Category Archives: PlayStation Vita

TOP HAT STUDIOS, INC. TO REALEASE FINAL EVER PS VITA GAMES ON APRIL 27TH

After extensive discussions and technical conversations with Sony Interactive Entertainment, Top Hat Studios, Inc. has secured what may be the last ever releases for the Playstation Vita platform. SYNERGIA by RadiArts will be the penultimate title for the console, and SENSE: A CYBERPUNK GHOST STORY by Suzaku will be the final ever release for the platform. Both will be released on Tuesday, the 27th of April, with cross-buy available for the PS4 versions of the games (also available on PS5 via backwards compatibility).

They will continue to be available for just under 4 months – up until the point of final closure for the PS Vita store; this digital release comes following a previously released limited physical edition for both titles, each of which sold out in under a day. Unfortunately, due to technical limitations with PEGI and the SIEE Vita storefront services, these releases will be digital-only for the NA and Asia regional Playstation Stores.

ABOUT SYNERGIA

Synergia was originally released on Steam in July 2020, where it achieved an overwhelming percentage of good reviews and the love of visual novel fans. In this yuri cyberpunk-themed visual novel, players enter a new world where love becomes the ultimate crime. They will play as Cilla, a lonely police officer whose life changes after meeting an extraordinary human-like android named M.A.R.A. The game is now available via Steam, GoG, the Nintendo eShop, and Playstation Store for PS4 with PS5 compatibility.

ABOUT SENSE: A CYBERPUNK GHOST STORY

Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story was originally released on the 25th of August, 2020, and has gained a cult following for its blending of cyberpunk, oriental mythology, Japanese horror, and kitschy aesthetics. The game is available digitally on Steam, the Nintendo eShop, the Playstation Store for PS4/PS5, and also in physical cartridge format for Nintendo Switch courtesy of EastAsiaSoft in conjunction with PlayAsia.

Habroxia Review – PlayStation 4 / Vita

I have to admit, it’s a bit of a surprise that, in the latter half of 2019, I’m writing a review for a game that has recently released on PlayStation Vita. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little handheld, but I did still have to dig it out of the bottom of a box at the back of a cupboard, and I spent a fair bit of time playing Habroxia with my Vita tethered to a power socket as it had long since run out of juice. Habroxia is also available on PlayStation 4, and is a cross-buy title, so my time with the game was spent split between the two different systems, and this review will cover the general experience on both. As an aside, though, the Vita is better for being able to keep an eye on everything happening on-screen, but playing on a TV is useful for being better able to plot routes between projectiles and enemies, as you can judge distances a little better, especially when things start to get chaotic.

Habroxia is a side-scrolling shooter, with a little bit of bullet hell thrown in for good measure. Coming from Lillymo Games, who are based out of Ontario, Canada, Habroxia tasks you with guiding a ship through 15 different levels, some of which require you to defeat all of your enemies, and some of which ask you to rescue astronauts on your way. Regardless of the overall objective, your main activities will be shooting and dodging, and gathering enough credits to purchase upgrades for your craft. The one major twist, however, is that Habroxia is sometimes played vertically and sometimes horizontally, and this switch will often occur mid-level. It’s a neat trick, adding some decent variety to the levels, and each time it happened I could feel my brain adjusting to the new perspective, like a split-second reminder of the feeling that you get when you step off of a treadmill.

Most of the fifteen levels end with a mini-boss fight, though the few levels where you’re rescuing astronauts don’t feature a mini-boss, and every fifth level is a boss fight in itself. I’m not especially familiar with shooters such as Habroxia, but I have to say that I didn’t find the experience particularly challenging at any point, which I was quite surprised by. I had a couple of deaths at the start of the game as I figured out the mechanics, and there was a slight hiccup around level 12 or 13 where I had to restart a couple of times, but I still completed the game in an single sitting. This might be in part thanks to some sensible upgrade choices, but I didn’t really put much thought into it aside from which upgrade was the most affordable at any one point.

Destroying enemy ships and event parts of the scenery will occasionally drop powerups or credit chits, and these credits remain with you each time you die, meaning that even if you’re struggling at a particular point, you can repeat the section over and over until you earn enough money to make yourself stronger. It’s a useful mechanic, as it makes it feel like you’re never wasting time with a failed run, but it seems a little unnecessary considering the lack of fight that the game puts up. There isn’t much of a reason to go back and fully upgrade your ship once the main story is finished, either, unless you want to have a chance of increasing your high score. There are extra modes unlocked once you finish level 5, 10 and 15, but they aren’t too different from what you would have already experienced in the main game, and I can’t see them encouraging too many people to hang around for that long.

Despite its brevity I enjoyed my time with Habroxia, but now that it’s finished and I’ve put it down, I can’t see myself going back to it anytime soon. To be entirely honest, I was expecting some form of new game plus with an increased difficulty once I started to realize how short the experience was, and I would suggest to the developer to think about adding that in as an attempt to have players stick around a little longer. As it is, Habroxia is fun while it lasts, but I find it difficult to recommend purely due to the short runtime, lack of challenge, and the absence of any real reason to return once completed. I don’t want to be too harsh, as it’s clear that a lot of care has gone into Habroxia, but equally I don’t want to encourage players to spend their hard-earned money on an experience that will last a couple of hours at the very most.

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NightCry for the PlayStation®Vita out now!

The horror game that received the heart and soul of the Clock Tower series, NightCry, is out now on the North American PS Store.  This terrifying tragedy 3D horror adventure, set upon a luxurious passenger ship with no escape, is the result of the collaboration between two masters of the horror genre, Hifumi Kono, creator of the Clock Tower series, and Takashi Shimizu, director of the Grudge series.

The main characters find themselves aboard a luxurious cruise liner, on what was supposed to be a fun and relaxing trip. However, a series of gruesome murders aboard the ship are discovered one after another, causing the passengers to grow paranoid and start distrusting one another. Then, the immortal, bloodthirsty killer known as “Scissorwalker” appears. With no way to get off of this increasingly claustrophobic ship in the middle of the ocean, the body count continues to rise. Weapons have no effect on the Scissorwalker. You must desperately seek means of escape, defense, and places to hide lest you become the next victim. The only thing that can help you survive this journey is the choices which you, the player, make.

NightCry for the PlayStation®Vita is out now on the North American PS Store. The European PS Store release date will be announced soon.

NightCry for the PlayStation®Vita, Coming January 31st

Developed through a collaboration between Hifumi Kono, creator of the Clock Tower series, and Grudge series director Takashi Shimizu, NightCry is a 3D horror-adventure game in which you’ll experience sheer terror onboard a luxurious cruise ship from which there is no escape.

The main characters find themselves aboard a luxurious cruise liner, on what was supposed to be a fun and relaxing trip. However, a series of gruesome murders aboard the ship are discovered one after another, causing the passengers to grow paranoid and start distrusting one another. Then, the immortal, bloodthirsty killer known as “Scissorwalker” appears. With no way to get off of this increasingly claustrophobic ship in the middle of the ocean, the body count continues to rise. Weapons have no effect on the Scissorwalker. You must desperately seek means of escape, defense, and places to hide lest you become the next victim. The only thing that can help you survive this journey is the choices which you, the player, make.

While the game featured point-and-click adventure-style controls for the PC version, the PlayStation®Vita version now allows you to perform basic controls by using the stick to move and select items and options. The choices you make will affect – and ultimately decide – the fates of the three main characters, with multiple endings awaiting you at the end.

NightCry for the PlayStation®Vita will be releasing on the North American PS Store on January 31st. The European PS Store release date will be announced soon.

Fast Striker Review – PlayStation 4 / Vita

Although SNK’s NeoGeo arcade system has been out of production for decades, there remains a small contingency of indie developers who still enjoy developing for the classic hardware.  One such group is German developer NGDEV, who hit mild cult classic status for their retro side-scrolling shoot-em-up (or “shmup” in gamerspeak), Gunlord.  NGDEV have teamed up with eastasiasoft to port their library of NeoGeo titles to the PS4 and PSVita, the first of which is their 2010 vertical shooter, Fast Striker.

Fast Striker is a high-intensity, no-nonsense shooter that pits the player against a constant swath of enemy ships, incoming fire, and gigantic bosses.  The gameplay is fast paced, highly frenetic, and utterly rewarding.  I haven’t had this much fun with a 2D shooter since AstroBoy on the Nintendo DS.

Offering 4 unique modes of play, Fast Striker gives gamers of all skill levels options to learn and progress.  As gamers move through the Novice, Original, Maniac, and Omake modes, the gameplay mechanics change, new weapons are introduced, and the difficulty escalates.  Even the most hardened veteran will appreciate working their way through each of the four, as there is something unique to be enjoyed in every one.

Fast Striker’s overall look is decidedly retro, following a 1990’s 2D motif with a tinge of 3D-like depth resulting in an experience that is both nostalgic and refreshing.  At times the screen is so completely filled with bullets, explosions, and enemies that it is hard to make sense of things, but that is the beauty of a good shmup, and Fast Striker delivers in spades.  I was a bit let down by the letterboxing that covers more than half the screen real estate, but given that this was a game originally released on a CRT, and plays so incredibly, it gets a special pass.  The audio is absolutely fantastic – I was absolutely blown away at the quality of the soundtrack and effects which, like the visuals, are distinctly old-school, yet surprisingly exciting. 

Fast Striker lives up to its name; a high-intensity shooter that will leave every old school gamer white-knuckled for at least a few hours.  At a bargain price of $7, it’s one of the best retro shmups on system. 

Bad Apple Wars Review – PS Vita

I’ve always had a guilty pleasure for otome games, digital romantic novels aimed at teenage girls, and I tend to enjoy them regardless of their flaws. Bad Apple Wars is no exception to this rule, within the game you will find an entertaining story with several glaring flaws but you’ll likely enjoy it regardless.

The basic plot is about a group of teenagers trapped in a high school for students who died before passing their classes. The school has many strictly enforced and odd rules, such as a rule forbidding either team from winning at a sports match or getting a perfect score on an exam. Those who follow the rules are called good apples and they go on to reincarnate, but the bad apples break as many of these rules as possible in the hope of getting expelled to their old life. The plot itself was good, but if you’ve seen the anime “Angel Beats” it becomes pretty obvious that they copied most of the plot and even characters in some cases. This severely harmed the experience for me, as I was able to predict plot twists and knew the fate of characters ahead of time.

The art for cutscenes was standard for the industry, at no point was I disappointed but I was never impressed either. There were a few instances where the artwork made the experience uncomfortable, as one of the main mechanics is touching the CGs of the characters to progress in their route. Sometimes as you touched them their clothes would come off and this affected my experience in a negative light, but for some this could be a positive.

The sound design for Bad Apple Wars was one of the biggest pros for me, the game had a punk music aesthetic going on which I really liked, and in one instance the music even made me cry. Dialogue in Bad Apple Wars is fully voice acted, and the delivery of the lines for the most part is great! In no places will you be disappointed with delivery, and apart from one or two mistranslations, the dialogue was engaging.

Bad Apple Wars costs $30, and to many it probably won’t seem worth it. You’ll likely spend a day or two to complete the game and since visual novels don’t change if you go back after completing all of the routes, it has little to no replay value which will turn off some players. The characters conform cleanly to anime archetypes without much variation; you have one tsundere, three kuuderes, and one deredere. To enjoy an otome game fully, the player needs to be unaware of what will happen in the plot, but players like me will know all of the interesting details in advance which kills a great amount of the enjoyment factor.

Whether or not Bad Apple Wars is worth the thirty dollar price tag is dependent on the player, if you’ve seen Angel Beats before playing this game it is most definitely not worth that much money, but if you’re going in blind you’ll definitely get thirty dollars’ worth of enjoyment out of it.

Bad Apple Wars is trying way too hard to emulate a popular anime, and unfortunately struggles because of it. If it had fleshed out the concept and made it more of a unique story then most of the faults found within it would be lessened greatly. Bad Apple Wars is an otome that is far from perfect, and will require you to turn off your inner critic to enjoy it fully. However, it is still great fun in many places and it has a good soundtrack. Bad Apple Wars is not for everyone, but if you’re interested go ahead and buy it, I’d rank it a 3/5 for the right player.

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Save the Ninja Clan Review – PS Vita

Every now and then it is fun to step back from the current ultra-realistic world of video gaming, and to take a moment to experience gaming as it was in the early days – a time when gameplay took precedence over graphics, and developers took pride in delivering an absolutely brutal degree of difficulty. Save the Ninja Clan is a veritable trip back in time to the early days of hardcore platforming – where timing and precision are key to surviving each one-hit-and-you’re-dead level.

While the low-res 2D-platforming action is very much along the lines of classic 8-bit bump-n-jump games like Jumpman and Miner2049er, Save the Ninja Clan secretly harbors an inner soul that was born and bred on tough-as-nails cult favorites Panzer Dragoon Orta and Ninja Gaiden. It might look cute, but Save the Ninja Clan is definitely not kids play.

The gameplay is straightforward; the gamer is introduced to a series of short levels, and it is the gamer’s duty to guide the ninja(s) to grab the elusive scrolls. The levels consist of the standard platforming fare – plateaus, floating crates, natural obstacles, unnatural obstacles, and enemies. The ninja’s only weapons are the throwing knife, and is/her own natural skills. Players can evade enemy fire with either well-timed jumps or canceling out with the knife. Precision is key because every jump has to be on point or it’s an immediate game over. Enemy movement, platform movement, turret fire – everything seems to have been timed to require exacting patterns of response from the player.

Save the Ninja Clan’s Added depth comes from the on-the-fly swapping between three color-coded Ninja characters; the Green Ninja can double-jump, the Purple Ninja can run, and the Grey Ninja has an invincible dash. The mechanic is reminiscent of Panzer Dragoon Orta, in which gamers could cycle between various dragon forms to master each situation.

Save the Ninja Clan’s largest stumbling block is in the translation to HD. This is especially the case on the PSVita screen where, for example, written instructions are so tiny that they are all but illegible. While the instructions aren’t necessarily, err…necessary…it does remind the gamer that this is simply a port of the PSN title rather than a standalone handheld release. And yes, Save the Ninja Clan is also out on PSN for the PS4, but oddly there is no cross-buy option so each will set you back $3 – and while that $6 is hardly enough to break the bank, having the built-in option to hop back and forth between the console and handheld would have been nice.

Save the Ninja Clan probably isn’t going to end up a cult classic on its own, but it does deliver the cult-classic gameplay that old school gamers are longing for. It’s tough as nails, but nobody said having fun had to be easy.

Spiral Splatter Review – PS Vita

Spiral Splatter is a virtual successor to classic steady-hand skill games like Operation and Buzz Wire (Wire Loop). This certainly isn’t the first time we have seen this in video gaming – the Wii has long had its own motion-controlled virtual versions of Operation and Jenga, and Buzz Wire is very popular with the VR crowd at this point.

Spiral Splatter takes a much simpler approach to the steady-hand gaming, requiring gamers only to direct a white dot along a winding pathway between the start and finish locations using the left analog stick, and using one of the buttons to speed-up the movement in an attempt to get a perfect 3-star rating.

Touching any wall or gate will cause the dot to explode (hence the “Splatter”) and the gamer will immediately be transported back to retry from the last checkpoint with the game clock still running. And when I say “immediately” I mean that before the previous dot’s shrapnel has disappeared, the new dot is in motion. This frenzied pace often leads to chain-reaction splattering as the analog stick hardly has time to re-center before the gamer has inadvertently driven the new dot into the very same wall.

The 100 or so levels start out simple, but soon become incredibly complex, with crisscrossing pathways and odd, unnatural shapes. Along the way, gamers will need to manipulate switch boxes that open gates and trigger various Aperture Science-inspired teleports.

The visuals are simplistic, hearkening back to the days of vector graphics but with thicker lines and a soft neon glow. The sound is little more than dreamy atmospheric tones topped off with soft bleeps and bloops from the on-screen action. There is a noticeable looping of the background music, which is odd considering its relative simplicity. Consider it a musician’s complaint, but developer really could have nailed the loop to be virtually unnoticeable.

Spiral Splatter retails for $5 on the PSVita, and while there is also a PS4 version listed on the PlayStation Store, there is no cross play option so gamers will have to shell out another $5 to play it on the big screen – which I would assume to be the better format, as the PSVita’s small screen and analog nub don’t do Spiral Spaltter any favors. If you’ve ever owned an IBM Thinkpad and tried to use that “Trackpoint” nub to do pretty much anything, you already know the pain of Spiral Spatter on the PSVita. I would have much rather reviewed this game on the PS4.

That being said, Spiral Splatter is an average game with a unique look and feel, but it doesn’t really stray too far out of the box. Using the analog controls proves to be very difficult, especially on the PSVita – I can only assume the game would be better overall on the PS4 console. At $5, Spiral Splatter’s price might seem steep for a game that can be downloaded for free on Android and iOS – however, those games feature in-app purchases of $5 to remove advertisements, so it looks to be a wash.   That being said, I would definitely recommend taking the opportunity to try one of those free versions before going all-in on the Vita or the PS4.

Drive Girls Review – PS Vita

Straight from the shores of Japan comes the weirdest experiences in gaming that I have had in a long time: Drive Girls. The only way to describe it is an odd amalgamation of the wave-based hack and slash action of Dynasty Warriors, the vehicle-morphing action of Transformers and the drift racing action of Ridge Racer – all wrapped up within a totally oddball storyline involving a force of scantily-clad and embarrassingly air-headed anime heroines who have been recruited to save the world from an invasion of mutant mechanical bugs. Indeed, Drive Girls attempts to cram a lot of weird into a single handheld game – but while the effort certainly is noble, the execution leaves much to be desired. Drive Girls has its enjoyably weird moments, but it is far from a cult classic.

The storyline is where Drive Girls makes its first wrong turn – it makes no sense at all.

It seems our heroine, Lancier, has missed her examination for a position as a paramedic at the Emergency Response Team. She is allowed to take a makeup exam, which involves – of all things – hacking and slashing her way through hordes of mechanical insects (which doubles as the player’s tutorial). Lancier passes the makeup exam with flying colors, but upon completion finds out a surprise – she really wasn’t testing for a paramedic role, she was secretly being tested for a highly coveted position amongst the Drive Girls, a vehicular task force within the ERT that has been assembled to defend the world from mechanical insect invaders.

OK, maybe it makes more sense as I write it down on paper, but trust me when I say that watching the events unfold in real-time is simply bizarre. The fact that the entire female cast is portrayed as a bunch of dimwitted idiots who just so happen to be very well endowed and like to be half-naked doesn’t help give the story even a shred of credibility.

The hack-and-slash gameplay itself isn’t terrible, but as with the Dynasty Warriors series – a little goes a long way. Drive Girls is button mashing at its essence, with wave upon wave of incoming soldier bugs requiring the gamer to slash his or her way to get to the master bug that is spawning the soldiers.

As its name implies, Drive Girls allows the player to transform Lancier into her car, or CARM as the ERT calls it, form and drive over said bug invaders. Real damage is doled out while speed  boosting, which lasts only until the EX meter run out – but with continued carnage and stylish drifting, the EX meter refills itself so gamers could theoretically complete a level using only the car if they play their cards right. However, given that the car controls for acceleration and turning are mapped entirely to the left analog stick, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

This is especially true in the racing stages, which basically challenge gamers to race across town, cruising through bugs (to fill the speed boost meter mainly) and avoiding the dead—stop obstacles placed along the route. These obstacles are often laid to force precision driving which is all but impossible using the PS Vita’s imprecise analog stick.

Drive Girls has a stylized aesthetic that will certainly appeal to the manga/anime crowd – but while the developers made a valiant attempt at cramming together multiple gameplay genres, the result is less a hybrid rising to the surface, and more a mish-mash falling flat on the floor. Dynasty Warriors fans will be delighted with the button mashing senselessness, but most gamers will want to steer clear of the Drive Girls.

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