Lords of Shadow sequel: Mirror of Fate

The first thing that comes to mind when hearing about this new Castlevania game and its title is this: will it be a mirror of Lords of Shadow? Will be fun but rather lackluster? Will it be with the same cumbersome battle system, and will the graphics be as grainy as they were gorgeous? Will this game be another game that’s just not quite good enough to carry the Castlevania name?

Second thought: no, this game is going to be a stand-out, possibly the very one Konami needs for this much-beleagured series.

Castlevania use to have a golden age, starting with Symphony of the Night and continuing with Dawn of Sorrow and the like. Then it fell into ruin, with such unimpressive games as Lament of Innonence and Curse of Darkness. These games were hardly horrible; they had their own virtues. But every time I played them I felt like Castlevania was a shadow of its former glory. Playing Lords of Shadow didn’t really dispell that feeling, though there were parts I enjoyed.

Now comes along another game in the series that just might break this half-assed mold: Mirror of Fate. There’s a dozen youtube trailers of the game. See one of them below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xr48joNwppw

Details are very obscure but the artwork is beautiful and the music is haunting. Another thing I noted that pleased me immensely was the return of the side-scrolling. Seems from discussion with the developers that they intend to keep the best parts of Lords of Shadow in its sequel and expand on the parts gamers asked for. Specifically the developers discussed increasing exploration, as this is a key element to Castlevania; the feeling of vast untouched regions waiting for you to discover them.

The involvement of better-known Belmonts such as Trevor (and other favorites) also add to my delight. Dracula’s integral engagement with his age-old enemies also pleases me. Lord of Shadow’s detailed the vampire’s origins, and this game looks to dig even deeper. Add the gothic, eerie atmosphere we’ve always loved in this series, and my hopes are flying high for this game.

I make no promises for a series so unstable as Castlevania. But if they return to their roots while still plowing through with new and advanced gameplay, then we shall see her glory days renewed.

Will it be a terrible day to have a curse? We’ll keep you in the loop!

Apple and Valve = New Gaming System?

After Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Valve headquarters in Washington the internet’s been awash with speculation on what that meeting entailed. Valve, well-known for their games Half-life and Portal, have also entered the app gaming market with their platform Steam. The game designer has been long rumoured to be working on a gaming system of their own…could this visit been the start of a collaboration perhaps? Is Apple interested in challenging Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo?

Evidence is mounting. Valve might have refuted the rumour of them jumping into the hardware market before but they also put out an article for a “wearable computer” to “enhance…experiences”…is this to compete against Google’s own announcement of “Project Glass”…the same Google that is in an intense battle of the tech with Apple?

No one knows, but everyone cares and we’ll certainly keep you apprised of any developments.

Beware Bioware: The Cupcakes Are Coming to Get You!

In one of the more unusual pieces of gaming news I’ve ever had to write Bioware is soon to receive a protest…in the form of 400 cupcakes. This venture was undertaken by a member at Bioware’s forums by the name of LoganKey. He was so dissatisfied with Mass Effect 3’s ending that he raised $1000 to get a bakery to make the cupcakes. Here is the post that clarifies this tasty plot:

We are currently trying to organize the delivery of a mass of cupcakes to Bioware’s studio in Edmonton. All the cupcakes will be divided into equal parts Red, Blue and Green colors…but they will all taste exactly the same. If you’d like participate, please check out the thread below and let us know.

This coming week, we should send Bioware boxes upon boxes of a dozen cupcakes. We are taking ideas as to what sort of notes we should have attached on each:

No matter what color you choose, they all taste the same”;

No matter what color you choose, it’s all vanilla :-D”

We rage because we love”

Is victory sweet? Bioware will find out when the delivery reaches its offices. Of course if I was a game developer and my “punishment” for making a controversial ending to a game was to be inundated with sweet treats I’d imagine my story-building wouldn’t change.

Unless they end up with nightmares of scores of cupcakes trying to eat them.

Sony’s Next-Gen Console Orbis’s Latest Details

Apparently “Orbis”, as PS3’s successor console is known, isn’t going to be backwards-compatible. It also isn’t going to be used-game-friendly, either. While this news isn’t entirely surprising given how used/older games don’t promote an environment for growth (or rather that’s how a corporation might see it; evidence suggests otherwise) it is disappointing.

These moves by Sony are those mirrored by Microsoft who also are going to make things less desirable for any gamer who likes used games. In regards to Orbis the backwards-incompatibility is without any workaround as far as I understand, but gamers who opt to buy a pre-owned game will be able to play…with limitations. You can get a second-hand copy but you will not have full functionality and you will have to pay to get the complete gaming experience.

To add to more of Sony’s questionable decisions, it will become a necessity to have an internet connection (which means if your net cuts so does your playing time) and logging into your account at PSN. This is likely to enforce the restriction of pre-owned games. Internet access is hardly an issue for a lot of gamers, as droves play online, but being forced to do so is annoying for an old-school gamer such as myself.

Sony has declined to comment on these matters.

The one bit of good news is this: Gamers won’t have to wait unreasonably long to get their hands on the latest bit of Sony hardware. Orbis is slated to ship at the end of 2013, right in time for the holiday season. Maybe that will cheer up the Sony fans, but if you’re like me, you hope that the company will relax their hard-liner attitude and return to what gaming’s all about: having fun.

Angry Birds Launches into Space!

Most of you already know this by now as this game is hugely popular, but for the unfortunate soul who hasn’t heard: Angry Birds has gone into space. Literally. On Thursday the birds took to outer space to again claim their oft-snatched eggs back from the clutches of those evil pigs.

Having played the game’s first level “Pig Bang” I’ve found it’s new dynamic of gravity influencing the game mechanics especially entertaining. At times you have to use the slingshot in reverse to accomplish your goal; it is not necessarily a derp moment for those with butterfingers (like mine).

With Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons already out, Angry Birds in Space looks to capitalize on the market who’ve gone fowl-crazy for those birds without wings. Will they get their precious eggs back? Play the game and find out!

New Square-enix Teaser “CC” Site

Square-enix has launched a new teaser website, tentatively called CC2012. You can see the website here:

http://cc2012.square-enix.co.jp/

As far as I can tell, and this is generally agreed by the tweeted comments, this looks to be an advertisement for a new Crystal Chronicles game. As you watch you’ll see dark, ominous skies and then a few crystals crack and explode. Afterwards you are treated to a few flickers of swords, warriors (appears to be Odin), a ruined city and three characters: an older gentleman, a dark-haired male and a young blonde female. Lastly there is a duel between a young woman and a knight.

Little else is known about this new game in the works except that it’s apparently due out in the Summer, so we’ll see what else we learn about this between now and then.

Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition

If you were an old school gamer like me, and started your journey into PC gaming with the top down RPGs, hearing about Baldur’s Gate remake will make you giggle. Or squee. Or do whatever it is that you do when you hear about something so old getting a new take on it. I so desperately want this to be a great remake of the original game, and sequel, that I can still remember what it felt like to have my characters talk back to me, engage in relationships and even randomly attack each other (amusing, though highly annoying; this is why regular saving is a must!)

Anyways, enough of my reminiscence and fangirling, what I have to say this: apparently the trio of Atari, Wizards of the Coast and Overhaul are working on an enhanced version of the original Baldur’s Gate and its sequel. Released on the PC back in 1998, this was one of the first RPGs for PC gaming, and it shows. Many of the games you that came after it borrow of its mechanics (NeverwinterNights is almost a clone) and any old-school PC gamer will talk fondly of the side-quests, quirky characters (“Go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes!”) and lots of areas to explore.

Much to my pleasure I heard that the expansions to the two games will be included in this remake. Details are still sketchy, but what we do know is that it will have an enhanced version of the Infinity Engine. In order to keep the game’s original spark, the developers and programmers from the first incarnation are on the team. This keeps me happy, as too many changes will blot out the glory of a game so beloved and so beautiful. As the picture featured in this article indicates, this is suppose to be released in summer, and gaming gods willing, it will be.

I will follow this story to let you know of developments as they arise. Anticipation meter off to a roaring start!

Review of Dragon Quest 4: Chapters of the Chosen

Time for me to get off my Final Fantasy high and review another game out of a favourite series of mine: Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest was originally known as Dragon Warrior on the American shores because of a copyright issue two decades ago. This game was actually one of the first RPGs to appear on the consoles, heavily borrowing off the famous Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG. Though not nearly as prevalent as Final Fantasy here in the Western World, in Japan this game is so popular that there’s a day dedicated to it.

Dragon Quest is pretty formulaic: you have a team of four misfits which travel with you to save the world in some fashion or another. Dragon Quest 4 takes after this dynamic but adds a twist to give the characters some limelight; they have separate chapters for the individual characters so you can level them up and understand their history. And it is a fun cast, from the irrepressible princess Alena to the honourable Ragnar. Eventually all stories come together so you can unite under the Hero(ine).

Chapters of the Chosen is not a game particularly unique in general, though it does have the fun task of being a shopkeeper for a while there. In addition to that there is a secret dungeon with an enjoyable boss battle where you can acquire the game’s most useful tools if you defeat them. Even better is if you figure out the game’s greatest secret you’ll end up with an obscenely overpowered ally and have a slightly modified ending.

The graphics, though dated, are so very very pretty, especially Zenitha. The character portraits are full of personality and seeing the various terrain is pleasing to the eye. But the in-battle graphics are just average, and the special effects don’t make much of an appearance. Obviously graphics isn’t this game’s forte but since it is a DS game, and a Dragon Quest game to boot, if that’s what you’re here for you, you are missing the point of the game.

What is the point of this game? The name of the game: Quests. You go on an endlessly litany of quests either for your characters or random NPCs. Acquiring the mini-medals, playing the game’s one-man form of monopoly and the aforementioned secret dungeon will have you coming back for more..at least until you exhaust all this, which doesn’t take that long, to be honest.

What’s so remarkable about this game (and the Dragon Quest series in general) is its eternal devotion to child-like good and evil values and its bright and cheery atmosphere, no matter how dark the current quest is. Whether this is a flaw or not in the game is more of a personal taste thing, but I find that with so many realistic and depressing games out there, one bright spot is a welcome relief. This is not to say that the over-reliance on everything cute and happy-happy-joy-joy doesn’t get annoying; it does, but sometimes a RPG should just be a good romp through dungeons, which this definitely is.

Dragon Quest has always been known to have a beautiful score and Chapters of the Chosen adds a few twists on its set of delightful tracks. The music in Zenitha and the last boss battle are two notables. Considering how long the last boss battle is, having the music change during the different stages is to great affect. The overworld theme is also enjoyable, giving you that adventurous feeling.

For those of you (like me) who didn’t get a chance to really enjoy this remake, you’ll feel content giving this a go. And like me, you probably won’t pick this up once you finish that secret dungeon and blasting away enemies with your super-powered ally. However if you were planning on something more unique and mind-blowing Dragon Quest 4 isn’t your thing (and, by extension, probably not the Dragon Quest series at all). It satisfied me until the next Final Fantasy came along, which, while not making the game glorious, does do exactly what I wanted.

When Dragon Quest makes a foray into the real world gaming you can bet it’ll be a masterpiece. Not that I mind the simple fun we have today.