Mary Skelter 2: Switch-Bound in September

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Excellent. One of my favorite Idea Factory RPGs is getting a very nice looking digital-only sequel that expands on what made it a solid game in the first place. While there are only four screens to share (so far), I’m gathering Mary Skelter 2 will get fans of the first game quite psyched for its September launch, but new players should also be in the same boat, as the upcoming Switch version also has the first entry included as a BONUS (woo and hoo!).

Read more on what’s in store below the jump.

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Digital Division Gives Me The Vaporwares

Well, yesterday for a bit, I was visiting this hot place seen below and not in a good mood over what I saw was a digital injustice (yaaaaaa!):

(thanks, Cartridge Magazine!)

Today, I’m still in that mindset as far as digital-only content goes, but ha and ha bloody ha, when I screw up, I go for it 110%, plus tax. PLUS TAX I SAY!!!

So, last night a friend comes over to return some Blu-Rays he’d borrowed and asks if I’d updated my PS3’s firmware so I could retrieve my game that was “lost”, which just about made me drop the cup of coffee I’d prepared a few seconds before. Fortunately, he reached out and tipped the cup upwards and pressed the RESET button on my forehead before things went blank.

via GIPHY

Okay, kids – here’s what happened that afternoon (cue dream sequence harp tune):

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The Digital-Only Future? It Blows, Folks

So, color me somewhat annoyed. Yeah, yeah, I knew when one buys a digital product, be it a song, game, book or other file type, there’s the chance (well, actuality) that that data will expire and yes, *never* be available ever again unless there’s some sort of preservation being taken care of in the form of say, a physical backup or other legally obtainable copy. Anyway, yes, I still own a PS3 and use it on occasion – here’s what happened today when I went to dink around a bit with a game that’s not all that old:

Yep, that’s right. A game I’d downloaded had been “disappeared” from my PS3’s HDD with nothing left but that nice-looking startup screen. *Poof!*

As I was picking up my jaw from off the floor, my brain cycled in one of my favorite bits of dialog from a favorite film (that’s thankfully, still available on a dang disc):

Garry: The generator’s gone.

MacReady: Any way we can we fix it?

Garry: It’s “GONE”, MacReady.

Sure, I read the fine print on that license agreement, but to have a game in one’s library just VANISH is… kind of shocking and stupid at the end of the day. Was Master Reboot a GOOD game? I kind of have no idea other than the about 25 minutes I played sometime last year when it popped up as a free game on PSN and, not having tried it it, I downloaded it so (get this) I could play it any time I wanted to and find out. Yeah, that was a mistake on my part, I guess. My game historian/preservation side is appalled by this, but it isn’t a new thing. Ask anyone who played the superbly scary P.T. or the stupidly fun Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or any of the many other games that have disappeared from digital stores online.

(Thanks, Wales Interactive!)

Well, at least the PC version is still available (but digitally, grrrrrr!), although I prefer playing on my console(s) of choice.

Yes, I completely grasp that licenses expire after a period of time and all that rot, but a game, song, piece of art or other data important to some people shouldn’t at ALL go dinosaur extinct and become a mere memory after such a brief period. Feh. I’d close this with an “oh well” or something similarly aloof, but I think I’m going to hit myself in the head with a rubber hammer and take a nap until the next disappointing episode of Game of Thrones comes on later this evening. Oh, that show has been and will also be on many discs going into the future, you can bet on that… for now.

-GW

Review: Outward (PS4)

outward PS4 bxFor the record, I wanted to dislike Outward ($39.99) less than 15 minutes in after nearly dying during the tutorial thanks to an near-invincible enemy guard whose health never seemed to drop past a certain point and kept regenerating far too quickly to be reasonable. During my digital near-death experience, I ran away to recover, only to return and find he’d just *poof!* simply disappeared from the spot where he and the other guard I’d dispatched were placed. I recall my eyebrow arching up and letting out a “Great.” before resuming play with the hope things would go more upward before I got too far outward. Fortunately, they did (well, for the most part).

There were a few other issues with the game, such as items randomly vanishing from the bag I was carrying, my character or an enemy getting stuck in certain parts of the map when doing certain actions, and a few textures that could have used a bit more polish, among other things. I decided after a random death that had me unable to locate my bag when I resumed, to stop playing for a bit and move onto a few other games while I held out for a patches to correct these issues. That waiting turned out to be a good thing. Over the last few updates the game became much better and is now a solid recommend for those who want something fresh and furiously challenging. There are still a few pesky bits, but I’ll get to those later.

That said, prepare for a completely punishing game experience that combines fantasy RPG, survival game and simulation elements with a very welcome two player split screen mode and the option to play online with a friend or total stranger. In fact, preparation for every obstacle the game will throw your way is a huge part of surviving, to the point where you’ll be playing this with a keener eye to (at least) staying alive for as long as possible. Once you’re out in the open world of Aurai, your brain needs to go into invisible mommy mode before you get busy with that questing, so get ready to take *everything* under consideration. Do you have your traps prepared? Got enough clean water? What are you wearing for the weather? Did you pack your lunch? Clearly, this isn’t a game for those who don’t like to be reminded that rote carelessness other RPGs let you get away with won’t be rewarded by anything but an easier demise in this game.

Still, even after you get used to the preparation aspects, expect death to come calling regularly like early morning doorbell-ringing proselytizers cheerily chatting on about the end of the world the moment you poke your head outside. Oh wait – hold on a sec… someone’s at the door… What, so early in the day for this? Gyaaaaah.

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Review: Earth Defense Force 5 (PS4)

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Well, that took a while, didn’t it?

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There guys are new and quite a pain in the butt to fight. You’ll see (and how!)…

For me, an Earth Defense Force game is a particularly tricky review because despite the many similarities in each entry, the series has actually evolved over 16 years (yes, evolved!) into a game where you can choose a single character and dive in deep to uncover their rather massive set of weapons as you play through the different difficulties. While on the surface, Earth Defense Force 5 is a thrilling yet simplistic chunk of game to sink into, there’s a nice level of complexity in regards to how to approach missions in either single player, co-op, or online modes that makes if a fresh experience through multiple replays.

For many players, the easy to use all-rounder Ranger will be their initial pick, but I strongly suggest using Wing Diver for her air superiority and ability to snag more pickups than any other class. Or, you can play as each hero in any order, learning their unique skills (the Fencer and Air Raider require a bit of patience to master) as you challenge those aliens out to overrun the planet for the umpteenth time. It’s your call, and with 110 missions to tackle (not including DLC content), this isn’t a short game by any means.

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Going in solo? Expect to learn a lot about how your chosen class plays and put it into practice, or you’ll be in for a world of hurt.

It’s also the first EDF game with a proper (albeit awkward) tutorial for all four classes. It’s unskippable on your first play with any character even if you’re an EDF veteran, but it’s nice to see developer Sandlot make the game a lot more welcoming to new EDF recruits. For those new players, I’d recommend playing through each character’s tutorial just to see which one fits your play style and mess with “farming” a few missions to increase your arsenal. Of course, you can swap between characters between missions if you like, or stick with one for the entire campaign. Couch co-op play is supported via split screen in case you have an extra controller and a pal willing to dive in and get some bug and ‘bot blasting on.

Here’s a look at the Wing Diver intro level (all the EDF 5 videos in this review save for the official trailer are of me playing and there are quite a lot more of them on my YouTube channel, if you’re interested).

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Now Playing: Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark

packshot_1500x2200As I’m still playing this one, this isn’t an “official” review at all, but more of a solid recommendation based on time spent with the game to date. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark ($29.99) feels like a cross between Final Fantasy Tactics, the Tactics Ogre games and the original Vandal Hearts with more customization options, a gorgeous hand-drawn look, geat music and gameplay guaranteed to please SRPG fans who want a so far very entertaining experience. 6 Eyes Studio and publisher 1C Entertainment have a real winner here that’s even running better after a recent patch fixed a few issues.

This is the sort of game that will bring back more than a few memories of those aforementioned classics to fans who remember while giving those new to it an excellent new epic to go through at their leisure. What’s nice about the game so far is how well its story builds up dramatic moments from the first battle and leads you into certain points where you’re rethinking your opinions of certain main players. Eh, no spoilers here, but let me distract you instead with how the game opens and some early character edit stuff:

Okay, I’d actually recorded close to three hours of gameplay spread over a few more videos, but decided to use this shorter clip because I was thinking I was giving away too much of the story not too long into the game proper. Granted, a good chunk of that time was me messing with the wonderfully deep character creation system and adding a few more troops to my roster, so perhaps I’ll run those clips in a bit once I complete the main story, which so far, is quite good indeed.

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I’ll shut up here and get back to the game for a bit so I can have a more informative review in a few more days. That said, I think SRPG fans will absolutely love what’s here. Hell, if this were on a disc or game card in a retail package, I’d likely end up with two copies just to sock one away for the future. Oh, never mind my oddball collecting proclivities – go give this great game a try whether it be on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. I’ve no idea about a Switch port, but I guess that’s for 1C to decide on if the other versions do well enough and 6 Eyes can get Switch dev kits at some point. Should this occur, guess who’ll be playing this all over again?

-GW

Warhammer Chaosbane Hands-On: Eko’s of the Past Bode Well for the Future

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I’d hate to be that guy who has to clean those stained glass windows every other day…

WC_cover PS4Way back in 2013, I recall going to a 505 Games press event to play Eko Software’s impressive How to Survive and noting to a PR rep that the developer needed to make an isometric RPG at some point because that game had all the makings of an instant classic despite the overdone zombie theme and copious survival elements. Two years and a new 505 press event later, I’m playing How to Survive 2 and noting to another rep that Eko really, really needed to do an iso RPG just to get it out of their system and how I’d love to see them do something original or even revive a more fantasy-themed game like a Champions of Norrath or some other similarly beefy (and long forgotten) IP.

Four years later and I’m playing through the closed beta version of Warhammer Chaosbane on my PS4 with a huge grin plastered on my face. Although it’s a beta, it’s a mighty fine one full of promise once the dev team adds and tweaks some elements.

In its current state, it’s certainly got some excellent visuals, gameplay that’s immediately fun and what’s looking to be a fairly lengthy campaign just based on looking at the overworld map in the second of two playable chapters. But a bit more polish in a few areas will help put this game into that rarefied air a certain few other isometric games are floating around in. One great thing about the beta is Eko’s willingness to take into account every bit of reasonable feedback from those who’ve pre-ordered the game and have sunk some time into the builds they’ve made available.

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Review: Zanki Zero: Last Beginning (PS4)

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…

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CHARGE COMBO… er, hey? Does that come with fries, or just a large punch? I got jokes, man. Not good ones, but I got jokes…

ZZPS4“Gleefully Apocalyptic” or “Cheerfully Downbeat” may seem like damnable praise for a game, but Spike Chunsoft has made that a winning strategy in a number of its more popular titles such as the “Deathly Amusing” Danganronpa series or those “Wonderfully Grim” Zero Escape games. Veteran developer Lancarse’s Zanki Zero: Last Beginning ($59.99) is in some ways similar, but not 100% quite like those other games, though. It’s a “Non-stop Survival RPG” with a demanding set of gameplay requirements some new to this sort of thing may find a bit tricky to grasp, but it ends up pretty satisfying once you settle in and grow accustomed to what it requires from you. In English, you’ll dig this for what works well more than those who might not “get” it at all. Go try that lengthy PS4 demo out and make your move, I say.

You play as a team of eight survivors of a world-ending event who initially seem to think they’re in a bizarre reality show, but soon find out they’re clones with a 13-day lifespan forced to repeat the cycle of birth to death as they puzzle out the hows and whys of their existence. Their guides? A pair of cartoon show hosts living in a separate reality who pop up on an unplugged vintage televisions to give them missions that will expand or end their lives (or both) as they’re completed. Yes, you get 10XP if you realize there’s some nefariousness going on behind the scenes (or, under the skin, if you prefer). And yes, I thought David Lynch would make a fine directorial choice if there’s ever a live-action version of this one, but as usual… I digress.

 

 

As you can see from that trailer above, you can expect death to come calling frequently (a lot less so if you play on the new to the English version Easy mode). That said, dying here isn’t all bad, as what can kill you will in most cases will make your party members stronger as new resistances and even a bit of lifespan extending can be acquired based on how and when you buy the farm. Buy early, buy often, but try not to buy it too much as your lives are limited. There’s also that parasitic Clione the clones have to deal with – use their powers wisely, or pay the price with a somewhat spectacular death.

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Capsule Reviews: Ratalaika Ravings (1 of 2)

I’m at that point in my gaming life where I’m really appreciating all the shorter indie games I get codes for simply because most of these titles are a blast to play and have a bit of replay value in cases where you’re hooked in and don’t mind having at it a few more times with a game you’ve enjoyed. Anyway, the fine folks at Ratalaika Games have been really great at dropping some fine budget titles that range from great to surprisingly good, so here are a few you may want to take for a spin:

metagal-squareboxart-01-ps4METAGAL ($4.99, PS4/PS Vita – Cross-Buy, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One): Or, MEGA MA’AM, if you like. Indie developer RETRORevolution’s cool little game is a nicely crafted mash note to Capcom’s classic hard as nails franchise, and while it’s not in the same class as as that long-running series, it makes a good enough impression that I’d love to see some sort of followup down the road.

The game has fun with its references and that titular character has a few amusing lines that keep the experience light and airy through the mildly to major challenges you’ll face. Character design and the overall artwork are stellar stuff, recalling the 16-bit MM titles, while level design is a bit of hit and miss. Well, you’ll be missing a few jumps here and there and taking hits thanks to faith-leaping and some enemy placement that assures you take those hits and like them (slap!), but that’s par for the course in the platforming game, folks.

As with a MM game, you can choose to play in a linear fashion or hop around, taking on the eight stages as you see fit. Sounds and music are also appropriately retro, so expect to get a grin going throughout this one every time you fire it up. I’ll gripe here about not being able to shoot up while climbing and the too easy to nab Trophies, but overall this one is a nicely priced budget gem that deserves a Buster Shot recommendation when all’s said and done.

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(sings) “What goes up, must come down…”

Score: C+ (75%)

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Zanki Zero, You’re My (New) Hero

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Keep an eyeball peeled for this one, folks.

While it’s not officially out until April 9th, I’ve been playing a review version of Spike Chunsoft’s new first-person “Non-stop Survival RPG” Zanki Zero: Last Beginning for a few days now and it’s pretty amazing on a few fronts. I’ll save most of that “How amazing is it?” stuff for my review, but I’ll gleefully urge you to go download the demo if you’re a PS4-owning JRPG fan who wants something a wee bit… different yet but quite familiar in its mature tone to Spike Chunsoft’s other quirky titles.

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One of the first people you’ll meet in the game. Expect total strangeness from this point onward.

That trailer below doesn’t even begin to convey the sheer wackiness and brilliance on display, but it sure makes for an interesting watch:

Oh, before you get all “Aw, man… I want to play this on my PC!”… the game will indeed, get a PC version on the same day as the PS4 game ships. Excellent.

Alrighty, then. My work here is done for now, but I’ll be back with a review next week. Expect strangeness.

-GW