Most anticipated games for 2017

Valkyria Azure Revolution (PSVita)

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I’ve been waiting for it a lot more politely” since the horrendous Autumn demo. The Action-RPG focus that has been reconfirmed doesn’t fit with Valkyria’s universe, and the battle system itself is fishy at best. Yet the prologue on PSVita was a little more satisfying, so maybe we can end up with a decent RPG of cool design.

Cyberdimension Neptune (PS4)

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The moment of truth for the Neptunia IP. Compile Heart took more than 1 year to think, work and offer us a game powered by Unreal Engine 4, which is a visual revolution. Still, little is known is this Action-RPG taking place in a MMORPG itself. We don’t know how the developers have calibrated fan-service and innovation, two key-elements to drive the series forward. The producers made very clear promises not to disappoint fans, so they better stick to it and avoid bland compromises this time.

NieR Automata (PS4)

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The demo was exactly what I expect from this game : precise and rich gameplay, Platinum touch in the camera work, an attractive main character, a intriguing world… March can’t come soon enough.

Nights of Azure 2 (PS4)

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Not especially a high priority until a few weeks ago, Gust’s next game suddenly made itself indispensable by its latest video. The least you could say is that there’s quite some “movement” here… Gameplay also looks like to benefit from dramatic improvements as the tag battle system seems quite lively with lots of charming allies. The developer was undoubtely right to postpone it.

Musô Stars (PSVita/PS4)

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How not to be excited when the spiritual successor to the excellent Orochi Warriors 3 Ultimate is almost within reach? For the first time, KoeiTecmo picks characters in all their IPs for a single action game. We’re therefore gonna be able to ease our stress on dozens of ennemies with unexpected dream teams involving Plachta, Oka, Kasumi or Marie-Rose to cite a few.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash (PS4)

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Already called Splatoon PEGI18 by some, the sequel to Senran Kagura Estival Versus trades ninja weapons for water guns, in which you have fancy models like snipers. Takaki-san likes it wet (well, wet cute girls at least) and promise to deliver aquatic entertainment with a few surprises here and there.

Gun Gun Pixies (PSVita)

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While the general feeling of Cyberdimension Neptune remains shrouded in mystery, Compile Heart’s new PSVita exclusive is very clear from the start. Part of all the nice projects lately, Kochiwa producer presents a game close to action Netpunia U, with some novelty in the plot. You play as two very tiny alien girls whose mission is to infiltrate a girls’ domitory, which means a lot of private life scenes.

Blue Reflection (PS4)

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Boasting Gust’s most advanced 3D engine to date, Blue Reflection comes at us as a turn-based RPG featuring magical girls fighting dark demons. Like Persona 5, there will be lot of emphasis on spending time with classmates (including a clone of Hifumi, in a somewhat younger self).

Dungeon Travelers 2-2 (PSVita)

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Only game that ever had me shut down a handheld system in a hurry while I was commuting, Dungeon Travelers 2 had to reconfirm its direct sequel. It’s now official and the base scenario should keep providing juicy situations : the main character of the first game, Freid, has lot to the final boss and was turned into a insolent young boy. All the girls of the previous game have turned into demonic women. Let your imagination do the rest.

Wipeout Omega Collection (PS4)

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Quite nostalgic of the legendary futuristic racing game, the reveal of this ultimate collection at Playstation Experience was pure delight. I can’t wait to compete again on board those distinguished little ships for more speed, violent weapons and cool techno music.

Legend of Heroes Sen no Kiseki III (PS4)

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Falcom will need to be particularly clever if they want to justify Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III as a PS4 exclusive. Graphics are barely sharper so no one will believe that a Vita version wasn’t possible at this point. Despite Altina’s already confirmed return, believe me that I’ll be extra harsh on this.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

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Yes, I’m still waiting for Final Fantasy XV. The game released end of November isn’t FFXV, because it fails to comply with basic rules of FF. No choice but to wait until Hajime Tabata fixes his mess by eventually offering a more compelling experience, with an enhanced narrative and more playable characters.

Dragon Quest XI (PS4)

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While FFXV has seen rampant westernization, Dragon Quest XI is so faithful to its roots that I’d want to hug it. Here’s what I call a JRPG cast with varied styles of characters, and the first trailer clearly shows it will remain true to its genre.

I’m also eager for Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom (PS4), Gran Turismo Sport (PS4), Itadaki Street (PSVita), Tekken 7 (PS4), Gravity Daze 2 (PS4), Happy Manager (PS4), Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4).

Review – Dragon Quest Heroes

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Welcome home. Those are the words the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Asia addressed to Yuji Horii when unveiling Dragon Quest Heroes. There had indeed been nearly 10 years without a Dragon Quest title on a Playstation system. After a smashing success in Japan where it shipped 1 million copies, this action spin-off of the famous RPG franchise comes to the West only of PS4. Good thing since that’s the one I’ll tell you about.

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The now well-known studio Omega Force being in charge, it is a Musô-like game (like a Samurai Warriors) which is delivered to us. You thus have in hands an action-RPG like any other, where you’ll level-up, learn skills, create accessories and do side-quests to get stronger. Combat is in real-time and each character has 3 or 4 combos with various combinations of square and triangle. It’s kinda too few, but there are also 4 magic spells that you can activate quickly with L1, and a highly destructive super-attack you can unleash when your fury gauge is filled. Magic and physical attacks can be linked in seamless fashion so that control can be mastered in no time. Only drawback : dodging is set on R2, which not as convenient as circle (used in God Eater for example).

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But KoeiTecmo and SquareEnix haven’t merely copied the Musô formula with a Dragon Quest skin. The game system is different. In Dragon Quest Heroes, you’ll be very often defending a location or a NPC as monsters come from everywhere. You have to cover all sides at the same time : before you can clean one part of the frontline, monsters will alread been rushing on another side. In order to complete those missions, you’ll be able to rely on ally monsters (that you acquire by picking up medals) and place them at strategic locations to have them hold the ground for you. There are dozens of them, actually the entire bestiary of the series! The game is pretty easy in its first half so that’s a bit disappointing, and the enemy troops are always not as massive as in Samurai Warriors. That said, the challenge makes more sense in the late stages of the story, where stronger fiends make battles really fierce. Let’s stress that some free DLCs in Japan throws you against insane opponents. The big letdown is the lack of multiplayer, despite it being traditionally a huge added-value of “Warriors” games.

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Before being an action game, this new SquareEnix title is a Dragon Quest, a true and pure one. Of course, you can play as legendary characters such as Alina and Manya from Dragon Quest IV, Jessica and Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII, Bianca and Flora from Dragon Quest V. 13 in total in you include the main characters created for this game. Both have a personality and fit in the Dragon Quest universe very well. Against you march numerous classic enemies of the series, like Slimes and Killer Machines. Not to mention gigantic statues and dragons which are impressive bosses.

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This title is a true rejuvenating experience because the it sticks to the Dragon Quest universe from back to front. Music, sounds and even the icons during the dialogs are the same as years ago! In the Japanese version, even the writing style is taken from former episodes, that is to say few kanjis and spaces between the words (which is traditionally implemented in games aimed at kids, like Pokemon). In the same way, dialogs are easy-going but keep to comic tone of the series, though it prevents the story to be surprising in whichever way.

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While you do feel nostalgic by playing it, it doesn’t mean Dragon Quest Heroes is not modern. True, it’s not the most complex PS4 game graphically speaking but it remains visually stunning. That’s not for the character/background modeling, average for the system, but for the incredible flurry of sparkling colors, especially of magic and skills. Animation is of great quality too, as the rapid frame rate never drops. There are also lots of tiny animation details like when the characters are stun or exhaust the magic that make it a whole new Dragon Quest experience. The numerous cut-scenes are beautiful and extremely well directed, like in pretty much every SquareEnix title. The last artistic feature is the small blurry effect that occurs when you beat a boss, which is truly exciting for people like me who love to use their Share button.

Dragon Quest’s return on Playstation is a definitive success with that PS4 episode. It reunites both the old and the new and can appeal to any Japanese gaming fan. A fun and exciting game so fully Dragon Quest that it gives shivers of nostalgia.

Most anticipated games for 2015

Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4)

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After years of low ambition, the Dragon Quest series is finally back on Playstation with a beat’em-all developed by no other than Omega Force. First DQ boasting actual technical prowess since DQVIII, Dragon Quest Heroes ressucitates heroes of the past on PS4 on a most stunning fashion. Another important thing, DQ will talk to you for the first time and the presence of renowned voice actors for this spin-off is a small revolution. And as (almost) always in this type of game, online coop’ will make it even more enjoyable.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus (PSVita/PS4)

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Difficult to stay in one place given the growing hype at each new series of screenshots. It is now clear that producer Takaki intends to use as much power he can from the PS4, not simply upscale the 3D engine from Shinobi Versus. The alpha version of Estival Versus is already a lot more expressive than Shinobi Versus. Add to this several new characters, more narrative and a multiplayer mode up to 10 fighters, and you easily find out what I will do first when I set foot in Japan in April.

Hyperdimension Neptune V-II (PS4)

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With great remakes and yummy spin-off we waited, but now is the time to enter the following of the canon story of Hyperdimension Neptune on PS4. That said, numerous articles in the Dengeki didn’t reveal much, except the downright kawaii goddess form of Uzume, absolute opposite of her cool behavior in human form.

Bloodborne (PS4)

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Is it really necessary to further introduce Bloodborne? Everything or so has been said on this PS4 exclusive that makes the entire world shiver. This action game and its oppressing atmosphere lets us expect hours of bloody pleasure in the dark.

Metal Gear Solid V (PS4)

Ground Zeroes didn’t tell as much as I expected in terms of story. We’re therefore more or less still at the starting point today. We do know however that The Phantom Pain will be considerably larger an richer than any Metal Gear to date, which reason enough to be impatient.

Tales of Zestiria (PS3)

Can Zestiria make the revolution like Xillia did before him? There’s hoping that, but it will be difficult and I’m waiting for Zesty rather placidly, just for Edna actually.

Makai Trillion (PSVita)

Definitely my most anticipated Vita game this year. The character design is absolutely unbeatable, 3D modeling excellent, storyline wack as I like them… Screens of the UI recently surfaced in the Dengeki and let imagine a new type of gameplay mixing dating and time managment.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

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I’m waiting for FFXV in both hope and anguish. Bad news (only Noctis playable, no female party member) cast a shadow on the impressive trailers, the gorgeous graphics and its immense-looking world. I don’t know how this will end, but it will be interesting to see how the situation evolves.

Also on my shopping list : Final Fantasy Type-0 (PS4), Great Ace Attorney (3DS), Sword Art Online Lost Song (PSVita), God Eater 2 Rage Burst (PS4), Grim Fandango (PSVita), Dead of Alive Last Round (PS4), The Division (PS4), Xenoblade Cross (WiiU), IA/VT Colourful (PSVita) and Fairy Fencer F Advent Dark Force (PS4).

What’s next for SquareEnix?

It can’t be argued that the sales of Final Fantasy XIII-2 are disappointing. SquareEnix now has to move on taking into account that its star franchise is not getting the support it used to, but where does it head for? 

First, there’s that strong inclination towards westernization : the Japanese (?) company is now focused on two AAA titles directed to the US and European market. I mean of course Tomb Raider and Hitman Absolution, games that the publisher intends to sell by millions to the numerous fans of the action/adventure genre. SquareEnix is so deeply involved in this approach that it has just ressurected the True Crime franchise to as a new project.

In Japan, players will have to make do with non-ambitious titles such as Theatrythm, Lord of Apocalypse, Bravery Default, Heroes of Ruin or the laughable Army Corps of Hell. Not to mention the childish Kingdom Hearts 3D, which pales in comparison with former entries of the series. Dragon Quest X should once more lure many Japanese fans, despite increasingly poorer content and an expensive subscription bill.

FF-centric news are no better : Type-0 looks more or less canned in the West, and there’s not been even a tiny bit of information on VersusXIII for a year. FFXIII-2 should get DLCs of unequal interest in the months to come.

SquareEnix, split between the promise of a Western EL Dorado and the financial security of immediately profitable spin-offs, seem to have lost sight of its fanbase, a scattered diaspora that doesn’t weight anymore in provisional budgets. Let’s hope the firm surprises us by E3 2012, or else someone will have to call Squaresoft’s funeral…

Catch-up post – 四回目の来日!(4th time in Japan)

At a first glance, you could think that I’ve grown quite blasé when landing at Narita International Airport. But the familiar scent of extreme humidity filled my thoughts with nostalgia so vivid that I felt like coming back home after a especially painful semester.

There were very few surprises in Tokyo : most of the games I had been looking forward to buy were available at rock-bottom prices (including the Blu-Ray of Advent Children and the demo of FFXIII at less than 3000) and as you could expect, a annoying number of people were brainlessly playing Dragon Quest IX on their DSs. I cannot fathom why those people don’t realize how much damage they’re doing to the future of this industry by encouraging such practices. It’s plainly obvious that SquareEnix is not doing any effort for us fans and concentrates on its statement of income. Dragon Quest IX is the second example of ‘how you jump backwards in technology’ (the first being Valkyrie Profile : Covenant of the Plume, which was dull and unpopular) : Dragon Quest VIII was working fabulously on PS2, but now we just have a weird-looking DS RPG the sole purpose of which is to suck money out of the poor fellows that have been supporting the series just to be betrayed. And now we have Final Fantasy Gaiden, the first Final Fantasy for the 6-year-old and less (on DS also) that should bring whooping money as well as howls of anger from people infuriated by the lack of good games. Last, but not least, Monster Hunter 3, developed on Wii for the sole purpose to take advantage of the scandalous number of systems sold in Japan, has been making the headlines of every magazine since we arrived.

We went for a udon in the evening, but just to run into another billboard dedicated to Dragon Quest IX… the curry udon was slightly less tasty than usual.

Initially published in French in August 2009.