Friday, February 22, 2013

RIP Arkedo Studio

It's always a sad day when a game-development studio closes its doors, but it's an especially sad one when the studio in question was known for putting out quality games.

Given that, it's likely that bucket-loads of tears are being wept in response to the news that no more games will be produced by Arkedo Studio, the company responsible for Big Bang Mini (DS), the Arkedo Series of XBLIG titles and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (XBLA, PSN and PC).

According to a blog post written by co-founder Aurelien Regard, the company "is still here. But no one’s employed anymore.

"Arkedo hasn’t closed down and is not bankrupt," he adds, but "no more games are [being] produced, either."

Fans of Arkedo Studio's past efforts may take a bit of solace in the fact that two "small" and as-yet-unknown games will still be released by the company, although Regard didn't say when that will happen or which systems will be the recipient of them.

See also: 'Five XBLIG games you should have played, but probably didn't' and 'Shucks, this could have been a cool game ...'

Sorry, but I don't have a one-word reaction to share RE: yesterday's Nintendo Direct

I do have a few words to say about it, though--if anyone's interested in hearing them.

This latest Nintendo Direct broadcast, which focused on third-party 3DS games, began with Satoru Iwata showing some new footage of Tomodachi Collection: New Life, the sequel to a Japan-only DS life sim that's sold more than three million copies to date.

I don't know about you, but Iwata had me hooked at the get-go thanks to his Famicom-themed room.

The question is: will the game, which will be released in Japan on April 18, do what its predecessor did not and make its way westward? I hope so, although I have my doubts.

Iwata then went on to discuss a number of upcoming third-party games, some of which I'm interested in and some of which I'm not, including Level-5's Professor Layton and the Legacy of Super Civilization A (aka Professor Layton and the Azran Legacies) and Youkai Watch, Success' Touch Detective: Funghi's Big Breed (a match-three spin-off of the company's Touch Detective series) and Namco Bandai's Dragon Ball Heroes: Ultimate Mission and Super Robot Wars UX.

Far more intriguing to me was the news that Level-5's Guild 02 compilation will now be released digitally rather than via retail. That said, only one of the Guild 02 titles really intrigued me, with that title being Spaceship Damray, a "suspense adventure" that's being developed by game designer Asano Kazuya and novelist Takemaru Abiko.

Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei IV and Capcom's Monster Hunter 4 wrapped up this installment of Nintendo Direct, and both looked pretty great to these presser-weary (after Sony's PS4 event of a few days ago) eyes.

I've been on the Shin Megami Tensei IV hype train since it was first announced, of course, but I haven't always had such a favorable impression of Monster Hunter 4 (or any Monster Hunter game, for that matter), so it'll be interesting to see if I follow through and buy the series' latest entry should it be released here in North America.

I have to admit that I was hoping a few new 3DS games--like a Final Fantasy V remake using Bravely Default's engine--would be announced during this broadcast, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Maybe next time, Nintendo?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My one-word reaction to the PS4 reveal: 'eh'

The first thing that came to mind after watching a stream of Sony's PlayStation 4 presser yesterday afternoon: well, that's two-plus hours that could've been better spent. I kind of hate to say such a thing, but for me, at least, it's the truth.

It has to be said that a good part of that reaction is due to the horrid quality of the stream I attempted to watch, but it's also due to the fact that the event in question consisted of one long-winded, hyperbole-filled speech after another.

Honestly, most of what was said by both Sony's staffers and those working for various third-party studios could have been said--and probably was said--when the Japanese giant unveiled the first PlayStation console all the way back in 1994.

That in and of itself didn't completely turn me off, by the way, as pretty much everyone in the gaming industry is guilty of it these days. No, what turned me off was that it lasted for two-plus hours.

As for the rest of what was covered during this event: it was OK, I guess. A good number of games were shown in some form or another, for instance, and all of them looked quite nice. I can't say they got my heart racing, though. Of course, I've never gotten all that excited about "realistic" graphics in games--which is what pretty much every next-gen game developer and publisher is peddling these days. Nope, I'll take a healthy dose of whimsy and an interesting art style over realism any day.

That said, I was intrigued by Jonathan Blow's The Witness. The trailer didn't give me a very good idea of what to expect from this title's gameplay, but its style made up for it--at least to an extent.

I also liked the looks of Capcom's Deep Down, although I'd be lying if I said this game's "Monster Hunter meets Demon's Souls" aesthetic didn't seem a bit ... derivative.

Oh, and the controller! How could I forget about that? Actually, it wasn't hard at all, as the controller looked pretty much like every other controller Sony's produced since the first DualShock--except, of course, this time it features a tiny touch pad on its face.

Strangely, no one from Sony or any of the third-party studios on hand put the touch pad through its paces, so it's hard to say at this point whether it'll be useful in the end or not. At the moment, though, I'm personally leaning toward the latter.

The PS4 controller was the only piece of hardware unveiled during yesterday afternoon's broadcast, by the way; the actual console was, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be found. I'm guessing Sony's waiting until E3 to reveal it--hopefully along with the system's price and launch date.

Given all of the above, I can't say I'm all that stoked about the PS4 at the moment. Of course, I've yet to be persuaded to buy a PS3, so my relative disinterest probably shouldn't surprise anyone.

Still, I know a lot of you guys and gals own PS3s. What do you think of the PS4 now that a bit of information about it has been released? Are you frothing-at-the-mouth excited about it? Are you already planning to avoid it like the plague? Or maybe your feelings lie somewhere in the middle of those two extremes?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Three recently revealed Japanese box arts that ring my bell

You know what my favorite discussion thread is over on NeoGAF? The one that's devoted to "new Japanese box arts."

Anyway, while perusing the thread this past weekend I came across the following trio of recently revealed pieces of Japanese cover art--all of which really tripped my trigger, so to speak.

Because I'm "that kind" of gaming geek, I thought I'd share them (and chat about them) here.

1. Game & Wario (Wii U)--It pains me to say this, but I have little to no interest in this forthcoming (it's due out in both Japan and North America on March 28) Wii U title. In part that's because Game & Wario doesn't follow the tried-and-true mini-game format of the WarioWare series, and in part it's because I just haven't been impressed by what I've seen of this wonderfully titled spin-off. That said, I'm loving the game's Japanese cover art, so at least it has that going for it.

2. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle (PS3)--Full disclosure: I'm no fan of fighting games. Although I used to like the genre quite a bit back in the days when Street Fighter II and its ilk ruled the arcade roost, I've since switched my allegiance to other genres, like puzzlers and adventure games. Still, if I owned a PS3, I'd probably have a tough time keeping myself from buying this CyberConnect2-developed, Namco Bandai-published battler that's based on Hirohiko Araki's manga series.

3. Sei Madou Monogatari (Vita)--When I first heard that Madou Monogatari was going to make a glorious return to the gaming world, I was beyond thrilled. When I heard it was going to be released for the Vita, I was a bit less so--and I was downright pissed when I heard that it wouldn't feature Arle, the protagonist of pretty much every previous title in this series. On the positive side, Sei Madou Monogatari, which will hit Japanese store shelves on March 28, looks a lot like Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon, which is a very good thing.

See also: Additional posts about box art

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No joke: another otome game (for PSP) is coming to North America

And not only that, but it appears that this forthcoming otome game will be released both digitally and on UMD à la Class of Heroes 2.

The name of the title in question is Sweet Fuse: At Your Side, by the way, and it's being brought to North America by Aksys Games.

Here's a summary of Sweet Fuse's story as per Aksys' website:

"Saki Inafune, niece to legendary game developer Keiji Inafune, can’t wait to visit her uncle’s new theme park. She’s been invited to the opening day ceremonies, and is looking forward to a day of fun and excitement when suddenly Count Hogstein—a villain as corpulent and cliché as he is evil—blows up the Ferris wheel, takes the park management hostage, and declares the beginning of a deadly series of games.

"Desperate to save her uncle, Saki volunteers to be one of the participants in Hogstein’s games, and finds herself thrust into the midst of excitement very different from what she’d expected when she woke up that morning. She’ll need all of her cunning, determination, and exceptional insight to get herself and her fellow participants—all available bachelors—out alive and maybe, with a little luck, find love along the way."

As for when Sweet Fuse will see the light of day in North America: according to the folks at Aksys, it'll do so sometime this summer.

Don't cry, Vita fans; at least we were given a new Dragon's Crown trailer

I originally intended to fill this post with commentary about the second "Vita Heaven" broadcast Sony streamed to the masses over the weekend, but I decided to pass on that after seeing that it consisted of little more than an announcement of a rather large (and late-in-coming) price drop for the system and a slew of Monster Hunter clones.

Still, a new trailer for Dragon's Crown, the Atlus- and Vanillaware-developed (spiritual) successor to Princess Crown, Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, was shown as part of the event, so I wouldn't call this latest "Vita Heaven" a complete wash.


Monday, February 18, 2013

My Month with Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Part 2

Let's start this "Bye-Bye, Backlog" follow-up post like the last one, shall we? Here are the relevant stats related to my monthlong playthrough of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime so far:

*Playtime: 11 hours, 19 minutes
*Slimes rescued: 75
*Locales opened: 6 (Backwoods, Callmigh Bluff, Flucifer's Necropolis, Forewood Forest, Mt. Krakatroda and Tootinschleiman's Tomb)

I'm not going to share the number of tank-on-tank battles I've completed to this point because, honestly, I lost track long ago. Suffice it to say, I've taken part in a fair few in the nearly nine hours I've spent with Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.

An interesting note about those aforementioned tank battles: although I wasn't a fan of them during my first week with this DS title, I've come to adore them in my second. That's chiefly because I finally progressed far enough in the game to unlock the ability to add a few crew members to my trusty Schleiman Tank--which not only makes these battles more mentally manageable but also more strategic and even fun.

(The highlight of these tensely tactical tête-à-têtes for me thus far: letting my trio of baddies-turned-goodies buds load ammo into my tank's cannons while I infiltrate the opposing vehicle and keep its crew from sending any projectiles in my direction.)

Aside from that, I'm still thoroughly enjoying Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime's charmingly realized graphics, cheerful soundtrack and of course the rest of its captivating gameplay (which is centered around the slippery protagonist's "Elasto Blast" move and ability to stack friends, enemies and items on his pointy little head).

As such, I now know without a doubt that I'm not going to stop playing this game until I see the credits roll, and I have a pretty good feeling that's going to happen sometime in the next week.

Can you believe I may actually finish one of my "Bye-Bye, Backlog" selections--and possibly before the month is up?

See also: Previous 'Bye-Bye, Backlog' posts