Authors Posts by Alex Sy

Alex Sy

finds less and less time to play home consoles and finds himself playing more handheld and mobile games. He'll never-ever finish his backlog of games.

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Square Enix has been on a roll as of late in churning out mobile ports of popular game franchises (Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest) in the midst of several lack-luster original mobile games such as the Chaos Rings franchise. Indeed Square still has ways to go before lining itself up with mobile games publishing giants in Japan like Gung-Ho, Gumi, Gree, and the like.

Enter the company’s latest original entry into the free-to-play mobile gaming platform: Heavenstrike Rivals ( released globally in March 2015) is a turn-based strategy game under the art direction of Ryoma Ito (FF Tactics Advance) and the musical scoring of Ryo Yamazaki (FF: Crystal Chronicles). The game is played on a 3 x 7 (Height x Width) board where two players take turns in placing units with the ultimate goal of dealing enough damage to take down the opposing team’s captain. As simple as it sounds, things get complex when you factor in the different unit classes, unit races, levels, and ranks (upgraded units).

Heavenstrike Rivals: Captain skills sometimes spell the all the difference in combat.
Heavenstrike Rivals: Captain skills sometimes spell the all the difference in combat.

Captains are not only an avatar representation of you in the game, they can also equip a skill ranging from direct damage, buffs, or healing. These are charged after usage by turn (6-9 turns) If used strategically, can instantly turn the tide of battle. If anything, Heavenstrike Rivals plays more like a collectible card game (CCG) placed on a grid board than your typical square grid strategy game like FF Tactics and similar games. Heavenstrike Rivals features six (6) unit classes and four (4) unit races: Humans, Ogurs, Felyns, and Lambkin. Each class has an inherent skill and an extra ability based on the unit type and its rarity. Unit class and race are also the basis for buff and debuff skills.

Heavenstrike Rivals: Fighters are pretty underrated due to their short attack range vs ranged units.

Fighters (movement range 2) normally have high HP and moderate amount of ATK. Their class skill is the ability gain 1 ATK every time they hit an opposing unit or the opposing captain. The longer they stay alive in combat, the higher their ATK will be.

Heavenstrike Rivals: Defenders break most rush strategies.

Defenders (movement range 2) have the highest base HP in the game and have the ability to taunt opposing units to prevent them from changing lanes. This forces attacking units to deal with the defender and prevents them from attacking your other units or your captain.

Heavenstrike Rivals: Makes opponents suffer for putting their units in a straight line.

Gunners (movement range 1) are indirect damage units capable of hitting all targets 3 spaces in front of them. Best used against enemy formations who run in a straight line.

Heavenstrike Rivals: You can beat an opponent with one attack from Scouts given the right amount of buffs and assuming they survive long enough.

Scouts (movement range 3) are the fastest units in the game who are able to attack opposing captains by their second turn. They have the lowest HP among all units but are offset with extremely powerful damage dealing capabilities through their double strike skill (attacks twice per round).

Heavenstrike Rivals: Mages are extremely powerful units. Many people hate these units.

Mages (movement range 1) attacks have splash damage. They deal half the amount of their base ATK to all adjacent units which is ideal for clearing out crowds of enemy units should they happen to be bunched up. These units can attack units or captains 3 spaces in front of them.

Heavenstrike Rivals: Priest keep your offensive units alive longer to maximize their utility in battle.

Priests (movement range 1) heal the unit with the lowest HP in the board once per turn. They are support units with low ATK and moderate HP to keep your attacking units in combat alive for as long as possible. They can attack units and captains two spaces in front of them.

Each unit class has either an ETB (enter the battlefield) effect or activated ability (by chance) as a skill which varies per unit. Tthe higher the rarity, the more powerful the effect. These abilities on top of the class based ones create a deep strategic environment where timing and synergy of your units with each other is key to controlling battles. This system in my opinion is what really got Heavenstrike Rivals going for me. Players Heavenstrike Rivals start out with two (2) mana and can accumulate a maximum of ten (10) mana after the first five (5) turns in combat. Units have varied casting costs from 2 to 4 mana. A player can have a total of ten (10) mana worth of units at any given time so as much as timing is the key to beating your opponents, you must also keep track of how much resources you will spend to field your units. There are cases when you max out your mana to field units and your opponent can isolate them in one side of the battlefield and create an opening for them to attack your captain with impunity. In this case, you could potentially lose the battle without any way of turning the game around.

Heavenstrike Rivals: Microtrannies, they’re never cheap.

New units can be earned through completing story missions, normal missions, daily missions, and special missions. But the quickest way to earn powerful new units is through recruitment which requires cores (the game’s cash currency). Cores can be farmed from a daily quest (1-3 cores per day) and completing story quests. As a starting player, you can accumulate over one hundred (100) cores by playing the daily core quest and completing all story missions. It takes five (5) core to recruit one 3-5 star unit or 45 core to recruit 10 3-5 star units. Statistically speaking, you will at least gain two (2) 4 star units which are more then enough to help you plow through story missions. As such, you cannot escape the fact that Heavenstrike Rivals adheres to common standards in Japanese mobile games which easily translates to spend money to recruit better units. But like most of these types of games, there are system events which will give you better incentives for recruiting at those times. You can simply save up your core for 10 recruits and consume them during these system events. All 2-5 star units can be upgraded to increase their stats and effect abilities through unit promotion and maxing out their levels. Legendary units (5-star) when promoted will become 6-star or basically “broken” units.

Ace Quickshuffle is one of the most hated units in Heavenstrike Rivals
Chance Quickshuffle is one of the most hated units in Heavenstrike Rivals

Units with skills (outside class skills) can level-up their skills up to 4 times (to level 5). One skill level can be gained through promoting the unit to its final form, the rest leaves little to be desired. The only other way to increase skill level is to train units with the exact same unit. In other words, you need at least 4 of one specific unit to max out their skills and based on my experience, maxing skills out matters. Fortunately, most functional units can be farmed from story missions, daily missions, and special missions. Units you can farm for are actually just as important as legendary units you can gain through recruitment.

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This part will actually need some time and effort through gaining unit experience and acquiring promotion items farmed through daily quests. Upgrading units will certainly help you plow through story missions but these are really meant for you to keep up with the weekly PVP leagues, one of the biggest endgame features of Heavenstrike Rivals. If you get down to it, the AI of Heavenstrike Rivals does some pretty stupid moves (occupy one lane and keep staying there regardless of battlefield conditions) in missions as well as with your squad should you chose to use the game’s auto-play feature so the best place to get your competitive gaming fix is in the weekly PVP league. Newbies will probably fall to the bottom of the ladder due to the lack of 4-6 star units and completely upgraded regular units. The difference is overwhelming and it might discourage you granted that top players receive high tier units as rewards, as such is how mobile games operate. Game balance is skewed towards paying and long time users. Catching up to them is a matter of leveling up relevant and powerful low cost/lower rarity units (most of which can be acquired or farmed in daily and weekly missions) to their full potential. Outside of regular daily missions and recruitment using cores, Heavenstrike Rivals features weekly missions where you can farm powerful super rare units (4 star).

Farmable units are just as important as high rarity ones in Heavenstrike Rivals

I find that these units are commonly used in PVP and have great utility in PVE missions so they are must-farm units. For new players, you could miss out on the previous characters, but it is up to Square Enix to ensure that old and new player alike will be able to enjoy these farmable characters eventually. There currently are sixty-two (62) story missions for the first chapter of Heavenstrike Rivals each with increasing levels of difficulty. There is still no word on when the next chapter is set to be implemented but as most story-driven games, chapters are released in a span of more than 1 month intervals. The story of the game isn’t exactly compelling or poor, I just find it a necessity for the flavor of the game. I found that the AI is able to circumvent regular squad building rules such as (2 per unit type restrictions imposed on players) as compensation for rather shifty game-play logic. After completing the story missions, you will gain access to a high stamina and high difficulty cost dungeon which randomly rewards you with high EXP and gold along with unit EXP items, new units, and even cores.

As a relatively heavy user, I haven’t spent any money on buying cores but I have assembled a pretty strong line-up of units, the difference is my units haven’t reached maximum promotion so the odds against me when faced off with higher level squads but I will be able to catch up in due time. The PVP metagame in Heavenstrike Rivals can change on the fly like with its latest PVP league that just concluded this week which banned the usage of the Defender unit class. This modification strongly reinforced fast moving units like Scouts being able to get in range with your opponent’s captain easily since there are no enemy units which can taunt your offensive units to delay imminent attacks. With the addition of these type of PVP events, things certainly are about to get more interesting.

Heavenstrike Rivals is focusing a lot on PVP. So far, it's pretty balanced. You just need to grind to catch up.
Heavenstrike Rivals is focusing a lot on PVP. So far, it’s pretty balanced. You just need to grind to catch up.

The visuals of Heavenstrike Rivals are vibrant and well animated but they seem to be quite heavy on resources for a mobile game. You need Android 4.1 and up or iOS 7.0 for Apple devices as a minimum requirement so older and weaker devices will not be able run the game at all. Each unit type per race have a template form factor but their costumes and design vary widely. You can clearly see a great degree of character design put into each unit type and this definitely puts extra value into collecting units. The music in Heavenstrike Rivals utilizes an orchestral ensemble and produced some of the best mobile game music I’ve heard but the voices of characters are pretty generic and bland.

Heavenstrike Rivals makes hardcore and casual PVP equally rewarding.
Heavenstrike Rivals makes hardcore and casual PVP equally rewarding.

I am hooked Heavenstrike Rivals but it does demand a certain level of dedication and play frequency which I am unable or unwilling to fulfill most of the time, hence losing some opportunity to acquire the maximum attainable daily grind benefits. However, it isn’t that much of a turn-off as I do enjoy the PVP content even if I am frequently mismatched with extremely powerful squads. The next step for furthering game balancing could be setting squad cost requirements based on unit rarity and maximum level to prevent paying users to simply field a team with top units and maxing out their stats to dominate PVP. The game at its core is a strategy game after all. It is a pity that this game found its way to the mobile platform, I would pay for a retail version of the game (minus the micro-transactions).

Other things I would like to see in future versions of Heavenstrike Rivals: friends lists, PVP directly with people in your friends lists (playtesting), and daily Login bonuses. Come on, every other game in the same genre does it, why not here?


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The past month in the world of games journalism was riddled with controversy which put gamers, the game journalists and the hobby itself in a bad light. Big and now often abused words such as “misogyny”, “sexist”, and even “rapists” have been thrown out and used to generalize the “gamer identity” in an attempt to sensationalize news posts in various online outlets. Personally, all those digs at gamers and the conspiracies which followed such as #TheFappening looking like an elaborate scheme to get more people to drink the Social Justice Warrior Kool-Aid by vilifying people who associate themselves with the sub-culture of being a video gamer. What do these SJWs really want in life? I would imagine it to be some semblance of credibility and clout which would translate to money or projects that would generate money for themselves. I mean, I would do it that way given the opportunity and a lapse of my own principles. I mean a cry out for “inclusion” in video games and popular culture such as comic books seems like a far cry from real social issues happening around the world.

Looking back at covering the Tokyo Game Show last month, I couldn’t help but notice a few things people didn’t really talk about. What outlets would have talked about are the JAV (Japanese Adult Video) Idols in the Ryu Ga Gotokou (Yakuza) booth and the giant Onee-chan Bara demo booth where patrons would play the demo of a game about scantily-clad girls slashing things inside the boobs of a girl printed on a wall. There was also no shortage of booth girls (who would have been scrutinized by someone) and even hired female name-cosplayers whose jobs were to give out promotional materials or just to strike poses for the deluge of photographers, press and non-press alike that would come to convention. Despite the general male-centric fantasy tone of the showcased products, I did notice a healthy population of women in the crowd participating as consumers lining up in the demo booths of any game you could find in the show floor.

Typical crowd you will find in TGS.
Typical crowd you will find in TGS.

It was not only in the demo booths but in the presentation panels such as the Yakuza presentation panel which featured 10 JAV Idols and the game is about three things: money, violence, and women. Do these women who attend the panel and not voice out any objections about glorifying the Yakuza life as it is misogynistic towards women do a disservice to their own gender? I believe not, I think these women who were watching the same presentation beside or behind me who just laughed off the raunchy content of the game simply just get it. Video games are not a reflection of reality, it’s fantasy. We do things in video games that we can’t do in real life. They don’t enable us to just “live our lives in the game” like people looking outside-in would assume. It’s just passing the time and having fun, then we get on with our real world things. How hard is that to figure out? Explain. The people who get caught up with those games and virtual worlds obviously need help not because of video games but because of their upbringing and how society (the real world) interacted with them.

Anybody going to cry for social justice?
Anybody going to cry for social justice?

Yakuza and similar games are targeted to a male audience and that’s not a bad thing. Having said that, it’s not like there aren’t ANY games targeted to female fantasies either. There is a game in the TGS published on the Playstation Vita and obviously hyper-sexualizes men in all their glorious um… I don’t know manly beauty? However, the point of all this isn’t about some gender commentary and how video games, should portray gender roles. The writers and game designers could honestly do anything they want, as long as it’s in good-will to deliver and entertaining product. If it’s too sexualized, violent, or emotional intense to your liking, don’t buy it. Say it makes you uncomfortable but don’t demand that your opinion be taken into consideration for the entirety of the game or ALL GAMES for that matter. There is a reason why markets are segmented and not all products are inclusive of every possible demographic there is out there.  It is the same way comics (another favorite target of SJWs) are marketed. There is a comic series for everyone, there would be even more titles you will find interesting if you can (and should) move past things like gauging how offensive a character’s pose would be and how sexualized or un-sexualized a character is with their old/new costume. If we go down that route, haven’t we already forgotten what video games are supposed to be for? You know, that thing called “game play” and why we all played games in the first place? Sure, maybe it was the box-art, or CG video (for playstation and above era gamers) that put a game on our radar but if they didn’t play well, we wouldn’t have given them the time of day or most of our childhood, which is the more likely case. It was a real shitty time to read about games in mainstream news outlets late August to September and I certainly hope it doesn’t happen again. As adults who still indulge in video games, we know where we stand and we most certainly have our own identity. We look forward to the new challenges and thrills video game

Now this doesn't look so bad after looking at half naked hyper-sexualized male rock stars, right? These two games come from the same publisher by the way.
Now this doesn’t look so bad after looking at half naked hyper-sexualized male rock stars, right?

companies will lay out in the installment of “Popular Franchise A-Z” not how we are apparently misogynists and suppressed rapists for partaking in the hobby. We are functioning members of society just like everyone else but we prefer to play video games over partying in clubs, watching sports in bars, or I don’t know spending time in gentleman’s clubs.

With all these people clamoring for “social justice” in video games and other popular media about apparent sexism, it makes me wonder if they ever truly partook in the hobby they are criticizing. There are so many things to talk about regarding games. If not the game itself, the artists and musicians behind it. Better yet, what about the various art and game development schools who have had graduates or even undergraduates already contribute to gaming? Did you know that there were art schools and game development schools participating in the Tokyo Game Show as exhibitors too?

Every time a SJW defends him/herself by calling their critics gatekeepers,it just makes me doubt their sincerity towards the hobby even more. So basically they are stirring up controversy just to be relevant, right? Then why would I give a hoot about any of those twisting words and taking context out of games and turning them into rallying cries to stand up against injustice against a gender, belief, or culture. Ulterior motives all over, nothing to see here.

There are so many real social issues which need to be taken on that have no relationship to video games which is a form of entertainment for the financially stable. Video games are where people would pass time in the hopes to be entertained in the manner of their choosing. The fervor of the SJWs against video games are certainly appreciated in real social issues that directly affect the lives of REAL people such as poverty in Africa and developing countries such as the Philippines. Or perhaps against victims of extreme religious or cultural beliefs which actually practice or condone misogyny towards women. But no, they are directed at trivial things on mainstream platforms (video games and comics) with ulterior motives. Therefore, you sirs and madams who exist to be offended for other people are not welcome in the world of video games. I know where I stand and I choose to boycott any game developer, publisher, and news site which partakes in putting SJW garbage on a pedestal. This is the best way to ensure they fall out of relevance.

On a lighter note, I leave you all with all the other sights of TGS. It was glorious and I look forward to coming back next year with video game coverage instead of commentary on shit-eaters trying to gain more clout and “making a name for themselves.”








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I’m a chink, therefore Jackie Chan.

Yesterday, I left you folks on a cliffhanger. I’ll simply fess up and say that my ravings went on for too long, so I had to make this a two-parter. While I can make a part three because I ended up rambling on even more, let’s just end it today. Now, to answer the question: why won’t local e-sports tournaments ever work out?

That’s because of our player base. The so-called “next generation” of cyber athletes  are a bunch of weak-willed cowards. Throughout my employment in promoting Crossfire, issues about small scale cafe tournaments refusing entry of prominent competitive teams was a thing. Nobody wanted to play against the top dogs because they wouldn’t stand a chance.I’m going off the chain here again to say what kind of bullshit reason is that?

FG.Wolves drank so many tears in Point Blank.
FG.Wolves drank so many tears.

I won’t lie to you. I haven’t been keeping up with the local competitive game circuits so feel free to correct me if everyone is out for the top team’s blood but I doubt anything has changed much since I dabbled in that world. The person being criticized is not even the “current generation” of cyber athletes. As far as I am concerned, if you are over 25 years old, you’re considered a veteran, yesterday’s news, an old guy in competitive gaming because of this thing called hand-eye coordination which deteriorates over time. I also am not familiar with the MOBA scene here but I’m positive that there are only a few top teams and boat load of people who provides them with endless tears to drink.

In a competitive environment such as e-Sports, everybody is aiming for the top. If you get a chance to fight the champs, you will jump on that opportunity, that’s how you get better. The top teams in my time were more vilified than they were beloved. It could have been because of the way the top teams carried themselves rubbing people the wrong way or how other people couldn’t stand how they couldn’t beat said top teams but I saw more bashing than I saw competition. It wasn’t “put up or shut up”, it was cry till’ you had no more tears, pause and drink water, then cry some more.

In the history of bad ideas in the world of online games one stood out the most and it wasn’t the P1 million rope-a-dope Operation 7 tournament that never happened by E-Games. The honor goes to a game publisher (also E-Games) sponsoring their own e-sport team and parading them around for all the country to see, be envious of, and start bashing them out of butt hurt. Despite being the team to beat, people despised them because they claimed that the team was given preferential treatment in tournaments. As far as participation in tournaments and in-game items, sure but everything else was fair game and yet they complained. This is why we can’t have nice things. Everyone but a select few want it easy… in a competitive environment.

Yes! This image again because it's hilarious!
Yes! This image again because it’s hilarious!

The local game publishing industry also shares the blame in killing its chances at making e-Sports work. Most of it is actually self-inflicted due to several bad eggs in the industry. As if petty shit like ripping competitor posters and uninstalling their games wasn’t enough you had greenhorns in the online games industry in charge marketing with big salaries and big budgets during the online games bubble. They were squandered on ineffective yet costly marketing attempts which more than anything, insults the intelligence of their intended audience, celebrity marketing. Just as you would market consumer products. It took them a while to actually learn from their mistakes and when it came down to crunch time, they had to blame someone for their poor performance.

It’s not surprising nobody wanted to owe up for being a colossal moron so let’s blame the competition. The “illegal aliens” who were “illegally” taking away their player base… by setting up a game publishing company in the Philippines and offering games the same way they do, minus the idiotic marketing. What’s wrong with this picture is our government being protective of idiots while companies who actually can do much better and actually generate jobs for Filipinos are harassed to no-end or are prevented from doing business in our country. Several foreign owned companies were issued cease and desist orders but only Gameclub was “raided” by questionable means because they posed the biggest threat. It didn’t even pan out for the raid’s instigators. Does the E-Games brand still exist? Not anymore, case and point.

The punch line is the fact that Level-Up has gone through several owners: a South-African IT comapny, China’s Tencent, and finally Asiasoft. It’s public knowledge that Asiasoft is not a local company and yet there are no cease and desist orders or raids on game severs. There are obviously loop holes which can be used to skirt the law and this is not sour grapes, okay. I’m not secretly wishing for the downfall of Asiasoft-owned Level-Up, I think it might be a good thing considering the huge list of games under Asiasoft’s belt. They can actually provide Filipino gamers more games than anyone could ever have offered. But you can see as clear as day how our laws and law enforcement agencies could be used as a satellite targeted ICBM to ruin things for everyone.

The Hounds of Justice!
The Hounds of Justice!

Compound all that dirt above and more undisclosed in this already long post and you get a loss of consumer trust. Sales are down across the board for all gaming companies? Maybe they were traumatized with all that crap and just moved on to globally published games or games on Steam, like DotA 2. RIP local gaming industry. I don’t really mean it and as dire as things look now, I have friends in the online gaming industry and I wholeheartedly hope that they will achieve success and do print a substantial amount of money. I salute them for still  trying to fight the good fight.

As if the original DotA wasn't already a problem for online game publishers...
As if the original DotA wasn’t already a problem for online game publishers…

Things would have been different if shitheads like Don “the bald fucking shit eater” Jocson got a brain aneurism before he put his plan in motion. Words aren’t enough to describe what a horrible person he is so let’s just go the potty mouth child route.

Players wanting bigger prize pools or complaining about the prize pools I had for my own tournaments annoyed me to no ends. Even the so-called money grubby behavior some of the top teams displayed popped my nerves from time to time but is it really about them or more on my frustration at not being able to afford a bigger prize pool? It’s a shitty feeling when you look at our neighboring countries coming up with huge prize pools that make your grand prize look like a consolation prize. But do you think these so-called “money-grubbing cyber athletes” got to where they are just by counting prize money? Then again, what prize money? I doubt anybody in this country could even subsist on the collective prize pools of all tournaments made versus their expenses for playing and training for each respective game.

The player in scrutiny is someone I know and have personally acted as their team’s handler for the 2011 World Cyber Games. Jupiter Mars “Elgee” Gaboy has been playing games competitively since the Philippines received its first invitation to the World Cyber Games. I believe it started around 2002 or 2003 so that would mean he probably has over a decade of experience in e-sports.

How many people would have dedicated that much time to playing games. Granted that he has not made a career out of it until recently, you would have to imagine what sacrifices he made to be the gamer he is. You can also question his sanity and priorities for sacrificing so much just in an attempt to make a career with playing games. He along with the other players during his era are still at fore front of the local FPS scene usually losing against each other in tournaments but almost always placing at the top. Why? I can only think of one reason. Because they are the ones willing to put in the most time and effort even if deep down, they know they’ll never make a career out of it and I can guess most of them are pretty burned out already. Call it whatever you will but that’s doing something “for the love of gaming” right there.

The guys from Cristal (now MSI Evo.GT or something I guess), Fairview GamingWolves, Loko, WaraPWND, among other teams  people were loud, very emotional, and blunt when it came to their opinions but they sure did their work when it came to preparing for tournaments. You cannot ever take that away from them no matter what people say or think about them. They have continued to raise the bar in competitive gaming for this country time and again by giving each other a run for their money and wowing everybody in international competitions by becoming fan favorites and placing in the top three at times.

There were more notable teams but I forgot their names because I am getting older already, for that I apologize.

It is stupid to call out one of them out for one outburst which isn’t even remotely damaging or derogatory to the tournament’s organizer. While I think this is a case of too much butt hurt from the community manager of Assault Fire and a couple of ignorant/flunkie bloggers, Elgee’s biggest mistake was to allow himself to come under scrutiny by opportunistic albeit idiotic people. Remember kids, when you’re a public figure, there will be a lot of people after your head, just because they can. How is it that some people can be so deluded as to be offended at a statement which reads to me as “the prize money is not attractive at all”? I believe the tournaments 101 already explained the role prize of money.

Here is my advice to future game operators: When someone complains about cash prizes and you know the deal behind why it is as such, just apologize that it didn’t meet their expectations and then assure them you will make one that is more attractive in the future as part of your planned events. It doesn’t matter if your game will actually not be around to see that time but we all have to keep our appearances. How hard is that?

As far as making a career out of e-sports in this country, I think it’s a bad idea but nothing I say or do will prevent people from trying anyway.

In hindsight, maybe Point Blank players didn't really hate the whole team. They just hated this hipster for rocking an undercut before it even became mainstream. Peace z3r02! ,\/,,
In hindsight, maybe Point Blank players didn’t really hate the whole team. They just hated this hipster for rocking an undercut before it even became mainstream. Peace, z3r02! ,\/,,

In the off chance (more like certainty) that people will be offended with the feature image, allow me to explain #Pinoize. It is basically the summation of what we believe is undesirable behavior in Filipino nationals which includes taking a studio/group pic with gang signs.

So I read about a “big issue” in the “e-sport world” of the Philippines from a phrase uttered by one of local e-Sport’s more prominent figures. The issue is apparently so big that it deserved coverage on some tech blogs; of course spouting the ever-so cliche feel-good ideas of “love of the game” and blatantly implying that the next generation of “cyber athletes” shouldn’t be “such money-grubbers”.

Excuse me while I laugh my ass off.

As offended I am at the sensibilities of the people who wrote that (blog post) garbage, I find it laughable that people still think that e-Sports is a thing in the Philippines or even in the world. Okay, maybe it is a thing with some local guys posing for MSI‘s gaming hardware, one of them being the subject of the other blog’s scrutiny. Or with the resurgence of Mineski and their brand of tournaments along with other emerging e-Sport promoters. More recently, there is a renewed interest in online games with Smart Telecom’s Game X platform for purchasing game credits for local game publishers. They also hosted a rather big tournament for Massive’s games with a more gratuitous prize pool in comparison with Assault Fire’s measly prize pool tournament which started this whole “debacle”. Mmm… maybe e-sports IS a thi—NOPE.

Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?
Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?

Still a big fat nope. E-sports is still not a thing in the Philippines, no matter how hard people try. It only appears to be a thing on the off-chance that people actually get with the program and make big money for e-sport promotions, game publishers, and sponsors. One of the key ingredients to making a successful e-Sport league is a big budget coming from a sustainable revenue stream. The lack of a sustainable revenue stream is something all online game publishers in the country have in common. I believe we have seen Level-Up, the country’s largest game publisher change hands more than three times in the past few years. It’s like passing a hot potato that nobody really wants.

If you actually follow e-sports, you will know that it goes with the game with the biggest player base and revenue stream. Back in the day it was Counter-Strike, and then Starcraft. There were many games they experimented in-between but it ultimately landed on massive online battle arenas (MOBAs), starting with that Warcraft III mod to League of Legends and then finally DotA 2. Most e-sport games in the spotlight are online games and there is no doubt as to why they are capable of having large prize pool tournaments continuously. That’s because they have a large base of players who buy their virtual items, merchandise and/or services regularly to the point that it has become the equivalent of printing money. It’s true, people go where the money goes both promoters and players and some people make it sound like a bad thing. As if these competitive e-sport types of games are the only games you can play “for-the-love-of-fucking-gaming.” By the way, I love how DotA 2 did their merchandise, that’s how I would have done League of Legends.

It really does print money.
It really does print money.

I’ve always told my colleagues that these e-sport events are necessary costs for the sole purpose of advertising your online game. They are glorious spectacles that cost a lot of money. You can hardly measure the results because there is a limited number of people you can accommodate in a day for a tournament so you won’t see a big spike in any measurable key performance indicators. But you know what, if you want to push your game into the mainstream, this is the road you have to take. You also need to keep your players interested in playing your game and spending money. Competitive games like first-person shooters and MOBAs thrive on competition so you need to conduct tournaments and the more newsworthy they are, the more advantageous it is to the game you are promoting.

Anybody remember this? It never materialized.
Anybody remember this? It never materialized.

The cost for logistics for a weekend tournament is already more than enough to make you shake your head in disbelief should you actually try to make money from these events; then there is the prize pool. What is the prize pool meant for? To reward players for their time and hard work? Hardly, it’s to make the tournament attractive enough to motivate people to take a crack at it and to make people talk about it. Then comes the hours of training, going through strategies, and even buying virtual items when needed. Preparation for these tournaments cost money too, if you’re serious about it. It’s an ersatz marketing tool, if anything.

Any spectator who comes into contact with staff or people in-the-know will scoff at a tournament with a small prize pool whereas their jaws will drop at disbelief at a fat prize pool. Big money tournaments are newsworthy, they can and will be talked about but that doesn’t equate an instant increase in your player base. A P1.5 million prize pool didn’t help Ragnarok Online keep it’s player base from bleeding to Ran Online. E-Game’s nationwide tournament for the now dead and buried Operation 7 which was also barking about a one million peso prize pool failed to garner enough interest and the tournament fizzled, never seeing the light of day.

I just contradicted myself. First they are a necessary spectacle and then they don’t really work. Why? I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow, as I dissect the requisite evils of these tournaments. Then, I will address the issue made by ignorant peanut gallery bloggers and the butt hurt of Assault Fire’s Community Manager. Also, it’s two parts because we are in dire need of hits before we “go red” and unlock the “In-debt knowledge of blogging” achievement. That sentence before this was sarcasm because I know it has to be pointed out.

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(Philippines, May 6 2014) – Since the launch of the Playstation 4, Sony’s console has not only proven itself as the superior console against its competition, it has in my opinion taken the advantage for this console generation. XB One has showed off nothing but inferior ports (in 720p) while Playstation 4 runs the same game in 1080p at 60 fps. The Wii U is last gen. Sorry Mario, the adults are talking here. Sony has also been taking all the right steps in being pro-consumer with the gratuitous Playstation Plus service and Share Factory the game play video editing software for the Playstation 4 which came with System Software Update 1.7. Yesterday, we had the honor to partake in an exclusive meet and greet with spokespersons from the regional office of Sony in Singapore.

The main purpose of this media briefing led by Teoh WahKeong (Marketing Manager) is to announce launch dates of upcoming Sony console games for the PS4, PS Vita, and PS3 which will soon be available in select Sony Stores in the Philippines. There was also a mention in passing of strategic channels which I believe would be our mainstay game chain stores. While we are acclimated to the whole gray market supply chain, it would be great for Sony and stores like Datablitzand iTech to work hand-in-hand to grow our local gaming market. Below is a list of the games that were previewed during the event and their release dates:

  • (PS4) Murdered: Soul Suspect – June 6, 2014
  • (PS4) MLB 14 The Show (R3) – May 6, 2014
  • (PS3) Drakengard 3 – May 21, 2014
  • (PS Vita) Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma – June 2014
  • (PS Vita) Mind Zero (May 27, 2014

We were able to try a couple of interesting titles such as Drakengard 3 (hack and slasher), Mind Zero (Looks like a Persona Q for the PS Vita), and Murdered: Soul Suspect (a detective game where you play as the spirit of a dead detective).

P1020374 P1020377

Other inclusions in this briefing are highlights of the Software Update 1.7 which includes Share Factory and the remote play function for the PS Vita TV with the PS4 allowing you to play your PS4 games at another TV should your living room be occupied.

Our take away from this is Sony is legitimately targeting South-East Asian countries such as the Philippines as a relevant market for their video games division. We are hoping that the prices for Sony Philippines distributed games will remain competitive with the current prices in the grey market and possibly the inclusion of the Philippines as an official PSN location. This would also mean better availability of PSN Cards which are unfortunately marked-up by local retailers.

We will be updating you all with new developments in this renewed push by Sony’s gaming division in the Philippines as it happens. Be sure to stick around to find out more in the coming months.

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It’s a glorified demo and may be well worth your money if you manage your expectations. In other words, don’t be a fucking mark.

When you share this review don’t forget to use the hashtag #done. Thanks!

You can name this game as a Final Fantasy spin-off like “FF: Crystal Chronicles Dimensions” or however you want to fit in the word “3D”. I imagine that they would have called it Final Fantasy something and deferred that idea due to less-than satisfactory sales of non-Final Fantasy Numbers games. Regardless of the glaring similarities in the game system of Bravely Default with Final Fantasy games, credit must be given where it is due, it is a well made game.

Bravely Default is as turn-based as it gets.

Bravely Default is the summary of the collective experiences of classic Final Fantasy games (I through VI), updated to appeal to a younger/more casual player base. The game is also integrated with a social networking experience (Streetpass and a “Netfriend” system) to deliver a some-what refreshing RPG experience while feeling all yet too familiar to older fans of the genre with classic turn-based mechanics and the ever-loved job class system.

The story revolves around four (4) characters namely: Tiz Arrior, the sole survivor of a great calamity which struck his home town of Norende the wake of the disaster would be known as the “Great Chasm”.  Agnes Oblige, the Vestal of Wind who has the ability to awaken crystals. Ringabel, an enigmatic man with no memories of his past with a penchant of speaking perverted thoughts out loud seemingly without knowledge of basic social graces and Edea Lee an impulsive young girl who has a very simple view on values by categorizing them as black or white. They are accompanied by the ever-charming “cryst-fairy” only known as Airy. She possesses the “collective knowledge” of all vestals of the crystal from the past and guides Agnes in awakening the crystals to prevent the end of the world.

It’s not a Square game without fantastic graphics (most of the time).

Struggling to save a world in turmoil from the crystals losing its light and the oppressive kingdom of Eternia opposing the religion of the Crystal Orthodoxy our main characters fight an uphill battle against Eternia‘s elite forces and ancient evils which have corrupted the crystals. A new job class is unlocked every time the group defeats Eternia’s top soldiers and leaders by taking their “job asterisk”. These will unlock a new set of active and passive skills which will prove vital in future boss fights and competing the game.

I must emphasize that unlocking all the job classes is absolutely essential not only for beating the game but enjoying the game to the fullest. The combinations of skills from several jobs is key to making your life a whole lot easier as proven by this interesting bit of news from Bravely Default’s Japanese release. While I didn’t bother to attempt that feat, playing Bravely Default smartly is something I agree with. Capping out your character level and getting the best gear means squat because the later chapter boss fights will prove to be impossible unless you figure out the right combinations to outlast them or even to completely suppress their relentless assaults.037

The Brave and Default system makes battles more interesting. Each action a character takes costs one (1) Brave Point (BP), you can have them make a maximum of four (4) actions per turn by using the Brave command. You do not need to accumulate Brave Points to take multiple actions in one turn but when your BP falls below zero at the start of your turn, that character cannot take an action until your BP is at least zero. The Default command simply raises your defense at no expense of BP, allowing you to accumulate Brave Points to take multiple actions without losing turns. This simple system can be used and abused based on your job skill combinations and opens up various ways to beat certain bosses. What I really like about this system is how battles turn into combinations of exciting big swings from you to your enemies at least until you figure out the extremely cheese combos which I abused ’till the end of the game.

It is very difficult to discuss Bravely Default in detail without spoiling the entire game so here is a run down on key features of the game that will help you figure out if the game is worth your time or not. But if you do pick up the game or have already done so, I invite you to look back at this review after completing the game. A lot of things will suddenly make more sense.

Good Points:

  1. Graphics (it’s Square, duh)Once your eyes get settled with the game after the nice CG intro, you will find that the graphics of the game is done really well. Especially with the background environments. When you leave your game idle, the map will zoom out for a breath taking scenery you can further appreciate with the 3D option of your 3DS (because 2Ds owners am cry).

    It looks even better in 3D.
  2. Streamlined game – The character XP and job XP are streamlined so that you can max everything out with little effort if you play smartly. There are a lot of features which make “grinding” a walk in the park like Auto-Battle which remembers the last actions your characters take and the option to increase or decrease your random encounter rate. You will at the least want to max out your job levels to play around with all the skills so Bravely Default gives you all the tools to play your game with ease.
  3. Job Class System – Boss fights in later chapters will prove to be some of the best battles yet. Granted that there are some fool-proof methods to beat them, you are not limited to those combinations only (you also need to figure them out first). You can attempt to beat bosses with the various tools presented to you outside abusing the Bravely Second skill which allows you to take extra actions at no penalty and break the 9999 damage cap. You can try to beat bosses while retaining some of your favorite job classes whilst taking on a handicap because sometimes the journey is more exciting than the answer.
  4. Character Development – There is a surprisingly huge amount of character depth despite the droll plot of the game. As you go through the course of the game, the growing cast of characters keep developing their personality to maturity.

  5. Game Depth – This isn’t a “you will get 60 hours of game-play, this is worth it!” thing. Rather, the meat of the game is in overcoming challenges presented to you. While everything is ruined by consulting an online guide, relying on your understanding of the game’s job system is the real reward in playing Bravely Default. I mean if that is your thing.

Bad Points:

  1. Voice Acting – This could really have been done better. They sometimes sound like they are just being played over a voice recorder and some character voice acting are just plain bland. It really puts a damper of a pretty nice soundtrack. Your usual orchestral fair.
  2. Plot Structure – Einstein once said insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” and I couldn’t agree with it more. This does not pertain to grinding in the game but a more core aspect of the game, the plot.
  3. Not expansive – When the game’s plot unravels, you will realize that the game world is not as expansive as you were lead on to believe.


  1. Micro-transactions – Anything under this is normally bad but it does provide a way for people to share their benefits (of dealing incredibly insane amounts of damage by using Second Points (used to activate Bravely Second) or even buying them. While viewed by some as “breaking the game”, it is an edge you have the option to use. If you pride yourself too much in being “such a hardcore gamer” don’t use: problem solved.

    One thing I didn’t write much about: Special skills, lots of special skills
  2. Social Networking Features – While Bravely Default is in the strictest sense a traditional RPG. The inclusion of the Abilink and Send Skill feature really helps break in casual gamers into the genre. Abilinks are the collective job levels your registered friends on your 3DS have already attained. You can start out a game at level but have maxed out job levels already. This takes out the grind for the player who benefits from Abilinks from early adopters. With this, new players can focus on core game-play and the story rather than take time to level up. If you have really hardcore RPG playing friends, they probably already found a way to deal hundreds of thousands of damage and can share their skill for you to summon in times of dire need, that’s if they’re not selfish. If they are, you may stumble on someone who is not as selfish, as I have.  Net Friends are random people you can add up as villagers and receive their sent skills. No worries about your privacy, as this is Nintendo, absolutely no personal information Friend Codes included will be shared with these people.
  3. Added Value – On top of the above mentioned social networking features, you can access additional content through the rebuilding or Norende. You can gain access to valuable items, weapons, Special skill parts and new costumes for your character through re-populating Norende and upgrading the shops using villages you acquire through Streetpass or from sending invitess to “Net Friends” daily. You will also receive Nemesis monsters to fight from your Streetpasses and Net Friends. These Nemesis are challenging boss monsters which drop permanent stat improving items provided you can beat them. There is a challenge for everyone all the way to level 99. While entirely optional, rebuilding Norende does unlock a lot of goodies for you.

    Rebuilding Norende
  4. New Game Plus – That’s replay value for you should you crave for more but honestly, once is more than enough. I’ve enjoyed Bravely Default thoroughly in my first play-though.

Overall, I would still say Bravely Default is an extremely well made RPG which will appeal to its traditional fans and makes a strong attempt to break into non-RPG players through social networking. It uses its fan-base as ambassadors of the genre through Abilinks and Net Friends to give casual gamers a huge edge in the game which they would normally not attempt to achieve by spending their time grinding in the game. If you like role-playing games, this is a no-brainer. Buy it.

There are potential spoilers below. Highlight the space below at your own risk.

As a head-up to current and potential players of Bravely Default, the droll plot of the game will eventually make sense of standard RPG functions which are treated as plot holes such as save-points. He he he.


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From last January 24 to 26, independent game developers and members within the game development industry came together in various campuses in the Philippines and all over the world to participate in the Global Game Jam. In a nut shell, this Game Jam is a 48 hour game development contest. I say it is a contest because of the presence of an overall theme, judges, participant voting, and of course winners but the true purpose of the Game Jam is really to share each groups’ and/or individuals’ passion and ideas for (creating) video games.

While there is no rigid screening process, hefty entrance fees to pay, or a ritualistic hazing initiation to join the Game Jam you need the know-how on how to code a game and hopefully enough sense to actually make an actual game. A game by its definition needs to have rules and a win condition be it determined by skill, strength or even luck. The main feature that makes a game great, not necessarily how it looks, sounds, and is definitely NOT how “deep” you think the storyline of a game is.

A well crafted game will be a hit to an audience regardless of how much effort is placed into the above mentioned secondary features. A prime example is the new “hit” game Flappy Bird. While I would rather watch paint dry than play that game, people DO find it entertaining so something in that game appeared right. Games are not art and they never will be. Art is secondary to a good game and I’m glad most of the Game Jam participants focused on the mechanics of a good game rather than the abstract theme of this year’s Game Jam: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” What…? and then I roll my eyes.

While I certainly don’t understand why the theme is what it is, fortunately, the Game Jam hosted at Globe Labs bore fruit to some pretty fun ideas with some of them even adhering to the Game Jam’s theme. Here are my top picks in no particular order (you can click each game’s title to their Game Jam pages to download them):

My Candy Hearts

The game as presented is as plain as it can be with very simple graphics. They remind me of a pen and paper game we used to play as kids called “shooting star” but what really appealed to me about My Candy Hearts is how the simple timing-based mechanics used to pop all the hearts to advance to the stage can easily be used to make a rhythm game.

Blind Spot

Blind Spot’s premise is simple: You are blind and you have to get out of a maze and your only tool to assist you is sound. This game is designed to simulate the experience of being blind. I guess it adheres to the theme of the event aside from being an interesting and challenging game.


This is a simple yet twitchy espionage game. It starts out with surveillance where you try to locate the spies in a crowd of moving sprites. The number of spies per room depend on the difficulty level. Once the player outs the spies, you are given a few seconds to either shoot the spy or get out of the spy’s reach because they will shoot you and the game will be over.


Speaking of twitchy games here’s a maze game with a twist. On top of a time limit, every time you try to face another side, the entire maze rotates to whichever side you’re facing (left or right). You will need a lot of spacial recognition and memory on top of fast fingers to quickly navigate through each stage.

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There are more games on the Globe Labs Game Jam page where you will find some of them with 3D environments and even one built for the Oculus Rift (good luck testing that game). Or you can head down the the Benilde Campus Game Jam page for more entries. Benilde has a game development course by the way, for all you aspiring game developers.

This is normally the part where some self-serving “Pinoy Pride” cheer is written… but NO. I would rather see an awesome game become globally successful then find out it was actually developed in the Philippines. That way we don’t have to see games coated with Filipino novelty (Jeeps and what-nots) in order to be “relevant” to the local media because let’s face it, the Philippines is far from a sustainable economy for video games. Filipinos keep bantering about being “world class”, let’s do that then. Screw trying to appeal to “local gamers.”

Having said that, good luck to everyone who participated in the Game Jams. May you find success in your game development endeavors. I look forward to seeing what 2015 has in store as well.

This Game Jam was hosted by Globe Labs in coordination with the IGDA Manila chapter and sponsored by Manila Rush a “run” game now available on Google Play where your micro-transactions can be funded through your Globe cellphone load.

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This is not your momma’s Zelda.

The only Zelda game I have thoroughly played is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the great classic on the SNES system back in the day. I have always loved how a top-view adventure RPGs can package a lengthy and deep adventure concisely and this new sequel A Link Between Worlds is no exception. While game design and development choices have made me or possibly you cynical about sequels to great classics, rest assured that this is not a soulless shell of a quick cash grab that we have been repeatedly exposed to over the last decade of games.

That worm dude boss is bigger than this but is still 100% annoying.

While the entire world of Link Between Worlds looks familiar to those who have played A Link to the Past, the similarities end with the familiar locations. Each scene is not a carbon copy of its SNES predecessor nor are the dungeons or bosses in any way rehashed (except for one distinctively annoying worm). Some of them may look derivative (like the Thieves’ Hideout boss) but they don’t play the same. It’s a brand new game with modified mechanics and different challenges (where you still have to collect the same pendants to get the Master Sword, lol) so you can have your slice of nostalgia pie and enjoy an entirely new experience.

One major deviation from the Zelda formula is the immediately availability of most tools (Hookshot, Ice and Fire Wand, etc.) which are rented from one of the supporting characters of the game, the mysterious Rovio. Others may find this change detrimental to the game, I on the other hand appreciate this streamlining. You are not required to take on any dungeon or boss in any particular order. Rented weapons are lost upon dying so there is a bigger sense of urgency to stay alive while you earn enough rupees to purchase the rent weapons so that you can retain them even after getting killed and upgrade them. Yes, you can upgrade all your tools in Link Between Worlds primarily to make your life easier in boss fights if they become too difficult for you.

Stick to the walls, bub.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds also features a new art direction for all the characters. Personally I don’t like it that much but it is certainly pleasing to the eye and the 3D display for once (in a blue moon) is actually utilized in a way for you to solve puzzles easily. While it seems like you are playing on a 2D field, you need to think three-dimensional to get the job done.

Good Points:

  • There are a lot of secrets to discover and challenges to overcome in order to achieve full content completion.
  • A Link Between Worlds has the best 3D visuals to-date. If your eyes can take the strain of 3D display, go for it, it’s worth the effort.
  • This is the first game in a long time I felt compelled to play a game continuously every chance I got. The game’s pace proceeds so well that you just want to continue your adventure and see things to the end.

Bad Points:

  • The game is rather short. It will take you roughly 20-30 hours to complete the adventure if you don’t go with any guides. The game is absurdly easy to finish if you consult a guide (why play a game in the first place if you do consult a guide for your first play-through).


  • If you find even Hero mode too easy, you can always intentionally “gimp” your character by avoiding optional upgrades for your weapon, armor, hearts, and empty bottles. It will be hell, you might enjoy it.
  • The StreetPass function of the game gives the latest Legend of Zelda game additional replay value. Although a bit shallow and gear dependent, it’s always fun taunting a friend for having a weak-ass Shadow Link.

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Ms. Zhorida Lipayon

P1020173Playstation 4 has finally launched in the Philippines as of January 14 but the more intriguing side of the story is what else is in store for the Philippines? We are certainly excited about the next product launching (PS VITA TV for South-East Asia) and while we wait for that, we at 30lives were able to spend some time with the Group Head of Home Entertainment Product Marketing from Sony, Zhorida Lipayon to give us a bigger picture on what Sony Philippines has in store for us.

30lives: One of our primary questions is: What has changed in the strategy of Sony? They are now targeting South-East Asian countries where online games are more prevalent than console games?

Zhorida Lipayon: The good thing about our situation right now is everybody can see our (Philippines) potential but not just in the Philippines but all the other countries mentioned (Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Sinagpore). The Philippines has a very young working population so there is a lot of room to cultivate the market in terms of brand appreciation and loyalty.


30lives: So this is more of a Global strategy?

Zhorida Lipayon: This has always been the strategy of Sony to identify potential markets and then invest in them.

P102020030lives: Granted that before there were any official console launches, there has been a long-standing “grey-market” for retail/console games. Is this an issue with Sony?

Zhorida Lipayon: At the end of the day, it’s a Sony sale (when our products are bought from these channels) but what we are focusing on a channels where we know we can sell. Sony Philippines is primarily an A/V (audio/visual) hardware distributor. So at the moment we are focusing on that as we have our special channels: Sony Centers and Gadget Shops. For us it’s quite different.

30lives: So basically it’s not an issue?

Zhorida Lipayon: No it is not.

30lives: Even if they import their consoles from say, Hong Kong or Singapore?

Zhorida Lipayon: That’s okay but there are certain disadvantages. For one, Hong Kong is not covered in our regional warranty service. But for us in Sony Philippines, it’s all about the whole package. When someone wants to try the Playstation 4, we don’t just have them try the console as is. We want them to try it with our brand new 4k TVs because it’s a totally different experience.

30lives: So you’re all really more focused on the game hardware sales than software?

Zhorida Lipayon: Well we do have certain goals to make sales of specific volumes but we really are focused on what we can sell well because we have to do business smart.

P102015930lives: There have been ventures to distribute game software such as X-Play. You’re not really going down that road?

Zhorida Lipayon: There are some ways for us to secure game distribution as we can get from distributors signed by our Singapore office.

30lives: I guess that would be more for first party (Sony) games, right?

Zhorida Lipayon: Well that would be the preference but we would like to expand it more but we would like to give our loyal Sony Playstation fans what they want.

30lives: On to the packaging the Playstation 4s and the 4k TVs there isn’t really a (video) format for it yet and the only thing that can cater to 4K resolutions are PC games. What is the advantage of adopting a 4K TV now?

Zhorida Lipayon: Our 4K TVs are able to upscale non-4K sources to 4K resolutions. So PS4 games and Blu-ray shows will be upscaled to 4K level resolutions.

P102018730lives: Will the Vita TV be a localized or regional service?

Zhorida Lipayon: It will be a regional service.

30lives: I think one of the concerns regarding PS Vita TVs being sold in the Philippines now is the fact that they are Japanese units. Will these units be usable for the upcoming regional service for countries under South-East Asia?

Zhorida Lipayon: Our demo sets are Japanese PS Vita TVs. We will have a different version from the Japanese Vita TVs.

30lives: So I guess it’s safe to say that Japanese Vita TVs won’t work for the Asian regional service?

Zhorida Lipayon: Yes.

Our takeaway: it looks like Sony’s Philippine arm has big plans for the well-entrenched local PlayStation fanbase. The days of pirated PlayStation discs brazenly being sold in local department stores are long behind us, and it appears that Sony has finally seen potential in the Philippine market as one of potential growth. 

Watch this space for more coverage on Sony Philippines’ upcoming launches; the Vita TV’s launch is just around the corner! In the meantime, please enjoy this non-musical montage of moments from Sony Philippines’ PlayStation 4 launch!

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I also didn’t have this problem (crowds) back in the day.

I’ve never ever been to a pre-release event and moreover, never a midnight release for any expansion for Magic: The Gathering. I would normally just wait for the new cards to hit my local store and then buy as many boosters or box(es) I would need. I never had any inclination to play Magic competitively back then but I do now and this time around I would make up for lost time in my attempt to competently play the game in a competitive environment by playing as many sanctioned games as possible.

Granted that pre-release events have a more casual approach, nothing motivates everyone to win better than a free Theros booster pack per round won so despite the lack of strict deck building conditions, people would still be making decks that would aim for your jugular for an extra booster pack and a chance to score a mythic rare for free. Under those conditions wouldn’t anyone play to win?

My ordeal started on the eve of pre-release day, September 20, when I headed down to Neutral Grounds, Centris Walk for the midnight pre-release of Theros, the latest expansion for Magic: The Gathering. After registering, I had a little down time and was introduced to the gaming buddies of my friend who hitched a ride with me to the midnight event. The pre-release started quite late at around 1:00 am or so because there were over a hundred people in attendance for the event (that’s pretty big for just one store front). I’m pretty sure there would have been more but the venue would not be able to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate.

To illustrate how I went down the “Path of the Addict”

To start, everyone gets to select a mana symbol/color before receiving their sealed deck package which consists of a promo foil card with date stamp of your selected color, an event card6 booster packs, and a dice life counter all packed neatly into a pretty cool box with your chosen mana symbol printed in the middle and stating your “chosen path” based on your color. The event card is tied up with a future event (game day on October 19-20) which is a pretty slick move to encourage or even tell people that they can get more mileage out of their participation in the pre-release event (the entrance fee is P1,200). My path was the “Path of the Addict.”

While you have a high chance of playing the color you chose, the contents of the pre-release set box are still random so you might end up playing a totally different color or find yourself with an odd combination but one of the key points in sealed deck formats is aiming to play with as many rare cards as possible on the assumption that they work well together. While some people will obviously score themselves better rare cards (in several occasions, I have seen guys score two mythic rare cards or even get extra rare cards (as foil inserts) and there are people who will just have the luck of scoring a bunch of cards with great synergy making them virtually impossible to beat in the environment. Those are the breaks of the game but you’re not truly maximizing your game if you don’t try to tweak your deck when you’re on a losing streak and in-between matches (after a loss). Granted that some combinations would seem as the superior deck build, you will still have to keep an eye out on specific opponents because some “trash cards” will work against specific opponents even when they are generally not a sound addition to your deck. Losing with your first deck build would normally mean you will have to tweak your deck somehow as I would have learned during the course of the sealed deck pods.

Part of Saturday’s prize booster haul.

But if you built yourself a winning combination of a deck (as proven by winning of course), stick with it and get rid of as many useless cards as possible to bring out your best cards as fast as possible. I’ve already written about things you shouldn’t do in a competitive sealed deck environment* but casual sealed deck format like pre-release are a lot more lenient and would prove to be more fun and less restrictive. For one, you can swap out as many cards as you want in a casual format instead of having to play with the deck you built from start to finish. If you feel that your main cards aren’t good enough, you might as well enjoy your remaining games by trying to pull off some odd combos and you might just wow some people when you pull off odd working combinations even though your deck isn’t fundamentally sound.

This happened to me in my third pod (Saturday evening at Neutral Grounds Glorietta 2) where I won my first round but ended up losing my second and third games with a tri-color deck (one I have absolutely no confidence in building but tried out anyway). My fourth game was salvaged after a friend helped me reconstruct my deck. At that point, I was already close to crashing after being awake for over 30 hours. If anything, it goes to show that swapping out cards around does help and you just have to think fast and remember the cards your opponents play so you can adjust your cards accordingly if necessary. In my opinion, winning two games with two different decks and playing style does say a lot about this observation of mine.

I ended up playing five (5) pods: three (3) on Saturday and then two (2) on Sunday. Having gone the distance during my fourth pod with a 3-1 W/L record after consistently posting 2-2 records on Saturday before faltering in my the last pod with a dismal 1-3 record is actually well worth the time and money spent in getting to know new faces, learning more facets of Magic: The Gathering, and of course discovering more holes in my fundamental style of play (I’m a little too hot on the trigger and I tend to NOT read cards of my opponents so I get sucker punched a lot by card abilities.)

Pre-release events are one of the best times to get into or get back into Magic because of the leveled playing field due to the sealed deck format, you won’t find a shortage of people who will be willing to tweak your deck for you (a lot of them actually enjoy this), and of course if you’re lucky, you could even score enough cash from selling the cards you get from your booster packs to cover your entrance fee and more or pick up the rare cards you need.

I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did though (playing five pods) unless you just want to rack up your playing time as “training” or something. Sealed deck tournaments are also best played with friends so bring your friends along or make new ones if you’re playing alone. Magic: The Gathering is a social game, contrary to what the notion of playing make-believe with pieces of cardboard would connote.

Theros, the latest expansion of Magic: The Gathering will officially hit stores on September 27, 2013. You can head down to a Neutral Grounds branch near you or a local hobby store near you on launch day for possibly one last pod of sealed deck play or booster draft tournaments.

*You should bring at least 18 of each basic land type and card sleeves to sealed deck tournaments.

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While Capcom has explicitly said it had no intention of bringing the  Monster Hunter franchise to the PS VITA despite of the rumors around it, they seem to be eating their words now as revealed in the Tokyo Game Show. But don’t rejoice just yet as the Monster Hunter game coming to the PS VITA is Monster Hunter Frontier G, aka the online game.

While the game data from the Playstation 3 version can be used for the PS VITA port, there will be an exclusive world playable only on the Playstation 3 dubbed “World C”. There is no information as to an English version so if you’re actually hoping for Monster Hunter 4 on the PS VITA, tough luck.

Source: IGN

The Kickstarter campaign of Keiji Inafune’s latest project Mighty No. 9 (aka his big “up yours” to Capcom for being douche bags in general) has hit its stretch goal of $2.2 million. This means we’re going to see Mighty No. 9 for consoles namely the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. If backers will plunk down another $1.1 million, then we will also see ports for next-gen consoles (PS4 and Xbox One) when it hits $3.3 million.

At this point, Mighty No. 9 is backed by roughly 39,000 people with over $2.2 million so that’s roughly $55 contributed on average. Makes me curious exactly how many people will be buying this game after it is released. You can head over to their Kickstarter page to find out what all the buzz is about and find out more about the game, especially the boss robots.

Very good and nice.

Source: Destructoid and Kickstarter

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Here’s a brief introduction on my history with Magic: The Gathering: I started playing and collecting the cards when I was around grade five back when Revised Edition (3rd ed.) was being phased out for Fourth Edition and the latest expansion was Ice Age (I remember this expansion for the Icy Manipulator reprint and the Jester’s Cap). My involvement with the game was very casual and pretty short-lived having never participated in any officially sanctioned tournaments at least until last Saturday after getting into the game after over a decade of not following the game.

I jumped in head first without any knowledge about the tournament format (Sealed Deck) so I was all over the place. Luckily, nobody really gave a shit besides I would be easy picking, that would mean instant wins. Not like it matters but here is a list of things I should have done or have kept in mind going into the tournament:

I filled it out wrong right off the bat. Good job, son.

1.) Don’t bring a pen – Actually, bring a frickin’ pen. You’ll need it to fill out your card and deck list and then the fastest way to keep track of you and your opponents life is to write it on paper. I had to borrow a pen from the guy in front of me several times like a total tool.

2.) Aim to bring your deck to sixty (60) cards (you dumbass) – You can play a minimum of forty (40) cards in a sealed deck format. Conveniently not knowing this pretty much sealed my fate in the tournament because I forced myself to play with three colors to fill out a sixty (60) card deck where you could play with less cards.

3.) Stick with your initial deck through-out the tournament – Knowing that I could shave my deck size down to a minimum of 40 cards could have won me a couple of rounds had I known about it earlier. After purging my deck of the extra color, I found myself in a more favorable position but it’s not like I could have won granted that I’m fairly confident that I didn’t compose my deck properly granted the fact that I was aiming to build a 60 card deck more than anything.

But it sure is nice to rake in a few games won and actually beating someone in the tournament. At least my first tournament didn’t end in complete disaster.

4.) Get attached to the cards you got from the booster packs- I filled out my deck list and the cards that I would use based from whatever cards I got from the booster packs. I didn’t know you would actually pass all the cards around and use the cards someone else got. So I’m apologizing the to guy who got my sheet which had the used cards boxes filled out already. Not like he would be reading this anyway.

The moral of the story is really more on using common sense (read the rules before joining a tournament, ya idjit). I should be glad I didn’t get disqualified but another way to look at it is: its not really that hard to join a sealed deck tournament. Granted that you should be at least familiar with the basic rules and stuff*, it’s not so hard to play and actually enjoy the game. If I could do it, I’m pretty sure anyone can. I played all the five (5) rounds but didn’t stick around to see who won but I had a good time overall.

Magic is pretty simple for newbies to get into and the game has evolved in a way that it can be played in several formats. Lucky for whoever may be interested in the game that Neutral Grounds be participating in celebrating Magic this coming Saturday on September 7 (newbies get to play the game with real cards FOR FREE. There will be limited slots for the free cards so you might want to go there early.

Furthermore, there will be a pre-release event for the upcoming Theros expansion this coming September 21-22 but details on it have yet to be released. For more information you can head on down to Neutral Grounds Facebook page.

I’ll be scrapping in more sealed deck tournaments and hopefully start joining standard constructed deck tournaments in the near future**. 

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Micro-Star International (MSI), an established manufacturer of PC hardware (motherboards, video cards, etc) and notebooks is inviting all gamers and pc enthusiasts to their celebration of all things gaming and more: “MSI Beat It! 2013: Overdrive Reloaded“. This event will be held at the 4th floor annex event area in SM City North EDSA. This event will feature highly competitive tournaments, exclusive hands on previews of their latest gaming hardware, and a lot more activities listed below:

Feature Tournaments:

  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive will  be featured in a qualifying tournament brought to you by MSI and it’s pro-team partner: Fnatic where the winning team will be flown to Shanghai, China to compete in the global grand final where USD 10,000 will be awarded to the grand champion.
  • Mercenary Online (Massive Gaming) will culminate it’s Third Person Shooter League (TPSL) at MSI Beat It 2013 where the champion will walk away with PHP 50,000.
  • Dragon Nest (Cherry Credits) will feature its first King of the Arena PVP tournament where the last player standing will take home PHP 30,000.
  • Assault Fire (Level Up) will host a Pro Tour qualifying tournament c/o Mineski.

Official Tournaments:

  • Defense of the Ancients 2
  • Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
  • Avatar Star (Cherry Credits)

Other Events:

There will be a Dragon Nest/Avatar Star cosplay competition in MSI Beat It 2013 where the best cosplayer will be awarded PHP 10,000. Other cosplayers are still welcome to join in the festivities but you get no prizes.

MSI will also be showcasing exclusive hands on previews of their upcoming gaming notebook, the MSI GS70 Stealth. What is being claimed as the world’s thinnest and lightest gaming notebook. Looks like the big boys are starting to give the Razer Blade a run for its money.

Aside from lean and mean gaming machines, MSI will be colaborating with Simulation Racing Pilipinas and Techsim in a time-attack challenge featuring the MSI GX60, the only gaming notebook capable of handling Eyefinity (triple screen). Having said that, you’re going to experience simulation racing with an Eyefinity set-up.

MSI in celebration of this event will be selling gaming series motherboard and video card bundles that will be available in authorized MSI hardware retailers up to September 15, 2013 only.

Last but not the least, what is a PC gaming event without a LAN Party? On top of a rig modding competition, the participants will be making functional use of their pimped out computers for one big LAN party.

“MSI Beat It! 2013: Overdrive Reloaded” is presented by MSI in partnership with Intel, SteelSeries, Aerocool, Plextor, Massive Gaming, Cherry Credits, myDSL and SM North EDSA.

About MSI

Founded in 1986, MSI designs, manufactures and markets technology solutions and products, including Tablets, Notebook PCs, All-in-One PCs, and PC components including IPCs, Servers, Motherboards and Video Cards. Committed to innovation and style, MSI products are available in more than 120 countries and employ more than 14,000 people worldwide. To learn more about MSI’s complete line of products, visit:; or follow them at

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Dive Kick is a fighting game that literally uses only two (2) buttons to play. The D-pad is of no use in this game so there aren’t any complex input patterns or chain combos you have to memorize in order to pick up this game. As a matter of fact, one or two games in, you’ll automatically “get” this game. Despite the simplicity of the game’s control, Dive Kick is able to draw in fighting game newbies and veterans alike with a surprising amount of depth. I also have to point out that I’m a very casual player of fighting games.

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Timing is the name of the game:

With the game in a perpetual state of sudden death, one hit is all you need to win a round in Dive Kick. Each of the thirteen (13) characters in the game’s roster play differently even if your input device is limited to only two (2) buttons. The variation in play style of each character lies in how high they can “dive” (jump), the angle of their kick, the velocity of said kick, and then there are some x-factors which are special moves activated by pressing the two buttons at the same time and the kick meter powers (super moves). You goal is simply to trick your opponent into a position where they are unable to avoid your dive kick (you can’t block in this game). As I said, anybody can pick up on this game without having to go through rigorous move-list memorizing and single player training on combos and learning the proper timing of special moves. You can play this game with anyone, even people who have no aptitude or interest in playing games in general.

One shot is all you need to win
One shot is all you need to win

Talking Trash:

Even if tensions would run high, I believe trash talking plays an important role in fighting games because its one of the best tools to psyce people out (just don’t get too personal). Dive Kick goes out of its way to highlight people when they are sucking real bad with the fraud and choke detection system. These “systems” basically just add insult to injury when a player fails to win a single round or lose the game to  a five to zero comeback all in good fun. Also, for the first time ever (I think), head shots matter in a fighting game! Kicking someone in the head will not only give you a rush with a “headshot” victory banner, you will also render your opponent dizzy for the next round making their dive kicks less effective for a fixed period of time on top of cancelling out their kick meter (super move bar). There is even a gem you can equip before a match called the YOLO gem (self explanatory) and nothing is more humiliating than getting your ass kicked by someone with that gem.

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Stretching Out The Game:

There are thirteen (13) characters with funny background stories which will compel you to finish story mode just to see what hilarity ensues at the ending for each character. Outside that, there is online multiplayer for casual games and ranked games. You’ll need to go online and fight ranked matches to acquire all trophies which will take quite some time because the feats you have to pull off aren’t exactly easy (if you don’t cheat and farm them with a friend). Other than that, it would really depend on your group of friends or if the game is actually going to show up in your local tournament. Dive Kick is actually an EVO approved game.

Good Points:

There is enough depth and fun to go around for everyone in this game for fighting game veterans and people who couldn’t care less about the genre.

It’s a great game to break out anywhere (you can play versus mode with two human players on one PS Vita) it’s a great game to kill time with.

Dive Kick doesn’t take itself seriously despite the raves of people on how deep the game is. The creators of the game still treat Dive Kick as a parody game and with that, there is a lot of good laughs to go around from the character back stories to Uncle Sensei’s pre-match tips.

Bad Points:

The simplistic controls will eventually bare down on you despite of the depth of the game. It will be hard to play this game for extended periods of time.

Things Which Can Go Either Way: 

The intentional comedic character design, dialogue, and character voices may not appeal to everyone or may not get the jokes because there are a lot of references to fighting games and culture. I don’t get most of them.

The art style and character design will not appeal to everyone.

Dive Kick will probably piss hardcore fighting game veterans when they lose to a clueless newbie (which is entirely possible).

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You all know this game by now, I’ve seen almost every age group (including my uncles who are now grand fathers) play Plants vs Zombies. It’s a very simple and cute game but has elements which surprisingly makes the game pretty deep, at least in the original game’s survival mode. That was pretty much the game for me. Playing the campaign, farming out the zen garden to buy plants, and solving those side puzzles were all for the end-game which was accumulating as many flags as possible in survival mode by experimenting the different combinations of plants. I never really gave too much though about the game’s campaign mode as it was designed to be pretty damn  easy but maybe its because I take games a little extra seriously compared to the average Joe and Jane (this is important because girl gamers do exist /sarcasm).

It helps to point out that I played Plants vs Zombies for the PC and not on the iOS and to be honest, I felt perfectly fine with it because the mouse controls are infinitely superior to touch screen controls because you can be more precise with your movements and that’s pretty important when there are tones of zombies about on your lawn. The move to make Plants vs Zombies 2 a mobile exclusive (for now) and free-to-play certainly sucks for me because I knew where this game is going. A few weeks ago, Plants vs Zombies 2 was out in several App stores and you may have read about in-app purchases for plants which were part of the original game (Squash, Jalapeno, , and they’re true along with some upgrades that used to be part of the game (additional plant slots). Not only do you have to pony up more money to enjoy the “full game experience” ($35.93 for all the plants and upgrades) but they added a new “touch death blow” mechanic to induce impulse purchases for people who can’t clear specific stages (who suck at playing these types of games in general) to advance when they run out of in-game money to invoke “the hand of the almighty” (aka themselves) to finish the job they can’t do with plants alone.  Some content can be unlocked faster buy paying real money, but all paid content are strictly paid content. There is absolutely no way to grind up for their current paid content offerings.

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Having said all that, Plantz vs Zombies 2 still delivers itself as an entertaining game and if you hate the in-app purchases so much (like myself) you can play the game without having to spend a single cent for people who don’t like how they are implementing in-app purchases for a game that was perfectly justifiable for a retail release. On this note, I will blame the jail-breaking and cracking of the original game because going free-to-play solves all your piracy issues while in-app purchases become necessary if you are free-to-play. This is the last rant, I promise (nope). Now on to the game itself!

Plants vs Zombies 2 throws you back in time to look for Crazy Dave’s taco. In the current build of the game you travel through three time periods namely: Ancient Egypt, the Age of Pirates, and the Wild West. Each zone introduces brand new plants and zombies which will ultimately require you to use the new plants in conjunction with the old ones you’ve acquired. Unlike the linear campaign of the original PvZ, the game now sports an “overworld” of sorts where there is a straight progression to the next area and there are side roads which unlock either new plants or power-ups (for free!). These side roads need to be unlocked by keys which seem to appear at random from zombies when you’re playing a stage. The other way is to simply buy access to the side road with real money. You can either grind for keys or just keep progressing normally until you find enough keys to go back to locked areas, I never repeated a stage unless I failed the stage’s objective which does not only mean protecting your brain from the zombies. Much to my annoyance, you are sometimes tasked to protect defenseless plants like Sunflowers which are positioned out in front. There are also objectives which restrict where you can plant, how much “sun” you can use, and even impose a maximum number of plants you can have on the field. While these objectives seem like they could give you a run for your money, they actually limit your choices of plants, these stages are normally completed with just 3-4 plants (Sunflower included).

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The “main campaign” which will lead you to the warp portal to the next time period consists of at least 10 stages but upon reaching the warp portal, you find out you can’t access the next stage yet unless you pony up enough “stars” OR… (wait for it) pay real money! (hooray) Thankfully, you will only need to do this if you absolutely suck at the game or justify with lame reasons such as “I don’t have time to grind up stars.” Star missions appear on the “main campaign” stages after you reach the warp gate. There are three star missions on each campaign stage while side road missions have one star each. Accumulating stars is not a grind because each mission has different objectives and strategies to win. It’s not replaying an old stage but rather playing a new and harder stage. This is actually one of the better features of the sequel and since there is the “easy way out” through in-app purchases, finishing the third star of each stage is exceptionally fulfilling knowing that others would just pay (and waste perfectly good dollars) their way to victory. The missions aren’t easy at all, non-paying users will have to choose their battles wisely because some stages require plants from the next time period to beat or at least be marginally easier. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here but you can pay real money to win these difficult situations again by invoking the “hand of the almighty” or rather, your fingers. Plants vs Zombies 2 introduces new functions which practically destroys the need for strategy and both as you may have guessed can be acquired through in-app purchases.

Plant Food:

Plant food is acquired randomly from zombies glowing green. Feeding the plant food to any plant you have on the field hulks them up and they will execute a “super move” for the lack of a better term which all varies. None of them have the same effect but utilizing all plant super moves are not necessary. You need only pick the ones which deal the most damage possible because I found them to be an integral part of beating any stage. Not using plant food seems to be suicide in Plantz vs Zombies 2. Thankfully, there is enough plant food to go around in regular game play but those who can’t get enough of these super moves can opt to buy a plant which generates plant food called the “Power Lily” all for the low-low price of $2.99 (bleh and nope).

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Touch Deathblows (not the official term):

This next one is just a travesty. As if plant food and the in-app purchases for the Jalapeno and Squash weren’t enough for panic buttons, EA decided it would be great (for business) to add powers where you can use your fingers to destroy as many zombies as you can in different ways for a limited period of time if you pony up money (coins/gems) to invoke said powers. These powers range from popping off their heads with two fingers in a pinching motion, flinging up zombies in the air with one finger and then knocking them out of the screen, or just holding down on the touch screen to electrocute zombies. You can earn money in the game but you don’t earn enough money to keep using these powers every stage and you will eventually run out as you will come to rely on them one way or the other. By the time you run out of coins, you will be faced with the decision to suck it up and stop relying on powers or pony up real money (again and again) to get coins immediately and begin enjoying your superficial reign of terror once again on animated drawings of zombies who do different kinds of tricks.

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End Game:

Plants vs Zombies cannot be complete without an end game. Which is why I am pretty mad that there is no survival mode in this game. In its stead, a different game mode was sent in place called Challenge Zones. There is one challenge zone per time period where you are dealt three cards per stage containing a plant per card, you then proceed to select one to bring into the next stage. You basically decide how to progress your arsenal as you traverse increasingly difficult maps in what seems to be the new version of the original game’s survival mode. Honestly, I’m not impressed but I’m willing to give it a go again having only finished 4 stages so far with relative ease. One thing that peeves me is the the fact that I can’t seem to access the star missions I already finished. You should be able to revisit old content but what you end up revisiting is the “easy mode” version of the stage which is the campaign mode setting which is absolutely pointless to play again.

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What’s a mobile game without features to draw you into the game again? A Zombie Yeti occasionally appears and you will have to play said stage and kill it to steal its lunch box (how mean) and grab whatever random goodies he carries. I get this crappy diamond most of the time. It’s crappy because all it is used for now is to activate touch death blows( meh).

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The Good:

  • New plants and zombies involve new strategies and this keeps Plants vs Zombies 2 fresh.
  • It’s free-to-play and you can actually enjoy the game without spending money.
  • There are enough challenges to go around to keep you entertained for quite a while depending on how you pace yourselves.

The Bad:

  • I’m not against micro-transactions but these in-app purchases insult my intelligence so they have almost zero value to me. In other words, I’m not forking over a single cent.
  • The addition of many “panic button” items tied up to in-app purchases allows EA to get away with imbalanced maps where there are simply too many zombies to deal with (easy, hit them with real money in a tight spot).
  • There is no survival mode! (This is obviously my own subjective opinion) But I’ll pay real money for a survival mode, make that three survival mode stages: one for each time period.

Things Which Can Swing Either way:

  • The general notion that everything can be acquired with real money or can be earned by simply playing the game. The only saving grace for this is the fact that earning plants and upgrades by playing is not a grind but rather allows you to explore new challenges and more difficult situations which should be a good point but the people who spend money on in-app purchases obviously disagree with me.
  • The game as it is, is incomplete with no “final boss” and EA may choose to make the game never end granted that Plants vs Zombies 2 has a business model which supports endless content. This can be good or bad, depending on how it is utilized.

In Conclusion:

I enjoyed my time with Plants vs Zombies 2 and I will still be playing this game for weeks or months to come especially when I’m anticipating the fourth stage which will probably be the “last” stage of the game for now as Dr. Zomboss (last boss in the fist game) has revealed himself to be in said fourth world. What I am certainly NOT going to do is plunk down any real money for their current offerings of in-app purchases. Nope… nope, nope, nope, and nope. Regardless, EA seems to be making a killing off this game having it in the top twenty over-all grossing games on the App Annie charts. EA is certainly laughing their way to the bank because clearly, people like myself are not the target market for this game.



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Elsword is a side-scrolling 2-D action platformer developed by KOG, the same developer of Level-Up Games’ established Grand Chase. Elsword has been out for quite some time and it’s not uncommon for fans of Grand Chase, converts to Elsword and the internet in general to make comparisons on which game is better so let’s just spare ourselves the trouble and agree that both games should have some difference outside the obvious (Elsword being a newer game obviously has better graphics) and both games will somehow play differently which will tickle different fancies from Grand Chase veterans and clueless newbies (such as myself) alike or turn them off for that matter.

Elsword will be published in the Philippines by Garena and you can register for CBT keys as early August 22, 2013 on Elsword Philippines’ official site. You will need a Garena account to sign up for CBT and actually participate in CBT so you might want to get that out of the way too if you have plans on trying out Elsword. There is barely any information on Elsword on the official Philippine website but there is an abundance of information on the internet as the game has been released in other countries for years now. From the looks of it aside from a solid 2-D brawler, the game is obviously a cosplayer’s haven with cute characters and outfits to dress up. The local MMO community seems to be really into cosplay so I guess that’s another plus for Elsword.   

There are only three (3) playable characters revealed for CBT but expect that character count to increase.

If Elsword interests you, you might want to remember these websites below:

Official Website:

Official Facebook Page:

Publisher Website:

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It comes with a million dollars too.

So Garena has finally broke silence about the issue. You can read all about it here. The statement claims that the SMX admin and even local police said that 30,000 to 40,000 people were lining up for the event which caused them to take over the operations and scheduling of the event. It doesn’t exactly explain why there were so many people were denied entry and yet the convention ground was extremely spacious. Let’s hope that the lessons learned for a second year in a row will bare fruit in the next event because: third time’s a charm and all.

League of Legends (LoL) is without a doubt one of the most popular and biggest MOBAs (Massive Online Battle Arena) in the world and in Asia, tightly competing against the king of pirates, the original Defense of the Ancients (come on guys, back me up here) and DotA 2 (that game on Steam). This game has run wild in South Korea (reaching the #1 spot of most played game), Taiwan (to the point their team became the world champion in 2012), and its pro-gamers even recognized as professional athletes in America. Like all popular games, the fandom of the game takes a life of its own in the form of mad demand for game merchandise and then you have cosplay (whoopteedoo).

Rampage 2013 is the gateway for Philippine competitive LoL teams to join in the regional qualifiers in Vietnam for a chance to win and compete in the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship to be held at the bleedin’ STAPLES CENTER. Aside from winning whatever division of P60,000 in cash prizes and in-game items Garena will provide for the local Champions, the winning team gets to make a run for the world championship where they can score a cool million dollars in cash. Aside from this, Cosplay Network Philippines organized a cosplay competition for all the people who’re good at making costumes and those who would love to emulate their favorite LoL characters on stage or within the event grounds as well and stand to win part of the P50,000 prize pool for the said competition. Last but not the least, event-goers will be given the opportunity to buy those sweet official Riot-produced League of Legends merchandise including the Blitzcrank Hoodie, Teemo Hat, and Rammus Hat. This an among other things (a passport which requires you to visit all exhibitor booths to join a raffle) sounds pretty sweet and even the P150 entrance fee would be matched with a lot of in-game items so one would expect a great day for League of Legends fans in the Philippines. Sadly, things turned sour pretty fast.

The event area was said to be able to accommodate 12,000 people but it seemed like only a little over 4,000 or-so people were actually accommodated at a time. When I arrived at the event venue, people were swarming the entrances of SMX and there was really no indicator where lines would begin and where they ultimately ended. Getting in was even taxing for myself who was supposedly invited by their media partners. To make matters worse, the merchandise selling caused so many problems (as announced during the event by the host) that they had to stop the selling event and would reschedule it at a different time.

As a simple event/con-goer, there isn’t a lot of things for people to do. There were no side activities except for lining up to get a stamp from sponsor booths such as free-play terminals or even simple gimmick games where people could kill time while they are waiting for their favorite team to compete on stage and there was a lot of unused space in the event grounds and people who were covering said event were left with absolutely nobody to talk to regarding the event or the company. I was lucky enough to know a few people from Garena who accommodated a few questions but everything was strictly off the record because nobody was out there in official capacity to talk to any sort of press or pseudo press outlets.

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Things escalated outside the SMX where people who have been lining up since the wee-hours of Saturday (I’ve heard from people I know who are in touch with the LoL community that some of them lined up as early as 1:30 AM of Saturday) weren’t able to purchase a ticket to get into the SMX. The video below will summarize what happened below and just to point things out, there were no police barricades when I arrived at 1:00 PM.

There is no doubt that Garena is trying to produce a good show but due to several circumstances from possible poor planning, poor communications with the SMX admin, and underestimating themselves; the Philippine fans of League of Legends turned on Garena instead. The cruel irony of it all is the name of the event: Rampage (2013). After two years of failing to accommodate its fans, they might want to reconsider the branding of their event for an inevitable third major event next year. Please do a better job next time, you’ve got a good game on your hands.

Noteworthy Highlights:

League of Legends Rampage 2013 was presented by Smart Games a mobile payment gateway for online games where SMART pre-paid and post-paid subscribers can buy ePins for game publishers such as Garena (League of Legends) on the fly with a more modest mark-up this time around of 25% instead of the insanely high 100% back in the day when I was still working in the online games industry. The 100% mark-up WAS an industry standard where SMART and Globe were equally participating in said unreasonable pricing. Granted that it will still be cheaper to buy pre-paid cards, you can always save yourself a commute, a car ride, and all that unbearable traffic with Smart Games but only if you have a Smart mobile sim.

Garena has announced their next title for the Philippines: Elsword a side-scrolling arcade brawler closely followed by fans of a game from the same developer KOG, Grand Chase which is published by Level-Up.

Razer and Coolermaster where among the major sponsors who were showing of their wares for the League of Legends players and tech-enthusiasts alike. The Razer Naga Hex, a mouse specifically tailored for MOBAs with six programmable buttons place on the thumb area of mouse and Kraken gaming and music headset were being sold on site while Cooler Master had their cooling solutions (cases and CPU coolers) and power banks (external batteries) out on display. I was supposed to do a piece on Razer’s Hammerhead in-ear gaming and music headphones but alas, the whole product feature was done on-stage before the scheduled time (2-4 pm) so there’s another shot at the event’s organizer.

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Killer is Dead is a third-person action slasher from the creative mind of Goichi Suda (Suda51) from Grasshopper Manufacture. The game’s tone is highly stylized and its plot outrageous enough to ruffle some feathers causing a sort of online debate between an XSEED employee and a guy who made a video dissing Suda 51. There were probably more discussions on Killer is Dead in a similar light (sexism, objectification of women) but honestly I wouldn’t focus on it so let’s get past that and get into everything else about the game as “Gigolo mode” is not the only thing going on for the game.

We’ll never know how she does that trick. Aliens.

You play the role of Mondo Zappa who works for an “execution agency” which fulfills job requests to execute killers. Each main episode will take you to different places from a dinky back alley to the moon and face off against weird and freakish monstrosities called “Wires” who were once people but corrupted by an energy coming from the “Dark Side of the Moon” (he he he). Each plot character helps you out during the course of certain missions. Mika Takekawa, your plucky live-in assistant revives you when you run out of health for a price which you pre-pay by purchasing a “Mika Ticket” from the gift shop. Simply put, these tickets are continues. Vivienne Squall, is your boss who gives you a ride when chasing mobile targets or provides you with suppressing fire in dicey situations. Bryan Roses, a full fledged cyborg, is the chief of your execution office, when he isn’t taking on clients who end up skipping the payment portion of an execution contract, he brings in the heavy artillery by setting up a Gatling gun  to take out targets from a distance in certain missions. Mondo doesn’t seem to remember too much about his past but slowly regains his memories as the plot unravels his unmistakable connection with the dark energies coming from the moon.

You have two modes of attack in Killer is Dead, your katana and your cyborg arm which can turn into a machine gun, drill arm, freeze gun, and charge pulse rifle. Mondo can unlock attack skills by gathering moon crystals from killing Wire minions. Speaking of crystals, while they drop randomly from underlings, you can force a specific type of crystal to drop upon killing them by executing them. The execution sequence triggers when you have a high chain combo and knock an enemy’s HP to zero, you will then be prompted to select the Square, Triangle, Circle, or X button each of which will force a copious amount of crystals to drop from each bad guy. Mondo’s left arm is powered by blood crystals so you will need a blood resupply every now and then so you’ll definitely want to keep your chain combos up to maintain a seemingly endless supply of blood (like there is any shortage of that in the game). There really is a lot going on the screen when you get into the meat of the game so you’ll be mashing buttons in a certain pattern like crazy which is what I believe such action games are all about. If you’re not mashing buttons enough, you’re probably playing a crappy action game.

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Good Points:

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Blue streaks come out of your katana when you up your attack speed through making high-chain combos.

Killer is Dead has a very rewarding combat experience when you get a hang of the game’s combo and defense system. Mondo’s attacks increase in speed and flare when you start stringing up high number combos (20 hits and above) and that’s when everything goes wild. You will be facing enemies from all directions and some of them will even shoot your from a far. Getting the hang of executing “dodge bursts” and “just guards” will treat you to a string of bloody-cool finishing moves and make you feel a million times cooler than you are in real life (obvious exaggeration may have to be pointed out here).  You can tell that the game is developed for anybody to have a real blast because you can score in a lot of lucky dodges and guards simply by mashing buttons. It’s a good thing that mashing buttons can get you through a stage, but only mastery of the game will net you a highest possible rank in a mission so the game is still challenging even if complete noobs can enjoy the game.

The music of the game is a great accompaniment to the mash-ups of locations, Suda 51’s inspirations for the game (Bayformers, James Bond, and Samurai Champloo), and even  specific situations (like the intimate scenes with the Mondo girls). There is a healthy mix of music genres in the game to keep it refreshing all through-out the game.

Bad Points:

There really isn’t anything to get behind the fragments of the game’s plot. Not like I was expecting extensive back stories on characters or anything but aside from the cool fight mechanics in combat, the plot of the story is barely fascinating or amusing and the punch lines for the jokes in the game were weak, very weak. A lot of things just simply didn’t make sense even if they are being tied up to the main story line but hey, unicorns! Let’s not bother explaining why they exist in the game, I guess Suda 51 and the rest of the team were taking LSD when they thought of that.

Display issues. Frame rates drop frequently when there are a lot of elements or particles on screen and on top of that there are times when the camera angles would mess up your view causing you to lose track of your targets or surroundings that would break your combo chain and possibly cost you the highest rank in a mission. I get hit with bad angles a lot and they tend to become very frustrating.

The mechanics for “gigolo mode” in Killer is Dead are extremely awkward for people who’ve gotten past the “curiosity” stage of growing up. I believe there is no need for an in-depth discussion on why would one feel uncomfortable with having to stare at women’s breasts, crotch, or hips (without the woman taking notice of your blatant eye-banging)  to muster enough courage to present gifts to women to gain affection and eventually make her agree with sleeping with you. The Gigolo glasses that come as DLC with every launch copy allows you to see the women in lingerie  (just like every boy’s dream of having “x-ray specs). The reasons you’ll be doing gigolo mode (hopefully) is to acquire new left arm attachments and for trophies. If you’re motivated by anything more than that, I would seriously recommend that you seek #help. For the record, the Gigolo Glasses increase your courage at a higher rate so I use them in the game so I get to see them in their lingerie all the time.

While we’re on the topic, I might as well touch the part were you get intimate with the Mondo Girls, specifically (Natalie, Koharu, and Betty (bonus DLC vampire.) There are three intimate scenes which just get more risque. Betty is basically a re-skin of Natalie whose scenes are pretty much your generic Hollywood movie scene while Koharu’s scenes play on men’s fantasy of a traditional Japanese girl with a hidden beast locked away inside her. When you get intimate with Koharu, there are taiko drums banging in the background and then you know why there is a hard, banging, and rhythmic beat going on right? I don’t know if I’m just wired the wrong way but I found it funny because it was obviously intentional and people, haven’t you not all done some kinky stuff in your lives?

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If its any consolation to those who would be deeply offended by this mode, one Mondo girl (Scarlet) does not operate within the confines of said gigolo mode but rather is the issuer of challenge missions where you have to beat regular bad guys with certain conditions such as (kill one type of enemy only, killing anything else means mission failure) and they’re not exactly easy. That’s more replay value right there.

Things That Swing Either Way:

Playing the game is easy but mastering it is hard. You can play through the story and the side quests without having to master the game and/or have mad twitch skills. However, I believe that people who like challenges should purchase this game and aspire to score a platinum trophy. I’m telling your right now getting a “plat” in this game would be a big achievement.

You will simply look too damned cool in this game. If stylized violence is your thing (not if you want to murder people IRL, okay?), you need not look further.

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In line with scoring platinum trophy, the game’s main missions are very short (6-7 hours tops). If you wanted to, you could finish the game in one sitting and it’s not even going to be that hard. If you don’t like exploring side quests or finding hidden items within stages, there isn’t going to be much value for you especially if you think  that the story line jumps into any sort of deep or existential discussions and similar (pretentious crap) themes people will gush about.

I have yet to find Juliet Starling in the game so that is more reason to go back to the game and the mere fact that a game crossover is included in the game as a secret rather than a DLC is certainly something refreshing to see in this day and age. Then again, an exuberant chainsaw wielding cheerleader may not be for everyone. So there’s that too.

What happens between them? I don’t know. I have to find her first.

In Conclusion:

Killer is Dead has core game mechanics which rewards players who learn them with a fun time hacking, slashing, and shooting people in style. The game’s over-the-top treatment of everything points to the obvious that things are grossly exaggerated in the game so there is little merit to attack the game because of the Gigolo Mode. While possibly done in poor taste, they may have lost sales but let’s not start a revolution over it. While not being one of those “serious games”, the humor in the game is severely lacking so the game barely got a chuckle out of me even though some parts were meant to be funny. The music of the game sucks you into the mood real good whether you are busting through a Japanese fortress, dueling on the moon, or getting intimate with the Mondo Girls which sets a pretty good bar in terms of musical score for games. The violence and sexual content of this game however will make me think twice about letting kids (and immature people in general) playing this game. Killer is Dead is one of those games you don’t want to buy for your kids or if you do, better give them “the talk” and set them straight because if this is their reality for dating women, help…

If you’re going to pick-up Killer is Dead, I suggest you wait for the R1 version of the game which includes a 25 track OST and an art book for all launch copies. The R3 copy I bought just has the “Smooth Operator” DLC which is also included in the R1 copy of the game.

Oh and the game is in dual audio so you can go English voice or Japanese voice. I prefer the English voices but Mondo sounds nothing like a James Bond in both audio options.