Games of Autumn 2010 : Edition M

I sort of hate a lot of game journalists these days. No, hates too strong a word, Im simply confused that they can get away with pumping out so much shite without losing their job or getting roundly lambasted by the general public. I suppose, as usual, its as much a condemnation of the general public as the direct target of my ire. Anyhow, following the annual summer lull were moving into the tidal wave of autumn game releases which drops away to a mere trickle in the first weeks of December. And I know that you my gentle reader may be too busy with this much ballyhooed “real life” to weed out the wheat from the chaffe. So here you go, the titles coming out in the next few months (or that have been recently released) that I would suggest buying/playing/pirating/taking a look at/worshipping like a god.

PC

Elemental:War of Magic
Release Date: Out Now

I think this game will eventually be brilliant. But at the moment I simply cant recommend spending money (and for my more piratical readers, time) on it. I did a small series of posts covering my initial experiences and impressions with the game which are available here – http://www.templeofmick.com/?tag=elemental.

Final Fantasy XIV Online
Release Date: 30/10 (22/10 for the Collectors Edition)

The first MMO I ever played was FFXI and it was shit. I didnt realise just how bad it was until I went on to play World of Warcraft. But now, so many years later, Im thoroughly sick of World of Warcraft. I play it in ever shortening cycles, signing up for a month or two and then abandoning it. But the problem is that I keep on coming back. I suppose its inevitable, MMO’s require such a large investment of time (and money) that its very hard to totally abandon your “investment”. I suppose I probably wont be able to fully abandon WoW until they finally close the servers. But thats not to say I havent looked for, and tried, alternatives. But none of them managed to hold my interest. Im hoping that FFXIV will change that.

I wasnt initially interested in it until I read some developer comments about how they were going to focus on making the game a solid single-player/solo experience. I was pretty much sold on that. Not having to rely on random internet retards to get things done? Sign me the fuck up. It also didnt hurt that the FFXIV world was more “realistic” (or at least had much greater versimilitude) than the cartoony joke that Azeroth has become. The fact that the game is also part of the bigger Final Fantasy franchise and looks fucking amazing didnt harm its case either. When I got to play around with it in the Open Beta the deal was sealed (and the collectors edition ordered). If anyone else is thinking about trying it out Im on the Rabanastre server. So drop me a line. I covered my initial impressions of the Open Beta here – http://www.templeofmick.com/?tag=ffxiv

Fallout: New Vegas
Release Date:19/10

While I (apparently sacreligiously) didnt think Fallout 3 was the New Messiah I did find it to be pretty enjoyable (well until you get decent gear which basically breaks the games system). It’s also sad to say, but CRPG’s, even more action based ones, are rather thin on the ground these days. As such I generally look forward to further releases in a proven franchise (though Mass Effect 2 did go some way towards killing such expectations). However the fact that this game seems to be going in the direct opposite direction of Mass Effect 2 i.e. adding detail and complexity rather than removing it has managed to quell my trepidation. But at the end of the day I’m still buying this because I liked its prequel.

Recettear
Release Date: Out Now (Demo Available)

This game is excellent. I know that for a fact as Ive completed the basic story mode. The basic premise is that you are the owner of the Item Shop in a typical JRPG world and have to make bigger and bigger profits in order to pay back loans taken out by your delinquent adventurer father. You do this by running the aforementioned item shop, buying stock, haggling with townsfolk, adventurers, weird robot girls, rich heriesses, etc. As well as the (freakishly addictive) shop gameplay you can also higher adventurers you meet throughout the story and adventure through various dungeons in order to gather free stock. The gameplay in these sections is pretty reminiscent of early Zelda/dungeon crawl games and serves as a nice break from the economic game.

All of this is wrapped up in overly cute “anime” style artwork. However the game is quite enjoyably and cleverly written (and translated) and most of the character are quite amusing. Even the random NPC’s can be quite amusing as you wonder why this old man is trying to sell you his grandmothers treasured apple or why this young girl is buying a schoolgirl sailor outfit “for her brother”. The game itself was originally an indie Japanese title which was translated and imported by a small company. So I’d urge you to try out the demo and if you like it throw them the fifteen or so quid for the full game. Its well worth the money in terms of both length and quality.

PS3

Dead Rising 2
Release Date:28/09

The first Dead Rising was an unexpected gem in an amazingly dull 360 release wave. An enjoyable and engaging third person action game that finally allowed you to act out all the things you’d always wanted horror movie protagonists to do? Yes please. The story was also a relatively fresh spin on the whole zombie thing that was well plotted and, in tandem with the timed nature of the games “missions”, extremely engaging. Dead Rising is in fact one of the few games that I’ve unlocked nearly all the achievements for, simply because I enjoyed playing it that much. Its also one of a handful of recent games that Ive replayed (and more than once at that).

Needless to say Dead Rising 2 with its promises of more zombies on screen, more weapons to kill them with and the ability to jerry-rig weird combo weapons was something that I was very interested in seeing. (At this point Ive played the game for a few hours and I’d add a slight Caveat Emptor, if you havent played the first game then take it on its own merits, if you have played the first game it may be worth holding off. I’ll codify my thoughts on this when Ive completed it).

Atelier Rorona:The Alchemist of Arland
Release Date:28/09 (15/10 in Europe)

Considering my fondness for JRPG’s and the fact that this series has around thirteen games in it across all of Sony’s consoles and handhelds its odd that Ive never really played any of it. I think I tried out one of the PS2 titles for about half an hour. But thats it. So, to be honest, curiosity plays a big part in my interest for this game. Secondly there’s the issue I mentioned above under Fallout: New Vegas. There arent that many rpg’s coming out these days, even more so when it comes to (translated) JRPG’s and even further so considering the PS3. To be honest the PS3’s RPG library is embarassingly small when compared to its pre-decessors or even its “sibling” the PSP. Even more tragic is the wildly varying quality of rpg’s that do exist for it. So simply by being a JRPG on the PS3 from a series Ive never played Atelier Rorona is already pretty high up the “will purchase” ladder. If it had been released a month earlier I almost certainly would have purchased it. But unfortunately its part of the “first wave” in the annual gaming tsumani in the run up to christmas. As such Ive a feeling I’ll be waiting for some reviews before I spend my hard earned (and oh so scarce) money on it.

I havent been keeping too close an eye on this one. But as its part of the Atelier series its fairly safe to bet that there will be a big focus on item synthesis via alchemy and some (oh so good) classic turn based combat action. It’s also a fairly safe bet that there will be various “moe” female characters in overly frilly clothing. A quick look at the games official english website – http://www.nisamerica.com/games/roro/ confirms that my bet is more or less on the money (cant decide if I like or hate the websites music).

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Release Date: 05/10

Why am I interested in this game? One word: Monkey. Any variation or re-interpration of Journey to the West is guaranteed to get at least a cursory lookover (and based on wallet emptying experience – purchase) from me. That alone was going to be enough to get me to play the game. I’m also a fan of third person action games so that further cememnted my interest. Then I read an excellent article about Alex Garland’s (co-writer of the game) involvement with the entirety of the game design – here and I became genuinely interested in seeing how the game turns out. Wish Monkey didn’t have that weird eye-paint though.

Sengoku Basara:Samurai Heroes
Release Date: 12/10 (Demo Available)

These are some of the reasons, that I’ve been interested in the Sengoku Basara franchise for some time. So far only one of the games was localised and that localisation tried its hardest to remove every unique element in the game (even down to re-naming nearly all the characters). I also had high hopes for Sengoku Basara X. But it was something of an unbalanced mess, and I don’t exactly have a lot of competition when it comes to imported 2d fighters. My next encounter with the franchise was the Sengoku Basara anime, the first season of which still hasn’t seen a decent translation. Though the first few minutes tell you all you need to know, I actually had to turn it off the first time because it looked too awesome to watch.

SBSH (Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes) is another in the main line of Sengoku Basara games which are like Samurai/Dynasty Warriors only “cranked up to 11” (I cringe to use that quote when I used to love it, oh well). The characters are even more ridiculously proficient and wield even bigger weapons then we see in the Warriors/Musou series of games. As Samurai Warriors was one of the only Warriors games I was really into I was quite looking forward to SBSH. I wasnt really excited per se, but I expected the game to be good for a few hours play (and a decent introduction to the characters). That was until I played the demo. Which was fucking awesome. While the gameplay is superficially similar to the warriors series of games its just so much more enjoyable, for no real reason I can put my finger on. The combat just “feels” more epic, but at the same time, more “real”. Sometimes in the Warriors series it just feels far too artificial, whereas in the SBSH demo you really feel like youre kicking arse. I also love the art-style and the animation. I really dont have enough good things to say about the demo. Only two characters are playable, but even the guy I was leery of using at first turned out to be cool. The two characters also felt fairly different in play. Which is nice, as games like this can often end up with characters that feel far too “samey” in play.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
Release Date: 19/10 (Demo Available, but its a shitty demo)

Even though I’m something of a lapsed Naruto fan (only seen Shippuden up until Sai joins and havent read any of the manga) the majority of the Naruto fighting games (particularly the Ultimate Ninja series) have always been a lot of fun. Both in casual and more serious play. This goes doubly for Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm (this games predecessor), which is without a doubt the best anime derived fighting game Ive ever played. Mainly because it captured the “feeling” of your typical shounen action scene. It really felt like you were re-creating the kind of combats you saw in the series, as opposed to playing a fighting game based on the series. The fact that it looked awesome and played extremely fluidly didn’t hurt in the least.

The one downside was the limited cast. While it was a respectable size for a fighting game earlier Naruto titles had spoiled us more than a little by including (literally) hundreds of characters. In the last few PS2 titles you could play basically any character who had ever been in the series. So as soon as I heard there was a sequel to Ultimate Ninja Storm I pre-ordered it. Because I knew it would have more characters, more polished gameplay and a slew of other improvements. All of which has proven to be true. If youre entirely unfamiliar with the Naruto franchise (because you have been living under a rock or don’t follow anime/manga in anything but the most superficial manner) Im not sure how appealing this would be. It would still be a decent fighter, but one youre probably going to want to pick up second hand.

The majority of this stuff is in game:

Vanquish
Release Date: 19/10 (Demo Available)

Two Words: Shinji Mikami. Followed by lots of other words: He created Resident Evil, produced RE2, RE3, DMC, created RE4 and Godhand. Also, this

Six final words: slow mo rocket propelled knee slide.

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage
Release Date: 05/11 (ITS ALREADY OUT!)

The appeal of this game requires no explanation. Its Fist of the North Star x Dynasty Warriors. If ever there was a perfect marriage of story and game engine this is it. I believe some luminary on YouTube put it best:
“Everyone is gay for Kenshiro.
no exceptions.
even women.
How is it possible? for women to be gay for a man?
HNK is how.”

The only downside is that the original version of Ai wo Torimodose isnt in it as far as I know. But all that means is that I just need to turn off the music in the game and stick the original OST on repeat. If for some reason you require further convincing, heres the intro –
and some gameplay footage
(Wakamoto Norio aka The Man with the Worlds Coolest Voice, does the narration).

Splatterhouse
Release Date: 23/11

bAk b3f0r3 i w4Z 1337 (l0lZ i kN0w), I wasn’t particularly au fait with the import game market and as such, on possibly more than one occasion, rented a title (from Oracle on Dublin Street, anyone else remember NES and Megadrive rental places?) whose language differed from my own. It was also (shortly) before I got onto the internet and at the time print was still going strong. So I wasn’t entirely ignorant of the Splatterhouse franchise, I’d seen grainy screenshots of the hockey mask clad protagonist clocking unpleasantly squishy monsters upside the head with a trusty metal pipe or spraying their innards hither and yon with a pump action shotgun. Needless to say, gratuitous videogame violence was something that appealed greatly to my younger self. But a lack of disposable income and no real game stores meant that my gaming library was primarily rental in nature and subject to the strange whims of opportunistic irishmen’s videogame inventory.

You know that entire paragraph could have been condensed into “The first Splatterhouse game I played was in Japanese”. But while brevity may be the soul of wit it is unforunately the nemesis of work based time wasting. Anyhow, my first foray into the Splatterhouse (awesome name) universe wasn’t in english. I’d like to blame that for my poor performance. But I imagine it had more to do with the school of game design that gave us sisyphean ordeals like Chakan the Forver Man and the limited nature of the engagement. Completing games like this often had more to do with staying power than skill.

However the games gratuitous violence did impress me and managed to worm its way inside my head. So over the years since Ive returned to Splatterhouse and its sequels across various platforms (mostly emulators). Though honesty forces me to admit Ive enjoyed similar success to my first foray. So when I heard about a 3D reboot of the series I was immediately interested. When I saw some of the preview screens I was hooked. Unfortunately that was in 2008. In early 2009 the game switched development studios due to “performance issues”. So now two and a half years after the initial previews the game is nearly upon us. Im afraid that my excitment has waned somewhat in the interim. But hopefully the game can rekindle it.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
Release Date: 30/11

My interest in this is based almost purely on the look of it. There’s just something about the visuals and the design of it that really sells me on the “action fairytale” approach they seem to be going with. Far too many media products try far too hard, and fail, to capture the otherworldly essence of a truly good fairytale. But for some reason I totally buy into it for this game. I dont know a lot about the game itself. I saw it described as “Sony’s ICO”, which is weird as ICO is only on Sony consoles. But what can you do? Oh and whatever can be gleaned from this trailer

PSP

Valkyria Chronicles II
Release Date:Out

Have to say, I sort of died a little when I heard this was coming out on the PSP. The original Valkyria Chronicles is one of the best games on the PS3, hell its an awesome game full stop. As such I wasn’t particularly enthused to find out that I wouldn’t be able to see the ongoing story of Gallia in sweet, sweet HD. I also find it hard to complete games on handheld systems. I imagine because I don’t travel for long distances and when Im at home why wouldn’t I play something on a bigger monitor? Still my love of Valkyria Chronicles was enough to keep me interested. After reading a number of reviews and seeing the intro Im generally looking forward to playing this. Hopefully it maintains the relatively unique playstyle of the first game and the same well paced storytelling.

The fact that its set in some kind of military academy does, for some reason I cant pin down, scream “anime side-story”. Then again, the first thing that springs to mind when I think “military academy anime” is Meine Liebe, which was excellent.

Knights in the Nightmare
Release Date:09/11

This was originally out on the DS about a year ago. Which is where I first played it. And grew to hate it. Well thats not quite true. I originally picked it up because its weird hybrid gameplay which mixed arcade style shooters with turn based combat sounded intriguing. And the “deaths are permanent” and “level up/heal via sacrifice sounded cool. Unfortunately I just really didnt like the way it played on the DS. Which to be honest is an issue I have with a slew of DS titles. Just not a big fan of that stylus. Possibly because of my long running and irrational hatred of Palm Pilots and their ilk. Anyhow, when I heard that this was being ported to the PSP my interest was rekindled and has remained steady. Quite possibly the allure of its hybrid gameplay, unique artstyle and intriguing sub-systems will (like oh so many Sting games) fail to impress or maybe it will be fucking awesome. Only time will tell (but I hope its short, because I fear ZHP will consume both my PSP and I).

The PSP trailer is nice

But I sort of prefer the old DS one

Z.H.P. (Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman)
Release Date: 26/10

Everything I know about this game and all the reasons I want it are combined in its name and the debut trailer

XboX 360

Fable III
Release Date: 16/10

To be honest Ive no idea why this game is on my list. I honestly don’t think that Peter Molyneux has managed to release a game that hasn’t disappointed me since Syndicate. His main fault seems to be in making outlandish promises that always, always fail to materialise (or which materialise in such a crippled manner that their inclusion is tantamount to insult). In particular the Fable franchise has been synonymous with failure in my eyes. The first game was embarassingly short, I finished it in less than eight hours and the story was paint by numbers fantasy cliché bullshit. The second game wasn’t much better in the plot department but at least the gameplay was decent enough to keep me mildly engaged. Oh up until a known bug, which has yet to addressed years later, prevented me from finishing the last quest in the game. The games various systems were also trivially easy to “break”. So at this point I have zero expectations about Fable III. All I have seen of it is one screenshot of a women with what appears to be a flintlock rifle (which I like the look off). So I suppose my urge to play this is based solely on morbid curiosity.

Listening to: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Sink/Let it Sway

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