September 2011 Archives

15 Years for Nintendo 64

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Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the Nintendo 64's launch in America. It wasn't a day every site acknowledged -- they tend to do their anniversary features for the Japanese anniversary, which was in July -- but some did features about what most gamers admired about the system. Pinpointing that isn't easy, as it wasn't the brightest time for Nintendo's collective morale or their relationship with third-party developers. They didn't recover until the Wii came along, though they were still OK in the handheld arena.

 

The disappointment began once gamers realized all the promises Nintendo made well before the system's launch wouldn't come to pass. When they began hyping it as the Ultra 64, they showed the arcade-exclusive cut scenes from Rare's Killer Instinct as a display of how powerful it was. That was a level not even its sequel, Killer Instinct Gold, could achieve; that kind of FMV that wouldn't be seen on the system until Capcom's staggeringly faithful port of Resident Evil 2. It's far from the only egregious example of a company overhyping their system (see the hyperbole surrounding the Playstation 2's "showcase," for instance), but it was a sting that couldn't be assuaged by a good software lineup.


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But you couldn't have told anyone that before the system's launch, me included. Seeing the screenshots for Super Mario 64 in various magazines was enough to get me psyched for it, but I was enthralled upon seeing it in motion for the first time. I first saw it at an import shop while strolling down inner-city parts of Philadelphia. A pity it was only for display, so no random passer-bys could get their hands on it. My first hands-on experience with it, though, is not at all unique for anyone playing video games in America at that time, though. Every local Toys 'R Us store was laden with demo kiosks for the game in September 1996, in preparation for the console's launch. It was a fun time, but it was also a learning experience for many gamers. Not only was coming to grips with wandering around a 3D world a requirement, but mastering the use of an analog stick for navigation.

 

In fact, I probably had a little too much hands-on time in my numerous play sessions at various Toys 'R Us stores, along with other places that had single, unoccupied kiosks. I managed to find the time to snag all seven stars within the first world, and get enough to head into the first painting for Bower's Castle and encounter him. God forbid anyone else wanted to play the game in those stores.

 

Despite the serious dearth of software titles at and shortly after launch, plenty of kids and gamers in general had to have the system after playing Mario 64. In fact, that might have been too many people, considering you had to go through hell to get one during the holiday season. It was the hottest commodity for Christmas that year next to Tickle Me Elmo. My parents managed to get a hold of one due to my father knowing a guy who worked at an Electronics Boutique, and was able to hold one for him. The games weren't hard to find initially, but Mario 64 became tough to come by in the post-Black Friday shopping season.


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I enjoyed games like Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, and Wave Race 64 immensely within the console's first six months, but then began to wonder what was on the horizon in terms of software. I learned the horrible truth upon consulting a release list within an issue of GameFan magazine in early 1997: the N64 had only a few intriguing titles in the near horizon. The only games I saw on the list that piqued my interest were Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Mischief Makers, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (which was known as "Zelda 64" at the time). That was not a good lineup, and I soon realized there were more games I wanted to play on its direct competition (in the west, at least): Sony's Playstation. I realized the N64 was my first choice because I figured it would continue the legacy the SNES established, unaware of the politics occurring behind the scenes.

 

The N64's reign was not a time where Nintendo's star shone at its brightest, but that doesn't mean it didn't have plenty excellent experiences to offer. Nintendo's first-party games alone made the system worth keeping around, though it was relegated to the status of "that other system" amidst its competition's plethora of quality titles. It was proof that even when Nintendo isn't within its finest moments, they still put out some fine titles.

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The prelude to the holiday season continues with the final video game and anime releases for the month of September. If you missed part one of this month's Treasure Hunter it can be found right here.


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Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is the latest RPG to be released by Xseed Games. This charming game is the spiritual successor to the 1999 release of Tail Concerto. Many fans feared the game wouldn't be released outside of Japan. Solatorobo was then announced for a summer release in Europe by Nintendo of Europe. Just as North American fans geared up to import the game Xseed announced it would release this niche title. Hopefully you pre-ordered your copy of the game as it was released on Tuesday. All first run copies of the game will release with a bonus soundtrack CD at no extra charge. Expect to drop $35 dollars on this unique RPG.


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Atelier Totori: The Adventure of Arland is the latest game in the Atelier series. This gorgeous niche RPG was developed and published by Gust in Japan. NIS America is publishing the game in North America. As usual with NISA expect a number of goodies to be included with your purchase. The bundled version of the game costs $60 dollars or ten dollars more than the standard edition of the game. For the extra money you'll receive a special box, a 30-page softcover artbook and the game's soundtrack. If you order the game directly from NISA a double-sided 18 by 24 inch poster will also be included with the game at no extra charge. Unfortunately the game's release date has been pushed back to September 30th due to supply problems on the publisher's end. GameStop's website has been updated with the new release date while Amazon.com still lists the 28th.


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If RPGs aren't your thing and you prefer hunting wild animals Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2012 has you covered. For $60 dollars or $30 more than the standard edition of the game you'll receive the Top Shot Elite and stickers. The prices only refer to the Wii version, if you prefer to game on the 360 or PS3 the Top Shot Elite will cost you $80 while the standard version costs $40. I can't imagine too many self-respecting gamers opting to pay double the price for a plastic rifle but I'm sure someone will buy it. Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2012 was released on September 27th.


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If you're a fan of driving games you probably already had your eye on Driver: San Francisco. This action driving game has one of the weirdest plots I've ever heard of outside of a niche Japanese game. In this Ubisoft developed and published game you take control of John Tanner, a San Francisco cop. At the start of the game he's involved in a crash that leaves him in a coma. While in a coma he's able to roam the city as a "ghost." Using his powers you possess and take control of other drivers in order to take down the city's notorious crime lord, Charles Jericho. If you pre-ordered this game from GameStop this ordinary travel mug was included with your game as a bonus. The game was released on the 27th and the bonus is no longer being offered. If you didn't pre-order this game you're probably not missing much-- unless you were in serious need of a travel mug. If you're interested in Driver: San Francisco the game is reasonably priced at $40 dollars.


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Normally when I seek out video games with included bonuses sports games rarely make the cut. Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 bucks the trend with the inclusion of these penalty cards. I'll freely admit I'm not a fan of soccer but these cards don't seem very interesting. Perhaps if the cards weren't designed with a giant hand holding them they'd be a little more stylish. If you pre-ordered your game from GameStop before September 27th the PES 2012 branded cards were included as a bonus. This latest iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer was released on September 27th and will cost you $60 dollars.


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Last month I made mention of Aniplex of America's planned release of the Rurouni Kenshin movie and OVAs on blu-ray. On September 21st Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection made its way out to various online retailers. Included with the blu-ray is a deluxe booklet from the original Japanese version and an English translation for the booklet. The booklet itself appears to be quite nice and should please collectors. This deluxe release isn't cheap and has a MSRP of $70 dollars. Fortunately Rightstuf is currently selling Reflection for a more reasonable price of $55 dollars. Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal was released on August 24th (there wasn't a Treasure Hunter for that month). The release also saw a collector's booklet along with an English translation. Trust & Betrayal has an MSRP of $82 dollars and Rightstuf is currently selling it for $65. Collecting import blu-ray releases from Japan certainly isn't a cheap hobby.

October brings us closer to the holiday season and looks to be even more crowded than September when it comes to games and swag. Hopefully you've begun saving up for those big holiday releases.

The Fall of HD Collections, Part 3: From PSP to HD

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Did you know there was supposed to be a third installment of these? You probably didn't, but the feature about the PSP Remasters was supposed to be posted a few weeks ago, shortly before TGS approached. There's no real reason why it took so long; I just forgot, so whoops.

 

There's also a game from the previous two features that I forgot to mention, so that will be included as a bonus.


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When the PSP Remaster program was announced by Sony back in May, the only game announced with it was Monster Hunter Portable 3rd HD Version. Sony obviously didn't create this brand for one game, so the question was what other games would be upscaled through this method. Interestingly enough, upon looking at all the other games receiving this treatment (which is curiously small thus far), MHP3 HD is easily the laziest job.

 

And no, it's not solely because it doesn't have trophies (although that's part of it), but it's lacking in a few areas. There are backgrounds and parts of the GUI you can tell were clearly made for the PSP's 480x272, but weren't redone for HD resolutions. Additionally, the instructions for transferring (or "transfarring," if you prefer) PSP saves to the PS3 version weren't clear, which resulted in some players losing their saves. Capcom upscaled it and gave it some control enhancements, and did absolutely nothing else for this version. There's still no word as to whether this will leave Japan, but its prospects aren't looking good.


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And then you have something like the God of War: Origins Collection for PS3 (God of War Collection Volume 2 in Europe) that really put MHP3 HD to shame. Developer Ready at Dawn gave both God of War: Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta the grand treatment in upscaling them to HD. The games run in 60fps and in full 1080p with 3D support, and the story scenes were redone with the God of War 3 engine. Many fans of the series are just glad to be able to play GoS for the first time, considering no one brought it on PSP. It's also pretty inexpensive of a collection at $39.99, and though CoO is pretty short, GoS is as meaty as the console games. And they both have trophies too, since that's important for some of you. This package is available now.


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The final example is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD, which is hitting both PS3 and 360. Despite being sold separately in Japan, it's being bundled with the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection in America and Europe. The rumor going around is that Sony's American and European offices won't approve single releases for PSP Remasters, which would explain the lack of a localization announcement for MHP3 HD. But remember, that's only a rumor.

 

Peace Walker has been given some reworking for its HD iteration as well. The original PSP game ran at less than 30fps, but the HD version will run in a full 60fps to make the game look far more smooth. It will also be far more playable considering you can use the second analog stick to aim rather than the face buttons. Trophies and Achievements have been added to this version, though you won't get them if you transfe...excuse me, transfar your data from PSP to PS3. Unfortunately, the Ashley Wood-drawn comic book animated cut scenes are simply being upscaled. According to Ryan Payton (who used to work for Kojima Productions) on one of the recent 8-4 podcasts, Wood originally drew the scenes in 1080p. But they were only animated for the PSP's much smaller aspect ratio, and Kojima Productions felt it would take far too long to reanimate every scene. They won't look bad, but they won't be on par with what they could be.

 

On the other hand, this version will still include the Monster Hunter missions. You'll get to play Monster Hunter in HD after all, westerners! The collection comes out on November 8th.


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The one I ashamedly forgot in the last two entries was Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, a retooled version of the original Halo for Xbox 360 to commemorate the franchise's 10th Anniversary. It's being developed collaboratively by 343 Industries and Saber Interactive.  In addition to the usual new features like the textures being redone and achievements, this version will allow players to play co-op and multiplayer over Xbox Live. Microsoft is basically giving Halo fans something they wanted for years, and they'll have a chance to experience it on November 15th.

 

It's possible that we'll see more PSP Remasters, but they've coming at a much slower pace than most people thought. Hopefully a few more come around, especially for games that were either never released outside of Japan, or definitely won't be.

The Licensing of Persona 4: The Animation

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p4anewkeyart_092711.jpgBig news today, Persona 4 fans! Despite not even beginning is TV run in Japan yet (it begins on October 6th), Persona 4: The Animation has been licensed for North America by Sentai Filmworks. For anyone who didn't want to watch the fansubs and wanted to wait for its eventual distribution in America (because there was no chance this wasn't coming over), you luckily might get your chance to see it domestically on DVD and Blu-Ray earlier than most of us expected. But for those of you that did, it would be best to support the digital distribution run being maintained by Sentai, which should start soon.

 

But this news also raises some concerns. Many fans of the superb English localization of the game have been hoping to see the entire cast reprise their roles for the anime when it was eventually brought over. The fact that it's been licensed by Sentai may not be encouraging news. Sentai Filmworks is basically ADV films under a new name, and like them, they tend to use talent near their location in Texas. Now, this doesn't mean they can't use LA-based talent like Atlus USA (PCB Productions, to be precise), but it would certainly be quite a bit more expensive for them. It all depends on whether they think it will be worth the expense.

 

But don't lose hope! Their previous incarnation in ADV used LA-based company Bang Zoom! Entertainment for a couple of their dubs; Wild Arms: Twilight Venom and Arc the Lad, to be exact. Coincidentally, both of them just happen to be based on video games. They also went through the bother to get some old voice actors to reprise their characters in Nurse Witch Komugi -- a spin-off of The SoulTaker, which was dubbed by The Ocean Group (now Ocean Productions) in Vancouver. It's possible they may feel that getting the old voice actors back for P4A may be worth the expense. And it would.

 

Hopefully we find out their decision sooner rather than later. The series hits Blu-ray and DVD in America sometime in 2012.


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Meanwhile, you've been keeping up with the dissemination of Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena's media, right? No? Well, you might have missed the TGS trailer released not too long ago, and a new gameplay movie showing some early combos. The sound is off in the Youtube video, but you can also check them out on the official website under the "Movie" section for each character in the "Character" section. There's also plenty of off-screen footage from the TGS demo station floating around, which you can find via a search on Youtube .Also, I believe this is the first time we're seeing Yukiko in gameplay screens. This game is coming out next year, and it's probably a matter of "when" rather than "if" in terms of its localization prospects.

Castlevania: The Anniversary

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The Castlevania franchise celebrates its 25th Anniversary today. The first game in the franchise released in Japan for the Famicom Disc System on September 26th, 1986, a long, long time ago (but in this galaxy). One of the most interesting points to bring up when discussing the franchise's history is the change in pace it received after eleven years of existence.  Its later 2D titles resembled Metroid's in terms of their non-linear design and character building, which helped coin the term "Metroidvania." Speaking of Metroid, it also celebrated a 25th Anniversary this year. Also like Metroid, its anniversary went been sadly unacknowledged by its publisher.

 

Oh sure, it's possible Konami's American offices could announce something later to celebrate its anniversary (it's already too late for Japan), but it's quite unlikely. No, releasing Harmony of Despair on Playstation Network tomorrow doesn't count.

 

Despite being one of the biggest fans of the franchise on this blog, my personal history with Castlevania is actually pretty brief. When I was younger, it was always one of those franchises I wanted to dabble in, but didn't for some odd reason. The first game to really pique my interest was Symphony of the Night, after hearing about how good it was from some friends in high school. Unfortunately, that was well after its fall 1997 release, and the game was well out-of-print despite being part of Sony's Greatest Hits program. The PS2 didn't receive any similar games quickly enough for my tastes, so I made my first official start with Harmony of Dissonance on GBA.


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That was not a good game to start with. It left a pretty bad taste in my mouth, and I ignored the release of Aria of Sorrow because of it (which released a paltry eight months after HoD). The Castlevania team's first 3D outing, Lament of Innocence didn't leave a good impression either. After hearing how good Aria was and dabbling with the rom (despite the admitted immorality in doing such a thing), I managed to find a copy of it at Gamestop despite being well out-of-print -- this was a trend with many of the best Castlevania games. Aria was the game that immediately made me a fan of Castlevania, and it decided to check out all of the other games.

 

The well OOP SotN was finally rereleased on Xbox Live Arcade, PSN (via PSOne Classics), and though a relocalized version on PSP through Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles in 2007 for the game's tenth anniversary. The Metroidvania line of games continued on DS through Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Run, and Order of Ecclesia. They were all perfectly enjoyable games, but after OoE's release most fans had tired of those entries. Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth on WiiWare did OK critically and commercially, but Konami had plans to reboot the entire franchise.


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A lot of gamers tend to forget that Koji "IGA" Igarashi and his team actually had plans to make a sequel to SotN, as evinced by a CG teaser video featuring Alucard presented at Tokyo Game Show 2008. It hasn't been heard from since, so it's highly likely that Konami scrapped it in favor of the MercurySteam-developed canon reboot Lords of Shadow. LoS did OK at retail worldwide, and has received mixed impressions from fans. IGA himself hasn't been heard from since last year's release of Harmony of Despair, so who knows what his position at Konami is these days; or if he's even still here. Some of us would have still liked to have seen his 3D SotN sequel, despite the teams' first two forays into 3D being staggeringly average.

 

In considering what lies ahead for the franchise, you have to ask one of two questions: "What lies in the future of Castlevania?" or "Does Castlevania have a future?" Plenty of fans of LoS are hoping Konami will green light the development of a sequel, but that depends on whether its "OK" sales are enough for that. And as much as I still like the 2D games developed by IGA's team, it doesn't seem likely that we'll see another one anytime soon; or ever. These are indeed dark times for the franchise.

Franchise Reboots Entry #26: Street Fighter IV

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Remember when fighting games were all the rage during the 90s. You either do or don't, but reading stories about it is always interesting. After Street Fighter II became incredibly popular in arcades worldwide, fighting games began to dominate a good portion of the space within them. The face of arcades changed in terms of which audience their owners wanted to attract, because they knew where the money was. The youngest audience still came there since it was a place parents could send them for a while so they could kill time (which is really pretty irresponsible, but that's another story), but the older audience that liked to have fun on a puzzle game or pinball game was slowly being pushed out for a "hipper" one.

 

Fighting games were the majority of what you'd find in arcades for a while, but like all trends, it also died...and took arcades with it. A lot of gamers like to blame this on one problem and one company, but there's no quick and simple explanation for it. Too many fighting games and updates to said games were coming too quick for most gamers to keep up (some of which were big fans of the genre), but they didn't thrive on consoles because it was a lot harder to gather a bunch of friends over than it was to get competition in an arcade. And online play over consoles was very much in its infancy.


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We live in a pretty different world now, one where online play is much easier to implement for console games. It's the reason why some working for Capcom thought it was a good idea to revive the Street Fighter franchise with Street Fighter IV. The brand had disappeared for a little over eight years before IV resurfaced in Japanese arcades in July 2008, a franchise that was still clinging to life because of rereleases of older titles. Not only was the game a hit when it releases on home consoles in February 2009 (in the west, because traditional fighting game software sales never rebounded in Japan), it also helped revitalize both consumer interest in fighting games and tournaments.

 

Capcom went a little further back to the basics with SFIV, a decision made after mulling over precisely why the brand was put to sleep for so long. Street Fighter III is a fantastic game -- in fact, it's better than SFIV in some ways -- but consumers found its "Parrying" system far too intimidating to master. SFIV uses a "Focus Attack" system that doesn't rely on timing as much as its predecessor's main mechanic, but it's also a risk since it involves temporarily sacrificing a character's vitality. If they're hit while said vitality is recovering, they'll lose that and more.

 

There's the concept of Ultra Combos, which are definitely a comeback mechanic and in ways reward playing sloppily, though it takes effort to land it as well.

 

SFIII may have had some of the prettiest, most beautifully animated spritework ever seen in a video game, but it's something no company will ever try again considering how much money Capcom lost on the game. SFIV's graphical style utilizes polygons and achieves a look that's far more realistic than any of its predecessors, but also eschews its complete approach to realism due to how animated its characters are. It nearly achieves a perfect balance between the two, though some of its characters are admittedly a little too muscular.


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It seems SFIV was successful too! Capcom has made two more updates for the game in Super Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. The latter is getting a small update in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition 2012, which will be released as a free balance patch for consoles sometime this winter. They're doing a nice job keeping the community alive amidst plenty of competition -- though some of them were taken aback by AE not being as well balanced as SSFIV.

 

Even if you don't like SFIV because of how lenient its inputs are, or if you think there's too much turtling, you have to appreciate it for bringing the fighting game genre and tournament scene back from the dead (though it wasn't entirely dead). The few employees in Capcom that thought it was a good idea  to revive Street Fighter were right, and the fighting game genre is once again one of the most profitable for the company. But for how long?

Street Fighter x Tekken and Pandora's Power

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Once again, there weren't many fighting game reveals for Soulcalibur V or Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at TGS, since that's not where the main audience is for these is anymore. Not to say that developers don't have a sizable audience in Japan these days, but it's certainly not as big as it was. And Street Fighter x Tekken's presence at TGS was...actually the exception!? How about that. Capcom had four characters to reveal for their newest crossover game, though they were all guessed when those teaser videos (which have admittedly gotten better) were released weeks before TGS.

 

They revealed some new modes too, a couple of which turned plenty of heads. But first, the characters.


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The Street Fighter side gets Rolento and Zangief. Yoshinori Ono has been trying to work Rolento into a Capcom fighter for a good while now, and he finally makes it into this one. He's teamed up with Ibuki here; and before you ask what connection the two of them could possibly have (because it's certainly abstract), it comes from this transformation sprite Ibuki had in Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix. The two of them still have a tenuous connection at best. Zangief looks similar to his Street Fighter IV iteration, though he'll be used differently since SFxT is a very different game. No word on who his official partner is yet, though it could be Rufus. Seth Killian provided a good look at both characters for Gamespot.


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The Tekken side gets Heihachi and Lili. Heichachi looks pretty good in motion. Too good in fact, considering his numerous Geese Howard-esque counters and a super that goes nearly full screen. Also, I'm apparently not the only one who noticed that his Capcom iteration bears a striking resemblance to Mega Man's Dr. Wily, since his moustache and eyebrows are very pronounced here. Lili incorporates many of her techniques from the last few Tekken games, though some of her movements are very similar to Ingrid's (a character from a few other Capcom fighters) -- especially her spinning move. Heihachi is Kuma's partner, naturally, but Lili's has yet to be revealed. It's going to be war if it's not Asuka. Killian also provided a look at these characters.

 

But that wasn't all for the characters. Capcom had some special reveals to help liven up Sony's incredibly-boring TGS conference. Sony and Capcom held a poll on Sony Computer Entertainment of Japan's Playstation Vita community website asking which character gamers would like to see in the game. On the poll was Sony's mascot Toro the cat, Alisa, and Christie, with Toro winning by a massive margin. The end result gave us two new guest characters (joining Infamous' Cole Philips): Toro and Kuro. Toro plays like Ryu, while Kuro plays like Kazuya -- though they also have some unique attacks. They'll be in the Vita and PS3 versions, though there's no word on whether they'll be in the western versions too.

 

The new gameplay feature revealed at TGS was "Pandora," which can be triggered when both characters' vitality gauges are under 25% by pressing down twice and both medium attack buttons. In this mode, one character will have an infinite super combo gauge to use as many EX attacks and Super Arts if they want. It's definitely a comeback mechanic, but there's a steep penalty for using it. Activating it will require sacrificing your partner, which will limit your combo potential a little. It also only lasts for ten seconds, and when it runs out your character will be instantly knocked out.


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Two new modes were revealed as well. The first is Scramble Mode, which lets four players fight simultaneously. It's kind of similar to a Smash Bros. game, but you'll still have partners in this mode; and both of them share the same vitality gauge. The other is the Briefing Room, which is an online training mode. I can't believe it took a developer this long to implement the latter, since fighting game fans have been begging for it for years. Like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, you can turn the "Fight Request" option on to receive challenges online while in training mode.

 

That's a lot of modes! In fact, it might be a bit too much. The next batch of character reveals will come from the New York Comic-Con in mid-October, and Ono's promising to pull back the curtain on yet another feature called the "Gem System" at that event. It's like their trying to stack this game with everything they can. Street Fighter x Tekken releases sometime next year, and hopefully it doesn't overwhelm players with too much.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Iron Brothers

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In the Soulcalibur V post from the other day, I touched upon the fact that fighting game developers know their audience and didn't reveal many characters in Japan. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 suffered a similar fate.

 

In fact, here we have a publisher that really knows where the audience for this game is. It's become pretty clear where Capcom and Marvel intend to reveal the most characters at this point. It's not long until the game's November 15th release date, and both companies revealed the game along with the first four newcomers at the San Diego Comic-Con -- and accidentally revealed every additional character. They proceeded to only reveal two characters at Gamescom, and another two here. They're saving the last four for the New York Comic-Con in mid-October, allowing of the Comic-Con's to receive the most reveals. Fitting!

 

But you probably want to know who was revealed here, so let's get on with that.


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Capcom took the lid off of Iron Fist's move set at TGS, which has drawn many comparisons to Street Fighter's Fei Long. Like him, he has chain attacks executed with repeated motions, though it's not clear precisely how to do them yet. They all give him quite a bit of variety and mix-ups. They can work as knockback attacks, cause a wall bounce, make the opponent crumple (leaving them open for another combo), or as an off-the-ground attack. He could be pretty robust, but the trailer makes it look like all of his combos start with that command, which could be bad. Hopefully that's not the case, and we'll have to wait for more players to get their hands on the game to find out.


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Meanwhile, the Capcom side gets Dante's twin brother Vergil from the Devil May Cry games, specifically 3. Seeing him in motion quelled fears that he would fight a little too much Dante, something anyone who played DMC3 should definitely not think. He could have a big arsenal of moves, meaning that, like Dante, they're looking to incorporate nearly everything he had in his DMC3: Special Edition arsenal. One move that could give him less potential than Dante is that his Level 3 super requires him to be in his "Devil Trigger" form, which means it will require four bars to pull off. He's still voiced by Daniel Southworth, though he sounds a little more subdued this time around.

 

The only problem with him is that his hair doesn't fall down after taking a certain amount of damage. Can't expect too much attention to detail, though.

 

Capcom also put out a CG video for the game. Anyone who expected it to be as dramatic as the ones provided for MvC3 was left extremely disappointed, and I'm trying to figure out why it exists. (Well, aside from seeing X-23 being chased by Nemesis' tentacles.) Apparently they spent all of their CG movie advertisement budget on the Street Fighter x Tekken movies. In their defense, they're spending it on the game that needs more promotion.

 

Just as they did for the first game, Capcom is posting the themes for each character on the official Japanese website. You can hear themes for eight of the twelve new characters revealed for Ultimate. None of them are bad, but I think Hawkeye and Doctor Strange's themes stand above the rest. They also picked the correct Vergil theme to use from DMC3; it's his second battle theme.


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Lastly, this game was announced for Playstation Vita at TGS. Everyone who surmised that Capcom "enhanced" the HUD so it would be easier to see on a smaller screen was correct, though the Vita's five inch screen is bigger than average. It doesn't look quite as good as the console version, and the backgrounds aren't as animated with the game in motion, but it doesn't look like a bad accomplice to the console version. This version will be out at launch in Japan (that's December 17th), and it should be at America's and Europe's too.

 

Keep your eye open around the time of the New York Comic-Con (which occurs from October 13-16th) for the remaining four characters.

 

P.S. Hit the Official Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Youtube account to see the videos.

Tokyo Game No-Show 2011, Part II: The Unannounced

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The fact that this feature is two parts really speaks volumes about how dire this year's Tokyo Game Show was in terms of announcements (because it certainly wasn't in attendance). It actually had the same problem E3 had, albeit on a slightly larger scale. Companies are becoming more comfortable announcing games on their own time, and are waiting for conventions to showcase their announcements. They may feel a bigger company with a bigger announcement might overshadow whatever they had to reveal, so they'll announce their projects at either a small scale event -- like that Kadokawa Games event held early last month -- on an even smaller scale like Famitsu magazine.

 

Some of them also opted out to hold their own events. Level 5, for instance, skipped TGS entirely for their "Level 5 World" event on October 15th and 16th. It's a shame this made TGS pretty dreary.


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Resident Evil 6 (PS3, 360, probably something else)

 

As you can tell, Resident Evil 6 was not revealed or mentioned by Capcom at TGS, meaning that teaser picture above is fake (or is it!?). It began circulating around parts of the internet around the time of the San Diego Comic-Con, but the 09/15/11 date came and went with nothing. Then a teaser video showed up, but Capcom officially said it was fake -- though the machine-translated Japanese subtitles tipped a few people off.

 

This is a shame, because the 15th Anniversary show would have been a perfect time to announce it. It wouldn't have interfered with any currently-announced titles either. Resident Evil: Revelations is going for the handheld audience, while Operation Raccoon City (which was also a no-show) is a different kind of RE game. It's sad, but seeing the drama ensue was somewhat of a fun time, especially when some sites said it was confirmed.


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Bayonetta 2 (Who knows, but probably PS3 and 360)

 

A sequel to Bayonetta was part of a leaked list from a few Japanese blogs, along with a Bayonetta CG movie. Said list turned out to be authentic the most part. Soon after the list was posted, Platinum Games director Hideki Kamiya teased something that would be revealed in magazines in the last week of August; that turned out to be nothing. Platinum Games producer Atsushi Inaba claimed "There is no such announcement!" TGS came and went with nothing about it. We were all trolled.

 

That list was pretty accurate, so the question is: does it still exist? Hopefully the answer is "yes," and that we see it soon.


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Devil May Cry HD Collection (PS3, 360)

 

A Devil May Cry HD Collection has been rumored for a good while now, ever since Capcom started holding a fan art contest for the DMC franchise's 10th Anniversary (which is this year). The winning art will be the alternate cover for an unannounced game. What else could that be for? After this, speculation began that the collection would be announced at the SDCC. When it wasn't, fans figured Gamescom was the place. When it wasn't there either, it just had to be at TGS, especially since all three games were rated by the ESRB a week before the event.  Since you're seeing it listed on this entry, guess what happened?

 

It's probably still coming, and hopefully Capcom has enough sense not to release them only as digital downloads. No one would by Devil May Cry 2 in that case.


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This is a picture of the PS3 version.


Monster Hunter Portable 3rd HD (Vita)

 

Like Bayonetta 2, Monster Hunter Portable 3rd HD for Vita was on that list of titles being announced around TGS, and would be a launch title for Sony's new handheld. Whether it would have any extra features over the PSP and PS3 versions (to make it one of the "G" entries) is anyone's guess, but now the question is whether this even exists. Nintendo seems to have taken the Monster Hunter franchise, but it's possible the Monster Hunter Portable games could still on a Sony system. It  could still be in the works, but Capcom's Vita launch title is a port of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.


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Zone of the Enders for 3DS

 

About a month ago, Hideo Kojima posted a picture of Z.O.E. 3DS on his Twitter account. He claimed not to know what it was, but fans of the franchise called his bluff. Well, the fans who weren't steamed at the fact that one of their favorite franchises was going handheld, despite this not being the first time this happened. It was expected to be revealed at either the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011 or the TGS Zone of the Enders panel. It appeared at neither.

 

Kojima said on the stream that Konami has no new Z.O.E. titles in development at the moment. He may not have been kidding when he said he didn't know what that picture meant.


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Teaser art from the Prinny team's new title.


Nippon Ichi Software Japan's Titles

 

NIS Japan said they had four new titles in the pipeline in an interview with Dengeki Playstation back in early-August. One is a new 3D action/RPG from the Prinny team, the second is a new game from the Disgaea team, the third is from  Cladun/Classic Dungeon-developer System Plasma, and fourth is the Japanese release of a popular western 3DS game. The platform was not announced for the first three titles. NIS said they would unveil the first two in September, which everyone concluded would be around TGS. They had a press conference there, and while NIS America announced four titles around that time (none of which were related to the aforementioned titles), no news came from TGS. So what was that conference about?

 

They promised to announce two of them by the end of September. We're not quite there yet, so keep your eyes peeled for something.

 

It's pretty sad that this had to be two parts, but it's the reality of companies now using gatherings like this to showcase their games and announce them elsewhere. You might want to get used to this in the future.


NIS image courtesy of Game Watch.

Tokyo Game No-Show 2011, Part I: The Missing

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Yes, Part I, because that's how many missing games there were from this year's Tokyo Game Show.

 

There weren't many surprising announcements out of this year's event, to the chagrin of anyone looking forward to it. The biggest shock actually came from an event held by Nintendo before TGS in the form of Monster Hunter 4. If there was a particular new title announcement you were looking forward to hearing, chances are you ended up disappointed -- unless said game was Dead or Alive 5. Many highly anticipated Japanese-developed games didn't show up at all, and many thought Japanese games left out of E3 2011 were being saved for this event. This was unfortunately not the case, so prepare your tissues.


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Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3)

 

No one expected to see Final Fantasy Versus XIII at TGS this year after hearing it was going to miss it, but the fact we've seen so little of it after it was announced way, way back at E3 2006 is disheartening. It was assumed that we would be receiving a steady amount of information after its gameplay unveil in January, but we haven't seen it since then. We also learned that the game had also yet to enter full production earlier this year, which really didn't sound encouraging.

 

But there's some reassuring news in all this: at last weekend's Final Fantasy XIII-2 fan meeting, we learned that the game has indeed entered full production. It's possible that Square Enix isn't showing any gameplay at the moment so it won't sabotage FFXIII-2's hype. If so, that means we'll see more next year.


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The Last Guardian (PS3)

 

The highly anticipated "Secret PS3 Game," The Last Guardian, is certainly in the eye of everyone who enjoyed Ico and Shadow of the Colossus on PS2. Team Ico's games have the ability to invoke an emotional reaction from the player that many other games can't. Many want to see more, but the game hasn't been seen since last year's TGS. After seeing it then, some optimistic gamers thought it would make it out this holiday season (the release date Sony gave). When it skipped this year's E3, we thought it would make its next appearance at this year's TGS. Then news came from director Fumito Ueda that it would definitely not make this fall. Even worse, we found out later that it wouldn't be at TGS this year. Noticing a trend here?

 

There's supposed to be a new trailer included with the release of The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection, so we might get some new info soon. It will probably be online before the collection releases at the end of the week in Japan, and next week in America and Europe.


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Metal Gear Solid: Rising (PS3, 360, PC)

 

We've actually seen very little of Metal Gear Solid: Rising since its announcement at E3 2009. This game takes place before Metal Gear Solid 4, and is going for everyone whose jaw dropped at how cool Raiden looked in that game and said "Oh, I want to play him!" The "game," if you want to call it that, was showcased at numerous events throughout 2010, though it was obviously in tech demo form. It hasn't been seen since.

 

Earlier this year, a particularly zany rumor saying Platinum Games had taken over development surfaced. This sounded really good on the surface, but if it was true, it would mean the the new team formed at Kojima Productions for this game was woefully inefficient at HD game development. This rumor was debunked by producer Atsushi Inaba, but considering we still haven't seen anything more than a tech demo, it's safe to say the speculation about the development team is definitely true. Though Hideo Kojima was present at TGS, he didn't mention this game once. That's probably not a surprise considering how nonchalant he was about the game in multiple interviews following its original announcement.


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Devil's Third (PS3, 360)

 

Devil's Third, the new action game from ex-Tecmo developer Tomonobu Itagaki (of Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden fame), was originally announced back at E3 2010, and hasn't been seen since. The release date was moved back from sometime early next year to early 2013, and a little before E3, we received an absolutely wacky video featuring Itagaki and his crew teasing the game's full reveal. This was supposed to happen at TGS this year, but it didn't show up. What happened?

 

Fortunately, Itagaki commented on it in an interview with Famitsu. He said the game is between 20% and 30% complete, and he's hoping to have a closed beta test for the multiplayer portion in late 2012. He said we'll finally see the game in early 2012, and hopefully that promise is kept this time.


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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PS3, 360, PC)

 

Under the usual circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a game like this being left out of TGS. Its style of gameplay in no way appeals to the average Japanese gamer. But it was expected to make an appearance since it would be one of the last opportunities to demo the game to an audience before its holiday season release. We haven't seen it in a little while, and we don't have a solid release date despite it being late September at the moment. The game also looked very rough at E3 and the San Diego Comic-Con, so perhaps Capcom and Slant Six took the criticism it was receiving to heart. (Though some of them wouldn't mind if this game was put out of its misery.) It wouldn't be a farfetched assumption to guess that it's been pushed back into early next year.

 

That's about it for games you expected to see, but didn't. Hopefully all of these surface sooner rather than later. Come back tomorrow to read about the games you thought would be announced, but weren't!

Viola! Soulcalibur V at TGS

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It was Tokyo Game Show, so everyone expected there to be some nice character reveals for fighting games. A game like Soulcalibur V is Japanese, so of course they were saving the biggest character announcements for a convention on their turf, right? Well, that's what some people would have thought, but there were only two new characters unveiled here; less than any event thus far. What gives?

 

It's because the developers know where the audience for these games currently reside. Aside from a few games in arcades, traditional fighting games are nowhere near as popular on consoles in Japan. No longer do we live in an era where most Street Fighter and Tekken games sell around 500,000 copies across one system. These days, most of those games struggle to hit 200,000 on both consoles. The fighting games that sell now are the more casual audience-aimed ones like the Dissida and Smash Bros. games. You know, the fighters many fans of the genre get their panties in a twist about whenever anyone refers to them as "fighting games." That's why there weren't many reveals for SCV at TGS.


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One of the characters here is a returning one from the previous games, albeit in a slightly different outfit. His appearance is considerably creepier than his previous iterations, especially upon looking at him up close. Astaroth doesn't age all that much, so he was a shoe-in for a sequel that takes place 17 years after the previous game. Namco Bandai didn't show much gameplay for him, but he unsurprisingly looks a lot like he did in the last few games in motion. Though he's faster to accommodate the speed boos SCV has been given.


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The second is a "new" character named Viola, who's an accomplice to Z.W.E.I. and uses a steel claw and an orb as her weapons. She doesn't remember her origins or her life before accompanying hm. Her fighting style is reminiscent of Amakusa Shiro's from the Samurai Shodown franchise, upon observing her movements from the trailer. "New" is in quotes because she bears a striking resemblance to the previous games' Amy Sorel. Her curls, gothic-inspired outfit, and stockings are very similar to hers. However, her hair and eyes are a different color (though she could just dye the former), and she doesn't brandish a rapier. It's very possible that it isn't Amy, but time will tell. If she was, it wouldn't be an out-of-place plot twist for this franchise.

 

We also received a more definitive release date: Q1 2012. That means it could be the first fighting game out of a particularly crowded gate next year. That's actually pretty soon (though it could also mean the last week of March), which means Namco Bandai really needs to start hyping this game big time soon. They should take a page out of Capcom's book and release numerous, extensive videos showcasing the new characters every time they're revealed. Taking the game around to conventions and fighting game tournaments is a fine idea, but they could be doing more. The vague explanation about Astaroth's new iteration is a testament to how they've been lacking in this department. Hopefully they'll increase their marketing efforts soon, because the fighting game arena is much more competitive than it was when Soulcalibur IV released a tad over three years ago.

 

That also means the online play needs to be top notch.

Innocent Sin at a Midnight Launch

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The missing link in the Persona series has finally arrived in North America today. If you were interested in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 Innocent Sin you've probably already bought this PSP port or you will buy it soon. I actually took the opportunity to grab my copy at midnight and snapped the picture above while in line. (I can assure you the people waiting in line weren't interested in buying Persona 2.) Yesterday afternoon I received a call from the local GameStop where I had pre-ordered the game. I was told I could pick up my copy during the midnight launch of Gears of War 3 instead of waiting until later in the day. The store wasn't far from my night job and I could pick it up on the way home. So I decided go to the launch.

When I finally got to the mall it was nearly 11pm. I was surprised to find about 20 others who were already in line. By midnight the line had swelled to nearly 40 people. I was allowed to pay for my game in advance and took my place in line. During the hour wait GameStop associates passed out bottled water and entertained the line with a Gears of War trivia contest. Not knowing much about Gears I passed on the contest and spent the time sleeping and playing Persona 3 Portable. When midnight came the line moved quickly and I soon had my copy of Persona 2. I was amused but not surprised to be the only person to purchase something other than Gears. My time at the launch did reveal one thing I should have known-- Gears of War is much more popular than I realized.


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Sadly I haven't bothered much with my copy of Persona 2 yet. In other words I don't have a first impression at this time. Given my experience with the original Persona I haven't decided if I want to finish Persona 3 Portable first or dive right into Innocent Sin. No one, not even current Atlus USA employees know why Persona 2 wasn't released outside of Japan in 1999. The PSP port of this PS1 game gives fans the opportunity to play an official edition of the game and to complete their collection. The pre-order bonus included with the game is nice but it actually pales in comparison to the collector's edition Ghostlight is releasing for Europe. Nevertheless, as a fan of the series I'm glad my Persona collection is one step closer to being complete. So how about a port of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment for the Vita or the PSP, Atlus?
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The last few months have been quite turbulent for Netflix and its users. Things have been so bad in fact that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced on Sunday the company would be spinning off its DVD rental service. The new service will be re-branded as Qwikster although it will still be owned by Netflix. The current the Netflix Chief Service and Operations Officer, Andy Rendich will head Qwikster as the new CEO. In addition to DVD and Blu-ray rentals the new company will also offer a much requested feature, console games. At the moment only Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii games are being offered unlike GameFly which also offers PS2, DS, PSP, Xbox, GameCube and Gameboy Advance games. Blu-ray and video game rentals will still carry an upgrade fee of a few dollars per month. The video streaming service will retain the Netflix name. Unfortunately, customers who wish to keep both DVD rentals and video streaming will have to deal with two separate websites and two separate bills even if the price stays the same. The lack of integration between both services is being downplayed by Hastings as a minor inconvenience but many customers are once again furious.

In July the movie rental giant announced it would raise prices by splitting up its DVD and video streaming services into two separate plans in September. Before the changes users were able to rental a single DVD a month and stream unlimited video for $9.99 per month. Users who only wanted to stream video paid $7.99 a month. Then the company announced the single DVD plan and streaming video would no longer be intertwined and effectively cost $7.99 each. Users who want keep both plans would see their prices raised to $15.98 per month. Instead of coming clean with customers about the rising prices of content acquisition the company instead spun the price hike as greater choice for consumers. Users quickly saw through the charade and called Netflix out. By the end of July the company's stock had fallen by 8-percent and financial analysts forecast as many as two million subscribers would cancel their service.

Another blow for Netflix came earlier this month from Starz Entertainment. The movie content provider announced it would not be renewing its 2012 contract with Netflix despite being offered $300 million dollars for the deal. The dispute arose when Starz demanded Netflix charge consumers an additional fee to stream its movie content in a set-up similar to cable TV. The movie rental giant refused to change its pricing structure and opted to keep the one price model that made it popular to begin with. At the moment it's unclear if Starz or Netflix will ultimately suffer for the split in the long-term but Netflix's short-term outlook isn't good.

Reed Hastings and Andy Rendich have already begun doing damage control about the sudden changes. They'll need to do more to assuage customer anger.

Between the price hikes, the lack of transparency around the new pricing structure and the loss of Starz content Netflix has taken a beating. The stock has performed poorly as of lately and the company has had to revise its expected growth. Instead growing to 25 million subscribers the company will instead lose subscribers. Given all that is happening with Netflix it's unclear if creating Qwikster will boost profits or if the decline will continue. One thing is clear, Reed Hastings and Andy Rendich will have a lot more damage control to do in the very near future. If you currently subscribe to Netflix you've already seen your rates increase if you've kept your DVD a month and unlimited streaming plan. While a date hasn't been given as of this writing expect Qwikster to launch within the next few weeks.

Franchise Reboots Entry #25: Giana Sisters DS

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Of all the video game franchises around, who would have thought The Great Giana Sisters would be considered for a reboot? Giana Sisters DS is the sequel to a game that was a blatant rip-off of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros., down to using a similar color palette, similar 8-bit sprites, and similar enemies. This game, developed by Time Warp Productions, had a little too many similarities for Nintendo to handle, and used their legal arm to force Rainbow Arts to pull the game off shelves. It was pulled immediately after its release, meaning very few copies are printed. This made the game a treasured commodity among collectors, and it goes for very high prices on the second hand market.

 

Watching a video of the Commodore 64 version of the original game will show you why Nintendo was 100% against having this game remain on store shelves too long. It plagiarized quite a bit from their flagship game. The layout of the opening level shown there is a little too close to World 1-1 of SMB ("close" meaning there are some differences), and the second stage close to World 1-2. This is a sad story, really, because TGGS is actually pretty solid, and was the best of the rip-offs released in the late 80s. A pity the developer took the "rip-off" part too literally.


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Fortunately for some of us, developer Spellbound Interactive realized the original game had some good ideas that could be easily exploited, and decided to revive the IP for the current generation on DS. Giana Sisters DS' gameplay style is similar to the original game, with the Giana Sisters keeping the same powers. The mechanics, however, have been updated to make them more approachable, and the levels have been completely redesigned. If you have a keen eye and observe this video showing the game in action, a few of the levels actually have similarities to the levels the previous game had (with SMB also had!); but enough was changed here to not raise the eyebrow of Nintendo's current legal team. The music has also been remixed exquisitely.

 

Also like its predecessor, it's a pretty solid game, and regarded as one of the best platformers on the system. Unfortunately, the DS version never released outside of Europe and Australia, meaning any Americans who wanted to play it was forced to import. The game was rated by the ESRB earlier this year, with Destineer listed as the publisher. This was discovered in mid-January, and as of this writing the game has yet to surface. With the DS' software space drying up on retail shelves these days, it doesn't seem like it's going to release here. Cross your fingers and hope it shows up as a download via DSiWare sometime soon.


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Well, on DS, at least. There is a version available for iPhone and iPod Touch, albeit under the name Giana Sisters. This version is similar to the DS game, though to the chagrin of people who liked the classic SNES-style sprites in the DS game, the graphics have been smoothed over with a filter. You'll also have to bear with a digital buttons for the controls, which are very sensitive and rarely work as good as their physical counterparts. But it's bearable for a mere $5.

 

Giana Sisters DS was a successful reboot in the sense that it's a quality platformer, but it unfortunately didn't sell all that well. No publishers aside from Destineer for a short time thought it would sell, which is why the DS version never found its way to our shores. It's a shame, and the franchise is probably going to lay dormant for a good while; especially since the co-creator, who worked on this game, passed at the end of 2009.

Breathing "Vita" into Vita: Three Games to Watch

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New system launches usually never give consumers the greatest of software choices, unless the console or handheld is backwards compatible and the potential purchaser never owned the previous system. Though its launch and launch window lineup is more promising than the 3DS', the Playstation Vita is going to have the same problem when it launches in Japan on December 17th and in America and Europe early next year. Way too many titles on the lineup are ports of games already on another system. This happens because some developers and publishers aren't certain as to how many consumers will migrate to a new system, especially with our current worldwide economic turmoil; you could refer to these as "tests."

 

Also, the fact that the franchise that saved the PSP has defected to 3DS doesn't help matters. Sony's mind-numbingly boring press conference mad things even worse.

 

But here are three titles you should keep your eye on. None of them are launch titles for Japan, though one of them might make the North American launch.


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I've been meaning to post about Gravity Rush for a good while (better known as Gravity Daze, which is now its Japan only name. It was also known as simply "Gravity" for a short time), after seeing it in action around E3. It's being developed by Team Siren within Sony Computer Entertainment of Japan. It's precisely the kind of game the Vita needs at the moment, as it approaches concepts and utilizes ideas that could only be done on Vita. You don't have to use the touch controls and the systems gyroscope abilities for the game, but it uses them in a way that doesn't make them seem gimmicky. The E3 version looked beautiful in motion, and shined because of its distinct art style and European-inspired aesthetics. However, its sense of immersion was hindered because its combat was too slow and the game itself was plagued with various performance issues.

 

Fortunately, this is no longer a problem, as they've been fixed for the TGS version. Really, everything is faster than the E3 demo. Gamespot posted an over-seven minute developer walkthrough that goes through the tutorial, its comic book cut scenes, and the first boss. It looks great, and it's evident Team Siren has taken a lot of time to clean it up. Unfortunately, it seems said time has prevented the game from being a launch title, despite it being promised as one previously. It's still launch window though, and if the rumors of a February 2012 release date for Japan are to be believed, it could make the western launches. The fear looming over it at the moment is that it will be one of those great titles no one bought, so keep an eye on it.


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For a little while, Falcom claimed to have an action/RPG in development for the Vita's launch window. Some (like me) guessed it was a port of Zwei 2, since the first one was ported to PSP and new handheld launch windows are flooded with ports. But no, it's actually a "new" game: Ys Celceta: Sea of Trees. Sure, it's not "new" in the sense that it's a remake of Ys IV, but it actually is new. By now, the question you're asking is either "What the hell are you talking about?" or, if you're a fan of the franchise, "Which Ys IV?"

 

There are actually two Ys IV titles, neither of which were developed by Falcom themselves. Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys was developed by Hudson for the TurboDuo (aka PC Engine), while Ys IV: Mask of the Sun was developed by Advance Communication and published by Tonkin House for Super Famicom -- and was later remade for PS2 by Arc System Works, and published by Taito. The latter is the canon installment, though the former is regarded as the better game. The new remake for Vita, Sea of Trees, is the first time Falcom will have the opportunity to remake the game themselves. Fans have been asking Falcom to make a new version of Ys IV that they could call their own for nearly two decades, and now we'll finally see it. By that logic, it might as well be a new game.

 

Sea of Trees adopts the three party system from Ys Seven, allowing you to switch characters on the fly in and out of battle. There aren't many details about it at the moment, but as you can see from the screen above, it's certainly not a looker. It looks like it started on PSP, but was moved to Vita. Fortunately, it looks better in motion.

 

Unfortunately, Sea of Trees isn't going to make the launch window, with it being due sometime in 2012 in Japan. For those of you worried about a localization, Falcom plans to meet with XSEED's president later this month to discuss something. It might be mentioned there!


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Fans were scratching their heads when Namco Bandai announced a remake of DS game Tales of Innocence, in the form of Tales of Innocence: R for Vita -- the "R" standing for "Reimagining." The DS game was referred to as better than Tales of the Tempest, but far from one of the best games in the franchise. The third game for DS, Tales of Hearts, was referred to as great, but Namco Bandai decided on this one for a remake.

 

Perhaps Namco Bandai feels there's a good game lying within ToI, and wants either them or its original developer Alfa System to exploit that (it's not clear who's developing it at this point). It seems everything is being completely redone, from the scenario, to portions of the battle system, to some of the characters. Hopefully they can make it a worthwhile product this time around, and its developments are worth watching because of that.  ToI: R hits Japan sometime in 2012. And you never know, it might even get localized.

 

These are only three titles I picked out that are, sadly, destined to not get much attention. There are plenty more that qualify for this, so don't be surprised if I left out something here. Hopefully the Vita's lineup will have plenty of original titles to make its software output unique, otherwise it's kind of screwed.

Metal Gear Solid: (Un)Letterboxed

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Konami and Kojima Productions released a bunch of Metal Gear Solid HD Collection screen shots during this year's Tokyo Game Show. The purpose of some of these is to show off how good both Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 look in HD (spoiler: they look great), but some of them had a different itinerary. Remember when I called out all the people who thought the cut scenes were a little too widescreen, and would rather have the picture zoomed in? You'll be seeing more in the cut scenes for the HD collection, but some people don't want to.

 

And for the people that don't, apparently Konami was looking out for you,: they've added an option to non-letterbox the cut scenes. They also provided a bunch of screen shots to display this. Many of the screens they gave to the press had some massive spoilers, and though these games have reached a point where most fans know what's going to happen, some would like to play these games for the first time. Keep in mind that I'm using the least spoiler-filled ones provided here. Feel free to keep reading!

 

Honestly, what's going to make this comparison tough is that many of the scenes that show how much you're losing in the view contain massive spoilers. Some of them are from the endings of both games.


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Olga's hairy underarms were the butt of many jokes back when people originally played MGS2 back in 2001. If you couldn't see them clearly before, you can definitely see them now in HD. And fortunately (or unfortunately?), every player will see it, because it's not cropped out in the zoomed in view. You are going to miss part of the scenery of Manhattan, though.


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To show off MGS3, he's a shot of The Boss about to wave before departing some specific place. Notice that you'll see less of the militaristic planes, but you're really not losing too much in the view. The results here aren't as bad as converting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio movie to a Pan & Scan view for a standard definition movie, but it does make the view feel a little more claustrophobic. I'd highly recommend leaving the letterbox option on, but it's nice that Konami and Kojima Productions are giving people the option for those who don't want it.

 

While you're here, you can drool over the Japan-only LE's for the HD Collection and Peace Walker HD -- keep in mind they're both being released separately in Japan, though they'll be bundled for the western releases. The HD Collection LE includes a copy of the game featuring new artwork from series character designer Yoji Shinkawa, "The Art of Metal Gear Solid: The Original Trilogy" artbook, a soundtrack CD. The PWHD LE includes a Play Arts Naked Snake figure and a vocal tracks CD. Both of them will retail for ¥9,980. Since the US dollar is still in the crapper, those will cost you around $129 each. Head here to check out pictures of everything.

 

Europe is also getting a limited edition steelbook packaging, though it's exclusive to Zavvi and only 4,000 are being made. It's too late to preorder there, so you'll have to pay a super-inflated price on a bidding site when it releases, if you still want it.

 

If you're willing to import, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Peace Walker HD both hit Japan on November 23rd. No official release date has been announced for America and Europe, though multiple retailers have November 8th listed for the former, and Zavvi has November 25th for the latter. It should be made official soon.

Dead or Alive? Alive, Actually

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doa5poster_091511.jpgNo one expected much when Team Ninja said they had a surprise announcement to make at Tokyo Game Show this year. It was expected that their event was to show off a resurfaced version of Ni-oh, a forgotten title originally intend for release within the Playstation 3's first year on the market -- originally in development from a team within Koei. Imagine the surprise when a few optimistic fans turned out to be right: Team Ninja's reveal was for Dead or Alive 5. It turns out its existence didn't depend on Dead or Alive Dimensions' sales after all; and thank goodness for that, because we wouldn't have been getting this if it were.

 

DoA5 is the first new fighter in the franchise since Dead or Alive 4, which released shortly after the 360 launched worldwide back in 2005. Just let that sink into your head: it's been nearly six years since DoA4, and might be seven between installments when this game releases in 2012. There aren't many details about it yet since it was clear Team Ninja merely wanted to use the stage to announce the game, but before they left, they provided some footage from the pre-Alpha build. They also had a poster containing a slightly suggestive picture of Kasumi, which you can see to the right.

 

Some noticeable changes have been made to the gameplay system that can be seen in the movie, which features Ninja Gaiden's Ryu Hayabusa and Hayate. The Dead or Alive franchise is well known for its rather bouncy female characters, so having the first gameplay movie feature two guys was a curious decision.  Hopefully you didn't mind the hit effects too much in DoAD, because they're back here. Fortunately, they're not too obstrusive, and they make the impact of hits look more painful and flashy. The background, a roof atop a city landscape, is very well animated -- better than any backdrop in any fighting game around. Also noticeable: the character models no longer look like creepy dolls.

 

We also may have gotten a glimpse at a new mechanic from Hayate during the dramatic slowdown. But that may have been done solely for this video.

 

With this coming out in 2012, it looks like we have another "Year of the Fighter" coming up. DoA5 will be competing with games SoulCalibur V, Street Fighter x Tekken, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, and Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena. The new team at Team Ninja has their work cut out for them, and hopefully they can deliver. I wouldn't expect this game to release until the latter half of 2012, and if my estimation is right, that would make its main competition TTT2.

Sony's Tokyo Game Show 2011 Conference: The Cure for Insomnia

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Prior to beginning this summation of Sony Computer Entertainment of Japan's Tokyo Game Show 2011 Press Conference (that's a mouthful), I contemplated typing the title and leaving this entire space empty. The point of that? To hammer home the fact that it was a completely boring waste of one hour and 40 minutes, rife with nothing but talking heads yammering on about features for Playstation Vita that we've either seen done on plenty of other devices you likely already own (You can play music! And movies! It has a touch screen!), or features we've known about for ages. Did anyone need to see someone haphazardly connect to a 3G service live during a conference? Of course they didn't.

 

For a presser at an event called "Tokyo Game Show," there were next to no games shown -- less than 30 seconds of gameplay footage in the entire conference, in fact. Someone made the point that Apple doesn't even go this long at their iPhone press events without showing video game footage, which is 100% true. The only surprises the event gave us were news of an HD version of Final Fantasy X, and SCEJ mascots Toro and Koro will be in the Vita and PS3 versions of Street Fighter x Tekken. Everything else consisted of news you already heard, though some of it was still pretty recent -- and they really didn't show any of that either. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was confirmed for Vita on stage by the Street Fighter franchise's Yoshinori Ono (who has nothing to do with MvC3, by the way), but it wasn't shown. Tales of Innocence: R, a reimagining of the DS RPG, was also announced, but wasn't shown either.


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Square Enix has two games coming to Sony handhelds. One is Lord of Apocalypse, a sequel to Lord of Arcana for PSP and Vita. I assume someone asked for this, because LoA didn't have the best reputation and had lackluster sales. The second is Army Corps of Hell, which is a launch title for Vita in Japan. That one looks like a darker version of Pikmin, meaning it's giving off serious Overlord vibes. Of course, they didn't show any of these.

 

Hideo Kojima was also there, and showed a short anime cut scene teaser for the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. He also confirmed that the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and the aforementioned ZoE Collection would hit Vita as well, though that was inferred back at E3. He also said he's working on a new, original game for PS3 and Vita, but he wouldn't talk about it.

 

There has been no change in the Vita's price, despite shareholders' insistence to lower it so it could compete with the 3DS easier -- which really had little to no chance of happening considering they're already taking a loss on the hardware. The system hits Japan on December 17th, with 26 games launching along with it. The launch lineup looks much better than the 3DS', but there's really nothing there that will help sell the system. The biggest title in the launch window (and shortly after it) looks to be Persona 4: The Golden. Tales of Innocence: R could be considered one depending on its release date. Aside from that, there's nothing that will be the Vita's killer app, in a manner of speaking. Additionally, the system is launching right in the middle of a glut of big 3DS software releases, whose hardware costs around $100 less. It's way too early to declare it a failure like some skeptics already have, but Vita is really going to really struggle to gain a foothold well into 2012.


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They also provided battery life information and prices for their proprietary peripherals. Said peripherals, unfortunately, involve the memory cards. The system has no internal memory, so you'll have to buy one for certain games. According to that AndriaSang article and multiple others, some games will need a memory card to save. It's always the hidden costs that come with a console that bite you in the end.

 

Sony needed something at this conference that would take people's minds off of losing Monster Hunter to Nintendo at Tuesday's conference, and they came nowhere near achieving that goal. In fact, by throwing one of the most boring video game press conferences ever, they might have unsold some potential consumers on a Vita. Sony really needs to find something that could potentially greatly expand the impending Vita userbase, and that software isn't among what's currently been unveiled. Hopefully the latter half of 2012 will be better for them. And let's not even get into the inevitable uphill climb it will have in western territories.


Sony press conference picture courtesy of Game Watch.

Nintendo 3DS/Monster Hunter Conference 2011

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Have you been monitoring the performance of the Nintendo 3DS worldwide? If so, you don't need me to tell you it's been slightly underperforming at retail. Nintendo dropped the system's price on a massive scale, but that's not going to be enough to get consumers to purchase one. What drives the sales of hardware is the software they can play exclusively on it, and the goal of the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011 was to provide consumers plenty of reasons to invest in a 3DS in the future,  and give existing owners reasons to hold on to it.

 

And they did! For the Japanese audience, at least. There's a reason why the western press wasn't invited to the conference. Nintendo's big surprises were definitely aimed at their eastern audience.

 

I'm going to ignore the slightly-out-of-place Wii material that showed up at the conference and talk about the 3DS stuff.


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Nintendo showed plenty of already-announced first-party titles like Paper Mario, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 (which welcomes Metal Mario), Luigi's Mansion 2, and Kid Icarus: Uprising (which is now Q1 2012). They also had some new first-party games to show, like a new Fire Emblem game -- which would have been a cause for celebration, but has actually left fans in a grief-stricken panic since the last game wasn't localized. A new Mario Tennis game was also announced, which is confirmed to be in development from Camelot. Nintendo also had Tomodachi Collection 2, Girls Mode, a new Style Savvy game, a new Culdcept game (which they're publishing, yes), and Spirit Photo (a Fatal Frame spinoff). We'll be lucky if those last two games are localized for any territory.

 

Three of those aforementioned games are being used to lure in the female audience. To further assist with that will be the new Misty Pink 3DS, which hits Japan on October 20th.


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There were plenty of third-party games there as well. Most of them were already announced, but the newly announced titles included the very intriguing (and awkwardly named) Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. This is a new traditional RPG from Square Enix that bears a strong resemblance to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light on DS. In fact, rumors are saying it might have been a sequel to that during development. It looks like it's from the same team too, including character designer Akihiko Yoshida. Also announced were Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai, SD Gundam G Generation 3D, and Dynasty Warriors Vs. Maybe one of those will get localized!


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By far the biggest showcase was for Monster Hunter Tri G, an enhanced version of Monster Hunter Tri being ported from Wii to 3DS. In addition to being portable and allowing for local wireless play, this version will have new locations, new monsters to fight, new weapons, and different control methods. It will also use the newly-announced Nintendo 3DS Slide Pad, which was peculiar in its absence from the conference. The game releases in Japan on December 10th. They have to release it on a Saturday because they know it will be big.

 


It was said before that Nintendo had a big announcement to make at this conference. Everyone thought it was blown in Famitsu with Monster Hunter Tri G. But no, the big announcement was for Monster Hunter 4, which is in development for 3DS. It appears that Capcom is really enhancing the formula for the MH franchise, as the trailer showed the character climbing, jumping, and riding a Rathian. It's incredibly similar to what was shown in a few Dragon's Dogma trailers and gameplay videos, and it's starting to look like the ideas in that game were training wheels for a new Monster Hunter title. How about that?

 

Let's not kid ourselves: the new MH game was the reason for this conference happening. And it was the reason why the western press wasn't invited, because most westerners couldn't care less about a Monster Hunter game. Nintendo showed that the 3DS is going to have a blockbuster season this fall, which was precisely what they needed to do. Sony's going to have an uphill climb with the Vita in Japan now, unless it's also getting a new MH game. And for that system's sake, I hope it's coming out in November (it's rumored to be launching on November 12th), because the 3DS software lineup for December is pure insanity.

 

Feel free to check out all of the game at the conference right here, complete with trailers.

Cover Art Chronicles: The Damned Shadows

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EA Japan and Sega got a little gutsy with Shadows of the Damned's Japanese box art. "Gutsy" meaning this post contains Not Safe For Work images. You know, unless you work for Playboy or something.


Shadows of the Damned released in North America and Europe this past June with minimal fanfare and even more minimal sales. The EA Partners program sounded like a fine gesture on the surface, especially when they wanted to help out an ambitious-yet-small developer like Suda51 and development studio Grasshopper Manufacture -- said ambition is solely referring to their gameplay ideas, as their implementation is another matter (see Killer7 for example). Having a bigger company like EA funding and promoting a game for smaller developers incapable of doing so themselves is always a good thing, but that's when it happens. And it sure as hell didn't happen with this game. Alice: Madness Returns suffered a nearly similar fate, though it ended up selling OK because of the brand name.


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Of course, there's a small fallacy in that lede: Suda51 didn't have much to do with SotD, despite the American and Australian box arts listing the game as "a Suda51 trip" -- which is interestingly absent from the European packaging, despite the art being the same. Massimo Guarini directed the game, and promptly left Grasshopper. That's probably not a surprise when you consider his nomadic nature, as evinced by his resume.

 

But hope isn't completely lost for its exposure, at least in one country. It's getting another chance on retail shelves when it releases in Japan on September 22nd. EA Japan, in cooperation with Sega of Japan, have been giving it some...interesting advertisements. But I won't beat around the bush here: you came here to see some box art, right? I posted the American version of the 360 cover because the PS3 version's art is zoomed in. Now you can see the very different Japanese cover, and again, you probably don't want to see it at work unless the company you're employed at is really cool.


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Yeah, you know this cover wouldn't have flown in the west, especially in America. It features the backside of protagonist Garcia Hotspur's girlfriend, Paula, posing in the same lingerie she posed in for this fake Playbox Magazine (giant picture). That will come with the game in Japan as a download via a code, and includes interviews with Suda51, creative producer Shinji Mikami, and composer Akira Yamaoka. Juvenile? Well, yeah. Expect nothing less from a game with a sidekick named Johnson or a chapter named "Big Boner." It's not a game that takes itself seriously. You may be wondering why I didn't post the 360 cover here. Well, there's a good reason for that...


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Apparently the cover had a little too much ass for Microsoft of Japan too, and decided to have EA and Sega remove it with a horrible editing job. I haven't the faintest idea why they would do this for a game that won't be sold on most retail shelves anyway (the fate of CERO Z-rated games). It looks like exactly what would happen if a company decided this would be the cover in America. And it's unfortunate.

 

Shadows of the Damned will likely be in American and European bargain bins everywhere pretty soon, due to its unfortunate sales and lack of promotion. Personally, I'm not expecting it to do that well either, but that's my pessimistic nature speaking.

Franchise Reboots Entry #24: Rush'n Attack: Ex-Patriot

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Do you remember Rush'n Attack? Chances are you probably don't, even if you were actively gaming back then. Let's ignore how difficult it was to keep up with every video game release in the mid-to-late 1980s, long before a time where the internet rose to prominence, and focus on the attention it actually received at that time. There were plenty of games given multiple glances in arcades then, but Rush'n Attack was not one of them. But that's not to say it wasn't given any. No, there were plenty of people that would become gamers who remember it fondly. It was popular enough that it was ported to multiple systems -- including recent ones like the DS and 360 in 2007.

 

It's not a well known name by any means nowadays, but Konami aimed to make it one with a digitally distributed sequel (which also qualifies as a reboot, being the first game in the franchise in 25 years): Rush'n Attack: Ex Patriot. Considering its aesthetics, Konami definitely saw the success of games like Shadow Complex and Bionic Commando Rearmed and figured they could make a successful, cheaply made title similar to them. They decided to outsource it to Vatra Games, who's also currently developing Silent Hill: Downpour for the same publisher. After its reveal, it drew comparisons to the aforementioned 2D games, exactly as Konami expected.


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You'll be doing this for most of the game.


As you might have guessed if you were able to figure out the pun in the title, Ex Patriot's story involves Russia in some way. It takes place 15 years after the Cold War, when the CIA discovers that Russians have obtained a material known as Ulyssium. They believe the Russians can make the world's most powerful nuclear missiles with what they've found, and to prevent this they form an organization known called "Harvest" to thwart the threat. Fifteen years later, a new operative from the group named Sergeant Sid Morrow is sent in with a team on Operation: Angel Tear to retrieve Rory Gibson, who was abandoned during the original mission in Russia. He's also given a mission to sabotage the nuclear missile operation if the threat arises. So yes, this is one of those "one man must risk it all" tales; but you probably could have guessed that too.

 

Like the old game, it fits within the 2.5D mold by allowing you to move horizontally and vertically at different points in the game. It's also has non-linear titles, meaning it fits within the Metroidvania mold (making the Shadow Complex comparisons accurate). Also like the old game, the primary weapon of your protagonist is a knife, though other long range and melee weapons can be used temporarily. You can't rush into a confrontation armed with only a knife; it's the reason why it encourages the use of stealth. Morrow will learn more moves as you progress through the game to prevent it from becoming too frustrating, and he'll learn them faster if you dispatch enemies stealthily.


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But not this, despite plenty of screen shots showing Morrow making explosions. Deceptive? Absolutely.


It's a shame that it doesn't completely prevent it from being a frustrating title overall. The fact that Morrow moves around sluggishly makes being stealthy tougher than it should be. It also has a plethora of cheap hits and traps waiting for you. You could say Vatra captured the feel of an 80s 2D game perfectly, but took the elements some non-masochistic gamers were more than ready to leave behind. The boss fights eschew those, and are all the more enjoyable for it; but they're not enough to save it.

 

Rush'n Attack: Ex Patriot tanked critically and commercially, so you're likely not going to see the brand return any time soon -- if ever. Considering its reception, even the remaining fans of the old game will be OK with that (aside from two of them). It's also not the kind of treatment a revival should be given.

Examples of Damage Control in Gaming -- Someone's in Deep Silver

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Things have gone so wrong for the release of Dead Island that you would think Deep Silver and Techland planned this for the beginning.

 

It had quite a bit going for it before its release on Tuesday in America. There was some great buzz generated by some great previews (though really, previews rarely go into a game's flaws), a decent advertising campaign, and a nice concept for a video game -- it's basically Left 4 Dead if its setting was a zombie-infested island. The reviews have been mixed, but that's not an impediment for potential sales (example: Duke Nukem Forever). The only thing close to a controversy for this game was the altered logo artwork for the American version.

 

Oh, but they just had to make things hard for themselves. The chaos began when PC gamers noticed the version they purchased from Steam was horribly glitch and bug-ridden. Some PC games tend to be loaded with glitches upon release and are patched to hell afterward,  which makes you wonder why some developers are surprised some of their games don't sell as well on PC. Many reviews of the build trashed the game for being so buggy, but upon further inspection some players noticed there was a good reason why the version they purchased was so buggy: it wasn't the final version, but an unfinished development version.


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Of course, the small upside to this is how it gave some owners development-specific tools, like toggling a no clipping option and enabling a third-person perspective. Further digging into the game's code proved it was built for 360. Developer Techland never admitted to the mistake themselves, but released a patch later in the day on Tuesday to fix many of the game's issues. Owning up to the mistake would have mitigated some of the bile being thrown in their direction, even if they were clearly embarrassed at the blunder.

 

But that wasn't the best example of damage control there. No, the real blunder came when someone decided to look further into the game's internal code and found something referring to a skill called "Feminist Whore Purna," which sparked a small controversy. The skill was renamed "Gender Wars" for the final version, which gives Purna a 15% boost when she attacks men. But Techhland was miffed about it enough to issue an apology to anyone they could have offended with the name. It was definitely a tasteless joke from one of the programmers, and plenty of gamers wrote it off as non-news. That's completely missing the point, though.


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The few editorials that popped up after this news were quick to point out that it's a likely indication of sexism and misogyny that still exists within the video gaming industry, something that's been far too common for far too long. Also, notice that Techland was incredibly quick to give an apology for this little nugget slipping out. They gave no such apology to their paying customers on Steam, who were blindsided with a game that obviously wasn't the final version. The console versions reportedly have numerous bugs as well, and they've yet to be patched as of this writing. They aren't doing themselves any favors here.


This could have been a fantastic release week for Techland and Deep Silver if everything went OK, because I'm sure the game is going to do fine at retail. It's getting a pretty good consumer reception, glitch complaints aside. But they did an excellent job putting some customers off their games with mistakes that could have been avoided, and they sure didn't handle this situation as best they could.


P.S. But hold on! You Europeans should still buy Catherine from Deep Silver when they get around to releasing it, which should presumably be by the end of the year.

Time is on Final Fantasy XIII-2's Side

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This post deals with plot details for Final Fantasy XIII-2, so I wouldn't advise reading it if (a) you intend to keep in the dark about the game and (b) you haven't finished Final Fantasy XIII and intend to.


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Final Fantasy XIII-2 hasn't been receiving the most buzz for a new installment in a venerable Japanese RPG franchise. There's no way to pinpoint precisely why this is happening, so you'll just have to settle for some conjecture due to observation from yours truly. I can definitely tell you that it's not due to one single factor that can be easily identified, however.

 

The Japanese RPG genre hasn't been anywhere near as popular as it was in the west due to migrating from consoles to handhelds, a platform westerners hate. But that hypothesis doesn't explain why it hasn't received as much attention in the east. Final Fantasy XIII left a bad taste in quite a few people's mouths which is a hindrance for the sequel's potential buzz -- the opinions are split, but one group is much louder than the other. The third hypothesis involves the information Square Enix has been distributing for the game, which was mostly pretty unexciting material.

 

Well, until now, that is. The newest details involve the game's time travel system, which is leaving about 2/3s of the audience that's read them intrigued. The other 1/3 has played through the excellent Radiant Historia, which used a similar time travelling mechanic and noticed that this seems a little too similar to that game's -- but they're still intrigued by what this game is doing.

 

FFXIII-2 central characters Noel and Serah will use the Historia Cross system to travel back and forth through time. Yes, that's Historia Cross, meaning they're not even being subtle about this; but that's not to say it's exactly like that game's. Many of the game's areas will have a node gate that can be activated, where you can select the location or area you'd like to travel to. Some areas actually have multiple gates that can be activated to make backtracking less of a hassle. This also means they're fixing one of the main complaints about the first game; you'll be able to revisit previous areas now. You'll need OOPArts (Out of Place Artifacts) to active the gates, which the characters' Moogle companion will assist them in finding.


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To display the differences that can occur in one area, this week's Square Enix provided screens that show Bresha Ruins two different timelines: one in AF005, and the other in AF300 -- "AF" referring to "After Fall," meaning after the fall of Cocoon. In AF005, Bresha Ruins is an environment bustling with life and color, whereas in AF300 it's comparatively ravaged and desolate.

 

(For some strange reason, "OOPArts" is being mistranslated as "O-Parts" in some places around the internet, whose name is reminiscent of something else.)

 

The time travelling story comes about because Noel is hails the future, a world where he's the last human being alive. He was previously being compared to Dragonball Z's Future Trunks, but he's more like John Connor from the Terminator franchise. He appears before Serah in the present time, and says Lightning is waiting for her.


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Speaking of Lightining, she now serves as a knight whose responsibility involves guarding the shrine of the goddess Etro in Valhalla. Square Enix still isn't saying much about exactly what her responsibility is in this game, but it's possible they don't want to blow too much before fans have a chance to experience the story themselves. They're still not saying who that mysterious guy is either. No, he's not Thunder.

 

FFXIII-2 is a game that builds on the world established in the previous game and expands both its mythology and geography. It doesn't completely scrap everything like some fans wanted, or do anything as silly as reboot the franchise (a suggestion that makes no sense whatsoever). Instead, it seeks to extract the potential of what the FFXIII team built with the last title, along with fixing the flaws that crippled the first game. It's also its intention to shake the gameplay system up a little, focusing on having fewer characters in the party in the battle system, and using a monster you've caught to take the third place (though guest characters will appear occasionally). It's unsurprisingly taking a few cues from Final Fantasy X-2.  Japan will find out if it lives up to its potential in December. It will hit in January for North America, and sometime early next year for Europe.

The Fall of HD Collections, Part 2

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This entry is continuing from the last one from Saturday.

 

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HD collections might be a quick buck for publishers, but they benefit you as much as them. That is, of course, if a particular title (or titles) is one of your favorites from last generation, or one that you wanted to get but couldn't for some reason. This is also the only generation where having these will make sense, since we've certainly reached a ceiling for a high definition picture that most people can afford.

 

Resident Evil: Revival Selection landed in Japanese stores today. This "selection" contains HD remastered versions of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X and Resident Evil 4, the latter of which is constantly considered one of the best games to release on any console last gen. And now you can play it in HD! But you'll have to do so without Move support in the PS3 version, making 2007's Wii Edition still the definitive version for anyone who prefers the addition of motion controls. Who knows precisely why this happened, but the most popular guess is that Capcom just didn't care. In terms of visual enhancements, you'd be hard-pressed to find any visual differences in RE4 aside from it being upscaled to 720p, but CVX has been given quite an overhaul in terms of its colors and lighting.


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The point of contention with this release is Revival Selection is only releasing in Asian territories as a retail release. You'll have to settle for downloading them via Xbox Live and Playstation Network for a rather hefty $19.99/1600 MS Points a pop in America and Europe. Capcom claims they did this because they wanted to give the buyer options, but anyone cynical enough can conclude they did it so they wouldn't have to worry about used sales. It wouldn't be a surprise if that's true considering we're talking about the same company that used online only DRM in their PSN titles and wouldn't let players clear their save files in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. Speaking of that, we don't know if these games will have any DRM either. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition didn't, but it wasn't included because the PS3 versions are usually used at tournaments, and having an online only restriction would make the version unplayable at many of them.

 

RE4 hits digital download services on September 20th and 21st, and CVX hits on September 27th and 28th. What day it releases depends on when the digital services update in your territory.


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Konami is releasing a Metal Gear Solid HD Collection this fall, which includes Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and Peace Walker HD. This post will only cover MGS2 and 3. Peace Walker is being saved for another post.

 

For the collection, both PS2 titles will be presented in a widescreen aspect ratio in 720p, and both games will run in 60fps -- for reference, the PS2 version of MGS2 was 60fps but MGS3 only ran at 30fps. The cut scenes will also have a super widescreen scope perspective, because the ones in the original PS2 version were already widescreen for cut scene/gameplay segmentation. For some silly reason, some people have a problem with this. The argument against is that entails preferring to have the frame zoomed in instead, which would make them see less of the screen. And here you thought this didn't go beyond the "Widescreen" and "Full Screen" debate for movies on DVD.


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The HD footage and screens for both games show how fantastic the aesthetics were for both games, which really says something for MGS2 considering it was one of the PS2's earlier titles. They actually look better than some current generation games, and it shows how good the character modeling was for both games. Despite them being referred to under their "Sons of Liberty" and "Snake Eater" subtitles, Kojima Productions used the "Substance" and "Subsistence" versions as the base for each version. Also, like the original PS2 release of Subsistence (and unlike the one that came packaged with the Metal Gear Solid Essential Collection), this includes the MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. You're really getting five games in this package. The PS3 version also comes with a code for the PSP version of Peace Walker for Transfarring.

 

Kojima Productions' website also states that they plan to have each game available for purchase separately over Xbox Live and Playstation Network. They're actually doing everything right with this release...except for its release date. The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection releases in North America on November 8th, the same day as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It doesn't seem like Konami's going to change it, so hopefully Metal Gear is still a strong enough brand to withstand the onslaught of Activision's Juggernaut.

 

Beyond the Fall

 

This feature would have been a tad longer if the Silent Hill HD Collection hadn't been delayed from this fall to early 2012. The good news in there is that it's no longer a Playstation 3 exclusive; though no one knows why it was in the first place. The game's also being redubbed, the results of which are getting a mixed reaction. Konami hasn't really given any details about how the games themselves will be treated, but they've got plenty of time.

 

In addition to the MGS HD Collection, Kojima Productions also has a Zone of the Enders HD Collection coming to Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and supposedly Playstation Vita. They haven't given any details on this yet, since they've been focused on the MGS collection now. The ZoE one should be on your radar if you've wanted another ZoE title, and Konami's definitely going to use its sales to gauge whether the franchise still has some potential.

 

Meanwhile, there's the Z.O.E. 3DS tease that came from Hideo Kojima's twitter account. It could mean nothing, or it could mean everything.

 

Tokyo Game Show is coming next week, and chances are I'll have something to talk about on the HD Collection front given the news that just popped up. Look forward to that.

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In September 2004 InuYasha, an adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi's manga of the same name, ended its 4-year run on Japanese TV. (Fans of the English dub saw the series' conclusion in October of 2006 on Adult Swim.) The extremely popular series ran for a number of years but suffered from an abrupt ending without a proper conclusion. In fact, the end of InuYasha was pretty much a large "for real ending please refer to the manga" copout. Rumors swirled that the staff at Sunrise simply got tired of working on the series and finally concluded the story when it caught up to its manga counterpart. Although fans frequently complained the series was too long the sudden ending was still a big disappointment. Then in 2009 an incredible announcement came from Sunrise. The final 21 volumes of the InuYasha manga would be adapted into a new 26-episode series. The new series would serve as a proper conclusion to the story. In a sweet deal for North American fans the subtitled version of the show would air a day after the Japanese broadcast via Viz Media and Hulu.

InuYasha: The Final Act is the surprising but very welcome conclusion to the original InuYasha anime. Unsurprisingly, a lot of details were either rushed or skipped when the 21 volumes of source material were compacted into 26 episodes. Whether or not Sunrise trimmed away unneeded fat or cut too far into the meat of the overall story is highly subjective. Nevertheless, The Final Act is an exciting, fast-paced, filler-free anime that concludes InuYasha quite well.


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We all know who InuYasha will ultimately end up with. Even so, it's kind of amusing to see a hero with the two loves of his life.


The plot is a continuation of where the first anime left off. I'm writing this brief plot summary under the assumption you've seen the first 167 episodes of InuYasha, as they are a prerequisite for The Final Act. The Shikon Jewel is nearly whole and has been completely tainted by Naraku's darkness. InuYasha and friends are desperately searching for a way to kill Naraku and to take back the jewel. At the same time the evil half-demon is searching for a way to kill InuYasha and his friends.

During their quest InuYasha receives two powerful upgrades for his sword, Tetsusaiga. One upgrade allows Tetsusaiga to steal demonic energy and the other ability, Meido creates portals to send foes directly to the netherworld. The latter technique was perfected by Sesshomaru and his sword, Tenseiga. Sesshhomaru later challenges his younger half-brother to a duel. At the end of the fight he lets go of his obsession with Tetsusaiga and passes on the Meido technique to InuYasha. Because of the turn of events the powerful dog demon is able to create his own sword, Bakusaiga and even heals his severed arm in the process.


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Naraku is an evil bastard to the end. It's somewhat comforting to know that even he was being manipulated.


Sango is forced to destroy her oversized boomerang, Hiraikotsu and has a more powerful version of it re-forged. During one fight Miroku is badly poisoned after overusing his wind tunnel. Kikyo partially heals him but warns the monk his wind tunnel is dangerously close to killing him. Later he receives a special potion from a master potion brewer that will allow him to use the wind tunnel without pain. Unfortunately, the possibility of Miroku's wind tunnel tearing open and killing him is still quite real. Kohaku is finally reunited with Sango who completely forgives him. The siblings' happiness doesn't last long as a single shard of the Shikon Jewel is the only thing keeping him alive. With the jewel nearly complete it won't be long before Naraku returns for the final piece. In a later fight with the evil-half demon Kikyo is severely poisoned and only Kagome can save her life. In a trial to test the strength of her heart Kagome comes to terms with her jealousy of Kikyo and InuYasha's former relationship. In turn she is given a longbow with powerful spiritual abilities. With everyone's powers upgraded the group turns their full attention to Naraku. However, the cunning evil-half demon has already set his own plans into motion.


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This is the moment of the Shikon Jewel's creation. Just take one priestess with lots of spiritual energy and have her face off against powerful demons. Then seal these battling souls within a jewel for all eternity.


InuYasha: The Final Act's brevity is its greatest strength. Because the writers at Sunrise had a lot of material to work with and only a limited number of episodes all non essential story elements were cut. The series begins right where the original series ended and doesn't offer any recap time for viewers. To simply put it, those who may have forgotten major details of the original series or never watched it to begin with are left completely in the dark. This show is called "InuYasha: The Final Act" for a very good reason. Fans who remember the original series will be pleased to discover they won't have to sit through painful filler episodes. Once this series gets going the plot swiftly moves forward. Sure, there are a few episodes where downtime occurs but the story doesn't get stuck in a quagmire this time around. At worst the trimming away of fluff occasionally cuts too deeply when some story elements aren't fully explained. Fortunately the conclusion isn't rushed and is extremely satisfying.

The animation quality of InuYasha: The Final Act is superb. Sunrise spared very few expenses on this series and it really shows. The overall animation is fairly consistent and fluid. Camera and computer quality have improved in the years since the first InuYasha series. As a result the show's colors are richer and more vibrant than they were five years ago. (The high-budget theatrical movies are the exception to this.) Colors aside, character themselves rarely go off model which is a refreshing change of pace from many shonen anime series. In short, InuYasha doesn't suffer from the budget woes that tend to plague a lot other anime and you'll rarely gripe about the quality.


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Even without his sword Sesshhomaru is quite deadly. You can consider yourself lunch whenever he transforms into a gigantic dog demon.


All of the music heard in The Final Act is reprised from the original anime. Considering how good Kaoru Wada's work is the reuse of his music benefits the series. The combination of piano, traditional Japanese string, wind and percussion instruments complete the fantasy elements of the show. Wada's compositions range from dark and foreboding to truly epic. Hearing Wada's work again is like welcoming back an old friend. Because the music is reused from the original series it really helps with the show's overall continuity. As I said earlier The Final Act picks up right where the first Inuyasha left off and hearing the same wonderful music reinforces that fact.

The only new music you'll hear in The Final Act are the five J-pop and J-Rock songs created for the opening and closing sequences. While the opening "Kimiga Inai Mirai" is fun and memorable, the closings might be a little harder to remember because four of them are used over a 26-episode period. Still, it's a rare treat to hear so much variety in the closing songs used for the duration of InuYasha's series finale.


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A real hero punches the crap of out obnoxious evil-doers.


InuYasha: The Final Act is the proper conclusion to the original InuYasha anime. With a refreshing lack of filler and recap the series jumps right back into the thick of the plot. Some fans might not like how Sunrise rushed to conclude the series compared to the long episode count of the first anime. Other fans will appreciate the show's brevity and how the plot gets right to the point. The animation is top notch and the music is completely unchanged. If you're looking to get into InuYasha this final season is a bad place to start. If you never liked InuYasha nothing about The Final Act will change your mind. If you hated the non-ending of the first series or simply want closure I can't recommend The Final Act enough. Now if only Viz Media and Adult Swim would get around to announcing a TV broadcast premier and a North American DVD/BD release.


These high-quality screen caps are courtesy of Random Curiosity.
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Typically the month of September marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. The number of high profile game releases also tends to steadily increase during the start of the fall. Given how dry the summer months typically are (this year was no exception) I hope you've been saving your money. There are a number of games to choose from this month with plenty of swag to go around. If you enjoy collecting premium high quality anime box sets there isn't much pick from this month. Anyway, happy hunting!


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Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is the latest entry in the Disgaea franchise. This popular strategy RPG series got its start with the original Disgaea on the PS2 in 2003. If you're a fan of the games you're probably looking forward to A Promise Unforgotten on the PS3. If you order the premium edition of the game you'll receive a number of goodies. For $60 or ten dollars more than the standard edition you'll get a Fuka Figurine, a soft-cover art book, the game and a spiffy box to hold everything. If you order directly from NIS America a bonus OST CD will also be included with the premium edition at no extra cost. Disgaea 4 will be released on September 6th.


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If you own a Wii and frequent Wiiware there's no doubt you've come across some or all of the Bit.Trip games. Perhaps you've even invested in this quirky but interesting series. This month all six of the Bit.Trip games have been bundled into two collections, Bit.Trip Complete for the Wii and Bit.Trip Saga for the 3DS. If you pre-order Bit.Trip Saga directly from GameStop online a soundtrack sampler will be included with your game. This 3DS game will be released on September 13th and will cost you $40 dollars.


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If you own an Xbox 360 and you're a fan of third person shooters Gears of War 3 is most likely on your to get list. After all, who wouldn't want to see the conclusion to Epic Game's popular series? Speaking of Epic, the Epic Edition of Gears of War 3 comes with a number of goodies. For the low price of $150 dollars you'll receive a Marcus Fenix PVC statue, a 96-page art book, an Octus award box and medal, a Fenix family flag with various mementos and in-game DLC. Prepare to fight the Locust one last time on September 20th.


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If the Epic Edition of Gears of War 3 isn't quite epic enough Microsoft has one hell of an Xbox 360 bundle for you. For a mere $400 dollars you can own a red and black GoW3 360 complete with custom sounds from the game, a 320GB hard drive, two special edition GoW3 controllers with transforming d-pads and the game itself. Unless you already own a 360 this bundle isn't really worth it. If you don't own a 360 and you've always wanted one this bundle is actually a good deal. The transforming d-pad controllers are worth $130 alone, the game is worth $60 and 250GB 360 consoles are worth about $300 on their own. This special limited edition Gears of War 3 bundle will be released on September 20th.


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If you're a fan of shoot 'em ups or shmups, you might already have a copy of Deathsmiles or something similar. Otomedius Excellent is an arcade shooter released by Konami which better known for their Gradius games. OE combines the gameplay from Gradius with cute girls to create a quirky title that could only come from Japan. For a surprisingly reasonable $50 dollars you can own the collector's edition of this game. The collector's edition includes a double-sided pillow case, an art book and a soundtrack CD. Otomedius Excellent will be released on September 20th.


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The Harvest Moon series has been ongoing since the late 1990s. Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns is the 23rd (or so) entry in the long running farm simulation/RPG series. If you pre-order this game from GameStop you'll receive an unbelievable cute alpaca pushie. Sure, GameStop has some annoying practices and has done a lot to raise the ire of gamers in recent weeks but this alpaca borders on irresistible. If I were a fan of the Harvest Moon series I might have already pre-ordered Tale of Two Towns just to get this little guy. Fans of Harvest Moon can purchase Tale of Two Towns on September 20th for $30 dollars.


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Persona 2 fans can finally rejoice. On September 20th Innocent Sin will finally be officially released in North America for the first time. All of the Persona games were released in North America with the sole exception of Innocent Sin. In late 2000 Atlus released Persona 2: Eternal Punishment and actually skipped over IS for unknown reasons. Thankfully fans will be able experience this game via the upcoming PSP port. Unlike Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, SMT: Persona 2 Innocent Sin will not be released with the entire soundtrack CD. Instead fans will have to settle for a 10-track CD that will be included with all pre-orders of the game. Atlus' latest SMT title will cost you $40 dollars.


Look for part two of this month's Treasure Hunter next week. If the release dates are any indication September 27th is going to be an extremely crowded day. If I have time I may also do a quick roundup of the Treasure Hunter I missed in August.

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If you read Damage Control on a regular basis you've probably already read Geoff's article regarding the Persona 4 PS Vita port and P4 fighting game. To be completely honest I'm a little surprised and very pleased that Atlus hasn't forgotten about P4 and still has plans for the franchise. It always seemed as if Persona 3 was the favorite of the pair, as that particular game received lots of attention from Atlus shortly after its release. To date Persona 3 has had a slight upgrade in the form of SMT: Persona 3 FES in 2008, a spin-off anime in 2008 (released in N.A. in 2010) and a PSP port in 2010. Meanwhile fans didn't start hearing about additional major projects for Persona 4 until earlier this year. As a huge fan of Persona 4 I simply had to write about my thoughts on the upcoming port and fighting game.

Earlier this year Atlus put up a teaser site for Persona 4. At the time many fans were certain it would be for a Persona 4 PSP port. Later it was revealed that the project was actually an anime series. Some fans expressed their disappointment while others were quite pleased. I found myself pleased as I wasn't ready to think about Persona 4 on the PSP. A few months later I cracked open my copy of Persona 3 Portable and put over 20 hours into the game. As I played the game I marveled at how many elements from Persona 4 Atlus added to P3P. I also found myself enjoying the role of a female protagonist opposed to the original's male protagonist. The deeper I got into the game the more I wondered if such a port could work for Persona 4 beyond just getting to experience the game with a female protagonist. Especially if getting to play as a girl meant the game would more or less become a visual novel outside of dungeons. Last week I got a partial answer as Famitsu announced a Persona 4 port for the PlayStation Vita instead of the PSP.


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The leaked screen shots from Persona 4: The Golden are rather impressive. The game itself looks like a perfect port of the PS2 version complete with a few tweaks. Considering how much was stripped from Persona 3 on the PSP outside of dungeons I'm glad to see Persona 4 on a more powerful handheld. Sure, the switch to a visual novel in P3P helped streamline the game but much of the original's visual charm was lost. Given how much slapstick comedy P4 contains a lot of the game's humor would have been lost in a PSP port. I'm confident Atlus could have kept the game entertaining as a slightly watered-down port but the move to the PSV is for the best in terms of quality. (The potential popularity of the PSV itself is another matter entirely.)

Out of all the changes announced (wi-fi support, new voiced dialogue, new songs and new anime cutscenes) the addition of a character named Marie interests me the most. Having a new character could bring a lot to the story, especially if she's playable. Even if she's just an NPC I can still see her playing a major role as a new Social Link or even as an additional antagonist. The possibilities are exciting and I'm eagerly awaiting more news. That said, it's disappointing but understandable why the option to play as a female character won't be present in the Persona 4 port. For the time being I'm simply going to speculate. In Persona 3 Portable Atlus only had to create full 3D assets for a female character in dungeons or for half the game. Outside of dungeons the female character only needed various character portraits. With Persona 4 on the PSV 3D assets for a female character would need to be created for the entire game. As popular as P4 is I doubt our niche developer wanted to sink that much time or money into a port.

One interesting fan theory has to do with the nature of the protagonist's persona. If the protagonist was female it wouldn't be possible to have a female version of Izanagi and players would instead receive Izanami. That would present a major problem for the game's story. Why that particular problem couldn't be solved by having a female protagonist simply stick with Izanagi is beyond me. After all, there is at least one character who uses a persona of a different gender. Of course both my theory and the fan theory are nothing more than speculation. Nevertheless, the lack of gender choice and the altered relationships with other characters still stings a little. Atlus could possibly make up for the lack of choice with the announcement of their fan requested feature, whatever that may be. Hopefully it's incentive enough to appeal to fans of the original P4 who may not be completely sold on a PSV port.


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I'm actually more excited about Persona 4: The Ultimate Mayonaka Arena, the fighting game developed by Atlus and Arc Systems Works. At first I was skeptical about a Persona 4 fighting game until I remembered ASW has yet to develop a fighting game that wasn't interesting and somewhat insane. Guilty Gear and BlazBlue immediately come to mind. If Atlus and ASW can combine the various techniques (magic included) from P4 with the fast-paced gameplay of a 2D fighter this joint project could be a real winner. RPGs have successfully made the transition to fighting games in the past. The Dissidia: Final Fantasy games are good examples but I disliked the gameplay, so I'm glad to see a more traditional approach with Persona 4.

The character roster is fairly small with ten slots according to this screen shot. So far we have the protagonist-- now known as Yu Narukami (in the upcoming anime), Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko, Kanji and Persona 3's Aigis as confirmed characters. So far that leaves four more characters who have yet to be revealed. If the images from Famitsu are any indication Teddie could also be a playable character. I'd be surprised and disappointed if Naoto didn't make it into the game as a playable character given her usefulness in P4. That simply leaves the question of what Rise's purpose in The Ultimate Mayonaka Arena will be. In the screen shots she seems to play the role of support which is fitting for her, as she served as a mission control type in the RPG. That leaves the final character as a total mystery for now. A lot of Persona fans are hoping that Minato, Persona 3's protagonist, somehow makes it into the game. Hopefully this game will live up to fan expectations when it releases in Japan next year. I'm not as optimistic as Geoff regarding an absolutely certain North American release. Doubts or not, the existence of a 360 version of the game is a really good indication that the game will probably head West.

2012 is shaping up to be a good year for Persona 4 projects. Between a PSV port and a PS3/360 fighting game fans have a lot to look forward to. For the time being the October airing of Persona 4: The Animation should hold fans over until next year.



It wouldn't be a proper (non-anime convention related) Geek Babble without some mention of what I've been recently playing and watching. After Otakon I never really did get back into serious gaming. Instead, I've been slowly catching up on the monstrous anime backlog I mentioned in May. To date I've finished Air Gear, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I'm currently watching Tiger & Bunny, Durarara!!, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple and Ouran High School Host Club. I plan to watch Soul Eater, Guin Saga, Blue Exorcist and Star Driver very soon. In terms of video games I've finished Radiant Historia (my review is pending), and I'm currently playing Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable and Catherine. I'll be starting on Rock of Ages as soon as it's available on Steam--for now I'm playing the Xbox Live Arcade demo.


Images courtesy of Famitsu.

The Resurfacing of Dragon Quest X

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You remember Dragon Quest X's original announcement, right? It was announced way back in December of 2008 for Wii, even before Dragon Quest IX released on DS. After that, we heard next to nothing about the game aside from very small info that tricked out from various sources. Some fans started assuming the game was no longer on Wii, but possibly 3DS or Wii U. Some even guessed Playstation 3, as unlikely as that was.

 

Square Enix had a Dragon Quest-centric press conference last night (well, earlier today in Japan time) where they reconfirmed that the next game was indeed for Wii and will be called Dragon Quest X Online: Rise of the Five Tribes (a literal translation of the subtitle). Yes, your summation of the "Online" part is correct, as this is certainly a Final Fantasy XI/XIV deal where you'll be playing this game with others online. This game has an MMO style that, as the trailer shown during the conference displayed, feels like an evolution of the concept DQIX established. It has irked quite a few fans.

 

DQX takes place in a world with five continents, with five different races living within it. Its visual style is similar to Dragon Quest VIII's, and its battle system remains turn-based. The difference here is that characters can move freely during battle, which drew some White Knight Chronicles comparisons. As the title implies, you don't have to play as a human character; there are five races to choose from, each with a male or female option. If you're the type that would rather not travel around with any human companions, there is an option to play the game alone with AI-controlled NPCs. If you go that route, remember you can only choose options in battle for your main character. Don't expect them to be as competent with the way the developers are focusing on teamwork, though.

 

The three big names in the franchise are returning for this one. Yuji Horii is serving as the General Director, Akira Toriyama is providing the character design, and Koichi Sugiyama is doing the music. Jun Fujisawa of DQIX is also serving as the director here. This game also welcome's Yusuke Saito of NieR, who's serving as the producer.


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When fans weren't speculating about the game itself, they were thinking about who the developer would be. Level 5 was the first candidate since they developed VIII and IX, but a rumor emerged saying that Nintendo-owned development house Genius Sonority of Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors was handling it. It turns out that for the first time in the franchise's history, this game is being developed internally at Square Enix. This is an interesting move. It's also one that left some completely frightened after the way FFXIV turned out; but keep in mind that just because it's being developed at SE doesn't mean the same team is handling this game. We are, believe it or not, talking about a company with over 3,300 employees here.

 

None of this came as a big shock since a good amount of it was rumored beforehand. The surprise was Nintendo LTD president Satoru Iwata showing up to say the game is making its way to Wii U as well. The Wii U version will have enhanced graphics and cross platform compatibility with the Wii version. They're also considering a feature where players can transfer their character to a 3DS for Street Pass functions.

 

This is a curious direction for the franchise, but it's not the first time we've seen something like this. That isn't stopping some fans from freaking out, though it's understandable to a certain extent if they were expecting another story and character-driven game, especially one with the massive scope of DQVIII. Given Nintendo's commitment to localizing games in the franchise (witness Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 and Fortune Street), this one is pretty likely to come over here. The Wii version of DQX is planned for release in 2012, while the Wii U version is listed as "TBA." It also sounds like it may not be free-to-play, but that hasn't been confirmed yet.

 

You can see the first gameplay footage here. It's likely some of the footage that will come as a bonus with the Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary Collection when it releases in Japan on September 15th, which is next Thursday. Some people are bound to get early copies, so expect the footage to be online before then.

Franchise Reboots Entry #23: Mega Man 9

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"Regression" was the word thrown around upon Mega Man 9 unveiling back in '08, a word that has only one meaning in this context. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone that disliked Mega Man 7's colorful Mode 7-powered graphics or Mega Man 8's even prettier 2D material. And here came MM9 with a style that went back to the 8-bit days. And really, giving it any flak over that is missing the point as to why Capcom chose to go with that for a modern day downloadable title.

 

The quality of the MM games (and I'm referring only to the main series here) began to drift into undesirable territory after Mega Man 4, and only veered further and further into despair with each installment. By the time MM8 released, the series' fans were completely tired of it. Gorgeous sprite work will only take you so far. Capcom realized and let the main series lay dormant for over a decade while still making installments in the franchise's spinoffs. And due to a combination of this and the SNES being pretty dead, poor old Mega Man & Bass was left in Japan. Though it's not like that game fixed any of the problems these had.


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When Mega Man left its 8-bit roots, something happened to the handling and the controls. Shooting the Mega Buster felt off, but the main problem was the jumping and platforming being much harder to time -- a problem exacerbated in a game like MM8, whose levels were clearly designed by someone that really, really didn't like you. MM9 proved the answer was to go back to when the franchise was at its peak. It's quite evident the team that developed it, split between employees at Capcom and developer Inti Creates (a team of mostly ex-Capcom employees who worked on the Mega Man Zero and ZX games), went back and took another look at Mega Man's 2 and 3 and mimicked what it did right. The result was a definite success.

 

The levels in MM9 are designed to be challenging, but their short length prevents them from being too frustrating. It also eschews the enhancements and features implemented in the games after MM2, so hopefully you weren't too used to charging your Mega Buster and especially sliding to maneuver around some obstacles. The distribution platform and pricing notwithstanding, it was designed as if it was being made for an audience prevalent between the late 80s and early 90s -- though it wouldn't have fit on an actual NES cart given the file size (it's around 80MB).


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MM9 did well critically and commercially, but it sadly wasn't a revival Capcom could capitalize on. Mega Man 10 released about a year and a half later, and was an unfortunate step down from its predecessor. The novelty of having an NES-style game had worn off, a luxury MM10 couldn't have. But its problems ran deeper than that; the levels aren't designed quite as well, the Robot Masters aren't quite as imaginative, and it has some rather annoying gimmicks. It's a good game that's far better than some of the titles that veered too far into undesired territory, but it still feels like a rote experience. In other words, it's precisely what some skeptical fans thought MM9 would be.

 

These days, who knows what's going on with Mega Man. Some think Capcom is done with the character after killing off all the upcoming games in the franchise -- which is, unfortunately, a sound argument. Meanwhile, developer Inti Creates had to work on pandering fluff like Gal*Gun to keep them afloat (which, by the way, is coming to PS3, making it easier to import). The Capcom you knew is changing, and whether it's for the better or worse depends on your preferences.

The Fall of HD Collections, Part 1

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No, not the literal "fall" of them, silly. It means there are many of them releasing in this fall season.

 

If this fall is going to prove anything in terms of releases, it's that everyone who knew multiple publishers were going to jump on the HD remaster bandwagon was right. And why wouldn't they? It's easy money. The God of War Collection from 2009 was the first of these, and it sold incredibly well. It only took the company that handled it, Bluepoint Games, a mere six weeks to develop. Immediately after it sold well, fans began requesting that other games from last generation receive the same treatment. And wouldn't you know it, one of the most highly requested ones just happens to release this month.

 

In fact, the floodgates have completely opened for these, though it took a longer time than some suspected. Even then, some companies still have yet to capitalize on what's easy money. I'm looking at you, Square Enix.


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The first one releases this month The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection for Playstation 3. After the GoW Collection released, this was the most highly requested collection among fans, and thankfully Sony heard your pleas. Unfortunately, they also kept inexplicably pushing it back so they could time its release with the oft-delayed The Last Guardian for some strange reason. Neither game is going to help market one that has only a tenuous connection to them at best.

 

The collection itself, being handled by the same team that did the GoW Collection in Bluepoint Games, is also handling this one; and this one will turn out even better than their last one since neither game used FMVs. Both games also have other improvements. Ico had some changes made to the environmental geometry, which previously showed its PSOne origins, and had the intro changed. Both games will run at 30 fps, which should make Shadow of the Colossus far more playable. It clearly did too much for the PS2 when the framerate would drop into the teens when battles became too chaotic.


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Also, these are Japanese games, so you know Japan's getting something America and Europe will never see. Both games are being released separately there, but also in a special collection including both games with a 100-page booklet. All of the packages worldwide will include a redeemable code for two XMB themes (one for each game). It releases on September 22nd, 27th, and 28th for Japan, America, and Europe, respectively.


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We had no idea how long Ubisoft was going to keep delaying the Splinter Cell Trilogy for PS3, a collection originally announced for a March release. This package collects the PC iterations of the original, Pandora Tomorrow, and Chaos Theory and puts them all on one Blu-ray disc. Fans of the franchise are hoping this collection turns out better than the Prince of Persia Trilogy, which was loaded with glitches and ran at a lower framerate because they used the inferior PS2 versions as a base. We already know the PC versions are being used there -- albeit without the multiplayer -- so there's hope. It releases in America on September 27th, and in Europe on....

 

...huh, apparently it's already available there, albeit digitally via PSN (the retail release hits September 16th). And it seems that aside from Chaos Theory, the ports aren't very good. Like the PoP trilogy, they run at a lower framerate than the PC versions, lack lighting in some parts, and the first two games are merely upscaled from standard definition sloppily. There's also no option to invert the controls. It seems like Ubisoft isn't the company to trust when it comes to faithful ports of their older titles. And here you'd think a company would care about their old, successful products.

 

Oh whoops, I've gone too long, so I'll just have to split this into two parts. This entry would have been longer if one of the collections wasn't delayed into next year, and if it wasn't for the fact that I'm lazy on Saturdays. So stay tuned for the next episode! Or entry. Whatever.

Cognition Dissemination: How Likely is a New Darkstalkers Game?

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darkstalkerskeyart_090211.jpgDarkstalkers has been on the mind of Yoshinori Ono since finishing Super Street Fighter IV, a name whose mere utterance reinserted it into the minds of fans who never stopped loving the franchise. Ono never stopped either, which is why it was his intention to revive the franchise after Street Fighter had its reignited time in the limelight. Then came last year's San Diego Comic-Con, where the team announced their next venture: Street Fighter x Tekken.

 

I'm not knocking SFxT, as I'm sure it's going to be a fine game that's built around the idea to get Street Fighter fans (and 2D fighting game fans in general) in to Tekken and its cast of characters -- while Tekken x Street Fighter is built around the opposite. But it's nowhere near as interesting as venturing into the risky territory that's Darkstalkers franchise at this point in time. Capcom's desire to embrace the west is also keeping them from green lighting a new title. You could tell they don't think westerners are too fond of it when they left the PS2 Darkstalkers collection in Japan, which would have been an effortless localization. The last release for a series we've seen outside of Japan was Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower at the PSP's launch (and that's probably the only reason why).  With eastern and western tastes becoming more disparate over time, it's easy to see why Ono's having trouble getting the idea through.

 

Darkstalkers' appeal lies in its whimsical approach to its world, characters, and gameplay system. It was the Capcom game to first implement chain combos and give players an alternate set of possibilities within the confines of a fighting game, basically taking Street Fighter's formula and six button controls and expounding on the concept. It also gave us the most colorful cast of characters (primarily horror stereotypes) to ever grace a fighting game, figuratively and literally. The games didn't take themselves seriously despite being well balanced, and that's where the fun lied. Darkstalkers may not be too popular outside of Japan anymore (and probably not in Japan anymore either these days), but some of its characters are, with Morrigan being at the top of the list. I don't need to explain why.

 

The franchise never ascended to the same level of popularity as Street Fighter in any territory, meaning Capcom hasn't felt the desire to make a new installment in the franchise. I think this is a mistake.


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We're living in an era where the fighting game genre has been completely revived, and it's the perfect time to bring back some previously dormant franchises within it. The internet has been a fantastic tool to promote games, and it's been a fantastic tool to play games over as well. Capcom's pretty good with promoting their upcoming fighters, and they could easily take it around to conventions and tournaments like Evo to give it some easy advertisement. Another good idea would be to release an enhanced HD-ified version of The Chaos Tower over Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network a la some of their other classic arcade releases, preferably without any hitches -- which, as Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition has proven, isn't just a Backbone Entertainment issue. It would also be a good idea to do this before they inevitably run the genre into the ground again with blatant slaps to the face like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

 

Of course, the question now is "will they actually do this?" And the answer is "probably not" with the direction Capcom's going in these days.

 

But that's not stopping Ono from campaigning for it. He once again exclaimed his desire to revive Darkstalkers during Capcom's press conference at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, complete with a picture to catch everyone's eye:

 

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He also asked everyone in the audience that would like a new Darkstalkers game to hold up a dollar, just like he did last year. It's pretty clear that he and his development team want to make one, despite how depressingly futile the chance might be.

 

In fact, it's looking even more futile now with Capcom's plan to expand by purchasing western developers, which no intent to purchase any companies in Japan. They're quite clearly trying to grow the franchises that appeal to today's western audience, while making new IPs that appeal to them like Dragon's Dogma internally. This post won't into whether this is a smart plan or not, but the unveiling of this plan just made a new Darkstalkers game even less of a possibility.

 

Things are not looking good, but stranger things have happened. Sega announced a console release of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown in a time where fans had thrown in the towel, thinking their campaigning was in vain. It may be slim, but there's still a chance that it can go through Capcom's upper management. And hopefully it isn't announced as "New Darkstalkers Project."

Cover Art Chronicles: A Mass of Angry Kirbys

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Nintendo's made some bizarre choices for western box arts when it comes to Kirby games, one that attained memetic status when fans started to notice. The eastern box arts portray Kirby as a carefree individual, in fitting with the cheery (and usually easy) themes of the games. It appears Nintendo believes westerners don't like seeing happiness on their covers, and decided to run with that for nearly the entire franchise.

 

Yes, "nearly" is an important word there, because recently there have been some aversions to this theme. Both Kirby Super Star Ultra and Kirby's Epic Yarn for DS and Wii, respectively, contained a not-angry Kirby on their cover. From this, the thought process was that perhaps Nintendo decided to drop the theme, realizing that us silly westerners don't really need an angry Kirby on their cover -- especially considering the audience Kirby games are going for.

 

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that theme is back with a vengeance with Kirby Mass Attack and Kirby's Return to Dreamland for DS and Wii, respectively. Both release this fall, and Nintendo recently distributed their covers. Maybe Epic Yarn's unfortunate sales had something to do with that, or someone at Nintendo of America is having a little too much fun with their job. The latter is the likely candidate.

 

The concept of Kirby Mass Attack entails one player controlling ten Kirbys via the touch screen, all controlled by tapping the screen to make them follow the stars you make. A Kirby will attack an enemy if you tap them on the screen. This game should be in the eye of anyone who thought Kirby Canvas Curse wasn't popular enough for HAL Laboratory to make a new, offbeat Kirby themselves. The collective opinions of importers suggest its one to watch for, and it will be one of the last great DS games.


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The Japanese cover shows ten Kirbys that represent every emotion he can go through, which is pretty neat. The American cover shows four out of the ten having an angry mannerism, and one of them happens to be right in the front. In fact, said front one looks deviously angry, making him look mischievous. It's still a fun cover that gives the casual observer a preview of what the game entails, while giving gamers something to laugh at because they know Nintendo's has to be doing this deliberately now. Canvas Curse was the game that showed a lot of skeptics the potential of the DS in its more dreary days, and now its spiritual sequel will be one of its swan songs. Even if it is a little easier than that one. It's already available in Japan, but it hits America on September 18th. You'll have to wait until October 28th in Europe.

 

Kirby's Return to Dreamland' had a long development history, one that makes you wonder what in the world could have happened behind the scenes for the game to take this long to release. It was originally announced for Gamecube way back in 2005 and was moved to Wii, then...well, it just disappeared for years. Everyone assumed it was cancelled, but it's back in this resurfaced form. It's gearing up for a release in America on October 24th and in Europe sometime in December. It hasn't been dated for Japan, strangely enough. There are also no box arts for Japan and Europe yet.


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Unsurprisingly, this Kirby is also angry, but at least he doesn't look as devious this time around. This game's cover also gives you a hint as to one of its key features. It shows Waddle Dee, Meta Knight, and King Dedede all following each other, showing the game has multiplayer. It's not as clever as Mass Attack's cover, but it's not too displeasing either. In fact, the cover's theme fits the game, which is aimed at everyone who thought Epic Yarn didn't feel enough like a traditional Kirby game.

 

It's hard to believe Kirby's been holding a grudge for all these years. He needs to suck it up.

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