Posted by Ben at 02:05
A couple of years back Duane reviewed the original Olli Olli and loved it. I'm not sure we ever got around to doing anything with the sequel, but it's about to get rereleased

PQube have announced that Olli Olli and Olli Olli 2 will be getting a retail release this summer on PS4

Called OlliOlli Epic Combo Edition the PS4 retail version will include both games, plus the OlliOlli 2 soundtrack, an artbook, and 3 making of documentaries. No release details more specific than 'summer', but as the sun's out, the leagues been won, and I had to turn the AC on in work yesterday, it can't be that far away
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Posted by Ben at 16:34
My turn the What We're Playing always seems to coincide with everything I've been playing being plastered all over the site. This week is no different, with my Aegis of Earth review right under this post

I don't want to go in to too much detail here because there is a review and a video on the site. What I will say though is that Aegis of Earth isn't a bad game, the core idea is sound, it just drags on way too long. What I did leave out of the review though, because it's needlessly harsh, is I do wonder who exactly it's for? Who needs that game in their life, decent as it is, who needs a 30 hour tower defence game? Who even wants a £30 retail tower defence game.

It's a problem with reviewing games sometimes, you have to judge games on their own merit, but they don't exist in a bubble, you have to wonder why someone would play, say, the 3rd best football management game, a so-so fighting game

Anyway, I also played the greatest game ever made, Streets of Rage 2 and live streamed it. I was aiming for a no-death run, I didn't manage it. I'll be posting the video tomorrow with a bit of a write up, but that's pretty much all I've played this week
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Aegis of Earth:
Protonovus Assault
May 02
Posted by Ben at 15:19

Aegis of Earth, or Aegis of Earth Protonovus Assault to give it its full name, is that rarest of things; a tower defence game that gets a retail release. A decision Iíll happily admit I questioned; why would you release a tower defence game at retail? A sub-£10 download game sure, that makes sense, but whoís going to buy it for around the £30 mark for a PS4 tower defence game? What I hadn't realised was quite how big Aegis of Earth is.

The set up of Aegis of Earth is pretty simple. You control a city besieged by monsters, your disc shaped city is split in to rings, all of which move independently from each other. Each ring is made up of tiles, some of which are quarantined and canít be used, the rest are where you build your weapons. Once youíre happy with the set up with your city you head off on Ďstrikesí. Strikes are the battles, enemies head towards the city in vague lanes and you have to spin the rings of the city to line your guns up.

Generally speaking the strikes take it fairly easy on you. Thereís certain points where the 3 inner rings (the 4th outer ring is used for shields and the like) will line up perfectly, cannons, lasers, and gattling guns will combine when lined up perfectly to form more powerful forms, needed for the giant enemies that will appear later on. As a general rule when enemies attack down multiple lanes theyíll do so in line with these tiles. Itís not always true however, and when itís not thatís when youíll have to spin things around so the very inner ring is covering one area, the middle another, and the outer somewhere else. Itís a layer of panic that makes you realise the developers could really mess with you if they wanted to, Aegis of Earth isn't that cheap too often. It is in these moments though you realise the isometric camera does you no favours. Itís all too easy to misalign cannons because you canít muster the coordination to move the camera while spinning the discs.

Fighting in battles nets you a variety of rewards. The main benefit are the crystals, used as materials for new units, with each city specialising in different coloured crystals. The crystals can also be destroyed to make illuminite, a material used to upgrade units, something youíll have to do a lot. If you do well in the strikes youíll also have refugees requesting to move to your city, rather than a swing to the right this results in more money raised through taxes, again needed for upgrades and new units. Essentially, if you want to improve your city you have to fight, easy enough to understand.

What Iím less sure of are the various character levels that can be increased. When you take in refugees your city level increases, I donít think this increases anything, the only benefit I can see if that youíll be rewarded with items youíll rarely feel the need to use, and that unlockable units and city improvements require you to reach certain levels. Same with your own level, it increases after every strike, but apart from gaining you items and access to units, I'm not sure thereís any benefit. At least thereís that much though, you see you donít run the city alone, you have various attractive young people manning various tasks. In real terms this just means a different voice giving you information, but they each gain experience and I've no idea to what end.

Your team do require some management though, use them too much and theyíll become exhausted. Early on you donít have any alternatives so the only way to recover their stamina is to commend one of them on their performance, which also nets them some bonus xp. I'm not sure if youíre supposed to be able to pick out who actually performed well and who didn't but I've never managed to. The benefit to keeping people in is that their focus increases, meaning they can use special moves more often. Leave them out too much and their focus plummets, something that feels inevitable when you have 3 characters vying for one position.

I guess this is why Aegis of Earth manages to be so long, it has a wealth of meta games running through it, a host of systems that have to be addressed for no great reason beyond giving you something else to think about. That in and of itself isn't a problem, thatís most games after all, but it becomes an issue when you have to harvest crystals. Because different cities drop different crystals, youíll find yourself having to perform strike after strike in the same one to farm the crystals you need to fortify a different city altogether, while having to bounce out to different ones to keep their happiness up.

Aegis of Earth has a visual novel story running through it, nothing major, a host of characters having crisis of confidence then pulling together. Thatís not to knock it, itís perfectly functional and none of the characters are especially grating, I actually like a few of them, but itís not the reason to get the game.

I've been down on Aegis of Earth in this review because it does have problems. The soft upressed graphics can make things a little hard to pick out, the structure can get a little monotonous, and it is far too long. However, take it as absolutely commendable that for the 20+ hours I played I would never say I was bored. The core gameplay is sound, thereís a potential to the game I never quite saw realised, but Aegis of Earth is undoubtedly a good game. I doubt many people will see the end of it, but if youíre after a novel, and substantial, console tower defence game, I'm not sure thereís too much better out there
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The Banner
Saga 2
May 02
Posted by Duane at 04:34

I've already covered Stoic's The Banner Saga 2 in a first play, but this is our meat feast topping article. Our Caravan is loaded with whatever supplies we can afford and we wander across the landscape, settlement to settlement attempting to flee the Dredge. Fortunately for you, dear reader, our review isn't even remotely as oppressive as the atmosphere in this heavily story driven Tactical RPG.

As with its predecessor, The Banner Saga 2 is all about survival. What we have here is essentially a survival horror SRPG, minus the guns, zombies and obtuse puzzles. It has that atmosphere that you have no choice but to keep going, keep pushing on, knowing that the equipment you carry probably is barely sufficient enough for you to progress. You're forced to feel incredibly vulnerable by the exhausting experiences that your small band of survivors are struggling to live through as the size of your caravan increases and decreases between settlements and other places that try and promise an element of respite but don't always succeed in doing so.

As before this is all played out against an utterly beautifully created backdrop, your troop treks across a canvas on which they are absolutely dwarfed by the scenery around them. Which, whilst these images would look absolutely stunning hung up on a wall, they only help drive home just how desperate your plight is as does the rather Game of Thrones-esque events of The Banner Saga 2's plot, with key people leaving your band at key points and the end of each narrative element.

As before this is all played out alongside an isometric turn based battle system, and whilst on the surface it looks like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics, it really is anything but. As with the rest of the game you feel overwhelmed, your forces not as strong as the Dredge that pursue you and battles are en exercise in just surviving long enough to chip away at your foe, often resulting in you losing all but one or two of your forces. Stoic have introduced new elements like a class type that can buff other party members who are on their last legs, allowing them one last enhanced attack in order to try and turn the tide of the battle. There's a genuine sense that in order to progress your party needs to band together, treating them all as single units is tantamount to disaster and this is enforced through the relationship between Bolverk and Folka. Placing them nearby to each other provides a defensive boost to Bolverk, but this also opens up the risk of the latter being hurt by the swing of Bolverks second axe (which also has an equal chance of hitting your foe instead).

The fact that this overpowering element of being on the brink of failure during every aspect of the game, that any wrong choice during dialogue sequences, a wrong choice whilst buying supplies or equipment or the wrong manoeuvre on the battle field could all spell disaster, is always there can be a little too heavy for some and I think its fair to say that The Banner Saga 2 is best played in bursts of a settlement or two at a time. Which is easy to list as a negative, but I don't actually think it is, its not a game that you could feel too burnt out by and it certainly doesn't outstay its welcome, the wait between the first instalment and this one felt like an eternity on my part and that we now get to continue the tale is incredibly welcome, especially as The Banner Saga 2 stands as equal to its highly recommended predecessor.
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Nioh alpha demo

Apr 27
Posted by Duane at 12:55

Team Ninja/Tecmo Koei have released a demo of their attempt to take on the "Souls" series of games and I had a play of it earlier today.

I'm not entirely sold on it if I'm being honest, much like the publishers attempts to grab fans of the Monster Hunter games, Nioh appears to feel rather bland and lacks of the oppression of the series its trying to emulate. There's a feudal/Samurai Japan feel to it, as is usually the case with games by this publisher and that all feels authentic enough, so fans of the style of games from Tecmo Koei wont be left dissappointed.

However, the game doesnt seem to make you feel like you're in danger, even though its probably just as unapproachable as FROM Softwares mega hit. If you watch my video below you may notice that its far too easy to leave yourself open to attack and the punishment for expelling your stamina (or Ki) makes you incredibly vulnerable, but the quick nature of button inputs required for you to perform combo's makes it far too easy to make one attack too many, add to this that both the weapons I tried (and I admit I didn't make it particularly far...) felt rather weightless.

Thats not to say that there aren't positives, the key one for me is the inclusion of stances, which opens up a variety of ways to approach each weapon set and have their own combo's. Anyway, check me being absolutely atrocious at Nioh below:

Show/hide video

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Posted by Ben at 02:06
James posted a story last night about Sega-owned Atlus breaking ties with NIS America and how this affects Europe, well there's a bit of an addendum to that

Atlus ending their relationship with NIS America is bad news for Bitparade on a couple of levels, but chiefly because we're all fans of Japanese games. The kind of games both NISA and Atlus tend to put out, that not happening doesn't bode well for people who share our gaming tastes. Hopefully we're worrying about nothing.

Anyway, the reason I'm posting; John Hardin, Atlus PR, has confirmed that this transition won't affect Odin Sphere Leifthrasir EU release
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Get Me A Cuppa
Apr 26
Posted by Duane at 01:56

My gaming time over the past seven days has been a bit sporadic, even so I've mostly been giving my playthrough of Final Fantasy VII my attention. I hadn't touched it in a couple of weeks but have now returned and have been streaming my progress (yes thats 3 seperate links.

Im refusing to revert to using any kind of guide for this, I do actually own the original Brady Games guide and having played through the majority on the PlayStation more than once, I've decided to see how much I can remember, its surprising the information the brain can retain, especially mine with all the background chaos thats normally going on whilst I play games. So remembering which notes to press to play Tifa's piano in Nibelheim or the locations of the clues for the safe in Shinra Mansion came as a complete shock. Still didnt stop me forgetting to add Yuffie to my party, and in one of those videos you will see me spend some time in a forest in the hope that she will appear.
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Aegis of Earth
Gameplay Video
Apr 26
Posted by Ben at 01:48

I've put a fair few hours in to Aegis of Earth Protonovus Assault to get to where I am in this video, but I still feel like I'm not even half way through. I'm probably not even close, so going in to too much detail as to the quality of the game probably isn't the best idea, I'll save that for the eventual review, but it's certainly not a bad game

Aegis of Earth Protonovus Assault is a tower defence game of sorts. You place units between missions, level them up by spending or destroying crystals, encouraging new migrants (which will no doubt upset the #Brexit lot) by doing well in strikes. Then, once you're set go and commence a strike, killing enemies, possibly a boss if you're "lucky", earning more crystals and gold along the way.

Your city if split in to 4 rings, you spin them and the camera to face approaching enemies, ideally lining up similar units to gain a power boost. And that's pretty much it, I'll go in to more detail in the review, but Aegis of Earth has managed so far to keep a simple premise interesting

Show/hide video

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Posted by James at 13:29
Looks like we're back to where we started as far as European releases for Atlus USA games go.

Speaking with trade magazine MCV, NIS America CEO Takuro Yamashita confirmed that the publishing arm recently cut its ties with Atlus USA, also hinting at its dissatisfaction from how Atlus USA would treat NIS America as a second class citizen when picking which games it would be given the license to publish.

This has two effects: Firstly Atlus USA will no longer distribute NISA's titles in North America; NISA will have to look for a new distribution partner. Secondly, and this is the obvious one, NIS America will not be publishing Atlus USA's games in Europe.

This has profound implications for us. Before late 2012, Atlus USA would seek out publishers on a game-by-game basis for European release.

This had all sorts of knock-on implications, since these games would have to fit around other publishers' priorities. This resulted in either long delays (Devil Survivor 2) or no release at all (Trauma Team) depending on the game and whether a publisher wanted to pick it up.

When NIS America struck a deal with Atlus to publish its games in Europe this all changed. NIS America have a comparatively low overhead to other publishers, also distributing its games via Reef Entertainment. So any Atlus release - big or small - would potentially be profitable for it to release in the region.

So we started seeing all sorts of games we didn't once receive before, from speedy releases of the likes of Persona Q and Persona 4: Dancing all Night to more obscure titles like Stella Glow and Lost Dimension even seeing a release at all. To say this was a massive improvement is an understatement.

That's all gone now. So we've gone from guaranteed releases of all Atlus USA games to the chasm of uncertainty we had before.

This is what I feared when Sega of America and Atlus USA finished unifying their publishing activities earlier this year.

While it meant great news for North America - as a publisher, Sega of America are stronger than ever, bringing in Atlus USA's localisation and publishing expertise - I had a feeling Sega would try and regain control of what have become its own releases in Europe.

Indeed, if the responsibility has now shifted to Sega of Europe we're likely going to miss out on a lot of smaller titles. Case in point: While Sega of Europe were quick to announce release dates for Valkyria Chronicles on PS4 and Yakuza 0, they've remained silent on Sega 3D Classics Archives (their own heritage!), Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X and 7th Dragon III.

So the future really depends on what Sega intends to do with European releases for Atlus USA titles. If it's all moving internally to Sega of Europe, then expect only the biggest titles - like Persona 5 - to make it over here.

But if Sega of America and Atlus USA are willing to step in and find a low cost way for Sega of Europe to get the smaller titles out the door like they did with NIS America, then we might have reason to remain hopeful again.
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Apr 25
Posted by Duane at 08:12

Funny story, I don't think I was supposed to be reviewing MXGP2, our promotional copy arrived at my address but had Ben's name on it. Regardless, I'm the resident racing game fan so it made more sense for me to keep hold of it rather than forward it on to our resident Beam-em up player. That being said, I don't tend to get on very well with motorcycles in video games, I think the last motorcycle racing game I was any good at was a Ricky Carmichael game on the original PlayStation, which despite being of a similar racing discipline was a very different type of racing game.

MXGP2 then, if the name didn't give it away, is the latest motorcycle racing title from Italian developers Milestone (whom over the years have covered a huge variety of racing disciplines) and carries the official MXGP licenses, featuring over 60 individual bikes from key manufacturers such as KTM and Suzuki over two different racing classifications. Your key focus will be the games career mode wherein you create your own rider, partake in races and gradually earn enough money to improve your bike, customise your kit and improve your chances of winning races.

You see MXGP2 isn't like most other racing games, you probably wont be winning races from the off as your competitors will have far better bikes than you, so its all about grinding out results over a period of time, which will rub some players up the wrong way (its that or I was absolutely woeful at the game), I personally didn't mind this as it ties in well with the simulation focus that the game has. The core element of the game, riding the bike, takes an incredible amount of input that I've not experienced in any other racing game as you tend to control your rider rather than the bike, shift your weight backwards and forwards to find that extra bit of grip, riding the clutch to keep revs high as you exit corners and learning the optimal angle for taking off of jumps at in order that you land in a manner that you don't lose too much speed, its incredibly taxing and requires ,pre attention than the current highest profile motorcycle game Driveclub Bikes (which itself covers a different style of bike).

This also makes the deformable terrain an important feature. As you're riding around the ground beneath your wheels will compact and the behaviour of the circuit will change. However it only does this to a certain extent, and feels really inconsistent, what should be a key feature feels poorly realised and leads to the game feeling frustrating, as does the overly aggressive track boundaries and harsh punishments for cutting them. No one likes opponents cutting corners, but in MXGP2 there are some corners that you step ever so slightly out of the boundaries on and you're immediately punished by having your bike reset to the middle of the circuit (often further back then where you exited the corner) at a standing start with your competitors flying off into the distance. What's all the more frustrating is that this punishment is applied in an inconsistent manner, a number of times on a few circuits I was able to take aggressive short cuts on corners without any punishment whatsoever, which again, makes the entire race experience feel really frustrating. I'm not one for wanting to go out of the boundaries of a circuit, but when such harsh punishments are applied inconsistently it just annoys me.

Thing is, I really want to like MXGP2, I was really looking forward to playing a racing game that offered something different, a lot of the road bike based games cover similar circuits to a lot of the racing game that feature cars and all of those feature pretty much the same roster of cats to drive so a dirt bike game genuinely had me feeling enthusiastic about playing something a little different, and the technical mechanics of riding the bike are genuinely intriguing and challenging, but there's just so much about the overall quality of the whole experience to be gained from this game that I jut didn't want to sink anymore time into it than I felt I needed to have done to provide this review.
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