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PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24 – Handhelds

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Game & Watch, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Gear, Handheld consoles, Handheld gaming, NeoGeo Pocket, Nintendo, Nintendo DS, Podcast, Portable gaming, PWNCAST, Sega

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24 – Handhelds

Last week, during our conversation about the best videogame console of all time, we came to the conclusion that objectivity sucks, and that unless one is reviewing a console, there's simply no place for it at all. So this week's take on handhelds is a hour stuffed with nostalgia and filled with anecdotes. We take an in-depth look at the 3DS XL, and Jon unveils his latest alter-ego: The Gaming Otter.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24, Recorded: August 2nd, 2012

Some of the things that get covered this week:

  • 3DS XL
  • Gamescom preparations
  • Game & Watch
  • Atari Lynx
  • Game Boy
  • GBA/GBA SP
  • Nintendo's rivals: Game Gear & NeoGeo
  • Is this the last generation of dedicated handhelds?
  • Favourite Handheld of All Time
  • Best Handheld of All Time

...and much, much more.

NB. Remember, next week we hit our 25th PWNCAST. If you have any questions for the team or requests/suggestions/mandatory orders that you'd like to see make it into the show then either pop something in the comments box below, or email us at contact@dealspwn.com.

Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be quite a few instances of strong language.

Click the banner at the top to play the file, or right click and select 'Save Link As' to download the file onto your hard drive.

Want more? Check out the rest of our PWNCAST posts onsite, hit us up on iTunes, or subscribe to the PWNCAST Feed here.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24 – Handhelds PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24 – HandheldsPWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24 – HandheldsPWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24 – HandheldsPWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 24 – Handhelds

Best Handheld of All Time

Hartmann Is Wrong: Why Emotional Games Don't Need Photorealism

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
2K Games, Christoph Hartmann, Emotion, Empathy, Graphics, Magpies, Photorealism, Pretty things, Take-Two Interactive, Visuals

Hartmann Is Wrong: Why Emotional Games Don't Need Photorealism

I wonder if Christoph Hartmann has ever read a book or listened to music. He must have done, surely; a man does not become the global president of a frontrunning publisher in this industry without using one's eyes and ears and imagination. Having recently suggested that developers are currently creatively hampered by the lack of widely available photorealistic graphics engines, Hartmann may look back on some of his recent words and perhaps wince a bit. In a sentence or two he managed to write off pretty much every animation studio there has ever been, insult the intelligence of developers across the world and gamers alike, and completely ignore a thriving indie scene that continually delivers affecting, emotional experiences time and time again.

Let's go back to the original quote.

"What's the difference between the movies and gaming?" Hartmann said in a recent interview. "Movies you just watch. You get emotional involvement in both, but in gaming you interact. That limits you already in what you can do, as certain emotions can't be recreated. Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very sensitive in this country.

Hartmann Is Wrong: Why Emotional Games Don't Need Photorealism

"It's limiting. Until games are photorealistic, it'll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now."

There are so many things wrong with this statement that it's difficult to know where to begin. I didn't see any photorealistic graphics around while I was bawling my eyes out at Aerith's death. I'm pretty sure that Palom and Porom's sacrifice in Final Fantasy IV came in the from of top-down, pixellated sprites. And what of the somewhat muddied visuals of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. I must have imagined the emotional immersion I felt there. What of the laughter and the pity that Portal brings? What of this industry golden age of 90s screwball adventure comedy? Hartmann's view is that it's difficult to build a game completely around comedy, but then again films don't do that either. That would be stand-up.

Click here to read more...

Blast From The Past | Final Fantasy II

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Blast From The Past, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, Game Boy Advance, JRPG, NES, Square

Blast From The Past | Final Fantasy II

I'm losing a great deal of my life to Theatrhythm Final Fantasy at the moment. Though it's superficially a straightforward screen-tapping music game, a wealth of dormant gaming memories bubble under the surface, ready to leap out and ambush Final Fantasy fans without warning. I remembered beloved characters new and old, painful life-changing events, close-fought victories and underrated gems from throughout Square's RPG series, brought to vivid life by Uematsu's seminal soundtrack.

Which is why, after playing through The Rebel Army, I started to reflect on Final Fantasy II: one of the most venerable  entries in the franchise - and one of the most divisive. Its original 1998 NES release never made it outside of Japan, while American gamers typically confuse it with Final Fantasy V since Square confusingly switched the names around. Having subsequently caught up on the PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PSP and even iPad, many fans consider it to be one of the weakest links in the chain, citing numerous complaints about tone and mechanics.

Blast From The Past | Final Fantasy II

While we're all entitled to our opinion, it's easy to ignore just how revolutionary Square's second attempt actually was. Final Fantasy II is one of the most forward-thinking and important RPGs of the NES era, featuring a radical approach to character levelling that's lauded as tremendously progressive in modern games. More importantly, though, it released with one of the most mature storylines to ever grace a videogame: one that deals with the real horror, personal loss, sacrifice and fallout of war. Something that even today's AAA titans frequently fail to accomplish.

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PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 2)

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games consoles, Microsoft, Nintendo, Podcast, PWNCAST, Sega, Sony

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 2)

After dealing with generations 3-6 in part one, we take on our current generation in part two, before each setting about deciding on a favourite console of all time. Then we whittle the crop of consoles down to a shortlist in an attempt to decide on the best console ever made.

Many arguments were had... but we did it. Listen in to find out which consoles made the grade, and check out the console that topped our list.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23, Recorded: July 26th, 2012

Some of the things that get covered this week:

  • How The Wii Stood Alone
  • Xbox 360 vs PS3: The Battle For HD
  • The Console Experience
  • Favourite Games Consoles of All Time
  • The Best Games Console EVER

...and much, much more.

Missed the first half? You can catch up with part one right here.

Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be quite a few instances of strong language.

Click the banner at the top to play the file, or right click and select 'Save Link As' to download the file onto your hard drive.

Want more? Check out the rest of our PWNCAST posts onsite, hit us up on iTunes, or subscribe to the PWNCAST Feed here.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 2) PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 2)PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 2)PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 2)PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 2)

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 1)

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Atari, Games consoles, Microsoft, Nintendo, Podcast, PWNCAST, Sega, Sony

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 1)

Following our open discussion earlier in the week, we get stuck in to the Favourite Consoles debate, picking sides across the last three decades of console generations, dissecting the console wars, touching on some industry-changing developments in both hardware and software, and going on an enormous nostalgia trip.

After picking favourites from each generation, we nominate a favourite console of all time each, before trying to assume a critical position of objectivity to decide on the Best Console Ever.

In fact, we had so much fun that we ended up with almost two hours of material and had to chop it in half.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23, Recorded: July 26th, 2012

Some of the things that get covered this week:

  • The Atari 2600
  • NES: Nintendo's Monopoly
  • SNES vs. Mega Drive
  • SEGA's Decline
  • N64 vs PS1 vs SEGA Saturn
  • The Rise of Sony and Microsoft
  • SEGA Dreamcast vs PS2 vs Gamecube vs Xbox
  • Why the Xbox was built for SEGA fanboys

...and much, much more.

Tune in tomorrow for part two, when we chat about the current generation, reveal our favourite consoles of all time, and try to come to an agreement on the best console ever.

Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be quite a few instances of strong language.

Click the banner at the top to play the file, or right click and select 'Save Link As' to download the file onto your hard drive.

Want more? Check out the rest of our PWNCAST posts onsite, hit us up on iTunes, or subscribe to the PWNCAST Feed here.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 1) PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 1)PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 1)PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 1)PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 23 - Consoles (Part 1)

Why We Love... Adelbert Steiner

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Final Fantasy IX, JRPG, PSOne games, Steiner, Vivi Ornitier

Why We Love... Adelbert Steiner

Thanks to Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, I've been merrily floating through 25 years of classic music from Square Enix' epic franchise, each song wrenching buried memories out of the darkest recesses of my mind. Listening to Aeris' Theme forced me to relive her passing. Final Fantasy II's The Rebel Army brought me back to one of the darkest, most mature RPG plots of all time. Beloved characters who were once close friends and pivotal events that rocked my world became relevant again, causing a rollercoaster of conflicting emotions to smash my summer apathy.

And then I remembered Final Fantasy IX: a game that I literally haven't thought about in years, but absolutely rated at the time. Though the main protagonist Zidane was a bit limp, FFIX was full of classic adventuring, excellent mechanics and support characters that are serially underrated when it comes to top tens and nostalgia sessions. I was therefore determined to write about one of these overshadowed heroes... but who?

Why We Love... Adelbert Steiner

No, not Vivi. The little Black Mage is definitely one of our favourite ever franchise characters, but he gets his dues on a fairly regular basis. Freya, perhaps, deserves some attention; her tale of lost love and heartbreaking rejection was incredibly raw. As I continued to play through Final Fantasy IX's soundtrack, however, I realised that one character unquestionably deserves his time in the sun: a stalwart warrior, fierce friend and zealous defender who touches the entire cast and provides some of the game's standout moments. This, dear reader, is why we love Adelbert Steiner.

Click here to read more...

Divinity: Original Sin Preview | Divinity Squared & Shared

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Divinity: Original Sin, Larian, Larian Studios, PC games, PS3 games, RPG, Swen Vincke, Xbox 360 games

Divinity: Original Sin Preview | Divinity Squared & Shared

"There was all the things I wanted to have in the first Divinity that never happened, and so now that we said 'okay, let's go independent,' the opportunity was there. You have no idea how many emails we received from people asking us to do something like the first one again."

Larian founder Swen Vincke is a man on a mission. Now freed from publishers and able to pursue its own agenda, the veteran RPG studio plans to bring the venerable Divinity series back to its roots with Original Sin; replacing Ego Draconis' real time action with the more familiar turn-based stylings of its 2002 progenitor. In many ways, Larian feels that Divine Divinity was an unfinished article, and plans to massively improve on everything from drop-in multiplayer to divergent narrative and copious item combinations, while still delivering the same tone, art style and feel of the first game.

With Vincke on hand to talk through some of the features, I sat down at E3 2012 to check out Larian's work in progress. As it turns out, Divinity: Original Sin is an RPG made for two.

Divinity: Original Sin Preview | Divinity Squared & Shared

Click here to read more...

Metacritic: The Spectre At The Feast?

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Irrational Games, Metacritic, Obsidian Entertainment, Review Scores

Metacritic: The Spectre At The Feast?

Or ...Why Publishers And Developers Need To Place Less Stock In Review Scores

I wrote an article last year titled Review Scores: Fear and Loathing and Cultural Worth that looked at our industry's relationship with Metacritic and the nature of reviewing, asking the question "do we review games too highly?" It was in that article that took a look at the number 7 and pondered who made it the bad guy - whether cowardly journalism or hysterical publishers were to blame for a shift in our industry's thinking that has made anything below 8/10 (or 85% in the cases of Irrational and Obsidian) considered a failure.

More and more these days we come to remember that this is an industry, that results are quantified, that sales data, and reactions are noted and studied. But to place livelihoods, and perhaps there fore lives themselves, at the mercy of a mechanism that delivers an average score from sources of varying quality, whose criteria for dishing out those individual scores may be wildly different seems some foolish. It's a mean number on more than one level.

On an individual basis, scores are useful tools. As I mentioned in my previous article, working out where a game fits on the scale, balancing out its pros and cons against peers and precedent, can help to hone argument, and focus debate. A score's role is then one of support for the main review, not a replacement for it.

Metacritic: The Spectre At The Feast?

It's important to remember that Metacritic is simply a collection of the opinions of individuals with different tastes, shaped by diverse editorial styles, varying critical criteria, and using different analytical methods. There are those who attempt some semblance of objectivity, those who are painstakingly methodical, others who embrace the subjectivity of it all, and many more in between. Of course, the diverse nature of the critical audience is a good thing: through such approaches critical consensus may be reached and truly great games uncovered, but such a process is always relatively vague. Such vagueness extends to the properties of Metacritic itself, whose selection criteria can be a little bit murky.

Click here to read more...

Darksiders II Hands-on Preview | Looting Good

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Features
Tags:
Darksiders II, Games previews, MCM Manchester Comic Con, THQ, Vigil Games

Darksiders II Hands-on Preview | Looting Good

Platform: PS3 | Xbox 360 (version tested) | PC | Wii U

Developers: Vigil Games

Publishers: THQ

Death is coming. August 21st specifically. So make sure you’ve made all the arrangements, because Vigil’s eagerly-awaited sequel is going to demand your presence, no questions asked. As protagonists go, brother number two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is certainly someone you don’t want to piss off.

My hands-on session starts at the opening of the now-finished game. A noisy Manchester Comic Con environment made taking note of any cutscenes a redundant luxury. So, eager to savour the full experience come review day, I skipped ahead, keen to let Death to do his thing.

Darksiders II Hands-on Preview | Looting Good

Gameplay begins with Death riding his steed through a barren frozen world. While free to use his scythe on horseback, there was nothing to kill at this stage. After a short ride I had to dismount to complete a tutorial covering the basics of movement and combat.

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Blast From The Past | ToeJam & Earl

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Blast From The Past, Funk, Funk It, Funkadelic, Funkopolis, Funky town, Sega, SEGA Genesis, SEGA Mega Drive games, Toejam & Earl

Blast From The Past | ToeJam & Earl

Nintendo's dominance of the home console market in the late 80s and their monopolisation of arcade agreements meant that SEGA had to do something rather different with the Mega Drive. Nintendo thrived on solid foundations that were then built upon – recycling characters, themes, and ideas to make better and better games. SEGA had to find new IPs that would stick.

The greatest example of that is, of course, Sonic; but in their quest for original material, the Mega Drive became a hotbed of experimentation and often riskier releases, giving rise to quirky classics, the likes of which we will probably never see grace a home console again (re-releases aside). One such game – an enduring tale of haphazard piloting, funky aliens, pickpocketing Santa Claus, Icarus wings, rocket skates, nefarious hula girls, and the redemptive power of hip-hop beats – was ToeJam & Earl.

Blast From The Past | ToeJam & Earl

The stage was set as so...One day, our eponymous heroes are out for a little joyride, when ToeJam (the three-legged, stalk-eyed, Flava Flav wannabe) decides to let his chum Earl (the Bermuda-shorts-wearing, sunburnt, chunky one) pilot the spaceship for a bit. Earl, being a worse pilot than Porkins, subsequently crashes the ship into Earth, and the duo must sally forth and retrieve the ten missing pieces of the spaceship in order to take off once more and make the journey home.

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Rocksmith Hands-On Preview | Guitar Heroism

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
E3 2012, Music games, PC games, PS3 games, Rocksmith, Ubisoft

Rocksmith Hands-On Preview | Guitar Heroism

I suck at playing guitar. I can admit that now. Though I owned an acoustic six-string at university (which I mainly used to convince gullible freshers that I wrote Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way, don't judge me), my Guitar Hero-honed fingers feel clumsy and useless on an actual fretboard, a far cry from the consummate virtual virtuoso I become when clutching a plastic Gibson Explorer. What I need, therefore, is a game that can seamlessly combine the addictive gameplay of a traditional music title with real instruments, something that provides a fun experience while letting genuine musical theory and tabulature bleed into my subconscious.

Rocksmith does exactly that. By allowing players to plug a genuine electric guitar (or bass) into a PC or home console, Ubisoft's music game actively teaches us how to play an instrument - everything from tuning to barre chords and even pinch harmonics. After suffering numerous delays and lawsuits, Rocksmith is finally headed to European shores this Autumn, and I was keen to hunker down in Ubisoft's soundproofed E3 booth to try it out for myself.

Before we start in earnest, it's probably worth noting that Rocksmith released Stateside several months ago. But since us Brits will soon be allowed nice things, allow me to talk you through what makes this musical masterpiece a seriously exciting proposition.

Rocksmith Hands-On Preview | Guitar Heroism

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Top Ten Tuesdays | Extreme Sports Games

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Extreme Sports, Top Ten Extreme Sports Games, Top Ten Tuesdays, Top Tens

Extreme sports have always been ripe fodder for video game treatment. While others are content to hurl themselves from high places, endanger their genitals grinding sloping rails, and toss motorised vehicles about with wild abandon, there's long been a case for nestling into the couch, controller in hand, and letting your virtual avatar do all of the effort to a typically brilliant soundtrack

Here are some of the best and brightest extreme sports games from over the years. Games that we kept coming back to time and time again, beguiling titles that would encourage us always to have just one more go...

Honourable Mentions: Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX 2, Amped 2, Aggressive Inline, Elastomania, California Games, AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! For The Awesome.

10. 1080 Snowboarding

One of the earliest releases on Nintendo's 64-bit box of tricks, 1080 Snowboarding took a relatively realistic shot at providing some snowboarding action, and succeeded in delivering jaw-dropping visuals (at the time), with an aggressive focus on speed rather than hangtime. One of the N64's first wave of killer apps.

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PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22 – World Building

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Bethesda, Bioshock, BioWare, Half Life, Mass Effect, Max Payne, McPixel, Platinum Games, Podcast, PWNCAST, System Shock, The Elder Scrolls, The Secret World, Valve

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22 – World Building

This week we take a look at the past six months, some of the highlights, some of the disappointments. We talk about our recent top ten and some of the games that didn't quite make the list, and look forward to a future six months that are rammed with promising games.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22, Recorded: July 19th, 2012

Some of the things that get covered this week:

  • McPixel
  • The Secret World
  • Bethesda and the Elder Scrolls
  • Space Operas
  • Why Noir and Brazil don't really go together
  • System Shock and BioShock
  • Valve's fantastic world building
  • Jon's Kamiya hair doll

...and much, much more.

Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be quite a few instances of strong language.

Click the banner at the top to play the file, or right click and select 'Save Link As' to download the file onto your hard drive.

Want more? Check out the rest of our PWNCAST posts onsite, hit us up on iTunes, or subscribe to the PWNCAST Feed here.

PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22 – World Building PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22 – World BuildingPWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22 – World BuildingPWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22 – World BuildingPWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 22 – World Building

Why We Hate . . . BMX XXX

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Acclaim Entertainment, AKA Acclaim, BMX XXX, Oh dear, Sports Games, Strippers, Why We Hate, Why We Love, Z-Axis

Why We Hate . . . BMX XXX

Doing this week's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD review got me thinking about some of the other extreme sports titles that have come and gone over the years. Some were great (SSX), other were ok (Shaun White's Snowboarding), and some were absolutely awful. Welcome, BMX XXX!

Buoyed by reaping the profits and cashing in on the burgeoning Xgames market with Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX series, Acclaim wanted more. Sadly, though, rumour has it that the follow up was shaping up to be utter balls, and so, in an attempt to somehow salvage the nosediving product, reports suggest that the publisher made a decision to throw caution to the wind and transform the game into a raunchy sex comedy.

Why We Hate . . . BMX XXX

Developers, take note. This is generally a terrible idea. Especially in an industry that has been unfavourably associated with basements and masturbation. In a toss-up (Risky - Ed.) between making your game better and throwing in some tits, always go for the first option.

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Platformines Beta Impressions | Delve Deep, Jump High, Shoot To Kill

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Beta, Beta Impressions, Games previews, Indie Games, Magiko Gaming, PC games, Platformer, Platformines, SHMUP

Platformines Beta Impressions | Delve Deep, Jump High, Shoot To Kill

Magiko Gaming do platforming right. It's their passion, their niche, their thing. Ever since PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain brought a pixel-perfect game design masterclass to the Xbox Live Indie channel, the small indie studio never looked back, creating a thoroughly excellent sequel along with the phenomenally enjoyable (if slightly blasphemous) Who Is God? They've won so many of our Xbox Live Indie Game Of The Week awards that we straight-up ran out.

So, naturally, we were delighted when they announced their magnum opus: a procedurally-generated platformer that encourages exploration, self-improvement and the liberal abuse of enormous firearms. Platformines has been steadily growing more impressive with every new update and trailer, wowing us with levels of customisation deeper than its deadly caverns. More excitingly, though, it's set to occupy a niche within a niche.

Platformines Beta Impressions | Delve Deep, Jump High, Shoot To Kill

See, we've got a soft spot for seed-generated 'Metroidvania' sidescrollers, and we're rather spoiled for choice at the moment. Terraria wowed us last year with its world-creating chicanery, while A Valley Without Wind continues to evolve into something truly magnificent. But there's one thing that the sub-genre arguably lacks: actual platforming. You know, challenging, frequently punishing sequences of jumps, pits and obstacles that requires timing, planning and reflexes to overcome. Platformines, conversely, does the business. Now that a PC beta version is free to download (seriously, go get it), we've finally managed to get hands-on with this emergent Indie hit.

If you can imagine Spelunky twinned with Metal Slug, Super Meat Boy and Diablo, Platformines is only a tiny bit like that.

Click here to read more...

Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch Hands-On Preview | A Dream Come True

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Cel-shaded, Games previews, JRPGs, Level 5, Namco Bandai, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, RPGs, Studio Ghibli

Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch Hands-On Preview | A Dream Come True

Platform: PS3

Developers: Level-5 | Studio Ghibli

Publishers: Namco Bandai

Playing Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an activity that requires the gamer to constantly pinch themselves in order to make absolutely certain that they aren't dreaming. In a day and age where we told by publishers and platform holders that we have to pay a high price for everything, where mainstream gaming milks its audience for every last drop, where we're told that we can't possibly be allowed nice things, that we're stupid, and violent, and need to be constantly stimulated every 5 seconds for fear...it's heartwarming enough that such a wonderful union has blossomed.

Studio Ghibli and Level-5 sitting in a tree.

As with most relationships, high drama tends to hide the simple matter of asking someone out. In this case, Level-5 had the early concepts for a game, and they asked Studio Ghibli if they fancied collaborating on it.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch Hands-On Preview | A Dream Come True

The story is all Level-5, though it's clear where they've drawn their inspiration from. The game opens with protagonist Oliver running around his little home town, picking up groceries, and concocting the sorts of adventurous plans with his best friend that young boys do - the sort that will invariably result in danger, grazed knees, and a worried mother. Slipping out of his house after dark, the boys' experiment has terribly tragic consequences, and Oliver is left inconsolable at the loss of someone close to him, crying rivers at the result of his folly.

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Blast From The Past | Ultimate Soccer Manager

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Amiga games, Football games, Impressions Games, Management sims, MS-DOS, PC games, Sierra Entertainment, Simulation games, Ultimate Soccer manager, Windows 95

Blast From The Past | Ultimate Soccer Manager

There was a time before The Great Footballing Schism. Long before Sports Interactive peeled off from Eidos to monopolise the sphere of football management simulation, there was a little shareware game orbiting around in 1995. A game that let you do pretty much everything you wanted.This was a game that knew of football's darker sides, and the suited and booted trials and tribulations that a manager had to face. It wasn't all Umbro tracksuits and plastic cones for goalposts. Sometimes you had to stick on a tie and get your noses dirty.

Ultimate Soccer Manager released in '95 for DOS, Amiga, and Win95, as a shareware title doing the rounds with a fully-fledged demo that allowed you do play your way up from Division 2 as Brighton and Hove Albion. I discovered it stuck to the front of a magazine (I forget which one exactly), housed in a light grey floppy disk, with a green sticker displaying a bespectacled chairman on the front.

Blast From The Past | Ultimate Soccer Manager

I immediately fell in love with it. I didn't have anything to compare it too at that stage, to be honest. It was only later that I picked up Championship Manager 2, once you could nab it for a couple of quid from Argos, and thus my tactician's brain was moulded by Impressions and Sierra.

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Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Hands-On Preview | Fight Lab

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Fighting Games, Games previews, Katsuhiro Harada, Namco Bandai, Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Hands-On Preview | Fight Lab

Platforms: PS3 (version tested) | Xbox 360 | Wii U | Arcade

Developers: Namco Bandai

Publishers: Namco Bandai

One of the disadvantages of being a dogsbody games journalist who likes a few too many genres is that, unlike Hermione Granger, time is limited. The days when I could happily pour hundreds of hours into specialist fighting games and take on all-comers (locally, of course, these were the days before broadband) are long gone. It's been twelve years since the original Tekken Tag Tournament turned up as the PS2's killer launch title, and I still have a pang of satisfaction from remembering how a friend bought the bundle on day one, and then lost ten games in a row to me. Back in those days that was enough.

Of course that wouldn't happen any more. The reflexes are gone, the combos have dribbled out from my brain. My old arcade stick sleeps in the attic, preferring to remain a dusty link to the past than allow me to run my now-amateurish hands over its buttons. Practice makes perfect, you see, and my mind had wandered off to other places, other genres, and other games. I though I was pretty good at fighting games.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Hands-On Preview | Fight Lab

Skullgirls disabused me of that notion this year.

But Namco Bandai are looking to lower the barrier of entry when it comes to Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and this is where the new Fight Lab feature makes its mark: providing a fun tutorial and training mode that not only walks newcomers through the basics, but also allows players to come away with a new playable fighter, customised to their on preferred style of play.

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Tales Of Graces f Hands-On Preview | Easy Company

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, JRPGs, Namco Bandai, Namco Tales Studio, PS3 games, RPGs, Tales of Graces f

Tales Of Graces f Hands-On Preview | Easy Company

Platform: PS3

Developers: Namco Tales Studio

Publishers: Namco Bandai

The traditional JRPG has fallen relatively far from grace when it comes to Western opinion on the matter, as shades of momentous games from ages past dribble out of Japan to wend their way across continents, only to be met with disappointment and unfavourable comparisons.

But in many ways, the JRPG is a genre beset by critical contradictions.There seems to be a constant urge from Western audiences and their cultural arbiters for modernisation - cries for refreshed formulae, new gameplay mechanics, and an acknowledgement that time has moved on since the 90s heyday of the genre. Of course, such experimentation is then met with bafflement and comparisons to those pillars of the past from whose shadows these current-gen JRPGs are supposedly trying to escape.

Tales Of Graces f Hands-On Preview | Easy Company

The latest instalment of the Tales series might not seem to elevate itself above the pack at first. Having played through the first three hours at Namco Bandai HQ, a sceptic could be forgiven for letting out a slight groan at first. The game kicks off in the company of young Asbel Lhant - heir to the estate of that same name, and a headstrong pain in his father's backside. A rebellious youth and a truant, with a nose for danger and disobeying his parents, he forms the central point of focus in a group of childhood friends that includes his little brother Hubert, barely concealed love interest Cheria, and a striking amnesiac whom Asbel finds out on the cliffs one day.

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Borderlands 2: Brian Martel Interview | Badass Ranks, Wii U, Flying Shotguns & A Decent Ending

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Borderlands, Borderlands 2, Brian Martel, Gearbox, interview, Wii U

Borderlands 2: Brian Martel Interview | Badass Ranks, Wii U, Flying Shotguns & A Decent Ending

We've long stopped trying to hide our excitement for Borderlands 2. Every time we preview it or interview key personnel, Gearbox's upcoming FPSRPG reveals new features, bigger guns and more insane characters. However, after getting to grips with a brand new build last week, we yearned to know more: how will the new persistent Badass Ranking system work? Will Borderlands 2 launch on Wii U? As much as anything, will we get a decent ending this time?!

So who better to ask than the co-founder of Gearbox, Chief Creative Officer and Borderlands 2 executive producer Brian Martel? Tracking him down in a pub close to the hands-on preview event, I proceeded to quiz him over a swift half.

Jonathan Lester (Dealspwn): When the original Borderlands was in development, a number of pundits and analysts reckoned that you were entirely mad - that you were "sending it to die." As it turned out, you kicked their asses: critics and players loved Borderlands. So, how does it feel to be working on the sequel?

Brian Martel (Gearbox): It feels amazing. Look, this is something that we're extremely passionate about. We love this franchise: it's a great world to play around in. We're shooter people at our core and we really love Role-Playing games, so mixing the two has been really fun.

Borderlands 2: Brian Martel Interview | Badass Ranks, Wii U, Flying Shotguns & A Decent Ending

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