03 November 2010

Square Enix does Facebook

Finally Square Enix has joined the Facebook gaming scene and starts by introducing a couple of games: Knights of the Crystals(Final Fantasy in Mafia Wars style) and Chocobo's Crystal Tower
(Chocobo breeder game)

It looks like the sheer amount of profits generated by the less than stellar games on Facebook by companies like Zynga has finally tempted Square to make its move. After the somewhat less than awesome launch of FFXIV, the income would probably help.

My initial impression of Knights of the Crystals is actually quite good. While many of the basic building blocks are pretty much the same as Mafia Wars and its brethrens (jobs, fights, inventory, collections), there are several interesting addtions.
First is the addition of more job classes as you level up(only Fighter and Healer were visible to me at level 6). The boss battle is a turn-based RPG style with the choice of fight, magic and special abilities. It's also important to have friends for this battle, and for those who do not have friends yet, there are default game-generated ones that can be used to help the boss fight.
The game also have narration in place between stages, so hopefully a decent story would unravel as the game progresses.

Knights of The Crystals Boss Fight

I couldn't run Chocobo's Crystal Tower at the time of this writing since it keeps giving out an error message, so I can't give an impression as yet. As it is still in beta, they might have trouble with keeping up with the initial demand. From the description in its FAQ it seems to be a breeding-adventure game. Some screenshots
are available at the official site here.

Chocobo Crystal Tower

The implication of Square's move is quite interesting. If Nintendo decides to join in with something like Animal Crossing, Farmville and Frontierville might finally have a formidable competitor. Then again, that possibility is rather remote. Japan
does have quite a number of social gaming companies, and it even have a social
network site like gree that specialize on games.
If more Japanese companies starts to make games on Facebook, the domination of a mere 2-3 social game companies there might end.

For sure, being an old-school big gaming company doesn't guarantee success in Facebook gaming. The EA acquisition of Playfish, for example, still haven't managed to keep up with Zynga in terms of the number of users. This is despite the truly numerous number of bugs in games like Mafia Wars.
I felt EA's first game on Facebook(after the takeover), EA Fifa Sports Superstars, simply fell way short of its potential. It's a pity, since a Championship Manager game on Facebook done right would be amazing.

The early signs from Square though, is quite promising. If they continue to improve their games, hopefully the overall quality of Facebook games will increase.
I would certainly be worried if I were Zynga.

If you have tried out Knights of the Crystals or Chocobo's Crystal Tower, what's your opinion?
Do you feel Square can improve the overall quality of gaming on Facebook?
What's your favorite game on it?

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17 October 2009

Evangelion, Fate/Stay Night and Hatsune Miku in Phantasy Star Portable 2

A collaboration has been announced for coming the Phantasy Star Portable 2 PSP game, which would now include costumes and weapons from Evangelion, Fate/Stay Night and Hatsune Miku.

More than anything, the announcement seems to indicate that Hatsune Miku has now reached a popularity that is on par with Evangelion!

For a speech synthesizer vocaloid character, this is quite an achievement that the maker, Yamaha, probably would have never dreamed of. However, it seems that subsequent vocaloid characters such as Kagamine Rin/Len and Megurine Luka are nowhere near as famous.
I wonder how many copies of the game will be sold purely due to the respective series' fans pulled in by this collaboration.

More pics at inside-games.

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16 October 2009

Sin and Punishment 2: Successor to the Sky

Originally titled Tsumi to Batsu Sora no Koukeisha (罪と罰 宇宙の後継者), a new trailer for this Wii game has just been released.

The main characters of this game are Kachi, a girl from the outer sky/space, and Isa, a boy from the inner sky/space who is trying to get her.

Unlike the first game, the Japanese version has Japanese voice over instead of English. The genre of the game is 3D action shooting, which doesn't usually result in a memorable story, the trailer seems to hint a fairly decent story.

While the release date of this game in Japan is at the end of the month (29 October), the scheduled release date in North America & Europe is not too far away, Q1 2010.
Have you played the first Sin and Punishment game on the Wii or the Nintendo 64?

Japanese official site: Sin and Punishment 2

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06 April 2009

Dragon Ball Kai First Impression (ドラゴンボールKAI 改)

A HD remaster of Dragon Ball Z with a much more compact representation is what this series is being touted as. Despite being a fan of the manga, I cannot bear to watch the original series due to its legendary slowness. Will they get it right this time?

The first episode began with a quick recap on Son Goku's background, including how the Saiyans fought against Freeza and failed miserably.

I won't bother recapping the whole episode here. In summary, the episode covers Raditz (Goku's brother) arrival and his first confrontation with Piccolo and Goku & co.

As mentioned at the beginning, I didn't watch the original series except for an episode here and there, so its difficult to compare how much material have been cut.  So far, the pacing is about right, the real test is later on, when the battle begins. How much would they be able to cut and make the battle exciting, especially since they are not creating new scenes?

The graphics while possibly much better than the original release, they are still drawn 2 decades ago. Since the animation these days has progressed so much, it can be jarring to watch this after Full Metal Alchemist, or Sengoku Basara, for example.While a remake would have been much more exciting, the popularity of the series would pretty much ensure a significant enough number of people would still watch this remastered and shortened Dragon Ball, I suppose. 

On top of that a second Nintendo DS Dragon Ball RPG, Dragon Ball Kai: Saiyajin Raishuu (ドラゴンボール改 サイヤ人来襲) will be released this month, and I think the story line covered would be about the same as the anime. So the promotion of the DS game is most likely the main motivation for Dragon Ball Kai, not the 20th anniversary celebration.

Opening theme song: Dragon Soul by Tanimoto Takayoshi (谷本 貴義)

Ending theme song: Yeah! Break! Care! Break!(ヤブレカブレ)by Tanimoto Takayoshi (谷本 貴義)
Official site: ドラゴンボール改

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05 April 2009

Hayate no Gotoku!! Season 2 Episode 1: The Prohibited Free Style Marathon「禁断のマラソン自由形」

The second season starts of with a quick introduction to some of the main characters, along with a very quick summary on how Hayate got into trouble with loan sharks and felt indebted to Nagi for her help.

The episode itself centers on the free style marathon race to be held at the school. Being the lazy girl that she is, Nagi decides to skip school on that day:b Unfortunately Maria heard this, and forces Nagi to compete in one of the races. For some reason or another, Hayate has a bet with Klaus again, this time Hayate will resign as a butler if Nagi do not win the race.

Reluctantly, Nagi agrees to do some training with Hayate. 5 minutes and 50 meters after the start of the training session, Nagi collapses to the ground, saying human is not supposed to do these kind of things:b

In the end though, Hayate manage to give Nagi some motivational speech that makes her trains harder. The only problem now is that Hinagiku, the student council president and the super athlete, will compete in all races. Nagi, quite rightly, believes she has no chance of winning if she is to compete with Hinagiku, and sends Hayate to persuade Hinagiku.

Of course Hinagiku sees through the facade, and still competes:b After going through all obstacles and tricking Hinagiku into the one situation where she loses her composure, everything looks great for the Hayate and Nagi team.

However, at the last pivotal moment of the race, the drunkard that is Hinagiku's sister manage to beat Nagi. Looks like next episode Hayate will go from a debt-ridden butler into a debt-ridden jobless bum:b

While the first season of Hayate started strongly, the longer it goes, it seems to be going nowhere. There are plenty of jokes, but it kind of felt repetitive after a while. Worse, after probably the first 10-20 episodes, the story didn't progress much, if at all. I actually stopped watching the first season half way through. Recently I continued to around episode 40 or so, but there isn't much progress.
In contrast, I have read the manga up to volume 9 or so, and the story is much better. There is still plenty of jokes, but the story also progresses along with it.

With this new season, they seem to backtrack quite a lot. The marathon appears fairly early in the manga, around volume 3 or 4, I think. So the new season probably suits people who wants more storyline and less repetitive jokes. If you like the second half of Hayate first season better, the second season may not be as good, especially if the rumor is true that they will adapt to the manga more faithfully this time.

Opening theme song: Wonder Wind by ELISA
Ending theme song:
Honjitsu,Mankai Watashi Iro by Katsura Hinagiku with the Three Student Council Girls
starring Shizuka Itou with Eri Nakao, Sayuri Yahagi and Masumi Asano
「本日、満開ワタシ色」by 桂ヒナギク with 白皇学院生徒会三人娘 starring 伊藤静 with 矢作紗友里&中尾衣里&浅野真澄

The Hinagiku centric character song for the ending gives a not very subtle hint that there will lots more Hina this season!

Official site: ハヤテのごとく!!

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Valkyria Chronicles 1: Encounter with the War 「戦火の出会い」

Based on a strategy RPG PS3 game that has rave reviews released last year, the story of this series is based on a war between Gallia and an invading Imperial army.

When the town of Bruhl in the country of Gallia is under impending attack of the Imperial forces, its inhabitants start to evacuate. During this process, someone suspected to be a spy has been discovered. Our main heroine, Alicia goes to check out this suspicious spy activity. It turns out the suspected spy is only drawing sketches of fish from the river. Not believing someone could possibly so relaxed when a war is just around the corner, Alicia put the guy under arrest. When she heard the guy's name, Welkin Gunther, she is enraged that a spy dares to use the family name of the national hero from the last war as an alias.

When Welkin heard that the Imperial force could arrive at any time, he ask for permission to meet someone who is waiting for him. Obviously he is rejected:b
In no time though, he managed to escape, proving that he is more than a clueless artist. Unfortunately, Alicia happen to see his escape, and chases after him. Even though she had the chance, she could not bring herself to shoot an unarmed man on the back. Eventually she catches up with him, and agrees to accompany him to get his sister. However, on the way, they encounter the Imperial army who arrives much earlier than expected. Under fire, they managed to safely reach Welkin's house, which is also the same as the ex-general war hero's house. Still not believing that Welkin is a relative, they finally meet Welkin's sister, Isara.

However, upon seeing her, she thinks Welkin has been lying all along, since Isara seems to be a member of the Darcsens race, and couldn't possibly be Welkin's sister.
At the time, the house is under artillery attack that causes Alicia to lose her balance and drop her weapon. Isara took it, and shoot an Imperial army through the window, thus gaining Alicia's trust.

Soon, the house is under heavy attack, and Isaria reveals some old mortars kept in the house to be used for counter attack. The surprise does not end there, at the end of the episode, she reveals a huge weapon concealed under a blanket, a tank!

A solid start, with nice music, interesting storyline, and likable characters, the series looks very promising. While I haven't played the game, it seems the story is pretty good. Adapting a game into a movie, while not diverging too much from the source material is fairly challenging, hopefully they can pull it off here.

Opening theme song: Asu e no kizuna「明日へのキズナ」by HIMEKA
Ending theme song: Ano Kaze ni Notte (Ride that Wind)「アノ風二ノッテ」by pe'zmoku
Official website:戦場のヴァルキュリア

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04 April 2009

Slap up Party -Arad Senki- Episode 1:

The anime is actually based on a Korean MMORPG, and a lot of the production of the series seems to be done with a Korean staff. The game has 6 basic types to choose from (demon knight, male gunner, fighter, priest, magician, female gunner), and each type would then evolve when they reach certain levels. It would be interesting to see how the anime will be able to portray this.

The episode starts with the usual party fighting against a mob, a difficult one at that. While they managed to beat it in the end, the demon knight of the party had to evolve to a demon, despite the warnings from her party member. It seems that the consequence of turning to a demon is that she may not be able become human again.

Flash forward a few years, and Baron, our main character makes his appearance. In no time, he got into trouble. Having not eaten recently, desire takes over logic, and he and a gunner he just met got captured by a group of villagers who baits them with a delicious looking roast boar.

While the villagers didn't actually want to trap them, trouble is not over. Seeing the demon mark on Baron's arm, they decide to imprison him before he turns into a demon and destroy some village. It does not help that a neighboring village has been trashed by some demon recently.For some reason, the villager think the gunner is not exactly an outstanding member of society, and throw him into jail too:b

While getting free unappetizing food in their cell, not all looks bad. Baron discovered that the father of the girl who delivers the food may know how to cure the demon arm. While he begs the girl to let him meet her father, the girl is too frightened and left without promising anything.

Some of Baron's past is revealed next. It turns out he was a normal child when suddenly the demon mark appeared on his arm. The frightened villagers throw him out of the village. In his desperation, he found a sword and its guardian. He has been traveling ever since to find a cure for his arm.

Before he can meet the girl's father though, the village is attacked by a group of mob. Being the main hero, he just have to save the villagers:b Long story short the low level mob is taken care of, but the girl's parents didn't make it. So Baron continues the journey, with one more party member in tag.

Surprisingly, the episode is more enjoyable than I thought it might. The jokes are actually quite funny, and the main character does not have an amnesia, for a change. This looks like a good series to enjoy when you don't want to think to much. Looking forward to it!

Opening theme song: Party Play by Nogawa Sakura「野川 さくら」
Ending theme song: Hateshinai Sekai「果てしない世界」(World without an end) by YMCK
Official site: スラップアップパーティ −アラド戦記−
The singer of the opening theme, Nogawa Sakura, is also the seiyuu of one of the main characters who hasn't made an appearance, Runmei Raika.

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