Review – Ace Attorney 6 Spirit of Justice

Ace Attorney 6

After two years getting nothing because Capcom’s unwillingness to localize Great Ace Attorney, justice is served for western Ace Attorney fans who can at last come back to court. And they didn’t wait all this time for nothing…

Kurain

The adventures of the remote ancestor Ryûnosoke are a thing of past (literally, by the way). Phoenix Wright, the unrivaled hero of the series, comes back in his famous blue suit for some exotic story, since it happens abroad for most part. Arrived in the kingdom of Kurain to see his old friend Maya Fey (who was his assistant in the first 3 games), the lawyer now in his thirties will soon get itself into trouble in a judiciary system a bit… original.

Reifa

Much to his surprise, the very job of defense attorney doesn’t even exist in Kurain. The judiciary system is considered perfect and the defense of the defendant totally pointless. Phoenix becomes therefore the one and only brave enough lawyer to face the prosecution in this weird country which deliver sentences based… on divination! (Very) young princess Leifa is indeed capable of summoning the memory of the victim and showing his/her last moments of life. Which directly brings us to the big innovation of Ace Attorney 6.

takusen

At the start of each trial, Leifa will “display” what the deceased has seen just before dying, and you surely guessed that it will be right against your case! That said, the dead don’t lie : what you’ll see is completely true and you can’t accuse Leifa of “lying”. However, her interpretation of the fact is not perfect and she will overlook some small details that are key to explain the course of events. That’s were you must strike : the five senses of the victim are displayed and you must find the one (sight, smell, touch, etc) that doesn’t fit with the prosecution’s theory. When interpretation is busted, Leifa leaves and the trial continues in a normal way, that is to say testimonies to examine and evidence to show at the right time.

Mimi

As in Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, Pheonix is not alone. Apollo and Athena will take the spotlight in regular trials taking place in the usual regional courtroom. While the Apollo/Trucy duo will sound familiar because being thrown in a case revolving around the young magician’s performance, it’s clear that Capcom doesn’t really know what to do with Athena, her only trial not having the slightest investigation part!

Yugami

To make up for this, we’re happy to welcome back Simon Blackquill : the prosecutor of Ace Attorney Dual Destines will have a bigger role than his counterparts in the previous episode. Pheonix’s colleagues will face a international prosecutor called Nayuta Samahdi. Monk himself, the character seems almost to far-fetched (even for the series) : his interventions feel repetitive, and he lacks the charisma to live up to Blackquill or even Barok Von Zieks.

monita

Lawyer specialized in psychology, Athena comes back with her famous mood matrix, interface capable of analyzing the witness’s feelings. Used quite a few times in this sixth episode, this system will ask you to find contradictions between the testimony and the displayed mood of the person telling it. The intensity of emotions and the context of the crime are also to be taken into account. This time, you’ll also have to point out and interpret visual elements present in the witness’s subconscious.

Mimi ring

Other gameplay mechanics are still there but more discreet. Apollo will use again its bracelet of truth to detect nervous gestures of people hiding something, and getting them to talk. Pheonix will have a few psy-locks to break : some interlocutors need to be shown a few pieces of evidence to remember stuff or lower their guard. The gameplay variety is thus actually more satisfying than in Great Ace Attorney.

soba

Capcom said they wanted to make Ace Attorney 6 harder so that it wouldn’t look like a mere visual novel. Mission accomplished? Maybe yes, maybe not. The game is very inconsistent in the hints it provides to the player : sometimes you won’t get any help at all, sometimes some allusions may lead you directly to the answer when comes the time to show some proof. Still, this newest episode is back with complex intrigues, countless hypothesis and numerous mysteries. The player’s brainstorming never stops here. Some puzzles were actually nicely tricky, like this one that will hella difficult to localize because based on the Japanese alphabet hiragana.

Akane c

Every time you makes two mistakes in a row, a small “help” command will pop, allowing you to ask the partner’s opinion, who will give more or less directly the solution. Capcom should have found better balance in this, because relying on this option can be felt as a personal defeat by the player, which wouldn’t be the case with the usual hints. Besides, Ace Attorney keeps the “logic path” at the end of each trial. That was far from needed, this system being unnecessary guidance in thinking instead of the player. Another surprising thing is that when you actually lose in a trial, the game doesn’t throw you back at the beginning of the chapter but… exactly where you lost! Saving and game over are just for show : there is no more challenge or pressure.

Yamashino

Ace Attorney 6 does live up to the series’ reputation for its narrative. It then again contain eccentric and amazing characters : among lots of others, the schizophrenic comedian having four personalities, the amnesiac resistance member and… a toy helicopter! All this set of course in a story full of amazing twists and surprises. The intensity of the narrative never goes down in the 50 hours of play or so. The suspense is incredible, the humor is juicy, the emotion will bring you to tears. Impossible to stay unimpressed when the culprits are unmasked or unexpected witness come to court, all the more true that timing coincides with the best music. Reveal the Truth is as good as ever, but Menyo’s theme will rival it this year. Better still, Capcom’s game goes into uncommon topics like Rakugo, traditional Japanese comedy, making its content fresh and original. Interesting also to point out that the last chapter starts on a civil case, a first that makes for an unforgettable confrontation.

Edgeworth

Cherry on the cake, the publisher had some free content ready just after the release of the game in Japan. It’s composed a full additional chapter and two mini-trials. While the latter are mainly fun stuff and parody, the chapter toki o koeru gyakuten adds 20% of content free of charge! It’s as cleverly written as the main chapters, and reunites Phoenix, Maya, Edgeworth and Larry Butz for a trial like “the good old times”. Series veterans, you will be thrilled.

Years go by but Ace Attorney never lowers the experience. Innovating, fascinanting by its well directed narrative, Ace Attorney 6 is a gem for lovers of puzzles and good stories. We’d have wanted Capcom to be more cautious with the gameplay, but it’s nevertheless a huge hit.

E3 2016 Nintendo – His last Breath ?

Zelda BoW

Pretty much everyone agrees that the Big N is in critical state at the time of E3 2016. Sales are on the wane, Sony is gaining ground quickly in the Japanese market, publishers are turning their back on them and gamers are not listening anymore.

Nintendo’s revenues were down significantly (-8%) in 2015-2016. The 4m Splatoon and the 3.5m Mario Maker were not enough to keep them flat, which speaks a lot on how bad the rest of the line-up did. Xenoblade Chronicles X sold average at best : the “proper JRPG” like they say, with only 140K units sold in Japan and a little more than 200K in the US, didn’t live up to the first Xenoblade, which had made JRPG history. It’s clear that Monolith’s latest title had something unappealing about it, and lacked the necessary qualities to be a long seller. Xenoblade Chronicles X doesn’t play in the same league as Bloodborne or Dark Souls III despite the abnormally high marks it got. There’s hoping those arrogant fools refrain from proclaiming themselves kings of JRPG next time, as they have only a tiny fraction of them. The Yokai didn’t set the West on fire, one trump card lost… WiiU has been steady at its low level (around 3m system shipped), but 3DS shipments are down 22% compared to last year, as well as software. With the decreasing interest of third parties, the lack of originality of first party games, the outdated hardware and Miitomo’s short-timed success, the manufacturer is running out of options.

But in the end, its accounts give some leeway. Profitability is still good, as the operating result went up 33% to 32 billions of yens. Nintendo is still fighting to reduce producing and marketing costs : -15% this year again. The weaker net profit (divided by 2.5) is caused by unfavorable parity between the yen and Western currencies, which caused a loss this time instead of a gain last year. When it comes to its core business, Nintendo undoubtedly succeeds in rationalizing its financial structure. The balance sheet hasn’t changed at all, being still excellent. We do notice that even in difficulty, the manufacturer doesn’t lose any money.

Zelda BoW

But saving money is not a long-term solution and of course Nintendo makes plans to improve revenues. It played its last trump card during this E3 by giving a first look of the new Zelda game, called Breath of the Wild. We can come to worry given the disastrous downgrade compared to the technical demo of two years ago. Of what Treehouse showed on Tuesday night, it looks like Assassin’s Creed 1 with cel-shading to hide the poor texturing. The world is absolutely barren and its density is close to Oregon plains… The two mini-dungeons were completed within five minutes : 5 minutes of puzzle every 2 or 3 kilometers, it that the promise of gameplay of a Zelda game? The happy members of Treehouse reach a summit from time to time in order to show the view. Futile effort, the game isn’t displaying anything as good-looking as Xenoblade Chronicles X released a year before. By showing Zelda’s open world next to the one in Watchdogs 2, Nintendo gives the final proof it is lagging five years behind the rest of the industry. If like Aonuma says, the experience is the same on NX, this new Zelda could be its last breath as it won’t compete with the PS4 games of 2017.

Leifa

Nintendo had two new games for this E3. Ever Oasis, an uninspired RPG with character design as poor as Codename STEAM (announced in similar circumstances), and Mario Party Star Rush, which is another worthless rehash. No wonder they didn’t do a direct… The rest of the line-up was far from bad, including Dragon Quest VII, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Ace Attorney 6 Spirit of Justice and above all Pokemon Sun/Moon which is going to be a huge success in the holidays. Game Freak’s IP has never weakened in 20 years. As much as those games are interesting and Pokemon strong, they can’t make Nintendo stand out, make the buzz or fill internet forums. The WiiU/3DS news quickly drown in the continuous waves of PS4/PSVita/Xbox games. Without NX, Nintendo is forced to live in the shadows.

The most interesting point of view on NX is Ubisoft’s. The French publisher announced the next Just Dance for NX and stated that Nintendo’s next console “has potential to recapture the Wii audience”. Let’s stop one minute here to fully understand the meaning of this : Ubisoft is porting Just Dance on NX, but doesn’t do the same for Ghost Recon Wildlands, Watchdogs 2 or any other core gamer title. Aside of that, it says NX is perfect for casual gamers. What if NX were a system made specifically for a mainstream audience and Nintendo long-term fans, without even trying to compete with Sony and Microsoft? That would make sense after Emily Rogers’s (famous Nintendo insider) sources said that NX “was closer to an XboxOne than a PS4 in terms of power” and that “it wouldn’t blow away current gen systems”. If true, NX would be nearly immediately blown away by the PS4 Neo and the XboxOne Scorpio, both strengthened versions of the existing systems. Reggie all but confirmed this in a recent interview when saying that Nintendo was focusing on content rather than raw power.

Whatever it may be, the very fact that NX is not at E3 means that nothing is ready yet. No game can be shown : the development might be harder than they thought (Nintendo is currently learning what most publishers have learned those past 10 years or so), the hardware might need some tweaking to be functional or maybe they just lack third party support. The March 2017 release make us think to a financial deadline, as the company would need the launch revenues by the end of the fiscal term, even if they have to rush the games and risk launch hiccups. Impossible to give a clear prediction, Nintendo’s future has never been that foggy.

Review – Fire Emblem Fates

FE if wall1

3 years have passed since the global success of Fire Emblem Awakening. No surprise then in saying that Fire Emblem Fates is highly anticipated by RPG fans all over the world. Not only this, but this time they have 3 different games to consider.

Yukiri

Fire Emblem Fates Birthright has two particularities. The first thing is that it gets a purely Japanese design. Whereas Fire Emblem Fates Conquest offers your regular western heroic-fantasy-inspired jobs and weapons, this episode innovates completely in that aspect by including weapons from Japanese history. Axes don’t exist and are replaced by sticks, spears are naganitas and of course, swords are katanas. As for classes, samurais and ninjas fight alongside merchants and onmyôjis (sorcerer, kind of). Big novelty of this version, the Phoenix Knight is a flying unit equipped with a bow : a trump card of high strategic importance you’ll want to make the best use of! There’s also a brand new maid class (or butler for men) that exists in both versions. Despite her peaceful and polite look, the maid is a real murderer! A change of universe achieved with great mastery and it gives the player a real pleasure of discovery.

The other big thing of Fire Emblem Fates Birthright is that it’s more accessible than its counterpart. Like Fire Emblem Awakening, you can look for a random encounter on the world map a level up your characters as you see fit, or search for some gold (which is theoritically impossible in Fire Emblem Fates Conquest). The victory conditions are also fairly straight because most of time, you’ll just have to wipe out all the enemies, or beat the enemy general in rare cases. This version is extremely generous for war funds and items : you never lack gold and items meant to boost characters’ stats are rife. Last advantage and maybe the biggest one, healing scepters have a reach up to 2 squares instead of one, which is wonderfully convenient to keep your healers out of enemy archers’ reach.

Setsuna

But do not be fooled by its “easy version” status. Even here, difficulty has been raised a lot compared to Fire Emblem Awakening. Opposing units sometimes possess unbelievable strength, making assaults really complicated. An average unit can survive one or two confrontations, but not three. A character taken on its weak spot is likely to be killed at once. The support system is of course still here but it has be rationalized : you have the possibility to form an attack duo or a defense duo. The attack duo allows two characters to strike instead of one, while in the defense configuration the second character will cover the first from time to time, nullifying the damage. In both cases, characters that have a high level of friendship together will boost their evasion and critical rate. A very rich and well-thought system but be careful, because your opponents will do exactly the same! All gives Fire Emblem Fates a way ore exciting challenge than its predecessor, i.e. battles that will make you sweat and that’s the best thing that could happen.

Anya

Let’s elaborate on Fire Emblem Fates Conquest a bit. Yes, it’s harder, it’s freakin’ harder. The pressure you feel in this version is something else, the challenge is overwhelming. The objectives do change from Fire Emblem Fates Birthright but not that much. True, you have a couple of missions with a limited number of turns or a very tense defense mission, but that’s about it. Most of the time, it’s still beat the boss or wipe out the enemy forces. No, the big difference is that the enemy units really mean business : in some places, even my characters with the highest defense attributes needed a miracle to come back in one piece. The strength of the enemies in the second part is just insane, and they have some crazy weapons, and they receive reinforcements all the time… And yet I haven’t mentioned the high-range, multi-target ballista, or the flying units that double their area of movements, or the fuckin’ bastards who GO THROUGH YOUR DEFENSIVE WALL! (Horrible, the motherfucker went straight to Aqua and one-shot killed her with a headbutt). In classic mode, it drives you crazy in no time. Now I think about it, you were probably told that gold and experience were limited in Fire Emblem Fates Conquest. That is WRONG : DLCs that respectively allow you to level up at wish and collect gold do work with this version, and you’ll probably need them.

The end is less idiotic than Fire Emblem Fates Birthright, but the story in a whole is no better : the main character will stick to fighting in honor and stuff, while his/her brother and sister keep asking to massacre everyone like a kid deprived of its toy. It is ridiculous and embarrassing. That said, I do recommend this version given how intense the maps are.

death

However, the game becomes so unforgiving that is doesn’t really seem made to be played in classic mode anymore : I had to reboot the 3DS more tiems than for all the past Fire Emblem games combined! Maybe I was just tired, but the some positions are awfully difficult to hold. My feeling is that Fire Emblem is getting increasingly closer to standard tactical-RPGs like Disgaea. Not only this, but some bosses also use the ryumayku (see below) which can severely damage several of your units, or even your entire team. Moreover, the game has the bad habit to have you play two chapters in row without saving, that is to say 2 or 3 hours of risky play. Too much is too much, I draw my joker card : casual mode, which allows you to keep fallen allies after the battle, can be used as insurance when the maps drives you mad. Not to mention the fact you can save whenever you want, too. Fire Emblem Fates also introduces a Phoenix mode absolutely astonishing to look at : your dead character comes back immediately on the square he has fallen with full HP! A blatantly ridiculous option that makes game over… impossible!

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Fire Emblem Fates overhauls the armory and finds a different balance. This newest game introduces assassin’s weapons and their Japanese equivalents, shurikens. This brings certain changes in the triangle of weapons, and spell books and bow are also part of it now. You therefore have 6 types of weapons, divided in 3 color codes for more readability : blue weapons are strong vs red weapons, which themselves are stronger than green weapons, the latter having an advantage on the blue. Other revolution, the weapons do not wear down anymore (except healing scepters), but receive some positive and negative effects. It makes the inventory a lot easier to manage as you don’t need to go to the armory every 5 minutes. When you get a weapon, you have it for ever. Besides, there never has been that many weapon in the series, because very special and rares ones can be randomly found at the base. Still, weapon doesn’t disappear because you’ll have to consider a large array of possibilities when choosing your gear. For example, the steel naganita gives a small boost of defenses : ideal to have it equipped when you need to withstand an enemy offensive. On the other hand, the silver spear is very powerful but causes some stats to diminish after the turn, so it’s best to use it when enemy counterattack is not likely to happen. In the same way, some weapons modify speed and evasion, so your strategy actually begins here, in making the cleverest use of the various options.

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Other novelty, Intelligent Systems’s latest game lets you wander within some lively and recreational headquarters called My Castle. You can have all sorts of buildings erected, some very important like the armory where you can acquire better, and the cantina where you can boost your characters’ stats for one chapter. Many others are purely for fun, like the library where you can listen to the soundtrack and re-watch cutscenes, the accessory shop, the hot springs etc. The place is also the center of the multiplayer via Streetpass because that’s where you’ll battle others players’ teams. You can also set traps to slow the progression of invaders. More peacefully, you can also pay a simple visit to your neighbour, use their installations and pick some of their ressources (which very often gives exclusive items). Don’t put too much faith in this picture though, it is impossibe to move while in third-person view.

Building and improve structures has a cost : one or more points (given after each map) of what is called ryumyaku. This concept, which could be roughly translated as «Dragon’s vein», is of utmost importance in Fire Emblem Fates’s universe since it allows the main characters to modify the topography of the environment to their advantage. There are countless ways to use it : activate/deactivate traps, create a typhoon to block air units, change sand into grass etc. A brilliant innovation which further adds to the strategic side of the title.

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A little word on amiibos. My Lukina figure worked like the following : I had to speak to her thrice (and complete a map in-between, each time) to have her join the party. Her stats were not really sufficient (I was past half-game) but her progression margin is superior since her growth doesn’t stop at level 20. Therefore I do recommend to use your amiibos as soon as possible if you want to get the best of them.

anya Gallon

In terms of story, Fire Emblem Fates really fails. For a reason I won’t spoil you here, your character is related to both royal families. This brings a rather awkward tone to the scenario in a whole, including «villains» that are in fact good guys, so they never seem aggressive or evil and can’t be taken seriously. Dialogs often turn like a lunch break family argument… Bosses never die and just retreat pathetically, to return a couple of chapters later. In the same way, let’s stress that you can no longer «talk» to an enemy unit to have him/her join you. In Fire Emblem Fates, any recruitable-looking character must be defeated and will leave the battlefield as if nothing had happened. To play the opposing characters, you have only one solution : buy another version of the game. We can only lament that this long-lasting feature in the series would be ditched for marketing and profit reasons. Beyond that, the main story is neither deep nor is it coherent, with a lot of disconnected chapters to inflate the duration of the game.

Oboro

Another disappointment is the lack of dubbing : as the series took off economically speaking, we could reasonably expect more this time than bits of phrases here and there. It’s really a shame because the Japanese voice actors have been very well chosen, it would have been cool to listen to them more. Sad for you unlucky guys, you won’t listen to them at all. Side conversations are as good as ever, sometimes fun, sometimes moving, they perfectly translate the variety and the genius behind the character design, which once more will drive everyone happy. Still, those who weren’t convinced by the story in Fire Emblem Awakening surely won’t be satisfied here.

Anna

Despite being one generation behind the best PSVita games, Fire Emblem Fates is quite OK technically speaking given the efforts made by the developers to offer a superior rendering compared to Fire Emblem Awakening. The character modeling is still unappealing (faces are especially ugly) but animation has been refined to the maximum. Combat scenes show lots of little details, movements, gestures so good that you never have enough of it. The soundtrack adds to the art tour-de-force : numerous background or combat musics have a beautiful heroic or dark feeling in them. I’ll mention 正義は此処に (seigi wa koko ni), which brought me to tears. Better yet, the rythm accelerates when a battle begins, reinforcing its emotional power.

MC

While Fire Emblem Awakening was introducing a bit of fan-service, Fire Emblem Fates goes full moe and sexy. Besides characters created in that aim (Camilla, Elise, Sakura, etc.), the game has cut-scenes and a mini-game 100% kawaii. It’s all about patting the characters’ head, like in Pokemon but here it’s actual humans, of both genders and various ages. Also, the accessory shop allows you to gaze at your characters in inner clothing.

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But all that is nothing compared to the big surprise hidden in the game : this Fire Emblem directly borrows Senran Kagura’s costume break! In fact, you randomly receive rare weapons that can tear off the clothes of the enemy unit in case of advantage in the triangle of weapons. The character you face will have to keep fighting in underwear! Needless to say, given the censoring frenzy at Nintendo’s these days, those features will need a miracle to stay untouched in the western version. But let’s be serious and talk about the main point of this «trilogy».

Elise Sakura

The Cold War had the non-aligned, Fire Emblem Fates has Invisible Kingdom. This 3rd DLC only scenario changes everything in the flow of events because your character will choose neither side and flee almost alone. From there, the player will have face both kingdoms and convince them to form a great alliance to defeat a common threat, the cruel Invisible Kingdom. In fact, the traditional format of a Fire Emblem. It’s far better than Fire Emblem Birthright (the narrative of which is sluggish and the ending awful), and probably what should have been done from the very beginning instead of dividing the story for financial purposes. It’s still pretty far from the glorious narrative we had back in the GameCube/Wii era but we’ll have to make do. Invisible Kingdom has other qualities like its maps, which are astonishingly clever : one for example is fully covered by ice, and you have t break the ice to progress, the war fog comes back more or less, and another one will have you create clones of your characters who reflect every change of status! (note : after finishing both base games, quite some of those are rehashed). Including all the characters from both versions, all the second generation characters and side missions, Invisible Kingdom clearly is the canon story of Fire Emblem Fates, making the base games almost useless and certainly obsolete.

Fire Emblem Fates is exhilarating both by its near-perfect tactical gameplay and its artistic merits. It’s like drugs : it gives an immense pleasure you want to enjoy for ever. Lucky you, because, you have something like 150 to 200 hours of play to discover its universe completely. It is very unfortunate however that it had to attempt some marketing wizardry, which completely ruined the story.

Status quo and social rift on the Japanese gaming market in 2015

noire-as

2015 is now behind us and it’s time to draw a picture of the market. Lots of figures have leaked from GAF and I spent quite a lot of time compiling data to achieve a top 100 chart of games released in 2015 in Japan, all format combined + digital sales. I also used to data of this post (which goes well beyond 100) and Dengeki’s weekly rankings, taking the most recent figure when available.

First thing that draws the attention is that on 100 games, there 50 on Playstation systems, and 50 on Nintendo systems. Draw? No, the victory again goes the Kyoto-based firm, which dominates the top 10, has all the million sellers and boasts evergreen 2014 titles. But the point of this is to assess to social state of the Japanese market. If you look carefully, 60% or so of the games on Nintendo systems mainly address kids ad the mainstream public whereas very few Playstation games do. Furthermore, 60% of the 50 best selling games on Nintendo’s side were from 3rd party publishers, to be compared with 94% for Sony who just released Bloodborne, The Order 1886 and Nathan Drake Collection as first party games. Given that two of them are rather low in rank, I can say that Sony didn’t hinder its partners’ business this year. The success of western titles keeps growing : Call of Duty is up 33% in 2015, Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront have already topped 200K units sold. Also, I must stress that there are only 4 3DS 3rd games in the top 30, whereas the Playstation ecosystem has 13. Besides the exceptions Monster Hunter, Yôkai Watch and Dragon Quest, the interest of Nintendo platforms from a third party point of view is further diminishing.

But the most striking thing comes when you actually cross those two parameters : in the top 30, there are only two games designed for older gamers, Monster Hunter X and Dragon Quest VIII, two IPs that would sell on any platform given the high level of fidelity and awareness. This means that for 3rd parties, aiming for the care gamers’ market on WiiU or 3DS is a strategic mistake. They better have to focus on Playstation systems to get the best return, and many (all of them actually) are fully aware of that, even those who earn fortunes thanks to the 3DS : Level-5 develops Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom on PS4 and SquareEnix has 13 projects going on PSVita/PS4, but only 2 on 3DS. More than ever, 3rd parties must side with Sony if they want to achieve their goal : make money.

The big question being : how many games are being developed for NX? 2015 has been fairly bad for core gamers’ titles on 3DS and WiiU, underperforming titles are rife. Xenoblade Chronicles X ends up below Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, and is crushed by competing RPGs like Tales of Zestiria, Sword Art Online Lost Song and Bloodborne. Worse still, the ambitious open-world is outpaced by Tokyo Xanadu, Falcom’s modest Vita-exclusive Action-RPG. Takahashi can do nothing but admit its failure at home. Other much awaited JRPG, Bravely Second doesn’t even match the first week sales of Bravely Default. I was saying before, it could never catch up with Battlefield Hardline, that poor mod of Battlefield 4, in sales. The so-called «successor of Final Fantasy» is in shambles. While Nintendo or Level-5 make monstruous amounts of bucks, established IPs fail to sell as expected : Ace Combat Assault Legacy +, Kenka Banchô, Atelier Rorona, Langrisser Re:Incarnation, Project X Zone 2 et Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem can’t avoid the flop. Nearly every indicator points to less implication of 3rd parties with the Big N. But it remains true that if Sony completely withdraws from the portable market in 2017, the market share of its opponent should rise considerably and 3rd would likely immediately come back. Until then, the situation is as such.

While the West has long forgotten the specter of casual gaming, the iron curtain has fallen once more on Japan, divided between family-friendly systems continuously running Yôkai Watch or Splatoon, and gaming vets preferring mature titles like Yakuza, Tales of, Metal Gear Solid or God Eater. This divide is not absolute as both demographics can meet for games like Fire Emblem Fates or Monster Hunter X, but the trend is now crystal-clear : 80% of the games being developed right now in Japan are either for PS4 or PSVita.

Most anticipated games for 2016

Genei Ibun Roku #FE (WiiU)

Eli

Well I’m not waiting for it any more since I’m playing it right now but I was really curious about this mix between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, which turned out to be a girl game like we have loads of them on PSVita. Cute girls, swimsuits, turn-based tactial battle, vocaloid music… Everything’s green as far as I’m concerned.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Gôka Kenran (PSVita)

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The Gakusen Toshi Asterisk anime has been a rather good pick, especially in terms of cast with mostly interesting characters. Hence my anticipation for the Vita game which will include combat between all the characters and a choice-based dating sim.

Kan Colle kai (PSVita)

Vita UI

If it ever sees the light of the day, Kan Colle Vita is highly interesting to me because it could become the spiritual successor to Intelligent Systems’ long lost Advance Wars. You play as an admiral sent to defend territorial waters against the mysterious Fleet of the Abyss. Your units are ships represented by… girls.

Hero Must Die (PSVita)

bookwalker 08/07/2015 , 22:25:28 BOOK?WALKER for Windows - Viewing screen

Rather discreet title form Nippon Ichi Software so far, Hero Must Die is a classic and very original JRPG which starts just after the hero has defeated the final boss (!). The hero is in bad shape and has only a few days left to quell the remaining conflicts. He will meet several buddies who will take up from him. The player will thus learn progressively what happened as the hero’s burial gets close.

Atelier Shallie Plus (PSVita)

Shallie+

More than the previous Vita ports, Atelier Shallie Plus will be the definitive edition of Atelier Shallie. Although paying full price to cover up THEIR mistakes is a pain in the a**, how not to be curious about the real conclusion of the Dusk trilogy? Logy and Ayesha make a triumphant comeback in a revamped adventure, less naïve and with more solid character events.

SummonNight 6 Lost Borders (PSVita/PS4)

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That will be my first time playing SummonNight, essentially because the girl has a cool sniper rifle. So actually I can’t tell you more, since I know next to nothing about the series. I’ll discover everything on release, which is for the best I think.

Pokemon Tournament (WiiU)

PT Lucario

Although it includes very unexpected fighters like Suicune, Pokemon Tournament should have no problem becoming the most interesting home console entry since Gamecube’s Colosseum. BandaiNamco, who co-develops the game, has proven talent in the field and the graphics look absolutely gorgeous.

The Division (PS4)

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Ubisoft’s new game has had some valuable trailers and gameplay sequences let imagine an interesting western action-RPG. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic New York, it’s a struggle for survival in a devastated city in which you’ll have to shoot you way through. Being a cooperative title with high-end graphics and a mysterious setting, I can’t wait to check it out.

Project Diva X (PSVita/PS4)

Miku PDX

Project Mirai being dead and buried, Sega gets back to the Hastune Miku’s main series on PSVita next March, and on PS4 in Autumn. Adding to a new original tracklist and loads of new outfits, a quest mode will give some fresh air to the gameplay with dialogs between the characters and objectives to meet.

Star Ocean 5 (PS4)

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Being a big Star Ocean fan, no way I can miss this long-awaited 5th episode. Not especially impressed by the TGS demo or the characters in general, I’ll be more curious about story-telling and gameplay, that always have been strong in the series.

SAO Hollow Realization (PSVita/PS4)

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Here’s a one I’m not too impatient about given Lost Song having been a terrible experience. Sword Art Online Hollow Realization returns to Aincrad, which I suspect is a way to milk the SAO without taking too much risk. I was personally expecting a Phantom Bullet game… Let’s see if the new original story set in Sword Art Origin (as they call it) will avoid repeating Lost Song’s mistakes. The game has already made definite progress on th graphic side, so why not?

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (PS4)

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Faith jumps into the next generation and comes to a vast and neat world which should revolutionize the original experience : numerous ways to reach the objectives and maybe random side-quests on the roofs. The IP also said farewell to arms so as to underline the free run orientation.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided (PS4)

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Last game of the 2016 western trio, Deus Ex Mankind Divided benefits from the good (and deserved) reception of Human Revolution, which still remains the best western game of last gen to me. Let’s expect an equally deep and meaningful story, a great atmosphere like the previous ones had, and let’s hope the action-oriented scenes shown were just PR.

No Man’s Sky (PS4)

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I’ve talked about it a lot, No Man’s Sky challenge is to make space exploration great again, with true and varied discoveries, a deep game system and innovative interactions. That’s a lot to take up at once, but if it succeeds, it will mark its time.

Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)

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I don’t play racing games that much anymore, but I’ll have to save some time for the new Gran Turismo, the one and only car game I need, since it’s the most beautiful and stylish. And I remember my younger days…

Persona 5 (PS4)

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The TGS trailer of Persona 5 was stunning, I re-watched it countless times. Style, atmosphere, scenario, battles, exploration, characters, side activities… Atlus’s next hit seems to do everything perfectly. The summer will be hot.

Ace Attorney 6 (3DS)

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Phoenix Wright’s vacation will be short. The famous attorney objects back in a new adventure taking place a remote country where attorneys don’t exist, reason being that justice uses… divination! Bringing back associate attorneys Apollo and Athena, Ace Attorney will also introduce a new female rival.

NieR Automata (PS4)

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NiER Automata’s case is simple : it’s developed by Platinum Games, directed by SquareEnix’s elite, so it definitely must become the action GoTY. The whole concept of an android heroine is appealing, the world at large seems to be thought with care… All that remains is playing it actually, and maybe we can finally say good riddance to the dark witch and her unacceptable infidelities.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

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That’s another game I wait for without real hype. Final Fantasy XV wasted time in 2015, and the excitement of the re-announcement is long gone. All we have learned in a little more than one year is that there will be chocobos, xylomids, fishing and a lot of work to actually transform what was in the demo in a major JRPG. No sight of a damn city, nothing! It’s clear that FFXV needs a lot more fantasy in its communication.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

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Flattening FFXV in terms of charisma, Final Fantasy VII Remake seems to approach at high speed given how advanced was the video shown at Playstation Experience. The Kingdom Hearts-style hybrid gameplay seems to fit and the characters have perfectly re-created for the PS4. Episodic? Why not? Such is the value of a legend.

Tales of Berseria (PS4)

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Last year I was in a wait and wee approach towards Tales of Zestiria, but it ended up being my second-favorite game of 2015. So I’ll just do the same and wait peacefully for Tales of Berseria and its heroine Velvet whose background seems dark and beastly.

Gravity Daze 2 (PS4)

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That was not the system I expected to play it on, but it can’t be helped I guess. Gravity Daze 2 on PS4 should revolutionize anti-gravity with an incomparable level of details, multiple interactions and a possible multiplayer mode, which would be super cool.

Valkyria Azure Revolution (PS4)

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I’m not sure it will be released in 2016, I wouldn’t even bet on it but… I FU** CRAVE FOR IT! Reborn from the ashes thanks to Steam (thank you, PC players!), the Valkyria IP slips further on its RPG side but doesn’t lose the military campaign and the anime style. That said, the character design is strangely close to Valkyrie Profile, I recon. One thing is sure : Selveria is here and alive, her legacy being transferred in another character called Brunhildr.

I’m also waiting for Legend of Heroes Sen no Kiseki III (PSVita/PS4), Ace Combat 7 (PS4), Dragon Quest Heroes II (PSVita/PS4), Bullet Girls 2 (PSVita), Saga Scarlet Grace (PSVita), Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 (PSVita/PS4), Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom (PS4), God Wars (PSVita/PS4).

Hum… I suppose the keyword for 2016 will ne “lack of sleep”

Review – Great Ace Attorney

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While Pheonix Wright spends a well-earned vacation, the Ace Attorney series knows no pause and jumps more than 100 years in the past. This time, you will bring justice in Meiji era Japan and Victorian Britain.

Whereas Ace Attorney Dual Destines symbolized the twilight of the judiciary system, Great Ace Attorney describes its early days. Indeed in the early Meiji era, the job of lawyer itself just had been created and there’s much to do to ensure fair trials. In this context, Asôgi Kazuma is sent to learn as much as possible about modern law in the most advanced country in the field : Great Britain. That’s the first problem of this new episode : Naruhodo Ryunosuke, the main character, is not a lawyer and doesn’t even wish to become one before being forced by the circumstances. So from the very start, he looks rather shallow compared to our usual hero in blue suit.

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The transition is very awkward and weights on the narrative in a whole, which ends up uneven. The first trial taking place in the Japanese capital is very exciting, with a number of crazy plot twists and an historical context amazingly illustrated. The Westernization of Japan is described here like it is in Natsume Sôseki’s I am a Cat. It is pretty fun to witness the cultural and economic differences between Japan and the West at that time, as it triggers a lot of hilarious anecdotes. In brief, everything from the costumes to the politics is brilliant of authenticity and history-lovers should love it. Follows a second chapter rather dull, without any trial, and its conclusion is so stupid that the player is left with mixed feelings.

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The (very large) part taking place in the UK immediately revives the interest. Once again, the general design is absolutely fantastic. First of all, the mischievous Sherlock Holmes takes the scene in a very surprising manner, but efficient nonetheless. Every chapter of Great Ace Attorney is introduced like a Sherlock Holmes novel, the second one being no less than an extremely clever parody of The Speckled Band! The great detective is like you’d imagine, very confident in himself and a bit mocking, but there’s a small difference : his conclusion are all far-fetched! This brings us to one of the new feaures. When investigating a location, Sherlock Holmes will make some unrealistic hypothesis : it will be up to you to “correct” it and find out the truth by pointing out the right detail. That said, there are not a lot of those phases, nor are they very complex. In spite of this, Great Ace Attorney full of delicious easter eggs for the readers of Arthur Conan Doyle’s series.

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It’s still a pleasure to wander in past London, where we appreciate once more the genius character design that made the series famous. The secondary characters have been designed in great detail : from the old officer of the British army proud of its service to Scotland Yard, the various situations and conversations of this episode are as good as ever. Cherry on cake, one of your client will be Natsume Sôseki himself! The famous Japanese novelist is totally eccentric, speaking time to time in yojijukugo, those idioms in four kanjis. All that is greatly enhanced by the soundtrack, which contains delightful melodies in investigation, and exhilarating themes in the key moments. Confess the Truth 2015 in particular is sumptuous composing, ideal for the turning points of the trials. On the other, I lament the fact that some characters haven’t been shown in more depth : Susato ends up being a rather classic sidekick without any big role (although Athena had her own chapter in Ace Attorney Dual Destinies) and prosecutor Barok Von Zieks never appears outside the courtroom. That’s the first time the main antagonist haven’t got a proper background, quite a shame…

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The trials of Great Ace Attorney don’t differ much from the traditional gameplay of the series, that is to say showing the right piece of evidence at the right moment. Even though the game rises the challenge a bit by avoiding unnecessary hints like Ace Attorney Dual Destinies had, the evidence list is often not that big and the cases didn’t feel as complex or surprising as in the previous games. That still leaves the fun of solving cases without modern scientific investigations, with weird means like the music box or the botanic book. The game system introduces the jury in the decision process, but doesn’t really change things much as it’s heavily scripted. It’s very much like the multi-witness system seen in Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney (which also comes back in this game) for you simply have to find the contradictions between the jury members.

The 3rd chapter is quite exciting as it’s very tense, and delivers some deep thinking about the lawyer’s role (a it like in the end of Justice for All) : should Naruhodo believe his client at all costs? Should he win by any means? His carrier or the truth? The stakes are high and our young jurist faces a tough choice, and so is the player. The 4th chapter is way less interesting (common crime, unsurprising solving) but fortunately the last one comes to a deeper and more emotional conclusion. The broader story appears more complex by adding a lot of political or technological elements connected to each other. Generally, this latest Ace Attorney comes further close to a visual novel rather than being a puzzle game.

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The last issue with this game is that there are some mysteries left unexplained. The culprit of the first trial flees and you don’t know anything about his motive. The question regarding The Hound of the Baskervilles doesn’t find an answer. Worse, those two characters are shown 15 seconds to never be seen again in the narrative! Is that a sign of a chaotic development or of an upcoming sequel? I would wish for the latter. Another serious letdown : dubbing. Altough the trailers shown before the game came out were all fully voiced, everything has vanished in the final version! It’s as mute as the other entries. When you think that even modest Vita visual novels include full dubbing, some complaining is in order. All the more annoying that Capcom also forbids us from taking screenshots via the Miiverse. Tight budget? Last minute hesitations? Great Ace Attorney looks unfinished…

Uneven, questionable on some parts, Great Ace Attorney is nonetheless fascinating in the fun provided by the characters, the beauty of its design and the outstanding historical rendering. A game definitely enjoyable and moving towards the end, even though the gameplay doesn’t shine like in previous episodes.