Saturday, 1 October 2022

Corpse Killer - Dead Inside Edition

Happy Halloween, Saturn heads! It's time for another review! This is our first review in the MONTH OF SATURN SPOOooOooOOooOOOOKIES! Get ready for some real horror! And I do mean horror because this game is horrible! So, just sit back, relax, and at least act scared.

It is no secret that Full Motion Video is the smooch of death for 99% of games "graced" with its presence. Myst still has a fanbase, but anyone will tell you that the acting in the game's FMV segments are so terrible they're great. The bad acting is infamous in these terrible parts of games. Developers normally just stepped in and did the acting themselves to nightmarish effect. Then you've got games that actually got Z-List movie actors in their games. Yeah, that's what Corpse Killer did. You would think this would improve the acting to some degree, but you would be very, very wrong. In fact, to some degree, it's somehow even worse. 

Among this cast of actors, they got the late Vincent Shiavelli, who actually has quite the long filmography, although most of it is about as low grade as you would expect. He is seen through a lot of this game and his scenes are a master class of bad. He fits right in with the rest of these performers and WOW there is a lot to unpack here. These cut scenes are very hard to watch. You will cringe your face into another dimension and you won't need Vegeta to do it (if you get that reference, you're officially in the cool club). It's obvious that these are all first takes unless something catastrophic occurred. The game developers should have worked a few more takes into the budget, because even the ZOMBIES are over acting here. 

That's just the FMV cut scenes! Believe it or not, all of it is technically full motion video! The characters in the gameplay scenes are still real people, they are simply cut outs that are slapped onto the background. They run toward you in a VERY unconvincing way while you shoot the screen with an ever shooting machine gun. You shoot the cheap looking zombies and they make stock screaming noises in an ever revolving loop. 

The zombies are just people in cheap makeup. Some of them just have regular clothes on and some of them look so cheap, the devs may as well have just reached through the screen and slapped you to kill your immersion. This is beyond awful! 

The game is also ridiculously easy almost 90% through it. Then the difficulty spikes to levels beyond reckoning. Lulling you into a coma only to inject this level of suck is a bit of a jerk move. Seriously, you would be hard pressed to stay conscious amid the constant gunfire, weird screams and terrible cutscenes. There are different types of ammo, explosives and a couple of other things to try and spice things up. Guess how well it works. Go on, guess...

Anyway, this is one of the worst games on the Sega Saturn or any of the other systems it was on upon its original release. There's a label on the Graveyard Edition that says it's one of the top 20 games of the year. This is a blatant lie and I'd be surprised if they didn't get sued for false advertising. You may notice this game was on both of my top worst Saturn games lists. It's pretty obvious why FMV's didn't really stand the test of time and after the fifth generation of games, they became more and more scarce. Thank GOD! If you really want to play this game out of morbid curiosity, it is available on Steam at the time of this article's writing. By all means, it's Halloween and the terrible nature of this game is quite scary. Have a ball and make it spooooooooky!

Sunday, 18 September 2022

NiGHTS Into Remaster - Virtua Dreams Return


Bow to the allmighty game that put the Sega Saturn on the map from day one! This is the one that drew me personally to the system itself. It was the first game I ever bought for the system and it was the first game I ever beat on the Saturn. It was a lot of firsts and there is a very good reason for that. Two processors used, imaginative gameplay and some of the brightest colors that you can admire without going blind. The story is very thoughtful while also being in the background. You can play it without knowing the plot and be perfectly content. The game is beautiful and we are fortunate to be in a reality where it exists.

Then, at the end of 2012, it was remade! That's right, if you have an XBox Live, Playstation Network or Steam account, you can get a remastered version of this game right now! Not only does it improve the graphics, but it also includes the original Sega Saturn graphics? Is this an instant recommendation? Why, yes it is! It may have had very little fanfare and barely been advertised at all, but it came back with brand new tricks! 

This is a love letter to not only the original game, but it is also a thank you letter to all of those who created the game in the first place. The graphics are cleaned up, polished and florish in a brand new bright and shiny landscape. It looks really beautiful and the controls are still just as smooth as the first day. It's also just as challenging as the first day. 

Now, here's the kicker though. As beautiful as the game came out, it still doesn't capture the feel of the first game. I know, I sound like a broken record at this point and I get why this same old song keeps singing and annoying people. This is the same thing I said about Virtua Fighter Remix and Daytona Championship Circuit and I'm sure this won't come as a surprise, but I can't help but feel it. The thing is, when you see Nights flying through the air, he looks so detached in the HD edition. 

It's not at all a bad port of the game, nor is it a bad coat of paint over the game itself. It simply can't replace the Sega Saturn's original graphics for the game. These new graphics look out of place by comparison. As said before, this is not a bad remaster at all. In fact, it's beautiful for several reasons, but it also includes the unlockable game of Christmas Nights Into Dreams! How awesome is that?! You just need to get through the entire game with A ranks on every level! Good luck with that!

The game itself isn't perfect. In fact, sometimes, it is a judgy game for people who put tons of work into collecting the blue bubbles and doing so as fast as possible only to get a D or E ranking. This game can be so unforgiving, especially when you get the orb, transform back into a little kid, and have to dodge the alarm clock on foot while also returning the orb to the gazebo. Sometimes, things just happen, but who cares! You get an F! DO BETTER!

Since my last review of NiGHTS Into Dreams I have run into quite a few reviews of the game and I have to say, people don't feel the magic in this age of gaming. There were so many old school gamers that love this game but this generation doesn't seem to have the same appreciation because flying in a 3D area in such a way just isn't as impressive as it use to be. Well, all I can do is shrug my shoulders. I don't care how many high flying NiGHTS clones there are now, none of them reach the surrealistic beauty of this artful game. 

The effort and the creativity that was shoved into this game should have been a failure. With such experimental game mechanics, strange imagery, outlandish character designs and all around complexity of the Sega Saturn's platform for development, this game should have been a flop. Somehow, Sonic Team made it happen and created one of the greatest titles on the Saturn. Nights herself became an icon for the system and is still considered one of the most beautiful characters to ever come out of gaming. There are so many systems, so many random items and so many easles that have been graced with her design and Nights Into Dreams still has a very active fanbase that thrives today! If you do not own a Saturn and still want to play this game, well, consider this an advertisement and an invitation to try it. Do not pass up the opportunity even if you have the slightest inkling to do so. Tell them I sent you. Wait, no, don't do that. Dream of blue water. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Daytona USA and Championship Circuit - Wheels of Love and Hate

So, if you've been paying attention for the past three some odd years, you may have noticed that I have an attachment to what I like to call the "Saturn Tri-Force" games that came with the system. Among these games came one of the very few racing games that you will likely see me play. Daytona USA was lambasted for its sketchy framerates, lower end graphics, lack of game modes and just overall did not live up to the arcade version. As a ten year old, I did not care about this, I just loved to race in it. 

First off, the music in this game was immaculate. You could listen to all of these songs for hours and they would be stuck in your head for the rest of your life no matter what. The sound effects in general were memorable. Even when the guy in the intercom kept pestering you to "Go easy on the car!" or worrying about you after a crash "Are you alright?" 

Yes, the graphics aren't great. The rendering is pretty bad as you keep racing and the scenery spawns into existence rather than getting closer. The problem is that I really don't care. Graphics are secondary for me at best, unless they directly affect gameplay or are overly distracting in some form or another and there's really none of that here. 

Am I good at racing games? No, not really. I so rarely play them that my enjoyment is mostly out of simple nostalgia and mindless fun. There is not much else to it as far as Daytona USA is concerned. 

Then, of course, they had to screw with it. Enter the Championship Circuit. Here we have more maps, more cars, much cleaner graphics, and more "realistic" driving statistics for the new cars on display. All of this should be a great new package for an already nostalgic, great game, right? I'm sure there are plenty of people who think so, so this may be considered a hot take.

But, no, no this is not a great new package at all. In fact, this game seemed to have sacrificed a lot more than it added. Yes, the maps are cool to have and it's nice to have the new car options. But the big problem here is that the new cars should come with a good ten second warranty attached to some of them because if you go for less grip on the tires, the car handles like absolute garbage. Your tires will continuously peel and you will ride around with a smoke cloud following you like you're Pig-Pen from Peanuts. The stats on these cars are wonky and that's just for starters.

The new graphics on this are cleaner. In fact, they're so clean that they look sterilized. Your car gets a huge dent in its frame after you've crashed more than once and everything just looks saturated. It's like when you play an old movie on 4K, without the film grain, it looks like a soap opera. Sega Saturn is at its best with blocky, blurry polygons. I cannot be the only one who thinks this! 

One good thing this version brought about was making a 2-player version. The graphics chug pretty hard, but it's still plenty good enough to have yourself a good time with a friend and/or family member. Though, I will say that sometimes those sprites in the background get a little choppy and holes in the Earth seem to come out of nowhere because this is a lot of rendering it's trying to do for a 32-bit system. The Saturn definitely had its limits, but I can't get onto Daytona: CC for trying. 

No, what I can get onto this edition for are two things. Everything else has been somewhat annoying or head shakingly bad, but not game breakers. However, these two things are absolutely unforgiveable. There is a lot I can put up with, but when it screws up the enjoyment this bad, we have a real problem. 

No Saturn Mode? Really? One of the huge draws to the Saturn version of Daytona USA was that they had a version where you did not need to keep going through checkpoints to finish the race or feed your paycheck into a coin slot. In this version, you can be in position 10 out of 40 and you can still run out of time between checkpoints and the race is over. Yes, I know I'm not good at racing games, but having this reminder for it is a forehead slapper! You put in a 2-player version and you toss out the Saturn Mode, but you keep the "Arcade Mode"? Are you crazy?! One serious mistake from your threadbare tires and it is over! That is just cutting into the enjoyment and putting a brickwall in front of players that are just there for a little escapism. 

The worst thing the Championship Circuit Edition did was absolutely atrocious! Why in the hell would you change the SOUNDTRACK?! Of all the things, adding these generic, terrible knockoff Hooty and the Blowfish sounding tracks has to be on the top of my list of arrestable offenses. The versions of the old songs they add to this edition are shadows of the former game and everything else is just heart wrenching. Daytona USA was awesome for its strange, otherworldly soundtrack and it added a personality to it that many of us could get behind! They were so catchy and wonderful, this blatantly ruins everything! 

Once again, I am fanboying it up and acting like an unhappy Saturn-freak who cannot be pleased. By the same token, this is a case of fixing something that was not broken. You may as well have made this game into an entirely different title or a spinoff of some sort. As a remaster, this is fidgety to say the least. There are many of you who love this port of the game and more power to you. This is a subjective review, yes, but I do tell the truth how I see it and sometimes it's just good to stay old fashioned. If you treat these both as separate entities, CC isn't so bad. Whatever your thoughts, just drive safely, remember to leave the beer at home and drink water.

Thursday, 8 September 2022

The Horde - Facepalm The Game

If there was one constant throughout the fifth generation and any other time, it's that Full Motion Video ruins nearly everything it touches. The problem is, very few actors worth their salt would go near this video game medium because it was always frowned upon by A-list actors. With a track record like this, you would be hard pressed to blame them. Anytime some Joe Schmo got in front of that full motion camera, they would unleash the ham of an overpaid, underqualified, hack Shakespearian actor.

The Horde falls into this trap in many more ways than one. Not only does it give us acting akin to a high school production but it also gives us a nonsensical plot that adds literally nothing to the gameplay. It also gave us Kirk Cameron, which deducts even more points. Sitting through these video segments will cause you to wince in pain, at best.

You are a total wuss who was given the job of defending against the Horde. You have no experience fighting, you are, as mentioned, a total wuss and you can barely lift your sword. This drives up the BS controls and encourages you to play something else, because this gimmick weighs thin very fast.

You have to fight the Horde in order to get paid to pay town taxes. Yes, that is correct. Not only are you handed a job that you suck at but you need to perform it to pay some jackass who tries to act villainous. Problem is, that would require talent. 

The more you fight the Horde, the more difficult these fights are. You also set up traps because to rely on your sword is like trusting your mum to not embarrass you in literally every way ever (Mommy issues? Me? Nooooo). By now, you've either gotten into the game or you've devolved into making cheap Yo Mama jokes out of boredom. Guess where I stand on the matter.

Yes, the game can be considered cute and it's not devoid of charm, it's just hard to give it credit. The FMV segments suck the life out of the title from the get go and the monetary system itself makes no sense no matter how you look at it. It's there to build tension with a deadline but with no real logical story reason for it, it seems tacked on and thick with annoyances. You see? I started this paragraph in order to give this game some pros. Now look where it got me!

This is another playthrough to see if this game still deserves to be on the Top 20 Worst. The answer is yes, if you couldn't tell. Some have stated that they like this game. By all means, take it and keep it. I found it disengaging and annoying in its cheap gimmicks and annoying combat syste.. I would love to share the loving sentiment but an orc ate it... or whatever those things are. Hell, I don't know, I wasn't paying that much attention. Virtua snooze.

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Alien Trilogy - Let me Hug Your Face

Alien, if there were ever a greater combining of science fiction and horror in film, it was never found. The first two movies, I mean, the other ones can take a hike off a short pier. This game, however, has been a little divisive of the Saturn fanbase and there are a few reasons for this.

If you were looking for a game with atmosphere and scares, this game isn't void of them, but it's in rather short supply. The graphics in the maps aren't bad and they got the look of the aliens right, they just didn't combine the two to their full effect. Walking through the corridors, you expect to see a full xenomorph jump out at you or a face hugger attempt to attach itself to sudden terrifying deadliness. 

Well, there is an alien, but he just kind of comes toward you. The AI isn't really there to take advantage of the setting or aesthetics. They pretty much react like enemies in a first person shooter. On top of that, in the first few levels, not only is ammo rather scarce, but so are the aliens. With how many bullets it takes to kill an adult xenomorph, it was wise to give people the challenge. The problem is that this still does not make the game very exciting.

Later levels fix this by giving you stronger weapons and more enemies. There comes another problem though. There are only xenomorphs and face huggers. Two types of enemies do not exactly inspire excitement. Unless you count eggs you need to shoot. Then there are three types. Yippee.

The game isn't outright terrible, despite it being on my bottom 20 list of Saturn games. It just doesn't have that hook and follow-through that Doom is so well known for. Doom had an entire entourage of demons to rip and tear and, yes, some of them had big guts. With so many types of enemies to face, you are preoccupied with finding ways to take them down. With an alien and a baby crawly alien, this is a bit more apparent. A shotgun pretty much does the trick for both.

Trilogy did, however, have a decent set of weapons. The flamethrower is always fun to use, for instance. Still, the problem still remains that this is like figuring out what kind of shoe to crush a cockroach with. In the end, it will get crushed.

There is fun to be had here. As said, it has its own challenges and the maps are well designed to traverse. Once you find a good size group of aliens, the fun can be quite invigorating. It just happens too irregularly because you'll either figure your way out of a map rather easily or you'll get lost.

The recommendation for this game is rather tentative and should be aimed more toward fans of the horror FPS genre. It may surprise you, because this game does have a fanbase, so give it a try. Just be careful when drinking space water.

Friday, 26 August 2022

Shining Wisdom - Onward, to 2D!

Being a diehard Saturn fan is hard, we know this. After years of acknowledging that our favorite console has been looked down upon by the gaming public and focusing on the what if's and why's of the Sega Saturn's history, we need as many wins as we can get. This brings me to the Shining series, a flagship franchise for Sega that has some of the most constant quality throughout its duration. It's not the highest quality, but it is definitely quality none the less. The Shining series has been fantasy gameplay that one can trust and popping these games in can cause you to get absorbed into its world and love taking down monsters and villains.

Sadly, going into Shining Wisdom with these expectations will not bear the wanted results. With all of the cool perspective and dungeon crawling fun from Shining the Holy Ark, you would think a year prior, the game wouldn't be so brutally different. How naive I was to think so. This was a bit of a downer coming into it. This was all based on expectations and not in an objective view, I will admit. Going into it, you see a top-down view of a game and you expect this just to be an outer world view and noncombat perspective. Then you go into the wilderness and find out that this is what you have and there's not much else to it. 

Going through a hub world, talking to civilians and exploring forests is one thing, but when you find out that you are literally just swinging swords and casting spells in that world and nothing more, there is a sour sense of disappointment that goes along with it. Yes, there is good gameplay here and I'll get to that, but going into it like this, knowing my child side, at a young age, I probably would have stopped playing it outright. Just walking around swinging at random monsters in the forest seems about as shallow an option for gameplay as you can get and you would have at least thought they would go for a classic RPG turn base portion or at least some sort of close-up view of the combat, but no, you swing a sword, they get knocked away and explode. 

The graphics are about as underwhelming as it sounds. These characters look cartoonish, the shading is smooth and the monsters look about as generic as they come. Again, if there were some other gameplay with different graphics behind this, it would have been much more palletable, but as is, it's very difficult to take this seriously. 

Now, is it a terrible game? No, it's just not what you would consider a deep, engrossing experience. There is some fun to be had with taking down a whole ton of monsters with swords and magic as you traverse caves, wilderness, castles and fantasy settings. Once you get over the initial gameplay experience and start to play, you can start paying more attention to the story, which is where the game thrives to a degree. The plot and progression are actually quite good, as is the leveling system for your protagonist. The puzzles are fun, though, they do outstay their welcome somewhat with how frequent they are. It starts off pretty slow with having to use healing plants more and more as you fight monsters on a very large scale. The grind is not especially bad, considering each of them take one or two hits to kill and they drop some pretty helpful items along the way. 

The more comfortable you get with the game, the better it gets. If this is your cup of tea, then Christmas has come because this is not an especially short game, but it also isn't so long as to overstay its welcome. The graphics and character designs, along with the gameplay are all an acquired taste and if you're not already prone to liking this style, this could be a pretty hard game to grow into. Consider this a mixed review from someone who has grown accustomed to the Shining series' better titles. Overall, it's only recommended for a certain audience, everyone else may be pulled away from its presentation. Graphics don't make the game, but that's obviously not the only place this game falls short. For all its faults, it's not a terrible game, just know what you're getting before you spend a lot of money on it. Until then, keep crawling those dungeons and don't forget to bring some water.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Warcraft II - When Blizzard Didn't Suck!

Warcraft is known mostly for World of Warcraft now days, and even that is starting to whither away into a much more condensed audience (dispite Activision's underhanded efforts). There was a time, dear readers, when Warcraft was known for more than an MMORPG. There was a time when Blizzard was young and actually had to program entire games in order to stay afloat. Warcraft was created in the vain of Warhammer, and was a Real Time Strategy game where humans fight orcs in a fantasy map setting. The game was a gigantic hit, obviously, and brought about its own fanbase and its own lore that seemed to have no roof to how much people ate it up. 

Warcraft II was a natural progression of this idea. Not only did it up the graphics, but it also upped the ante when it came to gameplay and internet accessibility. Well, we're not going to go into the multiplayer because the Sega Saturn didn't cover that, but we will be going into a lot of the different changes between the first and second game. 

First and foremost, the number of different units has taken steroids with how many there are and how much they affect the gameplay. From the human knights to the orc's ogres, they ramp up the gameplay to a new level to make you strive to keep your buildings up. They upgraded all of the magic, making it a real component to the game's mechanics and they add in one of my favorites, the Death Knights. Paladins are good, Ogre Mages are great, Death Knights are AWESOME! 

Warcraft II was ported to both Sega Saturn and Playstation in its upgraded form, meaning it had the expansion pack built in. To say this was a gift would be an understatement because with both the orc and human campaigns, that means tons of extra gameplay! This was the only Warcraft game to be ported to consoles and somehow we were lucky enough to get a Saturn port. How fortunate. Now, was it a perfect port? No, it definitely didn't outshine the PC original. It was worth playing the Sega Saturn port, for sure, but it also came with its own little niggles. 

As stated before in my other reviews, a controller will never replace the mouse. A controller with a D-pad is harder to control and trying to catch some of these quick little sprites with your controller cursor can be rough. That's just unavoidable. There's also that strange interface where the square pops up beside the unit you click on. It takes some getting used to, to say the least. You need to do a few practice levels to get started, and with how easy the first few levels are, there's plenty of opportunity to do so. 

The graphics also take a downgrade, but it's not as bad as it could be. The framerates are still fine unless you go crazy with the units on the screen, because there can be a lot. In fact, there can be even more than before, but we'll get into that later. Sadly, there's also a loss of voice clips. One thing people love is the ability to click on units relentlessly to get some comedic voice prompts from them. Here, their comedic lines are cut down extensively. What a shame.

Then, we can get into a few shortcomings from the game itself. I know it may be a hot take, but there really shouldn't have been water combat/mechanics. The ship building and the transporting ground units shouldn't have been so prominent in the gameplay because it slows down the pace so terribly bad. It's adding a middle man where they shouldn't have added a middle man. It really should have been just ground units and MAYBE the air units. It's a good thing they learned their lesson about the water combat in Warcraft III, because it was a definite improvement on that front. The air units, though, they didn't go anywhere. 

Aside from the noncombatant air units, there are the dragons and the griffons. Watch out when these things come into the battle. Their damage is meant to take down buildings and multiple units at a time. With these guys on the screen, plus a full ground troop battle, it can make the screen frames chug at a tiresome rate. The good news is that these airtroops take out the middle man of creating water craft and it sinks them within seconds! Of course, results may vary depending on the circumstances, don't take my word for it. 

This is a great way to enjoy the arguably greatest RTS game ever made, on they greatest system ever made. Warcraft III was great in its own right (until Blizzard screwed it up, of course) but Warcraft II has the best balance of both strategy and unit mass creation. You can play this game in both campaign and custom campaign for hours upon hours of fun. It has its flaws but what game doesn't? Do not count this port out, do not forget when Blizzard didn't suck and Activision wasn't siphoning our cash into their micro transaction Scrooge McDuck vault. This is Warcraft in its purest form and it is definitely something you can grind your axe on.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Panzer Dragoon Saga - The Legend and Myth

 Changing the entire genre in a series can be considered premeditated suicide. Beat'em ups have tried to turn into fighting games, fighting games have tried to turn into adventure games, survival horrors have tried to turn into action FPS's and on and on and on. How many times has it actually worked? I'll give you a hint: Not many! So often, turning one game into a new genre makes 10% of it work and 90% of it into a multi million dollar mistake.

Panzer Dragoon is not an example of this, not in the slightest. Somehow, they took one of the greatest railshooters of the Saturn and turned it into a legitamate roleplaying game with scope, stakes, characters and a sense of dread that you can feel throughout its run. Against all odds, they gave flying a dragoon across chasms and deserts a sense of adventure that you can truly feel because no one place out stays its welcome and almost every place you go has new dangers and new obstacles. 

You may not be surprised to find out, but this is widely considered the greatest game on the Sega Saturn. This is one of the greatest weapons in an argument against the Playstation along with Burning Rangers and Nights Into Dreams. It combines the high flying adventures of the first two games with a sense of progression we gleamed from Zwei, then it adds in roleplaying game mechanics which shouldn't have worked but they do for some strange reason.

Let me explain. The first two games worked because the controls and the aiming system, along with the smooth flight gave you a sense of impending danger and fast pace shoot'em up action. You wouldn't think that could translate to a roleplaying game, but you would be wrong, apparently. They made it a very loose turn based system in the vain of Final Fantasy 7. You can fire your dragon laser, gunfire or special move once one attack meter fills up. Some of your berserk moves require more than one to be full so you can perform your larger attacks. It gives you that same intensity because you are under constant attack while you wait for your attack meter to fill.

They also brought in some of the craziest creatures for you to battle. During the battle, you can shift your position from back to forward and either side in order to find the best method of attack. 

There are so many combinations and strategies, it is a tiny bit mind blowing. If one strategy does not work, there are so many more you can try and it is a struggle to keep up with some of these creatures. Your opponents run the gambit from laughably easy, to nail-biting frustration and so on. If you die, come back with a new angle of attack and you may surprise yourself at how well you do. 

Like the other titles, all of this is framed with some of the most beautiful graphics you will see in 32-bits. You will see areas that look so beautiful, decimated and/or barren in Sega Saturn graphics that many of us absolutely love.

Now, that's not to say it is without flaws. There are times when the level progression can be a little confusing as to what needs to be done. Some enemies can also run over the gambit of frustration because their powers and abilities can be seen as near gamebreaking. Does it truly break the game? No, but sometimes that frustration can get a bit overly hot. The load times can also get a bit overly long, as can a few of the cut scenes. At least the latter can be skipped.

By that same token, the satisfaction of completing this quest is beyond powerful. You get that gamer high you crave and it is glorious! This game rivals the greatness of FFVII. You can argue that point until you are blue in the face and stamp the ground with contradictions but the truth of the matter is that they succeeded with what they set out to do.

The development of this game was probably one of the worst tales of hell that has ever graced the platform and that is no exaggeration. There's no need to go into gory details, but there were some very harsh happenings along the way and it was quite the sad story overall because it happened at the end of the Saturn's life cycle. This game never truly reached its full potential in the game market because the Sega Saturn was already on its way to becoming discontinued in the US. It was the story of Burning Rangers all over again. If the Saturn had lasted longer, they could have come out with true greatness such as this and other titles, but sadly, as with many cases in the Saturn's library, it was constantly overlooked.

The silver lining is that the Panzer Dragoon franchise trilogy is seen as some of the greatest games on this one particular system and only on this system. Why they have not come out with a master collection is beyond me but at least they've started with the Panzer Dragoon 1 remake. It was nothing groundbreaking and it lacked the charm of the original but at least it was an acknowledgement. These games are timeless and deserve to be given life once again and we can only hope that Zwei and Saga are given the same if not better treatment. If you have not played these games, there cannot be a stronger recommendation. Try what you can to get a copy and do not forget to lead your dragoon to water.

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.