Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Famitsu, 5/23 post of Kojima interview.

With MGS4 almost out, Famitsu has a short interview with Kojima on the development of 4 and the future of the series. Of course, preorders are available for the US version, Japanese version, Japanese LE, and Japanese LE PS3.

(Hamamura) MGS4 is finally complete. Congratulations.
(Kojima) No, really there's two or three days left (as of 5/1.) Since this time is a simultaneous worldwide release, there was a lot to do.
(H) Since it's a worldwide release, will there be multiple languages?
(K) Unfortunately, no. From the beginning, we had planned on including them, but even with a dual-layer Blu-Ray, it's stuffed full, so the Japanese version will have only Japanese. For the North American version, we had planned to include Spanish, but unfortunately, it was cut. Even though we promised it at a Spanish event four years ago...
(H) I'd imagine you didn't expect to run out of space at this point.
(K) It's a good feeling to think you don't have to worry about space. When CD-ROM came along, too, we were so happy we fit everything on, but later it gave us fits.
(H) Hahah. Just finish these last few things, and it'll feel like you're finally done, right?
(K) The young staff is full of people with that feeling. Right now, we just have to up the master, double-check it, and confirm a release date, so everyone's getting ready for a vacation, and the workfloor is quiet. With me heading off for promotional events, and everyone getting ready for the next project, I can't really call it a break, though. Well, I was relieved, but I guess every time it's over something new to worry about springs up. When I said "Metal Gear Solid is over", I didn't expect everyone's response to it, so what should I do, and so on. I guess I have to think about MGS5...
Well, Snake's story finishes here, in MGS4, but.
(H) I see... Well, you certainly were nonchalant there for such a major thing.
(K) I don't think so. The "Metal Gear Solid" will continue, even if I leave the company, won't it? But, for MGS5, I think it absolutely must be made by Kojima Productions.
(H) I'd imagine the fans are just as convinced of that as you are. Please, make it for us!
(K) I kind of have to at least handle it, as producer. But, in the end, I want to leave the producer position to someone else as well. I want to have the next generation make a new MGS. As long as it's an action game with a sneaking mission, I think I'll be fine with wherever it goes. But, Snake is retired.
(H) I see. This is the end of Snake, isn't it? How was it?
(K) Some of the staff were deeply moved by it. But I didn't really care.
(H) Eh!? Didn't care?
(K) Well. I could say I didn't really care about -that-, but since an ending equals a beginning, I've already moved on to the next worry. The thing I worry about the most is that the fans will enjoy the experience. After that, there's the next Metal Gear Solid, the staff of Kojima Productions, and my own future. Thinking about that, the past four years don't seem to have been a long time at all. Our relief is real, so I think we managed to do well.

Full Article

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Super Robot Wars A Promo Video

Looks great, lots of new sprites and animations (First Gundam looks great). Shin Getter gets a new combo attack with Getter G that looks sick!

Promo on the right

Pre-Order Here:

Screenshots can be found at SRW Hotnews

Full Article

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Famitsu, 4/18

Super Robot Wars Z (PS2)
Gravion Zwei
Gundam SEED Destiny
Eureka Seven
Overman King Gainer
Z Gundam movies
Mazinger Z
Great Mazinger

Scans are out, and I still barely trust this, but.

New Titles
PS2 "Sugar+Spice" summer
PS2 "Scarlet" summer
PS2 "The Romantic Maiden and the Aegis" fall

PSP "Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX Tag Force 3" fall
PSP "Higurashi Daybreak" 2008

DS "Dragon Quest Ⅴ" 7/17
DS "Steal Princess" 7/31
DS "Pokemon" 2008

XBOX360 "Samurai Warriors 2 Moshoden DLC" 4/14

Full Article

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Famitsu, 4/11

Imas is back.

Perfect Prosecutor (DS/Capcom/??)
* A law adventure game where you act as the prosecutor.
* Main characters are Miles Edgeworth, Dick Gumshoe
* You control Edgeworth, searching for overlooked evidence and inconsistencies at the crime scene.
* New search and deduction systems are introduced.

Twilight Syndrome: Legend of the Forbidden City (DS/Spike/7-24)
* New work within the series
* Main character, schoolgirl Mizuki, is led on a chain of horror after receiving a strange chain mail.
* Mizuki: UENO Mami, Riko: HORI Yuri, Reika: SHIHONO Ryo
* Scrolling right and left, you can examine interesting places, checking the truth of rumors

Band Brothers DX (DS/Nintendo/6-26)
* Over 30 tracks chosen from classical and J-pop
* Over 50 different instruments usable
* NES is a usable instrument
* Play guitar by strumming with the pen
* Up to 6-player local jam sessions
* Singing mode with karaoke for both base game and DLC
* Over 100 tracks through DLC

Persona 4 (PS2/Atlus/7-10)
* Inaba, a city surrounded by strange legends. On rainy days, the power cuts at midnight, and if you stare into your television you see your "fated foe"...
* AMAGI Yukiko (vo: KOSHIMIZU Ami) The hero's classmate. Daughter of the Amashiro-ya Inn's landlady. Her persona is Konohana Sakuya.

Wifi 8-Man Battle Bomberman (WiiWare/Hudson/June)
* Miis usable as player characters

Alien Crush (WiiWare/Hudson/August)
* Pinball game first appearing on the PC Engine in '88
* Upgraded graphics

Blue Oasis (WiiWare/Hudson/'08
* Software where you breed fish
* You can watch their movements

We Are Fossil Diggers 8879
Let's Invest DS 6676
Avaricious Empusa 7565

5/29 Infinite Frontier (BanNam)
6/19 Puyo Puyo Special Price (Sega)
6/26 Our Video Game Exam (BanNam)
6/26 Band Brothers DX (Nintendo)
7/24 Twilight Syndrome (Spike)
late July MoeSta~Moemoe Tokyo U English Exam~ (Mirai Shonen)
December Momotaro Dentetsu 20th Anniversary (Hudson)
summer Sangokushi Taisen AMA (Sega)
?? Perfect Prosecutor (Capcom)
?? Glory of Heracles (Nintendo)

6/19 Puyo Puyo Special Price (Sega)
7/24 Infinite Loop (N1)
7/24 Sora no Kiseki the 3rd (Falcom)
?? Higurashi Daybreak Portable (Alchemist)

6/5 Shiren the Wanderer 3 (Sega)
6/19 Puyo Puyo Special Price (Sega)
'08 Battalion Wars VS (Nintendo
?? "Action Game" (BanNam)
?? Soul Eater: Monotone Princess (SE)

5/22 Motorstorm Complete (SCE)
7/3 Initial D Extreme Stage (Sega)
?? "Super Robot series" (Bandai Namco)

5/29 Overlord (Microsoft)

Full Article

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Famitsu, 3/30.

Missed a week, but.

6/26 Winning Post 6 2008 (Koei) \5040
Summer Hototogisu (Irem) \5040
Autumn Moemoe WW2 (Systemsoft Alpha) undetermined

4/10 Milestone Shooting Collection Karasu Wii (Milestone) \5040
6/26 Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk (BanNam) \7140
July Akko de Pon! (Success) undetermined

5/22 Haze (Spike) \7140
5/29 Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (Ubisoft)
6/26 The Darkness (Spike)
June Quake Wars: Enemy Territory (Activision)

Musou Orochi 2 spread; Himiko of Yamatai introduced, as well as a formal bonus system:
Kill 5 enemy generals, all army morale raise
Kill 100 enemy troops, all ally general defense raise
Kill enemy general 10 minutes after battle begins, all ally recover
Kill an enemy general pair, all ally ranged attack bonus
Kill 300 enemy troops, all ally receive less damage from enemy generals

Full Article

Friday, March 21, 2008

Metal Gear Solid Arrives on PSN for Japan + 3/21 PS1 Game Update

Metal Gear Solid, among others added to the Japanese psp/psn store this week. Full list below!

Where to buy:
3000 Yen Japanese PSN Ticket (will net you 5 PS1 games)
Playstation Store (for PC/PSP)

PS1 game Full List (600 yen each as usual):
-エリーのアトリエ -ザールブルグの錬金術士2- Atelier Ellie - Alchemist of Salburg 2
-クラッシュ・バンディクー カーニバル - Crash Bandicoot Carnival
-デザエモン Kids! - Dezaemon Kids
-プロ麻雀 極PLUSII - Mahjong game
-マスター・オブ・モンスターズ -暁の賢者達- - Master of Monsters

Full Article

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New PS1 games on Japanese PSN store 3/12

New PS1 games added to the Japanese psp/psn store this week. Full list below....

Where to buy:
3000 Yen Japanese PSN Ticket (will net you 5 PS1 games)
Playstation Store (for PC/PSP)

Slim pickins this week

PS1 game Full List (600 yen each as usual):
-アディのおくりもの - not a clue
-学校をつくろう!! - School making simulator
-川のぬし釣り-秘境を求めて- - Fishing!
-Spyro the Dragon

Given that this weeks update was crap, I'll recommend some good stuff from prior weeks you may be interested in, even if you dont speak a shred of Japanese!

-Cotton Original - cute 2d shooter
-R-Types - arcade 2d shooter collection
-R-Type Delta - probably the best r-type game there is
-Silent Bomber - action game involving the use of bombs as your primary weapon
-Metal Slug X - alright port of metal slug x, not arcade perfect, but sure does the job
-Money Idol Exchanger - puzzle game that plays similar to magical drop, except with money and slightly different mechanics.

Full Article

Famitsu, 2008/3/13

Short this week, it's late

XBOX360 "Lost Planet Colonies" 5/29
XBOX360 "Mr. Driller Online" Spring

PS2"`'Poi' Experience of a Summer」 July
PS2 "Kanuchi: White Wings chapter (LE)" 9/25
PS2 "True Fortune" 2008
PS2 "drasticKiller" 2008

Wii "Bomberman" June

DS "Bleach: the Third Phantom" 6/26
DS "The Tower DS" 6/26
DS "Oden-kun" 6/26
DS "Tiny Baker" June
DS "Pony Friends" June
DS "Cosmet-tic Paradise" 7/10
DS "Chibi Maruko-chan DS: Maru-chan's Town" Summer
DS "Summon Night 2" Summer

Full Article

Friday, March 7, 2008

Dark Mist + Expansion - Japanese Impressions

After several weeks of whining about not having a US release of Game Republic's (Folklore, Genji) fantasy twin stick shooter "Dark Mist", I finally plunked down for another PSN ticket and nabbed it, along with the "Depths of Darkness" expansion pack. So far, this is looking like one of the best games on PSN.

Dark Mist plays like the bastard stepchild of an SNES Zelda game, and Neo Contra. You control Artemis (or one of several other characters if you have the expansion) as she traverses small top down view dungeons, one room at a time, occasionally branching off to different paths to grab keys or eliminate room guardians so you can complete labyrinths of increasing complexity. Each labyrinth has a guardian miniboss, and every 5 or so maps you fight a real boss. I have fought a single boss thus far, which had varying attack patterns at different levels of health. Quite engaging, and i hope theres more where that came from.

You can play the game like Neo Contra with "hold direction / position" buttons, or opt to use twin stick shooter type controls. I found it more comfortable to do the latter. Shaking the controller does a melee attack which is mostly used for dispersing the "dark mist" that has spread throughout the dungeon.

The mist, as the games title suggests, plays a large role in the game, making it difficult to see enemies and shots, seemingly lowering your weapons effectiveness, and hiding items and special mist clearing orbs which give you bonuses if you find them really fast. Mist seems to spread if you don't clear it completely, so it can come back to haunt you if you leave some alone for too long and a second set of monsters pops out.

Each character has 3 special attacks that you can level up by collecting powerups dropped by monsters and mist clearing orbs. Collecting one "level" of powerups gives you more consecutive shots of your special weapons. Recharge time is several seconds per shot. You only gain "experience" for the currently equipped special, and you can rotate them at any time. You can take multiple hits, and it seems you get an extra one after the 1st boss. When you die you get a chance to continue or quit, continuing resets your score. You can also pick up where you left off when you quit.

The main game is used to unlock levels for use in time attack, and eventually hard mode will become available, along with other options.

There are some online modes including a battle royale for up to 4(5?) players it seems, but there were no rooms available when i tried to go on for some reason (still looking into that). There are also mode specific leaderboards.

Overall I really enjoyed the few hours I spent with the game and look forward to many more. Can't recommend it enough, and for those like me too impatient to wait for the US release, there is next to no Japanese language in the game outside of options and instructions, so don't be afraid to check it out.

Where to buy:

1000 yen Japanese PSN Ticket
3000 Yen Japanese PSN Ticket
5000 yen Japanese PSN Ticket

Full Article

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Famitsu, 2008/3/6.

Another Soutahouse week.

XBOX350 "Dragon Ball Z BL" (preorder US)
XBOX360 "Stranglehold" 5/22
XBOX360 "Dodonpachi Daioujou Black Label X" (prov.)
XBOX360 "Ketsui Kizuna Jigoku Tachi X" (prov.)
XBOX360 "Mercenaries 2"
XBOX360 "Battlefield: Bad Company"

PS3 "Dragon Ball Z BL" 6/5 (preorder US)
PS3 "Stranglehold" 6/5
PS3 "Mercenaries 2"
PS3 "Battlefield: Bad Company"

PS2 "Mercenaries 2"

PSP "Racing Journal Portable - 22 Years of JRA Data" 5/15
PSP "Suika" June
PSP "God of War" Summer
PSP "Umihara Kawase"

DS "Zoo Tycoon 2" 3/19
DS "Abacus Anywhere" 6/19
DS "Jigsaw World"
DS "Disgaea"
DS "Edu soft"

More to come.

Full Article

Week #3 - Soma Bringer Review

It's been almost 2 years since the last Monolithsoft release, and I've been wondering what they've been up to. So it was surprising when Soma Bringer was announced because it really looks as far from a Monolithsoft game as I would have expected. As an action RPG, and with less attractive art that seems a lot more childish than usual, one would expect this to come from any random developer - but not one known for it's deeper storylines and excellent art direction.

Based on the media released before the release of the game, I had pretty high expectations of the gameplay above all, because the art certainly wasn't the selling point. Fortunately the game delivers strongly on that front. At its heart the game is a dungeon crawler not unlike Diablo or Phantasy Star Universe, but the action elements are geared towards rewarding players for technical skill as well as having a good character build

The break system in the game introduces a timing system where the player gets to decide how to end a series of successive attacks on an enemy resulting in different effects. When enough successive attacks are executed on an enemy, the enemy will go in a Break state, the move you use to break the enemy will determine if the enemy is knocked back, juggled in the air, or knocked down. Based on this launching move, successive attacks while the enemy is still in this state of Break will result in much more damage.

Skills are configured by the player, there are 4 face buttons that each can be mapped with a skill, items are mapped onto the same buttons and the L button toggles between item and attack modes. The game features 8 playable characters and a choice of 6 classes each with completely unique skill sets. The skills sets for each class is also divided into weapon specialities which further seperate character builds even within the same class. With this many options, there's a huge variety of play styles to choose from.

The gameplay is well balanced, and while it is rarely extremely difficult, the game the game is never too easy. Enemies serve largely to wear you down as you progress like in most dungeon crawlers, while the bosses will be the ones that truly pack a punch. The enemy design in the game is excellent, and along with the solid character animations and huge range of weapon designs, it really makes for a pretty solid experience throughout. Aside from the main scenario, the game also features several EX Dungeons that have randomly generated floors, and 2 higher difficulty levels (each unlocked when you beat the main game on the lower difficulty level).

Storywise, the game is divided into a prologue and 6 main Acts. Each Act, like in Diablo, contains a main hub area where you can talk to NPCs, buy items and weapons, and get optional quests. The main hub then leads to various fields and mini-dungeons that eventually lead to the main dungeon of that Act.

The scenario is largely focused on developing the main cast of characters and you learn more about their pasts and relationships with each other as the story progresses. Along the way the worldview is also fleshed out as you travel to different parts of the world and learn more about the people that live in it and the technology that drives the world. It's not as deep or expansive as the Xeno games, but for the genre, it above and beyond what most dungeon crawlers do.

The actual writing and pacing of the game is very much what can be expected from Soraya Saga, but with a lighter touch this time. Even in a smaller scope the script fleshes out events and characters well, and the story on a whole is conclusive but leaves just enough of the worldview and characterizations open to leave you wanting for more.

The most unfortunate part of the game would be the art style. Clearly either Nintendo or Monolithsoft decided that it would be a good idea to try to appeal to kids, probably because of the platform the game is on. The art is mostly childish and generic, and while there are some bright spots in some of the background and location designs, the actual artwork and backgrounds leave much to be desired.

Mitsuda's soundtrack is fantastic as expected, although not quite at the level of his classic work. There are some really solid exploration tracks for fields and dungeons, and the town hub themes are generally unique and create a good atmosphere. What disappointed me a little was the final boss theme which lacked the drive or uniqueness that Mitsuda usually puts into a final encounter theme. Thankfully the story ending tracks more than made up for that and left a lasting impression on the score.

The sound production in general is pretty solid, and the every attack and enemy has convincing effects. Procyon Studio definitely put a solid effort into all areas of the sound in this title, no doubt because it's the first collaboration between Mitsuda and Takahashi since Xenosaga Episode I.

Overall I had a great time with the game, and I strongly recommend it to any action RPG fan looking for a fun dungeon crawling time on the DS. This is one of the best dungeon crawlers on a portable that I've played, and even the poor art direction isn't stopping me from playing it after I've beaten it. There's quite a bit of content even if you're only playing it once, as the game is easily 15-20 hours long. If this is a sign of what to expect from Monolithsoft post-Nintendo takeover, then it's a very good sign indeed.

Featured Products:
Soma Bringer (DS) - $48.90, Out Now!
Soma Bringer OST (3 CDs, 59 tracks) - $31.90, Apr 2nd 2008

Full Article

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New PS1 games on Japanese PSN store 2/28

New PS1 games added to the Japanese psp/psn store this week. There's also a PSP theme for "My Stylist" if you're into that.

Where to buy:
3000 Yen Japanese PSN Ticket (will net you 5 PS1 games)
Playstation Store (for PC/PSP)

PS1 game Full List (600 yen each as usual):
-Baroque Syndrome
-Ide Yosuke no Mahjong Kyoshitsu
-Um Jammer Lammy
-Wai Wai Bowling

Full Article

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Famitsu, 2008/02/29.

From today, I'll be contributing, weekly, translations of the week's Famitsu info.


Doraemon DS (preorder JP) 8877
Flower, Sun, and Rain (preorder JP) 7787

Playground (order US | preorder JP) 5443
Metroid Prime 3 (order US | preorder JP) 8887
Family Jockey (preorder JP) 8766
Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan (Yakuza 3) (preorder JP | JP packin | HK) 10999
Guitar Hero 3 (PS3) (preorder JP bundle) 9788
Guitar Hero 3 (PS2) (order US | preorder JP bundle) 9788
Naraku no Shiro (preorder JP) 7777

Metal Gear Solid 4 (preorder US | JP) hasn't yet received a SRP.

(Nintendo DS)
4/17 Metabolism Training (preorder JP) (Milestone)
April Oshare ni Koishite 2 (Culture Brain)
5/1 Emblem of Gundam (BanNam)
5/15 Luminous Arc 2 Will (Marvelous)
Summer Rick and Johan ~The Two Erased Pictures~ (fonfun)
'08 Panorama Life: Sheep Village DS (Success)

5/1 There in Japan (SCE)
5/29 Valhalla Knights 2 (preorder HK) (Marvelous)
June Polyphonica 0~4 Full Pack (Prototype)
(undated) CLANNAD (Prototype)

5/29 Family Trainer (BanNam)
Summer Resident Evil 0 (Capcom)
'08 Warrior of Algol: Muscle Impact (Tecmo)

5/29 Battle Fantasia (preorder JP | HK) (Arc System Works)
6/12 Metal Gear Solid 4 (preorder US | JP) (Konami)
6/12 Metal Gear Solid 4 Special Edition (Konami)
6/12 Metal Gear Solid 4 Premium Pack (Konami)
Summer Kane and Lynch: Dead Men (Spike)
Summer The Darkness (Spike)
Summer Initial D Extreme Stage (preorder JP | HK) (Sega)

(Xbox 360)
5/15 The Darkness (Spike)
5/22 Orange Box (EA)
5/29 Battle Fantasia (Arc System Works)
5/29 Overlord (Microsoft)
6/5 Ninja Gaiden 2 (preorder US | HK) (Tecmo)
Summer Kane and Lynch: Dead Men (Spike)
(undated) Gears of War 2 (preorder US | USLE | HK | HKLE) (Microsoft)

Then news:
Metal Gear Solid 4
(preorder US | JP) (PS3 /Konami/12th June)
* MGS4 standard
Just the game
* MGS4 Special Edition
Game plus special BluRay including all trailers and a making-of
* MGS4 Premium Pack
Special Edition plus a special-edition PS3 (colors as yet unknown)

Emblem of Gundam (DS/BanNam/1st May)
* Scenarios from First to Z (First、08th, War in the Pocket, 0083, Z)
* During battles, maps aren'd grid or hex, but are seperated into areas
* Uses animation from the originals for famous scenes

CLANNAD (PSP/Prototype/undated)
* Caches BGM data on the memory stick for quick reads
* New event CG over PC version
* Full-voice with an all-star cast

Resident Evil 0 (Wii/Capcom/Summer)
* Gamecube port
* Heroes are Rebecca and Billy
* Playable with only the Wiimote

(The Darkness, Kain and Lynch details elided)

Review comments:
Ryu ga Gotoku: Kenzan (Yakuza 3) (preorder JP | JP packin | HK)
* A blend of RgG's signature style and historical facts make for an enjoyable period drama
* Lots of minigames and sub-events open up from midgame, continuing the series' reputation for freeform play
* Similar to the "Samurai" series in sandboxness
* Great character animation, and graphics that look like a live-action period drama
* Decision to fight armed or bare-fisted is fun
* Story unfolds well through events
* Good battle tempo, but aiming deathblows is a bit tough
* Good that you're not forced to play all the minigames, but get to choose.

Metroid Prime 3 (order US | preorder JP)
* Lots of puzzle-solving moments
* Long loads at doors, but it's hidden well
* Things like morph ball and beam firing feel nicely Metroid-ish
* Boss fights are perfectly powered-up
* Turning while aiming is a bit worrysome, due to autoaim at enemies on the edge of view
* Variety of weapons, charming story
* Puzzles and action both have a bit of difficulty
* Tiring to play, due to constant heavy operation

Playground (order US | preorder JP)
* Movement and camera angle are both a bit tough
* Characters' lines are too slangy
* 7 minigames
* 3D movement but with the d-pad feels a bit off
* Replaying similar games over and over gets dull
* Games depend a lot on the nuance of AI dialog, which gets overdone
* It's simple to pick up and play, though.

Full Article

Monday, February 25, 2008

Return to the Three Kingdoms - A Dynasty Warriors 6 Review

The Dynasty Warriors series, and it's spinoffs have never been media darlings. Despite being almost universally panned by critics with every new incarnation, this series continues to make its way across the ocean. This past week, the US finally saw the release of the latest game in the Dynasty warriors franchise, Dynasty Warriors 6 (Shin Sangoku Musou 5 in Japan), and I have finally been able to spend some time with it.

Dynasty Warriors 6 marks the fifth outing of the main series in it's present form (The original "Dyansty Warriors" was a PS1 1 on 1 fighting game). For those new to the series, the basic concept is you play a famous general in a romanticized version of historical battles. The style is basically that of an epic Chinese action movie, with over the top character personalities, costumes, and odds.

Each general is basically a legendary persona from the famous historical novel "Three Kingdoms" attributed to Luo Guanzhong, their portrayals are "extreme" versions of the characterizations of the novel. This legendary status is conveyed to the player in the way that you glide through battle felling hundreds of enemy troops with sometimes a single flurry of attacks, it's all quite dramatic really.

With the first next gen entry of the main series, Koei and Omega Force decided to mix things up a bit by scrapping the core fighting mechanics for the new "Renbu" system. I had mixed feelings about the change at first, with the focus being more on one attack button combo strings, but it works surprisingly well, and doesn't feel like a downgrade in complexity. The new system allows for an infinite string of attacks, with slight pauses when you hit the end of the string. The length of these strings is affected by the renbu meter, which you raise by beating guys up as fast as possible. The meter will fall if you stop hitting people for too long, so there is a push to keep moving.

Character development is performed via level ups and skill points spent on a skill tree which you can eventually max out(thus obtaining every skill). There is no option to "re-spec" so you your choices are permanent, but its only a matter of time before you have everything anyway because you get enough points to max out the tree. You can also collect weapons and warhorses which you can take into battle with you and level up separately in lieu of bodyguards.

Items have been scrapped, as well as hunting for ultimate weapons(hopefully this will make a return in an expansion of some downloadable content) seemingly in favor of a group of three "targets" for each stage. The game keeps track of each target completed and you are granted bonus experience for each one completed. Unfortunately once you are powerful enough you can just bum rush the boss to get all 3 before they hit a failure condition. It still feels good hitting all 3 at once though.

One area where the "Musou" series has always had trouble is the localization, specifically the voice acting. Previous entries have felt somewhat like a badly mixed Jackie Chan film from the early 90's, with corny dialog delivery, name mispronunciation, and an effects mix that sounded like it was recorded on a different planet from the action on screen. After 5 incarnations, they finally pronounced Cao Cao correctly. The overall quality of the voice acting seems much higher this time around, although many of the actors are reprising their roles from DW5, something about the delivery this time just feels more "right". Cut scenes are all done using the in game engine and have some great direction this time around.

Graphically the game is far from impressive, but leaps and bounds above the previous entry. The sheer number of on screen characters causes some slowdown from time to time, but nothing detrimental to game play. Every character has been redesigned from the ground up with wild new costumes and weapons, A welcome change after having very similar designs for the first 4 games.

Unfortunately, the number of characters with a story mode has been decreased to only about one third of the total cast and the number of available playable characters since the previous game has also been reduced by a small number. It seems that the aesthetic improvements may have come at a cost, and I can only hope this is remedied in a future "Xtreme Legends" expansion.

All in all I was very satisfied with this entry, theres just something special about beating the living crap out of thousands of guys while listening to a rocking soundtrack and I recommend it highly to any action game fan.

Buy it here:

US Version - PS3
US Version - 360
JP Version - PS3
JP Version - 360

Full Article

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Week #2 - All About Soma Bringer

Okay I'm a little lazy this week, so I'll be pasting something which I've actually been writing for an official thread on NeoGAF. It's not going up until next week, so I figured I'll share it here first.

This has been a pretty interesting week - Kosovo finally gained independance, Castro stepped down, and Musharaff's party suffered crushing defeat at the elections. Oh and Hellsing IV was released. Okay so it's not as important as the other things... or is it? :-)

Anyway this week I'll be posting pretty much all there is to know about Soma Bringer before the big release date this coming week. I personally can't wait, and I hope it's as good as Sekaiju no Meikyuu (Etrian Odyssey), since that was the last game I looked forward to this much. Enjoy!

Soma Bringer

Title: Soma Bringer
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Monolithsoft
Publisher: Nintendo of Japan
Official Site: Nintendo's Soma Bringer Site
No. of Players: 1-3 players over ad-hoc
Price: 4800yen
Buy it now!

The Story

In a world where the a magical energy source known as Soma drives the technology and daily lives of all its inhabitants, there lies a huge continent named Barnea. In recent years, the natural balance of Soma has been disrupted by the arrival of mysterious beings called Visitors. To investigate these occurances, Secundadeians - the organization that regulates Soma in the world, creates a military division to deal with these Visitors - the Pharzuph. The story follows the seven members of the 7th Division of the Pharzuph. What they discover on one of their missions will determine the fate of the world...

The Characters

Welt - The newest member of the 7th Divison. He was selected for the elite combat unit that is the 7th Division because of his enthusiasm. He is also affectionate and has a strong sense of responsibility.

Idea - A mysterious girl under the protection of the 7th Division. She was found in a large pod, with no memories of her past other than her own name.

Einsatz - The commandering officer of the 7th Division, with the rank of captain. He has a calm demeanor, and is flexible leader that isn't bound by rules and regulations. He is extremely popular with his subordinates.

Jadis - The vice-commander of the 7th Division. His personality is a complete opposite of his large physique, and he's always made fun of by his subordinates. But when it comes to the crunch, he's always there as the superior officer.

Millers - Her speciality is martial arts, and is an accomodating person who thinks of her companions. She's always looking out for Welt as he's a new member.

Cadenza - He is calm and gentle, but is also very alert. He's protective of Welt and Idea, while always playing mediator when Millers and Forte argue.

Granada - She's the silent type who doesn't share her feelings openly. Seen as a possible candidate for a commander role. She also has an knack for orgami.

Forte - She has a cheerful personality and is generally the mood maker of the team. She has a natural connection with the flow of Soma energy, and is also in charge of the team's equipment. Whenever she's with Millers, they always find a way to start up an argument.

The Gameplay

Selecting a Character:

There are 7 character initially that you can choose from at the start. The character you pick will be the one you are controlling and playing as in the entire game. It is also the singular character you customize in the game. Depending on which character you play as, story events and dialogue will differ slightly, but the main story will remain the same.


Battlers - Uses one-handed and two-handed weapons, can dual-wield. This class has the most HP and is melee focused.

Koas - Uses one-handed weapons and spears, can equip shields. This class is balanced between offense and defense, and uses holy magic as support.

Darks - Uses two-handed weapons and spears. This class uses dark arts and can sacrifice the user's HP to deliver additional damage.

Gunners - Uses bows and guns. This class focuses on range combat and status attacks, while relying on traps and survival skills.

Kanbus - Uses hand-to-hand combat and two-handed polearms, and can dual wield. This class is for melee combatants that prefer using combo attacks and assasination skills.

Somas - Uses Staves. This class is a magician class that uses mainly spells to target elemental weaknesses.

Weapons Specialities:

Each class has its own limitations on what weapons can be equipped. At the start of the game you will pick one of those weapon specialities to start with, which determines your starting equipment. Each weapon speciality has it's own skills that can be learned. They are divided into ranks, and once you reach the required rank in that class, you will be able to learn the skills in that rank for the weapon specialities available to that class. As you level up in the game you will gain AP (Ability Points), and you will use these points to learn and enhance the skills available to you. It only takes 1 point to learn a skill, but the more points you put into a skill, the more effective it is. Each skill has a maximum of 20 levels. The different weapon specialities are One-handed Weapons, Two-handed Weapons, Dual Wielding, Spears, Bows, Guns, Hand-to-hand, Two-handed Polearms, and Staves.

Character Points:

Besides gaining AP as you level up, you also gain CP (Character Points), which can be used to increase the character's four base statistics. These base statistics determine the strength of physical and magical attacks, as well as maximum HP/SP, defensive power and so on. The statistics that can be boosted are Strength, Magic, Health and Skillfulness.

Battle System:

The combat in Soma Bringer is meant to be simple to execute yet extremely customizable and strategic for the player. Each of the four buttons on the DS (X, Y, A, B) is mapped to an action. This action can be a normal attack, an attack skill, a non-attack ability or a spell. Simply by pressing that button, the mapped move will be executed. Two sets of actions can be customized, and the player switches between the two sets using the R button. Items are also mapped onto the four buttons, and by pressing the L button, the game toggles between battle mode and pocket mode. In pocket mode pressing a button will consume the item type mapped to it. The select button toggles between 5 different camera modes of zoom, and the start button will brings up the menu. While you can bring up the menu to change mapped actions at any time, the game does not pause when you access the menu, so it would not be wise to do so while in the middle of combat.

Break System:

When combos and consecutive attacks are pulled off on a single enemy, an exclamation mark (!) will appear over the enemy. Continuing to pummel the enemy in this state will lead to a (!!), and finally when 3 exclamation marks appear (!!!) the enemy will be in a "break" state and any attacks in this period will result in tremendous extra damage. Certain forms of attack and timed combos can more effectively bring an enemy into break state than others. Although, just as enemies can be put into break states, so can the player.

The Music

The soundtrack for Soma Bringer is exclusively composed by Yasunori Mitsuda. This is the third game helmed by Tetsuya Takahashi he has composed for, and it is the largest soundtrack ever composed by Mitsuda. Spanning 3 CDs, there are a total of 55 tracks in the game. The Original Soundtrack release will contain an additional 4 bonus tracks presented in their recorded MIDI form. These tracks are the full length versions of 4 tracks from the game itself which were shortened because of space constrains. Pre-orders of Soma Bringer will also ship with a special Premium Soundtrack CD that gives a taste of the full soundtrack. Mitsuda has said that he feels that his work on Soma Bringer is probably the best audio quality possible on the Nintendo DS, and he has really pushed the hardware to it's limits. There will be two different sound mixes available in the game depending if you are using the DS speakers or headphone - because he wants to tune to sound quality in the game to be the best possible reproduction for the player based on which form of audio playback is being used.

Title: Soma Bringer Premium Soundtrack
Composer: Yasunori Mitsuda
Discs: 1
Price: Free Pre-order Bonus

Title: Soma Bringer Original Soundtrack
Composer: Yasunori Mitsuda
Publisher: Procyon Studio (Sleigh Bells)
Distributor: Sony Music Distribution
Official Site: Procyon Studio
Discs: 3
Tracks: 59
Price: 3360yen
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Week #1 - The Once and Future King

It's been a while since I regularly wrote about something to keep the juices following. I decided to start this little journal so some friends and I can chronicle gaming stuff weekly. Stuff we've played, stuff that was announced, the usual works. Anyway, enough introduction stuff, let's just get on with it.

This past week has been rather interesting to me personally for a singular reason - Monday was the 10th anniversary of the original Japanese release of Xenogears. I remember making my first purchase of a Japanese Playstation game all those years ago, having looked forward to the release for some time.

The elements of Xenogears always appealed to me even before it was released. Unlike Final Fantasy VII back then, the backgrounds were not pre-rendered but totally 3D and rotatable. The characters themselves remained sprites, and the game was filld with anime design stylings from the characters and the unique costume designs, to the giant robots, weaponary and floating cities in the sky. It was something that I had never seen before on that level in a game before.

Anyway, as ten years had gone by, I felt strongly that it was time to revisit the game again. Even if it was simply for the purpose of nostalgia and memorial. Even if I don't end up liking it as much. It was just something I felt that I had to do.

As it turns out, the game is every bit as good as I remember it. The Mitsuda music remains one of the strongest actual in-game soundtrack that I have experienced. Something about the music flows with you and through you in each situation and location you experience. While much of the graphics have aged, the game still holds a very strong bar on art direction and actual execution. The different towns and cities are lush and detailed. Each room is filled with a unique sense of occupancy. The world in Xenogears does not simply exist for the player to visit and to allow a single story to play out. It feels designed to actually be a place where people could have lived and died, independant of the main character's existance.

So through most of the week I played through Xenogears, from Ave to Nisan, leading up to the climatic desert sequence where Id shows up for the first time. There's something about scenes like that which will remain in memory forever. The lifting of the Yggdrasil and and destruction of fleet. Good times. Kislev was darker, and the sewer was as annoying as I remembered it. The boss was much easier, possibly because I know the game so much better this time, but still the sewer was not fun. At least it's over.

Then to my surprise, on Thursday something else happened. Nintendo finally updated the Soma Bringer website, not just with more information but with several videos and trailers as well. Before this, Soma Bringer was a pretty mysterious game. What we knew was that it would be the first Nintendo game developed by Monolithsoft since the buy out. From the screenshots and sparse information provided, it looked to be just another average action RPG from a has-been developer targeting a younger market on the DS.

Just last month, it was announced that Mitsuda would be composing for the game. Just great, I thought to myself, another low budget Mitsuda DS cash-in project. Sigh. Luckily, I have be proven wrong. When the videos finally arrived, Soma Bringer looked great. It even sounded great. So why did Nintendo choose to hide media from the game until a mere two weeks before release? Who knows, maybe it saves them money, maybe they don't believe in hype. That doesn't explain Super Smash Brothers Brawl's excellent website and hype. Oh right, Soma Bringer isn't developed by Nintendo. Suddenly it all made sense.

There have been indications that Mitsuda isn't the only familiar face working on the game. Soraya Saga who co-authored Xenogears and Xenosaga Episode 1 with her husband, Tetsuya Takahashi, has indicated on her own site that after years of abscense from the videogame industry that she had co-written a new RPG script for 2008. Coupled with the fact that Mitsuda seems genuinely impressed and excited with this new project, it's not a stretch to consider that he could finally actually be working with old friends on this game.

If that's true, then I look forward to whatever this odd reunion has installed for me in two weeks. Xenogears is one of my favorite instances of videogame storytelling, and while I am excited at the possibility of that same experience from Soma Bringer, it is actually the gameplay that intrigues me the most. A mix between Seiken Densetsu's gameplay and the highly customizable nature of Diablo means that if they pull this off, it could well be a Monster Hunter experience with a deeper plot and developed story characters.

Can the Xenogears team that made that gem a decade ago finally reunite to prove that they have talent in recreating magic beyond recycling the same concepts and ideas like they attempted on Xenosaga? Will Takahashi prove to be more than just an overambitious artist that managed to make a single hit? I know I can only wait, and find out for myself when the game is released, but I hope that others will give Monolithsoft the chance to return to the stage.

And so with that, I continue my trek through the world of Xenogears, I hope I finish it before Soma Bringer arrives.

More Info:
Soma Bringer Official Site
Soma Bringer Trailers

Where to preorder:
Soma Bringer (DS) - $48.90, Feb 28th 2008
Soma Bringer OST (3 CDs, 59 tracks) - $31.90, Apr 2nd 2008

Where to buy:
Xenogears PSOne Books (PS1, NTSC/J) - $32.90

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Welcome to Weekly Games Journal

Welcome to Weekly Games Journal, your new destination for weekly Japanese and English gaming editorials and impressions!

Stay tuned for updates and further developments!

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