Mobile

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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?

 

As avid gamers, we always want to be ahead of the game (awful pun intended) by having the latest gadgets that enable us to play all the best games, either on the big screen or on the go. Y’see, games aren’t just played on consoles or handhelds nowadays: gaming is now a ubiquitous enough hobby that one can enjoy on any piece of tech with a screen. For instance, here’s my personal list of gadgets that I enjoy playing games on!

IMG_26171. HP Envy 15″ and Macbook Pro Retina 13″ laptops – I only play Diablo III Reaper of Souls and a bunch of Steam games on PC so I fire one of these two from time to time. I use the HP when I’m docked as it is heavier but it’s where I mostly play because of the bigger screen,  hard disk and a fuller keyboard. I use the Macbook when I’m stuck outside and more for work, but I also have a limited number games installed on that machine (like yep, Diablo III; if you haven’t figured out, I’m a D3 addict).

2. PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS – If I have to go out and I know I have to wait long for something (pay for a bill, or wait for someone to arrive), I almost always carry one of these babies depending on what I am currently playing. The titles are pretty diverse in each so you can always find a few games that will sit on your GOTY of the forever (for me it was Persona 4 Golden and Fire Emblem Awakening).

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3. iPhone 5 – If I have a spare minute (or thirty), I fire up Clash of Clans or one of my favorite Kairosoft titles (now being Ninja Village) to get my gaming fix. LINE also has a bunch of games like Puzzle Bobble (who hasn’t played or got addicted to that game though) but it gets pretty limited because of the fatigue-based mechanic (5 stages at a time, then you have to wait 30 minutes to replenish one stage turn). It’s pretty lightweight as a gaming platform but with millions of users, even Square Enix has picked up the pace and ported some of its most popular titles on iTunes.

4. PlayStation 3, XBOX 360 and Wii U – Exclusive titles and things more epic go to one of these consoles. Admittedly, I haven’t fired up anything recently (probably Wind Waker U from a few months back), but I still have a few discs lying around that I should look into finishing before I get a…

5. PlayStation 4Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out in a few months; I happen to be a big DA fan so this is the title that will make me break the bank to get a unit. Priced competitively and having supported off-screen play through the PS Vita, this is definitely the next step to my gaming progression.

From upgrades to new models to competing brands, deciphering what’s worth the splurge is an exhausting, confusing feat. So, SM Supermalls is making it easy for you as they celebrate Cyber Month for the whole month of August.

Get a gadget upgrade and join in the geeky fun with SM Supermalls’ exciting line-up of activities that will make all tech lovers go crazy:

  • Tech Sale – Stock up on the latest gadgets at discounted prices in the biggest technology sale of the year.
  • Cybervasion – Discover and experience the latest gadgets at their interactive tech displays.
  • Game Station – Check the hottest gaming consoles and videogames of the season.
  • Cosplay Parade – Catch your favorite characters and the most outrageous costumes at their exciting cosplay parade.

Even more surprises await online with SM Supermalls’ #31HappyCyberDays promo:

  • DigiTalk – Answer Cyber Month-related questions on the SM Supermalls Facebook page and win cool prizes.
  • Cyber Rave – Listen to what your favorite blogger has to say about their favorite gadgets of 2014.
  • Tech Throwback – Send in a pic of your “antique” gadget together with a clever caption or funny story and win its modern-day counterpart.

Be the first on scene with the newest gizmos as SM Supermalls celebrates Cyber Month until August 31. For more details, like SM Supermalls on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@smsupermalls), and use the hashtag #EverythingForTheTechieInYou. You can also like their SM Cyberzone Facebook Fanpage at https://www.facebook.com/smcyberzone. Contact these numbers for queries: (02) 876-1111 (Metro Manila) / 0917 876-1111 (Globe) / 0908 876-1111 (Smart) / 0922 876-1111 (Sun).

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

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Something to get excited about, folks. Local game developer Altitude Games is releasing a mobile game reminiscent of your favorite Tokusatsu shows from the 80s called Run Run Super V.

RRSV_ScreenMockup_VehicleModeThe game has three different modes:  Run mode which is a side-scrolling runner game mode set in the city, Vehicle mode where you can blast baddies in a shooter type of game and this is where it gets interesting, the Robot Mode where you can all “volt in” to fight a daikaiju (giant monster) and time your attacks to defeat it. The game uses one-touch controls like tapping or swiping so casual gamers can get in on the fun without breaking a sweat.

An interesting social feature is also integrated in the game where you can invite your friends for team missions. Each friend can play one of the sentai guys (or girl!) and play the different game modes together. Special rewards are acquired if your team performs well in each mission, and these are stuff that you cannot get in the single player mode too.

Each ranger is customizable with power ups, vehicles and other stuff and you can do that by getting rewards or buying them in the game’s store.

“Robots, aliens, rangers doing hero poses, and a burning team spirit. That’s what Sentai is all about. It’s flashy, epic, and never gets old,” said Jan Rey Solomon, Product Manager at Altitude Games. “We’re super-psyched to let everyone experience THAT, on the go.” RRSV_ScreenMockup_RobotMode

“We love playing mobile games that combine familiar gameplay with cool and unexpected themes, and that’s what we want to do with Super V,” Luna Cruz, Altitude’s Creative Director added. “We want it to be a game people get excited about, and they can’t wait to form squads with their friends and do missions together. That’s the dream.”

Run Run Super V is set to launch at Q4 of this year for Android and iOS devices and will be free to play.  Hopefully we can review it when it comes out!

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One of the few anime series that I’ve enjoyed watching is Fate/stay night. I got really obsessed with lead character Shiro Emiya’s Servant, Saber, that I even started collecting all the Nendoroid releases and most PVC figures of her. She was one of the stronger Servants in the series and had the most charm for me because of her blonde hair, green eyes and somewhat creepy blank stare . So what does this have to do with anything you might ask? A few weeks back, I got the chance to somewhat feel like Shiro by downloading a mobile game called Brave Frontier. The premise is somewhat straightforward: summon heroes to fight for you in your adventures. However, there’s so much more to that once you delve deeper in the game.

The Good:

1. Level of Polish – You all might get huffy about playing a mobile game because 99% are mostly shovelware-tastic. The production quality of Brave Frontier is actually top-notch: you get well-drawn sprites, crisp colors, good enough animation and sound effects that it makes for a game that rivals actual handheld games released for the Nintendo 3DS or the PS Vita. 1531938_10152809116237137_1016008783_n

2. Summoning and Combining – As mentioned above, you can feel like Shiro and Rin in Fate by summoning allies in the game. Each ally has different specialty skills that can help you in your quests. What’s also awesome is that you can level up these babies by combining them with other summons that are pretty useless in your party. It gets pretty complicated when you get the real nice ones as they only have really limited levels so you have to be careful what type of summon you combine it with to maximize its stats. Summoning can also get pretty addicting and you can get the Super Rare ones by spending game cash, so make sure you’re ready for this.

3. Super Moves – As Brave Frontier is a real-time tactical game, you have to time your attacks cautiously and watch each of your guys so that you don’t face a complete wipe especially from bosses. One of the cool things in the game is unleashing the super move of a character. This builds up ala Limit Break in Final Fantasy 7. Unleashing it to a boss is completely satisfying, especially if you get to build them all up with each of your characters.

4. Crafting – There are tons of shops and resources that you can unlock in your town after progressing in the game. These are all at your disposal and you can create a lot of nifty items that can help you out in your adventure.

5. Events – The folks at Gumi are especially active in crafting events for the players so there are always something fun to do when you’re logged in. You can rack up pretty sweet event items if you’re faithful in logging in. Hooray for loyalty rewards!

Fusion!
Fusion!

6. Accessibility – Free is always a good thing, and a free, well-polished game is hard to come by!

The Bad:

1.  Download times – Initial download time can be a pain, and comes the first patching as well. In my experience, I got disconnected a few times, but then again it can be because of our service providers (Sigh, Philippine internet).

2. Complexity – This can be a bit of a challenge for newbies (which is the current market bulk), as most are used to very simple one-tap games such as Flappy Bird or Candy Crush Saga. If you’re an experienced gamer however, you won’t break a sweat and learning curve is not so steep.

Other stuff:

1. Microtransactions – We’re not big fans of it, but whatever floats your boat! If you think the purchase is justified, by all means.

If you look at the whole package, Brave Frontier is one of the best mobile games out there. Starting with the overall polish of the art and sound, to the controls and actual gameplay, RPG lovers are assured of a good play experience. What can be daunting however is the complexity of the game – with simple one-tap games like Flappy Bird spearheading the game charts in iOS and Android, Brave Frontier might not be the new gamer’s cup of tea. However, if you give it a chance, the game’s excellent tutorials can really help you out and you’ll find it pretty easy to learn.

Y’know, it just doesn’t seem right that we’re twelve days into 2014 but we haven’t even decided on our collective GOTY candidates. Since objectivity runs into subjectivity on these lists, we’ve decided to take the scientific route and use some actual math and statistics to determine our true collective games of the year, based on the 30lives team’s myriad tastes. True science at work, dear friends!

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10. Tomb Raider (PS3, Xbox 360)
Lara Croft makes a triumphant return in the most engrossing and action-packed Tomb Raider ever. There are few dull moments and you really see Lara’s character develop throughout the game. A brilliant inventory system, great level design, and responsive combat mechanics makes it a perfect introduction to Lara Croft for the new generation of gamers. – Shin (read my full review here, dolts)

rabidsmt9. Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)
My second foray to the Shin Megami Tensei world (Persona 4 Golden being the first), SMT4 was one of the games that kept kicking my ass. What a refreshing game for a change too, in a world where today’s games kept holding your hand through the tough levels, SMT will keep kicking your ass until you scream no more and change the difficulty level to Fellows. – Cheena

We reviewed this game a while back too! Point your browsers right here.

8. Dragon’s Crown (PSVita, PS3)
I like 2D scrollers and dungeon crawler games. This became an insta-favorite for me and my constant gaming buddy since it’s one of the few co-op games that we both enjoy. I even bought a Vita version so I can level up my sorceress on the go. – Cheena

Check out our review of Dragon’s Crown right here!

7. Pokemon X/Y (3DS)
Pokemon X and Y
represents the series’ apex as it marks several technological and gameplay refinements that may upset some, but ultimately level the playing field down so new players and those that haven’t been paying attention to the games for a while (this guy) can play at a much higher level than in previous iterations of the series. I truly appreciated how scaleable the game can be: you can either choose to simply partake in this game’s respectable 30-hour quest, or catass yourself all the way to tens of thousands of wasted hours breeding and IV training and such. I would recommend talking to friends and loved ones first before making the latter choice. – Ryan

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6. Ni No Kuni (PS3)
I have been waiting for a spiritual successor to Dragon Quest VIII (one of the greatest games of all time, in my opinion) and this is probably the closest that I’ve accepted wholeheartedly. Ni no Kuni has the elements for a legendary RPG: good writing, lovable lead characters, collectible monsters and crafting. What’s even better is that the game is ensconced in a perfect Ghibli-rendered world. Absolutely breathtaking. – Cheena

Read Ryan’s take on the game here.

5. Saints Row IV (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
To me, video games are ultimately trivial hobbies—this is why I loathe games that take themselves too seriously, or try to pretend to be anything else than an interactive time-waster/rollercoaster ride. Saints Row IV is the ultimate “fuck around” game and in my opinion curbstomps (pause for inappropriate visual) Grand Theft Auto V where it counts the most: the “fun” department. Don’t get me wrong, I had a ton of fun with GTA V but Saints Row IV simply outclassed it as an open-world game (despite recycling much of SR3’s assets) as well as a multiplayer experience. – Ryan

fire-emblem-awakening-624x4044. Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
Turn-based strategy games will always be my favorite game genre and Intelligent Systems has revitalized an old franchise by producing a high quality game. I instantly fell in love with all the characters with all the ‘shipping’ features plus the introduction of the Casual mode embraces all noobs who want to play without the stress. – Cheena

Click here to read Cheena’s musings on FE: Awakening!

 

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3. Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4, Xbox One)
Assassin’s Creed IV made me forget the whole obnoxious memories entertainment “corporation x conspiracy” theories because: Pirates. Fond memories of Sid Meier’s Pirates were rekindled in a much more badass and violent manner. There is so much swashbuckling to do that I almost forgot I was playing an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s that good! -Alex

Last2. The Last of Us (PS3)
Though probably on the top of most gamers’ and outlets’ collective GOTY lists, in my honest opinion The Last of Us falls short for the simple reason that—under any real scrutiny—it’s a solid B+ game and nothing more. Though Naughty Dog has crafted a fine narrative in spite of the staid source material, the game screams “AAA” through and through, splashing on a beautiful coat of paint on your standard “monster closet” design. -Ryan; my full thoughts here

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
A Link Between Worlds reinvents the best Zelda game (A Link to the Past) to make it compelling to play in a concise package. I have not played a game all year long (2013) that made we want to pick up my 3DS and play for consecutive days as long as I could. This is the one 3DS game you shouldn’t miss and one you can repeat through-out the years in the form of speed runs.  -Alex

And there you have it, that’s our GOTY list. Any other games you folks felt should be on our list? Feel free to drop us a line on our Facebook page!

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Although some apprehensions have been raised about the feasibility of Dragon Quest VIII making it to mobile devices, it looks like Square Enix has actually pulled off what seemed to be the impossible, and now have a final working build of the game ready for public consumption. The company has released a teaser video of their progress, in the form of a Square Enix representative playing the game on what appears to be an iPhone 5S. After reviewing the footage, all we can say is… yikes.

So what makes us so squeamish about this footage? Let us count the ways:

  • The framerate appears to be very low; and that’s on a phone that’s barely half a year-old. This will probably run like chop city on my iPhone 5. What really worries me is that this is supposedly the final version of the game, ready to ship.
  • It took about nine seconds from initial loading to landing on an actual menu screen during a battle. Not good; Dragon Quest has always been known for its brisk battles. Granted VIII was an exception to this, but still, this is a mobile title meant to be played in quick bursts where brevity is always appreciated.
  • I actually like the fact that the game is played in portrait mode, but controlling the camera and menu actions appeared to be cumbersome even for what’s supposed to be a cleaned-up promotional video.

“Blah blah blah, let’s wait for the game to acually ship before reserving judgment,” right? I don’t know, man—this promo video doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. At all.

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If you remember, Capcom announced earlier this year that Breath of Fire VI will be coming to smartphones in an immensely entertaining (in terms of Internet reaction and Schadenfreude) press release. Quite frankly, it seems that the company is going into its post-generation cyclical “scumbag mode,” which we’ve seen several times in the past; in just the past two years Capcom has angered and alienated its own fanbase by way of:

  • Cancelling the much-anticipated Mega Man Legends 3
  • Also cancelling any future Darkstalkers games because the HD remakes did not sell
  • Releasing a half-baked mainline Resident Evil title and tarnishing the series’ remaining goodwill
  • Questionably releasing HD remakes of their Dungeons and Dragons arcade games mere months before spiritual successor Dragons Crown
  • Refusing to release a physical version of the latest Ace Attorney title despite clear demand from fans
  • Announcing a fourth iteration to Street Fighter IV as a separate stand-alone title
  • Arguably exploitative/shady DLC practices (Asura’s Wrath being a prime example of this)

And now, it appears that Capcom won’t be winning any of these fans back as the company has announced plans to invest into the mobile scene (an arena where they previously dabbled with using outsourced developers) by opening a new mobile-centric studio in Osaka to the tune of 4 billion Yen. Capcom has gone as far to say that the profits used to fund this venture came from excellent sales of their latest Monster Hunter title, and that it’ll bring the company a much-needed financial shot in the arm.

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SKn76Z3Signs of the times, or simply an inevitability? Square Enix announced today that they’ll be bringing out the 8/10ths of the full gamut of Dragon Quest games to mobile phones everywhere. The giant conglomerate of all things spiky-haired opened a microsite today announcing the release of these mobile ports and… not much else. Dragon Quests I through V have gotten several console and portable remakes, so I’m fairly curious to see what versions of the games they’ll end up using for the mobile ports, but portable DQ8 is kind of a game-changer.

The only screenshot we’ve been able to source is that of a portrait-oriented DQ8 (update: more at Squenix’ press release here)—does this mean that Level-5 or TOSE or whoever’s doing these ports have finally figured out that some of us actually want to play lengthy RPGs with one hand? Sparing the obvious puff-puff jokes, I can’t be arsed to play with landscape-oriented mobile games anymore.

These ports will be hitting Android and iOS handsets starting this Winter in Japan. Given that we haven’t even heard a peep about Dragon Quest X or the 3DS port of Dragon Quest VII‘s localization status, the chances of these games getting an English release are fairly questionable.

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Some of the “vectorized” visuals look off in places.

2005’s North American release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was a fairly pivotal moment for its parent species. Once passed over for localization because it was such a niche title, the game became a bit of a cult hit and for many people, an introduction to visual novels. Not since the days of the ICOM trilogy—Deja Vu, Shadowgate and Uninvited—were visual novel-type games so red-hot in the States. Its status as a testbed for the genre guaranteed that similar games—Hotel Dusk, 999 and Time Hollow being notable examples—would also be released to Western (ersatz Philippine) shores. Fast forward to 2013—if the games weren’t so good I’d say we’re at a point of oversaturation: we have all but one Ace Attorney game localized or pegged for localization, a few WiiWare ports that nobody asked for, an offbeat Takashi Miike film adaptation, and a new re-introduction to Phoenix Wright and his ragtag (possibly individually deranged) gang to the most casual of casuals: iPhone and iPad users.

There’s nothing much to say if you’ve already played the Ace Attorney games to death. They are fairly linear adventures; really the only reason to play them again is to check for any in-jokes you didn’t get the first time around, or perhaps analyze and marvel at the excellent localization effort Capcom delivered. For people who’ve never touched an Ace Attorney game, however: you’re in for a treat.

Good Points

photo 2Gripping courtroom drama that probably destroys any procedural drama show on TV today. Though it doesn’t take itself too seriously at times, the games do get to a point where they become “page-turners,” and “just one more case” quickly becomes “nuts, it’s 5a.m.; I should probably call in sick and/or quit my job.”

Didn’t need to be mentioned again, but the games have a fantastic localization; in my opinion second only to Earthbound as the best of all time. Having previously played through the Japanese GBA games with a translation guide (never again…) the original DS localizations were a breath of fresh air as Capcom’s localization squad was able to adequately translate every single cultural joke, pun, and onomatopoeia from the Japanese versions into very palatable and smart English equivalents.

And really for a game where the script is 90% of the game’s content, this is very much a positive point in the game’s favor.

The soundtrack is top-notch. I personally find the music cues incredibly corny outside the context of the game, but the game’s cheesy soundtrack manages to impress when you’re actually playing the through Ace Attorney’s varying states of intensity. Rising, continuous staccatos capture gripping courtroom moments, off-courtroom fun flourishes with fun ragtime ditties, and conclusions to cases are always punctuated with Phoenix’ signature theme, providing the player with an aural hint of accomplishment.

Great character design and art only sullied by Capcom’s vector interns/outsourced team (more on this later).

Bad Points

7eXEYiLOddly enough, Ace Attorney Trilogy HD runs quite sluggishly on my iPad 3. While it isn’t quite the best and newest iPad out there (well it still would have been if Apple hadn’t cut its balls from underneath it, but that’s a conversation for another time), there’s absolutely no excuse as to why transitions and moving through text on a thirteen year-old visual novel runs at 15 fps. This is quite puzzling as Ghost Trick (from the same company) performs perfectly on my iDevices.

A lot of the redrawn character art looks awful. I’m not sure who to put on fault here, but Capcom’s idea of making a pixel-based game in HD is to farm out the art assets to some interns or third-string artists and vectorize them with some of the laziest tracing and shading I’ve seen since Sailor & the 7 Ballz.

The game is letterboxed in a weird way on the iPad. No true widescreen support on the iPhone too, from what I hear. This bit is just plain dumbfounding: if you’re going to port and target to a certain subset of devices, isn’t it fairly simple to make your UI scalable enough to work on both?

Things that can swing either way

Maybe it’s because I’m playing the game on a much larger screen than the game has any business being played with, but the interface seems very unintuitive. Buttons aren’t placed where you’d expect them to be, and I found myself jumping from end to end on my iPad just to confirm things. Though off-putting, I got used to the port’s interface quirks fairly quickly, so this is a forgiveable trait.

In Closing

Though I’d like to attribute Ace Attorney HD’s primary failings to a lazy port job on Capcom’s part, I don’t think this fact should dissuade potential buyers from at least trying the game out. The game is actually free on the App Store, with in-app purchases for all three games for $5.99 each (or $16.99 for everything), so it’s an easy download away to see if you can stomach the game’s brand of off-beat humor mixed in with hokey melodrama, packed into a silly courtroom “simulation” that doesn’t really follow any real legal proceedings anywhere in the world (that I’m aware of).

Of course, I’m being way too hard on the game because I’ve played all three games multiple times on multiple platforms—the real scoop here is if you’re a casual gamer (or know one) that’s looking for a light-hearted adventure game/novel to spend hours upon hours with, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney HD is a fantastic value, and a great first step towards traditional, “core” games.

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Screenshot_2013-04-12-17-38-47Rumors have always been kicking around regarding Facebook’s desires to enter the Smartphone market. Those rumors died for a while after their first uneventful partnership with HTC which birthed the HTC ChaCha (or HTC Status here in the US).

The ChaCha was an entry-level Android phone that’s notable for two things: its odd screen resolution/aspect ratio, and the “Facebook button,” which was nothing more than a hardware shortcut that would launch Facebook’s sharing prompt when pressed. After the ChaCha was released, the social media conglomerate went back to the proverbial drawing board and the idea of a Facebook phone seemingly went into hibernation.

Today, Facebook released their new iteration on the “Facebook Phone” concept. But instead of releasing a physical device, Facebook is banking on being able to piggyback on a pre-existing Android user base with its release of Facebook Home, essentially a launcher/software overlay that turns your homescreen into a full-screen friend feed. That’s right – if you’ve always wanted to see the inane thoughts of people that you’ve been forced to be “friends” with on Facebook because of societal pressures take up all your phone’s screen real estate, then you are in luck.

Out of pure, morbid curosity, I installed Facebook Home on a spare Android phone that I had lying around (what, you don’t have five hanging out in your nightstand?). Turns out Facebook only whitelisted a scant amount of devices to be able to use the app – including their flagship phone, the HTC First. After some sideloading hoops, I was able to install Facebook Home as well as the updated Facebook client on my obscure little smartphone.

Screenshot_2013-04-12-17-35-17After installing the two requisite pieces of the app and plugging in my Facebook credentials, I was whisked away to my new home screen. The Cover Feed simply takes your existing News Feed m Facebook and displays it in a somewhat visually-pleasing slideshow that moves on to the next story every few seconds. My first impression of the feed validated what I thought when I saw the first teaser videos of the interface. There’s no way my feed will look that good. Ironically, the prevalence of cheap Android phones with sub-par cameras is what destroys Facebook’s illusion. It’s garbage in, garbage out; and unless you only follow people that exclusively post professional photography, all you’ll be looking at are full-screen versions of your friends’ low-resolution photos, regurgitated memes from 9gag, and whatever embarrassing cover photos they decide to put up (see: Borge).

When you’re looking at a well-formatted post though, the interface is beautiful. Your friends’ posts are labeled in stark, white fonts while the associated image (the software will either pull an image from the post if it exists, or simply grab your friend’s cover photo if it doesn’t) slowly zooms by with a faux-Ken Burns effect. It’s a cool-looking alternative to the News Feed, but then again Flipboard kinda does the same thing already. But then again, what’s the point when 90% of what your friends post is drivel that you scroll past by anyway? My, what a charmer I am.

Playing around with the interface even more, there’s a little divot with your cover picture that represents the “bobble” you use to interface with and reach Facebook Home’s different areas: Messenger, which is simply a shortcut for the fully-integrated Facebook Messenger (more on that later); Apps, which launches a simple app drawer with a grid-based list of all your apps; and a “Back” button which — from what I understand — accesses the last app that you used before heading back to the home screen. I can see how this simple interface can appeal to smartphone novices; but as a power user I found the lack of shortcuts confusing. One more complaint: it’s far too easy for your fingers to wander and accidentally “like” someone’s post — it’s as if the UI was intentionally designed that way. Sneaky.

FacebookChatAlthough the actual Facebook Home launcher is fairly underwhelming, it’s almost completely redeemed by Facebook’s genius answer to smartphone users having to juggle multiple chat conversations while actually trying to do something productive. They’re calling this solution “chat heads,” and at the core it’s such a simple idea.

More pixelization than a Japanese woman's hoo-haIf you’re a social butterfly like me, you’re probably consistently struggling with having to switch apps every time someone texts or tries to chat with you. Thanks to the Android operating system’s flexibility and  Facebook’s tight integration with the launcher, Chat Heads let you have an overlay of up to four conversations appearing on top of any app that you’re running. It’s great because I can text or instant message someone while reading an article or watching a video, for example. Instead of having to stop what you’re doing to answer a message, you click on the little Chat Head and it lays the current conversation over whatever you’re doing. One major problem I’ve had with it is that I couldn’t get it to work with group Facebook chats; sadly our long-running Facebook thread with the rest of the 30lives staff sends over a regular Android system notification instead of a Chat Head. Pretty annoying.

Still, I don’t see why Facebook Home even exists. Much like PlayStation Home, it’s an entirely forgettable waste of assets that nobody really asked for; and something that definitely sounded better on paper than in execution. Chat Heads are a genius idea, but couldn’t they have done that without the Home overlay? Not to sound like a complete jerk, but there’s nothing compelling about my Facebook feed that would make me like staring at it after unlocking my phone.

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Remember that scene from The Matrix when Neo received a Nokia 8110 and was warned that agents would be looking for him inside his office?  He was instructed by Morpheus to go scale out the building but he was too much of a wussy and surrendered instead… yeah? Wish you could relive that scene and parkour on building tops?  Then let me introduce you to Vector.

 

 

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Game creator Nekki introduces you into world where people are being controlled in a totalitarian reality where freedom and individuality is nothing more than a distant dream. You try to escape this reality by first taking off the mind-control apparatus from your head, shedding off that corporate tie from your neck and jumping out of the window.  You willl vault, slide and climb obstacles while being chased by the “Big Brother” — whose purpose is to capture and bring you back.  Does it sound like Temple Run/Mirror’s Edge in 2D to you?

 

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Rendering the characters and the obstructions in silhouette form makes it easier for the player to decide which action they want to do — either slide down or climb up a water tower, roll/skip ventilation units, jump into the window of the next building, etc.

 

You can control your character by doing basic swiping motions on your screen.  You can have him jump or climb edges by swiping up, down to slide, and right to roll over.  You can unlock certain moves throughout the course of the game to make it easier for you but is not necessary in order for you to complete a stage.  This game is not exactly a walk (or roll) in the park.  You will commit mistakes if you do not properly time your next action and eventually hit your head or smack to a wall.  If you aren’t t fast enough to flick down the screen, you will waste that precious head start you have while the guy chasing you gets closer or even get ahead of you with his stun gun ready. It’s just a matter of familiarization and awareness of the stage, so wash, rinse and repeat.

 

Vector is a challenging and addictive game.  If you are aware of the game Canabalt and think that it’s just the same potato, it’s not. Vector gives you that rush of blood to the head while maintaining its simplicity in game play unlike Canabalt.  I can easily say that I prefer this daredevilish game over the latter. I played in both smartphone and tablet: the tablet gives you the most convenience by giving you extra screen advantage to swipe and flick without losing sight of what’s next.

 

Vector for Android is a mobile conversion of its popular Facebook game “Vector”, which has already delighted more than 10 million players on iOS, Facebook and other social networks since its initial launch in summer 2012. Unlike the iOS version, “Vector for Android” combines the free and the deluxe version in one single app: 20 stirring Parkour tracks can be enjoyed completely costless. An upgrade to the 40 levels of “Vector Deluxe” is offered inside the app for only $ 0.99. (Source: Nekki.com)

 

For iOS users, you can download the game for the same price of $ 0.99.

 

 

As updates of a new Star Wars movie are published left and right, Zen Studios (known for Pinball FX and Zen Pinball) teamed up with LucasArts to present Star Wars Pinball – both for iOS and Android. Will the game itself live up to the franchise’s stellar (hehe) reputation? Let’s find out.

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Downloading the game for $1.95 will hook you up with an Episode 5 table.  A dedicated Bobba Fett and a Clone Wars story line are unlockable by leveling up into a higher rank or by purchasing them for another $1.95 each.  Basically, the game still uses Pinball FX technology with much Star Wars loving poured on.

You will start off by choosing which side of the force you want to be in.  You can join Master Yoda and the rebel forces, or if you have dreams of becoming a Sith Lord, you can join Darth Vader to the dark side.  It does not really make a difference on the game play as it just separates you on the online ranking board.  The game physics is superb as the table acts as it should – throw the ball around the table like in a real pinball set.  As the game is overall Star Wars, you can see a lot of references such as lines from the movies during challenges and bonuses.  You will encounter Darth Vader using the force to break your ball (the nasty bastard), evade the tie fighters by using the jump ramp, destroy storm troopers, see Bobba Fett fly from one part of the table to another, and yes, a big ass Imperial Walker.

 

 

Overall it is a good time waster but the novelty will fade quickly if you are not into pinball or Star Wars. This game is definitely for the fans of the franchise who need to have their SW fix on the go.

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Star Wars Pinball is available both on iTunes and Google play.  The OS version requirement for Android should be 4.0 (ICS) and above.