Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Godzilla - Kaiju Daishingeki (Game Gear)

The first time I played this game, a long time ago (so long ago that I was emulating it on the original GP32, which puts it in the early-mid 00s), I was so let down by the fact that a Godzilla game could be a boring-looking strategy game, which I totally wasn't in the mood for, that I switched it off, and then didn't play it again for years. A year or two ago, I decided to give it another try, no longer being the impatient teenager I was back then. I'm glad I did!

Videogames based on tokusatsu and kaiju properties have a bit of a poor reputation, the blame for which I place at the feet of the 1991 Ultraman arcade game and its ports to home consoles. It was a not-very-good fighting game, and by the time the home ports had come out, Street Fighter II had come out and pretty much changed the very meaning of the term "fighting game", making Ultraman look even worse. But there's actually a fair few decent toku games: the super sentai games on Playstation, the Power Rangers fighting game on SNES, and most of Godzilla's own games are at least playable, even if they aren't classics, even the critically-panned Dreamcast game Godzilla Generations is pretty decent, if you're in the mood for a kind of stress relief game about destroying cities and nothing else.

Godzilla Kaiju Daishingeki (translates to something like "The Great Kaiju Offensive", I think) is definitely playable, but not a classic. It's also pretty unique, as it's a turn-based strategy/side-scrolling action hybrid. When you start playing, you select a side (Godzilla and his monster allies, or the human G-force, and sometimes their monster allies. There's also unplayable space monsters, like Gigan and Space Godzilla) and a stage. Then, you move your units around in the time-honoured turn-based strategy manner, and when two opposing units are next to each other, they can enter combat. Combat comes in the form of little 2D side-view fight segments with very short time limits. Monsters and unique human units (like Super X or Mechagodzilla) have lots of HP, while conventional weapons (tanks and jets and the like) go down in a single hit, but come in "squadrons", which are kind of like lives in practice.

There's four stages, which can be played in any order, based on Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II (1993), and Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla (1994), as well as a secret stage based on the original 1954 Godzilla movie, though unlocking it means completing all the others in a single sitting, and since each stage takes twenty to thirty minutes, that's going to take some saintlike patience (or save states) to accomplish. Anyway, this gives you a good mix of playable units on both sides, and most of the battles are balanced pretty well, too (the exception being the Space Godzilla battle, as ol' spacey takes barely any damage, and can heal half his max HP every round. I guess there's some solution I haven't worked out). Most importantly, it's actually pretty fun to play. Whether you're playing as the humans or Godzilla and friends, the combat is fun and satisfying, despite being very very simple. The only problem is that at the start of each battle, it takes a few turns to get the units from either side to actually get near each other and for the battle to really get exciting. But once it does, you'll be having a great time.

Godzilla Kaiju Daishingeki is a fun little game, and if you givie it a chance, you probably won't regret doing so. A great little game for Godzilla fans, and definitely in the upper tiers of the Game Gear library, too!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

New Sinbad 7 (Arcade)

I like to think that I'm too intelligent to be taken in by advertising, but in the case of New Sinbad 7, it was not just the game's promotional flyer, with its striking sci-fi/fantasy hybrid art, but also the bizarre slogan on that flyer, loudly proclaiming "SEVEN TIMES SEVEN SORCERERS OF OLD SOUGHT SINBAD 7", that totally caught my imagination and led me to playing the game. It's a great little turn of phrase though, isn't it? It's so mythic and dramatic.

The game itself is a little less so, however. It's a maze game, that's pretty primitive-looking, even compared to other games from 1983, and you play as sinbad, represented by what appears to be some kind of tiny green bird, who flies around mazes shooting butterflies. In the centre of each maze, there's a temple with a treasure or a key in the middle of it, and for each monster you kill, a small block of the temple disappears, until a path has been cleared to the bounty within. If there's a treasure there, you collect it and simply go on to the next stage. On collection of a key, a door will open somewhere on the stage, which leads to another screen, on which there's a formation of blocks for you to shoot, and while you're doing that, some of the blocks will occasionally break off and start haphazardly flying around the screen. Shoot all the blocks, animate or otherwise, and you go on to the next screen.

It's a very simple game, and I do like the path-clearing mechanic, and the fact that you can shoot the enemies' shots. In conjunction with the fact that you're limited to two shots at a time means that realistically, you'll win a gunfight with one enemy in a couple of seconds, but with two or more enemies coming at you from the same direction, you'll quickly end up dead. I like that small-scale bit of mechanical certainty: you know exactly what you can do, and so you can instantly assess which situations can be worked to your benefit. Unfortunately, the "block" stages don't really allow for any of that kind of strategising, with your enemies randomly bouncing around the screen faster than both your movement and your bullets, making clearing them mainly down to luck.

I can see that they wanted to break up the main stages in fears of the game becoming repetitive, but those block stages are boring, unfair and generally terrible. New Sinbad 7 wouldn't have been some great classic without them, but they definitely make it a worse game than it would otherwise have been. I don't recommend playing this game, but I do really recommend you go and look up its flyer.