Sunday, 25 January 2015

Taekwon-Do (SNES)

Like the previously-covered Champion Kendou, Taekwon-Do is part of the mostly dead (apart from MMA and Boxing games, usually featuring real-world athletes) genre of combat sports videogames. Obviously, it focuses on the Korean martial art Taekwon-Do, and, unusally, even offers an option to play the game in Korean rather than Japanese (though, wasn't the import of Japanese videogames to Korea illegal when this game came out? I don't know).

Though there are other modes, such as a King of Fighters-esque team battle mode, and some kind of character edit/training mode that I couldn't really work out, as its pretty text-heavy, and I can't read Japanese or Korean, the main single player mode sees the player selecting a character and taking part in tournaments around the world. There are three possible ways to win a match: either knock your opponent out, knock them to the ground five times, or have scored the most points when the time runs out.

Successful attacks score one to three points each, while knockdowns and ringouts are worth five each. The score totals aren't visible until the end of each match, presumably to stop players building up a safe score and then blocking or avoiding attacks until the counter runs down. There's no visible health bar, but knockouts usually seem to be achieved by completely overwhelming your opponent with constant attacks. The game controls pretty simply: the face buttons combined with directions on the d-pad execute various attacks (mostly kicks, of course), and the shoulder buttons are held to take on different stances, and also to move up and down the mat. The sounds for attacks connecting and being blocked sound like wood blocks being knocked together, which is more effective than my description implies, and gives a very different feel to the more visceral sounds heard in regular fighting games.

Since this is an attempt at a fairly realistic martial arts sports game, the characters are all just guys in Taekwon-Do outfits, and, in fact are all head and palette swaps of the same sprite. Don't take this as a negative, though: the developers have used this fact to their advantage, as that one sprite has a ton of expressive animation. Not only are there special reaction animations to getting hit by ceratin attacks, or in certain situations (for example, a character taking a strong hit to the gut will hunch over and hold themselves for a few frames, while a character being hit mid-jump will stumble on their feet when they land), but the fighters also show various levels of fatigue, which seem to be effected by various factors, such as the character's own stamina stat, the severity of the beating they've taken and the amount of jumping and other energetic moves they've performed. By the end of a particularly fierce bout, both characters will be breathing heavily, shoulders slumped and knees starting to buckle. This depth of animation really adds a lot to the game, and I'm slightly worried I'm not doing a good enough job of getting that across.

Soyeah, Taekwon-Do is definitely a game worth looking into for those wanting something slightly different from a typical fighting game, as well as those interested in how a videogame can take its weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ninpu Sentai Hurricanger (Playstation)

So, it's a licenced game based, obviously, on the 26th Super Sentai series of the same game (the suit action scenes from which were also used in the US/New Zealand series Power Rangers Ninja Storm). And it came to be released pretty late in the Playstation's life, the reasoning behind which I assume must be down to the fact that it was also very early in the Playstation 2's life and I guess the idea was that the young Super Sentai fanbase wouldn't yet have been able to upgrade.

Predictably, it's an action game, with the player taking control of the Hurricangers and their various mecha, fighting goons and monsters and at some points, other giant robots. Each stage represents an episode of the TV show, and is structured in a manner that will strike a familiar chord with Super Sentai fans. Typically, a stage will open with a section where the player defeats gangs of weak enemies, either in short beat em up segments, or occasionally in crosshair-pointing shooting gallery sections. Next up will usually be an on-foot fight against the monster of the week, which will play like a boss fight to the earlier beat em up segment. Finally is the main draw of these shows: the giant robot fighting against the giant version of the monster from the last part.

The giant robot fights don't play out like the other parts of the game, however: they start with a section with the camera behind the player's mech, in which the ploayer must move from side to side to avoid and deflect projectiles shot by the enemy until an opening to move in closer and attack comes up. When this happens, there's a short sequence in which the player hammers the attack buttons as fast as possible to knock the enemy back, followed by a first-person section that sees the player punching and slashing and using special attacks to deplete the enemy's health.

The game's presentation is perfect, with the in-game graphics being pretty much as good as they could be on the Playstation, and even the use of FMV works in the game's favour. The FMV clips used are short bits of stock footage that are used in the same place as they are in the show itself: transformation sequences, final attacks, and so on. The story mode is only a few stages long, but there are a bunch of extras, like a VS fighting mode, with all the rangers, enemies and monsters as playable characters, and an extra stage featuring a team-up with the red ranger of the Super Sentai show precedin Hurricanger, Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger.

You can probably work out what I think of this game by now, but yeah, I definitely recommend Hurricanger. If you're a fan of the show itself or the genre in general, it's a perfect adaptation, and even if you're not, it's just a really fun action game that's also very well presented.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Bogey Manor (Arcade)

The creators of Bogey Manor seems to have a fair few non-videogame influences in their repetoire, both in the general aesthetic, and even in the mechanics. Firstly, it was released in 1984, a year after Ghostbusters so it doesn't seem too out there to suggest that a comedic game about a guy who uses technology to fight ghosts might have been trying to ride that movie's wave of popularity (though, as barely anyone has heard of it, the tactic doesn't seem to have worked, unfortunately). The other influences all tie into the game's mechanics in some way (and some more than others).

But before I get onto them, I should really explain the game itself, shouldn't I? In it, some guy named Fritz goes to a series of ramshackle old mansions to, I guess exorcise them by destroying all the crystal balls therein. Each house is also infested with various kinds of monsters: ghosts, frankenstein's monsters, witches, and so on. Each house is divided into four screens, and each screen has four floors on it, with stairs and doorways being the way to get between floors. Most of the time, the player can only see the floor they are on, though there is an item that appears in each stage that illuminates every floor. After each orb in a house is smashed, the house starts to collapse from the top down, and the player has to rush to the exit. Failing to get to the exit before the house completely collapses results in death, obviously, but it also gives the player a different death screen than the usual, which is a nice touch.

Outside of the likely Ghostbusters cash-in attempt, the biggest influence on the game is probably Scooby Doo: the game takes place in a series of run-down old haunted houses, and the player's main method of attack is a nice little foray into silly slapstick comedy: to defeat most enemies, the player has to press one button to distract the monster by pointing at the floor or ceiling, and then press the attack button to clobber them over the head with their stick/lightsabre/thing. Most of the monsters don't stay down for long, and the fact that even ghosts can be beaten in this manner suggests that maybe, like most Scooby Doo monsters, they're just crooks in disguise?

The last, and least expected influence is Kamen Rider, or maybe just tokusatsu shows in general. I mentioned before the doors that can be entered to quickly travel from floor to floor, and on each stage, one of those doors (which i think is randomly selected each time, though I'm not certain) will be flashing, and upon entering the flashing door, the player is treated to a short transformation sequence, and for a short time become Super Fritz, who can beat up enemies without distracting them, and who moves slightly faster than regular Fritz, too. In an unusual move, however, the game actually penalises players who use Super Fritz's power, as there's a ten thousand point bonus at the end of each stage for not doing so.

Bogey Manor is a game I definitely recommend. It's fairly unique, and once you get used to it's little ideosnycrasies, it's a lot of fun to play.