Ar NoSurge: Epilogue to a Fixed Flaw

In followup to my post on November 16th, the localisation patch for Ar Nosurge finally hit the European PSN regions on Tuesday November 25th. Nearly two weeks “late”, thanks to SCEE’s usual overly-lengthy approval processes.

More importantly, it is two weekends after the American (read: original) release date for the patch. It also arrived here midweek and overnight. So just in time to go to work/school and be distracted all day waiting to go home and play.

To be fair to Koei Tecmo Europe, Sony Computer Entertainment (Europe) are rather notorious for messing around European gamers with shoddy timing. Where SCEA updates and DLC will come out almost immediately, the SCEE updates have a habit of coming late. Worse, the publishers don’t always know exactly when something will get released. I’ve even heard (unconfirmed) that this extends to digital-only releases of games.

It certainly does look as if games publishers (including but not limited to Koei Tecmo) don’t know until the last minute when things are going to get digitally released.

Unfortunately, even though this final hurdle is probably Sony’s, it ultimately still reflects badly on Koei Tecmo overall. The initial situation really was of their own doing. It is great that they and Gust made good and issued a patch to address the localisation but, here in Europe at least, the handling of the PR side really could have been better and the delayed update in our region just puts the icing on that particular cake.

Positive Result

If you like Japanese RPGs and haven’t got around to Ar Nosurge yet, though, now is the perfect time to jump on board. It is a good game and the patch genuinely addresses the main issues that were letting it down.

Ar NoSurge: When small problems stack up

Recently I have been playing a Playstation3 game called Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. It was made by Japanese games company Gust as a distant prequel to its Ar Tonelico series. I am closing in on the end of the game, now, but it is starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

There is no single, large fault with the game. There have been, however, a lot of small issues which, overall, begin to stack up against it.

I also need to note that, unlike previous Gust games, newer releases like this one are localised and brought to the West by Koei Tecmo (as their Japanese arm now owns Gust), instead of Nisa.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or the cause of the problems. It does mean, though, that current and future Gust games are being brought t the West by a company that doesn’t yet have a long history with the ongoing franchises.

Surge Concerto

In Japan, this game is the second in the Surge Concerto series. The first game, Ciel Nosurge, was a Playstation Vita game with online connectivity where you get to know the character Ion and a long and involved history of the setting and characters of this series. This online data, then, could be imported into Ar Nosurge and somewhat affect how Ion’s story unfolds in the second game.

It was decided, for whatever reason, not to bring this outside of Japan. Perhaps they out that the “Life Simulation” concept wouldn’t work well for a Western audience. The problem, though, is that we are left with the second part of a story which is intricately built up and prepared in the part we don’t get over here.

You need to find a story guide to get a good feel of what is going. and which people knew who. I, for one, was very confused initially when Ion knew characters from the other playable group of characters because I didn’t yet know that they had all grown up together.

Aside from the pure story side of things, the online component of Ar Nosurge was taken out, as it had no counterpart data to play with, removing an optional boss and removing the ability to unlock a costume change function. Minor but annoying.

No explanation, as far as I can tell, was made regarding why this choice was made. If there was one, it is hard to track down.

Localization and Communication

The English language localization was problematic. Names and terms were translated inconsistently, as if only half of the people rewriting the text were given the final canon spellings and terms. NPC dialogue was also hopelessly mangled. Sentences were spoken out of order and possibly by the wrong people. It also, apparently, didn’t get much of a testing phase before the non-Japanese release, so none of these issues were picked up.

This is where it started to all fall apart.

Players all began to bring this to the attention to the American and European arms of Koei Tecmo. There was not a huge amount of communication coming back, though. The American arm, without mentioning specific flaws, put out a feedback questionnaire. The European arm would respon directly to people but did not put out a public notice addressing these issues.

Then both arms went very silent. Not even a single word to say whether a fix was even being worked on,

This week, on Wednesday November 12th, the silence was broken. Koei Tecmo Europe announced that a patch was “scheduled”. This was vague, as it didn’t state whether it meant work was just starting on it or if it was nearing completion.

Koei Tecmo America then announced that the patch was out in the American regions.

It wasn’t until Friday, after a bit of hassling towards them, that Koei Tecmo Europe finally mentioned something at really needed to be said in the first place. The patch has been submitted to Sony Europe and is currently awaiting approval and release. A lot of tempers could have been kept is this had only been said from the outset.

Overall

The real problem I have with this whole release is that there have been several minor issues, all of which could have been contained by much better communication.

By ignoring requests for clarification and giving late information and pleas for “patience and understanding” long after people were annoyed, they themselves helped the situation escalate from something minor into something more.

All that it really needed was the following being stated promptly and publicly:

  • We hear the feedback and are passing it along to the developers.
  • The text issues in the game are being addressed. We will let you know when a fix is close to release.
  • The patch has now been completed and submitted for approval. The release will likely be staggered by regional approval processes but work is complete and the fixes should be live to everyone before too long.

Just a little bit more openness, at all stages of the situation, would have saved a lot of hassle. Instead, I am finding my enjoyment of a good game somewhat marred by treatment of its international release.

On Vita Announcements or Lack Thereof

In a way, the recent outcry about certain Vita announcements (or their lack) sums up the whole of E3 to me.

None of the early announcements did anything for me at all. It was all games I don’t care about, consoles I don’t own, or both together. My Twitter feed was swapped with announcements that really didn’t interest me in the slightest.

Then one stood out, from The Playstation Eu Blog’s own Twitter feed.

“Happy news for JRPG fans: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is coming to PS Vita. Details: http://bit.ly/1pCfuGL #4ThePlayers pic.twitter.com/97g0mOnu0H

Which linked to this post, now featuring a correction. (Also featuring half a page of celebration followed by a bucketload of disappointment…)

It was the first news that was about a title I gave a damn about on a console I already own. At last, some E3 news that meant something…

Oh. Nevermind.

Now, granted this means that in a few years time when the PS4 price drops, probably with a slimmer model, and when there is a decent-sized backlog of the games I actually play (the usual point at which I buy any console, nothing Sony-specific here) , if I can justify the cost of PS4 there will already be an interesting game out for it.

But for a console I already have? Nowt!

But this is the point. I wasn’t one of the people rabidly hoping this game would come out. I wasn’t even aware of the #jrpgvita Twitter hashtag.
I just saw an announcement for a game I’d heard of and thought would never come outside of Japan, and I saw it being announced for a system I already own – and own specifically for bringing my jRPG habit on the move.

Then, a correction. No Vita.

Then…. silence. No official explanation as to why such a cockup was made. Just a solid air of “We won’t/can’t tell you”. And that, more than anything, is what personally got my back up. There are details that could somewhat diffuse the situation and instead they’re letting it all fester.

Gaming Shorts

I just thought I’d give a (very) quick overview of three of the videogames i’ve been enjoying in recent months.

Firstly, I played Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies on the 3DS. Very enjoyable game. I loved that all three of the Agency’s lawyers got some court time. I had a few minor niggles with some of the gameplay aspect, but not enough to stop me enjoying the game. And if you’ve liked the earlier entries in the series, and either have a 3DS or are seriously considering getting one, I highly recommend this game.

Still on the 3DS, Bravely Default is definitely meeting my desire for a new take on the more classic Final Fantasy game style. If you enjoy the earlier games, love turn-based battles, but still want something fresh then this one is definitely worth looking into.

Finally, I recently bought Final Fantasy X/X-2: HD Remaster and am loving revisiting the world of Spira. The move to HD and widescreen is lush. The reworked soundtrack still fits the game. Overall, it feels very much like it was designed for the PS3. In a way, it feels like how I remember playing the PS2 version. Revisiting an “old friend” without having to put up with what older games look like on newer HD televisions.
I do, however, find myself playing a little game of  “spot the non-remastered texture”. But that’s not enough to run the game by any means.

Playstation 4thoughts

So, Sony just announced their next console. I’ve had a very quick look at the revealed features and there are a few that greatly interest me. And some that don’t of course.

Let’s get it out of the way: I care little for the social stuff. I’m a primarily single-player gamer. A console’s primary function is to allow me to play games. if I can see what friends and acquaintances are doing too then fine, but only as an optional extra. If the “newly designed PS4 menu screen” puts that stuff front-and-center then it’s going to make me less likely to want to invest in one.

(Decent single-player gaming experiences. That is what will make me invest in a console.)

Suspend mode sounds useful. No more hunting for a save point before going out, getting food, meeting people, etc. Just put your console to sleep and it’ll remember where you’re up to later.
Per-game suspend/quicksave files would be even better, mind you, but this is still useful for those times when you finally beat a difficult boss fight at bedtime and get locked into a half-hour story-mode before you are allowed to save.

Second Screen Gaming. I hope that all future consoles have this functionality. For years I have wished that things like maps, inventories or control panels could be their own screen.

Remote Play doesn’t interest me, unless it works in reverse. The Playstation Vita has a few games I want, but they are (for me) perfect armchair-and-large-TV games. Let me throw Persona 4: Golden‘s new HD graphics out to my 37″ TV. Seriously, I’d’ve bought a Vita specifically for that game if the Vita had some sort of HDTV Out.

Pre-emptively downloading games that a computer thinks I might buy? Screw that! I’d need to be able to disable that f I were to consider a PS4.

Making digital titles playable as they’re being downloaded? Interesting, but I’ve seen implementations of that sort of technology before. it’s not that i don’t think it can work, it definitely can. But it sounds like a Patent Lawsuit War just waiting to happen.
I’d be more interested in one of the following two ideas:

  • Play new game from disc before/whilst it is being installed to hard drive.
  • Whilst installing game from disc, also start downloading any latest updates at the same time and then patching them in upon completion.
    • Also, digital titles really should be pre-patched to the latest version. No following one long download with another long download.

Still, it looks very interesting. Like any console, though, it depends on what games come out for it. For me, this means RPGs. Until a console has at least a modest catalogue of games I want to play, I’ll save my money. Decent back-cat tends to correspond to price-drop and bug-fixes anyway. But I am more interested, and slightly less cynical, than I was.

Designed by Committee, Dictated from Above

Sometimes, at work, I sit through a project planning meeting or hear about one from a colleague and get the impression that project planning groups are a pointless exercise purely designed to tick specific criteria decided from On High and to then convince everyone else that this is the One True Way.

I could put this aside as my naturally cynical nature were it not for the entertainment industry doing its level best to prove me right. In fact, it is my hobbies and not my job that truly set my opinions.

So i go home at the end of a day. I finally get to do what I’ve been waiting to do all day, stick the TV on and wish for a world where dumbass decisions weren’t made…

Only I can’t. The very escapism i yearn is ruined by that very thing I’m attempting to escape. In games, in films, in TV shows. You see it in abandoned plotlines and odd character choices. In odd plot twists, or a contant adherence to the Status Quo without any thought of plot or character progression. Or in websites and services that ignore features that the user base actually wants, instead focussing on stupid social-interaction features that their current users don’t actually need.

It is Executive Meddling at its very best. An absolute conviction by Upper Management that they know exactly what is needed. That they know better than their fanbase or user base. “Thou Shalt Meet These Criteria”, even if the people actually using or watching their product want things to go in the complete opposite direction.

It’s the same sort of thinking that get series discontinued, or entertainment properties not brought over from one country to another. Some Suit thinking they know best.

I guess I was set in my thinking before I ever saw wat went on in planning meetings. Sadly, the reality of sitting through them coupled with games/films/TV still being screwed up form On High make it unlikely my opinions will cange any time soon.

I have nothing against changing my opinions on things for the better. It kind of helps, though, if I get to experience things that prove me wrong.
Not happening so far.

Ar Tonelico Qoga: How to find Harvestasha DLC in the UK

One of the (free) pieces of DLC available for the PS3 game Ar tonelico Qoga is the Harvestasha personality patch set. Each of these is free and, allegedly, available in the UK – and the rest of the EU PS3 region as far as I am aware.

It never showed up in the store, though. Or so people thought.

NISA (publishers) and the PSN blog page both claim it was out about a year ago. Web searches mostly said it was missing. It isn’t…

…it’s just very badly filed.

It will not show up if you browse for DLC. The only things in the section for this game are the Binary Field adventures. But if you search for it, it will show up.
I used “Qoga” as a search term. I expect “Harvestasha” would work, too.

Final Fantasy X: Perfect Remake

Last year, I completed a replay of Final Fantasy X on the Playstation 2. To some, and to me, it was a classic game despite making a few changes from the classic FF formula. Although the virtues of the game are (and will be) another post for another time. What I really want to tackle here is what would be on my personal list for a “Perfect Remake”.

The current new generation consoles, mainly the PS3 and 360, have graphical and storage advances that really blow the PS2 out of the water. The game looked and played really well anyway, but the idea of an enhanced remake (although unlikely) is something I’d dearly love to see.


Gameplay

Firstly, I guess I should get gameplay tweaks out of the way. Mainly because I don’t really think it would need too many changes. The game was good as-is, and only minor tweaks would really be needed. The ability to run the game, or at least the majority of the resources, from hard drive would be a huge improvement. It would certinaly reduce the lag-time when switching into battle-mode or moving between different areas.

The only serious gameplay tweak I would definitely like to see would be an additional ability available to magic-users. “Target all”. It’s usually been a mainstay of the Final Fantasy games, and one thing I felt sorely missing from the magic system. Whether it was something available later on in the Sphere Grid, an ability available from equipment, or both, it would be nice if it was at least gainable at later stages in the game. Continue reading