BlazBlue: Continuum Shift

A sequel to BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Continuum Shift continues with the aftermath of the events from the first game (after the True Ending, of course). The characters are faced with a new enemy that they never expected would be the mastermind behind everything.
All of your favourite characters return, with 3 new ones: Tsubaki Yayoi, a friend from school, Yuuki Hazuma (aka Terumi), the antagonist, and Mu-12 (who I shall say nothing about).
Story: I'm glad to see that the story is a little less cryptic this time around, as each character's story mode is filled with tons of dialogue. Again, players are left with choices to push the story in different directions like the previous game, but this time in very contrasting stories. One choice will continue the serious drama of "destiny" and whatnot, while another choice is filled with hilarity. Also, you don't have to purposefully fail each fight in order to get 100% completion for each character, which was an annoyance in the first game.
Graphics: Nothing really new is added to the visuals, as the characters still look the same. There are a few added backgrounds, which are always gorgeous.
Audio: As always, Daisuke Ishiwatari does a splendid job composing the music for this game. A few tracks are added for special versus fights, which always capture the emotions the characters are going through.
The voicework is typically still the same, except for Noel Vermillion, I think; her tone has obviously changed from a girl not knowing what she's doing, to a young woman in desperate need to discover what's going on.
It's best you get the first game (or at least read the story on a wiki) if you're going to understand anything. Otherwise, if you don't care about the story, then it's a pretty decent and interesting fighting game.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is available for $39.95.


DeathSpank and Limbo demos

I was contemplating whether I should wait to post until this evening when I got my hands on BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, or if I should make a double-post today to make up for last week. Seems the latter has won out!
DeathSpank is a supposed hero (although everyone else will deny it) seeking The Artifact. What this Artifact does as of yet, no one knows, but looking for it is just what heroes do.
The world itself is cylindrical in shape, giving the world a lovely whimsical feeling of simply running on a sphere as you travel to each quest: trees and landscape simply disappear over the horizon. The landscapes themselves are quite aesthetically pleasing, each having their own feel for the different areas. The humour itself is a little silly, but managed to sneak a laugh out of me every now and again. Voicework left a little to be desired, as dialogue seemed a bit slow and forced, but was still pretty okay.
The challenge is typical of any "quest" type game: talk to a character, kill things/retrieve items/deliver items for them, and return once the quest is finished. The difficulty of combat is about average, if you're levelling up properly. If you're finding it difficult with no healing items, killing some chickens will bag you some meat for easy healing, as long as you don't get attacked while you're in the middle of eating.
The controls are easy to figure out, with a different weapon equipped to the each of the XBAY buttons. The item menu took a little getting used to, as a flurry of items would drop into my inventory from a fight before I had time to check what they were and I had to sort through what was new and what I could get rid of.
This neat little game is available for 1200 points from the XBLA.

Limbo is about a little boy trying to find his sister. He comes across danger, as well as having to solve puzzles to continue his journey.
It's beautiful and rich in depth, despite the minimal graphics. The lack of music leaves a little to be desired, but the added detail of a little gore to an otherwise "sweet" atmosphere is a bonus.
For a puzzle game, I found it a little more difficult than usual with everything being the same. It's not entirely clear what you CAN interact with, and had to fiddle with almost everything to figure out what I should do next.
The controls only consist of 3 things: moving, jumping and interacting with objects. Combining these will get you through the puzzles and out of danger.
I don't really have much to say about this game, as I felt it was another rip on a Flash game I had played before called "Coma". Same graphics style and even a similar story, so this is really nothing new to me.
Limbo is available for download from XBLA for 1200 points.


In the eye of the beholder

It's always said that we "should never judge a book by its cover", but that only applies to people and...books. True, the contents are sometimes never reflective of what the outside looks like. But what's on the outside damn well helps to catch the eye.
This month's topic of Gaming Banter is "How important is cover art to you?" To be honest, I've never really focused or been drawn to what's on the cover of the videogames I buy, as it's the content I've read about that completely wins me over. Does the cover help? Sure it does. It gives me a small glimpse as to what to expect in the game.

The "Tales of" games developed by Namco have always been my favourite in videogame cover arts because they are beautiful yet simple: it's a logo with either the main character or an amalgamation of the different characters from the game. That's it. They're beautifully hand-drawn (digitally or traditional), and always have an air of adventure while still having fun, despite whatever bad thing may happen.

The third and final game in the series is probably my favourite out of all 3. Halo 1 and 2 depict scenes of war, fighting, and Master Chief with guns held up (CE: assault rifle at the viewer; 2: duel-wielding SMGs), ready for whatever may come. Here, the assault rifle is aimed down, as in rest, a sunrise/sunrest in the background depicting either the beginning of something new or the end of a long hard day. It's the peaceful end to a trilogy, where everyone can finally just take a break.

Mass Effect was probably the best game to catch my intrigue about the story, simply from the cover art alone. I took a quick guess that the overseeing eyes in the background were probably those of the main enemy I had to face...but why does his facial structure look similiar to the alien standing on the left? Are they related? IS he the bad guy, defying the main character behind his back?

Not my most favourite of covers of games I own, simply because it's obvious in what it's about: hyper-testosterone males in war with chainsaw guns. "....chainsaw guns?" was my reaction when I took a double-take at the above image, and I could only imagine the kind of gore that could take place once one ran out of bullets. Besides that, my hyper-testosterone guess was pretty accurate.

Ah, Bayonetta. A game I'm ashamed to say I actually sort of enjoy, despite the over-sexualization of absolutely everything. Button-smashing aside, the cover also basically covered what I was expecting: tits and ass with a little bit of convoluted story and humour. Sure, she's showing you her ass. But there's also a gun on her foot that she'll shoot you in the face with.

A game I knew nothing about before I saw this cover...and it still doesn't grab me. It simply looks uninteresting and boring. White and white with red in a somewhat jungle scene? Kind of lost me somewhere. This certainly wouldn't catch my eye amongst the other brilliant covers unless I was specifically looking for it.

Instead of uninteresting, how about a little confusion? The above boxart for the XBox version is when I first heard of Darksiders and I was thoroughly confused. Is it a strategy war game, with fire-footed horses? And why is everything glowing an awful puke yellow-green colour? Is that guy with the big sword some kind of general?
It was after I tried the demo that I understood what the story was: playing War, one of the Horsemen of Apocalypse. Which is what the PS3 cover actually looks like below:

What a difference a bit of actual colour can make. This is certainly more interesting and eye-catching for someone that wants to add another button-smasher to his/her collection. I can see the character, his big-ass gauntlet and that he's a lot flashier than just some general on a battlefield. Kick-ass horse too, by the way.
To sum it up, cover art has never really played an important part in what I do and do not buy, but what marketing and graphics designers do is vital to attracting audiences to their games in the first place. An important aspect of video game production that most people forget about and don't give these hardworking people enough credit for.
(I also apologize for subjecting everyone to that Cho Aniki cover art)

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.
Other takes:

The Average Gamer: Cover Art

Aim for the Head: Browsing the Aisles

SnipingMizzy: In the eye of the beholder

Extra Guy: On Books and Covers

Zath: How Important Is A Game’s Cover Art?

carocat.co.uk: Cover Art? No Thanks!

Pioneer Project: The game box's big moment

Man Fat: How Important Is A Game’s Cover Art?