Sunday, 18 September 2022

NiGHTS Into Remaster - Virtua Dreams Return


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Daytona USA and Championship Circuit - Wheels of Love and Hate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 8 September 2022

The Horde - Facepalm The Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Alien Trilogy - Let me Hug Your Face

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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