Sunday, 27 October 2013

Seventh Cross Evolution (Dreamcast)

Seventh Cross was one of the first games released for the Dreamcast, and it definitely shows. When i first played it, the simple landscapes and repeating textures reminded me of creations made in the Dreamcast's Japan-only adventure game creator "DreamStudio". The creatures in the game look a little nicer. You see animations repeated for similar-shaped enemies in different areas, but they do all have a nice low-poly charm
to them.
The game is an action RPG, in which you play as a lifeform who kills and eats other creatures to gain nutrients and experience points which allow it to become stronger and grow new body parts. Mechanically, it has a lot of similarites with the SNES and PC98 game EVO: The Search for Eden/46 Okunen Monogatari, though the atmosphere is totally different. While EVO had a fairly cute, cartoony atmosphere, Seventh Cross is much more sombre, with quiet music, and more realistic-looking enemies. Also like EVO, each stage is an era in time, millions of years after the last, and to complete an era, you must find, kill and eat the alpha predator of the time.
The problem is, it's not very good. The combat, which is the main meat of the game, is almost entirely about how high your stats are rather than skill. As a result, there is a lot of grinding, for the nutrients needed to grow stronger body parts, as well as the Evolution Points needed to use the evolution grid.
The evolution grid is a pretty original concept: it's a 10x10 grid, upon which you draw in six colours. Each colour corresponds to one of your stats (you choose which colour goes to which stat at the start of the game), and drawing in a colour raises its associated stat. Drawing also makes available more body parts for
you to grow. Once you discover the secret (that minimalist designs tend to yield higher stat boosts and better parts), you'll get stronger faster, but towards the start of the game developing weaker parts is necessary, since the higher level parts need a lot of nutrients to grow, and some kinds of nutrients don't even appear until later stages.
On the other hand, developing high-level parts early in the game is fun, since it means you see strange creature names in there such as "Laser Horse" and "Electric Mollusk", which you won't get to see until much later on.
Despite my saying earlier that the game isn't very good, you might have guessed from how much detail I'm going into that I've played it a lot. And I have! I guess this is all down to the atmosphere: Seventh Cross is definitely what some circles would describe as a lonely game, with it's sparsely populated environments, complete lack of dialogue and minimalist plot. In fact, that there even is a plot isn't even made obvious until
you start the second era, and see a giant golden angel killing the local fauna with lasers. I'm about two-thirds of the way through the game so far and not a single word of dialogue has been spoken, nor has there been a single clue as to the identity or purpose of the time-travelling genocidal being.
In conclusion, Seventh Cross Evolution is a boring, ugly, repetitive game that I totally love and can play for hours at a time.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Nekketsu Oyako (Playstation)

So, the title apparently translates as "hot blooded family", and refers to the three playable characters: a dad and his son and daughter. The dad, Rando is the worst character. He's slow, can't pick up most of the guns in the game and has less moves than the other two. His two redeeming features are his Haggar-esque jumping
piledriver and the fact that he's the only character who can use the (very rare) bazooka weapon. There's also a beer health pickup that only he can use, but it doesn't heal very much and it's at least as rare as the bazooka (I've only seen one of each). The daughter, Rio is a little better. She moves faster, and has a fun little move where she can pogo around on top of the enemies' heads. There's also a nice little touch with her when she picks up a weapon and walks around with it, she does so while carrying it on her back. It's a pointless thing, but it adds a little personality. The son, Tora is the best character by far, though. He has a bunch of moves, like a flying kick that bounces off the top of enemies upwards and away, a brutal moves where he repeatedly slashes a knife back and forth, doing and ton of damage, and he's the only character of
the three who can run.
The game itself seems at first to be a regular, generic beat em up, though it does have a couple of interesting gimmicks, like the versatility and mobility of Tora's moveset, and the fact that though you obviously start with a single bar of health, even when its full you can collect more food to fill it up a second bar (like in the Dynamite Deka series).
The setting is pretty cool, too. The first stage takes place on the city streets like any other beat em up, but as soon as the first boss is defeated, things take a more surreal turn. A whale smashes through the bridge on whivh you're standing and swallows you, leading you to spend the next stage inside and on top of the whale, fighting the usual thugs and goons along with boxing gloce-wearing octopi and weird creatures
made of water. The next stage mostly returns to normalcy on a theme park island resort, but includes a really cool section where you fight big crowds of enemies on top of a roller coaster.
Nekketsu Oyako isn't anything special, but it is pretty good. There's also an english path available, though there's barely any Japanese text in the game, and none of what there is is essential for progress. The game's worth playing, but you should definitely play as Tora if you do.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Disc Station 16 (PC)

So, the first game I played on this volume of Disc Station was a platform game called Go Go Ivan!, in which
you play as a penguin, rescuing baby penguins that are hidden around the stages. It's not anything special, though one cool point is the hiden room in one of the stages that looks like a Puyo Puyo screen. Unfortunately, none of the programs I tried would take screenshots or record video of this game, so I can't show it to you.
The rest of the games I could document for you, though! Firstly, there's Geo Conflict 3: Hell's Gate Crusaders which is, as far as I can tell some kind of Auto-RPG in which you equip your party and send them off into the dungeon. I'm not totally sure about that, since it's all in Japanese, but since the characters do seem to do their exploring and fighting without any player input, that does seem to be the case.
There's also [Something] Angler, which is like a more colourful version of the Apple Sauce Room things, where you click on objects and things
happen, but with a scenic picture of a waterfall and some mountains.
There's a puzzle game starring tanukis, who have to push cages onto foxes, but it's incredibly boring. Definitely not as good as the last tanuki puzzle game that was on one of these discs. There's also, as always, another volume of Nazo Puyo puzzles.
As well as the games, there's the usual extra movies and artwork. I've posted the most interesting of the artworks at the top of this post.
Of the videos, the most interesting were this ad for the Saturn version of Madou Monogatari

and this video show Compile recieving an award for Puyo Puyo 2 at the 1997 Tokyo Game Show

Monday, 14 October 2013

Hany on the Road (PC Engine)

Although it's not a beat em up, the easiest way to describe Hany on the Road would be "belt scroller", as belts and the scrolling thereof are a major element in this game.
In it, the player controllers a walking haniwa idol (which, you may be aware, have made many appearances
in videogames over the years) going along a series of long roads, avoiding gaps and enemies. The enemies tend to also be things associated with ancient Japan and Japanese folklore, such as dogu statues, cloud-riding oni, and so on. There are also some gimmick stages, such as one with an erupting volcano in the background, during which the player must avoid falling rocks while also traversing the gaps in the floor.
An interesting point is that the gaps don't kill the player on every stage: on some stages, falling through a gap leads to a hell-like secret stage (similar to certain points in the first two Splatterhouse games). The main hook of the game is that the stages are split into four scolling "belts", and on most stages, those belts scroll at different speeds.
The game is pretty fun in general, though it has a couple of bad points that might ruin it for you. The first is the fact that there are points items littered around the stages in the form of pots marked with question marks. The problem is that these pots give a random amount of points each time, making playing for score a waste of time (if you're interesting in playing for score on an ancient game no-one cares about). The second, much
bigger problem is the controls, which themselves have two problems. The way Hany moves has way too much momentum, stopping and turning a split-second after you tell him to, as if he's constantly on a slippy-slidy ice level and also, his kick attack is far too short range. This means that to defeat enemies, you kind of have to wait for them to come to you, then kick just before they hit you, and it makes hitting bosses far too difficult. There's also a weird little glitch regarding the blue potions which give an extra life on collection of 25: if you get a game over and then start a new game, the potion counter doesn't reset, meaning you start with however many you had when your previous game ended.
If you have the patience to overlook those faults, Hany in the Sky is a pretty fun game, and it does look nice, too. The control issues are the biggest shame, as if the movement was a bit tighter and the attack a bit more useful, this would probably be a minor classic in the field of action