Saturday, 15 December 2012

Yainsidae - Age of Wanderer (PC)

This game is based on a Korean TV show, set during the Japanese occupancy of Korea in the early 20th century. Other than that, I don't know anything about the plot, but you pick from one of two guys and walk around town beating up Japanese soldiers, as well as thugs, gangsters and martial artists.
The presentation is excellent, the sprites and backgrounds are all super shard and well-drawn, and the music is really great too. There are some tiny cracks in the presentation here and there, like when the music abruptly changes between stages, but these are very minor. After playing a few times, I also noticed hat background graphics are re-used alot, which is also a negative, but they do look nice enough for it not to matter a lot. Plus, the locations usually have different lighting and bystanders when you re-visit them.
As for how it plays, it's not bad. There's no throw or grab moves, nor are there any weapons, which is a shame. You do get a couple of special moves performed via fighting game-style direction commands, though. The best part of the combat is that your normal combos can be interrupts with specials. This is somehing that really needs to be mastered to stand a chance of beating the bosses, who are incredibly hard. They'll relentlessly pummel you into a corner and keep pummeling if you let you guard down at all, but if you fight back hard enough with your specials and sliding kicks to knock them down, you should be able to get through. There's a cool extra touch during the boss fights, too: you can hear the crowd of watching bystanders cheer or boo when you or the boss gains an upper hand, though unfortunately they aren't animated.

Since this is a PC game, another thing to take into account is how much of a pain it is to get running. Mostly, Yainsidae is fine in this respect, just install it and play. There's one strange issue, though: although the game saves your high scores, it doesn't save your options settings, and by default it uses keyboard controls. So every time you play, you have to go into the options by keyboard and change the controls to joypad. It is a minor thing, but it is also a pain to do every time.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dinosaur Island (Saturn)

It's been a while since the last post, and unjfortunately, this one's just a short filler post. Sorry!
Anyway, Dinosaur Island isn't really a game, it's more of an interactive cartoon. Everything's in Japanese, but it's not like it's some super-complex story or anything. It's just stuff happening to some kids who live on an island that's also inhabited by monsters.
It's definitely worth a look if you can get it cheap, though (and you probably can: my copy cost about £3 including shipping from Japan!), just for how amazing it all looks. The first generation of CD consoles (the PC Engine and Mega CD) had some severe limitations that really showed when they tried to play video. The worst example of this was the Mega CD Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers game, featuring ugly FMVs playing in a tiny box. One solution used to great effect was making animations using big sprites and such, meaning the graphics could be coloured to fit the consoles' limited palletes and they could be full screen too.
Dinosaur Island takes this idea and applies it to the much more powerful Saturn, allowing for super-clear, high quality animation that also has amazing bright colours. Don't pay a lot of money for it though, unless you speak Japanese, I guess.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Dolphin Blue (Arcade)

Dolphin Blue sounds like a meaningless title, but both words are very relevant to the game. Dolphin, because you spend the game being accompanied by a dolphin buddy, and blue because a lot of the game is set in or on water.
Because of all that water, there are three kinds of segments in DB. There are parts on land (or more often, on the decks of huge battleships), where you fight on foot. These parts are very reminiscent of the Metal Slug games. Before I'd played the game, I'd only seen a few screenshots, and assumed the whole game was like this. The second kind are the parts that take place on the waves, with you riding on your dolphin buddy's back, and the third kind are underwater, seeing you swimming around accompanied by your dolphin buddy. It's in these parts where he comes in most useful, as he'll go around collecting points items that are hard for you to reach, and can be commanded to attacked the enemy by curling into a ball and bouncing aroud the screen, smashing not only the enemies, but their mines, bombs and missiles too.

It's really a shame that this game has never been converted to any home consoles (unless you count those fanmade consolised Atomiswave systems as such), which is the case for a lot of Atomiswave and Naomi systems. I guess if the Dreamcast had been supported longer, it would have made a fine home for them all. Oh well.
Obviously, I like this game a lot. It's fast and fun to play, it looks really nice, etc. One little touch that I love (and was probably not really intentional on the part of the designers) is that the default gun that you have when your power-up weapons run out can fire as fast as you can press the button. So some of the more tense situations are enhanced greatly, just by the physicality added by hammering the fire button as hard as you can (something I also felt regarding the finishers in Bayonetta, especially the ones which had the player spinning the analogue sticks with as much vigour as they could muster(but I don't think many people agreed with me on that)).

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Cardcaptor Sakura - Sakura Card de Mini Game (Game Boy Advance)

In case you're some weirdo that never saw it, Cardcaptor Sakura was one of the best cartoons of the late 90s, and is still one of the all-time best magical girl shows. There's also a fair few games based on it, none of which were released in English (to my knowledge), which is pretty strange, as I remember the show being really popular over here in its day.
Of the two I've played (the other one being Clow Card Magic for the Playstation), this is the best. It's set during season 2 of the tv show, when Sakura was turning the Clow Cards into Sakura Cards. Each episode of the show is a stage in the game (except some, which are just cutscenes), and each stage plays differently.
Generally, you'll have to either protect something until a timer runs out, or find something before a timer runs out. There are a few other kinds of stage too, but they all last roughly a minute.
Most of the games are pretty fun, though none are anything special. The main attraction is the graphics: bucking the usual trend for licenced GBA games (and GBA games in general) for having disgusting pre-rendered sprites by having nice colourful graphics with chunky sprites and detailed backgrounds.
Although most of the game is pretty easy, i gave up on it after about 15 or 20 stages when it gave me one of those sliding picture puzzles to solve. Those are never anything other than boring and frustrating.
This is a short post, but I'll do a better one soon, I promise.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Stardust Suplex (SNES)

If you know me, you probably know I like wrestling quite a bit, and women's wrrestling even more so! Unfortunately, the time at which women's wrestling was most popular was about 20 years ago, so not many games get made about it any more. There's the Rumble Roses series, which plays pretty well, and is excellently presented, but it also has a really seedy undercurrent of objectification in a genre that should be about the opposite, and you can play as women in the WWE games, but they seem to go out of their way to  discourage doing so.

It feels bad knowing there'll never be a super-awesome Ice Ribbon or Shimmer videogame. By contrast, Stardust Suplex gets it right. The atmosphere is excellent thanks to little details like how before each match, you see the wrestlers wearing the fancy and elaborate entrance costumes that were (and continue to be) a characteristic part of joshi puroresu. For a game released so early in the life of the genre, Stardust Suplex has a pretty decent amount of match types and play modes. There's an elimination battle royal for up to 4 players, a versus mode with single and tag matches, and the main single player mode, that can be played as singles or tag matches, with the tag matches also allowing for two player co-op play. The wrestlers all have a lot of personality, too. From those entrance costumes, to the fact that they all look distinct without having lazy stereotypical gimmicks, and they all even have their own taunts and victory poses. There's also some kind of dialogue between matches in the main single player mode, but unfortunately, the language barrier gets in the way of my enjoying that. They're all fictional, but it's the Fire Pro kind of fictional, where they're blatantly supposed to be real wrestlers with slightly different names. THe most obvious examples here being Hell Takano and Raja Tongo, two characters who bear suspicious resemblence to real life wrestlers Bull Nakano and Aja Kong. Luckily, going along with all the other good things i've had to say about this game so far, it actually plays well too! It's not slow or stiff, and though the grappling doesn't have the precision of the Fire Pro games, it doesn't feel completely broken. The only real problem I've had is that I haven't been able to work out how to tag out in tag matches. But other than that, the game's a lot of fun to play. I'd say it's even better than Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel! I haven't played Fire Pro Joshi All-Star Dream Slam yet, so I won't go as far to say it's the best old-time women's wrestling game.
As an extra note, the reason the screenshots are laid out strangely in this post is because the new blogger interfact has made it impossible to move them  vertically. THANKS GOOGLE GREAT JOB.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Recalhorn (Arcade)

In Recalhorn, you play as a boy with a horn (of the musical kind, rather than the anatomical) who wanders through a pleasant land being attacked by animals, birds and insects. The horn acts as a weapon, shooting out a little musical note to incapacitate enemies when blown.
Not all the local wildlife want the boy dead, though: a few animals have been locked in cages, and when rescued by the boy, show their gratitude by offering themselves up as summonable steeds, each with their own abilities.
Since the game is a lot harder than it looks, I've only managed to get a few stages in, and only befreinded three of the animals: the monkey, the seal and the lion.
The monkey is the first animal you meet, and its special abilities are very high jumps, and the ability to cling onto platforms and ropes. Next is the seal, who can swim and attacks by sliding across the ground on its belly, and the lion has no special movement abilities like the other two, but is invincible during its attack animation.
This game was actually never released, which is strange, as it's a great game, and the production values seem pretty high. It's actually odd that it was considered for the arcades in the first place, since a lot of elements in it seem like they belong in a console game. The two biggest examples are the fact that extra lives are gained by collecting one hundred of an item, rather than through obtaining certain score milestones (I know there are arcade games that do the 100 items thing, but I associate it more with console games, at least), and, something that might be unique among arcade games: the fact that it has a pause menu for choosing which animal friend to summon. The game would have been a great addition to the early libraries of the Saturn or Playstation. It really is a terrible waste that it's only playable through emulation. Maybe someday there'll be a push to get it dug up and finally released on modern systems, like Westone's Aquario of the Clockwork.
Anyway, as you might have picked up, I like this game a lot. It looks beautiful, sounds pretty good (but if Taito have ever made a game that doesn't have a good soundtrack, I don't know about it), and plays great.
As well as the main animal steeds gimmick, the other thing that's stood out to me is the almost Bubble Bobble-esque little tricks and secrets for finding extra points items: rustling certain bushes, finding different routes through stages and at the end of each stage, there's a large bush with unblossomed flowers. Those flowers bloom when you touch them, and the quicker you can make them bloom, the more points they give you. This reminds me a lot of those little invisible points bonuses at the end of the stages in the first Sonic game.

In conclusion, this game is very good.and you should play it. The end!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Street Boyz (PS2)

I was going to make the 100th post something special, but I couldn't actually think of anything special to do. I'll try harder for the 137th post, okay?
This is the first review done with the aid of my new capture device, though! That's kind of special, even if the device is a cheap piece of crap. (Don't buy super-cheap capture devices from ebay.they'll fall apart and need to be re-installed everytime you want to use them and you'll have to trick them into giving you sound.)
Anyway, on to the game itself! It's by Tamsoft, who are one of my favourite developers. They're most well known these days for the archetypal modern B-games, the Oneechanbara/Zombie Hunters series, though in ages past they did also make the Battle Arena Toshinden games, and they're responsible for a lot of other entries into the legendary Simple 2000 series (including this one!). Especially interesting are their entries into the Simple DS series, since they tend to have some of the best 3D graphics on the original DS, despite being budget games.
Street Boyz is a beat em up about banchos, those baggy trousered high school thugs of 70s and 80s Japan, and though the name and boxart of the PAL release might lead you to believe that they'd have been replaced with burberry-clad council estate thugs, the game's original plot, character names and everything else has been left intact! Not that any of it is particularly interesting or original, mind you.
How does it play? It's alright. Not terrible, not spectacular. It carries over one of the worst flaws of the Oneechanbara games (or the other way round, as i think this game might have been made before those), in that you're often only given the vaguest clues as to what to do in an area. For example, being told you need a key, but having no clue where the key might be, or who might be carrying it, and like in the Oneechanbara series, this situation is made worse by the fact that the stages are made up of rooms and corridors that all look exactly alike.

The combat is okay, typical 3D beat em up stuff: a button each for strong and weak attacks, weapons to pick up, a super bar to fill, and so on. There is a major flaw here, though. The camera is probably the worst I've experienced in a 3D game, it often seems to go where it likes, and that always seems to be a place where it's hardest to see what you're doing. There is a button to place the camera behind your character, and another button to lock on to the nearest enemy, but these aren't perfect solutions, and in some areas they're disabled. There are a few parts of each stage where all camera control is taken away, because the game wants to show off a nice "cinematic" viewpoint. Unfortunately, while these views do look nice, they're also very impractical.
Although I've said a lot of bad things about this game (and it does deserve the criticism), I've still managed to get a good few hours of enjoyment out of it, and for the prices it tends to go for these days, I'd say it's definitely worth risking a pound or two on.
This game is also known as Simple 2000 Ultimate Series Vol. 21: First-Class Brawl! Yankee Leader ~Legendary Shouwa 99 Year~

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Columns III: Revenge of Columns (Mega Drive)

Everybody's played Columns, right? It was on the Megagames compilation cartridge that came with my (and probably a lot of other people's) Mega Drive. Also, it's not even the first time it's come up here, as I wrote about a really pointless and rubbish version of it that was featured on the Game Gear 4-in-1 cart.
Anyway, this is one of the lesser-known sequels to Columns. For some reason, the second game didn't get a home port until years later, on the Saturn as part of the Japan-only Columns Arcade Collection. As a result, I've never played that game.
Like most mid-90s puzzle games, this one focuses on versus play, rather than single player survival. In fact, it has no such traditional mode, with the only single player mde being against CPU opponents. There's also versus modes available for up to four players! Another strange thing about Columns III is that there's no scoring at all.
Unlike most versus puzzle games, there's no automatic attack inflicted on your opponent when you do well, but rather, there are two numbers beside your pit that increase as you clear gems. Clearing more gems in one go or scoring chains makes the numbers go up significantly faster.
The large blue number goes up for each individual jewel cleared, plus bonuses when applicable. It maxes out at thirty, and it's your main method of attack. When you press C, for every ten points on this meter, the bottom of the opponent's pit will rise up one square. Doing this attack also has the side effect of trashing the set of jewels the opponent is currently placing, adding an extra bit of strategy to it.
The smaller white number beneath it goes up by one for every set of jewels you clear, and each time it reaches a multiple of twenty, a flashing magic gem appears. These work very differently to how they work in the original game, being split into three parts: a square, and two triangles, one pointing up, the other down. You only get to land one of the three, and each has a different function. The upwards pointing triangle raises the opponent's floor two squares, the downwards one powers your own floor significantly (assuming you have been on the receiving end of your opponent's attacks), and the square has the traditional function of erasing all of whatever colour it lands on.
You'll also recieve items for winning the first few battles in single player mode, which you should really try to save until the last boss.
Columns III is a pretty good game. Definitely a lot more interesting than the original, which I've always found pretty boring, despite its excellent visual and aural presentation. Oddly enough, this game is somewhat lacking in those areas compared to its progenitor, looking and sounding a fair bit cheaper in comparision. Still, it's definitely worth playing.
PS. I've recently revived my long forgotten tumblr account, so if you use tumblr, you should go and follow me and make me feel popular.
PPS. The next post on this blog will be the 100th! Should I do something special? Or just make it a regular post?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Disc Station MSX #09

I've long since run out of ways to introduce these DS posts, you know by now what they're all about, right?
Disc one of this volume is slightly anemic, offering three demos, only one of which is playable. The two unplayable ones are for a "Space War Simulation" game based on the Legend of Galactic Heroes series of novels/cartoons/possibly other things. I assume even if this wwere playable, the language barrier would keep me away from it anyway. The second is something a bit strange: it appears to be just a sound test mode with music from Hertz' RPG Sword of Legend Lenam. Come to think of it, in the UK in the eighties and (very) early nineties people were buying certain C64 and Spectrum games purely for their soundtracks, so I guess if the same sort of thing was happening with computers in Japan, this is actually sort of logical.
The playable demo is of Compile's awesome shooting game Aleste 2. The demo lets you play through the entirety of the game's seventh stage. It's still as excellent as it was when there was a demo on the previous DSMSX volume, so go back and read what I said about it then, I guess?
Disc two is a bit more interesting. It has the usual magazine stuff that's of no use to me, a demo of some baseball game that I also don't care about even a tiny bit, plus a nice little animation and a complete game.
The animation is a cute story of a young boy in his room playing what appears to be a Megaman game on his Famicom, when suddenly, his room is invaded by annoying little oni-like troll things! It lasts a couple of minutes, and it's something of a step up from most of the animations on earlier volumes, since it actually tells a story, rather than just have a random thing happening on a loop.
The full game is Gulkave, a horizontally scrolling shooter, originally released by SEGA in 1986. The first thing I noticed about this game is the fact that it had parallax scrolling in the background, which is pretty impressive for such an old game.
The game itself is pretty good too, thankfully. The only major problem it has is that you get a health bar, making it a little bit easier than I'm used to. This isn't a game-ruiner though, and Gulkave manages to be good enough to save this volume from being a bit of a damp squib.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Battle Zeque Den (SNES)

Battle Zeque Den is so close to being a good game, it's such a shame that one big problem has to go and ruin it.
It's a platform/beat em up, starring teenage girl versions of those timeless characters Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy. They all have their own special moves and such with fighting game-style inputs, too. It looks really really good, with big, cool sprites and colourful, nicely drawn backgrounds. The formula isn't really original, just go right and beat guys up. It's nothing special, but it's fun to play.
What ruins the game is the difficulty. It's not just "very hard", it's "absurdly, unfairly hard". The enemies can, and will remove most of your health bar with only 2 or three punches. Health restoring power-ups are rare, and give you back such a tiny amount that it could almost be considered an insult. If you somehow manage to get past the first boss, you don't even start the second stage with a full health bar, just what you had left over from fighting the boss. Then the game drops a bunch of rocks on your head with little warning and you get game over.
I really did want to like this game, playing it over and over, but the fact that it is just a completely unfair slog means I can't recommend playing it to anyone.
This post is really short, isn't it? I'll pad it out with this silly video of me playing Altered Beast with a cheat on so that i change into the Werebear on every stage. Oh and another thing: the Wikipedia entry for Battle Zeque Den is really terrible, in case you were wondering.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Disc Station #12 (PC)

Hooray! It's the first of the PC Disc Station volumes! And it's full of stuff! But the only parts we're interested in are the games, so let's go straight to the first one.
In this case, "the first one" refers to the excellently entitled "Bomber Through Gogo! ~Jump Hero Gaiden 2~", which is a Bubble Bobble-esque single screen platformer. You get three characters to choose from, though to be honest, you should only pick the devil-woman Linda, since she can fly. Anyway, as is the fine ancient tradition for this genre, to pass each stage, you have to defeat every enemy. Every few stages there's a boss too. Your method of attack in this game is to drop little bombs on the ground, then kick them around.
I'll admit that at first, I didn't really like this game. I thought the attack method was awkward and stupid, and you have to prss up to jump, which is always a negative. But! After I played it a few more times to get screenshots, i really started to warm up to it. Once you get used to the unusual controls, it's a ton of fun kicking bombs and having stuff exploding all over the screen. Plus, the graphics are some spectacularly luxurious pixel art, just as you'd expect from mid-90s Compile.
The second game on the disc I'm just going to refer to as "Gensei", since the full title is in Japanese and I can't read it. It's a top-down action game in which you control a tiger with a sword, going from room to room slashing monsters and stuff.
Most of the game is nothing especially original or anything, with the exception of the various gimmick rooms in each stage. These include a room where you stand in place while enemies fire elaborate and intricate bullet patterns that, provided you did stand in the right spot, pass harmlessly round you. There's also a room with a quick game of Space Invaders and one with a baseball player, against whom you have to hit a few home runs.
Gensei is an okay game, but 's not really very exciting. You'll probably get bored of it after a few plays.
The other two games on the disc I don't have much to say about. One of them, Sniper, won' go past the title screen, no matter what I do. The other is a remake of the first Madou Monogatari game, and since it's an RPG in Japanese, I don't have the patience for that sort of thing. It does have the super-cute end credits on the disc as an .avi file though, so I've uploaded that for your viewing pleasure, along with a couple of cool images from the disc's bonus folder.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

STDS00751 R+R (X68000)

Sorry about the long wait between the last post and this one, but I was busy preparing for, going to, and recovering from Bloodstock 2012 (which was thoroughly excellent, in case you were wondering). Also, I was playing a lot of Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 instead of anything that fits this blog's remit. Oops.
Anyway, this game is a shooting game for the X68000. It's a pretty good one, too! It's neither too easy or too hard, it moves at a decent pace and it looks and sounds pretty good, too. The only problem it has is that it's a little bit generic. It doesn't have any really strong gimmicks: no intricate scoring system, no fancy bullet-countering weapons or cool-looking bomb attacks, not much at all really. The nearest thing it has to a good gimmick is the power up system: you start with the weakest weapons (oh yeah, there are two weapons that can be switched between at any time: a powerful straight laser, and a weaker spread shot. Again, generic) and once you get 10000 points, they get more powerful, then again after another 20000 points. If you die, you're back to the weakest weapon and have to build it up again.
This would be a pretty cool system, if it had more than 3 levels of power. It would have been interesting if the game rewarded continued survival with gradually more and more powerful weaponry.
You also get an unlimited-use super shot that is activated, oddly, by jiggling your ship left and right.
As said before, the game looks pretty good, with the sprites being a lot better looking than the backgrounds (though they themselves aren't ugly or anything). I could be my imagination, but some of the enemies seem to be possibly inspired by Thunderforce IV.
The music is as good as you would expect from a shooting game for the X68000, though obviously it doesn't reach the heady heights of ChoRenSha.
All in all, this is a pretty fun game, but on a system with as many great shooters as the X68000, it doesn't really stand out much. And it has a really terrible name.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Disc Station MSX #08

This volume of Disc Station is very shooting-heavy. Or at least, the parts that were useful to me were.
Disc one features a few playable demos, though most of them are for RPGs, so I didn't bother with them. One of them was for Aleste 2, though! Obviously, it's excellent, has some of the best graphics I've seen on the MSX and also is very very hard. So hard infact, that every time I tried to take a screenshot, I died. Oh no!
There's also a full game on disc one, being a very old shooter named Final Justice. Unfortunately, it really shows its age, being boring to look at and boring to play. And that's all for the first disc!
Disc two is more promising, though. It has episode one of the episodic shooting game Blaster Burn! (Episode one is actually the second installment, episode zero being the sole highlight of DSMSX#07).
Blaster Burn is pretty fun, it's a shooting game, but every time you play, the amount of enemies you shoot and the amount of power-ups you pick up each get added to two respective totals. As these totals build up, you can use the amassed points to upgrade your ship, with more lives, better weapons, faster movement, etc. So it's a shooter with RPG-style grinding, I guess. It's better than it sounds, really! There's apparently a way of carrying stats over between episodes, though I haven't yet worked that out. Does anyone reading this know how it's done, if it can be done at all?
There's also yet another shooting game entitled Sum The Forever, which is by Gamearts. This is a really strange game, featuring a crudely drawn fat guy who wears a different costume each stage shooting stuff. And that's it, really. It's not very interesting, but it is pretty strange. Plus, one of the stages has him dressed as Kamen Rider.
The last item of interest for this volume of Disc Station MSX is a christmas-themed animation, starring Santa and a whole bunch of Compile characters. It's short, but fairly cool.