It has been a fair while since I last did an installment of The Otaku’s Gaming Study, the last installments focusing on a number of Playstation Portable releases made around the Christmas shopping season by Sony Computer Entertainment and earlier this year where I covered Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3DS) and Tekken Hybrid (PS3). This time around as I am in the midst of writing up a very long thesis for my university degree, I thought it would be nice to cover a few of the original Playstation Vita launch titles that due to my own busy schedule at the time of launch were not able to be reviewed.
But what is The Otaku’s Gaming Study? Depending on how far you read back into this site, it originally started out as a way of compiling the news in however many installments a week but as I started doing up-to-date news it become redundant. Therefore, it was adapted into a review series where instead of doing large reviews on a single title, many smaller reviews of titles (Usually of a common platform or genre) are written up under the same header. As this is the Playstation Vita Review Catch Up, the three titles I have for this installment are “Everybody’s Golf”, ModNation Racers: Roadtrip and Reality Fighters.
Everybody’s Golf (Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational)
Clap Hanz | Sony Computer Entertainment
Simply referred to as Everybody’s Golf in the English Releases, this is actually the sixth numbered installment of the long running series which began on the Playstation 1 in 1997. Now personally I have never really been one to enjoy the sport of Golf – I can understand why people enjoy it but just like fishing I don’t feel I would have the patience or energy to mentally pay attention to the task at hand. However while I have only played a grand total of four golf games including this one, I actually think it is actually a solid sporting genre and have slowly gained appreciation of the mechanics implemented in this game. The main concern one could have however is that similar mechanics are implemented into many of these games including this one….. so how does it stand up against a “tried many times” gameplay mechanic? By doing it right….
Just as in real golf, you play on a variety of different courses which you have to take into account several factors such as the direction and speed of the wind, the environment and the different hazards that litter the courses from the bunkers to the dreaded water shots. As well, you are provided with a whole set of different clubs which offer different distances depending on how far you need to hit and additional clubs for putting the ball and so forth. The game itself uses the sliding gauge where you obtain distance and accuracy through pressing the X button at two different points (There is also a “Circular” shot system included in this release which replaces the second button press at the starting point to a shrinking circle). These mechanics don’t really set itself apart from similar games much, however they were simple enough considering this is on a portable system and easy enough to use on a moderately full train (Yes, I have tried). The touch control implementation was nothing special but did allow you to pull up maps, control different view-points from a camera menu and “rustle” the greenery around you.
The game features two single player modes alongside an adhoc and online multiplayer mode. The main single player mode is simply entitled “Challenge”, and has you taking part in different ranked Tournaments often beginning with either IN or OUT (9 Holes) course sets followed by 18 Holes and vs matches. The game works on a Gold Star system, where getting 1st place helps unlock extra courses and so forth in this game. Unfortunately, the only way to get a Gold Star IS by getting first place, therefore getting 2nd or above will leave you playing the same stages for however long they take in the hopes of winning. Unfortunately I was left in an agitating scenario in one of the earlier tournaments where I was on the third last hole and was in first place – but ended up hitting a ball over the edge of the course and landing on a high slope which for whatever reason was not called Out of Bounds – dropping my rank from 1st to 20th and wasting half an hour of my time. In the earlier stages this should not be so much of a problem but can get agitating later on. The other single-player mode is Stroke and is essentially the Challenge Mode without the added stress. I personally didn’t dive into the multiplayer modes too much, however the online mode is solid with lobbies to meet up with people and a Daily Tournament.
The games presentation is bright and colourful, with some creative but dated in quality courses and some well designed characters. Perhaps coming from previous Golf games I have played with more sizable character rosters, I wouldnt have minded a few more playable characters or at least the ability to greater customize them, as while you have the option of purchasing additional accessories, colour changes etc from the in-game store with your winnings, you don’t start out with much to customize them with and never really seem to. On the other hand, the games music is simple but pleasant but wouldn’t have minded perhaps having a bit more variety in them.
While the designs and music could have been better, the gameplay is as I was expecting and was really enjoyable to play through – aided by the addition of a number of online features. If there were one thing I would have liked to seen given that this is on a portable console and a more casual game at that – would be for there to be the option to select individual courses to play through over sets of 9 or 18 holes.
Storyline/Character Development: N/A
Music/Voice Acting: C
Personal Opinion: A-
Overall Score: B+
ModNation Racers: Road Trip
Sony Computer Entertainment
Released in mid-2010 and riding the boom of the LittleBigPlanet’s “Play, Create, Share” was ModNation Racers for the Playstation 3 and later the Playstation Portable. Bringing the core racing-style gameplay with their own tweaks to the formula, it also brought the customization element to the game – allowing players to create their own racers, vehicles and race-tracks through unlockable (Lots of) and downloadable content (A few bits here and there for free or a cost). It was a game I invested lots of time into and enjoyed both single-player and online multiplayer modes immensely. While I skipped the Playstation Portable release I was more than happy to jump into the Playstation Vita release which offered support for all my custom creations from the Playstation 3 release while offering new race-tracks and even more unlockables. While it is still an enjoyable title…. it didn’t live up to my expectations and didn’t do as good a job at integrating certain Playstation Vita controls.
The one thing about this game is that provided you don’t mind the same core gameplay mechanics being used over and over again (For which I will go into more detail shortly), you will often be able to go through the online download lists to find a new track which has been developed and provides a new challenge or multiplayer experience, on-top of several dozen tracks already incorporated into the games Career mode which are equally as challenging as those on the Playstation 3 version. Lets be honest… considering this is a “Karting” style of gameplay which has been around for a very long period of time in games – it is pretty hard to mess up the core gameplay mechanics. The controls have been adapted from the original Playstation 3 release and requires no extra training for someone already familiar with the game to pick it up and race from the get-go, so it is still a drifting oriented racer with some brutal AI at times and a whole array of weapons at your disposal (And Vita-exclusive weapons as well).
It is ModNation Racers, so if you are after either a solid racing experience and/or the ability to customize said racing experience then this might be up your alley if you don’t have a Playstation 3…. but with the exception of a few racing additions such as the new weapons and tracks…. there is not all that sets this game apart from its predecessors other than portability. This is by no means a bad game, and actually I enjoyed the single player campaign quite well – however do think that the other elements of the game could have used improving on. First off, when ModNation Racers was first released in 2010, the biggest issue I had with the game was the load times which could surpass the 1 minute mark for online battles – while it doesn’t reach that same time period you may find yourself waiting 30 seconds to load a track which I would have liked to have seen cut down. The second issue was the touchscreen support which was at times touchy and fiddly (Especially in the menus) and implementation of this in the track builder didn’t offer nearly the same degree of track design as the manual driving system which features the ability to manually elevate or depress your track slope. Finally….. while the “Share” element of the online mode is present, with the exception of a normal multiplayer mode there is no online functionality – which might not have been practical given the portable console but I would have at least liked to have seen a random lobby system or something along those lines.
While the visuals do seem to leave a different impression and detailing over the Playstation 3 release, I didn’t mind it so much and felt the character visuals complemented the design of the tracks well. There were also a few frame-rate drops in specific maps, however for the most part I noticed no real problems. Music and sound effects are fine and maintain the same sort of themes as the original PS3 release…. however I really do miss the presence of Gary and Biff in the cutscenes, and the other crew members of Tag’s team…. they could have thrown some plot or humor into this game!
Storyline/Character Development: N/A
Music/Voice Acting: B
Personal Opinion: B
Overall Score: B
Novarama | Sony Computer Entertainment
I first heard of Reality Fighter at last years Gold Coast EB Games Expo, and from the beginning I won’t deny I was excited about it. It sets out to be your ordinary fighting game but makes use of augmented reality mechanics and the ability to make a character based on your facial features. While they haven’t gone and reinvented the wheel in terms of gameplay mechanics, the idea they had was solid and I think given this was one of the cheaper launch titles for the PS Vita, it did what it set out to do. But while there are some really inventive elements to this game, there are also other elements which ended up not living up to expectations that kept it from being a great game more than a novelty title.
I actually enjoyed being able to make my own personalized fighter and think it is something that is straight-forward to do, and offers enough customization for individuals, friends and families alike to enjoy. The game is not about making your custom fighters “normal” but instead among their range of normal outfits you can use on your new custom character, they offer many zanier options for you to make your character distinct – from a simple chicken outfit to a mankini – or any combination of these you wish. Despite this range of customization and decent character creation tools, it will be very hard to actually bring a character that looks almost exactly like yourself in the game due to hair styles and such more suiting the design of the game rather than for realism and the camera is very temperamental to light changes in the room among other factors. They do however add a few other fun tweaks into the mix – such as the ability to record a few select character voices to use during battle and the ability to select one of a number of battle styles (So yes, you can battle your younger sibling using ballet moves while he or she pummels you with kung-fu moves). If you haven’t noticed already – from the character customization alone… this game is more about providing a comical experience than one you might expect in one of the more mainstream fighters.
The games battle system itself doesn’t really set itself from the pack – allowing you to take part in fights against either a CPU player or against another player. It is a very casual style of game that might not appeal so much for the hardcore fighting game players but instead focuses more-so on showcasing the capabilities of the Playstation Vita. But first a quick word on the games Story mode…. it is simply a set of battles that shouldnt take up much time to go through and some occasionally witty dialogue from instructor Mr. Miyagi – but otherwise nothing impressive. While the game provides you with few stages, you are expected to create on the go through either AR Cards or an AR Card-less method (Even in Story Mode) – both of which have particular pros and cons, with AR Cards being my personal suggestion. The cardless method works good when you want to make your characters appear gigantic or want your characters to fight in a far-away area but runs the risk of having your characters Jitter all across the screen unlike the AR Card method which restricts you to a particular area. You can also save your favourite stages for on-the-go play, however this in itself is a task I have not been able to successfully complete due to the automated photography to design them overlapping images taken.
Depending on the amount of effort you put into this game, you might be able to come up with some really great stages to be able to play on, however the technology implemented in games consoles still don’t seem to have the capacity to bring a proper augmented reality experience with or without the cards. However, the game is designed nicely and the limited music track suits the theme of the game but it is a good novelty game that showcases what the Vita is capable of in terms of augmented reality in its early days and I won’t deny it wasn’t enjoyable if not even for a few hours.
Storyline/Character Development: E+
Music/Voice Acting: C
Personal Opinion: C
Overall Score: C