For the Love of 2D Games: Why Developers Still Make Them

USGamer has published another feature of mine, with the focus of this particular story being on 2D games.

I’m a huge fan of the aesthetic, and am happy to see it flourish once again due in large part to the various digital download markets. I spoke with Sean Velasco (Shovel Knight), Jason Canam (Guacamelee!), Matt Bozon (Shantae), Brjann Sigurgeirsson (SteamWorld Dig) and Cindy Poremba (a Professor of Game Design at Sheridan College) on the matter, and was able to understand their love for 2D. We cover a range of topics, from the best and worst of working with 2D, to how tomorrows students are balancing between both sprites and polygons.

Check it out here!

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Text Adventures: The Story of Visual Novels in America

Hey, sorry about the dry spell! I was neck deep in my latest feature for the fine folks at USGamer.net. It’s called Text Adventures: The Story of Visual Novels in America, and it’s a look at the history of the genre, what it’s like bringing one to our shores, and what the future holds.

It gave me a chance to speak with Ben Bateman (999, Sweet Fuse), Mike Engler (Xblaze Code: Embryo), Phoenix Spaulding (Danganronpa 1 & 2), and Tom Lipschultz (Corpse Party). I think you’ll enjoy it!

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Handheldphobia

I wrote a feature for USGamer.net about the state of horror games on handhelds, and I was lucky enough to speak with the folks behind games like Lone Survivor, Corpse Party, Dementium: The Ward, and Home. It’s a genre we don’t see much of on our portables, which is crazy considering the benefits our handhelds afford us. You can bring them anywhere, which means you can heighten that sense of fear by changing your surroundings…perhaps heading somewhere a little less comfortable than your living room.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece, which you can read in full here.

I make a run for the alleyway, its potent mixture of rot and decay should hide my scent from these…well, I’m not sure what they are. I’m heading somewhere, and while I can’t think of an exact location, it’s definitely away from here. I stick to the shadows, avoiding the filth at my feet. As if it even matters anymore. The monsters shamble past, as I squeeze the letter my dead wife left me, one that she managed to send from beyond the grave. I think I’m alone, but there’s hot air hitting my neck now…and I think I’m a goner.

I look up and I’m surrounded, but not by zombies. I’m joined by a different shuffling mass, composed of nurses, factory workers, and writers. The warm breath on my neck was from the college student sitting next to me. My Vita may be in my hands now, but just a moment ago I was in its world. That’s the beauty of handhelds; I can bring them everywhere, and they can take me anywhere.

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Podcast Appearance GET! – Portable Power Episode 24!

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The guys over at Portable Power had me on to talk all things Electronic Entertainment Expo. Click here and give it a listen! Big thanks to Marc, Kevin, and Emrys who managed to put up with my excessive use of the word “like” for well over an hour. I had a lot of fun, except for when Audacity would crash. But, since we’re talking about three mega cool guys, they managed to deal with it, and whip up quite an episode.

Give it a listen, and check out previous Portable Power episodes, especially their Mega Man focused episode, which features a hilarious “live” play session of Mega Man Xtreme.

Trail Blaz’r: An Interview With Mike Engler of Aksys Games

Mike Engler’s humility surprises me. Not that anyone deserves an inflated ego, mind you. It’s just that as an editor, he’s been behind the localization of some of my favourite games. With a resume that lists works such as Retro Game Challenge and Muramasa Rebirth, it’s a wonder he could show any worry over the quality of his work.

But for Mike, a self confessed Localization Drone (as well as Text Monkey, and Text Magician), Aksys Games’ upcoming visual novel, XBlaze Code: Embryo, is a far cry from the projects he’s handled before. Not that he’s unprepared; Mike has had his hands in the BlazBlue series of fighting games, a world that XBlaze serves as a prequel to. Set 150 years before the BlazBlue games, players take on the role of Touya Kagari, a high school sophomore whose adventure unravels some of the greater mysteries of the BlazBlue universe. Even those unfamiliar with BB will enjoy this tale of multiple factions seeking out the power that created the universe. XBlaze is announced to release this Summer for the PS3 and Vita.

I got the opportunity to speak with Mike about XBlaze Code: Embryo, as well as some of his past work.

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It’s great seeing Aksys continuing to release visual novel games with XBlaze Code: Embryo. Other publishers are joining in on the fun, so I’d like to know what you feel sets XBlaze apart from games like Virtue’s Last Reward and Danganronpa?

Mike Engler: Probably the biggest thing is that, unlike Dangan and VLR, which I’d consider adventure games, XBlaze is more of a pure visual novel. While there is a certain level of player interaction in XBlaze, it is far more subtle, with the results of the player’s choices not always immediately apparent until they get further into the story.

Another difference between XBlaze and its ADV compatriots is the presentation of the story scenes. They tend to be far more dynamic and play out more like an animated feature; with multiple camera angles used to give a sense of movement.

I have to add that all three games mentioned are worth playing, so grab them all for a couple of months’ worth of entertainment.

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My Top 10 Favourite Handheld RPGs

With Bravely Default being the talk of the town, I figured it was best to share my favourite handheld RPGs. Although, doing so is a fool’s game; I can’t imagine you’ll be able to put Bravely Default down long enough to read this, let alone commit to another 20+ hours long RPG.

Since these are personal favourites, save any potential scorn for a more definitive list (TOP 10 RPGs EVER!). Your favourite not here? Perhaps I never played it. Maybe I think it’s a dud. Hell, I could even own it but am drowning in enough of an RPG backlog as it is. Fill me in on some of your favourites on Twitter (I’m @tylerohlew) or in the comment section below. Maybe you can turn me onto a game I’ve never even heard of!

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VIISquare Enix – PSP

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It’s great that something good came out of the Final Fantasy VII Compilation. These kinds of projects tend to cash in us weak willed fans, and with games like Dirge of Cerberus kicking the festivities off, it appeared Square-Enix’s efforts were no different.

Crisis Core is more a more action oriented affair, which puts it in line with works like the Kingdom Hearts series. Even still, the RPG tropes we love make the transition. Battles aren’t about mashing an attack button, but about working your way through the enemies with the most suiting decisions. Who you attack and with what is as important as ever, with enemy weaknesses, Action Points, and status affects playing as much a role as the more traditional Final Fantasy games. Spicing things up is a slot-machine that doles out power ups and Limit Breaks as the battle wages on.

Importantly, Crisis Core doesn’t forget the hardware it’s running on. It’s story unfolds in missions, which are broken up and peppered with save points. This works wonderfully on the PSP, and allows players to accomplish a lot with little investment.

It also features some of the hottest male eyebrows you’ll ever see. Does Zack get them waxed, or threaded? A friend wants to know.

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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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