Go West! Sixty-Three: Gundam in your Gundam on the Gundam

Feb 01 // Elliot Gay
Releases for the week of January 26 - February 1: Playstation 3: Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs. Full BoostBandai NamcoOnline Price: $76.99 Let me tell you two useful pieces of information. First off, Gundam Extreme Vs. Full Boost is an expensive game, whether you're importing or buying locally. Secondly, it's also one of the best multiplayer arcade games currently available. Yeah, I just dropped truth bombs all over your faces. Full Boost is the upgraded version of last year's Extreme Vs release, meaning it has more mobile suits, more fields, more everything. Balance has been tweaked and tier lists shuffled around, which of course means that veterans are either going to have to relearn their mobile suits, or find a brand new one. Considering how expansive the roster is at over ninety giant robots, most people won't be left wanting for new combatants. Arcade mode provides a suitable challenge, and the list of giant bosses is far improved over prior Vs titles. There's nothing like taking on the giant Shamblo from Gundam UC. Two player splitscreen is still included in the package, though now the battle field is split vertically instead of horizontally. It's an odd change, but I found it rather easy to get used to the new perspective. The arcade mode is now playable online with a friend, so if you want to take on E route with your far away pals, you totally can. But really the core of Full Boost is its two vs two multiplayer, and it doesn't disappoint. I was only able to jump online for a few matches before I was summoned to play locally, but in the brief time I spent with the game it ran smoothly and without any hiccups. I got my ass kicked, but it didn't at all feel like it was the result of heavy lag. I've been playing hours of local MP since picking up Full Boost on Thursday, and while there are some frame rate issues, these weren't present when playing online or single player arcade modes.  The sad truth is that Full Boost will never see an English language release. The good news is that the Vs series has a strong following in NA, and you don't have to look very far for guides and videos on how to play. In fact, I recommend the Official Topic over on NeoGAF if you're thinking of jumping in. There's very little Japanese in the menus so this is a very import-friendly kind of game.   Playstation Vita: Disgaea 4 ReturnNISOnline Price: $59.99 I love SRPGs, but I have a very difficult time playing them on a large TV screen. I personally find that these sorts of experiences are best when taken in small chunks at a time, which is why portables are the perfect platform for them. I've always dug the Disgaea franchise, but every time a new entry hits stores, I end up waiting for the eventual portable release. Case in point: Disgaea 4 Return. If you've already played D4, you know what to expect from this rerelease. It features all the DLC from the prior version, and also includes a few brand new story campaigns. The game looks super sharp on the Vita's screen, especially compared to the blurry sprite work of Disgaea 3.  All said, Disgaea 4 Return is a great port of what looks to be a great game, so I'm looking forward to digging in more when I have some free time. I'd be willing to bet NIS is going to bring this one west, so I suggest holding out till then.   Ebikore + AmagamiKadokawa ShotenOnline Price: $48.99 I've had my eyes on Amagami for a long time. You see, Konami's Tokimeki Memorial was my first experience with a true dating sim. I'm talking the kind of game that requires you to build stats, study hard, and plan dates so that you can woo the girl of your dreams. TokiMemo did some incredible things for its time and essentially went on to create an entire genre, one that seems to have faded away in recent years.  Amagami is something of a spiritual successor. It takes the TokiMemo formula and adds a new layer of paint to it. I don't know if mini-games have the same amazing goofiness seen in Konami's franchise, but nonetheless I respect that they went back to the genre's origins. Ebikore + Amagami is a port of the PS2 game from a few years back, but doesn't have much in the way of new goodies. Instead it sports a higher resolution so that players can better enjoy the really strong art. I'm actually very tempted to pick this up at some point. Those who have watched me stream Tokimeki Memorial know how fun/funny these sorts of games can be. Unfortunately, the high price tag is holding me back right now. I doubt this'll ever make its way west, so if you're up to the challenge, don't be afraid to import.   Nintendo 3DS: Toushin Toshi: Girls Gift RPGImageepochOnline Price: $60.99 I asked folks on Twitter, and they answered. The next reader-voted game I'll be covering is Imageepoch's Toushin Toshi, the remake of an eroge RPG from back in the day. You win. I hope you're all happy. I've only played a few hours into it so I'm not exactly in a great position to speak in depth about it, but thus far Toushin Toshi seems like a totally competent RPG in many respects. The battle system, one on one first person-ish combat, is fast and to the point. The visuals are colorful and the UI is easy to navigate. The soundtrack seems to be fairly solid and the whole thing feels like a more complete game than Imageepoch has produced in years. That being said, there's just something about it (beyond the harem antics) that's leaving me cold. I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but rest assured I'll figure it out by the time I have full coverage up on the site. In the meantime, wait patiently as I piece together my thoughts. On the plus side, it's nowhere near the train wrecks that were Time & Eternity and Exstetra. That's gotta count for something, right?   Playstation Portable: Arabian Doubt: The Engagement on DesertQuinRoseOnline Price: $59.99 The heroine, the men, the civilians; nobody is an innocent in this sequel to one of QuinRose's most beloved titles.  Our heroine is the princess of a country of criminals, the sole daughter of the king of thieves. Having grown up around so much evil for all of her life, all she's ever wanted was to fall in love, have a normal marriage, and live a normal life. She doesn't want to be in a relationship built on evil. Her father gives her an ultimatum: raise 10,000,000 gold in 25 days and she doesn't have to marry the husband of his choosing. Through some miracle, she manages to win, and proclaims that from here on out, she'll do as she pleases.  She was supposed to have inched closer to normality... Our heroine returns home one day only to find it empty, a single letter from her parents left behind. They've embarked on a journey, leaving the kingdom to her. Despite knowing that her country is rotten to the core, she decides to stay and lead while her folks are away. It is then that a diplomat from a neighboring country comes on official business. By some stroke of bad luck, it's her ex-boyfriend! Will our heroine ever be able to find a normal life? This is QuinRose bringing their A-game with the sequel to one of their quirkier otome games. I just wish they'd hurry up and make the jump to Vita. Fellow otome developer Idea Factory has already started to release titles on Sony's latest handheld, so I can only hope it's just a matter of time. If you're looking for a fun and quirky otome visual novel, QuinRose is always a safe bet. Jump on in if Japanese isn't a problem.   Shinobi KoiutsutsuIdea FactoryOnline Price: $58.99 Let's have a warm welcome for Idea Factory's first otome game release of 2014, Shinobi Koiutsutsu! Insert applause here. Our 16-year-old heroine lost her parents at a very young age, and subsequently was forced to raise herself. She worked and worked so that she could pay for school and rent, all the while following her dream of becoming a ninja. One fateful day, she meets the head master of the most prestigious of ninja schools, and is invited to take the special student exam. In order to achieve her dream of being a badass ninja, she accepts the invite and makes it in. On her first day however, some strange ninja technique has made all the men fall in love with her?! Not really putting your best foot out with this one, eh Idea Factory? I like the idea of ninjas, but a school? Seriously? You couldn't just have it not take place in a high school? QuinRose wins this week's battle. [And that's that for this week! Expect Toushin Toshi coverage going forward as I play more of the game, and keep your eyes peeled for next week's edition of Go West! I've got a pretty good rhythm going here, so who knows, maybe this will manage to be weekly for a while! Huzzah!]
Go West! 63 photo
Imageepoch returns in a blaze of glory
Welcome to the latest and greatest Go West!, your [why-do-I-even-try-to-be-timely] column about Japanese games, life in Japan, and Idea Factory.  Ladies and gentlemen, this week is actually a very special one. The latest...

BRS The Game photo
BRS The Game

Rejoice: Black Rock Shooter The Game hits PSPs this month

Years and years later
Apr 10
// Josh Tolentino
This slipped under Japanator's easily-distracted radar array last week - why, oh why did we hire cats to man the monitoring stations? - but it's pleasant to know either way: NIS America has, after a long enough del...

Shaft's Fate/Extra CCC opening is very Shaft-like

Jan 24
// Elliot Gay
Despite my feelings toward Imageepoch, I'm actually reasonably excited for their upcoming PSP game, Fate/Extra CCC. The first title was a solid dungeon crawl with a fantastic story, so I'm looking forward to jumping back int...

Import Review: Tokitowa

Jan 22 // Elliot Gay
Tokitowa (PS3)Developer: ImageepochPublisher: Namco Bandai GamesRelease Date: October 11, 2012 (Japan)MSRP: 7,376 Yen ($92.90) Tokitowa is the story of Princess Toki and a wedding gone awry. Her fiance, Zack, is murdered the day of the wedding by a group of assassins. In order to save him, she and her split personality, Towa, travel months back in time to track down the assassins and prevent the tragedy from occurring. Unbeknownst to the two women however, is that Zack's soul has been transferred into the body of their pet dragon Drake. Together, the strange trio will confront assassin's guilds, giant angry dragons, and hordes of palette swapped enemies on their way to living happily ever after. A few minutes into Tokitowa and players will quickly realize that the folks at Imageepoch were not aiming to tell an emotional, gripping story. Instead, the game falls back on tired tropes and cliches, repeating them ad nauseam in the hopes that they'll eventually be funny. Tokitowa essentially goes through a laundry list of cliches, and at no point does any of it ever stick. Even worse, every so often the game will attempt to be serious and dramatic, only to fall flat because of an awkwardly placed joke. The characterization certainly doesn't help, with Zack being a highly unlikable male protagonist. The man seems to be interested in nothing but sex, and nearly everything he says or does is driven by it. It might generate a chuckle at first, but after hours upon hours of the same thing, you'll want to strangle him as much as I did. Toki and Towa, the heroines of the story, aren't a whole lot better. Toki is as near-perfect as can be, simply wanting to be the ideal housewife for Zack. She's clumsy, but good in the kitchen and wants lots of children. It's hard to care about her when she's barely a character to begin with. Towa is a slightly stronger heroine by virtue of being the 'bad ass' one, but is still held back by silly character tropes that reduce her to a bumbling mess. It goes without saying, but she's also a tsundere as well. The rest of the supporting cast is unfortunately filled with cardboard cutout characters based on popular anime archetypes. You have the glasses wearing and big breasted Wedi, the rich tsundere princess Reijo, and the weird loli girl Enda. Tokitowa tries to develop these characters by having each of them become the focus of the story at different points, but it never amounts to much of anything. At best non-essential, and at worst annoying as all hell, the supporting cast of Tokitowa is entirely forgettable.  I hate to say it, but Tokitowa's HD 2D animation is where the whole package really starts to collapse on itself. Imageepoch hired Satelight (Macross Frontier, Bodacious Space Pirates) to to work on the animation. Unfortunately for the former, Satelight turns in a ultra low grade product that ends up looking like a low budget anime. The effect is initially charming; watching 2D animated characters move on a 3D plane feels fresh. After thirty minutes of watching this however, it becomes clear that you've already seen everything there is to see. Tokitowa suffers from a severe lack of content. Enemy characters are palette swapped and resize dozens of times; I can't even begin to count how many recolored birds I fought throughout the game. This repetition isn't restricted to the monsters either, as nearly all of Toki and Towa's magic attacks are simply recolored versions of the same animation. Outrageously, even the 3D environments, which should be easier to design, are repeated time and time again with minor changes to the coloring or trees. Even more embarrassingly, dungeons are wide open empty spaces, with only the occasional tree or rock in place to break things up. Tokitowa looks like the early Alpha of a game that was nowhere even close to being ready to ship. But perhaps the greatest offender of all is the absolute mutilation of Vofan's (Bakemonogatari novels) beautiful art and solid character designs. Had Tokitowa looked anything like his initial artwork, I could have at least given a thumbs up to the game's visuals. As it stands though, the cast looks nothing like their promo art, adding insult to injury. Instead, we're left with generic anime designs that do little to inspire any real excitement. Even better, the game fades to black whenever there's a somewhat complicated cutscene, because there's no animation to cover the sequence. It's cheap, it feels lazy, and in a game that proclaims itself to be a playable anime, it's absolutely laughable. Unfortunately, the soundtrack doesn't fare much better. With the legendary Yuzo Koshiro (Ys II, the Etrian Odyssey series) at the helm, I was at least expecting to be blown away with some awesome tunes. Instead, the maestro turns in a largely forgettable score that lacks the oomph of his other efforts. There are some solid, catchy tunes here and there (the battle themes), but otherwise there's very little here to excite fans of Koshiro's brilliant compositions. Tokitowa is filled with the usual popular voice actors, though it's worth noting that the game isn't quite fully voiced. NPCs and side quest stuff are voice-less, which looks extremely awkward when combined with the 2D animation. It's kind of like watching a silent film, only more awkward. If you were expecting the gameplay to cover for some of the visual problems, don't hold your breath. In fact, many of Tokitowa's gameplay issues stem from Imageepoch decision to use 2D animation. I've spoken about the battle system in depth before; combat is played out in real time against a single opponent. By pressing one of the face buttons, Toki (or Towa) will perform a specific attack. As you level up and buy weapons, you gain new skills that you can equip, expanding your attack options. While you can't move freely on the battlefield, you can dodge to the left and right, and attack freely. Skills require SP, which generates when you use your normal attack.  The problem with this battle system is that while it seems fast and even fun at first, there isn't much depth to be had. Dodging enemy attacks is often extremely easy, and eventually you find yourself just rapidly mashing the X button while you wait for a chance to use a skill. It certainly doesn't help that later monsters have absurd amounts of HP, making every encounter long and tedious. After a certain point in the game, I started running away from the random battles because I didn't want to waste another huge chunk of time. As I noted earlier, monsters and even spells are palette swapped to death, meaning there isn't much to enjoy on a visual level. If I had to fight another colored rock golem, I probably would have screamed aloud. Exploration is no fun either, as any non-dungeon traversal is handled via static menus. Every town you visit has a list of places you can select, which lead to voiceless dialogue with a different colored NPC. More frustrating is the fact that the game will often use 3D rendered sections of the city for cutscenes, despite those locations not actually being available to explore. Dungeons are big empty wastelands that lack any kind of interesting features, and drag on far longer than they need to.  There are plenty of others things I could talk about; the dull side quests, constant tea time breaks, repeated cutscenes, or even the barebones relationship system with Toki and Towa. At the end of the day though, all that would do is draw out the inevitable. I wanted to like Tokitowa. I think in the right hands with the right budget, this is an idea that could still succeed. As it stands, this feels like the alpha version of a game. There's nothing here to keep players around, and if Japanese sales and reactions are any indication, we won't be seeing a sequel anytime soon. Imageepoch touted Tokitowa to be the first HD "2D animation JRPG". What it actually is, is a proof of concept that's a long way from being anything resembling a fun, full featured game. Don't be fooled by the pretty Vofan art, Tokitowa isn't worth your time or money. 2 -- Bad (2s are a disaster. Any good they might have had are quickly swallowed up by glitches, poor design choices or a plethora of other issues. The desperate or the gullible may find a glimmer of fun hidden somewhere in the pit.)
Tokitowa Review photo
This is not the game you're looking for.
As much as I dislike Japanese game developer Imageepoch, I respect the fact that they just don't seem to give up despite how below average their games tend to be. Their track record in the States has been decent; Fate/Extra a...

A Look At: Chibi Black Rock Shooter for iOS

Sep 18 // Kristina Pino
Black Rock Shooter: Discover the Mystery of the Sexy Planet (iOS - Universal)Developer: ImageepochMSRP: Free When you start off, you've just got your basic chibi BRS and a blast gun. As you advance through the various stages, you can collect in-game money (G) to buy yourself new things. After each stage you also grab EXP and level up your cute game hero; the most EXP and money gain of course, coming from the boss battles.   To shoot things, just touch BRS and "pull back" to bring up the aim, and let go to launch a huge canon-sized bullet-bill looking explosive towards the floating skulls and things you're meant to target. You only get three tries to blow them up at first, but you can eventually upgrade to more ammo and get a chance to hit other targets for extra Gs. If you run out of ammo and haven't cleared the stage, the game will bring up a continue screen with a few options. You could pay to reload and continue, or you could just start over. I opted to start over every time.  Once you've beaten a boss and moved on to the next set of levels, you can go back and play the same boss at a different difficulty. There are up to three stars (difficulty) for each boss set, meaning you effectively get 45 levels in total with this free game. That's a pretty generous package if you ask me.  The artwork is done by CHANxCO, and it's beautiful. As you progress through the game and gain lots of Gs, you can purchase accessories, new weapons and ammo, and outfits for BRS. Some of the IAP use real money though, so make sure you check whether there's a yen symbol or a G next to the cost of anything before you start buying things.  The music itself has this great retro feel to it, reminiscent of the good ol' NES chiptune sounds. Though the artwork is modern, the blend is nice and it adds a fun dimension to an otherwise simple game. By simple, I mean that BRS doesn't actually move around throughout each stage. She sits at a little platform at the left, while you are responsible for shooting things ahead of her.  The boss fights can be a little tough since you not only have to hit them twice at designated weak spots, but still have limited ammo and have to avoid obstacles floating around trying to intercept your shots. The Sexy Planet denizens have some dialogue, which is kind of neat.  All that being said, I could understand that the language barrier might be a potential issue with some folks. Except it isn't. The game is so visual that you do not need to understand Japanese at all in order to enjoy the game. Just be careful with the "yes/no" screens and avoid accidentally purchasing something with real money that you didn't mean to, and you'll be absolutely fine. Tip: when you fail a level and get the "continue?" screen, hit "no" to simply start over. Each level is rather short and simple, so there's no particular reason to pay. If you're on Stage 1-4 and fail, hitting "no" won't restart you to Stage 1-1, for example.  Overall, I don't see why you wouldn't want to at least download this game if you've got an iOS device. You do not need to change your region to Japan or do anything fancy in order to obtain it. Just go to the App Store (on your device) and type in "imageepoch inc" and you'll be directed to a list of games they've created, which includes this one. It's easy and free. Enjoy! 
Because the entire title didn't fit - Black Rock Shooter: Discover the Mystery of the Sexy Planet
Following my most recent update on image epoch's Black Rock Shooter: Discover the Mystery of the Sexy Planet, I said I would be playing the game myself and this is where I deliver.  BRS is featured chibi-style in an acti...


Update on image epoch's Black Rock Shooting game for iOS

Released, international, universal!
Sep 14
// Kristina Pino
Recently I wrote up a post about the Petite Black Rock Shooter: Discover the Mystery of Planet Sexy game, and I wasn't sure whether it was going to be available internationally or not. Today I've learned that it is indeed ava...

Sold yet? Here's more Tokitowa anime battlin' footage

This time featuring the blonde one
Sep 06
// Josh Tolentino
Despite our misgivings about Tokitowa (Time and Eternity), one can't deny that Imageepoch are trying something utterly unique in terms of visuals. Really, the world's first "HD Anime RPG" (with its potential English rel...

Black Rock Shooter: Pursue the Mystery of the Sexy Planet

An action/puzzle game featuring petite Black Rock Shooter for iOS
Sep 05
// Kristina Pino
Take petite Black Rock Shooter (designed by CHANxCO) for a spin as she battles against the denizens of Sexy Planet. BRS is after treasure, and she'll knock down everyone in her path! This game, created by Imageepoch, is free ...

Sol Trigger's 5 minute OP movie brings the drama

Sep 04
// Elliot Gay
This is your last chance, Imageepoch. I've given you all the opportunities in the world to impress me with a truly great game, and you've missed the mark every single time. Sol Trigger is your last game for the PSP and report...

Huzzah?! Tokitowa on its way to an English release

Aug 13
// Elliot Gay
By this point I'm sure you all know how I feel about Imageepoch's upcoming HD 2D animation RPG, Tokitowa. In screens it looks fantastic, but in motion I'm left wanting. It certainly doesn't help that the in-game character des...

Tokitowa's Towa knows how to kick ass and take names

Aug 02
// Elliot Gay
Imageepoch's upcoming HD animation PS3 RPG, Tokitowa, has me concerned for a lot of reasons. I think the idea behind the project is extremely cool; a game in which all the characters are hand animated. The problem I have is t...

Black Rock Shooter: The Game still being localized

Jul 24
// Chris Walden
We heard mumblings of seeing this game in the west almost a year ago, though it seems not all of us had forgotten all about it! Ryoei Mikage, CEO of Imageepoch, responded to a fan enquiring about the status of the game. ...

Tokitowa has a gameplay trailer and it... uh... yeah

Jul 20
// Elliot Gay
Looks like Imageepoch and Bandai Namco Games are ready to finally start promoting their upcoming PS3 RPG, Tokitowa. After months of waiting to see real gameplay from this sort-of hyped "HD Animation RPG", we finally get to ta...

Cheers, Tokitowa may be heading west after all

Jul 08
// Salvador GRodiles
It was a sad day indeed when we all found out that Tokitowa was probably not going to get localized in the west. Today we can kiss those tears goodbye as Imageepoch's CEO Ryoei Mikage drops a few tweets th...

Imageepoch's Sol Trigger gets delayed

May 16
// Elliot Gay
About a week ago, Imageepoch's upcoming PSP RPG Sol Trigger got smacked with a release date; August 30th. This week, it gets smacked with a delay pushing it back to October 4th. Huh? Yeah, I'm as confused as you are. I could ...

Imageepoch JRPG Sol Trigger gets a Japanese release date

May 07
// Elliot Gay
A few months back, Imageepoch announced their final PSP game, Sol Trigger. Supposedly their biggest budget title up until now, Imageepoch has been pushing the game as the last truly epic RPG on the system. Whether that's the ...

Toki to Towa not getting a Western release

Mar 21
// Bob Muir
Look at these beautiful screens of Imageepoch's "HD anime JRPG" Toki to Towa (Time & Eternity) for PS3. Now look at this header image. Now look back to those screens. Now look to once more to this header image. This heade...

Here are some gorgeous new Time and Eternity screens

Mar 14
// Josh Tolentino
Imageepoch's PS3-bound JRPG opus Time and Eternity (aka Tokitowa), is looking rather beautiful and quite a bit unique. Where other games emulate 2D "anime-style" graphics using techniques like cell-shading and speci...

Imageepoch reveals Sol Trigger, its last grand PSP JRPG

Mar 07
// Josh Tolentino
I gotta hand it to imageepoch. Even in an environment where the tide seems like it's running against Japanese games in general, and the "Japanese-style" RPG in particular, the folks behind Fate/Extra, Black Rock Shooter The G...

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