428: Shibuya Scramble Hands-On: Flawless Detection, On the Case

428 SS_smallA little game history goes a long way, folks. Chunsoft pioneered the visual novel game way back in 1983 with Yuji Hori’s The Portopia Serial Murder Incident and over the decades since, the company, now known as Spike Chunsoft has released a number of quality visual and sound novel titles primarily for Japanese audiences. Visual novel fans here in the west probably know them best for some solid titles that have managed to make the trip overseas such as the Danganronpa, and Zero Escape games on consoles and handhelds, along with the upcoming Steins;Gate, AI, YU-NO, and Zanki Zero games set to arrive soon on a few platforms. Yes, they’ve also done a bunch of other (and better known) non-adventure game classics. But as you’ve gone and clicked that link above, you can do that extra bit of homework yourself. Me, I’m here to chat up this spectacular new but old number you’ll absolutely want to check out.

 

(Thanks, Spike Chunsoft!)

 

Another game on the way is the stellar formerly Japan-only visual novel from 2008, 428: Shibuya Scramble, finally headed stateside for PS4 and PC on September 4. There’s a great demo out now on PSN that pulled me in right from its 70’s-sounding opening theme and had me playing through to both endings with a huge smile on my face. While it’s only a taste of what’s to come, the blend of text adventure, still photos and brief full-motion video clips makes this a quite impressive achievement even ten years after its release. It’s more or less a “choose your own adventure” game, but one where a failure state doesn’t necessarily end the game at all, but unlocks new story elements.

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Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PC)

Mary Skelter Nightmares PC

GhostLight’s wonderful port of Mary Skelter: Nightmares brings the game to PC in a flawless translation of the Vita version and yes, it’s absolutely worth a buy.  Seeing and playing it on a larger screen reveals sharper enemy and background art, but you won’t be fiddling with anything other than resolution and window size settings if you really need to. In fact, the rather low system requirements makes this one of the more accessible modern dungeon crawlers out there. Even if you’re not into the anime art style and overall offbeat tone here, the game excels on the gameplay front in capturing the spirit of the classic Wizardry games.

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Nope, this isn’t your Granny’s version of Snow White or any of the other gals from those old fairy tales. These girls can take care of themselves pretty well.

That’s not to say at all that the game is an entry level experience. There’s a decent enough difficulty curve and a combination of expansive maps, deadly traps and powerful bosses that will keep you on your toes. The main story involves a living tower-like dungeon called Jail looming over a city in Tokyo it has buried underground and the attempts of a squad of lovely anime ladies and one guy tasked with climbing that tower with intent on defeating the Marchen (monsters) and Nightmares (bosses) that inhabit it. The team’s main purpose is to enter the Jail’s oddball dungeons and defeat the Nightmares, which will grow the tower and allow it to reach the planet’s surface, allowing the citizens of the underground Liberated Zone their true freedom. There’s a bit more (well, a good deal more) to the story, but letting it unfold while playing is the best means of experiencing it.

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The Missing to be Found on Consoles and PC Later This Year

(thanks, Arc System Works America!)

The-Missing_BoxHmmm, perhaps I should pay more attention to more stuff online, right? Hey, it’s kind of hard to do these days when you burn so much energy trying to avoid all the negativity out there, grrrr. Anyway, I actually missed out on that video above that noted Hidetaka (SWERY) Suerhiro and developer White Owls, Inc. were working on a brand new game for Arc System Works America set to be published later this year.

Well, that game is called The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories and it’s set to drop digitally onto PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch before the year is out. Excellent. I have no clue as to what sort of game it will be other than it’s an action/adventure… well, that and you get all of three screenshots below:

Yep, I’ll be picking this up as well. SWERY’s work is always intriguing and it’ll be a nice enough appetizer while we wait for more news about The Good Life as that game tiptoes along its development cycle.

-GW

Red Dead Redemption II Gameplay Trailer: The Wild Punch Lands in October

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I never do this because such speculation is inherently ridiculous especially when it comes to product that’s still not released, but I’ll take the risk and call Red Dead Redemption II my Game of the Year and it’ll be yours as well. Take a look:

 

(Thanks, Rockstar Games!)

 

Of course, as I’ve noted previously, it was clear as soon as the game was officially announced that Rockstar was going to be redefining the open world game once again, so it’s a bit redundant to be heaping praise when that bar was being raised was also one set in each of the large scale games they’ve created.  Anyway, I’ve got nothing left to say because this gameplay footage speaks very well enough for itself. Me? I’m going to watch this a few more times while trying to figure out a long list of excuses to not venture outside so I can spend way too much time playing this.

Worth buying a console over and pre-ordering? Absolutely, I say.

-GW

Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Dead_Cells_PS4Bordeaux, France based developer Motion Twin’s absolutely superb Dead Cells ($24.99) is exactly the sort of game that belongs on a disc in a case with a manual you can whip out and peruse as you play. I’m tossing this out there because the game truly feels like one of those instant classics you want to come home from a long workday and unwind with. As in walking through your front door, kicking off your shoes, tossing your bag onto a chair and going through the whole ritual of opening a game case, popping that disc into your system (or game card if you’re a Switch owner) and settling in for a solid play session.  The game blends its influences marvelously and (as much as I despise the term) is indeed one of the finest “Metroidvania” style games to date. Actually, the developer calls it a “RogueVania” which is a bit better, but whatever – this one’s a must buy no matter what you prefer calling it.

(Thanks, PlayStation!)

In a nutshell, you’re playing a rather dead but reanimated (and excellently animated) immortal character who needs to survive a treacherous trip through a sprawling series of randomly laid out themed levels. Before you get all twisted out of shape thinking of games that get this randomization wrong, this is one case where the dev team nails it. When you die (and you will die early and often), the game sends you back to the beginning of the map you bought the farm on and upon restarting, you’ll notice the layout has changed but you’ll face off against the same enemies while retaining learned skills.  It’s a dash of what you’re expecting (Castlevania, Metroid, Demon’s Souls, assorted roguelikes and roguelites) with some nicely implemented dark comic touches that add some great humor to the game. No checkpoints means you’ll need to learn to survive by playing and replaying sections in order to die less (or not at all). But each death ends up meaningful for a few reasons you’ll eventually discover.

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Review: WALDEN, a game (PS4)

Walden, a game 01

No, it’s not some new-age hipster ready-made, silly. Here’s where you start off the game. Now, get to getting those walls up before dark, buddy.

Walden, a game PS4Wait, what? Yes, there’s actually a game based on Henry David Thoreau’s autobiographical slice of life book and it’s pretty neat as well as quite educational on a few fronts. Developed by Tracy Fullerton and the USC Game Innovation Lab over a 10-year period, Walden, a game ($18.99, also on PC) rolls out events from Thoreau’s time spent up at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts in a tiny cabin he built and maintained. It’s an “open world” game with plenty to see and do, but it’s also an initially timed experience where you need to attempt to accomplish as much as possible during each day. That means you can choose to follow the flow of suggestions the letters Henry receives during the game or simply go off and explore at your leisure, discovering experiences as you go.

Actually, doing a combination of both is very highly recommended as this will maximize the overall experience while filling in chapters from the book as well as other events that affected Thoreau’s life.  While the game has a few performance quirks, if you’re a person who likes “walking simulators” (a term I dislike, mind you) or “survival” games (ditto on the dislike thing) without worrying about zombies or other creatures chomping at your heels, this is going to be right up your alley. Granted, I’m going to gather that market is slim among most of today’s gamers. Nevertheless, I’d still highly recommend this if you want something truly different and amusingly enough, something to show off to your kids (if you have them) as an honest to goodness learning experience. Yes, there’s also a great teaching aid for the game, as it’s meant to be used in schools as part of curriculum in tandem with the book.

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Your humble shopkeeper in the game. Basically, he’s Tom Nook with even more vintage stock. Or: you’ll pay through the nose for those much-needed goods.

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Review: Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans

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“Once upon a time in the west…” er, wrong movie, but you know what I mean…

Slaps & Beans - coverYep, it’s here and it’s great. As a fan of old-school arcade beat ’em ups, Trinity Team’s excellent Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans ($19.99) does exactly what its meant to do and does it with a ton of love (and many slaps and beans). I’ll give those of you scratching your heads a second to look up some of the duo’s films (here you go) and admit that for some of you, they may not be your to your taste (which means you need to watch a few and become a convert to their brand of international slapstick).

The game is an absurd amount of fun as a solo or co-op experience with a wacky story line, mini-games galore and some really great music that’s worth buying on a disc if you’re a fan of what’s here. While it’s not a terribly long game, it’s one where you’ll replay it either alone or with a buddy because it’s packed with laughs and challenge on the harder difficulties. Personally, I don’t grasp at all people who only play an otherwise solid game one or two times and shelve it away, but such is the current state of gaming where hours seem to mean more than overall quality to some “gamers” out there. It makes me wonder how the deal with heavier entertainment like non-fiction books or serious documentaries. But I digress – here’s some gameplay to ogle from yours truly:

 

(Thanks, Me!)

 

I heard you laughing all the way across the internet with me. This is good. Continue reading

Review: Sega Genesis Classics (PS4)

Sega Genesis Classics PS4Since you’re in a hurry, here’s the short version: Yes, Sega Genesis Classics is worth the $29.99 just for the JRPGs alone, but you’re getting a whole lot of other okay to really decent to superb games for that price. Here’s something to consider before you more jaded gamers turn up your noses at this latest Sega compilation that yes, has most of the same old games you’ve either played to death in the past or just have little to no interest in. Every day there’s likely someone trying out a retro game of some sort and those who’ve never tried anything on the Genesis are going to be very well served here.

Granted, this collection is missing a few titles found on other collections (notably, the PC version which not only has a few more games, it allows users to mod and add other games as an option), there’s online play that’s not quite flawless and a rewind feature that can make certain titles too easy to beat. That said, as an introduction to a classic console, it’s quite the deal at the end of the day.

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Wait. If you leave the phone off the hook, you can’t call your friends over for some couch co-op action! Oh, you need to make more friends? Okay, then.

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Earth Defense Force 5 US Trailer #1: A Bit of Wait Gain

(La la la, PlayStation!)

 

EDF_5 boxIt’s about time,  but there’s still no concrete release date for North America. To be fair, Sony has opened up pre-orders for the game’s standard digital and deluxe digital editions. But that 12/31/2018 release date is a bit questionable (games usually pop up on Tuesdays and I don’t think a New Year’s Day release date would be a thing). FYI, with no official launch date decided, pre-orders have to include a tentative date so potential buyers have a general idea of when a product will arrive as a download or at retail.  I hope this game rolls in before the end of the year, as it’s a bit crazy-cakes that a worldwide release wasn’t in the cards from day one.

That said, I’m also surprised I didn’t snap up the import version at this point, but that was a mix of finances not being where they needed to be and not wanting to go to the hassle of creating a Japanese PSN account to get DLC. Well, that and I thought the game would have been out already,  Ah well. I have plenty of games to wade through in the backlog, so at the end of the day, holding out for this one in English means I’m going to be going in totally cold and enjoying every minute.

EDF 5_04

-GW

Bud Spencer & Terence Hill – Slaps And Beans Now on Consoles

Slaps and Beans PS4

Whaaaaat? Color me totally surprised, ladies and germs!

Huh. Just when I thought this was never coming to consoles, here it is and I’m laughing myself silly because… well, just look:

(Thanks, Trinity Team!)

Hey, it took these guys a while to make and I’ll bet a penny that’s it’s worth a load of replays like any other fun arcade beat ’em up should be, so yeah, it’s worth that price point whether you grab the PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch version. As for those of you who don’t get the fuss, I leave this as a parting gift:


(Thanks, Pump Monkey!)

-GW