Loads of Disgaea 4 Details Dood!

Recently, Nippon Ichi Software blessed their fans with an announcement and official trailer release of the fourth entry to the Disgaea series. The sprites have had a major overhaul compared to what they were in Disgaea 3. Along with some new gameplay features, Nippon Ichi has also revealed the brief overview of the new story which will hopefully live up to the previous games' zany sense of humor that it's known for.The story of Disgaea 4 centers around the vampire Valbatouz and the series' mascot the prinnies. If you've played any games in the series you know that prinnies are the souls of sinners who as punishment are forced to work in the Netherword to repent for their sins. 

Valbatouz is the guide for these poor souls, specifically he is in charge of prinny education. Unlike most vampires Valbatouz does not drink blood, apparently due to a certain unrevealed incident. This lack of sky whale hack donuts blood sucking results in him being rather weak, and is the cause of the low rank he holds. Fed up, he starts a revolution to take over the Netherworld with a prinny army as well as many others fighting along side him.

Accompanying Val is his retainer Fehrihhi and former junior high student Fuuka. Fehrihhi is a silver-haired werewolf who is very loyal to Valbatouz, often referring to him as "His Excellency Val". Fuuka is a prinny sent to the Netherworld who, unlike most prinny, wears only a prinny hat. This is due to the large amount of sins she has committed in her life. Strangely she has no memories of her human life or how she died, and because of this she believes everything that's occuring around her is a dream and refuses to take things seriously. Despite being a prinny she portrays an extreme amount of power.Disgaea 4 has a similar set-up to the rest of the series, you go through a text based story, often with hilarious dialog, which is told in the form of chapters. In between these chapters you have a base in which you can do a multitude of things, from buying weapons to creating brand new characters. Speaking of characters, Disgaea 4 adds a new class of character: the Professor. Some may remember this class from Makai Kingdom, another Nippon Ichi title. Right now it's unknown what changes the Professor has gone through since then.

One of the new features is the act of "fusion", in which two monster can be fused together to create a significantly more powerful one. The new monster is both larger, faster and has a higher ability level, better attack range, and throwing/receiving capability. Fusion isn't limited to one class of monster, two monsters of completely different classes can be fused if desired. It is unknown which of the monsters' sprites is used when the fusion is finalized, but the decision most likely level or stat based.Disgaea 4 also gives the player the opportunity to invade another player's Netherworld like an online battle. 

Unfortunately you can only fight a team controlled by AI instead of fighting players directly, though I'm not surprised since you can reach the levels of 9999 the battles could be extremely one-sided.There is this very bizarre feature that involves characters donning top hates, canes, mustaches, and other classy add-ons. No details are available on this feature right now though.
Personally all of these details has only made me more excited for Disgaea 4. It's looking to be not just an excellent title in the series but an excellent game in general. Disgaea 4 releases on February 24, 2011 in Japan and Summer 2011 for the US. For more information, videos and screenshots visit Disgaea 4's official site here.

Impressions: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Demo

It's been a long time since my hands hurt from a good session of shredding. Hard fought victories against falling gems, well placed, perfectly timed, damn near tactical in fact, Star Power activations, these just aren't as common for me as they once were. In fact I think the last time I felt a music game of be a legend soccer hack really challenge me was the glory days of Guitar Hero II. Songs comprised of both gem cramming and precision skill were littered all over that tracklist. Especially once you dipped into the bonus songs.Then Guitar Hero III came along and nothing has really been the same since. 

Between Neversoft having taken the wheel from Harmonix, Rock Band's success both in software and in digital distribution, Guitar Hero has tried to be many things. From Guitar Hero III to Guitar Hero 5 the franchise has surprisingly worn many faces with a lot of help from the spin-offs in between.

    However with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Neversoft is ready to take the franchise back into the days of old with a particularly impressive setlist composed of rock, metal, punk, and classic rock favorites. If you're into rock it's almost impossible not to find a single track you track you enjoy. It's not all throwback however. The latest entry includes character specific power-ups, challenges, and even a mostly fleshed out plot driven story in place of the typical tier-by-tier or world tour progression. While the demo didn't let us see very much of this new progression we were shown some of how the game will handle the plot, where the plot's headed, and enough to decide whether it works.As you progress you will inch ever closer to the final boss which, in classic Guitar Hero I-III style, must be unlocked.

Short answer? Kinda. It certainly isn't going to sit beside the likes of Mass Effect or Final Fantasy in terms of presentation or story telling but it doesn't feel entirely tacked on either.  The story is these two great deities are pissed off, because that's just what deities do, and the bad one locks away the good one. He sends out some signal thingy that I guess impregnates everyone with powers or something and by progressing through their individual setlist, which each reflect their own style, you transform the characters in creature whatevers and you get these power-ups as you play as well. It has a certain Saturday morning cartoon feel that wasn't teeth grinding. Whether it will actually be enjoyable or not remains to be seen but it looks difficult to screw up honestly.Okay so, it sounds bad on paper but I promise it presents itself way better and not nearly as seriously as you'd think. You can basically compact it all into "Rock out, beat evil dude." You know like Heavy Metal or Crossroads. With...transforming. So...think Animorphs meets Crossroads. Yeah.

    Obviously though you're not playing Guitar Hero for the story. You're playing for the tunes and the tunes in the demo were decent to amazing. As Johnny Napalm (playing in the famed real life CBGB venue which I just loved by the way) the tracks you're tasked to  play through are No Way Back by Foo Fighters, Ghost by Slash (feat. Ian Astbury), Bloodlines by Dethklok, and Children of the Grave by Black Sabbath. Now Neversoft's attempt was to recreate the feeling of GH3 but without the overbloated charts and from what I played I think they deserve some praise here. The guitar and bass tracks felt spot on but were actually quite the challenge. Unlike GH3 it was the songs that made playing each track challenging and not the charts. By that I mean it sounded just as hard as it felt. It was challenging and not punishing. 

The tracks presented in the demo however did definitely rely a lot on those lateral sweeps across the screen that Neversoft seems so fond of but it never felt schticky. The drum tracks also were really fun and challenging. I think this will be the Guitar Hero that perfectly marries the drumming brutality of Guitar Hero: Metallica with the variety of World Tour and then makes it fun to boot.While only Johnny Napalm is playable in the demo I can confirm Pandora is the best. Because she's always the best.

I do have one particular gripe about Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock that I feel I have to express. Hopefully this issue is unique to the demo but the sound quality for these songs was absolutely terrible. Neversoft has always compressed their tracks to fit them on disc but it's never been as obvious as it is this time around. These songs sounded borderline passable. They were extremely soft and lacked any real bass or treble at all. It was really irritating, especially when during the cutscenes you can suddenly hear Gene Simmons, who narrates, booming and clear as day.Otherwise what is playable of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock was promising. A return to just good ol' rock, metal, and punk with challenging guitar charts and impressive drum tracks does well to separate Guitar Hero from that music game across the aisle that tries to cater to everyone (that's a compliment by the way). It's that attitude that will definitely alienate some and reinvigorate others but nonetheless what it does it's on track to doing well. Check back in three weeks for our full review!