Jul
02
Posted by James at 09:13
Microsoft is missing from this year's list of exhibitors for the Tokyo Game Show, which heavily implies that the company's Xbox division will not be attending the event.

If true, this could mean that Microsoft has no fundamental strategies or plans to change its situation in Japan, where Xbox One is currently struggling to sell more than 300 units a week in the region.

It also signifies that Xbox Japan's new blog has indeed likely been set up to focus on drumming up interest for both first party, western-centric titles and the niche games from Japanese developers that Microsoft provided financial backing for. Both types of games aren't really mass-market friendly, let alone the console's positioning, so expect the market for Xbox One to continue going from small to small in the region.

By contrast, Xbox boss Phil Spencer seems to have his company's sights focused on improving the situation in Central Europe, where PlayStation is typically dominant. As such, he is promising a few new announcements and updates on big games which were absent from this year's E3 (Scalebound, Quantum Break and a Crackdown reimagining) on August 4.
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Jul
02
Posted by Ben at 08:59
You may not remember Battle Fantasia. It was a 2.5d character, with soft looking anime characters and some unusual, for a fighting game, characters.

It's slightly surprising that Battle Fantasia is the game that Arc System Works are bringing over to steam, but I guess the polygonal nature might make it easier to touch up. Anyway, it's due on the 7th July, and will be priced at Ł10.99 (with a 10% discount for launch)

I played Battle Fantasia back when it came out on the PS3. I always found it a little slow, but it's an interesting game. It's worth noting on that point that Arc have introduced some balance changes in to this version. I doubt I played, nor remember, enough of the original console version to spot the difference, but it's good that the game has had some work done on it

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Jul
02
Posted by Ben at 04:41
No exact date, but the game has been passed on to Nintendo of America, so we shouldn't have to wait too long for Gunman Clive HD Collection

It is what it sounds like, a HD port of Gunman Clive 1 and Gunman Clive 2, priced somewhere higher than the cose of one of the games on the 3DS, but lower than the cost of 2. It also supports a host of controller options, including the Wiimote, and the long forgotten nunchuck!

We (I) reviewed both the Gunman Clive games for the 3DS, and enjoyed both of them, the 2nd game especially, so this should be worth checking out
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Her Story

Jul 01
Posted by Ben at 13:15

It's a strange thing, my impulse when talking about Her Story is to use it to demonstrate how far games have moved on, how it's taken the medium this long to reach this point. Only it's essentially a collection of video snippets that you select to watch, building the story as you go along. There's literally no reason this couldn't have existed on the MegaCD. Maybe then it's that something like Her Story can come out to some excitement and intrigue, accepted for what it is, rather than held up as why FMV games are a terrible thing.

Her Story has you sat at a computer, putting key words in to a database, which pulls up applicable videos. You're working through police interviews with a woman whose husband has gone missing, someone has taken the time to break up the interviews in to statements, some long, some only a few seconds, transcribed them, and made them searchable by which words they feature. That, such as it is is the game, when you think you've got a handle on everything that happened, just leave.

It's entirely possible to watch later moments in the interviews by following a chain of words, seeing key moments way before you'd think you should. Only, there's no context, you can't spoil it for yourself because you don't know if that's the reveal or just a rung along the way. You end up wanting to read more around that subject, you won't always be able to find more, but rather than spoil the story it actually builds intrigue. You could, for example, find a moment talking about an incident, but the other people involved won't be named, you won't know who they're talking about or when it occurred, unless you've been keeping an eye on the time and date on the videos, even then the story isn't necessarily told in order.

The stories don't always lead where you expect them to. The plot is one thing, it's good that it's not predictable, it's more of a problem with the statements. Take the hospital for instance, it's mentioned a couple of times, it sounds like an important point, something that's stressed, but for some reason the police don't follow it up, there's nothing more to hear. It gives the story a broken feel, obviously that it is broken up in to statements doesn't help, but there's a couple of threads that feel that they should go somewhere and don't. Likely because it's not key to the plot, it would only be chaff, a distraction, and likely more time spent recording with more data for you to download. I can see why it's not there, but even watching things in order it there's something missing.

The lack of 'game' is a slight problem for Her Story. Don't take that the wrong way, I'm more than fine with games being more of an experience than a test of skill, on that note Her Story reminds me of Dear Esther. The way it tells a story without it necessarily being a complete story, with your opinion of characters and their motivations changing on a 2nd playthrough, or after you've explored more of what it has to offer. However, Her Story ends when you want it to, a nice enough idea, but because you don't know what you don't know, it's hard to know if you're done. Once a chat window appears you can just tell the other person that you're done and leave, or tell them you're done, leave, then come back and finish off another time.

It may seem like an odd complaint, but it's where Her Story's more game-like moments become problematic. When you stumble on to a key story point you'll see your reflection on the computer screen, sometimes it will have flashing police lights, sometimes not. Why? Are you affecting the outcome? Are you near the end, only another couple of key videos away from finding out the truth? It's always a problem when a medium like games, which relies on rules and structure, abandons that, it can work well, the vagueness can be unsettling, but it can also leave you wandering around lost. It's a complaint many had with Proteus, a game I enjoyed but easy to abandon before it gets going.

Here Story is an interesting game, one that's well worth your time. It's a concept that ultimately works, it tells a good story, and it tells it well. The Lead gives a deceptively good performance, initially seeing a little unconvincing until you see what they were going for. Again, I think the aimlessness of Her Story might put a few people off, and I understand that, but I think it's a game that's going to get a lot of people talking
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Jul
01
Posted by at 12:13
Last week saw the releases of two tentpole games in Japan: Fire Emblem if for the Nintendo 3DS, and Persona 4: Dancing All Night for PS Vita. Now that Media Create's hardware and software sales are in for the week ending June 28, we now have a better picture as to how the two launches have affected respective hardware sales for both platforms.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night shifted 94,000 units over the period, falling short of the 137,000 units that Persona 4: Golden pulled in just over three years ago. It’s likely that the sales disparity, despite the PS Vita’s install base growing by over five times in the last three years, is due to the nature of the games themselves. Persona 4: Golden is a remake of one of the most influential RPGs to come out of Japan, whereas Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a spin-off (it’s also a rhythm game, not an RPG) with a lower reach as a result.

Still, PS Vita hardware sales rose by 11,500 units to 25,000 units. That’s a rise of almost double (86%), though such a high percentage change hides the fact that neither Persona 4: Dancing All Night, nor last year’s Persona Q, have been notable system sellers.

For example, 3DS’s Persona Q, another spin-off, debuted last year to 187,000 sales, even more than Persona 4: Golden. But its effect on hardware was similarly weak: An increase of just 12,500 units, and one that was short lived. 3DS hardware fell by 10,000 units the following week – expect similar to happen with the PS Vita this week.

Why has the effect on PS Vita hardware sales been so unpronounced? You could argue that anyone already interested in Persona bought a PS Vita soon after Persona 4: Golden was released three years ago. With last year’s Persona Q on the 3DS, it’s unlikely that Persona fans wouldn’t have already owned the system three years after it launched – 3DS is arguably the only massmarket dedicated video game hardware in Japan right now. Like Persona 4: Dancing All Night, Persona Q was also a spin-off title with mostly superficial similarities to the game it was based from.

Fire Emblem if shifted 306,000 units across all versions, including a special edition that includes both versions of the game. That’s a rise of 40k units over the previous game in the series’ debut sales. 3DS sales were lifted by 8300 units this month, an increase of a third (34%). That’s par for the course these days – while 3DS hardware sales are frequently on top in the region, there’s very little room for tangible growth as the system enters its twilight years and the system reaches market saturation.

Rhythm Tengoku: The Best+ made a similarly small impact on 3DS hardware sales when it lauched in late May. Despite shifting 158,000 copies, 3DS hardware only saw a minor bump of 8,000 units. And this was despite a new hardware model (a pearl white New 3DS XL) launching that week, and the game being part of CEO Satoru Iwata's plans to bring games that appeal to a female audience in order to expand the market.

Meanwhile, both Splatoon and Minecraft: PS Vita Edition continue to have long tails. Both are still in the top 10 and selling steadily, with the former moving 37,500 units and the latter 10,900.
Media Create software sales, week ending June 28 2015
(3DS) Fire Emblem if – 260,675
(PS Vita) Persona 4: Dancing All Night – 94,036
(3DS) Fire Emblem if Special Edition – 42,991
(3DS) Rhythm Tengoku: The Best Plus – 266,726
(PS4) Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensword – 38,758
(Wii U) Splatoon – 37,458
(PS3) Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls G4U! Vol. 2 – 16,392
(PS Vita) Minecraft: PS Vita Edition – 10,896
(PS Vita) Chaos;Child – 10,325
(3DS) PoPoLoCrois Harvest Moon – 9,284
Media Create hardware sales, week ending June 28 2015
3DS – 32,355
PS Vita – 23,954
PS4 – 14,482
Wii U – 13,166
PS3 – 2,761
Xbox One – 243

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Jun
30
Posted by James at 16:23
There's an interesting blog post detailing the basics behind Fire Emblem Cipher, a trading card game that's been overshadowed (as far as internet coverage goes, that is) by the release of Fire Emblem if last week.

That's a shame, as this collectible card game has been developed and planned in-house by series veterans Intelligent Systems.

As you'd expect, the cards are adorned with characters from various games in the series. Collect enough or pick up one of the starter packs and you'll be able to assemble a competent deck of Knights, Paladins and the like to face off against an opponent.

The post even details the rules of the game. Don't expect to see anything out of the ordinary though, as Fire Emblem Cipher contains all the tropes you'd expect from collectible card battlers: stat comparisons, card substitutions and the ability to pair two cards together are all in.

What's interesting about this is that a Fire Emblem card game seems like a likely candidate for a mobile game from Nintendo in the future. Perhaps not one of the five games launching before April 2017 -- expect Nintendo to use their biggest and most recognisable IP for those -- but it wouldn't be too surprising to see something like this launch once the dust has settled and Nintendo and DeNA's mobile business has firmly established itself.

Card games are a well established genre on mobile, after all, and Intelligent Systems has developed this one in-house.

There is one problem though: Each game in Fire Emblem Cipher takes about an hour to complete. That's not a great fit for a platform that's arguably best at offering bitesize chunks of interactive entertainment, and Nintendo wants to sufficiently differentiate their mobile offerings from meatier experiences on their dedicated games hardware.

As an example, you can complete a match in Blizzard Entertainment's Heartstone in a tenth of the time it takes in Fire Emblem Cipher. So if a Fire Emblem trading card game does hit mobile, expect it to be significantly retooled and built from the ground up for the platform. Which is as you'd expect from Nintendo, who have sworn to make every mobile game from the ground up.
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Jun
30
Posted by Ben at 15:35
Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm has had what is likely to be it's final pre-release update today, as the game readies for release next week on the 7th July

Supporters from the Indiegogo campaign can play the game as "finished", and review codes have gone out too (We'll have our review ready for release). Obviously Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm will receive many more updates and patches over the next few months, such is the way of modern gaming, but for those who have been looking forward to the ex-SNK developed fighting game, the wait is very close to over
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Jun
30
Posted by Ben at 05:40
The really quite interesting Stein;Gate, which saw its European release a few weeks back, will get its North American release on the 25th August

Steins;Gate is releasing on the Vita and PS3, from my experience playing it on the handheld is maybe the way to go, so you can dip in and out, but the PS3 does boast higher resolution art, so there's that to consider
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JM: *Clears Throat*:
 
 
Pokémon Shuffle Mobile could
undermine Iwata's mobile plans
Jun 29
Posted by James at 12:25

The Pokémon Company has gone rogue again. Having released Pokémon Trading Card Game on iPad last year, it has announced that Pokémon Shuffle Mobile will available soon on iOS and Android devices.

Pokémon Shuffle, you may remember, is a Free-to-Play Pokémon game for 3DS. It's a fairly basic match-three puzzler wrapped in fairly charming presentation. So far, so generic. What's more interesting is how The Pokémon Company and developer Genius Sonority set out to monetise players of the game. After spending some time with it a few months ago, it's fairly conventional.

Pokémon Shuffle is set up to monetise 'whales', the most engaged players whose spending typically provides the majority of a game's revenue. Indeed, the majority of Pokémon Shuffle players likely won't find a reason to spend anything when they casually play through the game, but those who are dead-set on collecting all the Pokémon and completing the Pokédex, or getting through the late-game (1, 2, 3), will.

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So there's that. But The Pokémon Company's timing with this mobile port isn't ideal. It comes a month after Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata outlined more of his company's plans to release five mobile games by April 2017, the first landing later this year.

When asked about how Nintendo will monetise the games in an investor Q&A session, Iwata replied with the following:
My understanding of how to succeed in the Japanese market now is to find a limited number of generous consumers who are willing to spend a lot and analyze what encourages them to spend. However, if we did that, I don't think that we would be able to entertain hundreds of millions of consumers all around the world or to produce large and long-lasting achievements.

Iwata acknowledges the long-term consequences of whale hunting in pursuit of short-term profits, which is likely a reference to some companies have struggled to release a second or third hit on mobile.

It's particularly relevant for Nintendo, too. First of all, Iwata wants to protect the value of Nintendo's IP, some of which are still relevant after thirty years. Second, Nintendo is moving into mobile for the long-term.

Its aim is to build long term relationships with customers, many of which once owned a Wii, with the goal being to entice them back to Nintendo's dedicated hardware business. A global Nintendo account that spans mobile, PC and its upcoming NX hardware will be the centerpiece that links their mobile offerings with the rest of the pieces.

It's therefore important that Nintendo gets the balance right as far as monetising its mobile games goes. Iwata wants Nintendo to go "wide and small" rather than "narrow and large"; it isn't interested isn't chasing a small percentage of super-engaged players to supply the majority of income for its games, rather it wants an even distribution of revenue from as wide a number of players as possible.

The issue with The Pokémon Company releasing Pokémon Shuffle on mobile is that for many, "Pokémon" is synonymous with "Nintendo". The Pokémon Company commissioning a mobile port of a game that already exists on a Nintendo platform (and has received Nintendo's backing) only servers to make that important distinction even more muddy.

Since Pokémon Shuffle goes "narrow and large" with its monetisation, there's a potential for it -- if consumers associate the game with Nintendo, which is likely -- to undermine Nintendo's plans to go "wide and small" in order to build a longer-lasting relationship with its customers.

How can Nintendo and DeNA avoid this? It'll depend on how tightly integrated their upcoming online platform will be with its mobile efforts, despite Nintendo and The Pokémon Company's games existing on the same digital distribution platforms.
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Grandia Weekly
Episode 16
Jun 29
Posted by Ben at 10:18

Tragedy struck last week, my Internet went down. It's still down as it happens, but rather than miss 2 weeks I'm sat in a coffee shop writing this on my tablet. That's just how committed I am to Grandia

And rightlyso, Grandia continues to be fantastic. If anything a week off has given me a bit of a break, given the game a bit of air, and, coupled with some less drab areas, made things feel a bit fresher.

As I'm not at home I don't have the guide in another tab so I can check the names of the locations we've been to. I can tell you we climbed a mountain and kicked the fuck out of a dragon. The only downside is that Justin spent most of the episode struggling to cause damage, the flip-side to that is he's now a much better magic user, probably the best I've got in fact

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