Monday, January 26, 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition's awesome Tavern Songs are being given away for free

Christmas was more than a month ago (!!!!) but Bioware decided to give its fans a late gift to unwrap in the form of incredible, free music from Dragon Age: Inquisition. And better yet, the songs being given away are the 10 "tavern songs" missing from the official soundtrack.

That's right, Inquisitor, you can download these amazing songs English and French - along with copies of the lyrics and sheet music for the musically inclined out there - for absolutely free.

Why download the 10 songs for free in French, you might ask, when you can already download them in English? The French version of "Nightingale's Eyes" should pretty much be all the justification you need.

Just listen to the "r" in that Rossignol roll...

It seemed like a pretty huge oversight of EA / Bioware to not include these 10 tracks in the already excellent soundtrack - but it's great to see the oversight corrected for the time being.

Oh yeah, about that - if you want to download these 10 tracks for free, you need to do so before February 9th. After that point, they'll be available for purchase on "many popular digital platforms" which is Bioware speak for, y'know, iTunes or Amazon.

These songs are absolute necessities for anyone who's already spend a hundred hours or so playing Inquisitor in the gorgeously rendered lands of Dragon Age - but they're also easy listening for anyone who likes medieval-sounding music - which should be just about everyone thanks to Game of Thrones.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go listen to "Sera was Never" on loop for the next 20 hours or so to see if I can finally get that damn song out of my head.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sega's bringing Hatsune Miku Project Mirai DX to the 3DS in North America this May

If you own a 3DS and know how to spin a leek in time to Ievan Polka, then this is your lucky week.

Sega's announced that the remastered nendoroid rhythm game Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX will come to North America on May 26 with a European release coming three days later on May 29.

Project Mirai DX is an updated version of 2013's Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai 2 and will feature 40 songs for you to tap along to - using either the buttons or the stylus - along with all sorts of goodies like voice swapping (for certain songs), a dance studio, and a My Tune module that lets fans compose their own songs.

Also, the game will look something like this. And that's a good thing.

(ok, so this is the opening movie of the first Project Mirai game... but you get the idea)

If a 3DS localization of Project Mirai seems like it's a long time coming, that's because Sega of America's approach to localizing Hatsune Miku rhythm games can best be described as somewhere between cautious and really fucking cautious.

Way back in April 2012, it released Miku Flick for iOS (followed by its sequel, Miku Flick /02 in August of the same year). Those apparently did well enough to convince Sega that there's an army of faithful Miku fans here in the states waiting to fling their cash at anything with teal twintails and so the next year Sega finally got around to bringing Project Diva F to the PS3.

***It's worth noting here that the first Project Diva game launched in Japan in 2009 for the PSP. Anyway!***

A Vita version of Project Diva f and the truly excellent Project Diva F 2nd followed in 2014 - but 3DS owners were left out in the cold as Sega apparently had no concrete plans to localize Hatsune Miku & Future Stars Project Mirai for Nintendo handhelds outside of Japan.

It still (probably) doesn't... but hey, at least we'll get our hands on the remastered sequel!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nintendo's Amiibo are the most compelling type of microtransaction to date

Way back at E3 2014, Nintendo slid a minor surprise into its expected line-up of games and hype: the Amiibo

These NFC-powered toys-to-life figures followed in the spirit, size, and price range of immensely popular toy lines like Skylanders or Disney Infinity. The key difference between Amiibo and these others is, of course, the fact that Amiibo feature popular Nintendo characters like Link, Samus, Mario, and Pikachu.

Also, you can use them for freestanding Wii U / 3DS games like Super Smash Bros. or - to a much more limited extent - Hyrule Warriors.  Each Amiibo unlocks something different in a given game, ranging from exclusive costumes or weapons to AI sparring partners that learn and adapt to your playstyle.

In other words, they're physical microtransactions - and at $12.99 MSRP, they sure as heck aren't cheap.

What they are, however, are immensely compelling.

Part of the Amiibo's allure is their rarity.  They're an unknown quantity that shipped in unknown quantities, and some of the rarest of the first run (or "Wave 1") Amiibo like Fire Emblem's Marth or Animal Crossing's Villager can command $50 - $80 from resellers.  This scarcity is the stuff of nightmares for completionist collectors, sure, but it does make the hunt for a hard-to-find rare all the more fun.

The other factor driving the Amiibo rush is that they are the first official toy/collectible that Nintendo's manufactured for many of the characters.  Fans of Kid Icarus: Uprising or Wii Fit finally have a chance to stick Pit or the Trainer girl on their desks to show their loyalty to their franchise / fitness software of choice, while fans of Link and Zelda get another pair of figurines to add to their collections.

If you had asked me back at the launch of Amiibo if I'd buy any, I would probably have scoffed.  I've written about mobile games for the better part of four years now, and I have a well-known and somewhat storied distaste for making in-app purchases or microtransactions if they're essential to unlocking new content in a game.

The funny  and completely hypocritical thing here, however, is that most mobile games offer an impulse-friendly purchase of 99 cents or so and that turned me off microtransactions on principle.  Amiibo, on the other hand, ring in at close to fifteen dollars a pop, and some won't get you anything more (at current) than an AI sparring buddy in Smash Bros. and a hand full of rupees over at Hyrule Warriors.

Yet once I saw the Amiibo on display, I felt my willpower drain as my hand reach for my metaphorical wallet.

I was never much of a Metroid fan, but it was Samus' Amiibo that really drew me in - with its subtle, powerful stance and reflective paint job.  The Wii Fit Trainer was the next to catch my eye thanks to her graceful pose and the sheer, improbable fact that she existed in the first place.

After that, I was somewhat powerless to resist the siren song of sweet, sweet Nintendo.  Hell, I've even gone so far as to pre-order a Rosetta & Chico Rosalina from Japan just in case I miss the Target-exclusive one when it launches in February.

But there are upsides to my burgeoning collection.  I recently took a dremel to an old bookshelf and ran some LED track lights over my Amiibo collection to give it a classy home in the living room.

I felt pretty good about this bit of handiwork until I realized that my grandfather had already fought in a war and built a house for his family when he was my age. I, on the other hand, jerry-rigged a lighting display for my toys and felt like Bob-fucking-Villa. God, I love being a millennial.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Wave 4 Lucina to hunt down...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This Amiibo stand will make your shoebox feel inadequate

In case you've somehow missed it, Nintendo's Amiibo line of accessory toys have been nothing short of a smash hit for the Big N.

Originally derided as "Skylanders, but for Nintendo", the nostalgia-laden NFC figurines have been flying off the shelves as Nintendo struggles to keep up with demand.  At 13-15 bucks a pop, these accessories certainly aren't for everyone, but those who fall under the spell of Amiibo generally fall pretty hard.

If you're like me, you already have a modest collection of a few Amiibo sitting on your entertainment center - but with an impending wave of new Amiibo scheduled to hit in the days and weeks ahead, you soon might find yourself scrambling for a case to help keep them organized.

Official options exist but they're geared more toward travel than display.  If you really want to show your Amiibo off at home, you're going to have to get creative like this guy here.

And by "this guy" I really mean twitter user @JasonTheGamer's unnamed friend who modeled this amazing stand off of Smash Bros boss fight stage, Final Destination.

What really makes this stand stand out (other than its amazing and oh-so-perfect thematic design) are the hovering specters of Master Hand and Crazy Hand - which also serve as accent lights for your prized super-rare Amiibo.

Unfortunately, this stand appears to be a one-off made for personal use and isn't for sale - but it's a great example of what you can do with a ton of talent, the right materials, and a flash of inspiration.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to gluing some popsicle sticks together to finish up my Amiibo frontier fort.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

So, there's a Harry Potter LARP now and it looks awesome

Four years ago (!!!), I wondered why no one had come up with a workable template for a Harry Potter-themed live-action roleplaying game.  Harry Potter was huge at the time, and people were all too happy to play Hogwarts dress-up... so a LARP seemed like a natural progression at the time.

Admittedly, a few small-time Harry Potter LARPs popped up in the heyday of the fandom - but none managed to garner a strong enough playerbase to keep the momentum going.  That's set to change this April, when the Czocha College of Wizardry opens its doors to 180 lucky players during two separate game sessions.

The only downside is that, to attend, you kinda have to be in Poland.

On the upside to those who aren't adverse to travel, you'll get to play out your fantasies in what is - for all intents and purposes - a real life version of Hogwarts castle, which is housed in a beautiful castle / museum in Czocha, Poland.

It's not really Hogwarts of course but - if you're reading this - chances are good that you never received your owl when you turned 11, so it's the closest that any of us will get to living out our Harry Potter dreams with wands and spellbooks in hand.

Also, just look at these castle grounds!

And the costumes!

Attendees can choose between playing a Staff Member or a student (junior/first year, sophomore, or senior) with students being broken up into different houses just like Hogwarts. These houses are Molin, Faust, Sendivogius, Durentius, and Libussa - so you won't have to worry about being stuck in Hufflepuff robes once the event kicks off.

The LARP begins with a formal, in-character welcome dinner during which NPC house ghosts flit amongst the table and greet return students while delivering a bit of good-natured menace to first-years. In other words, it's pretty much exactly like the opening Hogwarts scene of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - and you can bet your bottom galleon that they'll have some sort of sorting headwear for players to try on.

If you're keen on taking part in this LARP and don't mind the airfare to Poland, registration for the April games kicks off on December 11th at 8pm CET (which works out to 2pm EST or 11am PST).

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to sell a kidney to pay for a plane ticket to Warsaw...

[hat tip to for the pics and YouTube link]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Legend of Legacy's another 3DS JRPG to put on your wish list

We're coming up on the one year anniversary of Bravely Default's western release and, while there's been some major progress made on the sequel, fans are still chomping at the bit for a comparable JRPG experience.

That is, of course, unless they're already playing Super Smash Bros. or are currently queued up at the Nintendo World Store to pick up a copy of Pokemon ORAS this Friday.

Anyway - the point here is that there's a new RPG worth putting on your radar and, to be honest, I've kinda been avoiding writing anything about it because of the name: Legend of Legacy... which actually isn't too far off from Bravely Default Flying Fairy if you think about it.

It's also worth noting that Legend of Legacy isn't too far off of Bravely Default in terms of aesthetics or raw style either either.  Check out the trailer below and be sure to watch out for: hand drawn backgrounds, cute pop-up cityscapes, chibi 3D characters, and some sexy, sexy turn-based combat.

But unlike Bravely Default, it's got an anthropomorphic frog knight as a playable character.

If that frog seems like a throwback to Chrono Trigger that's not entirely a coincidence. Legend of Legacy has some huge starpower behind its development team at FuRyu including staff that have worked on Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy X, the SaGa series, and The Secret of Mana.

What makes it particularly innovative as a game, however, is the approach it takes toward storytelling. Rather than guide you through the plot like many other JRPGs, Legend of Legacy will attempt to tell its story without the use of linear quest progression.

In other words, you'll pick a three-member party from a cast of seven - ranging from the comely Eloise to Filmia the frog - and set out to adventure around the world however you like. Once you complete the one main goal that Legend of Legacy throws at you, it's up to the individual player to decide how to proceed and who they'll be proceeding with.

If this doesn't sound like enough to get you excited, the English subtitles in the just-released combat trailer below probably should.

Impressively, Legend of Legacy has almost completely flown under the radar during its development and is scheduled for a Japanese release on January 22, 2015 (eg, less than 2 months from now).  There's no word on a western release just yet - but hey, English subtitles!

Incidentally, Bravely Default's sequel Bravely Second is also expected to hit Japan sometime in early-to-mid 2015, so next year's already shaping up to be a banner one for 3DS owning fans of JRPGs.

...who are lucky enough to live in Japan.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Say 'I choose you!' in style with this Pokemon engagement ring

A little over a year ago, the internet was teased with an image of a pretty sweet Pokemon-themed engagement ring.

I say "teased" because the shop in question was suspended shortly after the ring went viral, and so legions of disappointed, diehard Pokemon fans had to turn to other, geeky ideas for their engagement rings.

Thankfully, these fans won't be disappointed any longer - provided they have about $2,000 to spare and aren't opposed to the idea of a cubic zirconium ring.

What you're looking at is the, ahem, "Having a ball and holding a ball" ring which does a pretty great job of replicating the signature look of the iconic white and red Pokeball design without actually mentioning the word Pokemon anywhere in its description (which is smart).

Created by the insanely talented Paul Michael Designs - whom you might remember for their R2-D2 and TARDIS themed engagement rings - this ring is pretty much everything an out-and-proud Pokemon fan would dream of being proposed to with.

The only catch is that the eyecatching piece of jewelry doesn't come cheap.  $1,850 (which is pretty darn reasonable by engagement ring standards) nets you the ring above cast in 14k white gold and set with cubic zirconia.  Adding diamonds to the mix jumps the price to $3,975, whereas opting for platinum over gold puts you in the $4,200 (CZ) to $5,120 (diamond) range.  On the upside, shipping will only set you back about $10 or so regardless of what configuration you choose.

Some might see this ring as tacky, but these sad people will never know the joy of catching a shiny, breeding a perfect IV Gothitelle, or finding someone to share in - or at least accommodate - your geeky passion for turn-based RPGs.