Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tales of Vesperia and Other Stuff

So, it's obviously been a while since I updated this blog...work and actually gaming's been keeping me pretty busy amongst other things, but now that the summer/fall rush of interesting games is over for a bit, I've decided to start this up with a mix of both news, commentary, and just random babble covering gaming with some other misc topics mixed in.

Since late June of this year, there have been a multitude of titles that have been released in Japan which have interested my somewhat "eccentric" tastes.
  • Agarest Senki ZERO
  • Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland
  • BlazBlue
  • Tales of Vesperia (not the β-version)
Of the four, Tales of Vesperia is probably the more interesting of the bunch considering the, relatively speaking, high profile nature of the game and the general popularity of the "Tales of" franchise. To note, I did play the β-version; paid a grand total of ¥1500 in the wagon at a Sofmap store and plunked down quite a few unhealthy hours into it.

That said, I decided to double dip for the PS3 release since the game in its original form was rather good. It's a week and a half later and am happy to say I haven't had any regrets. The PS3 release does have a few downsides; namely the loadtimes being noticeably longer, but not to the point where it's annoying. For those that tried the demo off PSN, it is considerably improved from that. One other issue I'm finding is, for some odd reason, every time Patty does a specific arte in Advance form, my receiver loses synchronization with the PS3 for a split second, resulting in a loss of sound. Looking past that, though, it's great to be playing again with a PS3 controller, and the new additions are really quite nice.

Repede as party top is something I wished in the original release, the Artes Ball allows for 8 additional artes slot by pressing L1, and the additional voicing is nice.

So the big thing is, how's Patty and the modified storyline? The devs did an excellent job, thus far, of incorporating Patty into the game. Instead of cramming her into the midst of the Blastia story from the get-go, they opted to create a storyline that ran parallel, for the most part, to the original story. There are a number of points where the storylines intersect; namely, when Patty and the rest of the party so-happen to be at the same place at the same time, but things start getting rather interesting about 1/2~2/3 of the way through the story.

As a character, she's very fun to use, but due to how the story's arranged, I'm not sure if it's wise to become dependent on her from the get go. The multiple forms she has adds a bit of depth to the gameplay, and a good number of her artes have a "gambling" selection on them with different results (including damaging your party).

As for whether this will be localized is unknown, it does appear, from a comment made by Yuri's western VA, that localization is indeed in progress. If you're competent at Japanese, though, aside from the slightly higher price, I'd recommend importing this game. So you spend $20~30 more, now...you can always cut back on those lattes from Starbucks for a few days.

Beyond that, Agarest Senki ZERO was surprisingly good and sucked up almost as much time as the original Vesperia did. Atelier Rorona was very reminiscient of the pre-Mana Khemia/Iris series and was a good departure from your typical "save the world" RPGs. The crafting system, like most Atelier games, was rock solid, and the events that pepper the game itself add quite a bit of charm to a cute and warm game. I'll be adding a post soon for Agarest and Rorona as well as an actual Tales of Vesperia review after I finish that up, as well. BlazBlue was a bit of a surprise and while I'm still pretty horrible at it, I ended up putting in about 1500 matches on Rachel alone...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dengeki Reviews Atelier Rorona (90, 85, 80, 75)

Late night so here's a rough translation of all 4 reviews. There doesn't appear to be anything glaringly wrong with with the game sans a clunky item management system. I suppose some can argue that since the game is about crafting with quite a few items, this might be crippling, but none of the reviews were damning so I would assume that the item management is decent but could be better.

Like usual, don't plagiarize please. Thanks in advance.

Original source from 2ch

Dengeki Reviews Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland

Being an Atelier Elie fan, I ended up clearing the entire game very quickly. The story being easy to progress combined with the business associated with being a completionist is very reminiscent of the more traditional Atelier games. Such concepts as a name being nothing more than a decoration and being unable to discern valuable items without having a good grasp of their intrinsic qualities makes you feel like an alchemist and makes the game extremely fun. Increased (new?) aspects such as Homunculs and Overclear increase the degrees of freedom in the game. It's after the 2nd year in Atelier Rorona where the main serving of fun is to be had. Because you do various tasks repeatedly, had they made changes to the long time required for item hunting and being unable to place items directly into storage from a container, the game would have been amazing. (90/100)

You recieve tasks from the government every 3 months, but it's easier to recieve a perfect rating without being pressed for time than had been expected. This allows you to have a bit more freedom in your actions. What you're able to do initially is limited, but as you get used to the game, you'll get your hands on new recipes and gathering grounds, leading to a pretty smooth gameplay. One problem is transferring items from a container to storage; if you were able to transfer the entire content all at once, the game would have been better. Because Rorona's personality is rather ditzy, people might have divided opinions about her as a character based on personal preference. By the way, being a girl, what's up with her sleeping on the couch instead of the bed when she rest?! She looks cute but has some masculine personality aspects (lol) (85/100)

The game's atmosphere has a warmth, just as portrayed in the illustrations. You can craft, search for mats and what not at your own place. The tutorial is easy to follow as well, so newcomers to the series have nothing to worry about. The crafting system is simple. However, due to the fact that the same mats can have differing quality, resulting in various results after crafting, I was able to enjoy the game without encountering monotony. Characters which join your party are wide and varied, thus it should be easy to get into the game regardless of your sex. There's no wildly unfolding plot twists as the story progresses, so take time to spend your hours with your favorite characters in a relaxed manner. (80/100)

While it's in 3D now, the content itself feels like its gone back to its roots. Because there are events that occur regularly (gov't exams), the game is easy to play, and the simple but strategic battles are also fun. Being able to check progression of tasks you've taken on, being able to easily bring up the map screen(?) with 1 button, the ability to have equipment crafted for you and such are all positive aspects of the game. While it's nice that a basket for material gathering and a container (storage) has been prepared, the overall item management is hit or miss. The sort function implementation is awkward (can't make out parenthesis). The camera angles are hit or miss as well. When you want to talk to NPCs, they don't respond unless you get pretty close. If they could have had icons at the very least... (75/100)

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Trinity Universe Info

Like usual, if you're going to use this entry or paraphrase it, please have the decency to indicate the source instead of claiming it as your own.

Looks like e-Digi in Japan released additional Trinity Universe information ahead of any publications or website updates. Here's the entire entry translated.

Game Features and Gameplay
Active Animation Adventure
In order to bring out the appeal of characters, animation aspects have been developed to be included in event scenes so that things such as facial expressions change in real time.
As further examples:
-Accessories, hair, ears, wings move
-Facial parts such as eyes and eyebrows move in tandem as emotions change
-Mouth movements in line with voice
-Changes in poses as event scenes necessitate
-Visual expressions from anime/manga (! icons, blue vertical lines when disappointed, etc)

Unconcious head movements and breathing, smooth changes in emotional expressions help bring the characters to life.

Game Flow
The game primarily consists of events, dungeon searching, and battles.

By examing debris that flows into the world map, you may be able to enter a dungeon, encounter events, etc.

In dungeons, your primary goal is to destroy the gravity well of that particular debris. After finding the gravity well, eliminating the boss guarding it, and destroying the gravity well, you will have a limited time to exit the dungeon. Upon destruction of the gravity well, the space time continuum in the surrounding area becomes unstable. As a result, various rare items will start to be drawn into the local area. If you spend too much time collecting the rare items, you will be unable to escape in time.

If you're unable to escape, instead of being "Game Over", you'll stuck drifting about in space. At this point, sandwiching chat events between party members (and bickering events on occaision), you will need to wait for help from the likes of aliens. Of course, they won't help you out of good will and you will be required to give up earned money and items.

After you've cleared a set number of dungeons, the story will progress with various events and previews being sandwiched (see Cross Edge) in between.

You will have search magic called sensation to search the local area for hidden gravity wells. If no gravity wells are nearby, as a hint, a streak of light will go flying in the direction of a gravity well. In addition to this, you will be able to find hidden rare items and hunting points with sensation, but due to the limit to the number of times you can use sensation, you will need to conduct your searches efficiently using the hints as mentioned above.

Hunting Points
Hunting points are locations which are densely populated by monsters. By searching for them, you'll be able to enter into battle with them in rapid succession. After a set number of battles, the hunting point disappears and your encounters with monsters become non-existant, temporarily, making it possible to search further without interruptions. In addition, by using hunting points, you are able to gather mats for crafting from monsters more efficiently.

You will be able to use materials gathered to synthesize items used to power up your characters.
-In the demonlord scenario, you can use materials to create powerful monsters. Then, by defeating the monsters you create in the "arena", you are able earn items which will increase your stats.

-In the goddess scenario, you can use the materials to create meteorites, which, when multiple are equipped, will allow your characters to gain new skills depending on what combination of meteorites are equipped.

Furthermore, in both scenarios, there is a system called "Mana Graphics" that utilizes these materials.

Mana Graphic
By drawing various designs on your weapons, you will be able to strengthen them. While you're able to change mana graphics based on the enemy weaknesses to exploit them, changing the mana graphics also results in visual changes during battle as well as a variety of different effects.

Excite Encounter
If you spend too long searching a dungeon, a powerful monster (excite monster) will sometimes appear. The encounter won't be sudden. Rather, the monster will gradually chase your party down, with scenes indicating that the monster is doing so. While it is possible to safely escape, if you take the time to prepare for, and defeat the monster, you will be able to obtain rare items and such as a reward.

About the Battle System
Time Encounter Battle
You will have a limited amount of time in the attack phase. Further, attack skills are associated with AP (action points), and the amount of time you have remaining will decrease with AP consumption. The stronger the attack, the more AP will be required to use it. Thus, in order to move the battle forward in your party's favor, you will need to adapt your battle strategy as the situation requires.

One Button Skill Link
The basic attack skills are divided into 3 types: combination attacks, heavy blows, and magic, all of which can be executed with 1 button. By executing these skills in various orders, you will be able to execute stronger skills.

Fury Chain
Before your attack phase timer runs out, you can swap to the next character and maintain a chain of attacks. In addition to in-battle benefits, such as increase in attack power and filling of the image gauge, this may also result in additional XP or money earned as well as other post-battle bonuses.

Furthermore, by meeting certain criteria by chaining, you will be able to execute combination attacks between 2 to 4 characters.

Image Guage
The image guage will fill by various means such as attacking or exploiting an enemy's weakspot, and will ultimately allow you to unleash mana graphics in-battle.

By unleashing Mana graphics, you will be able to do the following:
1. Unleash character specific special attacks
2. Recover HP (it is possible to recover beyond your Max HP)
3. Deploy a shield that will reduce your damage taken

Action Ability
This will allow you to use various support skills such as using items, recovery, and stat boosts. You will, for the most part, be able to freely set the various support skills between rank 1 and 4, with rank 1 aspects being usable immediately and further ranks requiring progressively more time to become usable.

Because of the limited amount of time during the attack phase, skills which are used frequently can be set to a lower rank whereas aspects which are used less frequently can be set to higher ranks. The player can adjust these to suit their needs and style of play.

Soul Barrier
By exploiting weaknesses and making good use of chains, it will be possible to destroy a monster's soul barrier. A monster whose soul barrier is destroyed will have various changes associated with it. From the basic enrage where defense goes down and attack power goes up, to a change in weakness, change in attack strategy, or change in items that are dropped, destroying a monster's soul barrier will result in quite a few situations where you will need to actively alter your strategy, increasing the depth of battle.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New BlazBlue Promotional Video up on PSN-Japan

The upcoming 2D HighDef fighter, BlazBlue, has a new promotional video up on PSN Japan. For those interested, the Japanese release date is 6/25 with a US release following a few days later. Both Japanese and US versions will have dual audio tracks.

Below is the video for your viewing if you don't have a PSN-Japan account or don't want to go through the hassle of making one.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Development on Atelier Rorona More or Less Complete

Been a little busy to update due to work, but things have calmed down now so I have a little more chance to update things here. Now, it seems like this is turning into a Gust/Compile Heart blog but I assure you that's not the intention. 3 niche games from those 2 companies are approaching completion so it's inevitable that there's a lot more information about them cropping up.

That said, on the Atelier Rorona's developer blog, it's mentioned that the staff is on a short holiday to relax from work. There will be a lot of things to do once the staff returns, but it's explicitly mentioned that the tasks on hand will not be related to Atelier Rorona at all. Whether it will be for Trinity Universe or the new Playstation 3 Gust game project is unknown.

Unless a similar issue with Atelier Annie occurs with Atelier Rorona where materials used for the limited edition paper weight doesn't meet new materials safety laws in Japan, it looks like the game itself will not be delayed. The preorder allotments for the premium box set and Gust store limited edition premium box sets are sold out in Japan so if you were looking to get the premium box set, I recommend you order soon from your online import shop of your choice.