Tech-Gaming http://www.tech-gaming.com Technology, Gaming, and Culture Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:42:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1http://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: December 18th-24th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-12-18-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-12-18-2014/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:42:17 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12424 With the holiday season reaching fruition, the number of retail games hitting store shelves are thinning, leaving the bulk of this week’s titles as digital releases. While the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita receive a couple of new games with Switch Galaxy Ultra and Resogun respectively hitting Sony’s home console and portable, it’s Nintendo behind ...

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Switch Galaxy Ultra

With the holiday season reaching fruition, the number of retail games hitting store shelves are thinning, leaving the bulk of this week’s titles as digital releases. While the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita receive a couple of new games with Switch Galaxy Ultra and Resogun respectively hitting Sony’s home console and portable, it’s Nintendo behind the majority of new titles, with fifteen offers between their two systems.

Wii U
99Moves (eShop, $2.49)
Blok Drop X Twisted Fusion (eShop, $1.99)
Cake Ninja 3: The Legend Continues (eShop, $4.99)
Mega Man Zero (eShop, $7.99)
Meme Run (eShop, $4.99)
Natsume Championship Wrestling (eShop, $7.99)
Plenty of Fishies (eShop, $4.99)
Toss N Go (eShop, $0.99)

PS4
Switch Galaxy Ultra (PSN, $TBA)
Trine Enchanted Edition (PSN, $TBA)

3DS
Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods (eShop, $34.99)
Fairune (eShop, $2.99)
I Love My Horse (eShop, $24.99)
League of Heroes (eShop, $4.99)
Mes Comptines (eShop, $4.99)
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D (New to eShop, $29.99)
Toys vs. Monsters (eShop, $1.99)

PS Vita
Resogun (PSN, Cross-buy with PS4 version)
Switch Galaxy Ultra (PSN, $TBA)

PC
Chronicles of a Dark Lord: Episode One- Tides of Fate Complete (Steam, $TBA)
I Will Escape (Steam, $TBA)
Sentinels of the Multiverse (Steam, $TBA)
Sportsfriends (Steam, $TBA)

Robert’s Pick: While I tempted to give a nod to Natsume Championship Wrestling, part of me is still holding out for Capcom’s Saturday Night Slam Masters to make its way to Virtual Console, and renew its reign over the roster of 16-bit wrestling subordinates. But, instead of a half-hearted pick, I’d recommend that all my JRPG-loving brethren save their cash for the January release of Atelier Ayesha Plus: The Alchemist of Dusk. It was an immensely enjoyable journey on the PlayStation 3, and one that I can’t wait to revisit in portable and ‘Plus’ form.

Atelier Ayesha Plus The Alchemist of Dusk

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Worlds of Magic previewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/worlds-magic-preview/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/worlds-magic-preview/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:36:33 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12414 Three axioms summarize my standpoint on game design: graphics can never be too attractive, control schemes can never be too intuitive, and simulations can never be too intricate. While the first two assertions leave little room for debate, some might find the last contention somewhat controversial. But in my defense, I’d point to games like ...

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Worlds of Magic (1)

Three axioms summarize my standpoint on game design: graphics can never be too attractive, control schemes can never be too intuitive, and simulations can never be too intricate. While the first two assertions leave little room for debate, some might find the last contention somewhat controversial. But in my defense, I’d point to games like Falcon 4.0, Europa Universalis III, and Master of Magic- three of the most complex PC titles around. While each presented players with steep learning curves, they also delivered weeks of engaging entertainment as gamers discovered each new nuance.

Ten years after release of the lattermost title, players are still entranced by MoM’s open-ended blend of city management, spell development, hero supervision, and army commandeering. While games as diverse as Fallen Enchantress, Age of Wonders, and even the Civilization series have taken the core premise in different directions, Master of Magic has lingered without a true sequel or even spiritual successor. That deficiency has driven Poland-based Wastelands Interactive to crowdfund and create Worlds of Magic, a title which seeks to modernize some of MoM’s more creaky elements.

Worlds of Magic (2)

Currently, in Steam’s Early Access program, Worlds of Magic certainly shows promise if players can look past the pre-release problems. After downloading the 1.8 GB game on a rig running the 64-bit iteration of Windows (owners of 32-bit processors will have to wait for a compatible incantation), players are ushered to game creation menu, where players can create a realm comprised of five customizable planes before creating a Sorcerer Lord by choosing from six factions and pouring points into a dozen spell spheres which give access to hundreds of different spells. Alternatively, players can choose to become one of eleven premade characters, who each invoke a distinct high-fantasy trope. Coupled with the procedurally-generated locales, six games of Worlds of Magic proved to be profoundly different, exposing how much replay value Worlds of Magic has in store for players.

While MoM veterans will have little trouble instigating their ambitions, newcomers are offered an interactive tutorial which explains Worlds of Magic’s foundational elements. Currently, the training feels a bit meager, with text-based directives telling players to look in general areas of the screen instead of providing someone more apparent, such as an overlaid arrow. To the game’s credit, progress is paused until players complete essential lessons in city management and army organization, imparting the fundamentals of play, while still a great deal of room for self-discovery.

Worlds of Magic (3)

Built around a turn-based structure, each interval tasks players with a number of tasks. At the onset, exploration is an obvious objective, useful for not only reconnoitering adjacent resource areas, but also locating the position of other factions. Coupled with this endeavor, players also responsible for elements like spell research as well as city management. The former is channeled through the distribution of power, a resource that’s accumulated through nodes as well as the span of your empire. In turn, it regulates the power of your spells as well as the amount of research used for discovering new magic.

While diplomacy seems like a prudent endeavor, the pursuit of peace is never an easy undertaking. Inevitably, conflict erupts, leading players to battle. Built upon the D20 OGL Rule Set, combat can be resolved through statistical comparisons, or waged on a grid-based battlefield. At present, heading to the field demonstrates Worlds of Magic’s principal weakness- a rigid adherence to Master of Magic’s ruleset. Computer-mediated, turn-based combat has evolved significant in the past decade, and in its current state, the game exhibition little of this progress. At least part of the problem, stems from the current state of opponent AI, which doesn’t show any strategic savvy.

Worlds of Magic (4)

While jumping into Worlds of Magic’s early access is certainly temping, players should be warned that they won’t likely see their aspirations reach fruition. With each passing turn, the current build heads toward in irreversible crash, with saving and loading doing little to impede this calamity. Save for this disheartening fault, technical advancement seems to be on the right track, with just a bit of content yet to be added to the latest update. Visually, Worlds of Magic ranges from competent to commendable, with a lack of animation balanced by close-ups of budding cities and admirable portrait art. Pleasingly, the title doesn’t appear to near a powerhouse rig, running smoothly on a mid-range Radeon 7850 card.

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Destiny Expansion: The Dark Below reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/the-dark-below/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/the-dark-below/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 01:36:42 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12406 Destiny’s most exigent enemy isn’t a Skiff, Minotaur, or even a Wizard, it’s the menace of monotony faced by shooting and looting across a limited set of environments. Sure, the game exhibited a prodigious grasp of precepts, flaunting the type of exhilarating firefights and a visual delivery expected from a follow-up to Bungie’s beloved Halo ...

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The Dark Below Expansion (1)

Destiny’s most exigent enemy isn’t a Skiff, Minotaur, or even a Wizard, it’s the menace of monotony faced by shooting and looting across a limited set of environments. Sure, the game exhibited a prodigious grasp of precepts, flaunting the type of exhilarating firefights and a visual delivery expected from a follow-up to Bungie’s beloved Halo series. But while skulking through The Vault of Glass to secure that elusive blue and purple gear capable of pushing players past the hard level cap, tedium became just as dangerous as the showdown with Atheon, the final boss.

Three months after Destiny’s release, the developer has released The Dark Below, an expansion which hopes to replicate the rejuvenation achieved by packs like Warlords of Draenor- an add-on which stimulated fatigued WOW players with a plethora of new content and game modifications. With an inventory that boasts a trio of Story Missions, three additional Crucible maps, another raid, fresh weapons and armor, and at least one new Strike (PlayStation 4 owners are privy to a second Strike Mission until the fall of 2015), the surfeit of supplements would seem to easily justify a twenty dollar purchase price.

The Dark Below Expansion (2)

Yet, in execution, The Dark Below makes a few detrimental mistakes. Crota’s End, the pack’s new raid provides a proper companion piece to The Vault of Glass, with the old six player test of coordinated shooting, and springing and stealth, complemented by a fresh collective exercise in shelling and protecting a sword swinger. But other that this supreme challenge for teams, most of The Dark Below feels all too familiar and fails to flesh out Destiny’s still-skeletal storyline.

Returning to the game’s Tower, players will find Eris Morn, a battle-scarred survivor whose existence was hinted at during the main campaign. Complete The Dark Below’s first mission, and the character will bestow The Murmur, a burst-firing rifle capable of alternating between solar and arc damage. While the dual ability of the weapon is advantageous against groups of assorted enemies, it’s essential when fighting a forthcoming boss who can shift his shielding between solar and arc resistances. Pleasingly, The Murmur isn’t the only piece of worthwhile loot players will receive, with Bungie tweaking the algorithms to ensure players won’t become overburdened with conventional chest plates.

The Dark Below Expansion (3)

But the availability of new gear in the shops that can take players to the 31st light level cap is bound to be contentious. In effect, all those weekly excursions to The Vault of Glass have been rendered obsolete, and the grind for ultimate armor renewed by this new addition to the Tower. Much of the problem stems from Destiny’s synthesis of player level and armor ranking, an issue that could very well be replicated when the second expansion, The House of Wolves, arrives early next year.

Although reinstating the loot grind might be forgivable for a game influenced by MMO convention, less justifiable is the expansion’s effort to placate Destiny’s critics. Although Morn conveys the gravitas of a tragic character (conveyed mostly through her ceaseless stream of onyx-colored, oily tears) and her plea to stop Crota carries a modicum of expositional motivation, The Dark Below’s storytelling offers only a minor improvement on the main game. Too often, Morn’s in-mission chatter is steeped in the same kind of technobabble/mythos than manages to be both muddled and ambiguous. Undoubtedly, a few additional cinematics could have helped players make sense of things and add urgency to the firefights.

The Dark Below Expansion (4)

Less tolerable is The Dark Below’s reuse of assets. Players expecting to travel to new planets or encounter unprecedented adversaries are poised to be disappointed by the pack’s lack of ambition. Although the expansion can be commended for its seamless ingress, (with the expansion preloading on the Xbox One, making content immediately accessible at Below’s launch) the settings for the three story missions recycle existing areas, adding an alcove here or a chamber here. In execution, a mid-level player will be able to blow through all of The Dark Below’s Story Missions in less than an hour. The constrained amount of content feels even shallower when you can’t replay the first story mission more than once with the same Guardian.

Notably, Each of the three bundled Crucible maps seems suited for a particular type of competition. Pantheon revisits the winding passages of the Black Garden, offering a symmetrical map that has both confined areas as well as elongated line-of-sights, fostering a mix of shotguns and sniper rifles. The Cauldron offers a shambolic network of adjoined rooms that serve as a catalyst for close-quarter combat, while Skyshock’s expanses are clearly designed for vehicular interaction. Although the new venues use familiar locations, the changes in architecture help diversify PvP battles and make a welcome addition.

The Dark Below Expansion (5)

Weekly Nightfall Weekly Heroic Strikes are the key to obtaining Strange Coins, the curiously named currency that are used to purchase items from Xur, the vendor who would appear once a week. With the arrival of The Dark Below expansion, Bungie has made the new Strike, The Will of Crota, the sole method of earning coin. Unfortunately, that means players who didn’t purchase the expansion are locked out of two activities. While the developer will most likely reopen up the Weekly Strikes for everyone, new content should be additive, and not take core undertakings away from the existing fanbase.

Which leaves us with Crota’s End, which in undoubtedly the high point for the pack. Assuming players can reach the proper level and locate a group of five other friendlies with microphones, the raid is a staggering experience, requiring teams to work in total unison, as the temporary loss of even a single player can easily lead to catastrophe. Remarkably, the raid offers the type of encounter rarely seen on console, with players creating ad-hoc language to give orders. Expectedly, competition rewards units with the type of high-level loot that’s equitable for such a superlative challenge.

The Dark Below Expansion (6)

It’s The Dark Below’s new raid that saves the expansion from the depths of mediocrity. As that endeavor is geared toward Destiny’s most dedicated Guardians, casual fans will want to wait for the price of the pack to drop before committing. By that time, they’ll presumably have reached light level cap and be properly prepared to take on Crota, or else fallen prey to Destiny’s doldrums.

The Dark Below was played on the Xbox One with review code provided by the publisher.

 

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Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! Season 2 reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/nyaruko-crawling-love-season-2-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/nyaruko-crawling-love-season-2-review/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 19:25:03 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12398 Popularized during the 1960’s, the high concept situation comedy juxtaposed the ordinary with the extraordinary. In theory, the technique was seemingly simple, taking one of more fantastical characters- such as the eponymous djinn of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched’s spunky sorceress, and uprooting them to the banality of the American suburbs. But upon closer ...

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Nyaruko Crawling with Love! Season 2 (1)

Popularized during the 1960’s, the high concept situation comedy juxtaposed the ordinary with the extraordinary. In theory, the technique was seemingly simple, taking one of more fantastical characters- such as the eponymous djinn of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched’s spunky sorceress, and uprooting them to the banality of the American suburbs. But upon closer inspection, each episodes’ march of mistakes, mix-ups, and misconstrued meanings were the work of a crack team of capable writers. Continually, they crafted a succession of comical scenarios capable of entertaining viewers long after the original airing.

Dexterously, the second season of Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! (released as Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W in Japan) shows a similar approach and aptitude. Mahiro Yasaka assumes the role of the conventional lead character, as a Tokyo high-schooler who is fond of the mythos created by real-life science fiction/horror author H.P. Lovecraft. The inaugural episode set up the series’ main premise, with Yasaka attacked by a colossal creature and a seemingly attractive young girl named Nyarlathotep coming to the teen’s aide. After the incident, she adopts the name Nyaruko, explaining that she’s part of the Space Defense Agency and entrusted with guarding Mahiro. Those protective duties cultivate sentiments of desire, with Nyaruko trying to win the affections of the lead- who constantly refutes her to comic effect.

Nyaruko Crawling with Love! Season 2 (4)

Subsequently, a number of other comic foils are introduced, such as a space alien known as Kuko, whose yuri feelings for Nyaruko result in resentment toward Mahiro, while Hasuta resembles a cute blonde girl that is actually a male, with yaoi feelings of his own. Collectively, these characters endow Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! with enough pervish permutations to fuel another season, forming a delightfully twisted love polygon with harem-esque undertones.

The first episode of season two, entitled “Attack on Deity” starts off incredible strong, offering laugh-inducing send-ups of everything from Bewitched (which was quite popular in Japan), doses of gender-bending humor, and an ample supply of otaku-aimed hijinks, as the cast visits Akihabara’s game stores and maid cafes. While Crawling with Love! Isn’t shy on fan service, the series doesn’t rely on one type of approach to generate guffaws, employing both visual gags and fourth-wall breaking practices, such as when the cast comments about an extravagant animation effect leaving little in the budget for the remainder of the episode.

Nyaruko Crawling with Love! Season 2 (2)

Subsequent entries largely continue the madcap incidents and humorous interplay, but add a bit of action and intrigue as the trio enters a cosmic library and stumbles upon a gang of alien interlopers in a two-part story arc. While these kinds of bits provide a sardonic sendup of conventional shōnen, the sequences aren’t as amusing as the antics set in commonplace settings. Inevitably, Crawling with Love! is at its best when it apes the ‘fish out of water’ approach of traditional sitcoms or parodies pop-culture, such as the lampooning of Monster Hunter in the fourth installment.

The situation comedy genre can feel a bit unfulfilling, with characters who grudgingly cling to their tropes. Pleasingly, Crawling with Love! attempts to elude this transgression, providing tidbits of Nyaruko, Kuko, and Hasta’s curious backstory. Meanwhile, secondaries like Mahiro’s schoolmates Tamao and Takehiko, as well as his mother, Yoriko earn additional screen time, extending additional avenues for exposition and amusement. The finale of the second season also helps to remedy the feeling of episodic redundancy, offering a payoff that should satisfying fans.

Nyaruko Crawling with Love! Season 2 (3)

Housed on two Blu-ray disks, NIS America’s edition flaunts a faultless transfer, with none of the visual artifacting that can undermine streaming broadcasts. As such, Nyaruko devotees will want to add the collector’s edition to their anime library. Xebec’s production offers several visual virtues, from arresting character design to delightful number of background details, but a few corner-cutting measures can be distinguished. Most evident is the use of static, non-animated stills, which are snuck into the show and held for a millisecond too long. That said, the anime’s selection of OP and ED sequences are joyful, energetically bookending each episode. Likewise, Crawling with Love!’s voice-acting is top-notch, although Eri Kitamura’s performance as Mahiro is unmistakably male.

Skewering everything from shōnen, games, manga, and maid cafes, the second season of Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! provides a pleasing example of high concept situation comedy situated in a context that’s destined to delight otaku. Unapologetically frothy and rich with fan-service, Nyaruko’s antics are apt to ensnare you like a set of Cthulian tentacles.

Nyaruko Crawling with Love! Season 2 (6)

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New Game Releases: December 11th-17th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-12-11-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-12-11-2014/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:41:27 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12391 From a pair of premium priced child and horse-raising sims, sing-along software, a translator app, and a slew of older cartridge-based titles that have made their way onto the eShop, it’s that time of your for digital shovelware. But despite the considerable amount of chaff, there are a few notable titles arriving this week, with ...

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Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

From a pair of premium priced child and horse-raising sims, sing-along software, a translator app, and a slew of older cartridge-based titles that have made their way onto the eShop, it’s that time of your for digital shovelware. But despite the considerable amount of chaff, there are a few notable titles arriving this week, with both Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- and the PC port of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes tempting players.

PlayStation 3
3 in 1 pack Targem Holidays Bundle (PSN, $11.99)
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- (PSN, $49.99)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Now on PSN, $19.99)
Super Mega Baseball (PSN, $19.99, Cross Buy with PS4)

PlayStation 4
Dragon Age: Inquisition Deluxe Edition Upgrade (PSN, DLC, $9.99)
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- (PSN, $59.99)
Loadout (PSN, free-to-play)
Super Mega Baseball (PSN, $19.99, Cross Buy with PS3)
Tetris Ultimate (PSN, $9.99)

Wii U
Angry Birds Star Wars (new to eShop, $29.99)
Angry Birds Trilogy (new to eShop, $49.99)
Crash ‘n the Boys Street Challenge (eShop, $4.99)
Lucadian Chronicles (eShop, Free)

Xbox One
Kalimba (XGS, $9.99)

3DS
Angry Birds Star Wars (new to eShop, $29.99)
Angry Birds Trilogy (new to eShop, $29.99)
Harvest Moon 3 GBC (eShop, $4.99)
Hazumi (eShop, $3.99)
I Love My Little Boy (eShop, $24.99)
I Love My Little Girl (eShop, $24.99)
I Love My Horse (eShop, $24.99)
Moshi Monsters Katsuma Unleashed (new to eShop, $29.99)
Moshi Monsters Moshlings Theme Park (new to eShop, $29.99)
My First Songs 2 (eShop, $4.99)
Talking Phrasebook – 7 Languages (eShop, $4.99)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon Stealth Force Edition (new to eShop, $29.99)
Wipeout 2 (new to eShop, $29.99)
Xeodrifter (eShop, $9.99)

PS Vita
Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee (PSN, $9.99)

PC
About Love, Hate and the other ones (Steam, $6.99)
bitDungeon II (Steam, $2.99)
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend (Steam, $23.99)
Final Dusk (Steam, $4.24)
Frontiers (Steam, $14.99)
It’s a Wipe! (Steam, $4.99)
Marvin’s Mittens (Steam, $5.09)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Steam, $13.39)
Raven’s Cry (Steam, $49.99)
SunAge: Battle for Elysium (Steam, $15.29)
theHunter: Primal (Steam, $19.99)
The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Final Edition (Steam, $11.99)
The Original Strife: Veteran Edition (Steam, $7.49)

Robert’s Pick: Born during the concluding testing stages of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, Press Play studio’s follow-up may not have the visual sumptuousness of most next-gen titles, but might just stand as the ultimate test of compatibility for local partners. The hook is simple: a pair of players (or even a solitary gamer) control two color-coded totems through stages of increasingly challenging platforms segment, sporadically switching mid-jump to bypass impasses. More than just a simple assessment of reflexes, Kalimba requires constant communication, patience, and forgiveness. As such, if you’re thinking about getting serious with someone, you might want to give it go; the $9.99 price is a fraction of the fee any divorce lawyer charges.

Kalimba

Gonçalo’s Pick: Strife is a forgotten PC gem that truly was ahead of its time back in 1996. Adding RPG mechanics and an open world to the fast paced action of a first person shooter may be common these days, but it certainly wasn’t back in the day. Navigating through the vast hub areas of a post-apocalyptic dark age was a truly immersive experience, especially considering NPCs could hinder your progress or come to your aid depending on how you treated them. Strife’s greatest limitation was most likely the aging Doom engine, which could just barely handle the art-style and technical artistry required to make this sort of game. Luckily The Original Strife: Veteran Edition seeks to fix most of these issues while remaining faithful to the original look and feel.

The Original Strife Veteran Edition

 

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Blackguards 2 previewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/blackguards-2-preview/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/blackguards-2-preview/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:08:01 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12383 It’s no secret the massive popularity of Dungeons & Dragons has long influenced both tabletop RPGs and video games for decades. As with any successful commercial endeavor, competition will soon follow, one of which being the German-created The Dark Eye series. Although The Dark Eye is something of a late bloomer in English speaking nations, ...

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Blackguuards 2 (1)

It’s no secret the massive popularity of Dungeons & Dragons has long influenced both tabletop RPGs and video games for decades. As with any successful commercial endeavor, competition will soon follow, one of which being the German-created The Dark Eye series. Although The Dark Eye is something of a late bloomer in English speaking nations, it has long held a strong following in central Europe. It even spawned a handful of video game adaptations in the process, namely Realms of Arkania and Drakensang. Recently, however, Daedelic Entertainment took a more prominent role in creating games based on the franchise releasing Chains of Satinav, Memoria and Blackguards in just two years with Blackguards 2 scheduled for January 2015.

The setting which Blackguards 2 is based on is no stranger to dark fantasy, and the game immediately establishes a grim mood. In it, we play as Cassia, a princess betrayed, banished and left to die in her kingdom’s dungeons. The first few missions span over several in-game years, as our heroine slowly descends into madness and escapes captivity. In its current state, the story is perhaps Blackguards 2’s strongest asset. It’s gripping, funny and grim all at the same time and even employs dark humor, with the main character ranging from sympathetic and heroic to borderline psychotic.

Blackguuards 2 (3)

Throughout my playthrough I didn’t find any branching paths or meaningful dialog trees, but when the writing is this strong it more than makes up for a lack of choice. On the other hand, we see a return of many characters from the first game, but Blackguards 2 expects players to already be acquainted with them, wasting little time with introductions.

Blackguards 2 is equally obtuse at explaining its ruleset as opening the skills, abilities and spell menu provides with an overflow of information with little regard to context. While I understand The Dark Eye ruleset is very popular in some countries, I feel it would have benefited from a proper tutorial introduction. Any character is free to branch into whatever path the player chooses, but discerning optimal builds from underpowered ones will likely require multiple playthroughs.

Blackguuards 2 (2)

At the beginning, players are presented with the stage’s objectives and can select where they wish to place party members. However, some missions present a false premise, in one particular instance I was told enemies would come from point A and was advised to set traps to prevent their flow. Once all traps were set, my foes came from the opposite side I was originally told and instead, the real mission objective was to escape their grasp. While this may seem like an interesting mission twist, it’s really a one trick pony, rewarding instead those who choose to reload from a previous save and attempt it once again with this new knowledge in mind

Combat is handled through a tactical, turn-based hex grid, requiring players to pay close attention to not just enemy forces, but also environmental hazards, chests with mission rewrds and even the level layout. Every stage map is well thought and expertly designed, smart players will know when to use hazards to their advantage and balance the risk and reward factor that comes with separating a unit from the main party to open a treasure chest. Some even feature minor lever puzzles, adding a new layer of tactical strategy to each encounter.

Blackguuards 2 (4)

Unfortunately, the HUD leaves something to be desired. It comes with a small learning curve and generally requires too many clicks to perform even the simplest actions. Casting a level 1 fireball spell for example requires a minimum of four clicks, this may not sound like much, but after a few turns it drags the pace of the game down. I also had some problem with the camera controls, as sometimes important items would be blocked from my view. The game does provide zoom controls, but the option to rotate the camera is sadly missing.

The story and plot progression are conveyed mostly narrations and motion comics between stages with character dialog being handled in the previously mentioned town hubs. These are comprised of a single screen with a few hotspots to click which provide character dialog or services like the town smith and skill acquisition. In general I felt towns were something of a missed opportunity, being little more than a stop-gap to trade gear and level up.

Blackguuards 2 (5)

Blackguards 2 aims to be a hardcore, stat-intensive tactical RPG while providing an interesting and well written story. It features expertly designed maps but gives little direction or context regarding its ruleset and isn’t afraid to throw a few cheap shots either. The game is likely best enjoyed on a second playthrough, making it easier to experiment with the many possible character builds while keeping in mind the sort of challenges that lie ahead.

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Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/fantasy-hero-unsigned-legacy-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/fantasy-hero-unsigned-legacy-review/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 04:35:18 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12370 What is the concept? The uprising of the downtrodden is a ubiquitous theme in gaming. For the recent release of Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy, the premise is applied to a quartet of heroes forced to take refuge when a tribe of half-beasts named Decoders conquer the land. Following a string of disheartening defeats, the foursome ...

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Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy (1)

What is the concept? The uprising of the downtrodden is a ubiquitous theme in gaming. For the recent release of Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy, the premise is applied to a quartet of heroes forced to take refuge when a tribe of half-beasts named Decoders conquer the land. Following a string of disheartening defeats, the foursome resolve to overcome near insurmountable odds, overthrowing the reigning beasts, and returning the realm to human rule. While Fantasy Hero’s set-up might seem uninspired, the game is inevitably elevated by its curious cast of adventurers, who include a luchador, an enigmatic avian Decoder determined to help the humans, and even a mechanical maven who uses a mecha suit to attack adversaries. Pleasingly, each is armed with a distinctive moveset and multi-tiered tech tree outfitted with a profuse amount of capabilities.

In execution, Fantasy Hero uses the basic gameplay loop of Monster Hunter, only swapping a three-dimensional perspective for an overheard standpoint more reminiscent of a dungeon crawler. As such, the familiar cycle of searching, slaughtering, and scavenging is still exhibited here, albeit downsized to fit in a half-gigabyte digital download. Following the completion of an interactive tutorial, players will be chaperoned to the human retreat. Here, the customary undertakings of any respectable Monster Hunter-clone can be accomplished, with players selecting missions from a central bulletin board, improving or re-forging their weapons at the local smith, buying or selling gear, or matchmaking with a team of up to three additional ad-hoc players.

Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy (2)

What are the game’s strengths? The basic attacks of each character cover a gamut of melee and ranged strikes, offering a number of stimulating choices, although some heavy strikes lock players into an animation. Far more interesting are each party members Artes- special attacks that are triggers with a combination of the left shoulder button and a press of the directional pad. Just one example: mecha maiden Ashta Little Husky can summon a giant robot capable of drilling enemies and launching smart missiles while she’s protected in an impenetrable cocoon. As characters level up, they can augment their artes, with passive or active abilities that increase the amount of damage or extend the duration of robot’s assaults. Pleasingly, the cool down timer which confines these capabilities is fairly liberal, giving access to a pleasing collection of special attacks and enemy traps.

Although there’s a high amount of environmental asset recycling, otherwise Fantasy Hero is a visual success. Maintaining a rock solid sixty-frame per second framerate even when players are surrounded by enemies, the game extends a number of pleasing graphical amenities, such as a pseudo 3D effect when foes are launched into the air. While the thick cell-shading applied to party members won’t appeal to everyone, the amount of detail devoted to both characters and landscapes is certain to have universal appeal. The game’s soundtrack reveals Arc System Work’s partiality for searing guitar riffs, but is agreeably harmonized by a number of slower songs.

Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy (4)

What are the game’s weaknesses? Woefully, Unsigned Legacy’s lackluster localization might dishearten fans. The decision to retain the “O” to advance, “X” to cancel input method of the Japanese version might frustrate Western fingers accustomed to the opposite, but likely players will gradually adapt to the UI method. More glaring are elements such as grammar errors and dialog that spills out of text boxes. Collectively, these hitches point to a deficiency of playtesting and are bound to peeve players.

But no all of the game’s complications stem from stateside changes. Even more vexing is Fantasy Hero’s unpredictable difficulty level. Although gamers can opt to adjust the challenge level of any stage, earning additional experience in return for some resilient adversaries, the game’s star ranking system often fails to provide a clear indicator of the actual difficulty. As such, expect to invest up to half hour in a level only to perish at the culmination of the stage. Undoubtedly, checkpoints would have mitigated some of the frustration associated with this issue.

Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy (3)

Without a second copy of Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy we were unable to test how the title scaled for additional players. Ideally, the game would have forced local play and would have offered the option to play with at least one online partner, since several of the game’s artes are suited for adventuring parties.

Is the game worth the money? Although Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy advances a limited amount of visual diversity and does impel gamers to grind their characters along, the virtues of bolstering your characters helps to offset a bit of the tedium. The title’s transgressions are also counterbalanced by a fifteen dollar purchase price- but gamers should know that the economical admission price also comes with a cavalcade of downloadable content, offering elements like additional missions and character skins. As such, Unsigned Legacy is worth a try, and doubly so if the game is ever bundled with a collection of supplemental content, or the price is lowered.

Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy (6)
Fantasy Hero Unsigned
was played on the PS Vita with review code and DLC provided by the publisher.

Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy
Platform:
PS Vita
Developer:
 Arc System Works
Publisher: Arc System Works
Release date: December 2nd, 2014
Price: $14.99
Language(s): Japanese voice, English text

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Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/captain-toad-treasure-tracker-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/captain-toad-treasure-tracker-review/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 05:29:35 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12362 Customarily, game design employs an additive approach, progressively inserting new mechanics into each new sequel. It’s a method that’s helped Nintendo build an empire, with each new iteration of Mario Kart, Kirby, or The Legend of Zelda adopting the basic structure of its predecessor, while just as importantly- extending a few new wrinkles. Undoubtedly, the ...

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Captain Toad Treasure Tracker  (1)

Customarily, game design employs an additive approach, progressively inserting new mechanics into each new sequel. It’s a method that’s helped Nintendo build an empire, with each new iteration of Mario Kart, Kirby, or The Legend of Zelda adopting the basic structure of its predecessor, while just as importantly- extending a few new wrinkles. Undoubtedly, the Kyoto-based company’s Mario titles are one of the best examples of this technique. From the protagonist’s humble barrel-hopping debut in 1981’s Donkey Kong to his space sorties for Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, the franchise has continually augmented Mario’s maneuverability, offering new ways for to interact with the environment.

Remarkably, the recent release of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker shuns this trend, with the title taking away a crucial capability that has dominated the movement in the Mushroom Kingdom- the ability to jump. Fortunately, the outcome is far better than say, a weapon-less Master Chief or Fox McCloud being grounded during Star Fox Adventures. In fact, the subtraction works to Treasure Tracker’s benefit, endowing the puzzler with a gratifying dose of distinction and direction.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker  (2)

Admittedly, this isn’t Toad’s first spring-less escapade. Although the character exhibited agility in games such as Super Mario Bros. 2 and Mario Sports Mix, it’s the character’s appearance from Super Mario 3D World that serves as Treasure Tracker’s impetus. Offering a refreshing reprieve from clawing up the side of walls in a catsuit, the title extended a handful of levels where Toad served as a stalwart explorer, navigating his way through diminutive environments which concealed a quintet of collectable stars. Each stage was a mix of skillful design and meticulous polish, undoubtedly setting the stage for the character’s extended expedition.

Unmistakably, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker delivers more, easily warranting its forty dollar MSRP. Instead of six, smallish stages, the game delivers seventy sprawling levels, as well as a number of bonus areas to explore. Whereas Super Mario 3D World tasked players with gathering five stars, here there’s multiple objectives, with one main star, three optional diamonds, as well as a stage goal. While the amount of content may seem comparable, Treasure Tracker wisely separates each of these objectives, allowing for players to revisit stages and rethink their strategies. That bridge that initially crumbled in your haste to grab gold coins? Now, if you go back and avoid razing the elevated pathway you can earn a stamp of distinction.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker  (5)

Much of the virtue in Treasure Tracker emanates from the mechanics that allow you to interact with the game world rather than the eponymous lead character.  One early level uses the GamePad’s touchscreen to allow you to shift around entire pieces of the world, making the environment feel like a giant puzzle that’s held together by interconnecting parts. Other stages offer novelties like fans that can only be activated by blowing into the controller’s microphone. As many of the collectables are hidden in recessed alcoves and scattered around each space, players will be constantly moving the camera to scour each stage for clues and locate passageways. Most interesting are the mechanical elements of levels, which require Toad to navigate through giant gears and activate switches that stimulate changes to the landscape. Pleasantly, Captain Toad’s abridged moveset limits the number of solutions for each stage, eschewing the type of frustration that stems from an unsolved conundrum.

Although Treasure Tracker focuses on exploration and puzzle solving, that doesn’t mean the game becomes monotonous. Periodically, stages pit player against the occasional goomba or thwomp. While many can be circumvented by observing movement patterns, some can be taken of directly but picking up and tossing a vegetable (Toad’s specialty in SMB 2) or a super pick-axe power up that functions like the hammer in the original Donkey Kong.  Nicely, puzzle solving and enemy management isn’t timed, giving players unlimited time to reconnoiter each level. As such, the stress of New Super Luigi U is absent, replaced with an enthusing sense of exploration.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker  (4)

But just because Toad (and Toadette) can’t jump doesn’t mean that Treasure Tracker don’t occasional stumble. Woefully, the game lacks an options menu, imposing a number of inconvenient selections on players. If you’re hoping not to disturb roommates, forgot about playing Captain Toad with a headset that’s connected to your television’s optical output jack. Unfortunately, the game’s volume is locked to the level of the GamePad, and can’t be turned off on that device. Even more is the forced functionality of the controller’s gyroscopic functions, which often inadvertently shifts perfective when players are asked to blow into the microphone. While the game’s storybook-like interface is visually pleasing, there’s no overarching tally of diamonds on the side of the screen, potentially pushing completionists to flip through dozens of pages.

While Treasure Tracker might recycle content from Super Mario 3D World, it’s difficult to be too disappointed since the game is an aesthetic pleaser. Each stage is drowning in detail, exhibiting elements like swaths of keenly cut grass that suggest a footpath to explore, or rock and stone textures that echo the pixel-perfect precision of a Pixar film. In each background, voluminous clouds linger, will movement of enemies kicks up fleeting billows of dust. Small character animations, like how the Toads quiver in fear when an ethereal enemy draw near helps to bring the protagonists to life, while a sinuous sixty frames-per-second frame expresses CG-like fluidity. Sonically, Captain Toad’s musical accompaniment don’t veer far from cheerful Mario Bros. whimsy, but the adept arrangements have a tendency to stick in your head.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker  (6)

Game spin-offs can often be a dicey proposition, with off-shoots into new genres providing little of the polish exhibited by the main franchise. But save for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker’s lack of options, the game is an essential purchase for Wii U owners. For a reduced forty-dollar price tag, players receive at least seven hours of engaging, visually luxuriant playtime, with completionists adding at least another  five hours to that duration. Nintendo should be commended for giving the perpetually deferential Captain Toad a role he can shine in.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was played on the Wii U with review code provided by the publisher.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Platform:
Wii U
Developer:
 Nintendo EAD Tokyo Group No. 2
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: December 5th, 2014
Price: $39.99
ESRB: Everyone

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Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/pokemon-omega-ruby-alpha-sapphire-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/pokemon-omega-ruby-alpha-sapphire-review/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 23:52:05 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12349 While the oral tradition of storytelling has long since lapsed, many of the fundamentals of folklore still linger in the interactive medium. One of the best examples of this phenomenon can be found in the Pokémon franchise- which in place of a sprawling, sequelized narrative, subsequent iterations extend variations on a singular theme. Pick up ...

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Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire review (1)

While the oral tradition of storytelling has long since lapsed, many of the fundamentals of folklore still linger in the interactive medium. One of the best examples of this phenomenon can be found in the Pokémon franchise- which in place of a sprawling, sequelized narrative, subsequent iterations extend variations on a singular theme. Pick up almost any entry in the series, and you’ll encounter a young protagonist, who despite a habitually absentee father, defeats a succession of gym leaders through a combination of perseverance and social responsibility. While mechanics are adjusted and augmented, Pokémon’s core theme remains constant, reflecting the type of universalistic tropes that Joseph Campbell once discussed in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Folklore is also generational, passed from parent to child, with each retold version of a story reflecting seminal elements of the era. Published nearly twelve years after Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the release of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (henceforth referred to as Pokémon ORAS) undoubtedly will be purchased by parents, hoping their children will discover the same enthralling blend of amusement, accomplishment, and discovery. Even for those returning to the Hoenn region after a decade-long hiatus, Pokémon ORAS is a journey work retaking, revealing developer Game Freak’s ability to seamlessly blend the original plotline with a number of new, gratifying game mechanics.

Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire review (5)

Whereas many similarly aged series’ skate by on nostalgia (Sonic being exceedingly guilty), Pokémon ORAS provides proven gameplay that hooks into a players deep-rooted desires for collection, exploration, and protection. Sure, the game’s clever prologue is certain to stoke the flames of reminiscence. Seemingly exhibiting Game Boy Advance-quality visuals with obtrusive letter-boxing, the game later pans away to reveal the protagonist playing Pokémon, flaunting ORAS’ graphical improvements. It’s a sly reminder that the title is both rooted in Ruby and Sapphire tradition, while persisting the aesthetic and play improvements found in X and Y.

The game retains the basic narrative structure of both the series at large as well as Ruby and Sapphire’s deviation, while making a number of modernizations. Pokémon has always been engrained in the empathetic, tasking players to keep their menagerie of pocket monsters healthy, happy, and competitive. With ORAS, the dialog has been given a subtle retrofitting, adding a bit of poignancy between interaction with the players, professors, Pokémon, and rival members of the Aqua and Magma teams.

Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire review (2)

A story arc which centers around an ailing young boy becomes especially rousing with the new localization, while Aqua and Magna’s aspiration to transform the landscape seem less fiendish and more driven by a misguided notion to assist Pokémon. Periodically, both teams toss out a question that might make player’s question their allegiance. Pokémon-Amie, a component first introduced in X and Y, adds a Tamagotchi-like element, allowing players to bond their collection of creatures. Petting, feeding, and playing with each one adds an expressiveness not shown in battles, as well as allowing Pokémon to land criticals and avoid incoming attacks with greater frequency.

Elsewhere in the PokeNav Plus in-game assistant, players will find the AreaNav, an app which helps players locate elements like trainers and secret bases. One remarkably convenient addition is the ability to fly to locations, once players have adding a Latios or Latias to their creature catalog and a Soar command which offers a third-person airlift to new areas. Not only is flying through the air one of the more arresting moments in ORAS, but it’s also extremely useful in find that little sparkles that lead to spheres containing Legendary Pokémon.

Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire review (6)

To help capture hidden Pokémon, gamers can employ the DexNav, which conveys a wealth of information once players scan a monster, whose presence is divulged by a tail erupting from the foliage. Finding an ideal breeding specimen is easier as well, with the tool able to find creatures with maximum stats, egg moves, and hidden abilities. Naturally, these clandestine creatures are especially flighty, requiring gamers to employ the new sneak mechanic, or else they’ll be scared away. Not only does daintily pressing the Circle Pad now allows players to approach an apprehensive pocket monster, but the technique also draws much less attention than running. As such, it’s especially useful when backtracking to the nearest Pokémon Center after an especially exhausting battle.

Anyone old enough to remember having to look for their link cable will appreciate Pokémon ORAS’ connectivity component. Despite some lethargic handshaking, networking with a nearby of net-based comrade is effortless, allowing players to battle or put Pokémon up for trade. Naturally, there are Streetpass-driven bonuses, such as the ability to visit other people Mirage Islands, which can net players extra power-ups. Wonder Trade makes an appearance from X and Y, a system that allowed players to make random swaps with strangers. While the concept might have worked well in Japan, the concept of generosity doesn’t seem to be as strong stateside. After offering up a few coveted creatures, I received a lot of junk in return.

Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire review (4)

Any disappointment with the Wonder Trade component is largely balanced by the ability to build and share secret bases. Here, players are able to construct customized living spaces that evoke everything from treehouses to gyms. Echoing Animal Crossing, personalization is the main draw, with players able to outfit secret bases with furniture, posters, and figurines as well as share their creations with friends via a QR code. While Pokémon titles have routinely offered post-campaign content, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire raises the bar, providing an interesting scenario which might just serve as an indicator for the future of the franchise.

Complementing Pokémon ORAS’ writing revision, the improved visuals will surely allow players to better bond with their pocket monsters. Twelve years of technical advancement is unmistakable, with the creaky sprites of the original Ruby and Sapphire replaced by animated polygonal models. Not only are NPCs more expressive, by Pokémon are endowed with more personality, elevated the entire experience. Woefully, the slowdown (especially with the depth slider engaged) that plagued X and Y remains, undermining battles with a sluggish framerate.

Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire review (3)

For those that played the original games or are just Pokémaniacs, a multitude a small improvements make playing Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire a delight. From a notification when all pocket monsters are captured in an area to the way the user interface has been overhauled to take advantage of the touch screen, pleasing enhancements help to streamline the entire experience. But regardless of your familiarity with the franchise, Pokémon ORAS’ is an indulging adventure, one that’s certain to seize your attention for hours, if not weeks.

Pokémon Omega Ruby was played on the 3DS with review code provided by the publisher.

Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire
Platform:
3DS
Developer:
 Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: November 21st, 2014
Price: $39.99
ESRB: Everyone

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New Game Releases: December 4th-10th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-12-4-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-12-4-2014/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 01:29:55 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12344 From Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, which represents yet another outing for relentless globe trotter to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, which gives the hardworking character his chance in the spotlight, this week brings a number of noteworthy releases. Nostalgia is especially strong, with titles like Fire Emblem and Lode Runner arriving on eShop, ...

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Captain Toad Treasure Tracker
From Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, which represents yet another outing for relentless globe trotter to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, which gives the hardworking character his chance in the spotlight, this week brings a number of noteworthy releases. Nostalgia is especially strong, with titles like Fire Emblem and Lode Runner arriving on eShop, while the retail and digital releases of NES Remix Pack and Ultimate NES Remix bring two agreeable amalgams of classic gameplay.

PlayStation 4
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Wii U
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Fire Emblem (eShop, Virtual Console, $7.99)
Lode Runner (eShop, Virtual Console, $4.99)
Lucadian Chronicles
NES Remix Pack (also on eShop, $29.99)

Xbox One
Threes! (XGS, $6.99)

3DS
Christmas Wonderland 4 (eShop, $9.99)
Disney Violetta Rhythm & Music
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Ultimate NES Remix (also on eShop, $29.99)

PC
Adventurer Manager (Steam, $9.99)
BasketBelle (Steam, $TBA)
Bliss (Steam, $TBA)
Club Manager (Steam, $23.99)
Dead State (Steam, $29.99)
Demon Hunter: Chronicles from Beyond (Steam, $5.99)
Distance (Steam, $TBA)
Dokuro (Steam, $TBA)
Frontline: Longest Day (Steam, $TBA)
Galcon 2: Galactic Conquest (Steam, free to play)
I, Zombie (Steam, $TBA)
Kings of Kung Fu (Steam, $TBA)
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (Steam, $17.99)
School of Dragons (Steam, free to play)
Sinking Island (Steam, $3.99)
Skilltree Saga (Steam, $8.99)

Robert’s Pick: I’ve always asserted that first-party Nintendo releases are obligatory gaming purchases. This week’s release of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker pushes the perpetual secondary character into the forefront, with the “fun-guy” expanding on a concept that was first introduced in Super Mario 3D World. Having a subset of navigational abilities, Treasure Tracker might seem rooted in simplicity, but each of the title’s seventy levels reveal prodigious level design as well as Nintendo’s customary level of visual charm and polish. The game’s reduced MSRP only sweetens the deal.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker (1)
Gonçalo’s Pick:
Kickstarter funded games have brought a renaissance of team-based tactical western RPGs. Created by Obsidian, Troika and Black Isle studios veterans, Dead State is the latest title to follow in this trend. Designed as a zombie-apocalypse survival simulator, players must scavenge for food, manage party members and fortify shelters against the undead menace. Let’s just hope Obsidian’s and Troika’s track record of released bug-filled games hasn’t rubbed off onto this fledgling studio.

Dead State

 

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Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/akibas-trip-undead-undressed-review-2/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/akibas-trip-undead-undressed-review-2/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 04:57:58 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12332 One of the peculiarities of next-generation libraries is how the current selection of software often feels like a subset of titles from the previous era of consoles. Beyond a strong emphasis on sequels to popular properties, the PlayStation 4 has received a host of remasters and definitive editions, offering upgraded version of notable titles like ...

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Akiba's Trip Undead & Undressed (1)

One of the peculiarities of next-generation libraries is how the current selection of software often feels like a subset of titles from the previous era of consoles. Beyond a strong emphasis on sequels to popular properties, the PlayStation 4 has received a host of remasters and definitive editions, offering upgraded version of notable titles like The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, and Grand Theft Auto V.  Contributing to that collection of upgrades is Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed, a reissue that adds a bit of visual enhancement and content to the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita iterations which were published last summer. While only the most obsessive otaku will want to double-dip, players who have yet to experience Akiba’s Trip fan-service fueled antics may want to give the quirky brawler a bit of consideration.

Narratively, the PS4 version makes no modification to the storyline, extending the same intriguing mix of satire and salaciousness. A concise prologue introduces players to a protagonist (whose name and gender can be customized) who stumbles upon a malevolent organization intent on kidnapping members of the local populace and turning them into vampire-like creatures called synthisters. After enduring the initial steps of the transformation and communicating with the group’s leader via a branching dialog tree, a young woman comes to the player’s aid, liberating the character. A brief brawler imparts the basics of combat, before the pair escape to a base of operation, where they meet the MOGRA Freedom Fighters- a group committed with eliminating the scourge of synthisters.

Akiba's Trip Undead & Undressed (2)

While the plotline follows the perspective of the protagonists, Akihabara is the true star of the game. Coming into prominence as the capital’s post-war hub for consumer electronics, “Electric Town” has more recently transformed into a must-visit mecca for otaku, offering a labyrinthine network of game, manga, and anime stores.

Akiba’s Trip nails both the architecture and overall layout of the municipal ward. Developer Acquire’s level of exactitude mean that anyone familiar with the area likely won’t have to open the in-game map to navigate their way around. Undoubtedly, the title conveys verisimilitude, with a purported roster of over 130 actual stores allowing their likeness and location to be used in the title. Fittingly, ads for SEGA, Taito, and Sofmap abound, while those unwilling to license their logos become targets for parody. But more than a mere façade, players can enter many of the storefronts, where they’ll find authentic J-pop melodies, popular sundries, as well as ladies in a variety of cosplay motifs.

Akiba's Trip Undead & Undressed (4)

While the original version of Undead & Undressed offered an unrivaled depiction of the legendary district, a few blemishes were noticeable, namely the emaciated crowds and traffic. Pleasingly, the PS4 version remedies this transgression, offering throngs of NPCs who mill about the area, bringing the simulation of the sector a bit closer to reality. Beyond an improved framerate and augmented draw distance, the PS4s’ capabilities are also tapped to deliver a bit more vibrancy to the district. As such, expect to see more instances of full motion video simulating the sensorial bombardment of J-pop idol advertisements.

Much like the Yakuza franchise, the real highlight of Undead & Undressed can be found its fisticuffs. But where the main draw of the SEGA series was the myriad of everyday items players could employ as weapons, here it’s supplemented by the lure of disrobing antagonists. But using the triangle, circle, and ’X’ button, the protagonist can target the head, torso, and lower body of foes. Dish out enough damage to one of these areas, and the region will flash red, indicating the possibility of a finisher. By holding down one of the corresponding buttons, players can then remove an article of clothing. If they’re pummeled other adjacent foes, then it’s possible that additional prompts will appear on screen, allowing gamers to string together wardrobe wrenching combos. The once real issue is Undead & Undressed’s targeting system, with the game’s camera focusing on the closest enemy. If there’s another foe you’re hoping to finish off, it can be difficult to get a fix on them.

Akiba's Trip Undead & Undressed (6)

Although the foundations of fighting are well implemented, a few of the game’s other nuances aren’t always realized. Although Undead & Undressed offers possibilities like Counters and Indefensible attacks, these optional strikes aren’t easy to pull off, with fussy timing leading to missed strikes and damage from foes. Likewise, blocking isn’t instantaneous, making it easier to temporarily retract from combat and hold the “L1” button to adjust your clothes. This way, it becomes harder for enemies to strip the player of his attire. Fortunately, you’re not alone in your endeavor, with Akiba’s Trip offering a choice of functional companions who can be given general orders via the directional pad.

While combat does reinforce button-mashing, the payoff of removing articles of clothing helps to detract from most of the game’s mechanical deficiencies. Interestingly, Undead & Undressed’s stripping isn’t regulated to the female synthisters, males get an equal opportunity to become disrobed during the game’s core campaign missions and side quests. It also helps that the game offers a myriad to offensive tools and outfits for the protagonist to wear, which each selection ushering in statistical as well as cosmetic changes.

Akiba's Trip Undead & Undressed (3)

Agreeably, the PS4 version gives gamers a number of attractive, if largely non-essential extras. Using your character’s in-game phone, players can tweak the Akiba’s Trip’s rendering, adjusting elements like coloring and the thickness of cell shading. Toybox mode starts players off with every weapon and article of clothing without the burden of unlocking every item. Nicely, every bit of downloadable content is also included in this version, raising the value proposition. With the PS4’s capability for game broadcasting, streamers might enjoy the game’s interactive elements, where viewers generate fights on the fly, call for assistance, or even produce a whirlwind of on-screen panties, ensuring at least several snickers.

As high-definition upgrades go, the PlayStation 4 version of Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed offers a handful of contenting amenities, none of which radically alter the game’s amusing hijinks. Although that might not be enough to entice players to re-buy the game, the improvements are certain to entice newcomers to taking an extended stay at the fantastic interpretation of Electric Town.

Akiba's Trip Undead & Undressed (5)

Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed was played on the PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher.

Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed
Platform:
PlayStation 4
Developer:
 Acquire
Publisher: XSEED Games (NA), NIS America (EU)
Release date: November 25th, 2014
Price: $49.99
ESRB: Mature
Language(s): English and Japanese voices/English text

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Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/company-heroes-2-ardennes-assault-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/company-heroes-2-ardennes-assault-review/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 20:34:13 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12323 Relic Entertainment spent the better part of two decades building a strong catalog of RTS games, many of which are held in high regard by strategy fans. They would throw new twists to the well-established RTS formula resulting in unique titles like Impossible Creatures or sub-genre creating classics, such as the Homeworld series. Relic’s modern ...

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Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault (1)

Relic Entertainment spent the better part of two decades building a strong catalog of RTS games, many of which are held in high regard by strategy fans. They would throw new twists to the well-established RTS formula resulting in unique titles like Impossible Creatures or sub-genre creating classics, such as the Homeworld series. Relic’s modern releases, namely the Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War games followed in this trend by creation mixing the classic RTS gameplay with “king of the hill” gameplay modes. It’s an odd combination but one that served them well in past and is once again used in Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault.

Players are tasked with controlling the US forces amidst the German Ardennes counter-offensive during World War 2. Being a stand-alone expansion pack, the game assumes players completed the previous campaign, providing only a bare-bones tutorial that is likely to ward off newcomers to the series. Luckily, gamers who have played either the first Company of Heroes or Dawn of War will likely already be familiar with the basics.

Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault (2)

Company of Heroes’ gameplay foregoes most of the genre’s usual resource collecting and base building. Instead each faction must claim several strategic points which grant a continuous flow of resources as long as they are held. These can then be used towards creating new units or upgrading existing ones. This ensures players must constantly balance the risk and reward that comes with constantly stealing or protecting each point, limiting the usefulness of ‘turtle’ tactics.

Combat is highly tactical in nature; squads have inherent strengths and weakness versus certain types of enemies with no one unit being useless. Infantry are vulnerable to tanks but can take cover in buildings, walls or other objects littering the map. Tanks are powerful and expensive, but vulnerable to rocket launchers and have softer armor on the back and sides. Managing these strategic elements requires a great deal of micromanaging and it’s during the game’s most heated moments that the exhilaration of a successful strategy shines the most.

Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault (3)

Between combat missions, you move battle companies around the strategic map displaying allied and enemy territory. These are prone to random events which either air or hinder your progress. It’s not the first time Relic Entertainment used a Risk-like map in its games and while it adds a new layer of strategy, it’s also prone to many of the same issues found in previous games. The most notable problem lies with the forced repetition of previously completed missions, objectives or maps.

Players can pick three battle companies, each sporting different play tactics and unlockable abilities, however, only four choices are presented one of which is locked behind a DLC pay wall.  Considering this is one of the first screens we’re presented with before starting the campaign Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault manages to immediately raise a very alarming red flag. My fears soon came to fruition when I realized every mode other than single player campaign was locked. Players who do not own the base entry or the Western Front Armies expansion cannot engage in any multiplayer matches or even offline skirmishes. To make matters worse, some content requires individual DLC on top of the previously mentioned expansion packs, all of which are conveniently displayed through in-game ads during the main menu.

Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault (4)

It’s hard to pin down just who Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault is for. Newcomers to the series will likely be turned off by all the content hidden behind a pay wall and the lack of a proper tutorial section. Veterans will have moved on to multiplayer matches which is largely ignored by this expansion and even then some are likely to not appreciate having to purchase individual units as DLC. Even longtime Relic fans such as myself who haven’t played Company of Heroes 2 before are prone to a case of déjà Vu stemming from the Dawn of War games.

This isn’t to say Ardennes Assault holds no merit, at its best the single player missions provide the same tactical expertise I’ve come to know and love from the studio, but it’s hard not to find some disappointment given the quality of Relic Entertainment’s past entries.

Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault (5)

Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault  was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.

Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault 
Platform:
PC
Developer:
 Relic Entertainment
Publisher: SEGA
Release date: November 17th, 2014
Price: $39.99

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Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender DX reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/aqua-kitty-milk-mine-defender-dx-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/aqua-kitty-milk-mine-defender-dx-review/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 05:41:44 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12312 In the grand pantheon of arcade shooters, few are more prestigious than 1981’s Defender. While the William Electronics-developed coin-op wasn’t an immediate success (creator Eugene Jarvis has blamed the groundbreaking five-button control method), the game proved to be immensely popular in the long run, earned over a billion dollars in revenue, one quarter at a ...

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Aqua Kitty- Milk Mine Defender (1)

In the grand pantheon of arcade shooters, few are more prestigious than 1981’s Defender. While the William Electronics-developed coin-op wasn’t an immediate success (creator Eugene Jarvis has blamed the groundbreaking five-button control method), the game proved to be immensely popular in the long run, earned over a billion dollars in revenue, one quarter at a time. It’s also the only interactive work ever memorialized on a U.S. postal stamp, with a depiction of two children playing the 2600 port released in the 2000 “Celebrate the Century” series. Beyond spurring a sequel, a board game and a pinball machine, Defender also inspired a slew of imitators, from early knock-offs like Parsec, Chopper Command and Attack of the Mutant Camels to later works like R-Type, Gradius, and Resogun- titles which offered looser interpretations of the celebrated horizontal shooter.

Players pining for the purity of a proper Defender clone might have stumbled upon Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender in the PlayStation Mobile store. Recreating the core tenets of the early arcade game, Aqua Kitty tasked players with protecting a pack of subaquatic, diver-suit clad felines from a steady succession of foes who were hell-bent on transporting the cats to the water’s surface. While a few mechanical tweaks prohibited Williams (now owned by lottery terminal manufacturer Scientific Games) from harassing developer Tikipod, make no mistake: Milk Mine Defender captured the style and spirit of the seminal arcade cabinet.

Aqua Kitty- Milk Mine Defender (2)

As the DX subtitle suggests, the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita adaptation of Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender adds a few more features to the already energizing formula. A standalone Arcade Mode reproduces the familiar mechanics of the main campaign, but adds collectables which players can amass to augment their weapon systems. Boss battles have now earned a role in the undersea trek, sporadically pitting players against hulking foes capable of producing tidal waves of deadly fire. Since the original game was hardly a pushover, plunging players into fields of fire that could rival any respectable bullet-hell shmup, DX also adds a reduced difficulty setting. That said, even on ‘easy’, Aqua Kitty offers up a formidable level of challenge during its twenty-five mission campaign.

Mirroring the skeletal impetuses used as motivation for a myriad of pioneering arcade games, Milk Mine Defender’s simple premise is rooted in a dystopian context where the world’s milk supply has nearly been exhausted. To remedy this situation, the lactose-longing felines have begun extracting the liquid from the ocean floor. Robotic fish, right out of the G-Darius series, seem to dislike the milk-mining meddling and dispatch a succession of increasing sturdy enemies to give the kitties the kibosh. Although the absurdist foundation won’t appeal to everyone, Aqua Kitty smartly doesn’t squander much time with its story. Following a few lines of text, players can jump right into the action, without any concern for context.

Aqua Kitty- Milk Mine Defender (3)

One element that will undoubtedly captivate gamers is the game’s graphical output. Offering cleanly drawn pixel art, Milk Mine Defender DX looks like it jumped right out of the 16-bit era, had the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive been capable of high-resolution output. On the PS Vita, the game looks delightfully sharp, allowing owners of the powerhouse portable to enjoy details of every charmingly drawn cat and menacing-looking foe. On the PlayStation 4, the fidelity is upped to 1080p, offering a perfect perspective for dodging enemy projectiles. One of the more subtle charms of Aqua Kitty’s aesthetic arsenal is the game’s backdrops, which change between clusters of stages, but offer an array of eye-pleasing trimmings. From parallax scrolling, particle-parading explosions, and even subtleties like an upsurge of water when a detonation happens near the surface demonstrate an adept attrition to detail. Socially, Aqua Kitty’s pulsating beats and wailing synth sweeps sound evoke the same era as the visuals. Player could be forgiven for thinking that the sound team is putting the Genesis’ cherished Yamaha YM2612 chip through its paces.

Given the amount of on-screen enemies and bullets, a responsive control scheme is essential for Aqua Kitty’s success. Fortunately, the game delivers, offering a movement method that echoes the style of Defender, but removing the forward momentum that could have propelled players into peril. Forgoing a hyperspace option, the main tool in the player’s arsenal is a rapid fire laser, which is linked to a cool-down timer. Like any prodigious action game, the desire to use the secondary is strong, but so in the sense that players might need to save the power for the next screen of opponents. The capability is especially useful for the game’s boss battles, where predictable patterns allow for diminutive windows of offensive opportunity. Additionally, players can earn tools like bombs or guns which allow for fire in multiple directions.

Aqua Kitty- Milk Mine Defender (6)

Mirror the trajectory of an arcade game, each new stage offers a new assemblage of adversaries, each slightly more challenging and numerous that the last. Here, Aqua Kitty excels, offering a distinctive array of foes that each have their own type of movement pattern and weakness. Just one example: in the third stage of the game, players will encounter enemies that explode when shot. While eliminating these antagonists immediately can make a zone less dangerous, gamers may want to delay killing until a chain reaction can be instigated, wiping the immediate area clean.

Although arcade mode offers a bit of variation with the ability to upgrade your sub by collecting gems and allowing your craft to be hit multiple times, in execution it’s a bit too similar to the main campaign. It’s also blemished by a lack of continues, with death sending you back to the start of the twenty-five stage, sequential trek. On the upside, Aqua Kitty extends one additional variant, where players combat a ceaseless barrage of enemies, in an effort to cultivate a prodigiously high score. Beyond online leaderboard Aqua Kitty also flaunts cloud saving between the two iterations, as well as a two-player co-operative variant on the PS4.

Aqua Kitty- Milk Mine Defender (4)

In the last few years, the number of Defender derivatives have decidedly shrunk, with many developers focusing on mechanically complex, narrative-based titles. For players who miss the appeal of these arcade-born amusements, Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender DX is worth of consideration. While the title may not offer an ocean of innovation, its subaquatic action is irrefutably competent shooter that’s occasionally captivating as catnip.

Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender DX was played on the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita with review code provided by the developer.

Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender DX
Platform:
PlayStation 4, PS Vita
Developer:
 Tikipod
Publisher: Tikipod
Release date: November 25th, 2014
Price: $8.99, cross-buy

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Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/geometry-wars-3-dimensions-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/geometry-wars-3-dimensions-review/#comments Sun, 30 Nov 2014 21:54:53 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12302 In an era when the industry generates grandiose narratives filled with motion capture from Academy Award-winning actors, it’s easy to lose track of where games got their start. Across arcades, bowling alleys, and pool halls, upright cabinets once reigned- each vying to give players a few minutes of electronic enthrallment. While embryonic technologies meant that ...

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Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions (1)

In an era when the industry generates grandiose narratives filled with motion capture from Academy Award-winning actors, it’s easy to lose track of where games got their start. Across arcades, bowling alleys, and pool halls, upright cabinets once reigned- each vying to give players a few minutes of electronic enthrallment. While embryonic technologies meant that play mechanics took priority over plotlines, games were designed to hook players with exhilarating tests of reflexes and visual discernment.

Each cabinet goaded a steady drip-feed of quarters, as arcade patrons attempted to master each stage or earn a boastful position on the high-score table. But as consoles gradually took hold, these machines started disappearing from the landscape, changing the structure of gaming. Frantic, fleeting moments where players tried to stay alive amidst an intensifying waves of chaos gave way to experiences that sluggishly increased the level of challenge over protracted playtimes.

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions (2)

Conceived as homage to vector-graphics classics like Asteroids, Space Fury, and Tempest, 2003’s Geometry Wars was an impeccable reminder of how exhilarating arcade shooters once were. Tucked away as a curio in Project Gotham Racing’s garage, the twin-stick shooter nearly eclipsed the level of gratification found in the main game. Across the ensuing years, the popularity of the mini-game promoted a string of full-fledged sequels, which as their moniker suggested, steadily ‘evolved’ the core gameplay with a number of intriguing variations.

Although 2007’s Geometry Wars: Galaxies and 2008’s Retro Evolved 2, advanced the franchise adding elements like a persistent campaign and variants which took the shooter in fascinating new directions, for six years the series’ lingered without a sequel. For some, it seemed as if Geometry Wars might replicate the dejected downfall of arcade machines. Fortuitously, Lucid Games, a studio comprised of talent culled from the original development team, has rescued the series from the clutches of history, adding a contenting, challenging, and celebratory chapter in the fight against pugnacious polygons.

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions (3)

The release of Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC doesn’t push the franchise forward as much as patient fans might have hoped. Instead, the title acts like a greatest hits compilation, assembling pivotal game types from across the series’ eleven-year legacy. Although hardcore fans might be disappointed by the dearth of innovation, once they try to trump their friends on the title’s robust leaderboards, they’ll find themselves addicted all over again.

Undoubtedly, Dimensions’ Classic Mode will summon the strongest sensation of nostalgia. Here, Retro Evolved 2’s pentad of play types return, albeit with a 1080p upgrade. From Pacifism’s confiscation of offensive weaponry to King mode’s requirement that shooting can only be accomplished from within transient rings, the most compelling deviations are the ones that constrain your arsenal, pushing players toward defensive play. Those who appreciate sensory overload will relish Waves, a variant where rows of rockets bound between the edges of the screen. Missed targets quickly escalate the level of chaos, ensuring a mix of concern and culpability, as they weave through an increasingly ensnarled playfield.

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions (4)

Masterfully, Classic Mode is a spot-on remaster, offering the same sinuously fluid, responsive controls which allow players to weave their way through swarms of adversaries. It’s also a reminder of how engrossing sets of divergent AI can be. In the modes where you have offensive abilities, targeting both enemies that beeline toward their ship as well as foes that do their best to evade a stream of fire is the ultimate test of sensorial judgment, and one that will push players into hitting the ‘retry’ button. While improving your own scores has always offered incentive, seeing an online leaderboard of your friends’ performance prods at you exponentially- especially when you feel you’re closing the gap on a rival. Smartly, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions scoreboards rank every level of the game, persistently goading gamers toward achieving a Zen-like state of complete, concentration.

The sole stain against Dimensions’ leaderboard system emerges once players delve into the Adventure mode. Here, players unlock different drones after boss battles, offering upgradeable AI support that offer benefits such as sniping foes or collecting geoms- the tiny particles which raise your scoring multiplier. While the assistants are crucial in your attempts to three-star each stage in the campaign’s succession of fifty levels, they also create inequity, with the subordinates helping to supplement your score. What’s worse is that the leaderboards don’t reveal the type or rank of the drone used.

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions (5)

Look past this transgression and Adventure yields hours of enjoyment. What’s best is the campaign’s diversity- typically offering no more than two of the same variants as players chart their progress on the winding overworld map. Beyond a number of familiar deviations, Dimensions’ also offers some remarkably inspired game-types. Sniper impedes the constant barrage of offensive firepower, giving players a limited number of shots. Like some of the best play modes, it’s an idea that encourages and rewards risk, as prudence leads to an unexpectedly short life span. Claustrophobia places players in battlefields with encroaching walls, allowing both adversary and arena to become progressively problematic.

Reflecting Super Stardust’s spherical worlds, a number of Dimensions’ stages abandon flat playfields for 3D stages. Their incorporation does endow the title with additional variety, but they come with a caveat: some of these levels offer a limited field of view. Coupled with the game’s overly translucent phase-in of new enemies, these spaces don’t quite mesh with the game. Much like Nano Assault Neo, enemies often appear right in front of you, making death feel like it’s the game’s fault instead of an errant decision you made.

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions (7)

Beyond a handful of unlockable bonus stages, Dimensions also extends local and online play for up to four participants. Given the speed and low latency of the controls, the emergence of an online component is remarkable. What’s even more surprising is the quality of the contests, since a trace of net lag would have ruined the experience for all. While the title still doesn’t have enough of a following to quickly fill four-on-four matches, even going head-to-head in Stock mode reveals potential. Here, each team (or player) attacks a boss using ammo that’s scattered around the playfield. While both factions are pursuing a common goal, securing resources advances an adversarial element that’s absent from the single-player game. Meanwhile the miniature ten-level local co-op campaign offers a diverting destination for couch-based comrades, escalating the already extraordinary number of on-screen objects.

Despite two minor blemishes and a reluctance to revolutionize the franchise, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions transports the cherished series onto next-gen consoles and PCs. While additional innovation would have been commendable, as it stands the title delivers a pleasing package of polygon annihilating action certain to satisfy both series fans and twin-stick shooter enthusiasts. Consider Dimensions the remix album that any aficionado would require for their collection.

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions was played on the PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher.

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer:
 Lucid Games
Publisher: Sierra
Release date: November 25th, 2014
Price: $14.99

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New Game Releases: November 27th–December 3rd, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-11-27-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-11-27-2014/#comments Sat, 29 Nov 2014 16:42:22 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12296 In Hollywood, January and February are known as ‘dump months’, the period which follows the lucrative holiday season, where lesser-known or low-budget films are released. In the game industry, a similar period has customarily existed between Black Friday and continuing through mid January. That said, a few publishers are betting on the interactive equivalent of ...

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Fantasy Hero Unsigned Legacy

In Hollywood, January and February are known as ‘dump months’, the period which follows the lucrative holiday season, where lesser-known or low-budget films are released. In the game industry, a similar period has customarily existed between Black Friday and continuing through mid January. That said, a few publishers are betting on the interactive equivalent of counter-programing, releasing titles into an arena seemingly devoid of cutthroat competition. One of the best examples of this is Nintendo, who scheduled Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, NES Remix Pack, and Ultimate NES Remix next week. For this week, the company is betting on the availability of a large number of digital releases for Wii U and 3DS systems.

PlayStation 3
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix

PlayStation 4
Secret Ponchos (PSN, Free for PS+)
The Crew (also on PSN, $59.99)

Wii U
GetClose: A game for RIVALS (eShop, $4.99)
Heptrix (eShop, $1.99)
Mario Pinball Land (eShop, $6.99)
Mighty Final Fight (eShop, $4.99)
Shiny The Firefly (eShop, $6.99)
Thomas Was Alone (eShop, $10.99)

Xbox One
The Crew (also on XGS, $59.99)

3DS
Chat-A-Lot (eShop, $7.99)
Mighty Final Fight (eShop, $4.99)
My First Songs (eShop, $4.99)
My Life on a Farm 3D (eShop, $19.99)

PS Vita
Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy (PSN, $TBA)
Final Horizon (PSN, Free for PS+)

PC
1Quest (Steam, $TBA)
Club Manager 2015 (Steam, $TBA)
CubeZ (Steam, $TBA)
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series (Steam, $26.99)
Lumino City (Steam, $TBA)
Potatoman Seeks the Troof (Steam, $TBA)
Myths of Orion (Steam, $TBA)
Neocolonialism (Steam, $TBA)
Reverse Side (Steam, $TBA)
Rugby Union Team Manager 2015 (Steam, $TBA)
The Crew (Steam, Uplay, $59.99)
The Deer God (Steam, $TBA)

Robert’s Pick: If you’re looking at this and wondering “what in the hell happened to all the PC releases?”, the short answer is we are in the midst of the Steam Exploration Sale that’s running through December 2nd. Undoubtedly, there are some great deals to be found, with a number of requisite titles at up to seventy-five percent off, so I’d have to recommend picking up any titles that you’ve had your eye on. As for me, I’ll be adding Total War: Rome II, Endless Legend, and probably more than a few other impulsive pickups to my digital library.

Total War Rome II

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Safari Quest reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/safari-quest-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/safari-quest-review/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 19:56:20 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12252 After years of nondescript tile-swapping puzzlers on consoles, PCs, and mobile devices, players might assume that the match-three game has long grown dormant. After all, there’s been little modernization in the genre as of late. Although last April’s release of Atlantic Quest for the Nintendo 3DS didn’t introduce any new innovations, the title did prevail ...

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Safari Quest header

After years of nondescript tile-swapping puzzlers on consoles, PCs, and mobile devices, players might assume that the match-three game has long grown dormant. After all, there’s been little modernization in the genre as of late. Although last April’s release of Atlantic Quest for the Nintendo 3DS didn’t introduce any new innovations, the title did prevail over its peers by offering an assortment of popular mechanics which gelled together in a gratifying manner. Collectively, these different elements helped feign the feeling of freshness, making Atlantic a practical purchase for match-three devotees.

Distressingly, Gernsheim, Germany-based developer Rokapublish has succumbed to the same stagnancy that has afflicted the genre, with the release of Safari Quest for the Nintendo 3DS exhibiting near-identical play to its predecessor. Save for swapping a sub-aquatic setting for an ersatz African context, Safari Quest is little more than a clone, extending the same type of tile-clearing mechanics and power-ups. While that means the game might still be a functional diversion for newcomers, dedicated players who have played one of Rokapublish’s previously released Quest titles should prepare to be underwhelmed.

Safari Quest 1

Whereas Atlantic Quest was tied together with an environmentally-conscious narrative about an effort to clean up an oceanic oil spill, Safari doesn’t deliver the same sense of urgency. At best, the storyline is succinct, with a premise that deliver a few text screens before sending players on a pursuit to photograph an elusive and exotic white lion. Fortunately, for those who’d rather shift play title that follow plotlines, Safari Quest’s narrative can be bypasses with a few button presses.

Success in each of Safari’s one hundred levels is a two-pronged undertaking. Player must not only remove certain amount of each type of tile, but they also have to eliminate the sections of grass which appear behind the icon of each tile. Over time, things get gradually thornier, with the title increasing the variety of tile types as well as delivering playfields that have the tendency to trap pieces.

Safari Quest 2

Match-three deviations have used a variety of techniques to remove pieces from the game board. Bejeweled required gamers to swap two adjacent pieces, while titles like Azkend tasked gamers with drawing a line through equivalent pieces. Other games like Collapse! have been built around a more nimble approach- permitting players to remove entire groups of equivalent icons through a single touch.

Safari Quest incorporates all three of these methods, with gamers switching between the system with either the shoulder buttons or by tapping icons which line the far left side of the touchscreen. Initially, it can be a bit overwhelming and players might find themselves sticking to one technique. Once the number of icon types increase and the layout of levels become more intricate, gamers are goaded into using every tool at their disposal.

Beyond this trifecta of tile eliminating approaches, Safari Quest also gives gamers additional assistance. By allowing different animal icons to hit the bottom of the playfield, players earn power-ups that are activated with a press of one of the 3DS’ four face buttons. Capable of changing a specific tile, removing grass from grid squares, or producing icon-clearing explosion, these elements will undoubtedly help gamers deal with the scourge of rocks and other immovable elements that litter the playfield.

Safari Quest 3

While all of these mechanics will be familiar to those who played the previous title, a number of omissions might be surprising for returning players. A trophy system awarded players visual rewards for feats such as clearing chains on nine or more tiles or eliminating a hundred stones during play. Sadly, trophies has been excised from Safari Quest.

Additionally, the quantity of levels had dropped in this follow-up, with twenty fewer stages for gamers to work their way through. Thankfully, the jigsaw puzzle bonus levels remain, punctuating each cluster of stages with an unassuming activity that helps avert tedium.

Aesthetically, Safari Quest is competent, exhibiting dissimilarity in tiles through both hue and shape (permitting color-blind gamers to play). While the game’s four assistive animals are rendered nicely, vaguely resembling the creature-cast of Madagascar; they are still portraits which occasionally blink. Ideally, they would have been given animation routines to cheer players on and embed the game with a bit of enthusiasm. Sonically, the title’s tune may offer clarity, but there’s little cohesion- tracks ranging from guitar-driven blues numbers to songs which sound like a generic royalty-free pieces.

Safari Quest 4

Recommending Safari Quest over its superior predecessor is impossible. Currently priced two dollars cheaper than the current title, Atlantic Quest also boasts twenty additional levels and a trophy system. As such, the only reason to purchase Safari is if you are unshakable, match-three maniac craving more of Rokapublish’s amalgam of tile removal mechanics.

Safari Quest was played on the 3DS with review code provided by the publisher.

 

Safari Quest
Platform:
3DS
Developer:
 Rokapublish GmbH
Publisher: Maximum Games
Release date: November 11th, 2014
Price: $4.99

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Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 4/Xbox One) reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/grand-theft-auto-v-next-gen-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/grand-theft-auto-v-next-gen-review/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 19:09:49 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12241 Years from now, when pundits are discussing the consummate titles which defined the seventh generation of console gaming, Grand Theft Auto V will undoubtedly rank at the top of the list. Narratively, the game conspicuously outstripped its peers, utilizing a trio of protagonists for both a succession of wonderfully intense heist sequences as well as ...

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Grand Theft Auto V next-gen (1)

Years from now, when pundits are discussing the consummate titles which defined the seventh generation of console gaming, Grand Theft Auto V will undoubtedly rank at the top of the list. Narratively, the game conspicuously outstripped its peers, utilizing a trio of protagonists for both a succession of wonderfully intense heist sequences as well as open-world capers. Intriguingly, each character also served as a device to articulate a distinctive component of the franchise’s ongoing legacy.

As the streetwise gangbanger with his eyes on socio-economic escalation, Franklin Clinton is the most likable lead. With a dogged determination and a trajectory that’s rooted in the redemptive, he’s also a throwback to San Andreas’ Carl “CJ” Johnson, serving as an unambiguous reference to GTA heritage. Less amiable is the unrelentingly rash Trevor Philips, whose mental instability and dysfunction is played for both pathos and laughs. He’s representative of how players often approach Grand Theft Auto, as he’s a persistent force of wonton destruction.

Grand Theft Auto V next-gen (2)

Encumbered with a mid-life, suburban malaise, Michael De Santa links the two characters, as a former criminal confidante of Phillips and a mentor for Clinton. With a family life which serves as satirical fodder, Michael is the lead that’s most susceptible by complacency. It’s a situation that pundits likened to developer Rockstar’s pre-GTA V position amidst an upsurge of urban sandbox games. Unsurprisingly, both the character and the ensuing game exhibited both the talent and technical skills to succeed.

A significant portion of Grand Theft Auto V’s enjoyment stemmed from the interplay between each character, as the rag-tag trio of characters attempted to quell their differences and work as a team. Following Rockstar tradition, each protagonist’s personality revealed the type of craftsmanship that’s typical of a Hollywood production, flaunting a measured and compelling arc as the storyline advanced toward culmination.  While the game’s characters are all inherently flawed, it would be almost impossible to not be fascinated by each one of them.

Grand Theft Auto V next-gen (4)

Mirroring the title’s adept storytelling, GTA V also established a new technical standard for the console generation. Driving or walking through the sprawling simulacrum of Los Angeles, dubbed Los Santos, revealed a physical space that truly felt alive. Shirking the scripted routines of most sandbox titles, citizens and lead characters would go about their daily duties, sporadically reacting to random events, helping to establish the credibility of the city. Pleasingly, the level of detail transcended artificial intelligence routines, offering a dizzying amount of vehicles, weapons, clothing, locations, and musical tracks.

With the release of Grand Theft Auto V for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Rockstar has raised the benchmark even further, delivering the uncommon remake that’s definitely worth the double dip. Although the collective additions to the game might seem somewhat insubstantial at first glance- in execution each has been judiciously embedded as to not break the game’s astute sense of balance.

Grand Theft Auto V next-gen (5)

Undoubtedly, the most conspicuous addition is the inclusion of an optional first-person standpoint. For many franchises, adding additional camera perspectives can be a mixed bag, as mechanics are tuned for a particular point of view. Adeptly, GTA V unobtrusively adjusts all these elements, enhancing auto-aim, tweaking the title’s collision detection, and adding a myriad of animations for activities like reloading weapons, getting tossed out of cars, and even drinking a beverage. Although traditionalists might favor the classic over-the-shoulder perspective, the new POV works surprisingly well, and more importantly comes with the ability to tweak elements to your liking. Even better, players can opt when to use the first-person viewpoint, switching standpoints during shooting or driving sequences.

Elsewhere, murder mystery clues are peppered across the landscape, tasking Michael with gathering these details. In implementation, the fragments represent little more than just another collectable, but at least the payoff is handsome with the game extending two film noir visual filters. Just as interesting as these dividends are the new vehicles, with the Dodo and Kraken giving gamers the tools to explore the expansive skies and oceans. Beyond a new melee weapon which can cleave away at enemies, GTA V’s other major addition to its arsenal is the rail gun, bring a bit of cutting edge military-tech into the hands of players.

Grand Theft Auto V next-gen (6)

Navigating through urban Los Santos and its pastoral peripheries reveals a myriad a minute changes, as if Rockstar scrutinized the expansive landmass, adding elements to make the territory feel alive.  From the increase of pedestrian and vehicular traffic which helps the city seem more like its source material to new varieties of wildlife that dot around the outskirts are poised to grab the attention of returning players. Moving to a first-person perspective inside a vehicle demonstrates the developers’ attention to detail, with elements like speedometers and functioning stereo displays. Although GTA V’s framerate still shows the occasional stumble when navigating through dense areas at high rates of speeds, the game’s draw distance is visibly augmented, allowing for complete enjoyment of Los Santos’ picturesque vistas.

Sonically, Grand Theft Auto V offers a similar increase in content. Building upon the already robust assemblage of musical tracks and talk radio, this edition provides 162 new songs and well as newly recorded chatter courtesy of returning DJs. Gratifyingly, there’s little filler on the set lists, with each of the seventeen stations broadcasting a wonderfully diverse set of melodies. Danny McBride’s role as animal husbandry expert, Duane Earl has received a through expansion, with in-game broadcasts of Beyond Insemination offering wonderfully irreverent conversations.

Grand Theft Auto V next-gen (3)

When GTA V first shipped, its online component wasn’t ready. While this might have been an unforgivable transgression for most titles, the single-player campaign was robust enough to absolve Rockstar. For the next-generation iteration, the developers have GTA Online up and running at launch, with all the content that has graced the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 versions. Favoring more free-form recreation rather that rigid rule sets, the mode largely maintains the autonomy of the main game, which giving players the ability to engage with up to twenty-nine other participants. For gamers looking to upgrade to this version, the game offers the ability to import their characters. The sole downside is the reoccurrence of protracted loading times, which can sap a bit of vitality in the long haul.

For PlayStation 4 owners, GTA V’s pilgrimage to next-gen arrives with a few curious controller additions. The top light of the DualShock 4 changes color as players shift between protagonists, and flashes red and blue when being chased by the police. Phone conversations and communication through law enforcement channels are send through the controller’s speaker, adding a realistic tinny aesthetic. While none of these trimmings are essential, they do demonstrate Rockstar’s commitment to delivering a consummate port.

Grand Theft Auto V next-gen (7)

Even for players who sank weeks into the original release of the game, the next-generation version of Grand Theft Auto V offers a multitude of minute reasons to upgrade. Beyond the obvious increase in visual fidelity, Los Santos feels fuller, with even rural areas buzzing with the activity of new animals. For those who somehow missed the release of the title, GTA V comes with an unreserved recommendation. It’s doubtful that the medium will experience another game-world as rich, detailed, or enjoyable until Rockstar give us a follow-up.

Grand Theft Auto V was played on the PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher.

Grand Theft Auto V
Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer:
 Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release date: November 18th, 2014
Price: $59.99
ESRB: Mature

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Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F 2nd reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/hatsune-miku-project-diva-f-2nd/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/hatsune-miku-project-diva-f-2nd/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 03:57:24 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12227 In Japan, Hatsune Miku is an unqualified sensation, with the anthropomorphized singing synthesizer dominating music sales charts, video sharing service Nico Nico Douga, as well as serving as an ambassador for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Google, Domino’s and Toyota. But when the vocaloid’s  inaugural stateside game, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F, was released in ...

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Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F 2nd (1)

In Japan, Hatsune Miku is an unqualified sensation, with the anthropomorphized singing synthesizer dominating music sales charts, video sharing service Nico Nico Douga, as well as serving as an ambassador for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Google, Domino’s and Toyota. But when the vocaloid’s  inaugural stateside game, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F, was released in August, 2013, U.S. Miku-mania was still in its infancy. In the subsequent duration, conventions on both coasts, an opening spot on Lady Gaga’s concert tour, and a spot on the Late Show with David Letterman have secured the teal-haired temptress with a legion of domestic fans that are fervent for Miku tie-ins and merchandise.

Although the recent release of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd for the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita doesn’t make any radical changes to the rhythm-based franchise, major modifications are hardly necessary. Building on the foundations established in a pair of Japan-only PSP releases and the aforementioned PS Vita title, Project DIVA F 2nd focuses on supplying a new selection of forty songs, each elevated by captivating choreography and a selection of unlockable wardrobes for both Miku and her crooning companions. While an appreciation for vocaloids is a requisite, aficionados will undoubtedly treasure the engaging title.

Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F 2nd (2)

A trip to the game’s interactive tutorial imparts the basics of play, while Hachune Miku keeps time to “Ievan Polkka” by using a leek like a conductor’s baton. Beyond imparting the rudiments of cadenced button presses and screen swipes, the lesson also reveals DIVA F 2nd’s fondness for fan-service. Look beyond the main campaign, and the title extends a bevy of satisfying supplements. The game’s Diva Room offers a Tamagotchi-esque recreation where players can configure a habitat fitting for the global superstar- outfitting her abode with decorative items and bestowing a bevy of gifts. While the mini-game feeds into an overarching incentive system, pushing players to replay songs to earn additional currency, there are a few peculiarities- like having to rub Miku’s face in order to maintain a good mood.

Things are a little less peculiar in the game’s Edit Mode which, which provides players with the tools to make their own music videos. Although Vita owners are required to download an additional (albeit free) 747 MB file, the component extends the type of creative control which helped to catapult the virtual pop idol into the collective consciousness. After selecting a level of user interface complexity and choosing any of the game’s songs or opting importing a MP3 file, players are given access to a Final Cut Pro-style linear editing system. On a scrolling timeline, everything from character animation, lyrics, and camera controls can be manipulated, theoretically giving players the power to make a music video just a robust as any of ones used in-game. Naturally, creating robust content would take a herculean investment in time, and DIVA F 2nd‘s Edit mode tutorials only cover the fundamentals.

Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F 2nd (3)

For PS Vita owners, the title comes with a curious AR element, allowing gamers to superimpose posed characters over images grabbed by the portable’s camera. While the inclusion is almost as versatile as Edit mode, it’s also undermined by the quality of the Vita hardware. In execution, the high-resolution models stood in sharp contrast to the pixelated, often underlit images captured by the camera. Still, if fans can find bright backdrops, the AR mode can potentially produce some amusing fodder for social media.

Moving into Project DIVA F 2nd’s main Play Mode reveals a rhythm game that’s rooted in genre rudiments. Beyond the basic input of notes, the game throws a few variations at players. Star icons return from DIVA F, oblige a swipe of the touchscreen. One of this game’s changes in the inclusion of Linked Scratch Targets which require a two-finger streak, a potentially precarious maneuver for a two-hundred dollar portable system. The title’s other mechanical change is found in Linked Star Targets, where the traditional trajectory of notes is altered to shifting patterns, requiring players to follow a symbol that’s darting around the screen. During each of the game’s songs, a period referred to as Chance Time occurs, with a star gauge filing with each precisely timed button press. If gamers are able to top off the meter, they have access to a bonus event- typically a brief reprise proposing the opportunity for a higher score.

Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F 2nd (5)

Remarkably, Project DIVA F 2nd can be a bit unforgiving, with a success rate of eighty perfect or more required to clear a song and earn each track’s unlockables. Fortunately, four different levels of difficulty ensure than players with a wide range of proficiency are able to enjoy themselves. One of the gripes some had with Project DIVA F was an obedience to Miku’s more poppy side. With the sequel, the singer and her cohorts demonstrate real range- with jazzy, techno, and even a few affecting ballads accompanying the expected J-pop tracks.

Nicely, most songs in DIVA F 2nd offer English subtitles in addition to the romaji captions of the early games. Although it can be a bit hard to follow the lyrics when notes are cascading from all corners of the screen, the translation effort is commendable, allowing all fans to appreciate the meaning behind Miku’s songs. For faithful fans that purchase both the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita iterations of the game, cross-saving allows progress to be shared between platforms. Even better for eager vocaloid-otaku is SEGA’s pledge to bring over DIVA F 2nd’s downloadable content, expanding an already substantial roster of songs.

Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F 2nd (4)

For fans, a purchase of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd offers a plethora of content. Beyond the engrossing core game, there’s a video editor, Miku simulation, even the game’s loading screen are adorned with delighting images of the teal-haired troubadour. It’s a title that vocaloid devotees won’t find fault with; a comprehensive package that’s poised to earn Miku a few new fans.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd was played on the PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd
Platform:
PlayStation 3, PS Vita
Developer:
SEGA, Crypton Future Media
Publisher: SEGA
Release date: November 18th, 2014
Price: $49.99 PlayStation 4, $39.99 PS Vita
ESRB: Teen

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Rollers of the Realm reviewhttp://www.tech-gaming.com/rollers-realm-review/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/rollers-realm-review/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 21:03:49 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12215 Over the last few years, it seems like role-playing mechanics have seeped into every conceivable genre. From the inclusion of MyGM mode in the NBA 2K series- where players make decisions via branching dialog trees to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords’ fusion of match-three puzzling with character cultivation, RPG fundamentals are no longer restrained ...

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Rollers of the Realm (1)

Over the last few years, it seems like role-playing mechanics have seeped into every conceivable genre. From the inclusion of MyGM mode in the NBA 2K series- where players make decisions via branching dialog trees to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords’ fusion of match-three puzzling with character cultivation, RPG fundamentals are no longer restrained to the adventure game. The release of Rollers of the Realm for the PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC demonstrates these stat-based rudiments merged with the core constituents of pinball, resulting in a largely likeable play experience- albeit with a few minor misgivings.

Sure, Rollers isn’t the first game to move beyond the confines of single-table play. TurboGrafx-16 classics Alien Crush and Devil’s Crush stretched across multiple playfields and bestowed the sporadic boss battle, inspiring succeeding titles like Sonic Spinball and Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball. But save for these deviations, each game doggedly adhered to the principles of the quarter-munching pastime.

Rollers of the Realm (2)

Foundationally, Rollers of the Realm still incorporates pinball principals, with rounds started by pulling the plunger (here called a ‘launcher’) to fling a ball into play. With gravity persistently pushing the orb toward the bottom of the screen, players use flippers to return the sphere back up the playfield. As any pinball wizard will tell you, nudging the ball is an essential skill. In this capacity, Rollers gives a pleasing amount of flexibility, allowing players to precisely guide the sphere toward objects and areas.

But that’s where the similarity ends. Instead of an insipid orb, each ball in Rollers of the Realm is a different personality. Players start the game as a young orphaned girl simple known as the Rogue, before unlocking different sphere like the benevolent Healer and drunken, cantankerous Knight. Although Rollers protagonists rarely transcend high-fantasy trope and are personified through amateurish voice acting, these setbacks aren’t significant. Instead, character distinction is best articulated by size, speed, and special ability.

Rollers of the Realm (3)

Beyond color coding, each orb is differentiated by the way it moves across each play field. The Rogue’s diminutive size allowing her to slip through small crevices, while the portly Knight splinters destructible objects but his corpulent size makes him harder to direct (and more difficult to accidently drain). Beyond these attributes, each persona has a distinctive skill, from triggering multi-ball, temporary blocking the drain hole, to the power to revive fallen comrades. As the campaign progresses, players recruit additional characters that grant abilities like restoring damaged flippers and automatically attacking nearby targets.

Unlocking these party members helps to cultivate a pleasing sense of progression, since gamers can shift between characters. Once the ball is either held by a flipper or returned to the launcher, a button press changes the active adventurer. Coupled with the progression of each table, these decision endow Rollers of the Realm will a subtle puzzle-like quality as certain characters are essential for advancement. Another adept design decision is how scoring is contextualizing. Instead of simply accumulating points, collisions with playfield elements bestows either mana or currency. The first resource is essential for using the special ability of each character, while wealth is used to purchase a wealth of stat-boosting supplements for their party members. In execution, this permits Rollers to incorporate the difficulty-assuaging mechanic of role-playing games. Thankfully, the game does so, with placing too much of an emphasis on grinding.

Rollers of the Realm (5)

The effects of the passive boosts are seen during Rollers of the Realm’s interpretation of combat, with damage assessments and parry indicators exhibited when the ball makes contact with enemies. But even with a multitude of purchased augmentations taking down ordinary foes can be tedious, with several hits needed to mow down the softest of enemies. While that’s forgivable, the balance during boss battles isn’t. Often these showdowns can stretch for nearly half an hour, as players exploit fleeting windows of opportunity and attempt to heal their flippers after antagonist attacks. This issue is exasperated in the final showdown, where failure takes gamers back to the beginning of a three-part confrontation.

Although Rollers of the Realm’s voice acting isn’t convincing or compelling, the game’s visuals are commendable. Cutscenes are composed of attractive hand-drawn imagery that’s accentuated by the Ken Burns effect. Character portraits are praiseworthy as well, with representations delivering as much backstory as the assembling of expositional text and voice-over. Pleasingly, Rollers’ expends enough graphical options to get the game running on all but the oldest or lowest end PCs. On our in-house A10/GTX 770 PC, with every setting maximized, the title ran flawlessly.

Rollers of the Realm (4)

Aside from balancing issues which make boss confrontations more exasperating than entertaining, Rollers of the Realm is a creative and capable title. Intermingling role-playing and puzzle elements with the fundamentals of pinball works surprisingly well, with the end result just revealing enough of each separate ingredient. A recommendation rests on the Rollers’ reasonable ten-dollar price- and if players can find the game for a bit cheaper, we’ll have to offer a passive boost to the overall score.

Rollers of the Realm was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.

Rollers of the Realm
Platform:
PlayStation 4, PS Vita, PC
Developer:
Phantom Compass
Publisher: Atlus USA, Inc.
Release date: November 18th, 2014
Price: $9.99
Language(s): English audio, English, French, Italian, German, Spanish interface

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New Game Releases: November 20th-26th, 2014http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-11-20-2014/ http://www.tech-gaming.com/new-game-releases-11-20-2014/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:36:23 +0000 http://www.tech-gaming.com/?p=12211 With Black Friday looming, the majority of this weeks’ titles are digital rather than physical releases. Naturally, the former present a wide range in both quality and genre, with everything from a reworking of classic mobile game, Snake, Japanese role-playing game for the Wii U, and another sequel in the Geometry Wars franchise. While these ...

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Magical Battle Festa

With Black Friday looming, the majority of this weeks’ titles are digital rather than physical releases. Naturally, the former present a wide range in both quality and genre, with everything from a reworking of classic mobile game, Snake, Japanese role-playing game for the Wii U, and another sequel in the Geometry Wars franchise. While these downloadable might games are poised to earn the notice of some players, undoubtedly a larger amount of attention will be devoted to this week’s three retail giants: Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire.

PlayStation 3
Boxing (PSN, PSOne, $5.99)
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (PSN, $14.99)
Jetpack Joyride Deluxe (PSN, $1.99)

PlayStation 4
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed (also on PSN, $49.99)
Aqua Kitty — Milk Mine Defender DX (PSN, $8.99, cross-buy)
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (PSN, $14.99)
Speakeasy (PSN, $9.99)
Tales from the Borderlands Episode 1 – Zero Sum (PSN, $4.99)
Thomas Was Alone (PSN, $9.99, cross-buy)

Wii U
Alphadia Genesis (eShop, $14.99)
DK: King of Swing (eShop, $6.99)
Penguins of Madagascar (also on eShop, $39.99)
Snake Den (eShop, $6.99)
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (also on eShop, $59.99)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Amazing Spider-Man Ultimate Edition

Xbox One
Boom Ball for Kinect (XGS, $9.99)

3DS
Battleminer (eShop, $9.99)
Penguins of Madagascar (also on eShop, $29.99)
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth – The Wild Cards Premium Edition
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire (also on eShop, $39.99)
Pokémon Omega Ruby (also on eShop, $39.99)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (eShop, $29.99)
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man 2

PS Vita
Aqua Kitty — Milk Mine Defender DX (PSN, $8.99, cross-buy)
Jetpack Joyride Deluxe (PSN, $1.99)
Pocket RPG (PSN, $14.99)

PC
European Ship Simulator (Steam, $TBA)
Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Player’s Edition (Steam, $TBA)
If My Heart Had Wings (Steam, $TBA)
Inside the Gear (Steam, $TBA)
Magical Battle Festa (Steam, $TBA)
MotoGP 14 Compact (Steam, $TBA)
Motorama (Steam, $TBA)
Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues (Steam, $TBA)
The Good Life (Steam, $TBA)
TOME: Immoral Arena (Steam, free-to-play)

Robert’s Pick: While some equate fan-service with a superfluous amount of skin, I tend to think of the term in a more pragmatic manner: it’s giving the audience exactly what they want. By that benchmark, few games can complete with Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, a title which unites key members from the Persona 3 and 4 casts and send them skulking through Etrian Odyssey-esque dungeons. While the game is positioned at an elevated fifty dollar MSRP, for fans the premium is justified by spending a bit more time with beloved characters like Fuuka Yamagishi, Junpei Iori, and Rise Kujikawa.

Persona Q Shadow of the Labyrinth

 

Jeremy’s Pick: In a release week like this, you really have to make some hard decisions: which game will you love and play and cherish, possibly for years… and which one will dominate your very will through sheer force of compulsion? And so I’ve got to give it to Geometry Wars 3, the first offering from Activision’s revived Sierra label, and sequel to Bizarre Creations’ neon-shapes-based twin stick arena shooters. I went from full skeptic to full junkie in the space of a sitting with Geometry Wars. If this iteration, from a new developer and on new platforms, can fire on the same “one more game” cylinders as previous games in the series, it comes with my greatest recommendation… and my gravest warning.

Geometry Wars 3

Gonçalo’s Pick: Whenever I start thinking of my all-time favorite games, RPGs are usually at the forefront. The genre is largely reason why I love gaming and was instrumental in teaching me the English language. Among others, my love for vast open worlds, stats and story-driven games can be traced back to Richard Garriot’s Ultima.

Although Shroud of the Avatar is not an official Ultima sequel, the many references and callbacks to this now defunct series make it difficult to separate the two. This series pioneered in story-telling, established many rules later used western and Japanese RPGs and was one of the earliest benchmarks in mmo gaming. If Shroud of the Avatar can capture some of its predecessor’s magic we are in for a wild ride.

Shroud of the Avatar

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