Friday, August 29, 2008

The Last Trailer Before Infinity

Square Enix recently released a new trailer for the nearly-released Infinite Undiscovery. This is likely the last trailer before the game launches early next week in North America, and about a week later in Japan.

The trailer features many of the characters we've seen thus far, plus a few new faces. Take a look below before we jump off into infinity next week.

New Jaleco RPG Announced. Who's Jaleco?

Jaleco announced Kizuna: Ougon no Kizuna (Golden Bonds) via this week's Weekly Famitsu, an action RPG slated for release sometime this winter on Nintendo Wii.

For those of you who have never heard of Jaleco before (not that I blame you), they are the creative minds behind such blockbusters as Otona no G
yaru Jan (a mahjong game featuring Japanese models) and Denjirou-Sensei no Fushigi na Jikkenshitsu (an edutainment type DS game... I think).

Interestingly enough, Jaleco didn't just jump out of the
woodwork yesterday. They've been publishing "casual" titles in Japan since 1982 (for any of you familiar with old school arcade games like Exerion or Chameleon, that's them). They've occassionally published some Western games in Japan (like Dark Alliance), but they generally stick to the more casual market.

Kizuna is being produced and directed by Youichi Kawaguchi, who has worked on Dark Cloud 2 (Dark Chronicle in Japan), Dragon Quest VIII, and most recently as the director of the upcoming Little King's Story (Ousama Monogatari). The gam
e's scenario is being handled by Miwa Shouda, a scenario writer who has worked for Square Enix for quite a while, and has handled the scenarios for SaGa Frontier, Legend of Mana, Sword of Mana, and worked partially on Final Fantasy XII.

It is currently unclear if Kawaguchi and Shouda have joined Jaleco, or have started a development studio, and are publishing the game through Jaleco
(though I suspect the latter).

Though no solid release date has been set, the game is expected to ship sometime winter 2008 in Japan. Check out the scans below to see what looks to be the darkest RPG slated for the Wii yet.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider Trailer Features Beast Riding

And also, Tyris Flare's ass. Which, as I've said before, are the two things I expect from this game.

Take a look at the new trailer below.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider is developed by Secret Level and published by Sega. It is set for tentative release on October 14, 2008 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. However, that "Fall 2008" thing at the end of the trailer says to me that we maybe shouldn't write that release date in stone...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tales of Vesperia Who's Who

Well, here it is. The last entry into today's Tales of Vesperia Day. I hope you enjoyed it! =)

Below I have spared no effort in bringing you character bios translated directly fro
m the official Japanese Tales of Vesperia website, complete with Kousuke Fujishima's character illustrations.

Give this a read for one last look at the characters
before the game will be on shelves sometime tomorrow.

Yuri Lowell (21)

“Saying its for the sake of the world, or whatever, it doesn’t h
elp anyone if all it brings is tears.”

Main Weapon: Sword, Hand Axe

Sub Weapon: Fist

A young man who once dreamed of life as a knight, Yuri became disillusioned with the establishment after joining them, and eventually left. Though his best friend remains in the knights, Yuri took up life as a civilian bodyguard in the city.
Seeing the severe oppression from the higher-ups, Yuri has grown to hate nobles and officials.
After being imprisoned after a certain incident, he has a strange encounter with a girl named Estelle. This meeting pushes him to venture out into the world to find his own meaning of “justice.”
Though he tends to say whatever he thinks very candidly, and often runs his mouth, he can’t ignore anyone in need of help, and thus is often seen as the “older brother” of the group.

Estellise Cides Feurasseign (Estelle) (18)

“There’s so much mo
re I could learn, if only our journey could continue…”

Main Weapon: Sword, Rod
Sub Weapon: Shield

Estelle is a young woman who encounters Yuri in the castle under strange circumstances. Though her real name is Estellise, Yuri gives her the nickname “Estelle,” and she introduces herself as such from then on.

Having been raised as a noble separated from the rest of the world, and tending to be something of a daydreamer, Estelle’s words and actions often confuse those around her. At the same time, she also loves to read, and is thus quite knowledgeable on various topics.
Though she is initially shocked by the realities of the world outside her imaginations in the castle, Estelle tries earnestly to ascertain the real world for herself, and find somewhere that she can fit in.
Estelle possesses strong healing magic, and will go out of her way to help someone who she sees is injured, even if it means putting herself in danger.

Repede (4 ½)


Main Weapon: Dagger

Sub Weapon: Collar

Yuri’s pet dog and loyal companion, Repede can always be seen next to Yuri. He has a prominent scar running down the side of his face a
nd over his left eye.
Though he always has a pipe in his mouth, Repede, of course, does not actually smoke, but keeps the pipe as it is actually a memento of his former master.
Repede is not an affectionate dog, and does not like to play or be petted. However, once he has accepted someone, he will never betray them.
It sometimes appears as though he actually understands what people are saying.
He may actually be the most discerning and most cool-headed member of the group.

Flynn Scifo (21)

“If the law is wrong, then its important to first correct that law!”

Weapon: Sword

Having grown up together in the Imperial city, Flynn had the same dreams of knighthood as Yuri, and joined up at the same time. He re
mained in the knights even after Yuri left, and rose through the ranks with steady success.
Though he is mocked as an upstart by the knights of noble descent, he is seen as a great hope by those of common descent.
Though he has a strong sense of duty, and always an ally to the weak, he often feels torn with his position of enforcing the law, and thus has a “too serious” side that can be quite cold to others.
He often scolds Yuri, but this is actually out of concern for his friend who cannot seem to move on with his life.

Karol Capel (12)

“Brave Vesperia is my, no our guild! So I want to go with you too!”

Main Weapon: Axe, Hammer, Two-Handed Sword

Sub Weapon: Bag
A young boy who is always full of energy and always seems to be causing a commotion, Karol is only ever concerned about what is immediately in front of him. His high spirits can often be dizzying.
Karol is a member of the Hunters’ Blades Guild, which specializes in monster hunting. He has grand ambitions resting on his huge weapon, which he wields against the monsters he hunts. However, due to certain circumstances, he ends up tagging along with Yuri and the others.
He is surprisingly handy, and very “in the know,” with various contacts around.

Rita Mordio (15)

“Worrying about fulfilling your dreams without hurting anyone… I can do it because I am strong-willed!”

Main Weapon: Scarf, Whip

Sub Weapon: Book

A magic user and member of the Blastia Research Institute,
Rita is known for her genius. She takes no interest in anything outside of her research, and thus has very poor social skills. As a result, she has a very matter-of-fact way of speaking.
Rita hates anything that gets in the way of her research, and tends to be very short-tempered. Due to this, she doesn’t appear to really have any friends, and is ostracized by even the other researchers (who, themselves, are not considered especially ‘normal’), though she acts as though she doesn’t notice.
Rita attitude is normally cold, but she has the habit of suddenly speaking very passionately and excitedly when it comes to her research.
In general, Rita is not used to interacting with other people, and should she find herself having to do so, she often tends not to deal well and often becomes flustered.

Judith (19)
“You. Exactly what is it that you really want to do?”

Main Weapon: Spear, Staff

Sub Weapon: Boots (with a ‘t’)

A lancer of the few remaining Klitea tribe, the beautiful Judith comes into contact with Yuri as she is traveling the world with a friend.

Judith is often considerate in the way that she approaches topics, but often tends to act before explaining her thinking, making her seem unpredictable. Upon first glance, she appears to be a very calm and collected individual, but once she has made her mind up on something, she will proceed without reservation, and will candidly say things the way she sees them.
In battle, Judith becomes relentless, almost as if she were a different person. Her lack of restraint belies her appearance, thus giving off an air of mystery about her.
Yuri nicknames her “Judy,” as “Judith” seems more difficult to say.

Raven (35)

“Oh! Is this the end for me? Farewell, all my worldwide fans!”

Main Weapon: Bow

Sub Weapon: Dagger

An older man who seems to personify superficiality and shadiness, Raven shows up around the party at several of their destinations, harassing them with his frivolous stories.
Whether it’s treating everything he has to do as a pain in the ass, changing his stories depending on his circumstances, or rephrasing his questions when he doesn’t like the answers, Raven is a very troublesome man.
That being said, he is not a bad person.
He has many years under his belt, and occasionally says surprisingly meaningful things, leading one to think that he may have quite a difficult past behind him, though no one knows for sure.
Then, without warning, he can whip out his bow and dagger and display incredible fighting abilities. Clearly, Raven is a man of limitless surprises.

As usual, remember that my translations may inevitably differ from the official English translation.

Happy Tales of Vesperia Day!

Emotion, an Older Brother, and Big Boobs in Tales of Hearts

Continuing with Tales of Vesperia Day, we bring you updates on the next main iteration of the Tales of series (that is, the next game after Tales of Vesperia) courtesy Weekly Famitsu. Tales of Hearts is being handled by the ‘Team Destiny’ side of Namco Tales Studio, and is currently in production for the Nintendo DS.

As you should be already aware, Tales of Hearts will ship in Japan with two separate editions: a CG edition, and an Anime edition. True to their distinctions, the CG edition will feature realistic 3D CG movies (a first for the Tales of series) handled by Shirogumi, while the Anime edition will feature traditional animated movies by series staple 2D animation studio Production I.G. The content of the game will be 100% unchanged between the two versions other than the movies.

As a personal note, I've said this before, and I'll say it again: rendering realistic 3D models of Mutsumi Inomata's designs is a serious crime and should not be tolerated.

This week’s article brings us up to speed on the two latest editions to the playable cast, which I will break down for you below.

Innes Lorenz (24)
“Oh my! Referring to me as ‘a busty beauty’…? I get that a lot!”
A woman with incredible brute strength and a glamorous figure, Innes is the president of the Peaceful Days delivery service, and also the only employee. Due to her commanding presence, most are speechless to her smiling words and actions. For some reason, she treats the “Soma” that the Hearts siblings are searching for as a commodity.

Hisui Hearts (18)
“Just as fair warning, if you even touch my little sister, I’ll kill you!”
Kohak’s older borther, Hisui is fiercely dedicated to “protecting” his younger sister ever since he lost someone close to him when he was young. Despite his rough appearance and cold attitude, he is very stubborn at heart and carries a strong passion with him.

Most of you are likely familiar with the action heavy, high speed battle system commonly found in the Tales of series, so I won’t bore you with too many redundant details (like aerial combos and elemental weaknesses, which are found in many iterations of the series). The Famitsu article focuses on 2 new features in ToH’s battle system, namely the Emotion Gauge and the Combination Gauge.

The Emotion Gauge is the blue, rhombic meter positioned above the characters’ portraits in the battle scene. This gauge depletes as the character in question acts, and refills itself automatically while not attacking. The more full the gauge is, the more attacks and skills can be linked together, and the more damage they will inflict. As the gauge empties, the character’s attack power drops, but his or her defense increases. This gauge is apparently affected by how characters feel about one another, though we aren’t sure on the details at this point.

The Combination Gauge (the green meter located below the yellow bar beside the characters’ portraits), on the other hand, represents how much the characters trust one another, and fills as they support one another in battle. This gauge’s progress is apparently saved from battle to battle, and once filled, can be used to unleash a powerful combination attack known as a Connect Command. The Connect Command will apparently change depending on who is supporting who.

Tales of Hearts is the 11th main series entry into the Tales of library (would have been the 12th had Tales of the Tempest not been kicked out of the group), and the 3rd title to appear on the Nintendo DS. It will reportedly be available in Japan sometime this December. There is no word on whether or not it will be localized in North America or Europe.

Thanks to Gamekyo for the scans.

Happy Tales of Vesperia Day!

Sword Machine Review: Tales of the Abyss

The eighth title in Namco’s Tales of main series (though only the 5th to make it to North America), Tales of the Abyss marked the series’ final entry on 6th generation hardware and the reunion of Namco Tales Studio’s ‘Team Symphonia.’ With improved 3D cell-shaded graphics, an enhanced battle system, and a deeper story, Tales of the Abyss set out to outdo Tales of Symphonia, its spiritual predecessor, and celebrate the series’ growth after 10 years of titles in Japan.

Story: A-

Tales of the Abyss, though incorporating an overarching plot that will inevitably decide the fate of the world, is really a story about Luke fon Fabre, the game’s protagonist. Luke, the son of a duke and nephew of the King of the Kingdom of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear, has lived for seven years in the confines of his father’s manor. Though he remembers nothing beyond those seven years, he is told that he was kidnapped by the neighboring Malkuth Empire when he was 10, and though he was eventually rescued, he suffered amnesia due to the trauma. Despite this, Luke lives a carefree, pampered life, and as a result is very arrogant and tends to be quite whiny when he doesn’t get his way.

Early on, Luke encounters a beautiful young woman named Tear, who sneaks into his mansion to assassinate his sword teacher and general of the church’s private army. Their meeting creates a rare phenomenon known as “hyper-resonance,” and transports the two to a distant, unknown location. Wanting only to return home, Luke is brought face-to-face with some of the harsher truths of the world around him, and ultimately discovers that everything is not how it had appeared.

ToA’s story is told in normal JRPG tradition, with the majority of the story following the protagonist as he travels the world, meets companions and enemies, and ultimately confronts the evil that threatens to destroy the world. That being said, the game has several twists and revelations that are anything but traditional, and will genuinely surprise many. Additionally, the game’s characters are far from generic cutouts, each with his or her own motivations, pasts, and quirks. From the gynophobic ladies-man to the precocious 12 year old gold-digger, Tales of the Abyss manages to introduce a cast that is well-balanced and interesting, if only too sarcastic (seriously, I’ve never played a game with such a consistently sarcastic cast before, and I doubt I will ever see one again).

However, perhaps my main complaint with the cast is the protagonist himself. For his background and motivations, he is very consistent in his character, and often quite believable. However, he is also incredibly frustrating. He is arrogant, ignorant, and rude for about half of the game, and then depressed, hesitant, and generally a complete weenie for the other half. At heart, it is clear that he generally has good intentions, but his attitude is often so annoying that it is legitimately difficult to find much to like about him other than how he handles in battle.

Additionally, the romantic interests that exist between several of the characters are full of potential and deserved so much more attention than they received. They are touched upon, but so much less that they should have been and ultimately feel unsatisfying. This, unfortunately, is common in many JRPGs, but is extra noticeable in ToA because of its strong cast.

Overall, Tales of the Abyss manages a new take on stereotypical RPG plots, offering characters worth caring about, and intense moments of truly engaging storytelling. Only the high level of frustration over the main character, and the utter failure to explore some truly legitimate romantic potential hold the otherwise solid story back from greatness.

Visuals: B

Art direction in Tales of the Abyss is good. It won’t win any awards, but fans of Kousuke Fujishima’s designs will likely appreciate much of the art. The character designs are generally cool, and a few of the characters are downright awesome (Tear and Sync have especially slick designs, while Anise’s Tokunaga doll and Dist’s floating chair are really cool ideas). Architecture is nothing special, but overall fitting with the game’s ambiance.

Now, let’s talk about graphics in Tales of the Abyss.

For a game built on an improved existing engine (Symphonia’s) and debuting at the end of the PlayStation 2’s life cycle, the game looks surprisingly plain. The character models are quite faithful to Kousuke Fujishima’s designs, and look fantastic in some cutscenes, but they won’t ever make you say “wow.” That is not to say that the graphics are bad by any stretch, but for a Tales of game (generally known for its bright and varied locales) much of the world feels lifeless and surprisingly drab.

These complaints are, as any Tales of fan would tell you, not that big of a deal, and certainly wouldn’t be a make it or break it point for the overall experience. Where the game’s visuals really suffer, however, is in the technical aspect. Long load times (even in some menus), drops in framerate, and the occasional graphical glitch are simply too frequent to ignore, especially for such a drab-looking game on a platform so established. Really, what was the excuse here?

At the end of the day, these complaints will not destroy the experience for any but the incredibly picky. Most will accept the visual and technical shortcomings early on, and won’t give them a second thought as they play though the game’s 60+ hours of content.

Music & Sound: A-

Series staple soundtrack composer, Motoi Sakuraba returns for Tales of the Abyss, and though the soundtrack is not his best work, it is pleasant to listen to and generally adds to the atmosphere. Though there isn’t really anything spectacular about this particular soundtrack, there is really nothing to complain about either.

English voice acting for the North American version of the game is, on the other hand, extremely good. The cast is exceptionally well chosen and is able to maintain their characters very convincingly throughout the entirety of the game. Tear comes off as a bit colder than perhaps she needed to, but still delivers a very convincing performance. Unfortunately, I haven’t played the game in Japanese, so I can’t compare very well to the original voice cast.

Unfortunately, the voice acting utterly fails when it comes to Tales of Abyss’ skits. For those unfamiliar with the Tales of series, “skits” are kind of like optional cutscenes. After certain events, the player may be prompted to push a button (select in Abyss) to initiate dialogue between characters utilizing animated character portraits. These skits generally explore the development in characters’ personalities, inner thoughts, and group interactions, without forcing it down your throat. The Japanese versions of these games have these skits fully (or at least mostly) voice acted, allowing the player to feel even further connected. The North American version of Tales of the Abyss, unfortunately, leaves these skits silent. This problem is compounded by the extremely tiny and difficult to read text that accompanies them. I often wondered if Namco Bandai actually didn’t want the player to watch the skits.

Overall the soundtrack is good and the voice acting is superb, but the lack of voiced skits hurts the overall experience. North American fans of the series are used to getting less than their Japanese counterparts, so I suppose we should be happy that Namco Bandai left the skits in the game period, but it’s still a disappointment.

Gameplay: A+

Tales of the Abyss, as with the vast majority of the Tales of games, is pure bliss to play.

First off, the little elements that make up everything but the battles is straightforward and should be instantly familiar to nearly everyone familiar with JRPGs. The movement between locations, the control of the vehicles, the menu navigation, and all of the other little points that make up the gameplay are handled traditionally, but smoothly, with nothing feeling awkward or out of place.

Where the Tales of series, and thus Tales of the Abyss, sets itself truly apart is in the combat.

Battles generally take place when your party encounters an enemy on either the world map or within a dungeon, eliminating random battles. Your party begins the battle in a formation that you are free to preset at any time via the menu system (unless you are caught by surprise, which will randomize your active party members and mess with your formation), and from there you are given complete control of your party’s leader, though you are free to switch between characters at any time, even during battle. Your other allies will act according to their set AI commands, which also can be changed at any time. Alternatively, each character can be set to their own controller, allowing up to 3 of your friends to participate in battles in real time.

The battle field is completely 3D, and the introduction of the “free run” system allows your characters to maneuver around enemies, dodge attacks, and launch strategic assaults. If that is too much thinking, you can always just rush in swinging your sword maniacally and hope that you kill your enemy before it kills you. The additional combat skills, including special moves, magic spells, combo hits, overlimits, and various other battle abilities give the battle system incredible depth, and unlockable insane difficulty levels will grant the incredibly hardcore plenty of challenge to fully explore all that the battle system has to offer.

Basically, Tales of the Abyss takes everything that the series has done with battles up to it, combines the best that the series has to offer, adds brand new elements, and improves on absolutely everything.

Unfortunately, Tales of the Abyss has one major gameplay drawback that many players will inevitably encounter: backtracking like you wouldn’t believe. On your initial run through many of the dungeons, you will be in awe at how large they are and how much exploration freedom they offer. This will not be your reaction the second time you are forced to visit them. And yes, you will be required to revisit many of the game’s dungeons. By the time you do, you will thankfully have high enough levels to make short work of the majority of the enemies, but it does little to prevent the inevitable sense of monotony that will set in on your second run through the volcano level (or what have you).

Overall: A-

Tales of the Abyss is a fantastic experience that really has been the pinnacle of its series so far. With a varied and interesting cast, a solid storyline, and engaging battles, it is little wonder that so many Tales of fans consider it the best Tales of to date.

However, the game does so much right that it makes its few shortcomings all the more disappointing. Poor load times, ruined skits, a frustrating protagonist, and an over-abundance of backtracking take their toll on the game, preventing it from being the be all and end all for the Tales of series.

Tales of Symphonia was a revolution for the Tales of series, and though I think that Tales of the Abyss is an overall better game (and it remains one of my favorite PS2 RPGs of all time), it just doesn’t have that initial “wow” factor that made ToS so likeable. However, ToA showed what the Tales Studio can really do, and our hopes are high for what Team Symphonia has in store for us with the upcoming Tales of Vesperia.

Check out our review criteria and scoring breakdown for more information.

Tales of Vesperia Trailer and CM Compilation

As you know, Tales of Vesperia was a big deal in Japan. It received 2 main trailers (and 1 slight variation on the first one), 3 TV commercials, and a web commercial. Compared to the 1 trailer we got in North America, it just doesn't seem fair. But what can you do. Check them all out below.

Japanese Trailer 1

Japanese Trailer 2

Japanese TV CM 1

Japanese TV CM 2

Japanese TV CM 3

Japanese Web CM

English Trailer

Happy Tales of Vesperia Day!

Tales of Vesperia Screenshot Bonanza

Japan's Official Xbox site has a bunch of new-ish screens up for your viewing pleasure. I've taken the liberty of selecting several of my favorites and posting them here.

Take a look:

Happy Tales of Vesperia Day!

Happy Tales of Vesperia Day!

So, we had a mini Tales of Vesperia Day back a few weeks ago when the Japanese version shipped. But, as many of you know, the North American version of the game ships today! So I thought something of a celebration was in order.

Today, here on Sword Machine, we'll be celebrating the release of Tales of Vesperia, and 10 years of Tales of in North America!

The party will include trailers, previews, images, character bios, and coverage of some of the other games in the series.

To get you warmed up, here is a link to perhaps the most entertaining preview of the game that I have read, which basically addresses issues that haters have with JRPGs, and turns them around to tell you why ToV rocks.

Also, below I've embedded the highest quality YouTube video I could find of the English opening for the game.

Happy Tales of Vesperia Day!

Monday, August 25, 2008

RPGs of the Week: The Summer Drought is Over Edition

I hate summer. Summer means excessive heat, sunburns, mosquitos, summer jobs, and (perhaps worst of all) a dearth of new games. The good news, however, is summer is on its last legs, and the video games have again begun to flow.

Feast your eyes upon the firstfruits of the glorious harvest of fall/winter 2008, and keep in mind that we are but on the tip of the iceberg. The below listed RPGs are shipping this week (August 25-30) across all three major regions.

North America
Castle Crashers - The Behemoth - XBLA
Digimon World Championship - Epics, Namco Bandai - Nintendo DS
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice - Nippon Ichi, NIS America - PlayStation 3
Falling Stars - Ivolgamus, Agetec - PlayStation 2
From the Abyss - Sonic Powered, Aksys - Nintendo DS
Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness - Marvelous, Natsume - Nintendo DS
Tales of Vesperia - Namco Bandai - Xbox 360

Tactical Guild - Success - Nintendo DS
Too Human - Silicon Knights, Microsoft - Xbox 360
Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaiki da. (The Best) - Acquire, SCEI - PSP

Too Human - Silicon Knights, Microsoft - Xbox 360

The biggest title this week is most definitely Namco Bandai's latest iteration of the long-running Tales of series, Tales of Vesperia for Xbox 360. As many of you know, I have been holding my breath waiting for this game for quite a while now, and its arrival is nearly upon us. Here's hoping my Special Edition ships in a timely fashion or I may end up buying a standard edition somewhere just so I don't have to wait any longer.

For those who prefer their RPGs more tactical, Disgaea 3 for PlayStation 3 sees North American shores this week, and gamers on the go should appreciate the SNES-inspired hack 'n slash fest that is From the Abyss. Meanwhile, those who just want to get down and farm will have yet another Harvest Moon title to keep them busy, and Xbox Live Arcaders have been anticipating Castle Crashers (or so I'm told).

With really something for everyone this week, what's looking sweet to you?

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Fresh Look at Venetica

You may not have heard of Venetica, an action RPG for the PC and Xbox 360 developed by a small team in Germany. That's okay. We have some coverage of it for you.

Venentica was announced several months ago with about 3 screenshots, a YouTube trailer, and a short summary of the game's premise. It was an eyebrow raiser, but not much more than that. Well developer Deck13 has made an appearance at the currently ongoing Games Convention in Leipzeig Germany and has released a plethora of new screens and some more gamplay details.

The game's story follows Scarlet, your average action female lead with a low-cut shirt, tight leather pants, and quick slashing combos. What sets her apart is her dad, who happens to be Death. Apparently there has been some confusion in the afterlife, and a bunch of supposed-to-be-dead souls have escaped and are running around Venice all undead-like. Which, you know, isn't supposed to happen. So Death sends his daughter out to clean up. (I suppose Death is just too busy to be bothered with these kinds of things.)

The game features a heavy emphasis on action, encouraging the players to work on exploiting their enemies' weaknesses rather than just button mashing, and gameplay will reportedly change depending on what weapon you have equipped. Many of these weapons will apparently have other uses than just combat, such as a large hammer which can be used to smash certain walls.

So far, the screenshots of the various locations Scarlet will be visiting are looking quite nice, though I'm not completely sold on the character model of Scarlet herself. The game still is quite a ways off from release, with the developers shooting for sometime late next year, so there is certainly still plenty of time to tweak.

From what I've seen and heard about this game, it looks like some sort of interesting mix of Fable, the Legend of Zelda, and a straight-up action title. Not necessarily bad source material, and I'm a lot more interested in the game since I learned that it is the same developers behind the quirky PC title Ankh. So here's hoping Venetica holds up when it sees release around Q3 2009.

You can check out IGNs hands-on with the game here, or look at their full screenshot gallery here.

New Infinite Undiscovery Scan has New Characters, is Too Blurry to Read

The latest Famitsu continues its coverage of tri-Ace and Square Enix's upcoming Infinite Undiscovery with the introduction of 3 new characters and few new minor details. Unfortunately, the scan is really blurry and very difficult to read. I got a ways in, but I had to zoom in and squint so much that it was starting to give me a headache.

Thus, I will tell you the major topics it covers, but won't be going into much detail with this one. I expect IU's official site to have all of this info up within the next few days, so I'll bring you details then.

The 3 revealed characters are:

A 12 year old street gang member named Veeca who apparently fights with a dagger,

A mysterious sage named Solenstam,

And one of Solenstam's disciples, Killiya.

All three bear lunagrams, and all three apparently are combat characters. Which is cool. Additionally, Solenstam and Killiya apparently fight with magic.

You can take a look at the difficult-to-read scan below and imagine that it says wonderful things.

Infinite Undiscovery will be available worldwide in early Septmeber for Xbox 360.

Japan to get a The Last Remnant Bundle?

We have to chock this one up to "rumor" status, but an informant working as a game store clerk in Japan has divulged that Square Enix and Microsoft will be teaming up to bring out a limited Last Remnant Xbox 360 Pro Bundle in time for its release on November 20, 2008.

The bundle is rumored to be the newer 60 GB model (not yet released in Japan), and be the recipient of the rumored fall price cuts that apparently both North America and Japan (maybe other regions) will be receiving.

No word yet on exactly what the bundle will include, other than the obvious copy of The Last Remnant and an Xbox 360, but we're gonna go out on a limb and say that there will probably be a Last Remnant faceplace in there too. Just spit-balling here, really.

Thanks to XNEWS for the tip.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

108 Stars on the Go

For those of you out of the loop on the Suikoden series, the games are based off of a Chinese book of the same name. They feature 108 characters (known as the 108 stars), and feature grand, sweeping stories. Traditionally a PlayStation franchise, Suikoden Tierkreis marks the series’ first installment on a different platform, bringing this new installment to Nintendo DS.

The debut Famitsu article gives us 4 pages of introduction to this new adventure, detailing a few of the characters and some of the game’s features.

Main Character
The main character of this story is a boy from a small border settlement known as Shetrow Village where he is affiliated with the local militia. Having helped defend the village from marauding bandits and monsters, he has become quite skilled. Despite this, he is rather reckless, often acting before he has thought the situation out fully. In the revealed movie scene, the 108 stars were completely wiped out, but what happened to this young man…?

A young man also with Shetrow’s militia, Jayle is a quiet young man that prefers not to interact with people much. However, he treasures those he considers friends, and will often support the main character as if it were nothing.

The daughter of Shetrow’s Village Chief, Marika is childhood friends with the main character and Jayle. She too joined the village’s militia despite opposition from her parents. However, she didn’t do it for fun or on a whim, and she takes her position very seriously.

Liu is a young man that wandered into Shetrow Village a few years earlier and took up living there. He quickly became friends with the main character and Jayle, and though he dislikes violence, he joined the village’s militia.

Within the militia, Dirk acts in a leadership role, looking after the younger members. He is very popular in the village, and many of the boys in the village idolize him, refering to him as “older brother.” He excels at combat and acts as the main character and Jayle’s field commander.

Suikoden Tierkreis begins with the 108 stars’ final battle. During this battle, each warrior is defeated one after the other until there are only 4 that remain. These last 4 exert their full power and…?

Even though you will be able to recruit 108 different characters throughout the game, one of the main points the article makes is that each character has his or her own unique back story, and the player will be treated with a new scenario for each character that joins up.

The tempo of the battle system is very fast, allowing the player to select either the attack or defense icons as they proceed through battles. As the player becomes accustomed to the battles, an icon is available to leave tactics up to the characters, allowing for even less work. There are also directions available that are brand new to this title that aren’t yet revealed.

It has been revealed that your battle party will be limited to 4 characters in Suikoden Tierkreis. The article mentions that you will be able to have your team made up of the characters you like the most. (Cool, I guess?) There is currently no word on the existence of “support” characters, or what kind of magic is available, but Famitsu promises more articles in the near future.

However, the existence of Cooperative Attacks has been confirmed, allowing special commands in battle when certain characters are present in the active team. Pulling off one of these Cooperative Attacks will increase the characters’ fondness of each other.

The world of Suikoden Tierkreis is vast, taking the hero and his party to various cities, towns, and castles around the world. In one of the shots (2nd page, bottom left corner), a man named Belflayde is interacting with the hero. He is the head of an organization known simply as “The Society.” What kind of role will he play in the hero’s quest?

The Suikoden series traditionally includes many non-human races, such as elves and dwarves, but also a doglike race called the kobalt tribe, a duck tribe, and various others. A new race has been revealed for Tierkries called the porpoise tribe who live in a city floating on the ocean called Septaflose.

The game’s story starts off in the border village of Shetrow. Lying on the border, the village claims allegiance to no country, and its villagers live it peace. One day, the main character and his friends leave the village to hunt monsters as part of the militia detail. They uncover some ruins on the other side of the mountains and begin to explore them. However, as the approach the very top floor, they see a mysterious light. From this, the hero’s fate is set in motion…

The article also shows off various locales from the game that you are welcome to take a look at. It provides names for many of them, but I’m not going to translate all the names as they will inevitably be different in the English version anyway.

(Phew) These 4 page articles sure give a lot of information, but they are quite the translation marathon.

So, anyone stoked for the DS chapter of the Suikoden series?

Thanks to Gamekyo for the cleaner scans.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fallout 3 Just in Time for Halloween

Do you have extensive plans for Halloween this year? If so, you may want to consider canceling them. Especially if you like post-apocalyptic Western-style RPGs.

Bethesda Softworks just announced that their upcoming multiplatform RPG, Fallout 3, will be available on October 28, 2008 in North America, and 3 days later on October 31, 2008 in Europe on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

So, are you canceling that costume party or no?

Blue Dragon Plus Coming to North America?

In AQ Interactive's recent account report press release (issued August 8, 2008), the company mentions its plans to increase sales through publishing and licencing of its titles in North America. Among the titles mentioned for "overseas release" were Mistwalker's two upcoming Nintendo DS titles, AWAY: Shuffle Dungeon and Blue Dragon Plus.

We already know about Majesco bringing AWAY over this fall, but no North American publisher has been forthcoming on Blue Dragon Plus, and many (myself included) assumed that the title would be passed up for localization. However, as you can see from the chart below (included in the above mentioned press release), BDP is right there with AWAY for foreign release (bottom quarter of the chart).

Since no company has fessed up to licensing the title at the moment, we have to label this one as a rumor. However, with both ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat and AWAY: Shuffle Dungeon getting the ride over, it seems natural that Blue Dragon Plus would also get some love.

With the game's impending September release in Japan, it seems likely that someone will be coming forward with an announcement sooner or later.

And yes, I do read through companies' financial reports just for fun. Thank you very much.

P.S. Before anyone mentions it, I am aware that the chart is labeled March 2009 Period Lineup Plan. That perplexed me for a while as well. But considering the other titles mentioned throughout the entirity of the release (that is, already released or scheduled for release within the next 3 months), I can only assume that AQ labels its financial quarters in different terms.

UPDATE P.P.S. After thinking about it a little bit more, the date could be referring to 2009 as 'fiscal year ending 2009' which some companies do, and the March thing (which in Japanese is literally called 'month 3' or 'the 3rd month') could actually be referring to the 3rd quarter of the above mentioned fiscal year if you group the kanji a little differently (which makes a difference in Japanese). A little dizzying logic, and I doubt any of you care one way or the other, but it's been bugging me.

The Conqueror is Scary, has an Army

The latest issue of Famitsu covers Square Enix’s upcoming “RPG for the World,” The Last Remnant, giving us insights into a few of the potential main antagonists of the game.

The Conqueror
“When you are afraid, that is the time you must not avert your eyes. Take it all in, and control it!”
A man who appeared suddenly, and due to his overwhelming power, made himself known throughout the world in the blink of an eye. He has come to be known simply as “The Conqueror” due to his merciless battle tactics. Some say that the crimson cloak he wears is dyed in the blood of those he has slain.
For some reason, Rush’s pendant seems to respond to his presence by glowing.

“We went to all the trouble to start this battle, shouldn’t we enjoy it?”
Roeas is a female warrior who uses her beautiful appearance and charming voice to act as the communications officer of The Conqueror’s army. However, she is very battle-hungry, and extremely cruel. She only shows this side of herself on the battlefield, and attacks her enemies ruthlessly.

Like Roeas, Castanea is a warrior who is very battle-hungry and cruel. He is a man of few words and his expressions are difficult to read. Other than Roeas, few can understand what he is thinking. He can unleash immensely powerful attacks, greater even than his enormous size would indicate.

In addition to the above characters, the article also mentions that other characters will join Rush throughout his journey, either due to various circumstances or through connections with guilds. Each character will have their own personality and their own skills. When visiting a town, however, these characters will split up to take care of their own business, allowing you to see them in their everyday lives away from the battlefield.

The Last Remnant will be available worldwide on Xbox 360 on November 20, 2008. There is currently no release date set for the PlayStation 3 and PC versions.

Thank to Gamekyo for the scans.