[REVIEW] Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds

Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds
Developer: Otomate
Publisher: Idea Factory
Available on: Vita (reviewed)
Release date: May 16 (NA), May 19 (EU)

The PlayStation Vita’s library of visual novels is set to expand next month with the arrival of Otomate’s latest otome, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds, courtesy of publisher Idea Factory. If the thought of romancing pretty samurai boys and uncovering a supernatural mystery sound appealing, this is definitely one to keep an eye on.

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Toukiden 2 Carry-Over Demo Available Now on PS4 & Vita

I never got around to playing the original Toukiden on the PlayStation Vita, but Toukiden: Kiwami was my obsession on PS4. Essentially acting as PlayStation’s answer to Monster Hunter’s newfound Nintendo exclusivity, Toukiden is a multi-player “hunting” game where you and your friends slay demons, craft gear, and fuse the souls of legendary figures to your vast array of weapons for a variety of spells and bonuses.

Toukiden’s sequel, aptly titled Toukiden 2, is set to release in North America on March 21st (24th in Europe) for both PS4 and Vita.

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Letter Quest Remastered is Quite Good, Despite Personal Issues on Vita

Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey was one of the first mobile games to successfully hold my attention, with its neat gameplay hook, cute characters, crisp graphics, and steady stream of rewarding upgrades. I’m a firm believer that just because a game exists on a mobile device doesn’t necessarily make it bad, and I looked forward to checking out Letter Quest’s PS4 and Vita port when it was included in this month’s batch of free Playstation Plus titles.

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VVVVVV Was the Perfect Travel Distraction and a Great PS Plus Freebie on Vita

Whenever I travel, I like to bring along my Vita to pass time during bouts of insomnia. I’m a terrible sleeper, so it’s not uncommon to be wide awake at odd hours while every normal human is sound asleep. I recently found myself in this exact situation while out of town for the holidays, but thankfully found solace in one of this month’s Playstation Plus freebies, VVVVVV.

This fun little 2D puzzle platformer by Terry Cavanagh (Super Hexagon) initially released more than 6 years ago, but more recently found a home on PS4 and Vita during the summer of 2015. Unfortunately it doesn’t support Playstation’s cross-buy feature, but its bite-sized adventure certainly feels right at home on Vita.

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When six crew members (whose names all start with the letter ‘V’, hence the name of the game) are tossed in to a dimensional rift, you take control of Captain Viridian in hopes of locating your now-missing friends. It’s mostly a traditional platformer, navigating a labyrinthine map in search of checkpoints and teleporters, while avoiding death at the hands of various hazards.

Each of the missing crewmen are tucked away in specific locations that remain hidden to the player, but the map is far more expansive than it leads on. And since there’s no additional power-ups or abilities to unlock, every inch of the grounds is open to explore at your own pace.

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It’s a short and sweet adventure with a really catchy soundtrack by Magnus Palsson, but the core of the game lies in its clever platforming. Rather than utilizing traditional jumping mechanics, pressing the X button instead sends Viridian soaring from the floor to the ceiling, or vice versa. One simple puzzle tasks you with traversing the ceiling to avoid the spikes below, while a more intricate one may have you rapidly shifting positions between disappearing platforms or patrolling enemies.

Without the ability to simply jump over gaps or onto platforms, Cavanagh has taken a genre we’ve seen beaten to death over the last 34 years and makes it feel new again. There’s a gradual increase in difficulty that’s well paced, so I never once felt overwhelmed; just challenged. VVVVVV can definitely be a bit of a demanding game where death is a constant, but its design is entirely accessible thanks to a generous checkpoint and fast travel system.

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Even as someone whose skill in platformers has steadily declined over the years, I managed to make my way through VVVVVV in just under two hours. There were a few sections that had me clinching my Vita tighter than I should have, but I was never frustrated or on the verge of rage quitting. Trial by dying has never been my favorite learning exercise, yet I felt compelled to push on while humming along with Palsson’s magnificent bleeps and bloops pulsing in the background.

While the Vita has a comprehensive library of meaty role-playing games and visual novels, many of which I enjoy immensely, my ideal to-go experiences are these bite-sized adventures that I can pick up and play in short bursts. Whether it’s just an impeccable case of “right place, right time” I’m glad I gave VVVVVV the shot it deserved. I don’t have much of a reason to revisit it any time soon, but it definitely ranks high on my list of ideal travel games, alongside the likes of Spelunky, Super Meat Boy, Rogue Legacy, and Risk of Rain.

Let’s Discuss the World of Final Fantasy Demo, Shall We?

Set to release on October 25th for the PlayStation 4 and Vita handheld, World of Final Fantasy saw its first playable demo on both consoles earlier today (EDIT: The Vita version doesn’t actually release until Friday. Sorry!). Without focusing on any form of storytelling, the “dungeon demo” instead walks the player through the game’s various particulars, like combat, stacking, Champions, and so forth.

I just spent about an hour or so with the PlayStation 4 version, so let me tell you a little bit about my adventure! Continue reading “Let’s Discuss the World of Final Fantasy Demo, Shall We?”

Want to Win Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls on PS Vita?

The fine folks at Idea Factory were kind enough to provide me with one additional code for their upcoming PlayStation Vita release Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls. Naturally, I don’t need two copies of the game. Maybe you’d like it instead?

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REVIEW: Claire: Extended Cut

Claire: Extended Cut
Developer: Hailstorm Games
Publisher: Hailstorm Games
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Vita (cross-buy!), Xbox One
Price: $14.99

Horror games are notorious for offering copious amounts of gore, relentless waves of zombies, and intense jump-scares, but few have managed to delve in to the human psyche and deliver a nightmarish atmosphere quite like Silent Hill.

The once glorious franchise tackled sensitive subjects like sexual frustration, uxoricide, and religion, while mastering the art of atmospheric storytelling and brilliant use of musical cues. Akira Yamaoka’s iconically dark, yet strangely beautiful composition elevated the genre to new heights, as it wormed its way in to the player’s ear while they traversed the uneasy browns and reds of the fog-ridden town of Silent Hill.

It’s been so long since a game has managed to capture the same unsettling atmosphere and cryptic nature of Konami’s horror-turned-pachinko-machine series, but Hailstorm Games’ Claire: Extended Cut is about as close as anyone’s managed to get in nearly 13 years.

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