Monday, 24 February 2014

Police Chase Down (PS2)

The english title for this one's a bit of a misnomer: though you do play as police officers, you aren't chasing anyone down, but are in fact on security detail. You pick one of four motorbike-riding police officers (amusingly, three of them get descriptions like "member of an elite unit" or "the force's most decorated officer", while one guy is just "a respected highway patrol officer"),and go on missions to protect limosines
from gangs of thugs on motorbikes and in vans, who would cause harm to the passengers within. So it's like Chase HQ, minus the chase, but plus escort missions.
Having to protect a fairly slow-moving vehicle while riding a quite fast one is really fiddly, and you'll often be either turning round to go back and fight enemies who've appeared from the rear, or just plodding along as slow as you can (which means pressing the accelerator every few seconds, since the game doesn't support the Dual Shock 2's analogue buttons) to keep pace with the limo.
If the limo's health is reduced to zero, or the time runs out, you fail the mission, if the limo reaches its destination, you succeed. But while you're playing, the game doesn't actually tell you how far you are from the goal, which is annoying, and leaves the player in a kind of limbo, not knowing whether or not the limo has
enough health left to make it. Which it might not anyway, as it might drive into some obstacle you didn't see and instantly lose all its health, which happened to me once.
I could go as far as to say that Police Chase Down is the second-worst of the PS2 Simple Series games I've played, with only Eternal Quest/The Dungeon RPG being worse on account of the fact that it's incredibly boring and the PAL version isn't even fully translated!
So in summary, I don't recommend this or Eternal Quest.
This game is also known as The Simple 2000 Ultimate Series Vol. 7: Saikyou! Shirobi King ~Security Police~

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Dahna: Megami Tanjou (Mega Drive)

I think "Megami Tanjou" means "birth of the goddess", but I'm not toally sure on that. But anyway, this is a violent fantasy-themed platform game, in which you play a white-robed swordswoman, who we might guess from the title, might be named Dahna and could possibly either be a goddess or may become a goddess in the future. There's cutscenes explaininng the story, but of course, they're all in Japanese so I don' know what
anyone is saying in them. It doesn't matter!
The game starts with a village under attack by an evil wizard and his minions. They're chasing people with swords, burning down buildings and causing all kinds of ruckus, until our heroine rides in. On the back of an ogre. Yeah, the game starts with a cool bit of spectacle, as you control the ogre, smashing the puny humans with swipes of your giant claws, or just jumping on them. This is made even cooler by the game's liberal use of gore: though it's not in the same league as Splatterhouse 2 or anything, it still throws about a lot of red stuff for a platform game released in 1991.
After a couple of minutes, the evil wizard shows up to banish your ogre away, leaving only Dahna and her sword. In later parts of the game, you also get to ride a horse and a griffin! There might be more things to
ride later than that, I don't know. I don't know because the game is really, brutally hard. You only get a small life bar and no lives (I must shamefully admit that I had to make use of the 5 continues the game provides to play enough of it to write about), and not only are life-restoring items painfully rare, but you don't even heal between stages! The one small mercy the game provides is that at 100,000 and 200,000 points, your life bar not only fills, but extends too! If only it did this at 300,000 too I might have survived another stage or two. It's not only the health situation that will kill you, but there are also segments with collapsing platforms and bottomless pits, which wouldn't be so bad were it not for the fact that controlling Dahna's jumps feels so bizarre and unnatural. I can't really describe in words the bizarre way that precise jumps both look and feel in this game, but it makes it a lot harder to do them.
There are positives to the game, and they're mostly aesthetic. Although the graphics are fairly simple and the sprites small, everything is still pretty well drawn, and the characters do manage to convey a certain amount of personality with what they've got. It's also obvious that the developers of the game were fans of 80s live
action fantasy films, as the game has a strong aesthetic in general that radiates a certain atmosphere similar in feel to films like the Deathstalker series, and others of that slightly grimy, low budget ilk.
The atmosphere and personality the game has unfortunately aren't enough to get around the brutal, ooften unfar difficulty, though, and I can't really recommend playing this one. And I definitely don't recommend paying the high prices the game fetches online, either.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Zeiram Zone (Playstation)

So, this is a beat em up based on the excellent Zeiram movies (well, the first one is excellent, at least. I haven't seen the second one yet, or the spin-off animated series.) In it, the main protagonist of those movies, Iria, goes to various planets to apprehend evil-doers and space criminals and the like, by defeating them in battle and trapping them in crystals, just like she does in the movies.
The controls are more like a fighting game than a beat em up, with up being jump and the four face buttons assigned to LP, HP, LK and HK. There are even special moves, the three I've managed to figure out are:
Quarter Circle Foward + Punch to do a swipe with a lightsabre-type weapon
Quarter Circle Back + Kick to do a big flippy kick thing that can attack enemies in front of and behind you,
Dragon Punch Motion + Kick for a quick kick combo.
The game mostly plays like any other regular beat em up, walking along and beating up monsters and robots and other weird things as you go, though rather than the typical belt scroller movement, the game uses L2 and R2 to allow you to jump between planes, Guardian Heroes-style. The boss fights are slightly different, being more like a primitive 3D fighting game, and the plane-switch buttons become left and right sidestep buttons.
The game is pretty fun to play, as simple and clunky as it is, and though the graphics are pretty poor even by the standards of 1996 3D games (and on a related note, the CGI cutscenes between stages look awful), the enemy's designs do look pretty cool and original, my favourite being the robot cranes that attack at the start of the "Ghost Castle" stage.
There is a big problem with the game, though. A few stages in, you'll reach the "Bio-Ship" stage, which is full of huge moving traps that drain your health on contact, and the game's control scheme doesn't really equip you well enough to effectively avoid them. Getting past this area has been impossible for me so far, which really is a shame, as I was just getting to enjoy the fighting mechanics and figuring out the best strategy for different enemy types and so on. It's made even worse by the fact that the Bio-Ship stage itself also actually looks pretty cool.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Super Mad Champ (SNES)

According to legend, this game was originally planned to have been a racing spin-off from the Kunio-kun series, though the tie-in was ditched, the game lived on independently. Like Motor Raid and the Road Rash series, it's a motorbike racing game in which the competitors can attack each other as they pass by.
It definitely seems to be influence by the Road rash games, as it features a simple career system, in which the player must spend money to buy and repair bikes and to enter races, while winnig money by placing highly in races.
Although you'll win a prize no matter what place you finish the race in, only the top three prizes are actually more than the cost of entering. Furthermore, only by placing in the top three can the player advance to the next race, rather than repeating it (and paying the entry fee again). Winning isn't the only way to gain money: there are also small bonuses available for every time you hit an opponent, as well as for finishing a lap in a high position. As well as he five race participants, there are also a bunch of guys riding around the tracks in red jumpsuits. Passing or being passed by them doesn't effect your position, but they can be attacked for bonuses, and if they happen to ride by while you're walking around after falling off your bike, they'll dismount and attack you. When this happens, you can beat them up for a hefty bonus (though due to the time taken to
do this, you'll definitely win the race), or you can get on their bike and ride off on it (which is useful if your bike has been destroyed).
The weird thing about this game is something you won't notice until a few races in, once you start buying faster bikes: it's really hard to steer at high speeds! Rather than just taking a nice simple approach to steering, where going faster just means slowing down a little to stay on the road at corners, steering a fast bike in Super Mad Champ is a delicate affair, requiring pressing the accellerate button and the d-pad at just the right times, and holding them just long enough so that you don't skid and fall off your bike in the middle of the road.
Unfortunately, this ruins the game for me. That kind of finicky steering makes the game feel more like the controls are your opponent, rather than the other racers, and it's just not very fun. The first few races are nice, but once you get into the GP1 class races, it's best to just write the game off and start playing something else.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Monster Puroresu (PC Engine)

This game is a bit of a curiosity: it's a turn-based strategy wrestling game! Mechanically, it has more in common with Pokemon than Fire Pro Wrestling. This actually put me off the game when I first discovered it a few years ago: I saw the title and started it, expecting a probably-awful wrestling game along the lines of
Beast Wrestler or King of the Monsters, and greeted by many little boxes of Japanese text, I instantly turned it off.
Years later, I decided to give it another try and I'm glad I did! Although you'll be missing out on little, unimportant things like the plot or the names of moves, most of the stuff actually related to playing the game is expressed through numbers (and in case you're wondering, the plot, according to a website I found long ago is that an evil demon has taken control of the world, and a human scientist has created a group of mutant wrestlers to fight the demon's forces and liberate humanity).
Each wrestler has five stats: HP, ST, MP, SP, and GT. HP and MP are self-explanatory, serving the same purposes they serve in every game. SP isn't so obvious, and its purpose is still somewhat obscure to me. To explain ST and GT first requires explaining how the game works.
The matches are turn-based, and each turn both wrestlers select a move from their repetoire. Moves come in four categories: hold, hit, power and magic. On selecting a move, each wrestler also recieves a
semi-randomly generated number, the wrestler with the highest roll is the attacker and the other defends. Each move also has its own power rating, higher rated moves do more damage, but tend to get lower rolls. The ST stat also determines how likely a wrestler is to get higher rolls, and GT is a temporary stat, which is increased when a wrestler takes damage, and it can be decreased when selecting a move to slightly increase your chance of getting a high number. After moves have been selected, there's a few seconds during which the players tap button I as quickly as possible to affect a blue/red bar determining how much damage the attacker's move does. This repeats until one wrestler's HP is reduced to zero.
While all this is happening, the top half of the screen depicts the action. Although the animation is pretty limited, the sprites are huge and the animation that there is does do a good job. Moves look painful, even when there's very silly cartoonish things going on like heads being pulled off and limbs exploding. The
wrestlers also all have very expressive faces, and amusing reactions to dismemberment and pain, whether their own or their opponents.
Monster Puroresu is a pretty fun game, though it definitely isn't for everyone. If you like any combination of wrestling, monsters and strategy, and you don't mind wading through lots of Japanese text, you should probably give it a try.