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How the hell did Galak-Z hide a Gundam for three years?

Jul 24 // Steven Hansen
Let's recap for a second if you haven't been following along. Galak-Z is broken into five seasons each with five episodes. The fifth season will be added in for free post launch. This is one diversion from the typical roguelike set up, in that when you die, you don't start all the way at the beginning of the game, but rather at the beginning of whichever "season" you're on. "One of [Kazdal's] pet peeves with roguelikes" is that playing very beginning segments over and over can get boring, so this blends that death-based need to replay with earned progression. More typically, levels are randomly generated, and you get different fractions of story and dialogue every time. This way you won't hear the same repeated bits death after death, but slowly glean more information until you finally get through the season. The space shooting half we already knew about is not just a twin-stick shooter, either. The ship maps thrusters (and a boost) to the triggers. There's also a backwards thruster so you can shoot and flee, a dodge thruster, and a a barrel roll (square) that juts the ship "toward" you like it's coming out of the screen (and over incoming bullets on the 2D plane). You have your standard weapon and an Itano Circus missile salvo (limited, but you can buy more if you find the shop during levels). [embed]296589:59676:0[/embed] Ok, so the not-Gundam? You can morph the ship into the robot at any time with a smooth, Transformers-like animation and change up the playstyle completely. It has a beam sword, which can be charged for a stronger, wider attack, and a shield that has parry capabilities. Perhaps most fun, though, is the extending claw arm that can grab dangerous space junk and throw it at enemies, or grab enemies themselves, bringing them in close so you can start wailing on them with punches. Keeping the mech locked up this long is impressive. The feature was locked off in the many public shows Galak-Z has been demoed at and no one slipped up about it. Kazdal tells me there were plans for a third, stealth-focused character, initially, but that it made for too many mental hoops in dealing with all the other things that could be happening at any given moment. Galak-Z is smooth, feels great to play, and the mech is a welcomed addition, adding one more layer to the game. There are warring factions you can sometimes pit against each other, environmental hazards to be aware of (and sometimes use to your advantage -- thanks alien trapdoor spider who saved my ass!), and instant shifts between ranged and close-quarters combat. It's tough, gorgeous, encourages exploration (beyond mission goals, there are blueprints for new gear and other upgrades to find), and a ton of fun.
HANDS ON: Galak-Z  photo
Spelunky by way of Macross...and Gundam
We've covered the "Spelunky by way of Macross" space shooting roguelike for a couple of years now and the follow-up from Skulls of the Shogun developer 17-bit is almost here, coming to PS4 August 4 and PC a few months down th...

Persona 4 goes full Miku in Dancing All Night

Jun 20 // Kyle MacGregor
This is all a set-up for a rhythm game, where the spotlight shines on Atlus composer Shoji Meguro's infectious tunes, including some new tracks to go along with remixes of old favorites.  Persona 4: Dancing All Night's gameplay is reminiscent of Sega's Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA series, which makes sense given the tiles were both created in part by the same studio, Dingo. Unlike the Project DIVA games, where the notes fly in from off-screen toward the center, Atlus is taking the opposite approach with Dancing All Night. Star-shaped objects appear and fly from the center of the middle of the screen toward six points on the outer edges of a ring, all of which correspond to parts of the D-pad and individual face buttons. As rhythm game veterans know very well, how you time your button presses as the notes fly into these zones will impact how well you score. There are various levels of difficulty to select between, so fans of the genre can challenge themselves while those just looking for a new Persona story can breeze through the stages with less resistance.  As you tap along with the beat, familiar faces like Kanji and Chie will groove out to the music on the Midnight Stage while Shadows look on the in audience. Eventually, the stages will culminate in a Persona summon, which I got a real kick out of. Seeing (the main protagonist) Yu's partner Izanagi jam out on a bass guitar put a big smile on my face. Atlus also showed us the game running on a PlayStation TV, which might be a tad more challenging than playing it in the palm of your hands on the Vita depending on how far away you sit from your screen. Since we were pretty close to the monitor during our demo, this required us to rely heavily on our peripheral vision, which added a layer of challenge. Whether it's an RPG, fighter, or rhythm game, more Persona is always a good thing in my book and seeing Persona 4: Dancing All Night in action this week at E3 has me no less excited about the game. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of it when it finally launches sometime this fall.
P4D preview photo
Just set it free and dance!
It's been months since the Investigation Team cracked the case and life is getting back to normal. That is, until members of Rise Kujikawa's J-pop group suddenly go missing. And, surprise, surprise: The rescue mission brings ...

Severed is full of one-handed vengeance

Mar 10 // Caitlin Cooke
The colorful art style of Guacamelee! makes its return in a beautiful, dark package. In Severed you play a young heroine set out on a course of vengeance after losing her home and her arm in a brutal attack. Her dark story coupled with the deserted surroundings made for a chilling atmosphere, and etched within the demo were moments that tugged at my heart ever so slightly.   The movement style is a refreshing version of old-school first-person dungeon crawlers, allowing you to choose directional paths in a four-pointed compass-like system. Enemies spawn immediately when arriving to a location, and players swipe to attack while moving directionally to combat multiple monsters in a room. Each enemy has its own rhythm in terms of attacking, blocking, and parrying, and when various monsters start to compound together in a room it becomes advantageous to memorize their patterns.  Once enough successful attacks have been built up, players can enter a mode that slows down the monster’s movements and allows them to sever appendages to go in for the final kill. Once slayed, enemies drop various objects which can then be used to upgrade health, defense, and severed power. Health is only given from a mysterious orange fruit which hangs in solitude on a magical tree.  The final boss in the demo took me a while to master, but once I did I felt like I was on top of the world. He dropped a piece of neat-looking armor, which supposedly imbued my character with a special power for the rest of the game. I learned later that all bosses drop a piece of armor with a unique power, and that both the power and the armor can be upgraded throughout the game. At first it took me a while to adjust to the movement and touch screen-style exploration, especially when I needed to move and attack at the same time. I have such tiny hands, so having to hold the Vita while swiping and hitting the directional pad proved to be difficult at times. However, I quickly came to appreciate the interactivity of the world, especially when it came to fighting monsters.  Although the demo was pretty fleshed out, the team mentioned that it plans to make a lot of improvements before launch. Vertical elements will be added to levels, like staircases in rooms that will expand the dungeons vs. one flat area. A daytime/nighttime feature will also be included, which will enable environmental puzzles in the world. The team also plans to feature NPCs, who will introduce more dialogue to the story. Personally, I loved the quiet nature of the character and general silent plot progression, so my hope is that the team keeps it as simple as possible. Severed comes out this summer for the PS Vita, and Drinkbox also anticipates releasing it for other touch screen-friendly devices as well. I can tell that there are big things to come from this game, and can't wait to get my hands on the full release.
Severed photo
But hopefully, you'll have two to play with
There’s something serene about exploring a desolate place for the first time. Too often in games I find myself dropped into an environment, expected to pick up the pieces quickly to achieve a goal and left with little t...


Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth

Mar 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]288637:57627:0[/embed] You do move around in real time, somersaulting over low walls and sticking to others for cover, but Volume isn't about hunting, human-like AI (especially not with the standard pawns). If you're spotted and cut enough corners to get away or duck into a locker, guards will simply reposition and you'll have another chance to get past them correctly. Thanks to plentiful checkpoints, each level -- there will be 100 -- acts as a series of connected stealth puzzles that tasks you with getting all the little blips and getting out.  Locksley will also be outfitted with gadgets picked up on the scene. You can hold one at a time and they add to the mind teasing. The Oddity will attract the undivided attention of any guard in sight, Figment sends a ghost clone running in a line, Mute will silence your footsteps so you can run, and so on. One other nice thing about the checkpoint system is that every time you die and get sent back, the stage timer reverts to whatever time it was at when you first activated the checkpoint. That way one screw up won't kill a leader board run or require you to replay the entire level from start. While I was enjoying sneaking about and feeling out how Volume plays, there is some story here as a, "near future retelling of the Robin Hood legend" starring the voice talents of Andy Serkis (Lords of the Rings, Enslaved) and Jim Sterling (Destructoid). There will also be hefty map-making and customization options to play with.
Volume preview photo
From the creator of Thomas Was Alone
Volume is a fitting name for a polygonal, Metal Gear Solid VR Missions-looking stealth game with enough rectangles to feed a geometry class for the entire year. In the case of Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone follow-up, howeve...

Y2K is a surrealist fantasy told through the lens of a Murakami-loving hipster

Feb 26 // Brittany Vincent
[embed]288166:57516:0[/embed] Instead, I found myself annoyed and impatient. And uncomfortable. The music played on, instilling a sense of "everything's going to be okay, but at the same time it's totally not." Like going home when you've got a terrible report card in the mailbox, or when you receive a text message stating that you and your significant other "need to talk" but there's no context as to what kind of talk you're going to have. And then, as if to make matters worse in every way, your cell signal goes out.  I couldn't shake that uneasy feeling as the game progressed. Alex eventually arrived at the bus station to an empty town, with clear streets as far as the eye could see save for a pair of girls on bicycles. I stood in front of them hoping I could stop them, and one did stop to look at me, but continued on her way. Unfortunately, before then Alex had already immediately begun flapping his gums as I followed the floating objective text on-screen to "go home." I didn't have subtitles to keep my interest (I assume due to the early nature of the build I was using) so his needlessly verbose narration fell on deaf ears most of the time, especially when he started describing how he never left the house. There's a time and place for self-indulgent reflective dialogue, but fresh off the bus wasn't it.  At that point I realized I wasn't sure how I felt about the game, having been irritated nonstop by a constant flow of "look at how unique we're being!" design decisions and Alex's narration. I was thankful for the eventual dialogue boxes that popped up later on during exploration to keep me engaged while my eyes darted around elsewhere, though Alex's insistence on making droll comments about the world around him nearly pushed me to exit the game several times over. It wasn't until I finally exited Alex's house later on and ventured further into the game world that I truly marveled at what lay before me. I knew it would be the killer aesthetic -- not the burgeoning narrative surrounding the so-called "Death Cab" or the offbeat protagonists -- that would take me in the end. The lush greenery of the forest I ended up in while chasing a wayward cat with a Salvador Dalí mustache blew me away. The faux-spritery of not-quite 3D and not completely anti-aliased character models struck me as charming and nostalgic, but the empty streets and uninspired layout of Alex's home didn't do much to convince me of Y2K's potential beauty. Neither did the amateurish anime-styled portraits of each speaking character, who seemed like they belonged in a Ren'py visual novel rather than an ambitious role-playing game with a unique art style. It looks as though this may have changed in newer builds of the game, but I've not yet gotten my hands on one.  Once I got into the overworld proper, however, I drank in the sights. I ran through a golden field during sundown to chase after the cat who got away from me. I made mental comparisons to games before Y2K who perfected this look (El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and Killer7 came to mind) and I began to enjoy myself a whole lot more when faced with whimsical locations on the map that still gave the impression I was alone in the world, but in a beautiful, far-off place. This feeling, of course, persisted when I made my way outside the limits of Alex's sleepy hometown and into some decidedly otherworldly places simply by following a silly little cat a la Toru Okada in Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I won't spoil things here for those interested, but there's a weird world of surrealism waiting to open up to you in Y2K after the normality seems to wear off, and I know I want to see more.  A turn-based battle system steeped in combos and rhythmic button press blocks was a delightful surprise as well, calling forth visions of the better of the Japanese RPG pool. That's not a huge surprise as the team at Ackk Studios have stated time and time again that one of their goals with Y2K is to take from the best aspects of classic JRPG battle mechanics and leave the rest behind.  Predictably, Alex is an audiophile and throws LPs at enemies. Attacking and defending was a little more tiresome than your usual “press X to dodge” systems and takes some getting used to, but it was satisfying and suitably jarring when I took damage. There were hints that a deeper, more fulfilling system was at work, and one I’m interested to investigate further.  Now, as I write this I think back on the strange experience that was Ackk Studios' ambitious title and hope for the best when it's finally released. I must have sat through its opening non-sequitur about twenty times before I got into the game proper: "The needle of the record player has dropped...the sound that the world will hear will change the very nature of reality." Blah blah blah needle, record, blah blah pseudophilosophical musical analogy, fade to black. It's exactly what I hoped there wouldn't be any of in a game that bills itself as a "postmodern RPG," and right there it was as soon as I got started. It bled through every single pore of the game, from Alex's character design to the insistence on including LPs as weapons and the phrase "sick beats."  And yet, I'm intrigued. In many ways it may feel derivative and frustratingly devoted to keeping up appearances as wacky for the sake of being wacky, but I think there's something special at work here too. Something genuine. I'm sure I'll find it lurking beneath the panda gimmickry and silliness, and for that reason I want to see more...even if it's just to find out if the rest of the game plays like a love letter to Haruki Murakami. I'm hoping that it will. 
Y2K preview photo
Breaking records with every battle, literally
Y2K began with protagonist Alex Eggleston returning to his his hometown from college. I watched him gaze out of bus windows until the scene shifted to him sharing a seat with a man in a panda costume. This was jarring enough to give Alex reason to look completely shaken and offended, and as the jaunty soundtrack suggested, should have felt super quirky and weird. It didn't.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings Barry Burton and Raid mode center stage

Jan 27 // Alessandro Fillari
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (PC,  PS3, PS4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease Date: February 24, 2015 (Episode One) MSRP: $5.99 per episode / $24.99 season pass (including DLC) / $39.99 retail disc Taking place between Resident Evil 5 and 6, Claire Redfield and Moira Burton (daughter of S.T.A.R.S veteran Barry Burton) have been kidnapped and trapped on an abandoned prison island filled with deadly creatures known as the Afflicted. Using their wits and teamwork, they fight their way through the facility and manage to send a distress signal to the mainland. Realizing that his daughter has been kidnapped, Barry Burton journeys to the island ready for battle. Once he reaches shore, he meets a young girl named Natalia, who possesses strange powers and close ties with the mysteries on the island. Barry and Natalia's story picks up about halfway through Episode One. Once Claire and Moira reached a certain point in the plot, the perspective switches over to the second duo. Though Barry is definitely up to the challenge, he'll have to combat with nastier variations of the Afflicted. Similar to Resident Evil's crimson heads, these new creatures are more aggressive and are far more mutated than the ones Claire and Moira encountered. Some use neat tricks such as invisibility, and some have pustules that explode after being damaged. Like its predecessor, Revelations 2 will show different perspectives to the story. With Claire and Moira leading the charge while Barry and Natalia witness the aftermath of their ordeal and make their own unique way through the island, you'll experience multiple sides of the story as it unfolds. Additionally, decisions and actions made throughout the story will have an impact on the other team. For instance, while in a room filled with traps, Claire and Moira used to them cover their escape from the Afflicted. Unfortunately, as Barry and Natalia enter the facility in an different way, and they find themselves on the receiving end of the traps and must deactivate them to proceed. Much like the dynamic between Claire and Moira, Barry and Natalia use their own unique skills together to overcome the odds. With one focusing on all the fighting, the other offers support with finding items and reaching spots that the first cannot. Things are a bit different for the second duo. As Barry has come to the island prepared and ready for battle, he brings with him a lot more firepower than Claire had. Moreover, Natalia possesses mysterious abilities that allow her to track nearby enemies, even through walls. One moment during Barry's trek outside the facility showed just how important teamwork was. While moving through a seemingly empty wooden storage house, the duo senses another creature nearby. Not knowing where its coming from, Barry pressed on. Once we got to a wooden door that was jammed, the creature began to get closer. Though I could have ignored it and continued with the door, I chose to investigate the surroundings. Eventually, I discovered the creature in the ceiling, which was a mutated version of the Afflicted known as the Revenant. Using Barry's arsenal, including his trusty Python, I was able to take down the creature. It was a pretty tense moment, and if I had chosen to ignore the creature, then it would've gotten the jump on Barry and Natalia. At this point, my time with the campaign came to a close. It was incredibly exciting to finally play as Barry Burton in a legitimate entry in the series. Yes, there's Resident Evil Gaiden, but that's regarded as non-canon, largely ignored on account of it being unceremoniously released on the Game Boy Color. Barry is such a bro, and seeing him take charge and kick ass was pretty great. Even though his side of the story feels largely the same as Claire's, it was still pretty exciting stuff.  My time with Revelations 2 didn't end there. After switching off the campaign, we moved right over to the new and improved Raid Mode. As one of the biggest successes with the original Revelations, Raid Mode was something of an experiment to see if they could try something new with the standard RE bonus mode. As an alternate take on the popular Mercenaries mode, Raid Mode tasks players with battling through a gauntlet of enemies while leveling up, acquiring buffs, and collecting new weapons. Think Monster Hunter, but with Resident Evil shooting and waves of enemies to take down. It was easily the most time I spent with the original game, and Capcom has decided to expand upon it in a big way. Now featuring a light story to offer some context to the chaotic battles, you play as an A.I. within a battle simulator from the Red Queen Alpha database. Within the digital HUB area, represented as a vestibule within a mansion, you're tasked with collecting data from different characters while running simulated battles against challenging foes. As you complete tasks, you'll find audio-logs that reveal more about Red Queen Alpha and its connection to the outside world. As you conquer challenges, the A.I. gains gold which can be spent on upgrades, new weapons, and new missions to engage in. Moreover, the A.I. can take the form of many different characters from RE's past and present (including Wesker and Hunk), and use their unique skills in digitally recreated areas from the main campaign, and even from previous Resident Evil titles. Instead of just running through a single gauntlet of missions, there are several different types to select from. Main Missions are the central focus in Raid Mode, but cost currency to take part in. In order to prevent players from repeated loot runs on specific missions, you'll have to take part in daily missions and event challenges to gain more cash to re-enter the main missions. Each main mission pack has six levels to fight through, each with their own medals and rewards to find.  Every playable character can level up (maximum level 100) and has individual perks to acquire and strengthen. Much like the previous titles, you can find new weapons and upgrades for existing gear. Just like the original, Raid Mode spices up the cannon fodder by making the foes a bit beefier. Some of them possess buffs that increase speed, strength, size, and even bestow them with force-fields that soak up damage. The stages I played in were set in Tall Oaks and Edonia from Resident Evil 6, and the objective was to clear waves of enemies while making it to the end goal. I had a blast playing through the Raid Mode in Revelations 2. Not only is it far more comprehensive than Mercenaries mode, but RE:R2 ups the ante with new features and content. It was great fun battling through Tall Oaks with Barry, and the variety of different enemies I faced kept things pretty interesting. Though I'm a bit worried that repetition could detract after the long haul, and that Raid Mode will not have online co-op play available until sometime after the release of the final episode, Capcom seems to be pretty headstrong with supporting the game. The idea of daily challenges and updates makes me look forward to what's to come. With the release of the first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 next month, it's going to be interesting to see how Capcom's experiment with episodic gaming will turn out. The plot certainly feels as though it wants to evoke discussion and debate among fans, and coming off the win the publisher just had with Resident Evil Remastered, it's looking like there's a bright future ahead for the once troubled Resident Evil franchise.
Resident Evil photo
Sans Jill Sandwich
Capcom has been on quite a roll lately. With the announcement of Street Fighter V, new releases in the Devil May Cry series coming, and the recent success of its HD Remaster for Resident Evil, it seems like the once trou...

Titan Souls is my PAX Prime 2014 game of show

Sep 11 // Abel Girmay
There are no real enemies or objectives outside of taking down the bosses that inhabit the world. After a short introduction to the controls, I was immediately thrust into an overworld pitting me against four bosses, taking on each at my own leisure. The bosses themselves are incredibly simple to understand, and monumentally challenging to beat. Each requires just one hit to their weak spot to kill. Getting that spot exposed is another matter -- every boss comes with its own system of defenses. One boss, a massive ice cube, immediately hones in on you, and proceeds to slide around the temple until your guts paint its hallowed halls. To get to the fleshy one-hit center, I needed to lure the cube over to one of four pressure switches, each activating a torch that would melt the ice once I managed to get my arrow to catch its fire. [embed]276694:55601:0[/embed] [Gameplay courtesy of RedPandaGamer.] Like the bosses, the mechanics in Titan Souls are similarly minimal. There is a button to roll, a button to shoot your arrow, and the same button to shoot will send your arrow flying back to you. Lets talk about that last part. In Titan Souls, you only have one arrow to shoot, and it is your only means of attack. As you can imagine, this makes timing and managing you shot very important, but the game takes it bit further by making a mechanic out of your limited ammo. Say you miss your initial shot; you can summon your arrow back, hitting anything it touches on its the way back to you. This skill was especially useful during one of the early bosses, a giant gelatinous blob that required multiple hits to whittle down to the fleshy one-hit-kill heart. For all of the challenge that the game offers, it's worth mentioning that I was never frustrated with the game. Maybe that speaks to how well it communicates its objective. By my first or second death, I understood exactly what it was that I was doing wrong, or needed to do better. Everything else was a matter of execution. Whenever you die in Titan Souls, you will know that it is only because you are not good enough, and that's fine. With the gameplay feeling so tight and responsive, and every boss being one or two hits away from defeat, I found myself willing to try things over and experiment with new tactics until I'd finally taken down a boss. Honorable mention goes to the music as well. Whenever I found myself slipping into frustration, its soft, mellow tunes would snap me back to sanity. When I got up to finish with Titan Souls, I noticed one gentleman working the booth was keeping tally of all my deaths and kills. After seeing my 30+ deaths to take down four bosses, I asked the man at what point in the game this demo took place in. He turned to me, smiled, and said this was just the tutorial. I am really damn excited to see what the rest of Titan Souls has in store.
Titan Souls preview photo
The beauty of simplicity
Confession time: I'm pretty out of the loop when it comes to the indie game scene. I love me some Nidhogg, Samurai Gunn, and Crawl, but it's not uncommon for me to have only heard about these games just before release or late...

Mighty No. 9 feels great, but the core concepts take some getting used to

Sep 01 // Chris Carter
Mighty No. 9 (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Comcept, Inti Creates, Abstraction GamesPublisher: ComceptReleased: 2015MSRP: TBA ($15 based off Kickstarter) Let's get the concepts out of the way first. For the most part, Beck controls the same way Mega Man always has -- he can jump and shoot, and in lieu of the classic slide move, Beck has a dash that can be used in succession without any real restrictions. This allows him to boost forward, air dash, and "slide" underneath gaps. But the dash is much more complicated than that. In Mighty No. 9, you'll have to use it to "absorb" enemies. By firing at them and decreasing their health pool past a certain threshold, they become "destabilized." Beck can then dash through them to absorb their powers (extra damage, speed, life, and defense boosts), thus killing them in the process -- most enemies cannot be destroyed by your standard shot and must be dashed through. This mechanic is seemingly a core precept of the Mighty philosophy, as it is used constantly throughout the level and is paramount to success. It's also a double-edged sword. For one thing, I found it kind of annoying at first to have to dash through almost every enemy in my path to remove them -- I was constantly jamming on the dash button so often that I skipped some enemies entirely. But once you play it for a while, it becomes second nature. Skipping enemies is actually bad, because you will need their absorbed powers sporadically throughout the game. For instance, by absorbing a close-by enemy with a red power that strengthens my standard shot, I could then get through a subsequent area with a much easier time -- one that nearly requires you to fire through multiple enemies, which is only possible with said power-up. You can see this at 1:54 in the below video. [embed]280497:55531:0[/embed] Like Neo when he became aware of the Matrix for the first time, so too did I eventually pick up absorption and destabilization. I don't suspect it will be for everyone and I can see some changes happening before launch (perhaps a buff for the standard cannon), but I enjoyed the strategic element, and dashing around everywhere is a ton of fun. I partly enjoyed boosting about because the levels are designed very well, combining action, light puzzle elements, and secret areas and paths that really started to shine in Mega Man 5 and 6. The beta only provides us with one stage -- the Military base -- but it's enough to show us what the development collective has planned for us. While No. 9 isn't what I'd call extremely difficult, it did give this Mega Man veteran some pause throughout. It wasn't just something I could pick up and master immediately -- I had to learn the ins and outs of the dash system, and there were some very tricky portions littered about the stage, most of which involve one-hit spiky pits of death. The boss, Mighty No. 5, was one of the best parts. It was fun to just unload burst fire on him and occasionally dash to destabilize his lifebar, as it felt like your standard cannon counted more for something. His pattern is very predictable (like a classic Robot Master), but his ultimate move (which effectively closed off half the arena periodically) was interesting, and his overall design was memorable. Mighty No. 9 didn't blow me away as a Mega Man fan, but even at this early stage I'm impressed by the layers of technical gameplay it provides. I think it's shaping up to be a pretty promising platformer, and just like Azure Striker Gunvolt, it does enough differently to make its own mark on the genre, without simply cloning Capcom's methods at every step.
Mighty No. 9 preview photo
Check out my full video playthrough below
Mighty No. 9 is probably one of the most anticipated games of 2015. After a massive Kickstarter, creator Inafune and developers Comcept and Inti Creates have kicked off a long line of products to hype it up, including Mi...

Natural Doctrine is a brutal, sort of ugly turn-based strategy game

Jul 07 // Steven Hansen
Natural Doctrine (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita)Developer: Kadokawa GamesPublisher: NIS AmericaRelease Date: September 16, 2014 Natural Doctrine's UI has been an illegible clutter in what we've seen so far (which is sort of extensive, as it's been out in Japan for months), so I was glad to finally get some clarification, though nothing will beat playing it for a few hours to figure everything out.  First, it's like a cross between Valkyria Chronicles and a grid-based SRPG. Though large, outlined, adjacent squares? You can move anywhere within one -- moving into a new square, crossing a boundary, is what counts as a movement. And your free positioning within squares is actually meaningful. The first map shown involved catching up to protecting a character who will essentially be your first mage, if you succeed. If you don't succeed and he dies, you should probably start over. I'm told that's the case with any character, really. "You come in with a team, you better leave with that team." And so part of defending this mage involved getting your troops to his square and actually setting up a defense wall around him because enemies will need line of sight to hit (I saw a lot of shots from a ranged gunman bounce ineptly off of a piece of wall later in the demo -- third person view is helpful to avoid that). As for the messy top of the UI, that's the turn order, but it's fungible. Doing an action with in the same square (or an adjacent square) as one of your units activates Linking, which changes up the turn order. While the Initiative above may alternate you, enemy, you could theoretically link everyone and get all your turns in -- though you've opened up for your enemy to do the same. Also key are same square Link attacks which get stronger as you move your linked characters away from each other, which is great for extra offense but could compromise any defensive positioning you were working with. Grouping is also useful because everyone in an attacked square will counter. An adjacent, ranged fighter can also counter without being attacked if close enough.  Things like terrain and positioning also matter (for line of sight). You can even friendly fire your own units if you're not careful. Killing an enemy also makes the attacking unit move into the adjacent section (provided it isn't filled with further enemies), which can sometimes screw you over, as I saw in a later level.  You could spend three turns trying to close a gate, requiring enemies to flank around (and giving you more turns to pick them off slowly) or brute force your way through. Our demoer took Jeff and set him up with some buffs and set him to guard the space right behind the gate. This prevented enemy troops from moving up and allowed him to counterattack while ranged units also attacked. But our demoer fell a few times, once when a successful attack forced Jeff to move up a square, into the open, where he was unceremoniously wrecked. After finally making it through, more, stronger enemies showed up. Thankfully, someone asked Kadokawa to throw some checkpoints in so some of the longer stanges wouldn't need to be fully replayed (especially since you're advised to restart upon character death). This is more of an XCOM situation than other SRPGs. There's no grinding, just the main missions. And you're given the soldiers you have to use for each mission, though you can respec characters at the onset to some degree. They have specialties, of course, and you'll want to keep your mages for their invaluable healing and strong offensive magic -- if you conserve enough Pluton, the MP source, which doesn't always replenish between stages.  It all seems as if Natural Doctrine is a bit antagonistic. It is. But at least you can hold down a button to fast forward enemy turns.  It won't be cross-buy, but the PS3, PS4, and Vita versions will be cross-save and cross-play -- there's also a multiplayer component where you play with units of all four in-game races (in the story, you only play as humans) that you earn by playing multiplayer and getting trading cards. Each unit card has a cost to play, so you will hopefully not get steam rolled by someone just because they have stronger units than you.  And I forgot to only refer to the game as Natty Doc. Shoot. 
Preview: Natural Doctrine photo
Hmm...how about we go with 'homely'
Sure, Natural Doctrine doesn't look great (well, the environments; it does look better in miniature on the Vita). It's a far cry from director Atsushi Ii's gorgeous minimalism in Patapon. But Kadokawa Games' first intern...

Rollers of the Realm: A nice surprise

Jun 16 // Dale North
A female character doubles as a pinball (stay with me here) that can be launched into a play field or town to interact with enemies or NPCs by bouncing into them. You’ll guide our hero with flippers that have been placed in these locations. In the most basic example, hitting an NPC lets you speak with them in town. Hitting an enemy chips off at its hit points. If guards are blocking a gate, as was the case in the earliest level, you might have to hit them with shots to clear the way. Actually, in this case, I was able to summon my dog (also a pinball) and send him up as a distraction for the guards while I made a sharp shot towards an alternate access point into the next area. Just like in any good pinball game, there are opportunities to show off your paddle skills by launching multi ball play, or shooting through trap doors to access other locations. Expect bumpers, ramps, treasures, and bonus zones. Some of the paddles have life bars, which adds to the challenge. Completing a level requires a sharp shot to a goal zone once all objectives have been met. What’s interesting is that this character pinball is the first member of a party, and that each additional character has its own traits on the play field, just as different character types would in a traditional RPG. For example, a drunken knight hits harder and moves slower because he’s heavier, though that movement is erratic because he’s had a few too many before going into battle. I played a demo just to the point where I was able to add a third party member, a healer. This pinball also has a movement and abilities of its own to be used. As the game progresses and the levels become more challenging, use of two or more party members can be required to proceed. In one of the more interesting encounters I had to use the knight to force my way through barriers that the hero wasn’t strong enough to access. From there, the hero would take over, being more agile and fast. Rollers of the Realm is quite a bit more pinball than RPG, but the mix of elements makes feel like the biggest, most involved pinball table ever. As an RPG fan, i welcome the varied challenges. I’m not great at pinball, but after seeing what I did at E3 I’m sure I’ll be taking on the challenge anyway.   Rollers of the Realm is coming to PC, PS4, and PS Vita this holiday season.
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RPG/pinball mashup succeeds
I tried my hardest to imagine what the combination of pinball and RPG would look and play like before meeting with Atlus at E3, but I kept coming to mental roadblocks so I decided to wait and be surprised when I got to see it...

Project DIVA photo
Quick hands-on preview
As Miku fans likely already know, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd is coming to North America this year, to both PS3 and Vita. It was through your support for the first title that this sequel's release is possible, Sega tell...

Freedom Wars: Eight-person action-RPG multiplayer goodness for PS Vita

Jun 10 // Dale North
Freedom Wars is fun. I played a few multiplayer missions recently at a preview event. This is a fully online title, but we went at it locally for now. I jumped in, cold turkey, on a rescue mission where giant alien mechs were stomping around and my teammates were working to cover me while I figured out the control scheme. We had to rescue 3 hostages successfully to reduce my personal sentence by 3,000 years. Not a bad start toward my freedom, eh? Freedom Wars is a third-person game with a nice, wide view so you're not always having to man the camera while fighting. That's great. The control scheme is also great, though you wouldn't imagine it would work so well on a Vita on paper. But everything's covered, from the two attacks (you have swords and ranged fire) to weapon switching to grappling. Speaking of the grapple hook, it works for traversal and as a weapon. For the latter option, you can rip enemies down to the ground or hold on to them while you shoot them with ranged weapons. Those weapons are everywhere, spread out over the field, so when you're not getting blasted, you can go and nab those pickups to add to your arsenal It wasn't too long before I took down my first large enemy. I was surprised to see that one of the hostages was housed inside! After bringing it down, I picked up the hostage and immediately ran to a safe pod while other players tried to cover me. From the minute you pick up a hostage, the enemies will do their best to take you and the hostage out.  I was the hostage carrier twice more, which kept the heat on, but we succeeded, and now I'm down to a nine hundred ninety-seven thousand year sentence. Nice. [embed]275880:54173:0[/embed] I didn't spend a lot of time with Freedom Wars, but I knew I had seen enough to be completely sold on it. It looks (like a PS3 game!) and plays great, gives me more reason to spend time with my Vita, and fits that multiplayer monster hunting craving I get every so often. There's even region-based competitive multiplayer competitions planned -- that should be good. But it's not just a single-player game. Sony tells Destructoid that there's a single-player side that is some 25 hours long. Great mission-based multiplayer with a bonus full-length action RPG on the side? Sold. Look for more details on Freedom Wars very soon. Here's hoping we hear a North American/European release date soon.
Freedom Wars photo
First hands-on
In upcoming online Vita action RPG Freedom Wars, you are sentenced to a million years in prison. Not a typo. In fact, everyone in this messed up future world is born with a million year sentence. But you can work that se...

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Yes! PC version of Hotline Miami 2 will have a level editor!


Share levels with others online
Jun 09
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will have a level editor on the PC! Fans can create their own demented levels, decorate it however they want to. And yes, you'll be able to share these custom created levels with other players. ...
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It's okay, the children want to be thrown
Max hung out with Dave and Daniel of Spry Fox Games to check out their upcoming title, The Road Not Taken. From the makers of Triple Town, this puzzle roguelike puts the player in an adorable world, with dark undercurrents. ...

Galak-Z is like Spelunky by way of Macross

May 01 // Steven Hansen
Galak-Z is simple to get into. You boost your ship around with either the forward or reverse thrusters. You start out with a piddly little red laser (that actually looks pretty cool). You have a set of arrows pointing you in the general direction you'll need to be going to finish the level.  What started out as a finite space shooter turned into a procedurally generated roguelike when the team realized its procedural tools for level creation, meant to abet the process, worked well enough to do string together series of designed rooms into full on dungeons.  You'll have a set path to get through a level, but you'll want to explore the far ends of Galak-Z's space in an effort to accumulate cash for upgrades and give yourself a better chance at actually beating the game. [embed]274075:53692:0[/embed] The ship controls are already smooth and fluid. I was quickly ping-ponging around and firing lasers while thrusting backwards. You also have an allotment of missiles with which you paint over enemies, Rez-style, and let loose a barrage. But you'll probably want to save them for tougher foes. There's also conflict amongst the main enemy groups, as well as the third-party aliens, so you could drop in on massive space dogfights or try and lure vicious space creatures into a group of enemies and see if they thin each others' numbers. Enemies also have states of alarm and recognition, allowing you to get an upper hand or maybe even do a little bit of sneaking by. Combat is already solid and the roguelike elements should prove typically addicting. The art style, heavily influenced by 70's/80's sci-fi anime (largely Macross/Robotech) is delightful. It just pops on screen. Explosions look particularly fantastic and so do all the bold colors. I'm ready to lose a lot of time to Galak-Z, probably on the Vita.
Galak gunning photo
Galak gunning
Galak-Z has gone through some changes since we first heard about it. The space shooter from 17-bit Studios (Skulls of the Shogun) has jumped on the roguelike train. I mean space train. Damn. I messed that up.  I messed u...

I died an embarrassing amount in Hotline Miami 2

Apr 17 // Brett Makedonski
The first half of the demo took place in a level that was reminiscent of most of the first game. Tight corridors leading to room after room of roving henchmen, all waiting to be methodically and maniacally murdered. What made this section special is that we got to see some of the new masks that will be available. A representative from publisher Devolver Digital challenged me to select one that restricted me to only using my fists. After some hesitation, I chose one that equipped me with a chainsaw permanently mapped to one mouse button, and an ally whose only purpose was to pick up ammunition for the firearm assigned to my other mouse button. The second part of the demo is where things got a bit more unique. Rather than taking place within a confined and segmented area, it was largely open with very little cover. That means that guns were an extremely risky proposition, as it wouldn’t take much sound to bring another enemy running. Without anything to hide behind to bottleneck them through, it was necessary to rely heavily on melee attacks, making the whole affair quite challenging. [embed]273390:53447:0[/embed] The other aspect of the second level that was interesting is that there was no mask to choose from. This is because the playable character was a different one than in the first stage. While there are multiple characters to play as, we don’t know why yet, as Dennaton isn’t talking much about the story. In fact, they weren’t even at the show; the member of Devolver Digital that demoed the game with me said they stayed home to keep working on the game, so I had no chance to try to squeeze anything out of them. While there might be slight variations to Hotline Miami 2, my core experience from the original was intact in that I died a lot. I mean a lot. Like, an embarrassing amount considering that there were people in line behind me waiting to play. If anyone that was there is reading, I’m sorry, but I have a feeling that it was par for the course for the entire weekend. The sequel’s going to be just as frantic as the original, and let’s face it -- that’s what everyone wants from Hotline Miami.
Hotline Miami 2 photo
I bet everyone did
Anyone that has even the slightest bit of familiarity with Hotline Miami knows what defines it. The neon-swathed visuals, the gratuitous violence, the quick and unforgiving gameplay, and the blaring soundtrack all made the ga...

Hyper Light Drifter's co-op mode will have you dying over and over

Apr 11 // Brett Makedonski
This is because the two players are tied together in an integral way. If the secondary player dies, he'll keep respawning to the detriment of the first player. That's because each respawn knocks a sizable chunk of health off of player one. When he dies, it's game over. There's no sort of system where one can go on without the other. If your buddy sucks, well, that's your direct disadvantage. If you had the slick idea that the weaker player could just stay out of the fray, that probably won't happen either. Enemies spawn from all over the place, and the ones with ranged attacks will make this strategy particularly not feasible. In all actuality, you probably won't even notice if your partner's bad, because you'll both be too busy dying. Score is tracked based on the number of monsters killed, and rounds seem like they'll go by lightning-quick. Talking with Heart Machine, they said that a score of fifty to one hundred is a solid round, and anything over one hundred is "venturing into high score territory." [embed]273164:53368:0[/embed] The reason that failure always feels imminent is because the enemies deal out surprisingly high damage. Everything could be cruising right along, and then you take a few unexpected hits and it's all gone off the rails. Health can be picked up after enemies are disposed of, but it's not generously handed out. The best strategy to employ is to get into the thick of it and hope for the best. Speed is one of the essential elements, as the dash feature will have you zooming across the screen from enemy to enemy. Also, two special attacks can be equipped at a time that draw from a mana pool. You have freedom with these, as we saw a selection of about six that could be switched out on the fly. But, chances are, within minutes, you're going to be dead. Failure's inevitable for even the most successful of runs. When that happens, you'll have no one to blame but your co-op partner. And while it doesn't seem like this mode will steal the show from the core game, it's just one more thing to sweeten the pot and make us want Hyper Light Drifter even more.
HLD preview photo
And over and over
Hyper Light Drifter is on the top of a lot of people's lists of most anticipated games. For good reason, too. The quick-paced, action-RPG with a retro aesthetic looks like it's going to be an absolute pleasure to play. I...

To Leave is one of the neatest games I played during GDC

Apr 03 // Steven Hansen
[embed]272809:53244:0[/embed] To Leave (PC [previewed], Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita)Developer: Freaky CreationsPublisher: Freaky CreationsRelease date: 2014 To Leave is artsy, forward in its metaphor. The main character, Harm, is attempting to get out of a rut, out of a harmful life. The way to do this is to take his flying door and get the heck out of his bog of despair. But escape is hard because the door is fragile and if you hit something, you get sent all the way back to the beginning of the game, the bottom of the city Harm lives in. The progression is glorious. This isn't Super Meat Boy sort of rapid repetition that encourages white knuckle runs as fun. These white knuckle runs can send you back to the beginning of the game. Now, there are checkpoints of sort in the world. You're not replaying the whole game after each death, but it's a tense set up and that sees you failing early and often. And then you keep on keeping on, getting better at wresting yourself from the slop. If you want to ignore the metaphor, the base game is exciting to play. If you run out of Drive (a gauge filled by collecting those blue spirit things), you enter an extra atmospheric Hopeless mode with weird music and sludgy controls. Otherwise, you're clinging to your door, avoiding obstacles with the sort of floaty controls. And enemy patterns don't just reset at respawns so you can't just muscle memory or power your way through levels. I jumped forward in the game to a harder level and just compulsively died and started over, trying to run before walking.  To Leave is also artistic. Just take a look at the screenshots. Nothing is tiled and art isn't reused. There are a number of different themed sections as well. "We want to show Ecuadorian craftsmanship," Palacios explains at my surprise. I couldn't quite put my finger on why the game looked so different, despite it's interesting art style, until I realized. And all those benevolent looking stone faces are cool as heck. Then there's the music, which is a huge focus. You can check out some of the samples right here. Even through a laptop's speakers in a semi-trafficked area, the score helped to immerse me in the world. I just wanted to keep listening to it. GDC is always refreshing and playing To Leave was a perfect example of why I love it. The mechanics are tight, the artistry is interesting, and the angle feels new.
Preview: To Leave photo
Ecuador's first indie game
GDC is full of neat games. There are sentai management sims. Body building cats. Hyper Light Drifter. But one of the neatest games I played during GDC is To Leave, which creative director Estefano Palacios says is the first i...

Preview: Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes

Jan 07 // Chris Carter
Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes (3DS, PS4, Vita, Wii U)Developer: 8bits FanaticsPublisher: Nicalis, Inc.Released: TBA 2014 1001 Spikes is a retro enthusiast's dream. You'll control the titular Aban in his quest for more treasure, as the game takes you through a series of levels in the style of the world map from Ghouls 'N Ghosts. It's a full quest, complete with a narrative, collectibles, danger, and well crafted levels full of fiendish traps. It also plays wonderfully, most notably due to the "two button" jump system. You can press one button to jump high, and another to jump at a standard height, like most 2D platforming protagonists would. This allows you to control your jumps and make precise landings on any platform -- because, you know, they're probably filled with spikes. It's a simple nuance but a welcome one, and as someone who has been playing platformers for over 20 years, it feels fresh -- in other words, it combines all of the good times you had with retro games with a solid framework to make it more fair. The full game will feature nine characters, including Nyx from Nyx Quest, Commander Video, and the President Thompson/Sugimoto duo from Tempura of the Dead. My experience with co-op has been great, as there's a slight trolling element in this current build that allows you to throw projectiles at fellow partners to stun them. It isn't game-breakingly annoying however like a few other titles, since the maps are generally pretty large, and the camera zooms out at a decent length to give everyone their space. In addition to legit four-player co-op for the entire campaign, 1001 Spikes will feature a "Golden Vase" mode (among other multiplayer gametypes) which plays similarly to Spelunky's deathmatch gametype mixed with Halo's Oddball. There's a giant vase in the middle that drops coins as you carry it while running, but everyone else is gunning for you in one giant trap-filled map. It's fleeting fun, for sure, but there's a method to its chaos, and solid platforming skills will win out more often than not. The map I was able to test had varying degrees of height, with multiple doorways to enter (Scooby-Doo teleportation style), tons of spike traps, and fire-breathing wall hazards. The spikes in particular were cool, as they triggered a trap on the opposite side of where it was stomped -- so a fleeing player could run all over them to play defense even though he can't technically use his hands while holding the vase. The final game will sport leaderboards, as well as a sound test mode and a few other secrets (hopefully we'll hear some more progress on the level editor). It expands upon the original game in a big way with a multitude of modes and characters, and everything I've touched so far has me pretty excited to try the real thing. In short, it plays like an NES game with tons of content stuffed into it, and I'm perfectly okay with that.
1001 Spikes photo
This is shaping up to be one of my favorites of 2014
Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes was a great concept. It launched way back in 2011 on the Xbox Live Indie store for a whole dollar, and remains one of the best games on the marketplace to this day. But the folks over at Nic...

Impressions: Rainbow Moon (Vita)

Dec 03 // Ian Bonds
Rainbow Moon (PS3, Vita)Developer: SideQuest StudiosPublisher: EastAsiaSoftReleased: July 10, 2012 (PS3) / December 3, 2013 (Vita)MSRP: $14.99 When Rainbow Moon released last year, it was to little fanfare, and less-than-favorable reviews. Some strategy fans seemed to enjoy it, at least, as proven by this Vita port almost two years later. And let me be straight with you: this is a port in the strictest sense of the word. Very little has changed between the original download on PS3 and this PSN title for Vita. If you missed the title previously, it's your typical open world SRPG, full of random battles as well as foes you can see on screen to fight with. What sets Rainbow Moon apart is the ability to choose whether or not to engage in the random encounters with unseen foes with a simple button press, as well as choosing to walk around or up to the foes you can see. Battles themselves are set up on a grid-like system, moving square by square, turn by turn, tactically moving around your enemies for your best advantage. It's the most basic form of a strategy RPG, but it works well, which is good considering you'll be doing it a lot. As before, Rainbow Moon hinges most of it's gameplay on grinding to level up, only to grind further for items to improve your battle stats so that you can grind again on higher level beasties. So, what has changed? Well, for starters, there's cross-save, allowing you to continue your quest on the go from your console version, and vice versa, which is quite nice if you prefer your grinding while on the go. Also, much of the game has been streamlined, at least as far as menus go. Scrolling through through menus, matching collected items to upgrade weapons, and organizing your inventory seems faster. In fact, Rainbow Moon actually seems best suited for the handheld, as it's short quests, simplistic battle structure, and save anywhere features work best in short bursts. However, the port doesn't really take advantage of the new hardware at all. Touch screen functionality is non-existent, and while most won't gripe too much with that, it does seem odd that it's been completely neglected. Graphically, you're looking at the same game from PS3, and the short, colorful characters are beautiful, with plenty of background animation and expressive characteristics to give the world a fully-alive feel. Sadly, I wish the characteristics of you and your party members last throughout the game -- as before, whenever you add someone to your party, all manner of personality interaction with them disappears. It's as if once you gain a party member, they're merely another body with which to fight your foes, and their storyline ends with them joining you. And therein lies the biggest problem here, just like the PS3 version. While there is plenty to do in this over 50+ hour epic quest (and even more in side quests), the story itself is largely unremarkable. You arrive, monsters are there, you fight them...and that's pretty much it. While there is plenty to do as far as number of quests and missions, the reason behind why you're doing it is left mostly ambiguous. What you're left with is a game that has you grinding for the sake of defeating enemies, so that you can grind again to defeat higher-powered enemies -- and so on, and so forth. If that sort of thing appeals to you, now you can have it on the go. Aside from that, there's not much reason to chose one version over the other.
Rainbow Moon photo
Pretty much the same, but portable
Strategy RPGs seem to thrive on handheld systems. While many are released on console, it often takes a port to a portable build for gamers to take notice. With a sequel already in the works, EastAsiaSoft has seen fit to port last year's Rainbow Moon from PS3 to Vita, and the experience remains mostly intact from the console version. This is both to its credit and its detriment.

Hands-on with the new PS Vita, remote play PS4 test

Sep 20 // Dale North
The new Vita is lovely. I feel like the design has been improved all the way around, from front to back. The first thing you'll notice is that it's so much lighter than the original Vita. It feels like there's next to nothing inside, but it manages to do so without feeling cheap. The new Vita is also thin and svelte, making the original seem a bit clunky in comparison. The rear of the unit is sleek looking, but still has a nice, rounded grip. Between this and the reduced weight, the new Vita is easy on the hands. I already know I'll like it better for extended play.   And while we're on comparisons, know that Sony wouldn't allow me to photograph the Vita screens. I tried so many times. There's nothing to hide, though. The new LCD screen looked fantastic with every game I tried. On the TGS show floor there's no fair way to compare old and new screens,  though I doubt the new LCD will beat the OLED one. While games looked bright and colorful on the new Vita, it doesn't look to have the OLED's wide viewing angle or color depth. That all said, as an avid portable gamer I can honestly say I would be perfectly fine with the new Vita screen. I wouldn't feel like I was missing something by using it over the older model. Finally, the new buttons are nice. The face buttons in particular feel fast and responsive -- a nice improvement. The start, select, and PS buttons are now full circles, and are easier to press.  Remote Play of PS4 games on the Vita went off without a hitch in my demo session. I was able to play Knack on the Vita while seeing it run exactly in time with the PS4 screen. It never missed a beat. Perfectly tight, no hiccups. The control scheme of Knack is pretty simple, so the Vita had no problems handling button assignments.   The visual quality of the streamed PS4 game on the Vita screen was pretty nice, though a close look would show that compressed video was coming across. But at a quick glance you wouldn't be able to tell that you were looking at a stream. Again, at least in this demo environment, play was absolutely lag free. Impressive stuff. The new Vita is a very nice little system. I don't think many will miss much over the previous model, screen included. Japanese gamers will be able to buy the new Vita on October 10 for about $195. We have yet to hear confirmation of a western release. I'm sure we will soon enough, though.  
New Vita test photo
Full hands-on at TGS
Forget about that short time I had with a retail demo unit last week. This week at Tokyo Game Show I've played with the new Vita multiple times with several different games. I've put it through its paces as best as I could here. I've even tested PS4-to-Vita remote play. Read on for our impressions of the new PS Vita model.

Giving the PS Vita TV the full rundown

Sep 19 // Dale North
The PS Vita TV is small -- about the size of a thick mobile phone. Tiny enough to fit in a pocket and compact enough to fit in even the smallest home. But when connected to a network and a television it does some pretty big things for the PlayStation videogame catalog.  Working my way up through its gameplay modes, I started with PSP play. I'm quite excited by the idea of backwards compatibility for play on televisions, but the look of titles like Patapon and Gran Turismo on a large HDTV shows just how far we've come since their initial release. Up against some of the other format options the PS Vita TV provides, PSP titles look blocky and blurry. These are games running at a lower resolution, but they don't all have the retro charm that PSOne games do. Despite my love for the PSP and its library, seeing these and other PSP and PSOne titles in action next to Vita games was a bit of a bummer.  They did play beautifully, though. The Dual Shock did the trick. It also did the trick for menu navigation. The Vita TV's UI looks a lot like that of the Vita, down to the page flipping to move between open apps.  PS Vita games look fantastic on the PS Vita TV. Those that have been daydreaming of a way to be able to play Vita games on their TV will be pleased. Soul Sacrifice Delta looked yummy, as did Danganronpa 1-2 Reload. And wow: God Eater 2 was eye-poppingly beautiful on Sony's HDTVs. I feel TV play of vita games alone is worth the price of entry. I can't wait to see how my Vita collection looks and plays on the big screen. Finally, I gave the streaming PS4 remote play functionality a try. Sony had upcoming game Knack running on a PS4, and showed that a simple option selection on the PS Vita TV had the game streaming almost instantly. Knack played perfectly via remote play using a Dual Shock controller, just as it did when I played it on PS4 at E3.  But the image quality takes a hit. With streaming play, gone is that high end gloss the PS4's graphical muscle provides. The meat and potatoes of the images are still there, but you can see compression easily, and colors and details suffer. The resolution was certainly lower than the original. It certainly doesn't look bad. Remote play of PS4 games looks just like watching a nice HD stream of gameplay on the internet.  But quality of signal is not the point here. Flexibility is. Having second-room access to your $400 PS4 for only $100 more is pretty attractive. Plugging in a tiny box will be much easier than disconnecting and reconnecting your PS4 in another room. There's also plenty of opportunities to be explored with remote play and multiplayer. And who knows what Sony has up their sleeves with Gaikai streaming tech beyond remote play.  Sony has yet to confirm the PS Vita TV for western markets. The device is sure to do well in Japan and Asia on the gaming side of things, but I hope they realize that with the addition of video and other content services, westerners would be happy to plunk down $99 for one.
PS Vita TV hands-on photo
Hands-on at TGS
Seeing the little white Sony box that came out of nowhere last week was a top priority for us a Tokyo Game Show this week. I put the PS Vita TV through its paces today at the show, trying everything from PSP to streaming PS4 play out on it. It does so many things, but does it do them all well?

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Assassin's Creed Liberation HD coming to PSN, XBLA, PC


Reworked from the ground up
Sep 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
That's right! The Vita darling is going all HD for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC early 2014. Development started shortly after the Vita release thanks to how the fan base reacted so positively to it after the E3 reveal...

Galak-Z explores the nooks and crannies of space

Sep 01 // Brett Makedonski
The most notable feature of the combat system is that it's really pretty difficult. Even two small enemy ships can cause problems, while some of the bigger ones can feel downright impossible. It's obvious that Galak-Z will require a lot of retreating while attacking, as an outwardly aggressive approach probably won't yield success. This is where the juke comes in particularly handy, almost to the point of seeming overpowered at times. Despite Galak-Z's setting, it's not subject to the vast expanses of nothingness that are commonly associated with space. Rather, it takes on a bit of a metroidvania vibe, as it requires that you work your way through different sets of caves to find upgrades and to eventually advance. It's a mechanic that will need to be explored in detail, but seems likely to mesh well with the style of game. 17-Bit intends to bring Galak-Z to PC, PS4, and possibly PS Vita. As it is now, it appears as if it'll shape up nicely with a bit more polish and refinement. It looks like Sony definitely has another strong indie title in its repertoire. 
Galak-Z preview photo
Shoot everything along the way
"It's the perfect game for fans of 80's anime," 17-Bit's Raj Joshi told me about Galak-Z before I was given a chance to play it. Admittedly, it seemed like a weird statement at the time. At first glance, the Asteroids-esque ...

Samurai Gunn might be my favorite game at PAX

Aug 31 // Brett Makedonski
For all the frantic pace, it never felt uncontrollable. Rather, the way in which you could quickly plot your attempt at your next victim was simply amazing. Realizing that another player's engaged with a different target, and you can easily get over there to dispose of one of both of them felt downright magical upon execution. That magic quickly fades when someone else had that same idea, but this time at your expense. The rounds are kept short, as the first person to ten kills wins. That certainly doesn't take long at all. A showdown might be triggered between the two top-scoring players, which places them on a flat two-dimensional plane, left to jump toward and away from each other until one can finally land the coup de grâce. Showdowns are almost like chess matches in a way. That's all there is to Samurai Gunn. Simple? Definitely -- that's the charm. But, that also comes packaged with an undeniable sense of giddy joy the entire time you play. It's easy to pick up, but difficult to put down. In fact, I think I'm going to go play it again right now.
Samurai Gunn preview photo
It's so ridiculously funn
I didn't really know what Samurai Gunn was before today. It has one of those sort of cliché names that's easy to pass over if you don't have a particular reason to care. After playing it on the PAX show floo...

Murasaki Baby is strange and wonderful

Aug 22 // Dale North
Gently guide her with your fingertip and she'll follow nicely. Pull her arm too hard and she'll resist a bit.  And like a baby, the more you encourage her, the more bold she'll become. While you have to work to get her to follow your finger at first, she'll start to enjoy the walk on her own before long. Before you know it, she'll charge full speed ahead on her own. But when danger is just ahead, you'll have to use the touchscreen to slow her down a bit.  The entire game uses touch control. While you're usually using one finger to drag this baby along, there are times when you'll have to glide your finger across a gap to have her hop over it. And when strange things try to come after her or her precious balloon (you lose when the balloon is popped), you'll have to fend them off with a fingertip. I batted down strange insect-like safety pins that tried to attack her balloon early on.  Just like a baby, this one is always cautious, and scared easily. She's in a world that can change on the fly, so there are lots of opportunities for her to be scared. As her guide, it's your job to make her feel safe. This could mean that you have to move a hanging lamp into a cave to scare away bats, or flick away hanging tentacles.  Babies can change moods very quickly, noted Gianni Ricciardi of developer Ovosonico. Playing on this, swiping the back touchpad of the Vita can change the world for this baby. The baby, the ground, and often other elements stay in place, but the backdrop changes as your fingers glide across the back of the Vita. While strange, the look of these worlds is supposed to represent a baby's different moods -- happy, sad, scared.  When you come across another balloon in the game, it can be popped, adding another world background for you to flip to. Some of these worlds contain solutions to platforming puzzles. For example, one world had smog that blocked the baby's path. By switching to a background that contained a windmill, I was able to blow the smog away to progress. The world of Murasaki Baby looks like a sketchbook came to life, complete with scratchy shading lines a focus on black and white imagery. It's just as striking and beautiful as it is strange. Some really nice work has been done with shadow, light and depth. Screenshots don't do it justice.  Riccardi told me that in this early alpha stage they're trying to optimize frame rates to make play more responsive. The game played fine, though some jumps were slow to respond. The engine that powers this lovely art and animation is still new, and it's somewhat taxing on the Vita's hardware, so they're still figuring it out.  The first level I saw was definitely strange with its hanging tentacles, creepy creatures, and freaky objects. Ricciardi told me that the first level is called the "tentacle boy level." When I asked why he pointed to all the wriggling and dangling tentacles on the screen and sort of smiled.  Ricciardi explained that there will only be four worlds in Murasaki Baby, and that the player could finish the game in one sitting of about 4 hours if they wanted. He said that he is looking for a short and powerful experience, one that has players growing an emotional connection with this baby they're dragging around.  What's most interesting to me is that he chose to tell the story without words or narration. The baby's actions and the things you discover together tell the story. And with the particulars left out, Ricciardi hopes that each player will have their own interpretation of Murisaki Baby's story.  Murasaki Baby's dark charm worked on me. We'll see it's release on PS Vita some time next year.
Murasaki Baby photo
Vita's new baby dragging game
PlayStation Vita title Murasaki Baby looked to be pretty dark and twisted in its debut trailer at Sony's gamescom press conference earlier this week. Now that I've played it, I'd say that it isn't quite as dark as it first ca...

Killzone: Mercenary is the gold standard of portable FPS

Aug 21 // Kyle MacGregor
Killzone: Mercenary (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Guerrilla CambridgePublisher:  Sony Computer EntertainmentRelease: September 10, 2013 (NA), September 4, 2013 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 Killzone: Mercenary is pretty remarkable. Over the past several weeks I had the opportunity to experience the title during its closed multiplayer beta and check out one of its nine single-player missions. Even after spending hours upon hours battling in the trenches, I continue to be amazed at how good it feels.  It's astounding how closely Killzone: Mercenary resembles its console brethren. Unlike previous attempts to bring other big first-person shooter franchises to the PlayStation Vita, it's clear the team at Guerrilla Cambridge care about what they're making. The developers don't seem content just to churn out any old portable shooter. They're trying to meet the high standard set forth by its excellent predecessors, and, aside from a few minor gripes stemming from the limitations of the platform and its inability to perfectly mimic a DualShock controller, it looks like they're doing a fantastic job. Despite feeling very similar to Killzone 3, it's also a total breath of fresh air. In addition to giving players a new perspective as guns for hire working on both sides of the Helghast-ISA conflict, Killzone: Mercenary is forging ahead on its own path. Single-player missions still revolve around the cover-based shooting. Fans of the series are already well versed in that. However, there's a new twist in that mercenaries' duty involves collecting intel. Now, there's a couple ways of doing this. You can beat information out of enemy captains through interrogation or hack terminals. Personally, I'm partial to the latter. Terminal hacking involves these fun little geometric puzzle matching sequences that provide a welcome reprieve from spraying bullets and dodging enemy fire. It's refreshing, really. [embed]260196:50066:0[/embed] Collecting intel is important in that it helps unlock bonus Valor Cards. Now, what are those exactly? Well, each player is assigned a card every day that represents their performance compared with the rest of the community. When a player is killed in one of Killzone: Mecenary's three multiplayer modes, they will drop an instance of their card. These can be collected by other players for monetary bonuses. The higher the value of the card, the more cash players will earn. Furthermore, cards can be collected to form Poker hands, which net even more money. The Valor System actually changed the way I approached the game. It encourages a more aggressive style of play where those on the front lines are rewarded for getting into the thick of battle. However, there's also reason for caution. Will you risk running out into the open to snag a card? One of your felled foes' comrades likely has her sights trained on the card just waiting for you to walk into her cross-hairs.  The system of risks and rewards is an interesting representation of how mercenaries risk their lives for a paycheck. Should you be willing to take that gamble, you'll have an opportunity to enlist in Killzone: Mercenary's open beta over the next couple weeks. PlayStation Plus subscribers can get in on the action right now, whereas everyone else will have to wait until next week.
Killzone: Mercenary photo
Get money, get paid
There's a common thread running throughout Killzone: Mercenary. From the single-player campaign to the online multiplayer, the entire experience is seamlessly tied together by one thing: Money. It's all about the next paychec...

The first 10 hours of Dragon's Crown are action packed

Jul 24 // Chris Carter
Dragon's Crown (PlayStation 3 [previewed], PlayStation Vita [tested])Developer: Vanillaware / AtlusPublisher: AtlusReleased: August 6, 2013MSRP: $49.99 (PlayStation 3) / $39.99 (PlayStation Vita) From the very first gameplay trailer, it was evident that Dragon's Crown was a technical brawler -- in other words, it had fighting-game tendencies, and a deep level of tactical design embedded within it. I've only extensively tested the Fighter and the Wizard so far, but I've experienced a full party with every other class via NPCs (you can resurrect NPC helpers by finding "bones" in dungeons) -- and the synergy is immediately apparent from your first group confrontation. For instance, every single class has a different key mechanic. The Dwarf can throw enemies, the Elf has a limited number of arrows to use, the Amazon doesn't stop attacking, and the Sorceress can create health-bearing food and debuff foes. The Fighter has the ability to block, and with specific upgrades, can shield party members from damage as well as buff them momentarily. The Wizard took some getting used to, because like the Sorceress, he has to "charge" Dragon Ball Z style to replenish his mana. At first, it was a bit overwhelming to have to constantly top off my mana pool before I could unleash my best attacks, but very quickly I learned that this was yet another design choice to help differentiate the cast. The Wizard has to constantly be on the move, and find safe havens to recharge -- he's the definition of a glass cannon, and that's represented here far better than most games that simply diminish a spellcaster's defensive capabilities and call it a day. Speaking of specific upgrades, every time you level up you gain a skill point, which can be used to buy a skill to augment your abilities. In typical RPG fashion these skills usually consist of upgrades like "more health," if you're looking in the Common tree -- each unique class tree is a completely different story. Frankly, I was blown away by the options presented in each specific party member's tree. The Wizard has the ability to command pretty much every element you can think of, levitate, summon wooden golems, and a whole lot more. The Fighter could specialize into a defensive tanking build, or go more aggressive, with tons of options for both. In other words, given the extensive skill tree, the customization and naming options, and the ability to assign your character an English or Japanese voice, no two characters you meet will be the same. Because of this dynamic, it'll make completing multiple playthroughs with different characters that much more exciting. Going from the Fighter to the Wizard within an hour of each other was incredibly jarring, as I had to initially balance my mana and whack enemies with my relatively weak cane when I was in a jam, whereas I could just wail away with the Fighter without reprisal. But very quickly I started speccing into mana regeneration, buffing my mana charge ability, and giving myself the power to leech MP by hitting enemies with my cane. My Wizard morphed into a completely different playstyle at that point. Although I'm mostly questing on the PS3, I did get a chance to test out the Vita version as well, and I have great things to report. Barring the fact that four-player local co-op on one portable screen is obviously not possible like it is on the PS3, I have to say the Vita version has a few improvements on its console counterpart. For starters, pointer control is fine tuned to suit the Vita. In Dragon's Crown, a neutral NPC named "Rannie the Thief" will follow you around collecting gold, as well as unlock chests and doors. In order to control him, you'll use the right analog stick to aim a mouse-cursor like hand, tapping the stick to queue up an action. While I didn't have any issues using this on the PS3, you can simply tap the screen on the Vita to utilize the pointer, allowing Rannie to open doors and chests with the greatest of ease. Should you choose to use it, right analog support is also available on the Vita, with the L button confirming an action in lieu of clicking in the stick. The Vita's OLED screen is also gorgeous as usual, and fits the action quite well for one player, despite the general sacrificed real estate. While cross-buy and cross-play are sadly not a part of the package, I have tested the cross-save function between the Vita and the PS3, and it works as advertised. Well, that's basically all I can talk about right now! Expect a full review on July 31, a week before the retail version hits on August 6.
Dragon's Crown preview photo
There's so much depth here it's insane
All things considered, Dragon's Crown is one of my most anticipated games of the year, if not the most. As many of you know, I'm a massive fan of action games as well as brawlers, old-school games, and of course, Vanillaware....

Wii U delay brought way more content to Rayman Legends

Jul 17 // Steven Hansen
Rayman Legends (Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita) Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier Publisher: Ubisoft Release: September 3, 2013 "When we look at it now, honestly, the delay was a good thing," lead game designer Emile Morel said. "Right now, I don't see what more we could add to it." Seems all these recent months spent weren't idly wasted on thumb twiddling, because Legends is bloated with great content. The Invasion levels are a mixture of existing assets. Legends is separated into different, self-contained worlds, each meant to "feel like an adventure," and provide some of the cohesion and framing its predecessor lacked. In the Invasion levels, the disparate worlds collide in an unholy union. Each main level has its own Invasion level that will unlock at various points in the game when it can be assumed your skills are up to snuff; for example, an early Invasion level might not unlock until you clear a more challenging world. Each Invasion has a 60-second time limit in which to save three Teensies that are strapped to bottle rockets at the end of the level. If your seconds start spilling over, Teensies start getting astronomical with a punctuality that Nicholas Cage would admire. 60 seconds. These challenging, fast-paced levels seem to be a nice analog for some of my favorite Origins levels, the rhythmic chest chasing levels. They require deft timing. Things get complicated in harder Invasion levels when Dark Rayman begins tailing you and you have to avoid him without sacrificing momentum or timing. As for the remastered Origins levels, "some of the levels we changed them almost entirely," associate producer Greg Hermittant noted. I played a few of the early ones which were much intact, save for the aesthetic boost with Legends' look and lighting, and the addition of Teensies to save scattered throughout the levels. Apparently some Murfy functionality was even added to some of the remastered Origins levels. "When they asked me what's the best version," Morel said, "pick the system you like to play on." Indeed, the main dividing factor in the Rayman Legends experience comes down to whether you want to use a touchscreen or not. While I find the touch screen functional to be novel, I also find it slows the game down more than the traditional controls, in which Murfy is mapped to a face button and will automatically go approximately where he should be. "We wanted to make sure when players start a level with Murfy they wouldn't groan and want a more classical level," Morel explained. "We want to keep the rhythm of Rayman." Using Murfy with the Xbox controller was relatively painless. "You have one more button to press, but you can play very fast." Having to occasionally watch out and direct Murfy definitely added a new wrinkle that I could sort of appreciate as I got into the groove and worked the extra layer into my strategy (I did all the speed runs in Origins), though I'm still hard pressed to say the addition is entirely wanted.  The 3D bosses at the end of each world also add a small, but welcomed layer to the experience. At the end of the newly shown off Fiesta de los Muertos -- which you play much through after having been transformed into a chicken -- you fight a giant, 3D luchador who menacingly sits behind the field of play and tries to squash you with his fist. Legends is the biggest Rayman ever and I'm beyond excited to play it to death.
New Rayman Legends stuff photo
More, more, more: That's how Rayman Legends likes it
Rayman Legends is finally almost here. The delay of the Wii U version after the announcement of PS3, 360, and Vita ports seems worlds away, but I'm finally about to embark on the evolution of the gorgeous, 2D platforming good...

I'm down with Dragon's Crown

Jun 14 // Jayson Napolitano
I had a blast playing Dragon's Crown on the show floor. I tried out the Dwarf and Elf, and got a good sense of what makes the characters so different. It was admittedly pretty hectic, but I never really lost site of what I was doing with my character, which some people who've viewed the trailers have begun to worry about. Players will be able to store 20 different characters per save slot, which should allow you to sample all of the game's character classes and then some. While this is a traditional beat 'em up, you will level your character by collecting experience from enemies defeated and achievements made in a particular level, and skill points will be used to acquire and level up skills. There are common skill trees that all characters can use, and class-specific ones as well. You have the opportunity to dabble in new skills or power up ones you've already acquired, which will allow for a lot of customization.Online matchmaking will happen so that similarly-leveled characters end up together. You can work in any configuration in terms of local and online play, so if you have two of your buddies at your house and one across town, you can all still play in a single game together. While the game will release on both PlayStation 3 and Vita (with both versions being nearly identical), there unfortunately won't be any cross-play between the two versions. If you're without friends (it's okay), you'll find bones scattered throughout the game that can be resurrected into computer-controlled companions who you can name and are of equal level to you, although they don't level up.From there, you hit the central hub city where you can access shops and other areas of interests where you can pick up quests. Each quest takes you to a different area that has its own back story, narrated by a suitably fantasy-esque voice (the day-one DLC available for the game will contain different narrator language packs). With the dwarf, I was able to pick up heavy objects and hurl them at my enemies, while the elf was able to shoot a devastating barrage of arrows in a number of directions (including up), but arrows are not unlimited, so watch for them on the ground when you're running low. There are power attacks that will require a short cool down period, adding an element of strategy. And best of all? There are mounts! I was able to ride both a powerful sabertooth tiger and a ice-spitting reptile of sorts.One of the most interesting gameplay elements was the ability to use the analog stick to bring a cursor on screen to interact with elements in the game. You use this to open treasure chests and to interact with elements in the background, such as opening a door to access a side area where you can obtain extra treasure, or perhaps even find some secret areas.In terms of replayability, you can dig deeper into dungeons on repeated playthroughs, play at increased difficulty modes, and access an end-game randomly-generated dungeon to level up your characters and acquire exceedingly rare treasure. There will also be a player-versus-player arena to test your characters against those of your friends.In all, the game should take approximately 12-15 hours to complete if you do everything. It's out on August 6, and there's an art book available to those who pre-order (the art is one of the best things about the game, from the backgrounds to the characters, to the beautiful world map). Get on it!
Dragon's Crown photo
Impressions from the E3 show floor are good!
Dragon's Crown is easily one of my favorite games of E3. It's been on my radar for years, back when it was being published by UTV Ignition, but I've kept my distance lately with the visual style controversy. I had the opportunity to really dig in here at E3, and I like where it's headed.There's a lot more to this game than its polarizing visual style, so let's check it out.


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