Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Mizuki Shigeru no Yokai Butoden (Playstation)

A fighting game where all the characters are Japanese folk monsters is a pretty nice idea, in theory. Unfortunately, the act of putting that theory into practice has, in this case, been done with more enthusiasm than talent.
Some of the monsters in this game I'm familiar with from comics and cartoons like Urusei Yatsura, Ushio and Tora and Usagi Yojimbo. These include oni, karasutengu, sickle weasel, snow princess. There's also a few I'm not familiar with, like the weird lumpy-headed dwarf thing and the old woman who is very aggressive with her kisses. There's also two boss characters who are (as far as I can tell) unplayable. They're both also western-style monsters: a female demon who might be some kind of succubus, and a cloaked grim reaper type.
As for how it plays, it's kind of terrible. The controls are stiff and unresponsive, and everything feels very awkward. The clunky controls even make something as fundamental as special move inputs unreliable, and possibly in reaction to this, the shoulder buttons serve as macros, each one having a special move assigned to it. This in turn leads to the game's one interesting mechanic (which I strongly suspect wan't even intentional): these macros cancel the animations of normal attacks, meaning you can do some super-fast (and ridiculous looking) 1-2 combos. Against an AI opponent who isn't expecting these kind of tactics, this completely breaks the game, since it gives them very little hope of fighting back. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to play against a human opponent, but I'd be really interested in seeing some high-skilled fighitng game players totally break the game.
Oh, and I didn't know until I looked it up for this review, but Mizuki Shigeru is the creator of the popular GeGeGe no Kitaro comic/cartoon/movie franchise.
(Sorry about the weird layout of this post, but blogger is being stupid and uncooperative again)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Espalion (PC)

Espalion is a shooting game made in 2004 by a Japanese indie developer named Team DRYUAS, and as far as I'm aware, it's their only work.
It feels really different to most shooting games, and though at first I couldn't put my finger on how, I eventually realised that playing Espalion feels less like flying a fighter ship in a future war and more like taking part in some kind of choreographed performance. The enemies are all arranged into exact positions, and have exact lines of fire to create intricate grids and weaving patterns, in contrast to the chaotic spirals and shapes of typical shooters.
The way it plays is fairly unique, too.Your main (and only) weapon is a pair of two shields that shoot streams of bullets, either in front of and behind your ship, or to either side of your ship. You switch between the two positions at the touch of a button. The shields also absorb bullets, which is also the game's main scoring gimmick. As I said earlier, the game feels like a choreographed performance, in which you're expected to find the right place to be to survive, as well as the right alignment for your shields to both absorb enemy shots and kill those enemies.
The choreographed feeling doesn't hurt the game like you mgiht be thinking, though. It is still a shooting game and quick enough reflexes will get you through, so it's not like a shooting version of Rick Dangerous, with unfair deathtraps that are impossible to avoid on a first attempt.