An Unbearable Education: An Interview With NISA About Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

The new year should always feel like a fresh start. It presents an opportunity to leave the worst behind, and put our best food forward.

2013 ended like any other other in the world of video games. Big sequels in big franchises doing big numbers. So as the clock rolled over into 2014, it’s great knowing that a game like Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is leading the charge. It’s a bold new Vita game that marriages the likes of Sweet Fuse, Phoenix Wright, and Virtue’s Last Reward, but all with a style and flair of its own.

As I described it in my Most Anticipated Games of 2014 list, Danganronpa casts the player as a new student of an elite private school. His first day of class grinds to a halt when an evil bear named Monokuma pits him against his fellow students in a deadly game of ‘whodunnit’. Participants may escape the school by means of murder, or acts of genius.

NISA provided me the opportunity to speak with Phoenix Spaulding, the Editor of Danganronpa, about the process of localizing the game for North America and Europe.

I was surprised to learn that, as far as localization goes, there’s just one editor and translator assigned to the project. While Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was announced in July, how far back did the process start for you?

Phoenix Spaulding (PS):Generally, we don’t announce new titles until we’re a good way into the process and the release date is starting to approach. With Danganronpa, though, we were excited to announce the title as soon as possible. So we had really only just started the actual localization process in this case (I don’t have an exact timeframe, but we’d just started playing the game and preparing to nail down system/key terms, which is generally our first big step).

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The One That Didn’t Get Away: An Interview With Natsume About Yumi’s Odd Odyssey

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While Yumi’s Odd Odyssey is the perfect title for a game about a young woman’s fish infested adventures, it also illustrates the winding path the series took to come to North America.

The series began life on the Super Famicom in 1994, and saw new installments up to the PSP and DS. That PSP entry, known as Umihara Kawase Portable, is where things got a little weird. Folks like Jeremy Parish felt it had performance issues, and Natsume’s plans to publish the title in North America fell through.

Thankfully, Natsume remained vigilant in their efforts to bring the series to the West. Yumi’s Odd Odyssey will see release here on March 20, exclusively on the 3DS eShop.

Natsume provided me the opportunity to speak with Graham Markay, VP of Operations at Natsume, about one of my most anticipated games of the year. I hope you enjoy it.

Yumi is conducting a pole.

What about Yumi’s Odd Odyssey spoke to Natsume so strongly?

Graham Markay (GM): It basically sums up our publishing philosophy: A fun, family-friendly game that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Natsume attempted to bring the PSP game, Umihara Kawase Portable, over to North America, but later decided against that decision. When this entry was announced for release in Japan, was it something you immediately wanted to bring over? At what point did Natsume approach Agatsuma regarding publishing rights?

GM: We would have liked to publish Umihara Kawase Portable, but unfortunately, we ran into some red tape when it came to publishing that game. Therefore, when the 3DS version of the game was announced, we were definitely interested! We ended up meeting with Agatsuma at last year’s E3, and we both quickly realized it was a great publishing match.

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Rule Of Thumb

If the rumours of the PS Vita Slim are true, then the thumbs of its adopters are in for a treat. Myself and the other ‘guinea pigs’ of the original welcome you to the fold with an outstretched arm and a slightly askew thumbs up.

Behold, the savior of thumbs everywhere.

Behold, the savior of thumbs everywhere.

That Start button is just so damned tiny and out of place. No amount of thumb wars could prepare anyone for the finger gymnastics necessary to pause a game or move past its attract screen.

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Praise that OLED all you want, it won’t be paying the hospital bills for that big-toe grafting you’ll need in three years. The Vita wears it out.

Day 1 Patch

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Did Tearaway ignite a fire in your soul?

Are you craving games that manage to successfully blend their art and mechanics into one thoughtful package?

Well, I feel sorry for you. That shit is rare. To pretend that you haven’t heard of games like The Wind Waker, Okami, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn is ridiculous, as their marriage of art and play has earned them plenty of praise and attention.

Luckily, there’s a dark house. A game so overlooked it doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page. Can you imagine that? Every Game Boy Micro faceplate has its own Wiki page, for Pete’s sake.

Patchwork Heroes is that hidden gem, a gorgeous title whose beauty extends beyond the surface.

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Developed by Acquire and Sony’s C.A.M.P. program (Creator Audition Mash up Project!) , Patchwork Heroes was released for the PSP as a download exclusive (why so few know about this game is beyond me…). While not afforded the best opportunities, Patchwork overcame such difficulties with a pretty face and the brains to match.

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As implied by the title, the game’s world seems to be composed of scraps, a society welded together from parts of a better past. The player controls Titori, a young man tasked with disposing of an enemy fleet. Much like the world he hails from, these warships are thrown together with whatever materials were on hand. Armed with only a saw, Titori must hack his way across these warships, taking them apart bit by bit. Enemies crawl along these flying bases, but with the help of rescued comrades, they’re no more an obstacle than the task at hand.

Crafting a beautiful world, only to have me wanting to destroy it in the same instant is quite the feat. The way the warships are designed is genius; by having them appear to be these separate pieces of materials slapped together, the object of cutting them into smaller chunks is made all the easier. You can practically see just where to make your cuts. It’s a perfect example of art aiding the mechanics in place.

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The game’s visuals also help in creating a feeling of tension similar to that of the Pikmin series. Each of the partners you rescue has a unique look, age and name. When forced to sacrifice one as a bomb, I feel as though I’m sacrificing a brother in arms. It’s sad, and although her drifts away on a parachute after the explosion, your heart still sinks as you’re just a little bit lonelier on this mission. Having them die is even worse! Making contact with an enemy will instantly claim their life, with their portrait thrown onto the screen with DEAD slapped upon it. It’s sad, and not how I wanted to complete this mission damnit!

It’s not recommended to wrap up a session of Patchwork Heroes then go looking for its acclaim on the internet. Despite some great reviews, there doesn’t seem to be a Twitter campaign to release a sequel, and even it’s dedicated Wikia is incomplete and pretty depressing. I’m asking for a lot, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll find it in your heart to check this game out and spread the word.

#PatchworkHeroes2AngelasPatches

wpid-71CLJ1aXC-L._SX600_.jpgPatchwork Heroes can be purchased for the PSP and Vita, either on the system itself or from Sony’s online store, for $7.99.

Worry Wart

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When Nintendo’s financials become a conversation piece, the discussion hops from one extreme to another. What unites them all is how far in the future they would occur (if at all). The theories range from going third party, becoming a handheld only company, and a portable that streams to the television. No matter how absurd or realistic, the fact remains these assumptions are years away

But what about right now? How does a $336 million operating loss affect them in the present?

What worries me is the small stuff, things I’d like to see rectified or improved that won’t do much to improve their finances.

I think of Miiverse, and if it will be allowed the chance to grow and transform. Miiverse doesn’t move systems, and as it stands is completely functional. But could it be faster? Could it become a messaging service on the 3DS? Definitely, but when time and resources could be better spent on projects Nintendo deems as important, that kind of stuff gets pushed to the side.

With the 3DS riding high, is it safe enough for Nintendo to pull resources away from that platform and move them to the Wii U? Or will Nintendo see their handheld as the greener pasture, and push even harder for its continued success?

It’s funny how I’m writing nothing but questions. However, I think that’s a good thing. I like to think I’m a positive person; singing the praises of what I enjoy, while ignoring what I don’t. These questions show doubt, it means that I obviously don’t know all the answers (or pretend to). That mystery keeps me hopeful. I’ll do my part, buy the games I want, play them, and talk about them. There’s nothing more I can do than that, really.

What I’m seeing is a lot of confidence in what boils down to nothing more than speculation. Whether it’s from Nintendo apologists, haters, and those in between, everyone seems to know where Nintendo is heading. I have no idea how to run a company of that size, so why pretend? It’s just as absurd as Mr. Fils-Aime hopping on Twitter and telling me how to be a father of two, and where my life is headed.

I suppose I’d rather let these events run their course. I can’t spend my time worrying about Nintendo’s fate when I can just enjoy myself with their efforts now. And when the now consists of games like Super Mario 3D World and A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo is making it super hard to focus on anything else.

My Most Anticipated Handheld Games of 2014

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2013 was a blast, wasn’t it? How do you follow something like that?

With another string of awesome games, that’s how, sucker!

The following nine choices are my most anticipated games of 2014, but only represent what I know of, which is pretty crazy considering this list is solid as a rock. 2014 is shaping up quite nicely, and I’m glad I get to share it with you, dear reader.

Mario Golf: World Tour – Nintendo / Camelot Software Planning – 3DS

Hey, Ball. Welcome to...the Club!

Hey, Ball. Welcome to…the Club!

Camelot became its own worst enemy when it crafted World Tour‘s predecessors. Released on the Game Boy Color and Advance, these games carried an RPG mode of sorts; a career which allowed players to explore, perform tasks, and meet objectives, all in an effort to raise the stats of the player’s character. The home console versions of these games omitted the RPG features, a trait that made its way into Mario Tennis Open on the 3DS.

To put it bluntly, people were butt hurt. However, as much as I’d like to see the RPG mode return, as a sport Golf is far more varied than tennis, so it’s not as crippled without it.

The Mario Golf games are a blast, and I can say without a doubt that I’ve put more hours into it than any other series. The controls are incredible, and that shot of ‘Mario’ into the world of golf takes the sport from the realm of boring to “Holy Crap a Chain Champ just ATE MY BALL” territory.

Super Smash Bros. – Nintendo / Namco-Bandai Games – 3DS

"Damn...I AM pretty cute."

“Damn…I AM pretty cute.”

I see a lot of concern of the 3DS game ‘holding back’ the Wii U version. It’s as if people forgot just who is making this game.

To know Masahiro Sakurai is to love Masahiro Sakurai. In turn, you’ve likely played Kid Icarus Uprising. Which means you understand that nothing gets in Sakurai’s way. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is going to be stuffed to the gills with content. It won’t be want of anything.

Best of all, it’s portable! What was a time sink before has become a black hole, sucking me into its swirly mass and spitting me out a happier person. Sakurai’s talk of a more single player focused handheld version intrigues me, as the time spent alone against bots far outweighs that spent with friends in multiplayer.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc – NISA / Spike Chunsoft – Vita

What's harder, discovering the killer, or pronouncing the game's title?

What’s harder, discovering the killer, or pronouncing the game’s title?

Danganronpa is something I’ve wanted for a very long time. It released in 2010 on the PSP, which meant the likelihood I would ever see it localized was nil.

But, here we are in 2014, and in those four years Aksys Games worked their buns off in bringing us similar Visual Novels in the form of 999, Virtues Last Reward, the Hakuoki games and Sweet Fuse. That kind of gumption made an impression on NISA, who through Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc are dipping their toes into the VN waters.

Danganronpa casts the player as a young man accepted into a prestigious school. Upon arrival, instead of his studies he’s forced into a game overseen by an eccentric robotic bear. The premise is simple, murder one of your fellow students to escape. Not down with murder? Good, because as the protagonist you instead save yourself by solving the incident, and revealing the killer.

It looks to strike a similar tone as Sweet Fuse, one which balances the horrific and comedic with aplomb. It’s right up my alley, and is a great start to the year.

Yumi’s Odd Odyssey – Natsume / Agatsuma Entertainment – 3DS

Yumi is conducting a pole.

Yumi is conducting a pole.

I really blew any chance I had to pick up an import copy of Umihara Kawase for the DS. While it remained available on Play-Asia for quite some time, I dilli-dallied just long enough for it to become unavailable (at least for a respectable prices, it’s going rate on eBay makes my head spin).

Thankfully, Natsume sees its sequel, Sayonara Umihara Kawase, fit for release in North America on the 3DS eShop.

Using her fishing rod as a means of conveyance, Yumi flings herself about the game’s stages, which conflicts with the native’s plan of not allowing her to do so. Those natives being fish, however, means their wants and needs are second to human kind’s own. So suck it, fish.

Treasurenauts – Renegade Kid – 3DS

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Renegade Kid really got its hooks in with Mutant Mudds. It displayed a knack for minimalism, an example of honing in on what works and ignoring the rest.

The same goes for Treasurenauts. The studio is taking some interesting risks, crafting a game intended for single playthroughs. No saving, no ‘leveling up’. Treasurenauts is just jumping, destroying enemies, and collecting treasure, a feature set that worked wonderfully in Mudds.

Bravely Default – Nintendo / Silicon Studio / Square-Enix – 3DS

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It’s hard not to feel that Bravely Default just ‘gets it’, you know?

It really knows its hardware, and how people want to use it. The StreetPass is incredibly beneficial, you can save anywhere, and putting the 3DS to sleep doesn’t mean the game stops in its tracks. It’s incredibly forward thinking, and allows for plenty of customization, all without feeling you’re going to end up with a useless party of glass cannons.

It appears as if those behind the game desired to make the next, great RPG. And the way things are looking, they very well may have.

Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Nintendo / Level-5 / Capcom – 3DS

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Watch out for Layton VS Wright: Turbo Edition in 2015!

Someone once tried to sell me a turd they claimed “Shu Takumi made.”

Improbable? Absolutely. But if he was truthful…this could be one of the most interesting, twisting, dialog rich turds ever made.

I bought that turd.

Don’t take this to mean that Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a poo? No. Does it mean I lose all control at the mention of Takumi’s involvement in a project? Yes, but he’s earned it

The quality of story is assured, but the rest? I’m sure it’ll be fine. I may not be making much of a case as to why you should care, and I wish I could. But when the last game you made is Ghost Trick, you deserve all the faith in the world.

Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster – Square-Enix – Vita

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“I’ll never let go, Tidus.”

Final Fantasy X is a mystery to me. I played the demo, and really liked it. The first game I bought for my PS2 was Final Fantasy IX. I liked the series, owned the platform…so why didn’t I buy FFX?

There is no answer. I haven’t the foggiest clue. But, one thing I do know is that I’m buying this collection. What little I’ve played of FFX really impressed me, and what I’ve since learned of the game has cemented the fact that I must own it.

Plus, if I enjoy an entry as reviled as XIII, this one may just blow my mind.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe – Nintendo / HAL Laboratory – 3DS

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Kirby could suck the fart out a butt.

Yeah, I’m that kind of Kirby fan. I like all his games, not just the innovative entries like Mass Attack or Canvas Curse. Return to Dreamland. the other Kirby game on the Wii, was terrific, and Triple Deluxe looks to be more in line with that entry than the almighty Epic Yarn. To some, that’s a disappointment, but I’ll take Kirby however they serve him.

Power ups in most games (Mario included) always seem intentionally placed. You’re really only supposed to use it in a designated area, otherwise you’re overpowered or, heaven forbid, under. Kirby games kind of don’t give a damn, preferring to give the player whatever power, whenever and wherever they like. While it’s spoken of as a ‘kiddy’ game, Kirby can be pretty freeing.

Plus that Dedede rhythm game looks hot.

Bravely Defabulous

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I don’t think Nintendo knew what it was doing with this Play Count timer on the Bravely Default demo.

They certainly didn’t think of me, laying awake at night, wondering if I’ve left myself enough demo attempts for the next few weeks.

Why did I waste a session on a 15 minute jaunt through the over world?! And then there was that time I quit out to clear out my StreetPass Plaza…what was I thinking?

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The Faulty Four.

Writing this, I’m presented with two paths; to the left, I can continue ranting about the nonsense that is  tailor made content expiring with use, and over to the right, I can talk about just how awesome Bravely Default is.

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