Thursday, February 26, 2015

Danganronpa: Despair Girls, Review Links, Two Long Games, and Hand of Fate  


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BIG NEWS!!! So, in case you haven’t heard, NISA announced that they’re picking up the third Danganronpa game for US release this fall. Called Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls, it’s a third-person puzzle/action game… 


People who’ve played it tell me it’s awesome, and the past two titles have been pure greatness. GET HYPE!!!



If you’re in the mood for a little linkage, I got you covered.  

For starters, I guest on the @JoshAndJayShow podcast, and we chat about MH4U, Dying Light, Peter Molyneux, and a bunch of other random stuff. These guys put on one of my favorite pods, so give it a shot if you’re not already a fan.

In terms of new reviews, @Gamecritics ran a bunch over the last few days…

>Grow Home by @MikeSuskie

>Citizens of Earth by @JimB_85

>Kalimba by @GC_Danny

>Grey Goo by @Unangbangkay

>Gauntlet by @TayoGC

>Super Mega Baseball by Paul Stuart

>Fantasy Life by @TheGayGamer


>Guilty Gear Xrd –Sign- also by @KayinAmoh

>Rollers of the Realm by…. Me!  ^_^



Moving on to meatier topics, I talked about this on Twitter this morning, but I made a bit of an error… At least, an error in terms of how I usually like to play games.

In general, I don't like to take on more than one "big" thing at a time, and for me right now that's Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (which is awesome, so go buy it.) However, I also had a copy of Dying Light (also really great) and after talking to some people, it seemed like I could buzz through the critical path and get it knocked out. BUT, I ended up liking DL a lot more than I thought I would, and I've been doing all the side quests and, uh, greatly increasing my playtime.


Now I really enjoy both of these games, but the problem is that they're both BIG. Taking on the two of them at the same time was a real tactical error, because it means now I'm bouncing back and forth between two large-scale commitments, leaving me almost no time for other (smaller!) review opportunities, not to mention that I get a lot of personal satisfaction from completing games. If I go a long time without finishing one, it starts to get under my skin.

I don’t want to shelve either one, so I guess I need to rent a copy of The Order: 1886 and knock it out in an afternoon to get a quick “just finished something” high…



In other games news, I want to give a shout-out to Hand of Fate, currently on PS4, Xbox One and PC and handcrafted by Defiant Development in Australia. 
My full review is coming soonish, but basically the game reminds me a lot of playing Dungeons & Dragons in real life.


As it begins, the player is sitting across from a sinister fortuneteller, and he invites you to play his game. If you agree (and are you really going to say no? I mean, you just dropped $20 on the download…) he deals fancy cards and lays them in various shapes – these cards on the table in front of you make the "dungeon" that you go through.

Each card represents an enemy encounter, a friendly character, a shop, or some other random situation. The player chooses where to go and resolves each one as they come. Some non-combat cards have you relying on luck to choose a correct outcome (do you give the priest 5 food, or not?) and the combat cards transport the player to a small arena to actually fight things out, Arkham Asylum style.


There's a full campaign mode with the ultimate goal of eliminating the fortuneteller’s army before taking on the fortuneteller himself, but there's also an endless mode that works well with the randomized nature of the design. One notable feature is that the player can actually add or take cards away from the deck, customizing what kind of experience is had.

It's not the kind of thing that I binge for hours at a time, but I've been playing a couple of rounds a night, and I think it's pretty fantastic. Also, everyone I've recommended it to has fallen in love with it, but it seems like there are still a number of people out there who haven't heard about this little gem. If playing a card-based semi-roguelike Dungeons & Dragons simulator seems like a thing that might be of interest to you, it comes with my highest possible recommendation. 

Having nothing but a great time with it so far.


******************PR/NEWS/INFO******************



This Dying Light CE is MADNESS.

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From NISA:

We are happy to announce that there is a localized logo and new trailer available for Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, which will be available physically and digitally in North America and Europe in Fall 2015! To view the new trailer, please use the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v3OIa6teUE 

Second, we are also very happy to announce that the sadistically sinister Monokuma is back with Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, which will be making its way to North America and Europe in Fall 2015. This PlayStation®Vita exclusive will . This title will be available as both a physical and digital release. Unlike the first two games, players will take on the role of two heroines, Komaru Naegi and Toko Fukawa, in this action adventure game as they are thrust into a despair-ridden Towa City with one goal—escape. To view the new trailer, please use the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVxS__Kjkk 
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VIDEO: A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build

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VIDEO: Not A Hero

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VIDEO: The Charnel House

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CI Games today announced the official launch date of Lords of the Fallen: Ancient Labyrinth, the long-awaited DLC expansion that builds upon the existing lore, characters, and storyline of action-RPG hit Lords of the Fallen. Check out the video trailer.

Ancient Labyrinth incorporates an all-new storyline set in a long-forgotten library that exists somewhere between the human and demonic realms. With the DLC, players can explore the uncharted wilds of the Labyrinth, discover hidden secrets, and fight never-before-seen enemies with new weapons, shields, and armor, all in the name of destroying the evil that has shattered civilization.  Players can expect the same challenging gameplay as fan-favorite Lords of the Fallen, but with more rewards for playing through multiple times and exploring every dark corner of the Ancient Labyrinth.
Lords of the Fallen: Ancient Labyrinth DLC launches on Steam, Xbox One and PSN Europe on March 3rd and PlayStation 4 in the U.S. on March 4th.

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 Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital have announced that the much-anticipated sequel to the award-winning top-down shooter Hotline Miami will release March 10 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac, and Linux. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and the Digital Special Edition are both available for pre-order now on Steam, GOG, and Humble (http://store.steampowered.com/app/27417).

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the brutal conclusion to the Hotline Miami saga, set against a backdrop of escalating violence and retribution over spilled blood in the original game. Follow the paths of several distinct factions – each with their own questionable methods and uncertain motivations – as unforeseen consequences intersect and reality once again slips back into a brilliant haze of neon and bloodshed.

Hotline Miami fans can now pre-order to receive 10% off Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and the Digital Special Edition that includes the exclusive Hotline Miami 2: Remix EP featuring six select music tracks remixed by M|O|O|N, Scattle and Carpenter Brut.

Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital have also partnered with Overkill Software to introduce exclusive new Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number masks and a “Jacket” character pack for PAYDAY 2 free to owners of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and the Digital Special Edition (www.overkillsoftware.com/hotlinemiami2.)

For more information, please visit www.devolverdigital.com or follow @HotlineMiami and @DevolverDigital on Twitter. 

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Pointlessness of Physical, Dying Light Is Great & A Cyclops Appears  

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Random thought -- I've been a collector of physical games (meaning discs, cartridges, and so on) for quite a while, but I've noticed over the last year or two that I haven't really been going after it like I used to. Part of it is that more and more of the games that I like (usually smaller, experimental or niche titles) only exist in an electronic download format, but another part of it is the changing nature of the games themselves.

For anyone who's even been even halfway paying attention, the number of games that routinely ship with bugs and glitches these days is absurd. There's absolutely no question that developers and publishers see "ship it now, patch it later" as a normal, acceptable thing now, and in light of this, I see less and less value in having a physical disc. I mean, what’s the point of owning the plastic when so many games don't work properly without huge day-one patches.

I've always enjoyed collecting, not only because I like the art and because these games are kind of like trophies on my wall, but because I always thought that at some point in the future I'd be able to plug in some old systems and share these games with my kids and grandkids -- or in a worst-case scenario, I’d have something to keep me busy while I hide out in my post-apocalyptic bunker. That's just not possible anymore. 

Oh sure, there are still plenty of discs to buy and the cases still look just as pretty, but knowing that a large number of them won't work or that they'll have significant problems without being connected to the Internet has taken some spark out of it… The same enjoyment just isn't there.

It's kind of a sad realization after so many years of collecting, but I have to admit that there's no real purpose in dropping cash on what are effectively coasters… Are we to the end of the "functional software in a box" era? Perhaps.

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Although the Dying Light review for @Gamecritics was handled by @GC_Danny, I've been eager to play it for a while, and I just started it a few days ago.


Before I began, I was a little dismayed to see so many mediocre or indifferent reviews, and my Twitter feed was full of writers who were not shy about mentioning how bored they were, or how brown the game was. I took note of those criticisms, but at the same time, Dead Island (from the same developers) was a game that I deeply, deeply enjoyed and the critical sphere took great joy in crapping all over that, despite the fact that it went on to become a huge success with fans and spawned several offshoots. 

Suffice it to say, I expected that the same pattern might repeat here and I'm glad I didn't listen to the naysaying because I've been enjoying the hell out of it.


Calling a spade a spade, it's quite fair to say that Dying Light is Dead Island 2.0 with parkour added.  However, the parkour is pretty fab. It's great to be able to jump and climb on basically anything in the environment, and outmaneuvering zombies never gets old. Dodging through a crowd, climbing up to the top of a broken-down bus or nearby building, and then dropping Molotovs down from the roof delivers a laugh every time.

Many of the criticisms I read also talked about poor writing and a bad story… Although I'm still quite early in the main campaign, I can't see what all the complaining was about. Though the main plot isn't anything revolutionary, it gets the job done more than respectably.


Apart from that, I've been finding the sidequests to be fascinating. Lots of unusual situations and interesting characters have been popping up, not to mention more than a little comedy. Although I'm usually the type of person who goes down the critical path in most games, I've been having a great deal of fun going from quest to quest and seeing what they have to offer. 

Some of them are simple fetches (and I skip most of those) but a surprising number have a lot of dialogue, and it's great to see some of the same characters popping up over and over again. One guy who gets his arm cut off by the main villain pops up later, he remembers that I was there, and he references past events before engaging me in what he's doing now. It’s kind of awesome. By following these quests I get loads of story mini-arcs, and it’s satisfying to see how these characters are faring.


On the other hand, I can see how playing too much of this game at a time could wear someone out, which I suspect led to a lot of the reviewer apathy. I'm sure that if I was trying to beat the game on a deadline, eight or ten hours of it a day of it would get old really quickly. Since I’m just playing for fun (what a novel idea!) I've been pacing myself to doing two or three missions night, and sometimes indulging in some of the random events that pop up as well. (There are lots!)At this pace, it still feels fresh and engaging, and I look forward to playing every night. In fact, it feels almost like going through the adventure in real-time, day by day.

While I’m generally happy overall, the game doesn’t offer a manual save (GRR!) and it doesn’t always autosave when I make it to a safe house – it’s the most insane decision ever.

Another criticism which comes to mind is that the developers need to let go of their preference towards weapon degradation. Weapons fall apart really quickly at the beginning, and while that can be eased over time with certain skills and better gear later on, I don't think the systems here really add all that much to the formula. I mean, I end up carrying 12 weapons in my backpack because I'm afraid the one I'm using is going to fall apart, so there’s no real tension or risk/reward there. 


I also think less environmental scavenging would be good. I find myself sometimes blowing past areas which have loot just because I don't want to take the time to search or leave myself open to zombie attack, and when I do scavenge, it's usually a bunch of the same stuff… I mean, there’s no thrill in finding my 75th bag of coffee beans, you know? Perhaps fewer opportunities to loot but with greater rewards would be a better way to go, making it feel like more of a special thing and less of a chore.


Overall, I'm really, really enjoying Dying Light and it's been delivering pretty much everything that I wanted from it, and even more in some respects. If you’re even remotely inclined towards giving it a try, I say do so.

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In other games news: Still playing Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate (of course) although after logging about 120 hours, I'm slowing down a bit. The battles are getting tougher and it's requiring more strategy, so I'm waiting for some of my fellow hunters to catch up before doing some of the group stuff.

Also, still playing Marvel Puzzle Quest. Just recruited Cyclops to the team earlier this evening. It's been quite a while since I read any X-books, so I was surprised by his costume. 



I’d never seen this one before and I have absolutely no idea what's going on in the world of the X-Men, but he was always a character that I enjoyed so it was great to see him again. Seems like he's got some nifty powers coming too. 

Speaking of which, my Luke Cage is almost maxed, and although I wasn't sure about him at first, he's become a recent favorite. If you play the game, my build for him is 5/3/5 because he hits like a wrecking ball in yellow and black, and I’d rather have that high offensive output rather than the little bits of defense over time that his red provides.

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Couple of quick links -- the first one is for Monster Hunter weapon tutorials from @AEvanko. I've linked to this before, but these tutorials are superb and I'm going to continue to share as much information as I can in the hope of getting more people to play Monster Hunter!


The second link is the Persona 5 trailer which is so goddamn stylish that it hurts. I wasn't sure how I was feeling about the idea of another Persona game after putting so much time into three and four, but one look at that trailer and I was instantly pumped. Fantastic stuff!




Finally, here are the latest reviews to hit @Gamecritics:

> My review of Rollers of the Realm (Vita)

> @KayinAmoh's review of Guilty Gear Xrd Sign (PS4)

> Criminial Girls: Invite Only (Vita) also from @KayinAmoh


Thanks for reading!

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Monday, February 9, 2015

MH4U Is Coming, Life Is Strange, and Sonic All-Stars Transformed  

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Only four-ish more days until Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate comes out.




I’m quite excited for the game to hit shelves and for all of my friends to join in the multiplayer for some hunts, but it’s also a bit bizarre for me - although we often get pre-release copies for review at @Gamecritics, it's pretty rare we get them as far ahead of time as I got this one. I've had the full game for about three weeks or so, maybe a little bit longer, so while people haven't even jumped into it yet, I’ve got pretty close to 100 hours logged!

My full review will go up on February 10 when the embargo drops, so look for that soon. However, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that I'm not the kind of person who puts 100 hours into a bad game, so take that as you will…



With such a huge amount of time poured into Monster Hunter, I haven't had much time for anything else, but I took a break from hunting tonight to dip into Life Is Strange from DONTNOD Entertainment.




(Side note: Are these guys intentionally jinxing themselves with the names they come up with? DONTNOD, as in, don’t nod off while playing and fall asleep! And their last game was Remember Me, as in, please don’t find it too forgettable! Come on folks, this is all so awkward…)

Anyway, the general consensus on Twitter was that it was something worth dipping into, and since it's episodic in nature, I figured investing two hours and $5 in the first episode wasn't too much of a risk.

Essentially it's a Telltale-style adventure (Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us, etc.) where the player walks around the world, exploring things and talking to people. No QTEs at all, though. Besides that, the most notable thing about it for me is that the protagonist is an average 18yo girl, and the people she meets pretty normal and realistic. Of course, videogame realistic, but realistic all the same. 




The hook to the game is that the main character can rewind time, so whenever something comes up in the plot that seems important, the player has a chance to pull a do-over and make a different choice if things don't happen the way they think it should. At one point, one of your friends gets hit in the face with a football, so you can either let her get hit in the face (not really sure why you would…) or you can warn her by going back in time and telling her to move before it happens.

First impressions of Life Is Strange is that it gives off a really heavy Twin Peaks kind of vibe… It’s set in a small town in Oregon, and it seems like everybody is either really creepy or has something to hide. Right off the bat, the game introduces the disappearance of a well-known and beautiful girl (no, her name is not Laura Palmer) and it seems like everybody had some kind of relationship with her. It's a fine enough premise to base a game on, although I have to say that it felt a little bit forced. Getting to know the main character and living in her skin for just a little while longer before launching into the missing girl arc would have made a little more sense to me.

Another thing that struck me is that since the game feels so realistic, it really shines a light on how absurd some things are in games. For example, when I had a goal, I would go straight to my goal and not do much else along the way, controlling the main character the way I’d behave in real life. If I was going to my room to retrieve a hard drive, why would I stop and erase someone's bulletin board in the hallway, or poke my nose into someone's room if they weren’t there?  


Clearly the developers want to add things for the player to interact and experiment with, but it was hard for me to do because it felt like I was doing illogical things given the level of realism, as opposed to the gamey artificiality of JRPGs where villagers don’t care if you steal every damn thing they own.  I mean, I'm playing an 18-year-old girl who’s reserved and pretty quiet… Why would I be poking my nose in places where it didn't belong?

Incidentally, the game shows your choices at the end of the episode, just like Telltale does. This time, they’re broken up into major story beats and a bunch of minor actions you can take, and I noticed that I did almost none of the small ones. Not surprising given how I felt like I shouldn’t be disturbing things or screwing around as I went.




Otherwise, I've heard some people say that the writing was awkward or unnatural, but I didn't find that to be true. Some word choices were a little odd and some of the discussions didn't really link up properly, though. Nothing egregious, but there were definitely little missteps here and there, probably based on trying to accommodate the particular choices I made. At one point I have a run-in with a real jerkoff security guard, so when I found info on this guy later, I expected my character to express distress or surprise, but there wasn't really any reaction there. Odd.

Although I think the episode was a little slow and inert, I'm inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt due to the unusual protagonist and realistic setting. Although there are a couple of supernatural elements, it seems as though it's going to play out like a standard murder-mystery, and we don't really get many of those on console. At any rate, I felt like I got five dollars’ worth of play out of this first episode, and I’ll definitely check in on the second.




One random thing I meant to blog about earlier, but forgot until just now: If you caught the @Gamecritics GOTY show, then you know that “we” picked Mario Kart 8 as our game of the year. Personally, I wouldn't have guessed that as our winner in a million years, but the votes were the votes, so what can you do?

Anyway, I hadn’t played it by the time we recorded that show, so I figured I should give it a spin. Gamefly sent it shortly after, so my son and I put a little of time in. Honestly, it seemed to me like standard Mario Kart -- not terrible by any means, but nothing really outstanding, either.




By sheer chance, Gamefly sent Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed (dat title!) just a couple of days later, and my son and I thought that was a more exciting, more entertaining game by a large margin. 

(It was brought to my attention by @TwinHumanities, so a shout-out to them!) 

Although the two games are essentially the same at the core, Sonic’s mechanic of transforming from a car to a plane to a boat (and back again) was pretty neat, the sense of speed was great, and the tracks were quite impressive with lots to look at, plenty of callouts for Sega fans, and frequent changes in topography. For example, during the first lap of a race, the player would have to go through in car mode. Coming around on the second lap, the track would fall away, requiring a quick transformation into aerial mode… Stuff like that.

Anyway, I don't remember many people talking about this game (because Sonic I’m guessing) but despite the fact that most of the games in that series have been pure crap lately, this one was a great time, and it easily eclipsed Mario Kart in our household.

If you haven't given it a try, it's worth a look!


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Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Life With Monster Hunter: A Confessional  

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This post has been a long time coming.

Back when Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate was still going strong, I was convinced to write words about my history with the series and why I enjoy it so much… but I just never got around to it.

Mea culpa.

Now that we’re literally days away from Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate, there's no possible excuse for procrastinating any further.

To anyone who’s been waiting, my apologies for the delay. Also, this piece is dedicated to @J_Monster, who can take down an Azure Rathalos in approximately 42 seconds.

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…So, Monster Hunter.

My history with the series has been a strange one, although I suppose that's fair since the series is somewhat strange itself.

A very rough start.

I can clearly recall seeing the very first trailer for the game back in 2004 or so.

Although it wasn’t clear at the time how much was gameplay and how much was staged for show, the concepts were outstanding. Seeing hunters run through a forest with enormous weapons while fighting huge monsters? That was absolutely up my alley. And the suggestions of multiplayer? At the time I wasn't sure how it could possibly work given the limits of the PS2 technology, but I had already been a huge fan of Capcom for years by this point, so I was more than ready to see what they were going to deliver.

When the game actually came out… Well, let's just say that ‘disappointment’ doesn’t even begin to capture those feelings.

F*** this guy.

Although it wasn’t quite the all-out action I expected, the balance of going into town to craft items and take care of inventory before going out to kill monsters in the wild was fine. However, in this first iteration, attacking was controlled by moving the analog sticks. As anyone might guess, it was a pretty insane system. Worse, the game explained absolutely nothing about how it worked, or what was expected of me. I struggled through blindly until I made it to a desert area where the sand-swimming Cephadrome whupped my ass with impunity, so I threw up my hands in frustration and called it quits.

Better, but still lacking.

I didn't pay any attention to the various PSP versions that came later, but at some point on Twitter, I recall Dakota Grabowski running a contest and offering Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii as one of the prizes. I was lucky enough to win, so I figured trying a free copy to see how far the game had come was no great loss.

(So ultimately, getting back into the game was all his fault.)

Anyhow, it turned out that Tri was a huge improvement over the PS2 original, and good enough to get me to play to the end of the singleplayer campaign. However, I still walked away from it unsatisfied. Despite rolling credits, I didn't quite understand all the systems, and I didn't feel as though I got the experience that I was after. This “Big Monsters+Big Weapons” formula in Tri was missing something, so I turned to the most recent PSP version hoping that it would score where the others didn’t.

Dat Nargacuga!

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite was considered to be quite good in certain circles, so I tracked down a copy of that, and to be frank, Freedom Unite was absolutely amazing – it was just miles and miles better than what Tri delivered. This little UMD (remember those?) came packed with hundreds of hours of content, a vast menagerie of deadly creatures, and systems that were deeper than pretty much anything else I had seen at the time. It made Tri look shallow and dull, and I finally started to get a taste of what I was after.  

300 hours, yo.

Of course, it’s worth noting that to play effectively on the PSP, a person had to master "The Claw" -- a ridiculous hand contortion needed to move the d-pad and analog nub at the same time. It is an absolute testament to the quality of that game that I put up with doing The Claw for over 300 hours, and I doubt there are any other games that I’d ever do it for again.

So, to sum up my Monster Hunter journey: I saw a really cool trailer ten-ish years ago, tried different versions of the game and was let down with all of them, and then finally came across a technically deficient handheld version that sucked me in and never let go.



But what exactly was it that sold me so hard once I got in?

Well, I think what I like most about the series is that there’s such a strong vision that connects the art design, the combat, and the world. It was clear to see in the original trailer, and it’s the sort of thing that I haven’t commonly seen in games over the last thirty years.

Hey, quit eating that honey, you slob! I need that!

I found it quite fascinating to be able to go into a wilderness area to collect resources which were found in logical, natural places, and be able to observe monsters going about their business. For example, Honey is used to create Mega Potions to restore life on a quest, but to get the honey, a player needs to find… Beehives. It seems totally obvious, but the average game would have the honey in the nearest shop and make the player earn money to buy it. There are dozens of other instances like this, from going out to mine for ore, fishing for piscine parts, and so on. (Also, it’s totally common to see ants collecting the honey, or even a hungry Arzuros raiding the hives once in a while.)

An instantly-identifiable dragonslayer. 

It was also amazing to see that the artists and designers at Capcom took so much time to incorporate this idea of the natural world being such a factor into the player’s weaponry and armor. Rather than spending gold on an arbitrary piece of gear, every single thing the player wears or uses in battle is a trophy of previous successes. Very often, it's visually obvious to see where gear comes from just by looking at it – The scales and clawtips on a Rathalos helmet could only have come from the flying dragon itself, Khezu armor is just as pale and flabby as the cave-dweller is, and in general, the numerous bits and bobs from slain beasts are interwoven in all the designs. This expression of being a hunter speaks volumes about reinforcing the idea of the player’s role in a natural world.

Taking this same idea further, it’s over-the-top impressive that the developers crafted so many non-essential details to observe, and even made a whole library of cutscenes to flesh out the game’s ecology. Hang back in the shadows, and a Volvidon will use its long tongue to grab insects. The Barroth hangs out in mud pits, and the right bait on a beach will catch a Plesioth. As far as the videos I mentioned, most don't even appear during the game at all, but are instead found in an extras menu! This scene of the Qurupeco fishing is a favorite. That so much time and energy was devoted to creating these clips of the animals stalking their prey or having a goofy moment in their home territory show that the devs went the extra mile when approaching world creation, considering how it might really be if this nature existed, and imagining what if.

That same level of care and detail extends to the game’s technical side. For example, each weapon type has an amazing amount of depth. People coming to the series without taking the time to understand how it works often complain about how slow it feels, or how they can't get the same kind of ‘action-y’ feeling they might get from a God of War, or something similar – and that’s correct. Monster Hunter is not that game. However, each weapon is incredibly rich and strategic, and they must be understood to be appreciated.

Even Snake loves the Greatsword!

For example, when I tell people that my favorite weapon is the Greatsword, the first thing they inevitably say is "Oh my god, it's so slow"… Which it is, but only in a certain sense.
This massive blade is the signature weapon of the Monster Hunter series, and rightfully so. It's immense, intimidating, and absolutely effective when wielded properly, but like the other weapons, it requires work. Instead of swinging it around like a barbarian entering the fray, it's best used when the hunter knows where the prey is going to be, and even then, only to deal one or two massive slices before being sheathed as the hunter dodges away. This sort of "sniping" tactic isn’t what people expect, and is much more nuanced than one would assume at first glance.

The same goes for all the other weapons, from the way the Longsword encourages aggressive play in order to activate its special buffing power, or the way the Light Bowgunner needs to learn the elemental weaknesses of the monsters he's hunting in order to maximize the gun’s lower firepower, but greater flexibility. Each weapon is a complete experience unto itself, and the combat amply rewards people who find a favorite and fully engage.

Be afraid. 

The monsters that are hunted with the weapons demonstrate just as much depth. Upon seeing one for the first time, it's always overwhelming and maybe even a bit frightening. Learning their patterns and habits the way a real hunter would is fantastic – Which places do they frequent? Where do they go to hide? -- and a battle that seems impossible soon becomes easily accomplished with a little bit of thought and the right loadout. Perished from the poison of the Rathian’s tail sting? Bring Antidotes next time. Having a tough time taking down two Tigrexes at once? Hope you’ve got some Dung Bombs in your pack. Each creature has its own specific behaviors, and numerous details in its attacks, its physical makeup, and in its environment that (again!) reinforce the idea that this is a natural world that all makes sense when put together.

Stick together.

Of course, a large part of Monster Hunter is the ability to hunt with friends, and although I’ve enjoyed and completed all of the single player campaigns, this is probably the only game where I truly, truly enjoy doing the multiplayer with other people.

Never leave home without it.

Working out team strategies about how to tackle a big monster adds yet another layer on top of an already-deep game, and going into battle with each player having their own specialty is amazing. Who’s in charge of traps? Did you bring a paintball? Distract the beast over there while I sharpen my blade. There's just so much opportunity for different dynamics, and so many ways to see the battles play out based on how many people are in the party, what weapons they're using, what resources are available, and what environment the battle is in.

The best thing is that little moments of emergent gameplay constantly pop up, and everyone who's ever played for any length of time inevitably has their own stories – that time a companion Felyne knocked a monster down at just the right moment and saved their ass, when they pulled off an incredible hit that knocked a dragon out of the skies, or when a split-second dodge escaped a crushing blow.

Some people describe Monster Hunter as quasi-MMO -- and perhaps that's true -- but the roots of the experience are squarely centered in Capcom’s action game history. The series has never lost sight of the exciting, visceral thrill of going up against a massive monster and emerging victorious, and I’m glad.

Looks impressive, but I hope you know how to fire it.

Of course, grinding out items to get better gear is absolutely important, but even more important is the player’s skill. Having a big sword is great, but the game demands mastery of a split-second sort. Without intimate familiarity with the prey and the knowledge of how to play the game, the kind of gear one has doesn't matter at all. I’ve seen some incredible players achieve incredible victories while their characters are nearly naked, proving that skill is absolutely integral to a successful hunt.



So, why do I love Monster Hunter so much?

I hope this brief writeup has gone some way towards explaining my love of the series. It really is a unique, monumental title that not only created its own genre, but continually outdoes itself with every new iteration. It keeps getting bigger, deeper, more nuanced and more complex, and unlike so many others, remains engaging on nearly every level.
I really can't think of many other games out there that come together in such a perfect package, so when all is said and done, I guess that’s why you could say I'm a fan.


And I am.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Links, Monster Hunter, Catching Squirrel Girl, and Culling The Backlog.  

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Welcome back to Coffeecola! Starting off tonight, here are some links to some recent reviews over at my home base, @Gamecritics:


Hatoful Boyfriend by @Apricotsushi




Never Alone by @JimB_85




In other linkage, here’s our Game Of The Year podcast. I'm sure most of you have probably heard it already, but just in case, here you go. Oh, and brace yourself for our GOTY selection… It’s absolutely not what you’d expect.

If you want something else to listen to, I was a recent guest on the @Father_Nation Podcast, and I talked with Jesse Foster about my views on parenting, videogames and kids, homeschooling, appreciating wives, and more. It's all about being a dad and not so much about videogames, but if you want to hear some of my other views and to get to know me a little better, here's your shot.

I asked folks to send me their own personal GOTY lists, and here’s a brief list of sumbissions. Check ‘em out and feel free to disagree all you want!



Now, moving onto games…


If you were one of the select few, Nintendo emailed you demo codes for the upcoming Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. I was lucky enough to get some, so I've been playing the demo with my wife and some friends, and I couldn't be more excited. I'm going to reserve my in-depth comments for now since I'm sure I’ll be talking about it quite a bit once it hits, but I will share a couple of resources right now.


First off, if you're a person who's been thinking about jumping into the series but you don't really know anything about it, I strongly recommend this Monster Hunter Beginner’s Guide by Roy Blakely, also known as @Kotowari. 

I've been through the guide myself and his advice is 100% spot-on. The only caveat with this is that the guide was based on MH3U, and has not been updated for MH4U. As such, there are (of course) going to be some differences between the versions, but the core information and instructions here still apply. It's still an excellent resource to get started.

Another great resource is this starter’s list explaining the weapons, accompanied by brief commentary. Written by @AEvanko, his Gaijin Hunter blog is written with the hand of someone who really understands the game on an expert level.

Noooooooooooo!

Finally, one last thing about Monster Hunter before I move on… Basically, kind of an embarrassing admission. I went to Amazon a couple of days ago to check on the status of my preorders, and I just about fell over in shock when I realized that I had completely forgotten to order the collector’s edition of MH4U. I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that I had ordered two copies of the CE, but when I checked, there was absolutely nothing there… I was thunderstruck.

I have no idea how it happened, but it totally slipped my mind and now not only is the collectors edition sold out, the Gamestop Monster Hunter-themed 3DS was also sold out before I had a chance to order. There are no words.



Here’s a quick update on @MarvelPuzzle Quest: the current PVE reward is a brand-new character, Squirrel Girl. 


I've never heard of her before and I've never read anything with her in it, but apparently she's pretty popular… The competition is fierce at the moment, so she must have a pretty loyal legion of fans.



Finally, on the most recent @Gamecritics podcast (it hasn't been published yet, but look for it on Monday or Tuesday) we talked about how much time we have to play games, how much of a chance we give games to hook us before we kick them to the curb, and so forth. It got me thinking about my backlog, which is huge. It may not be as big as some people (@Horrorgeek and @Finalmacstorm, I’m looking at you guys) but it's pretty big.

I felt like I should be perfectly honest with myself in admitting that I wasn't going to ever touch some of these titles given what limited free time I have and the huge amount of new stuff coming down the pipe every day, so I decided to cull the herd and get rid of stuff that I'm pretty sure I’ll never play.

You are never going to be played!!!

I've listed the titles below that got the axe (of course, these are just physical copies… I haven't taken a tally of my downloads yet) but I feel pretty safe in saying that these ones aren't anything that I’ll be missing out on. 

That said, if any of you have any strong feelings about any of these, or any reasons why I should take another look at them in a critical sense, let me know. Any titles on this list that don't receive any votes of support are going into a cardboard box that will eventually be stored right next to the Ark of the Covenant in that big warehouse.


THE NIXED LIST

Vita:
Natural Doctrine – ridiculous difficulty

PS3:
God of War: Ascension – had enough of Kratos
Uncharted 3 – heard it was crap, not a big UC fan to begin with
Under Defeat HD

360:
Burnout Paradise
Devil May Cry 4 – got halfway, bailed
Eternal Sonata
Fracture
Lost Odyssey – stopped halfway, forgot where I was
Red Faction: Guerrilla – got halfway, bailed
Resident Evil 6 – do I even need to say anything?
Risen 2: Dark Waters – heard Risen 3 is the same thing, but better
Sniper Elite V2
SSX
The First Templar
The Last Remnant – heard it was hella busted
Venetica
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise – Had enough w/ the first one

Edit: Singularity was on this list, but I had a number of folks chip in and say it was worth a play, so Singularity has been returned to the backlog! 


WiiU:
Rayman Legends – hate the art, don’t like the too-harsh gameplay.

Wii:
A Boy and His Blob
Alice in Wonderland
Boom Blox – elbow strain
De Blob – control issues
Fishing Resort
Madworld – Got halfway through, didn’t care for it
Monster Lab
No More Heroes 2 – I hate Suda 51’s stuff
Red Steel 2 – no WiiMotion Plus
Safecracker

PS2:
Baroque
Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer
The DaVinci Code
Disgaea 2
Drakengard – recall it running like crap
Drakengard 3
Kingdom Hearts – camera issues
Final Fantasy XII – waiting for an HD remaster
Manhunt 2



***************PR/NEWS/INFO***************



The Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell launch trailer

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Achtung! Berlin is burning and Adolf Hitler has risen from his grave to gather an army of Undead Super Soldiers who are poised to spill blood and guts across Europe. Only one thing stands in their way – you, and the fleshy sacks bristling with guns and explosives you call your best friends. 

Zombie Army Trilogy, rising early 2015, gives Xbox One gamers and PlayStation 4 gamers their first chance to experience the blood-pumping co-op shooter series that became a cult sensation on PC. Former enemies become allies as the living fight against the dead. 
Packed with apocalyptic new content and two eye-popping remasters Zombie Army Trilogy also includes the never-seen-before third instalment in the series and a brand new horde mode, delivering the ultimate package for fans of adrenaline-fuelled gunplay and harrowing intensity.  
Zombie Army Trilogy will be self-published by Rebellion on all formats and will be available for download via Xbox Live, the Playstation Network and Steam for PC. A retail version will also be available.

·       Battle through 15 gut-wrenching missions spanning THREE epic campaigns across the irradiated, demon-infested ruins of World War Two Germany.
·       Wrestle the occult powers in the campaign and across FIVE terrifying horde maps. Face the horrors alone or fight back-to-back in 2-4 player online co-op.
·       Fight as elite sniper, Karl Fairburne or one of EIGHT playable heroes including FOUR new female characters, armed with over 25 iconic weapons and explosive traps.
·       Take on legions of Undead Super Soldiers, Armoured Skeletons, Zombie Snipers, Chainsaw Elites, Fire Demons and more, before facing the demonic Hitler himself in a final stand to decide the fate of mankind!
·       Bask in the gruesome glow of the infamous X-Ray Kill Cam, and watch in gory detail as rotting flesh and organs are shredded from the inside.
·       Experience haunting environments and intense-action, all framed in bloody beautiful 1080p.

For PC gamers, Zombie Army Trilogy will be available to pre-order today via Steam or the Rebellion Gamestore
As a thank you to the fans that made the series a cult hit, Rebellion are also offering an exclusive loyalty discount to owners of the first two Nazi Zombie Army games via Steam before launch.
The official website, www.ZombieArmy.com has been unleashed on the interwebs with more information and FREE content including an exclusive MP3 album of atmospheric compositions from the game’s soundtrack by Nick D Brewer.

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We are delighted to announce that the dungeon-crawling action RPG adventure,Brandish: The Dark Revenant, will be available for digital download on January 13, 2015 in North America for the PSP (PlayStation®Portable) system at a price point of $19.99. This title will be fully compatible with the PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system and PlayStation®TV system at launch. 
Featuring an innovative "world turning" mechanic, players will be immersed in a third person real-time dungeon-crawling adventure with a first person flair, dungeon walls rotating around their avatar as each corner is turned. 

 Check out the new official website at http://brandishpsp.com/

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The first wave of PlayStation®4 players is set to deploy to Auraxis on January 20, 2015. Today, Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE) announced that the critically-acclaimed, free-to-play massively multiplayer online first-person shooter (MMOFPS), PlanetSide 2, will enter Closed Beta for the PlayStation 4 (PS4) computer entertainment system in North America this month.

Starting with a few thousand initial invites, the amount of players with access to the Closed Beta will steadily increase through the Beta period. Players will be invited to the Beta in chronological order of when they signed up. Players can opt in by email for a chance to participate in the Closed Beta through the PlanetSide 2 website:https://www.planetside2.com/ps2onps4.

PlanetSide 2 Closed Beta will begin on Jan. 20, 2015 for the PlayStation 4, with a full PS4 launch slated for later this year. For additional details on the PlayStation 4 version, visit the PlanetSide 2 FAQ: https://www.planetside2.com/faq.

More information can be found in Executive Producer Clint Worley's blog post:http://blog.us.playstation.com/2015/01/07/planetside-2-closed-beta-hits-ps4-january-20th/.

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Etrian Mystery Dungeon is going to be a doozie when it comes out in spring 2015. The roguelike RPG from Atlus and Spike Chunsoft will bring delight to your ears when it launches, because we're including a soundtrack CD with pre-orders and limited first-run copies of EMD. We have more details coming soon, but for now, enjoy the splendor of the brand new trailer! So if you were wondering how Etrian Odyssey and Mystery Dungeon fit together, there you go! 

YouTube

Plus, if you missed our Twitch Livestream, you can access the archive here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI0jf0N2eZ4 

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NIS America has a few awesome announcements for you before the year ends and the wonderful new year begins.

We are very excited to officially announce that the next entry in the long-lived Disgaea series, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is making its way to North America and Europe in Fall 2015, for the PlayStation®4 entertainment system! Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance will be available as both a physical and digital release. 

Second, we are also very happy to announce that the dungeon crawler RPG, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy will be making its way to North America and Europe in March of 2015, available on the PlayStation®Vita. This title will be available as a physical and digital release. Website and trailer will be coming soon, so please keep an eye out for it!

Last but not least, we are pleased to announce that The Awakened Fate Ultimatum will be coming to North America on March 17, 2015 and to Europe on March 20, 2015, only on the PlayStation®3! The game will be available as a physical and digital release. We also have a our first batch of English screenshots for this game, which can be viewed on our asset page below. 

A limited edition of the title is also available for pre-order from the NISA Online Store.

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Independent video game developer DrinkBox Studios announced today that it is bringing the distinctively strange world of its highly anticipated adventure game Severed exclusively to the PlayStation®Vita system in Spring of 2015. Filled with ghastly enemies, including three-headed constellations, six-armed swordmasters and beasts made of crows, Severed has players take control of a one-armed heroine wielding a living sword as she knits together pieces of her story from both the past and the future.

As the heroine, players will embark on a journey through a surreal, nonlinear world by using a touch-based combat mechanic to defeat enemies in this first-person adventure. During their journey, warriors will unlock new abilities, discover secrets of the mysterious world, and grow in power as they master both offensive and defensive techniques

For more information regarding Severed please visit the game’s website, or DrinkBox Studios’ Facebook and Twitter pages. The new Severed trailer can be found here.

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Leading and award-winning developer and publisher of digital entertainment Telltale Games, and world-renowned game developer Mojang, today announced that 'Minecraft: Story Mode - A Telltale Games Series' is in development and is set to premiere in 2015.

 Minecraft: Story Mode will be an all-new narrative-driven, episodic game series, developed by Telltale in collaboration with Mojang and members of the Minecraft community.  Set in the world of Minecraft, the game series will introduce new characters and familiar themes, but will be an entirely original Minecraft experience inspired by the game that continues to inspire a generation.

Minecraft: Story Mode will be a standalone product, separate from the core Minecraft game, and will be available to download in 2015 on Xbox consoles, PlayStation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android-based devices.

Minecraft: Story Mode - A Telltale Games Series is currently in development, and is not yet rated by the ESRB. The series will be published digitally in 2015 by Telltale Games in partnership with Mojang.

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Independent developer Dennaton Games, rogue publisher Devolver Digital, and creative production company iam8bit announced that the Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number three-disc vinyl Collector’s Edition will unleash aural fury onto your ears in early 2015. Fans can now pre-purchase Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number via a substantially awesome analog offer presented on 180-gram vinyl for $60. The Collector’s Edition includes a colorful three-disc vinyl set that hosts the 28 ecstasy-fueled songs from the game and a collectable phone card containing a download code for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and the full digital soundtrack download on Steam.  

The colorful set can be pre-purchased direct from the iam8bit store starting today (http://store.iam8bit.com/collections/hotline-miami).

The tri-fold jacket encasing the vinyl features original artwork by Niklas Akerblad, the Swedish artist responsible for the striking cover art for both Hotline Miami games. The three discs include music from returning Hotline Miami artists such as M|O|O|N, El Huervo and Perturbator and newHotline Miami artists Megadrive, Mitch Murder, and Magic Sword.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the follow up to the stylish top-down shooter Hotline Miami from independent developer Dennaton Games. The original game continues to be a critical and commercial success since its launch in 2012 that resulted in more than a dozen Game of the Year nominations and awards from game critics and more than a million copies sold. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is set to launch on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita in Q1 2015.


For more information on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number please visit www.devolverdigital.com or follow us on Twitter @devolverdigital and @hotlinemiami.

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