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Eyes of Heaven photo
Eyes of Heaven

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven trailer, release date


2015 in Japan, first JoJo on PS4
Jun 20
// Steven Hansen
Tentacles, muscles, new characters, and a 2015 release date confirmation (in Japan). That's the new from this JoJo trailer for CyberConnect2's first PS4 entry in the series, Eyes of Heaven.  JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle just came to North America last year. I still haven't watched the show, but this looks as insane as people (and gifs) make it out to be.
Tail Concerto photo
Tail Concerto

This Tail Concerto art book is better late than never


Been waiting years for this collection
Jul 28
// Brittany Vincent
Sixteen years after the ridiculously adorable Tail Concerto made its Japanese debut, CyberConnect 2 has decided to release a new art book collecting 100 new and otherwise unpublished illustrations celebrating its anniversary....

Review: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle

May 16 // Brittany Vincent
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle (PS3)Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Bandai Namco GamesRelease Date: April 29, 2014MSRP: $49.99 If you've never read a single volume of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure or watched an episode of the anime, you've probably at least seen a meme or two inspired by the classic series here and there online - does "ZA WARUDOOOO!" ring any bells? It's an influential part of otaku culture with flamboyant leads, strong female characters, and droves of references to classic rock and pop singers peppered all the way throughout. If you ever wondered what it would be like to squeeze your favorite pop culture icons from the '80s and '90s into one enormous media property, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure would be the product. With vampires. And epic showdowns. All-Star Battle is an excellent companion to the franchise and the definitive JoJo game, rising above even that of the self-titled Dreamcast fighter. But if you're not up on the tale so far, you'll want to dig into Story mode (different from Campaign mode) and educate yourself on the world of JoJo. Unfortunately blocks of text are used in place of what could have been gorgeous cutscenes to advance the plot. These tidbits are at least informative enough to pull you into the fold, so you don't feel completely lost on JoJo lore. It's lacking, but not any more so than most fighters that attempt to include some sort of narrative mode. [embed]274943:53911:0[/embed] Story mode sets the stage for each battle with special conditions you must work against in order to move on. For instance, your enemy's health may regenerate, or you take a hit as far as your strength goes. You can either deal with them or spend in-game currency to bolster your chances of succeeding. You can hit up the store between battles to purchase stat-boosting aids that will up your attack power, reduce the enemy's health bar, or one of many other boons that allow you to quickly run your foe's face into the dirt and land a K.O. where you may not have been able to in another fighter. This handicap allows players of all skill levels to flourish, and even if you're not struggling it's fun to spend earned capital on making yourself so overpowered the next match is absolutely laughable. Campaign mode is a bit more confusing, especially since it should seem that Campaign and Story would be one and the same. Rather than progressing naturally through the JoJo story arcs, you must defeat opponents to maintain blocks of energy assigned to you. You're afforded ten blocks to start with, and when you run out of energy, you'll have to purchase more with your in-game currency or it's game over. Of course, it's not as if the game wants you to fail, as it will hand out energy to ensure you can stay in the game. You can unlock additional taunts for characters as well as poses (and JoJo characters love their poses) in Campaign mode, but overall it felt less like a viable companion option to playing through the story and more like a tacked-on addition. No matter which mode you choose to engage in, the actual brawls themselves are what you came for, no doubt. There's a wide assortment of characters and specific play styles that run the gamut from "dude on a horse" to "dude with a creepy spirit looming over his shoulder." You've got three core attacks to choose from, ranging from weak blows to powerful moves that you can chain together as a combo. Tap the light attack button repeatedly for an automatic combo that ends up in a super move, or dodge to save your precious health. Out of all the standard fighting maneuvers, however, Style is your best friend. Depending on the character you've chosen as your avatar, you can summon Stand fighters to aid in combat, pull off special moves via Vampirism or while mounted, and pummel your opponent into oblivion. There's a good bit of differentiation between each Style, and it offers an interesting balance between fighters to keep things feeling fresh, even if you bounce from Jolene Cujoh to Wamuu in the blink of an eye. But that's all information you might end up having to glean from the internet or via trial and error. Sadly, All-Star Battle just isn't very forthcoming about how you pull off specific moves or some of the more complex combos, instead opting for move lists via the menu with the buttons required  instead of running down how you need to pull each thing off. And while it's fun to hammer off combos once you've figured them out and can unleash them with little trouble, sometimes combatants take a while to finish their specials or complete moves because of all the posing and the flourishes. It's awesome to watch, but believe it or not, that can get a little old in the heat of battle. Still, it's fun where it counts, especially given the colorful scenes and impeccable attention to detail. Online play leaves a lot to be desired, sadly, with player matches offering only two slots for each battle. You can't spectate or save replays, and significant lag will plague lesser connections. It's fun for a few matches, but nowhere near as robust as offerings like Street Fighter or even BlazBlue. You'll get the most enjoyment out of 1 on 1 couch matches, but for two JoJo fans that wouldn't be out of place as a supplement to a weekend-long Stardust Crusaders viewing session. There's a meaty roster of 40 combatants from all eight current story arcs from the Phantom Blood arc to Diamond Is Unbreakable, all the way up to JoJolion. When applicable, some characters have Stands (think "spirit" guardians -- it just works) or mounts like horses. You can actually fight on or off said horses, but fighting on horseback is a lot more fun sometimes, especially when the horse is as lithe as your fighter. Jonathan Joestar, Jotaro Kujo, Lisa Lisa, Gyro Zeppeli...they're all on-board, and half the fun is seeing who you'll unlock next. Unfortunately, due to copyright law, a good portion of familiar names have been changed, some in hilariously strange ways. For instance, Killer Queen is now Deadly Queen, and J. Geils becomes Centrefold. The name changes are slightly amusing in a tongue-in-cheek manner since they're still intriguing nods to the original subject matter, but it's a little disappointing to see the altered text. Overall, despite its shortcomings, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is a colorful spectacle that both fans of the anime and future fans of the anime will want to pick up and experience, even if just to watch a man use only his upper body strength after hopping off his horse to hold his own in combat. It's funky, gorgeous, and oozing with style. And where it comes up short, it simultaneously delivers in terms of fanservice and content. You won't be putting it down for quite some time, unless, you know, you need some time to eat a few more breads in your life.
JBA: All-Star Battle photo
Mudamudamu-damn, this game is fun
How do you like your fighting games? Personally, I like mine with a sizable dose of pop culture references and eye-melting color palettes infused with a healthy dose of humor that's hilariously self-aware. That's what you get...

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure photo
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has new content for the West


Brand new Arcade Mode and tweaks for the western release
Jan 30
// Alessandro Fillari
Last year saw the release of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle in the Japan. The game went on to become a popular seller, and has since retained loyal following. With a quirky and lively art style, along with a pretty...

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure photo
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure sells 425K, tops charts in Japan


Acclaimed fighter beats out the competition
Sep 06
// Kyle MacGregor
Namco Bandai has a hit on its hands with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle. The fighting game based on the popular manga hit shelves in Japan last week and unquestionably topped the nation's weekly software ...
JoJo ASB trailer photo
JoJo ASB trailer

JoJo All Star Battle is the most fabulous game not at E3


Voguing as manly combat
Jun 10
// Josh Tolentino
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is heading to the PS3, one of the "old" consoles. But I'd bet good money that even after E3 is over, after Microsoft and Sony have blown their game loads all over the internet, ...
Shadow Escaper photo
Shadow Escaper

CyberConnect2's iOS runner Shadow Escaper is pretty cute


But that voice...
Apr 23
// Dale North
CyberConnect2, the studio behind recent titles like Asura's Wrath and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, have a new iOS game coming out. Shadow Escaper is basically a runner, but there's a twist to the standard formu...
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1.2 mil shipped: Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3


Most successful franchise launch ever
Apr 22
// Dale North
Holy orange ninjas! Namco Bandai announced that their latest Naruto game, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, has shipped 1.2 million copies worldwide. We were surprised to see that the game mad...
Naruto Shippuden photo
Naruto Shippuden

Get your Hello Kitty on in Naruto Ninja Storm 3's DLC


Kamehameha!
Apr 12
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is getting a costume pack! You can dress up Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke in new outfits ranging from super weird to Hello Kitty. Although weirdly enough, you can't get the Hello Kitty ou...

Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3

Mar 21 // Josh Tolentino
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360)Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Namco BandaiRelease: March 5, 2013MSRP: $59.99 As a direct sequel to 2010's Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 retains most of that game's structure while incorporating some of the mechanical refinements introduced in last year's Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations. Players can expect to power through a ten-to-twelve hour "Ultimate Adventure" story mode, covering the core plot of Naruto Shippuden following Naruto's battle with Pain (the endpoint of Ultimate Ninja Storm 2), then recounting most of the major events of the Fourth Ninja World War, with brief flashback missions featuring Naruto's parents. If all of that sounds like gibberish to you (or if this is your first time with Naruto), you'll be out of luck hoping everything will be explained to you in Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. That's mostly due to the game's placement in the overall Naruto canon, which is still a long way from over.  Imagine starting on the Mass Effect series with Mass Effect 3, and you'll be close to the level of prior knowledge Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 can't help but assume the player possesses. Many of the smaller details and characterizations will fall flat unless you have at least some level of investment in the Naruto universe and its dozens-strong cast. The story ends up somewhat less coherent than in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. In fact, just to get it where it was the game makes a number of tweaks to the plot, which may annoy fans that want to see every single event portrayed.  Further, even a bumping-up of the game's age rating (in Japan it went from the equivalent of an "E" to a "T") doesn't save it from feeling a tad bloodless, which isn't the greatest thing to be when trying to portray how awful global war is for all involved. As a result some of the more shocking moments of the manga have their impact diminished. Narrative foibles aside, though, Naruto is, and remains, a superhero story targeted at teens and tweens. Its messages of friendship, legacy, and brotherhood are universal (and universally cheesy). Provided players have a certain tolerance for that kind of heavy-handed mushy stuff, it's a fun ride and can even be touching at times. Players will explore the story much in the same manner as they did in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, walking about static environments such as the Hidden Leaf Village in the fashion of an old-school Japanese RPG, visiting shops, taking on side tasks, buying and collecting items, and viewing cutscenes. Though these JRPG trappings aren't the most refined that genre offers, and in some ways could be interpreted as folderol designed to pad out the game time, it feels like a pleasant diversion in practice, and lends a weight to the narrative that one would never expect a fighting game to possess, let alone an anime-series tie-in.  The item collection and shopping serves a secondary purpose, as well, by allowing players to fill out their "Ninja Tools," which function as powerups and sub-weapons during combat. This time around the tools have been split into the "Hero" and "Legend" categories, with "Hero" tools seemingly used for healing and stat boosts, and "Legend" tools for damage-dealing and trap-laying. The tools are leveled up by participating in Ultimate Ninja Storm 3's version of a Paragon/Renegade choice, the "Ultimate Decision" system, where during certain events players can pick a "Hero" or "Legend" path affecting which tool type gets improved. In execution the system feels somewhat superfluous. With few exceptions, each choice only really changes the difficulty of a fight ("Legend" usually being tougher), or perhaps the order in which certain events play. But, as is usually the case with this sort of narrative fare, the joy and glory isn't so much in the story itself but the telling, and Cyberconnect2 has pretty much mastered the art of spinning Naruto's type of blockbuster yarn. Barring some cutscene sequences that seem to approach Xenosaga-length around the middle of the game, much of Ultimate Ninja Storm's best storytelling happens right in the thick of battle, when players are most engaged with the actual mechanics of the fighting system. The fighting in Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is quite simple, and is unlikely to win the franchise a main stage spot at the next EVO Championship. Two characters face off in a 3D arena. One face button throws ranged shuriken, one attacks, one jumps, and one does a "Chakra Load," which modifies the next action press, either unleashing a powerful Ninjutsu attack, throwing supercharged shuriken, or performing a "Chakra Dash" that instantly closes (or opens up) the gap. Double-taps and holds further expand the options, triggering heavier versions of Ninjutsu or a quick-stepping dodge maneuver. There's a button for blocking, and another for the "Substitution Jutsu," which can instantly break an enemy's combo, setting them up for a back attack. Two buttons are reserved for Support Attacks, calling in selected support characters to defend or attack an opponent. Summoning one's mates often enough charges a Support Gauge that increases their potency and unlocks powerful team attacks. Many characters also have "Awakened" modes, a powered-up state active at low health that locks out some moves but vastly increases damage and speed, and in some cases, changes a character's appearance or moveset -- a trait that manifests quite dramatically for "Jinchuriki," a set of characters (Naruto himself among them) that play host to living weapons of mass destruction. None of the dry technical descriptions above do much justice to what actually happens onscreen, though, as the game is at almost all times a mind-blowing riot of color and over-the-top animation. Manga creator Masashi Kishimoto's colorful and diverse character concepts mesh perfectly with the dynamic, over-the-top style, resulting in something epic happening most any time you push a button. Fighting is a joy to watch both as player and spectator, with characters career about the screen, dashing to and fro and beating the snot out of each other with fireballs lightning strikes, rocks, bombs, balls of energy, clone armies and all manner of other things.  After their absence from Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, the series signature setpiece boss encounters make a return, and have characters facing off against everything from a personal duel against a former friend to a Godzilla-scaled encounters between giant ninja and giant monsters. Cyberconnect2's flair for the audacious (the same one that eventually birthed the likes of Asura's Wrath) is most apparent in these lavishly produced, elaborately choreographed sequences, peppered with Quick-Time Events (here called "Interactive Actions"). Nailing button prompts perfectly gains points during a match, unlocking "Secret Factors" like extra dialog or extended versions of certain scenes, as well. Certain sections also change the pace by introducing "Mob Battles," a mode best likened to Tekken's "Tekken Force" gameplay, where players chop through crowds of fodder enemies. While somewhat awkward due to movement and controls still being tuned for one-on-one combat, they do serve as a pleasant diversion and don't outstay their welcome. A lineup of over 80 characters ensures that while every character has the same basic move set, everyone feels relatively different. Granted, veteran players may find less novelty in the roster. The majority of the roster return from previous games, gaining little more than a tweak in costume or an update to their move set. Only a dozen or so can be genuinely considered new.  Despite the simplicity of the input, the system is refined enough to allow for a decent amount of tactical consideration, particularly when fighting other humans rather than the AI. Rather than a contest of knowing specific moves or combo memorization, a pitched Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 bout is more about timing, disruption, and opportunism. Because Ninjutsu and Ultimate Attacks are easy and quick to deploy, and because the Substitution Jutsu is practically a get-out-of-stun-lock-free button, keeping opponents on the back foot while using support attacks to make sure those highly damaging techniques actually hit, rather than waste Chakra. Unfortunately, with such a large roster balance seems to be a secondary priority. The online matches I've played feature a preponderance of faster characters over the slow "bruisers." Network performance ranged from fair to poor, though this may have been a result of my locality rather than inadequate netcode. There's little compensation in place for laggy players, though, so folks looking for the fairest matches may wish to search closer to home.   While the game isn't a genuine sea change from its predecessors, it stays true to the franchise's foundations, and makes up for any lack of innovation with the grand, beautiful spectacle that is its hallmark. The iterative refinements Cyberconnect2 have implemented over the series' history have helped to deepen the gameplay as well, bringing a more satisfying competitive experience while still maintaining accessibility. Though it stumbles somewhat due to unfortunate narrative placement, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a must-play for any Naruto fan, as well as anyone looking to have a good time wallowing in fun anime ridiculousness.
Naruto UNS 3 review photo
Real Ultimate Power
As with its brethren in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3's approach to depicting super-powered ninja action is best described as a bit "Hollywood," with all pros and cons that such a d...

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure photo
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

New JoJo All Star Battle trailer covers all JoJo's stars


Now with fighting on horseback!
Feb 18
// Josh Tolentino
If you weren't already sold on JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, perhaps just under five minutes worth of spiffy new trailer will convince you, especially since this one reveals that the game will feature all o...
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure photo
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

JoJo's All Star Battle gets a release date, fab box art


And an equally fab limited edition box
Feb 17
// Josh Tolentino
Fans of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, CyberConnect2, or crazy 3D anime fighting games can all start marking their calendars now, because Namco Bandai has confirmed an August 29th release date for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Al...
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Asura's Wrath developer working on three original games


New titles in the works for CyberConnect2
Jan 07
// Chris Carter
CyberConnect2 is hard at work with three brand new titles, which are a mystery at this point in the development cycle. Those three games will be original works, and not ones based on existing IPs. Hiroshi Matsuyama, CyberConn...
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Naruto Powerful Shippuden coming to the 3DS in March 2013


Based on the spin-off comedy show
Dec 21
// Dale North
Namco Bandai has announced that 3DS title Naruto Powerful Shippuden will be coming to North America in March 2013. This anime sidescroller comes from developers Inti Creates with a bit of help from Naruto game regulars Cyber...
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TGS: Enjoy six minutes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure


Sep 22
// Allistair Pinsof
Namco is keeping a tight lid on JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, but we managed to dangle a cameraman from a rope tied to the ceiling, sneaking past the tripwires. The above footage won't give you a good idea of ho...

TGS: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is wacky in a new way

Sep 21 // Allistair Pinsof
After standing in one of the longest lines at Tokyo Game Show this year, I got to play a brief match in the four-character, two-stage demo. I chose Gyro Zeppeli, a flamboyant guy who loves to throw his metallic balls while riding horseback. [embed]235450:45162[/embed] All Star Battle balances its wacky cast of characters with some tried-and-true mechanics. The four face buttons on the gamepad are dedicated to low, mid, strong, and throw attacks. Throughout the fight, you'll build up your heat gauge which you'll have to spend to pull off specials. It costs one level of gauge to do a heart heat attack and two do a great heat attack. The most interesting aspect of combat is the style button that is specific to each character. All Star Battle reminds me of an Arc System Works game in how each character has a gimmick that makes them feel like they came from a different fighting game. For Gyro, the style button summons his horse which he'll jump on and attack from until you send it away. While on horseback, a new list of moves and supers are available. When you dismiss the horse, it will charge across the screen, making for an easy blitz attack on an enemy. Gyro also has metallic balls at his disposal which can be thrown in a variety of ways and laid down as a trap. His specials revolve around them as well. Like Street Fighter IV, the game displays these special moves in a very flashy, cinematic way without bringing a lull to a match. In fact, a lot of the game reminds me of SFIV. It shares a very similar art style to it, going for a darker take on that comic book, ink look. The characters are rendered with a lot of detail, but the game is a bit too dark for a title based on such an eccentric series. CyberConnect2 has a knack for making simplified fighting games, best displayed in the Naruto titles and Asura's Wrath. All Star Battle has a much more competitive edge than those, but it also aims for the same accessibility and level of flash. Some characters can turn invisible while others summon a horse. Some stages take place next to a volcano, while others have cars that can hit you if you are in the wrong spot. The game is made with fans of the series in mind, but I think anyone looking for a fighting game that strays from the norm while remaining approachable will want to keep an eye out for this one. All Star Battle will arrive on PlayStation 3 next year in Japan. There are currently no plans for US release.
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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was an odd fighting game for Capcom that was loved by many despite its flaws, in the West. In the East, however, it was one of the first videogames based off a very popular manga series. It's a series...

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CyberConnect2 to sell art to benefit 3/11 quake victims


Jul 24
// Dale North
Game company CyberConnect2 has launched an English-language charity called the Mamoru-kun Reconstruction Support Project. They plan to see original illustrations to help rebuild the March 11, 2011 disaster area in Japan, with...

Review: Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations

May 03 // Ian Bonds
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Namco Bandai GamesReleased: March 13, 2012MSRP: $59.99 What most folk will notice with this title is that, in story mode, it completely abandons the trope of exploring a hub world, RPG-style, looking for fights along the familiar locales of the series it's based on. Instead, players simply choose from three characters (two versions of Naruto -- older and younger -- plus Sasuke Uchiha, with more characters unlocked through gameplay) and fight through their storylines. The stories themselves are told through minimal cut scenes and single-panel art with voiceover. It's an interesting, albeit minimalist approach to convey a huge amount of story in a short amount of time, allowing players to get right into the action with as little exposition as possible. When it gets down to the gameplay, this is minimalist as well. There is only one attack button (aside from the long-range shiruken button), and attacks are varied with addition of direction, jump and Chakra, the energy used for special attacks. Because of this one-button attack approach, all the characters essentially play the same. Their move set may be different visually, but no complex combos to memorize means that every fighter will have the same or similar move inputs with which to pelt their opponents. Thankfully, there are support characters you can choose to call in during battle as well. Battles hinge on various dodge techniques, not the least of which is mastering the substitution, which allows you to teleport behind your opponent in the middle of their punishing combo. You are limited to only 4 of these a fight (to prevent you from repeatedly spamming the maneuver), but sadly, there is no in-game tutorial to aid you in the implementation of this move, and seeing as how crucial it is to winning fights, it's a mode definitely missed. As you battle, you can earn cards and other multipliers, which can help you customize your characters to your liking. Again, a tutorial mode here would have helped with customization and selection, but honestly, I didn't use the cards all that much anyway. It's mostly used in the online mode as it is, and skilled players will enjoy the advantages that multiple card types will offer. Speaking of multiplayer, it's your average fighting game fare, offering both player and ranked matches, as well as a tournament mode. There was no noticeable lag or latency issues, and with all the grandiose special attacks and animations, this was a good thing. Graphically, however, Generations is quite compelling. Environments are vast and expansive, character models are diverse, and everything crackles with energy and power, just as you would expect them to in the Naruto universe. The cut-scenes are a mix of 3D game animation to look like recreated footage from the series, as well as the aforementioned single-panel artwork, and while the presentation of this seems a bit odd when mixed together, it does a great job of telling the extensive story in a concise manner. In battle, the game looks fantastic, with huge effects on the specials, and fantastic 3D environments to roam and take the fights through. Beyond story mode, there are several free play options, such as single player tournaments or one-on-one offline modes. With over 70 fighters to play with and unlock, there's certainly a robust roster here, but despite some customization, it's clear the focus is on single player story, as that's where the majority of the content is found and unlocked. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a odd beast. The single player content is very good, and has tons of unlockable content to play through. The online component is also competent, and if you're a fan of the series, undoubtedly your favorite character is here. However, despite all of that, because there's no tutorial to help you with some of the more advanced techniques, coupled with the simplicity of the standard moves, it ends up feeling very shallow. How a game can feel both shallow and robust at the same time is a mystery, but Generations manages to do just that. It's a good game, just a hollow one.
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The Naruto series of games is another in a long line of fighting titles based on a popular anime series. What seems to set this series apart from the others, however, is its focus on a pick-up-and-play attitude. While many ga...

Becoming a ninja in Naruto Shippuden: UNS Generations

Feb 27 // Wesley Ruscher
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed])Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Namco BandaiRelease: March 13, 2012 Bridging the old with the new So what would a Naruto game be without at least four different versions of the Hokage hopeful to duke it out with? With all the different styles, there’s a version of Naruto for everyone, but really it’s only the icing on the cake for fans of the franchise. On top of Narutos' pouring out of every orifice of Generations, there are another 70 fighters (and 15 support characters) from the original series and Shippuden to chose from. Many favorites that have appeared in both games make the return in this, the third in the Ultimate series, but given that the first game was a PlayStation 3 exclusive a good number of the returnees will feel new to folks that only owned an Xbox 360 or played the second game. Having the fighters from both games in one sleek, shiny new package is nice (unless you already own the two prequels) but CyberConnect2 has myriad content packed in to hopefully appease everyone. For starters, the story mode has seen some refinements and instead focuses on the game’s core mechanic -- the combat. Whether it was picking flowers in a field or engaging in boss fights that limited a player’s available move-set, the past Ultimate games often broke up the action with quaint RPG additons  -- something Namco told me during my preview fans found less than desirable to play. To offset the removal of the RPG aspects from the single-player, Generations includes over an hour of all-new animation for the 11 different stories that take players through Naruto’s past and present. While most of the stories overlap, two highly requested characters, Zabuza and Haku, are finally playable, which is sure to make many happy. The final touch for fans in Generations is the inclusion of both Japanese and English voiceovers by the same actors as the anime. Fine tuned for the fighting fan. While there is plenty of Naruto fan service in Generations, why should a fighting game enthusiast care about the latest in this series? For most devoted fighters, the game is kind of a hard sell. Each character’s inputs are identical to one another (similar to the Super Smash Bros. series) and because of that the game lacks the potential to be as technically deep as the top-tier genre titles. It’s understandable, considering that developing and balancing individual move sets for such a large roster is a monumental task, and it would limit the enjoyment of trying to learn and remember every character’s combos. But, even so, CyberConnect2 has found room to make the game more than just a button masher.  The biggest addition to Generations' combat is the ability to dash-cancel from any combo. Previous games locked players into a move once it was initiated and therefore kept the combat very one-dimensional. Performing the new move is easy (though I wasn’t pulling 50-hit combo strings together like the ringer Namco brought to battle me) and it helped me get out of few intense situations during matches. If you’ve played past games, or seen the trailers for Generations, it’s easy to see just how crazy and hectic fights can be with all the screen-filling nonsense that takes place. Having an extra defensive tactic like the dash-cancel goes a long way to keeping each fight fresh and rewarding. Beyond all the crazy Jutsu attacks, ninja support items, and backup characters that have made the series what it is today, Generations also offers the same depth in the online department a fighting game player would come to expect in a game like Soul Calibur V. Tournament mode, online lobbies, downloading replays, and the ability to watch matches while you wait are all included. The game’s combat may not be as deep on the surface as other fighters, but that doesn’t mean the online components have to be as shallow. If you're wearing Naruto pajamas right now... this is for you Perhaps the most unique aspect to Generations is its connection to a new Naruto card game that is coming out. Coinciding with the release of the video game, each card in the collectible card game (similar to Pokemon TCG or Yu-Gi-Oh!) contains a unique code that can be directly input into the game. How this works with the game is in its online battle system. Every player has a Ninja card that they can customize with a title and some specific power-up that relates to one of the cards -- 600 in all -- from the card game. These power-ups (which can contain some sort of stat boost to speed or health for example) aren't directly given to the player at the start of the battle, but instead rewarded if their card's element defeats their opponent's card’s element before the match. While players who buy packs of the card game will have access to specific stat boosts for their characters more quickly, those who choose not to buy the cards will still be able to unlock them over the course of the game. At first, this seems to give those with more disposable income an advantage, but what I found especially cool about the feature is that even though someone may have a card that gives a stronger bonus, they are not necessarily guaranteed it based on its strength alone. It's all very rock-paper-scissors in its implementation, but something that fits Generation's dynamics quite well... and at the very least offers gamers another way to enjoy the Naruto universe. Ninja conclusion... Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a game that, on the surface, has a very limited appeal outside of its fan base. It's a crazy and over-the-top brawler with a huge cast of characters that, frankly, is a little overwhelming to non-fans. But tucked behind all its anime ancestry, is a sequel to a series that is looking to bridge much more than two Naruto generations together. With all its bells and whistles, it's looking to open up a world of fighting games to a generation that maybe missed the genre's boom in the 90s. It's worth keeping an eye on when it lands on March 13th.
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If there's one thing I know squat about, it’s the Naruto universe. It’s not because I don’t like anime -- I love it, but the boy in the orange track suit and all his ninja buddies never really appealed to...

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.hack finally teases us with some new screen shots


Jan 17
// Hiroko Yamamura
It's definitely been a while since I stepped into the world of .hack. It's pretty weird to think that almost ten years have passed since the series debuted on the PS2. It presented a lot of unique ideas and new mechanics...
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Teaser website points to a new .hack game


Dec 23
// Dale North
Did you forget about .hack? I did too. I think in the western half of the world did. But it's probably coming back. There's a new teaser page up at CyberConnect2 and it says ".hack GAME PROJECT coming soon." It doesn't get mo...

Review: Solatorobo: Red the Hunter

Oct 02 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]212734:41101[/embed] Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS)Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Xseed GamesReleased: September 27, 2011MSRP: $34.99 In Solatorobo, you play as cunning dog Red flying around the world with his adopted sister Chocolat and his mech suit DAHAK. It looks similar to the mech suit from Tail Concerto, which Solatorobo is a spiritual successor to. You even get to see some of the characters from that buried PlayStation action-RPG. While Tail Concerto played like Mega Man Legends, Solatorobo feels more like a Zelda title. You know, without all the good stuff. Red is a hunter, which pretty much means he's a badass in a world of useless peasants. As he travels town-to-town in his sweet airship, peasants come up to him and ask him to kill evil, giant cockroaches or whatever. Like a chump, he goes and does it. Red is nice like that. He's the classic spunky adventurer. Likable enough to stick with throughout the game's 15 or so hour story, but not memorable enough to stick with you once the game is over. The combat is pretty binary -- you dodge or attack. To attack, you pummel an enemy until you can pick them up. Once they are in your robotic arms, you can throw them on the ground, then repeat up to three times for a maximum-damage combo. It's like spamming the "open door" button in God of War extended across an entire game, and it gets old pretty fast. It boggles my mind that CyberConnect2 takes more than 10 hours to introduce some new mechanics. Eventually, you gain access to a new suit that grants you some different abilities. With it, you can swing enemies, pound them into the ground for splash damage, or go into Trance mode to shoot projectiles. It doesn't fix the problem of dumb A.I. and boring enemy design, but at least it's something. It's just strange that these features don't come into play earlier. It's as if the game knows how shallow it is and holds onto whatever tricks it has in desperation. "No... please wait! You see'll... uh, you can, like, swing people in about five hours! It's totally worth it, dude! Please, stick around and play me! Plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay meeeeeeeeee!!!!!"  After getting past the first three chapters, I felt insulted by Solatorobo's difficulty. I was dumbfounded that a developer would make a game this easy. Unless I'm mistaken, the box cover doesn't have infants on it. Does the game get harder? I had to know, so I did a quick Google search. It turns out I wasn't the only one wondering this -- European players had the same question months earlier, and they all received the same response of "Yeah, pretty much, I never died once." This is a problem. A good game lets a player's skill progress alongside the narrative. Both the player's skill and the game's story should have an arc. A great game pairs them together so tightly that you can feel the protagonist's struggle. As you left Ravenholm in Half-Life 2, you could almost feel Gordon Freeman's exasperated gasps for air coming out of you. If I ever felt remotely challenged while playing Solatorobo, it most likely had more to do with the Indian food I ate the night before. Solatorobo is a game about lifting things and throwing them. Okay, to be fair, sometimes you catch instead of lift, but this only happens on a rare occasion. It's practically mind-blowing when it does happen, because it usually follows an hour of mindlessly lifting crates and placing them on giant red buttons. Don't worry! If you are too stupid to figure that out, the characters will tell you. They will literally say, "This is a puzzle... this is what you have to do." IT'S NOT A PUZZLE IF YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!! You progress through the game by taking on quests that lead you into mini-dungeons full of mini-bosses and mini-puzzles. All of which are done with such little effort and creativity that you can't help but groan in apathy at the start of each, despite how visually different they may be. Whether it's a mining cavern or a large ship in the sky, you'll still need to slowly climb down a ladder to flip a switch and beat the boss by throwing its projectiles back at it. You'll occasionally come across some mini-games that are hit-and-miss. The fishing game is absolutely terrible. You have to press the A-button rapidly until it's over and it takes a lot longer than you'd like. However, the air-racing game is pretty great. You can even play it solo or with three friends, right from the main menu screen.  Along with fighting enemies and picking up boxes, you'll also collect lots of stuff. It's not quite Donkey Kong 64 amounts of crap, but it will make the OCD-gamer happy in an exhausted/depressed way. You have pigs that unlock pieces of concept art (YES!), plates you can buy that give access to cutscenes (THANK GOD!), and pianos that give access to background tunes (*tears*). You also have P. Crystals -- you can tell these things are important because this is an RPG and they are called "crystals." While you can level up by gaining experience points, you can also decrease the time it takes to lift an enemy and increase the throwing damage you deal by customizing your mech. No, this isn’t Armored Core -- The only thing you'll be changing is what Tetris-shaped blocks will make up your mech's interior. Each of these blocks give bonus points to your mobility, defense, attack, or hydraulics (lifting ability). You use P. Crystals to open up more space for placing blocks, which you buy at vendors in town. I never bothered optimizing my mech, because you can get by just fine without doing so -- the game really is that easy! I chose to devote all my space towards attack and hydraulics so I could get battles over faster. Now that's what I call strategy! You are probably thinking, "Why are other critics giving Solatorobo such glowing reviews, then?" Don't worry, I've thought it over too. One thing I can't argue with is Solatorobo's lively, detailed world and graphics that manage to impress, despite being on a seven-year-old system. As gamers, we like to explore original worlds that feel believable and mysterious. It's something rare in the current age of military shooters and the diminishing popularity of big-budget JRPGs. I wish I could celebrate Solotorobo as a whole due to CyberConnect2's efforts in world-building, but to do that I would need to ignore the game itself. It's telling that the Japanese collector's edition of Solatorobo came with a 94-page art book. This is a game that was in pre-production for seven years and in development for three. The decisions behind the story and backdrops were as thought-out as a Studio Ghibli film, which brings me back to my main point: Why make Solatorobo a videogame? Everything about the dungeons and combat feel like excuses to show off what CyberConnect2 and players really care about: The game's world. Our trips to the different locales of Solatorobo are too brief to impact us. Each area feels like six-or-so gorgeous, connected backgrounds rather than a world you can believe in. The same can be said of the game's cast of characters and overall story as well. So as you can see, even this aspect CyberConnect2 couldn't get completely right. There are so many distractions and interruptions in the narrative and action that Solatorobo never manages to build momentum. There is a pointless, chatty dialogue sequence at the end of every hallway and an abrupt change of scenery at the end of every chapter. As an animated film, Solatorobo could cull those ten years of production into a memorable adventure. Why settle for this shallow, repetitive interactive adaptation?
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I wish Solatorobo was an animated film instead of a game. Once you cut away the mind-numbing crate puzzles, monotonous combat, and maddening fetch quests, there is still a heart and soul to Solatorobo that keeps you from u...

TGS: Asura's Wrath is totally not like having diarrhea

Sep 17 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]211656:40891[/embed] The entire demo consisted of one, prolonged epic fight on the moon between Asura and another half-naked, roided-out god. If this sounds over the top and awesome, it’s probably because the game is Japanese. The pomposity of the dialogue, characters and action gives the game a lot of personality. It’s a game where a character says, “I don’t fight for evil. I don’t fight for good. I just fight.” If that isn’t incredibly rad, I don’t know what is. The combat itself is like a bizarre hybrid of Virtual-On, Street Fighter and God of War. Like a fighting game, you have various power bars you fill up to unleash devastating special moves. Like Virtual-On, you quickly glide and dodge across the stage and spam projectiles when away from your opponent. Like God of War, the game is ripe with QTEs that help tie together actions in different areas while providing some eye-candy. The HUD layout and visual style reminds me of Street Fighter IV in a very good way. The game looks more like a fighter than an action-adventure title. It makes sense then that fights are more about building up your Unlimited Mode meter, using Bursts attacks to pummel enemies and finishing them off with some Counters (via QTEs). The moon is a pretty big place. Rather than locking Asura into a confined arena, this stage feels almost endless in space. The game takes advantage of this by having the opponent make large attacks that require quick dodges and jumps for the player to evade. On paper, it sounds no different than God of War but the flow of combat and sense of space lends Asura’s Wrath a unique feel that sets it apart from other action games. Dodging between laser blasts and flying toward an enemy is a lot of fun. The demo ends with the opposing deity unsheathing and stabbing Asura with the longest sword ever. Asura gets stabbed off the face of the moon, his body dragged all the way down to Earth (approx. 380,000 kilometers). It’s pretty ridiculous and it's pretty awesome: I think that just about sums up Asura’s Wrath.
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It’s fitting that I saw Asura’s Wrath alongside Dragon’s Dogma at TGS, because both their titles sound like euphuisms for diarrhea. This is kind of ironic because Asura’s Wrath is kind of the opposit...

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Solatorobo has gone gold, will drop on September 27


Sep 11
// Tony Ponce
XSEED has sent out a press release announcing that the colorful action RPG Solatorobo: Red the Hunter has gone gold and will ship across the US on September 27. Along with reiterating details that have been announced previou...
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Solatorobo videos showcase furry combat


Sep 03
// Tony Ponce
With a bunch of incredible-looking games arriving this fall for the DS (that will actually see release in the US, *ahem*), Nintendo's lame duck portable still has some vitality left in it. One such promising title is anthrop...
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Seminar on working in the Japanese games industry


Sep 02
// Raz Rauf
Japanese high school students and their parents got to hear about the nature of the Japanese games industry at a seminar held at the Tokyo University of Industrial Arts. The panel consisted of CyberConnect2's General Manager ...

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