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Thread: Opinions on poorly documented imports

  1. #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.

  2. #52
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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.

  3. #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.

  4. #54
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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.

  5. #55
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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.

  6. #56
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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.

  7. #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.

  8. #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.

  9. #59
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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.

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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.

  11. #61
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    Default TV Animation X: The Selection of the Destiny

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ID:	8019I love Psychic Force, as I recently mentioned here. What many people into anime probably recognize is that Taito was inspired by Studio Clamp's anime X, which featured flying psychic warriors representing the dragons of heaven and earth fighting for the apocalypse. In the late life of the original Playstation, Bandai decided to make a game based on X, and saw the outstanding template Taito had created. Instead of ripping off a ripoff, why not just pay them to use that engine and create the game for you?

    Using the same engine as Psychic Force 2, X takes the high-flying projectile-oriented feel of Psychic Force and outfits it with the license it always wanted. It works. Instead of the likes of Burn and Setsuna, we now have the armies of earth and heaven, with Kamui vs Fuma looming at the forefront. This engine was made for X, and it's another great game in the Psychic Force lineage. Control is responsive, the graphics are an upgrade from the original game, and the cutscenes provided by Clamp keep you involved in the atmosphere.

    If you aren't familiar with Psychic Force, it involves psychic warriors flying about a 3D, cubic arena, throwing projectiles and dashing about to get in some melee, grabs, or special attacks. It's all on a 2D plane, but the arenas are large, and the action speeds up with experience. The balance comes from attacks using varying amounts of psychic energy, some more than your initial max. As your life decreases, your max psychic energy increases, so timing is everything. In terms of X, it is straight Psychic Force with the anime characters instead.

    I don't want to give away the story, as the anime is good. This game is a bunch of good decisions glued together, and will really resonate with fans of either Psychic Force the game or X the anime. It isn't perfect. It is outstanding, though. If you like either franchise. If you're into either, X marks the... yeah. Not finishing that joke. If it is in your wheelhouse, get it. It's what a licensed game ought to be.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 11-20-2016 at 05:12 PM.

  12. #62
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    Default Energy

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ID:	8020If you're heavy into PC Engine games, Energy has a reputation. If you're new to the console, this HuCard is something you're going to run across when looking for english-friendly inexpensive imports. The reputation, as you may have guessed, involves being a bit of a pile of ass wrapped in a crap tortilla covered in a light urine sauce. Watching a YouTube video of someone clumsily stumbling forward will only seem to confirm this impression. If you're the right type of player, though, I really disagree, and I'll explain why.

    Energy is a sidescroller with an open world, like a Rygar or Legacy of the Wizard (can I say that instead of Metroidvania? I wasn't sure if that was allowed on the internet...). You collect items to increase your firepower and give you abilities that allow progress. It's a formula that at the time in the late '80s was not yet common, and the PC Engine library certainly isn't replete with them.

    That said, on to the bad. The game scrolls like ass. It's one screen at a time like the first Zelda, but it can take 3-5 seconds at times to change screens. On a HuCard, that is insane, and a mark of bad programming. Enemies don't always appear right away, yet must all be cleared in order to move onto the next room. You get one life with no continues, and the game is quite brief (it can be completed in under an hour if you know what to do). How could I recommend it to anyone?

    Honestly, to your average player, I wouldn't. There's a lot here that doesn't work. However, if you grew up playing a ton of NES games beyond the classics, you probably learned a lot of patience, and came to enjoy a lot of lovable crap. If you enjoyed the likes of Dr Chaos, Goonies II, or Spiritual Warfare, you may just have a new buddy for your fledgeling PC Engine collection. The modern, apocalyptic setting is a nice change of pace for this kind of game. The control, while floaty, can be mastered and become comfortable. The language barrier is minimal, the puzzles generally make sense, and the sprites, while poorly animated, have some 8-bit character, and are quite colorful. The music is... well, let's not talk about that.

    Energy isn't for everyone. What it is, though, is inexpensive, playable with no Japanese language skills, and has some charm to those nostalgic for the age of 8-bit action adventure games that are rough around the edges but lovable. I'm in that camp, and if you are, you might have a little fun for the less than five bucks it'll run you most of the time. Just don't misunderstand, this is an unrefined mess of a game. I just like it anyway.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:36 PM.

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    Default Space Hunter

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ID:	8021I really, really like side-scrolling adventure games, especially from the NES. Goonies II, Dr. Chaos, Rygar, Legacy of the Wizard, Battle of Olympus... you name it. So, when I discovered Kemco's Space Hunter on the Famicom, I got excited. For one, I tend to like Kemco's slightly sloppy, yet well-meaning efforts like Kid Klown or Lagoon, so that caught my attention. Secondly, that '80s anime sci-fi art is something I friggin' adore. Neon green and red lasers, metal ships that are slightly blue in color... it's something I get wistful for. So, I put it in and started to explore the galaxy.

    As a female cyborg or robot with a jetpack, you soar from planet to planet in a galaxy, each its own maze. Each maze is a simple square overall, and contains a special item or two such as health and weapon upgrades as well as items that give you abilities like being able to function under water. Items and special weapons consume energy, which can be replenished by collecting restoratives dropped by enemies. You can leave a planet at any time and come back later if you're stumped or don't have what you need, but when you defeat a planet's boss, you must escape the system before it explodes a la Metroid or Air Fortress.

    Each maze is divided into single-screen rooms reminiscent of the labyrinths at the end of each world of Kid Icarus, and interspersed throughout are doors. This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game, as instead of dungeons or mazes in these doors, there are simple one screen room with a couple of enemies to kill, an item, or the level boss. There is essentially no challenge in these segments, and they don't serve to extend the game's depth, which makes it feel a bit more shallow. Still, nearly every single screen in the planet has a secret of some kind to discover by shooting around, which is cool, even though most of what you find this way isn't overly important. Still, it makes you feel more like you're exploring, which is neat.

    The graphics are early generation, akin to the original Zelda, or maybe more closely to Lode Runner for the NES. No real shading and sprites are all pretty much one square in size, but that only adds to the charm of the time for me. It would have been nice if the various planets had unique or more distinct tile sets, as everything in each world is a bit generic, but it doesn't kill the experience, as the game is rather short. How short? I finished the very first day I got it back then, and in about 3 hours for that first playthrough without any help. It's an easy game.

    Space Hunter is good fun, but lacks depth overall in comparison to many other games of its ilk on the NES. It has a nice password save with brief passwords that use English characters, and the password is displayed at all times. I like the theme, which is eerily like Guardian Legend, but less refined, and the aesthetics of the game encapsulate both the feel of early black box NES titles and mid-'80s sci-fi anime, which are both hooks for me. It's typically under $10, so if you like any of the other games I mentioned here and are considering it, it's likely for you. Just don't expect to really sink your teeth in, because it'll be over before you know it.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:37 PM.

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    Default Jimmu Denshou

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ID:	8022Some say that Jimmu Denshou for the PC Engine is from the early days before Wolf Team got really good. Others would say, "Wolf Team got really good?" The game generally has a reputation as a third-rate Space Harrier clone aside from a fairly positive review from The Brothers Duomazov. I generally like quirky games that get mixed reviews, so I decided to give it a whirl. So, is this samurai-themed into-the-screen scaling action game a misunderstood classic, or was it just thereto make Sega's Super Scaler games look even more awesome?

    You play as a samurai out for blood, and you rush forward with your sword flailing. I must start by saying that to get any enjoyment out of Jimmu, turn off the automatic running at the title screen, or prepare to be frustrated. There, now that it's playable... well, it's sort of playable. You have a very short range sword attack that you will usually die while swiping away. You need to destroy statues to get powerups that enable projectiles, and then... THEN the game starts to feel like something you can take a bite out of... and then you decide you'd like to dodge, and the game rears its ugly head.

    When running into the screen, things seem okay. The simulated scaling isn't the worst thing ever, some of the backgrounds are okay, but when you move left or right, everything disappears and is redrawn. It's so jarring that it completely takes me out of the game. 3D World Runner on the NES can handle this. Space Harrier on the Turbografx can pull it off. Jimmu can't, and it's just sloppy, and really breaks up the flow of the game.

    If you can ignore the broken movement, the game is serviceable if sloppy, and extremely challenging, especially since you lose your projectile when you take damage. Jimmu Denshou demands a combination of patience and willingness to ignore glaring scrolling issues to be playable. I love Space Harrier, and there are much better rip-offs than this to play. I like the cover. I like Wolf Team. I don't like Jimmu Denshou.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:38 PM.

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    Default Strider

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ID:	8023Strider for PS3 is not an import exclusive, but what is exclusive about it is that in Japan it had a physical release on a disc. I as a rule don't pay for download-only games, so I was excited to get the opportunity to pick up and play this one. Given that it's widely available on PSN in the US, I won't spend much time on gameplay and just focus on the packaging and extra perks so as to help anyone interested decide if they want to go this route.

    As far as the game itself goes, it's fast like Strider as a 2D side-scroller, but borrows heavily from Metroid in its open world, power-up driven advancement, and map design. It's a little linear in that it kind of holds your hand with objectives, but so far I really like it a ton. The areas are big and loaded with unlockables like bonus training missions and concept art to discover. The Japanese disc is still all in English, and I don't see much of anything in the way of in-game extras.

    For the packaging, it's a standard PS3 case with nice if a bit dark cover art. The disc itself has a rather plain label that is nothing particularly special. On the back side of the cover slip is some art to view through the transparent case and a PSN code for a free download of Strider 1 and 2 from the Playstation Network, but it has to be used in the Japanese PSN Store, so if you don't have access to that itvs not much of a perk. The instructions aren't so much in a manual as a small fold-out pamphlet, and while it's in full color, it's underwhelming.

    So, is it worth it? Well, for me, yes, because I like physical copies of my games. It's loaded with English text and speech, and the game itself is really cool. As far as bonuses go, the PSN codes for Strider 1 and 2 seem a little odd to me, as people paying for a physical copy of a game they could just download cheaper probably would prefer that content to be included on-disc, but that's more of a personal stance. The packaging is nothing special overall, so I would only recommend importing this if you're a Strider collector or, like me, you just really prefer your games to be in your hands. Either way, though, if you like Strider or Metroid, I'd give it a look, whether it's on PSN or you import a disc, as it's just a neat game overall.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:38 PM.

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    Default ADK Tamashii

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ID:	8024The PS2 is a wonderland of arcade compilations, many of which run brilliantly with few if any notable variances from their arcade originals. Others, like SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1, are lousy with slowdown and glitches not in the originals. ADK Tamashii is a collection of 5 mostly expensive Neo Geo games, some of which haven't appeared elsewhere on console, and all of which run like a champ! The only real difference is the sharpness and color of an RGB monitor, which is to be expected in these compilations. There are no online functions unlike many of the other Japanese Neo Geo ports, and has very little (read: pretty much nothing) in the way of extras. So, why would a small, 5 game compilation be worth it? Mainly because this is by far the cheapest way to play most of these games. So, I'll talk about each game so anyone interested can decide for themselves. As a side note, I own or have played each of these extensively on Neo Geo AES or MVS, and I'm really impressed by how much better these play than most of the other Neo Geo ports on the PS2

    First off, Gan Gan, also known as Aggressors of Dark Combat, is a one on one fighter that plays mostly like a belt scroller. The character sprites are huge, and the animation is okay, but the overall gameplay feels a bit slow and clunky to me. I like the inclusion of Fuuma from World Heroes as a neat little crossover as SNK/ADK so often did, but as a fighter the freedom of movement this game offers actually limits technique to me. It reminds me more of an arcade wrestler like Slam Masters or Fire Suplex than a 2D fighter. It's not terrible, but it isn't engaging to me. On the plus side, it's like somebody decided to remake Pit Fighter as a playable game, if you'd prefer a more glass-half-full approach.

    Next, Ninja Combat is a belt-scrolling beat-'em-up that sets out to redefine the term "quarter muncher." Your main characters are shuriken-slinging ninjas who can also dive about and charge up to release magic attacks at the cost of a significant portion of your health. It starts out easy, but the difficulty quickly ramps up to ridiculous porportions. There are powerups for your shuriken and weapons you can pick up, but they're slow and mostly useless. The shuriken are way more useful. In the first few levels, you'll beat mid-bosses who become selectable at the next stage. Personally, I found Joe and Hayabusa, the default ninjas, to be superior due to their range and versatility. The unlockable characters can't use the extra weapons, though their default attacks are stronger. The main issue with this game is that it is a bad combination of absurd difficulty and length. It's a long quarter muncher with unlimited continues. It's not deep or fun enough to keep me interested in developing any technique, and it's so repetitive that I lose interest long before the end. I've played through it on both Neo Geo and PS2, and it's only one I can stomach every so often. My nieces and nephews even get bored with it. The first few minutes are fun, and then it falls flat.

    Ninja Masters is the missing link between Samurai Shodown and Last Blade. It's a solid 2D fighter that perhaps misses a little in personality. Its tone is darker, like Samurai Shodown III, but it can be played more aggressively than either of those other series, which I actually really appreciate. I get sick of Samurai Shodown's defensive, pick-your-spot counter-based gameplay, but I love its aesthetic. Ninja Masters gives me that with a faster, more aggressive pace. I dig it, but it's nothing incredible. It's good fun, but super pricey on real hardware, especially in Europe on AES.

    Ninja Commando is a mighty little overhead run 'n gun starring Joe from Ninja Combat in what is basically Mercs with Ninjas. The reviews on this are a mixed bag, but I love it. You dodge maneuver is accompanied by a reverse-direction attack, which is useful, and the weapon gains power by rapidly pressing fire. This isn't so bad on PS2, but it kills your hands on Neo Geo. The game is of a reasonable length, has loads of varied enemies, and big, bad bosses. Of note, on an English language Neo Geo, you get some hilariously translated blurbs by your status bar reminiscent of River City Ransom, but this version is only in Japanese. I personally rate it up there with Shock Troopers 1 and 2 as phenomenal run & guns on the Neo, and this port does it justice.

    Lastly, we have the wonderful Twinkle Star Sprites. This is also on Saturn, Dreamcast, and if I remember correctly it's unlockable on its sequel, The Petite Princess on PS2. If you haven't played this game with friends, you're missing out. It's a competitive vertical shooter where destroying chains of enemies unleashes fireballs on your opponent. These can be shot back even faster, and shooting them a second time when they're returned sends a character-specific special attack at your foe. It'd a split-screen affair not unlike a puzzle game, and the action gets frantic fast. You have bombs, a charge shot, and a meter for said charge shot filled by killing enemies that when filled, send a boss their way. There's a little more to it, but really, 2 player competitive games rarely reach these heights. Twinkle Star Sprites is fantastic. Ask anyone.

    This collection of games is small, but would cost a small fortune to get complete on AES. Heck, even the ports on other systems or Neo CD don't come cheap. If you are interested in any of these games, this is as cost-effective as it gets on a physical disc or cart. I highly recommend it to Neo Geo fans who want an alternative to taking out a second mortgage.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:39 PM.

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    Default Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru Gaiden

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ID:	8025When I first finished Keith Courage in Alpha Zones on the Turbografx-16 years ago, it told me it would see me in the next Keith Courage adventure. I truly enjoyed (and still enjoy) Keith Courage, so I was always disappointed that there was no follow-up. Many years later, I learned that Keith Courage was the localized name of a licensed game in Japan based on the manga/anime Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru. This immediately got me thinking... maybe that sequel was in fact out there, but I just didn't know what to call it. Thanks to the internet, I was able to secure not just one, but four other games from the franchise. This, though, was the first, and it also had Hudson's involvement... and Westone. Wonderboy Westone? It was time to track down some games.

    These days, I own all of the Wataru games, and Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru Gaiden on the Famicom was the first sequel, having come out only a couple of years after the PC Engine original, albeit on older hardware. This game is a little more action RPG than the first, and if pressed to make a comparison I'd liken it to Zelda 2 or War of the Dead, in that you traverse an overhead map, and random encounters take place on horizontal action screens where you fight in real time. Actually, it's super close to War of the Dead, as you traverse dungeons in an overhead perspective as well as the overworld. You travel from town to town, save at inns, buy weapons and items, then fight your way into new areas. You gain money and experience, allowing level-ups for progression, and killing a boss will usually get you whatever story item you need to keep things moving. The action scenes all take place in your robot, or the Nova Suit as I willingly choose to believe even though I know better now.

    The overhead graphics are extremely similar to the NES Final Fantasy games in overall look. Your single-tile character (let's incorrectly call him 'Keith') walks around with his blue hair (huh?), little legs taking way too many steps per tile. It's pleasing enough to look at, and the backgrounds look great with a reasonable amount of detail and nice colors. The music is only okay, and the tracks are so short that they loop too quickly. In battle, you character is quite a bit larger, as are the enemy sprites. Really, many of the enemies would be at home in a Wonderboy or Mega Man game. There's again nice detail, but everything is a bit small.

    Control-wise, the overhead scenes are fine if sluggish, but not Dragon Warrior slow. In battle, control speeds up nicely, and hit detection is great. You don't have long range at first, but it is consistent and reasonable enough to be played with skill. Bosses are fairly large and fun to fight, but with a little leveling the game gets easy.

    I haven't finished this one yet, but I will. I hear there's a translation patch out there, but I'm playing on the Famicom cart. The weaknesses I've seen are the short, looping music, a rather small inventory to manage, and slow walking speed. Otherwise, it's a neat little action RPG that has a little bit of that Westone/Hudson charm of the era that I just love. There's a lot to like here, and for a Wataru fan, it's a nifty sequel, and way more playable with no Japanese skills than, say, the two Game Boy games I'll go on about later...
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:40 PM.

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    Default Meta-Ph-List

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ID:	8026Meta-Ph-List for the original Playstation is a real sleeper that very few people seem to talk about. It's a vertical shooter that gets all but ignored by the shooter crowd and import crowd, and it's tough to say why. Maybe because it came out at the same time as Final Fantasy VII. Maybe it's because it didn't come from some developer like Treasure or Toaplan that gets fans of the genre riled up. It's tough to find anything more than the odd forum post regarding this game, and the general consensus seems to be that it's firmly mediocre. I want to say that I love Meta-Ph-List, one of the few games that really changed my mind about what it is after my initial impression.

    Initially, the game feels a bit "eh," as it has some blocky sprites and polygons, generic looking enemies, and decent if plain orchestral music make the game open with a resounding whimper. It doesn't seem like anything special as you select your level from a map of the galaxy. You swoop in, kill some enemies, fight a boss... but if you stick with it, and you get into the systems, there's a shooter that breaks away from genre conventions and becomes, in my opinion, something special.

    For starters, the game is a hybrid shooter/RPG, where you can select and replay levels in just about any order, more becoming available as you clear bosses. You have three weapons, a vulcan shot, lasers, and missiles, which you can scroll through at the press of a button. As you kill enemies with each type, you gain experience, and at every 10,000 that weapon will level up, becoming more powerful and expanding its array. Lasers penetrate through enemies to hit others, shot is slightly more powerful but stops on impact, and missiles... they lock on like your laser in the RayForce series, hitting enemies on upper or lower planes. Each weapon is situationally useful, and there's no throwaway. You can occassionally nab a powerup for one of them, which for a brief time powers it way up, causing your shots to become enormous, screen-filling waves of doom. Speaking of waves of doom, you also start with 3 bombs, or as they're called in the manual, "Go2Hell" attacks, which lay waste to the enemies on screen beautifully.

    All of this may sound a little like a poor man's Radiant Silvergun, so onto another change: you rotate a cursor around your ship with the L1 and R1 buttons, allowing you to focus your fire in any direction, much like Zero Gunner 2. It apparently can also be controlled by mouse, but I didn't test this method. So, between dodging, positioning your ship, and switching weapons situationally, there's always a lot happening to keep you engaged.

    The enemies and backgrounds seem to suck at first, seeming like generic shapes and backgrounds that might be comfortable in Xevious. However, upon returning to stages, you'll find wildly varied backgrounds and more enemies that will make you feel like you're assaulting different parts of the planet or fleet... because you are. See, each mission selected is treated like an individual skirmish, which you can win, lose, or draw, depending on the conditions you meet, which brings me to your HUD.

    In the top-left corner, you have two important meters. On top is your shields. Lose them by being hit too often and you die, time to start the whole thing again, so don't let that happen. Below that is your shot power, which depletes as you hold down fire. If it runs out, your shot becomes slightly slower and less potent, but letting off for a second or so will allow it to refill. In the top right, you have a Hit Meter, which goes up and down based on the amount of enemies you've shot down or let escape. Based on the mission, you have higher or lower thresholds for success. In the blue, you win, in the orange, you draw, and in the red, you lose the skirmish. Winning skirmishes allows you to open new areas or find data logs, which advance the story with new cutscenes. Below that is a boss damage meter, which should be obvious.

    There are 2 discs of war to play through, and the difficulty ramps up at a comfortable pace. Continuing to replay old planets will allow you to build up your levels to allow you to move on at your own pace. The story scenes and opening are subtitled in Japanese, but the entirety of the voice acting is in english along with the menus, making the game more than accessible to Americans like me. I wish you could save between missions, but it seems you only can after clearing the galaxy. There's also an expert mode I have yet to try.

    Meta-Ph-List takes a lot of ideas from a lot of places and pieces together something unique and fun. Its production values aren't super strong, but the control, difficulty curve, and scope set it apart. I wouldn't recommend this to someone who just discovered shooters. I'd recommend it to anyone who has played just about everything out there, and is looking for something familiar, but different enough to defy direct comparison. It's inexpensive, english-friendly, and plays well. If you want something off the beaten path, try Meta-Ph-List.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:49 PM.

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    Default Nazomakaimura: Incredible Toons

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ID:	8027Like a lot of people out there, I love Makaimura (the Ghosts 'n Goblins franchise) games. Ghouls and Ghosts, Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins... love to play them. I'm also a long time fan of The Incredible Machine on 3DO (there are a bunch of other versions, but that's the one I've had since I was a teenager). So, when I discovered that there was a fully licensed Incredible Machine set in the Makaimura universe, I had to try it out!

    Nazomakaimura: Incredible Toons is available on the PS1 and Saturn, and I own it on PS1, so that's the version I'm talking about here. If you aren't familiar with the concept behind The Incredible Machine, the objective is to complete Rube Goldberg machines using the materials alotted in order to solve a puzzle. In this case, you are given an objective to complete, but your chain reactions will be set up using characters, enemies, and settings from the GnG universe in order to eventually rescue Prin-Prin from the evil Astaroth.

    Graphically, the game looks like someone took Makaimura and scaled it down to about Lemmings-size, and it looks pretty good. Little deformed Red Arremers and the like are cute and are used in roles that suit their attacks from the parent franchise. The puzzles are largely single screen affairs, and everything is well-animated with an appropriate level of detail. Arthur will wait impatiently and stomp his feet or polish his armor when you mess up, and the death animations are very cartoony. It definitely translates the GnG world into The Incredible Machine gracefully, which gives a fun, Halloween-like atmosphere to the game.

    The music is an appropriately bizarre set of remixes of familiar Makaimura themes that series fans will love or hate. If you've ever wondered what Ghosts 'n Goblins would sound like as reggae or smooth jazz, you're in for a treat. Personally I was amused, as I find it very relevant to the experience of putting a notoriously difficult platformer into a wildly different puzzle framework. In my mind, it truly fits like a glove, though, I'll never enjoy it as much as the original scores.

    Difficulty is hard to generalize in this case. Figuring out what your objectives are, even in Japanese, is rarely difficult, but those unfamiliar with The Incredible Machine games may experience some disadvantages in understanding how things are likely to interact or what the typical goals might be, so if you think it sounds neat but lack prior experience with that series, you may do well to familiarize yourself with one of the entries or knock-offs, such ad Mechanic Master on the Nintendo DS. In my case, I found it fairly intuitive, and had a lot of fun figuring out what new characters would do to make their wrinkle in the puzzle.

    If you're really into either franchise, Nazomakaimura is likely to make you a happy player with its combination of fun puzzles and fan service. Because of the nature of the game, it retains more of the GnG feel than say Sakura Taisen Columns or Kirby's Avalanche, and doesn't feel exactly like the other Incredible Machine/Toons games. The goofy objectives, funky music, and silly cutscenes really make this stand out amongst licensed puzzle games. It does lack some of the extra modes like a puzzle editor, but there's still a full-size game to play here, and since you can save after each level, it never gets too frustrating. I like it a lot, and much like Mario & Wario, it's a Japanese exclusive spinoff of a major franchise that gets oddly ignored. Fun game, but don't bite on the $60+ buy it nows out there. It can be had fir $30 or less still on either system with a little patience.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:49 PM.

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    Default Super Dimension Fortress Macross

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ID:	8028Super Dimension Fortress Macross for the Sega Saturn is one of the 4 billion Macross games to have come out on every system from the Famicom through the PS3 and everything in between. Buying anime-licensed games can be a mixed bag without doing your diligence with research, as they can vary in genre from digital novels to strategy to shooters, and Macross games run the gamut. This two disc set is a (usually) horizontally-scrolling shooter based on the original TV series, and it's an interesting one.

    The game opens with some excellent quality animation straight from the show, and it's a good portent for what's to come. Super Dimension Fortress Macross is filled to the brim with animation from the anime, and it's what really fills up the discs, so don't expect a lengthly campaign just because there's a second disc. What it does is set the tone for a very accurate re-telling of the Macross story and provide in-the-moment context for each stage, which replicates a Valkyrie skirmish from the program beginning with the escape from Macross Island and on into space to battle the Zentraedi. Essentially, you get to relive the story you know by playing the battles in context.

    So, how are the actual gameplay segments? Fun, but brief. You control your Valkyrie in battle, swooping, firing, and transforming. You have machine guns, a few bombs, and the trademark Macross missile trails scorching the skies. The missiles work like a simplified Galactic Attack or Panzer Dragoon, where you hold down the button to lock on and release to fire, the difference being that the lock on is automatic with no cursor to run over your foes. So, you'll always be holding down the button until your missile meter fills and unleashing fury. Enemies appear on multiple planes, so your missiles will be your primary damage dealer. The result is the chaos of war unfolding in hectic fashion, yet the overall challenge being quite low.

    Your ship is large, but has shields, and it's quite easy to stay alive. You can transform into all three forms in you Valkyrie Fighter, but some stages restrict you to specific forms. Hybrid form allows varying firing angles and more missiles, but gravity will pull at you if you're not in space. Battloid form can only fly in space, but can fire in the most directions and launch the most missiles. There are cool moments like where the fortress transforms, and your screen orientation switches direction to vertical and diagonal scrolling while you try to fend off Zentraedi invaders, or an enemy boss moving into the background while the view sweeps behind your back for a head-on firefight. The action keeps a great pace, but it rarely taxes the player with any real threat.

    Super Dimension Fortress Macross is brief but fun, and sort of reminds me of the Ranma 1/2 PC Engine platformer with its staying true to its source material while being heavily imbalanced with more cutscene than gameplay. There is more substance here, but it's still more show than game. What game there is, though, is quite fun if a little pixelated. The production values saturate the game with atmosphere, but I feel like there are a few missed opportunities to mix things up... maybe a platforming segment when stranded with Minmay in the bowels of the fortress or something might have given some interactive flavor to the proceedings. Still, this Saturn edition is a great send up for fans of the show or people who enjoy shooters but find many of them to be too tough. I should also mention that with 2 discs, you'll need a modded or Japanese Saturn to play the second disc instead of just a cartridge. I like it a lot, especially for the inexpensive price tag.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:50 PM.

  21. #71
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    Default Shi Kin Jyo

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ID:	8029Ok, time to get weird. Shi Kin Jyo for the Famicom is a puzzle game of sorts from the animation studio Toei. Like most people who get into imports, I occasionally pick up small lots. Typically, there may be one or two games I really want surrounded by a few others I either don't know about or already have (in which case I give the doubles away to friends and family who love games, but don't often have a lot of cash to blow on silly imports), and in this case I was picking up a copy of Konami's renowned Getsu Fuuma-Den, and this odd green cart was just in the mix with a couple of future giveaways for my brother. The whole lot was cheaper than just Getsu Fuuma-Den, so there was no risk involved... but I didn't realize I was in for a real treat!

    At its core, Shi Kin Jyo is a Sokobon-style block pusher, but with super duper heavy Japanese overtones. You play as a Kyonshi (a hopping asian vampire who sucks chi) trapped in a temple full of giant mahjong tiles. In each room, you must solve the puzzle and escape to the next room, Lolo-style, but without enemies. Typically, this involves pushing 2 or more matching tiles together to clear them, though clearing all tiles is far from a pre-requisite for completing a level; you simply must clear a path to the exit and walk through it.

    Things are rarely simple, though, as there are wrinkles beyond tile matching. Some tiles cannot be moved, and any tile that comes into contact with one turns into one as well, making these your biggest threat for having to restart a level. Also, there are invisible mazes and invisible teleporters on occasios to throw you for a loop, making you rethink your prospective route strategy. These are rarely frustrating, though, as the first option in the pause menu allows a quick restart. These elements all come together in a cohesive picture that presents a reasonable challenge for those up to the task.

    Presentation-wise, the music is a little repetitive, but the one tune you hear over and over isn't particularly grating. The graphics are quite simplistic, but effective enough, and the giant mahjong tiles are reasonably ornate. The game does quite well in presenting an extremely folksy-Japanese atmosphere that helps set this game apart.

    Overall, I was thrilled to death with Shi Kin Jyo. I sat and played more than 60 levels when I tried it for the first time, as it is quite engaging. The menus are not English friendly, but are navigable enough, and the actual gameplay transcends language, making it a breeze to pick up and play. If you like overhead room-based puzzlers like Lolo or Sokobon, I whole-heartedly recommend this for the all but nothing it costs. What a nice little surprise it turned out to be!
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:51 PM.

  22. #72
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    Default Odo Odo Oddity

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    Odo Odo Oddity on the original Playstation is a quirky little game that is probably closest in nature to a rail shooter, though it is definitely not one. In an age where most developers were looking to be dark and edgy or push polygon counts as high as possible, Odo Odo Oddity took a completely different approach: super bright happy colors and tone, scaling sprites instead of polygon models, jaunty music and a laid back pace make this game the antithesis of your typical rail shooter.

    As some sort of magician, you float through the stages at a lacksadaisical pace on 3 balloons, holding on with one hand and swinging your magical rod with the other. Your rod has a limited number of magic shots to begin with, and that number is increased by picking up talismans. Those talismans can also be used to temporarily dash into the foreground, allowing you to dodge nearby hazards. Getting hit by enemies or obstacles will remove a balloon, so three hits and you're done. If you run out of magical ammo, you can still swing your rod like a bat. You can also hold down the attack button to charge up some kind of powerful swing with orbs rotating around your character.

    Movement and pace are what makes Odo Odo Oddity so different. You tap the d-pad to move not your character, but more like a gust of wind on the balloons as you sway underneath them. It's quite a challenge at first, as planning movement for the horizon is more important than reflexive twitches and a quick trigger finger. This game is slow and methodical, so choosing your position and a good sense of timing trump a quick thumb.

    The levels are long and segmented, and there is a boss at the end of each. The boss fights are rather arduous if you don't have the ammo saved up, which means more dodging and less attacking en route. It's very inside out compared to typical design, and it's an interesting change of pace. The challenge level is high at first, but it's so cheerful and comfortable that it's hard to resist coming back again.

    This feels more like a weird Sega project than something that would pop up on Playstation. It's colorful and quirky, and it doesn't pop up for sale very often. It's not expensive, though, so if you want to play something whimsical like Nights into Dreams that is full of children's book-like feel instead of darkness and drama, take a look at Odo Odo Oddity. I like it a lot.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 03-10-2016 at 11:01 PM.

  23. #73
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    Default Popoitto Hebereke

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ID:	8031Hebereke, also known as Uforia in PAL regions, is a pretty well-known and popular import platformer from Sunsoft on the NES/Famicom that commands a fairly high price. What isn't discussed as much is that Hebereke kind of became Sunsoft's mascot unofficially in the '90s, and that there are quite a few games starring the characters that jumped onto the scene back in that venerated release. Popoitto Hebereke is one of those many spinoffs (also in PAL regions as Hebereke's Station or Hebereke's Popoitto), and is part of one of the puzzle group of spinoffs that started on the Super Famicom. The version I'll be writing about is for the Sega Saturn.

    Popoitto Hebereke is essentially a minor evolution of Dr. Mario in which the little buggers you need to eliminate move around until you land some pieces on them. Your falling pieces may resembles puyos, but they act like the pills in Dr. Mario in that they don't fall apart when hanging off of the side. You have 2 part groups of blobs that drop from the top of the screen in mixed and matched colors (with the occasional flashing blob that acts as a wild card that matches everything), and you must group 4 in a row or more in order to pop them and clear your playfield. Chains results in higher points, and in versus mode make things worse for your opponent. The other twist aside from movement is that when enough pieces accumulate atop one of your creatures to eliminate, it will fall down until hitting the bottom of the screen or something else to support it.

    So, in a nutshell what Popoitto Hebereke is is a slightly more chaotic Dr. Mario on the Saturn and Playstation with a nice versus mode and a story mode with cute little cutscenes to give it personality. I'd say more about it, but there's not much else there. Good production values, cute characters, and a minor evolution of a successful franchise... it's a cute, fun little package, even if it's not entirely original. If you're an old Dr. Mario pro, give it a whirl to see some fun wrinkles on an old standby. It's pretty neat, and can be had for less than $5 regularly on ebay, and it's easily worth that. Puzzle fans should dig it.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:52 PM.

  24. #74
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    Default O-chan no Oekaki Logic

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ID:	8032Time for more of the Hebereke gang! Mario started off in platformers, and so did Hebereke. Mario went off into the Tetris fever to be Dr. Mario, so the Hebereke gang followed suit with Poppun Hebereke and Popoitto Hebereke. So, when Mario went and did Mario's Picross and Mario's Super Picross, Sunsoft knew what the Hebereke gang needed: O-chan no Oekaki Logic, their very own picross game! Now if only they had a racing and fighting spinoff (spoiler: they do)...

    So, yes, O-chan (the kid in the tanooki costume) from Hebereke is the face of O-chan no Oekaki Logic, and it plays just like every other picross puzzle game ever made, so I won't waste time with a "how to play" on this one. If you don't know picross, it's a logic puzzle with some similar elements to Minesweeper, but without the random guessing, and you create apicture on a grid based on the numeric horizontal and vertical clues provided. These puzzles can be simple or taxing, but most people find them to be a pleasant exercise. Like Mario's Super Picross, you can play with a mouse if you so desire.

    Presentation-wise, this one is pretty run of the mill. The music is peppy but forgettable, and the nature of picross really limits what can be done graphically. However, they did squeeze in a lot of color where they could, and the puzzles get larger in scale than those found in Mario's games. Where they really tried to change things up was wirh modes of play.

    There are 5 main modes of play in this game, which is a big shift from Mario's 2. First you have story mode, where O-chan travels about the island, conversing with other characters and solving puzzles. Next is a rather different 2 player mode, where you and a friend are each alotted about 30 seconds/turn to pick a square to mark. Once you choose or run out of time, it switches over. It's a strange a possibly unnecessary way to play, but with just the right friend I'm sure some fun could be had. Third is puzzle mode, where you can go down the line, taking on puzzles without cutscenes in attempt to set the best time record in each, complete with initials for every puzzle. In a competitive home, this is great, or if you just want to take on some puzzles without the lengthly cutscenes of story mode. Fourth is challenge mode, which is just like the last, but with huge, expert-level puzzles starting at a 20x20 grid. Finally, there is an edit mode. I don't see myself using this ever, really, but it's there if designing picross pictures is your thing. All of these modes give you a lot of content and puzzles to ensure you get your money's worth.

    Overall, this is another solid release in the Hebereke franchise, and another that is very accessible regardless of language skills. There is a ton of content, an upbeat, colorful presentation, and it costs very little (mine was about $3). If you like or think you might like picross games, O-chan no Oekaki Logic is a no-brainer. It's simple fun and brings another style of puzzle to the Saturn. These Hebereke games really show Sunsoft making a run at building a quality franchise in the late '90s!
    Last edited by celerystalker; 05-12-2015 at 10:53 PM.

  25. #75
    Keeper of the Terror Mask Dire 51's Avatar
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    I've been quietly following this thread for a while, but I finally felt the need to post a reply.

    Ever since getting the majority of the Famicom games that I've wanted, I've been keeping an eye out for lesser-known/virtually-unknown-outside-of-Japan games that aren't too Japanese language-heavy that I wasn't previously aware of. Your post about Shikinjou, which I'd never heard of until you posted about it, intrigued me enough to go do some more research on it. I was sufficiently intrigued enough to buy a copy (and you're right, it's very inexpensive - scored a CIB copy for a little under $15).

    After playing it, I have to say that you're 100% correct. It's loads of fun, and well worth the price. Thanks for the heads-up!

    Now back to quietly following this thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by celerystalker View Post
    Ok, time to get weird. Shi Kin Jyo for the Famicom is a puzzle game of sorts from the animation studio Toei. Like most people who get into imports, I occasionally pick up small lots. Typically, there may be one or two games I really want surrounded by a few others I either don't know about or already have (in which case I give the doubles away to friends and family who love games, but don't often have a lot of cash to blow on silly imports), and in this case I was picking up a copy of Konami's renowned Getsu Fuuma-Den, and this odd green cart was just in the mix with a couple of future giveaways for my brother. The whole lot was cheaper than just Getsu Fuuma-Den, so there was no risk involved... but I didn't realize I was in for a real treat!

    At its core, Shi Kin Jyo is a Sokobon-style block pusher, but with super duper heavy Japanese overtones. You play as a Kyonshi (a hopping asian vampire who sucks chi) trapped in a temple full of giant mahjong tiles. In each room, you must solve the puzzle and escape to the next room, Lolo-style, but without enemies. Typically, this involves pushing 2 or more matching tiles together to clear them, though clearing all tiles is far from a pre-requisite for completing a level; you simply must clear a path to the exit and walk through it.

    Things are rarely simple, though, as there are wrinkles beyond tile matching. Some tiles cannot be moved, and any tile that comes into contact with one turns into one as well, making these your biggest threat for having to restart a level. Also, there are invisible mazes and invisible teleporters on occasios to throw you for a loop, making you rethink your prospective route strategy. These are rarely frustrating, though, as the first option in the pause menu allows a quick restart. These elements all come together in a cohesive picture that presents a reasonable challenge for those up to the task.

    Presentation-wise, the music is a little repetitive, but the one tune you hear over and over isn't particularly grating. The graphics are quite simplistic, but effective enough, and the giant mahjong tiles are reasonably ornate. The game does quite well in presenting an extremely folksy-Japanese atmosphere that helps set this game apart.

    Overall, I was thrilled to death with Shi Kin Jyo. I sat and played more than 60 levels when I tried it for the first time, as it is quite engaging. The menus are not English friendly, but are navigable enough, and the actual gameplay transcends language, making it a breeze to pick up and play. If you like overhead room-based puzzlers like Lolo or Sokobon, I whole-heartedly recommend this for the all but nothing it costs. What a nice little surprise it turned out to be!

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