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SEGA AGES PANZER DRAGOON (NEW)

The Saturn had a plethora of original Sega titles such as the epoch defining Panzer Dragoon. This PS2 version includes the original Saturn game along with an updated hi-res version along with some bonus extras of artwork and cut sequences in the Pandoras Box - which as the name suggests requires opening. The stirring orchestral score sounds splendid on the PS2 and gameplay is just a refreshing as the Dragoon swoops through beautifully textured valleys, skirting the ravine edge. Whilst gameplay is on the rails the 360 degree firing range makes it feel unrestricted as you fly against hordes of critters to drop them from the sky. The controls remain faithful with the ability to scan around checking for sneaky assailants. Jaw dropping visuals and a story whose threads gently wrap around you before you realise you are cocooned in it. Saturn veterans will lap this up and hopefully the uninitiated will see whats got everyone in a flap.

A fine review of Sega's inspired flight of fancy...

Publisher: Sega
Game Type: Shoot Em Up

Console: PS2

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Caladrius (New)

Title : Caladrius (New)
Publisher : Moss
Game Type : Shoot Em Up
Console : XBox360

Price : £57.99

Moss unleash quite a beast in this version of bullet hell that seems to be connected direct to hell with its dark overtones and gothic splendour. Certainly not lacking in imagination as bosses utilise their full 3D capabilities to put the willies up players ships having to share the same screen space that feels positively claustrophobic during such encounters. Splendid character design and a heart beat in sync with Akiba culture chic. A real otakus dream realised in glorious gothic graphics.

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adelman.jpegIf you want to get your indie game onto Nintendo's platforms -- the Wii U and 3DS -- you'll want to talk to Dan Adelman, who works as the company's liaison with indies.

While his title is "business development manager," he's best known as the man who helped World of Goo and the Bit.Trip series, among many others, land on the WiiWare service for the original Wii. He joined Nintendo in 2005 to help build that service; Since then, the company has transitioned to new platforms, and offers a much better shop on them, called the eShop.

The abovementioned games were notable successes. Some other developers, however, later spoke out against Nintendo's policies and practices, and shared dismal sales numbers for WiiWare titles. The company has quietly been changing its policies, but has had a difficult time getting the word out.

As GDC begins, in this extensive interview, Adelman fills Gamasutra in on exactly what indie developers want to know about releasing a game on the Wii U and 3DS.

Let's state this simply, to start. Is it possible for an indie to get a game onto the eShop service right now?

Dan Adelman: You know, it's crazy that there are so many developers who don't realize this, but yes, it is not only possible for an indie to get a game onto the eShop service, we've tried to make it as frictionless as possible.

Developers have always been able to make their content available on our systems since the WiiWare days, without the need for an intermediary publisher between the developer and Nintendo. Nor do they need to mount a big PR campaign just to be allowed onto the service. Our philosophy is that if you believe enough in your game to build it, we want to do what we can to support you.

Do developers need to be registered Nintendo developers? What does that entail?

DA: Yes, they do need to become licensed Nintendo developers, since they will need access to our development tools. It's actually pretty easy to become a licensed developer. We really have only a few requirements to sign up as a licensed developer with Nintendo. The most notable ones are that you have to have some experience making games, you have to be able to keep any confidential materials like dev kits secure and you have to form a company. None of these should be prohibitive to any indie developer.

In the past, you've required developers to have an office, but many indies work from home or are individuals. Is this policy changing?

DA: So that second requirement -- the ability to keep confidential materials secure -- was originally defined in terms of an office that was separate from the home. Back when that rule was created, that seemed to be an appropriate way of defining things.

As you point out, more and more people are working from home, and we recognize that developers are forming virtual teams around the world. I know we've shied away from talking about these things publicly in the past, so I'm glad that I can officially confirm that the office requirement is a thing of the past.

I've heard from developers that to publish on your services, they need an address in the territory in question, for example a Japanese address. I've even heard that Canadian developers need a U.S. address to publish in the U.S. Can you explain what's going on here?

DA: That's actually not the case. Anyone from any country can make their games available on the eShop within the NOA and NOE region -- i.e., pretty much everywhere outside of Japan.

Steam is the obvious market leader here. Developers are used to Valve's functionality, like sales, preorders, preloads, and painless patching. Can you talk about your plans around these four aspects of your service?

DA: Developers set their own pricing for their Wii U and Nintendo 3DS content. As one example, Little Inferno launched at $14.99. They did a sale for $9.99, and it went so well, they decided to make that price change permanent. It's completely in their control.

Updating games is also fairly straightforward. If they find an issue they need to fix, they can. In terms of other Nintendo eShop functionality, there's a dedicated team working through a roadmap of new features. We'll be able to announce those as they get closer to release.

What kind of outreach are you doing on the tools side, since Nintendo platforms require custom dev kits?

DA: Dev kits are actually not all that expensive. They're about the price of a high-end PC. Nothing that should be a showstopper for anyone.

There are a number of really exciting things going on in this space right now. We recently announced that we're providing Unity Pro 4 for Wii U to licensed developers at no added cost. So if a developer is currently working on a game in Unity and has a Wii U dev kit, it should be super easy to bring that game over to the Wii U console -- and not just do a straight port but also take advantage of any features of the console they want, like motion controls, Miiverse or of course the second-screen GamePad controller. Or vice versa -- making a game for Wii U and then going to other platforms should also be seamless.

In addition, at GDC we're going to be talking about some new tools we're rolling out for developers to use HTML5 and JavaScript to make games. The thing I'm most excited about for this is how easy it is to prototype new game ideas to find the fun quickly and easily.

Is someone who's licensed to publish to the eShop for 3DS also capable of going to the Wii U and vice versa, or are these separate?

DA: The process and policies are virtually identical. If they're licensed developers for one, it's a fairly straightforward process to become a licensed developer on other systems.

What's your payment schedule like? Indies need quick and frequent payment. Have you changed your policy, which previously didn't pay out until a game crossed a 6000 unit threshold? What about frequency? Quarterly or monthly?

DA: We tend not to talk about business terms, since those are considered confidential. That said, the unit threshold is something that's been a problem for a lot of developers, so I'd like to address it head on.

Let me give you a sense of the thought process behind the threshold in the first place. Even as far back as the early WiiWare days, we allowed developers to forgo the need to hire an intermediary publisher to get their content on our system. We didn't believe that Nintendo should screen game concepts. That should be up to the developer who's making the investment. Instead, we wanted to have a mechanism that would encourage developers to self-police their own game quality.

The threshold was thought to be a convenient way to go about it. Unfortunately, some great games that just didn't find an audience wound up being penalized. So for all systems after WiiWare -- DSiWare, Nintendo 3DS eShop, and Wii U eShop, we decided to get rid of the thresholds altogether. Developers receive revenue from unit 1.

Has working with indies like Vblank, Nicalis, and Gaijin Games helped change your tune? Have you been taking feedback from your existing stable of developers on board?

DA: Absolutely. I like to think we've built up a relationship of trust with a lot of the developers on our system, so they know they can say whatever's on their mind. And not just when they have an issue that needs to be resolved, either. We try to take a proactive stance with developers and solicit feedback from time to time. How can our development tools be better? What kind of functionality do you want to see in the eShop? How can we improve our processes to make life easier? I kind of see a big part of my role as representing the indie community inside Nintendo to make sure that we can make our systems as friendly as possible.

How are you on responsiveness? Nintendo has a reputation for having a lot of corporate overhead -- how do you get indies the things they need quickly?

DA: A lot of our processes were originally created in an environment where there was a set number of large publishers who had employees on staff whose sole job was to interface with the different console platforms. Those people had to learn how we were organized and know who to call for what issue. That obviously doesn't work for smaller developers.

As a result, we've narrowed everything down to a single point of contact -- one alias that developers can write to for any issue. There's a core team at Nintendo who then tracks down the information and follows up. We have an internal goal of getting every question a response within 24 hours. And if we can't get an answer in 24 hours, we at least will let them know when we expect to be able to get them what they need.

What kind of editorial staff do you have working on the eShop (both platforms), to make sure good games get featured prominently? I've noticed changes there, but can you outline how that works to some extent?

DA: We really try to make sure that we're not setting Nintendo up as the arbiter of what is a good game. That's for the market to decide. We try to give visibility to every new game when they launch. The nice thing about the Nintendo eShop is that we have a lot of flexibility on this point. We can make adjustments without much lead time. Beyond that, we look to things like user ratings, review scores, and in the case of Wii U, Miiverse activity to see how people are responding to certain games.

That said, there are a few times when we do take a little editorial license. Sometimes there's a game that we recognize is a great game for a niche audience or is trying something so new that people may not get it right away. In those cases, even if a game doesn't have big numbers right away, we want to make sure that we give it time to find its audience.

To me, one of the best things about the indie scene is its willingness to try out new ideas and take risks. If someone is attempting something that has never been tried before, I want to do everything I can to support that. Little Inferno is a great example of that -- a game about buying things and burning them! When Kyle Gabler from Tomorrow Corporation told me about the idea a few years ago, my response was that I loved the fact that I could not imagine what that game would turn into. As an industry, we need more of that!

And let's not forget about Unkle Dill, the dancing pickle in Runner 2. So very, very awesome.

Any stats or comment on what portion of your audience has downloaded an independently-developed game from the eShop, on both platforms?

DA: I can't give out any specific numbers, but developers seem to be pretty happy with the sales numbers they're seeing for their games.

Nintendo platforms are unique. If a game is going to feature very Nintendo-specific functionality (e.g. 3DS dual-screen play, GamePad play on Wii U) will you consider working more closely with a developer on their vision?

DA: It's great when developers see the features of our platform and decide to build around those as pillars for their game. Mutant Mudds by Renegade Kid did this brilliantly. In many respects, it was a traditional 2D platformer, but it was designed around the 3D functionality of the Nintendo 3DS. It was one of the first games that used depth of view as a game mechanic.

Fractured Soul by Endgame Studios is another great example. That whole game was designed around the dual-screen functionality of Nintendo 3DS. One of the core mechanics is to switch back and forth between the two screens, keeping an eye on both at the same time.

That said, it's really important that developers see these platforms features as opening up new design options for them. They should never feel obligated to tack on a feature if it doesn't make sense. It's completely up to the designer to figure out what's best for the game. Because making great games is what it's all about.

For sister site Gamasutra's full GDC 2013 event coverage this week, check out the official GDC 2013 event page.

[Christian Nutt wrote this article originally for Gamasutra]

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Mosquito (Best)

Title : Mosquito (Best)
Publisher : Sony Computer Entertainment
Game Type : A Bit Special
Console : PS2

Price : £9.99

Innovative, if a little off- kilter, 'Ka' is played through the eyes of a mosquito trying to get a good feed. The much-maligned insect can fly freely within the room to close in on a human occupant and try and hit one of the sweet spots suitable for feeding. Unfortunately the family living in the house are aware of your humming presence and will lash out if flying too close or the blood isn't efficiently pinched with a tight joypad rotation. Interesting scenarios with the mother preparing dinner and the slightly voyeuristic section with a lady in the bath. Sony again delivers another genre bending title. Just keep away from the smoking mosquito coils, no matter how tempting they look.

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Dodonpachi Double Pack (New)

Title : Dodonpachi Double Pack (New)
Publisher : Cave
Game Type : Shoot Em Up
Console : XBox360

Price : £39.99

Dream double pack with two Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu games: ver 1.5 and the Black Label versions. The chain meter clanks up as players shoot down adversaries to help boost score for the cool fingered gamers out there. The Akiba influence is definitely there too as players are assaulted from enemies from high school girl assailants to mecha maids. But underpinning the pink bullet eye candy are solid shooter mechanics and some sturdy level design. The on the ground vehicles keep players eyes twitching between multi levels as tanks grind along and trains whiz by. The water transparencies are exquisite too as ships fly out from under the surface having trailed the players vessel. But the 360s raw power is laos harnessed to make the bosses perform the odd 3D rotational twist workout.

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In an industry that at times seems constantly obsessed with the Next Big Thing, it's no wonder there's always so much hype that swirls around the introduction of a new generation of video game consoles. Console gamers don't have the same geek luxury as, say, Apple fanatics, who get a couple shiny new devices every year. Typically, it's only once every several years that a major new home video game console launches. That's a long ...

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Developer Dare Manojlovic has released new gameplay footage for the upcoming Altitude0, an aerial racing title that looks to be shaping up quite nicely.

Much of the game's challenge involves maintaining a steady flight path at a low altitude, though the obstacles strewn throughout each course certainly don't make things any easier. "It can be quite challenging to avoid trees while flying just above forests," creator Manojlovic notes. "So it's important that you think and feel like an air race pilot, maneuvering your plane swiftly in the air, rolling and spinning to avoid obstacles."

It looks like it could be a lot of fun -- the stunt-based racing gives me a strong Pilotwings vibe, which is always a good thing. No release date for Altitude0 has been announced.

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Moe Mekuri series developer Kohei's latest Xbox Live Indie Games release has arrived, and its premise is...certainly unique.

The Houchi Play (Neglect Play) stars the 56-year-old Taro Heibon, "a timid buddy who wants to reveal the true self and feel the heavenly bliss." Though he's been happily married for 30 years, Taro's secret desire is to be verbally abused by women dressed in cosplay outfits. Gathering his courage, he decides to live out his fantasy for just one night by visiting a cosplay bar.

Taro starts each level on the left side of the screen, while a cosplay hostess awaits at the other end of the room. By pressing the left and right triggers on the Xbox 360 controller, players slowly scoot Taro toward the right side of the screen...but only while the woman's back is turned, or else Taro presumably dies of embarrassment.

While shuffling his way toward cosplay bliss, Taro can chug nearby bottles of alcohol to boost his courage (and movement speed). In later rounds, random events can either distract the hostesses or make them more aware of Taro's presence. It soon becomes very challenging!

The Houchi Play is priced at 80 Microsoft points ($1).

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dlc quest.jpg[Written by Mike Rose on Gamasutra.]

A couple of Xbox Live Indie Games developers have seen notable increases in sales of their games, due to two separate forms of cross-platform and cross-game advertising.

Going Loud Studios founder Ben Kane revealed that, since being a part of Gamasutra sister website Indie Royale over the weekend, with a PC version of his games DLC Quest and Lair of the Evildoer available via the latest bundle, sales of the Xbox version of DLC Quest have quadrupled.

DLC Quest had sold 134 copies on XBLIG the weekend before the Indie Royale bundle -- however, during the bundle this past weekend, the XBLIG version saw 506 sales in total. The game has been available via XBLIG for around four months.

"To move over 500 copies this past weekend on Xbox is nuts," he said. "It also has a pretty big implication -- you can do cross-platform advertising or word of mouth and have an effect on 360 sales."

He continued, "There's sort of been this age old wisdom that you can't really successfully advertise for XBLIG on PC or mobile, because there's just too much of a gap between looking at something on your PC, and then going and playing it on your Xbox."

However, he says that this past weekend has shown him that "at least to a certain extent, it can be done."

Elsewhere, the developer behind Minecraft-inspired XBLIG hit FortressCraft revealed via Twitter that another of its XBLIG games, Steam Heroes, has sold more than 10 times as many copies as it had previously, simply by offering an unlockable item for FortressCraft when you buy it.

Back in October, the company added a special in-game item for FortressCraft, that is unlocked by purchasing Steam Heroes. Sales of the game immediately rocketed following the inclusion, with 10 times as many people buying the game over the next couple of months than had purchased it over the 12 months prior to that.

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