Tech-Gaming http://www.tech-gaming.com Technology, Gaming, and Culture Sun, 20 Apr 2014 20:43:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9http://feeds.feedburner.com/tech-gaming/HZXF Each week, Robert, Eric, Sage, and Jeremy offering impressions of the latest games, trivia, industry interviews and some of the liveliest discussions on interactive entertainment. Tech-Gaming yes Tech-Gaming editor@tech-gaming.com editor@tech-gaming.com (Tech-Gaming) © 2011 Tech-Gaming The Tech-Gaming Podcast Video Games, Xbox, 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP, 3DS, Tech-Gaming, Trivia, Games Tech-Gaming http://www.tech-gaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Podcast-Art.pnghttp://www.tech-gaming.com Los Angeles, CA New Game Releases: April 18th-24th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-4-18-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-4-18-2014/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:00:21 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10860 Next-generation adopters have plenty to look forward to in the immediate future- with the imminent release of Wolfenstein: The New Order, Watch Dogs, and the PlayStation 4 version of MLB 14: The Show. Those expectations will have to get PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners through the next couple of software-starved weeks as releases are ...

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Dark Souls 2

Next-generation adopters have plenty to look forward to in the immediate future- with the imminent release of Wolfenstein: The New Order, Watch Dogs, and the PlayStation 4 version of MLB 14: The Show. Those expectations will have to get PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners through the next couple of software-starved weeks as releases are few for the new machines.  More fortunate are PC owners, who no longer have a reason to envy Dark Souls II-playing console owners; FROM Software’s sadistic title will be available in two different packages. For Wii U owners, things aren’t nearly as sunny, with the console sustaining mainly on a steady diet of Virtual Console titles.

Wii U
F-Zero Maximum Velocity (eShop, $6.99)
Flowerworks HD: Follie’s Adventure (eShop, $6.00)
Golden Sun (Virtual Console, $7.99)
LEGO: The Hobbit (eShop, $49.99)
My First Songs (eShop, $9.99)
Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 (eShop, $7.99)

3DS
Bit Boy!! ARCADE (eShop, $7.99)
Smash Cat Heroes (eShop, $3.99)

PS Vita
Demon Gaze (Also on PSN, $39.99)
The Walking Dead: Season Two, Episode 1 (PSN, $4.99)
The Walking Dead: Season Two, Episode 2 (PSN, $4.99)
The Walking Dead: Season Two, Season Pass (PSN, $19.99)

PC
Dark Souls II (Steam, $49.99)
Dark Souls II Collector’s Edition
Fract OSC
Interplanetary (Steam, TBA)
Perpetuum (Steam, $TBA)
Tabletop Simulator (Steam, $TBA)
Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure (Steam, $17.99)
Trials Fusion (Steam, $19.99)
The Last Federation (Steam, $TBA)
Uprising44: The Silent Shadows (Steam, $TBA)

Robert’s Pick: Craving a traditional dungeon crawl, I picked up Might & Magic X Legacy via a Steam sale last week. The same day, I also received a preview build of Demon Gaze for the PS Vita. After spending a few hours with both, I’ve decided to become monogamous with the Kadokawa Games-developed title. While the cyclic pattern of creating characters, taking them into dungeons, and leveling them up so they can delve even deeper isn’t especially remarkable- the trimmings certainly are. Solid visual novel-style dialog sequences, a Vocaloid-driven soundtrack, and an assemblage of well-drawn lolis have made the game very difficult to put down. Also worth mentioning is the free DLC with Disgaea’s Asagi, Etna, Flonne, Sicily, and a Prinny to sweeten the deal even further.

Demon Gaze screenshot
Gonçalo’s Pick
: Almost every adventure game fan I know has been eagerly anticipating Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure since the Kickstarter campaign nearly two years ago. Often considered as one of the few examples of FMV games done right, the series created a setting that mixes Noir with Cyberpunk tying them together with a whodunit storyline. Sticking to its roots, the game will be played almost exclusive through live action scenes and videos, just the way I want it!

Tesla Effect A Tex Murphy Adventure

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Bloody ZL5A Gaming Mouse Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/bloody-zl5a-gaming-mouse/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/bloody-zl5a-gaming-mouse/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 04:00:14 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10845 Across the last decade, the gaming mouse industry has proliferated, providing PC owners with a myriad of choices. From the Razer Naga- a peripheral targeted at MMO players with nineteen programmable buttons to Logitech’s ergonomically-driven G500, there seems to be a device for nearly every type of interest. Manufacturer A4Tech has adopted a dual-pronged attack, ...

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Bloody ZL5A Gaming Mouse Review

Across the last decade, the gaming mouse industry has proliferated, providing PC owners with a myriad of choices. From the Razer Naga- a peripheral targeted at MMO players with nineteen programmable buttons to Logitech’s ergonomically-driven G500, there seems to be a device for nearly every type of interest. Manufacturer A4Tech has adopted a dual-pronged attack, targeting first-person shooter fans with software which negates simulated weapon recoil while keeping a price that’s low enough to entice bargain shoppers. So far, the approach has been advantageous. After our reviews of the Multi-Core Gun3 V7 and Bloody Headshot V7, the company’s mice have become the peripherals of choice, and have been permanently tethered to our desktop and laptop.

In that duration, we’ve come to fully appreciate A4Tech’s build quality. The protected optical cavity of both mice mean the maintenance isn’t needed- with the  company’s ‘hole-less’ design, gamers no longer have to probe the interior of their mouse with a dampened Q-Tip. Likewise, The Gun3 V7’s “ultra metal” feet prove to be more than just marketing ploy. In execution, the pink colored metal pads provide a minimum of resistance and a durability that’s unmatched by the polystyrene bases of most mice. Consideration is even applied to the mouse cord, which offers durable braided construction that resists fraying after being trampled by office chairs. In fact, the only shortcoming with the Gun3 and Headshot is the need to spend extra money to unlock each peripheral’s anti-recoil features.

Bloody ZL5A Gaming Mouse Review

Pleasingly, A4Tech’s shrewd design decisions carry over to their most recent peripheral- the Bloody ZL5A Gaming Mouse. Flaunting the same sturdy cable and resilient metal pads, the unit exhibits an impressive build quality which slightly exceeds the $69 USD MRSP. More importantly, the mouse comes pre-activated, so that purchasers won’t have to shell out any additional money to utilize the software-fueled functionality.

Eschewing a driver disk, a small card inside the ZL5A housing instructs owners to visit the A4Tech website to download version five of the Bloody app. The memory-resident program can be a bit of a mess- filled with Engrish instructions and haphazard coding. One example: owners of a wired mouse are able to navigate through menus intended only for wireless devices. In these areas, they can adjust the brightness of the scroll wheel and pulsating Bloody logo, yet the application falsely warns, “Cannot apply! (Wireless Guard restricted only Bloody Wireless Gaming mouse series)”. But spend enough time with Bloody5, and the program proves to be both stable and filled with functionality.

Bloody ZL5A Gaming Mouse Review

MMO players can build, test, and map complex macros- complete with if/then logic statements, loops, and key presses. Like the V7 line of mice, the ZL5A allows players to use multiple ‘cores’ or functionality settings. Enabling the third core allows FPS aficionados to employ Headshot functionality- a technique which adjusts the cursor to compensate for in-game weapon kickback. While the system allows for customization and extends defaults for a variety of arms, the apps default selection of games continues to be disappointing, supporting only six titles in the current build. Gamers can download additional profiles, but at present A4Tech’s site only hosts data for one additional title.

Although many adjustments can be made within the Bloody App, a number of tunings can be made on the fly. CPI can be manipulated with a button tap, allowing for trouble-free tuning of cursor sensitivity. Selecting one of the buttons on the face of the peripheral allows owners to choose from multiple profiles- allowing for benefits such as rapid fire, or weapon selection in Headshot mode. Like a number of its contemporaries, Bloody ZL5A has a button which can momentarily reduce CPI, providing a bit additional precision to those scoped sniper shots. Pleasingly, owners can quickly toggle between the normal mousing duties and game-related function via an switch on the unit’s left side.

Bloody ZL5A Gaming Mouse Review

With its aluminum and plastic construction, the ZL5A strikes an adept balance between weightiness and maneuverability. Elegantly, the device’s curved shape matched the natural curvature of our hand-with no physical stress or fatigue during protracted play sessions. A textured gently outer surface ensures a steady grip, even during Diablo III marathons. Nicely, the mouse’s top buttons retained their responsiveness after several weeks of continued clicking. In fact, the only design flaw is that the mouse isn’t ambidextrous. Although left handed players might be able to use their third finger to trigger side buttons, this won’t be an ideal solution.

In many ways, the Bloody ZL5A is a culmination of A4Tech’s design decisions, offering an adept blend of functionality, elevated build quality, and economical price. If the company can mend some of the blemishes found in the accompanying Bloody5 app, then the peripheral could easily become a standout contender in the gaming mouse competition. But even a few software-based peculiarities hardly mar the brilliance of the ZL5A hardware.

Bloody ZL5A Gaming Mouse Review

Tech Specs (via A4Tech):

BASIC SPECIFICATIONS
Main core: Intelligent multiple cores
Buttons: 11 buttons + wheel
Encoder: High precision laser engine
Transmission: Wired
Connector: USB (2.0/3.0)
Supported operating systems : Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Cable length:1.8m

PERFORMANCE
Resolution: 100-8,200 CPI adjustable
Graphic Capacity: 1080 million pixels/sec
Frame speed: 12000 fps
Accelerating speed: 30g
Tracking speed: 150 inches/sec (ips)
Report Rate (USB): 125~1,000Hz/sec (4 selectable level)
Key response time: less than 1ms
Profile allocable: 3 sets
Memory: 160K bits
Key Switch life: 20 million times (for left & right buttons)
Mouse Feet Wear-Resistance: More than 300 Km

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Cloudbuilt Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/cloudbuilt-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/cloudbuilt-review/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 05:00:37 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10828 Every so often, a game come out which offers an experience that feels so fresh and engaging, it seems destined to inspire a slew of successors. 2008’s Mirror’s Edge is a prime example of that assertion. With an immersive first-person perspective, the title offered a prodigious interpretation of the exhilaration and fluidity of parkour. Even ...

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Cloudbuilt (1)
Every so often, a game come out which offers an experience that feels so fresh and engaging, it seems destined to inspire a slew of successors. 2008’s Mirror’s Edge is a prime example of that assertion. With an immersive first-person perspective, the title offered a prodigious interpretation of the exhilaration and fluidity of parkour. Even the game’s minor blemishes- half-hearted gunplay and linear level design, did little to detract from the feeling of thrill of chaining together wall-runs, vaults, and slides. It’s little wonder that titles as diverse as Assassin’s Creed, Brink, and Titanfall have aped Mirror’s Edge sense of athleticism.

Undoubted, DICE’s title must have also made a strong impression on the six-person team at Coilworks. Cloudbuilt, the Swedish studio’s inaugural effort, is rooted in the spirit of Mirror’s Edge, challenging players with maintaining their momentum as they tackle a succession of seemingly insurmountable stages. Naturally, the tenets of virtual parkour are exhibited, allowing gamers to defy gravity as they sinuously scamper across walls or spring across elevated gaps. But, Cloudbuilt is also more than mere clone- routinely extended branching levels, a distinctive assortment of control mechanics, and a propensity for stage mastery. Save for two potential flaws, the title could easily receive an unconditional recommendation.

Cloudbuilt (4)
Shunning the habitual simplicity and superfluity that’s customary in the action-game genre, Cloudbuild’s narrative is unexpectedly poignant. The title’s brief tutorial introduces us to Demi, a war-torn soldier who is coming to terms with the damage inflected to her body. Instead of framing the playfields as some type of rehabilitation exercise, players learn that each of Cloudbuilt’s suspended stages are metaphysical manifestations which represent the barriers to recovery. While the tactic might sound a bit gimmicky, in practice- the game’s journey helps to congeal gameplay and plot.

Initially, most stages appear almost impossible to complete, seemingly requiring a godly amount of patience and precision. Yet, through either trial or error or the detection of an alternate route, players will preserve- with the inclusion of liberal level check-pointing and rapid respawns helping to offset debilitating frustration. It’s during these moments of near-exasperation players are likely to empathize with Demi. Keep at it and the pangs of doubt give way to brief moments of elation, and she’s one step closer to recovery and you’re two strides nearer to mastery. Coilwork’s narrative ambitions are lofty; so much so that the title risks not being able to resonate with all players. But the developers do everything in their power to make us care for Demi. Many will find her voice-over driven monologues and mediations surprisingly affecting.

Cloudbuilt (2)
Of course, there is the chance that Cloudbuilt’s challenges will prove too to be too testing for gamers. Fault can’t really be placed on the control scheme. Although the title currently doesn’t offer the option for controller-based navigation (the developers have assured that the addition is coming), mouse and keyboard input is snappy- providing players with an input method that’s speedy and accurate. But in keeping with the game’s theme of overcoming distressing adversity, the bar is set remarkably high. I’d suspect many gamers may surrender before completing the game’s gauntlet of twenty-two trials.

While the challenge level is high, Cloudbuilt certainly gives players all the requisite tools for success. The typical wall-runs, wall jumps, and vaults are accentuated by Demi’s jet pack, allowing players to rocket up the side of a vertical wall. To prohibit players from depending on the apparatus, each maneuver drains some of the device’s power. In the game’s protracted runs, items are scattered which instantly refill the jetpack, further pushing the players toward perfection. Demi also has a rifle, which can be powered up by holding down the left mouse button. Conflict pits the protagonist against predominantly mechanical foes, which pleasingly can be avoided. In fact, after the completion of a stage, a number of mission modifiers are available, tasking players with taking no damage or not being able to shoot an enemy. Replay is also encouraged by Cloudbuild’s level designs, which frequently offer multiple routes- as well as online leaderboards, which provide the prospect for bragging rights.

Cloudbuilt (5)
Beyond a towering difficulty level, the game’s other flaw is its current state of performance. While we were able to get the title to run fluidly on a midrange laptop, crashed occurred sporadically with the latest Steam build. Worse, the game resisted running on our AMD 10 Core/Radeon 7850-powered desktop. Once the tutorial began, framerates dropped to unplayable levels. Even though the menu system indicated a USB-headset as our sound source, the game remained silent. Evidently, we were the only ones experiencing issues, the Cloudbuilt Steam forums demonstrate plenty of players with similar problems.

Hopefully, Coilworks can conquer these glitches, because the game is certainly a worthy experience. It’s rare to see a title that is poised to win the praise of both speedrunners and story seekers, but Cloudbuilt handles both- with a grasp and grace comparable to its protagonist.

Cloudbuilt (3)

Cloudbuilt was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.

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New Game Releases: April 11th-17th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-4-11-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-4-11-2014/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 16:00:23 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10824 In the words of former Square-Enix president Yoichi Wada, the 2010 release of Final Fantasy XIV “had greatly damaged the Final Fantasy brand”. In hindsight, the title’s production was a textbook example of groupthink- despite technical issues, server woes, and a lack of audience analysis, the development team was certain the game would be a ...

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Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn

In the words of former Square-Enix president Yoichi Wada, the 2010 release of Final Fantasy XIV “had greatly damaged the Final Fantasy brand”. In hindsight, the title’s production was a textbook example of groupthink- despite technical issues, server woes, and a lack of audience analysis, the development team was certain the game would be a rousing success. Instead, XIV was met with near universal criticism, prompting Square-Enix to take action.

Wada solicited the talent of Naoki Yoshida- a member of the Dragon Quest team who had little experience with the original project. As such, many doubted the developer’s chances of reinvigorating the tainted title. Yet, one year after XIV’s release, Version 2.0 debuted, improving server performance, providing a new visual engine, and reworking the game’s storyline and mechanics. This week’s release of no less than three iterations for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn speaks of Yoshida’s success.

PlayStation 3
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Backgammon Blitz (PSN, $7.99)
Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion Xl (PSN, $19.99)
Castle of Illusion Sega Genesis Bundle (PSN, $14.99)
Hyper Crazy Climber (PSN, PSOne Import, $5.99)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (PSN, $14.99)

PlayStation 4
Backgammon Blitz (PSN, $7.99)
Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn, Standard Edition (Also on PSN, $39.99)
Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn, Digital Collector’s Edition (PSN, $59.99)
Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn, Collector’s Edition ($79.99)
Pure Chess (PSN, $7.99)
Pure Chess Complete Bundle (PSN, $14.99)
That Trivia Game (PSN, $9.99)
Trials Fusion (PSN, $19.99)
Trials Fusion Deluxe Edition (PSN, $39.99)

Wii U
Kirby & The Amazing Mirror (eShop, $6.99)
My Exotic Farm (eShop, TBA)
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ (eShop, $6.99)

Xbox 360
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Xbox One
Trials Fusion (XBL, $39.99)

3DS
Atlantic Quest (eShop, TBA)
Boxzle (eShop, $2.99)
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
Disney Magical World (eShop, $29.99)
Governor of Poker (eShop, 4.99)
Mach Rider (eShop, $4.99)

PS Vita
Backgammon Blitz (PSN, $7.99)

Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
Dead Nation Vita ($7.99, Free for PS+)
Ethan: Meteor Hunter (PSN, $9.99, Cross-buy)
Eufloria Adventures (PS Mobile, $TBA)
No Heroes Allowed: No Puzzles Either! (PSN, Free-to-play)

PC
Demolition Master 3D (Steam, $6.99)
Descent 3 (Steam, $4.99)
Finn and Jake’s Epic Quest (Steam, $7.99)
Eterium (Steam, $TBA)
Imperial Glory (Steam, $3.49)
Infectonator : Survivors (Steam, Early Access, $TBA)
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (Steam, $14.99)
Mechanic Escape (Steam, $TBA)
Moebius: Empire Rising (Steam, $23.99)
NEStalgia (Steam, $11.24)
Praetorians (Steam, $3.49)
Smugglers 5 (Steam, $9.99)
T.E.C. 3001 (Steam, $3.99)
Volt (Steam, $4.79)
Wargame: Red Dragon (Steam, $39.99)

Robert’s Pick: Although there’s no shortage on engrossing real-time strategy games, Eugen System’s Wargame: European Escalation and Wargame: AirLand Battle rank among the best thanks to an enormous number of unit types, and an efficient engine that’s capable of rendering intense battles and zooming in to depict minute details. This week’s release of Wargame: Red Dragon elevates the formula, adding naval warfare to the franchise’s customary ground-based battles. Eugen’s announcement of free, post-release DLC only sweetens the deal.

Wargame Red Dragon

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The Elder Scrolls Online Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/elder-scrolls-online-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/elder-scrolls-online-review/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 00:00:54 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10815 For decades, interactive role-playing games have incorporated the character archetypes popularized by the pen-and-pencil game of Dungeons & Dragons. Often employing variations of the stalwart fighter, the curative cleric, spell-casting magic-user and the nimble thief, this standard has demonstrated a number of benefits. First, it pushed players into identifying with a particular type of adventurer. ...

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The Elder Scrolls Online Review (1)

For decades, interactive role-playing games have incorporated the character archetypes popularized by the pen-and-pencil game of Dungeons & Dragons. Often employing variations of the stalwart fighter, the curative cleric, spell-casting magic-user and the nimble thief, this standard has demonstrated a number of benefits. First, it pushed players into identifying with a particular type of adventurer. Survival meant minimizing a character’s natural weaknesses while taking advantage of their class abilities. Diverse teams spurred a pleasing a sense of synergy, with each member adding to the effectiveness of the entire party. As such, the traditional classes become a foundational component in many multiplayer RPGs.

In 2011, Bethesda Game Studio’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim cunningly challenged the paradigm. An unabashedly single-player experience, Skyrim removed class conventions, allowing stealthy Argonians to become adept with heavy two-handed weapons or even master conjuration-based or restorative magic. While race endowed characters with natural abilities, players could pursue any vocation they desired. In execution, the change felt exhilarating- and along with Skyrim’s nonlinear mission design, catapulted the title to critical and commercial success.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review (2)

As The Elder Scrolls Online neared release, many gamers wondered if Skyrim’s exhilarating sense of autonomy would be carried over to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game. After all, parties consisting of a Tank, Healer, DPS, and Crowd Controller have become ubiquitous across the MMO genre. Similarly, concerns emerged over how developer ZeniMax Online Studios was going to extend an experience which satisfied the yearnings of both single-player Skyrim stalwarts as well as groups of raiders, PvP junkies, and those seeking to help sway the balance of power in a persistent realm. A week after launch, The Elder Scrolls Online demonstrates the ZeniMax think-tank assessing an adept balance, while striving to put those ideas into execution. As with the launch of any high-profile MMO, niggling issues are abundant- with many in the process of being ironed out. But if players can peer past the occasional frustration associated with a broken quest or absence of animation, they’ll find that TESO is shaping up to be a worthwhile role-playing experience.

Our journey back to Tamriel began with the game client securing about 30 gigabytes of data. Even amidst the launch day surge, download speeds were impressive, nearly reaching the capacity of our bandwidth. Shirking the typical cue times associated with server-based games, TESO employs a technology which ZeniMax refers to as a ‘megaserver’, allowing the game to organically scale the number inhabitants of the game world. In theory, the method encourages an even population density across cities and dungeons during different time of the day and evening- in practice, it worked, delivering a habitually lag-free experience. Currently, the game hosts two geographically-designated servers, accommodating North American and European players. More servers will be added as the title leaps to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 platforms next June.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review (3)

Like any top-tier MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online extends a robust character customization suite. After choosing a name, gender, and race for your character, an array of sliders permit players to tweak body types, hair styles, and other defining features. Ultimately, the component favors homogeneity over individualization- don’t expect to see any unruly, immersion-breaking characters making their way through the game. While TESO extends ten playable races (which Imperials only playable by those who purchase the deluxe edition), the game’s selection of four classes (Dragonknight, Nightblades, Sorcerers, and Templers) might appear limiting at first. Fortunately, the title’s skill point system (further divided into active, passive, and Ultimate abilities) offers a decent amount of flexibility, allowing players to improve character across three-class based skill lines. All weapons and armor types are accessible to each class, adding a bit of Skyrim-style malleability to characters. By amassing three skyshards within the game’s collection of caves, dungeons, and peaks, players earn an additional skill point; as such these object are TESO’s most valuable commodity. Of course, the downside is that there’s no breakdown between say class and crafting skills- forcing budding armor makers to choose between survival abilities and passive talents.

Following character creation, a brief cinematic sequence transports players to a context known as the Interregnum, an era that’s a century before Skyrim and Oblivion- when political turbulence is running rampant. Hoping to capitalize on this volatility, the Daedric Prince, Molag Bal plots to amalgamate the planes of Coldharbour and Tamriel through the use of gigantic Dark Anchors as well as Daedra-summoning portals. Customary for the Elder Scrolls series, you start the game locked in a jail cell, where you meet an ethereal stranger known as The Prophet, who helps you escape. During your getaway, you are privy to a fleeting glimpse of Tamriel’s bleak fate, endowing the game with an overarching impetus.

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Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/ragnarok-odyssey-ace-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/ragnarok-odyssey-ace-review/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 20:00:38 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10796 When the original Ragnarok Odyssey was released in October of 2012, the PS Vita’s library lacked a Monster Hunter-esque game. Now that consummate contenders such as Soul Sacrifice and Toukiden: The Age of Demons have been released for Sony’s portable system, competition has subsequently intensified. Hoping to satisfy the elevated expectations of players, developer GameArts ...

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Ragnarok Odyssey ACE (1)

When the original Ragnarok Odyssey was released in October of 2012, the PS Vita’s library lacked a Monster Hunter-esque game. Now that consummate contenders such as Soul Sacrifice and Toukiden: The Age of Demons have been released for Sony’s portable system, competition has subsequently intensified. Hoping to satisfy the elevated expectations of players, developer GameArts (Alisia Dragoon, the Grandia series) has retooled their title- adding a substantial amount of content and bundling all the available DLC into a package called Ragnarok Odyssey ACE. While the game retains its role as a capable, time-intensive, hack-and-slash, the reappearance of a few problems has the potential to peeve players.

Like its contemporaries, Ragnarok Odyssey’s premise was slight, with player progression being the game’s driving impetus. ACE’s primary campaign makes few additions and amendments to its predecessor’s skeletal storyline- with the overarching objective of assisting a city in crisis told mostly through mission briefings.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE PS3 Screenshot

The significant change here comes via The Tower of Yggdrasil, a four-hundred level tower which extends randomly-generated layouts, lofty loot drops, and a number of enormous bosses. While it’s a considerable addition, effectively doubling the size of the game, the appendage mirrors the problem with Ragnarok’s primary trek: there’s little sense of narrative urgency.

Like Monster Hunter, the focus of the game is gear improvement rather than the augmentation of your character. While the variation can put an interesting twist on traditional level grinding, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE remains frustratingly taciturn when articulating the prerequisites for progress. Too often players will hope to expand the abilities of their armor or the power of their weapon, and be turned away by a shopkeeper who announces that you don’t have the necessary materials. Similarly, mission requests lack pertinent information such as the location of a particular item or creature. Although this design decision might have been made to encourage self-discovery, most players will probably prefer to glean the information from a FAQ.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Vita Screenshot (1)

Obviously, returning players will most likely recall Ragnarok Odyssey’s surreptitious details, making the pilgrimage to Yggdrasil a bit easier. ACE allows the import of a Ragnarok Odyssey save file, importing appearances, job classes, as well as essentials such as Weapon and Monster Cards. Although the option for starting at The Tower of Yggdrasil or reacquiring clothing would have been a pleasing perk for vets, restarting the nine-chapter journey isn’t too tedious once you’re outfitted with a set of upgraded gear.

Ragnarok Odyssey’s job classes were both diverse and skillfully balanced for collaborative games. Smartly, ACE makes few changes. For beginners, the Sword Warrior makes an ideal starting point, offering a reliable balance of speed, power, and health, while also being able to guard against attacks. Hammersmiths swap speed for the ability to deliver devastating assaults- such as the eleven-hit Downward Strike combo. Meanwhile, Mages and Hunters offer players the ability to direct ranged characters.  Coupled with their reduced defensive capabilities, these protagonists are suited for advanced players or in supportive roles. Clerics balance offensive power with a team healing capacity, while Assassins have the ability to dual-wield giving them an elevated damage-per-second proficiency. Nicely, ACE preserves its predecessor’s ability to easily switch job classes by changing your armor.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE PS3 Screenshot (3)

The incorporation of ACE skills are the one major adjustment to combat- in execution, these abilities help to endow combat with nuance and make several of the job classes more accessible to single players. Offering everything from formidable strikes, buffs, and healing powers, these draw from your action point pool, elevating the importance of the resource. Whereas starting as a solitary Hunter was frustrating in closed combat areas, now the addition of a timed explosive device allows players to pass early sections of the game.

Once Ragnarok Odyssey owners ventured online and gathered an adventuring party, they became privy to the game’s engaging combat model, which emphasized teams working cooperatively to juggle foes or to overtake hulking bosses. But that type of experience demanded a number of prerequisites- from bringing your portable within reach of a Wi-Fi signal to finding online acquaintances on the game’s oft-abandoned servers. Mercifully, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE strives to remedy this impediment. For offline play, the game ads a selection of mercenaries, allowing single players to take up to two CPU-driven assistants into battle.  Although gamers can’t issue direct orders to their aides, they can choose from a variety of different classes, bringing healers or damage-inducers into specific missions. The artificial intelligence can be spotty at times- you’ll see your comrades knocked unconscious all too often in boss battles- but their help with fighting lesser enemies is valuable.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE

With ACE’s concurrent release across both the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita platforms, the game’s audience has the potential to double. While release-week popularity can quickly dwindle, speedy matchmaking seemed to indicate a bit of audience acceptance. With cross-play and cross-save support, ACE checks off nearly all the desired tick-boxes. All that’s needed is a cross-buy promotion to complete the trifecta of consumer-friendly functionality. Notably, ACE’s netcode demonstrates an improvement over its precursor, with few instances of lag or slowdown across several extended play sessions.

Aesthetically, both iterations offer a proficient perspective on the action, bolstered by a solid framerate and detailed character models. The downside is that a distressing amount of asset recycling is apparent across the range of environments and antagonists. That said, what’s in Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is visually appealing- with plush landscapes which are average-looking on the PS3, but undeniably attractive on the Vita. Building on Ragnarock’s strong music foundation, frequent Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu contributes “Roar of the Black Dragon” to ACE’s already stirring soundtrack.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Vita Screenshot (2)

Although Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is sullied by a few legacy issues, the incorporating of new content and mechanical tweaks help make to make this the definitive version. As long as players can endure a bit of monotony and don’t mind enlisting the help of a FAQ or Wiki, the title extends an enjoyable, and certainly extensive trek. Soul Sacrifice and Toukiden may still reign as the Vita’s best Monster Hunter clones, but Ragnarok Odyssey ACE’s adjustments and additions help to ensure its status as a plucky competitor.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE was played on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita with review code supplied by the publisher.

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New Game Releases: April 4th-10th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-4-4-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-4-4-2014/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 20:00:03 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10788 In Hollywood, setting a film’s release date can prove intricate, involving factors such as estimates of competition, time of year and the avoidance of Goliath-sized competition. Naturally, video games undergo a similar process. This week, the scheduling deities seemed to have smiled on the Xbox 360 version of Titanfall. Although two delays might have seemed ...

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Batman Blackgate

In Hollywood, setting a film’s release date can prove intricate, involving factors such as estimates of competition, time of year and the avoidance of Goliath-sized competition. Naturally, video games undergo a similar process. This week, the scheduling deities seemed to have smiled on the Xbox 360 version of Titanfall. Although two delays might have seemed to have pushed title past the main marketing hoopla, this week’s relatively barren week of retail console experiences certainly bodes well for the title. Despite the decision to push the game back, Titanfall has landed on some store shelves already. Just be aware that if you attempt to get a head-start, the game’s servers have not been activated.

PlayStation 3
LEGO The Hobbit (PSN, $49.99)
R.B.I. Baseball 14 (PSN, $19.99)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PSN, PS2 Classics, $9.99)
Sonic Unleashed (PSN, $19.99)

PlayStation 4
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (Free to download, Monthly subscription)
King Oddball (PSN, $6.99)
LEGO The Hobbit (PSN, $59.99)
Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut (PSN, $19.99, $14.99 PS+)

Wii U
Advance Wars (eShop, $7.99)
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition (eShop, $19.99)
Evofish (eShop, $4.99)
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (eShop, $7.99)
Metroid Fusion (eShop, $7.99)
Mystery Case Files Dire Grove (eShop, $5.99)
Mystery Case Files Ravenhearst (eShop, $5.99)

Xbox 360
R.B.I. Baseball 14 (XBL, $19.99)
Titanfall

XBox One
Kinect Sports Rivals (Also on XBL, $59.99)

3DS
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball (eShop, Free to download, IAP)
Super Monkey Ball 3D (New to eShop, $19.99)

PS Vita
LEGO The Hobbit (PSN, $29.99)

PC
Broforce (Steam, Early Access, $14.99)
Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming (Steam, $19.99)
Halo: Spartan Assault (Steam, $4.99)
Harvester (Steam, $5.99)
Making History: The Great War (Steam, $19.99)
Men of Prey (Steam, $9.99)
Meridian: New World (Steam, Early Access) Oknytt (Steam, $3.99)
The Elder Scrolls Online ($59.99)

Robert’s Pick: By uniting action role-playing, real-time strategy, and shmup elements into a single blissful package, the original Half-Minute Hero easily earned my affection. Coupled with a puckish script which poked fun at RPG tropes, the title landed on a permanent position on my PSP’s memory stick, so I can revisit the game’s pixelated pleasures on the go. After an adaptation to PC and a localization process, MarvelousAQL has released the sequel, The Second Coming onto Steam today. For players who claim they don’t have the time for an epic eighty-hour trek, the original title pared down RPG tenets to their raw essentials, providing missions which rarely last more than a few minutes. The sequel adds a multiplayer component as well as the ability to create and share custom maps across Steamworks. As a bonus, owners of the original game are able to shave 25% of the price.

Half Minute Hero 2

Gonçalo’s Pick: Ever felt the need to grab some popcorn, watch a terrible movie with friends and pick it apart? That’s exactly the sort of feel Harvester was going for back when this point-and-click adventure game was released in 1996. Featuring live actors, a twisted sense of humor, ’90s CG gore and one of the most awkward love scenes ever, it’s not hard to see why it gained something of a cult following over the years. The cheesy low budget nature adds to Harvester‘s charm, the developers knew this and as a result, we got a very Troma-like experience, something which I’m all for.

Harvester

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Podcast 13-9 PC Captivationhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/podcast-13-9-pc-captivation/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/podcast-13-9-pc-captivation/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 05:14:13 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10776  This episode, the Tech-Gaming crew offers impressions of Card City Nights, Cloudbuilt, Thief, inFAMOUS: Second Son, the Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls expansion, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, and Strider. Beyond offering our typical dose of gaming trivia, the IndieOutlook team also invites MegaDev‘s Mike, Nick, Jon, and Stefan to discussion the creation of titles such as Atomic Gringo, Super ...

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Podcast 13-9

 This episode, the Tech-Gaming crew offers impressions of Card City Nights, Cloudbuilt, ThiefinFAMOUS: Second Son, the Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls expansion, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, and Strider. Beyond offering our typical dose of gaming trivia, the IndieOutlook team also invites MegaDev‘s Mike, Nick, Jon, and Stefan to discussion the creation of titles such as Atomic Gringo, Super House of Dead Ninjas, Bomboozle 3, as well as their forthcoming role-playing game. To make amends for that callous joke, the team is giving away five Steam codes for Marc Eckō’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. Simply leave a comment detailing a way that you release pressure to be entered into the random drawing.

Download: Podcast 13-9: PC Captivation
RSS Feed: The Tech-Gaming Podcast

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http://www.tech-gaming.com/podcast-13-9-pc-captivation/feed/ 55  This episode, the Tech-Gaming crew offers impressions of Card City Nights, Cloudbuilt, Thief, inFAMOUS: Second Son, the Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls expansion, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, and Strider. Beyond offering our typical dose of gaming trivia,  This episode, the Tech-Gaming crew offers impressions of Card City Nights, Cloudbuilt, Thief, inFAMOUS: Second Son, the Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls expansion, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, and Strider. Beyond offering our typical dose of gaming trivia, the IndieOutlook team also invites MegaDev's Mike, Nick, Jon, and Stefan to discussion the creation of titles such as Atomic Gringo, Super House of Dead Ninjas, Bomboozle 3, as well as their forthcoming role-playing game. To make amends for that callous joke, the team is giving away five Steam codes for Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. Simply leave a comment detailing a way that you release pressure to be entered into the random drawing.Download: Podcast 13-9: PC Captivation RSS Feed: The Tech-Gaming Podcast Robert Allen yes 1:45:37
Deception IV: Blood Ties Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/deception-iv-blood-ties-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/deception-iv-blood-ties-review/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 03:00:07 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10767 One prevalent trend in contemporary gaming is the revival of once-popular retro titles. Mercifully, the practice has proved successful enough to spur the revitalization of several lesser-known properties. Built around a premise where players constructed sequences of sadistic, violent traps, Tecmo’s Deception franchise would likely fall into that second, more obscure, category. While a bit ...

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Deception IV Blood Ties Review (1)

One prevalent trend in contemporary gaming is the revival of once-popular retro titles. Mercifully, the practice has proved successful enough to spur the revitalization of several lesser-known properties. Built around a premise where players constructed sequences of sadistic, violent traps, Tecmo’s Deception franchise would likely fall into that second, more obscure, category. While a bit too dark to earn mainstream appeal, the title’s ghoulish Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions were captivating enough to generate a fervent cult following. Released nearly a decade after the last series’ entry, Deception IV: Blood Ties adeptly brings the franchise up to date- modernizing the visual output, tweaking play mechanics, and adding a variety of modes in an effort to lure players into its fiendish confines.

The PlayStation 3 and PC versions of the title are content comparable, each extending an offer to learn the nuances of Blood Ties though an optional, ten-part tutorial. While the lessons take the time to explain many of the nuances, the game’s introductory stages also impart the essentials- allowing eager gamers to get right into the bloodshed. Whichever method of instruction a player chooses, they’ll discover that each stage in Deception extends a similar objective. Instead of assaulting threats directly, the protagonist lays down a variety of ensnarements designed to send assailants through sequences of agony and embarrassment-inducing torture. In execution, it’s what Konami’s lackluster Saw titles should have been.

Deception IV Blood Ties Review (2)

Giving context to the cruelty is Blood Ties storyline- told through character portraits and expositional description. Players learn that a group of twelve do-gooders have defeated the devil, binding Beelzebub with an artifact known as the Holy Verses. To prohibit the great fiend from regaining freedom, the scared text was split into a dozen pieces, with each fragment given to a safeguarding saint. As the devil’s daughter, it’s your job to lure the twelve guardians into a castle, before dispatching each one Grand Guignol-style.

Accompanying you on this endeavor are Caelea, Lilia, and Veruza- a trio of demon goddesses who represents the trinity of torture: intricacy, humiliation, and pain. Although players might assume the provocatively-dressed trio are mere fan-service, their incorporation ends up enlivening Blood Ties’ campaign. Between belittling the adventurers who walk into the title’s ambush areas and congratulating players on their barbarous behavior, the goddesses’ become provocateurs, goading players into action. Although Blood Ties has a constrained number of enemy character models, each is endowed with personality- exhibiting strengths, weaknesses, a bit of backstory and often darkly comical death quotes.

Deception IV Blood Ties Review (3)

Cleverly, this sense of humor spills over into gameplay. Although violent wall, floor, and ceiling traps are capable of inflicting mortal wounds, there are also more comical ruses- such as a plummeting pumpkin head which dazes characters or even a bit of slapstick, from a well-placed rake on the floor. Much of Deception’s enjoyment emanates from activating these devices in a well-timed sequence, sending characters through a montage of savage mayhem. Pleasingly, Blood Ties adapts the triggering techniques of its predecessors, which used the face button of a controller to set off each trap. Now, players use a single button and can switch between devices with a tap of the directional pad.

The game’s other virtue is its sense of autonomy. Smartly, Blood Ties rarely requires a very specific type of trap to exterminate an enemy. Instead, the game presents players with a pleasing arsenal, pausing the action until there are satisfied with their contraptions for cruelty. To give nuance, some foes have armor that protects against certain types of traps or inherent weaknesses, but the title rarely feels as if there’s only a single way to dispatch an opponent across the game’s four milieus. Another of Blood Ties virtues is the game’s eschewing of additional purchases. While the title is filled with unlockable traps, costumes, and perks, each amenity are earned through play rather than through pay.

Deception IV Blood Ties Review (4)

Aesthetically, the console and portable versions of Deception IV are comparable, with both offering a solid framerate and reasonably detailed environments and character models. While the larger display afforded by the PlayStation 3 iteration allows for improved enemy tracks, PS Vita owners aren’t at a complete disadvantage, with shoulder buttons are to lock onto and zoom in on moving enemies.

While a cross-buy promotion would have undoubtedly enticed players, Blood Ties offers no discount for the purchase of both versions. That said, the game does demonstrate cross-save functionality- permitting players to transfer progress via the cloud. Pleasingly, both versions extend a variety of play modes beyond the main campaign, from a sandbox-style free mode, 100 challenge missions, and even a Quest Creation mode which allows gamers to design their own scenarios. Satisfyingly, user-made stages can be shared with other players via an online component which spans both versions. Sonically, Blood Ties made no attempt at offering an English dub, which is probably for the best considering the scream-heavy dialog.

Deception IV Blood Ties Review (5)

After years of being forced to complete unfulfilling errands for bossy NPCs, being able to castigate characters feels refreshingly cathartic. Deception IV’s other indulging element can be found in the construction of diabolical traps and the succeeding performances of grisly pain. While these actions might seem a bit mean-spirited, Blood Ties’ stages are so engaging, that even the most genial gamer might relish being the bad girl for a change.

Deception IV: Blood Ties was played on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher.

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Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Editionhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/dynasty-warriors-8-xtreme-legends-complete-edition/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/dynasty-warriors-8-xtreme-legends-complete-edition/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 05:00:17 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10749 “It is a general truism of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide.” The opening lines of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms encapsulate not only the cyclical destiny of a post-Han Dynasty China, but also the trajectory of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. A sprawling ...

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Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (1)

“It is a general truism of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide.”

The opening lines of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms encapsulate not only the cyclical destiny of a post-Han Dynasty China, but also the trajectory of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. A sprawling series which has spawned eight main iterations, a variety of spin-offs and tactically-rooted variants, as well as offshoots situated in the worlds of Gundam, One Piece, and Fist of the North Star, the Tecmo-Koei property has splintered into a mini-industry. Concurrently, the recent release of Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita demonstrates unification- appending mislaid characters such as Chen Gong, Lü Lingqi into Dynasty Warriors 8’s already profuse cornucopia of content.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (2)

Since the franchise’s musou-driven mechanics were first established in 2000’s Dynasty Warriors 2, developer Omega Force has offered increasingly loose interpretations of the source material. While each games’ overarching battles are drawn from literary context, the more personal undertaking of guiding a single character to dispose of hundreds of oft-inactive foes is pure power-fantasy. More recent Dynasty Warriors entries have enlarged the number “what if” scenarios, extended imagined challenges between the Wei, Wu, Shu and Jin clans. Xtreme Legends Complete Edition weaves even more of these into its plotlines, unlocking hypothetical scenarios when players complete certain actions during each kingdom’s story- as well as a concluding side-story mission that’s assured to amuse fans.

The infamous ‘invincible warrior, Lü Bu receives his own storyline- providing a bit of redemption for the formidable, pheasant tail-donned boss character. Although Lü Bu’s campaign might be short, his capability on the battlefield is unmatched- allowing players to use his legendary Sky Piercer to wreak havoc on encroaching opponents. Even more enjoyable is the incorporation of Chen Gong, one of the Complete Edition’s five additional characters. Armed with a scroll, the protagonist can summon phantom soldiers which lash out an enemies. In summary, the inclusion adds 52 additional missions to Dynasty Warriors 8’s already impressive collection of 88 assignments and 78 “Free Mode” scenarios, forging one of gaming largest time sinks.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (3)

Ambition Mode was Dynasty Warriors 8’s attempt at incorporating some of the elements of the Empire titles. Players were tasked with building the Tongquetai Tower in an effort to convince the Emperor to visit their province. Here, the goal is extended, as gamers attempt to reunite the land by conquering wayward territories. New parameters are revealed- from the integration of a countdown timer for each mission to the ability to cultivate and command up to three bodyguards. Despite the changes, Ambition Mode’s attempt to incorporate role-playing-like elements into the franchise fall a bit short.

Although the accumulation of allies, materials, and fame might be enough of impetus to justify the frequent trips to the battlefield, the narrative-based rewards are a bit disappointing- with generic NPC’s providing perfunctory text-based praise and bland bits of exposition. The upside is that Ambition Mode bequeaths gems- the currency that grants gamers access to Weapon Fusion. Borrowed from the Warriors Orochi series, Fusion allows players to forge awe-inspiring arms by combining the abilities of owned weapons. In execution, players can craft offensive devices which regenerate heath or intensify damage with poison, fire, or lightning-based strikes.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (4)

More than most games, Dynasty Warriors is a game best enjoyed at higher challenge levels. Drop the difficulty setting down, and the game functions as a cathartic, mindless brawler, allowing players to button mash their way through docile crowds. But raise the level of adversity, and the game changes drastically- not just altering the amount of damage the protagonist issues and incurs, but changing the way the game is played. Here, the game becomes far more strategic, requiring players to monitor and manage ally progress, to avoid a demoralizing defeat.

For score chasers, Challenge Mode makes a reappearance after an absence in Dynasty Warriors 8. This collection of five different tests present a collection of time-based challenges such as attempting to knock foes off a network of bridges or racing through a stage as quickly as possible. Beyond the posting of high scores to an online leaderboard, Challenge also spurs success with a collection of five exclusive weapons. The one blemish on this component is that trials only accommodate a single player. While the game’s other components support online play, these fleeting, often frantic deviations would have certainly been elevated by the presence of a partner.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (5)

Visually, the PlayStation 4 version of Xtreme Legends Complete offers a substantial graphical enhancement over its predecessors. Beyond extended draw distances, improved lighting models and a framerate which habitually strives to stay in the thirty to sixty range, textures are often improved- with skin exhibiting an organic suppleness. Small curios such as interactive Twitch support and voice-work issued from the DualShock 4 offer a few superfluous incentives, as well. Naturally, the abilities of the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita can’t quite measure up- while these versions attempt a fluid framerate, heated battles can slow things down drastically. Regardless of platform, the game’s searing guitar licks will serenade every battle. While the inclusion is strikingly anachronistic- at this point Omega Force is unlikely to change tradition.

Nearly as labyrinthine as the tangled network of loyalties in the Three Kingdoms is the pricing structure for the three iterations. PlayStation 3 owners can purchase Xtreme Legends as a standalone disk which allow players to access to DW8’s Story and Free Mode content through a verification system which sporadically confirms ownership of either the original disk or the downloadable version. The upside is disk swapping- a common practice in previous Xtreme entries has been eliminated. Unfortunately, the version’s $39.99 price tag is a bit exorbitant. As PlayStation 4 and PS Vita owners didn’t receive DW8, Tecmo-Koei bundled all of the content in the Xtreme Legends Complete Edition, which costs $59.99 for the console version and $39.99 for the portable iteration. Although cross-save and cross-play functionality are a welcome addition in the West, loyal fans might bemoan the lack of any savings when both games are purchased.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (6)
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition
was played on the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher. Scoring reflects the PlayStation 4 version.

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Yoshi’s New Island Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/yoshis-new-island-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/yoshis-new-island-review/#comments Sat, 29 Mar 2014 20:00:50 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10736 Over the last few years few companies have been stoking the flames of nostalgia as feverishly as Nintendo. From offering compilations of beloved IPs by way of the Kirby’s Dream Collection and the Metroid Prime Trilogy, crafting portable ports of StarFox 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and renovating respected franchises such ...

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Yoshis New Island (1)

Over the last few years few companies have been stoking the flames of nostalgia as feverishly as Nintendo. From offering compilations of beloved IPs by way of the Kirby’s Dream Collection and the Metroid Prime Trilogy, crafting portable ports of StarFox 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and renovating respected franchises such as Kid Icarus, Pokémon, and Luigi’s Mansion, their output is often rooted in legacy.

The most effective of these stratagems is when one of Nintendo’s development teams conscientiously reworks a franchise- fusing the familiar with the fresh. While New Super Mario Bros. U was an undeniably entertaining experience, the title treaded the same Koopa-crammed grounds as New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Conversely, Super Mario 3D World often felt innovative, thanks to EAD Toyko endowing nearly every stage with some new nuance or sly twist on Mario tenet.

Yoshis New Island (2)

Regretfully, the team at Arzest (who’ve provided assistance on Wii Play: Motion and the 3DS’s Mii Plaza) erred on the conservative in their creation of Yoshi’s New Island. While the title is an immensely enjoyable platformer, its potential is stifled by a reluctance to tamper with tradition. Although there are moments when the game deviates from its source material- 1995’s Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, these divergences feel more like small tweaks rather the type of mechanics which eventually become franchise canon. That said, newcomers who’ve never played the Super Nintendo-based version or successive Game Boy Advance port are destined to appreciate New Island’s coddling charms.

Most importantly, New Island nails the nuances of the original games. Yoshi’s famous flutter jump feels spot on, allowing players to hoover across extended gaps or glide past a procession of antagonists. Although Arzest could have mapped egg throwing to the Circle Pad, the developers elected to maintain the oscillating aiming system, preserving the satisfaction of timing a ricochet shot to grab a remote collectable. Most importantly, each stage’s trifecta of thirty stars, twenty red coins, and five flowers remains intact. Those seeking a quick fix can spring through a stage without a stifling sense of adversity, while completionists will be able to spend hours scouring every last recess for obscured collectable. New Island does make this group work a bit harder- concealing many of its trinkets until players poke around each suspect recess with a tossed egg.

Yoshis New Island (3)

Nintendo’s laudable approach to player assistance works well for the title. Succumb several times in the same zone and New Island will extend a pair of wings so that a Yoshi can circumvent the trickier platforming segments. Struggle even more and the game will give you a pair of golden wings which endow the character with invincibility. Combined the aforementioned collectable gathering challenge, Yoshi’s New Island offers a scalable level of challenge that feels more organic than selectable difficulty settings.

Less successful are the title’s new elements. Giant eggs, a rift on the Mega Mushrooms found in New Super Mario Bros., break through sections of the playfield, gathering coins in their wake. But beyond the initial spectacle, their integration within New Island hardly feels essential. Periodically, players will stumble across a pair of binoculars which allows players to use the gyroscopic functionality of the 3DS to scan each sprawling stage. Woefully, the device isn’t used often for players to adapt to its capabilities, and the view doesn’t give any insight into the location of red coins or stars. Yoshi’s Island’s original mini-games make a return, morphing the dinosaur into a mechanical device which is also controlled by tilting the hardware. Woefully, a sense of urgency is removed when many of these divergences can repeated without player penalty.

Yoshis New Island (4)

Visually, New Island shirks the awkward twin-screen presentation of 2006’s Yoshi’s Island DS- a design decision which made aiming eggs unnecessarily cumbersome. With gameplay constrained to the top screen, the bottom display tracks collectables, eliminating clutter on the play playfield. Although New Island graphics still exert an undeniable charm when the 3DS’s depth slider is turned off, with the three-dimensional effect turned on, the title comes alive- resembling a vibrantly colored diorama. Augmented by animated, parallax-infused backdrops, New Island is a visual and technical delight, with a hand-drawn aesthetic that doesn’t impair the game’s fluid framerate. Sonically, the game’s trademark sound effects- a wailing Baby Mario or Yoshi’s determined grunt at the peak of his jump, are all intact- supplemented by a musical score which offers a number of admirable remixes of familiar melodies.

Yoshi veterans will undoubtedly yearn for original enemies, new gameplay mechanics and a three-dimensional homage to Super Mario World 2’s hallucinogenic  “Touch Fuzzy, get Dizzy” stage. While Yoshi’s New Island doesn’t provide elements, it does provide a proficient, if markedly derivative journey. Considering that this is Nintendo’s third adaption of the SNES classic, returning players might want more. However, if you’ve never played any of the original, GBA, or DS iterations, New Island is a recommended purchase for fans of the platforming genre.

Yoshis New Island (5)
Yoshi’s New Island was played on the 3DS with review code provided by the publisher.

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New Game Releases: March 28th- April 3rd, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-3-28-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-3-28-2014/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 16:00:26 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10732 Despite the arrival of April Fools’ Day on the calendar, we assure you that this week’s roster of new releases contain no trick titles. With monikers such as Goat Simulator, I am an Air Traffic Controller: Airport Hero Hawaii, and Skater Cat that claim might seem incredulous- but we assure you, unless publishers are pulling ...

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Goat Simulator

Despite the arrival of April Fools’ Day on the calendar, we assure you that this week’s roster of new releases contain no trick titles. With monikers such as Goat Simulator, I am an Air Traffic Controller: Airport Hero Hawaii, and Skater Cat that claim might seem incredulous- but we assure you, unless publishers are pulling an elaborate prank, all of these games actually exist. Of course, we can’t vouch for quality so there’s the distinct possibility that say, Goat Simulator’s tongue licking mechanic inadvertently just plain sucks.

PlayStation 3
MLB 14: The Show (Also on PSN, $59.99)
PlayStation Sports Pack Vol. 1 – MLB 14 The Show/NBA2K14
Putty Squad
Ragnarok Odyssey ACE (Also on PSN, $39.99)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army (PSN, PS2 Classic, $9.99)

PlayStation 4
King Oddball (PSN, $5.99)
Mercenary Kings (PSN, $14.99, Free for PS+)

Wii U
Advance Wars (eShop, $7.99)
Dr. Mario (eShop, $4.99)
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (eShop, $7.99)
Metroid Fusion (eShop, $7.99)
My Style Studio: Hair Salon (eShop, $4.99)
Sonic Lost World: The Legend of Zelda Zone (eShop, DLC, Free)

DS
I am in the Movie (DSiWare, $1.99)

3DS
Clu Clu Land (eShop, $4.99)
Cube Tactics (eShop, $4.99)
I am an Air Traffic Controller: Airport Hero Hawaii (eShop, $19.99)
Skater Cat (eShop, $4.99)

PS Vita
MLB 14: The Show (Also on PSN, $39.99)
Putty Squad
Ragnarok Odyssey ACE (Also on PSN, $39.99)

PC
Age of Wonders III (Steam, $39.99)
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition (Steam, $16.99)
Goat Simulator (Steam, $TBA)
MXGP-The Official Motocross Videogame (Steam, $33.99)
Rogue’s Tale (Steam, $TBA)
Steins;Gate ($39.99)
Steins;Gate Limited Edition ($59.99)

Robert’s Pick: It might be hard to believe, but stateside games almost didn’t get a chance to play Advance Wars. Released on September 10, 2001, the game was delayed for over a year in European and Japanese territories following the Twin Towers attack. But even more bewildering was Nintendo’s assumption that Americans wouldn’t appreciate a turn-based war-game. So while the $7.99 price is a bit high for an emulated Gameboy Advance title, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be mined as Orange Star’s commanding officer takes on the tyrannical Blue Moon Army. What red-blooded Yank wouldn’t appreciate that?

Advance Wars

Gonçalo’s PickMetroid Fusion marked Samus’ return after a 7 year hiatus, oh sure, she was a playable character in Super Smash Brothers, but so was NESS and when was the last time you saw him in a new game? It seemed like the Metroid franchise was going the way of Kid Icarus, partly due to series’ producer Gunpey Yokoi’s death, and the cancellation of Metroid 2 DX for the Gameboy color seemed like the final nail in the coffin. While not as lengthy of in-depth as its SNES brother, Fusion proved our favorite space bounty hunter still had plenty of fight left in her.

Metroid Fusion Screenshot

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The Witch and the Hundred Knight Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/the-witch-and-the-hundred-knight/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/the-witch-and-the-hundred-knight/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 23:00:35 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10724 While Nippon Ichi Software has found continued success in the strategy role-playing stylings of the Disgaea franchise, the company has persistently tried to broaden their output. From a pair of Prinny-lead platformers as well as Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman and The Guided Fate Paradox’s forays into the Rogue-like realm, establishing another popular property ...

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The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review (1)
While Nippon Ichi Software has found continued success in the strategy role-playing stylings of the Disgaea franchise, the company has persistently tried to broaden their output. From a pair of Prinny-lead platformers as well as Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman and The Guided Fate Paradox’s forays into the Rogue-like realm, establishing another popular property has been an ambition for the Kakamigahara-based firm. Much like the upcoming publishing of PlayStation 3-based brawler, Battle Princess of Arcadias, the release of The Witch and the Hundred Knight seeks attainment through the action genre. NIS aficionados will be pleased to know that the title isn’t a complete departure from tradition- with Hundred Knight’s gameplay built upon a myriad of interlocking mechanics.

Before players are able to see the game’s virtues, they’ll have tolerate a duo of drawbacks. The first stems from the depiction of the eponymous character, Metallia, a necromancer who reigns over the polluted Niblhenne Swamp. Like Hour of Darkness’ Laharl, she’s uncompromisingly tyrannical- determined to spread her noxious wetland through the rest of the world. But where King Krichevskoy’s son devious deeds were often presented comically and often only alluded to, Metallia’s repugnant behavior takes center stage, and she torments and belittles every character she comes into contact with. Although Hundred Knight does offer late-game redemption for the repugnant anti-hero, its presence comes too late; players will have already formed an indelible opinion of the character. On the upside, witnessing the game’s protagonist- the diminutive Hundred Knight, grow from timid cipher to a whirlwind of controlled destruction, is certainly rewarding.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review (3)

The game’s other shortcoming from its tutelage. For the first hour of Hundred Knight, players are treated like gaming neophytes, as the title frequently breaks momentum to explain fairly conventional mechanics. Puzzlingly, this approach is soon abandoned, as players are sent out to complete their first mission. The rapid shift toward full autonomy can be overwhelming at first- especially when multiple meters fill the screen and a multitude of complex gameplay elements arise. Although an in-game reference guide would have been ideal, Hundred Knight does extend knowledge through a compilation of fifty loading screen tips.

Mercifully, both of these issues mend themselves as players persevere, allowing the title’s cornucopia of gameplay components to shine. Although combat is supported by a trio of fundamental actions- attacking, guarding and dashing, a substantial amount of menu options add nuance to battles. By equipping up to five weapons, players can build their own combos for Hundred Knight- with each armament having one of three different attack attributes, either Slash, Blunt, and Magic. Naturally, each type of offensive device has its own strengths and weaknesses, with weapons like hammers providing a slow but devastating strike to adjacent foes while the weaker spear is proficient at crowd control. Dig further and you’ll discover Magic Die symbols which can increase the power of combos when players put the pips in sequential order.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review (4)

Fallen foes in Hundred Knight bequeath a generous amount of items, compelling players to persist with the promise of better loot. Pleasingly, there’s some nice risk/reward elements here as well: although Common items might initially offer bit more attacking power, Epic or Legendary articles provide for a higher level cap. Similarly, Grade Points earned through elegantly executed kills allow for things like temporary stat boosts (recalling Z.H.P.’s two-pronged leveling system) or even or an advance of GigaCals.

Like any respectable killing machine, the Hundred Knight needs a steady intake of nutrients to subsist. Initially, the dwindling GigaCal gauge might seem like an unneeded restriction, putting players on a timer or tethering them to a certain area. Closer inspection shows the ingenuity of the system which goads gamers into doing a bit of resource management. As mentioned Hundred Knight can convert Grade Points in GigaCals or alternatively digest damaged foes. Naturally, consuming enemies has a tradeoff- in this case filling a stomach which is also used to retain loot.  The best way out of this predicament is to use the Bowel Dump or Upchuck commands to reclaim precious gastro-intestinal space.  Much like the Item World, areas prod perseverance, with dividends which correlate to the amount of peril players face.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review (2)

Of course, these are just a few of The Witch and the Hundred Knight’s interconnected systems. There’s also multiple Facets (classes), boss battles, a minion-summoning ability known as Tochka, the ability to raid houses in villages. Collectively, these elements give the title scalability. Those seeking a simple Diablo-esque adventure can grind their way through stages, while menu-fiddlers will be able to menu-manage their way to success. After years of being forced to talk to tedious NPCs, Hundred Knight’s ability to pummel the local populace feels gratifying and within character for Metallia’s main minion.

Visually, Takehito Harada delivers once more, elevating Hundred Knights’ journey with a roster of captivating character designs. As NIS’s inaugural 3D-based title, there’s a few blemishes- locales can appear a bit pixelated and the top-down perspective becomes obscured all too easily. However, peer past these issues and its hard not to be enchanted by the games aesthetic- especially the quality of the portraits used during dialog sequences. Musically, the title’s tunes wouldn’t be out of place in a Diagaea soundtrack, with compositions constructed with similar sound banks. As expected for a NISA-localized title, the delivers dual-language voice acting. Both renditions are proficient, just expect a bit of dissonance when Metallia’s name is pronounced “Metallica” in the Japanese version.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review (5)

Although NIS’s The Witch and the Hundred Knight is destined to be contrasted against Disgaea, in execution two games share several common elements. The difference between action-driven and turn-based combat aside, both titles are built around the type of complex, interconnected gameplay systems which can enchant obsessive-minded gamers. Factor in a chapter-based storyline driven by a roster of thoroughly obnoxious characters, and you might wonder if the game reflects NIS’s ambition to cultivate a broader audience. If that’s the case, the assignment might be The Hundred Knight’s most imperative mission.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight was played on the PlayStatino 3 with review code provided by the publisher.

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Bloody G501 7.1 Gaming Headsethttp://www.tech-gaming.com/bloody-g501/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/bloody-g501/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 22:00:56 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10707 For PC gamers with unrestrained budgets, the purchase of an Astro A-50 or Turtle Beach Seven headset can offer an unrivaled sonic experience. But for players who’d rather spend their disposable income on a high-end video card, a more economical purchase might be merited. Peripheral manufacturer A4 Tech has demonstrated an ability to adeptly balance ...

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Bloody G501 7.1 Gaming Headset (1)

For PC gamers with unrestrained budgets, the purchase of an Astro A-50 or Turtle Beach Seven headset can offer an unrivaled sonic experience. But for players who’d rather spend their disposable income on a high-end video card, a more economical purchase might be merited. Peripheral manufacturer A4 Tech has demonstrated an ability to adeptly balance performance and economy with their line of Bloody-branded gaming mice. With the release of their G501 gaming headset, the firm hopes to duplicate that success by offering a Surround Sound-simulating headset that’s teeming with notable features.

Upon opening the outer cardboard box which houses the G501, gamers will find the headset firmly protected by a thin plastic clamshell. Like the Multi-Core Gun3 V7, the device ships with a quick reference guide but fails to include a disc for accompanying software. Although the peripheral was quickly identified on all of our Windows 7 and 8 machines as soon as the G501 was plugged into a USB port, owners will want to download the 34 MB Tonemaker application to take advantage of the headset’s advanced functionality.

Bloody G501 7.1 Gaming Headset (2)

The setup guide warns users to disable their anti-virus software when installing Tonemaker (a directive that’s always a bit troubling). However, we experienced no false-positives with systems running AVG, Avast, or Ad-Aware. Since installation, Tonemaker hasn’t exhibited any conflicts with other applications and has been consistently stable, although some of the menu text became garbled on lower resolution laptap screens. Although the software has a 27.8 MB footprint, any processing burden is nearly imperceptible, using less than 0.5% of CPU power on a low-end rig.

Once Tonemaker is installed, the application allows for quick access through Windows’ notification tray. Clicking on the icon brings up the substantially-sized user interface, with the uppermost part of the screen serving as a gateway to the peripheral’s advanced feature set. Clicking on the Game button allows players to assign four different sound equalization settings, using software dubbed AudioMate. The idea here is not to just to add additional punch to the bass or elevate the highs of a sound mix, but to emphasize or mitigate specific in-game sounds. Geared toward first-person shooter enthusiasts, the pre-configured settings allow for the suppression of gunfire or the accentuating of footsteps. To accommodate for weapon variance and different varieties of sound effects, Tonemaker even allows players to tweak the acoustical setting further through traditional EQ levels.

Bloody G501 7.1 Gaming Headset (3)

Expectedly, the advantage afforded to players is minimal. Since both footsteps and gunfire blasts have a sizable imprint on the sonic spectrum, AudioMate can’t work miracles. In execution, the result isn’t far off from karaoke programs which attempt to strip the vocal track from a song- the target sound might be subdued, but isn’t completely eliminated from the mix. We tried using Tonemaker with a variety of contemporary FPSs- from Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Insurgency with a team of three volunteers. After a few hours of play, most of the participants indicated that Tonemaker offered very little of an actual advantage in multiplayer games, but that the application would be fun to play around with. That said, each volunteer had little difficulty distinguishing original sounds from the Tonemaker’s processed effects outside of a heated online battle.

Thoughtfully, the G501 allows gamers to shift between four preprogrammed sound settings by using the headset’s in-line controller. A press of the illuminated button cycles between equalizations, with the Bloody icon changing color to indicate which processing method is being applied. Similarly, when the headset is in 2.0 Music mode, the button switches between preselecting EQ settings, allowing for users to adjust the sound mix to accommodate a dozen genres such as pop, rock, metal and even opera. Much like the AudioMate’s customization options, owners can further adjust the sound mix using a ten-track equalizer.

Bloody G501 7.1 Gaming Headset (6)

When the G501 is put into 7.1 Surround Sound mode, the Bloody button shifts between soundscapes, permitting players to control the size of the replicated acoustic environment and well as the volume of each simulated sound source. Although the headset lacks Dolby Digital licensing, spatial fidelity was comparable to similarly priced devices, divulging the location of incoming enemy fire in RAGE and Borderlands or the vicinity of nearby competitors in racing games like Need For Speed: Shift and DiRT 3. Whichever mode the G501 is in, sonic fidelity is solid, but certainly not awe-inspiring. Output favors the midrange, shirking the throaty bass and crisp trembles exhibited by top-tier products.

Pleasingly, the headset includes a pull-out, pliable microphone. Echoing the design philosophy of the peripheral’s in-line controller and braided cord, the mic is permanently connected to the unit. A4 Tech seems to prefer a consolidated device which eliminates the possibility of losing a crucial component. After misplacing several headset cables, we might have to agree with their stance. Although the physical reach of the microphone is a bit stunted, fidelity is respectable. Additionally, Tonemaker includes a voice-altering component, allowing players to pitch-shift their tones to sound like dragons, ducks, or even another gender.

Bloody G501 7.1 Gaming Headset (5)

Build quality is certainly one of the G501’s virtues. Constructed of durable plastic, simulated leather and bits of brushed aluminum, the headset feels sturdy- likely able to survive a fall onto a carpeted floor. That said, the unit is comfortable to wear for long duration thanks to its reasonable 9.1 ounce (258 g) weight, cranial padding, and unconfined aperture. Persisting the A4 Tech’s aesthetic, the angular headset is crafted in a striking red and black combination, emblazed with the glowing Bloody logo on the left earcup. Although the peripheral carries a $99.99 USD MSRP, the unit can be found online for as little as $65. For PC players looking for an affordable headset, the G501 offer performance that comparable to the competition, elevated by a few application-based amenities.

Bloody G501 7.1 Gaming Headset (4)

Specifications:

Headset
Driver Unit: 40mm Diameter, Neodymium magnets, aluminum voice coil
Frequency Response: 20-20000Hz
Sensitivity: 100dB (1KHz)
Impedance: 32 ohm
Earmuff Dimensions: H202mm*W165mm*D98mm
Weight: 258g

Microphone
Frequency Response: 50 – 16,000 Hz
Sensitivity: -58dBV/Pa (reference:0dB = 1 Pa,1KHz)
Pickup Mode: Omni

Cable
USB Cable: Braided Cable/ 2.2M in Length

System Requirements
Windows XP/Vista/7/8
USB Connector

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Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/yaiba-ninja-gaiden-z/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/yaiba-ninja-gaiden-z/#comments Sun, 23 Mar 2014 20:00:17 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10695 A decade after its release, Ninja Gaiden remains the quintessential reimagining. Transforming the eight-bit platformer into a hyperkinetic hurricane of violence, weapon-based combat, and nimble ninjutsu, director Tomonobu Itagaki established many of the tenets of the three-dimensional action/combat genre. The game also extended an amazing value proposition, providing players with an engaging campaign as well ...

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Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (1)
A decade after its release, Ninja Gaiden remains the quintessential reimagining. Transforming the eight-bit platformer into a hyperkinetic hurricane of violence, weapon-based combat, and nimble ninjutsu, director Tomonobu Itagaki established many of the tenets of the three-dimensional action/combat genre. The game also extended an amazing value proposition, providing players with an engaging campaign as well as emulated versions of the SNES-based Gaiden Trilogy, two free downloadable packs, and online tournaments. Yet, following a reworked version of Ninja Gaiden subtitled Black, the development team at Team Ninja began to waver. Itagaki-san left the studio before the release of a sequel, and each successive title drifted further away from the prodigious premiere offering. Most recently, critics and consumers denounced Ninja Gaiden 3, finding Team Ninja’s efforts both repetitive and mechanically insubstantial.

So when word circulated that follow-up Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z was going to be a collaborative effort between Team Ninja, Keiji Inafune’s Comcept, and Lost Planet 3 developer Spark Unlimited, many speculated if the alliance would produce an invigorating synergy or just another disheartening follow-up. In execution, Yaiba turns out to be a disappointing jumble of ideas, unable to replicate either the nuance of traditional Gaiden gameplay or even to establish a solid direction for the series. Likely it would take a Sigma-style redux to mend the majority of Yaiba’s mistakes.

Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (3)

Ninja Gaiden Z’s opening cinematic inadvertently divulges a few of the game’s failings. A vividly rendered prologue shows Yaiba Kamikaze challenging franchise mainstay Ryu Hayabusa to a battle. Tragically underestimating the capabilities of the master ninja, Yaiba is defeated- losing a limb, his left eye and nearly his life in the ensuing encounter. Fortunately, an eccentric magnate rescues the disgraced combatant, replacing his damaged body parts with a robotic arm and bionic optical abilities. Despite these enhancements, it soon becomes clear that Yaiba’s offensive abilities lack the precision and diversity of Ryu’s arsenal. Little wonder he lost the fight.

Recalling the offensive options of the God of War series, players have three principal weapons which each offer a different balance of range and potency. Yaiba’s primary weapon is his trusty sword, capable to quickly carving up crowds of foes. Although his claw lacks reach, it’s a devastating weapon against nearby antagonists. Meanwhile, the protagonist’s chain works best at crowd control, with a circular attack which slows the rush of encroaching enemies. Lacking Ryu’s Ninpo abilities, Yaiba can collect elemental-based weapons left by the defeated opponents, somehow turning a pair of zombie arms into an impromptu pair of nunchucks. Unfortunately, the action is far too frantic and the camera perspective is zoomed too far out to exploit any sense of macabre mischievousness from the gag.

Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (4)

Whereas Ninja Gaiden’s demanded unflinching precision from players as they confronted no more than four simultaneous foes, Yaiba mistakenly assumes that large crowds of enemies would make combat more enjoyable. Woefully, it spoils the whip-quick combos, abrupt defense stances, and the ability to read tells’ of opponents- all the nuances which made the original Ninja Gaiden so invigorating. The apparent upside is that Ninja Gaiden Z is more accessible, allowing newcomers to cleave their way through the game’s lower-level enemies through inattentive button mashing. But even this approach isn’t without problem. Players can perform finishers on damaged foes to siphon a bit of health- but with the large quantities of enemies and frantic nature of fights, you’ll never be quite sure if an attempt will be successful.

Once the game throws out its more formidable antagonists, adversaries like knife-wielding clowns, fire-hurling priests, and ghostly brides protected by electrical fields, these thoughtless methods will have to be revised. Thanks to environmental-themed attacks and resultant weaknesses, these elevated enemies are gratifying to fight at first. But soon, Ninja Gaiden Z’s arena-based skirmishes start throwing out these raised rivals in larger numbers, making fights frustrating. Near the midpoint of the seven-stage campaign, players will confront a screen-full of foes simultaneously launching fireballs, initiating electrical storms, and teleporting about, plunging the game’s combat into a cacophony of confusion. Here is where Yaiba’s departure from franchise canon is most evident. Whereas Itagaki-era Gaiden was unapologetically tough, demanding players dig deeper and hone their abilities, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z only tests a player’s patience, rather than trying to improve their skillset.

Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (2)

Complementing combat, Yaiba offers a few additional gameplay elements- unfortunately, they all feel underdeveloped. Lacking the ability to jump during battle, environmental navigation consists of successions of rapid-fire quick time events. While visually rousing, there’s little substance to be found in these tests. Likewise, the game’s puzzles feel hollow, typically tasking players with finding a zombie in an environment and flinging it to engage some sort of switch. Beyond being variations of the same impasse, they also tend to disrupt the game’s otherwise breakneck cadence.

With a multitude of mechanical issues, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z attempts to use sophomoric humor to enliven its experience, but the results can be mixed. The game’s writers make the mistake of thinking that any crassly-worded dialog will elicit a guffaw from gamers, instead of looking for wit in wordplay or intriguing interchanges. Thankfully, the title’s visual gags fare far better, with Yaibi standing triumphantly during a rainstorm of falling panties or sending a bus into the cleft of a building outfitted with colossal, outstretched, fish-net covered legs. The sequences certainly aren’t sophisticated, but they do offer a bit of much needed levity between stages filled with swarms of cheap enemies.

Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (5)

Visually, Ninja Gaiden Z’s aesthetics are commendable, providing a richly hued style which echoes the appearance of Borderlands. On the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, the look isn’t with loss, with occasional framerate drops and screen-tearing evident on both platforms. For gamers with a modest rig, the PC iteration of Yaiba is the way to go. With a lowly Radeon 7770 the game was playable, and with a 7850, fidelity and framerates were remarkably improved over the console versions. As for extras, the title offers a retro-themed, side-scrolling game which bridges the gap between Ninja Gaiden Z and older franchise entries.

Inafune once accused Japanese studios of bring “at least five years behind” the developmental output from other territories. As such, players might assume that Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z’s conglomeration of talent reflects the best design practices from both parts of the globe. But strip Yaiba of its cool visual style and you’re left with a game that has the finesse of a forgotten PlayStation 2-era brawler. The Gaiden franchise doesn’t need zombies, juvenile humor or a foul-mouthed antihero and unless you’re masochistic, die-hard completionist, you don’t need this game in your collection. 

Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (6)

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z was played on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with review code provided by the publisher. A PC version was briefly played for comparison purposes.

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New Game Releases: March 21st-27th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-3-21-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-3-21-2014/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 23:00:14 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10686 This week’s inventory of imminent titles is destined to delight fans of Japanese games. From BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma’s quintet of new characters and new move list, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition’s copious amount of new content, and even The Witch and the Hundred Knight’s interpretation of action-driven combat, a number of notable games ...

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The Witch and the Hundred Knight

This week’s inventory of imminent titles is destined to delight fans of Japanese games. From BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma’s quintet of new characters and new move list, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition’s copious amount of new content, and even The Witch and the Hundred Knight’s interpretation of action-driven combat, a number of notable games rule the release schedule. Naturally, there’s also a few offbeat offerings from the land of the rising run as well. Hello Kitty Kruisers apes Mario Kart formula right down to the inclusion of a Rainbow Road track, while Yumi’s Odd Odyssey’s truly lives up to its moniker, extending  a puzzle platformer where the protagonist uses a fishing hook to traverse through stages occupied by oversized marine creatures.

PlayStation 3
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode Two (DLC, PSN, $14.99)

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma (Also on PSN, $44.99, $40.49 PS+)*
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Limited Edition
Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts (PSN, $29.99)
Call of Duty Ghosts Gold Edition (PSN, $59.99)
Deception IV: Blood Ties (Also on PSN, $59.99)
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends (Also on PSN, $39.99)
Fez (PSN, Cross-buy, $12.99, $9.74 PS+)
The Witch and the Hundred Knight (Also on PSN, $49.99)
Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll (New to PSN, $19.99)
Warriors: Legends of Troy (New to PSN, $19.99)

PlayStation 4
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition

Wii U
Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts 

Hello Kitty Kruisers (Also on eShop, $19.99)
Pure Chess (eShop, $7.99)
Volleyball (Virtual Console, $4.99)

Xbox 360
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode Two (DLC, XBL, $14.99)

Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts

3DS
Cut the Rope: Triple Treat
Pokémon Battle Trozei (eShop, $7.99)
Pure Chess (eShop, $7.99)
Yumi’s Odd Odyssey (eShop, $29.99)

PS Vita
Deception IV: Blood Ties (Also on PSN, $29.99)
Destiny of Spirits (PSN, Free-to-play)
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition
Fez (PSN, Cross-buy, $12.99,  $9.74 PS+)

PC
Betrayer (Steam, $17.99)
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode Two (DLC, $14.99)
Breach & Clear (Steam, $9.74)
Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts (Steam, $29.99)

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (Also available on Battle.net, $39.99)
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition
Escape Goat 2 (Steam, $8.99)
Ether One (Steam, $16.99)
Explodemon (Steam, $7.19)
Gardens Inc. – From Rakes to Riches (Steam, $8.99)
Last Knight: Rogue Rider Edition (Steam, $5.39)
Mercenary Kings (Steam, $14.99)
Montas (Steam, $9.99)
Quest of Dungeons (Steam, $4.49)
Ubersoldier II (Steam, $8.49)

*The PSN version of BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma will be available on 4/1/2014.

Robert’s Pick: Between the reintroduction of Free Mode, online and offline co-operative play, as well as an improved engine, Dynasty Warriors 8 conquered my PlayStation 3’s drive tray for the better part of a month. This week’s release of Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita compiles DW8’s cornucopia of 82 characters and content, adding a Lü Bu-based campaign, five new playable characters (Chen Gong, Fa Zheng, Lu Lingqi, Yu Jin, and Zhu Ran) additional stages for returning characters, EX Attacks, as well as new content for Ambition and Challenge Modes. For Musou maniacs like myself, the game’s $39.99 price tag ($59.99 for the PS4 version) is justified by the number of new ways to knock opposing forces on their asses.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends

Gonçalo’s Pick: I’ve been keeping my eye on the Witch and the Hundred Knight for a while now. The fact that it was developed by NIS should be reason enough for anyone to take a closer look at it. This time however, rather than creating a tactical turn-based RPG similar to Disgaea, they went with an action-RPG dungeon crawler featuring a bright, colorful and beautiful art-style. Oh and have I mentioned you play as an evil witch trying to take over the world? Yeah there’s that too.

Witch and the Hundred Knight

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Constant C Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/constant-c-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/constant-c-review/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 20:00:51 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10672 Puzzlers typically follow a predictable trajectory, steadily increasing in difficulty level as players tackle each successive conundrum. Distinction stems from just how strenuous the game becomes. The recent Steam release of International Games Systems’ Constant C starts off innocuously enough- as players take control of a small service droid tasked with collecting power cores in ...

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Constant C (1)
Puzzlers typically follow a predictable trajectory, steadily increasing in difficulty level as players tackle each successive conundrum. Distinction stems from just how strenuous the game becomes. The recent Steam release of International Games Systems’ Constant C starts off innocuously enough- as players take control of a small service droid tasked with collecting power cores in a derelict space station. Maneuvering the protagonist with either the PC keyboard or an Xbox 360 controller reveals a sense of vulnerability, as the robot can’t jump very far and is unable to survive an elevated fall. Fortunately, the affable automaton has a few abilities to help him navigate this hostile setting. Foremost is the Time Circle, a blue aura which surrounds players, allowing them to free objects from a state of temporal stasis.

Gamers will soon discover that as long as this circle touches objects, time becomes unfrozen, forcing floating boxes to be affected by the law of the gravity or allowing shifting platforms to become operational. Pleasingly, Constant C’s learning curve exhibits a slow ascent, with each sub-stage articulating both a challenge and tutorial for players. When players inevitably fail, whether being squashed by a plummeting object or falling into a chasm, death isn’t an insurmountable hurdle. Respawns occur in the adjacent vicinity (leaving an indelible mark on the background) eliminating the need for excessive backtracking.

Constant C (5)

Early on, these fatalities occur infrequently, as players absorb the workings of Constant C’s world. But gradually, the game starts presenting additional mechanical complexities. Switches around the environment rotate room around putting the protagonist or any unfrozen objects into motion. Gates appear, which will only swing open a specific way- often creating additional obstacles for gamers. Later, the title throws even more complexities at players- requiring the robot to shift gravitational directions, mid-fall. Naturally, the game’s puzzles take advantage of these new gameplay elements, obliging players to create enough momentum to send the robot sailing over floors filled with deadly objects.

Before long the once-benign interiors of Constant C become replaced with revolving saw blades, searing lasers, and electrified walls, and the level of adversity rises to near impenetrability. Stages seemingly ask the impossible, requiring the protagonist to leap beneath a giant cube as it passes past a series of crisscrossing laser beams- all before switching the direction of gravity to avoid imminent tragedy. Prevailing over these predicaments typically requires a combination of puzzling knowhow, patience, and razor-sharp reflexes. As such, gamers without this trifecta of qualities or ones which loathe trial-and-error based gameplay will likely quit in frustration before seeing Constant C’s hundred or so stages. Those who have the will to persevere will often have to make minute adjustments on their strategies, sporadically tackling the same quandary dozens of time until everything comes together.

Constant C (3)

Unsurprisingly, the delight of triumph is correlated with the size of the struggle, with the game’s most arduous challenges bringing about a muted sense of euphoria. Mercifully, Constant C tries to avoid having players reach a brick wall during their trek. Although the collection of fiendishly placed power cores opens new stages in the main hub, players can finish levels without having to grab the collectable. Once the power core is grabbed, the game records the achievement, ensuring that players don’t have to repeat the task if they should perish. Of course, there’s plenty of incentive to grab the power cores- not only do these unlock later level, but they also help to fill out the game’s plotline.

Narratively, Constant C frontloads its expositionary elements, devoting just enough motivation for story-minded players. Beyond brief conversional bits, the title does an admirable job of conveying emotion through the game’s aesthetics. Visually, the space station’s shadowy and desolate halls create a sensation of menace and isolation, while the robot’s variety of facial animations divulge his sense of resolve. The game’s subdued soundtrack is to be commended- with its hushed tones and ambient sound effects also helping to articulate the feeling of isolation.

Constant C (2)

The easily frustrated will want to steer clear of Constant C’s action-driven conundrums- which require a combination of cerebral calisthenics and ninja-caliber reflexes. But players with a bit more patience might appreciate the game’s sadistic trials. There’s an undeniable sense of satisfaction which warms players when a plan is executed with meticulous precision. In the world of physics c refers to the speed of light in a vacuum- the threshold of speed for energy, matter, or information. Likewise, Constant C pushes players to their mental and physical boundaries, all in an effort to conquer the seemingly impossible.

Constant C was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher. The game is also available for the XBox 360 via digital download, and priced at $9.99.

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Putty Squad Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/putty-squad-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/putty-squad-review/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 19:00:49 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10662 Although ‘90’s gaming is often remembered as the decade dominated by Mario and Sonic, the platformer was remarkably pervasive, inspiring developers from all over the globe to create their own interpretation of the genre. Some of the most remarkable entries hailed from the U.K., where titles such as Core’s Chuck Rock, Vectordean and Millennium Interactive’s ...

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Putty Squad (1)

Although ‘90’s gaming is often remembered as the decade dominated by Mario and Sonic, the platformer was remarkably pervasive, inspiring developers from all over the globe to create their own interpretation of the genre. Some of the most remarkable entries hailed from the U.K., where titles such as Core’s Chuck Rock, Vectordean and Millennium Interactive’s James Pond series, Twilight’s Alfred Chicken, and Team 17’s Superfrog enchanted players. Typically flaunting labyrinthine level designs, meticulous sprite designs, and entrancing soundtracks inspired by the Euro demo scene, the games were often an appealing alternative to the platformers produced by Japan and the U.S. Unfortunately, stateside players were habitually given the shaft. While passionate game magazine readers may have spotted a screenshot of Codemaster’s Fantastic Dizzy, getting their hands on a copy of the cartridge was often an arduous undertaking.

Of course, the inaccessibility of a game isn’t a uniquely American dilemma. Following the completion of coding in 1994, Putty Squad developer System 3 sent review copies to magazines- earning a sizable amount of critical acclaim. Despite the positive feedback, the title was only given a subdued SNES publishing in the U.K., with the original Amiga iteration languishing until the studio made the game available as a free holiday download this past year. More recently, System 3 has given Putty Squad a high-definition makeover, allowing the once-overlooked curio to be enjoyed by a global audience.

Putty Squad (2)

Undoubtedly, Putty Squad’s appearance on the PlayStation 4 is predestined to cause puzzlement for players looking for a game which validates their four-hundred dollar investment. The game’s visual output admirably safeguards the style of Phil Thorton and Nick Lee’s original designs, while uprezzing the output to a purported 1080p picture. But the game chooses to keep the 1994 version’s thirty frame-per-second frame rate rather that parade the power of the PS4 with sinuously rendered refresh rate. Even more bewildering is publisher Maximum Game’s decision to release the title as thirty-dollar disc-based retail game, instead of offering this undeniably niche title as a discounted downloadable.

But if players can overlook these performance and prices issues, they’ll find that Putty Squad is a moderately enjoyable title capable of engaging platforming aficionados. Recalling Nintendo’s pink-colored protagonist, the titular Putty is a versatile lead, demonstrating a gratifying selection of abilities. Beyond an elevated jump, Putty can also gulp down air, expanding his body into a soaring balloon. Stretching into a thin strand is another ability, which allows the character to elongate, reaching scaffolding directly above or below the player. Like Kirby, he’s no vulnerable pushover, extending a powerful attack in either direction, able to throw napalm canisters and even dropping bombs from a maneuverable hot air balloon.

Putty Squad (3)

Putty Squad’s controls lack the tautness exhibited by top-tier platformers, but that imperfection is counterbalanced by the game’s design decisions. Unlike more fleet-footed protagonists, Putty moves at a decidedly deliberate pace. As such, the title focuses on exploration of each intricately detailed environment, rather than a quick dash eastward across the entire stage. This is also reflected in the goal of each level: absorbing the miniature red putties which are scattered across the milieu. Naturally, there’s plenty of auxiliary tasks for players to pursue, from uncovering sub-levels, collecting stickers for an in-game album or score-chasing by mastering consecutive jumps on the head of antagonists. A challenge mode offers a bit more variety by tasking players to complete levels with certain handicaps, such as not being able to absorb at health-replenishing food items.

Pleasingly, Putty Squad’s lengthy campaign has few difficulty spikes and given the lead character’s arsenal of abilities- isn’t dominated by a dumbed down puzzle element. For the most part, the game’s toolset allows autonomous exploration. Keep missing a jump to an elevated platform? Convert Putty into a balloon to hoover past the impasse. Although this type of freedom is refreshing for players, it feels like abandon in the hand of developers. Thematically, Putty Squad is all over the place, with a psychedelic menagerie of enemies like cherubic cats and tiger-striped frogs sets against backdrops of minarets and Japanese tea parties. Level designs sporadically feel like they were procedurally generated, with a number of stages offers little sense of flow or momentum. Occasionally, some environments feel too busy, making it difficult to find Putty at the commencement of the level. Thankfully, the title’s soundtrack is much less of a mélange, offering modern interpretations of hypnotic Amiga/Atari ST-era chiptunes.

Putty Squad (4)

Players who miss the halcyon days of Euro-platformers will undoubtedly appreciate Putty Squad. Look past the title’s high-definition veneer, and you’ll find a game that encapsulates the spirit of ‘90s-era hop-and-bops. But those accustomed to the contemporary play mechanics and meticulously engineered level design of a game such as Rayman Legends will wonder why Putty Squad wasn’t left to dry in the kiln of obscurity.

Putty Squad was played on the PlayStation 3 with review code provided by the publisher. Versions for the PS Vita, PlayStation 3, and 3DS are incoming.

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New Game Releases: March 14th-20th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-3-20-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-3-20-2014/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 02:00:41 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10652 With appearances from Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ Big Boss, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster’s Titus, Yuna, Rikku, Paine and even a Ryu Hayabusa cameo in Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, this week’s new releases bring back a number of beloved characters. One protagonist who purported won’t be making a reappearance is Cole MacGrath- with ...

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Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes Screenshot

With appearances from Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ Big Boss, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster’s Titus, Yuna, Rikku, Paine and even a Ryu Hayabusa cameo in Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, this week’s new releases bring back a number of beloved characters. One protagonist who purported won’t be making a reappearance is Cole MacGrath- with inFamous: Second Son finding a new lead in graffiti artist Delsin Rowe. After surviving a bus accident, the angsty twenty-something in endowed with a number of new powers, such as the ability to manipulate smoke. Who said they don’t write backstories like they used to?

PlayStation 3
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (Also on PSN, $39.99)
Luftrausers (PSN, $9.99, $7.99 PS+, Cross-buy)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Also on PSN, $19.99)
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

PlayStation 4
inFamous: Second Son (Also on PSN, $59.99)
inFamous: Second Son Collection’s Edition
inFamous: Second Son Limited Edition
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Also on PSN, $29.99)
SteamWorld Dig (PSN, $9.99, $7.99 PS+ Cross-buy with Vita)

Wii U
Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels

Xbox 360
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Also on XBL, $30)
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Xbox One
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Also on XBL, $30)

3DS
Bubble Pop World (eShop, $4.99)
Cube Tactics (eShop, $4.99)
Galaga (Virtual Console, $4.99)
Lola’s ABC Party (eShop, $3.99)
Yoshi’s New Island (also on eShop, $39.99)

PS Vita
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (Also on PSN, $39.99)
Luftrausers (PSN, $9.99, $7.99 PS+, Cross-buy)
SteamWorld Dig (PSN, $9.99, $7.99 PS+ Cross-buy)

PC
Alpha Kimori: Great Doubt – Episode 1 (Steam, $9.99)
Danmaku Unlimited 2 (Steam, $3.99)
Desert Gunner (Steam, $4.24)
Deus Ex: The Fall (Steam, $9.99, includes Deus Ex – Game of the Year Edition)
Line Of Defense Tactics – Tactical Advantage (Steam, $24.99)
Luftrausers (Steam, $8.99)
Lyne (Steam, $2.00)
Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan (Steam, $4.49)
Us and Them (Steam, $8.49)
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (Steam, $49.99)

Robert’s Pick: For players who missed the 3DS and PC releases of SteamWorld Dig, here’s your chance to correct the oversight. Built on a cornucopia of concepts, from procedurally generated mines, Metroidvania-esque exploration, and even elements of economic simulation, developer Image & Form’s title has enough depth to support multiple playthroughs.

Naturally, I’ll also be playing through Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a game which appears to push current-gen consoles to their visual threshold (here’s a must-see comparison). For next-gen owners, there are a few compelling perks, such as sixty frames per second delivery, as well as improved lighting and shadow rendering. Choosing between the platforms might be a bit difficult though. While the PlayStation 4 outputs a 1080p picture, the 720p-producing Xbox One iteration give players a chance to play as Raiden.

SteamWorld Dig

Gonçalo’s Pick: I have an odd relationship with Final Fantasy X and X-2, the story didn’t move me like some of its predecessors (namely Final Fantasy 6), but I absolutely loved the art, music and more importantly the combat systems. In fact, these two games feature my favorite combat mechanic out of any game in the franchise. The boss fights are extremely fun and don’t even get me started on X-2’s 100-level dungeon. So for that reason, I’m making Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster my pick of the week.

Final Fantasy X HD

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Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky Reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/atelier-escha-logy-alchemists-dusk-sky-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/atelier-escha-logy-alchemists-dusk-sky-review/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 03:00:22 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=10644 As successful game series spawn sequels, the push toward conceptual innovation becomes stronger. But one of the tragedies of this ambition is when imprudent mechanics are shoe-horned in to offset stagnation. Too often, these ill-developed elements can plunge a series into a near-irreversible state of mediocrity. Such was the fate of once-promising role playing properties ...

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Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky  (1)

As successful game series spawn sequels, the push toward conceptual innovation becomes stronger. But one of the tragedies of this ambition is when imprudent mechanics are shoe-horned in to offset stagnation. Too often, these ill-developed elements can plunge a series into a near-irreversible state of mediocrity. Such was the fate of once-promising role playing properties like Wild Arms, Arc the Lad, Suikoden, Fable, and Dragon Age. Some might even make the claim that the beloved Final Fantasy franchise peaked with its efforts on previous hardware generations.

With the release of the fifteenth iteration in the Atelier series, players might assume that the Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky would be fated toward a similar misfortune. After all, GUST has been extending their interpretation of item synthesis and character self-actualization since 1997’s Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg. However, a playthrough of the PlayStation 3 title demonstrates the developers’ efforts to conscientiously improve a number of key components. From the inclusion of the Dynasty Warriors’ LTGL engine (facilitated through Tecmo Koei’s acquisition of GUST), a storyline that not only interweaves the arcs of two protagonists, but also delivers a more mature tone- to an overhaul of the alchemical process, Escha & Logy establishes a new watermark for the franchise.

Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky  (6)

Watching protagonists such as Rorona, Totori, Meruru, and Ayesha realize their latent potential has supplied a number of inspirational experiences, but Alchemists of the Dusk Sky’s aspirations are a bit loftier. The story begins with players choosing to oversee the development of either Logix “Logy” Fiscario or Escha Malier. Although the game’s storyline remains the same regardless of character selection, the decision offers two divergent perspectives on events. For returning players, the perpetually upbeat Escha provides a character that’s similar to past protagonists, with Logy’s story mining the same melancholic undertone which drove Totori’s pursuit for her presumably departed mother.

Pleasingly, the complementary relationship between the characters never feels affected, and players will appreciate watching the duo progress together. Whereas most past Atelier entries focused on individual growth, much of Dusk Sky’s charm stems from witnessing the growing rapport between the two alchemists. Another prodigious plot element is the game’s antagonist. GUST understands that the best adversaries are ones which cultivate an iota of empathy within players. On a broader scale, Dusk Sky’s storyline poses some thoughtful questions, potentially getting gamers to think about the relationship between technological advancement and humanity at large.

Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky  (2)

Thematically, Logy’s journey isn’t far removed from Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, both tracing the ambitions of building a giant airship. For Escha, the objective is to use the craft to travel to the Unexplored Ruins- a destination that is rumored to rich with raw potential. Like Jiro Horikoshi’s motivations in the Studio Ghibli film, Escha is driven by the bringing hope to the disheartened townsfolk of Coleseit. As such, it’s easy to identify with each characters’ altruistic motivations. Although NPCs in role-playing games are often little more that foils for the main adventurers, here they are given personality, contributing poignancy and humor to the plotline.

Combat in the Atelier series can occasionally slide into the tedious across the forty-plus hour treks presented by most entries. Here, battles have been given a great deal of thought- striking an adept balance between accessibility and long-term allure. The skirmishes are guided by a number of different components- from a turn-order indicator at the top the screen, a two-tiered adventuring party, and an assist system where players can use their compatriots to absorb damage or issue additional attacks. Like Bravely Default, success hinges of the judicious use of the Support meter, a gauge which gradually fills with each new party command. Factor in nuances such as Escha and Logy’s alchemical skills, skill attacks which are learned as players level up, and even Special Support attacks, and warfare ends up edging on the sophisticated- without becoming plodding or convoluted.

Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky  (3)

Likewise, the title’s item synthesis mechanic has been cleverly renovated. Materials uncovered during expeditions are used to make essential components, side-quest pursuits, as well as adventuring sundries like healing elixirs and improvised explosives. Selections such as item attributes and procedure order affects synthesis outcome, promoting experimentation from players. As with combat, crafting is multifaceted. Mercifully, Alchemists of the Dusk Sky provides players with a number of optional tutorials.

One of the points of contention in the Atelier series has been the game clock, which has placed gamers on a regimented schedule. With Dusk Sky the timetable is shorted and relaxed. Gamers should be able to easily complete the core goals within each four month duration, allowing for plenty of autonomous ‘free-time’ where characters can level up and work on a myriad on side-missions. The one blemish in the game’s structure appears in the fourth calendar year, with a challenge spike bound to infuriate gamers who didn’t see the adversity upturn coming. As such, even well-prepared players might need to consult a FAQ for assistance on the last few bosses.

Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky  (4)

Visually, Escha & Logy’s new engine allows for a handful of visual enhancements. Moving through item collection areas often slowed the Atelier games down; now these segments flirt with a sixty frame-per-second delivery. Woefully, this fluidity isn’t consistent throughout the title. When there’s not much architecture on screen, camera pans move slowly. But once the game moves to busy areas, a sweeping perspective divulges screen shudder. Thankfully, Tecmo Koei went back to contemporary Atelier tradition by offering a dual language option. The downside this time is that the English language actors give a sub-par reading- it’s obvious that lines of dialog were recorded separately, making conversation disjointed. Beyond the vocalization, Dusk Sky’s soundtrack segues wonderfully, offering plaintive piano melodies as well as rollicking battle songs. For gamers who have a favorite piece in the Atelier series, the ability to assign song from past title is a considerate contribution.

Save for a difficulty leap in the game’s waning hours and some inferior English voice work, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is a near-total triumph. With a storyline which shows subtlety, revised combat and crafting mechanics, and a new game engine, the title demonstrates a number of sensible changes. Atelier aficionados are bound to be delighted by the changes while newcomers will discover why the franchise has been so prolific.

Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky  (7)

Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky was played on the PlayStation 3 with review code provided by the publisher.

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