Sunday, May 20, 2018

More #screenshotsaturday fun for the Vita

Games are still coming to the Vita, no worries about that. I tweet or retweet about them as much as I can. You can also follow their progress through their Kickstarter updates, and various Tweet streams including #screenshotsaturday and many trailers.

Check out the latest progress for Valfaris and Shakedown Hawaii, both headed to Vita. It would definitely be cool if more Vita devs could show their works this way as it seems to be one of the more popular ways about finding out about games.

There are also hundreds of other games in development for PC, mobile and consoles, some of which it can't hurt to ask if they could produce a Vita version. Wonder if Pico8 games can be ported to Vita or just run natively on it somehow? That'd be a useful source of fun!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Trailer trash Friday

The usual suspects, Persona Dancing and Fate Extella continue to spit out videos like a baseball pitcher. Anyone would think these are the only games coming. Fortunately, Actill has a new clip of Musynx in action and it wouldn't be a Friday without a new obscure VN to be confused by, enter Cafe Cuillere by Takyuo.

Vita sales could sneak over the 6 million mark in Japan

Among the bad news, Vita dead stories and generally shrugging by anyone outside this happy little community, there's are some bright spots! In Japan, the Vita has sold 5,852,250 units as of last week, according to Media Create figures. Famitsu has it at 5.75 million for balance!

If sales trundle along at this year's average (4,600) for the rest of the year, it could crack six million before 2019/2020's inevitable retirement announcement. Who knows what is sold in Europe and America, and it doesn't really matter. By official estimates, around 12-15 million total puts it above the Wii U, the equally dumped-upon Dreamcast and many more.

*2011 -  launch, three weeks on-sale, 2018 = 18 weeks

Yes, in both cold hard business and clickbait article terms, the figures are not great compared to PSP/3DS/Switch etc. But, Vita-lovers understand the innate value in the console, the near-perfect form factor, the blistering array of indie and Japanese titles, the social features that Nintendo even now can't provide, and for setting the template for Switch to follow.

All of which goes way beyond Sony's budget projections and forecast sheets, and feeble marketing comprehension. Which is why the company has surrendered the portable market away to Nintendo and is sneakily trying to support it through Sony Music. Sure, Sony must focus on PS4/PS5 and the limping PSVR to play to its strengths, but us Vita fans are still here cheering on the small victories into 2019 and beyond.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Review: Inksplosion

I guess the success of Splatoon has compelled developers to go all Art Attack on their games. That's the impression with Inksplosion, but, unlike most art, the colour splodged all over the Vita's OLED is just for gaudy show and has no impact on the overall creation. Apart from, perhaps, being the visual equivalent of asking gamers to play a high-focus shooter while suffering a migraine?

A simple game, Inksplosion has you hold down the right trigger to shoot whatever random gun the level gives you, aiming with the left stick, and moving using the right. That's while dodging the oversize bullets coming the other way from four eight-bit-art-style creatures that live in each level. Each type fires a different weapon, some fast, slow, random or homing, all to be dodged.

Laser fields should be avoided, with your health bar depleting per hit and going back up when you kill an enemy. You can use the left trigger to slow down time and avoid the enemy bullets at the expense of some health, so only for use in emergencies.

I do like the bleepy tunes and the calm voice in the game, but while it looks cool in screenshot form, in action, its all a bit messy. It is easy to lose track of your "ship" and after a few levels chaos reigns. Most Vita games are fine in short bursts, but Inksplosion is only worth a few minutes play a day, with no grab factor to keep you going.

And that's it, really! The weapons take a second or two to figure out a quick tactic, and you will learn how best to dodge the laser fields in no time at all. Your multiplier goes up the longer you avoid getting hit, but it would be so easy to add a few more modes to make this game something more substantial.

There's an Arena and tougher mode for a little "variety" and the game throws silver and gold trophies at you, including a one-hour Platinum, as if to apologise for the lack of game. If you want an arcade shooter try Son of Scoregasm that does all this a hundred times better!

Many thanks go to Ratalaika for bringing a steady stream of fun games to the Vita, with Devious Dungeon, One More Dungeon and the like helping keep the roster alive, but this is perhaps setting the bar a touch too low.

Score: 4/10
More Reviews
Price: £3.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher Petite Games/Ratalaika
File size 120MB
Progress: Completed

Media Create charts and Famitsu scores from Japan

Post-holiday Vita sales drop to a new lowest ever of 2,229 in Japan's Media Create figures. But no panic, as hardware units halve across the board (Switch shed 22K sales in a week).  We're now into the slow season, so will find out where the bottom is in the coming weeks, but Sony looks committed to at least another year of hardware production.

On the games front, Powerful Pro Baseball sticks in the top 10, approaching 80K proving that there's still plenty of buyers for well-known brands at least. These odd hits alone will keep Japan pumping out physical game carts long after Sony in the west gives up next year. That's as Sony can't afford to deny the likes of Konami and other publishers their seasonal hits, whatever the platform.

Over in Famitsu-land, the new Persona Dancing games, ahead of their entry in next week's chart scored a roundly predictable 8 across the board.

Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night 8/8/8/8 [32/40]
Persona 5: Dancing Star Night  8/8/8/8 [32/40]

Last week's figures

Developers' take on PS Vita cards being discontinued

The most important people in today's big story aren't Sony's cack-handed executives, running to their lean-and-efficient business plan. Or the usual press doing the Vita is dead stories, but the developers (and publishers) that still support the Vita, the ones whose actual business is being affected.

This is what they had to say... (Latest at the top)

Will update as more of their thoughts come in.

Sony ending western Vita game card production in spring '19

This is one of those mornings! Wake up, check phone - Twitter activity spinning like mad! Which means either someone very famous has died or Sony is making another effort to kill off the Vita.

Turns out its the later, with news that western Vita game card production will cease at the end of March 2019, with all orders needing to be in by June this year. This is just the latest step Sony is taking to move on from Vita, and with reducing numbers of physical releases, it isn't much of a surprise. It looks like we have another year of game cards, then another year of hardware production, perhaps.

For the mainstream gaming press its time to run out yet another "Vita is dead" story (unironically unaware that 20 such stories in five years is sort of self-defeating). For Vita fans, it's another "Sony, you heartless bitch!" moment. But, Sony stopped caring long ago, and presumably, the economics are starting to count against us.

On the positive side (thinks a bit, scratches head, stares into coffee):
  • Japanese and Asian production continues, more VNs and the odd Asian English title to come, now here's Trent with the weather! 
  • There's probably that one Sony employee in his little Vita card factory plugging away. He maybe spoke out of turn at a meeting in 2013, and Sony's punishment was to send him there, locked away from the modern world. He can now be freed! 
  • Vita hardware and memory card production continues. Unless there's a further announcement to come. With Sony selling 3K to 5K in Japan a week, there's no reason not to. 
  • Related to that, the number of western collectors is growing week-on-week, not in numbers that Sony cares about, but the growth is there for us to see (waves hello to the recent new Vita owners). Buyers won't likely care that physical games end in a year, with numbers massively down anyway. 
  • It gives focus to any existing developers to get their skates on before the cut-off deadline. There's plenty of work to do still, and this gives every developer and publisher a firm time frame to work to. 
  • Limited Editions could still continue, just in that weird meta-physical way. Boxes can still be sold, with audio CDs or vinyl soundtracks, packed with collector cards, plushies, toys, models, badges and so on. All gamers have to do is download the title. Sure reselling collectors won't be happy, but screw them! The sort of people that won't open a game box or toy are heartless morons! 
  • The Vita collector/buying market itself will rise as people get onboard before Sony really, seriously, kills the platform off. (Hopefully, they aren't all heartless morons trying to snap up the "last-ever Vita game!" to resell at stupid prices.)
  • Third-party is a possibility. If there's money to be made, what's to stop Sony selling or outsourcing production to another company to continue to print games? If a game proves succesful, can't they make a production run in Japan? 
  • In a perverse way, and while Japan will still get physical releases, this will push more developers to the Switch. Making Nintendo's baby even more successful, perhaps forcing Sony to respond with some new hybrid product! There's already been lots of chat about the VN market migrating to Nintendo. now it allows mature content. So, the pressure will grow from investors (who you can bet are pervy gamers by night) for Sony to do something. 
So, the game isn't over, and never will be. Personally, being a perma-broke gamer, I've relied mostly on PSN sales and second-hand games for my Vita fun, so I'm not doom-and-gloom about this.

Online there's the usual amount of angst, but people will get over it when the world fails to end and we all move on.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

All on deck for Monster Slayers

As announced back in March, deck-building game Monster Slayers is on its way to the Vita and PS4. Here's a PlayStation specific trailer, which is sadly exactly the same as the first one, a little Vita effort guys?

Hopefully being multiplatform, this isn't a game that will quickly vanish and close down its servers. More info soon I guess!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Stardew Valley bears fruit on Vita next week

While it is crude to characterise some Vita games as bigger than others, the leading lights that have come our way; Minecraft, Spelunky, Va-11 Hall-a and others that stand out either critically and/or in sales terms are slightly more anticipated than yet-another-Metroidvania clone.

Pretty much the last of these outstanding releases coming to Vita is now dated for 22 May, price $15 and just a week away. Finally, thanks to the efforts of Chucklefish, it brings some fantasy farming fun (no offence Farming Simulator) after years of Harvest Moon denial (expect the PSP title).

Stardew Valley on Vita gets its own announce blog post, one on the PSN blog, an IGN news video, a Eurogamer news piece, generally appearing in lots of places the Vita doesn't usually get a mention. Among the comments, people are surprised to hear the Vita is still going

Vita owners will get version 1.2 of the game, missing out on the latest update, but expect some update later, minus multiplayer. It will be Cross Buy with the PS4 version, but no word on Cross Save.

I guess this concludes the excellent rush of must-have releases we've had recently, and while there's still plenty of ports and indies to come, it'll take some community effort to get any current titles ported due to both technical difficulties and the shrinking size of the market.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sony Xperia XZ2 promoted as PS4 Remote Player

The Vita's job (at least if Sony had ever released a HD version) today would be a one-stop solution for portable playing of PS4 games. Instead, Sony fumbled and fudged Vita into non-existence, leaving the wider company promoting the current Xperia phone as a very fudge-flavoured solution.

In semi-related news, Valve/Steam has announced a stream-to-mobile app, something else that a HD Vita would have excelled at! But hey-ho, it's only another missed opportunity as Sony falls behind the connected/hybrid era. For reference, Sony's mobile division is now tiny, with less than 4% market share.

Given Sony's PlayStation division has said no new hardware at E3, perhaps this is it for the foreseeable future until they can sort out a proper PS4 Remote Player. Of course, that leaves European and Japanese events (where Vita did better) for them to show off something new.

If you get a PS4 DualShock, presumably a spare that you don't mind getting roughed up in transit, a phone mount and so on, plus this expensive phone, and great WiFi or mobile coverage. On the plus side, they will throw in 12 months of free PlayStation Plus.

Even here, Sony's marketing fucks up the whole gaming concept spectacularly, with a tiny clip of a racing game in action around the Nurburgring - really, what's the point?  (Yes, there's a longer clip, but it's not much better.)

This is not how you advertise PS4 games to a mobile audience. Most gamers probably have a PS+ sub, and will phone owners really rush out to buy a PS4, if that's the plan? Being God of War on a bus or Tomb Raiding in the museum would look more attractive.

Vita Kickstarters update, a breath of life

Still quite a few games on the go for the Vita in Kickstarter world. Here's a quick catch up and status check from the developers that like to keep their fans in the loop. Lots more in the Kickstarter list with less than regular updates or where Vita was a less than firm goal (and that could have been years ago), so who knows!

Pato Box (Bromio) Hot off the press with some fresh news today: "We've been a bit quiet about the development of the PS Vita and Switch versions. However we would like to inform you all that we are just finishing the last features and we are aiming to release both in June this year."

Battle Princess Madelyn (CasualBit): End of April update. "Another month has passed, and lots of things have been bug fixed and polished - heavy emphasis on the first half of the game as we bug fix - updating the HUD, font, dialog boxes, etc. Oh, and the Kickstarter cover art has been completed!"

Heart Forth Alicia (Alonso Martin) From March Update" We've applied our efforts on pretty much every area of development. More placeholders have been replaced with final assets, several cutscenes have been fleshed out or polished as needed, and some others enhanced with new character animations. "

Soul Saga (DisasterCake): "Soul Saga will be ready by July 2018 (on PC)! July of this year will mark Soul Saga’s Kickstarter’s 5th anniversary and it’s a conveniently appropriate time to finally get you the humble JRPG I’ve been working on for so long.  The desktop version will be released first and polish will be applied based on fan feedback.  Information regarding console porting (likely through a publisher) will come after fan feedback on the desktop version of Soul Saga."

Sharin no Kuni (Tokyo Otaku Mode) From late April "Development and production of the Vita port will take longer, and we plan to have another update sometime soon detailing the outlook for that. Talking of Otaku Mode, they're providing the goodies for the Muv-Luv Kickstarter package that is now confirmed for an August release.

Top PSN April downloads, God of War back from the dead

In the U.S., interest in the new God of War game saw the Vita collection shoot to the top of the portable downloads section. Cosmic Star Heroine is the only new release to muscle her way in among the usual old stagers. Not bad considering it only had a few days on-sale at the end of the month.

Europe stopped posting a Vita chart recently, just when things could be getting interesting. So, there's even less information for us to go on. Here's hoping the likes of Sir Eatsalot, Reverie and Rogue Aces made some sort of impact.

It's pathetic that sales figures are NDA'd by Sony, preventing developers from promoting their game effectively, and consequently the Vita if any of the above do manage to be a decent hit!

U.S. PSN Vita downloads (April)

1 God of War: Collection PS Vita
2 Persona 4 Golden
3 Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition
4 Jak and Daxter Collection
5 Cosmic Star Heroine
6 Mary Skelter: Nightmares
7 Salt and Sanctuary
8 Persona 4: Dancing All Night
9 Muramasa Rebirth Complete Collection
10 The King of Fighters ’97 Global Match

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Lost Child western gameplay trailer

NIS America drops a new gameplay trailer showing off the RPG in action, The Lost Child. With a war between humans and demons, it's up to the Chosen One to save humanity!

That chosen one is Hayato Ibuki (who you just know is going to start out as a bumbling neophyte fool). He has to explore the layers between our world and the realm of the supernatural, finding clues to solve strange murder mysteries, and capture demons and fallen angels to join the cause!

In this gameplay trailer, we learn more about the dungeons, demons, and characters you'll meet on the way. The Lost Child arrives in June.

Golden Week Vita sales hit 5.5K in Japan

Golden Week definitely isn't what it used to be for hardware sales in Japan, but this year it managed to give the Vita a healthy spike to 5,500 units. That's up almost 1,000 on last week and is probably as good as life gets for Vita sales until Christmas, assuming Sony doesn't wave a PS4 Portable at us for E3.

In the Media Create chart, Konami's Powerful Pro Baseball 2018 is still the only Vita game in town, shifting 15,867 copies last week to move to a healthy 74,303 overall.

Next up are the Persona 3 and 5 Dancing Moon/Star Night games at the end of the month which should make a healthy impression on the chart.

Last week's data

Puzzler Grab the Bottle stretches to Vita soon

Released on Steam a year ago, Finnish developers Kamina Productions first game is on its way to the Vita and PS4. Think Mr Tickle, if you remember the Mister Men and you have a clever way for a stretchy baby to steal bottles from various scenes by solving puzzles involving crocodiles, bombs, blenders, scissors and much more.

With a platinum trophy, looks like another great dose of tricky fun to go alongside the Vita's growing line-up of quirky diversions.