PS2 Essentials: Bust-a-Bloc

In many cases the games that are part of D3 Publisher’s sprawling budget-price Simple Series are enjoyably experimental, while in others they simply represent traditional gaming genres brought up to date with modern (for the time) visuals and sound.

Bust-a-Bloc, or The Block Kuzushi Hyper as it was known in Japan, occupies a space somewhere between these two approaches: it’s an adaptation of one of the oldest types of game around, but it adds some interesting and experimental twists on the formula to make it surprisingly distinct from its peers in an incredibly crowded genre.

As you can probably determine from its title, Bust-a-Bloc is a Breakout-type game in which you hit a ball with a paddle in order to destroy blocks — indeed, this genre of game is simply known as “block kuzushi” (block destruction) in Japan, so the title is another example of the Simple Series’ charmingly literal title scheme — but it’s the game’s few additions to the formula that make it noteworthy, and well worth spending some time with.

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Stormblood: It’s a Great MMO, Too

We’ve already discussed how, despite its massively multiplayer online nature, Final Fantasy XIV as a whole is very much an authentic Final Fantasy experience in its own right. But is the opposite true?

If you’ve read the headline you’ll already know that yes, of course it is. But one of the most interesting things about the game as a whole as it has developed from its disastrous 1.0 incarnation through A Realm Reborn and Heavensward into Stormblood is how well it has managed to balance these two seemingly disparate aspects: the strong narrative of the Final Fantasy series, and the sheer amount of things to do and quality of life features that a hardcore MMO player expects from a game like this.

Today we’re going to examine that latter aspect in detail.

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PS2 Essentials: Kuri Kuri Mix

Have you heard the tale of FromSoftware, dear reader? Legend has it that long ago, in the dim and distant past, these renowned scribes were more than just “the people who made Souls games”.

Joking aside, the company’s past output is quite a bit more diverse than you might expect if you only became aware of it in the last couple of console generations. In particular, the first two PlayStation eras represented FromSoftware at its most experimental, with its games running the gamut from Souls’ spiritual predecessor King’s Field to mech sim series Armored Core.

Perhaps the most surprising of FromSoftware’s games from this era, though, given their present reputation for “dark and moody”, is a rather peculiar PlayStation 2 game released in Japan and Europe as Kuri Kuri Mix, and The Adventures of Cookie and Cream in the States.

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Stormblood: Yes, It’s a Great Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy XIV and its long-running spiritual predecessor Final Fantasy XI are in an interesting and slightly awkward position.

They’re numbered mainline installments of the long-running Final Fantasy series, which, in theory, should attract series veterans, but they’re also massively multiplayer online role-playing games. The latter is a genre typically (and not necessarily correctly or fairly) associated with being time-consuming, challenging and dependent on playing alongside other people — and thus not especially attractive to those who prefer to play games solo, concentrate on story or take things at their own pace.

What we’re going to talk about today is how Final Fantasy XIV is as much a good Final Fantasy as it is a good MMO — and why you shouldn’t sleep on it if you’re a Final Fantasy fan who doesn’t typically go in for online games.

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Duolingo: A Daily Way to Practice Your Japanese

Many Japanese video game, anime and manga enthusiasts have probably considered learning the native language of their favourite entertainment at some point… but it’s a daunting prospect.

The fact you have to learn two new phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) plus a whole swathe of pictograms (kanji) that represent various concepts or parts of speech means that it’s not a simple case of just jumping in and learning new words for things. You have to learn a completely new way of reading and writing, too.

The potential rewards are great, though, since learning Japanese allows you to access a whole host of entertainment that doesn’t get localised. And with the region-free nature of most modern computer and gaming systems coupled with international Internet shopping, importing games, DVDs, Blu-Rays and manga is trivially easy today.

So where do you start? Well, there are all sorts of ways you can tackle this challenge, but the new iOS and Android-based Japanese course from free language learning organisation Duolingo is as good a place as any to get your studies underway.

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PS2 Essentials: Radio Helicopter

One of the most charming things about D3 Publisher’s Simple Series is its straightforward naming convention, which brings to mind the good old days of Atari 2600 games called imaginative things like “Combat”, “Golf” and “Dodge ‘Em”.

As such, with a game called The Helicopter — or the even more literal Radio Helicopter, as it was known in Europe — you pretty much know what you’re getting into before you start.

What you might not know, however, is that this simplistic-sounding, low-budget game is actually a ton of fun.

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Why Gal*Gun VR Needs a PSVR Version

We’ve known that Gal*Gun VR has been in development for a while, but Inti Creates surprised everyone yesterday with a sudden worldwide release… but only on Steam, for Vive and Oculus devices.

While the Windows PC market certainly has a lot of early adopters of virtual reality devices, it’s hard to deny that Sony’s VR solution, PlayStation VR, has proved to be a considerably more practical and affordable means for people to get involved with this new medium.

Which is why it’s so surprising that, according to Inti Creates, there is no PlayStation 4/PSVR version currently in development. This seems like a big mistake.

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Oh, Japan!