In The Hunt
In The Hunt- Sega Saturn. Graphically incredible 2D (sprite graphics) submarine shooter from Irem. Development team formed Nazca and made Metal Slug for the Neo Geo. So if you are familiar with that game you should have some idea what this looks like. In fact, Metal Slug in a submarine is probably an apt description. Mostly a shooter, it has the player controlling the scrolling like the run 'n' gun that Metal Slug is. The pacing may be off-putting for gamers expecting the forced scrolling of a typical horizontal STG, but I think the game's other details more than make up for it. Unbelievable animation and detail. Gobs of destructible scenery which is atypical for any 2D game, let alone a shooter. A game that shows all the Saturn's strengths. Only five levels long with the last two-thirds of the fifth level (the fucking volcanoes and beyond) really putting the stones to you. There's probably some trick to getting past all the lava chunks without losing a bunch of subs, but I haven't figured it out yet.
Assault Suit Leynos 2- Sega Saturn. Sprite-based sequel to Target Earth on the Genesis and Assault Suits Valken (Cybernator) on the SNES. A run'n'gun with platforming elements like those games. Unlike the other two games, the production values surrounding the game look shite. The FMV intro and the manual art look totally second rate. Check out the man-breasts on the protagonist! The game even feels truncated with only seven pretty short levels, which for a shooter would be typical, but for a run'n'gun is pretty weak. If you're going to have so few, they need to be longer to make it your money's worth, ie the aforementioned Metal Slug, which has levels that might be too long. Leynos 2, the game itself mostly makes up for all these shortcomings. You pilot a mech-suit with abilities lifted straight from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam (plots and scenarios largely lifted too, in all the games in the series). The graphics are pretty decent (sprites) with occasional huge bosses (like Gundam mobile armors), and a really neat weapon and suit customisation menu. It is an import only game, so plot details and conversations will be lost on the non-Japanese speaker, but the controls, though complex, are not difficult to figure out since the menus are in English. I could recommend this to Gundam fans or people who enjoyed the other Assault Suits games. It is easier than the earlier games because I think the idea is to play through it multiple times, getting better grades each time because you've earned better weapons and suits. There may be some additional level or ending when you earn everything, but I'm not that good at it yet. Internet info on this thing is bloody scarce, especially since it is a robot action game and not an effing dating sim.
Ultraman Fighting Evolution Rebirth- PS2. 2D fighting game with polygonal graphics. Bought this one mostly for my son, based mostly on Youtube videos since, again, internet info (in English at least) is really lacking on gameplay details. Fortunately this turned out to not only be better than a license like this has any right to be, I found it to be fun enough myself to see it all the way through to the end. Which was good because my son is totally intimidated by fighting games, primarily because he doesn't feel up to the task of managing command inputs like the so-called dragon punch from Street Fighter, and with my going through the game first, I was able to coach him through finishing the game himself. There are no command inputs for this game, but it was still a hurdle to overcome his reluctance, despite the subject matter which he loves. The game does a really good job fitting in the particulars of the various Ultraseries which is no small accomplishment. With episodes and characters spanning forty years of television, plots that change the characters powers and weaknesses at the writers' whims, and all kinds of abilities like firing beams, transformations, wrestling, and super-strength, it was herculean to make a game that was even playable and somewhat balanced. I won't say it IS super-balanced, it isn't a 'formal' tournament-ready fighting game, but it works surprising well. The controls are slower to respond than the Street Fighter-type games (I'd say its more 'tactical' like early Samurai Shodown) but it conveys the giant size and massive impacts of the characters... much like the recent Godzilla console games Atari distributed. The TV episodes almost always end with a huge finishing move, and they've worked those into the game, even giving finishers to all the monsters, because unlike the shows, HERE the monsters can win. To help ease things for younger players, and because the game IS rather tactical (with a detailed plot for a fighting game) the game saves after every fight in story mode. The battle mode is more like the conventional fighting game, shedding the plot pauses and the saves. The overall sheen of the game lets the older Ultraman characters fit right in with the new ones and its really fun (if you're a fan) to explore these sorts of 'crossovers' between the series. Many of the characters and backgrounds need to be unlocked, so there's a lot of replay incentive. I'm letting a huge bias cloud my opinion, I realize. People who have no interest in Ultraman will likely not see any draw to this game. But Ultrafans will find this much cooler than they would probably expect, and shows what the license could be like taken seriously... well, as seriously as it could be. The game is somewhat easy, and experienced gamers should have no trouble getting to final boss... but that's when black cock strikes, and you fight what might be the award winner for most frequently regenerated lifebars/most transformations in a game. The final chapter goes on for scadloads longer than any of the other chapters and unless you figure out a certain secret for one of the the boss's forms, it WILL go on forever until your character just wears down and dies.
Flink- Sega CD. 2D platformer, sprites. Another amazing graphic masterpiece. Games like this and In The Hunt were the real catalysts for my 'No Love...' post from several days back. This is a thoroughly European game, contrasted against the overwhelming majority of Japanese games and a smattering of American ones. The style of this game brings to mind the detailed, characterful artwork of Brian Froud, Arthur Suydam, or Patrick Woodruff. Every leaf, every blade of grass delineated in loving detail. An amazing soundtrack to go along with it, partly owing to the CD format of the game. The gameplay is pretty basic, jumping, bouncing on enemies, or throwing objects at them-- standard Mario-style-- but additionally, there is mildly RPG-like magic system involving finding and mixing ingredients. Some of the more involved precision jumping sections can get frustrating because Flink's jumps cannot be controlled quite as well as say Mario or Sonic. But the immersion factor is just huge because of all the care lavished on this game. The opening intro alone will tell you the designers poured everything they had into the details, and the intro doesn't use any FMV or anything... it is the same sort of graphic design used in the game itself! Awesome game if you are one of the few (or the insane) who actually own a Sega CD.
Soul Star- Sega CD. 3D shooter, sprite-based graphics. The Sega CD was supposed to be a huge leap in graphics and sound from the Sega Genesis, but apart from more elaborate FMV intros and CD soundtracks they didn't really live up to the hype. Especially when so many of the early games were 'cinema adventure' games that set new standards for suckage. Eventually some great games did come out, and they had the expected super music quality, but only a select few like Flink above, or this one, Soul Star actually LOOKED like a big step up from the Genesis. Again Soul Star's gameplay, like Flink's isn't revolutionary, but it does it what it does pretty well. You pilot three vehicles, a spaceship, a hovercraft, and towards the end, a walker. Each vehicle has a different type of playfield with the spacecraft a rail shooter (see Space Harrier or Panzer Dragoon), and the other two working in more free-roaming areas. The graphics are pretty amazing. Smooth scaling, relatively high speeds, and cool enemy designs, particulary the mechs and bosses later in the game. Planets and ships in the distance gradually scroll forward as you play to become the site of the next level. The control scheme for the hovercraft takes a helluva lot of getting used to, but I enjoyed the game so much I stuck with it. The music is almost haunting in places. This is another game where the designers were obviously enamored with their idea and really went to town creating an immersive experience. I'm not a huge fan of films that are hung up on just their special effects, but occasionally a strong setting or artful cinematography can elevate a mundane story. The interactive nature of a video game means this sort of successful world-building can be even more successful.
Vampire Savior- Sega Saturn. 2D fighting game, sprite-based graphics. Third in the DarkStalkers series. It is not hard to find heaping piles of praise for this game on the internet, but its been a long time since I played it, so I'm adding my own droppings to the pile. Saturn version, arcade-perfect, playing to the Saturns strengths. Absolutely jaw-dropping art and animation especially when seen on today's flat-panel TVs. The gameplay is deep with an elaborate and satisfying system for the specials and supers. One of Capcom's best. Not as perfectionist-technical as Street Fighter or King of Fighters tend to be... its more for fun. But not as retardedly over-the-top as Marvel vs Capcom either. A good balance. With some of the greatest, but decidedly underappreciated characters in all of gaming. My son's lack of patience for games like this makes me want to sell him to the gypsies.
GigaWing 2- Sega Dreamcast. 2D shooter with polygonal graphics. Flashy, somewhat cute-seeming blast fest... until about thirty seconds in. Then it initiates you into the world of manic shooters (aka danmaku, 'curtain fire') with all the subtlety of a rigorous fisting. The manic shooter is a relatively modern variant on the old 2D STG, usually vertically-oriented. It is characterised by a small hitbox (collision area) for the ship (often just the cockpit), massive streams of firepower available to the player, and screen-filling amounts of neon-colored projectiles. I'll probably devote more 'blog space to specifics of manic shooters (or bullet hell shooters as they are often called) in the future. But suffice to say this one is right alongside the notorious difficulty level many manic shooters lay claim to. It has a shield/reflection system similar to Mars Matrix (another game by the same house, Takumi), but using it well enough to survive is an exercise in practice, practice, practice. Short, intense, difficult. It took me a long while to warm up to this game, so unlike the shooters I've been used to. Now I'm a manic shooter devotee. I'd say the biggest strike against the game is the unlimited continues. It doesn't matter how hard a game is, or how worthy of practice, if you can just 'credit feed' your way through it. I wish this had an option to limit the continues. There's no incentive to really work when the temptation to just hit continue (again) exists. I really like the method used by Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, and Border Down of 'earning continues' through play time. By the time you've earned enough continues to finish the game your need for them should have dropped. Gigawing 2 is not even close to being one of my favorite shooters, but its decent.
Cool Cool Toon
Cool Cool Toon- Sega Dreamcast. Rhythm game with polygonal graphics. I am definitely NOT a fan of rhythm games. The only one I even have near me is some chapter of DDR that I got for my kids (complete with dance pad). So I cannot claim to be any sort of fan or expert. This game, however, struck me as interesting when I first saw previews for it on import sites. It has a very quirky art and music style. The graphics are polygonal but in a very cartoony solid-color style, that sort of looks like a precursor to cel-shaded graphics. The music is equally offbeat, cover a lot of different musical styles. That could be plus or a minus for the game depending on how closed-minded you are about your music... all of it is sort of 'dancey' as you'd expect. No beat, no game y'know? Its a pretty cool as the title say. There's nothing else really like it. But the game incorporates analog stick movements in addition to button presses (no dance pad, its more akin to playing an instrument than placing dance steps), and therein lies the game's main problem. Control. Odd thing to say if you place it in context of most other rhythm (or music games like Guitar Hero) since control is the last thing you worry about with simple button presses. Cool Cool Toon requires precise exact movements of the Dreamcast's analog stick though, and this proves incredibly difficult and frustrating. There are no detents or 'clicks' as you guide the stick in the clockface directions during the game. So no aids to your the exact placement. You just slide around rather loosely. At first this is no problem, the pauses between beats allow some correction, but as speed and complexity ramp up, you'll wish abominable tortures down upon the designers' children. I guess like a lot of other activities it takes practice. But this control scheme seems needlessly difficult, literally problematic to the goals of the game. There are already grueling memorisation tasks in other parts. So this one gets a lot of points on style, but only people absolutely in love with that style, and so willing to tackle the incredible learning/practice curve should seek out this game. Note: the clearest screenshots of this game seemed to come from the Planet-SNK site, so that's where I filched this pic. The huge 'nexgam' logo is NOT in the actual game.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike- Sega Dreamcast. 2D fighting game with sprite graphics. As most people know this game is basically a clinic on how to do shit-hot 2D animation. The sprites are huge, move fluidly and are cool updates on the classic Street Fighter characters. Fans are split on whether this game or the concurrently available Street Fighter Alpha 3 game was better. I tend to fall in the Alpha camp. That game is just more fun. This one is much more restrained and technical, and I do think it is a great game, I just prefer the characters in Alpha and the greater number of options for your super bar and special moves. If you want a Street Fighter game that 'feels' realistic, this is your boy.
Okay, that's enough for now. More later.