Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hooray for Niche Game Announcements!

There were a few things that have been announced in recent times that I have at least a little bit of interest in, so I figured today was as good a day as any to bring them up and do a little speaking on them.  Mostly since it's a far more interesting topic of conversation than yard work, which is what a good portion of my day was spent doing.  Also because I haven't done a good ol' fashioned news dump in a while (which, I mean, format-wise is what this type of post is) or at least that's what I'm going to tell myself to ensure that it's a good time to go with it.  Just, you know, whatever works.

XSEED (Marvelous isn't changing XSEED's name, Joystiq) is releasing Ragnarok Odyssey Ace sometime this winter for not only the Vita, but the PS3 for this go around.  The game will be, unsurprisingly, a re-release of Ragnarok Odyssey for the Vita, but with all the included DLC that's since come out as well as Cross-Platform play between both versions of the game, as well as a host of other things.  New costume pieces, weapons and items are almost a given, but one of the more interesting things mentioned is that there will be a new "Tower of Yggdrasil" dungeon.  Perhaps because of the explanation of the dungeon, I cannot help but think of Tartarus in that the dungeon creates rooms in a randomized style as you traverse upwards for what I can only assume is a rather long time.  Because Yggdrasil was kind of a big tree, you know.

Most interestingly for me is the mention of an upgraded battle system, because I'm a little confused on what it's going to address.  On the one hand, Ragnarok Odyssey's battle system was rather fast-paced and enjoyable and I don't think it needs retooling, exactly.  For what it is, it works extremely well - you get around fast and you attack monsters with vigor - but there's a rather unfortunate disconnect in what you're actually doing and what the game is doing.  Really, it's not the battle system that poses the problem, but the mechanics themselves that drive it, that crunch the numbers for the uncrunchable exploits you're performing.  This is a hurdle every game must jump, of course, but I can't help but think of Ragnarok Odyssey as grazing that hurdle on the hop over, only barely skirting it.

As an Assassin character, my priority was movement.  Gotta go fast, gotta get up to things, gotta hit fast, gotta get back.  Having tested all the characters, this is the playstyle that fits -me- the best and even though I can technically replicate that with any other class because of the flexibility of the system, the Assassin was built around it, so play to its strength.  Only, I could dash around enemies and slice them in the back four times while they were swinging a paw or a weapon or what have you and dash away before they even started turning around, which you might think would be a lot of damage, all things considered.  But it wasn't.  It was functionally the same as running up to their face and hitting them like that.  And it's because it's not really about -your- character, but your gear and how far into the game you've gotten, since every chapter clear boosts your stats (which are almost superfluous given that's their only boosting time) that determines how 'good' you are at monster-slaying. 

Imagine any game where the gameplay relies on you picking up stronger weapons for stronger enemies.  Yes, I understand there are a lot, that's not the point.  Imagine that instead of being able to pick up those upgraded weapons (since they're all functionally the same), you only upgrade after every few chapters.  You start out with a pistol and your first upgrade is a magnum.  Something along those lines. You can go back to the first chapter after you've upgraded to your shotgun and everything's so much easier, or you can go back to that boss that gave you a hard time in chapter 4 once you unlock the RPG, but what's the point?  You already spent half an hour plinking away at it with a dodgy Assault Rifle because it was the only thing you could work with.  If the game is about forward progress and not getting better things, then there's no reason to go backwards when you're forward and going forward ultimately ends up becoming more and more of a challenge as you face scenarios that are inopportune for your current state.  It's why you can grind in RPGs (most of them) and why you can scavenge for ammo for any gun you can carry in most shooters.  Because there can't just be "This is what you are" at any given time, but rather "this is what you can be", and Odyssey missed that. 

Still, despite that, I'm a bit optimistic, as it can only really improve instead of dial back really.  Or even just sort of maintain, which isn't as -bad- of a thing as I may have made it out to be.  There are, of course, ways around the 'never upgrading until you do far far after you needed to' system that I simply didn't care to put much effort into since they are basically "Switch classes to something more fitting and/or play online and hope the increased difficulty is mitigated by seasoned players and with the game coming to Vita -and- PS3 with Cross-Play, you'll have that much larger of a pool of potential hunting partners to attempt missions with.  I'm not quite sure if I'll be picking up Ace as I still haven't finished Odyssey's base game and I might not anytime soon, but I would still recommend it as a game to watch, if nothing else.

The "Best of Playstation Network, Volume 1" is also something that I sorely overlooked and almost regret doing because of one very important element.  If it's not quite obvious, the Best of Playstation Network, Volume 1 is a disk-based (this is key) collection of some of Playstation's neatest, strangest and most talked about games, both in the recent past and reaching back a ways, though not in as balanced of a way as I would hope, unfortunately.  So if you're worried about a digital future, or you simply find it difficult to find space on your HDD for all of these little games that add up quite fast, then this is certainly an avenue of purchasing to investigate.

My own interest comes from the inclusion of Tokyo Jungle which is a game I have been enthused about in the past, but never got around to purchasing because of the prohibitive 2.4 gig file size the game carries.  Well, that and because I just inherently like bundles because they are amazing things, but really it's mostly the Tokyo Jungle portion of said bundle.  Especially since I already own the Fat Princess and Sound Shapes portion of it.  I mean, how can you just not want to at least -play- a game that lets you run around an area of ruined Tokyo as a baby chick who can actually grow up and fight other animals for dominance in this new, strange world for them?  How can you just not want to at least -play- a game that allows you to put construction hats on your dog character that you are playing as and then pit you against a crocodile in a fight that you can actually win?

Though I will say that I hope this yet-another-inclusion of Fat Princess in something means that they're actually going to revisit that series.  Say what you will about the "controversy" (making such big air quotes here) and what have you, the actual -game- was solid and I still say that if it had come out a year or two later when PSN was much more 'established' as a digital distribution platform as well as a multiplayer one, it would've done much, much better than it did.  It's a simple, fun, challenging multiplayer game that I actually -wanted- to play because of how much fun it was.  That is certainly saying something.  Being as simple as it is, there's really no reason why they couldn't do up a version for the Vita (there's a PSP version, even), which I would hope would be Fat Princess 2 and also on PS3 with Cross-Play.  It's Sony's IP to play with, clearly, but I do think they have to find a studio to make it as the studio that made Fat Princess has been restructured....twice now, I think?  Renamed one or both times, and I really don't know what they do anymore.  Still, it is honestly worth a shot after the PASBR inclusion and now this.

Okay, this last one isn't exactly a niche game, but taking everything into account, it just might as well be one really.  Epic Mickey 2 didn't exactly set the world on fire, nor did it even come close to stoking a modest blaze like the original, so the announcement that it's going to see a late port to the Vita is....a surprise.  We'll go with that.  Because a surprise sounds positive, right?  Right.  Let's....let's try to be positive about this because at least someone is porting a game to the Vita, even if it is a little after the fact.  More Vita games breed more Vita games, and that is the goal, of course.

Obviously, the game is based on the PS3 version of it and in lieu of using a Move ala the PS3 version, it's been tweaked to accept touchscreen (front and rear) inputs which makes so much damn sense it hurts.  (Seriously.  Capcom, pay fucking attention to this:  Okami for Vita.  Look how much fucking sense this makes.)  And really, the game is just going to be seeing all sorts of control tweaks and improvements to fit the unique offerings that the Vita has for that which is a good thing.  The game is being tailored for the system, which is precisely what developers should be doing when they port it to something.  This is something to be celebrated, if nothing else really.  Something else to be celebrated is that it's actually releasing fairly soon for just being announced recently.  June 18th is the date, and $34.99 will be the price, effectively giving that Digital Discount that only certain Vita games actually offer.  Though the game will be Digital-only for Vita which...well, I'm not complaining about five bucks off the expected MSRP.

It's always fun to hear about more games getting released, no matter the destination or the time-frame.  Even if they're re-releases, ports of games that didn't sell well, or a collection of games that seem....a little slapped together from an informed consumer's point of view.  They're all still worth your attention if you're looking at things from a certain point of view and might not get the attention of those people depending on what they get announced around.  Since this was the XBone week, well, perhaps a little extra visibility (I'm not going to pretend I offer much, if anything, really) can't hurt them.

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