Toys: Robot Damashii Dunbine and Drumlo
Courtesy of our good friends at HobbyLink Japan we've been sent the Robot Damashii Dunbine and Robot Damashii Drumlo from the classic 80's mecha anime Aura Battler Dunbine....
News: Super Robot Wars BX Announced
So the next Super Robot Wars game to be announced has the suffix of BX and it will be released again on the 3DS. The last game on the system, in the form of UX, was really...
Over the years there have been a fair few attempts at making a cogent Eureka Seven game. From the misguided attempts by Bandai, in the form of New Wave and New Vision respectively, to the somewhat better approach seen in Another Century’s Episode 3 and Portable. Well, there’s now a new game made by fans using the Unity engine. Called Lift, it offers some pretty damn cool multiplayer action with suitably comprehensive controls. The latter is important to emphasise, this game has been made without functional compromise; surfing mecha through the sky isn’t meant to be easy. It’s also wonderfully free, so there’s no excuse not to play it really. The playable roster of mecha is pretty focused but there’s more than enough to keep multiplayer games interesting. For those that can’t wait to surf the trapar in their LFO, then you can download the game here.
Sakura Wars is a popular series of strategy RPGs mixed with elements of dating sims and visual novels, and the jump to Web 2.0 is all the more inexplicable considering how story- and character-driven the original games were. Sakura Wars was defined by its pioneering use of character relationships affected by the player’s choices, as the main character attempted to woo one (or more) of the female actors/mecha pilots he was leading into battle against demons, and any attempt to scale what was a personal experience into a multiplayer one is going to be an uphill battle, if it wants to stay true to the series.
Luckily for us mecha nerds then that we care far more about making robots slice bloody swathes through the Enemy than we do about making cute girls blush, because the mecha for the browser game are looking just fine. The mecha of Sakura Wars have an interesting aesthetic, combining the extremely realistic elements of the VOTOMS series with the characteristic boilerplate feel of steampunk, and as what little we know of the game suggests it will be battle focused, this could turn out to be an utterly superb multiplayer mecha strategy RPG, albeit one that is likely to cause purists to tear their hair out.
Of course, with the reportedly poor sales of Sakura Wars in the West, the chance of this being localized for English speakers is astronomically small. However, the language barrier hasn’t always stopped us foreigners from trying to play Asian multiplayer games before, and really: those mecha have different production versions, with all sorts of different tubes and doohickeys going every which way: how can you not be excited for that?
The official site for the game has a very short but also very Super Robot Wars-looking video on it, teasing us yet more with a fruit us Westerners might never taste (those of you having trouble with that link, try this one).
Back in the fall of 2009, TimeGate Studios released Section 8. A fairly robust, though nearly totally ignored, multiplayer shooter title for the Xbox 360, PC, and later the PS3. Although the game suffered from poor controls, it remained popular with those who had discovered this gem.
The game itself featured power armor clad soldiers, a variety of vehicles, weapons, custom load outs and even larger powered armor akin to Gasaraki’s Tactical Armors.
Although Section 8 was passed over by many. TimeGate, being an independent studio saw fit to make a sequel. Bigger. Better. Cheaper. Section 8: Prejudice seeks to correct many of the design flaws of its predecessor. The game will feature much of the same core game elements as the last and then some, as well as an all new single player campaign.
One feature that seems to be getting a little more focus is the heavier mecha you can purchase through play. Playing similar to some sort of Halo: Reach/Planetside mash up, Section 8: Prejudice promises to be a fun, engaging sci-fi shooter. Prejudice is set to come out early this year at a very affordable 14.99 (USD).
A post on the Mommy’s Best Games devblog almost-but-not-quite announces a PC version of Explosionade, along with a map editor, to be in development. The original Xbox Live Indie Game version was spectacular and we are excited at the prospect of a wider audience being able to play this fantastic game. At 80 Microsoft Points, or one US dollar in real world currency, it was exactly the sort of game we hoped for when the Xbox Live Indie Games section was first announced: insane, amazing, and cheap.
Being able to pop open the hood and design your own maps for Explosionade is definitely an appealing prospect, especially given that the difficulty of the original was perhaps too low in order to accommodate the non-hardcore crowd, but there are some concerns that it might be difficult to do much with the game’s assets that the original game didn’t already do–the game’s design was pared down with a laser to only the bare essentials, and Explosionade made smart use of what it had. When you need to pay employees and are (reportedly) eating wild scorpions to cut personal expenses, selling your product for only a dollar is risky business and you have to make everything you do count.
The trailer for the ExplosionadEditor is enough to convince anyone of the absolute necessity for its release, though, and I’m reminded of just how much fun Bangai-O DS’s level editor was. It really is unfair of them to release this trailer, and lord their ability to make their own levels over us, while we wait patiently for mecha goodness to rain down like manna from heaven.
Third-person (third-robot?) action MMO CosmicBreak has announced that its final beta test will begin on December 16th and this will transition directly into official service, with no data wipe between. The makers of CosmicBreak have also announced a browser-based strategy game based on the CosmicBreak universe, CosmicCommander, which while still in a rough alpha condition is giving access to those who register for the CosmicBreak beta.
CosmicBreak still appears to be free to play, with the profit coming from the common “cash shop” method, so with that and the low system requirements hopefully this game sees some play. The game has been in various betas for a while now and it’s good to see the game finally get an official release, rather than falling into development hell. Screenshots and videos of CosmicBreak are a bit deceptive, as while the game mechanics look very much “MMO” in nature where tweaked stats triumph over good gameplay and the player merely targets an enemy to attack, the controls are very similar to most mecha games, albeit a tad simplified, and rather than equipment being the deciding factor, it’s the pilot that makes the real difference.
CosmicBreak is also getting a single-player mode, which will be a help to people who want to practice the game without feeling pressure being either in a co-operative or competitive environment, which is something I personally feel massively multiplayer games ignore at their own peril, because it makes it all too easy for the newcomer to feel overwhelmed by the professionals.
The graphics are a bit more cutesy than I’d like but there is a good mix between the standard mechanical robots and the mecha musume girls running around the place, and there’s nothing stopping you from picking only the mechs and declaring a war on robot girls with skirts much too short. The cutesy graphics also have an upside in that the system requirements are fairly low; I haven’t seen a laptop that can’t run CosmicBreak and if I could deal with a jittery 15 frames per second I could even play on my piddly netbook.
The game has a few different modes, the most notable one that works as a proto-roguelike, where a single person or team venture into a series of instanced dungeons looking for loot and an exit to the next level of the instance, with the caveat that they need to reach the end of the dungeon to keep most of the loot they’ve required. You’re always tempted to grab just a few more items before heading on, and with a group you constantly have to make triage decisions about whether to risk a friend dying for just a bit more lucre. I’d give CosmicBreak a try for that game mode alone.
CyberStep has also announced a new game currently in the alpha stage of development called CosmicCommander, a browser-based strategy game featuring the same robots and universe as CosmicBreak. The trailer they’ve sent out seems to imply a mix of Ogre Battle and Super Robot Wars Z, and registering for CosmicBreak seems to get you access to a limited time alpha test of CosmicCommander, with the promise of goodies earned in CosmicCommander transferring back to CosmicBreak in a powerful gattai of marketing synergy. Hopefully we will have some first hand impressions to give you of CosmicCommander, as my college Grade Point Average shuffles off to a corner and shoots itself. If any of you are interested, use the comments section below to talk about doing a Mecha Damashii group when CosmicBreak opens back up, as we take the war to the Cleavage-Showing False Mecha. Steel is strong, flesh is weak! Thou shalt not suffer cute robot girls to live!
Some sad news: in-browser game site InstantAction is now dead. The site had been closed for quite a while, promising a relaunch of the service with brand new features (including a browser version of the much-beloved Tribes) but after months of waiting we find out not only are those new features not coming, but neither are the original games returning either.
The greatest loss here is easily Fallen Empires: Legions, an amazing 3D browser game that was superficially similar to Tribes, but with the jetpacks an order of magnitude more powerful and with a corresponding increase in the speed of gameplay. There’s nothing quite like the exhilarating feeling you get from flying over a hill at 100 miles per hour and carefully landing on your opponent’s base, and now it’s likely you won’t ever get the chance to experience it.
On the brighter side of things, there’s a fan group attempting to get Legions back into action, and although the demise of InstantAction means the browser version of Tribes will likely never become a reality, this freed up the Tribes license for the developers of Global Agenda to work on an MMOG FPS based on the property.
So while Fallen Empires: Legions and the browser-based Tribes game might be out of the equation, we’ve got a MMOG version of Tribes on the horizon as well as the Tribes-inspired Firefall coming. Instead of the return of two older games, we have two new games about supersoldiers with mecha backpacks to look forward to–a fair trade if you ask me.
A new trailer was released for upcoming persistent world online shooter Firefall, and while a lot of the footage being shown is of locations and concepts we’ve already seen in the larger ten minute gameplay trailer, our excitement for the game has been by no means diminished since the game’s announcement, as there is clearly a lot of potential.
One thing the new trailer does hint at which we haven’t seen before is some sort of system that allows players to “glide”–while the huge mecha jetpacks enable characters to gain vertical height and sometimes forward speed (similar to the thrusters in Tribes, of which Firefall seems to be a spiritual successor) this seems to be an entirely new mechanic, used for crossing large amounts of distance in the air. This gliding feature projects two laser wings which reminds us just a bit of the V2 Gundam’s Wings of Light, which along with the very possible Gurren Lagann and Gundam 00 influences in the powered armors’ designs leads evidence to someone at Firefall being a closet mecha fanatic.
In addition to the 10 minute trailer that’s been passed around widely, it’s also worth noting that there’s a less well-traveled version of that very same trailer with developer commentary that explains a bit more about the specific game mechanics.
One of the most renowned mecha series in gaming has to be that of Front Mission, as it has endured the test of time and indelibly made its mark on the genre. It’s practically a beloved heirloom these days and Square Enix had the right idea, or at least the semblance of one, when they tried to bring the saga into the present day. On paper, you’d think that hiring a Western developer to helm a standard third-person-shooter would be a no brainer but Front Mission, like any mecha based gaming series, isn’t one that can slot neatly into a functionally standardised niche.
Ignoring the functional and cultural heritage of mecha is going to get you into trouble when you deal with a series like Front Mission and unsurprisingly that’s where Double Helix have landed themselves; up trouble creek without a wanzer to help them out.
F.E.A.R. 3, the next game in a line of first person shooters about high technology and the supernatural combining to create a general mess of things, has had its power armors, imaginatively named the Power Armor and the Enhanced Power Armor, revealed. The two battlesuits previously appeared in F.E.A.R and F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and the EPA was in fact pilotable in F.E.A.R. 2, but the trailer they’ve sent out implies a lot more mobility on their part this time around, making their existence part of what I see as a kind of renewal in Starship Troopers type power armor, where the “power” component to their power armor wasn’t just a heavier load of armor and munitions, but also thrusters which allowed a single infantryman to move quickly across miles of territory. The typical “space marines” of today, for all their glitzy tech, still find themselves cowering behind crates just like any other human but it seems the industry may be moving in a more interesting direction.
The designs of the PA and the EPA remind me a bit of the Tau’s Stealth Suits and Crisis Battlesuits from Warhammer 40,000, which could make it a rare example of a game adding more mecha-like elements by being inspired by a Western design, rather than a Japanese one.
Worth pointing out is that the mechs here seem designed to incorporate the general FPS feel of the rest of the game rather than to merely add a “vehicle mode”; the game still visible looks, and seems to play, like an FPS while unmistakably incorporating the functions granted by the mecha. Obstacles and cover that would hinder a regular human fall easily before your robot’s might, expanding your tactical options, but the player’s point of view stays the same, stopping the player from dissociating from the “closeness” of the action. This was a problem with the EPA in F.E.A.R. 2, where the mech sections, while fun, seemed to be at odds with the game’s main trick of being a horror FPS.
Hopefully the developers, Day 1 Studios, will be able to produce something that will make us forgive them for MechAssault.