Musings of a Gamer XIX
1. Sleeping Dogs
From the moment a blood splattered Wei Shen broke into a karaoke rendition of “I Fought the Law” by The Clash, I knew I was going to enjoy Sleeping Dogs. My trip to Triad infested Hong Kong lasted three entertaining weeks and was filled to the brim with mischief and extracurricular activities, with plenty remaining for a future return. Unlike a lot of open world games, Sleeping Dogs succeeds in telling a riveting story, even if it is rather derivative, and it is full of believable and interesting characters. Even with the constant distraction of a colourful and sprawling city, I never wandered too far from the core narrative, always eager to see where Shen, a cop who is consumed by his undercover life as a gangster, would wind up next. Some excellent voice acting brings the main characters to life in a mix of English and Chinese obscenities, though unfortunately the same cannot be said of the uninspired supporting cast and stereotypical citizens. “Why don't you have a pork bun in your hand?”
The combat is a simplified version of Batman Arkham Asylum/City’s counter based brawling; it is easy to master but satisfying enough to prevent you from losing interesting. The gruesome environmental kills will keep you wary of your surroundings, always looking for new and brutal ways to murder some shits in vests & sunglasses. Gun battles are kept to a bare minimum - the majority of your enemies swing fists and meat cleavers and you are almost always unarmed – which makes them far more exciting when they do occur, particularly entertaining when part of a high-speed car chase. The driving is arcade-like and forgiving, which is a relief considering the amount of travelling you are asked to do between missions, and the game doesn't care too much if you plough through pedestrians or park your car in a convenience store between missions. Although not without its faults, Sleeping Dogs was a most pleasant surprise and well deserving of its chart success here in the UK.
With Sleeping Dogs in the bag, I have been switching between Resident Evil 6 and Tokyo Jungle. Chasing rabbits and hi-scores throughout Shibuya is a blast and I hope to post a Tokyo Jungle review at some point in the next week or two, possibly written as a dog. Although it does have its moments, I have not been impressed by what I've played of Resident Evil 6, but I shall persevere. With its bloated campaigns and a welcome return to co-operative zombie bashing, it's likely to claim most of the month, if I can stomach it. Spec Ops requires my attention and Joe Danger 2: The Movie, NiGHTS, Jet Set Radio and Unfinished Swan look set to bolster a great year for downloadable games. Assassin's Creed III: Let’s Kill the Brits is pre-ordered for the end of the month and then it’ll be time for the annual Call of Duty ritual. Also: Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Far Cry 3. The END.
2. Earth Defence Force 3: Portable & Vita East to West
As we all know, the PS Vita has no games. None. I was therefore very happy to hear that Earth Defence Force 3 (2017) Portable - an actual game - will be hitting western NGPs early next year. I have always been curious about this bug hunting series, if not only because of its setting, but have yet to join the hunt. Released last month in Japan, it has you defending Earth from an intergalactic, insectoid menace, either on your lonesome or with friends, via local and online co-op. From what I have seen, it looks great running on the Vita and is the kind of co-operative experience that the handheld desperately needs. I'd like to think that this will start a trend of Japanese Vita games being localised for the West, headlined by the likes of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F, Phantasy Star Online 2 and Time Travellers, but I have already resigned myself to a future of FIFA and other games that are better on PS3.
3. Final Fantasy at 25
Square Enix are pulling out all the stops in celebration of Final Fantasy's 25th year. Next month, the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert will be held at the Royal Albert Hall in London and, as per usual, I was the last person to find out. Tickets have been sold out for months, which means that I have once again missed out on the opportunity to attend the world famous concert hall dressed as Squall Lionheart - there’s no way they’ll let me into the Proms carrying a Gunblade. Not only am I missing out on the musical celebrations, but I have also decided against purchasing the overpriced, Japan-only Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Box Set as I need more Final Fantasy games about as much as FF XIII needs more corridors. Happy Birthday!
In other celebratory news, I have thrown my copy of FF XIII-2 down a well but I am still playing Final Fantasy VIII, which now lives on my Vita. I couldn't remember the dialogue being quite this atrocious, but the combat and junction system are great, Triple Triad is still an irresistible time waster, the static back drops are as lovely as ever and the soundtrack remains the series' best. I'm gradually chipping away at it and will probably move on to VII and then IX once I’m finished. By the time they are all polished off, FF X HD might have actually been released and I could even be playing FF XIV: A Realm Reborn on my PS3. I find myself more excited for the console version of XIV than any Final Fantasy game since XII and hope that the re-hash is as complete an overhaul as SE claims.
4. Guild01 Becomes Three
The most recent Nintendo Direct placed emphasis on the oft-overlooked eShop, focusing on downloadable versions of full retail games and new, digital-only titles. One announcement in particular had me reaching for my 3DS for the first time in months, and visiting a shop that I almost never use.
Published by Level-5 and released in Japan in May, Guild01 features four very distinct games by four very different designers. Suda 51's Liberation Maiden is an anime-style shooter; Yoot Saito, the man behind Seaman, contributed an airport based puzzler called Aero Porter; Yasumi Matsuno (Vagrant Story, Tactics Ogre, FF Tactics) lent his distinctive art style to table-top RPG Crimson Shroud, and Japanese comedian Yoshiyuki Hirai created a rhythm RPG, Rental Bukiya de Omasse. While it was a full retail title in its home territory, Nintendo have announced that three of the four games in the original compilation - Omasse is the odd one out- will be released as budget downloads on the eShop. I never thought that these games would be localised and it's great to see Nintendo making better use of digital distribution; Liberation Maiden is already available on the store, with Aero Porter and Crimson Shroud to follow by the end of the year.