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.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Masters of Combat (Master System)

In the early nineties, Street Fighter II had caused fighting games to become incredibly popular. So, ever company started making them, both for arcades and consoles. I assume Masters of Combat came about because SEGA wanted the Master System to have a fighting game, but they realised that a port of SFII would have been terrible (a realisation that went over the heads of Tectoy in Brazil, who made their own Master System SFII years later).
It resulted in a fighting game that's pretty different from its peers in a few ways, and one that, thanks to North America's callous indifference towards the Master System is almost unspoken of online. In factn the only moveslist I was able to find for the game wasn't on GameFAQs or a fighting games wiki, but in an old thread on the SMS Power forums!
The plot is about a fighting tournament in a place called Megalo City (which apparently appears again, years later, as a stage in Sonic Riders) some time after a UFO crashes. There's four playable characters: Hayate, a ninja and the best character, Highvoltman, some kind of SWAT guy with electric powers, Wingberger, a guy in a welding mask with telescopic weapons attatched to his limbs and Gonzalez, a fat shirtless man.
Speaking of the moveslist, that's one of the two big ways Masters of Combat differs from the fighting game norm. Rather than the usual smooth circle-segment motions, special moves in this game are performed by tapping short sequences of diagonals, then pressing the attack button. It's thanks to this unusual system that until I found the aforementioned moveslist, I hadn't discovered a single special move!
Apparently, the Game Gear port (renamed "Buster Fight" and given some really cool boxart) that came out the following year "fixed" this quirk, and has more traditional special move commands. It also has much nicer colour, and the action is zoomed in, so the characters look bigger. Unfortunately, it seems slightly pointless on that system, since the Game Gear also has a couple of (reasonably) good ports of SNK fighting games, like Samurai Showdown and Fatal Fury.
The other big difference between Masters of Combat and other fighting games is what I refer to as the movement button. The Master System controller only has 2 buttons, and while you'd expect them to be assigned to punching and kicking respectively for a fighting game, they aren't. One button is the attack button, being used for punch and kick combos, as well as specials, while the other is the movement button. What this button does is different depending on which direction you press with it: you can jump, slide along the ground, and dash forwards and backwards using this button.
It's an unusual feature, and it's hard to tell whether the game is worse or better off for it. I guess without it, it'd just be an unremarkable 8-bit fighting game that no-one had heard of.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Disc Station #11 (PC98)

This volume is the final Disc Station to be released for the PC98. But, Compile did at least let the system go out with a bang, as this disc is packed full of stuff!
Firstly, there's Jump Hero Gaiden, which is a turn-based strategy game starring characters from Compile's Jump Hero series of platform games. I didn't play much of this, since as regular readers will be aware, I often have very little patience for stumbling through text heavy games that are all in Japanese.I'm sure it's probably fine, though. Similarly, there's also a demo (or is it a full game?) for some RPG, called Melpool Land Stories, that I also didn't play.
There's another Apple Sauce Room-style clicking game thing, too. It's called Tanken, and it takes place in a jungle. It seems a bit more complex than previous games of this type, as there are parts of the image that, when clicked on, open up another, smaller area with stuff to click on! Plus, there seems to be an actual objective: to find three objects that will open the pyramid on the horizon.
Next up is Tanukids, which is basically a top-down version of the old SEGA arcade game Flicky. You play as a dad tanuki (who wears a tie!) who goes around the various stages gathering his many kids to fetch back home, and avoiding the various other animals of the forest who want to stop this from happening for some reason. While there's nothing terribly wrong with Tanukids, it is a little bit boring. You'll probably only play it once or twice.
The fifth game on here is Karakuri, and it's a lot better. It's another top-down action game, but this time you play as a teenage girl with a rocket launcher charged with the task of riddeing a large Japanese mansion of clockwork robots. The rockets you shoot create fairly big explosions, as do shot enemies.So, you can create chain reactions and kill multiple enemies with a single shot, and in grand old arcade traditions, your score increases exponentially the more enemies you kill in one go. The only complaint I have about this game is that it is really, really short and a little too generous with the extra lives.
The sixth (!) game is Firelive, a card game that's worth playing for the awesome character art alone! In it, you play as a guy who wants to form a band, and decides to recruit band members by beating them at a simple card game. The cards are numbered one to five, plus there are joker cards. There's three cards to choose from at a time, and two dice are rolled each turn to decide who picks first. The object is to get a hand of five cards worth more points than your opponent. Obviously, the cards are each worth the number they have on them, but you can also make poker-style hands like two pairs, full house, et cetera to score massive bonus points. The player with the lowest scoring hand has the difference deducted from their life poins, and the game ends when one player runs out of life points.
I really enjoyed playing this game, and like I said, the character art is really excellent too. Definitely my highlight for this volume of Disc Station. THe only downside is that sometimes the game randomly decides to add fifty points to one player's card, which seems pointless and unfair.
Like the previous volume, there were various promotional videos on the disc, the highlights this time being a really cool advert for the Mega CD game Shadowrun, and coverage of what appears to be a pro-Puyo Puyo tournament event.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Brave Prove (Playstation)

One thing I've noticed about the Playstation's library over time is that there's quite a few games (often by smaller developers) that seem to be heavily inspired by games that were, at the time, exclusive to SEGA consoles. The most well-known examples being Gunner's Heaven/Rapid Reload and Panzer Bandit, which pay "homage" to Gunstar Heroes and Guardian Heroes, respectively. Gamera 2000 and to a lesser extent Omega Boost are very similar to the Panzer Dragoon games, and there are a whole bunch of Virtual On imitators (including Reverthion). Brave Prove is another one of those games, with the inspiration in this case being the Story of Thor games (called Beyond Oasis in America, for some reason).
Not that being an imitator is a bad thing, Gunner's Heaven and Panzer Bandit are both great games! Brave Prove is, too.
Most of the game is spent fighting enemies and exploring dungeons (or exploring the countryside between towns). Like in the Thor games, you fight with a short sword, and have a few special moves that are done with combinations of the d-pad and attack button. Also like Thor, you gradually meet and recruit various elemental spirits who allow you to use magic. There's even a type of enemy that's almost exactly like an enemy you fight in the Thor games.
I've enjoyed playing this game a lot, and it's often hard to get me to like RPGs. Where Brave Prove succeeds is that there's very little in the way of dialogue and cut scenes. Of the five hours I've played so far, I estimate that less than 10 minutes has been spent skipping through boring text boxes. The lack of text also makes the game accessible, despite being untranslated. Although there is one guide for the game on GameFAQs (amazingly, written all the way back in 1998, only a month after the game's release!), I've only had to consult it once or twice, and those times were just when I'd gotten lost. You aren't missing anything from being unable to read the text (except the plot, but that's almost definitely boring cliched tripe anyway).
There's not really much else to say, really. It's an action RPG. It looks and sounds really nice. It's fun to play. It's very similar to the Story of Thor games. There's practically no language barrier. The End!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Disc Station MSX #06

Sorry if anyone's disappointed by this, but I've skipped a couple of DSMSX volumes, simply because they have nothing interesting enough for me to write about on them. Volume 6 isn't exactly packed, either, but it'll do.
Disk one is where most of the action is for this volume. The first interesting thing is a "Kids" minigame, which has you trying to put facial features on a face. The catch is that you can't see the face or the features you've already put down. You won't get hours of fun out of this, but you will get at least a minutes or two of childish amusement when you make a horribly disfigured face.
The sole full game on this volume is Taito's Xyzolog. I really, really like this game. You control a red ball that rolls around single screen stages avoiding enemies and turning off red lights by touching them. Once all the red lights are off, you go to the next stage. Your only means of defence is to self destruct, releasing a bunch of smaller balls that destroy any enemies they hit. This takes one of your lives away, but it's better than dying by touching an enemy because you score points for the enemies you take out, the red lights don't get reset like they do when you die normally, and it gives you a few seconds until the enemies respawn. To balance things out, you get an extra life for every stage you complete. The movement of your red ball is pretty great, too: there's hills and pits in the stages, and the way you have to build up momentum to climb steeper hills feels perfect.
Another thing I like about this game is the way it looks. It has incredibly striking visuals mostly using just a few shades of blue and grey for the backgrounds. There's a nice, clean 1970s sci-fi feel to it all.
There's also the usual pixel animation, albeit an incredibly boring one this volume round: there's some fish swimming in the ocean, like a mid-90s screensaver.
Disk 2 is a bit of a wasteland, mainly containing all the magazine-related content. The only remotely interesting thing in here is a demo for some kind of Gundam strategy game. Though I couldn' even work out how to start playing, it did have some nice artwork.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Seikima II Special: Akuma no Gyakushuu! (MSX)

You might (but probably won't) have guessed from the title that this game stars the 80s-90s metal band Seikima II. I hadn't actually heard of them before playing the game either, so don't feel too ashamed. As it turns out, they're pretty good. A bit of backstory that's (sort of) relevant to the game: the band is a group of high ranking demons sent to earth by Satan to spread his worship and also to conquer the earth through the medium of heavy metal. This is relevant to the game, as the game's villain is Zeus, king of the gods and enemy of Satan, who has kidnapped four of the band members of Seikima II, leaving only the singer, Demon Kogure to save them.
He saves them by jumping around various locations collecting stuff. Stuff like heads, ku klux klan dolls, apples and so on. The basic idea of the game reminds me of old british computer games, like Bruce Lee and Jet Set Willy, in which the goal was to explore large maps and collect all of a certain kind of item. This game doesn't have one large map, though; each missing band member is trapped in a different stage, and each stage is split into eight areas, each a few screens wide. As well as the items needed to complete the stages, there's also health increasing blood potions and money. The money is used in the shops (represented by big eyeballs) to buy extra blood potions (which should only be done in emergencies, dues to the scarcity of money), weapon upgrades and musical instruments (one per stage, they have no in-game use, but are necessary to get the best ending).
The "special" part of the game's title alludes to the fact that it's an upgraded port of a Famicom game, the most obvious changes being improved graphics and different jump physics. In the original version, there were two kinds of jump available: high jumps, done by pressing the jump button then left or right, and long jumps, done by pressing jump and left or right together. That system felt stiff and strange, and the more traditional jumping that replaces it in "special" is much preferred. Pointless semi-related trivia: I first heard of this game when I saw Arino buy a copy of the Famicom version in an episode of Game Center CX.
In conclusion, this is a pretty good game. It's nothing special (aaaahhh!), but it is definitely an improvement over the Famicom original. Plus, Seikima II are cool, so that's a bonus.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Disc Station #10 (PC98)

Another Disc Station post, this time being the first DS to come with videos on the disc! Videos that came in a convenient .avi format so they can easily be uploaded to Youtube! How exciting!
But before all that, the important part: the games.
First up is Rude Breaker, a decent shooter that's highly reminiscent of the later games in Hudson's Star Soldier series. I think given the popularity of that series in Japan, it's safe to say that this game was probably a homage to them, rather than a rip off. Unfortunately, I'm not really a big fan of that series, and some of the things I dislike about them are present here: the stages feel like they're really, really long, and though you might die a lot, it also seems to take a really long time to get game over. I guess if you do like the SS games, you'll probably like this too, though. It has really nice high resolution graphics like you'd expect from a PC98 shooter, too.
The second game on the disc is Runner's High, about which I have already written. I guess the last part of that old post looks kind of silly now, as it seems that it actually was published on a Disc Station. Hmm.
Third up is Matsuri, which isn't really a game, but an interactive thing like the Apple Sauce Room things that were on the early DS98 discs. But! instead of a room, you have a whole festival of things that do weird stuff when you click them! Literally minutes of fun to be had!
Also on the disc are Kirifuda, a very very Japanese card game that seems to be based on hanafuda, and which is completely incomprehensible to me, and another set of Nazo Puyo puzzles, if you like that sort of thing. What a long sentence.
The videos include ads for the Mega Drive port of Madou Monogatari and the SNES Port of Puyo Puyo 2, a video of what appears to be some kind of compile promotional event, and, most interesting of all: a Compile recruitment ad! I've uploaded the Puyo ad and the Recruitment ad for your enjoyment:

Friday, 6 July 2012

XESS - The New Revolution (Arcade)

This is a Korean arcade game, that's actually a compilation of three games, two of which had been previously released seperately. Okay, then.
So, the first game is Cookie and Bibi. It's Puzzle Bobble. It has puzzle and versus modes like Puzzle Bobble, the same mechanics as Puzzle Bobble, it is Puzzle Bobble, but with different graphics. I guess the fact that it has different sport-related balls instead of different coloured bubbles is a nice touch, though? It's also a part of a series of three games, all of which appear to be Puzzle Bobble clones. I suspect it might be the second in the series, but I have no idea why.
The next game is Hyper Man, which was originally called Hyper Pac-Man. It's a Pac-Man ripoff, of course. A really good one, though! It seems like the makers wanted to rip off Pac-Man, but then they had a bunch of other ideas and stuck them all in, too. There's different kinds of enemies, boss fights, destructible walls and a bunch of power-ups including (but not limited to) jump shoes, speed-up shoes and a helmet that shoots lasers! Also, unlike the original Pac-Man, each stage has a different layout, and there's room in there for odd gimmicky stages, like a stage that is just dots and ghosts, with no walls. I seem to remember there being a homebrew amiga game, also called Hyper Pac-Man, that also featured the addition of a bunch of power ups and gimmicks. I doubt the two are related, though.
The final game, and the only one that is completely new for this compilation is New Hyper Man! It re-uses a lot of sprites from Hyper Man, but it isn't a Pac-Man clone, it's a single screen top down shooter! On each stage, kill all the blue enemies to go on to the next stage. Dead enemies constantly respawn after death as red enemies, though you only have to kill all the blue ones to advance. There are items strewn about the stages, too, including the points-giving food items from Hyper Man, as well some of the power ups from Hyper Man. Getting points is very important in this game, since your score also acts as an RPG-esque experience system, with your weapon becoming more powerful as your score increases. New Hyper Man is a really fun and fast game, and could really have been released on its own, especially since the other two, weaker games already had been. Maybe they though such a move would be too cheeky, considering all the re-used graphics in NHM? Never stopped bigger, more "legitimate" companies, though, did it?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Disc Station MSX #03

I'm running out of ways to start these DS posts. Never mind, I'm sure nobody will notice. Let's just get on with it, eh?
The first disk this time around is a bit weak, containing a small game, and another playable demo of Golvellius. The Golvellius demo features a forced scrolling top-down dungeon, that I can't get very far in at all. It's really really hard!
The game, oddly enough, is by Namco, not Compile, and claims on the title screen to be a Disc Station original! It's a really simple baseball game, in which you only play as the guy with the bat, trying to hit the ball out of the arena. There's a bunch of guys to choose from, but I can't tell any difference between any of them. It's a lot like the baseball mini-game that's in the Playstation version of Rival Schools, actually. Anyway, after a certain amount of balls have been thrown, the game ends, and you seem to get the same screen no matter how well you did. It's a bit rubbish, actually. If you'e emulating, be sure to put your emulator into MSX2+ mode for this one game.
Disc 2 has some more interesting wares to offer: two animations and a full game!
The first animation is completely bizarre, and features a photo of some guy (who I assume was an employee at Compile at the time) spinning around in front of some squiggles to classical music. The second animation is a very short, simple tale of a girl giving her boyfriend some chocolate on Valentine's Day. It's also more of a comic than an animation, to be honest.
The full game is Godzilla-kun, a platform/puzzle game inwhich you play as Godzilla, who has to shove around a bunch of rocks and smash them with his fists, while a bunch of other monsters try to stop him. The monster sprites are all small, and kind of Tamagotchi-looking, and while some of them are very easily identifiable (Rodan, Anguiras, Hedorah), others look like crap generic monsters (Varan, Baragon). That could be down to bad sprites, or it could be that some monsters just happen to be more iconic and identifiable than others. The game itself is fairly amusing, though not great. The biggest problem being that it seems to give out an extra life every time you complete a stage, which can make the game seem easy to the point of boredom. Apparently, there's a Game Boy game entitled simple "Godzilla" that's very similar to this.