Happy accidents

In my latest bundle of Saturn games was a copy of Fire Pro Wrestling S, AKA the only sort of wrestling anything I’ve ever enjoyed. This joy soon turned to dismay though as I opened up the case and realised I had been given two Japanese demo discs instead of my promised Burly Man Simulator (the seller has already apologised and sent a replacement). Seeing as I had the discs in front of me and a Japanese Saturn just a few inches away I thought it’d be daft to not at least give them a go…

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These discs were originally attached to Japan’s “Tech Saturn” magazine, which was a pretty typical gaming mag of the time. What’s so nice about these is the variety of content on the discs – audio chats with AM2’s publicity guy, some frankly bizarre digital comics and a slew of playable demos and promotional videos. These two discs alone contain a Waku Waku 7 karaoke singalong, a Soukyugurentai demo (complete with “Trial Version” stamp on the title screen), playable Groove On Fight, Magical Drop 3, Quo Vadis 2 and more and the needlessly jiggly Saturn-chan talking about the white Saturn console.

A lot of the playable demos are really cut down as far as they’ll go (you’ll be lucky if you don’t go straight from the title screen to the game), but the selection’s good and combined with the other features on the disc these magazine freebies feel a lot more complete than the official Sega-produced Sega Flash demos we used to get in the UK.

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Dragon Quest X coming to PC!

Considering how well Final Fantasy’s XI and XIV have done on PC (well, in terms of it being the most widely used and longest-standing format for them) it’s always been a surprise to me that Dragon Quest X didn’t also launch with PC as an alternative format too. That’s all changing though as not only has an official benchmark been released (available through Famitsu and directly through the official Windows website) but the game’s in beta testing and is due out on the 26th of September!

Anyone who downloads and completes the benchmark is eligible for beta testing  – provided they have a Japanese Square Enix account (and live in Japan, the damn thing IP blocks foreigners). The benchmark itself is actually quite engaging for once; instead of throwing a ton of flashy effects they took the time to turn it into a rather lovely story of desire (for an umbrella), joy (earning enough gold for the umbrella), despair (a lack of rain to warrant the use of an umbrella), determination (mis-casting magic spells to try and summon rain for said umbrella) and finally friendship (using the umbrella to shield a Slime from the heat of the sun).

Screenshots below are from the benchmark running on medium settings – enjoy!

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Impatiently waiting for… Arcadias no Ikusa Hime

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So the official website for Nippon Ichi’s upcoming action RPG opened yesterday and I’m already excited, especially as this gorgeous looking 2D beat ‘em up/RPG hybrid is going to be on Playstation 3 (due 26th of September) rather than relegated to handhelds.

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Pruem is the main character (affectionately referred to as “Pu-chan” by her adoring people), the Battle Princess of the Shuvelt kingdom (all romanisations are currently unofficial at this point) and it’s the player’s job to get her beating up protecting her people from giant pandas to more traditional monsters. At this point it looks like there will be five different locations in which to harass the resident wildlife population and a ton of different weapons and skills to inflict upon them. Other characters will be able to join Pruem on her quest, each with their own fighting style.system_battle_style_pruem_img00

Nippon Ichi promise some neat little details too, such as weapon changes being properly reflected on the character sprite. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s always a lot of work in a 2D game!

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All images taken from the official website - link!

Monster Hunter clones: Rights and wrongs

With Monster Hunter Portable 3rd alone selling well in excess of 4 million units (and remember, that game only came out in Japan!) it’s no wonder that both the PSP and general gaming has had a few pretenders trying to take its crown. Some do it better than others though, and in this post I’m going to look at two different approaches to the Monster Hunter problem – Tecmo Koei’s Toukiden and Konami’s Frontier Gate Boost+

(I want to take a moment to point out that the impressions below are based on playable demos, although I have done some research to see if the full games have any major differences.)

We’ll start with what I feel is the right way to go about imitating Monster Hunter – creating a balanced party of four people (AI or real friends) and going out to kill giant monsters. Toukiden’s major “twist” is in the Japanese mythology coat of paint it gives battles to create some striking settings and enemies. It’s a fair bit simpler than Monster Hunter as there’s fewer weapon types and enemies lack the clever behaviour patterns of Capcom’s classic but as fights are lively and the weapons and support abilities are distinct it’s an enjoyable experience and one I’m looking forward to playing properly.

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Then we have what I feel is the wrong way to go about things; Frontier Gate apes Monster Hunter so closely in parts it almost comes across as a bootleg game, from the cute pet that wanders around your home (a hedgehog) to the herb collecting quests the village guildmaster sends you to complete… and yes, you do have to take them back to your base camp to complete the quest. Battles are very different – enemies are encountered “live” on the field but the player is then whisked away to a more traditional turn based environment – but with everything else being so similar it’s almost as if they did that just to avoid being sued.

In its own vacuum I can’t really fault much about the game; it’s beautiful and the battle system’s not bad at all… but by the time this came out (March 2013) Monster Hunter’s already sold around 10 million copies of its various PSP games in Japan, so it’s hard to ignore the similarities or treat them as a mere coincidence.

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On paper Frontier Gate should be the winner here as in truth a lot of Toukiden’s differences are cosmetic… but Toukiden’s been a lot smarter about what it copies and why it does so. When I played through Toukiden’s demo I wanted to know what the next boss would be or how see how the different weapon types would work, whereas with Frontier Gate I found myself playing “Spot the Monster Hunter influence” - if it had only been a bit more original I could have been enjoying the battles or marvelling at the (very well done) locations instead.