As we count down the last three Octurbo games I've decided, in a half-assed attempt to be seasonal, to select the scariest three games left on my list to see this feature out. First up is Sankindo's Fushigi no Yume no Alice, which I interpreted as "Alice in Wonderland, but with a Fushigi Ball". I mean, that's basically that Jim Henson movie Labyrinth, right? Turns out "fushigi" just means "wonder" though, so I guess this is a straight up Alice in Wonderland adaptation.
Still, though, it's a pretty freaky book and the game doesn't skimp on all its terrifying wordplay and... Victorian-era allegory? Yeah, all right, it's not particularly scary. I just picked it because VGK has covered it in the past, and that guarantees me at least one comment. Desperate times and all that.
(If you're wondering about the developer, Sankindo did a bunch of Japan-only TG-16 games like Cross Wiber and Hani in the Sky before moving onto Arcade quiz machines for the rest of its life. So, kind of a big deal.)
Japanese McGee's Alice
It's an odd coincidence that I followed Legend of Hero Tonma with Fushigi no Yume no Alice, because my lasting impression of the former was how devastatingly tough it was for something that looked so innocuously adorable. Alice pretty much trumps it in both those respects, giving us a little girl heroine surrounded by cute creatures and sneaker-wearing ghost bosses which then brutally punishes anyone who dares to look upon all that and think, "Wow, this is clearly a game intended for nine-year-olds, why is a grown man playing it for his blog feature?"
Make no mistake: if it could, Fushigi no Yume no Alice would kill you and everyone you ever cared about. One only has to glance at the above screenshots to know that this a game for the hardest of the hardcore. I defy anyone to make the claim that they're man (or woman) enough for Alice's Wonderdream. Major League Gaming! No Scrubs Allowed! Headshot Cit-
Welcome all to the fairly delayed relaunch of The Comic Commish: a monthly feature in which I pay for my Gold Membership with MS Paint doodles in the least equitable deal since the purchase of Manhattan. When I'm not biting the hand that feeds with ill-advised Native American jokes, I occasionally like to reflect on the roads less traveled. Like, the virtual roads. From video games. That I haven't played. Hence the "less tr-
I occasionally like to reflect on video games of former console generations that I never played, often taking advantage of value depreciation and what little time I have left until Quetzlcoatl remembers to check his calendar and gets on with that tardy apocalypse of his to sweep a few of them up while everyone's busy playing the brand new Assassin's Creed VII: I Read Somewhere That We Evolved From Marmosets, Sorta, So Now the Assassin's a Monkey. Well, turns out I've actually played quite a few more than I realized, so I figure I'm a position to help my good buddy @omghisam (who apparently only did worthwhile things during this time) and hopefully the readers at home with some suggestions from the past six or so years of game releases.
What this entails, then, is a monthly spate of comics on games that were released in a certain release window in the US during the currently-current-but-soon-to-be-previous generation of consoles. I'm covering January to June of 2007 for the month of October 2013 (this one) and hope to finish with the latter half of 2012 by September 2014. We'll all be knee deep in PS4 and XB1 releases (or, more realistically, still buying everything in Steam sales), but it's worth remembering the vast libraries of modern day classics we leave behind as our industry inexorably marches forward like one of the sixteen Colossi. (Shadow of the Colossus wasn't this generation by the way, so that's a red herring.)
The "Previous Generation" Subtitle Was a Star Trek Thing. Hope You All Got That.
Hotel Dusk's one of those visual novel adventure games with a few curious trademarks to call its own. The first is the striking rotoscoping work on all the characters, who animate and emote like the creepy 1950s mannequins of LA Noire only wish they could (oh, she was lying? I thought that expression meant she was discomfited by the giant dentist chair you locked her face in to mocap it). The second is its protagonist: Kyle Hyde, a down and out salesman who has been secretly chasing his disgraced partner ever since that one fateful night when Kyle was forced to shoot him and leave him for dead. Already, the game is steeped in noir tropes and dramatic pathos, but layers in a Phoenix Wright style absurd sense of humor that only manifests itself enough times as to not disrupt the game's carefully maintained somber edge. It's a classic whodunnit with twists and turns and red herrings and bourbon and well worth the time of anyone looking for a well-manufactured video game story.
Yes, I realise I'm already breaking a cardinal rule by covering a PS2 game, technically not part of the previous generation, but decent current gen games were still light on the ground around this time. We'll get to them, I promise. Rogue Galaxy had the unenviable position of following up Dark Cloud 2 and Dragon Quest VIII: two of the greatest and most expansive PS2 RPGs ever made. While it would fair to say that it doesn't quite meet the expectations set forward by its predecessors, it does at least have the benefit of having a novel setting (well, since there aren't many space JRPGs outside of Phantasy Star and Star Ocean) and Level-5's development team at their peak. While the story has you bouncing from planet to planet, making new friends and bringing down bounties that are causing the local populace trouble (which isn't a particularly original story progression path, I'll grant you), Level-5 is busy at work in the background establishing the numerous extra-curricular activities its games became known for after Dark Cloud, giving players a wide range of side-stuff to do should they ever grow weary of whichever dungeon they're in. It's also a game that features Deego, the buff mercenary boxer dog, so I can't in good conscience not recommend it.
I figure I should probably put one of those current gen console games in this current gen console remembrance feature somewhere, so here's Crackdown, one of the best early 360 games. Crackdown begat what might be known as "the superhero sandbox": a game that slowly weens you off the driving and gunplay you're used to towards superhuman leaping and explosive ground pounds. It felt like expanding the sandbox format in a whole new direction, rather than basic, unfulfilling incremental rewards like a little more world to explore or putting more weapons in your arsenal. Franchises that skirt the line, like the last two Saints Row games, have found that the payoff in building up the main character from a human to a demi-god is considerably more thrilling than a human who becomes a slightly richer human with a penthouse apartment. I've never seen the point of a good story in a sandbox game, since you spend so much time outside the main objectives and simply farting around the big playground seeing how it ticks, so despite all the gentle mockery about Crackdown being a glorified orb hunting game, it really set one of the most important precedents in open world games today. Just don't play the sequel.
The Other Ones!
Well, I have the list, but the site won't let me embed it. Whoop-de-doo. Writing blogs on GB is so much fun, you guys. You have no idea. Well, it's here. I suppose this post was long enough already.
I'm sick as hell today, but nothing stops Octurbo dammit. Thankfully I won't need much of my faculties to comment on today's game, though they certainly would've been useful to have while playing it. I hesitate to make another Volgarr comparison so soon after the last one (and I've yet to play it anyway, so there's a certain degree of "what the hell am I even talking about?" when bringing it up), but it's clear its format was based on more than just Rastan and Ghouls n' Ghosts - those games were popular enough at the time to see a lot of contemporary imitators, let alone homages like Volgarr decades later.
Legend of Hero Tonma is a brutally tough action platformer: the action part comes from the fact that you shoot a lot of things, sort of like that Genji Tsuushin Agedama we checked out a few months ago. It also looks to have been graphically inspired by Wonder Boy, since our hero can't be any older than eight. That little guy is just so darn cherubic, it's actually a little distressing to watch him die so many times. So let's just add Limbo to the big pile of games this reminds me of, why don't we?
You Know What We're Gonna Do? Tonma Party! Tonma! Tonma! Tonma!
Legend of Hero Tonma is actually pretty good, were one to compare it to games like Ghouls n' Ghosts and the like. Tonma himself can only take a single hit before vaporizing (which, for me, once again calls into question his 'hero' status), so it's once again another case of a game rewarding patience and cautious progress over jumping right into precarious scenarios like Mario or Sonic and getting your dimpled ass handed to you over and over. Of course, once you have enough shmup power-ups to level shit before it even appears on the screen you're pretty much golden from then on out, barring an unpreparable vertical section or two.
Of course, it's nothing to write home about graphically or musically, so maybe it doesn't deserve to be placed in the pantheon of greats. S'okay though. Yeah, I know, super committal appraisal but hey, I'm sick. What do you want from me? Phlegm? Because I got that coming out of my [edited by moderator for being too gross].
Time to dig up another half-forgotten gem (well, semi-precious rock, maybe) from the TG-16 sedimentary with Cratermaze. It's funny, after so many of these Octurbo games I'm starting to see a lot of connections to those that have come before. For instance, the action maze gameplay of Cratermaze is very similar to Batman's, and it takes Keith Courage's route of taking a fairly well-established anime from its native Japan (that would be Doraemon in this case, the robotic time-travelling cat. The game was originally called Doraemon: Meikyuu Daisakusen, which I believe means "Doraemon: Operation Labyrinth") and giving it an inexplicable whitewashing for the US release. It's not even like they westernized him into Garfield or Heathcliff or whatever; if anything, Opi and his friends are easily as anime as Doraemon. Maybe it would've taken too much text to explain what Doraemon and his deal is to an American audience?
Honestly, I would probably have a lot more to say about Cratermaze if we hadn't already seen a number of games like it. Still, I'm running out of TG-16 stuff that aren't shooters or straight ports here.
Quatermaze and the Pit
Cratermaze isn't a fascinating game on its own, but at the same time it's indicative of what much of the TurboGrafx-16 library was about: full of games that would've probably been skipped over for a US localization had they been on the SNES or Genesis where there were more quality games to choose from, but because the PC Engine library was so limited they just had to make do with anything that didn't abjectly suck (or have too much text to translate in a cost-efficient manner, which is probably why we barely got any JRPGs on a system rife with the things). A Heiankyo Alien game starring Doraemon would've gone over fairly well with the kids in Japan I'd imagine, but trying to bring it over by changing all the characters just reeks of desperation. Did the US really need Cratermaze? Couldn't they have just localized the Batman game instead? At least you wouldn't have to switch him out for "Flying Rat Boy-san". (I know, I know, different publishers.)
Still, at least I got to make that sweet Quatermass pun. I'll take what I can get in this economy. The... joke economy.
Welcome, all, to another indecipherable Octurbo. Today we look at Data East's Silent Debuggers: a puzzle game about quietly solving IT problems for a major software development company by scanning thousands of lines of code for erroneous integers and logic loops.
Just kidding, it's actually a claustrophobic sci-fi first-person shooter that somehow merges together Metroid Fusion and Snatcher. It's a weird one, as 16-bit proto-FPS games tend to be, and thus perfect for Octurbo.
Wouldn't Want People to Think We Were Robosexuals...
To say Silent Debuggers is tense would be an understatement: every aspect, from its jumpscare-enabling FPS combat to its flashing noises and ticking time bombs seem to be engineered to make you as stressed as possible. It's not a bad way to go about creating a twitch shooter, necessarily, but I've always had a problem with a game-wide time limit. Specifically, that it's very possible to pass the point where success is no longer an option without realizing it and waste the amount of time that's left on a doomed playthrough. There's also that part where you have to do everything at maximum efficiency, and that's easier said than done when you're running through corridors trying to track down Mikami knows how many biological horrors.
It's definitely an interesting experiment though, and the 90s anime presentation is a lot of fun too. We joke at the expense of our absurdly cool floppy-coiffed partner, but he's the kind of goofy one-liner-spouting archetype you saw a lot in action movies back then and I kind of miss seeing them everywhere. I can't speak for how repetitive this game might become (though I imagine with all those currently inaccessible menu options that the game does mix things up a bit later on), but it doesn't seem half bad for what it is.
Hey everyone, it's my birthday! Now you might think I have better things to do today than to write another TG-16 blog, but nothing stops Octurbo consarnit. It is a special day, though, so I'm going to play something I didn't really need to cover but feel like doing so anyway: Taito's Parasol Stars, the third game in the Bubble Bobble/Rainbow Island trilogy.
Parasol Stars is easily the best game I've played yet for this feature, but then that's no surprise given its pedigree. It also happens to be the first game for this feature that I'd already played to death years ago, so I'm not exactly breaking new ground either. The story simply involves erstwhile bubble dinosaurs Bub and Bob travelling from themed planet to themed planet to take care of hordes of adorable creatures, armed with only their parasols and their uncanny control over the forces of nature. It's very much a return to the Bubble Bobble formula after the mechanically disparate Rainbow Islands. It's also got some of the catchiestmusic (that boss theme sounds suspiciously like the Lambada).
Parasol Stars takes the addictive puzzle-platformer template of Bubble Bobble and builds on it, with more worlds, enemies, power-ups and secrets. Proper parasol prowess is paramount, so it's not an easy game, but there's less opportunities to really screw yourself over like there are in Bubble Bobble and its mean little traps. Bubble Bobble is rightly regarded as a classic, but it's worth remembering that its sequels are no slouches either.
Anyway, enough self-indulgence for today (though, really, I think that's acceptable behavior on one's anniversary of existence). Back to the obscure and the mediocre for the last week of October, methinks.
Taking another sip of PC Engine grease, and then spitting it out because holy shit this is not my Dr Pepper at all, we have a new NCS game in the form of Dragon Egg: a platformer with an upgrade mechanic that, to me, didn't feel like a million miles away from Volgarr the Viking's. Thankfully, though, Dragon Egg is nowhere near as difficult as Brad's Neverending Norse Nemesis. NCS (or rather its software division Masaya) were the developers behind previous Octurbo entryDouble Dungeons, but they were also responsible for Langrisser (Warsong), Cho Aniki (the bodybuilding shoot 'em up. You know the one) and Jeff's beloved Target Earth (actually part of their Assault Suits series, which also includes Cybernator for the SNES). So, busy people. How does Dragon Egg stack up to that ludography of semi-classics?
Actually it's not too bad. As I stated previously, it's an upgrade-based platformer that rewards cautiousness more than recklessness, because the upgrade items come slowly over many stages but build up to something quite substantial if you're careful enough to stay alive to acquire them all. As with Volgarr and countless shumps like R-Type, it's also quite useful to be as far along the upgrade tree as possible for the boss encounters. But whatever, we all came here to see a little girl bash draugr with an egg (right?) so here we go:
Wyvern and Shirley
Anyway, burning maps isn't something I need to worry about any longer, because I believe I've shown enough of this game off. Dragon Egg's quite a decent little platformer, about on the same tier as the Bonk games I've covered so far: nothing as transcendental as Super Mario World or Sonic 2, but it sits above most of the torrent of uninspired platformers that would inundate the 16-bit generation. Plus I'm kind of curious about what comes after that dragon-riding form...
Oh, Yo Bro. One of the few American-exclusive TurboGrafx-16 games, Yo Bro - as its unambiguous name might suggest - depicts the adventures of a skateboarding bear in Santa Cruz. The game has a definite ToeJam and Earl flair, from its incredibly 90s presentation to its sorta open-world nature, though Yo Bro is considerably worse. Its problems are largely due to the game design, which feels like it was cobbled together from loose notes someone was taking while playing Skate or Die and imagining how much more fun it would be if instead of tricks and races you had to stand perfectly still to accurately shoot a series of stationary targets until they eventually died. And then made that dream a reality with a skateboarding bear on the TurboGrafx-16. And then liberally applied Beach Boys MIDIs all over it. (Guys, the TG-CD was already out, you could've used the real thing.)
But hey, October's all about horrors, is it not?
Who is Skateboarding? Bear is Skateboarding! How Can That Be?
Yo Bro, tho. While theoretically speaking a smack-talking sk8rbear might be worth a mocking chuckle (mockle?) or two, no further chuckles were to transpire once the game had revealed its means of progression. I would've been way happier skating around the level collecting the various kids in peril instead of tediously eliminating minion-spawning and regenerating enemies - the NPC rescue system worked well enough for countless 16-bit games, including the aforementioned Zombies Ate My Neighbors which felt like a big influence on the game (well, except for the whole "Yo Bro was released first" issue with that supposition).
So, in conclusion, Yo Bro had some interesting ideas for an open-world action game that it failed to capitalize on in a way that didn't make me want to replace a skateboard ramp with my own head, but there would eventually be others to pick up its wiggity-wack slack. I suppose if Yo Bro was in some way indirectly responsible for ToeJam & Earl or ZATM I can forgive its irritating and ill-advised game design.
Talking of zombies, this game was created by the same guys behind the equally mediocre Ghost Manor: ICOM, those pioneers of the point and click genre. Seriously, what happened to those guys?
I initially wasn't going to do this one but then I played it and figured it's about time I got around to some half-decent TG-16 games again, even if they're just graphically-enhanced NES ports. Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is probably the best known Jackie Chan license game outside of that one Arcade fighter where Jackie fights Mortal Kombat knock-offs, and pits a Drunken Master-era Jackie against all manner of Chinese-themed opponents as he searches for his kidnapped sister Josephine. It's another one of those "walk right and hit things" affairs, but it's got oodles of goofy charm and, well, Jackie Chan is in it. You know, the guy from the movies.
Rumble in the Grafx
Jackie Chan's Drama Karate is a fine little platformer/brawler thing. There's variation in both the moves Jackie can perform, at least to the extent that an 8-bit game is able, as well as in the enemies and how they approach you. Tigers are to be dealt with cautiously, Mongolian spearguys are to be dealt with quickly, hawks are to be flying kicked to oblivion and adorable frogs are to be left expressly alone unless in the player is in a really critical situation. It's also challenging but not brutally so, which is all I can really ask from a NES-era title.
I've heard the TG-16 version has a few additions and improvements over the NES original, due to it being developed a year later, so maybe I should do a compare and contrast one of these days. Or just look up the changes on Wikipedia, that seems easier. Might come back to this one at any rate. Can't get enough Jackie.
Octurbo's back once again with another TurboGrafx-16 oddity. Today we're looking at the Atlus (yes, that Atlus) game Somer Assault, a.k.a. Mesopotamia, in which the player controls a slinky armed to the teeth and ready to throw down against twelve mechanical steampunk bosses that represent signs of the zodiac that were willed into existence by an evil megalomaniacal sorceress dressed like Zoot from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".
"But wait," you might ask, "where does the 'oddity' part come in?" Well that would be the gameplay - a sort of platformer/shoot 'em up hybrid that has you crawling along walls and doing all sorts of weird traversal stuff in order to find and defeat the boss before the strict time limit runs out.
I'm going to need to post some pictures, aren't I? I mean, gee, otherwise this game won't make any sense.
What Walks Down Stairs, Alone or in Pairs, and Absolutely Will Not Stop Until You Are Dead?
I don't know, for as bizarre as this game is it's kind of growing on me. I'm probably not going to appreciate the more maze-like levels to come, but there's some craft behind this game and some innovative ideas behind its mechanics, if only in the euphemistic sense of the term "innovative" (which is to say "effing weird"). Safe to say there's not a whole lot like this out there (though I have played as a slinky before, in the dire Amiga game Frost Byte).
But man, what is with Atlus and astrology? First the tarot and now this. I wonder if they saw their eventual acquisition by Sega in the cards? "You have drawn the Hanged Man, Death and the Cyan Erinaceus: this indicates great change in your future."