A Little Look At…Xuan Dou zhi Wang

Xuan Dou zhi Wang (written 炫斗之王 if you want to go off Googling) is a new online-only fighting game from China. It’s also currently in closed beta, so please remember that anything below is subject to change!

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The game’s being developed by Jade Studio and published by Tencent Games – sounds unpromising doesn’t it… until you do a little bit of research and discover that Tencent Games have been running a variety of online games for a long time now and they’re a division of Tencent Holdings, a company that according to Wikipedia are worth about $38 billion USD and rank behind only Google and Amazon in the online business field.

It’s rather lazy but not unnecessarily wrong to say that Xuan Dou zhi Wang heavily draws upon the King of Fighters series for inspiration, but on the other hand KoF is almost twenty years old (!!) – to be honest I’d expect more games to have tried to emulate its appeal by now. It would also be unfair to the game to simply dismiss it as a simple knockoff too; the game’s just too good for that and I’ve got to say that in the time I’ve played I haven’t found a direct clone anyway. Besides SNK obviously find the attention flattering, if I’ve got my facts straight it would seem that Terry Bogard and Benimaru will be making a crossover appearance in Xuan Dou at some point - see for yourself!

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While the game is download-only and requires you to be online to play it’s not all about getting crushed underneath an endless procession of more experienced players – the game offers a selection of practise and single player modes and even gives out bonus XP and other small items for doing so!

XP, like in any RPG, is needed to level up: only this time you’re levelling up yourself. At level 20 you can create your own guild (or clan, if you prefer) and you unlock a new character, with another becoming available once you hit level 35. XP is given out for losing as well as winning, so there’s still a sense of progression even if you’re mashing buttons and have no idea how to use the character you’ve picked on a whim.

If you do want to play against a human opponent (and even someone as nervous about competitive play as I am does eventually) there’s plenty of styles to suit anyone. There’s regular quick 1v1 and 3v3 matches as well as player-created rooms that you can drop in and out of or simply spectate should you wish to. Room also offer another mode – 3v3 team matches, where everyone on the team is an individual person instead of two players picking three characters each.

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The game is currently designed as a dreaded freemium title, with an attached shop for purchasing new characters, outfits, XP boosts and the like. However at the time of writing everything’s purchasable using points earned through fighting (whether this is due to change or not is unknown) and with little effort and even less skill I’ve managed to earn enough points to permanently unlock a new character. I should mention at this point that players without the time/will/cash to unlock everything aren’t second class gamers and there are no restrictions on playing with or against characters you haven’t personally unlocked.

Characters and costumes have two prices – a “rental” cost and a permanent unlock. To unlock a character permanently you need somewhere in the region of 7000 points, an amount I’ve managed to build up fighting just a handful of matches over a week. If you want to rent a character and see how they play then 30 days time with them costs roughly 2500 points. Costumes are priced high (around 8000 points or more), but as these are vanity items it’s to be expected.

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The chances of this game going mainstream are slim to none, mainly because it’s PC only (a sensible choice for the home region, but not so great elsewhere) but that doesn’t mean it’s not one to watch – it’s a good game and a legitimate alternative to Capcom/SNK/Arc, and the parent company has the money and experience to support it long term. I can only hope an international release comes along at some point, the game deserves it!

New Database Addition! Doujin Shmup RefRain ~Prism Memories~ (PC)

This game was bought for me as a present by an incredibly kind soul and I’ve enjoyed every last minute of it; I’m a very lucky lady!

Shmups can be a pretty daunting experience if you don’t have the time to invest in them the way they want you to (no-miss second loops to reach the TLB and all that gubbins), or if they don’t try to kill you instantly they instead throw fourteen different counters and gauges on screen and demand you look at every one of them all the time… but RefRain does neither. That’s not because it’s simplistic or dull, it just has this nice balance where anyone can pick it up and have a good time but there’s also enough going on that if you do spend more time with it (and you should) there’s more to find and an experienced player will be able to do some fancy things that the first-timer can’t.

In any case, great game and the database entry is here.

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RefRain ~Prism Memories~

Original Title
リフレイン
〜プリズム
メモリーズ〜
Format
PC
Genre
Shmup
Developer
RebRank
Official Website
Here
 
RefRain is the second game in RebRank’s “Project Blank [P.N.B]” series, after Samidare. The two do link together in a plot-related way although as games they play very differently from one another. Since RefRain’s release a free downloadable spinoff title, RedRive, has been produced and is available here.
 
Once the game has been launched everything within it is presented using a fake UI, with each of the three characters having their own distinct “desktop” to launch their “dive” from (as this is one of those shmups where the plot dictates that characters are virtually piloting a craft rather than physically present inside). When playing through the game for the first time characters will find messages and IM-style conversations from various other people on their desktop in tray, these chat logs are where the vast majority of the plot is revealed. There are four possible difficulty levels to choose from, and some small difficulty adjustments in game if the player performs particularly well.
 
The game itself is a vertical shmup that takes place over five stages. There are no power up, life, bomb pickups or alternative weapons. Each craft has two types of basic shot – a standard shot and a more focussed lock on shot that reduces ship speed; while they are broadly similar across the board shot strength and firing range does differ between characters.
The second shot type is known as the M.E.F.A2 system: these are more powerful shots that can only be used when the large gauge at the bottom of the screen has enough charge. The gauge is capable of holding six charges, and is filled by shooting enemies. Each character has four M.E.F.A2 attacks, and each attack uses up an additional charge of the M.E.F.A2 gauge (so a level 2 attack requires 2 charges, a level 3 attack 3 charges, etc). Level 3 and 4 M.E.F.A2 attacks are capable of “sealing” enemies – including bosses – preventing them from attacking. If bosses are sealed and then damaged quickly enough the player is awarded a bonus for skipping phases of the boss battle.
The final offensive ability available is the Concept Reactor, which is essentially a bullet-cancelling bomb.
 
Once the game has been completed a “second loop” mode opens up; this appears to be very much the same as the standard loop apart from the suicide bullets that now spray out of defeated enemies.
 
Much as RebRank did with Samidare, RefRain also has it’s own soundtrack and material collection known as RefRain ~Prism Memories~ Chronicle. These extras were sold separately at a later date but are designed to fit perfectly inside RefRain’s slipcase and complete the set. The RefRain Chronicle items are shown in the final two photos below.
 
Packaging (including RefRain Chronicle)
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Screenshots
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A Post About Post: Umihara Kawase Shun

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So yesterday I finally got my paws on the Playstation version of Umihara Kawase – great! I’ve not had the time to sit down with it like I should yet but all signs point to it being more of the same; usually a criticism but as the original is one of the most unique and wonderful platformers of its era there’s no complaints here.

While I may not have had the time to play much of the game (the bit you’re supposed to do), I did take the time to poke around the disc and that brought up a few images people might (I should probably stress that “might” there) want to see. First of all, here are the background images used in the game but always obscured by the scenery:

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And what better way to finish off this post than with the “game over” fish?

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By the way – if you have no idea what Umihara Kawase is, have a quick look at my post about the DS version here.

Descent into Madness: A Trip Through Dinosaur

I’m normally a bit disappointed when I open up a second hand game and find someone’s actually used the notes section – how dare they! We all know that any blank spaces in manuals or on maps must be kept pristine and untouched, even if the developer openly invites us to use that space by writing “Notes” or “Passwords” at the top. Well, the day I opened up my PC-88 copy of Falcom’s first-person dungeon crawler Dinosaur was the exception to that rule for me – every last inch of the official graph paper had been scribbled on, and I loved it.

This wasn’t just some child vandalising a manual (at the price computer games went for in Japan at the time, the chances of a kid affording Dinosaur were rather slim in the first place!) but someone’s adventure, all mapped out in front of me. They’d spent time with this. They’d struggled in places, and I could see it. They also had a selection of biros and weren’t the sort to care which colour they used this session.

It all starts off innocently enough – Falcom kindly provide colourful painted not-map-maps of “World of DINOSAUR”, and like all good old dungeon crawlers these “fluff” illustrations are actually useful if you take the time to think about them; the location positions in the first image are correct and both maze paintings in the second image are accurate, it’s just up to the player to notice.

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Falcom continue to help out and start you off with a few fully-outlined but un-annotated maps of some starting areas, easing you into the idea that yes, you really are expected to carry on and use up all the other blank sheets they give you. At this point Mr Dinosaur Player has circled a few little points of interest and drawn some small maps.

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As we get further into the game Mr Dinosaur Player is now totally on his own and seems to be doing pretty well until he appears to have a breakdown mapping out 2F of the Tower of Ordeals.

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Let’s look at another sheet shall we? This one’s almost at the end of the game… oh dear, we aren’t even in neat line territory any more! At this point he’s gone through the Dimension Maze, AKA The Most Evil Dungeon I’ve Ever Come Across, and I can practically feel his despair oozing out of every scribble, poor thing.

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I don’t really want this to come across as though I’m pining for the Good Old Days; making your own maps is a time consuming process and something our games are more than capable of doing for themselves (heck, we expect our phones to be able to map out a route home now!), but I do think it’s a shame that with that streamlining we lose these little windows into battles fought long ago and late nights spent swearing at spinner plates and invisible walls. Mr Dinosaur Player, I salute you!

Playing doujin outside Japan–and how we can help

I’ve been waxing on about great doujin games for a long time, and it does frustrate me no end when the only legal way to play them is to import CDs that vanish by the time you hit refresh or to navigate rather confusing Japanese-language download sites… but that’s starting to change as small publishers take the initiative and go to the trouble of giving these games official English language releases. Carpe Fulgur have rightly got a lot of praise and attention for bringing the excellent Chantelise, Recettear and Fortune Summoners to a wider audience – the latter two doing especially well on Steam, but they aren’t the only company bringing us doujin games – Nyu Media currently have both the lovely Croixleur and cute-but-evil Eryi's Action trying to break through onto the service but they are both stuck in Greenlight hell - here and here. Why is Steam so important when both of them are already available to buy not only direct from Nyu Media but also on places like Gamersgate and Desura? It’s really simple – Steam is massive. Steam is that big it’s become the default download service – it’s like having a book and not selling it on Amazon.

This is where we, as gamers, can help.

If we want more doujin – affordable, English language doujin that doesn’t require specialist knowledge to legally acquire – we need to respond to campaigns such as these Greenlight requests to make sure they end up on the biggest download service there is and are given the best chance of succeeding. The benefits are obvious; successful games encourage more doujin circles to work with foreign publishers which can only mean more great games for us all in the future. All I’m asking is that you please take a minute or two out of your day to log into Steam and vote for these two games – they’re well worth playing in their own right but you’ll also be providing doujin a chance to flourish for the future too!

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Puyo Puyo Tsuu Remix Menu Help

This is my attempt at doing something practical for a change; Puyo Puyo Tsuu Remix is an amazing puzzle game, but for such a simple and familiar concept the menus don't make it very easy for a first-timer to find the mode they actually want to play. I'm hoping this little visual guide will make Puyo-ing on this excellent Super Famicom game a bit more enjoyable for non-Japanese readers.

Main menu

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1) Single player Puyo Puyo

2) Two player Puyo Puyo

3) Everyone Puyo Puyo - 3 & 4 player mode

4) Tokoton Puyo Puyo - Just you and endless Puyos

5) Options

 

Single Player Puyo Puyo

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1) Easy Puyo Puyo

2) Normal Puyo Puyo

3) Tsuu Mode - face all 33 opponents!

 

Two player Puyo Puyo

Everyone Puyo Puyo rule settings are in exactly the same order as these.

1)puyo 2)puyo13)Puyo2

4)Puyo35)Puyo66)Puyo5

1) Normal rules

2) Point Puyo - Clear "garbage" Puyos are replaced with point Puyos

3) Kata Puyo - Clear "garbage" Puyos are replaced with solid Puyos

4) Need to link 6 Puyos before they’ll disappear

5) Need to link 2 Puyos before they’ll disappear

6) Edit rules

 

Everyone Puyo Puyo first menu (before rules menu)

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MP 3 player Puyo Puyo

MP1 4 player Puyo Puyo

MP2                              Settings

MP3 Back to the title screen

 

Tokoton Puyo Puyo

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1)TP2)TP1

1) Play

2) Example - Shows various chaining examples.

There! That should generally get you where you need to be; I hope this was useful to someone!