A little look at… Final Fantasy Tactics S

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I can’t actually get any confirmation of this, but presumably the “S” in the title stands for “Social” as this is a Japanese Mobage game.

To anyone still reading, Final Fantasy Tactics S is the latest Final Fantasy branded browser-based mobile game (after Final Fantasy Brigade) and uses the setting, rather than the gameplay, of the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance universe. Mobage titles aren’t downloaded apps but are instead run entirely within your iOS/Android web browser after signing into the Mobage service. To keep download speeds/sizes down there’s no music or sound effects, you can somewhat alleviate this by playing the FFTA2 OST while gaming, my personal choice would be this track.

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The plot, if the game can be considered as having one, is to build an ace clan full of tough people and defeat all oncomers – monsters, bosses and other clans alike. There is a bit more to it than that – there are bits of dialogue before you face bosses and other events but the game isn’t concerned about seriously fitting itself within established Ivalice canon.

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As is to be expected from a game of this type, there’s not a lot of difficulty or real strategy here; battles are played out on a rather Ogre Battle like field and entirely automated after you’ve set up your team on the pre-battle menu screen. The game essentially boils down to completing quests by using your team to defeat monsters/other gamers clans, then using the money/materials earned to boost your teams equipment and increase your clan rank. Completing these quest nodes naturally opens up further quest nodes in the area so you can do it all again for shinier equipment.

There is a reason to be concerned about you clan rank - more powerful clans can recruit more members and can complete more quests before becoming fatigued (fatigue can be replenished with paid for elixirs or in game).

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This is where the money comes in – players can buy items and super rare characters (defined by job type, there are no unique units as far as I’ve seen – edit: Just had my backside kicked by Agrias) to give them an advantage in the game. It’s no better or worse than any other game of its type in this regard.

Final Fantasy Tactics fans shouldn’t feel as if they’re missing out; this isn’t an exciting Japan exclusive addition to their favourite series – it’s another throwaway mobile game… but then again that’s all it’s designed to be. It’s a nice enough way to while away a post office queue or a coffee break, it’s not intended to be a “real” game for dedicated RPG fans to spend the next 100+ hours with and I can’t really fault it for doing exactly what it sets out to do.

Arcade Wishes: Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

Arcade Wishes posts are occasional pieces where I lament quality arcade titles that inexplicably have no home ports – this time its the turn of Sega’s Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder.

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The game came out in 1992 on Sega’s System 32 board, the same year as arcade classic Virtua Racing and the best-forgotten Holosseum, and a year after the Mega Drive had its own Golden Axe sequel in the surprisingly titled (and totally unrelated) Golden Axe II.

Revenge of Death Adder throws out almost everything recognisable about the original Golden Axe and reworks the rest – the old cast are all gone (bar Gilius riding on the back of the hulking Goah) and with the exception of blue clad beefcake Stern there aren’t really any obvious like-for-like replacements either. The playable cast has increased from three to four - Ax=Battler replacement Stern, female centaur Dora, giant Goah and finally the short and nimble Trix. If the cabinet has enough joysticks up to four players can take a character each and play through the game together. Revenge may not have the extensive co-op attack possibilities of Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (released four years after Revenge) or Streets of Rage 3 (released two years after Revenge) it does have at least one unique combo attack that’s only possible with multiple players.

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There are five stages in a game, with stages 2 and 4 being decided by the player at the beginning of the level. While the decision making is straightforward the difference is dramatic - each route is a completely separate experience.

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Several levels take the opportunity to show of the System 32’s impressive sprite scaling hardware with some nifty into the screen sections; they’re short and simple but also a nice change of pace and they certainly left a strong impression on my mind at the time.

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One thing that really elevates this game and makes it something special is the relatively extensive moves list. There are only three buttons used by the game – attack, jump, and magic - but there’s still a lot of interesting and useful combos that come out of it.

In the table below A=attack and B=jump. Trix has ever-so-slightly different combos, his basic combo setup has four attacks so he needs an extra “A” added to the below list at the start of each combo. All characters use the same commands and have the same effects but they have slightly different damage values.

A,A,[forward]+A Knockback attack
A,A,[down]+A Stun attack
A,A,[up]+A Looks different, but no special properties
B,B Quick jump attack
[Running jump],[forward]+A Diagonal jump attack
[Running jump], [down]+A Vertical jump attack
A+B Special attack

Combos are also effected by distance from the enemy and if they’re stunned or not – Stern’s standard AAA combo ends with a throw if he’s close to an unstunned enemy, but if he’s a bit further away he’ll close with a gut punch.

Another neat little trick is the ability to knock spears, arrows and other projectiles out of the air with a well timed attack – if you can!

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The magic system is really very different from the first Golden Axe, each character has one spell and only one power level for it. Dora looks like the go-to magic user but her magic is the actually the weakest – however as it only requires four potions to cast and she starts with twelve she can use it more or less as often as she pleases. Gaoh’s magic is the most powerful (a little unexpected for the power hitter character) but he needs thirteen potions stocked up before he can use it! Trix is different from everyone as his “attack” is actually a healing spell – a small tree grows and drops a pile of apples, if the player can get to them and pick them up they get a bit of a health refill.

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Scoring as is merciless as the previous game – a perfect score of 1000 points is only possible if you kill every enemy and collect every item… and not die while you’re doing it. It’s worth doing though as the game not only gives you the top spot on the high score table but grants you the super hardcore title “No.1 IN THE UNIVERSE” too!

It’s understandable why it didn’t have a home port at the time – the Mega Drive absolutely isn’t up to reproducing the game… but surely the Saturn could have had a go? That didn’t happen, so perhaps the Sega Ages range on PS2 would have been the perfect opportunity for a Golden Axe collection too… but all we got was that rather middling 3D Ages remake (with the nice new remixed soundtrack) instead. So, now I’m left hoping for a digital release (another one, as the PSN/XBLA Golden Axe Collection is missing both Revenge and Golden Axe: The Duel) because otherwise yet another generation of both consoles and gamers are going to miss out on this excellent game.

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New database update! Doujin shmup Aurorablast2

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It would appear that my mind is still reeling from notoriously obtuse doujin shmup Hellsinker, as the only similar games it’s allowed me to enjoy recently are more straightforward affairs like today’s new entry, Aurorablast2.

Aurorablast2 is noticeably “more” doujin than a lot of other independently created games – Paint Tool SAI is listed as one of the tools used to create the graphics and the packaging would probably be politely described as “rustic” if it weren’t a computer game – but in many ways that makes it far more true to its roots than a lot of other indie titles that just-so-happen to have ex-professional artists on board or have been in development so long they were once considered for release on the Jaguar.

This is a good fun shmup and a nice way to spend half an hour on your PC - go have a look!

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Aurorablast2

Original Title
Aurorablast2
Format
PC
Genre
Shmup
Developer
neo Transilvania
Official Website
Here
 
Self described as “人類史上最速のSTG” (the fastest shmup in human history), Aurorablast2 plays in a very similar manner to the original Aurorablast by the same doujin group. Unlike a lot of modern shmups Aurorablast2 focuses more on the pleasure of destroying many enemies rather than complex score/chain based play.
 
There are four difficulty levels to choose from, a total of six stages to work through (five numbered plus “Stage 0”) and optional story dialogue scenes between the player character and the bosses that show up at the end of each stage.
 
The player has access to a single ship with two shot types that they can switch between at will; the focused shot type being more powerful but lacking the spread of the second shot type. Both shot types share the same power gauge meaning they level up together, although this also means that if the player character is shot down both have their shot power reduced by one.
 
On the left hand side of the screen are “Extend” and “Power” gauges – the extend gauge fills up whenever chips left behind by defeated enemies are collected, and the power gauge rises as enemies are destroyed. Once the extend gauge has been filled up the player gains an extra life (up to eight) and the gauge resets. The power gauge awards extra firepower in the same way.
 
Bombs aren’t actually bombs at all in Aurorablast2; instead of a screen clearing blast it’s instead a super-powerful shot that replaces the player’s usual weaponry for a short while. As well as being incredibly damaging it also cancels regular enemy bullets – but not missile-type shots.
 
A playable demo can be found here, enter “nmt” into the text box and then hit the grey button below it to download.
 
Packaging
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Screenshots
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Impatiently Waiting For… Xuan Yuan Jian 6

There are two new PC RPGS due out in China this year; the first is Gu Jian Qi Tan 2 (which I already looked at here) and the second is Xuan Yuan Jian 6, the latest game in Softstar’s RPG series that stretches all the way back to the DOS era.

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The official website is full of (rather vague) character and setting information at the moment, although a little digging elsewhere revealed some interesting although subject-to-change tidbits about the gameplay: apparently it’s semi-real time battles this time around as opposed to the usual turn based combat and the dungeons players have to go through are designed to be pretty straightforward so as not to hamper progress. I wouldn’t worry too much about that detail just yet – older games in this series (and “sister” series Xian Jian) are known for dungeon layouts that make Phantasy Star 2 look like child’s play, so hopefully they’re thinking more in line with Xian Jian 5 than Final Fantasy XIII.

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Outside the game are two very welcome additions – the first is that Xuan Yuan 6 won’t be using the draconian always-online authentication seen in previous Xuan Yuan game Yun zhi Yao and the second is that they have every intention of releasing the game simultaneously in both Taiwan and mainland China rather than forcing mainlanders to wait (or import) before they can play.

The series has always been good, but now Softstar have a serious rival in Aurogon’s Gu Jian Qi Tan it feels like there’s a real tension between them and they’re both eager to come out of 2013 on top – it’s a great year to be an RPG fan!

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New Database Addition: Sora no Kiseki Entry Book!

It’s always nice when you go looking for something and end up finding something else that’s more interesting – as I did this morning when I meant to dig out my Sora no Kiseki music CDs and instead found the Entry Book described in the link below.

As is to be expected from what’s essentially nothing more than freebie promotional material there’s not a lot to it - the booklet’s rather slim and the CD could have easily fitted some more artwork on there – but it must have been very exciting at the time and thankfully everything’s in a nice high resolution so even though this CD’s around a decade old we aren’t left squinting at postage stamp size images; the beautiful background artwork shown at the bottom of this post has an original resolution of 4063 x 2551!

But that’s enough chat, go look at the article and see the rest of the goodies for yourself! Link

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The Legend of Heroes Sora no Kiseki Entry Book

Original Title
空の軌跡
エントリーブック
Released
Unknown
Size
5x7 inches
 
This small book and CD combo was a giveaway sometime before Sora no Kiseki’s original PC release, available both over the counter at various Japanese stores and as a bonus for mail order customers too.
 
The book is fourteen pages long and in full colour; the majority of it is “world building” information about the characters and locations in the game with just the final four pages devoted to new gameplay mechanics. The CD includes a single promotional movie (shown below) and a selection of high resolution promotional artwork in both Jpeg and Photoshop formats.
 
Photos
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