24 November 2016

Review: Ibara (Playstation 2)

The year is 2000. Raizing is folding in to 8ing and their shoot 'em up division is dispersed. One of their programmers, Shinobu Yagawa, is approached by Cave and they want him to make another Battle Garegga but for Cave. With a little Cave sprinkles on top, so to speak. Five years later, in 2005, Ibara hits the market. Another year later it arrives on the PS2. This is what I have been playing for the last week or so.

Those of you that remember Battle Garegga might agree with me that the things that defined the game was three things. The rank system (complete with suicides), the sheer difficulty and the enemy shots that often blended in to the background and became very hard to see if you did not pay attention. These treats are very much present in Ibara as well. 'Wait a minute', one might say, 'the enemy bullets in Ibara is colorful!'. That is correct, but so are the backdrops and many of the enemy projectiles are still very sneaky and easy to miss. The rank system is like before, the better you do the harder the game gets and the only way to lower the difficulty is to die. Yeah, that is right, die on purpose. Victory through suicide. Nice. The music is great, the UI (user interface) is some of the prettiest I have ever seen in a shoot 'em up (bright pinks and greens and roses in different colors everywhere) and the voice calling out powerups is strangely compelling. So serious in all the chaos.

Anyway, Ibara is no walk in the park. I will be completely honest here, I have yet to see the later stages. I think my record is the fourth stage. I am by no means a good shoot 'em up player but I do enjoy the genre immensely and I will keep trying to beat Ibara for a couple of weeks before moving on. Sometimes I get that lovely 1cc (one credit clear), sometimes I do not. The important part is that I have fun and challenge myself to always improve.

23 July 2016

Review: 1945 I & II The Arcade Games (Playstation 2)

So... Yeah. I am a complete idiot. I purchased this compilation many years ago and immediately wrote it off as having severe input delay (much like the PAL version of Metal Slug Anthology which I bought and actually sold because it was absolutely and 100% unplayable with an insane amount of input delay). The other day I felt the desire to pop the game into my Playstation 2 once again to check out Strikers 1945 I which I have not played much of in any version. I quickly realized that the input delay must have come from the setup I used at the time (a cheap LCD HDTV) as it was gone when I played with an old CRT TV this time (this was sadly not the case with Metal Slug Anthology, as that game was truly borked no matter what). So, that was a good chunk of years I could have been playing these shooting game gems and did not because I was too quick to judge. I decided the time had come for this compilation to get a fair shot and a complete reconcideration.

There is two games on the disc - Strikers 1945 and Strikers 1945 II. I will quickly go through them both on their own and then summarize with a joint opinion on the compilation as a whole.

Strikers 1945
Released in 1995 this Psikyo shoot 'em up brought fairly little to the table (Donpachi was for example released the same year) but did it quite well anyway. Crisp pixels, great music and sound effects and cool bosses that transformed. With a whole bunch of stages in varying difficulty and length it made for a solid option when out quarter feeding the arcades. My only complaint about the game itself is that the hitbox is ridiculously large, and my only complaint about this port is that there still is some minor input delay present that makes the later parts of the game unnecessarily tricky. Fun fact: the majority of the pilots in the game are female.

Strikers 1945 II
The sequal was released in 1997, two years after the first entry. This is one heck of an important game to me as it is the very shoot 'em up that got me into the genre. Granted I did not play it for all that many weeks but it got the ball rolling on me picking up a lot more shoot 'em ups. It has many similarities to the first game but does everything a bit better. This means if you have to choose between one or the other I would recommend you go with Strikers 1945 II, since they are pretty much the same deal but with extra bling in the second entry. I think even the hitbox is a bit smaller, but do not quote me on that. In this game I could not detect any real input delay to speak of even though I still believe the Playstation 1 version has tighter controls.

The final verdict
As a compilation it is a nice little bundle of two great games, but they are indeed very similar and chances are you end up playing just one of the two and then you might have been better off just getting that game on its own. It all depends on the price tag I would say. If you find it for really cheap, like I did, then it is a no brainer. If someone wants you to pay up a fantasy sum for it then pass.