Friday, March 30, 2012

Hiatus, The Revengening

I apologize for the tiny post, but it's being made from my Vita and thus I don't have a lot of leeway in regards to being wordy.  Or anything like that.  Basically, the story is that I unplugged the computer earlier because it was going to storm.  It stormed.  It passed.  I plugged in the computer, pushed the power button and got nothing.  It just literally won't turn on.  Obviously, I suspect a short of some sort or something like that, but I don't know how such a reality could exist, since again, it wasn't even plugged in.  Regardless, without power, it won't work and if it doesn't work, I can't do nice, big posts.  So, until I can, Kupowered is on hiatus.  Again.  Maybe next year I can go without one.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dragon's Crown - What's Going On With It?

This post is mostly for Chance who has quite the penchant for Vanillaware games, and after seeing a couple stories for the game today, I wanted to make sure he got the full story, since one of them was rather worrying.  I mean, really, for a game where information has been scarce at best, the news that Amazon cancelled pre-orders for it is pretty much "Uh-oh" news, even though Amazon doing this is pretty common practice.  And, indeed, they're not the only ones as there was a similar story for The Last Guardian late last year, wherein GameStop's nebulous 'system' decided to exclude TLG for not having a firm release date.  It's understandable, of course, but it does make for a rather awful day when this happens because the mere notion of a game you want enough to have put money down on it months in advance is disheartening at the very least.

Fortunately, as was the same story with TLG, the cancellation rumors were swiftly put to rest, though not without some lingering confusion.  "Regarding Dragon's Crown, although there are lots of rumors and conjecture, it's still in development. Please wait patiently for an official update." is basically all the news we have on its continued existence and development which, if you think about it, ain't really much.  With TLG, there's only one version of the game, so we don't have to worry all that much; if they say it still exists, then it still exists.  But for a game that comes on two platforms, you have to wonder if lack of news and pre-order cancellations means that that number will get shaved a bit.  Not that I'm saying I expect that, because I certainly don't, but reading the comments (something you should never do) for the two articles did bring it up as a possibility.  Mostly because it is; because pretty much -anything- is a possibility at this point, simply because we don't know anything otherwise.

With Grand Knights History on floppy ground - officially on hold until Dragon's Crown is released - and now Dragon's Crown's future being a little weird, it's hard telling just what's up.  They could be pretty much unrelated, however.  If the problem solely lies with Dragon's Crown, then of course the development there would hope up that of Grand Knights History, but a reverse case could be true of course; perhaps in an attempt to bring out Grand Knights History in Non-Japan, they're working at porting the game to the Vita, using assets and such from Dragon's Crown to try and streamline the process as much as possible.  Is it a little overly hopeful and likely not the case?  Probably.  But there's just something -up- with all this and I'm not sure waiting for an 'official update' on this whole thing will be a prompt matter, all things considered.  Blind conjecture probably isn't the way to go, though.

Regardless, the facts are that Dragon's Crown is not cancelled (as the cancellation of Amazon Pre-orders might've lead some to believe) and it's still being developed in some capacity.  Official updates are forth-coming in the sense that someone actually working on the game had to say, via Twitter, "Please wait patiently for them", which means forth-coming likely doesn't mean 'soon'.  Still, we can all hope because the game itself looks rather wonderful, albeit with a few bits I could take or leave, art style-wise.  (Yeah, you know exactly what I'm talking about)  And the game seems to implement the Vita's extra features in a useful, unobtrusive way like Rayman Origins, counting on you to examine the backdrops that have been so lovingly crafted for their respective games.  At least, that's how I remember it - hopefully that hasn't changed somewhere along the road.

Upcoming Purchases: April-June

As I have pointed out several times, to the point where it's almost a running theme for 2012, there are simply just too many games out already, as well as games that are -going- to come out.  While I've barely weathered the storm of games that are out (indeed, I missed Binary Domain, which I hope to grab at some point, as well as the whole Warriors Orochi 3 fiasco), there's still a veritable juggernaut of games as a collective on the horizon, both near and far, and, much like trying to play Shadow of the Colossus on a time limit, I'm not sure just how many of these things I will be able to encounter and conquer which is a bit worrisome.  It's a completely different scenario from last year, really and I'm not quite sure if too much is better than too little or vice versa.  Still, that's not the matter at hand; that matter being deciding just what games to get, what's a necessity, which of these colossi that I -must- slay, as opposed to the ones I can let wander for a time when I -have- time.

For several reasons, the Vita is the beast that I look to feed first, and Resistance:  Burning Skies looks to be the first game in line to do just this.  Wikipedia states that it's going to release on May 29th, GameStop says the 30th, but either way, it's slated up first in way of something that I 'need' to get.  It -haunts- me that I never made time for Resistance 3, nor have I secured a copy for myself, but in my defense, I had to be a little spendthrift at the end of the year (and still do, really) and because of that and the other titles I'm looking forward to, I just couldn't really fit it in.  As I've said times before, the Vita's portability and reliability (at least, the reliability I feel when I play it for extended periods of time without worry) make it my preferred gaming machine, and the Resistance series is one of which I am certainly a fan.  Were Resistance:  Retribution for PSP available for purchase on the Vita, I likely would have snatched it up by now, but that it isn't is a blessing still.

I don't know a lot about Burning Skies, nor do I need to.  The Chimera are on Earth at a time between Resistance 1 and 3, but not necessarily during 2's events and our protagonist in alien slaughter is a firefighter, as is denoted by the expert usage of a fire axe; a crucial element of the game, apparently.  This is basically all I know, and this is pretty much all you need to know about Resistance:  Burning Skies, much less any -other- FPS out there, because you're looking at, in a best circumstance scenario, a game where the story evolves over the course of the game to become more than simple or, in a worst case scenario, a half-hearted reason for indiscriminate destruction.  Either or works just fine, I assure you, and whether Burning Skies offers the former or the latter (I would bet on the former, of course), it should be a fun little romp as 1 and 2 were for me.  Especially so if anyone who worked on 3 has a hand in the Vita's incarnation, as 3 is apparently the best of the bunch, which makes it all the more painful to not play.

If Wikipedia and/or GameStop are to be believed, June is exactly what I didn't want, and as I type this I feel a very real sensation of fear for that month.  Not only is the game above, Lollipop Chainsaw, slated to release on June 12th, but so is the next game I want to talk about, where GameStop also places the last game I'll talk about for this go in the month, though it is assuredly not official yet.  Regardless, I suppose I'll simply have to suck it up and manage, somehow, because of all three games, I'm definitely not going to skip any of them, and assuredly not Lollipop Chainsaw.  You might know if you're a faithful reader, but if not, then let me paint a picture:  I am really, really excited for this friggin' game.  Not for the obvious reasons of course, but for the simple fact that this looks like one of the most absurd things to come out this year and I am all over that shit.  That it involves zombies which I am admittedly on a kick of lately is pretty much just a happy accident; after all, I wasn't doing much talking about Dead Souls way back in August.

I pretty much just love everything I've seen about the game individually as well as a whole.  Juliet Sterling, a cheerleader for San Romero High School, seems to be the only hope of the local life.  Armed with a chainsaw adorned with pink decorations and hearts, the true spirit and moves of a cheerleader, and the voice talents of Tara Strong, she seems to be the best bet San Romero has against the zombie outbreak.  And of course, not only is she deadly, but she's very stylish as well, which is quite evident if you watch the Debut Trailer in one of the above links.  (Seriously, go do that now.  I'm waiting.)  Also she gets a grenade launcher (among other attachments, presumably) for her chainsaw at some point.  No matter what, I cannot reiterate that point enough times - a chainsaw with a grenade launcher.  There is absolutely no reason I could fathom not wanting this game, and I only fear my ability to play it when I get it, rather than waiting for the embrace of Fall.

Slated to release the same day as Lollipop Chainsaw, as I said above, Gravity Rush could not be more different.  Though they both tout quite nice, different art styles and female protagonists, that's where the similarities end as Gravity Rush trades Lollipop Chainsaw's campy, absurd approach to unabashed violence against the undead for something more serious and game play that revolves around the ability to control gravity to combat, solve puzzles, and just get around.  It's uniquely interesting on several levels and I've commented on it before, so to say I'm interested in it is restating the obvious in such a way that stating the obvious is obvious is-nevermind.  People who've messed around with the demo say that the useage of the gravity mechanic is a good one, and it's certainly one I look forward to bending to my own whims to explore whatever amount of world they give me to do so.

Like with Burning Skies, I don't know a whole lot about Gravity Rush beyond the basics, so playing it will assuredly be a gem as it begins to unfold for me.  Since I -want- this type of game to succeed that's what I hope it will do; I hope that it will offer a presentation so slick, combined with a good story that I won't want to put it down.  I hope the mechanics are solid and enjoyable, that they don't make ridiculous usage of the Vita's extra features but rather implements them in fairly natural ways as many other games have managed to do so far.  And I hope that it creates characters that are compelling and well-written, so that when I get it and play it, I can say as much here so that maybe it'll sway someone else into buying the game, because this type of game will sell on word of mouth alone, I'm sure.  Am I hoping for a lot?  Assuredly, but I am excited for it and use that to justify it; hopefully that level is well-placed.

I'm sure I don't have to say anything beyond "It's LittleBigPlanet.  On the Vita."  It's apparently out on the 27th of June, according to GameStop, but that's not solid in the least, and I would put money on it being a quite different date.  At least, I'm hoping for it.  Because all of my money, etc. etc.

So that is the foreseeable future in terms of my gaming purchases.  I'm sure there's plenty of others that could be on here, and it certainly doesn't include games that are already out, but there's a whole lotta game for this year, even beyond what I've featured here.  With any luck, we'll see the other games and a window for them as well, so I can make yet another post lamenting the overflow we're all suffering from.  Also as a random side-note, this post is late because halfway through it, my internet cut out.  I'd set it back to 11-something to make sure it hits yesterday, but I'm going to post tonight too, so it'll be fine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Goddamnit, Atlus, I Don't Have Money or Time

While the actual content of the Playstation Store Update today is a little lackluster (Unless you like MMA, or are interested in Closure), it did bring with it the above Atlus price drops on virtually all of their PSP games which have, as you can see, hovered around full price for a while now.  Being a Price Drop event, it certainly means that we shouldn't expect the prices to go back up, as if it were a sale, but at the same time, these are fantastic prices for really good games and I want them.  Like all of them.  Maybe.  Definitely the Persona games (I might, in fact, bite on P3P tonight since I still have $20 in my PSN Wallet after buying Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9 on sale last week in preparation for PSOne support on the Vita) and the allure of "Kenka Bancho Badass Rumble" is strong, what with being likely the closest I'll ever get to a Yakuza game on PSP (and Vita for now).  Since it is a brawler in at least a similar vein, I believe, or at least that's what "Badass Rumble" would suggest to me, along with seeing a bit of it back in the day.

In all honesty, though, now that I think about it, the only games I really know anything worth measuring about are the Persona ones, Kenka Bancho, and a little of Class of Heroes where the rest might as well be a complete mystery to me.  For some reason, I think I remember holding Knights in the Nightmare in my hands a few times because it came with a free digital copy of a game (Might've even been Yggdra Union), but I never bit and I guess this would be why.  Also the fact that I think it coins itself as a Bullet Hell SRPG, which I don't even....I can't really grasp that.  Really something of a "Not sure if want" situation and maybe if I find myself with a surplus of cash, I'll jump into it, but I don't foresee that happening, so it will likely go as an unknown quantity to me for a while yet.

The fact is that I'm going to buy the Persona games.  Not all at once, not right away, but eventually.  After Eternal Punishment comes over along with Persona 4:  The Golden, I, like many others, dream to have a Vita that is full of every Persona title in the series.  If just because it's a possibility, rather than a practicality.  But the fact that they're all very good games in their own legitimate ways certainly helps, of course.  It may be a little excessive, especially when I question my ability to play the titles before 3 since their gameplay is apparently....aherm, 'dated', considering how old they are, but I do plan on giving them all a fair shake.  Being that I've already given Persona 3 a shake, technically speaking, it should be easy enough to do the others since I liked P3 minus the OCD that came over me, making me want to get the best of everything on the first run which, as we know, is a fool's errand.  -I- even know it, but it didn't stop me from trying like crazy, mind you, and ultimately souring the game for myself a bit in the process.  Hopefully with P3P's different take, it won't be so bad and I'll be able to actually relax with it some.

The real wrinkle here is that, like so many other PSP games, it seems Persona 1 and Persona 3 Portable are just not in the Vita's version of the Playstation Store.  Apparently, if you buy it on your PS3, you can check your download list and download at least P3P right there (likely the same with Persona 1 as well, since it seems as if there was just a delisting error with the price change with those two as several people have claimed both games were on the store prior to today) on your Vita without having to deal with the work around a good portion of PSP games require in downloading the game to your PS3 first and then transferring it over.  Of course, this is something that can be remedied and likely will be eventually, but for those that don't have the convenience of owning a PS3, it's a rather large hurdle, so large that it is in fact impassable.  Which is terribly unfortunate.

Still, as I said, the wording of "Price Drop" seems to indicate that these are, indeed, the new prices for the games from this day forward, thus not necessitating any form of a rush.  There's no subtext, no asterisks, nothing pointing out that it's a limited time deal or anything of the sort, so for the folks who can't really capitalize at the moment aren't missing out too badly.  Of course, if they want to play Persona 3 Portable right now, or one of the other similarly inaccessible titles, they're fairly out of luck for now, but again, here's hoping that that's cleared up swiftly, if the rumblings of the games actually being on the store before today were correct.  The question for me, however, is whether or not I have the fortitude to resist buying anything included, because I have entirely too many other games to focus on currently.  My window for completing Yakuza:  Dead Souls is...looking pretty good, actually, as the temperatures don't look all too hot for the coming week.  But it won't last like that for long, and once that closes off, I still do have three Vita games to keep me busy, technically.  With more coming in the next few months, even.  The point is, as I've made it several times before, there are simply too many games this year.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Phantasy Star Online 2 Will Be Free-to-Play

Guess that's one less thing we have to worry about for the release of the game, since, as I have said in the past that Subscriptions give me pause.  However, not only will PSO2 be free-to-play, but it also seems that it will be free to download as well, placing the entirety of the game's revenue on Micro-transactions which will rightly give plenty of people a little reason to raise eyebrows.  It's certainly not Sega's first announced venture into F2P but outside of Spiral Knights, it's also a fairly untested territory for Sega, especially with the importance that the Phantasy Star brand has for them.  While it might seem that it's not one of their bigger franchises, I will note that there have been quite a few Phantasy Star titles in the past few years, inspiring more and more titles, making it clearly worth their time.  Even still, without all that, it would be the sequel to Phantasy Star Online which itself spawned several titles of the same name that were all monetized and subscription-based, so straying that far outside of the boundaries is a little odd.

On top of the Free-to-Play, Free-to-Download approach, it seems there will also be a version for Smartphones (iOS and Android both) that, clearly won't offer cross-play, but will share information with the PC/Vita versions at least.  The Smartphone version will apparently be simpler, offering more 'social game elements', whatever that means, and will presumably be free as well, considering.  Regardless, it won't be the same game as the PC/Vita version, and I imagine it will be treated more as a companion piece than a game itself.  That's fine by me, of course, and I'm sure many people will just be blown away at the prospect to have their game on the go regardless of if they have a Vita or not.  But certainly, the Vita route would be the more tantalizing option, since it will be closer to the real thing and, as seen above, make usage of the Vita's control scheme itself.

In addition to that news, there was also news that as the game launches into the Beta phase of development, taking in around 100,000 people to test, they will release the Character Creation Demo on April 5th.  This is so people will have access to it well before the game is released and will be able to fine-tune their characters long before it necessary so that once the game is finally released, they'll be able to just go at it right like that.  At least, I would imagine the characters created with the demo would be importable, but if not, then they will likely be easily reproducible, if you take note of the settings you have for your perfect character.  But I would more be willing to bet on just straight importing them.  From what I can tell, every other game that's done something similar, releasing the creation tools prior to the game itself, has been able to import, so I'm not counting on something different here.

The downside to this all is that the other 'Phantasy Star-related surprises' that were to be revealed this month were likely what I have just covered.  This means that there is still no Phantasy Star Victory formally announced which means that there is a very sad Mogs.  Given that PSO2 will not be available in Japan until later on this year, and the Vita version (again, for Japan only) will not happen til next year, any chance of the games coming to America by years end are likely non-existent.  At the same time, no announcements have even been made suggesting that it will, but come on.  It's a brand new game in a popular franchise that works on a model that has proven to bring in a lot of money if you do it right, as evidenced by other F2P MMOs and other things, such as, dare I say it, Playstation Home.  If you make things for people to buy whilst in an MMO or MMO-like environment, they will buy them, pure and simple.

Granted, there is time yet in the month, but I would be very surprised if they announced anything else in the next few days.  Simply because this is what Sega does - they say things that are very clearly ambiguous, instill hope, and then dash it in one fell swoop.  Granted, they usually do it with news that isn't all that great, and PSO2 being free-to-play is, more or less, great news, but it is still indicative of what they do best.  I say this as someone who likes Sega, of course.  It probably doesn't matter a whole lot anyway; with any luck the upcoming PSP compatibility update (that is still rumored at this point, s'far as I can tell) that might happen sometime in April will make Phantasy Star Portable 2 playable on the Vita.  With that done, I'll actually be able to play it again, and that's really all I want at this juncture.  Just Phantasy Star Vita goodness, is that too much to ask?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Music! K-Pop Edition

I'm gonna be honest with you guys, as I always am - It's been pretty hard to write posts the last few nights.  Not only because of all the normal Spring stuff (which doesn't help, I assure), but because I have fallen into the trap that is K-Pop and I can't pull myself out.  And when I say trap, it's fairly misleading, because it's not so much that I sit and watch the videos for the songs over and over again, unable to do anything else, but more that, while I'm listening to them, I can't bring myself to do anything else.  Even now, sat here at 11:29 after I started the post an hour ago, all I do is try and struggle for the words while the lyrics to the last song I'll show off play in the background, almost mocking me for my inability to form sentences reliably.  So instead of letting it wrack at me, I figure the best idea is simply to share and hope that, in doing so, you'll all just understand what I mean.

First up is a song that I don't even remember -when- I got into it, but I'm pretty sure it was a while ago, and I know exactly who linked me to it.  And she will pay for it at an undetermined point in the future.  I find that it's pretty hard to really think of a lot of concise things to say before and after these videos because, well, there is not a lot to say.  Most of them, I don't know -why- I keep watching/listening to them other than apparently liking them, but even then, I can't really place the -why-.  But I guess that we simply like what we like, and I shouldn't worry about it too much, since it clearly isn't doing anything but making me think more on things that I clearly cannot control.  Anyways, this is "I AM THE BEST" by 2NE1.  (Spoiler alert:  They are not the best.)

The first time I remember seeing the video, I had absolutely know idea what the hell, and while I still don't, at least I'm inured to it.  I remember distinctly getting to the end of the video, thoroughly confused by everything that I'd seen and, at the part where they shoot out their logo in the giant obsidian pyramid or whatever it is, I just said, "Sure, silver assault rifles, whatever" because over the course of three and a half minutes, the absurdity had gone from confusing to blasé, which honestly is impressive on its own merits.  And just when I thought it couldn't get crazier, just recently I stumbled across the Japanese version of the song, which you might have seen the tweets I made about it.  After sleeping on it, I have determined that yes, the video was the culprit and not the lack of sleep alongside it.

Next up is from a group that I've actually 'featured' before, in a sense, back in October of last year, which is....way earlier than I figured.  Have I really been listening to K-Pop for that long?  It doesn't seem like that long, but "Good-bye Baby" is one of the songs that really made me -start- listening to K-Pop semi-reliably.  Regardless, it was fairly recently that I started to stray away from the mainstays that I'd been listening to and the next song I'm showing off is the result of one of those ventures off into the unknown.  It is, as I said before, from Miss A and it's called "Breathe" for reasons that become more or less obvious during the song.  (Spoiler alert:  No it doesn't.)

"Breathe" is the second of three songs by Miss A that I have listened to (the third one being "Bad Girl, Good Girl" on the recommended list if you watch "Breathe" on youtube itself, which I'm only a partial fan of) and it's sort of like how I find all the other stuff I really start listening to.  I find one song by a group or a band or whatever, listen to it -constantly-, and then finally branch out a little, picking a few other songs of theirs and listening to them in succession to see what the next one will be that I play the hell out of.  As you can tell, I went from Good-Bye, Baby to this and may yet go from this to "Bad Girl, Good Girl", depending on how it grows on me.  If not, well, there is assuredly plenty of other songs by them that I simply haven't looked into whatsoever that have the potential to make me wonder why I can't stop listening to them.

The last song is from a group that I honestly don't even have to name because if you have perused the internet and have ever listened to a K-Pop song, it is likely that that song was "Gee" by Girls' Generation.  In fact, the post I linked to earlier, Chance linked me to "Gee" and, having listened to it before, I figured it wouldn't trap me as it is wont to do.  I was completely wrong and paid for it by listening to Gee for approximately three hours straight that night and semi-reliably ever since.  Since I may or may not have put it on my PSP which replaced my iPod as a music device once the battery in my iPod started getting really crappy.  Like "won't work for an hour straight, really need to get the battery replaced but god am I lazy and it's expensive" crappy.  Unfortunately, my PSP is heading down that road as well, but with any luck I won't be quite so lazy with that, or I'll find a firesale Go that I can use for that purpose, among others.  Regardless, enough of that, here's "The Boys" by Girls' Generation which is quite possibly the most embarrassing of the three to admit to listening/watching.

Be advised, the actual song doesn't really start until about 1:07 into the video because there's all sorts of artsy filler beforehand or something.  Doves and snow or stuff like that, I didn't really pay attention, nor do I even pretend to care, clearly.  I....really, really don't have to say anything to this one.  I'm sure you get just why I can't not watch/listen to this after you yourself have watched/listened to it.  Just like Gee, you simply cannot look away, no matter how much you want to.  Because believe me, I would love to be able to not listen to this for hours on end, because I would be so much more productive if I did not.  But alas, this is what I'm stuck with for now, so I guess I'll enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Which is probably going to be a while.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bounties and Missed Opportunities

So after soundly finishing up the treasure hunting that I detailed yesterday, I began the arduous task of farming the Bounty Items and almost near-instantly regretted the venture.  I forewarn that it is certainly not something for the faint of heart, nor for the easily bored or distracted, because it is tedium at its worst, and a personal challenge at best.  Basically, as I feared, the objects in the Bounty sets must merely be farmed, rather than acquired in some fashion that allows for planning beyond "Restart from Last Checkpoint -> Kill Stuff -> See Step 1" over and over again.  In the right circumstances, however, this does allow for flexibility on your part which is where you can make the most of it, as I will explain, but otherwise it simply reminds me of all the time wasted in JRPGs seeking similar goals for items that actually did something, rather than provide meta-plot under the assumption that the object is eventually sold on the Black Market to ensure Nathan Drake and Victor "Goddamn" Sullivan scrape by.

The Tarot Card set was easy enough to do, since the best spot for getting those (as recommended by the internet, at least) was a nice big area that you can actually run around in and such.  Play the game tactically as it is intended; I say this because it will be important later, obviously.  To guard against how mind-numbing the task could be, since again, it is simply running the same battle over and over again via the "Restart from Last Checkpoint" function, I decided to have a little fun with it.  Since my treasure hunting had been done on Easy since I didn't want to bother with getting hit a lot and such, I was a little concerned that maybe my skills were in decline from the lack of reason to really tap into them.  In order to prepare for my Crushing playthrough, I set the difficulty back up to Hard to tackle this section, turning it into "Nathan Drake's Combat Finesse Training", making sure that I utilize both Headshots and the Steel Fist technique while not dying.  It was a success.

Granted, the area is fairly early on, so the challenge isn't terribly there, more like a pothole in the middle of a fairly clear road; you know it's there, but if you don't pay attention it will trip you and you will get hurt.  The real test will come with the latter sets, I realize, but for a re-introduction to combat, it worked spectacularly and kept me on my toes for sure.  The classic rush I get from taking out three foes in succession with the Steel Fist technique while my screen is quite gray, meaning that I just barely survived was one I felt the familiar tingle of at several occasions and once again, it reminded me that this was an Uncharted game, pure and simple.  Every reminder of that seems like it's the first, as I still can't quite wrap my head around the fact, no matter how prevalent and/or clear it is.  Hopefully if/when they do another iteration, they'll have figured it out enough that we'll get more than one environment, however.  I don't discriminate between Jungle and Burning Jungle, of course for said purposes.  And before you say "oh no spoilerzz" it's an action game.  Flammable things in action games -burn-.  That's just what they do.  You know this.

After I finished the task of collecting the Tarot Cards, my next task was the Pieces of Silver which are, in fact, Silver Coins.  I don't know why they simply aren't referred to as Silver Coins but that's neither here nor there.  The best spot to farm said coins (again, according to the internet) is during a section where you're given a Sniper Rifle and a healthy supply of ammo to shoot ~20 guys while trying to prevent someone else from being shot.  While true that there is a copious amount of folks here to kill, thus rationally increasing your chances of getting these rare drops, this is boring.  I don't get to run around and almost die, I don't get to punch things, I just sit and shoot at things, killing them in a single hit because the Sniper Rifle is powerful like that.  On its own, of course, it's fine, but when you play it for the extended periods of time that you have to to farm these coins, it becomes near unbearable.  The fact of the matter is, I spent about an hour or two grinding on this single spot and only went from 14 coins to 23.  So when I get back to it, I have more of the same awaiting me.

That is, of course, if I just go back to the most, ahem, 'efficient' spot.  I imagine there is a spot that is far more tuned to what I desire without the tedium of the sniper rifle, or at least I do hope so, because in peeking ahead at the suggestions, another one suggests an area for one of the later sets that is much like the Sniper section, but with a gatling gun instead.  It would be slightly different, of course, but not quite enough I suspect, so I'll be scouting for a different area for that as well, because I simply cannot bear this for much longer.  The only good it's doing is sharpening my aim which is plenty sharp as is, after all.  With any luck, it simply won't take as long as I suspect it might, because the quicker I get into my Crushing play, the better, and that will only happen once I get all the little extraneous things out of the way, possibly even the Kill trophies as well.

I suspect that my main issue with the Bounty sets, aside from the tedium involved, is that they simply don't offer anything but a few voiced lines for the sets and a few of the individual pieces (mostly the rare things) and trophies.  True, they do have an aspect about them as objects that are not always tangibly yours, since you can 'trade' them over the 'Black Market' (or Near), but since I have yet to get Near to work on my Vita (damn Skyhook), that aspect is completely shut off to me.  But if they're going to present these items as tradeable, why not make it worthwhile, by making the items desirable?  Make a mini-game around them; I suggested to a friend earlier that a Trading Card Mini-game where you collect the cards in the main game would be excellent, but as we know, I always think of Trading Card games.  Just -something- to use these things in is all I ask.  That they're tossed in in the way that they have been doesn't denote a lot of thought, and really means to me that they dropped the ball.  Something certainly could've come of this and that it didn't is a real miss.

Regardless, with any luck I should be done with this part of the game relatively quickly.  It's long, mindless work, but I'm fairly use to that with grinding on JRPGs and grinding on Warriors games alike, so there's nothing new to be had there.  That I'll be doing it using the mechanics of Uncharted sweetens the pot some since, as I said, I'm using it as 'Finesse Training' for my Crushing mode run, which will hopefully mean that that goes rather smoothly.  And when I'm done with that, well....then I have to figure out just what the hell I do next.  Since friggin' Gravity Rush doesn't come out til May and LittleBigPlanet doesn't come out til June.  It isn't like I don't have a wealth of options in the meantime, since I have commented on quite a few games for the Vita that are already out that I'm interested in, but my money situation might not like that option.  I really shouldn't worry about it too much not, however, since I won't know what the wait looks like until I am really done with Golden Abyss, which as I mentioned, might still have quite a life left in it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Treasure Huntin' Like a Baws

So, as I am wont to do, I have been ever-vigilantly tracking down the Platinum Trophy that lies at the end of a fairly long and bumpy road called Uncharted:  Golden Abyss.  I finished my Hard Mode play earlier (I know, I'm a wuss for going Normal first and it only hurts me in the end, since I have to play the game -again-, but at the same time, it's fantastic, so I don't mind so much) and directly after, decided to just get some treasure hunting done before I started on Crushing.  I mostly decided this because I did pretty well on gathering up treasures this time around since I knew where all the previous ones were, as well as knowing just how to find a few more thanks to the tips and tricks I picked up along the way.  Indeed, when I started on the hunt, I decided I wanted to pick off the chapters that had the most treasures missing first.

That's about when I made a horrible revelation:  I more or less went through the majority of the game missing only -one- or -two- treasures per chapter.  And in more than one instance, this single treasure or two were located more towards the end of the chapter, rather than the beginning.  Basically, my point is that I've been grumbling at every point available because of just this fact.  The above pictured treasure (that unfortunately isn't glimmering, but you see the chest symbol which means it's there) is literally, literally two seconds from the end of the chapter.  And you'll likely miss it because you run directly at the PLOT IMPORTANT things rather than where the game wants you to go, which is left and completely around those so you can climb up on a platform and grab a piece of Turquoise out of a crate.  Now, I'm not complaining about the design of it, really, because I don't mind that, more that I'm simply complaining of the circumstances, since it really is rather unfortunate.

Regardless of this terrible burden, I have made some really good progress.  I'm already past the halfway point in Chapter Selecting, which means that there's still quite a bit of stuff to get at, but it's that much more manageable.  The mysteries will be the easy part, at least, whereas the bounty sets will be considerably less so.  I'm really not looking forward to trying to farm those (I imagine that is the method you acquire them) and Near doesn't work for me in the slightest, so I can't rely on trades to help lessen the chore.  It's unfortunate, really, but not too much so since, as I said, the only thing wrong with it is that I have to play the game for an extended period of time to perform the task, and that is simply not an issue in the slightest.  In doing so, I'll be able to mop up the remaining Kill Total Trophies as well, so the process is that much more streamlined.  Of course, I still do need a good place for getting the Steel Fist Expert trophy since I keep getting into situations where I come across an enemy that I simply cannot kill with the Steel Fist, which ruins my streak.  Unfortunate, that.

I have discovered something that I find quite strange, but in a good way while playing through the game again and again.  It is friggin' long.  I never really put much thought into it as I was playing it, but the campaign in Golden Abyss is certainly nothing to scoff at.  It might just be because I have been playing it, but I would certainly put it at the same length that the "Big Boy" Uncharted games require which is an accomplishment unto itself, not to mention that this is for a portable game.  Clearly, this is not the Portable Games of yore, simple bite-sized experiences to be had and forgotten and if nothing else about Uncharted:  Golden Abyss will convince you of this, then the length certainly should.  But there is plenty to be impressed over, with regards to Golden Abyss and its platform, so I doubt that would be the one thing to really tip it over.  It certainly helps, however.

The only problem I find with Golden Abyss in general is that, despite the bulk of content I still have to conquer, I imagine I will be able to do that in relatively short order, perhaps over the weekend.  After that, I'm left with a rather large hole in my game time, as the heat has made using my PS3 a bad idea.  Only a brief reprieve from this is in the future, and once that passes, I will effectively be left with a Vita minus games.  I don't count MotorStorm RC because I begin raging at it approximately two minutes into playing it, and I'm not counting Dynasty Warriors Next either because I'm mad at KOEI and I don't want to deal with the BS surrounding playing Conquest again and again and again and again.  I suppose that is a bridge that I'll have to cross when I get there, but, much as the rope bridge in the early chapters of Golden Abyss, I'm not too fond of the path, nor what lay on the far end of it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finally, LittleBigPlanet Karting Information

I was made aware of the above trailer for LittleBigPlanet Karting by Chance as per usual, and after throwing out some of my two cents about it in the comments there, I figured that it would be best if I went full-bore here, since I am genuinely interested in the game.  Not only as someone who intends to buy the game, but as someone who is just interested with how it came to be, all things considered with it.  You know me, you know I am a whore for all things LittleBigPlanet, so to say that I'm going to get the game is a foregone conclusion -even if- I play it and am not a fan of the controls.  That's the pull LBP has on me, so I would suggest that the new branding does have a little power, but I'm clearly not the indicator of the majority.  Still with an established first-party character behind it, it'll likely get a little more attention.

On concept alone, I am sold, just like I was sold on concept alone with Modnation Racers.  Then I played it which, let's face it, there was something wrong there, which is kind of why Modnation Racers didn't take off like everyone hoped.  The fact that the very same developer that created Modnation Racers, United Front Games (who -should- be completely busy with Sleeping Dogs yet, unless it's pretty much way done), is working in LittleBigPlanet Karting makes me a little suspect, but like I said, I would hope that with an established first party character behind it, other studios will offer their own brand of help to ensure quality.  At the very least, I should hope that Media Molecule gets quite a bit of say in the development of the game, though in all honesty, after watching the trailer I believe they have.  Because there was certainly some of that LittleBigPlanet charm in it.

As I mentioned in the comment to Chance, everything in that trailer was more or less better than anything I've ever seen out of Modnation Racers, and it's not just because of the LBP of it; it genuinely looks like a tighter, more realized game.  The interesting thing about it is that it literally looks like a LittleBigPlanet game that involves Kart Racing, rather than a Kart Racer built around LittleBigPlanet.  What I mean by that is the way all the additions to LBP2 have been worked in seem rather natural and closer to that game, just realized in a different way because of the different genre.  The use of the grabinator to pick up obstacles and the grappling hook to clear a jump with style being the notable examples here.  That's why I suspect that MM have had their hands in the creation and why I have more faith in it than I should, by all rights I imagine.

The other big thing, especially big in this case, would be the inclusion of a battle mode which is always fun.  My exposure to the genre is fairly limited, but I, as most people had a copy of Mario Kart 64 as well, and the battle mode in that added quite a bit to the game when we were far too tired of -actually- racing and/or trying to figure out all the secrets each map held.  Not only will that experience be there but, hopefully, the ability to -create- maps exclusively for Battle Mode, which could offer quite a lot of enjoyment just by those merits.  In fact, the trailer seemed to show off three different types of levels you could play on; Normal, Sidescrolling, and Battle.  In my LBP experience, if you can play it, you can make it, so I'm banking on quite the level of depth to be evident in the game.  At least, I can hope for it!

I really sort of struggled with the words for this one, and I'm not quite sure if it's because I really don't know just what to feel about it yet, or because of stuff that's entirely unrelated.  Really, I am excited about LittleBigPlanet Karting on pure Brand Momentum and hope alone, but the trailer did seem to at least validate some of that blind optimism.  Hopefully when we get a little closer, we'll find out even more that will either validate me or shake my faith a bit, but I doubt anything could really stay my hand or my wallet with this one.  Unless I am completely out of money by the time it comes out because goddamnit 2012.  Stop getting all of the games!  Seriously!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Epic Mickey 2 is Finally a Real Thing

It's been rumored and leaked and talked about openly as a factual product for a while now, but Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (now with title!) is an announced commodity.  The interesting thing here is that while its predecessor was a Wii-Exclusive title, the Sequel will find itself on the Playstation 3, XBox 360 and, of course, the Wii, spreading the magic of Disney into even more living rooms than before.  Or....something to that effect, I'm sure.  Having not played the first title, for the reason mentioned, that it was on a console that I simply don't have the leisure to play, I find that I'm really lacking reasons as to how I find this in the least interesting.  It's certainly the biggest story of the day, however, at least what I could find, so I thought I -had- to at least touch on it a little bit.

Of course, that's not the only Epic Mickey story that's been in the news lately, as word has been tossed about of a possible 3DS version of the Sequel or at least some iteration of the series itself.  If it's not the sequel, it's possible that the game might have the tagline of "Power of Illusion" which seems to allude to a series of Mickey games from years past, way back to the days where Console Wars meant yelling at your friends that the Sega Genesis (Or Mega Drive) was better because of the games and such, and/or yelling at your friends that the SNES was better because of the games and such.  We didn't really have a lot, back then, looking back on it.  Just mostly the first-party line-up and the general differences between the consoles themselves, which had better graphics and which had better sound and the like.  That link also offers you a more thorough look into the storied history of Epic Mickey 2's long-foreshadowed existence that I'm simply not too inclined to overly detail here.

Something I am admittedly curious about with the reveal that Epic Mickey 2 will be on the PS3 and 360 is just how it will look and control.  One would think that, to achieve the best look on all three platforms, the way to go is to design for one of the HD consoles first (It would be better to lead on PS3, since it's pretty much simpler to port to 360 from it, rather than the other way around) and then port from there.  The Wii version obviously can't push the same graphics, but with a little care and a good art style (which I do believe Epic Mickey has), it won't look bad on it.  Of course, how I expect it to go is that development will lead on the Wii, since the assets (that will likely be reused to cut costs) were designed for it and then it's probably not that hard a matter to up-res for the PS3/360, which, again, if the art style holds up, will not result in bad looking graphics.  Not the best, but not awful.

Of course, that Epic Mickey utilized the Wiimote begs the question of whether or not it will do the same for the Sequel, which will then implement the Move and Kinect, or if it will eschew that for more 'traditional' controls to placate the majority of the people that will play it?  I'm going to level with you here, I have -very little knowledge- of how Epic Mickey played, so how simple a task, or how difficult, I have absolutely no idea.  I am pretty sure that it played a heavy part in it, something like painting the world back into existence or something, but I could be wrong.  Regardless, the only way I'll be interested in this is if we get an HD port of the original since, as I believe I've stated here several times, I hate jumping into a game's story unaware and will just straight-up refuse to play a game if I can't first play the story that came before.  Still, like I said, it's news!

Update!:  It's a minor one but apparently Epic Mickey 2 will support Move but not Kinect.  I guess it was a little far-fetched to think that they could make it work with the controller and Kinect, because so far, only a couple games have said functionality announced.  (One of them being Steel Battalion, I believe.)

Update 2!:  So, when it rains, it pours, I guess.  Thanks to a Nintendo Power cover, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the 3DS has been confirmed as well.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reflection: LiveArea Worries and How Wrong They Were

It was last year on this day that I was under the dark impression that the LiveArea screen of the Playstation Vita would not be as customizable as the PSP's, meaning that I would forever be forced to look at a wavy blue background with little circle icons on it without any real input on just where they went or how they were.  A lot can change in a year and since then I've learned that not only are they customizable, they are amazingly so, and are truly worth really showing off.  So I figured I'd do that tonight, not as a "Here's just something" type of post, but just as a post as some of my others attempt to do, by giving you a look into what I think, do and have of my own.  Really, it's not so different about posting what I think about a game because I played it that day or what I think of something that's coming up because I saw a video of it.  So, with that said, Photo Time, and then afterwards, some words.

It's interesting just how different each background can really be, and just what it lends to the overall picture by being used as it is, really.  And Chance, trust me, I know you, so I know you're eying that Okami one (unless you have it already), so Here is the link for it.  The OP (Warning:  Very Not slow-internet-friendly) for NeoGAF's Vita Wallpaper thread is quite helpful and offers quite a bit of variety, with quite a few of my backgrounds coming from there, namely the Okami one, the Chrono Trigger one which is actually part of a collection, the Katamari one and my Lock Screen being from there as well.  The others are screenshots (for Uncharted:  Golden Abyss.  I plan to have a screenshot of whatever game I'm playing currently up as the background, mostly for myself) or just random things I found through searching (The Drakengard and Final Fantasy Tactics ones). 

While I'm perfectly happy with how you can customize the 'cards' however you want, both in background, color (if you're using a default), and what icons are on it and where they are, I do sort of lament the fact that you can't just reorder cards completely.  At least, not from any way I can tell.  I know I'd prefer to have my demos and Games up towards the top, rather than the last cards, but unless I want to devote a good ten to twenty minutes re-arranging things and setting new backgrounds again, I'm stuck with how it is.  And I don't, but at the same time, I'm not really complaining about it.  At least with the way it's set up, I can have some rather pleasing pictures to look at as I get down to the cards I really want to be on.  Not that I'm really ever off of those cards, since I've found it's really easy to just leave the Vita on in sleep mode rather than fully powering it off.  Sleeping seems to do a good job of conserving battery at least, so for now I'm perfectly happy to just do it like that, if only for the convenience.

I just thought it was a neat thing to look back a year and see just what I was thinking and 'worrying' about, knowing what I do now.  Because not only do I not have an ugly LiveArea like the one that's always shown in the promos and such, I have several of them, and they're all exquisite.  And some of them even match the content!  Obviously the screenshot ones (counting FFT as a screenshot one) count, but Daft Punk for the one with Music featured, Okami with its picturesque beauty being there for Photos and Video, and the like.  Caim just gets a pass for being awesome, of course.  Hopefully some more 'custom' Vita Backgrounds get made and it becomes a little easier to search for them because I seem to just be hitting the same places.  And while I could just grab pictures off the web, I like the idea of getting something that was specifically made for the purpose I'll implement it in.  Still, that's certainly something to look forward to!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Needs More Macabre

What does?  Gaming does.  At least, that's what I've been thinking about for the last couple of days thanks to the gentle push of Yakuza:  Dead Souls.  Playing it has really made me think about how much time I've spent on different kinds and types of gaming over the last few years years and what's struck me is just how much time I've devoted to things that are more realistic (or at least mostly) and/or Modern-themed (Metal Gear Solid, Yakuza, Uncharted), futuristic (Phantasy Star Portable, Dynasty Warriors Gundam, Alpha Protocol (somewhat)) or just straight up historical, be it realistic or fictional (Dynasty/Samurai Warriors, Assassin's Creed (The games style themselves after history after all)).  This realization has made me realize the complete blind spot I've developed for things that cater to the 'darker' themes out there - the more Macabre types - like Yakuza:  Dead Souls, the above-pictured inFamous 2:  Festival of Blood (which I have not bought/played yet which honestly -really hurts-, but it's Digital-Only on PS3 and goddamnit, I don't have that kind of internet for something that runs hot like my PS3 does) and the classic Legacy of Kain series do.

In recent memory, the only other game that could cater to this type of thing would likely be Shadows of the Damned, what with the honest B-Side approach to the genre, though I guess Darksiders (and the upcoming Darksiders 2) could definitely count, what with the whole theme being the Apocalypse and all.  And Demon's Souls/Dark Souls certainly could count too, though it's hard to say if it's because you play it to fight realized Dungeom types of monsters or because you go into the game knowing that you are going to die several timesGruesomely.  Still, I'm sure you guys get what I'm grabbing at here; Vampires, Zombies, that type of thing has been beaten down into being a side-show in most games, rather than being the driving of it.  Or if it's included, they spend more time on how you, as the main character, are awesome for being able to kill them when no one else can, rather than using them to also further the story.  Yakuza:  Dead Souls perfectly exemplifies this; not only by having four protagonists who all, of course, do some zombie-killin', but because you see examples of other people, 'normal' people fighting as well just to survive.  It's gripping and it's driving without being contrived.

But then you have things like the Zombies mode of Black Ops where it is 1.) a Novelty, and 2.) a Novelty because the main characters are famous figures who, obviously, did not fight off a zombie holocaust, and assuredly not together.  Now I'm not saying that you should -only- have Zombies as a super serious addition to a game where they are displayed as is proper - a swarm that consumes and destroys by merely (re)existing, but when Zombies mode is one of the 'biggest' ways they've been used recently (other examples include being mooks in Darksiders, random fodder in Shadows of the Dead, etc.) then you have to then go a different way at some point.  The same could be said for Vampires, especially when they've really not been used in all that many games if you think about it.  Castlevania as a series, Vampire:  The Masquerade:  Bloodlines, the Afore-mentioned Legacy of Kain, and the Elder Scrolls series would be the main examples here.  I'm sure a few other things could be tossed out, but, really, for as dynamic as Vampires can be (for better or worse), you should expect a better utilization of them.

I just find that I really want these kinds of games now that I think about it and I've been further exposed into it.  They don't even have to be horror-themed or something like that (which I imagine is what you would expect) because Dead Souls certainly is not that, nor is Resident Evil (at least, not anymore), nor is Festival of Blood and so on and so on.  We really need to re-inject this theme, this mood, back into the hobby before the "shoot things that are somewhat humanoid in a destroyed city" trend really takes over fully (though some would argue it already has).  It's a surprisingly untapped market, so a few games out, if you put some real effort into them (and marketing effort), and we could see it really come around.  I guess the idea is that, because these things are so known, they've been done so much already, but as we can see, I can't really throw out a whole mess of examples.  Unless I'm just blatantly missing quite a few things, I honestly can't think of much here outside of movies and TV where it's reliably been what we could call 'over-saturated'.

Of course, maybe I'm just wrong.  Or maybe I'm simply the outlier.  But I know that, at least now, I'll be keeping an eye out for these types of games that cater to these themes because they're certainly something I want to get in on.  Whether it's shooting up some zombies ala Dead Souls, or something a little more traditional like trying to stake some Vampires, I'm really really wanting to play more games that revolve around that type of thing, so I'll be all for throwing money at the first dev to produce something that does this and does it well.  Perhaps the latter part is what most people are afraid of, and I guess I don't blame them in that.  But it doesn't make me want any less, that's for sure.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Disclaimer Version 2

Now, last year, I had to make a post that basically said that Spring (and technically Summer, but we're just focusing on Spring for now) is my arch-nemesis as the presence of an overabundance of electricity (lightning) generally makes all the other electricity unusable.  Like computers.  Also game consoles (but not handhelds).  Granted, I'd hoped to have had a Laptop by this point to make this all a moot point, but best laid plans and all that.  So really, what was said last year stands for this one as well.  Now would be the time to start getting yourself acquainted with the lovely twitter side bar as, thanks to LiveTweet on the Vita, I have the best access to that as possible, and will be using it to say when it's storming, when I'm sick (because I'm gonna be sick a lot this Spring, I'm sure) and the like.  Just basically when you should expect little to no content.

I figured it was about time to say this as, as you might have noticed, the last couple of days have been kind of taxing on me because I'm getting adjusted to the heat and the sudden shift to it.  Also there was a threat of Tornadoes today which are no good.  Thankfully, everything's fine and the storm pushed me back into Uncharted:  Golden Abyss to get a little further into my Hard playthrough which will in turn lead me to  my Crushing playthrough.  Random side-note about all this, by the by:  Why can't I transfer all my Clues and such to a new game?  C'mon, I've had to deal with the lack of unlockable 'cheats' since the last Uncharted, now I have to find everything over and over again?  Story/path-related things I can see.  The early charcoal rubbings, the things you pick up when you're going the way you're supposed to go, etc.  But there's no reason why I can't carry over my pieces of Turquoise and such.  Angryface.

Anyways, just so I can have something approaching content, I did also want to say that I tried the Shinobido 2 Demo and it was pretty great.  I was a bit surprised by that, actually, since I figured I would be terrible at it.  Granted, it was just tutorial missions and then one singular actual mission (which means the demo was way too short) so it was easy enough and was meant to be as such, I'm sure.  But moreso than that, I'm pretty happy with how it controlled.  It's not amazing, but it's not overly tanky.  The grappling hook makes for some pretty righteous movement, though the lack of a double jump was something that I consistently forgot about which bothers me for several reasons.  Still, the lack of the different animations for kills (at least, I performed three stealth kills in a row that were the exact same thing, not too happy about that) was kind of a downer.  All in all though, a pretty good demo, in the same way that the Katamari demo was a good one; it gave me a tiny, tiny chunk of the main game that was fun enough to make me want the whole thing.

So, yeah.  With any luck, Mother Nature will stop deciding to be such a bitch about stuff and I won't have to worry so much.  Because I worry so much, you guys.  You don't even know.  Still, I guess it's good that I'm concerned since it helps me prevent disasters rather than find myself stuck in them.  Hopefully I'll get stuff sorted out this Spring so it won't be so much of an issue; I'll try to do things to give me material for personal pieces rather than parroting off news all the time since that is almost impossible to rely on.  With a steady stream of content like that, any bumps in the road will barely be noticeable, or at least that's what I think I've learned about this for being at it a year and all.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pretty Bleh

I hate to do this, really, because it just feels like I'm not trying, but it's been a long, long day, I have a headache and I just don't feel good because the temperature and conditions have changed rapidly over and over again in the past few days.  So yeah, not really a whole lot to post about tonight, I'm just going to throw down a couple of trailers for Retro City Rampage which was announced last month as heading to Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita both which made it fall squarely onto my radar.  Quite clearly, once you take a look at the game, you'll see that it appears to be a take on an 8-Bit style Grand Theft Auto with all sorts of other NES-related shennanigans.  In other words, it looks awesome.  Previously exclusive to WiiWare and XBLA, everyone seems to get a chance at it now since, as I said, it will be available for those, PS3, PS Vita and PC, either supported by Steam or exclusively through it.  So, with that said, let's take a look.

Looks pretty wild, really.  I went with an older trailer after the teaser because of the clear Batman parody to show off some of the other things they try to do, and then the final trailer is the "Big News" one, wherein I assume it was first announced (in video form) that it was coming to more platforms than previously thought.  I'm sure you can have a nice rousing game of "Spot the Parody" with the last trailer, definitely.  Personally, I can't wait for this; it'll have quite the nice home on my Vita.  And with that, I say good night.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Is Shenmue HD the Next Dreamcast Remake?

That's what a place called Gamerzines would like you to think and, while I would usually just toss off this rumor as just that, but a fellow over at the Penny Arcade forums who goes by (and this is an affectionate title, I assure you) "TheSonicRetard" has thrown this out as truth.  If there is one thing that TSR does not mess around with, it's anything to do with Sega, so for him to say "I know who this is, too. It is indeed real" makes me almost completely believe it as gospel because TSR has some connections.  It also makes complete sense since Sega has been tossing out a lot of their old Dreamcast hits in HD, seems to want to continue doing so and, well, people do indeed like Shenmue.  They like it a lot, so much so that rumors of Shenmue III existing seem to hold up part of the internet on their own.  So it's not crazy to think that Shenmue is on the list of games to get HD-ified.

Now, there is one of the finer details of the post that I'm not too sure about, and since TSR has not said that the entirety of the story is 100% truth, I am going to go ahead and poke at it a bit.  They claim that their insider says Shenmue HD has been done for over a year, as has Shenmue II HD (I assume not for over a year, but done nonetheless), but both have been held off in favor of getting a 'clearer picture of the future for the Shenmue franchise, namely, whether or not Shenmue III will see the light of day".  Of course, if Shenmue HD is announced after Jet Set Radio HD comes out, that either means we'll have some Shenmue III news around that time or, the entirely likely scenario here, we'll never hear anything of any importance from Sega about Shenmue III again as we haven't for years now.  So really, I'm just a little iffy on whether or not the games have really been finished for that amount of time.

Don't get me wrong - I, like the rest of everyone who had even a cursory interest in the Dreamcast and Sega while they were both still around in their former capacities, would love to see a Shenmue III.  And let's face it, we exist in a world where Duke Nukem Forever was actually released, so miracles -can- happen.  (Not simultaneously, however, which would be why DNF -was- released, but was sub-par)  Similarly, Penny Arcade Adventures:  On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3 is being released despite being 'canceled' directly from the creators and then 'finished' in a novella.  So we really, truly cannot say 'Never' again because history has made us all the fool for doing so.  However, on the list of things that I believe could possibly happen, Shenmue HD and Shenmue 2 HD are pretty high up whereas Shenmue III being a thing ranks just under "Sega rejoins the Console Market" which itself is under "Microsoft releases a handheld to compete against the 3DS and Vita".  They're all possible, technically, but not exactly plausible.

Regardless, my first instinct when I saw "Shenmue HD" was the pull money out of my wallet and start throwing it at the computer monitor and my PS3, but neither had the effect of, well, getting me the game.  This might be because it's not out yet, or maybe, just maybe, because this is not how you purchase things digitally.  The fact that it hasn't been officially announced, much less had a price-tag attached to it or a release date further complicates matters but, no doubt, whenever it's announced it'll be like the others.  Fair price-tag, probably release in a few months or so from now, and it'll be pretty righteous.  Then, hopefully after it's released, the next two Dreamcast titles will be released and another collection Disk will come out, but for -all- the systems and not just 360 and PC.  I will literally double-dip on Shenmue HD and I don't even care.  I will also double-dip for Shenmue 2 HD and Skies of Arcadia, should these things ever come to pass and would even triple-dip if even just a single one were available for the Vita.  Can you imagine Skies of Arcadia as a portable game?  I can.  It's amazing.

We'll see what all comes of this in the coming months.  At the very least, we can reasonably expect to come away with two more amazing up-ports of games that are fan favorites and for good reason.   The games weren't afraid to do things that you weren't really accustomed to, and we really enjoyed it because of that and because it just had a really neat combat system in what was actually not a very combat-focused game.  It was at least a 50/50 split, where the story was just as important as the mechanics and it's a very precarious line that few games and developers can really walk with any certainty.  Perhaps with it back in the forefront when/if Shenmue and II are re-released, it'll have a good impact on the way we look at or enjoy games again.  Because certainly, at the time, it did that for me and is quite possibly one of the reasons as to why I loved the Dreamcast (and consequently, more Japan-focused things) and continue to do so.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ratchet and Clank Collection is Official!

So, it's been rumored for a while and expected for longer, but the Ratchet and Clank Collection is officially a thing.  Confirmed by both the North American and PAL Playstation Blogs, the first three Ratchet and Clank games which have all sorts of names depending on what country you were from, apparently, where all three will be locked at 60 Frames Per Second, render in 1080p (or 720p for 3D) and have a separate Trophy List for each game, with each one having a Platinum Trophy as is expected.  That's all standard stuff for these collections and, while they're greatly appreciated, there's nothing new and exciting to talk about with that.  But, well, we are covered with that as well, since the multiplayer mode from the third game (Either Ratchet and Clank 3 or Ratchet and Clank:  Up Your Arsenal, again, dependent on where you're from) that I didn't know anything about will be included and playable in the collection.  Clearly, as an online mode for a PS2 game, it didn't get to see much usage when it was originally released but nowadays it shouldn't have any problems getting off the ground.

The Collection is the first step in the 10th Anniversary of Ratchet and Clank celebration, with more things promised to come, yet obviously unannounced just yet.  It's not too hard to guess at just what these could be, however, especially when you take a look at the comments and replies of the American Announcement Post.

+ anonymus212 on March 15th, 2012 at 4:11 pm said:
“This option was considered [Deadlocked]. We had our reasons for this way, but don’t think we didn’t think of it”
“Again, everything should be available to all”
“You will definitely want to pre-order if you’re in North America :-)”
If my intuition isn’t failing me, I would make a strong guess, due to these comments, that :
Deadlocked will be released on the PS Store as a stand-alone HD remaster and North Americans, should they pre-order, as a result of waiting, will get it free of charge. Europeans will also get it, but will have to pay.
That would be my best guess for the 10th ANNIVERSARY SURPRISE.

+ James Stevenson on March 15th, 2012 at 4:31 pm said:
That would be crafty of us, wouldn’t it?
That’s not the big 10th Anniversary Surprise though :-)

While ruled out as a possible "Big Surprise" for the Anniversary, it certainly wasn't ruled out as a possibility, nor was it even hinted against happening.  As stated in the quoted, the same rep responded to quite a few people with something along the lines of "You will want to make sure you pre-order!" in a very light-hearted, but pointed manner.  Whether the reason you'll want to pre-order is because of a possible Deadlocked HD or not, whatever this bonus is, it's probably going to be big considering the urging here.  Yet it also might not be the "Big Surprise" that's in store for all of us.  While you might think it's only for North American buyers if you read both posts, I would imagine that it will be for PAL as well, given the number of times they said "Everyone is going to get everything".

When everyone is getting these/this game(s) is the real thing here, as PAL's collection is fully dated for May 16th, 2012, whereas the NA version has a nebulous window of "Fall".  Fall doesn't necessarily mean late Fall, early Fall or what, but I would imagine it would be closer to the start.  Of course, the original Ratchet and Clank released on November 4th, and the NA release date seems to have something to do with this big surprise and announcement, so it might be closer to that.  At least, the release date itself, not the announcement.  That is supposed to be "Coming Soon", so we'll just have to see what it is.  Now, I'm not saying smart money is on an official new game in the series, but I wouldn't be surprised by that at all.  Unfortunately, I doubt whatever announcement this is will have anything to do with the Vita, as a very pointed statement of "There are currently no plans for a Vita version. Sorry. :(" from the PAL blog rules that out.

I've stated my interest for a Ratchet and Clank Collection for a while now since these seemed to be real gems from the past that I missed completely.  I don't know why, I can't put my finger on it, but when I was a kid, I just never grabbed up the games despite recognizing them as big, first-party games.  (at least, towards the end of the PS2's lifespan I did.  And had several opportunities to buy into the series that I passed up on.)  With this thing official, I'll finally have a chance to get into the games a bit late, but in arguably the best way possible currently, with better graphics, locked framerate and incentive to explore every nook and cranny of the games as you would -want- to do as a young'n.  So here's looking forward to it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Yakuza: Dead Souls is Pretty Interesting

Ever since it was announced, I really just had no idea of what to think about Yakuza:  Dead Souls (Formerly subtitled "Of the End") because it was just so out there.  Taking a franchise that was so steeped in attempted realism (granted, the stuff is Over-the-top, but it's at least Spy-Fiction possible) and brawling, and then throwing guns and zombies to the mix seemed like madness.  That's like making Zelda a racing game, or making Pokemon an RTS; it's just on no level what you would think of, associating the game with the genre.  But it happened, so the thing to ask at this point would be "Does it work?".  From what little of Dead Souls that I played today, I'm leaning very heavily towards "Yes" because, while it's a Third-Person Shooter (at parts) with Zombies, it is very much a Yakuza game at its very core, and the Shooting and such works more as a twist on the approach rather than that dramatic of a shift.

My primary concern was how the game would maintain the feel of a Yakuza game, and it has done that in a way I never would have even considered.  For all intents and purposes, Kamurocho is now two different worlds entirely, divided by a giant steel wall put in place by the Special Defense Force.  On one side, the quarantined area of Kamurocho where zombies, mutants and survivors thrive (though the last bit, not so much) and spread, causing destruction to the city and tearing it to ruin.  On the other side, Kamurocho as it was; pristine (on the surface, at least) and populated, with the majority of the people going about their lives as if nothing were different at all.  It's a little jarring at first, but I suspect that is part of the point.  It's functional as well, however, since it's in this section of the city where you get the main feel of a Yakuza game, aside from where the story comes into play.

The 'clean' half of Kamurocho is where you'll do the majority of the Mini-games, search for most of the substories and just -explore- the city, unfettered by the possibility of being grabbed by some street punk, up-and-coming spit-shine Yakuza or drunkard and forced into a brawl.  This is the downside of the game, I feel, but it definitely makes sense.  Dead Souls is based around ranged combat and the existing engine was probably tweaked to just accommodate this, rather than having two different engines completely.  As well as mechanically, it probably just wouldn't fit thematically considering it's highly unlikely that you would get some punk trying to bum 5,000 yen off of you by threatening to smash your teeth in when, in theory, the wall that holds the zombies back could come down at any point.  While the argument could be made that using that logic means nobody should be working at Kanrai or playing at the Yoshida Batting Cages either, but shut up.

So, how does the Quarantined half of Kamurocho work, you might ask?  Well, surprisingly decently really.  The story looks as if it will take place in both halves of the city when appropriate, but you can pretty much go into the Quarantined zone whenever you feel like it by using 'Back Door' locations scattered around the city.  (That are unlocked by playing the game, they're not open to you right away)  Entering one of these Back Doors takes you into the Quarantine where you can shoot as many Zombies as you wish, explore however much you want, and look for the things that are there.  On top of many substories requiring you to go into the Quarantine, you'll find that several old locations in the zone have been shuttered, just waiting to be saved.  Upon getting to these areas, you'll fight off a few waves to 'clear' the area (really, zombies seem to infinitely respawn so it's a bit moot), letting them open back up for business, despite the area still being in ruin.

The first of these such locations was Club Sega in Theater Square, which, predictably, allows you to play around in it as if it weren't in the middle of the infestation.  The only reminder of that fact is the visage of the employees wearing hardhats and wielding baseball bats while offering to switch out the prizes in the left-hand Crane Machine.  Similarly, I can only assume saved restaurants will allow you to eat and drink there which will prove handy of course since doing so restores fantastic amounts of health, meaning that there is a real, true function of the mechanic besides adding a little depth and being somewhat silly, given the circumstances of the game itself.  I can forgive it, of course, since I'm at least an apologist, but it does far more good than it does bad, even if you try to psycho-analyze it.  Without those types of things, there wouldn't be a whole lot to do while you're running around killing Zombies, so having that helps.

I'm still early into it, but I'm very much enjoying it so far.  It doesn't quite scratch the itch that a traditional Yakuza game would for obvious reasons, but it gets the job done sufficiently thanks to being very, very Yakuza-like.  My opinion could very well change between now and finishing the game as the controls are not quite as good as they should be.  They most certainly did not tweak the controls to match Binary Domain's as they said they would (unless Binary Domain is fairly tanky as well), but they're not absolutely bad by any standards.  You can still run and gun, which puts it a step above Resident Evil 4 and 5, even though precision aiming (for, say, reliable headshots) does rely similarly on standing still and aiming instead of the walk-while-aiming strategy every other TPS has rightly assumed.  Regardless, it's definitely a game I'm going to enjoy, as I have enjoyed it already.  And I haven't even played as Majima yet.  Oh man.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Real Moments of Badassery

"Badass" is a term that's bandied about often and oftentimes without too much thought, being used as a simple descriptor for something otherwise positive or good regardless, being merely exaggerated a bit.  Of course, if you really look at things, there are still quite a lot of moments of legitimate, real 'badass' moments, and these are the things I would like to point out in these types of articles, appropriately named "Real Moments in Badassery".  (Which is totally a word now.)  I will preface this with a simple warning, which will likely be repeated in every entry:  Being that these moments tend to deal with story content in video games, there are spoilers in these posts.  There's no real way about it and, since it's fairly obvious as that fact, I won't be inserting a break.  You've been warned.  (Today's games, however, are far from new, thus you might know what's with them already.)

If I could put every moment of every Legacy of Kain game ever here, I would (besides the block puzzles in Soul Reaver 1), because really, the entire series is just littered with moments of badassery.  The majority of which are attributed to the wonderful voice acting and theatrics of the whole series which were miles ahead of their time when the games came out, not to mention the current day.  Kain and Raziel were just fantastic characters all around because of the bond they share, the moments they have with one another, and just how neither seems to tread on the good or bad side of the road, despite their narratives indicating that they might.  The games, the stories, are just made up of so much grey area that it -feels- like it was really thought out, and it's not contrived, not forced, just completely well-written in a way that you just don't see then or now.

This particular scene is pretty great because it explains the majority of the first game, Blood Omen, or at least, the most important bits, which set the tone and the setting of the entire series as a whole.  It also lets Kain be a super-badass, explaining things, albeit cryptically, that are confusing at first but totally pay off in the end of the series in a way that really, truly is amazing.  It really gives off the vibe that the story had, and I know this is a strange idea, but it feels like the story had been constructed before the games were a possibility, rather than the success of the first necessitating more and more.  The latter case, of course, meaning that the writers then have to literally make things up that sort of fit but were not intended to be as such in the first place.  Now, I don't know which case is true in this franchise, but it feels like the better of them at least.

Even without all the other moments making this one that awesome by default, the lines in here are simply fantastic.  "Let's drop the moral posturing, shall we?  We both know there is no altruism in this pursuit.  Your reckless indignation led you here; I counted on it!  ....There's no shame in it, Raziel.  Revenge is motivation enough.  At least it's honest!  Hate me, but do it honestly!"  And then the whole coin metaphor really, really signifies just how different the Legacy of Kain series goes, which is only exemplified with the final line.  "You said it yourself, Kain.  There are only two sides to your coin."  "Apparently so.  But suppose you throw a coin enough times....suppose one lands on its edge."  It really drives home that even when there appears to be only two choices; the 'moral' one and the 'immoral' one, there is usually always a third option somewhere in between.

First off, skip everything from 0:43 to 2:01 because it's fluff.  The meat of the issue here is precisely this speech which is probably one of the most awesome intros for a rather 'eh' war game out there.  (Not my opinion as I've only played half of the first Killzone which I was largely 'eh' about.)  This is one of the many peaks of voice acting in the current generation, and I'm quite frankly amazed that it's for Killzone 2, but regardless of that, it's amazing.  And it's fairly in counter to the subtlety of the Legacy of Kain series as, where everything is rather grey there, there's only hints of it in the set of up Killzone 2 (which, I could be wrong about this, admittedly), but it compensates by making the 'evil' (Visari) so delightfully evil, that it works out spectacularly.  He -revels- in this, speaks it with absolute resolution, absolute belief, and it's glorious for how unashamedly brutal it is, by necessity.

I feel it would be doing it a disservice if I posted mere quotes of the speech without the entirety of it, so that's what I'll do, if just so that you get the full experience of it.

"My people.  Sons and daughters of Helghan.  This much I vow.  The history of these days will be written in blood.  By crushing the armies of our enemy, by seizing the weapons they thought to turn against us, we were fighting for our very existence!  But if there are those who deny us peace, refuse us our rightful place in the universe then we will unleash such terrible vengeance that generations yet unborn will cry out in anguish! [...]  The enemy may shatter our bodies, but they cannot break our spirit.  Even now, they advance on our home world to seize by force what they cannot claim by right.  They cannot imagine what awaits them.  We will Smite the invaders from our skies!    Though they sweep over our lands like the sands of winter, never again will we bow before them, never again endure their oppression.....never again endure their tyranny.  We will strike, without warning and without mercy, fighting as one hand, one heart, one soul.  We will shatter their dreams and haunt their nightmares, drenching our ancestors graves with their blood!  And as our last breath tears at their we rise again from the ruins of our cities....They will know Helghan belongs to the Helghast."
There is not one single bit of that that is not fantastic and I can assure that the acting of Brian Cox just elevates it to that next level.  There's not really much else I can say about it that wouldn't be done better justice by just listening to it for yourself, even if you've heard it before.  It just gives me chills even now after listening to it for like, the fifth time in a row (the previous four to make sure I'd transcribed it correctly).  I'm not sure if it's worth getting in on the game just for that but, let's just say, it's a pretty damn convincing argument.