After reading the Scott Pilgrim comics, I was a bit delighted to find that I share a birthday with the titular main character. It really does explain a lot - my general slacker tendencies, my love of retro games, my sleeping-in late... (Hell, I didn't wake up today until around 3 pm. Impressive, if I do say so myself - and I do.)
Oh yeah - it's my birthday. Only happens once a year, so I guess it's sorta special. Yay. Of course, I'm far passed the days of birthdays entitling me to gifts or whatnot, so I'm just kinda hoping to get some friends together and have some cake. Mmmm, cake.
Like this, but with less girls.
There's been a complete lack of activity on my end, lately - but not for lack of trying. Work has been picking up, and it's been kinda killing me. It's not like it's been a lot of work, but any amount of work is too much for my lazy ass. Hell, I'm even going to have to work on my birthday - I mean, I don't think I've ever had a birthday off, but it still stings every time. How dare they!
The time I do have that's free from that loathsome place that gives me moneys is spent on Disgaea 3. After the anouncement of Disgaea 4, I realized, "Oh crap - I still have Disgaea 3 sitting on my shelf, completely unloved." So, I decided to do something about it.
I want that Prinny ball... and just about everything else in this picture, for that matter.
And yeah, I've been enjoying it. Normally, I hate ultra-grindy games, but Disgaea has always been an exception. Perhaps it's just the way it's dressed up, I dunno - I really can't explain why I like Disgaea, but hate just about every other game that has excessive grinding as a feature. I just do.
Kinda ticked off that I have to pay a buck to use Nekomata, though. Not only because it costs me money, but also because if I did pay the pocket change to get her, it would feel like I'm cheating because I'm using a unit that wasn't planned for the game. It's a conundrum.
Hope to have another review up soon. I'm hoping, at the very least, to have a review for Sengoku Basara 2 on the PS2 up before the PS3 sequel comes out. Makes it sorta relevant for the kids, I guess. Also going to review Pocket Fighters for the PS1 at some point - I'm kinda amazed that hasn't appeared on the PlayStation Network yet. It would be perfect for the PSP.
So, yeah - not much to really speak of, I guess. Just kinda wanted to say something. For those that would try to argue that this is just a waste of valuable blog space...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.