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.