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12:20 AM on 06.17.2014

Making SNES and N64 cases from cheap Genesis EA games.

Okay, I know this is strikingly similar to my last blog, but I realized after that while I failed to use some of those cases for that original blog, I could still use them for SNES and N64 games. And hey, I imagine a lot more people have those than Atomiswave and ST-V.

Just to let you know, I tried NES games as well but they unfortunately didn't make the cut. They're just a tad too big. Even though it looked like it would just barely fit at first, apparently you need a good bit more room than 'just barely'.

Anyway, tools: x-acto knife, good set of pliers, printer, scanner (optional, though helpful) and some cheap EA games from your local thrift store, retro store or pawn shop.

SNES games are on easy street. Just cut the tabs where the redish-pink blob ends, then yank 'em off with your pliers, and you're done.

Fits in really nice with almost no effort. The tabs on the other side can kind of grip on to the top of the cart to keep it from sliding around in the case.

Nintendo 64 games have it a little tougher, but considering the lack of thought on Nintendo's part to make these things look good on shelves (why no end labels?) I'd say it's worth the extra hassle. 

Cut, then yank and twist the highlighted parts until the pop off. Once you've done that, the cart will just slide in. The remaining tabs on the bottom and top will keep the cart in so it doesn't rattle around like a loose DVD in the last copy of that one movie you really wanted at the department store.

Ta-daa! Now if you can get past the sacrilege of putting Nintendo products in Sega products, you'll have your collection looking a bit more acceptable.

Once again, I got the artwork from You can't just use these on their own as the dimensions aren't right for EA Sports cases. Just scan the original artwork (or measure it very carefully) and resize the front, back and spine to correspond to the measurements of the original case's artwork.

Hope someone finds this helpful.


2:19 AM on 06.15.2014

Making Atomiswave/ST-V cases from crap(py Genesis sports games).

Okay, I know that this isn't really timely or anything. I'm aware that practically none of you on Destructoid have a Sammy Atomiswave or Sega ST-V system. I'm aware even those of you who do probably don't really give a crap about making your games look good on your shelves.

But, ya know what? Bucket. I'm telling you about this crap anyway. I don't really need to, considering there's already a video about it on YouTube, but that vid didn't quite go into everything so I'll divulge some additional info.

Front and back views in the gallery - but this is how you'll see them 99% of the time.

First off, let me warn you about something the video doesn't - not all EA Sports cases work. I spent about $10 on the cases you saw. 2 from a pawn shop for $6 and spending $4 and some change on 6 at a retro gaming store that conveniently enough was having a 30% off sale on their Genesis games. Only four of them could hold either, and one of them could only hold Atomiswave.

If you go looking, look for PGA Tour Golf II and Tony La Russa Baseball. I got two of each of these and they work like a charm. The fifth case was NHL 94, which was only good for Atomiswave. (You'll notice it's the thinner case.) The first two had spines of 1 and 1/4 inch. The third had a spine of 1 and 1/8 inch. Most Gensis cases have a spine of 1 inch or less and will not work.

The Atomiswave games fortunately require no modification. They just go right in the place where the EA Sports game would have gone. For ST-V, though, you'll have to do a lot of cutting and yanking. Mostly yanking, fortunately, you can take most the tabs and other bits and bobs off just by twisting and turning with a big set of pliers. Pull off almost everything except the stuff circled. Use the Exacto knife to cut when you need to, but otherwise try to avoid it. Especially if you haven't had a tetanus shot recently.

Pink makes me feel pretty.

One thing you will need to take note of (that the vid doesn't tell you) is that you need to take at least one of the tabs off of the other side of the box. It just won't close otherwise. Spent a good deal of time trying to figure that out.

Notice I took the top tab out. Bit of the case came off too, but I don't really care.

The artwork was obtained from various sources, but mostly from (check their Flyers section), (for example, download the Saturn cover for Die Hard Arcade and then just cut off the Saturn portions), random google image searches and even anime image boards (got the cover images for Cotton Boomerang and Fist of the North Star there). 

If you have a scanner, scan the original Genesis cover and put your new graphics on top so that everything is the right size when you print it out. Otherwise, just measure the original Genesis cover and create your custom cover with those dimensions. If you need a graphics editor, Photoshop CS2 and Gimp are free options.

Well, that's all. Hope I helped all two of you out.   read

4:38 PM on 02.08.2014

The Past: No More Quarters

Ah, the modern age of gaming. The graphics, the online connectivity, the movie quality voice work and effects, the post-release content ... the complete soullessness of it all. How I loathe it. How I wish I could go back to "tha good ol' days", as if I'm some old geezer in a rocking chair rambling incoherently as it he were reciting an old epic in his head.

When I think about the past of gaming, being a product of the mid 80s and raised in the early 90s, I'd think about how many coincidences happened to get me in there. I'd probably never have got into gaming (as hard as I did, anyway) had I not randomly won an SNES from my elementary school's raffle before the thing even released. Waiting for that excitedly, my dad just happened to have a friend from his work who let me borrow the NES while I waited. Then I went to a flea market and got Kung Fu - which just happened to be made by the same people who made the original Street Fighter and went on to form SNK.

I can still smell the strong mustard on those sausage dogs they served at that dirt mall...

However, ya know, I can always plug up my NES to the tele and still get most of that experience. My memories of Chrono Trigger can mostly be recreated with the original game or one of the many ports that Square Enix has dumped out over the years in a vain attempt at easy money. But ya know what can't be fully recreated with a port to modern consoles or even owning the original hardware?

Well, I'm sure you can use context clues from the title to see where I'm getting at.

All of my strongest memories of gaming come from those massive wooden monoliths. Those electric smile machines. The modern-day nickelodeons. While the arcade industry still exists - and appears to be doing well enough, despite what many say - it's nothing like what I grew up with. Score boards and direct competition is pretty much a thing of the past now, and now everything in the arcade can pretty much be divided up into three groups: the little bit of shooters, the little bit of drivers, and the large majority of kiddie gambling machines masquerading as games of skill.

No amount of cynicism could keep me from spending more than twice the value on getting this damn Nadia figure though...

The reason you can't recreate this magic just by owning the original hardware (and trust me, I've tried... about 15 times now...) is that it was never just about the game. Certainly that's a big part, but another big part was how it was just about everywhere. One of my favorite memories was going to a Pizza Hut while I was in college with friends, and there just happened to be a Neo Geo with Fatal Fury 3 in it. All we wanted was some pizza, yet we got some impromptu slugfest action going. That was always amazing to me - go to a convenience store, and find a VS Super Mario Bros. I remember going to see some movie at a now bulldozed movie theater and finding a Darkstalkers cabinet for the first time. I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT MOVIE IT WAS, but I will never forget playing Darkstalkers for the first time. It was just... magic.

My earliest - and fuzziest - memory was of going to this once busy Wal-Mart and mashing buttons on Street Fighter. I didn't even realize it WAS Street Fighter until years later when I'd see this stage, hear the mediocre voice effects and experience the terrible controls on MAME and a flood of memories came back to me.

The other big part of arcades that can't be recreated is how it would connect all the people involved. It could make friends out of strangers. This was especially the case of any sort of co-operative game. I still have some good memories of playing Die Hard Arcade at multiple locations with many strangers coming up and playing along with me. It's just completely different from having some stranger drop in to help you out in Dragon's Crown, where communication is limited at best. No amount of text or voice chat will be able to replicate standing next to a total stranger at the Skateland.

Even with competitive games, while things could often turn ugly, the sense of having a good rival that you could see, talk with, and maybe even exchange strategies with if they weren't a total douche and actually wanted to better the experience is completely different and completely better than the rage quits, hate mail and -best case scenario - delayed "GGs" messages of today.

The old Aladdin's Castle, as it is today. Time Crisis 2, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Hydro Thunder and so many others used to reside within... now it's a damn photo hut.

Times change, I'm aware of this. Arcades just can't exist as they used to and the games had to change with the times. Challenge, competition and depth used to be the main draws of arcades but now they alienate the majority of gamers who just want cheap thrills that make them feel good momentarily for no effort. I understand the appeal, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

I'll continue to say it was better back in the day, because by God, it was better back in the day.

Now get off my lawn.   read

8:54 PM on 01.09.2014

FGC & What (I think) I've learned: Structure

Back from MAGFest. Yay, MAGFest. First time there, enjoyed it overall. However, there is something that still lingers in my mind. I went to a panel on gaming communities, going with the intention of helping grow my own FGC. Well, I guess I should have expected it, but - naturally - someone brought up the FGC being toxic. Everyone agreed. Someone else chimed in that someone threatened to rape them at a fighting game tournament. Everyone gasped.

And of course, there was only one person there with a positive view of the FGC: Me. I'm not exactly fond of the entire FGC getting blamed for the transgressions of one or two scenes, because I happen to belong to a fighting game community which is very diverse and very positive. However, being Johnny On The Spot, I didn't exactly have time to premeditate my answer and give anything I felt was satisfactory.

I feel like most people don't really understand the FGC. Certain misguided works from MIT graduates haven't exactly helped that understanding. Then again, I'm probably going to be just as bad because I clearly also have an agenda (although at least I'm being straight forward with it instead of hiding it in deleted tweets), but this has been really eating at me and I can't just do nothing.

Make no mistake, I'm not defending people who make the FGC harder for new players to get into and make others uncomfortable for reasons outside of the game. I'm also not trying to be some "social justice" warrior who wants everyone to tap-dance to political correctness. I'm just sharing how things are so that maybe you'll understand why things are the way they are.

About Me: I've been in the fighting game community since 2010, my definition of "being in the fighting game community" being that from that point on I took fighting games seriously enough to devote real time to improving my skill level and finding others to fight alongside. I'm not a "pro" player, I'm not "sponsored", I've never gotten Top 8 at a major, I'm not even in any of the particularly large scenes. I'm just a player who has been to at least half a dozen different scenes as part of my 'leveling up' process. This is what I've observed thus far.

1. There Is No FGC

A singular entity which represents all those that play fighting games competitively doesn't exist. Rather, the FGC refers to a collection of very loosely associated 'scenes.'

The FGC will occasionally come together for a common cause, such as helping pay for a fellow player's funeral, helping house a player who loses their home, etc. When people point at the FGC in general as being toxic, you can be assured a thousand fingers will be pointing back, as you've effectively accused all scenes as being toxic

Most FGC scenes are at a local level. Sometimes a city, sometimes a state, sometimes a region. In some cases, a dedicated scene may revolve around a specific game, although I find this is usually only the case with smaller, less active games (no real reason to be part of a Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs Capcom 3 specific scene when there are probably two dozen players for each of those in your home town, but King of Fighters XIII and Street Fighter X Tekken players are going to be much more thinly spread out). Though these scenes have their members spread far, they usually come together at major tournaments to play together.
All the scenes are autonomous. They operate independently of each other. There are no 'orders from on high' as there are in other competitive gaming communities, everyone makes their own rules... or don't make any rules at all. They have their own distinct makeup of players and they have their own unique social mores. The Dead Or Alive scene has a larger number of female players than most other scenes while the King of Fighters scene has a larger number of Hispanic players than most other scenes, as an example. Each scene on a local level is also different, even when the scenes border each other the difference can be very radical.

2. Leadership Through Power

Even within each individual scene, there is rarely a person who the community officially chooses to be their representative. This is mainly because one of the common ideas within most FGC scenes is that each member is equal.

However, the idea of equality is contradictory to how leadership is actually decided - through meritocracy. Status is obtained by dominating strong opponents within the game. This is part of what makes the FGC so appealing to some people: gaining status in real life is complex, but in most FGC scenes, all you have to do is win.

With this status comes respect, and with respect comes leadership. The problem is, not all good players are fit to lead. Some don't even want to. Others aren't even aware that they are in a leadership position - not pointing fingers, but I can think of many well-known players right now who are obviously blissfully unaware that people actually look up to them.

This is how it works with the community in general. In the case of events (i.e. tournaments) the leader is the tournament organizer. Some tournaments are large multi-day events that may as well be conventions, and some tournaments are shoe-string budget affairs that meet in the back of a bar on a slow night. Some tournaments are part of a long running series that have a lot of trust invested into them, and others can just form up in a convention's game room with a piece of paper tapped to an arcade machine.

There is no corporate leadership as there is with most eSports communities. While Blizzard and Riot fuel their respective communities thanks to the mountains of cash they maintain, fighting game companies like Capcom can barely keep enough cash in their coffers to make current gen games. Even if they wanted and were able to take control, there would definitely be resistance due to the 20+ years the FGC has operated on their own.

3. You Are (Not) FGC

I consider myself to be part of the FGC because I make a constant effort to attend local and major events, play against stronger opponents and improve myself. I don't consider this to be the only way to be part of the FGC - those who organize tournaments, who stream events, who provide knowledge and assistance for others, or who provide locations for people are also part of the FGC. In my eyes.

But who am I? Nobody. Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you also consider those that only post on message boards to be part of the FGC. Perhaps you consider players who only play online or with friends part of it. Perhaps you consider those who only watch streams to be part of it.

Maybe you think in another direction - maybe you think only those who were playing competitively before Street Fighter IV came out are truly part of the FGC. Maybe you think only those who consistently win tournaments are part of the FGC. Maybe you think only those who put competition above all other aspects of life are part of the FGC.

Anybody can say they are a part of the FGC if they want to be a part of it. Each individual defines whether they are part of the FGC for themselves. There are no qualifiers you must pass, there are no licenses you must buy, there are no contracts you must sign. With that, it stands to reason you'll get a few troublemakers along with the good folks.

So What's The Point?

My point is that when you call out "the FGC" for doing something wrong, you are calling out the good scenes and the bad. Yes, there are jackasses in the FGC, just as there are in any community. There's also a lot of folks who are trying to be welcoming to newcomers of all sorts. Calling out everybody for the activities of a few isn't going to do anything productive. If you are going to put people on blast, at least specify. You can't attack everything and expect it to eventually trickle down to the offenders, because there is no official structure for it to trickle down with. Shame is a powerful tool. Time and time again, heroes became pariahs when they got shamed, whether it was for harassing minorities or colluding tournaments.

My second point is that, even if you do believe the FGC in general are a bunch of bad apples, that doesn't mean your local FGC couldn't be an exception. Give it a shot. If they are a bunch of jackasses, then be sure to call them out specifically so others can know to avoid them - and keep in mind that another "FGC" is just down the block. If you were like me, though, you'll find a bunch of people who just want to play some damn games. You should play some damn games with us.

Well, ya know, as long as you don't start calling things "cheap," making excuses and refuse to do anything to develop your skills. You can shovel hate on us for mocking you for that all day, we eat that dirt like it's vitamins.

Have fun!   read

2:57 AM on 12.07.2010

An interesting eBay listing I must share.

Didn't know whether I should share this or not, considering... ya know... it's just a link an' all. Still, I very rarely see an eBay listing with some humor thrown into it. You might get a chuckle out of it.

Maybe I have a bad sense of humor, I dunno.

But yeah, just some guy who thought he might drum up some interest by not taking the whole thing so seriously. If you are reading this, then I guess it's working.

So what if you don't think it's blog worthy? I thought it might make you crack a smile. Don't take things so seriously, dudes.   read

9:04 PM on 09.13.2010

RetroGrade: Waku Waku 7 (Saturn)

Ever played an arcade game - and really, really loved it - and then eagerly bought and played the console version only to find out it was a load of crap? It first happened to me when playing Primal Rage on the SNES - and after that, I unconsciously learned to never fall for this trap again.

However, the generations that followed made me forget these lessons. I became complacent. Lo and behold, I've fallen for the trap again.

Waku Waku 7 is a 2D Fighting Game originally made by Sunsoft for the Neo Geo in 1996- it was then ported to the Sega Saturn a year later. Despite the '7', the game is not a direct sequel to any previous game, although it is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Sunsoft's previous fighter Galaxy Fight.

The gamplay is actually pretty damn good. The game takes elements from other fighters such as Darkstalkers (complete with Chain Combos, Super-charged Specials a la ES Attacks and Super powered "Doki Doki" combos a la EX Attacks) and SNK's various fighters (Four Attack Button set-up, screen zooming and "Waku Waku" Powered Up Forms a la King of Fighters' MAX Mode), while also adding in some interesting new mechanics such as Power Moves which fling the enemy all the way across the arena and Power Move Reversals which allow you to jump right back into the action after being hit with a Power Move.

The most interesting unique mechanic included is the "Harahara Move". Harahara Moves are all easily performed by pressing Down twice followed by either two punches or kicks. While the move is extremely easy to perform, it is hard to use - once activated, the screen will flash with a giant "Caution" warning, sirens will go off, and your character will be stuck charging for anywhere between 2-8 seconds! However, if you get the full charge off, you'll unleash an unblockable and difficult-to-avoid Super Attack which can take off as much as Three-Fourths of your opponents health! As difficult as it is to land one of these attacks, there isn't much else out there that feels so rewarding.

Mauru and Arina's Harahara Moves in action.

The look of Waku Waku 7 is very different from just about every other fighting game out there. While there's only 7 characters (plus two bosses), each of these characters are very colorful, with unique designs and personalities. They're mostly parodies of anime characters, such as the Totoro-esque Mauru, the Jojo's Bizarre Adventure inspired Dandy-J, and the robotic maid (and nurse during in certain moves) Tesse.

The backgrounds are also very colorful, however they were noticeably downgraded for the Saturn port. It's not a deal breaker - in fact, they still look pretty good so long as you are concentrating on the action. However, it is a shame they were downgraded, especially considering this game requires the 1MB Cart.


Sound is also very good. Many of the music tracks are of a very high quality - even higher than the original Neo Geo version. (To be expected, considering the CD format) Sound effects are satisfying, vocals are convincing - just good audio all around.

So yeah - this game is pretty much perfect in every creative area. This would easily be one of the best fighters on the Sega Saturn. However...

The game suffers from a myriad of technical problems, many of them quite severe. The background graphics being downscaled was the least of this title's problems. Loading times are both long and populous. Even going from Round 1 to Round 2, you'll experience a load time. It will surely try your patience.

For some reason, embedding isn't working - so click here to see the slowdown in action.

Even worse than load times, however, is the horrendous frame-rate and slow-down issues. Even when the game is operating at its best, it's a bit slower than the original - playable, but just not as good. However, the game often slows to a snails pace when handling certain characters. This is a death sentence for a fighter, and does a lot to kill the fun factor.

What's even worse is that, this game requires the 1MB RAM cart. Why did they choose the 1MB version when the game came out after the release of the 4MB RAM cart? I've played many games that require the 4MB RAM cart, and they ran both smoothly and without loading times - Vampire Savior and X-Men Vs Street Fighter are two I can think of off the top of my head. From where I'm sitting, I see no reason for this game to not have been an arcade perfect port, utilizing the 4MB RAM cart.

As strange as it might be, I'd honestly recommend playing this game single-player rather than with friends. The slow down and loading issues were easier to overlook while dealing with the AI, and the game is still plenty enjoyable this way. However, playing this with friends is only going to result in people getting pissed off at waiting on the game to load or the frame-rate going completely out-of-whack, and even fans of the arcade original will be begging for you to reach for another game.

RetroGrade: C. Great graphics, great sound, great gameplay - this game should have been an A and considered one of the best games on the Saturn. Unfortunately, the incredible amount of technical issues bring the score - and fun factor - way, way down. It's always a shame to see such an incredibly creative game brought down by a sub-standard port job, but c'est la vie.

For the sake of comparison, this is what the original arcade version played like.   read

12:53 PM on 09.12.2010

RetroGrade: Ninku (Sega Saturn)

I remember reading GameFan back in the day and being blown away by all the games the Saturn received in Japan. Back then, all I could do was drool over them as my nerd-lust consumed me. Now, I finally have the chance to go back and play all the games I couldn't back then.

Of course, not everything can live up to our expectations.

Ninku - Tsuyokina Yatsura No Daigekitotsu! (Long name...) is a 2D fighter for the Sega Saturn, made by Sega of Japan in 1996. The game is based on the manga/anime series of the same name, although I honestly haven't experienced the source material.

The thing that really drew me to this game when I first saw it more than a decade ago was the look. This game has some incredible sprites, especially considering the time it came out - two years prior to the debut of the Guilty Gear series. This was the first time I'd ever seen sprites of an animation cell quality, and it amazed me. The 3D backgrounds are pretty nice, too!

Of course, just like Arc System Works' fighters, the game looks a lot better in screenshots than in motion. It's not bad , but there is a distinct lack of frames in many animation.


The audio is... just kinda there. It barely gets the job done, actually. The music tracks are easily forgotten, and many of the vocals sound like they were recorded at a low quality. Nothing in this department is going to get stuck in your head, that's for sure. The music does remind me of the same mid-90s style that I used to hear on anime VHS tapes back in the day, though - I guess that's something.

The gameplay is the real disappointment, though. It's pretty bare-bones, with very little in the way of combos and tactical movements. Movement altogether is rather clunky, with walking and jumping seeming off. Even though the arenas are 3D, this only comes into play with certain attacks that, when they connect, will throw the enemy into the screen. Gameplay-wise, the 3D nature is not taken advantage of at all, it's just a visual gimmick. If this game had Fatal Fury-style sidestepping, it could have helped the game tremendously.

Also, if you are going to play this game, it'll have to be with friends. The AI is down-right incompetent. I got through the entire game by simply liberally using one or two specials until my super meter filled up, then unleashing my super until I had no energy left. And it worked, the entire time. I never lost a single match. Got pretty boring, actually. Playing with friends can always be fun, but even here it gets a little tedious - again, usually spamming the same attacks over and over again pays off far more than diversifying, mainly because the movement is so awkward, it makes it a hassle to switch things up.

RetroGrade: D. It's fun, but only for a while. When you look past the amazing 2D sprites and the 3D arenas, you aren't left with very much. In the end, this game just doesn't have enough content to justify a high price. It's not bad, it's just not very good either - especially when compared to many of the fighting game options on the Sega Saturn.

[embed]160474:33066[/embed]   read

7:56 AM on 08.26.2010

Teh Bias: Old School Character.

There's no doubt that the gaming industry has advanced in many, many ways compared to it's infancy. Looking at Atari 2600 games or original Nintendo games and comparing them to the stuff of today is perhaps not far off from comparing a Technicolor Fantasia to an IMAX Avatar. They can do more now than ever before...

...and yet, it feels like they're doing less.

I have a distinct bias against games that lack stylization, and go for looking as realistic as possible. I like games that take an old-school approach. I tend to have a heavy favoritism for games that incorporate certain elements that characterized yesterday - and which most everything today has tried to distance itself from.

I look at all the games that line the shelves - and will be lining the shelves - and let out a sigh. Ultra-gritty action shooter with a crime theme. Ultra-gritty action shooter with a sci-fi theme. Ultra-gritty action shooter with a warfare theme. Yet, I'd be fooling myself if I didn't believe the same slock would have been around 'back in the day' if they were capable of it.

Art through adversity. When they weren't capable of making ultra-realistic graphics, they had to take much more creative approaches. If Metal Slug was made with today's technology, I've little doubt it would have ended up looking like Gears of War. Yet, because they couldn't, we ended up with a game with a ton of charm and characters that didn't need voices to give them characterization.

Sure, there were many games that still tried to go for a realistic look, but because they weren't capable of doing so, they had to find creative solutions. That seems to be gone now. They no longer have to be creative, they can just perfectly copy the real world... and that just seems all kinds of lazy.

You can say a lot when you can't say anything at all. The characters from Jet Grind Radio had maybe about 2 lines of speech, plus a few grunts and yelps when they did tricks or got hurt - yet, you didn't need a ton of back-story or monologues to understand them. Just from their appearances, gestures and expressions, you could tell more about them than two hours of cut-scenes.

And yet, they go with the two hours of cut-scenes. With very few exceptions, I haven't seen a character that blew me away with his or her character design in any game of this generation that aimed for realism. Nathan Drake may have a few humorous, witty one-liners, but that doesn't change the fact that his character design was pretty bland... unless we're talking about Donut Drake. Indiana Jones was pretty real looking (maybe because he was being played by a real man), but that didn't stop the designers from crafting a look for him that was iconic and instantly recognizable - Drake, by comparison, looks like... just some guy.

Stick to what you're good at, and don't waste my time. There used to be a time when games were what you paid for. You bought Sonic 2, and you ran at break-neck speeds and killed robots. You bought Street Fighter II, and you told a bunch of dudes and one chick to go home and be a family man. This was enough. Hell, this was more than enough. We played it, and when we were done, we played it again. It was fun in it's most purified form - why would we wanna stop?

Now look at games. Collect 500 Agility Orbs. Complete 333 ambient freeplay missions. What the hell? Do we really need to add a bunch of chores to our games? I assume this is done to keep people 'playing' longer (thus, preventing used sales), yet it does the exact opposite for me. Maybe, if you'd put the time spent planning out these horrific collect-a-thons into making the game a much more fun and enjoyable experience, I wouldn't sell the game because I'd want to play it again? Nah, sorry - I guess that's just too much to ask.

Maybe I'm just some crotchety old man who sees things with rose-tinted glasses.Wait, no - that's wrong. Fact of the matter is, I'm right. Things WERE better back then, precisely because they weren't. It's become obvious to me that, with only a few exceptions (and those exceptions are usually relegated to budget titles, digital releases and portable games), the games of today lack a creative punch because they no longer have to have it.   read

6:06 PM on 08.15.2010

RetroGrade: Scott Pilgrim vs The World (PSN)

Scott Pilgrim is in love with Ramona Flowers. As I play Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, I find that I too am in love with Ramona Flowers... and Scott Pilgrim, and everything else about this game.

Ubisoft's Scott Pilgrim vs The World may not be even a week old at the time of writing, but it wears it's retro on it's sleeve. Everything about this game is a love letter to those of us who grew up blowing in cartridges, but will it still be fun for those who grew up worrying about scratched discs instead?

To preface, I knew next to nothing about Scott Pilgrim before playing this game. As such, I can't comment on how well it meshes with its source material - although the reaction from fans that I've talked to has been almost universally favorable.

The general gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a Beat 'Em Up before, except that it's much deeper than any other Beat 'Em Up I've played. There's a quick attack, a strong attack, a special, striker, jump and block button (that's about 2-3 times more buttons than most), plus you have the ability to run and strafe up or down, providing plenty of evasive or pursuit options... and this is just what you begin with. Tons of weapons and objects litter the levels that you can smash or throw at your enemies. Also, as you level up, you unlock new moves that really expand your tool-set, allowing you to pull off some truly amazing feats in battle.

Adding a leveling mechanic to a Beat 'Em Up is a good idea (games like River City Ransom and Guardian Heroes taught us that RPG elements mix well with brawlers... but you kids wouldn't know anything about that...), but I felt like it could have been handled a lot better. For instance, some moves that can only be obtained through leveling are more like essentials - such as the grab attack, which allows you to deliver the smack down to blocking opponents. As far as I understand, these attacks are the ONLY reliable way to deal damage to most enemies that are blocking, and oh man - do the enemies love to block. A lot. Early on, when you are lacking moves like these, it can be a hassle.

The playable characters manage to feel diverse without actually being all too different from one another. For instance, while you'll definitely notice a different going from Ramona to Stills, the difference is nowhere near that of Guy and Haggar. This is kinda a good thing, though, considering in a four-player environment, you might have a group that prefers agile characters but someone is going to get stuck with the slow guy - with this game, every character is basically the same, but you can build up their stats using items from the game's many shops.

The enemies that you fight are surprisingly diverse. In just the first level alone, you'll be fighting many enemies who use very different tactics in battle - there's the brown-jacketed guys who tend to sit back and wait for an opening then rush you with a combo, the blue-jacketed guys who run after any weapon or object and then throw it at you, the taller snappy-dressed guys that hit hard and kick or push anyone who tries to grapple them, and many more - then the next level comes, and introduces you to more! Soon enough you'll be fighting laser-blasting aliens, fire-breathing 'zillas and camera-blinding paparazzi in the movie-set stage, various weapon and magic-wielding ninjas in the Japanese gardens, costumed freaks at a Halloween party, and more. Crazy stuff, and it always keeps the game interesting.

The presentation of this game is top-notch. The graphics are all supplied by Paul Robertson, creator of many fantastic pixel-based animations (look him up! ... Just not around others.). Even without knowing anything about the comics, I can feel a great deal of personality oozing from the characters thanks to the animation alone. Scott certainly fit the bill of the hot-blooded protagonist, Kim came off as badass in an aloof sort of way, Stills seemed like "Mr.Serious", and Ramona definitely pulled off cute very well. This goes for every character, with even minor NPCs managing to exude character.

Music is also a highlight of this game, being supplied by chiptune band Anamanaguchi. Never heard their stuff before this game, but they've definitely made a fan out of me. The soundtrack is very diverse - the Title Theme seems to have a melancholy sound to it, while The Clash At Demonhead is a track that pumps you up like an old school Mega Man track. There's nary a miss, with just about every track having the potential to get stuck in your head for days.

Really, about the only change I really wish they would make for this game is fixing the glitches. The glitches that are there aren't deal breakers by any means, but it can get a little annoying. There was one point where the game locked up on me while accessing stage 4, I've had a few graphical glitches where enemies would look like they were still alive, even though they were dead (luckily, the game at least recognized they had died and allowed me to progress), and then I encountered a strange glitch where after exiting Leo's Secret Shop in stage 3, I was unable to hurt anyone or be hurt myself. Most of these glitches are easily fixed by exiting the stage, however, and they rarely resurfaced.

I've noticed many have been criticizing the game for not having online multiplayer - even docking final scores for that alone. While online multiplayer would be nice, it is hardly necessary for this game. I've played through this game, beginning to end, multiple times with every character and never once did I feel it was less fun or did I feel ill-equipped because I didn't have a friend next to me. I feel it would be bad form to dock the score for this game just because it lacks a bonus feature when the game is a load of fun regardless.

RetroGrade: A. I'd rate it higher if I could. While the game is not without fault and a lot could be fixed, this does not change the fact that this is the most fun I've had with a game in YEARS. I've loved playing many games, but I haven't been this in love with a game, it's characters and it's universe since perhaps Psychonauts. This game is proof that gaming isn't all about tech-specs, graphical horsepower or even just gameplay - it's about having a soul to give it life. Unless you flat-out despise pixel-graphics, beat 'em ups or Scott Pilgrim, you owe it to yourself to spend $10 on something that should have been a full priced retail game.

I think now I should finally check these comics out...

Full disclosure: I played this game to completion 5 times with all playable characters alone, and once with friend.


1:45 PM on 08.10.2010

RetroGrade: Fighters Megamix (Sega Saturn)

Crossovers. Everyone loves them, and the fifth-generation was pretty much all about them. This was the generation that would spawn King of Fighters, Marvel vs Capcom and Super Smash Bros - all of which continue to be popular to this day. Unfortunately, time has forgotten one of these masters of mix-ups.

Fighters Megamix was a 1996 entry into the Sega Saturn's fighter library. Intended as an introduction to Virtua Fighter 3, it saw a cast of 32+ fighters evenly split between the Virtua Fighter fighting style, and the style used in Sega's now obscure Fighting Vipers franchise.

The gameplay is much like Virtua Fighter, except faster and a bit more beginner-friendly. In fact, I'd say it has more in common with Fighting Vipers than Virtua Fighter. In keeping with it's 'introduction' to VF3, this game features a Dodge button - adding a new layer of strategy to those with quick fingers.

The biggest difference I noticed between the Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers faction involved throws and launch attacks. Mainly, the VF characters tended to have throws that would deal direct damage, but many lacked attacks that would launch opponents skyward. Meanwhile, FV characters had throws that would usually push people away or into walls (so, proximity to a wall was critical) and almost all had attack that would have enemies thrown high in the air, allowing for juggles.

FV characters also had armor that, with heavy damage, would become destroyed and leave them exposed to more damage - however, most matches tend to end with the armor intact regardless of winning or losing, making it more a gimmick than anything. In fact, the only time I saw a lot of armoring being shed was during Survival Mode, where you'd be fighting in excess of 10 people - not normal circumstances for duels.

Aside from Versus Mode (which should be where the bulk of your time will be going), there is the aforementioned Survival Mode and the Arcade Mode. Arcade Mode is fairly easy, even for those who have never really seriously played a Sega fighter. Personally, I only had about 15 minutes of difficulty before I started consistently winning against the computer. Arcade Mode is also where you'll unlock the bulk of the secret characters.

While you start the game with the entire casts of Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers unlocked, that's only half the fun. This game is more fondly remembered for it's odd-ball cast of hidden fighters. The unlockable cast is actually quite diverse - you have the obscure-but-reasonable characters like Siba, an Arabic fighter originally planned for Virtua Fighter but cut at the last minute (which is kinda cool to me - getting to play as a character most thought would never see the light of day) and Janet, the female hero of Virtua Cop. Then you have the weirder ones, like the Virtua Fighter Kids versions of Akira and Sarah, as well a Bean & Bark from Sonic The Fighters. Finally you have characters that just make you scratch your head, like the Hornet from Daytona USA and a fighter made entirely out of meat products named, appropriately, Mr. Meat. As hilarious as it is to use the Hornet to run over your opponent, it does make you wonder who came up with the idea...

The graphics of this game are pretty good for the time. They don't rival Tekken 3, but they aren't unbearably bad like many early polygonal fighters either. The animation is actually really smooth - I didn't have a single problem in this area. While it could certainly use some cleaning up, I think most could get used to the look of this game.

The controls are also good - I only had problems with pulling off a few combos that required very precise timing. In fact, I'd say that my main problem with the controls was just something that is kinda a staple in many 3D Fighters - that pretty much, the game will play catch up with your inputs. I'm used to 2D Fighters, and how if I pressed a punch button three times fast, but my character only performed one in that time, my character would only perform one - whereas here, if I press the punch button three times, if I finish pressing it after my character throws one punch, they'll still throw the other two punches. Just something I had to get used to.

The only real problems I had with this game were relatively minor, and mostly dealt with the hidden characters. For example, Bean and Bark both lack throws. Why? They had them in Sonic the Fighters! More over, why would you pick Bean and Bark when you could have used... Sonic and Tails? Or Sonic and Knuckles? Also, the Hornet... as hilarious as he is, he has an EXTREMELY limited moveset. In fact, you only gain access to his full moveset once his armor is completely destroyed, and I'm pretty sure by that point it's far too late. Still, one useless character out of the 32+ available is no big deal.

As one who has always been interested in Virtua Fighter, yet scared off by the sheer depth and amount of practice it would take to get decent, I found Fighters Megamix to be a very good ice-breaker. It's helped introduce me to many of the Virtua Fighter characters, their moves, and the gameplay elements, while also being fairly easy to learn. This is a great game for those who want to learn Virtua Fighter, or those who would like to have a VF experience with friends and not scare them off.

Those looking to pick up this game - you'll have to get it for the Sega Saturn. It has unfortunately not appeared on any other system, not even appearing in the arcades (which could explain its obscurity). A used copy of the disc alone should set you back around $10 - those looking for a complete copy may have to pay around twice that. Personally, I have the Japanese version, which is identical aside from having a cheesy Sentai track for Rent-A-Hero and a 'hot' (depending on your imagination) pic of Honey/Candy which I will supply at the bottom of the page... thus, nixing the need to worry about the Japanese version.

RetroGrade: A. It's got all the mechanics and legacy characters the experts want, yet it's got the user-friendly campaign and colorful, quirky character for new blood (like myself) that want in. It's a great game for everyone, and a must-have for Saturn owners - regardless of your view of 3D Fighters.


12:27 PM on 08.06.2010

RetroGrade: Elevator Action Returns (Sega Saturn)

What happens when a game tries to splice Rambo with Bond? What happens when you cross a Metal Slug and a Metal Gear? Do you end up with a bipolar game? Can you really run into action and try to avoid it at the same time?

Elevator Action Returns is a very late 1994 sequel to the Taito's classic 1983 arcade hit, Elevator Action. They sure did take their sweet time making a proper sequel, but I personally feel that it surpasses the original in every conceivable way.

The gameplay is a mix of run-n-gun action and tactical thinking. In your first mission, you'll notice the building is heavily populated with enemies, goons, destructible objects, security equipment... and elevators. Your objective is to make it to each red door and retrieve documents, avoiding or taking out the various goons along the way. Normally, your enemies are unaware of your position - however, there are security cameras all around that will alert enemies to your position... so take them out to avoid bigger battles. You can also take out the lighting, which will confuse your enemies and net you double the normal amount of points for kills. Don't avoid the Blue Doors, though! They'll give you access to a Roulette that gives out either Points, Health or Bombs - really helpful for making the most of those lives.

However, after you get about halfway through your first mission - the building you are in gets blown in half! It's at this point that the villain reveals himself as a crazed guy in a red suit. He later reveals that he wants to "Crush the Old Order and CREATE A NEW SOCIETY!" before exploding in a bit of maniacal laughter. God, I love insane characters. Now, your goal changes from finding secret documents to defusing the bombs set by this yahoo.

The first things that caught my eye about this game were the main characters. The graphics looked great for the time, but even more I found the characters to be very charming. While the original Elevator Action had you controlling just a generic spy, these were some characters you could actually invest in.

In fact, I'd say that this game really excels when it comes to presentation all around. Despite how small the characters appear, they're full of personality just from the amount of animations they're given. Action Girl Edie seem all cool at first, but during loading screens she plays with her hair, fidgets, kicks the wind in boredom and other girlish things that really add to her charm.

Then you've got the music - which is, appropriately enough, elevator music. I actually found this very appropriate for the game, as it encouraged me to take a slower pace and think about all the hazards before I ran into battle. Trust me, by the time you get to the midpoint of the game, you're going to realize that you'll have to look over the environment more than once to get a feel. Mines, camouflaged robots, timed electric currents - even the elevators themselves can take you out. Luckily, you can use these deathtraps to your own advantage - nothing puts a smile on my face like crushing an enemy with an elevator.

Yeah, the game would be perfect if it weren't for the mood-swinging difficulty. For the most part, the game just about right... then, it hits points like the above screenshot. In this part, you are just about to leave the area - your helicopter waiting and nagging you "This way, Quick!" so often that you'll likely shout "I'm coming already!" out of frustration. Then you get there, and Mr. Red Suit shoots your copter with a rocket and sends ten tons of jet-packed haz-mat acrobats at you. As many times as I played this game, I NEVER figured out how to do this without getting shot to pieces. They just throw way too many of them at you at once. I also hated how the Blue Doors' Roulette would never have what you needed late in the game. Got full health? Here's some health! Need some health? Here's some bombs! Why can't they at least have one of every type of item, so I at least have a CHANCE of getting what I need?

Also, I found the characters to be a bit unbalanced. I tried playing as Jad - I really did. Yet, I see absolutely no reason to choose him. Sure, he can take damage, but he moves so slow that your going to be taking damage that you could have more easily avoided playing as Kart or Edie. Then, Edie seems to be by far the best character in the game: Not only does she have the fastest gun in the game, she also has the best bomb in the game. With one bomb, she can scorch an area for about 5 seconds. Place it in from of a popular door, and you'll rack up the points when enemies walk out that door. Throw it in an elevator, and then have it burn all the enemies to death who use it. Many of the situations I found extremely hard were made much more bearable by simply making liberal use of Edie's firebombs - simply cover any area that enemies might spawn from with firebombs and wait.

Last little nitpicks I have are with the points and the ending. What was the point of points in this game? I expected after reaching a certain amount, I'd get an extra life, but that never happened! And as many times as I lost my last credit right at the very end of the last mission, I could have used that extra life.

Then, the ending itself (Oh noes! Spoilers! Who cares, really?)... nothing? Alright, at the end, you confront the man in red as he is about to launch a nuke with a countdown sequence playing. Well, after finally beating him and taking out the nuke controls... the nuke launches anyway, the screen goes red, and then we get the end credits. Did my character fail? Is this a bad end? What's going on? Then, after sitting through the credits... it just gives me a message to the effect of "Good job! We look forward to working with you again!" or something, gives me the name entry, and then I unlock OLD GAME. (The original Elevator Action.)

Seriously, THAT'S IT? You at least gave me a neat little drawing every time I complete a mission - I complete the entire game and I get nothing? I at least expect something on par with one of those cheesy Street Fighter II endings.

All in all, though, this game is a huge amount of fun with a lot of hard work put into it. The Saturn version is the definitive, arcade-perfect version, but it's also kinda pricey for a retro game. Mine cost about $40. More frugal gamers can just pay $5 for a used copy of Taito Legends 2 on the PS2 (also came out for the PC and European Xbox) - however, I've heard the emulation is a bit hokey with a bit of slowdown concerns, some of the music tracks were changed to less inspiring tunes, plus some weapons were nerfed for whatever reason.

RetroGrade: B. The great characters, great animation and just flat-out fun gameplay make it a must have for any arcade lover, but the haywire difficulty and character imbalance keep it from being perfect.


9:57 AM on 04.29.2010

E for Effort: 2D Fighter Turbo Revival

After we saw games like Street Fighter IV, King of Fighters XII, BlazBlue and Tatsunoko vs Capcom come out, we all thought that 2D Fighters had come back. And in a way, they have. Despite all the advancements, these games have all the heart and soul of the 2D fighters of yesterday, and the noise being generated for them now is certainly much louder than it was last generation.

Fast forward to now, and what great new fighting games have we to look forward to? What has spawned in the wake of these surge of 2D Fighters? What quirky fighters are going to come out that will try to introduce new ideas to the genre? Hell, what poor imitators are about to be shoved onto the market only to make a quick buck?

Another Street Fighter, another BlazBlue, another King of Fighters, and another Versus entry. Oh boy. Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

We've obviously not seen a revival of the 2D Fighter genre yet - just a revival of 2D Fighter franchises. Not just any 2D Fighter franchises, either - only the most popular ones. The ones that are more-or-less proven to rake in cash.

For a case-in-point, look at how Ono has practically begged to make a new Darkstalkers game. Since SF4, Ono has pretty much become Capcom's Golden Boy. The Vampire series is actually still pretty popular in Japan, so there would be some guaranteed sales there. Considering the Darkstalkers Tribute got nearly twice the submissions as Street Fighter Tribute, I'd say that there's a very dedicated fan-base there. Hell, even Daigo says that the Darkstalkers games are his favorite fighters, for both their design and rhythm.

And yet, Capcom has continued to treat it like the red-headed step child. Now, I understand the hesitation - I could have easily done an "E For Effort: Marketing Darkstalkers". They obviously tried really hard to make Darkstalkers popular in the West (They even got DIC to make a Darkstalkers cartoon), but they also made a lot of missteps (They got DIC to make a Darkstalkers cartoon). However, this is the company that green lit Bionic Commando. Dark Void. Dead Rising: Chop 'Til You Drop. I'm pretty sure a new Darkstalkers would make a much bigger splash than Spyborgs.

Same could be said for games like Cyberbots, Rival Schools, Last Blade, and more games in Capcom/SNK's library that are apparently too risky to revive. SNK wasn't even confident enough to make a proper Samurai Shodown Seven - I guess they though a sub-par Soul Edge imitation was a safer bet.

Even more important than the quirky games owned by the big names are the crappy games that would attempt to leach off of the big name's success. You may not like to admit it, but games like Shaq Fu were a sign that the 2D Fighting Genre was more than healthy back then. If a company like Electronic Arts thought that a 2D Fighter featuring a Basketball Player/Rapper/Genie was actually a good idea, that means they probably thought that 2D Fighters were pretty hot back then.

As many bad fighters that there were back then (and God knows, there were many), there were plenty of good fighters that sprang up from no name companies. THIS is how you know when a genre is alive and well. So far, it seems like the 2D Fighter genre went down with the Good Ship USS Dreamcast, and still hasn't come up for air.

I was honestly looking forward to All-Star Karate. Could I tell it was going to be crap just by looking at the screenshots? Oh, most definitely. However, it would have been a sign that 2D Fighters were 'exploitable', and that would mean the genre would have really been revived. Unfortunately, the trailer shows that the '2D Fighting' aspect is only one of many shoddy mini-games... a real shame.

It's kinda sad that the most recent, truly new fighter of note (I know there's BlazBlue, but let's be honest - It would have just been Guilty Gear XXX if GG didn't belong to Sammy) has been a free-to-download indie game by the name of Vanguard Princess.

It's not sad that it's an indie game - it's sad that it is free-to-download. Imagine if this game were released on Steam, XBLA, PSN or WiiWare? It could have potentially made some mega-bucks. It could have sent a message to companies like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft - that a 2D Fighter made by one man has the potential to bring in some cash.

But unfortunately, that message has not been made - by Vanguard Princess, or even more vexing, by Street Fighter IV. Until that message is made, the 2D Fighter Revival is nothing more than an effort.   read

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