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  1. It's the end of an era, folks. First, word came out that PlayStation Worldwide Studios head Andrew House was stepping down from his role at the end of 2017, then the beloved Kaz Hirai parody account known as @KazHiraiCEO would also be retiring from making jokes sometime in 2018. Now, the real Kaz Hirai -- the actual CEO of Sony -- has announced he will be stepping down from his role in March, though he will be transitioning into the role of chairman. Hirai has tapped current Sony CFO Kenichiro Yoshida as his successor in the CEO role. Though he's best known to PlayStation fans for his work on the video game brand, especially for his infamous 2006 E3 appearance ("Riiiiidge RACER!"), Hirai started at Sony Computer Entertainment America in 1995 and quickly rose through the ranks over the years, eventually succeeding Ken Kutaragi as President and Group CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc., and then Howard Stringer as President and CEO of Sony Corporation itself. Hirai bows out as he leaves Sony as a whole on a financial upswing, having helped restructure the company after years of losses and bringing it back into the black. Source: The Verge What are your thoughts on Kaz Hirai retiring from his role as Sony CEO?
  2. Sony just revealed the Playstation Plus lineup for June, giving you some new games to play while you wait for all the awesome new games that will be shown at E3. Here's the full lineup: Killing Floor 2, PS4 Life is Strange, PS4 Abyss Odyssey, PS3 WRC 5: World Rally Championship, PS3 Neon Chrome, PS Vita (crossbuy with PS4) Spy Chameleon, PS Vita (crossbuy on PS4) Killing Floor 2 and Life Be Strange are the obvious standouts here. I haven't played either one (I've had Life is Strange on Steam forever and still haven't gotten around to it...) but compared to the rest of the lineup they're relatively big-name games. Abyss Odyssey is pretty cool, though it's a shame it's not cross-buy with the enhanced PS4 version. Spy Chameleon is kinda fun, I dunno anything about WRC or Neon Chrome though. Anyway, what do you all think about the lineup? If nothing else maybe we could all get together for some Killing Floor 2 matches sometime.
  3. Sony has revealed next month's lineup of free games for PS Plus members, and, well, just have a look for yourself and decide if you're excited! Full lineup: Tales from the Borderlands, PS4 Abzu, PS4 Blood Knights, PS3 Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants, PS3 Laser Disco Defenders, PS Vita (Cross Buy with PS4) Type:Rider, PS Vita (Cross Buy on PS4) So, from me, Tales from the Borderlands is hilarious and worth playing even if you know nothing about the Borderlands series, so that's a big plus for next month's selection. Of course it was also on sale for like $3 a while back so anyone interested probably already has it now. I know Abzu will be interesting to some people, so I'll leave my personal feelings on it aside. Blood Knights is an okay-ish hack 'n slash and I don't really know anything about the other games, so it doesn't seem like an amazing month but I guess it's not the worst month ever either. What do you all think?
  4. Jason Clement

    Sony closes RIGS developer Guerilla Cambridge

    We're only twelve days into the new year and we've already got our first bad PlayStation-related news: Sony is shutting down Guerilla Cambridge in Europe. Best known for creating the MediEvil series, Killzone: Mercenary, and -- more recently -- RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, Guerilla Cambridge is the latest to be affected in a string of Sony studio closures that have stretched back over the last several years. In 2016, Sony shuttered Evolution Studios after the studio had years-long development trouble with Driveclub (even after its release). Then in September, 40-50 employees were let go from the team that worked on Kill Strain and another unannounced title at Sony Studio San Diego (the team that works on MLB: The Show was unaffected, however). Finally, Sony's London studio -- which is responsible for PlayStation VR Worlds and another PlayStation VR title called London Heist -- was also hit with layoffs last Fall. Guerilla Cambridge's closure is especially unfortunate for MediEvil fans, whom saw the studio as the series' last hope for some type of new entry after more than a decade since the last game. Alas, the fate of the MediEvil seems all the more uncertain now. We wish the best to those affected by the studio's closure. Source: Gamasutra What are your thoughts on Guerilla Cambridge's closure?
  5. So today the PS+ lineup for August was revealed, and it's...different? Full lineup: Tricky Towers, PS4 Rebel Galaxy, PS4 Yakuza 5, PS3 Retro/Grade, PS3 Patapon 3, PS Vita Ultratron, PS Vita, PS3, PS4 Tricky Towers looks like some kinda crazy version of Tetris, so that could be fun, and I'll probably try Rebel Galaxy. My PS3 isn't working otherwise I'd give Yakuza 5 a shot too, but I have Retro/Grade on Steam already. I dunno anything about Patapon so I'll have to look that up, but Ultratron (which I also have on Steam) is pretty fun. Overall doesn't seem like a terrible lineup, but also nothing really stands out, besides maybe Yakuza 5 since it was one of the last big PS3 releases and isn't that old yet. Anyway, what do you think about August's PS+ games?
  6. After their stellar showing at E3 last year, there was no reason to believe today that Sony could have met or exceeded the excitement that The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Shenmue 3 generated. What else could make as strong of an impact? No one knew, but in the end, Sony pulled off a show to remember. In fact, with the exception of those three surprises last year, Sony's E3 2016 press conference could be considered their best-executed press conference ever. The beginning was a little strange and ominous with an orchestra that brought to life a rather dark and sinister theme (and what was up with the lady making the coughing noises?), but it was an effective way of starting the show with a bit of foreshadowing. Then, the theater went dark. Cut to the first bit of game footage shown, which begins with a young boy playing with hand-carved figures and using his imagination as children do. However, the boy's clothing seems to suggest a more primitive civilization, perhaps something ancient. His playing is cut short by the harsh call of a man from a nearby wooden shack, presumably his father. The man calls out from the dark within the shack, directing the boy to take his mother's knife and hunt... for he is hungry. While saying this, the man steps into the light, revealing a familiar, hardened, pale warrior who bears a red stripe across his face and his chest, and a fully grown beard as well. and echo throughout the auditorium as it becomes apparent that the game everyone is watching is none other than the newest entry of God of War. Despite not having any attachment to the series (I've never played a GoW title in my life), I have to admit that this was one of the best and most effective introductions, not only to a new game, but to any video game conference overall. The slow buildup and reveal of Kratos was extremely well executed, and for the first time, the audience actually saw a quality in the character that was virtually non-existent in the last few GoW games: humanity. It is never explicitly said in the gameplay shown that Kratos is the father of the boy, although it is heavily implied; even if he isn't, it wouldn't matter. Having a child, or even just being the boy's guardian reveals a different side to him and makes him a more interesting character than he ever was when he was only driven by anger, revenge, and bloodlust in the first four games. Sony Santa Monica appears to be taking longstanding criticism of the character to heart this time around -- namely, that he doesn't have any depth beyond revenge. Beyond that, it's apparent that Santa Monica Studio is taking God of War in a brand new direction overall, and one that has a much heavier narrative, not just with the overall plot, but likely with the characters and their personal growth as well. Where will it lead? We'll have to wait to find out, but it's a fascinating turn of events given how different it is compared to the previous games. After the trailer rolled, and a brief introduction from Shawn Layden, we were treated to a slew of other game trailers, one after another. The Last Guardian finally got a release date. A brand new IP called Days Gone (and yet once more set in a post-apocalyptic era) was announced. Horizon: Zero Dawn was once again given another gameplay demo that showed off how impressive and complex the in-game world is. The trailer for Detroit: Become Human showed more of the game's premise and a strong reliance on the player choosing how the narrative unfolds. Resident Evil VII (Resident EVII) was revealed and looked nothing like the increasingly action-focused previous installments in the series, but showed a return to the horror elements that the series was founded on. A series of VR game segments were shown, but didn't weigh the show down. Crash Bandicoot was announced to be getting a PS4 remaster. Hideo Kojima was brought out on stage and revealed the trailer for his upcoming game with Sony, Death Stranding, and also revealed that Norman Reedus would be starring in it as well. And last but not least, Insomniac was revealed to be making a new Spider-Man game that looked fantastic. You might not necessarily find all of these games to be interesting, but there's no mistaking that they're big games that people in general are interested in and are excited for, and all of their reveals were paced extremely well throughout the conference. Did you notice anything else different about this year's conference versus previous years? Sony cut out the self-promotion, marketing talk, kept the talking from executives to a minimum, and they virtually kept all third-party developers off the stage as well. Instead, they let the games do most of the talking, and it was the smartest thing they've done in years. Sony's conference wasn't just good because they happened to show a few new cool games. It was good because they respected the audience's time by making the best of the conference and showing them what everyone wanted to see: release dates from past announced games, brand new IP, exciting new games from existing IP, and even a bit of extra production values to top it off (an accompanying orchestra, Kojima's appearance etc.). Basically, they gave us reasons to continue being excited for the PlayStation 4's future, and if the reception from fans, critics, and journalists alike on social media and various gaming websites is any indication, Sony has succeeded far and above what everyone thought was possible.
  7. With E3 coming nearing under a month, we all wonder what to expect and what surprises will come to us. Who's going to have a good conference, average, worst, best. etc. Anything can happen. What are your predictions of what you like to see and what rumors you've heard that might show up at this year's biggest gaming event. _________________________________________________________________________________ Here are some of my thoughts/predictions: I think Square-Enix will show plenty of development footage of Kingdom Hearts and FFVII Remake and I don't expect a release date this year and possibly release late next year or 2018. Sony will definitely show more of the VR stuff, PSNeo, Price Drop, and more gameplay footage from the developed games that will be released this year. If they want to wow us they'd have to make an awesome announcement like getting the Crash Bandicoot rights back and announcing a PS4. I expect a Shenmue III trailer at the end of Sony's conference as surprise or somehwere along the show. Another surprise is teaser to Last of Us 2 I heard that Nintendo isn't doing a conference? Not sure though, but NX isn't showing up this year and the new Zelda game is their main focus. Other than that most of their showing is at their digital event Microsoft doesn't feel like they have much to show, but I think their biggest game to reveal is Gears of War 4. They did show their VR stuff last year and I guess they could show more and possibly a release date. I am definitely looking forward to Kojima's next game since he has his own studio working with Sony and with Norman Reedus I think. There's a lot more to say, but I don't want hog all the info lol. So what are you guys thoughts and predictions?
  8. barrel

    Review: Superbeat: Xonic

    Developer: Nurijoy Publisher: PM Studios, Atlus & Acttil Platform: Vita Release Date: November 10, 2015 ESRB: T for Teen An understated strength of Sony handhelds is their surprisingly solid library of rhythm game releases. Of course, there is fair reason why people likely haven“t heard of titles like Taiko Drum Master V or IA/VT Colorful in regards to Vita releases from this year alone beyond hardcore importers. But even titles that got an official overseas releases like DJMax: Technika Tune, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd, and Persona 4: Dancing All Night have generally been well-received by genre enthusiasts. Though, as much as I enjoyed the DJMax series (even back on the PSP), its former developer dissolved with the series alongside with it. To seemingly satiate the handheld rhythm game void in my heart, developer Nurijoy has decided to weave an entirely new spiritual successor mix to DJMax under the label Superbeat: Xonic. The quickest sign to remind me why Superbeat: Xonic was most certainly a spiritual successor to DJMax was its unapologetic difficulty. Much like DJMax, there is not only a learning curving for the basic gameplay but there is also a fast ramp in expecting you to be decent at it. Dexterity means a lot in Superbeat: Xonic, which... in a bizarre way actually makes the game's title make a little more sense in some way (since "Xonic" is apparently pronounced like "Sonic"). Actually, it is hard to even visually comprehend the gameplay of Superbeat: Xonic with its flurry of notes, at least at first. Similar to Persona 4: Dancing All Night, however, the note inputs run outwards to the leftmost and rightmost sides of the screen. There are two different control schematics to use, those being through the touchscreen or face buttons. You can theoretically use both control schemes at the same time, for whatever reason, but chances are you'll stick to one or the other because of how demanding of your attention Superbeat: Xonic ends up being on either. It does not help that Superbeat: Xonic has a generally strict input timing and a default difficulty that would basically be hard mode or higher in most recent rhythm games. For myself personally, I found myself sticking to buttons purely for consistency even if the touchscreen is easier to learn initially. That said, like any good challenge, there is most certainly a satisfying -- and earned -- skill ramp in Superbeat: Xonic. Plenty of higher-rated songs caused me laugh hysterically due to their seemingly insurmountable nature and me failing miserably (and quickly) at first despite having in-game handicap tools in place. After putting more time into the game to get inner-workings down I actually found that the difficulty to be rather fair, if not sorta unrelenting. Every time I thought I was hot stuff a new song would quickly put me in my place making it all the more satisfying to eventually tackle even those pieces. It wasn't just a matter of getting used to the gameplay, Superbeat: Xonic does what a lot of rhythm games unfortunately lack where knowing the melody of the song helps playing immensely because of how spot-on the music is sync with the gameplay most of the time. As for the music itself, I had a serious back-and-forth with the song selection making the drive to "git gud" less appetizing initially. Early on, the song list constitutes of generally weak Korean Pop with loosely familiar DJMax artists and arrangements of signature DJMax tracks like "Heart of the Witch" in everything but name. Which are fine, but have been done much better in DJMax libraries. The song selection really hits its stride as you progressively unlock its far more eclectic and dense list in both quantity and musical styles. Song beats range from hip-hop to rap (whom actually seem to know English), Spanish styled Rumba, classical remixes, and a seemingly random placement of Guilty Gear Xrd's cheesy opening rock song "Heavy Day". For me personally, I think the best tracks are of the really catchy techno variety which... well, happen to be the hardest songs to play. To put the obtained skills are the ramps in the form of various modes. The most used mode will likely be the Stage mode which generally encompasses multiple difficulty progressions in the form of "Trax" and is the most obvious way to work your way up. Like DJMax before it, Stage mode has you pick three songs to play back to back and afterwards you are graded with a total score. The other primary mode is 'World Tour,' which has preset songs and challenges to complete back to back. There aren't really any bells and whistles beyond that aside from a general online leaderboard with both friends and worldwide. The core formula works but it does oddly lack more extraneous features like a jukebox equivalent or noteworthy unlockables beyond new songs and sound chimes. Probably the biggest problem with Superbeat: Xonic is that it is very visually uninteresting in the midst of actual gameplay. With the exception of the Guilty Gear Xrd song, most of the time the visual flourishes amount to little more than random lighting and kaleidoscope effects. Admittedly, Superbeat: Xonic coasts on the fundamentals of its satisfying-to-learn gameplay but very little else. Some more serious issues that I had were a surprising amount of crashes during my play sessions. I had the Vita notify me of the game crashing at least three times and I could not guess the rhyme or reason behind it, even though I primarily played offline. Superbeat: Xonic feels very much like a first effort as a spiritual successor to DJMax than truly passing the torch onto a would-be better rhythm game series. Though it has the heart of a DJMax successor it doesn't really have the polish and sheen that has understandably culminated with that series after many years of iterations. Removed from that context however, Superbeat: Xonic is certainly a solid rhythm foundation on a pure gameplay standpoint. It's challenging, satisfying difficulty and large song selection (with even more coming through DLC) will give hardcore fans of the genre quite a bit to master, but those with a passing interest in the genre may likely be pushed away by its ruthless difficulty and lack of technical refinement. Pros + Certainly evocative of classic DJ Max games from the interface to familiar songs/artists + Gameplay can be pretty satisfying after getting a handle on its very fast-paced and dexterous nature + Fairly eclectic song list in both style and quantity Cons - Quite a huge skill ramp regardless of control scheme - In-game presentation is pretty uninteresting and lacks cosmetic options compared to more recent rhythm games - Some technical issues Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good For the most part Superbeat: Xonic is for the passionate rhythm game fan and little else. It's challenging (and rewarding for those willing to learn), in addition to having a fairly eclectic song selection. Yet, Superbeat: Xonic noticeably lacks much of the sheen and polish that one would expect of many recent rhythm games, including its forefather series DJMax Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  9. Jason Clement

    Limited Edition Journey Statue Now Up for Order

    If you're a fan of collector's items (especially ones pertaining to games), you might want to check this out. Sony has announced that they will be selling 1,000 limited edition Journey statues on their website, and orders are live right this instant. The statue/sculpture features two pilgrims (one wearing the normal brown cloak, and one wearing the special white one) journeying together with their scarves blowing in the wind. It comes in at an approximate size of 11 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 10 inches deep. Each statue will also come with a 5"x7" color print of the original conceptual design art. You can order the statue for a cool $150 right now, but you might not want to take too long to think about it; after all, they are limited to 1,000 overall. The Journey statue is set to ship at the end of the month. Source: gear.playstation.com Are you interested in ordering a Journey statue?
  10. The honeymoon phase for all things E3 is beginning to wane. The luster of the shiny new trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3, Gears of War 4, Recore and the Final Fantasy 7 remake are “yesterday's news” and the tide immediately turned against the parties responsible for the absence of a few expected games and failing to provide fans with definitive release dates. Sony is bearing the brunt of this criticism. Sony's role in allowing The Last Guardian to skip the entirety of 2015 beyond a solitary gameplay video or promising a Final Fantasy 7 remake from a company that is seemingly unreliable is not sparking complaints. The source of contention is Shenmue III's use of a Kickstarter campaign. Articles like this one cropped up and while some sought answers to a few lingering questions, the bulk served the sole purpose of blasting the campaign. We all should know at this point that video games are expensive to create. The Shenmue franchise, in particular, is famous for its history of spiraling costs and lengthy production time. Shenmue may have sold over a million copies, but the game still failed to cover expenses. Sony mentioned that the Kickstarter campaign's primary purpose was to “gauge interest,” but in reality the campaign served a much more defined goal: help secure financing. Controversy for Controversy's Sake Sony's highlight of Yu Suzuki's plea to fans for project funding definitely attributed to the misconception that Sony sought the funds, but it was made abundantly clear the destination for the Kickstarter funds. Of course, it wouldn't have been the first time a Fortune 500 company had its own intellectual property on the service for in-house funding, after all. Poor communication with the phrases “gauge interest” and “testing ground,” which so many complaints have latched onto, has led to a colossal misunderstanding. This Kickstarter Campaign may have been featured at Sony's E3 conference, but one thing should be absolutely clear: Sony is not the one asking for the money from fans, YS Net is asking fans to help prove that this game has a place in the market. This is called providing a “proof of concept,” a common business practice when attempting to secure an outside investor for a product. Investors need reassurance that the goods in which they are investing can turn a profit and, unfortunately, history can say a lot more than an amorphous fan base whose support may or may not materialize. The source of the outside funding may not be clear, but Sony has explicitly stated that they will be partners going forward. Sony does not own the license. Sony does not own the developer. The absence of any real Shenmue talk beyond YS Net hope to obtain the rights to the franchise from SEGA makes it reasonable to tag Sony as the third party investor who will float a bit of YS Net's bill until this project's completion in exchange for some sort of exclusivity deal, repayment and or royalty. The new stretch goals are also being met with a similar level of scrutiny as those who are seeking to create controversy are falsely equating the campaign to a scam. Yu Suzuki met the initial goal within the first day. The campaign received some new stretch goals as they closed in on $3 Million, including a top tier for the creation of a true open world experience. Suzuki may know where the base funding will originate now that the initial goal has been met, but more money allows him the same benefits as any other developer on the service. He can potentially secure even more financing for scale or simply be used to run the company to help mitigate the amount needed to borrow. The vocal minority is using these goals and equating the increase in Kickstarter funds being requested as money that Sony is "saving." This would make sense... if the company intended on just handing YS Net money free and clear regardless of the amount needed. They do not. Yu Suzuki had even mentioned seeking more outside investors for the project's completion. In fact, the more money that YS Net raises in pre-production will ultimately lessen the amount needed to borrow and interest to be repaid. One of the most common complaints about this campaign centers around Sony's financial standing and the perceived reluctance to fully finance the project. This is one area that the vocal minority should take a step back and truly survey the situation. YS Net is a relatively new studio whose output these last four years have been mobile gaming. The head of the studio could not secure funding through the license holder, a company for which he worked the last 26 years. The loan would be used for an aged franchise that, while reaching a healthy volume, failed to break even all those years ago. As a publicly traded company, would you have issued a loan to this studio? No, you wouldn't. The bulk of complaints being levied originate from a general lack of understanding for standard business practices. How do you feel about YS Net's plea for funding? Does it coincide with the spirit of the service being used?
  11. So I did one of these last year, and...wait, has it really already been a year since E3 2014? Because it doesn't feel like it. But indeed it has, and this year was chock full of surprises and megaton announcements topped off with a helping of new IPs and twists on the familiar. With what we saw, most of us probably wanted a place to gush about the things that really jumped out at us. This is my place to do just that. Doom Doom is an icon in the shooter world. THE icon, at that. It put first person shooters in the mainstream and covered the floor with demons and blood long before every other game started doing the same. The series was quiet after Doom 3, but it's coming back in a big, brutal way. Bucking the popular trends, Doom throws out cover, two-weapon inventories, and all the things that have limited us from just running up on some bad guys and shooting the crap out of them with a myriad of increasingly ridiculous weapons, and I'm absolutely stoked about that. FPS games have gotten far too sanitary and clingy to the player, and a game that throws you in with no regenerating health, no shields, and no mercy and expects you to circle-strafe your way to victory is the kick in the pants the genre needs right now. StarFox Zero Yes, I know there are actual screenshots, and no, I don't care. It's about time! While a new StarFox was mentioned at E3 2014, we didn't get any real info about it. Now that we've seen how the game looks and plays, I can't wait to get my paws on it. StarFox 64 has always been the high point of the series and one of my favorite games, and it's about time we get a new entry in the series that looks like it can match or even possibly outdo the high standards set by the N64 game. The fact that it's being at least partially developed by Platinum Games also has me excited, as Platinum has put together some quality action titles and I'll be happy to see them put those skills to work on bringing Fox and the crew to life on WiiU. The best part is that it's coming out this year, so it won't be long until we're doing barrel rolls and finding out what Wolf won't let us do this time. Horizon: Zero Dawn While I'm not a huge fan of Guerrilla's Killzone games, they were competent shooters with a lot of polish, so I'm confident they could deliver a new experience with great mechanics and amazing visuals. That experience is coming in the form of Horizon: Zero Dawn, with its concept of advanced tech vs. ancient weaponry painting a vivid world of clashing architectures and pitting the savage against the sleek. And robot dinosaurs! Don't forget the robot dinosaurs. Even if the gameplay doesn't look like much beyond a fairly standard third-person action-shooter at this point, I still want to dive into Horizon and get lost in the world of the Old Ones. Rare Replay Oh yes. I enjoy collections of past video games as much as anyone, but a collection of Rareware titles is one for the books. Bringing together some of their best games past and present, and also Grabbed by the Ghoulies (joke, I haven't played that game) Rare Replay is giving us some of the most treasured gaming experiences in one reasonably priced $30 package, along with some new features like challenges and achievements. I'm talking greats like RC Pro AM, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, Perfect Dark, my personal favorite underrated gem Jet Force Gemini, Battletoads Arcade, Viva Pinata, and more. Really, the only problem here is that I don't have an Xbox One, but the minute I get one, this collection is absolutely coming home with it. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam I love Mario & Luigi. I love Paper Mario. Would I love both of them together? You bet! This game looks to take the fun and frantic action-based combat and exploration of the Mario & Luigi series and fuse it with elements ripped straight out of Paper Mario in what's sure to be one of the most entertaining and satisfying Mario RPGs yet. While it may not be the Paper Mario sequel many were hoping for, it's still going to be a fantastic addition to the 3DS library and should be a huge treat for those who were less than impressed with Paper Mario: Sticker Star as the papercraft plumber gets back to the old ways of beating baddies. Shenmue III Hoo boy. Did anyone see this coming? If you're raising your hand right now, bring it down hard on your face, because you are a liar. After years upon years of hoping, begging, pleading, and praying, fans finally got what they never expected in the announcement that Shenmue III is finally happening, and through Kickstarter, you can make it happen. Naturally, the game is already fully funded on Kickstarter, so as a huge fan of the original game, I'm thrilled to know that after all these years I'll be able to hang with Ryo Hazuki once again when the game releases...whenever. The "estimated delivery" is December 2017, but those can usually be taken with a grain of salt. At any rate, whatever year this comes out is gonna be a huge year for gaming. Fallout 4 Oh man. Ohhhhh man. Ohmanohmanohmanohmanohmanohmanohman. FALLOUT 4. IS HAPPENING. THIS. FREAKING. YEAR!!!!!!!!! *deep breath* I'm okay. Yes, friends, loved ones, enemies, and people I don't have an opinion of one way or the other, the next trip to everyone's favorite Wasteland is coming much sooner than I could have anticipated. We saw the first reveal of Fallout 4 a bit before E3 started, and while that was exciting enough on its own, nothing, and I mean nothing could prepare me for the bombshell that Bethesda dropped during their first ever conference, when they announced that Fallout 4 is releasing on November 10, 2015. TWENTY FIFTEEN. THIS YEAR!!!!!!! THE HYPE IS SO REAL I CAN'T CONTAIN IT AHHHHHHHHHHHH (disclaimer for those who will inevitably say the game will miss its release date and slip into next year: shut up) Honorable Mentions: Killer instinct on PC Xbox boss Phil Spencer stopped by the PC Gaming Show to talk about Microsoft's plans for PC gaming, and casually mentioned that (former) Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct is headed to PC! No other info was given, but it's still exciting news for people like me who wanted to play it but don't have the system. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash Not the biggest announcement from Nintendo's lineup, but as a fan of the Mario Tennis games I couldn't be happier about this. I skipped on the 3DS Mario Tennis game since I don't play my handhelds much, so I'm glad Mario and co. are bringing the racket to WiiU. Just Cause 3 We've known about Just Cause 3 for a little while, which is why it just gets an honorable mention since it wasn't really revealed at E3 specifically. (yes, neither was Fallout 4, but that's Fallout 4) Anyway, I spent hours roaming around blowing stuff up in the lushly detailed world of Just Cause 2, and I'm looking forward to doing it again when Just Cause 3 comes out this year. Xenoblade Chronicles X This is another we've known about for a while, but the exciting news is that it was revealed to be coming out in December of this year. While I never played the original Xenoblade Chronicles, the footage I've seen of Xenoblade X still has me really excited to take this RPG for a spin. No Man's Sky I wrote about this last year, and, yep, I'm still super excited about it. Can we get a release date so I can whine about how far away it is? While that's not nearly everything at E3 I thought was worth getting excited over, it's a take on some of the things that really made me happy to be a gamer and excited for what's in store over the course of this year and 2016. Now that you've read my babbling, it's time to share your thoughts in the comments! What excited you the most? What disappointed you? What did you hope to see that didn't show? Whatever thoughts you have about E3 2015, let's hear them!
  12. Sailor Liztress

    Spotify Now Available On Sony Consoles

    There are times when playing a game that you just might prefer to listen one of your favorite jams instead of the soundtrack within the game. You want something that getting the blood pumping when you take on opponents in one of many FPS titles. Or perhaps, you just want to cruise along in a racing game with some good old Johnny Cash. Sony had announced earlier that their Music Unlimited service would be coming to end on March 29 and that they had a new and exclusive partnership with Spotify. Spotify, for those who haven't ever used it, allows you to create and listen to over 30 million songs while you play your favorite games. While Spotify basically works just like Music Unlimited, one notable difference is the ability to use it without paying the monthly fee. But if you want to listen to your playlists without ad interruptions, the Premium upgrade is only $9.99 a month. Subscribers of Music Unlimited get a free two-month trail while others can get a free month of Spotify Premium. Source: PlayStation Blog
  13. Plenty of cheap and free stuff for us Vita owners... THERE ARE DOZENS OF US! Sony is throwing in a Toro and Friends PS Vita theme for free from 2/26 – 3/2. There is also a free Gold Coin Pack for the free-to-play strategic Fat Princess: Piece of Cake. The pack contains eight coins and normally retails for $0.99. Finally, you will receive Himiko, a Spirit from Japanese myth and folklore, in the game Destiny of Spirits. The tutorial will need be completed between February 24th and 25th to get the gift as it will be delivered to your in-game mailbox. You can also follow @HeyPlayStation on Twitter for a chance to win Vita games and a Borderlands 2 Vita bundle at the end of the week. The sale items are listed below. Product Name| Platform| Plus Price| Sale Price| Original Price Angry Birds: Star Wars PS Vita $ 9.60 $ 14.80 $ 39.99 Atelier Meruru Plus PS Vita $ 15.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 Atelier Rorona Plus PS Vita $ 15.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 Atelier Totori Plus PS Vita $ 15.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 BEN 10 GALACTIC RACING PS Vita $ 3.00 $ 5.00 $ 9.99 Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified PS Vita $ 10.00 $ 15.00 $ 49.99 Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles PS Vita $ 7.49 $ 8.99 $ 14.99 Deception IV: Blood Ties PS Vita $ 15.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z PS Vita $ 7.50 $ 12.00 $ 29.99 Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable PS Vita $ 12.00 $ 20.00 $ 39.99 Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd PS Vita $ 19.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 Home – A Unique Horror Adventure PS Vita $ 2.49 $ 3.49 $ 4.99 Hyperdimension Neptunia ReBirth1 PS Vita $ 15.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 Jak and Daxter Collection PS Vita $ 8.10 $ 13.50 $ 26.99 Jet Set Radio PS Vita $ 4.99 $ 5.99 $ 9.99 Let“s Fish! Hooked On PS Vita $ 3.00 $ 5.00 $ 9.99 LIMBO PS Vita $ 3.00 $ 5.00 $ 9.99 Metrico PS Vita $ 4.20 $ 7.00 $ 13.99 Monster Monpiece PS Vita $ 11.99 $ 17.99 $ 29.99 New Little King“s Story PS Vita $ 9.99 $ 11.99 $ 19.99 Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus PS Vita $ 15.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 Oddworld: Munch“s Oddysee HD PS Vita $ 4.99 $ 6.99 $ 9.99 Orgarhythm PS Vita $ 3.00 $ 5.00 $ 9.99 PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale PS Vita PS Vita $ 5.40 $ 9.00 $ 17.99 Putty Squad PS Vita $ 9.99 $ 14.99 $ 24.99 Ring Run Circus PS Vita $ 2.00 $ 3.50 $ 9.99 Silent Hill Book of Memories PS Vita $ 14.99 $ 17.99 $ 29.99 Sumioni: Demon Arts PS Vita $ 3.00 $ 5.00 $ 9.99 Sword Art Online -Hollow Fragment- PS Vita $ 15.99 $ 23.99 $ 39.99 Tales of Hearts R PS Vita $ 19.99 $ 27.99 $ 39.99 The Amazing Spider-Man PS Vita $ 9.60 $ 14.80 $ 39.99 Tiny Troopers Joint Ops PS Vita $ 3.99 $ 5.59 $ 7.99 Urban Trial Freestyle PS Vita $ 0.70 $ 1.75 $ 6.99 Valhalla Knights 3 PS Vita $ 6.00 $ 10.00 $ 19.99 Cel Damage HD PS4,PS3,PSVita $ 2.10 $ 3.00 $ 9.99 GODS EATER BURST PSP,PSVita $ 6.00 $ 10.00 $ 19.99 Anyone getting anything?
  14. Welcome to the "Official" PlayStation Plus thread! February Game Collection Transistor (PS4) Apotheon (PS4) Yakuza 4 (PS3) Thief (PS3) Rogue Legacy (PSV) Kick and Fennick (PSV) January Instant Game Collection (Leaving 2/3) Infamous: First Light (PS4) The Swapper (PS4) Prototype 2 (PS3) Duke Tales: Remastered (PS3) Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition (PSV) Whoa Dave! (PSV)
  15. In what's sure to be the biggest news in some while for the fighting game community, Capcom announced Street Fighter V during Sony's PlayStation Experience conference earlier today. Even bigger news: it's console exclusive to PlayStation 4 and will be cross-playable with the PC version due to a partnership between Sony and Capcom. Unfortunately, the game is still early in development, so a 2015 release may be unlikely. Still, big news nonetheless. Capcom also announced that Ultra Street Fighter IV would be making its way to PS4 as well, though no release date has been set just yet either. For now, you can check out the announcement video for Street Fighter V below. Source: PlayStation Blog Are you excited for Street Fighter V?
  16. Developer: Gust Corportaion Publisher: Tecmo Koei Platforms: PS Vita and PS3 Release Date: June 24, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the Vita version of the game As the resident Atelier series expert here at GP, I“ve been asked multiple times to tell people which recent Atelier games (on PS3 and PS Vita) that they should check out. No matter how many times I“d phrase it, however, I“d have a hard time recommending Atelier Rorona. Why, you ask? Well, the original Atelier Rorona had a lot of problems. Not only in comparison to its sequels, which largely improved upon the gameplay, visuals, and even storytelling/characters, but it was also chock-full of annoying design decisions and it even had significant technical problems as well which made it quite difficult to recommend, even as a prerequisite towards its sequels. Still, after many sequels with lessons learned, Gust decided to revisit the first PS3 title in the series just four years later and attempted to significantly overhaul it with Atelier Rorona Plus. Does it prove to be a much-needed improvement or is it little more than lip-service? The title starts off with the young apprentice, Rorona, who takes on the responsibilities of running an alchemy workshop because her master is too lazy to keep it running. Because of this, Rorona is pressured by the royal council and the local townsfolk of Arland to fulfill various tasks for three years, otherwise the workshop will be forced to close down for good. It is a simple setup that more or less dictates the entire flow and has been left largely left untouched from the original release minus a few new character events and endings. In part and parcel with the setting, Rorona has to wisely manage her time through the use of alchemy while supplementing the means to do it with both light-hearted RPG exploration and combat. Every three months or so, the fan-favorite character knight, Sterk, assigns new objectives to Rorona in which requires her talents in some form. As a bare minimum she needs to complete at least the primary task, but there are other optional objectives to work towards in the meantime for overachievers who want additional rewards. No part of Atelier Rorona Plus is terribly complex on its own, but it is generally how it is woven together that makes it and the other entries stand from the traditional RPG crowd. For example, its primary focus on alchemy, or rather item crafting, is a crucial component to the structure and has a deceptive amount of depth to it. Rorona may be inherently encouraged to be a hermit to fulfill most tasks despite the game's bursts of exploration to obtain new materials or see new character events, but it manages to avoid the laborious trappings associated with item crafting because of the quick and rewarding nature of it. This also applies to battles and exploration, which generally go by fast as well and helps feed into the simple but effective overall gameplay loop of fulfilling various tasks for the local denizens. With that said, the original Atelier Rorona was actually quite an unforgiving title at the time. For those who weren't following a guide and maximizing their in-game time, they were under the constant pressure of a bad ending because of its strict deadlines that left little room to do anything else. Thankfully, that has changed as well as many other aspects and it is crazy how many of the minor annoyances and oddities from the original release have been ironed out. Everything from streamlining inventory for turning in quests, being able to skip cutscenes, choosing specific endings, or even simply having an MP bar opposed to HP being the primary resource for combat skills and alchemy. The original game was full of very odd and annoying problems like these, not to mention how it also liked to crash a lot too. Honestly, I could spend all day talking about mechanics or subtle interface changes and how much better this is compared to the original. At the same time, though, there is the rub, there are a lot of changes and improvements from the original release but very little that is unique from the sequels it mimics. It borrows Atelier Meruru's combat system and gameplay engine, Atelier Escha & Logy's main mission design, and general interface enhancements from recent entries. These are all good aspects on paper, and unquestionably makes for a much better game than the original overall, but for those that actually played those titles (like myself), it noticeably doesn't handle most of those aspects quite as well those other entries. A lot of Rorona Plus's problems for existing fans is its been there, done that feel of it all. This is primarily because it does not quite have the same finesse/spirit as the games it copies. As mentioned earlier, most of the main campaign has been left unchanged and it only reminded me of how much better character interactions/storytelling are handled in later games like Atelier Totori and Atelier Ayesha. It's the same deal with the gameplay, like how it generally copies Atelier Meruru's combat system for the most part, but isn't as flashy or fun; or even Atelier Escha & Logy's main mission design, but with less incentive or reward. With all of these constant comparisons running through my mind, I wasn't really thinking about how much they have improved this game but rather how much I'd rather play those other sequels, especially with Atelier Meruru Plus and Atelier Escha & Logy fresh in my mind. In the matter of fairness, what is new beyond interface/mechanical changes is its enhanced visuals/environments and a new post main story chapter. I know what you may be thinking—"The visuals are enhanced?"—and yes, they actually are. It does away with its originally bizarre chibi-ish character models with new models altogether that are more faithful to their in-game portraits. Also, the environments have been expanded, quite literally, from the original release which had very claustrophobic locales. Of course, the blunt truth of it all is that the visuals are still pretty underwhelming, in particular the environments, and even the character models aren't as good as later iterations, but it is a mostly appreciated refinement from its original release. Perhaps the most substantial addition is the new chapter called "Overtime", which occurs after completing the main story and extends in-game time by one year. The context for it is that the main protagonists from Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru accidentally go back in time and need help from Rorona to get them back to their present. Admittedly, this new chapter is mostly fanservice either for those who have played the later games or so advanced players can go crazy with item crafting in preparation for the tough superbosses/dungeons. In spite of that, it does have some neat new additions like a time capsule mechanic that utilizes save files from previous titles to get new items, and even a few new cutscenes that make the narrative transition between the sequel, Atelier Totori, more cohesive. In all honesty, this mode was probably the most fun part of the entire game since progression is much less funneled than with the main scenario. For as numerous as the changes that are in this version, Atelier Rorona Plus does not manage to completely escape the groundwork from its original release, for better or worse. It borrows a ton of elements from its sequels, and adds a few neat additions of its own, but rarely achieves complete parity or even tries to creatively surpass its later iterations. As a whole, Atelier Rorona Plus merely cements itself as the least desirable recent entry in the series. It's certainly better than it has ever been, and it works itself up to being decent overall, but the series has simply seen better. Pros: + Big improvements to the gameplay and interface over the original + Huge in-game soundtrack to draw from + “Overtime” mode has some neat additions Cons: - In-game visuals are still unimpressive overall - Combat, alchemy, and gameplay structure still aren“t quite as good as other recent iterations - Doesn“t do enough of an overhaul for those who have played the original game Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent A very significant refinement from the original release, but Atelier Rorona Plus ultimately pales in comparison to its other recent iterations as a game overall. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  17. Sony's recent debacle with Driveclub's unspecified delay and a set of mildly disappointing November releases received a notable amount of criticism over the last month. Playstation Plus managers usually keep a tight lip when it comes to the new titles being added to the Instant Game Collection, but the Playstation Blog exploded with a preview of Playstation 4 titles being added through 2015. The excitement for the December and January line-ups is understandable, but this announcement comes far in advance of Sony's normal routine. A brief apology regarding the Driveclub delay is immediately followed by the announcement that Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition and Secret Ponchos will be headlining December. Injustice claims the spot as the first retail release to hit the Instant Game Collection for Playstation 4. Sony intends of bringing in the New Year with two new titles for January: Infamous First Light and The Swapper. Do you think this early announcement will hold negative implications for the developers and publishers of these projects who hoping for Holiday sales?
  18. So there are a few Pokemon apps on iOS so far, but what if you are a die hard Sony fan? Well Sony Santa Monica Studios just released Fat Princess: Piece of Cake on the app store, a mobile game featuring the confection crazy, crown carrying princess from the PSN title Fat Princess. Fat Princess: Piece of Cake is a blend of RPG elements and match-3 gameplay that is free-to-play and utilizes in-app purchases for things such as special in-game items and stamina refills. What sets this game apart from the many others in it's genre however is the promise of a free download code for the original Fat Princess for any player who completes level 15. https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/fat-princess-piece-of-cake/id874611551?mt=8 So if you missed Fat Princess, Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake for PSP, or even Best of PSN Vol. 1 (which features Fat Princess among other notable PSN titles) this may be an easy (and free!) way to check out this classic Sony title, while wasting a bit of time on your phone, no less. Right now the game is only for iDevices but Santa Monica promises an Android version is in the works. Do you already own Fat Princess or is the promise of a free PSN title enough to motivate you to try this mobile game?
  19. I'm bored out of my mind and thought of a nice discussion topic for the community. There are many great games that received little hype promoting and turned out to be awesome gems. In my mind there are plenty of games that had that. I'll start off the bat. Valkyria Chronicles is a game that I really enjoyed and loved when I first got my PS3. I remember hearing nothing much about it and didn't get hyped or promoted enough. This was one of the best tactical games I've ever played on the PS3. How about you? What games you've played turned out to be awesome that wasn't hyped?
  20. Steve Bitto

    Review: Infamous: First Light

    Developer: Sucker Punch Publisher: SCEA Platform: PS4 Release Date: August 26, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen Drugs, dealers, death, and destruction. Infamous: First Light, the first standalone DLC for Infamous: Second Son, is a dark prequel that builds a strong backstory not only for the neon-powered Fetch but the city of Seattle itself. As players learned in Second Son, Abigail "Fetch" Walker, ran away from home at a young age with her brother Brent as her parents were handing her over to the Department of Unified Protection. Infamous: First Light finds Fetch stuck in the conduit prison Curdun Cay relaying the story of her and her brother's struggles two years previous to DUP director Brooke Augustine. During the course of the interrogation, the game bounces back and forth between Fetch reliving her past in Seattle and fighting through Augustine's trials at Curdun Cay. While in Seattle, Fetch and Brent find themselves taking shady work from unsavory people to make money and stay off the grid. When one of the deals goes bad, Fetch is forced to reveal her powers and things get complicated. She continues to complete tasks with murky moral boundaries to rescue her brother, captured during the botched mission at the game's opening. Sucker Punch delivered a moving narrative of how the combination of drug addiction and uncontrollable power engulf Fetch and create the character Delsin meets later in Second Son. The Emerald City of First Light is much different than that of Second Son. These streets are free of DUP checkpoints, cops are fighting the Akuran gangs, and sightings of conduits are non-existent. However, as Fetch begins to reveal her powers, the city evolves. The DUP presence slowly ramps up while the police and Akurans find a common enemy in the conduit who has invaded their city. It quickly becomes clear how a DUP-controlled Seattle came to be and why the city's residents may have accepted it. From a visual standpoint, Seattle is as gorgeous as ever. Second Son's initial section featuring the Space Needle is completely playable with new side missions filling each city district. The PS4 flexes it's muscles once more creating beautiful environments and impressive lighting effects. This is, of course, perfect for an open-world game whose protagonist wields neon light as a weapon. First Light's flashy combat is quick and accurate. The neon power is more than just dazzling to look at when you begin to consider the vessel it resides in. Fetch's struggle with drug addiction melds with her flamboyant power to encapsulate the emotional roller coaster she rides throughout the story. While the combat lacks the diversity Delsin enjoyed in Second Son, it is enough to keep players interested. Skill points unlocked by completing side missions in the game allow techniques to be unlocked and upgraded similar to other entries in the Infamous franchise. Side missions return in the form of lumen gas races, police camera dismantling and laser graffiti quests. While they are a bit meatier than those of Second Son, they are fewer in number. The motion-controlled laser graffiti missions handled particularly clunky compared to the similar spray paint missions of Second Son. All and all, if you didn't enjoy the side missions playing as Delsin, you probably won't enjoy these either. The battle arena of Curdun Cay, First Light's primary feature addition, was masterfully introduced into Fetch's story. Here Augustine pushes Fetch to let her emotional guard down and unleash her full potential as a conduit. Fighting through waves of digital projections presents a challenge and makes up for the lack of major battles in the story. Once the main narrative is completed, the arenas can be replayed in Survival or Rescue modes. As you may have guessed, Survival consists of defeating waves of DUP agents while Rescue involves saving citizens also while fighting off the DUP. Additionally, If the Second Son game save still exists on your PS4, Delsin becomes playable in the arenas. Second Son's photo mode is also present in First Light. A genius marketing move by Sony and Sucker Punch, photo mode perpetuates the socially connected mantra even in this, a single player game. It allows gamers to share jaw-dropping screenshots unique to their experience via Twitter, Facebook or really any social media platform. In fact, all of the screens displayed in this review were taken during my personal playthrough. Infamous: First Light builds a compelling narrative for how the Fetch and Seattle of Infamous: Second Son came to be. The depressing prequel story she tells is moving. As a protagonist, Fetch evokes more emotion than Delsin did, ironically, without the use of forced moral decision-making. While side missions again fall short, the battle arenas add hours of additional gameplay. Sucker Punch once again delivers the high-quality presentation and combat fans have come to expect. Pros: + Fetch has an emotional, dark story to tell + The neon powers are as dazzling as the Emerald City itself + Battle arenas add hours of gameplay + Photo mode is an impressive social tool Cons: - Side missions are improved but not enough Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Infamous: Second Son's first standalone DLC is a winner. Combining the combat and visuals of the full release with a more compelling protagonist makes Infamous: First Light a steal at $14.99. Disclosure: This review was written based on a PSN download purchased by the reviewer
  21. [update] According to Kotaku, the hacker group "Lizard Squad" has now made bomb threats to John Smedley's airplane. Smedley is the President of Sony Online Entertainment and tweeted earlier that his flight was being diverted to Phoenix for security reasons. The FBI is currently investigating the American Airlines flight in question. [Original Story] The Playstation Network has been taken offline due to a DDoS attack perpetrated by the hacker group "Lizard Squad." Other companies like Blizzard and Riot Games have been affected by the attack as well. Sid Shuman of the Playstation Blog assured fans in a blog post saying that despite the interruption of service, "no personal information has been accessed." This of course in response to concerns that the siege was similar to the PSN attack of 2011 where personal information of users was obtained by hackers. The PSN was scheduled for maintenance downtime tomorrow, August 25 and it is unclear if that will continue as planned or if it will be postponed. Stay tuned to Game Podunk for further updates. Source: Forbes, PS Blog
  22. Sony introduced a mysterious Playstation 4 horror game titled "P.T." during their Gamescom presentation on Tuesday. After showing a brief teaser they directed people to continue the experience on the Playstation Store by downloading and playing an interactive teaser available immediately. The terrifying demo ended with a trailer that among other things revealed a title... Silent Hills. Apparently, the name "P.T." stood for "playable teaser" and was created to maintain secrecy until fans could uncover the truth for themselves. Who else could be behind such misdirection other than the one and only, Hideo Kojima. We now know that the new Silent Hill game is being created by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro. It will also feature Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) as the lead character. Release date and platforms (outside of PS4) have yet to be confirmed. Expect to hear more on Silent Hills in the coming weeks and months. Until then check out the teaser below. What do you think of Kojima's sneaky marketing strategy?
  23. Steve Bitto

    Until Dawn Reintroduced and Coming to PS4

    The former PS Move centric Playstation 3 title Until Dawn was reintroduced yesterday by Sony and will now be coming to Playstation 4. The team at Supermassive Games decided to scrap the original version after receiving feedback from early tests. Until Dawn follows eight high school friends spending the night at a cabin in the woods. As the night goes on terror ensues as they are stalked by psychopathic murderers. Fun stuff, right? Who will survive is entirely up to the player as the decisions made directly impact the course of the branching story. The reimagined title runs on the same engine as Killzone: Shadow Fall so expect gorgeous visuals in addition to the horror thrills and chills. Also added were a Hollywood writing staff and the motion capture of Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Rami Malik (Twilight) and Brett Daulton (Marvel“s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Clearly Sony saw more potential in the game and decided to go all out. Below is the trailer that Sony revealed at Gamescom: Source: PS Blog Did Sony make the right decision reworking the game for PS4?
  24. Housemarque, the developer known for their fast-paced twin-stick shooters, announced Alienation today exclusively for the Playstation 4. The Gamescom announcement was accompanied by an exciting trailer. The trailer opens with a space marine getting brutally attacked by an alien monster, his head exploding from some sort of parasitic projectile, and closes with a plant-like organism spreading from the helmet of the same marine. In between this two part scene is gorgeous gameplay that seems to combine the co-op twin-stick shooting of Dead Nation with the graphical polish of Resogun. Not much more was revealed however, and a release date has not yet been announced. The independent studio has been hard at work over the past year releasing Resogun, Resogun downloadable content, and Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition all for Playstation 4. Expect to hear more on Alienation over the coming months. Excited for more of Housemarque's twin-stick shooting awesomeness?
  25. Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS3/Vita Release Date: June 24, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature For as commonplace as Visual Novels are in Japan it is quite rare that we see them in any official form overseas. Regardless, it seems like the publisher Aksys has gone out of their way to help break this trend and has seemingly struck its niche from cult-classics like Virtue's Last Reward and 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors to bringing over games with a more specific "Otome" demographic like Hakuoki or Sweet Fuse. Continuing this trend of visual novel releases is the arrival of Xblaze: Code Embryo, a visual novel prequel to the critically-acclaimed fighting game series Blazblue. Is this visual novel just fanservice or does it manage to oust its source material in terms of storytelling? The story focuses on the young man, Touya Kagari, who lives Shin Yokozaki City during the year 2050 (150 years before Blazblue: Calamity Trigger). Despite coming off as a normal high-school student, he is one of the very few survivors of the horrific Wadatsumi Incident: a mysterious disaster that claimed the lives of thousands and literally left no trace of their remains. On his way home from part-time work one day Touya hears a bell-like chime near an empty construction site like area and curiously follows the noise. Unfortunately for him, he then comes face to face with a "Union", a person with mysterious powers and far-removed sanity. Before being nearly incinerated by the "Union", Touya is both saved and almost nearly killed by a mysterious blonde girl, Es, who claims it is her mission to hunt down "Unions". Shrugging off the strange happenings as a dream, after unwittingly being knocked-out by Es, Touya quickly learns upon returning home that the bizarre events that transpired were in fact reality. Es, as well as a strange/eccentric man, Unomaru, vaguely briefs Touya about Unions. Unomaru then offers Es as a personal bodyguard and eventually guilt-trips Touya into using his unique ability to detect "Unions", the "Discover Call", to help Es capture them as a means to protect innocent citizens as well as himself from their powers. At first glance it may seem like this game is only for Blazblue fans, but Xblaze: Code Embryo's main narrative and entirely new cast of characters are detached enough to not alienate people who aren't already existing fans. The title does lay quite a bit of narrative groundwork for a bunch of things that transpire in Blazblue (and actually clears some plot holes), which is of no surprise since it is a prequel. That said, the storytelling is easier to follow than Blazblue, and frankly, better delivered with a way more consistent narrative pace than recent iterations, so it can be played by newcomers without feeling too left out beyond having to look up a specific terminology in the in-game database. For the actual storytelling, Xblaze strikes a good balance between both serious and light-hearted storytelling. It also has its storytelling told entirely without narration and just through character actions and dialogue, which attributes to a faster pace than most visual novels. While the cast of characters aren't wholly original, like a suicidal do-gooder main protagonist who proclaims to be normal, to an extremely stoic, but strong blonde swordswoman who is out of touch with cultural norms (Fate/Stay Night, anyone?), and plenty more. Still, even if it wears its character cliches on it sleeves, it somehow made even me warm up to the cast after enough time through the different narrative paths. Having said that, when the storytelling does get serious it is more bleak than you'd expect. Xblaze definitely expects players to see its various narrative branches to gather to full story because most endings are definitely not satisfying on their own, though, they contribute to the grander story. Even if the storytelling is solid, despite a lack of originality at times, it does expect a completionist mentality to see all of it. But, if the main narrative is too depressing, there is the very entertaining, and non-canon, "Gag reel" which really plays on the expectations of the main story. I'm being totally serious when I say it is probably worth seeing every ending in the game to unlock it, since it is seriously that hilarious. Unlike other visual novels that tend have their narrative alter based dialogue choices, Xblaze uses the "Toi" system to dictate the story progression. It is explained weird, but ideally, Touya will react to events in the story based on prior knowledge obtained from in-game articles that you choose to read, and thus, triggering new story scenes as well as different narrative branches and endings. It is far more interesting on paper than in execution, unfortunately. Even if the Toi system has a neat direct tie to the overarching storytelling, it allows next to no flexibility because of the strict narrative paths and abrupt bad endings (with the exception of the hilarious non-canon "gag reel" story, where the bad ends are more in-depth). Far worse is how it is actually very easy to lock yourself into a bad ending and have no idea what you did wrong, like I myself did. So, due to bad design, Xblaze: Code Embryo's enjoyment relies rather heavily on having a guide at hand to steer the player through the different narrative paths. In regards to presentation, Xblaze is quite honestly the best looking visual novel I've ever seen overall. I may not inherently love the art direction (kind of derivative to me), and some of its pretty unnecessary "fanservice" moments, but the way presented as a whole does a really great job at encapsulating an anime feel. Everything from casual character conversation to fights have smooth and varied transitions, and is just a different class from visual novels or RPGs I've seen that utilize such an aesthetic. Characters even have their Japanese voice acting sync with the their mouth movement, which is a nice touch. It just has a high amount of attention to detail for a genre that relies on minimalistic presentation and low production values and I'd really like to see other visual novels going forward take some cues from Xblaze. Not all of Xblaze is pleasant to look at, however, and it is at its ugliest when it comes to bugs, for the Vita version at least. While I went through about 95% of the game, including multiple endings, without any problems-- when the glitches of my playthrough hit they were pretty much game-breaking. I got to a point where I was unable to save, manually or auto, without the game consistently freezing, and even when I tried to blitz to the end without saving... the game crashed on me twice at the very end of the game. The only saving grace to my series of problems is that I learned that the PS3 release didn't have these problems at all and how the Vita release has received a patch that apparently fixes these issues shortly after release (though, it wasn't present during my playthrough of the game.). Xblaze: Code Embryo is a solid visual novel that is brought down by a couple of serious caveats to fully enjoy it. The first caveat is how it basically requires a guide to progress through the story properly, and the second caveat is that the Vita port should only be played after downloading a recent patch to eliminate what would otherwise have really serious game-breaking glitches. For as significant as its problems are, Xblaze is a pleasant surprise that manages to be better than the sum of its parts due to its solid narrative pace and a presentation in particular that other visual novels could benefit from learning from. It certainly is not the most wholly original or narratively rich visual novel ever, but Xblaze: Code Embryo deserves a chance to surpass your expectations for what it is. Pros: +Solid narrative pace with multiple endings/narrative branches + High production values for a visual novel with very smooth and varied anime-like transitions + Helpful database, recap, and system options + Non-canon "Gag Reel" story mode is hilarious Cons: - Neither the characters or the overall storytelling are wholly original - Abrupt bad ends and pretty specific ending/branch requirements prevent any narrative flexibility with the "Toi" system - Game-breaking save/freezing glitches specific to the Vita version (apparently fixed in a recent patch) Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Xblaze: Code Embryo is a worthwhile visual novel title that features well-paced storytelling and great anime-like production values, though, it basically requires having an ending guide at hand, and for the Vita version a very important download patch, to fully enjoy it. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using PS3 downloadable code provided by the publisher.