While E3 flooded gamers with conventional and comfortable AAA goodness, there was also a small bunch of original titles that, at least on a personal level, felt infinitely more intriguing. Since they need attention a lot more than the usual bloatosauruses of gaming, here's three games that might be worth keeping an eye on. For PS3 and 360, there's Murdered: Soul Suspect, apparently some sort of a paranormal adventure that tasks the players to solve their own murder. Even if Ghost Trick did that already and the trailer is awfully vague, this one could be a delightfully fresh, different, and, most of all, story-driven experience; a combination that is hardly a common sight in today's gaming industry.
As for one of the most interesting games come next generation, there's PS4's (okay, PS3 and Vita as well) Hohokum; the most recent find by Santa Monica Studio, a publisher with an exceptionally keen eye on quality. What's it all about? A modern, artistic snake game? Whatever it turns out to be, it already piques interest, could at best be the next Locoroco and even at worst "just" another Noby Noby Boy. Either way, it seems to possess that ever-so-important soul more than the majority of most Hollywood-esque AAA drivel combined.
The third noteworthy game would be the small, utterly endearing Rain that comes to PS3 this Fall. Touching melancholy and ghosts in the rain. A genuine story. It's hardly a looker and in the end, it's probably just a fairly straightforward platforming adventure but still! The trailer conveys a tangible mood and already guarantees that the game will get my money just as surely as most mega-budget releases won't. If this is hipster blogging, then so be it. These are the sort of games that fuel my hope for the future of gaming!
Bleh. While The Idolm@ster Shiny Festa: Honey Sound has proven to be an excellent title for a bit of random gaming right before hitting the hay, I'll still declare it played through after a little over ten hours. Grinding for points required to reach the highest SS level isn't even halfway done but after repeating the Star of Festa long enough, I've finally amassed all 20 collectible character cards available on normal difficulty. Additional points and cards could be farmed by challenging the tougher Pro and Master difficulties but although Pro doesn't feel entirely unconquerable, the worst button sequences are already chaotic enough to make it nigh on impossible to get back on rhythm once it has been lost. Short put, playing at that level no longer bears much resemblance to fun.
Granted, practice and tenacity might go a long way but as pink, perky, and energetic as the game's soundtrack is, mere twenty songs is woefully inadequate in the long run. After ignoring roughly half of them due to their general unimpressiveness and playing the remaining other half for those ten or so hours, repetitious girly pop eventually turns into an earsore. If Honey Sound, Funky Note, and Groovy Tune had been stuffed into a single game, it might have been a truly formidable package but as things stand, I'm forced to take a timeout before venturing over to the other two sibling games. On whole, though, the Shiny Festa series feels like jolly good fun for at least as far as one's skills are capable of taking them.
As for the caption of today's entry, it's all about the good and bad news delivered by Capcom this morning, related to the famed defense attorney Phoenix Wright. It was already known that Ace Attorney 5 – from now on known as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies – would see daylight in the west as well. The schedule has now been defined as this Fall 2013, and the above trailer is sure-fire evidence of there once again being a healthy dose of spectacular court house drama together with sudden plot twists and top-notch humor. It has been so long since the previous games that this blog hasn't been able to properly relay their supreme wonderfulness but, personally, it's still hands down the most awesome and beloved series on the original Nintendo DS.
As for the bad side of the news, the game is only released as a digital download on the 3DS' eShop. I'm not entirely sure whether to get mad towards the publisher or the consumers but either way, it's a goddamn sacrilege that a physical release, even for a cult classic of this caliber, is deemed financially unprofitable. Sure, this asinine decision doesn't stop me from being the first in the virtual line when the game is released but – pardon me – I've again lost some respect towards the publisher and gamers in general. Let's just keep going where we're going and step by step, we're closer to nothing but big budget, DLC-infused HaloCoDAssCreedBafa boredom. What a rosy future, FFS.
A day of pleasing events for a change. At the end of last month, I was still struggling to get my money back from Microsoft's campaign from earlier this year. Today, the ordeal came to a close as I noticed my long-awaited fifty euros had been deposited back to my bank account. It took fourteen weeks rather than the promised ten and I still can't wrap my head around how how they managed to lose half the information written on a single piece of A4. Still, a happy ending to a minor issue, although despite decent-ish customer service, this is the last time I dabble in promotions like those; temporarily lending money to big corporations is just way too cumbersome and prone for mistakes.
Yesterday's Nintendo 3DS Direct broadcast was also a source of a couple of most wonderful and welcome surprises. Square Enix's exceptionally well-received Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, released in Japan some half a year ago, is heading to Europe this year. As the above trailer shows, it's "only" a traditional JRPG but then again, traditionality is exactly why I'm so excited about it! World map, airships, a pompous orchestral score, sappy drama, turn-based battles, massive special attacks... Yum!
Furthermore, after a wait of nearly 19 years, the SNES classic EarthBound has finally decided to bless Europe with its presence! This utterly endearing and original JRPG by Shigesato Itoi has earned a cult following and deservedly so. It's heading for the Wii U Virtual Console and I'm keeping my fingers earnestly crossed that it would also find its way to Wii as well. If that won't happen, no harm done. Just another inducement to invest on Nintendo's currently more than struggling piece of hardware.
Well, what the heck, once more! Rest easy, though, as you won't be tormented by my awkward traveling lyrics. Typical for this time and age, I've outsourced that responsibility to Ulfuls (^_^;) The rest is business as usual, i.e. this blog briefly enters an extremely vague state with all prospective entries turning into a comprehensive travel diary not until considerably later. As for daily glimpses, will try to utilize Twitter or Picasa but should nothing happen, it's probably due to an earthquake, a typhoon, a nuclear power plant, North Korea, fugu, forgotten credentials, or too much sake. Whatever the case, ikimasu!
Nintendo's almost monthly Nintendo Direct shows are something I haven't actively followed before, even if I probably should have. Today, I happened to be on the computer to watch the latest one live and sure enough, it's something the other two companies could also pay heed to. The half an hour overview of the upcoming 3DS and Wii U games of this year was most endearing. Although the show still failed to sell me a Wii U, it seems like there are at least a couple of 3DS titles worth keeping an eye on.
Checking back, I seem to have played all Mario & Luigi games prior to starting this blog, so let's summarize that series as a mixture of action, puzzles, and light role-playing elements that are almost on par with the heavenly Paper Mario games. Should Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, released some time next summer, not fall into the same pit of story underappreciation as Paper Mario: Sticker Star did, I could very well imagine myself walking out to do a bit of shopping.
The other promising 3DS initiate is a digital-only release that has been known for quite some time already but also one that I somehow managed to fail to bring up earlier. Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight, promoted above, is out here in the western world by the end of March and, rest assured, I'll be amongst the first in the virtual line of the virtual shop! This little side project of Game Freak of the Pokémon fame looks like a splendid rhythm game disguised as a 2D platformer. Simple, efficient, and charming. Yes, please!
Seems like old age truly doesn't game alone. It took me a month to realize, why 360 coming back to the household was such a nice thing. Damn it. Guitar Hero II. Of course. Oh well, off to the cleaning closet to retrieve the first generation plastic X-Plorer guitar controller to check out whether the past few years of fiery love towards Japanese rhythm gaming would've taught anything useful. And lo and behold, whereas playing through all the songs on easy difficulty back in 2007 lasted two days, and honing them to five star performances an entire month, all that now took just two hours and 45 minutes ∑(O_O；)
Since that felt a bit too inadequate to call the game played through, I spent an additional four hours to tame it on its medium difficulty with its added songs and everything. This little nostalgy trip didn't last much longer, though. It also reminded me of why I quit this essentially wonderful series after pretty much this one game, even if Activision still had a jolly good time for years milking it dry and then some, up to the point where even the most ardent fans were probably up to their every imaginable orifice with guitar heroism.
Let's deal with the good first. The selection of 70+ rock songs spanning five decades and consisting of a fine selection of indie songs and iconic classics is, at least in principal, awesome. In practice, at this point of time most of the songs were merely covers but still good enough to make an impression. Even today, sitting comfily in an armchair with a toy guitar in hand, playing through songs made famous by the likes of Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Kansas, or Nirvana, is something that makes one grin. It's a wonderful amalgam of childish joy, nostalgy, and ostentatious western rock attitude that Japanese rhythm games simply can't deliver.
Still, although the game has rhythm, its pacing is as broken as humanly possible. The easiest difficulty, involving just three of the guitar's five note buttons, is (or rather, was) a surefire way to hook any casual gamer whereas the normal difficulty already, still with just four note buttons in play, ruthlessly begins to separate men from boys while the last two difficulties are solely for born guitar virtuosos or plain masochists. This recipe caters for both the casual and the hardcore crowd but as for all of us Ordinary Olivers residing somewhere in the middle, it's nothing but awkward. The learning curve is so steep that the game loses its charm way too early. It's either easyish or tough but hardly never something in-between, i.e. normal.
As stated before, I haven't banned myself from buying games this year but that activity is still under heavy, conservative scrutiny. Whatever the case, there are still some things that simply cannot be ignored. The awards of this year's second and third bought physical games go to Etrian Odyssey and Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard. Atlus showed remarkable courtesy and decided to re-release these gems that originally saw daylight in 2007 and 2008. The third game, which I reservedly liked very, very much back in 2010-2011, got the same treatment. Ever since that one, I kept a wary eye on these two but as usual, they weren't exactly easy to come by and their prices were relatively high. Now all is well again and as an added bonus, I ended up supporting the original publisher rather than some voracious scalper. Which is nice.
Lastly, here's the clip that has been going around most gaming sites these past couple of days, namely Team Bondi's most wonderful L.A. Noire blooper reel. I might be late but a) lazy and b) hilarious. As far as the uncanny valley goes, realism still has long ways to go but that game managed facial expressions with such precision that failed takes make up for most fascinating and deeply funny entertainment (＾▽＾)
Mwahahaha! My diabolical plan to fill quiet periods in gaming with random waffle continues. Naah, seriously, I felt like a couple of upcoming curiosities were worth a mention. For example, Media Molecule of the LittleBigPlanet fame is busy with Tearaway. This puzzle-laden adventure is heading to Vita some time this year and should it not fall prey to excessively gimmicking around with the hardware's features, color me at least reservedly interested. In the indie scene in particular, being artistic and experimental is such a rage these days that a papery style alone might not be enough for Tearaway to make a mark. Still, it looks decently original and, let's face it, Vita isn't exactly blessed with noteworthy games these days.
That one instantly reminded me of SCEJ's upcoming title for the PS3, Puppeteer, which should likewise be out some time this year. Its equally whimsical trailer was released back in last August but I suppose I just forgot to bring it up. Looks (rather) remotely like a LittleBigPlanet clone but with a far prettier coat of paint and an overall atmosphere that is much darker or – quite appropriately in this case – more theatrical. Sackboy on a bad trip? I've seen weirder things. Of these two, this one's actually even more intriguing but they're still both deserving examples of gaming year 2013 being just as fresh and interesting as the ones before.
It finally happened! The paradise for retro gamers, GOG.com, did the unthinkable and managed to add that last immemorial Sierra adventure series onto its virtual shelves. In other words, Leisure Suit Larry is back! This unorthodox sextet of five semi naughty adventures goes for a measly ten bucks, a sum I was more than happy to part with, especially because back in the 80's, being just a snotty teen with all the self-assertive knowledge of how the world runs, paying for entertainment was something entirely unthinkable.
Granted, growing older has the handicap of finding time to actually enjoy these. Gaming time is sparse as ever, coming weekend included, but I'll be darned if this harsh winter won't bless me with at least a single whole day of nothing but retro bliss in the vein of the same company's Space Quests back in October.
One more awfully chilly day before a most welcome four day mini vacation all about gaming ヽ(＾Д＾)ﾉ To pass time, some trailer goodness from Sega, namely the PS3 (physical) version of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F which will see daylight March 7th. In practice, it's just the Vita game crusted with six new songs and about a dozen new costumes. Game data should be easily transferable between the two versions, so perhaps this time around it's actually possible to continue from where we left off rather than starting anew.
Also, since I really can't be arsed to post anything even remotely worthwile today, let's end this post with the final (for now) entry about PlayStation Plus. To alleviate the agony of waiting for Christmas, there's an admittedly classy trio of Batman: Arkham City, Vanquish, and Limbo. I already have the first two and planning on giving them a go at some quiet point in the future (i.e. when pigs fly) but I heartily approve Limbo. It has been an alluring one ever since its release but priced uncomfortably high for something that is assumably just a couple of hours of fun. Whatever the case, I'm happy to get to experience it at last.
And yes, I fully acknowledge this post's horrible discrepancy in perceived value but that's just the way it rolls (^_^;)
Phew! It's starting to feel like a Miku overdose but I'm loving every minute! Hours spent on Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F are creeping closer to twenty and the entire song list has now been completed on Hard. For the first time ever, I even dared to give Extreme a go but even if some of the easier songs are perfectly doable on that one, the hardest ones quite expectedly gave me a good trashing and a kick on the nuts at that, often in less than fifteen seconds (；゜Д゜)
Still, on Hard the game is nigh on perfectly challenging and I'm really starting to like its songs, all of them new apart from one lifted from 3DS' Project Mirai. At first there didn't seem to be a single, explicit hit amongst them but after additional playthroughs, easily more than half of them have grown into ones that are great fun to return to. A good example can be found above; 40mP's breezy and bubbly Torinoko City.
I'm still not sold on the touchscreen star notes but apart from those, the new changes are most welcome. As mentioned before, there's an exceptional amount of stuff to purchase with Diva points earned from completing the songs. So much, in fact, that acquiring it all will still take a great deal of time. For the first time ever, the characters are not limited to just new costumes but a variety of accessories as well, ranging from cat ears to eyeglasses, ribbons, bells, or even wings. Extremely cute and what's best, the chosen character and attire combination is now saved per song as compared to always having had to specify them separately.
Thanks to Vita's increased performance, the limit of characters appearing on songs has been raised from two to three and as before, everyone has their own room that can be furnished and littered with various presents resulting in amusing little animations. Granted, none of that serves any real purpose but it's a fun distraction when temporarily getting tired of playing through the songs. Besides, the traditional "gotta collect 'em all" aspect is strong with this one.
Ergonomics wise, the game would be so much better played on TV with a proper controller but that's hardly an issue – Project Diva F is still hands down the best rhythm game on any portable device so far.
The second music game of this weekend ended up being from Sega as well, namely Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure. It stars an elegant and smooth gentleman thief, Phantom R, who scours the streets of Paris together with his dog, Fondue, in search of his father who went missing three years ago. Along the journey, he flamboyantly and impudently relieves the city of its art exhibits, much to the chagrin of the local police inspector Vergier. He's also soon acquainted with a young violinist, Marie, chased by a mysterious villain named Napoleon and his cohorts clad in iron.
Rhythm Thief draws influence especially from the Professor Layton series. The player moves Phantom R, just Raphael in real life, from one city location to another while busily tapping every inch of the screen for hidden items and chats with the local populace. Medals popping out from everywhere are used as currency in a nearby store selling cinematics and mini-games encountered so far, and the sceneries also hold a vast variety of various sounds and other miscellaneous collectibles.
The bulk of the game, however, lies in its rhythm sections that make comprehensive use of the 3DS' entire feature set; hitting the control pad and buttons, tapping and flicking the touchscreen, or swinging the console in every which direction. These usually three-part, fairly brief challenges are either about Raphael hastily sneaking into or escaping from various facilities, or simple puzzles based on either sound or rhythm. Missed moves are tolerated as long as the groove meter has enough energy and as typical to the genre, the overall performance is graded from A to F.
For a story-driven rhythm adventure, Rhythm Thief is actually none too shabby. Stylish anime cutscenes move the plot forward smoothly and the game's soundtrack is an energetic collection of fluent pop music heavy on trumpets. Loitering around the city in turn is accompanied by suitably French-esque accordion pieces. The snappily dressed Phantom R is a delightfully able and assertive chap, who excels at making fool of the city's police forces just as one would come to expect from a master thief.
All would be fine, weren't it for the level of challenge which is... Well, for lack of a better word, peculiar. The window to execute the moves required to keep up the rhythm is uncomfortably small and the difficulty level spikes fairly early into the game, at least for those of us stubbornly aiming for straight A's. Making progress is often a matter of memorizing the needed sequences through weary repetition and the challenges making use of the hardware's motion sensors are mostly nightmarish, thanks to their brisk pace and the rather disappointing accuracy of the motions being registered.
Furthermore, the scoring system is utterly nonsensical. In some challenges, it is possible to end with a score that results in a better overall grade than a performance that scored even better. Perfectionists are in for a needless hassle trying to maintain good grades as the game rudely ignores an achieved A if the player already has a better score that was awarded with a B. Not that there wouldn't be other problems as well. Even a single miss chips off such a huge chunk of the groove gauge that it's impossible to make up towards the end of a challenge. Thus, it's perfectly possible to keep up a stellar performance only to fumble it even into a total failure at the last possible moment. Extremely unfair and annoying.
A little over four hours of notable repetition hasn't yet taken me even through half of the game, so the final verdict has to wait until the future. At this point, however, the afore-mentioned flaws make it a game that isn't really that much fun to play. Somewhat of a pity, as the weak gameplay is overshadowing an otherwise impressive and solid title.