Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Still Hunt (PC)

It's been a long time since I last wrote about a Korean game. It was one of the first posts on this blog, in fact: Uzu Keobukseon for Mega Drive. I don't know why it's been such a long time, but here's another Korean work.
It's a blatant "homage" to Treasure's famous debut Gunstar Heroes, and it's possibly a bit better better than the other GH homage, Gunner's Heaven/Rapid Reload for Playstation.
So, it's a running and shooting game, then. You can choose from two characters, Jean and Houn, who have the same default weapons, but they each have three collectible weapons (though you can only have one of the collectible weapons at a time). All the weapons can also be levelled up by using them a lot too, so you'll probably want to find the weapon you like most and stick with it. They also each have a few excluive stages, which is nice. Their respective versions of the second stage are especially notable, as Jean has a stage in which he flies via jetpack, while Houn rides across the sea on a futuristic jetski.
If you want an easy ride through the game, pick Jean. One of his collectible weapons, appropiately named the "Exploder" is a fast-shooting missile launcher whose shots leave explosions that linger and cause damage to enemies for a few seconds, and it burns through boss lifebars like nobody's business.
Whichever character you pick, the game itself is a lot of fun to play, it's fast, there's lots of enemies and explosions everywhere, and it's neither punishingly hard or tediously easy. There are only two major flaws: the first is that for a lot of the stages (especially the earlier ones), there's pretty much no level design. You just run from left to right, shooting enemies as you go until you reach the end. The second flaw is that once you get a few stages in, the enemies take just a tiny bit more damage than I'd like. That one's not really a huge deal-breaker, but it does kind of break the flow a little.
The graphics and music are both really great. The graphics have nice, big, colourful sprites, and look like they could be from an early Saturn or Playstation game (like the aforementioned Rapid Reload), and the music has a nice Mega Drivey feel to it.
I should mention the lengths to which I went to get this game running on a modern (well, Windows XP) computer. Obviously, for a game so old, DOSBOX was a necessity to get it to run. Then there was the question of mapping the controls to my USB Saturn pad, which not only required the use of Joy-to-Key, but also, since the game uses the numberpad for the directional keys, and I'm on a netbook with no number pad, I had to use the On-Screen Keyboard to map them. And finally, there's the copy protection! Before the game loads, you have to bet on who will come first, second and third in a race between seven Haro-like robot things (that also appear in the game itslef as power-ups). There are 100 possible outcomes to these races, and I assume the original game came with a sheet or booklet listing them all. Luckily, the list of results isn't hard to find on the internet, and once you have that, you can play the game without worries.
Despite all these shenanigans, Still Hunt is definitely worth playing. Like I said before, it's fast, pretty and explosionful.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Genseishin Justirisers Souchaku Chikyuu no Senshitachi (GBA)

Gen Sei Shin Justirisers is a TV show. I even saw a few episodes of it, years ago, when I first started watching fansubbed tokusatsu shows, and would download every show I could find. I can't really remember many specific details about the show though, other than being like a slightly more seriously-toned version of Super Sentai, with slightly lower budgets.
THis is a game of it. It's a simple beat em up, you can pick any of the three Justirisers: Riser Glen (red, has a sword), Riser Kageri (blue, has a katar-like weapon and is the token girl) and Riser Gant (black, has a gun), you get to choose your character at the start of each stage. While you're playing, you can choose between fighting with your fists or with your character's weapon. There's no reaason not to use the weapon at all times, though. Especially if you're playing as Gant, obviously.
You can also jump, do a sliding attack across the ground, and use a special attack. The special attack is powered by an "energy" bar underneath your health bar, but there's plenty of items to top that bar up, and the game's so easy, the only use you're likely get out of you special attacks will be as a way to kill the bosses more easily.
The game shares some similarities with the Playstation Super Sentai games (which I should really get around to, some day), in that it splits the action between fighting as the heroes themselves against human-scale jobber enemies, and piloting a giant robot against giant enemies. The giant robot fights aren't very interesting, though: you tap the B button to build up a power bar until it's full a few times, then press A to unleash an attack (there are four attacks, you get the more powerful attacks by filling the power bar more times). In theory, there is an elemen of risk involved in these fights, as the more time you spend building up power, the more likely the enemy monster will attack. Unfortunately, they rarely do, and you can just keep charging up and firing your most powerful attack until the enemy dies.
The game is okay to play, it's not horribly broken and it doesn't have any awful chore-like grinding or anything like that, either. It's just absurdly easy. It was probably made for 10 year old boys, but that's hardly an excuse for this level of feebleness. It's a little more than an hour long from start to finish, and I'm fairly sure I didn't lose a single life along the way, and as I've mentioned before, I'm not really very good at games.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Super Shinobi (NES)

Hello! I'm sorry it's been such a long time since my last post, I've been spending too much time playing games everyone's heard of (and that, as such aren't suitable material for this blog), like Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 and Alice: Madness Returns. But here's a new review! I think this might be a record for the most posts in a row that aren't about Playstation games, too, which is nice.
Anyway, The Super Shinobi for NES/Famicom is, despite the title, a port of the awesome and excellent Mega Drive game The Super Shinobi II (which is known in the west as Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master). Although "port" might be too generous a term for this game. Those plucky pirates at SUPER GAME tried their hardest, but it's really more of a loose adaptation of the original.
At first glance, it does seem pretty faithful, the graphics are excellent considering the limitations of the hardware, and the music is alright too (I assume it will probably be of interest to game music nerds too, so they can hear some NES covers of Mega Drive songs...).
The first big difference you'll notice is the scarcity of shurikens compared to the original. This means you'll be going in close and attacking enemies with your sword a lot more. As you go throughout the game, you'll notice that Joe isn't as agile as you're used to, too. For example, his somersault jump doesn't goe as high as it does in the original, he can only hang underneath certain places, rather than from the bottoms of any platforms and, as far as I can tell, he can no longer walljump.
The game also makes a brave attempt at Shinobi III's horse riding stage, but it doesn't really work very well. It's nice that they tried though, right?
I've only managed to get a few stages into the game (to be exact, as far as the "floating cyborg brain thing" boss), and Joe's new found physical disabilities haven't hampered progress so far, though there are some item on platforms that are just slightly out of reach, which is annoying, considering the raised difficulty in this game compared to its source.
The blame for the increased difficulty can be placed on a combination of the weaker hardware, and some slightly inept programming. There are two main problem when fighting enemies: the AI for the stronger enemies seems completely random compared to the original game, so rather than waiting for an opening that you know is coming, the most effecient way of fighting is to get in close and slash at them until they die, hoping that they go before you. The other problem is slightly shoddy collision detection. Not bad enough to be a disaster, just a mild nuisance.
From what I've played of this game, it seems like the most reliable way to proceed is to abuse the hell out of your ninja magics: using the suicide spell when you're low on health, so you can start a new life's health bar without restarting the stage, and using the shield spell whenever you have more than one magic stock, to make that health bar last a little bit longer. It seems the makers of the game were aware of this too, as while the extra magic item is incredibly rare in the original version, there's a few in each stage in the pirate.
All in all, like a lot of these pirate ports, it's a nice curio, but not really a very good game, and definitely not worth bothering with in this modern age when you can just emulate the original.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Curiosities vol. 1 - X68000 Space Harrier Hacks

This post is a little different than the usual reviews, since all these games ar just hacks of Space Harrier, and everyone loves Space Harrier anyway, it'd be pointless reviewing them. I'm just posting about them because I think they're interesting and I want to share them with the world. I don't know when these hacks were made, but judging by the contents, I would guess they didn't come out too long after the X68000 version of the game itself, in the late 1980s. This also isn't a comprehensive guide: there are three other known hacks, two of them themed around Sailor Moon and Gundam, and another one, called "Pretty Harrier", about which I know very little. Unfortunately, I couldn't get them to run in XM6g. If anyone has got those to run in an emulator, please tell me how and which emulator! Also, special thanks for this post go to Dark Age Iron Savior, who managed to find the disc images for me. I apologise in advance for the layout of this post. There's a lot of images, and I'll try my best to arrange them nicely, but I make no promises it won't be an ugly mess at the end of it.

Harrier Desse

As far as I can tell, this hack doesn't really have any unifying theme to it. It's just strange. The sound effects have all been replaced with strange voice samples, and the enemies include slimes from Dragon Quest, hattifatteners from Moomin and Gamera, among other unconnected things.

Rumic Harrier

This one is a bit more palatable, you play as Lum from Urusei Yatsura, and fly around shooting characters from the various works of Rumiko Takahashi, including UY as well as Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2

Street HarrierThis one is the coolest of the three I'm posting about. You play as Ryu from Street Fighter, flying and shooting hadokens, and the enemies are characters from a ton of different arcade games! The bonus stage has Ryu doing a handstand on top of the plane from Afterburner! The last boss is the guy from Space Harrier, come to reclaim his game! The only problem is that there's something wrong with the game (or possibly the emulation of it) that means the lives counter never goes down. On the other hand though, that means I got to play it all the way to the end and take lots of screenshots!