News: Heaven 2 Ocean

h2o.jpgLongtime IC forums poster and #insertcredit regular Kieran McCabe, aka Binjuice, has completed work with his indie team zerO.One on a very interesting physics-based platformer called Heaven 2 Ocean. It was the Republic of Ireland’s official entry into the UK’s Dare to Be Digital competition, where the game placed as a finalist. The game involves tilting the screen back and forth to move a blob of water through a suburban environment, transforming it into ice, water vapor, and back into liquid in order to traverse various obstacles. There’s a demo up on the official site, so give it a whirl. (Apologies for the lateness of this report!)

News: Yggdrasil Labyrinth rears its head

Yggdrasil LabyrinthAtlus of Japan have been busy getting the word out about their upcoming, in-house-developed DS RPG Yggdrasil Labyrinth. Known as “Sekaiju no Meikyuu” in Japan but already announced for US release at E3 ’06, YL is a 3D, dungeon-focused RPG that’s set in a lush forest, yet seems to take heavy influence from the gameplay model that the first Wizardry games set forth (which still has a fanbase in Japan). It’ll allow the player to fill a party of five slots with characters of either gender and any of nine classes.


Atlus are giving the game’s creative staff extra lip service, and with good reason. Directing the game is Kazuya Niinou, who directed the well-received Trauma Center: Under the Knife. Shigeo Kobayashi, responsible for the story here, wrote the scenario for Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou and the cult 2D classic Princess Crown, and monster designer Shin Nagawawa worked on Bahamut Lagoon and Final Fantasy IX. The character designer, Yuji Himukai, is a professional manga author and has done oodles of 4-panel comic strips based on MMORPGs and Nippon Ichi games. And, finally, Yuzo Koshiro himself is composing the game’s score.

The game’s website is live, but it doesn’t seem to be quite ready yet. Shake the letters off the tree, then click the hole they make when they hit the ground for a preview. The game’s scheduled for a fall release in Japan, but Atlus USA haven’t given the game a date yet (outside of a vague “2007″). Also, don’t confuse this with Yggdra Union, which is also being published by Atlus USA, but was developed by Sting.

News: bit Generations site live

dotstreamThe official website for bit Generations, Nintendo’s upcoming series of experimental GBA titles, has gone live. There you’ll find new screenshots, play descriptions, and videos – along with some cracking good chiptunes – of both waves of titles, currently scheduled for release in Japan on July 13 and July 27 for 2000 yen apiece. All of the titles in this series feature abstract and colorful visuals meshed with simple, yet original, styles of play in an “attempt to reexamine the roots of gaming” (Gamespot).

Dotstream immediately brings to mind that family of scrolling-cave games made most famous by SFCave, only set up as a racing game. Boundish (formerly known as Neopong) presents several sorts of competitive ball-bouncing. Dialhex has you rotating pieces in a falling-triangle puzzle to match colors, and the goal seems to be making the triangles drain out the bottom of the stage. As for the other titles (Coloris, Digidrive, Orbital, and Sound Voyager)…who can say? Nintendo haven’t made any noise about a possible US release, but most of the titles already have ESRB ratings assigned, so, we’ll see. Earlier this month, Nintendo of Japan hired Club Nintendo members to playtest the games and offer feedback in exchange for free copies of the games. While it’s said that most of the games are being developed by skip Ltd., who are best known for Giftpia and Chibi Robo, the developer responsible for Digidrive seems to be Q-Games, which was founded by Starfox’s creator Dylan Cuthbert. For further reference, GAME Watch have many screenshots of the games up in a preview.

News: The Earth Defense Force adopts a new strategy

The Earth Defense Force TacticsNot content to remain a peerless alien-exterminating action game, D3 Publisher’s smash-word-of-mouth-hit Simple 2000 Series release The Earth Defense Force 2 is spawning a strategy spinoff, titled The Earth Defense Force Tactics. It’s a hex-based, top-down tactical game this time, and it looks similar to Nectaris or Daisenryaku – or by extension, Nintendo’s Advance Wars series. The ad copy claims that it will include 50 levels to clear, 250 weapons, and many new units, as well as units in the Pale Wing aerial squad and infantry classes from the first two games. Instead of those masters at urban destruction Sandlot, the developer this time is thinkArts, a little-known developer who has worked on girl-oriented RPGs for Koei, low-budget strategy games published by both Koei and Square Enix, and Squenix’s online game Shissou, Yankee Damashii. The experience they’ve built up may well make them the right team to produce a Simple 2000-budget strategy game that lives up to the EDF series’ quality, but as this writer has had zero actual experience with their games, they remain an unknown quantity for now. Simple 2000 Series Vol. 103: The Earth Defense Force Tactics will be released in Japan on July 27. For more information on this and other recent goings-on with D3 Publisher, head over to namako team.

News: Invader invades

invader.jpgGamer’s Quarter contributor, IC forum-goer, and replay-recorder dessgeega has released a new game (for Windows PCs) titled Invader. Also helping out are forum members Mister Toups (who supplied some tasty chiptunes) and Persona (on title artwork). As its story goes, “Invader Sammie’s spaceship has been shot down over an alien world. If she wants to see her partner or her podlings again, she’ll have to find some way to reach the surface and escape.”
It’s a side-scrolling, exploration-focused shooter that takes inspiration from Metroid, Cybernoid, and Section Z, and it’s a lot of fun, so give it a try.

And while you’re at it, grab dess’s brilliant little previous release, Kill Your Television.

News: al|together visual novel festival results posted

altogether.jpgal|together, the month-long visual novel festival organized by insani members, has concluded, and the results are in. Many individuals took part in the festival with the goal of translating an entire Japanese homebrew visual or sound novel entirely into English during a 30-day period. The al|together website has the results of the contest, several such translated games, hosted and ready for download. Each looks to have something unique and interesting to offer. The festival will now move into its final phase, which will give translation teams a chance to finish up any work they may not have finished in time for the deadline, without the pressure of a time limit. Get playing, and if the idea interests you, get translating!

News: Hirameki announce new PC, DVD-PG titles

ever17.jpgIn their first site update in half a year, Hirameki have formally announced plans to release English versions of six new adventure games. Two will be compatible with DVD players, in the fashion of the company’s previous game releases, and four will be for Windows PCs, a first for the company. The DVD player compatible titles announced are Exodus Guilty, a fantasy/sci-fi game written by Hiroyuki Kanno (EVE Burst Error, Desire, YU-NO), and Dragonia, a fantasy adventure. Two of the PC releases are by the prolific KID company: Ai Yori Aoshi, a game based on the anime and manga, and Ever 17, a very detailed and intricate sci-fi/suspense game that was a huge hit on Japanese PCs and consoles. Hirameki have trial versions (fully in English) of both of these up for download. The remaining PC releases are Animamundi: Dark Alchemist, a gothic horror-themed game, and Piece of Wonder, which is set in a high school and features strategy battles along with adventure-style sections. Only Ai Yori Aoshi (summer 05) and Ever 17 (winter 05) have definite release dates; Dragonia and Exodus Guilty have conflicting dates listed and the other two titles have no release dates listed.

News: Touhou Kaeidzuka ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View announced

th09.jpgZUN of the doujin-soft group Shanghai Alice has announced the next game in his Touhou series of curtain-fire shooters for PC. Touhou Kaeidzuka ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View is a competitive, one-on-one shooter much like Twinkle Star Sprites. The lovely-looking screenshots show a side-by-side view of two traditional vertical-shooter windows, instead of the series’ traditional single window and status sidebar. A trial version (on CD and available for download) of the game will be released on May 4 of this year, and the full product will be released at this summer’s Comic Market convention in late August, as usual. For more information on the Touhou series, see shrinemaiden.com.

News: Suchie Pai returns in spirit with Tenho Painyan

painyan.jpg
Just out for the PS2 on the 28th of this month is the spiritual successor to Jaleco’s classic mahjong series Suchie Pai: Chuuka na Janshi Tenho Painyan. The game, set in Meiji Tokyo rather than Suchie Pai’s modern setting, is a single-player, one-on-one mahjong game that includes just about as many fan-pleasing additional mechanics as should be allowable by law: multiple characters that join your cause after you defeat them, a slot machine that can grant rulebreaking in-game help, magical-girl-style transformations, and the sort of post-victory shenanigans you usually find in a mahjong game like this. Just as with the Suchie Pai series, well-known character designer Kenichi Sonoda provided designs for this game, and key voice actors from the previous series have returned as well. The game was developed by Sea’s Splash and PCCW-offshoot MyHarvest, published by GeneX, and distributed by Cyber Front. The regular edition of the game is available for 7140 yen, and a Collector’s Edition (which includes a music CD and drama CD) is 9240 yen. Softbank Games have a feature on the game that includes several videos and wallpapers.