Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Streets of Rage II (Game Gear)

So, for this year's April fools non-obscure game, I've gone with a game that's really only a port of a well-known game. Obviously, everyone knows the original Mega Drive version of Streets of Rage 2, it's one of the most beloved classics of the entire 16-bit era. But I saw some screenshots of the Game Gear port, and the cute little sprites made me want to give it a go. I did, and it turns out that though it is missing a few elements of the MD version, it's got enough of its own stuff to be considered its own game, rather than a poor man's cut down port.

For a start, it controls differently to the original, which is to be expected, as the Game Gear has one fewer button than a standard Mega Drive controller, but you'll be surprised to learn that they actually added a few things in this department! The attacks that were mapped to the A button are now performed by pressing up-down-one, and they don't reduce your health when they hit. The A+forward attacks are now 1+2+forward, and you now have a limited-use super attack, performed by holding down button 1 for a few seconds and releasing. This is functonally the same as summoning the police artillery in the first game, but now it's a screen-filling special move your character performs, which is a bit less awkward, thematically.

The stages are different, too. There's no baseball field or bridge stages, for example, and the theme park is split into two stages: the pirate ship full of ninjas comes first, and then there's a partially-new stage that combines elements of the alien hive area and the missing bridge stage. This stage even has an all-new exclusive boss! Even better, that boss takes on the SEGA tradition of ripping off characters from pop-culture, as it's blatantly just a Predator, complete with stealth camoflage and triangular aiming reticle.

Now, for the omissions. A minor one is that you now only have one kind of jumping attack for each character instead of three. There's also only three playble characters instead of four, and while Axel and Blaze were obviously not going to be cut, for some reason they got rid of Max instead of Skates. Skates is the worst! There's only two weapon types, though cleverly, one of them is depicted as just a straight line of white pixels, which you can easily interpret as a baseball bat, lead pipe or katana, depending on the situation. There's fewer enemy types, of course, and as already mentioned, some stages have been omitted or merged together. I've also already mentioned how much I love the graphics, but I'll also say that they've done a great job of bringing over the original's legendary soundtrack, too, and this version sounds as good as any 8-bit non-CD console game probably ever could.

Game Gear Streets of Rage 2, then. It's definitely worth playing, even if (or especially if) you've played the Mega Drive version to death. On last thing that might entice you into giving it a go: one of the biggest criticism of the Mga Drive version is that it's too easy. Even with the addition of the supermoves, and the Game Gear's inability to handle crowds of enemies as large as the Mega Drive can, this version is a lot harder, without feeling like it's unfair or unbalanced.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Other Stuff Monthly #11!

Because the last post was a few days late due to technical problems, it's already that time of the month where I look at a non-videogame item of interest. Not only that, but the next post will be the annual April fools non-obscure videogame! But anyway, what's this month's item? It is at least slightly videogame related, since it's a miniature replication of a classic electromechanical arcade game from Namco!

Namely, it's a replica of Wani Wani Panic, which is also known as Gator Panic or Wacky Gator. I'm sure most of you who are old enough to remember the 1990s would have probably seen it in arcades back then. It's a whack-a-mole style game, where crocodiles come back and forth, in and out of some tunnels, and you bop as many as you can with a hammer within the time limit. The replica is a fancy papercraft kit with some plastic battery-powered innards, and unfortunately, it's not a product you can just easily buy: it was a free gift with an issue of youchien (or, kindergarten), a magazine for young children. As such, it actually came with two skins: the classic one which I used, and another one themed around the latest Doraemon movie, Eiga Doraemon: Nobita no Shin Kyouryuu (Doraemon the Movie: Nobita's New Dinosaur).

It might be a little hard to tell from my grainy PS Vita photography, but the built kit looks great. It's bright and colourful, and does a surprisingly good job of looking like the original machine, despite being made of card instead of metal and plastic. I'm very pleased with it, and I hope that it's sturdy enough to last for many years. It's not perfect, though. A big flaw is one that I won't have to deal with again: it was really hard to put together. It's not a problem I had with the very simple Panelki kit I posted about previously, but this was a much more complex kit, and there were a lot of times when I had difficulty getting tabs through slots. The problem is that you need to be quite firm, but it's scary being too firm, in case you just smash your thumb right through a panel and ruin the whole thing. I should mention that I had no trouble following the instructions, though. You put the numbered tab into its matching slot, and that's pretty much it.

The other big problem I have with the kit is that there's no randomness in how the crocodiles come out. There's a very short pattern that repeats over and over until time is up, and it makes this more of a fancy novelty ornament than a real home version of the arcade game. I know I'm being a little nitpicky with a kids magazine gift, and like I said, it is a really great-looking toy, but it's still a disappointment. Overall, though, I have to say I'm pleased with this, simply because it does look great, and someday I hope I'll be in a situation where I have lots of shelf space for it to look nice on, and I'll just keep hoping that someday I'll encounter a real one of the machines somewhere to play it again.

Finally, I have two last things to say. The first is that in the magazine itself, they're advertising that the next issue will come with another kit, for a papercraft payphone with sound-making keypad. I wonder if they do a kit every month, and if I should try to keep an eye on this magazine in case there's ever another interesting one? The other thing I have to say is that special thanks for this post goes to selectbutton forums user Dylan, for buying the magazine on my behalf and sending it to me.