Nov
21
Posted by Ben at 18:42
I never played the original Cherry Tree High Comedy Club, but I heard from people that did that it was a very likeable little thing, it certainly seemed to kick start a bit of interest in visual novels

Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is a visual novel, there's a trailer below, and it's priced at the not unreasonable £2.79

Nyu Media have also announced that the original Cherry Tree High Comedy Club has been updated to a 'dewesternised' version, with a Japanese setting, names and place names, which is a nice touch for fans of the original

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Nov
21
Posted by Ben at 02:13
I finished Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) last night, so there will be a review in the next day or so. It's good, and the use of the Native Alaskan stories and art is great, it brings some character and identityto the game.

There's a bit of a spoiler warning for the video below, while it's fairly early in the game, it does kind of show the solution to the first boss fight. I give a warning, but just stop before the end if you don't want to see it

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Nov
20
Posted by Ben at 01:59
We took a look at 0rbitalis a few months back, it's a gravity puzzler, not unlike Osmos, and from what I played it's not too bad at all.

The game is still in early access and was updated last night with a host of new features, including a 'Daily Challenge' mode

As well as a few more details, the developer posted on the Steam page

I've been talking about this feature for a long time: I'm very happy it has been included and I really need your help to make it better. When a level is procedurally generated, there is always a chance it won't be very ...desirable. With a gravity-based game like 0RBITALIS, avoiding this is a very challenging task. For this reason, the current update includes only four different types of systems which can be generated. I'll collect your feedbacks during these weeks and tweak them accordingly. When happy, more type of systems will be available. I'd love to use this feature to generate bizarre, crazy levels like Tesla or Soundself...

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Nov 17
Posted by Duane at 07:11

Very few games could be considered as something of a cultural institution. Admitedly, some franchises are absolutely huge, Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty for example, but very few are so engrained within an element of a nations population that they can spark intense discussion over various intricacies. Football Manager, however, is one of those titles. I'd imagine if you got into a discussion with any male from the age of about 14 to 35 they'd have a tale to tell that involved Football Manager, even those who aren't football fans will probably tell you the story of a friend who sacrificed their social life, or indeed almost sacrificed their real world career, to the so-callled "interactive spreadsheet".


Why is this? It's hard to deny the fact that football is the nations number one sport, and whilst FIFA sells in ridiculous amounts its never felt quite as attatched to our own personal development quite like Football Manager. Nor does there ever seem to be that emotional attachment that Sports Interactive's behemoth evokes in people where their eyes gloss over and they tell you about the time they scouted some young Bolivian kid who went on to lead them to repeated glory as they climbed up the leagues and became the "Champions of Europe" (although that doesn't seem to relate to any of my own personal games where I seem to be a bit of a Ian Holloway/Neil Warnock character...). And now its that time of year again where SEGA and Sports Interactive release their latest version with the latest squads, leagues and stats. Has anything major been changed? Well, not really, but then one could argue that "if its not broken, you don't fix it".

From this point onwards I will point out that I've been playing my FM15 career on the "Full" career mode rather than the more streamlined "Classic" mode that Sports Interactive introduced a few years back. I'd love to have covered both, but to be frank I only have enough time to sink into one career and just felt like absorbing as much as I possibly could.

As usual, every aspect of trying to make the club succesful is placed under your control, from training regimes, hiring and firing of staff and players, to squad formations and tactics. You can deligate as much as you want to too, with the coaching staff giving you regular updates on who they think should be sold, how training a player in a particular way will benefit you or even what formation they feel will work with the players you have at your disposal. This you can take on board and apply, test the waters and tweak where you think its needed, or you can ignore entirely, again, its all upto you especially as its your neck on the line if it all goes tits up.

The long and short of this years instalment is that, once again, Sports Interactive have put alot of effort into the more visibly interactive elements of the game, there are more options when talking to players, talking about opponents or interacting with the media. However the game engine still feels like its a few years too old, couple this with a 3D Match Engine that doesn't really show how everything is playing quite as accurately as it maybe should be doing and the entire experience feels a little disjointed unless you switch to Text Only matches, which kind of defies the whole point of the 3D match engine being there in the first place.

However, this is Football Manager, it does exactly what it says on the tin, its as ridiculously addictive as ever and a few issues aside, its pretty much at the same standard its been for the past few years. Purchase at your peril, especially you students!
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Nov 17
Posted by Ben at 04:43

Valkyria Chronicles is a game far more people will have heard of than ever seen running. Itís the obscure SRPG from the early days of the PS3, a game thatís gushed over by the small number of people that played it. It deserved the praise too, thereís certainly few games that play quite like it.

For the uninitiated, Valkyria Chronicles is a 3D strategy rpg, not a million miles from the likes of XCOM. You have a set number of turns per phase, and including certain members in your party will get you more, with each character having a certain amount of movement available to them. What this means is you can you could pull someone from cover to get them a better shot at the enemy but need to make sure you leave them with enough movement to get back behind cover, otherwise theyíll be left out in the open. You donít have to move every character, in fact depending how you spend your turns you might not have enough of them to move everyone anyway, and you can instead move a character more than once per phase, although each time you move them their available movement is diminished.

Elsewhere Valkyria Chronicles echoes the likes of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. You can spend a turn on an Ďorderí, a stat boost given to a specific character or the team, that may increase defence, accuracy, attack power, evasion etc. Depending on the distance between you and your target, and what type of unit they are (snipers and launchers only act on their turn) when you take a shot at an enemy, they get a go back, meaning risky attacks, particularly if youíre out of cover, can cost you big.

Thereís no escaping that the graphics were one of the talking points surrounding Valkyria Chronicles when it first released, and itís no different here. I was actually surprised how well the water colour style holds up, thereís more detail there than I remembered. It also scales really well on PC, the port is better than just sticking a 720p 30fps game on the pc, it runs well, matching the refresh rate of your monitor, and at the very least hitting 1080p without any sort of modding

While Valkyria Chronicleís graphics might be the show stopper, its story is deserving of credit. Within the first few minutes innocents are gunned down in the street, shot in the back. Not long after than analogues with the treatment of the Jews during WWII start to creep in, and by the half-way point itís right on the nose. Itís hardly the first anime-themed media to take war seriously, Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies are heart-breaking, and the excellent ĎNow and Then, Here and Thereí is a fairly stark series about child soldiers. Valkyria Chronicles never gets that heavy, but itís commendable that the more fantasy elements of the story arenít always front and centre

One of the striking things about Valkyria Chronicles is how open a lot of the missions are, often in strategy rpgs if a battle is themed then thereís very much a right way to do approach it. Valkyria Chronicles has that too, particularly early on, but mostly your squad build, unit placement, and approach to the mission are all open to interpretation. It means you can be quite open with the systems, for example, you donít have to spread your moves throughout your entire team, if unloading with your snipers or launchers is the best solution to a problem then do it. Itís a lesson you have to learn, and one that the better players, those that will get the high ranks have had drilled in to them.

However thereís a downside to the openness of the maps. Take for example a map midway through the game, you need to take out a tank without using explosive weapons. The map is a huge criss-cross of city streets, and youíre advised to use your tank to block some of the streets. However, thereís so many routes through the map, with the enemy bringing in new units after a few turns, that the openness becomes a source of frustration. The ability to quickly restart missions would be a huge plus. It can be very apparent very early that youíve messed up a mission, and I took to exiting the game through task manager rather than wait for my key characters to get killed to restart, itís a shame the port didnít add a way around this

I had an issue where the game would start to run at half-speed, not dropping frames, in fact itís more a case of the opposite happening. It seems Iím not the only one to experience this, it may be a v-sync issue, and it seems to be more prevalent if I had a video open on my desktop. Alt-tabbing out and back in to the game seemed to fix the problem, and itís anomalous to what is otherwise a well done port. The only other issues I can think of are with the mouse controls, the game doesnít quite make full use of them in menus and the like, and the mouse can be a sluggish on its default settings, but you can fix that in the options, and I wouldnít be surprised if a patch solved it completely.

Valkyria Chronicles was a superb game back when it was first released, and time has done very little to diminish that. Itís still a unique experience, managing to move the likes of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem in to 3D. While chance and character stats all play a part in combat, that things, including bullets and shells, take up a physical place in the world adds to the strategy, making cover and movement hugely important. The story is intriguing, managing to strike a balance between the grounding of real war and anime fantasy. Despite its age Valkyria Chronicles is more than worth your time, and really itís hard to think of a contemporary parallel on PC or any other platform.
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Nov
15
Posted by Ben at 10:35
Now Freedom Wars is out Vita owners may be looking at the release list and feel the run up to Christmas is looking a little barren for them. Well, if you like your Japanese games, and if you don't why did you buy a Vita, you might be interested in Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy from Arc System Works.

Due out in North America on the 2nd December, and early next year for the rest of us, Fantasy Hero doesn't look unlike an Ys game, or the recent Witch and the Hundred Knight. There's a couple of things that make it stand out, there's the potential for 4 player local co-op, and that one of the playable characters, rather than use a sword, uses wrestling moves, which is at least novel.

There's a trailer below
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Nov
15
Posted by Ben at 10:22
I'm scratching my head trying to remember if I've played a game inspired by, and in developed in conjunction with Alaskan natives before. Looking at the new trailer for Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) it's amazing to think it hasn't been done before, it looks stark, cold, and evocative, and even looks like it lends itself to some gameplay mechanics. It reminds me of a cold Lost Winds a bit

One to keep an eye on I think. It's due out on Steam on the 18th November

EDIT: Just a minor edit, Never Alone is also being released on PS4 and Xbox One this week

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Nov
12
Posted by Ben at 16:35
Remember Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic, NiGHTS, and a number of other fantastic games. Well you may not know that he left Sega a few years ago and started his own company, Prope, they've done, amongst other things, the eminently likeable Let's Tap.

They also made a Wii game called Rodea: The Sky Soldier, which was finished but never released by publisher Kadokawa Games (who also set about making a 3DS version.

Well, preamble out of the way, it seems Rodea: The Sky Soldier isn't dead, instead Kadokawa Games are bringing it to the WiiU... in Japan. No word on a Western release, but hopefully it comes over, either as a download, or someone somewhere manages to get a homebrew channel or Freeloader working for the WiiU. Hell, I'd even take the 3DS version, even though Naka himself said the Wii version was the way the game is meant to be played

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Nov
12
Posted by Mark at 00:00
Think so.


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Nov 10
Posted by Ben at 16:39

Hopefully I'm not breaking any embargo posting this up, I've held off a day just in case. We were sent a code for the PC version of Valkyria Chronicles, a port that has struck a chord with a surprising number of people

I can't say too much about it yet as I've not quite played enough to review the game, but I will say it's a pretty good port, certainly there's little to complain about. The game itself, for those that haven't played it before, is a strategy rpg with 3D movement. So you can move your units, hide them behind cover, line up headshots etc, all with rpg elements factored in.

If you're unsure the video below is a pretty accurate guide to what to expect, although it's only one level and Valkyria Chronicles changes things up quite often

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