Tuesday 30 July 2019

Tomb Raider - A Tale of Two Laras

Still arguably one of the greatest early 3D action/adventure games in history! Tomb Raider needs no introduction, but in case you are mistaking it for that laughable new series, here is one anyway. Tomb Raider features a billionaire woman named Lara Croft who takes a job because she finds it interesting. The whole plot hinges on her flare for adventure and her love for the great unknown. She uses her money and power to go on frequent trips all over the globe to collect artifacts and dodge breath-taking dangers in ruins and temples.

That’s right, folks, this is not the Lara Croft we are introduced to in the remake series. She didn’t have to make a big deal out of her first kill, nor did she have to do all of those monotonous sneak missions to get food and survive in the wilderness. We actually knew very little about her in the beginning, and that worked in her favor. The original game is not complicated in its mechanics and it doesn’t take a great deal of time to get use to the controls. In fact, the controls are more than intuitive, they are amazingly easy.

The biggest challenge you have in this game is the direction and free roaming exploring that can get you lost. Anyone who played the original game can tell you all about the tiger cave. You shoot the tiger with your twin pistols, and then after that you spend four hours trying to find the way out. The puzzles can also be a little challenging to figure out, it can take some brain power and a little more than common sense.

The game just feels good to play, and getting lost in the experience is very easy to do. The only thing that may pull you out of it nowadays is the graphics. The game itself is no spring chicken, and the graphics aged just about as well as you would expect. Still, that doesn’t really matter. The graphics still function properly and the best part about it is they look the part while also not dragging down any framerates.

This, my friends, is a game that should have been studied much more before they went and made their own Lara Croft for this generation of games. It didn’t take three whole games for her to be “The Tomb Raider.” She started out as the Tomb Raider, and she was badass! Lara Croft became something of a sex symbol (even given her triangular chest) and has been hailed as one of the best game characters ever created. That was this Lara, not the new one. Then there’s the fact that it is still the most successful game in the entire franchise.

You can go into everything that spawned from this game. It was so successful that it took only five years for them to come out with a film. Despite the movie’s quality, it was still very impressive for a brand new franchise and showcases just how well this one video game did. It was a marvel of its time and just about everything it did screamed “genius!”

It really goes to show you how enginuity can outweigh the benefits of having a big budget. Creative minds think a lot better than cash does, for sure. Gaming today doesn’t seem to understand that sort of thing. You can have your so-called “new Lara Croft” but as for us retro gamers, we’ll stick to polygon mammaries, blocky caves and superior gameplay. Accept no substitutes. Virtua Dive!

Friday 26 July 2019

Top/Bottom 3 Virtua Superhero Games - How's my Cape Look?

The superhero genre has always been celebrated ever since Siegel and Shuster created one of the most iconic caped wonders back in the late 1930’s. Over the years, changing tones and changing times have brought them back and forth from fame to shame and back again. Well, now superheroes are back in action after over a decade of success. Unfortunately, the system we celebrate here on Planet Virtua was not created during one of the comic book haydays. It took a while after the system was discontinued for masked heroes to climb to the new heights they have today. So, sadly, there was not a huge push for the genre.

That doesn’t mean it was a barren concept, though. In fact, this was when the Fighting Franchise vs Fighting Franchise idea really took off. Marvel vs DC was so well received that Capcom looked at their licenses and went “We can do this!” God bless them for this! Thanks to Capcom’s gusto, we have a large line of fighting games that incorporate many of our favorite characters from our favorite comics! There were, sadly, some duds along the way too.

Top 3 Superhero Games!

3. X-men: Children of Atom

This was the first superhero game released for the Sega Saturn and they got it right! Once again, the system shows off its capabilities by showcasing arcade-style graphics with minimal slowdown. The real gripe for this game is a limited roster, however, with so few characters, they chose the right ones. Other than the sentinel character, you can pick and choose among some favorites. In top Capcom fashion, the fighting is satisfying as hell.

2. Marvel vs Street Fighter

Now, we have one of the front runners of its time. This game was a gigantic hit in arcades and the fact that Saturn could simulate that experience to a high degree made it a very strong title. It is still played today, even with Marvel vs Capcom games coming out with strangulated regularity, people still gravitate toward the classics. Of course, it features your favorites: Spider-man, Wolverine, Captain America and the main cast of Street Fighter. However, there were also some very odd choices. Shuman-Gorath hasn’t exactly been well known through the Marvel universe but he makes his debut video game appearance here, much to the puzzlement of the vast populace. Why did they need a tentacle monster in a game with anime style cha--- You know what, never mind. NEXT!

1. Marvel Super Heroes

What’s this? A Marvel game that came out in 1997 and is somehow even more relevant today? Be still, my beating heart! A game based on the storyline behind the “Infinity Gauntlet” arc in the comics is something of a novelty to begin with, let alone the fact that two blockbuster hits came out based on the same thing. By some grace and miracle, Thanos is an unlockable character in this amazing title. Add him on top of all of the Marvel favorites and you’ve got arguably the best superhero fighting game on the Saturn! Not to mention the return of Shuman-G--OH CRAP! HE’S BACK AGA--

Bottom 3 Superhero Games!

3. Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

Don’t panic, this is not the SNES Acclaim reject that should have never been. This is just a 2D beat’em up featuring Batman, Robin, Two-Face and the Riddler. Finding this title is rather easy and it is fairly cheap by comparison to other Saturn games. There’s a reason for this. While many arcade games made a nice, smooth transaction to the system, this one did not. Not at all. With missing frames, cheap looking graphics added to the repetitive nature of the Beat’em Up, you pretty much have a forgettable title. There’s really not much else that can be said about this one. It’s really just mediocre and bland. In fact, with the SNES tie-in game, you at least have some complaining you can do to entertain yourself. Not that I… complain about games… to entertain… alright, moving on.

2. The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga

Not to be confused with a good Hulk game… if there is such a thing. The Hulk has to traverse through buildings that he can literally crumble with one smash. Now he has to take his time, hit levers and smash glass cases to figure out puzzles. The fighting is so mediocre and boring, and so is the game as a whole. Worst of all, the Hulk is weak and can apparently be taken down with very little fire or a couple of bullets. He’s not so much the Hulk as he is an Ulk… or maybe just an Lk.

1. The Crow City of Angels

Yes, you’re right, bit of a Virtua Retread, but this game really can’t be bad talked enough. When your game’s best quality is its backgrounds and horrific voice acting of joy, you screwed up big time. Whether there was any other dialogue other than “Hey, clown face!” I really cannot say because that seemed to be all the thugs said when you approached them. The graphics on every single character look like someone held them over a fire for a few minutes and threw them into the game. They didn’t even make a video game for The Crow’s original movie. Why in the hell did they go for the ridiculously terrible sequel?! It’s really no wonder no one remembers him as a Superhero at all, more just a cult classic movie starring Brandon Lee. Let’s just remember that movie and act like nothing else came out of the franchise.

Due to the Sega Saturn's somewhat limited number of popular licenses, there really were very few games to choose from. Capcom more or less cornered the market when it came to playable comic book crusaders. Unfortunately, that means that it’s relegated down to simple fighting games. It took a long time for the comic book industry to recover from the hard hit it took during the 80’s and 90’s in popularity. As it turns out, film was where the superheroes belonged, it just took the right vision to put them there.

Take that as you will. With less Superhero games than we all would like, the Saturn struggled with the genre. However, what we had was entertaining as hell. If you can get ahold of any of these titles, be sure to do so. Even the terrible ones are fun to poke fun at. Especially when you feel slimy tentacles wriggling over your arms and neck and cutting off your air ways so you can’t brea---AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Virtual Hydlide - Virtua Vomit!

Ah, yon traveler! Far have you journeyed in your quest to find the princess who was changed into the three fairies by the dragon! Long have you fought the trees and the bees and faced off against the long, twisting and turning halls of the cave! Your journey has come this far, but hark unto me! You forgot to look in the 4th room of the 2nd cave and you forgot an item! Good luck back tracking!

Who can forget the wondrous feel of those awesome fantasy games of old? Those classic knights and dragon games where you had to use a lot of imagination while you played were a staple of old RPG's. That awesome feeling of destroying your enemy and gaining those sweet levels on your way to destroy the master of evil. Toss all of that aside for the one known as Jim! That’s right, you are now Jim and you’re rummaging through random crap to face the evil overlord.

The first thing you may notice, when you pop this into your Saturn for some ungodly reason, is that the character looks extremely plain and very bland. Sure, starting with a blank slate is a good thing, but this? He doesn’t even look like a product of the middle ages, he looks far too much like every single white guy with dark hair ever! He is so generic that putting armor on him makes him look like a guy with an armor overlayer. It’s like they found the perfect mismatch character and they were none the wiser.

Then there's the item system. Using items in any capacity is a hassle no matter how you slice it. Bringing up the interface for any reason forces you to stop what you're doing and concentrate on it. This was fine back in the 8-bit era when we were first working out the mechanics of a game, but now? They should know better. There are so many items you have to dig through, it slows the game's pace which didn't need any more hindering to begin with.

Add that to some of the worst landscapes brought to 32-bits and you have a craptacular journey ahead of you. You travel around forests and caves with a straight back point of view, this makes hit detection almost impossible because the vantage has no depth perception. You could be swinging your club at a monster from two feet away instead of two inches and you wouldn’t be able to tell.

The quests you go on can all equate to “Go to this place and get this thing.” Fetch quests are aplenty and they’re only made harder through their monotony. If you are not lulled into a passive sense of blandness, then you are frustrated that every single enemy you face can kill you in just one or two hits. The abrupt and tedious deaths are common place here. You could finally feel like you’re getting somewhere, but then you run into a tree that contains a patch of bees and it’s over. They kill you almost instantly and don’t apologize. They don’t even buy you a drink!

After you die, the load times become ridiculous! Between levels and continue screens, the load times are around 50% of the game! It gets so boring! The worst thing you could do to a game is make it boring and unplayable. This game is playable, but just barely.

The castle setting is probably the best you’ll find in this game, as they do look quite nice and actually reflect well with the game’s “tone.” The caves, however, are just black walls, black floor and some dark gray bones. You will run into the wall constantly if you do not keep a close eye on the map. They become a problem, especially when you’re forced to platform! Yes! Platforming from a back point of view in a game where you did not have to platform anywhere else. Well, there’s a platforming cave and good luck getting everything you need out of it!

While this is popularly known as the worst game on the Saturn, it’s honestly playable enough to stay away from the top of the list. However, it has made so many worst game lists, it’s comical at this point. If you don’t suffer from motion sickness as the POV and the framerate, it may be worth your time to try. Some people actually like it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you troll someone into buying it, lying to their faces, we shall fire our Virtua Beam Cannons into your face! Virtua DIE!!!!

Saturday 20 July 2019

Life on Saturn

Thoughts from someone who, until recently, had never owned or played a Saturn.

I love racing games. It's one of those genres, along with tower defence, which I just keep coming back to. I get a buzz from starting a race and then realising that I know the track from a completely different game (or indeed system.)

It's one of my gaming regrets that my family do not really enjoy racing games. There's no one who will go head to head with me in anything other than Mario Kart. And whilst MK has its place and is huge fun, races which aren't decided by a well placed banana hold more appeal to me.

Which brings me onto...

Image result for daytona saturn

The only other Daytona game I've played is a Dreamcast one which I remember being extremely twitchy. So I was interested to see how its predecessor played.

The first thing that hit me about the game was the music. I'm sure there's been loads written about it so I'm not going to say much other than: it seems incredibly positive. The sort of thing which might be played at a funeral as people are leaving. So musically, it's a big thumbs up.

The other aspect about the sound which I found interesting was the voice. It's everywhere! I wondered if SEGA (or AM2?) were trying to prove a point back in the day. My favourite instance was when I inputted my initials. Especially when it said all 3 back to me like it was trying to read.

As I started the game my 14 year old daughter glanced up from her book, "Why does it say 'Gentlemen start your engines?"
Image result for daytona saturn crash
Just in case you didn't hear it.


Whilst racing, my 16 year old son wanders in to ask if I'd like a go at Tetris 99. He looks at the tv and adds, "but I can see you're playing this graphical masterpiece!"
Honestly, the youth of today.

But, in truth, I didn't really try to defend the graphics. I found them difficult to enjoy. I prefer the handling to the Dreamcast version but I find the game as a whole rather headache inducing.

As with all driving games, I'm not very good when I first start. It is easy to overtake a few cars but then I started to bump into the walls and lose a lot of speed. I liked the skid animation and the crashes were impressive. There's always something satisfying about smashing cars up. I liked the way the car took damage and the suspension started to rapidly rock up and down as if there were a couple of bunnies inside doing what bunnies do best.

The ultimate test of whether a driving game is enjoyable in our house is how long it takes someone to start driving backwards round the course. I knew the game was not going to be a winner when my 9 year old, who wanted a turn, began to do this after just a few laps.

I enjoyed Daytona but, sadly, I won't be coming back to it very often. The graphics and frame rate just hold it back for me.

Now, where's that banana?

Wednesday 17 July 2019

WWF In Your House - WTF RAW!!!

That’s right, you heard me! This ain’t no WWE crap! This is raw, unbridled wrestling back when WCW and WWF were competing for the top spot in the cable charts. Back when Hulk Hogan was a bad guy in NWO and McMahan didn’t talk like he had a bottle brush shoved down his throat. This point in time had many legendary match-ups happening within months of each other and the internet was just starting to give away all of the secrets before they happened. Wrestling was at a great peak in popularity.

Now the real question this review asks: Why in the hell would you make something like this? Not only were there better wrestling titles out at the time, but there were better titles out for past consoles. It really made no sense. There was some charm to the idea, having them use super human powers that went along with their wrestling personas. The execution, however, was less than stellar. Acclaim shows off their usual real person avatars, but they are without polish. They didn’t blend in with the background and to see random stuff bouncing out of their mouths when they’re slammed was off-putting to say the least.

The roster, while actually somewhat good, is still a problem. Some of these guys are WWF legends and now this game is more or less making them into a joke! Their moves are cartoony, their catchphrases rake against the ear and the worst part about it is none of their signature moves are on display as they were in games past. 

So, now you have real life people spitting up bizarre things and blasting each other with comic book superhero abilities. Not, in itself, a deal breaker because you seem to get use to it over time. Then you start with the actual gameplay and there’s where this game goes off the sidelines once again. You have wrestling moves, yes, but the action is just run and gun beat’em up. Again, not terrible by itself, but then it sinks in.

It’s a fighting game, mindless and fast paced, then the pinning system is literally nonexistent. You pin them as they run out of hitpoints and they cannot get back up. There is no endurance meter and beyond that, there is no gameplay system. It’s a non-gory Mortal Kombat where you pin someone at the end. The fighting system is about as shallow as it can get. The combos are not worth learning as the game is laughably easy.

These alone make the game somewhat below average in the grand scope, but then it has to speak. Yes, the technology of sound cards in live action videos and speech were somewhat new, but this was just awful. PS1 did not get the wrestler catch phrases, the Sega Saturn did. You get these awkward, terribly misplaced sound clips of the wrestlers (especially Golddust) saying some trivial nonsense at the end of every fight. Then there’s the announcers. They’re there to make the game seem more like a wrestling game, but they only succeed in saying pointless phrases such as “This is insanity!” or “That’s not a good idea!” or something to that effect. They make playing every match a minor annoyance that only builds in severity as you keep playing.

As a wrestling fan of the time, this was a sore misuse of the WWF property. The gameplay is uninspired, the Saturn graphics are better than the PS1 but that’s not saying much, and it just gets repetitive to the point of monotony very quickly. This game is far from horrific, though. The hit detection is up to par, the action can be fun in small doses, and now we have the nostalgia goggles on because not all of these wrestlers are still alive today, and many of them have since retired. If you’re a fan of these characters, you could do worse. It can be fun if you dull your senses down to its level. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you. VIRTUA SLAM!!!!

Wednesday 3 July 2019

The Crow City of Angels - Crow for Help!

Even if you have never seen the Brandon Lee movie, even if you have never heard of the comic series or anything even remotely related to the Crow; it is universally believed that you will still hate this game. Game? Did I say game? I meant void. This is devoid of any quality, fun, coherence, story, or pleasure of any sort. Calling this a trainwreck would be giving it entirely too much credit. How could Acclaim look at this and just say “Wow, this is something we can release! For sure!”

Whatever their reason, they released it, and this is what we have. The first thing we see when we put this into our Sega Saturn (as a means to punish it, borderline abusing it) is the background. The background is literally the only slightly endearing quality about this whole game. That’s right, it’s got a pretty good gothic quality about it, and would have been suited for a much BETTER game. That’s it, that’s all of the good nature I have right now. Time to take off the gloves and put on the CHAINSAW RRRRUUUMMMRUUMMRUMMRUMM!!!!

The very first scene is nice to look at for three seconds, then you realize that your character does not move the camera. It’s a fixed position camera, much like Resident Evil, only very poorly done (if that had not been obvious already). Your character will be at the most awkward angles imaginable, and you will be expected to fight random deadbeats. These guys have the worst sound clips with some of the most repetitive dialogue that will cause you to regret having eardrums!

Not only can you usually not see the action as it’s happening because of the camera, you also have to be in the most perfect spot in order to have any sort of hit detection. Sometimes you’ll hit them, but most of the time, you’ll get pummeled. The graphics do not help in the very least. Your character looks blocky as hell (moreso than normal) so measuring his arm’s length like a normal human being is useless. Your arm can punch straight through your enemy, but it’ll be read as a glitch 99.9% of the time. The enemy will be unharmed and then beat you senseless, making you die.

Weapons are, like the game itself, useless. The camera angles constantly hide these improvised street fighting weapons from sight. Even if you pick them up, you will soon drop them when your opponent knocks you on your ass for the millionth time. It doesn’t matter if you are close to the camera, or a single blocky pixel in the background, your hit detection is nonexistent. Your movement speed and direction are literally all over the place.

Hit detection is awful, but the bad guys’ detection is A-Okay! Their hits smack you in the face and some of them have guns! Yeah! They have guns and throwing knives. So while you’re getting pummeled up front, some guy in the background will blast your ass and make you die. Don’t bother getting the gun, you will only shoot air.

Alright, so if you’re not convinced this is one of the worst games on the Sega Saturn, then by all means, find a worse one. Then don’t play the worse one and play something with Spawn in it instead. This has been on more than one "Worst Saturn Games" lists, and even some worst games of all time lists. There is literally no excuse for this. Much like all of the movies with lazy directors that should never have been made, one QA expert should have looked at this from one single angle and put a stamp of “not ready” or “dump at Chernobyl” directly on it. As said in the Saturn’s 10 Least Favorite Virtua Insanity, this game is literally unplayable. It is not worth getting use to the delayed, clunky controls and any effort to get good at the game is effort better spent playing E.T. on the Atari 2600. Yeah, I said it. Virtua Fight me.