Hey, remember this???? No?.. Well, fuck it, It's back in all its amateurish ( especially highlight by each blog's altered title ) and uncreative ( another blog about games that some douche played - wonderful! ) glory! I was planning on basing my third edition on a couple of PS1 classics - most notably Vagrant Story and Abe's Oddysee, but as it turns out... those games haven't aged all too well, as is the way with most PS1 games when taking your first step, instead of stepping back in. In any case there were still plenty of candidates, but generalised laziness halted me back. I've been meaning to get back into at least posting one more recently because of all of the PS2 games I've been getting into. And, well, here we are! Or at least where I are. Is this thing on?!
Also should note no custom made banners on this corner of the blogosphere since I'm virtually talentless in... everything... so it's all left to whatever GB's text editor can give me... don't forget your coats!
Shadow of Rome For The PS2
Why it took so long? - Actually this is one that I've already played, a lot, way when it was seen as one of the best looking games to find on consoles. I took a gamble with it since during that time the idea of video games journalism was pretty foreign to me, with reviews and the like, and I mostly based my purchases off the trailers shown on TV. Yup, I was one of those gamers. In any case I got this solely for it being a CAPCOM game - and back then CAPCOM were the Gods of gaming and one of the few developers that I bothered to remember the name of. I freakin' loved it and it nestled nicely as one of my all time favourite games on the PS2. Unfortunately I lost it during the time between then and now, and my love for this game forced me to virtually trek to a copy, and one did I trek! For about £4 at that.
What I thought - 6-7 years later, and it still stands! Shadow of Rome was well known for, at its time, the rather unique concept of basing its story and gameplay around the Gladiatorial games of Roman History. Gladiator buzz had certainly died down by that time, after a recent resurface with 2000's Gladiator, but still proved to be an excellent take. It made great use of the themes with a fairly slow paced, gore filled combat resume neatly woven around a not-very-authentic-but-still-entertaining take on the assassination of Julius Caesar. There were parts that featured a more linear focused brawler design, but the majority of the game had you playing out a small variety of Gladiator modes, ranging from simple death-matches, saving damsels, to single handedly assaulting small Fortresses, that pretty much always resulted in limbs soaring through the sky. A handsome selection of weapons, all with their own weight and undeniable feeling of power made Shadow of Rome's combat one to remember.
The game also featured some stealth sections too, where you then switched from Agrippa (the fighter of the two) to Octavianus, who also looked suspiciously a lot like a certain other wall shimmying, wall tapping stealth protagonist. They were very mid-2000s esque stealth sections as well, with terrible AI tropes that while unrealistic, were still the most plausible way to make the stealth bearable. You could don disguises to traverse through areas Octavianus would otherwise not be to allowed to traverse, but the strict rules for this kind of play were insane, but also, again, expected for the time. Running was considered suspicious and even picking up a piece of fruit was enough for one of the eagle eyed chamber maids to spot through your fascade and realise you're a cold blooded Hitman!.. Or at least a vicious, murderous robber of fruit. The fact that you're also a guy with a hair-cut out of Final Fantasy walking around in suits of armour that are so clearly 10 sizes too big for him, however, never made anyone blink.
The stealth sections mostly acted as segways for the story, and a little break from the combat. They didn't last all too long fortunately, and they weren't all that difficult besides the final few. Even still, playing through it then (and naturally all the more now) all I wanted to do was get back into the action of whacking someone to death with their own arm. The story that ties it all together was also surprisingly well told, with a pretty strong cast of serviceable voice actors - including Scott Menville performing with what appears to be the only voice he can muster, and a Senator who looks like he was facially modeled after Anthony Hopkins (though was voiced Peter Reneday). It's a huge conspiracy story, with pretty predictable twists, but non the less an entertainingly silly affair that gives you more motivation to cut off limps than to simply enjoy cutting off limbs.
The soundtrack is also phenomenal, and one of my favourites from the entire CAPCOM library. It had a subtle mix of JRPG-ish tunes, with the grandiose feeling of awe that historically themed orchestral songs so often leave you with. Marvelous *re-positions monocle*
Will I play through it again? - I've already completed it a few times now, though it's one of those games that I'll enjoy heading back to after so long, just because it's that special and immensely fun to play through. It's aged surprisingly well, with some crisp graphics, brilliant facial animations and intense gameplay. It's rather clunky, though, which'll no doubt keep people from taking advantage of such an underrated gem as this, but for people who are accustomed to the traditional clunkiness of CAPCOM's games of old(ish) enjoys hammy handed voice acting (another CAPCOM tradition) with some memorably OTT hack n slash, and haven't played Shadow of Rome, I fully recommend you give it a look! Not much to lose for the price it can be found at these days, no doubt.
Also Centurion Gorilla Gladiators.
Why it took so long? - Actually, this is another that I played the oozing shit out of when it was new.. yes, I know, this entire blog series has lost all consistency!
BUT!! And that's an all-capitalised but:
Like Shadow of Rome before it I lost this through the years of house moving, bedroom switching, and the nightmarish manner of a disorganised teen. I decided that I wanted it once more within my possession, though, just for me considering it a fairly rare title - whether anyone disagrees or not! I need my niche dammit! - and alongside the original Metal Gear Solid, played a focal point of my childhood era of gaming. So I got it! £8's worth of got to be exact, which is pretty unfair when put against Shadow of Rome for half that price, but c'est vie.
What I thought - It's a PS1 game, so naturally the game wasn't as rough around the edges as it's like brushing against the inside of an iron maiden. It's virtually (quite literally in a sense) an expansion pack to the original 1998's Metal Gear Solid. Speaking for that alone the game is tough to get into even for newcomers, never mind people who used to fap at the graphics, back when faces that looked like they were drawn on with a pencil where the epitome of production values. But yeeah, the graphics aren't an issue really. They have themselves a interestingly vintage look, and I at least have always been a fan of the blocky Minecraftion characters ( kinda paradox-ic to call PS1 graphics Minecrafty, instead of the other way round I know ) of the PS1 in games such as this.
So Special Missions is simply a huge bundle of VR missions - much like the VR missions more people will remember in MGS2: Substance, or even the few in the original Metal Gear Solid too. There's no story ( though this entry does creatively factor into things down the line ) and is made up of you playing as Snake, more as an avatar than a character, going through an ensemble of cleverly designed trials within numerous categories. You'll begin with the staple sneaking missions, which pull you through 15 levels of increasingly complex arenas, trying to get from one point to the next while avoiding the Genome ( winter variety, oddly enough ) soldiers. Eventually you'll unlock Weapon levels, which instead ask of you to kill all enemies you encounter, sometimes without being seen. As you scale through the percentage meter of what the game has to offer, though, it starts introducing weirder and weirder levels. You'll find yourself facing off against Godzilla parodies in the form of gigantic Genome soldiers; you'll be knocking down guards into pits one after another like they were domino's; you'll shooting down UFO's; you'll be solving murders and, eventually, you'll be roaming around as Grayfox himself with the goal of assassinating Solid Snake who actually joined the Genome Soldiers.
Like I said... weird. But under a more positive light: inventive. They were what made Special Missions for me so memorable and downright gob-smacking. Kojima's blatant sense of kooky humour was being shown to a new generation of masses through Special Missions, and in general remains as one of my favourite Metal Gear Solids, oddly enough. It's all brilliant in concept, but put against the test of time implicates a significant drop for the enjoyment.
Resident Evil ( as a franchise, more than a single game I know, but still a relevant compari-OH FUCK YOU! ) had its controversial limit of 'no walking while shooting', and Metal Gear Solid had a plain and simple 'no walking' restriction. As such it made sneaking about pretty darn cumbersome, and since the entire world was put on high alert just the by the mere sight of Snake, it made the accidental ''one step too close'' occurrence when trying to hug someone by the neck far too common. It was pretty infuriating in Metal Gear Solid, and when put within a handful of Virtual Reality missions, most of which fail should Snake be spotted, asks for a high degree of patience as the number one requirement. The game also does feature a first person view, but only for.. observational purposes - such as taking pictures of a SUPER HAWT PS1 QUALITY MEI LING, YUM! You can't use the FP view to help better line up a shot with your weapon, and the persistent isometric view allows for a significantly skewed amount of aiming freedom. That then bleeds into a lot of the Weapon missions when you required a great deal of accuracy, and the grenade missions in particular benefited the most to prove how dated the gameplay has become.
Fortunately, the more creative missions manage to stay fresh thanks to its quirky aesthetic of literally leaving you with nothing to predict just WTF is coming up next. Or at least it would if I hadn't spoiled what to expect in the previous paragraph. Non the less, Special Missions is a game I'm glad to have on my shelf once again, and for what it helped me relive, I'm grateful for.
Should be noted that this also requires a copy of the original MGS as well to play. Everytime you want to play Special Missions, you have to put in the MGS disc. Plus it doesn't work on a PS3 either so.... PATIENCE!
Will I play through it again? - I've downed my last Genola for a good long while I think.
The Red Star For The PS2
Why it took so long? - NO, this is not another that I'm more so reliving the memories with. This entry right here is a gawd dayum, bona fide, true as tinsel first timer for me. WE'RE BACK ON TRACK! Or rather I'm back on the right track.. or maybe now I've opted for the wrong track?? Or m-
I only recently heard about this through a tweet by VinceNotVance, appreciatively enough, who I think was complimenting the PSP release. I didn't have a PSP, so I opted for the PS2 version instead and we lived happy ever after.
What I thought - It's really rather good, taking cues from a lot of the Arcade days of top down shootin, side scrollin beat-em-ups, but in 3D, and in the same game! Generally the game plays along as a pretty satisfying action/adventure, almost akin to something like DMC, with some intuitive combos to unleash through a blend of melee and ranged weapons. The neat trick is how sometimes it'll revert from the side scrolling action to a top down shooter, which is usually the calling card for one of the dozen upon dozens of mid-game boss battles that you'll encounter. The boss battles also then initiate a kind of Bullet Hell scenario with sometimes of up to hundreds of shiny, futuristic bullets completely covering the entire screen.
The problem is is how firmly the Arcading style of the game sticks. There's little of a story ( though I'm to believe this is based on a pretty story heavy manga ) with each mission giving you a briefing from a guy who has the single portrait of looking like he dropped a hammer on his little toe--that or he watched the evil Ring tape--and gives strikingly little detail on just what the F is going on. Russians, anime, evil robots and bullets... lots and lots of bullets. That's pretty much all I got.
It has two initial characters, with an unlockable third, and they all have their own distinctive playing style that's enough to differentiate the characters when playing as one over another besides their obvious cosmetic differences. Cooperative play is also in full effect, and comes with the usual fun and frustration depending who you decide to coop with. Speaking for an ideal partnership, the games works perfectly with a fellow/fellowess at your side and makes the otherwise shallow template much easier to ignore. The difficulty is neatly balanced as well, giving you a real breeze through the first couple of stages, but naturally ratchets up the enemies ( to which there was a surprising variety of ). Fortunately, there are upgrades to attain via your accumulated points from completion of the stages, but it's more related to you trying to keep up with the enemy, rather than attempting to RPG your character into an unstoppable juggernaut.
Will I play through it again? - More than likely. So far I've only completed it as the one character, and the gameplay's arcadey charm still contains that addictive nature of heading back in just to add a few extra numbers on to your own Leaderboard. And even if I don't, for a fiver this gave me a pretty lil bundle of play-time and one I'd recommend to most, if they haven't already shelled for the PSP version.
And that's that. Felt good to actually put some effort towards a blog again, AND YOU CAN TOO! Now I leave you with this track from Yakuza 4 to which is still, since the games release, festering within the inner reaches of whatever part of the brain memories are stored. Just because the more videos and pictures the more chance you won't piss this off to watch that QL Giantbomb just pos-FUCK!