The X Button
Piece of Mind

by Todd Ciolek, Sep 18th 2013

Last week I posted some artwork that was supposedly for a new Guilty Gear game. At the time, the prevailing opinion was that the illustrations came from a pachislot title, but I hoped that they were for Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-, the next proper iteration of the series. I hoped that it was a preview of just what we'd see in an actual fighting game. I hoped that the unfamiliar characters and towering monsters were new additions to the Guilty Gear brand of crazy-ass heavy-metal-anime fighting.

So yeah, the art's really for a pachinko-slot machine. It's called Guilty Gear Vastedge XT, and it shows off animated attacks and brief cutscenes when the player works those pachislot knobs and levers.

I'll never play Vastedge XT unless I happen across the game in some pachinko-rich establishment, and I'm at ease with that. It's something one must accept when following a media franchise from a foreign country: certain pieces of it will be beyond your convenient reach, whether those pieces are in books, drama CDs, or some other format that just isn't profitable enough to translate. I learned this the hard way back in 2001, when I realized that I'd need to import both a text-heavy Saturn game and a text-heavy Dreamcast game just to get the whole story for Martian Successor Nadesico.

I'm not even sure if Vastedge XT is part of Guilty Gear's fragmented canon or not; Sol Badguy looks like he's genuinely happy in the art above, so I'm leaning non-canonical. Even if it's a vital part of the storyline, I'll do fine in my ignorance. Fighting games, y'know?

NEWS

GAME CENTER CX RETURNS WITH MORE OLD-NEW TITLES
Game Center CX remains one of the best things to come out of the whole retro-game movement. It finds adorable comedian Shinya Arino bumbling through notable and/or frustrating games of old, interspersed with visits to various game companies and related locations. The TV show built up quite a cult of personality over the last ten years, and it resulted in two DS titles filled with fictional NES-like games and a never-existent culture to surround them. It was naked, shameless pandering to nostalgia, and it worked so very, very well. Game Center CX: Arino in District 3 has the same idea, packing 15 faux-retro games into an adventure for Arino.

Of the six games shown so far, Saurus Boy looks the part of the quintessential NES side-scroller. Seemingly based on CAPCOM's Little Nemo: The Dream Master, it reveals new powers with each dinosaur costume donned by its hero, and it looks very much like a late-era Nintendo specimen. It also reminds me of the obscure bootleg game Jurassic Boy 2, but I doubt that was intentional.

Rumi and the Magic Broom has the familiar structure of Mario Bros. (the original, not the Super one), as its witch heroine bumps enemies around by hitting the blocks on which they stand. The twist comes in the gameplay: attacks screw with Rumi's control scheme.

Break Shoot mixes a few ideas into a back-and-forth Pong duel. Players bounce a ball across the screen, powering up their attacks and wiping out members of the opponent's team. It's a little bit Windjammers, a little bit Bang Bead and a little bit dodgeball, and I hope there's a multiplayer mode for all of it.

The rest of the revealed games pay the same sort of tribute. Wing Hero (above) is a horizontal shooter where players blow into the 3DS microphone to stay aloft, and we should be nice and avoid comparing it to Sky Kid. Soma's Treasure is a maze game similar to Pac-Man and Lock 'N Chase, and the collectible items can only be seen when a good chunk of the player's surroundings are blocked off. Lastly, Noboru is a climbing game in the style of 1970s arcade titles older than most of us.

Developer G.Rev will add eight more games to the lineup before the January 23 release date, and it's hard to say if it'll come here. XSEED Games localized the first title as Retro Game Collection but balked at the second one, citing the original's low sales and complicated licensing. With the 3DS region-lock in effect, it'll sting all the harder if the third Game Center CX anthology doesn't arrive here.

FINAL FANTASY AGITO RETURNS IN SOME TERRIBLY CONFUSING WAY
Bear with me for a moment. Back when Square Enix still believed in a Final Fantasy XIII multiverse project, they announced Final Fantasy Agito XIII for cell phones. Then it moved to the PSP and changed its name to Final Fantasy Type-0, though this didn't help it come to North America. Now Square Enix announces Final Fantasy Agito for iOS and Android systems, and they're supposedly bringing it here.

Agito's storyline is another permutation of the repeating world-cycle seen in Final Fantasy Type-0, with much of the first game's cast showing up in one form or another. The player's avatar is a blank-slate cadet, however, and his or her journey across the world of Orience is doled out in chapters. Characters progress through a job system, and their various abilities aid the player during battle. That's a fairly routine Final Fantasy approach, but director Hajime Tabata has a branching, player-directed storyline in mind. That's a rarer sight in the franchise.

Agito will be free to play upon its release in Japan, with special items and other enhancements costing extra. Tabata claims that players can finish the game without spending money, which seems a pleasant contrast to the Final Fantasy: All The Bravest debacle. More intriguing is the promise of localization for Agito—and Tabata's hints that Final Fantasy Type-0 may show up in North America after all. In an interview with USgamer, the director confirmed that a largely complete translation of Type-0 exists, and that Square Enix shelved it due to the dwindling PSP market. Perhaps they'll reconsider now.

ACE ATTORNEY: DUAL DESTINIES GETS RELEASE DATE, STILL DIGITAL-ONLY
CAPCOM was a bit cagey with the release date for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, but many of us didn't care about that. We cared about the revelation that the game would be available only as a download through the 3DS eShop, thus denying us another piece of polymer packaging to fill our shelves and closets and lives. At the very least, this prompted a lower price for the game. It'll be $29.99 when it shows up this October 24. This doesn't include the whale-centric bonus case, “Turnabout Return,” or the extra costumes for Phoenix and his assistants. CAPCOM almost certainly will sell those for additional fees.

Some still might grumble over being denied a physical copy, yet the question arises: is any Phoenix Wright fan going to ignore the game just because it's digital-only? I can understand the preference for material goods at full price; if I'm paying over twenty bucks for a game, I normally want the recourse of selling it if I happen to hate it. But this is Phoenix Wright. It's easy to see what we're getting: the same goofball investigations and courtroom theatrics as before, now with an older Phoenix and his energetic new assistant, Athena Sykes (shown above fending off the pet raptor of rival prosecutor Blackquill). Are those of you who followed the series through Trials and Tribulations and the Apollo Justice changeover going to abandon it now just because the new game doesn't come in plastic? I hope not.

INTERVIEW: ONE PIECE: PIRATE WARRIORS 2

One Piece goes many places in the video game world: action titles, fighters, arena brawlers, and even traditional RPGs. Most of these are hard sells in the West, now that the anime bubble is over and One Piece' s popularity contracted a little, but Namco Bandai still comes through with the Pirate Warriors games, those hybrids of One Piece and Dynasty Warriors. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 arrived on the PlayStation 3 earlier this month (download-only, that is), so I went to producer Hisashi Koinuma and director Tomoyuki Kitamura for some short answers about what goes into Pirate Warriors.

Why do you think One Piece lends itself to this type of game?

Kitamura: We feel that that the One Piece characters' superhuman abilities and exhilarating actions match well with the Dynasty Warriors series, where the action system is knocking down countless enemy characters.

How do you think Pirate Warriors 2 improves on the original Pirate Warriors?

Koinuma: We developed Pirate Warriors 2 with the concept of making it more “Dynasty Warrior-like” than the prequel. Because we received a lot of feedback from the fans that wanted an increased number of playable characters, we have added many more characters this time.

Why did you replace the first game's Crew Strike system with the new Partner System?

Koinuma: It came from users' suggestions and opinions about the last title. They were used as reference for improvement to include more “Dynasty Warriors” action with an increased sense of exhilaration.

This is the first One Piece game in which Perona is playable, right? How did you integrate her moves into the game?

Kitamura: Perona's moves are very comical in comparison to other characters. Her most memorable moves from the original series, such as Negative Hollow, turn her opponents “negative.” They can be seen in the game.

What's the most difficult part of turning One Piece into a game? Is there any part of the story, such as the large ship-to-ship battles, that presents a problem?

Kitamura: One Piece has numerous existing fans that hold a wide range of emotional attachments to the series. It is very challenging to satisfy everyone, but we approached the development of this game with the intention of providing a fun experience for as many fans as possible while treasuring the appeal of the original series.

How did you come up with the game's original storyline? Did Eiichiro Oda or anyone from the anime series staff contribute to the plot?

Kitamura: The game's original story was created to allow characters outside of the Straw Hat Crew to flourish and have a chance in the spotlight. Mr. Oda is not directly involved. However, we developed the storyline with the cooperation of Shueisha and Toei Animation.

Who is your favorite character to play in the game? Who's your favorite One Piece character overall?

Koinuma: As a playable character, I like Marco, one of the characters we had a difficult time with during development. My favorite character in One Piece overall is Kuzan. In One Piece Film: Z he plays an active part and I like his humaneness.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

ARMORED CORE: VERDICT DAY
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Release Date: September 24
Color Scheme: Gunmetal Despair
MSRP: $49.99/ $149.99 (Special Edition, PS3 only)

You may not enjoy Armored Core: Verdict Day if you're the snippy, factually fixated type who grumbles about scientific inaccuracies seeded for the sake of drama. Verdict Day unfolds in an environmentally ravaged future where the congealed remnants of nations go to war over the planet's dwindling resources. They do this by deploying massive, heavily armed battle-mecha that can't be all that fuel-efficient or economically practical. But let's not spoil the war for everyone.

Verdict Day's bleak future naturally results in all sorts of battlefield chaos, and the game's trailer is awash with war cries, threats, confusion, betrayal, casual nihilism and all of the other heated emotions you'd expect from, say, a Gundam throwdown. There's also some oblique narration about God and salvation, making for the most bizarre fusion of religion and robots since the Xenosaga wars. The actual storyline is a bit more grounded in the brownish-gray slurry of mecha warfare, as the player meets up with mercenaries and tries to survive a three-way conflict. A mysterious group called the Foundation and a squad called the Death God Unit also figure into it, but I'm sure they can be trusted.

Many Armored Core fans aren't so concerned with narrative, of course. The series always sells itself with a wide array of customizable machines, and Verdict Day offers over a hundred new parts, including weapons and chassis components, on top of the already extensive Armored Core selection. The game maintains its single-player mode where players can escape damaged mecha just as they did in Armored Core V, but the shootouts and tactics now rely more on an entire squad. That's why Verdict Day includes an “operator mode,” where the player can design and program mechs to run on AI routines, creating either combat partners or an entire unit of computer-controlled robots. From Software expanded the online element along the same lines. The multiplayer mode features about 56 maps, and players can use their screenshots for the game's citizen-journalist news reports.

It sounds promising, but the last few Armored Cores didn't endear themselves to longtime fans. If Verdict Day turns into another sluggish disappointment…well, at least they'll have pictures of it.


Todd Ciolek occasionally updates his website, and you can follow him on Twitter if you want.


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