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News: Gundam Extreme Versus 2 Initial Roster And Location Tests AnnouncedNews: Gundam Extreme Versus 2 Initial Roster And Location... As the rest of the world has Gundam Versus on the PS4, Japanese arcades are gearing up for the upcoming Gundam Versus Extreme 2. On May 12 and 13, stores in Tokyo and Osaka...

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Reviews: Super Robot Wars X (9/10)Reviews: Super Robot Wars X (9/10) Since the end of the Z series, the Super Robot Wars games have tried to change up the setup somewhat, such as including series without mecha in Super Robot Wars V. Well, the...

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Videos: Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS 2 Announced For 2018Videos: Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS 2 Announced For... Bandai Namco have recently announced that Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS 2 will be hitting arcades in 2018. Unlike Gundam Versus, this is being positioned as a true sequel...

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Videos: Build Strike Gundam, Farsia, Gundam Pixie, and Efreet Schneid Coming To Gundam VersusVideos: Build Strike Gundam, Farsia, Gundam Pixie,... Several new DLC units have been announced during the Gundam Games Announcement stream on January 16. Aside from revealing God and Master Gundam gameplay, we saw Missing...

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News: Border Break is Finally Coming to PS4News: Border Break is Finally Coming to PS4 Back in 2009, you may remember that we reviewed the awesome Border Break. Well, it finally seems that after nearly a decade the game will be getting a console port on...

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Features: Bangai-O Origins

Posted on : 08-09-2009 | By : | In : Features

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bangaio_tamashii.jpgThere are few games developers in the world that engender such a fan driven fervour as Treasure. Their games are revered in an almost monolithic sense, beacons of taut gaming functionality they distill the mechanics of a game into something palpably cogent. However, there are a few instances amongst their creative portfolio that have wider cultural leanings.

I am, of course, referring to Bakuretsu Muteki Bangai-O. A series of games featuring the titular mecha, Bangai-O, as it sprays a colourful 2D world with a vast array of homing missiles and lasers. The initial functional impetus for the game was outed as being that of the Sharp X1 title Hover Attack but in a more recent interview, this was merely a partial catalyst as it became clearer that the main influences took on a far greater role.

Specifically, three anime series were cited in the interview; Macross, Layzner and Ideon. For those that have been reading the column regularly, I’ve already covered the effect of each of these series (here and here). Now it’s time to see how these influences actually manifest themselves in a gaming series such as Bangai-O.

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Features: Zone of the Pretenders

Posted on : 08-09-2009 | By : | In : Features

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zoe_vo_edit.jpgIn December of 1999, SEGA released a nigh-on arcade perfect port on their ill-fated Dreamcast for Virtual On Oratorio Tangram. Like the Saturn port of its precursor, it also featured a bespoke controller to emulate the arcade version’s original setup: a pair of twinsticks. It was critically lauded by almost all Japanese (and many Western) publications and did quite well in terms of sales too.

The thing with the Virtual On series though is that they’ve always been focused around human multiplayer. In that regard they are practically peerless. As to their singleplayer “experience”; it’s almost been an oversight.

Even Hajime Katoki’s mecha design was forcibly restrained for the various Virtuaroids, as the 1995 original had very stringent polygon counts which set the aesthetic. The first two Virtual On games in fact are almost exercises in functional minimalism.

Yet Virtual On, as a series, has had a remarkable amount of design-based progeny over the years but in the case of Oratorio Tangram such “offspring” would only be a few years away.

Cue Hideo Kojima…

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Reviews: Armored Core For Answer (8/10)

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

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acfa_360_cover1-thumbNormally, in the history of Armored Core, the subsequent releases within the numerical classification are broader in scope and obviously more polished. Master of Arena had a customisable AI setup called Ranker Mk, Silent Line had an organic learning AI and an enormous amount of parts. Yet all these improvements were off the base release that preceded it. Admittedly, I am selling the earlier games a tad short but compared to For Answer, the improvements were linearly obvious.

This cycle has been broken with the latest version as it’s evolved past its roots to a terrifying degree.

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News: MechWarrior reboot in licensing blunder

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

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tomahawk_toy

Back in the 80’s when the early iterations of Battledroids (then later Battletech) surfaced, many of the designs had been not very surreptitiously lifted from various anime shows. Notably that of Dougram and Macross. FASA were suitably sued for their troubles. That said, over the years FASA did their best to throw several olive branches in the direction of the anime industry. Especially when they hired Shoji Kawamori to pen the designs for the Japanese edition of Battletech.

Fast forward to the recent trailer for the MechWarrior reboot featuring a Warhammer (or a destroid Tomahawk from Macross in case you’re wondering) and it seems that this has opened up the legal can of worms all over again. Considering the original case was with FASA it is interesting that the same designs can come under dispute when the rights are owned by another institution.

Personally, I don’t understand why they just didn’t get Hajime Katoki, Yutaka Izubuchi or Junji Okubo to pen new designs for the reboot and be done with it. At the very least they’d have had mecha that at least looked awesome.

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Reviews: Armored Core 4 (7/10)

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

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Set in a not too distant future, the planet has gone to hell in a hand basket. Global environmental catastrophe is very much a reality and warring corporations now pretty much run the planet, under the false pretences of Pax Economica. To meet the ruthless needs of profiteering corporations, mercenaries by the name of Nexts pilot massive and customisable war machines by the name of armored cores, or ACs for short.

Nexts are also a new type of human – they directly interface with their mechanical avatars via their brain stem and consequently have unparalleled control over their AC.

The focus of the game is to undertake missions in a third person action setting, which pay money for you to buy more parts and undertake more challenging though better paying sorties. Now that the player is a next level pilot, the emphasis is much more on refined control than in previous iterations.

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Features: Virtual Ontaku

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

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shirokis_temjin_katoki.pngI first played Virtual On years ago now, originally on the Saturn port in fact. I look back at that with some disdain admittedly, as I later but quickly realised that the arcade original, with its wondrous twinstick control setup, was a far superior game. The arcade version took me a few months of practice to get into, mainly because the nearest arcade was an hour’s train ride away and I was still at the tender age that meant I didn’t have a driving license.

Once I’d learnt the basics I decided to create a club in a fairly central London arcade (London being in the UK, in case you’re wondering). It was imaginatively titled the London Virtual On Club, or LonVOC for short.

It then appeared that my practice had been pretty thorough, as my subsequent skills were rather potent against the new club members (all of whom were keen to best me, but in the non-Xbox Live smacktalk sense). We were also later graced with the only arcade cabinet of Virtual On Oratorio Tangram (M.S.B.S. 5.2) in the UK, which was a lot of fun.

Considering the recent announcement of Oratorio Tangram coming to digital download, it seems only fair to cover a series that made me travel halfway across my native country just to plumb credits into an arcade cabinet (a cabinet I later ended up owning, as you probably know already).

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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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