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PSP Fanboy hands-on: Fading Shadows

When Agetec announced they were going to release Fading Shadows in the US, they invited us to their NYC offices to try the game. We spent a good deal of time with the game -- over 10 levels -- and thoroughly enjoyed this excellent addition to the PSP library.

Yes, one of the game's leading charms is its story. To sum things up shortly, the player becomes a magical beam of light and must direct a girl who's transformed into a magical orb through a series of puzzles. It's strange, we know, but we wouldn't have it any other way. The nonsensical premise is what spurs a mellow, easy-to-understand puzzle adventure game, that's oozing with style.

The interplay between the light and the orb is well constructed. The orb is attracted to the light, and cannot move without it. At first, the light is used simply to get the orb from point A to point B. However, the game becomes more complex. The orb can transform into a variety of elements: wood, glass and metal. In its metal form, it can jump when a strong beam of light is placed on it. Wood can float across water, and glass can traverse its depths. However, players must be careful: overexposure to strong light will burn wood, and shatter glass.

Gallery: Fading Shadows

Continue reading PSP Fanboy hands-on: Fading Shadows

The Star Ocean remakes are coming along smoothly

Oh, yes, it's been a while since we rejoiced in the original Star Ocean and the positively received Star Ocean 2, back on the SNES and PlayStation, respectively. Well, we say SNES, but we mean ZSNES or any other emulator that would play it for the non-Japanese audience, since we hadn't seen it stateside. Regardless, the two titles are getting PSP remakes and the facelifts come in more sizes than just re-translations and bug fixes, as shown in the scans you can reach through the NeoGAF forums.

The first game gets a new battle system that better resembles the action-oriented ones found in the latter two titles, along with updated sprites and backgrounds. The second title gets similar upgrades, but will also feature facial pop-ups when a character talks (just imagine any anime or Gust-inspired RPG). Sadly, the story in the second one will still suck. Yes, we said it. The second disc was a killer for momentum -- too many fetch quests and sidetracking before the final battle, if you ask us. Regardless, the games were very good, so we'll definitely try these out. Perhaps we'll get a hands-on at Tokyo Game Show. Perhaps not.

[via Siliconera]

PSP Fanboy hands-on: PQ2

If you listened to our last fancast, you would've heard our ramblings on a little-known title called PQ2. The premise is ridiculously simple: get to the exit. However, to get to the end, you'll have to test your brain by navigating environments, moving boxes around in clever ways.

Certainly, a box-shoving puzzle game can't be too interesting. Incorrect. Our preview build of PQ2 features some incredibly slick presentation, with fantastic music and some really sleek menus. We really appreciated the tutorial system which breaks down each aspect of the game quite thoroughly. It may seem daunting at first, but the game tells you only what you need to know. For example, after passing a dozen practice challenges, the game tells me that I can easily pass the first ten levels of the game. The first ten puzzles focus only on the skills developed by the tutorial so far -- afterwards, we're allowed to go back into the tutorial to explore more complicated procedures.

The puzzles themselves progress very well in difficulty. As we continued through the game, we found the title to become increasingly challenging, with one or two puzzles giving us a real hard time. So far, we're very impressed by the quick load times, impressive presentation, and fun puzzles. We'll explore more of the game, such as the exciting level editor and infrastructure options, in our final review of the game. Until then, check out screenshots from the game in our updated gallery. Finally, don't forget to try out the Japanese demo to get a small taste of the title.

Gallery: PQ2

PSP Fanboy hands-on: Cube

We've spent a lot of time with D3 Publisher's upcoming action puzzle game, Cube. The basic premise of the game is quite simple: get your cube to the exit. Of course, as is the case with all puzzle games, it's not going to be that easy: you'll have to avoid various traps along the way, lest you meet a blocky death. There are a few elements that spice things up along the way. Firstly, your cube can stick onto any side of the platforms. The game encourages you to traverse through levels any way you want: upside-down, on its side, right-side up. The three dimensionality of the game is interesting, and it opens up a lot of gameplay possibilities.

There are quite a large number of puzzles to tackle in the game, which is a huge plus. Also, there's a level editor so that you can create and share your own puzzles. Our early build doesn't have it, but the final retail version will also have Game Sharing, so you can play with other PSP owners that don't have the game. Considering its budget price ($20), there's a great amount of content, making Cube easily one of PSP's greatest values. However, we're a little concerned about a few presentation issues. It feels like everything is a bit too sluggish: the controls feel a little too slow, and the load times seem a bit too long for a game with such minimalistic graphics. Most annoyingly, you must reload the entire level when replaying it--this will prove to be quite frustrating in the more difficult levels.

Hopefully, these quirks will be ironed out before the game's official release on April 24th. Expect more coverage on PSP Fanboy closer to the game's release.

PSP Fanboy hands-on: Ratchet & Clank

Sony recently sent me a copy of Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters to try out, and so far, I have to say I'm quite impressed. While you'll have to wait until our full review on February 13th to get all the gory details, I'll briefly describe the time I've spent in single player so far. Firstly, the game is quite a visual stunner, especially with the character models. Both Ratchet and Clank are nicely detailed, and they're animated stupendously. There's full voice acting in all the cutscenes which is a nice plus.

The levels themselves are fairly nice looking, and the framerate is very smooth. However, many areas feature some pretty bland textures. Ready at Dawn's Daxter seems to have better graphics, but that game didn't throw as many enemies and particles at you as this does.

The controls are easy to pick up, and although the camera system isn't the most intelligent, it gets the job done. Moving Ratchet around in the environment is easy enough, with the analog nub used for general movement, and the D-Pad used for strafing. You'll frequently switch between these two inputs during battle: it works very well, but may be counter-intuitive for some.

While the missions are a bit too long for my taste, the varied weapons, satisfying power-ups, terrific graphics, and quick load times are making Ratchet and Clank a winner so far. The game seems to feature a lengthy and varied single player experience and I can't wait to get through it all. Of course, the game includes online Infrastructure multiplayer as well.

Expect a full review closer to the game's release.

See also:
Ratchet & Clank multiplayer beta hands-on

Test Drive Unlimited is un-limited on PSP

"God knows how they've done it, but they've done it. Melbourne House, that sage studio of Australian game development, has crammed just about all of the features of the Xbox 360 version onto Sony's handheld. What's more, while the graphics engine lacks the sophistication of the full-sized version, it still captures the lush palm forests, beach fronts and rolling hills of Oahu. The roads, all 1000-plus kilometres of them, are populated by plenty of traffic and the draw distance is mind-boggling. Truly, this is a faithful representation of the Unlimited world. Insane."

IGN's preview of Test Drive Unlimited on PSP is more than glowing. To think that the game's free-roaming, Infrastructure-enabled, racing game would work on the PSP is mind-blowing. Although IGN notes that the framerate suffers when there's a lot of cars, this is an impressive feat, and I can't wait to see more. Test Drive Unlimited races to the PSP on February 20th.

Exclusive Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner preview

The kind folks at Atlus sent us a review copy of their upcoming RPG, Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner. I have to admit that the first few hours of gameplay have me genuinely impressed, and I can't wait to play even more.

Monster Kingdom comes from the developer behind the cult-favorite RPG Shin Megami Tensei. While the game shares some gameplay mechanics with this hardcore RPG, don't expect to see the dark themes that were present in the SMT series: so far, no one has been crucified. Because of the game's somewhat cheery, and generic anime storyline, Monster Kingdom feels more like Pokemon than SMT. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Continue reading Exclusive Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner preview

Jeanne d'arc impressions, fresh from Japan

Anoop from IGN Japan was able to get an extended play session of the recently released (in Japan) Jeanne d'Arc. He explains that Joan is sent on a quest from God to destroy the evil troll-infested British empire. Although there's a hefty amount of dialogue and cutscenes in the game, Anoop notes that the story feels a little "disjointed." The real focus of the game is the gameplay, and it appears that Jeanne d'Arc gets all the conventions of the SRPG genre... including its flaws: "The focus with this title is on gameplay, and if you're into Japanese style strategy games, that should be just fine. You'll recognize the grid-based strategy from games like Final Fantasy Tactics... Jeanne d'Arc suffers from some of the flaws that tend to plague games of this type. Preparing your characters for battle with new equipment and accessories is too much of a chore."

The game features some annoying loading times, but it appears the game is compelling nonetheless. "I keep coming back for more," the preview says. It appears that strategy RPG fans have a lot to look forward to, if this game ever comes to the States.

Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops video preview

The insanely pretty and ambitious Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is finally coming out soon. December 5th, to be exact. Gamespot seems to have a near-complete version in their hands, and they have a very detailed video preview, featuring tons of new never-before-seen footage of the game in motion.

They seem to have nothing but praise for this fully loaded sequel. From the graphics, to the gameplay, to the storyline and presentation-- it appears that Konami has taken no shortcuts for this game. I could say more, but I'd rather let the video do the talking.

Vice City Stories: flying, driving and more

Killzone easily "outclasses" the competition

The original Killzone on the PS2 was a bit of a disappointment for many in the gaming community. Sony fans were cheering it as the "Halo killer" for their system, but the game couldn't live up to the hype when it hit store shelves. So, I'm always a little cautious when posting news about Killzone: Liberation, the exclusive PSP follow-up. While it looks absolutely marvelous, a persistant fear nags at me, making me wonder if we're getting our expectations a bit too high again.

Of course, it's hard not to get excited when the video footage is so tantalizing, or if IGN previews the game and says "And this is, frankly, one of the finest experiences on the PSP." After an impressive CG intro, the game jumps into some intense top-down shooting, where you will have to utilize all of your skill sets in order to survive. The preview mentions that levels take about 10 to 30 minutes each, and aren't too easy: you'll be dying quite a bit. Multiplayer seems to get a good nod as well, especially now that it will feature infrastructure. With sweet graphics, good gameplay, and downloadable content, it seems like Killzone: Liberation will hit all the right spots when it comes out this Halloween.

Continue reading Killzone easily "outclasses" the competition

Mixed impressions of the released Ghosts 'n Goblins

Gamespot has released a video of the next level of Ghosts 'n Goblins, and I can't help but think this game looks incredible. The game's already out in Japan, so various sites have been able to review or preview the game for us. There's the glowing preview, from IGN:
"Regardless of how much I suck at games in general, and how cheap it sometimes feels, I'm loving every moment of Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins. No matter how many times I die or have to restart the level, I can't stop going back for more!"
And then there's the less optimistic, from 1UP:
"It is a terrible, terrible game, and the fact that some people have convinced themselves it is a work of art speaks volumes about how powerful the forces of nostalgia and franchising can be. It is not the game everyone was hoping for, except that small demographic that savors physical and psychological trauma. In fact, it is the worst thing to be inflicted upon the Ghosts 'N' Goblins legend since the atrocious Game Boy Color port of the NES port of the original arcade game. It is not good in every sense of the phrase."
So, who's right? Those of you out there that have the import, please inform us! The rest of us will have to wait until the US version hits September 5th. Until then, download the latest video of the game in motion for your PSP here:

[Download MP4 for PSP]

Hands on with Juiced Eliminator

PSP owners aren't really hard pressed for another racing game, so Juiced Eliminator has that much more to prove coming right out of the gate. This isn't necessarily a mediocre game, the developers just have to step it up and make it shine in the midsts of other racing titles.

The demo level I tried out allowed me to set up all of the environmental conditions from the beginning. Rain, morning, night, sunshine and blue skies: the versatility here was a nice feature, but not uncommon to the genre. The controls were done well enough to keep your attention span, and the nitro boost added an extra level of speed. If only there was a way to get some back after using it all up. Overall, Juiced Eliminator is slightly above average, but hardcore racing fans might want to look elsewhere.

The real question is: Do PSP fans really want another racing game?

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