Saturday, 14 May 2022

Final Fight Revenge - There is no Revenge

 


This is a fighting game. More accurately, a 3D fighting game. This particular game was developed by Capcom as a Saturn exclusive (aside from the arcade port) and released only in Japan. It is the only fighting game in the Final Fight series, which normally features beat'em up games. Final Fight has come out with a great number of beat'em up games that have received a great deal of acclaim in both arcades and console versions. 

This game, again their only fighting game, is a bland experience. It is so by the numbers and so mediocre that there's really not a whole lot to talk about here. The stages are beyond bland and the fights are about as unimaginative as you can imagine. Imagine that! It's not that it's terrible, there is just nothing to write home about. The graphics are decent for 32-bits and the character designs made a good conversion over to 3D from their 16-bit counterparts. That's about all the good that can be said about it. 


The fighting is boring. You fight the opponent, they block a whole lot, and you spend the entire time trying to get around their blocking. In hard mode, that is accentuated to a glaring degree! It's not hard, it's tedious! Some of the characters control terribly, because they lack the drive to move forward as they attack, making their controls sluggish! 

One thing that other fighting games have going for them is that they either have cool special moves, fancy footwork and interesting martial arts styles to keep the gameplay fresh. This game does not have any of that stuff. There are punches, kicks and grapples. The best you have to mix things up is Poison with her whip and a few other characters with weapons. Oh, and Guy has shuriken that he throws en mass in hard modes. Woot...

That's the real problem with this game. It looks and plays as bland as white bread and the AI for your opponents does nothing but spam block and throwing attacks while also shooting off their ultimate attacks. The ultimate attacks are about as good as it gets when it comes to the aesthetics, but they are teeth-grindingly cringeworthy when you've seen them for the seventh time. 


The most noteworthy aspect of this game is that your final boss is a zombie. It's a zombie version of Horace Belger. That's it. There's nothing interesting about this other than he falls into pieces and throws those pieces at you while they explode. Yeah, that's pretty cool but when it's your only trump card, it's pretty sad. Yeah, he does the Michael Jackson Thriller dance in the credits but by this time, you've already gone through six lackluster fights against people who spam block and grapple moves. It's cute, but too little, too late.

If you're looking for a 3D fighting game, there are obviously worse out there. This was made by Capcom, though and you would expect a lot more out of them. Obviously, there were problems with the production. This game screams "Under Developed" and it was obvious that they either did not have their prime talent on this game or they were not given nearly enough time to polish it and make it any good. It's boring, predictable and not worth going out of your way to pay the scalping price. This game became one of those rare, expensive relics that people ask way too much for. Just skip it and try something else. Try some water, it's more exciting. 

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Sonic 2: The Blue Blur Continues

 


Here we are, once again! To give a small recap on the history of the Sonic live action movie franchise, this was just supposed to be another garbo video game adaptation vomited out by Hollywood to cash in on a popular character. In fact, the fans were so sure that the the first movie was going to be a failure because of the original Sonic character design. The infamous original design was lambasted by fans and critics alike and the first trailer that featured it was funneled into the same place we put everything we'd like to forget about Sonic. After that, our expectations were in the basement. 

Then the first Sonic movie came out and it was quite pleasa--wait, what?! It was good? The fans and critics liked it? What sort of alternate world do we live in? This was unprecedented! Not only did the director come through for the fans by redesigning Sonic to be closer to his original video game character design, but he also made a movie that showed off fan service and knowledge of the game franchise as a whole! It was a marvel to behold! If you would like to see more on the subject of the first Sonic film, be sure to check out Father Krishna's review of the first Sonic Movie

That's all well and good, but we all know that the second movie is very easily where everything could fall apart in the blink of an eye. Well, spoiler alert! (For real, there are spoilers) It was good! Now, was it fantastic? Not so much. It has its highs and lows and its nitpicky moments, but there is still plenty of good stuff that works out in its favor. 

First of all, we still get a great performance from Ben Schwartz and Jim Carrey. They were still great highlights from this movie, but the real shoutout goes to our new characters, played by the ever AMAZING Idres Elba and the sweet sounding Colleen O'Shaughnessey. Adding Knuckles and Tails to this movie really upped the game for it in several ways. Not only do we get more backstory for the Echidnas from the first movie but we also get a better feel for how the Sonic universe will add to these movies, if they so choose to go that way with it. 

What really worked for this movie was a large scope that was not too over-the-top, while also being somewhat over-the-top. The vast landscapes that our heroes traverse and the dangers they face along the way are all kinds of fun to watch. This includes the weird and technically unneeded Syberian dance off scene and no I am not kidding. This movie takes some very strange turns.

One of the stranger turns that it takes is with Rachel (Pretzel Lady's sister) from the first movie. I did not like her character and I was not supposed to like her character. She was especially one-note and not much has changed in this movie. She is still obnoxious and unsubtle, though they did take steps to make her a bit more relatable. Still, her wedding scene in the movie is one of the low points for more reasons than one. 

In fact, most of the humans, as a whole, become rather useless as the movie goes on. Yes, Donut Lord and Pretzel Lady (No, I don't remember their actual names and probably never will) are prominent and serve a purpose here and there, but the writers for the movie seemed like they just tagged them in for the sake of the first movie. They even brought back Wade and his scenes have their funny moments but, again, he falls into that category of superfluous. In fact, there was a scene where the two main human characters are going on vacation where I thought they were pretty much going to go the route of Jason Lee in the Chipmunk sequels. It's not how they go with it, but honestly there are times when it looked like they probably should.

There are plotholes, obviously, all movies have plotholes to some extent. Still, these aren't really extreme, but they were rather noticeable. The ring portals last a lot longer than they did in the first movie and the map just so happened to project the image of Sonic's adoptive owl mother when they needed it with no explanation. That scene in and of itself wasn't great and not just because it was another Wade scene. 

Now, what worked very well for this movie, once again, was Tails and Knuckles. Aside from Idres Elba's amazing voice, Knuckles has a purpose and his mindset it on nothing but that purpose. He is also a great foil with his serious exterior to Sonic's careless nature. Tails is given some great scenes, even when you thought that he was going to be punted from the story, he comes right back in and takes it up several notches. The gadgets he uses are a brilliant combatant to Robotnik's high tech weapons, so he gives Sonic a much better fighting chance against some of the more dangerous mechanical opponents.

This is where the spoilers are going to get very heavy, so be warned!

The greatest part of this movie (how many is that now?) is, by far, the third act! When Robotnik gets the master emerald and we see a god-like entity that creates Robotnik's monstrous mech. That was a bit of fan service that is impossible to overlook. If you've never seen the giant robo-mech, then I call your Sonic fandom into question! The fight they have is amazing. It is very well paced, very suspenseful and doesn't let up until the real final showdown. 

After Sonic, Tails and Knuckles manage to fend off the giant robot and get the master emerald out of Robotnik, the ultimate fangasm moment comes in the form of Super Sonic. It was worth the entire wait from 2020 and now it comes and it does not disappoint! Everything about this scene is humorous, badass, and evokes childhood memories of collecting all of the chaos emeralds in the video games to get that wondrous yellow Sonic we all know and love. I wish they could have made it last a bit longer but that's definitely the subjective fanboy side speaking. 

This movie is not perfect but there is so much to love. There are corny moments, moments where the CGI doesn't really hold up well, and there are a few time-wasters that could have hit the cutting room floor to make room for something else but that is all just foam on an otherwise refreshing drink. If you fancy yourself a Sonic fan, then this movie is definitely worth a shot.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Neptune - Why Live on Saturn?



The day before Christmas of 1996, my brother and I had already opened up all of our presents. I don’t remember the logic behind this, but we were having so much fun as a family that our parents just said, “go ahead”. So, after such a wonderful night of new gifts and Christmas love, we didn’t expect there to be anything else left when we got up the next morning. Still, we were happy because it meant we could still play with our new stuff we got and were happy to spend our Christmas money on more stuff, meager a sum as it was. We weren’t rich by any means, so what gifts we got were more than welcome, and some of them exceeded expectations by a long margin.

That’s when we saw what was under the tree on Christmas morning. It was a large box, and it depicted a black console with a CD underneath a hatch. Sonic the Hedgehog was depicted in small boxes along with other Sega properties, along with a triple pack free games with a gaming demo included. The Sega Saturn included Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop and the racing game Daytona USA. This was a ridiculous concept for both my brother and I because we had only had a Nintendo Entertainment System and a Sega Genesis in the past. Those were 8-bits and 16-bits respectively, only able to make two-dimensional games with varying levels of quality in both graphics and gameplay.




This was full three-dimensional and fully rendered polygons in 32-bits! Not that I knew that as a 10-year-old child, but it looked really cool and the games were awesome. Going from 2D to 3D and playing games we could only dream of from the arcades in the comfort of our own home was a dream come true. It had real music in the soundtrack and full audio dialog that didn’t sound like someone was talking through pixelated baby monitors. As soon as we got into the games, we would get locked into them for hours and my brother and I played every single game as many times as we possibly could.

Even when the games weren’t two player, we were still happy to watch each other play while waiting our turn. There were obviously parts where my brother would hog the controller and we would fight over whose turn it was but that’s to be expected, we were 10 and 12 after all. Still, he was better at video games than I was, so he helped me figure out a lot of the puzzles and worked through some of the harder parts of the video games. We collected a decent number of games and also rented quite a few from Blockbuster. It was quite the experience because we played these games together and found ourselves truly engrossed.
 

It got to the point where we would defend the Sega Saturn in arguments against the Playstation console. Back then, they were the top competitors on the market and today I can admit that the PS objectively was the better system. When I was in fifth grade, though, I would die before admitting to anything.

Over time, of course, things moved on, but we kept playing the Sega Saturn even when I was able to obtain the Sega Dreamcast because we still had a good number of games for it that we enjoyed playing. However, this was five years later, and it was clear to me now that this was when we began to grow apart. We began to hang out with different crowds, and he was starting to get into stuff that messed with his sense of reality. He began to spend more and more time alone, even when I was in the room, he barely acknowledged that I was there. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was when he was succumbing to a mental illness commonly known as schizophrenia. His state of mind began to bob in and out of logic and it wasn’t long before his new personality began to shove me away.

As much as I would like to tell you that this story had a happy ending, I must sadly disappoint you. While he got on medications and evened out, he was never the same and we have become very estranged as our lives branched off from one another. Our relationship never recovered from what occurred and I am left with the knowledge that my brother is somewhere buried deep within his own psyche. However, I still proclaim that the Sega Saturn is my favorite game console for a great number of reasons. It really does have a wonderful game library and the graphics evoke a heavy sense of nostalgia from an era branching off from the 2D to the 3D consoles of arcade and home ports. What it reminds me of most is of two young boys sitting on a bed and fighting one another in Virtua Fighter 2 or shooting criminals in Virtua Cop. It makes me reminisce over a time where the two of us helped one another solve puzzles or overcome challenges that came about in games like Warcraft 2 or Nights Into Dreams. It represents a time when our relationship as brothers was strongest and for that I will never give it up, no matter how much better graphics get or however many unfinished garbage games they release only to patch them later. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were making a history that would last for as long as I draw breath.

                                                    For Justin

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Virtual On - Lasers! Missiles! Laser Missiles!


As soon as you hear the phrase "Get Ready!" for the first time, if you hadn't practiced before hand, you were not ready! Virtual On is a game that takes some practice but then you will not put it down! This is hours of fun on single player and years of fun against your friends! Everyone has to at least try this game in order to feel the rush and zap your opponents with just about every type of laser! You will munch metal, tear titanium and sever steel with your own chosen mech! I could douse this game in hyperbole all day, but let's get slightly more objective before I turn this arena into a scrap heep!

If it wasn't clear, this game rocks. It is a third person 3D fighter that puts you in control of your choice of war machine. There are several to choose from and they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you want the heavy weapons fighter that doesn't run quite as fast or one of the more slender models that are far more agile, this game has you covered. The Saturn graphics really shine with this title. Each machine is very unique, even though each stage is pretty much the same aside from different placements of cover. 

The real problem with this game is that the controls really do take practice to get use to and the game can be very unforgiving in its learning curve. It is moderately hard to learn but somehow very easy to master once you pick it up. All you need is some dedication in order to learn your chosen fighting machine and you can come out swinging! Learning how to throw the bombs, when to fly upward and when to use your ultimate attack without wasting it are all essential. The biggest challenge is the movement and going faster and firing with better accuracy than your opponent is also a very large part of the strategy. All of these elements help the immersion and puts you in that state of concentration that gamers florish in while you grind your opponent into pulp! 

It is very hard to find a fault in this game. The learning curve can be a little annoying at first but it can also be easily overcome. The graphics may seem menial today, but those who appreciate the 32-bits will absolutely relish in its quality and detail. The game has glitches but they are very few and far in between. It would be nice to have a bit more variety when it comes to stages and levels, but even then, they look different and function properly, so why fix what isn't broken? Even the short single player campaign can be forgiven because it has such a great 2-player function. The framerates can take a rather low dip! There we go, there's a fault in the game! There's the smudge on the Mona Lisa! Yes, the framerate can go down rather low, especially when there are the larger explosions. Even then, though, this game is amazing. 

If you have read either my Top 20 Saturn Games or my Top 10 Saturn Games lists, you will probably realize that this has been my favorite Saturn game for a very, very long time. Even after a very high boost in the number of games I've played on this system, Virtual On was never dethroned. This game is high octane action and top rate competitive gameplay for the whole family, so long as your grandpa enjoys turning mechanized warriors into can openers! VIRTUA BEAM!!!!!

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Listen to the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast Podcast!


Need a Sega-stuffed podcast in your life? Join us for the latest episode of the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast! Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts!

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Saturday, 29 January 2022

Deep Fear - Resident Garbage

So everyone is getting tired of all the copycat games that ripoff the popular titles of our era. Once a certain game comes out that revolutionizes or popularizes a certain genre or gameplay style, you see twenty or thirty clones of the like. We saw it with Minecraft, we saw it with PUBG, we saw it with Doom, Mortal Kombat, there's a lot of copy cats out there, waiting for the next cash cow to come along. Resident Evil was no exception. As soon as survival horror with tank controls and puzzle solving became the new trend, the consoles and PC were flooded with very similar titles. 

Deep Fear was one of the less successful attempts to cash in on this franchise. Silent Hill, this ain't. It pretty much takes everything not scary about Resident Evil, avoids the survival element of it and adds a dash of annoyance that would be very heartbreaking, if it wasn't so funny! I'm not kidding, this is hilarious! It's like they just didn't know what to actually do with the franchise. They thought that if they put you in a sealab at the bottom of the ocean, add in these... creature things to walk at you slowly, then horror would ensue. Spoiler alert!!!!!! It doesn't.

The graphics are pretty bad, but not horrible. It's the Saturn and the graphics are hardly important (in most cases). No, the English voice acting, now there's where it came close to Resident Evil. This voice acting is legendary in its awfulness. The real problem with it is that it gets grating to the ears. It gets downright painful with how terrible these voices are and how the actors just aren't trying. The dialogue does not help this matter. 

And they took the survival out along with the horror. If you run low on ammo or healing items, just refill them! No, I'm not kidding, they literally could not be asked to distribute these items evenly throughout the game. You just go to certain places and there's full ammunition and health in a juice box with drinking straw. Drink until full. You can't get much lamer than this. 

The story is lackluster and lacks involvement. The characters are scathingly awful and the gameplay is just downright boring. After a while, the hilarity of the game's presentation does not carry it as it still pads itself out until you are ready to go take up quilting as a more stimulating experience. I really tried to find something I liked about this, unironically. Not even the Saturn charm of its graphics are a point in its favor. The setting is just so mundane and repetitive, the graphics have no chance of standing out. So, even if you wanted to play this in front of friends to make fun of it, it loses its edge. Try something better or worse and you'll have a much better time. Virtua Bland...

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 there 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!