Monday 27 December 2021

Myst versus D - Point and Puzzlers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 23 December 2021

Die Hard Trilogy - Dreaming of a Red X-mas


When you want a good time, you want a bit of variety, right? Why settle for one when you can have three? Although Die Hard Arcade is still a very good 3D beat'em up, and a jolly good bit of fun, Die Hard Trilogy is a bundle of fun on top of a frantic fast and furious ride (yes, I know what I said). So, now that it is the holiday season, why not end the year with a fantastic Christmas game? Whatever your thoughts on its status as a Christmas theme, this is what we're going with. 

The first game is probably the weakest of the three, but it's still a load of awesome gameplay. You lead McClane through a parking garage and shoot down some baddies. As simple as it is, you can go pretty crazy with your gun and keep firing off your gun as they surround you over and over again. Is it easy? Not especially, the bad guys can gang up on you pretty quick if you are not careful. Thankfully, the real saving grace for this section of the game is that there is a map for you to keep track of where everyone is. No matter how good you are, chances are you will be getting some hits. 

Making your way through the building, things do not improve for you. Men come out of nowhere and they keep up the heat! Help the hostages escape and cause as many explosions as you can to take down the criminals as you make your way toward the roof. You get machine guns, shotguns, grenades, and just about as much blood as you can stand. The real problem with this game is that it can be repetitive but that's to be expected with such a bare bones 3rd person shooter. So long as you pay attention to your surroundings, you can beat this game with a bit of patience and fast reflexes. Is it perfect? No, but really, when you're in the mood for some mindless shooting, just pick it up and start firing. Yippee Ki-yay.

The second game, Die Harder, is a railshooter, almost a Virtua Cop clone with a lot more blood. I do mean a LOT more blood. One shot and the criminals are a torrent of red, it's hilarious. Is it as good as Virtua Cop? Not really, but it's still a lot of run and gun fun for everyone. One nice feature is that it boasts a much higher ammo clip and you're able to turn the screen slightly when you're aiming off of it. It's chaotic, which is a good thing and a bad thing, because sometimes there's a bit too much action on the screen and the framerate can take a bit of a hit. 

Explosions are where this game really flourishes. Who doesn't love setting off a grenade only to have five puddles of blood to splatter everywhere? One real problem with this game is that the innocent civilians will literally saunter onto the screen without a care in the world. Because why run for cover when you can just get in the way of gunfire? They've obviously got a plane to catch so why wait? Run through the bullets! Make your way through the entire airport so you can get to the runway to fire down an entire jumbo jet! That's right, the main baddie is a passenger aircraft! Will wonders never cease? 

Now comes my personal favorite game in the trilogy. Some may call it Die Hard With a Vengeance, but I call it blood wipers. You drive through New York City streets, you drive through Central Park and you drive against a nefarious garbage truck. You can do all of this and beat the clock, taking down the bombs or you can just drive around and run into cars and pedestrians because why not? Blood on your windshield can just be wiped off because why not? The free wheeling style of this game can nearly be considered addictive. It's fast and bloody and beautiful!

One thing you may notice from all three of these titles is that they are unbearably simple. They are about as bare bones as it comes. This is a turn off for some, and that's understandable. However, as said before, this game is all about variety and it has that in spades. Die Hard Arcade adds a beat'em up element that could be considered one of the many features, so long as you possess both of these games. Die Hard Trilogy is something to pick up and just lose yourself into some brutal violence with guns and manslaughter where you don't need to worry about the 32-bit people you are destroying. 

Love it or hate it, Die Hard Trilogy is delicious junk food. You can eat it by the handfuls or you can have a light snack, it doesn't matter. Just put in your initials or a curse word in the top list, and have a Merry Christmas, because that's what it's all about in the end.

Sunday 19 December 2021

Burning Rangers - Charge your Water Zappers!

Of all the titles that deserve recognition that got none of it, Burning Rangers is probably the finest. This is a game that Sonic Team created especially for the Sega Saturn that pushed its boundaries to its very limits. The real problem was that it came at the end of the Saturn's lifespan, when it was already being discontinued. It was very expensive to make, and Sega was cutting their losses, so it became a very limited release. Thus, it became rare and excruciatingly expensive as a result. Its quality cannot be overstated, though. 

In this game, you are a fire fighter of the future. You go through burning buildings, extinguishing fires and rescuing victims that are caught in the fire. You are also flying through the dangers and trying to stay alive, while strange things are happening all around you. The game is very simple to learn but very hard to master. There is some 3D platforming to get through and it can be very tricky. 

The story is not especially deep, but it is still deep enough to where you learn about your characters, meet them and begin to care about them. You choose between two characters and learn how to use your equipment. You have water beams (yes, water beams) you can use to put out fires that spontaneously come out of nowhere. Sometimes the fires appear so fast that you have a hair trigger of a second in order to dodge back and put them out. You also have your jet pack that you can use to get through the buildings and all of their levels. 

There are flaws in this game, obviously. Sometimes the camera doesn't do what you want it to do and sometimes the game will tell you to go a certain way, but the command will be vague or just downright incorrect. You definitely cannot play this without sound, because then you will be missing some very important messages that will help you throughout it. The platforming can be downright unforgiving, especially if the camera is not cooperating with you. The time limits are also quite unforgiving, but once you get use to the controls and the level layouts as you play, these hardships can be overcome by sheer strength of will. The urge to play this game can get downright addictive because it is such a smooth experience.

Collecting crystals is also something of a headache. Putting out fires will get you some crystals for armor and such, but sometimes you don't have enough crystals to save all of the civilians and it can become something of a slog to try and even it out. Crystals also help protect you from the fire's burn but try your best not to waste them. On top of everything else, this can be some of the more challenging aspects.

The graphics in this game are unparalleled and even rivals some of the later systems of Dreamcast and PS2 in how amazing they look. Burning Rangers boasts some of the most impressive graphics because of Sonic Team's dedication and experience. They were obviously swinging for the fences with this title, which makes it all the more sad that it never got the praise it truly deserved. Obviously, this title has gotten a fanbase all its own and there have even been fans who petition Sega for a revival of the franchise and even sequels and remakes. They want anything having to do with this title to be done, even going so far as to make fan revivals themselves. 

If you haven't guessed already, this is one of the greatest games on the system. Its very being is that of nostalgia within its heavy polygons, its atmospheric aesthetics and the anime stylings of Japan. It is a gem in the Saturn's collection that rivals many of the Playstation's finest titles. Do yourself a favor and play this game however you can without spending too much money. It is not worth emptying your bank account to scalpers who covet it, don't give them the satisfaction. Buy yourself a reproduction or get it on a rom, it's too old of a game for anyone else to care about its development costs and you'll be glad you did. Start putting out fires and don't forget to drink your water lasers.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Virtua Cop 2 - Virtua Boogaloo

Try as I might, I don't want to make reviews solely based on personal opinion. Though, it slips through a lot of the time, there is always an edge of truth and objectivity concerning the reviews I write for the Junkyard. I love Virtua Cop 2 but the first one is my favorite concerning them. Take that for what you will, but VC2 is still an absolute grand time! 

The sequel takes everything we love about the first game, polishes it, and slaps on more mechanics for us to enjoy in brand new ways. It adds excitement, because not only do we go on the rails, firing our weapons at criminals on a rail, but we also get into a car and have a high octane car chase, shooting at other cars with baddies at the wheel. 

The game always feels in motion and there's always a lot happening on the screen. What's better is that this time around, it is much more challenging than the last game because you need to be on your guard. The innocents look very similarly dressed to the badguys, so there's that to look out for, once again. 

One great game mechanic that came about was something that made the entire game's replay value go through the roof! This time around, you are able to choose which way on a map that you'd like to go and explore different areas of the map, giving you a reason to come back for another playthrough. This is also a way to unlock a secret boss battle, but that is something to figure out on your own. 

The boss battles are more intricate and elaborate, while also throwing back to the first game. In fact, the first level's boss looks exactly like the mech boss from the last game. I would say that he's also named Boss, but all of them are named Boss in this game. When it comes to these boss battles, you'll see that they changed things they needed to while also keeping many elements the same. You can't really miss when it comes to Virtua Cop 2!

The levels are more intricate, there's more badguys to take down and new characters to meet along the way. It's a great time, no matter how you look at it. It does what a sequel should do. It polishes the graphics, adds some adrenaline and gives you more of what you loved about the first game. There are some drawbacks here and there. Sometimes the levels seem like they can drone on and on and every once in a while, it can move the camera to a point where hitting the badguys becomes something of a slog, but you hardly notice the flaws. The bottom line is that if you loved the first one, this one goes right there with it and adds everything you want! In the name of Virtua City, you're under virtua arrest, you virtua scumbag!

Thursday 9 December 2021

Virtua Cop - Set Guns to "Justice"!

There are thousands of rail shooters out there, and even if there aren’t that many, there are a lot. When you want a shooter that isn’t spilling gouts of blood and gore, there are few as satisfying as Virtua Cop. It is 32-bit polygon action at its very finest. The graphics are ancient and dated, but that’s just a cool breeze of mountain air when it comes to nostalgia and those who remember those beautiful days of squared and triangular graphics. The feeling of moving through construction sites, warehouses and skyscrapers, taking down virtua baddies was never so prominent in bright, blissful colors. You are Virtua City’s finest, and as a cop, you are going to take down virtua scumbags!

The real draw to Virtua Cop is its simplicity and its smooth transition from position to position. It starts out slow, so you can get a good gauge of the action, but then it begins to pull the rug out from under you with how fast you need to react. That’s not to say the game is hard, but we’ll get into that in a moment. For now, all you need to know is that you shoot the bad guys and thugs who point guns at you and come at you with sharp objects and you don’t hit the civilians that pop out in front of you relentlessly.

One small drawback to this game is the innocents will come out and raise their hands randomly, begging you not to shoot them. This is par for the course, no issue there. The real problem is when they do this while you are shooting criminals and they come out of nowhere and you either shoot them, or wait for the split second of them ducking down. This can be done but, wow, is it ever annoying! They’re normally marked with purely white clothing so they stick out from the normal affairs of gunmen, but sometimes they can show up in black and white suits, making the need for hesitation that much more important.

Another drawback to the game is that it is really not hard. There are some difficult aspects and a few frustrating elements to it, but all in all, you would be hard pressed to find it any kinds of extreme. It is also rather short, normally lasting less than an hour for all three difficulties.

The first level is little more difficult than a tutorial. It serves its purpose of giving you the overall gameplay of shooting and reloading while keeping your eye out for the circles that turn red the longer you wait for the bad guys to shoot. It even has some special temporary guns that help with taking down sum bags like the machinegun and the shotgun. The machinegun is understandable because of the increased fire rate, but the shotgun does little more than widen your target range by a small margin.

The boss on the first level is a bit of a joke. Kong is just a big meathead who fires missiles at you with a quad launcher. Shooting him through his missiles is easily done and shooting him when he pretends to surrender doesn’t take much reaction time in the slightest. Needless to say, you’re well suited for the job.

Medium level is as advertised; it is a bit harder. The construction zone is more challenging in the sense that the enemies are farther away, making them smaller targets by default. This is compounded by the fact that they get a little more clever with their hiding places and will sometimes jump out of unexpected locations such as inside crates. They also make a lot of use of the construction equipment such as bulldozers and trucks.

Even if you don’t find the second level harder, it is a lot more interesting to see all of the tricks the enemies pull out in attempting to take you down. This is accentuated when you fight the boss, King (because the joke wasn’t obvious enough). He is a bit harder with faster attacks than Kong with his flamethrower, but he also employs henchmen to attack you as well. Again, he is not overly difficult, but he is a change up from Kong’s gameplay.

In the third level, you are now infiltrating the evil building that holds the evil criminal coporation of evil (It’s even named EVL, because Virtua Cop is awesome). Part of the fun with this one is that the criminals are faster and it is remenescent of those old action films where the hero busts in through their compound and takes out the guards with nothing but a hand gun, some explosives and some explosive one-liners.

Once again, we are reminded HARDCORE of the innocents in this game. They are all over this building, getting directly in your way, sporting business suits. Women and men are popping up everywhere and you need to be extra careful where you aim and how you shoot. It is an office building and that makes sense that there would be a lot of people involved, but the amount they put into this game gets ridiculous.

Moving through the entire compound is an absolute joy. Out of all of the level designs, this one is the most varied since it isn’t a blue collar work zone and there’s more of a variety in the setting. There’s even a nice looking fountain statue right before the boss battle. The boss, cleverly named “Boss”, is the most eccentric battle, due to the fact that he pulls out an entire Mech Suit [!?!] in order to battle you! He is surprisingly easier than King. The mech is slow moving and its weaponry consists of those same missiles and a big huge gun you’ll never see fire because it’s so easy to stop with a few gunshots. Just shoot and take down, easy.

However, if you fought through all three levels in order in one go, you’ll get a bonus battle with the one known as “Fang”. He is in a combat helicopter and he is a bit harder than Boss. Again, this isn’t saying much because he is still pretty easy. Yes, he attacks fast and his helicopter can move from side to side rather quickly but it’s still your normal rail shooter boss battle. Shoot him down as he fires missiles and flames at you and you’re golden.

No one said that Virtua Cop was perfect and I’m not going to try and convince you to love it if you don’t already. There’s a good chance you probably aren’t aware of the joys of bringing an arcade game home without having to pay a pocket full of quarters. For those of you who were fortunate enough to jump into this at a young age when the internet was slow, you probably know what I am talking about. This is the finest quality railshooter on the Saturn, right beside House of the Dead. No Saturn collection is complete without it.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Halloween On The Saturn 2021 - Frankenstein: Through The Eyes Of The Monster

Introduction - 

The game will cost you between £100 - £300!

I'm not sure why I associate Halloween with the Saturn. It could be that it's because we relaunched the Saturn Junkyard about this time in 2017... I remember writing the "Halloween Saturn Games List 2017" and posting lots of photographs of people involved in less than impressive Saturn themed cos-play, the Junkyard littered with lots of pumpkins (carved with a Sega related themes)  and actually getting my Saturn light-gun out to play House Of The Dead for the first time in years...  Great times!

Halloween Pumpkin carved in honour of our leader Segata Sanshiro

Whatever the reason, Halloween always inspires me to put pen to paper, and churn out a horror game-themed article, to celebrate the season! The one issue I've found challenging in the past, when writing subsequent Halloween articles, is finding Saturn games that have been seldom reviewed or written about. My one rule when writing about games, is that I must have played them, usually on the original hardware, and I must have drawn my conclusions, from my own experience with the title. in 2021, I think I've found a perfect game for the time of year, that has been largely overlooked by the Saturn community (as far as I know...) 

 Welcome to "Frankenstein: Through The Eyes Of The Monster."

How most of us think of Frankenstein's monster...

Frankenstein In Our Modern Consciousness -

 Okay, so when we think of Frankenstein, we usually think of the monster - as played by Boris Karloff in the 1931 movie version - flat head, sunken eyes, bolts in neck, built up shoes - Herman Munster type vibes. But Mary Shelley, the author of the book back in 18-- had a very different (opium induced) dream of  the monster, less of a hideous creature and more as a "reanimated man". One with a brain, a consciousness and a soul. For Shelley the monstrosity was in man's desire to play God and flout the laws of nature in the process. The game draws far more on the original gothic novel for it's source material rather than any particular Hollywood re-telling. Central to the story, of course, is Doctor Frankenstein - played by the legendary British actor, Tim Curry (more on him later). We don't get to see the monster, apart from "his" arms and hands, so we don't have to critique his visual appearance.


The Frankenstein's Monster we love the most... 

Boring Game History - 

The game was developed by Amazing Media and published by Interplay Entertainment Corps for PC, in 1995. The game was ported to the Saturn in 1997, towards the end of the Saturn's life-span. The game is a 'point and click adventure', made using CGI backgrounds and full motion video clips, which are triggered, as the player clicks on various items. As such, the game is a slow burner, requiring patience and detailed exploration of the environments, in order to progress steadily through the narrative. This type of game was extremely popular in the mid 90's and for many game developers, the quest was to make an "interactive movie". Frankenstein TTEOTM, is very much trying to be this form of entertainment. As well as the scene stealing performances of Tim Curry, we have the monster played by Robert Rothrock, Rebecca Wink as villager Sara and Amanda Fuller as Gabrielle, the monster's daughter. 

The Story - 

The story begins to unfold, as soon as the title screen commences. As the opening credits roll, we hear the dialogue of an arrest and subsequent judgements of a murder trial. It seems a man has murdered his daughter, but the details are unclear, as we do not know the story's protagonist yet. As the opening titles fade, we see the view seen by the monster. You are lying on a platform suspended by four chains. The doctor is standing over you peering down. He immediately proclaims "LIFE! I have created life!" he gloats and crows, then seems to remember his 'patient'. "Here, this'll make you feel better..." He injects you using a syringe, which he then proceeds to stab into his own neck, with a celebratory: "A toast!"  YIKES! This doctor is clearly deep into some serious mal-practise! 

It doesn't take long for the horror to unfold... As you look at your arms (one familiar, one not so much...) you exclaim "Good god my hand! ...Its the hand of a woman! What has this vile bastard done to me?!" Dr. Frankenstein begins to cackle evilly and gloats - he get's stuck in there straight away, cracking sick jokes, indicative of his sick nature... "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?" (sniggers) "You have no idea how close to the truth that statement really is..." Clearly this man is no family practitioner. He is the true monster in the original story and the game... But in the game they've ramped (camped?) his diabolical nature to 11.

And so the story begins to unravel, as you point and click away. The dialogue is camp, over the top and very theatrical. The conversations between the characters, flesh out the story and background in a wholly unrealistic way, speaking line after line of a narrative, that would only be necessary if trying to squeeze a long and drawn out Victorian novel's plot, into the two hour time frame, of a point and click computer game.

You are scientist Phillip Wren and you've been framed for the murder of your daughter Gabrielle. You've been tried, found guilty and hanged by the neck until dead (by the mysterious  Judge Rothenbush). As if that wasn't enough, you've been brought back to life with a hodge-podge of other people's bits, and are now trapped in the laboratory of the evil genius who has reanimated your ravaged corpse. Not a great predicament to begin your quest, but the one you are faced with, nevertheless. 

Your mind in turmoil -  "I'm an experiment!" -  you begin to explore, further and further into Frankenstein's castle. This is how the game starts and represents the stage of the game, where I became unable to play without the help of a Youtube playthrough guide.

The views from the castle are to die for...

Without wanting to spoil the whole plot, you make some gruesome discoveries as you explore the fortress and suffer further persecution for your trouble. The game involves you stealing your way through the castle, solving puzzles, collecting notes and moving both physically and temporally through the mystery of your current circumstance.

The Gameplay - 

The style of game is exactly what western game developers thought would be the future of gaming. The "interactive movie". There were thousands of dollars and pounds invested in these FMV games. The irony is that these titles, at the cutting edge of technology back in 1995, as games passed from cartridge to compact disc. The best Saturn games used FMV for cutscenes and intros only. Very few of these video based titles, have stood the test of time. In fact they seem to be amongst the most dated and least enjoyable titles available for Saturn gamers and retro gaming in general.

The Good - 

We'll start with some of the supporting features, before we get to the main draw. First of all, the acting. As well as the talents of the start of the show, the supporting cast of actors do a pretty good job of guiding you through the castle and reacting to the spooky sights and shocking surprises you uncover as you make your way though the castle. If we are kind enough to suggest that the title fits the interactive movie slot, in the way it was intended, then the acting has to be pretty good. When we think of titles such as Deep Fear, Resident Evil, House Of The Dead or Corpse Killer, we are not looking for Oscar winning thespians doing Royal Shakespeare quality performances, we are looking for campy, over the top, slightly "hammy" acting. If that is the case, then Robert Rothrock, Rebecca Wink and Amanda Fuller do a more than adequate job as a supporting cast. The CGI "scenery" and "sets" provide the right atmosphere and background for the action, and the letters, diagrams, notes and plans you discover on your journey are well made and convincing. The music by David Dvorin,  is atmospheric and fitting. However, it can become rather grating, as it loops around again and again whilst you struggle to find the way out of your current setting. And, that's about all that can be said about the game other than... 

TIM CURRY!!! TIM "FRANKENFURTER" CURRY!!! TIM "SCARY MOVIE" CURRY!!! TIM MOTHER-FREAKING CURRY!!! He is literally the main draw for this slow moving, rather turgid game. You're not going to be enthralled by the action, you're not going to be absorbed by the plot or transfixed by the atmosphere. But you can drink in, devour and satiate yourself on every over-pronounced syllable, every rich, chocolatey vowel, every twisted muttering and snarkily delivered snigger, from one of the finest actors the world has ever seen! Curry burst onto the British acting scene in Richard O'Brien's cult, musical homage to 1950's suspense and science fiction B Movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the "sweet transvestite, from trans-sexual, Transylvania" Dr. Frankenfurter. This was a fabulous role, that allowed Curry to preen, pout and generally flounce about as he sang, stomped and smashed his way into our consciousness. Twenty years later, Curry was either at the cutting edge of video entertainment, or making a fast buck by selling his acting prowess, standing in front of a green screen and rasping out hammy dialogue for a fairly uninspiring video game. If I was hooked in by one thing, it was the appearance of this legend on the box. Not the only time that a video game has been sold on the inclusion of a Hollywood star. The latest Far Cry release has been sold on the inclusion of current Hollywood favourite, Giancarlo Esposito. But once the lure of Tim Curry has begun to be eclipsed by the lame gameplay, the game has very little to redeem it. As with many point and click adventure games, the ending you see, depends on the route you take through the game and the actions you perform and the choices you make. This allows for a degree of re-playability, that wouldn't exist without it.

The Bad - 

This is a very dated game. A very slow moving, plodding title. The one trick pony of  FMV video games IS the reactive FMV scenes triggered by your actions. These can be so finickity to find and trigger, that you can easily become bored or frustrated very quickly. In order to progress I had to watch a video on Youtube, showing an entire playthrough of the game. I then had to keep pausing the game, trying out what I had seen in the video and this made the playing of the game even MORE slow moving and plodding -  as if the title wasn't already tortuous enough to play through in 2021... . And as usual, certain actions which worked in the video DID NOT work on my Saturn - this is a phenomenon I've noticed more and more. The execution of  certain actions within games seem to not work form machine to machine, from disc to disc. Recently I've had to source new copies of Casper and Exhumed, in order to get them to work on my machines. and I couldn't get the game Tunnel B1 to work on any of my Saturns, despite trying three different discs of the game...Very frustrating.

In the end I just gave up and watched the game unfold for the person creating the Youtube video. The experience was basically the same as if I was triggering the cutscenes. It just involved far less faffing around and frustration. Although there are a couple of alternative outcomes, I defy anyone to enjoy the game enough to give it a second spin...

Spoiler alert!

Conclusion - 

If you're looking for some Halloween fun on the Saturn this year, you could do a lot better with some of the console's other offerings. There are a plethora of horror, monster and sci-fi themed games on the Saturn that will scratch your itch... Deep Fear, Vampire Savior, Resident Evil, House Of The Dead, Exhumed and of course, the big daddy of them all, Casper. Unless you want to be bored rigid in some kind of masochistic indulgence of tortuous, snail-paced shite, avoid this game like the plague. As if God is taking a hand in saving us from this nightmare, the price of this turd of a game has sky-rocketed in recent years. A copy of Frankenstein TTEOTM will set you back between £100 and £300, depending on where you source it. Only the most ardent of Saturn completist, should fork out silly money for this game. I got a pristine "repro" of the game from the excellent Nightwing Productions (shout going out to my man Marvin Macias!) which enabled me to experience it without losing the shirt off my back, I'd have been pretty sorely pissed, if I'd splurged out top dollar for this dollop of doo doo. 

My advice? Avoid this game at all costs... if you really want to experience this game for yourself, emulate, burn a disc, buy a repro or simply watch the Youtube video below... the one thing that did give me a laugh, was Victor Frankenstein's OTHER creation, but you have to get pretty far into the game to see it! Other than that leave it alone, Games which are comparably bad? Corpse Killer, The Crow and Alone In The Dark, If the comparison to those three nightmares doesn't give you a scare this Halloween, nothing will!  

Wednesday 1 September 2021

The Mortal Kombat Series - The Spine of Saturn


Mortal Kombat, the game that, along with Doom, introduced video games to extreme blood and gore. It is a game so violent that it seemingly created the ESRB singlehandedly. This is the fighting game that captivated the gaming industry with its interesting characters, gripping lore and stylistic graphics back in 1992 and started a franchise that is still thriving today. Now, we'll be looking at the titles that were released on the Sega Saturn.

Now, let's not kid each other, not every title in a franchise this large is going to live up to the quality we all expect. Despite this, Mortal Kombat did very well as it reached over 20 titles with more still to come. Sega Saturn had some of its best ports. 

Although there's no official port of the original Mortal Kombat, its wondrous sequel was perfectly ported to the system, aside from suffering the Sega Saturn's true flaw. It does have some problems with loading times. It also had some critics saying that it was already outdated before it was even made. Still, there was no denying that this was a perfect rendition of the arcade otherwise. 

Where Mortal Kombat was controversial for its violence, this game ramped it up to 11 and doubled the blood. More human bean juice can be seen when you punch your enemy's face and the fatalities brought about more and more gore as the fans wanted. Now, you didn't need a code to unlock it, nor was the SNES port wasn't censored as the first game's port to the system was highly criticized for. Sega Saturn let you see the gore as it was intended, with full arcade graphics still in tact. 

Strangely enough, though, Sega Saturn Magazine panned the port as it didn't live up to the prerelease copy that they received months earlier. Obviously, they don't need to hold all Saturn games to a higher light, but they were needlessly critical of the load times. Of course, that also means it has the MK2 flaws about it as well. As great as the game's graphics were and as awesome the gore was at the time, there was still the ridiculous difficulty. The AI was programmed to react to your button presses automatically, much faster than they should be able to. Yes, there are ways around this, but it mostly involves spamming attacks in a certain order. A good game, but with some fairly heavy flaws that keep it from being truly great.

So, what do we do now? The last game was so hard, let's take it easy on the players now. Let's add in every single character we possibly can, even the bosses! So, now you can play as both Goro and Kentaro and you win! That's right! A game with such horrific balance issues that now you can play as both characters with monstrous strength and reach that just a few punches and special moves and your opponent is slain in a matter of seconds. 

Balance problems aside, they cheaped out on the fatalities. Some of them were taken out to save on time of its conversion to the Saturn, and yet it came out an entire year after the PSX and N64 versions. There are plenty of reasons why this game is overlooked by the fandom as, aside from the playable bosses, there's really nothing to write home about. The game itself is unremarkable otherwise and you're far better off getting the real Mortal Kombat game the Sega Saturn is known for. 

When you think of Mortal Kombat on the Saturn, most turn to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. This game was created when fans voiced their disdain for the original Mortal Kombat 3. Once again, it is the most faithful port from arcade to console and has the loading problems much like the others. However, it is a fair challenge and all of your favorite characters are there to see. Once you put in the CRAZY CYRAX code, you can unlock all of the characters. There are hours of fun once you beat the tower mode as you can gain access to all of the fatalities, random Mortal Kombat videos and a game of Pong (don't ask). 

The controls are stellar, the game modes are plentiful and the cheat codes are ten times easier to input. With new and old characters and amazing backgrounds, you really couldn't ask for much more. It's just hours of fun with friends or solo play. Better than that, though, it's even got Scorpion this time around! Imagine that! 

Whatever your thoughts on the Mortal Kombat franchise, you can't deny its impact on not only the fighting game genre but also video games in general. There have been so many games that tried to duplicate its success, but very few had any success. Everyone thought that if you just slapped some live action people on a game with some blood and gore that you could make the next fighting game phenomenon. MK, however, boasted superior control and gameplay along with a lore that was both interesting and quite captivating. 

What really sold Mortal Kombat was its characters along with its truckloads of internal organs and severed limbs. They were memorable and diverse while also boasting diverse themes and backgrounds that made them quite unique. It may have had a questionable period after UMK3, as Mortal Kombat 4 brought about a 3D era that made interesting characters and lore take a backseat to bigger and better graphics. It took a while to recover from, but until 2011 finally rolled around, we at least had a nice collection to fall back on. Just remember to drink bloo---water... I meant water.

Wednesday 18 August 2021

Guardian Heroes - Keep Slicing!


When does a mixture of great things turn out great itself? How often does a stew of hip game ideas mold together so well and manifest into such an amazing product? Well, it doesn't happen all that often, I can tell you that for free. This game takes JRPG elements, mixes it with Beat'em Up mechanics, anime 2D sprites, with a story mode that is very up-front and in your face. This game had some very nice, pretty graphics with 2D displays mixed with open multi-layered areas. 

The feeling of being a powerful hero taking down armies of henchmen and bosses is extremely gratifying. The real draw here is the ongoing stories and characters, aside from the dissatisfaction of the absence of your side ones. You choose from a selection of other players that have their own strengths both in melee and ranged attacks. Whichever character you choose is the one you see for the rest of the game.  

These characters are very diverse with unique gameplay and personalities. Not only do they help customize gameplay to your liking, but they also give the game even more replay value as they affect the story and the endings you receive. The dialogue is skippable but also worth reading if that's your thing. The English translation is well written and the characters can be quite humorous. 

While the graphics and the "hack'n slash" gameplay are both beautiful and cathartic, this game is not perfect. While I do love being able to die and come back immediately, this is a very limited continue system. Die enough times, and it's straight back to the beginning. This flaw is accentuated as some of the bosses you fight can get a little ridiculous in difficulty. It is especially bad when they start spamming their strong attacks, despite being able to do the same yourself. As with all side-scrolling beat'em ups, there is also that pinching flaw of being rather repetitive. However, it more than makes up for it in brilliantly differing story endings depending on what paths you take during the gameplay. 

Not only is this game one of my favorite Sega Saturn games that I have recently played, but is is also considered one of the cornerstones of side-scrolling beat'em ups. If this is your type of game or you are wanting to break into the genre, do not pass this game up if you ever get a chance to play it. It is a rare title in the Saturn's library but it is not unobtainable. Just remember not to support video game price scalpers and drink water.