Thursday, 27 August 2015

Thunder Hoop (Arcade)

Thunder Hoop's an arcade platform game by a Spanish company called Gaelco, who have a few games I hope to cover in the future, mainly because unlike a lot of European arcade manufacturers, they did/do seem to actually care about making good games, rather than just makng money (even if they aren't always 100% successful in their endeavours). In fact, they're probably best known for releasing the ROMs for their game World Rally for free and even assisting in it being added to MAME.

But anyway, Thunder Hoop. It feels quite Amiga-esque, in two ways: mechanically, it's obviously inspired by Japanese arcade games, as a lot of the better Amiga games were, and aesthetically it has a kind of particularly European psuedo-anime look to it. The main character even looks kind of like a bootleg Son Goku. Otherwise, it's a fairly typical action-heavy platform game, and a fairly well made one, from a purely mechanical and technical standpoint. There's no wrestling with bad controls, or poor collision detection or anything like that, it all works fine.

The problem is the stage designs. Firstly, though they are at least interesting to navigate (ie. you're always climbing ladders and jumping platforms and so on, rather than just walking across vast flat plains), the stages are also far too long. I haven't timed any of my plays, but they feel like they're around 5 minutes long each, which seems a bit of a slog. Secondly, there are lots of places where enemies just suddenly appear right next to the player literally out of nowhere, giving them almost no time to react. Obviously, these enemies will only get you the first time you reach their spawning point, but it feels cheap and Rick Dangerous-esque, which is bad enough for home games but even worse in an Arcade game.

Though it does have some good points, and it is an admirable effort, I don't really recommend playin Thunder Hoop. Apparently it has two sequels that aren't yet emulated in MAME. I'd definitely be interested in playing them, as TH does show potential, and it'd be nice to see if it was ever realised.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Simple DS Series vol. 39: The Shouboutai (DS)

Time for another Tamsoft game, and I don't think I've mentioned this before, but despite most of their DS output being in the Simple Series, Tamsoft seemed to have an uncanny nack for making polygon graphics on the system. The Shouboutai is no exception to this, bringing some non-violent third person shooting action to the table.

I remember one of the advertising taglines for Sonic Team's Burning Rangers stating that it had "Thrills without the kills", as it was a 3D action game about rescuing people and fighting fires, and The Shouboutai treads similar ground, though in present day Japan, rather than the futuristic labs and space stations of Burning Rangers.

As well as having great graphics, The Shouboutai also manages to simulate the dual analogue-based controls of console third person shooters, with the d-pad or face buttons being used to move around, and the touchscreen being used to turn you character, as well as to aim and shoot. Obviously, since this is a game about firefighting, different kinds of water hoses take the place of guns, and fire takes the place of enemies. Though the first few stages feature normal fire, that mostly just stays still and slowly grows if you don't put it out, you'll soon be up against fires that move around and even shoot smaller fires at the player. There's even boss fights, against such foes as giant angry chemical fires, and burning out cars that are somehow driving up and down the street.

There's some downsides to this game, though they're not big ones. The main one is an issue that crops up in a lot of Japanese budget games, even the big names like Oneechanbara and Earth Defence Force: There are a lot of stages, but not so many maps. So you have stages that just take place in different areas of the same map, with the rest blocked off. There only seems to be three maps in The Shouboutai: a suburban street, the corridors of a hotel, and a factory/warehouse type place. There's also the fact that the game can get a little repetitive, even though there are a few different mission objectives that crop up, from simply putting out every fire, to rescuing civilians. These are the only real faults, and neither of them are significant problems.

I definitely recommend giving The Shouboutai a look, even though there are plenty of 3D shooters on more modern handhelds, it's always nice to see something like this squeezed on to low-powered hardware. And if you want more violence in your TPS, there are a couple of alternative options that I'll cover at some point in the future (and if i remember rightly, they're also developed by Tamsoft).