News: Super Robot Wars Z

srwz_event1.jpgFor those that assumed that Alpha 3 was the last of the proper (as in non-OG) Super Robot Wars games of the last generation, then you were a tad foolish. Banpresto have recently announced yet another PlayStation 2 game in the Super Robot Wars series dubbed “Z” (after the DS version’s “W” most probably and indicating that this should be the last game on the system). Despite the debauched launch ceremony (covered on Famitsu here) there’s not much known about the game as yet bar the new and improved roster of anime series that have entered the fold (most of which were already featured in Another Century’s Episode 3). The new series featured are:

Overman King Gainer
The Big O 2nd Season
God Sigma
Aquarion
Eureka Seven
Orguss
Baldios
Gravion
Gravion Zwei

Update: Game Watch has a page up on the event now, with actual in-game screenshots to boot.

Link: Bootfighter Windom XP SP-2

windom_screen1.jpgThis has gone the rounds in a few places recently. Basically, a Japanese chap by the name of Y. Kamada managed to create a clone of the Gundam-themed Capcom arcade games (of which many have received PlayStation 2 ports already and another arcade iteration is around the corner), except the fact that this is entirely free. Bar the obvious fact that the mecha contained within the game are not Gundam mobile suits, despite a few striking similarities, it’s a pretty impressive effort on the part of one individual. In any case, Mirrormoon has created an English installer and hosted a few mirrors of the file accordingly. It’s also got online multiplayer, so go have some fun!

News: Es Trial Beta

es_9thnight_beta.jpgFor those familiar with the dōjin group 9thNight, their latest game (that’s been in the works for a while now) is Es. It’s similar to Smilebit’s Gunvalkyrie but minus the awkward controls, and it’s also got elements from the Another Century’s Episode games (which is no bad thing). Considering their previous games, Blood Over and Nekonabe, Es is particularly sophisticated not only functionally but also technologically. If you’re curious about Es, you can download and play the trial beta or watch the swathe of movies available online.

Update: Armored Core For Answer

acfa_360_cover1.jpgIn a little over two weeks Armored Core For Answer will be released in Japan on both PS3 and 360. The publicity campaign for the game has been pretty thorough, as From Software utilized the whole Web 2.0 approach by having Japanese bloggers espouse the game’s virtues (something Famitsu has been doing through their crazy 360 blogger, Jamzy). Even the redoubtable Toshifumi Nabeshima, essentially regarded as the father of Armored Core by the Japanese fanbase, has done the rounds online, pimping the game as best he can.

Features-wise, it’s all a bit over the top still as For Answer comes across as being like Shadow of the Colossus but with guns and robots (traveling at 2000 km/h, obviously). A few things have fallen by the wayside though, namely the transformable ACs – but other things like Dolby 5.1 in-game and full online co-op have partly made up for that (though there’s always the possibility that Famitsu initially misquoted the whole transformation aspect, as a lot of the Arms Forts do transform into different modes rather than the ACs themselves).

One of the more interesting aspects of the game’s production is the use of Isaku Okabe as a military adviser (he recently did something similar for the truly excellent Gundam 00). Again, From Software didn’t miss a trick and they put him in front of a camera to explain the nitty gritty military aspects of the game.

For those that want to catch up with the deluge of material that has been unleashed online, then the official site is a good port of call, as is the Armored Core Wiki (the Next Reports are especially worth a gander). GameTrailers has also leeched the movies from the official site if you have trouble streaming them. All we need to do now is wait for the Western release and the subsequent reviews undertaken by gamers that have had their hands replaced with flippers.

News: Armored Core goes Web 2.0

acfa_supporter_logo.jpgBefore Brandon does that thing where he leaps over the furniture, in slow motion obviously, to rip the power cable for the server from the wall; insert credit is not an “official supporter” of Armored Core for Answer. The logo to the left is something that From Software has created for Japanese bloggers. Instead of From Software leading the PR via just traditional journalistic outlets (such as Famitsu) they’ve pulled on the resources of the Japanese Armored Core fanbase who are probably more likely to accurately espouse the series strongpoints. In any case, the Armored Core for Answer campaign is now in full swing.

As of yesterday, the official site went fully operational and has a swathe of interesting stuff within. Most notably a very shiny new in-game trailer, which hit YouTube within a matter of minutes. That being said the truly interesting stuff is what the Japanese bloggers, or “chosen ones” according to a few forums, have been given.

In the past, any of Shoji Kawamori’s artwork for Armored Core has been closely guarded. With limited distribution rights, meaning the online community got bugger all. Not so now, his work is freely available to all (check the bottom of the page to see what I mean).

Interestingly, each of the official supporters are numbered. This bears a striking parallel to the narrative in Armored Core 4 where each of the NEXTs were similarly numbered. Anyway, have a look through the various blogs as some have been given different assets it seems.

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: Senko no Ronde figure

changpo_figurine1.jpgThe wondrous Max Factory will be rolling out a figure of the suitably demure Changpo from G.Rev’s oft misunderstood classic Senko no Ronde in April. She will be 140mm in height and cost a not too shabby 5,800 yen. For those that are wondering, the figure isn’t poseable but you can dress her (!). The timing is somewhat fortuitous with a sequel to the first game around the corner and knowing Max Factory there will most probably be more figures on the way (maybe even some of the minimalist mecha called Rounders).

News: Armored Core for Answer

ac4fa_logo.jpgDue to some conscientious ninjas, I was sent some scans of the latest Famitsu which contained an exclusive preview of the upcoming sequel to Armored Core 4. Entitled Armored Core for Answer, it utilizes the same game engine as Armored Core 4 but with some substantial modifications. For a start, each area will be around 20km square, they are going all-out to emphasize scale in relation to immense mobile fortresses. There will also be online co-op(!) and the series will finally feature playable mecha that are fully transformable.

The big thing for me is that From Software is hiring THREE major mecha designers to work on the game. The first is Shoji Kawamori, who was responsible for the transformable Valkyries in Macross and was instrumental in the creation of the design work for the older Armored Core games. Kawamori will be penning the NEXT mecha (basically the new futuristic AC’s seen in AC4). Kazutaka Miyatake and Makoto Kobayashi will be designing the huge mobile fortresses. Both these latter gentleman are of special interest because Miyatake actually designed the SDF-1 from Macross and Kobayashi is a complete nut for complex bulbous machinery (his work on Dragon’s Heaven is a personal favorite of mine, as it was relatively unfettered compared to his involvement in Zeta Gundam and the Venus Wars movie).

From the article it seems that both the PS3 and 360 versions will be released simultaneously (in Japan) in March of next year. Toshifumi Nabeshima will return as producer and I totally dig the funky logo.

News: ACE3 Display Awards

ace3_display_award.jpgThis was posted up on the official Another Century’s Episode website fairly recently and it’s about From Software/Banpresto giving awards to shops that managed to display the latest installment with the most gusto. It’s a bit bonkers but also rather fun at the same time. Some of the award titles are also a tad crazy as well.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Special Vocal Version of the second game will be released in the next few days. This uses the technology from the third game that allowed full blown audio tracks (in this case classic anime opening songs) to stream from the disc. It’s pretty cool that they’re doing this (and at a more budget price too no less).

To finish off, it’s also worth pointing out (as nobody else has yet) that the OG mecha used in ACE3 (called the Ixbrau, it’s the blue mecha in the top right of the photo in case you’re wondering) was designed by a chap called Takayuki Yanase. He used to work at From Software years ago, namely on Armored Core 2 and Murakumo (for the latter he had a large involvement with the mecha design) but then left to try his wares in the anime industry (you’ll have seen a lot of his work in Eureka 7 without realizing it most probably). Anyway, he’s now working on the latest Gundam series and pretty much helming the designwork (personally, I think his work on ACE3 was much better though).

News: Virtual On OMG!

zgradt_omg.jpgI’ve held back on this until the deluge of stuff had subsided. For those that haven’t been aware, the recent SEGA AGES release (Vol. 31 to be precise) is a pristine port of the 1995 arcade original Dennou Senki Virtual On. It was released yesterday but the build up to the release produced some cool stuff. The first being at Game Watch, where they posted a step by step guide to getting the PlayStation 2 port working online via Xlink Kai (which bodes well for the quality of the opposition we’ll meet online). The second big “drop” came from SEGA themselves, who updated the port’s site with a slew of interviews, breakdown on all the new secrets and lots of shiny wallpapers. The secrets in the game are of special note due to their unhinged genius. To kick off, you can play as the final boss Z-Gradt, which is just crazy enough as it is, then they followed that up by introducing a slew of special moves to the virtuaroids that originally lacked them but, at the same time, making sure that the new specials were in-line with their progeny in Virtual On Oratorio Tangram. To finish off, I think its worth clarifying that this is an arcade perfect port. It’s not even vaguely based on the Sega Saturn version, as many had originally feared, and they’ve even used all the original art assets. If people are curious on the reasons behind this, SEGA went and hired almost the entire team that made the original and the results really do speak for themselves. Considering the budget pricing it’s a wonderful bargain but unfortunately there isn’t any support for the Saturn TwinSticks (though the USB Saturn pad released recently is supported). You can get it here if you need to.

Update: Game Watch had another update about the game’s secrets but what makes it noteworthy is a very short movie they included with the update. It shows Temjin executing a “big four”. This is produced by doing a single frame cancel in close combat range and then firing off your right weapon. Normally you only get two large shots for a forward dash, this produces four regardless of the direction. Pretty cool that it’s in this version.