Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony

Note: I'm still wading through the blood in the meat of DV3KH, and you can't take screenshots past the first chapter, so this review should be pretty spoiler free.

Review: Damn, that's one long prologue, Danganronpa V3 immediately feels like a beefier game than its predecessors, allowing you to explore more of the Ultimate School and meet a new generation of classmates who will soon be doing dirty deeds to each other. The game is certainly better and sharper looking too!

The long intro isn't helped by the charmless antics of the Monokub bears as they pop in and out to intercede. That's before the one-and-only Monokuma shows up to start proceedings properly. At least he has the decency to mock the length of the game's intro!

In between all the tutorials, we find the usual bat-shit crazy Ultimate this, that and other students. Around the school, there's lots of places for murdering to be done, and plenty of tools for job. If you've never played a Danganronpa game before, then it makes for a useful if extended intro, navigating the halls, using the map properly, looking for clues and guessing what will happen next.

Then, the diabolical plans come into play as the 16 students get the obvious "here's an easy escape route" out of their systems, via a neat 2D platform mini-game. They bunk in for the night and wonder how they will get out of the Academy sealed inside a very massive budgie cage, alive.

On with the killing

The first death and the ensuing class trial thankfully pick up the pace. Once the crime has been discovered, you learn to use the Focus View to see what's important in a room, clicking on everything is essential to progressing the story, sometimes more than once as views, people and rooms change.

Without giving too much away, it is easy to see where the various avenues of investigation fall down or stand up, especially if you've ever played a previous version or seen an episode of Dexter or CSI. Evidence and stories are gathered as Truth Bullets, with a smattering of dark humour, funny discoveries and huge amounts of cod emoting from the cast of increasingly defensive characters.

There are characters you will love, those that you hate, but most have dark histories that can skew your loyalties one way, then the other. Danganronpa remains one of the few games that can put you through such an emotional rollercoaster, even if the over-acting will take the edge off for some.

Then we're off to the trial, the one bit of the series I really don't like, with its increasingly infuriating truth bullets and seemingly random word blasting. This long, drawn out process of elimination is often confusing and badly-explained, especially at the higher difficulty levels and is definitely a trial to get through. The new games don't really add much other than variety, Scrum Debates feel pointless with the whole class shouting at each other, the rhythm section feels out of place, while the car racing Psyche Taxi game could make a good freebie title in its own right.

Trial by twists, and twisted by the trial

The further you get into the story, the deeper the plots the become, with more clues, more lies and deceit, and the body count soon mounts up. Trials get more complicated and the twists come thick and fast. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at times, but speeding through the pleas, anger and denial means you lose some of the raw edge to the game, so I recommend persevering and taking your finger off the advance button.

Between the trials, there's a little personal time where you can get to know your classmates better and befriend them with gifts, but that's always felt a rather tacked-on part of the series.

There are a few annoyances in D3, most of which run through the series. Primarily that if you investigate things randomly, then some of the information appears out of sequence. It always seems best to talk to people first, then look at the evidence, but that removes some of the freedom to explore how you like.

Then there are the annoying trial games, especially at the higher difficulty levels, even with the gimmicks and assists it offers. I'd be delighted if there was an option just to fill out the comic strip timeline, the last act of any trial, as a substitute for someone who just wants to play through the story.

However, the game is held together by its gut-shredding plot, the gruesome finales and that stomach-churning need to know who will come out at the end. With superb, lunatic, character design, the game holds its charm, while the vivid, lurid, colours in the world help Danganronpa V3 rivet itself to your eyeballs.

Price: £TBC Amazon UK, $39.99 Amazon US, PSN: TBC
More reviews
Score: 9/10
Dev: NIS America
Size: 3GB
Progress: Single figure class

Semispheres bongs its way to the Vita

French team Playscope's Semispheres won many plaudits based on the PC release back in 2016, now us Vita owners get a go at this ambient, dual-sided puzzler. Plan ahead as you work on the left and right on the screen, and trigger the parallel puzzles to get both of your half-heroes through to the end of the level.

Chaos Child confirmed for October with new trailer

PQube hopes to continue with the success of Stein's Gate and its sequel with the Chaos Child visual novel causing a ruckus among western Vita owners next month. Part of the sprawling Science Adventure series, it takes place in the same world, but has an interest in altenate realities rather than time travel, likely with the same twists and turns, and a high level of emotional involvement.

Chaos;Child will release in Europe on October 13, and North America on October 24.

13 Sentinels trailer shows off some stomping, skulking, running gameplay

The previous sneaky looks at Vanillaware and Atlus' 13 Sentinels have been purely art-based, but in this new TGS trailer, we get to see some "action", if you like people running, walking and the ankles of a great big bot doing a little stomping. The game, from Dragon Crown's George Kamitani's could still be anything, but is definitely the most interesting thing out of the show.

With a "coming 2018" tag at the end, and Vita still listed as a format, is this final farewell to big budget Vita games? Looks like it since there was no new hardware on show from Sony, so enjoy the Vita while it lasts.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ys VIII is your UK retail Vita No. 1

Falcom's new RPG only went on sale on Friday, so I'm assuming most of these were pre-orders, but Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is the Vita retail No. 1, for whatever that's worth. I don't see the PS4 version (same price) in any list, not even the PS4 dedicated chart, so while the figures are probably minuscule, the Vita version at least gets a bit of kudos for making an effort.

1. new Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (Falcom
2. + Metal Gear Solid HD (Konami)
3. - Minecraft (Mojang)
4. + Killzone Mercenary (Sony)
5 - Call of Duty Black Ops (Activision)

Chart information Copyright UKIE

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Take your VitaminX and Apples for your Vita (JP)

Guess Idol games are in vogue in Japan, here's a couple of new clips highlighting some of D3's VitaminX Destination action and whatever the heck Honeybee's Apple Polisher surprise movie is. Too tired to even look these projects up right now, comment if you know what the heck is going on!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Heart Forth Alicia coming 2018, new video

The gorgeous Metroidvania platformer Heart Forth Alicia is still coming to the Vita with work well underway. As is often the way with these Kickstarter projects it's taking a while, and developer Alonso Martin is battling multiple issues to get the game done. That's put it into a mid-2018 release period, but given the amount of Vita games out soon, that's no bad thing.

For backers, a PC/Mac demo is now available to see how progress is going, I'll let you know what I think of it. For everyone else, here's a video of it in action.

Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana launch trailer and exclusive DLC

Out now in Europe, Falcom's Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana is a massive RPG adventure and the PS Vita version comes with an epic limited edition and a bunch of exclusive DLC (list below). Check out the launch trailer to meet the characters and storyline.

PS Vita DLC List: Deserted Pirate Adol, Deserted Pirate Laxia, Deserted Pirate Sahad, Deserted Pirate Hummel, Deserted Pirate Ricotta, Deserted Pirate Dana, Tropic Swimwear Adol, Tropic Swimwear Laxia, Tropic Swimwear Ricotta, Tropic Swimwear Dana, Hug Hug Feena, Hug Hug Lilia, Hug Hug Dark, Stylish Glasses Set, Stylish Sunglasses Set, Ancient Mask Set, Free Set 1, Free Set 2.

Dangaronpa V3 character trailer as release nears

The latest bunch of unfortunates-turned-murderers line up for the camera as we rush toward the launch of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmong, perhaps the biggest of the last Vita releases.

I'm already wading into the review and rushing toward the second trial, the game is everything you'd hope for if you've experienced the first two murderfests! There's plenty of twists, bearish humour and some clever use of graphics. If you missed the demo, check out this gameplay clip.

Summon Night 6 finally nears release

After a protracted period of approval, the strategic RPG Summon Night 6 is almost ready for release, having passed QA with Sony Europe. So, Gaijinworks has dropped a new trailer to renew excitement for the game.

You might want to go for the physical release, as the game comes with a chunky manual that you'll want to refer to during the many battles that await. With a lengthy adventure ahead of you, there's also 60 Endless Domain's levels to conquer once you finish the main game. Hopefully it will ship across all areas on the 27th September

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ratalaika shows no Distraint with another Vita release

Psychological horror Distraint may look a bit cartoony, but it looks every bit as eerie and scary as Home and Uncanny Valley with sepia 2D visuals, haunting tunes and a disturbing story. As a Deluxe Edition, it comes with a revised interface, updated animation and audio on the Steam original.

The game offers a full dose of 2D psychological horror, developed by Jesse Makkonen, where you play an ambitious young man named Price. In order to secure a partner position within the famous company he works for, Price seizes the property of an elderly woman. In that very moment he finds out the price of his humanity. This is his story and the tale of his regrets...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vita sales lurk under 4K in Japan

Vita hardware sales are down just a few this week in Japan, at 3,913 according to Media Create data. How low can we go? Is the question on no one's mind, but these numbers have to have some impact and Sony and when it decides to kill off the Vita.

Even then, with decent levels of software support coming for at least another year. This week's new entry is the visual novel Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Syukufuku Wo aka KonoSuba from 5pb, based on the light novel series. This underwear stealing adventure sold exactly 7,000 copies to land just outside the top 10. The PS4 version sold just 44 copies more.

Down at the bottom of the top 20 Minecraft lingers on for Vita selling another near-3,000 copies! Out this week is Touhou Sky Arena from Mediascape, a girl-on-girl witchy flying combat game, which is unlikely to help sales of anything much.

New Tokyo Clanpool screens ahead of Japanese demo

Having just reviewed Mary Skelter, its kind of good to see the DRPG genre rolling on with Tokyo Clanpool. What's not so good is to see a complete lack of innovation in this latest Compile Heart game. Dress it up any way you like, it is still the same old format. Given Kadokawa's The Lost Child is heading west too, I guess this won't be far behind.

 That's to the extent that every DRPG now seems to have to have a boob rubbing fan service element (I've missed out that screenshot). Anyway, a Japanese demo is out on the 25th for those with JP PSN accounts, ahead of the full game release on October 5th.
 In the game, a top notch team of Japanese politicians of the “Cyber Tactics Cabinet,” - all girls, wade into battle against the latest demonic threat to menace Tokyo, an inverted tower city.

 While the interface screens have had some major work on them, the rest of the game is highly traditional DRPG territory. Check out the Japanese site here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares

Why can't Japanese developers put the basics in a manual? Why does the start of every RPG require half an hour of furiously tapping X for banal conversations with about 10 useful bits of information buried in the text, desperately wanting to just play the bloody game? (Yes, I know there's auto proceed and skip options, but they don't really solve the problem).

If you survive the mandatory preamble that litters the opening of Mary Skelter: Nightmares, then you have do indeed have a bloody (if pink) step-by-step role player to enjoy. Blood is at the heart of a collection of fairy tale characters dragged into a crazed sentient prison, with the surviving few trying to defeat the monsters that roam within. Blood powers their weapons, their transformations and you can lick your bleeding friends to gain health (yuk!)

The big eyes in the walls and giant clocks do sort of make sense for a nightmare prison, less so the comfy sofas. But, it soon becomes clear that the fairy tales are tied to the living prison, and as you clear Chapter 1, at least the pace picks up and the outbursts of chatter tail off.

In play, as in Compile Heart's Moero games, lone-boy Jack acts as a helper to the all-action girls. He feeds them supplies and health packs as they battle with swords, bows and playing cards, or use their range of elemental skill attacks against the demons. He must also keep them in check, as too much blood can trigger Hulk-like lady rampages that can rip your happy party to shreds.

Mixing saving the game using a Rabbit Hole pop-up tent with returns to base to stock up is always wise. That is, unless you find the wandering merchant, or benefit from one of the jail's regular bonus rounds. As you get going, there's a brisk pace with exploring, battling and scuttling away wounded.

As your party levels up, few beasts really pose a challenge until you get to the end of level Marchen guardian, when you suddenly find your health packs and attack skills are woefully inadequate. So, you'll need to grind, grind, grind a few levels to build up enough stamina. To make things worse, they can appear randomly and chase you to ensure you never really feel safe.

Jail House Rock

During this panicky run-around, you'll find the prison is also full of locked or sealed doors, gaps, holes you can't yet get over, cracks in the scenery and fences that you can tear through, or find a hidden switch to activate. Using the girls' blood abilities to overcome these obstacles, there's a fair bit of back and forth to explore all these nooks and crannies, but it adds to the fun and sense of completion.

At Dawn Base, a hero's retreat from the madness, you can go round the rooms and treat the girl's with gifts of interior decor pieces to boost your relationship with them. A laboratory allows party members to change jobs or boost the number of expansion slots, and muck around with their blood types. The Solar Order provide collecting missions, most of which you'll probably complete before you knew they existed, rendering these white-gowned loons rather pointless.
In Mary Skelter Nightmares, killer shoes are a feature
The Blood Weapon Factory can be used to modify blood attacks, all of which is just a complex way of upgrading weapons to take down the different types of demons that use the same old fire-water-earth-air weakness system. A store provides some basic essentials but is soon underpowered compared to what you need!

As a kind of mini-game, there's a rather tame touchscreen rub-the-lady feature to "purge" them of their impurities, likely an added extra inspired by Criminal Girls, but totally pointless and rather demeaning the game.

Deeper into jail

As you explore look out for Emotion Points, these help you get along with the prison, which has peculiar needs, but even this feature feels like a tacked on extra.

Getting deeper into the game and using the girl's job swap feature and their advanced skills, you can line up a formidable force to beat down the Marchens, but there's nowhere near enough coherent story or must-do-quests or side quests to really push you to the later stages beyond the Downtown and further.

While we await Demon Gaze II, Mark Skelter will do nicely, as its pretty much the same old experience. The enemy graphics have had a bit of a makeover, with 3D animations, but they still make little to no sense in the scheme of things. I suspect someone in Japan has a random-monster-create-o-meter for all these games!

The usual gripes also apply, why does every treasure chest hold some shitty bangle and not actual treasure, where's the variety of armour or special powers through unified kits? Can't the developers try anything in that direction?

Otherwise, the text UI takes too long, slows up play and is plain dumb. The game is also weighed down by too many systems, making it easy to miss something that could make your life a lot easier.

But, if you ignore the "Now that's what I call role playing 1997!" feel to it, Skelter a fun, slightly mad romp, that does little with the great history of the fairy tale characters it co-opts or goes far enough with the whole Nightmare motif!

Price: £39.99 Amazon UK, $39.99 Amazon US, PSN: TBC
More reviews
Score: 7/10
Dev: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Size: 3GB
Progress: Westside/eastside all the bloody same!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Japanese Vita video Friday

Loads of visual novels are steaming to the Vita across the rest of the year and into 2018. I know nothing about most of them, so just enjoy the music, chatty madness and visual stylings! Also a few new Itadaki Street videos, if you fancy a spot of import board gaming in the FF and DQ universes.

Butterfly Incident (Idea Factory)

Rejet (three games)