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?
My intention this year was to write a couple of blogs a month, which unfortunately turned into a blog a month, and that quickly turned into me thinking about doing a blog a month. I really need to finish my Top Ten blog at least three people read, and I have written a lot of stuff that I haven't felt comfortable about posting. I need to get back into a regular pattern with something a little smaller, and what better way to do that than talk about a short game on a small console with the most adorable game discs I have ever seen... my brand new-old Gamecube. I have also filled it out some bits and bobs about other stuff I have messed around with.
I could probably talk for hours about how excited I was discovering the Gamecube had tiny discs. ( I have no idea how I have made it to 2014 and didn't know about this.) It was such a huge moment opening up my first GC box the week of E3 that I'm putting it right at the top of my E3 2014 highlights. Also, the Gamecube has a handle!
So what am I writing about in this blog? If you hadn't guessed from the title (And you probably didn't) I'm going to say some things about the first Capcom Five game to be released on the Gamecube: P.N.03. It does say "Product Number" on the front of the box, but I'm not entirely sure if that's referring to the main character, the suit or something else. After playing it I'm not a hundred percent anyone associated with the game really knew themselves to be honest.
Shinji Mikami has his name attached to a bunch of very good games. I hear there are a couple of people out there that like the Resident Evil franchise, Some of them even like the old ones with the wonky controls. One thing to remember though - For all the gems tied to his name we should never ever forget that he is responsible for that terrible Aladdin game on the SNES. In 2002 Capcom decided to pledge their allegiance to the great evil Cubelord by making five original games exclusive to the Nintendo Gamecube. Only four of them were released, and three of them were eventually ported to other systems. The first of the bunch was the poorly received, Mikami directed sexy-dance-shooter-thing P.N.03 in 2003, which was the only game to stay exclusive to that system.
There's no messing about with this game, no flashy intro, no long cutscenes, just our hero Vanessa Z Schneider teleporting in a ball to the surface of a miserable brown planet like some kind of rhythmic Terminator. There's not really anything resembling a tutorial so you have to figure out how to move yourself. For starters, I'm not a game designer, but if I was the last thing I'd put into my fast paced action shooter would be tank controls, and P.N.03's basic movement is incredibly similar to the way Leon moves in Resident Evil 4. Thankfully most of the environments in the game are thin corridors or wide open spaces so it isn't that much of a problem a lot of the time. It also helps that unlike RE4 you don't have to aim your weapon. It automatically locks onto the closest enemy and does a pretty good job of picking the best targets during combat. This is very handy for a game that doesn't let you move and shoot at the same time (Surprise!)
So you run around hitting the fire button which is conveniently the big round button situated in the middle of the other buttons on the controller. Y'know Nintendo were onto something here. They were like "Hey, this button is the main button for all inputs, lets just make it huge" I like that, it's nice. Either that or they messed up the specifications and that's why the Gamecube's D-Pad is so damn tiny. There's no rapid fire when you start the game so like a lot of older Japanese shooters you need to hammer the button down as fast as possible to kill stuff quickly which can be pretty tiring for extended periods of play.
After running around awkwardly trying to kill fast moving robots on a pretty ugly environment you get a Codec call from an anonymous person called The Client. The Client has absolutely nothing important to say ever. They're so unhelpful that in one of your first interactions with them they're like "Oh, you've got super moves, find out about them in the pause menu." It turns out that these seemingly throwaway supermoves which are a collection of rotating lasers, homing shots and laser ripples are incredibly important to the gameplay and can often be the deciding factor in whether you live or die during some bosses. The only other meaningful dealings with The Client are at the end of the game and this one time they commented on me buying some new sunglasses mid mission.
I can't believe it has taken me this long to get to the most important part of the way the game plays. You run around the levels which are split up into tiny sections by destroying or avoiding all of the enemies and then hitting a door that gives you a very brief results screen with bonus points for not taking any damage. The way to avoid damage is by using the triggers to make Vanessa "dance" from side to side. Vanessa is way into dancing, leave the controller alone for a second and she taps her foot and pumps her arm to the beat of the techno music. Apparently she's here to blow up the robots that killed her parents or something, but at times it feels like she's just into some really dangerous dance fitness. The suit she's wearing makes her shoot lasers from her hand, which is pretty cool, keep hitting that button and she weaves and bobs and gyrates her hips to the sound of various uninteresting robots exploding.
The way she moves and dodges enemy attacks, which can at times be hugely damaging if you mess up your timing can either make you feel like some kind of awesome, fluid future robot killer or have you continuously get clipped by enemy attacks or frantically try to rotate on the spot to get a lock on from the robot firing missiles into you from offscreen. I understand why they hadn't transitioned to moving and shooting in Resident Evil 4, but to have it in a game where you need to be pretty mobile is an odd decision. It could work if there were more refined controls for dealing with enemies that are to the sides of you, and some of it can be countered by using the pretty generous jump, but you can only really flip forwards or backwards as trying to jump to the side or on the spot results in you doing a pretty looking, but ultimately useless spin. Considering how fast some of the bosses move (Some of which have names like Mister Giraffe.) it seems crazy how little mobility you have. The super moves can do some serious damage and I tried to cheese my way through all of these fights as quickly as possible due to them usually having single hit kill moves.
Between levels you can use the points you gained during combat to upgrade and buy new suits which have different supermoves and strengths or play a randomly generated trial mode that consists of five missions with 15 rooms to clear. This was obviously included for you to grind points to buy continues and upgrade etc. The suits in the game are so expensive and the trials give such a small amount of points unless you have mastered the combat flawlessly. You can't replay missions so this is the only way to boost yourself if you get stuck. I found myself getting around 30 000 ish points per trial stage when I wanted to buy a suit costing 600 000. Not only do you have to buy the suit but they all start out with base stats so you find yourself grinding and grinding just to get the new suit you bought up to the stats of the previous suit you owned. It's a bad way to pad out an already slim package.
Of the eleven missions here there is almost no variety. You are usually tasked with getting from point A to Point B with about 90% of the game being white rooms like some kind of Portal test chamber. I remember when the first trailers for Vanquish came out a few people would comment on it having similar aesthetics to this game, but there is very little in common between the two other than being fast moving action shooters that favour style and are directed by Shinji Mikami. On the few occasions that the game does mix things up it never really changes a whole lot about the gameplay. On one level you need to avoid slow moving searchlights, but you can just run right through them, the only penalty being that you get to shoot some stuff for more points to spend on upgrades, and another level where you have to run back through a section of the level you have already played while a timer ticks down.
The story has you returning to the same old levels a couple of times. Mostly because The Client is an idiot and opened the wrong door last time you went through the level, and it makes the game feel rushed. No environment is interesting enough to visit twice and the minimal changes they do make don't add a whole lot to the experience. Around the 8th or 9th mission you come across a clone of yourself in a tube. This is the first time your character speaks out loud, like seriously. You get about two lines of dialogue 3/4 of the way into the game. It just so happens to be everyone's favourite female voice actress Jennifer Hale voicing Vanessa. If there's something I have learnt over the last couple of years, it's that Jennifer Hale seems to be bad at doing accents. Play Fuse and listen to her atrocious English accent and here we get an even worse accent. I assume it's meant to be German, but it sounds sorta French... which slips back to American for a single line. It's obvious story was not the focal point here, but come on, that's just lazy. At the end of the game -Spoilers- we get a couple more lines of dialogue where we find out that The Client is a clone? Or you're a clone? Or the one in the jar was the original or something? Everyone's a clone? ummm DANCE BREAK! Yep, that's the story. There's robots, you killed them, someone's a clone. Are you a robot? Is a clone a product? Are you number three? Is the fancy gun-hand dance suit the P.N.03? If so how come there are tons of other suits to buy in the store? Why is she pawing the screen like a cat? Why am I even bothered by this? I'm pretty hungry, what should I have for dinner?
So that's a blog about P.N.03. It feels unfinished, most notably in the story department. Visually it's pretty bland, but the animation on Vanessa is great. This could have been a kind of Sci-Fi Devil May Cry... Hell, it even makes the exact same noise as those games when you pick up green health orbs. I can't tell if they had to rip a bunch of stuff out due to time and/or money, but the ideas behind dancing and dodging are a unique twist on the standard action game. I'm glad I played it though, I've been curious about it since I saw images of it years ago. Maybe this will prompt me to finally play Killer 7 or replay Viewtiful Joe and its sequel... I should probably just finish that HD version of Resident Evil 4. Nah, That'd require plugging in my 360 again.
Other things I have played.
I have played a bunch of games. Here are some thoughts on them
I played through the entirety of Wolfenstein The New Order. I liked it, it's a nice middle ground between running & gunning and the more modern approach. I felt like there was a little too much stealth in the game. I know you can go in guns blazing for the vast majority of the game, but the commanders de-incentivise you doing so, probably a few too many times. I also felt like there wasn't enough crazy weapons and none of the guns felt like they really packed a punch. Why place a level on the moon if you're only going to be on the surface of the moon for a couple of minutes. It's surprising how similar the space section felt to the space mission at the end of Fuse.(Second mention!) The thing I liked best about the game was the storytelling... I never thought I'd be saying that about a Wolfenstein. I really liked the way Blazkowicz muttered to himself with often unconnected thoughts from the past. The music is great.
Which Drove me to trying out The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. I love the Riddick franchise, especially the second movie. I was prompted to re-watch the movie after a thread on the forums, I forgot to respond to someone about why I loved Chronicles, but I realized that I could probably write a whole essay on why I love that movie. Anyways. Knowing the Riddick games were made by a bunch of former Starbreeze guys that worked on Wolfenstein I wanted to give this a shot. There's a bunch of similarities. The way the storytelling is handled, the way Riddick mutters to himself, and the way long stealth sections are punctuated by extended gunfights. I wish the shooting was better and Butcher Bay has aged very poorly with some really nasty difficulty spikes that overly punish previously sloppy play. I'd heard Dark Athena was the worst game in the package, but I like it a lot more. I have kinda stopped playing it at the point it turned into an all out shooter with poor shooting.
I have also dabbled in some Basara: Samurai Heroes. It's like Capcom's Dynasty Warriors and it's fucking crazy... like CRAZY. I dunno... you kill hundreds of dudes at a time and get 1000 hit combos. Sometimes you fight a man with lightning chainsaws, or a dude that lives in a giant bamboo shoot or a tiger ("TIGER TIME!") or a robot(????) Y'know, a bunch of historically accurate Stuff. I have only finished it with one character and she has a super move where she throws hundreds of muskets into the air, spins around with tommy guns and then fires a bazooka into the air with a hundred rockets... Japan.
I'm nearing the end of Act 2 in Watch Dogs, my fourth PS4 game and it's most definitely the best game I have bought for the system. There's something about going in with low expectations and being pleasantly surprised. My initial feelings were pretty harsh, but as the story and missions with their semi-open structure progressed I warmed considerably to it. It has some of the best cover shooting in any open world and the explosions go boom incredibly nice. I wasn't going into it for the hacking part so the fact it focuses on shooting doesn't bother me, even Aiden and his vigilante voice (Which he puts on when being a shit Batman.) is ok despite his generic genericness. I hate the way the music is handled in the game. I went into the music app and turned off all of the songs I hated. It loops the same seven songs over and over now.
I also played a couple of Saturn games. Gunbird which is a scrolling shooter with witches, gods, bunny rabbits, robots and protagonists with questionable interests, and Treasure's Silhouette Mirage. I have a lot more to say about that and a couple of other Gamecube and PS1 games I have finished, but I'll leave it for another time.
One last thing.
MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!!! I rewatched Mortal Kombat. I don't remember the last time I saw the movie, but this has to be the third-ish time. I think I saw it on VHS after the cinema release, but that was a long, long time ago. MK is a fun movie, back then I remember being disappointed by it, I think I wanted it to be really dark and bloody, but its goofy tone was lost on me. Years later It feels like it the got the tone spot on. All the characters act like you'd expect them too (Bonkers Raiden aside.) and it's full of characters you know and love punching, kicking and getting fatalitied in appropriate ways. It's worth a watch just for the Johnny Cage Vs Scorpion fight. I haven't giggled so hard in quite some time.
Not the entire fight, but it has the bit that matters.
OK. Thats some writing that I did and posted and stuff. I'm most definitely going to try and be more regular with this, it keeps me focussed.Thankyou for reading and be excellent to each other.
This took a little longer than expected. I'm back to talk about a bunch of games based on/with links to my top ten favourite movies of all time. This has been a pretty good excuse to re-watch, replay and spend some time with a bunch of games I'd never have any reason to play or return to. So far it has strengthened my love of the movies, but left me with some pretty traumatic experiences on the game side of things. I was probably a little unrealistic about putting the second part of this up within one or two weeks, but I got there in the end... almost a month later. Obviously there continues to be a little stretching here and there, but I try to get as close as is realistically possible.
It was probably a huge mistake to start this a week before the release of three of the years biggest games. I don't think I have all that much to say about Metal Gear or Infamous beyond a couple of thoughts on the forums, but I'm seriously considering writing up my lengthy experience with the PC version of Titanfall. I have fallen head over heels in love with a multiplayer shooter, something I thought I'd completely lost interest in.
The good news is that I have continued to do the digital equivalent of stabbing myself repeatedly in the eyes, because I felt the need to play a bunch of games of varying quality and questionable worth in between exhilarating rounds of punching pilots out of mechs and questioning why I'm still watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D at 5.30 in the morning.
I have the best taste in everything.
This week I have a lot of brawleryness. There's a bunch of fists, feet and headbutting. First up I have played the long ignored, but always curious about Warriors game. Have I turned into a wimp? Am I packed? Can I dig it? Next up I have been searching for fortune and glory in a couple of games to go with Raiders of the Lost Ark. The best choice would have been to play the Indiana Jones game on the SNES, a game I remember finding incredibly tough as a child. Due to not wanting to use emulators I have played the weird leftovers of that next(last) gen game they advertised with the euphoria engine that came out for the Wii - Indiana Jones And the Staff of Kings. Also, I have replayed through the six Raiders levels in Lego Indy as a bonus. The last game I have played is a real gem. I got into the mood to play the only Crow video game that exists by listening to old Cure CD's and crying myself to sleep. Unfortunately, the only game in this franchise is tied to the utterly abysmal second movie and not the wonderful Brandon Lee original. Is the game better than the movie or did I start cutting myself to relieve the pain?
Movie: The Warriors (1979) Game: The Warriors (2005 PS2)
I probably spend far too much of my time on the internet watching videos of other people list video games they have bought for their collection. I could probably spend that time playing more games, watching more movies or even starting my own cartoonish gang. Hell, even just learning how to embroider fancy emblems onto jackets would probably be a better use of my time.
The one thing a lot of these videos I watch have in common is that whenever someone says they picked up The Warriors game it is always followed by a passionate recommendation. I love The Warriors, its neon soaked streets, stylistic fights and comic book-70's future stylings always bring a smile to my face. If there was one movie on this list that I'm always in the mood for, this is it. A lot of my hesitation to play this supposedly incredible game was that it was made by Rockstar. Years ago I never even knew they had different teams working on different games, so I just assumed this would be an open world with poor controls ( I never got on with the PS2GTA's) where you got to roam around the streets and punch people in the face.
It turns out that I was right about one thing. The Warriors is a beautiful love letter to the movie, but the controls are at times almost intolerably bad. I almost feel bad about being unkind about this game as its heart and its fists are clearly in the right place. The music, the setting, the gang members, even the activities all seem appropriate. The biggest problem with this semi-open brawler is that whenever the game demands more than stomping on a cops face it falls apart... And this game loves to make you mess about with poorly designed spray painting mini games, idiotic stealth or chase sequences with a miserably placed camera.
I have no shame in the four or five times I used cheats to progress though sections that I can't imagine a single person finding fun. Early on the game puts you in the shoes of youngest member, Rembrandt. You have to win a spray painting mini game against three rival gangs. It requires you to climb up on the scenery and collect paint cans, all while dealing with awkward climbing controls, people jump kicking you from offscreen and seven or eight people all trying to grab the cans that spawn randomly one at a time. Even if you predict correctly and grab a can you still have to run over to your wall and tag it with your Warriors logo. The painting requires you to trace over the shape shown on screen using the left stick. This would be fine if it wasn't so hard to make an error forcing a pause and a violent rumble of the controller. It wouldn't be so bad if one can was useful for a whole shape, but I found myself continuously messing up, creating what barely looks like the letter "W" drawn with my left hand while I was being cattle prodded and threatened at knife point. After close to an hour with no sign of progression I put in a cheat for nine cans of paint at the start of the mission. I'd love to say I obliterated the competition, but I still barely won.
Luckily the game gets back to punching people in the face soon after that. The one thing the game does really well is making you feel like you're in charge of a gang. Every so often you have four or five members with you and you can issue commands like "Wreck em all" and "Scatter", but like the gang of tough criminals they are they're pretty good about whacking rival gangs in the head with sticks and bricks without you muttering a word. I was constantly amused by a huge mess of gang members throwing each other around and stomping on faces. It sometimes gets so crazy that it's hard to make out what is actually going on, but It definitely does a good job of feeling like your dudes are all doing their best. The Warriors seem to be having a blast judging by their incredibly colourful commentary.
Occasionally you get to break into shops and steal a certain amount of items or you can optionally mug passers by or steal car radios. The game has this awful habit of giving you sub missions that require spray painting a certain amount of walls in enemy territory... Thanks for the offer video game, but I'm good. The way the game is structured is that you get a time and a date before the mission starts. It will tell you how many days there are before the meeting between the gangs at the beginning of the movie. The biggest part of this game is actually pre-movie and gives you a chance to play as Cleon, the leader that unfortunately gets taken out for falsely killing Cyrus. Cleon is voiced by the same actor as the movie and is easily one of the strongest parts of the game. He's a likable character with a no nonsense attitude and excels at integrating the word "motherfucker" into most of his sentences.
The game has you doing a pretty varied selection of things like protecting shop owners in Coney or avoiding cops during a riot. It possibly tries to do a little too much. There were some sections of the game that required platforming or jumping from rooftop to rooftop while being chased, but the delay on the jump and the weirdly angled camera made these setpiece-like moments turn into frustrating experiences. Even when the game pops up the triangle icon and you hit it there is still a chance for you to fall to your death or go flying off at an angle because The Warriors only have two speeds - Run and Sprint. It seems like the developers didn't even do any special animations for falling off of buildings. If you jump too early you will just drop to your death like a stone in the standing upright position. After every single one of these missions I had my fingers crossed that the next mission would have me beating up people, and more often than not it was. Unfortunately every so often you have to fight a gimmicky boss that requires you to throw shit at them, avoid being stun-locked by getting kicked in the junk or avoiding gunfire. There's a boss that rolls around in his wheelchair that involves inaccurately throwing things off a balcony and ordering your gang to attack or scatter while you attack him from behind. This requires you to run up and down some stairs while contending with a camera that finds it hard keeping up with the speed and slipperiness of your character. You only need to mess it up once and he's off snorting some drugs to regain his health. Oh yeah, did I mention recovering health or reviving downed Warriors requires you to buy or find "Flash"? It's a pretty juvenile, Rockstar-ish thing, but it fits the cartoony and violent, criminal universe the movie sets up.
I ended up getting so, so, so stuck here I used the level skip cheat.
The game eventually gets to a point where it is just recreating the movie. These missions are possibly the least interesting and mostly involve running away from things or hitting people. Quite a lot of the movie is recreated with both actors from the movie that range from sounding spot on, like James Remar's Ajax or sounding far too old like Michael Beck's Swan. There's something a little offputting about hearing a lot of the movie dialogue recreated. It's not that it is bad, because the acting in the movie can best be described as "spirited" although after watching Walter Hill's later movie Streets of Fire (1984) and it having the same kind of line reading I can't help feeling it was an intentional decision. The decision to recreate a lot of that dialogue with both better actors and better line reads just feels wrong, but that's probably just a side effect of seeing the film so often. Not better or worse, just slightly off. One of the biggest complaints about the voice acting would have to be the actor they got to recreate Luther ( The "Warrrrr-i-ors come out to play-ayay" dude from The Rogues.) He is far too whiney and instead of having the same unsettling tone as David Patrick Kelly he just comes off as annoying... like the horrifically bad final boss where you have to dodge his gunfire and then throw a knife into his hand. This boss is such a downer that it makes the end credits with the song In the city feel like relief instead of accomplishment.
There's a ton of things to love about The Warriors, but most of it isn't due to any of the poorly aged gameplay. The music, the title screen with the Ferris Wheel and even the nice little touches like being able to wander around the Warriors home turf and punch bags for stamina upgrades or just strut around with a ghetto blaster/boombox on your shoulder listening to the games incredible licensed music. There's even some back story missions about how various members joined the gang and an arcade machine that lets you play Armies of the Night. A Double Dragon referencing, side scrolling beat em up that unlocks after beating all the flashback levels. I'm definitely glad I played it despite a lot of the praise for it possibly coming from nostalgic memories more than anything else. The Warriors is a hugely flawed love letter that not only faithfully recreates the best of the movie, but greatly expands on it.
Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Game: Indiana Jones And the Staff of Kings. (2009 Wii)
There's a game coming up in the final part of this series that is so in love with recreating the best parts of the movie that I can't just help feeling that they should have made the movie in video game form. The Warriors, which I talked about above seems to get the balance spot on. Indiana Jones And the Staff of Kings is so intent on giving you the highest level of fanservice possible that I just end up rolling my eyes and sighing, which I'm going to assume was not the developers intended effect.
I find myself almost immediately excited by John Williams musical score. The inclusion of various pieces of music from the trilogy (Yeah, you heard me.) makes me sit up and take notice, something I should already be doing, but I'll get to that later. It's easier to look past the blurry visuals, stilted animation and a strange haze over the top of everything. The fake Harrison Ford they have gotten can at times be pretty authentic, at worst passable and the characters face is well modeled despite the aging hardware and the creepy puppet eyes.
We start our story with Indy standing on a cliff in Sudan, obviously in the middle of an adventure watching tanks go by. He quips about it being the Germans, like he knows they're up to something evil. Indiana Jones just straight up hates the Germans in this game. I'd assume they felt weird about mentioning the Nazis in a game for the Wii, Y'know a baby system for little babies. It just comes off as a little weird, but anyways... You get to move Indy around using the Nunchuck stick immediately noticing a weird stiffness to everything. Indy only really moves at one speed and everything seems to happen about a second after you have pressed the button. I see a hat, which I assume is a collectible (It is.) and run him over to it, stand there for a second and then watch him awkwardly climb up. Maybe more modern games like Uncharted have spoiled me, but when Indiana Jones finds it hard clambering up a wall even original, PS1 era Lara Croft would find easy, I start to make whining noises and question what on earth I am doing with my time.
It's funny going back to old Wii games. I have played very few of them, and most of the ones that I have funnily either use minimal or zero use of the remote. So, when I come across some poor looking vines that need clearing or a gap needs swinging over with my whip by holding a button and shaking the remote forward I'm mildly amused. The same goes for flicking the remote and the Nunchuk together like I'm using a flint to create fire.
Video games are a funny thing. One minute you can be having the best time and then something happens where that positive attitude is near-instantly drained from your body. For the very first time in my life I got to experience excessive waggle. Waggling the Wii remote is possibly one of the top five worst things about video games. Right behind underwater levels and escort missions. We get our first big "oh, this is like that other bit." moment where I have to grab the idol and then run away from things that are going to crush me, this time it's pillars, but it might as well be a giant stone ball. How does our heroic archaeologist do this? By waggling the two controllers as hard as possible. Don't worry! He does grab his hat right at the last second before something crushes it. Obviously this wasn't cause for me to throw down the controllers and give up, but this was probably the beginning of hours of frustration with what could have been a pretty good game.
We get a cutscene where... SURPRISE! There's a rival archaeologist waiting to claim the idol you went through the trouble of collecting. He's an evil German (shhh Nazi.) and you outsmart him by throwing the artifact at him and escape. This is where we are taught how to punch. The screen pauses and fake Harrison Ford drawls some stuff about using your fists to overcome all obstacles. We are treated to a Na...German rushing towards me and being told to waggle forwards, then the screen pauses and I'm told to waggle the other stick, and then it pauses and I'm told how to do a right hook, and it pauses and I have to waggle, waggle to uppercut, waggle to whip, waggle to waggle, waggle to pause, pause waggle pause wagglewagglewaggle... "Oh, one more thing..." *phew* I'm told about doing super moves by grabbing people and hitting a button, you mean I don't have to waggle to do a super takedown move? Nope, just hit a button.
Obviously this first stage is there to teach me how to play a game that would be much better with a standard controller (I should have probably bought the PS2 version.) Unfortunately this halts any momentum the game was going for. The game does have the same snappy pace of the movies elsewhere, but this is possibly one of the poorest tutorials I have ever come across in an action game. It's good that I have a lot of patience because I decided to progress on to the second level in San Francisco after a brief plane sequence where I had to hold the remote upright like a joystick. I end up running around some backstreet fighting evil Chinese dudes, because they have kidnapped a young assistant that's like Short Round, but Not Short Round and is a girl. Every single thing I have to interact with results in me thrusting my fists at the screen, swiping or waggling when a single button press would be a far more natural. I end up in a bar which somehow catches fire, which is like that other bit in that movie where Indy is fighting people in a burning bar and beat them all up. They introduce heavies which just require me to hit two buttons when the enemy does their tell and then waggle like a lunatic a handful of times. In fact all of the fist-y waggle combat is like this and it takes up a huge part of the game.
Then MORE tutorial nonsense. The game tells me I have to do some gun combat, it's a nice change of pace and fits well with the style of the movies. It's like a cover shooter where I can move around a predetermined bit of cover and pop out and aim at the bad guys. The game needs to tell you every single step in the process by pausing and teaching you one thing at a time again. Obviously you aim the cursor at the bad guys and shoot them. I spend maybe ten minutes trying to shoot at the bad guy popping out of cover, dying over and over again. The game tells me if the cursor goes from red to green I can shoot it (Little bit backwards.) Not content with me suffering through the tutorial once, every single time I fail I have to sit through this animation of Indy's hat rolling around on the floor AND go through the painfully slow, simplistic steps on how to shoot people and reload my gun. Quick quiz for you. Q: How does Indiana Jones reload his revolver? A: DUH! Waggle. It turns out I had to shoot the scenery and not the dude despite him turning green when I put the cursor over his face.
The level from that point mostly alternates between slight platforming, wrist destroying waggle combat, some really light puzzles, usually involving waggling or whipping at something and brief shooting sequences. I honestly thought at one point I wasn't going to be able to progress beyond the second level. There is a sequence where you have to fight a boss that can't be shot in the face, but you have to shoot at both his friends and things in the environment to drop on him to make him move. When you corner him you have to shoot out some fireworks that explode resulting in him being horrifically electrocuted. This is all fine and takes about five minutes, but after going through all of that you have to use your whip to help Not-Short Round-Short Round over the deadly electricity. At first I thought showing me the controller icon on screen meant I had to hold it steady, but nope. Poor Indy falls flat on his face into the electric water. I sit through the hat rolling animation and it puts me right back at the start of the gunfight. I get to end of this section over and over and over and over with the waggle motion popping up on screen for about two seconds. I continuously failed this so many times I ended up looking up how to do it online. It turns out I'm not the only one that had problems with it. The problem with these motion controlled quick time events is that it doesn't give you enough time to react, and even if you do pull off the correct motion there is nothing to signify that you have done it right. Your controls have to be perfect to pull off this stuff, but Staff of Kings does a consistently poor job of giving you any feedback. If you need to know how to punch or shoot something it will happily explain it to you all week long. This game is packed with QTE's suddenly out of nowhere without any real warning. It ruins what could have been a well paced action sequence, turning it into boring trial and error that may or may not work.
The rest of the game has me going from one country to another alternating between waggle-punching and shooting at people that slowly pop out of cover and hesitate for a couple of seconds before attempting to kill you. Sometimes it throws something that's on rails at you, and every time I failed one of these sections it was because I needed to know what was coming up beforehand, like the billion QTE's previously mentioned. The game does try to get a little more puzzley in places, and despite their simplicity they fit well and work far better than combat. The game goes pretty crazy in one level with the rolling balls though. Not content with the statues at the beginning they have two puzzle rooms with giant balls trying to crush you as well as couple of passage ways you have to run away from them. Maybe this is Lucasarts taking their referencing to the extreme or maybe the start of Raiders is like any other day to Indiana Jones.
I'm going to imagine his diary looks something like this.
Monday - Avoid students hopelessly in love with me.
Tuesday - Avoid ball trying to crush me.
Wednesday - Avoid ball trying to crush me.
Thursday - Avoid ball trying to crush me.
Friday - Beat up some Nazis Germans.
Actually, I take that back. The whole end sequence where all the mystical nonsense happens (Which is a big part of Indy obviously.) Involving The staff of Moses (Instead of the Ark of the Covenant.) is you driving around in a motorbike and sidecar. But that's a different movie, and like any sequence in this game involving moving vehicles it is a pretty bad time. I guess this is one of those strange things where Indiana Jones should have an incredible game, it has the perfect combination of Ingredients, maybe they need someone like Rocksteady to distill all of those elements into the perfect game like they did with Batman, or maybe the crown has already been stolen by the accomplished imitators. There are parts of this game to like, but nearly all of them are poorly implemented. There is one thing to like about the game though... Not a single utterance of the name "JONESEYYYY!"
I don't even know what movie this is from.
Bonus! Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (2008 360)
I haven't gone back to this game since the year it came out. It, like many of the earlier Lego games is oddly faithful to the movie. It hits most of the iconic moments from the original trilogy like the time Marion Ravenwood had a fist fight with Belloq and that swordsman in the marketplace exploded into bits when Indy shot him.
It's a little strange going back to the earlier games. The newer games are so packed with content, not to mention that they now talk. This game which already has an insane amount of collectibles and fun little secrets seems almost bare bones and is really lacking the visual shine the games have had since Pirates of the Caribbean.
The game is split into six parts. They hit most of the big sequences in the film during the six levels, often giving you a character that wasn't present in the movie. During the truck chase Sallah fell off one of the trucks and started running on foot which was quite amusing, but I had forgotten how awkward a lot of the combat and endlessly spawning enemies these earlier games had. Lego Nazis... I hate those guys.
You know how these Lego games are by now. They obviously appeal to kids an adults alike and this is fun, but definitely not as refined as later games, and most definitely better than the oddly structured Lego Indy 2. There's a bunch of weirdness like watching Indy ride a bicycle around Lego Nazis, Belloq doing C3PO impersonations or Marcus Brody looking like he's zoned out on drugs. And there's some fun touches like Indy's cool looking fight moves or the little animation of him shaking when he gets near a snake. Strangely the one thing that doesn't make any sense is when it tells you that ladies are more nimble and therefore can jump higher. Also, there isn't any fucking waggle!
Movie: The Crow (1994) Game: The Crow: City of Angels (1997 Saturn)
Welcome back to the world of Survival Horror. Good luck... You will need it.
The Crow: City of Angels has zero redeeming qualities. You know that game you once played and thought it was really bad so you went and called it the worst video game in the world ever on an internet forum? Well, unless you were talking about this undead nightmare you have made a huge mistake. This is quite possibly THE worst game ever made.
If I had to describe what kind of a game it was from the opening level I'd say it's a 3D, Streets of Rage-esque brawler where you beat up a bunch of thugs that come at you. Once everyone is dead, a marker (In the shape of a crow.) pops up and you move on to the next area. What's so bad about that? I hear you ask. The Crow has these fully 3D areas with pre-rendered backgrounds, kinda like the first Resident Evil which makes moving around the environment a real pain as the game occasionally thinks it needs to shift to another camera angle. The biggest difference here is that it's not always the same angle. It even occasionally thinks you need a new angle every couple of steps, complete with a three second delay between the transitions. So every so often in the middle of a fight you have to find yourself on the screen and hope you're not taking damage. I'm being too generous here. When I said you have to find yourself I'm assuming that you are actually on the screen at the time. This game has a horrible habit of making you fight enemies when you're not even on the screen, making it more about luck than skill.
What I REALLY meant to say there is that quite often neither you nor your enemies will be in the camera angle the game deems most appropriate for you, which as you can imagine makes it a lot harder to roundhouse gimp masked dudes in the face. I watched the credits in the options menu and saw there were about five or six game designers that worked on The Crow. I am almost in awe at the amount of incompetence shown in every single part of this game. That was harsh. Who am I, someone that's never shipped a game before to judge? Oh, did I mention this game has tank controls?
So, you waddle around the environment with the grace of a wounded penguin, beating up bad guys by lining yourself up with them. Do you know how hard it is to line yourself up with some thug in a bar when you have to rotate around to try and punch or kick them? Punching and kicking is awkwardly done using the L and R buttons, and any found weapon is used by hitting the B button. Every single area just spawns in enemies from off screen that also rotate on the spot and waddle over to you. So you get a room full of four enemies all rotating and waddling to get the perfect angle on you while you rotate trying to get the perfect angle on a couple of them and then everyone starts swinging and kicking blindly. About 90% of my time playing this game was watching two people blindly throw attack moves that glitch through each other failing to connect. Every so often a tiny part of the enemies health bar will go down, but there is absolutely no feedback to how it happened. As mentioned earlier the only way you even know you're hurting an enemy a lot of the time is by watching the bar randomly deplete as you hear a bunch of Yah's and Ha's happening offscreen.
I bought the Japanese version of this game as western versions of it seem to have become quite expensive over the years on both the Saturn and the Playstation. My favourite thing about this version is that Acclaim did absolutely nothing beyond writing the manual in Japanese. The title screen, all of the dialogue in the cutscenes and in-game voices are all in English. Not that there is all that much of a story. You and your son are dead and you're going to avenge him by killing the dudes that killed you. Which is kind of how that whole Crow thing goes. There's an opening cutscene with five or six people surrounding you on a pier with a gun to your head and every single one of them is just saying their lines out at random over the top of each other. "Hush little baby please dont kill me yeah kill him!" I have to say I was far too distracted by the early polygonal bondage-lady with covers on her nipples to make out all of the dialogue. Every couple of levels they give you a little bit more of the story or a flashback to the pier from a certain characters perspective, but I'm explaining this like this is important or even handled well.
The game goes on for about three hours. Some of it has this oppressive tone which fits the source material, but that is countered by a room full of dudes all saying "Hey, clown face" before they start exchanging almost-blows with you. Having three men with shotguns all going "awww yeahhhh!" made me laugh every single time. One minute you're trying to high kick a monk lady in the face and the next you're avoiding rockets fired by Bob The Builder. Getting spammed from offscreen by enemies with rockets, shotguns, pistols and SMG's is ridiculous. Quite often you enter an area and are immediately stun locked by four or five enemies shooting at you from off screen. It makes moving across the screen at a snails pace suicidal. Oh yeah, this game is impossible. I am one hundred percent certain that not a single person has ever seen every single part of this game without using an Action Replay. You get one life and there are a couple of levels with hazards that can one shot you without any warning or reason. Even when cheating with infinite health I got a game over by touching a swinging chandelier... which I was meant to be swinging on. I'd love to tell you I persevered through this game without cheating, but It truly seems impossible. Even when you manage to get guns you use up all of the bullets just trying to find the correct angle and have to end up throwing them away. Did you know that throwing guns at people makes them explode? Quite often the enemies would end up killing themselves by firing a rocket point blank into me or shooting their friends trying to attack me.
Possibly the poorest £10 I have ever spent on video games. There's so many things that are bad about this game. I haven't even mentioned about the enemies with medieval swords? or that during the bosses (One of which fires rockets out of an electric guitar.) you seem to have a nut-punch and a jump kick you can't use at any other point in the game. Why or how did I do a backwards somersault from time to time? And why do I fight monsters on a platform ripped straight out of Mortal Kombat near the end of the game? Not to mention the game over screen where what looks like E.T The extra-terrestrial tells me "We'll never be together."
The Crow: City of Angels is the worst game I have ever played, without any doubt. Even Sonic 06 can't compete with this, at least it had some nice music and not this Trent Reznor wannabe sludge that plays from level to level. Just look at the terrifying splodge of bits and pieces that is the undead protagonists face. Its as messed up as the weird mishmash of ideas taken from one genre and forcibly squeezed into a brawler. I really shouldn't be surprised about how much inspiration this rotting corpse of a game seemingly took from the original Survival Horror... You sure as hell won't survive, but there's plenty of horror here.
I Warned you...
That's part two finished and put into a museum where it belongs. I'm still flip-flopping over a couple of games for my number ten. I should have fully thought this through. I'm not going to put a time on the next part this time around because I might end up far too busy with the next lot of games... And by that I mean I will probably be playing Titanfall followed by a little more Titanfall. Why isn't there a Titanfall movie? Hollywood should make a Titanfall movie.