Friday, June 10, 2016

#TeamHandheld Report - 06/10/2016

Last week's #TeamHandheld Report went over very well, so I plan to mix in some Now Playing with some new features like that top 10 list more often. This week, I have a few different games I've been working through to talk about, so no need to delay this any longer. There's some really good stuff and one really bad one.

Now Playing

SteamWorld Heist (Vita)

I've been excited to check out SteamWorld Heist since it was confirmed for Vita. I know I could have picked it up on the 3DS before now, but hey, I have Dig on Vita so I figured I could be patient to keep these together on the same system. Man, I cannot stop playing Heist. It's in the same world as Dig, but is a totally different experience and is fantastic.

SteamWorld Heist is a turn-based strategy game where you take your crew through multi-tiered stages and shoot hats off of enemies. OK, so it's not just about shooting hats off enemies, but I really enjoy that part, because then I get to wear their hat! No, you're actually supposed to shoot and destroy these foes, but often your line of sight isn't clear, so it's important to find the right position or to bounce bullets off walls to get a good shot in. Between recruiting and trying out new party members and finding new ways to take out foes, I've been having a blast with this. It's just so addictive and creative that I can't put it down. If you've not checked this out yet, you need to. The "one more stage" mentality is totally at work here.

-A highly recommended steamy experience-

Paranautical Activity (Vita)

Wow, Paranautical Activity is a mess. This first-person shooter mixes roguelike elements such as randomly generated dungeons and permadeath together and ends up with a game that's awkward to control and frustrating to play. Aiming is not very precise, your weapon choices are not always great, enemies are often damage sponges who can hit you easier than you can them, and the worlds are just not that exciting to explore. It was hard to really play much of this at all, because it was just so messy. I don't think it had anything to do with the Vita port, as the game runs well enough, it's just not fun as I never felt like I was getting better at it. Dying over and over with no progress being made meant a quick shutdown on this one.

-So, so painful-

Steins;Gate (Vita)

I've happily gotten back into Steins;Gate on Vita, specifically because of Steins;Gate 0 coming later this year. Like I stated before, I've watched the anime so I know what's going on, but it's fun to revisit the story even if it lacks the amazing English voice work of J. Michael Tatum. Since it's been a while since I've watched this, playing it again is really hammering home how great the plot is. I can't wait to get into the real mind twisty stuff that I know is coming. That's my favorite part. El Psy Kongroo!

-Slow going, but working up to the good stuff-

Bravely Second (3DS)

Having finally finished Bravely Second, I wanted to take a second to give a few final thoughts on it. First, I would gladly play another one of these games. Regardless of their problems, they are like RPG comfort food to me which is nice. That said, there are definitely issues there that I would love to have addressed.

My biggest problem was that the job system was just overwhelming. There are way more jobs and skills than you can ever make use of, so I just finally said screw it and focused mostly on Bishop and Fencer, both of which you get early on. Not to say that the other jobs weren't good, but they just came at such as pace that I never felt like dragging things out just to try them all. What I had worked, so there was never a good reason to dig into the others except to look cool in the new job outfit.

Other than that, the only big issue I had is that I felt like I had done all of this before. Lots of the same characters, even enemies, were reused and many dungeons were recycled from the first game. It was a lot of "been there, done that," which after the second half of Default, that's not really what you want to have. All of the reuse does seem to work better here than it did in the prior entry, as the characters are already developed if you played the first game, so things unfold better. I just couldn't imagine playing both games back to back out of fear of getting burnt out. Those issues aside, the game itself is just plain, simple fun. All of the problems I have are easily ignored if you turn off all encounters and blast through this game in just over 30 hours like I did. It's hard to ignore the cast's potential and would love to see the job system tightened up if we get Bravely Third.

-Finished, but might be ready for more eventually-



E3 is next week, so while I'm not planning on having a Now Playing section, I do hope to have something to talk about from the show. I know that Sony likely won't have much to say about the Vita, but there are plenty of other publishers and indie developers still cranking games out for it. And there's still a good chunk of 3DS stuff on the way, so I hope to have a rundown or at least some commentary about what's going on in the handheld arena.

#TeamHandheld Updates

Friday, June 3, 2016

#TeamHandheld Report - 06/03/2016

Since this week's #TeamHandheld Report was going to be light on Now Playing content, I've opted to highlight some of the upcoming handheld games I'm most excited to play instead. Please enjoy.

Future Playing Top 10

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (Vita)

The more I think back on the first Cold Steel, the more excited I get about playing Trails of Cold Steel II. The characters were great, and after spending a whole game building things up, it is really exciting to see how a full game will be with everything already in place. It worked really well with Trails in the Sky SC, so I have high hopes for this.

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (3DS)

I played a little bit of Dragon Warrior VII on PS1 back in the day, but I wasn't too impressed. The fact that this version fixes a lot of the problems with the original release and my new love for the Dragon Quest series has me ready to check this one out. I hope we get a date soon, like maybe during its showing on Day 2 of Treehouse Live at E3.

Cosmic Star Heroine (Vita)

A classic style, turn-based RPG from a proven indie RPG developer? It's really hard not to get excited by a game that strikes those nostalgic cords, yet has all of the modern improvements you'd want. It doesn't hurt that I'm a sucker for a spy story and a cool female lead, of which Cosmic Star Heroine has both. Gameplay has been solid in Zeboyd's other titles, so I'm not worried about that. I'm curious how the story holds up.

Zero Time Dilemma (Vita)

I really dug the story of 999, but was bothered by a lot of the gameplay elements. When playing Virtue's Last Reward, I felt like the balance was much better as there were lots of improvements to the gameplay. That said, I only really wanted the mind screw story, so if Zero Time Dilemma heads more in that direction, I'll be totally fine with that.

Shakedown Hawaii (Vita)

Retro City Rampage DX was a pretty sweet little action game. All of the puns, parodies, and tropes were well-placed and made the game entertaining. Shakedown Hawaii looks to be like a more polished, deeper version of that. Just give me some free roaming goodness, and I'll be happy. Classic arcade action is always fun when done well.

YIIK (Vita)

I've been interested in YIIK's fun quirky style for quite some time now. I know it's not going to hit Vita at launch, but I hope it doesn't take too long to do so. Fun, unique RPGs like this are just perfect for handhelds. It should be fun to see how this one plays out, as it's tough to get a good idea of everything the game has to offer just from screenshots and trailers.

Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics (Vita)

While I try to enjoy roguelikes, as they seem fun in concept, it takes something special to really get me into them. Something like Etrian Mystery Dungeon was a blast, it just went on a little too long. Mystery Chronicle looks fun because it takes the roguelike style and puts it into a game where the screen scrolls to the side, so you have to keep from being pushed to your death. There are also Danganronpa characters in this version, so that's a plus for me.

Grand Kingdom (Vita)

Grand Kingdom wasn't even on my radar, but when the beta hit on PS4 I decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be a very addictive game that I could see myself playing a lot of on Vita. It combines party-based battles with positioning strategy in a way that's not really been done before. Since full rounds seem to take a while to finish, I think this would work much better for me on a handheld. I'm looking forward to checking out the LiteDemo soon.

Dragon Quest Builders (Vita)

Yeah, I'm a Dragon Quest fan and make no excuses for it. That said, Dragon Quest Builders isn't your typical DQ game like the others I've listed here. Combining story, action gameplay, and world building gives this game a creative twist that I've not really seen of the series since Rocket Slime. I'm not really a Minecraft guy, but it seems as if Builders offers more than just open world crafting and building, so that makes all the difference to me.

The Banner Saga (Vita)

I tried to avoid listing games that were already available on other consoles, but The Banner Saga is the one game that busted through that restriction into my top 10. That's because this game has been hyped up so much by people I trust, but I've just not had a chance to get around to it yet. Now that Sony's Third Party Production team has stepped in to help create the Vita version, I figured why not wait for that? Hopefully we're know more soon about a release date.

Honorable Mentions

World of Final Fantasy (Vita)

One of the only reasons this game isn't higher on the list is that fact that it still seems to far away. Famitsu screens just aren't enough, so I hope to see more on this soon. It looks super cute, so I'm down with that. Give me some solid details, please.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS)

While I'm super excited for this one, I have played it before. I didn't really get Dragon Quest back then, so this replay will be with a different appreciation. I love the characters and can't wait to have Jessica and Yangus back in my hands.

Shiren The Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate (Vita)

I've always had a love-hate relationship with roguelikes. I really love to play them, but I never really do well enough to get very far. That said, I'm always willing to try a new one and this looks fun. Shiren is the master after all.

Moon Hunters (Vita)

Moon Hunters has been looking sweet for a while now, but we don't have a date on the Vita version yet despite it hitting PS4 soon. Let's hope it holds up doing well on Vita, especially with its multiplayer focus.

Romancing SaGa 2 (Vita)

Even though the only confirmation of this coming out in English is a single tweet asking for patience, just the fact that Square Enix might be considering bringing some of the Vita/mobile games like this to Vita here makes me happy. Fingers crossed we get this and other stuff like Adventures of Mana.

Upcoming Games

One Piece: Burning Blood (Vita)

I'm not familiar with One Piece at all, but I'll gladly give you a breakdown of how the game plays.

SteamWorld Heist (Vita)

This should be on my Vita soon, so I can't wait.

Paranautical Activity (Vita)

I've played a bit of this, but want to give it more time before talking about it. Not super exciting so far.

#TeamHandheld Updates

Friday, May 27, 2016

#TeamHandheld Report - 05/27/2016

I've got a couple of quick looks for this week's #TeamHandheld Report. Been having to juggle some fun personal stuff lately, but I don't want to bore you with that. Let's just get to what I've been playing.

Oh, and there's a fun giveaway coming soon. Please be excited.

Now Playing

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (Vita)

Anyone worried about the issues that plagued the PS2 version of Odin Sphere being present here should be happy to know that this game runs as smooth as silk on Vita. The beautiful environments of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir are the best looking of the three Vanillaware games released on Sony's handheld. The action portions of the game are fast-paced and everything runs at a solid frame rate. Looks aside, the combat system is easy to get into, and it's just fun to rack up combos against waves of foes.

Odin Sphere's story, voice acting, and dialogue are all really solid, and while I won't go into them right now, I do want to say that it would be nice to be able to speed up dialogue at all times. This is especially true since there are lots of tutorials early on that would be nice to be able to get through quicker. That said, the reasons for the tutorials is that Leifthrasir offers lots of options for crafting and for customization of character abilities. These are pretty straightforward, but there are quite a few systems in the game that help to expand its customization depth. The original version of Odin Sphere had a lot to offer, and this version is just as robust, just much prettier. I'm still working through the starting character, but happily so. More than anything, it's just amazing how beautiful the character animations, backgrounds, and such are in this game. Screenshots might look great, but seeing it in motion is so much better.

-Silky smooth, so lovely-

Downwell (Vita)

Downwell is a really simple concept, but it's still a challenging game. You drop down a well and shoot things with your gun boots as you fall, so that's pretty easy, right? Not quite. It's a quick game, but it's tough to really make it through each of the areas without dying. There are shops and secret areas you can find to get new weapon types, which really helps, but it's never a breeze. Enemies are all over the place and your trips downward are often blocked by swarms from every direction trying to halt your advance.

Vita version offers a regular view and also tate mode, where you can hold the system sideways like on a phone for a full screen experience. It will have you using the left analog stick up at the top and the X button at the bottom. While this seems awkward at first, it becomes more natural as you keep playing. I really like Downwell's straightforward take on things, because it's still a fun challenge. You only get four hits before you die and have to start over, though you can get health restoration items along the way. It just means you'll have to decide if it's worth swapping out weapons that are attached to those healing items. There's a lot of depth here, though it's hidden under a simple premise. It's fun to keep jumping back into Downwell much like games such as OlliOlli, so I recommend it easily to fans of titles like that.

-Drop like it's hot-

Upcoming Games

SteamWorld Heist (Vita)

I heard great stuff about this on 3DS, but am excited to finally check it out when it hits Vita. It's been delayed slightly, but that's OK. I hear it's worth the wait.

Paranautical Activity (Vita)

A roguelike FPS on Vita? I figure it should at least be interesting to check out.

#TeamHandheld Updates

Friday, May 20, 2016

#TeamHandheld Report - 05/20/2016

I've got a slightly shorter #TeamHandheld Report this week, and as such I'm doing a deep shallow dive into my backlog to clear some of these games off. I own quite a few Vita games that I've not written about yet, so I'd like to touch on as many as possible here. That's going to mean some backtracking, but I'm good with that. I only received a couple of comments about me covering PSP stuff here, but it did give some ideas for others things to try in the future. Thanks for the input.

Before I get to the good stuff, I have two quick things to mention. For those of you who bought Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, you can fill out this form from Sega and mention how you've love to have Valkyria Chronicles 3 on Vita. Not sure how they know you bought the game, but I'll trust you to be honest.

Second, Mr. Tired is once again back on Kickstarter to try to get funding for its RPG/Visual Novel Undead Darlings. While initially for PS4 and PC, there is a stretch goal of $115,000 for a Vita version. It seems lofty, but if this sounds interesting to you then check it out here.

That's it for miscellaneous content, so let's get to playing. Oh, one more thing...keep an eye out for something special soon on the main site.

Now Playing

LittleBigPlanet Vita (Vita)

With a name as creatively bankrupt as LittleBigPlanet Vita, it's hard not to expect this to be an uninteresting experience. That's especially true for me, as I've been vocal about my lack of love for LittleBigPlanet over the years. I was surprised when I actually found this one to be enjoyable. Sure, the game's jump is still a little too floaty for my tastes, but the level design on this one was pretty solid. One issue I have here is something that too many Sony properties try to do on Vita, and that's to force touch screen functionality. This is rarely a smooth process to have players juggle between the touch screen and regular controsl (see Tearaway for a good example), but here you'll be moving around and have to use your finger to move a block or press down on a booster which means you have to move your hands off the real controls to do so. It's something that bothers me anytime a game does it, because it splits my focus in the least natural way possible just to show off the touch screen.

That complaint aside, I can see why people claim this to be the best LittleBigPlanet out there, as it's the first to not bore me within the first level. While still far from being on the same level as some of my favorite handheld platformers (like the awesome Super Mario 3D Land), this one is at least a solid entry. Tarsier Studios should have been given more to do on handhelds than just this, as they seem to be a very talented group with a decent eye for portable design.

-The best LittleBigPlanet I've played-

Superbeat: Xonic (Vita)

After playing DJMax Technika Tune last year, I was excited to see how its spiritual successor would do. When Superbeat: Xonic hit late in 2015, I played a little bit of it and didn't really get drawn in like I did with other rhythm games like DJMax or Persona 4 DAN. The music selection wasn't the problem; it was the gameplay that struggled to keep me engaged.

What I loved about DJMax was the videos that played during each song, as they were entertaining to watch and kept me wanting to replay stages to watch them again. Xonic relies solely on the music to keep you going, which while great, wasn't enough for me. Each stage lacks any videos or much interesting at all going on visually, so any sort of drawing power those other games had for me is lost here, as I could just listen to the music outside of the game for more enjoyment. I understand the budget was probably too small for the studio to get rights to music videos, but that's no excuse for lacking any sort of eye-catching content during the gameplay sections. It got boring fast, and I found myself returning to P4DAN and DJMax instead.

-Good music, but bland stages-

Bravely Second (3DS)

I figured I should briefly touch on what I've been playing the most over the last week, even if I've already talked about it once here. Bravely Second has been eating up most of my 3DS time of late, though I've got strange feelings about it. The story and characters are still charming and the real highlight of the game, but I have mixed feelings on this one's job system.

This is something I talked about on Twitter the other day, but here's some extra detail. I really love RPG job systems, though I often don't like how they are implemented in games. Many times you have very little time to find out if you like a job and want to keep using it until you've spent a lot of time with it to unlock the higher level skills, but then you get other jobs too quickly and are soon covered up.

That's my current issue with Bravely Second. I'm in chapter two, have over ten jobs unlocked, and feel like so many of them are just wasted. I've just picked ones I think I'll like and have stuck with them, grabbing a new one here and there. I don't feel as if this is very efficient, like many of these jobs were pointless to even have. It's tough to be that upset over this, and I don't want to just call out Bravely Second for doing this, as it's often commonplace in games with job systems. Either give me tons of easily swapped jobs with a few well-defined skills or a limited set of jobs with tons of skills. Having both just seems like a waste. Rant over.

On the positive side, I really like being able to fight high level Ba'als that have been weakened, but still give lots of experience. This has helped me to level up as I feel like it and then just avoid all random battles in dungeons. It might not be how the developers want me to play this game, but they've given me this option and I love it. Time to go bust some more Ba'als.

-Some issues, but still going strong-

Upcoming Games

Downwell (Vita)

This downward dropping game hits Vita next week, so I hope to get a chance to check it out. Looks really sweet.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (Vita)

Nothing new on this front...still coming soon.

#TeamHandheld Updates