Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kamen Rider - Raid of the Demonic CactoGuron

Hey everybody it's Kamen Rider Thursday! Why did I ever pick Thursday to write about Kamen Riders anyways? Oh well. Today's episode marks the beginning of the second story arc of the 1970s series "Kamen Rider". This is a particularly historic episode because the character Takeshi Hongo, the original Kamen Rider, has been officially written out of the story so he can recoup from his real life motorcycle injuries. While he'll be missed we get a brand new Kamen Rider to take his place: Hayato Ichimonji! And as it turns out, this new guy is actually pretty cool! But how is the episode over all?  Let's find out.

New Rider in town:  Hayato Ichimonji
The episode starts off in Shocker's headquarters in Mexico. Compared to Shocker's branch in Japan, the Mexican branch is actually very successful in ruining the lives of many people. This is all thanks to their resident monster CactoGuron who is actually one of the more cooler monsters to appear in the series so far! Great leader is so impressed with CactoGuron that he assigns him to Shocker Japan to defeat the Kamen Rider that keeps ruining their plans. FBI agent Taki intercepts the news of CactoGuron and requests backup only for CactoGuron to kill Taki's partner and assume his identity! Taki is nearly killed by CactoGuron before Tachibana interferes in the fight, but there's only so much two normal people can do against a cyborg cactus monster. Luckily Kamen Rider appears out of nowhere and evacuates the two to safety.

CactoGuron is smarter than most cyborgs.
During the course of the story we are also introduced to 3 new girls: Mari, Yuri, and Michi. They're all meant to replace Ruriko who has left the show for reasons unknown, and while Yuri and Mari are pretty cute, that Michi is total dog. I almost thought she was a shocker cyborg when I first saw her. They all wish to join Tachibana's motorcycle club but ultimately have zero experience with such vehicles. Really, I thought this entire part was pretty random and unnecessary, but I guess a little eye candy isn't bad. Tachibana and FBI Agent Taki seek Shocker's headquarters and soon realize there are a bunch of cacti lying about, little do they know is that those cacti are explosive! Hayato Ichimonji makes a rather non-chalant appearance telling them not to get near and eventually reveals himself as the next Kamen Rider. CactoGuron and a bunch of shocker minions then make their attack and an all out brawl begins and suddenly ends with a massive cliffhanger!

This is a great way to start off the new season, it seems like the higher ups enjoyed the first season so much that they now have a higher budget to make more elaborate costumes and special effects! The new Kamen Rider's costume looks great, and is currently proving himself to be a great character in his own right. The tough guy persona works very well, making not only a hero of justice but a badass as well! If you wish to check out the series then head on over to KITsubs and check out the latest episode! Next week, I'll be talking about a different Kamen Rider show entirely, so be sure to look forward to that!  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the new season 2 opening I uploaded for you!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bionic Commando: Elite Forces - Forget how to jump! Swing into enemies with your mighty claw!

The gameboy color was my system of choice during my time spent abroad in Germany. That was a rather turbulent era of my life so the games I played during that time are the ones I have the fondest memories of. While this particular game might not be familiar to you, as Bionic Command Rearmed 2 has been released less than a year ago. This game had some impressive features as it pulled off things I didn't think were possible on the little handheld at all. The question remains though if this game is worth your time? Read on.

Bionic Commando:  Elite Forces was released in 1999 and surprisingly enough it was developed by Nintendo Software Technology aka the Nintendo's American development team, are you aware that they even had one?!  Well they do and it turns out that they're not half bad!  This game is part of the long running "Bionic Commando" franchise that actually belongs to Capcom.  It borrows elements from the NES title so it almost feels like a remake but is actually quite different from it's predecessors in levels later on.  The premise is also different, as it takes place in a land called Karinia that is under constant attack by the Avars lead by evil mastermind:  Arturus.  Bionic commando Super Joe is deep within enemy lines having found the top secret plans of the Avars but ends up being captured, so it's up to the elite forces (THAT'S YOU!) to rescue Super Joe and stop Arturus once and for all!

You choose from either a male or female bionic commando but they both play the same and the one you don't end up picking becomes a side character that gives tips to you while you're inside a communication tower.  As an action-adventure title, you should know that there isn't a jump button anywhere in this little game.  In order to get around you have to rely on your bionic claw to take you where you need to go by swinging from point A to point B.  Stages start off simple enough as you clear simple gaps, but soon you'll be swinging above spike pits and climbing on ceilings but the difficult scales nicely so things won't get too hard too quickly!  You're also armed with an assault rifle but as you clear stages you'll be finding new weapons and equipment to take into levels with you.  There's also mini-games you can play like a "sniper" mode where you pick off soldiers from a distance and it features some surprisingly detailed blood for a game that has an "E for Everyone" rating.  Another gameplay feature is the top-down mode where the game plays something like Commando or Ikari Warriors as it's just straight-up run-and-gun gameplay which is always pretty fun.

For an Gameboy color game, the sprites are surprisingly well animated, particularly talking about the running and swinging animations.  Portrait sprites are goofy looking, mainly for the male commando, so the overall art style isn't so great.  Music is upbeat but nothing really amazing, it's just enough to get you pumped to do some shooting.  Amusingly enough, they managed to fit in digitized voice acting in this game, you hear the words "Sniper" or "choose your weapon", it's all pretty sporadic though, and you can barely understand it if you're not listening closely but it's all still pretty impressive given it's technology though.

All-in-all, this game was actually really good and it stayed true to the roots of the original Bionic Commando for the NES.  Whether it's as good as the titles before it is up for some heated debate though.  Don't get me wrong this game did a lot of things right, but it's just missing that special charm that made Bionic Commando so cool.  Still, this is a great Gameboy color game in it's own right so check it out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Great Giana Sisters - Stomp some owls! Shoot some lobsters!

If you call yourself a gamer, then you should know this one already. In fact, years back I remember there being a lot of hurt feelings and flaming going on in online forums over this game. But if people could look past what's immediately obvious to them and keep an open mind, then there really wouldn't be anything to get mad about. So what's the problem with this game that people have a hard time overlooking? Hit the jump to find out.

The Great Giana Sisters was released in 1987 for the Commodore 64 among many others later down the line and it was a game that was made as a substitute for those who can't afford a NES. Which game exactly? Well, I'll give you a hint, the slogan for The Great Giana Sisters is "The Brothers are History". I honestly don't even have to point out what that even means, if I do then you're reading the wrong blog. The plot revolves around a girl named Giana who goes to bed one night and suddenly finds herself in a nightmarish dreamworld. In order to find her way back home she must find a special gem at the end of the 33rd level. Not the best premise for a story, but at least she doesn't have to rescue a prince, or worse, a plumber.

If you played that NES classic that will not be named in this blog post, then you know how this game works. You start off as a regular little girl, and collect power ups one of which works the exact same as a certain "fire power-up" in a game you might have played before. The game is a bit challenging, as you're going to find quite a few tricky jumps that require proper positioning and timing to make the jump, and if you lose all your lives its all the way back to stage 1 for you! There's a alternate 2-player mode where player 2 takes control of Giana's sister Maria.

A lot of you remember that wonderful song composed by Koji Kondo for that certain NES title, it just so happens that the Great Giana Sisters have a surprisingly memorable tune of their own composed by Chris Hülsbeck. In fact, it's one of the more fondly remembered aspects of this game as the song has been remixed countless times by fans over the years. It's a smooth beat that gives this scrappy little platformer a relaxing vibe, which is great because there are too many games out there that just seek to do nothing else but stress you out so this is a perfect game to relax with if only to listen to the music.

As it turns out, that company who made the NES saw this one coming and with plenty of legal pressure this game was never released to the general public. Luckily, this game was leaked and many people got a hold of it, some even altering the sprites to resemble a certain plumber. Eventually the whole thing is a non-issue nowadays, because the Great Giana Sisters has been ported to many systems, there was even a remake for the Nintendo DS which was pretty great! Similarities aside, all the levels are completely different and I honestly feel that it can stand on it's own as a great game in it's own right. If you have Java installed on your browser, you can play the game RIGHT NOW! And if you don't want to play it, at least watch the video and dig the trippy music.  You know, sometimes being a rip-off isn't such a bad thing if you manage to do it right.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Earth Defense Force 2017 - Join the most brotastic alien fighting force ever!

Before we delve into today's topic I'd like to explain my logic for choosing what to write about each day: there isn't any. I use a random line picker to choose what system I'm going to write for the day and I immediately know the game I want to talk about, today it told me to talk about the Xbox 360. In a system that is plagued with first person shooters, brown and bloom, and crying children in online communities, we get a game that truly makes a stand. It doesn't stand for high definition, it doesn't stand for innovation, and it certainly doesn't stand for plot. This game stands for one of the most important things we often forget about in video games today: FUN.

Earth Defense Force 2017 was brought to us in the states in 2007 by D3 Publisher and developed by Sandlot games. This is the first game of the popular "Earth Defense Force" series to make it to the United States as most of them have stayed largely in Japan, with one release making it to Europe. Being a third-person shooter, this game is a homage to cheesy alien invasion movies everywhere, you're sure to spot more than a few references. The long and short of the premise is this: aliens known as the ravagers have appeared before earth and are suddenly dropping GIANT ANTS AND ROBOTS to kill us all. Not just any giant ants, mind you, but giant ants that SPIT ACID. You are part of the elite known as "Storm-1" and it's up to you and your fellow EDF brothers to save the planet from extinction. As with many of my games, the story isn't all that important, but there are cutscenes with a news reporter that help give you the impression that serious s*** is going down.

Just from the first stage, you're given an assault rifle and a rocket launcher to defend yourself with. And they both have unlimited ammo. You're going to need it. From the get-go you and a handful of A.I controlled EDF soldiers are taking on an entire wave of giant ants and the game is basically telling you not to worry about civilians, allied soldiers, or even buildings all you need to do is survive. More often than not you're constantly under attack from ants coming in all directions and I'm sure one of your many rockets is going to miss and hit a building, bringing it down to rubble. But that's ok! There's no penalty for collateral damage so feel free to raise as much hell as possible while fighting off the alien invaders. Soon enough you'll be finding weapons on the field that you'll be able to use in the next stages, in fact there are over 150 weapons to use in the game that range anywhere from sniper rifles to heat seeking missile launchers! Each weapon has a use because soon you aren't going to be fighting giant ants for long, they're going to make each stage more and more difficult adding in giant spiders (Oh god no.) and flying spaceships until you end up fighting godzilla and then, ultimately, the DEATH STAR! Well, not exactly, but it's very similar to it.  There's also vehicles you can use like a mech and a helicopter, but the controls for them are pretty awful so you're going to stick to being on foot for a while.

Graphically this game isn't much to look at, animations are stiff and all the ants have this plastic look to them. But it adds to the humor to the game, like when you run right up to a giant ant and blast it in the face with your shotgun, you'll send that ant flying off hundreds of feet away just from the sheer force of your weapon, it's all very unrealistic but totally awesome. My favorite thing about this game though is the voice acting of your fellow EDF soldiers. While this game may not have online play, there's a sound icon over the head of each soldier that is currently talking and they always have something to say when it hit's the fan. They'll mourn the loss of one of their comrades, they'll scream in pain from being burned alive by acid, they'll express sheer anger and rage at their enemies, but they'll also cheery loudly just before and after battle chanting "EDF! EDF! EDF! YEAAAAAAAAAAAH!", while many would write the voice acting off as "bad", I think the voice actors enthusiasm really enhances the experience of the game. You'll start to feel attached to your fellow soldiers, and a smile will come to your face when you find out one of them has survived the onslaught.

This game is a cult classic on the Xbox 360. Many who played it simply can't stop playing it because it's one of the most addicting games out there. While it lacks online play, there is 2 player split-screen co-op which is all kinds of awesome!  I'd dare say it's one of the best co-op games of all time.  This game is kind of hard to find in public now, but luckily you can find it on Xbox Live's games on demand service as a downloadable title. Despite it's simplicity, it got really popular among niche audiences and now a sequel is in the works and due out on July 5, 2011! Be sure to check out Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon when you're done with this game, it looks like it's going to be great!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Battle Lode Runner - Get trapped in holes! Rage uncontrollably before your untimely demise!

Nowadays, everyone has a hard on for online gaming. I admit that it's nice to have especially if you moved away from friends, but there's something about that same-room multi-player experience that just beats all. In fact, I'm sure many of you have had an old-school multiplayer experience whether that would be Toe Jam & Earl or one of the many Bomberman games and I'm sure friendships have been broken because of the highly competitive nature of our hobby. Let's talk about one of the more unusual multiplayer games out there today, shall we?

It's hard to tell, but this guy is f***ed.
Battle Lode Runner was released only in Japan in 1993 for the Turbografx-16 by Hudson Soft. It's part of the classic Lode Runner series originally made by Brøderbund in 1983. Apparently, in the classic video game "Bomberman" for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Bomberman earned the ability to become human at the end of the game and ends up being the lode runner guy! That is why the bad-asses on the cover look so similar to our favorite explosive buddies! All the plot for the game is explained in the 30-second long intro. A black bomberman goes into a rocket, and the white lode runner man sees him escape. I guess it can be assumed that the black bomberman stoles a bunch of gold, because that's what you do in the single player puzzle adventure: collect a bunch of gold.  There's no real plot to talk about, and even the ending is barely an ending at all, you're just treated to an awesome running portrait of the lode runner guy!  But seriously, I wouldn't expect a story out of a game like this and neither should you.

The gameplay is simple yet taxing. You must collect all the gold in the level while avoiding the enemies that chase after you. Your only means of self defense is a laser gun that destroys a block on the floor so the enemy can fall in. You can't attack the enemies directly so you must rely on proper timing to trap your pursuers. You can't jump so if you happen to fall into one of the holes yourself, then you're screwed! It's a "trap or be trapped" game as you rush to find all the gold and then find the exit to escape with your life! There are over 100 levels in the game and you can even create your own, so that's a great little extra for you creative folk. The puzzle levels are all well and good, but it's the multiplayer that I found to be the best part.

Green is raging his balls off right now.
In multiplayer there are 3 modes of play for up to 5 players: Survival, Escape, and Tag Match. Survival is the most straight forward as it's a 5 player free-for-all where everyone runs around stages trying to trap each other in holes with the last one surviving winning the match. Avoiding getting trapped by your friends is actually pretty easy if you keep your wits about you, but eventually some monsters will be let loose into the arena chasing after the players, so that will certainly complicate matters for you! In "Escape", the players aren't after killing each other so much as looking for the ladder that will let them escape the level as monsters are let loose into the arena as well, and if everyone dies then the match is a draw. Then there's the tag match which is only up to 4 players (so there's an even amount of players), and it's your typical 2 vs 2 team battle where you try to trap and kill the opposing the team.

Even though this game was only released in Japan, Hudson soft saw fit to release this on the Wii's virtual console in the United States region. There's no Japanese in it what-so-ever, so this game is easily playable to anyone of any native language. The Lode Runner men have tons of personality in the victory cut-scenes, they remind me of mini-Captain Falcons. Again, if you have the friends then you must check this out, and even if you don't this game is kind enough to have multiplayer A.I bots for you to mess around with which I am always grateful for! Have a good one, everybody.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Phantom Dust - A card battle game that has no cards!

I think games that deal with psychic powers are cool, I pretty much enjoy any title with the word "Psychic" in it. This game is no exception, and it actually did rather well critically and has become something of a cult favorite for the original Xbox.

Phantom Dust was released in the U.S in 2005 by Majesco in partnership with Microsoft Game Studios.  The setting is your typical post-apocalyptic wasteland where everyone is suffering from amnesia.  Nobody knows what happened, but they are forced to band together and live underground because of the dangerous dust that is everywhere in the surface world.  Certain humans, called Espers, are able to manipulate the dust and into psychic powers to combat the monsters that roam the surface.  Because they have these powers, it is the espers primary responsibility to explore the surface to find scavenge anything of use and hopefully find clues that might reveal what really happened to the world.  The main character is found by a group of espers in a chamber, and just like everyone else, he can't remember a damn thing, and so the game's story begins.  I actually find the setting to be very intriguing, everyone you meet can't even remember their own names so they choose new ones which either sound really badass or just hilariously goofy.  A thin guy goes by the name of "Chunky", and another goes by the name "Cuff Button" but they seem to have no idea what their names really mean.  It's funny yet a little bit sad as the memory loss seems to be a pretty big deal in this game.

The gameplay is surprisingly unique, there really wasn't a game like it back then.  As mentioned in the title, this plays out like a trading card game, but all the fights are in real time.  You run across dust orbs that have psychic powers  in them and you bind them to buttons on your controller.  The orbs you find are part of your arsenal (read: card deck) that you can customize before missions.  Each orb has a different psychic power like fire blasts or energy swords that can be used either many times or only once so you have to play smart with your powers and try not to miss as you may be dead before you get a chance to use that one power again!  This game actually has 2 vs 2 online multiplayer which can get pretty intense,  but you'll never get that opportunity to play it now as online servers are closed down now.  At least the campaign is still great!

Besides the unique setting, one of my favorite things are the destructible environments.  It really gives you the impression that you are a powerful bastard whenever you blast apart an entire chunk of a highway or other random acts of destruction, it's like you're really watching an episode of DBZ without the ridiculous pacing issues!  The music is comprised of very interesting remixes of classical music.  For instance, the Club Baroness bar features the habanera of Carmen remixed into a haunting jazz beat.  Aside from the classical references, most of the music stays out of the way as you're going to need to be focusing on formulating strategies on the fly and dodging any oncoming projectiles.

Yep, this is another game I would easily recommend.  They were trying out something completely new with this game and it actually worked into something wonderful!  I'm not entirely sure if it was a financial success because we would probably be seeing more of the same if it was, everybody was still high on Halo when this game came I guess.  I enjoyed my time with this game especially since I found it brand new on cleareance at a  Toys R us for $3.  A great deal that is easily worth 10 times that amount.  Check it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

DJ Boy - Fight an obese black woman and a male stripper to save your true love!

It seems like everyone in the late 80's/early 90's did all their fighting on roller skates. I mean, the idea of this game has certainly been done before so surely roller skater-on-roller skater violence must have been a rampant issue back then, there's simply no way to explain otherwise! What we got here is yet another in the beat-em-up genre, and while it's definitely no Sengoku 3, it does have that quirky style that draws me in just like Bravoman. It is also very racist! Why? Read on.

DJ Boy was released in the states in 1990 by Kaneko for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive, it's also a solitary experience in that it features no multi-player at all so those looking to grab a buddy for a beat-em-up adventure will simply have to play something else.  The main character of our story is Donald J. Boy aka DJ Boy, he participates in a fight-race known as a "rollergame" (where have I heard that before?) while simultaneously trying to save his girlfriend Maria from the "Dark Knights" gang who also happen to be participating in the contest.  The "Dark Knights" must be an equal opportunity gang, because they have no qualms hiring a flatulent obese black woman or a flamboyant Chippendale wanna-be to mess you up.  They even have an evil twin of DJ Boy!  The Japanese version gets a few extra cut-scenes which were cut out in the English versions because they were probably too "manga"-like for any English speaker to appreciate.  Of course it's not like the story is very important here. In fact I'd almost claim it's non-existent if it wasn't for the text in the finale.

You start the game perpetually moving to the right via roller-skates in a fight-race dodging incoming punches from advancing enemies and obstacles in front you.  You must learn how to control your skating speed and time your punches and kicks perfectly to stop anyone in front of you as well as behind you.  Every now and then, everyone will stop advancing forward and you get to move around freely to fight those who have been harassing you up until that point.  Enemies will drop coins which can be used to buy upgrades in the shop between stages, so this plays out a bit like River City Ransom.  Combat is pretty shallow for a beat-em-up as there's no real combos to mess around with, but it's pretty forgiving as you're going to be worried about dodging that traffic cone more so than chaining attacks on the fat kid advancing behind you.

You won't see her in the U.S version.
It should be noted that the Japanese and English versions are quite different from each other.  In Japan, the first boss of the game is a fat black woman who uses farts as a projectile attack.  She has stereotypically huge red lips and when you defeat her she will comically falls down revealing her undergarments.  In the English version, her skin color is changed to pink and instead of farting she will throw pies at you.  Amusingly enough, her black portrait is still kept in the cut scene afterwards with DJ Boy standing proudly for beating up a fat lady.  They also took the resident black kid and white-washed him as well so DJ Boy wouldn't be committing a hate crime.  Amusingly enough, however, they kept the male stripper in the English version, and not only that but they also added in billboards that focus on the bikini area of a woman.  So they removed one offensive aspect of the game, and added in some fan service.  Fair trade?  Eh, not really, that black lady was pretty funny in my opinion.  Also, most of the levels are revamped in the English version to make it more difficult than it's Japanese counter-part, and if that doesn't bother you then I think you should know that you only get one life to complete the game!  Good luck!

This game is really short, you can beat it in an hour or less!  While the game seems difficult at start, you'll be learning from your mistakes and you'll always play a little bit better each time.  Really, this game has that 90s style that I seem to enjoy so much and some absolutely wacky boss fights, that male stripper was really tough!  If you want a mildly racist good time you should find the Japanese version and play that one, if you want a more hardcore experience with some fan-service then you would want  to get the English version.  Or, you can just pass because this game isn't really that spectacular.  Have a good weekend!