Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Vita on a tear as sales soar*

*by 2017 standards

Vita sales last week in Japan were 8,483 according to Media Create figures, helping drag the Sony machine a little away from obsolescence in the seasonal sales. The numbers are tracking currently at about half of last winter's figures. Over the year, the portable is headed for around 350,000 units, so down two-thirds in a year.

Things would be a lot better if Sony had launched a HD Vita/PS4 Remote Player a year ago as Switch continues to eat its cake, lunch and babies, with 165,000 sales over the week! That double the PS4's combined sales and pisses all over Sony as the company runs out of steam and ideas fast.

Again, there are no Vita games in the software chart, but Digimon Hacker's Memory and the Japan-Vita-only Atelier Lydie are out this week, which should make a decent dent.

On the plus side, Vita is outselling the New3DS and 2DS, Xbox One and Xbox One X, Wii U and PS3 showing how stunning the hardware was for its time, with its seventh birthday in Japan next week!

Last week's figures, here's the historical chart for a giggle!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Steamworld games go physical this week

Probably mentioned this before, but Steamworld Dig and Steamworld Heist go physical this week thanks to Limited Run Games for $24.99 each with a 3K production run. PlayStation TV compatibility is a new feature.

Image & Form's critically acclaimed SteamWorld games will be available as complete physical editions on the PlayStation Vita. Each is fully patched with any applicable DLC included on the cart.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review Xenon Valkyrie +

Fabrice Breton brings Vita owners a delicious slice of arcade roguelike action in the form of Diabolical Mind's Xenon Valkyrie +. The plus indicates the game has various gameplay improvements over the PC original.

A blocky little pixel actioner,  you land on an imperiled planet where an evil witch has taken control of the machines. Starting off by picking from one of three crew, weak but nimble, strong but slow etc. Initially, you have a couple of easy levels to explore, learn the ropes and level them up to face the first boss, with much tougher battles beyond that.

Your crewman ventures out into the first levels, an Ancient Techforest. Armed with swords, guns, grenades and the odd special move like a super leap to reach higher areas, they stumble around the randomly generated levels. Note there's no penalty/death for falling, but deciding when to use your sword or gun is a key life skill.

Another tactic is wall climbing and learning how far you can jump or how to get into the narrow gaps where chests packing health and credits may be stashed. Spend a little time learning the ropes, and you can save a lot of pain! Some levels feature a locked treasure chest that might have a better weapon, a useful tool or just a random piece of crap.

Leveling up and finding cash is important as, at the end of each level, you can buy some stock goods like shields, ammo and health, while upgrading your health, strength or defensive capabilities based on your character level. Still, there's nothing quite like racing through the level leaving a trail of carnage in your wake. You can also return to the top of each level, a wise move if you missed a chunk out through a big fall or found a good chest but couldn't reach it from below.

In the early going, learning about the game is vital. Some enemies can be easily killed just by whacking them from above, others will explode after a few hits, while some leap around madly. Figuring out who does what and how to get around will help build your character up for the first boss battle.
In these, the screen is dominated by a trigger-happy fiend who will take a little more figuring out how to kill. Beat him, her or it, and you can return to the surface. If you've found enough rare metal Teamerite, you can trade it in for some proper rare weaponry, before setting out again to the deeper levels.

As the opposition gets tougher, and the levels more complex, you can use grenades to blast rocks and create your own paths, ideal for accessing that hard to reach reward or to make it easier to kill tougher enemies. But, with leaping, exploding creatures all around survival becomes a serious challenge the deeper you go.

If you want a closer look, check out 12 minutes of gameplay here. With lots of little rules and skills, you really need to pay attention. Pure fun to play, Xenon Valkyrie is packed with challenge, for such a little game. The desire to do better on my next run after yet another permadeath hasn't worn off yet, and to find out what the other tools are weapons are. The chiptune soundtrack is sumptuous and the tiny graphics work well on the Vita's screen.

Score: 8/10
More Reviews
Price: £TBC (PSN)
Developer/publisher Diabolical Mind/Cowcat
File size 90MB
Progress: Deeper underground

Super Robot Wars X physical announced in Asia with English subs

Fancy some Super Robot Wars that isn't all Japanese? Bandai Asia is releasing a subbed version over there. Available on PS4 and Vita in digital and physical form, if you're heading to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines or Indonesia after 26th April, pick one up or get importing.

Wow, Bandai really is pushing the boat on this, here's a translated interview with producers Shinya Satake and Takanobu Terada explaining what's new and fun in this version.

Bandai shows off more Cyber Sleuthing Digimon action

This seven-minute clip is probably lots of stuff we've seen before, I don't have the time to go through all of Bandai's previous output for the new Hacker's Memory game to check. Either way, enjoy it, and wonder why they didn't go the Pokemon Go route and add an AR mode? 

The game is out in Japan this week, coming west in early 2018, and since the first outing was pretty fantastic fun, expect plenty of love for the game as a new generation of beasties are bred and evolved.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Papers, Please gets documented on Vita next week

How funny is that? In the previous story on Stardew Valley I casually mentioned that all we need is Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please on the Vita and we have the essential indie set. Lo and behold, just a day later, Lucas tweets his game is coming out next week.

UPDATE: here's the trophy list

Check out the original PC trailer, not that there’s much to see in a game of passport control paperwork. Any other indie games left that we really need?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Merry Christmas, Stardew Valley heads to Vita in ‘18

Probably the best news we’ll get before Christmas. The Stardew Valley dev blog has confirmed a portable edition of the popular farm game. That comes after a few non-committal comments over the year. All that leaves is Papers, Please and we have pretty much all the key indie games that will likely fit on a Vita. Thanks will be Cross Buy with the PS4 version, but no multiplayer, can live with that!

With even low-ploy games struggling to run on Sony’s ageing hardware do shout if you think there’s anything else we need.

Japan trailer Friday

More Gintama Rumble, 13 minutes of gameplay this time to enjoy/.

A new sing-song VN tale of love and happiness in Fortissimo, with a couple of trailers from Idea Factory, hitting the high notes in March 2018.

And finally, the latest Code: Realize trailer with about nine minutes of talking gameplay.

Idea Factory shindig shows off Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms characters

Idea Factory had its little west-coast party last night with a few new bits to share across PS4, PSVR and Vita. The upshot for portable lovers was a new trailer for the visual novel Hakuoki Edo Blossoms, out next spring.

It features some pivotal moments in your quest to romance handsome samurai bachelors. The young Chizuru, determined to find her father, will romance the famous warriors of Shinsengumi through a series of engaging stories and dramatic events. Now, experience new characters, love interests, and episodes in the world of Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Party in One More Dungeon next week

Here's the launch trailer for Ratalaika's One More Dungeon, a rare FPS outing for the Vita. Somewhere between the original Wolfenstein 3D and Hexen era, it offers a roguelike shooter, with procedurally generated levels and pixel-art graphics. The game is Cross Buy and Cross Play with the PS4.

Your mission is to reach a final level deep within the dungeon and destroy the obelisks that are used by forces of Evil to invade the world. Using melee weapons, magic staff and antique artefacts to wade through the hordes of enemies while finding the many secrets!

Features include:

  • Procedurally generated levels.
  • 30+ types of enemies and 80+ items.
  • A Sanity level that can reduced by using artefacts acquired in-game.
  • Customisable gameplay in the form of modifiers that can be tweaked prior to playing, to tailor make the gameplay to one of your choosing.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Iconoclasts to take on the Vita in January

Some two years after the original reveal trailer, Iconoclasts finally has a release date, on the 23rd January. That's what comes of one man taking on a crazy mission to recreate his own vision of platforming perfection, step forward Joakim Sandberg, aka Konjak.

Here's a fresh launch trailer and you can read more on the PlayStation blog. It looks epic in scale and I hope all those crystal and snow scenes really pop on the Vita's OLED.

There's also a new website to check out!

Vita sales on the up in Japan

Could the comeback be on? While the Switch manages to sell 125,000 in Japan last week, Vita sales stormed past the 6K barrier to 6,127 units! That's thanks to seasonal sales, which while still poor compared to previous years should convince developers that the Vita will be viable in 2018. Spring still looks pretty strong for the Vita in Japan with new games being announced daily.

Unfortunately, while Switch games boss the Media Create chart, there are no Vita games to be seen in the top 20. Over in Famitsu land, Bandai's Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory on PS Vita and PS4 grabbed a feisty score or 9/9/9/8  for 35/40 to be the best-rated game. It lands in Japan next week, so could make an impact.

Last week's figures

Trailer trash Wednesday, Certain Magical Virtual-On vs Shantae DLC

UPDATE: Prototype's Alice: Heads & Tails romance VN has a fresh trailer with a gorgeous soundtrack, the rest looks pretty by the numbers with derigeur pastel art and doey eyes all over the place.

More madness from Sega Japan, with a decent look at Certain Magical Virtual-On, we've seen the intro clip before but stick around for some gameplay, multiplayer and even a hint at the PS4/PS Vita Cross Play mode.

Over here, Shantae gets another bunch of levels thanks to the Friends to the End update, the last part of the Shantae: Half-Genie Hero story. When Shantae falls prey to dark magic, it’s up to Shantae's BFFs Sky, Bolo, and Rottytops to save her from a Nightmare Realm of her own imagining!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Super Hydorah shoots into action next week

Abylight helped bring Cursed Castilla to the Vita recently, and they're firmly on the retro bus now with Super Hydorah. This classic-looking shooter with heavy-on-the-scanline effect display looks like it came right out of the Psygnosis or Thalamus era.

In Super Hydorah, an evil force has launched an invasion of the Omios star. As the most skilled and deadly pilot in the galaxy, you face the dreadful menace of the Meroptians, bio-mechanical creatures set in a ruthless war of conquest. Equip your ship, select a route and fight planet by planet against the hordes!

Well-rated on Steam, the Vita version is limited to single player only, but still has lots to offer. Including:

  • 21 levels divided into 35 sublevels, 35 bosses and more than 100 enemies
  • Non-linear level layout with route selection
  • Dangers of different nature in each level (not just bullets)
  • Weapon selection and power-ups in every mission
  • Memorable and epic original soundtrack by Gryzor87
  • Secrets, multiple endings, achievements plus rank system
  • Robot chase minigame adapted to single player
  • Trophies and cross-buy option
It seems a little pricey at €19.99, but with plenty of shooters on the Vita, including Sky Force I guess there's a roaring trade. 

Attack on Titan 2 dated 15 March for Japan

No western release for the Vita, but you should be able to import the Japanese version and play along, since it looks broadly similar to the first game. And, after all, the endless shouting is pretty much the same in any language. Famitsu has some fresh art and screens, while the new trailer shows off how good it will look on the PS4.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Demon Gaze II stares again at Japan

With the western release of Demon Gaze 2 in the bag, Japan gets another dose of the squinty gazer as the Global Edition with all the updates and features comes home to roost. Kadokawa will try and revive interest, but it looks like the love has long gone from the original fun and fast RPG over there, with the first version of the sequel only selling around half of the original on launch.

Tack on another year and more gamers will have moved on, but you can't fault the publisher for trying to squeeze out a few more sales. 

UK Vita retail chart, Danganronpa back on top

Lots of shuffling in the UK retail chart from the ChartTrack this week, Danganronpa is back on top of the pile while Ys VIII and Chaos;Child show that recent games can stick around among the laughable line up of old titles that kids will find in their Christmas stockings.

1 + Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony NIS America 2 9
2 - Minecraft: Playstation Edition Mojang 1 160
3 = Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified Activision 3 220
4 + Farming Simulator 18 Focus 10 26
5 Assassin's Creed Chronicles Ubisoft 4 84
6 + Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Warner 7 104
7 - Need For Speed: Most Wanted EA Games 5 106
8 + Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana NIS America 18 12
9 + Lego Marvel Avengers Warner 14 69
10 + Chaos;Child PQube 11 8

Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, (C)2017 UKIE Ltd

Best of screenshot Saturday

In case you missed them on my tweet stream, here are the Vita games that got some #screenshotsaturday love from developers. I also mentioned a few other games that looked like they would be a good fit for the handheld, never hurts to ask politely.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review The Walking Dead Season Two

Ouch, ouch, horrible, horrible, make it go away. No, that's not the zombies, but this horrendous update to one of my favourite adventures on the Vita. Firstly, sorry for the long delay in getting to this review, I picked it up on-sale earlier this year, £4 makes it a bargain right?

With a lot of hindsight, 2013's first season was an epic tale, and I remember feeling every punch and shot as Lee and Clem tried to protect each other. So much so, I could overlook most of the game engine's wonky moments.

However, the sequel - which I'm now glad I left it so long to play, so I wasn't too invested in the emotional side - comes across as even worse, a less-polished jerky mess. And even if its the engine's fault again, this feels like a dark stain on the Vita. I kind of see why Telltale gave up on Sony's handheld shortly after.

Any sense of involvement rapidly vanishes when action scenes fail to work. Drama fails when huge loading delays mean you forget why you were on the edge of your seat, and poorly worded or stupid touch commands don't make sense or don't work.

That aside, Clem is a little grown up now, and surrounded by expendable characters or people you actively want to die, so there's very little of the love that I felt toward the poor survivors in the first game. Sure, things hot up a bit toward the end and the inevitable big-scene climax, but God knows what the third series is like!

Over five chapters, there's a mix of chat scenes, a litany of hard choices, extreme violence and the odd decision that doesn't add up to a hill of beans, it seems. So, in summary, avoid unless it is on sale at a very good price. Having played this mess, certainly won't bother with Telltale's other efforts, on any platform!

Score: 4/10
More Reviews
Price: £15.99 (PSN)
Publisher: TellTale
File size 300MB per episode average
Progress: Complete

Japan video Friday, new Code Realize clips

More Code Realize is on its way to Japan, which should come our way, given we got Guardian of Rebirth. Check out a couple of clips, plus whatever else I can dig up on another fun filled Japan video Friday...

And finally, for now, a tease of something new from VN funsters Dramatic Create, Superior Dynamis. School girls, uzis and clouds, what's not to like.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Boob-obsessed Omega Labyrinth Z heads west in 2018

Oh, boy! Or oooh, cheeky! Depending on your point of view. PQube is bringing the boob-obsessed Omega Labyrinth Z from D3 west in 2018.

Billed as the most tantalizing rogue-like RPG of 2018, the big haul is a magical grail that can grant any wish. Legend has it that the grail is hidden in a secret cave, that only reveals itself on opening day of the Academy each year.

Naturally, that means Aina Akemiya, a young self-conscious student at the academy, and her friends are going to try and take advantage of it for their own, deeply personal, use. In the game, you battle through the usual dungeons with random maps, monsters and loot. It features:
  • Tactical turn-based combat – Control the battlefield with expert positioning and use of skills!
  • Explore lengthy dungeons – Randomly generated dungeons brimming with loot is yours for the taking!
  • Item management made easy – The ‘Purse' system allows you to send items back to town if your inventory fills up in a dungeon. 
  • A shopaholics dream – Purchase items with Omega Power, even the dungeons have shops!
I'll leave all the boob-fetish stuff to the official site which should go live soon, but draw your attention to one of the Japanese videos of the game in action. 

Sony's massive new Vita launch nets around 3,000 extra sales

The launch of the new Vita (no) Value Packs in Japan has seen sales rocket from 3,090 last week to, um, 5,964 according to Media Create figures. That's a not-quite doubling of sales, showing just how low Sony's ambition has become, perhaps it put 5,000 on the shelves tops?

Not that most Japanese gamers need a new Vita. Switch sales dominate the hardware market at 68% of all sales, while no Vita games are in the top 20 again.

Side note: I was wondering if the new 3.67 firmware was due to these new units having some new components. If anyone has one, can they investigate?
With no Sony-developed titles to promote the bundle, the company is relying on a deflating liferaft of third-party games. But the problem didn't start this week, year or even last. When Sony bet everything on PS4, which has bankrolled the company for a couple of years, it now has nothing to counter Switch and no handheld/hybrid play left.

So, come on Sony, a HD/WiFi/GPU upgrade, capable of handling PS3 ports and Remote Play is all you need and you're back in the game for Japan. Even if it is three years late. How hard can that be? Back to 3,000 next week? Although on the plus side, it was only 500 below the PS4 Pro :)
What next Sony, the PS4 Pro Plus?

Energy Invasion brings Breakout back to full charge

Miss the odd game of Arkanoid, or any of the other Breakout clones? Well, Energy Invasion has just popped up with a Vita and PS4 trophy list and looks to add some fresh polish to one of the oldest genres. Published by Sometimes You, who brought us Alteric, Energy Cycle and Spiral Splatter among others, they may not be the classiest of titles, but at this point everything is welcome and this looks pretty trippy.

The Longest Five Minutes takes place next February

After a fair old delay, we now have a date for NIS America's Longest Five Minutes western release.

In what appears to be the spirit of 30-second Hero, here comes another pixel-fun RPG. An amnesiac hero, presumably taking the piss out of all other RPGs where you wake up concussed must take on a Demon King.

With no memory of finishing moves, his hometown, and even the reason he's trying to defeat the Demon King in the first place, things will be tough. Look out for this on 16 February, digitally on Vita. Official website here.

Time Recoil, 10tons Vita swansong

Finnish developer 10tons has delighted us with Neon Chrome and Xenoraid among others, but it looks like Time Recoil will be their last outing on Vita. That's as the system struggles to keep up with their newer efforts, and the pain and time cost of porting outweighs any financial benefit. Fair enough, and thanks to the team for being upfront about it.

Time Recoil is a top-down shooter loaded with slow-motion gunfights, epic special moves, time attack mode, and a time travel storyline. In Time Recoil, players have a freakish, Matrix-like superpower: Kill to slow time. Subsequent kills give more time in slowdown and enable you to conduct unbelievable slow motion feats!

Or maybe that's just the Vita grinding to a halt? Either way, kills in slowdown grant special moves, allowing you to dash through walls and enemies.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A better look at SkullPirates and WarTheatre

Yesterday's Twitter videos didn't show the new Arcade Distillery games off at their finest, but crank this up to HD and full-screen for a better look at the more action-focused SkullPirates and the strategic WarTheatre in early action. These and 3D platformer Manufactured Beauty will definitely add some colour to the Vita next year.

UPDATE: Skull Pirates needs a Kickstarter campaign to get funded, launching on 1 December, check it out here.

Pixel Noir latest trailer from the wrong side of the cyber tracks

Now that SWDTech has a publisher (BadLand) for its adventure game Pixel Noir, things are steaming toward a release next year. Here's a new trailing showing off the latest beta build of the game.

"Living on the streets of a shithole like Pinnacle City, there’s only two things to keep you going: A pack of cigarettes and the feeling that there’s more than this. There was something rotten in that rundown place. You were in over your head, but you were too proud to admit it. It was your pride that killed your partner. With the hospital burned to the ground and nothing to exonerate you, they threw you in jail."

Outlands' North to mess with your mind

North is one of (many) games I know nothing about, but the review highlights up on its Steam and home page suggest something interesting is coming our way. The game has a set of Vita trophies appeared, so I guess a release is coming soon thanks to publisher Sometimes You.
“NORTH feels like a breath of fresh air in an indie gaming landscape that is quickly becoming saturated with titles that address hard hitting topics, but still feel as though something is missing. One can only hope that other developers take notice.” - Motherboard
“NORTH is a fantastic blend of sci fi adventure and social commentary in which you explore a bizarre futuristic Blade Runner-esque city, filled with strange creatures and strange customs.” - Free Game Planet
This video makes a fair effort at explaining it without giving anything away, and while it might be a short game, it looks well worth investigating and support the developer and publisher.

Monday, November 27, 2017

MoonBear's Pocket Build could come to the Vita

Over in the wilds of Reddit, a dev asked if Vita owners would like to see his latest mobile game on Sony's platform. A sandbox free-building game, you can create what you like, how you like, with no threat or wider ambitions to fulfill. Feel free to drop in a comment of support.

From the iOS version page, "Have you ever wanted to make your own little fantasy world? A farm, some kind of castle, or just an epic fantasy city? Pocket Build is an open world game where you can build with no limitations or restrictions. Build whatever you like, whenever you like, however you like. The possibilities are endless!"

Arcade Distillery's Manufactured Beauty their third game announced today

Hot on the heels of SkullPirates and War Theatre, Arcade Distillery has another game on the go, somewhat further from completion. Called Manufactured Beauty they aim to make a game that pushes the technical limits of the PS Vita. Given that title is currently held by Killzone, that's a brave challenge to undertake.

However, this game is more likely to be compared to Sly and other 3D platformers, loosening the comparison a bit. In the game, you are a robotic rabbit, Mr. Cuddles stuck in a 3D platform world of remnant creature and robot parts.

Cuddles will bump into other mechanical animals and needs to find out where they are all there, and presumably who put them all together.

Luc Bernard announces SkullPirates for Vita and PS4

Arcade Distillery continues to support the Vita with some fine looking games. Next up is action RPG SkullPirates, revealed in this tweet just minutes ago. Following that is War Theatre, a strategy RPG. Fill your boots!

Update: SkullPirates is set for a Halloween 2018 release!

Hopefully, it will have more refined gameplay than Plague Road, which looks awesome but was a little stilted, but with a fast learning curve. They seem to have borrowed the visual tone of Plague Road, but folded it into a more action-based game with RPG mechanics, can't wait. Time to tick off one of the Vita's unannounced games list from the release schedule.

Again, the visual theme is familiar, but the volume of characters and the level of aggression has been kicked up a few notches.

Rainbow Skies limited edition in pictures

Pre-orders are up for the Rainbow Skies limited edition on Play Asia, with some neat pics of what's in the box. At just £28 for UK buyers (plus postage) or the basic physical version for £19, this looks like a game well worth snapping up.

Check out the game trailer in the previous story.

Rainbow Skies teaser trailer and LE

Classy-looking RPG Rainbow Skies is on the way in 2018, with a hysical limited edition from Play Asia. A Rainbow Moon LE will also be arriving if you want to match the set. They include maps, CDs and a guide book.

The new adventure features monsters you can tame, upgradable characters, with a wide range of customization and character development possibilities. There are plenty of optional and endgame content, side and treasure hunt quests, a humorous story and plenty of content.

The story goes as follows: It's a big day for Damion with a final examination as a monster tamer, an important profession in his hometown, which is constantly threatened by monster attacks. However, after a terrible hangover, Damion completely messes things up and not only fails the examination but also destroys the entire monster compound.

When he tries to cover up his mishap with his examiner Layne, things turn from bad to worse and through a number of unforeseen circumstances, they find themselves between two rival superpowers.

Enjoy the new trailer as Damion and his friends get to work sorting out the mess.

Friday, November 24, 2017

VA-11 Hall-A hits the charts in Japan

Missed this earlier in the week as the first Media Create chart only goes up to 20, but the Famitsu chart digs a little deeper. And congratulations go to Sukeban Games, for VA-11 HALL-A reaching No. 29 and selling 1,968 copies, between 40% to 60% of its limited print run at ¥3.000.

The cyberpunk bar game generated plenty of interest and positivity with drinks in real bars and loads of fan art being created. That, a fantastic soundtrack and some true grass roots appreciation make this more than a modest success, not bad for a western indie on a dead platform that no one loves.

It gets to be on the same list as new Pokemon, Star Wars Battlefront and Dragon Quest releases. Can't wait for the EU release.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Raspberry Pi-powered Pip handheld nears KS success

I've had a lot of fun with my Rasberry Pi microcomputer over the years, as a media server, emulator and general gadget. The maker community gets another version soon, a Kickstarted portable is very nearly there, made by UK company Curious Chip.

UPDATE: Main funding goal reached!

Some 90% funded with three weeks to go it looks a bit like a Playmobil Switch, but can be used as a kid's creative tool or as a portable gaming unit, playing Minecraft and other games.

The components are more battery-life-friendly versions of the current third-generation Pi, with a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 800*480 60Hz screen, SD card storage and detachable controllers.

It might not be a modern Linux game player, but could make fun little emulator box if you install Raspian. I guess it would be somewhere between a PSP and a Vita in performance, but stick a MAME on there, and there's fun to be had.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Vita sales in Japan at risk of dropping below 3K

We accept the Vita is dead hardware in the west, but Japanese sales show just how fast it is falling to the Switch onslaught on Sony's home turf.

I've dug out the big old chart to show how Sony's poor management of the Vita has left the console now. At a time when in previous years, big releases and new colours or models would help spike sales, it remains in perma-decline. There isn't a single Vita game in the new Media Create chart and the Vita managed just 3,090 sales.

Note, in the Famitsu chart, Va-11 Hall-a sneaked into the top 30, top job Sukeban!

Sure, it might shuffle up a little this week as the new non-value packs arrive, hitting shelves today, but with no new colour or game bundles, this really is the last gasp of a company consigned to portable defeat. Digimon Story is the next major release in mid-December.

And here's the current year chart showing just how fast decline has come to the Vita. Seriously, Sony all it would have taken is a HD upgrade in 2015/16 with a better WiFi chip and SD card support! On the plus side, it could be another year until sales fall low enough for Sony to end production, which would bring it to eight years old not a bad innings!

December 15 western release for Romancing Saga 2 confirmed

Developer Akitoshi Kawazu has finally confirmed a western release date for Romancing Saga 2, a game with a deeper and sorrier tale of its publishing than any game based any soap opera! Note he promptly clarified December 2017!

UPDATE: release confirmed as December 15th! There's a new PSN blog post with a producer interview and new pics.

Now it is just down to Square for the details, I'm guessing a physical release is very unlikely. Given this is Square, I'd still say there's a good chance of the release not happening! Romancing Saga 3 is down for a 2018 release in Japan, with a western release also promised by Kawazu-san once the port of RS2 has finished. Busy man!
Romancing Saga 2 Android version 

Enjoy this look at Atelier Lydie & Suelle on Vita

Since the Vita version isn't coming west, here's probably our only peek at the new Atelier game on Sony's portable. And if you compare it to the Switch video of Alchemists of the Mysterious Painting, you can see why developers and gamers are moving on.

UPDATE: Another trailer has popped up...

Even so, would it really have hurt for Tecmo/Gust to nudge a digital version our way? That would be helpful for long-term fans to complete their collection. Personally, I really enjoyed Atelier Sophie last year, but I'm not too sure how much more cutesy potioning I can take.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] heads west in February

Quick, add a stupidest game name to those game of the year polls, I think we have a late entry (but, I think that's the point)! In related news, Arc System Works' latest anime brawler hits the west across all PlayStation formats on February 9th thanks to PQube on publishing duties.

  • Thrilling cast of characters – A varied cast of 20 characters, including series newcomers Phonon, Mika, Enkidu and Wagner!
  • 19 glorious stages – Including 4 beautiful new areas, Cafeteria, Children's Playground, Momiji Alley and the Cathedral of the Far East.
  • Re-balanced gameplay – Old favourites have new abilities and new gameplay elements have been added, including the ‘Veil Off' system that opens up new combo opportunities.
  • Mission Mode – Learn new skills in a dedicated combo challenge mode and take on some of the hardest challenges in the game.
  • Tutorial Mode – An expansive tutorial mode has been added to the game that teaches all the skills necessary to level up your game.
  • Chronicle Mode – Discover the narrative of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] in a dedicated story mode experience.

Star Wars Battlefront II review

A long time ago, 12-years, in a galaxy that had never heard of loot crates, there were plenty of Star Wars games to go around. From strategy fleet wargames, third and first-person action titles to the world of Battlefront where you could slog it out between Rebels and the Empire, gaming was good.

Who knows what is happening now, except rampant corporate greed. But over in portable corner, you can still have a spot of MP LucasArts Star Wars fun. The PSP game, only 595MB in size, plays on the Vita and multiplayer still works using local network.
Camera phone shot of the PSP game
Programmed by Pandemic with Savage Entertainment on duty for the portable version, Battlefront II offers single player challenges, Galactic Conquest mode and Instant Action, while multiplay is quick to setup and go via WLAN. Play is obviously better on the Vita with dual sticks, but manageable on the PSP.

Battles take place across a range of worlds from Dagobah to Endor, Hoth to Naboo and a handful of lesser planets with space battles set over Yavin and Coruscant to mix things up. Sides from both the original and prequel series are available to fight with on any mission.
Camera shot of Battlefront II running on the Vita with filtering enabled. 
In theory, the PSP exclusive features of Rebel Raider, Imperial Enforcer (mission 1: kill all the Ewoks) or Rogue Assassin tours of duty add some cachet to it, but most people will prefer the four-player online mode with familiar troops and equipment.

This 2005 game does look basic with blocky structures and blurry textures. Outdoors is presented in various shades of mud.  Still, the characters are recognisable and the music is as awesome as you'd hope, to make up for the limited range of sound effects. But, when General Grievous turns up dual-wielding lightsabres, that more than makes up for any ropey visuals.

In action, the game is reasonably smooth, aiming is tight on the Vita, not so much on the PSP, and the action is fast and furious on the indoor maps, with a little more leg room outside. Swapping troops or getting to play as Yoda or another hero makes any battle unpredictable and dumb fun for all ages. And then there's the multiple weapons to try out, stomping around in an AT-ST, all in a game the size of PS4 save file!

That's the good news, the bad is looking for it on the EU Vita PSN store app shows no results. I downloaded this from my history list, so it is there, and I can see it on the PC browser store, but not sure about other regions or stores! Wonder if EA asked for its removal to avoid "confusion!"

Score: 6/10
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Price: £3.99
File size 600MB
Progress: Feeling the Force

Black Friday PSN EU PS+ deals up

Here are your EU PSN Black Friday deals for PlayStation Plus subscribers, valid until Friday. The usual suspects plus a couple of recent gems. Hopefully, a follow-up sale for those who don't PS+ will be along shortly.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sony Japan shows off Vita as a remote player

Back home, Sony has actually kept a recent promise to do more with the Vita. It has put out a new series of online ads, one tutorial and one funny. They show off how to keep on playing PS4 games when others need the TV.

Quite how or why Sony globally didn't take this approach three or four years ago, who knows! With the new value packs out this week, I guess this is about as much as Sony can do with no first party titles to pimp.

Review Demon Gaze II

Good news Demon Gaze fans, Kadokawa and Experience haven't fucked this up! I seriously loved the original DG back in 2014. But, since then, pretty much every DRPG (Lost Dimension, Operation Abyss, Ray Gigant etc.) I've tried has messed about with the basics, added some stupid rules, impenetrable plot or weird twist or mechanic that made me hate them with extra bile.

The recent Mary Skelter from Idea Factory/Compile Heart restored some sanity and disorder, now Demon Gaze II keeps the back-to-basics trend rolling. There are a few tiny tweaks, but otherwise, this could have come out in 2014 and slurped on the massive success of DG, which sold over 180K thanks to its global appeal, probably well over 200/250K by now.

That's not to say DG or the sequel, are some boundary-pushing, genre-busting classics. Instead, in both games, you get a solid RPG adventure with a likeable cast and speedy gameplay. Nothing fancy or overtly whacky.

Styx and the City

While some of the cast follow on from No.1 and the scenery is pretty much interchangeable, the sequel has moved downtown. With such locales as Star Temple, Business District, Dragonwood Park, Royal Castle the perfect city of Asteria has a dark underbelly with its ruler relying on demonic forces to keep things quiet and under his thumb.

Each level plays home to a set of demon circles that you need to capture at which point the end of level battle is your next port of call. Defeat a demon and she can be bound the Demon Gazer's side (that's you). As a party, choosing from 16 demons, you can build a team that can take on the worst of the dungeons.

Battles are short and swift, with a range of physical or magical attacks, following the usual elemental rules. If things get tricky, turning the girls into demons will up your firepower, depending on how much juice is in the Star Guage. Familiar features like auto-route on the map, help you get around fast and quick battle will zoom you through minor encounters. Along the way, hidden skulls to collect for Prometh and mushrooms for the guy in the store provide secrets to find and extras to track down.

Every now and again, a major UMF creature will threaten the city and help advance the plot along, but this is really just a game to enjoy for the dungeon raids and a spot of grinding to take down the next demon.

Demonology one-on-one

If you want to get to know your demons a little better, you can take them out on dates and give them presents to improve their performance. One tacky but very minor addition is Maintainance mode where you need to prod them in the right spot, but it is so unsexy that you have to wonder what the point was.

You can bunk your demons in rooms on the second floor of Stella's House to make them happier, and decorate their and your room with furniture to increase some skills. As part of a rebellion, the radio studio in the basement provides a more entertaining diversion with the team putting out nicey-nicey shows to bring down the oppressors. This helps boost the Revolution score, but battling is the only way to progress.

Out on the streets, you can grind by auto-map running and speed battling through any level a few times. There are also locked doors on each level for a fair bit of retreading later on. Some random running around is needed, as gems are rarer than in the previous game. That's presumably to make eager gamers buy the in-app purchases.

Still, it is not pushy or in your face. What is of concern is this game is about three years too late to ride the Demon Gaze wave, and while there's a PS4 version, players are saying the game looks poor on a big screen, so what was the point? Whatever comes next, faster and with more focus please Experience/NISA!

Aside from the pointless nod to fan service, a few gripes remain, you still can't go through a door sideways - really? Auto-map stops when you run over a trap, and every character does an annoying squeal, also when you're trying to find hidden areas, didn't any tester say that was slightly annoying? And in some early battles, the enemy will constantly respawn reinforcements which can be a big pain for beginners.

Those aside, if you just want to romp in the dungeons, beating the bejeezus out of all kinds of weird monsters, this is a great slice of fun. But I think sharing romantic gazes down the halls of the demons isn't much of a thing now.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £34.99 (Amazon or PSN)
NIS America
File size 1.1GB
Progress: Deeper underground

UK Chart update and latest Famitsu reviews

Chart time and in the randomest thing ever, 2014's Sorcery Saga leaps out of nowhere to be the UK retail Vita No. 1. I guess that sold 50 copies to Demon Gaze II's 48. Perhaps there was a sale on, although the game is £19.99 on Amazon.

UPDATE: Game had a sale on with copies down to a few quid! That deal has now ended.

1 Re-entry Sorcery Saga: Curse Of Great Curry God
2 New entry Demon Gaze II
3 1 Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
4 3 Minecraft: Playstation Edition
5 2 Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
6 17 Akiba's Beat Acquire Corporation
7 6 Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
8 4 Assassin's Creed Chronicles
9 5 Chaos;Child
10 16 Farming Simulator 18

Last week's UK chart data and last week's Media Create Japanese chart

In Japan, the weekend news that Atlus is bringing Valkyrie Chronicles 4 to Switch will be no surprise, but is another subtle nudge toward commercial irrelevance for the Vita.

Still, Famitsu has updated its most-wanted list, with a few Vita games still gaining attention. Square's Romancing Saga 3 leads the way and the ever-popular science VN series getting more love with Anonymous;Code.

13. Romancing SaGa 3 – 191 votes
21. Ushiro – 125 votes (PSP)
28. Anonymous;Code – 91 votes

Also out are the latest Famitsu reviews with Rejet's otome Usotsuki Shangri-La 7/7/7/8 (29) out on the 30th and visual novel Chouchou Jiken Rhapsodic 8/8/8/8 (32) keeping the Vita flag flying.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Licky Lizard gets a sticky patch

Licky the Lucky Lizard (review) is one of the more insane games of the year of Vita. If you were worried about performance of this endless climber, can't say I noticed any issues, there's a new patch out to keep things running smoothly.

Remember to support your one-man and smaller dev teams folks, as they're soon all we could have left. Unity has moved way past the Vita, and with the likes of GameMaker Studio 2 not supporting Vita (Juna Ranger is just one game we lost in this way) their efforts will take more work using older less-supported versions to come to Sony's portable, but if we don't buy what's on the market now, they won't even bother in future.

Virtual On Magical Index opening movie

The last game from Sega for the Vita? Seems likely, but the Virtual On meets a Certain Magical Index crossover should get a decent reception, arriving mid-February. A decent theme song in "Get Ready" guides us through the usual roster of mechs and supernatural-powered students.

Some of the ACMI crew featured in Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax if you're not used to that anime, and this isn't the first crossover, there was a PSP game that mixed them up with the Scientific Ensemble team.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ice Cream Surfer soft scooping to the Vita

Once a Wii U game three years ago, Ice Cream Surfer is making a comeback, including on the Vita. Dolores Entertainment from Barcelona is at the helm of this shooter, where a mad range of heroes must ride the ice cream of their choice to take on a world of strange veg and animals. Other than that, I know nothing!

WindJammers CE physical revealed by Limited Run

The who-knew-we-needed-it WindJammers game proved a big summer hit on the Vita and PS4. now there's a Windjammers Collector's Edition from Limited Run for completionists or frisbee fiends. It includes the game, a soundtrack CD, 18 x 24-inch poster, and a proper frisbee in a gate-fold box with a die-cut slipcover.

Only 2,500 of each version will be made and the cost is a whopping $64.99.

Vita might not be at PSX but a handful of games are there

Thanks to Cross Play, Cross Buy and/or pure developer tenacity, a handful of games that are coming to Vita will be on show at PlayStation Experience in December. Sony has just released the attendee list, but cunningly fails to mention Vita in any form.

Sure, these games might be showing on PS4 hardware, there might not be a Vita logo anywhere in sight, and Sony security will probably confiscate any portables, but the games are still coming.

First up, as just announced, there's Russian Subway Dogs from Spooky Squid.

Games we already know a lot about are Konjak's Iconoclasts, Hopoo's Deadbolt and YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, while a version of EarthNight is still on the cards (Cleaversoft say it is still in their plans).

Update: Luc Bernard/Arcade Distillery will be there too, to show off newly announced games, War Thunder and Skull Pirates.

Then there's the impressive looking Children of Morta, which is still confirmed for a Vita release.

Last month, Sekai confirmed that Fault Milestone One is still coming to the Vita, likely along with World End Economica and probably a few more titles (Root Double?), but with this company throwing releases around it can be hard to tell.

Games I'm still checking on include A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher while browsing the show list for any new titles that may have sneaked in. Let me know if I've missed anything.

I guess the scary thing here is that a lot of these games started showing up in 2015, which demonstrates how long the process is for smaller developers. The scarier thing is Sony can't just admit that it has a little handheld that lots of people love, and dedicate a small corner to it and the many games still to come!

Russian Subway Dogs bark at the Vita

Okay, I guess if your development studio is called Spooky Squid, you aren't going to release an ordinary game. So, let's meet Russian Subway Dogs from a Canadian team. In this pixel arcade fest, your post-soviet pooch must steal food, avoid the people and wildlife to survive and wrack up points.

We've all seen enough viral videos of animals on subways, so it is only fair that the dogs of the Moscow Metro get their own game, and fun it looks. Due out in 2018, it mixes fun and insanity with a particular charm set against the ornate underground. Can't wait to give it a go!

As if often the indie way, along with the dogs and other animals, there are a host of guest appearances by characters from other games to watch out for! More info on the official site.

Ratalaika publishing retro-platformer "0000" on Vita

Is this the most retro game to hit the Vita yet? The first of Ratalaikia's publishing projects for 2018, "0000" from Alvarop is an almost ZX-81-style "hard as nails" platformer. Featuring one-bit mode visuals, you play a cowboy sent to beat 100 levels of tricky jumps and traps, packed with spikes, lasers, spiders, the usual!

Fail and you are randomly dumped on another level, until you have beaten them all and then get to replay it all again in hardcore mode (without dying for the trophy!!!!). With a level editor and multiplayer race mode, it might not look much, but everything is in the gameplay.

The game is also getting a PS4 release, official site here.  Ratalaika also has three more games on the way, check the release list for the vaguest of hints!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

12 minutes of Xenon Valkyrie+ gameplay on Vita

Demetrios developer Cowcat is bringing Diabolical Mind's Xenon Valkyrie+ to the Vita soon, a game that's packing spritely rogue and RPG elements. If you like the idea of permadeath, randomised levels and multiple routes, endings and many secrets, this could be heaven. Or hell, as you battle into a moon of fire and ice to defeat a wicked witch and her massive boss minions.

This is a game of a diminutive hero in epic landscapes, with epic battles to fight. Originally a PC release, the Vita version has plenty of refinements to it. Check out some 12 minutes of early gameplay from the Vita version, there are more pics and art at last month's announce news.

Occultic;Nine takes 15th in Japan as Vita sales reach a new low

The Vita sold 3,210 in Japan last week, a new low for the handheld ahead of the arrival next week of the new not-at-all-value packs. That might give sales a tiny boost, if there's anyone left who wants one.

New entry Occultic;Nine and its massively-chested cover art managed 15th place for the Vita at 4,600 units some way behind the PS4 version at No. 11 with 5,850, a bit strange for a visual novel, but showing the tilting balance in Japan. On the plus side it sold a lot more than the Xbox One X managed!

Va-11 Hall-A is out this week with a physical release. Given the amount of interest for the game, hopefully, it will spring a sales surprise. Beyond that we have a host of visual novels or oddities including Butterfly Case, Secret Night Club and Amenity's Life Then things quieten down over December before picking up in 2018, for the Vita's last hurrah! See you on the other side.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ratalaika announce MetaGal for the Vita

Continuing to support the Vita very well, Ratalaika is bringing Steam title MetaGal to the Vita and PS4. Released last year by RetroRevolution, it is popular among the speed running fraternity, with plenty of videos online showing off blistering runs and top technique.

You will take on the role of "Meta" part-cyborg all-girl, in her quest to rescue her Creator Doctor Ray from the clutches of General Creeper and his rogue army.

Metagal's sisters, were also kidnapped by Creeper and transformed into battle cyborgs. Meta must face her sisters, free them, and copy their abilities with eight stages of intense action before a final showdown.

New Iconoclasts gameplay video

Konjak's Iconoclasts continues to look like a class piece of gaming, and is rapidly nearing launch. Looking like the finest of Metroidvania platformers, there's lots of adventuring and exploring, with a range of skills to learn to tackle the monsters and boss beasts. With seven years of love going into this game expect something very special.

Tokyo Tattoo Girls and Demon Gaze II launch trailers

NIS America is a busy bunny this week with a double launch of Tokyo Tattoo Girls and Demon Gaze II to celebrate. If you played the first Demon Gaze, you'll know the drill with a very slick JRPG sequel with a few new tricks, but nothing much that gets in the way of the gameplay. Review coming soon.

Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a very different beast, with strategy and ink high on the agenda, lots of different takes on this game, can't wait to try it myself. Both titles are out this week. now in America, Friday in Europe.

Va-11 Hall-A live on US PSN, game of the year?

Polite Plea: Since I don't do Patreon, lacking the time to create a suitable level of content, please consider clicking an ad on this blog to help reach my new Vita fund! Once reached, will remove all adverts, leaving the final years of Vita life an ad-free oasis!

I know the Vita bubble is a crazy place some time, but with the fervor around Sukeban's Va-11 Hall-A you'd think this was a major label release. There are herds of Japanese and US comments about the game and a fair amount of fan art being shared. People are worshipping the soundtrack and there's a general buzz that's pretty rare for a game about beer.

Certainly, more hype than we'd usually see for a big-name release, and plenty of EU types wondering when we get it (guess PEGI or translations are holding that up).

If you're waiting to jump in or are achingly European you can see the trophies here. And here's the trailer to remind us what we're missing. The game is $14.99 which is a lot for an indie, but Vita could still be the perfect home for this title and should be snapped up to remind the world we're still kicking.

Would you vote for Va-11 Hall-A as the best game of the year? Guess I'll have to run a poll pretty soon.