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
HuniePop from Ryan Koons’ studio HuniePot was partly developed as a sort of “protest” game: an attempt to fight back against the growing trend of political correctness that was starting to take root in the games industry.
There was clearly demand for such a game, even back in late 2013; a successful Kickstarter campaign allowed those who were similarly frustrated with the situation to put their money where their mouth was and show their support for the kind of thing they wanted to see more of: something lewd, crude and rude — and unashamed of being any of those things.
The remarkable thing about HuniePop was that it ended up being a damn good game as well as a resounding middle finger to the “everything is problematic” crowd. Not only that, it also demonstrated that independent Western developers were more than capable of putting interesting new twists on Japanese-style aesthetics by combining anime-style artwork with a hilariously abrasive and distinctively modern, American script.
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: HuniePop
Any self-respecting gamer knows that if you really want to impress someone with your dexterity and prowess, you don’t fire up a Souls game, you fire up a bullet hell shmup.
Notorious for their screen-filling bullet patterns that seemingly demand superhuman reflexes to navigate, bullet hell (or, to give them their more “proper” name, danmaku) shoot ’em ups are a frightening prospect to get involved with. But you might be surprised at quite how approachable some of them are.
One such example of a danmaku shmup that is both accepting to genre newcomers and monstrously challenging to veterans is Gundemonium Recollection from Japanese doujin circle Platine Dispositif, originally localised for PS3 and PC by Rockin’ Android. It’s a game that isn’t afraid to slap you about a bit, but also a good place to familiarise yourself with some conventions of the genre.
And, well, it’s just a really good game to boot, too.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Gundemonium Recollection
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
Nier creator Taro Yoko is particularly fascinated with death: not only the concept itself, but also how different people respond to it.
Yoko’s interest in the subject, as we’ve previously discussed, stems from a traumatic experience in his youth when he witnessed the accidental, easily avoidable death of a friend and discovered, to his surprise, that there was something oddly humorous in the moment as well as it being horrifying. Someone’s existence had come to a premature end, yes, but there was something fundamentally ridiculous about how it had happened; how sudden it was; and how everyone was powerless in the moment to prevent it from happening.
The inherent ridiculousness of death — particularly accidental death — is something that gamers have been familiar with for many years. And so what better medium through which to explore the concept itself — and what better characters to do so with than those that can’t die through conventional means?
Continue reading Nier Automata: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation
Among the denizens of the Internet, particularly those who are interested in video games, anime and other such nerdy things — especially those nerdy things that are a little outside the mainstream — there’s a strong trend of self-deprecation.
It’s not uncommon to hear people referring to themselves with something akin to “pride” when they describe their own awkwardness, their loneliness, their enjoyment of solitary activities over socialisation and the indulging of their passions in increasingly extravagant manners.
In practice, this sort of self-deprecation has a few different social purposes: firstly, to provide a shared sense of struggling against perceived adversity with fellow “outcasts” and consequently help to form something of a community; secondly, an attempt to prove to themselves and others that, despite what they may apparently believe and/or acknowledge to be their drawbacks, they’re comfortable in themselves; and thirdly, in some cases, simply to try and entertain others through voluntarily creating a sense of schadenfreude about themselves and their life.
Whatever the exact reason for it, it’s this sort of self-consciously lonely nerd stereotype that new episodic visual novel Games & Girls from the heavily Japanese-inspired German outfit Yume Creations fully embraces and begins to explore in its first installment.
Continue reading Games & Girls: Embracing the Stereotype
Nier creator Taro Yoko has some strong opinions about how to keep games interesting.
Last time, we heard how he felt that modern triple-A games were often fun for the first twenty minutes, but that he often became concerned these initially impressive titles would become tiresome after twenty or more hours. It was this mindset that caused him to design the original Nier with so many unusual features to it, and many of these — and more — have carried across to Nier: Automata.
Today, then, we’ll take a look at Nier: Automata’s mechanical aspects — and how Yoko’s collaboration with Platinum Games has helped him to realise his vision better than ever before.
Continue reading Nier Automata: Creating a Game That is “Unexpected”, That “Keeps Changing Form”