Friday, 25 September 2009

Jushin Liger (1989) Ep. 1

I'll start with the most obvious thing to say about this show, that it inspired the gimmick of a great wrestler of the same name, who uses the cartoon's opening theme as his theme song to this day and who in turn later inspired a live action movie. That's pretty much why I wanted to watch this in the first place, having been a fan of the wrestler for a few years and all. If I'm honest, I wasn't really expecting very much from it.
I was pleasantly surprised! There is a lot to like about this show. Lots of action, it looks nice, dramatic music.
The show starts with some kid dreaming about being killed and eaten by big monsters, before being woken up by his dad. We find out the kid's name is Ken, and he then makes breakfast before going to school, and on the way to school, flips up the skirt of the girl he likes, insults her fat friend, and beats up his own fat friend. Classy.
During class something terrible happens outside! The giant head of Skullgreymon descends from the skies and unleashes a few giant monsters, who wreck the shit out of Tokyo. And this must be the most fragile Tokyo ever, since it takes less than a minute of monstering before it looks like a typical post-apocalyptic cartoon: dark skies, ruined skyscrapers, and so on.
The army turn up, and not only make their usual inept attempt at killing the monsters, they actualy make things worse, as when one of the monsters is hit by tank fire, it splits in two for some reason.
Anyway, more devastation goes on until Ken finally summons Jushin Liger, which only bears a slight resemblence to the wrestler, and looks more like a heavy metal version of Lord Zedd from Power Rangers. A hole opens in Liger's chest, that Ken flies into, before a bunch of bony cable things attach themselves to Ken. Jushin Liger is some kind of living giant robot made of muscle and bone or something. There's then a pretty long (and actually very good) fight scene with Liger beating up/killing the evil monsters, while the real villains also do plot stuff in their giant ship (that really does look like Skullgreymon's head). He usus martial arts more than wrestling, though. One bizzare highlight is that at one point, Ken decides he needs a weapon, and that since he's in a (sort of) giant robot called "Jushin Liger", he'll just summon a sword, and it's called "Liger Sword". And that works.
Liger defeats the monsters, the bad guys run away, episode ends.
As I said at the start, I wasn't expecting much from this show, only watching it out of curiosity, but it actually turned out to be really entertaining, and by the time the next episode preview came on, I really wanted to watch another episode! Unfortunately, as far as I know, this is the only episode that's been subtitled. One last thing: while watching this show, various little visual things reminded me a lot of Go Nagai, then when I looked up the release date on Wikipedia, turns out it was actually by him! Oh ho!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Hatris (PC Engine)

According to Wikipedia, Hatris was created by Alexey Pajitnov in 1990. As well as being on PC Engine, it was also released on NES, Game Boy and in arcades. Like his most famous game, Tetris, Hatris was a falling stuff puzzle game, the "stuff" being hats of various styles, such as wizard hats, crowns, etc. At the bottom of the screen are six identical heads on to which the hats land. Stacking five identical hats on top of each other makes them disappear. Near the top of the screen is a line, which when crossed by a pile of hats ends the game.
The game itself is fine. Unfortunately, that's the greatest compliment it can recieve. While not great looking, it's not particularly ugly, while there is music it's so bland, it's barely noticable. The idea is executed perfectly, and there are no frustrating flaws in any part of the game, in fact, it only commits one crime of game design. The most important one: it's very, very boring. There's no tension, reaching higher levels complicates things by adding more varieties of hat, but still, even when all six stacks of hats are reaching the game over line, you don't feel any motivation to try harder, and once you've reached game over you don't feel as if you've lost anything or that you could do better next time, you just find yourself thinking "oh. it's over." This isn't helped by the fact that even if you start on higher levels, your game is probably going to last at least ten minutes before you're even close to getting game over.
Play it once or twice out of curiosity at the unusual concept, and to see the sort-of wierd graphics, but that's it. This is a well made, but very dull game.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Project: Horned Owl (Playstation)

Project: Horned Owl is a light gun shooter for Playstation released in 1995. It has mecha designs (and possibly character designs too?) by Masamune Shirow, and as such will probably light a little spark of nostalgia for cartoon nerds of a certain age, with it being slightly reminiscent of Dominion Tank Police.
As you might have worked out from the first paragraph, in this game you play as cops in giant(-ish) robots, and you shoot evil terrorist robots. Even though you're playing as cops, you get points for destoying the scenery. A subtle satire on the attitude and conduct of real police, or just the developers knowing that people like shooting things? Probably the second one. You get two and a half weapons: your normal gun, your grenade launcher, and when you hold the shoot buton for a second and let go, you shoot a weak scatter shot thing, the only use for which is shooting missiles without having to aim. But the time it takes to charge means you'd be better off just shooting them normally.
The graphics are nice to look at, a mix of 2D and 3D, with the stages themselves being made of polygons, and everything you can shoot (with a couple of exceptions like some of the bosses and such) being sprites. It works well. The 3D hasn't aged as badly as most 3D from 1995, with the only real eyesore being the plane in the background of stage 2.
"Satisfying" is the best way to describe how the game plays. There's just something that feels good and chunky about shooting the robots, and the robots exploding. You know, one of those strange unnamed feelings you get from games that aren't down to any specific thing like graphics or sound or whatever. It just feels right. The feeling of satisfaction is definately helped by the fact that the enemies don't disappear after you shoot them down, leaving you with nice piles of scrap after particularly busy segments. The only real problem is the fact that putting the cursor right at the edge of the screen reloads, which means you can't shoot enemies there. But even that's not too much of a problem, since enemies don't attack from there, you only be shooting them for a few extra points. I would say that the difficulty was a problem, were it not for the fact that although it is really hard, it never feels unfair.
Oh and there are animated cutscenes, if you like that sort of thing. They're not very exciting, but if there's exciting stuff happening in a game, it should really happen while you're actually playing.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Panic Bomber World (SNES)

Panic Bomber World is a puzzle game starring Bomberman. It's of the "falling stuff" and "versus" sub-genres. It's pretty good.
It's more complex than most games of this type. You do mainly play by matching up coloured Bomberman heads in rows of three, but that's where the genericity ends. When you match up rows of same-coloured heads, bombs spring up from the bottom of your pit. Every now and then, a lit bomb will fall down into your pit. When the lit bomb lands, it explodes with a traditional Bomberman plus-shaped explosion, and also like in bomberman, any other bombs caught in the explosion also explode like this. Any Bomberman heads caught in the blast don't disappear like you'd expect them to, though. What happens is that the traditional versus puzzle game junk blocks start appearing from the bottom of your opponen't's pit, and the more heads caught in the blast, and the more bombs that go off, the more junk blocks appear. The junk blocks can only be erased by blowing them up with bombs. There's also a red bar next to each player's pit, and when this fills up, a huge bombs falls into their pit and completely erase the top few rows of stuff.
In single player mode, you go to various countries around the world, fight two enemies, then a boss. I don't know how many stages there are, as i've only made it to the third boss so far.
Like I said at the start, this game is pretty good. It's not as good as Super Puzzle Fighter or Magical Drop, but it's still worth playing. If you're a big Bomberman fan (Bomberfan?), even more so, as this game contains tons of cool little variant Bombermen. Although the two "regular" enemies on each stage are just strange blobby things, each stages's boss is a Bomberman themed to whatever country that stage is set in. Jamaica has a laid back rasta Bomberman, America has a cowboy Bomberman, and england has... some kind of awesome badass Bomberman whose battle theme is some cool 16-bit power metal! As well as the bosses, the pit backgrounds also show Bomberman getting up to nationally-themed activities, like lying on the beach or going snorkelling in Jamaica, and having afternoon tea or looking for the loch ness monster in England!
Apparently, this game has also been ported to PSP and Wii.

Diet Go Go (Arcade)

Diet Go Go was released by Data East in 1992. It's a spiritual successor to Tumblepop. The plot apparently involves an evil scientist giving everyone free meat and cake. That bastard. Instead of vacuuming up enemies then shooting them like in Tumblepop, you inflate them with balls, then kick them around at other enemies. This works a lot better than Tumblepop's vacuuming which could sometimes feel a bit awkward and inaccurate.
Instead of always dying with a single hit, if you get hit by an enemies attack (which is usually in the form of food being thrown at you), you become fat and slow, and die if you get hit again. If you get hit by the enemies themselves you die straight away.
Like in Tumblepop, you get extra lives from bonus stages, this time accessed by getting 777 on the fruit machine at the top of the screen, which spins whenever you collect one of the big gold coins that enemies drop. Matching triples of other symbols gets you one of each power-up or causes a whole bunch of points items to appear onscreen. This random element meants this happens a lot more often than collecting the whole word "tumblepop", so you end up getting extra lives pretty frequently.
Like you can see in the video, it's a lot faster than Tumblepop, and i think it's a lot better too. It's actually one of my most played roms in MAME, and one of the few i can come close to completing.

(Originally posted on on 13/03/2009)

Japanese Master System Boxart

If you've ever seen any western Master System boxart, you'll probably agree that it's probably the worst boxart in the world. Every box consisted of a white background with a grid of squares on it, and a tiny, crudely drawn picture of something from the game. Or sometimes, a tiny, crudely drawn picture of some random object. The strangest thing about this is that Japanese Master System boxart was actually really nice and colourful. Which means that someone at SEGA Europe must have decided that the tiny scribbles were more sellable. I know it's not exactly breaking news that a lot of games have better boxart in Japan, but the difference in quality between the different versions of Master System boxart is much bigger than for any other console.
(All these pictures are stolen from various websites)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Deadly Strike (PS2)

Deadly Strike is an old fahioned beat em up. Much more old fashioned than other PS2 beat em ups like Godhand or Koei's Warriors series. You could say it's even more old fashioned than the later Streets of Rage and Final Fight games, since they have tons of moves and combos for each character, and each character in Deadly Strike has one regular melee combo, and a rubbish gun attack.
It's far from bad game, though. I'd say it's one of the better Simple 2000 games, definately up there with the likes of Zombie Hunters 2 and Global Defence Force. Like I said earlier, it's a very old fashioned beat em up. You wouldn't think to look at it, though, the pre-rendered backgrounds all look really great, and the 3D character models look pretty good too, and don't look out of place as can happen with pre-rendered back grounds. Gameplay follows a traditional formula for the genre: you arrive in an area, beat some guys up, then go to the next area. You score more points for quickly defeating enemies one after the other, and the points you get while playing can be used to unlock various things like longer health bars, extra costumes, and so on.
Other than the main mode, there's also Survival Mode, which is exactly what it sounds like, but as the ames is really easy, this can go on for ages and ages before you finally die, and Special Mode, which allows you to play through the main game as one of the regular enemies. This one isn't actually as fun as it sounds, since the enemies are just as weak and slow as they are when you fight against them.

The real reason to get this game though, is the 2-player co-op mode, which is as fun as you'd expect from a beat em up's 2-player co-op mode: very.
The plot is a bit of an odd one: both the manual and the back of the case mention some kind of tournament taking place, though neither the game itself or the intro movie contain anything looking remotely tournament-esque. What the game actually seems to be about, is a bunch of people from the modern day, including among others, a cool guy in a leather jacket, a schoolgirl, and a bouncer going to fuedal japan and beating up a load of samurai for some reason. I don't know why this happens, nor do I know how a bunch of people from the modern day are skilled/strong enough to so easily beat up so many samurai. There are endings when you complete the game, though they just consist of a screen full of small text, apparently talking about the same mysterious tournament as the manual.

(this game is also known as "Simple 2000 Series Ultimate Vol. 16: Sengoku vs. Gendai)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Logic Pro (Arcade)

There are lots and lots and lots of picross/nonogram/oekaki logic games in the world, and this one is the best of them. The reason for this bold claim? Because this is the only one to actually make a game using the puzzles. This was the first game of this type I ever played, which was a bad move, because every other one has seemed poorly thought out in comparision. The reason being that every other picross game I've played has just been a collection of puzzles on a disc/cartridge. At most, they might save your best times so you can go back and beat them. Of particular note is the GaoGaiGar Oekaki Logic game on DS, which doesn't even do that, and lacks the ability to cross off squares on the grid which you know to be clear. There are two main commands you need in a game of this type, and it forgets one of them. Not to mention the fact that the puzzles never actually get harder. You do get 20x20, 30x30 and 40x40 puzzles in that game, but you only ever tackle them as huge sets of multiple, very easy 10x10 puzzles, and the whole thing becomes a test of your patience.
But anyway, back to Logic Pro. Look at the screenshots. You can clearly see two things that are very important to this game's appeal: the score and the timer. I said earlier that most games of this type have a timer. The difference here is that the timer in logic pro goes down, not up, and if it runs out, it's game over. If you make a mistake, you lose a big chunk of time, and conversely, for every correct mark, you regain a small amount of time. You also get a small amount of points for each correct mark, and a bonus for clearing a stage without any errors. The simple addition of a score and a time limit are what turn a picross game from a laborious slog into a tense speed puzzle, and it works.
You might have noticed the little caveboy in all the screenshots. He isn't just there for decoration, this game has a plot! In a harrowing and emotional attract sequence, we see a large pink ape crying to our caveboy hero and his red-haired female friend (player 2's character in the completely pointless co-op mode), loudly stating "I WANT TO BE A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN!", to which the brave kid yells "I CAN HELP YOU", and then goes off to solve puzzles, I guess. He mostly just stands there at the side of the screen, occaisionally jogging on the spot or shouting "GREEN LETTUCE" for no obvious reason. One last thing worth mentioning about this game, if you look below, you'll see that one of the later puzzles bear an eerie resemblance to famous child-killer Myra Hindley. I can't say whether or not this was intentional, though.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Uzu Keobukseon (Mega Drive)

This is a korean vetical shooter. It's not very good, though. I'm only posting about it because of it's obscurity.

Here's an animated gif of the intro. I can't read korean, but going by the pictures it's obvious this game is about two midget spacemen on a flying viking ship going to space to fight a demonic PC.

Here's a picture of the first boss. The boss fights look nicer than the rest of the game, being in space. I guess a no-prize explanation for this could be that the bosses are too big to live in the atmosphere/gravitational pull of a planet, so they just float about space and attack you while you're... commuting from one planet to the next.
Most of the stuff at the side of the screen here is pretty obvious, but the number next to the red text is how many times you have to hit the boss until it dies, and the green text with the red speck thing next to it tells you which weapon you're using. The red speck represents the defalut weapon, which is a regular old 3-way shot, that turns into a 5-way, 6-way etc. shot when powered up, but pressing C lets you switch to a different shot, that shoots one bullet in front of you, and one bullet straight out to the left and right of you. This second weapon is weaker and slower than the default, which itself isn't all that great, either. The rubbish weak weapon, coupled with the really fast moving enemies make this game really hard. it took me a few attempts to get past the first stage, but then, that could just be me being bad at games. Either way, the challenge isn't worth persevering through; the game is slow, unoriginal, ugly and boring.
Ugly is especially true. Look at this screenshot from the second stage. It's very brown, isn't it? The first stage is too, with a lot of murky dark green thrown in too. In summary, don't play this game. It is bad.

Fatal Fantasy VII (Playstation)

This is a bit of an oddity. It appears to be a demo for a Net Yaroze game. It's obviously a Final Fantasy VII fangame. That's pretty much all that I've been able to find out about it. Well there is one more thing: more than one person has told me that the text at the start of the video has something to do with "the world's toilet paper". Hmm.
I won't bother commenting on how it plays, you can see the whole thing in the video, and there's no real gameplay to comment on.

Shui Hu Feng Yun Zhuan (Mega Drive)

This is a review of the Mega Drive game, "Shui Hu Feng Yun Zhuan", and as the ROM isn't yet widely available, it might even be the first ever English-language review of it. Exciting, eh?
Anyway, as you might have guessed from the title, and the obscurity of the game, it's Chinese. I can't read any Chinese at all, so I can't tell you anything about the plot of this game, or even the names of its characters. I can tell you that it was made in 1999, by someone called "Never Ending Soft Team", though.
It seems absurd to have gone so long in a review of a game without actually talking about the game, so I will.
It's a beat em up, and at first glance, doesn't seem like anything special, with rubbish animation, and various things blatantly nicked from other beat em ups. I thought this too, the first time I played it, until I finished playing, and found that well over an hour had passed without my noticing.
I suppose I should get the bad things out of the way first, then.

For a start, it isn't very original. There are three characters to pick from, Average Shonen Guy, Lady Weakbutfast, and Brave Sir Tank, and the controls are like almost every other MD beat em up, with A being the "special", B being "attack, and C being "jump". The animation, particularly on the player characters is awful. The large food and treasure items can be cut up into smaller chunks, in exactly the same manner as in Capcom's "Knights of the Round", and the poses your characters do when they activate their special attack is the exact same pose that the characters in Golden Axe in the same situation. To top it all off, the enemies'death cries seem to have been directly ripped from Streets of Rage.
Despite all these faults though, this is still a great game. Although poorly animated, each sprite is quite detailed, and all have character and charm, from the giant whip-weilding, slightly nordic-looking woman, to the gut-bearing fat arabian guy. The special attacks, rather than having one per character, are instead represented by different collectible items, each containing a different spell, and of which there are at least 5 varieties. The player can hold 5 of these items at a time, which sounds like a lot, making the game too easy, but this is where the game's greatest strength comes in - balance. You get a lot of magic items, but there are always a lot of enemies on screen, with very few calm moments in which to catch one's breath. Similarly, the game is seemingly over-generous with extra lives, giving one every 50,000 points, but again, the excellent balance saves it, at by the end of each level, you're more than likely to be down to your last life, adding extra drama and desperation as you struggle to beat the boss with your last few pixels of life, knowing that if you can just make it, the end of level bonus will take you to your next extra life, and you'll be able to rest easy again.
In conclusion, then, Shui Hu Feng Yun Zhuan is a great game, that hopefully, over time, will find itself crawling out of absolute obscurity, and into semi-obscurity, because, let's be honest, it's never going to be fammous, is it?

(originally posted on on 3rd july 2007)