The X Button Knightly Virtues
by Todd Ciolek,
This week brings us to the end of a long road, as Radiant Silvergun is at last coming to Xbox Live. Anyone who's nosed around shooter circles has doubtless heard of the game, perhaps because it routinely sells for hundreds on eBay. But it's also a critically applauded Treasure title with a lot of things few shooters embrace well: levels intricate beyond point-chasing, seven different weapons available at any moment, and a real sense of apocalyptic chaos. It also offers bizarre advice before each boss fight.
It's out this Thursday for just $15. If you're into well-designed games of any stripe, it's highly recommended that you pick it up—or at least try out the demo. And if you're a hardcore gamer who enjoys crapping on any shooter more popular than Hotdog Storm or XX Mission, you can do that as well for a fraction of the eBay price.
THE 3DS GETS MORE GAMES, ONE'S CALLED BRAVELY DEFAULT
Nintendo got a head start on the upcoming Tokyo Game Show by showing off a bunch of 3DS titles. Perhaps the most important one for Japanese players is Capcom's Monster Hunter 4. Monster Hunter 3G will be out for the handheld in Japan come December 10, but Monster Hunter 4's already in the works, with more monster-riding and three-dimensional mechanics than previous games. Another big name in Japan's geek circles arrives on the 3DS next March with Sega's Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai, a rhythmic action game starring a Nendoroid-style version of the green-haired virtual idol.
Nintendo also showed off the first 3DS installment of Fire Emblem, the company's long-running strategy-RPG series. The game features two-player versus battles as well as a standard long-term solo storyline, and all of the up-close fights between characters are performed in 3-D. It's out next year.
By far the biggest surprise of the pre-TGS conference was Square Enix's Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. That is the real title of a real game, a fantasy RPG from illustrator Akihiko Yoshida (Final Fantasy XII) and producer Tomoya Asano (most of Square's Fullmetal Alchemist games). The game's scenes of large-headed characters roaming 3-D environments resemble the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV (no surprise, as Asano was also behind those), but it's an original creation. It's coming to Japan next year, and it'll likely come to North America not long after. It'll likely have a different title on these shores, but part of me wants to see Bravely Default sitting on the shelf at Best Buy.
GAMEARTS READIES RAGNAROK ODYSSEY FOR VITA
In a way, we've seen Game Arts' Ragnarok Odyssey before. The upcoming PlayStation Vita action-RPG is built on the same franchise as the Korean-made Ragnarok Online, but Odyssey isn't so much an online RPG as it is an online action game. As in Monster Hunter, players customize characters, train them in set classes, and take on various creatures with the help of online comrades. The characters, though nameless, are squarely in the style of modern Japanese RPGs.
That's the “assassin" class in action up there. The other classes are the sword warrior, the cleric, the mage, the bow-wielding hunter, and the heavy-duty hammersmith. Comparisons to Monster Hunter may not do it justice: the first footage of the game shows a quick-paced action title, closer to the more intense clashes of Gods Eater Burst.
However, Odyssey remains a Ragnarok Online game in a few ways: it still has the oddly shaped Poring blob, for example. There's no release date yet for Ragnarok Odyssey, and it's unlikely to make the Japanese Vita launch later this year.
PERSONA FIGHTER LOOKS REALLY, REALLY SHARP
Newly released screenshots of the Persona fighting game are exactly what you'd expect from Guilty Gear developer Arc System Works: slick hand-drawn art, detailed backgrounds, and a lot of glittering effects. All of this suits Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena just fine, as it's based on an RPG where high-schoolers do battle alongside abstract monstrosities summoned from the depths of their psyches.
The screens so far don't reveal any playable characters beyond the first announced round: Chie, Yosuke, Persona 3's Aigis, and the main character of Persona 4 (who's Souji in the manga and Yu in the new Persona 4 anime series). Kanji and Yukiko aren't showcased in the screens, but they'll likely be featured later. In fact, it's a safe bet that every major Persona 4 character (and some from 3) will be in the final roster for The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena; Rise even pops up and spouts word balloons in the early screens. Mayonaka's still on track for an arcade release in Japan next year, with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ports to follow.
IN BRIEF: CYBERBOTS ON THE PSN, FINAL FANTASY XIII-3 ON THE BOOKS. FINAL FANTASY X ON THE PS3 AND VITA
Capcom's trucked out several Japan-only PSone games on the PlayStation Network, but this week's arrival is particularly momentous for me: it's Cyberbots, a supremely detailed mech fighter from 1995. While it sputtered out quickly in arcades, it's still an excellent example of Capcom's 2-D fighting, at least as far as the visual design goes. The PlayStation port doesn't replicate the arcade version quite as well as the Saturn one, but the Saturn one isn't available in a convenient six-dollar download, either. And for those who sneer about playing the game for free through MAME or whatever: the home version of the game has extra stuff, smarty pants. Sure, it's just three newly playable bosses (with story modes to match) and a giant-robot version of Akuma from Street Fighter, but it sweetens the deal for anyone who enjoys Cyberbots. And that should be anyone who enjoys the spectacle of two towering mecha beating each other up.
Some were nonplussed last week when Square Enix laid claim to a website address for Final Fantasy XIII-3, despite Final Fantasy XIII-2 not yet being on the market. More level thinkers were quick to point out that companies often stake out websites named after unapproved projects, and that such a move keeps some angry fan from claiming the URL and posting, say, crudely pornographic art of all the game's characters.
As for games that Square Enix really is making, a revamp of Final Fantasy X is headed to the PlayStation 3 and Vita, presumably with HD visual quality and other minor enhancements. Yes, that's Final Fantasy X, and not Final Fantasy VII, a.k.a. The Final Fantasy That Fans Want Remade.
INTERVIEW: WHITE KNIGHT CHRONICLES II
It's no marketing hyperbole to call Level-5's White Knight Chronicles II several games in one. It's a story-driven RPG in its main thrust, but there's also an online RPG mode that invites players to customize avatars and take on multiplayer quests. Then there's the original White Knight Chronicles, included in its entirety for those wondering just what's afoot with the sequel's fantasy world of ambitious empires and towering suits of armor.
Those suits of armor, called Incorruptus, fuel both the combat and storyline in White Knight Chronicles. Bound to normal human warriors, the Incorruptus warriors come in quite handy in the game's action-driven battle systems, where a lead character and several AI-controlled allies slug it out with some rather large enemies. And the titans also figure into the game's ongoing tale of a young hero named Leonard and a deceitful organization bent on the usual strain of conquering everything. Leonard's Incorruptus, the titular White Knight, rapidly lands him a major role in these world-spanning conflicts—and the affections of his friend Yulie and his nation's queen, Cisna.
While the original White Knight Chronicles was released here by Sony, the sequel arrives this week on the PlayStation 3 courtesy of D3. That prompted us to throw D3 Producer Miki Takahashi a few questions about the game's place in the grand RPG scheme.
Some complained of repetitive combat and a lack of enemy variety in the original game. What does White Knight Chronicles II do to fix that?
Miki Takahashi: The developer, LEVEL-5, has listened to fans and made many improvements in White Knight Chronicles II. Battles are now faster paced and many enemies have also been added to the sequel. Also, some enemies will transform into boss monsters in WKCII. You'll really have to save your power in battles just in case you encounter a surprise boss battle.
White Knight Chronicles II has both an online multiplayer mode and a single-player mode. How do the two play off each other?
In single-player, you will explore the story of White Knight Chronicles II with NPCs. In the multiplayer mode, various quests can be played with up to six players, compared to four in the original game. Even when you play a quest alone, you can now take other NPCs with you.
What do you think is the greatest improvement that White Knight Chronicles II makes on the original game?
There are tons of improvements that have been made to the sequel, and it's difficult to pick one, but I think one of the most requested features is the ability to create and upgrade a unique Incorruptus for your avatar for the first time. There are many options to customize your Incorruptus with unique armors and weapons, and you can also change colors of the Incorruptus.
The North American version of the game includes optional quests that were downloads in Japan. Will there be any other former DLC bundled with the game, such as the extra options for customizing the player's avatar, or will that still cost extra?
For the Japanese version, all additional quests have been distributed for free. The North American version will include those quests that were distributed by the end of January 2011 in Japan. The DLC items that are sold for fees in Japan will be similarly priced in US.
The North American version of White Knight Chronicles II also includes the original game. Will there be a quick summary of that game's events available for those who dive right into White Knight Chronicles II?
Yes, there is a summary for those who want to dive right into WKC II but we encourage you to start playing from the first part, since it now can be played with the enhanced battle system and graphics. Please find out the ending of the first part with your own eyes.
What do the new playable characters, Miu and Scardigne, bring to the game?
Spoiler alert! The story of WKCII begins in the Archduchy of Faria, and Miu is the princess of Faria. When the civil war breaks out, her life is threatened because she was the daughter to Archduke Dalam, who was a ruler of Faria. Scardigne accompanies Miu to save her from Faria's civil war.
Faria is a brand-new environment and the designs of the buildings and the clothing that the people wear are very unique to their society. The decorations used for armor, and especially the people's hairstyles can only be found here, giving it a sort of grace to their culture. The art of Faria will bring you a new element to the world.
Will White Knight Chronicles II resolve the plot threads from the first game, including the main conflict and the love trianglee?
Compared to the original game, which was more like a love story, the sequel heads into an epic global battle for world domination. The various story elements from the first game become intertwined, and WKCII will unravel the truth behind the mysterious Incorruptus.
Are there plans to include the Japanese voices as well as English ones? Will the English version have the same cast as the original?
The North American version doesn't have Japanese voices. Regarding the voice cast, yes, WKCII has pretty much the same cast for main characters as the original.
Japanese RPGs have been criticized as a dying genre. What do think White Knight Chronicles II does to refute that?
WKC II has all the elements that RPG games should have, along with many new features, and the story is depicted with stunning graphics that make this a must-have for any RPG lover.
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS: JOKER 2|
Developer: Tose/Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo DS
It's quite fitting that Dragon Quest returned to Nintendo's banner in North America. Nintendo was the first to promote it over here as Dragon Warrior back in 1989, and Nintendo's once again behind the RPG franchise. Nintendo Power isn't offering free Dragon Quest “game paks” (as Nintendo cannily dubbed cartridges back then), but the publisher's putting out Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2, an off-shoot that Square Enix itself apparently passed over. And there's a good reason Nintendo's behind it: Dragon Quest Monsters is a lot like Pokemon.
Dating back to the days of the Game Boy Color, Dragon Quest Monsters craftily focuses on the franchise's most recognizable characters: the enemies. The slimes and drackies and hammerhoods that players randomly encounter in regular Dragon Quest games are the party members in Monsters once the main character catches them. After they're bent to the player's will, three monsters quest about, fighting many turn-based battles and capturing other beasts to be domesticated and enslaved. Players can also make their chastened monsters fight over the DS wireless connection. So it's a lot like Pokemon indeed, even in the fact that it's vaguely unsettling when you sit back and think about it.
HARVEST MOON: THE TALE OF TWO TOWNS|
Platform: Nintendo DS
The subtitle here might suggest some dramatic chronicle of rural bloodshed, and The Tale of Two Towns has a conflict at its core. Granted, the villages of Konohana and Bluebell are locked in an ugly feud over…cooking, so this is really just as harmless as previous Harvest Moon games. Though the player's avatar chooses one town or the other as the grounds for a farm, the ultimate point is to reconcile the two squabbling villages. Konohana's based on Japanese culture and leans toward crops, while Bluebell more of a Western place that favors raising animals.
As in most Harvest Moons, there's no blatantly wrong choice in deciding which town to side with or which local to marry. The player's farmer can be male or female, and there's a selection of single men and women in both villages—and even a crazy backwoods witch and two characters from previous Harvest Moons. The game follows the passage of seasons, offering not only the usual farm chores, but also various subquests and opportunities for dates. And you'd best keep up a social life, lest you become a recluse and a source of distrust among your neighbors.
And yes, there's another stuffed animal available with reserve orders, and it's an alpaca. At this rate, the Harvest Moons of 2017 will come with plush anteaters and spider crabs.
KIRBY: MASS ATTACK|
Platform: Nintendo DS
The box art for Kirby: Mass Attack finds a solution to the recurring problem of selling Kirby: the Japanese box art normally shows him bright and cheerful, while the American counterparts depict him frowning fiercely. Mass Attack, however, has ten Kirbies on its cover, each with a different expression. This is no front-page deceit, either, as Mass Attack finds Kirby struck by a magic spell and separated into ten copies of himself. All of these constituent pink puffballs soon gather and form a roving gang of Kirbies, terrorizing the countryside and searching for a way to turn back into a single middleweight Nintendo mascot.
Players control all ten Kirby goons at once through the DS stylus, and the game makes ample use of the idea. Certain areas are reachable only with a full complement of Kirbies under your command, and the gaggle of them offers intriguing new gameplay ideas in side-scrolling stages and overhead shooter missions. Players can also dispatch individual Kirbies for specific tasks, and the game demands careful application of the Kirby horde. The game's scenery has plenty of recognizable Kirby foes, but it's all in how the game's played. And Mass Attack plays it like few other side-scrollers do.
Platform: Xbox 360
For years, Gradius was the alpha shooter of Konami, gathering spin-offs like Lifeforce and the comical Parodius. Then something happened. To be specific, “moe” happened, and legions of Japan's game and anime fans started demanding ultra-cutesy girls in everything. And that's exactly what Konami gave them with Otomedius. It's a 2-D shooter much like Gradius, but all of the player's avatars are big-eyed, revealingly clad heroines designed by Mine Yoshizaki, who's a lot more pervy than his Sgt. Frog series initially lets on. And for that dose of Gradius heritage, all of these women pilot classic ships from Xexex, Twinbee, Lifeforce, and other Konami shooters.
That aside, Otomedius is very much a Gradius game built for modern hardware: though it's 3-D in appearances, the stages are still side-scrolling gauntlets of tiny enemy bullets and lumbering boss machines with vulnerable cores. It also offers three-player support, and that's not terribly common in old-fashioned shooters. The nine different characters present a variety of attack styles, with full-size animated portraits popping up before and after boss fights, just to drive home the anime element. And in case the game's audience wasn't obvious enough, the special edition includes an artbook, a pillowcase, and a soundtrack.
SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI: PERSONA 2: INNOCENT SIN|
Platform: Sony PSP
Persona 2: Innocent Sin may be just another piece of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, but for a host of RPG fans who remember the late 1990s, it's the portrait of perfect closure. During that age, Persona geeks were distraught over Atlus USA skipping Innocent Sin. The company released the rather boring original Persona and the second half of Persona 2, Eternal Punishment, but the first half, Innocent Sin, was never officially translated for North America. Until now.
Innocent Sin unfolds in a Japanese city under an imaginative curse: any rumor becomes real if enough people believe it. It's also under the deranged eye of Joker—not the Batman foe, but a mysterious entity that picks up when a curious soul dials his or her own cell number. Joker's string of victims draws the attention of high-school senior Tatsuya Suou and his mystically linked allies, who include the outgoing Lisa (who has a crush on our hero), quiet-guy Jun (who also may have a crush on our hero), and some faces from both the first Persona and Eternal Punishment. They're all imbued with Persona avatars, which emerge to damaging effect in battle. Persona 2 also lets players befriend the demons they encounter, and pacified monsters reward the party with special items. Though not as extensively overhauled as the PSP revamp of the first Persona, Innocent Sin has a more intuitive control system, a helpful emotional gauge for demonic negotiations, and a bunch of new quests in the game's Climax Theater. And for the Persona fan who's gone without a proper, Atlus-approved release of Innocent Sin, having the game in English will do just fine.
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