Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Chulip - PS2

After I rediscovered Chibi-Robo a few months ago, I decided to do a bit of digging about and find out more about Skip Ltd, the team that created this classic Gamecube title. I already knew about their involvement in Gamecube title Giftpia, but my knowledge after that was limited.

As far as I can tell, Skip are a spin-off of Japanese developer Lovedelic, who created three games during there brief existence - Moon (PS1), UFO: A Day in the Life (PS1) and L.O.L.: Lack of Love (Dreamcast). So far, I've had no joy in tracking any of these titles down, but I'm hopeful that Moon and UFO will eventually appear on the Japanese PSN store at some point in the future.

Another spin off from Lovedelic was Punchline. They created Chulip on PS2 and, although I couldn't track down an American copy (it was never released in the UK) I managed to locate a Japanese copy and I've been playing through it over the last few nights.

The aim of the game is to kiss the girl of your dreams. However, she isn't going to let that happen until you raise your reputation about town. How are you going to achieve this? By kissing all of the town's residents, of course!

Now, you can't just wander up to a random stranger and plant a smacker on their lips...well, you can, but you'll get a slap for your trouble. To get people to pucker up you have to fulfil certain requirements. This means helping people and running errands etc.

In a strange way it reminds me of classic ZX Spectrum titles Pyjamarama and Everyone's a Wally, as you have to have certain objects and items in your inventory for events to unfold.

Obviously the language barrier is throwing a few problems my way, but I'm loathe to use a walkthrough as I don't want to spoil the overall experience. So if anyone knows where I can get a US copy, please let me know.

Although Chulip was never going to win any awards for is looks, I personally think they're great. The isometric viewpoint and the art design are perfectly suited to the quirky gameplay. The town's residents are full of character and they have the same garbled voice style that was used in Chibi-Robo. You'll also come across some very strange creations, too - your first kiss is from an onion!

The mood of the game is set by the game's brilliant musical score. Chibi-Robo, Giftpia and Chulip all have wonderful music, so I can't wait to hear more from the Lovedelic camp.

While there's no chance of Chulip appearing over here on PS2, I would love to see Nintendo pick this up and release it on Wii. With Chibi-Robo about to be re-released on Wii, there's no excuse.

edit: I've managed to order a US version, which should be here by next week.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Look who's coming to LittleBigPlanet...

It's hard to believe, but LittleBigPlanet is just over a week away. And if the thought of dressing up your Sackboy in all manner of weird and wonderful costumes wasn't enough to get you excited, check out these playable characters.

Yes, Metal Gear Solid's Solid Snake and Final Fantasy's Sephiroth will be making an appearance in the final game.

With the beta now over, I am suffering from LittleBigPlanet withdrawal symptoms and next Friday still seems a long way away. I can't wait to get hold of the finished version.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Forza goes Loco Roco

My games collection continues to grow with every passing month, but I'm ashamed to say I still have loads of games kicking about which lie half finished. So, I've decided to get stuck into them again, taking them one at a time until I clear the backlog.

So, while rummaging through my collection on Saturday afternoon, I found my copy of Forza 2 on 360. I haven't played it since last summer, so I put it on to take another look.

When Forza 2 came out, I spent more time designing cars than actually driving them. So I was delighted to rediscover my Loco Roco car today. Inspired by the excellent PSP game, the car design took me a little over nine hours. I thought I'd post it so you could take a look. Click the images to see them in full detail.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Aquanaut's Holiday - PS3 - First Look

At last, my copy of Aquanaut's Holiday dropped through the letterbox yesterday afternoon and I've put around six hours into it. So, time for some impressions.

The game is more mission based than Endless Ocean, so that means quite a chunk of Japanese text. However, I've been making steady progress without many problems.

Initially it seems your travel is rather limited - you are only able to explore a fairly small circular area - similar to Endless Ocean. However, that doesn't last long. At the edge of your starting area is a powered down Sonobuoy. To get it working again you have to head back to base and purchase a battery. When a battery is placed in the Sonobuoy, your area of exploration increases.

So far I've managed to find nine Sonobuoys and have opened up a significant chunk of the ocean, although I've not even uncovered half of the play area yet.

The first section takes the form of a tutorial, getting you used to the handling of your mini-sub. Here, you also have to locate four singing stones. When found, each of these stones adds a different note to the PS3 controller's shoulder buttons. With this new ability you can sing to certain creatures called Singers. As you explore, you'll occasionally hear a Singer somewhere in your vicinity.

Approaching them, you have to replicate their song pattern using your new found ability. These songs start off easy, but get increasingly harder. Successfully singing to these fish fills up your Meme Chart. Filling this chart upgrades your sub, so you can dive deeper, turn faster, carry more stuff etc.

Each 'Singer' has 20 levels. The first level of songs requires you to match two or three notes in sequence. However, at level 20, you will have to replicate close to 30 consecutive notes. This, as you can imagine, is complicated, so have a pen and paper ready to scribble the notes down. Completing the Singer's 20th level rewards you with a trophy.

Every fish, mammal, piece of stone, rock formation etc you click on is added to your Aqua Library, and with around 420 different things to find, Aquanaut's Holiday will last you quite a while. Every new discovery also rewards you with cash, which is used to by new equipment such as batteries.

I've been playing through the main story mode, but I've also discovered one side-quest so far, which involved looking for a sunken organ near the wreck of a wooden galleon.

You'll have to make frequent trips back to base to stock up on new stuff and to progress the main story. Here you'll find project manager Kemelman and your assistant Jessica. Developer Artdink have used actors from the West for these two roles, and the signs on dry land are in English, so I hope this is a sign the game will be translated and make its way to the UK.

All menu headings are also in English, although their contents are in Japanese. This makes navigating your way through the menu system hassle free, although I have found myself button mashing the 'X' button to make my way through indecipherable conversation trees. Still. at least it is clearly marked where to save the game etc.

The graphics are gorgeous and even if you're not following the main mission, it's still great fun to explore the ocean depths. Late last night I unlocked a camera, so all the pictures here are my own. Once a picture has been snapped, it is automatically downloaded to your PS3's hard drive. Of course, the game looks so much better and sharper when you see it in motion, so make sure and check out the video clip below to see Aquanaut's Holiday in all its glory. Everything there is actual gameplay.

The ambient music adds a great deal of atmosphere to the game, while the Hawaiian-style track that plays back at base is wonderful. It's all very laid back and is the kind of game made for lazy Sunday mornings.

There are also 50 trophies to unlock and this is the first Japanese retail release I've come across which features them. I've only discovered two so far, so I've a long way to go!

Aquanaut's Holiday has so far lived up to my expectations. It's what I hoped it would be and can't wait to take another dive. I'll post more pictures and observations as I progress

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Endless Ocean 2 - Wii

As I sit patiently waiting for my copy of Aquanaut's Holiday on PS3 to drop through my letterbox, Nintendo cheered me up by announcing that Endless Ocean 2 is on its way to Wii. Not many images are available, but I've managed to get hold of a few.

The original game remains one of my favourites on Nintendo's system. Its blend of relaxing gameplay and beautiful visuals make it a title I still like to dip into every now and then. It was priced at just £20 on release and if you haven't picked it up by now, you really should take the plunge.

The original had you exploring coral reefs, shipwrecks and caves, looking for items and interacting with sealife. You could feed the creatures you met, take pictures and even dive with other players via Wi-Fi.

Regular reader will be well aware of my love for underwater games. Along with Endless Ocean, Aquanaut's Holiday 1 & 2 on PS1 still get played regularly, and Aquanaut's Holiday 3 on PS3 should arrive from Japan before the end of the week, so I'm really looking forward to this sequel. Even if it's just more of the same, I'll be very, very happy.

No word of a release date yet, but let's hope it's sooner rather than later.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Muramasa: The Demon Blade - Wii

New shots have emerged from the forthcoming Vanillaware title Muramasa: The Demon Blade on Wii.

Vanillaware were the team behind the eye-poppingly gorgeous Odin Sphere on PS2, and as you can see, their latest title looks even better.

Odin Sphere didn't quite live up to its wonderful graphics due to some crippling slowdown and slightly repetitive gameplay, but hopes are high that this new title will play as good as it looks.

Set in feudal Japan, and borrowing ideas from Japan's rich collection of myths and legends, players will be able to control the katana-wielding girl Momohime and the ninja boy Kisuke.

Known in Japan as Oboro Muramasa Youtouden, the game will hit store shelves in Japan later this year, while the US will get their hands on it sometime in 2009. Unfortunately, there is still no word of a European release, but fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice - PS3

Developer Nippon Ichi have given us a host of quirky, fun and deep gameplay experiences in recent years - Phantom Brave, La Pucelle: Tactics, Atelier Iris, Makai Kingdom and Soul Nomad are all excellent titles, but their Disgaea series is the pinnacle of their achievements. Now their most acclaimed franchise is back in the shape of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice on PS3.

The game's story - as you would expect from Nippon Ichi - is as off the wall as ever. The central character is Mao, the son of the Netherworld's Overlord. Mao is out to destroy his father, not because of some deep and meaningful struggle between the two, but because Mao's father has destroyed his son's videogame collection. See, told you it was a bit weird.

Disgaea is a turn-based strategy RPG, similar to games such as Final Fantasy Tactics. Although Disgaea 3 has some new ideas, it's not radically different from the series' previous outings, so veterans will be instantly familiar with the game mechanics. New players need not despair, though, as this is definitely easier to get into than the first two games.

The thing that sets Disgaea apart from other strategy RPGs is its incredible depth. You can rattle through the story in roughly 25 hours or so, however, if you want it to, Disgaea could conceivably last you forever.

Why? Well let me explain. First off, it is possible to level every character to lvl 9999. Just getting one character to that level will take hundreds of hours, never mind an almost limitless cast at your disposal. The second gameplay option that could suck away days of your life is the Item World.

Every single item in Disgaea 3 can be entered - from packets of mint gum to legendary swords. Once in an item, you have to battle your way through dozens of randomly generated floors. This increases the item's stats, and is the best way to obtain the strongest items in the game. Add to this heady brew the option to reincarnate your levelled up characters as new job classes (starting back at level one) you start to realise the insane amount of depth Disgaea has. It's mind-boggling.

Most players, myself included, have no desire (or the time) to explore every nook and cranny of the game. I suspect most players will have a mess around with character classes, getting them to a suitably sensible level. Only the hardcore will spend forever playing.

Unlike standard RPGs, which tend to give players a set team to adventure with, Nippon Ichi have once again given you full control of your companions. You start with a small team, but you can create new characters and choose their classes. Do you fancy having a long-range specialist on your side, who prefers bows to guns? How about creating a second healer for when the going gets tough? Maybe you'd like a Mage who can wield fire rather than the power of nature. Or maybe you just want a team made out of axe-wielding warriors...the choice is completely up to you.

Only 10 characters can be on the battlefield at any one time, but it really pays to have a good selection of classes at your disposal.

Along with the return of this robust character customisation option, Geo Blocks also make a welcome return in Disgaea 3. These objects add status effects to the isometric battlefield. Standing on certain colours grants your party bonuses such as added experience points or a defensive boost. However, some blocks and colours give your enemies positive effects instead. Blocks can also be picked up and thrown, or even destroyed, so careful consideration must be given when you are starting your battle.

While it's great to see another Disgaea game, it's slightly disappointing that Nippon Ichi have kept the look of the game almost exactly the same as the PS2 versions. While the menu screens and background environments have been given a proper hi-def makeover, the character sprites remain low-res. They still exude charm and personality, but it's a real shame Nippon Ichi haven't gone the whole hog and polished up the entire game.

Music is just as weird as the storyline, with the development team choosing bright, cheery bubblegum pop rather than anything too serious. However, the music does tend to grate after a few hours.

Nippon Ichi have always done a great job when it comes to voice acting, and they've delivered once again. Although some accents are a little annoying, it's great to hear so much attention given to this aspect of the game. And if it all gets a bit too much for you, you can always change the voices back to Japanese.

Disgaea's not everyone's cup of Earl Grey, and it is easy to be initially overwhelmed by the amount of stats and items at your disposal. But if you're tired of traditional RPGs, Disgaea is certainly worth a look.

I'm playing the North American version, but Square Enix announced they will be releasing Disgaea 3 across Europe in early 2009, which is fantastic news. If you're new to the series and can't import or simply want to wait for its UK release, I'd recommend picking up a cheap copy of Disgaea 2 on PS2 to give you a flavour of the series.