Sunday, 23 September 2018

Lupin III: Pyramid no Kenja (Saturn)

It's suprising how few Lupin III games there have been over the years, considering not only the character's international popularity, but also how his 1979 movie The Castle of Cagliostro was a clear influence on the designs of various games, most obviously the Castlevania series. And of the games that there are, a bunch of them are adventure games or console ports of pachi-slot machines, not the crazy madcap action games you'd expect from Lupin III.

This Saturn entry is one of the action games, though, and for some reason, it seems to be less well known than the Lupin III database disc thing that's also on Saturn. The plot, as far as I can discern (since it's told in a series of great-looking, but obviously untranslated FMVs), concerns Lupin, Goemon, and Jigen looking to relieve a pyramid of all its treasures. Of course, this being a videogame based on an anime character, the pyramid is not only full of normal traps, but also masked cultist guards, futuristic super-technology, and the pyramid itself is only the tip of a giant diamond-shaped structure that's mostly underground.

Most of the stages focus around getting a treasure, then getting to the exit. Along the way you'll also fight enemies, avoid traps and sometimes solve a simple puzzle or two. It's okay, but it's let down by a few things. The camera is the worst, it's terrible. It never changes angle on its own, instead relying on you to do it with the shoulder buttons, and even then, it seems almost impossible to get it into a good position for jumping over pits and things like that. I feel like a lot of the time when people complain about the camera in old 3D games, they're just nitpicking, but this is a case where it's legitimately terrible.

The other main problem is one I almost feel bad for picking at, because it really shows that the developers tried to capture the spirit of Lupin III. Lupin's got a big, gangly-limned run animation that looks great, but unfortunately, it also means that he's constantly moving really fast, making navigating certain hazards more difficult than it needs to be, especially when stuff like moving platforms and the like are brought into the equation.

On the whole, Pyramid no Kenja isn't a great game. It does, however, look really great, and it's yet another nail in the coffin of the "Saturn can't do 3D" myth. I don't really recommend playing it though, unless you've got saintlike reserves of patience at your disposal.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Outlander (Mega Drive)

This is a game I first encountered years ago, in my earliest days of emulation, but back then, I never figured out how to actually play it. Or at least, I never figured out how to play it for a decent amount of time. But before I get onto that, I should describe what the game actually is: it's a would-be sequel to a Mad Max game on the NES (that I haven't played), though the publisher apparently no longer had the license, so they just changed the name.

You play as some guy driving through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, constantly assailed by bikers, and later on, people in cars and helicopter pilots. You can fight them off with machineguns mounted to the front of your car, and when an enemy's coming close up next to you, a little side window appears and, if your timing's good enough, you can blast them with your shotgun. Eventually, the little left-pointing arrow on your dashboard will start blinking, telling you that you're near a town and you should pull over (which is done by stopping your car to the left side of the road, then turning the steering wheel left as far as it'll go).

That's the part I never figured out back then, and it's pretty important! The town segments take the form of single-plane beat em up stages, where you walk to the left, taking out any enemies you encounter (all the people you encounter are enemies, by the way), as well as destroying any barrels or crates you find, in the hopes of obtaining more fuel, food or water (to replenish you health), or ammo for your guns. If you don't visit the towns, you won't get any points, as they're totted up based on how many enemies you killed, your remaining fuel and health, and so on as you enter. But more importantly, you'll quickly run out of fuel! (Actually points are pretty important too, since you don't start with any extra lives and you can only get them through points).

If you run out of fuel, you'll come to a stop, and you'll have to do a beat em up stage on the road, which are much harder than the town ones, since there's now bikers trying to take your head off with chains, and you can only kill them with your shotgun, which has limited ammo. In the old days, I'd just keep driving until I reached one of these stages, then quickly get killed. I'm glad I gave it another shot as an adult, and finally figured it out, because Outlander is a pretty fun game!

It's no classic, and it has some big problems, like how the scenery during the driving sections never changes (I know you're driving through an endless wasteland, but with a bit of imagination you can easily come up with a few variants: toxic swamp, ruined city, dead forest, etc.), and how later on there's some unfair stuff like poisoned water that reduces your health, but it's definitely a game worth playing, and it's a shame it's not better known. I strongly recommend you also give it a try!