sales of the actual game by the simple virtue that it would be catering to an existing fanbase with all the necessary hardware installed already. It's not a guarantee to say that every VC fan in Japan has a PSP afterall but it's far more likely that they would have a PS3 so you're building on an existing fanbase who only need to buy the game as opposed to trying to effectively build one from scratch on a different platform while the original is still fresh in peoples minds. And remember what kind of game Valkyria Chronicles is. It's a tactical RPG, one of the most niche gaming types out there which appeals to a specific kind of player. It doesn't have mass market appeal to begin with so there's no point in aiming for the mass market. You're more likely to find success with these games by focusing on the people you know will buy them, even if the market share is considerably smaller.

6. at least we can agree on something

That's right, I actually agree with Josh on point 6 because the game isn't perfect. Nothing is afterall. But he does hit quite a few truths on this one section.
The main problem with VC2 is that ultimately, it takes away more than it brings to the table in the transition. We gained a much inproved interface between battles (let's face it, the VC1 book interface is all kinds of terrible) and the seemingly random accuracy of your shots has been improved (arguably by too much) and the class change system does allow for more customisation within your squad, but we have lost more varied large maps to convey larger scale battles (each mini-map is basically an island unto itself), a loss in tactical depth in the game, better developed and interesting characters whom you actually care about (especially since none of them can die permanently now) and the obvious graphical stripdown.

Not all additions were good either, VC2 introduced the grinding element of RPG character development and the multiplayer was a throwaway. A box to tick at the development meeting.

I do have high hopes for VC3 though. From my play on the demo, it does look like they tried to fix everything they could so it's just the technical side of things left and that is a ceiling which they will never break but that's not what this argument about.
The bottom line is that the PSP is a lesser platform (at least in terms of raw power) compared to the PS3 and VC2 is, ultimately, a lesser game than the original. The 2 are not closely linked but neither are they independent. Some of the failings of VC2 are because of the hardware but not all. So there is some validity in the argument saying that it is a lesser game on a lesser platform and we will be stuck with those issues with VC3 simply because of the platform choice.

But in the end, the argument was against the claim that VC2 is as good, if not better than VC1 and even if you choose to ignore the counterpoints I have tried to make in this post, there is one thing you cannot ignore nor argue against. The vast majority of those who have played both agree that VC2 is inferior. It's still good, but not as good as its predecessor. Can you really argue that the majority is wrong? If there was one thing VC2 did incredibly well was that it made many of us who played it go back to the first game and appreciate it all over again!!
And remember, Lesser doesn't necessarily mean bad!

Also, STFU!


4:36 AM on 12.02.2010

Attention! Calling all Valkyria Chronicles Fans! (That means YOU!!)

Man, I never get tired of this image! :3

Anyway, onto business! Recently, I have come across a rather interesting fan idea related to Valkyria Chronicles. Specifically, with regards to the composer of the music to all 3 Valkyria Chronicles games, Hitoshi Sakimoto.

It seems that some fans are trying to gather up fans of the game to wish Sakimoto-San a happy birthday in February but rather than go through the boring twitter/facebook route of tonnes of typed messages, they're looking to create a small book filled with messages for the composer and send it to him as a birthday gift! That's where (hopefully) you guys come in!!

The main details of the project can be found here. Basically, you just need to let the organiser know that you want to take part and then write a hand written message for Sakimoto-San, scan it and send it in. It will then be put into the book! If you want, you can also include any artworks you have as well.
That's it! I'm serious and please, before anyone says anything, my name is not Shirley!

Personally, I think it's a pretty damn cool way to send a message to show that we appreciate what Sakimoto-San has done. The VC games may have suffered with the move over to the PSP but music is one thing which has remained as good as it was back on the PS3 title and it's only a small amount of effort required on your part! So please, if you can, help the project out and send a message over to them to hand over to Hitoshi Sakimoto. Or else you'll make Hans cry. You don't want to make him cry, do you?

There is one more thing though. The organisers are trying to keep this little project a secret from Sakimoto-San so please try to avoid making too much noise about it on Twitter or Facebook in case he gets wind of it. It seems that things were a little slow off the ground because Sakimoto-San is a member of the Valkyria Chronicles FB group and associated twitter account and also has a decent command of english so they were trying to get the members of the group to take part without being able to tell them what it was! That's less of a problem over here. I don't think we have to worry about him reading a Dtoid C-Blog but let's try and keep it quiet. The walls have ears afterall!

Are you still here? Go! Think of something witty to say to the man!!   read

3:26 PM on 09.04.2010

Preview: Dead Rising 2

While a number of Dtoid UK members are off enjoying PAX and playing Duke Nukem Forever, Capcom UK held a small event at the Empire Casino in Leicester Square, London to showcase Dead Rising 2. Those of us who remained in Blighty made sure that the groups was represented so Wayne, Nik, Sebastian and myself went zombie hunting!

The Event

Capcom had booked a small area of the casino overlooking the main floor and had a few little bits of entertainment set up aside from the game itself.
In the front section, there was a blackjack and roulette table set up for us to use, going for the Vegas theme from the game. We were also give $100 worth of chips to use at certain points of the day and prizes were given to those who were able to make the most profit in the time allowed.

The top earner walked away with a Dead Rising 2 jacket, modelled after the biker jacket Chuck Greene wears in the game and the runner up got a poker set and drinks mixer. Personally, I think the runner up got the better prize!

Further back and we get to where the main game could be played. In total, there were around 14 Xbox 360 setups and 8 PS3 setups to allow the guests to play the game (no, I don't know why there were fewer PS3 setups). In the centre was a display for various weapons in the game (non functioning and blunt, of course. Except for the nailbat...) and a replica of the motorbike with chainsaws on the front used by Chuck Greene in the opening section of the game, the "Terror is Real" gameshow. Guests could have their photo taken on the bike with a number of "zombies" ready and willing to pose with them and make them look a little more manly!

To round things off, there was also a bar which served free soft drinks and alcohol after 5pm. And yes, we hit the bar pretty hard once the booze was available. It would have been rude not to!!

The Game

I had a chance to play both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 versions of the game and they were close to identical. I noticed a little jerky motion with the camera movement on the PS3 version when the screen was particularly busy but it didn't affect gameplay at all. Those intending to buy the game don't have anything to worry about with regards to which platform. They're both fine!
The game being played seemed to be near enough the full version. We started off at the "Terror is Real" game show (which provides the basis for the competitive multiplayer section) and quickly found ourselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Most players managed to get through the first 2 or 3 main missions before taking a break but there was no reason why one would not be able to go even further if they wanted.

In terms of gameplay, Dead Rising 2 played very much like a "by the books" sequel. That is to say, more of the same. It felt very much like a more refined version of the original Dead Rising in a different settings. Sadly, while that meant that some of the good things about the first game were made better, the bad things also remained. Many were refined to be less of an issue, but still an issue nonetheless.
At this point, I should say that I was not a fan of the original Dead Rising. I felt that it served more as an interactive tech demo, showcasing what Capcom could do on the 360 rather than a fully fleshed game to be enjoyed. Frank West was like a tank to control, long range combat with guns was a joke, the survivor AI was terrible, the psychopaths were frustrating and the pacing was absolutely terrible with the game giving you either too much or too little time to get to missions.
In Dead Rising 2, Chuck is a little easier to control, which is a blessing, but still somewhat sluggish (the less said about the motorbike controls during the "Terror is Real" show the better!). Gun combat is still useless and the pacing is still off, although they are more lenient this time it would seem. Sadly, miss the time window for a story mission and you get an instant game over like before so be sure to save regularly and be prepared to sit around and waste time in a specific area to make sure you're there for the mission when it begins. Everything else is pretty much as you may remember from the original game or the recently released Case Zero DLC.
Loading times also deserve a mention because there are quite a few of them and they are rather long! Expect a fair few breaks in play as you wait for the next section to load up unless the game gets optimised a fair bit before release.

As for our main lead, Chuck Greene, he lacks the charm of Frank West and isn't as fun to watch in the cutscenes. He puts on a stoic look and that's pretty much him for all the sections of the game we played. His backstory makes him look more noble and commendable. In fact, on paper, we should be able to rally behind this single father looking after his daughter rather easily but once in the game, he's more 2-dimensional and wooden than Charisma Carpenter in the Expendables!

It's not all bad though! When you boil the game down to the lowest denominator, killing zombies, there's a lot of fun to be had. A new feature of Dead Rising 2 allows you to combine certain weapons to create some really interesting weapons, from the obvious nailbat to the more interesting "freezer bomb," dynamite strapped to a fire extinguisher to make a bomb which freezes zombies and makes them easy targets. Our personal favourite from within Dtoid UK was the "drill helmet," a bucket with 3 power drills stuck through to the insides. The attack involved putting the bucket on the zombies heads whereby the drills would start, we get lots of red on the screen and, soon after, a headless zombie!
Customising Chuck was also very easy and rather fun. My threads of choice was a James Bond style tuxedo with no shoes. One player managed to unlock an oversized Blanka mask and was running around in that. Others simply opted to have Chuck running around in only his boxers or ladies clothing.

To say that Dead Rising 2 is bad would be a disservice. This writeup may seem negative but the overall picture is that Dead Rising 2 is a solid and somewhat entertaining game which is bogged down with a number of issues which may be accepted as part and parcel of the experience, much like the fixed camera view for the original resident evil games. It just depends if you don't mind them of if you find them annoying.
Or in even shorter terms, if you liked the first game and/or case zero, you'll love Dead Rising 2! If you didn't, there isn't anything here which will change your mind.

On another note, while playing the PS3 version of the game, I came across something a little odd...


Note that this interesting bug remained even when I went into a new area which required loading and also going back to the title screen and loading up the most recent save didn't remove it!! The only thing we didn't try was to exit to the XMB and restart the game from scratch!
But in its defence, we also heard that someone experienced the same problem in the 360 version and my first play on the 360 game required me to go back to the dashboard and restart the game because it crashed. Let's hope Capcom fix that particular issue before the game is released. They can keep the frozen zombies in there though. That was quite funny!   read

8:46 AM on 11.21.2009

Ultimate fail: Bandai Namco Gives us a Digimon RPG?

Earlier this week, Dtiods Dale North posted up a link to a teaser site for a new Bandai Namco RPG and then proceeded to wish for a new Xenosaga game.

Of course, due to various issues with the franchise, development team and whatnot that was always going to be impossible.
Nevertheless, a small group of vocal fans then chimed in with the support for the idea and started going on about how Xenogears was one of the best games ever made (which it is!!!)

But the timer is up now, and it's time to completely crush any dreams and aspirations anyone may have had when playing "guess the game from the really vague splash page)
Bandai Namco are doing Digimon story: Lost evolution and it's for the DS.

That, people is the mystery RPG!

Seems that it's a sequel to another Digimon DS RPG which was last seen in 2007. I wouldn't know since I don't keep up with this stuff. the series was released in Japan and the US but not europe so I guess it will probably follow this pattern.
I guess it was interesting to see that Bandai Namco have worked on RPGs
other than the tales series...


8:21 AM on 11.11.2009

Obituary: The Instruction Manual.

Dear Readers,

I believe that it is now time to take a moments silence to mark the death of a constant companion, one which has been with video games since it all began! The instruction manual.
For many years now, it has been in ill health and largely ignored but it has doggedly stuck by us like a travelling companion as we raided tombs, beat up aliens, took over liberty city and saved the world, again! Sure, the PC games have long forsaken the printed manual but it always had a home with the console games!
But now, it seems that it has reached the end of it's life and it's ready to go. Not with a bang, but with a whimper!

What caused this "sudden" revelation? What else, Modern Warfare 2! A quick glance at the instruction manual for the 360 version of MW2 shows that it's a whole 4 pages long. 4 PAGES!!!! Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Admittedly, the humble instruction manual was never an essential item for most games. Back in the 8 & 16 bit era, when 80% of all games were variations on the 2D platform game, all the player needed to know was what the jump button was and what was the other button did (usually shoot) so he didn't need to read the instruction manual to play the game. He could, however, read it to gain some backstory on the game setting, seeing as most games pretty much threw you into the thick of things!
The other, now forgotten, use of the instruction manual was due to it's last few blank pages where gamers would furiously scribble passwords, hints and cheats to help themselves along the way!
A look at my SNES Megaman X (and X2) instruction manual shows a mountain of passwords to let me progress from where I left off, back before the advent of the memory card!

There were some notable exceptions to the rule, however, where the manual not only was useful, but was required reading. Like in Flashback for the MegaDrive/Amiga/SNES

Flashback was one of my earliest memories of a context sensitive control system, where one button could do multiple tasks. I vividly remember reading the manual and it describing the "A" button on my megadrive as the "action" button. Pretty apt considering it was responsible for everything from operating lifts to jumping to shooting my gun!
The single button did so much it was impossible to work out everything by yourself so the manual became a "must read" as there was no tutorial to explain everything within the game.

But then, with increasingly more complicated controls, the developers figured it would be easier to created tutorial levels within their games which taught the player how to control their character in the game. And with it's last remaining use taken away from it, the manual started it's descent into oblivion!
Except when Gran Turismo came out in Europe...

Despite having the license system as a test and tutorial rolled into 1, SCEE chose to print a massive manual detailing everything you could ever want to know about driving and tuning your car in GT. In fact, very little content for for the game itself and it instead focused on explaining driving techniques and what the various tuning options would actually do to your car!!
The japanese version had to make do with the bare bones of controller layout and menu explainations.

Nowadays, it is almost expected for games to have either a tutorial level or popup notifications in game to help them learn the ropes just by jumping in. Storage media have long since rendered the password system of old obsolete and the storytelling abilities of the medium as a whole have improved so much that back history and settings can be done as part of the overall game itself so the manual is simply no longer needed!
The effort placed into making instruction manuals, even now, can often be clearly seen. Many games have quite in depth instructions, far more than what the tutorial provides yet players can easily work such things out for themselves with a little experimentation. One has to wonder "why make all that effort?"
Some recent titles have tried to spice things up a little, with the GTA series having fake "adverts" in their manuals to cryptically help the player and Metal Gear Solid 4 gave basic instructions in a (kinda cool) manga within the manual.
But these are the exceptions rather than the norm. Chances are, most instruction manuals in games are left unopened and are simply left in the box.
In some ways, it's amazing that they have lasted this long anyway!!

Perhaps is it now time for the instruction manual to move on. I doubt many gamers would notice if titles no longer included them in the packaging but I, for one, would miss them.

Goodnight Sweet Prince...   read

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