Thursday, 28 June 2012

Lucifer Ring (Playstation)

You may have gathered this from how often they're featured herre, but i really love beat em ups. They're a great, under-appreciated genre, and one which I honestly believe still has a lot of unexplored potential. Here is a post about yet another one of them.
It's on the Playstation, which is nice, since the 32-bit era was something of a dry patch for the genre. It's also got a pretty generic fantasy setting, but let's not hold that against it. The setting does have an advantage, in that it means the game has tons of different enemies, to the point that I really think it could have benefitted from an in-game bestiary (two points, though: this game was Japan-only, so an in-game bestiary would probably have been of no use to me, and also, I think most games would be vastly improved by the inclusion of a bestiary. I love bestiaries.). The usual problem of pallette swapped enemies doesn't even rear its head until the third stage, and even then, it's done quite well, with the "new" re-used enemies having different weapons and attacks than their predecessors.
So anyway, you play as a guy named Nash, and you go from one end of a generic fantasy location (forests, temples, caves, etc.) to the other, beating up every monster you meet. It all looks very nice, if you like low poly models and the like (and if you don't, what's wrong with you? weirdo.). There's a few power-ups to get, including the usual health refills and extra lives, plus the less common magic swords. There are at least two kinds of magic sword (though there might be others later in the game, maybe?): fire and ice. There doesn't seem to be any kind of elemental weakness/resistance system going on, but the ice sword has the advantage of being able to randomly freeze enemies for a few seconds. But oddly, the enemies are invincible while frozen, making it slightly less useful than it first seems. There's also a normal sword anti-power up that you should avoid.
The game is mostly linear, though once or twice each stage you'll find yourself at a branching path, and usually the most difficult path (or the one with bottomless pits on it) will be the one that leads to magic swords and extra lives. There's four action buttons: jump, normal and strong attacks, and the usual "damage everything emergency magic" button. You charge your magic by taking or causing damage, like the power bar in a fighting game.
It's a fairly fun game, the only big faults being the difficulty, which is a bit too high for my liking, and the lack of a co-op mode, an omission that is always baffling in beat em ups. Really, who makes a single player-only beat em up? Tsk.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Manpuku (PC98)

I promised a post about this game, and here it is! Manpuku could pretty easily be played as a card game with real people, and it'd be pretty fun. As it is, a single player videogame, it's fun too. Well done, Manpuku.
Anyway, the idea of the game is that you're one of four chefs who take turns feeding the king. Each kind of food is worth an amount of points, and the king's stomach can hold exactly 1000 points worth of food. If he eats over 1000 points, he gets very upset and fires the chef who made him cross the line. So, if you survive 3 rounds, you are the winner. Food isn't the only kind of card you get, though: there are pills that reduce the king's fullness by 100 points, glasses of water that are worth 0 points, cocktails that reverse the turn order, and explosion-things that force the next player to play two cards.
The explosion-things can be especially evil, since if a player plays one of them, then the next player does, too, then the curse moves on to the next player after that, who has to play 4 cards! The special cards appear randomly, but you can guarantee getting one by ensuring the king's fullness reaches a certain number (displayed in a box next to the king) exactly on your turn.
After a couple of games, you'll be working out little strategies and tactics to enable you to win, but this being a cardgame, sometimes you're just unlucky and have to take a loss.
Manpuku is a really, really fun game, though being a free giveaway game on a disc with a bunch of others, it is very short, with only 2 sets of opponents to fight before the credits roll. Even worse is that as far as I can tell, there's no versus mode. Unless this is just a demo, though I haven't been able to find any evidence of a full standalone version.
Sorry about the short post, the next one'll be better, promise. Plus, it'll be a playstation game. Those are always crowdpleasers, right?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Disc Station #09 (PC98)

So, after skipping the Disc Station 98 series, as well as the floppy volumes of the relaunched Disc Station series, we arrive at the first Disc Station to come on a CD! And Compile definitely weren't shy about making good use of the massively increased storage space, since this volume contains SEVEN full games! First, I'll tell you that the positions of the screenshots in this post don't necessarily coincide with which game is being talked about. Sorry!
The first of which is Madou 456. Not, as you mgiht assume part of the Madou Monogatari series of dungeon crawlers, but an RPG/board game hybrid thing, similar to the Rune Master series of games that Compile released on the MSX, but with Puyo Puyo characters as the players. I didn't get far into this, because of all the Japanese text. It has a nice looking intro, though!
Next on the list is Devil Force II, which sounds like a shooting game, but is actually a Shining Force-esque turn-based strategy game. Although there is a lot of Japanese text in this game, a lot of the commands are represented by little icons with obvious meanings, so I actually managed to get a few battles into this before I got bored and moved on to the next game. I might even go back to it at some point!
The third game, Imahori 2 is a card game that appears to be some kind of Uno variant. Not very interesting, although the cards have some nice little pixel arts of the Puyo Puyo characters on them.
Next up is Ceramic Ball, a really fun action/puzzle game. You control a very fast-moving, incredibly bouncy ball, and you have to get it to the small blue blocks to finish the stage. The game is very, very fast paced, to the point where each stage has a time limit of less than ten seconds! Not a classic for the ages, but worth a look.
Game Number 5 is a top-down action game entitled GaGaGa Sprint. In it, you run around the stages drawing lines on the ground. When the enemies touch your lines, they get stuck for a few seconds. Touch an already drawn line to create a loop, and all the enemies stuck on the looped bit of line get killed. Of course, you get more points for killing more enemies in one go. Again, not a great game, but not a particularly bad one, either. Unfortunately, the PC98 emulator I use (Anex86) has an ugly graphic glitch when running this game, though it doesn't get in the way of playing.
The sixth game on the disc is Manpuku, a strategy/card game about feeding a king that I liked so much, I'm going to give it a post of its own (eventually)!
Finally, there is Nazo Puyo Vol. 9. If you don't know, Nazo Puyo is a spin-off of Puyo Puyo, though rather being a Vs. puzzle game or an endless survial-type puzzle game, it uses the rules of Puyo Puyo in a different way.
Each stage already has some Puyos set up, and you have to arrange pre-determined falling Puyos to get rid of them all within a certain number of moves. It's okay if you like that sort of thing, I guess. I don't see why it gets to be its own series of games, rather than an extra mode in the Puyo Puyo games, though.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Fatal Fantasy VII in English! (And Portuguese!)

I'm sure you remember the previous two times I posted about the strange Net Yaroze oddity that is Fatal Fantasy VII. Well a helpful guy named E. Shiroma has kindly translated the text in the video into both English and Portuguese!

He also added these comments:

* * *

In the first screen of the video there are some words that I didn't mention in the captions.
● "Terra Incognita" is the first game that appears on the list;
● Below the words "Fatal Fantasy VII Playable demo" (フェイタルファンタジーⅦ体験版 Feitaru Fantajī VII Taikenban) there are the following sentences: "You can play only a little!" (少しだけ遊べちゃう! Sukoshi dake asobechau!) and "Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack - Please insert Disc 1" (フェイタルファンタジーⅦ オリジナル・サウンド・トラック Disc1を入れて下さいFainaru Fantajī VII Originaru saundo torakku - Disc 1 o irete kudasai).

Besides the images are clearly related to Final Fantasy VII, some passages of the text also refers to the game. The "Nude Company" (全裸カンパニー Zenra Kanpanī) makes mention of the "Shinra Company" (神羅カンパニー Shinra Kanpanī).

I translated the compound word makōshū (魔公衆) as "public devil", but I think it could have been better (I'll end up changing the translation later…). Ma (魔) means several things: "devil", "evil spirit", "danger", "temptation", "disaster", etc. As I don't know exactly what the word means in this case, I used the most common meaning. Kōshū (公衆) means "public". Makōshū is a pun on the words Makōro (魔晄炉), which was translated into Final Fantasy VII as "mako reactor", and kōshū benjo (公衆便所), that means "public toilet". As you may have noticed, "mako" is composed of the kanji ma (魔) and (晄). means light, shine.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Disc Station MSX #02

Time for another DS post! It's been a while since the last proper one, thanks to the crapness of the DS98 series. Let's get on with it, then!
Disk one contains demos. First up is a strange playable demo of Xevious: Fardraut saga. Strange because although it's a playable demo, if you don't press anything for more than a second, the ship will start moving and firing on its own. I wonder if this was so that players could play the demo, and shop owners could have a rolling demo to put on display, without having to use up space on two seperate demos? That's the only explanation I can come up with, anyway.
Then again, the other two demos on the disk are a playable demo of the action RPG Golvellious, plus another non-interactive advert for Golvellious. The playable demo contains the opening dungeon up to the top-down boss fight. Oddly, the advert doesn't loop, so the previous "shop display" theory is out of the window.
Disk two only has two items of interest, along with the usual magzine text features. The first is a short christmas themed animation. Santa Claus is decorating a giant christmas tree while also preventing a bearded character from chopping it down. Not particularly entertaining or impressive, but it's nice, I guess.
The second item is a full game (yaay!). It's called Swing, and in it, you play the part of a guy who crawls over the sides of tall buildings, cleaning windows and avoiding the various weird creatures that are also crawling all over the buildings. Except for the creatures that are flashing different colours, collect hem for points, and also temporary invincibility and enemy-smiting power for every third one you collect. It's a fairly amusing and inoffensive game from that long-forgotten era when regular jobs could be made into videogames.
All in all, this is a pretty good volume of Disc Station MSX, though of course it doesn't meet the crazy generosity of the introductory volumes.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Metal Law (Amiga)

Despite the name, this game doesn't feature the members of Manowar running about in underpants slaying posers with axes. It's actually about a futuristic cop of some kind who, rather than fighting crime, goes about the place shooting monsters.
The intro claims the game is set in the future, in a place called "Neo York". Is that a futuristic version of New York, or a futuristic version of York? Since the first couple of stages take place in a kind of castley, dungeony setting, I guess it must be York. But then the second set of stages are in a Giger-esque bio-world, so who knows? Or cares?
The two most immediate things that become obvious when you start to play Metal Law are the controls (because it commits the heinous, and all-too common Amiga platformer crime of having jump mapped to up on the d-pad), and the fact that the makers were obviously big SEGA fans.
The main character and the nonsensical plot are obviously based on SEGA's game ESWAT, and the game itself plays a fair bit like Shinobi, and the player's character can even crawl on his knees in the exact same manner as Joe Musashi.
Anyway, it's not a massively complex game: you go right, shoot the (impressively ugly) monsters and try not to fall down any bottomless pits. And there are lots of bottomless pits. And to make things even worse, Metal Law commits another grave platform game crime by having a lot of leaps of faith. You do start to recognise them after a couple of goes, but the situation isn't helped at all by fake-helpful arrows that lead to an unseen pit, nor by power ups that seem to have been placed to lure players to an annoying and cheap death.
Despite it's flaws, which are both numerous and large, Metal Law is still a lot of fun to play. Jumping around the stages, collecting power-ups, and shooting enemies are all enjoyable actiities in this game. It is just a shame about the stupid mistakes the makers made. There are definitely much worse Amiga platformers, though, so it's strange that this one seems to have been so forgotten.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Disc Station 98 Title Screens

Okay, so the DS98 series was almost impossible to write about. Most of the volumes were just full of playable demos of RPGs and adventure games, neither of which are of much use or interest to JP-illiterate old me. So, I'll be skipping ahead to Disc Station (no suffix) #9, which is the first CD-based DS. 9-11 are still on PC98, and the volumes after that are for Windows. The one awesome thing the DS98 series did have, though, is really really nice art on the titles screens. It would be a shame not to show you all the amazing art, so here it is, in one post. I'll try to make the images be in the right order, but I can't promise that blogger won't mess it up.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Metal Head (32X)

The 32X, like the Mega CD has a reputation for being a worthless albatross. Unlike the Mega CD, it kind of deserves that reputation. It doesn't have many good games at all, and most of the ones it does have are ports (Doom and Virtua Fighter, for example).
Luckily, Metal Head is both a fairly good game and a 32X original. If you also add the fact that it has probably the best (or at least, the most technically impressive) graphics on the system, it's surprising that it isn't more well known.
It's a 3D shooting game, in which you pilot a robot around city streets and underground bases shooting terrorists, who themselves have their own robots, plus tanks, hoverbikes, jeeps and various other things.
The stages each have different objectives, which are all simple tasks like "kill all the enemies" or "find the enemy's hideout". At the end of each stage you get awarded points, based on how many enemie you killed, how quickly you finished and how much ammo and health you have left. These points can be spent every few stages on weapons and other upgrades. One feature that is both strange and annoying is that none of the upgrades are permanent: you start with a grenade launcher in the first set of stages, but if you want to use it later, you have to buy it again. Likewise, you can also upgrade your machine gun, but this needs to be done every time.
As mentioned earlier, the graphics are really excellent, considering the hot console. You could easily mistake MH for an early Saturn or Playstation game! The most impressive thing is the fact that everything is texture mapped, and though the textures are very low resolution (the game did come on a cartridge, after all), it really does add a lot to the look and feel of the stages.
The controls are okay, though they'll seem very old fashioned to people used to modern twin-stick 3D shooting games. The d-pad turns and moves, and there are buttons for shooting, cycling through weapons, running and looking left and right. The biggest omission is the lack of strafing. There is a surprise in that the "Mode" button is used to change the camera angle. I didn't know that button could actually be used for in-game stuff. Is Metal Head the only game that uses it like this?
There's also a fairly long (and unfortunartely, quite boring) intro with voice acting, if you like that kind of thing.
I think I've said enough about the game itself now, so I'll tell you about two quite strange options the game has.
The first allows you to change the speed of the game's music. It sounds fine as it is, though, so I leave it at the default. Actually, I should mention that the music in this game is pretty good, and I do find myself humming the intro theme from time to time. It's a shame that whewn you're actually playing the game, it's drowned out by the sound effects, really. I can only assume that this option only exists because the programmers discovered that it was a neat trick the 32X could do?
The second weird option is the one that lets you choose the style of the character portraits. You can choose between photos of real people (which look really weird when animated along with the voice acting) or cartoony drawings of them. This doesn't have any effect at all on the gameplay, and also, the characters in the two options look completely different to each other.