Monday, 28 September 2015

Tyoushin Heiki Zeroigar (PC FX)

Ever since covering Kishin Douji Zenki FX all the way back in 2011, I've been meaning to get back to the PC FX, but as you probably already know, there's really not a lot to play on there if you can't read Japanese. But Zeroigar here is the console's one and only shooting game, and since a fan translation came out for it recently I thought I'd give it a go. Before I get on to the game itself, I have to say that the translation group did a really great job on it, not only is their script entertaining, but the yellow subs they used on the FMV cutscenes are a nice little nostalgic nod towards old subbed anime VHS tapes.

Now, as for the game itself, there's four different modes, all pretty different from each other. The main two are Anime Mode and Battle Mode. In both these modes, there's no scoring, with a system of EXP and levelling up instead. I don't really like this, as since levelling up only happens between stages or on continuing, it actually encourages continuing, when I'm more accustomed to (and in favour of) shooting games punishing continues. Levelling up in both modes increases the player's max HP and max ammo for their sub weapons (upon which I'll talk more later). Levelling up doesn't affect the main gun, which is powered up by collecting items in-game, and powered down by taking damage.

Anime mode is a typical story mode: you play through the stages, when bosses appear there's some dialogue, and between stages there's FMV cutscenes (of the high quality you'd expect from a console built specifically to deliver FMV cutscenes). Also, in this mode, sub-weapons are accumulated and powered up automatically as the player gains experience levels. Battle mode is structured differently, with players choosing one of three different robots and tackling stages individually. The levelling up system is still present, though in this mode, sub-weapons are acquired and powered up by spending money in the weapons shop between stages. You can also save your progress between stages in this mode.

The other two modes are Trail mode, which is a traditional Caravan-style 2-minute score attack, and Sakuraiger mode, which is a kind of alternative to anime mode, using the same levelling and power-up systems, though with different weapons. Sakuraiger mode presents a silly parody of the main story, told in childish crayon drawings, and in it, you play as the main character's sister piloting a giant robot version of herself. Despite the silly presentation, though, it's significantly harder than regular anime mode.

Zeroigar isn't a bad game, and it does have a ton of charm in its presentation (which is generally reminiscent of 90s OAV revivals of older properties, like the 1992-98 Giant Robo OAV series, for example), but it just didn't click with me. You should definitely give it a try, as it's a high quality game, and as I said, the fan translation is great, but it just didn't do it for me.
This game is also known as Choujin Heiki Zeroigar and God Fighter Zeroigar

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Heisei Inu Monogatari Bow - Pop'n Smash (SNES)

You probably wouldn't pick it up from the title (it might not even be
immediately clear from the screenshots), but Heisei Inu Monogatari Bow -
Pop'n Smash is a tennis game, based on a comic of which I hadn't
previously heard. Well, it's kind of a mixture of tennis with various
other things, like there's elements of Arkanoid, a tiny pinch of pinball
and even a minor bit of RPG levelling up. Also, you (in single player,
at least) play as a dog, with a choice of rackets including an actual
tennis racket, a baseball bat, a mallet and a tree branch.

There's a lot to explain with this game, so I'll start with the most basic
difference it has compared to real tennis: the scoring. The scoring in
tennis has always, in my mind, been a problem in tennis videogames,
because the way it works means that a single game can potentially go on
for hours and hours before a victor is declared. HIMB-PnS simplifies it
by having the winner be the first player to score three points. There
are other, more drastic changes, too: there's a bunch of different
courts (I've played about twelve or thirteen matches into single player
mode, and every one had a different court), and they're all different
sizes and shapes, and they all also have different obstacles and
power-ups. The controls are pretty interesting too: you have seperate
buttons for hitting the ball to the left or right, another button to
slide along the ground and hit the ball in desperate circumstances, and
another to use your power shot (which is different for every character,
and is charged by holding down one of your regular hitting buttons).

Single player mode works like this: You face each opponent four times, each
time in a different court. After you've won all four matches, you play a
bonus game. The bonus games all use the same controls as the matches,
but they all also have you doing different things, whether it's catching
butterflies with nets or hitting baseballs or knocking baked goods into
air hockey goals. For every twenty points scored in these bonus games,
your power shot gets levelled up and improves a little bit.

Heisei Inu Monogatari Bow - Pop'n Smash is an okay game. It's not horribly
flawed in anyway, and it's an unusual spin on tennis, even among the
subgenre of deliberately unrealistic/videogamey sports games. It's
easily also available really cheap, if you want to take a risk on a real

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Curiosities Vol. 4 - Gambling!

Gambling games, especially ones that are played for real money are inherently bad. Not just from a moral standpoint, but also because they're entirely designed to drain money away from the player, rather than to be fun, well balanced games (the same applies to modern-day mobile phone games with real money currencies too, in my opinion.) But terrible games are still games, so lt's look at a few!

First up is Koro Koro Quest, by Takumi (who are better known for making various shooting games, including Gigawing, one of my all-time favourites). It's by far the simplest of the three games I'll be covering in this post, and it also feels like it's the least fair. On the plus side, it does look really nice, with big, colourful RPG/fantasy-themed graphics. After putting in your coins, you take part in a simple dice battle against a randomly selected monster, rolling two six-sided dice each, with the highest roller winning. You can tap your button to tamper with the dice in some way (it's not totally clear what it does, but you do seem to have a higher chance of winning doing this). If you win, you can either cash out or go on to the next, more chellenging battle. It looks nice, but like I said, there's not much to it and it's entirely based on luck.

Next is Crusher Mako-chan, also by Takumi, and also looking pretty nice. The premise here is a bit more silly: you play as Mako-chan, a superhumanly strong little girl, who has to punch various large objects to solve various problems (destroy a toppling skyscraper before it hits the ground, destroy a dam so the water can put out a fire, etc.). You do this by hammering on the button as quickly as possible, in a Track and Field sort of way. Even if you fail, sometimes you'll get a second chance to turn Mako-chan into a huge muscle-bound monster and win anyway. After stages, you get the same choice to cash out or carry on. It feels a lot fairer than Koro Koro Quest, and as a result, it's more fun to play too.

Finally, we have Witch, also known as Pinball Champ 95, by Vic Tokai. It;s totally different ot the other two games in this post, being an odd combination of pinball and bingo. After you put in your coins, you can then bet on lines on a bingo-style grid of numbers. Then, you play pinball! You have a time limit and only a single ball, and the aim is to hit the bumpers, which are randomly flashing numbers. Hit a bumper, and you cross off the number it was on on your bingo card. There's also Devil Crush-esque bonus screens hidden about the place, too. Although the strong gameplay element makes Witch feel like it's a pretty fair game, on all the times I've played it, I've never managed to fill a single line.

So that's gambling games, then! I might cover some more of these in the future, if I find out about any more that are interesting.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Ijlimae-jeon: Manpa Skijeok-pyeon (PC)

I'm sure I've mentioned before how much I love sprite scaling as an aesthetic, and that's definitely helped by the fact that a lot of sprite scaling games are all-time classics like Space Harrier, Outrun, Night Striker, and so on. I should have known there'd be some terrible ones out there somewhere, though, and Iljimae-jeon is one of them.

You'll have guessed from the title (and the presence of Korean text on the title screen above) that it's a Korean game, and from what I've read online, the plot is about a character from ancient China finding themselves sent through time to futuristic Japan. Obviously, I don't know how accurate that is, as while there's a long text intro (thankfully skippable), I can't read Korean.

So, you pick one of three characters, and set out into a game that's kind of like a mix between Space Harrier and Cabal: your character is confined to moving left and right across the bottom of the screen, while aiming a crosshair all around it, but they're also constantly running forward while the enemies come running from the distance in the opposite direction. starting with the superficial complaints, it's probably the ugliest game of this type I've ever played, with the ground looking like the worst example of SNES Mode 7 graphics you can think of, and the enemy sprites looking small and undetailed even when they get up close.

The enemies definitely will get up close, too, as your feeble heroes takes several shots to defeat even the most common jobbers among the enemy force. Even the delivery boys carrying the power-ups take a fair few shots to take down. The bosses, as you can imagine, are even worse. There's no health ar given for them, and their attacks don't change as you fight them, so you just spend long, agonising minutes shooting them and avoiding their attacks (except for the ones that are unavoidable, like when the second boss swooces all the way across the bottom of the screen) until suddenly, they explode and the stage ends.

One final note, I've never been given as much trouble getting a PC game to run as I have with this one, not even other Korean DOS games, like Still Hunt. Part of that is down to the fact that I never owned a PC as a kid so I don't have any experience running DOS in general, though. I wouldn't normally bring this kind of thing up, but this game is so terrible, and it took such effort to be able to play it that it was just adding insult to injury.

Obviously, I don't recommend this game at all.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Sumo Fighter Tokaido Basho (Game Boy)

Beat em ups are a genre conspicuous by their (relative) absence on the original Game Boy, which seems especially odd, when you consider how many fighting games there are on there (and you'd think fighting games would be both harder to pull off on such weak hardware, and scuppered by the hassle one had to go through to play GB games against another player). Sumo Fighter is one of the proud and the few, however, and it bucks the usual trend of having beat em ups starring slender martial artists or gritty thugs by starring a mawashi-clad, muscle-bound sumo.

The plot isn't anything special, however, he's just journeying across Japan to save a damsel in distress. The setting is very stereotypically Japanese, though, with stages featuring Mt. Fuji, bamboo forests, and Japanese-style castles. The enemies keep in line with this too, with ninjas and geishas and so on. One of the ninja enemies actually bears in incredible likeness to Ryu Hayabusa from the Ninja Gaiden/Ryukenden series, oddly enough.

Anyway, the game itself: you travel across (or sometimes up or down) the stages, jumping on platforms, and beating up enemies as you'd expect. As well as the typical slapping and throwing, you can also perform a running headbutt, and a big dramatic stomping move that damages everything onscreen. Unusually, in beat em up terms, the big stomp attack doesn't come with a limited amount of uses, nor does it deplete the player's health, but instead it just takes a few seconds to perform, and while doing so, leaves the player vulnerable to attack. There's also an experience/levelling up mechanic, that allows you to gradually increase your attack, speed and max health. Experience isn't gained from beating enemies, though, but from collecting mushrooms and gunbai, and from completing bonus stages. There's a few kinds of bonus stages: thumb wrestling, which I was terrible at, arm wrestling, which was a lot easier, and at least one more that I didn't encounter (since bonus stages are chosen at random when you find the gate to enter them). They're the quickest way to build up a lot of experience points, though they don't appear often.

There's a few small problems with the game, and they mostly stem from the stage design. Firstly, the game's sprites are huge and detailed and they look great. Unfortunately, the stage design doesn't cater to them very well, and there's often very little room to safely fight, which can end up in you taking a hit or two through no fault of your own (which is a big deal early one, when you can only take three hits). Secondly, there's some inconsistency regarding the bottom of the screen: on one stage, you'll be climbing ever upwards, and the bottom of the screen will always be a bottomless pit, even if you know there's a platform literally one pixel below it. The next stage, you'll be going down and not only are you expected to constantly be falling off the edge of the screen, you're often making blind leaps of faith and just hoping there isn't going to be an enemy or some spikes when you land.

These little problems aside, though, Sumo Fighter's a pretty good game. It looks great and it's definitely one of the better Game Boy beat em ups (in a totally different league to the likes of WWF Betrayal, for example).