Kits: Shizuoka Hobby Show 2013
This year's Shizuoka Hobby Show is under way and as always it has a huge amount of new model kits on display. With Hasegawa's new Myzr Eta kit (shown above) from Virtual...
News: Masou Kishin III Valsione Bonus
In the upcoming Masou Kishin III players will be given a special bonus code in the initial run of the game. This will give a different version of Valsione as seen in the...
Contrary to popular, and often ignorant, belief Virtual On has inspired a varied progeny of games over the years. From the rather flawed ZOE series, to games like the original Senko no Ronde. G.rev’s approach was very much well wrought, in the sense they didn’t just blindly copy elements of the game without understanding how they worked. No, instead they took the core of the fixed vectored dash combat system and brilliantly added a danmaku framework alongside it.
What transpired was a game that allowed the player to transform into an actual boss that spewed impossibly complex geometrical patterns of death, whilst the dashing mechanics were in place to render that almost irrelevant in the hands of a competent opponent. Even without the boss mode activation, the original game was awash with danmaku leanings all over the place and it added a very fresh dimension to the Virtual On lineage.
Unsurprisingly, the original arcade game gathered quite the fanbase in Japan and consequently received a 360 port, which was comically retitled as “Wartech” in the West. G.rev have since followed the original game’s success with an arcade sequel and it wasn’t long until another 360 port followed. Put simply, it’s bloody amazing.
With the latest trailer for Vanquish, we finally see what the game looks like in action and I have to say that my initial skepticism about it has all but vanished. The game’s pedigree is excellent, being created by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Mad World) and headed by Shinji Mikami (Devil May Cry, Resident Evil) but the early screenshots and teaser trailer released to the gaming public made the game seem, at best, an interesting take on the overused “space marine” trope all too common in current-gen titles.
The new trailer puts any doubts to rest because not only is the action as frenetic as we would expect from Platinum Games, but rather than simply using space-age armor to explain away the amount of damage these characters are capable of soaking up, we can see in the trailer that the main character’s powered armor provides him with additional movement options as well–one scene shows him boosting from one set of cover to another almost instantaneously, while another has him using his thrusters to gain enough vertical range to smash a foe.
It’s nice to see designers thinking about what ways these wonderful “space marine” armors could change combat, and while the scale of powered armor doesn’t exactly match that of mecha, and thus is really a whole different kettle of fish, a lot of the solutions are the same–just as giant robots shouldn’t be treated as human analogues, humans in powered armor should have different skillsets following from their upgrade. While Vanquish isn’t the only game in recent memory to play with the trope (Section 8 being a good example) it’s good to see some of the most talented people in the action game business working on the problem.
On more firmly mecha-related territory, I’d also like to point out some interesting similarities between Vanquish and Mobile Suit Gundam. Both deal with humanity expanding into space not onto different planets, but rather in O’Neill cylinders floating freely in space that use rotation to generate an approximate feeling of gravity, and both have these colonies eventually being used as weapons, by taking advantage of the plentiful solar energy resources of outer space.
While it’s hard to tell where the homage ends and genuine cultural absorption begins with the Japanese and their (perfectly reasonable) obsession with Mobile Suit Gundam, I do find the use of Gundam as a reference point interesting, because much as the mobile suit’s use in Gundam is to provide a vehicle that can operate equally well in space, under Earth’s gravity, and in the artificial “gravity” of O’Neill cylinders, Vanquish is taking the commonly used Western term “space marine” quite literally, as Vanquish’s power armor seems to be designed both as a spacesuit and as body armor, used to infiltrate a structure floating in space. Most of what are called “space marines” in the press tend to be neither, operating on planets rather than in space and not being any more mobile than regular troops being shipped to a far-off planet.
Hopefully Vanquish will be the great game that it looks like it will be, and that it will create a renaissance in the West regarding the Men In Space Suits, Holding Guns, Shooting Aliens genre, maybe even something a bit closer to the original Western concept; when the West made Starship Troopers into a movie we kept only the fascism, while Japan kept only the robots. Needless to say, Mecha Damashii supports robots over fascism.
The official Virtual On Force port website had another update today, this time with a trailer of the game in action on the 360 (with a rather cool reveal at the end, in the form of two Tangrams). Unsurprisingly, the original arcade assets have been handled without much fanfare; as the 360 is considerably more potent that the original Hikaru boards that ran the game. Though we’re still unsure whether a home port of Force is actually a good idea. Admittedly, Oratan’s XBLA sales have been mighty impressive but Force was considerably more flawed and in part helped to limit the success of the series from that point on. In any case, we’ll see how well this new port fares once it’s released at the end of the year.
Possibly our favourite Transformer, Shockwave (aka Laserwave, Astro Magnum etc.), is getting offered as a pre-order bonus for GameStop customers who buy the upcoming Transformers: War for Cybertron. Now, we know this news isn’t that current but this trailer showing off the pre-order bonus in game (and suitably voiced) is rather wonderful – though much of that is also down to the music being used.
Shockwave is an interesting design as it mirrors much of the similarities to the cyclops monster seen in Ulysses 31, a series that Studio Nue also worked on. Whilst Nue also worked on Diaclone, the Japanese toy line that birthed Transformers as we know it, Shockwave was an interesting anomaly to that as the original “Astro Magnum” toy wasn’t made by Takara. Whoever penned the original toy design, and we’re inclined to think it may have been Kazutaka Miyatake, we’re suitably chuffed that the new game will feature the mecha.
The model kit manufacturer Hasegawa have announced that their next Virtual On kit will be the VR Myzr from Force. Myzr was the follow on unit from Cypher from Oratan, as Myzr can also transform (something this kit will apparently do as well). This is all suitably timely considering the upcoming 360 port of Force on the way. For those confused as to why Kotobukiya aren’t making this kit, that’s because they only have the rights for the original Virtual On and Oratan. Hasegawa, on the other hand, have the rights to both Force and Marz – as they’ve been making kits alongside Kotobukiya’s output for some time now. No word on when the Myzr kit will be released but it will most probably be before the port hits the shops.
The port of the sequel to G.rev’s arcade classic, Senko no Ronde, was released earlier in the week. Entitled Senko no Ronde DUO the port is rife with a panoply of exclusive features, from an interesting story mode as well as online multiplayer (though hopefully the latter will fair better with lag this time around). We’ll be reviewing the game in the near future but in the meantime you can order the Japanese version here.
Over at Game Watch it seems that the Japanese release date for Front Mission Evolved has been confirmed as the 16th September. Interestingly, the article also talks of a release on Steam. The US release, confirmed in the trailer below, is two days before the Japanese one; on the 14th September. Naturally, upon release, we’ll be reviewing the game – so keep an eye out for that.
Over the past five years or so there’s been a palpable trend within gaming in the West. Palpable in the sense in that it fundamentally affects the functional framework of the games themselves, to the extent that this change is almost taken for granted.
In the scramble for supposed mainstream appeal more and more games have opted to take a standardised approach to gaming functionality. On the one hand this allows for a much more accessible learning curve and an implicit understanding of how a game will operate. The down side to this is that ultimately many games end up playing the same.
Bucking this trend is also very difficult as much of the mainstream press get pretty worked up when a game requires them to learn something new. This, to be fair, isn’t their fault as they often have to cover multiple games in a ridiculously short amount of time. As such, due to the way that the gaming press operates, functional standardisation is something that is critically welcomed.
So when something as brilliantly wrought as Lost Planet 2 comes along, with its immense number of fascinating nuances and insightful design choices, it receives coverage that’s very much distorted and more than a little bit unfair on account of how the gaming press is structured. As such, we feel compelled to address this issue; as Lost Planet 2 is really quite bloody amazing.
Not long after the announcement that Virtual On Force will be hitting the 360 this Winter, 4Gamer have followed up with some very pretty HD shots of the game. This is also one of the main points that’s been made to the fans; the original game will be getting an HD facelift for the 360 port. Admittedly, like with Oratan 5.66, the textures and engine won’t be radically changed, so for those hoping for a full graphical update then this port will disappoint.
The other interesting element I forgot to mention is that this is not a digital download game but instead a full boxed title. Which is a curious choice on the part of SEGA after Marz bombed.
It seems that Famitsu finally broke the news that Virtual On Force is indeed on its way to the 360, like Oratan 5.66 before it. This won’t be the first home console port for Force either, as Virtual on Marz tried to make the leap to the PS2 back in 2003 (with pretty lacklustre results). One of the main reasons for its failure, despite a functionally surreal singelplayer campaign, was down to how it neutered the four player versus the original arcade game offered. Something the arcade scene has embraced to this day, despite the fact that the game hasn’t had any meaningful updates since 2002. In any case, the fact that Force is getting a release on XBLA means the HORI TwinSticks will at least have some further usage. What will be interesting to see with this port is how SEGA plan on dealing with Force’s player card/VR balancing setup. As the original arcade game effectively punished newer players with crap starting VRs. Force is also quite notorious amongst the fanbase for other reasons too, read our feature on the series to find out more.
Update: The official site is now live for the 360 port and includes a pretty cool advert to promote the game.