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I've always been a sucker for film noir. Something about it, and the various subgenres that owe their existence to it, is awesome. It's a genre that doesn't quite translate well into a traditional video game, but when it does it is definitely something to behold. It might not be perfect, but the atmosphere helps.
Here are a few examples, to show you what I mean:
Gemini Rue is definitely more of a cyberpunk game than straight-up noir, but the game itself has a very Blade Runner-esque vibe that is matched only by the actual adventure game based on Blade Runner.
Gemini Rue is a standard point-and-click adventure game owing to the classic inventory puzzles and "use x with y" commands, so don't go into this expecting a modern Telltale-style of adventure. For those that like the older Sierra or Lucasarts style adventure games, they'll feel right at home. The biggest issue for me is the combat. There are some segments of cover-based shooting that really kill the flow of the game, and it reminded me of the third disc of Harvester in all the wrong ways.
The plot is straight-up cyberpunk: An detective is searching for information about his brother in some future dystopian hellhole. In addition to that, gameplay will shift to an alternate character who needs to escape from whatever prison he's stuck in. Any more about the plot could ruin things. It's a great one.
Ah, Heavy Rain. I'm still surprised that more people haven't played this one. I keep running into people who never even considered it, especially when I worked retail.
Heavy Rain is a game by everyone's favorite game director who probably wants to be a film director, David Cage, and his company Quantic Dream. They're the guys behind Indigo Prophecy and Beyond: Two Souls...
Y'know what? You guys here on DTOID probably already know this. For those of you that haven't, think of Heavy Rain as a long quick-time event - pressing buttons in sequence to pick things up, interact with people, or engage in combat.
Yeah, it's kind of rough. It works a hell of a lot better than other examples of quick-time events, as the story is engaging enough that you're willing to excuse the odd timing mess-up or weird button combination.
Speaking of the story, it's fantastic. Definitely worth one play through, at least. You play as four different characters, all intertwined in their quest to find the Origami Killer. Once again, any more about the plot would spoil things. And, uh, if you're curious, be sure to just pick up the game. Don't look on a wiki or anything like that, because even the first line of a random article will spoil some of the plot. And you don't want that, right?
This game's atmosphere is straight-up noir at its finest. The game is dreary and dark, and there is a looming feel of hopelessness. The few bright moments of the game aren't there to last, and Heavy Rain knows this.
Shadowrun is probably more known as a tabletop RPG (and a newer PC version that I have yet to play...). The 90s gave birth to two distinct Shadowrun games. The Sega Genesis one was radically different than the SNES one, which felt more like a Black Isle game. Think like Fallout or Baldur's Gate. I don't own a copy of the Genesis version, so all of this applies to the Super Nintendo one:
You play as a guy who initially starts out as a corpse in a morgue. Ew. You come back to life, though, and like most people in that situation, you have no idea how you got there. Sweet. Looks like you've got some exploring to do. You pick up a gun, shoot a couple of people, and then find a demon-posessed dog and a couple of witch-doctor people that can use magic... Damn.
You're thrust into the game rather fast, so it could take a little bit of getting used to things before you're able to play effectively. For instance, you have to move yourself and a mouse cursor independently with one controller. For some reason, they didn't include functionality for the SNES mouse, which would have been awesome, albeit a little more confusing at first.
Go and check out these games. They're alright. Not perfect, but I'm glad I played them. I left out a bunch of the more well-known examples (and stuff I didn't play through), so if I didn't hit on something obvious that's probably why.
Now, if anyone needs me, I'm going to drive off into the night rain, with the SiriusXM jazz station on...
Sega's history in the 1990s was pretty interesting. They started out a little weird with the Genesis, hit a hell of a stride with Sonic, and then the constant infighting of Sega of America and Sega of Japan made Sega a bit of a hard name to trust. Yes, the product was good, but it was also the product of a lot of behind-the-scenes BS.
Sega of America and Sega of Japan really did hate each other. Sega of Japan had moderate sucess with the SG-1000, Sega Mk3, Master System, and the Mega Drive, but it couldn't quite topple Nintendo or other developers like NEC. The Genesis really caught on in the US, however, once Sega of America's big Sonic The Hedgehog push happened. Sega of Japan thought the idea of cutting the price of the Genesis and bundling it with Sonic was foolish, and they were proven wrong. This event really turned both branches of Sega into rivals, each trying to one up the other. Their bickering led to two next-gen game consoles being developed at the same time: Sega of America had the 32X, Sega of Japan had the Sega Saturn.
Since the 32X was a pretty big failure, the Saturn was the console that brought Sega full-on into the 32-bit era.
The Saturn came out in 1994 in Japan, and was prepped for a September 1995 launch for the United States. However, Sega of Japan mandated that the system be released earlier so it could get a bigger lead on other consoles, notably the Sony Playstation. With little time to gather software, even less time to market the system, and with a good chunk of retailers in the dark about the plan until the last second, Sega released the Saturn in the US on May 11th, 1995, by announcing it in the middle of their press conference at E3.
Imagine if Sony did that back when the PS4 was yet to be released. There would have been riots. They also wouldn't have been able to keep the secret, but that's beside the point. Sega made a huge gamble with that announcement, and it screwed them.
The retailers that did get the console were faced with a small launch lineup and confused customers. It didn't help that despite the early launch being a direct attack on the Playstation, Sony still managed to win the day when they announced the MSRP of the PS1 at their own press conference. Guess what? It was a whole $100 cheaper. Sega's move alienated a lot of retailers. Ones like KB Toys refused to stock ANY Sega product because they were left out on the early release deal.
Developers who worked on the Saturn also found that it was incredibly hard to program on, since it rendered 3D visuals with quadrilaterals instead of triangles, like most 3D tech at the time. It didn't help that 3D was more or less an afterthought on the system, added in to compete with the Playstation on a higher level. The best games on the system don't even use 3D, for the most part.
As for games, the Saturn had a slow start. Virtua Fighter was bundled with the device, but it wasn't a very good version. Later Saturns came bundled with a three-pack of games: Virtua Fighter 2, Daytona USA, and Virtua Cop. All of those are awesome and well worth your time. Sonic Team made a bunch of non-Sonic games for the system, the best of which was Nights Into Dreams, a game where you fly around dreamscapes, collecting gems and stars. Basically, it was a speedrunning game with flight. Think of it like a flight-based Sonic with loop-around levels. Sonic Team also made Burning Rangers, a game that is very much a cult classic and also one that has not seen the light of day since its initial release on the Saturn.
The Saturn was also very, very kind to RPG fans. Games like Shining Force III and Panzer Dragoon Saga are legendary, and they're completely exclusive to the Saturn. PDS' four discs are loaded with RPG goodness, and it is well worth your time, moreso than a lot of RPGs out there.
The Saturn also had its share of ports, with stuff from the Genesis and Sega CD getting updated visuals (Mortal Kombat II, Corpse Killer, etc...) and PS1-era games like Gex and Croc getting nice Saturn versions, too. Some games even had slight differences between versions. For instance, Mega Man 8 on the Saturn includes Cut Man & Wood Man as bonus bosses, and Tengu Man's stage theme is completely different. Here's a clip from YouTube, courtesy of YouTuber PinkKittyRose:
Honestly, the Saturn was doomed from the start. It's unfortunate, because it's an excellent console.
Buying a Saturn with run you around $50-$70. Honestly, that's a lot of cash for just the console. Once you have it, you need some games.
And therein lies the problem.
The collector market for the Saturn is pretty damn expensive right now. Remember all of those awesome games I mentioned earlier? They're all pretty much $50-$100 each, and desired titles are expensive across the board. Panzer Dragoon Saga costs even more than that. It's insane. Bundled stuff like Virtua Fighter 2 and common titles like Daytona USA are still cheap, but they're abundant, so you'll probably be tripping over them when searching.
Are there solutions to the problem of availability? Yeah. Thankfully there are. Most of the great Saturn games have been re-released on other consoles, such as Nights Into Dreams, Fighting Vipers, Sonic R, Cyber Troopers Virtual On and the like. A lot of games are also multi-platform: You can find the PS1 versions of games like Mega Man X4 for significantly less than the price of the Saturn version. Still, there are a ton of games that never left the system: You can't exactly hop on to Xbox Live and download Burning Rangers, Mr. Bones, or Saturn Bomberman.
Now, you can import games for the system, but keep in mind that the Saturn, like other disc-based consoles, is region-locked. There is a workaround for that, though, and it's something that is a fairly recent innovation with the system: flashing an Action Replay cart with a ROM that allows your Saturn to play non-US games and *ahem* burned games. This video offers an explanation:
Now, I would like to stress that burning games that you don't own is technically illegal. You could make an argument that the system isn't making Sega any money on these games and a lot of the expensive games aren't available elsewhere, but at the end of the day, piracy is still piracy. I don't condone it. I do condone buying Japanese Saturn games, however. Some Japanese games were never released in the US, and some are cheaper than their English counterparts. Awesome stuff. The mod in the above video will allow you to play other-region games without issue.
Whew. Got all that?
The Sega Saturn is a hell of a machine. It didn't quite suceed in the marketplace (that's part of the reason why the games are so damn expensive), but a lot of the games on it are worth playing over and over.
Now, if anyone needs me, I'm going to load up Mega Man 8 and blaze through Tengu Man's stage, because that music has been stuck in my head all night.
Yeah. I own Mega Man 8.
It's in a game store right now. In a glass case. I saw it with my eyeballs.
I looked at it longingly.
Alright, so I don't own Mega Man 8 for the Saturn. However, I have it on the Playstation, and in all three version of Mega Man Anniversary Collection... So I totally own it!
As stated before, nostalgia is expensive. Game prices have exploded in the past few years. There are a number of reasons for this:
- People who grew up with older video games are now adults with disposable income.
- The internet has allowed underrated gems to be put into the spotlight
- The internet has allowed people to re-live the amazing gaming moments of the past
- Unscrupulous re-sellers are willing to exploit people into paying big bucks for common, readily-available games.
That last note was definitely a little cynical, but it's kind of sad how true it is. Regardless, let's take a look at a few games that have sky-rocketed in price over the last few years.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Woo. There's no question that this game is really, really good. It's a classic of the beat 'em up genre, and, compared to a ton of other games of similar style, this game can still be amazing. It has aged incredibly well.
Currently, this game can be bought on eBay for roughly $45
Why is it so expensive?
The main driving force for this game's high price is the fact that TMNT was, and still is, a huge property. It's a franchise that is still going strong, and one that people absolutely adore. Kids are watching the new cartoon, and their parents most likely grew up with the original show in some way. This game is a much-requested item in retro game stores and online shops, and as a result it sells quickly. Despite the high price, don't think for a second that this game is rare. It isn't. it sold millions of copies, and according to NintendoAge's database, this particular cartridge is widespread in release. This is a case of nostalgia driving demand.
Knights of The Round is another beat 'em up, from Capcom. Awesome stuff. This is probably what drove Capcom to make the D&D arcade games, so if you've played those you might love the hell out of this game.
It's a great game, with a current eBay price of $60, give or take.
Why is it so expensive?
It's hard to pin-point what made this game's price increase. I lucked out and got a copy in 2010 at a local Play N Trade for $5, back when this game was worth that much. It's kind of insane to see that this game has gotten so damn expensive. I'm not going to point any fingers, here. All I will say ia that a lot of people watch YouTube.
The advent of the internet has made obscure games into desired games. This seems to be the case here.
NintendoAge puts this at the "Very Common" rarity level. There are tons of copies out there. Anyone who is trying to say that it is rare is messing with you.
Once you've bought a Super Nintendo, go get Super Mario World, and Super Metroid, and Kirby Super Star, and Zelda: A Link To The Past. After that? Get this game. It's reason enough to own a Super Nintendo. It is everything that a sequel should be. It's so damn good that Capcom made two sequels that were fundamentally identical and they are still amazing just because they share the same game engine as this one.
Currently, a copy of Mega Man X can be yours for $30 in United States Federal Reserve Notes.
Why is it so expensive?
Whenever you mention Deus Ex, somebody reinstalls it. Whenever you mention Mega Man X, somebody posts this video.
Egoraptor's video is excellent, by the way. It shows how Mega Man X improved on the original series' formula and made it better. It's also been viewed 8 million times on YouTube. Like I said earlier, I'm not trying to point fingers as it's silly to expect one person to be responsible for a total price hike, but videos like that allow more people to be aware of games like it.
With a series like Mega Man, anything made is going to be at least somewhat popular, so you have that working with it as well. The fact that it is a very, very good game also helps, too. Popular game from a popular series + High quality = People wanting the game. A lot of people.
This game is even more not-rare than the others. NintendoAge lists this as "Very Widespread", which is understandable, considering not only did Capcom release their initial version, but Majesco re-published it later in the SNES' life.
Keep in mind that the sequels to this game, Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3, actually are hard to find. This is due to the fact that Capcom put special hardware chips in those games to do vector graphics for some of the bosses, and as a result there are less copies of the game out in the wild. Loose copies of X2 and X3 can go for triple-digit sums.
Now, all of this begs the question:
Is it worth it?
That's your call. Not everyone can spend cash-money on old video games. And with things like the eShop and Virtual Console, being able to play these games is easier (and cheaper) than ever. I'm a firm believer that it really isn't the same playing a SNES game on the Virtual Console, but with some of the prices that have been floating around for some of these games, it's definitely a better option.
On the other hand, it's not like these prices can last forever...
Nobody can play every video game. It's insane and naive to think one could. The sheer volume of what is out there is staggering.
No matter how many games you've played, there will always be some that elude you for one reason or another. Maybe it's something that you never saw because it was on a console you didn't really care for. Maybe you always wanted to check it out but you never got around to it. Maybe you were young, and that big, fat M-Rating prevented you from even considering buying the game so you never did.
Here are a few games that I know exist. I've definitely seen them, I even own two of them. But most of my nostalgia of these titles comes from seeing them on a shelf at a local video rental store, or behind the glass at Sears. It's most definitely not from playing them.
Someone who frequented my local Blockbuster really must have loved this game. It was never in stock. It was interesting to go there, week after week, and see this game permanently checked out. Now I know that the game must have either been stolen or taken out of circulation at my local store, but for a while this game seemed incredibly popular, and I wanted to play it. I never did.
Honestly, it seems like since there weren't any sequels or other-such talking about the game, I guess it's for the best that I didn't play it.
I didn't play Wario's Woods until recently. I got copies of the NES and SNES versions at almost the exact same time (from two separate Play N Trade stores), and for a while they stood on my shelf, worthy enough to stand with my games simply because they were technically Mario games. After a year of sitting on my shelves, collecting dust, I popped in the NES version a while back to test out my Top Loader, which had been in storage since I finished college. It isn't the best puzzle game on the planet, but I'll choose this over Tetris 2 any day.
Fun fact: Wario's Woods for the NES was the last official NES game released in North America. It's also the only NES game to have an ESRB rating. The late release of the game makes it a little hard to find, but if you're curious about the game and want to play it, the SNES version is readily available and much easier to get a hold of.
I certainly hope that someone can stop him. That face is the face of someone who will destroy the world.
Or maybe he just wants to have a party. One of the two.
No One Can Stop Mr. Domino is a ...game. It's certainly a game.
Alright, I'll be honest. I bought this game a few years back, simply because I liked the cover art and the ridiculously strange name. I'm a sucker for early CGI and this background looks like something out of one of the games in ReBoot, which is pretty cool looking in my book. The game itself? I think it's some sort of puzzle game. I'm sure it has something to do with laying down dominoes, but other than that I have no clue.
I don't normally buy games just for the artwork. Hell, I can't afford to. Margins are tight, it's a down economy. I can't just buy something just to say I have it (The Home Improvement game on the SNES is an exception. That's another time, though). Other than being a money-sink, practices like that are why this game is near the bottom of my gaming pile of shame. That is, the pile of games I have yet to play. I doubt I ever will, mostly because taking this one off the bottom will make the rest of the pile collapse.
Anyone else have games that they have seen, but not played?
I mentioned in my previous post that Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers for the Super Nintendo was a great game. It is. Power Rangers on other consoles, though? Eh... That's where we get into some shoddy territory.
Case in point: Power Rangers on the Game Gear.
Seems fairly standard, right? A decent rendition of the MMPR logo, which is so very 90s it hurts. Still, those colors remind me of my childhood in a way that not much else does. I'm sure that these colors have long-since been burned into your retinas, too.
I bet you're wondering what the plot of this game is?
10,000 years, conquer earth, teenagers with attitude, etc...
You know the drill. In this game, you can select which Ranger you want to use. And y'know what? They play differently. Each character has a moveset that uses their own weapons, and some seem to move faster than others. They also went through the trouble of making each Ranger look different, as opposed to just palette-swapping one model.
Now, the fun begins. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on the Game Gear is a 1-on-1 fighting game, in the style of Street Fighter II, with a little Final Fight mixed in.
Anyone who has played a Game Gear before knows that this stuff isn't going to work.
As I've mentioned before, the Game Gear's screen made a lot of games hard to see. The motion blur and ghosting effects would just destroy any sort of game that was fast-paced. MMPR is no different. It's a mess. Go and load this up on your Game Gear (if you have a working one). See for yourself. It's borderline-unplayable.
The visuals actually look really nice when you're playing on an emulator. Keep that in mind. I got these screenshots by playing on Kega Fusion, through a lovely Samsung LCD monitor. This really is the best way to enjoy it, since you can ACTUALLY SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING.
Anyway, you start off beating up Putties, which are Rita Repulsa's foot soldiers. They go down in one or two hits, and you're even given your full health back after beating them. After a dozen or so, you get to beat up Goldar, pictured above.
The controls are fairly simple: Button 1 punches, button 2 kicks. Double-tapping forward or back makes you dash in that direction, and Street Fighter-esque button and D-pad combos do special attacks.
The controls are incredibly hit-or-miss. They're twitchy in the wrong sort of way. You move so fast that you won't have time to do a combo, or the enemy will rush you without giving you any sort of chance to defend. This is worse if playing on a real console, where you won't have a damn clue what is going on at all. That said, when the controls work and you can see the screen, they're serviceable against the Putties. After beating Goldar you get to fight a bunch of green ones.
Aaaand then the boss of the stage comes out and takes a crack at you. He's significantly more powerful than the foot soldiers and Goldar, and a first-timer could have a bit of trouble, especially since this bastard likes to go invincible for a few seconds at a time. Beat him, and you're treated to a cutscene where Rita makes the monster huge. This prompts the Rangers to summon the Megazord.
This is one area where the Sega versions of MMPR have an advantage over the SNES one. You get to use the Megazord once a level. It's definitely more like the show, in that each stage is serialized in the same way. The Megazord has its own moveset, which can be tricky to get the hang of when you're thrust into battle with Goldar a split second after realizing you're in the Megazord.
It's like being given the keys to a Ferrari in the middle of a busy intersection.
Goldar, by the way, is significantly more difficult. He'll rush you and beat you down if you don't know what you're doing. Don't be surprised if he knocks half of your health before you lay enough damage on him so that he goes away, making room for the real boss.
Oh, by the way: You don't get a health boost once you've defeated Goldar. You have to beat down the boss while severly crippled. Good luck. Beating this boss leads into the next stage, where you get to choose another Ranger, beat more Putties, and then face another monster. You do get to unlock the Green Ranger and his Megazord after you beat him, but that's a small prize for slugging through tons of jerky, twitchy fighting.
I will say this: This game looks really nice. Game Gear games always had a little bit of an edge in the graphics area since they were in color when the main competition at the time was in black-and-white. It's a treat to see the brightly-colored visuals and the surprisingly-dynamic fight animations. It's a shame that the rest of the game didn't share the same standard.
There was a sequel to this on the Game Gear, based on the MMPR movie that happened in 1995. Wanna see how it looked?
Yuuuup. Other than a new character and some new monsters, this game is identical to the first game. May as well have been an expansion pack.
The Game Gear version of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, while nice-looking and fairly faithful to the show in terms of structure, is not a very good game. It's not quite shovelware, as you can tell that some level of thought went into making the game, but there are better fighters and beat 'em ups on the Game Gear, and there are better Power Rangers games to be played.
Here we go.
I have a soft spot for this series. Mostly 'cause I watched the everloving hell out of it for two years of my childhood. My parents bought me all the action figures, and I even had the fan club kit that came with color-coded shoelaces. I got green laces. Get like me.
That said, I cannot watch anything Power Rangers today. The show itself is incredibly hard to watch, since it was made with a low budget and relied heavily on stock footage from a then-recent season of a long-running Japanese television series. It's obvious Saban cut corners with with MMPR in a lot of bad ways. The plots were simple and wafer-thin, since they only really existed to get to the parts with the fighting and the giant robot/monster explosions.
But Power Rangers didn't need to be The Wire. It needed to be exactly what it was, an action-packed television show. It's kind of amazing how well the series has done, since it's been going strong for 20+ years. This low-budget American/Japanese hybrid has become a pop culture firestorm.
Mostly, I remember the SNES game, because it's really, really well done.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was developed by Natsume and published by Bandai. Natsume is known today for the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory franchises, but on the SNES it produced a ton of underrated gems like Wild Guns, Pocky & Rocky, and Ninja Warriors.
Think of MMPR as the entry-level Ninja Warriors. It's got a similar style, albeit simplified so anyone can play it. Actually, I think MMPR blows Ninja Warriors out of the water.
What is the plot of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, you ask? Let me show you:
After 10,000 years, Rita Repulsa has escaped from her space-prison. A magical blue head-in-a-jar named Zordon recruits five teenagers 'with attitude' to take on Rita and her army of weekly monsters.
I really wish I was making any of that up or embellishing it in any way.
You can select your favorite character in this game, which is pretty cool. Each ranger plays pretty much the same, but they have different weapons, which can change things up a bit. Pick a favorite color, and jump in! For the purposes of this post, I chose Zack, the Black Ranger.
(Yes, the Black Ranger is played by an African-American man, and the Yellow Ranger was played by an Asian-American woman. I have no idea how the producers did not see a problem with that)
You start the level beating up a bunch of palette-swapped mooks. This game follows the Turtes In Time style of having the same enemy colored differently to show difficulty or to show that it has a special skill. In the first level, all these guys are basically harmless.
At the halfway point, you get a glimpse of the boss. You then get to see what we've all been waiting for:
A sweet morphing sequence! This turns you into the actual Power Ranger.
Where you can promptly kick ass and take names. You also get a unique weapon for each Ranger. The Black Ranger uses an axe. Sometimes it's a gun, but right now it's definitely an axe.
After beating the hell out of endless foot soldiers and platforming through rough terrain (though not much of it), you get an encounter with the boss of that level, like the monster of the week on the show. Beat him, and you've got another level to conquer. The end of the game even shifts genres a little bit, turning into a fighting game to simulate the Megazord combat from the show (That segment even spun off into its' own game: Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Fighting Edition. But that's another time).
This game is great. The difficulty is a bit on the easier side, but since a lot of the people who would buy this were kids when this was new, it's understandable. The controls are flawless, and every potential misstep will be because you made an error, not the game. An experienced gamer can breeze through this in an hour, as it's definitely a short game, but that hour will be one of the most fun you'll have on the Super Nintendo.
Natsume, as a developer, is very good about making quality titles out of anything it gets its hands on. Any other company could have just thrown together a Power Rangers game. A few actually did (case in point: the Sega Genesis version. Boo!), but that's for another time.
It's a very rare case to see a licensed game transcend the common pitfalls of the genre. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is one of the few licensed games that deserves to be rescued from the rest of the shovelware. Go play this. It's not expensive on eBay. Hell, go emulate it. It needs to be played.
Even if you're not a fan of the show, if you're a fan of retro games, play this game. It's well worth it.