Tuesday, April 7, 2020

PlayStation 5 Controller Revealed - The "DualSense"

Today Sony finally released it's first images of the upcoming PlayStation 5's controller over at the official PlayStation Blog. The new controller is called the "DualSense" and brings with it a host of changes over the previous DS4.

As you can see all of the major buttons are still here. X (Cross), Square, Circle, Triangle, the D-Pad, two analog sticks (which click in for L3 and R3), four trigger buttons, a start button, a home button, and what is now being called the "Create Button." This button is still used for taking screen shots and recording video, but Sony also teased other features will be added to it as well. Currently we don't know what this means, but it's safe to say all user generated content will be tied to this button.

The touch pad has also received a redesign, with the controller's LEDs now being on the sides rather than across the top (as seen in the second version of the DS4). As mentioned previously, triggers are also adaptive and can be tightened or loosened based on what you are doing in the game. Sony continues to use the "bow and arrow" example where the triggers get tighter and harder to push in the farther back the bow is pulled.

Also as previously announced the controller will use haptics over the classic rumble feature -- something that is becoming a lot more common today with both cell phones and even VR controllers. This helps simulate "feeling" in games and is more precise than traditional rumble.

Finally a microphone has also been built into the controller. While actual headsets will be released for it as well, they are no longer required. This basically replaces the PS4's single ear bud mic that came with the console, and makes it easier to quickly communicate without having to hook up additional hardware.

And that about covers it! Overall the controller is basically the same as what we've come to know, but it's also been expanded upon. For a complete overview you can head on over to the PlayStation Blog.
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Monday, April 6, 2020

Anime Monday - The Rising of The Shield Hero

Let me be frank here. I'm not really that big of a fan of the other world genre. I mean in some cases it's done really well and I'm willing to give it a chance, but a lot of the time it seems like I see the very same thing being repeated over and over again. Someone dies, they end up in some crazy place, they gain super powers, everyone tends to like them, and then... Well pretty much all of them are on going so it's really hard to say what happens next. Still they tend to follow this pattern, and often it seems like everyone just copies each other. So why did I even give Shield Hero a chance? Beats me, but I guess it's mainly because of a scrub named Derek. "Watch Shield Hero." Me: Fine.

Going into Shield Hero I didn't know what to expect. It was a Crunchyroll exclusive so that was kinda cool to see, but other than that I didn't think much of it. "Okay this guy is going to find himself in a new place, and everyone is going to love him." Yep, that's exactly how it started out. So why did I keep going? Why didn't I stop there and just move on with my life? Why not watch something else? I don't know, I guess I thought it at least deserved a chance. So I kept watching... And then things took an unexpected turn. From that moment on I was hooked -- not just to the anime, but the novels as well.

The Story of Naofumi:

The first scenes of Shield Hero introduce us to our hero -- a young man by the name of Naofumi. Naofumi isn't anything special. He's a normal guy. What else is there to say? The intro does explain a little bit about his family, but this is not the focus here. (Not by a long shot.) After going over his brief introduction, Naofumi finds himself at the local library where he uncovers a strange book. It tells the story of multiple heroes who are going to save the world, and how a cruel princess stands in their way. He's not sure why the story drew him in, but Naofumi continues reading until he discovers the rest of the pages are blank. Next thing he knows a bright light fills his vision and he's transported to another world.

Upon arriving in this "other world," Naofumi finds himself laying on the floor next to three others. Standing next to them appear to be some sorta mages who have completed a "summoning," and they all seem to be excited because of it's apparent success. It's all too much for Naofumi to take in, but things only become even weirder when he realizes a shield is stuck to his arm. Strangely enough however, it seems that he's the only one confused by all of this. When the four are asked to go see the king, the other three instantly agree, and seemingly already understand their situation fully. They are the heroes of this land, and they must now fight to protect the kingdom. From what? Well...

After arriving at the throne room, the king proceeds to explain the situation. Strange disasters are occurring across the world, and it's up to the four heroes to put a stop to them. During these events monsters rain from the sky, and villages are destroyed in a blink of an eye. It's only the four heroes that can protect everyone, and finally put an end to these "Waves of Calamity." To do so the heroes must form parties, and train themselves to become stronger. Naturally everyone agrees (as they have no choice), and are then shown back to their rooms for the night. This is the first time Naofumi gets a chance to speak with the others.

It turns out the reason the other three are okay with the world is because they don't see it as being real. In fact one of them even thinks it's a VR MMORPG that he's been playing. Apparently although they all come from Earth, they are all from different points in time as well as different dimensions. They try talking about things they thought they would have in common, but none of what they discuss matches up with the other's memories. Japan has different leaders, different faces appear on their money, etc. Naofumi is the only character with memories of our "real world" Japan, and he's also the only one who jumped in after quickly glancing through a book. Because of that he knows nothing about this world, or the fact that they are heroes, and has no idea how it's "systems" work -- something he also didn't even notice until it was pointed out.

In this world it plays out almost like a MMORPG. Built into their vision are HUDs which not only track their stats and progress, but stats of their "party members" as well. Killing monsters in the field gain them experience, and they have to buy gear and equipment if they want to protect themselves. It's everything you'd expect out of an RPG, but in this case it's integrated with "real life." So once again after having no choice but to accept his new fate, Naofumi meets with the king the next day and starts his journey. Except things don't go as planned.


After meeting back up in the throne room, the heroes are told to form parties and get ready to depart. A group of "party members" were already selected to partake in this adventure, and they get to decide who they want to go with. Unlike in most shows where the hero instantly gets a good party however, no one wants to choose Naofumi. He's left standing alone, while the other three heroes get everyone else to themselves. Of course this isn't fair so the king kindly asks some of the others to step up and go with him, but only one girl agrees to do so. Her name is Myne, and after realizing Naofumi has no idea what he's doing, she agrees to walk him through the basics -- starting with armor.

Using the money the king gave him, Naofumi buys some armor for himself and his party (of one). He finds out that he can't hold a sword or any other weapon, and is confined to only being a shield. That's fine though because Myne can fight for him, while he can stand back and act as support. After this the two head out into the field and once again Myne shows him the basics of combat. They don't stay out too long however, and before long they decide to head back to their hotel to get some rest. Here Myne offers Naofumi to drink with her, but he turns her down. Although the anime doesn't specifically say it, the novel goes on to explain how Naofumi doesn't care to drink, and that it actually does nothing for him. No matter how much he drinks he doesn't feel it's effects, and because of that he has no reason to do so. A bit saddened by this Myne tells him that it's okay, and continues to drink on her own. Afterwords Naofumi goes up to his room, takes off his armor, and goes to sleep. A nice peaceful sleep... Unlike the next morning.

Upon waking the next day, Naofumi finds himself being arrested and drug back to the king. His charges? Attempted rape. According to Myne Naofumi got drunk and forced himself on her, and that she barely managed to escape from him. That night she ran to the Spear Hero for "safety," and in return for helping her she gave him everything Naofumi owned (including his armor). Unable to defend himself Naofumi has no choice but to accept "what he had done," and finds himself being thrown out into a world that now hates his guts. Alone, with no money, no armor, and no weapon to fight with. To put it simply, he's screwed and no one will help him. He's trash who is better off killing himself. Who would help someone like that? Someone who has to of course.

Enter Raphtalia:

Realizing he can't do anything alone, Naofumi has no choice but to turn to a slave trader for help. He doesn't have much money to spend so he's unable to buy any of the giant monsters being held in cages, but as he's looking around a small cage catches his attention. Inside this cage is a little girl who appears to be half human and half tanooki. While the anime doesn't explain what it is about her that caught Naofumi's eye, the book does go into a bit more disturbing detail about this. Thanks to what happened to him Naofumi is now a broken man, and he can't help but take his anger out on someone else. Why did he choose Raphtalia? Because she's female. A weak poor girl who can't do anything for herself. She's suffering, and Naofumi can force her to be his own tool. It's a twisted way to view her, but it's one of the main reasons he agrees to buy her.

After "acquiring" Raphtalia, Naofumi puts her to work. She's scared and doesn't want to fight, doesn't like blood, and can't do much on her own, but she has to. She has to stab monsters. She has to kill. Naofumi and her both need the experience to survive, and that's the facts. If they can't level up, they'll die. So time and time again Naofumi gets the poor girl to stab monsters, and slowly they do become stronger. This is how they are going to spend their lives now. Killing, getting stronger, and then returning to town to eat and sleep. It's a sad life, but what can Naofumi do about it?

Over time things do start to change (obviously). Although Naofumi acts as if he only sees Raphtalia as a tool, the reality is that he does care about her. He buys her food she wants to make her happy, and at one point he's even willing to die for her if she can get away. He buys her toys, and does whatever he can to make her happy, but despite all of this he still struggles with the fact that she's "the same sex as that woman." Eventually though as Raphtalia grows up before his eyes he starts to see who she really is, and the two form an unbreakable bond.

Should You Watch It:

Sadly I can't go into what happens next. Everything about Raphtalia and Naofumi's relationship, and future party members is going into spoiler territory. As for if you should watch it or not? It really depends on you. If you can handle the twisted things that happen to both Naofumi and Raphtalia during their adventures, and if you want to see their struggle to succeed... Then sure, why not at least give it a try? Naofumi's powers do start to evolve as he learns more about how to use his shield, but it's not quite a typical "another world" story. He has to earn his strength, and there's always someone out there better than him. The rest of the world hates him as well, so it's not easy for him to gain the support of anyone. Raphtalia pretty much is all he has, and even she has her own reasons to actually help him. She stops being his "slave" pretty much instantly, and is truly helping because she wants to. As for the other characters they meet along the way? Well they too have their reasons for doing what they are doing. Each story is interesting with some pretty unexpected twists, and some really nice payoffs in the end. Thankfully the anime is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novels, but it does cut out some of Naofumi's darker thoughts.

So yeah, why not give it a try? It's free on Crunchyroll, and you'll know by the end of the second episode if it's for you or not. It's as simple as that. I gave it a chance, and now I'm glad I did. Thankfully the show moves at a pretty fast pace as well and covers well past the series' intro (something series adapted from novels rarely do). With two more seasons already confirmed, it's safe to say Shield Hero will be here to stay for quite some time.
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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Trails of Cold Steel IV - Coming to the West on PS4 this Fall, Switch Next Year

It's finally happened! The final entry in the Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel story arc is on it's way to the west. Trails of Cold Steel IV will launch on PS4 this fall, and will be coming to Switch in 2021. The game picks up during the ending of Cold Steel III, and brings together a cast of characters spanning nearly two decades of releases. Trails in the Sky FC, SC, 3rd, Trails to Zero, Trails to Azure, and of course the cast of Cold Steel I, II, and III are all here. It's the "end of a saga" as the original Japanese version put it, but also the final stepping stone that will lead the series to it's future. That being said, it's not a game for newcomers, but rather long time fans who have been with the series since the beginning. (Or at the very least have gone through CSI-III.)

For those of you looking for more out of Cold Steel, the game is receiving a collectors edition for both PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, and contains some nice extras. It contains a collector's box, official soundtrack, an art book, a steel book for the game itself, a cloth poster, and finally seven art cards -- all of which would be great to add to your collection. Past games in the series also received some pretty cool extras with their releases, so it's good to see Cold Steel IV continue that trend.

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Persona 5 Royal Is Out Now, and Review is in the Works!

Sorry I missed giving an update about this earlier this week, but I've been pretty busy with work and other things and just haven't had the time. That being said... Persona 5 Royal is finally out in the US! It's been a long wait for this game's release, but it is finally here. Really it's kinda weird thinking that this game even exists. I mean, sure, Persona 3 had FES and Persona 3 Portable, and Persona 4 eventually got Golden, but Persona 5 always felt like a "complete" game. It was a massive release that took me close to 150 hours to do a 100% run on my first play through, with an extra 10-15 hours of speed running to finish cleaning up trophies on a NG+. It's a massive game, and I never once thought they would actually go ahead and expand it -- but here it is!

So, what is Royal exactly, and why should you get it over the original? Well to put it simply... It's an updated Persona 5. It's all of the content of the original game with a large amount of extra features being added in and game balances to "improve" what was already in place. It also includes the DLC from the original release for free (although it has to be redeemed from PSN), and adds some nice throw back items and costumes from past Persona games. The biggest change of all however is the introduction of the character Kasumi, who acts sorta like how Marie did in Persona 4 Golden. She's there adding new pieces to the story throughout the adventure, but her real time to shine comes from the completely new story arc which expands the game past the old game's ending.

With that being said... I actually plan to review it this time! The original P5 released during a slow time for this blog, and when I didn't have much time to actually make updates or post reviews. As much as I loved the original I basically never even talked about it here. I regret that and wanted to make things right, but when Royal was announced I didn't have much of a reason to. If anything I'd rather cover the new version of this already excellent game, and see just how different it really is for myself. So that's what I'm going to do. Of course I can't really give a timeline on that considering THIS GAME IS AT LEAST 150 HOURS LONG, but I'll do my best to slowly work through it and write that review when I'm finished. Really I'm looking forward to going back (again I LOVED P5), but it'll be awhile before I get to the ending. Not to mention the fact that Resident Evil 3 releases tomorrow, with Final Fantasy VII soon after... Even so! I'll make time. It's a great game and well worth the time spent.

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PlayStation Plus - April 2020

The new PlayStation Plus games have been announced for this month, and this time around we're getting two great titles. Sadly there' also titles many of us may already own.

Uncharted 4 -

The "final" entry in Nathan Drake's story. Uncharted 4 is the conclusion of the original Uncharted series, and follows our hero Nathan as he goes on one last adventure with his long lost brother Sam. This time he travels the world following clues related to the "good thief" who died on the cross alongside Jesus (which makes this a perfect game to release before Easter). Of course not everything goes smoothly, and Nate well, let's just say things might never be the same for him ever again. It's a grand adventure and the perfect way to close out the series. (For now.)

Dirt Rally 2.0 -

Dirt Rally 2.0 is one of the newer entries is the very much beloved racing sim. It's a high speed precision driving game which puts you on winding mud/snow filled tracks, with nothing but your spotter to help you guide your way. It's a challenging racer which takes some time to get used to, but it's also a heck of a lot of fun once you master it. Sadly not everyone will have a fancy race wheel to enjoy this game to the fullest, but those who do will find themselves playing a racing experiencing unlike any other.
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Monday, March 30, 2020

Anime Monday - Parasyte -the maxim-

You guys do not notice that we, are gifted just by being humans, we are absolute predators. We do not even have any, enemies, maybe there are other animals watching us and thinking that someday we will beat them down!!!!! - If you have no idea what any of that means, then you really need to check out the first episode of Parasyte.

The first time I heard of Parasyte I didn't know what to make of it. I was mainly seeing it being recommended on "top" lists on YouTube, by people who normally don't even discuss anime. It felt like they were just latching onto it because it was the "new" and "cool" thing to like. So yeah, my initial impressions of the series weren't great at all. I thought it was stupid, but in reality I was the stupid one. I had no idea about it's long legacy as one of the top selling manga, nor did I realize how many people wanted a part in this series. Heck even Don Murphy was going to work with Jim Henson Studios to make a live action version of it! This series was popular, and with very good reason. So again, I was pretty stupid to ignore this anime adaptation.

Eventually I did come around though after some other friends were recommending it. One day about a week before I started my new job it popped up for me on Hulu, and I decided it would be a good way to kill time before I went back to work. And man, did that time fly. I was hooked from start to finish, and before I knew it I had watched the entire series and my "vacation" had come to an end. It was a great way to finish it off.

But that's enough about me. What is Parasyte, and why should you watch it? Well...

The Story of Shinichi and Migi:

When Parasyte first opens up we get to see these weird worm like things descending onto Earth and making their way towards their host bodies. These worms are what we will eventually call parasites, but during this opening scene it's not exactly clear what they are. That is until we see one such parasite enter the bedroom of young Shinichi. This worm like thing enters Shinichi's body through his arm, and quickly starts making it's way towards his brain. Thankfully Shinichi is woken up by the whole ordeal, and quickly ties off his arm and cut's off it's blood supply.

The next morning Shinichi thinks the whole thing was a dream, however it doesn't take long for this to be proven wrong. Horrifyingly his hand transforms in front of his face and grows not only eyes but a mouth as well. This "thing" claims it has now taken root in Shinichi's hand, and that both of them are now dependent on the other. The parasite needs Shinichi to live, and if Shinichi doesn't cooperate, he too will die. Of course the parasite wanted to take over Shinichi's entire body, but it is now too late for that. And just like that, against his will, Shinichi's life is changed forever.

After giving the parasite the name "Migi" (because "migi" means "right" in Japanese, and the parasite is currently in Shinichi's right hand), the two try to come to some sort of common ground so that they can get through this whole thing. Migi doesn't care what Shinichi does as long as he survives, but Shinichi wants nothing more than things to go back to how they should be. That's not an option though. Migi is now a part of his body, and he has to deal with it -- that means keeping Migi a secret, while also continuing his everyday life. Thankfully Migi understands that he must remain hidden so that's not an issue, but what is a problem is the fact that Migi is not one of a kind. There are other parasites out there, and they've taken over other human bodies as well. These such parasites are attracted to each other, and that ultimately means it's only a matter of time before Shinichi comes face to face with another. Another that wishes to kill and devour him. This is where the horror begins, as Shinichi soon finds himself in a fight for not just his life, but Migi's as well.

Although Migi is capable of transforming into a "weapon" of sorts which can rip pretty much anything to shreds, one thing that makes Parasyte so unique is the fact that Migi actually isn't the weapon here. Migi only cares about protecting his and Shinichi's life, and he's only able to do so much on his own. This is a true partnership, and Shinichi must pull his own weight if they hope to overcome it. Initially Shinichi is nothing but a weak kid who is too afraid to face his fears and do anything about the situations he finds himself in, but eventually he's forced to face reality. After going through multiple traumatic events, and due to Migi's influence in general, eventually he does slowly start to change. Who was once a normal boy who is terrified by the horrors he must confront, eventually becomes an emotionless killer who is willing to do anything to ensure his own survival. While Migi protects the two Shinichi becomes the weapon, and this often makes him do some pretty horrific things himself. He'll even rip out a living person's heart if he has too -- this is who he eventually becomes.

The Fight for Survival, and the Mystery:

Parasyte isn't quite like other shows of it's kind. In some ways it's a "battle royale" between all of the parasites of the world, but in others it's a simple horror survival series. Shinichi wanted a normal life, and he's doing whatever it takes to protect it, but the only way to do so is to eliminate the other threats. He and Migi must be the only ones left, or else more people will continue to die. Of course not all other parasites are just monsters only out for food, which is where some of the series' other story arcs come into play. They too just want to keep living and do what is required, but they also can't help but question who they really are and how their new human bodies work. One such example happens during the first few episodes where a parasite in a human female body decides to become pregnant. By finding a parasite in a human male body the two have sex and manage to conceive -- but what about the baby? What is it? Will it be human? Will it be parasite? Will it's body be different than others? That's a question you'll have to find the answer to yourself. But again, it's just one of many. While many parasites do wish to kill Shinichi and Migi, there are those who are genially curious about the world they live in, and it makes us the viewers wonder about them as well. Just what are these parasites? Where did they come from? There are so many questions about them, and it's a part of this mystery that drives us as viewers to continue forward. Well that and we want to see the next crazy thing Shinichi pulls off!

So, Should You Watch It:

Well, this series isn't for everyone, but it's also not one you should give up on so quickly. When it first starts out it is a little weird, and Shinichi himself isn't anything too special. He's a nerd who everyone at school picks on, and he's too afraid to stand up for himself. It's what he eventually becomes that makes the show worth seeing, and seeing exactly how the events unfold before him. In this series no one is truly safe, and you never know what to expect out of each parasite encounter. Shinichi isn't going to come out of this unscathed, that much is obvious, but the death and destruction around him is what no one would've expected. It's one of the few series that can keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, and by the time it's all over your emotions will be allover the place. It's a non stop roller-coaster, that doesn't end even after the series finishes. It's something you'll never forget.

That being said you have to be okay with graphic violence, disturbing content, and horror in general to enjoy this show. If you can't take it, then you really shouldn't be watching. Also for those of you who have read the original manga, you have to keep in mind that this is not a perfect retelling of that story. The original manga came out in the late 80s and early 90s, and is a product of it's time. The anime adaptation of Parasyte takes place in our modern day (technically the 2010s) and has been updated to reflect our new world. Cell phones, PCs, and tablets all play a key role in the series with characters calling and texting each other, as well as looking up the latest news articles online. This is a big difference from the 80s/90s where news papers and TV news channels were the main source of information, so there will be these types of changes throughout the series. Overall the story is in tact, but manga purists may not agree with these updates.

Even so, the Parasyte anime is something everyone should at least give a chance. Everyone who is into horror that is. You won't regret it.

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

NieR Automata Coming to Game Pass

Haven't tried out NieR Automata yet but have an Xbox One? Well to go along with the announcement of NieR Replicant finally releasing on modern day consoles, the official NieR Twitter also sent out this little piece of news!

Yep that's right, come April 2nd the game will be free for all Game Pass members. The "Become as Gods Edition" mentioned is the "complete" release of Automata, which includes all previously released DLC for the game which was originally released on PS4.

So if you haven't played the game yet... Why not give it a chance? This is the perfect time to jump in. Especially with everything else going on in the world.
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NieR Replicant Coming to the West, and more!

It's finally happened! Today was the 10th Anniversary special for the NieR series, and along with the event came some very exciting news for fans. For the first time ever, NieR Replicant will finally be released world wide in it's remastered form titled "NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139." So while details are still pretty limited, it has been confirmed that it is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and that this is an "enhanced" version with a rerecorded OST, and new voice acting (featuring returning voice actors from NieR Automata) as well. But what is Replicant exactly? Well to put it simply...

NieR Replicant is one of the two versions of the original NieR that was released exclusively in Japan. While NieR Gestalt was released in the West, it is a slightly different game than Replicant. The main differences between the two come from who NieR actually is. In Gestalt we saw an older NieR trying to help his daughter who is suffering from a great illness that is sweeping the world. This NieR is rougher than most JRPG protagonists, and was thought to be more appealing to the Western audience. Meanwhile the NeiR of Replicant is a young man who is taking care of his sister, rather than his daughter, with some other differences being seen throughout the game. While the story is largely the same, "Young NeiR" is actually the character most of the series as a whole follows, with most promotional material and short stories focusing on him rather than the "Adult NeiR" we got here in the west. So in a way Replicant can be considered the "canon" version of the game, but even that is incorrect to say. This series as a whole isn't as black and white as that. That being said, it's really nice that we'll finally get to play this version of the game here in the West, and it'll also give fans of NieR
Automata to finally get to see the original story... Or rather, the start of the NieR story arc.

So, for those of you who haven't followed NeiR or played Automata... What is NeiR? Well that's a difficult question to answer.

(This amazing art comes from "Short Story Long")
NieR is a follow up series to the original Drakengard games that came out back during the PS2 days (with a sequel also being released on PS3). It's a massive series filled with short stories, manga, and novels, and it's something that continues to expand even to this day. NeiR was the next main chapter in this series, and because of that it too has spun off a large amount of side content to continue expanding the world. More short stories, more novels, stage plays, lore books, etc... It's a massive universe filled with stories that most developers would shy away from. It's a series that isn't afraid to look into the darker side of things, and cover topics that some might be considered taboo. It's a series that can take moments pulled out of your deepest, darkest, nightmares and turn them into touching scenes that will make you want to cry instead. It's something special, and each entry in the series continues to do the unexpected. The original NieR was no different. In fact, one might argue it and it's supporting side content are some of the best stories in the entire series. That's what NeiR is. Telling anymore would ruin it. It's a series you need to experience for yourself to understand what it's actually about.

That being said, NeiR does take place many MANY years before Automata, but that doesn't mean Automata players won't recognize at least some things about it. Automata's world is actually built on top of the ruins of NeiR's world, and because of that you will still see some familiar things. Plot points in Automata will also become clearer when you come back to this one, so fans have that to look forward to as well.

For a glimpse at what is to come, check out the new teaser trailer:

On top of this a mobile game titled "NieR Re[in]carnation" was also announced, but not much is known about this other than the fact that it'll feature the returning character Kaine (but as a little girl). You can check out it's trailer as well below:

In OTHER NieR related news, SINoALICE is finally coming to the West as well! This Yoko Taro game was set to launch last year with a NieR Automata collaboration as it's first event, but then the project went silent. Well last week the US team finally confirmed that the title will launch this July instead. The game uses Yoko Taro's signature "darker" style, and features characters based off of fairy tales fighting for their lives, as well as characters from the NieR and Drakengard series. For more information, check out the official webpage, and check out the Ownership Transfer Notice for details on SINoALICE's departure from Nexon.
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Friday, March 27, 2020

The Hardest Part of VR: Forgetting Game Logic

If you've been following this blog at all over the last few years, then you'd know that I'm a pretty big fan of VR games. I got my PSVR the day it came out, and have kept up with pretty much all VR related news ever since. The whole thing was just so exciting for me, and it still continues to blow me away with each new game. Sure eventually there's a point where "virtual reality" blends in with "reality" and you start to forget just how different of an experience it really is, but at the same time there's some things you never forget. The fact that you're playing a game and specific rules apply. The thing is, these so called "rules" don't always work out the way you'd expect. And that is the hardest thing to get used to.

The thing about video games is that you pretty much always know how things work. You typically move using an analog stick or keys on your keyboard, you have your right analog stick or mouse to look around, and specific buttons are assigned to do specific things. Maybe X is to jump, or square is to reload your gun. Maybe triangle or Y is to bring up your menu, and you have some sorta cancel button to back up if you've clicked on the wrong thing. This is just how games work and it's something all gamers are used to. Even when games use unique controls it doesn't take long for us to figure them out and adapt. This is just how games work and we are all used to it. But what about when this is all stripped away? It varies from game to game, but you see VR doesn't have to abide by these standards. In fact most games in VR are anything BUT standard. What you expect from a video game gets thrown out the window, and you find yourself facing a new reality. One that is very much closer to our own.

Now I've played most major VR titles released up to this point, and throughout them I've had to learn to adapt to different styles of play constantly. Some games use a normal controller and play exactly the same as most of us are already used to. These games still pull you in thanks to the VR perspective, but it's not anything too out of the ordinary. Heck even when alternate control schemes are brought in such as using the Move Controllers in Skyrim VR, the game of Skyrim itself doesn't actually change. Yes you have the freedom to wave your arm around and slash with a sword, but this isn't anything we haven't seen before with the Wii. Motion control back then helped us accept this type of control scheme, and mechanic wise the game is still reading these actions basically the same as it always did. Weapon hits enemy, enemy takes damage, and then eventually enemy dies. The control method might be different, but the game is not. This is the major difference between games updated for VR support and those that were made with it in mind. While Skyrim continues to use the same world we are already familiar with, games like Blood and Truth are different. These games are tailored to VR, and the things they do are unlike anything we've experienced before in a game. What do I mean by this? Well let's look at a more recent example. Or rather, a brand new release.

Earlier this week Half Life Alyx finally released. Going into it I knew that it was supposed to be a game that took full advantage of VR, but I guess I didn't understand what that meant. I expected to jump into this world with my knowledge of Half Life there to guide me through it, but instead I was met with constant amazement. And horror.

(I'm sure we've all seen this screenshot by now, but trust me, it's different when you're "in" there.)
Remember what I said about buttons and things just working in games? Yeah, all of that gets thrown out the window, and that's what is so hard to get used to. Imagine this: you're in a dark subway car and a zombie is breaking through the window and climbing through it. What do you do? Taking out your gun and shooting it is the obvious answer, but those of you with zero gun experience in real life -- have you ever actually thought about what goes into that? I mean you just point and click right? Right!? Yeaaaah, no. In a normal game in this situation all you have to do is aim and pull the trigger. Shoot the thing till it is dead, and then hit R or square (or whatever your controller's default is) and you can now reload to continue firing. All there is too it. In VR though? Not that simple! In Half Life taking out a gun is pretty simple however. Unlike in Blood and Truth which has you holster your weapons, here all you need to do is hold in the right analog stick and flick your wrist up to whichever weapon you want to use. That part really hasn't changed much from your standard pressing 1, 2, 3, 4, keys, but that's the only similarity here.

Now keep in mind that the zombie is getting closer to you and it's in front of your eyes in it's pure VR glory! So what next? Point and pull the trigger? Well first of all you have to aim the gun, and you have to keep the way your weapon is facing in mind. Line up the shot using the sight, and make sure you don't twist your wrist by mistake -- you'll end up missing. Once you've got things ready though all you do is pull the trigger and... Click. Click, click, click. You've got to load the thing. Hurry up and grab a full mag from your backpack (behind your head), and insert it and get ready to fire! So by now the zombie is right on you but it's okay because you can now fight back! So once again you aim and pull the trigger and... Click. Click click click click click. What's wrong? The thing is right in front of your face now and you have no time to move. This is it, either shoot now or die! So what's wrong? Simple. You didn't load the bullet into the chamber or eject the current empty shell. Yep, just like a real gun you've gotta pull it back and get things ready. NOW you can shoot the thing to death and hopefully not die yourself!

It's cases like these where you realize just how much you take basic things like the reload button for granted. Half Life Alyx isn't afraid to put you in high stress situations such as these, and you have to think quick but remain calm as you get things in order just to protect yourself. Every single weapon has a different method to reloading, and they all function differently as well. You can't just run and gun and reload every chance you get -- these magazines are actual magazines now. If you eject the cartage after only using a couple of shots, you're ejecting your mostly full mag and using another from your reserves. At the same time however you have to consider just how many shots are left with your current weapon, and how many it's going to take to kill your next target. Will you have time to unload the remainder and pull out a new one? Or is it worth just giving up those last few shots? You have to consider this -- something pretty much no other normal game makes you do. It's something you have to remember, and sometimes it can be hard to. Especially after spending years pressing reload without thinking twice. Use a few shots? Instantly reload to keep it full! That's just burned into our brains at this point and it's hard to let go. However this isn't the only thing that can really throw you off. In fact the the entire world's rules have changed.

Having free movement with nearly your entire body presents a much wider verity of opportunities for game developers to include features in their games. In physics games such as Half Life this means they can incorporate even more real world physics into their world. Want to pick up something heavy? You'll need to use two hands to haul it where it needs to go. Want to open a door? You have to physically turn that knob and pull or push the door open. This includes using the back of your hand to continue to slide it open, or even slap it away. These are things that are natural to us in real life, but in a game you don't exactly know how objects will react. One example happened to me today while streaming HLA to another writer here at NGR. I wanted to close a gate so that nothing could enter in behind me, so I simply pushed it "closed" expecting it to go back into it's original position. Yeah, no. It doesn't work that way in real life, nor does it in HLA. That gate swung as fast as I pushed it, and continued past the door way and slammed up against the wall on the other side. I honestly didn't expect that to happen for some reason, it really caught me off guard. I mean, doors in games usually are either open or closed, since when do they have a full range of motion? It's little things like these that just feel weird despite being so natural. And it doesn't stop there.

Another part of the game had me scaring myself for a very stupid reason. I was alone in a dark room knowing that monsters weren't too far from me, but I wanted to search for ammo. I was picking things up and seeing what I could interact with, but when I came across a case I couldn't open I just tossed it aside. Didn't think much of this but a few seconds later I hear the sound of glass exploding by my head, and I couldn't help but jump and twist my body around in the real world to see what kind of horrors awaited me. Yeah, turns out the case I threw had crashed into the window and shattered it. Again, why wouldn't this happen? I just threw something without even looking. If it hit a window of course it would break! But why would I expect that from a game? Sure we've all shot windows in games before, but things like this? Tossing a useless item aside? It's weird, but at the same time it's not.

Although you eventually do immerse yourself in these virtual worlds, it does take some time and a lot of experimentation to actually understand what you can or cannot do. Yes they try to simulate the real world as much as possible, but as games there are always limits. Even heavily physics based games like HLA can only do so much, but what it does do takes time to get used to. Games like Pavlov VR have a large verity of weapons which you must reload and use in a realistic manor, but even then it's mechanics may not always apply to other VR shooting games. So getting used to using weapons in one game may not always carry over to another, and even if they do it doesn't mean it will always feel the same. Or maybe the game will handle it's world differently in general? It's really hard to know until you've started experimenting with the worlds for yourself. This is the reality of VR, and one thing that makes it so much fun. You never know what type of world you're going to jump into, and when you get there it becomes your new reality. You have to play by it's book, and sometimes it can be pretty shocking.
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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Xenoblade Chronicles DE - Trailer

Today, as part of the Nintendo Direct, a new trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition was released. This time around we got to see multiple key scenes from throughout the game, as well as the new character models for party members such as Sharla and Meila. We also got to see the return of the equipment system which was removed from Xenoblade 2. Of course this was a main feature in the original Xenoblade, so it's not too shocking to see it return. It means you can now customize the outfits your characters wear based on the equipment and weapons you give them.

Besides all of the returning old features in the game, the trailer also gives us a sneak peak at the "Future" episode. This is a post game epilogue story which shows Shulk and Meila traveling to the unused area from the original game. We also get to see a glimpse of "something" in the sky, which may or may not be something us long time fans are already familiar with. Of course I can't say anymore on the matter, but hopefully this means we'll get some of our questions answered.

And finally we get a release date which as Nintendo noted, is subject to change. This isn't too shocking considering the state of the world at the moment, but if all things go according to plan, then the game will release on 5/29/2020 -- almost exactly two months from now. The game will also have a collectors edition which includes an art book, which is similar to what Xenoblade 2 received as well.

For more information check out the trailer below:

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