Totally Unnamed Gaming Column - We've got the Touch

by Mutsuki, Sep 20th 2009

Welcome back to our normally scheduled tour of the unnamed gaming column, and this time around, we have some sights for you. We're taking a path off the beaten track to Lake Juliet, trying to figure out the mysteries of Another Code R: A Journey into Lost Memories, which hit European shelves in June, and surprisingly doesn't have a US release set yet, and is easy to pick up and play.

After our stopover there, we'll pause to look at a world of alternate universes, a dark and creepy world, and to top it off, stop by a blocky world of logical fun, provided by one of our newest staff members. For one of our entrants, one of our stops may be a super robot game worth looking at.

Just remember that any single game reviewed in our previous columns (or two if you want them out of the first column covered) or any column up to the 31st October 2009 is up for grabs, if you help us name this totally unnamed gaming column!

Just send our editor in chief [email protected] (jon at animenewsnetwork.com.au?subject=Name%20the%20Column%20Competition) suggestions for a name, and you don't have to name the game you want, unless you have your heart set on something. If you're curious, yes, The IDOLM@STER: Dearly Stars is on that list.

As well, there's a lucky door prize for any special support material given with an entry, be it artwork, a logo or anything else you can think of, so get going!

DS: Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier (Namco-Bandai Games/Atlus)

Probable Rating M (Adult themes, Sexual references, Crude Humour)
Release Date 29/04/2009
# of Players 1
Availability Import: Common
Language Japanese with English Subtitles
Fluency/Literacy Level Intermediate: Japanese Puns.
Special Notes Place either Super Robot Wars OG 1 or 2 in the GBA slot and you'll unlock a special item.

The Endless frontier, being a mishmash of worlds linked by a series of gates… but you really wouldn't notice considering the sheer amount of innuendo dropped in the game.

Let's get this out of the way first, there's a lot of sexual references, both visual through the sheer amount of boob bouncing that happens, or through various jokes. It really doesn't help that Harken Browning is somewhat of a ladies' man, although considering how he acts, we're left to wonder why he hasn't been thrown in jail for sexual harassment.

… For better or worse, throughout the game, he'll hook up with mostly girls which politely put, provide a lot of conversational pieces for our main character, usually to make fun of. There's only one other male character that tags along with you, and fortunately he doesn't join in.

For those who don't mind it, it's just a game where you don't take things too seriously. You venture through the game achieving things in a very linear fashion, going from one point to the next, with character development unfolding as the plot demands it. If you want to explore though or try to find a whole bunch of secret extras, unfortunately, this game isn't the game for you.

Fortunately, the combat system and the attention paid to the characters can make up for that. As characters talk, they'll have a variety of poses and expressions, and when they attack, the amount of detail shines… particularly if you're looking just below the neck. There's a also lot of unique attacks and they really do go over the top when it comes to flashy kills.

When we're talking about the fanservice, they really meant it, and we don't mean just the graphics. Guest characters show up who join the party, as well as guest villains and support characters. There's tracks from various Original Generation games (which the game is loosely based off), some soundtracks from the other games (Namco x CAPCOM and Xenosaga) and the voice acting is pretty good, although some may find a couple of the characters a bit grating due to a personality issue.

Combat is partly planned prior to battle, and partly planned during battle. As you level up, you'll learn new combinations which use up a certain amount of your command bar, which you can preset. As long as you have the COM, you can execute attacks which will all knock enemies up or out, allowing you to chain a massive combo, allowing you to charge your frontier bar and executing absurdly flashy final attacks.

If that wasn't absurd enough, as you progress through the game, you can even your party members not on your team to jump in and help lay down the clobbering.

Of course, it's not all quite that easy, enemies are weighted and balanced differently, and consequently timing will need to be involved, to make sure they don't touch the ground, because if they do, they may be able to escape out of the attack and take no damage for the rest of the attacker's turn.

There's also spirit moves, which act as magic and provide benefits from defensive, to extra com to all out once off special attacks. Using an offensive special move will end the turn for that character though.

If you find yourself struggling, using items to help yourself out of a mess is a clinch since all you need is the COM to use it if it requires it, and if you combine it with COM boosting items… you probably get the idea. There's no upper cap on item usage if you come prepared enough.

The plot itself is rather odd, although it'll fall to the standard clichés… well, sort of. There'll be a fair bit of the story which just seems completely out of left field, even to the point where some of the plot just feels a bit disjointed. Despite all that, it's fairly well written and executed well enough that you'll probably ignore the absurdities.

All in all, Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier is good for at least a single playthrough, although once you're done there's little reason to revisit it. Take the game as seriously as the game takes itself, and you'll have fun making it from one end of the game to the other… as long as you don't mind the sheer amount of breast jokes.

Your best opportunity to get this particular title in would be to try an online retailer that stocks US titles. Another option is to hit up import specialty stores in Australia, and if they had some in stock and don't have any more, to ask nicely to see if they can find you a copy. Otherwise, try e-bay or another auction site, since there's few US stores that carry US titles which will ship to you.

If you pick it up new, you should get a CD soundtrack of some of the music from the game, if you're curious.

Wii: Another Code R: A Journey into Lost Memories (Cing)

Probable Rating PG (Adult Themes)
Release Date 26/06/2009
# of Players 1
Availability Import: Common
Language English

If this were a CAPCOM game you'd have to combine the Teddy Bear with the Lantern to be able to enter the next area...

Welcome to Lake Juilet, where you will join Ashley Robins on her quest to find her father and have a good time…

If only if it was that easy – Another Code R for the Wii takes the protagonist from Another Code: Two Memories and takes her now sixteen year old self, complete with all her teenage problems with her father and arranges her to travel to the scenic Lake. Right off the bat, her bag gets stolen, and we get to see one of the game's focuses.

Ashley Mizuki Robbins will talk to you about her life and her problems, making her someone you want to know. This continues throughout the game - Under your direction, she'll meet and form her own opinion on a lot of people out there, being quite expressive in how she interacts. You'll feel that she's just a sixteen year old girl who really does love her mother, who has opinions about people she's met, and tries to do the best she can.

During conversations, she'll pick up points of interest where you can ask people about various topics to explore further, and if she's asking or being asked something, she will gesture, which just adds to the fact that Ashley's quite human, and quite adorable.

You'll even find when she's talking to the player, time actually passes and people will think she's spacing out or there's something wrong with her. It's a nice touch.

Sometimes you'll find that she does reference to events that happened a couple of years ago – the events which occurred in the first DS game. They seem to come out of the blue and sometimes you can find yourself wondering 'Hey, when did she say that in this game?' It can throw you out for a while before you remember or get re-immersed into the game.

She brings some interesting baggage, including a DSi (known as the DAS in game), and later obtains a Wiimote (TAS) which allows some interesting functions, such as being able to get mail sent to it, or being able to hack electronic locks.

This, and a few other things she'll have to figure out, will require her to interact with her surroundings, complete in puzzle form. Although a lot of the puzzles are simplistic they can be rather amusing, with most of them being everyday common actions. If you want to get a gumball, you pop a coin in and turn the handle, or if you need to shake a test tube, you'll do just that.

Granted, there are times where you might not feel that how they want you to do it feels natural, but trial and error will suffice in most cases.

The best thing about the game is the fact you can go walk around, and you really do feel like you're at Lake Juilet, as you walk around, poking around at things and seeing what's there. When you examine even the most irrelevant things, you'll get the feeling that the creators put in that little extra touch of detail.

The length would disappoint some, at least for the asking price of a full priced Wii title – Most people would finish the game under 10 hours at the very most, and it could be considered rather poor value.

The fact that it's a sequel to another novel type game doesn't help either, particularly with the ending, which feels slightly rushed, which means that some of its value is lost because of references to the first game.

All in all, Another Code R is a well crafted book that you interact with, and in the end, that's all that it offers. It does have similar issues to picking up the second book of a series, although the story itself can stand on its own. You would get more mileage if you tried to track down the DS title, although good luck with that, considering it's been quite a while since Another Code: Two Memories came out.

Getting the game from the UK is surprisingly easy – For some reason, UK stores are more amicable towards sending games to Australia, one example is Game's main branch in the UK. As long as you have a card backed by Visa or Mastercard and they have the game in stock, they'll be happy to send it over.

As well, since the title is a PAL title, there's no further work necessary if you own a local Wii - just pop it in and play.

DS: Knights in the Nightmare (Sting/Atlus)

Probable Rating M (Adult Themes, Violence)
Release Date 03/06/2009
# of Players 1
Availability Import: Common
Language English
Fluency/Literacy Level Basic
Special Notes If you have a copy of the GBA Yggdra Union, you can get Yggdra to be the tutorial host. Hardly necessary though.

They all ride on the Horse with No Name.

One of the first things you may find yourself doing when popping in the cart and turning on the title is noting the tutorial, just to double check that this RPG doesn't have some twist from the normal. More likely, you've just started a new game, and after the introduction you've found yourself at the first combat screen…

Except it's nothing like you expected.

Welcome to Knights in the Nightmare, by far one of the most interesting combinations of games you can find. It's an RPG, with RPG stats, where you beat up monsters with a HP total with medieval weapons of all kinds and magic... except that you're to do it while dodging bullets, charging attacks up and planning in real time to time the attack just as a certain monster walks past while watching the clock.

I cannot emphasize just how different the game is compared to any other RPG out there. Currently, it's one of a kind, and for most part, it really does work out.

The plot itself lends itself to the creative method of play – as playing as the recently departed Lion Heart King, you have been called back from the dead in a wisp form to take back your castle, and the souls of fallen knights will assist you in this task, as well as a mysterious Armoured maiden by the name of Maria.

The artwork's quite detailed and the mood set by the scenery and the music really fits the nightmare theme. Combined with the pulsing action, it can give the feel of a nightmare.

It's dark, intriguing, and a little morbid as you recruit knights to your entourage… and realize that they've been recently killed, and you get to see the circumstances of their death. It's an interesting, if rather roundabout way of revealing the plot – it does mean you really have to keep track though, because it can get confusing fast if you let it slip away.

The basic premise of the game is to use the stylus to control the wisp, making sure you don't get hit by bullets, which will knock time from you, as you move it to and from knights positioned on the field to make them smack the enemy hard enough for them to fall over and die. You can interfere with monster attacks making it easier for you, although you have to keep in mind that you only get given a limited amount of turns to clobber the map in question into submission either via the roulette system, or by showing the boss who's boss.

You have two types of attack, one which is just without a weapon so you can get MP, so you can use a special attack which is your mainstay attack.

The knights themselves vary, some can only attack in certain directions, others can move under certain circumstances, and they all have different strike patterns.

All of this can change depending on if you're in Law or in Chaos, and their effectiveness will also change depending on that. Just to add to the mix, each type of knight can only use certain weapons, some weapons can only be used during certain phases, have certain affinities to monsters, and you may need to be a certain level to actually use a weapon.

Oh, did I forget to mention that all weapons have a limited durability, and just to make things even more complex, every time your characters attack, their durability wears down to boot. If their vitality hits 0, the character dies, permanently. You'll need to use them to finish scenarios as well as improve their loyalty to you though, so it's a bit of a catch.

And to toss more complexity into the mix, you can level up weapons, combine the same type of weapon, and distribute experience to your characters so that they last longer, hit harder, have better modifiers to phases and elements and if you dismiss them, give better items.

You can even fuse characters together to make a super soul.

As you can guess from even just the basic breakdown of the above, there's a lot of depth to the title meaning you can try to figure out the best way possible through. It's somewhat overwhelming to those who aren't expecting it or want something easy to play. For those who are obsessive-compulsive, this may either be your dream game or your worst nightmare.

Either way, there's no reason why you should miss an opportunity to try this title. It proves if nothing else that there's still room to make changes and bring in a breath of fresh air into the RPG.

For importing it, try your luck with an online store that stocks US titles, although import stores in Australia may carry the title or may be able to track it down for you if it's not in stock. The game is more recent than Endless Frontier, so you should have a little more luck. Otherwise it's auctions as a last resort.

As a last note, all versions of the US release come with a CD soundtrack, with a small collection of the music from the game. Atlus really does spoil its customers.

DS: Rittai Picross DS (HAL Laboratory)

by Zuiko

Nonograms: Gotta Solve 'em All!
Probable Rating G
Release Date 11/03/2009
# of Players 1
Availability Import: Common
Language Japanese
Fluency/Literacy Level Basic: Hiragana/Katakana/Kanji

The previous title, Picross DS proved to be a major hit with many gamers, providing something fun and challenging. Produced by HAL Laboratory, Nintendo has once again produced another title to feed all you puzzle starved players with its sequel Rittai Picross. This time around, Nintendo has retained the basic addictive game play but takes a significant step forward by taking the block smashing puzzle formula into 3D.

As a casual fun puzzler, you start off on the most basic difficulty level progressively going through the puzzles which gets harder and harder each time. There is a total of 4 difficulty levels ranging from beginner to difficult with a random level which are essentially randomly picked puzzles for you to complete. As most of the puzzles and difficulty levels are locked at the beginning, the game forces you to go through each of them one by one which at the high difficulty levels are pretty challenging. In addition to this, a time limit is also imposed on you to achieve the best time and also to clear the puzzle within certain conditions to earn a medal. The puzzles are grouped in each level into normal and challenge modes where you'll enter a pattern of clearing a cluster of normal puzzles, time attack puzzles and eventually challenge puzzles and this whole process repeats 2-3 times per difficulty level.

While progression is pretty standard for puzzle games, the main difference from the previous picross game comes in the puzzles themselves. Each puzzle is presented to you as a big 3D group of blocks in which you use the stylus to rotate and view from different angles all on the lower screen of the DS. As the clues or numbers hinting at the number of blocks in each row are plastered around on the side of the blocks, it becomes important to constantly view things from various angles to solve the puzzles. There is also an important feature that lets you view into cross sections allowing you to break blocks which are otherwise obscured by everything else.

Breaking and Highlighting blocks in the group is the key to solving them and you'll be doing this constantly. These functions are mapped to the directional pad or face buttons which caters for both left and right-handers. Breaking blocks is simply a matter of pressing and holding the assigned button and tapping away on the square blocks. If you want to break multiple blocks in succession without repeatedly tapping at the screen, the game allows a one-tap hold to perform that task allowing you to clear a whole row of blocks in one quick go.

Highlighting also works in a similar fashion where instead of breaking the blocks, it highlights them in a different color and using them effectively, helps to prevent you accidentally breaking wrong blocks and to deduce the answer. Breaking wrong blocks activates a penalty where breaking 5 wrong blocks or even a single one in certain challenge stages instantly fails the level.

This system works very well to an extent but it isn't completely flawless. One problem I've encountered is when you've got a strange camera angle view of the blocks while tapping away and accidently hit a block which you didn't mean to. While this maybe error due on my part, it happens quite frequently, especially when block sizes becomes very small, placing a large amount of blocks on such a small screen space requiring a lot of precision to hit the correct blocks.

Upon completing each puzzle, the game gives off a unique charm as your completed puzzle comes to life in glorious 3D. As you complete each one, you unlock features in the gallery be it an image or an animation. There are quite a large number of them to unlock, each one featuring some of the puzzles you've given life to. Adding to the replay value, you can also play through the random difficulty level to satisfy those puzzle craving urges once you've completed the whole game though they consist of puzzles you've already completed.

Apart for the main puzzles, there is also an editor mode which allows you to create your own puzzles using the in-game editor. After you've created your very own puzzle you can send them to your friends via wireless or over Nintendo's internet Wi-Fi Connection. You can let a friend without the game try one of the puzzles using the download play feature. Presentation wise, there is a nice aesthetic charm to the visuals, the graphics are simple and all models are basically built of blocks which, given its style, holds up to the formula. The only issue is when you have a large amount of blocks as the limited screen size of the DS gives off a jaggy look to it. All action is mainly done using the lower screen of the DS with the top screen being used for keeping time and score. There aren't a lot of music or sounds effects in the game but what is there doesn't feel awkward or out of place at all.

For you importers out there, the game is easy to navigate without much knowledge of the Japanese language and the game play pretty much uses no Japanese at all which is a good thing. The starting tutorials aren't too difficult to understand the overall meaning to them, so anyone looking to pick up this title will be able to play the game without too much trouble.

Overall the game is hours of fun and I highly recommend anyone who was a fan of the previous game to definitely pick this title up and make the move to 3D.

In closing:

Thank you for joining us for our regular tour. If you come back next week, we'll be passing through Sony territory, having a detailed look at some of the games of choice of the games that for whatever reason, didn't see a local release here. Between beating stuff up, blowing stuff up and doing both at once, it promises to be quite explosive.

If you missed our special express, please drop by here to see the first English detailed look at The idolm@ster: Dearly Stars on the DS!


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