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
Buy it now!

Full Article

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

Full Article

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!

Full Article