07 December 2012

Article: I like Playstation Portable (Playstation Portable)

Playstation Portable is a console that get beat up a lot. It's diminished and ignored. I want to give it a hug and say; it is okay, I think you are fun. I will not sell you.

The number one argument towards PSP is that there is not any games, that the library only consists of collections of already released games and "bad versions". I do not really understand why this image has been so widely accepted, I mean sure - there is not very much to find for the one with certain special interests, but I would not take it as far as saying there is not any games. If we take a look at my own collection and/or games I have personally played and enjoyed, we have Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, Echoshift, Every Extend Extra, God of War: Chains of Olympus, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Little Big Planet, LocoRoco 1 and 2, Lumines 1 and 2, Me & My Katamari, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, N+, Patapon 1, 2 and 3, Prinny: Can I really be the hero?, Rock Band Unplugged, Silent Hill Origins and SSX On Tour. There we have more games than I like on for example Genesis.

There is further on many more or less strong brands that made it onto the PSP, on top of the ones I have already mentioned. We have Ace Combat, Ape Escape, Assassin's Creed, BlazBlue, Bomberman, Burnout, Bust-A-Move, Call of Duty, Colin McRae, Command & Conquer, Crash Bandicoot, Crazy Taxi, Dante's Inferno, Darius, FIFA, Final Fantasy, Flow, Gradius, Gran Turismo, Grand Theft Auto, Guilty Gear, Killzone, King of Fighters, LEGO, Madden, Manhunt, Medal of Honor, Metal Gear Solid, Mortal Kombat, NBA, Outrun, Pac-Man, Prince of Persia, Pro Evolution Soccer, R-Type, Rainbow Islands, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, Soul Calibur, Space Invaders, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Street Fighter, Super Monkey Ball, Tekken, Test Drive, Theme Park/Hospital, Tiger Woods, Tony Hawk, Tomb Raider, Transformers, Twisted Metal, Viewtiful Joe, Virtua Tennis, Wipeout and X-Men. Say what you will about many of the ones mentioned in this list, but there are games.

Despite this many gamers laugh and go "PSP does not have any games" and buys a 3DS.

15 November 2012

Article: The cube of happiness (Gamecube)

Nintendo's Gamecube makes me happy. It was technically inferior its opponents from the console generation, the controller was worthless in many different genres and the console quite frankly had a toy feel to it. So why does it make me happy?

Sega had just given up on Dreamcast, the market was all Sony and Microsoft. Playstation 2 and Xbox. Performance, hardcore, conformity. Then along came a little rascal cube. What did it have? Certainly not a DVD-player. It did not even have the abillity to play CD's. No support for widescreen worth mentioning and the online service covered about a handfull of titles. A stillborn project? No way. If it was something Gamecube focused on it was games. Everyone was invited. The startupline during launch was pretty decent (plenty of third party developers and good games) and it was about to get better. There was a strong support from both players and developers - the library grew to over 600 differens games with a total sale number of over 208 000 000 sold copys.

But this is all statistics. There is nothing wrong with statistics but screw statistics for the moment. It does not say anything about why Gamecube makes me happy. It is more the feeling I get from just playing with it that makes me want to write a short article about it. The small discs, the different design, the incredible comfortable controllers (when in their element). The "cube" almost feels like an underdog that did not go for technically impressive hardware and flexing of muscles, it was just supposed to be fun to play.

Wii is, as we all know, backwards compatible with the Gamecube games but if I am honest it feels like a shame to play them on a Wii. When I want to play Gamecube games the cube has to show up. Like a big piece of candy in my livingroom, reminding me of a time before the online circus, the constant struggle to achieve some kind of status and the never ending effort to deliver chocking content. A time where it was more important that you smiled instead of said wow.

14 November 2012

News: Pier Solar HD remake?

Pretty much exactly two years ago Watermelon gave us a very delayed RPG for Mega Drive/Genesis - which was Pier Solar and the Great Architects. It sold out in notime and demands huge prices nowadays. Now Watermelon is asking for $139 000 over at Kickstarter to produce a remake which will be released on PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox Live Arcade and... Oh yeah, of course, Dreamcast. I hope they get what they ask for because Pier Solar is absolutely worth playing.

13 November 2012

News: NEO XYX announced

NG:DEV TEAM is up to mischief once again, this time with a vertical shoot 'em up named NEO XYX. I very much enjoyed both Gunlord and Fast Striker so I have every bit of faith in them delivering another solid shooter. As with all their releases, it's not just a Dreamcast version but a Neo Geo one as well. I for one am getting the Dreamcast version because I could never quite justify getting a Neo Geo in terms of the prices versus the game library. Anyway, I should not digress. In the time being I do not know anything about NEO XYX more than the fact that it is, as I said, a vertical shoot 'em up and contain six stages and six bosses. Here is a brief gameplay teaser.

07 October 2012

Review: Spider-Man 2 (Playstation 2)

Spider-Man 2 is of course based on the second part of the Sam Raimi trilogy about my favorite super hero. Since it is a video game it does not have to be exactly like the movie which it is not - they have sprinkled a few extra things on it such as the appearance of Black Cat and other things not shown in the feature film. But most of the story cutscenes are indeed from the movie and they are motivating the player to progress.

The single most important aspect of any Spider-Man game is the web swinging. How is the web swinging in Spider-Man 2? It is very fun and exciting with a bit of timing and planning involved to get the most speed. With a lot of mini missions scattered around the city there is many hours to be spent just swinging around having an absolute blast with daring diving, speedy swinging and furious fighting. Although the fighting system is a bit dumbed down, to say the least, I liked it. It is nice to be able to beat some bad guys up without having to train for ages. The missions range from defeating random enemies to rescuing a few innocents from accidents and robberies, which can be a bit tedious at times since it is rather repetetive. But on the other hand these missions are almost completely optional and can be done if the player desires to do so.

The graphics are the realistic type, with no "cartoonish" look, and they hold up for the most part. I would not say it looks great during in-game cutscenes but it does not look bad, the city looks alive and does not suffer from any major graphical problems. There is, however, a problem with this game. A huge problem...

Let us just get it out there. The voice acting. It is absolutely horrible. I never saw myself as someone who cares all that much about voice acting in a game if it is fun to play, but this is just insanely bad. They got Tobey Maguire to read the lines for Spider-Man which is cool but he obviously was under heavy influence of prozac or some other sedative. He barely cares and read the lines so uninspired I sometimes felt like muting the sound to be able to enjoy my experience and not have some boring downer sigh words like they meant nothing. Add to this that the sound for the voices is very quiet and the sound effects are really loud - with no subtitles option - and you have a game where the player has to turn up the volume during every cutscene.

Apart from the terrible voice acting and the somewhat repetetive mission dynamics it is a great Spider-Man game which is a great buy concidering it goes for about £0.01 on Amazon.

03 October 2012

Review: God Hand (Playstation 2)

Released in 2006, just after Okami, God Hand makes Clover's last game. It is an action beat 'em up with a story as paper thin as... as... paper... Long ago a fallen angel named King Angra was defeated with a pair of divine arms called God Hands - which Gene, the game's main character, now owns one of. He gets entangled in a battle against four demons and their struggle for world domination and that is it. But it is not the story that makes this game interesting, it is the way it is being told. It is cheesy, it has bad jokes, weird creatures, embarrasing voice acting and the list goes on. Together with a pretty high difficulty this feels kind of awesome, actually.

I think it is refreshing to see games take risks, go all in and dare to think a bit crazy, but regrettably God Hand does not quite reach the same heights as other spaced out games like for example Deadly Premonition. In its own obscure Twin Peaks style of weird storytelling it really was one of the great games many gamers will overlook due to its first appearence - that it would be a bad game. On the contrary it is extremely well thought through and details that one would concider poorly executed is actually intended and carefully planned. I can not say the same for God Hand. Yes, the story, the characters and the general cheesyness is hilarious in all its stupidity, but the way Clover portraits the game gives me more of the feeling that occurs after a plump joke has been told in the wrong company. It is just way to tasteless, it even goes past "so tastless it is funny" and all the way back to just plain tasteless.

That said, I really love the gameplay. The arcade style of fighting is very addictive and I found myself wanting more and more. Which is the best attacks to string together in which situations? What attack works best for a particular boss? It almost feels a bit like Mega Man sometimes in that regard! It is on the other hand a bit annoying that the camera has such issues and the controls could be a lot better - these errors obviously hurt the overall score the gameplay would recieve on a scale - but I can not help myself. It has a certain charm I can embrace even when making all these mistakes. It does not, however, gain anything over time. After fifteen hours I feel pretty fed up with the game. In small doses it is a blast to just laugh and beat stuff up, but as a whole it becomes rather boring.

15 September 2012

Article: Trance Vibrator (Playstation 2)

Xbox and Gamecube both have their share of different accessories. The Dreamcast have many accessories. But the one accessory that really made my eyebrows jump up in the air when I first heard about it - is the Trance Vibrator.

The Trance Vibrator was sold in a special edition of the rythm based railshooter Rez. It came with an USB cable to be plugged into the console and a washable pouch to keep it in. Yes, washable. When running the game - the vibrator... vibrates. Apparantly a lot, I have not had the delightful chance to try it out but from what I hear it is much stronger than the built in rumble feature in the Dual Shock 2 controllers.

Since the release of this... interesting, to say the least, accessory it has been the subject of reversed engineering and is now also sold as a general PC peripheral for those long hot nights of playing Minesweeper.

So now you do not have to answer something conventional like "the Samba de Amigo maracas!" when asked about your favorite accessory, now you can shout "the Trance Vibrator!" from the top of your lungs.

12 September 2012

Review: Yoshi's Island DS (Nintendo DS)

I remember when this came out! I got to review it for a community called Spinn, driven by SVT (Swedish Television) and I played through it, was mildly disappointed and wrote a few lines about how mediocre it was. But this was six years ago. I decided it was time for a re-evaluation because I really wanted to play Yoshi's Island again and the first one is outside this blogs scope since it was released on the Super Nintendo. Hence, the DS version found its way out of the shelf.

Where should they go from Super Mario World: Yoshi's Island? It was so good it is hard to imagine what could have improved the concept without changing it too much. Of course they figured out a way by implementing more babies. Yes, the "more of everything" approach. More babies, more puzzles, higher difficulty and so on. Every baby has different strenghts and weaknesses and the levels absolutely utilizes this, it really feels like every baby is needed in its own irreplacable way.

It is on the other hand fewer levels in this game compared to its big brother, there is five worlds to explore in total, and while this may sound like a pretty short adventure I assure you it is not. Well, OK, if you play the game just to clear it then it can be quite short - but if you play it to find all the secrets in every world and go for 100% clear it will last very long.

Boy do they hide their secrets well! It is like they have stored every good idea for a hiding place they ever had and used it in this game. In the beginning it is really fun to collect everything and maybe give every other level one extra go to get everything but as the game progresses this becomes increasingly difficult to the point that I almost do not know how to find everything. There is just so many paths to take, doors that leads to doors one can not back into again and the search for 100% seems more and more like a distant dream and ultimately a chore I am not willing to pursue. In many of the last levels I put in hours of work without reaching 100% which makes me not want to try it again.

This is were the game really gives the player a choice. It is possible to just finish the game without a care in the world for the hidden goodies, there is no "bad ending" or anything that will punish those gamers, but if one really want to get everything possible out of the game it has hours upon hours of treasure hunting in its 40+ levels.

So, in conclusion, no matter what kind of gamer you are you will definately have fun with Yoshi's Island DS. It is a good addition to every DS collection.

08 September 2012

Article: Top 5 The Biggest Letdowns of Playstation 2

First of all I would like to say that this list is based only on my own personal opinions and experiences. There might be, as one would call it, worse games for the Playstation 2 and some might not agree that the games presented here was in fact letdowns - but that is fine. Just drop a comment or two if you want to share.

Now then, with that out of the way - let us dig in to the list! 

5. Twisted Metal Black
I have always liked the Twisted Metal concept. I also thought I lived in a part of the world that was not so picky in what to pass when it comes to censoring. Unfortunately, I was wrong. While the gameplay is intact, and this is why it only makes it to place number five, the cutscenes are just that. Cut. Cut out completely, rendering the game completely storyless. Now, I have seen the footage on YouTube and yes I can agree that this might not be appealing to worried parents and deeply religious people but I mean come on. There is just no real reason for leaving the goodies out. And I really hate censorship.

4. 1945 1&2 The Arcade Games

Two decent shoot 'em up's for the price of a half one? Why yes please! Oh, wait... What happened to the controls? I do not know if you guys are familiar with the genre that is shoot 'em up, but there is quite some precision involved in advancing in these games. Precision that is effectively destroyed when not optimizing the controls - which causes an ever so slight delay. Who wants to play a demanding shoot 'em up with crappy controls? Not me.

3. Forbidden Siren
I am a big fan of survival horror. Especially the ones involving a good story, sinister sites and a cool gameplay twist. In Forbidden Siren it was said you could sightjack any other person, be it friend or foe, to see what they see. The characters are not soldiers with perfect aim, the surroundings are not laid out to form a logic path to take. It really feels like being lost in the dark with danger at every turn. The difficulty make the player feel very helpless which adds to the tension - but here is where it all goes pear shaped. The difficulty is not only in aiming and fighting, it is almost impossible to clear an area without having to try it multiple times. And I really mean multiple. The pure trial and error shatters every notion of fear down into a fine powder of frustration and boredom. The story is complicated as all hell and there is many characters to follow on top of this. It just does not feel like a survival horror, it feels like an extremely complicated game made for experts who wants a project to calculate.

2. Metal Slug Anthology
We are closing in on the absolute biggest letdown of my Playstation 2 experience - and Metal Slug Anthology almost made it there. If you like games to be tough in a sweet old school kind of way then you most probably already know all about Metal Slug. How this collection, Metal Slug Anthology, contains seven Metal Slugs plus extras. It truly is a must buy! But the PAL version is suffering from the very same problem 1945 1&2 The Arcade Games was. The controls. It is a very noticable delay between pressing a button and seeing the on-screen result. This makes this wonderful collection completely useless since none of the games can be controlled in a satisfactory way.

1. Ico
The reason this game ended up on the top place of my all time biggest letdowns of Playstation 2 is mostly because of my expectations. I expected an emotional journey surpassing everything else I had up to then experienced. With trembling fingers I started playing what was called a true masterpiece and so I met her. Yorda. The girl you are supposed to help by leading her through the castles pussles and defend from haunting dark beings. Well, let me put it this way. From the moment I met this utterly retarded girl, incapable of any brain activity or logic movement on her own, Ico was horrendous. I clearly saw what needed to be done and did it quite effortless, but to get that fruitbrained excuse of a NPC to follow in my steps was easier said than done. Since we got off on the wrong foot right off the bat it only got worse. My frustration grew with every trial that eventually I truly hated her. I wanted to go Duck Hunt on her ass and just never ever look back. Ico made me feel real feelings, oh yes it did, I felt real hate for the first time in a video game.

07 September 2012

Review: Rygar: The Legendary Adventure (Playstation 2)

Everything starts on an island called Argus. The princess Harmonia is holding a ceremony in which Rygar recieves a wreath (totally worth it) for his victory in a war he has been poking around in. Suddenly the party is crashed by the titans, also known as the not so happy campers, with Echidna in front. Echidna and Ikaros kidnaps the princess (you do not say!) and a furious minotaur pushes Rygar down a hole in the ground. Rygar obviously survives the fall and immediately finds the Diskarmor, the shield we remember from the arcades and the NES game. Rygar is briefed by the gods to stop the titans and save the princess in order to create justice, peace and all that. The story in this game is as shallow and sloppy as the game itself. It is cheesy, filled with embarrassing voice actors and... and... pretty graphics. Does not look to bad at all.

Pretty soon you get control over Rygar and the very first thing you notice is that the camera is not playing nice. Incredibly stupid (and locked) angles that changes without warning rendering the player blind or Rygar falls off a cliff or something since the controls get switched around together with the predetermined angles. In some narrow spaces it can get almost impossible to understand where you are or if you are in fact going backwards again.

When Rygar attacks, he freezes. And there is no target system available so if you miss your opponent with an inch then they can go around and hit you from the side long before you regain control of Rygar again. If you happen to press the button a second or maybe third time in all haste your attack becomes even longer and more time consuming. The battle system (and the HUD) reminds me of God of War that way, only much much worse. By the way, this came along three or four years before God of War - maybe Rygar inspired the people at Santa Monica? Anyway, you get a few different shields to play with (and switch between, again, just like in God of War), that can be upgraded with the points recieved from killing enemies (you know, like in...) and you can also put Mystic Stones on them. Nothing seems to matter all that much, I did not do especially much more damage in the end of the game compared to in the beginning, despite the fact that I maxed everything. During the course of the game you also unlock new skills and attacks, for example summons where you can call in different creatures to help you. But they miss as easily as the regular attacks and in two out of five times you wasted your magic.

The surroundings are very nice. It is beautiful and there is a lot of platforming to deal with, even if not all is great. There is many things to explore and loose threads that get left behind so that you can come back in a later stage of the game when you are better equipped. What really bugs me is the enemies. They are as mundane as they are few - there is maybe three different enemies throughout the game, and two of them are just variations of each other. They die from a couple of hits and become perfectly harmless really fast - you kind of just regard them as point containers instead of opponents - and that makes you feel very safe which of course makes you feel very bored. The save spots become redundant both because the low difficulty and the high frequency of them.

Every now and then a boss emerges, some cooler than others, and they all have one thing in common. Place Rygar in front of them and just spam the square button. They do however present some challenge when you are closing in on the end, but to just make every boss really easy pretty much except the last boss in its three stages is just unbalanced.

Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is short. It took me three hours and two minutes to finish it - and that is even after counting the times I got lost. This is being compensated by having a load of unlockables in form of images, videos, game modes and other surprises. You can play certain stages one at a time, you can play on Hard (and after that; Legendary) and there is even a mini game where you enter a stage, kill every enemie, rince and repeat. Depending on how well the player did during the game there is also different versions of the weapon - I got the option to play the whole game again with a pizza, which sounded fun, but the game is to bland to go through again.

02 September 2012

Review: Big Bang Mini (Nintendo DS)

Ever since I played New Super Mario Bros' minigame "Danger, Bob-omb! Danger!" I have been wondering how it would be to play a shoot 'em up with the stylus. How incredibly fast and precise one would be and how easy it would be dodging bullets with a finger on the ship. Then I realized most shoot 'em up's probably would be horrible with those kind of controls, Ketsui Death Label made the right call giving us D-pad- and button controls. Then I read about Big Bang Mini.

Pitch black night sky is the warzone, fireworks are your arsenal and starsigns your enemies.
Your vehicle is a small ball that you can move around with the stylus. On the upper screen is the sky and all the enemies that you shoot at with rockets. There is a small tutorial in the beginning of the game where you learn all about shooting and how the mechanics behind it works.

You see all the worlds on the menu as folders (like in Yoshi's Island if you remember) so it is early on obvious that you have to clear X worlds, XX stages. Every world has an end boss and a completely different theme where not only the enemies, bonuses and the star meter (I am getting to this in a bit) but even your own ship changes. The menu is at least as colorful as the explosive stages and they are blessed with a very catchy song that I caught myself humming on both on the train, in the shower and when doing the dishes.

The gameplay! Let us get to it! No more digression! You navigate on the lower screen whilst shooting up on the upper screen to hit enemies. The rockets that miss their target explodes in colorful bullets that rain down together with the ordinary enemy bullets and has to be avoided to be able to continue. It is pretty much basic stuff in the beginning, you shoot a lot of rockets - many of them hits enemies and many of them misses. Then the game is slowly introducing new abillities to give the gameplay a bit of variation, like for example homing rockets and shield barriers.

I briefly mentioned the star meter before and that I would get to it. Now I am getting to it. Every defeated enemy turns into a little neon star that falls down into the lower screen. If you catch it the star meter fills up a bit and when the meter is completely full the stage is cleared. After each stage you enter a bonus mode where a starsign hides. It is then your job to reveal it through some method depending on which world you currently are in. The starsigns are made up and can be everything from lonely fishermen to bats and airplanes.

The stages are pretty short and you could beat the whole game in just one sitting if it was not so cute and pretty. You kind of do not want to stress through the experience and tend to play one world at a time. Apart from the main story there is also extra missions, games with certain rules and multiplayer. I very briefly tried the latter and it was immensely fun to play against a friend. We held our DS' like books and saw each other on the screen that was not the stylus one, then it came down to a very simple and pure thing. Shoot. Shoot everything you possibly can while dodging the other player's effort. There was only three areas to visit in the multiplayer but there still was variety through special bonuses we got during combat where we, amongst other things, could darken the other players screen and things like that.

I can not shake the feeling of this being a home made project. It is superficial and short. But it has other strengths, it is stunningly beautiful and hypnotizingly addictive. It is best in small doses, which I honestly think all portable games should be. Pure action, auto save after each stage and a awesome song. Sometimes it does not have to be more complicated than that. Big Bang Mini is like a little audiovisual treat.

01 September 2012

Review: Maken X (Dreamcast)

If one is to speak about Dreamcast in a serious manner the subject at hand should obviously be the most innovative games. Jet Set Radio made celshading popular. Seaman was a bitter fish with a mans face with whom one could talk to through a microphone. In Typing of the Dead the player wrote words that appeared on screen in order to deal damage. The Dreamcast had a big bunch of good arcade ports including many popular shoot 'em ups. And so on. But there is one game on the Dreamcast, that mixes the first person angle with hack 'n' slash, that is rarely or never mentioned. I'm talking about Atlus' twelve year old Maken X.

Maken X, which translates to "the demon sword" is about just this particular sword with godlike powers which is going on an adventure. Sure the game has its obvious shortcomings, such as an incredibly boring story, utterly useless voice actors (in the western version, that is) and the fact that during the entire game the controls suffer from the loss of a second analog stick - but it is still very entertaining to play. You navigate between the stages via a world map and get to visit very diverse places such as China, Russia, England, France, Brazil and the United States in search of the missing old man, higher rank and more blade masters to take over. Wait, what? "Take over"? What am I talking about? Well, the brain jack system of course! An approach we have seen in, among others, Oddworld, Rocket Birds and Forbidden Siren. You get to take control over other characters in order to be able to do things you could not do before. Unlike in the forementioned games you here get to keep the characters that have been taken over and can freely switch between them on the world map before entering a stage. 

When taking over a character you get his or her full arsenal and skill, and there is up to twenty different enemies to be taken over - all significantly different from each other. Things that they do have in common includes being able to block, lock target on enemies, jump over their head and land behind them - all ninja like - and also the abillity to gather power to perform certain special attacks.If you are blessed with knowledge of the Japanese language, the Japanese version is strongly recommended. The western version did not just contain bad voice acting, but it also was slightly censored. We will sadly miss out on juicy details such as enemies with swastikas in their faces and a battle to the death with the Pope himself, right there in the Vatican.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that this is a title with flaws just as well as strengths and it probably is not for everyone - but it is on the other hand a inovative game with a fairly high replay value in regards to the ability to accumulate additional characters and the multiple endings. It is like I said rarely or never mentioned when talking about the Dreamcast - and frankly, I can not say why.

31 August 2012

Article: Playstation 2 liberated my inner demon

Once upon a time there was this boy who fell out of love with games. He sold most of his little collection to afford alcohol - which was immensely more fun. All was well in the World of Moonshine until the day the boy, almost out of coincident, got a hold of the new (well, almost new) Playstation 2. With it came several games, amongst others Silent Hill 2 and Grand Theft Auto 3. These games came to play a extremely important role in the boys attitude towards gaming and in the end even himself.

Of course the boy is me. I am not going to write as this was some magical tale, at least not if you do not want me to that is. Then there was a majestic dragon, who... No. I am not going to. The thing with Silent Hill 2 and Grand Theft Auto 3 was that they became important tools for my feelings. All the darkness, angst, frustration, the feeling of being powerless and the thirst for a truly own way to go suddenly had a way to channel themselves. I felt I had found a counterpart to myself in Silent Hill 2. I also found, and this is the most important part, that I could do what I wanted in Grand Theft Auto 3. While I did finish the game - most of my time in Liberty City was spent doing other things like hunting pimps, taking the easy way out of situations, always killing the ones I thought deserved it and so on. Choices that was not available in the games from my past. That was probably one of the main reasons for me backing out of gaming, there was just no room for selfish, evil if you will, actions. There was a good guy way and Game Over way. One very important aspect of the virtual worlds I surround myself with these days is that I can explore and live out my darker sides, my desperate longing for a simpler way of thought, where I can kill those in my way and achieve everything I want through sheer determination instead of standing in line accepting my position. In the real world I am trying to be kind, patient, collected and loving, but there is this small part of me that want to be ruthless, spontaneous, selfish and cold.

There is also the fact that many times the evil side in games is just misunderstood, betrayed, angry, discontent. It does not not want to let the other side just get what it wants, it wants revenge. In such games, like for example Killzone, I happily defend the dark side. I often want to take the communist side in first person shooters, not because I agree with their politics but because I am so utterly fed up with the notion of a clearly "good" side (mostly the US) to always join forces with.

Another example of this is the Gargoyle's Quest games (where the second one is in the banner of this blog), Firebrand is an evil being to that extent that he does what he have to in order to reach his goals. He happens to do more good than bad, but he does not intent to be good - he fights for himself. For his own personal goals. If one stands in the way there will be consequenses. There is also games where the evil side is bad to choose, like Lemmings. Kind of hard to get anywhere.

30 August 2012

Article: How to get the best video signal out of the Dreamcast

It is not as widely known as I had hoped that many Dreamcast games actually have VGA support. When the game have this label on the back of it that means it is good to go with VGA. Most of the Dreamcast gamers I have met and talked to actually starts off using RF and then switches up to regular (RGB)A/V cables as they realize it is much cleaner both on CRT- and HDTVs. But there is an even better option, wich is as mentioned; VGA.

Since most games are VGA compatible there is several VGA adapters released and one of the most common looks like this. You are likely to find another kind since the one pictured can be pretty expensive - but that is okay. Anyone of these boxes will do the job just fine as long as it is only for Dreamcast. The multiadapters can sometimes produce lower quality video and audio, so they should be avoided. If you are worried about buying one of the few games in the future that might not have VGA support you should get a switched one (some adapters have output to both VGA and most commonly Composite and/or S-Video).

Now then, how does one find these little darlings?
They are really all around, just search for Dreamcast VGA where ever you buy cables and it should pop up. Here is an eBay seller with many of the ones with new design for sale. I believe the problem where the weak switch would break is gone due to a different design. Racketboy sells another kind where there is only the VGA option - which works equally good. It obviously does not have a switch.

Just remember that you also have to purchase a VGA male to male cable since these adapters only have female out.

29 August 2012

Review: XIII (Xbox)

I bought this one for 1 SEK, which is about $0.15 and I can not really explain why it did not go for more since it actually is pretty decent. Ubisoft based this celshaded comic book style FPS on an old french-belgian magazine from the 80s - and the story roughly follows the fifteen first issues. It all starts with a man waking up with a bad case of amnesia and a tattoo (XIII). The president has been assassinated and the whole world is convinced this poor man did it. Okay, it is a unusually boring setting but hey - it might get more interesting as we go along.

I am just going to say it as it is. In regards to the story it does not get better. The whole game is about figuring out who you are, what the tattoo means and who else are involved in this mess. I was not interested in the beginning and I did not become interested during the course of the game. The thing that made me come back for more was instead the feeling of playing a diamond in the rough. Behind pretty bad controls and flat out broken AI there is quite the amount of fun little things to do and see. When you get a perfect headshot there is close ups of the bullets path and penetration in the form of comic book frames, all the explosions and loud noices is accompanied by the words "BANG" and "POW" etc. The mix between stealth, puzzle and pure action was very pleasant, not much unlike Perfect Dark.

XIII's biggest strength is in my opinion the comic book theme together with how smooth it runs. That is, the surface. And I can feel that a game from 2003 has to impress more than just visually. Ubisoft fails with the fire fights, it is worse than repetitive and harmless. The stealth levels are frustrating due to the inconsistency of the AI. Sometimes they see me through walls and sometimes they can not see me even if I stand right before them. If I am spotted I have to start all over again even if it means having to watch a long and tedious cutscene for the fourth time. This makes it feel like trial and error in some parts - and that means that the tension often turns into boredom.

The ending is a cliffhanger if I ever saw one (it even says "To be continued..." on the screen) and when I instinctively think "no" I accept the fact that this game did not turn out to be the diamond I was hoping for. I would on the other hand like to try it out online (or at least local multiplayer) but I do not know if I ever will make that happen.

28 August 2012

Review: Bully (Playstation 2)

Kids are cruel. I chose to open with a cliché, if Rockstar can then so can I. Bully is basically a little smaller and a little more boring clone of Grand Theft Auto, which is about the same thing as before. Respect!

It all begins with Jimmy Hopkins being dropped off by the Bullworth Academy - while his mother and her eleventh fiance goes off on a honeymoon. Bullworth is a school for troublemakers and punks who need extra supervision and discipline. Here rules the law of the jungle, the one who does not bully gets bullied. Just like in the Grand Theft Auto series the story is being guided forward by missions you chose to pursue in order to advance in the social ladder. At the school there are a number of stereotype groups, including snobs, nerds and jocks - everyone reacts to Jimmy depending on how you behave. 

Instead of guns and batons there is a rascal arsenal, just as predictable as it is, in fact, charming. Firecrackers, stink bombs, marbles, slingshots etc are some of the toys you can have fun with and the slingshot is upgradable. Common fights are in spite of this the most fun way to go, the attitude of the opponent goes from bad ass to frightened and humiliated. But look out when entering a fight, if a prefect catches you there will be a punishment in form of detention (mowing lawns). The school prefects acts as policemen and are almost impossible to shake off if you are not well prepared. As the game progresses, you can, however, be better at verbal excuses and get away with minor offenses, I will talk more about this later, but it does not really matter - the violence is not easy to get away with.One is early on introduced to Jimmy's skateboard, which honestly is extremely awkward. I was excited when I first heard about it but Jimmy's legs becomes completely stiff when riding and the speed increase is very very slight. Thank god for the bikes on the other hand, which you can buy in shops all over town. But the town is not available in the beginning, you have enough to do in the schoolyard. And they really put in some effort in designing the schoolyard, it is a nice environment that makes me want to explore my surroundings although most doors are just flat surfaces unable to open. When the game opens up to the outer areas and gives Jimmy things to do outside the school premises it becomes ebvious that it was the school they worked the most on - the rest of the town looks mediocre and is full of bugs. It is not uncommon to be able to go completely past buildings before they are rendered properly. Certain voice overs are late or absent, terrain textures do not load... Sometimes I felt as if the game just was not finished.

But back to school, most of the stuff happens there anyway. There are classes to take, built around various mini games - which if completed results in upgrades depending on the subject at hand. English class offers expanded vocabulary, art gives romantic tricks, chemistry provides access to firecrackers and so on. These classes are divided into one morning class and one afternoon class every day, so you have to get to each classroom in time before it ends for the day. Well, one day is about fifteen minutes of real time, and that makes the time pretty valuable. If you want to attend a few classes and at the same time be able to do some missions you barely have time to get home to your dorm. If you do not make it back to your bed before 2:00 in the morning you fall to the ground right where you stand - which often results in you being robbed when sleeping. It gets pretty hectic to say the least.

Where the music is unusually boring (it is one song, repeated in the infinite without interruption) the voice actors puts in some heart. I found myself eavesdropping on my fellow students discussing small everyday problems while I was looking rubber bands. Yes that is right, they have added rubber bands around the map that you then must collect for bonuses, just like in Grand Theft Auto. And they really mean business with bonuses, you unlock clothes and other special things after almost every successful mission. But the different options to dress differently is like polishing the brass on Titanic. The whole "dress-your-own-character" idea falls with the fact that it is a strict uniform dresscode at the school. No matter what kind of outfit you wear it must be changed as soon as you set foot on campus - which unfortunately is every time you want to save your game (unless you want to save in the city, which usually means that you then still have to get to school for more assignments and loose precious daytime) and also every quarter since you otherwise will faint and get robbed.Despite all this I still had fun - there was amusement in the little things, even if they were not so nicely done, and the will to put some annoying people straight drove me continue and finish the game. I would not recommend this as a first choice when it comes to open world sandbox games but it definitely is worth a look.

27 August 2012

Article: PS2 Shoot 'em ups

When I first entered the world of shoot 'em up I was told that Playstation, Saturn, Dreamcast and PC Engine was the consoles to go for. While their shooter libraries indeed are impressive I feel one obvious console was left out. Playstation 2.

The Playstation 2 has not only many shoot 'em ups of its own (Mushihime-sama, Espgaluda, Dodonpachi Dai-Ou-Jou, Ibara, Gradius V, Homura, Thinkle Star Sprites series, Double Shienryu, R-Type Final, XII Stag, Giga Wing Generations, Silpheed: The Lost Planet, Thunder Force VI etc) it has games that also got released on the Dreamcast (Triggerheart Exelica Enhanced, REZ, Chaos Field: New Order, Radirgy Precious, Shikigami No Shiro series, Psyvariar, Psyvariar 2: The Will to Fabricate) - and many arcade collections with older gems (Darius series, Space Invader series, 1942 etc).

Most notably for my self is the collection of Cave games on the system. (I know I wrote them as "Playstation 2 games" but of course they are arcade ports.) I thought I was going to share some thoughts on three of them, namely Dodonpachi Dai-Ou-Jou, Espgaluda and Mushihime-sama.

Dodonpachi Dai-Ou-Jou
The Donpachi series plays one of the most important roles in the history of bullet hell games. Not only was it one of the first to really drown the player in bullets, it is also one of the most notorious series in the genre with many beloved arcade hits under its belt. While Donpachi and Dodonpachi are covered on Saturn and Playstation, Dodonpachi Dai-Ou-Jou was far to demandning to be ported to those consoles. The Playstation 2, however, handles the game beautifully. The series' trademark chaining together with cranked up difficulty makes this game extremely intense and very hard to beat, let alone reach respectable highscores. With one of the most beautiful covers in video game history it makes for a must have in any shoot 'em up collection.

This is my favorite shoot 'em up of all time. Hell, it is one of my favorite games period. Right from the get go the soundtrack is amazing, the gameplay is interesting and the difficulty is just right. If you play to survive you can get quite far pretty fast and if you play to get a highscore it becomes tricky and tactical right from the very start. The mechanics are based upon the abillity to enter a special mode where all the bullets on screen turns into points if the enemy who shot them is destroyed. While in regular mode the bullets turns into objects that fills up the meter to go back into the special mode and so on. I am equally in love with ESP.Ra.De, the games (spiritual?) prequel, but sadly that never made it to the consoles.

This one is interesting. It does not take place in the god awful space, it does not take place in some futuristic robot-filled industrial hell, it takes place on the ground. In the trees. In the water. The title translates to Bug Princess and this accurately speaks of the surroundings. You ride some sort of beetle, fighting your way through insects and pissed off plants that literally fills the screen with colorful bullets. It is the very definition of bullet hell and at the same time it looks marvelous with clever details and more color than the rainbow. The speed of the bullets makes this one much more demanding than the others when it comes to reaction time and the soundtrack is really good here as well. Intensive gameplay with good music, pretty stuff to look at and an ultra mode so hard you will not believe it all speaks for its own. This is truly a must have.

26 August 2012

Review: Shadow of the Colossus (Playstation 2)

- Agro! 

The horse obediently come when I call for it. I gently climb up on him expecting what is called "lousy controls". I kick my legs in the sides and... Damn, Agro starts walking. Sure, it feels a bit imprecise when I'm going out of the temple for the first time and have to go down a narrow set of stairs, but when out in the fields I ride like a... like a... someone who can ride a horse! The camera is a bit off center as a way to display a little more of the surroundings. I think to myself that it might be a problem further on in the game to not be able to center the camera completely but those thoughts slowly fade away when I realize how cozy the world is. Something that help me to appreciate the surroundings even more is the lack of background music. It is just whistling wind and a distant alarming rumble apart from Agro's steps and it is only when you stand face to face with a colossus that dramatic music appears. 

It is only lizards for companionship here on the plains, lizards you can kill and steal tails from in case you want to increase your stats. Fruits should do the same but I did not see too many of them, and in all honesty, they will not be needed. It is enough to increase ones stamina and health bar just a bit. 

Agro is a horse, not a machine. He stops and backs up when trying to ride him into destruction, he refuses to run at full speed on chaotic trails with nothing short of pure hell on both sides, he can hurt his legs in high jumps, he runs away if he is startled. In short, as I said, Agro is a horse. The sword, which along with a handy bow makes for the arsenal, reflect sunbeams said to show the way. Or at least the right direction. When you know which way you are headed, suddenly the world feel very small. It does not take many minutes to get to each colossus but do not worry, that feeling will disappear pretty quickly. Not only are the giants usually very clever when it comes to hiding in the ruins, in the lakes and up on remote - almost inaccessible places, they also present a real challenge once you reach them. Although I always imagined that I got to a colossus and defeated it within fifteen minutes or so,  it took much more than that in reality. A bit over thirty minutes per colossus makes for a decent length considering that there is sixteen of these bad boys to find and defeat. 

Now then, these giants. Are they as brutal as I heard? Is it like being an ant trying to kill an elephant? Yes. It is an amazing feeling to stand and look up at a colossus so big you think there should be clouds between you and the head of the beast. It is an even more astonishing feeling to realize that you somehow have to get up there and find a weak spot to bury your sword in. You utilize the surroundings, shoot arrows and crawl around to get the colossus to leave an opening to exploit. You often need to find a little "fur" (grass) - to be able to climb up to the enormous body and from there  use all sorts of acrobatics to get to different key points (which are not always obvious or even unprotected) where you can do the most damage. There is two gauges at the bottom right of the screen that displays your life and strength. Both of them recover when you do not move, so instead of various herbs and potions you simply have to keep a low profile when you are in trouble. The strength decreases steadily when climbing, and even faster when the colossus tries to shake you off. This makes for a challenge of its own. Do I have the strength to go all the way to the other side? Should I stay here on this ledge until I recover completely? Do I have enough time for that? Where am I going exactly? 

As I said before the enormous creatures hides in forests, on plains, in deserts, in the air, in lakes... You name it. They are virtually everywhere and although they all have pretty similar weaknesses (a light blue weak spot lights up when approaching with the sword, and it is most often located on the back or head) it still feels like every encounter is unlike the other. One minute I am jumping up on the wing of a birdlike colossus diving in for an attack, the next I am trying to make another bend down so I can climb up his beard. 

When I first found out that there is only boss fights and no small enemies, and a relatively small map, I thought the game would be over in just a few hours. But when I was closing in on three hours of game time I had barely made it half way - which made me happy. The game is too sweet and cozy to be over so fast. But at the same time, it is probably not a game you can manage to play through in one sitting. Too much is too cute. Therefore, I was quite happy when my mediocre effort took me to the end after about nine hours. And when the end is closing in there is a few twists and turns that I do not want to spoil, so you have to discover the games secrets on your own.

25 August 2012

Review: Silent Hill Origins (Playstation Portable)

Travis Grady is a truck driver of trucker cap standard, who one night decides to take a shortcut through Silent Hill. After a brief dialog over a distorted radio you see him blazing through the rain - when a small girl falls out in the street in front of him. Travis steps on the brake and goes out in the dark to investigate. The girl runs away and Travis follows her until he realizes the fog he has been seeing is not really fog - it is smoke. He arrives to a house in flames and to his shock he hears a child screaming somewhere inside, so he naturally decides to run inside and save the girl. After a heroic effort he makes it out with the badly burnt girl and faints from the smoke. When he regain consciousness he is in Silent Hill.

There is many details all around that confirms a lot of the fans theories of the Silent Hill history and therefore it is a good idea to have played at least Silent Hill 1 before going after this. Since I do not want to spoil these long sought after revelations and confirmations I leave all hints out to instead concentrate on the feeling of being in Silent Hill again. Because of the fact that it is not Team Silent but Climax who made this game I naturally was pretty sceptical and did not expect a true Silent Hill experience. I was wrong! They have gotten most of the things just right, the atmosphere is as dense and pressing as the other parts of the series and the sounds are equally frightening. Visually it is familiar, but yet fresh and very good looking. I have not played that many PSP games but I have a hard time believing there is many games out there this appealing. The grainy graphics fits the theme perfectly and it makes the experience genuine.

But the camera has problems displaying what you want to see. Many times, the camera is deliberately ill-positioned to increase the tension, but in this particular game there are many occasions when it is not at all more exciting, just ridiculous. Having to go in to a room filled with monsters and go halfway through the party before the camera allows one to see anything at all is not particularly funny at all. The button that centers the camera directly behind Travis only works if you have at least two feet to move freely behind him. The controls are a bit clumsy, something you definitely think about when you have to be economical with health drinks and other things that were just about everywhere in the other parts of the series, and sometimes you become incredibly frustrated if many enemies attack at the same time because it usually results in something resembles a turn-based RPG. Hit, get hit, hit, get hit, take health drink, hit. But yeah, if you handle it perfectly and time your attacks just right you escape unharmed most of the times.

The soundtrack is as usual very fitting, with sorts of hell staring up the player together with more musical pieces that contribute to the atmosphere in a eerie way. Of course you should play the game with headphones, especially considering that the sounds are extremely important in Silent Hill - this is even recommended in a warning screen before the game starts. Headphones on, all the lights off!

Around five hours from the time I woke up in Silent Hill it was over - in spite the fact that I had been searching every corner and opening every door. The experience is in other words a little too short and there is not much of a replay value because the plot already is disclosured. If you do not want to try the unlockable stuff (which you get depending on how well you did), that is. But all in all it really is the scariest game I've seen and heard in portable form, it is like a little dream. A little wonderful nightmare.

24 August 2012

Review: The Getaway (Playstation 2)

Winter 2002. I had just turned seventeen and gotten some money as a birthday present - from which I spent around $70 on a pre-order on The Getaway. I had read that it was as close to reality as it gets, with real cars, marvelous graphics, no distracting HUD and a interpretation of reality more convincing than the Grand Theft Auto-series. After an hour of intense swearing I put the game away, biked to a friends house and drank melon punch until we puked. The game was destined to remain on the shelf for nine years...

Present time. The controls are as frustrating as I remember and the graphics... no, the graphics have actually gotten old with a certain form of dignity. We're getting to the games pros and cons as we go along, but I'm going to start at the beginning.

Mark Hammond is an ex-member of the Collins gang, which owns the Soho area of London. He is just out of jail and is trying to get his life in order when his son all of a sudden gets kidnapped by a gang called Bethnal Green Mob and his wife gets murdered trying to prevent the kidnapping. Of course Mark gets a tad upset by this but he soon recieves a phone call from a Charlie Jolson - who makes it painfully obvious that Mark has to do what he is told if he ever wants to see his son alive again. The revenge has to wait in other words, while Mark throws himself in one suicidal mission after another to make Charlie a happy camper.

Most of the missions is of the type "go from point A to point B" with the killing of everyone on the site as a final. It's easier said than done. For some strange reason one has to drive mostly on one way streets with the traffic going the other way. When another car is being bumped into, it turns into glue and never seems to want to let go if you don't back up and carefully drive around it. Realistic, some might say, frustrating says I. Add to that that in every sharp turn, there is a oncoming car. Almost as magic.

As I said before there is no HUD, which is pretty liberating in a sense, but in this case it is again only frustrating. You navigate yourself through the streets of London only with the blinkers of your car, which blinks in the direction you should go. Because of this there is no real oversight on where to go, no notion of how far it is and when hit from behind the blinkers breaks rendering you virtually blind. There is also no way of knowing how much time is left until it is too late, should there be a time limit. When you at last reach your destination the next test begins. The controls at foot is not all that bad as long as nothing advanced is required, but as soon as it gets tight or hectic you are doomed. The camera never shows you what you want to see, the controls become mirrored on and off, the auto sight chooses enemies at random (which makes you sometimes focus on some random guy in the background whilst being shot in the ear by someone three centimeters away). The ammo runs out at any time without warnings since there is no HUD. Because there is no clear indications of... well, anything, you often reach a standstill where you have no idea what needs to be done or where it needs to be done. A lot of time consuming missions had to be done from the beginning a few times in spite of me arriving at the site in time because I honsetly had no idea what I should have done. You have to completely rely on what is being said in the cutscenes for mission briefing. And now we are reaching one of the biggest strong points of the game. The voice acting.

The accents are just right, the voices are believable and engaging. I had no problems what so ever to imagine myself being in the middle of the story with these characters - and what a story it is! Very entertaining and exciting. What will happen to Mark? Will he see his son again? What is Charlie up to? Who is the mysterious cop that comes in out of the blue and wants to help? When you arrive at the ending it turns out you are just halfway, the next half is taking place in the same time frame as you just played through - but through someone elses eyes. The mysterious cops eyes, to be more precise. Now you get to see what he has been up to and how the story really ends. A grip I am usually very sceptical of since it has habit of becoming rather repetetive, but here it is being done just right - with new views of the whole story and almost completely different settings and missions. The feeling of a movie that Team Soho wanted to give us is present in spite of all the weaknesses in the controls and the "bugginess" in general, and you really want to keep playing. It is the voice acting together with the story, and the execution of it, that makes me praise the game. It is truly superb. But they completely missed the mark in all other aspects. As closure I would like to say that The Getaway is a diamond in the rough - so if you read this blog you should absolutely look this game up.

23 August 2012

News: Polyko ported to Dreamcast

The game with the short name Polyko's Super Jelly Bean Quest in the Sketchbook of Illusion has been ported to Dreamcast by the Senile Team (Rush Rush Rally Racing). The price for this project is nothing. It is completely free and can be legally downloaded from Senile Teams homepage along with some cover art so it fits snugly into the gaming shelf.

Review: Gunlord (Dreamcast)

After Last Hope and Fast Striker NG: DEV decided to develop a run 'n gun that smells both like Turrican and Metroid. And what a genre debut! After a short introduction sequence you are in the process of shooting just about everything out of existence - but if you are not careful, it becomes a short experience. For Gunlord, ladies, gentlemen and everything in between - do not play around.

That said, the game is obviously inspired by the Turrican series, but it often shines through that NG: DEV is a shoot 'em up developer at heart, and I say that not just because of the second stage which is a pure horizontal shoot 'em up experience, but because it is also played just like a shoot 'em up. Without meticulous memorization of stages, enemies and bosses - chances are minimal to get to the end and when the difficulty is turned up about halfway through the game, it becomes obvious that it is trial and error, where memorization is virtually the only way out. Add to that both colorful and frenetic shooting of enormous dimensions, and a scoreboard on the developers website and you have an incredibly intense run 'n gun that really is not ashamed of its roots.

The stages are nine in number, which may sound a bit short at first glance, but one should keep in mind that every stage has numerous secrets and places that are difficult to reach - which richly rewards the curious with many exciting weapons, extra lives, bombs and other goodies that makes the experience extra intense. However, none of these secrets is absolutely necessary to reach in order to advance in the game, which makes it different from for example Metroid. Along the stages there are plenty of containers that you can shoot to get different weapons from - and bombs and items to slightly fill up the health bar.

From start you are equipped with a spreadshot that outclasses many other default guns, the opportunity to roll around like a ball on the ground while laying out an unlimited number of grenades and what might be described as a laser whip - which can be rotated 360 degrees. Together, this is a really good foundation that make you feel like you are always in control to attack the enemy no matter how they choose to approach. And if you die, it is your own fault.

NG: DEV love their bosses. They are big, well drawn and entertaining. Many of them covers half the screen (or more!), which really feels just right in a game of this caliber. Each monster has a predetermined and rather monotonous pattern that the player would be well advised to remember, but some of them can unfortunately be quite simple when you rehearsed a good tactic - which makes you almost lose respect for some of the oppontents.

Gunlord is regionfree and compatible with both the standard controller, the six button pad and the arcade stick and comes in different versions that vary in price depending on how committed you are. If you are not scared of a cranked up difficulty and at the same time are attracted by colorful pixels in 2D, this is absolutely a given purchase that really shows that the Dreamcast is still a console to be counted on.

Welcome to VGL

This blog is going to be filled with news, reviews, articles, tips and other things related to the previous generations of video games. I feel there is a gap between "retro gaming" and the newest of the new - where consoles as Playstation 2, Dreamcast, Gamecube, Xbox and so forth is being almost completely ignored.

While I actually have all the new consoles as well, the increasing DLC/DRM/online access codes limits make me feel that this generation of gaming is turning away from its customers and treats them like criminals. This is a development I oppose. Coming up, in the next couple of days, to start us off is a few game reviews and news.

I hope you will enjoy this blog!