Yes, it’s a demo of a JRPG. It also has more gameplay that some full games I’ve played lately. I’m not just talking about indie passion projects or mobile games. I also admit that Bravely Default isn’t a great name. It’s memorable, but that’s about it. Fortunately, we live in a gaming world with products like the Wii, the Xbone (yes, I know), and the Oculus Rift. Weird names don’t necessarily indicate poor quality.
I’ll save a deeper dive into the game for the full version. The demo does exactly what you want it to do. It gives you a good, meaty feel for the game. It showcases the unique features of the game. It introduces and explains some of the more complex systems of the game. It makes you want to play the full game. Finally it gives you rewards to use in the full game for playing the demo. Don’t worry. None of the rewards are game breaking. They just make the initial powerless part of the game a little less difficult.
So what is Bravely Default. It’s a JRPG in the vein of Final Fantasy. It has a job system similar to Final Fantasy Tactics. Overall power is increased by gaining levels through experience. Skills are unlocked by increasing job levels. Jobs normally are unlocked by defeating the holders of that job’s asterisk, but the demo just gives you some to try out.
Your skills, stats, and weapon proficiencies are set by your job, but everyone can dual class and bring in the combat abilities from another job they’ve held. Then each character has a set of support ability slots that they can assign to any ability from any job they’ve held. With four characters with two combat jobs and four support ability slots, you can tweak your party to your heart’s content.
Why call it Bravely Default? That has to do with its main variation on turn based combat. Normally you get one action per turn. Instead of having a block action, a character may default. It does increase their defense like a block, but it also gives them a bonus battle point for their next turn. Next turn they can choose to brave and take two combat actions at the price of slightly lowered defense.
You don’t have to stop there. You can bank up to three Battle Points using default (or some skills that increase BP). Then you can use brave to launch up to four combat actions in a single turn. The system is even more flexible than that. You can actually go negative in BP. That means at any time you can launch up to four combat actions per turn. However, if a character has negative BP to start a turn, they will be automatically skipped until their BP is back to zero (you gain 1 BP per turn normally).
Then there’s Bravely Second. You can actually stop time and get in some extra turns. You can save up to three of them by putting the system in sleep mode while the game is running. You just hit the start button any time during the battle to take an immediate action.
All these systems together give you a lot of flexibility. You can take on any challenge any way you’d like. Add in the fact that the demo gives you bonus items in the real game as you make progress in the demo. You just get a few extra pieces of starting equipment and some consumables like potions, but it’s enough to feel like a reward and make starting the full game a little easier. So if you have any nostalgic feelings for Final Fantasy, you should check out the demo. If it sucks you in, there’s a very solid full game waiting for you. Recommended to all JRPG fans.
Yes, it’s another Kickstarter. However, you get a bunch of leeway from me if you create one of my all time favorite games. I don’t even know what to say if you create two (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII). Yasumi Matsuno has also created games I enjoyed (Vagrant Story, Tactics Ogre, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance) and at least one that intrigued me (Madworld). Honestly, I wasn’t even going to mention this one, but time is running out, and they haven’t hit their primary goal yet. Yes, the last 72 hours tend to create huge surges that push projects over the edge, but those surges come from increased publicity at the end. Here I am providing it.
Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians is a new strategy RPG from Matsuno and Playdek. It’s set in a new world. You play heroes in episodes that span a lengthy war. Ok, two kingdoms locked in generations of war may sound a bit trite, but I’m going with them on this. Actually, I’m going with Matsuno. Gaming is better for him, and my personal gaming history is much better. I hope he and Playdek knock it out of the park. Besides the triangle based movement grid has me intrigued.
My wife got me a Playstation Vita as an anniversary gift. She wasn’t pleased that the only edition available locally was the Walking Dead Vita. Fortunately, it’s a plain Vita bundled with a game code for the Telltale Walking Dead game. I assured her I wouldn’t take any added meaning to the gift.
Since I got it before the hardware refresh, not much has changed externally. The new model will apparently be a little smaller and lighter, but will give up OLED screen for a standard LCD. Given how great the screen looks, I’m glad I got the old style. Overall, it’s a pretty slick feeling piece of kit. There are some compromises to portability. All the buttons are a little small, but the only ones that bother me are the start and select buttons. They’re still useable but hard to reach in a hurry. Fortunately, you almost never need to hit them in a hurry.
The biggest complaints about the launch Vitas were about the software. There have been enough updates that I find little to complain about. The overall interface clearly borrows from smartphones. The big, beautiful icons could have been a bit too big before folders, but right now they just look great.
There’s not going to be any confusion for anyone who’s used a smartphone or tablet. The icons scroll vertically while open app pages are spread out horizontally. App pages function like Palm’s WebOS cards or open apps for iOS or Android. They also scroll down to game activity to see updates or what your friends have been doing. There are buttons at the top of the page to control other functions such as Playstation Plus features. The center is dominated by a screenshot of recent activity. You press that to give focus back to that game or app.
One of the neat features is the ability to do limited multitasking. As with most mobile devices, this is done with a suspend/wake feature, but given that most games require full system resources, instant resume for the active game is pretty impressive. The majority of system apps will run without requiring that a game close. So you can check on friends, update trophies or even pull up a game guide and instantly jump back into the game.
The best use of this didn’t arrive until the PS4 launched. You can actually keep a Vita game suspended while playing PS4 games via remote play. Let’s face it, remote play on PS3 was a joke. On the PS4 it’s a revelation. The vita is something like a quarter of 1080p resolution. Games look great. Whether it’s graphical detail like Killzone: Shadow Fall or lighting and effects heavy speed gameplay like Resogun, they look great and control well. Of course, if connection speed drops too low, you will notice it.
I presume they’re using some of the technology from Gaikai. If so, it certainly works well on a local level. I look forward to the announced PS3 game streaming on the PS4. Regardless, the vita streaming is so useful that I found myself missing it whenever I was playing on the PS3. I can grab the vita and play even if someone else is using the home theater.
While that could be reason to buy a vita, native vita games are the main draw. Yes, there is a nice collection of PS1 and PSP emulated games available on the PSN store. The vita library has started to fill out. Since I’ve been a PS plus member for a long time, I actually felt like I had an instant game collection for the vita when I got it. Sony’s push for indie developers certainly feels alive on the vita. I wish I could say the same for AAA titles. When games push the vita, they’re lightyears beyond any handheld system. Yes, I’m including the top end phone games.
I’d still love a vita exclusive killer app. Maybe the money is not there yet. Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet are great and use the features of the vita, but still feel like little brothers to their console namesakes. Tearaway is as close as we have right now. I’m not sure it’s something people will buy the vita to play. If we could get another Peace Walker type experience on the vita, it would be great. You can make a case based on the library, but I’d love to see that game that you just can’t miss on the vita. I can see that Killzone: Mercenary could be that game. However, Shadow Fall (PS4) feels much better to me. Then again, I’m not the core shooter audience.
In summary, the vita is a great piece of portable hardware. Games look great. The controls are the best on a handheld and prove comfortable for short or long gaming sessions. In fact, developers have a ridiculous number of inputs. Sound is decent (or very good if you use headphones). It’s beyond the portable system I dreamed of when I first played and Atari Lynx. There’s nothing else really close to it. I’d love to see it take off this year since it could host some truly epic and unique games. Highly recommended. Must buy if you have a PS4.
In the spirit of Halloween, we have the latest version of Devil May Cry available on 360, PS3 and PC. This is a reboot and comes from the UK instead of Japan. Perhaps slightly tongue in cheek, we start with an amnesiac hero. He wakes after a night of wild partying to find a demon hunter coming after him. The beginning battle is perhaps over stylized, but it sets the tone. New Dante is still cooler than you. He’s still flashy and cocky but perhaps a bit more crass. The writing seems to lift the game above some of the craziness of the scenes. The art style felt great.
If you like this style of game, you’ve probably already played it. If not, though you might want to crank up the difficulty. The default setting was just about right for me, and I’m notoriously poor at these games. Of course, it could also be that this game is a bit more forgiving. Most attacks are well telegraphed, some well in advance. The combo timings are more relaxed. I’m sure they “fixed” all that on the higher difficulty levels. For me, it was fun without hitting the wall I ran into in the earlier Devil May Cry games.
So, how does it feel? The game is broken down into mob fights, boss fights and platforming/exploration areas. The mobs are pretty good. They have a mix of fodder, special attackers and heavies. This leads to good pacing for battles and the opportunity for large combos. The platforming is pretty straightforward. They do mix in some devil pulls, angel lifts, air dashes along with all the jumping. It keeps you on your toes but is more fun than frustrating. The boss fights fall down a little bit. They seem to have all the standard ingredients, but they never seem to come out memorable or epic. Overall, it’s a step down from Bayonetta but still fun and worth checking out. Recommended for fans of the genre.
I’m nowhere near a fighting game expert. I never count frames of animation or worry about hit box overlap. However, I have been playing fighting games since the original Street Fighter II arcade cabinets came out. I played a lot of Street Fighter and the clones that followed.
The clones were trying to piggyback on the fighting game success that Street Fighter started. At first I didn’t understand what the clones were lacking and why they failed. Eventually, I realized the great design of Street Fighter II. It had near perfect balance and impressive variety. An unbalanced fighting game isn’t fun because everyone is playing the same overpowered character. Balancing a game is hard. Too many clones balanced by making all the fighters feel the same.
So all the great fighting games had those two things, balance and variety. There’s one more thing they have. It’s tight controls. There’s no point in playing the game if the buttons don’t do what you need them to do when you need them to do it. You can’t master a game if precision gives you the same result as button mashing.
I suppose you could argue that since the days of Kung Fu and Double Dragon, fighting games have been split between brawlers and technique fighters. For me, the split goes back to Street Fighter II and Powerstone. I’m more in the Street Fighter camp even to the point I prefer the straight one on one fighters to even the Vs. series. That’s mainly because winning felt more like mastery than luck in those games.
Now, I have less time to spend on mastery. I’ve been able to appreciate the ease of play of games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I’ve also learned to appreciate the Super Smash Brothers series on Nintendo. Yes, there are times when the match devolves into button mashing and luck, but skill and timing will give you an edge over time.
Smash Brothers is fun and chaotic. It really trades on the love of Nintendo’s broad stable of characters. As we saw with cart racing, few have enough recognizable characters to match. Well, now Sony has built up quite a library and they’ve entered the fighting brawler realm with Playstation All Stars Battle Royale. It’s a brawler supporting up to four players. Though there are different winning conditions, you only really score by eliminating other characters. You can’t eliminate them with normal attacks. Normal attacks build up your power bar. You have to catch them in your super attack to score a kill. Super attacks build to three levels. The first level is a short range attack. The second level is usually an area attack. Level three has the potential to wipe out everyone else on the battlefield. It’s up to you to decide how you want to score.
Powerstone and Smash Brothers set the standard for these games. They generally used parallel controls using power, speed, animation, defense, health, hit boxes and animation to differentiate the characters. The developers at Superbot went a step further. Each character has a different and deep command set. So while everyone may have a launcher, heavy and ranged attack, they won’t necessarily be the same commands to do them. Combos feel and link together differently. This can mean a deeper and more rewarding game, but the price is a game that’s harder to learn. It’s tough call, but I think it’s worth it since the net result is that each character plays differently and appropriately for their game series.
Is it balanced? That’s a tough one. Each character can win and even dominate in the hands of a skilled competitor. However, it’s hard to be great with a bunch of characters. Even within a class ( brawlers, graplers, ranged, etc.) characters feel and fight differently. What that means is that you’ll probably have one or two favorites that fit your preferred play style. It’s probably a better use of your time to master them that get a passing familiarity with more characters.
Overall, the core gameplay is fun. You have to balance attack and evasion. Once any character has reached level one, it’s risky to go near them. Letting them get higher levels is risky as well. Keeping track of multiple characters across different levels of a changing battlefield isn’t easy.
The levels are worth mentioning. The whole conceit of the game is that worlds are colliding. The levels reflect this. You might start in one hero’s world, but soon another hero’s enemies will invade that world. The entire layout of the level will change. Many of the invading enemies will have area attacks you have to avoid. The best part is that levels reflect the chaos happening in the battle. It’s rare that any of these invaders or level changes will unbalance a competition. They do have to be taken into consideration when plotting your moment to moment strategy.
It’s got all the standard fighting game modes, story, online, versus, and training. I could go into all the pluses and minuses there, but really, is it fun and rewarding to play? It is. Are the characters varied, interesting and recognizable? Yes, they are. It’s also a cross buy game for PS3 and Vita. If you have any interest at all, it’s worth checking out. There’s more here than you’d expect at first glance. Recommended.
I don’t hide my love for the Homeworld series. It and Ground Control came out at nearly the same time. It was a little slice of heaven. I’d heard the rumors of a new Homeworld. I’d heard about Blackbird Interactive made up of former Homeworld team members. Today we get the news that Gearbox, who bought the Homeworld IP in the fire sale, is teaming up with Blackbird to make their project Shipbreakers into a Homeworld game. It will be interesting to see how this is fleshed out. To whet your appetite, they’ve realeased three video episodes. Enjoy:
I imagine some of the lore will change if it’s really going to be a Homeworld prequel.
Firaxis has announced that the excellent strategy game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is getting an expansion pack titled Enemy Within. It looks like all the improvements, maps and story elements will be rolled into the main campaign. Since those improvements will include biologically and mechanically augmented soldiers and enemies, it should add some welcome depth to a replay or more value if you’ve waited this long to pick up the game. Gaming Trend has the War Machine video that convinced me that I need this expansion. It will be available on November 12. Good Luck, Commander.
Edit to add this link: Jake Solomon Meets Julian Gollop. If you know what that means, you know why you have to watch it.
I’m sure I first played Infectonator in its flash form. The iOS and Android version appeared to be based more on Infectonator 2. The concept is simple. You are a mad scientist trying to take over the world with zombies. You drop your infectonator bomb or bombs on the city of your choice then see how the results play out. Initially you don’t have much else to do besides scoop up the coins dropped by the fallen. Later you’ll be able to drop in special zombies and use support weapons to keep your minions from harm.
Your initial zombies are weak, slow and die fast. The bulk of the game is deciding how to upgrade your base zombies. Do you increase their lifespan, strength or speed? Or is it better to focus on infection rate to keep producing more zombies? Do you want more or tougher special zombies? It starts out easily enough with just civilian populations, but soon you’ll face cities that are more prepared. They have special units you can’t directly infect. They have police and soldiers that are trained to fight back. Eventually, you’ll even face NBC troops prepared to take the fight to the zombies. Even worse, many cities have heroes that defend them. Who are those red and green plumbers defending Pisa? Certain of your special zombies fare better against certain heroes.
Each city has a target goal for casualties. Hit that and you’ll unlock the next city. However, each city also a set of performance goals. If you manage to complete all those, the city is destroyed, and you get a destruction bonus. In fact, there are a lot of bonuses. At the start, just about everything you do seems to result in a bonus. These help make up for the initial difficulty due to your weak army. Soon, you’ll be rolling along.
This could have been a depressing game about global pandemic. It could have been overly gruesome. The 16 bit art style keeps the tone light. It bears more resemblance to watching an ant colony than simulating destruction. It’s great fun as a time waster if the subject matter interests you. It didn’t over tax my brain when I was sick and my head hurt. Recommended.
It’s been a bit wild at our house recently. My son Mark was born. It’s easy to forget how much a newborn shakes up your life. It doesn’t get easier after the first one. You just have less of the mind numbing fear. Sleep is down, dirty diapers are way up. Then right as we’re getting adjusted there, strep throat hits our house. It hit most of us, but me hardest. If anyone had asked, that’s the way I’d want it. After all I’d rather be miserable than see my kids suffer. And if Mommy is down, we all suffer. We were all happy the baby didn’t get sick. Still, I’ve still been pretty miserable recently with the aches and fever. I’ll be glad when the illness has run it’s course. I’m also thankful we got antibiotics right away. The last time this hit me hard I suffered for a while before going to the doctor. The results were so awful even I won’t be that stupid again.
Now, I’m starting to feel better and Mark’s starting to sleep better. Maybe things will settle down at least until school starts. You don’t realize how big your kids have grown until you see them next to a newborn and remember holding them at the same size. Children are such a blessing, but they are not easy. We’re happy to have another blessing and the extra work.
I played the original True Crime: Streets of L.A. It wasn’t up to Grand Theft Auto standards, but the spin of playing a cop and the increased focus of melee combat bumped it up a few notches. Having Christopher Walken as a narrator didn’t hurt either. I enjoyed that game but didn’t finish it. The sequel set in New York got worse reviews, so I didn’t buy it.
When I heard that Activision was rebooting the series with a version set in Hong Kong, I was interested since I had enjoyed Stranglehold with a similar setting and premise. Then Activision shut down all mid level game development to focus on AAA titles. I later heard that Square Enix had picked up the project and rebranded it Sleeping Dogs. I just assumed that the end result would be mediocre at best. Reviews and impressions painted a more positive picture so I planned to pick it up when it was on sale some time. Before I got around to that, Sony announced that it would be a ‘free’ game on Playstation Plus. While Plus is not free, I have found it to be a great deal because of quality games like this.
Sleeping Dogs is an open world sandbox set on the island of Hong Kong. This is a streamlined playable Hong Kong that reduces distances and density, but they’ve managed to create a believable, lived in space. Different sections feel radically different. With cars, motorcycles, boats and cabs (for fast travel), you can get around anywhere quickly. Clearly United Front learned the most important lesson from Rockstar, make everything fun. Ok, not everything is fun, but most core activities are. Unarmed combat, melee weapon combat, ranged combat, driving, racing and vehicular combat are all fun. Unarmed combat and vehicular combat are the standouts in the game. Both give you a real feeling of power and destruction combined with high risk. It’s nearly impossible to get through completely unscathed, but skill will carry the battle (at least after upgrades).
With a strong gameplay core, you might think the story stinks. No, not really. As long as you don’t compare it to reality, it’s a fun ride. If you go in with a Hong Kong action movie mindset, it’s even better. You have a ton of characters with larger than life personalities. They get into outrageous situations and clash in mighty conflicts. If you don’t pay attention, some of the names and terms can be confusing, but the game does a good job keeping you on the right track. Even though the characters are kind of wacky, the voice actors are good enough to humanize and make you care for them. For instance, when a battle breaks out at a wedding, you actually feel upset that someone would break tradition and do such a thing.
That involvement is the driving force that pulled me into the game world. I wanted to know what would happen to these characters. I wanted to make Wei a little stronger, more respected and dangerous. That’s the mark of a good game. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I stuck around to get my first ever Playstion Platinum Trophy. That’s a story for later. Overall, very highly recommended.
Tags10000000 action Amazon android Apple Assassin's Creed 3 Assassins Creed bandwidth Borderlands 2 FTL Game of the Week gaming hack handheld iOS Kickstarter Kinect Mac Magic Microsoft monoprice network news PC Planetary Annihilation playstation PS3 PS4 puzzle Puzzle Saga robots RPG RTS site Sony spam comments Square Enix Steam Strategy troubleshooting Uber update vita Xbox 360 XCOM: Enemy Unknown