Thursday, 22 September 2011

Toryumon (Arcade)

When you're looking through a big long list of ROMs you've never heard of, how do you pick out the ones you want to play? I picked this one because it had the same name as the wrestling gym/promotion founded by Ultimo Dragon, that eventually changed it's name into Dragon Gate. But obviously, this game has nothing to do with wrestling at all. It's a kung-fu themed puzzle game.
It's pretty simple to play: yellow blocks fall into your pit in pairs, and some (or all) of the blocks' corners will have blue quarter-circles on them. Put four of those blue quarters together to make a full circle, and the four blocks disappear, the surrounding blocks get more blue quarters on them, and some junk blocks fall into your opponent's pit.
The junk blocks are actually an essential part of playing, though, as when you get rid of some regular blocks, any junk blocks touching them will gain a blue quarter on all four corners, which is (as far as I'm aware) the only way to get combos in this game. This means when half your pit is full of junk, it's very possible to make a dramatic and cool comeback! In a way, this is similar to the timed junk blocks in Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo, though in that case using them to your advantage is as much about waiting as skill (not that I'm saying that Toryumon is better than SPFT, though. Although Toryumon is pretty good, that would be crazy talk.).
The AI is pretty good at the game, too. If you let your guard down for even a few seconds, they can quickly mess up all of your plans and beat you in no time at all!
Toryumon is good. Strange that it never got a home or even handheld release, really. It just seems to have sank without a trace, never to be heard from again. What a shame.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Kishin Douji Zenki FX - Vajura Fight (PC-FX)

So, this is a beat em up based on a cartoon I've never seen. You get two characters to choose from, a warrior-looking boy and a priestess-looking girl, and they both actually play really differently, the boy being a traditional beat em up character, and the girl being able to slowly shoot balls of energy at the enemies. This review will mostly be about playing as the boy, though, as playing as the girl isn't much fun, and is probably best saved for when you're playing two player and you force your friend to be her.
The game doesn't go the usual beat em up way of having a psuedo 3D plane in which you can move up, down, left and right, but rather more of a platformer-style arrangement with just left, right and jumping. It gets off to a strange start with the first ten minutes of play being mostly taken up by a series of boss fights and cutscenes, but once you get past these, it's a lot of fun to play. You know how beat em ups work, you walk along, and beat up enemies until you get to a boss, then you beat them up too. This game also adds a block button into the mix, which you'll have to get used to quickly if you want to get past even the first array of bosses. One cool touch the game has is that a short time into the boss fights, a bracelet power up appears, that turns you into a fully grown adult, giving you more powerful attacks and making you the same size as (most of) the bosses. The small difference between doing this and just having you automatically transform at the start of the fight doesn't sound like much, but it does add a minor element of drama to the fights.
The most obvious thing to talk about regarding this game, though, is the graphics. They are excellent. The sprites are big and colourful, all the characters, right down to the regular enemies look cool (though, since this is a licenced game, that's really more down to the source material. Treasure's Bleach fighting games on DS suffer the opposite, the licence having lumbered them with a cast of boring looking people mostly dressed in the same outfits), and along with that, the animation is excellent. I don't know how powerful the PC-FX is, but looking at this game, I'd guess that it's at least on par with the Saturn. It makes me wonder how differently things would have gone if it became popular, and if Capcom and SNK had decided to make it the home of the 90s fighting game, rather than the Saturn.
In summary, this is an excellent game, and makes me look forward to futher exploring the PC-FX library, having previously written it off as a console full of boring adventure games for simpering milksops who watch cartoons about little girls eating cake. Play it!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Arena (Game Gear)

This game is an isometric shooter, set in a dystopian future city. What's odd about this dystopia is that although the world is run by an evil TV station, the game isn't set in a deadly futuristic game show.
Arena came out fairly late in the Game Gear's life, and it shows in the graphics, which are of a much higher quality than you'd expect from the system. It's pretty fun, too. You run around the large stages, collecting keycards, killing enemies and trying to reach the exit. It actually feels a lot like an isometric version of one of the early first person shooters, like Wolfenstein 3D or Blake Stone.
The first few stages are set in and around a series of warehouses, and are fairly easy, though one strange thing is that the indoors areas are much bigger and more spacious than the outdoor ones. After you get through these, there's a stage set around a dirty polluted canal, and after this, more warehouses. Looking online, there does seem to be other settings for stages, but as the river stage takes a massive leap in difficulty, I always lose most of my lives there, and the remaining one or two a short way into the following stage. It's a shame, because until the game started sending enemies that took nearly 10 shots (with a powerful weapon, it would have been twice as many with the default gun) and can kill the player in two or three, I was really enjoying it.
So yeah, it starts off as a fun, nice looking game, but quickly gets killed by it's terrible difficulty curve.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Kolobok Piramida (Mega Drive)

With some of the games I've recently posted about, I feel like I've sold out a tiny bit, and that they weren't quite obscure enough to meet the original purpose of this blog. So now, I am reviewing a Russian Mega Drive bootleg.
With a tiny bit of research, I learned that it is actually a hack of a homebrew game, also Russian, called Uwol: Quest for Money, which was itself a remake of an old spanish ZX Spectrum game.
Anyway, in the game, you play as a small bearlike thing, and you collect coins in small, one-screen stages. There's a Darius-esque pyramid of these stages, and when you get to the bottom of te pyramid, you get sent back to the top, able to choose a different route down. I wonder if anything special happens if you complete every stage on a single run?
The cool gimmick of the game is that all the stages loop horizontally (but not vertically: if you fall off the bottom of the screen, you die). This is used cleverly in the stage designs, with most stages requiring the player to jump across the "gap" to reach higher parts of the stage.
Obviously, there are enemies in the stages too. Get hit twice and you die, though the first time you get hit, a t-shirt will appear at a random place on the screen, which will let you get that hit back. If you spend too long in a level, the music changes and a ghost appears to chase you round.
The game's a lot of fun to play, and certainly a lot better than the other Russian MD bootlegs I've played so far. It looks okay, and the music is really catchy, too. It's definitely worth hunting down and playing, though maybe you'd rather play the original homebrew, rather than the pirate hack of it?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Wild Streets (Amiga)

This will only be a short review, as this game is so awful, I couldn't bear to play it for very long. I don't even know why I'm bothering to write about it at all, even.
It's a beat em up in which your character is accompanied by a panther. It must take a special kind of talent to turn this into such a terrible game.
I'll start with the controls. It uses a control scheme that a fair few other action games also use on the Amiga: you hold the fire button, and different things happen when you press a direction. Pressing down shoots, left or right punches and up does a flying kick.
The gun kills enemies instantly, but you only get six shots. Sometimes enemies drop ammo, but this is a random occurance, so you can't plan and ration your bullets or anything. The flying kick is almost useful, as it knocks down any enemies it hits, and does a decent amount of damage. Unfortunately, it ends up being useless because it takes away a fairly large portion of your health. So, you're mostly left with the punch to defend yourself. This too is fairly useless, as thanks to the game's control scheme, you have to be stood still to punch. and the enemies have longer arms than you, so a lot of the time, you walk towards them, stop to punch, then get knocked back by their punch and start again.
Going back to the issue of health, you don't seem to lose any from being hit by enemies, though as i said, you do lose health for using your flying kick. And also sometimes you just lose healh for no obvious reason. When you run out of health, the action just stops dead, no matter what's happening, shows the text "GAME OVER" for a couple of seconds, then goes to the high score table.
One last thing, i might be nitpicking here, but the game is entitled "Wild Streets", but the first stage is in some absurdly affluent looking area full of mansions with huge gardens. Admittedly, i didn't get past the first boss, but still.
The only good thing about this game is the loading screen, which is at the top of this review because there's no title screen.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Battle Pinball (SNES)

It's time for yet another review that starts with a boring nostalgic ancedote. This game was one of the first games I ever emulated, way back when I was still at school, had no computer and my only resource for playing weird old Japanese games was the dreamcast's SNES emulator, DreamSNES.
Obviously, it's a pinball game, and less obviously, it's a spin-off from the prolific Great Battle series of games, which feature SD versions of Ultraman, Gundam and Kamen Rider all going about being super best friends and beating up SD versions of their enemies. This game features pinball tables themed around those characters, along with a table themed around Fighter Roa, who I'm told is a character from the Super Robot Wars OG series of games.
The game is similar to Naxat Soft's famous Crush series, with the tables having enemy monsters roaming about as well as various other gimmicks that can't be done on real pinball tables. Each table is four screens high, with the top screen being slightly seperated from the other three, and containing a boss. Once the table's boss is defeated, you get a ton of points, plus that table is finished and you get to pick another. I don't know what happens if you complete a table in a single sitting, I've never managed more than two.
The game is very generous with giving you extra balls. You get one for every half-million points you gain, plus there are secret methods of getting them on each table. The extra balls for points are especially ridiculous, since there are times when you lose a ball, and end up getting two more from the end of ball bonus you've built up. This can result in very long games: as I stated earlier, I've only managed to get half way through completing all the tables, and I've had single credits that go on for nearly two hours. The end of the game seems even further away when you consider that this game doesn't have passwords like the Crush games.
Despite it's flaws, though, Battle Pinball is still a pretty great game, especially if you're a fan of any of the TV shows represented in it. It's far from being a classic on the level of the Crush series or the incredible Digital Pinball games on Saturn, though.