Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Game Diary - The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel early impressions.

Trails in the Sky (2004)

You haven't heard much about The Legend of Heroes series.  The franchise has been going strong in Japan since nineteen eighty nine, but has mostly flown under the North American radar, despite PC and PSP localizations.  With the 2011 release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (affectionately referred to, simply, as TitS), the franchise suddenly became... dare I say it?  The next Persona.

Not by way of edgy, mature themes, though.  Instead, Trails in the Sky distinguished itself with a legitimately epic scope and a dazzling amount of heart in its finer details.  It is a traditional JRPG, but it's traditional JRPGs at their best.  Each and every NPC in the game, for example, has an arc over the course of the story.  The kids chasing each other in the first town you encounter?  They will grow and change and react as the narrative takes place around them.  The shopkeeper at the general store?  She has an opinion on things, and the depth of the script - and XSEED's heartfelt localization effort - ensure TitS as an utterly charming, absorbing affair, even as it suffers under PS1-era technology and presentation.  It ended on a cliffhanger, and after a notoriously hellish localization process that spanned four years, Trails in the Sky's Second Chapter was released just last month to universal acclaim.  Despite its ancient presentation, despite its good-but-not-great combat system, its marvellous world and living, breathing characters make it an exceptional little (colossal) game.

With the critical acclaim of Trails in the Sky, the stage was set for a triumphant step forward for the series, and so far - with about five hours under my belt - Trails of Cold Steel delivers.


My only complaint, so far, is that Cold Steel's animations aren't quite up to snuff (critics have suggested that its sequel - which dropped in Japan in 2014 and has been confirmed for localization by XSEED - significantly improves this).  Elsewhere, it's a well-crafted, well-executed jaunt.  Cold Steel liberally riffs on the social link systems of Persona via optional events you can participate in with your classmates, and doing so will open up new combat abilities tied to taking advantage of staggers in combat.  Each enemy is more likely to be stunned by this type of weapon or that type, and when a hero capitalizes on this and lands a stun, the party member they share a "combat link" with (entirely chosen at your discretion) can move in for additional damage, or a support move (I think - it's early yet!)

The red-jacketed students of Class VII at the prestigious Thors Military Academy (shades of Valkyria Chronicles II, there) are all archetypes, but perhaps the series - and Cold Steel's - greatest strength is that all of them feel far from two-dimensional.  The game's lively writing, and an affectionately charismatic localization from XSEED, make the Elite Girl Who's Awesome At Everything From a Noble Family interesting and mysterious again, and the Easygoing Giant From A Rural Area feels like someone you really do trust to have your back.

These are, of course, the early hours, and Cold Steel is nowhere near finished doling out its mechanics and revealing its true breadth - but the further I come with it, the more confidently I believe that I'm in good hands, with this one.  The way I kind of stumbled across the noble who was fishing by the river, and he just like gives me a book on how to fish and a rod!  He was super-chill for a noble - a lot of them (not all, mind you) are kind of stereotypical elitist douchebags - so I got right down to discovering Cold Steel's simple but satisfying fishing minigame.  What a nice fellow!


For the first time in a long time, I'm feeling very positive about a JRPG.  I enjoyed dipping my toe in Trails in the Sky, for the first time, earlier this year - but I'll admit its semi-ancient presentation and technology marred the experience.  Cold Steel isn't perfect, but it's modern and beautiful enough to sidestep that admittedly wrong, and judgemental part of my gamer brain.

For the first time in a long time, there's a JRPG I'm pretty damned excited to keep plucking away at.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chamberlain and Chance Episode 2: Attack of the Holiday Downtime.


Chamberlain and Chance - lolSony and other precious memes

Round 2!  We're slowly putting together something kind-of-resembling a structure.  You'll be able to turn on the C&C podcast every week and get an update on the big gaming stories!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Eyyy a new Deadpool red band trailer.



A lot of it is old footage from the freeway fight scene, but there's some more footage and some more story bits.

A joyous post on Christmas Day!


You have three Christmas-themed musical options to accompany your bloggy browsing.  May I suggest Blue Christmas, Porky Pig's immortal cover of Elvis Presley's passable attempt at yuletide longing.



Alternately, the dulcet, feather-gentle Get Down for the Holidays by Jenny O, off a Christmas album that Target did like three years ago...



Or let's go a bit old-school with Dean Martin's Christmas Blues.  I'm a fan of the blues, but you probably knew that.



Now, have an acerbic Christmas comic, and let's unwrap these gifts!

-source-

I was able to do some fine gifting this year, if I do say so myself.  Kayla received a copy of Diablo III for PS4 of her very own and a pearl necklace (and that is not a euphemism - a literal necklace made of literal pearls from literal oysters - though she then made several euphemisms.)  Oh, and I also got her the Elvis Stitch Funko Pop.  She was emailing me about how it's too darned expensive and the shipping would put the price at like thirty bucks and I emailed back "whups my finger slipped and I ordered it oh well."

My Mother, who each year insists that she's got everything she needs and needs no things finally relented and admitted her zip-up sweaters were a bit threadbare, so I got her some +5 Cold Resist Supersweaters from Mark's Work Warehouse.  My Dad only wanted gift certificates to my Mom's favorite restaurant, so I got him gift certificates to my Mom's favorite restaurant and that Indian place they both love, and my older brother received a fully-paid preorder for Uncharted 4 (ninety-five bucks in Canada!!!), and The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.


As soon as I picked the above up for myself in October I felt... maybe guilty is the right word?  I immediately knew that he would be super-jelly of it, because if there's one person I know who loves Calvin and Hobbes more than I do, it's my big brother.  I felt a little wrong having it, when he did not.  So basically the day I bought it, I knew I was getting him a copy for Christmas.

On my end, Kayla nabbed me all the Star Wars movies.  Y'know those three-packs with all the original - well, "original," after Lucas mucked them up with his digital "improvements" - movies, and next to it you'll always see a three-pack with all the prequels?  She got me both!  Now I can watch the Falcon escape the Empire by successfully navigating an asteroid field in Empire to my heart's content, and that one sequence that... I think was in the second prequel movie... not sure... when Obi-Wan is flying through an asteroid field and these awesome sonic charges are going off and tearing through all the space rocks?  Love that part.

I never realized 'till now just how much I appreciate a good asteroid field navigation, but God help me, I do.


I also have a weird habit of gifting stuff to myself around Christmas, mostly because it just doesn't feel like Christmas without some hot new toy or bit of extraneous swag that I really don't need but totally want.  For years, I'd been squeezing a rotating selection of my music library onto a 16GB iPod Nano - which is a fine little device - but I wanted to... y'know, not have to delete entire albums and artists off it when I wanted to roll around in a few new albums, rooting for gems.

So I went and picked myself up a... well, that's not true.  I went down to the Apple store with Kayla and asked them about something with 32GB of storage.  The 16GB Nano is like $140, so the next step up shouldn't be that much mo-THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS?!

Three hundred fucking dollars for an iPod Touch with 32 gigs of storage.  And I don't even want an iPod touch - I don't need all the frickin' apps and stock market prices and all the shovelware they load on there.  All it needs to do is play music and jack into my sound system at work, but nooo.  They don't make Nanos with 32 gigs of storage, so the only option is to go for a seriously-twice-as-much iPod Touch.

The sticker shock pelted me across the face, and I walked out of the store with Kayla, dumbfounded.

-source-

Then, two days later, I went back and paid almost five hundred bucks for a 64GB iPod Touch with Apple's plus-one-year replacement plan, cause if I'm paying half a grand for a fucking music player, I really don't want the 3.5mm jack to crap out before 2019.  I went home and dumped everything on to it, and filled up juuust over half of its storage capacity - so skipping the 32GB version was a good call.

So I got Star Wars, a hot new, obscenely overpriced MP3 player, and... oh - and the Dragon's Crown soundtrack showed up on Wednesday, so that's pretty cool.

And maybe the microphone I bought for podcasts with Chamberlain counts too.

So in terms of stuff, Christmas was generous, this year.


Now, to see if I can get Kayla into a theater showing Krampus...

Oh, and here's a Christmas HAWP!

Well of course the Valkyria Chronicles remaster is lookin' smexy.

Sega dropped the first trailer for Valkyria Chronicles' PS4 up-port today, and it is, of course, looking lovely.  As lovely as we all remember it looking.



The trailer actually does a fine job of pointing out how many JRPGs didn't kind of step up to a certain level of character animation and detail throughout the PS3's lifespan.  There are releases in the past few years on the platform that don't hold a candle to this little gem that dropped just two years after the platform came out, and a full five years before the PS4 would appear.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Game Diary - Galak-Zeee!


I played the opening of Trails of Cold Steel last night, laying haphazardly across a love seat in the living room while my mother watched some Australian 1920s murder-mystery show.  The opening was good!  It starts with everyone in your team at like level fifty, so you can snuffle around in the game's combat mechanics and special abilities, and then it switched into your traditional JRPG opening, so I anticipated the pacing to slow right down and for it to dump a metric fuckton of exposition on me.

Instead, I wandered around this week's Holiday sale, and snagged Toukiden: Kiwami for twenty bucks on Vita.  Then I grabbed Volume for its sale price so I'll have a license for the Vita version ready to go when it drops in January.

Then I watched some Robot Chicken on YouTube for a while.  Their Star Wars stuff is pretty awesome.

Then I got to thinking about the Game of the Year discussion with Chamberlain.  Whenever I throw my hat behind a Don't Starve or a Mark of the Ninja, when things like Metal Gear Solid V and The Witcher III and Bloodborne exist, I worry that I'm... I don't know, being contrarian for its own sake?

So - perhaps just to assure myself, or perhaps just because I wanted to play a game that demands both everything and nothing - I booted up Galak-Z on my PS4.


The share button is a welcome addition to the new generation, I should note - not just because it'll finally let me take lossless screenshots, but because last night, at least, it ended up really highlighting just how remarkable Galak-Z is.  (Again.)

My capture options are set to a full fifteen minutes of gameplay, but if you were to look at what I captured last night - what needed to be captured - you'd think it never went over three minutes and more often than not, was maxed at forty-five seconds.  After (and this is not hyperbole, here) every single fight, I found myself holding down the capture button because that was awesome and someone needs to see it.

Then, thirty seconds later, I would drift around a corner and sneak up behind some Imperial fishfaces and oh my God that was awesome, I need to turn that into a .GIF.

By the end of that play session, I had saved 6.45 gigabytes of footage, because Galak-Z just couldn't stop being awesome.


It has been... a bad year.  Kayla tried to tell me that a few weeks ago, and I told her 2015 had some really nice parts, but she's right, man.  She's right.  2015 has sucked.  It has been a swirling cauldron of stress, and that's probably why I haven't written a review since Shinovi Versus.

But I am quite sure that there is one more game which requires one.

This is why we love XSEED.

Well it's one reason, at least.


This gorgeous folding-book-kind-of box - wait, let me find a better picture...


You crack it open, and the art book fills up the top of the box.  It's got little bios for every character, and I've made sure not to go too deep into it for fear of spoilers.  Beneath that is a nice, high-quality pin with the symbol of the empire the game takes place in, and beneath the pin is, finally, the game.

We hear - once a week, it seems - that the Vita is a dead platform, but publisher XSEED (and their contemporaries at Atlus, NIS America, Aksys Games and so on) seem to manage a pretty tidy business in catering to the North American enthusiast.  They know we love stuff like this - little curios and most of all art books and a physical cart to put on our shelf - and somehow, they're making enough bank to keep doing it.  There's a special edition for Atelier Escha & Logy Plus next month, and the next Senran Kagura's Cup Size+1 Edition is on the horizon...

Very appropriate, Sam.



Christmas is taking a backseat, this year, and I haven't been able to do quite the giving of years prior, but I got most of it done weeks ago.  My brother's gifts had remained in their boxes, unwrapped, and I put on my best-of-the-best-blues playlist and got to wrapping.  Then the above track came on and it was like holy shit.  That's a perfect song for right now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Volume for Vita is out on January 5th.


Here's the source, with a nice long explanation from (developer) Mike Bithell.  It'll be cross-buy, so if you want it and take advantage of the current sale on PSN (there's some groovy stuff up, by the way), you'll get the Vita version at no additional charge in January. 

Cheers.

This is not why you come here.

This is a personal note.  It is so far outside of the scope of the blog's usual forté that you will be forgiven if you want to skip it entirely, as it represents pure self-indulgent, teary-eyed bleating on my part.  If you're up for that, three days before Christmas, you are welcome here.  In fact, let's do a page break...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

By the Force, it's a video game podcast.


Let's see if this embeds nicely...  [update] Guess not.  This will require some tinkering...[/update]

Chamberlain and Chance - Chamberlain and Chance End of Year 2015


Chamberlain and Chance - now in audiowave.

[update again!] Okay, it is now the next day.  Sorry about putting the above in a minipost, but Kayla and I got home from seeing Star Wars at like two in the morning because the show didn't start 'till eleven, and there was literally a half-hour of commercials and trailers before the movie.  But when I got home there was an email from Chamberlain, and he was all "I finished cutting together the podcast, and here it is!" and I was like "ohhh shits I gotta' post this right now" and then this afternoon we finally woke up and listened to it and here's the part that shocks me - it's not shit.

So you should maybe listen to it!  It represents an historical moment - the first time Chamberlain and Chance ever speak!  Simply hearing it will one day represent a collectible - like the Fallout 4 Pip-Boy edition, except actually worth something - and you will one day be terribly sad if your Mindbank Audio® collection is without it!

Chamberlain and Chance - listen to it today!

Oh, also, check out this trailer. This is my next ohmigod-someone-put-this-on-Vita game.



You stop time and deflect bullets with your katana in 2D, and evade/dashes slip under bullets!

God yes I need this in my veins.



That oughta' do it.  Fingers crossed!  [/update again]

[update yet a third time] 

Tales of Berseria (PS4), God Eater Resurrection (PS4 and Vita), God Eater2 : Rage Burst (PS4 and Vita) and Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs-Force (Vita) all got announced for localization today.  I don't know if there was ever any doubt about Berseria, but the God Eaters are a nice surprise (on Vita, at least), and we don't often get Gundam games.

So that's pretty cool.

[update]

Zootopia's Sloth trailer is so good.

How good?  It's so good that I forgot the name of the movie, forgot the name of the characters - only remembered the gist of the scene - and I've been telling the story of the rabbit and the fox walking into the DMV, because it's that damned funny.  Finally Kotaku posted it today in amongst all the other trailers that ran before Star Wars VII, and I was like "Zootopia - thank you."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Game Diary - still in love with my Vita.

Today, I got an email update from GamesIndustry.biz.  They pop up every morning around 10:30, and whenever a big (really big) story breaks - but usually they're just ignored.  Today, one of the two lead stories was "2015: The Year That Handhelds Died."

Which is weird.  'Cause I spent all last night in rapt joy, clutching my Vita and thrilling to Bastion.  For a start.


Every time I talk about Bastion on Vita, I kind of just say "it's frickin' awesome" and link to its review or that of its spiritual sequel, Transistor - but that's doing it a disservice.  In the same way Dragon's Crown's presence on Vita gave the game insanely long legs, having a little slice of perfection on a handheld with excellent controls is... meaningful gaming.

Bastion, like Transistor, is such an accomplished little thing.  The way the game constantly - right up until the last hour - is dropping new weapons, new mechanics, new strategies on the player, refusing to let things get stale.  The way the titular Bastion comes alive at your touch, and becomes the menu through which you specialize your Kid as a rough-and-tumble melee fighter or a potion-packin' special-move specialist, all the weapon-specific challenge rooms, and it's presentation isn't good or great - it's oh-my-God incredible.

Everything about Bastion is five out of five stars, and I can slip it into my pocket when I'm ready for a pause in the action.


But a lot of good stuff has become available on my Vita, as of late, so I shut down Bastion and tried out Metal Slug 3.  Metal Slug 3's arcade version was ported to the Vita earlier in the year, and fans went kind of nuts about it - but Metal Slug held no great nostalgia-driven sway over me, so I ignored it at its fifteen dollar price point.

Giant tank/crab!  Runnnn!

I mean, yeah, it's a classic action game with beautifully-animated 2D sprites - which is enough to get me on board with anything, as a rule - but I didn't want to dip my toe in unknown waters, at the time.  Last week it went on sale for like, five bucks or something.

Played through the first mission.  Pretty good!  Massive boss fight.  Second stage boots up and... are those zombies?  Oh noes, the zombie killed me!



And that... is suddenly one of the greatest games of all time.  All hype justified.  I got to the end of stage 2 and found myself standing before a colossal alien construct.  This must be the source of the zombie plague!  Oh noes - a half-dozen gigantic alien monsters?

You mean I gotta' to kill those now?  Wait a minute - that ain't right - let me rephrase.

You mean I get to kill those?


Then, satisfied that Metal Slug 3 was as incredible as everyone had suggested, I rolled over into Nuclear Throne.  Nuclear Throne, it has been said, is the pure-action love child of Hotline Miami and Spelunky.  As in, imagine if a game had Spelunky's Roguelike nature and razor-sharp controls, with Hotline Miami's top-down shooter/melee pastiche.

I had thrown it a half-hour last week, but last night I snuggled into it, and let it dash my brains across its irradiated wasteland again and again as I pushed a teensy bit further, each time, against its harcore-but-not-insurmountable challenge, and here's the thing... I think Nuclear Throne might be as incredible as everyone is suggesting, too.


And even as I wallow in this cornucopia of handheld awesome, I'm looking over my shoulder at all the RPGs and indies I didn't have time to play on my Vita this year, where Ar Nosurge remains in its first act, multiple Disgaeas bat their eyes and Teslagrad and Super Meat Boy chill out with other indie luminaries like Limbo and Super Time Force.  And I'm looking ahead to Atelier Escha & Logy Plus and the Japanese release of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir in January.  I'm looking forward to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel coming out this Tuesday.

And yeah... maybe GamesIndustry is right.  Maybe the Vita and the 3DS will be the last of the dedicated handhelds, but maybe that ain't so bad.

Maybe that means they'll have legs as long as Dragon's Crown, once it landed on a handheld.

Musical Interlude.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

And that's a good day on the Internet.


Oh man, let this happen.  I would buy multiple copies.

So yeah, about Banner Saga on Vita...


You may remember Gio Corsi coming on stage at last year's PSX and announcing that the gorgeous, critically-acclaimed, Kickstarted strategy RPG The Banner Saga would be coming to PS4 and Vita in 2015.

It did not.  Stoic posted an update over the summer that their console ports were taking longer than expected, but I'll be honest - I figured they were just focusing on The Banner Saga 2 too much.

That's not what happened.

Yesterday, it was announced that The Banner Saga will drop on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 12, 2016 - that's not too far away at all!

But no mention of the Vita version.  The Vita version, man!  I mean, I was hyped to have it on PS4 but we all know I would have ignored that in favor of a Vita release.  I'm dying for a western strategy game on Vita - I'm dying for XCOM or Darkest Dungeon or, sure, this Banner Saga thing I've heard so much about, but... nothing.

No word.

But soft!  What light through yonder window breaks?  It is the east, and actual honest communication from a developer is the Sun.  And this was no little "yeah, Vita version can't work, sorry - but now it's coming to smartphones!" crap like 17-Bit pulled back in August - this was a real explanation.


The very same day the Xbox One and PS4 release date was announced - later that afternoon - Stoic's technical director took to the company's forums for a development update, and clearly laid out what happened.  The short version?  They trusted the wrong company, and that company fucked them over - along with me, personally.  Those bastards.

Here's the post:

"PlayStation Vita 
Hello, followers of the Banner Saga!

Many of you have been asking for status updates on the Playstation Vita port of the Banner Saga. Now that we've completed porting and the certification process for Playstation 4, I thought I'd take a moment to bring my head above water and provide some information.

Our console and Vita porting has been more expensive and time consuming than we had originally expected. We started the porting process only a few months after the initial launch of Banner Saga on PC. In fact, we started console port development work at the same time we started iOS and Android development. I performed the initial proof-of-concept porting myself, to determine what our technological approach should be. Once this was complete, I hired 3 different porting companies to do a 1 week prototype for a fixed price. Of the 3, one of the companies exceed the others in performance by a wide margin. As a result, I decided to hire them to work on the PS4, Xbox One, and Linux ports, and they got underway. Their deadline for completion was November 2014.

The porting company made good progress at first, but suffered some internal personnel turnover which slowed the project. The first deadline was missed, but progress steadily continued. We were able to show a hand-on playable demo of the Banner Saga running on PS4 at the Playstation Experience in Las Vegas, December 2014.

In January, the porting company hired additional programmers and took on the contract for performing the Playstation Vita port. The deadline for completion was July 2015. Over the subsequent months, the porting company suffered more personnel turnover, and the project limped along. Finally, in May 2015, the company folded, went out of business, and failed to complete the project. All of the expenses sunk into that project were lost, with no realistic way for us to recover them.

Over the next few months, we scrambled to find another porting company that was able to pick up the porting where it was left off. Fortunately, we found a great company who has been able to exceed our expectations in every way. They started work in August, and now, 4 months later, we have the Playstation 4 and Xbox One ports completed and ready to launch.

The side effect of this is that we have had to put the Playstation Vita port on the back burner. I have been excited about the Vita port since day one, and I would love to see the Banner Saga running on my own Vita. The realities, however, of a very small team and a limited budget, put an immutable check on the speed of our progress. Stoic is composed of only 4 full time internal team members, all of which are currently working 100% on Banner Saga 2. Our initial budget for porting to Vita has been burned by essentially having to pay twice for the console ports. Once we can recover the substantial costs of initial console porting, we can consider our strategy to move forward with Vita.

One of the most positive results of all this, is that since the Banner Saga 2 shares the same engine with Banner Saga (albeit an upgraded, enhanced, and more featureful version of the engine), all of the porting work so far is directly applicable to our next game. This means that porting should be much, much faster than initially.

Thank you very for your patience and support!"
-source-
Not too long after, Stoic took to their Twitter account to gauge interest:




The replies of fans (and Stoic) to that single post is... heartening.  Stoic come across as honest, earnest folks who would really have loved to have the game on Vita, and got really shafted by the porting company.

But here's hopin'.

Oh man.

Oh God.

I need some assurance.  Tyler.  Tyler Sigman.  Assure me.


What a nice man.

And now, speaking of Vita, I'm off to play more Bastion.  Or maybe try out Metal Slug 3 (it's super-cheap this week!).  Or maybe Nuclear Throne. 

Probably Bastion.


Thank God for Bastion.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Good move, Sony.

In the past 24 hours it was revealed that (legendary auteur of the Metal Gear Solid series) Hideo Kojima had formed his own, independent studio,


then it was rumored that the studio was in talks with Sony Computer Entertainment, and then that rumor was debunked as a bad translating job.  Today, nothing is lost in translation.



Bam.  I wanna' say this is a lesser deal than, say, Xbox One exlcusivity on Platinum's Scalebound, but... let's face it.  For three our of four generations, a Hideo Kojima game was synonymous with the excellence of a PlayStation Platform (MGS, 2 and 4).  This was definitely the right move for Sony.

Now let's see how much money Kojima wants, and how many delays the game will have lawls.

[update]  Now the word is the game will be console-exclusive to PS4, and a PC port will come "later." [/update]

Monday, December 14, 2015

Whelp. That was a waste of time.



I came home from work with every intention of starting on my Game of the Year stuff.  Then I spent three and a half hours trying to find the other works of Al Hibbler, who is the voice of two of my favorite jazz/blues tracks - the above, and After The Lights Go Down Low.

Hibbler actually had a lot of hits - did you know the original Unchained Melody was his? - but after listening to dozens of tracks from digital sellers, I can't find anything that snags me like the above two songs - which, I suppose, is why those are the first two you find when you search for his music.

Oh well.  Too bad.  So sad.  Hours and hours spent to glean the knowledge that I will likely only ever love two Al Hibbler songs.

So... something geeky... let's see, here... ah.  Here's a trailer for a new X-Men movie,



and here's a trailer for the next Star Trek.



Oh, and there's an interesting article over at Kotaku today about censorship in localizations - a part in the second half details an XSEED employee who was so passionate about not altering the ages of character in Senran Kagura (many of whom are under eighteen, all of whom are shamelessly sexualized) that he received a lifetime ban from NeoGAF for defending his position.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Musicpost.



It's weird where things lead you.  I haven't been on a music kick in a while, but Fallout 4 jump-started my obscure-classics-lust, and some good things have come of that, as I sift through two classic music compilations, each with about sixty songs each.  There's bound to be some gems in there, right?



Right.  One of the things I love about old music is, oftentimes, these are songs you've heard a million times in commercials and movies and TV shows, but when you finally have a high-quality version of it, it kind of comes alive.  To illustrate that, here's a very low-quality version of an Etta James classic.



And then, that invigoration of music excitement ends up pivoting into something wholly unexpected.

 Last night, while putting together the post for Odin Sphere's latest trailers, I linked to the Japanese-only store where you can nab the soundtrack, which reminded me that I never actually ordered Dragon's Crown's soundtrack - so I took care of that (it's like ninety bucks after the exchange rates!).
Today, though, I still had the music on the brain, so I poked around the internet for tracks shared by folks who already have the album.  That led me to checking out all the Okami remixes that came out.  Did you know there's a whole album of Okami songs turned into lounge music?  It's called Okami Henkyokushuu Vol 3: Lounge, and yes, there are two other albums of Okami tunes adapted into other genres.  Here's one from Vol 2, the jazz album.  I'm not saying it's anything that's going to wind up on my iPod - just that it's weird, is all.  It is weird.

But reminding myself of the traditional instruments of the original Okami soundtrack put me in mind of this one scene from Tenchu: Kurenai (Fatal Shadows in the west - Tenchu was a long-running ninja stealth/action series, and Kurenai was the second title in the series to drop on the PS2 - I loved it).  There's a boss scene where you fight a dude who's playing a shamisen (3-string guitar) the entire time, and the music was just gott-damned incredible.

Sigh.  Now I want Tenchu: Fatal Shadows and Wrath of Heaven on my Vita, which'll never happen.  Anyway, then I started poking around for shamisen music, and found a bunch of people on YouTube who want you to watch them play the thing.  Then I found this old album from 1976 - a bunch of soloists from Ensemble Nippon, playing some supremely gorgeous music on traditional instruments.  Here's the entire thing, in one convenient YouTube video.



But... it wasn't quite enough.  There are people out there who care about Celtic music and country music and pan flutes, I'm sure - there must be some really awesome people out there playing the shamisen that I've just never heard of, from my lofty middle-class tower.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the gift of two little words that you might wanna' remember.


Yoshida                                 Brothers




And oh my fucking God listen to this...



Ahhhh... they've got like six albums.  I'm gonna' have to clear some space on my iPod.  Naturally.

This is gonna' take some time to go through.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Yet more Odin Sphere Leifthrasir trailers!

Today Atlus and Sony Japan are highlighting the differences between playing the HD remake's Classic mode and all the new mechanics and content of Leifthrasir via two gameplay videos that basically show the first few minutes of starting hero Gwendolyn's adventure - ten minutes each ain't much time, but the vids make it very, very clear just how much has been changed, updated and improved with Leifthrasir.  

If you long for the two-gens-ago gameplay of old-school Odin Sphere, Classic mode is the exact same game, just with way prettier presentation and a far smoother framerate.



If, on the other hand, you want all the new combat moves, alchemy recipes, NPCs, enemies and areas that Leifthrasir is adding to that venerable formula... well, you're gonna' have a helluva time.



Vanillaware also announced today via Twitter that the soundtrack for Leifthrasir is coming - which I was really hoping for, because I never managed to snag the soundtrack to the first game (note how the title song is slightly different in the two vids above - I wonder if this OST will have both?).


At the moment, the only place to order Leifthrasir's soundtrack is via Atlus Japan's storefront, which is super-unfriendly to an English-centric consumer.  Here's hopin' it also ends up at CDJapan, like the Dragon's Crown OST.

Come to consoles, XCOM 2. ...please?

Hot new trailer!



And here's fifty goddamned minutes of gameplay!

Heyhey, looks like Downwell's comin' to Vita!

"Downwell running in Tate mode on PlayStation Vita..."

Devolver tweeted this out, today.  Downwell's a twitchy action-roguelike that has received nothing but high praise from critics, so... yeah.  Come to me, Vita version.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nights of Azure might come to Vita in the west after all...


Nights of Azure - originally announced as Yoru no Nai Kuni or, literally, "the land without night." is coming west - for PS4.  Koei Tecmo announced months ago that the lovely-looking sexy action-RPG from Gust, creators of the insanely long-running Atelier series of JRPGS, would get localized for the new-gen console, and it's due out in late March/early April for NA and EU, respectively.

When they announced its localization back in September, fans took to social media to beg the company to localize the Vita version as well - but they only said they'd consider it.  Today, it seems, they're considering it.

Or at least, they are if the three polls Koei Tecmo Europe tossed up on their Twitter feed today are any indication.  First,


then


and


and

https://twitter.com/koeitecmoeurope/status/674539189606727680

So... who knows?  Action-RPGs are my favorite kind, so I'm naturally attracted to the idea of a high-end one to play on my Vita.  Today I tried one of those first-person dungeon crawlers for the first time ever and did not care for it, but hey, Atelier Escha & Logy Plus is coming in January, and Trails of Cold Steel is dropping on December 22nd, so at least I won't be hurtin' for more interesting RPG choices on my Vita.

...as if anyone is ever hurting for RPGs on Vita.  But here's hopin' for one more!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

No more easy money in Fallout 4 :(



I abused the ever-loving crap out of the caps glitch in Fallout 4.  How else was I supposed to keep my shotgun fed at lower levels?  Spec points into the caps scrounger perk and the settlement stores?

Those points need to go into combat, naturally - and given that Fallout 4 is a Bethesda game (which perhaps needs no further explanation, but...) in which progress-halting bugs can and do occur, I felt absolutely justified in permitting a bug to benefit the player, instead of just rendering quests impossible to complete.

But nope.  That was on the top of Bethesda's list to clean up.

Oh well.  I think I'll go roll around in my second save for a bit...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hey Chance, whatcha' playin'?


I have literally spent the last hour trying to find a video of Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw performing a Sparkle Hunting kill with the square-square-triangle combo.  That's it!  Just pom-pom and a forward thrust of the chainsaw, because when she does that move you see this huge grin on her face as the zombies' heads pop off - but after clawing through literally dozens of gameplay walkthroughs and hard-mode tutorials (you'd think someone would know how to really play the game by hard mode!) - but no.  Nope.  Nothin'.  

So - game diary.


Since its launch, there have been - maybe - five days in which I did not play at least some Fallout 4.  I have played the ever-loving crap out of that game, and the only things that could yank me away from it were personal obligations or, over the weekend, Bastion on Vita.

It's a game that's sort of living in Skyrim's shadow, even as it strikes out in its own direction, and reinvigorates the identity and style of Fallout by refusing to do much original and double down on on what you already know and feel about the series.  In Fallout 4's wake, Fallout 3 seems more like Bethesda kind of feeling their way around the property, afraid to impose too much of an identity on it.  By contrast, New Vegas had so much sense of self, and so much charismatic flavor, that it feels like Fallout 4 is kind of reticent to possess its own vibe.  Like a semi-intelligent politician, it doesn't want to offend you with any opinions, perspectives or insights - it does its damnedest to be as Vanilla Fallout Ver. 2.0 as it possibly can, and it succeeds.

I love some of the new additions to the radio classics we've come to love over the  years, which further indulges the whole songs-from-the-30s-40s-and-50s-were-way-racier-than-you-think thing.  I'm super-happy there's so much Roy Brown on the sountrack (Butcher Pete II! woo!), Rocket 69 is frickin' awesome, and honestly one of my favorite movies when I was a kid was Bull Durham with Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.  There's this fantastic scene where Susan Sarandon finally realizes the super-cool, experienced catcher (it was a baseball movie) Kevin Costner is far more fun than the meathead pitcher Tim Robbins, and they're dancing in his kitchen to Billy Ward's Sixty Minute Man.

I've loved that song ever since, and having it pop up in Fallout feels like a little shimmering part of the game was placed there, just for me.  Just for Chance.


But it's still so... I don't know... expected?  I feel like a game we were intentionally shown so little of prior to its release would have more... surprises.  All of the companions, for example, are pretty bland, and two-dimensional.  What little character development there is, on their part, is reliably tepid, when it's not being kind of numbly annoying.

I get it, McCreedy, I've opened your heart.  Now maybe turn the emo down by a few hundred percent and bugger off, because Piper and I have some robots to shoot.

Maybe there would have been backlash if 4 had more to its unique identity than settlement-building, (pretty damned lightweight) weapon and armor modifications and power armor that actually feels super-powerful, but when I think of New Vegas, y'know what's the first thing I think of?

I think Blue Moon, sung by Frank Sinatra and Johnny Guitar by Peggy Lee. I think of Felicia Day's young Brotherhood of Steel explorer, a Mexican ghoul and the Rose of Sharon Cassidy.

Fallout 4 feels so beholden to the expected that it has a real, real hard time surprising you, and making a real impression.


Not that any of the above has stopped me from playing it, of course.  By the end of my first playthrough (and by "end" I just mean I finished the main story quest and didn't continue running around doing sidequests - which you can totally do, and is awesome!), I was an obscene, God-like destroyer with my luck, stealth and rifleman skills.  Elite Deathclaws could show up and I was like "meh, whatever, die" - and this is on Survivor difficulty!

Chamberlain asked me a while back how much time I've sunk into it, because he's worried it will suck him up and refuse to let him shave a few more games off his backlog and I assured him it will.  The playtime on that first run through is over a week.  Not thirty or forty or fifty hours but a week.

Then, I immediately started up a new game, walked straight into Sanctuary and built so much that by the time I left, I was level four.

So it's sure as hell not a bad game.  And, at the very least, the Glowing Sea is something this series really needed.  Having new enemy types is a very pleasant surprise, and everything surrounding the Institute is super-interesting right up until you really get a grip on what's going on with that place, but walking through a windswept desert with an omnipresent, eerie green glow rising from the ashen ground feels like what will be remembered, years from now, as a quintessential Fallout moment.

It's Fallout's microwave hallway.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus' Endless Summer edition is actually the most interesting news of the day.

Yeah Final Fantasy VII Remake will be episodic - but as judgy as we all are towards Squenix, let us not count that chicken before it's hatched.  Might work out just fine.

 So, Estival Versus.

As one should, I imagine - I feel a little skeevy even posting about it.  XSEED haven't offered a release date for the jiggly PS4/Vita brawler (it was supposed to release around... oh, nowish - but hasn't, and won't), but today they announced that if you buy a physical copy of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, you'll be taking home the Endless Summer edition ($59.99 on PS4, $49.99 on Vita).   If you buy it digitally, you'll pay less for the basic game - $50 and $40, respectively.  So, what does the extra ten dollars get you?  More than just a case and a cart, that's for sure.

XSEED tend to be... thoughtful with their special editions.  Corpse Party: Blood Drive, for example, came with a (rather gruesome!) art book and a pleasantly-packaged soundtrack - not one of those little cardboard slip case deals, either - and Estival Versus will be no different.  For an extra ten dollars, you get...
  • Art book (see: "art book.")
  • A "randomly chosen set of 2.5" by 3.5" art cards
  • A 2-disc soundtrack. 
And, again, going by what XSEED have provided in the past, all of this will be of a darned reasonable high quality.  

Thank goodness for XSEED, Aksys, Atlus and NIS America.  Without them, the Vita would be nothing but indies - and I love indies (OMG Bastion on Vita is frickin' awesome), but I also love full-size games on the go.   Coming Q1 2016.

So the question is, will I be spending an extra ten bucks?  

Yes.  Yes I will.  Because the last one was hella fun, and that's pretty much the end of it.  Is its sexualization way over-the-top to the point of being severely uncomfortable at times?  Yes.  Is it a good-looking, fun, light brawler on the go?  Yes.


While we're on the subject of "fanservice" games, y'know which one I'm not at all sad isn't getting a North American release?  Dead or Alive Xtreme 3.  

When news dropped that the boob-centric volleyball game wouldn't come to North America, but would get an English-localized release in the Asia market, my curiosity became piqued.  Any game with an English Asian release becomes a bit more interesting, because it won't appear in North American stores, and is therefor rare.   So I watched a vid - the first one that popped up when I punched in "Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Vita." And immediately decided I would never touch it.  

The thing is, it might be the funnest volleyball game of all time (and indeed, a big part of what gave the first DoA Xtreme Beach Volleyball crossover appeal was the fact that it was a solid game, and that's ninety per cent of why I loved Shinovi Versus), but DoA's breast physics are just... awful.  Like, if you're going to do something (and both Senran Kagura and DoA are doing it up to the Nth degree), do it at least passably well.  Senran Kagura's no medical simulation, but it makes DoA:X3's chesticles look like the horrible offspring of a night of passion between a water bed and Flubber.  Remember Flubber?

Anyway, yeah.  I'm down to beat the crap out of wildly impractical ninjas again.  One of the new girls is a Taiko drummer!

First, I love how happy she is to be wailing on those drums.
Second, man I wish I could embed HTML5 code.

[update]Bow to the master, everyone.  Endless, I mean.  Not me, obv. [/update]

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Dying Light Enhanced Edition is coming to retail.

...on February 9th, 2016.



This is really nice to see.  Techland never really slowed down after the game's launch, immediately addressing bugs and getting straight to work on DLC in the shape of The Bozak Horde, Cuisine & Cargo and the Ultimate Survivor Bundle (which was just some new weapons and outfits).  Since about June, though, they've been talking up The Following - which adds huge new swaths of maps, dune buggies to jam through crowds of walking corpses in, and (they suggest) so much new content that it could in all rights be released as a stand-alone game.

They're not doing that, though.  First, they're upping the price of the DLC and Dying Light's season pass... on December 8th.  They're giving fans ample warning that, if you want to get The Following at its originally-announced price, you should buy it now, because by end of day Tuesday, the stand-alone DLC will go up five bucks to $20, and the season pass will go from $20 to $30.

But Techland's exceptional poise doesn't end there.  Regardless of whether or not you've bought the season pass or The Following, everyone who owns Dying Light will get a patch that essentially provides their game with all the titular enhancements of the Enhanced Edition.  Specifically...

  • Legend System
  • Nightmare Difficulty
  • Bounties System
  • New Parkour Moves
  • New Enemy Attacks & Behaviors
  • New NPC Models
  • Enhanced Facial Expressions
  • Improved Human Enemy AI
  • Improved Volatile AI
  • Greater Firearm Variety
  • HUD and Video Filter Customizations
  • Audio Upgrades
  • Console (PS4/Xbox One) Performance Upgrades
  • Overall Game Look and Feel Improvements
...and I'm all


because let's face it, Dying Light is in like the top-five console games of the year.  It's this year's Far Cry or inFamous.  

Remember a week or so ago, I wrote about picking up a copy of Bloodborne for a work friend who goes out and buys my recommendation every year? (I didn't want to just have him spend eighty bucks on Bloodborne only to discover it's too "hardcore" for him.)  Well yeah, it was too hardcore for him, and he said it was "blurry" (?!), so he gave it back like two days later and asked for my official 2015 recommendation. 

"Dying Light."


I doubt he'll wait for the Enhanced physical edition in February, but still.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

PSX: The Important Bits.


This year's PlayStation Experience was not quite as earth-shattering as last year's, with all the wonderful reveals of games that still haven't come out (I'm lookin' at you, PS ports of Banner Saga), but there was some super nice stuff.  It kicked off with another gorgeous new cutscene for Uncharted 4, and then slowed right down.  For literally the first half-hour of the show, there was nothing newsworthy, as they talked about DLC for already-released games and revealed the final character for Street Fighter V.

Then they showed this...



And it's not just prerendered.  It's real.  It's really real, actually running and here's combat and here's in-engine gameplay and the Final Fantasy VII Remake is looking fiiine.

They announced Zodiac for PlayStation platforms - PS4 and Vita.



Had my eye on that one for a while, and it's no, y'know, Grand Kingdom or Exist Archive announcement, but it'll do.

Then Tim Schafer came out told us that the Day of the Tentacle remaster would drop on PS4 and Vita would drop in March, 2016.  He showed a new trailer, but that's not all...


Full Throttle is getting the remaster treatment, and it's also coming to PS4 and Vita!


Then they announced that Yakuza 5 would drop on PS3 next Tuesday, and Sony are localizing Yakuza Zero for PS4.

Oh, also - and most-thrilling for yours truly - two of the Vita's most-anticipated indies are... out today!


...and Bastion is like three bucks with PS+!  (Or free if you already have it on PS4.)  Honestly, this is the star of the show, for me.

Sony also got into bed with Torchlight developer Runic Games, annnd Hob is coming to PS4.  Looks like my cup of tea, and probably yours too, if you're into that whole gorgeous platformer-adventure thing.



Finally, the last big announcement of the show was a biggie.  Ni No Nuki II is real and happening and here's a gorgeous trailer.



I didn't even like Ni No Kuni all that much, but this trailer made me tear up.  I'm down for that.

In other, smaller news,

Annd that's it.  So the big news - Ni No Kuni II, Yakuza Zero, Hob, Full Throttle, Zodiac and FFVII Remaster is real, we promise, and a pair of cool Vita games finally came out. 

That was PSX!