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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.