Monday, 30 May 2011

Surreal Fighter II: Hyper-Condriac Edition. No You Are Not Ill... It Really Happened: Game 0010

OK, this one's just odd. But where else can you watch a poor man's Scott Bakula do a dragon punch? take into battle the scrawniest 'digitised' versions of your typically muscley World Warriors? and feast upon Kylie Minogue's first and last ever appearance in a video game? Only in legendary developer Capcom's bizzarro series offshoot: Street Fighter: Real Battle on Film, their ill judged attempt at making the game of the movie of the game, phew. After all I can think of no more a fitting tribute to the late Raul Julia then digitising his stunt double to star in a game that would be released just as his actual body laid still cooling in the morgue. His family must have been touched.

So is the game really as bad as it should be? The answer is a resounding and rather pleasing no. Developed by Capcom of Japan the game is a pretty faithful recreation of the Super Street Fighter II Turbo game engine, employing all the mechanics of the above installment and doing so with the solid controls expected of Capcom. It's clear that the game was developed as a product to export to the West, cashing in on the (debatable) success of the Street Fighter movie. Similarly its digitised visuals are a clear attempt to compete with Midway's Mortal Kombat, that fleeting threat to the beat 'em up crown of the early nineties. Though I have always maintained that anyone who championed Mortal Kombat as a serious contender must have been something of a Kock.

Graphically the animations are not as fluid as the hand drawn sprite work of the previous games in the series, with low frame rate animations and equally horrible environment graphics that are often laughable. The familiar riffs and beats of the series have also been ditched in favour of more generic music filler. But I really can't say I didn't enjoy the whole experience. For all intents and purposes this is a perfectly playable Street Fighter II, albeit a rather surreal one. Fans of the series should definitely give it a look, if only for the fact that Capcom will never take this kind of risk again.

Favorite Moment: Its often a hoot to see the actors giving it their best shot at replicating poses ingrained in most die hard fans memories. But there's just nothing menacing about a skinny bloke with a neat side parting in over sized red pyjamas grimacing at you after a fight.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Official Shinobi 3DS Announcement Trailer Released

OK Griptonite, I take back my threat about the 3D shuriken bonus stage. This looks great.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Joe Mushashi In The Third Dimension. Lets Hope That Means A 3D Shuriken Firing Bonus Stage

Fresh from Youtube, comes this supposedly 'leaked' trailer for the new Shinobi title on Nintendo 3DS. Complete with burnt in timecode and file name of Shinobi_Trailer Smacks of a marketing stunt most fanboys and girls would wet the bed over. But what do I care? What it means to me is a brand new instalment of my favourite franchise ever. In 1987, when I was 9 years old, nothing mattered to me except racing around on my BMX, playing computer games and practising the ancient art of Ninjitsu in the local nature reserve, no surprise then that the original arcade Shinobi just seemed to speak to me, and sowed the seeds of a 24 year (minus the odd dud in the canon) love affair. Lets just hope developers Griptonite and Sega have had the foresight to take the gameplay back to its side scrolling, ninja magic casting, two tiered, action roots. And listen Sega, I'm really not joking about the 3D shuriken throwing bonus stage. You'd be fools not to. That is all.

Update: Digging around the internet I found this tantalising screenshot:

Monday, 23 May 2011

Stop Press: PS2 'All Star Fighters' Stars None Other Than Giant Pin Up: Riho Futaba

My time spent with Tamsoft's Demolition Girl this weekend (see review below) has left me yearning for more of Riho Futaba and her crazy monster life in Tokyo. Digging around Youtube I found this clip of All Star Fighters. A Playstation 2 budget beat em up that stars many of the characters from D3 Publisher's Simple 2000 series published in Japan. A number of these titles were localised to Europe by 505 Games Street often loosing content from a squeeze of the original game down to a size that would fit on CD to make costs even cheaper and no longer under the Simple 2000 moniker. The game looks like great fun, sort of Marvel Vs. Capcom for B-game characters. In the clip you can watch Riho fight Aya, bikini zombie slayer of Onechanbara fame and an E.D.F. foot soldier from the Earth Defense Force series. The eBay hunt begins.

Update: Managed to bag a brand new copy of All Star Fighters from Amazon for £9.99. Sweet deal. So expect a review of the game in the coming weeks. Also found that Riho Futaba has been moonlighting in a second PS2 title: Fighting Angels is an all female wrestling game from D3 Publisher. Jeez that girl gets around. This game was a staggering 25p on Amazon. Woah! See a video of the action at this link:

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Plan 9 From Way Out East: Game 0009

Just as B-movies came to the fore as an opposition to the glitzy, high budget, Hollywood studio fare of the 50s, in recent years we have seen a trickle of B-games being released far from the front lines of the mainstream video game marketplace. This sub-genre has its pioneers in designers like Swery and Suda 51 the self styled 'cult' directors of interactive entertainment. And much like the handful of directors of those old B-pictures that have endured, this new wave of gamemakers are fast becoming regarded as the medium's auteurs. While no such praise should be showered at developer Tamsoft, Demolition Girl's attempts at subverting the sci-fi/monster movie genre, its acute Japanese sensibilities and its fine line between intentional and accidental humour display all the trademarks of this recently applauded subgenre.

Demolition Girl (barely) tells the story of pin up model Riho Futaba, who after being bitten by a tiny alien on a photoshoot (?) has grown to a seven storey giant intent on laying waste to Tokyo, firing Hadoukens at you and taking every opportunity to show you her bikini clad, hill sized jiggling breasts and hillock sized wiggling ass. Did I mention it was Japanese? You play the army and its your job to gather information on the creature, subdue her and ultimately defend Miss Futaba from an imminent alien invasion intent on destroying oversized bikini models and the rest of the world (probably).

Fans of similar B-game titles Mr. Moskeeto and the Earth Defense Force series will know what to expect from this ridiculous yet charming slice of fanciful Japanese culture. The game displaying genuine moments of comedy that often overshadow the rather cumbersome control layout. One such stand out scene involves measuring the size of Riho's breasts. Fortunately your helicopter is fitted with a double barrelled giant breast sized measuring ray. Thank heavens. Its impossible not to take the whole game with a pinch of salt and the promise of ever more ludicrous scenarios from the six missions on offer is enough to keep you glued to your pad. This isn't Shakespeare, but when you're tasked with measuring boobs, injecting a giant woman in the ass, fighting off alien skull caps and dogfighting aliens to save a subdued, helicopter winched Miss Futaba, who cares?

While not in the same league as the modern works of the B-game auteurs. Demolition Girl throws some interesting ideas into the mix with a wry smile and it may just become a title with some historical significance if the B-Game genre continues to gather momentum.

Favourite Moment: In order to aid in measuring our bulging bikini model's parts the army have issued you with special weapons. A pull of the L1 trigger fires a huge bomb capsule, bursting to reveal a sports stadium sized slice of strawberry cake. That'll slow her down, all girls love cake, right?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Capcom Assembles Crack Team For New Action RPG: 'Dragon's Dogma'

Capcom's latest project, an open world action RPG, brings together many of the developer's greatest talents, including direction from Devil May Cry series helmer Hideaki Itsuna and Resident Evil 4 producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi. Capcom boast that this is the largest development team they have ever employed on a project, that's no surprise if they are to meet their optimistic release deadline of early 2012. In the meantime take a look at this opinion splitting trailer seeming to deliver distinctly western looking visuals, fast paced action and a Shadow Of The Colossus style battle in the air. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Which One Of Those Dots Is Me?: Game 0008

Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is sure to split anyone who plays it into two firm camps. Those that die within seconds of pressing the start button and scream: 'Arrrrgghhhh, that game just raped my eyes' and those that die within seconds of pressing the start button and scream: 'Arrrrgghhhh that game just raped my eyes'. The difference? Whether the player grins from ear to ear jabbing the start button for another try, or simply stands there scratching their head much like asking neanderthal man to describe his favourite iPhone app. Let me make this very clear: Bangai-O is NOT for everyone. Developer Treasure's over the top shooter/puzzler hybrid is now in its third incarnation and its not the easiest series to get to grips with. Those expecting a traditional mech-shooter need not apply. However those that persevere past its 'uber bullet hell' exterior will be rewarded with one of the most innovative and addictive video games ever to grace a console.

In Bangai-O going in guns blazing is never a good strategy. The series is and always has been a test of patience, of risk and reward, a subtle blend of exploration, experimentation and all out fireworks when things get seriously heavy. Like Platinum's Vanquish, the game's mechanic rests on a knife edge balancing act of resources. Playing things steady and slow, before finding an opening to unleash screen filling counter attacks. These counter attacks work in relation to the number of enemy bullets or missiles in your vicinity. If your surrounded by 100 bullets when you retaliate, you'll fire 100 missiles back, get surrounded by 1000 bullets and you'll fire 1000 back, forcing you to steer yourself into 'seat of your pants'/imminent death territory in order to unleash level destroying retaliations. The largest of these attacks triggering a satisfying 16-bit 'slow down' effect letting you indulge in the majesty of the damage you're about to unleash. Your mech is also equipped with two switchable guns (the types determined by the levels themselves) and dash and freeze attacks, that can push threw or halt enemy fire respectively and as with all Treasure's greatest titles you'll need to employ every single trick up your sleeve to finish the game's huge selection of 100 levels.

The levels themselves are selectable in any order from the off, meaning that trickier challenges can be left and then revisited as you progress further into the game. Bangai-O HD takes all the anarchy laid down by the previous games and pushes everything up to eleven. The super smooth 3D graphics not straying too far from their sprite based origins as to be unrecognisable, but allowing for ever more complicated Spiro-graph inspired missile explosions. Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury really is an incredibly accomplished video game celebrating, in true Treasure style, what it means to simply be a video game. No other developer would dare to twist the mech shooter genre so far as to reduce your 5 storey high mech to a mere centimetre, have you collect fruit like you were Pac-Man, or volley a sports centre worth of footballs at robots considerably bigger than you. And you've got to love 'em for it. Its Bangai-O's fiendish tests of mental dexterity however that clearly stands the title out as something quite individual. Like the best puzzle games, the challenges on offer force you to try, re-evaluate your strategy and try again, and do so with that often elusive 'one more go' ingredient.

Favorite Moment: Early sections of some stages often serve up tiny cityscapes, that when blasted reveal a plethora of power ups. Drilling these tiny conurbations with missiles unleashes a satisfying string of Wilhelm screams as the occupants inside crumble with their buildings.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Debit Card Trials...

I made a conscious decision to leave my bank card at home today. Its become the last resort. An actual drastic measure to curb my addiction and the only sure fire way of not buying a video game on my lunch break. But something strange happened. I went past the place I had decided to spend my lunch money and straight to the game stores. I am an idiot. Was I seriously considering going without food for video games? I hit all the usual spots I can reach on my lunch, Grainger Games, HMV and Game with a fiver in my pocket. In Game I came across a couple of titles that made me regret leaving the card. PS2 copies of Wetrix 2 and Guilty Gear X2. I stood holding the copy of Guilty Gear X2, trying to rationalise it. My first thought was I hate Guilty Gear. I actually don't like any of the series, they are at best a mild destraction for 10 mins. Yet I still have this inclination to buy Arc System Works' games for their artistry, for their attempts at delivering something different to the 2D beat 'em up genre. But why? when am I gonna play it? It's just to adorn my shelf, next to the other Gulity Gear titles I haven't even tried. I reluctantly put it back. But only as I didn't have a means of paying for it. Is this really what its come to? Well perhaps its a step in the right direction, but it felt weird. Who knows? Perhaps this blog is beginning to take an effect on my spending habits.

P.S. On Monday I spanked £50.00 on games on an all day shopping spree. One of them I had forgot I already owned.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Harder Than A Bag Of Nails: Game 0007

Wanna die every few paces you take only to respawn with no weapon upgrades? Wanna see 16-bit worthy foes blown away and sprite-scaled right into your face? Wanna ride on the back of stampeding purple robot llamas? All the while being too scared to lift your finger off the trigger to scratch any of those body parts that only seem to itch during insanely intense video games? Then come on in old friend, developers M2 welcome you to the greatest homage to the greatest installment, of the greatest run 'n' gun series of all time. Contra Rebirth is THE spiritual successor to the Super Famicom classic Contra Spirits and if that means as much to you as it does to me then I guess you'll...Hey put that Wii Shop Channel down, I haven't finished yet.

Contra Spirits defined the possibilities of the platform shooter and to this day still shows the immense power under the hood of the aged Super NES technology. Rebirth developers M2 knew this, and have employed every trick to bring the nostalgia back to the Wii Ware service. Its fitting that a company that has been tasked with conversion and emulation projects over the years (highlights including the technologically bewildering Game Gear port of Gunstar Heroes and many of the Wii's Virtual Console refits) be tasked with reigniting the memories of this genre stalwart with a genuine extension of the 19 year old Super NES classic. The game itself is perfectly pitched at a difficulty level anyone familiar to Contra will recognise. To anyone not familiar that's bloody hard. But like the best of the series its a war of attrition, a game of pattern recognition which is fortunately made easier due to the game's generous infinite continues and frequent restart points.
The advancements in graphical power over the intervening years have been lovingly dressed down to mimic the sprite scaling and rotation effects of the classic Mode 7 look, throwing everything from tiny man-faced scavenging birds to screen filling robots at you, but with none of the slow down or flicker associated with older technologies. The screen literally bursts with explosions, bullets and bodies (often yours) and blasts you from action set piece to set piece much like the Super NES original. Much of the music and sound effects are also lifted straight from Contra Spirits, adding to the nostalgia.

What is missing are the intervening levels between the side scrolling action of the original games. An update of the overhead SNES levels, or the claustrophobic corridors of the NES titles, or dare I say it, a complete reimagining of these bonus levels would have cemented Contra Rebirth as an 'out and out' classic. As it stands its a fantastic addition to the series, M2 having delivered a semi sequel the original dev team can be proud of. And while it may only fill the shadow of Contra Spirits, it's a difficult shadow to fill, and something that hasn't been achieved by any of the pretenders to the throne over the intervening years.

Favourite Moment: Story has no place in any Contra game, and its nice to see M2 agree. Between levels you are treated to a series of genuine WTF cut scenes, each making less sense than the last. But you can't help raise a smile at the mega butch Lance appearing undercover dressed as a woman in a cocktail dress and a father boa. Classic.