This week I managed to receive the first ever thing I backed on Kickstarter. ( I assume I'll get my code for the hugely delayed 3DS version of Shovel Knight (Europe) this week too.) The one I backed that I was most excited about getting was this absolutely wonderful book I found out about in one of Patrick's Worth Reading articles. It's kind of awesome having your name printed in the back of something that's as cool as this.
It was pretty expensive at £30, but most definitely worth it due to its high quality and my nostalgia for the Sega Mega Drive and Sega in general. I had a NES, but the Mega Drive was the point I was fully committed to this silly hobby of ours. I still adore Sonic, I'll never not adore Sonic regardless of the quality of his games.
This is followed by a history of Sega where they talk about picking a fight with Nintendo, Sega US higher ups thinking that Sonic was stupid and that the Japanese branch didn't care for the 32X at all. I'm sure a bunch of this information is available elsewhere but it's a fun read and has some silly quotes from people like Corey Haim about the Mega/Sega CD.
There is some incredible fold-out blueprints of the early designs for the Mega Drive/ Genesis with all of the pencil notes and everything. It's fascinating and a thing of real beauty. If the book wasn't so lovely I'd rip it out and put it on my wall.
The rest of the book has rows of sprites from all of Sega's biggest games like Sonic, Streets of Rage, Gunstar Heroes, Altered Beast, and the Phantasy Star games among many others. This had me analyzing the images like I used to sit wide eyed looking at video game magazines as a kid. It's an incredible collection of art. Where else are you going to get two pages of Sonic level screenshots or the entirety of stages from Eternal Champions? The two pages that are absolutely the best though are the stages of Comix Zone layed out like the pages in a comic book.
Along with the sprites is all of the box art for all of Sega's biggest hits, fold outs of Shinobi and Alien Storm with some unused images like the realistic Gunstar Heroes cover that never was, and tons of other games like Alex Kidd, Kid Chameleon and Golden Axe etc.
My favourite things are probably the design documents for a bunch of games, obviously I am drawn to Gunstar Heroes which has a bunch of character bios and the original name at the top of the page. It turns out it was originally called Lunatic Heroes... which still kinda makes sense.
Aaanyways it's a great book full of art, interviews with important people that worked at Sega at the time and Mega Drivey things. It was absolutely worth backing and, I can definitely recommend it to people that have fond memories of the system. I have no idea where you can get it from... or even if it's available to everyone yet.
I was lucky enough to receive my copy of Advanced Warfare in the post this morning, so I did what any sane person would do and sat in the same spot for about seven hours and finished the campaign.
First things first. This is a Call of Duty campaign, no amount of mech suits and double jumping can hide that. This is pure, follow-this-dude (Or run ahead of the dude... or dudette! and hope they catch up with you.) left trigger, right trigger Call of Duty.
What it isn't is the soulless bore that was Ghosts. I'm not going to tell you this is high art, it's still point at stuff as huge stuff explodes, but there is an attempt at storytelling here. With Troy Baker in the lead and a couple of others that round out your team of super duper PMC friends.
The Exo Suit seems to be a pretty huge focus, but they only ever give you variations in the campaign. You don't always have the same abilities, such as a shield or a double jump and on occasion they give you a fancy Batman-esque grapple which is super fun and is put to good use during one of the less actiony stealth levels. There's also some light progression with you unlocking points to put into various things like reload times and damage reduction. It's a nice inclusion, but doesn't really alter the game in any way.
I think it's an absolutely stunning looking game, from the incredible cutscenes (not ingame) to the environments and really rather good faces. It's a real stunner in places and not a single framerate drop during my entire playthrough, despite a couple of hitches in cutscenes.
And I guess that brings me to Kevin Spacey and the story. He's used to good effect although his story arc is as predictable as they come. It kinda makes sense that the first few missions had me feeling pretty uneasy about who I was working for. It is a fun romp and the fact that some effort has been placed in making you at least care a little about the characters in the game is nice. Gideon, your British pal is good fun and the hard as nails Illona is cool, I'm definitely glad to see a female as one of the core group of badasses. It is definitely weird seeing robo spacey spout some pretty crazy shit, but he fits the part very well. It doesn't seem gimmicky in any way, and Troy Baker is as Troy Bakerish as he gets.
If there's one main complaint it's that it leans heavily on quick time events, moreso than any other Call of Duty I have played. And some of them are a pain. I missed a bunch of them as the icon for doing so isn't always apparent as it's white and small. The QTE's do however lead to some spectacular sci-fi action movie nonsense, and some of it is pretty absurd/insane/improbable.
So, it's a fun time in that big dumb action movie kind of way. I might see if I can play a bit of the MP or Co-op later if this headache I seem to have gained from not moving from the same spot without and food or drink goes away. It's pretty noisy. I'm not certain but the bodycount in this one seem to be waaaay beyond past installments.
Edit. Some of the finest images I captured from the game.
Taxi Rider / Simple Series Vol 48: The Taxi: Untenshu ha Kimida
I've gotten pretty good at spotting what certain developers of Simple games bring to the table at this point. So I know exactly what I'm getting into with a Tamsoft game. To be fair, this does seem to stray a little farther from their comfort zone by having a distinct lack of boobs, but their trademark lack of quality is fully on display here.
Taxi Rider seems to be a budget attempt at a CrazyTaxi-like game. I've never played Crazy Taxi, but it's pretty apparent from watching videos of that game online that it was the main inspiration here. Taxi Rider has you attempting to make at least 1000,000 Yen for a Creepy dude named Ogawara Gengorou. You know what kind of a guy he is by his facial hair and gold tooth.
Ogawara makes it pretty clear what kind of a person he is by telling me I need to go around the city picking up people and then driving them to various destinations. The rule being that I need to make enough money between 8am and 1am... And I quote. " If you don't make enough money I will fire you right away!" which seems a little harsh for a new guy to the job. Ogawara follows this up with a sinister " I think you get the message!". Not content with overly strict money requirements and possible threats, Ogawara rubs it in further by saying "IT WON'T BE EASY TO MAKE 1000,000 YEN HAHAHAHAHHAHA." I should probably just quit right here, right now.
Now I am slightly fearful for my life, I start the game. Taxi Rider 's only controls are accelerate, reverse and steer. It baffles me that they had a ton of button options available, but still went with triangle for reverse. I get used to it pretty quickly, and start my journey towards becoming the greatest taxi driver Japan has ever known. The driving is OK (Also, like Zombie Virus this has better handling than Watch Dogs.) but the problem seems to be the awkwardly designed city and the incredibly aggressive, toy car traffic.
Every single vehicle that isn't my cab would seemingly be unable to fit the odd chibi people that inhabit Nijiro city. Which probably makes sense why I'm being asked to ferry children to police stations, "fat middle-aged men" to the bank and chase/crash into cars with their grandfathers in them. The game has a map, but doesn't mark anything on it so you spend a large portion of your time driving around in circles looking for people to pick up. It doesn't help that there are people everywhere trapped behind invisible walls and the occasional pedestrian just going for a walk that you can attempt to run over, but they just spring off the car comically. The ones you can pick up are usually waving.
Ogawara is constantly telling you that there are many people at the shopping centre or the town hall, but the game just expects me to know where these places are. This isn't helped by the awful pop in and blurry textures. I assume it just wants me to figure it out by the way places look, but the shopping centre just looks like a cinema having a big hollywood premiere. Oddly, tons of children need to get to the police station though so I figure pretty early on that the place with the giant shield is where I need to go when they ask... And a lot of kids NEED to get to the police station.
When the day is over you'll return back to Ogawara and give him the money you have made. On "DAY FIRST!" I made 10,425 Yen which is I assume is pretty respectable because my taxi gets installed with a speed upgrade that makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. There are limited options here, but I save my game and continue onto DAY SECOND!
DAY SECOND! is when things get a little weird. I mean, the gameplay continues to suck my soul dry, but the odd ET-like inhabitants of this world really want to go to some odd places. I picked up a school girl that wanted to go to the police station followed by a car exhibition, a small boy desperately needed to go to the bank followed by a hotel and a creepy dude at the shopping centre is all like INEEDTOGETTOTHESCHOOLRIGHTNOWDON'TSTOPFORANYTHING!!!! What he means by this is that I have to do a continuous drive without any kind of reversing or sharp turning. The objective arrow which often lies to you made me take a wrong turn resulting in the creepy dude jumping out of my taxi and telling me I suck.
Thankfully most people are pretty appreciative, telling me that I "drive so quiet" and that my "fast drive helped so much." On DAY THIRD! I really started to feel the strain when the passengers all became a lot more demanding. Most of them wanting me to reach my destination without bumping into any traffic and driving places really, really fast. An old dude with a school girl got really pissed when I nudged the scenery, telling me I drove like a senior citizen. Whatever, dude. I'm calling the cops. The next person I pick up tells me I'm really fast, but that praise doesn't last for long when a lady jumps out of my car in the middle of the road yelling "I'M INJURED!" I'm starting to think that this job isn't for me or the people of this city have unreasonable demands.
DAY FOURTH! came around. Ogawara tells me I have unlocked Dragon Hills which means I can now travel to an area with even more cramped streets and even more traffic to deal with, along with the increased demands of my passengers. Ogawara warns me that if I am bad at my job less people will want to get into my cab. As I'm driving around the new, twisty-turny area Ogawara keeps popping up on the radio to tell me that I'm getting worse and worse at my job and that I am not to make my customers hate me. Thanks for the advice, but THERE ARE NO CUSTOMERS HERE! After endless searching followed by a warning that my rep is both slightly bad and I have about thirty seconds to make enough money, I come across a passenger that wants me to drive back to three places in the old part of the city five minutes away. Fuck this, I quit.
This one was a pretty painful experience, like the last Tamsoft game I played (Paparazzi) there isn't really anything to keep you playing beyond the first couple of hours. It's very light on ideas with no real upgrade system or even anything to do other than drive and drop off passengers. The map is useless, the world is lifeless and bafflingly this is one of the few games that actually got a sequel, (Vol 109) although even 505 games didn't want to touch that one. What next? Bikes? Boobs? or is it time for the splatter?
Have you ever wanted to know what a Japanese tactical third person shooter on the PS2 plays like? Well here are some thoughts on just that. It's only been a week since my last blog. I'm pretty awesome!
Special Forces / Simple Series Vol 108: The Nihon Tokushubutai.
The year is 2015 A.D and the cops no longer have control of the streets. The terrorists need to be subdued, and regular cops just aren't going to be enough. What Japan needs is some kind of supercop, the best of the best, the fastest, bestest, smartest cop. Japan needs cops that are ready to make the hard decisions. Do they go in guns blazing or negotiate a peaceful solution? Use stealth methods to take down threats with a minimal loss of life? Being a member of SACT (Special Assault Combat Team) you're going to be tasked with a lot of tough decisions, decisions a normal cop just wouldn't be able to handle.
SACT is made up of the four best cops for the job...
Will Right - An experienced team leader with the charisma to unite even the most disorganized of teams. VERY virtuous and also really good at designing monsters using the Spore Creature Creator.
Joe Thompson - Passionate, courageous and some great reflexes. A man so swift and graceful that it doesn't matter that he can't shoot for shit.
Ray Saito - Ray unfortunately stands out due to having the least Japanese sounding name of the team. He's as stealthy as they come and has the most beautiful mane of golden hair. Ray is not only good with a deadly weapon, but has looks that could stop any man dead in his tracks, maybe even kill!
Special Forces is a tactical shooter in which you control a team of Japan's best cleaning the streets of terrorist scum. At the start of each mission you can select your two weapon loadout. The back of the box promises me that I'm going to use "REAL WEAPONS!", weapons such as the AZ47 and the Valther 38. The game will also let me unlock grenades and sniper rifles later on, but I'm limited to the standard selection of near-future weaponry at the beginning. I am ranked private after all... Whoa, what? Japan's very best are the lowest military rank? Is good hair or very virtuousness more of a requirement for being a member of SACT than being a veteran of urban combat?
The game also lets me choose who I want to play as from the selection of Helghast SACT members, as well as choose an AI controlled partner that will follow me about. It's pretty confusing which one you're choosing for what role. For some reason the character you play as is standing in the background, and the AI partner in the foreground on the mission select screen. To be honest it doesn't really matter which one you choose for what role. They all act and look the same anyway.
The first mission wants me to rid a store of dangerous terrorists. Their demands are unknown so I should probably try and take as many of them alive as possible. Every twenty seconds of the first mission one of my superiors calls me to tell me I need to do something or other. "Hey, that's a terrorist! Stop him!" "Hey, that's a door! You can open them!" "Hey, listen!" " Hey, listen!" "He..." SHUTTHEEFFUP!
I'm constantly reminded that I'll get more points if I capture terrorists instead of shooting them dead. If I can sneak up behind them I can warn them and then arrest them by holding down the circle button. It's kinda like pointing your gun at the back of a guards head in Metal Gear, but it's broken and 90% of the time you'll put them into an alert status where you will need to shoot bullets into them until they fall over. Thankfully shooting bullets into anywhere other that their head puts them into a downed state where they writhe about the floor for a few seconds. If you can run up to them uninterrupted, you can look down at them at an oddly specific angle and arrest them that way. Once arrested they blink into nothingness and you're awarded with a giant yellow 100pts! Shooting them right in the face will only net you a measly ten, so it's always better to arrest someone instead of murderifying them.
I tried my hardest to stealth my way into the storefront with three terrorists, but always alerted someone resulting in me spraying bullets into them until they were dead. It's very hard to arrest people when someone is shooting at you. You're so fragile that you find yourself shooting at someone and then backing off immediately because every single one of the enemies is a complete idiot, forgetting they just saw you seconds ago. Even when you wound someone and dont kill or arrest them in time they just stand back up and go about the day like nothing happened.
Because this game is set in the future we are given stealth camo. By hitting the L1 and R1 buttons at the same time you're able to turn invisible for a handful of seconds. During this time you can run away from gunfire or sneak up on someone to stealthily shoot unsilenced weapons into them without alerting anyone. I found the vast majority of my time had me turning invisible, shooting people in the face and then backing off till my camo had recharged. At some point later in the game there are so many enemies that arresting people is no longer an option, and thinning the herd is the only way to progress.
Seeing as I've mentioned that a large portion of this game is shooting people dead, you might have assumed that it's an easy thing to do. Special Forces makes killing people with ease a pretty hard thing to do. The aiming reticule moves so jerkily that I often found myself lining my shot up with an enemies feet in the distance and then travelling forwards, using stealth until I got close enough to him that the dot was in line with his face. If you want to go into the zoomed-in aim mode, the aiming reticule seems to be magnetized to the middle of the screen making any kind of precision shooting impossible. Later on the game will unlock a sniper rifle that changes position when you aim down the scope, and can only be moved at right angles when zoomed in... brilliant.
For some reason your elite team of dudes only ever consists of you and your partner. I'm not entirely sure what the other two are doing when you're risking you life for your country, but it seems very strange that you only really have control over one other team member. The partner can be set to three different modes. Attack on sight, follow and stay. The best way to describe your partner is by calling him a fucking moron. Every so often he will fire a couple of shots off at enemies, maybe even kill one here or there, but for the most part he exists purely to alert terrorists to your location. Thankfully he turns invisible when you do, so escaping from danger isn't that much of a problem, and because you do most of the killing it really doesn't matter all that much if you let him die and blink out of existence. ("Dead 1 people!") Even when you call him over to you you're often greeted with an "Allies were unable to arrive" message... Sometimes when he is standing two feet away from you. He can also be told to open doors, answer phones (have no idea why this exists) and climb ladders. He's usually pretty good about opening doors, but climbing a ladder... nope, just not doing it. It feels like they forgot to actually program that one action into the game.
The back of the box also says there are 37 thrilling missions, and that they mean is that there are nine of them with various difficulties. ( I assume there are a few other that are unlockable somehow.) The opening shop level is pretty straight forward, but they start adding in a bunch of half formed ideas that are exclusive to a single mission. In a bank robbery mission with music oddly reminiscent of the dustbin lid clanging of Goldeneye you need to shoot out security cameras and unlock vaults that for some reason act like terrorist monster closets. Another level has you collecting card keys like Doom, and another has you having to shoot out the walls in a Japanese castle... This game has destructible environments!
The mission briefings often tell you you need to stop a bomb threat, kill hijackers on a plane before it takes off or clean the streets of cultists, but the objective is always the same. Kill EVERYONE dead! (Or arrest them if you're into S ranks and shit.) The other constant is that during mission briefings you are always told that the terrorists demands are unknown. You'd think that at least one of these groups would want their demands known, but y'know evil people being evil and all that.
Special Forces is a bad game. That's pretty much a fact, but like the other games in the Simple series developed by Vingt-et-un there's something about them that I enjoy. Maybe it's how ambitious the developers are despite the skill or budget to do what they wanted with the game, or maybe it's just that I'm crazy and have played so many bad games recently that any with even a hint of interesting ideas start to seem more appealing than they actually are.
Despite the bad shooting, despite the bad AI and despite it only really having one mission type, I kinda had something resembling fun playing this game. There's a strange satisfaction from doing the dodge roll & pose (useless) when you hit R2 twice, and I'm quite fond of the references to other Simple games on the posters on the walls during a train station mission. I fully understand that these are not good reasons to enjoy something as bad as this, but I'm pretty committed to descending into terrible video game madness.
I have actually been playing arguably good games this week also! Theatrhythm CC is a wonderful update of an already wonderful game, and returning to Titanfall after a couple of months has rekindled my love for the game that a lot of people seem to have turned on. Other things of note: Lethal Weapon 4 continues to be bad and once you take The Final Countdown out of the equation, Europe were pretty rad... Can my opinions on anything be trusted? Will I ever play Billy Hatcher? will the next Simple game I play have boobs in it? Maybe I'll answer these questions within the next week. One thing is for certain. I'll probably be a little less saner.
This week I have decided to talk about the pretty terrible photography simulator (Yeah, I'm going with that.) Paparazzi, also known as The Camera Kozou (apprentice) in Japan. I'm also pretty impressed that I managed to find a picture of Duran Duran that's incredibly similar to the cover of Paparazzi.
Paparazzi / Simple Series Vol 53: The Camera Kozou.
Hey, it's not creepy if she wants me to take photographs of her right? The game points out at every opportunity that these girls are professional models, not hard up college girls destined for porn. Look, they all have their own fan club, some of them even have incredibly popular websites. It's not like I'm hanging around in the bushes outside of their homes or hacking their phones for nude photos. We both want to be here because we both understand great art. As lovers of art we both understand that in order to create something truly special, I will need my models to dress in school uniforms and bunny costumes.
Paparazzi is a game where you play an amateur photographer that has to stalk follow the career of one of three chosen models and take as many photographs of them posing in front of swimming pools, car showrooms and parks as possible. Don't worry about the daunting task of breaking your way into such a competitive field as one of your friends named Akira is willing to lend you some of his high end equipment to get you started.
Akira takes time out from drooling over AV models for a few minutes to explain to you how to get the best out of your subjects in the allotted five minutes of shooty time. It's all about positioning and asking your model to do tricks for you like an obedient dog. Akira points out the most important thing to remember is that I need to take "FULL-FRONTAL pictures to get the maximum 300 points." Whoa, whoa, whoaaaa, wait a minute!?! This is a 3+ rated game, I didn't sign up for this. Akira goes on to explain that in order to create the most pleasing images, I need to get the model in the middle of the frame, preferably unobstructed and facing forwards. Akira tells me the rest of the basics, which pretty much boil down to "Hit the circle button and hope for the best" and sends me off to my very first professional shoot.
Before I start the shoot I have to pick from a selection of three very different girls. Obviously, this being a Simple game I pick Riho Futaba, previously seen as a giant destroying large parts of Japan with laser beam eyes. Riho has thankfully been able to get back into her modelling work with ease and is eager to have you take photographs of her jumping up and down and tilting her head to the side with her body arched, looking innocently into the camera.
I'm given a few facts about these girls in their bios. Most importantly we get their height and body measurements, but strangely no blood type, unless that's something they removed for the EU release. Akira told me that the best way to find out about a girls personality is to take FULL-FRONTAL photographs of them, but we have some top facts about Riho already written down for us. Who would have known she's an incredible touch typist and gets as many as 4000, count em, 4000! hits a day on her website? The other two girls have their own specialities such as Rena's love of dance and strict fashion magazines ONLY policy and Nano's passion for sport and increasing popularity down to her radiant personality. Hey man, I didn't write that shit.
The actual game part (And I'm being generous calling this a game.) has Riho striding out like some kind of creepy insect into the photoshoot area and telling you how nervous she is. Because she's allowed to wear her everyday clothes for this first shoot she's a little more relaxed than usual. What the hell kind of professional models are these? (Rena really is in no position to be asking for her work to only be used in fashion magazines.) I'm not telling her I'm about to have a panic attack every single time the shutter clicks on my camera. Everything about this whole situation comes off as a little bit weird and unprofessional. Even down to the fact that I seem to be the only person at this public shoot. (This is made stranger by the cheers from an unseen crowd and the fact she keeps posing for what seem to be ghost photographers.)
My photo session with Riho begins and she gets over the hurdle of being a little shy and embarrassed by thrusting her chest in my general direction so I can get as many FULL-FRONTAL shots of her as possible. Riho has a kind of heart meter to tell me how much she is enjoying the shoot. The more she "likes" me, the more interesting poses she will do for me. She does point out that she IS wearing a swimsuit under her clothes so take any photographs up her skirt, the irony being that the second shoot she does for me is in a bikini. The way for me to get her to do more interesting poses is by asking her to jump, dance and pose etc. In order for me to make her snap out of her stilted, amusement park robot poses I need to do a series of mini games that involve hitting a button as fast as possible, remembering a sequence of buttons or doing a quick rhythm game. If I do it correctly the game lets me know by flashing up "SUCCESSED!" on the screen.
The session ends when you run out of time or you use up all 24 of your shots. I can now see a list of my photographs, and they're all given a rating of good or bad. Obviously shots with a shadow or a lack of FULL-FRONTAL are going to be bad, and I'm given points I can use to buy new lenses, film and various retouchers to fix ruined photographs as well as some effects to add to my favourite shots of girls bending over and smiling. If I get enough points to progress I get to move onto the next shoot which has it's own set of conditions like taking a picture of the girl under a tree etc. Seeing as the girls move about at random and you're limited to standing in one of three spots this is sometimes harder said than done, and the shots you do manage to get can be out of focus or ruined by unwanted things in the frame. Thankfully there's a magical tool in the shop to perfectly sharpen unfocused images. Oh man, I wish I had that when I was at college doing photography.
I'm asked to choose my best photo to give to Riho as a present. She's obviously impressed by my natural skill. She even went on to tell me that this was the best time she has ever had at the end of the last shoot. Riho also thinks my pictures are "nice" and "cute" and that hopefully next time she can do better poses just for me. Unfortunately Riho only knows how to do the same seven or eight poses over and over again, and despite the change in scenery, a little more skin and a lot more wobble you're just doing the exact same thing over and over for all of the shoots... What few there are anyway.
The dialogue varies a little between girls, but it's all the same semi-broken english for the most part. Paparazzi is possibly one of the most boring games I have ever played. Even for comedy value it has very limited appeal. The one thing of note, and this is a common thing between the Simple games with girls in skimpy clothes is that the breast physics they all share are crazy in a way Dead or Alive can only dream of. They're somewhere between the point a spring stops vibrating to a halt and Parappa the Rapper's odd 2D-3D movement. The motion is so unreal it has to be seen to be believed. There's almost no replay value unless you want to count taking photographs of "sexy" mannequins as Santa or a gothic lolitas. Good thing I can save my best photographs on the PS2 memory card so I can share them with my friends... anyone want to send me their PS2 memory cards for hot, FULL-FRONTAL Riho Futaba as an advertising sales person pics... anyone?
That's another one of these games finished, It's a little shorter than most, but that's probably for the best. Also, buying this game from a seller off of Amazon gave some money to charity which means I'm making the world a better place by playing Paparazzi.
The next game on my list is Japan's take on tactical Tom Clancy-esque military shooters... minus a budget. There's also a bunch of games I started playing that I planned to talk about, but didn't really have enough to say about them other than a paragraph or two, I might get around to writing that up sometime within the week. This blog took a little longer due to personal things and stuff, but I do hope to try and write about these weekly despite being unable to do so up to this point. I will also continue to not play Billy Hatcher.
Yep, I've played more incredible games that only ever came out in Europe outside of Japan. The EU name is lame, but the original title is possibly one of the greatest to have ever existed... The Zombie Vs Ambulance!
This blog is brought to you by the letters Z, A and the Return of the Living Dead franchise.
Zombie Virus / Simple Series Vol 95: The Zombie Vs Kyūkyūsha.
"Is the driving better than Watch Dogs?" "Yes... And that's a fact!" These are actual words said about this game when having a conversation with Yummylee about The Zombie Vs Ambulance. This has me wondering if the driving in this budget PS2 game is actually good or that the driving in the big, blockbuster game is some of the worst I have ever encountered.
It has been suggested that maybe my perspective on these budget games might have shifted due to the high volume of rubbish I subject myself to on a regular basis. When I start saying games like this are "alright" or "pretty good" is that in comparison to other games in the series or video games as a whole? I don't like questioning myself about things like this. I like to think my taste in games is varied and interesting, and like silly B/C/D grade movies, I can see the positives in what are largely pieces of shit. The Zombie Vs Ambulance is genuinely ok though... for a few hours anyways.
The setup is as simple as this. You're in a hospital when an earthquake happens which causes people to turn into zombies. Have you got that? There is absolutely no other setup than this. Luckily you're in a hospital when this happens as you have easy access to zombie curification. Being a paramedic it's your duty to round up the survivors spread around the city using the best vehicle for the job... an ambulance.
You start the game on foot running around a half empty garage with a stern looking lady in a lab coat that teaches you how to play the game and a "sexy" nurse in inappropriate clothing for the situation that gives you your stats on how many things you've killed, how many people you have saved and how happy everyone is. I am skeptical about whether the ambulance driver (Unnamed) you control was actually a paramedic before the outbreak started as he looks like some dude I went to college with that was way into skateboarding. He has two earrings in one ear, shorts, a vest and some trainers on. The only thing to signify that he has any experience as a medical professional is the white coat he wears over the top of his rad sk8ter-wear.
After chatting to everyone I run sk8ter Boi over to the only ambulance available and drive into the city. The default ambulance has pretty good handling and can store up to two passengers. When I am in the ambulance I can drive around using the map to decide where I want to go, but can't be gone for too long as the huge picture of the hospital lit up yellow in the top left of the screen darkens the longer I am away from everyone back at base. I'm going to assume they feel much safer when I'm doing sick grinds and nosefliptricks (???!?) for their entertainment.
As I drive around the city I can either run over or avoid the zombies running around the streets. If I hit enough of them in a row a lady will shout out GOOD! Keep hitting them and she'll also tell me my combo chain is both GREAT! and EXCELLENT! I once ran over a chain of 52 zombie, but she stops around the 30 mark which is a little disappointing. The zombies, like Dead Rising don't really pose all that much of a threat, so it's a little strange as the farther you get into the game the more variations they introduce. (Zombie dogs, big zombie, gun zombie etc.) Sometimes one will grab onto the side of your ambulance requiring you to wiggle the sticks to throw them off, but for the most part you'll have no problem with them.
The main goal is to save as many people as possible. Every time you collect a set amount of survivors a politician will appear randomly on the map. (Starts at ten per politician.) Collect three of them and they'll open up another section of the city. Once you pick up a survivor a timer ticks down and a huge arrow appears on screen directing you back to the hospital. If you don't get back in time the human will turn into a zombie which is signified by some huge teeth appearing in the middle of the screen. The only way to deal with your infected passenger at this point is to repeatedly drive into walls, probably harming everyone else in the vehicle for life. The different types of survivor you can rescue range from civilian men/women, soldiers, police officers and mechanics. Soldiers and police officers increase the hospitals defense, and civilians boost your morale. (If you run out of morale it is game over apparently.) The mechanics are easily the most important to rescue though. Mechanics mean upgrades, and the more mechanics you rescue the better upgrades they can install on your ambulance.
The upgrades range from better tyres (Tires, but it's totally spelt tyres in the game!) jet boosts, armour, survivor scanners and mounted blades for the front of your ambulance. Once you get a certain amount of mechanics you can build bigger and better ambulances that carry more people and handle better. In order to build the upgrades you need to research them by running over a set number of zombies, the higher the upgrade the more zombies that need to be killed, with the new ambulances being the most expensive. I unlocked three different sizes of ambulance and a police car during my playthrough, but never found out what the fifth unlock is. There seems to be so little information about this game in English online that I couldn't find out what the conditions for unlocking the final vehicle are. The bigger vehicles are slower, but carry more people and the smaller ones are much faster. Strangely the police car is easily the best vehicle in a game about ambulances. Despite it only being able to seat two passengers it is super fast and has an insane turning radius on the spot.
The game's biggest problem is how repetitive it is. There was something oddly addictive to begin with. The loop of saving people and unlocking things was quite satisfying, but after a handful of hours realising you're doing the same thing over and over and over again is quite tiring, especially once you have unlocked everything in the shop. The only thing to break up the core gameplay loop is the bosses... "what!?" I hear you say. Even the ambulance driver is surprised about this and has the exact same reaction.
The bosses in this game are something else. The very first boss is a giant mutant worm that you need to trick into zipping past you so you can drive into its side. Seeing as the ambulance has no weapons, the bosses seem to be more about knowing when to drive into them than any kind of pattern. The second boss is an army zombie that climbs up the side of buildings shooting and throwing grenades at you. All of the bosses can actually do a lot of damage, so you have to be pretty cautious, especially with the army zombie as the entire fight takes place in a thin alleyway. It mostly becomes a case of driving forwards and reversing for ten minutes until he stops for a few seconds in the middle of the road. Thankfully the other bosses I encountered take place in large arenas I could just drive around in circles and hope for the best. The worst fight has to be a giant laser beam shooting moth as about 99% of the time it is flying around in the sky. Obviously this is a pain for road vehicles, and the time to hit the moth when it is on the ground is so miniscule it feels like luck when you do any damage to it. Why are you fighting a giant moth in this game?... I don't know... I just don't know.
The first real cutscene I got in The Zombie Vs Ambulance was about five hours into the game (I'm using the term cutscene pretty loosely here.) and all the doctor lady had to tell me was that the zombie outbreak and the giant monsters are somehow connected to the earthquake. No shit! I continued to play this game for nine and a half hours... that is NINE AND A HALF HOURS, and to be fair I kinda enjoyed my time with it for a while, but after the city opened up for a fifth time asking me to do the exact same pattern of things I just couldn't do it anymore. I'm a little saddened that I'll never find out why this city is split up into zones like a Mario game (desert, ice, forest.) and I'll never see the final boss which I assume will be some variation on an army zombie, a giant worm or a laser moth... It will be truly upsetting if I somehow find out it is a combination of all three, but I have a vast backlog of terrible games to endure to make me feel alive.
I was pretty shocked at how ok this game actually is. I expected it to be borderline broken, but I was surprised to see that there are a bunch of systems in place that all make sense, things that someone has clearly thought about. Sure, the bosses are kinda wonky and it could do with a little more variety, but I've played much less interesting games with higher budgets. Maybe this really does come down to the other games I have been rotating through recently as the vast majority of them are really, really awful with almost no redeeming features. Maybe my standards really are at an all time low. I dunno, the second I start seeing the positives in Sonic 06 is when I will need someone to punch me right in the face.
The driving really is better than in Watch Dogs.
Probably one of my favourite moments in any zombie film ever.
I have a feeling that the next game I'm going to talk about has Japanese girls in bikinis in it. If you are by any chance following my descent into madness you will probably see that Japanese girls in bikinis are a pretty common theme within the Simple 2000 series of games. Every one of these games I survive put me closer to finally playing Billy Hatcher though, surely that will be the greatest reward of all.
I was going to hold off writing anything until the notifications were working properly again, but that's unlikely to happen any time soon. So I guess here is a thing that is probably going to be the first of a few. I think I might just do a few shorter blogs focussing on a single game in the series... That being the Simple 2000 series of Japanese budget games on the PS2.
It's surprising how many of them that ended up getting released in only Europe outside of Japan thanks to a handful of publishers, often with incredibly misleading covers or title changes. Unfortunately, the weirdest of these games were never brought over, but some of the stuff I have been messing around with is preeetty weird.
I've also added some thoughts on Freak Out as it has some similar... erm... themes. (I didn't really know where else to put it and it doesn't deserve a blog of its own.)
Demolition Girl. / Simple Series Vol.50: The Daibijin.
I think you know what you're getting into when the first option you are presented with in a menu is "Game is started." Me being me though, I'm fully aware of the game I'm playing, I knowingly went to Amazon, typed the title into the search and hit purchase. Don't think I threw myself blindly into this quality piece of software, I have done my research and came to the conclusion that "This is dumb... I should probably buy it."
I think the first time I was made aware of this game was when I was looking into buying the Earth Defense Force game that came out for the PS2, just after 2017 had come out. Demolition Girl, known as The Daibijin in Japan is one of D3's Simple 2000 series. A collection of odd, D-Tier games that verge on being broken with just enough weirdness to make them charming.
Thanks to the publisher 505 Games, gems like this managed to be released in Europe outside of Japan. It's a name that pops up a lot when I'm browsing for my next questionable purchase (That and Sega, but that's another story for another time.) This game never got a release in the US which is probably for the best. It also has a 3+ rating, this and a couple of other games I have been playing recently make me realise that our ratings system used to be really lenient.
So, the game begins, and we get a lot of still shots with minimal text introducing us to a girl named Riho Futaba doing a photoshoot on a beach. There's no hint of a photographer being there so I'm just going to assume Riho is a crazy person and is really into taking half naked selfies of herself. We get a couple of shots showing images of small crabs hanging off of her nose and her relaxing under a tree when suddenly she sees a tiny little monster with a blue glowing brain, purple tentacles and red eyes. Riho's first assumption is that this is a jellyfish, so obviously her first thought is to touch it. Unsurprisingly the jellyfish that is most definitely not a jellyfish, (BECAUSE IT IS AN ALIEN!) infects her with something and she grows really, really big...
A GIANT CREATURE APPEARS!
Now the "game is started" we get a briefing where we are told an unknown creature is rampaging through the buildings on the island and we are not quite sure what it is. A single glance at Riho would be enough to know that the threat is a giant lady in a bikini, but the National Guard need to know for sure using science... and helicopters.
We are given some helicopter options like a choice of two camo colours, a main arm weapon that's given to you for the mission and a changeable sub weapon. There's two options here: Machine Gun and Laser Gun. I think it's pretty obvious what I was going to go with though. There's also three slots for a special weapon. The game hasn't told me what any of these things are, but I can choose from cake, speaker, pepper and a couple of other options so I take a selection of them not really knowing what they are and start the mission.
Tam News gives me a report telling me the people of Minakojima island are freaking out... Hmm Kojima... is this game tied into the Metal Gear universe somehow? She is pretty big, maybe this is the Biggest Boss, is Riho Kiefer Sutherland in disguise? Oh my god! A little research on the internet tells me that there is a real place named Miyakojima, to be honest I wouldn't be surprised if Kojima had somehow gone back in time to name an island just to fit it into the lore of Metal Gear somehow.
Apparently scientists have concluded that the monster looks like a human female, mostly because she looks like a human female. The National Guard have come up with a plan to find out 100% for sure though. This doesn't involve getting a megaphone and just asking her who she is, this involves attaching a Trace Beam Gun to a helicopter and scanning her various body parts... It's the only way to make sure.
My mission is to fly a helicopter around the monster and hold down the scan button on her breasts, hips, buttocks and face. I only have about three minutes to collect all of that important information. Once I have collected the right amount of data we will know for certain if the giant human looking lady is indeed a giant human lady, and maybe buy her some new underwear or something.
The first thing I notice is that the helicopter controls like shit. Triangle and X adjust the height and circle and square move me left and right. R1 fires my main weapon (scanner) R2 fires my laser gun which needs to cool down after continuous use, and L2 fires out my special.
The first mission is very simple. You just fly around Riho as she prances and dances around the island breaking buildings and acting cheery. I scan the shit out of all of her body parts for science and spam all of my specials at her. Pepper makes her sneeze, speaker pops out a giant radio that plays a J-Pop song and cake throws out a giant cake with a strawberry on the top of it. How the hell did they make a giant cake this big and fit it into the size of a bomb? The strawberry on the top of it is some kind of record breaking feat at the very least. Riho is amused by the cake and bends down for a few seconds giving me just enough time to scan her buttocks. Look, I don't need to keep telling you this, but this is most definitely for science, both scanning the giant lady's bum and me playing this video game.
THE GULLIVER GIRL OF SOUTH ISLAND.
Now we know the girl that reportedly looks like a giant version of Riho Futaba is in fact 99.9% a giant version of Riho Futaba whose intentions are unknown, we can get down to some real business. The government have decided that in no way is communicating with her a good idea, and the only option is to drug her. This time we have to fly around her and hit her in various parts of her body using missiles that look like giant syringes. I'm going to assume that they had a couple of spares laying around incase Godzilla or Mothra turn up again one day. Obviously the drugs you'd use to take down a nuclear lizard are safe to use on a giant lady. I spam the missiles at her, but this time she gets a little aggressive and slaps my helicopter away. I'm told I have sustained light damage. The second time she does it I'm told that I'm in critical danger and I'm about to die! Luckily I drug the hell out of her before she does too much damage and she falls over face first in a swimming pool.
Thankfully the news isn't reporting the drowning of a giant Riho Futaba, instead the news is saying that the national Guard are going to transport Riho to Tokyo by chaining her arms and legs up to helicopters. Unfortunately UFO's are trying to take down the helicopters and I have to stop them. I'm told I need to destroy 50 of them, and this time I get to fly right into the danger zone using a jet. Sadly the plane feels like transporting a cargo plane full of rubber dogshit out of Hong Kong as the camera jitters all over the place. I no longer have any kind of need for speed and spam the lock on missiles randomly into the air until I kill 50 of these unknown bogeys. Thankfully I never have to use the plane again. Demolition Girl... You stink.
A BAD DREAM.
God damn it! The aliens have gotten hold of Riho again. The jellyfish from the beginning of the game has grown into a giant and is sitting on top of her head like a creepy monster hat. Riho is being brainwashed by the monster and using laser beam eyes and hadoukening everything around Mt Fuji. The news is reporting that Riho had been "Docile" until now, but I remember the time she danced through a holiday resort and it exploded into tiny pieces. The good news is that we are 100% certain that this is actually Riho Futaba though, who has apparently been been missing for days... uhh what?
This was the first part I got stuck on. The Helicopter moves so badly and so slowly that it's really hard to avoid any of the aliens missiles while spamming rockets and bullets into Riho's face. It also doesn't help that the helicopter is incredibly fragile when being hit with laser beams and fire bombs. I failed this over ten times unsure on how to do it, but it seems you have to strafe around her head with the wonky, slow controls and spam all of the weapons. I found myself with an odd claw-like technique where I was rapidly tapping R1,R2,L2 while holding onto circle and tapping the stick every so often. Eventually the parasite died, but thank god that was over.
Riho is now skipping towards the city along Shinjuku highway! So I have to slow her down while a percentage meter slowly ticks up as people in the city are evacuated. The game, not content with giving you two vehicles now wants me to drive a tank. The tank can be driven forward and you can spam bullets and shells at Riho to slow her down. The news is reporting that her destructive behaviour has diminished despite the fact she threw at least five cars and two buildings at me during the mission. We know that shit has gotten real as Riho does a little chest wobble with a springy sound that would make Dead or Alive shake its head in disappointment.
The tank can only move forward up the highway, so it's a little strange this just isn't on rails. I have to pull up on the stick while shooting at her and avoiding incoming traffic which can damage my tank. I prevent them from harming me by spinning my cannon around and blowing them to bits, essentially killing the people I'm trying to save! I get through this part on my first try which was a huge amount of relief, but there's one more mission to go and that one is a real pain.
FAREWELL GIANT GIRL
I have been playing this game for just over an hour at this point and I am at the final level. This level has Riho trying to reach the giant head-alien at the top of a tower. You have to alternate between attacking the alien head with missiles and waiting for the shrink-antidote to charge allowing you to fire a few shots into her to make her smaller.
as soon as she shrinks to normal size you have to deal with the head, but that's easier said than done. It's so hard to avoid any of the oncoming attacks, and beating this section feels more like luck than skill. It took me over an hour to beat this level, probably longer than the rest of the game. Once the alien is dead we are greeted to some more still shots of the game where Riho wakes up in an ambulance and says "My head hurts, where am I?" Riho has forgotten everything and everything is fine... The end.
So... That's Demolition Girl. It's umm, well it is. It sure is what it is. The opening and endings in the Japanese version are actual movies instead of still shots. I assume the photo's were to cut down on costs by not having to hire any voice actors. I can find the intro online and the exact same thing happens, so I assume the end is the same. Riho seems to be something of a mascot for the Simple series starring in fighting games, tennis games and various other dating sims etc, in fact she appears in 23 games according to the wiki on this very site. I can't say I really had any fun with Demolition Girl. It was made for a very specific audience and knows how utterly silly it is, it's probably worth watching a video or two online though just for a wobb...giggle.
One of the things I like most about Treasure is their odd worlds full of silly enemy designs and bright colours. You can tell right out the gate that this is just as bizarre as any of their other, stranger games with a comic book styled intro were giant words crash in and out of moving panels. The game has no intention of giving you any more information than the barrage of incomprehensible images being thrown at you and slaps you right into the game. (The booklet is the most story you will get and apparently revolves around vanity demons possessing your 12 vain sisters.)
You control a little girl with a giant head named Linda. She is wearing a scarf which seems to have a claw with an evil eye on the end of it, and a mind of its own. You can move Linda around with the left stick, hit L1 to Lock on/adjust the camera and R1 to make the claw lunge forward. You can also use the right stick to control the scarf like an arm which is handy as you will need to grab, pull and stretch various doors, trees, faces and boobs... wait, what?
Freak Out is pretty much an arena based boss rush game. Treasure have always been good at bosses, they have created some of the best out there. Some of the designs here are their usual standard of weird toy box nightmares with smiling faces and pointy noses. Before you begin fighting the bosses, you start off in a small room with a bad, scratchy, black and white photoshop filter over the top of everything. There's a handful of doors with a number on them and a couple that say EX on the front. In the middle of the room is a spinning triangle and a giant bell. If you grab the triangle you can save, but if you hit the bell it throws you into what seems to be an 3D model viewer where you can alter textures and rotate models of the only "enemy-type" the game has to offer.
I was utterly baffled to begin with. The game gives you no hints or instructions, so I spent about fifteen minutes walking around in circles grabbing at everything, eventually I grabbed one of the EX doors in the correct way and the door burst open. Was I ready for what horrors lie beyond the door? No, I don't think I was.
Aghhhh!!! Energetic music! I am thrown into a brightly coloured, badly textured island. I see movement, something in the distance. It's shuffling towards me, it's horrifying... it's... oh my... The best way to describe this monstrosity is to call it a walking pair of boobs. Its simplistic face and the way it bobs about in circles, confused frightens me. It's the kind of thing you should lose sleep over. It's as nightmare inducing as anything in the scariest horror movies and video games.
There's no doubt in my mind that these are enemies so I try to grab it using the not-so-precise control. My first attempt was an unintentional breast grab. It's hard to miss that area as they're so huge, but she doesn't like this and spits out some kind of electrical charge. Oddly, it doesn't harm me at all so I try and grab her again. It's no use, It's like the game wants me to grab and stretch the ladies in inappropriate ways. I quickly remember that I have a lock on and a red arrow points me towards the back of her head. After several unintentional, what can only be described as gropes, I finally grab her hair. I stretch and pull the back of her head so hard that she explodes giving me one point. Success!
I work my way through the level grabbing and exploding all of these terrifying monsters. I accidentally knock one off into the water and she flies back up to land using her boobs as a kind of... pair of helicopter blades. This is most definitely a thing that happens in this game... But anyways, I want her point so I explode her and exit the level with thirteen points.
Now that I have points I can enter any of the four numbered doors that contain bosses. Each of them cost a single point, which I will automatically lose if I fail to beat the boss. The bosses themselves are very clearly Treasure creations with their bright colours and creepily smiling faces. The first four bosses ranging from spinning top mosquito's to toy robots and giant mouthed, firebreathing dolls can easily be beaten by strafing around them, avoiding their attacks and spamming the claw hand. You know when you do damage to them as a percentage in big bright colours pops up on the screen and the enemies health-star in the top right of the screen fills with one of four colours indicating how much damage your attack did. (Blue- very light/Yellow-light/Red-heavy/Green-massive.) If your star fills up before theirs you will be kicked out of the boss room and lose points.
Each enemy seems to have one opening where you can do a high amount of damage to it. (Usually about a quarter of the star.) If you want to do a really damaging move you can use a Scarf Bomb by grabbing the intended target and clicking in L3 and R3 at the same time. Now you can wiggle the right stick wildly and really hurt the enemy. To use this attack will cost you five of your points, so it's quite risky if the boss is one of the trickier ones as you won't be refunded those points if you die.
As you get further and further into the game the bosses require a lot more management of smaller enemies or little tricks to beat them. One girl flies about very high throwing fireballs and rocks at you, and can only be beaten by avoiding her throwing a kind of demon anchor at you and then snapping back on the chain so she flies into the ground and starts vomiting everywhere. Another requires you to keep an evil demon from getting into the room by snapping the environment back at him, and finding which stained glass window he is hiding behind when lighting strikes. Freak Out would be at its best during these moments if it wasn't such a hassle to control. The lock on area is miniscule, and is constantly leaving the target, while the slippy, slidey movement and slow turning can make dealing with multiple threats a real hassle.
Over half of the bosses can be beaten using really cheap tactics which means the game is over in no time. It probably took me under four hours to beat every level, including farming boob monsters for points. There's definitely something here despite its problems, and this should probably be a lot tighter coming from Treasure. It's telling that this is one of the very few games they have made that has a fully 3D world. It feels more like an experiment than a full product, the kind of oddity you'd come across on Steam. Like Demolition Girl this is definitely worth watching a video or two of to get a better idea of its insanity. It's super cheap and worth spending a couple of pennies on just to see the bonkers bosses.
Oh, and those terrifying monstrosities inhabiting this world.
I'm adding this for balance... that's what I'm telling myself anyway.
So here is some words about games again. I'm probably going to do one more of these about the Simple series games with two games, but the rest of them will concentrate on a single game. I have played some weird, some terrible and some surprisingly alright games recently during these experiments. I still haven't played Billy Hatcher.
I've been playing a lot of PS2 games recently and here are a couple of games based on very, very different books Osamu Tezuka created. I've been a fan of Astro Boy for a very long time, I'm actually pretty surprised I'd never really made any kind of effort to look into any of his other work. Thankfully a lesser known PS2 action game made me look a little deeper and I've discovered his darker, more adult work. Unfortunately I also thought it was a good idea to play the first game I have written about here...
Hey, Sega! I'm not entirely sure that strapping a bomb to a child in a 3+ rated game is all that appropriate. Hopefully if you're a good parent you wouldn't be letting your three year old child play this semi-broken trash in the first place. What child actually cares about Astro Boy anyway? I'm sure if there was any children that even knew of Astro's existence that movie from 2009 wouldn't have failed so hard. (It's totally alright y'know.)
Osamu Tezuka is pretty well known as being the Godfather of manga, and Astro Boy is probably his most well known creation. Astro is a robot, designed to look like his creator Dr Tenma's dead son Tobio, and is also a super-mega weapon that's real good at blowing stuff up. Dr Tenma is obviously an evil dude because he wears a trenchcoat, has a beard like a chicken and has a penchant for evilly laughing to himself... He was also voiced by Nicholas Cage in that movie mentioned previously.
I LOVE Astro Boy. He's one of my favourite things in the world, all laser arm cannons, rocket boots and bum-guns. Obviously an inspiration for Mega Man, and inspired by Mickey Mouse's design and Pinocchio's story. For anyone into robots fighting aliens and monsters in outer space with big explosions and laser battles, the Mighty Atom is incredibly appealing.
I was vaguely aware of this game. I'd come across it every so often when looking into buying the incredible Treasure-made Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the GBA a few years back. I was a lot pickier about what games I picked up in 2004 so I missed it at the time despite it being based on the 2003 anime which I have actually seen all 50 episodes of. The other thing of note about this very short game is that is is developed by the most consistent of Sega's developers, Sonic Team.
The game feels incredibly rushed with half finished ideas and wonky controls. Almost immediately after the animated intro from the TV show it just dumps you into The Ministry of Science. Here a robot named Nora teaches you how to punch and interact with doors. I'm ok with minimal tutorials and getting into the gameplay as fast as possible, but it feels like there should be at the very least a minute of cutscene or something. Nora tells me I need to go outside and that she has unlocked the door behind me. I'm immediately stumped because the door behind me won't open. I spend about five minutes re-talking to the robot and running around in circles trying to get the camera to adjust to a more convenient angle. I get pretty good at picking up nicely potted plants and throwing them around the room. A few minutes in and I've turned Astro into an incompetent vandal. It turns out that the robot didn't mean the door behind me after all, but the door over the other side of the room, Duh me!
After a little messing about with the buttons I discover L2 and R2 control the camera, which is great as the right stick seemingly isn't used for anything. As soon as I leave the room I'm ambushed by robots that want to kill me. (That's strike two Nora, sending me outside to die.) So I punch a couple of them to death and start swinging blindly at the ones flying above me. Jump attacking doesn't work so I have to jog around for a few seconds, waiting for them to lower themselves to my level. Thankfully they all die quickly, but Astro, the pinnacle of future robotics clumsily falls off of the building like an idiot. Luckily he discovers his feet double up as rocket boosters which is pretty handy for someone that hangs around in cities built high in the clouds.
Now when I hit the jump button twice I can fly. It turns out that the right stick can make me adjust my height in the air, which is exactly what the left stick does, but Y'know, who wouldn't want double the stick options instead of PS1 era camera control. If I hit square I can boost, and the flying (Assuming you're travelling a long distance in a relatively straight line.) feels alright. Unfortunately I'm one of those people... I'm an inverter. It's not really something I can overcome, I've made my peace with it and I go to a group every friday afternoon. I find myself having to return to the lying, door-bot to change my controls to "reversed". What does changing the controls in options do? NOTHING. That robot exists solely to lie to me. Fuck you Nora.
The oddest thing about this game is that it gives you a big empty hub world full of rings you can fly through and umm, well you can fly about and stuff. Occasionally there are enemies, but they exist purely to point you in the direction of your next objective, and seeing as there is only five or six places which also flash when you need to visit them, it isn't likely that you'll ever get stuck.
The places you can visit act as arena-like levels for you to do stuff. You're not always fighting, sometimes you're running up to people to talk to them for advice, playing the most boring game of hide and seek against explosive, invisible children and picking up chairs and throwing them at ladies just trying to do their shopping. Most of the time though, it will lock you into an arena where you need to kill a certain amount of robots and/or a boss. Fighting is done by hitting a lock on button and then hitting one of a few attacks you have at your disposal. If you spam the punch button unsurprisingly you end up zipping all about the screen like in the early 3D Sonic games. If you're the kind of person that gets motion sickness easily you should probably avoid Astro Boy. No! Let me phrase that better... If you like video games you should probably avoid Astro Boy.
As you go through the game beating bosses you get a little stronger and your health bar increases. This adds absolutely nothing to the game as all of the later bosses hit harder and take more damage, which means every boss feels exactly the same. Sure, they all have different attacks, but most of them revolve around you slowly flying around them in circles waiting for them to attack and then either punching them, firing your finger laser at them or locking on for a few seconds with the arm cannon. There's an odd level of inconsistency to the arm cannon. You can fire it point blank into a huge robots face at times only for its life bar to stay unscathed, while other times you can blindly fire roughly somewhere in its direction from a distance and knock of a fifth of its health. There is sadly a complete lack of bum-cannons which is something the GBA game loves so much it's a wonderfully flashy screen clearing attack.
I'm not entirely sure Sonic Team really knew what they wanted to do with the game. There are multiple places you can visit and just run around, talk to people and collect cards for your sister. (Uran/Zoran). She seems completely uninterested in doing it herself and sends out Astro to do her dirty work "I know you're busy with the world saving and all Astro, but can you complete my card collection." The one card I acquired early on involved me pretending I was too busy to play with a boy outside, so not only is Astro an idiot, a vandal and an abuser of pedestrians, he's also a total piece of shit. I actually stumbled onto a bunch of the cards late in the game and she seemed pretty pumped about it. Like most things about this game they add zero to the core of the experience. I have a feeling they put them all in because the game could probably be beaten in about three hours if you knew what you were doing. Side missions for collectibles... No thanks!
I guess they assumed you'd only be playing this if you had seen the show. The game keeps introducing characters out of nowhere. Every so often Astro would respond to the new characters and it would weird me out because he's mute for about 90% of the game. Most of the time the boss turns up says some menacing stuff to you and then you fight. It's kind of odd, I've played a ton of movie tie-ins in my darkest achievement hunting days and even those games have something resembling a coherent story. This is just "I'm a robot, I'm bad! You're not the king of robots, I'M THE KING OF ROBOTS... LETS FIGHT!" and then Tenma turns up and laughs his evil laugh.
After killing everything you always return home which is oddly in a perpetual state of night time.(Even when the city is always set during the day.) There's a tiny street with people running around which I assume want to give you collectible cards, but I haven't got time for that, I have plants and furniture to hurl at innocent people. The linear nature of the game is made even more of a chore as quite often you have to manually leave the level, fly to your home, run over to the door, talk to the doctor, leave the house and then fly into the sky to be told about your next objective. The open world aspect makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It seems to exist only to give you a reason to fly about as Astro, like you'd get some kind of enjoyment out of a boring, badly textured sky city with invisible walls and nothing to do. At least it tells me where to head next instead of running around in a circle unsure where to go like I did in Sonic 06 that one time.
I have to say I didn't really enjoy any part of this game other than the cool intro to the cartoon that plays when you start it up.(The title screen music is nice I guess.) Robots fighting other robots should never be boring, and this game is mostly boring arena fights. Flying around fighting the camera is never fun, especially when you can't invert the controls like it says you can. Luckily that's not that big a deal as there's only two areas that resemble actual levels in the game. One is a collection of identical looking warehouse rooms and the other is an impossibly structured volcano. Both of these sections have enemies that only react if you get within a metre or so of them, which means you find yourself just hovering in the air and picking off everything from a distance. I AM THE MIGHTIEST ROBOT SNIPER EVER!
The final level has you fight a rocket in outer space. I dunno, I think you end up saving the earth or something from ultimate destruction. Everyone seems pretty happy about it and cheers, although that woman who got a chair in the face is probably traumatised forever. Yeah, y'know it's a TV show tie-in game made by Sonic Team on the PS2. That's all you really need to know to get a good idea of the kind of game it is. Don't ever play this game, not that you were even thinking about doing so, just don't. (You should play Astro Boy: Omega Factor on the GBA though as it is super awesome.)
Nora is a dick.
Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu's Dororo.
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. For starters I didn't even know this game even existed until about a month ago. I have always loved Astro Boy, but I've never delved deeper into any of Osamu Tezuka's other work. I'd seen Metropolis, which I thought was gorgeous, but boring and a Black Jack anime I remember almost nothing about, and that was about it. Clicking through random videos of games when I should have been catching up on my neverending backlog of TV, I somehow came across a video of Blood Will Tell, also known as Dororo in Japan. Dororo is also the name of the original manga which also spawned a live action film in 2007 and a short lived Anime show in 1969.
I am so, so glad I discovered this game. This is probably the first game in my pile of old PS2 games I have been slowly working my way through that I'd call genuinely great. It centers around a Samurai named Hyakkimaru who was born with 48 of his body parts missing. His father had traded them to 48 demons for ultimate power, but disgusted at what remained of his child, the father put him in a basket and threw him into a river. A man named Dr Honma found and decided to care for the baby, doing what he could for him with medicine and magic. When the child grew up Honma built him fake arms, legs and various other internal organs, but most importantly gave him hidden blades in his arms. The blades would come in handy (Ha!) as when Hyakkimaru became a man his ultimate life goal was to murder all of the fiends that had control over his missing body parts.
The actual gameplay itself is quite simple. You run around the level going from point to point, hitting cutscenes and fighting bosses. Each chapter has you run around a pretty open environment where you can search for secrets or hunt down optional enemies. The main weapons you have are the arm blades, which both level up individually through use. These are the only weapon that can be leveled by grinding, although you aren't ever required to do so as you always have the means to beat most enemies you encounter. Square does fast attacks, triangle does heavy attacks and if you hold triangle you do a charging dash which activates a kind of mini game where you have to hit all of the button prompts that pop up on screen for massive damage. If successful you will be rewarded with a bunch of items, but I never found this attack to be all that useful. As you hunt every corner of the map you might also find scrolls which let you activate a special magic attack by hitting the two attack buttons at the same time. These are an assortment of tornadoes and blade flurries, but the default one that has you spin around like a crazy person seems like the most consistently useful.
The doctor was also kind enough to fit you with a powerful leg cannon which can be aimed and fired with R2, and a machine gun in your elbow when you hold down R1. That's not all! Hold down L2 and Hyakkimaru's arms re-appear allowing you to use your normal samurai sword. Swords can be collected and often have elemental or passive buffs. They don't increase in power like the arm blades and you have to find the higher levels of them hidden in pots and rocks scattered around the chapter.
Each chapter as you progress through the game is like a self contained story, similar to an episodic TV show. Although there is an overarching storyline about a lord and his son trying to reunite the country, most of the little stories revolve around a town or an area that has fallen on hard times due to an evil spirit sucking the life out of everything. Luckily Hyakkimaru senses demonic things when they are near with his minds eye and goes out of his way to help people the best way he knows how... by cutting things to death.
I should probably also point out the character from the title of the manga named Dororo is a young thief girl that follows you around claiming she will one day steal her ultimate prize... your arm blades. In the book it's only hinted at that Dororo is a girl pretending to be a boy, but in this game she is played as a girl from the start. The enthusiastic, but annoying voice actress doesn't even try to hide it, and the character model kinda just looks like a girl. That's actually a very nice thing about this game. The environments are mostly fine, but the character models and mo-capped animation is all very good. The voice acting is... well, it is what it is, but it doesn't detract from how cool the rest of the game is.
Dororo can be commanded with the circle button, hold it down and she can be told to fight, defend, follow or search for secrets. I nearly always had her set to attack as she has some pretty damaging kicks and punches and can really help out with some of the harder bosses. If she dies she just disappears for about thirty seconds and then gets right back into the fight. This means she is never a burden and is quite often a huge help. Occasionally the story will jump back and forth between the two characters as they're off doing separate things, communicating via a convenient psychic link. Sometimes you get to control Dororo as she follows a suspicious person or crawls around in underground tunnels while Hyakkimaru is running around town slicing demons in half. I really like the change of pace with Dororo, she has more platforming and puzzley stuff to do, but she can still hold her own against most enemy types.
As you progress through the game you will come across and kill some of the demons that have your body parts. This is something I absolutely love about the game. The first twenty minutes of the game are strangely in black and white (The tutorial does its best to keep telling you your TV isn't broken), but killing the first boss means you regain your right eye turning the game into colour. There's a lot of nice touches like this. Getting your nerve system back means you can feel pain again, so now the vibration in the controller works, you gained a leg, now you can dash etc. A lot of the body parts are just stat boosts, but it's always nice to feel like you have gained a meaningful part of your body back.
Most chapters will only let you defeat some of the unique, named demons first time through. Some storyline, some in hidden corners of the map. A few of them require you to return to the level after finishing the chapter and fulfil certain requirements like smashing all of the rocks in a area, cutting down a tree or fighting 40 little monsters. Some of the tougher enemies will only turn up after finishing a certain chapter later on in the game. They can often be really tricky as they are only weak to a specific sword-type or attack. A lot of the demons have unique designs and attacks you don't see anywhere else in the game. It's kinda cool that there are a ton of optional bosses that you may never see or find. The only way to unlock the final chapter and boss for the true ending is to regain 47 of your body parts. This is easier said than done, but the final chapter is very much worth seeing.
I feel like normally I would just make fun of ridiculous story points and annoying design. Blood Will Tell has it's fair share of frustrations and "Oh, video game." moments, and Dororo is possibly one of the most punchable characters to ever appear in a video game. There's something about the way this game is designed. It's both familiar and completely unique. It has good controls and tons of stuff to do or ignore. Even if the story is incredibly simplistic and the voice acting isn't of the highest standard, the tales that are told are interesting and make you want to see what's coming next be it a giant demon fox or an evil mountain that needs to be destroyed. Yeah, you have to fight a whole mountain in this game.
If I'd have played Blood Will Tell back when it came out I'd probably be gushing about it on forums any chance I could. It's not often these "hidden gem" games live up to the amount of love their passionate supporters give them, but this is truly one of the best PS2 games I have ever played. If you have any interest in quirky samurai stories or interesting action games and can look past some of the bullshit that comes bundled with these older titles I strongly urge you to give this a try.
Soooo. Sonic Team have made some bad games, this is probably a huge shock to anyone reading this, but what you should have come away with from reading this is that Blood Will Tell is a fantastic game and you should probably play it. I've just finished The Book of Human Insects another Tezuka book from 1970. It's full of sex, murder and identity theft. It's kinda brilliant if you can look past some of its more dated elements. I've also started on the Dororo book.(1967) Man, that thing is like a billion pages big. It's really surprising how faithful the game is to the book though, even down to some very small details. The manga despite its cute, cartoony-ness is way more bloody than the game though.
Yep, this is another collection of words about games I have been playing. Hopefully I won't accidently delete this one off the forums like I did before, but you don't care anyways, you' haven't even read this far! I have written about a bunch of PS2 and Gamecube games, but I'm still not entirely happy with those blogs, blogs with blog in the title. I have still not played Billy Hatcher.
I wrote another blog about games I'm playing and it has only been a fortnight. Oh yeah! This one has a theme cos I'm awesome like that. Bullets, bullets and even more bullets. All the bullets!
If there's ever been one consistent thing in my life, it's that I'm rather good at making poor decisions. There are obvious things you should listen to like minding the gap at a train station, and obvious things you should ignore like choosing your own destructor when asked by an ancient demon. When all the reviews tell me you shouldn't buy a game like NeverDead it feels like an invitation to do so. Sometimes there's a certain amount of fondness to be found in what I know to be an incredibly wonky game. On the flipside I end up in situations where I watch a six minute video of someone telling me to avoid Bullet Witch like it's a kicker of cute puppies. So obviously I do what I do best and buy it anyway.
2013 was a bad year for the planet Earth. It was full of earthquakes, wars and plagues. Not no mention an unfortunate demon uprising. This is all the story the game gives you up front, the only other thing you have to go on is the nonsensical dump of images and words in the trailer for the video game Bullet Witch that plays before the title screen.
You're immediately thrust into a neighbourhood being attacked by demon soldiers that could quite easily have come from old issues of 2000AD or rejected Iron Maiden album covers. They all seem to have scarves made out of the skin of humans wrapped around their necks. I don't really keep up with fashion trends so I have no idea if the skin look was in last year, but these dudes pull it off well. Immediately the frame rate drops out and I'm told by a disembodied voice that demons are doing something or other and you need to deal with it the only way a witch knows how... With a gun. So I shoot at all the monsters with my bullet-staff-gun and they all die with minimal feedback and too many bullets. I'm almost immediately reminded of my inability to make good decisions.
You know when people used to say "That looks like a PS2 game" about games that clearly didn't look like PS2 games? Well, this looks like an HD PS2 game. Whole chunks of it seem completely unfinished. The one main enemy type glitches about, gets stuck on scenery or just stands there waiting to be killed while panicked civilians either run about silently or lay on the ground for you to come and spray blood from your wrists into their faces to revive them. If you do so they'll say something along the lines of "Take this", extend their arm and then run off. I have no clue what they're giving me as there's no experience system, no item drops, nothing.
Occasionally you'll come across flying dudes with giant brains imaginatively called "Walnut Heads" that have psychic powers and can throw bits of the scenery around at you like polystyrene. In fact everything destructible in this game bounces around like dead ants in an EDF game. Unlike the ants, the polystyrene cars can kill you in one hit and set you back ten minutes of mind numbing running at demon-men and holding down the right trigger. Nearly anything that can one-shot you in this game usually comes out of nowhere and will set you back a significant amount of progress.
The second level has you running around the biggest open city with absolutely nothing in it. It's just run and shoot, run and shoot, use a lightning blast on a tank, run and shoot. I know, I know that sounds like a pretty fun time, who couldn't love a game about a gun toting witch called Alicia, something you don't find out until about two thirds of the way into the insanely long second mission. Some irritating anime-soldier guy tries to be friends with you and gives you a couple of disposable grunts to get stuck on the scenery. At one point one of them tells me " All of my friends and family are dead, I have nothing left to live for!" I know how you feel mate.
Unfortunately I made it to the third level. It just seems like you're doing the same old thing through sewers, abandoned train stations and an airport, but this level has a boss, well technically the last level had a boss but you just kinda stand there and hold down the trigger on the weak point. The good soldier dudes running around kept reminding me that it must have a weak point I should be hitting. Thank god for their advice because I'd have never known to shoot the giant pulsating heart on the outside of its body. Annnnyways. The end (I assume the end) of the level has you standing on the top of a plane shooting eyeballs that are trying to blow it up and occasionally blasting a giant eyeball-whale-dragon with lightning. This sequence is frustratingly difficult. You have to shoot the eyeballs off of the plane and hit the whale with lighting that takes three steps to use, while a barrage of exploding eyeballs fly into you, knocking you out of the magic animation or off of the plane. Once you hit the whale with the lightning twice he charges up for a one hit kill move where you have to shoot it in the mouth with the inaccurate peashooter gun. I failed this so many times on two separate sittings that at one point I threw a controller, something I've not done since Pixel Junk Eden came out.
I came back to it refreshed, renewed and determined to beat it on a third sitting. I'd read some guides, I was armed with the knowledge that you only have to hit it three times with the lighting bolt. I hit it once, things are going well. I hit it twice things are still going well. I'm gonna do it! He charges up for his attack! My magic bar hits max! I activate the lighting bolt! She shifts forward two centimetres and falls off the plane.
Fuck Bullet Witch.
I can't be trusted to give out life advice, this is for certain. But if there is one piece that you should take note of it is this: If your best friend is named Judas and dresses like a Final Fantasy villain, you should probably ditch him. Or at the very least shoot him in the face.
10,000 bullets is unsurprisingly a third person shooter for the PS2 made by Taito. It's one of a number of releases for the PS1 and PS2 that only ever made it to Europe outside of Japan. This game despite some odd balancing and a twitchy camera (aggghh unchangeable inverted horizontal camera controls.) is a bunch of fun, taking the bullet time from Max Payne and all sorts of inspiration from Anime and the Matrix.
The story is pretty much this. You're a Gunslinger called Bloody Crow that gets really touchy when people mention the bloody part who works for some kind of crime syndicate in Rome. It turns out Gunslingers have special blood which means they can bend time and bullets to their will, and are pretty good at murdering people. It's a little like Wanted, only Morgan Freeman never turns up to call you a motherfucker.
On top of your awesome shooty skills theres some kind of prophecy or something that says if you're the last Gunslinger left standing you can become all powerful and enter some kind of magical kingdom. They never really go into this and it's a real shame this game never got a sequel as they could have probably made out that you're really some kind of space alien and Sean Connery didn't die after all.
The game has you move around on a map screen, entering places and talking to people which give you optional dialogue, advice or practice shooting people in some bonus stages. There's quite a lot of text dialogue and moving back and forth between places until you hit the area which has a mission in it.
Before the mission you can use points earned at the end of stages to upgrade your character. All the skills have three levels that unlock over the course of the game with some of them being passive buffs like health or being able to jump two or three times in a row, and others are skills. You can take two skills into battle with you and they range from temporary homing shots to invincibility dodges and reflective shields.
All of the stages are really small, but have an insane amount of people to shoot. You spend the majority of your time hitting the generous bullet time button, jumping through the air and hitting the lock on to shoot hundreds upon hundreds of goons in the face. I'd say that you spend about 99% in bullet time. There doesn't really seem to be any reason not to use it all the time, and it can at times feel balletic jumping over dozens of bullet streams in slo-mo while you reload and kill three or four people from upside down before you've even hit the ground. At the end of most stages there's a boss which will also have its own set of magical Gunslinger powers. A bunch of them wouldn't be out of place in a No More Heroes game. They often have patterns and attacks you have to dodge and tend to have an opening where you can get a critical shot on them which is done by keeping the lock on the enemy and not firing until the cursor turns red. I found that jumping about like an idiot in slo-mo and hammering on the fire button worked out for me pretty well most of the time.
After the first chapter we find out Crow lives with his murder-buddy Judas and his girlfriend Keiko. They seem to have some kind of weird living arrangement where Keiko seems to be into you both and talks about how she's not all that fond of what they do for a living, but adores them both anyway. She's pretty accepting that they make a living from killing people because it's what boys do, Keiko compares young boys fighting on the playground and getting scrapes and bruises to shooting people point blank in the head. Unfortunately after fighting the second boss that looks a little like a kind of fancy haired, lightning fast Hideo Kojima we find out that Judas is a sleeper. He explains to Crow what a sleeper is and then keiko turns up so he shoots her dead. There's an odd time jump and you can now choose missions as a young girl named Alice who seems to be a little faster, have less bullets before reloading, but hits a little harder.
As you go through the game there's a few voiced/animated cutscenes where there's a lot of chatter about set-ups, Gunslingers and revenge. You find yourself blasting through shopping centres, train stations and aquariums etc. Alice won't fucking shut up about the penguins at the aquarium. It's maybe the oddest level in the entire game as in amongst all of the fish tanks there are just herds(?) of penguins running about at your feet. You eventually meet up with a couple more playable characters, but I never really found them useful outside of the levels you have to use them on. Boris, a lady that can't jump, but can dash who moves really slow and fires powerful automatic weapons, and Dragon a complete douchebag that can only use martial arts and do Liu Kang kicks which break the camera when you use the lock on and spam it at twenty different enemies in a row. Why there is a character that doesn't fire any bullets in a game named 10,000 Bullets I do not know. I should probably mention there is also a Phoenix Wright looking dude called Mizuguchi the insurance salesman that sets up the contracts for you, but he's unplayable.
I got stumped on a boss near the end that uses a fan to deflect all of your bullets. This was rather odd because in the cutscene before the fight Dragon shouts out "You killed my father!" which like a lot of the storytelling just comes out of nowhere, assuming you should have known it already. I spent forever trying to kill this lady. I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to damage her, every so often I'd knock off some of her health and then she'd just go crazy and kill me. I'm unsure if this is the correct strategy, but choosing Dragon (who is totally useless for all but one level with unarmed enemies.) and spamming that kick killed her in about a minute. I felt like I had wasted an hour switching between all of the characters with guns to no success.
The back end of the game has you fighting bosses and hanging with penguins again, this is where you fight the best boss in the game, not because it's a great fight, but because he's a cowboy with a guitar case that doubles up as both a rocket launcher and a mini gun. His name is Guitar Men... not Man, but Men and he quotes Desperado before the fight. "Lets Pray" indeed. We also get a cutscene where Mizuguchi is killed by Judas. I like that they animated this character for this one part of the game, this is both the only time you see him and hear him speak. He tells you he's bought a nice cottage in Coventry (sure, why not.) and you should leave. Dragon like the huge dick that he is totally talks over his dying words. Why are they letting this dude hang with them anyways, now he's gotten his revenge why can't he leave us in peace?
So off you go for your dramatic showdown between Crow and Judas. You have this weird sequence where you're on rails holding your guns out while enemies kind of move around you and sentences fade up onto the screen about living and dying or something. I found it odd that Crow wasn't shooting the bad guys in a sequence I assumed to be a cutscene. It turns out you can fire the gun in this bit, something I only accidentally discovered moments before the section ended. I managed to kill the last two dudes. Sucks for them I guess, lets hope they don't have families.
When you get to Judas he's all like "Keiko, whatevs" and you kill him pretty much the same way you kill everyone else. There's a little bit of waiting because he has a lot of moves with invincible frames, but for the most part he's pretty manageable. When you beat him they both jump at each other in slo-mo with their guns out, the screen goes black and you hear a gunshot. We hear Judas say something about Keiko being the only person he truly loved... Make up your mind dude. It turns out that ultimate power is better than true love. We all know this isn't true, because of the incredible Jet Li's The One.
10,000 Bullets is a fun game, it takes about seven or eight hours to finish and there's one thing I never really mentioned about it, and that is its maddening difficulty at times, especially in the early stages. There are a handful of stages before you have access to certain upgrades where you get spammed by so many enemies and rockets that it is absurdly overwhelming. I died so many times early on that it offered me an easy mode which I eventually took because I'm a wuss. Even with this it was still ridiculously hard. Upon dying a few more times it offered me a very easy mode. There was a moment of hesitation, but no one was around to see me so I accepted like a little casual baby gamer. IT WAS STILL SO DAMN HARD! I cannot for the life of me understand why the early parts of the game are so hard. As soon as you max out the health and get a shield that bounces rockets back to the people that fired them the game becomes much, much easier. I did eventually knock it back up to normal, but there's still absolutely no reason why the earliest parts of this game are so difficult.
Overall I enjoyed it. It's not something you'd need to play and its certainly got style. It ain't no Devil May Cry, but it's an enjoyable time. Apparently there's a better ending if you finish it on hard, but I think that would probably be a pretty miserable experience with the difficulty as it is. I have no idea why it never came out in the US, but if you're looking for a simple, arcadey shooter and love slo-mo triple jumps or annoying martial artists this is the game for you.
I've been having fun just playing through old PS2 and Gamecube games recently. It turns out there is so, so, so, so many PS2 games that are both interesting and inexpensive which I have never heard of before. Such a huge selection of varied gametypes. The PS2 really was rad wasn't it? Lots of things in my wishlist, maybe I'll stop eyeing up that copy of Billy Hatcher... I'm totally gonna buy that aren't I?