Saturday, 20 July 2019

Dragonball Z (Plug and Play)

So, back in the mid-00s, there were a lot of these licensed plug and play joystick things, usually shaped like a character from a show they were based on, and more interestingly, containing one or more completely new 2D games! Though there's recently been talk of a lot of plug and plays actually being famiclones, with brand new, officially licensed Famicom games still being written because of them, as far as I can tell, these Jakks Pacific ones aren't famiclones. The games are too colourful, the sprites are too big, and so on.

This one was shaped like Shenron, and contained three games, all of which vary in both quality and thematic appropriateness. We'll get the worst and least fitting out of the way first, with "Kamehameha Assault". This is Dragonball Z-themed Pong. You pick one of five characters (Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Cell, and Buu), then you hit a green energy orb back and forth while also shooting energy blasts at each other. Each of the two characters has some of the Dragonballs behind them, and every time one of them gets hit by the green orb, it goes over to the other character's side. When one character has all seven, they win. It really is just fancy pong where you can also shoot each other a bit. It's definitely not fast or exciting enough to be considered a Windjammers-alike.

Next up is the most thematically appropriate of the three games, and while it is better than Kamehameha Assault, it's not by a great amount. Its name is Buto-Retsuden (fighting fighting legend? Am I reading that right?), and it's a fighting game. The roster is the same five characters as before, and it looks and feels like a poor imitation of the Super Butoden games. Except there's no special move inputs, beyond, say, forward+attack. Also, all the attacks, even the supers, do a pathetically tiny amount of damage and the fights feel like they last for hours. As a result, I never even managed to finish a credit of this, win or lose. By the halfway point of the second fight's first round, I was losing the will to live every time, and just quit.

Finally, we've got the best game of the three, and while it doesn't fit the theme particularly well, it's pinball, and basing pinball tables on things no matter what they are is a grand old tradition dating back to colonial times, at least. Also, the ball launch mechanism is Goku charging and firing a Kamehameha, which is a nice little touch. It clearly takes a lot of inspiration from Devil Crush, with the basic structure being a three-screen-tall main table, with entrances to seven bossfight bonus tables hidden around the place, and enemies marching up and down the place waiting to be smashed by the ball. Of course, every time you beat one of the bosses, the ball turns into a dragonball for you to take to goku up at the top of the table. Get them all to summon Porunga (since this table is set on Namek, during the Freeza arc) for lives and points and such.

Pinball isn't a spectacular game, but it's not awful, either, and it's a lot better than the other two games on here. Whether or not it's worth the price of admission depends on how much that price is. The going rate on ebay at the time of writing seems to be £10-20, which is far, far too much. If you see one of these for a pittance in a charity shop, though, the pinball game will give you half an hour's fun before you put the stick on a shelf, where it will at least make a fairly nice ornament forevermore.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Otostaz (PS2)

I can't find any evidence of this besides on mention in a 17-year-old issue of Edge, and I don't know if any other games came out of it, but Otostaz was possibly the result of an initiative at Sony in the early days of the PS2 to put out some games with lower production budgets and shorter development times. Presumably, the aim of such an initiative is to create more interesting, unique games, that didn't necessarily need to sell lots of copies, since they had less to lose. That's the kind of thing I like to see in videogames, movies, and so on. Lower budgets, more imagination!

Anyway, it's a kind of solitaire Othello game, themed around making buildings grow. There's three kinds of tiles in the game: ground, tree, and water. If there's one piece of ground touching both a tree and a bit of water, then a level one house will grow there. If there's a bit of ground touching two level one houses, a level two house will grow there, and so on up to level six. Your job is to make as many high-level houses grow as you can before each stage ends, to score points. There's also a game over condition that I think happens when you don't have any houses in the leftmost column of spaces when the screen scroll past it. But you'll be playing a few hours before you get to the point where that happens.

There's a few more advanced techniques to learn too, but you'll pick them up along the way, plus not only is there a very through tutorial, but there's also an option to turn all the text into English, despite this being a Japan-only release, which is nice. It's generally a fun and satisfying game to play, too, once you've figured out how it all works: lots of squares constantly flipping over, and numberse going up, and all those little kind of kinaesthetic touches that let you know you're doing well.

The presentation's pretty nice, too, with the game seemingly being set in a world made of thick coloured paper, though the stock sound effects do make it feel slightly cheap. The only real problem with Otostaz is that there's not much to write about regarding it. It's a decent game, pretty unique, and if you see a copy going cheap, it definitely wouldn't hurt to pick it up. You'll definitely get a few hours of enjoyment out of it, even if the first hour is just learning how to play.