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MOST GAMERS are familiar with the modern dungeon crawler, with the likes of Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile proving to be critical and commercial successes. That’s not to say that every release in the category follows the same formula; such notables as Class of Heroes, The Dark Spire, and The Lost Child are superb takes on turn-based exploration and fighting in elaborate milieus. They’re not for everyone, though; while compelling, they generally rely on the slow burn of an interesting story to keep players hooked, and their often-complicated battle systems can be a doozy to navigate through, especially for newcomers to the genre.
WHEN producer Souhei Niikawa and principal programmer Yoshitsuna Kobayashi set out to make Disgaea: Hour of Darkness from scratch, they had no idea that it would stand the test of time. True, they were determined to meet the objectives set forth by publisher Nippon Ishi Software; they aimed to come up with a role-playing game that both adhered to popular mechanics and pushed the envelope in terms of execution. Even as they succeeded in doing so, however, they could not have envisioned an outcome that exceeded their highest expectations.
LONGTIME gamers remember Shenmue fondly for what it tried to achieve. The open-world adventure brawler was revolutionary in its ideas, trying its hardest to blend an engaging narrative, extensive exploration sprinkled with minigames of various types, quick time events, and combat sequences. Released back in 1999 as a Sega Dreamcast exclusive, it met with extremely positive praise, but somehow failed to parlay its critical acclaim into commercial appeal.
AT THE TURN of the millennium, SNK Corp. came out with the two-dimensional SNK Gals’ Fighters on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Designed to be the female version of the hugely successful The King of Fighters series, it was released near the end of the handheld’s life cycle. Needless to say, it was an attempt to boost flagging sales; it tried to widen the user base by making 10 distaff characters from popular licenses its protagonists under proven gameplay mechanics.
LET’S FACE IT. The NBA 2K franchise is a venerable one built on both the intrinsic pull of its source material and the collective talent of its developers. Never has the National Basketball Association (NBA) been more popular, and its already immense global reach -- propped up by outstanding leadership and instantly recognizable marquee names -- continues to grow by the day. Meanwhile, Visual Concepts has turned the otherwise-vicarious experience of appreciating matches at the sport’s highest level into an extremely impressive undertaking.
THERE’S NO QUESTION that the Gundam franchise has become huge to the point of ubiquity. These days, offshoots of animation studio Sunrise’s intellectual property can be found practically anywhere, way beyond the small and big screens and into toy establishments, hobby shops, book and video game stores, and collectors’ corners. It has become so ingrained in popular culture that a 65-foot-tall Unicorn mecha in Odaiba stands as one of Japan’s biggest — literally and figuratively — tourist attractions.
WHEN KADOKAWA GAMES released God Wars: Future Past on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 last year, it put forth a tactical role-playing game awash in Japanese lore. Its story, which began with a Queen’s sacrifice of a daughter to appease the gods and continued with the other daughter striving to find out why, offered a stunning look into the history of the Shinto-steeped Land of the Rising Sun. Parenthetically, the hope that the narrative would pull in and not alienate Western audiences was answered with success on retail shelves.
IT’S NOT HARD to understand why Nihon Falcom and NIS America have moved to port Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana in the Nintendo Switch. Having seen the title generate positive reception upon its release on the PlayStation Vita in 2016, on the PS4 last year, and on the PC earlier this year, they understand its potential to reach a new set of gamers via the hybrid console. Their confidence is not unfounded, and not simply because they carry a lot of weight in the gaming industry. More importantly, their latest contribution to the Ys franchise has been praised as the best yet.
TIM SWEENEY made Fortnite a phenomenon by doing something that sounds crazy: He gave it away. That strategy has made him a billionaire. In an industry...
HAPPY BIRTHDAYS is nothing if not peculiar off the bat. And it wears its strangeness proudly, assured of its capacity to unveil a masterpiece from an empty canvas by handing you the brush. As a truly sweeping god game from the mind of Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada, it melds its ambition with seemingly simple presentations; the visuals are colorful, if childlike, and accompanied by soothing keyboard acoustics, but its demands are such that a 20-minute tutorial is required for you to get going, and much longer after to experience comfort and confidence in what you’re doing. Once you get the hang of it, however, the payoff is nothing short of sensational.
TYCOON GAMES aren’t for everyone, but it isn’t hard to understand why they have a loyal following. They’re flashy, and they’re capable of producing a surprising amount of fun and complexity. From Sim City to Zoo Tycoon to Roller Coaster Tycoon, the process of building something from scratch and seeing it thrive and prosper brings about catharsis. And, by the same token, Kalypso Media delivers.
IT’S BY DESIGN that Vanillaware is best known for stylistic two-dimensional action-adventure games. In an industry proliferated with 3D titles, the Japanese developer has made a conscious effort to trod the less-beaten path. And, to its credit, it has had much success in this regard; via a proprietary programming process, it enables its artists to render pixel sprites in such a way as to uniquely project depth. It’s why gamers instantly took to Odin Sphere for the PlayStation 2 in 2007, as well as Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Nintendo Wii in 2009.
By Alexander O. Cuaycong FOR THE REVIEW of the prequel Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, please refer to this link: https://goo.gl/zmGgHu Released in Japan in September 2016...
THE WORLD’s hottest video game is set to be shut out of the biggest market. A Chinese gaming association said in an announcement posted online...
CHANCES ARE few outside of China have heard of NetEase, Inc., though it makes more money from games than Nintendo Co. Now it wants...
VIDEO GAME REVIEW Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star Nintendo Switch By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong The Fate series has always had its foot half in and...