Friday, 19 October 2012

Stardust Suplex (SNES)

If you know me, you probably know I like wrestling quite a bit, and women's wrrestling even more so! Unfortunately, the time at which women's wrestling was most popular was about 20 years ago, so not many games get made about it any more. There's the Rumble Roses series, which plays pretty well, and is excellently presented, but it also has a really seedy undercurrent of objectification in a genre that should be about the opposite, and you can play as women in the WWE games, but they seem to go out of their way to  discourage doing so.

It feels bad knowing there'll never be a super-awesome Ice Ribbon or Shimmer videogame. By contrast, Stardust Suplex gets it right. The atmosphere is excellent thanks to little details like how before each match, you see the wrestlers wearing the fancy and elaborate entrance costumes that were (and continue to be) a characteristic part of joshi puroresu. For a game released so early in the life of the genre, Stardust Suplex has a pretty decent amount of match types and play modes. There's an elimination battle royal for up to 4 players, a versus mode with single and tag matches, and the main single player mode, that can be played as singles or tag matches, with the tag matches also allowing for two player co-op play. The wrestlers all have a lot of personality, too. From those entrance costumes, to the fact that they all look distinct without having lazy stereotypical gimmicks, and they all even have their own taunts and victory poses. There's also some kind of dialogue between matches in the main single player mode, but unfortunately, the language barrier gets in the way of my enjoying that. They're all fictional, but it's the Fire Pro kind of fictional, where they're blatantly supposed to be real wrestlers with slightly different names. THe most obvious examples here being Hell Takano and Raja Tongo, two characters who bear suspicious resemblence to real life wrestlers Bull Nakano and Aja Kong. Luckily, going along with all the other good things i've had to say about this game so far, it actually plays well too! It's not slow or stiff, and though the grappling doesn't have the precision of the Fire Pro games, it doesn't feel completely broken. The only real problem I've had is that I haven't been able to work out how to tag out in tag matches. But other than that, the game's a lot of fun to play. I'd say it's even better than Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel! I haven't played Fire Pro Joshi All-Star Dream Slam yet, so I won't go as far to say it's the best old-time women's wrestling game.
As an extra note, the reason the screenshots are laid out strangely in this post is because the new blogger interfact has made it impossible to move them  vertically. THANKS GOOGLE GREAT JOB.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Recalhorn (Arcade)

In Recalhorn, you play as a boy with a horn (of the musical kind, rather than the anatomical) who wanders through a pleasant land being attacked by animals, birds and insects. The horn acts as a weapon, shooting out a little musical note to incapacitate enemies when blown.
Not all the local wildlife want the boy dead, though: a few animals have been locked in cages, and when rescued by the boy, show their gratitude by offering themselves up as summonable steeds, each with their own abilities.
Since the game is a lot harder than it looks, I've only managed to get a few stages in, and only befreinded three of the animals: the monkey, the seal and the lion.
The monkey is the first animal you meet, and its special abilities are very high jumps, and the ability to cling onto platforms and ropes. Next is the seal, who can swim and attacks by sliding across the ground on its belly, and the lion has no special movement abilities like the other two, but is invincible during its attack animation.
This game was actually never released, which is strange, as it's a great game, and the production values seem pretty high. It's actually odd that it was considered for the arcades in the first place, since a lot of elements in it seem like they belong in a console game. The two biggest examples are the fact that extra lives are gained by collecting one hundred of an item, rather than through obtaining certain score milestones (I know there are arcade games that do the 100 items thing, but I associate it more with console games, at least), and, something that might be unique among arcade games: the fact that it has a pause menu for choosing which animal friend to summon. The game would have been a great addition to the early libraries of the Saturn or Playstation. It really is a terrible waste that it's only playable through emulation. Maybe someday there'll be a push to get it dug up and finally released on modern systems, like Westone's Aquario of the Clockwork.
Anyway, as you might have picked up, I like this game a lot. It looks beautiful, sounds pretty good (but if Taito have ever made a game that doesn't have a good soundtrack, I don't know about it), and plays great.
As well as the main animal steeds gimmick, the other thing that's stood out to me is the almost Bubble Bobble-esque little tricks and secrets for finding extra points items: rustling certain bushes, finding different routes through stages and at the end of each stage, there's a large bush with unblossomed flowers. Those flowers bloom when you touch them, and the quicker you can make them bloom, the more points they give you. This reminds me a lot of those little invisible points bonuses at the end of the stages in the first Sonic game.

In conclusion, this game is very good.and you should play it. The end!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Street Boyz (PS2)

I was going to make the 100th post something special, but I couldn't actually think of anything special to do. I'll try harder for the 137th post, okay?
This is the first review done with the aid of my new capture device, though! That's kind of special, even if the device is a cheap piece of crap. (Don't buy super-cheap capture devices from ebay.they'll fall apart and need to be re-installed everytime you want to use them and you'll have to trick them into giving you sound.)
Anyway, on to the game itself! It's by Tamsoft, who are one of my favourite developers. They're most well known these days for the archetypal modern B-games, the Oneechanbara/Zombie Hunters series, though in ages past they did also make the Battle Arena Toshinden games, and they're responsible for a lot of other entries into the legendary Simple 2000 series (including this one!). Especially interesting are their entries into the Simple DS series, since they tend to have some of the best 3D graphics on the original DS, despite being budget games.
Street Boyz is a beat em up about banchos, those baggy trousered high school thugs of 70s and 80s Japan, and though the name and boxart of the PAL release might lead you to believe that they'd have been replaced with burberry-clad council estate thugs, the game's original plot, character names and everything else has been left intact! Not that any of it is particularly interesting or original, mind you.
How does it play? It's alright. Not terrible, not spectacular. It carries over one of the worst flaws of the Oneechanbara games (or the other way round, as i think this game might have been made before those), in that you're often only given the vaguest clues as to what to do in an area. For example, being told you need a key, but having no clue where the key might be, or who might be carrying it, and like in the Oneechanbara series, this situation is made worse by the fact that the stages are made up of rooms and corridors that all look exactly alike.

The combat is okay, typical 3D beat em up stuff: a button each for strong and weak attacks, weapons to pick up, a super bar to fill, and so on. There is a major flaw here, though. The camera is probably the worst I've experienced in a 3D game, it often seems to go where it likes, and that always seems to be a place where it's hardest to see what you're doing. There is a button to place the camera behind your character, and another button to lock on to the nearest enemy, but these aren't perfect solutions, and in some areas they're disabled. There are a few parts of each stage where all camera control is taken away, because the game wants to show off a nice "cinematic" viewpoint. Unfortunately, while these views do look nice, they're also very impractical.
Although I've said a lot of bad things about this game (and it does deserve the criticism), I've still managed to get a good few hours of enjoyment out of it, and for the prices it tends to go for these days, I'd say it's definitely worth risking a pound or two on.
This game is also known as Simple 2000 Ultimate Series Vol. 21: First-Class Brawl! Yankee Leader ~Legendary Shouwa 99 Year~