An Odd Medley

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So here lately I've been all over the map with what I've been playing. It has been interesting, but I normally don't juggle so many at once. My Vita has gotten alot more use lately, though almost always at work, whereas my PS3 has borne the lion's share. We'll start there.

gtav

- Naturally GTA V gets play, but only with headphones on and mostly at night or between 4-5am before I go to work. Why? Because more than most GTA V works in profanity like some artists work in oils. It is ridiculous how profane the language in this game is. You can't even play a round of tennis without some debutant letting fly with a tirade that would make sailors blush. Being that I have 3 small children in the house who could be confused for parrots my time with this excellent game is limited. I will say, however, that Trevor makes this game. More than any other protagonist, Trevor steals the show. There hasn't been a psychopath like this since Ledger's Joker.

Gunslinger

- Hot on GTA's heels is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. Despite the fact that I am just not very good at FPS this game fascinates me. Such an excellent western with such a charming storytelling device. Playing this really makes me want a new Red Dead. This should be the downloadable game of the year.

Hatsune miku

- I still get drawn in to Hatsune Miku Project Diva f as well, though this game is definitely hard. This one is difficult to put down, despite the frustration that comes with the inevitable failure I suffer at the flood of face buttons that rain down on me at 209 beats-per-minute. I haven't been playing this one as much as the others and the next game is largely why...

Spelunky

- Spelunky is my big crossover title because it demands almost as much PS3 time as it does on my Vita. Maybe you played this on XBL Arcade, I can't say anything about that but the Vita/PS3 package is excellent. This game is as addictive as they come. I can NOT stop playing it. Compulsively, obsessively, this is the Pitfall of the new generation. I've discovered so much hidden in this game (like the Haunted Castle, Ash from Army of Darkness' shotgun, the gold-sh*tting monkey) that you would just never expect. It is also brutally hard; like approaching Demon's Souls hard. This game will wipe its ass with your best effort and sh*t you out a plateful of disappointment served up with a side of frustration... but you'll come back 'cause you need more!

Muramasa

- Which leads me to the game I'm playing the most of right now. Muramasa Rebirth is living, breathing art. And one of the best games I've played all year. Beware Dragon's Crown owners: if you haven't played Vanillaware's previous project it is a Dragon's Crown killer. All of my enthuiasm for DC evaporated once this game took hold; reducing its successor to little better than a co-op beat-em-up. With a gripping set of twin tales (and 4 more characters on the DLC horizon) Muramasa has been unrelenting in its hold on me. If you have a Vita you should play this, even if you played it on the Wii. The extra content and beautiful OLED colors make it all worth it.

Obligation

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I feel obliged to say something about GTAV but I'm not really sure what. Sure, it's practically the best GTA ever created. Yes, it's staggering in size and scope. Agreed, the 3 person perspective is both refreshing and revolutionary. It is indeed as witty and clever as one may have come to expect and, yes, once you get to Trevor you have unlocked the most entertaining character that GTA has ever produced. (As well as gain access to the best wild, open space since Red Dead Redemption.)

But it's still Grand Theft Auto.

GTAV

Ok, don't get your panties ruffled. Grand Theft Auto V: 9.5. There, happy? If they had fixed the drive/shoot mechanic to where you could aim before you shoot I'd give this masterpiece a 10. And it is a masterpiece. It is incredible what Rockstar accomplished; to the point that if you haven't seen it then I can't explain how impressive it all is in its grand scale. They took the random encounters from RDR and applied it well to GTA, further enhancing this immersive juggernaut.

But it's still Grand Theft Auto.

GTAV 2

What am I trying to say? I guess it's that I'm still kind of over the allure of Grand Theft Auto. For all it's granduer and 'innovation' there's not much to see here that you haven't already seen before. If, somehow, this hasn't worn off its welcome on you after 10 previous installments (counting the handhelds and expansions) then I'm sure this is what you've been waiting for. Oh, don't get me wrong, I can't put it down either. But I just can't compel myself to regurgitate what everyone else has already said.

I will stop and talk about what is new; Heists. This is the most fun GTA has been in years. Planning and executing a successful heist was the biggest rush I've had in GTA probably since Vice City. I hope, I hope, I hope these heists are something you can do on the fly, but I doubt it. If Heists are part of GTA V's upcoming multi-player then I just may be hooked.

GTAV 3

So, basically, this: 1) If you are an unrelenting fan of GTA, 2) or if you are new to the series and like open world, 3) or you are under 18 (and shouldn't be playing this anyway,) 4) or if you love Rockstar games, 5) or if you are an immature man-baby then you will LOVE GTA V. Why so snarky when I clearly love this game too? It's the same principle as being an ardent supporter of one console or the other and yet still managing to be embarassed by the rabid fanboy contingent. Yes, I too love GTA V, but at the same time I acknowledge that that groups me with a bunch of 14-20-somethings that just need to grow the f*ck up; people that just love to make it rain on dirty sluts dancing on a pole, then take them back to their place and bone them. That puts GTA V on the same level as the 'modified' XBOX version of Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball: a guilty pleasure.

Should you play this game? Absolutely. What about the easily offended? By this time you should already know if you'll be offended by GTA or not. There's nothing really new here that R* hasn't already crossed a line on. Blah, blah, blah; torture scene... get over it. You did the same damn thing in Far Cry 3, to your own brother no less. Like most criticism of GTA it's a non-issue. Blah, blah, blah; misogyny... get over that too. Ever hear of this little thing called satire? You know, the whole gorram point of the series? All of this, ALL. OF. IT. has been done before, by Rockstar no less... in previous Grand Theft Auto games. If you wanna hate you'll just have to try harder; say maybe PETA could lodge a complaint because, as Trevor, I kicked a woman's dog to death in front of her. That's a first for the series. So unless you group yourself with the nut sacks at PETA your GTA V argument is invalid.

All kidding and snarkiness aside GTA V really is one of the most impressive games this generation. It's not wrong to say that it's a next gen game on this gen of consoles. From a technical standpoint what Rockstar was able to squeeze out of this hardware is simply fantastic and I, for one, haven't see a bug yet. This puts it on the level of The Last of Us, although definately not in terms of story. There's no doubt that this year's upcoming Game of the Year hoopla will feature both titles in the titular role, and that's fair. If GTA V wins there will be massive butt-hurt across the spectrum of gamers but you couldn't say it didn't deserve it. Rockstar has done what Rockstar always does. This game is a masterpiece.

Game Overload

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So, now on the eve of GTA V (which I actually won't pick up until Thursday due to financial concerns) I now reveal a recent glut of acquisitions. I, like some gluttonous whore of gaming, have gorged myself on both cheap used games as well as an online spending spree. While some of these were, understandably, a bust others have been stunningly surprising. Here's the rundown:

Lair

Lair

- What? It was 3 bucks... THREE DOLLARS. Ok, you're right... I feel cheated. Gamespot gave Lair a 4.5. I felt sorry for it and granted it a 5.0. Yeah, it was a PS3 launch title back in 2007, but it is what amounts to a poor air combat simulator with dragons, sixaxis controls, and not a whole lot more. Epic idea, epic still shots, epic failure. I suppose it's workable, not evidently broken on first glance... that's why I give it a bone average rating, but there's nothing to see here. Move along.

Bit Trip Runner 2

Bit trip

- Plus granted me Bit Trip Runner 2. It's a Flash game... on PS3. Look, in full disclosure I vehemently dislike abstracts. So a game like this is NOT up my alley. This little black alien who can sh*t rainbows if you do well enough runs. THE END. 4.5

Guacamelee

Guacamelee

- Next up is Guacamelee; a side-scrolling beat-em-up with a Mexican luchador storyline. This was a freebie thanks to a buddy who has it on Vita and isn't taking advantage of his cross buy. I don't get the charm that everyone speaks of so all I can base it on is its pretty art style and its 'meh' action. Guaca-meh-lee. 6.5

Resident Evil: Chronicles HD Collection

Resident Evil

- Another Plus freebie. This is an on-the-rails shooter so I thought that maybe, just maybe, that useless plastic gun attachment I have for the Move could be useful. Wrong. As a motion controlled House of the Dead-like shooter this game is BROKEN. It is impossibly hard to kill zombies in this game. Maybe the Wii version worked better? I have no clue but I know this was deleted almost immediately. 2.5

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Blood Dragon

- Now we're getting to the good stuff. I bought this bundled with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger for 25 bucks. When I finished Far Cry 3 I was spent. Just tired of it. I happily traded it despite the fact that it was a hella-fun excellent game. I was not interested in Blood Dragon at first but once I got this and started it I was immediately amused. As a child of the 80s this type of mockery is both nostalgic and hilarious. Perfectly voiced by Michael Biehn this game's campy nature is, IS the Duke Nukem of the modern age. 8.0

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

gunslinger

- The demo alluded to just how great this game was and the full version just confirms that. Gunslinger is a breath of fresh air in a market polluted by FPS crap shoots. Easily as educational as it is entertaining this is the redeeming moment for the flagging Call of Juarez series. Make more like this, Techland, and people will start to remember your name. In addition to the story mode, excellently told as a first person recollection, there's the arcade mode for when you just wanna kill tons of bad guys and the EXCELLENT Duels. Right now I get smoked in Duel mode but I'm not giving up! It's a helluva challenge but very fun. 8.5

Spelunky

Spelunky

- You know, I generally shudder at 'Retro Games.' I mean, I lived through gaming's infancy and just like Thundarr the Barbarian, G.I. Joe, and Speed Racer it hurts to go back. Leave those good memories intact! This is NOT the case with Spelunky! I'm fairly sure if you look up Spelunky in the dictionary it is revealed as a synonym for Addiction. With randomly generated levels and an unforgiving difficulty this game is practically the most replayable game I've seen since Civilization. I liked the free copy I received on PS3 so much I BOUGHT Spelunky just so I could have it on my Vita as well. It feels weird to say it; but I consider this a contender for Game of the Year. Is that wrong? Maybe, but it feels soooooo right. 7.5

Muramasa: Rebirth

Muramasa

The real translation is: "You aren't fit to mate with that little radish." True story.

- Last week I was VERY impressed with Dragon's Crown. Now I realize that Dragon's Crown, awesome as it is, is a step back for Vanillaware. I almost kept my Wii only to play this game (I sold it just before Muramasa came out) but, honestly, I'm glad I waited. On that big, beautiful OLED screen this game SHINES. People say it's repetitive; but I find it too fun to care about that. People say there's not a big enough difference between how the characters play; well a 4 character DLC coming up will change that! In every way Muramasa is fun. In every way Muramasa is beautiful. Dragon's Crown may rock the house in 4 player gameplay but there's just more in Muramasa. Simple, yet undeniably attractive with a powerful ability to draw you in for hours. The Vita needs games like this, and Vita owners need Muramasa. I give Muramasa: Rebirth a 9.0. Now I have to get off this site and get back to my Vita... Muramasa is waiting.

A Weekend of Dungeons & Dragons

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Some of you may have noticed my silence since my last blog; odd since it was such a call to action. To answer the unspoken question: no, I was not thrown in some dark, CBS-run gulag for 're-education' I was, in fact, consumed with writing a table-top RPG for an upcoming visit with a friend.

Dungeons & Dragons had a powerful influence on me in High School. I played with a few friends, despite my father's venomous objections to my dalliance with 'The Devil's Game.' But when it really took off was in college with a two year long, weekly campaign that formed the basis for the novels I've written. Now I haven't played a regular game since; mostly only 'reunion games' with my former players that might happen once a decade. I do play occasionally with one friend via MSN Messenger or, lately, Skype, but these occurences are rare (due to us both having families now) and are, what I call, on-the-fly games with little to no planning. So actually writing a module with a whole story arc was both refreshing and highly entertaining.

The Trials of the Kwanyagar was an idea I first had back around 1993. Set in the Forgotten Realms it would involve the player taking on the role of an explorer/adventurer in the tradition of Indiana Jones; sent into the jungles of Chult (an African setting) on a quest to a lost temple of an extinct tribe to recover a 'soul gem' artifact of unknown powers. This one had a lot of danger and adventure: from the land-of-the-lost dinosaurs that infect the Chultan jungles, to heat stroke, malaria, forming a 28 member expedition of porters and such... all the way to the expected twist at the end; the dark nature of the Kwanyagar, add in a little betrayal, and have it all culminate in a massive sea battle as the player (aboard a pirate ship) desperately chased an insideous enemy in an attempt to keep nothing less than a Great Old One from breaking free from its prison and consuming the known Realms. (Thanks H.P. Lovecraft!) This was high adventure.

I spent over 25 hours creating a 45 page module; a Word document complete with hyperlinks to a vast online monster manual and illustrations to help bring it all to life. I spent hours translating the names of monsters, jobs, and items into Swahili for immersion. This was to be an epic 2 1/2 day adventure. Well, it wasn't finished. We got one good 7 hour period in, but the distractions and diversions of family, home life, video games, and anime all conspired to keep my friend from reaching his goal. Unexpectedly my friend rolled up a sort of superman, with an incredible strength and cat-like dexterity; one Tareth Dalmar by name. Tareth's superpower to was to do incredibly risky and seemingly insane acts of bravery and yet somehow succeed and it resulted in us coming away with some good (and even funny) tales!

mosasaurus

Like the encounter with the Mosasaurus; or Shetani Mamba as the Tabaxi tribesmen called it. This 50 foot long Mesozoic super-crocodile came up behind the Expedition's 5 boat flotilla and immediately snatched one porter up in its death-dealing jaws. I expected this encounter to end up with possibly one boat sank, 2-5 porters eaten and valuable supplies lost. But what Tareth did was leap from his boat onto this monster's head and stab it in the skull with a short sword. Then cling to it tenaciously like some Alabama tick as it dove underwater, shook and rolled, and even broke the surface like a dolphin, all while Tareth kept making the Strength checks necessary to hang on and stab it in the brain until it was dead.

hippos

Next the Expedition had their path blocked by a herd of hippos. Not too big of a deal, right? But when the bull began to aggressivly approach the lead boat Tareth, once again, leaped from the boat to attack. I chuckled to myself when a roll of the die indicated that Tareth had landed in the hippo's mouth but, perhaps unsurprisingly due to his incredible strength, Tareth held the hippo's jaws open and stabbed it... in the mouth. The hippo released him and fled underwater but Tareth, somehow offended at the hippo's audacity, chased it into an underwater battle that resulted in a dead hippo floating down river. Frustratingly for him the rest of the herd had moved on by the time he recovered his sword. (He'd dropped it at the end of the battle and had to spend several rounds diving to retrieve it.)

But the best tale of all was perhaps the most mundane. It also resulted in Tareth earning a nickname that became a running gag for the rest of the 'weekend' for us. By this point Expedition morale was at its peak; after all the expedition's leader was this incredible super human badass ripped straight from the pages of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. This theme would persist in a random encounter where a crocodile took a bite (with full surprise) at Tareth's hand as he lounged in the lead boat. The crocodile missed and Tareth asked for a chance to grab at the croc; presumably for a shot at another "Let's Ride a Crocodile Like a Dolphin" episode. I assigned all the appropriate negatives to a Dexterity check but, in true Tareth fashion, he rolled good enough that he snatched the croc by the snout; mouth closed. But instead of following the hapless reptile into the water Tareth used his Swartzeneggar-like strength to jerk the 8 foot long crocodile out of the water and into the boat where he then proceded to punch the croc in the head and knock the poor thing unconscious! Then he unceremoniously tossed the reptile back into the river to float downstream (After the dead Shetani Mamba and the dead hippo) and earn himself the nickname of...

bwa haha

THE CROCODILE PUNCHER

We laughed the rest of the visit and to 'crocodile punch' someone became a running gag. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the Crocodile Puncher didn't make it all the way to the temple so it's To Be Continued but we do plan to finish it, either in a future visit or via Skype. But I'm back now and I'll have a new blog with some thoughts on games I've recently played soon. Still, it was a grand diversion to write this module. If any of you out there play D&D (I'm talking to you; fellow Dungeon Masters) and you'd like a chance to play The Trials of the Kwanyagar just send me a PM with an email address and I'll mail you the Word doc. It's set up under modified 2nd edition rules but I'm sure you could adapt it to whichever version you play.

The Exodus: If you're leaving, stop here first.

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There are SO many blogs posted right now from people who are leaving. Some of you are people I regularly read, but to all of you I pose a question: "Aren't you overreacting just a little?"

Look, I'm in the beta. I've seen the new design they're working on. It's not that bad save for one glaring omission: the loss of Community Contributions. But you know what? I got an email from Lark Anderson this morning... they heard us. They will be restoring that feature in the new design. I, along with a certain majority of beta members, complained LOUDLY about this loss. We are fighting for our Gamespot...

... and you're abandoning us?

This is not the first time we've undergone a massive site redesign. This is not the first time they've taken things away from us. (Remember our Now Playing lists?) It's also not the first time we've fought to get stuff back and won. They axed Comminuty Contributions once before and we got it back. There's no reason we can't fight for our Unions, except when there aren't any Union users left to fight.

"It ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!" - Sylvester Stallone; Rocky Balboa

Never give up.

Never walk away.

This fight just started, Spotters. Will you let CBS beat you without even lifting a fist to fight?

My Daughter: Hostage to my Inner Otaku

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I have a bargain right now with my nine year old daughter; and it has afforded me a good deal of leverage.

The covenant is as follows: She has to cease bickering and goading her 3 year old sister for the entire month: no fighting with her, turning the other cheek to her transgressions, basically I'm asking her to be a model big sister for the entire month. In exchange I will preorder and purchase Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f for the PS3. She's struggling to hold up her end of the bargain, but since she has nowhere near enough money to buy the game herself she's bound... to my inner otaku.

hm1

"Um, I need to place a preorder... for my daughter...

If you are unaware (and I can't imagine many of you are unaware by now) Hatsune Miku is the most prominant of what are known as the Vocaloids. Officially, a Vocaloid is a singing voice synthesizer; a computer program that, without human samples, creates a human-like singing voice. Add to that a live band and a hologram that looks like a real life anime character that looks like something out of Ralph Bakshi's wettest dreams and you get Hatsune Miku. The first time I had ever heard about Miku and Vocaloid was right here on Gamespot, in the blogs, but when I eventually saw her perform on video I had to pick my jaw up off the gorram floor.

HM2

She's a hologram all right... with all the outward appearance of 3 dimensions! Her appearance was so amazing that I couldn't tear myself away long enough to avoid being hooked by the music. If you have any weakness at all for J-Pop then giving Hatsune Miku a chance to sing is like trying crack cocaine. You run a very REAL risk of addiction! The next thing you know you're on some creepy message board typing: "Hi, my name is Uesugi and I love Weekender Girl..."

hm3

If you haven't tried the demo that's been on PSN for a few months then you should definately check it out. This quirky Japanese rhythm game isn't exactly a new release. This is the 5th entry (released on the Vita in August of 2012) of a series that debuted on the PSP back in 2009. While it doesn't really do anything gameplay wise that makes it stand out from the bloated genre where it does shine is in the music; some 44 songs complete with multiple characters, tons of costumes, and fully animated videos that go along with it and can be watched once they are unlocked by being played. I do wish that SEGA (With games like Yakuza, Binary Domain, and Valkyria Chronicles SEGA is one of my favorite publishers) would port over the Vita release, just to add another good game to their skinny western lineup, but I must admit I am taken with the demo for the PS3 release and I was struggling with the idea of buying this game at full retail, until...

hm4

I'm willing to wager that virtually all gaming parents would like to play games with their children. It's our hobby, so naturally we are excited to see our children show an interest in it as something special we can share. Sadly, in the VAST majority of my gaming, my daughters shouldn't even be in the room when I'm on my PS3 so when there's an opportunity to play something with my eldest it's a treat for both of us. Such was the case with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Ratchet and Clank 4, Little Big Planet and many others. So when I invited my daughter to try the demo and then introduced her on Youtube to Hatsune Miku you can imagine the 'SQUEE' my inner Otaku let out. Then, diabolically a plan was hatched...

hm5

Which brings me full circle. The covenant has been strained, to be sure. My daughter has pushed the very limits of her end of the bargain and vocally longs for the day when such reasonable restrictions expire. She has no knowledge, however, that I am secretly rooting for her. She has little clue that inside her 39 year old Papa lurks the raging fires of an Otaking who has been that way long enough to know exactly where the term 'Otaking' comes from! She's managed to keep it together from the 1st of the month until now; the 14th. That's 13 long days to go but I may just go and place that preorder today. Sure the chance exists that she'll blow it before the deadline, and if that happens my inner otaku will have alot of explaining to do to my Japanese wife; who is all too aware of my secret identity! However, I have a lot of pressure on my side of the bargain: 1) This is something my daughter really wants and has worked hard to obtain, 2) It is something we can do together, and 3) I really really want it for myself as well!

... But that can be our little secret.

hm6

So, How Awesome is Dragon's Crown? (Impressions)

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Dragons Crown

Yeah, about that awesome.

A clear homage to Golden Axe and other similar fantasy side-scrolling brawlers, Dragon's Crown probably won't win any Game of the Year awards but for what it does it is practically flawless. I chose the Vita version to facilitate ease of play at work (woot) but I kind of regret that; this game is PERFECT for party-play; invite a few friends over and hack-n-drink your way through the night. The characters (Fighter, Wizard, Witch, Amazon, Dwarf, and Elf) are all varied and different enough to give you good reason to mix up your party and each is accompanied by their own tutorial to help you get accustomed to their individual play styles. DC pulls few punches; enemies can easily overwhelm an arrogant player and even the first boss can be a challenge for the unwary, single dwarf! You won't be alone long though; DC is a game meant for a party and it eases you into the prospect with NPCs you can find and resurrect in dungeons (although you must first recover their bones and bring them to the monk in town who has the power to do so.) These resurrected character will be you initial companions but eventually you'll want to take advantage of other players. In other words; here's a multi-player game that us single-player game enthusiasts can get in to!

dc 2

There is a definite finesse to battle, despite its simple appearance on the surface. While most combos are mapped to one button with a directional companion other characters have a second set of attack options on a second button. Still more can be unlocked as skill upgrades; one set of upgrades are common to all characters and the other is class specific. These powers expand as your character levels, evolving into their own distinct persona and enabling you to include party members who share your own class and yet still function independently enough to not cramp your style.

dc3

In addition to your 4 main party members you are accompanied by your constant companion Rannie the Rogue; whose only job is to pick locks and occasionally pick up items you're too lazy to get, and eventually Tiki the Fairy, who will assist you in finding the crap-load of secret stuff you are likely to miss until you are moving off screen and it's too late to go back and get it. DC features a truly surprising level of depth for a side-scroller and, as a child of the age when these were our bread and butter, I can honestly say I am impressed. While missions will send you back to the same levels over and over again to mostly fight recycled enemies there are enough little hidden items and areas to make you actually want to do so.

dc4

Ultimately the place where Dragon's Crown shines the most is exactly where it was meant to: in all its 4 player glory. For a Vita player who will spend most of his time playing without an internet connection this is a bit of a disappointment, for while DC supports Cross Save it is decidedly not Cross Buy or Cross Play. A shame, that, since this is undisputedly the best Vita game to come out after Persona 4 Golden. If Sony had decided to go Cross Buy then an incentive for Vita owners would be to level their character while off line and then hop on the PS3 when they got home for some hot-blooded multi-player action in all its 52 inch HD glory. And that's really the black mark against the Vita version: this game is really too pretty to be small. I haven't noticed the slow down that some reviews mention when they talk about the Vita and a full party, but it does just strike me as a shame that such extravagant beauty should be viewed on such a small screen. Don't get me wrong; the game looks amazing on the small screen but it's kind of like trying to enjoy fine art online on your cell phone instead of going to the museum and seeing it first hand.

DC5

Overall Dragon's Crown is an incredibly fun experience made better by multi-player, made even better than that by multi-player with your friends. While it won't win any major awards (and will probably be one of those underground titles in the tradition of Ico) I foresee it developing a rabidly loyal, hardcore fan base. You can count me in that group but I will be definately be on the lookout for a free Plus offering or a price drop in the PS3 version; I'm happy to have another great Vita game but this particular game deserves a bigger canvas for its great art.

Dragon's Crown - 7.5 (PS3 Recommended)