In Between
Gameplay Video
Sep 04
Posted by Ben at 14:29

We take a look at In Between, an indie puzzle platformer type thing which uses gravity mechanics as a means to getting to the end of the level

In Between is themed around grief, which might put a few people off, but it's fairly well done, it's not like we have a lot of games like this. It pulls the games themes in to the gameplay, which is always nice to see

There's a demo up on Steam if you want to give it a go for yourself. Seems pretty good, if occasionally quite difficult, from what I've played. There'll be a review to follow in the next few days
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Posted by James at 07:47
A recent jobs listing over at Nintendo of America's jobs website suggests that Nintendo Software Technology (NST) may be working on mobile games and apps in the future.

While we already know quite a lot about Nintendo's partnership with Japanese services company DeNA and their long-term objective behind it, we're still only beginning to see all the relevant pieces fall into place.

So far, we know that Hideki Konno will be heading up Nintendo's mobile game development, which likely refers to the five games launching by the end of March 2017. We also know that Nintendo is not interested in chasing 'whales' as far as monetising these games goes.

It now seems like NST will be playing a part, as this new job listing, for a "Software Engineer -- Mobile Game Developer", suggests that the successful individual will "play a key role in helping Nintendo build fun and engaging mobile applications and games as a member of NST’s game team." They must also possess "working knowledge of iOS and/or Android SDK's."

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean they will be involved with Nintendo's five core mobile titles set to launch by March 2017, but they will almost certainly be focusing on mobile software that will fall into place as part of Nintendo's vision for the future -- an interconnected online system to act as a bridge between mobile devices and dedicated hardware.

DeNA's expertise in services is a big part of this (expect Nintendo to utilise "big data" for its upcoming loyalty system), and indicates a need for Nintendo to provide mobile-like software for the aforementioned devices that span Nintendo's new online platform.

For instance, the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata hinted at a Mii Maker application for smart devices before Nintendo's mobile plans were even made public, and NST already have experience making cross-platform HTML5 apps with Wii Street U and Mario Vs Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. You could make a solid case that NST are one of the best set-up in-house studios under Nintendo's belt to transition into mobile game and application development.
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The Grandia Weekly
Episode 24 BONUS
Sep 03
Posted by Ben at 15:34

These videos are actually part of Episode 24, there's no story elements to them, they're entirely a side expedition, but if you want to know where they sit in the timeline, it's there

The bonus episode was so large that when I was compiling it Movie Maker was throwing a fit, so I've had to split it in to 2 episodes. Which is probably for the best, who in their right mind is going to sit and watch a 4 hour video on Youtube.

Anyway, the bonus episode came about because I found a couple of 'secret' dungeons, that clearly aren't all that secret because I found both of them, one of them whilst trying very hard not to.

Part 1 focuses on the Castle of Dreams, which is a cool level, one of my favourites in the game so far. It gets tough though, like, I had to use items tough!

Part 2 takes us back to the Soldiers Graveyard, a dungeon we discovered and played a bit of in (I think) Episode 20 or 21

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Gunman Clive HD
Gameplay Video
Sep 02
Posted by Ben at 17:49

Gunman Clive HD hits the WiiU tomorrow, and we've been sent some review code for the game. No review yet, but there is a gameplay video of the WiiU version below

We reviewed both Gunman Clive and Gunman Clive 2 on the 3DS, and really liked both. The WiiU version includes both games, and is well worth a look, especially as it's so cheap

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Posted by James at 09:02
So the series continues. As formally revealed by Famitsu and confirmed by Capcom USA, Ace Attorney 6 is currently in development, and it’s also being localised. Details are currently scarce, but expect more information to emerge during the Tokyo Game Show next month.

If there’s one thing this announcement confirms, though, is that Capcom is not interested in bringing over Dai Gyakuten Saiban (The Great Ace Attorney), a series reboot from Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi, who was not involved with Ace Attorney 5, or this new game. When Dai Gyakuten Saiban was announced a year ago, Capcom stayed shtum on the subject of a localisation, and continues to do so this day.

Shu Takumi was against continuing the story of Phoenix Wright after the original Ace Attorney trilogy concluded 11 years ago, as he feared dragging out the series' main narrative would result in it becoming a shadow of its former self.

While Capcom have managed to keep him working on the series, every Ace Attorney game he has been involved with since – Apollo Justice, Professor Layton Vs. Ace Attorney, The Great Ace Attorney – has either had a big thematic twist or has not involved Phoenix Wright in order to distance these games from the original trilogy.

As such, the main series is now being overseen by Takeshi Yamazaki. In addition to directing Ace Attorney 6, Takeshi Yamazaki was in charge of Ace Attorney 5 as well as Ace Attorney Investigations, a spin-off title that was developed while Shu Takumi worked on the rather excellent Ghost Trick.

Due to these circumstances, it's perhaps easier to see why Capcom passed on localising Takumi’s latest game. Due to its nature as a series reboot set far in the past to avoid any similarities with the main series, Dai Gyakuten Saiban is primarily set in the Meiji period of Japan. This would make localisation difficult and incompatible – previous games had their setting changed from Japan to America during as a result of the localisation process.

It’s saddening that the game from the series’ creator is the one that ends up being crossed out by the localisation team – another stark reminder that brand appeal can matter more than developer legacy.
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Posted by James at 20:57
A web-based Nintendo eShop has been a long time coming, and while that still hasn’t arrived, Wii U and 3DS owners in the U.S. are on the receiving end of a solution that’s nearly as good, just operated by online retailer Amazon instead.

As expected, it works seamlessly enough. As with other digital code services provided by Amazon, purchasing a code will directly link its contents to the service in question (in this case, Nintendo Network). Actually getting your hands on the content/subscription/currency after purchasing is painless.

It's encouraging to see Nintendo's digital content receive more exposure in the U.S. On the other hand, such an initiative reduces the inventory risk Amazon takes on when it sells a particular game.

However, this particular outcome may not be exactly what Nintendo is aiming for. three years ago late president Satoru Iwata envisioned a situation where the price of Nintendo digital goods varies by retailer.

This was meant to be the result of a plan to run its digital distribution business differently as part of an effort to expand it, also ceasing the opportunity to do so in a world where physical game prices are generally lower than their digital equivalents.

As outlined to investors, one of the key differences that Iwata wanted to pursue was to give retailers an active role to play in distributing digital downloads. Traditionally, the platform holder (say, Sony Computer Entertainment) is the seller of the goods, so they decide pricing and shoulder any billing and settlement costs involved, cutting out the intermediary in that regard.

By contrast, Nintendo’s digital distribution product channel works like this: It sells the digital product to retailers at wholesale, allowing them to be involved in the price setting process. However, the retailer shoulders all expenses relating to billing and settlement. This gives the retailer flexibility to lower prices of digital goods as they see fit, similarly to how they would physical ones.

This plan produced tangible results. In Japan, many Nintendo digital products are sold below RRP on Amazon Japan’s storefront, as are digital download cards in brick-and-mortar retailers. Specialise retailer GAME was the first retailer in Europe to adopt this system, and as a result offers the download version of almost every 3DS and Wii U retail game at below the recommended retail price (RRP). For example, a download code for Pokémon Alpha Sapphire is listed for £32.99 – if you were to buy it from Nintendo’s digital storefront it would set you back £39.99.

However, the same situation has not happened in this case with Amazon Digital Services in the U.S. The price of every game available matches its eShop RRP equivalent, similar to how digital downloads from Sony’s PSN and Microsoft’s Xbox Live are priced.

In this case it’s hard to tell whether this is down to Amazon holding onto profit margins, whether it has a vested interest to shift physical product (which would also allow customers to discover the Amazon marketplace), or whether Nintendo is shouldering billing and settlement expenses like some of its competitors do. Another possibility is that Nintendo is using the reduced inventory risk of digital downloads as leverage to charge higher wholesale prices for its digital goods, a scenario that was hinted at during an investor Q & A session in July.

Despite this setback, this is the right step forward, one that helps not only Nintendo but its customers and a retail partner who in the past refused to stock Nintendo hardware. It increases the exposure of Nintendo’s digital offerings while also allowing Amazon to reduce inventory risk, especially when certain types of games are being increasingly marginalised at retail. Hopefully this is the start of bigger plans in the region.
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Posted by James at 17:03
Sony Computer Entertainment really nailed the look of the PS Vita 2000, the hardware revision known as the “Vita Slim” in most quarters. Their designers adopted a two-tone colour scheme to great effect, matching a black or white front with a suitable colour on the back.

For instance, a white front and screen bezel would be paired with a light blue, yellow or white underbelly, while a black front was matched up with Vitas sporting black and dark pink undersides. It's not too dissimilar to what Apple does with the iPod Touch and iPhone 5c, and with good reason: It's pleasing to look at.

All this good work has arguably been undone with these new PS Vita colours, which are slated to launch in Japan on September 17. It looks like they made too many black screens and analogue sticks and had to use them all up somehow, and the way the two-tone design has been marginalised to the extent that it sticks out like a sore thumb. Only the screen bezel has a lick of black paint.

Harmonious they are not, though a time when confidence in Sony’s support for the plucky handheld is arguably at an all time low, any new hardware announcements are a good thing. Especially so when the ‘aqua blue’ PS Vita-2000 is set to launch in North America in November, a region in which the PS Vita is not showing much strength.
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Posted by Ben at 14:12
Bit of a long title, kind of says all that needs saying, but Gunman Clive HD is coming to WiiU this week on the 3rd September, a collection which includes both the 3DS games

I can personally recommend both games, assuming nothing odd has happened during the transfer to the big screen. I liked Gunman Clive but I really liked Gunman Clive 2. It's also really cheap, which always helps, $3.99, so maybe £3? Either way it's got to be worth a look.

We'll have a review and a video up in the next week or so, so look out for that, until then there's a trailer below

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The Grandia Weekly
Episode 24
Aug 31
Posted by Ben at 15:55

It only struck me after I'd finished playing quite how much things kick off this week. We head to Zil Padon, struggle to find a cellar, then get the approval of an old friend.

Guido joins the party, completely incapable of using magic, which is odd because if life has taught me anything it's that talking rabbits are supposed to be fairly adept at magic. He does hit people 3 times a turn though so he's not without his uses.

After that is where it really kicks off. All our time in the Zil Ruins, which sounds like we were slacking off this episode, but it's action packed! I won't spoil things, but I did miss the chance for an Aliens reference (They're coming outta the godamn walls!), and I do get the chance to praise, and pine, for CG in games

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Danganronpa Another Episode
Ultra Despair Girls
Aug 28
Posted by James at 08:10

What comes to mind when you think of Danganronpa? Some would point to the visual novel, others would simply answer with “Monokuma”, a sadistic bear that loves to spread despair. The series offers a lot to love and with good reason – it’s a distinctive take on the murder mystery, sporting distinctive characters, witty and entertaining dialogue and a tense, foreboding atmosphere. Simply put, it’s an experience that’ll stick with you for years to come.

Still, one thing you won’t see celebrated much are the series’ judicial minigames, which range from activities like snowboarding (yes, really) and shooting floating letters. The idea is that you delve into your brain to conjure up an argument to present. Not only are they terrible metaphors for the task at hand, but they are tedious and over-complex to play through – the opposite of thinking up a clear and concise argument. In the end, they only served to obstruct your ability to get your point across in the courtroom.

Luckily, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls takes on action-oriented interactivity in a far more successful manner. In fact, the game revolves around it – as a spinoff of the main series, developers Spike Chunsoft aren’t held back by a need to conform to series conventions or player expectations.

While the series’ signature sharp writing and long-form narrative still play a big part in Ultra Despair Girls, at its core is a fully formed third-person survival horror game.

It’s a big shift from those visual novel-adventure game roots, but the survival horror genre is a surprisingly good fit for the series’ main setup, where individuals face off against all the odds in increasingly tense situations.

You play as Komaru, Makoto's (the protagonist of the first game) sister, and the primary threat, at least at first, is an army of Monokuma robots. If you’ve played Danganronpa before it quickly becomes obvious that this setup is such a good fit that you begin to wonder whether a spin-off game of this ilk was planned all along.

Ultra Despair Girls plays an interesting game of survival horror. The core fundamentals will be familiar to anyone who has played Resident Evil 4 and the games it inspired; there’s an over-the-shoulder viewpoint and your weapon has a laser-sight to encourage precision aiming. Your aiming reticule moves ever-so-slowly, preventing you from playing like it a straight third person shooter and encouraging you to take down enemies in a single shot. Ammo is a scarce resource.

Despite being armed with only one weapon (a megaphone-shaped ‘hacker’ gun), you gradually gain access to a variety of bullet types as you progress through the game. These add an appreciable amount of flavour to the combat, as you move from heated encounters with the odd Monokuma in closed spaces (an early chapter takes place inside the cramped confines of a hospital building) to larger, open spaces outdoors where you can be assaulted by a dozen or more at the same time.

One bullet knocks back groups of enemies, another activates all manner of electrical appliances which can do anything from distracting the enemy to ploughing them down. There’s a bullet which shoots out electricity, and another lets you hack into and control the robot Monokuma. Add several enemy types into the mix and playing Ultra Despair Girls can be a methodological experience at times.

The scarcity of ammo forces you to approach situations creatively. Only one type of ammo is really effective at dealing reliable damage – assuming you hit their glowing red eye in the first place – so learning when and how to utilise all the different types of ammo and enemies becomes a game in itself.

This is best demonstrated by the game’s isolated challenge rooms, which task you with completing a specific objective under certain constraints, like the type of bullet you’re allowed to use. This encourages you to come up with creative ways at approaching certain situations, and some smart level design ensures these segments of the game are always tremendously entertaining. It’s here where the flexibility of the game’s combat system shines through.

While you primarily play as Komaru, you can switch to her partner “Genocide Jack” for a limited amount of time. Playing as Genocide Jack feels like a cop-out though, given the game’s survival horror roots, as the action devolves into a mindless hack-and-slash affair where you hammer a few buttons to dispatch foes.

Ultra Despair Girls has an unpolished, stiff feel about it; this makes for a compelling survival horror game but a limp action one. It’s nice to fall back on using Genocide Jack when you’re in serious danger, but as a safety net it significantly reduces the tension that mounts up when you’re low on ammo or health.

In a somewhat ironic role reversal from the main games, what drags things down is Ultra Despair Girls’ approach to advancing its story.

While the overarching story pieces itself together well by the time its appropriately shocking conclusion rolls around, the need to move the narrative forward on a regular basis can get in the way of the game’s pacing all too often. At a handful of moments the action gets interrupted by lengthy dialogue sequences too often for its own good, breaking up the flow and tension of more heated moments.

Things really pick up by the game’s third chapter, though, where you’re invested enough in the story – a bloody revolution against adults staged by a group of talented children –that being interrupted to find out the next plot development becomes more welcome and less of a hindrance.

It’s a story that’ll grip you the longer you spend with it, too. As expected from the series, Ultra Despair Girls has a knack for setting up timely plot twists that not only keep you second guessing until the very end, but shock, chill and surprise when you realise the scope of any revelations is far larger than you may have anticipated.

One of the more interesting aspects of the game’s narrative is how it’s self-aware that it’s a game, and not just for throwaway laughs either – its traditional concepts of “bosses” and “levelling” are woven into the narrative in tangible ways. It’s synergies like this which further validate not only the switch to the third person survival horror genre, but the decision to make a spinoff in the first place.

Taking any series into uncharted waters is always a big risk, but with Ultra Despair Girls the effort has paid off in spades. It’s a success as a spinoff, keeping the series’ soul intact while also tackling previous attempts to add interactivity into the mix with aplomb. Indeed, it’s also a success as a third person survival horror. It may be a little rough around the edges, but Ultra Despair Girls makes for a great ‘B’ game: perfectly playable but filled to the brim with whacky, clever ideas – many of which simply wouldn’t be able to exist in the bigger budget ‘AAA’ space. Refreshing.

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