The vast sea of forgotten tales long buried in the sands of time can seem insurmountable to one looking for a place to dig. Sega's Saturn is a system that has been pushed to the wayside for the entirety of its existence in the West, while it enjoyed a brief success as the great black gaming box of the East. Some of its games made their way over to the West, but the overall ratio of those that came compared to those that never made it is sad to look at, especially if you put yourself in the mindset of a Western Saturn fan who sees the press talk about new Japanese games that only had a tiny chance of being brought over. Some of the ones brought over were excellent, like Dragon Force, GunGriffon and the arcade ports that I have previously discussed. Even the weaker titles brought over were at least something to whet the appetite. With all that in mind, which category of quality does Dark Savior manage to fall into, or is it just another futile voyage along a sea of the endless sands?
Continue reading Psychotic Reviews: Dark Savior
Continue reading Unloved #17: Journey to Silius
Just like fellow Playstation platform developer Naughty Dog did with Crash Bandicoot, Insomniac Games decided to sell their PSone franchise Spyro and start with a fresh game on the PS2. Furthermore, Ratchet & Clank (2002), too, features a main character and a side companion that stay together during most of the games. Coincidence? Not really, because both studios used to be located in the same building on a Universal Studios backlot and continue to have a close relationship.
In Ratchet & Clank, you play as Ratchet, a creature that doesn't really fall under a specific animal-category, but can be best described as a sort of cross between a lynx and a human. Ratchet lives on the planet Veldin, where he spends most of his time working on his spaceship, dreaming of leaving Veldin in search of galactic adventures. One day, a little robot named Clank crashes near Ratchet's home. Clank comes form a robot factory on the planet Quartu, where he discovered an infobot that revealed that Chairman Drek, leader of the Blarg race has decided to start building a new planet for his race, made up from pieces of other planets. When Ratchet finds Clank, Clank shows him the infobot and says he fears that Drek is going to destroy the universe. After some compromises, the odd duo sets of to rescue the galaxy from Drek's madness.
The rest of the story is brought to the player in a similar fashion: after reaching a certain point in each level, a new infobot plays another cutscene and gives the coordinates for a next planet. The game makes handful use of this concept to make each planet/level completely different in terms of environment, backgrounds and "feel", thus making the game varied from start to finish. Along the way you'll find yourself on space stations, polluted planets, tropical planets, urban-themed planets and more. As you can expect, the story is very light-hearted and the well written cutscenes are often hilarious, making the game enjoyable for both young and old.
When arriving at a new planet there's usually several directions you can go in, each leading to a different objective. Pressing start will reveal a map of the planet you're on, along with the objectives you've found so far. You can also watch the corresponding infobot again in case you missed out on anything.
To keep frustrations on a low, backtracking is kept to a minimum with the ability to teleport back to your ship after reaching the end of a certain path. There's also plenty of invisible checkpoints on each planet so gamers won't have to replay most of a level because they died right before the end.
Compared to other platform games, Ratchet & Clank's focus mainly lies on the many different weapons and gadgets in the game than on jumping about from platform to platform. At the start of the game, Ratchet is equiped with his Omniwrench 3000, your main melee weapon that you can smash or throw at enemies or boxes. Still on Veldin, Ratchet receives the free Bomb Glove, a glove that, you've guessed it, throws out bombs at unsuspecting enemies. The more progress you make, the bigger your weapons assortment will become. Some weapons have to be bought at the Gadgetron vendor, which can be found at each planet, others are prizes for completing objectives. Besides the first two, you'll be able to have fun with the Blaster, Pyrociter, Devastator or the more exotic Glove of Doom, Suck Cannon and Morph-o-Ray.
All weapons are fun to use, although you'll find yourself using two/three of them most of the time. To change weapons, you can display a quick-select menu on screen by pressing the triangle button. Sadly enough, the game doesn't pause when you're changing weapons, something that was only added in Ratchet & Clank 2 (= Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando in North America) Not all weapons can fit in the quick-select menu at once, but you can select which ones you want it to contain in the main menu. The Gadgetron vendors also serve as ammunition shops for the weapons you've aquired.
Despite being more combat-orientated than most games in the genre, there's still a fair bit of platforming and puzzle-solving to be done. For these puzzles you'll need to use certain Gadgets, similar in use to the weapons. Gadgets are devided into 4 subcategories: hand items include things like a Trespasser (to open sealed doors in a mini game), Hydrodisplacer (a device that can store highly compressed water) and Swingshot (a hook shot that latches on special floating balls, which you can swing from).
Then there's backpacks: modifications for Clank that let you glide through the air or swim faster under water. Third are head items for Ratchet like an O2-mask or Pilot Helmet. Lastly there's foot items which include the awesome Grindboots. With these boots you can grind on rails which is something you'll have to do on several ocassions.
The gameplay itself is a lot of fun. After defeating an enemy with your weapon of choice, he'll burst out into Bolts, the game's main currency. You can also collect Bolts by smashing crates that are placed on all levels. For those who can't get enough of the game there's also a select number of Golden Bolts to be found on each planet, usually in hidden areas. These are then tradable for rare goodies.
To keep the game exciting at all times, there's also mini games in which you'll have to fly in your spaceship in a 3D-style shooter or stages that you play with Clank. Those are particulary fun because you'll get to control tiny robots than will follow Clank's instructions such as "Follow", "Wait" or "Attack".
The controls are good and even the camera adjustment has been done right (a rare thing in 3D Platform games) with a camera that stays where the player wants it. I do have to admit that I missed the possibility to strafe as seen in the game's sequels but then again, this never bothered me when I first played the game in 2002.
At the time of its release, Ratchet & Clank gained much praise for its fantastic graphics. Although not as good as later games for the PS2, Ratchet & Clank's graphics are still very much enjoyable. The levels are big, there's no load times (except when moving from one planet to another) and textures are detailed and colorful. There's very little glitches and the frame rate is constant at all times. Animations are very well done, especially in cutscenes. Speaking of the cutscenes, despite them being funny, some of the jokes between Ratchet and Clank are a bit lame compared to those in Jak and Daxter.
The game's sound is on par with its graphics with a funky up-tempo beat on each planet, good voice acting and solid sound effects. Nothing felt out of place to me, usually a good sign that the audio is good.
With its light-hearted story and humor, wide range of weapons and gadgets and beautiful graphics and sound, I think Ratchet & Clank is what you could call a "perfect" game that'll interest a broad range of gamers, not just platform fans. Recommended to all. 9.0/10
Maximo: Ghosts To Glory (2002) is Capcom's effort in trying to create a modern platform game with the classic Ghosts 'N Goblins feel to it. The game was originally planned for release on the Nintendo 64, but after being delayed a couple of years it found itself on the PS2 instead.
When starting a new game you'll see Maximo returning home after war in a nice CGI cutscene. Things aren't exactly as he had hoped because Achille has taken over his kingdom and opened the door to the underworld. To make matters worse, Achille has captured four princesses aswell as Maximo's wife, Sophia. With a devastation spell, Achille sends Maximo to the underworld where he's given a chance by the Grim Reaper to resque the princesses and regain control over his kingdom.
Despite being a difficult game, the gameplay of Maximo isn't complicated at all. Maximo is restricted to four moves: a basic swing of his sword, a power strike, a downward strike after double-jumping and throwing his shield. When venturing through the five worlds of the game you'll encounter different enemies that each require a unique combination of moves to defeat.
Knowing how to defeat each enemy is critical for your success, because just like in games of the past, Maximo dies after only a couple of hits. Furthermore, you need 100 coins each time you want to save; which is only possible in the central hub-level of each world. If Maximo happens to loose all his lives he'll return to the underworld where the Grim Reaper will ask for a Death Coin to revive the fallen hero. A Death Coins is obtained by collecting 50 Blue Spirits. If you die without any Death Coins, it's game over for good. All of this results in a game that's far more difficult than other platform games on the PS2, or even modern games in general.
Needless to say, Maximo will require a lot of trial & error, figuring out how to defeat certain enemies or remembering where the next armor chest is located.
To make things less repetitive, Maximo will find abilities along the way aswell as power-ups for his sword and shield. Some abilities are almost vital to survive (like the double swing or throw shield abilities) while others aren't of much use throughout most of the game (like Thunderbolt) The sword power-ups however always come in handy, as they make Maximo's sword stronger and are needed for certain abilities. To get the most out of these abilities it's best not to die, because Maximo looses all but a few "locked" ones when faced with death.
Each world features five levels that are to be completed to gain access to the world's boss and the next world eventually. Each level has its own difficult moments but luckily a couple of checkpoints can be activated, so death doesn't necessarily mean starting all the way from the beginning of the level. After clearing a level you'll get a great feeling of success that is hardly present anymore in most modern games.
Maximo's graphics match its old-school gameplay in a sense that everything (except the character models) looks a bit blocked and flat. Often, walls or floors aren't more than a single huge polygon with a texture slapped onto it, clearly showing Maximo's history on the N64. This never bothers me because Maximo is intended to feel like a 16-bit era game. On the other hand, character models are detailed and animations are fast and smooth.
The sound of the game does the job well, with nice sound effects and good voice-acting for the (scarce) CGI cutscenes. I especially like the the game's music that enhances its classic mood aswell as each world at the same time. A couple more songs would have been nice though.
Overall, Maximo is a double-edged sword. Novice gamers will be frustrated with the game's trial & error gameplay and cumbersome save system while old-school gamers will love the game's nostalgic feel. If you're up for a challenge, like platform games or like 16-bit games, be sure to check out Maximo: Ghosts To Glory. 8.6/10
After their wildly succesful Crash Bandicoot series on the original Playstation, Naughty Dog decided to venture into the unknown for the PS2 and in 2001 they came out with Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy.
I'll cut right to the chase: Jak and Daxter was one of the first PS2 games I played and has since conquered a special place in my heart. Why? Because it rocks, plain and simple.
The game's story isn't anything spectacular but serves its purpose well, for a game in the Platform-genre. Jak and Daxter are two friends who adventure to Misty Island where they find a group of lurkers (bad guys of the blocked type) being addressed by two unknown individuals. When suddenly a lurker attacks the duo, Daxter falls into a pit of Dark Eco (A purple goo) and gets transformed into an ottsel. They search help from Sage Samos who sends them on their quest to find Gol, Sage of the Dark Eco and the only one who can return Daxter to his human form.
Much more important than the story is the gameplay of a platformer, which in this case feels solid and smooth. Jak is the only playable character of the game with Daxter riding along on Jak's shoulder, letting him do all the work. Jak's moves are simple: you can jump and double jump, punch and perform a spin-kick. Your moves list may be small but animations for them are smooth. (and in Daxter's case: funny) Enemies aren't exactly difficult to defeat, but this suits the game well considering the fact you die after three hits.
To make the gameplay a bit more interesting, for a limited amount of time, Jak can attain some extra abilities after running into a beam of Eco. Green Eco charges your health, blue Eco makes Jak jump higher and run faster, yellow Eco gives him the ability to shoot blasts of energy and red Eco makes Jak stronger. Using these Eco powers is one of the cornerstones of the gameplay and is often required to complete an objective.
Objectives of the game are simple tasks which get rewarded with Power Cells, the main collectible in the game. To gain access to a next part of the world, you need a certain amount of these. Precursor Orbs are much more common and can be traded in with NPCs or special statues for more Power Cells. Also, when finding all Scout Flies in an area, you are rewarded with yet another Power Cell.
Although the gameplay might sound a bit simple and dull, it certainly isn't and this is largely due to the impressive 3D engine Naughty Dog has made for this game. Instead of seperate levels, players are thrown into a large world, devided by seperate (themed) areas. Travelling between these areas can be done through portals at each Sage's home. Loading times get avoided by streaming data from the disk while playing, enhancing to the effect of a single world.
Graphics are detailed and colorful and the cartoon-look of characters and enemies help create a laid-back atmosphere throughout most of the game.
Background music for each of the areas does its job well and never gets irritating. Sound effects are great aswell as voice-acting. Especially Daxter's voice brings life to the character's slapstick humor.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a game that set the bar for future 3D Platformers and pushed the genre as a whole to a next level. Sadly enough, 3D Platform games seem to be over their peak with few games in the genre being made for the next-gen consoles, an evolution that saddens me.
This evolution makes Jak and Daxter all the more precious and a game no PS2 owner should miss. The game gets a well-earned 9.2/10 from me.