Vapour Ware (Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. – 3DS)

Over a life time of gaming, I’ve reduced myself to sticking with my favourites. While the intention of the developers may have differed, when it comes to RPGs, I build a party and ride it to the end. This works for me, and when you factor in grinding, this way of playing never became an issue.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. doesn’t let me get away with that. It boasts a cast three dozen strong, and it’s best to take each member’s strengths and weaknesses into account before throwing them into a mission. STEAM‘s difficulty is brutal, a game that isn’t afraid to flood the player with enemy forces, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be butting against an endless stream of roadblocks. What Intelligent Systems’ latest taught me is the importance of understanding when the tide has turned.

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Getting the Vapours

Aesthetically, Nintendo has never let me down. While the company stresses the unimportance of graphics, they never fail to impress with their design. Paper Mario, Wind Waker, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn are perfect examples of their style, preferring cohesion and themes to god rays and polygon counts.
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With Code Name: STEAM, revealed last night for the 3DS, those same principles are at play, but Nintendo’s decisions just don’t gel with me.

I see their inspirations in the work; Jack Kirby’s boundless creativity coupled with Bruce Timm’s square jawed simplicity is a genius decision. But it still doesn’t grab me like I would hope.

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But the hate parade can end there. STEAM isn’t off my radar, and I don’t believe I’d “literally kill myself” should I be seen playing it. I wouldn’t even say it’s ugly. It’s perfectly fine that a game isn’t made just for me. Because as much as I dislike the visuals, Intelligent Systems looks to be crafting one hell of a strategy game.

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I’d be an idiot to doubt that STEAM won’t be fun. IS seems to be drawing upon some systems I last saw in the Valkyria Chronicles series. I can appreciate that steam powered weapons and armour determines their movement, as opposed to Valkyria’s “You know what? I’m pooped as hell” system.

No permadeath is a sign that Intelligent Systems listened to my baby cries. After Fire Emblem Awakening I can’t imagine playing a game where I’d lose such well written beings.

It’s important to note that the developers said they hope this game can have even more people fall in love with the tactics genre. This helps me understand the art style a bit better, as it’s reasonable to believe that Valkyria Chronicles setting and visuals turned people off (despite being a favourite of mine). Maybe this is a more acceptable form, a style that many will find appealing.

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I say this without seeing a second of footage, so I think my opinion can only go up from here. Sure, my thoughts on the art won’t change no matter how it “moves”, but it will be great to see just how the game plays out.

I’ll be sure to update this piece once the Treehouse gives us a peek later today.

Eight Weird & Wonderful DSiWare Recommendations

The DSi Shop was never as glamourous as the eShop. Belonging exclusively to a physical iteration of the DS was just the start of its problems, with its layout and speed remaining an issue throughout its life. But, flying in the face of all this drama is the fact that good games remain! I’m not here to just tell you what the ‘Top X DSiWare Games That’ll Rock Your Butt’ are (someone else took care of that), but instead I thought I’d share some of the more obscure titles. They are still top notch, and I’d put them against your Shantae‘s any day of the week, but maybe you just never heard of them. Maybe some dope DS game came out earlier that week and you never thought to punish yourself by loading up the DSi Shop.

Let’s kick this thing off.

Maestro! Green Groove by Pastagames, $4.99/500 Points

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Now this is a treat for rhythm-action fans. Developed by the folks at Pastagames (Arkedo Series – Pixel, Pix’N Love Rush), Maestro is a musical platformer, comparable to HarmoKnight. It does everything right as far as my preferences for the genre, a highlight being Maestro employs one mechanic throughout its entirety. As opposed to something like Rhythm Heaven which is several mini games all using different mechanics, Maestro delivers a single mechanic that grows as you play. As Presto, that pink bird you see up there, players strum and tap the touch screen in tune to the music. The soundtrack is composed of interesting takes on classical music, which sits with me better than an all original arrangement that may have its fair share of clunkers. Presto is constantly in motion, with the player controlling his path by swiping the strings he runs on. Collectible fruit litters the path, but there’s also strings to strum in time with the music, as well as enemies to tap. It works wonderfully, and the difficulty ramps up quickly; Pastagames clearly doesn’t want you to butcher the works of Beethoven and get away with it. As lovely as Maestro‘s soundscapes are, its visuals are just as arresting.

Glow Artisan by Powerhead Games, $4.99/500 Points

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When browsing a digital games store, there’s certainly no shortage of puzzle games. While you’re drowning in a sea of ‘match three’ puzzlers, grab hold of Glow Artisan and it will pull you back to shore with its rippling, tanned muscles.

Glow Artisan manages to take something as simple as color mixing, turn it into something complex, but still keep it fun as all hell. On the top screen, players are presented with a 5×5 grid of coloured squares. Using the touch screen, the player is asked to recreate that image. By sliding from left to right and top to bottom, the player creates a row of coloured boxes. You are able to choose the colour, and by overlapping one with another, create a new colour altogether. Where things get complex is when the erase tool is thrown into the mix. The collection of squares you’re attempting to duplicate will have empty spots on its grid, you achieve this by use of the erase tool. What’s tricky is that you must erase an entire row or column, so that particular empty spot on the grid takes some special planning. Where and when you place your row becomes a science, and the game’s difficulty ramps up immediately. It’s insanely complex, but there’s just nothing else like it. As hard as it is, the game pulls at your logical and creative sides so perfectly that you can’t help but fall into that ‘just one more try’ syndrome. If you think I’m crazy, know that Nintendo saw the quality in Glow Artisan as well, allowing Powerhead Games to participate in the ‘Developer Showcase’ portion of WarioWare DIY.

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