By Video_Game_King 22 Comments
Policenauts( Do, do , do, do do-do.) *electric drum, or whatever the hell that is* *repeats the entire song, because it is that catchy* Anyway, Policenauts. StarFoxA has been telling me that I need to play this game for a long time, and now that I think about it, he wanted me to play Famicom Tantei Club: Part II, as well. What is it with him and Japan-only mystery adventure games? Eh, whatever. Famicom Tantei Club: Part II was a cool game, and so is this one.
The story begins with space colony development whatever in the year 2010, which we already know to be full of crap. The project's being managed by five Policenauts, police officers who became astronauts and who do no actual police work while in space. Obviously, this makes for a boring job, so one day, protagonist Johnathan Ingram decides to spice things up by disappearing for thirty years. After coming back from it all, he looks exactly the same as he did when he entered this deep sleep, much like Snatcher. Next, we find out that the whole "being away for a third of a century" has put a dent into his previous marriage. Again, like Snatcher. Oh, and the whole thing takes place in a dank, depressing Old Los Angeles that makes you not want to live in the regular Los Angeles. You know, like...wait, that was Blade Runner, but Snatcher is pretty much a brighter Blade Runner with completely different themes, so close enough. To be perfectly honest, though, it doesn't really rip off Snatcher as much as you'd think. Sure, it has the mystery vibe that Snatcher had going, but if anything, it's more like a buddy cop movie. Thin about it: you team up with an old, mustachioed black guy (oddly enough, Sazh from FF13 gave off a stronger Murtaugh vibe than Ed Brown ever could) to take on the case of your life. However, standing in your way is a pain-in-the-ass chief who doesn't take kindly to your maverick style of policing. But this is the case of your life, damn it! You can't let them get away with this!
By the way, who are they, and what are they trying to get away with? Remember that marriage thing I mentioned before? Well, Johnathan's former wife, Lorraine, mentions that her husband mysteriously went missing some time ago. The only clues he left behind were pills and a leaf. Those of you thinking "drugs" are right, but let me finish, damn it. Then Lorraine gets blown up, forcing Johnathan to take the damn case. Along the way, he finds out that a mega corporation by the name of Tokugawa (I'm not sure if there's any symbolism in that) has a stranglehold on the space colony of Beyond. They control the buildings, the medicine, and just about everything in the colony. OK, that sounds a bit unbelievable, and to an extent, it kinda is, especially when you find out that three of your former Policenaut buddies (including human Pigma Dengar) are involved in this conspiracy. To its credit, though, the story's pretty damn tight. I know that I'm making it sound like a poorly thought out piece of shit, but go and play it for yourself. For the most part, all the pieces fit incredibly well. Again, exactly like Snatcher. I know that I gave this game a lower score than Snatcher, but it's not because of all the times that I'm comparing it to Snatcher. It's still a good game, but I like Snatcher's story better. Why? Well, the themes are easier to pick out, the title's a helluva lot more relevant (the actual Policenauts disband long before the events of the game), the villain is slightly less shallow, but most of all, this one little plot hole I found. I should probably stress that this is the only major plot hole I found, and trust me when I say that it can throw a few curveballs at you with plot oddities. For example, why doesn't young cop/minor character #582048 Dave aim for the vitals? Turns out that it's not part of the mega conspiracy the game's building up; Dave is just a pussy.
So what's this annoying plot hole that pisses me off? Ed's adopted son, Marc. When you first meet him, he's hiding behind Ed's highly fuckable daughter (more on that later), refusing to say a word. Ed says that it's kinda like autism, but you may wish to backspace that Asperger Syndrome comment (I did), since he wasn't born with it. In fact, the game tells you specifically how Marc obtained this pseudo-autism: Ed killed his dad. OK, so Marc's dad had just killed his own wife and was aiming for Marc, next, but let's look at this from Marc's perspective: your dad's about to kill you, and he just drops dead for no reason. Who do you see on the scene? This incredibly pissed off guy holding a gun. Yes, Ed's a cop, but does Marc know that? Now imagine that this guy takes you away and tries to raise you as one of his own. That's fucked up, Ed. No wonder his first appearance on screen is behind that girl; he's using her as a human shield. Did it occur to you that maybe you should just explain the situation to the kid, send him off to another family, and leave it at that? Man, the characterization in this game can be weird, and not just with Ed or Salvatore Dengar. Just look at the protagonist: he can touch as much boob as he wants. I am not kidding when I say that if you can see boobs, then you'll be able to touch them, at some point. Hell, one mini-game actually requires me to slap a girl's tits. Famicom Tantei Club: Part II wouldn't let me check a girl's corpse's vagina for stab wounds (it's people like him who let vagina serial killers get away with what they do), but Policenauts seems to know that most visual novels are just interactive porn. Either that, or Kojima's a total perv who thinks that the tensest parts of a girl's body are her boobs, and that he's the best masseuse in the world. Eh, still better than Dan Brown.
You know how I know this? Because this game was translated into English. (Even if it wasn't, though, something written in a language I can barely understand is better than Dan Brown.) Keep in mind that this isn't an easy thing to do; to my knowledge, only ten games have been fully translated for the PS1, and one of them was for a game that was already translated for the much easier to work with SNES. Besides, this is an adventure game, meaning that there's a shitload of text to translate. Somehow, though, slowbeef managed to do it, translating every goddamn thing in the game. Even the memory card files, for some reason. (I included the other save just to show you that this isn't something that most Japanese games do.) I'd say that it looks professional, but I've seen worse things from professionals ( not what you think). After all, this translation could've been a literal translation of all the conversations, but instead, it went for a more natural feel to them that pays off really well. How do I know? The voice acting is still present in the extremely 90s anime cutscenes (complete with bad CGI!), you dumbass. With it, I was not only able to verify the translation, but also brush up on my Japanese. For example, I learned that 糞 can literally mean any swear at any time ever. The only flaw I found was the credits, which I can best describe as "fucked."
I realize that I just went five paragraphs (essentially an entire blog) without mentioning a single thing about the gameplay. What the hell is there to mention? It's a visual novel; you just watch some well done anime cutscenes and occasionally click on shit. Speaking of which, although this game is compatible with the PS1 mouse, I couldn't get it to work at all, so not only did I learn that you can't skip cutscenes, but that I'd just have to use my keyboard to control the Windows mouse. Trust me, I've done stupid things like this before. I'd have a link for that, but I need to get back into Starcraft 64, first. Anyway, that's pretty much all there is to most of the game parts: click around until you find something that lets you continue. Obviously, this involves A LOT of clicking, and it's not always clear what you need to click on, like Snatcher. Unlike Snatcher, though, Policenauts will give you a nudge in the right direction if you can't figure out which pixel advances the story, like "did you check the bathroom" or "what about that trail of blood." But like Snatcher, there are shooting sequences to spice things up. OK, I'm going to end the Snatcher comparisons and just say that they're no longer Hollywood Squares-esque shooting sequences where you kill useless spider-bots that never come up again, and, maybe, a couple of Snatchers; this time, you get to move a cursor around and shoot shit, like plot-important characters. Nothing wrong with that, if you have a mouse or a light gun; however, since I was playing with a keyboard, I got my ass kicked a bit, especially near the end, when I was a contestant on 1 vs. 100, Only with Guns. I'd say that it's reminiscent of Elemental Gearbolt, a mediocre light gun game filled with fantasy anime, but these sequences are still pretty cool, even with the keyboard limitations.
But you know what's not cool about this game?....Uh.....uh....oh, right, the bomb sequence. OK, it's not outright bad, but it is kinda strange. Spoiler alert: at the end of act 2, you have to defuse a bomb. There's only one problem: it's pretty damn hard to defuse a bomb. 90s web design, back me up on this! Now that we're on equal footing, let's go through it step by step. First, you cut two wires. Easy enough. Next comes that little magnet that you have to Irritating Stick out of its cage. The only problem is that it's not clear when it's OK to let the damn thing go. I had to look up a video walkthrough just to figure out this detail that regular walkthroughs skipped over. That explains why I died enough to see Ed take things over...and watch him fuck it up, too (isn't the point of Super Guide to avoid dying?). However, I prevailed, and moved onto the screws. Don't unscrew them when the red light's on, or else...nothing will happen. I never noticed any consequence for this, and I was screwing outside boundaries quite a bit. I didn't spite the system, or anything, but it didn't really blow up when I screwed during the red. So yea, this was easier than it should have been, just like the next section. At this point, I didn't trust the game at all, so I just followed the walkthrough religiously. Good thing, too, because one puzzle is just "hey, guess." That's it. No logic behind it; just a guess between "proceed" and "game over." After this, though, you go back to the same old Policenauts we all know and love.
- It's pretty much all story, so it helps that the story is pretty good.
- The adventure game parts are pretty much there just to get the story moving. That doesn't mean they're bad, so I'll give this game the Fuck Any of You Who Use This As Evidence Against Japanese Game Design Award.
- Oh, here's another reason for that award: decent shooting sequences.
Last blog, I yelled at some Internet asshole for disrespecting the greatest game ever, so I might as well make it up to the Fire Emblem 4 fandom. How? By showing off something that's actually pretty decent. It was pretty risky to switch the flutes for violins (trust me, I know), but the payoff is excellent. It sounds like something you'd find in the 3DS remake of it MAKE THIS HAPPEN NINTENDO! (Or at least bring Shin Monshou no Nazo: Hikari to Kage no Eiyuu stateside.)
Dragon Spirit( Wait, this is how I'm following all that up?) Is such shit even legal? Look at what I did before: first, I typed four paragraphs on the story of Policenauts, and then two on what little gameplay there is in the game. Next came that cool cover of an already decent song. And now...this. *sigh* Anyway, dragons. I think we can all agree that dragons are awesome, right? OK, now that we've agreed on that, it's going to be pretty hard to convince you that this game is pretty mediocre.
Let's start where I always start: the story. Wait, there really isn't any. It's pretty much "rescue the princess from the dragon", the only difference being that the dragon is an emperor. Why? You're a dragon. That's all there is to the story, which is oddly a step up from what I originally thought the story was: you're a dragon, things must die. But apparently, Dragon Spirit took things a step further, trying to make itself the Panzer Dragoon of shmups. Unfortunately, it has to deal with the graphics not being that good. I know that Panzer Dragoon (the first one, not the entire awesome series) looked a bit generic, but the levels were still visually pleasing; Dragon Spirit does not have that going for it. Although they pick up with time, the levels still look kinda bland and not that good. I'd show you some screenshots, but Giant Bomb doesn't have dick on this game, which explains why I used the title screen as one of the images. Speaking of which, do you know why I used music from Dragon Quest VI instead of Dragon Spirit? Well, RPGs are pretty good at conveying moods and stuff, but aside from that, the music's just as generic as the graphics. Hey, look at that: the video proves both my points rather well.
I wish it did the same for the actual game, but since that's only the first three levels (there are eight), I'm afraid that I have to go into more detail. It plays a lot like Xevious, which makes sense when you see the credits that oddly don't make a lot of sense. You've two forms of attack: regular shot and ground shot. However, unlike a lot of other shooters, the ground shot is actually pretty important, rather than a piece of shit afterthought. I'd say that you'll have to pay attention to both ground and air enemies, and while you kinda have to, you can just mash both buttons at the same time. I couldn't, since I have the two things sitting right next to each other, but the point is that this is the one thing that Dragon Spirit does better than similar shooters. Now that I think about it, Dragon Spirit tries to do a lot differently from other shooters, which makes it all that much weirder when you realize that the game is completely generic and forgettable. Of course, it starts with the power-up system, because that's kinda the core of most shooters. In this game, you power up your actual ship, turning your dragon into a monstrous three-headed hydra by the end of it. This gives you two extra lines of fire, more things on you that can be hit, and that's about it, really. There are a few extra weapons, but good luck finding them. For the most part, you're going to be stuck with that "fire line of death" that you get once you gain your third head.
But wait, it gets worse. You know how in any good shmup, a boss will provide a decent challenge, no matter how much you look like Rambo crossed with a Terminator? And remember how I said that Dragon Spirit isn't a good shmup? You know what that means, right? You do? Well, I'm going to tell you, anyway, because I like treating people like they're morons. It means that the bosses in this game are piss easy, if you're sporting three heads and flame pillars of death. Most of them go down in seconds, and the ones that didn't only survived because they were more vulnerable to bombs than shots. Of course, it works both ways; get knocked down to your basic one-headed form, and you'll spend more time trying to beat the boss than the programmers probably spent making the game. Fortunately, getting back to your awesome mega-three-headed form is easy; getting back the health that knocked you down to one dragon form isn't. Yes, you have health in this game, but I never figured out how to refill it. At first, I thought the fire gauge below the health bar had something to do with it, but given that I could fill it up 100 times and see nothing happen, I still have no idea what it does. There aren't a lot of FAQs for the game, either, so all I have to go on is that it does nothing. That leaves me with an unrefined, forgettable shooter that apparently got a couple of sequels. I think we all know where this is going: the Darius Award. Why are you looking at me like that? What else could I have said?
- Wow, a shooter where bombs are just as important as shots. That's kinda the only good thing about this game.
- The power up system is shallow, so it sucks that the difficulty pretty much depends on it.
- It's essentially eight levels of unimpressive.