Friday, 1 July 2022

Kamen Rider (SNES)


 It's a common criticism of SNES beat em ups that compared to their Mega Drive and arcade contemporaries, they can be a little slow, and they rarely have more than a couple of enemies onscreen at a time. There are exceptions, though, and oddly enough, one such exception is this licensed game based on a TV show that was more than twenty years old when it came out.


Anyway, player one plays as Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Rider 1, and player two is Hayato Ichimonji/Kamen Rider 2, and they go through various typical 1970s tokusatsu locations (quarries, docks, theme parks, etc.) beating up uniformed goons from the fascist terror group Shocker, as well as various monstrous members of that organisation. Some of the monster enemies are recurring villains, appearing in multiple stages, but the boss of each stage is unique each time. A lot of the bosses even have unique death cutscenes, which see them being kicked off of rooves, out of windows, and so on. Some of them just have a fairly generic death where they're shown exploding in front of a different background each time.


The transformation gimmick works in a different way to the likes of Cyber Cross - Busou Keiji. In that game, you always want to be transformed, but it's limited by power up appearances and your character's health. In Kamen Rider, you can transform at any time at the press of a button, but there's a small strategic advantage to waiting until you really need to. Transforming makes you stronger, faster, and more resilient, and it also completely refills your health. So it makes the most sense to keep fighting off enemies for as long as you can in your untransformed form, waiting until you've almost lost a life before doing it. But obviously, this creates a little game of chicken you the player: do you transform now, or take a couple more hits, and risk losing a life and wasting a whole transformed health bar?


There's a few things in this game I couldn't really engage with. One was the selection of little training mini-stages between the actual stages. Because of the language barrier, I wasn't sure what to do in them, or what the point of them was. The other was the SSI system, which seems to be a way of building your own attack strings. This one, I just didn't have the patience for, and I seemed to be getting through the game just fine without it.


It's not a perfect game, but Kamen Rider is definitely worth your time. It's fun to play, looks great, and is a treat for fans of either beat em ups or tokusatsu. It's not the best SNES beat em up, but it's definitely pretty high up in the ranks!

Friday, 24 June 2022

Dimension Tripper Neptune Top Nep (PC)

 Now, this is  fairly recent release, but the fact that a Space Harrier-alike with actual sprite scaling and stuff managed to exist for almost half a year before I'd even heard any mention of it qualifies it as obscure, in my mind. I'm glad I did eventually hear about it, too, as it turned out to be pretty good!


I'd even go as far as to say that it feels like it could be an actual Space Harrier sequel! It doesn't really add a lot to the formula, mostly being, like its forebear, a basic sprite scaling shooting game, with no lock-on attacks or other things added by later games like Afterburner and Galaxy Force, but the couple of elements it does add are ones that really fit, and definitely add something to the game, in the way that a sequel would. (I know there actually was a Space Harrier II, but it was one of those early Mega Drive "straight to video" sequels like Golden Axe II that only really offered more of the same. Not that there's anything wrong with that, though!)


There's two main mechanical additions to be found here. The first is a meter at the bottom of the screen, filled by collecting coins. Once it's full, another character will fly in and join you, acting like an option in a more traditional 2D shooting game. The second is a melee attack that you can use to hit enemies that fly in close to you, and more importantly, to cancel enemy bullets. These are both great additions, though it might have been interesting to build on them both a little more. Say, incentivising use of the melee weapon by having it score more points than defeating enemies with shots, or by having cancelled bullets turn into coins that fill the meter, maybe?


Something I haven't mentioned is the connection to the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, which is mainly because I haven't played any of them and I have no interest in changing that. It doesn't really affect anything about how the game plays, though, andaesthetically, it looks amazing too, so any effect it's had there is obviously a positive. The sprites are all big and colourful, the stages look great, and it does some cool stuff with sprite scaling, too. The bosses in particular: a dragon swipes at you with his massive claws, and a big frog monster tries to grab you with his stretchy multi=sprite tongue.


The only real negative thing I have to say about the game is that it is a bit short and a bit easy. They should definitely at least have labelled the "normal" and "hard" difficulties as "easy" and "normal", respectively. Still, it's only a couple of pounds, and even if it only takes a single attempt to 1CC normal mode, and not many more to get through hard, it's enjoyable enough that it's definitely worth it. Finally, a few people have asked me to mention where I get the PC games I post about, so starting with this one, I'll do that. This game is available on steam, and the past few PC games I've reviewed were bought from DLsite.