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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » RPGWatch Feature: The Whole Game in My Hand #8

Default RPGWatch Feature: The Whole Game in My Hand #8

January 31st, 2008, 04:51
What's going on in the RPG world for portable gaming systems? Can you get a decent role-playing experience on the go? Mike Anderson writes another mammoth roundup to keep you informed on the hits and misses of RPG's on the GBA, DS and PSP!
This edition includes coverage of 13 games and a full length review of John Carmack's Orcs & Elves for the DS.
More information.
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January 31st, 2008, 04:51
Thanks for this article.

I know that in a PC gaming focused site like RPGWatch, the tendency is to pooh-pooh handheld games.

I would argue that there are some good reasons for readers to rethink their views on handhelds. They are becoming a bastion of turn based gaming, mainly due to the hardware constraints on the platforms. The reality in this current market is that it you are trying to pitch a turn based game for a console like the 360 or PS3 - well - good luck with all that.

Pitching a game - any game - on the PC these days is exceedingly difficult. Turn based? Even more so. I'm sorry that that is so - but it is. It's exceptionally hard to pitch a PC RPG in this market.

Things improve a little if you are trying to do a cross-platform game for PC/360.PS3. But that drops the number of devs able to create such a title down to a select group - and brings with it all the constraints inherent in mainstream Triple A consoles.

However, if turn based strategy and RPGs are your thing - there IS a platform that caters to you. And it's only getting better.

If you are looking for turn based strategy and RPG titles - the DS lite is probably your best bet. Better still, the buy-in is low at only $130. Surprisingly, the graphical quality is becoming quite decent and the overall gameplay fun for your buck is not too shabby. The multiplayer capability over WiFi is there - right now.

Moreover, I think with the next generation of hand-helds (still three or so years away) the handheld platform will then be at its height for turn based gaming goodness (the generation after that - I fear the hardware power will scale up to a point where twitch games will force out turn based play).

I don't blame readers for their prejudices. I had them too. But there is a surprisingly decent amount of noise happening over in DS and PSP land. When it comes to the DS, in particular, the sheer volume of units on the market has now reached a point where the critical mass for more mature games is now very real. It's going to get only better from here on in. I think the handhelds are entering a golden age. It's worth paying closer attention.
Last edited by Steel_Wind; January 31st, 2008 at 05:16.
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January 31st, 2008, 04:53
The Legend of Zelda : Phantom Hourglass is definitly great. The stylus-based controls are very well done, although the use of the mic felt a bit gimmicky. I played the french canadian translation, which was so horrible it was hilarious (and in one particular occasion, it used a quite vulgar expression that was inappropriate in a game for all ages). Clearly, whoever did that translation have no idea how we french canadians actually talk.

Orcs & Elves felt more like a turn-based version of Doom (not surprising considering it WAS made by the same developpers) than a typical dungeon hack, especially with food laying around everywhere that instantly heal like the medikits (although there's also the usual healing potions that you can pick up and drink later), the weapons with various effects instead of simply be numerical upgrades, and the way that the game tells you how many monsters and secrets there are on a level. It's a bit light on the puzzle solving and very short, but it was definitly fun. I hope we'll get the sequel on the DS, and maybe even Doom RPG. That would be nice.

I noticed you didn't mentionned the upcoming remake of Mazes of Fates for the DS that apparently coming out at the end of February. I enjoyed the original a lot, so I'm interested by this one. Hopefully, there will be enough additions to the game to warrant a second playthrough of it, and that this version will be more widely distributed this time.

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January 31st, 2008, 05:21
Originally Posted by Dantre View Post
I noticed you didn't mentionned the upcoming remake of Mazes of Fates for the DS that apparently coming out at the end of February.
I have been in contact with the developers, and originally had stuff in there that I pulled because the timing is fairly uncertain (it was originally supposed to be out last week). I will certainly keep you updated, as I loved that game and featured it last year.

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January 31st, 2008, 15:07
I went ahead and updated the article - according to this press release the ship date of late February is correct, and the official site has some gameplay videos. I am still waiting to hear back from the project lead on any more details.

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January 31st, 2008, 17:13
Thanks for this massive update on the handheld world, Mike. As always, you make me wish I had one. Maybe someday…

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January 31st, 2008, 17:15
Thanks for these articles, i always look forward to reading them. I've got a DS and with so much shite released these articles provide for a great filtering function!
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February 1st, 2008, 02:05
Great article

But I think you forget 1 or 2 PSP games for Q1-2008
1. Wild Arms XF: 11. (?) March 2008
2. Patapon: 26. February 2008 (EU-Release: 22. February)

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February 1st, 2008, 03:15
I am definitely looking forward to Patapon - but it isn't a RPG, just an action game from the Loco Roco makers.

As for Wild Arms XF, here is some info:
Wild ARMs XF (pronounced "Crossfire") is the newest installment in the long-running role-playing series which marks a couple firsts for the franchise; the first one containing tactical strategy gameplay, as well as the first Wild ARMs game to appear on a handheld system. Wild ARMs XF offers a unique strategy role-playing experience with a hex-based grid system producing more tactical positioning options, a large number of job classes allowing vast party customization, and a wide range of mission objectives making it one of the deepest strategy games on the PSP system.
There wasn't a firm date when I looked so I left it out … but apparently it is early March.

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February 1st, 2008, 03:16
Originally Posted by Sisaya View Post
Great article

But I think you forget 1 or 2 PSP games for Q1-2008
1. Wild Arms XF:


Funny coincidence to see a new Wild Arms game mentioned today. I just received a copy of Wild Arms: Alter Code F today, It's the PS2 remake of the original Wild Arms.
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February 1st, 2008, 04:14
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
I went ahead and updated the article - according to this press release the ship date of late February is correct, and the official site has some gameplay videos. I am still waiting to hear back from the project lead on any more details.
Nice videos, and much better than the first ones that were released a few week ago. Well, the gameplay seems to have significantly changed, with the movement no longer step-based like the GBA original. Intriguing.

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February 7th, 2008, 16:59
Hiya txa1265,

Nice roundup and mini-reviews/review/outlook of upcoming handheld RPGs, SRPGs, and Strategy games as usual.

I must say, since this is the first one in which I can directly comment on the content, since I now own a DS Lite, and have Orcs & Elves. I think that you were too lenient on it's score. It's really a REALLY basic dungeon crawl with very LIMITED RPG features. As a matter of fact, I'd be much happier labelling it a turn based action adventure that has a helluvalot more in common with the like of Heretic and Hexen than any RPG. Graphically it looks alot like the Doom engine IMO, pixelation and all. Add to this the brevity of the game itself, I finished it(ALL of it) in c. 4.5h. Even at $20, I find the price to be high for such a short game with zero replay value, and would think it to be worthwhile in a $10-15 range, with heavy weighting towards $10.

I give it a 6/10 myself. Nice try, but you need to put more effort into something that has more capabilities than a phone, rather than a quick port with a little extra content. (Apparently the Mazes of Fate guys figured this out before releasing their game…)

Thinking about picking up a PSP later int he year, if only to put on a custom firmware and play all of my old PSX games on it. I've got just about every RPG/SRPG that came out in the US for the PSX, most of the strategy games, couple of sports and action games as well. Not to mention that the PSP also has enough horsepower to do real justice to a goo dnumber of other console emulators.

One question for someone about the PSP: is the screen a touch screen? (I haven't dug for this really hard, but I've found no mention one way or the other on it, and am currently inclined to believe that it is NOT a touch screen.)
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February 7th, 2008, 17:30
Originally Posted by cutterjohn View Post
As a matter of fact, I'd be much happier labelling it a turn based action adventure that has a helluvalot more in common with the like of Heretic and Hexen than any RPG.
Yeah, I agree with that assessment and I can certainly see where you would be more critical in terms of scoring, but that is how the reviewing ball bounces Sometimes I get criticized for really eviscerating a game, sometimes for being 'soft'.

Originally Posted by cutterjohn View Post
One question for someone about the PSP: is the screen a touch screen? (I haven't dug for this really hard, but I've found no mention one way or the other on it, and am currently inclined to believe that it is NOT a touch screen.)
No - PSP is *not* a touch screen. It *is* however magnetically attracted to fingerprints and smudges

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March 6th, 2008, 07:20
Thanks a lot for all these articles, been reading them since they showed up on here but they actually gave me the final push I needed to decide and grab a handheld. Got a DS along with a few games last week, (Advance Wars, Panzer Tactics, Zelda Phantom Hourglass) mostly based on what you wrote and a few other articles I read here and there.. And I love it so far . I look forward to the next one.
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March 8th, 2008, 17:41
Originally Posted by Galaad View Post
Thanks a lot for all these articles, been reading them since they showed up on here but they actually gave me the final push I needed to decide and grab a handheld. Got a DS along with a few games last week, (Advance Wars, Panzer Tactics, Zelda Phantom Hourglass) mostly based on what you wrote and a few other articles I read here and there.. And I love it so far . I look forward to the next one.
Great choices there on your first three games. Big thumbs up. I have also picked up those recently and those are the definite cream of the crop for the DS. Panzer Tactics is perhaps not the most innovative game - but it is definitely a solid turn based wargame that would have been very home on the PC ca. 1997. Of all game titles currently available for the DS, Panzer Tactics DS aims at the highest age group.

As for non-RPGs for the DS, here's the results of my recent forrays on the platform:

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a great puzzle game with wonderful art direction and great use of the stylus, and it aims at a Teen+ age group. I've been playing through this and the developer, Japan's Level 5, raised the bar with this game. No, it's not an RPG - but it is a definite showpiece for the DS. Level 5 has impressed me all to hell with this game. Highly recommended.

I've heard very good things about Anno 1701 which has been available in Europe a while but just released in North America this past week. It's based on a best selling German strategy series for the PC, very similar to Sid Meir's Colonization. Again, adult aimed turn based strategy, with elements of Civilization. It's not a port - and makes heavy use of the stylus. I'm definitely going to grab Anno 1701 this week at my local EB Games. Reviews on it are great so far.

I really didn't like and cannot recommend Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles. The graphics are great - sure - but the gameplay just isn't there. Stylus use is minimal. It's too bad as the base the developer had to work from was certainly solid. I love eye candy and I firmly believe a great game has to have great eye candy - but that doesn't mean that great eye candy makes a great game. It's just a base you need to work from. If it's all you got - your game will fail miserably - and Gameloft failed on this title, imo.

Lastly, Ninja Gaiden DS is out later this month and all of the preview movies indicate that unlike Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles, Ninja Gaiden has awesome graphics and awesome gameplay. The big deal with Ninja Gaiden DS is that the dev budget and time spent was vastly higher than virtually any other title available for the DS platform. It seems to me that 98% of DS developers just mail in the effort, know what I mean? Not so with Ninja Gaiden DS. The thing looks amazing.

.Robert
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Last edited by Steel_Wind; March 8th, 2008 at 18:04.
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March 8th, 2008, 18:18
Nice comments, Steel_Wind!

I agree that Assassin's Creed is mediocre … yet for some reason my older son grabbed it and had an absolute blast all the way to the end. Yet he can easily describe all of the flaws! Strange how kids work …

I want to grab Professor Layton at some point but have too much other stuff to play … thanks for the reinforcing positive comments!

Anno 1701 is loads of fun - and works quite well on the small screen. Too bad it is a GameStop exclusive …

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March 8th, 2008, 19:07
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
Nice comments, Steel_Wind!

Anno 1701 is loads of fun - and works quite well on the small screen. Too bad it is a GameStop exclusive …
Well, Gamestop and EB Games are one and the same company now. And as the largest retailer of electronic games in North America (they have recently surpassed Wal-Mart to grab the #1 spot) - and without the heavy handed morality police Wal-Mart brings to the table - that's no problem for me.

In any event, I have an EB Games across the street from me - and I saw it there Thursday night. Didn't have time to grab it - but will get it later this week.

Generally, I prefer to give my business to the independent game retailer, Gamerama, which is literally right downstairs underneath EB Games on 2370 Yonge St (north of Yonge & Eglinton). He's got the best console game selection in the city of Toronto (and easily the biggest used DVD and game selection too) so I imagine he'll get it in his used section soon or later .

See, I can shill for the little guy as well as EB Games!

Anyways, you can definitely pick up Anno 1701 in EBGames in Canada - and I presume that the same applies in the USA as well. Online you can get it from EBgames.com already http://www.ebgames.com/product.asp?product%5Fid=180739

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March 8th, 2008, 19:21
I just like having choices - Circuit City tends to discount well, and I have 'rewards' cards at Best Buy that does pretty well for me … but I had a gift card from my nephew to GameStop that I used, so it was all good.

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March 8th, 2008, 19:42
The situation with Anno 1701 (I guess itīs called 1701 A.D. over there) makes me think that sometimes itīs better to rename a product instead of using a weak brand.
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March 8th, 2008, 19:53
Ahh. See, I don't use a discount card. Consequently, price wise, one major retailer is as good as any other, all selling at MSRP, so price is a neutral factor in the decision for me. Given that EB Games is the most convenient game retailer for most people to get to in Toronto - it's a case of being "exclusive" to a chain I already frequent regularly and don't have to go out of my way to visit.

I would admit that having a game in Best Buy (and Future Shop, which is now part of Best Buy and is the main brand Big Box electronic retailer in Canada) as well is all to the good. But it seems to me that DS titles don't get stocked and pushed in the big box stores nearly as well as they are in EB Games.

And while we are now very far afield from the topic of hand-held RPGs, I have noticed something in my local EB Games lately, and that's the PSP. This platform had been pretty much dead in the water until about 4-5 months ago, when something happened. The new PSP slim design came out and things seemed to definitely change.

It may simply be that Sony is paying premium racking fees to EB Games (in fact, I'm pretty sure that is exactly the reason), but the PSP is getting hyped a lot more than it used to - and the games are starting to come out for this thing in larger numbers. Retail shelf space for the PSP is now in a very prominent position within the store. Those things are worth paying attention to when you are in a EBGames store to get a sense of where the money and marketing is moving

I'm not a great PSP advocate. The lack of a stylus on the platform (and the PSP's higher cost) offsets the superior graphics and memory, such that I'm more of a fan of the DS. PSP is higher tech, but it's the DS games that sell.

And until recently, you could pooh-pooh the PSP as great tech that nobody was buying games for. While that may still be true, the impression lately seems to be that the PSP has turned the corner. It is also selling very briskly these past weeks in Japan. If Sony could get the price down to $149, I think they might be able to move a lot of these things.

Pat-a-Pon for the PSP ($19.99! Major buzz title and cheap too! Stocked and racked at eye level - which is very unusual for a budget title ) and this week's God of War have certainly had a lot to do with the recent PSP buzz.

Hell, I may have to borrow my daughter's PSP (or just go buy a new PSP slim) and actually play D&D Tactics. I played the beta at Gencon summer before last but have never played the release version. I suppose I should get around to that.

.Robert
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Last edited by Steel_Wind; March 8th, 2008 at 20:01.
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