I hope you like shmups, cause the king of shmups has returned.
THUNDER FORCE VI
For PS2 and set for release on October 30th, 2008 according to the latest Famitsu. Sega is publishing the game, and it looks like the game was handled by former Technosoft developers.
There is a better scan over here: http://sazanami.net/nikki/200807/080709_002.jpg
Most everyone has heard of Dragon's Lair. It was a Laserdisc game
that came out in 1983 with animation from our good friend Don Bluth
. The style of the animation was cinema quality Disney-style animation (which is appropriate as Bluth used to work for Disney). What some people may not know is that Japan also released several Laserdisc videogames right when the Laserdisc videogame craze was at its height of popularity.
An interesting side note, most of the animation production for the Japanese Laserdisc games come from Toei Animation
. A notable exception is Cliffhanger
, which is comprise of footage from Hayao Miyazaki's "Castle of Cagliostro" (The "miss" sequence is actually from "Mystery of Mamo").
I had a particular fondness for Time Gal
. Yes, I am aware that the game is not all that great but there seems to be a bit of rose-colored nostalgia associated with that game for me. Ninja Hayate came out around the same time as well (Taito released both games in 1985, the home versions were handled by Wolfteam).
In a piece of worthless trivia, the main protagonist from Time Gal, Reika Kirishima reappears (redesigned) in Shikigami no Shiro III (Castle Shikigami III).
Here are links of some of the anime style Laserdisc games (I've left out the Laserdisc game Bega's Battle
which was comprised of footage from Harmageddon
Cobra Command (part 1/3)
Cobra Command (part 2/3)
Cobra Command (part 3/3)
Road Blaster (intro)
Road Blaster (Miss Scenes)
Finally, completely anime unrelated am I the only person in the world that remembers playing Star Rider
Oh yeah and Astron Belt
The project I am working on for my c-blog is nearly done (it's just a matter of getting all the screenshots together). Until that is ready to go, I give you this. Ratings based on generic scale of x out of five and yes, there are more sentence fragments for you.
The original is still the best. The most non-linear game in the series. Make sure you have the NES Advantage for this one, though. It makes the game slightly easier.
Metroid II: Return of Samus
This title is pretty solid, although very linear. Some new concepts in the game, but due to the limited Gameboy palette, it is actually pretty hard to figure your way through SR388.
The best title in the series. Awesome graphics, game play, and atmosphere. Lots of sequence breaking opportunities as well. If you've never played it before, turn in your Gamer License, cause it's no longer valid.
Metroid's first 3D adventure and it's remarkably good. A few chances to sequence break, but the game difficulty ramps up real fast at the end.
A mission based Metroid, huh? The cut scenes don't really do much for me, but there is a lot of solid game play, even though there are not too many sequence-breaking opportunities until after you've cleared the game.
Metroid: Zero Mission
Pretty solid title, although some of the dexterity involved in doing some more of the advanced moves (multiple shinesparks) are sometimes so hard to do, that the game gets really frustrating at times.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Another game that plays on the dark/light dichotomy? Meh. This game was just irritating (having to move between worlds) and the difficulty of some of the bosses was just insane.
Metroid Prime Pinball
Surprisingly fun, even though there aren't a lot of tables for this game.
Metroid Prime: Hunters
Ugh. I had pretty high hopes for this one and it failed miserably. Controlling an FPS on the Nintendo DS was to me at least a futile and irritating endeavor. This is Metroid meets multiplayer FPS and it was really disappointing to me.
A word about Metroid Prime: Hunters: Yes, I realize that there really is no way to make a *good* FPS on a portable system and Hunters tried a new and unique way to do it, however "unique" does not usually equal "good or well laid out". The controls never became second nature (to me at least) and if I have to consciously think about the controls of the game all the time, there is something wrong. It wasn't for a lack of trying though. I got halfway through the game before I finally got fed up with the controls. This was on top of my hand falling asleep due to how I had to position the DS and the stylus to play the game.
I have a big project in the works for the old c-blog, but until then here's my thoughts and ratings (on a generic one out of five scale) for this now twenty year old franchise. FYI, I'm only going over the games I actually own (as I can't review games I don't own or have never played), and I'm using the American names for simplicities sake. This is real quick and dirty, so beware of sentence fragments.
The original. Made way back in 1986. Pretty easy up until the Grim Reaper (for those who have played the game, you know what I'm talking about). Still a pretty solid title twenty years later.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
The easiest Castlevania EVAR. Why I need to "prosess" Dracula's body parts, I'll never know.
The hardest Castlevania EVAR. Was originally in Arcades, and then it recently came out on the PlayStation 2. Too damn hard to be any real fun.
Castlevania: The Adventure
This Gameboy game isn't terrible, but it is realllly slow. It was nice to see some new ideas put into the series, but the slow game play kind of ruined it.
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Three companions (although Grant was kind of useless), but pretty good graphics and awesome music (for the time). Oh, and don't forget to enter HELP ME at the beginning (those in the know, know exactly what I'm talking about).
Super Castlevania IV
Solid, solid game. Excellent music and long as all hell (stage eight is kind of hard though). And no more falling to your death because you didn't press down on a staircase.
Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
The second Gameboy Castlevania runs a little smoother and faster. The graphics are pretty good for a black and white game, plus the music is really, really good. A little too easy though.
Demon Castle Dracula X: Rondo of Blood
Multiple paths, two playable characters, solid controls and game play, and an awesome soundtrack. 'Nuff said.
A nice diversion of the Castlevania series. A really solid title, although some of the enemies and bosses I had a few gripes with (like the boss made up of gears).
Castlevania: Dracula X
A remake of the PC Engine Super CD game, but fails miserably. The music and graphics are quite good, but there just doesn't to seem any real enhancements to the game play. Very mediocre.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania plus Metroid style game play plus hand drawn graphics equals instant win. The PlayStation version is slightly better than the Saturn version as it doesn't have slowdown (!) and lower load times, even though the Saturn version has two new areas and you can play as three characters from the start.
Back to the slow-ass game play that was in the original Castlevania game on the Gameboy. Not that this game is canon anyway, but I remember expecting so much from this title and being pretty disappointed in it.
This is for the PlayStation port of the X68000 version. Pretty good although it is pretty damn difficult.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
The same formula of Symphony of the Night, but graphically inferior and really dark. I figure that game was the reason the Afterburner was created.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
This one is a Castleroid/Metroidvania game, although the execution on this game is slightly better. This one though is kind of like a blur, because nothing from this game really stands out.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
After Symphony of the Night was successful, I guess Konami decided to stick with this new formula. I'm not complaining, and this game is one of the better games in the series although was it me, the music seemed like it was being played through mud. Still a solid game.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Castlevania's third 3D game. This is an okay game; however, it's really hard to keep any interest in it as the game just doesn't "feel" right. It's almost like it's 3D for 3D's sake.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Just as good as Symphony of the Night. Really. The music and graphics are really good as well. Plus it uses the Nintendo DS touch screen to good use.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
Another 3D Castlevania. Meh. This one suffers from just being really repetitive. I mean really. I've gone through five different hallways but they look all the same.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
Another solid 2D enty, and I do like the team dynamic, even though you will end up using one character over the other 80% of the time. I did not like some of the repetitiveness of some of the level design though.
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
You'll have to wait for this to come out before I give you my thoughts.
I have always had a preference to 2D hand animated artwork for video games over 3D polygon models. Unfortunately, 2D spriting and animation are sadly becoming a lost art form. A lot of this is due to the fact that it simply costs more money to hire 2D animators and artists for these games then it does to hire people to work on 3D polygon models for games.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love 3D games. Like I mentioned above, it's purely a preference. Remember that we have seen some absolutely stunning 3D in a relatively short amount of time. From the sumi-e inspired Okami, to the Kandinsky influenced Rez, to the frenetic, cel-shaded Jet Set Radio, to the abstract color and design of Killer 7, there has been no shortage of spectacular 3D art work.
And yes, despite what Roger Ebert says, it IS art. End of discussion.
This may be the nostalgia talking (or flat-plane romanticism, take your pick), but there is something to be said for 2D artwork. It reeks of skill and patience and an organic touch that I do not think could ever be faithfully recreated on a 3D polygon model. There is something about the animation, the look, the style, and the tangible and intangible aspects of 2D artwork that drives my appeal and love of the 2D art form.
Now go play a 2D game and savor its beauty and craftsmanship. Appreciate and celebrate it, and never take it for granted.
Let's talk about regional lockout and how it is no longer relevant.
First, let us briefly touch upon why we have lockout to begin with. Regardless of what any video game publisher or developer will tell you, lockout boils down to one thing and one thing only: control. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking it's anything else.
Game companies want to control what gets sold in what region to maximize revenue, and from a business standpoint it makes sense. Game companies need to make money, and they need to set a way to control what gets released and where. There are other factors involved like copyright and rights issues, but the bottom line is that they need to pick and choose what games get released to make the most amount of money.
Okay, so why is regional lockout no longer relevant?
Simple: it is no longer necessary. Why? Well, for starters, the "normal average" video gamer doesn't know about or care about importing games. If we had region-free consoles, for Joe average gamer it would probably be at most an undocumented feature. Case in point: the Nintendo DS. How many normal, average gamers know that it can play import games without any modification?
Yeah, I thought so.
Next, who imports games? Hardcore masochists like me who is willing to play a game in a foreign language, that's who. Having it region free really only benefits the ones who are willing to purchase the game and play it in a foreign language (possibly), and even if we are conservative, we're talking maybe ten to fifteen percent of the total gaming market? Why put a system in place to stop the ten to fifteen percent?
Oh, and before I go on, if you think game publishers would lose out on a region-free console, keep in mind that most importers go after games that would usually never see the light of day over here (and if importers are buying RPGs or games that publishers intend on bringing over here anyway, here's your Gamepro Gametip: translate the game while it is in development. You publishers have internet access, email, an IM window, and online translation dictionaries, so there is no excuse for not doing this).
So what about counterfeiting and people who purchase illegal copies of games? A region free console will see an increase in that, right?
No, no, no, a million times no.
Games have security measures in place to prevent that, region free systems are still gonna check to make sure your dealing with legit software, so this is a moot point.
In the end regional lockout doesn't seem to do much of anything. Sure it keeps us from playing Dating Sims or Mah-Jongg games, but if someone is willing to import it and play it in Japanese, more power to them, I'm just saying to give us the option to do so.