Welcome back to a world of horror and fright. You may remember last year when I did a review of a game (Thief: The Dark Project [http://www.rfgeneration.c...The-Dark-Project-2639.php]) that many would not consider when pondering their options to step into a good atmosphere that sends chills down your spine and squeals up your throat. The real "horror" came from the masterpiece's years spent in "Development Hell" where its focus was changed about a half dozen times. In contrast to a jumbled mess of juxtaposed design and experimentation that somehow worked brilliantly, this year I bring you D. Just "D." The letter "D." No more. No less. "D."
Continue reading Spooky Plays: D
Dear RFGeneration Members, as you might have noticed over the past few months, one of our long-time (since 2009) and active members on the site, bombatomba, has had a few of his most recent blog posts promoted to our front page. Our staff has enjoyed reading his work, has followed his blog closely, and used his posts to fill in dates at times when more content was needed. We are happy to announce that bombatomba has accepted our offer to join the blog writing staff and you will be seeing more of his work in the future. Please join our staff in congratulating him and welcoming him to the RFGeneration staff!
Three Dirty Dwarves is a side-scrolling, action game, somewhat in the vein of Golden Axe/Streets of Rage, that was released in 1996 for the Sega Saturn and PC. On the surface, it has lots of great animation, especially for the main characters, a goofy visual aesthetic, amusing sound effects, and co-op for up to three players. However, underneath beats the heart of an arcade game that never was. Be it good or bad, at the end of the day we are left with this somewhat amusing game that remains fun (with a group) yet is nonetheless flawed. So let's go ahead and roll in the dirt a bit and explore Three Dirty Dwarves for the Sega Saturn.
Continue reading Three Dirty Dwarves: A Review
Magic Knight Rayearth is an action/adventure based on a popular manga and anime series of the same name. Come to the Sega Saturn where we get going back down the Working Designs road!
Working Designs and Sega had quite a close relationship at first. Sega could make some money by licensing the rights to a game out to Working Designs that they themselves did not want to localize and release. Looking at the lineup of Working Designs Saturn games a staggering 4 of their 6 games for the Saturn were actually developed by Sega (5 if you count Camelot's Shining Wisdom since the company was founded by Sega, but they had broken away from them the same year it was released in Japan) including our game this week.
Continue reading Psychotic Reviews: Magic Knight Rayearth
When I was in Junior High I had a neighborhood friend who had the NES port of Bubble Bobble. And it had remained pretty much my sole exposure to the game until just recently. In February the Together Retro game club over at Racketboy.com had Bubble Bobble on their calendar. I was actually pretty excited to delve back into this one. The NES game was a really solid puzzle-platformer that offered an excellent co-op experience. Indeed I remember spending many hours as either Bub or Bob and capturing enemies and bursting their bubbles as my friend Jason and I traversed our way through those hundred levels. But this time out Iíd be delving into the Saturn port which promised to be much closer to the original arcade experience.
Hereís what I found out: Bubble Bobble is really hard you guys. Compared to the NES version the computer AI was extremely aggressive. And though I didnít spend a massive amount of time playing, I did put a fair share of effort. No matter how much I tried I could never seem to beat level 15 by myself. Although ďby myselfĒ probably illustrates the biggest issue I took with this game. Bubble Bobble is the sort of game that begs for co-op. Unfortunately my wife and I were gearing up for a big move, which meant we had pretty limited time for things like video games. And never once did we get to give this game a go together considering I wasnít even sure which box my spare Saturn controller had ended up in. So more than anything I just found Bubble Bobble really frustrating. Though you canít hate on the music which is still stuck in my head a month later.
Luckily enough the Saturn release of Bubble Bobble also includes the sequel Rainbow Islands. I had actually never played this one before, and was actually pleasantly surprised by this one. Instead of dragons you play as little humans (who I think Iíve read are actually Bub and Bob in human formÖ or something?) who have the power to make little rainbows. The rainbows can be used to contain enemies much like the bubbles were used in Bubble Bobble, but they can also create little platforms for you to ascend each stage. The whole thing is really colorful and bright and just a whole lot of fun. Though I didnít have as much time as I would have liked to spend on it this month, Iíd gladly re-visit Rainbow Islands again in the near future.
This disc also contains a third game. But the third game is also my major complaint about this particular release. Bubble Bobble Also Featuring Rainbow Islands includes a sort of remake of Rainbow Islands. But why? Why bother with such a superfluous inclusion when the compilation could have been made totally amazing by adding in Parasol Stars? For those who arenít familiar, Parasol Stars was the third game in the Bubble Bobble series, and to this day my favorite of the trilogy. Parasol Stars was one of the few TurboGrafx-16 games I owned back in the day and it sort of combined all the good stuff from both Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands into one incredibly awesome game. Sadly, itís nowhere to be seen here though. Oh well
To call myself a "fan" of Puzzle Fighter would be a huge understatement. Since I first picked up the GBA port some years ago to quench a thirst for a portable puzzler, I have ranked it as my favorite puzzle game of all time. And though the gameplay remains the same for each of its various ports, I've for some reason felt compelled to seek out (and beat) almost every version released to date. To this day the only versions I've yet to make it through have been on the PSP and PC. With all that said, I feel like I'm a pretty good judge of the various releases. So let's how the Sega Saturn edition came out, shall we?
For those of you unfortunate enough to have never played the game, Super Puzzle Fighter II (there was no part I) has an extremely interesting premise. It's a puzzle game that emphasis a Vs. Mode. You will play against a human opponent or the computer. Each player selects from a roster of super-deformed versions of characters from the Street Fighter and Darkstalkers universes. The goal is to match up colored gems that fall from above and build them up into bigger gems. Sporadically a glowing sphere will drop, and if it touches blocks of its own color it will destroy them -- sending junk blocks over to your opponent. The bigger the gems you create, the more junk you'll send over. This is where the real strategy of the game comes in however. Each character has a different pattern of junk blocks that they send over. Much like in a fighting game, it is just as important to know thy enemy as it is to learn to play well.
The Arcade Mode of Puzzle Fighter plays well on the Saturn. The gem explosions are a bit more pixelated than in other ports, though this certainly doesn't take away from the gameplay at all. The music is excellent -- which is usual across the board as far as the various ports go. There is some loading between rounds, though they're not terrible.
If you're playing this without a friend, the real meat and bones of this game is the Street Puzzle Mode. In this mode you must play single rounds with each character to unlock various 'Goodies.' Each character has five Goodies to unlock. These range from pallet-swaps, hidden characters, background music tracks (both original and remixed), art galleries and so on. These are the sorts of extras (especially the hidden characters) that really makes this game a blast to play in single player, and ultimately opens the game up even more. It is not only one of the only games I've cared enough to "100%," but I've done in it multiple times with multiple versions.
Although this review is meant to be about the Saturn edition, I suppose that it's worth mentioning some pluses about other versions for those curious. It is worth noting that the PSN and XBLA versions do look really nice in HD but more importantly allow for online play. The XBLA version was eventually released physically as part of the 360 Capcom Digital Collection if you're not a fan of downloadable games. The Dreamcast version was only available in Japan, however it does support the VGA cable if you wish to import it. Sadly, its online play option is no longer available. And of course the GBA and PSP versions are worth grabbing if you're a fan of portable puzzlers. However the truth is that any version of Puzzle Fighter is going to be recommended by me. And really, any version will give you a great game to play.
There are shmups and there are shmups. DoDonPachi is a shmup. A very good shmup. Perhaps one of the best shmups ever made. And I spent most of last night playing it along with some buds over on the Racketboy forums.
DoDonPachi certainly has a reputation. In that sense I was maybe even a bit worried to finally get around to playing it. Y'know how sometimes people talk about a book or movie and by the time you see it you're just let down that it didn't live up to the hype? Not to mention that a recent sequel, DoDonPachi Resurrection was the first shmup I ever 1CC'd (on Novice Mode). So again I was mildly worried that going back further in the series might not be as enjoyable as a newer installment.
But it turns out there was nothing to fear at all. DoDonPachi is actually one of the greatest shmups I've ever played. Visually, it looks excellent and far from dated. The sprites are all so well detailed, the color pallet is always appropriate and the backgrounds are stunning. The music is definitely fitting as well. But really what makes the game so incredible is the balance of it all. There's such a perfect ratio of risk to reward in DoDonPachi that it's easy to see why it's still such a fan-favorite.
Not only does the game offer up three ships in the old Goldie Locks manner of Type A being the "super fast but not the strongest" ship and Type C being the "wicked slow but so powerful" ship. No the balance goes so far beyond all that if you're seriously trying to play for score. For instance there's the whole risk/reward paradox of chaining. You have a small meter that runs out rapidly every moment you're not killing something. If the meter runs out, your chain resets. Big chains make for big bonuses. But of course this means really learning a level and timing every single kill. It also means that sometimes you'll be killing in a not-so-effective way just to keep a chain going. Similarly there are icons of Bees that you can pick up throughout levels (with many of them hidden). They give you bonus points that get higher and higher with each Bee you get. But again, this means probably giving up your chain to uncover them all. The game is loaded with these sorts of decisions on how to maximize your score -- fast rapid shot or slow laser? To bomb or not to bomb? And so on.
Perhaps the greatest thing about DoDonPachi however is that it's the kind of game that makes you better at an entire genre. The more you practice, the more you're forced to think about strategy and how to increase your score. Not to mention it's a great workout for your mind and fingers to weave perilously throughout blankets of bright bullets. And all of these skills carry over to any other shmup, be it bullet hell or non. Throughout the month I managed to pull off a score of 11,446,730 which I felt really proud of. This was a lot of improvement from my first run. And I also found a new game that I just completely love and will surely revisit often.
Not too long ago I blogged about enjoying Fighting Vipers. As such I jumped at the opportunity, when I had the chance to acquire its spin-off sequel. Fighters Megamix is a mash-up of both Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter 2. At least that's what I thought it was. But apparently it's a whole lot more.
Let's start from the beginning. Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter 2 are both pretty similar games. At least as far as a game engine and appearance goes. So of course this makes for a pretty easy combo deal. You take your eleven Fighting Vipers characters and eleven Virtua Fighter 2 characters, put em together and call it a day. Sure there's some differences as far as physics go between the two games -- but you can even pick which physics engine you want to go with. And each game uses a similar three-button layout, so it's not like you have to learn one fighting style if you're only familiar with the other.
So when I first started playing Megamix, I really felt a bit underwhelmed. It just felt to me like Fighting Vipers with double the roster. Not that that's a bad thing of course. But it didn't feel like this amazing new game either. But I was in for a bit of a surprise still.
The single-player mode of Megamix is broken down into various courses. The courses are vaguely themed -- such as playing only Vipers or only females. In each course you'll be fighting through six fighters and then unlocking a hidden boss. This is where things start to get awesome. You see once a hidden boss is unlocked and beaten, they are then also added to the roster. When all is said and done you've got over thirty characters to choose from which is a huge jump from the original Fighting Vipers.
It's not just the fact that there are so many unlockable characters that's impressive here though. It's the sheer over-the-top fan service of them that's mind-blowing. You'll get an alternate version of Fighting Vipers' Candy, the Virtua Fighter Kids' version of Akira, along with cameos from Virtua Cop 2, Sonic The Fighters and even Daytona USA. Yes. You read that correctly. You see by the time you make it through the ninth course you'll fight the final boss of the game -- the Hornet car from Daytona USA. This is exactly the kind of insanely ridiculousness that earned Sega so many die hard fans.
My only real complaint about Fighters Megamix is a small one. There is a bit of slowdown that wasn't present in Fighting Vipers. However this only seems to occur on a few particular stages, so it's not a game-breaking deal. But when you take into consideration all the excellent unlockables plus the fact that each of the nine courses save your completion time, there is a huge amount of replayability here. Definitely a highly recommended 3D fighter for the Saturn.
I don't play a lot of racing games, but I often feel like I should. I'm a big fan of arcade style games -- ones you can pick up and play for short bursts and just have a blast without investing too much time into anything. But in general, racers are a genre I've just only dipped my toe into the pool of over the years. Oh sure I've got my staples. Super Mario Kart and Double Dash are two that I've always loved and played extensively. And just recently I've found that Sega All-Star Racing has even perhaps surpassed the Mario Kart series. OutRun is another game I'm a big fan of, though it's not quite a racing game as much as a driving game. Right? But the point is, my scope is pretty narrow on racers.
Sega Rally Championship is actually a game I remember playing in an arcade a few years ago at an arcade for a birthday party. Of course that was sitting in a huge cabinet behind an actual wheel. And it was a lot of fun. I actually couldn't even remember the name of the game until I popped this Saturn disc in and realized I had played it before. I actually acquired this game as part of a bigger Saturn lot recently, and figured I wasn't even familiar with it. Certainly it doesn't seem to get the same nostalgic high praise as Daytona USA does to this day.
But Sega Rally is definitely quite a bit of fun. The physics took me a little while to get used to, and I spent a lot of time watching my car fishtail all over the place. Luckily the Saturn controller is well-suited for the game and feels quite comfortable. Although I have to wonder how well a proper racing wheel would perform on the console version.
The sense of speed in Sega Rally is impressive. The rush of the arcade experience totally made it into the home version. In fact the announcer loudly warning you about approaching turns sounds completely like being in an arcade. And there are some nice additions to the console port as well. For instance the Time Attack Ghost Mode, or the ability to customize your car which helps make the limited car selection not as obvious. There are only three courses (Desert, Forest and Mountain) but that's to be expected of a racing game of its time. The split-screen 2-Player mode is also a great addition. And speaking of co-op, if you're lucky enough to track down an elusive NetLink re-release, you can actually still play this game online via the NetLink modem adapter.
All in all I think that Sega Rally Championship is a solid game. I'm not ready to make this one a new racing staple, but it has gotten me interested in checking out its sequel and just exploring other racers of the era in hopes of finding another to suck up way too much of my time.
So here's the thing. I knew very little about D. I knew it was a survival horror game with a cool cover, and not a whole lot more. Yesterday I received it in a trade from fellow RFGenner Barracuda and figured I'd throw it in to make sure it worked. I fired up the Saturn, and opened the manual to see how it worked. "Due to its story, this game has a two hour time limit," I read. "In keeping with the time limit, this game does not contain a pause feature." ...Interesting.
And what began with me testing the game out, turned into me being totally sucked in. Two hours (or a little less really) later, the game had reached its conclusion. I suppose that if I had bought this game when it was first released, then I may have been upset. I mean, two hours? A game that has a linear story, and puzzles I had solved the first time. Surely there'd be little re-playability. I would have maybe felt that I had spent $50 on a game that had run its course in one sitting. Right?
But who knows how I would have really felt then? All I can tell you is how I feel now. I feel thrilled to have played this game. I feel thrilled that I've discovered this series. There are some games out there that go so far beyond being just a fun game -- they are experiences to be had. Special games that you hold close to you forever and are willing to play again and again because of how they affected you. Games like Shadow of the Colossus or Heavy Rain come to mind. These are games not so far removed from an engrossing cinematic experience. Like a favorite movie that you can watch over and over again finding new tiny nuances to latch onto with each new viewing.
D starts off with an amazing cinematic cut scene that puts you in a deserted hospital -- the scene of gruesome murders committed by your father, a doctor. Suddenly the hospital turns into a big abandoned castle-esque mansion. It soon becomes clear that reality isn't part of this story. Instead, it is a story mostly told through mood somewhat akin to a David Lynch film.
The controls may take a few moments to get used to. The point-of-view is first person most of the time, though interactions with the environment take place in the third person. Much of the game consists of solving various puzzles in order to access new areas, somewhat reminiscent of Myst. However the gruesome flashbacks and other bits of disturbing imagery are all far removed from the somewhat relaxing tone of a game like Myst. Indeed this is a creepy game. One where although very little happens you can't help but feel a certain sense of dread (and perhaps urgency from the imposed two hour limit).
Though actual bits of story are told through some rather laughable voice acting, it is nonetheless an incredible experience. One that I won't spoil for you. None of the puzzles are brutally hard. In fact your biggest downfall may well be over-thinking some of them. But at just two hours there's really no excuse for you to not experience this game. After beating it myself I started doing some research and it turns out I got the "bad" ending. Luckily enough D was so compelling to me that I have no problem with the idea of playing through it again just to see the "good" ending. If you are a fan of the macabre, or just fascinatingly unique games in general, I highly urge you to seek out D.
Continue reading Unloved #20: Shining the Holy Ark
Welcome to Random Lists, this is an articles I'll do on occasion just for fun because I enjoy making lists. Today's list is my Top 9 canceled games, what does it take to get on the list? The title must have been offically announced in some capacity, the title must either have been anticipated, hyped, or just had a cool primise. Without further delay, here is my list of the top 9 canceled games...
Continue reading Random Lists #1: Top 9 Cancelled Games