It would seem that Nyu Media really are the plucky little localization group that could. Despite a partnership with Capcom (giving them a direct line to Valve), they’ve struggled to get each of their translated Japanese indie games onto Steam. Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was originally released back in April, and it seemed like it would stay relegated to the smaller online retailers – a shame, as our Sarah Bishop quite liked it, according to her review here. Thankfully, the winds of fate seem to have changed, and Nyu Media are happily announcing that the game is due to hit Steam on the 8th of November.
Not quite an adventure game and not quite a visual novel, CTHCC falls into that unusual hybrid genre of ‘life sims’. In this case, the adventures of a high-school girl and her quest to establish a successful comedy club at her school, inbetween juggling day to day goals and the general state of her education. It’s whimsical, fluffy easygoing stuff aimed at a more casual market. Not the usual sort of thing you see localized (hardcore arcade shooters seem an easier sell), but it’s nice to see more of this sort of thing making the leap. Here’s the official trailer, too:
The game is for Windows PCs only, and usually retails around the $8 mark, although this re-launch will inevitably come with some kind of small launch discount. While you wait for the Steam release, you can try the demo on the official site here and see what you make of it yourself..
To the Moon, the indie hit from Freebird Games,is now available for purchase on Steam. The adventure classic is available by itself or with the original soundtrack in a bundle. Those who owned an original copy can contact Freebird Games by email with an original order ID# and redeem it for a copy of the Steam version of To the Moon. So, what is To the Moon?
To the Moon is an adventure game in which a dying man named Johnny gets the opportunity to live out one last wish. Two doctors, Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts, stand beside Johnny’s death bed and give him an opportunity to relive the entirety of his life; unfortunately, it is the last thing he will ever be able to do. To the Moon is an exploration of the question “What If?”
Players must make life decisions in To the Moon. It gives a rare opportunity for players to relive life decisions, give love another shot, rediscover friendships, and search for fame and fortune. To the Moon is an exploration of what life can be, presented through an interactive story, with minimalistic gameplay. It is difficult to describe To the Moon’s style of play, and although it looks like a JRPG, it plays more like a point-and-click adventure.
You can currently get To the Moon at a discounted price on Steam until September 14th. A bundle is also available, which includes the OST at a discounted price. You can check out To the Moon on Steam and learn more about Freebird Games at their official website.
Credit to Nyu Media for tweeting about this. If you’ve not got your finger on the pulse of indie gaming, you might not have heard of Comiket. A bi-annual indie comics and games market/festival held in Tokyo, it’s the hub around which all Japanese indie development seems to revolve. A lot of games are physical releases only, and sold solely at events such as Comiket, and a handfull of hobby store chains.
We’ll, it’s that time of year again, and the 82nd Comiket is set to kick off next week. There’s a lot of games rolling out this year, and it’s hard to keep track of them all. Thankfully, Japanese indie studio Edelweiss (creators of the rather fancy shmup Ether Vapor Remaster, which we reviewed a while back) have gathered up every trailer they could find and mashed them all together into a 75 minute long Youtube video. Here it is in it’s feature-length glory:
There’s almost certainly going to be more than that surfacing during the show, but that’s what Edelweiss could dig up for this roundup. It’s a mixed bag – they’re covering a helluva lot of games, and some of these might just be demo releases (often 100 yen – roughly $1 – for an official printed demo disc) but here’s some personal stand-out moments that you might want to skip to:
0:00 – Homura Combat: Blaze - An Earth Defense Force style third-person shooter based on the surprisingly dark and affecting anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Could be interesting! Time-freezing + rocket launchers are a fun combination, and it looks like it actually covers some of the theoretical stuff put forward by the ending of the show itself.
1:48 – A gameplay trailer for Edelweiss’ upcoming perspective-shifting shmup Astebreed, pictured up above. Effectively a sequel to Ether Vapor, and it looks absolutely bloody gorgeous. Catchy music, some cinematic camera angles, interesting looking gameplay and visuals you might expect from a mainstream development house. Good stuff.
9:46 – Trailer for XBLIG refugee Revolver360, which is apparently coming to PC now! It was great stuff on the 360, and used perspective in clever ways that shooters normally wouldn’t. There’s a sequel on the way, too. As the game is already in English on XBLIG, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a US/EU launch soon.
14:07 – Ghost92, which appears to be some beautiful hybrid of Metal Gear, Fez, Cave Story and… King’s Field? First-person adventuring and puzzling, perspective-shifting 2.5d worlds, RPG elements and a familiar looking style all round? This needs to be translated.
42:41 - And now we have Touhou + Plants Vs Zombies + CCG elements. To be fair, it seems to go somewhat deeper than that, with direct strategy-style control over your placed characters, but the aesthetic is familiar, to say the least.
47:14 - Lotus Craft. Touhou + Starcraft. This is just getting silly.
01:03:01 – Can’t read the title on this one, but I’m talking about it anyway! Okay, it might be another Touhou game, but I’m really interested in this one. The latest game by Lion Heart, the creators of rather nice single-screen platform brawler Mystical Chain, and it’s looking sweet. Really smooth sprite animation, punchy, powerful-looking combat and an interesting blend of shmup and fighting game elements.
01:09:43 - Another I can’t read the title on, but want to try. Yet more Touhou, but this one looks like a fun blend of traditional shmup and arena Vs game, all held together with some really pretty graphics.
And that’s all I can drag out of my brain on the subject. Here’s hoping that there’s localizers gearing up to bring some of these games to western shores, or (at the very least) some fan-translation crews ready to strut their stuff. Of course, fan-games based on TV anime and Touhou spinoffs are officially no-go areas for professional localization groups due to licensing issues, but there’s plenty there for everyone, as far as I can see. We’ll be trying our best to get our hands on some of these games once the dust settles on Comiket and fill you in on what might be worth your money and/or time.
Playism have been in the indie localization business for quite some time, but you’ve probably never heard of them. Why? Because they’ve been taking our great reserves of English-language indie games, translating them into Japanese, and releasing them to an even more niche Japanese audience. Now, they’re trying it the other way round, and have just launched their storefront. Headlining this release is the English-language version of the long-awaited La-Mulana remake, but also a good range of both Japanese and western indie titles, both commercial and freeware.
The layout of the store is fairly reminiscent of GOG.com at the moment, and that’s not a bad thing to be reminded of. The DRM-free release model seems to match, too, and there’s no obtrusive client software needed to install. Just sign up, pay with Paypal or whatever option you most commonly use and run laughing into the sunset with a bunch of new games. In addition to selling you stuff, they’ve got a few freeware bits, including the cult freeware gem Yume Nikki (Dream Diary), which is a genuinely surreal bit of 16-bit exploration and puzzling in a world that really captures the logic (or lack of it) in dreams. If you’ve never tried it before, get it. It’s completely free.
Other things available at launch include Japanese strategic gardening game I’m Gonna Be God Of The Forest, where you need to balance an ecosystem through planting and culling in order to promote the growth of bigger, tougher creatures to help defend the forest from invading waves of nature-hating robots. Last in the localized offerings is freeware point and click adventure Pock’s Friend, which can be played right in your browser. I’ve not had a chance to try this one yet, but the art in the screenshots can only be described as ‘lush’. Full of bright, juicy colours and chunky, charming designs. Both of those are going to get some playtime over the next few days, with any luck.
There’s a good range of other games in their launch lineup, many of them for Mac as well, and a good number with demos. Here’s what’s on offer:
Eufloria – $15
Dear Esther – $10
And Yet It Moves – $10
Botanicula – $10
Machinarium – $10
Spacechem – $10
Inside A Star-Filled Sky – $8
Lume – $7
Celestial Mechanica – $5
Fotonica – $5
Lightfish – $5
Hyperspace Invaders Zero – $5
Star Sky – $3
Sonar – $2
Trauma – $Pay What You Want
Not a bad range of games at all for opening day, although the timing of launching alongside the massive Steam sale is likely going to take a chunk out of their profits. It’ll be interesting to see how Playism expands in the coming months. There’s a list of Japanese indie games as long as both my arms that I’d love to see get official localizations. While stuff like the Touhou franchise is off-limits due to licensing issues and authorial controls, there’s a growing number of eastern indie developers embracing digital distribution as their primary release channel, and are dropping prices to match international standards, too.
As for La-Mulana, our full review will be up fairly soon, but you can be safe in the knowledge that it’s definitely worth the $15 if you’ve ever liked a Metroidvania style game before. Just be warned – it’s smarter and tougher than most, in addition to being absolutely gigantic. Playism is a pretty simple, no-fuss store, which is good to hear, although at the time of writing the servers are being bombarded by a sudden spike in launch-day interest, so you might want to give it a few hours for their servers to cool down, eh?
Roguelike revivals seem to be the story of the day, and here’s one for the freeware-hungry crowd. Elona is a very unique and strange little game. Developed in Japan, although with a parallel English version due to open-sourcing, the game earned a reputation for being completely unhinged, cramming in everything from fantasy staples to Big Daddies/Little Sisters from Bioshock, to Masaki ‘Hard Gay’ Sumitani as an exploding kamikaze enemy type. The game eventually went into hibernation as the developer drifted off to do other things, but has now returned under new developers, and is available under the title of ElonaPlus. Right now, it’s largely tweaks and bugfixes to the original game, but there’s a few notable additions already for you to discover.
I just gibbed a mime with a bronze laser pistol. At level 1. Classic!
You can find the new version over at the Elonaplus wiki. Here’s a direct download link to the latest Windows build (v1.08). As with previous versions of the game, it’s fully bilingual, although there are some blocks of text that aren’t yet translated into English. Usually flavour text rather than anything important, thankfully. Unlike most Roguelikes, there’s no perma-death in this one, and no death penalty at all until you hit Level 6, so you’re safe to experiment and cause trouble at first. Just don’t go picking fights in towns, unless you like being smashed by guards. Oh, and one last tip: Never drink from fountains. They’re the #1 cause of unwanted alien chestburster pregnancies. Good luck!
We don’t often cover indie games straight out of Japan, but this release has a hefty demo available now, and it’s possible to buy it direct from the Japanese digital store if you’ve got an international-friendly credit card and are willing to get some help from Google Translate, or a friend who speaks the language. StellaVanity: Prelude To The Destined Calamity by Feathered Ether is an interesting mash-up of concepts and styles that is sure to appeal to genre fans, yet remains accessible for newcomers. Here’s my thoughts and impressions from the lengthy demo:
StellaVanity is a game that can be played casually as a pure arcade shooter with just your movement controls and three buttons. Or it can be a sprawlingly complex thing with a dozen stat gauges, a six-button controller required, RPG elements, loot, upgradable game systems and hidden elements that not even the developer has entirely come clean with – word is that players are still discovering alternate final bosses. All of this comes from an extensive development cycle which has seen the game redesigned and reenvisioned several times over, but somehow without scrapping much of the ‘outdated’ elements, and instead layering content on top of content.
Described by some as a mash-up of normally incompatible genre favourites such as CrimsonClover, Hellsinker and even the Touhou series, the focus here is on big, spectacular bullet patterns. Often, bosses will flood the screen with shots in ways that look amazing, but aren’t actually difficult to evade as clear areas of safety slowly drift across the screen for you to swing between. To make things even more accessible, there’s a relatively casual Easy mode provided, and all difficulties have an Auto-Guard system activated by default, which automatically consumes a smart-bomb when you take a hit, instead of costing you a life. It might look hardcore, but it’s easier than you might think. At least at first.
The graphics, while not the most amazing, are crisp and clear. Bullets stand out well from the background – always a good thing – and while the main characters do seem to have fallen into the trap of being cute girls in frilly dresses, the enemies almost all seem to be from a much cooler era of gaming, packed with enormous space-fleets, battlecruisers and killer robots. Your character’s hitbox is always visible too, highlighted by a sparkling cross drawn through it. This gives you a much better sense of exactly how far you are from getting hit – again, useful – and there’s one more concession to accessibility: Hardcoded slowdown. During the biggest and most dramatic enemy attacks, the game will intentionally drop in pace. Effectively, it’s free bullet-time, and something to take advantage of.
Taken by itself, this looks like a rock solid shmup. Then you take a look under the hood, and dig into the options menus. Even the graphics options are baffling in their range of options. You can choose the colour of enemy bullets, how bright they are on-screen, their transparency, how overwhelming other effects are and so on. You can customize everything to personal preference. All the key menus that you’d need to just play the game normally are in English, which is helpful, although there’s some features such as the store (where you spend your points on new features in-between playthroughs) and the equipment menu that are still impenetrable for non-Japanese-speakers such as myself.
StellaVanity appears to be complete and ready for prime-time now, and was just recently released via Japanese digital distribution hub DLSite. You can both purchase the full game for 1260 Yen ($16) or get the demo via the DLSite page here. While purchasing will require a little research, effort and Google Translation help, the demo is within reach of everyone – just click the big golden button underneath the screenshots. The demo is fairly extensive, offering two characters (each with basic and advanced variants), four levels, two playmodes, all the difficulty settings and a whole mess of unlockables. You can also find the full manual in Google Translate-friendly format on the game’s official site. Machine translation isn’t ideal, but it should give you some idea of what the more advanced stuff does. If you’re a fan of the genre at all, the demo is well worth a download – there’s a lot of replay value and depth in just those four stages.
Initiated last year by Grasshopper Manufacture and a number of Japanese game development schools, the Game Campus Festa was a new program which put PS Vita development kits in the hands of students, who formed small teams and then came up with original game ideas which were submitted a year ago in June 2011. Development of these game ideas began in September that year and came to a close earlier this year in February. Out of the nine games submitted, five of them met a certain level of quality and have entered into the judging phase.
These five games are going to be released on PS Vita, exclusive to PS Plus members for free on June 21st. Those five games, as announced on the Grasshopper website are as follows:
Uni Uni Union (puzzle action)
Eledive (puzzle action)
Volt (puzzle action)
Mou, Sou Suru Shika Nai!! (puzzle)
More information on all of the games part of the Game Campus Festa, winners and the other entrants, can be found over on the official community website.
Have you ever wondered what the future plans are for AltDevConf, or what lizard brains have to do with game development? Then today’s Developer Links are for you!
Drunken Robot Pornography Three Months Ago (Dejobaan Games)
“Drunken Robot Pornography has come a long way in a short time, evolving from a basic look to is present gleaming white aesthetic. We’ve cut a few features to keep the prototype tight — one being the mechanic of disappearing platforms.”
Back on the IPAD -> Gratuitous Pad Battles! (Cliffski.com)
“Here are a few lessons learned from the ipad experience thus far:
“1) The ipad has hardly any memory. Developing on PC, then squeezing it onto ipad is seriously hard!
“2) A game where you zoom in and out and drag stuff around is really cool to play on the ipad. It feels very l33t.
“3) There seems to be basically no way to get any attention on the app store unless apple chooses you. Admit it, you all only found GSB by searching. Even the category search function seems broken on my ipad 2. It’s a trainwreck, compared to other portals.
“4) Everyone who insists that nobody buys ipad games > $0.99 is just wrong. They do.”
Four reasons we’re not as good as we could be (AltDevBlogADay)
“I’ve been giving a lot of thought to single tasking, focus and distractions in my professional and personal life. Here is what I believe to be the four biggest factors contributing to distracting us from doing great creative work. By the way “creative work” to me means art, code, design, music you name it. Many facets and roles in gamedev are creative, perhaps not at first glance, but any creative problem solving applies, in my humble opinion.”
2-year Anniversary Sales (Radiangames)
“So games are selling quite a bit better at $1 than at $5, but I’ll have to wait to see the results for June to see if it’s worth keeping them all at $1. I would guess it’ll end up being between 300-400 total sales for June, which is basically a wash monetarily, but more people playing the games is good. Apparently the pricing policy for XBLIG just changed this past week (price changes every 7 days instead of every 90), so I could raise the prices back up whenever I wanted.”
AltDevConf 2012 and 2013! (AltDevBlogADay)
“It’s now been almost four months since we held the first AltDevConf, and although things have continued to be absolutely hectic in that time, it felt like it was well past time to post a summary of the event, as well as lay out our plans for the future.”
Friday Flashback #20: Of Birds and Alps (Broken Rules)
“We’re in a hot testing phase right now, as you may have noticed. As soon as we’re done with one test session , the next one’s right around the corner. And that’s good, because it not only means we have fixed deadlines we need to hit but also that we receive a good amount of valuable feedback from our testers that can be immediately added to the game. Our iteration cycles lie between two to three weeks and with each iteration, we notice huge steps in improvement.”
Good Morning Gato # 91 – Happy Birthday! (Ska Studios)
“James is finally tackling the daunting, oft-neglected (we’re looking at you, Scott Pilgrim!) task of implementing Xbox LIVE multiplayer. XNA makes it easier, but it’s never easy. This week has been three days of making the lobby not crash and one day of making wearing certain clothes not crash remote players and fixing 200+ compile errors created by a much-needed refactor. Also, here’s a fun fact: I’m testing Charlie Murder multiplayer as System Link only, but the shipping product will be LIVE only. It’s faster/easier to test on, but makes absolutely zero sense outside of testing.”
Why Kompu Gacha Was Banned (AltDevBlogADay)
“The Japanese social gaming market is substantial, worth $1.4 billion in 2011, and it is dominated by two major players: GREE and DeNA. When rumors began circulating that the “kompu gacha” reward system that GREE and DeNA utilized extensively was going to be made illegal, their stocks were pummeled by over 20% in two days. Now, kompu gacha is illegal in Japan and both companies are swearing up and down that the new regulation will not cripple their businesses. So what is “kompu gacha”? What made is so valuable to the kingpins of the Japanese social gaming space? And why was it made illegal?”
The great boundary between Eastern and Western indie gaming narrows once more. Relative newcomers to the indie localization scene Nyu Media (who put out Satazius, Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and the eXceed series) have just announced a June 29th release for Ether Vapor Remaster, a rather snazzy perspective-shifting shmup by Edelweiss. The game will retail for $8 and be available on several digital distribution platforms (which, exactly, aren’t confirmed yet), and a playable demo has been set loose to ensnare wandering gamers in a web of missile contrails and complex laser-bullet patterns.
Getting away from the trend of making everything about young girls in frilly dresses, Ether Vapor gets back to the roots of the genre by being about spaceships, lasers and robots (and robots that are also spaceships that fire lasers). It also takes advantage of 3D space more than most games in the genre by having the camera swing between horizontally and vertically scrolling action, with the occasional brief bit of Starfox-esque third person dodging, and even some dramatic free-wheeling bonus rounds where you lock onto and intercept missiles as the camera tumbles around in full 3D.
Ether Vapor isn’t the newest of games – it was first released a good few years ago, but the Remaster edition that’s getting the localization treatment does have a suite of graphical improvements to take advantage of newer hardware. In addition to all this, Edelweiss have just released the full soundtracks for Ether Vapor and their upcoming fae-themed brawler Fairy Bloom Freesia via Bandcamp. The double-OST clocks in at $10. With any luck, this signals that Edelweiss’ next game – the impressive looking Astebreed – is set for an official English-language release too.
Ayaemo Kenkyujo have released their first person shooter, Alfur Shokoku Monogatari for Japanese players to snap up in either digital or boxed form.
Alfur Shokoku Monogatari (roughly translated to ‘Tale of the small country of Alfur’) starts off in the year 312 by Empire Calendar, 1048 by Dionius Calenar, when war breaks out due to Alfur being attacked by neighboring country Elgs Dominion. Alfur’s people were able to offer little resistance, ass they were were captured, enslaved and then sent to Elgs Dominion. However, Leon Auric and his sister Shalnawaz Auric were able to escape from their transport to Elgs Dominion and they now flee from inside the heartland of their enemy country to try to return to their homeland Alfur.
You join the two in this struggle as the Elgs move in to recapture them, but they take up arms in what turns out to be an arcade style first person shooter. Though Alfur Shokoku Monogatari is single player, you can switch between the brother and sister with the other one being controlled by AI and can be issued orders such as “come back” and “go there”.
There are 10 different weapons to try out through the course of the game’s four stages, ranging from handguns to assault rifles and sniper rifles. One playthrough should last about two hours, but a second playthrough is required to see both routes through the game and four playthroughs if you want to see all of the conversation scenes.
In order to purchase the game you do need a Japanese address so unless you have one then you won’t be able to get hold of the game at the moment. Don’t be too dismayed though, as there is a trial version that you can download and try out right here – though at the time of writing it has been shut down due to a bandwidth overload.
If you do meet the pre-requisites to buy the game, then you can purchase it from the official store as a digital copy for 1000 yen ($12.5) or you can up the payment to 1500 yen ($18.7) for a DVD copy.
The game’s official trailer shows the shooter in fluid motion and it looks pretty impressive – the game was made with UDK but uses the engine’s capabilities to churn out something much different to the violent and gritty FPS’ that we’re so used to on this side of the world.
More information on Alfur Shokoku Monogatari can be found over on the game’s official website.