Jun
05
Posted by Mark at 16:11
Fallout Shelter was a mistake.

The eagle-eyed folk at Gaming Bolt have uncovered a job listing at Bethesda Softworks' Montreal studio, for a 'Game Performance Manager' to- quote- "join the team that is pushing the bleeding-edge AAA freemium game development."

The entirety of the listing focuses on monetization, revenue and data mining, suggesting that the business model is going to be getting a much greater focus in their future titles.

While it's likely that this hire specifically is going to be for either Fallout Shelter or their more recent CCG The Elder Scrolls: Legends, the listing also calling for the ability to "manage multiple complex projects with diverse groups" suggests that microtransactions will be infecting the main series games sooner, rather than later.

There may be more on this at Bethesda's E3 show this weekend.
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May
31
Posted by Ben at 15:56
Somehow it passed me by that the release date for Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 on PC was so close to the European (and Western at that!) console release, so used have I got to fighting games being released late on PC

To get Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 on Steam you're going to have to do a bit of work, but the short version is that you need Guilty Gear Xrd REV, then you need to buy REV 2 as dlc for the game.

The slightly longer version is that you can buy the game (from HERE) then pick whether you want versions of the game(s) with all the character dlc, costume dlc, audio dlc etc, or the cheaper option of the base game(s) with the option to pick up the extra characters as you see fit

There's a lengthy trailer below that goes in to detail on some of the changes for Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2

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May
31
Posted by Ben at 15:41
We reviewed the Vita release of Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo a couple of years ago. I gave it a 7 out of 10.

Now the game is coming to the PS4 and has had a HD tarting up in the process

v is a hack & slash action rpg, set in a far future Tokyo, where you must destroy rival mechs to keep humanity safe, equipping their dropped items in the process

Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo wasn't a bad game ont he Vita, helped by its price and that it was on the Vita. That's not to be dismissive of the Vita, nor Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo, but I do wonder how well the simple gameplay will translate to the PS4 two years down the line.

Still, I had fun with it, there was quite a bit of charm to it all, and there's an awful lot of game there. It's also helped by the price, £7.99, and the promise of 60fps, all in all I'd say (based on my memories of the Vita version) Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo HD Edition might be worth giving a go

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May
30
Posted by Mark at 14:53
Well, we asked if you wanted us to cover the ratings for Dave's Go 8 Bit DLC spinoff show, and the people spoke. Which means we get to be the bearers of bad news!

The show's first episode didn't make the top ten programmes shown on Dave for the week of 15-21 May. The tenth most popular show for the week- Live At The Apollo, immediately before Go 8 Bit, clocked up 227,000 viewers.

Additionally, the main show itself only pulled in 378,000- low considering the first series only dropped below half a million once and while the other programmes on the list saw lower viewership than normal, the following day's Taskmaster hits its usual ratings of 830,000.

It's not all doom and gloom, however- 11PM seems to be the time Britain switches its TV off for the night, so the bar is lower and given that the show seems to have been made on a budget which may run into the thousands of pence, the show may not be considered to have failed- the superficially pricier Unspun With Matt Forde also never troubled the top ten, and that's got not only another series on the way, but it got a bonus emergency one in the run-up to the election.

DLC's lack of topicality means it can be re-run in the day- as shown by it getting a repeat on Saturday mornings, in the slot Videogame Nation used to occupy on Challenge, meaning while it may not be the headline success Taskmaster or Red Dwarf are, it may still be adding enough value to Dave's schedules to be worthwhile.
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Cyberdimension Neptunia:
4 Goddesses Online
May 29
Posted by James at 12:40

A few days ago the MCM Comic Con set up shop over at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London. As usual, Idea Factory International were amongst the exhibitors, bringing with them a the first playable English-language demo for upcoming PS4 and PC game, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online.

As you’ve probably gathered from its lengthy title, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is both a new entry in Idea Factory’s flagship RPG series and its take on the MMORPG.

Simply put, we’re looking at a parody of the genre, where the four CPU candidates (think of them as anthropomorphised video game consoles) find themselves taking part in a beta test for a new online game. The game’s novel approach to a beta test revolves around how the four CPUs play it: Rather than witness them playing at their computers, which would make for incredibly dull entertainment, Neptune and company are literally in the game.

There was enough available to play in the demo to get a good feel of the game’s flow. It’s a predictable, but comforting one: You visit the Guild to accept quests, then pick a location to clear some quests, return to the guild, and then accept more quests. The main town square plays host to facilities where you can craft new weapons, buy and sale items, and generally cool down between expeditions to faraway locations.

These locations themselves aren’t really anything to write home about – environments were rather repetitious in their design and as a result most players are likely to opt for relying on the game’s generously detailed minimap for navigation purposes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but considering the quality of the quests at hand – collect x items, defeat y enemies – expeditions risk feeling like an exercise in box ticking.

The game’s combat looks like it’ll offer something more satisfying, however. Battles are active rather than passive, and heavily action oriented. You’ve got free movement of your character, a press of a button will lock on to an enemy, and another button brings up an assigned skill set – spells or attacks assigned to each of the four face buttons. Using skills depletes SP, but regular attacks regenerate it. There’s a pleasing rhythm to skirmishes that see you alternate between low-power attacks and heavy-hitting skills, all relative to which enemies you’re fighting and what moves they might be using.

From a demo alone it’s hard to tell how the balancing of the game’s mechanics will play out over its entire running time, but hopefully you’ll have to think carefully about which characters to include in your party, which commands you give to your AI companions, and which skills to assign to each skill set.

Despite being a spinoff, Cyberdimension Neptunia is the first game in the series to be made using Unreal Engine 4, and the results speak volumes. Lighting has received a notable upgrade, and there’s copious amounts of motion blur and shadowing. Basically, environments look richer, a big contrast from the spartan locales in previous Neptunias. Unfortunately, other areas of the game’s presentation haven’t received the same attention to detail. Character animation is stiff, collision detection is wonky, character models lack detail – this all contributes to a rather uneven, inconsistent when you’re jumping around and navigating the landscapes. But overall we’re looking at a welcome, and immediately noticeable improvement.

Tamsoft’s previous efforts in the Neptunia series weren’t anything special, often coming off as less creative, more derivative versions of existing games in the developer’s portfolio. 4 Goddesses Online feels different. The setting and gameplay mechanics fit the series’ narrative and RPG qualities in a more natural way.

With any hope Cyberdimension Neptunia won’t stick too close to comfortable tropes in the MMORPG playbook. The series is known for using self-deprecating humour to mock bad design, but it’s significantly less funny when you’re the one playing through them. Fingers crossed that the finished game’s quests offer something more compelling than what was on display in the demo.
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May
23
Posted by Ben at 16:24
Spiritual successor or semi-sequel, who knows really, but Gematsu have revealed that El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron creators are working on a follow up called The Lost Child

Plot Wise it's about a journalist who discovers the ability to recruit demons to fight other demons, so it's very much got a Shin Megami Tensei vibe, but nicely Lucifel / Lucifer from El Shaddai is back

Aside from that, it's coming to PS4 and Playstation Vita, is apparently about 90% done, and is being published by Kadokawa

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Akiba's Beat

May 16
Posted by Mark at 13:45

Following on from the provocatively-titled Akiba's Trip, Akiba's Beat brings us back to Japan's nerd-Vegas Akihabara, where, on a random Sunday, some massive speakers have appeared on the side of the train station. Nobody, mind you, seems to have noticed, save for Asahi Tachinaba- protagonist and inevitable NEET- and one other person who seems far too happy about the matter.

It's in front of the speakers where he meets Saki Hoshino, another one who is able to see the speakers, and her familiar Pinkun, the most annoying thing in the world. She explains that the speakers are the manifestation of the delusion of someone nearby- specifically, the overexcited man from earlier, who is pining for the earlier days of Akihabara, when it was a hub for audiophiles to pick up equipment, rather than the videogames and anime place it is now.


When the source of a Delusion is found, a door to their Delusionscape appears- a dungeon, if you like, to the overworld of Akihabara- and at the end of the Delusionscape is a boss which must be defeated in order to snap the individual (or "Deluser") out of their Delusion, and return Akihabara to its proper state.

With that Delusion cleared up, the day comes to an end, and everybody goes back home. The next day, however, is Sunday again, and there's another Delusion on the other side of town. Asahi and Saki team up again to get to the bottom of the appearances of the Delusions, and see if that's got anything to do with the days repeating.

The design of the Delusionscapes are closer to those found in dungeon crawlers- boxes full of enemies connected by corridors- and don't really offer a great deal to explore or even experience, something which is made all the more obvious by them being simply platforms floating in space, making the limited scope of the dungeons very clear.

Combat is action-focused, with the players' party transporting to a closed arena to fight an arbitrary number of monsters. Standard attacks clock up Skill Points which are spent on more powerful Skills, unlocked by levelling up and triggered by a flick of an analogue stick and tapping the Skill button. A limited number of Action Points also limit you to four actions before having to step out of the way for a short period. While it's hardly going to give Souls or any 'proper' fighting games any sleepless nights, it does make it a little bit more involved than just bash-bash-bash.

Blows that land fill the Imagine Meter, which can be deployed when complete for a short period of hightened attack power- a song can be selected to replace the background music, and hits made in time with the music during the verse increase the damage done when the chorus comes around.

There's also missed potential in the game not supporting multiplayer, as the Action Points could lead to some fun couch co-op teamwork situations, especially as more Skills unlock.

The questlines which take you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape are less interesting, however. These tend to involve little more than running from one end of Akihabara to the other to hear a small amount of dialogue, before running back to hear a bit more, then somewhere else for a tiny bit more, before the game relents and lets you access the next Delusionscape- this is exacerbated by the time loop narrative meaning that often the same thing has to be cycled through a few times in order to unlock the associated Delusionscape.

Sidequests which pop up in between milestones in the main quests don't fare any better, being the same but without the relief of a Delusionscape, or at least no new ones of their own.


The Akihabara of Akiba's Beat is an incredibly small number of anonymous, built up streets, lacking in any meaningful landmarks beyond two large empty spaces, one of which makes up nearly half the overworld. The area is too small to be Grand Theft Auto's Liberty City, and each area- seperated by loading screens- isn't differentiated enough to be The World Ends With You's Shibuya. It might be faithful to the real location, but in practice it just means you spend all your time getting very lost and abusing fast travel to get from place to place- this makes it even more like an exercise in admin than an adventure.

(Acquire also weren't able to licence the shops and adverts in the town, which you probably won't notice unless you're really invested, with only one name really relating to a company you'd have heard of in the West)

The plot, which takes you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape, also takes in the many subcultures Akihabara has played host to from its current love for idol singers, to less recent maid cafes and gothic lolita fashion trends, spending some time with each individual Deluser and showcasing what gives each of the subcultures its appeal- while still being able to take a friendly pop at them, even if it does tend to think it's a lot funnier than it is.

As such, each different Delusionscape brings its own thing to the table- not only does each one have a new setting, the change in art style reflecting the current Delusion, but also adds a new mechanic, even if these are things as simple as 'dead ends' and 'doors'. The wider game is also good at adding new things as you go along, introducing sidequests and later a trading card system to boost your stats. Even if those things aren't as original as they could be, there's always something new around the corner.

Ultimately a lot of Akiba's Beat is going to pass straight by a lot of people- what you're going to get out of this really relates to how into your otakudom you are, and even then how much you want to go around an off-brand version of Akihabara. If you do, it's certainly a perfectly enjoyable game, and you'll get a lot out of the setting, but it's a tougher sell to anybody who's not into the virtual tourism.

GALLERY:
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May
13
Posted by James at 09:33
Inti Creates weren't the only publisher to share Nintendo Switch sales data, as the CEO of Nippon Ichi Software America, Takuro Yamashita, recently spoke to MCV UK about how Disgaea 5 Complete has been performing globally.

The game's western release has accumulated 114,000 pre-orders ahead of its launch later this month, with two thirds of those coming from North America (78,000 pre-orders) and the remaining third from Europe (36,000).

This was far from most people's wildest expectations for the title, including my own, given the game's tepid reception at Switch launch in Japan. Indeed, Mr. Yamashita stated that the game has yet to break 20,000 sales in the region.

What's intriguing is that this demand for Disgaea 5 Complete in Europe and North America suggests a widening gap between sales of Nippon Ichi Software's games in Japan and copies sold from players in the rest of the world.

In February last year, a year after Disgaea 5 launched on PS4 outside of Japan, NIS revealed to Famitsu that non-Japan sales of Disgaea 5 stood at 112,000, while Japanese sales reached 60,000 units. That's a ratio of 2 copies sold in Europe, North America and non-Japan Asia for every copy sold in Japan, but the Switch version performance suggests that gap is widening, something NIS America hadn't anticipated to happen with the Switch version.

Based on these figures shared by the publisher, the Switch version of the game is on track to swiftly outperform first-year sales of the PS4 version outside of Japan in a matter of days after it launches on May 26. Hopefully this signals more support for Nintendo's hybrid going forward - we've yet to hear a peep out of some publishers, like Spike Chunsoft...
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May
12
Posted by James at 15:13
Speaking at the Tokyo Sandbox game developer event/mixer today, Inti Creates gave some insight into the development of 3DS and Switch release Blaster Master Zero. The reimagining of NES darling sidescrolling platforming/shooter hybrid Blaster Master took 35 people six months to make before arriving just in time for the Switch's launch day in Japan.

We also heard about the game's sales performance on the eShop; the Switch port of the game has currently racked up 80,000 copies sold. We weren't told whether this met Inti Creates' own expectations, but this is a fairly respectable figure for what was presumably a version of the game bolted on fairly late in development.

There are tell-tale signs that this was indeed the case: The Switch version of the game inherits the 3DS's strange 5:3 aspect ratio, and the game uses non-integer scaling to scale up to both 720p and 1080p resolutions, so it's fairly clear that the game wasn't originally planned to be on Switch.

In any case, 80,000 sales for the Switch version alone should have net Inti Creates a tidy amount of revenue and would have almost certainly justified the cost of the port. Whether the game sold enough for them to have broken even is hard to say, since we lack information about sales of the 3DS version, and we don't know whether the 35 staffers working on the project were solely dedicated to it or were working on other games. The former is more likely there.

Regardless of current sales, Inti clearly plans to make sure Blaster Master Zero has long legs. Last week it released an update to the game which added a new, remixed difficulty setting, and it's currently working on new DLC characters who are more than just a palette swap.
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May
11
Posted by James at 03:38
Last year's Hitman was Square Enix's first foray into producing a AAA episodic game, and it was positively received, both as a game and as a way to make a big budget third person stealth-action game work in a new episodic format.

But it appears that the game has underperformed - at least to Square Enix's lofty expectations. Just as the company revealed their greatest ever operating profit for the last financial year, they also announced today that Hitman's developer, IO Interactive, is up for grabs. The future of the Hitman IP, which Square Enix maintains ownership of, remains uncertain.

It's not the best start to Square's new focus on producing episodic content for larger games. Going episodic would bring in a return on financially risky projects sooner rather than later. Instead of spending five years and tens of millions crafting the next Final Fantasy while the dynamics of the market change around them, going episodic also enables them react to change faster.

It'd be difficult to accuse Square Enix and developer IO Interactive of doing episodic wrong with Hitman, given the quality of the game, the frequency of episodes and the responsiveness of the team to react to demands of the game's players. But it seems something didn't stack up financially with Hitman, and it's a shame that a game of its ilk couldn't exist in today's market, and an even greater shame that Square Enix won't give IO Interactive another shot.

Square Enix notes that it plans to double down on its most well-known IP. No pressure on Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square's next big budget episodic game, then...
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