Dragon’s Dogma 2 In Development (And There Goes The Rest Of My Time In The Future)

Yep, played them all (took a few years total), Yes, I also have the PC version.

I was one of many who played the original PS3 version of Dragon’s Dogma while it was on its demo tour at a few comic book conventions and knew right away that Capcom was onto something special. In the final build, Exploring the open world of Gransys made for many hours of near constant amazement at every new encounter, how well connected the dungeons were to the overworld, the day/night cycle which put characters in constant danger if they traveled at night, and much more. The key here is not “better”, but “different” than the games it’s been compared to as the experience does have flaws, but does so much so well on a regular basis.

A bit of much more below:

The later Dark Arisen expansion added a supremely treacherous second map, Bitterblack Island, that was clearly created for expert players and clearly not for the faint of heart. Nearly every major enemy was set on “puree”, including some huge, almost unstoppable bosses that could, if you were under the suggested levels, take a few game days to dispatch. The lure of all those lovely gear drops here was worth a few trips into the dread, because players who managed to survive the first few rooms could return to the main game with some pretty awesome new gear. But enough of that for now- here’s the tenth anniversary video that ends with an announcement of current plans:

Guess who’s pre-ordering this? I usually avoid pre-ordering any games at all.

To Hideaki Itsuno and his team, One word comes to mind: RESPECT. I can only hope they give us the best of the original game and polish up a few of the quirks, like the somewhat suicidal Pawn AI, which would sometimes fling itself into harm’s way when it wasn’t pulling off some stellar support work. I may even start posting gameplay videos again, as I was making some lengthy ones back when the PS4 version dropped. Keep it offline, save for the Pawn loaning between users, or see if some sort of co-op mode can be implemented. I’ll shut up now, as I only play games and don’t make them. Anyway, between using the glorious RE Engine and what’s bound to be some spectacular design elements, I’ll be dreaming of even more mythical and mystical creatures for a while yet. Or just playing the original again (from the beginning, of course).

And it goes like this (sometimes).

-GW

Review: Nun Massacre (PS4/PS5)

As I pressed the Purchase button to get my copy of Nun Massacre ($5.99), I said aloud to no one in particular “I don’t know why I do this to myself”, something I tend to do whenever I buy a horror-themed game. Yes, games like this have me talking to myself frequently (and somewhat nervously). Indie developer Puppet Combo has been making short PS1-style horror games for PC gamers since 2013 and they’ve finally gotten two of them on home consoles (Murder House is the other one). Basically, this is a short, frequently scary and always tense blend of exploration, stealth and puzzle action where you’re trapped in a rundown school with a knife-wielding nun trying (and at many times, succeeding) to violently do you in. There’s a story here told through notes you’ll find all over the place. But you’ll probably be too freaked out to read through all of them, what with that nun popping up at the most inopportune moments. Just keep telling yourself “It’s only a game, It’s only a game…”

Or: Force of Habit, I suppose.

The game got a recent update a few days ago and is now a “definitive” version which adds some new game modes, rooms and new killers to avoid. But you’ll have to survive one play though to unlock some of those options, which will be a pretty harrowing experience. There are video settings to adjust (VCR, PSX, Black and White), the game has a “Nun Tracking” mode that adds VCR like tracking “noise” to the game when the Nun is in the area (a must on your first play) and the game even comically warns you to play only once a day and play as your life depends on it, which is worthy of a chuckle. I mean how scary can this game be, right?

RIGHT??

Next to Nun in the horror genre, ha-ha (STABBY, STAB, STAB!)

Yeah, WRONG. In other words, you’ll be inventing new swear words every few seconds as the tension steadily ratchets up. This is totally old school with NO mid-game or auto save system to fall back on and few choices except running and attempting to hide from that nun, which means if when you die you start over from the beginning each time. While intensely frustrating, you end up recalling where items are located and can survive a few minutes longer before your certain doom. The Nun’s location can indeed be randomized if you want to put yourself into cardiac arrest even faster, so try not to do that on the first run. Oh, there are deadly traps here as well, such as the razor wire you’ll blunder into at one point, which is straight out of Suspira and yes, that Nun pops up while you’re stuck and gets quite stabby.

Amusingly enough, there’s a way to play this as “None” Massacre (my title) where you can explore the game’s room without a nun attack. But I was so wound up by the main game that I didn’t trust this mode to not freak me out somehow, even with jump scares shut off. Turns out I was right (you’ll see). The overall length of this may turn off some players, at it’ll take maybe 30-45 minutes to get through one time, if you move quickly, don’t panic (too much) and use the items you find in the right spots. That said, the game is meant to scare the living hell out of you and I can see some players being turned off by this plus some of the intentional flaws here. By the way, that sound effect when you encounter the nun is like every scream in every horror flick ever made heard all at once, but played by a factory full of alarm clocks. Yikes and turn it down on the options screen before you fire this up or you’ll wake a few dogs in the neighborhood.

It took about two and a half hours to finish on my first time through, and that was with some dumb luck more than skill on my part. Yes, another few plays is required here to unlock more secrets, but not for a while in my case. I’m starting to see nuns when I sleep and they’re not waving around wooden rulers either. Highly recommended, but not at all for the faint of heart. I’m working up the nerve to play again, but I just may attempt to survive Murder House first (maybe).

-GW

Review: Nostalgic Train (PS5)

Or: The small, strange town and its iron horse.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the term “walking simulator” that’s often used with derision by some players about short, mostly first person game experiences that focus around slower, careful movement and exploration, yet that term perfectly describes the lovely, melancholic Nostalgic Train ($13.99), which is available on consoles and PC. The Unreal engine game was created by a very talented solo developer named Tatamibeya and just so we’re clear, the game’s description of itself is “Two fluctuations at journey’s end – Beautiful countryside novel and walking simulator.”

There’s also a bit of a mystery with some semi-supernatural elements and even some time travel tossed into the mix, but the game is actually a text-based record of the town’s origins using a few life stories and key events scattered over a few centuries. The game starts off as its sole playable character wakes up in the tiny (and fictional) Japanese village Natsugiri, which is entirely vacant save for the sound of cicadas, dandelion seeds floating about and the scent in the air of mystery. As you walk around, you can use R2 to reveal glowing orbs that reveal more of the story and lead you to the next hint and more of the story. Visually, there’s a solid sense of reality in the visuals, but I can imagine some players used to ray tracing and other effects griping that certain elements of the game aren’t realistic enough. Whatever, it all looks like a series of gorgeous postcards in my book.

Life is but a dream…

This guided experience format works well for the most part. It makes the game playable by anyone, provided they love to read and can activate their imagination during certain sequences. As you explore the village, you’ll come across some items that need to be used to advance the story. For example, early on you find a discarded life preserver near a schoolhouse by a lake. Touching it reveals a past memory of a child picking it up to attempt to rescue another child which soon turns fatal for one. At this point, the formerly inactive train’s chime starts sounding and that’s your clue that you need to get back to the station and take a ride.

In true Twilight Zone fashion, you end up back at the station and yep, you need to R2 yourself back to find out what’s transpired. The entirety of Story Mode is like this, so it’s almost impossible to get lost. The village is so small, that you can spend maybe less that five minutes walking around if you’re not using the hint system. The story gets more fascinating with each chapter as you’ll encounter others who need assistance, but the village remains empty as you only read about your encounters and have to imagine past, present and future encounters, just as if you’re reading a book. The story takes a few dark turns as it continues and you find out your character simply trying to find out who and where they are and travel back to what’s seen as “normal’ reality can’t keep you from uncovering what’s going on. In fact, there’s a link to everything and the constant cycling back to the village the train takes is somewhat important. Or: “You can check out anytime you like, you can’t ever leave (guitar solo not included)”.

Bring you walking shoes, folks…

There’s also a Free Mode where you can stroll around and find glowing orbs that reveal some historical and other bits and (if you’re a completion fanatic) nab that Platinum trophy. This won’t take long at all, but I’m guessing based on the completion stats I’ve seen, some players haven’t done this yet. Well, it’s certainly not for every taste, but it’ll stick with you like warm summer wind. Cicadas are harmless, by the way and with all those dandelion seeds blowing around. I’d guess you can pocket a few to remind you of this short trip you’ve taken. Recommended.

-GW

Review: Gleylancer (PS4/PS5)

probably the sole good use of the word “Pow-Wow” these days.

While the SEGA logo is nowhere to be found (they only published the game way back in 1992), Advanced Busterhawk Gleylancer looks, feels and plays like it’s 1992 and that’s a great thing. Ever busy publisher Ratalaika Games and veteran developer Shinyuden go above and beyond the call here with a flawless English translation plus a slew of gameplay improvements that range from a horde of video customization options to some all-new game modes that make this an instant buy at its low $6.99 price point (the original Mega Drive version will set you back about $200, and yes it’s solely in Japanese).

The game is pretty story driven with a lengthy opening movie, but in s nutshell: The story follows Lucia, a 16-year-old star fighter pilot in the Earth Federation. A war breaks out between humans and an unknown alien race in the year 2025. Lucia’s father, Ken, a high-ranking admiral in the Federation Navy, is captured after his ship is warped out of the combat zone with 4 alien modules which have the ability of teleportation.  Lucia, heart-broken after hearing of her father’s disappearance, decides to hijack the prototype fighter CSH-01-XA “GleyLancer” with the help of her friend Teim and go after her father.

Like any decent classic shmup, a good player will complete the game in under an hour, but a smart player will deep dive this and go back for more and unlock every trophy. The fast but methodical gameplay is also customizable to the point of letting players cheat right off the bat if they so desire. There’s also a handy rewind function that’s excellently implemented and like the cheat mode, optional. The really amusing thing here is very likely, a good deal of modern gamers may not have heard of this until this release and may automatically snap it up for the quick trophies Ratalaika games are known for. My bet is they’ll be surprised at the challenge the game presents on its standard mode.

Just another day at the office…

I have no idea what Shinyuden has planned for the future, but there are a ton of other shooters for the Genesis out there that can use this sort of very proper localization. I can name way too many here, but let’s not go over the moon with wishful, wistful thinking just yet. Recommended!

-GW

Review: Ord. (PS4)

From ever-busy publisher Ratalaika games and indie developer Mujo Games comes Ord.($4.99), a minimalist adventure game that tells its short stories three words at a time. Split into five tales with a bit of replay value in each (Quest, Dimensions, World, Foul Things and Heist), the game will also have you brain filling in most of its visuals. It’s also part memory test in that there’s a Groundhog Day-like loop to overcome where choosing certain answers won’t advance the story, but instead, send you back to choose differently.

zzzzzzzz

That said, there are no “wrong” answers here. In fact, choosing every option will lead to some surprises and abrupt (sometimes fatal) endings. The minimalist thing in taken to extremes here on both the visual and aural fronts. Other than the title screen, visuals are just text on a black background with some stylistic touches like thunder, lightning, rain, a bit of fog and yes, you’ll want to have a drink in the tavern just to see the blurred result. For me, the sole flaw here in there’s no story tracker, so on a replay, you may get temporarily stuck (a notepad will come in handy here). Playing the game through once won’t take long and those trophies drop pretty quickly once you get rolling.

Overall, Ord. is a pretty decent and nicely experimental bit of fun. Ratalaika’s been on a roll lately with more hits than misses of late. So I’ll have to get to covering more on their interesting titles from it’s rather intriguing lineup shortly.

-GW

Review: Dragon’s Crown Pro (PS4)

DCP_PS4An instant classic on both artistic and pure gameplay levels, Dragon’s Crown Pro ($49.99) has finally arrived on PS4 with buffed up 4K visuals and cross-platform play/save compatibility with the PS3 and Vita versions. It’s a game that also hopefully going to be one of those true evergreens that new players will want to add to their libraries because it offers enough replay value to keep you dialed in each time you pick up that controller.

The game’s original notoriety to some for its mildly bawdy artwork for some of the female characters (but you get a half naked muscular dwarf as a counter to that) ends up being much ado about nothing. If you’ve a working brain in your skull, you’ll know the difference between gorgeous stylized artwork and solid animation and somehow deeming the game “controversial” because one doesn’t appreciate the very intentionally over-exaggerated art. That and hell, it’s a Vanillaware game, so assorted forms of pulchritude are a necessary non-evil.

DCP 4K

“Waiter, there’s a fly in m… oh, never mind (ogle!)

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Preview: Dragon’s Crown Pro – That Golden Ask Is Going To Be So Worth It

DCP_sorceress

 

 

DCP_PS4There will be three types of people who’ll be interested in Atlus and Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown Pro ($49.99) on the PS4. Those completely new to the game looking for a very solid side-scrolling arcade action/RPG will find an excellent single player, 4-player co-op offline/online game that’s a gorgeous homage to a number of great arcade games from Golden Axe to Capcom’s two Dungeons and Dragons titles.

Those who’ve played the original Dragon’s Crown back in 2013 on the PS3 or Vita (or both platforms) and want to know what’s new will find  much sharper visuals (if they own 4K TV’s) , a new orchestral soundtrack (the original is also selectable) and thanks to a recent patch, cross-platform multiplayer and save data with Dragon’s Crown Pro. Or you can just be like me and dive into a new game just to experience everything fresh.

DCP_BHE_PS4

The third category are those who went completely bonkers complaining about the stylized artwork and may want to poke at the game anew for its sexy Sorceress and Amazon characters, but I’m gathering that loud crowd will get drowned out by players who want a fun and solidly built couch co-op experience who won’t mind the art style one bit. Truth be told, I’m a big fan of George Kamitani’s art style since I picked up a copy of the lovely but flawed Princess Crown through a Japanese friend about 20 years ago. Kamitani also worked on those two D & D games (which just so happen to be available on the PS3)

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Review: L.A. Noire (PS4)

L.A. Noire PS4Well, wow. Rockstar’s remastered crime noir drama/action game L.A. Noire comes to consoles in pretty fine form and yes, it’s worth a buy. Granted, if you’re a more jaded “gamer” who thinks even looking at an HD version of an older game will somehow make you lose your street cred (*snicker!*), you kind of need a new hobby and should skip the rest of this review. The game has not only gotten more polished looks, its gameplay has been tweaked to use the PS4’s touch pad as an option for object manipulation when poking around crime scenes. There are still a few pesky quirks left over from the PS3 version, but despite those, this is one of those games that’s great to have back and it’ll be a new experience for those who missed out on it the first time.

As Cole Phelps, you’ll rise through the ranks of the LAPD in the post-WWII era from beat cop to nattily-dressed detective using wits and fists with the occasional firearm in your case solving. For the Grand Theft Auto fans out there who are new to this one, although some gameplay elements are very similar, this isn’t a re-skin at all. You get real cars from the period, approximately 90% of the city’s streets mapped out from that era and plenty of references you may need to look up or hey, go ask an older person about. It’s certainly a great way to introduce a grandparent to gaming. And yes, you can indeed play the game in glorious black and white if you like.

L.A. Noire 03.jpg

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Mail Call 1: Hello, Homicide Division

L.A. Noire PS4

Yep. Looks as if I’ll be busy for a bit being a dick. That’s DETECTIVE, to you, pal. Watch that mouth or it’ll be missing a few teeth. Oh, wait. I’m talking to myself here. Aheh, sorry! Anyway, thanks much Carey at Rockstar Games for this treat. I’d been re-watching a ton of film noir over the last month in preparation for this updated version, so my mood is set for a grand time in this sprawling version of 1940’s Los Angeles.

L.A. Noire is out today for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Go get it. Edit: Yeah, the game was running in the background as I was typing, so I zipped back to it after posting this without completing it, heh. Oops. Well, I stand corrected and now I’ll go sit back down and complete another case. Back in a bit.

-GW

L.A. Noire Switch Trailer: Portable Detective, About To Go On Patrol

 

With all the ruckus on some sites over Red Dead Redemption 2 being Rockstar’s next big thing, I’m truly hoping no one sleeps on the still (and now more so than ever) stunning crime saga that is L.A. Noire. The game is getting a full on remaster for PS4 and Xbox One that’s going to land in stores November 14th along with this newly created Switch version that has console-specific functionality and yes, some pretty stunning visuals. I don’t yet own a Switch, so I’ll be aiming to grab the PS4 version when it launches. That said, this one’s definitely going on the long want list of Switch titles thanks to developers continuing to do some truly amazing work with the hardware.

L.A. Noire Wide

This has definitely been a spectacular year for Nintendo’s new console and it’s clear that a lot of former naysayers are chomping on some fresh crow pie these days.

-GW