Articles tagged with sega

Posted by Mark at 14:50
And of course, being a Vanillaware game, it looks amazing.

In fact, that's pretty much the only reason I post stuff from it, since the trailers have been very light on the gameplay front, save for a small amount of side-scrolling walking.

Still, the new trailer introduces us to- or at least, shows us- ten more characters we didn't see in the announcement trailer.

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It's out on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita next year.
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Posted by Ben at 13:28
I'm sure you're aware, but Sega have been teasing some Bayonetta news over the past week. The more optimistic amongst us have been hoping it will be the announcement of Bayonetta 3, unfortunately not (but never say never). Instead the more conservative theory that it was a port of the original game to PC turned out to be the big Bayonetta news

Not that I'm sniffing at that, prior to the WiiU getting a port of the original Bayonetta I'd have leapt at the idea of a steam port, particularly one priced at the Bulletstorm-antithesis price of £14.99

Bayonetta is on Steam right now, and boasts 60fps, up to 4K resolution, Japanese and English voice tracks, and some more advanced graphical options like improved anti-aliasing and SSAO lighting

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Posted by Ben at 16:45
Yeah sure, it's been out in Japan for ages, I've even got a copy on the 3DS myself, but I'm still looking forward to the western release of Puyo Puyo Tetris

Coming to PS4 and Nintendo Switch, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a mashup puzzle-battle game of the two famous franchises. It works better than you might think.

There's a few issues with the release, and I'd like to take a moment to recognise it's this release or nothing, but the Playstation 4 isn't getting a digital version, and the Switch physical version is a slightly higher price, although it does come with some Puyo keyrings

Puyo Puyo Tetris release in Europe on April 28th (and in the Americas on the 25th), and will be priced at $40 for Nintendo Switch retail, $30 for Nintendo Switch digital, and $30 for PS4 physical

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Hatsune Miku:
Project DIVA Future Tone
Posted by James at 11:15

Rhythm action games, as a genre, have been through some tough times. Just over a decade ago a market still existed for original, mid-budget affairs, with wholly unique soundtracks to boot. Yet today these games are almost nowhere to be seen, and the mainstays of the past Ė Guitaroo Man, Popín Music, Dance Dance Revolution, Ouendan, Rhythm Tengoku Ė either died a slow death or retreated back to the arcade.

But mercifully games based on licensed music and characters have found their way to the home, and itís allowed Sega to sustainably produce and iterate on a new modern rhythm action series for almost a decade. The end result - Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone - is the culmination of all the Vocaloid rhythm games Segaís esteemed AM2 team has worked on over the years.

The Project Diva series feels like a love letter to all things Hatsune Miku, the synthesised idol from Crypton Future Media. A song list comprised of music from fan favourite vocaloid composers? Check. Plenty of unassumingly delightful nods to vocaloid culture? Itís all there. Gorgeously modelled music videos that bring the music to life? Yup.

Since the lyrics are all composed in Japanese, that last point is rather important Ė the scenarios of the story-focused music videos do a lot to bring out the meaning of the lyrics while playing to the compositionsí strengths. Itís not hard to feel the mood while playing a song like From Y to Y, for instance.

Being an arcade conversion, Sega has included over 200 songs, spanning every genre you can imagine, and not only every previous game in the Project Diva series, but the cuter, more bouncy Project Mirai series on 3DS. Those willing to give Vocaloid music a fair shake are unlikely to be disappointed with the selection on offer, and based on my own personal experiences, itís likely youíll still find something to love in the songs that you donít find catchy, thanks to the storyboards in the music video, or some rather brilliant choreography on display.

Tracklist natter aside, Future Toneís roots at the arcade means Sega have brought over some of those arcade sensibilities with it. Basically: It not only looks and sounds the part, but it plays the part. Hereís the gist of it: button prompts fly in from the sides of the screen. You clear them by pressing the appropriate button when the prompts land in their designated zones, which are placed ahead of time to the vocaloid music.

Whatís always made the series stand out is the depth to these mechanics. Not only do the flying button prompts and fixed zone markers keep things unpredictable yet fair, those that learn to ďdual wieldĒ the controller Ė interchanging the face buttons for the D-Pad and vice versa Ė will discover hidden depths to playing each song.

Dual wielding means that you can clear a button prompt for pressing Cross by tapping down on the D-Pad instead. Left on the D-Pad thus becomes the same as Square, Triangle can be substituted for Up, and so on. Which mercifully allows you to tackle more complex note charts that the developers cook up on the harder difficulties.

For instance, pressing Square, Triangle, Square in time and in quick succession to a three-syllable word would be difficult using just the face buttons, but with practice it soon clicks in your brain that you could dual wield, and either bash out Square, Up, then Square with your two thumbs, or Left, Triangle, left to the music.

This has been a staple to the series since the second entry on PSP, but Future Tone raises the bar in a way that provides a lot more depth to mastering and interacting with each song in the game. There are three main additions: Button prompts that beg to be held down instead of tapped, multi-button presses, and Left/Right markers that require either a trigger tap or a slide. At the arcades, an inviting multi-coloured touch-bar handled the slides, but on PS4 you can either hold down the left trigger, or more characteristically, tilt the controller or slide your thumb over the touchpad.

Having to now hold down some buttons, or press several at once, adds more nuance to the gameís scoring systems. For instance, holding down a button continually adds to your score, but itís no easy feat to do this *and* continue playing the song as normal using the other, unoccupied buttons. Likewise score tracking is a lot more detailed, letting you know the exact boundaries for getting a Great, or an Excellent. Itís a no-nonsense approach to rhythm action that also feels great to play Ė feedback is crisp and the sound effects are inviting, as they should be.

Itís also a return to form after the two PS Vita games introduced some odd new mechanics which had the effect of creating the illusion of more complexity; the first introduced ďscratch notesĒ that forced players onto an imprecise analogue input in response to a precise note Ė tilting the sticks or swiping at the screen. The second game replaced some prompts with on-rails markers, preventing the player from being able to read the music ahead of time.

Future Tone provides a firm but fair challenge that feels familiar and fresh to longtime fans, while keeping the hardest elements out of harder difficulties so not to alienate newer players. Some of the note charts on Extreme difficulty tended to reward memorisation rather than skill, however, but overall thereís little to fault here. Itís one of the best mid-budget home rhythm games in years Ė even if youíre not accustomed to synthesised Vocaloid music this is the perfect introduction.
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Yakuza 0

Posted by Ben at 11:59

One of the problems Sega seems to have had recreating the success the Yakuza series boasts in its native Japan, is that itís a continuing series. With a lot of fan noise Yakuza 3 and 4 both managed to get Western releases when many had given up hope, shining the spotlight on the series, Yakuza 5 even got a PS+ tie in, but for many the thought of joining the series midway through was enough to stop them from following through their interest in the series. Well, itís something Yakuza 0 puts right, and makes for a superb introduction to the Yakuza games

Yakuza 0, as the name might imply, is a prequel. Set while series stalwart Kazuma Kiryu is still learning the yakuza ropes, it opens with him beating a man senseless for a debt he owes a loan shark. Later that night the man is found dead, Kazuma is blamed for the killing and what follows is story of power struggles and land-grabs that involves Kazuma having to fight for his life and leave the yakuza behind. Itís a genuinely quality story, hammy at points for sure, but brilliantly well told, and a joy to watch unfold.

br> Kazumaís story is mirrored to some extent by Goro Majima, the gameís 2nd protagonist. Also cast out of the yakuza, Majima is doing everything he can to force his way back in. Thereís some great moments in Majimaís story, and the times where the two characterís stories intertwine are great, but all in all I found it less engaging. It think part of it is his character, more restrained than his usual larger than life self. Itís something that will bother newcomers less, and I suspect heís been toned down so that a narrative can be hung off him. I canít imagine the usual lunatic Majima bowing and taking the abuse he does. I suspect his environment doesnít help either, some of his side quests are fantastic, but the 2nd city is just less interesting, with less character, than Kazumaís Tokyo district.

One of the other smart things Yakuza 0 does to introduce both new and returning players is in how it staggers the content. Itís a little jarring, perhaps, having the serious crime story interrupted for some karaoke, to talk to pretty girls, to meet a foreigner whoís going to teach you new fighting moves, but it introduces mechanics to quickly dabble with, and then leaves you to decide whether you want to spend your time with them. Yakuza 0 holds back mechanics too, in the past it has felt like the Yakuza games will throw everything they have at you, occasionally (re)introducing them in a side-story or as part of the main story, but here theyíre doled out in a way that ensures youíre not overawed or swamped, every couple of chapters youíll get something new to think about, and that runs right in to the back half of the game.

There are a few areas of Yakuza 0 that have been freshened up over previous installments, the chief one is the combat. Both Kazuma and Majima have 3 different types of fighting styles at their disposal, each designed to cater to certain types of enemy. Generally speaking both characters have a standard jack-of-all-trades style as their default, theyíll pack a decent punch, have access to plenty of heat moves, and still be relatively quick. Theyíll have a more powerful moveset, weapon focused, slower, but able to attack through hits and deal large amounts of damage back. Then thereís a quicker style, flashier, littered with combos, but causing less damage per attack. Given the sheer amount of fighting youíll do in Yakuza 0, being able to easily mix things up and explore the combat system is a smart move.

Levelling up has also changed. Rather than grinding for experience, you spend money on yourself, buying your way around the skill tree. Fortunately enemies now spurt money when you slap them about, and the more flourish in your fighting the more youíll earn. It means you can fairly quickly turn both Kazuma and Majima in to solid fighters. The problem is the cost to unlock skills rises dramatically, and spending 30 million to unlock a skill you donít really want but is blocking the one you do want is a bitter pill to swallow. Itís where some of the side missions come in, Kazuma can earn a fortune through real estate if youíre willing to put the time in. Itís not a complicated system, although itís initially daunting, buy some properties when youíre out and about, pick a manager whoís going to have a positive effect on the economy, a security guard whoís less likely to attract trouble, then collect your share. Itís maybe a bit of a grind trying to amass a fortune all at once, perhaps an argument for the mechanic being introduced earlier than it is, but itís certainly quicker than fighting your way to the amounts needed.

One of the great charms of the Yakuza games are the side quests, and Yakuza 0 is no different. They can be a little run of the mill, and a lot of them will involve you just solving your problems by fighting more people, but some of them are smart, and brilliantly funny. Spending time doing the side quests doesnít net you experience anymore, but the characters can reward you in other ways, like working for you or joining you in battle. The downside to the side missions is that it can feel sometimes like youíre tripping over them. Thereís a few too many times where youíll be in the middle of a story mission and get stopped for a side mission to be introduced, even if you donít then follow it up. The same can be true of street fights that occur as youíre making your way around the city, they can get a little much.

Truth is though, Yakuza 0 is the best Yakuza game Iíve played. Itís hard to think how they could have made it more accessible to newcomers, yet thereís enough depth and familiarity for fans of the series to get hooked in to too. On a technical level the engine is showing its age, with shadows popping in, the game slowing you down (in terms of movement speed) during busy moments, and some angular geometry, but itís still a decent looking, and running, game. Yakuza 0 will be missed by many, and thatís their loss, because itís a superb, charming, well told, and joyfully violent game

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Yakuza 0
Gameplay Video
Posted by Ben at 16:55

We posted our written preview for Yakuza 0 the other day, and now I've managed to make enough progress to record the video accompaniment

As you can See Yakuza 0, while not exactly pushing the PS4, isn't a shoddy looking game. There's more to Yakuza 0 than we can show in the video, but you'll see a few fights, some of the side quests, hear me ramble on about stuff, do some shouting at other people's karaoke. You know, the usual stuff

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Yakuza 0
Posted by Ben at 12:55

The late Western release of Yakuza 0 may actually turn out to be a fortuitous for the series. Sega have tried a few times to find some traction for the Yakuza games in the west without much luck. The series undoubtedly has its fans, and they've generally been good games, but as the series has gone on its been harder and harder for new players to find a foothold. Yakuza 3 and 4 felt like too much canon had passed to be an entry, and while Yakuza 5ís addition to Playstation Plus will have undoubtedly put the series on people's radar, it was on the PS3 as people moved on.

Yakuza 0 then is the first time we've seen the series on the Playstation 4, and that it's a prequel, one that doesn't need a storied knowledge to get the most out of, it's a great time to jump in. That's not to say that a knowledge of the characters and world won't have benefits, knowing who Kazuma Kiryu is acts as a pretty good short hand for what to expect from the Yakuza games.The brutal, joyous closed area brawling the series is famous for. The game opens with a young Kiryu, still low on the pecking order in the Tojo clan, beating a guy senseless to collect a debt he owes. He's then walked around town by a friend, who takes the time to explain where Kiryu is going wrong as a Yakuza, he's a bit too brusque if you can believe!

It soon turns out Kiryuís victim has turned up dead, and the murder is being pinned on him. Yakuza 0 begins to reveal a complex story or betrayal, loyalty, and real estate land grabs. When the Yakuza series lands their straight faced stories they're fantastic, complex and interesting. Where Yakuza 0 diverges slightly from my previous experiences with the series is that the more ludicrous aspects of the game are introduced along side this, straight faced. It's sensible, it's what a good portion of the franchise are here for. So, while you're on your tour of Tokyo, learning how to be a better Yakuza, you're taken out for some karaoke (which is hilarious), and introduced to the fighting mini games and the leveling system.

Something that has changed is the levelling. Rather than gain experience through combat and side missions you instead earn stacks of cash from smacking people about. This money then buys items on the skill tree, be that new moves, extra damage or increased health, with specialists dotted around the map to teach you some moves. The introduction of these specialists is invariably hilarious, or at least so over the top itís cool.

Which, for the uninitiated is pretty much what youíve got to look forward to from Yakuza 0. It seemingly presents itís barmy side a bit more front and centre than in previous games, but that belies an interesting and well presented crime story. There are moments that will have you rolling with laughter, but equally some of the brutal combat will make you wince before snorting in delight. Thereís mini games and side quests a plenty, and a ton of sub stories to fill out the world.

Weíll see where it goes as we progress through the game, but so far Yakuza 0 is shaping up to be a great entry to the series.

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Posted by Ben at 17:08
As I write this I'm wondering if I ever did get around to adding another Yakuza header image. Probably not.

Anyway, Sega today posted a new trailer for Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 is the prequel to the Yakuza series, that I'm not sure the story really needs, but it's a way for them to keep Kazuma in the games which is probably why it exists.

It does look good though, I mean at one point in the trailer it looks like Kiryu Kazuma is about to fight a train. I've never fought a train, I'd get mullered by a tram, but then I've never beat seven shades out of a tiger either.

Yakuza 0 is coming to PS4 in the US and Europe on January 24th next year, and I kind of can't wait

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Posted by Mark at 18:56
As long as the term's been in use in games, the exact definition of 'Indie' has been under constant debate.

If can consider a studio in a pokey office on an anonymous Oxford industrial estate self-publishing their game to be 'indie'- even if that game happens to be a full priced boxed retail game on three formats as part of a chart-topping series that's shifted over ten million units, Rebellion, then the opposite, where a Tokyo-based multinational, spread across multiple floors of its HQ, employing seven million people worldwide in its videogames, toys and arcade empire digitally publishing a game by a little Swedish firm counts as well.

Bandai Namco are on publishing duties for Tarsier's Little Nightmares, a puzzle-platformer best described as Unravel except intentionally creepy. The player character- a little girl in a big raincoat named Six- needs to sneak out of the oversized house that The Maw, a representation of childhood fears, has imprisoned her in.

The house seems to be some kind of live-in butchers' shop, and the range of items that can be found in such an environment make what could be a very simplistic game much more interesting- the end of the demo involves pushing hams onto a trapdoor so that they fall into a sausage machine on the floor below, which creates a string of sausages you swing from to exit through a vent, which makes a nice change from finding a convenient rope that latches onto a convenient hook.

Another good example of 'Big Indie' is Kickstarter success Yooka-Laylee. The level showcased deviated little from the template Banjo-Kazooie left for it, never showing anything too new, a lot of aspects being clear reskins of what their 64-bit counterparts were, but these are mechanics tuned to near-perfection the first go around.

If there was one aspect that could be considered too similar, however, the background music felt like it was a little too reminicent of Banjo and DK64- this could stop not just the game from truly finding its own identity, but also that of Playtonic as being distinct from Rare- a question from the audience during their Developer Session asked if they were likely to try and revisit other titles, which could be an easy path for them to fall down.

Less 'Big Indie' and more 'Small AAA' was Sega's Sonic Mania. Similarly in danger of living too much in the past, especially with one of the levels demoed being called 'Green Hill Zone', having more or less the same music as on the Megadrive and even pretty much lifting its tileset wholesale, the game sidesteps this by pulling in enough of the future.

Unlike Sonic Generations, which was self-conciously a tribute to a fading series, Mania is a 'new, old game' and free of many of the gimmicks that made a mess of the franchise (such as homing jumps and special moves) while still bringing in many of the improvements it picked up over time, retaining the spin dash from Sonic 2 and the elemental shields introduced in 3.

With that, it regains its purity as a straight platformer, which it's not really managed to do since Sonic Advance.

If Sonic Mania is a good example of what Sonic was, Mekazoo provides a good example of what Sonic thinks it is now. A shiny, almost bioluminescent platformer based around bouncing off springs and blasting through curved tunnels. These are traversed in different ways based on which of the many different animals you're playing as- so it's even managed to do Sonic's mates right.

The Little Acre was one of many point-and-click adventures exhibited. This game features two parallel plots, one set in the present day and another, earlier timeline featuring the same characters as children in a fantasy world of massive caterpillars and venus flytraps that work as teleporters.

There's not a lot you can do with the genre in gameplay terms, which means focus is on the writing- and unfortunately the lead character's dialogue in the 'adult' timeline needs work. He appears to be less describing the world in front of him as much as remembering it. If this was for the child version of the character, then it could be framed as a memory, instead he just comes off as a self-narrating arse.

Back with Square-Enix, their 'Collective' initiative of publishing indie games, in its own booth amongst its indie bretheren, rather than sandwiched between Final Fantasies, managed to chuck out Black: The Fall.

Using a muted colour pallete to great effect, the game is set in an oppressive dystopian future, the player is tasked with controlling that one guy who's seen through it all and is trying to make his escape, after stealing the laser pointer which lets him take control of his fellow citizens. There are times where the game fails to explain itself and the final puzzle in the demo, which plunges the player into darkness and relies on sound cues felt a little unfair, but these feel like minor issues that should be fixed for the final release.

Seemingly announced by Collective at the show, to the point where it wasn't even listed in the show map was Forgotton Anne. That seemingly misplaced 'O' appears to be capitalised in the logo, so it probably means something.

Set in the Forgotton Realm, the place where all those lost socks and things go, this is a puzzle platformer where the player controls the Anne of the title, who has to use her ability to control magic-electricity hybrid 'anima' to quash a rebel uprising which threatens to stop her and her master Bonku from returning to the real world.

This is a strikingly beautiful looking-game with seemingly hand-animated characters which only occasionally betray the computer-generated help it occasionally gets when moving the scenery around. The demo shown on the floor also hinted at an extended story which changes based on how you interact with the characters- a talking scarf which you meet early on and accuse of trying to con you can be burnt using anima, leaving only ashes and a caption of 'This could have ended differently'.

It's a bit less mad than it sounds. Here's a trailer:

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Interestingly, this was the only game in the show I made a note in my phone about mentioning it on Bitparade. Make of that what you will.

Last call goes to Trapper's Delight. One of the more 'gamey' titles seen in the weirder 'Leftfield Collection' (alongside Airheart, which we've already featured) this is a multiplayer game where the objective is to traverse a small maze made of tiles. The catch is that before each attempt, all players are able to lay traps for the other players to fall foul of and/or you to forget exists and walk straight in to.

I played this with two randoms, and after the first round of trying to work out what was going on, most of the time was spent laughing as we accidentally managed to create increasingly elaborate Rube Goldberg machines of death and made every level unwinnable. This is currently available on Early Access, and seems like the sort of thing to lighten up any games night.
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Posted by Ben at 14:26
Yep, the "west" in this case means both North America and Europe, and Yakuza 0 will be available to us all on January 24th.

It's a bit of a shame that Yakuza 0 isn't sneaking out the other side of Christmas, from a personal standpoint, as that's when I have a week off, but that the game is even coming to the West is enough reason to celebrate.

Add to that then, Yakuza 0 is getting a physical release in North America AND Europe.

And one more piece of Yakuza news, you can prepare yourself for Yakuza 0 on PS4 by playing Yakuza 5 on PS3 next month if you have Playstation Plus
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