Monday 27 August 2012

Lots of Saturn commercials

There's a user on youtube who goes by the name of "therealbluedragon" whose channel I subscribed to due to his rather great "Battle of the Ports" videos, where he puts up Saturn and Playstation versions of the same game against one another to see which is the best (this is not just for showing off, mind you, at that time the quality of the ports could vary wildly and there was no sure winner, so for a gamer nowadays it's helpful to know which version should we invest in).

He's now uploaded a buck load of Saturn-related videos, from game trailers to promo videos, which I now repost here for your viewing pleasure :)

Thursday 26 July 2012

Classic Game Room reviews Daytona USA:CCE

Whether you like his unique approach to game reviews or not, you got to give it to this guy to always show Sega some love, specially the Dreamcast and Saturn. I mean, nowadays what other game show will do a review for a game from 1996? This time it's Daytona USA, not the original release but the improved Championship Circuit Edition. I don't I have this one, only the regular Daytona. Seems like I'll have to track it down, cause it looks really good.

Thursday 5 July 2012

NiGHTS into Dreams coming to XBLA/PSN/Steam!

Well how is this for a lovely surprise? NiGHTS Into Dreams, the original game on the Saturn was released on this day 16 years ago and to celebrate Sega has revealed a re-release of the game for Xbox live Arcade, Playstation Network and Steam! The announcement trailer is below!

For those not in the know, back in 2008 there was a remake of NiGHTS for the Playstation 2. It included the game with updated graphics as well as the option to play the game with the original Saturn graphics, and even included the Christmas NiGHTS special content! Sadly this remake, which was released in a lovely box set with an art book, was only released in Japan so we never got to play it without importing.

Until now that is! This appears to be more or less that in HD with added trophies/achievements and online leaderboards. There is no sign of Christmas NiGHTS being included or if it will be additional DLC afterwards yet. The game is one of the most unique from the Sega Saturn and one of Sonic Teams true masterpieces, including an atmosphere, characters and music quite unlike anything else and addictive score attack arcade style gameplay.

There was also a sequel on the Wii, but while it was ok it didn't really hold a candle to the first one due to pointless gameplay changes, unintentionally creepy/funny cut scenes and filler levels that were not all that much fun.

Can we except more Saturn ports from Sega in the future? While this one had a PS2 remake to work from, games like Panzer Dragoon Saga would be a lot more difficult due to Sega over the years somehow losing the source code, but never say never! If a bunch of fans of NiGHTS can campain for a re-release and eventually get it, I don't see why not, though I reckon Shenmue and Skies of Arcadia will be next on their list of much requested ports. Sega are in financial trouble as of late and have even shut all but one of their European headquarters, so download ports like this should hopefully gets their profits back up.

This month on Together Retro - Guardian Heroes

Haven't heard of Together Retro? It's a great initiative on the part of Racketboy, whose great website has already been featured here on the 'yard. To put it simple, think of it as a sort of book club, only with games instead. Every month there's a new retro game, and we discuss it on the forums as we play it, telling our experiences, sharing tricks and tips, basically just motivating each other to experience some of the best games that, otherwise, may be forgotten.

This month is actually an exception to the rule, as we get not one but two games, although they're somewhat related, having been made by the same company (the inimitable Treasure) know, featuring titles with "G-something Heroes". What do you mean, that's not a good enough reason???

Anyway, yeah, Guardian Heroes! What Saturn fan has never heard of this game? It's pretty damn famous, both because of its quality and rarity, warranting a pretty hefty price on the second-hand market. Which is a shame, really, because such a classic should be more accessible, and maybe that's why they released and HD port on Xbox Live (no PSN, though) so there's really no excuse for not playing this gem. Unless, of course, you don't own an Xbox. But I digress...

(quick look at the gameplay, if you just wan to see what it looks like)

I'm speaking like I've actually played it a lot, but to be honest this was the first time I tried it out. And I'm glad I did, because it really is an amazing game. The graphics have really stood the test of time in my opinion, the backgrounds are just gorgeous and the characters' sprites look great too. The gameplay is accessible, enjoyable and overall just feels great, I really had a blast playing this one. It's basically a brawler, like Streets of Rage, but it has a lot more depth. Our characters have a whole array of different moves, more akin to a 1 on 1 fighter, and there's a level up system, just like in an RPG. There's also lost of different paths to take in story mode, again just like in a modern RPG, and while a single playthrough is not that long, the game almost demands that you play through it multiple times, with different characters and choosing different paths.

(full-featured review by the HappyConsole Gamer - I just like this guy)

And then there's also multiplayer. Haven't tried that out, but it looks like a lot of fun if you have the friends and hardware.

So, yeah, go play it! You won't regret it.

UPDATE: In a weird twist of fate, both the first and last posts on the mainpage right now are about GH :D

Thursday 28 June 2012

Some hidden gems from the Japanese Library

Segata Sanshiro would be proud of me recently. I finally, after years of wanting and needing one, got a fully modded Saturn that can play any region of game as well as play in either 50 or 60hz, and every game looks beautiful on my LCD TV with it, unlike my Japanese Saturn which looked quite muddy and fuzzy on it for some reason. The only thing the system can not do is play CD-Rs (Unless I do that disc swap trick thing which I would rather not risk trying) so you know what that means: buy more games!

Thanks to this I have been back into collecting Saturn games again, and currently have 74 Japanese and 28 PAL games for it. A lot (and I mean a LOT) of games have escaped my grasp as they were bidded way to high up for my budget, but I have from time to time grabbed a bargain or two. I have also been able to find some truly underrated gems that not a lot of people seem to talk about, at least I think they're underrated..some people might disagree but PFFFFT to you. Anyway here's a choice selection of recent purchases I have really enjoyed.

First up: Goiken Muyou Anarchy in the Nippon. The box art doesn't do much to sell it does it? Looking up this one's development history will however: it was put together by a chunk of the staff who worked on the Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 2, who wanted to develop another fighter straight after so went off to make it themselves when Sega wasn't interested.

What you end up with is a game that plays a lot like Virtua Fighter, and is just as if not even slicker than Virtua Fighter 2 on the Saturn, but also has more of a sense of humor to it. For example two of the characters are a middle aged business man with residing hair and a fat old biddy with flamboyant glasses. The menus are are a little tricky to navigate without Japanese knowledge, but there are loads of game modes to choose from, and it's a really solid 3D fighter that still holds up well. Best of all it's a super cheap game nowadays.

This 2nd choice was admittedly not that cheap, at least compared to the other games here, as it got bidded up to around £20, which is not all too bad compared to other shooters ion the Saturn that's for sure! Sol Divide is a scrolling shooter with a difference: instead of a spaceship you are controlling a warrior floating around that can cast magic of all kinds (wind, ice, fire, you name it) and can get up close and personal to the enemies and smack them upside the head.

It has pre rendered sprites that are not the best looking now a days, but the game has a very cool Jason and the Argonauts style to it, and some of the massive boss sprites are really neat. In typical Psikyo fashion it has loads of difficulty settings that get increasingly insulting as you drop down easier: the bottom two are child and MONKEY. Do you want to be a monkey? Only if I get to fling shit at passers by. Sengoku Blade is supposed to be a follow up to this and a lot better, but this was the much cheaper option and I have had a lot of fun with it. So there.

Last but not least is this game I got just this week which has possibly become one of my favorites on the system in no time at all, and was an absolute bargain at under a tenner. Vatlva is a vehicle combat game with a top down perspective developed by Ancient, known for such classics as Streets of Rage 2 and the Story of Thor. You know what those games and this one also have in common? That's right! A soundtrack by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro! That along may me want to try this out, even if the gameplay turned out to not be that great.

But what do you know, this game is ridiculously fun! You move around the arena almost like a RC car, against anything from 1 to 5 other opponents (depending if you pick tam battle or not) and you have a ton of weapons at your disposable, which i have to mention can be mapped and customized to any button you want, and you can have six weapons at a time! Anything from standards bullets, missiles, bombs that shoot either front or back, close range attacks like buzzsaws, a shield and more bizarre weapons, like one which when it hits the opponent swaps the two of yous positions around! There is a ton of variety to how you can take out your foes.

The music is pumping, the action is fast, and you can even knock your opponent about when they have fallen out of their vehicle in defeat! Oh, and did I mention the multiplayer mode is up to six players? I really need to get a multi tap and some more controllers. Oh and almost all the menus are in English. This doesn't appear to be a very common game, but it is also not a expensive one either: as I said I manged to snag it for under £10. If you like multiplayer madness like Saturn Bomberman this is a must own.

Games like the three above are why I love the Saturn so much. They are not considered as classics or well known by gamers so they do not cost a bomb to pick up but most importantly they are great fun that still hold up today which can not be said for quite a chunk of games from the early 3D era. Grab them while they are (not) hot! You will not regret adding these to your collection.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

The Saturn gets new games!

Our beloved console may not get as many new games developed for it as the Dreamcast, but that doesn't keep it from getting a few unreleased/lost games from time to time. Remember Return Fire, a lovely action game that found its way onto the internet a few years ago? The same team that got a full working copy of that game and released it for free for all of us to enjoy has done it again, although this time we're talking about an unfinished game, so don't expect a full-featured title but more of a glorified demo.

 Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Major Damage

Available as a free download that can be played either on a emulator or on real hardware, provided you have a way to boot it, they went so far as to also make some rather nice artwork, in case we want to put it in a case, all nice and pretty among the rest of the collection.

I immediately proceeded to download the game and burn it to play on my modded Saturn. The file I got (from another site, at the time I didn't know it was also available on the official page) came with two discs, actually, labelled 146 and 157. I couldn't fin any info on why there were two discs instead of just one, and what was the difference, so I thought I'd just check them out. 157 looks like a very earlier version, with only one level that I couldn't beat because my character just got stuck at the end. 146 is where it's at, with three whole levels, which may not look like much but it's the best we can get.

About the game itself, it's an action platformer that somewhat resembles Contra or Metal Slug. It's very fast paced, with enemies coming from all angles and constantly respawning behind you. There's pits where you can fall to your death, platforms to jump, power-ups for the guns, typical action stuff. Unfortunately you can't die, which takes away all the pressure from the game. Other bugs include stairs, where you can pass through the steps, and the character sprites flashing in a weird pattern, but overall it's actually in quite a finished state. The graphics are very well done. The floor is 3D with very detailed 2D backgrounds and character sprites, and everything has that typical American cartoon look. The big drawback, as I've said before, is that this version only has three levels (the first and the third being really similar), which you can beat in 10 minutes or less, but there's a lot to see, specially on the 2nd level, where there are several shops in the background with funny titles that really make you want to pause for a second just to read them.

Overall though, I have to admit the game is somewhat average, even considering its unfinished state, and to make it worse we only get to play three levels (and two characters that play basically the same), so to say you'll have a blast playing this would probably be a lie. But in the end, and unlike Return Fire, this is not really meant to be played like a regular game, it's more of a piece of Saturn history, a game that could have been but wasn't, and this unfinished version is definitely better than just looking at magazine screenshots and wondering what it would be like.

And it's technically a new piece of software, for your Saturn, 14 years after the console was officially discontinued. So go play it right now! It'll only take a couple of minutes anyway :D

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Recent acquisitions and ramblings

Still alive, guys! Still alive! Just really, really busy... Still, that didn't prevent me from acquiring a little something for my Saturn Collection. Lo and behold, my very own Saturn light gun!

God knows how long I've been after one of these bad boys, but the prices over here kept me from just jumping in. At last I saw one that was affordable enough for my dwindling wallet. Unfortunately it suffered quite a rough journey, even though I specifically asked the seller to sent it via registered mail, which he did, those monkeys at the post office must have played football with it or something, because they managed to break that part where the hammer would be on a real gun. Shit...

Still, it works like a charm, and that's what really matters in the end, since I bought it to play, not collect. and play I have! I immediately grabbed myself a copy of House of the Dead, and been having a blast, blasting (excuse the redundancy) zombies away. What a gory little game. BTW, do you guys have any suggestions as to what games to play next? I've already played Virtua Cop 1 and 2 to death on the rather great PS2 collection, so I'm looking for something else.

Oh, and I noticed the header up there was out, for some reason the server where the image was hosted deleted it or something. I couldn't find the original file anywhere, but I think it looked like this. Better than just an empty space, I think :)