Monday, February 23, 2015

Nobuo Uematsu's Final Symphony orchestral album is the best $10 you'll spend on video game music this week

So, remember that totally awesome symphonic poem "Born with the Gift of Magic"?  Y'know, the 18-minute-long opus that seamlessly blended some of Final Fantasy VI's best-known themes with some of its more esoteric b-sides?

Well, you can officially buy it now from iTunes and it is glorious.

The downside is that "Born with the Gift of Magic" is an album-only purchase of the latest Final Fantasy symphonic album that's appropriately - if unimaginatively - titled Final Symphony, so if you want to legitimately purchase "Born with the Gift of Magic" you'll have to part with $9.99 (plus tax).

But!  That's something you absolutely should do if you love the music from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X since Final Symphony is chock full of new arrangements of the greatest hits from those three amazing games.  Fans of the Distant Worlds concert series can breathe a collective sigh of relief here - yes, the arrangements on Final Symphony are new and wonderful... which means you won't need to listen to the excellent (and overused...) piano arrangement of FFVII's "Those who Fight".

Better yet, Final Symphony offers over an hour and a half of music, which makes it a relative bargain at the price.  Although why you need anything more than the 18-minute-long tour de force that is "Born with the Gift of Magic" is beyond me.

Seriously, it's $10. Get over to iTunes and download it now - you'll class up your ear holes with all that culture *and* you'll have a chance to indulge your inner FF fanboy/fangirl.

Stop reading this. Go!  Make with the listening already!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Say 'I love you!' with these Dragon Age: Inquisition Valentine's

Valentine's Day is here once again - and chances are good that you're in need of a last-minute gift, what with the new wave of amiibo releasing today alongside the new 3DS XL *and* Majora's Mask 3D.

While I can't help you find any last-minute deals on chocolates, flowers, or other such customary gifts of compulsory affections, I can continue the long-standing tradition of years past by offering a new set of digital notes to let the one you love know that you spent a few minutes googling a perfect image to post to their Facebook wall.

In the past I've turned to anime, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and emerging memes from Japan for inspiration, but this year I've decided to turn to a more traditional source of love and romance... a Bioware game!  Namely, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

These will resonate most with those of you who've shared a sex cutscene with a dashing Tervinter mage or dusky diplomat, but - like most Bioware fare - their appeal is all but universal.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It's all about honesty and sex cutscenes - how to deal with NPCs in an RPG

It's a good thing my New Year's resolution wasn't to keep up with this site more often because, jeebus would I have failed *hard*.

Thankfully, the majority of what's been eating my time away from Kawaiian Punch has been (mostly) good stuff - almost all of it going by the name Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is what today's post is sort of about.

The truly excellent folk over at the equally excellent YouTube channel Saving Throw put out a brilliant short this week that shows what would happen if RPG characters were 100% honest with one another. While most of the humor resonates the hardest with anyone who's ever played a Bioware game, there's plenty of PC vs NPC schtick to appeal to fans of other RPGs (tabletop or otherwise) in the two and a half minutes below.

Ok so maybe they hit the joke about the sex cutscene a little too hard... but this pretty much sums up 80% of my NPC interactions thus far in Inquisition.

...with everyone but Solas, because - seriously - fuck that guy.

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.