Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - A Miserable Pile of AWESOME!!!


Castlevania, for us oldschool gamers, was a serious victory for gamers and horror fans alike! Who wouldn't love to go through Dracula's castle, defeat horrific creatures and take on demons of a terrifying nature? It had a successful run on the original Nintendo system and has gone into the 16-bit era nearly unscathed. It did not have a successful 3D run, but that's further into the future than we're going to be going. No, instead, we're talking about the game that brought together both 2D and 3D elements into one of the pinnacle games of the genre and the franchise. This is the game that many call the greatest platformer right alongside Super Metroid, hence the mixing title "Metroidvania". Fans will never let this title go, and after playing it for about ten or eleven hours, it is clear to see why. 

The problem is that many perceive the Sega Saturn version of Symphony of the Night (Or Dracula X: Nocturn in the Moonlight in Japan) to be the lesser version of this game, add in the fact that it never released in America an you can see why this title never really hit as hard as the PSX version, which became a landmark title and remains a legend in its own right. As someone who has played both versions of this game, I am here to tell you, loosen up! Yeah, there are some noticeable differences but there is also so much to love about the Sega Saturn title, namely that they put in a ton of extra features, including characters that were unlockable for the Playstation port that are given to you from the beginning. 

Now, there is a catch when it comes to these two new characters. I never played as Richter, but I did play a full run with Maria and, wow, the differences are quite stark. First off, there is no story for her. There is only story for Alucard, the main protagonist. Maria also makes the game ridiculously easier. Her range attack added with the items you can use for weapons makes her an absolute powerhouse of a character and gives her some abilities that almost break the game, almost. It's still got its sections that make it very challenging, even with a runthrough with Maria. 

I am not going to go into the differences between the two systems. Sure, the graphics aren't as good and the level design is a bit more wonky but oh well! It's still a fantastic time! The gameplay, the controls, the graphics and the adventurous journey elements are all addicting to the gamer brain. This will make you want to play the game for hours upon hours on end. 

The real strength in this game lies in its boss battles. They are seriously some of the most fun and frequent moments of joy in this entire game. There are large monsters that you would struggle to identify, even when you know monster lore, some of them are just bizarre. That's a good thing! These look so outlandish and otherworldly that you find nothing but joy in bringing them down because you'd be terrified of them in real life. The character designs are outlandish and the satisfation in bringing them down still gives you that wonderful blast of brain endorphines you crave when you play a title such as this!

But let's be fair here, it's still a better game when you play with Alucard, rather than the other two extra characters. Without the story and without the added challenge of leveling up your abilities, it does take away from the experience as a whole. Yes, if you don't speak/read Japanese, you can't really get that story's full effect, but there are plenty of ways around that. 

Now, there are some noticeable differences in the Saturn port that are not so great. The Cursed Prison portion with all of the ghosts and the floating blue flames got more than a little frustrating. Then there are the framerate drops which, yes, are a bit of a nuisance. I've also heard that the loadtimes are more frequent, but that never bothered me to begin with. When you die, you don't have to wait through the Game Over screen, thankfully, and you can load your save state in a quick fashion. 

Let's be honest, was this really a BAD port of Symphony of the Night? I really do not think so. It may not be quite as good as the Playstation port, because it's rumored the Konami rushed through its production, only to release it exclusively in Japan. It has its faults, but if that's what you're thinking about as you run and slice down skeletons, zombies and ghosts, then you're missing the point. 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Virtua Sonic #5: The Sonic Spectrum


To be frank, Sonic has had it pretty rough in the past decade or so. Ever since his massive success on the Sega Genesis in three massively beloved titles, he has been the victim of some very bad luck. Many would attest that it all began with Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 (commonly referred to as Sonic ‘06), it actually started further back than that, Sonic ‘06 is just when it really became noticeable. Going back and forth in quality from the decent success of Sonic Generations to the abysmal failure of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the Sega Mascot has had a dual failure/success rate of gigantic proportions.

One clear example of this is the very recent fanmade super game headed by Christian Whitehead, Sonic Mania. One could say that Sonic Mania is the most success the little blue hedgehog has seen in literally over a decade. That’s not to say there aren’t good recent Sonic games by major developers, but Sonic Mania has seen success that is unparalleled by the likes of Sonic’s most recent game, Sonic Forces. Talk about quality difference of day and night, Sonic Mania has enjoyed the highest ratings even by some of the most skeptical gaming reviews while Sonic Forces has been left in the super speeding dust.


Even with the dream game mechanic of original character creation, Sonic Forces had very little else to offer. With poor level design, questionable controls, and the fact that you play as Sonic through most of the game anyway, onlookers were scratching their heads asking “why create a character in the first place??” Sonic Mania blew all of it out of the water and turned that nostalgia dial to eleven. We were gifted with familiar gameplay and level design with a nice little twist here and there to brighten it up for the new generation of gamers while leaving plenty for older gamers to ogle. Even the seemingly outdated graphics are updated and beautiful in a way that does not impede on the oldstyle 16-bit look. 

Sonic Forces has its fans, but it did have some objectively terrible decisions made for it. Not to mention giving your character a random weapon to work with rather than maybe a general skill it can use would have been far more appeal. As it stands, your character is mostly just an aesthetic to run along obstacles. It's not that Sonic Mania had the best ideas for level design as well, but it was a much more stylistic choice to elongate the game just a bit more. It does make traversing some of the level a bit of a hassle when it comes to the timer. They honestly should have taken that into account.

It’s starting to look pretty clear on what Sonic games should have been doing the entire time. There have been successful titles that go outside the fast-running platforming of his original games, but those have been so few and far in between. Now we have two that are mapped out and marketed very near one another for a comparison that paints a very clear picture. Sonic fans are now hoping and praying that Nintendo takes some serious notes of this outcome, because it’s clear that even true blue Sonic fans are getting fed up with the treatment that he has been getting as of late. 

In the end, it was a one hit knockout. This contrast really goes to show you that innovation and imagination can do some serious damage against just throwing money at a problem in hopes that it improves. AAA Gaming has been under some serious fire for lack of ideas in the ways of Sonic franchise fatigue, cash grab titles and using nostalgia as a way to lure oldschool gamers into spending their money for games that have little to no effort put into them. This fan game may have been distributed by Sega, but let’s face it, it’s an indie game through and through. Now Sonic fans are hoping that the Sonic Team can learn from this experience, but at the same time, given his very questionable past treatment, there is really no telling what they have in store for our blue radical dude. All we can really do is stay tuned and drink water.


Virtua Sonic #4: The Cube is the Game is the Cube

You do not know how strong your favorite game series is until you've played a collection that you truly fall in love with. Sonic the Hedgehog has survived through the years through imagination and a strong foundation of great games. Even the bad games are fun to play and will be worth the charge of just a few compilations, Sonic the Fighters is proof of that. The Gamecube brought about a quiet dignity to the gamers of the mid-2000's that was unappreciated in its time. Since then, a great community of fans have kept this system among the mainstream gamers for generations. The Sonic Gems and Sonic Mega collections were a Hedgehead's best way to cash in on some of the most legendary titles. 

Of course, this means that they had the first three games in the Mega Collection. In fact, a lot of his best titles. Though if I may be subjective for a moment, I have to say Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D blasts are memories that aged about as well as a banana in the refrigerator that everyone’s seemed to have forgotten about. Sonic Spinball is a little more challenging and unfair than I remember. Maybe I had a better fix on the game as a child, because I remember seeing more levels in my youth. Maybe I just had more time and patience as a child but that doesn’t sound like a child I remember being. 

And Sonic 3D Blast is still just as slow as I remember it. There are a decent about of tiny speed ramps here and there but the game overall is far too slow to be a Sonic game. And let’s face it, chasing animals and collecting them for a pile is just boring. 

That being said, Sonic’s original three titles including the Knuckles editions of two and three bring this collection to new heights of replayability. Whoever skips out on these titles for any system cannot consider themselves Sonic fans. Your opinion is duly noted but Sega would not be in the place it was were it not for these exclusive titles in the first place. How wonderful it is that Nintendo grinned, kidnapping our dear Hedgehog and laughing maniacally as they start piledriving titles to rub it in Sega’s face. This is so apparent that there was even a port of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. They sure didn’t wait long to start attacking those Dreamcast titles. 

However, even the Saturn graced it with its presence. Yes, the Gems collection had Sonic 3D Blast, but I will not stop being subjective in this review, just because I’ve always loved to see that more and more people are coming out to praise Sonic R. This version is even updated with some polished graphics here and there and it’s great to see so many people come out and show love to this title. There have been a few famous reviews that called it out on its ineptitudes but really it only needed a bit of practice. Even if you call it nostalgia goggles, those are things I will wear until my dying days. Unlocking Super Sonic is well worth it for those who can appreciate the effort to bring him about. Yes, some of those levels can get a little overbearing but they are not impossible. 

There is also a serious look back at the other collection from a much more obscure console. The Sega Gamegear gets a closer look in the Sonic Gems collection. Even Tails gets two titles, acting as a single main character in his own platformer game. Is it as good as the original three? No, not even close. In fact, they would be strained to go under the title of “good” but then again, they were born on the Sega Gamegear, so we do need to give them a little bit of credit. That’s like making fun of water for being wet. These games can’t help but be awful!

Tails Skypatrol is a game that couldn’t handle any real movement from the bad guys, nor could it afford any control of any kind. Even when you’re flying, the controls are so bad, the game has to compensate by making you hook onto random moving objects to see that you control just a little better. Don’t hit those little moving things, then expect to run into some random wall that will kill you immediately! One wrong move and you’re toast. These walls and platforms come out of seemingly nowhere because they look so generic that they’re in the background. They don’t seem to pop out as an obstacle or a threat. Was it really so much to ask for for just a simple moving ladybug robot or maybe a ball with spikes? Something that looked the least bit like a danger of any kind would be really nice.

Sonic Drifts 2 is just awful. You drive at high speeds down a road which you have no view on. Your control is sluggish to say the least. This is an asinine design for a racing game. You could make a case for some of these other platformers, but you can’t render a racing game on something that couldn’t produce a proper framerate to save its life! It’s bad enough to control the Gamegear Sonic 2 or Sonic The Hedgehog Triple Trouble. Those two games are made easier for the sake of making up for its lack of “BLAST PROCESSING” or any semblance of the proper graphics to handle any speed. The problem is you run to the other end of the screen and it has to catch up. Hopefully, there’s nothing in front of you to knock some rings out of you. 

This title had tons of samey Sonic slamfests (I ran out of nouns, bite me) but if I keep getting into them, this article will go way too long. Just trust that you can assume their gameplay and control pretty much blows tremendous amounts of chunks. It also has Vectorman games, but this isn’t called Virtua Vectorman! Moving on!

Sonic Advneture DX and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle were both ported to the Gamecube as upgraded and cleaned up Sega Dreamcast games! In fact, as nostalgia goggles go, this was probably the best they’ve looked in a while. They also had extra levels and extra modes to play! Everyone loves raising chao babies and now everyone can shoot their least favorite Sonic characters in the FACE! Not only were they made better, but Sonic Adventure 2 deleted almost ALL of the Big the Cat cameos! That’s a part of Sonic Adventure we’d prefer to forget, of course.

The Gamecube brought about quite the library for our favorite blue speedrunner, in fact, I’ve barely scraped the surface of this collection. Sonic was actually treated better on the Gamecube than he was his own systems from before. Even Sonic R was treated with respect. Though, it would have been amazing if we got a port of Sonix X-treme, but that may have been expecting a bit too much. Not only did the Gamecube polish up old games, but it released titles such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Heroes. Even counting Sonic Riders, at least they were trying new things. 

There are many reasons I personally consider the Gamecube a spiritual sequel to the Sega Dreamcast. It's funny how things turn out, isn't it? No one back then would think Nintendo could make such a good Sega System. Underappreciated in its time but still a timeless none the less. Give it a try and play some rockin' Sonic titles! Remember to get that Robotnik jerk and drink plenty of water!


Virtua Sonic #3: Into Dreamcast


 Hello, Hedgeheads, today we are going to be discussing Sonic and his venture into the final system that Sega has created to date. I’m Virtua Neptune and this is my take on the Blue Blur on the Sega Saturn 2-- I mean the Dreamcast. Please keep in mind that this is all my silly opinion and if you have different views on these titles and their legacy, by all means, share them in the comments. Just remember to keep it civil and respectful.

The Dreamcast was a follow-up system that any Sega Saturn fan could ever want. Not only did it possess Star Wars games (which are strangely absent from the Saturn), Marvel games and Capcom fighters, but the Sonic games it possessed were far better received and have even garnered acclaim from both gamers and critics. Many Sonic fans will tell you that despite their clench factor, the Sonic Adventure games brought about a whole new genre that the Blue Streak could explore.

That’s not to say these games were perfect. It was, after all, the introduction of the infamous Big the Cat and his stupid frog named Froggy (I’m sure that took all night). These were the worst parts of the game. The biggest complaint is that the platforming in a 3D environment was sometimes atrocious. Some of the tasks made you perform especially awkward feats with your characters (namely Knuckles’ emerald missions) and sometimes this alone would cause players to rage quit. 

Still, the gameplay itself had some amazing moments of fast paced, amazing action. The moment of glory that comes to mind is when Sonic commits cold blooded murder, flying away from an exploding helicopter and surfing down a declining street being chased by a semi-truck. Yes, perhaps the devs were compensating for the more frustrating aspects of the Adventure games, but we came out on top with a gaming moment of greatness.

Then we need to consider the fact that this is definitely two of the best outings we’ve ever seen Sonic in the third dimension. This includes his outings into the 360/PS3/Wii era. It’s honestly sad to think that they got it more right here than they would when 3D graphics were edging more toward the more modern cleanliness. It really goes to show you that, once again, the love put into a game is worth far more than the money. 

With the addition of the Chao pets, Sega spawned an entire game within a mini-game within the game! People were playing these games for eons just so they could raise a better Chao in their Chao daycare. The mere fact that you could transport these chaos onto a Tamagachi were enough to keep fans breeding them to be winners! (Article now rated R)

Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 can be considered deeply flawed, but no more so than many games that are considered masterpieces by the mass populace. The gameplay is gripping, and the graphics show off the 6th Gen graphics as they move away from that blocky, pixel-heavy look more and more. Our hero has definitely looked worse. 

Such as a game where you play as popular Sonic characters in a boardgame-like environment where you compete against computers or other players. This was a totally original concept and was not at all worse in every way. It rose to the top of the charts and did not bomb as an abysmal failure at all. Yes, I am doing this whole paragraph sarcastically, isn’t it sooooooo great?

Sega has had some bad ideas, but this one is a real head scratcher. Kart racers are one thing to get wrong, but a concept so simple as a competitive boardgame? Take my word for it, this is not worth your time. However, if you find it cheap enough and you’re a true blue fan? Why not? Some bad games are good times. You may even like it.

As for me, nope! This game was a solid waste of precious time in Sonic wrapping paper with a bow on top. The gameplay is not only terrible, but it is also boring. The cut scenes are the very beginning tell you the inconsequential storyline that goes along with the game. They drone on and on and try as you might, the story makes no sense and means nothing. The English voice acting is among some of the worst you’ll ever hear in the Sonic franchise. 

Once you get to the game, the entire system seems like it does nothing but screws over the player while giving them no opportunities to recover from the losses. One minute, you’re on the side of the board with all of the hidden gems, the next minute you’ve been shot all the way across where all of your opponents are so they can screw you over more. There are also boss battles across the board. They are one hit kills, go figure.

The mini-games are, by far, the worst part. They are so brainless and are just another way for you to fail, unless you get very, very lucky. Any time the games are free roaming, they are ridiculously hard to control to avoid the traps, like in the beach segment with the crabs. There’s also a shape building mini-game like Tetris, where you throw shapes into a shape outline and it’s nearly impossible to get it right while the score makes no sense. You get the idea, the mini-games are garbo and one of the many features that were half assed throughout the entire game. 

Then comes the Sega Smash Pack! Yes, this one is a collection that only has one Sonic game in it, the original for the Genesis. That’s right! Sonic came full circle when it came to his roots. He started out in the beginning of the life of the Sega Mega Drive and with that same game, he appeared in his roots in the very last console Sega ever made. How poetic. So, along with a whole bunch of other games, if you wanted, you have another port of the original. Merry Christmas. 

Problem is, it’s not so much a port as it is an emulation, meaning it was an afterthought. Nothing was done to improve it, however, it was downgraded in overall quality to make room for the rest of the Sega Smash Pack! Well, it was a cool thought while it lasted, right? It’s okay, Sega. We still love you! 

So, yes, the Dreamcast era for Sonic was not without its pitfalls. Whether you love raising Chao to compete or couldn’t look past some of the flaws, Dreamcast certainly left its milestones in the Hedgehog’s lore. The mere fact that they were able to give us a few more unique additions to the Sonic Franchise is something to be grateful for. Sometimes, it’s nice to keep things in house. 


Saturday, 14 May 2022

Final Fight Revenge - There is no Revenge

 


This is a fighting game. More accurately, a 3D fighting game. This particular game was developed by Capcom as a Saturn exclusive (aside from the arcade port) and released only in Japan. It is the only fighting game in the Final Fight series, which normally features beat'em up games. Final Fight has come out with a great number of beat'em up games that have received a great deal of acclaim in both arcades and console versions. 

This game, again their only fighting game, is a bland experience. It is so by the numbers and so mediocre that there's really not a whole lot to talk about here. The stages are beyond bland and the fights are about as unimaginative as you can imagine. Imagine that! It's not that it's terrible, there is just nothing to write home about. The graphics are decent for 32-bits and the character designs made a good conversion over to 3D from their 16-bit counterparts. That's about all the good that can be said about it. 


The fighting is boring. You fight the opponent, they block a whole lot, and you spend the entire time trying to get around their blocking. In hard mode, that is accentuated to a glaring degree! It's not hard, it's tedious! Some of the characters control terribly, because they lack the drive to move forward as they attack, making their controls sluggish! 

One thing that other fighting games have going for them is that they either have cool special moves, fancy footwork and interesting martial arts styles to keep the gameplay fresh. This game does not have any of that stuff. There are punches, kicks and grapples. The best you have to mix things up is Poison with her whip and a few other characters with weapons. Oh, and Guy has shuriken that he throws en mass in hard modes. Woot...

That's the real problem with this game. It looks and plays as bland as white bread and the AI for your opponents does nothing but spam block and throwing attacks while also shooting off their ultimate attacks. The ultimate attacks are about as good as it gets when it comes to the aesthetics, but they are teeth-grindingly cringeworthy when you've seen them for the seventh time. 


The most noteworthy aspect of this game is that your final boss is a zombie. It's a zombie version of Horace Belger. That's it. There's nothing interesting about this other than he falls into pieces and throws those pieces at you while they explode. Yeah, that's pretty cool but when it's your only trump card, it's pretty sad. Yeah, he does the Michael Jackson Thriller dance in the credits but by this time, you've already gone through six lackluster fights against people who spam block and grapple moves. It's cute, but too little, too late.

If you're looking for a 3D fighting game, there are obviously worse out there. This was made by Capcom, though and you would expect a lot more out of them. Obviously, there were problems with the production. This game screams "Under Developed" and it was obvious that they either did not have their prime talent on this game or they were not given nearly enough time to polish it and make it any good. It's boring, predictable and not worth going out of your way to pay the scalping price. This game became one of those rare, expensive relics that people ask way too much for. Just skip it and try something else. Try some water, it's more exciting. 

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Sonic 2: The Blue Blur Continues

 


Here we are, once again! To give a small recap on the history of the Sonic live action movie franchise, this was just supposed to be another garbo video game adaptation vomited out by Hollywood to cash in on a popular character. In fact, the fans were so sure that the the first movie was going to be a failure because of the original Sonic character design. The infamous original design was lambasted by fans and critics alike and the first trailer that featured it was funneled into the same place we put everything we'd like to forget about Sonic. After that, our expectations were in the basement. 

Then the first Sonic movie came out and it was quite pleasa--wait, what?! It was good? The fans and critics liked it? What sort of alternate world do we live in? This was unprecedented! Not only did the director come through for the fans by redesigning Sonic to be closer to his original video game character design, but he also made a movie that showed off fan service and knowledge of the game franchise as a whole! It was a marvel to behold! If you would like to see more on the subject of the first Sonic film, be sure to check out Father Krishna's review of the first Sonic Movie

That's all well and good, but we all know that the second movie is very easily where everything could fall apart in the blink of an eye. Well, spoiler alert! (For real, there are spoilers) It was good! Now, was it fantastic? Not so much. It has its highs and lows and its nitpicky moments, but there is still plenty of good stuff that works out in its favor. 

First of all, we still get a great performance from Ben Schwartz and Jim Carrey. They were still great highlights from this movie, but the real shoutout goes to our new characters, played by the ever AMAZING Idres Elba and the sweet sounding Colleen O'Shaughnessey. Adding Knuckles and Tails to this movie really upped the game for it in several ways. Not only do we get more backstory for the Echidnas from the first movie but we also get a better feel for how the Sonic universe will add to these movies, if they so choose to go that way with it. 

What really worked for this movie was a large scope that was not too over-the-top, while also being somewhat over-the-top. The vast landscapes that our heroes traverse and the dangers they face along the way are all kinds of fun to watch. This includes the weird and technically unneeded Syberian dance off scene and no I am not kidding. This movie takes some very strange turns.

One of the stranger turns that it takes is with Rachel (Pretzel Lady's sister) from the first movie. I did not like her character and I was not supposed to like her character. She was especially one-note and not much has changed in this movie. She is still obnoxious and unsubtle, though they did take steps to make her a bit more relatable. Still, her wedding scene in the movie is one of the low points for more reasons than one. 

In fact, most of the humans, as a whole, become rather useless as the movie goes on. Yes, Donut Lord and Pretzel Lady (No, I don't remember their actual names and probably never will) are prominent and serve a purpose here and there, but the writers for the movie seemed like they just tagged them in for the sake of the first movie. They even brought back Wade and his scenes have their funny moments but, again, he falls into that category of superfluous. In fact, there was a scene where the two main human characters are going on vacation where I thought they were pretty much going to go the route of Jason Lee in the Chipmunk sequels. It's not how they go with it, but honestly there are times when it looked like they probably should.

There are plotholes, obviously, all movies have plotholes to some extent. Still, these aren't really extreme, but they were rather noticeable. The ring portals last a lot longer than they did in the first movie and the map just so happened to project the image of Sonic's adoptive owl mother when they needed it with no explanation. That scene in and of itself wasn't great and not just because it was another Wade scene. 

Now, what worked very well for this movie, once again, was Tails and Knuckles. Aside from Idres Elba's amazing voice, Knuckles has a purpose and his mindset it on nothing but that purpose. He is also a great foil with his serious exterior to Sonic's careless nature. Tails is given some great scenes, even when you thought that he was going to be punted from the story, he comes right back in and takes it up several notches. The gadgets he uses are a brilliant combatant to Robotnik's high tech weapons, so he gives Sonic a much better fighting chance against some of the more dangerous mechanical opponents.

This is where the spoilers are going to get very heavy, so be warned!

The greatest part of this movie (how many is that now?) is, by far, the third act! When Robotnik gets the master emerald and we see a god-like entity that creates Robotnik's monstrous mech. That was a bit of fan service that is impossible to overlook. If you've never seen the giant robo-mech, then I call your Sonic fandom into question! The fight they have is amazing. It is very well paced, very suspenseful and doesn't let up until the real final showdown. 

After Sonic, Tails and Knuckles manage to fend off the giant robot and get the master emerald out of Robotnik, the ultimate fangasm moment comes in the form of Super Sonic. It was worth the entire wait from 2020 and now it comes and it does not disappoint! Everything about this scene is humorous, badass, and evokes childhood memories of collecting all of the chaos emeralds in the video games to get that wondrous yellow Sonic we all know and love. I wish they could have made it last a bit longer but that's definitely the subjective fanboy side speaking. 

This movie is not perfect but there is so much to love. There are corny moments, moments where the CGI doesn't really hold up well, and there are a few time-wasters that could have hit the cutting room floor to make room for something else but that is all just foam on an otherwise refreshing drink. If you fancy yourself a Sonic fan, then this movie is definitely worth a shot.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Neptune - Why Live on Saturn?



The day before Christmas of 1996, my brother and I had already opened up all of our presents. I don’t remember the logic behind this, but we were having so much fun as a family that our parents just said, “go ahead”. So, after such a wonderful night of new gifts and Christmas love, we didn’t expect there to be anything else left when we got up the next morning. Still, we were happy because it meant we could still play with our new stuff we got and were happy to spend our Christmas money on more stuff, meager a sum as it was. We weren’t rich by any means, so what gifts we got were more than welcome, and some of them exceeded expectations by a long margin.

That’s when we saw what was under the tree on Christmas morning. It was a large box, and it depicted a black console with a CD underneath a hatch. Sonic the Hedgehog was depicted in small boxes along with other Sega properties, along with a triple pack free games with a gaming demo included. The Sega Saturn included Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop and the racing game Daytona USA. This was a ridiculous concept for both my brother and I because we had only had a Nintendo Entertainment System and a Sega Genesis in the past. Those were 8-bits and 16-bits respectively, only able to make two-dimensional games with varying levels of quality in both graphics and gameplay.




This was full three-dimensional and fully rendered polygons in 32-bits! Not that I knew that as a 10-year-old child, but it looked really cool and the games were awesome. Going from 2D to 3D and playing games we could only dream of from the arcades in the comfort of our own home was a dream come true. It had real music in the soundtrack and full audio dialog that didn’t sound like someone was talking through pixelated baby monitors. As soon as we got into the games, we would get locked into them for hours and my brother and I played every single game as many times as we possibly could.

Even when the games weren’t two player, we were still happy to watch each other play while waiting our turn. There were obviously parts where my brother would hog the controller and we would fight over whose turn it was but that’s to be expected, we were 10 and 12 after all. Still, he was better at video games than I was, so he helped me figure out a lot of the puzzles and worked through some of the harder parts of the video games. We collected a decent number of games and also rented quite a few from Blockbuster. It was quite the experience because we played these games together and found ourselves truly engrossed.
 

It got to the point where we would defend the Sega Saturn in arguments against the Playstation console. Back then, they were the top competitors on the market and today I can admit that the PS objectively was the better system. When I was in fifth grade, though, I would die before admitting to anything.

Over time, of course, things moved on, but we kept playing the Sega Saturn even when I was able to obtain the Sega Dreamcast because we still had a good number of games for it that we enjoyed playing. However, this was five years later, and it was clear to me now that this was when we began to grow apart. We began to hang out with different crowds, and he was starting to get into stuff that messed with his sense of reality. He began to spend more and more time alone, even when I was in the room, he barely acknowledged that I was there. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was when he was succumbing to a mental illness commonly known as schizophrenia. His state of mind began to bob in and out of logic and it wasn’t long before his new personality began to shove me away.

As much as I would like to tell you that this story had a happy ending, I must sadly disappoint you. While he got on medications and evened out, he was never the same and we have become very estranged as our lives branched off from one another. Our relationship never recovered from what occurred and I am left with the knowledge that my brother is somewhere buried deep within his own psyche. However, I still proclaim that the Sega Saturn is my favorite game console for a great number of reasons. It really does have a wonderful game library and the graphics evoke a heavy sense of nostalgia from an era branching off from the 2D to the 3D consoles of arcade and home ports. What it reminds me of most is of two young boys sitting on a bed and fighting one another in Virtua Fighter 2 or shooting criminals in Virtua Cop. It makes me reminisce over a time where the two of us helped one another solve puzzles or overcome challenges that came about in games like Warcraft 2 or Nights Into Dreams. It represents a time when our relationship as brothers was strongest and for that I will never give it up, no matter how much better graphics get or however many unfinished garbage games they release only to patch them later. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were making a history that would last for as long as I draw breath.

                                                    For Justin

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Virtual On - Lasers! Missiles! Laser Missiles!


As soon as you hear the phrase "Get Ready!" for the first time, if you hadn't practiced before hand, you were not ready! Virtual On is a game that takes some practice but then you will not put it down! This is hours of fun on single player and years of fun against your friends! Everyone has to at least try this game in order to feel the rush and zap your opponents with just about every type of laser! You will munch metal, tear titanium and sever steel with your own chosen mech! I could douse this game in hyperbole all day, but let's get slightly more objective before I turn this arena into a scrap heep!

If it wasn't clear, this game rocks. It is a third person 3D fighter that puts you in control of your choice of war machine. There are several to choose from and they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you want the heavy weapons fighter that doesn't run quite as fast or one of the more slender models that are far more agile, this game has you covered. The Saturn graphics really shine with this title. Each machine is very unique, even though each stage is pretty much the same aside from different placements of cover. 

The real problem with this game is that the controls really do take practice to get use to and the game can be very unforgiving in its learning curve. It is moderately hard to learn but somehow very easy to master once you pick it up. All you need is some dedication in order to learn your chosen fighting machine and you can come out swinging! Learning how to throw the bombs, when to fly upward and when to use your ultimate attack without wasting it are all essential. The biggest challenge is the movement and going faster and firing with better accuracy than your opponent is also a very large part of the strategy. All of these elements help the immersion and puts you in that state of concentration that gamers florish in while you grind your opponent into pulp! 

It is very hard to find a fault in this game. The learning curve can be a little annoying at first but it can also be easily overcome. The graphics may seem menial today, but those who appreciate the 32-bits will absolutely relish in its quality and detail. The game has glitches but they are very few and far in between. It would be nice to have a bit more variety when it comes to stages and levels, but even then, they look different and function properly, so why fix what isn't broken? Even the short single player campaign can be forgiven because it has such a great 2-player function. The framerates can take a rather low dip! There we go, there's a fault in the game! There's the smudge on the Mona Lisa! Yes, the framerate can go down rather low, especially when there are the larger explosions. Even then, though, this game is amazing. 

If you have read either my Top 20 Saturn Games or my Top 10 Saturn Games lists, you will probably realize that this has been my favorite Saturn game for a very, very long time. Even after a very high boost in the number of games I've played on this system, Virtual On was never dethroned. This game is high octane action and top rate competitive gameplay for the whole family, so long as your grandpa enjoys turning mechanized warriors into can openers! VIRTUA BEAM!!!!!

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Listen to the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast Podcast!


Need a Sega-stuffed podcast in your life? Join us for the latest episode of the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast! Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts!

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Saturday, 29 January 2022

Deep Fear - Resident Garbage

So everyone is getting tired of all the copycat games that ripoff the popular titles of our era. Once a certain game comes out that revolutionizes or popularizes a certain genre or gameplay style, you see twenty or thirty clones of the like. We saw it with Minecraft, we saw it with PUBG, we saw it with Doom, Mortal Kombat, there's a lot of copy cats out there, waiting for the next cash cow to come along. Resident Evil was no exception. As soon as survival horror with tank controls and puzzle solving became the new trend, the consoles and PC were flooded with very similar titles. 

Deep Fear was one of the less successful attempts to cash in on this franchise. Silent Hill, this ain't. It pretty much takes everything not scary about Resident Evil, avoids the survival element of it and adds a dash of annoyance that would be very heartbreaking, if it wasn't so funny! I'm not kidding, this is hilarious! It's like they just didn't know what to actually do with the franchise. They thought that if they put you in a sealab at the bottom of the ocean, add in these... creature things to walk at you slowly, then horror would ensue. Spoiler alert!!!!!! It doesn't.

The graphics are pretty bad, but not horrible. It's the Saturn and the graphics are hardly important (in most cases). No, the English voice acting, now there's where it came close to Resident Evil. This voice acting is legendary in its awfulness. The real problem with it is that it gets grating to the ears. It gets downright painful with how terrible these voices are and how the actors just aren't trying. The dialogue does not help this matter. 

And they took the survival out along with the horror. If you run low on ammo or healing items, just refill them! No, I'm not kidding, they literally could not be asked to distribute these items evenly throughout the game. You just go to certain places and there's full ammunition and health in a juice box with drinking straw. Drink until full. You can't get much lamer than this. 

The story is lackluster and lacks involvement. The characters are scathingly awful and the gameplay is just downright boring. After a while, the hilarity of the game's presentation does not carry it as it still pads itself out until you are ready to go take up quilting as a more stimulating experience. I really tried to find something I liked about this, unironically. Not even the Saturn charm of its graphics are a point in its favor. The setting is just so mundane and repetitive, the graphics have no chance of standing out. So, even if you wanted to play this in front of friends to make fun of it, it loses its edge. Try something better or worse and you'll have a much better time. Virtua Bland...

Monday, 27 December 2021

Myst versus D - Point and Puzzlers

 


Back in the hayday of our favorite console, there weren't a whole lot of games to fit in each and every genre. Now days, we have games that fit in to just about every niche one could possibly think of and can often find a decent amount in each one. Back in 1995, this was not the case, especially when it comes to consoles. Point and click adventures, on the other hand, were commonplace and there were plenty of them. The Sega Saturn sported two that we will be comparing today. D and Myst were two prominent titles on the system in North America because they were very commonly found in stores. When both sport such similar gameplay but in strikingly different ways. Both have strong cult followings and both have puzzles and explorative features that all can enjoy. 

One difference that a player will notice immediately is the setting. Myst is more akin to a different planet while D is far more like a haunted mansion (aside from the hospital cut scene at the very beginning). Another very noticeable difference is the way you move. This may seem like a cosmetic feature, but it is far more important than one might think. Myst has a fade effect when it comes to the point and click movement. Once you click forward or whatever direction you're wanting to go, the screen goes out then comes back in with your movement progression. D, on the other hand, you actually see yourself move forward. You walk slowly and actually turn in a visible way. The real difference is not only graphical movement, but also atmosphere. 


Atmosphere is one of the key factors that set these two games apart. Where Myst is an otherworldly experience with discovery and puzzles, D is a horror experience with discovery and puzzles. Not only does D sport a more gothic, macabre feel to it, but it also boasts a soundtrack that plays an eerie sound throughout your experience. This background soundtrack keeps you feeling that unsettling creep factor all throughout. 

While Myst does possess a more diverse list of levels, it lacks heavily when it comes to any sort of atmosphere. This is due to there being next to no soundtrack. There are some outside sounds and sometimes that's pretty nice, but after a while, many will find themselves pining for some music or more background noise. 


Another point of comparison is... oh boy... the acting. I'm going to be honest, Myst will always lose when it comes to acting. The voice acting from D isn't great, because it's all just Dr. Harris, Laura's father, popping in and telling her that she shouldn't be doing things. Myst, on the other hand, is some of the worst acting this side of the Sega systems. The brothers you choose to either set free from the books or not set free from the books come to you, say they want pages and they ham it up like they're trying to win a Razzie. It is physically painful to watch. 

To more of D's credit, it also sets itself ahead of Myst in the ways of character. You play Laura Harris, a young woman who is trapped in her father's mind and is forced to work her way through his house of horrors in order to save him from insanity. You are a human being with a clear goal and an emotional connection with the situation. Not only do you know she is trying to save her father, you can also see her reactions to her situation as they happen. We feel her tension and we see how horrific her circumstances are and thus we are engaged. 

Myst has a severe lacking of any of this. We are a faceless person who teleports around to places, collecting pages and putting them into books with psychopathic thespians who apparently couldn't pass Drama 101. There's some sense of awe when we see the scenery, especially if you're seeing these graphics back in the mid 90's for the first time. However, you don't see your character reacting to these events and you don't have any sort of connection to them at all, aside from being the player. This makes all of the difference in the world. 


[Spoilers] D is not a perfect game, it has its flaws and it's got very little replay factors aside from some background beetles that tend to show up at random and the option to either join your father or kill him. Myst has the replay factor where you either want to go the long way through the game or the short way through the game to get the different endings. Both games have different endings and both games have their ups and downs. From a story and atmospheric point of view, D has the goods. Either way, both games will scratch your itch for exploration and both games are rather short in length, especially if you know your way around the puzzles already. Science Fiction nuts will probably prefer Myst while Horror fanatics will probably have more fun with D. It's all up to taste. By the way D stands for Dracula! I SAID SPOILERS! NO TAKE BACKS!