Saturday, 22 November 2014

Realm of the Dead (PS2)

Europe was a pretty good place to be a PS2 owner, as for some reason, we had a lot of smaller publishers buying the rights to many lesser-known Japanese games and releasing them here, which is apparently something that didn't really happen in North America. Obviously, a lot of those games were awful shovelware garbage, but it also meant we got to play some amazing classics like Global Defence Force and games that were more interesting than they were actually good, like Zombie vs. Ambulance. Realm of the Dead is one of those many piles of low-budget Japanese titles that was brought over, but it doesn't really fall into any of the above categories, that is to say, it's particularly good, it's not terrible, and it's definitely not interesting.

Realm of the Dead is a gory, zombie themed beat em up, but unlike most zombie games, it's set in medieval times. So instead of killing zombie cops and office workers, you kill zombie knights and fishwives. You've got weak attacks and strong attacks, you earn points that are used to buy upgrades between stages, et cetera. There's really nothing about this game that stands out at all.

It could be said that it does at least paint a somewhat realistic picture of the medieval world, with most locations being brown, dirty and damp-looking. Very damp-looking in some cases, as you're going to spend several consecutive stages early in the game wading through identical-looking sewers, killing the same enemies you kill everywhere else.

Yeah, this is a pretty short review, since there's only so many ways in which it's possible to say "this game is mediocre". Like I said in the Raging Blades review, there are plenty of great beat em ups to play on the PS2 before you get to ones like this, and if you really want to play one with zombies and gore, I'd say go for Zombie Hunters 2. If horror isn't essential to you, then once again, I urge you to play God Hand.
This game is also known as Bakuen Kakusei: Neverland Senki Zero

Monday, 17 November 2014

Super Glob (Arcade)

Super Glob is an arcade game of a style popular in the early 80s, featuring a cute thing of indeterminate nature avoiding enemies and eating things. It's probably safe to say that though a lot of the games in this trend weren't maze games (and in fact there was actually a fair amount of mechanical variation between most of the games), they were almost definitely inspired by Pacman's massive popularity.

In this particular iteration of the theme, the players control a small blue slime named "Glob", and ride in elevators to eat all the food on each stage. The enemies come in the form of various animals: crocodiles, frogs, rabbits, monkeys and pigs, each with their own behaviour patterns.

There's two buttons in use for this game, one to make glob jump up and stick to the ceiling, which is useful to evade enemies, and also to defeat them by dropping onto them from above, though each stage has a time limit in the form of an "energy level", which depletes faster whie Glob is stuck to the ceiling. The second button is used to press the buttons that are dotted around the stages to call the elevators to the player's current floor. This button comes with it's own cute little animation, and the elevators provide another method for dispatching foes: crushing with the top or bottom of the elevator, in a manner possibly inspired by Taito's Elevator Action, released in the same year.

A few stages in, the enemies gain the ability to call the elevators, to kill the player or, since they aren't too bright, each other. A couple more stages and some of the enemies can even ride the elevators up and down, which complicates things even more than it sounds like it does. Each enemy is worth a different amount of points, oddly all being mulitples of eleven. The amount of points each piece of food is worth increases by 10 each stage, too. These two things combine to make a simple, but still interest way of ensuring there can be some variation in the scores of players with different skill levels.

The game is known by a few other names, including The Glob, and Beastie Feastie. There are some difference between the differently named versions, too, though they're all fundamentally the same game: Beastie Feastie has uglier graphics, different stage layouts and a continue option. The Glob appears to be mostly the same as Super Glob, with only a few pallette difference and very minor changes to stage layout.
Here's a comparision of the first stages of each game, with Beastie Feastie on the left, The Glob in the middle, and Super Glob on the right :

You can read more about how this odd state of affairs came about here.

Super Glob is a game that's worth playing, in my opinion. It's cute, it has an interesting scoring system and it's fun to play. It's also part of a mildly interesting footnote in arcade history too, which is nice.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Panic in Nakayoshi World (SNES)

This is a game I'd encountered way back when I first had access to emulation, before I even owned a computer, and was running a dreamSNES disc I'd got from one of the local software pirates in my village, with ROM discs burned by my friends. Panic in Nakayoshi World was on a disc sent to me by an internet friend, who described it as "this weird Bomberman-type game with Sailor Moon in it", which, to the untrained eye, seems like an accurate description. Definitely better than describing it as a puzzle game, which I've seen one person online do, at least.

But I recently got a physical copy of the game from ebay for a few pounds, and playing it again, I can see exactly what it is: it's Battle City with a pink and yellow makeover! (And long-time readers might remember when I reviewed Tank Force, the arcade-only sequel to Battle City, a couple of years ago.)

It has all the main features of Battle City: destructable blocks, enemies spawning from three points at the top of the map, a target at the bottom of the map that has to be defended from enemy fire. Your weapon is even powered up by collecting stars! But of course, instead of controlling a tank, you're controlling Sailor Moon or one of three other characters from comics being published in Nakayoshi magazine at the time, none of whom I'm familiar with. And instead of enemy tanks patrolling an occupied city, there are enemy rabbits and teddy bears patrolling cute fairytale forests and the like.

The one, singular problem I have with the game is that the addition of boss fights means losing a life can put the player at a massive disadvantage: since all power ups a lost on death, dying before a boss fight can be disastrous. At full power, bosses are easy, going down in a few seconds. With no power-ups, you have to play almost perfectly just to defeat them within the time limit. It's only a minor problem, and it's nowhere near as pronounced as it is in a lot of other games, but it's still mildly annoying.

Really, whether you like this game or not depends on two things: how much you like Battle City and how comfortable you are playing a game that is themed with such femininity (and that really shouldn't be a problem with anyone in this day and age, should it?) Panic in Nakayoshi World probably isn't as good as Tank Force, but it is still worth playing, and if you want to play it on real hardware, a copy shouldn't set you back too much.