Friday, August 31, 2012

Malicious - PS3

Well this game completely slipped under my radar. I heard the guys on the WAHP podcast singing its praises so I was surprised when I noticed it had turned up on the EU PSN without any fanfare. Malicious is a 3D action game by Alvion, a developer I’ve not heard anything about and from their Wikipedia page haven’t really done much of note. Hopefully that will change because despite its short length Malicious looks and feels as polished as any big name current gen title.

Malicious is a bit like a cross between Mega Man and Devil May Cry. You have a choice of stages to tackle in whatever order you want and by defeating the boss you gain extra abilities that will help you in subsequent battles. Malicious however is a Boss Rush game. Each area is nothing but a boss fight. The game might not sound substantial but each boss fight is spectacular some even matching the scale of Shadow of the Colossus. Visually it’s one of the best looking games on the PS3 with some spectacular art design on show.

The combat system is rather complex, a little too complex perhaps. Once you master it it’s a joy to use but unfortunately the game doesn’t do a good job of explaining how it works. You gain ‘Aura’ from killing enemies and this can be used for a variety of purposes. It can be used to heal, the more damage you take the more aura and time it takes to heal yourself and you are in a very vulnerable state while healing. You can also expend Aura to increase the damage of your attacks. What the game doesn’t do a good job of explaining is that the best way to gain more aura is to expend it in this way. Attacking the bosses many minions will increase aura, however attacking them while expending aura will increase the aura gain exponentially with you combo meter. It’s a bit counter intuitive but once you make use of it the game because a lot more enjoyable. It took me a long time to grasp how this all worked but once I did I started to have a lot more fun.

This boss gave me awful trouble!
As you gain more abilities and fighting styles from defeated bosses your attack options increase and you can create some very impressive combos by switching between styles mid combo. These new abilities should help you in boss battles but the difficulty rises as you defeat each boss. Although this keeps the game from getting too easy I found one of the bosses became a nightmare to beat if you leave her until last, she’s the only one that is human sized and I recommend taking her out early on. I left her until last in my first play through and had to restart since she became so difficult.

Despite my minor problems with the game you should definitely pick it up. It’s a beautiful looking game, has an amazing soundtrack and a really great combat system once you get the hang of it. I’d love to see Alvion getting a publisher deal that allows them to flesh out the ideas on show in Malicious. It’s obvious that they had much bigger plans for this title; there’s a huge amount of backstory and the quality and polish of the game is something you don’t expect from a downloadable title at this price. They definitely have talent if this game is anything to go by.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Arcade and Retro Podcast Episode 11: Piracy Special

The arcade and retro podcast is back after a bit of a hiatus. This week me and the guys and gal are discussing videogame piracy with a retrogame slant:

From schoolyards to Coffee Mornings, Dial up to internet, Double tape decks to CD rips.Piracy has always been rife in the Videogame industry.
In this Episode Gavin,Sparks,Retro and Sera discuss the history and effects of copied floppies, Duplicated Discs and of course recorded tapes.We also discuss emulation, roms and archives.
Remember Kids Piracy is illegal, immoral and you will go to hell.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Valkyria Chronicles 2

The first Valkyria Chronicles game is one of the best games on the PS3. It took the rock/paper/scissors mechanics of the advance wars and fire emblem series and added its own real time twist to the strategy RPG to create a very unique beast. It was and still is a beautiful looking game and had a surprisingly engaging storyline that paralleled World War 2. I even found myself quite moved at times especially when the team ends up in the Darcsen concentration camps, the Darcsens of course representing the Jewish people.

There was a lot of fan fury over the announcement that the sequel would be released on the PSP. Initial reports suggested that the battle grounds and team sizes you were allowed were greatly reduced and the PSP was never going to replicate the beautiful visuals of the original. While Valkyria Chronicles 2 is nowhere near the quality of the original it’s still very much worth your time.

You again have control over a tank and it's more customisable than ever! While not on par with the original, Valkyria Chronicles 2 is still a great looking game.

 Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place after events in the first game when the invading Imperial forces have been driven out of the region. However a civil war has broken out in Gallia, between the North and the South, the Southern army lead by a group of aristocrats with racist views on the Darcsen people. With parallels to the American Civil War, Valkyria Chronicles has some very strong material to work with. Unfortunately the story is muck. There’s none of the emotional highs of the first game mostly due to the cast being a bunch of absolute fannies. Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place in a military academy, basically high school with guns. It’s a bit like Persona 3 and 4 but instead of a believable cast of teenagers what we have here is a bunch of the worst kind of anime clichés. The main character is the worst; he’s a total slacker and idiot that makes no effort to improve himself but for some reason becomes the leader of a military unit. His laugh will send shivers down your spine.

Avan in the bottom left, the annoying bellend of a protagonist
Thankfully Valkyria Chronicles’ unique strategic combat has transferred quite faithfully over to the PSP system with a few new additions. Despite the battle areas being reduced in size you now have to manage your forces over multiple battle areas, a good compromise that gives every skirmish the large scope of the PS3 original on less capable hardware. The selection of units to use has been greatly expanded upon. While initially there are only 5 units to choose from each can be promoted to new specialist units. For example scouts can become snipers or focus on grenades. There’s also a new unit class added to Valkyria Chronicles 2 that can either focus on close range combat or can become a support class by setting up minefields.

The strategic map overview. You can see in the bottom left the different battle areas you can jump between.

 Although a little disappointing compared to its predecessor Valkyria Chronicles 2 is still an excellent game. There’s a huge amount of content, about 80 hours worth to beat the story and probably that again for the post game content. Sega also released some codes to unlock extra characters and missions so it’s worth getting them off Sega’s website or a FAQ. One other aspect that I haven’t covered since I never had a chance to experience it is the multiplayer mode which consists of both co-op and competitive modes. The first game was crying out for a multiplayer so I’m pretty sure it works great on the PSP.

One of the new close range specialists about to bring the hurt. They might not have the best mobility but do a lot of damage and swing their weapons in an arc.

 It’s just a shame that Sega decided to turn Valkyria Chronicles into a PSP series. Low sales of Valkyria Chronicles 2 and the death of the PSP market in the West means Sega are refusing to release Valkyria Chronicles 3 in the West, a game which supposedly takes all of the improvements in Valkyria Chronicles 2 and adds a decent narrative. At least there’s some fan translators working on the project.