News: Cracking Armored Core

ac_crack_win.jpgAn entrepreneurial chap by the name of Thinimus over on Raven’s Haven (one of the more lucid Western Armored Core forums) is trying to crack various Armored Core games (namely Ninebreaker and Nexus). The reasoning behind this is down to the fanbase often having problems with From Software’s approach to parts balancing (something that was addressed in Armored Core 4 with the new Regulations system). Not to mention that the non-Japanese releases had peer-to-peer online support removed (via a USB modem), much to the chagrin of discerning gamers who wanted to test their mad skillz out in the wild. Ultimately, people want to customize the game itself, which considering the whole focus of the games is about building your own pimped out robot, their intentions are rather fitting.

Anyway, apart from the discovery that Japanese coders are quite efficient the thread reveals that on the Evolution Disc of Armored Core Nexus if you view the data in 256 byte rows, there’s all kinds of ASCII images throughout the files. Nice touch I thought.

In any case, Thinimus is looking for programming assistance. So, if you’re an Armored Core fan that happens to work in games development as a programmer, I’m sure your services would be greatly appreciated.

News: ASK returns

ASK.jpgAnother day, another drop in the flood of DS training games in Japan. This one is about learning English, (more specifically training for a specific English language test) and is no more exciting than the rest, but it does mark the return of ASK to game publishing, which excites me because they published most of the best versions of the Asuka 120% series, which is one of my favorite fighting game series ever. They also published Slap Happy Rhythm Busters. In fact, I believe they may be developing these games, now. ASK used to be associated with Kodansha, but that stopped in 1998, and after that, and with the rise of 3D, their games business took a sharp decline, as was common with many Japanese game companies. And as is also increasingly common, the DS is what’s bringing them back. You can see some of their stuff on Gamefaqs, but that’s missing all their Towns Marty, Sharp X68000 and NEC PC stuff. But they actually have two stupid “games” on their official page now! Hooray! For the curious, you can sort of see some of the old stuff they did via the internet archive, but most of it is broken. There goes about 10 years of videogame history… I’m just excited to see that logo again.

Update: While browsing 505 Gamestreet’s site for the Monster Puzzle link below, this popped up. It’s also by Ask, with Taito – here’s a site and a large image of the cover. Discuss ASK and Fill-In Cafe here if you’ve got more to say.

News: Joushikousei Nigeru! Shinrei Puzzle Gakuen

joushikousei.jpgJoushikousei Nigeru! Shinrei Puzzle Gakuen, or “Run Away From the Highschool Girl! Apparition Puzzle Academy” is a puzzle game in the SuperLite series from Success for DS. It’s interesting for a couple reasons – one is that you play the puzzle game, which consists of matching various traditional holy or ghostly items, in order to keep ghosts at bay – the better you do, the slower she approaches. Check out screens at Famitsu. It’s a pretty cool concept. What’s more interesting to me though, is that I’ve played this game! Just not this version. When I was in Korea recently, I bought almost every Korean-exclusive console game I could find (wound up getting about 10), and one of them was Touch RO Puzzle, a very rudimentary puzzle game from Skonec, maker of shooting games Psyvariar and Homura. Skonec is a Korean company that always had a good relationship with Success, which makes the SuperLite series, and also published the console versions of the last two titles I mentioned. Turns out Skonec also makes this game, and if you check a screenshot of RO, you’ll see that they look basically the same, but the mood is almost the complete opposite. The way you play is by sliding whole rows of icons, which wrap around, so that they will match up with still-static icons in the other rows.

Ultimately this is just a rather interesting instance of repackaging something (in this case almost completely re-skinning it) for another market. And just to say, the original game has an alright concept but is rather boring because there’s no goal – I think the added element of creepiness and matching tiles in order to escape a ghost is going to help the game a lot.

Update! Eric from DSFanboy wrote me to say that there’s a trailer for the game now. I also discovered that if you check the official site, there’s a silly/fun promo video – just hit the bottom right link on the page.

Update 2! Turns out the original Touch RO Puzzle did also get a proper release in Japan, as Soroeru Puzzle Douwa Oukoku (thanks Maragos!), and in the E.U. as Monster Puzzle (put out by 505 Gamestreet). So it seems this is a ‘remake’ more than a localization.

News: Orange Box in Japan

orangebox.jpgI was intrigued to learn that CyberFront is distributing The Orange Box for Valve in Japan, but only on PC. I don’t believe it has a console port yet, but this is fully Japanese-language localized, apparently. Merely interesting because Valve partnered with Namco for the Arcade version of Half-Life, but CyberFront for the retail. This is interesting to me because CyberFront was up until a year ago quite small, and has been primarily and ADV/visual novel publisher. They moved up in that sphere when they brought KID back from the dead – for them to be publishing this marks yet another step up in the world for them. They’re still 33 people in size, and if you look at the front page right now, it’s Princess Maker 5, Angel Profile, cutesy music, and The Orange Box. I simply find it curious!

News: More on Poison Pink

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The Poison Pink official site now has some videos, some awesome character art, and very nice music. It’s looking pretty nice so far! It’s clearly Flight-Plan’s biggest production ever, coming at the “end of the PS2′s life cycle,” which is actually completely untrue, but still! I don’t think Flight-Plan is aware of how not at the end of its life the PS2 is. Anyway, the game is coming out on February 14…Valentine’s day. Nice! RPGfan did a nifty interview with Masami Watanabe, Flight-Plan’s president, which was great to see, so give that a read if you’re a fan. Also, Famitsu has some screens if the movies weren’t enough. It’s still a Tactics RPG by the way, though the movies sort of give it a more traditional feel.

News: Darius 1 & 2 remix CD

dariusremix.jpgZuntata has allowed an official remix CD of the music from Darius 1 & 2 – check out some samples and track info here. I would say this is primarily for folks who like mid-late 90s era trance, as that’s what half of this sounds like. The remixes are commissioned by folks at SuperSweep (including Shinji Hosoe, creator of the Ridge Racer soundtrack) and Basiscape (including Manabu Namiki, a frequent Cave music contributor), two game music companies/labels.

I’d say the Basiscape stuff is a bit more timeless when compared to SuperSweep’s stuff, which is the trance-ier of the two. There are more good artists in there if you look around! Anyway, it came out yesterday for 2,940 yen, and it’s apparently up for preorder at VGMworld. Thanks to Slap Fight for the link! Official site for Manabu Namiki is here, and for Shinji Hosoe is here.

Update: For no reason whatsoever I made a post with the full track list, English names, and some games the arrangers have worked on.

News: Benchmark Otaku

rapelaybenchmark.jpgHere is an awesome yet completely unnecessary site (my favorite kind!) that’d devoted to Japanese benchmark programs, which are used to test the power of your PC in terms of handling a specific game. There are loads of programs from neat games on here, and none of them even require the original game – they’re all independent programs. Each orogram has a simple explanation, screens, a video, and a “recommended” or “not recommended” rating. Most of them are not, turns out. Well worth a visit for people that like obscurities – also read his FAQ for a bit more info about his reviewing criteria and why he’s even bothering. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Kasuga Ayumu no Tsuhan Ondo – fun oldschool singing with a girl dancing on tokyo tower.
Dragon Knight 4, with graphics from Elf’s 2007 remake of the classic H-game/RPG/SLG.
Daikoukai Jidai Online – a maritime MMO from Koei. What he calls ‘sleep-inducing music’ I call really pleasant.
A-Train 7 – Artdink’s train management sim.
Gurumin – Falcom’s cute platformer.
FF XI has predictably gorgeous scenes in it, and Front Mission Online is nifty.
Derby Owners Club Online – Sega’s horse raising/sim/racing game.
There are even two Illusion games (the main company making 3D H-games): Jinkou Shoujo and (not work safe! But neither is the picture of it that I just posted) Rapelay. That last one is hilarious because it just populates a train with naked girls that jiggle senselessly with train “movement.” And they wind up in some humorous places!

In all, I highly recommend just going through and checking these out, if not downloading them. More sites like this, please! Thanks to DesertDog for posting about it in the forums, which are getting some cool stuff nowadays.

News: Border Down reprint

borderdown.jpgBorder Down is getting a reprint run for the Dreamcast, for those who missed the game the first time. So says Famitsu, which also announces the re-release of the soundtrack. It’s all being released on the 17th of January, and can be purchased at good old Messe Sanoh in Akihabara, at the prices of 7,140 yen for the game, 2,625 yen for the OST, both including tax. There’s no mention of how large this reprint will be, but I’d imagine it’ll be small, and that there will be a rather large line for it on the 17th.

News: Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager

dezaemon2.jpgDezaemon 2 is a game by Athena for the Saturn, which basically lets you make your own scrolling shooters. It was only released in Japan, and games were stored in a way that was non-PC compatible, which made them difficult to share. But a fellow by the name of Madroms from Satakore posted that he’s created a save management tool that allows these fan games, of which there are 118, to all be played on a modded Saturn. Check the Satakore post for more info about the process, and here‘s a video of the manager in action. When you preview a game in the manager, it shows you several screenshots and some of the music. Really nice touch! As I understand it, the program lets you preview the games from a disc, then load them into your backup memory, so you can then load them from the original Dezaemon 2 disc. Pretty great. There are also lots of videos of many of these games on youtube if you search for Dezaemon – most of which were also uploaded by Madroms. There’s some pretty interesting stuff in there, and some awesomely stupid stuff (this one’s just a JR train scrolling). That last one doesn’t appear to be on there. Oh no! Even more awesome (and which is actually in there) is this Bomberman game. How about Super Mario? That game is a perfect recreation of (at least part of) SMB, but with mario flying around and shooting tons of fireballs. Simply astounding. And there’s a Wizardry shooting game! What more can you ask for?

smbdezaemon.jpgIf you just want to browse, there’s also the Dezaemon 2 Engine, which is an online database of all the games that have been gathered thus far for the tool, complete with screens in many cases, and video in other cases. They worked with the Japanese Dezaemon 2 community to get these, so hopefully more will trickle in over time. The community is actually still going! Pretty neat all round. Thanks to Insert