Confessions of a Classic Gamer



Monday, May 19, 2003

Now Playing:

Iridion II (GBA)
Contra Advance - The Alien Wars DX (GBA)
DonPachi (Arcade)
King of the Monsters 2 (SNEs)

Continuing much in the same vein as before, actually. Considering the fact that shmups are my favorite type of game, it's none too surprising.

In fact, I'd like to address a point that came up recently. The 'Now Playing' section is literally that. It's what I'm playing on the day before and the day of my post. It doesn't accurately reflect what it is that I've played in the days before it. For example, this week I've played Gradius Galaxies, Gradius III, Dimahoo, Shienryu Gekioh, Yakyuu Kakutou League-Man and Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Part 3, just to name a few off the top of my head. That's in addition to what I've got up there. I just felt the need to clear up any confusion.

Iridion II

Finally, another shmup for my lovely GBA SP to snack on. This one is a little different, as it features a slightly lowered perspective reminiscient of the vertical levels of Axelay. Thankfully, this game doesn't have the draw-in problem that Axelay did with it's Mode-7.

The game has a beautiful little anime-ish opening and fantastic music. I had at once thought the music repetitive, but I love it so much that it grew on me. Plus, the ability to sort-of make your own theme song by adjusting the options on the title screen is very nice.

The game is the sequel to the horrible Star Fox wannabe Iridion, released at the launch of the original GBA. Thank goodness they got it right this time. The game is a vertical shmup through and through. It's fun. It's not Gradius Galaxies-fun, but I'm a little biased in that regard. =) Still, the damn game was only 15 bucks. It's worth full price, in my opinion.

The game has it's flaws, however. The main flaw is that the weapons selection is a bit on the simple side, and that the multiple power-up system, while neat, is unnecessary. I'm at the end of the game right now, and all I used were the regular red (powerful) shots. After you finish upgrading the ship, for every powerup you pump into that weapon you get half your life back, and that's a far greater bonus than having a second weapon at Power Level 2. In addition, a few weapons only have marginally useful properties compared to the power of the red shots, so in essence they are useless.

Another problem is the presence of a password system. It's only five characters (so far, anyway), but with that many unlockables, you'd think a save system would be standard. For a brand new game (post-SP), there's no reason why they shouldn't have a battery save. Maybe they didn't include one on purpose to cut down on the cost of production, and, by extension, the retail cost, but I would have rather paid full price and got a battery save.

The game is enjoyable, though. It's just really simple. It's rendered, and most of the enemies look very plain and boring. The backgrounds are repetitive but pretty. The music is nice, and it looks like with an unlockable Gallery, Arcade mode, Challenge mode and Jukebox, there's a good bit of extra stuff in here. For $15, you can't go wrong.

Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX

Okay, so I'll get Konami Krazy Racers next time. ^_^ I decided to finally get the GBA's only Contra release, which is a funky mishmash of The Alien Wars for SNES and Hard Corps for the Genesis.

Contra, like Gradius, was a big part of my youth when it came to video games. Long were the nights where I'd spend hours trying to beat the Contra games. There are some happy memories in there, for amongst all those frustrating one-hit deaths lay true victory. Much like a shmup, games like Contra reward your patience and tenacity just as much as memorization and quick reflexes. This is what classic gaming is all about. =) But I digress.

Like I said, Contra Advance is a strange fusion of Contra: The Alien Wars and Contra: Hard Corps. Konami opted to take out the overhead levels of The Alien Wars and replace them with some levels from Hard Corps. The only problem with this is that you can totally tell exactly which ones are which, even if you'd never played either game before. Hard Corps was the hardest of the Contra games, and arguably the most interesting. While the levels are nicely inserted, you can definetly tell the difference. "Why is level two so much harder than level three?" is a question I can imagine many people asking themselves.

That aside, the game is great. Classic Contra action. All of the classic weapons, like Spread, Laser, Homing Missile, Flamethrower, etc. Challenge that you can only have with a game like Contra. It's all here.

The graphics and music are well reproduced, but the game is devoid of any extras. I was hoping for a new level or two, maybe even the inclusion of even more levels from Hard Corps, but in the end the game is a mere six levels. Still, even that may be too much for the average player.

I do have one big, glaring complaint. There's no battery save. You have to use an 18 character password system. Ridiculous. Sure, it keeps the level you were on, the weapon you had, the number of lives remaining as well as your score, but for a game that's only six levels and has no extras, I can't imagine there not being enough room for a battery in there somewhere. Having to write down and/or type in that password is insane. This is gaming on the go... you shouldn't have to use a password. Iridion II uses a password system, too, but it keeps all that information and more in just five characters. There's no excuse for an 18 character password system. That's one aspect of classic gaming that I don't want back.

All in all, the game is certainly worth it, but that password is off-putting, I admit. It makes me hesitant to play when I have a few minutes of time, because even if I beat another level or break my previous high score, am I going to have a pen and paper with me at all times? Probably not.

King of the Monsters 2

Quick note - Down at Gamestop I found a mint copy of KOTM2 in it's original box, with instructions and inserts, still in it's freakin' bag. Only the box had been opened. The game had never been removed from plastic. Brand new. Seven bucks. All hail Gamestop.
Beni - 5:03 PM

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Now Playing:
Shienryu Gekioh (PS1)
Strikers 1945 II (PS1)
Sol Divide (PS1)
Gradius Galaxies (GBA)

Yeah, this week is definetly shmup week. I picked up Strikers and Sol Divide this past weekend and I'm having a blast with them. More with Strikers than with Sol Divide... but you get the idea. =) Also, I finally beat Gradius Galaxies for the GBA, though I had to break it up in two parts. Levels 1-6 and then 7-8. That level six always gets me at least once. After I died one time I had to shut it off (I was in the movie theatre last night about to watch X-Men 2 with my wife and friends, and the previews were starting). My next goal is to one-credit the sucker.

Strikers 1945 II

The first time I ever played Strikers it was at a Kroger in Angleton. They only had the machine for a short while before getting rid of it (which sucked), but I enjoyed my time with the game. It simply hasn't been on my mind as of late. Sure enough, while heading to EB to get a copy of Wario World 4 for my GBA, I happen across Strikers 1945 on the shelf. Now, this is the US release of Strikers 1945 II, so they've renamed it, simply, Strikers 1945. I have no idea why. Sure, they didn't release the first one over here, but neither did they release the first Gunbird over here, but they had no problem keeping the name Gunbird 2. Lots of other games have this issue as well (Final Fantasy comes to mind). Oh well. It's not that important.

The game itself is missing the almighty TATE mode, unlike the wonderful port of Gunbird 2 to our shores, so that was a bit upsetting. Even still, playing in Original 1 (shrunk & letterboxed) mode isn't that bad. I'm not the kind of TATE Nazi I see sometimes on the Shmups board. ^_^ TATE is best, but when you can't do it, Original 1 will have to suffice.

This game is a no-frills joyride. It's got a World War 2 feel (thus the name), and that's a nice break from my Vic Viper and flying little girls. ^_^ My limited experience with it in the Arcade didn't blow me away, but sitting down and concentrating on it at home has been very enjoyable. You are prompted to pick from 6 ships in the beginning, each of them with different speeds, weapons, sub-weapons, charge shots, and bombs. I currently use the F5U "Flying Pancake", due to it's maneuverability, guided laser shots and bullet-absorbing giant-ass laser cannon charged shot. =) The game is a real challenge on default settings, though. It will be quite a while before I one-credit the sucker.

I've made it to 1-6 on one credit, but I was having serious trouble doing it again. 0_o That's when I went back to playing Gekioh, and nailed my previous high score (and level) to the wall. Taking a break can be very good.

Sol Divide

This one's an oddity. I saw it at the same time as Strikers and decided to get them both. I knew it was a horizontal game, I knew there were some melee attacks, and I knew a lot of people didn't much care for it. Still, at ten bucks you can't really go wrong.

It's not THAT bad, really. Although all the story bits are missing, the gameplay is intact, and even includes a mode not in the Arcade version. No high-score saving is disappointing (Gekioh has this problem, too), but not entirely necessary.

You choose from three characters, and as with most shmups with three characters, they each have typical bonuses. There's the big, strong guy who excells at melee but has a weaker shot and weaker magic (Kashan), the melee-weakened sorceress with powerful shots and magic (Tyora) and the nice balance character (Vorg).

The graphics are rendered (something I don't like seeing very often), but not too shabby. The backgrounds are quite plain but the enemies aren't too bad. My problem is the pacing of the game and the length of the game itself. "Levels" are extremely short, broken up by a map screen. Just when you start to get into the action, the level ends, and if there is a boss, it is played as a separate part, still with the waiting through the map screen and loading again. The game is way too short to appreciate any strategic intricacies or advanced scoring techniques. On default settings the game is quite easy and can be completed in a mere 10 minutes if you know when to use magic and how to use it.

The magic system is fun, but there are too many spells for the length of the game. At most, you could cast your strongest spell twice in the whole game. Very disappointing.

The adventure type mode I've not delved into, though, so it may be the saving grace of the game. What gameplay that's there is different and fun, but there isn't enough of it at any given time to make you really want to delve into it. It's just not that deep. Once you've figured out how to get through each screen without taking too much damage, the game is over, and the challenge is completely gone. It could have been great, but it simply isn't.
Beni - 4:55 PM

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Now Playing:

Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale (PS1)
Yu Gi Oh! Worldwide Edition: Stairway to the Destined Duel (GBA)
Gradius Galaxies (GBA)

Over the past few days I've taken a break from my SNES, and during that time, I aquired a new game.

Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale

I was strolling through GameStop (like I always do), trying to decide what new GBA game to get, as the bins had nothing that I wanted to immediately buy. Before long, though, Jessica had directed my attention to a little table next to the check-out counter that had a few new releases on it. One of them was Inuyasha for the PS1. As a fan of the anime series, my mind was made up. I'd heard of an Inuyasha RPG for the PS1, and I was excited because I realized that this had to be it. I was wrong. It's actually a fighting game.

Now, before I go too far into this, let me just state the following: if you are not a fan of Inuyasha, stay away from this game. It is very simplistic and really only fun for a fan.

That having been said, the game is a fighting game with very, very simple controls and not too many moves or strategies. As per the usual in fighting games of this type, certain characters have glaring advantages over others. The fun in the game comes from being able to play as the characters from the series, as well as listening to the (literally) thousands of vocal samples loaded into the game. Each character has tons of things they say, as well as variations. For fans of the Japanese voice actors, this is a treat.

The game actually has more modes and extras than most modern fighters. You can go through the 'Feudal Fairy Tale' mode, which is the story mode (I'll cover this in a bit), the VS Mode, the practice mode, and the Tag Mode (where you can either go up against a friend or tag-team with them). In addition, there is a one called 'Backpack', where you can deal with various extras and replay the mini-games from the Story Mode that you've encountered before. A cute addition was the Options menu, which is called, "Shippo's Seven Changes", and each option is represented by an icon featuring one of Shippo's forms, and a big Shippo head in the center, making funny noises and talking to you (though his voice isn't translated).

Story mode is where the game really shines. Each character has their own story mode, and therefore, each character has interactions with the other characters in the story. These portions are told by cutscenes with original dialogue for the game. Each character gets a prologue, though there isn't much to the ending other than a nice picture.

The Story mode plays itself out on a map. You move your little SD character along various areas of the map, and you can see where there are fragments of the Sacred Jewel, as well as what type they are. Collecting them allows you to unlock new features and characters. Also represented are the characters you fight and the mini-games. You can tackle the characters in whatever order you can, given your paths. Each encounter features tons of voice acting before and after the battle.

Sometimes it's quite humorous: When Miroku runs into Shippo, and when Sango shows up, of course, Miroku, being the perverted monk he is, grabs her ass. In retribution, Shippo and Sango then tag team you. ^_^

Sometimes, it's serious: When Inuyasha runs into Kikyo, she asks him to die with her, but he states that he cannot die just yet. Kikyo asks him if Kagome is more important to him now, and in her rage attacks him.

Once you've completed all objectives on the map, the final area opens and you fight Naraku in the final battle. The conditions vary from character to character (In Kagome's story, Inuyasha joins her in a tag battle against him... most of the other characters go it alone).

At the end of the game, you're treated to a portait of the character added to your Photo Album, as well as Myoga telling you how many shards you collected, and also what character you unlocked. The mode is actually time-consuming, and I've only unlocked 6 characters in story mode so far, so I haven't gotten to play everybody.

Jessica and I are enjoying it, and the cooperative tag mode is a welcome change from the usual VS. It's simple enough for a child to pick up and enjoy, but fans of the series should definetly consider picking trying to get it, even if only to unlock all the art and music tracks available in the game. They definetly used the cel-work to pull from, as the images are very high quality.

Again, I only recommend this to fans, as it's too simple for die-hard fighting game fans to enjoy seriously.
Beni - 5:00 PM




As gaming sinks further into mainstream mediocrity, I choose to step out of that vile mookish black hole... Going back to a time when we gamed for gaming's sake.