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Fighting Fairly

by Todd Ciolek, Nov 21st 2012

In last week's discussion of the Wii U launch, I neglected to mention one notable game. It's Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition, a Wii U version of the game that Wayforward crafted for the 3DS last year. You'll find it on the console's eShop right now.

Hyper Drive Edition has the original 21 stages from the 3DS game, all of which require creative use of heroine Patricia Wagon's polarity-switching powers. A harder version of each level awaits once the main game's completed, and the game's graphics were redone for the Wii U (though they lack the pixelly charm of the 3DS title). You can play the game on the system proper or on the controller's touch-screen, and I'd certainly be doing one or the other if I owned a Wii U.

NEWS

JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE: ALL-STAR BATTLE EXPANDS, LOOKS SHARP
What upcoming fighting game do anime fans want most? Probably that fan-made My Little Pony fighter, but they should all look forward to Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle. CyberConnect2's take on the long-running manga (and newly adapted anime) looks quite impressive, and there's reason to hope the developer can capture Hirohiko Araki's marvelously drawn fight scenes in a PlayStation 3 game. So far the roster samples characters from the first seven arcs, offering Joseph Joestar, , Noriaki Kakyoin, Jotaro Kujo, Jean Pierre Polnareff, Giorno Giovana, Guido Mista, Jonathan Joestar, Wham, Gyro Zeppeli, Johnny Joestar, and almost certainly Rohan Kishibe, Bruno Bucciarati, and Dio Brando. Oh, and they all have their summonable Stand alter-egos.

The game most recently added characters from the fourth and sixth arcs of the multi-generational Jojo's saga. From Diamond is Not Crash, we have Josuke Higashikata (above) and Okuyasu Nijimura with their respective Stands, Crazy Diamond and The Hand.

From the Stone Ocean storyline, All-Star Battle takes Jolyne Kujo (above) and her Stone Free Stand, plus Hermes Costello (below) and her Stand, which is named Kiss. A musical reference in an Araki manga? Nah, couldn't be.

Legally questionable names and all, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is headed for a Japanese release next year. No word yet on a U.S. version.

CHULIP RE-ISSUED ON PLAYSTATION NETWORK? I SURE HOPE SO
The PLAYSTATION Network's large catalog includes an often-overlooked repository of PlayStation 2 cult favorites, with Ring of Red and Grim Grimoire and God Hand all available for about ten bucks apiece. It now appears we're getting another lesser-seen PS2 notable on the network: Punchline's odd little adventure game Chulip.

Now that I think about it, calling Chulip an “adventure” game is a bit vague, as it's more of a social-quest-life-simulator deal, along the lines of Animal Crossing or the strange, under-appreciated creations of Kenichi Nishi (Moon, Captain Rainbow). Chulip sees a gangly young man spurned by the girl he loves, so he undertakes a quest to kiss all the residents of his small town. Fortunately, they're often just as strange as he is, and the game unfolds all sorts of odd little subplots.

The PlayStation 2 version of Chulip had a rough journey West. It was released in Japan in 2002 and came to America five years later, following numerous delays. I remember periodically calling Natsume on the phone during my Anime Insider days, just to make sure the game hadn't been canceled. Should Chulip find its way to the PSN, we'll all have an easier time of playing it.

SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK: LITTLE GRAVITY RUSH MONSTROSITIES
I do like myself some Gravity Rush. And I even like seeing Gravity Rush shilled in other games. So far, its heroine Kat will guest-star in Hot Shots Golf: World Tour and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. There will also be a Kat costume in LittleBigPlanet, alongside other Gravity Rush character outfits.

And they're all vaguely disturbing. Well, the Alias guy on the end is fine, but the rest of the Gravity Rush Sackboys (girls?) are creepy, as though someone was trying to make an anime version of The Muppet Show. Perhaps some games shouldn't be combined.

DOWNLOAD ROUNDUP: NOVEMBER

ERYI'S ACTION
Developer: Xtal Sword
Publisher: Nyu Media
Platform: PC (GamersGate, Direct Download)
MSRP: $4.99

Don't worry if you hate Eryi's Action. I'm pretty sure it hates you and anyone else who plays it. The game apparently also hates Eryi herself, though she seems to be an innocent forest-dwelling sprite who only wants to get back her stolen melon meal. Well, there's no pity for her. Eryi's Action tries to kill its heroine at every turn, succeeding more often than not. As she trudges through side-scrolling levels full of Mario-ish hazards, a quick demise is always at hand. Spikes drop from above without warning. A trip down a vase-pipe leads to an inescapable room full of spikes. A bouncing mushroom rockets Eryi into the distant sky, never to be seen again. A hail of baking pans attacks her before she even leaves the house. She's not even safe on the game's overworld map.

Eryi's Action has more than cheap shots, however. The challenges before our perpetually doomed heroine often involve some clever puzzles. Her moves are usually limited to dashing, jumping, and throwing, but the designers make the most of her maneuvers. Even so, the game's about timing and memorization above all else, and you'll perish again and again before you figure out the right pattern. The game even tracks this by giving you unlimited continues, with the only penalty being a life-counter that rapidly shifts into negative numbers. There's a point where the challenges and frequent game-overs simply can't motivate you to try again, and that's when you'll give up on Eryi's Action and whatever creative tasks lie further within it. I will admit here that I could not finish the game, and I suspect that's what Eryi's Action wanted from me all along.

FAIRY BLOOM FREESIA
Developer: Edelweiss
Publisher: Nyu Media
Platform: PC (Steam, GamersGate, Direct Download)
MSRP:$7.99

Fairy Bloom Freesia is easily misunderstood. The title, the character art, and even some of the screenshots might suggest some gentle side-scrolling game in an enchanted woodland, perhaps a comforting counterpoint to Eryi's Action up there. Well, Freesia is not that sort of game. It's a rare brand of brawler, focused primarily on 2-D action within a limited stage. Consider it a single-player version of fighters like Super Smash Bros. The game's cheerful, rosy-cheeked lead is Freesia, the fairy guardian of Lita Forest. As humans and other species encroach upon her domain, Freesia's called upon to battle opponents in various stages. Like some Street Fighter pixie in a sundress, she'll double-jump through the air, build up devastating combos, and belt scores of bloblike enemies across the screen.

It's a game simple in its approach but complex in the details, as Freesia's faced with increasingly smarter foes. Fairy Bloom Freesia makes the most of its limited enemy palette and scope by giving its heroine a constantly upgradeable selection of moves. Spending skill points unlocks standard attacks, special moves to be equipped, and various stat boosts. There's an ongoing plot involving human incursions and a pointy-eared, sword-wielding rival for Freesia, though it hardly drives the game. Freesia is shorter and less varied than other indie creations—one certainly shouldn't expect the breadth of Recettear. Yet the well-structured combat and strong lineup of techniques make for some enjoyable diversions, no matter how many times you're pounding the same blob-golems. Freesia's a charming little exercise in sugary-sweet brutality, and that mixture alone makes it worth a look.

LIBERATION MAIDEN
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Level-5
Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop)
MSRP: $7.99

It's hard to fault the premise behind Suda51's Liberation Maiden, in which teenager Shoko Ozora becomes president of Japan after her father is assassinated. With a Parliament-approved battlemecha at her command, she sets out to free her nation from occupying forces…and clean up the environment. It's almost a shame that the whole idea was convinced to a brief 3DS title in Level-5's four-part Guild01 omnibus, instead of fueling a full-blown console game. Served up as a single download, Liberation Maiden is a shooter snack, spanning five levels of relatively straightforward missions. Shoko and her Kamui robot jet above the Japanese landscape, with the 3DS unit's touch-screen serving as a targeting tool. Her arsenal includes lock-on missiles, a laser, and a concentrated bomb, but it's the first of these that provides the most effective attack. It also interacts with Shoko's defenses in a novel way: the more foes Shoko targets, the fewer satellites she has to act as her shields. It's a nice strategic touch while she's dodging lasers or sneaking through enemy defenses. The levels are basic at first, but unsuspected depths emerge as the boss encounters grow creative and challenging. Shoko's also free to wander a bit during missions, discovering a number of optional enemy encounters.

Liberation Maiden only seems a disappointment in its story, ridiculous and yet strangely undernourished. The whole thing opens with an amusing animated clip of the pomp and ceremony surrounding Shoko's robot-aided ascension to the President's office (which is apparently inherited in New Japan). Yet the storyline and dialogue keep a straight face. It's all well-voiced, but rarely does the script break into the sort of melodrama that made Metal Wolf Chaos a sterling tale of executive-branch mecha warfare. That aside, it's easy to like Shoko and her five-stage rebellion. It's not long, but like any good shooter there's reason to return.

THIS WEEK'S RELEASE

ELMINAGE ORIGINAL
Developer: Starfish
Publisher: UFO Interactive
Platform: Sony PSP (PLAYSTATION Network)
MSRP: $14.99

There's a last-minute arrival this week, and it takes the award for Most Unexpected Localization of 2012. Yes, this year saw some tough competition with Cherry Tree High Comedy Club, Tokyo Jungle, and even the long-untranslated Monster World IV. But I do believe that Elminage Original beats them all. Starfish's Elminage isn't a particularly old series, as it dates back to an original PlayStation 2 game from 2008. It is, however, a very obscure series, a line of dungeon-hack RPGs with scores of labyrinths to explore and scores of first-person battles to fight. No Western publisher bothered with Elminage in its various flavors, which range from the PSP's Elminage Gothic to the two DS remixes of the first game and its sequel. All of this changed, however, when UFO Interactive took the plunge and announced a quick release for Elminage Gothic. We can't get Sega to translate 7th Dragon 2020 or Valkyria Chronicles 3, but we'll have Elminage Gothic on our PSPs and Vitas. The mind boggles.

As dungeon hacks go, Elminage Original has little time for gooey fantasy melodrama or character development. It's an RPG in the old-fashioned, Wizardry-esque sense: you pick your party and your take your chances scouring dank ruins full of monsters, treasures, and grueling combat. And to complete the aura of a computer RPG circa 1987, there's a Tolkein-ish backstory about a realm called Halodra Ille and the six rings that protect it from harm. Elminage doesn't look nearly as detailed as modern dungeon forays, as its battles use static portraits of monsters and party members, with a first-person perspective to cut down on any animated scenes. Yet there's one thoughtful feature for players who want some style in their dungeon hack: character images can be loaded from a memory card. So you're free to make a party of Final Fantasy icons, Nintendo mainstays, unpopular Animaniacs characters, Matisse paintings, or the cast of The Munsters.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASE

AERO PORTER
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Level-5
Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop)
MSRP: $4.99

Now that you've all likely finished Liberation Maiden, it's time to look to the other three games in Level-5's Guild01. We'll get the bad news out of the way: North America's not getting Yoshiyuki Hirai's Omasse Rental Weapon Shop just yet, due to the translation work it demands. However, we can look forward to Yasumi Matsuno's tabletop RPG sim Crimson Shroud in the future, and next week brings Yoot Saito's Aero Porter. Yes, it's a game where you handle luggage.

OK, there's more to Aero Porter than pulling carry-ons from a conveyor belt. You're effectively managing an airport in many little ways. You'll have to design color schemes for planes, schedule flights properly, and, of course, sort the right luggage into multiple queues. The game offers little to look at beyond the basics of airport care and feeding, and much of the production seems a mini-game. Yet Aero Porter has earned some surprising accolades, and puzzle fans will likely find some appeal in a game that stacks six conveyors and demands that you organize all their color-coded suitcases just in time for each plane's departure. You could take much more terrible chances for five bucks.


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