Monday, September 22, 2014

Superquick game diary!

I "beat" Destiny the other day.  I finished all of its "campaign," I should say.  I'm level twenty - I think I have one piece of gear with the "light" stat, which is the only way to push your character up to twenty-one and beyond - but here's the thing... I'm kinda' bored with Destiny.  I went to the loot cave the other day, shot into it for forty-five minutes or so and didn't wind up with a single upgrade.

If that's the fastest way to earn better gear in Destiny, I think I'm... kinda' done with it.

I'd rather replay sections of Diablo III, or play Don't Starve or Velocity 2X.

So I will.  G'night.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Once again, a ton of stuff is coming to Vita.

And there are one or two that one may get a bit hyped about.  One thing that looks super-interesting to me is Zodiac, which is coming from a Scottish developer and some ex-Final Fantasy talent.

Look at that, man.  Those are sprites.  Big, gorgeous, 2D sprites.  I'm already in your corner, Zodiac.

If that awesome music sounds familiar - in a Vanillaware sort of way - it's because, yes, the music is being handled by Hitoshi Sakimoto, the fellow who founded Basiscape (which handles all of Vanillaware's soundtracks, and did the score for Valkyria Chronicles).  The scenario, meanwhile, is being written by Kazushige Nojima, who's worked on a half-dozen Final Fantasy games and has been plying his trade since 1989.

Zodiac's currently only announced for iOS and Vita, but the devs have heavily suggested it'll be coming to other platforms.  They describe it an "asynchronous multiplayer game with MMO-like features," so yeah.  Zodiac.  Remember that name.

Second, check out The Sun and Moon.  It's the winner - among two thousand, four hundred and ninety-seven other entries - of the Ludlum Dare game jam, and it'll drop on Vita in 2015, after its PC release this year.

What you see above is the player diving in to the ground - when in the ground, gravity reverses, and wants to fling the player up into the sky.  By jumping higher and crashing down with more velocity, you can dive deeper - which can, in turn, throw you higher.  The game has 150+ levels, and multiple areas will be available to be tackled at any given time.



Selvaria Bles, queen badass of the original Valkyria Chronicles (which never got a proper sequel) is joining the cast of Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, a sprite-based fighting game that's rostered almost-exclusively by characters from semi-obscure Japanese manga and anime.  The game's coming to PS3 and Vita, and serves as the next kick-in-the-nuts reminder that SEGA refuses to do anything meaningful with their awesomest properties.

On the bright side, Fighting Climax looks totally insane.  Note 0:47 - 0:57:

Sony also featured three indies on the PS Blog yesterday - Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror is a South American game that puts the player in the incorporeal shoes of a malevolent spirit.  A puzzle game, it requires the player to use available objects and skills to scare the tenants of the building it haunts out, across 100+ years of history.  Interesting.

They also talked about Super Exploding Zoo, which kinda' stuck out at this year's E3 and I'm totally getting,

Finally, Curve Studios - the crew that mostly ports other, more-successful indies to PlayStation platforms when they're not developing the meh-quality Stealth Bastard franchise - are porting over something called Nova-111, which they describe as a sci-fi action-turn-based-strategy-sort-of thing. They don't do a very good job of explaining it.

Oh!  Also - Earth Defence Force, on Vita. 

Also, a new trailer for Persona 4: Dancing All Night.  

...which I kinda' wanna' get just for dancing Chie. 

Also, Neptunia Re;Birth 3 V Century was announced for Vita.  

Also... and this really should have gone at the top of the article: Project Scissor, a spiritual successor to Clock Tower, is coming to Vita (and iOS and Android). Featuring Game Designer Kouno Hifumi (Clock Tower), Film Director Shimizu Takashi (Juon, The Grudge), Creature Designer Ito Masahiro (Pyramid Head).

Fuck.  Yes.

Okay fine, I'll get Shadow of Mordor.

Thanks for voting!  Shadow of Mordor beat out Shadow Warrior with sixty-three percent of the vote, so... that's pronounced.

My work friend will be pleased.

This weekend's PSN flash sale is all about the racers.

I love the PSN flash sales.  I rarely take advantage of them - such is the curse of one who tends to just go buy the games they want, at release - but it's always lovely to feel like we're enjoying an experience that's kinda-sorta-not-really-but-almost like those Steam users get with their ninety-nine-cents-for-ten-2K-games deals.

There are a ton of racing games in the sale (only one for PS4 - Cel Damage), and - more interesting to yours truly - a half-dozen on Vita.  I have, I'll be honest, always had my eye on Need For Speed: Most Wanted for Vita - but it was always thirty or forty bucks, and I'm not a huge racing game guy.

When genre-specific sales like this hit, I tend to pick a platform (Vita), take all the names they've listed and fire them in to Metacritic's search bar to see if there's any I should really be aware of (any game developer reading this just fainted).  So let's give it a shot!

Asphalt: Injection - Metascore: 49 - $4.99

MotoGP 13 - about 78 with 2 reviews - $7.49

MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship - Metascore: 60 - $7.49

Need For Speed: Most Wanted (!) - Metascore: 79 - $4.99

Ridge Racer - Metascore: 44 - $5.99

Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed - Metascore: 75 -  $9.99

MotoGP is kind of a sim-y motorcycle game, and its console reviews are a lot lower.  Pass.

Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed is a kart racer - that'd be cool!  But don't I already have that with PlayStation Plus? (Checks.)  Yes I do.

Welcome to my Vita, Need For Speed.  I've been waiting for you. if I don't already have enough to play on there...

The FFXV TGS '14 gameplay demo.

Man I wish I knew what these dudes were saying.  I've still never fallen in love with a Final Fantasy, but XV has a few really pronounced strengths that appeal to me - its graphics are the new hotness, and it seems to be an action RPG, which I find hard, as a general rule, to dislike.

Fortunately, I can totally dislike the hair.

Friday, September 19, 2014

REVIEW - Genroku Legends: Hell's Where the Heart Is.

A 2D Metroidvania-esque title with a bit of RPG to it and a ton of action, Hell's Where the Heart Is is the send-off to the Genroku Legends series of downloadable content, whose quality warbled from okay (A Cause to Daikon For) to great (A Spirited Seven Nights' Haunting) to fantastic (Fishy Tales of the Nekomata).

Muramasa Rebirth, the luxurious game that spawned the series, may be accused of playing things a bit too straight in terms of mechanics - both heroes of that game's twenty-hour campaigns had identical combat styles - but none could accuse Genroku Legends of the same predictable simplicity.

The series, as a whole, has a lovely balance to it - like a four-course meal of well-paired dishes, with no one flavour overtaking the whole.  There was tragedy (Nekomata, Haunting) and comedy (Daikon, Hell), and while Fishy Tales of the Nekomata, the starter, remains the most memorable in terms of story and style, Hell's Where the Heart Is is a grand finale for the series in terms of combat mechanics.

Let's begin at the beginning. Once upon a time a young monk named Seikichi abandons his holy order, and heads out into the world in search of some sweet lovin'.

He hits on everything in his path, getting slapped or insulted in turn, and eventually comes across Momohime from Muramasa's core campaign, who's chillin' out, eating a rice ball.

Rolling the dice for the hundredth time on the off chance a woman may to fall for his lines, he bursts forth with a declaration of love,

and hears the words "I accept," from a hedgehog-haired demon-girl, who just happened to be standing nearby as Momohime finished her rice ball, and left.

And she holds him to his word.

Rajyaki, it turns out, is a princess - the youngest daughter of Lord Enma, ruler of Hell.  Desperate to escape his promise, Seikichi spins lie upon lie.  The innocent (?) Rajyaki takes everything Seikichi says as the gospel truth, and sets off across Japan to free him from a nonexistent arranged marriage and retrieve his soul from the mountaintop he swears he left it on - after stuffing him in to the bottomless sack she wears on her belt, because "as husband and wife, we shouldn't be separated."

Almost a horrific sex-comedy of errors, Seikichi repeatedly tries to escape Rajyaki's affections and ends up stumbling into the clutches of even more monstrous creatures that lurk beneath masks of beauty.

Of course, that provides Rajyaki the opportunity to show what the youngest daughter of Hell can do, when she puts her mind to it.  Which is a lot.

Rajyaki's only on Earth because she's trying to retrieve a bunch of magical treasures, you see, and has so far collected her magic bag and the Lucky Mallet, She'll whack herself on the head with the magical golden hammer mid-combo and transform from her manic child form to a beautiful young woman (with horns, crazy hair and a six-foot spiked club), and into a colossal being of pure muscle and rage, who goes all E. Honda on entire screens' worth of enemies at once.

You mash square - ora!ora!ora! - as she fills the room with blinding strikes of her mighty fists and, if you land enough strikes of the combo, a halo of red light will collapse in on her, signalling that she's ready for her ultimate blow.  When that combo ends she will let forth with a final, colossal attack that kills pretty much anything it touches.  This is called a "crushing blow," and it's a mechanic that's unique to Rajyaki, among her Muramasa and Genroku Legends peers.

Wham!  Broke your sword!

Each of her forms can perform a type of crushing blow, and they are intensely satisfying.  In adult form, mashing square will cause her to spin her club in a perfect circle, which hits so many times so quickly that it obliterates all but the strongest enemies caught in its vortex.  Schwoop! The halo of light zips into her, you stop mashing square and she leaps into the air (in whichever direction you're pressing) to come down on her foes with a mighty, single slap of her club so powerful it causes an explosion that ripples into the sky in gorgeous, artfully-painted clouds of burning-red smoke.

Her child form has two crushing blows - one tied to her "secret art," which involves a colossal stone hammer,

and another that takes advantage of her manic lightness.  Every character, with every weapon in Muramasa Rebirth and the Genroku Legends has a drop attack - pressing down and square while airborne.  When Rajyaki executes it in her child form and strikes an enemy with it, she bounces off them and soars up again.  If you can successfully hit enemies three times in a row with her drop-bounce, she'll burst into flame on the fourth strike and slam into the ground, dealing damage to anything nearby.

More than any other character in the Muramasa library, Rajyaki has benefited from the expressive, involved combat mechanics Vanillaware poured into 2013's Dragon's Crown.  Both her child and adult form offer more depth than any other character who's run through this beautiful 2D recreation of Japan - different enough from the other heroes to feel distinct, similar enough to remain comfortable - and the inclusion of the "crushing blows" ensures the player almost always has a strangely satisfying, powerful strategy at their fingertips.

She is the funnest character to play as.  Period.  She's also the funniest, as she's always so happy when she kicks the crap out of enemies,

Ya-tah!  Kicked their butt!

and one really gets a sense of her childlike glee and willingness to take things a bit too far, built right in to her combat mechanics.

When you press down and mash square when on the ground in her child form, for example, she'll turn into a horizontal buzzsaw with her axe, sweeping back and forth across the floor of a scene, only moderately guided by the player's instructions through the analog stick.  The longer you mash it, the more powerful her buzzsaw attack becomes - but if you take it too far, she'll come out of it all dizzy and seasick - and vulnerable to enemy attack.

You shoulda' known when to quit, kid.

A heady risk, when you consider that Rajyaki has the lowest defense of any Muramasa hero. She is a definitive glass cannon - ridiculously powerful, terribly vulnerable, and an absolute blast to play as.

Adult Rajyaki's secret art involves producing an orb of fire that she can then
(1) hit like a baseball with her club, obliterating everything in front of her,
(2) hit in an arc, so that it bounces around, randomly hitting a wider range for less damage or
(3) crack overhead into the ground in front of her, instantly detonating it and producing a shower of smaller projectiles.
Awesome - with far more utility than any other characters'.

Perhaps simply by virtue of being a comedy, her narrative doesn't carry the same memorable weight of the darkly tragic Fishy Tales of the Nekomata, but as one could expect, there is a definite sweetness to it - and an interesting symbolism, if you consider her three forms (innocent and sweet, sexy and mature, monstrous and powerful) as a caricature of the multi-faceted creatures that so beguile the minds of men.

Rajyaki, for her part, is so capable, earnest and dedicated to her fool of a husband, she's impossible to dislike - beyond being incredibly naïve (when in her child's guise), she's wholly endearing.

In classic rom-com form, Seikichi, for his part, finds kindness for the girl almost in spite of himself.  In that, Hell's Where the Heart Is is both the best-playing Genroku Legends adventure and a curiously accurate reflection of romantic love.  It's a story in which a man, mindful only of his baser instincts, discovers the best parts of himself - his capacity to genuinely, selflessly care for another - as he's dragged along, kicking, screaming and terrified.

Yeah, man.  That's love.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The hot hot springs of Muramasa Rebirth and the Genroku Legends.

Japanese macaques or "snow monkeys" have an affection for hot springs.  Did you know that?  Yeah, man.  Geothermal vents near the surface heat spring water in ponds, and you end up with these naturally-occurring hot tubs that a bunch of monkeys - whole families of them - will just chill out in for hours on end.

A cool little tidbit of nature trivia.  (Another one: the male platypus has a poison spur on his back feet, and is the only venemous mammal in the world?  It's true - ignore Wikipedia, it doesn't know the difference between venomous and poisonous animals.  Another one: large sharks won't swim through bubbles.  Aquariums use them to wall sharks in to certain areas while the smaller fish are free to come and go.  Neat, eh?)

Anyway - hot spring monkeys.  That's a real thing.

In Muramasa Rebirth, heroes Kisuke and Momohime would occasionally come across "innocuous little monkey"s, and by following them, they could find themselves in one of the macaques' volcanically-heated party pools, which would heal their wounds and replenish the durability of their weapons with their awesome hot spring magic.

Each hero had multiple hot spring scenes, sometimes bumping in to other characters from the world - Momohime and Kisuke spent so much time in hot springs, they bumped into each other there no less than three times.

But half the time you'll find yourself enjoying a soak with a crazed forest god you had to beat into submission with the business end of a nodachi, or fox spirits, or just the monkeys.

With the Genroku Legends DLC, each character gets to enjoy three or four different hot spring scenes.  The supernaturally-loyal cat-demon Okoi hates water, but she can still benefit from the springs' healing powers.

The humble farmer Gonbe may be visited by the temporarily-corporeal spirit of his departed wife when he visits, but the dudes from his village need a good soak once in a while, too.

The water goddess who cursed rogue ninja Arashimaru transforms into a white snake and loops herself around his neck as a reminder of his fate, but even she will let her hair down in the communal baths.

So to speak.

Finally, demon priness Rajyaki is just as likely to accuse her unwilling fiancée of being a perv as she is to use her size-altering lucky mallet to appeal to his baser instincts.

...when she's not freaking him out by riding the bear that tried to kill him.

And there you have it.  Every playable character from Muramasa Rebirth and the Genroku Legends in some state of undress.

And you read the whole thing.

Don't feel weird about it.  Like a good hot spring, it's natural.

Bloodborne drops in North America on February 6th!


TGS trailer!


Preorder thingie!

Oh you know you're getting preordered, Bloodborne.  Don't even try to play coy.

I'm gonna' be all up in your biz.

Frozen Synapse Prime multiplayer basics trailer.

And a heapin' helping of more info over at the PlayStation Blog.