At the time of writing, Sony has just announced that production of the PlayStation Vita will be ending in 2019, with no plans for a successor.
This follows news from earlier this year that we’re counting down the days until the last Western physical Vita release, with many of the last releases coming in limited form from boutique publishers such as Limited Run Games and Special Reserve.
With all that in mind, I think it’s about time we looked back over this remarkable and vastly underappreciated system’s life… and celebrated the things it did really, really well.
Continue reading Reflections on PlayStation Vita
The MoeGamer Awards are a series of made-up prizes that give me an excuse to celebrate games, concepts and communities I’ve particularly appreciated over the course of 2017. Find out more and suggest some categories here!
Today’s category comes to us from SoriasSire, who left some great ideas in the comments of this post just like you (yes, you!) should go and do right now. SoriasSire is also a longtime supporter of the site and Japanese gaming in general, so a hearty thank-you for your ongoing support!
It’s a popular misconception among people who don’t know any better (or do any research) that we have a shortage of badass female lead characters in video games, but nothing could be further from the truth — particularly in Japanese gaming. This award aims to celebrate an awesome example of an all-female ensemble cast that we’ve explored over the course of 2017.
And the winner is…
Continue reading The MoeGamer Awards: Saving the World with Only Girls
Roguelikes have been around for many years now, but in recent years we’ve seen an explosion in popularity of more accessible games that present a friendlier face to this notoriously obtuse genre.
Well-received Western indie titles such as Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, Dungeons of Dredmor, FTL and numerous others helped popularise (and, some may argue, dilute) the roguelike genre. At the same time, games such as One Way Heroics and the Mystery Dungeon series helped develop the genre in a distinctively Japanese direction.
But this development isn’t quite as recent as you might think. In fact, we’ve had accessible console-style roguelikes since the 16-bit era, though many may not have been aware of “roguelike” as a genre at the time. And a great — if particularly punishing — example can be found in the form of Sega’s Fatal Labyrinth (aka Shi no Meikyuu: Labyrinth of Death, no relation to Compile Heart’s MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death) for Mega Drive.
Continue reading Mega Drive Essentials: Fatal Labyrinth
Dungeon crawlers aren’t historically associated with having particularly strong stories, perhaps largely due to their origins as mechanics-heavy games with player-created parties.
A number of recent Japanese takes on the subgenre — including, among others, Demon Gaze, Operation Abyss and Dungeon Travelers 2 — have proven it is possible to blend mechanically sound, deeply absorbing dungeon crawling with a strong sense of narrative, however.
MeiQ is the latest game to follow this trend, featuring an imaginative steampunk-cum-sci-fi tale revolving around a strong, all-female central cast of characters.
Continue reading MeiQ: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation
A good dungeon crawler has two aspects it has to nail in order to be successful: combat and exploration.
Japanese takes on the genre often tend to incorporate a strong sense of narrative and characterisation to the experience, too — and certainly MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is no exception to this — but at its core, a dungeon crawler is about 1) navigating your way through a series of increasingly complicated mazes, and 2) kicking the snot out of any monsters who appear to block your path.
We’ve already talked about MeiQ’s interesting and unconventional combat, progression and equipment mechanics. So now let’s take a closer look at its approach to dungeon design.
Continue reading MeiQ: Building a Better Dungeon
By attempting to provide an accessible dungeon crawler experience, MeiQ has put itself in an interesting position.
Too much mechanical depth and it will alienate the very people it’s hoping to attract. But not enough depth and the hardcore gridder enthusiasts will tire of it long before things get interesting. How to approach this, then?
Through a combination of approaches, as it happens, and the result is both effective at what it does and surprisingly distinct in a subgenre that is sometimes accused of taking a bit of a “cookie-cutter” approach.
Let’s take a look at the game’s mechanics in more detail.
Continue reading MeiQ: Girls and Guardians
First-person, grid-based dungeon crawlers have, over the years, become the place to go for those who like hardcore, mechanics-driven, combat- and exploration-centric role-playing games.
Often de-emphasising narrative in favour of deep customisation, challenging encounters and devious level design, the dungeon crawler has gone from strength to strength over the last few years in particular, but also remains a subgenre that is notoriously difficult to get into.
Its with this in mind that Idea Factory and Compile Heart developed MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death (or Death Under the Labyrinth as it was known in Japan) — it’s designed to be accessible and enjoyable even to newcomers, yet incorporate the elements of the genre that longstanding fans enjoy so much. And it’s very successful at what it does.
So how did we get here?
Continue reading MeiQ: Introduction and History