Musical Monday: “Mario Solo Piano Medley” (Video Games Live Level 2), originally composed by Koji Kondo

This week, I present a chirpy piano take on gaming’s most iconic music (as arranged on this album). The first video is a studio recording – just the music, no background sound – and it’s pretty cool. The second is a noisy live recording, frequently interrupted by audience cheers – but it’s worth your time, because the pianist plays the first half blindfolded. Enjoy!

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Age of Wonders III Preview

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Age of Wonders III
My army marches on a hostile city. The actual playable area extends to that open courtyard holding the soldiers in white.
My army marches into battle. You can see flame tanks and giants in the front row, while my leader rides the boar (second row).

 

This is it, the biggest battle of this map so far. On my side, four towering giants – amongst the most powerful units in the game – backed by the fruits of military technology:  cannon, musketeers, flame-throwing tanks. Against this, the computer’s forces are inadequate. Its giants are frightening, but outnumbered by my own. Its use of battlefield magic  – “Wind Ward”, which weakens ranged attacks – is clever, given my overwhelming superiority in ranged troops, but not enough. Its regular soldiers? Pfft. A flame tank explodes beneath an enemy giant’s fists – but I have more. The enemy army dwindles. Their giants stagger, pelted by bullets and flames and magic. The last enemy giant turns toward his tormentor.  I check the tooltips. The moment is ripe.  My general storms in with “Charge” and “Flanking” bonuses. The giant falls.

 

At this point, I notice my general is riding a giant boar.

 

Welcome to Age of Wonders III, the upcoming fantasy turn-based strategy game from Triumph Studios. I’ve dabbled with the previous AoW games, and after interviewing designer Lennart Sas when AoW3 was first announced last year, I jumped at the chance to try out a preview build. After a number of hours, I’ve now finished two maps — the first mission in each of the game’s two campaigns – and spent some time with a third, random map; here are my impressions.

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Musical Monday: “Into a World Becoming Impure” (Valkyrie Profile), composed by Motoi Sakuraba

With Dark Souls II just out, the time is ripe to highlight composer Motoi Sakuraba’s previous work! This week, I give you the opening credits theme of Valkyrie Profile, a beautiful song for a beautiful, unique RPG whose retrospective I keep meaning to write.  There’s a strong, majestic element to the song, but also a more pensive one; as you listen, picture the scene in-game, as Valkyrie walks through the fields of Asgard, wind blowing around her. Enjoy! And if you’d like to listen to more Sakuraba, you can listen to my previous round-up here.

 

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Clippings: Black Phantom Edition

Console versions of Dark Souls II are now out! Here is a good comparison betwee the three games in the series. All the reviews I’ve seen are glowing — but silent on my biggest concern. In DS2, you can be invaded by other players at any time, a change from the nice risk/reward trade-off in the previous games (if you wanted to summon in other players for co-op, you opened yourself to the risk of invasion). I love these games, but given my awful track record in PvP, that’s a potential deal-breaker. Can anyone comment on how well it works?

In other news:

  1. I hear good things about Qvadriga, a newly released turn-based chariot racing sim — how often do you see that? No reviews out yet, but here’s the preview that caught my eye, back in November, and here is a demo.
  2. Remember Territoire, the upcoming game from the studio behind Recettear? It’s still upcoming, but here are impressions of its (Japanese-only) demo.
  3. I think this may be an actual scoop: while you can’t access the Wargame: Red Dragon unit database from the game’s homepage, you can punch its URL straight into your browser. It looks like a work in progress (and the URL even calls it “rd_test”), but it still provides fun material for theorycrafting. Mm, M1A2 with 25AP…
  4. Anyone remember SimEarth? Universim sounds like an attempt at a successor.

Clippings: Welcome (Back) to the Caribbean Edition

 

Above is Tropico 5‘s first, brief gameplay trailer! Graphically, it looks similar to Tropico 4, but feature-wise the two games should be quite different — while T4 was rooted squarely in the Cold War, T5 promises to be about developing your island from colonial times through to the present day. Here is a good Strategy Informer interview highlighting a couple of the changes.

 

In other news:

  1. One of my previous concerns about Unsung Story was the absence of localisers Alexander O Smith and Joseph Reeder, the people responsible for Tactics Ogre‘s brilliant English script. But now developer Playdek has confirmed they will join the project —  too late for the Kickstarter, but welcome news nonetheless!
  2. Here is an interesting review of Out There, a new iOS/Android game that seems like a purely exploration-oriented FTL. Has anybody tried it?
  3. Previews are coming in for Age of Wonders 3, due out at the end of March. Here’s a general preview, whose verdict is ‘more of the same – and that’s good’, and here’s one that focuses on what’s new.
  4. In Hearts of Iron IV news, here is another interesting interview, while the game’s second developer diary elaborates on the new production system.
  5. And last of all, here is a Crusader Kings 2: Rajas of India interview. Notably, this confirms there will be a “‘diplomatic range’ to stop most interactions between extremely distant realms”.

Musical Monday: Aeris’ Theme (Final Fantasy VII), composed by Nobuo Uematsu

Since I alluded to this song a few days ago, I decided to feature it as this week’s featured piece. It’s popped up in basically every single Final Fantasy orchestral concert over the last decade, and for good reason — it’s lovely. Below, I’ve embedded the version from the 2007 Distant Worlds CD. Enjoy!

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Ni no Kuni: a tale of Mite and magic

NNK - Mar Mite
Oliver is the ostensible protagonist of Ni no Kuni, but his familiars are the game’s heart and soul.

 

 

Ostensibly, PS3 RPG Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is about the adventures of Oliver (pictured, right), an ordinary boy who becomes the wizard-saviour of another world. But it’s not, not really. Meet one of Ni no Kuni’s real heroes (on the left): Mar Mite, melee fighter, bane of enemies from the Winter Isles in the west to Teeheeti in the east, and utterly adorable. Together, Mar Mite and friends represent what is best about Ni no Kuni – and what is worst.

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