Sunday, 29 May 2011

Hakaioh - King of Crusher (Playstation)

Look! Just when you least expect it, another review of a Japanese Playstation game!
The last few reviews have been a bit too positive, and I've been putting this one off for months now, so I am reviewing Hakaioh: King of Crusher.
The plot is that you are some Japanese guy. Nobody special, has a wife and a baby and an office job. One day while eating breakfast, you get bitten by an evil fly, and start going on a rampage, destroying all your family's possessions. The first time I played this game, I'd skipped the cutscenes, and just saw a game where you play as a guy destroying his furniture (by hand!) while a woman holding a baby flees in terror.
Anyway, ingame, there are two bars on screen. The short red one shows how much of your destruction quota has been met, and when you've filled it up, you can go to the end of the stage. The long yellow one is your health, which is constantly (but slowly) decreasing. It increases a little whenever you destroy something, and you get quite a big chunk back for destroying enemies like tanks and helicopters.
There's two things I should tell you after saying that last part: The first one is that as the stages go on, you gradually transform, first into a werewolf demon thing, later on into a dinosaur, and so on. So you aren't just some angry guy by the time they send the military after you. The second is that you can't attack humans, presumably so you don't attempt to murder your wife and child in the first stage. But what causes a bit of dissonance there is that you can destroy vehicles that contain people, and one stage even has a bridge you can destroy, causing a train to fall into the river presumably killing or injuring everyone on board. But you're a dinosaur by that point, so you probably don't care anymore anyway. Eventually, you become so big and powerful, you can destroy motorway bridges by walking through them (and like the earlier train, all the cars drive off to their deaths and explode) and tread on tanks like they were insects.
I'm probably making this game sound like a lot of fun, like a 3D version of the old Amiga game AAAAAARGH! or something. But unfortunately, it has a few big flaws.
The controls are one of them. Attacking is no problem at all: triangle headbutts, square punches and X kicks, but walking around is awkward, as your man/monster seems to have some trouble turning round. It's hard to explain what happens when you do, it just looks kind of... off, I guess. And it takes a little longer than it should to keep things smooth.
The other major flaw is the camera, which also has issues with turning around. Only unlike the man, it doesn't even try. It always faces the same direction. Usually, this isn't a problem, but if you get to the end of a level and haven't reached your destruction quota, walking back to find more stuff to wreck is a bit of a pain.
The final, smaller flaw is that it'd very repetitive, since every stage is just about moving forwards and wrecking as much stuff as possible. It's not made any better by the fact that the stuff is all pretty sturdy too, often taking several hits to break. I only count this as a minor flaw though, as you can easily just play one stage at a time, save it and come back later.
In summary, this game is repetitive, ugly and awkward to play, and also the shoddy production value make the average simple series game look like a triple A high-budget blockbuster. But despite all that, I've still played most of the way through it, and it seems pretty likely I'll even play it through to the end, as long as no sudden difficulty spikes appear to spoily my fun.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel (Mega Drive)

Before the Fire Pro series came along in the early 1990s*, wrestling games were kind of awful. They'd be stiff, awkward affairs in which victory seemed to be down to luck as much as skill. I was surprised, then, to play this game and find out it's actually pretty great!
It's based on (and starring) real-life wrestler Cutie Suzuki (information you may have already gleaned from the title), though all the other wrestlers in the game are fictional. I assume someone at Asmik is a metal fan, since one of the characters is named "Helloween I. Sato" and another "Megadeath Saito". It's actually the second wrestling game on a Sega console that I know of to be based around a real-life female wrestler (the other one being "Gokuaku Doumei Dump Matsumoto" for the Master System, which was released as generic old "Pro Wrestling" in the west, as well as having all the characters turned into men. Booo.). Nowadays there aren't any, which is a shame. A game based around the Ice Ribbon or Shimmer promotions would probably be a day-one purchase for me. OH WELL.
Anyway, as I said at the start of the review, the game is a lot better than I was expecting. In single player mode, you pick a wrestler** and then go through a series of tournaments and leagues, winning trophies until you get to the final "Grand Champion" tournament. Well, I assume it's the final one. It's as far as I've been able to get so far, anyway.
During the match, you can do typical wrestling attacks and moves, including jumping onto a downed opponent from the top rope, which can even be done if your opponent is lying on the floor outside the ring! You have to be pretty quick to do it, but it looks awesome, does tons of damage andis incredibly satisfying. The wrestlers' health is shown by their portraits at the top of the screen: the less happy they look, the closer they are to losing the match, especially if they're shaking. When your opponent is looking their most unhappy, the music will change to a faster and more dramatic tune, and if you can get a pin at this point, you've pretty much won the match.
There's even a primitive form of running commentary, but only in text form. In the corner of the screen, a relatively normal looking guy, accompanied by one of his guest hosts (including a dinosaur, Colonel Sanders and a guy who speaks in nonsensical engrish) will constantly be talking, all in japanese unfortunately.
In summary, this is a really fun and cool game that's a lot better than I was expecting and definitely a lot better than most of it's contempories in the genre.

*Although the Fire Pro series started in 1989, it didn't really kick off until the SNES games a few years later (in my opinion).
**PROTIP: Press C to see their names. Why aren't they displayed by default? Who knows?

Friday, 6 May 2011

Wicked (Amiga)

It's nice to play a unique game, that doesn't have anything else like it. Wicked is a unique game, as far as I know. Even now, 22 years after its release, there doesn't seem to be any copycats or clones.
I should probably talk about it now, then.
The intro tells the tale of some guy (that's you) who has undergone a painful ritual to become a firey star thing to battle evil. The battle against evil is mainly about the cultivation of celestial mould.
The game's a single screen shooter, and each stage has various things in it. There's you, an enemy (just one), the sun/moon and lots of gold and grey mould. The gold mould is good, the grey mould is evil, and your job is to make each stage only have good, gold stuff in it. Among the mould are big pimple-looking pod things, which are what creates the mould. These things also create seeds at random, the good seeds you have to pick up and strategically drop on the good mould to encourage it's growth, and the evil seeds will sound an alarm, and you have to go over and kill them before they make another evil pod.
Shooting the evil mould turns it red for a few seconds, which kind of "fertilises" it, making it possible for the good mould to grow over it (though of course, evil can grow over good whenever it likes). You win the stage once all the evil pods are covered by good mould.
It's not completely simple, though! There are complications! The biggest being the previously mentioned enemy that's on each stage. These enemies take the form of various "evil" things: dragons, demons, spiders, etc. and the hover about shooting stuff at you and trying to kill you.
There's also the sun/moon thing in the centre of the screen. When it's showing the moon, you can't hurt the enemy (but you can still shoot the mould, or the game would be insanely hard). They can still hurt you when the sun's out though. Killing the enemy is only temporary, but it does make things a lot easier not having them around for a while.
Sometimes the face in the centre will open up, revealing a tarot card and releasing an orb. Collecting the orb has a different effect depending on the card shown. Some are helpful, others not. I won't list all of them, but make sure you never ever collect the moon or tower orbs, or they'll make things a lot more difficult for you.
The game is pretty well presented, having a generic occult/pagan/new agey theme, and the title screen music is very atmospheric, though it's a shame there isn't any music in-game. The stage selection screens are especially nice to look at.
I used to have this game when I was a kid and owner of an actual amiga. I liked it back then, and I still do now. It's unique, atmospheric and fun. Go and play it.