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Preview Time! – Ni No Kuni : Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)

Studio Ghibli has stepped back into the game developing scene (the last time being back in 2003 with Garakuda Studios to make Magic Pengel). This time around they’re working with Level5 studios, famous for the Professor Layton series, to create Ni No Kuni : Wrath of the White Witch, a J-RPG exclusive to the Playstation3  and released in the UK later this month.

The game is set in the magical world of Ni No Kuni and revolves around thirteen year old Oliver who, along with a fairy called Drippy, travel across the enchanting world in order to save Oliver’s mother. Along the way  Oliver will meet new team members; all with their own set of special skills.

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The demo was released on the PSN back in December, containing two sections that give players a glimpse into the games wonderful gameplay.

There’s ‘The Deep Dark wood – An errand for old father Oak’ which shows of the over-world  with its eagle-eyed view of the map , beautiful wide open landscapes and monster sprites roaming across the land. The over-world seems reminiscent of Dragon Quest 8, (which is no surprise as both games are developed by Level5 Studios). The part of the demo also shows you how players will interact with NPCs and how the locket mechanic works and how spells work outside of battle.

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Next there’s ‘ The mountain of Fire – Eruption interruption!’ which takes place later in the game. This part  is a time trial in which you have to navigate  Oliver  up to the top of an active volcano in under 3 minutes whilst manoeuvring along the tiny pathways on the volcanoes side and dodging sudden bursts of lava from the wall.This part also introduces the villain for,  Shadar ; an evil wizard with a deadly power that can corrupt a person’s heart.

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Both parts contain a boss battles that make use of an interesting battle system that fuses real-time and turn based components.You can battle as Oliver, or any of the familiars that he acquires through out the game; other members of your party will act off their own initiative using  their own familiars, or you can  either give them an order to act in a certain way, or control them directly, leaving control of Oliver up to the AI.

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Before this preview ends I do have a few gripes about the demo, both are minor complaints though. I found the English voice acting to be rather annoying, but not completely terrible. Plus there’s always the option to use the Japanese voices with English subtitles which is a nice addition. Unfortunately that’s the other problem I came across; Drippy with the English voice acting has rather thick accent and they try to recreate this with the written dialogue.  It can be annoying to read; especially if you have the Japanese voice acting on.

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In the end I found the Ni No Kuni demo to be fantastic, an amazing glimpse into what I hope will be a wonderful game. I have high hopes for the full version, which will be in stores on the 1st Febuary.

~HeadphoneGirlZ


The Sun Rises – Okami HD (PS3)

Okami HD is the remastered version of the PlayStation 2 title made by Clover studios and published by Capcom which was released in the UK back in 2006.

Set in the ancient land of Nippon (Japan); you play as Amaterasu, the reincarnated goddess of the sun who has been sent back to earth. Together with your little sidekick, a woodland sprite named Issun, you travel across the country in order to destroy the malevolent forces that are wreaking havoc on the land and its inhabitants. Over the course of the game you discover  new locations, take on ferocious creatures and collect new powers for Amaterasu’s ‘Celestial Brush’, making  better equipped to fight off the demons.

So what has been added to the PS3 HD version?

Well first up is obviously the graphics; the stunning sumi-e style art is back and now in glorious 1080p. Every detail is  a lot clearer than both the PS2 or Wii versions with cut-scenes and gameplay continuing to be pretty much indistinguishable from each other.

The music is elegant and fits perfectly with any setting, whether it’s a wide open field or the lair of a ferocious beast.

The combat is an excellent combination of melee action and the Celestial Brush, making Amaterasu a force to be reckoned with. The brush can be used outside of battles as well. You can use it to with help solving puzzles or just so you can change it from night to day; the Celestial Brush is a handy tool. There’s also a levelling system for the brush. Doing good deeds or by defeating bad guys will give you ‘Praise’. The ‘Praise’ can then be spend on enhancing your brush or gaining another life orb.

As it’s an HD remake on the PlayStation 3 the game wouldn’t have been complete without a trophy system. While some are challenging to get, most are just arbitrary achievements that you get for just playing the game normally, which to me seems pointless.

Speaking of pointless, Okami HD is compatible with the Playstation Move. Now, I don’t own the Move controllers, but I did try playing the Wii version of Okami when came out in 2008. If the Move controller is anything like the Wii version of Okami then it may be better to steer clear.

One last thing , I’m surprised that Capcom or Clover didn’t look into adding a remote play functionality for the Playstation Vita; considering the dual touch screens it seems like a fairly good idea; but oh well.

Overall Okami HD is brilliant remaster of a severely underrated PS2 game; Everything  fits perfectly together to deliver a wonderful game that leaves me feeling nostalgic. With an interesting plot , breathtaking graphics and a wide array of diverse characters, this game will keep you entertained for a long time to come.

~HeadphoneGirlZ


Heart of Darkness – Spec Ops: The Line (PS3 / 360 / PC)

Normally, I steer clear of shooters. I’ve never been that great at them and I find the storylines to be more about making the military seem like an amazing occupation, rather than showing people the horrors of war and the devastation it can cause. So, when I started hearing reviews of Spec Ops : The Line and its different approach to the modern military shooter, I decided “what the hell” and picked up a copy myself.

Made by Yager Development and Published by 2K Games; Spec ops : The Line is set in Dubai 6 months after a cataclysmic sandstorm has destroyed the city. You play as Martin Walker, the  Captain  of the Delta Squad, which is comprised of Walker and his two partners Lieutenant Alphanso Adams and Sergeant John Lugo. Their squad is sent out to Dubai on reconnaissance in order to confirm the status of Colonel John Konrad, commander of the 33rd Battalion of the US Army, and any survivors, then radio for extraction. But as they make their way through the ruins of the city they discover that the 33rd Battalion has gone rogue and is committing increasingly harsh and brutal crimes against the civilian population with the stated intent of maintaining order.

The gameplay is very similar to most modern shooters, get to cover and shoot. Your squadmates each have their own unique skill; Lugo will snipe any  enemy you point at, whereas Adams will throw grenades, which can be helpful sometimes, but most of the time it’s easier to shoot them yourself as the AI has got fairly bad aim. There’s also a sand mechanic which, whilst interesting, is rarely needed. Some enemies will be taking cover near or under windows, shoot the glass and sand will fall on top of them and clearing the path for you. You can only carry one gun at a time, picking up new ones from enemy soldiers. Also, ammo is scarce, leaving the player to make every bullet count. The moral choice system is very clever, giving players the option to deviate from the standard good vs bad dialogue options and make their own choice. The aesthetics are well done as well. Despite being set in a war zone, some of the scenery is stunning and paired with the use of both an original score and licensed music sets the tone perfectly.



There’s also a multiplayer mode made by Darkside Game Studios. It is set before Walker and his squad were sent to Dubai during the initial war between ” The Exiles” and “The Damned” 33rd infantry . There are several different maps and competitive game types, as well as community leaderboard’s and challenges. There is also a class system  with four standard classes and a class that’s specific to the faction you pick : Officer , Sniper , Gunner, Medic  and Scavenger for the Damned or Breacher for the Exiles.




Overall  I found that Spec Ops : The Line to be a very interesting game. Unlike a lot of shooters that make you feel like a hero for gunning down wave after wave of enemies, the game will make you think about your actions and what you could’ve done to avoid killing that enemy or how you handled that situation. In the end  Spec ops was a pleasant surprise, full of interesting plot twists and a storyline that portrays Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and  dissociative disorders very well. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys their shooters, but would like to see them evolve beyond the stagnant state they’re currently stuck  in.


E3 Nintendo Conference (Part 2 – The 3DS)

As I mentioned it the last post, Nintendo had a separate show dedicated to their 3DS handheld.

This time around, Scott Moffitt took to the stage and started off by mentioning The new Castlevania Lords of Shadow game : Mirror of Fate.

The aesthetics look great, and it looks as if their trying to take some of the techniques that made the first Castlevania so great and implement them into this new title.

Next up was Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon.

It’s nice to see Luigi getting a new game after such a long time; With multiple mansions to explore each with their own challenges as well as new types of ghosts, it looks like Luigi will have his work cut out for him this holiday season, when the game is scheduled to be released, as both a retail title, and a digital download.

After that, Warren Spector and Peter Ong from Dreamrift take the stage to show us: Epic Mickey- Power of Illusion.

Apparently this is an all new game: not a port or a sequel to the Wii game.Mizrabel (known better as Malificent), the evil witch from the original 1990’s game Castle of Illusion is trying to break out of her prison and takes Minnie and Mickey’s friends as hostage; Mickey will have to rescue them by using the touch screen to use both paint and paint thinner to make his way through the castle of illusion. I was pretty impressed by the  style of this game, it;s both detailed, and yet manages to keep its cartoony atmosphere.

There was a lot of other great titles mentioned throughout the show; like Paper Mario-Sticker Star , Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance , Scribblenauts Unlimited , Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes , Transformers Prime The Game, Rabbids Rumble and  Heroes of Ruin.

We were also reminded that the release of Pokémon Black/White 2 is only a few months away ; also that Kingdom Hearts 3D would get a demo released in the Nintendo E-shop at some point in the near future.

Lastly Moffitt talked about New Super Mario Bros. 2.

This new Mario game will allow players to complete the entire single player campaign with the help of a friend ( though I don’t I’m pretty sure that’s not what Single player means) whereas the 2-player single player mode allows you to play cooperatively or competitively ,there’s also new competitive mini-game “Coin Rush Mode” which will use the coins you collect in the main game.New Super Mario Bros. 2 will be available on August 19th as a retail copy or a digital download.


E3 Nintendo Conference (Part 1 – The Wii U)

This Afternoon was the Nintendo E3 conference, and the one I was most looking forward to.

It started off strong with Shigeru Miyamoto announcing Pikmin 3 for the Wii U. With a new species of Pikmin, the Rock Pikmin, and a team of up to 100 of the little creatures you can get them to find food or take down an enemy, you can even get them to carry materials to build bridges or use the Rock Pikmin to break down large objects using the motion plus on the wiimote. You can also play the game from  the new Wii U game pad.

Next up Reggie took to the stage and announced The New Super Mario Bro’s U.

Yep Mario is back , this time for the Wii U; The gameplay looks similar to older Mario titles, but there’s also boost mode which allows up to for people to play together  on the same console, either using wiimotes or the game pad.

The last title I’m going to mention is Scribblenauts Unlimited.

The new game will allow players to bring their own creations to life and bring it to life on the game, and share them with friends; There will also be a Co-Op mode.

There was a ton of other titles announced aswell : Batman Arkham City : Armoured Edition , Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank Tank Tank! by Namco; Tekken Tag Tournament 2; Trine 2: Director’s Cut; Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Aliens Colonial Marines ,Lego City Undercover , Zombi U, Rayman Legends, A new Rabbids game and NintendoLand ( a party game)

There was also a few 3DS titles they mentioned, but I’ll give you more details tomorrow once their 3DS only conference is over.

 


What fools these mortals be (Loc – PC/Mac)

Loc is a 3d puzzle game from Birnam wood games released earlier this month, this is the studios first game.

The games plot is really simple to understand; Humanity has caused so much damage to the earth that the last queen of the faeries has taken you prisoner and plans to keep you trapped in her realm as punishment for man kinds crime (Lucky you) ; In order to escape you must solve ‘Loc’ puzzles in order to make your way through the queens desolate realm and find your way out.

The game play is a bit more complex; using your mouse you need to drag a series of tiles across a face of a cube to create a path between the start and end tiles. As you progress the game’s difficulty will increase, adding tiles that you must use in order to continue; it gets even harder when you have to start building the path across more than one of the cubes faces, whilst making sure that your using the right tiles to create a working path. There is also a list of achievements that you can earn if you complete the level under certain conditions which is a nice little addition.

Overall Loc is a wonderful game,The art style is beautiful , the atmospheric music helps the player become more immersed in this intriguing setting that birnam wood games created. But why not try it out yourself, the game is available from their studios website Here for just over £3 ($5) and if your completely broke they even have a free demo.

~HeadphoneGirlZ


At Journeys End – Journey (PS3)

ThatGameCompany  has released its final game out of its 3 games that were contracted by Sony. Starting with Flow; where you navigate a series of 2 dimensional planes as a microorganism. Then there was Flower; a game where you play as a gust of wind collection flower petals in a variety of environments. Now there’s Journey, in which you play as a robed figure and travel through different environments in order to reach the mountain in the distance. Journey was released on the PSN earlier this month and has received nothing but praise from everyone I’ve spoken to, and after playing it I can understand why.

It’s clear that a lot of thought was put into the design. The environments are beautifully rendered and react to not only to what you do in it, but also its climate. The desert sands will shimmer and glisten when the sun shines on it and leaves a trail behind you when you move. Powerful gusts of wind will send you flying unless you find shelter in time; in colder climates your robe will slowly freeze and your energy will gradually decrease.

The use of music is quite clever aswell. The more exhilarating and action packed parts come alive with the use of upbeat musical scores, whilst calmer moments will have little or even no music, relying on the sounds of your footsteps moving through the sand or the howling of the wind to set the tone.

The cooperative play is where Journey truly shines. Throughout the game you may encounter another player navigating the ruins and you can choose to either leave them alone, or team up with them and face the challenges ahead together. There’s only a little change in the game play if you have a partner. If you run out of energy, they can restore it by either standing next to you, or by holding the “O” button. Pressing the “O” button will also make your character to emit a sound that resembles a bell, and a glowing symbol will hover over your head for a few seconds. These 2 tools are the only way to communicate with your traveling companion, which can make trying to convey anything rather difficult at times, but it also means there’s no way of using crude language or being offensive; which in my books is a huge plus for a co-op game. Your partner will change from time to time, if they quit, their character will vanish, leaving you to fend for yourself until you come across another player.

Overall I loved Journey. Simple gameplay, interesting use of co-op, delightful aesthetics and a charming way to waste a few hours. If you have a Playstation 3 there’s no reason why you shouldn’t add this to your collection as it’s only £10 and is worth every penny.

~ HeadphoneGirlZ


Skyward bound – Legend of Zelda : Skyward Sword (Wii)

So  there’s now two Zelda games on the Wii, the first being Twilight Princess (Which I will play again properly when I find a cheap game cube version, cause given the chance I will not use motion control) and the second being Skyward Sword, which is  not only the most recent Zelda game out, but also a prequel to all the Zelda games before it; Confused yet? Lets see if I can explain this.

You see up until recently  the Zelda time line had been a thing of speculation, every fan had his or her idea of what game went where , which gave way to forums upon forums of  fans arguing that their timeline made more sense; so along with Skyward Sword, Shigeru Miyamoto ; who I guess got fed up his fans ,finally released an official  timeline, with Skyward Sword starting the who epic saga off.

Even with the timeline, I'm still uncertain as to how it all fits together :S

Like I said at the beginning , Skyward Sword is the second Zelda game on the Wii and is as determined as  Twilight princess to shove the whole motion control thing in our faces. You start the game, like most of the zelda games, with naming the protagonist, I’m unoriginal and boring I stuck with his official name: Link. After a quick cut scene  we cut to link asleep in bed only to be interrupted by a giant bird who spits a letter at him ( I wish I was making this up ) the letter is from Zelda , who in this game is Links childhood friend as opposed to the Princess we all know her as from other games, after a quick read of the note link leaps off the bed and hands the control over to you.

I see Link also suffers from Monday morning syndrome

Using the circle pad on the nunchuck makes movement easy and fluid , the camera is reasonably  well-behaved, only occasionally looking at the sky instead of what your meant to be doing, but a quick tap  of the ‘Z’ button and the camera centres  itself , so no worries there. Running and jumping are again straight forward aswell; unfortunately the motion control isn’t so smooth. Even with addition of the Wii motion plus, there’s still a delay with links movements, and trying to roll a bomb can be a nightmare if the sensor  isn’t positioned in just the right way; throwing a bomb is simple, with the bombs selected bit ‘B’ , move into position and give the wiimote a small flick, but to roll a bomb, you have to raise the wiimote in the air whilst your  positioning yourself, but with the delay link doesn’t  always register that you want him to roll it right away, so you end up being blown up because our spiky eared hero won’t respond to your commands, all you can do there is throw the bomb before it blows and try again.

One of the first things I noticed about Skyward Sword , when I first turned it on, was the art style.

Pretty!

Look at that, its gorgeous! we’re welcomed into the world by bright colours and a cartoony art style which looks like the cell shaded versions like Wind Waker and Twilight Princess all rolled into one , and throwing the music into the mix makes it pretty on the eyes and the ears.

It would’ve been nice to have had more to do whilst in the over world, soaring through the sky on your loftwing is fun, but there is not enough to do, with the five main floating islands being host to mini games or shopping, the smaller pieces of rock that hover in the sky are either empty or have treasure chests that you can only open once you find their goddess cube equivalent in one of the levels below the clouds.

I guess, overall, I can only really recommend Skyward Sword to people who are already fans of the Zelda series, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be the first in the series, the game still expects the player to have a certain amount of knowledge of the world and lore before they even start playing, so whilst fans will probably feel right at home in skyward sword, to the people who want to get into the Zelda series…..Start anywhere else in the series and pick up some of the history before you try out skyward sword, otherwise a lot of the story may not make a lot of sense.

~ HeadphoneGirlZ


Rose Petal Blood – Bayonetta (Xbox360)

Right has everyone got a drink? Good then let’s begin!

Bayonetta was released in Japan back in 2009 (and everywhere else a year later) with Sega as its publisher and Platinum Games  as its Developer (or Nex entertainment if you own a PS3). I should probably say that to call Bayonetta an”Overly sexualized character ” would be an understatement. Everything about her, from her BDSM attack moves right down to that tiny lollypop she’s always sucking on , looks like something out of a teenage boys wet dream.

Whilst I thought that fanservice would bother me, after about an hour of play I noticed how little it phased me. It was actually  funny watching bayonetta use a spear as a stripper pole as she kicks and shoots anything that comes near her like some kind of  super powered burlesque dancer.

The storyline can be a bit hard to follow at times, but its an interesting story none the less.

Bayonetta is a witch; which in this game seems to mean that she runs around strapping guns to her boots and wears a cat suit made out her own hair…yeah eww. She wakes up after a 500 year slumber to find herself in a stone tomb that’s at the bottom of a lake, and for some reason she has amnesia,brilliant!. Anyway, we then seem to be jumped forward 20 years and join bayonetta again as she searches for a mysterious object known as ‘ the right eye ‘ which apparently will help with her memory loss, but the Angels and Virtues are getting in her way.

There’s also two factions of magic users called Umbrian witches and the Lumen sages who are something to do with this right eye object. There’s also a left eye and together they make the ‘eye’s of the world’ which summon the creator who  apparently can bring heaven, hell and earth together.

I could go on but its more fun if you play it and see for yourselves, and don’t worry if you can’t understand what’s going on right away, the plot gets clearer as the game progresses and until then there’s always good old-fashioned violence to keep you entertained.

While the angels will come at you in swarms like ants to a sugar cube, they aren’t much of a threat and with a few torture moves even the mightiest angel will fall. Even the mini boss battles with an umbrian witch called Jeanne are fairly straight forward. The real challenge is the virtue Boss battles.

With up to  6-7 health bars and a plethora of attacks to beat you down with, the virtues are a force to be reckoned with.

But luckily bayonetta has a few tricks up her own cat suit sleeves; one of which is known as witch time.

Pressing the dodge button just as the enemy strikes is what sets of this particular skill; during which everything except bayonetta comes to a complete stop. Thus allowing the player to inflict some major damage on the enemy without worry of loosing any health points, but don’t get too used to this ability because it only lasts for a short time; so make sure to get out of the way before time returns to its normal state, or you may end up on the other end of a spear.

I’ve mentioned a lot of good points, but no game is perfect and the cutscenes are where bayonetta falls short. The majority of cut scenes are still images pasted to a movie reel animation; and the all the rest are filled to the brim with quicktime events which are frustrating at the best of times. But these ones always jump out at you just as you begin to lose interest, and they give you a minuscule amount of time to react before the game sends Bayonetta hurtling to the ground before making you watch the same scene all over again.

I’m going to stop myself here before I begin to rant. Overall Bayonetta is an entertaining game, the sheer level of sexual innuendo is so bad its funny. The boss battles are challenging yet fun at the same time. While the story is a little hard to follow at first , once you get the basic plot it becomes an immersive tale with some fairly well written characters.

~HeadphoneGirlZ


Battle with the Colossus

I’m going to talk about shadow of the colossus, its a fairly old game,but it’s got a HD remake coming out later this year (along with its spiritual sequel ICO) so I thought we should take a look at the original.

Shadow of the colossus (or SotC to shorten the title down) was made by team Ico way back in 2005 as a sequel to their first game, ICO. On the first game you play as Wander a man who has traveled to a forbidden land to ask the god who lives there, Dorim; if he/she can bring his true love, Mono, back from the dead. In return , Dorim sets you the task of slaying 16 colossi that roam the forbidden land.

Finding the colossi is harder than it sounds, you raise your sword to the sky and follow the ray of light, but that only leads you so far. Then it becomes a game of run around like mad person and hope that something sets off the pre-battle cutscene . All that searching is worth it the second you first catch a glimpse of a colossi. Each battle has it’s own unique strategy to deal with these amazing creatures , but don’t worry if you have trouble figuring out what it is because Dorim will give you a hint if  they think that you’re taking to much time. Once you’ve climbed onto the colossi its then time to find its weak point, a glowing sigil, whilst holding onto the creature’s body as it tries to shake you off. Stab the sigil with your sword a few times and the beast falls to the floor defeated, but its not over yet. Now it’s time to play outrun the creepy soul corrupting tentacles that are coming your way (unfortunately you can’t outrun them, but its fun to try :P).

Outside of the colossi battles you spend most of your time wandering the vast landscape or if you don’t want to walk there’s always your loyal horse Agro; and  I use the term loyal very loosely. Agro is Wander’s only mode of transport , besides running, and trust me, with a horse like agro you’ll be running a lot. Controlling Agro is like steering a trolley with a broken wheel, repeatedly hitting the ‘X’ button will make the horse go from a gentle trot to a gallop. He isn’t stupid though; if you get too close to a cliff or even a slight ditch in the earth agro come to a grinding halt. Also, when you cross a bridge, get off the horse or you may end up plummeting towards the water below. During colossi battles is where Agro is at his most annoying. On the few occasions I called to him, in need of a quicker escape, he just wandered away in the opposite direction.

I could go on all day abut how beautiful my music is or how the art style looks as if its something out of a painting, but those sort of things are best seen with your own eyes and your own ears.

See? Now wasn’t that like 100 times better than me describing it to you?

Ok, I don’t think there’s much else I can get into regarding this game without entering the dreaded spoiler zone, so let me finish this review with a few final words. If you have a PS2 sitting at home gathering dust in a corner somewhere, take it out , give it a good clean. Then get ahold of a copy of Shadow of the Colossus and immerse yourself in a wonderful game that is, in my honest opinion, still better than many modern adventure/RPG titles to come out in the last 3-4 years. But if your an owner of a PS3, I recommend keeping ahold of that money and get the shiny HD remastered team Ico Collection which contains both Shadow of the Colossus and ICO in one neat package. Here’s the trailer if I’ve managed to pique your curiosity.

I promise it will be worth the wait.

~HeadphoneGirlZ