JM: *Clears Throat*:
Apr
01
Posted by James at 10:16
DeNA CEO Isao Moriyasu, in an interview with Reuters:
"We want to create games that will be played by hundreds of millions of people. We want to create multiple hit games rather than aiming to succeed with just one powerful IP element."

"We haven't talked to Nintendo about targets, but at DeNA, our best-selling game brought in 3 billion yen a month, and we want to surpass that."


This brings to light the differing interests both Nintendo and DeNA have as part of their recently formed alliance.

Nintendo sees the partnership as a long-term opportunity to utilise smart devices and engage a wider audience with bespoke content made for the platform. The endgame? To tempt them towards Nintendo's dedicated hardware business (or back, if you consider where Wii's audience went). Indeed, if you pore over what Satoru Iwata has had to say on the matter (1, 2), the company couldn't be more cautious.

DeNA, meanwhile, is focused on expanding its global reach, after a previous alliance with Bandai Namco proved to be unfruitful. Expansion in mobile, however, tends to be correlated with an ability to consistently publish big hits.

Mr. Moriyasu's hopes -- that the Nintendo-DeNA alliance will lead to games that bring in over £17m a month -- seem to reflect this. With DeNA playing the role of 'platform holder' in this relationship, they could be bringing in a fair chunk (30-40%, by some analysts' estimates) of all income from Nintendo-DeNA published titles, in addition to that from the rest of their portfolio.

And that's where it all becomes a bit muddied. Nintendo doesn't need games that bring in record-breaking amounts of income in order to achieve its goals, it just needs to engage users with its upcoming all-encompassing online platform. DeNA's objectives, while perfectly justifiable, go a long way towards explaining why it formed the alliance in the first place.

The emerging concern is simple: Will Nintendo and DeNA both be able to handle things in a way that satisfies both companies' long-term objectives?
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BOXBOY!

Apr 01
Posted by James at 06:27

Please note: For all intents and purposes, this is a repost of our Hakoboi! review, unedited in all but name. Yes, BOXBOY! is still a masterclass in minimalist game design.

Qbby is a box with legs. He can jump about, extending his two legs. He can retract them and, erm, literally become a box. Or several boxes - from himself he can spawn a chain of them in different directions. Oh, and his game is the latest from HAL Laboratory, creators of Kirby.

Soon after Nintendo's own Captain Toad marked the return of the bigger budget puzzle game, BoxBoy! stands at the opposite end of the spectrum. It's as minimalist as they come, sporting a charming yet basic monochrome look which is made up almost entirely of angular shapes. Its ability to entertain therefore lies almost solely in how well designed its levels and various features are.

There's an incredibly compelling puzzle platformer in BoxBoy! which extends around Qbby's strong yet slim moveset. In finding the exit door to each stage, you're frequently encouraged to find news ways to utilise those moves to solve a variety of puzzles.

To begin with you'll be creating boxes to throw into spike pits and safely jump across, or using those boxes to build bridges. So far, so straightforward. But give it a few worlds and you'll discover neat tricks within the world's rules. One favourite is being able to reverse-retract your Tetris-shaped box extension if it hooks itself onto a ledge, thereby transporting Qbby to new places.

These 'Eureka' moments of discovery make you see the game in completely different ways. Going back to the previous example, you'll need to do some jumping to 'hook' your box extension onto ledges, and the box shapes you create need to take this into account.

Each new world introduces increasingly inventive gizmos, objects and traps, further eking more smart ideas out of what Qbby can do. Conveyer belts and Star Blocks encourage you to solve a solution in reverse. Cranes make you quickly realise that you can manipulate Qbby's location based on nearby walls and his ability to create new boxes as an extension of himself.

BoxBoy! does the near-impossible and makes the most of each world's central mechanic in just seven levels. Its puzzles are focused and simple...at least retrospectively speaking. You'll frequently have to think hard and experiment, but there really is nothing better than spending a while on a particular solution only to realise the pure simplicity and genius of it all. It therefore avoids long, drawn out solutions without feeling overly easy - things sail along, and before you know it that quick five minute session to tackle the next level just became an engrossing two hours.

To cement the challenge, crowns (which grant you credits to spend on goodies) have been placed in some devious places, stretching your thinking further. They'll also only appear if you've been economical in creating boxes, encouraging you to find the optimal solution each time. And levels containing an even bigger, smarter, meatier challenge await after the credits roll.

It's all a sound proof of concept for Nintendo Web Framework, a WebKit-based development environment. The constraints of making a game using web technologies like HTML5 and Javascript have allowed even a big developer like HAL Laboratory to focus on crafting a compelling videogame above anything else.

BoxBoy! is a triumph. Not because it remains vastly interesting across its 160 or so levels, but in how it goes about achieving this. It'll make you feel like a genius with surprising regularity, and it does more with the few levels containing each world's standout features than you thought possible. It's a masterclass in minimalist game design, and never less than a delight to play.
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Mar
31
Posted by Duane at 14:38
Its not even out in Japan yet, but Atlus have today announced that they will be localising JRPG Stella Glow in America, no new as yet of an European release.

Stella Glow is developed by Imageepooch for the Nintendo 3DS, Imageepooch were previously responsible for the Luminous Arc series on the original DS although this is a completely new IP for them.


As is normally the case with JRPG's, you will embark on an epic quest to rid the world of some evil force. The difference here is that you will apparently be bringing the "power of song" into battle, although I have no idea how that will work and the Japanese trailer below doesn't shed any light on that either.

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OlliOlli2

Mar 31
Posted by Duane at 06:13

It's no secret that I was a huge fan of OlliOlli back when it was originally released on the Vita last year. It had a few problems, which by their own admission, took developers Roll7 far too long to address (a crashing glitch being the worst culprit and a lack of leaderboards was a killer for some, although I felt sharing screengrabs on Twitter or forums felt like a return to the "olden days"), but overall, the gameplay was sharp and highly addictive. My one major gripe with it was that I could never ever figure out how some people were getting the scores they were getting, but thats high scores in general as far as my ability is concerned.


Just over a year later and Roll7 have already released OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood, which aims to add a whole slew of new bits and bobs whilst having things like online leaderboards available from day one. I was never really against having Leaderboards in OlliOlli but found their eventual addition took away a kind of communal discussion on the game, with players prefering just to check out the scores that way rather than resort to other means and actually engross in an element of rivalry and, for want of a better word, banter. Their immeidate inclusion here does make sense, its a bit of a no-no not to include them in modern day high score game, but its still a pity that that communal discussion will not take place quite so much for OlliOlli 2.

The other additions to OlliOlli2 come in the forms of methods of navigating each level, previously the only way to link tricks was to hit a grind, but now you have the option of landing in a manual so that even being on the land allows you to keep a combo going. You can also perform reverts, grind switches and initiate stance changes before you begin your combo, allowing you to find and customise your combinations when taking on others via the leaderboards or entering the now traditional Daily Grinds (which are still an absolute bastard!). Thankfully, none of this requires mastering any of the other buttons on your Vita as everything is still done via the use of the left stick + X and shoulder buttons, but as with before, different results are achieved by differing your input combinations and perfecting the timing.

Theres very little to accuse OlliOlli 2 of in regards to faults, its still as punishing as ever and whilst its perfect for short bursts of play via the Vita I'm not wholy convinced that the systems small analogue sticks are perfect for it, unfortunately I don't have the hardware required to try it on something with a bigger analogue stick. This often makes performing a variety of tricks, or indeed the tricks sometimes set out in a levels completion goals, rather inaccurate, which does take away from some of the enjoyment of OlliOlli2 but overall, its still an excellent title that, I feel at least, is as essential for Vita owners as the first one was!
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Ride
Video Review
Mar 30
Posted by Ben at 17:47

We take a look at Ride, the new motorbike racer from Milestone and PQube. The video is from the PS4 version, and shows of a few race types, and a general overview of what the game is like

Our review is HERE A word of apology. The capture kit directly recorded the microphone, it wasn't supposed to, as such it's a bit blown out, then a bit quiet, it's why I don't usually do that, and why there's usually some editing involved

A word of apology. The capture kit directly recorded the microphone, it wasn't supposed to, as such it's a bit blown out, then a bit quiet, it's why I don't usually do that, and why there's usually some editing involved

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Ride

Mar 30
Posted by Ben at 01:46

I feel like I should preface this review by saying that I'm not a big racing game fan, I'm not great at them, I don't play a lot of them, and I'm by no means an authority on them. So maybe bear that in mind as you read on, this isn't written from a hardcore racing game fan's perspective.

If there's one thing you can say about Ride it's that Ride certainly has a lot of content. If you head in to the World Tour mode there's multiple categories separated by bike type, ranging from low powered bikes to electric bikes, classic super bikes, and the kind of 2-wheeled monsters you would kill yourself with. Selecting one of these brings up more options, each containing multiple races of varying locations and race types. A few more tracks wouldn't have gone amiss, granted I played through Ride in a concentrated time, but I felt I was seeing the same 4 tracks constantly.

There's a decent number of bikes, it's not hundreds and hundreds, but it's more than you'd ever need to use. Within a class there may not feel like there's much difference between them, one has 7.1 for handling another has 7.2, it's not likely to make a discernible difference. That said there were races and events I struggled in until I accepted defeat and changed my bike of choice. It's a difficult thing to do, you earn credits for completing races, buying a bike costs credits, then kitting it out with new gear and improving it costs more. It can make a significant difference to both your, and the bikes' performance, but convincing yourself to part with the credits and time isn't easy. Purely anecdotally, I found I preferred a technically inferior bike to some others from the same class I had in my garage, I can't place why, it just seemed to fit me better

Taking a step up in class does provide you with a significant difference in how the bikes feel. As an afore-mentioned simpleton at racing games, it's where the physics level really came in to play. Ride uses feedback well, rather than have the controller vibrate every time you hit top speed or hit the breaks, it saves it for moments where you need it, like your back end sliding out as you hit the power exiting a corner. These moments become more pronounced when you have more power underneath you, couple that with a more realistic physics setting and you have to learn to be so much more careful. It's actually one of the things I really like about the game, that while it lacks any sort of tutorial, I still learnt to feather the breaks and acceleration, using the analogue triggers as they were intended rather than gunning it, slamming on the breaks, then gunning it again. In fact that 'all or nothing' approach was making me leave the ground rather than slowing me down, and it was that learning curve that made my initial time with Ride a chore. It's definitely a better game as you spend more time with it.

All this combines to create an occasional uneven difficulty. There were races I was winning by 30+ seconds, then struggling in the time trial. Was it me not being good enough, the bike being the wrong pick, the bike being terrible, or something off with the difficulty in the game. Again it's a problem lessened later on, but I felt I wasted time early on doggedly trying to improve my rating. The large number of races and events could do with a little more structure, if you've got the money to buy the bikes then there's nothing stopping you from jumping to the faster bikes straight away. There's a 'World Ranking' ladder, based on reputation points earned from finishing races, and climbing this means you open up elite races that reward you with a new bike (often after having to buy one to enter), but something a little more restrictive might have made things from a gamer perspective, if not from a racing game fan's.

Technically the game is pretty solid. It doesn't make great use of the power of the PS4, character models are poor, and you wouldn't describe it as a pretty game, but then it does run at a solid framerate. The loading times are the real killer though. There's a significant load before each race, which loads a picture of your bike, and then goes back to loading again. Once the game is installed you'd expect it to be much quicker than it is. It's bad enough that having to reattempt a race is off-putting, and again part of the reason Ride becomes a better game once you're better at it and better equipped, you'll see less of them.

As mentioned right at the start of this review, I'm maybe not the best person to judge a game like Ride, I think it's audience is more select, a group I don't belong to. I do know that it went from something that I was gritting my teeth, preparing myself to spend time reviewing, to something I was enjoying. On that basis, if you're a racing game fan, or especially a motorbike fan, I think you'd get something from Ride, particularly once it's settled in.
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Mar
29
Posted by Ben at 16:51
Not a great surprise that a yearly sports game is getting an update this year, but Milestone have announced that MotoGP 15 is on the way.

MotoGP 15 seems to have an increased focus on customisation this year, with the 'enhanced career mode' tying in to that.

There's no release date so far, but they're aiming for spring, with the game releasing on PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC
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The Grandia Weekly
Episode 4
Mar 29
Posted by Ben at 16:39

Episode 4 of our weekly let's Play. Recorded right after Episode 3 because I wanted to keep playing. As such though I can't really remember what happens in it. We were on a boat, I don't think there was any combat but there was a mini game!

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E.X. Troopers

Mar 27
Posted by James at 10:46

Remember how other shooters felt so slow after playing Platinum's Vanquish? Stripped of your exoskeleton suit, unable to propel yourself (knees-first!) past enemies in a panic-stricken escape? It felt like losing an arm.

Capcom's E.X. Troopers captures that very feeling when its combat is at its frantic and charged best, when all of its third person shooter idiosyncrasies click into place.

It's a modern third person shooter without a cover system, and nearly all shooting is done by locking on to targets and strafing. That probably sounds boring and rudimentary, but combine it with the mighty jetpack, and E.X. Troopers transforms from a run-and-gun shooter and into something far smarter, where you're encouraged to make the most out of a simplified setup.

This jetpack, you see, doesn't lift you into the air. Instead, it enables ground-level manoeuvrability, satisfying the need to react to the moment and ensuring battles flow at as fast a pace as possible. A quick tap of the B button sends you dashing, but tap it again and whoosh - you've just been propelled forwards, thick black motion lines appearing in affirmation.

Clever use of the jetpack and its regenerating energy is crucial to survival. Flanked on both sides by the terrifying rattle of chain gun fire? Boost to a safe location and approach the fight anew - a large radar on the lower screen seems purposefully built for this very reason. It also aids offensive approaches, giving you a chance to avoid attacks while firing. Giant Armidilo-like Akrid creatures set out to steamroll you and your team, but a well-timed and positioned jetpack boost has the potential to turn the tables. Suddenly the game's reliance on a lock-on-and strafe system makes good sense.

So does the lack of a pop-in, pop-out cover system. The game's combat has speed at heart - identify enemy threat, zip and zoom about the map to dispatch said threat, rinse and repeat - and its missions rarely last more than five minutes, too short a period for the more measured rhythm of the cover system. Because of this, most of the fun is in making the right trade-offs between actions on the fly: Do you zip out of the way from a deadly homing grenade, or continue firing at an enemy on its last legs?

This is all not to say that longer-term planning isn't possible. Thermal Energy - also seen in Lost Planet - opens up some breathing room. Enemies bleed the stuff when damaged, with spilt droplets clumping together convincingly to form large glowing blobs which are just begging to be collected. Doing so restores health, but it also builds up energy for an EX-T Blast.

These special attacks deal mega damage over a wide area, so you'll need to figure out when is best to unleash them: Enemy positioning, the objective and your timing all need to be considered. It's also one of the few times you can willingly put yourself in danger - the adrenaline rush that comes with boosting into a clear enemy threat, only to unleash a destructive EX-T Blast, is a reward well worth the risk.

E.X. Troopers can sometimes be too fast for its own good, though. Some of its optional VR missions leave little room for error, and are probably best played in local co-op (the game's central hub has more than a whiff of Monster Hunter about it), benefitting from the tight communication of three friends in the same room. You need an enormous amount of concentration to pull off the primary objective, and the A.I. isn't set up so well to deal with some mission types than others.

While mission objects aren't exactly varied across the board, the game's signature combat and solid map and enemy designs ensure even the most conforming of stages are a joy to play. Some mission types excel more than others: Those which aim to put the player under pressure - like protecting data capture points from an onslaught of differing enemy types - do an astounding job at making those combat systems sing, and there are fun variants on familiar setups to keep things fresh.

The differing objectives from mission to mission feed into the game's selection of weapons, each firearm carrying different properties. While the core of the game's combat remains the same regardless of loadout, some are undeniably better for certain jobs than others. Weapons range from the simple (a pistol) to the whacky (a gun that shoots a circular formation of ice bullets), so there's plenty of room for flexibility. In addition, a robust upgrade system keeps progression fresh without knocking the difficulty out of balance.

It's all painted in a cel-shaded style that's unique to the genre, even if it's packed with shonen (boys) manga cliches. That's the point, though, as they fit the game's theme of boundless optimism and energy to a tee. Yasumasa Kitagawa's soundtrack serves as the perfect complement, his bouncy and futuristic-sounding compositions coming across as equally energetic. Punchy sound effects and good use of surround sound lend a tangible feel to everything that's happening on and off-screen - even the loading screens exhilarate.

Capcom's other big budget 3DS shooter, Resident Evil Revelations, often felt like a series miniaturisation, leading to both good (its episodic structure) and bad (the Ooze enemies) results. E.X. Troopers, meanwhile, is more successful. The beautiful simplicity behind its combat, and its razor-sharp speed and progression, are the culmination of carefully designing a game from the ground up for the portable format.
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Mar
27
Posted by James at 09:01
Sony's console-ified PS Vita, the PlayStation TV, can now be bought for as little as £44.99, with Sony today confirming an official price drop to website Dealspwn.

This wouldn't be the first time the microconsole saw a price cut, with North American retailers offering it for $79.99 since early this year.

The move reflects how Sony overestimated demand for the product, which was primarily marketed as a PlayStation 4 streaming accessory for its western launch.

Sony had to issue a £62m ($93m) write-down on PS TV and PS Vita components in its third financial quarter, its financial results report (PDF) explaining:
This write-down was recorded because the latest forecast of PS TV unit sales does not reach our original forecast as a result of lower than expected unit sales in the current quarter.

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