Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quick Looks at Natural Doctrine, Danganronpa 2, Walking Dead Pinball, and a load of links!  


So, PAX Prime is this week. Like... WHOA.

It kinda snuck up on me, there. Really looking forward to it for a number of reasons, but top of the list? Hands-on with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate!  

Planning to do at least one podcast from the show with @RichardNaik, but we'll see how it goes. Any requests for me to check out a specific game, hit me up here or on Twitter and let me know!


LINKS: Here's some quick links to stuff you might have missed... 

>@Gamecritics Podcast, Episode 115: The Souls show (Demon's, Dark, Dark 2) featuring yours truly, @Nelsormensch (from Mark of the Ninja), @Sajon77 (from MIT's Gambit Game Lab and Harmonix's Fantasia) and @Toupsi from the @Gaymebar podcast (which is consistently awesome.) 


>I also made a guest appearance on the @CaneAndRinse Podcast, and the subject was Hideo Kojima's underplayed classic, Snatcher


>I review Ultra Street Fighter IV  (And speaking of which, the good folks over at Capcom have created a little visual guide to the roster growth of SF IV… Click on the title of each game to see how the cast has grown.) 


>And I also review indie darling The Swapper.


PREVIEW: NIS America recently sent me a code for Natural Doctrine -- a strategy RPG I've been curious about for a while. I haven't had much time to get into it, but here's a quick rundown.

Story-wise, it's no great shakes and I'm not expecting much from the rest of the game. It starts by very briefly introducing four mercenaries who don't have much personality, and little context is given. It seems like a very typical Japanese fantasy game with a lot of names that are hard to remember and a lot of talk without much reason to care about it.

Graphically, it's not too strong, either. I’m playing on the Vita, and the graphics are on par with a mid-range PS2 title. Environments and character models are pretty simple. Not unattractive, just… serviceable. However, while those two aspects aren’t impressive, the game does have some meat where it counts -- the strategy.

Rather than being divided into squares or hexes, each area is divided up into zones which can hold a certain number of characters. (Four normal size humans/two large orcs, etc.) This works in tandem with a system where characters are able to support each other if they’re positioned correctly, so if attacks are focused on one person from teammates in the same zone, then the team-up gives multiple bonuses and power-ups. Poor planning gets characters killed in a hurry, and smart planning wipes enemies out with surprising efficiency. The design of the system is actually quite interesting, and requires a player to think more strategically then the average title of this type, at least so far.

Supplementing the team-ups is a system where the player can interrupt the order of enemy turns by killing the enemy who’s next to go. Furthermore, slower characters can take extra turns if they team up correctly with teammates who have higher speed. It's still a bit murky for me at the moment since the game doesn’t spend much effort on tutorials, but the structure is easy to pick up on. I’m missing some of the nuances, but what I've dipped into has been quite intriguing.

In terms of pace, the levels are fairly long… Although I've seen pictures of the game running on PS4 and it does look better, I think I was wise to choose it on the Vita. Knowing my play habits, I'm more likely to chip away at lengthy levels on a handheld, rather than sitting down for marathon sessions in front of my TV, especially with something like this where the attraction is in the strat and not the bells and whistles. The tradeoff of graphics for convenience was a smart move, I think.

Although it needs more polish in a few areas (devs, do NOT make me sit through turns of characters who aren’t even on screen, k?) and I’m guessing many will be quick to write it off, Natural Doctrine has had no problem keeping my attention. There’s definitely some weight in the tactics, and while it might take a little while to dig it out, it’s been promising so far. More to come on this one, and a full review is in the works.

Speaking of full reviews, I just turned in my piece after finishing Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.

In case you're not familiar with this new series, it's basically about a bunch of high school kids who are forced to kill each other in order to survive. It plays like a visual novel, although it has some "courtroom battles" where the player tries to make a point or present some evidence in an action-minigame sort of way. It's similar to Phoenix Wright, although the pace is much faster. If this sounds like a good thing to you, you can check out my review of the first game here.

After loving that game pretty hard, I was a little skeptical that the developers would be able to do much better, but they have proved me so, so wrong. Danganronpa 2 is at least as good as the first, and debatably better. I had a fabulous time with it and the full review will be up soon, but I'm just going to spoil it right here… It's awesome. Don’t miss.

In other games news, I've been playing the Walking Dead table that was recently released for Zen Pinball 2. I totally suck at pinball, I am absolutely not an expert on pinball, and I really don't know much about the finer points of pinball table design or what makes a good pinball experience, but I've been having a great time with this, honestly.

Hearing the voice clips from season one and seeing familiar faces represented on the board is great, and the little minigames and interesting features (Snipe the zombies! Play soccer with Clem!) that pop up are a nice touch. 

I've never played Zen Pinball 2 before tonight, but I suspect I'll be putting some time into it fairly regularly from here on out.

TV: I'm a little late to the party on this one, but the wife and I just watched the final episode of Warehouse 13, and I have to say that I am genuinely sorry to see the series end. The characters always had great chemistry and the premise of finding famous artifacts imbued with magic was neat. Even if the plots were a little loopy at times, the episodes were always enjoyable and didn't take themselves too seriously… Every time I watched I had fun, and that's not something I can say for many shows.

Thanks for all the good times, guys. You'll be missed! 
While I'll be mourning it for some time to come, I am grateful that the writers were given the opportunity to wrap the show up in a graceful way, rather than having it unceremoniously yanked off the air and leaving fans hanging. (Reaper, anyone?) Although I wasn't entirely satisfied with the final ep and would've done something different with Pete and Myka, I thought it was a solid send-off, and I was content.

If you've never seen the show, it's definitely a good one, and now it's even easier to recommend knowing that there are a finite number of episodes and that it has a solid conclusion. If you need a lighthearted series with a fantasy twist to jump into, have no fear.


The Walking Dead pinball, Zen Studios’ latest digital pinball table based on The Walking Dead from Telltale Games and Robert Kirkman, the Eisner Award-winning creator and writer of The Walking Dead for his Skybound imprint at Image Comics, is now available across a variety of platforms. The new table brings the excitement and suspense of the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead along with a bevy of great features, including all-new voice work from the original Season One cast, compelling game modes, and more. Zen and Telltale have also released a new gameplay trailer below.


Titan Souls (coming to Vita) Gameplay trailer


Indie publisher Versus Evil, in partnership with Seattle based indie developer 4gency, today announced that Habitat: A Thousand Generations in Orbit, will be demoing new content and showing off an early version of how the game will support Steam’s Workshop support system exclusively at this years PAX Prime located in Seattle, WA fromAugust 29th – September 1st.  Integrating Steam’s Workshop will allow players to create their own pieces of junk for use in-game which will compliment the existing content roll out planned by the development team.

In Habitat gamers have to build and manage the future homes of humanity from orbital debris they find in space junkyards surrounding Earth’s orbit.  Leading their team of engineers, they will have to build and fly space stations in a zero gravity setting, mastering physics driven flight simulation to explore space. In order to thrive and grow they have to manage their population and their population’s environment.  In the event of a threat they will have to turn their space stations into deadly weapons using pieces of debris picked up such as rockets, lasers and particle accelerators to fight and ultimately survive against attacks from the enemy.  This is a space survival game where crisis is guaranteed and the only chance for survival is to be creative and decisive in the face of disaster.

An Early Access build for PC, Mac and Linux is now available through Steam, Amazon, Humble Store, GameFly, Gamer's Gate, GreenMan Gaming and Nuuvem priced at $14.99, £10.99 and €14.99.   

Visit the website:  
Follow us on Twitter: @4gency

Toren trailer (South American devs featuring a female protag in a Fantasy story) 

Aksys Games is proud to announce that Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late, a stylish 2D fighting game set to bring explosive effects and fast-paced fighting to thePlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, is now available for pre-order!Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late was created by a combined effort of Arc System Works, whose BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series are world renowned, and French Bread, which has rightfully earned its place amongst fighting game fans! Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late brings beautifully hand-drawn sprites straight from the arcades of Japan to your home console in 2015!

For 80 long years, residents of Oakland were banned from playing pinball because the game was viewed as illegal gambling. All that changed last month when the city’s long prohibition on pinball was finally lifted. To celebrate this momentous occasion, RadioShack and Stern Pinball are teaming up to host a month-long pinball tournament inside RadioShack’s new Interactive Remodeled store in Oakland. 

Kicking off on August 20, RadioShack will place a brand new Iron Man Pro Vault Edition machine in its Fruitvale Station store location, with help from Stern Pinball and the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA). Participants are welcome to play for free and test their skills, no quarters required and no purchase necessary. More than mere bragging rights are on the line; whoever wins the tournament, wins the machine as a grand prize.  Here’s how the tournament will work:

         Tournament begins on August 20, 2014 and ends on September 19th at 9:30 p.m. PT
         Players (must be 18 years or older) have 30 days to qualify for the finals and can visit the store Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. as many times as they like to try to set the highest score, at no charge and no purchase necessary
         To qualify, players must score 50,000,000 points or more
         16 top-scoring qualifiers are invited back for the finals on September 20, 2014
         Finalists will enter a bracket tournament until one winner emerges

If you want to showcase your pinball skills for a chance to win your own pinball machine, simply visit RadioShack starting August 20 at 3040 East 9th Street, Suite A. The tournament runs for 30 days, with the last chance to qualify on Friday, September 19 by 9:30 p.m. PT and a Grand Finale on Saturday, September 20 at the same location. The highest scorer on the machine in the Grand Finale will have the honor of taking it home. For more details and rules, visit the RadioShack TechSpecs blog, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

August 19, 2014 Torrance, CA – From Aksys Games, the publisher that brought the Zero Escape series to the West, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is a visual novel with compelling strategy RPG combat, now available to pre-order for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system! Take on the role of a ghost hunter, and feel the thrill of exploring eerie locations, uncovering the mystery of those who now wander as spirits! In Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, you decide who joins your intrepid group to brave the unknown!


Today Tin Man Games, the company best known for its Gamebook Adventures and Fighting
Fantasy adaptations, has released Steve Jackson’s classic superhero gamebook, Appointment with F.E.A.R.,
 in a new and exciting digital comic book format where the player gets to choosethe path of the story.

Designing their own super-powered defender of justice in Titan City, the player makes choices
that guide them towards new villains, super dilemmas and, ultimately, the Titanium Cyborg and
the F.E.A.R. meeting. Unlike the nearly thirty year old gamebook, players can now customise
their character choosing superpower, gender, looks, costume design and, most importantly,
their supername!

The interactive graphic novel also allows the player to collect F.E.A.R. cards by defeating
supervillains and being awarded hero points for acts of valour. If an iOS or Android player has
multiple copies of a card, these can be swapped with other friends via Facebook. By making
clever decisions during the adventure the reader also increases the possibility of getting rare
cards. The Steam version of the game features Steam Trading Card support.

Appointment with F.E.A.R. follows the life of the superhero across a handful of days as they
deal with their everyday normal life, whilst saving the citizens of Titan City from over thirty
supervillains using narrative based combat, which unfolds as the combatants trade quips. The aim is to collect vital clues and information that lead to the arrest of these villains and
discovering the location of the F.E.A.R. meeting.

The game also features a dyslexic-friendly font to make it more accessible. Players can choose
the ‘OpenDyslexic’ typeface which increases readability for players with dyslexia.
Appointment with F.E.A.R. is available to buy for $2.99 (USD) on the iOS App Store, Google
Play and the Amazon Appstore. It is also available to buy for PC, Mac and Linux on The Humble

Store and Steam for $5.99, launching with a 20% reduction for one week.
The Gamebook Adventures website can be accessed at and
Tin Man Games also runs a developer blog at


Take This is pleased to announce it will be returning to PAX Prime with the "AFK Room," mental health awareness training for volunteer "Enforcers" and a panel on how to be a friend to people suffering from emotional disorders.

Attendees who find that the hustle of the show is "damaging their calm" will find relief at the Take This AFK Room. The room will be staffed with volunteers and mental health care clinicians who can provide empathy and support for those in need, or information on how to help friends and family who are dealing with mental health problems.

The Take This panel will also be returning to PAX Prime. "Take This: How to Be a Friend" is scheduled for Friday, August 29th at 3:00pm in the Wombat Theatre. It is aimed at friends and family of those struggling with emotional issues. Friends and family are the first line of support, but don't often know how to broach sensitive subjects, or how to help those in need. While there is no one right technique for every situation, the members of Take This will offer some strategies that can help anyone be a better friend.

Take This will again provide mental health care and awareness training for PAX's volunteer "Enforcers," and will continue to work with the PAX organization to help increase awareness and empathy for mental health and other wellness issues throughout the show.

PAX Prime 2014 will be held August 29 - September 1 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA.

For more details about PAX, please visit the PAX Prime website: 


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