April 2011 Archives

Cover Art Chronicles: 3D Ocarina

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is gearing up to help the 3DS' currently pitiful software situation when it drops in mid-June worldwide. Since it's nearing release, retailers have uploaded the cover released by Nintendo in their territories. Actually, we had an American cover for a while, since the release date was announced. We just had to wait for the other territories. What a strange turn of events!

 

But now we have them all, and the purpose of this post is to share this information with you.


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The first one here is the European cover. The most interesting aspect isn't the beautiful Yusuke Nakano artwork being presented on it, but that so many gamers actually knew this would be the cover before Nintendo of Europe unveiled it. (The former only happened because we already saw the artwork in question on the official Japanese website.) Some of them also wanted to give Nintendo of America the finger for not using it on the American cover. It looks nice, but it also resembles a quick cut and paste job that makes it look tacky. But that's OK when it gets the job done. It was revealed yesterday that Japan is getting the same cover.


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Some of us have known for a while that America was getting a completely different cover, and it's a very nice one at that. The reason why it stands out is because it's incredibly reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda covers from the late 80s and early 90s; and that seems to be NoA's intention with this design. There's currently no way to know whether the cover will have a shimmering or 3D effect, but it's not like it needs one.

 

Since its release date is nearing, the marketing machine has begun for this portable remake of the fan favorite title. Or is it a remake? It's really not looking like one. It was revealed in a curiously clandestine manner a few weeks ago that Nintendo isn't handling the development of this one internally. That honor is being given to Grezzo Games. Upon carefully observing the screen shots via comparison photos and videos, this is looking like more of a remastering than a remake. None of the areas look too different aside from having a graphical overhaul, while compensating (perhaps overcompensating) for the lack of color that the Nintendo 64 hardware had trouble displaying.


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This project probably means a lot to Grezzo, specifically its CEO Koichi Ishii. He once directed and assisted in designing a venerable, much-beloved Zelda-alike, so for his company to somewhat handle an actual game in the franchise is special.

 

There's no confirmation, but I'd be willing to bet that Star Fox 64 3D is also being handled by an outside company. That makes you wonder what Nintendo's doing internally. Hopefully we'll see some of them at E3, otherwise the 3DS could have a hellish road ahead.

 

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D releases for 3DS on June 16th, June 17th, and June 19th for Japan, Europe, and America, respectively.

Overload, Nora, and a Devil

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Tri-Ace wasn't the only developer that had two games to show in this week's Famitsu magazine; Atlus also had two "new" games there. "New" meaning that one of these games is definitely a port, though is of a game that never released outside of Japan before.


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Hot off the heels of Persona 2: Innocent Sin's PSP release, Atlus is already preparing the next port in their lineup in Growlanser IV Overload, also for PSP. As you could have understood from the name, this is an enhanced port of the original PS2 release of Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time, which released in Japan back in December 2003 and nowhere else. And of course the PSP version will come with plenty of extras, including new characters, new story routes, and additional event scenes. Some of the event scenes from the original are also being redone.

 

Growlanser IV Overload hits Japanese PSP's this summer, and will probably not release anywhere else. The late Working Designs may have had some success with Growlanser Generations -- a special package containing Growlanser II and III for PS2 -- the Atlus-localized Growlanser: Heritage of War (Growlanser V: Generations in Japan) did incredibly terrible in America. It's the main reason why Overload is unlikely to release outside of Japan, the second being that it's on PSP, so you can feel free to consider this post a minor form of torture.


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The other game Atlus had to reveal was a brand new one, and it's another DS game. Yes, regular DS. There's no official translation of the name, but the literal translation is Nora and the Carving Studio: The Witch of the Foggy Forest. Shigeo Komori, who directed Etrian Odyssey II and III, is at the helm of this game as its director. The EO franchise's artist, Yuji Himukai, is also serving as this game's character designer. Interestingly enough, the producer, Shinichi Yoshiike, previously worked on Gust's Atelier titles; he's serving as the planner and scenario writer here. Rounding out its impressive staff is erstwhile Wild Arms composer Michiko Naruke, who's composing the soundtrack.

 

Its gameplay is also similar to the Atelier titles. It involves players accepting quests and gathering materials for specific people. Upon doing so, you can create items using your carving techniques. Famitsu lists the game as a simple life RPG that covers the story of the game's protagonist, Nora Brandle. She starts of as 16, but will mature as the game's story progresses. Of course, her abilities will also become more potent as she performs more carving techniques. Komori also commented that the game won't be as difficult as any of the EO games.

 

Nora and the Carving Studio: The Witch of the Foggy Forest releases in Japan on July 21st. Hopefully Atlus USA decides to make this one of the DS' swan songs in America, along with another game. It's possible they may have finished up with Radiant Historia.


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The other game being referenced in the above paragraph was Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 for DS, which was recently given a date of July 28th in Japan. Keep in mind that the enhanced version of the first game for 3DS, Devil Survivor Overclocked, still doesn't have a date that's any less vague than the previously announced "summer."

Tri-Ace for Two

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Have you been wondering what Tri-Ace has been up to lately? It's a question many Japanese RPG fans have been asking with them being absent from the limelight since Resonance of Fate's release in January 2010 (March 2010 outside of Japan). Surely they had to be doing something in that time. Just last week they released a video demonstration of their new tech, featuring an updated version of the engine that's powered their games on HD consoles. Despite claiming that what was seen in the video had nothing to do with any games they had in development, some still speculated that their unrevealed project (or projects) would look similar to this.

 

This week, we would come to know what Tri-Ace had in development courtesy of Famitsu magazine. And it turns out they look nothing like what was in their tech video. Yes, you did read "they" in that last sentence, because they revealed two projects. These games also don't run on the tech demonstrated above; heck, they aren't even for HD consoles.

 

Also, with Resonance of Fate being their first title not published by Enix or Square Enix (it was Sega-published), these two games are being published by Konami. It makes you wonder what happened between Tri-Ace and Square Enix, if anything.


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Oh joy! It's another Monster Hunter-alike! The first game they had to reveal in the magazine was Frontier Gate for PSP. This game is a multiplayer-oriented RPG that allows for three player simultaneous play via an ad hoc connection, with each player controlling their main character and side character for a six character party. The story consists of a Frontier discovered by two frontiersmen, who both form a guild to explore the entirety of the frontier to see what they find lest various countries fight over the property. The player characters are newcomers to the guild.

 

The story experience you receive depends on who you pick as your partner character. The article in Famitsu noted that there will be a total of 15 partners, all of which go down a different path. As you'd expect, your main character is fully customizable.


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Its multiplayer and reliance on team-based play may sound like Monster Hunter, but its combat system is pretty different. Frontier Gate actually uses a turn-based battle system. Performing combos will increase the AP meter, which will allow your characters to use special skills. The game is being built with multiplayer in mind, but Tri-Ace CEO Yoshiharu Gotanda noted in the article that there is a single-player mode. He also said players might have trouble if they go with a healer as their partner character in single-player, however.

 

Famitsu, who loves their percentage completion rates, lists Frontier Gate as being 80% complete, and it's due for a release later this year. Considering the PSP's market and the general lack of local play done outside of Japan, this game is very likely not leaving its home country. Head to Famitsu.com to see more screens. There's also a teaser website. The music even sounds like something from a Monster Hunter game!


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The second game they had to reveal was the more intriguing of the two: Beyond the Labyrinth for 3DS. This game, unfortunately, is the more vaguely-detailed of the two as well, as apparently Tri-Ace wasn't ready to reveal too much about it yet. This game's main character is supposedly the girl you see in the screen shots, though that's not quite clear either. The story is confirmed to center around her, though. The developers also said she'll talk a lot, which apparently means something. Yeah, they're remaining tight-lipped much right now on the particulars.

 

This game is part of the 3D dungeon RPG genre, but it doesn't look like what many people initially thought it would. The first thing that popped into many gamers' minds was something like the Etrian Odyssey and Wizardry games (me included), but its aesthetics are actually more similar to Ico's. Whether it plays like that game is another question, but that will have to wait until they reveal more.


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This game is being directed by Takayuki Suguro of Tri-Ace, who previously directed Valkyrie Profile 2 and Resonance of Fate. Both of those games were received incredibly well, hence why so many are taking interest in it already. Famitsu lists the game as being 60% complete, and it currently has no release date. Fortunately, this game has a much better chance of being localized than Frontier Gate. Head to Famitsu to view more screens and art. The game will definitely not look as impressive as the screens depict in motion, but it still should look impressive nonetheless. Also pay a visit to the official teaser website to hear a sample of its beautiful music. I'm not sure who the composer is, but it sounds like something from Motoi Sakuraba.

 

So now we know what Tri-Ace is up to, but you have to wonder what they're going to do after these projects are completed with them releasing an impressive tech demo. Regardless of that, it's good to see they're doing something with their time.

Cover Art Chronicles: Covering Up

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There was sad news around today for Catherine fans upon hearing that its cover is indeed being altered for North American audiences. The covers you see above are the original covers, bereft of an ESRB rating. It was widely speculated that its covers would receive a change due to how my fan service they contain, and how much the ESRB doesn't like seeing cleavage. They're still keeping the same Catherine/Katherine theme, however. Some fans noticed the altered version while surfing around Gamefly, but Amazon also posted the covers on their website....


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...under a completely different listing, leaving the original listing for Catherine with the original covers untouched. To say this is peculiar an understatement. Is Atlus USA printing two versions of the cover? Or did they make a mistake?


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It turns out the answer is the former. This news isn't so sad after all! A statement was posted from Atlus USA's Aram Jabbari, and conveyed by the company's Nich Maragos, about the covers in the comments from Siliconera's story:

 

"In addition to the existing North American covers for Catherine on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, there will also be modified designs that appear in select markets. The vast majority of copies available at launch will feature the cover we originally unveiled, essentially the Japanese cover of the game. A small percentage of copies, however, will feature a cover that is more considerate of certain retailers' broader customer demographic. Fans need not worry; Catherine's cover art is NOT being altered for North America. There is just an extra option being made available for more sensitive shoppers."

 

The game will have two different covers around. The only question now is who the specific retails are that needed to have a different cover in order to not send any sensitive individuals into a frothing rage and ensuing outrage. You know, kind of like some fans were like upon seeing the cover change earlier today. We're not so different, you and I. Of course, it's possible that this also exists to give an option to people that don't want to be seen with a cover with some mysterious blonde-haired woman with a visible bra.

 

Also interesting: this altered cover will only be available in limited quantities, so some will undoubtedly be picking it up to sell on eBay later as a limited edition. If it's that limited.

 

With the way they're making two different covers, you have to wonder why it's taken until now for someone to try this out. We have far too many altered covers these days as it is, and making two of them is a fantastic idea; well as long as the local store you happen to frequent isn't one carrying the alternate cover.

The Brief Nintendo Briefing

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A few gamers were looking forward to what Nintendo had to reveal at their investor's meeting earlier today -- very early today, if you're in America. They usually have some nice goodies for gamers there while discussing business with investors and strategies for the future of the company and its sales. Some gamers were also looking forward to how Iwata would defend the underperformance of the 3DS on the market thus far. In addition, there was a chance that we could get more details on Nintendo's upcoming console successor, codenamed "Project Café."

 

Unfortunately for the gamer audience, there was very little in the way of unveils, and quite a bit about financial and business talk. It's nothing that would qualify as boring, but you have to feel sorry for the poor chaps who stayed up until 3:00AM to catch this.

 

We've known for a little while that the 3DS eShop was coming sometime in May, so it was expected that Nintendo would announce a more concrete date to investors. And they didn't! The timeframe for its launch isn't any clearer than sometime in late-May, and there still aren't many details about everything it will consist of. You can only hope that they've listened to some of the complaints current owners have, especially concerning a messaging system. There's one bit of good news from that, though: the eShop will launch with a free 3D Classics version of Excitebike. Keep in mind that's currently only announced for Japan, as it's unknown as to whether America and Europe will get the same deal; or if they get a free game at all.

 

As previously announced, the eShop's Virtual Console will start off with Game Boy and Game Boy Color, with other systems being included in the future. There was already a confirmation of Game Gear and Turbografx titles coming, with Sega confirming five titles for the former, so I'm not sure why those weren't mentioned. It's possible he was only talking about Nintendo platforms, and hinting at Game Boy Advance support. It would be nice to include DS games in the future as well.


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On the retail games front, Nintendo plans to release one Wii game a month for the rest of this year in Japan. Most of the games on the list are ones you already knew about, including the reintroduction of the once-thought-dead Kirby game, Rhythm Heaven, and the recently-announced Pandora's Tower. They also confirmed that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is still on track for a 2011 release, which should squash rumors that it's being held back as a title to be released simultaneously on Wii and Project Café a la Twilight Princess' release on Gamecube and Wii. The only new title there was Wiimote Plus Variety, which is just the Japanese version of Wii Play Motion.


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On the 3DS retail software front, Kid Icarus: Uprising may not make its previously planned summer release. Also...oh wait, that's it. Very encouraging for future sales, Nintendo! But just to fill this paragraph, here's a recap of some recent 3DS news. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D will release on June 16th, 17th, and 19th for Japan, Europe, and America respectively. Check out the Japanese website to see some videos and look at the gorgeous piece of artwork. Star Fox 64 3D will release in Japan on July 14th, and will hopefully release in the west shortly afterward. This game also has an official Japanese website.


Information acquired courtesy of Andria Sang.

It Totally Does 80710A06

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If you actively use PSN for your PS3 or PSP needs you probably noticed the network has been down since April 20th. Rumors and speculation of a DoS attack by a collective hacker group known as "Anonymous" began to circulate shortly after the downtime began. On April 21st Sony informed consumers that PSN would be down for a "day or two" as it looked into the outage. On April 22nd Anonymous denied having anything to do with the PSN downtime. Later that day Sony admitted via its official blog that they shut down PSN and Qriocity in order to investigate an "external intrusion." On April 23rd the company stated the network would remain down as the infrastructure is strengthened. In today's latest update Sony noted they have no timeline or real clue as to when PSN would be restored. Worse yet, it is unclear if sensitive information such as credit card numbers were compromised when the network was broken into.

Some have argued that pulling the plug on PSN in order to rebuild the network's infrastructure is completely unnecessary. Others argued the downtime will be worth it because of the stronger security. Either way Sony's network outage couldn't have come at worse time with a variety of new multiplayer games arriving on the system and a holiday weekend. There are already scores of PSN users upset over not being able to play Portal 2, Mortal Kombat and SOCOM 4 online. Additionally, gamers who have to rely on a constant connection to PSN in order to enjoy games like Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and DC Universe Online are out of luck.

While no one will disagree with Sony taking important steps to strengthen PSN against future attacks the entire situation has been handled pretty badly. From the start of PSN's downtime to Sony admitting they took the servers offline two full days had passed. It would be another two days before the company stated that the servers would effectively be offline for quite some time. Short and fairly uninformative updates are better than no updates at all but the poor communication is still a source of frustration. Furthermore, the method used to communicate with PSN users is downright lazy.

As of this writing official updates have all emanated from the company's official blog. With downtime this serious Sony could have at least sent out mass e-mails to PSN users. (They've done so in the past with TOS agreement updates.) A lot of users may not take the time to visit gaming news sites or the official blog for updates on the situation. Many of those consumers are simply in the dark and angry over the ongoing situation. Case in point, during a visit to GameStop on Saturday I watched in fascination as the store actually received calls from people unable to connect to PSN. The cashier who answered the phone assumed the service was down for network maintenance. The longer the outage continues the angrier Sony's uninformed customers will become. Sure, an e-mail probably wouldn't have reached all of the tens of millions of PSN users but it would certainly be a better method than blog-only announcements. If the screen shot above is any indication quite a few people are attempting to inform themselves of the situation without Sony's direct help.

When PSN is finally restored there will be the question of compensation. With over 70 million accounts I highly doubt Sony will compensate users for the downtime. After all, PSN is free and Sony isn't legally obligated to ensure its overall user base is happy. PSN Plus subscribers and those with subscriptions to MMOs might be the sole exceptions to this. Ultimately, both groups are paying for a service that currently isn't being provided. If Sony doesn't give these users something for their trouble, whether it be a free month added to their service or a free game, the company could lose quite a few subscribers.

In the end the only thing users can do is to sit back and wait for PSN to be restored. Once the service is back up and running it will be interesting to see what Sony does next. In the meantime there's always Penny Arcade.

Franchise Reboots Entry #7: Perfect Dark Zero

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Wait, Perfect Dark Zero qualifies as a reboot? Really?

 

It does, but in a specific way. While it's not a reboot to the extent of games featured in the previous entries, it qualifies because of how wild of a departure it was from its predecessor: Perfect Dark on Nintendo 64. For the Xbox 360's launch back in 2005, a now Microsoft-aligned Rare prepared a sequel to their much-vaunted title; but it was a "sequel" in the sense that it was a new title in the franchise, since it was a prequel storywise. Rare made a lot of changes to this iteration, and unfortunately, most of them are adherences to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra. Because they sure broke some stuff.

 

Zero may be a game that takes place three years before the original, but the relationship it has with its predecessor is rather tenuous. The missions were structured very differently, making them trial-and-error affairs. Its storyline was noticeably more lighthearted than the previous games as well, and ravaged by fans for being much worse. Lastly, the characters were all very different, the biggest example being its main character, Joanna Dark. Despite being a mere three years younger than her PD self, her Zero iteration actually seemed about ten years younger at least in terms of maturity and experience. It may not have been a complete continuity reboot, but it sure felt like one.


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One of the most commonly cited differences between the two games -- well, three if you want to throw in the Xbox Live Arcade version of Perfect Dark, which has some differences -- is Joanna herself, especially in terms of her overall design. It felt like Rare went out of their way to make her as different as possible. She even has a different accent and ethnicity! Her accent was British in the first game despite being American, though it was replaced with an American accent in the second game. Also note that the second game's voice acting is a pretty big step down, and many other returning characters had very different mannerisms. Despite the existing contradiction, Joanna's voice was back to being British in the XBLA version of Perfect Dark.


Joanna went from this:

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To this:

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Yes, that's the same woman. To say that it's a drastic change is an understatement, and that's not even getting into the personality differences.

 

There's a good reason for why there were so many changes made in Zero. A good chunk of the development team responsible for the original departed Rare in the interim between it and its sequel. The single player garnered a good critical reception, but most fans believe it was the victim of reviewer launch goggles. You'll usually see the single-player mode receiving plenty of criticism from fans these days, though most of them acknowledge that the multiplayer is pretty good. Its community is still moderately active.

 

Since Zero, Rare has moved on to an enhanced version of the original for XBLA, which released a little over a year ago. Rare preserved its old-school feeling, for better and worse, though that depends on your preferences and tolerance for decade-old FPS level, game, and mission design. It was and is worth a purchase if you think you'll like it, since it's only $10; and it's intermittently on sale for less.

 

Rare's plans for the future of Perfect Dark is anyone's guess, something you could say for many of their currently-dormant franchises. The future for anything not Kinect-related for Rare is hazy at the moment. Much of its creative staff has long departed the company, and they're definitely not releasing as many fan favorites as they used to. Rare's going through some tough times (along with the European video games industry), but hopefully they'll come out of it as alive as they used to be. Keep your eyes peeled for anything at E3, even though you could end up disappointed.

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Kiraboshi!  Thus signals the start of one of the Glittering Crux's meetings, the group of antagonists in Star Driver.  Just attempting to get an accurate description of this series would result in a mixture of unusual references blended together and at face level would result in something either strange or revolting.  In fact, my first impression of Star Driver as described to me by a friend's initial review listed influences of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Ouran High School Host Club, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Code Geass.  However, this is one series where, while the idea and structure for the story is rather standard, there are enough distinctive elements to make it stand out on its own.

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From left to right- Sugata Shindou, Wako Agemaki, Tsunashi Takuto.  Little fox is Vice.

Not that it needs much help standing out, as what captures one immediately is the brightly colored designs that offset each other nicely.  The style is brash, lighting is used effectively, and the colorization is stark in daylight.  During evenings, shadings highlight warmth and earthy oranges and browns swirl together with a more toned down, serious personality and mood change in the series, but the series finds its perfect mood medium when it's nighttime.  Designs for both characters and the Cybodies, which are the series' mechs, follow the Clamp model of making everything stringbean-thin.  Most characters and Cybodies have a complex design, and the series is infused with huge amounts of camp.  Tauburn, the main character Takuto's Cybody, sports what looks like a huge roll of cotton candy on its head and wears high-heel boots.  Takuto himself undergoes a transformation nearly every episode into his "Ginga Bishounen" form before a battle, a sequence as flashy as any from Sailor Moon and results in an outfit to further emphasize the camp.  Battles are this way as well, in the Gurren Lagann style, with moves that are screamed out, emotions emphasized, and as the series progresses, so, slowly, does the ludicrousness.  However, many battles are over too quickly, lasting less than 3-4 minutes and are too one-sided, but the devil is in the details of the battles themselves, and a second viewing will allow one to obtain much better interpretations of the battles and those involved.  The reused frames both for Takuto's transformation sequence and for the battle aftermaths are easily picked out, though they are of above-average quality so that one can see where production costs were cut, but didn't detract from the quality of the drawings.

Star Driver 2 resized.jpgDazzling the stage!  Galactic Pretty Boy!  Tauburn!

Chemistry amongst the characters usually centers around Takuto, a good thing due to his happy-go-lucky personality meshing well with his occasional confused glances and extroverted nature in the battle arena.  His personality also mixes well with the two other main characters, the more calm, cool-headed Sugata and likable but quiet Wako.  Outside of these three characters, however, development and dialogue amongst the antagonistic Glittering Crux and "Head", is minimal and should hold lots of meaning, but requires one to rewatch or heavily analyze the series in order to extract a more in-depth interpretation.  There are too many side characters in this 25-episode series to keep track of, and since many side characters have a real name, a Glittering Crux alias, and special powers, this makes for a somewhat confusing viewing experience.  The main way to distinguish characters becomes hair color, since their personalities and back stories aren't as well developed as Revolutionary Girl Utena's, a series in which Star Driver holds multiple parallels.  The folly of having multiple things to keep track of is also a bit frustrating with the island's 4 maidens, where more analysis into their roles and powers would have been welcome.  Just having a signature song for each maiden is insufficient.  On a different note, one pair of side characters I could have done without are Madoka Kei and Kou Atari, two lesbians who appear about 2/3 of the way into the series.  Their signature moves are poisonous and either gawkingly laughable or anger-inducing, while their Cybody pilot suits are the epitome of fanservice and look like a highly sexualized derivative of Asuka Langley's pilot suit.  It also doesn't help that whenever they speak, they turn every sentence into a sexual innuendo, and their voices sound as if the characters are using a sex toy.

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The story progresses linearly, though the buildup to the climax and odd twists and turns are more subtle than blatant.  Major events often feel a bit anti-climatic and one feels the increase in tension and difficulty, but the feeling could be a bit stronger by having the characters elicit a bit more frustration in their voices when their plans don't go as planned.  This subtlety, however, works brilliantly for the romance which begins appearing a third of the way into the series, and is one of the strengths of Star Driver.  Also, as the series wore on, the art quality took a half-to-full step of improvement, with more defined lines and figures, plus there was the benefit of having more time and money dedicated to longer battle sequences.  The ending felt a bit rushed, with the main intention of the antagonist explained too haphazardly and which could have easily been changed to evoke a stronger sense of evil or corruption.  The tension between Takuto and the main antagonist could also have been much more intense with tweaks in the dialogue and the falling action.  However, the characters revealed their true nature very naturally, with nothing forced and leading to a genuine feeling of a conclusion.

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Like previously mentioned, Star Driver closely parallels Revolutionary Girl Utena in multiple ways, with the camp transformation sequence, ascension sequence to battle arena, an elite student group, and multiple characters all with a distinct appearance and reason to fight.  While it does also carry with it a desire to rewatch the series, the motivation and depth is not as strong as its parallel, though the subtleties and side stories are there.  Naturally, in a 25-episode series, one is unable to fit as much content as what one can in 39 episodes, and Star Driver has much less symbolism than Utena, so there is less depth and it is less open to discussion.  Nonetheless, watching one episode is a good way of getting a taste of Star Driver, and if it does turn your fancy, it's an enjoyable series with plenty of rewatch value and camp.  What's even better is that it will soon be available to American audiences as it was licensed this exact day by Bandai at Seattle's Sakura-con.  It's a cool!

Legends 3, Sans Release?

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You want to help her finish this, right?


There's been an important question on the minds of Mega Man Legends fans as of late. It almost seems like a miracle that a new game in this spinoff franchise is coming in Mega Man Legends 3 for 3DS, a sequel that Keiji Inafune tried to get green lit for years; especially when the last game ended on a cliffhanger. The fact that we actually have one coming is kind of a miracle.

 

But do we really? You could almost hear the fans shriek in horror when they heard the game, despite being announced, actually wasn't green lit by Capcom's big bosses yet. It turned out the name Mega Man Legends 3: Project wasn't borne out of a marketing ploy to have fans interact with the creation process as an interesting way to market the game, but to get their interaction and gauge how many of them would potentially purchase the final product.

 

With yesterday's news, which provided us with a trailer, screen shots, the unveiling of a new character, and the announcement of Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Version for 3DSWare, fans (including yours truly) figured that it had now been green lit. This is apparently not the case, according to a Devroom update from director Masakazu Eguchi at the tail end of last night. According to him, Capcom won't green light this game unless the Protoype Version sells well. There's no way of telling if he's telling the truth or if this is all just a marketing gimmick, but either way, it's pretty scummy on Capcom's part.

 

It wouldn't be farfetched to conclude that Eguchi's telling the truth. Mega Man games haven't been selling all that well as of late, mostly through the fault of Capcom themselves. They had a pretty good series going with the Mega Man Battle Network titles, which garnered a pretty good critical and commercial reception early on. Its reputation started to sink after the third game, and continuing with the Star Force series really wasn't a good idea. Also, Mega Man 9 sold very well; Mega Man 10, not so much. The franchise as a whole really isn't in a good situation now. Mega Man Universe being canceled did the opposite of assuaging fears of Legends 3's status, even though it very likely could have been canceled for different reasons altogether. The same could be said of another game in the anime-style adventure genre: Bumpy Trot/Steambot Chronicles 2.

 

If Eguchi's lying, then this is what you can consider a necessary evil. In addition to the above, the Legends games themselves have never lit up the charts. You're not going to find a lot of people that would deny that it's an underhanded marketing tactic, but if it helps market a game that's deep within niche territory, it could be a good chance to get some sales. It's a brilliant idea if this is the case, but it's the kind of plan that will leave everyone involved wanting to take five cold showers shortly afterward.

 

We'll probably never know which situation is actually true, even after the game (possibly) releases. Just keep your fingers crossed, regardless.


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Meanwhile, we've received a bit more media since yesterday's post. The Japanese version of the Prototype trailer was released, which contains a bit more gameplay footage than the American version. The full Japanese website also went up. Though you probably can't read most of the information there, you can look at the character portraits for the cast revealed so far -- which, interestingly, doesn't include the Bonne family at the moment. They're shadowed out, despite both Tron and Teisel already appearing in promotional material. Also, make sure you click the sixth link on the sidebar and then the "SYSTEM:02" picture to see some short gameplay videos featuring Barrett. All of the wallpaper and media released for it are there too, and you have to love the music in the background if you've played the first two.

 

It's almost tough to imagine that Capcom will pull the plug on the game's development in this stage, but stranger things have happened. Capcom may do a lot of things to earn the bile of its fanbase these days, but this is a sequel that probably wouldn't have been made from another publisher. And that's something you have to salute. In the meantime, keep hope alive.

Prototype, Sans Volnutt

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Remember the little tidbit contained within that Uncaptivated feature from Saturday talking about a big announcement from the Mega Man Legends 3: Project team on Thursday? What do you mean "no?" Oh pffft, whatever.


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Prior to that announcement, they teased a silhouette of a new character, the one whose fully-revealed persona is in the image above. The MML3P team had a stream where they showcased their supposedly big announcement, which was really more of a string of announcements. The "dude" you see above you is a guy named Barrett, and he's described as a reckless leader of a sky biker gang. He's apparently named Ballet in Japan, keeping with the tradition of music-themed names in the franchise. Really, I can't believe it took Capcom this long to give the Legends franchise its own Proto Man equivalent.

 

But that wasn't the big announcement. No, the big reveal was for Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Version, being released for 3DS via download from Nintendo's eShop. They didn't give a firm release date because Nintendo hasn't given one for their online service yet, but previous reports said they plan to open it by the end of next month. We should learn a concrete date from Nintendo's investor briefing, which is scheduled to take place on Monday or Tuesday next week. But please note that doesn't mean they will. You can also feel free to follow details of that to see how Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata damage control's the 3DS' underwhelming performance in all territories, and how they plan to rectify it.


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It appears this "Prototype Version" will have a story, but what it entails isn't clear at the moment. But it is pretty clear that you won't be playing Mega Man Volnutt in this version, but Barrett. There is probably a good reason for this, which can be guessed from the first screen shots that also released today. They provided a trailer too, complete late 90s-era Capcom logo intro. As you can see, it looks pretty good, though it's admittedly rough in places. Hopefully this will act as a prologue that branches together Legends 2 and 3 a la Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, though it's currently unclear as to whether this prologue will be included with the game when it releases sometime in the future. It doesn't look likely for this year, though.

 

So yes, this means it's not free. It will cost 200 yen in Japan, but Capcom has yet to announce a price for any territory outside Japan. 200 yen is about $2.40 in American dollars, so it'll be somewhere between $2 and $3. Feel free to check out the rest of the screens and press release on Capcom Unity. Also be sure to check out the Japanese trailer, which features more gameplay footage featuring Barrett. You weren't expecting Volnutt, were you?

Your Universe. Unmegafied.

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Despite last week's feature about some games being Uncaptivated at Capcom's event, it turns out I forgot one game. My apologies.

 

Remember Mega Man Universe? Its concept was a mystery upon its announcement last July, with Capcom providing nothing but a logo and video containing an introduction from ex-Capcom producer Keiji Inafune. It was revealed soon afterward as a game whose concept was built around the creativity of the player. Ostensibly, it was the logical evolution of the horribly-underappreciated PSP title Mega Man: Powered Up, minus the incredibly awkward big head art style. The reality of the project, however, was not as rosy.

 

It was the subject of much skepticism from the moment we first saw its gameplay footage. What could have been a nice homage to the 8-bit titles while having a nice customization feature to share with friends over whichever digital service ended up looking incredibly awkward. And that wasn't merely referring to the physics, which looked clumsy, but in the clashing art style -- if you want to call that a "style." It looked as if someone wanted the game to look modern while throwing an 8 or 16-bit bone to players while in-game, and couldn't have been more unappealing.

 

And it apparently didn't play well either. Though you could say nothing that wasn't a Mega Man with 8-bit graphics played well for the entries in the direct series -- and "8-bit" includes Mega Man 9 and 10 as well -- it appears this game looked and felt like a project borne of confusion. The game was playable at both last year's Tokyo Game Show and New York Comic Con in September and October, respectively, and nearly everyone who went hands-on with it said it looked and felt like a sluggish project. It's pretty clear that Capcom heard this criticism, and you had to wonder what they felt of the project after seeing it.

 

The answer? Apparently not much! Capcom officially cancelled MMU due to "various circumstances." But it seems like Capcom observed the criticism directed its way, didn't see much potential in the project afterward, and concluded that it was unsalvageable. It seemed like pulling the plug was the only way. Or is that the reason? It seems like Capcom has been uncertain of the Mega Man franchise for a while now, going as far as to say that they don't feel the character is popular at all in America. (Maybe that's the reason why there's no version of him in Marvel vs. Capcom 3?) You can only imagine what's going to happen to him now that Inafune is gone. You can almost hear the sigh of relief whenever the Mega Man Legends 3 Project Devroom updates, lest Capcom pulls the plug on it. And don't get me started on Inti Creates.

Franchise Reboots Entry #6: Mortal Kombat

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If you played video games in the 90s, chances are you heard of the Mortal Kombat franchise. It's a testament to how popular the franchise was back then, even with people who were probably way too young to be aware of it. It really wasn't possible to go to school and not hear your fellow students discussing how cool it was, and sharing with each other how to pull off moves and Fatalities -- the latter of which was a pretty popular way of communicating tips in lieu of a World Wide Web that was yet to take off. It seemed like an untouchable, impenetrable force in the gaming world.

 

But things are never what they seem to be, and Mortal Kombat would soon fall from grace. The majority of its merchandising didn't hurt it too much (Annihilation exempted), but its biggest impediments were  the games slowly moving away from what people liked about them. Mortal Kombat Trilogy (Which was really Mortal Kombat 3.5.1) was probably the last universally liked MK game before things went a little awry. Mortal Kombat 4 was far too wild of a departure from the franchise's roots, whose core gameplay was nowhere near as rewarding as its predecessors. And though Deadly Alliance and Deception weren't too bad -- and you could make the argument that DA was sort of a semi-reboot -- they still didn't represent what people liked about the franchise. And the less said about Mythologies: Sub-Zero and Special Forces, the better. Shaolin Monks wasn't too bad, though.


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And therein lies why Mortal Kombat received a much-needed reboot by the name of...Mortal Kombat. Despite its name, though, this isn't a case where you should forget everything you knew about the franchise because the developers are scrapping everything. No, it's a case of the developers remembering what people liked most about the franchise. This one goes back to a time where the installments weren't too complicated. Rather, they were easy to learn though hard to master. It also includes many, if not all, of the fan favorite characters kharacters from the franchise. While it's being made to appeal to the core MK audience that never left, its intention is to also bring back the mainstream audience it once had. You could say it's taking the Street Fighter IV approach.

 

The gameplay itself is a combination of the mechanics found in both Mortal Kombat II and 3, with a few small modifications made. The traditional, universal moves are still there for every character, and while there are specific combos for each of them, they're mostly short, Tekken-style three button inputs. There are plenty of other techniques that are very reminiscent of the older titles as well, but it would be better if you discovered those yourself.

 

Also true to its heritage: it's incredibly gruesome. The leaps in technology that have been made since the 90s have ensured that each character's Fatality is as graphically violent as possible. Some of them are bound to be hardcore nightmare fuel, sure, but it's all part of the fan service that only an MK game could offer. Speaking of fan service, this game is packed to the brim with it; so much that it puts any other fighting game using nostalgia as a selling point to shame. That's not just referring to the characters and assorted extras that have to be unlocked in the Krypt, but the backgrounds as well. This game has so many stages to offer that it puts a game like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to shame. GamesRadar's review features some of the most impressive versions that will take you back if you remember the old ones fondly.

 

Also, as if on cue, the merchandising machine has restarted. Buy the limited edition with the fight stick! Make sure you get the movies on Blu-ray with them! Be sure to watch the new live action series too! In the defense of the last one, it's free. And let's not even get into the retailer-exclusive DLC.


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If anything, it sounds like the nostalgia factor is its biggest burden as well. There's plenty of old here, sure, but there isn't much new either, especially in the way of characters. The number of new faces in the retail version is a whooping zero, with only one new character planned as DLC down the line in Scarlet. And she's yet another female ninja! Keep in mind this isn't including the human versions of characters that were previously cybernetic, though that's pretty nifty.

 

Mortal Kombat hits today for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. If you have a lot of nostalgia for the franchise and what I wrote here sounds enticing to you, feel free to give it a shot (unless that pesky Portal 2 gets in the way). It's getting an excellent critical reception, so you probably won't be let down. The verdict about how the online is remains shrouded in mystery at the moment, but we should know in at least a few hours (and in 24 hours at most). Have fun!

 

P.S. I seriously think that Netherrealm and Warner Bros. should have gone all the way and released this yesterday to relive Mortal Monday. Ah, the road not taken.

2 Sonics, 1 Game

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One of the biggest news bits of the day is that Sega has announced a new Sonic the Hedgehog title.

 

Now wait! Before you close your tab in exasperation, this game might (and I can't emphasize might enough) turn out pretty good. Sonic has been in the doldrums for years, the Sonic Rush games exempted. Sonic Colors, however, marked a return to form for Sega's mascot after years and years of the development team missing the point about what made the older games fun. It became bad enough that even some fan projects were turning out to be more enjoyable than the Sega-developed ones. That's pretty bad!

 

This new game is called Sonic Generations, and it's making its way to Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 this fall.  This game is being used to commemorate Sonic the Hedgehog's 20th Anniversary.This is the game that was being teased a few weeks back on Sega's Facebook page. Today however, they've provided a first look at the game, and it looks...good? That is certainly not the most shocking declaration to make after Sonic Colors, but one game isn't enough to erase the memory of the half-dozen (or more) that came before it. Keep in mind people also said Sonic Unleashed look good upon being unveiled; me included (though this blog didn't exist at that time).


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As was previously implied: this game will star two Sonics. The first is a CGified design of the original Sonic from the classic Genesis/Mega Drive games, and there's also the newer design that you know and hate (depending on how old you are). You'll have the option of playing both, so that doesn't mean you'll have to go through as both of them, as apparently you can play through 100% of the game as either. Classic Sonic's levels are in a classic 2D format with the older mechanics -- that means no Homing Attack -- while New Hotness Sonic has levels in the style of Sonic Colors' levels. This should make both experiences fresh. Maybe.

 

As you noticed, there are many uses of the word "maybe" in this post. The Sonic cycle, where gamers will once again fall for the hype of a new Sonic game only for it to end in disappointment, has been far too accurate for many years. In terms of console games, Colors seems to be the only aversion to this, and it will take more than one game to vaporize that. So cross your fingers and hope this new Sonic game will be good! Again. Meanwhile, do take a look at the trailer so it doesn't look like I'm not completely full of hot air.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Demo Impressions

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A demo for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Ignition Entertainment of Japan's first in-house title, hit the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network this past Thursday. The purpose of this was to provide a sample to help sell some copies to Japanese consumers when it releases next week, but that doesn't mean foreigners can't download it for a taste. El Shaddai has been drawing some attention to itself for two reasons: it has a beautiful art style, some that's becoming scarcer as time goes on though this generation. Also, since Ignition has already proven how good they are at localizing games for American customers, now is a chance for their Japanese house to prove they can make a good game.

 

The demo shows encouraging signs of proving they can. It's immediately noticeable that El Shaddai has some beautiful art design. The people behind this were also behind Okami's beautiful, sweeping aesthetics, so we should have expected nothing less from this team. If you were wondering what happened to the art design team when the rest of the development crew behind Okami worked on Bayonetta, here's your answer.

 

Also helping with its look is the HUD, in that there isn't one. You'll know when Enoch takes damage when he loses his clothes, The 3rd Birthday Aya Brea style. Fortunately, it's not as shameless here, as he only goes down to being shirtless when on the brink of death. If you're dying, which looks like an eyelid closing, mash L1, R1, X, and Square to revive yourself on the spot. In order to maintain the challenge level, this gets harder the more times you do it. You'll want to do this not only to avoid starting a battle over, but to avoid the embarrassingly-long loading time. The fact that it has to load for this long from the hard drive is disturbing, so hopefully that's removed from the final game before or after release.

 

The prettiest game in the world would be irrelevant if the game didn't play well, however. Fortunately, El Shaddai is pretty solid, based on the demo. Though the intricacies of its battle system are ostensibly simple due to attacking being mapped to one button, it's actually quite deep. This is partly because of looking and examining which attacks to use at opportune times. You can attack with a regular combo, sure, but leaving a lull between your first button press and your second will enable a different string that begins with Enoch, leaping behind the opponent to catch them off guard. This is a good combo to use against enemies that like to remain in a defensive position for a lengthy amount of time.

 

Also lending the combat a nice amount of depth is the challenge level. I played the demo on Normal, and was surprised by the amount of resistance enemies put up, offensively and defensively. Enoch begins the demo bare handed, but he's capable of pilfering the enemy's weapon by pressing L1 when they glow blue. This is also a negative point, because sometimes they put up a little too much resistance. You'll feel like you've walloped upon an enemy for minutes before you can defeat them; especially if they're holding a weapon you don't want.


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When you think you've become accustomed to what the demo has to offer, it turns the tables on you and becomes a 2D platformer. There are no encounters while in this mode; your main concern here is traversing from platform to platform. What's in the demo isn't too tough, but it's not exactly easy either. To make everything bearable, if you happen to miss a jump, you'll start at the closest checkpoint.

 

El Shaddai intention seems to be trying multiple genres and making them fit within one game, without any particular element feeling jarring. What's present in the demo is a good sign, and hopefully the final game is similar. Feel free to grab the demo if you have a Japanese account, and if you don't look at this video (thank Angela for this). If you have both consoles, you may want to go for the 360 version. Unlike the PS3 version, that demo is in full English for its subtitles, tutorials, and the voice acting. I've yet to see what the translation is like, but knowing Ignition, I'm fearing the worst. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron releases in Japan on April 28th (that's this Thursday!) and in America and Europe sometime this summer.

 

P.S. What in the hell is with the unskippable logo spam at the beginning? It takes one minute and 15 seconds to cycle through all of it, which is probably the worst I've seen for a game. I hope that's not in the final game.

Special Feature: Uncaptivated 2011

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Capcom featured quite a few games at their Captivate 2011 event in Miami this year, as you can see in the five posts preceding this one. But there were also quite a few of them conspicuous in their absence; games a certain few were anticipating news from, only to be let down. Despite the high number featured, you really can't claim that Capcom had something to offer for everyone. And you know something's wrong when the list of games missing is bigger than the one of games present.


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Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2 | Nintendo DS

 

Of all the games left out of Captivate, this one is causing the biggest uproar; And for good reason. The Ace Attorney franchise is far from the biggest one Capcom has right now, but each individual title sells a modestly for a niche property, enough for the company to profit from them. It also has a dedicated (and at times fanatical) fan base, one that would be pretty upset upon hearing that Capcom USA won't be localizing this most recent title.

 

And that's exactly what's happening. In the defense of the fans, however, a good portion of them have responded in a rational manner, explaining to Capcom the repercussions of passing over a major storyline installment. Capcom USA has said that they are not localizing the DS version, but maybe there's a chance that a port can be made for 3DS or something else.

 

And really, moving it to 3DS would be the best idea. Shelf space for DS software is drying up worldwide, and in its place will be software from its successor -- as soon as it gets more software than its rather blasé launch lineup on shelves currently. Moving it to that system will also move the fan base there to prepare them for Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney whenever it drops. Not localizing it right now is a good decision...

 

...if that's what's happening. If not, it's a very stupid idea. Time will tell!


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DmC: Devil May Cry | Playstation 3/Xbox 360

 

Some of us were actually looking forward to hearing about the recent developments concerning the Ninja Theory-developed reboot of Devil May Cry at Captivate. But really, most of us just wanted to see how good or bad it could potentially look after seeing Ninja Theory's pedigree. It sadly didn't make an appearance at the event.

 

But before you think to yourself that Capcom has wised up and cancelled it, both the publisher and Ninja Theory have confirmed that it's still in development. You'll just have to wait a little longer before you can share any eyes-on impressions. They haven't said when that will happen, but E3 2011 would be a good guess.


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Marvel vs. Capcom 3 DLC of any kind

 

While it wouldn't have been one of the biggest attractions, quite a few fans of the game expected to see what characters, alternate outfits, and, most importantly, online features were in store for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. To their chagrin, it didn't make an appearance at all. And now to the surprise of absolutely no one, rumors are beginning to pop up that an enhanced version is being prepared, and that it might be revealed at either E3, San Diego Comic Con, or Tokyo Game Show this year.

 

It's not only unsurprising because Capcom has a reputation for updates, but because MvC3 really does feel like a beta. Upon release, it had numerous, notorious glitches (some of which were game breaking), missing online modes that have become standard for console fighting game releases, and the whoops-we-forgot-to-test-him character known as Sentinel. Some of these have been patched since then, but they really shouldn't have gotten past the QA stage.


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Monster Hunter Portable 3rd | PSP

 

You could logically conclude that Monster Hunter Portable 3rd is the single reason why the PSP is now the #1 system in Japan at the moment. It's the reason why it's been in short supply at most major retailers in that country, and why it's even outselling the 3DS on a weekly basis. The game has taken Japan by storm, but it doesn't look like it'll even cause a few raindrops outside of that territory.

 

There's still a chance that it could appear at E3 for PSP, but it's very minimal at this point. Capcom USA also hasn't published a PSP game since Monster Hunter Freedom Unite in mid-2009, so this game could go the way of something like Last Ranker. But that's not to say we won't see the game at all; perhaps the NGP demonstration of MHP3rd (please pardon the horrible voice over) was a hint that an enhanced version might be due for that system with dual analog support (completely removing the need for "the claw"). We already know that some PSP games could have NGP rereleases, so here's hoping. If it doesn't, Monster Hunter fans can feel free to join Ace Attorney fans in giving Capcom USA the finger.


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Mega Man Legends 3 | Nintendo 3DS

 

You could almost feel the panic from fans of the Mega Man Legends games when Capcom USA's Seth Killian said MML3 was dubbed Mega Man Legends 3 Project because it hadn't been greenlit by Capcom's upper management yet. Both fans and the development team have been desiring a third game in the spinoff franchise for years -- especially since the second game ended on a cliffhanger -- and they definitely don't want this taken away from them again.

 

We've calmed down since then, because we've seen encouraging signs for its future. The game was supposed to make an appearance at the event in video form, but was pulled at the last minute. The picture you see above is from the development team, assuring fans that work on the game has resumed after they were set back because of the Great East Japan Earthquake. It was also announced on the Dev Room blog just yesterday that we'll have more screen shots next week, and that they have a special announcement to make on Thursday, April 21st. Look forward to it!


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Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition | Xbox Live Arcade/Playstation Network

 

Remember this one? It was announced at last year's San Diego Comic Con along with Street Fighter x Tekken, but we've yet to see it. It was expected to make an appearance this year, but missed the show. In fact, we haven't heard much of a peep about it since its announcement last July. It wasn't greenlit then either, but during that panel, producer Yoshinori Ono commented that "now that I have announced it, the company can't stop us." But did they!?

 

No, it's still coming, and Ono has been assuring fans of that via some obscured screen captures on his Twitter account. He posted this picture of Yun artwork in February, and this picture of Ryu less than a week ago. Perhaps it's a hint that new artwork is being done for the win screens. That would be nice, but hopefully they'll leave the original Daigo Ikeno artwork as an option too.


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Resident Evil: Revelations | Nintendo 3DS

 

Here's another game that was surprisingly absent from Captivate. Resident Evil: Revelations is an upcoming mainline game in the Resident Evil franchise by Capcom for 3DS. It stars both Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as playable characters, who are pretty much the main faces of Resident Evil these days, and it takes place before Resident Evil 5. Though every piece of media we've seen shows the characters (though mainly Jill) on a cruise ship, the entire game won't take place there. This game is intended to bring survival horror back to the franchise; a lofty promise considering how far it's veered from that course, but hopefully the developers can capitalize on that.

 

But why was it missing from the event? Who knows, but the reason is presumably that Capcom wanted to give some attention to other Resident Evil games coming releasing; ones that might be releasing sooner. This game is definitely the best looking game presented for the system thus far, so many fans are looking forward to hearing more about it. Heck, we might get more information from a random Famitsu magazine issue soon.


If you want to get a small taste of it earlier than that, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D will come with a demo for Revelations when it releases this summer. And it really is only a small taste, because the demo is reportedly only five minutes long at most.

 

It would be reassuring to hear something about everything here soon, especially the localization chances of Ace Attorney Investigations 2 and Monster Hunter Portable 3rd on other platforms, since those are the titles whose futures are most uncertain. You'll definitely hear about the others. Yes, including DmC.

Do You Like Resident Evil?

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Greetings, dear reader. Did you know that Resident Evil is pretty much Capcom's flagship franchise these days, and is perhaps one of the most venerable video game franchises around? It's true, and you just know that Capcom had at least a couple of them ready to show off at Captivate. This year is Resident Evil's 15th Anniversary, which Capcom wants to celebrate in style with four (perhaps five) releases.  Not all of them were present at Captivate 2011 this year -- in fact, none of them were playable -- but we received plenty of info.

 

The game currently being talked about the most is Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, an online team-based multiplayer action/shooting title being developed by Slant Six, previously responsible for S.O.C.O.M: U.S. Navy Seals Confrontation and some of the PSP S.O.C.O.M. games. Thus far, we know the game incorporates the settings of Resident Evil 2 and 3, and that one of its missions entails pursuing and killing RE2 protagonist Leon Scott Kennedy. The reaction to it thus far has been mixed. It's not quite as venomous as the reaction DmC: Devil May Cry since it's a non-canonical side story, but it's drawing some ire from fans despite that.

 

Part of that has to do with the rocky start Confrontation had upon releasing on PS3 in Fall 2008. It was later patched to fix the online problems and add some features, but it's still regarded as the worst game in the franchise. Its quality is leaving some people skeptical of how this game will turn out. Also, as said above, one of the main selling points is killing Leon, who happens to be one of the most favorite -- if not the most favorite -- protagonists in the franchise. It probably would have been better for them if it was about killing Chris instead. The fact that it's basically S.O.C.O.M. with zombies, as many previews have said, is also leaving fans skeptical. The game itself looks very rough at the moment, so hopefully they'll have time to polish it up soon.

 

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City releases this fall for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.


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To help give gamers who have recently procured a Nintendo 3DS some entertainment -- or, for the cynical among us, give them a shameless cash grab aimed at the gullible launch window crowd with nothing else to play -- Capcom has assembled together Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. This game has all of the Mercenaries levels from both Resident Evil 4 and 5 and includes eight characters, only one of which isn't from the aforementioned two titles in Claire Redfield. Capcom knows that fans really like Leon, as said above, so they've decided not to include him in this game despite featuring levels from a title where he was the protagonist. Ada Wong? Nah, she's not here either. Unsurprisingly, fans aren't taking this well.

 

The Mercenaries mode is usually just a side feature, a supplement to the main game. This game has all of the levels from RE4 and 5, and is being sold in stores for the price of $39.99. This isn't to say that it won't be a worthwhile game; the Mercenaries modes are very addictive, and you might get plenty of play time with a partner with its co-op mode. Besides, this will be the first RE game where you can move and shoot simultaneously. It may be an obvious small snack while you wait for the full course meal in Resident Evil: Revelations, but it will be a good snack.

 

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D releases in Japan on June 9th, and in America and Europe sometime this summer. Retailer listings indicate that it might be late June for the latter two territories.


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Though they weren't at the show, it was announced a few weeks back that Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica X will be receiving HD versions this fall. There's no indication that they will receive retail releases, but they will at least be released digitally. Capcom hasn't given much information on these at all just yet, but one interesting note is that they're being releases on Xbox 360 as Games on Demand titles rather than on Xbox Live Arcade. Could this be a sign of a retail release, or is Microsoft bending the rules for GoD? We'll see!

 

With the flood of these, you know Capcom is aware of how popular this franchise still is, even if only two of these games are really new titles. You can't say Capcom didn't want to keep the fans busy.

Over-the-top, Off the Record

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Asura's Wrath could have very well stolen the show at Captivate 2011, but it's almost a better candidate for a list of games missing from the event this year. If you don't remember it, it was revealed at Capcom's Pre-Tokyo Games Show 2010 press event as a collaboration between the company and Naruto game developer -- as in, the company that develops the good Naruto games -- CyberConnect 2. It was at the show to give us a signal that it's still alive, and it displayed this in merely a trailer form. Notably, this trailer had absolutely zero gameplay footage, which is just wonderful.

 

Not that it was a bad trailer, not at all. In fact, it was over-the-top in a way that would make Akira Toriyama shed a tear of pure glee. Merely calling this "Story Trailer" over-the-top doesn't describe this. It was already pretty clear that someone at CC2 wanted to make the craziest, most hyperactive action-fueled game they could possibly make, and this trailer is to help clarify that to everyone. It's getting plenty of attention, so it seems like they succeeded.

 

Oh, but you want to see some gameplay, don't you? You'll have to wait until E3 2011 for that, where it will also be playable. We'll soon be able to see if it really is the Japanese take on God of War, which is what many are speculating. That's pretty easy to do after last year's trailer. Asura's Wrath is planned for a release on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It has no release date.


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Another one of the "new" games introduced at Captivate this year (along with Dragon's Dogma) was Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. "New" because though it's a game we haven't heard of before, it might be one you're familiar with.

 

Did you ever play or look at Dead Rising 2 and say something along the lines of "Chuck Greene? Really!? Why can't I play as Frank West again?" Thinking your thirst wasn't sated by merely having him as an accomplice in Case West, Capcom decided to give you a full answer to your question: OtR is Dead Rising 2, but with Frank as the main character instead of Chuck. And they're offering this as an entirely separate retail product. Capcom hasn't specified a price, but Amazon says it's going to be $49.99.

 

Now before we get too crazy here, despite it already being announced, developer Blue Castle Studios (soon to be Capcom Vancouver, if they aren't already) co-founder Jason Leigh explained how different it is from the version that released last year. With a different protagonist comes new story sequences, different forms of exploration, and new items to use. It may not be what most fans wanted (a brand new game starring Frank), but it's not too bad of an alternative while we wait for that to happen. Heck, that might be in development right now, and they could be using this to hold people off.

 

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record releases this fall for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.

Bring the Arcade Experience Back Home. Kind of.

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Well hey, it looks like Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition is getting released on home consoles! This is coming to the surprise of no one at this point for multiple reasons. First, the British ratings system, BBFC, leaked that it was going to be released at retail. This sparked a number of admittedly very silly debates about how Capcom was willing to exploit the fighting game fan userbase again by releasing this as a retail product instead of DLC, with only few people considering that it could be released in both forms a la Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition.

 

To completely qualm the fears of fans, a trailer for SSFIVAE was leaked last week confirming it would be released as DLC. Interestingly enough, this was the only news from Captivate 2011 to leak before the embargo broke. You can chalk that up to either most people and press outlets who attended the event being faithful to the NDAs they signed, or that the event itself was so underwhelming that little-to-nothing was actually worth leaking. Your mileage may vary on which of those is true, but many are inclined to agree with the latter.

 

Enter yesterday's announcement, confirming that SSFIVAE was releasing as both DLC and as a retail product. For the former, it's due for release on June 7th for $14.99 or 1200 MS Points, depending on which system you're on. The retail product will release in stores on June 24th and June 28th in Europe and America, respectively.  Capcom didn't give a price, but Amazon.com says the retail product will be $39.99, which seems like a rather pricey option if you already have Super Street Fighter IV. That, of course, depends on whether the retail package includes all of the rip-off alternate outfits. The chance of that isn't very high given how much Capcom loves DLC, but that would be nice.


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There's also a PC version coming, though the date hasn't been finalized yet. Capcom hasn't precisely specified when it's coming, however. Some say July, while others have given a vague "2011" time frame.

 

When you purchase SSFIVAE, you'll be receiving four characters: the previously-introduced Yun and Yang, along with the recently-unlocked Evil Ryu and Oni. You're already aware of Yun and Yang being here. A quick and easy way to describe Evil Ryu is that he's basically Akuma with Ryu's normals. Also like Akuma, his health is pretty low. Interestingly enough, Oni isn't Shin Akuma like a lot of people expected. He's more like an enhanced version of Gouken. He can take a lot of damage too, but he doesn't do as much damage either.

 

With the DLC, you're paying for the new characters and an enhanced Replay Channel that allows for you to share replays easier. The character rebalancing patch is separate from this, and will be free. Look forward to this when it hits I June, especially if you're a bit fan of dive kicks.

King of the Iron Street Fight

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Surprise! Street Fighter x Tekken resurfaces!

 

OK, so it's really not that surprising that Capcom's next heavily-hyped fighter made another appearance at Captivate 2011, its first since Gamescom in August of last year, in fact. What we saw in its initial unveil was the work of three months of development time, so they've had plenty of time to tinker with the game since then. Despite that, you can tell that it's still pretty early, though, because the final build definitely won't have all the characters sounding like Ryu upon taking a blow. Even so, you can tell that it's come quite a ways since its last appearance.

 

What we saw before was mainly Street Fighter IV with Tekken characters, albeit with a few little twists. Now we're seeing...pretty much the same thing. But hey! There are quite a few elements from Tekken here! You like juggles, right? Well there are plenty of them here now! There's also tagging, and if you lose one of your teammates in a fight, the round is over. They're taking a lot of elements from Tekken Tag Tournament, which is a good idea since that's the fan favorite game. It's also precisely why Namco Bandai is making a sequel to that game, which is due out later this year for arcades.

 

Of course, Capcom had some new characters to show. You already knew that Ryu and Chun-Li were in for the Street Fighter side, and Kazuya and Nina were here for Tekken if you've been following it (not to say there was much to follow so far). Now we have Ken, Guile, and Abel for Street Fighter, and King, Marduk, and Bob for Tekken. Not a bad cast so far, but hopefully Capcom won't be lazily pulling all the Street Fighter characters out of SFIV.


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You want to see what this game plays like? Well aren't you lucky that there are plenty of gameplay videos all over the internet. I couldn't possibly link to all of them here, but the flashiest displays of gameplay are featured on Capcom's Youtube channel. They're also on the official Japanese website in 60fps, but good luck getting any of the videos to load in their entirety in a reasonable time.

 

Again, this game still looks pretty early, and man is it evident. Though the color palette is curiously reminiscent some of the old Fatal Fury games, something about it looks off -- though it admittedly can't be seen as well in the screen shots, so maybe that's a clue that it's definitely temporary. Also, though the HUD has a Street Fighter Alpha thing going on, the rainbow-colored bars are really distracting. The Street Fighter team is good at listening to criticism, so they should both be rectified.

 

Capcom is promising that they'll show a more recent build at E3, so look forward to that. It's clearly still more Street Fighter than Tekken, sure, but if you expected the opposite, you might want to wait for Tekken x Street Fighter from Namco Bandai instead. Street Fighter x Tekken releases for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and, interestingly enough, PC sometime in 2012.

What's a "Dragon's Dogma?"

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Surely you, dear reader, have been at the edge of your seat anticipating whatever was at the end of the countdown at Capcom of Japan's "DD" page. It was uploaded a week ago, meaning gamers had plenty of fuel for the speculation machine. Is it a new IP? Could it be a new Breath of Fire!? The situation got a little crazy, but there were some rational (and correct) guesses. Siliconera discovered a trademark for the name "Dragon's Dogma" way back in August of last year (along with Asura's Wrath), so we knew it was coming a while ago.

 

Though a few details leaked before the official unveil, it turns out it is actually really called Dragon's Dogma, and it's a new IP. This game is an open world medieval fantasy action game, starring a character of your creation leading a team of three around. The game's plot, as you could expect, involves your group tracking down an infamous dragon to slay. That's a pretty thin plot, but it will probably be something that opens up more and changes depending on your decisions in the game. It seriously looks like Capcom's take on the western RPG genre, a "Japan can do it too" challenge, if you will.


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There's some talent behind it too. Hiroyuki Kobayashi is acting as the producer, with Hideaki Itsuno as its director. Both of those names were previously involved with the Devil May Cry games, and since this looks like a pretty big project that was undoubtedly taking up plenty of development time, now you know why Capcom isn't developing a DMC game internally. Aesthetically, it looks like a combination of Demon's Souls and Monster Hunter. It looks like some of the armor is lifted out of Monster Hunter as well, so don't be surprised if there are more nods to that.

 

(And speaking of Devil May Cry, the Ninja Theory-developed reboot, DmC: Devil May Cry, was not at the show. You'll just have to hold your bile in until June.)

 

The official trailer provided on the official website is nice (which you can also check out on Youtube if Capcom's Channel is a little slow for you), but the gameplay video looks a little rough. This game isn't due for release for a good while, so they'll have plenty of time to polish it up. They also haven't discussed how in-depth the character customization is, so we'll just have to wait for that too. The only character classes currently known are Warrior, Ranger, and Mage, and here's hoping that's not all because that couldn't possibly be a more boring set of choices.

 

This game, like Capcom's other internally developed titles, will be running on MT Framework. Dragon's Dogma releases for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in Early 2012.

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When you think of the term "visual novel," what's the first scenario you imagine? The utterance of the phrase seems to initially bring about thoughts of it being a novel on a gaming system that you interact with occasionally to guide the story along its intended path. While that's kind of an accurate description of some games in its genre -- one that's been rather prevalent in Japan, though it's mostly left English speakers looking upon them in bewilderment, never getting the chance to dip their hands in the pool -- it's not quite an accurate description of the shining examples in the medium.

 

Enter 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors to explain to us precisely what a good "visual novel" is, and why it's a video game genre. Do you remember having any novels where you chose your own path and flipped through multiple pages to see where your decision took you? That's pretty much what 999 is like, only within the confines of a video game. Actually, wait, that's not quite true; saying that would belittle the impact of this game's purpose of existence within this technological spectrum. 999 is very much a game whose story could have only worked as a video game, and it helps in disproving the theory that games can't tell good stories.

 

The player follows the plot through the eyes of Junpei throughout the game, a 21-year-old third year college student. He wakes up within a mysterious room in an unknown ship after being drugged into unconsciousness by a mysterious figure inside his home. Uncertain of where or why he's there, he knows he has to focus on getting out of the room he's in, which is being flooded. This prologue is mainly a great tutorial for the types of puzzles awaiting later in the game, and how you should go about exploring every nook and cranny of each room you find yourself in. As a testament to how effective it is, quite a few players get stuck in the first room, but have no problem solving some later puzzles.


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And what a cast of characters they are.

 

Upon getting out, Junpei realizes he has plenty of company: eight other passengers, to be exact. One of which happens to be a childhood friend of Junpei named Akane, who is referred to throughout the game as June when everyone gets a codename. All of them are wearing bracelets with different numbers, Junpei's being "5." They conceal their name -- "they" meaning "aside from Junpei," as June blurts his name out so everyone can hear it upon seeing him -- and create a name for themselves that's based on which number they have. This happens to not allow the mysterious figure known as Zero, who has planned the game and brought all of them together. None of them know why they've been brought there, but all of them know they have to find some way of escaping. The main challenge they'll face while proceeding down that path is, well, a time limit of nine hours, and these nine persons have to work together and make their way through nine doors before that time is up. It really is all right in the tile.

 

The puzzles and exploration sequences interspersed throughout the game make its sections feel like a fusion of what you would find in an Ace Attorney and Professor Layton title. Many of the puzzles have some use of math involved, though many of them aren't too hard to figure out. Finding the correct answers to the puzzles will get the characters out of the rooms they're stuck in, and some of them will unravel some of the mysteries about their location. Many character revelations will also happen during this time.


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Some of these are simple, while some aren't. There are clues, though.


But really, the puzzles are only a miniscule part of the game. You'll be spending the vast majority of it reading. It's not classified as a "visual novel" for nothing, as the best parts of the game involve its plot and dialogue; learning about the characters involved in the game, and about the location you're presently in. This isn't a problem at all, as none of it ever feels completely extraneous during the game. You can thank the development team at Chunsoft for making all of it interesting, but due credit should also be given to Aksys Games for their excellent localization job. This is the first time a company took a chance to localize a Chunsoft visual novel, and hopefully it won't be the last.

 

To go back to an earlier point: this isn't just a story that could have only worked as a video game, but it also couldn't have worked on any other system but the DS. And that's not merely referring to the touch screen-reliant  puzzles. Character interactions take place on the top screen, but you'll see descriptions of what's around you and Junpei's thoughts on the touch screen. Going into how well it really works is venturing into spoiler territory, so you'll just have to trust me here.

 

During the game you'll have to make decisions whenever an important question arises. Some of them will just net you minor (and sometimes humorous) dialogue changes, but most of them will affect the outcome. This game has six different endings, all of which are attached to your decisions and which rooms you choose to explore.


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Man, you better figure your way out of there.


Actually, the endings are a common point of contention with some critics and a few gamers. It's admittedly a little tough to see which path is the correct one to take to get the true ending, because picking one wrong room or dialogue choice can instantly throw things off kilter. You'll make it there with a little exploration. This is helped by the ability to fast-forward through dialogue you've already read, which makes everything go much quicker. You'll have to do that, since it's impossible to see the true ending in your first playthrough. The only problem there is that you'll have to do the puzzles over again every time you play. Some of them are a little annoying, but those are fortunately mostly attached to rooms you'll only have to visit once. The game also has a very intelligent way of communicating to the player which path is correct.

 

 The endings aren't just bonus extras or basic "What if?" scenarios. No, every single one is important to the game's plot. You'll learn plenty of interesting details about your characters and location -- especially the former -- in each ending, so skipping some will leave quite a few questions unanswered. You don't want to rob yourself of part of this game's experience.


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Good thing you have some help around this place.


This game has some great character designs, provided by supposedly expatriate Capcom artist Kinu Nishimura. The designs were replicated into animated characters for the game, and they're done very well. Anyone who's played an Ace Attorney game can tell you how big of an effect animated portraits can have on character interactions. For those of you not erudite in the genre or anything remotely related to it, let's just say that it makes all the difference in merely reading words and seeing the characters animate well to what's happening.

 

Do you have a DS? Do you like games with good stories? If so, you need to play 999. It may be on the least technology efficient console currently on the market, but that's in no way an impediment to telling an excellent story. This game apparently sold incredibly well due to word-of-mouth following its release, enough so that Aksys had to do three printings. Hopefully this will lead to more visual novels making the trip over from Japan in the future.

It's official, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is getting an anime adaptation.

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On April 10th a short video related to Persona 4 began to appear on the internet. The video made references to Mayonaka TV, the strange TV world found within P4, and listed the URL to a teaser site. The teaser website was Persona 4 themed and many fans began to dig deeper. Some fans found evidence for a Persona 4 anime via a link from Aniplex in the source code. Others speculated that a PSP version of P4 would be announced. The former turned out to be true and the news was dropped earlier this morning by Aniplex. The studio will be producing the anime, while SMT series designers Kazuma Kaneko and Shigenori Soejima will provide original character designs. Shoji Meguro will compose the music for the series. As of this writing this is no word on when the anime series will be released but further details should be released shortly.

The last time a Persona game was adapted into an anime was in 2008 with the release of Persona -trinity soul-. That anime was a loose adaptation of Persona 3 and it was regarded as mediocre by the fans. Still, NIS America licensed -trinity soul- and released the series in North America in 2010. It's much too early to talk about the possible distribution of the Persona 4 anime in North America, but if we got -trinity soul- I would be surprised if we didn't get P4 as well. Although it will be interesting to see if NIS America ends up eventually licensing this series as well. For the time being fans can only hope this anime adaptation is actually worth watching.

If you want to learn more about the anime checkout the official Japanese website.
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March has quickly come and gone and now April is upon us. The release schedule for last month was may not have been overly robust but there was a decent selection of games nonetheless. The anime selection was small and premium edition releases with swag are always infrequent. In comparison April is shaping up to be a pretty light month for releases all around. If you're primarily a handheld gamer this month's swag selection is fairly small. On the positive side of things your wallet will be thankful for this month's lull.


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Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga is an upcoming Western RPG that has been developed by Larian Studios and published by Atlus USA for the Xbox 360. A digital version of this game was published by Focus Home Interactive and released on PC in November of 2010. This release is actually a collection of two games, namely a remastered version of Divinity II: Ego Draconis and Divinity II: Flames of Vengeance. While the 360 version is only just being released by Atlus this week it does come with some nice spoils. Anyone who pre-orders this RPG will receive a soundtrack CD and a 52-page hardcover art book at no extra charge. The 360 version of Divinity II will be released on April 12th and will cost a reasonable $40 dollars.



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Mortal Kombat is a reboot of the Mortal Kombat series and makes a return to the gory days. The game will take players back to the plot surrounding the original bloody tournament, has new gameplay modes, and fatalities are presented in new graphic detail. The Kollector's Edition is extremely impressive and will please any fan of the series. The game ships with detailed figurines of both Scorpion and Sub-Zero that double as bookends, a 110-page art book, and downloadable goodies. This collector's edition will cost $100 dollars or $40 more than just the game itself. The addition of God of War's Kratos as a playable character might give the PS3 version of this game a slight edge over the 360 version. Either way it's happy fighting for fans on April 19th.


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SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals is one of the latest FPS to be released on the PS3. SOCOM is a long running PlayStation franchise that started with the original 2002 PS2 game. What's notable about this release is not the game itself but the Full Deployment Edition. This edition not only features the game but also includes a PS Move controller, a PS Move navigation controller, the PS Eye, and the PS Move Sharp Shooter. Individually all of these components would cost at least $200 dollars but this SOCOM 4 bundle is being sold for only $150. If you're interested in FPS games and the PS Move this is a quite a deal. SOCOM 4 releases on April 19th.


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This month's FPS fun continues with the release of the Wii-exclusive Conduit 2. While this game isn't going to make huge waves like Crysis 2 or Bulletstorm, the original game was well received by fans. Hopefully Sega's sequel will live up to expectations. The limited edition of this game is actually a GameStop exclusive. Anyone who orders the game directly from this giant retailer will receive a 44-page art book and in-game bonuses at no extra charge. Conduit 2 costs $50 dollars and will be released on April 19th.



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If it wasn't for Geoff's post on Tuesday I would have completely missed the free bonus trading cards included in every launch copy of Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection. The trading cards feature gorgeous depictions of Cecil, Rosa, Kain, Rydia, and Edge. On a fun note, Square Enix's website is the only official place that mentions the inclusion of these cards with every launch copy. Major retailers such as Amazon and GameStop do not mention the cards at all, which is baffling since past launch exclusives from Square have been announced. Anyway, FFIV: The Complete Collection will be released on April 19th for $30 dollars.


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The anime bonuses for this month are pretty bare. We have two versions of Hero Tales and that's it. Character designs from Fullmetal Alchemist's creator, Hiromu Arakawa can't save this series from its mediocre ratings. If you like Chinese adventure stories and are a fan of Arakawa's work Hero Tales could be worth your time. Anyone that orders the part one limited edition will not only receive a special box designed to hold both the entire series, but a set of doubled-sided art cards will also be included. Only four cards are included but they are double sided for a total of eight images. The artwork is lovely and the cards are a nice include. Hero Tales was released on April 5th and has an MSRP of $65 dollars for a set of 13 episodes. Fortunately the going retail price is about $40 dollars at Rightstuf and Amazon.


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If you prefer swag you can wear Rightstuf has you covered with their exclusive Hero Tales bundle. For a reasonable $75 dollars the retailer will include the entire Hero Tales series and a t-shirt. Parts one and two of Hero Tales each retail for about $40 dollars, so the series bundle is a bit of deal compared to buying separately. The t-shirt is included at no extra charge while supplies last at Rightstuf. On an odd note, the entire series was released on April 5th but instead of a complete series box the show was split into two parts. Knowing FUNimation a cheaper complete series box set will be released at a later date, but if you can't wait the entire series is available now.

And We're Back!

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It was a difficult journey but we've managed to make the migration to a new server without coming down with dysentery, exhaustion, or drowning while crossing the final river. There were a few bumps as the site moved, such as 404 errors during the domain propagation process. I feared Movable Type would be the most difficult part of the transfer and I was absolutely correct. Between the MySQL databases being too big to backup with phpMyAdmin and Movable Type being unable to export my blog, I nearly screamed in frustration a few times. I feared I would have to be granted special access to more secure parts of my server in order to use SSH to backup my databases. Unsurprisingly, my previous host never responded to my requests so I had to keep searching for a solution. My salvation came in the form of an awesome third party MySQL tool called MySQLDumper. Not only did it backup Movable Type's huge database but it also restored the database on the new host's server.

I also can't thank HostGator enough. Not only do they have a solid ticket system in place, but they actually respond to requests and problems within a timely manner. Every problem I had with my new host was quickly solved, sometimes within minutes of leaving a request. In short, I don't think I'm going to miss PHPwebhosting at all.

I'm not completely sure if new issues will arise from the move but everything seems to be working. Additionally, you can now post comments using your OpenID, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook accounts. Expect some new articles from everyone very shortly.

On a personal note, thanks to the stress from this hasty migration I'll be taking a short break from blogging after tomorrow's Treasure Hunter post. Amusingly enough, the post would have appeared earlier on Monday but you know what happened.
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The server downtime has become a real issue as of lately. In fact since Monday night's big 14-hour outage the server has gone down at least once a day for a few hours. If you haven't experienced the outages consider yourself lucky. Such outages become a real problem when updating the blog on a limited time schedule. So I've begun the process of moving all of the contents of The Ice Cave. While simple files won't be much of an issue working with Movable Type seems to be a complex affair. The process might go smoothly or I might break something.

So until everything is migrated and Damage Control works properly on Movable Type there won't be any further updates to this blog. Past entries will remain accessible but there won't be any new content for a few days. I apologize for the major inconvenience and I hope everything will soon be business as usual again.

Until next time!

Final Fantasy IV: Completer

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Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection released in Japan about ten days ago to commemorate Final Fantasy IV's 20th Anniversary, and now we're beginning to learn details about it that Square Enix has been bizarrely quiet on. The company was releasing a collection of two older games -- as in, it also includes The After Years in its entirety -- along with a new "Interlude" chapter that branches together the original and TAY. It's not surprising that it's not getting a lot of attention, but you'd think they would at least tell us about all the features to sell it to anyone skeptical about buying FFIV again; for the sixth time for some of you!

 

The Interlude chapter is considerably shorter than the two main games; about 10-15 hours, roughly estimating. You also don't have to play through FFIV first to unlock it; you're free to play them in any order. In it you'll be allowed to make your own parties, ones previously not possible. A few TAY characters will also have early bird cameos. Most fans who have already played the Japanese version have said that it's pretty good, and definitely better than TAY. A pity no one has played the PSP version of TAY to see if they've fixed it up a little, however minimal the chance of that is.

 

People have played the version of FFIV on the collection, so we can see how it compares to the previous five (five) iterations. For a fun tidbit: it appears that every territory will be getting the same UMD, which contains Japanese, English, and French text. The default language depends on what language your PSP is set to. The English version is a fusion of the scripts from Game Boy Advance and DS versions, but mostly based on the former. Note that the game does not have the extra scenes from the DS version, nor does it have the Augment system. However, fans who have played it said that it does have the extras from the GBA version (two extra dungeons, the ability to choose your party at the end of the game, etc.).


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Also, Americans can feel free to drool in sheer envy at Europe getting another limited edition that we're not getting. In addition to the special cover (which folds out!), it includes four double-sided art cards with artwork from FFIV and TAY and a cleaning cloth with FFIV artwork. It's not as impressive as their other LEs, but it gets the job done. Like the American version, it will also include a voucher to unlock Cecil's "Knight of Two Moons" outfit for Dissidia 012 [duodecim]: Final Fantasy. Note that this is the only edition that will be available.

 

But in a shocking twist, Americans don't have to be envious because we're getting the cards as well. We just won't be getting the pretty box, but it's still better than getting shortchanged

 

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection releases for PSP on April 19th and April 22nd in America and Europe, respectively. It's not just a barebones release, so you're not being total sheep by buying this.

 

P.S. Most of this info comes courtesy of Siliconera. And here you thought Square Enix wanted to sell their games to every possible audience.

Extended Host Downtime

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If you're a frequent visitor to the site you probably noticed yesterday's extended period of downtime. Last night around 7 or 8pm the server hosting my site suddenly went down. It wasn't just TheIceCave.org but the entire shared server my host provides. Unfortunately notifying my host of downtime problems requires me to log into the server's control panel and send a message from there. Which is more or less impossible when the server is inaccessible. E-mails sent through the general help page are never answered and the lack of communication is a great source of frustrating during extended outages. To make matters worse there is nothing I can do about the server from my end since the problem lies with my host.

Given the lack of real communication options during downtime and the increasing number of prolonged outages I'm in the process of leaving my current host. First I need to find a reliable new host (I have a few promising leads already) and then transfer my files and domain name. I'm not sure how long the process will take but I'll work hard to ensure the transition is a smooth one.

I apologize for any inconvenience yesterday's downtime might have caused. Articles that were delayed because of the outage will be posted shortly.

Franchise Reboots Entry #5: Turok

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Propaganda Games had their work cut out for them in putting together the revival of the once-vaunted Turok franchise in 2008. The new game was simply known as Turok to signify how it was a complete reboot that left the franchise's previously established plots and characters in the dust, the beginning of an all new canonical story. It was the only way to salvage the franchise.

 

Some of you may remember Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for Nintendo 64, released way back in the winter of 1997. It released early in the system's life, but became one of the best first-person shooters available there because it worked to the system's strengths, specifically with its unorthodox controller. It may have had some problems -- there was way, way too much platforming for an FPS, for instance -- it was well worth playing if you were a fan of the genre; a then-incredibly threadbare genre on consoles, with the bulk of them being middling ports of PC shooters. Turok 2 was pretty good as well, and fixed a lot of problems the previous game had.

 

Unfortunately, it only went downhill from there. Turok 3 (also on N64) began the franchise's steady descent downward, offering nothing that differentiated it from its predecessors. That's something it could get away with at the time; the FPS genre wouldn't rise to prominence on consoles until this generation. But nothing could save a game like Turok: Evolution from a thorough critical and commercial ravaging. It's known as a legend among video game history these days, not because of the game's quality, but for purely dubious reasons -- it was very mediocre game not worth anyone's time. The legendary aspect was main villain, Tobias Bruckner, a racist time travelling cyborg cowboy riding a Tyrannosaurus donning chainguns. You might be thinking that he sounds like a blast to fight due to how ridiculous the concept is. But no, he isn't. One of Evolution's biggest flaws was the brain-dead AI that usually did nothing when you encountered them, and Bruckner was no exception.


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After a horrible blow like that to the franchise -- a blow so fierce that it assisted in (deservedly) killing its developer and publisher -- the only option left was to completely scrap everything and start over from scratch. The new Turok was done by a new team assembled at Propaganda, with the old team being busy with another trio of titles and a revival of another old franchise. This new game put you in the boots of Corporal Joseph Turok, who, as part of the Whiskey Company, had been tasked with detaining escaped war criminal Roland Kane from an unknown destination. The team discovers that the planet is full of dinosaurs, and must escape the planet with Kane alive.

 

It had an interesting concept, and it was an OK FPS game overall. Unfortunately, being merely "OK" won't cut it in this market, one that's figuratively overflowing with shooters. Problems commonly cited for the game were its camera, imprecise aiming, and middling level design. It was a solid game, and featuring the voices of talent like Powers Boothe, Timothy Olyphant, and Ron Perlman was a nice bonus, but it wasn't good enough and didn't sell well enough to save the franchise from the pit it fell into.

 

Unfortunately, Propaganda Games felt the impact of its reception. A sequel was in development, but was cancelled when Propaganda was faced with a bunch of layoffs shortly before the release of the Tron: Evolution video game adaptation. This culminated Disney shuttered the studio in January, and Disney has almost completely pulled out of video game development after failing to achieve a strong foothold in the business. This is probably the end of the Turok franchise, but don't rule out the chances of another developer trying to revive it if Disney is willing to part ways with the IP, however minimal.

Beginning the Trail to the Sky

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Believe it or not, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky did drop into stores this week. Some of them, unfortunately, had a few mishaps with getting their stock in because of a distributor issue, but most of them should have it now. Amazon managed to get my copy to me in time despite some stores, specifically Gamestop, having issues of their own. I just had to show it off.


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Inside the $40 package is the game (duh), The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky - Musical Selections soundtrack CD, a poster which doubles as a map on the other side -- the poster contains the original Japanese box art design -- and a 1.5 inch Bracer Guild replica badge. The box itself is slightly smaller than the Ys Seven and Oath in Felghana boxes XSEED previously released.  It's definitely not as robust as the Ys Seven Premium Edition either, but it is $40 less.

 

"Wait wait, The Legend of...Heroes!? I played some older ones back in the PSP's early days, and they were boring! Isn't this game like those?"

 

NO!!!! Believe me when I say that Trails in the Sky is the start of a completely different franchise and that it is nothing like those games whatsoever. The earlier games, known as "The Gagharv Trilogy" were very poor adaptations of a few of the older LoH titles from the 90s. They were all plodding, fetch quest-ridden messes of products that also had completely incomprehensible "localizations" that were full of typos, sentence structure errors, and sentences that plain didn't make sense.  And people think Ignition Entertainment's work is bad!

 

Just, uh, don't use Trails in the Sky by its abbreviation if you want your writing to be taken seriously.


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Since Trails in the Sky is the beginning of its own trilogy, and games whose story goes into a fourth and now fifth title, the localizations of each title will ride on the first game's sales. So if you like Japanese RPGs and you like your PSP -- because there isn't much else to use the PSP for these days -- then I definitely recommend that you at least try this game out. People currently playing it say it strongly channels the spirit of Grandia, if you needed a game to compare it to.

 

There's no word on when the second game will release, which is probably proof enough that its fate rests on the sales of this game. It took translating and writing 1,500,000 characters over nine months of work for this game, and I can't imagine how long and text-heavy the second game will be considering it spans two UMDs.

Nothing lasts forever and online anime streams are certainly no exception.

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Yesterday Anime News Network announced the full-series streams for six FUNimation shows will soon expire. Fruits Basket, Hetalia: Axis Powers, Ouran High School Host Club, Sacred Blacksmith, Ghost Hunt, Tower of Druaga, and Vandread will all expire at ANN's video portal,Youtube, Hulu, and FUNimation's own video portal on April 8th. Although these series will no longer be viewable in their entirety the first four episodes will still be available for free. Fortunately all is not lost. FUNimation Company Representative Lance Heiskell stated on ANN's forums the licensing rights to the shows aren't lost and the series will eventually return after a few months of hiatus. On an interesting note most of Hetalia and Ouran High School Host Club have already been pulled from FUNimation's video portal but are still available everywhere else.

If any of the shows listed above interest you in the least you have until this upcoming Friday to stream the entire series for free. Otherwise you'll have to settle for first impressions based on a handful of episodes. Alternatively, if you subscribe to Netflix all of these shows are available for viewing via online streaming. (If you live in Canada only a few of these shows are available.) While Netflix isn't free to use the monthly cost of this rental service is much cheaper than actually buying the DVDs. With that said, a multitude of anime series are still online in their entirety. If these six shows are any indication more series will probably be pulled in the future. If a series catches your attention it is definitely wiser to stream it sooner than later.

A History Worthy of a Grand Knight

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gkhartwork_040111.jpgThe biggest news from this week's Famitsu earlier this week was a new RPG for PSP. It's a game called Grand Knights History, and it turned out to be none other than Vanillaware's new project, with Marvelous Entertainment as the publisher. If you've never heard of them, they're the development studio previously responsible for Odin Sphere, GrimGrimoire, and Muramasa: The Demon Blade. In addition to the beautiful 2D art and sweeping aesthetics it was bound to have considering the developer's pedigree, what stands out about this game is that it's different than any of the developer's previous games.

 

GKH, you see, is an RPG. Not in the "action game with RPG elements" sense that Odin Sphere and Muramasa were in (and thank God for that in the case of the former), but a traditional, turn-based Japanese RPG. Its setting is the land of Ristia, and the story follows three kingdoms at war with each other. All three kingdoms have one central character that will apparently be main playable characters: Logress, the ancient kingdom with King Fausel, Union, the kingdom of knights with King Leon, and Avalon, the kingdom of magic with Queen Muse. The other characters you'll be controlling throughout the game are of your own choosing, however.

 

The majority of your party members will be made through its character creation process. There you'll choose a look, gender, voice, and class and more for each knight and support trooper. If you ever need help with this, you'll have a guide name Rishia there for assistance.

 

There will also be multiplayer...in some form. It's not the kind of game that promises to have a set amount of players. No, the developers are promising an infinite amount of players. What that means is anyone's guess at the moment, but we'll find out in the coming months.

 

Another interesting note is the staff involved. GKH is being directed by Vanillaware's Tomohiko Deguchi and produced by Marvelous' Yoshifumi Hashimoto. Hitoshi Sakimoto, who handled the music for the aforementioned Vanillaware titles (among many others), is once again composing the music for this game. Feel free to hit the official website to hear a sample of his work, which is as beautiful as it ever was. The interesting aspect of its currently known staff is that it appears George Kamitani isn't as involved with this game as he was in the previous Vanillaware titles. This means he's definitely working on something else; perhaps it's this.


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The most unfortunate aspect of the announcement is that it's on PSP. Not that that's a bad thing, because I can tell you that all of the writers here enjoy their PSP. It's unfortunate because being on this system significantly lowers its localization chances. That doesn't mean there isn't a chance; a reliable niche audience still purchases games for the system, so cross your fingers that a publisher realizes this and picks it up. And if that happens, hopefully their name doesn't begin and end with "Ignition Entertainment."

 

Grand Knights History is due for release sometime this summer in Japan. Hopefully it leaves there.

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