Monster Hunter Stories Hands-On: Sweet Spot Central

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MHS_3DSWell, Monster Hunter Stories will very likely be a big ol’ very well deserved smash hit for Nintendo, Capcom and developer Marvelous! when it lands at retail and on the eShop September 8, but it really needs to be on a more powerful system that would allow it to be even better visually.

Yeah, I said it – the well-aged 3DS hardware just can’t handle all the game wants to show off and that’s too bad in this day and age.  So you get NPC’s popping in, occasional frame rate drops, some nice-looking (but would be nicer looking on an HD system or handheld) cinemas and a few other issues. That said, the game is fun as heck and absolutely the most accessible Monster Hunter game to date.
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Granted, I’m someone who has a huge love/hate thing going with this franchise for over a decade. The character and enemy designs are great, but up until this turn-based installment, the combat has always been what left me annoyed. The funny thing is, MHS grabbing at the brass ring cash cow Pokemon has been for decades makes for a game that’s hard to dislike unless you’re not a fan at all of “Gotta catch ’em all!” styled play.

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Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Headed To PS4/Xbox One October 3rd


 

It’s about time Capcom ported over one of it’s biggest surprise sleepers from a few years back. I’m thinking the success of the PS version and all its tweaks plus a lot of fan bugging them helped compel this smart move. But hey, whatever. It looks as if the wait will be worth it. I’m gathering save data will NOT be transferable from any other versions of the game which means it’ll be a fresh start and all that exploration, fighting and leveling to do all over again. Yours truly won’t mind one bit as DD:DA is pretty compelling to dive into and has a lengthy campaign that doesn’t require playing with others to get your fill. I just need to find the time to sink into this gem, as I know my October is going to be packed with medical appointments (boo!). Then again, this seems like the perfect game to de-stress with for a while between visits to people poking and prodding at me and my assorted body fluids (yuck!).

-GW

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II PSN-Bound

 
Okay, it’s August 15 for you folks in the USA, but the game has dropped into the European PS Store already. As this PlayStation Blog post points out, a bunch of improvements and changes have been made over the PS original.

The Playstation 4 version of the game comes with a lot of new gameplay features, unique trophies, full DualShock 4 controller support and a completely reworked scenario mode and Tower Defense mini game. On PlayStation 4 Pro players are able to choose from three different settings: Better Performance (1920 x 1080 aiming @ 60fps), Balanced (2880 x 1620 aiming @ 50fps) and Better Quality (native 4K aiming @ 30fps).

– all of which sounds fine to me. Players of the first installment can (and should!) import their save file in order to take a more powerful Van Helsing into the second game, as the first big battle is indeed a tough one if you jump in under-prepared.

Even better, the game is only $14.99, making it a must for action ARPG fans looking for a budget-priced game that promises plenty of action for a fair price point.

-GW

Review: AereA (PS4)


 
 

While it’s not as great as it should have been out of the gate, there’s still time to fix this sleeper up with a decent patch and make it an even better product.

Developer Triangle Studios’ AereA makes for an interesting blend of familiar elements that gamers willing to overlook its flaws should enjoy. Indie publisher Soedesco has released this as a marquee mid-priced ($39.99) retail and digital game and it’s clear they’re wanting it to be a sleeper hit for casual to veteran ARPG fans. Colorful visuals, fast-paced gameplay and a superb score (by Deon van Heerden) are all strong points. Unfortunately, game balance issues, a poor English localization, and the lack of any post-game content hurt the overall experience.

A sort of love child of Diablo, Wild Tangent’s Fate series and Runic’s original Torchlight, the Unity-powered visuals and emphasis on action are initially impressive. Additionally, the ability to play couch co-op with up to three other players is a nice touch (no online play is supported). However, the very straightforward story progression, a total lack of personality in its four mute heroes, and some technical/UI problems made me grimace more than grin through my 22+ hours with the game.

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Review: Perception (PS4)

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Your perception of Perception as a horror game will go a long way towards fully enjoying the experience it offers. It’s more a first-person adventure game with horror elements where developer The Deep End Games uses lead character Cassie Thornton’s blindness as a means of both physical and mental exploration.

Cassie is drawn by recurring nightmares to abandoned mansion Echo Bluff and as she’s completely blind, her own perceptions are being challenged. The unconventional visual presentation, use of echolocation, and mix of mystery and time travel are all plus points here. There are flaws as well, but for the most part the 5 to 6 hours you’ll spend as Cassie should please the more open-minded horror/mystery adventure game fans out there.

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Cassie’s trip through the seemingly empty mansion is hampered by the presence of The Presence, not so nice angry spirits (who don’t bring presents, by the way) that change up the initially tap-happy caning she does into memorizing rooms and whacking objects as little as possible. While this adds tension to the experience, some parts of the game end up being learning experiences thanks to an auto-save system that forces slight to moderate backtracking and replaying areas if you end up getting Presenced to death.

In other words, you’ll likely need to unlearn your first half hour or so of gameplay and rely on memory and/or using an optional guidance system that points you in the proper direction while still allowing exploration. That said, some of the game’s scares are somewhat avoidable by popping into assorted hiding spaces until trouble passes while others may make you jump a bit based on your level of immersion. Of course, if you’re not easily frightened, the game may seem light on scares unless you want to encounter them.

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Super NES Classic Edition: You’ll Never Get One If You Don’t Work Hard

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So yep, there will be a Super NES Classic Edition coming in a few months. Even though Nintendo says they’ll beef up shipments for this thing, good luck getting one at retail come September 29. You know the drill: even with increased stock, scalpers are already putting aside funds to grab as many as they can to turn a profit on auction sites or classifieds. Yes, many of you will luck out and be able to wait on a line somewhere to buy one (or more if possible) as gifts or for your own use. But I’m betting a penny that too many folks will delegate themselves to complaining online incessantly about how “impossible” the SNES mini is to find without driving X number of miles or being similarly inconvenienced.

Guess what? If those scalpers are going to beat you at this game constantly, it’s partly because you’re letting them. Starting today, maybe make a few friends at the nearest game shop, mall, or other location you know this thing may turn up at and be as nice as you can to all your new friends without being a stalker. Be 100% straightforward in your request and yep, let them know you want that new Mini and see what happens. Translation: be prepared to work it good and hard if you want to grab one of these things at a decent price. The less you hang out on some message board forum griping about inflated prices based on speculators doing their thing in the usual unchecked manner, the better the chance of getting one sooner than later.

As for me? Yeah, I want one as well, but my finances suck for the next chunk of months and if worse comes to worse, I can emulate stuff I own in a pinch. I’ve no illusions about walking into Nintendo World NYC in a few months and getting one just like that and nope, Nintendo doesn’t send out review product to anyone who asks (although, to be fair, any review I’d write would be pretty boring compared to what you’d see on a video-based channel with millions of subscribers).

Eh, whatever. It’s not as if I don’t have more urgent stuff to tackle. The first of a few follow-up medical appointments is tomorrow, so that’s occupying my mind at the current time.

-GW

Bevontule Update: Going Greenlight (With Some Help From You)

So, yep. Bevontule is still going strong as a work in progress and as you can see above, looking even better than before. Thanks to feedback on the multiple demo builds they’ve posted for about a year as well as a wealth of general improvements made over time, Multithreaded Games LLC (or the dynamic duo of Derek Bradley and Andy Fenton) is on target to make quite a memorable first game certain to garner a loyal fan base. Nitpick time! If you want to get really picky, calling it a “JRPG” is a *tiny* bit misleading. Both Derek and Andy hail from Portsmouth, Ohio here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Still, as the game does take some of its inspiration from a few classic turn-based strategy JRPGs, I’ll gracefully let them slide on that. The new typeface, even more polished visuals and what’s so far tighter gameplay makes this one a game to keep an eye on and hope it gets enough attention to get ported to consoles at some point.

(Cue Derek and Andy screaming in unison and calling up a local hit man to get me for wishing port work on them before the PC version of game is actually completed… Heh, sorry, guys!)

What’s clear about the outstanding visuals (that draw distance is amazing, isn’t it?) is the boys know how to make the Unity engine sing. Of course, the usual “Unity sucks!” naysayers will never be convinced, but I think Multithreaded isn’t listening to those know-littles (none of whom knows how to make a game, I’d wager). One of the more amusing things about the game going Greenlight is the comments section on the Greenlight page.  It would seem (in proper internet commentary fashion) that SOME so-called gamers don’t even know the game has not one, not two, not three, not four… but FIVE different demo builds to try out, all from different periods in development and all worth a play. You’d think someone would go as far as to post those links in something like a blog post so people can take the older builds for a spin, but noooooo… (heh).

Oh, that video above is me sneaking up on some hapless cranky Steam user on the way home to NOT play a game, but negatively comment on games they’ll never play because they’d rather be THAT guy stinking up an otherwise decent community with stinky s#!tposting galore. What happens next? Well… you’ve got those links above, correct? Go find out, you (all those builds are FREE, by the way!). Bevontule isn’t due until sometime in 2018, so you have PLENTY of time to see what’s what. That said, go vote it up on Greenlight while you’re waiting, please.

 

-GW

Night Trap Returns! Be Afraid… Be Very Afraid (Or Not)


 

Night Trap tells the story of five teenage girls spending the weekend at the Martin home. As a member of the Special Control Attack Team, your job is to monitor the home and protect the girls using an intricate system of cameras and traps as it is being invaded by vampires.

 

I am laughing my fool head off writing this, but hey – a happy me is a good thing these days. Screaming Villains, based out of Newport Kentucky, is teaming up with Limited Run Games to bring the classic and at the time of its release 25 years ago, “controversial” Sega CD FMV (Full Motion Video) game Night Trap back as a remastered PS4 and Xbox One title. I’ll be a lazy git and let you read the Wikipedia page so you can see what the fuss was all about, but what was considered an MA-13 (or Mature) rated game back in 1992 is now a Teen-rated experience with not a thing altered. Digital Pictures created what was supposed to be (and is) a campy take on the horror genre, but for years the game has had a hilariously overblown reputation thanks to it being pulled from stores in some areas.


 

My own memories of it are the game being quite amusing but pretty difficult without a guide of some sort and not at all scary or bloody. The plot has you trying to save a bunch of cute 90’s gals at a slumber party from oddly dressed vampire creeps by setting traps inside the house and activating them before the girls are attacked. It’s all pretty corny, harmless “B” movie fluff that might surprise modern gamers when they see how goofy it all is. As in all that government fuss and bother did was make a so-so game a classic of sorts that still gets people talking. Amusingly enough, the game is about as scary as an empty plastic bottle on a windowsill.

For some reason, during the 90’s and into the early 2000’s a handful of gamers thought the 3DO and PC versions had bits of nudity or actual gore in them despite the fact that no such footage was shot. Coupled with the game’s rarity once pulled from shelves, helped drive prices up considerably. Working in an indie game shop for about five years, I fielded more than a few questions and kicked down as many of those rumors as I could, but you know how some people get when they really believe something that’s clearly untrue. Anyway, go download the super-cheeseball main theme and set your digital clocks for sometime soon, as the game is set for a mysterious “Spring 2017” release.

-GW

Quick Takes: Some Good Games To Catch Up On (In A Year Of Too Many Great Ones), Part 1


 

Yep, the backlog has been officially backloggier thanks to stuff being stuff in the real world. But things are getting played bit by bit here despite incessantly annoying diversions. Hey, one needs something FUN to do between bouts of eyebrow lifts, sighing into adult beverages and trying not to trip over the assorted stacks of THINGS TO GET DONE lined carefully in strategic spots around the office. Okay, it’s not anywhere near that terrible, but I love to melodrama my issues a bit much. Anyway, here’s part one of a series of capsule reviews, or a brief rundown on things that have been tackled, games division.
 


 

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Extended Edition (PS4): If you’re a big Diablo III or other isometric ARPG fan and want another game of the chase and chop variety, a mere $20 will be well spent on NeoCore Games’ more amusing and in some areas, harder game. While it goes for a more Steampunk Victorian visual aesthetic and uses a good deal more in the way of humor in its storytelling, the quest and side-quest 1-2 punch holds things together quite nicely. Granted, you have fewer classes to play around with, but the skills system for your Van Helsing and his ghostly aide Katerina ends up being pretty complex with many passive skills that boost combat to some often grand destructive levels. There’s no defensive roll like the console versions of DIII, but you’ll get used to dealing with huge packs of foes by taking it slower and picking off smaller groups one by one.

The game is generally solid overall and features online co-op play (no split-screen here, sorry!), a very fun “tower defense” mode that pops up a few times as a diversion from the main plot, and about 30 or so hours of gameplay if you’re determined to get everywhere you can on one run. The ending is somewhat of a ‘To Be Continued’ deal, but having played the other parts on PC, it’s worth the wait for the sequel to hit PS4 at some point. In fact, as this is only the first of three chapters, it would be great to see the other two arrive on PSN as soon as humanly possible and perhaps later, the entire trilogy out on a disc via a small print publisher like Limited Run Games or SOEDESCO. As always, we shall see. But for the money there’s a load of great fun to be had and had again.
 


 

Mantis Burn Racing (PC/PS4/Xbox One): While it’s initially short on tracks and content compared to other arcade racers, the difficulty curve in developer VooFoo Studios racer makes the game supremely challenging right from the get-go. A blazing fast proprietary engine showcases gorgeous 60fps racing where the slightest mistake will leave you in back of the pack and eating the digital dust of your opponents blowing past you. Practice makes perfect, but expect the game to not let you breathe much against AI that gets better as you do. Against live players the competition is far fiercer with expert players constantly making short work of anyone popping online for the friendliest of matches. You’re going to get smoked like a country ham if you’re not ready for the tracks in this one for sure.

That said, once you get the handling and have matches where you’re in the zone and nail those tricky turns, not bashing into other cars and generally having a zen-like experience racking up wins, the game is so hard to put down that you may need an alarm set to remind you to do important stuff. I haven’t tried out the new Snowbound DLC yet, but if this video is any indication, this 100% FREE update is going to suck me in all over again to the point where I’ll need to get a dog or cat or some other pet to remind me with a paw to the face to get up and go for a stroll, play with or feed them. A service animal for gamers? Who knew!
 

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Earth Defense Forces 5 Presents: His and Her-strionics

 

Oh, these are hilarious. If you know someone who speaks Japanese, have them sit down and watch these crazy YouTube videos for Earth Defense Forces 5 and try to keep a straight face. Set for a summer 2017 launch exclusively on PS4, D3Publisher and busy developer Sandlot are making the biggest and most bizarre EDF game to date.If you don’t know anyone who speaks the language, the subtitled version of the first trailer is here.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the usual horde of giant ants and spiders are all in as they should be, but the skyscraper tall alien frogs and soldiers are a total freak-out that are going to make a tough game a heck of a lot tougher. I have questions for the dev team about this and many oher things, of course. But I prefer to just play the game and see how it turned out as that sort of time spent usually answers most questions in the most fun manner.

 

That said, the only truly pressing question I have as I write this is whether to import or wait for a localized version. I should hold off until a western publisher and date are revealed, but previous EDF games take so long to get localized that I may end up biting the bullet early. Hey, I need to practice for the actual invasion force coming soon and knowing the enemy is the best strategy, right? Right. I knew you’d see it my way.

-GW

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