Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Battle Pinball (3DO)

Longtime readers of this blog might remember that back in the mists of antiquity, I wrote about a SNES game with the same title as this one. The two are unrelated, though. While that game was a regular pinball game themed around battles, this one is a game about battles taking place in the form of pinball scoring contests.

There's four characters (a mole, an alien, death and a gambler), each with their own table. In single player mode, you pick one, and do battle with all four characters in random order. The battles work like this: you each get three balls, and the aim is to get a higher score than your opponent. The score really is all that matters: if you lose all three balls first, but have a higher score, your opponent continues playing until they either beat your score or lose their last ball. Once you beat all four characters, you see a short FMV ending (lovingly rendered, like all the character art, in hideous early-90s CGI, the kind that they used to call "Silicon Graphics" in magazines at the time.) And that's it, pretty much.

The tables are all very simple: a few bumpers, a couple of sets of targets, a ramp or two, and that's all. No multiball or special table events or moving parts of any kind. I guess the reasons for this are twofold, though both necessities of development. I'm only theorising here, but I think it'd be a heavy strain on the hardware to have to keep track of two fully-featured, action-packed pinball tables at once. The other reason is that I assume it would be a lot harder to balance the four tables, to make sure that none of them had massive scoring advantages over any of the others, if they were full of dozens of features and gimmicks.

It's surprising that no-one's used this splitscreen "Vs. Pinball" concept since (as far as I'm aware, at least). It's a good idea, and a lot less fiddly and confusing than the turn-taking multiplayer modes that a lot of pinball games do have. A simultaneous competitive pinball game could work really well on handhelds, too. Anyway, Battle Pinball is a fun little game with a cool concept, though the single player mode is incredibly anemic, and of course, it would work a lot better on more powerful hardware.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Dark Native Apostle (PS2)

When Bomberman: Act Zero came out for the 360 in 2006, it was universally loathed, and rightfully so. But an annoying point about the coverage it got is that so much of the negativity was focussed on the concept of a gritty sci-fi Bomberman game, that it was barely mentioned that the game itself was absolute garbage, with only one arena, no local multiplayer, and a single player mode that consisted of playing the same stage 100 times in a row. The thing is, it wasn't the first attempt at a gritty Bomberman for the 21st century. Though it doesn't bear the name of the esteemed multiplayer franchise, Dark Native Apostle was published in Japan by Hudson Soft, and features a protagonist with the ability to drop small timed explosives wherever he goes. (Coincidentally, it was developed by recurring Lunatic Obscurity favourites Tamsoft!)

It's not a multiplayer Vs. arena game, though, but takes the attack mechanic from the Bomberman series and applies to, of all things, a blend of survival horror with the occasional bit of light 3D platforming. Well, "survival horror" in the respect that the plot involves genetic engineering and bio-weapons, and that a lot of time is spent running back and forth finding keys, putting disks into computer terminals and flicking power switches. There isn't anything actually scary in the game, your main method of attack has infinte ammo and there's an ample supply of healing items.

So yeah, you're some genetic engineered bio-weapon guy with amnesia, and you go into the labs where you were made to try and find out your past. It's pretty much the exact same plot as a billion other games that came out between 1996 and 2005. The combat aspect of the game is incredibly easy: most enemies will stand still while firing at you or changing direction, so you can just drop a bomb at their feet to dispatch them. You can hold the square button down and walk away when you drop a bomb to give it a longer fuse, but I've gotten a fair few areas into the game, and beaten a few bosses and this ability has not yet been useful once.

The puzzle-solving aspect of the game is a lot more difficult, though. Well, I think it is, it might just be my being a bit thick. Though you are expected to comb every room you can go into to find every item and clue that might lead to you opening more rooms and progressing. There is one interesting feature the game has involving the upgrades to your powers: you can equip up to four "chips", each of which improves an aspect of your abilities, like the power of your bombs or you max HP or whatever. But, by equipping them in the right order, you can also gain special abilities! Some of these are almost universally useful, like the dash ability. Some are useful in a few certain places, like the ability to see invisible objects. Some are useful in literally one part of the game and then never again, like the ability to drop blinding flash bombs, that only seem to affect the big purple lizard boss you fight in the sewers early in the game. The fact that you often don't get the chips needed to acquire a special ability until around the time you get the note telling you about it is a disappointment, too: playing a second time around with prior knowledge of all the "recipes" could have possibly led to a sneaky bit of sequence breaking, maybe?

Dark Native Apostle isn't a great game, but it's not a particularly bad one either. I guess the core concept alone is interesting enough to be worth a look, though. An obvious comparision to make is to the Playstation game Silent Bomber, which I like a lot more than DNA, though it is a pure all-out action game, so it's not an entirely fair comparision to make.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Toughman Contest (32X)

I never thought there'd be an EA Sports game on this blog, but it's game that's long forgotten, on a console that no-one cares about, featuring a sport that wasn't really popular for very long (and even when it was, it was never massive). Toughman Contest is an amateur boxing tournament that's been going since the late 1970s, but the only time I've ever heard of it was in the late 90s, though it apparently continues to this day. This game is vaguely based on that competition, though all the boxers in it are fictional caricatures with silly names.

Presentation-wise, it's a bit of a mixed bag in many ways: though the graphics are all competently drawn, the game has an ugly pseudo-realistic aesthetic, and the menus look cheap and low-rent compared to the game itself. The character sprites are all massive, taking up most of the screen, though whoever you pick will always be represented by a green outline. A nice touch is that there are four tounaments in which you can compete: North America, South America, Europe/Middle East and Asia/Australasia, and each of them has their own (heavily stereotyped, in a Street Fighter kind of way) arena.  As for how it plays, it's kind of like Super Punch-Out, but worse in every possible way.

Like Super Punch-Out, you view your boxer from behind, and you've got to dodge your opponent's punches and hit them back with the right timing. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well as Nintendo's game, since in the name of realism, there's no tells when any of your opponents are going to attack or dodge or block, and it just feels like everything happens at random. Sometimes you won't get a single hit on your opponent the whole match, other times, you'll pummel their face in by simply holding up and C. There's also times when your opponent's health will just randomly drop to nothing, a mechanic which I assume is supposed to represent a lucky suckerpunch? Another problem is that I've played plenty of matches, and have never won nor lost by knock-out. Every match has been decided by judge's decision, which also feels slightly random. The final result usually makes sense, and the most successful boxer will win, but it could be a fight where you didn't get a single hit in, and you'll just barely lose by one or two points. Conversely, you could batter your opponent into paste, and just barely scrape a couple of points ahead of them.

I saw screenshots of this game, and gave it a shot, hoping it might be a diamond hidden in the substantial rough that is the 32X library. But it's just another ugly, boring game that's outshined by better titles on less powerful hardware. Oh well, never mind.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Kozure Ookami (Arcade)

So, Lone Wolf and Cub, sometimes known as Babycart or Shogun Assassin, is a very well-known comic and series of movies about a guy named Ogami Itto and his three year old son, who goes around violently killing lots of people. I have to admit that I've never actually read any of the comics or seen any of the movies, but I do know that much about them, but doesn't everyone? This game's a beat em up based on that story.

Obviously, you play as Itto, and you go about with your son in a backpack, slashing lots of guys to death. Though it's a belt scrolling beat em up, in terms of mechanical complexity, it inhabits a kind of middle ground between the simpler single plane beat em ups that came before it, like Spartan X, My Hero, et al., and the more complex belt scrollers that would come later, the Final Fights, the Streets of Rages, and so on. There's no comboing, but you do have a block button, and can perform a couple of different slashes with your sword by holding a direction as you press the attack button.
There's very few power-ups, with the most exciting being the famous babycart itself, which will appear for a short time, giving you increased movement speed and a projectile attack. Interestingly, if you press the block button while the babycart is present, you'll instead dismantle it to create a halberd, giving you slightly greater attack range for a short time instead. I assume there must be some advantage to doing this, though I'm yet to have figured out what. Another one is a little piece of paper (I think?), that does nothing until you collect three, at which point, you're whisked away to a duel mini-game. Be the first to attack after the counter reaches zero, and you cut your opponent down, and get a big points bonus. You don't lose a life if you fail, you just get sent back to the main game without a bonus.

Other than that, the game's structured pretty traditionally: you go along the stages killing enemies until you get to a boss, then you kill the boss and go onto the next stage. Starting with the second stage, though, the game does commit a heinous design crime: there's platform sections, with instant death pits, while you also have to avoid enemies jumping out of the pits and the game doesn't even have a dedicated jump button (you press block and attack together to jump). It's unfair, it's no fun, and it's an awkward break from the constant disembowelling that makes up the rest of the game. I'm not going to say it totally ruins the experience, but it's definitely a significant detractor.

That one big flaw aside, though, Kozure Ookami is still a pretty great game, and it does an especially good job creating a mood and forging its own identity through the way it looks and sounds. I'd say it's definitely worth a look.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Royal Pro Wrestling (3d0)

There's a long and fine tradition in Japanese wrestling games, most famously seen in the Fire Pro series, whereby the roster will be full of real life wrestlers but with their names changed to some silly nonsense, and that's apparently enough to get around any copyright laws. (And I'm sure you're aware that this was a common practice in arcade games in general throughout the 80s, leading to difficulties when it comes to modern rereleases of games like Outrun and Afterburner, as copyright holders begin to notice that their stuff was being used without permission). Anyway, Royal Pro Wrestling carries on that tradition in amazing style, with names like Mike Warrior, Golden Lips and Underdise the Morgan. My favourite is the name they've given Randy Savage, though: Andy Savage. Amazing!

Anyway, Royal Pro Wrestling plays like any typical Japanese wrestling game of the 16-bit era (except the Fire Pro series, which were always a class above the rest): you lock up by walking into each other, then hammer the buttons and direction in the hopes of performing a move. You've also got running moves, top rope moves, and there's always exactly one chair at ringside waiting to be used as a weapon. Some characters even have planchas where they jump over the ropes to land on an opponent outside the ring! The roster of wrestlers is pretty big, and split into American, Japanese and Mexican wrestlers (though most of the wrestlers in the Mexican section are just masked Juniors from Japan, like Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger). There's also four arenas, one for each country, and another, extravagant one that's inside some kind of ACropolis-style building.

You might have noticed the slight dig at the game in the last paragraph, saying it's a typical 16-bit game when it's on a 32-bit console. The thing is though, it really does play, and mostly also look like a SNES game, plus there are only two match types: single and tag, with no rule modifications or anything like that. There is a concession to the new hardware, though: the presentation, outside of the matches themselves, is excellent. If you play career mode, each match is preceded by a great-looking animated and voice-acted promo from your opponent (though the voice acting is awful, which lets the game down a little). There's also really great comic-style artwork for each wrestler on the versus screen, and a very short FMV clip of the outside of each arena, to add a bit more flavour. Come to think of it, there's some nice little touches in-match, too: during tag matches, the referee will argue with illegal wrestlers if they don't get out of the ring, and wrestlers whose real-life counterparts have managers will have them at ringside in this game too.

Royal Pro Wrestling is far from being a classic, but it is a very well-made game, as well as being the only wrestling game (as far as I know) on the 3d0. If you're curious, it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot. And if you need a break from actually playing, there's also a massive gallery of concept art in the menu, which is interesting, and the game being what it is, essentially a load of 90s wrestling fanart.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Kid Chameleon (Mega Drive)

It's been said many times that Sonic the Hedgehog was SEGA's answer to Mario. This isn't just true on the basic level of being a company mascot, but from the way Sonic's first game was designed, to his brash, rebellious personality made him different to Mario, and by extension, made SEGA different to Nintendo. Kid Chameleon can also be said to be SEGA's answer to Mario, especially Super Mario Bros. 3, a game which saw Mario take on various different forms as the game went on.

While Sonic's games were almost totally different to Mario's, other than being platform games, Kid Chameleon is very similar to SMB3 in a number of ways: a main character who transforms, blocks containing power-ups that are broken from below and so on. But philosophically, Kid Chameleon shows a different set of ideas to Nintendo's game. Super Mario Bros. 3 is designed like a game adults think children should enjoy, while Kid Chameleon feels as if a ten-to-thirteen year old had played SMB3, and designed their own heavily-inspired game in an exercise book stolen from school, and then somehow their drawings had become an actual game. (I'd like to note that I don't mean to disparage either game here. They're both classics, of course.)

As you play Kid Chameleon, you can hear that kid's voice saying "Mario changing into a raccoon or a frog is okay, but what if you were a badass dude in shades, and you could turn into a knight or a samurai?", and then of course, the more you play, the further the ideas get from the family-friendly Nintendo fare: "What if you were a nazi tank in hell that shot skulls? And then you turned into Jason Voorhies and got chased around by giant skulls that scream 'DIE!' at you?". The structure of the game feels faily adolescent, too. The stages are huge, and full of secrets. Secret areas, invisible power-ups, and of course, secret exits that lead to extra secret stages.

I don't really know how to end this piece, since Kid Chameleon is already a pretty well-known game, and most people reading this will have probably played it at some point and already formed an opinion on it. I guess there's this anecdote: when I was a very young child, someone told me they were playing this game, and that it was so long and hard, they might not live long enough to ever finish it. Obviously, I suggested that they have it put into their coffin so that they could continue playing it in the afterlife. I was a very practically-minded child, I'm sure you'll agree.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dogimegi Inroyku-chan (3DS)

The first time I played this game, I was impressed that there were still people able to come up with new mechanics for a Bubble Bobble-style platform game focussing on defeating multiple enemies in a single attack. As I played it more and more, I also got frustrated with the awkward controls, and I also came to relaise that the game's real focus is figuring out the exact right way of defeating all the enemies in a stage without dying: a test of smarts, rather than skill. I should really have realised sooner, since the game doesn't have any kind of scoring system, which is one of the two main keystones of a Bobble-like (the other being secrets revealed only through Druaga-esque byzantine methods).

So, you're a rogue cupid who has been causing havoc on Earth by setting up ridiculous couples that don't fit together at all, and God has seen an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by sending you to hell to bring peace there by making all the demons fall in love with each other. How this actually works is that you shoot an arrow at an enemy, then shoot another arrow at something else, be it another enemy, or the wall, ceiling or floor, and the two will smash together. If two enemies smash together, they'll both disappear, as will any enemies they hit on the way to each other (does this mean they all became a polyamorous unit together?). If you hit an enemy and an inanimate object, the enemy will fly towards the object, and receive damage based on how far they had to go. Hit two inanimate objects and a temporary trampoline will appear, which is necessary for getting to places slightly out of reach of your normal jumps.

It's an okay game, the biggest flaw is its controls. Everything feels very awkward, especially jumping, over which you have no control after leaving the ground, with all jumps being an exact distance. Of course, I eventually figured out that it is the way it is because it's a puzzle game, and if you can't make a jump, you're meant to figure out a different way to get to where you want to be. The problem is that I just can't get past the fact that it looks like an action-platform game, and it's so frustrating that it doesn't work that way. I guess that's more my fault than the game's, though.

Even with that in mind, I find it hard to recommend Dogimegi Inryoku-Chan. It's not very exciting to play, it's even less exciting to look at and solving the stages isn't at all satisfying.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Sion II (X68000)

It seems like the last couple of posts have been a bit negative, but luckily, this one has come along to buck that trend! Sion II is a game for the X68000 which was given away for free with a magazine in 1992, which is pretty amazing to be honest, for a couple of reasons, which I'll get around to shortly. Before I do, I'm going to make a point of mentioning that along with all its other fine traits, it's got an incredibly good soundtrack, right up there with Cho Ren Sha 68k as one of the best on the system.

Now, the reasons it's amazing that this is a coverdisk game I mentioned. Firstly, there's the fact that it's a fully-featured game, that could easily stand alongside any commercial games of the time, on pretty much any contemporaeous system. I mean, it's a fairly simple arcadey shooting game, but you know, it came out in 1992, and it has a proper attract mode and other little bits of presentation polish. It plays well too, but you know, there's been plenty of good games given away free on various formats over the years, but ones with these kind of production values are pretty rare.

The other reason you can figure out by simply looking at the screenshots alongside this review: it's a polygonal 3D action game on a 16-bit system in 1992. That's a year before Starfox hit the SNES, and two years before Virtua Racing on the Mega Drive. It's also two years before the better-known 3D X68000 shooter, the Jumping Flash antecendent Geograph Seal. The framerate might drop a little when things get busy, but honestly, even with that taken into account, it still feels like a technical marvel.

Anyway, yeah, as I mentioned, it plays pretty well. It's obviously heavily influenced by the Star Wars vector-based arcade games from the 80s, as you fly forwards, shooting enemies and avoiding their shots, with a first-person cockpit view. There's even a stage taking place in a trench! The trench is as far as I've been able to get, actually, as it features sections of girder-dodging, between shooting sections, and eventually the girders start moving. I've tried a few times, but I have not yet been able to proceed any further than that. But yeah, it's a simple 3D on-rails shooter, so it's very linear, but only an idiot would complain about that (like the guy who wrote the Panzer Dragoon review in Sega Power a million years ago). I definitely recommend playing it, or at the very least looking up the music on youtube.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Net Yaroze Round Up Vol. 10!

Dot Kuzushi
You can probably figure from this game's title that it's a Breakout clone. I can only assume from playing it that it's also a very unfinished one,as it has almost everything wrong with it, both mechanically and technically, that can be wrong with a game of this type. Firstly, it seems that every brick requires multiple hits to break, and since each brick (in the first stage at least, though I gave up on the game after fifteen minutes of neither progressing or failing) represents a pixel in an old arcade sprite, there are lots of them. To make matters worse, the ball behaves strangely in various ways, all of which are to the game's detriment. It moves very, very slowly  and never speeds up, and rather than travelling in straight lines, it moves in kind of fluttering zigzags. Worst of all, the ball will sometimes just harmlessly pass through the blocks as if they weren't there at all. It is without ambiguity that I strongly recommend never wasting a second of your time on this game.

Come Baa
This is a game that could probably only have been made in the UK, as it adapts a sport/occupation that was once, long long ago, a televised event that drew millions of viewers here: sheep herding with a dog. Come Baa has you controlling a dog in a 3D field, trying to chase sheep into a pen. It's very fiddly though, and after a few minutes of playing, I'd only made the sheep spread out all over the field even more, and had to give up. It's an original idea, and it looks pretty nice as Yaroze games go, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible to actually play.

This is a Tetris-style shape-arranging puzzle game, though it lacks a certain elegance and simplicity that make it hard to figure out at first. The walls and floor of the pit have lots of wire ends, and each block in every tetromino has a piece of wire, either cross- or L-shaped.To make blocks disappear, you have to connect two of the wall/floor pieces and make a circuit. The catch is that the direction of the powerflow can only be changed by the L-shaped wireblocks. It's less compliated than I'm making it sound, honestly. Though Hardwire is a technically sound game that does make sense once you've figured it out, it's not actually very fun to play. Gorby no Pipeline Daisakusen does a similar idea, and it does it much better.

Easily one of the nicest-looking Yaroze games I've seen, I'm surprised this one got the tiny bit of extra polish it would have needed to be released on magazine coverdiscs. What it actually is is a slot car-style racing game in which the cars are little technological minibeasts, and the track is the insides of a computer. Like I said, it looks great: it's got cute little low poly models and great use of bold, bright colours on a black background. The only problem with it is that it's too accurate an adaptation of slot car racing, by which I mean that it's almost impossible to keep your car on the track without slowing to an absolute crawl when approaching corners. Worth a quick play for the great graphics, but not much more.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Bermuda Triangle (Arcade)

Some of SNK's pre-NeoGeo games are well-remembered, and much-loved, like Athena, or the Ikari Warriors series. Bermuda Triangle, by contrast, is neither remembered or liked. This is half an injustice, as though it definitely doesn't deserve to be liked, it should at least be remembered for being one of the most bizarrely-designed shooting games there is.

To start with, it uses a rotary joystick, which is only strange from our modern point of view, because no games have really used them since the late 80s, which is when this game was released, and when SNK had a minor fascination with the device, releasing (as far as I'm aware) more rotary joystick-controlled games than anyone else. But as I said, it's only a starting point, and though at first glance, Bermuda Triangle looks like a generic late 80s shooting game, it has a whole bunch of weird gimmicks thrown in.

So, your ship. The first thing you'll notice about it is that it's huge, big enough that avoiding enemies and their shots is a lot more difficult than it is enjoyable. Then, as you play, it'll keep changing form. This is because your health bar and the power of your weapons are linked: when you collect power ups, you gain health, and when you get hit, you lose power. When your ship gains or loses enough health to have its weapon power go up or down, it also changes form. Coupled with the fact that your ship is huge and will be getting hit a lot until you get used it, along with the fact that power ups appear seemingly at random, this all adds up into a baffling experience for the first-time player. With this, I can at least see what they were trying to do here: the idea of a form-changing ship is pretty cool, and the concept of weapon power and health being linked makes sense from a thematic standpoint, if not one of game balance. It's just the execution and a lack of explanation that really let the game down here.

Bermuda Triangle's other big weird mechanic is the way you play through the stages. First, you fly up the stage, like you would do in any other vertically-scrolling shooter. But then, you reach the top, and start going backwards, back down the stage, still fighting off enemies (using the rotary joystick, or whatever substitute you've configured for yourself in MAME to turn your ship's gun around). THEN, when you get back to the start, you fly up the stage a second time, with different enemy layouts than the first time, and at the end of this run, you fight the boss. It does this for every stage, and I really have no idea what the developers could have been thinking with this. Was it a way of trying to force players to change their firing direction? Was it just an attempt at making stages longer without having to draw more background graphics? Whatever the reason was, it falls on its face. It's annoying, it doesn't make any sense, it's a bad move all round.

I really can't recommend playing Bermuda Triangle, and I find it strange that it was released. It feels like some kind of experimental game that might have been made internally to try out a bunch of ideas the devs had, but it was actually released into arcades, though presumably, not many, and not for very long.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Asameshimae Nyanko (SNES)

Othello is a classic strategy board game that's been around since at least the late 19th century, and has been adapted into videogame form many times over the years, dating back all the way to the Odyssey2's Dynasty. Rock Paper Scissors is an even older game, though it's a lot less strategic, and really more of a way of randomly deciding things than an enjoyable pastime. Asameshimae Nyanko is a game from 1994 that bravely seeks to answer the question "what if we combined the strategy of Othello with the randomness of Rock Paper Scissors, and there were also lots of kittens?"

Yeah, so this is a game of othello in which the piece are not small black and white discs, but blue and pink kittens. For some reason, you also get to pick which breed of kitten is used before you start a game. There's also a few locations to play in, too, like a roof in the city, a grid of rocks in the wilderness and a luxurious carpet in a remote palace. The different locations do offer slightly differently shaped boards, but are otherwise just cosmetic changes like the kitten breeds. The big difference between this game and a normal game of Othello is that after each turn, the current player can choose one of their opponent's kittens to take, and this dispute is decided in a seperate little one-on-one battle.

As you might have guessed, these one-on-ones are where the Rock-Paper-Scissors element comes into play. You press A, Y or B on your controller, your opponent does the same, and a winner is decided. I've only played single player, so I can't tell you which button beats which, but I'm not sure it really matters that much. It's not just the one solitary kitten that's at stake, either: if the kitten changes hands and this causes two kittens of that colour to surround a line of the opponent's kittens, that line is taken, as if the changed kitten was placed as part of a normal move. (I know that sentence is confusing for people who don't know how Othello is played, but I'm assuming those people are in the minority.)

Asameshimae Nyanko is a very well-presented game. The kitten sprites look cute, and though there would be a risk of them looking lifeless when placed on the board in large numbers, the game cleverly animates each kitten individually, so they're all doing dfferent things at any one time, which really adds a lot to the character of the game. It looks really great in general, actually, with nice, soft colours and well-drawn sprites and backgrounds.

Unfortunately, there's really nothing more to this game than playing one-off games. There's no kind of story mode or arcade-style mode with opponents of gradually increasing difficulty, so playing single player is an experience you'll get bored of in less than half an hour. On the other hand, if you can somehow convince someone to play a partially-randomised videogame adaptation of Othello with you, then Asameshimae Nyanko is that game!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Beast Saga Saikyou Gekiotsu Coliseum (3DS)

There's a fondly-remembered 80s toyline called "Battle Beasts." They were simple figures with a simple concept: little rubber figures of anthropomorphic animals wearing armour that was an aesthetic mix of medieval knight's armour and futuristic power armour.For some reason, though, it never got the big relaunches that lots of other 80s toylines did, until 2013, when the new toyline Beast Saga debuted in Japan, along with a new cartoon to promote it. I don't think either of them ever reached the west, though apparently the cartoon did get an English dub that aired in parts of Asia.

So, not only is this game a toyline/cartoon tie-in, but it's a modern one, too, and neither of those things bode well for its quality. It's an arena-style fighting game with a setup that's vaguely similar to some of the Gundam arcade games, whereby each fight involves two teams of fighters. The teams might not have the same number or strength of members, but both team has an equal value of battle points, and each member is worth a different amount of said points. When a character is knocked out, they're out of the battle for a short time, and their team's BP is reduced by that member's value. When a team has no BP left, they lose. Some stages in story mode also feature monoliths at either end of the arena, which result in instant defeat if destroyed.

It's very simple to play: you have buttons for chain attacks, strong attacks and projectile attacks (which can be charged), as well as a button for rolling/dodging, and a button for utilising super attacks once your meter is full. The story mode has an interesting layout, being made up of several multi-part arcs, with more being unlocked as you finish them. There's a main storyline with numbered arcs, as well as side stories in which you play as villains and such, which is a cool addition.

I've mostly been positive about this game so far, but I have to break it to you that that most hated bugbear of the modern action game rears its head: levelling up. It's not too bad, though, as levelling up doesn't appear to have too massive an effect on your character's performance, and from the few hours I've played so far, the game does still seem to be getting harder rather than easier, as is often the case in action games with levelling. Plus, levelling doesn't affect anything in the game's free battle mode, which presumably is also the multiplayer mode, so that's a plus too. Though another negative is that even after a couple of hours' play, more than half the characters in free battle mode are still locked. That's incredibly annoying, though I guess it's better than locking them behind a paywall.

Despite its faults, I still like this game. It's a fun little casual knockabout of a game, and the characters are mostly really cool-looking, which I guess they'd have to be ifthey want to sell any toys. If you have the means to play it, and you can track a cheap copy down, I'd say Beast Saga is worth a look.