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News: Aegis Gundam, GM Sniper II White Dingo Ver. and More Coming To Gundam Versus This DecemberNews: Aegis Gundam, GM Sniper II White Dingo Ver. and... This December, even more suits are being added to the ever growing Gundam Versus lineup. The first is Aegis Gundam, last seen in Gundam SEED Destiny: Rengou VS ZAFT II Plus...

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Videos: Atlas Gundam Gameplay Trailer in EXVS Maxi Boost ONVideos: Atlas Gundam Gameplay Trailer in EXVS Maxi...   Bandai Namco have released a gameplay trailer for Atlas Gundam in EXVS Maxi Boost ON. As the unit is also releasing in Gundam Versus as well, we can at least use this...

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News: Atlas Gundam DLC Coming To Gundam VersusNews: Atlas Gundam DLC Coming To Gundam Versus If you were hoping for more Gundam Thunderbolt units, there's good news! Atlas Gundam will be joining the Gundam Versus roster as DLC in late November. This will more than...

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Videos: Phantom Gundam and Nightingale Coming To Gundam Versus on September 26Videos: Phantom Gundam and Nightingale Coming To Gundam... Phantom Gundam and Nightingale will be coming to Gundam Versus on September 26 in Japan. As mentioned in our previous post, Phantom Gundam is a 400 cost unit and is taking...

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News: Gundam Versus To Add Phantom Gundam As DLC UnitNews: Gundam Versus To Add Phantom Gundam As DLC Unit As we await the upcoming Western release of Gundam Versus on September 29 on top of unreleased units such as Pale Rider and Gundam Guison Rebake, Phantom Gundam has been...

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Features: An Ode to Sandlot

Posted on : 07-09-2009 | By : | In : Features

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sandlot_logo.jpgHere’s a low-down of a rather wonderful Japanese games developer by the name of Sandlot. Officially formed in March of 2001, they approached the genre of mecha gaming with quite literally a new perspective.

In 1953 a budding manga artist, by the name of Mitsuteru Yokoyama, penned a series that would be responsible for laying the foundations of a pop-cultural phenomenon that has now lasted over half a century. The series involved a young boy remote controlling a giant robot by the name of Tetsujin 28-go (translated as Iron Man 28 and released abroad as Gigantor). This focus of the boy controlling a huge mecha from ground level was clearly an inspirational one in the case of Sandlot’s genesis.

For almost all but one of Sandlot’s games they have a very similar gameplay implementation in regards to the player viewpoint, that of a boy on the ground looking up at an immense mechanical behemoth (or at the very least a discernable sense of scale to the gaming proceedings).

It’s also interesting to note that this mechanical inspiration has consequently spawned a more successful series of games.

More after the jump…

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Reviews: Armored Core Nexus (9/10)

Posted on : 07-09-2009 | By : | In : Reviews

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acnx_coverHow can anyone explain the satisfaction of creating a beautifully balanced mechanical avatar, taking it into the thick of combat and yet returning from the battlefield unscathed? Bathing in your freshly acquired and truly magnificent skill, you watch as charred wreckage surrounds your astounding creation. Gaming empowerment doesn’t really come any better than this.

Armored Core Nexus is the eighth game in a franchise that has lasted over seven years and survived two generations of console warfare. Moreover, it is a franchise that has endured purely on its own contextual merit. Nexus is, in many ways, a celebration of this series’ success.

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Reviews: Macross (8/10)

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Reviews

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macross_ps2_coverThere are particular anime heirlooms that require a certain type of respect and admiration, especially when licensed merchandising invariably raises its head. Choujikyuu Yosai Macross is such an heirloom. Originally aired in 1982 as a 36 episode TV series, then as an adapted movie in 1984, Studio Nue’s epic-yet-human space opera is greatly revered.

It also marked the creative debut of one Shouji Kawamori: a then meek mecha designer, he penned the timeless design of the VF-1 “Valkyrie”. Timeless in the way it looked like a contemporary F-14 fighter jet but also seamlessly transformed into a giant mecha to combat equally giant aliens out to destroy the human race. Unsurprisingly, there have been many Macross videogames over the 20-year period since Macross was created. Many have been utterly dire. A select few haven’t.

Normally, the mere mention of SEGA-AM2 indicates a project of austere quality, after all AM2 truly have an enviable gaming portfolio. Bandai realised this state of affairs after releasing the (pretty poor) Macross Digital Mission VF-X games developed by UNiT, not to mention the shocking Macross Plus Game Edition and Macross M3 created by Shoeisha, and they thankfully commissioned AM2 to make matters right.

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Reviews: Tetsujin 28-go (8/10)

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Reviews

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tetsujin28go_cover.jpgIn 1956, a certain Mitsuteru Yokoyama penned a manga by the name of “Tetsujin 28-go”. This manga portrayed the life of a young boy called Shotaro Haneda, remote controlling a huge military robot called Tetsujin 28-go to thwart the forces of evil and do good in the world. It wasn’t very long before this manga made the transition to anime, and then jumped the Pacific Ocean to mesmerise the US populace (under the new name of “Gigantor”). It’s important to clarify one thing from the start: Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s “Tetsujin 28-go” was single-handedly responsible for the creation of Japanese mecha pop-culture. His work has inspired generations of people. Some of these people happen to work at a Japanese developer called Sandlot.

Tetsujin 28-go is Sandlot’s third mecha game, and the first time they have been allowed to tackle possibly the most prestigious of mecha icons. Their first outing – Remote Controlled Dandy on the Psone – was impressive and unique, having the player control a huge mecha from ground level and having them position themselves accordingly – after all, you were the camera. The second attempt was Gigantic Drive (on PS2), which was essentially “Remote Control Dandy Deluxe”. Both of these games had an amazingly intricate control system where each limb was controlled individually. Whilst this was a comprehensive approach, it had an obviously steep learning curve.

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Reviews: Virtual On Marz (6/10)

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Reviews

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vo_marz_pack.jpgVirtual On is oft-misunderstood as a series. The majority of people focus on the presence of big robots, rather than the game mechanics, that the franchise offers. Moreover, the game’s control interface, through that of a pair of TwinSticks, has caused consternation amongst many a gamer due to their apparent lack of inclusivity: players new to the title struggle with the steep learning curve these devices create, not forgetting to mention that the majority of people remain utterly baffled as to the game’s actual content, and how to manoeuvre within the game world.

Arcade games require practice, patience and training on the part of the player. Virtual On has a brutal learning curve, but the thoroughness of thought and skill that is expected from the player only helps to enrich the overall experience. Thing is, this could be said for any arcade game, and is very much a tenet of design within this part of the games industry.

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Reviews: Anubis (5/10)

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Reviews

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anubis_cover1.jpgSet a few years after the first incarnation, the game starts with the player being re-introduced to the mechanical avatar of Egyptian death, Jehuty. Along with it’s new virile pilot, Dingo Egret. What follows is a truly impressive and epic narrative, after all the first game wasn’t the only part of the saga. Admittedly, the plucky little hero from the first game game, Leo Steinbuck, makes an appearance, but the overall narrative tone is far more mature and developed now. There has even been an animated movie and TV series too. Unfortunately, there is just too much focus on the narrative, to the point where it detracts from the overall game.

The actual game itself has been improved noticeably, Jehuty can do a lot more now. The old grab function, with its new implementation, adds a lot of spice to regular combat, but some of the boss fights fall foul of this new function to the point of gimmickry. As such, in many of the numerous boss fights the player has to grab an object and use it as a “guard” against an ensuing attack. So instead of gauging the combat mechanic in a gradual process, we have to endure lengthy boss encounters where we cannot directly attack our foe. Admittedly it is a useful and innovative function, but over used.

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Reviews: Armored Core 3 Silent Line (10/10)

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Reviews

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ac3sl_cover.jpgArmored Core 3: Silent Line is the seventh game in the franchise. For the more cynical of you copious eye rolling is not to be unexpected. It is, however, utterly without valediction. Silent Line is an utterly superb game.

Set a few years after the events of the previous game, humanity has ventured up from beneath the ground and has re-settled upon the surface of a recovered Earth. With them has also come all their baggage, namely a bunch of cussed and childish corporations that insist upon repeating history until it kills them very dead. Alas, there is a lot more to all this. Anyone familiar with the older games will realise that humanity has a very long history, one that offers great technological treasures as well as terrors. Petty corporations aside, pretty much anyone that can control doomsday weapons will be in a position of power. Cue Silent Line.

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Reviews: Armored Core 3 (9/10)

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Reviews

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ac3_cover.jpgForcing balance can be a tricky thing with game design, especially when it comes to sequels. If you have already set a precedent on acquiring ever more powerful weapons in a game franchise, to deny that in a sequel would (most probably) irritate the hell out of your customers. In this particular case, From Software got it right.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, where mankind has retreated to the sanctuary of underground cities, humanity is still in the throws of petty corporate warfare. Disregarding the possibility of human extinction, the corporate schmucks decide to speed up the carnage by hiring mercenaries. This is where you come in. Your ride of choice is a fully customisable mechanical monstrosity, an avatar of destruction if you will. You goal is to take on missions and proceed to earn cash to buy more parts that can kill things quicker. In short, it is great cathartic fun.

The big changes in Armored Core 3 are several fold. The first big change is that the game is now four player. Matches can either be free for all or team based. When team based, the first side to destroy the opponent’s “Leader” wins. A system not all that different from Hitmaker’s (rather disappointing) Virtual On Force. In the missions part of the game this follows on somewhat. On some missions you are allowed to hire “consorts” to help you out, this can be extremely helpful on some missions.

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Features: The Last Boost

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Features

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omega_boost_front.jpgIn 1999 a developer renowned for its pedigree in creating driving simulators ventured into pastures where high speed mecha roam. The developer was Polyphony Digital, the game: Omega Boost for the original PlayStation.

It was possibly the most accomplished implementation of mecha themed space combat yet achieved.

The player had control over the titular mecha, the Omega Boost, and were able to acquire targets in spherical 3D at incredible speed. Considering the aesthetic influences from anime such as Macross, it was unsurprising that Shoji Kawamori helmed the mecha design with his regular finesse.

Many assumed that the game was an offshoot from Team Andromeda’s seminal Panzer Dragoon series, as the beautifully insane homing lasers were in similar effect. It became an almost apocryphal tale, that was supposedly wholly without credence.

Well, Yuji Yasuhara would probably disagree…

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Features: Armored Hardcore

Posted on : 06-09-2009 | By : | In : Features

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aclr_game.jpgYou’d think that a dedicated gaming intellectual property that affords immense creative freedom on the part of the player would be championed outside of Japan as well as within. While the latter is certainly true, the former is sadly not the case.

Admittedly, From Software’s Armored Core games have often received rather disappointing localisations and non-existent marketing but some balk at the series’ ongoing complexity, both in terms of the controls and intricate customisation.

The truth is that these games have a very traditional learning curve in effect and not just as a series but for each and every game. In the current climate of zero effort rewards maximum enjoyment, Armored Core is decidedly antagonistic in its approach on making the player learn the game. In many ways, the Armored Core series is the spiritual successor to games like Assault Suits Valken.

Anyway, here’s more history on the older Armored Core games than you shake a reinforced ceramic composite stick at (oh, and each of the gameplay screenshots double as links to in-game footage in case you’re wondering).

More after the jump…

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