Enough of E3! Let’s talk about other games #2016

Atelier Firis (PSVita/PS4)

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After a rather average Atelier Sophie, Gust had to react and strengthen the series. Looks like they’re doing so, by the looks of the enhanced graphics, evolving and more convincing character design and the innovating game system. The adventure is no longer centered around one town and Firis’s base camp will be mobile. Moreover, choices you make on the world map will cause slight changes on the flow of events. NOCO and Yûgen seem to have sharpened their skills on those first characters, NOCO in particular taking a more mature/sexy orientation. Yûgen has this curious character called Ilmeria, who makes me think she can be a Meruru successor in some way. I must admit that the improvements are stunning so far.

Kangokutô Mary Skelter (PSVita)

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A Compile’s Dungeon-RPG that I am eager to play, partly because the devilish art direction is conducted by Kai Nanameda, already behind Trillion, God of Destruction. This DRPG takes a survival approach by its ghostly Nightmares who will hunt you down so fiercly you’ll have to run away. Several jobs have been unveiled, as well as a Genocide mode in which the girls gain immense power when in contact with ennemies’ blood. On the contrary, licking the blood will heal them, but remove the Genocide state. A gameplay balance in which risk-assessment will be key.

Sengoku Otome (PSVita)

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Weird background for this game since taking its origin from a anime itself coming from a pachinko! Sengoku Otome is kind of the Oda Nabuna game we never got : this fighting game which seems to play like Senran Kagura features girls representing general from feudal Japan. The ambitious Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes a shy pink-haired girl while Toyotomi Hideyoshi turns into a blonde loli. As much as I feel sorry for those great men, the paradox looks rather fun.

Root Letter (PS4/PSVita)

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A visual novel of fascinating concept. The player has had a pen friend called Aya, with whom he has exchanged 10 letters. In the very last one that he finds and reads years later, she admits committing murder. From there the game start as an investigation thriller, in which you have to find Aya’s former classmates to uncover the truth.

Black Rose Valkyrie (PS4)

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Compile Heart is going into something a bit different for this game, because one of the girls of Black Rose Valkyrie is a traitor. So while fighting against a fierce virus and monsters called Chimeras, the main character will also have to regularly question his allies, very much like in Lost Dimension. Reminding Galapagos’s works in a lot of ways, it also features costume break as it was in Omega Quintet.

Idolmaster Platinum Stars (PS4)

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Stunning by its sharp anime style, Idolmaster Platinum Stars will be my first step in that famous IP. Sure had to go into it one day. The player once more takes the role of a star manager and will have to lead his girls to the top of the entertainment business. You really start from scratch this time, because you pick the girls at the very beginning of their career.

Tokiden 2 (PS4/PS3/PSVita)

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Not much to say more about Tokiden 2 since I wrote a lot about the demo last time. It’s just matter to check how large the world really is and the improvements made to combat.

Caligula (PSVita)

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An RPG to have on your radar for its original base story : the students in Caligula are trapped in a fictitious ideal world created by a vocaloid called μ. Although the digital singer actually protects them from the wicked real world, those young men and women decide to stop living a lie ad will seek to destroy μ. Centered on the subject of digital worlds, Caligula benefits from genuine vocaloid songs.

A look back at some E3 2016 videos

Fate Tamamo

Nier Automata (PS4)

Not such a good a trailer, because it’s ill-paced somewhat. That said it does show a bit of exploration. Which surprised me to be honest, I thought that it would be a «corridor» game of sorts. I was obviously wrong about that. There are a few seconds of battle, but very valuable seconds! It’s ultra fast, super thrilling, you have to dodge countless stuff, the boss design is wild and… well, please this release quickly, SE.

Battlefield 1 (PS4/XB1/PC)

As usual another masterpiece of a trailer from DICE. Immediately in the flames of war by the scene inside the tank, Battlefield 1 is showing off its dream-like 3D engine to make World War more real than any documentary. The violence and the fury of combat is breathtaking . It was by far the best-looking game of E3, and the choice of a lesser known era really gives the sensation to experience something new.

Fate Extella (PS4/PSVita)

Although I only know the Fate IP by watching Ilya, this new beat’em all by Marvelous has my interest for the extraordinary quality of the action. The number of foes is seriously impressive, more than in any Warriors game. The combos are quite flashy and lavish in their colors and large moves.

Tales of Berseria (PS4/PC)

My hypometer rose a bit further after this trailer. The narrative seems very dark and you can sense strong hatred and rivalries already : two things that generally lead to great JRPGs. Velvet is such a awesome character, Namco’s Lighting I’d daresay since she seems to have every possible quality you’d expect from a female lead, including a well-chosen voice actress. The general design split between holy, darkness and burlesque makes a great artistic touch even though the 3D engine looks quite worn off.

Gravity Daze 2 (PS4)

Despite my anger towards the fact that it’s not coming to Vita, I have to admit that Gravity Daze 2 looks more beautiful and richer each passing day on home console. This trailer show how much SCEJ is serious about this : the town is extremely lively, full of colors and the particle effects get sharper each time the game is shown. It’s pretty that it looks exactly like a live comic. I thought the kinda vintage music was very clever too. The framerate does show some weaknesses so we’ll have to wait for a future build, but I think I can can at last put my frustration behind me.

E3 2016 Nintendo – His last Breath ?

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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.

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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.

E3 2016 Sony – Divided we stand

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Sony comes to E3 as victor. Not only does the lack of NX and Microsoft’s current state of weakness clear the way for him, but the manufacturer can also boast growing economic results. Its consolidated result has more than doubled, and is now positive.

Surprisingly it’s not by achieving superior sales that Sony reached profitability : revenues are slightly down. On the other hand and very much like its rival, the electronics giant has been mainly saving money. Production costs have been reduced by 2%, administrative costs by 6% and other expenses by 72% (but the latter represent a much lower figure). It’s fairly obvious on several product lines (mobile, TVs, photography) which sees their profitability boosted by the lesser costs. Only black mark on the record, semi-conductors are unhealthy and dive into the red. Batteries and other pieces aren’t very competitive any more, and caused amortizations.

The gaming division is still shining : the branch’s operating result surged almost 100% thanks to staggering PS4 and PS4 software sales. Sony had planned 16m shipments for the system, and ended up shipping 17,7m. Clearly the powerful partnerships signed in 2015 have brought results, AAA games players generally preferred PS4 versions. By doing multiple astonishing conferences throughout the year, Sony gave some line of sight t customers who know they’ll have plenty of choice between Western and Japanese games, including countless exclusives. Japanese games seem locked for PS4 and Vita as publishers drive away from 3DS. We’ll have to wait and see how they react to NX, but as things stand Sony has almost everything. It’s worth noticing that the Playstation Network alone generated more revenues than the whole Nintendo. Yes, the domination is huge.

Sony is then able to multiply its consolidated operating result by 5! As for taxes, the firm finally eases the pain, because its net profits allow a reversal on deferred taxes amortizations and much to its delight, Sony received direct tax benefits. The manufacturer seems definitely in luck.

Akiba Beat

Sony’s E3 actually starts well before the show officially opens. In the first days of June, a frenzy of reveals takes place in the gaming world and developers put everything on the table right away! Horizon Zero Dawn gets a release date, as well as Dragon Quest Builders, World of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 2.8. Gran Turismo Sport is shown again, Persona 5 details its plans for America, Final Fantasy XII HD is unveiled, Akiba’s Beat is announced (worldwide), Fate Extella and SummonNight 6 let us know they are being localized and Tokyo Xanadu all but confirms it’s coming west by being ported to PS4. The producer of TitanFall 2, before saying anything about his game, warmly welcomes PS4 gamers. The play stands for EA’s futuristic shooter are all PS4. The Japanese company couldn’t be more pleased… PS4 Neo (the super-powerful 4K version of the system), which was supposed to be the star of the show, is confirmed but doesn’t make any appearance at E3. So what’s left for the conference? Will there be even crazier things? Confusion and suspense cause headaches, but Playstation has already won the first round by the usual method : games, games, games.

Before we answer the above question, you have to consider what happened after the conference. It so happened that most publishers released their trailers once the E3 doors were officially opened. In mid-day in the 14th, several companies posted trailers more or less at the same time, making it difficult for any of them to stand out. NieR Automata is briefly seen with 1 minute of video or so, accurate details being saved for the next Famitsu 2 days later. Tales of Berseria reminds us that it comes West, as well as Sword Art Online Hollow Realization which can’t avoid a delay to 2017. Attack on Titan, Ni-Ô and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 also gatecrash during the afternoon. The power of the rich line-up is indeed on the showfloor, but you’re probably starting to imagine the problem.

TLG

Fatally, with that much content before and after, there is little left for the conference, short and lifeless. By focusing on a couple of western-centric games (God of War, Days Gone, Spiderman, etc.), Sony shatters the unity and diversity that made it strong last year in every part of the world. The company looks like it doesn’t want to unite its fans anymore. The Last Guardian only got 3 minutes of a confusing trailer, and Gravity Daze 2 won’t even be shown (it had been in the Paris conference). Poor Kat’s trailer will be posted in the internet just after the conference, like a bone thrown to a dog. Meanwhile, the conference features Skylanders and Lego Star Wars Episode 7. It’s absolutely pathetic, a conference where you prefer Skylanders to Gravity Daze is is FU** BULLSH**! “4 the players” has become “4 the masses”, a retarded view of the industry in which you don’t take any risk, stop innovating in order to get easy cash. Art and diversity will manage to survive someway, they must think… This conference should have included games like Persona 5 or NieR Automata, at least to balance its message and so that its host lives up to its leadership. That night, Sony was everything but a worldwide leader. Microsoft invited Platinum Games, SquareEnix and BandaiNamco on stage, Sony couldn’t care less and doesn’t even answer to that. The Japanese manufacturer keeps thinking locally in the biggest international show of the year. Huge mistake : Sony is being divisive at the very time it must gather people together.

Playstation VR, awkwardly pushed by worthless-looking in-game features, doesn’t make us optimistic either. Batman VR, Stra Wars X-Wing VR, a dumb shooting mini-game for FFXV in which you play as Prompto (the least character you’d want to play as) are announced without a single detail on how they are played. Eagle Flight and Star Trek VR from Ubisoft clearly look bad, so at this point you’d pretty much pity virtual reality.

RE7

Until that moment. Resident Evil 7 is announced by a frightening trailer and is indeed back to its horror roots. Fear is back and action is sacked. Fans rejoice, and even more so when they find out that it will be 100% VR compatible and that a demo has been discreetly delivered on the PS+. The short gameplay is absolutely scary on a regular screen : the atmosphere is so oppressive that the first noise almost cause a heart attack. Just imagine that in VR! The demo is also rich and complex, including several endings and little secrets. It’s quickly made a strong buzz in the web, so that might be the killer-app PSVR needs to take off.

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In Japan, Famitsu reveals that Project Diva X will be updated to be compatible with PSVR in the future, to coincide with Hatsune Miku VR Future Live. Both titles allow the player to watch Miku’s performance in a more intimate way. Summer Lesson, Harada’s bizarre game which puts you in relation with pretty chicks, finally becomes a full-fledged launch line-up product. Of course, this information is not discussed at E3, SCEA having closed cultural borders. At the very least, PSVR has a chance to sell decently at launch.

In short, this E3 is a leap forward for Playstation, but a huge step backwards for Sony which is weak and divisive. While its accounts have never been better, the manufacturer plays it safe and entrusts part of the promoting job to publishers and the community. The Playstation ecosystem widely dominates in both number and variety of releases, but this rich line-up has to live in blackout. We’ll have to observe how this situation evolves and if Sony really decided to leave part of its audience behind.

Enough of E3! Let’s talk about other games! #2015

Yoru no Nai Kuni (PS4/PS3/PSVita)

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After barren months full of bullshit, Gust makes its great return with the new IP they had promised long ago. Yoru no Nai Kuni, Nightless Country probably when localised, is an Action-RPG that plays a lot like Drakengard 3, yuri elements added. The main character Arnas will also be able to summon creatures & demons and even transform into them. Graphically speaking, it is much like the latest Atelier titles, that is to say good character models but barren environments. No catch this time, Yoru no Nai Kuni releases on PS4, PS4 and PSVita at the same time.

Blanc + Neptune Tag vs Zombie Army (PSVita)

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Blanc won the popularity poll of the Neptunia series in late 2014 (I would like to recount the votes though), and has thus the privilege to be the star of this new spin-off. New? Nothing sure about that so far, since it seems to directly inherit the assets of Neptunia U Action Unleashed, plus the school setting and the multiplayer mode.

Tokyo Xanadu (PSVita)

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Falcom is hungry for challenge. Rather than rushing Sen no Kiseki III, the rising Japanese developer invests in a new IP exclusive to PSVita! Tokyo Xanadu trades Heroic Fantasy for urban legends and will explore parallel worlds to the Japanese capital. This Action-RPG will have you control a duo of characters, with of course combined attacks like in Sen no Kiseki. Falcom’s genius design needs no introduction and the graphics seem slightly above Sen no Kiseki II.

Valkyrie Drive (PSVita)

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The Senran Kagura license takes a pause and Kenichiro Takaki takes up the consumer game part of the media mix project Valkyrie Drive. Titled Bikkhuni (no, not bikini), the game seems to take the recipe of its model. Not much details have been shared to date, we’ll have to wait until its simultaneous release with the anime Mermaid and the smartphone game Siren that share the same universe.

Kan Colle Kai (PSVita)

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Tired to see Nintendo and Intelligent Systems doing nonsense like CodeName STEAM instead of delivering Advance Wars 5? Kan Colle kai is for you! In this turn-based strategy game will have you build squads of shipgirls to counter the dark army of the Abyss. Be careful though, their gear is sensitive to impacts. This port of the ultra successful browser game is going to be a Vita best-seller if preorders are to be believed.

Ace Attorney 5 (3DS)

One of the (numerous) missing games of the Nintendo Digital Event, Great Ace Attorney prepares its summer release in Japan. The preorders are dangerously low but it won’t prevent it to become a reference of the 3DS line-up this year. Benefiting from Capcom’s technical mastery to make a gorgeous 3DS game (which Nintendo doesn’t even try anymore), this latest entry also appeals by its leap back in time. Great Ace Attorney explores the Japanese & British Empires in the end of the 19th century, with astonishingly appropriate design. I recently played the short demo dropped on the Japanese e-shop and it already looks FAN-TAS-TIC!

Makai Shin Trillion (PSVita)

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Always delayed, never hit, the fateful day arrives for Makai Trillion. I will get my most awaited game on July 23rd. Despite two delays, the hype is still intact thanks to the regular Dengeki articles that have shown tons of new bizarre NPCs, amazing artwork, details on the progression systems and suspense. Compile Heart’s game actually features permadeath like Fire Emblem, so the choices will be heavy. The user interface shown above has a flurry of parameters such as friend level, fatigue, money, and many tabs that pretty much guarantees extensive management. Atelier’s succession might be here.

A look back at some E3 2015 videos

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Metal Gear Solid V (PS4/X1)

A few monhs before release, Konami’s last big game communicates its main theme : language. To Snake, the language can be a means of domination as well as a way to unite the people. Choosing a brilliant background music, Elegia by New Order, this trailer delivers some astonishing twist in showing a character whom we saw die in Ground Zeroes. There’s obviously plenty more in store : the subject of the creation of the perfect soldier is most likely back and Big Boss is seen running from a first generation Metal Gear that is supposed to be built 20 years later.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (PS4/X1)

You’ve been keeping Faith in your heart and you were right : Mirror’s Edge sequel, called Catalyst, will be in our consoles in February 2016! Rather than a actual sequel, Catalyst seems to tell a older story, where the young Faith learns the hard way that her city has become nothing more than a rationalized dictatorship run by the big business. The open world of impressive scale and details might lead to another revolution in gameplay.

Star Wars Battlefront (PS4/X1)

Everybody was snoozing at this point of the conference, but EA had readied Hoth gameplay of Star Wars Battlefront to jolt the audience back awake. And they did it. You can’t possibly be ready for THAT level of immersion : sounds are top class, the incredibly detailed snow or explosions guarantee peerless technical prowess, and of course the very end of the video is… breathtaking!

Final Fantasy VII remake (PS4)

Some days before E3, a discreet news confirmed the remake of Final Fantasy VII. Busier with more flashy leaks, everyone discarded that as another groundless rumor. SquareEnix played it pretty well with this trailer thrown just after the bizarre World of Final Fantasy. You understand only very slowly what is at stake, surrounded by a tense music, and then you know it : the legendary RPG will be remade for PS4, the has been made. Nomura has started teasing already, since he said that the remake would not be identical to the original.

Genei Ibun Roku #FE (WiiU)

Vocaloid Music, check. Boobs, check. Dating, check. Bikini, check. Tsundere, check. Idol, check. No doubt this time, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem has lost all aspect of Fire Emblem or Shin Megami Tensei. While Egyptologists are still hard at work on its new title, the content is no more the dark and epic crossover people had expected but a pure bishojo game full of kawaii lolis to appeal to otakus all over the world. Needless to say, that made it the most interesting game on Nintendo’s side, which is hardly difficult given the rest…

NieR 2 (PS4)

What you say? Waifu? Katana? Platinum Games? PS4 exclusive? YES! Biggest and most wonderful surprise of this E3, the new NieR takes a new art direction close to Drakengard 3 (the good one) and on board the best possible talents to make it awesome. More details are to be shared in September, which means the Sony pre-TGS conference.

Star Ocean 5 (PS4)

SquareEnix didn’t come to E3 for nothing and takes from its trunk Star Ocean 5, which is confirmed for the west for PS4 at the same time. Besides the high graphical jump compared to The Last Hope (movement of clothes/equipment and depth of field), we can see 6 characters fighting together in battle! A exciting first look for this newest entry.