Author Archives: leady247

Musou Outtakes part 1: Western Musou games?

Last week I was lucky enough to have a very interesting Musou related conversation via Skype.  The conversation was with someone that I consider to be a true Musou expert, someone with ‘working knowledge’ of the series….Let’s call him ‘Mr. L’.

I will be doing a full Musou 2 Me interview with Mr. L shortly – right now I will post the transcript of our conservation regarding Western Musou comparators as I think it contained some interesting insights. Enjoy ^^

Mr. L: still waiting for your next What makes a Musou article :P
Leady: I have started the 3rd part…
Leady: but went off on a massive tangent lool
Leady: and confused myself hahaha
Mr. L: Just like Musou! :D
Leady: lool!
Leady: I have pieces of it written on my pc, ipad and bberry
Leady: Here’s a question for you….
Leady: what do you think is the closest a Western studio has come to making a Musou game?
Leady: or a game using design and mechanics close to the Musou formula?
Mr. L: Left 4 Dead perhaps? at least gameplay wise.
Mr. L: Not story wise
Leady: interesting
Mr. L: Left 4 Dead definitely has that one vs many feel to it
Mr. L: hundreds and hundred of enemies

Left 4 Dead features hundred of zombie enemies - is it the Western equivalent to Ikkitosen?

Mr. L: brb…
Leady: ok
Mr. L: ok back
Mr. L: Yeah, all the games that come to mind as comparisons to Musou are Asian
Mr. L: N3 and Kingdom under Fire are Korean
Mr. L: Final Fight and clones are all Japanese
Mr. L: I’m trying to think of Western games that have perspective based story-telling
Mr. L: but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head
Leady: I was thinking Lego Star Wars
Leady: in terms of the Character Action part
Leady: its basically Musou
Leady: but lacks the 1 v 1000 feeling
Leady: but then again so does Ken and other recent Musou games
Mr. L: actually, Lego might be a good example as well

Lego Star Wars 3 looks to ramp up the enemy count - maybe it's getting even closer to Musou? Notice that Ahsoka is reverse wielding her lightsaber here - just like in the TV show.

Leady: they really seem to have mucked Lego Star Wars III up
Leady: I was really looking forward to that
Mr. L: Marvel Ultimate Alliance might be another good comparison
Leady: oh yer good point
Mr. L: but yeah, I can’t think of a Western game where playing as different characters presents different points of view in the same overarching story
Leady: Also in Lego Star Wars all the characters have very simple controls and there are cloned animations rigs
Leady: on differing bodies
Leady: which really reminded me of Musou as well
Leady: and the fun is in unlocking all the characters and playing them just because they are ‘them’
Leady: and you know them from the outside fiction
Mr. L: True

Marvel Ultimate Alliance closely matches Musou's Character Action and RPG elements.

Mr. L: though pre-Dynasty 6, Musou didn’t clone rigs
Leady: damn i should put this transcript on my blog ^^
Mr. L: back in the good old days of Musou
Leady: yeah but the moves were accessed off the same basic commands/inputs so players could slip from one character to another without trouble
Leady: in Final Fighte etc. there is more strategy needed to play each character
Mr. L: well if we’re looking at combos, we shift back to Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Leady: I need to try MUA out
Leady: but I don’t like Marvel lool
Mr. L: awww… poor Willy
Mr. L: let me play a song on the world’s smallest violin for you
Leady: hahaha lool
Leady: this is definately going on the blog now
Leady: lol
Mr.L: I guess the problem is that it’s easy to compare games to Musou gameplay
Mr. L: but Musou story telling is what makes it unique
Mr. L: I think the fact that Koei has recycled the same story over and over is what has hurt Musou so much
Mr. L: because as long as the stories are unique, Musou can be very interesting
Mr.L: I think back to the Japanese RPG Seiken Densetsu 3

Multi-perspective JRPGs such a Seiken Densetsu 3 offer differing scenarios depending on which character the player chooses.

Mr. L: the sequel to Secret of Mana
Mr. L: in that game you chose 3 of 6 characters to take with you as your party for the entire game
Mr. L: and based on your main character you end up with one of 6 unique prelude scenes and one of 3 final areas and boss sequences
Mr. L: As such, even though the middle is the same for all the characters, it feels like you are fighting for different reasons based on who you choose
Mr. L: and you have a different “really bad thing” on the line
Mr. L: Perspective is just something that is missing in western games…
Leady: ah i c
Mr. L: either the central character is a blank slate for the player to fill, or a single fleshed out character with no alternate characters to choose from
Leady: Remember Shining Force 3 on Saturn?

Probably one of the dumbest moves I have ever made in my life was trading in all 3 parts of Shining Force 3 on Saturn for a Dreamcast Pad and VMU. I have never traded-in a game since then...

Leady: It had 3 different scenario missions
Leady: sorry, disks
Mr. L: I recall Shining Force for Genesis, not Saturn
Leady: the Saturn one
Leady: had 3 disks
Leady: one for each character and his party
Leady: so each disk was an individual part of a main story
Mr. L: neat
Leady: then at the end all three characters and parties came together
Leady: for the big fight. (saved data crossed between games)
Mr. L: though japanese again :P
Mr. L: very neat
Mr. L: I approve
Leady: It was awesome

So that was the exert from our discussion. We went a bit off topic and got into JRPGs at the end there but I think it shows that while other games contain certain similarities the Musou formula remains quite unique – it’s either an inimitable piece of know-how to Koei or no other games company sees any profit in trying to copy it!

Leady247 ^^

Leady247 – February Round-Up

I’m writing this round-up having just got home from Wembley. Yes, Arsenal managed to lose the Carling Cup final. Not too much to say about that really: the pressure showed, our players looked nervous and ponderous when the chips were down and they just HAD to win. Maybe this Arsenal team’s best chance of silverware is the league where there isn’t that one-off big game pressure?

Gutted for both these guys today. 'Put too much pressure on themselves maybe?

Carling Cup aside it’s been a great month for me personally. My girlfriend has moved in and we are getting used to living together – so far it’s been 100% awesome. Over the next few months we will be getting some new furniture and slowly re-decorating.

Blog-wise we managed to have our record traffic month which is great news as due to the move I have been a little time-poor and haven’t posted since Feb 13th. I will definitely pick-up, post more in March and try to set a new traffic record. Another cool development is that Matt from God-Like Blog will be helping me with editing and writing going forward – this should allow things to become a lot more prolific.

What I really enjoy is interviewing gamers about their specialist subjects. When you talk to people that have invested massive amounts of time into their favourite series you always get some great insights. Personally, I find these types of accounts more valuable than reviews written by ‘all-rounder’ games journalists – some game series (like Musou) are slow-burners and take time to get into. Often professional reviewers don’t have the time or resources to devote themselves and work towards the goodness.

silvertongue's art-book collection was one of the most clicked images on the blog this month

I posted two Musou to Me interviews in Feb. I thought these were interesting as we can see some of the contrasting ways people enjoy Musou games. Ranger Ryu looked at things from a Tactical Action standpoint with DW3 as its ultimate expression. silvertongue was more of a Character Action fan with the content rich DW5 as his favourite.

Everyone I interview for Musou to Me has a lot to say about DW7 - just a few weeks to wait now!

Feb was also the month that my What makes a Musou? series made it into print. That was very satisfying.

On the beer side of things – I found a new-to-the-UK Blue Chimay in Leyton ASDA which I was very fond of – unfortunately it’s not available in any of the supermarkets near me yet.

I also discussed the Duvel glass I received for Xmas. Some people responded to the pictures I took for this article by saying that Leady247 doesn’t know how to pour a beer! Hopefully they got a chance to read the article and see the error of their ways by now….

Mans got some front trying to tell Leady247 he doesn't know how to pour a Duvel!

I didn’t have any February Star Wars updates but I shall be putting that right next month.

Arsenal-wise there was also a brief celebratory post after our glorious win over Barcelona – time will tell wether that result will have any long term benefit now.

Next month I am planning to post another two Musou to Me interviews. The first will be based on an interview I did with Jas Marwaha while I attended Midlands Expo. This one is going to be very in-depth – I couldn’t shut him up basically. The second interview will be with a mystery guest.

I am also going to try everything to finish my third What makes a Musou? article – this will be looking into the concepts behind Character Action.

I’ve not really decided where to take the Beer section next but I have some VB in the fridge waiting to be blogged.

Definitely need to post about these little beauties ^^

On the Star Wars side I will post some pictures of my Jawa and Droid collection and once I have finished watching Season 3 I’m planning a run-down of my favourite (and least favourite) Clone Wars episodes.

If I manage to get the game I’ll also post up some impressions of Lego Star Wars III. I was really looking forward to this game but having played the PS3 demo I have a bad feeling that Travellers Tales may have over-egged the gameplay pudding…so it should be interesting to see how it turns out.

Also, I have one more achievement to get in Plants vs Zombies HD – once I get that I’ll try and get a review up (it’s a 10/10 guaranteed but I still want to write it).

Leady247 ^^

Arsenal 2 – 1 FC Barcelona

This is the shortest blog post I will ever write but I just wanted to say:

The fact that Bendtner is in it makes it even better ^^

We are the Arsenal and we are coming for you rude boy!!

Leady 247 ^^

The Arsenal 2- Barca 1

Musou to Me part 3 – The silvertongue Interview

silvertongue is another big Musou fan I have known for a long time – I was thinking about it today and I can’t 100% remember where we first met. I think it was in Birmingham at Memorabilia Dec ’08. (Koei UK had a stand there promoting Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce PSP). Is that right slivertongue?

Anyway, wherever we first met we have been friends online ever since. He has been a key member of the Tecmo Koei Europe forums – propping up the discussions on Warriors games and Nippon Ichi’s RPGs during the quieter times and always on the pulse when it comes to new game announcements.

silvertongue was a key member of the Rebel forces during the defense of Echo base on Hoth...

silvertongue has always been somewhat obessive on the videogame artbook front  – either pre-ordering games to get the bonuses or attending Tecmo Koei events to buy the latest books. I got him to take us a picture of his collection because it’s awesome:

Yes, that's a signed (by Hisashi Koinuma) Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage artbook in the middle!

If you want to follow silvertongue on twitter, you can find him here @DirtyHandsX (I don’t even want to ask the origins of that nick).

Anyway, enough with the intro and on with the interview (I think you can tell which is his favourite Musou right from the beginning ;))…

So silvertongue, when did you play your first Musou game?

My first Dynasty Warriors game was back in 1998 on the Playstation 1 (Ed: he’s talking about the 1v1 fighting game that predated the ‘true’ Musou games check it out here).

If you mean my first ‘true’ Musou game then it would be Dynasty Warriors 2 on launch day of the Playstation 2 in 2000 UK  (I think it was then). A long time has past!

You bought you PS2 on launch day?  Did you have to queue up outside of the store?

No, I worked at GAME at the time so I was there for the launch but lots and lots of other people did.

Oh, that’s cool – I was working in EB (Oxford Street branch) for the PS2 launch. It was a cool night…

This is actually me - Leady247 - selling the UK's first PS2 back when I worked for EB, Oxford Street. I'm the ginger one.

…Going back to Dynasty Warriors 2, can you remember any of your first impressions of the game?

I remember being amazed at all the enemies on screen at the same time. It was extremely addictive and kept you coming back for more.

I also remember finding it quite difficult. Especially saving mid-stage – you had to find a crate/box which had a memory-card in it to save…and these were very few and far between.

People often tell me they liked the difficulty/challenge of the early DW games. Do you feel like the challenge of the series has faded over time?

Yes to a point. Sometimes it’s great to pick a game up and play it without getting frustrated with it being too challenging. However you can make a game too easy which takes away that feeling of accomplishment.

If people do find a Musou game too easy then they can always increase the difficulty setting to Chaos!

I do feel that Koei should invest some time into increasing the enemy A.I. – that in itself would increase the challenge.

In Musou games players can ratchet up the challenge by selecting 'Chaos' difficulty level.

So at what point would you say you became a Musou fan?

Well, I’ve always been a fan since DW2. However I would have to say when DW5 came along….that was when I became a total Musou fan! It blew me away with the amount of characters and their different stories.

Once DW got you into the The Three Kingdoms history did you research outside of the games to find out more about the characters or kingdoms?

The research came when Dynasty Warriors 5 arrived as it had a story for every character in the game. I became intrigued by all the different characters and their background stories.

So playing DW5 with its massive amount of characters and stories was like research in itself?

Of course. You have all the separate stories of each character to complete. Then there is also the in-game encyclopedia which in itself is like a Three Kingdoms history lesson.

Is DW5 the most content-rich Warriors game out there?

On the PS2 definitely…

…On PS3 I would say Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 which is absolutely huge in content.

DW5 had 48 playable characters each with their own unique story - in terms of content it's the ultimate Musou game.

We touched on the level of challenge earlier but I’d like to know more about how your impressions of Musou have changed since DW2?

Now the games look better, they play better. Saving is much easier now!

So much more content too. Take DW: Gundam 2 – that game is huge. The content is massive. I’ve been playing it for 55 hours now and still I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

What would you say are the key aspects to making a good Musou game?

The fun factor has certainly got to be there.  Then the story…expanding the story by introducing new characters.

I’ve always been a sucker for extra costumes too. It would be great to have all the costumes included from past games to unlock or as DLC.

Fist of the North: Ken's Rage was the first Musou game to feature paid DLC - including new costumes.

We’ve seen different approaches to DLC in Musou games – for example: DWSF which had alot of free DLC but it was limited to remixed stages and re-coloured bosses.  Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage used paid DLC but offered some cool stuff like new costumes, characters and scenarios.  Which way do you think is better?

That’s quite a difficult question actually. On one hand everybody loves free stuff no matter what….

If Koei was to go down the route of charging for it’s DLC I do think the price should reflect what it is we’re actually buying.

If we had to buy DLC for DWSF then I would expect it to cost no more than £3 – £4 for about four to five of those missions. After all they are mainly just colour swaps.

As for FNS:KR DLC, yes we’re paying for extra characters, missions and costumes and I think the prices should reflect that.

However I would always say free DLC is the way to go – it’s kinder to all our pockets.

Would you be happy to pay for more content on top of the £50 you are paying for each game? Musou games come out quite often so I wonder if people would want to invest in DLC for each one?

It depends what content it is and what I’m getting for the price! I’m a sucker for costumes. So, yes – but it all depends on pricing.

When do you usually play Musou games?

Anytime I can. It doesn’t really matter what time of the day it is…I work from home so if I’ve finished what I need to do I’ll quite happily sit for a few hours playing a Musou game!

Do you just play when a new game comes out? Or do you play the old ones as well?

I play whichever I feel like at the time. I went back to play DW5 and noticed I’d lost all my save data…..’really wasn‘t very happy about that…so I decided to play through the whole game again and finish it.

So, yes, I play the old ones too.

DW5 has some great ending movies but would you really want to see them twice like slivertongue ;)

Do you like the feeling of unlocking and levelling characters then? Is it still as satisfying second time around?

Yes very much so. I suppose it comes from playing RPG’s as there is always a lot of levelling involved in those games. I’ve just started to play Warriors Orochi 2 again and I’m trying to level all the characters to level 99. It remains to be seen if I actually manage it.

So we know you played through it twice – what is about Dynasty Warriors 5 that makes it so good?

The amount of characters and stories that are involved in the game and plus it’s extremely addictive!

You could say that about alot of Musou games, what is it about DW5 that is better than other Musou games to you?

Honestly I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because it was the first Warriors game that I completed fully (twice), maybe it’s because of all the different characters. I really don’t know.

I know that you like JRPG games as well as Musou.  Do you see a alot of similarities between the two types of games?

When it comes to levelling characters and maxing out their stats then, yes…also the addictive gameplay. One of the differences is that JRPG’s tend to have quirky stories, especially Nippon Ichi games. You either love them or hate them.

It's fair to say most modern-day Musou fans tend to be into Final Fantasy and other JRPGs. Lots of levelling, cut-scene viewing and pretty boys ^^

Do you play each Musou game for a long time?

Very much so.

What keeps you addicted to the game and makes you keep playing ?

The gameplay is addictive, there’s a huge story being told. There’s always new tweaks to the gameplay and new characters to explore.

Have you ever played multiplayer mode in a Musou game?

Yes, Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce PS3 – which I really enjoyed. Did I mention that DW: Strikeforce is my favourite PS3 Musou game?

No you didn’t, that’s interesting – why did you enjoy that one so much?

I think mainly because it had a kind of fantasy twist to it. The characters had alternate forms to them: Fury form!

DWSF's fury forms split the Musou community - some liked them, others hated them. Personally I thought Dong Boar was genius.

It also had a lot more RPG elements to it. Farming materials to make weapons and orbs. Again, levelling characters so you could use stronger weapons. Also you could use all weapons on all characters.

The addition of trophies via PSN was great and made it more addictive.

Did the online co-op make a huge difference to the Musou experience?

Yes, very much so. It was great to play with other players whether it was to help you get trophies or just to complete the harder missions. I hope to see more online play in Musou games.

What about your feelings on the other next-gen Musou games such DW6, Gundam or FNS?

Firstly, I think DW6 gets too much of a hard time. It wasn’t what everyone wanted in terms of gameplay and had some cloned characters but I see it as something that was testing the water for Musou on next-gen consoles.

DW: Gundam 2 is way better than the first one. I knew nothing about the Gundam universe before it but I have to say I’m learning haha!! The content is massive in this game.

Fist of the North Star was a total surprise for me. Again I knew nothing of the series but again loved the game – It’s amazing what you can learn from playing a game.

I like stuff like Gundam and FNS because the game universe is completely different. They’re a nice fresh twist to the DW formula that we’ve all come to love. There’s a  whole roster of new characters to become attached to, new stories to become addicted to and to see what happens next.

Many Musou fans didn't know what a Zaku was until Dynasty Warriors: Gundam dropped.

Do you have any ideas for future Musou games?

Expand on the old story-lines to create new ones. Introduce new characters. Expand on the  move sets for each character. Create a brand new fantasy world, completely original and fictional. How about a traditional Three Kingdoms RPG?

Wow, ok, so just a few small upgrades required then! Have you ever bought any merchandise connected to Musou?

Yes, the odd Japanese book.

Have you made any friends through the Musou community online?

Yes.

How about in real life?

No, none of my friends are into gaming!

If you could give a message to non-Musou fans about why they should try the game what would you say?

You’ll be surprised at how much a Warriors/Musou game has to offer! Don’t always listen to reviews. Can you really believe what someone has to say about a game until you’ve tried it for yourself!

If you could give a message to development team of Musou what you say?

Listen to your fan base.

And if they listened what would they hear? In this interview you have been very positive about your experience with Musou games – are their elements that need some improving?

I’d say the major improvement that needs to be made is enemy AI and no cloning.

Who would you say is your all-time favourite Musou game character?

Sun Jian all the way. He doesn’t come across as being power hungry and obsessed. Also I love his DW6 character design. It’s just unfortunate that his time in the Three Kingdoms period is quite short in comparison to other characters.

silvertongue's favourite character - the Ruler of Wu: Sun Jian

Which is your favourite Musou game and why?

If we’re talking PS2 then it’s DW5, always has been and always will be. All the stories and all the characters just make it for me.

If we’re talking PS3 then 100% Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce. Online play is great. There’s so much do. Content wise the game is huge!

Thanks very much for the interview silvertongue – lots of insight there.

Remember, if anyone reading this wants to take part in a Musou to Me interview just drop me a message in the comment box – Leady247 ^^

Thursday night’s review of an awesome Xmas present – DUVEL GLASS

Readers of prior beer related posts on this blog will know that one of the best Xmas presents I was given this year was an official Leffe Glass/Chalice. This glass was purchased for me by my sister on a trip to Belgium with her boyfriend James.

What remains hitherto undisclosed is that I was given another just-as-cool beer glass over the Xmas period by my girlfriend’s father. The purchasing of the glass took place on a trip to Avignon’s Auchan supermarket detailed previously in this post. At the front of the store there was a section selling various beer brand’s Xmas gift boxes – generally these contained a few bottles and a glass…

I have been a fan of Belgium’s ‘Devil’ golden ale Duvel since enjoying a few while watching the 2010 Champions League final at a bar in Lyon. I have been buying Duvel in the UK at my local Tesco ever since, however I have always lacked an appropriate glass from which to appreciate it. So when it came down to making a decision on which Xmas gift pack to pick-up there was only one choice.

This is a pic of the gift-pack. I swapped out one of the Duvels for a bottle of Vietnamese Chilli Sauce for safer carriage home.

The Duvel glass is definitely a goblet – with a short stem and deep, wide bowl that tapers in then fans out at the top. It has room for around 500ml I would say – this is required as a well poured Duvel will have a very decent sized head to it.

I really think the golden Duvel logo on the front of the goblet is a touch of class too – I have subjected it to numerous dish-washings now and it has not lost its luster at all.

Here's a good look at the glass with it's shiny gold logo ^^

The cool thing about the carboard packaging of the Duvel gift-set was that it had instructions of how to poor the perfect Duvel: Tilt the glass towards the bottle neck and poor in the liquid slowly. As your pour raise the bottle away from the glass – this creates a nice even head. You should aim for the head of the beer to start roughly half-way up the golden Duvel logo (so it’s not just there for show^^). Visually this creates what looks like a 50/50 split between head and beer but as the bottom of the glass is wider there is actually more liquid than it seems.

I would say that's a perfect head to liquid ratio ^^ thank you, thank you

As you drink the Duvel the head slowly melts into creamy patches stacked up where the goblet tapers.

The amount of liquid the glass can take and its thin stem means that it has a satisfying heft and great hand-feel. Watching the golden ale bubble away in the cauldron shaped base of the glass is fantastic stuff too.

Here's drinker's-eye-view of the action. Thirsty?

Well, that’s it for my new Duvel glass – I love it. Thanks very much to Daniel Ducret for buying it for me ! ^^ More soon.

Leady247 ^^

Musou to Me part 2 – The Ranger Ryu Interview

I’ve known Ranger Ryu for a good while – getting on for 5 years now I think. When we first met we were both members of the Koei.com forums, since then he has moved up to the role of moderator.

Ryu’s one of the many Musou fans that have taught me about the series and opened up Koei’s Pandora’s Box of franchise for my enjoyment – for that I would like to thank him ^^.

Ranger Ryu's name is taken from the lead character in Capcom's JRPG series 'Breath of Fire'.

Ranger Ryu has always been a crucial ‘ear-to-the-ground’ – keeping me up to date on the latest views and opinions of Musou fans as well as tracking pricing and merchandising of Koei products in his local game shops.

My main comment about Ranger Ryu is that he has a very keen eye for detail and can spot the spelling and factual errors on websites that other wouldn’t notice – he’s always popping up on my MSN to point out something! In fact I am sure the first thing he will say to me after reading this is ‘ummm…Leady…yunno there is alot of spelling mistakes in that article!’ (that’s why I’ve read through this article like 3 times before posting it!).

Usually I would put a picture of the person being interviewed in the article.  However I thought for Ranger Ryu it was better to use Yurika from Nadesico as this the avatar he always uses on MSN!

Ranger Ryu uses Yurika from Nadesico as his MSN avatar. I have known him so long I have come associate him with her face!

As an experienced Musou player and also someone that is very in-touch with the current thinking of the community I thought he would be a perfect choice for my second ‘Musou to Me’ interview (if you want to read the first one with the loverly Gischie it’s right here).

Anyway on with the (epic in length and full of insight) Ranger Ryu show:

So Ryu, when did you play your first Musou game?

I played the demo of the first Dynasty Warriors (PS1) game on the Official PlayStation Magazine demo disc which if I’m honest I didn’t actually like. …

As for the first time I played a DW game and loved it ….that would be the demo of Dynasty Warriors 3 which was also included on an Official PlayStation Magazine demo disk.

Can you remember any of your first impressions of the game?

Really addictive. There’s something about hitting countless AI soldiers that just makes you want to keep coming back for more – plus the variety in the character’s move-sets made each character someone whose story mode you wanted to complete even if they did go through the same battles as others.

The DW3 generation character designs converted many people to Musou fandom ^^ (above are the guys that joined the playable crew for DW3: XL)

Did you research outside of the game to find out more about the Three Kingdoms theme?

At first I didn’t – mainly due to the fact I didn’t have a PC at home back then.

My research started once I had played Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII. I read through the character bios in the game and that made me want to research each of them and Kingdoms they fought for.

Where you playing Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII simultaneously with DW3? I think they both came out in the UK in 2005 right?

DW3 actually came out in March 2002 and RTK 8 in 2004 – but yes I was playing them at the same time.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII is quite a rare game in the UK despite it being released as a budget game. Where did you buy it?

HMV, Church Street, Liverpool. Actually Leady, it was a full price release first, then it was released on budget.

This is Liverpool branch of HMV where Ranger Ryu picked up his first RTK game ^^

You play both RTK and Warriors games – so is the Three Kingdoms setting a really key part of the enjoyment to you?

It’s more of a case that I liked strategy games since the PS1 days…games like the Command and Conquer series.

So once I got into the DW universe a strategy game based on the Three Kingdoms period became a natural thing to love.

Plus RTK helped expand my knowledge of the era. RTK8 went further into the timeline then DW did, for example including ‘The Fall of Shu’ in 263 AD.

When would you say you became a Musou fan?

From the first time I played the DW3 demo I was hooked.  Even though you couldn’t finish the level (Nanman Campaign) in the time limit allocated I didn’t care. I explored the whole thing – even going down the different paths in the level rather than the centre.

Then I picked up the full version of DW3 from HMV and couldn’t stop playing it.

After that I started to pick-up all the Musou games, firstly DW3: Xtreme Legends and then on and on.

The DW3 Nanman Map that Ranger Ryu got addicted to ^^ (click through to koeiwarriors.co.uk for more)

How have your impressions of Musou changed since those early days?

The change from a Soul Blade clone,  1 v 1 fighting game to the Musou game it is now was a really great choice by Koei.

As the DW series went on the graphics obviously got better, as well as the character designs and voice acting. I prefer to listen to the characters in English rather than Japanese – actually playing DW3 in French helped me revise for my GCSE French Listening exam.

The story cut-scenes have greatly improved – actually I thought that was one things Dynasty Warriors 6 did quite well.

‘Only thing that lets the series down now in my opinion is the AI of the soldiers – in DW2 and 3 they were so very aggressive but now they just stand around and wait to be hit.

You said the cut-scenes in DW6 worked well for you.  What was it about the scenes in that game that improved over past examples?

They featured deeper looks at the characters than previous games, going into their feelings about the era they were in and their motivations.  There is one scene where Sun Quan is talking with Lu Xun and Quan is talking about his vision for the land once it’s united under his rule….that sort of thing is cool.

What would you say are the key things to making a good Musou game?

Mostly it’s the AI of the enemy soldiers – it needs to be challenging without being too cheap. Actually, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam was an improvement over recent Musous in that regard.

Musou games also need interesting character’s.  I don’t want to play a story mode as say “generic general number two” or something.  I need to have a good story with drama. I especially liked Sun Shang Xiang’s story mode in DW6 where at Yi Ling she was torn between her husband Liu Bei and her brother Sun Quan.

The Double Zeta maybe a powerhouse but the DWG series has some aggressive enemy AI...

Can you elaborate on the AI in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam?

The AI in the DW: Gundam games seems to return to when the AI was good in the Warriors series – around DW3 and 4. The fights against the boss Mobile Suits were especially tough too, the hardest opponents were people like Haman Khan but maybe that’s mostly down to the Quebley…

When do you usually play Musou games?

Whenever I can really, though mostly it’s in the night or at weekends when I have the most free time.

Do you just play when a new game comes out? Or do you play the old ones as well?

I play the old ones alot, mostly DW3 and Samurai Warriors 2. Even though DW3 has better AI I would say I’ve put the most time into SW2….about 149 hours actually – that’s about 6 days!

What is it that makes Samurai Warriors 2 so good?

I like the characters more and as there are less of them in total than in DW you can concentrate more on each individual character. The levels are better designed in my opinion as well.

Also the Sengoku setting allows for more varied characters and weapons – the time period of SW is 1,300 years after DW. You get units and characters using weapons like muskets for example.  It just makes the characters move-sets alot more varied than in DW.

I also liked the narration idea that was introduced in SW where someone would explain what was going on and that it was tailored to whichever character you were using at the time.

Like many other Musou fans, Ranger Ryu claims SW2 is the best the Musou series has to offer.

At which stage where you introduced to the SW series? It seems to me that many people start off their Musou journey with DW and then end up moving across to SW…

I got into DW first, yes, specifically DW3 and the DW4 series (starting with DW4: Empires).  After that I picked up the first SW game and I quite liked it especially the idea of the the alternative paths within the story mode.

Can you elaborate on the narration element of SW2 that you liked?

When you play a stage in the story mode a narrator sets the scene for the battle and the events leading up to it.

I like this because it sets the general scene and you get a sense of where you stand at that point in history – specifically what your character is doing. For example: setting the scene for the battle of Anegawa, if you’re playing as, say,  Magoichi Saika explaining why you’re there.

Magoichi Saika - why does he go anywhere?

Do you play each Musou game for a long time?

Yes, I do.

What keeps you addicted to the game and makes you keep playing?

Really it’s to see what the development team – Omega Force – comes up with next to improve the series.  Although now we can say that Renbu in DW6 was a mistake! It looks like they’ve corrected their mistakes for DW7 though, which I’m really looking forward too.

Have you ever played multi-player mode in a Musou game?

Yes, I have with my friend. Mostly co-op though I’ve not played the online modes in DW:Gundam 2 or DW:Strikeforce on the PS3 yet.

Did you try Dynasty Warriors:Strikeforce multi-player?

I did on the PSP, yes, it greatly improves the game from the single-player experience.

DW: Strikeforce PSP is currently the pinnacle of co-op for the series. It will be interesting to see if DW7 can match it.

Have you played any of the next-gen Musou games such as DW6, Gundam or FNS?

Yes, I’ve played DW6 and Gundam. I didn’t really like the demo for Fist of the North Star though…maybe I need to give it another shot….

I loved Gundam though as I’ve seen the series on Toonami, Gundam Wing.

How do you think these ‘next-gen’ games differ than from the older games?

Gameplay wise it’s still the same style we fans know and love but as usual with advancing technology the cut-scenes are far better now than they used to be.

Do you have any ideas for future Musou games?

Until I try out DW7’s new gameplay ideas I can only comment on the older games….but improve characters move-sets –  i.e no clones!

And improve the storytelling. As I’ve said before the cut-scenes in DW6 were a move in the right direction for me.

Of course the most important thing is to work on the AI some more!

Will Dynasty Warriors 7 have what it takes to make fans dreams come true?

It seems like you want the both the story and the gameplay experience improved – could you possibly say which is more important to your enjoyment of Musou: the story or the gameplay?

I would say the gameplay.  If the gameplay wasn’t good you wouldn’t want to carry on with the game just to see some improved cut-scenes…

When you say you want the AI improved do you mean you just would like the game to be more difficult or do you mean you want the enemy troops and officers to react more realistically to your actions? One of the appealing parts of the older Musou games to me was that you really felt like your actions were affecting the course of a larger battle….

I would like the troops and officers to react to your actions as well as the state of their own unit. Like fighting harder if they have more morale.  If they had less morale then they’d be less aggressive. I’d like to see more incentive for you to lower the morale of enemy units.

Have you brought any merchandise connected to Musou?

Nope.

Have you made any friends in the Musou community online?

Yes, I have, my fellow moderators on the koei.com forums, Yue Fei, Ma Su, Sleipner, SteelDragon, Sun and Steel and you too (awesome guy! [ty ty - Ed]).

How about in real life?

Not really, no, as I don’t get a chance to go to any of the expos that Tecmo Koei Europe go to (I’d like to though someday!)

If you're a Musou fan in the UK, you can meet up with the Tecmo Koei team at the various expos they attend across the country.

If you could give a message to non-Musou fans about why they should try the game, what would you say?

Just try it, ignore the reviews –  except Eurogamer’s as they like the series – you may like it in the end. Some games you just have to try to like them.

If you could give a message to development team of Musou what you say?

Improve the AI!

Who would you say is your all-time favourite Musou game character?

Hmmm….tough choice but I’d have to go with Ginchiyo Tachibana. I like her moveset and story of being a Lord in Kyushu whose family have been fighting the Shimazu clan. Also using lightning element in her attacks makes fighting crowds easier.

Ginchiyo Tachibana - probably Koei's finest hour in terms of character design. Why-oh-why can't they produce female characters as iconic and powerful anymore? It said alot of good about the company's ethos that they could create strong female characters....they need to get back to that!

What is your favourite Musou game and why?

Samurai Warriors 2, for the reasons I mentioned earlier – plus conversations between characters are enjoyable especially anything involving Magoichi Saika:“a guy, er you sure about that?”.

Thanks Ranger Ryu – that was truly an epic interview!

‘Hope everyone enjoyed that – I will have another ‘Musou to Me’ interview up soon…so watch this space! (if you want to join in just leave me a comment ^^).

Leady 247 ^^

Sunday afternoon’s review of last Saturday night’s beer – CHIMAY BLUE

When I tried my first Chimay last year I wasn’t that impressed. I bought a bottle of the red variety from Tescos and really couldn’t see the appeal.

Soon after this I was lucky enough to visit Brussels on a business-trip and a friend opened my eyes – he described Chimay as the most ‘authentic tasting’ of the widely available Trappist beers. Since that endorsement I have been looking forward to trying another bottle and posting a re-evaluation.

Its funny how a comment from someone you respect can cause you to question your opinions. Its one of the joys of having other people around I guess….

Last weekend I was in ASDA’s Leyton Supercentre with my girlfriend to get some keys cut (we are moving in together in just under a week now ^^). I perused the beer section not expecting much Belgian-wise other than a few Leffe Blondes….

…So I was delighted to find good stocks of a blue-bottled Chimay.

Here's that lovely blue label ^^ Check you local ASDA now - I have found it in the Southgate store as well.

As readers of my original Chimay post will know I am really against the scarlet labels on the Chimay Red sold in my local Tescos so I was delighted to find this navy-blue badged version and immediately bought it (I think it was around £1.70).

I didn’t really notice until I got home and checked the alcohol volume – but it seems that blue labels signify strength in Belgian beers. Both the blue blazed Leffe Neuf and this Chimay Blue clock in at 9% – this basically means two bottles will put most people away. I would definitely recommend these strong ales as an Aperitif with some decent cheese or bread rather than a solo drink – neither are what you would call refreshing or thirst-quenching.

A quick check of the refreshed Chimay website told me that it offers beer in three ‘Personalities’ – this Blue version or (‘Grande Réserve’ as its known in larger variants) is bottle-conditioned and known for its strength and fresh, yeasty taste.

The three Chimay 'personalities' (pic taken from the official website).

The back of the bottle text is in English and reads:

‘The Trappist logo certifies that this ale is brewed in a Trappist Abbey and that the majority of sales income is intended for social aid. Chimay Blue represents the full power and complexity of a well-balanced Trappist beer.’

It’s nice that Chimay are promoting their Corporate Social Responsibility programs (well they are monks at the end of the day lol) but they could be a little more lavish with their back-of-bottle text if they want to compete with the Leffe’s of this world – or maybe the lack of flamboyant copy and concentration on the ale experience is part of the charm?

Next time I'm in Belgium or France I definitely need to pick up a Chimay glass.

Unfortunately I do not have a Chimay ‘Chalice’ (yet) so I used my Leffe glass to enjoy the ‘Blue. This worked well – the wide, high-ball allowing the ale plenty of room to breath. I’m sure this clash is not recommended by Chimay’s branding department though!

After pouring (following Chimay’s own guidelines) the first thing I noticed was that this is an exceedingly dark, thick beer – hold the glass up and almost no light penetrates apart from a soft amber glow at the apex of the glass.

Hold it up and just a tinge of light comes through at the bottom of the glass.

At little flotilla of bubbles formed the head and there was plenty of bitter, heady aroma as I lifted it to my mouth. The first taste hit is VERY chocolaty but this gives way to a deep, crisply bitter taste of hops that is great to swirl around your mouth. I found it a more mellow experience than the almost metallic edge to the Leffe Neuf.

That’s it for the Chimay Blue – its comes highly recommended by me, a little something to savour as your evening unfolds.

(Now I just need to find out which UK supermarket is selling the Chimay Triple? Maybe Sainsburys? Even better if they had it gift-packed with a Chimay chalice.)

Leady247 ^^

What makes a Musou? – Now in Print!

I spent quite a bit of time in December working on the first two parts of my ‘What makes a Musou?’ series. In these articles I have been trying to tie-down exactly what constitutes the Musou (‘Warriors’ series in the West) formula and why the franchise is adored by fans yet often cruelly misunderstood by the gaming media.

The first article I wrote was an introduction to the Musou formula followed by a look at the key element of Theme.

I was quite happy in January when UK Trade Industry Magazine MCV approached me for quotes to support a ‘FRANCHISE FOCUS’ piece they were working on to support the release of Dynasty Warriors 7.  It’s really awesome that they would consider writing such as piece on the Musou series ^^, thanks x 1 million to them.

I managed to use a lot of the work I had already done for ‘What makes a Musou?’ on this blog to answer MCV’s questions and I think it resulted in a great article. (The MCV writer is much better than me – he managed to say everything much more concisely and make things much more interesting than I could ^^).

You can read the article below. Many thanks to MCV and I hope this will really help people understand the appeal of the Musou games better.  Leady 247 ^^

Edit (11/02/11):  If the scan is hard to read, there is an web version of the article here: http://www.mcvuk.com/features/858/Tecmos-ten-year-Dynasty

PS. If you are in any way interested in the UK and European games industry you should read MCV every week or even better get a subscription!

Leady247 – January Round-Up

Yes! And we have made it through the worst month of the of year! Good riddance January.

It’s been an interesting month on the gaming front with the Nintendo 3DS going up against the SONY’s NGP in the battle of the ‘dedicated videogame’ handhelds.

Personally, I found the announcement of the Playstation Suite for Android to be the most exciting development – SONY has realised that the next generation of videogames is platform antagonistic and about services and content. This is a big step for an electronics and hardware company.

For me this was the biggest news of January...

On the blogging front I was a little frustrated, a generally manic January schedule cut into my blogging time and meant I could not get out the What Makes a Musou? part 3 which is floating around in my head. If I had managed to launch that article I would have comfortably beaten my December ’10 traffic – in failing to do so I have to be content with stability -_-.

On the Beer front January was definately a Leffe month as I caught up on all my Xmas drinking:

Leffe Radieuse
Leffe Leffe Bière de Noël (and my new glass)
Leffe Blonde (canned version)

Leffe's all round this month. 'Promise to switch it up for Feb.

The thing I am most happy with in Januray blog-wise is the start of two new categories: Star Wars & the mighty Arsenal. Both sections only have one post right now but I will try and develop those over the coming months.

I hope to bring you more of this stuff soon...

On the videogames side I continued my coverage of Warriors: Legends of Troy with a look at the item & upgrade system. This game is starting to take shape now – hopefully we will have some more information released in February. For now you can check out the official site here. Which brings us too…

My favourite two posts of the month which were my gamer interviews: I managed to trap Gischie on the train to Avignon for her thoughts on Angry Birds HD and Insp. Chin in Subway for his thoughts on Plants vs Zombies.

Let's do lots of this in Feb ^^

That’s it for January. The shittest month of the year is over and in Feb I’ll be moving in with my beloved ^^. It’s all downhill from here people ^^

Leady 247 ^^

Leady247 Gamer Interviews – Plants vs Zombies with Insp. Chin

There are few games that I consider perfect – completely successful expressions and explorations of their play mechanics and artistic values.  NiGHTS and Super Mario Kart (SNES) are a couple on my list – I’m sure you have your own.

When I got my ipad one of the first games I downloaded was PopCap Game’s Plants vs Zombies – it had recieved many favourable write-ups in EDGE and being a big tower-defence game fan I was sure I was gonna’ love it.

3 or 4 hours of play later I had pegged PvZ up on the ‘potentially perfect’ list. Having now spent tens of hours on the game completing the various achievements and launching massive campaigns into the Survival mode I can certainly declare it perfect in my book.

Plants vs Zombies is a tower-defence game that plays on every human’s hard-wired instinct to defend their homes – in this case from a selection of zombies shambling across your lawn, swimming through your pool and climbing on your roof!

The linear nature of PvZs battlefields (zombies progress straight down one of 6 pathways), and ‘everything-on-one-screen’, birds-eye viewpoint means Popcap can furnish the player with a massive variety of plants with which to lay-out their defences. Peashooters, Cob Cannons, Wallnuts, Winter Melon Catapults and atomic Boomshrooms are just a slice of your arsenal –  all powered by the smiling, bopping sun-flowers that look so pleasant you’ll defend them like dear friends.

Here's a screenshot I took from my iPad version of PvZ, you can see the great selection of plants available.

The zombies are beautifully designed and in-keeping with the homely, low-fi setting of the rest of the game. A normal zombie is weak, so how does he toughen himself up? He puts a traffic cone on his head. Still not tough enough? He puts a metal bucket on his head. Tougher Still? He puts on a suit of American football armour… We’ve got zombies on pogo sticks, bungee zombies, zombies on ice-resurfacing machines and tons more. The zombie army is bursting with character compared with your average tower-defence game.

It’s no surprise that a PopCap game has gorgeous, life-affirming artistic design – well, in PvZ the music is just as good, with loverly relaxing yet spooky tracks created by Japanes artist Laura Shigahara .  The most famous of which is the classic ending theme:

A word on the gameplay: Plants vs Zombies has one of the most moreish learning-curves ever conceived: completion of each stage rewards the player with a new Plant or item which players just have to try out. New obstacles are added to the mix just when the player thinks they have things under control and mini-games are sprinkled in when repetition starts to fatigue the players. The whole thing is just a master-class.

The act of actually building out your lawn with plants is super addictive, with plenty of combos to find and exploit. The search for that perfect set-up just never ends and this hits its ultimate expression in the never ending survival mode.

Buying the best items from Crazy Dave's car-boot sale will soon become and obsession! Still don't know what the bacon is for though!

The game has a massive level of complexity but it’s introduced to the player in such a way that before you even realise it your fingers (or mouse pointer) are dancing at light-speed over the level, brain whiring with a thousand considerations as the zombie genocide continues.

As you can see from the official website PvZ is available on XboX Live Arcade, iPad, iPhone, DS, PC and Mac so you if you haven’t tried it, you really have no excuse (well unless you only have SONY consoles and no PC or Mac I suppose!).

You can even get a free trial here.

This Friday I was lucky enough to catch up with my good friend (and as it turned out huge PopCap fan) Insp. Chin, let’ see what he has to say for himself:

Here's Insp. Chin in Subway with his iPhone version of Plants vs Zombies ^^

Hi Chin, so how did you discover Plants vs Zombies?

It’s from my friend, she recommend me to play it. Also, I’m a fan of PopCap games.

Which PopCap games?

Zuma & Bookworm Adventures!

Did you try playing Zuma Blitz on Facebook?

No

So was your first experience of Plants vs Zombies on PC?

Yes

Did you buy it straight off or was it a trial version?

A free, trial version.

Insp. Chin supplied me with this exclusive screenshot of his PvZ welcome screen. WELCOME BACK! Chin

How did that work?

Basically  you can play 90 mins of the game for free… it’s good, ‘depends how long you want to play really…I mean whether you actually need to pay for the game.

What did you think of the game when you first played it?

Pretty fun, it’s a strategy game – you have to plant flowers and put eveything in right the slot.

Did you find it hard to understand the game at first?

When I started it’s very simple, with good tutorials and easy to understand.  You can get one new plant after each stage so there is more and more to learn.

So you were enjoying it straight away?

Yes, I also liked the mini-games, like bowling the Wallnuts at the zombies.

Insp. Chin in action! He can't look up once he has started playing!

So did you buy PvZ after the 90-minute trial ended?

No, I ended up getting the full version from a friend (laughs, embarrassed)

Once you had the full version – however you got it – how often did you play it?

I only played when I was bored as my PC is slow and I’m always busy – so only on weekend if I’m bored. It’s relaxing, not stresful to play at all.

What do you think is good about this game?

The visuals, and the design is perfect.  Also the music – Laura I think her name is, is the composer, she is Japanese and she made the tracks with the designer of the game.  I think the designer is actually the zombie’s voice as well….actually…errmm…

…In the Japanese version the voice of the zombie in the final song is the composer’s father.

Could you get addicted to Plants vs Zombies?

Ahaha…not before, since I don’t have a lot of chance to play. Now I have it on iPhone I’ll play it all the time on the train.

So do you think it’s a game that fits better on the iPhone?

Yes, because it’s best to play in little bits.

Do you have favourite type of Plant?

haha..yes the…Jalapeno, errmmm the Chili Pepper

This is Insp. Chin's favourite Plant ^^

Do you have anything you think could be added to the game to make it even better?

I dunno, hmmm,  but I have seen trailer for the XboX version and you can customise your house etc. that’s cool.

It’s perfect really…perfect..uhahaha….

…But I’d like to play as zombie….

I heard on the XboX version and the DS version you can play as the Zombies and invade your friends house!

Yes, I think on XboX you can do that, but I have tried it yet.

So given you somehow got the PC full version for free did you pay for the iPhone version?

uhahaha…YES!

So you did give PopCap some money in the end, after all the enjoyment they gave to you?

Yes, for £1.89 it’s really worth it.

Of all the PopCap games you’ve played in your life, how much money have you actually spent on them?

Less than 10 quid…uhaha (laughs uncomfortably)

PopCap Games - will they be around much longer if all of their customers are like Insp. Chin ;) ?

And how many hours of those games have you played?

Alot of hours, I used to play Bookworm Adventures, Dynamite, Zuma, you can find those games free-to-play on the plane to Malayasia!

So hours and hours of play and you have only given £1.89?

Yes, they are free on the plane, Zuma for 13 hours, I got it for free

Would you say you’re a cheap gamer?

I’d say I’m a Malaysian gamer!

Do you have any messages you would like to give to PopCap?

haha…I’ve told them PvZ is awesome and they replied to me straight away on facebook.  I’ve known them for about a year.  They don release a lot of games but they put maximum effort into each. I really love that about them.

But Plants vs Zombies is a very good game…. oh my god, I feel so bad now, oh my god!!

That’s enough before you dig your own grave here Chin!

That’s it for this week’s interview.  If you would like to be interviewed by Leady247 just let me know in the comments box ^^

I’ll back soon with another interview with Gischie on Sengoku Basara 3.

Leady247 ^^

Update: Thank’s to Splatterhouse in the comments box for confirming that PvZ will also be coming to PSN Soon. So now you have no excuse at all not to play this !