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REVIEW / Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds (VITA)

 

Back in the early days of video games, conventional side-scrolling brawler games like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and Final Fight were all the rage. The reason being was that they were easy to learn and fun as all get out to play. The gameplay was simple; just brawl your way through the stages while collecting food items for health and loot items to boost your score. If you are feeling nostalgic and are looking for something that has all of the fun and action of the early days of video games with an updated design, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds from Mages and 5pb Games has all that and some. Offering a multitude of loot drops, fast-paced brawler action and a very deep character skills set upgrade system, this brawler will pummel your senses like nothing else available on a hand-held console. It’s been almost two years since its release on the Xbox 360 and it has finally made it’s way over to the VITA.

 

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Fights can break out anywhere. Even in a video game arcade.

 

The story in Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is your typical fare consisting of a stereotypical bad guy, Phantom, who is trying to reclaim his powers of darkness by kidnapping the younger sister of your friend and the journey to rescue her begins. The gameplay, however, is anything but typical. Stages are side-scrolling affairs with the battle action taking place in the foreground and the mid-ground with the background being filled with amazing locations such as shopping centers, sewers, forests and office buildings. You can play as one of four female protagonists initially but there are other characters that you can find during the journey as well as some DLC characters that you can download. The enemies come at you in waves as you use all available real estate to dispatch them and claim the spoils of their demise all while earning skill points to level up your character, power up items to boost your attacks and coins and jewels to boost your score.

During gameplay, you can use the D-Pad or the left joystick for movement as well as to perform certain attacks. The square, triangle and circle buttons are used for the weak, medium and strong attacks, respectively while the X button is reserved for your special attacks. Attack combos can be pulled off by using a combination of taps on the D-Pad and button presses. Each character has their own signature attacks to compliment the standard attacks like punches and kicks. There are also special attacks that can be done once the Burst Gauge has filled to a certain amount or all the way. Of course, waiting until the Burst Gauge is completely filled will open up the largest can of whoop-ass available. In addition, the left shoulder button is used to jump between fore- and mid-ground in order to maneuver around the stage and to get in the best possible attack position.

 

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This is what happens when the Burst Gauge is filled; momma looses her $ #!&.

 

The battle system in Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is surprisingly robust and really helps to add a new twist on a once overabundant video gaming staple. The addition of a Burst Gauge and the corresponding D-Pad taps and button presses to perform certain attacks are a gameplay mechanic from fighting games so it should be familiar right from the start. Having battles take place on two different planes isn’t an altogether new idea for brawlers but having them stuck to one plane or the other is. In games like Double Dragon, your movement is not restricted to two planes but you can in fact move your character freely from one plane to the other or anywhere in between. In the case of Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds, being that there is only so much screen space to work with on the VITA, it helps to allow the player to keep track of their character. The one drawback to having to jump back and forth is that if you are in the mid-ground and a larger enemy is in the foreground, the larger enemies can actually obscure your view of the battlefield and can totally block out your character altogether.

 

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Enemies come in all shapes and sizes so make sure to position yourself where you can always see your character.

 

The artwork in Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds immediately grabbed my attention. While the opening intro is done in an anime styled montage, the game itself is done in this really unique stylized pixelated technique. It has a very retro feel to it while at the same time setting itself apart from how most games in this genre from other Indie studios are doing their artwork. Colors are bright and playful in the outside areas and dark and dank in the indoor or underground areas. The character designs for the heroins are very cutesy and unique. The enemy designs are also a sight to behold with many of them sporting retro ‘80s styled outfits like acid wash jeans, bright pink wigs, studded denim jackets and pencil ties. There are also a few demon types that will show up and help to round out an eclectic, if not downright colorful, cast of fleshy punching bags.

The soundtrack in Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is the icing on this tasty brawler cake. Tracks are done in a cool chip-tune style that really takes you back to the time of 8/16 bit consoles. The tunes are very catchy and serve the onscreen action very well. 5pb games has done an awesome job of getting the feel of the era just right and the soundtrack is what makes it all happen. It was also a nice surprise to see that the voice overs are all in their original Japanese glory with English subtitles. I think that this helped to maintain the distinctly Eastern feel of the game.

 

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I had a red jacket like that back in the day. Those guys have style.

 

Those individuals that say that they can’t get on the bandwagon because the VITA doesn’t have any games need to come up with a new excuse. To that I say, in my best Patton Oswalt voice: “No Games!? Aw, come on, you’re not even trying!” This year has seen some really good games released for this platform and even though Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds has been around for a couple years, it is still a very welcomed addition to the VITA library. The structure of the game is perfect for on the go action and/or short gaming sessions. There are no deep story lines that you have to keep track of in order to understand what is going on.   Just balls-to-the-wall brawler action with a soupcon (a slight flavor) of certain RPG elements. If you are still on the fence about the VITA I can guarantee that if you play this game, you will be hooked.

 

The post REVIEW / Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds (VITA) appeared first on That VideoGame Blog.


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OlliOlli2 ramps up for PS4, Vita release in 2015

High-flying skateboard stunt sim OlliOlli is getting a sequel on the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, developer Roll7 announced today.

OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood expands on the framework of its predecessor with split-route levels, an improved grinding…
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REVIEW / Metrico (Vita)

 

Bar graphs. Pie charts. Histograms. These are things that should be kept in math class, not in videogames. Digital Dreams, a new videogame developer, tried to make the newest trend of information graphics (i.e., infographics) into a fun platformer for the PlayStation Vita called Metrico. Its success, however, may not be as high up in the charts. No pun intended.

 

 

Metrico has no plot. The game starts by asking whether the player wants to play as a man or woman and drops that avatar into the world of infographics. The gameplay has a very experiential nature to it; it does not give the player much hints as how to progress except for a short tutorial of the newest aspect at the start of each world. It leaves the player to figure out how to work each graph by jumping, running, shooting, or killing enemies.

Each world consists of a few levels of graphs that the player has to manipulate in order to progress to the next level. There are a few ways to progress to each level, but the game is mostly a puzzle, which means a simple mistake can lead to restarting the level. While the game is short with only six worlds with around eight levels each, the game can take longer to complete because mistakes are so easy to make when there are really no hints as to complete the puzzles. However, for very apt players of puzzle games (or resourceful by using a guide), the game can feel very short and boring.

 

Running, jumping, shooting, and/or killing will manipulate the infographics.

Running, jumping, shooting, and/or killing will manipulate the infographics.

 

Players should not expect fireworks and fanfare at the end of each world (and completing some very difficult puzzles). What does await at the end is a choice to go with a very vague statistic: two percentages of a whole. Players can then decide to go with the popular or the unpopular vote, and whichever they choose increases that statistic. The statistics at the end of each world really serves no purpose in the game and may give players an underwhelming feeling of accomplishment.

Speaking of accomplishments, trophy hunters, or PlayStation players who like to complete all aspects of a game, will get frustrated. Many of the trophies consist of playing the whole world with some type of restriction, whether it may be jumping a certain number of times to never hitting the restart button. Failing to do so, means restarting the whole world again, which means having to sit around three minutes for the world to fully load as the game is graphically intense with seamless transitions to each level.

 

Making a simple mistake may mean restarting the whole world for those who want to achieve everything.

Making a simple mistake may mean restarting the whole world for those who want to achieve everything.

 

Metrico, however, is a very aesthetically pleasing game. The developers play around with colors and light in each world, and it creates worlds that have individual themes. The game also utilizes all functionality of the Vita, from its motion sensor to its cameras although they are introduced to the game as the players progress. At one point toward the end of the game, there is at least one level where all of the Vita’s functionality must be used to complete it.

 

The game is beautiful even when it is black and white.

The game is beautiful even when it is black and white.

 

All in all, Metrico successfully paints a eye-catching game utilizing infographics, but sadly fails to create an innovative puzzle platformer. The game should be meant for a rental, but as of right now, Metrico is only purchased digitally. If this game is available with the advent of PlayStation Now, that would be the perfect time to play it.

 

The post REVIEW / Metrico (Vita) appeared first on That VideoGame Blog.


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Final Fantasy series developers unveil Zodiac for Vita, iOS

French developer Kobojo has assembled a team of Final Fantasy series veterans for Zodiac, an upcoming multiplayer online RPG for iOS platforms and the PlayStation Vita.

Taking place in a persistent online world, Zodiac features gameplay that spans…
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Final Fantasy Agito+ is a free Vita game for Japan

Final Fantasy Agito is coming to Vita in Japan as a free game called Final Fantasy Agito+, due out on January 15, 2015. A new trailer details the Vita game, with information translated by Final Fantasy Union. Final Fantasy Agito+ contains the content…
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Sony UK boss: The Vita is ‘trucking along’

“There’s a perception that it’s fading away. I can absolutely assure you that that’s not happening. It’s proving remarkably resilient.” …


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Jungle Rumble brings musical monkey mayhem to Vita ‘very soon’

Developer Disco Pixel has announced that its rhythm-based platformer Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas is coming to Sony’s Vita handheld.

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Marvel Super Heroes star in LittleBigPlanet Vita rerelease

Just over two years after the adorable burlap creatures of LittleBigPlanet first reached Sony’s Vita, the charming, creative platformer is being relaunched with an extra helping of Marvel Comics cross-brand synergy.

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REVIEW / TxK (VITA)

 

As a member of PlayStation Plus, I always get a bit giddy as the end of a month approaches because I know that I will soon be graced with a new batch of free games. To my delight, I stumbled across a game that is a throwback to my days of spending long hours at an actual video game arcade (remember those?). The developers of the hit Tempest 2000 (T2K), Llamasoft, brings to PS Plus the senses-shattering shooter TxK. This time out, the game builds on T2K by extending its length, enhancing the visuals and the audio and making great use of the superior horsepower of the VITA. TxK offers players new terrains, new bonus rounds, new enemies and new weapons. All this is combined to blow your mind with cool music, bright flashing colors and lights and edge of your seat gameplay.

 

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If flashing lights bother you, you might want to skip this game because there is a lot of brilliant explosions.

 

TxK brings you 100 levels of engrossing score-chasing gameplay that will make your eyes water and your brain quiver with excitement. Glowing vectors, explosive particle effects and a pulse-pounding soundtrack meld together to create an experience unlike anything available on the Vita to date. TxK is a classic arcade tunnel shooter at its core that has been updated with a modern twist. The player simply moves their ship along the top edge of the playing surface in an attempt to shoot all the oncoming enemies before they shoot you or reach the top edge and capture you.   Power-ups are available like the Suppertapper which is a smart bomb that clears the screen and awards bonus points, an AI Droid that glides along the edge with you and helps you to shoot more enemies and the jump ability that lets you jump up above the rim of the surface to avoid being overrun. Three different play modes (Classic, Pure and Survival) are also included to test out your skills and to give you more of a challenge when you are ready to see just how good you are.

 

 

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Collecting the Jump power-up will allow you to jump above the surface edge and shoot down those enemies that made it all the way to the top.

 

TxK sports awesome looking vector graphics that went out of style in the late 1980’s but are reborn in bright colors and flashing lights. The playing surfaces are simple designs, however with the use of depth, the player is treated to a visual effect that gives you a bird’s eye view of the landscape and allows you to see just how close the enemies are getting to you so that you can shoot then into oblivion. Particle effects fill the screen when you unleash the Suppertapper as well as when you are dispatching the enemies that are trying to capture you. Later levels really reminded me of something out of the original Tron movie yet updated with a modern feel. Having the playing surfaces juxtaposed against the black background gives the feeling of battling alien invaders in deep space and helps to always keep you focused on the action.

The soundtrack in TxK can be described as nothing short of phenomenal. The game consists of 18 (yes, 18) tracks that are a cool mixture of tekkno and ambient tracks that is the perfect complement to the type of experience that this game offers. Llamasoft was able to tap some of the most talented musicians in the genre such as Anosou, Korruptor, Coupler, Junosix and TonalAxis to create music that is upbeat and frenetic. The music definitely helps to immerse you into the experience and put you into the zone. The carefully balanced sound effects and the otherworldly soundtrack combine to create an experience you wont find anywhere else.

 

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The playing surfaces are all varied and come in some pretty crazy shapes.

 

I have to admit that it was a nice surprise to find this offering this month on PS Plus. For a free game, this one is very awesome and tons of fun. Providing 100 levels of intense shooter action that gets more difficult as you advance through the levels is a throwback to when games didn’t offer saves at regular intervals and if you quit the game, the next time you played you had to start all the way from the beginning. TxK doesn’t make you start all over if you don’t want to but you get the option. If you so choose, you can start at the last level that you made it to but I found that I liked to start from the very beginning so that I could earn extra lives and bump up my scores as well. This game will only be offered during the month of September so if you want it you better get it soon. I promise, you wont be disappointed.


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REVIEW / Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (VITA)

 

Imagine blue skies, white clouds, a glittering ocean, and a vast beach. Also imagine that you are here on this beach because you are on a school field trip with fifteen of your classmates. This serene location is Jabberwock Island, a very famous and popular vacation resort destination. Regrettably, it becomes immediately clear that the headmaster of your school, Hope’s Peak Academy, is a wicked little stuffed bear and you all soon realize that you may never leave this island again.

NIS America and Spike Chunsoft presents Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the sequel to the highly popular mystery adventure game Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Although you believe that all hope is lost, the headmaster presents everyone with a way to leave the island; murder one of your classmates and survive the class trial without getting caught. During this frantic, high-stakes class trial, you must use the evidence that you have gathered during your investigations, as well as your classmates’ testimonies, to literally shoot down your opponent’s arguments. Survive the trial and you may get to see your loved ones again. Fail, the killer goes free and it’s curtains for everyone else.

 

Some or all of these people will try to kill you…maybe.

 

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is basically an interactive novel that tells the story of Hajime Hinata and his fifteen classmates as they attempt to survive their ordeal on Jabberwock Island. Each of the students have been chosen to attend Hope’s Peak Academy because of an ultimate ability that each one of them possesses. Unfortunately for Hajime, he has lost all of his memories before his arrival at the academy and is not quite sure what his ultimate ability is. Playing as Hajime, it is up to you to discover the secrets to Jabberwock Island and to root out the killers before they kill you. The class trials is where Hajime will do his best work and where the dark secrets of his classmates will be brought out into the light.

The class trials in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is where this game really shines. Once a murder victim has been discovered, you will have a certain amount of time to investigate the crime scene and to take notes on the condition of the body and the surrounding areas as well as to take any statements from your other classmates about where they were at the time of the murder and if the saw or heard anything that might help with the investigation. All clues are automatically added to your Electronic Student Handbook and can be called upon during the trial to refute or confer with the testimony that your classmates will give. During the trials, statements that are being given will float across the screen that you will need to slash in order to call them into question. In addition, you can target certain statements with your Truth Bullets, facts that you have discovered during your investigations, that you can use to shoot down any statements that you know for a fact are false or misleading. Combining the clues and questioning the other students will eventually lead you to the killer and allow you to solve the case. Otherwise, if you fail, the killer goes free and everyone else pays the ultimate price.

 

Certain elements are reminiscent of another courtroom drama game.

 

The graphics is Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair are some of the best that I have seen on the VITA to date. Renowned artist Rui Komatsuzaki was tapped to create a unique and darker take on the anime style. Visuals look like they are taken straight out of a manga book that showcase bright. Vivid colors with bold, contrasting lines really make the environments stand out. Character design is in line with what you would see in anime as each of the sixteen students are over the top representations of the types of characters that you would have in Japanese manga. The dark setting and story elements are really complimented by Komatsuzaki’s art style and helps to give the game a personality and feeling all its own.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has hands-down the best soundtrack that I have heard on the VITA this year. While you are interacting with the other students or just wondering around the island trying to discover it’s many secrets, you will be treated to a very diverse assortment of background music. The game will show the title of the song that is currently playing in the top left corner of the screen whenever a new song is playing. Tunes range in variation from brooding, dark energy soliloquies to upbeat, kettle-drum heavy island melodies and jazzy, horn-infused dance serenades. The voice over work is stellar as well. The characters come to life by a voice cast that was really able to get in touch with their characters. No matter how ridiculous some of the students personalities are, the dialogue and its delivery made for a very entertaining experience that helped to keep me engaged in the story and excited to delve into the mysteries that are always around the next corner.

 

The UI is very smooth and provides a lot of info in a small space.

 

Having not had the opportunity to experience Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc before playing the latest outing from Spike Chunsoft, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Being that at it’s core, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is an interactive novel, there is a lot of reading. Other than running to the first few available locations on the island and exploring those locations, the bulk of your time will be spent talking to the other characters and getting to know them. In fact, it took me a little over seven hours before I even got to the first class trial.

This may be a turn off for players who are expecting a game that has a lot more action. However, once I got to that first class trial, I was really taken by the way that the game system is set up to go over the facts of the case, rebut testimony and to finally come to a consensus as to who the killer actually is. If not for the spectacular writing and the over the top characters to carry the story along, I think that many players would not stick around long enough to get to the point in the game that really showcases it’s strengths.

 

Cooperating with your classmates can go a long way towards helping you solve a case.

 

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair very much reminds me of another courtroom franchise that I have enjoyed in the past. However, Spike Chunsoft has taken that formula, turned it on its head and turned the mystery elements up to one hundred. The writing in this game is on par with mystery television shows like “The Killing” where you think the murderer is one person, but soon learn that you were wrong and it ends up being someone else. While the game is a murder mystery, there is a good amount of humor that I often found myself laughing out loud and then looking around to see if anyone was looking at me. This mix of mystery story elements, outrageous characters and bizarre locations made for an awesome trip that I will not soon forget.

 


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