Archive for August, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Review (PSN)

Posted in Downloadable games, PS3, Retro Gaming, Reviews on August 29, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

It’s like River City Ransom and Streets of Rage mixed together and made for the Neo-Geo Arcade Cabinet

 

O Canada. It’s such a charming country and I feel proud to be Canadian. Although not a major world stage, a lot nevertheless does happen here, espically in Toronto, the location Scott Pilgrim takes place in.

As shaming as it is, I have yet to read the Canadian exploits of Scott Pilgrim and his friends.I’m just not enough of a nerd I suppose. I’ll have to fix that. Luckily for me,  the series has recently expanded beyond black and white pages into other, much more exciting media.

2010 has been a pretty important milestone for the series. The sixth graphic novel has been released, a film adaptation has deputed to the world (see it. It’s good), and best of all, there’s a new videogame based on the property that owes its very existence to parodies and references to nerd culture.

The game was obviously planned to be released alongside the film so that each can help promote the other. The problem what that is obvious to anyone who has been gaming for a long time. With very few exceptions, videogames based on movies are always terrible.  So the question is, how good is the game counterpart of the Scott Pilgrim Vs the World movie?

Story

Scott Pilgrim,  a 23 year old slacker and bass player for the band Sex Bob-omb from Toronto, falls in love with the mysterious Ramona Flowers, a delivery girl with weird mystical powers to travel in into the subconscious. Scott soon learns that in order to be with her, he must first defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends, who have formed a syndicate and are out to kill him for some reason. It makes no sense, but its a videogame plot. Or rather it’s the novel plot based on videogame plots then put into this videogame. Whatever.

Graphics

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game is a beautiful, sprite based game that looks like it could have been made for the SNK Neo-Geo hardware. Lush, beautiful 32-bit sprites animate with cartoon-like motion. I can honestly say that Scott Pilgrim vs The World has some of the best looking sprites I’ve ever seen, Arcana Heart, Odin Sphere and Muramasa included. The reason the sprites look so good is in large part thanks to the wonderful art direction.

The art direction. under the unbelievably talented pixel artist Paul Robertson, makes this game the playable embodiment of his sprite films, just without the extreme violence. If that doesn’t make you want to play this game, then nothing will.

I can completely imagine Scott Pilgrim vs the world the game as an arcade cabinet co-op game I could have played endlessly growing up. From the way even the shop characters animate to the clever use of parallax scrolling, Scott Pilgrim will satisfy anyone looking for a retro-fix on their new console. It handles similar to classic Konami games such as The Simpsons Arcade or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade.

Audio

The entire soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs The World The Game is composed by American chiptune band Anamanaguchi. Distinctive as their prior works, the soundtrack is composed by the wonderful sounds of both the real NES and Gameboy hardware, as well as real drums and guitars.

Scott Pilgrim has some of the best music I’ve heard in any game in a long time. I personally have a soft spot for chiptune music, but this stuff I think has universal appeal.

Just check out this track to the first stage to get a taste of what you’re in for.

Gameplay

Scott Pilgrim vs the world the game is a homage to all the great beat ’em ups of yore, but is espically a homage to the Technos NES classic, River City Ransom. It isn’t completely identical as there is now a RPG-like level up system, encouraging replayability.

As you fight enemies, they will burst into coins, which you collect to spend in shops for food and items that restore health, boost your stats and sometimes even allow you to level up. being a Canadian property, enemies burst into Canadian coins. This was completely unnecessary, but the attention to detail with minor aspects like this really do add up.

You can pick up just about anything  lying around and use it as a weapon, from baseball bats to garbage cans, even fallen enemies and snowballs. Most of the make-shift weapons do a fair bit of damage and are great for crowd control. Best of all, nearly all objects you can pick up can be used infinitely and don’t disappear if dropped, a true rarity in beat ’em ups.

Control

Scott Pilgrim is a fairly simple beat ’em up, but employs the use of six buttons! Two are for attacks (weak and strong), a jump, block and two special moves used for crowd control. The controls themselves are responsive and the game is fun to play, no matter if you prefer the d-pad or the analog stick. Most of the time you’ll only be using the two attack buttons and the jump, so don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of buttons the game uses.

On the PS3, most likely due to tight scheduling, Scott Pilgrim cannot be played with most USB controllers. Only the PS3 controller and a select few arcade sticks can be used. My Sanwa modded Datel PS3/360 stick works perfectly, but none of my other sticks seem to work at all. This is a real shame, as Scott Pilgrim is built as an arcade brawler, and is best experienced using a quality arcade stick.

This unfortunately also means the Saturn USB controller can’t be used either. It’s a real shame. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future update. This is my one and only major complaint with the game.

Frustration

Scott Pilgrim is at heart, an arcade game. Much of the difficulty from classic coin-op games is present, and therefore so is much of the frustration those games entail. The game can be played solo, but it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable when playing with a group of friends.

Evidently due to time restraints, Ubisoft did not implement any online co-op, so you’ll either need to go through this one alone or with a group of friends on your couch.

The game gives you three lives for a stage, but depending on your level, sometimes this just won’t be enough to complete everything. Mercifully, the game allows you to retain any experience.

You can also revisit previously beaten stages, so it’s also possible to level grind if you feel the need. Doing this allows you to gain more cash as well, so it’s not a wasted effort. The level cap is at a mere level 16, so even if you do choose to grind, you won’t have to do so for long.

System availability and price

Scott Pilgrim is a downloadable game for the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360. The game is $9.99 on PS3, and 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360.

Audience

Scott Pilgrim features none of the gore and extreme violence Paul Robertson is known for, and there’s no blood either unless you enter a password. The game’s cartoony graphics make it friendly for anyone to enjoy.

History

Scott Pilgrim was originally a series of black and white graphic novels released between 2004 and 2010. The series is known for many references to nerd culture that would appeal to gamers currently in their 20’s. Some references are obvious such as the band Scott is in being called “Sex Bob-omb”, where bob-ombs are the wind up bomb enemies first featured in Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES.

If you know a good deal of NES gaming, you’ll get a lot of these references. It should be pretty obvious to everyone what the cover for volume 3 shown above is a reference to.

Other references, such as rival band names “Clash at the Demonhead” and “Crash and the boys”, are actually titles of obscure NES games. The Scott Pilgrim vs the World game is jam-packed with these sorts of references, and its fun to go through every stage and see how many you can notice. Maybe you ought to stop by the video store and pick up a copy of “Never ending Fantasy”. I hear that’s a long running RPG series!

Overall

Good

Brilliant graphics, addictive music, fun fast placed gameplay and the references to the past twenty or so years of nerd culture make this game a clear winner. The game is lengthy for a beat ’em up I’d say around 4 -6 hours worth of gameplay here. Not bad for $10.

Bad

The fact that you can’t play this online stings. Worse, the fact that you can’t use the wonderful USB Sega Saturn controller and many arcade sticks means you will probably have to use the stock controller, which is a total bummer.

Conclusion

Scott Pilgrim vs The World The Game is just as good of a game as those it is paying homage to. If you’re a fan of Scott Pilgrim, this game is a no-brainer, but even if you don’t care about the series, there’s enough solid game here to itch that retro fix.

It might not cutting edge, but Scott Pilgrim proves that there still is a place in this modern HD gaming scene for brand new, 2D sprite based action games.

If you’ve read this far, you owe it to yourself to at least download the demo. Scott Pilgrim will not disappoint.

Data

Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Genre: Beat ’em up

Release Date: August 10/25, 2010

Devoloper: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer’s notable other works: 3D Prince of Persia series, Assassins Creed series

ESRB: Teen

Buy or skip: Buy

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NES Power Pak Review

Posted in NES, Peripherals, Retro Gaming, Reviews on August 23, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

Ever wish you could have every NES game? Now you can

 

Stretching all the way back to the mid to late 1980s, Famicom gamers have had the opportunity to buy unlicensed multi-carts rather than official games. The draw to these carts is obvious – they cost a fraction of the price and often contain unique, rare or modified games, or it might simply be that they contain many good games in one place without forcing the player to constantly swap out cartridges.

However, multi-carts also have their share of flaws. More often than not, the games they contain are among the Famicom’s most simplistic. Multi-carts are infamous for the likelihood of containing crappy games as well. Worse, carts that claim to have dozens, often hundreds of games really only ever house a small fraction of that with the small number of real games just repeating over and over. But the biggest problem with any multi-cart is that no matter what games it contains, it will never replace your entire collection because they never contain battery back ups or large games and because the individual gamer has no say in which games are on any one multi-cart.

Now all of that has changed thanks to an ingenious device known as the Power Pak. Simply put, the Power Pak is a NES cartridge dev tool that can convert FAT flash memory from a standard compact flash card into 6502 assembly code, allowing it to read .nes files. The Power Pak is fitted with virtual mappers, allowing it to read and play theoretically every NES or Famicom game ever programmed.

Available exclusively via RetroZone at retrousb.com, the Power Pak is the answer to all the problems with current multi-carts for both the NES and Famicom. Designed to eliminate the wear and tear that occurs to the aging 72 pin connector of the NES through constant use, the Power Pak is the ultimate companion to any NES or Famicom.

This is my first review of this nature, so bare with me as I hammer out a hardware review format.

Design

The Powerpak is housed in an attractive transparent red NES shell with a port for a Compact Flash card in the top right corner. Once inserted, the Compact Flash card lays flush with the top of the cartridge.

The Powerpak imploys a brilliant yet simple latch mechanism that manually slides up and then allows the user to push in to eject the CF card effortlessly.

Although dark red transparent and housing a CF card port, the shell of the Powerpak mirrors a standard Nintendo cartridge perfectly. It will fit in perfectly on a shelf of other NES cartridges.

The only negative point of the Powerpak is that it comes in an NES 72-pin cartridge only; there is no 60-pin Famicom design. Therefore, to play it on a Famicom you need to use an adapter and have the large cartridge face backwards as per usual for NES games on a Famicom.

Durability

While I  wouldn’t recommend treating the Powerpak with excessive abuse, the cartridge is about on par with the standard durability of original gray NES game cartridges. The Powerpak should be able to put up with years of use and wear without issue. As we all know, NES games are tough.

Functionality

The Powerpak works like a dream; all you need to do is install the system software onto a CF card and then load up your favorite .nes ROMs. Currently, the Powerpak supports nearly every NES mapper there is with the notable exception of MMC5. This means there are well over one thousand fully playable, bug free games with more arriving with future firmware updates.

As the Powerpak reads .nes files, the entire library of NES, Famicom, and Famicom Disk System games are theoretically playable on any NES or Famicom. The Powerpak will even read PAL games on an NTSC NES or Famicom, although the added speed of the processor will make the PAL NES games about 12% faster than they should be.

Another welcome feature is the ability to load and save RAM data via flash memory for games that originally saved with a battery, such as the Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. All you need to do is create a dummy save file for each game, rename it to the name of the game, and then save to it when prompted.

This little bit of extra work ensures that you will never lose your save data to a dead battery of the NES’s notorious saving error that occurs when you turn off the system improperly.

When you load up the Powerpak, you’re greeted to a simple to use menu interface to select the game you wish to play, just like any Multicart. Once a game is selected, you can also choose to load RAM save data and input up to five Gamegenie codes. That’s two more codes than even the real NES Gamegenie!

Since the Powerpak has the ability to reduce the entire NES library to a mere menu to select hundreds of games from, it brings up the morally gray issue of emulation.

Is the Powerpak a  tool of evil piracy or is it the ultimate collectors tool and the holy grail NES games have been looking for? Depending on who uses it, it’s both.

While you can load up all the Mario and other Nintendo titles up on it and play them for free, most of the games you can play on the Powerpak were developed by companies that no longer exist, or at the very least, are no longer making any profit from their 20+ year old games.

I myself have a large collection of NES, Famicom and FDS games, and have actually used the Powerpak to demo games before buying the cartridges. I’ve even used this process before buying a few NES games on the Wii’s Virtual Console.

Ultimately, the choice of how one uses the Powerpak should be left to each individual gamer.

In addition to running games, the Powerpak can also read .nsf (Nintendo Sound Format) files naively. NSF files  are the raw data the 6502 processor of the NES uses to produce noise. With the ability to run nearly any nsf, composers can test out their work in Famitracker (an NSF composer for modern computers) and everyday chiptune fans can enjoy their favorite NES tunes without pressing a button sequence to load up the hidden sound test in their favorite NES game.

Value

At a base price of $135 USD plus shipping, the Powerpak isn’t exactly pocket change for most gamers. However, from an economical standpoint, the Powerpak is quite a good deal considering all it offers. If you’re an NES gamer, chances are you have dozens if not hundreds of NES games you’ve bought over the years. What if you’re an NES owner also interested in Famicom games? FDS? Homebrew and game reproductions? You see what I’m getting at?

Just how much money has your collection cost you to build? Is it even complete? For the price of only just a few rare games you can own everything. The Powerpak also gives the ability for owners of sealed games to play the games they’ve been thinking of opening. Since it also can run nearly every 8-bit Nintendo game ever made, it has the benefit of severely reducing cartridge pin connector wear and tear, saving you money and the hassle of replacing 72 pin connectors.

Overall

The Powerpak is a great value, offers endless variety and is a good long term investment as the stream of NES homebrew games, worthwhile hacks and even fan translations continues to flow.

While the Powerpak doesn’t do anything a decent PC emulator won’t, the reason why one would buy it is the same as any flash device – to be able to experience everything the original hardware had to offer, on the original hardware.

The Powerpak is the best thing to happen to the NES in years. Step aside Mario. The NES has a new killer app.

Megaman 2 Review (NES)

Posted in Megaman Classic, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews on August 16, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Quite possibly the best Megaman game ever made


Just how many Megaman games have there been throughout the years? I’m not even sure series creator Keiji Inafune would be able to easily answer. For the past two decades, the iconic blue-clad hero has appeared on every major console in some form and there have as many as six spin-off series based on the classic one created two decades ago.

How did all of this come to be? Despite all Capcom’s efforts, Megaman 1 was only moderately popular in Japan, and in the US it was hampered my the epitome of terrible boxart and needed to be noticed by word of mouth alone. Megaman 1 didn’t even get much coverage from gaming magazines.

Somewhere along the line, Megaman picked up.  The series had become popular and successful enough to warrant sequel after sequel. That point was here.

Megaman 2 is so refined it’s often considered to be the best in the entire series, even though it’s only the second title. It’s been featured in many top NES games lists, and it’s been ROM hacked almost as many times as Super Mario Bros. has.

Does Megaman 2 still hold today?


Story

In the year of 200X, Dr. Light created a super robot named Megaman. Megaman defended peace and defeated the evil desires of Dr. Wily, whom had betrayed Dr. Light, stole six of his robots and tried to take over the world.  However, after his defeat, Dr. Wily has created eight new robots of his own to counter Megaman. He’s sent his robots across the globe with orders to destroy Megaman.

While perhaps not quite as good as the plot of the first title, Megaman 2’s prologue is still one of the most memorable and enjoyable cutscenes in all videogame history. It’s a simple story of revenge. Wily’s robots are out to eradicate mankind. What’s a super robot of justice to do? Suit up, prepare to fight, and blast everything that comes your way. Protector of justice vs. evil robots bent on killing? This means war.

Graphics

At first glace, Megaman 2 appears to look no different than the first game. Megaman’s sprite is reused as are some of the tile set. Lazy right?

A closer look will reveal the sequel has far superior graphics. With an increase of memory, every stage features unique challenges and enemies that often will not reappear anywhere else in the game. And this is on the NES.

The depths of the ocean floor in Bubbleman’s stage offer giant angler fish that spawn robot squid. Woodman’s stage is filled with robotic fire-breathing dogs, menacing rabbits, swooping bats, dive bombing birds mechanical monkeys and nearly invincible robo-chickens. Metalman’s stage is full of conveyor belts, chained spikes and all manner of metal hazards to avoid.

Don’t stop in Quickman’s stage for long or laser beams will send you to the scrap heap. These deadly lasers are fast and indestructible,but the Flash Stopper can freeze them in place long enough for you to slip by. Airman’s stage is high in the sky, with some of the best looking clouds in any eight-bit game. There’s so much to see that once you finally do see it all, you’ll want to see it again and again.

The game is colourful and bright, every character animates with almost cartoonish motion, and even today it’s a blast to look at. Like the first game, Megaman 2 holds up well as one of the best looking games produced for the Famicom.

Audio

Megaman 2 is quite arguably the crowning achievement of sound design on the Famicom. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Megaman 2 has the best soundtrack of any game produced for Nintendo’s 8-bit console. Every song in the game is memorable, catchy, distinctive, and downright fun to listen to. This is the NES at it’s best, and one of the prime reasons chiptune music is so popular today.

The depths of the ocean in Bubbleman’s stage leave the player with a feeling of loneliness and purity. The fast paced drums of Woodman’s stage give the impression that the forest is alive with robots and what you’re hearing is actually a war march against Megaman. Quickman’s stage is a secret tower where sounds of instruments going off in the background meld together to create a unique and otherworldly sound.

None of these tracks of course compare with Dr. Wily’s castle music. It is a legendary chiptune that never EVER gets old. Hundreds of videogame cover bands worldwide devote segments to the soundtrack of this game. One in particular are called the Megas. They go so far as to devote their entire existence to the Rockman 2 soundtrack, performing lyrical covers of the songs found in this game. It’s just beyond awesome.

Gameplay

Megaman 2 is a platformer-shooter, just like the first game. Megaman must defeat a series of bosses (now eight instead of six) before challenging the evil Dr. Wily.
After defeating each boss you gain their powers. Expanding on this, some bosses also now bestow a particular item for Megaman to command. Item 1 creates steps that slowly travel up the screen, Item 2 creates a sled that speedily travels horizontally in a straight line and item 3 creates a stepladder that travels up walls like a spider.There are points in MM2 that require the use of these items in some spots.

As well as these additions, Megaman 2 introduced the Energy Tank, a single use cure-all that restores Megaman’s energy to full strength and can be used at anytime, including all boss battles.

There are some points where special walls prevent progress, and can only be destroyed by use of the Crash Bomb. Megaman 2 is one of the only Megaman games to feature alternative paths through stages in this way.

Once again , every robot has a strength and weakness to one of the others, like in Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Establishing which robot is weak to which weapon is half the fun of defeating them. Here’s all the weapons in the game:

Megaman: Megabuster – Megaman’s default weapon. Fires up to three high energy plasma shots horizontally. Does decent damage to almost all enemies in the game.
Airman: Air Shooter – three cyclones of air form mini-tornadoes that rip though enemies as they travel up and off the screen.
Crashman: Crash Bomber – fires a time bomb explosive, capable of destroying certain walls and casing severe damage to neighboring enemies.
Metalman: Metal Blades – metallic gears sharpened to saw blade standards and hurled at enemies at great velocity. Easily the most powerful weapon in the game.
Bubbleman: Bubble Lead – whether you think “lead” refers to the fact that it follows (leads) or lead as in the substance we don’t want to find in toys made in china, this weapon is a bubble that travels along the floor, allowing Rockman to spot pitfalls and damage enemies the Rockbuster may miss.
Heatman: Atomic Fire – Fires a molten hot fireball at foes. The only weapon capable of charging up, at full blast it can take out nearly anything with one hit.
Woodman: Leaf Shield – A barrier surrounds its user protecting them from any harm as long as the user remains stationary. The moment they move, the shield is hurled at the enemy as a weapon.
Flashman: Time Stopper – A unique weapon that stops time, freezing all enemy movement while allowing Rockman to keep moving. When in use Megaman can’t fire, and only certain enemies are damaged by its time-freezing effects.
Quickman: Quick Boomerangs – Fires a succession of boomerangs, this weapon is actually very similar to the Metal Blade, just not as powerful.

Control

Megaman 2’s controls are tight and well executed. The + pad moves Megaman seamlessly, B fires, A jumps, Start brings up the change weapon menu (and pauses the game) and Select toggles though a list of options on menus the same as the +pad.

Fun Factor

With refined amusing characters, amazing graphics, spectacular sound and solid gameplay, Megaman 2 is a game you’ll want to return to over and over. This is easily the most approachable game in Capcom’s long running series and its popularity today is a testament to the appeal this game processes.

Frustration

Though it’s the easiest game in the series, Megaman  2 can also be the most frustrating. There are several key points in the game that require you to have enough weapon energy for a certain point in order to proceed, such as about midway though the first Wily stage that forces you to use Item 1.

Many complain about the high degree of difficulty getting though Quickman’s stage of laser death beams, and most everyone moans at running out of Crash Bombers, the only weapon that damages the wall sensor boss in the third Wily stage. However frustrating as the game can be, with careful planning and conserving weapon usage, these problems do go away with practice.

The Energy Tanks take away much of the worry of running out of lives during boss battles. One thing to note is that the Japanese version of Rockman 2 does not have a difficult selection as NES Megaman II does.  The game is played on “Difficult” mode at all times.  However, Rockman 2’s difficulty is nowhere near as high as some other Famicom classics such as Ninja Ryukenden.

System availability and price

Megaman 2 is available on a wide array of consoles including the Famicom and NES, Genesis, PSX, Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, PSP and Wii Virtual Console.

The Famicom Rockman 2 goes for between $20-35.
The NES Megaman goes for about $15-20.
Rockman Mega World for the Genesis goes for between $20-50.
If you want to track down the Playstation’s Rockman Complete Works, be prepared to spend over $100.
The Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox Megaman Anniversay Collection discs run around $10-15.
And the Wii VC version is of course, 500 points.
Megaman 2 is even on the iphone!

Audience

Everyone – Megaman 2 is the most casual friendly game in the series. Newcomers should play Megaman 2 before any other Megaman game in my opinion.  The ESRB was still years away from existing when the game was made, but it would carry an “E” rating today.

History

As crazy as it is to think about, Megaman 2 almost never happened. Since Rockman wasn’t very successful, Capcom had its design teams work on new projects, abandoning the idea of a sequel. However, Inafune and his team were so passionite about creating a sequel, they worked on the development of Rockman 2 as a side project. Rockman 2 was a true labour of love that the team worked on quite literally in their off hours. The total development cost for Megaman 2? $0.

On a side note, once again, Megaman 2’s US boxart is laughably bad. Megaman resembles a human police officer more than he does a robot. Ah well. At least he’s blue this time. Strangely, the European cover, which was so accurate for the first title, now shows Megaman as a shiny silver tin man out of a 30’s science fiction flick. The Japanese cover looks pretty good, but it was greatly improved in the 1999 Rockman Complete work remake.

Overall

Good

Megaman 2 is better than the first in every way. The graphics are more detailed and more color is used, the sound team truly outdid themselves creating one of the greatest soundtracks ever, and even the gameplay was expanded upon and new ideas introduced. From the additions of the mid-bosses to the password save system, Megaman 2 a giant leap forward for the series and set a standard for NES games to strive for…and did it all in 1988.

Bad
Megaman 2 can be quite unbalanced. The Metal Blade is frankly overpowered, and you can carry 128 of them at once and no boss in the game requires you to use it. By contrast, you can only carry 9 Crash Bombs, and the damn Wall Sensor boss in Wily’s stage 3 requires the Crash Bomb to not only defeat the boss, but also to destroy the walls protecting each sensor. I hate this boss.

Other than that, Megaman 2 is an excellent game.

Conclusion

Megaman 2 is a legendary game and is one of the the best reasons to own an NES, even today. Sure the game is on pretty much everything, but this is one game you should pull that NES out from the closet and hook up to enjoy to this day. From the way it outclasses the first game to the beautiful, almost emotional epilogue, Megaman 2 is and will very likely always be the best Megaman game ever made. Get it.

Megaman 2 is my favorite game of all time.

Data

Platform: Famicom, NES

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: 1988

Devoloper: Capcom

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer’s notable other works: Street Fighter series, Resident Evil, Bionic Commando, Ace Attorney

ESRB: N/A, but would be E

Buy or skip: Buy

Tips

Use Metal Blades almost all the time. Not only are they effective against almost every enemy and can be thrown in eight directions and pass through walls, three blades can be fired using up just one unit of energy.

As Rockman can carry 52 units for each special weapon, this means he can fire the Metal Blade 156 times without picking up any weapon energy recharge capsules, of which you are sure to. This basically means you’ll never run out of Metal Blades!

Examine situations closely. Correct usage of the three Items Megaman conceals is both helpful and necessary to get through some portions of the later levels.

If your weapons energy is low, stick around an area where small enemies respawn every few seconds. This can allow you to regain all lost energy quickly and you might even score in an extra life or two! This process is generally referred to as “farming”.

Be mindful of where to place your Crashbombs during the battle with the Wall Sensor boss in the fourth Wily stage. You need to use at least seven bombs and you can only carry nine. There is no way to replenish your supply if you waste them during the fight except to die, restart halfway through the stage and hope you destroy enemies that drop large weapon’s energy and try again. The walls will return each time you face the boss, so make sure to replenish your supply each attempt.

Global Defense Force Review (PS2)

Posted in Hidden gems, Imports, PS2, Reviews on August 10, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

Quite possibly the best in the triology

 

If there’s one thing conventional videogame knowledge can teach its that you shouldn’t mess with a winning formula. This is the philosophy behind many sequels and Global Defense Force is no exception.

Borrowing nearly everything from Monster Attack, Global Defense Force stands as a mirror game that has been significantly built upon. Released in late 2006, Global Defense Force’s western release was just like Monster Attack’s; it was quietly released with little fanfare only in Europe by a small budget game company and then quickly all but forgotten.

Considering the vast library of games for the PS2, is this obscure action game worth your time?

Genre

Global Defense Force is a third person action shooter with duel stick and shoulder button driven FPS-like control. Despite its arcade like nature, it cannot be played with an arcade stick.

Story

I was originally going to post the plot as stated in the manual, but its just so badly written it would just leave you confused. Here’s my plot revision that actually does tell you what’s going on.

Two years have passed since the end of the Great War with the Ravagers. Despite nearly every major city being reduced to ruins, humanity has been hard at work  rebuilding at an astonishing rate.

While the toll the Ravager war was indeed major, it was alien inventions that allowed humanity to jump leaps and bounds in engineering and weapon development.  How ironic it all was that the same technology used by the attackers was being used to rebuild the planet.

Since destroying the Ravager Mothership, The EDF (Earth Defense Force)  has been shut down and a new allied army has formed in their place, called the Global Defense Force to protect humanity should they ever be attacked from beyond the stars again.

A new type of jetpack and hand cannon based on Ravager technology was created, and a new unit of soldier called the Pale Wing were trained, all in the hopes they would never be needed.

After so much suffering and destruction, humanity has finally begun to enjoy a quiet time of peace. However, deep down in the bowels of the Earth….something strange is happening.

June 12, 2019…the planet was put on alert.

An emergency broadcast  from England announced that a multitude of giant lifeforms were invading cities all across the planet once again. The Ravagers were back.

Upon hearing the news, the GDF readied itself for a new nightmare. Even armed with the new technology, would humanity be able to defeat the Ravagers once again?

Well okay, the plot can be summarized pretty much as a rehash of the original game, but come on, what kind of riveting plot do you expect from a budget game that has giant ants, spiders, robots and UFOs?

Graphics

Graphically, Global Defense Force is about on par with Monster Attack, both its highs and lows.  Monsters and locales look impressive for the PS2, espically considering this is a budget game.

The game does seem to use more polygons than Monster Attack, so weapon effects and explosions look better than the previous game’s.  As before, cityscapes are fully destructible which adds to the charm of the game.

Still, as with the previous game, the environments still  have a lot of pop in due to the short draw distance, and you’ll run into numerous graphical imperfections from screen tearing to occasional clipping issues to slowdown so bad it can actually reduce the FPS count to single digits.

Global Defense Force is an ambitious game that usually succeeds, but it occasionally is brought down by the limited PS2 hardware. Still, you can’t really fault a budget game for technical issues, and besides, nobody plays the Earth Defense Force games because of how they look.

Audio

Global Defense Force has a bit of a more varied soundtrack than Monster Attack, but this is still a game where you will find most of the music forgettable after hearing it. It’s not bad, its just not very memorable.

Gameplay

Global Defense Force is a third person action game where the player controls a lone EDF soldier and fights against a horde of 50’s horror clichés from giant ants and other insects to robots, UFOs and lots more.

As before, GDF mixes in slight RPG elements, as monsters drop health and new weapon items, which work as a grab bag of sorts since you’ll never know what new weapon you’re getting, or even if’s new at all. If you’ve played Monster Attack, all this will sound familiar.

The EDF foot Soldier returns with all previous weapons as well as a new weapons, but he is totally overshadowed by the inclusion of the brand new alternate class, the Pale Wing.

The Pale Wing soldier is lightly armored and thus takes twice the damage that the soldier does, but they carry a unique set of powerful weapons and the ability to fly with a aid of a jetpack. Plus, these units are apparently made up of women only, and they wear miniskirts as part of their uniforms. Talk about boosting morale of the troops!

The Pale Wing’ cannot  jump or barrel roll as the soldier can, but in exchange you can fly anywhere you want. This gives the Pale Wing an amazing freedom of movement and unmatched evasiveness.

However, you cannot fly with the jetpack indefinitely. There is a energy gauge that depletes after about 15 seconds of constant use. Luckily, this gauge quickly refills itself when you are grounded.

However, if you completely drain the Pale Wing’s energy, the jetpack will overheat and take twice as long to recharge. To make matters worse, many of the unique weapons the Pale Wing uses also take energy directly away from the jetpack, so if your jetpack overheats, you can be left stuck on the ground unable to even fire until your jetpack recharges.

The Pale Wing’s weapon set varies from extremely close range but powerful lasers to lighting powered shotguns to powerful sniper rifles and rocket launchers.  As mentioned, some of the Pale Wing’s weapon sap the jetpack gague while others have ammo clips. With these weapons, jetpack gauge is partially depleted when reloading.

The extreme maneuverability and unique power of the Pale Wing is completely balanced by her vulnerability to enemies and the constant threat of overheating the jetpack. This level of strategy is unparalleled in any other budget game I’ve ever played. The Pale Wing rocks.

Still, there are some situations where the EDF Soldier is better suited for the stage. A mix of the soldier and the Pale Wing also comes in handy in co-op multiplayer.

Availability and Price

Global Defense Force was only released in Europe and Japan. If you want to pick up the European English version, you should only expect to pay a few euros for it at most. The game was a budget title to begin with, so finding it used for even less shouldn’t be too hard. It’s sometimes on ebay, but I managed to get my copy off amazon. Good luck to everyone looking for it.

History

Global Defense Force was very well received in Japan, but received limited sales in Europe, killing any hopes for a North American release. However, reviews were nevertheless positive, and many consider Global Denfese Force to be superior to the third game for the much more powerful Xbox 360, Earth Defense Force 2017.

Overall

Good

Global Defense Force is a blast to play either alone or with a friend. The Pale Wing is so much fun to play as you’ll wonder why she wasn’t in the third game. The game is also almost twice as long as Monster Attack.

Bad

As before, the game is full of technical issues such as uneven framerate, horrid pop-in, and although not a fault of the game, its PAL 50Hz only.

Conclusion

Global Defense Force  is one of the best titles in the entire Simple 2000 series. Europeans should consider themselves lucky to have it available to them, and those in North America should jump the hurdles required to play this. Keep in mind that the game is PAL 50Hz, so make sure you have a TV that can support this video mode. If not, make sure you have a PS2 with a modchip.

Simply burn the game to your PC using a free program such as Imgburn and then run the PS2 PAL to NTSC y-fix program, which auto corrects games and makes them playable on NTSC televisions. Burn the iso to disc and enjoy Global Defense Force in NTSC.

Data

Platform: PlayStation 2

Genre: Third Person Action Shooter

Release Date: Mid 2006 (PAL)

Devoloper: D3 Publisher

Publisher: Essential Games

PEGI Rating: 12+

Buy or skip: Buy

Megaman 1 Review (NES)

Posted in Megaman Classic, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews on August 7, 2010 by satoshimatrix

In the year 200X a super robot named Megaman was born…

In the early 1980s Capcom hit its stride in arcades across the world with classic mega-hits such as 1942 and Gun.smoke. The popularity of these games allowed Capcom to expand their sights from simple shooters to other genres.

1987 brought fourth several new, ground-breaking titles for the company – an arcade fighting game called Street Fighter, the Famicom action-platformer Makumura (Ghosts n’ Goblins)  and probably the most significant for that year for the Famicom, the run-n’-gun platformer Rockman. Unbeknownst to even Capcom at the time, they had just created what would become one of their most iconic characters and one of the longest lasting franchises the video game business would ever know.

This is the groundbreaking title known to us in the west as Megaman 1.


Story

It is the year 200X.  World renown robotics engineers Dr. Wily and Dr. Light have created the world’s first humanoid robots capable of human-like responses thanks to a complex AI and advanced artificial brains.
Dr. Light dreamt of a world where these intelligent machines and mankind co-exist peacefully, each helping the betterment of the other. When the world hears of this amazing achievement, Light received endless praise and admiration, while co-creator Wily is largely overlooked. Jealous of his pupil’s success on the world stage, Dr. Wily grew more and more hateful until darkness completely consumed him.

Using his access to the lab, Wily secretly stole six of Light’s robots and reprogrammed them to attack the massive city known as Monsteropolis, hoping the chaos of his army of super machines would wreak enough havoc to allow him to take over the world.

Hearing of Wily’s tracery at the cost of his robotic brothers, Rock, a small household cleaning robot built by Light, volunteered to be converted into a fighting robot to stop Dr. Wily. A pacifist, Light reluctantly agreed knowing that the world’s police and armies were not yet prepared to take on such a threat as the robots posed.

After the modifications were done, the super fighting robot Rockman was born. Rockman set forth on his first adventure to stop Wily and bring the world everlasting peace. Would he be able to bring a stop to Wily’s evil plans? Truly epic for a Famicom plot.

Graphics

For its time, Rockman boasted some of the best graphics the world had yet seen.  Whereas most games receive a total facelift for sequels, the core graphics engine of the Rockman games was only slightly tweaked and reused for another five additional games that followed on the Famicom, as well as five Gameboy adaptations.

As if an additional ten games were not enough, Capcom has recently used a modified Rockman 1 engine yet again with the downloadable games Rockman 9 and Rockman 10 for all three modern consoles.

Why use such an old engine over and over? Is it just simply that Capcom grew lazy? Well, I think that’s a paper thin answer for what seem an odd choice. In reality, the engine of Rockman was astounding; sprites are large, surprisingly detailed and more colorful than many other games at the time.

In an age where most character sprites consisted of only two colors, Rockman more than doubled that and used five – Rockman himself was black, white, blue, cyan and peach. Although the NES could only handle four colors per sprite, Megaman used an ingenious technique to allow for five – Megaman’s white eyes are actually another sprite themselves! This is why Megaman’s eyes suffer from sprite flickering during the rare times when there is too much going on at once for the NES to handle.

Enemies also showcas a lot of detail. Backgrounds and objects are easily identifiable and sprites animate very well for NES standards. As Megaman 9 and 10 prove, even today the Rockman graphics engine still holds up well as one of the best looking 8-bit game engines.

Audio

Rockman is perhaps best known for its remarkable soundtrack. Unlike so many other games with forgettable soundtracks, Rockman’s tunes are catchy and never get old. The tracks are varied and distinctive. The music for every stage seems specifically tailored for that stage and everything is always fast and upbeat.

As a testament to the high production value in the audio, Rockman 1 remains a favorite amongst videogame remixers and videogame cover bands alike even to this day.

Capcom even has CDs featuring both the original and arranged tracks from Rockman 1. Not too many NES games can claim that.

Gameplay

Rockman is a linear platformer-shooter unlike most.  Sure, it does have a clear starting and ending point, but there are several factors that separate Rockman from other games of the genre.

The first is that you can choose the order in which to defeat the six bosses.

Depending on the boss you chose, you can make the game either easier, or more difficult, as some stages are easier to converse than others,  and some bosses are easier to fight with your default weapon than others.

Secondly,  once you achieve victory over any given robot master, you gain the ability of the robot you destroyed. Best Bombman to gain his Hyper Bomb that explodes a few seconds after you toss it. Slice down Cutman and gain his boomerang-like Rolling Cutter. Melt down Iceman to gain the Ice Slasher and fear fire hazards no more. I could go on but I think you get the point.

The additional weaponry you gain adds much more than just variety. Every robot in the game has a strength and weakness to one of the others, like in the widely recognized hand game Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Control

Rockman’s controls are tight and well executed. The + pad moves Rockman .  B fires, A jumps, Start brings up the weapon change menu (and pauses the game) and Select simply pauses the game. It is interesting to note that Rockman 1 is the only game of all 6 Famicom titles that the Select button does anything at all.

Fun Factor

Rockman is a true classic players will want to return to again and again if not for the music or graphics, then for the gameplay. Even though it’s the oldest of all Rockman games, anyone who has ever played a game in the series will feel at home here, as absolutely every Rockman game uses the exact same formula first established here. There are very minor differences like the inclusion of an arcade-like score board at the top of the screen, but by and large this will be playable to anyone who has ever played any of the others.

Frustration

While nowhere near as frustrating as some of the games that came out in the late 1980s, Rockman still has its moments.

First, there is no password system. There aren’t any energy tanks in this game either. Power ups are for the most part few and far between.

There are plenty of bottomless pits to fall into, and spikes kill you instantly regardless if you took damage prior to hitting them. The game features very tough bosses and the Yellow Devil Rock Monster stands out as one of the most difficult bosses in any Rockman game to date.

Quite possibly the hardest boss in Megaman history

 

System availability and price

Rockman 1 is avaible on a wide array of consoles including the Famicom and NES, Genesis, PSX, Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, PSP and Wii Vertual Console.

The Famicom Rockman goes for between $10-20.
The NES Megaman goes for about the same price range.
Rockman Mega World for the Genesis goes for between $20-50.
If you want to track down the Playstation’s Rockman Complete Works, be prepared to spend over $100.
The Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox Megaman Anniversay Collection discs run around $10-15.
Megaman Powered Up for the PSP runs around $20.
And the Wii VC version is of course, 500 points.

History

The plot, characters and overall atmosphere of the original Rockman has many similarities to Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy. Like Astroboy, Rock is a robot made to look like a young boy, has a strong sense of justice and is somewhat naive. Dr. Light closely resembles Dr. O’Shay and the plot of robot rebellion was one of the manga’s arching themes. To the left is one of the many Rockman manga made over the years.

According to various factual data gathered from interviews, artbooks and of course the games themselves, the best estimate for the exact year that the original Mega Man takes place is the year 200X, which is most likely 2008. This game takes place before Mega Man 2, which mentions the year 200X in its official story. After 2, the year is mentioned as 20XX, which puts the events of the third game somewhere around 2010.

In 2006, Capcom released an enhanced  remake of Rockman 1 for the Sony Playstation Portable strangely entitled Rockman Rockman. The game was later released in the west as Megaman Powered Up. Rockman Rockman refines the original experience to be much more similar to the newer Rockman games and thus more modern.

Along with a graphical change to the super deformed art style seen in such as games as Gem Fighter, the remake added two new bosses, Oilman and Timeman, bringing the total number of robots to 8. There are many other differences, but I’ll leave those details for a future review of Powered Up.

US boxart

Good lord, that future cop looks like he really has a take a dump.

I suppose I should also quickly mention that the original box art is among the worst of the worst. Not only is the artwork ugly, it features no similarity to the game itself. Even the European cover (shown at the start of my review) is vastly superior. Why Capcom didn’t just use the Japanese artwork is beyond me. Oh well, as they say, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and the same goes for videogames too.

Overall

Good

Great graphics, audio and gameplay. You owe it to yourself to play through Megaman 1.  Its fun as hell. Unless you don’t like platformers or have a phobia of blue robots, you’re guaranteed to love this game.
Bad

Although the first game in the series, its not as newbie friendly as its sequel. There’s no password save. You have to play the entire game in one setting, and the game is quite difficult

Conclusion

Twenty two years, countless gaming platforms, six series and well over 60 games featuring the iconic name later, Rockman has become one of the most successful videogame franchises and is almost as well known and loved as other giants such as Mario, Zelda or Final Fantasy.

Rockman 1 is a timeless classic that belongs in any retro gamer’s collection, as well as any fan of great action games. The original has been added in several collections such as Playstation’s Rockman Complete Works and last gen’s Megaman Anniversary Collection, and even remade entirely for the Playstation Portible with the odd title Rockman Rockman. Dispite everything though, nothing can come quite close to the charm the original cartridge can bring.

Fight Rockman! For Everlasting Peace!

Data

Platform: Famicom, NES

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: 1987

Devoloper: Capcom

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB: N/A, but would be E

Buy or skip: Buy

Famicom Wars Review (FC)

Posted in Imports, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews on August 1, 2010 by satoshimatrix

The Roots of Advance Wars

Ever played Advance Wars and wonder where the series came from? Wonder no longer.

Famicom Wars is the first in the long-running Nintendo Wars series, first seen outside Japan in 2001 with the release of Advance Wars for Gameboy Advance. Like Fire Emblem, it’s rather strange it wasn’t localized until the days of the GBA, but while that remains a mystery, this game should not.

This wonderful title is well worth the import efforts. Anyone who has ever played any game in the Wars series will likely describe them as chess on a minefield: every action or inaction you perform can ultimately determine if the battle outcome will be glorious victory or crushing defeat.

You assume the role of commanding officer of the Red Star army (Orange Star outside Japan) to defeat the opposing Blue Moon forces. You hate the Blue Moon army. You wage war. There isn’t really anything more to it than that.

Unlike sequels, the game’s COs lack personality, dialogue, or rhyme or reason for what they’re doing. All you need to know is that this is war, and you’re in it to win.

Despite the fact that the names of the armies sound like a certain magically delicious cereal, the game is incredibly deep, involved and fun to play, so the lack of any real story is forgivable.

Graphics

As all games in the Wars series, Famicom Wars takes place on a grid overworld with each space representing an area of land, such as cities, roads, plains, mountains, forests or seas. You navigate a variety of units across the battlefield one by one per turn.

Battles are spiced up a bit by showing animation as each force attacks and counterattacks. Overall the graphics are rather simple, but the simplicity effectively helps keep the game from becoming overwhelming, and thus, enjoyable.

Audio

As with most classic Nintendo games, half what makes Famicom Wars so great is its memorable music. Even though the Red Star theme and Blue Moon theme are basically the only songs in the game, they are pleasant to listen to and will have you humming their themes long after you stop playing.

Sound effects in the game are handled well. Bullets sound like bullets, explosions sound decent enough and the siren that whines when each player’s turn starts just adds to the feel of war the game presents.

Gameplay

This is where the game excels. Famicom Wars is a turn-based strategy game where you build units in bases, airports and seaports. Each unit in the game has a particular purpose and weakness, so creating balanced units is important.

For example, ground soldiers can capture neutral and enemy cities but are vulnerable to tank fire. Tanks can be easily destroyed by arial bombers, but bombers are no match for anti-air tanks and missiles. You must also take into consideration your war funds. It costs significantly more to manufacture large tanks than it does small tanks, so leaving units alone isn’t a good idea, as even the more powerful tanks can be taken out by a large number of weaker enemy forces.

There is also a two-player option where a second player can assume the role of the Blue Moon army. Due to the length of time battles take, however, its unlikely that either player would bother duking it out on any but Bean Island, the smallest map in the game.

Controls

The controls function well. The D-pad moves the curser around the map. Pressing B brings up an options menu, giving you options to build units (only works at a base), check a list of your existing units, check a list of all other stats, supply other units (only works for transport units), end your turn, or choose other options including adjusting settings, saving and loading, and finally yielding the battle. The A button performs actions and is used to confirm selections. The Select button automatically centers on your HQ, which may be helpful for some larger maps. Start doesn’t do anything.

Frustration

The most frustrating aspect of this game is spending hours on a map, things suddenly turning sour and you end up losing! This game can be intense.

Fun Factor

This game can sap away hours for just one map. The CPU is vicious, and you really do feel like your waging war! It’s hard to put into words just how fun moving little dudes across a map and having them beat up other little dudes can be.

It’s just something you need to experience yourself. What I can say is that the complexity of the game rewards well thought out plans of attacks, and seeing the success of your careful planning is incredibly satisfying.

Overall

Famicom Wars is a perfect showcase of where great modern strategy games have their roots. The title is rewarding, fun to play and challenging. Navigating the Japanese menus can be a little daunting at first, but with a little experience with other games in the series such as Advance Wars, players should have no problem getting right into this.

Data

Platform: Famicom

Genre: Turn Based Stategy

Release Date: 1988

Devoloper: Intelligent Systems

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer’s notable other works: Super Metroid, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem

ESRB: N/A, but would be E

Buy or skip: Buy