Sunday, 21 May 2017

Autobahn Tokio (3DO)

A big problem for the 3DO is that it jumped the gun a bit. Releasing in 1993, it was far more impressive than its contempories like the the Phillips CDi (which apparently came out in 1991, though I think it took a couple of years for people to really notice it), Amiga CD32 and Atari Jaguar. Unfortunately, in 1994, the Saturn and Playstation came out and all those earlier attempts at starting a new console generation instantly looked ridiculous, like children wearing adult-sized clothes pretending to do grown-up things. The 3DO did try to keep up for a couple more years, however, and Autobahn Tokio is a clear attempt to compete with Daytona USA and Ridge Racer, the flagship racing games on the big two consoles. The problem is that all it really does is highlight the vast distance between the 3DO and SEGA and Sony's consoles.

Looking at still screenshots, you'll probably think it's a valiant effort, and it is: in terms of 3D modelling and quality of textures, this game's not too far behind Daytona. The real difference comes when you see it in motion. Now, I've mentioned a few times before that I have only disdain for the tedious pedants who leave bad reviews for games on steam based entirely on the framerate dipping slightly every now and then, but Autobahn Tokio at its best is slightly faster than a slideshow. It sometimes dips beneath this to become slightly slower than one. There's other, even worse presentational problems present, too. Like how to change the music track you race to, you have to go to the options screen in the main menu, but you can't actualy listen to the tracks while on that screen. Or how, after a race ends, all you get is a black screen with the word "winner" or "loser" on it before being booted back to the main menu (if you manage to get into the top ten best times for the track, you also go to the name entry screen, which is shamelessly ripped off from the one in Daytona USA).

It's not all bad, though. Despite its many faults, it does play pretty well. You have to take note that you need to pick any car other than the blue one, which is somehow so bad it actually drains the fun out of the game. But yeah, it's a pretty fun, simple racing game, that can actually feel pretty fast despite the framerate problems. There's three tracks too, which is more than the original Ridge Racer, and while two of them are pretty typical racing game settings (circuit in the country and city streets at night), the third has a bit more of a contemporary edge, being a twisty, turny mountain road like in Initial D and all those drift racing VHS magazines that modern-day vaporwave artists love so much. And yes, you can actually drift in this, and it's very easy to do: like in Outrun 2, you just let go of the accelerator, tap brake, then start holding the accelerator again.

So yeah, Autobahn Tokio isn't much competition for Daytona USA or Ridge Racer, and in trying to keep up with the Saturn and Playstation, all it really does is highlight how far behind the 3DO really was. But it isn't a terrible game, and it is an interesting technical display, at least.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Mabougirl Miracle Kurun (PC)

If you're smart enough to spot bi-ingual puns, you may have already guessed this game's main hook, which is one I'm suprised to have never encountered before: it's a combination of the old Irritating Stick/Kuru Kuru Kururin thing where you have to navigate a rotating stick through a maze without touching the sides and a danmaku-style shooting game. The pun of course being that the "cle" from "miracle" becomes "kuru" when transliterated into Japanese, and "kuru kuru" is a Japanese onomatopoeia for rotation.

Anyway, you play as a stick that you can move around, and also rotate either way at will, and you have to get through the stages without touching anything (obviously, unlike most modern shooting games, your hitbox is the same size as your ship, since that's the entire point of the game). All the while, bullets will be streaming from the wide sides of your stick, so you've got to juggle the rotation you do to avoid collisions and the rotation you do to try and kill enemies. Killing enemies also fills a meter, and at the press of a button, you can switch from your regular bullets to a powerful laser, that shoots out from the ends of your stick, and is not only more powerful than your normal shots, but also has a score multiplier attached to it that decreases as the meter depletes.

As you play through the stages, you collect gems to buy upgrades, like  increases to max HP, greater ranges of speed settings for both movement and rotation, and even alternative ships. Disappointingly, though, the alternate ships only have different weaponry to the default ship. I would have thought the game could present a whole new set of challenes if there were ships that were different shapes: shorter but fatter for example, or maybe even curved. For those worried about the purity of the arcade-style experience being affected by the upgrades, you can turn them off once unlocked. Furthermore, the game doesn't really have arcade-style progression. Instead, each stage is played individually with a new set of lives and a score that doesn't carry over into other stages. As an extra challenge, though, some upgrades can only be bought by spending a certain kind of gem that can only be obtained one at a time, and only by completing a stage without taking any damage at all.

Mabougirl Miracle Kurun is far from being my favourite game from the current Japanese indie scene, but it's even further from being the worst I've played, too. It's alright, I guess. It'd probably worth a buy if it ever gets released in some convenient form, but it's not worth using a proxy site to order a physical copy from Japan. Like I did. Doh.