The X Button - Remaster Listby Todd Ciolek,
Tales of Xillia came out this week, and you can expect a review of it from someone who knows the series better than I do. To tide you over, here's a review of what's inside the collector's edition.
First of all, the box is much larger than I expected. I figured it would have to be a tad oversized to hold the Milla Maxwell figure, the PS3 game, a soundtrack, and an artbook. Yet this is clearly playing off an important piece of childhood logic: the bigger the box, the better the toy.
The artbook nicely collects a good deal of the game's artwork, including sketches and background designs. The soundtrack is a bit leaner, running about twelve tracks; not the full array of the game's music, but better than the samplers often given out as pre-order bonuses. Unsurprisingly, the game doesn't have a manual, only codes for the special edition's downloadable costumes. Most games ditch manuals these days, but, well, this is a collector's edition.
The real reason for the special edition's size (and much of the forty dollars added to the price) is the enclosed Milla Maxwell figure. Now, this isn't one of those high-grade pieces that sell for extraordinary amounts. It's the sort of thing that shows up in prize machines at Japan's arcades, and it's a solid mid-range toy. The paint job and detailing are decent enough, though the face is apparently based on the deadpan expression Milla wears early in the game.
But what can you do with the Milla figure? Well, you can find some toys in scale to it and arrange them accordingly. Look, Milla's chatting with Guilty Gear's Millia Rage about hair-care products. Try it at home with your Gundams and Hatsune Mikus!
Of course, the important thing is just how crazy people will get over this particular collector's edition. So far there's no sign of the shortages and consumer outcry that accompanied Namco's Ni no Kuni special edition, and eBay markups appear to be modest. You probably won't be able to flip a Tales of Xillia box set for huge profits, so you're best off buying one only if you actually want it.
GUILTY GEAR XRD UNVEILS CHARACTERS, MOST OF THEM FAMILIAR
Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN may have a sharp-looking new engine, but fighting games don't survive by throwing away the old. So the first seven characters revealed on the game's website are all Guilty Gear veterans, some of them redesigned more than others.
In fact, most of the characters look at lot like they did in the older Guilty Gears. Millia Rage (above) still has prehensile hair; she just sports a new hat and a few wardrobe additions. American ninja Chipp Zanuff looks about the same, pool-cue fighter Venom hasn't changed much, and pirate-girl May seems to have gotten slightly younger for some reason. Headliners Sol and Ky aren't all that different either, except for Ky's curious ponytail.
Only Potemkin, the towering grappler of the series, got a noticeable overhaul. He still wears oversized piston gloves, but his outfit is now a more Prussian military jacket, complete with a pickelhaube that makes him look like Fullmetal Alchemist's Al. Actual gameplay details will trickle out after the game's location test later this week, but one tidbit emerged: Dust attacks can serve as homing jumps as well as dashes.
XSEED ACTUALLY RELEASING SENRAN KAGURA BURST OVER HERE
No, this isn't that much of a surprise. XSEED alluded to eying Senran Kagura Burst earlier this year, and it was late in 2012 that the game's producer, Kenichiro Takaki, vowed on Twitter to “wrap the world in happy boobs next year.” Takaki is, at the very least, honest about Senran Kagura Burst, a game that revolves around large-breasted ninja girls losing their clothes in the thick of battle. This will be available for the 3DS eShop this fall, with a Teen rating. Yes, a Teen rating. Now that is surprising.
XSEED's release of Senran Kagura Burst compiles the original game, Senran Kagura, with the sequel, Crimson Girls. The first game throws the five ninja heroines of Hanzo Academy into brawler stages, while the sequel brings in their Hebijo Academy rivals as playable characters, complete with all of the costumes and close-up prurience you'd expect from a game built entirely around breasts.
This brings up an important question: if a U.S publisher is willing to bring out Senran Kagura, what won't they touch? Potentially objectionable games like Criminal Girls and Monster Monpiece, perhaps? What terrors might the future hold?
HOMETOWN STORY IS HARVEST MOON, OR AT LEAST DARNED CLOSE
The cover for Hometown Story has Harvest Moon tucked away at the corner, and it's easy to connect the dots. Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada came up with Hometown Story, which finds your customized avatar returning to the country village of his or her youth and taking over a late grandmother's store. Your sidekick in this is a sprite called Pochica, and there's a burgeoning town full of supporters, potential customers, and various local spirits.
In other ways, Hometown Story isn't quite the same as Harvest Moon. It recruits Pokemon's Atsuko Nishida for the character designs and composer Nobuo Uematsu for the soundtrack, giving the game a slightly different sense of aesthetics. If it is just Harvest Moon with a store instead of a farm (or Recettear without the dungeons), that in itself isn't so bad. Natsume will have it out in the fall.
INTERVIEW: DUCKTALES REMASTERED'S REY JIMENEZ
Capcom's DuckTales is revered to this day as a classic of the Nintendo era, yet few expected to see it again. Rights had expired, the industry had moved on, and Capcom seemed occupied with bigger franchises. Yet DuckTales still commands a vociferous following as both a game and a TV series, and Capcom noticed. They created DuckTales Remastered, a thorough remake of the original with expanded levels, voice acting, and the design work of WayForward. With the game arriving next week, we asked producer Rey Jimenez about the rebirth of an old favorite.
How did the idea come around to revisit DuckTales? How long was the idea kicking around?
It's been kicking around for quite a long time, way before it was signed on with Disney or WayForward. I know that [former Capcom Senior VP] Christian Svensson had really advocated it for a long time, and Disney's had a very public desire to do another DuckTales, and it was just a matter of us getting on the same page. It's way above my pay grade, but it took a while to get on the same level and solidify. Then Disney suggested WayForward, and we realized they were the absolute perfect studio to do it.
So it wasn't hard to get Disney on board?
No, it was not. It was the suits above us that made it hard, but eventually we got there. I wish I could tell you how that came around, but I do my best to stay out of it. I'm a very game-oriented person.
What impressed you the most about WayForward? Was it the original Shantae, which Capcom published back in 2002?
Yeah, we do have a history with them. What makes them so perfect is that they have very good experience with platforming games. It's what they eat and breathe. It takes a bit of esoteric knowledge to make a good platform game. Apart from that, they're also probably the best studio doing real-deal 2-D animation. Not upgraded Flash animation where you're tweaking bits and pieces. No, this is “I'm going to draw one frame, then I'm going to pull out a new sheet of paper and draw a whole new frame.” That's another aesthetic on its own, and for DuckTales that's the approach we wanted. I don't think there's any other studio out there that can do what they did for DuckTales. It's what they do. It's in their blood, their DNA.
How hard was it to get the voice actors back together?
That was all Disney. They were super-helpful. It was actually their idea. They have a group, called Disney Voices, whose job is to do that, and they took care of it all. All WayForward had to do was write the script and get it approved by Disney. I know they had very minimal edits, because not only was WayForward good at the development part, but these guys are Disney fanboys. So their writers were able to put together a script that really hit home with all the characters. So Disney got everyone together, they signed all the contracts, and got it done.
On top of staying faithful to the cartoon, did you also look to the original Carl Barks comics that inspired DuckTales?
Absolutely. The developers are tuned in not just to the cartoon and the NES game but also to the Carl Barks comics, so they took inspiration from all areas that they good. I think at one point [WayForward Creative Director] Matt Bozon wanted to be a writer at Disney, so he brought that experience and knowledge to this.
You've added a number of objectives to each of the stages we've seen so far, such as collecting coins in the Amazon or rescuing all three nephews in Transylvania. Will we see the same sort of design throughout the game?
The exposition in the original NES game was understandably limited. As we worked on the script, it became apparent that WayForward could make every stage its own little episode with its setup and resolution. So every level's going to have some story that'll fully explain it and make it feel like you've watched an episode of DuckTales.
Did you add any new secrets to the game?
We didn't really add any as much as we kept what was there before. We kind of tweaked things, but if you remember a secret being in a particular area, it's still there. The things that we did take out were things we felt would lessen the gameplay, like the original African Mines had a place where you could skip the entire level and go straight to the boss.
What sort of extra quests show up in the Moon stage?
On the moon, it's still the cheese you're going after. There was never any explanation of why there was a rat and a UFO there. So we put in a little explanation of that in the game. At the beginning of the level Fenton gets kidnapped by the UFO, and you go to the UFO to rescue him and get all the pieces to his Gizmo Duck suit, and there are also mice there that are being experimented on. It's not fully explained, but we gave it a little bit of background.
There's one new stage at the end of the game right? And a money bin level?
We added a stage at the end. The original game had you visiting Transylvania three times, and I think that's more of a design issue. We wanted to get away from that, so we created a new stage, a lava-themed level, to lead up to the final boss fight.
The money bin is less of a stage and more of a hub area. The area where you select levels in the original game is a room in the money bin, and there's a way to get to the vault and jump into the money. You can also visit a gallery where your in-game currency purchases concept art from the new game and the original cartoon. Disney was really cool and dug into their warehouse to find some stuff that hasn't been seen since the original show.
And the money bin fills up as you get richer?
Yeah, as you gain money it fills up, and the legendary treasures you find will end up there as well.
Did you bring in anything from DuckTales 2?
Actually, yes. The control system is from DuckTales 2 and DuckTales on the Game Boy. Instead of having to jump and push down and the pogo button, you can just jump and push the button. Also, the golf swing wasn't utilized to solve puzzles that much in the original DuckTales, and there are a few more examples in Remastered. That was inspired by DuckTales 2.
Will Scrooge be able to hang from rings, like he could in DuckTales 2?
No, we didn't change that much. Nothing that would drastically alter the level design.
A prototype of DuckTales had a few different elements, including hamburgers, Giger-like aliens, and a goofy translation. Will we see any references to that?
I'm not aware of a prototype version of DuckTales, but it wouldn't surprise me if the guys at WayForward put in something like that.
Do you have a favorite episode of DuckTales?
You know, I still like the first few episodes with the quest for the golden coin and the villain, El Capitan. It was very Indiana Jones-y, and it added a lot of adventure to it. What about you?
Well, the first DuckTales episode I saw was the multi-partner about Gizmo Duck. I liked Transformers as a kid, so the episode really bridged the gap between that and DuckTales.
Yeah, Gizmo's appearance in the moon stage is pretty cool. You don't control him, but he escorts you to the door.
You don't control any characters but Scrooge, right? There's no flying stage with Lauchpad or anything.
No, no. The gamut of things we could've added was gigantic, but we wanted to make sure that the original was still intact.
How are you remixing the music for the game? The Moon theme is a favorite among fans.
The composer, Jay Kaufman…well, as a composer of game music, it was his dream to work on DuckTales, and for the music, the Moon theme specifically, he's had his version in his head since he was a kid. It's like one of the things on his bucket list.
I like the moon theme, but the Himalayas music was always my favorite track.
And how's the fan reaction so far?
Fantastic! It's been absolutely great, whether people are fans of the NES game or just remember DuckTales, the whole package just throws them back into this Saturday-morning-cartoon-watching kid mode. Especially at comic con where people come as families, where parents say “my kid is going to love this.” And the kid is right there, and they're way too young to have known the NES game or the show, but they really like it too. It's been absolutely fantastic.
If DuckTales Remastered does well, are there other Disney-based NES game you'd like to revive?
There's a lot that I would definitely push to happen, but it all depends on how DuckTales does. What would be your choice?
Well, I never liked the Rescue Rangers cartoon that much, but the game was really fun.
Yeah, that's one I hear suggested a lot. I think DuckTales is really unique in that way. It's one of those stories and characters that really resonates.
It still seems to be the one Disney Afternoon show that's remembered fondest, compared to, say, Darkwing Duck.
[laughs] You know, I hear that one requested, too.
Outside of the Disney games, are there any other old Capcom games that you'd want to revive?
There are a lot, and until yesterday my number-one answer was always Strider. I'm trying to think of a new one. I'd say God Hand, but if we're going into the old games, I'd say Varth. It's a real solid shooter.
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
Platform: PlayStation Network/Wii U/PC
Release date: August 13
What makes Capcom's original DuckTales such a standout in the NES library? Well, it's exceptional in its tight design, strewing secrets throughout each stage without losing focus. It's also unique in gameplay, as Scrooge's pogo-cane jump still a novel approach to the whole concept of side-scrolling platformers. Most of all, it's a game that perfectly evokes its inspiration; for the legions of kids who devoured DuckTales each afternoon, the NES game had the same sense of cartoon adventure. That was a rare occurrence in the Nintendo library, where children often ran into disappointing adaptations of everything from Captain Planet to Predator. DuckTales did not disappoint, and for that it was remembered.
Capcom and WayForward's DuckTales Remastered aims to bring the NES game even closer to the cartoon. This new version of DuckTales follows the same stages and general progression, but everything is expanded. A new challenge lies in each of the stages, whether it's a hunt for ancient currency in the Amazon level or a search for plane parts after Scrooge and Launchpad crash in the Himalayas. To accompany the game's completely redone graphics and remixed music, the levels are further broadened by new dialogue and voice acting from all available original DuckTales cast (including Alan Young himself as Scrooge). The boss encounters are also a bit more taxing, and the game's central hub is expanded with a money bin. There's also a new lava-filled stage that leads up to the final boss, and it fills in the one NES platforming staple that the original DuckTales lacked: a fire level.
DuckTales Remastered appears as a download for the PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC next week, and Xbox Live gets it in September. If you crave a boxed copy to sit next to your complete-in-box NES DuckTales, the PlayStation 3 version will hit retail shelves with a download code and a DuckTales pin on August 20.
MARIO & LUIGI: DREAM TEAM
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: August 11
Of all Nintendo's promotions for The Year of Luigi, Dream Team may be the most grand in its tribute to the lesser-lauded Mario brother. Much of the game is set within dreamworlds, during which time a slumbering Luigi is shown on the lower 3DS screen. As Mario and Luigi caper on the upper screen, the in-dream Luigi possesses objects and turns them into an abstract Luigi face. At the player's direction, star-sprite sidekick Starlow torments the lower-screen Luigi, and his reactions are reflected in his dream-land face. Yank his mustache, and dream Luigi's facial hair creates a bridge for Mario. Spin Luigi's nose, and his dream incarnation will tunnel through the earth. Make him sneeze, and the resulting dream-winds will buffet Mario to previously unreachable heights. Yes, Luigi's big moments all involve harassing him in his sleep, but those are the sacrifices of a starring role.
Not that Dream Team is exclusively about Luigi's interrupted sleep cycles. As in previous Mario & Luigi games, things unfold like an action-platform RPG. When exploring the real-world (well, in game terms) settings of Pi'illo Island, the brothers roam around 3-D environments, and each of them jumps in time to a different 3DS face button. Battles occur when the brothers run into or stomp on enemies, and numerous cartoonish attacks pop up during combat. When in the dream zone, the game shifts to a side-view, allowing for Luigi's face to take control of suns and whirlwinds and other things that help Mario solve puzzles (or summon an entire army of Luigis). The game's pushed forward by a typically cute and well-localized story involving Pi'illo Island's royalty and lost artifacts. It's charming despite the clichés and...uh, Princess Peach's repeated abductions. Maybe we'll see the Year of Peach in 2014.
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