Thursday, September 07, 2006

Idaten Jump DS

Whereas Forrest Gump ran, Sho Yamato rides. A mountain bike that is. Sho pedals like a piston and speeds through desert roads and canyons with unflappable determination. To pedal in Idaten Jump DS, players use the stylus to make circular motions on a wheel located on the touch screen. To maneuver left or right, tug the d-pad accordingly. To jump, tap the L-trigger but for double air, draw a "V" on the touch screen and the Sho will hop higher. The first challenge is a practice run which features a single significant obstacle on the course - a tree that lies right in the center of the road. Swerve and you're on your way to the goal. The second race pits the player against a corpulent competitor from the Shark Tooth biker gang.

Hirameki Kosodate My Angel

A decade ago, Namco released Kosodate Quiz My Angel on Seta 2nd Generation coin-op hardware. In the game, players raised a child from baby to adult by answering questions in quiz format. The company followed up with Kosodate Quiz My Angel 2 in 1997. Ten years after the original game, Namco returns to the "My Angel" series with an NDS rendition which takes after the recent spate of brain training games. The baby-to-adult theme is intact but the questions have been replaced by brain teasers which test memory, judgment, recognition, and concentration. At the outset, the baby is dressed in a blue outfit with bonnet. The first brain game tests memorization by presenting three objects on a 3 x 3 grid...

Blood+ Final Peace

Production I.G. provides the visuals for Blood+ which features four original interactive stories which are named File 00, 01, 02, 03. The artwork and cinemas were produced exclusively for Final Peace and are a treat to view on the crisp screen of the PSP. The stories interweave with the world of Blood+ where Saya Otonashi goes to school, deals with Red Shield, and battles Yokushu in interactive scenarios. To support the new story lines, a total of 19 characters are featured in the adventure along with 8 original cast members that were created for the game. Since "Final Peace" is primarily an interactive game, full blown action is lacking but puzzle solving skills are in demand. As choices are made during an adventure, the story fork and splits off into junctures which are determined by the player's input and decisions. As usual, Haji is always there to back Saya up when the vampire killer is in a precarious position.

Kangaeru Exit

Mr. ESC lives for the thrill of saving hapless souls stuck in dangerous situations. From fires to floods to earthquake induced emergencies, the intrepid hero dashes to and fro while leading survivors to safety. In Kangaeru Exit, Mr. ESC reprises his role as rescuer extraordinaire and takes his stock in trade to disaster areas around the world including the South American jungle, the pyramids of Egypt, a sinking luxury liner, an oil refinery in the Middle East, and other exotic locations.

In the original Exit game, Mr. ESC used ropes, keys, fire extinguishers, and stretchers to help accomplish his various goals. The old items return in Kangaeru and are joined by new items such as abseil rope (used for rappelling down), barrels, floating buoys, doors that only allow one-way entry, and platforms that rotate to add new techniques to ESC's repertoire. One condition of successful completion in the original Exit was the rescue of every survivor in each stage. Kangaeru is less strict in this regard and only requires a certain number of rescued individuals before the level is cleared. Character archetypes that may be saved from danger include the kid, teenager, adult, and patient. Two new characters in the game consist of a dog that can wade through water and a muscle-bound he-man who lends his power in scenarios that require brute strength to climb ropes. In addition to the 100+ stages included in the retail UMD, Taito promises a total of 300 stages that may be downloaded from the Exit2 website and saved to Memory Stick for use in the game.

Pilot ni Naru! Flying All Stars

Take to the skies and pilot 100 years worth of planes and learn a little history while you're at it. The main portion of Pilot ni Naru! is the Mission Mode where players use various planes to fulfill targeted objectives and tasks. In one mission, players are assigned courier duties where secret documents are delivered to an airbase. In another mission, virtual pilots take control of a crop duster and spray an expansive field with pesticide to clear it of hungry insects. Military missions include night bombing runs, destruction of an enemy fleet, and strafing enemy forces on the ground. Civilian missions are more varied with tasks such as avoiding an oncoming hurricane, observing an erupting volcano, and tracking animals from the air. Over 40 missions may be enjoyed with a little bit of something for everyone.

In the Academy Mode of the game, players are trained to become a pilot by an accommodating and forgiving software tutor. Finally, Challenge Mode features death-defying aerial missions and stunts. The game features a total of 21 planes which were used in the past century including the Sopwith Camel which was in rotation during WWI, the Fokker Dreidecker I Triplane which was piloted by German forces, Mig-29 Fulcrum, F117 Stealth Fighter, C-130 Hercules, A10 Thunderbolt, and the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. Two flyboys may link up through the PSP wireless communication function and compete against each other in missions which involve dogfighting and trials of enemy plane destruction.

Taiko no Tatsujin Portable 2

The first Taiko no Tatsujin (Bataburu) game for PSP featured a measly 38 songs. Add the 7 downloadable songs to the mix and players made do with a total of 45 tunes in Bataburu. Namco's a little more generous with the second PSP Taiko release and throws in a total of 62 songs - 40 of which are new along with 22 tunes culled from Bataburu. Also new are four mini-games where the Taiko participate in foolhardy exercises. In one of the games, players control a Taiko who sits upon a paper airplane and goes airborne. As the ebullient Taiko flies through the air, provide guidance so that it dodges obstacles. In another game, players are prompted to rotate the PSP 90° counterclockwise for stacking action. Taiko's friends are sequentially dropped on top of one another with the goal of reaching a target height. The challenge is keeping the tower stable as it grows ever taller.

For beginners to the Taiko mirth, gamers may practice their skills in the "Donko Mode" which ratchets the difficulty down for children and players without rhythm. Experienced gamers who need a refresher course on the nuances of PSP Taiko control may check out the Taiko Classroom which offers training exercises. Up to four players may link up for a cooperative game or a competitive communication battle by using a single game UMD. When playing the mini-games, up to two players may compete for the rank of top Drum Master.

Tales of Phantasia: Full Voice

Originally released for the Super Famicom in 1995, the Full Voice edition of Tales of Phantasia represents the fourth rehash of the game since the first release. At the outset of the adventure, four heroes are fighting a feathery-blond-haired wizard named Dhaos. One of the heroes has already fallen and things are looking bleak until a magician casts a powerful spell that transforms Dhaos into a ball of energy and sends him sailing. He soars for a while until he plummets back to earth in his natural form. There, the heroes lock the evil wizard away inside a sarcophagus by using the power of two magic pendants. With the evil sealed from the world, peace returns and all is well. That is, until a knight is deceived into using the two pendants to break the seal and release Dhaos into the wilds once again.

Players take on the role of 17 year-old Cless Alvein, a knight-like warrior in shining armor who teams up with Chester Barklight, Mint Adnade, and other kindred spirits. When the game proper starts, Cless is speaking to his father Miguel when Chester comes by so the two boys can go hunting. After mama gives Cless some Apple Gel, the hunters head out for South Forest where they chase a boar and battle some giant bees... As indicated by the title of the game, Namco fleshes out the voices in the PSP version of Phantasia with new voice samples and sequences. Professional actors and actresses lent their vocal talents to the dialogue for added theatrics and an enjoyable listening experience. Cut scenes and updated graphics also add value to the new Phantasia.

X360 Kengo Zero

After the release of Shutoko Battle X in Japan earlier this summer, Genki shows love for the Xbox 360 once again with a 3D samurai simulator. The developer/publisher takes the Kengo series all the way back to the beginning and then some. Billed as a prequel to the first game, Kengo Zero features sword fighting action that's bolstered with an engaging story line. Players take on the role of a broad-faced swordsman who roams the countryside and mixes it up with famous figures from feudal Japan. Interesting characters that may be encountered include the legendary Musashi Miyamoto, Ryoma Sakamoto Ryoma, Kojiro Sasaki, and Jubei Yagyu.

Fighters in Kengo may adopt different stances to attack and defend during an encounter. When defending, an oncoming sword slash may be parried and followed up with an immediate counterattack. Skilled killers may also strike single death blows to terminate enemies posthaste in addition to gradually carving an opponent up with strategic slices. Kengo Zero features an online mode but note that it is only a ranking system where gamers may upload their best scores to compare against other players. Please note that Kengo Zero does not boot on USA Xbox 360 consoles.

Upcoming Arcade Releases

Arcade distributors in Japan have started preorders for three upcoming kits which ship in the fourth quarter as follows:

» Mushihimesama 2 (Futari)
from Cave
Includes Cave SH3 kit, marquee header, and side panel artwork. Delivery is scheduled for late October and pricing is set at JPY248,000 or US$2300 which includes shipping directly from Japan.

» Karous from Milestone/Sega
Includes Naomi GD-Rom disc, marquee header, and side panel artwork. Delivery is scheduled for mid November and pricing is set at JPY158,000 or US$1580 which includes shipping directly from Japan.

» Melty Blood Act Cadenza ver. B from Ecole/Sega
Includes Naomi GD-Rom disc, marquee header, and side panel artwork. Delivery is scheduled for mid December and pricing is set at JPY158,000 or US$1480 which includes shipping directly from Japan.