Most anticipated games of 2018

Fate Extella Link (PS4/PSVita)

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How great to see Marvelous keeping Vita version for Fate Extella Link ! PS4 version obviously getting a huge graphical overhaul, it was far from guaranteed. But yes, we’ll be able to fight for the holy Grail in cross-play, with new fun or classy characters like cute Astolfo or sexy Sacthach. There’s even a full Mah-Jong game in the limited edition !!

Girls und Panzers Dream Tank Match (PS4)

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Girls und Panzers on PSVita already being a good adaptation, I’m looking forward to experiencing the same sensations in a prettier, smoother and richer PS4 entry. Girls und Panzers Dream Tank Match features all the characters, all the tanks and all the battles from the movie, all this also in multiplayer.

Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet (PS4)

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At long last ! Three years… I’ve been waiting 3 years for an SAO game taking place in the fantastic universe of Gun Gale Online, featured in the Phantom Bullet arc. I’m gonna be able to SNIPE at will as Shinon or the original avatar. Because Bamco finally understood that the player wants maximum choice : you’ll have Kirito and his friends plus an original character to create yourself, who’s gonna have its own story. Artworks looks extremely promising and multiplayer should be implemented again. It’s time for SAO to be back on top.

Senran Kagura Burst Renewal (PS4)

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Thanks to Senran Kagura Burst Renewal, we’ll almost be able to wipe the series history clean of Nintendo systems. The founding game telling the story of the first two ninja schools is being remade for PS4 in splendid 3D and 60 fps, with redesigned menus.

Shining Resonance Refrain (PS4)

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Clearly no one expected Shining Resonance to show up again. And when you think it’s coming back with a whole new scenario in which you have Jenuis and Excella from the start, the hype goes high ! The story would need to be re-written entirely, and I’m curious to see how.

Death End Request (PS4)

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Compile Heart is in dire straits. Sales keep dwindling, new ideas and skillfullness lack clearly. Their last hope is Nanameda Kei, Compile’s new star illustrator, and the Galapagos RPG team. Taking place in an MMORPG from where the heroine Shiina cannot escape, Death End Request seems to be the innovative and deep title the company needs, not to mention it respects Compile’s spirit.

Caligula Overdose (PS4)

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Yet another remaster with additional content, but this one is interesting : adding to new friends and foes, Caligula Overdose includes an “if story” in which you’re gonna side with the opposing gakushi, and explore their personalities as you did for your allies.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PS4)

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Was it all a bad dream ? I kind remember playing a failed Action-RPG called Valkyria one year ago… Yeah, that was surely a dream. Valkyria Chronicles, the real one, is coming back like it has ever been, in an episode featuring the missions of the Atlantic Federation (you know, the diplomats trying to lure you in the first game) against the Empire in snowy lands. Game system, battle system… everything is inherited from the original Valkyria Chronicles (they understood that it was better not to change anything) and characters seem charismatic. This means a big 14’000¥ collector’s edition for me.

Soul Calibur VI (PS4)

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SoulCalibur’s return was sure desired, but less expected. But still we’re gonna be able to cross swords a 6th time. Namco has mention some ideas about reboot and “simplicity”. Quite not what I want to hear but they did a good job with Tekken, so that should go well…

Catherine Full Body (PS4/PSVita)

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This wasn’t expected either, even less on PSVita. Thanks to that handheld version, I’ll be able to experience that strange dating/puzzle game. Vincent, a unresolved young man, spends his days in a bar where a girl called Catherine tries to seduce him. During the night, Vincent is trapped in his dreams, in which he must escape by climbing a sort of Jenga tower ! A clear UFO that will be perfect for commuting.

13 Sentinels Aegis Rim (PS4/PSVita)

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Let’s say it again, 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim has the potential to become the next 2D adventure masterpiece thanks to its incomparable atmosphere. A handful of high-schoolers must act before and after the end of the world, helped by strange mechas. With time and choice parameters, it looks absolutely outstanding.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

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Final Fantasy XV development is going smoothly according to SquareEnix, who publishes Active Time Reports on a regular basis.There will be an early access version on PC in a few weeks, with only 4 playable characters (not the best ones). Probably SquareEnix will polish the game at this occasion, before hopefully giving all the information on the final version.

Zanki Zero (PS4/PSVita)

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Quite austere Survival-RPG, Zanki Zero was back at TGS with new interesting hints. As developers had already shown, the characters should age, and there seem to be some strange resurrection mechanic… Well, the fate of those 8 survivalists is still shrouded in mystery.

The Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel IV (PS4)

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Trails of Cold Steel IV is a nightmare for Western fans of The Legend of Heroes (you, actually). The first pictures are potential huge spoilers about Trails of Cold Steel III and they’re being shared everywhere in the world as we speak. But of course, for me and Japanese fans, those informations are highly valuable for knowing what to expect.

Granblue Fantasy Re-link (PS4)

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The gameplay video of Granblue Fantasy Relink surprised pretty much everyone. No one expected such high end graphics and exciting action. We should have though, because the people behind this are the geniuses of Platinum Games. Although the talented developer seem to stay on Nintendo’s side, we’ll gladly take such epic heroic-fantasy, especially since it will be in VR too.

I’m also waiting for Persona 5 Dancing Star Night (PS4/PSVita), Persona 3 Dancing Moon Night (PS4/PSVita), Project Lux (PSVR), Ace Combat 7 (PS4), Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4), Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4), Ni no Kuni II Revenant Kingdom (PS4), Code Vein (PS4), Senran Kagura 7EVEN (PS4), World End Syndrome (PSVita) and Bullet Girls Phantasia (PS4/PSVita).

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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 – Hatsune Miku Project Diva X

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When you’ve been bearing for years a principle as simple as pressing buttons in rhythm, surprising your public is no easy task. Hatsune Miku Project Diva X will thus split itself in two distinct parts : the “old” Free Play mode and the brand new Live Quest mode.

Hatsune Miku Project Diva X arcade mode

The Free Play mode sees little change, and neither does the base of gameplay : we’re still in a pure rhythm game. The Playstation icons still show up everywhere on the PSVita display, and you also have to consider the direction buttons, plus the analog stick (or the touchscreen) to succeed with the star-shaped notes. The only changes are the removal of the big and linked stars seen in Project Diva F 2nd, and the introduction of Rush notes, for which you have to mash the corresponding button (which doesn’t get you anything besides a few more points).

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In that part of the game, you find once again the AR photography stuff. You can therefore use the AR capability of your Vita to insert Miku and her friends in your daily life. The number of poses/costumes has further grown so really the only limit is your imagination.

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Let’s enter the big subject that is Live Quest. The universe of Hatsune Miku Project Diva X is divided into five zones that have some sort of theme, featuring musics that share a similar atmosphere. There’s Neutral, Cute, Cool, Beauty and Chaos. For example, the Cute environment has kiddy or joyful tracks, while Chaos features weird design and unsettling paces. When you start, all those worlds have lost their vitality : Miku, Luka, Kaito, Meiko, Rin and Ren dedicate themselves to restoring the lost shine. By the power of song, of course.

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Each zone will ask you a definite objective of “voltage” you have to get from four or five songs (all new or so), and a medley which is a mini-concert featuring several extracts from well-known vocaloid tracks. Each song in each difficulty has its own numbered voltage objective you have to meet, otherwise you have to do it again from scratch. Let’s say a song has an objective of 131’000 : if you finish at 129’000, all is lost and nothing gets added to the current zone. If you achieve more, then total goes directly in the zone total. To make voltage go up, you just have to do usual : push button following the rhythm. Here again, the fundamentals stay as they are. The player starts with the choice between easy and normal, so you won’t get stuck because of the challenge.

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Once all the zones are fully restored, the game is “finished”, but not over. All zones will receive new voltage assignments, each time a more important figure. You can then replay your favorite songs as you like to earn the numerous remaining trophies. Hard and extreme mode will have been added too and those ones will earn you a lot more voltage (but as you imagine, it gets a lot harder).

Hatsune Miku Project Diva X extreme

The extreme mode in Live Quest is particularly interesting because the music doesn’t stop even if you do a lot of mistakes : non-expert players can then see the full extend of the challenge in this mode. The hard mode is less tough than in Project Diva F 2nd, as there are fewer tricky spots and the average game speed is a little lower. To make the pleasure longer and more intense, Hatsune Miku Project Diva X adds little challenges that are some handicaps : icons vanishing, zigzagging, or twice faster! Quite some stuff to test your skills and make the fun last.

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Modules (which means a costume in Project Diva) are no longer for show but have a huge impact on gameplay in this third installment. You don’t trade them for Diva points at the shop anymore (the shop is gone, as well as Diva points), but earn them by succeeding in the Chance Time of a song. Every time playing a song, a gauge will appear at some point and you’ll need to avoid mistakes as much as possible in that timeframe to fill it. Once it’s filled and if you’ve hit the last star, your character will “transform”, kind of, wear a new outfit and finish the song with it. The problem is that the module you get is chosen at random, so you can actually get duplicates! Because of that, the system is less convenient than Diva points in order to collect the 300 (!) modules. After you’ve clocked 20 hours or so, it becomes really frustrating.

Hatsune Miku Project Diva X coordinate

Modules will directly impact your progression as they allow voltage bonuses. Divided into the sames categories as the areas, they give a 20% bonus if the element matches with the environment. Choosing a Cool module in the Cool area is advantageous, but the same module in another place will earn you nothing special. The various accessories (earned on the result screen) work in the same way. In harder settings, it is necessary to coordinate your character’s look so that he or she receives a maximum bonus rate. Note that you can register some appareance sets so as to save time in menus. Besides, each modules bears a special skills likely to help you : it may be extra voltage in certain conditions or a higher chance to get a rare module. Your current goal will dictate your strategy in that matter. The bad news is that it makes it inevitable to use modules or accessories that aren’t your taste. To be totally free, you must go back to Free Play (which you can do anytime).

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Despite Sega’s enthusiastic communication on the matter, the interaction part has been lightened. Proof enough, Diva Room has just vanished! No more gazing at Miku and the others as they occupy themselves in their loft. Instead of that, the character is facing you in the main menu and you can enjoy some funny reactions, with a bit of touchscreen stuff. It is not as rich as Project Diva F 2nd in that department, but it’s more lively and in the end, entertaining.

Hatsune Miku Project Diva X Rin comm

The friend level still exist, but you can only make it go up by offering presents : stroking the character is no more on the agenda. The presents being obtained at random too, you don’t always have the right one at the right timing. That doesn’t help you get the friend level to the maximum… Too bad, because the friendship also slightly improve the voltage rate in Live Quest. In short, a communication aspect not perfect but the kawaii part makes up for it somehow.

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But the most important aspect of a rhythm game, that is still the music. It’s once more the excellent track selection that makes the formidable strength of Hatsune Miku Project Diva X, essentially because it’s varied and of high quality. The various themes being equally shared within the game, it can please everyone… provided they have some affinity with J-pop! There are fast and slow-paced musics, so every game style is covered. There are also a bunch of different sonorities. While the choreographies are as good as ever, the game is less stylish than before : you can swap the backgrounds as you wish, making it impossible to have graphical art like in Suki Kirai or Uraomoete Lovers. Also, we lament the lack of artwork in the loading screens. Some clips do have some genius in them : Hikyô Sentai Urotanda, hilarious tribute to series of the 80’s, is a clever parody of Sentai shows. Mrs Pumpkin no Kokkei na Yume is a good successor to Musunde Hiraite Setsuna to Dokuro in the “fantastic” category, rhythm, design and musical accents being close.

Hatsune Miku Project Diva X cool medley

Medleys also make a good novelty, because they’ll make you discover or re-discover great songs. Kono Fusaketa Subarashii Sekai and I.R. Fanclub are new to the series and add thunderous pace to their medleys. Star titles like Unhappy Refrain or Hatsune Miku no Gesshô will return to please their numerous fans. They are very well orchestrated in real “concert” spirit with some nice transitions. The style here sure is good. Remains the difficult question of the number of tracks. 30 songs or so, far less than the 200+ of Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone. Let’s bear in mind that Future Tone is a straight port of the arcade, so everything existed before. In Hatsune Miku Project Diva X, everything is exclusive and Sega had to create it all from the very beginning. In an ever dwindling Japanese market, it is utopian to ask for more.

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Technically speaking, the 3D engine was so ahead of its time in 2012 that it’s still one of the best. Handheld games with that level of graphics aren’t exactly commonplace. Even though there’s basically just characters and background to manage, the modeling is just perfect for a handheld system. Despite its downrating from CERO C (late teens) to CERO B (Teen) in Japan, the content is still quite sexy in choreographies, costumes… or even lyrics. Those of Sôsei Bakuretsu Boy got Miku’s game to be pulled out from Korean shelves for a while.

Less rich than the past two episodes, Hatsune Miku Project Diva X still benefits from an iron-clad formula that doesn’t age : intense gameplay, great music and guaranteed fun. While the new progression system does some questionable choices, it makes the game and the pleasure longer. A very good pick for Miku fans, yet again.

Review – Valkyria Chronicles

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War. We see that all the time in games. But seldom we see war from a different perspective. Valkyrie Chronicles is one of those games which gives some sense : rather than shooting souless avatars or giving orders to micro units, Sega’s game does its best describing the hardhisps of war, the dramatic consequences of ideology, the importance of strategy. A PC version and a remaster later, it has become legendary.

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Valkyria Chronicles is a turn based tactical-RPG absolutely unique, partly because it swaps the traditional heroic-fantasy for a military conflict like World War II. It’s a bit like Fire Emblem transposed in 1935. A powerful Empire decides to invade the peaceful principality of Gallia so as to get its abundant resources. The general mobilization is stated and the player takes command of a battalion of 30 characters (the number of soldiers to be deployed varies), everyone having a true personality and a small background. Your men are divided between five classes : Recon, Assault, Mechanic, Anti-tank and Sniper. To that you have to add your own tank which is a unique unit, commanded by Welkin Gunther, the hero of the game. As you might guess, each type of unit has different statistics (HP, evasion, defense, speed, etc.) and its own gameplay. The various roles are varied and it’s up to you to make the best use of their particularities while keeping strategic positions, because any blunder can quickly mean death.

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That is a very important aspect of Valkyria Chronicles compared to its PSP sequels : the characters die definitely after 4 turns if their HP is zero, or if an enemy reach them in that state. Like in Fire Emblem, the player feels close to the characters. They have a personality, they have a reason to fight, they have dreams, they have values, they’re not “units” like in a RTS game. The player is sent to war in its true meaning, taking heavy decision in a context of high pressure. But you can save your game anytime, which reduces the challenge.

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The missions are nevertheless difficult, and extremely varied. There’s urban warfare, plain warfare, desert warfare, a landing, a large trench battle, sniper confrontation, infiltration and rescue! The Empire, overwhelmingly superior in both men and equipment, leaves no moment for rest. You’ll face artillery fire, mine fields, tank squads, powerful (or even invincible) generals or crazy prototypes. War fog is present and makes the strategy even more immersive. The gap in forces and the feeling of total and merciless war brings tension, but is also very rewarding when you see the victory screen after 1 hour of intense struggle. The war atmosphere is reinforced by the regular transmissions from your buddies or the ones you intercept from the enemy.

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The gameplay is actually more complex than in Fire Emblem. Adding to the complexity if coordinating the various specializations, you can call back your characters and mobilize others to fit with your strategy. This can be done from or base camp or intermediate bases to take from the enemy. Be careful, because the Empire will also call reinforcements at every occasion! You also have to bear in mind that the game is in full 3D, and thus has depth of field : you need to consider the reach of the weapons, height, obstacles when setting the frontline. Snipers and armored vehicles will have you progress while staying in cover, ideally behind your own tank.

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Every character has “potentials” that make them more or less efficient in certain environments/situations. Some of your soldiers don’t appreciate each other and their stats will diminish if they come together on the field. Marina, for example, likes to be left alone and becomes more precise when she’s far behind your lines. Some are better in natural environments, some others perform better in urban warfare. Others are used to darkness and will be very useful during operations at night. Those are some of the many parameters you must take into account on the briefing screen.

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In case you need it, you can trigger a boost of stats on one your several units, or force other actions. When you are in a defensive position, it is useful to issue the “everybody defends” order to beef up the resistance of your men. The “retreat” order is also very important as it can save a KO’ed ally who would be too far to be rescued. Those orders consume Command Points, which depend on the mission and the number of officers you have deployed. Here again, Imperial generals will also issue their own orders.

In Tactical-RPG, there’s RPG. Sega’s work is partly one because each class gains experience points and can level up at the training camp. As the campaign is rather unforgiving, leveling sessions will be possible in skirmishes, non-mandatory maps which replay the main missions in slightly harder. You’ll also want to pass by the R&D center to improve your weapons. Being a peaceful country, Gallia possess unreliable equipment at the start : sniper rifles and rocket launchers lack precision, machine guns lack power so headshots will be key to victory. The Edelweiss (your tank) will need upgrades as you progress in the story to keep up with the Empire’s machines. You can also take some weapons from enemy aces, elite soldiers hidden here and there.

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Even tough it’s 8 years old and despite the level of details being far of today’s standards, Valkyria Chronicles still impresses me like it did years ago on PS3. The 3D engine, called Canevas, gives a watercolor effect that is still unique today. Your characters’ animation still feel rich and detailed, although we can’t say the same for the (very stiff) enemies. Contrary to an RTS game, colors literally blow out, notably in the magnificent real time cutscenes still unmatched one generation later. Beyond, it’s the incredible anime-like design that makes it so fabulous, and so rare in the strategy genre. It has exceptional characters, Alicia and Selvaria being some all-time favorites as far as I’m concerned. True, it’s not your daily western war game digest, but Japanese gaming fans will love it at first sight. Valkyria Chronicles is full of small visual details and this whole thing builds a universe of its own, desite the obvious historical inspiration.

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Let’s stress the following point : the story of Valkyria Chronicles is one of the greatest I’ve lived in my gaming life, and by far the greatest one when it comes to describe war. Solemnity and emotion are far heavier than the rare comical intervals in some chapters. As I write those lines, the remembrance of the strongest moments of this game are bringing tears to my eyes. The oppression of the conflict is perfectly rendered by the direction and musical themes like Valkyria’s Omen or War in the Empire. Parallel to that, some heroic themes like Final Decisive Battle beautifully illustrate the theme of reconquest. It’s one of the rare soundtracks that I have always with me.

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Last but not least, the great quality of Valkyria Chronicles is that it’s looking back at war in a wise manner. Sega’s game is a true and relevant allegory to the large European conflicts are their causes/consequences. Arms race, abuse of power, reckless ambitions, false diplomacy, ideology, war crimes… it is like the greatest war movies put into one game. The relation between Rosie and Isara warns very cleverly about the nonsense of xenophobia. Valkyria Chronicles refuses to be Manichean : your own country won’t hesitate to commit war crimes or send militiamen in suicide missions. Foes show honor and values, sadness is on both sides. This is war as it is never shown in video games, but should. As in Metal Gear Solid, it makes you think about war, not just live it.

Valkyria Chronicles is not a fine title or a hit game : it is an absolute masterpiece that I place alongside the greatest Final Fantasy titles. Beautiful in every aspect, fascinating by its design, exhilarating by its gameplay, deep in its meaning, it is fabulous like no other in its generation, and maybe also in the current one. Tells us how much in 2008, Valkyria Chronicles was ahead of its time… No, it is beyond time and space, it is eternal.

Preview – Valkyria Azure Revolution

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Pleasant surprise on this Wednesday 10th morning. Receiving a tip about PS4 Valkyria Chronicles themes, I peek on the Japanese PSN. There I do find the aforementioned themes… but also Valkyria Chronicles Remaster itself! That means the very anticipated Valkyria Azure Revolution demo is available too! Without any hesitation, I use the remaining credits of my digital wallet. The demo will download very fast, but I do need to work to throw all this money in the PSN. I’ll have to wait until the evening. Bad luck, Sega has locked the PS4share so I’ll mainly have to use official screenshots.

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The demo starts by giving an insight of the story : during the 19th century, in a fictional Europe, the Ragnite ore lead to an unprecedented industrial revolution because of its magical properties. Mankind quickly learned to fuse it with technology and armies soon came to develop equipment with magical capabilities.

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Like any coveted resource, Ragnite created conflicts. The Russian Federation (yep, it’s straight out spelled as Russia) progressively sought to blockade the Kindgom of Jutland. Cornered, the small state has no choice but to wage war and quickly sends its anti-Valkyria unit, Vanargand. Notice the wolf slaying the reaper on the emblem : in this new game, the Valkyria symbolizes death and not salvation anymore (although the Valkyria was already polysemous in the first trilogy).

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And to the frontline we go with our team of three : Amleth, the dark hero who swore vengeance against the Empire, Ophilia, the princess of crimson eyes, and Brigitt, former teacher and trained sniper. The gameplay is quite unsettling because it mixes Strategy-RPG and Action-RPG. I already see lots of comparisons with Shining Resonance, but let’s be serious, Valkyria Aure Revolution is a lot more than that.

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Your group will have to act so as to enter battle in the best possible conditions. It’s fairly important to be stealthy, use suppression fire, use cover to launch surprise attacks… because enemy soldiers aren’t dummies and can spot you from very far. Once you are in contact with an enemy unit, your characters will draw their blades and enter close quarters combat. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles, everything happens in real time.

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This is where the comparison with the other RPG from Sega makes sense. For example, if find the skill sub-menu on L1, allowing you to cast physical or magical special skills, as well as heal yourself. Bear in mind that there’s a limited number of magical slots to be used, so you might want to save your skill for critical moments. Let’s also stress that you can still use a firearm in close quarters combat, in case you’d want to attack from mid-range and avoid taking too much damage. You can lock any enemy with R2 with ease and the controls in general felt quite precise after a few battles, despite the large number of buttons to consider. Although it’s an introduction to the game, the challenge is no joke and your characters can fall very fast if are are careless (but it’s also true that the allies’ AI is a bit questionable in this demo). In case of KO, like in Final Fantasy XV, a simple slap in the back and they will be back on their feet. This is seriously ridiculous and I do hope the medic will return in the final version. Finally, note that after a game over, the player can retry the mission while keeping the acquired experience.

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Valkyria Azure Revolution introduces psychological warfare. Some of the action you take before going into close quarters combat can confuse, startle the opponents or make them angry. This way, they will be weaker, slower or less precise. For example, taking cover behind a wall and opening fire when a enemy group passes by causes panic to them for a while. There’s also a positive status called “bravery” in which the characters’ defense is raised for a short time, so that he or she can take more risks and sweep the enemy. Each party member has a secondary weapon (but with a limited number of uses) allowing him/her to get the upper hand. Ophilia possesses smoke grenades that can blind enemy soldiers, and Brigitt can take them out from afar thanks to her sniper rifle. I case she kills a sentry without being spotted, all the soldiers in the vicinity will be tense! Like in Samurai Warriors 4, the long bar on the top of the screen tells you on which side the morale is better.

Brigitte

Technically speaking, it’s a lot sharper and more detailed than Valkyria Chronicles as you could expect, the Gouache 3D engine being a worthy heir of the previous Canevas in its painting-like aspect. True, the village represented here wasn’t anything impressing and the frame-rate did suffer a couple of times, but it’s still a nice sight to behold for a first contact. Also, the more realistic design gives a fresh feel to the series and a deeper immersion, a bit like when you jump from Advance Wars Dual Strike to Dark Conflict.

There can be no greater delight than getting back in the Valkyria series with the power of the PS4 and the unscathed war atmosphere. The game system arouses interest, because it looks very complex and necessitates to master two types of games at the same time. Needless to say, I’m hungry for larger campaigns even though the strategic side seems to fade away a bit.

Sega within mobile temptation

Sega won’t uncork the champagne this year. The conglomerate it shares with Sammy loses more than ¥11 billion, whereas they had gained ¥30 billion last year. The slower revenues and the rising general expenses destroyed the EBITDA, and several write-downs made it even worse for the net result.

Pachinkos are a net provider as always despite a lower activity (operating result falls by 43%), but arcade is a disaster and loses 2 millions. Theme parks and leisure centers are slightly down, the reason of which being the rise of VAT done in Japan in Spring 2014, Sega says. The group warns investors that no immediate improvement in profitability is in sight, because it will start building a giant resort in South Korea which completion is due in 2017. Besides, Odaiba’s Joypolis will receive further investments/

On the consumer business side, that is to say video games, anime and toys, Sega blames the physical games market for being increasingly sluggish. Indeed, despite a 15% rise in volume of sales, boxed games cause an operational loss of nearly 3 millions! The digital content on the other hand (smartphones & PC) provide a ¥8 milllion gain. Clearly upset, the publisher states that it will shift resources from the traditional games market to mobile, while giving guarantees on Persona 5. Sega wants to lift the doubts : although the current restructuring in the West is severe, there are no plans to drop consoles. Yakuza 0 sold very well in the rising Chinese market, so the firm is still committed to quality and innovation and teases an “announcement” at Tokyo Game Show to back their intentions.

Sega-Sammy’s balance sheet is unchanged : this year’s loss barely damaged their equity, that remains strong of years of retained earnings. The group is not weakened and has the capacity to fulfill their pledge and our dreams : more ambitious games. The reveal of Seven Dragon III on 3DS doesn’t improve their case, but the port of Blade Arcus from Shining on PS3/PS4 is a step in the right direction. All they need to do now is to race to excellency.