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Thread: Opinions on poorly documented imports

  1. #41
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    Default Cowboy Bebop

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ID:	7998Cowboy Bebop is basically an anime institution, and this game for the original Playstation was a greatest hits title in Japan. However, I've heard surprisingly little conversation regarding this one given the notoriety of its source material and the immense popularity of the system it was on.

    Cowboy Bebop is a rail shooter in the vein of Panzer Dragoon in which you take flight as Spike Spiegel in control of his fighter, the Swordfish II in search of bounties. You have two weapons by default, which are a machine gun and ruby laser, but the weapons can be upgraded with points earned in between levels and switched out with upgraded lasers and missiles. By chaining together explosions and taking out entire formations you increase your score with which to upgrade, and... that's about it so far. I haven't finished it yet.

    The controls have some idiosyncracies compared to others in the genre, such as an inverted y-axis, which is adjustable in the options menu, and the method in which you use your secondary weapon. You first press the square button to narrow your cross hair, and then press square and x to fire. Simply pressing x will continue to fire your standard machine gun. Your secondary weapon has a charge gauge that refills within about 3 seconds. Also, using the L1 and R1 buttons, you can initiate rotation and rolls to dodge and fit through narrow canyons, however I have found the maneuver to be largely for show to the point of the game I've reached.

    The enemies are blocky and somewhat nondescript, but the familiar character portraits chiming in with concern or adulation during the mission add some flavor from the show. Some of the made up characters for the game, though, feel oddly out of keeping with the tone of the show and closer to the goofier nature of some of the manga upon which it is based. The biggest missed opportunity, though, is the music, which lacks all of the jazz/bluesy flavor of the show in favor of oddly upbeat synth and guitars. It's a waste and takes away from the show's tone entirely. It's a shame, really, as a few tweaks could have really enhanced the feel of this game to make it feel like an extension of the property's universe instead of a rail shooter with a tacked-on license.

    Cowboy Bebop is an okay rail shooter that really fails to cash in on an excellent license. It plays okay, but it may as well have just been called Space Fighter and been a Simple Series generic. Even as a rail shooter, there are games with much more action such as Super Robot Shooting, Gamera, or Vanark to satisfy you before settling for this game. As a fan of the anime, I really feel like they missed the boat with this one, but it's not an abject failure. I'm not mad at Bandai, I'm just disappointed.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 09:51 PM.

  2. #42
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    Default Super Family Tennis

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ID:	7999When I picked up Namco's Super Family Tennis for the Super Famicom, I wasn't aware that I already had familiarity with the franchise, but it turns out I did. Although the game is a sequel to Family Tennis on the Famicom, it's also cousin to World Court Tennis on the Turbografx.

    What that meant to me was a hope that the quest mode of many of Namco's early sports games would be included. I had a blast taking down the Evil Tennis King of Chicago in World Court's Dragon Quest-style mode, and enjoyed a similar experience with Final Lap Twin's racing RPG. Sadly, Quest mode turned up absent from Super Family Tennis. However, a little research turned up Story mode, in which tennis matches are interspersed between grapic novel-like cutscenes to tell the story of a young tennis heroine's journey to the top, accessible by a code. While not as deep as the RPG modes, this does work well, move quickly, add passwords, and give some heart to an otherwise bare-bones tennis game.

    The control and strategies used in the game are simple, direct, anf effective, but make playing the computer simple. Hit deep to the back corner, rush the net, and put down a harshly-angled shot that they can't possibly catch up to and you'll make quick work of the game. Multiplayer works more evenly, but there is not a huge variety of strokes to use, limiting the gameplay in comparison to something like Super Tennis.

    Graphics and sound are okay. I like the variety of courts and cute background details like time of day, active ballboys, or mountain climbers scaling a cliff. The music, though, is average and repetitive. I didn't feel a ton different using different characters, either, but I did feel like the game was pretty fair from both sides of the court.

    I had some fun with Super Family Tennis, but I can't recommend it over other tennis games on the system. Super Tennis is lighter on modes, but the variety of play styles makes it much more fun to actually play.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 09:52 PM.

  3. #43
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    Default Tokyo Dungeon

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ID:	8000I'm sure a couple of people have heard of this one, but on the whole you don't see a whole lot mentioned about Tokyo Dungeon for the Playstation. It's a first person perspective RPG set in a cyberpunk world in which you play some sort of detective attempting to solve a conspiracy by jacking into a Matrix-like virtual reality themed on various cultures to get information, defeat bosses, and progress the story. So...

    The game starts with a very high quality anime opening to introduce the setting and characters that is very reminiscent of anime such as Ghost in the Shell or Armitage III. It really sets a great tone, and coupled with the robust and detailed manual, getting you pumped and primed to play.

    Naturally, the blocky 3D of the early PSX just can't live up to the exciting intro. You find yourself in a bizarre hub world witha police station, subway station, and the entrances to the various themed worlds. The envirnments have nice futuristic color schemes, but the ploygons are very blocky with splotchy textures. The character models are bizarre and blocky as well, and I'm not sure what the giant bears/furries are about. The tone here is at least vaguely in line with the opening, but soon after that atmosphere dissipates into something... different.

    When you find yourself in ancient Egypt or the old west through the virtual reality, the mood really shifts. The plot revolves around people dying while in the VR space, so by diving in you begin to gain clues. There are puzzels to solve all over (incliding a weird English alphabet puzzle that ate up a lot of time), hidden doors to find Wolfenstein-style by clicking along the walls, and hidden level-up teddy bears(?!) that let you access higher experience levels.

    Random battle encounters occur in each area with a background reminiscent of the Genesis games Shadowrun or Phantasy Star II. Enemies are themed on the level and fights are one on one. The enemies a large, scaling sprites, but there are only a few different types per area. Battles are fast paced and contain the usual fight/item/escape stuff you're used to, but there are basically only healing items to use here. Attacking is unique and timing-based, in which you use a meter not unlike a golf game to start and stop. The farther along the meter, the more damage. However, going past the sweet spot, which varies in size based on your level, will almost always result in a miss, whereas the sweet spot will incur maximum damage. If you have good timing, it's a cake walk. If not, you are in for a long game.

    Your level resets each time you start a new stage, and you have a level cap. Finding the hidden Teddy Bear in each stage will let you level up just a bit more, but that little bit makes a big difference. You must clear each area in order to access the next, so the game is pretty linear. After each clear, you generally get another sweet anime scene to develop the VR murder story until finally taking down the mad man behind it all.

    Despite not quite living up to the production values of its packaging and opening, I really, really liked Tokyo Dungeon. It's been a few years since I beat it, but I think back on it fondly. As RPGs go, it's very accessible even in Japanese, and even if it shifts a lot, it offers a lot of atmosphere. Old West, Egypt, Feudal Japan... There's a lot of variety in a relatively short game. If you have any stomach for playing RPGs in a foreign language, I highly recommend it. Even the story is somewhat understandable, and the quick battles keep the game moving. Especially if you like cyberpunk anime, check it out.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 09:52 PM.

  4. #44
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    Default Cho Aniki: Bakaretsu Rantouden

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ID:	8001The Cho Aniki series has a bit of notoriety due to its... let's call it slightly homoerotic overtones. Realistically, though, the games are just plain weird. They are the poster child for the cultural divide in video games between east and west, as the mix of bizarre imagery, suggestive posing, carnival music, and arcade gameplay just isn't the sort of thing we put together and then debate its artistic merit. No, Cho Aniki is the most Japanese thing a person can play, and this Super Famicom entry, Bakaretsu Rantouden takes that foreign design and pastes it into one of the most unique fighting games on the system.

    In a time when most fighters were putting their own take on Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat to market, Cho Aniki chose to take an adventurous design route and get off the ground and into the air, and before Dragonball Z: Legends or Psychic Force. Familiar characters from the horizontally scrolling shooters such as the well-known body builders Adon and Samson, Elvis-looking ship Sabu, and series mascot Uminin take to the skies once again, using free 8-direction flight to dash about and take each other down, man to oily chested man.

    The game controls quite well, if a bit sluggish at first. However, a double tap of the D-pad initiates a dash, and that is where your strategy begins. Dashing about to gain optimal positioning, players will use directional strikes and kicks, Street Fighter-style special moves, and the all-powerful Man's Beam to best their opponents. The shoulder buttons block, B kicks, Y punches, A seems to be involved with grabs. X is used for special things. Oh, and just a tip, if you don't move, the game will automatically center you vertically.

    Special moves are regulated by a meter, which starts half full. By pressing any direction and then the opposite+X, the player will pose, which charges the meter. Dashes also consume a portion, as well as blocks. A nearly full meter can be spent to fire the Man's Beam by rotating the D pad and pressing X. If it hits, it's devastating. However, allowing your meter to fully deplete will trigger a dizzy, leaving you prone for about 2 seconds. Balancing your maneuvering, posing, and attacks makes for ab intense, well-rounded experience.

    Really, though, if you're playing Cho Aniki, you're probably in it for the weird, and it brings it. The backgrounds are colorful and littered with bizarre details, the character designs are off the page, and the music is dopey and fun. This game, though, is actually a high-quality fighter that actually offers something unique on the system. It's worth a go if you're into fighters or oddities for sure.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 09:53 PM.

  5. #45
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    Default Sega Memorial Selection Vol. 2

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ID:	8002A part of the then-new Sega Ages series, Sega Memorial Selection Vol.2 for the Saturn collects six vintage arcade games onto one disc. These are mostly forgotten games, but a few gained a little notoriety back in the day. So, to judge an old, smaller compilation, I'll get to the games!

    First is Samurai, a very, very primitive arena fighter in which rival samurai approach from all sides like the world's slowest Robotron. The focus us on high and low stances from which to defend and strike, almost like a precursor to Great Swordsman or Bushido Blade, and it executes this mechanic well enough. The real problem is just that it's plain slow and boring after just a few minutes. minor variances like shuriken to deflect pop up, but it's just not engaging, even compared to other games of the time.

    Next is Monaco GP, which is the best-known game here and pretty much the only home version out there of the original. It feels immediately like Spy Hunter, but has checkpoints and a timer instead of enemies, and you score based on distance traveled. It's very simple, but it is fast and fun, and is even steering wheel compatible. You can really see the roots of later classics like Outrun and Sega Rally in an overhead perspective. I enjoyed it a lot more than expected.

    The third game is Star Jacker, a vertical shooter that will bring to mind early games like Star Force or Star Soldier. Your weapon is weak and enemies take a lot of hits, but the hook is your multiple ships flying in formation behind you. In a time before games like Gradius gave us options, this was a unique way to regulate health and firepower. The graphics are small but quaint, and the control is responsive, but it's just reall outclassed by what came later from Hudson and Konami. It's decent, but I wouldn't buy this just to play it.

    Up next is Sindbad Mystery, a colorful maze game that reminds me a lot of Crush Roller. You wander the maze collecting pieces of a map that will reveal the treasure. Once you've done so, collecting the treasure will allow you to proceed to the next board. There are of course enemies chasing you, and you can crush them by pushing boulders onto them and dig holes to temporarily block their pursuit. If you like maze games, it's good and rather easy on the eyes.

    The penultimate game in this collection is Penguin Land, and you must work your way down vertical levels, safely rolling your egg to the bottom. Honestly, it's okay, but there is a better US Master System version widely available, as well as a PS2 port in Japan on another collection that offers this arcade version as well as a nifty, prettied-up re-make, so this inclusion isn't all that special.

    The last game is my favorite of the bunch, and that's Ninja Princess. Much like Kiki KaiKai or Pocky and Rocky, this cute overhead shooter takes you through scrolling levels with your trusty shuriken and invisibility technique, during which you can't attack. The power ups are mainly points, but you can improve your weapon as well by making it larger, faster, and stronger. The levels are well designed, and give you reason to use your invisibility in a balanced fashion. The bosses are small and repetitive, but the game is so lively and has such great personality that it can be overlooked. There was a US Master System version called The Ninja, but it removed the main character for a generic ninja and lost a lot of personality. This is the only compilation with the arcade version, and it's a blast.

    Overall, I really played a lot of Ninja Princess and Monaco GP. Star Jacker and Sindbad are fun, while Samurai is dull, and there are better ways to play Penguin Land. If you're a Sega nut it's great. If you like vintage arcade games, give it a go for its exclusives. Otherwise, be aware that these are more primitive Sega games, so don't expect to discover your new favorite if you're not already into these kinds of games. For me, Ninja Princess alone was enough.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:05 PM.

  6. #46
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    Default Fantastep

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ID:	8003Fantastep is another obscue Saturn game from Jaleco. It's most often mislabeled as an RPG, but I assure you that it's a point and click adventure. You play as a young boy who, upon writing his name on the last page of a storybook, finds himself whisked away to the world within. You then must solve the problems of the characters in order to progress through the adventure of a lifetime.

    The game uses fully 3D models for the characters and most objects with 2D scaling sprites in a sort of crayon-drawn style to flesh out the backgrounds. There aren't real textures to speak of, buf the models are solid for the time. The music is appropriately atmospheric, but not in a way that'll make you want a soundtrack.

    You traverse a map by pointing and clicking on locations, and when inside, you assume full control of your character. The game is compatible with the Saturn 3D controller, which makes it a little more playable. By pressing B you can run, and A or C brings up your cursor, which will flash when in contact with a manipulable object. Pressing the button again will bring up a menu of pictures showing the ways you can interact. Pressing a shoulder button opens your backpack to select items you've found. It's all very intuitive, and makes the game quite playable even in Japanese.

    The game unfolds in chapters in your book, and completing each will take you to a new map, but you can go back. The pictoral menus, flashing cursor, and so far in my experience lack of death make the game easy to play. In fact, it feels a bit like it was designed for children. Still, its sense of whimsy is enjoyable, so don't let that be what puts you off. If you enjoy point and click games, this one's not terrible. I would first spend time with other games for the system like Blazing Dragons, but for a storybook stroll, Fantastep is rather pleasant.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:06 PM.

  7. #47
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    Default Super Robot Wars: Scramble Commander

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ID:	8004The Super Robot Wars franchise isn't exactly an obscure one. However, Super Robot Wars: Scramble Commander is such a departure for the series that I think it deserves a little more discussion. If you were to simply look at screenshots or even the back of the case of this Playstation 2 game, you'd think this is just more of the same old grid/hex turn-based strategy. The menus are set up in largely the same style and order of those games even, so it does really give the appearance of the same old Super Robot Wars, just in 3D. It isn't.

    Scramble commander is actually a real-time strategy game surrounded by Super Robot Wars trappings. You still control a group of famous anime bots (you start with Mazinger-Z and Mazinger-G), move them around a map, and wipe out enemy forces. However, you give each of your mechanical monstrosities its marching orders in real time, so none of that down time in between moves. You give each a general trajectory toward a location, set default attack weapon in case of enemy encounter, and then move on to thr next, no grids here. As fast as you can command, you can get things going.

    When a robot encounters an enemy, it will automatically begin the skirmish. You can intervene with instructions, though, such as changing weapons, using restoratives, or retreating. Multiple machines can gang up on one foe to make short work of them, so positioning is key. Given the individual unit control, it never quite feels like Command and Conquer, but rather more like General Chaos on the Genesis with a bigger map.

    Control is limited in a game like this, but the right stick can help you move the camera with ease, and the left will let you swap robots in the direction tapped for a quick switch. It's a pretty intuitive system that makes commanding on the fly a breeze. You can also zoom out to a map, letting you effectively pause to make some rational command decisions.

    Super Robot Wars: Scramble Commander is a fun, faster-paced take on a familiar theme that works. I like the quicker battles and easy controls, and who doesn't want to see Getter Robo teach a Gundam or Eva unit how it's done? If you like the concept but hated the lengthly missions of the old series, give this one a spin.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:07 PM.

  8. #48
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    Default Lack of Love

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ID:	8005Sega's Dreamcast was loaded with the idiosyncratic. However, Lack of Love climbs up to at least near the top of the pile, like a tumor on a Seaman's head. A few sites have put out some history on it due to the cult popularity of developer Love-de-Lic, but less has been said about the actual gameplay.

    Much like the video game equivalent of a silent film, after a wordless opening cinema depicting a world being terraformed by a robot in a spaceship, Lack of Love puts you in control of an insect-sized organism. No tutorials, no training mode, and no dialogue. You need to eat, sleep, and urinate, and you need to find a reason to exist. So, it's off to explore your little world and find out where you fit into the ecosystem.

    By watching how creatures interact and stumbling onto brief interludes that display functionality of the local flora and fauna, you can find out ways to help other creatures or kill your prey. You can at first subsist on plants, but soon it becomes kill or be killed. By performing tasks that define your role such as killing prey or developing synergy within the ecosystem by helping other organisms or producing their food, you will be surrounded by a glowing orb. Gaining three and taking them to some special crystals, you are able to evolve into a more potent life form, and then a new cycle begins.

    As you progress and grow, the scale of your universe will change, and you will begin to explore a larger world, but the method of development remains consistent. No one comes in to tell you what to do, and the only cutscenes tend to simply display your new sense of scale. There is no language barrier. There is only the challenge to survive and find a reason to live. On one hand, it can be repetitive and frustrating, and on the other... it's a pretty damned interesting microcosm of life and existence, as well as a thoughtful metaphor to ponder how much of our actions are motivated by survival instinct.

    The game is not perfect, and in many ways it's like learning to play Myst: there's a wide open world to figure out without the aid of usual narrative. However, it is nothing if not interesting, and it is quite playable regardless of language. It can get a little pricey, so just know what you're getting, and that's an intellectual adventure or a boring slog of trial and error depending on your point of view.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:08 PM.

  9. #49
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    Default Mario & Wario

    I'm surprised there hasn't been much said about Mario & Wario for the Super Famicom. Mario games are as popular as anything in existence, yet this one was not only left alone in Japan to never be heard from again, but aside from a recent write up on HG101, seems to be ignored by much of the gaiming-enthusiast internet. Even good friends and store owners I've spoken to haven't really heard of this game, which I had figured would be a little more common knowledge.
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    Anyway, Mario & Wario was made as another selling point for the then-fledgeling mouse controller, even being sold as a big box pack-in like Mario Paint before it. As a premise, Wario, pissed off after losing to Mario in his Game Boy debut, tracks down Mario and pals and starts dropping buckets and objects on their heads, causing them to blindly stumble about and into peril. As the wand-wielding fairy, Wanda (clever), you whip about the screen, placing/removing obstacles tosteer Mario, the Princess, and Yoshi to Luigi at the end of each stage, who is apparently the only person smart enough to pull the buckets off of their heads.

    It starts off as single screen danger, but quickly the levels grow into lengthly, labyrinthine traps. You can view each stage in advance of starting to help plan, but once you begin, the screen scrolls around the bucket-headed moron and not Wanda. This forces the player to think about what theycan do as the character moves instead of running ahead, and that's where the challenge starts to pick up. Oh, and you have a time limit to boot.

    There are bonus points for finishing quickly, and you can get more time by collecting mushrooms. Coin boxes can be struck to gain coins, which award lives at 100, and collecting all of the stars in each level also awards a life.

    The levels are arranged in groups of ten stages, and the order can be selected. As you progress, more enemies and traps arise, and the game does begin to challenge you. At the end of each set of stages, a boss fight occurs, and you get to bop Wario for your troubles.

    It's a fun little action/puzzler, and gives you a more compelling reason to own a mouse than drawing weiners on Mario Paint. The game is loaded with English... I don't think there is any Japanese pretty much at all. It's bizarre that it was never ported, as it wasn't a late release, and no localization was needed... just slap the ROM in a US shell, make some cover art, and make mouse owners feel less neglected... but who knows why they decided not to bring it to the English-speaking world. This game isn't rare or expensive, but no one seems to talk about it. If you import SNES and somehow missed this one, pick it up and make your mouse useful for something other than King Arthur's World.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:09 PM.

  10. #50
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    Default Arkanoid DS Paddle Controller

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ID:	8007So, Arkanoid DS came out in the US, and played reasonably well I suppose with its touch screen controls. However, any fan of the Breakout-style games has had years of muscle memory built into paddle controls, and that is what led me to import the controller bundle from Japan when the game originally launched. Years later, people barely seem to remember Square's attempt at relaunching the Taito brand on handhelds, so I wanted to go over this controller for anyone who was curious about it.

    The paddle plugs into the GBA cart slot of an original DS, and as far as I can tell, is only compatible with the original-style models, so beware if you're running a more recent system. The paddle sits comfortably away from any obstacles that might impede its use, but being in the bottom center of the unit, it plays more comfortably if set on a table or other surface where you can reach down from above. The paddle is highly durable and spins nicely on bearings as opposed to an old potentiometer with 1 to 1 location and movement. It also has a bit of weight to it, and it feels good to my hand. The outer edge of the paddle has a subtle texture to allow for good grip and feel for precise movement.

    When in game use, control is spot on. I can barely express just how improved the feel of Arkanoid is with a paddle over touch control, as the movement is remarkably precise and comfortable. Additionally, the Space Invaders Extreme gamessupport this controller, which while very different from traditional Space Invaders, does add a unique feel to an akready unique experience.

    If you love any of these games, the paddle is a must, and for me makes it worth keeping my old original DS very much worthwhile. It gives a considerably greater arcade feel to a portable, and made what would have been a diversion one of my favorite DS games. If you like Arkanoid and don't have this, you are truly missing out, and it will work with the US version.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:10 PM.

  11. #51
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    Default Momotaro Dentetsu 12

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ID:	8008Legendary Peach Boy Momotaro has been in many a video game. Mostly RPGs and board games, but a few platformers and such snuck in there. Here I'm talking about Momotaro Dentetsu 12 on the Gamecube, the 12th entry in Hudson's train-based board game from the property. This series is extremely prolific, having originated on the PC Engine in the late '80s. For such a long series, though, there is very little out there to clue us westerners in on how the hell to play it. So, I'm going to put the best explanation I can out there in case you're the board gaming type.

    So, for starters, you'll choose the length of the game in years (each turn is a month), select your map, the number of players (along with human or com), and name the players. A tip, when naming characters, selecting alphabets with the shoulder buttons will give you English letters. Done? Now we can start.

    Each player controls a train, and a destination is randomly chosen. The goal in the end is to be the man with the most money, and the best way to start is to be the first to reach said destination, so start making your way there. In the meantime, here is what the spaces do. Blue spaces grant you a random amount of cash, and red do the opposite. Yellow spaces grant you a random item or effect, almost exclusively for the better. Stars are shops, where you can buy or sell items. There are property spaces on which you can invest money on shops and housing, which has a year end dividend. Rainbow spaces are teleporters that will zoom you across the map to other teleporters for the low cost of all your on-hand cash, and question marks seem to allow gambling. Then there are the stations, which are your destinations and also work like properties, and some sort of robot factory where you can spend money on a robot, but I haven't completely figured that out yet.

    Got it? Okay, so really make sure to be first to hit the destination both for the payoff and for what happens next. You must land exactly on the destination for it to count. Once you do, you'll get a payout, and then... sweet lord. The giant-ass baby known as the god of poverty shows up. He'll attach to one of the other players, usually the one with the least money, or more likely the one farthest from the destination, and every round steal a crapload of money from them. Have him attached too long, and he'll transform. He has three other forms, and you don't want to see them.

    There's another baby form, which is gentle and steals less. The other two, though, steal way more, and also cause natural disasters that can cost you more, send you to the hospital, or worse, to hell, where every space costs a ton. So, you don't want this bastard anywhere near you. You can pass him off by touching another player, so playing hot potato there can get nasty and derail you from reaching your next destination, and you want to get there, if for no other reason than to get the jerk to latch on to someone else.

    Other random events happen, such as Santa showing up at Christmas to give someone money (I saw him visit someone in hell once... awesome), and minigames of chance that will award someone a ton of cash, so being at the right place at the right time can be a big deal.

    That's really it as to how to play. Get money, don't lose it, and use your items judiciously, and you just might win. It's very chance heavy, but it's a blast with friends once the god of poverty makes a mess of things. If you dig board games, give it a go. It's fun and colorful, and since these games have been indecipherable to the west, they don't cost much of anything. I like it a lot.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:25 PM.

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    Default Mighty Hits

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ID:	8009I likes me a good light gun game, and my favorite console gun by a landslide is the Sega Stunner for Saturn. Alliterate much? So, having played and loved the Virtua Cops, enjoyed the flawed House of the Dead, and having a quiet fetish for Scud: The Disposable Assassin (I love that friggin' comic. Hippy Haiku, Brother Trucker), I started to meander into the odd end of the Saturn gun pool. Leapfrogging the kusoge classic Death Crimson, I ordered a copy of a game called Mighty Hits. With a name like Mighty Hits, what could go wrong?

    I've heard the game compared to Namco's Point Blank, and the comparison is not entirely off base. Mighty Hits is similarly a collection of gun-based mini-games that test a variety of skills such as accuracy, timing, speed, and reflexes. Some of the challenges include popping balloons to steer a hanging toy-man to a raft, shooting fast-flipping portraits rapidly while skipping good guys, a sort of seek & find where you shoot a jug, a "shoot the piece of this creature that doesn't belong" challenge, and many more. Each challenge lasts about a minute and tests a different skill. None of them are particularly clever or amazing, but they are all at least serviceable.

    Aesthetically, the game is based around toy characters that are somewhere between Lego people and Playmobil characters. This makes the blocky characters seem not out of place, but at the same time does little to make the game immersive. The music is forgettable but not grating, and the sound effects are acceptable.

    When playing, I found the gun accuracy to be spot on, even without calibrating first. There are multiplayer and tournament modes, and the options menus are all in English. While not particularly engaging, it is a quality shooting gallery game if that's your sort of thing, and since Namco didn't love the Saturn, it's as close to Point Blank as you can really ask. I'd waffle a bit on recommending it if the game weren't so cheap. As it can be had for less than $5 and is loaded with English, Mighty Hits can be a reason to bust out the Stunners if they've been collecting dust. Just don't expect anything too, um... mighty.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:26 PM.

  13. #53
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    Default X-Serd

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ID:	8010Another PC Engine HuCard strategy game from Masaya, X-Serd is a fast-paced, grid-based giant robot strategy RPG. You take control of a squad of machines initially comprised of the titular X-Serd, G-Serd, and B-Serd, which sounds absurd. Your goal is generally to wipe out the opposition forces on maps somewhat reminiscent of Nectaris (Military Madness).

    You begin with your ship, and you can select which units to launch. Movement takes place in the same order each round, abd each unit is significantly different in movement and attack options. X-serd is well-rounded, G-Serd is designed with range in mind, and B-Serd is a melee monster.

    Like Nectaris, terrain plays a huge role in your success, as you are typically outnumbered, so positioning yourself to have good defensive bonuses while maximizing the effectiveness of your weapon range will make or break you. No running head-long into the fray here, or the computer will shred you. When you attack, your opponent does not get to return fire, so drawing away and singling out your opposition will also serve you well in preserving hit points.

    Each attack is accompanied by an anime-style cutscene depicting damage, as well as dialogue exchanges on the map. These look great for their time and play out reasonably quickly, but both can be turned off at any time on your map menu options. The map sprites look pretty good for the time as well, with each robot having its own unique look and color scheme, but the map tile sets are a bit dull in design. The music is pretty basic anime robot stuff, and is forgettable, and the sound effects are serviceable.

    X-Serd is a decent strategy game that is faster-paced than the Super Robot wars games, feeling more like Nectaris. However, strategy games on the PC Engine of this ilk are a dime a dozen, whether it's Crest of Gaia, GaiFlame, Nectaris, or Vasteel, there are a lot of options, and this is fairly primitive. If you're an old-style strategy buff who still paints Battletech miniatures, this might speak to you, or if you just go crazy for giant robots. Truthfully, I doubt I'll finish it, as it just doesn't offer much of anything unique or special, but you could do worse for five bucks.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:26 PM.

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    Default Cho Aniki: Seinaru no Densetsu

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ID:	8011Want to wrestle? Build up! Cho Aniki: Seinaru no Densetsu for Playstation 2 features one of the catchiest, most surreal, and most homoerotic opening sequences of all time with its insane imagery and snappy rock and roll. Psikyo got ahold of the Cho Aniki license on the PS2, and they took all the practice they got in weirdness from Gunbird 2, ratcheted it up, and took their best shot at perpetuating a series known for its eccentricities more than its gameplay. So, how'd they do?

    In this installment, your actual player character is a glob of "holy protein," and your shields and options are the mighty wrestling buddies and weight lifting pals who totally aren't all kinds of gay for each other, the all-powerful Adon and Samson. The game is a horizontally-scrolling shooter, and you start off by selecting what formation in which you would like your muscular man-meat shields to flank you, and then it's off to... whatever the hell it is that allows pissing enemies, spandex clad dancers, and flailing muscle trannies to flourish so well. Oh, and angry squids and fruit, because, you know. That's stuff and things for you.

    The game is a passable if low-rent shooter, with generic yellow bullets, bland textures, and jagged edges. The game is not polished. What is polished, though, are two things. First, as mentioned, the opening. The theme song is funny, catchy, and absurd. It'll get in your head. What will scar you is the accompanying imagery of Adon and Samson wrestling in suggestive poses, dancing like Cossacks, and striking mad muscle poses while the camera zooms around their crotch areas. It's like a fever dream of a closeted pro wrestler who always wanted to grow plants out of his head, and it is amazing. My wife sat there speechless with a stunned look on her face during this, trying to figure out why her brain doesn't work anymore.

    The second polished aspect of this masterwork is the implementation of the all-powerful men's beam. Adon and Samson have been known to channel their ultimate manliness into a mighty beam that annihilates all in its path. In this installment, Psikyo decided to use technology to create a whole new way to power and use the beam. You must rotate the right analog stick, which will cause you to stop shooting and start swiveling your hips like Rick Rude at pride fest. The faster you work the stick, the faster you flex and fill your meter. When you have enough energy, press R3, and... and... um... I cannot adequately describe the perverse, obscene, amazing spectacle that is the men's beam, but I'll use what words I can. Out of the gaping holes on top of their heads, what in prior games was a beam of energy now spews forth in a hot stream of white liquid. Yes, it's a powerful beam... at first... and then it starts to trickle off... and drip... and finally glob off at the end. Mind you, this is the result of the fiddling you did with the analog stick, and that's why I have this game: to watch the horrified smiles on the faces of friends when they realize that the essentially just pleasured a controller. It is disgusting. And a little magnificent. But definitely scarring.

    Cho Aniki: Seinaru no Densetsu is a sloppy game with quirks so thoroughly Japanese that it is a wonderful tool to set a Japanophile straight. Although everything is technically implied and metaphorical, you know damn well what is going on, and it's disturbing. And funny. Don't buy it if you want a good shooter. Buy it if you have a friend who needs to be baffled and made to feel stupid for a minute. It's not a great game. It's not even a good game. It's pretty awesome, though.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:27 PM.

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    Default The Rumble Fish

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ID:	8012The Rumble Fish by Dimps and Sega for the PS2 is a 2D fighter that just never really caught on. It came out a little late after the Dreamcast/late Neo Geo fighter boom, where classic franchises like Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, and even Power Instinct were releasing high quality console ports of refined arcade masterworks, and Guilty Gear had just taken a firm hold as the next big thing with its pretty graphics, fast play, and speed metal soundtrack accompanied by a big anime resurgence. So, in attempt to keep up with the Joneses, or, at least, doujin stuff like Melty Blood, Sega dropped this one out there with help from Dimps, who would later work on Street Fighter IV...

    The Rumble Fish also features high-res sprites like Guilty Gear, but it is a slower, more methodical beast like an early KOF release. After a cheaply produced anime opening that apes the whole Kyo-Iori rivalry really flagrantly in a manner that reminds me way too much of the Dreamcast KOF '99, the game puts you into a neon-colored world of J-Pop punk kids ready to pop each other one. It all feels pretty generic from a presentation standpoint. Where it gets a little different is in the way it's animated.

    You may remember the game Earnest Evans on Genesis, where the game's namesake has each limb as a separate sprite, allowing for very fluid if awkward animation. The Rumble Fish uses a similar technique, and as such provides incredibly fluid animation that makes fights feel different. Also, like Art of Fighting 2, your character will continue to get his or her clothes torn to shreds during a fight, showing tears, cuts, and bruises to enhance the feel of the fight. Honestly, it looks pretty good, but as a player who played a lot of fighting games leading into it, it felt a little wrong. No character had a feel similar to the types of characters I usually play. You could call that a credit to the game's uniqueness, or you could just find it less accessible, which when paired with the game's generic window dressing, makes it dull.

    The Rumble Fish is a quality fighter. However, multiplayer is the salvation of these games, and it's not easy to find people willing to put in the time to get conversant in a Japanese fighter that's pretty bare-bones. It looks sharp overall, and the music is a typical mix of J-rock & techno, but the lack of familiar feel will ward off many players. Sure, the controller inputs are the same, but the hit boxes, range, and priority all feel a little off from convention to me.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:28 PM.

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    Default Macross: True Love Song

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ID:	8013There are many, many games based on the Macross license, and they span several genres, ranging from shooters to strategy to action flight sim. There are many scenarios in which you can find yourself piloting a Veritech fighter, and none in which the Minmay attack seems normal... but I digress. Macross: True Love Song on the WonderSwan is closest to a visual novel in overall presentation.

    Living the life of a young, fresh-faced fighter pilot, you find yourself in space, meeting girls and officers and defending humanity from the Zentraedi. After the intro, you find yourself at a menu showing days on a calendar and your stats, such as popularity, fighter, and Battroid ability. Each day, an event plays out, and you are given limited choices (usually only one or two) in which to influence the course of the day. You'll meet girls, go on dates, attend training, and occasionally scramble into battle.

    The battles utilize a very stripped-down turn-based system, letting you choose what enemy to attack in one on one combat, and then what attack, transformation, or evasion to use until someone dies. While the anime-style cutscenes play out quickly and nicely, the combat is a little rock-paper-scissor-y to be rewarding, and doesn't serve to flesh the game out in a meaningful way.

    No, the reason to play True Love Song is just to absorb Macross atmosphere if you don't have better outlets. The dates play out okay, and the character designs aren't terrible... but they don't have a classic Macross feel to them. Fokker would not be pleased. The music is solid as WonderSwan games go, and the sound effects are a little scratchy.

    I like the idea of visual novel Macross. The show always had pronounced social overtones that would lend to the format well. However, it feels so stripped down and compartmentalized that I haven't felt a lot of impact from what was happening. It's a decent diversion I guess if you're stuck on an island with a WonderSwan, but it's just not all that satisfying to me in its simplicity. Still, I do like to just soak in the atmosphere a bit, and the box looks pretty slick... I'll just say it won't make new fans, but it won't drive away existing ones.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:28 PM.

  17. #57
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    Default Download

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ID:	8015Download for PC Engine isn't crazy obscure, and there is a bit of internet documentation out there. At the same time, there are three reasons I want to talk about it. First, it tends to get overlooked for its CD sequel by default, even though I think this game is way different and better due to its aggressive pace. Secondly, trying to Google "Download PC Engine" gets you a billion pages of ROM and emulation results instead of anything about this game. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, most documentation of this shooter that exists focuses entirely on its wanton abuse of the English language.

    So, let me get it out of the way. Yes, Download is filled with Engrish that shames even Zero Wing and SNK's masterful mangling of romantic language. Its game over screens, which are specific to the area in which you die, are filled with poor grammar, inadequate spelling, and rampant vulgarity. Quotes such as "Shit. Is this not a great beginning." run on each screen, and are very funny. I won't quote them all, as they are borderline a reward for sticking with the game to beat it.

    That said, Download is a truly outstanding horizontal shooter with a lot of unique touches. Some conventions of the time are present, such as choosing between vulcan and laser, selecting sub-weapons, and a lengthly intro. However, its mechanics are implemented more uniquely. You have a life bar. Your weapons downgrade when you're hit by a level. You don't change weapons from powerups. There are only four kinds of powerups total: weapon upgrade, health refill, sub-weapon recharge, and temporary invincibility. Each sub-weapon has limited uses, such as shields, missiles, and chasers, and refills reload your stock. Many powerups if left on screen will cycle through each type, so managing them to fit your needs is a key part of victory in Download.

    Another difference is that the game is filled with cutscenes in between levels, and they are extremely well done, especially for a HuCard. There are CD games with less and lower quality. The game has loads of great parallax scrolling and conveys an excellent sense of speed. Enemies take a balanced amount of shots and are very aggressive, but powerups are just liberal enough to avoid Gradius syndrome. Also, as you are in your space bike of sorts, you don't die by touching walls, which is a nice change of pace, and also different for a game of the time is that the level progression makes sense and is in aid of the story instead of being seemingly random tropes.

    The graphics are sharp, the music is energized, and the bosses are big. Download hits on all cylinders, yet tends to be overlooked for its more passive successor. Download is every bit as good as Gradius and Salamander. Maybe better in many ways. It deserves to be played, and is a whole lot more than "that game with all the cussing on the death screens." If you play PC Engine and you haven't tried it, you've missed out.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:32 PM.

  18. #58
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    Default Ranma 1/2

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ID:	8016There are a bajillion games based on Ranma 1/2, a popular manga/anime from the late '80s, early '90s. They span several systems and genres, ranging from the well-known fighters to digital novels to that strange but fun puzzle game on the SNES based around rock-paper-scissors. There are 3 on the PC Engine alone, and each is of an entirely different style of play. While I do like to dabble in digital comics and play a lot of fighters, I was most intrigued by the one simply called Ranma 1/2 (or nibunnoichi as it's sometimes written out). It's the only PCE entry with no subtitle, and the cover has close ups of Ranma's face as both a boy and a girl on a slightly pink background. I'm mentioning this to help disambiguate this one from the others for any fan of the series looking for which is which.

    I'll gloss over the story, as it's mainly existing fans who would be looking into this one. This game tells the story of several early chapters of the manga, starting with Ranma and Genma's unfortunate training mishap, leading into meeting other characters like Shampoo and so on. There are well done cutscenes introducing each chapter preceding side-scrolling action stages, which had piqued my interest, as I like both Ranma and a good platformer.

    The action stages are very, very brief, which is maybe the biggest complaint about the game, but they do accurately represent the story arc well. Everything is in the right order, and is book-ended by outstanding story scenes that are quite clean for the time. Really, there's literally less than 20 minutes of actual action to play. However, there's a surprising amount of variety involved. The first level is a platformer with fighting reminiscent of Kung Fu. Next is a one on one fight with Genma for training balanced on bamboo, and then a chase scene through town. You get the chance to break water fountains and transform, and then summon Genma to turn you back. It's fast and furious, and a little on the easy side, but I appreciate how much they tried to make the levels represent the action scenes from the show. It just represents the source material well.

    I like this game a lot, but I have no delusions about what this is: fan service... but really well done fan service. It's short but sweet if you're a fan. I should mention to any prospective players that you hold the D-pad up and down to vary attacks, and you have a double jump, too, and it's necessary to beat even the first stage. If you like Ranma 1/2, I recommend it. It wouldn't stand on its own as a game without prior interest, though, as it's just too short to amaze, but it's a refreshing change of pace after you've played the Super Famicom fighters to death.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:33 PM.

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    Default Psychic Force Complete

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ID:	8017Psychic Force might have been one of Taito's oddest franchises. The first game came out in the states, as did Psychic Force 2012 on the Dreamcast. There were 3 other releases in the series on consoles, though: Psychic Force 2 on PS1, which is sort of a port of the arcade game Psychic Force 2012EX, Psychic Force: Battle Taisen, a Psychic Force-themed Puzzle Bobble variant, and this game, Psychic Force Complete for PS2.

    Psychic Force Complete is more of a compilation disc, which contains 3 games: the original Psychic Force, Psychic Force 2012, and the arcade 2012EX, which was my reason for purchase. I wanted to try this previously unavailable version and see how it stacked up.

    If you aren't familiar with Psychic force, it's a one-on-one fighter with characters who fly about in a giant cubic force field, much like the anime X. Although it all appears to be 3D, it's really 2D in practice, though the arenas are large enough that you can play either at a distance or up close and personal. The characters are loaded with attacks, throws, and special moves, and matches between experienced players can get exciting with all of the dashing, firing, and feinting to gain leverage.

    Psychic Force 2012 EX is basically the Super Street Fighter II of the franchise. It brings back in characters from the original such as Wong into to considerably more refined 2012 engine, and... that's about it, functionally. There a few tweaks to some move sets, but my friend and I tended to devolve into our typical Might vs Setsuna match from 2012. Graphical differences are negligable if they even exist, and things appear slightly darker to me than they did on Dreamcast. Still, it's the most complete, fully-featured version of Psychic Force availabe, like a King of Fighters '98 Dream Match.

    There are a few extras like an image gallery and movie viewer if you're into concept art and the like, and there were 5 releases for this game: standard edition, three versions with covers designed after one of the popular characters, Wong, Emilio, and Wendy, which came with a limited edition figurine of the corresponding character, and a final version with all three figures together.

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    They're about 4" tall or so.

    Psychic Force Complete is not really a new game. It's just one last refinement; an ultimate collector's version for the hardcore fan. Normally I might not recommend something so trivial, but as the special versions can still be had at under $20 at this moment, I say go for it if you like the series at all, or if you have a friend you play unorthodox fighters with... I had a blast.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 08-03-2015 at 05:07 PM.

  20. #60
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    Default Hori SNES-style Gamecube Controller and Saturn-style PS2 Controller

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ID:	8018I'm going to take a side-step from games for a second to talk about two import exclusive controllers I've had some fun with. First off, the Hori Gamecube SNES-style controller.

    I picked one of these up when they first came out a little more than a decade ago when I bought my GBA player for Gamecube. Between the Castlevanias and especially the two Metroid games, I was starting to get a lot of games that wereof the SNES' flavor, as well as a few ports of actual SNES games like Zelda. The Gamecube standard D-pad is tiny and uncomfortable to my adult hands for extended use, and playing Metroid with an analogue stick is downright offensive to me. The now-closed Game Trader happened to have one of these (don't think he reads forums, but Brian's store was pretty much the best thing that ever happened in the St Louis market. I miss that guy.), so I snapped it up.

    Honestly, it's a mixed bag. Don't get me wrong, it is a monstrous improvement over the other options. I don't want to give the impression that it is perfect. The high point and most important part is the D-pad which does feel quite spot on to the SNES experience. It's larger than the Gamecube standard, and has almost exact curvature and pressure feedback to a stock Super Nintendo controller. The shoulder buttons feel great as well, so between my left thumb and index fingers, I was thrilled. Where it loses steam is the button layout, which mimics the Gamecube standard aside from Z, which is offset just up and right from the start button (which coupled with select are also a great SNES replica). I mean, they are still A, B, X, and Y... would it have been so hard to use the SNES diamond configuration? Instead, we revert to the less-intuitive GC scheme... Anyone buying this controller is doing so because they prefer SNES controllers. Why leave it in the new style?! Lastly, the back side of the controller angles out on each side slightly, I assume for added comfort. I'm completely indifferent to this, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

    None of this was a deal breaker for me; it was just a disappointment. Most importantly, though, the comfortable D-pad makes playing these games feel way better for longer play sessions, and in my opinion it's the best way to play the GBA player.

    The Sega Saturn-style PS2 controller, though... that thing is near perfect! It's modeled after the second style of Saturn controller, which got away from the original bowl-shaped D-pad for something more natural and re-shaped the mold to a contour that rests comfortably in your hands. I bought this one with fighting games in mind... I mean, if you're into fighters and are reading an import forum, like me you've probably spent a good amount of time with Capcom fighters on your Saturn, and that's what left this as a no-brainer when I unexpectedly saw it behind the counter.

    Just about everything here is dead-on, so I'll focus on what isn't. First, there are both Start and Select buttons in the center now, which is no big deal, as a lot of PS2 compilations use select to pull up menus. Seeing the Playstation logo above them is odd, but that's just because this is an official product. Secondly, the shoulder button are now black (no big deal), and are a tad more stiff than a stock Sega controller, but they still have the same delightful (or annoying depending on your point of view) click when pressed. The face buttons and D-pad are dead ringers in size, shape, and feel, and that's what I'm here for... The Saturn D-pad really felt right to me for all of the fighting game inputs and precise movement in shooters, and this is ostensibly the same tactile experience.

    I highly recommend both of these controllers, as they allow an improved, more familiar way to play games of the classic style on their respective consoles. The Saturn controller is near-perfect, but the SNES-GC controller would really have benefitted from a classic button layout. As it is, it feels great on the left and cheap on the right, but that big D-pad was what the doctor ordered for me. I just thought they could use a little writeup, as both are a little pricey these days, so people know what they're getting into before having to blindly drop a steep amount for a controller.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:35 PM.

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