Archives for category: Nintendo 3DS

Sonic 25th anniversay
After much teasing and dropping of hints, Sega have finally announced what’s next for Sonic the Hedgehog in this, his 25th year. The Blue Blur will be speeding through 2017 in not one but two new games, with the retro-inspired Sonic Mania set to launch next Spring and a new main series entry, currently called Project Sonic 2017 due later in the year.

The two games were announced at Sonic’s birthday party at San Diego Comic Con, which was also streamed live on Twitch and YouTube. Unfortunately for those of us at home, the stream was a bit of a mess; it started much later than advertised, and then suffered persistent audio problems, with sound occasionally dropping out entirely. In fact, the stream was so buggy that one wondered if the surprise announcement would be a straight port of Sonic 06.

Thankfully we were spared the horror of that alternate reality. So let’s look at the first of these new games, Sonic Mania. As if to appease those fans that are constantly calling for a more classic Sonic experience, Sonic Mania looks like a lost Megadrive game, and development is being led by Christian ‘Taxman’ Whitehead, known among Sonic fandom for his work on ports of Sonics 1, 2 and CD, using his own Retro Engine. He was joined on-stage by head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka, who mentioned that along with all new levels (one of which, Studiopolis Zone, is shown off in the reveal trailer), classic levels will be present and remixed in the new game. Graphics, movement and momentum all look absolutely spot-on, as you’d expect from Whitehead, but beside fresh stages there’s also a new gameplay mechanic in the Drop Dash, which seems to allow you to initiate a spin dash in the air, zooming off as you hit the ground. It looks like it’ll be great for sudden changes in direction while maintaining momentum. Sonic Mania was playable at the event, so there’s already plenty of gameplay footage on YouTube, but for us mere mortals unable to attend the party itself, the new game is currently scheduled to launch on PC, PS4 and Xbox One next spring.

So we’ve got our classic, 2D Megadrive-y Sonic covered, what about Modern Sonic, I hear you cry? Well, held back until the very final moments of the party was a reveal trailer for Project Sonic 2017. Although Iizuka made a point of saying that the new game was not a sequel, but a “brand new experience”, it’s difficult not to see the game as Sonic Generations 2. Indeed, the trailer sets the scene by proclaiming, “From the team that brought you Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations” leading us to believe it’ll be a return to the successful ‘boost’ formula seen in those games, as we see Modern Sonic boosting, jumping and sliding. Moments later, he’s joined by Classic Sonic as the pair team up, just as in the hedgehog’s last anniversary game.

Fans have been hoping for a return to the playstyle of daytime-Unleashed/Colours/Generations for a good few years now, after both Lost World and spin-off Sonic Boom each failed to impress, but one thing that may give pause is the tone of the trailer. Opening on a devastated city (that looks suspiciously like the one from City Escape to me…) under attack from enormous automatons that look more than a little bit like Sonic 2‘s Death Egg Robot, the colour palette is muted, swamped in browns, and the final tagline of the trailer reads, “Join the Resistance.” Hmm. Hopefully the full game is not too self-serious, as that just doesn’t work very well for Sonic (you need only take a look at Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog or the aforementioned Sonic 06 for proof of that). I don’t think we’re going to be looking at a grimdark Sonic though – the last few franchise entries, even as far back as Unleashed, have been generally breezy, ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ affairs, and it feels like the people at Sonic Team now realize this is where the franchise needs to be. Project Sonic 2017 is slated for late next year, and will hit PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo NX.

Alongside the game reveals, the party was of course a general celebration of everything Sonic. We got a brief look at both Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice for the 3DS and the character’s appearance in Lego Dimensions, as well as a short clip from Season 2 of the well-regarded Boom cartoon; the cast even came out on stage to do a script reading, but unfortunately the stream rather annoyingly cut away from this. The tone was often completely, bafflingly, bonkers, with random interjections for such mundanity as a nacho tasting session from one of the sponsors, but it opened up to a rather half-hearted, lethargic set from Hyper Potions, complete with a lifesize, very Mikudayo-looking Sonic mascot who waddled onto the stage to throw some uncomfortable-looking shapes. Sonidayo later returned to the stage alongside Hello Kitty, for possibly the most inexplicable crossover you could imagine. It did, however, allow me to gif this.


Yep. Totally worth it.

Other than the games, the highlight of the night came when legendary Sega composer and Crush 40 guitarist Jun Senoue hit the stage to play some of the band’s Sonic themes. To be honest, it felt a little weird at first to see Senoue jamming along to a backing track, but I have to admit to grinning like an absolute loon when he started to play Escape from the City, encouraging the crowd to sing along, and when he followed that up with Open Your Heart, joined onstage by Crush 40 singer Johnny Gioeli, I was not at all surprised to find myself actually singing along. Well ok, not singing, as it was about 3:30 am, but mouthing the words, at least. It was a performance that lacked a bit of the energy you’d have got from a full band playing live, but it was still a great treat for the fans, especially those that love the music of the Sonic series. It must have been fun to be there in person.

This was an event by and for Sonic fans, and by all measures it was a massive success. As a Sonic fan, I’d have loved to have been there myself. However, the series still faces struggles in the wider market; Sonic remains a big brand in gaming, but the ‘Sonic Cycle’ is still in full effect, with the last two big games undoing all the good that Colours and Generations managed to do. With a return to a proper classic style of Sonic, as well as a game that looks to be expanding on those two excellent ‘boost’ games, it certainly looks like we’re on the upswing again. The only way it could be any better is if there was also a Sonic Racing 3 on the cards. Ooh, just imagine.

[Credit for Crush 40 live clips: W10002 on YouTube.]

A while back, I commented on Sega of Europe’s hesitance to announce localisations for their own games, and happily, we are now starting to see some movement in this area, as Sega and its subsidiary Atlus last week announced a partnership with Deep Silver to publish a number of titles in Europe.

Atlus fans can breathe a very large sigh of relief as, thanks to this deal, we’ll be getting both digital and physical releases for both Persona 5 and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (it’s worth remembering that the original SMTIV didn’t even receive a physical release in Europe). Surprisingly, Deep Silver have also picked up Sega’s 7th Dragon III Code: VFD, the third game in a series that has, until now, never seen a release outside of its home nation. This is great news in itself, as many were beginning to think that the 3DS title would never see release in Europe, despite now being out in the US.

Persona 5

Deep Silver’s press release mentions that the “…publishing deal will cover the wide array of future titles for both physical and digital versions across PAL territories,” so hopefully we’ll also get some more releases out of this development; one franchise conspicuous by its absence is the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva series. The latest release, Project Diva X, hits American shelves next month, while Japan has just recently been treated to a lavish port of Future Tone, the previously arcade-only outing. While the latter is currently Japan-only, there’s been no word on whether we’ll see Diva X on European shores, so whether Sega plans to publish the game itself in this part of the world or ignore it completely is, unfortunately, unknown.

It’d be a shame if the game fails to see a release here, as it’s managed to establish itself, as well as the entire Vocaloid phenomenon, quite well so far – a digital-only PS3/Vita release of Project Diva f did well enough to earn a physical release for the sequel, again on PS3 and Vita, while the second game did well enough in turn to ensure a boxed release of Project Mirai DX on the 3DS. Given their deal includes 7th Dragon, I’m actually quite surprised there’s been no word on Project Diva X, assuming it was on the table, of course. It’s hard to imagine a situation where Deep Silver would pass up a reasonably established franchise in favour of picking up an unknown property that’s never left Japan, and thus will have to build a fanbase from scratch. Strange times, indeed.

7th Dragon III

Quite how it has come to this – with Sega of America and Atlus USA brokering a deal to get games out in Europe, while Sega of Europe apparently sits on its hands – is anyone’s guess. It doesn’t do much at all for those fans that feel SoE couldn’t care less about them, but I guess at least we’re going to be seeing releases – physical ones at that – actually make it out here. If it has to happen withough SoE’s involvement, so be it. Atlus at least has prior with Deep Silver, having partnered with them to bring 360/PS3 puzzler Catherine to Europe, so perhaps this earlier business relationship is what lead to the current state of affairs.

While it may be a bit odd, at least we now know we’ll be getting these games at some point, and that’s the most important thing to take from this turn of events. We’ll just have to pray for Miku.

Back in July, newly-appointed CEO of Sega Games Haruki Satomi admitted the company had some work to do: “I’ve been talking to the employees about how we should start putting serious consideration into quality from this point on,” Satomi told Japanese publication Famitsu. He added that Sega had learned a lot from its acquisition of Atlus, at least in terms of the western market, stating, “If we can make a title with proper quality, I believe there’s a good chance for it to do well even in the West for players that like to play Japanese games.”

At the time, many reacted with cynicism. There’s a weight of history that has conditioned people to expect little from Sega over the last decade and a half (which is probably a touch unfair, considering the undeniable quality of some of their releases over that period), which led to some passing the comments off as nothing more than lip service. However, recent signs seem to be suggesting that Sega may well be in danger of getting their act together.

First, November brought us news of both a remaster of the cult favourite PS3 strategy RPG Valkyria Chronicles and a new entry in the series, entitled Valkyria: Azure Revolution, both for the PS4. Fans had long since given up any hope of seeing anything done with the series; except for a port of the first game to Steam back in November 2014, the franchise has seen no movement since the Japan-only PSP game, Valkyria Chronicles 3, which is now five years old. The last title we got in the west was the second game, also on PSP, which came out in 2010, so to say these developments came as a surprise is something of an understatement. So far, only the Valkyria Chronicles remaster, out now in Japan, has been announced for a western release. Hopefully, good sales will encourage Sega to localise Azure Revolution, too.

Valkyria: Azure Revolution

In early December we received confirmation of a western release for a new title in Sega’s evergreen Yakuza series, as Sony’s Gio Corsi took to the stage at PlayStation Experience 2015 to announce that Yakuza 0, a prequel to the main series set in 1988, would be making its way to PS4 in the west. It’s always good to get confirmation for localisations in the Yakuza series, as it has had something of a rough ride outside of Japan, with three (spin-off) instalments entirely MIA. The latest in the series, Yakuza 5, only made it to PS3 a couple of months ago – three years after its Japanese release, and even then only as a PSN download – while the recently-released Kiwami, a remake of the first game, and the forthcoming Yakuza 6 have both yet to be announced for localisation.

Then there was the more recent announcement of a retail release for the 3D Classics line, a collection of classic Sega Arcade, Master System and Megadrive games, including Thunder Blade, Fantasy Zone 2, Altered Beast and more, that have been releasing one at a time on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. There are two such collections in Japan, with only the second one set for release in the west, but hey, one is certainly an improvement over none, right?

And just last month there was news of yet another localisation, and this one is surely the most surprising of the lot. 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is an RPG for the 3DS in a series that has never escaped Japan – especially galling for fans of Sega’s older RPG lines, as it’s produced by one Rieko Kodama, creator of Phantasy Star and Producer on Skies of Arcadia, and directed by Kazuya Niinou, director of the Etrian Odyssey series. Oh, and did I mention the series has music by Yuzo ‘Streets of Rage’ Koshiro? Yes, now you’re seeing why this is a big deal: to think there’s been an RPG series with that pedigree that we’ve been missing out on since 2009! Sega’s press release stressed that the game is a standalone title in the series, and as such newcomers can go into it completely fresh, which is rather handy.

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as Sega may be learning from Atlus in more ways than one. “Atlus hates Europe” is pretty much its own meme at this point (seriously), and at this rate, “Sega hates Europe” may well end up being a thing, too; of those four games listed above, only one – Valkyria Chronicles Remastered – is currently confirmed for a European release, and considering the game has already been released here on PS3 and PC, it’s perhaps the least exciting of the bunch. Rather cruelly, the trailer shown for Yakuza 0 at PlayStation Experience appeared to confirm a European release, only for Sega to later clarify that it was an error, and that an EU release could not be confirmed.

Of course, the lack of European announcements doesn’t mean these games won’t be localised, but even so it’s not exactly encouraging. Still, at least in the case of any PS4 titles, while far from ideal, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they do remain JP/NA-exclusive thanks to the PS4 being region free. The real issue is those 3DS games, thanks to that console’s region lock, and it’d be almost tragic in the case of 7th Dragon that the series would finally make it out of Japan, but still be unplayable for those of us in Europe. Perhaps it’s worth taking to Twitter to convince Sega Europe that we’d like these games, too.

At any rate, it’s good to see Sega are actually going to be making some new games that aren’t Sonic and Yakuza (though we can expect a new Sonic game this year for the franchise’s 25th anniversary), so let’s hope this is a sign of greater things to come.

Tomorrow, the sequel to one of the 3DS’ most celebrated jRPGs hits European shores, as Square Enix’s Bravely Second: End Layer lands on store shelves. Like Bravely Default before it, the sequel is also getting a deluxe collector’s edition, and because I bought that, I also bought this. Because I’m a sucker for limited editions.

So, what’s in the box? Well, it’s a similar deal to the first game, containing a large art book (the main draw for me), a figurine and a mini soundtrack CD alongside the game – there’s no pack of cards this time, however. One of the things that surprised me with the original game’s limited edition was the size of the box, and there’s little change here; while the box is a different shape, it’s still huge. Where am I going to put this thing!?

Bravely Second Deluxe Collector's Edition

Opening the box, we’re greeted with a lovely piece of black and white art of new character Magnolia on the inside lid, as well as a look at the game box, the soundtrack CD, and the miniature figurine of Agnes in a small box, all sitting in a cardboard tray. Lifting out this tray, we find the art book hiding underneath.

Bravely Second open box

Below, you can get a look at the full contents of the box, before we take a closer look at a couple of the items.

Bravely Second full contents

Probably the only complaint levelled at Bravely Default‘s collector’s edition was the quality of the included Agnes statue. While quite large and weighty (I believe it’s made of polystone), the paintjob was pretty messy, and it just didn’t really look like Agnes at all. That’s been fixed for Bravely Second; while the figurine is much smaller and made of plastic, it actually looks like Agnes, and is a much greater representation of both her in-game look and Akihiko Yoshida’s artwork. In the gallery below, you can see a comparison of the two, but here’s a close look at the figure itself.

Bravely Second Agnes figurine

Last up, here’s a look at the art book, the headline item as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, it’s not hardback like the original game’s book, however, we’re getting a much thicker tome this time, and it’s not just an art book. Here we have a full design works book, collecting production sketches and artwork from right across the game’s development. Included are the original Japanese notations, complete with English translations. I haven’t looked too deep into it for fear of spoilers, but a quick flick through suggests this book will be an absolute must have for fans. Also, upon opening it, we’re treated to that same piece of artwork of Magnolia that I mentioned earlier, only this time in glorious colour. See more, including a couple of comparisons with the original book, in the gallery at the end.

Bravely Second Design Works

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. Coming in a little cheaper than the original Deluxe Collector’s Edition, with a couple of definite improvements over some of the included items, it’s a nice treat for fans. Now I just have to find the time to play the game! For now, enjoy the gallery, and the game if you’re getting it this week.

Theatrhythm Curtain Call 3DS pouch
Today, the sequel to one of my favourite games of 2012 hits the 3DS. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call, to give it its full, unwieldy name, is the follow-up to Square-Enix’s rhythm-action Final Fantasy compendium, and it’s fit to bursting with more music, more characters, more modes and even more fanservice. I’m a sucker for pretty much anything FF, especially its music, so I was glad when Theatrhythm turned out so well. And I of course ordered the Collectors Edition of Curtain Call, which has just arrived. So let’s take a look at what you get in the box.

Theatrhythm Curtain Call collectors edition

It’s quite a large box for a 3DS game, and it’s pretty similar to the one Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn came in, with a sturdy box covered by a card slipcase. Inside is a collectors pouch for your 3DS emblazoned with the cast and logo, and unfortunately for me, it’s for a 3DS XL. I can still use it to store my launch model console, of course, but it won’t be a snug fit.

We’re also treated to five platinum CollectaCards of the kind found in the games. The pack of five contains Edgar from Final Fantasy V, Zack from Final Fantasy VII/Crisis Core, Yuna in her X-2 appearance, Final Fantasy XIV‘s Y’shtola and finally Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics. All the cards are double-sided, with character art on the front and a short bio on the reverse side. You can see the back of Zack’s card in the gallery below.

Theatrhythm Curtain Call CollectaCards

Finally, we have two CDs to listen to. The first of these is the same five-track remix CD that also comes with the cheaper limited edition version of Curtain Call, while the second is a 20-track ‘best of’ collection, which includes untouched music from across the series. These two discs come in the same jewel case, and you can see the full tracklisting for both in the gallery.

That’s it for collectors goodies, but printed on the manual is a note stating that those who’ve played the demo (like me!) will begin the game with some characters already unlocked and ready to go.

For £45, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got here. I’m about to get started and I can’t wait to spend another 90 hours on the new game. My 3DS is pretty much sorted for the next year.

BD_LEFULLToday sees beautiful 3DS RPG Bravely Default hit European store shelves, just over a year after its Japanese release (as Bravely Default: Flying Fairy), and as you can see from the image above, I decided to help myself to the European-exclusive Deluxe Edition. Help yourself and your eyes to some pics of the enormous box and its contents below.

I mentioned that the box was enormous, and it truly is. This is mostly to accommodate the full-size hardback art book. I’ve mentioned in other limited edition quick looks that I’d rather have a hardback art book, but Bravely Default‘s tome goes one better by being a full-blown book.
BRAVELY OPEN BOX

Other than the lovely art book (art from which you can see in the gallery at the bottom of this piece), the box also contains a figurine of Bravely Default‘s mage Agnes. What surprised me the most about the figure is that it’s not plastic – it feels like porcelain. I guess it could be made of polystone, but it doesn’t feel as ‘dense’ as statues made from that material tend to.
BD_AGNES

Also in the box is the game itself (of course), a pack of 34 AR cards (that I’ve yet to try out) and a lovely ten-track “mini-album” soundtrack with a beautiful piece of art on the cover.
BD_CONTS

The deluxe edition truly is a deluxe item; every part of it is lavishly-produced, from the big, solid presentation box, silver-foil art elements embossed on black, to the handpainted Agnes statue, and even the beautifully minimalistic soundtrack disc art (which you can see in the gallery), everything is beautifully made. I can kind of understand now why they were originally asking for £100 for it. Thankfully the price dropped almost immediately to £80, and I’m perfectly happy with what I’ve received for my money – I think it’s worth every penny.

Now I just need to find the time to play the game! Hopefully I’ll get to it before the just-announced sequel, Bravely Second, is released!

Enjoy some more images of the Bravely Default Deluxe Edition in the gallery below.

theatrhythmcharactersI’ve waxed lyrical about Theatrhythm before, Square-Enix’s curious little Final Fantasy-themed rhythm-action title that saw release on the Nintendo 3DS in 2012. I suppose part of my love for it is that it’s as unexpected a candidate for a game of the generation as I could imagine. Even as a huge fan of Final Fantasy and its music, I never thought I’d put eighty-five hours into a handheld rhythm game.

In the run-up to Theatrhythm‘s Japanese release, I had more or less ignored it – it’s exactly the kind of game I’d expect to never make it out of its home territory. So I didn’t know a great deal about it until a demo landed on the 3DS e-store. I had expected it to be a relatively lightweight affair, and the demo didn’t do a great deal to dispel that, offering a choice of two tracks to prod along to (Final Fantasy VIII‘s ‘The Man with the Machine Gun’ and Final Fantasy XIII‘s ‘Sunleth Waterscape’). But this was just a short teaser of the full game; I wasn’t about to judge the full release on a demo alone, and I’d already long-since decided to buy it – it had Final Fantasy music in it, after all.

It was lucky I did. Theatrhythm is a deep, deep game.

So, for the uninitiated, the basics: Theatrhythm first tasks you with choosing a party of four iconic Final Fantasy characters, before embarking on one of three types of music stages. In Field stages, your first character strolls through an environment made up of areas from the game that the music comes from, so during the aforementioned ‘The Man with the Machine Gun’, you’ll see such familiar landmarks as Balamb Garden and Fisherman’s Horizon scroll past as a note chart comes at you from the left. Do well enough in a specific section of the chart and you’ll summon a chocobo to speed you through the stage. Battle stages look much like a Final Fantasy battle of old, with your team of four standing along the right side of the screen, with various monsters appearing as enemies to be vanquished by your performance across four lanes of note charts. Finally, Event stages are note charts set to a montage of emotional cutscene moments. Final Fantasy X‘s ‘Suteki da ne’ is a particular favourite of mine.

Each numbered-series title up to Final Fantasy XIII has its own ‘playlist’ consisting of one of each type of stage, and you can choose to either work through a game at a time in series mode, or pick and choose single tracks to play in challenge mode. However, this being a spin-off from an RPG series, there’s more going on than simply swiping your stylus through fun songs. Each character in your party accrues XP across all modes, increasing both their level and their base stats (strength, magic, agility and luck), as well as collecting equippable skills, items and equipment to help you out in a tough situation. Every character has strengths and weaknesses, which means you need to put some thought into choosing the ideal party for the game’s real challenge: The Chaos Shrine.

This is where you’ll play Dark Notes, special pairs of songs – one field track, one battle – that can be far harder than anything in the other modes (think superfast note charts with spinning arrow notes – you’ll need to figure out which way they’ll be pointing when they reach you!), and it’s through Dark Notes that you’ll get the rare item drops needed to unlock new player characters. Each time you finish a Dark Note you’ll unlock a new one, which will often feature tracks not found in the main game. This is the part of Theatrhythm that will propel your file time into the double-, if not triple-figures. Best of all, if you allow the game access to Streetpass, you might just pick up a new Dark Note from another player – I picked up a ton of them when I took my 3DS to last year’s Eurogamer Expo.

Visually, the game is a real treat. Environments are beautifully drawn and saturated in bright colours, and landmarks and battlefields are easily recognisable from their host games; in Final Fantasy X‘s battle stage you can even spot pyreflies dancing away in the background. But it’s the character designs that are the focus here, with all your favourite Final Fantasy heroes, villains and enemy monsters reproduced in a cute super-deformed art-style. Chibi-Terra is my personal favourite. A word of warning though: this is one 3DS game that I wouldn’t recommend playing with the 3D slider on. While it offers a nice bit of depth to the backgrounds, the note prompts sit on a separate plane on top. This means two separate ‘layers’ are displayed, both moving individually, and trying to focus on one and ignore the other can really wreck your eyes. On the plus side, turning off 3D means you can play Theatrhythm for longer.

The 3DS cart comes packed with more than 70 songs to play through and Square-Enix also supported the game with weekly DLC for a fair while. In all, 52 extra tracks were added and I bought them all. What’s interesting is that they saw fit to add in songs from both Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The latter has since been shunted to next-gen and renamed Final Fantasy XV, while Type-0 remains unreleased outside of Japan. Perhaps there’s hope yet for the PSP title.

Also stuffed onto the cart is a music player containing all the tracks in the game and a movie viewer, which allows us to watch those gorgeous cutscenes in all their glory, without the distracting note charts drawn all over them. Like the secret characters these all have to be unlocked, though in these cases via ‘Rhythmia’ – an ever-increasing total that you gather by doing well in the game. Also unlockable are ‘CollectaCards‘, effectively in-game ‘trading’ cards depicting characters and enemies. These cards cannot be traded between players, but can be levelled up by getting the same card a number of times as an item drop; at level four, cards become holofoil cards, and at level 7 they turn into platinums. In Theatrhythm, you’re always either unlocking something or working towards something, and it’s a great set of collectibles that keeps you playing for hours.

It’s not all about grinding out those collectibles though. Often, it’s the determination to get a perfect score on every song that brings me back to the game, and no doubt I’ll still be trying to nail down those ultimate perfects when the sequel, Theatrhythm Curtain Call, arrives with new songs, characters and even airships sometime in the indeterminate future.

Previous entries in Games of the Generation:
Dead Space 2
Tales of Vesperia
Halo 3