Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Shotest XBLA Impressions

I've had the chance to play more Shotest Shogi for Xbox Live Arcade and am still very pleased with the game, especially considering its low price. I've completed the Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Tutorials and each was worthwhile, though short. I touched on the Beginner Tutorial in a blog entry yesterday.

The Intermediate and Advanced tutorials introduce four castles (mino, boat, yagura, and anaguma - "bear in the hole" for Hachi-one Diver fans), a handful of tsume shogi, and a couple hisshi ("brinkmate") problems. I plan on revisiting the Intermediate and Advanced tutorials since a lot was presented in a short time and I certainly did not absorb it all. Apparently there will be future DLC (downloadable content) that contains more instructional material. I definitely would pay for more tsume shogi.

I also played a few games versus the lowest ranked (1000) AI. It would be interesting to see how the 16 personalities compare to the PC version since I cannot even compete with the lowest skill level on the PC. It's fun to win every once in a while. :) Like I wrote earlier, the interface doesn't get in the way too much and it works about as well as can be expected with a game controller.

The game is not without its problems, though. As I mentioned yesterday, the piece placement sound is not a wood click as it should be. The presentation is nice, but there's far too much wasted space. On an HDTV, the screen is wider than it is taller.

In the screenshot above, just look at all the space wasted to the left and right of the board. Instead of placing the text somewhere like my artistically rendered red box, they put it at the bottom, which covers the board. That wouldn't be too bad, except for the fact that they put the file coordinates there! Why not move the coordinates to the top where they won't be obscured? There's no option to change anything, which is extremely disappointing. I'd love to be able to move the text so that I can fully expand the board and get a better resolution on the pieces. They look so excellent on the PC version, but they don't get a chance to truly shine here because of the layout.

The sound and layout problems are issues that the developers can deal with. However, a much more tricky problem is that there seems to be nobody playing online! Last night around 8pm Eastern Time, I could not find a Ranked or Player (unranked) match at any time settings. Part of my initial excitement about Shotest Shogi on XBLA is that I thought it would become my main way of playing online. I see the Leaderboard is full of Japanese Xbox users so I know that people are playing. I wonder if we in the US are segregated from the Asian users? If so, that is a major problem. There seems to be very little interest in this game here, and posts I've made in the forums barely receive any page views, let alone responses.

I sure hope the online situation improves, but for now I'm going to continue to enjoy playing the AI.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mini-review! I just picked up on this. We are the creators of this game. One detail, that I guess a lot of XBLA users probably don't know, is that we are only allowed (by Microsoft) to put "meaningful" data (e.g. text), within a limited on-screen area. In that screenshot you have we accidentally left the grey "no-go" mask onscreen, so you can see just how restricted we were. We are looking to re-boost the product profile and a new updated version has been created to improve japanese translation. Hopefully we will be able to kick-start interest in the product.

frankiii said...

Wow, that's quite a waste of space! Thanks for the info and I wish you the best. I don't know if it's in the plans still, but I'm looking forward to training DLC. :)