Review of the Month: Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Limited Edition/s

I was to review Huion GT-220 Ver.2 this month, but I realised that I’d need a lot more time with it before saying anything solid about it. Next month then. The second options was to review the tat that came with Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Limited Edition package. I’m doing it a double though, reviewing both the Japanese Vita release and the PlayStation 4 Limited Run release. Let’s get on with the show then.

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The Japanese Vita release is a big box
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Limited Run’s box is essentially a carbon copy of the Japanese PS4 LE release

I have to start with the covers, because these things are pretty sweet. There are few iconic themes and illustrations with the Dariusburst sub-series, and both boxes do the game justice. Both portray the Legend and Next ship that defined the original Dariusburst with new takes on the classic bosses. It’s also nice to see some bigbox releases this day and age, even when it’s just for limited release products.

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Overall, the layout of the box is pretty good. Darius Odyssey, the book on the information of the whole series with an emphasize on the bosses, lays on top of the game case and music CD. While it would’ve been preferable to have the book behind the game and the disc so that you’d have a faster access to the game case, this is a doable solution.

Darius Odussey is a superb book. If you’re a fan of the franchise and have a preference for books of this nature, finding yourself one would something to consider about. Of course, there is a language barrier to consider about. Even if your linguistic skills aren’t up to the task, the pictures are nice.

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I had to edit my fingers out

The paper used is glossy, as per usual for these releases. This also means the page’s corners are easy to damage, and mine got a bit crunched from the sides during transit, meaning the base packaging itself is insufficient.

The music CD the Vita LE comes with is Original Arrange Soundtrack. It doesn’t contain any original tracks from the game itself, but contains music used for DLC stuff, meaning you’re missing a lot of good Zuntata music. While it can be understood, as the main soundtrack itself is sold separately and Zuntata really makes some decent dough on those, it would have been nice to have some Darius. I’ve got no qualms about having music from Space Harrier and Night Striker, which has a godly track titled Emergency Order, there is something amiss here. It’s nothing notable, but as far as included soundtracks goes, it misses the point a bit.

Overall, the Japanese Vita release was worth the money. Darius Odyssey was the money grabber in this one without a doubt. It makes an interesting conversation piece when your guests realise that all of the bosses have a seafood theme to them, and then you can proceed to wow them with your knowledge on mechanised sushi.

Limited Run’s PlayStation 4 release offers different contents, like the Japanese PS4 release.

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Uh, I’m not sure if they were arranged like this

You don’t see them, but bunch of Dariusburst CS capsule toys were stashed beneath both of these cases. The PS4 case may seem like something it would slide down in a moment, but they’ve managed to play the millimetre game well enough and it keeps the game’s case in place well enough.

There is no book this time around, but the Arrange Album is a new one. Again, we can DLC music from games like Death Smiles and Battle Garegga, of which Battle Garegga has an excellent remix of Into the Leaden Clouds. However, unlike with the Arrange Album in the Vita release, this sequel album has some songs from Darius games. They’ve been heavily arranged and carry individual composer’s tunes instead of relying on Zuntata’s own melodic trademarks. Both Arrange Albums are worth to listen to at least once and pick up your personal favourites from them, but I would recommend against purchasing either Limited Edition solely because of these music albums.

The game case is nothing special, but the main attraction of this piece is the two Silver Hawk capsule toys. Which is kinda backwards, because these two are just packed pieces of Shooting Game Historica toys and carry all the flaws a cheaply manufactured quick-pack toys have.

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The stand’s a huge upgrade from the original Silver Hawk figures from the first Shooting Game Historica

Limited Run’s Limited Edition came with Player 1 and 2 colours while the Japanese PS4 Limited Edition came with Player 3 and 4 colours. Whether or not they had a rerun or this release was provided from an excess stock is unknown, but ultimately this doesn’t matter. While I’m sure most people want the Red and Blue Silver Hawks, the P3 and P4 colours are now the rarer ones.

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Wings and cockpit were delivered in separate bags, as per capsule toys standards

The overall mould is good, but like with all toys like these, the tolerances are rather big. There are numerous spots where the pieces don’t align straight with each other without the use of glue, which I would recommend anyway.

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Because the tolerances are so high, the cockpit doesn’t sit in. You can see how it is turning to the right to the extent of the back right bit resting against the top. The turret on the left is also bending outwards due to cheap plastic used, though this is not a rare things with capsule toys. The cheapness also shows in the paintjob.

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Not the worst, not the best, but quality that doesn’t belong to a Limited Edition title

The cockpit is moulded in transparent blue plastic and then painted over with silver and red, or blue in the case of P2 colours. Due to the tolerances, the paint application is sloppy and the cockpit’s windscreen doesn’t come through as well as it should. It looks pretty terrible, and it would’ve been better if the windscreen was painted.

To be completely serious, the figures are a major letdown. Of course they wouldn’t make a new mould for this when you could cheap your ass out with this, but seeing the Japanese release did the same, it’s not exactly Limited Run’s fault. However, I would argue that Degica should’ve trumped the Japanese release and should have opted for the model kit of Silver Hawk. It might’ve had raised the price a bit, but it would’ve crowned the release. Now it’s just a drag.

Between the two releases, the Vita release gets a stamp of recommendation simply based on the book. However, it should be noted that PS4 version does have the book included as an extra on-disc that you can access in-game, but the most baffling part of this that the book’s completely untranslated. This is a significant miss on Degica’s part. The staff handling this project should have realised that they’d need to put the effort to translate it, though Degica and translations don’t really meet half-way through, it would seem.

However, if the book doesn’t look like your thing, then you’d better off with the standard release from Japan, or one of the digital options. It’ll be cheaper, and you won’t have a huge box taking your shelf space.

Or pick up Odin Sphere Leifthrasir ‘s limited edition for fifty quid on Amazon UK if you want a good limited release package.

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Top 5 games of 2016

It’s that time of the year to make possibly the most self-indulgent post in this blog and tell you what were my Top 5 games of the year. As per usual, the year the game was released doesn’t matter, just the fact that I played the game for the first time in 2016. There is no order to these either, thou to be honest with you here, I really should write the games I think could be good contenders down as soon as possible in order not to wonder what the hell did I play this year. However, one of the criteria for personal top games is that I still play them after an extended period of time and don’t just drop it. Let’s get on with the show and start with a Vita title.

Continue reading “Top 5 games of 2016”

Monthly Three: Simplicity is the base of expansion

Complexity fascinates people. Things and people themselves are not complex, but we make them to be. There is beauty in simplicity, but by our nature we want to mess with that simplicity. Breakout was a perfectly simple single-player game and effectively created a sub-genre to Pong games through its innovation. You can’t really add more depth to Breakout without changing its gameplay and design, which changes how it ultimately plays out. Super Breakout was the first official sequel to Breakout, adding new game modes and such. Still, it didn’t touch on the design itself.

Ten years later, in 1986, Arkanoid was released. Either it or Breakout are used as an example for the genre, and as such Breakout or Arkanoid clone is not too uncommon to see around. Nevertheless, Taito’s Arkanoid stands apart from Breakout due to its expansion to the formula. Arkanoid did not add any depth to Breakout, and by its extension, to Pong, but it expanded how the game is played and approached.

Arkanoid wasn’t the first Breakout clone, but it sure was the one that stroke true. Its expansions are basically power-ups that adds on top of the existing gameplay rather than changes it. There are some Space Invaders influences in there with a power-up capsule that adds a shot option, and thus another way to break the tiles. Other power ups affect the length of the paddle, adds a multi-ball mode and add a ball capturing ability.

These of course change how you approach the game. Do you pick up certain power-ups over the other, or will you stick the current ones you have? What will serve you best in what situation, and are you able to utilise them all equally well? As the game has become arguably safer to play with these additions, Taito added falling planet debris that spawns at the top of the screen. If the player’s paddle hits one of these debris, it affects how the paddle controls. Another addition is unbreakable tiles and tiles that require multiple hits, adding a way to prevent player from hitting certain spots with ease.

Breakout’s stage design follows the same simple idea as the rest of the game, whereas Arkanoid’s one of the best things are the stage layouts. Arkanoid abandons the idea of breaking out and increased difficulty and adopts progressive stage-by-stage transition. Progressing through the game is done by entering a door that opens up with a certain capsule or automatic progression when the screen is cleared.

Arkanoid got a slew of sequels pretty soon and was ported to pretty much all popular systems at the time. Out of them, Arkanoid DS is the most divisive entry due to how it changed dynamics of the core gameplay. It narrowed and lengthened the play field, making it far higher than in previous entries, and changed the tiles into squares. This changes the dynamics of the game, especially now that there is a loss of information. Breakout is a 100% information game; everything you see is what you get. Arkanoid’s slight variation in the planets debris’ motion adds a random element to the mix, but with Arkanoid DS you have a dead zone where there is no visual information for the player to latch unto. With DS, if the developer wants to use both screens in gameplay, they can either simulate the space between the two screens or ignore the space. Taito decided to include this screenless space, which does add unknown factor to the gameplay. The paddle doesn’t seem to have any changes to it and feels larger due to the narrower field.

Arkanoid DS seems to play in a lacklustre way without an additional paddle controller. Complains I’ve seen regarding the game range from lacklustre ball physics to amateurish visual designs to irritating elevator music used in the game. I have to agree with most of these points. Because there are far better Arkanoid clones out there, games that play reasonably well even without a paddle controller, I never bothered tracking one down to my library. Its presentation isn’t all too appealing,

Taito’s success with Arkanoid stems from well planned expansions on pre-existing game design. This made Arkanoid stand out from other Breakout clones. The additions were important and no other Breakout or Arkanoid clone has managed to beat them in how these two defined the genre. There are numerous good Arkanoid clones out there, and we’ll be taking a look at one next time.

Within the game industry there really isn’t a comparative example to Breakout-Arkanoid relationship. The closest ones that hit the mark are Doom clones that run on the same engine, but there are not straight up analogies. Perhaps one of the best examples is Star Wars: Dark Forces, as the rumours say that the Jedi engine was made from reversed engineered and largely modified Doom engine. The difference in comparison is difficult to make between Breakout-Arkanoid and Doom-Doom clones is because the technology has become advanced enough that such changes have become more or less meaningless. Well, another one would be Street Fighter II compared to earlier fighting games, of course, but SFII did far more than just expanding from the base gameplay.

Most modern games are essentially derivatives from GTA-3D Zelda style games as simplicity and certain level of abstract worlds have been all but abandoned. What use is technological advancement if we can’t obsolete old games and still recycle the same exact methods of gameplay and progress we’ve had over two decades now? It’s no wonder that the general audience liked the Wii and the DS, it had games that deviated from the standard formula a bit, like Brain Age.

Perhaps rather than designing the expansive and complex game systems each and any game seems to go for, there should be a slight paradigm shift to concentrate on the core gameplay over everything else. Such approach is impossible for the modern Triple A game development mentality, I’m afraid.