Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Disc Station Vol. 17 (PC)

Ahh, it's been a long time since I did a Disc Station post, hasn't it? Well, here's one now, right after a Yaroze Round-Up post. Maybe I could come up with some other semi-regular post series someday and do three in a row? Maybe...

Anyway, it's a PC Disc Station, so you know there's going to be at least some of the following things: interesting videos, amazing pixel art and a whole bunch of games. And Puyo Puyo characters, obviously. And DS17 doesn't disappoint on any of those fronts!

First up is a game entitled "Blitz Runner", which is a kind of time trial racing platform game. You know the Vs. mode in Sonic 3, in which the players pick a character and race laps around a small, specially designed stage? Blitz Runner is like that, but it's single player only, unfortunately, so you only have time to race against. There is an internet option on the title screen, which I assume was used for uploading and downloading times, but of course, that was in late 1997 and the option is now useless. There's three stages, and two characters (though they seem to play exactly alike), and not much else to this game. It looks great, though. Unfortunately, no matter what I tried, Blitz Runner refused to be screenshotted.

Next is an even smaller game, whose title I cannot read. But it's a simple badminton game, starring Carbuncle the orange star-shaped thing from the Puyo games. The side-on perspective reminds me a little of Tennis for Two, but it doesn't really play like it, obviously. The main problem with this game is the difficulty: even on the lowers setting, I never saw the CPU opponent miss a single shot, and I played a few games before giving up completely.

Third is a nice little RPG, in which a Compile employee becomes a tokusatsu-style transforming superhero. This has pretty good production values, with really nice graphics, and not-so-nice CGI cutscenes, and though exploration and such is done top-down, the battles take the form of little side-on beat-em-up segments. Unfortunately, though this game has a lot of charm, and the battles were cool, the language barrier was too high for me to really get anywhere in it. If some kind souls somewhere, someday made a translation patch for it, I'd probably make another attempt and give it its own blog post.

The last game from this volume (I'm omitting the Nazo Puyo installment on the disc, as I'm sure you all know what that's like) is Puyolympics, a collection of mini-games starring a bunch of Puyo characters, with Arle and Witch in the lead roles. The mini-games are a mix of real sports, like running and swimming, and silly videogame nonsense, like catching falling Puyos in a basket, and another one that seems to be based on the same traditional toys as Dharma Doujou. You can play through all the events in a story mode, or you can play each one indiviually. It's pretty full featured, and like all the other games, it looks pretty great, with some cool artwork of Puyo characters in sports clothes, if that's the kind of thing that would interest any of you.

Finally, as always, there's a folder of video files on the disc, too. They were the usual mix of silly animated shorts starring characters from various Compile games, TV ads for Compile games, and other Compile ephemera. I've uploaded one of the videos from the last category, a kind of highlight reel featuring footage from all the various live events Compile held over the course of 1997. It's a great little video, featuring lots of cool stuff like people playing in tournaments, 90s cosplayers, and some guy singing.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Net Yaroze Round-Up Volume 4!

Sam the Boulderman (James Hobden, 1998)
Like Rocks n Gems, Sam the Boulderman is a Boulderdash clone, though it has a slightly different take on the concept. Rather than RnG's big, sprawling stages full of enemies, Sam's stages are all single screen, and as far as I can tell, enemy-free. This means it's entirely puzzle-based, with none of the nerve-wracking chases of the more well known game. It plays alright, though movement does feel a little jerky, and the presentation is pretty shoddy. The graphics are grubby-looking, and the music and sound effects are the same as those used in Clone (though whether this is stealing or just the use of some common Yaroze sound library is beyond my knowledge). Still worth a look, though.

Blitter Boy in Monster Mall (Chris Chadwick, 1998)
This game was critically acclaimed when it came out, winning competitions and awards and the like, and comments I've seen online often name it as one of peoples' favourite Yaroze games, but I really don't like it at all. It's a semi-Robotron-esque game, without the twin-stick shooting in which the player must go about stages shooting ghosts and UFOs while rescuing babies and taking them to the centre of the screen to be beamed away. It can't be denied that it's competently put together and the graphics are incredibly slick, looking like it could be a commercially released Amiga game from only a few years earlier. The biggest problem Blitter Boy has, though, is the sound effects: there's always something making some kind of loud, shrill noise, and worst of all are the babies you're tasked with rescuing. Getting hit by one of the player's stray bullets or coming into contact with any of the enemies makes the babies stop what they're doing and cry, loudly. The constant, awful noise made this game unplayable for me for more than a few minutes.

The Incredible Coneman (Lars Barstad, Per Ivar Pedersen, Rune Solberg, Jostein Trondal, Frode Kristensen, Bjorn Ullevoldaeter, 1998)
The Incredible Coneman is a 3D Pac-Man clone. The player controls Coneman, a kind of robot/tank thing round various mazes, collecting pyramids and stars and avoiding ghosts. The face buttons can be used to move the camera, a function which seemingly has no restraints, allowing the player to zoom out until the entire map is just a tiny dot on the screen. The most distinguishing feature of the game is its sound: the music is a short, mellow, almost hypnotic beat, and the game plays a nice little saxophone doot-doot-doo when the player loses a life. TIC isn't essential playing, but it's not terrible either, and it does have some charm.

Arena (Tom Madams, ????)
A pretty impressive 3D shooting game, starring a mech that looks similar in design to the one from the Amiga game Walker. The player controls the mech, goes about a maze shooting enemies and turrets. It's really hard, so much so that I couldn't even get past the first stage, but I like Arena. The mech's fun to control, the enemíes are satisfying to shoot and destroy, and the graphics are easily some of the best I've seen in a Yaroze game. It's full, texture-mapped 3D, and it looks like it wouldn't be too out of place on the 3D0 or one of those other forgotten consoles of the early 32-bit era (something I say here totally as a compliment).

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Mamono Hunter Yohko: Dai-7 no Keishou (Mega Drive)

You're probably already aware that this game is based on the anime known in english as Devi Hunter Yohko, but I can't say how faithful an adaptation it is, since I've never seen the show. Many years ago I had a poster of it that came with an issue of Animerica, though.

Anyway, the game is, as you'd expect from a 16-bit anime licence, is a platform game. At first glance, it seems pretty generic, but it does have some slightly more subtle qualities in its favour. The biggest is that the stages aren't laid out like a simple left-to-right path with a few enemy shelves, but right from the first stage will have the player being led in every direction (although the downside to this is that the game does also feature a few leaps of faith). Yohko's weapon is pretty interesting too. Though her normal attacks are just sword swings, holding the button down summons an energy ring, which be thrown by releasing the button, after which it comes back, and can be kept around by continuing to hold the attack button.

There is a big problem with the game though: that it's just far too hard to actually enjoy. The first stage goes pretty well, though there is a moment towards the end during which the player has to climb a huge wiggly beanstalk, while being pushed around by strong winds that randomly change direction, but the second stage is where the trouble really starts. The second stage is set in and around a volcano, and for some reason, whether it was a deliberate design decision or just an accident of programming, fire does insane damage to Yohko. Rather than just damaging her once, it constantly causes damage for as long as Yohko is in contact with it. This makes the stage itself pretty hard, but the boss is an insane chore, since not only does he breath fire across the ground, but also leaps around willy-nilly, and touching him drains half of Yohko's health. I did manage to struggle through and eventually get all the way to the start of stage 4, but no further.

It's really a shame that the game is so insanely hard, as mechanically, it's not too bad. Yohko is fun to control, killing enemies and cancelling their shots with the sword and ring is nice and satisfying, and there is some cool ideas in the stage designs, too. But the difficulty kills it, the game doesn't feel challenging as much as it just feels unfair. Don't bother playing it.