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6:37 AM on 03.10.2010

Review: Cotton 2 for Sega Saturn (Import)

Ya know, I could take a look at a modern game... a game that is out right now, that most people would be seriously considering spending money on. But what's the fun in that? Rather than offer the fifteenth word on (insert over-rated action game here), I'd rather give my thoughts on something you might not have seen.

Back in the day, there was a little system that could - but unfortunately didn't - called the Sega Saturn. If English is your first language, you probably don't even remember it. And I couldn't blame you. Part of that is thanks to the financial spanking Sony unleashed on it with the PlayStation. Another part of that is thanks to the horrible mishandling of the Saturn in the West, which meant that many of the most unique and charming games never left Japan. Games like Cotton 2.

Game: Cotton 2 (Sega Saturn).
Genre: Horizontal Shmup.
Approximate Cost: Around $40.

The Graphics - The first thing that really got me craving Cotton 2 was the graphics. I mean, look at them. They're freakin' gorgeous. The great thing is that they look even better in motion. The player character, minor enemies, mid-bosses, end-bosses and even just the projectiles you spew forth on a constant basis, are all very detailed and well animated.

Also, related to the graphics is the style. When it comes to shmups, I'm all too used to the sterile space environments with generic aliens and - if they're really creative - maybe battle armored heroes riding in jet packs. By stepping back from that standard and going with a more light-hearted atmosphere, it provides a buffet of color that is fun without being seizure inducing.

Interesting Mechanics - Even if your cold black heart can't possibly find joy in seeing a cute little witch girl blast all manner of fantasy creatures to kingdom come, you might still enjoy the gameplay in this game.

As you kill waves of enemies, they'll drop crystals. Picking them up will grant you magical powers based on the color, or will grant you a small dose of experience if it's yellow. For instance, pick up a red crystal, and all your shots will be flame-based. You can stock crystals as well, and cycle through your stock by using up your current crystal for a smart-bomb attack.

Aside from the shot button and bomb button, you also have a grab button. You can grab enemies, crystals - even enemy shots! Grabbing and throwing elemental crystals at enemies is actually an important part of this - it'll result in whichever enemy that gets hit becoming encased in an element bubble which will then spread to those it touches. This allows you to start chains - after a chain is completed, it'll spawn a rainbow-colored bubble that gives you a large dose of experience based on how high the chain is. I know it sounds pretty confusing, but it's pretty cool and intuitive after you get the hang of it.

Cotton's kinda big - In most shmups, your character is pretty tiny, making evading shots a lot easier. Cotton, on the other hand, is no where near as small as her R-Type siblings. I did manage to get used to it, but it still took a learning curve. Fortunately, they do make up for this somewhat by giving the player a lifebar, as opposed to simply dying in one hit.

Easier-than-expected Final Bosses - As you go through the game, you fight some incredible bosses, incredible in detail and in difficulty. Then, at the very end of the game, you fight two of the easiest bosses in the game. I suppose I should be grateful - I was on my last credit and would have surely not beaten the game had they not been pushovers, but it still seemed a little anticlimactic.

Overall, I'll definitely say I'm glad I spent $41 (shipping included) on Cotton 2. Shmups tend to be pretty damn expensive, so I'd say that was good price considering how much fun I had with it.

(Played Arcade Mode to Completion. Did not complete Saturn Mode, nor did I play the game in 2-Player Co-Op. Screenshots provided by DarkFalzX at Mobygames. Scan of the cover done by myself.)

Check out this video of someone much more competent than myself playing through the Saturn mode. There seem to be a few subtle differences between Arcade and Saturn modes, although the biggest seems to be that you get lives in addition to credits in Saturn mode.

I've gotta load of other imports on the Saturn, as well as the PS2. Might end up taking looks at them as well, if there is an interest in this sorta stuff.   read

5:17 PM on 01.14.2010

Ten Games On The Dreamcast That Need To Come To XBLA/PSN

We've already heard about the leaked Sega documents that say we'll be seeing Dreamcast games on PSN. We've already heard strong rumors about Sonic Adventure coming to XBLA. Heck, we've already seen a few Dreamcast games make the digital leap, in the form of Marvel vs Capcom 2, Ikaruga and Rez. While this is exciting, I hope that the powers that be (Mostly Sega and Capcom, it seems) will try to use their heads before releasing a slew of titles that - aside from reaching a new audience - don't really gain anything from being ported to an online platform.

Here's a few games I think should get top priority. I tried to focus on pure Dreamcast exclusives here - games that haven't been ported to other consoles. As a result, I've left out some obvious choices, such as Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Last Blade 2, Phantasy Star Online and Gauntlet Legends. Of course, not to say those games don't deserve to rise from their graves - just to say that these Dreamcast-bound games are a lot more in need of breaking free.

The Genesis had Sonic, the Saturn had NiGHTS, and the Dreamcast has Jet Grind Radio. It's the flagship title of the Dreamcast (for those that played it), and it's always the first title I think of when I hear about the Dreamcast. It's vibrant colors make it a mesmerizing game to watch, the score is filled with some of the most unique music you'll ever hear, and the gameplay is something new itself. Jet Grind Radio is the proof that Sega was really pulling out all the stops to stay alive in the face of massive competition and increasing odds.

What can this Smilebit masterpiece gain by being on modern consoles? One of the more fun ways to dick around with this game - back when 56k modems were still the norm - was to go online, download pictures, and then repurpose them as in-game graffiti. I'd imagine modern consoles could make this sort of thing a lot easier.

Considering this is the most recent good game to come out of Sonic Team, you'd really expect it to have been re-released by now. Oh wait, it has - on the Game Boy Advance. Pathetic.

It's hard to give justice to this game with a mere screenshot, because you have to play it. It is absolute insanity. It might not look like much, but it's without a doubt the most fun you can have with four people in a puzzler.

What can Sonic Team's last great game gain by being online? I'd think it's obvious. Four Player, Online Chu Chu Rocket. Experience the chaos regardless of how far your friends are. The thought almost makes me cry.

This was one of the first console games out there that allowed you to talk smack to other players online. Aside from that, it allowed for eight players to go to war with each other in vehicle-based combat. The graphics were pretty impressive for the time, but it was just old-school arcade fun.

There were stability/lag issues, but keep in mind - internet connections have come a long way. Make this game Broadband Compatible, and it'll take away almost all the frustrations and just leave you with fun.

Giga Wing 2 is a good ol' shmup - ya know, the stuff that people were tired of back in the Dreamcast era, but now that it's retro, everybody loves 'em again.

I'll be honest with ya, I never played Giga Wing 2. However, I did play and thoroughly enjoy the original Giga Wing, also on the Dreamcast. Reminded me of the 1940-something games that Capcom put out, except with much more vibrant colors and a lot more stuff to pick up. Giga Wing 2, on the other hand, looks more like Ikaruga, in the sense that the game is in 2D gameplay within a 3D space.

I can't really say much about this - the main reason I want to see this game re-released is simply because I want to play it. It's just like all the people who say they want to see Suikoden II or Tomba re-released as a PS1 Classic already.

However, if you look at Giga Wing 2's feature set - namely, 4-Player Mode and Online Ranking - you'd see how it could benefit from being online again.

Everybody loves Rival Schools. Everybody. So why the hell hasn't Capcom re-released it? Oh yeah. Audio licensing or some crap. Well hey - that's no excuse! Redub everything, I don't care, just bring it back!

Project Justice is one of those fighters that, like Marvel vs Capcom 2, you can easily introduce to your non-gamer friends and they can get a kick out of it. The incredibly off-the-wall humor and fast-paced gameplay helps to keep it accessible.

In a time when people just didn't believe a 2D fighter could be done in a 3D game, the Rival Schools series was the lone exception. Now that 2D fighters are big again, I think the time is right for a Project Justice re-release with online match-making.

Another Capcom 2D Fighter, but hey - this happens to be one of my favorites. Vampire Chronicle For Matching Service was another first that happened on the Dreamcast - it was one of the first 2D Fighters to get online matchmaking. It's just sad that it was produced in such limited quantities, and only in Japan.

Wouldn't it be great to see what may just be the second most influential 2D Fighter (Most of the stuff that people give the Marvel vs Capcom series credit for actually came from the Darkstalkers series.) get the HD treatment? And again, let it have online play that isn't subject to a fickle 56k modem?

Much like Chu Chu Rocket, this game did end up getting ported to a portable system - the PSP. However, it didn't have online network play, and it was on the PSP! You can't plug an arcade stick into a PSP!

I'd personally rather just see a Darkstalkers 4, with new graphics and characters, but let's be realistic - a re-release is a lot more likely than a new game.

Another Capcom fighter! However, this one is quite a bit different from the rest. Power Stone 2, for those that don't know, is one of the most chaotic fighters you'll play. You could consider it Smash Bros in a 3D space. There's plenty of items and weapons to pick up, plenty of environmental hazards, and tons of ways to kill your enemies.

Again, this is another game that would really benefit from online play. What's more, not only does this allow four people to rip each other up, it also allows two people to take on the arcade mode. It's always a blast taking on the gigantic bosses with a pal.

Here's a game that I doubt many of you have heard about. Probably has something to do with the fact that it never got released. Sega said they couldn't bring it out because one of the stages takes place in a skyscraper-filled city, and they thought that allowing people to crash their fighters into buildings would be insensitive after 9/11. I think it has more to do with the fact that the Dreamcast at the time was flying about as well as a led zeppelin.

However, those of us with... "moral flexibility"... did get to play this game. And we all found it to be a load of fun. The varied, eye-candy filled arenas were a joy to behold and the gameplay felt somewhat akin to a Mario Kart battle in the sky. An XBLA/PSN release would be perfect for the short-burst action that it allows. I mean, c'mon - get SOME return on your investment, Sega!

Here's another obscure one. Cosmic Smash only got a Japan release, which is kinda strange considering the game is almost completely in English. It's been described as "Rez meets Virtua Tennis mixed with Breakout". The sterile environments give it a "Retro Futuristic" charm, and the game play is pretty solid.

It's nothing deep - nothing I would expect many to pay $50 for - but I think a $10-15 pricetag could be just right. It could also benefit from leaderboards, and hell, even achievements/trophies. Anybody I could find that manages to beat the game without changing the time limit in the options settings would get my instant respect.

Yeah, yeah... another Capcom game. However, this time it has nothing to do with fighting at all! Well... except that characters like Cammy, Charlie and B.B.Hood are here. Gameplay-wise, this game is like a mix of a bullethell shmup and a side-scrolling beat 'em up - if you can imagine that.

With a varied cast of playable characters that makes this a mini-Capcom museum, this would easily take virtual money off of a lot of people. Just tell 'em that you can play as Mega Man and Arthur! Telling them that you'll add in online co-op wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Let's just hope Sega (and Capcom) is listening. Certainly, these aren't the only ten games that should get a rebirth, but all these should be on your to do list! Take the hint, and jump to it!

And by the way, if anyone has problems with my list, then I strongly encourage you to make your own. More people asking for Dreamcast games will only encourage Sega to take the issue more seriously. If enough people ask for it, it will be impossible for them to ignore - unless, of course, they don't want money.   read

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