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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.

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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

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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