Archive for May, 2011

Anime North 2011 Cosplay highlights

Posted in Anime, Nerd Culture on May 31, 2011 by satoshimatrix

This past Sunday I was able to attend the big Ontario Anime convention called Anime North. I saw a lot of merch and a lot more cosplayers. I was able to take pictures of nearly everyone I saw, and here are the best of the best. I apologize if you aren’t in this list – I saw some exteroniary cosplayers but the photos didn’t turn out well.

Enjoy!

Misty – Pokémon

?

R.O.B – Nintendo Entertainment System

Jade – Mortal Kombat 3 onwards

Pokéball Bra GirlPokémon

Random NPC (nonplayable character) – Any RPG ever

Adult Rydia – Final Fantasy IV

Another Misty – Pokémon

A female Ash (Ashley?) – Pokémon

Yukari Takeba – Shin Megannmi Tensei – Persona 3

Li Syaoran and Sakura Kinomoto – Cardcaptor Sakura

Miles Edgeworth – Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Me posing in front of awesome speedlines background – Epic win

Bakura & Okami – Yu-Gi-Oh! & Okami

female Goku – Dragonball Z

Li, Sakura, TomoyoLi, Sakura, Tomoyo – Cardcaptor Sakura

Missingno. – Pokémon Red/Blue

One of the Prince’ many cousins – Katamari Damacy

Solid Snake – Metal Gear series

Wall of Awesome – Dragonaball Z

This guy plays the Song of Storms! – Zelda Ocarina of Time

Slowpoke – Pokémon

Asuka Langley Soryu –Neon Genesis Evangelion

Bad Girl – No More Heroes

Elesa –  Pokémon Black/White

White – Pokémon Black/White

Ash and Misty – Pokémon

White Mage – Final Fantasy 1

Nagisa – Clannad

Rakka – Haibane Renmei

Litchi Faye-Ling – BlazBlue

Ash – Tales of the Abyss

I don’t know who this is, but the picture was pretty funny

Reimu, a Miko – Tohou Project

Dawn – Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

Protoman – The Protomen

I don’t know if this was cosplay or just a cute Japanese girl wearing a Sailor Fuku!

Marta Luald – Tales of Symphonia 2

White – Pokémon Black/White

Missingno. – Pokémon Red/Blue

Scorpion – Mortal Combat

This plushy cost $75! I just wanted to take a photo of this big spender

Dawn – Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

Takeru “T.K.” Takaishi – Digimon Adventure

Malon – Zelda Ocarina of Time

Tsukasa – Lucky☆Star

Shaymin – Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

Red – Pokémon Red/Blue

Meiling – Cardcaptor Sakura

Links – The Legend of Zelda

Leaf Green – Pokémon FireRed/LeafGreen

Nurse Joy – Pokémon

Black Mage – Final Fantasy 1

Ciel Phantomhive – Kuroshitsuji.

Vocloaids, Poison

? JAPAN

Onion Knight – Final Fantasy III

This girl is damn creepy, but awesome

Lil’ Link – Dwaaaaaaaaa

Haruhi Suzumiya – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Samus Aran [dancing to the Caramelldansen] – Metroid

Felco – Star Fox

Marik and Ishizu – Yu-Gi-Oh

Hatsune Miku – Vocaloid

Yet Another Misty – Pokémon

N – Pokémon Black/White

Sheik – Zelda Ocarina of Time

Clover – Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

Headcrab Zombie – Half-Life 2

So there you have it. The best cosplay I came across. I’ll definitively be coming back next year, and cosplaying myself. I’m thinking a certain blue robot with a strong sense of justice…

Advertisements

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection Review (PSP)

Posted in Hidden gems, PSP, Reviews on May 26, 2011 by satoshimatrix

The definitive version of the first modern Final Fantasy makes it to the PSP

While some may argue that with new hardware developers should focus all their efforts on new games, I personally love remakes, especially handheld remakes. Metroid Zero Mission, Megaman Powered Up and the Dracula X Chronicles stand among my favorite portable games in recent memory. When I heard Square was to remake the classic Final Fantasy IV yet again, this time on the PSP – to say I was excited would be an understatement.

Now that the Complete Collection is here, does the 20 year old RPG still hold up, what’s new to this version, and more importantly, why should you buy Final Fantasy IV again?

Story

With the advent of the airship, the kingdom of Baron quickly becomes the most powerful military power in the world. Cecil, captain of the Red Wing airfleet, has been ordered by his king to collect the mysterious elemental crystals from other nations by any means necessary, even through theft and murder.

When Cecil questions his king about his orders, he is demoted and sent on a journey to deliver a mysterious ring to the nearby isolated mountain village of Mist. What follows is a lengthy quest for Cecil and his companions to solve the mystery of the crystals and save the world. Their twisting path leads through high mountain passes, castles under siege, a dwarf realm underground, and eventually even to the moon. Along the way Cecil will meet many interesting characters and have to make some tough choices on his quest of redemption.

Final Fantasy IV: Interlude is set roughly a year after the original game. The story begins at Baron after Cecil has a dream about one of the Crystal Chambers, where he sees Rydia and hears a voice which says “Finally, it has a new form.” As soon as the voice is just about to reveal itself, Rosa wakes him. Cecil and Rosa set off on one of the Red Wings airships for Damcyan. Meanwhile, at the Feymarch, Rydia is about to leave and is confronted by Asura, who asks her where she is going. Rydia tells her she is headed for Damcyan for its reconstruction celebration, and Asura lets her pass…

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years takes place following Interlude. Peace has been restored to the world, destroyed cities rebuilt and people’s lives beginning to return to normal at last. Seventeen years later, a new threat endangers the world and this time it is up to Cecil’s son, Ceodore and his companions to attempt to save the planet.

While the plots of these games have aged and become standard RPG fare over the years and might even be somewhat….predictable, Final Fantasy IV set the benchmark for RPG plotlines when it was first released twenty years ago. The plotlines of Interlude and After Years are just gravy after such a great original plot.

Graphics

In 2007, Final Fantasy IV was remade for the Nintendo DS, upgrading the 2D SNES graphics to full 3D. Unfortunately, as the DS can do only slightly-better-than-N64 3D visuals, even when the DS remake was new it looked like an outdated port. The effort was fun to look at for a while, but visuals in old-school RPGs take a backseat to story and gameplay. I found the 3D redesign unappealing.

Although the PSP is capable of rendering 3D visuals far beyond those of the DS and Square-Enix could have easily duplicated what was done on the DS and make the 3D visuals look much better, they decided not to follow in the DS remake’s 3D footsteps. Instead, Square-Enix put all their efforts into making the PSP version a 2D masterpiece.

The visuals in the Complete Collection return to the same 2D “overhead” style used for the first six Final Fantasy titles, but heavily cleaned up and all old effects replaced with brand new ones. In place of the original mode 7 effects are advanced 2D techniques that give the same impression of depth while being much more advanced. Beautiful effects are added in for spells, and sprites look simply stunning. Each are incredibly detailed, making the overall game look like an HD version of the SNES original.  This is by far the best looking version of Final Fantasy IV. It truly excels at reimagining the game for a new generation.

Audio

Ah, the music of Final Fantasy IV. I don’t know what I can say about the Final Fantasy IV score that hasn’t been said a thousand times before so I won’t even try. It’s epic and brilliant. Composed by the accomplished Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, one of the greatest living composers in the world, this version of Final Fantasy IV beautifully remixes and arranges the amazing original soundtrack, which even after all these years is still among the very best game soundtracks ever composed.

The range of music is complex and very emotional, and very fitting in this classic RPG title. The music is so much a part of Final Fantasy IV that doing anything but playing the music at full blast with headphones on is boarder-line criminal.

The track “Theme of Love” has even been taught to Japanese school children as part of the music curriculum. It is only fitting I should leave that for your listening pleasure. Preformed by an live orchestra, no less.

Fortunately or not, depending on your point of view, the mixed-bag voice acting from the DS remake does not make a return. Cutscenes are entirely played out in text boxes with sprites moving about the screen, just as they did in the original version. This was almost certainly an artistic choice given the capacity of the UMD vs the DS flash format. Should you wish to do so, there’s even the ability to switch back into the Super Famicom Sound Format on the fly! Purists have nothing to complain about.

Gameplay

Final Fantasy IV is an old-school RPG in every sense of the word. You’ll be encountering random battles to build up experience points and currency. You’ll have to manage HP, watch out for status ailments, carefully oversee MP usage and use strategy in each battle you face, particularly with bosses. When you encounter new towns, the first order of business is usually to buy upgrades for your weaponry and armor. Final Fantasy IV employs a limited inventory system of only 48 unique items total, requiring careful item management not typically seen in modern RPGs.

While much attention was focused on the story and music, Final Fantasy IV was a huge generational leap forward in it’s gameplay as well. The first in the series to offer a large cast of playable characters, Final Fantasy IV was also the first to use the real time active battle system called Active Time Battle that made it stand out amongst all traditional turn based RPGs. Instead of monsters and the player characters each taking their own turn in a ridged manner, enemies may attack while you scan through menus or focus on casting spells. This dramatically increases the speed of battle, and also makes them more realistic. This system would go on to be adopted by nearly every Final Fantasy sequel to follow.

Unlike the job system used in Final Fantasy III, IV’s characters come in pre-set classes, which affords them special unique abilities that no other character has. For instance, Cecil starts out as a Dark Knight, who has powerful melee attacks and the ability to sacrifice HP to damage all enemies. Kain is a Dragoon, and has the Jump command which allows him to leap high in the air and deliver a powerful downward strike with his spear. Rydia is a summoner, Yang can kick all enemies at once, Rosa is a healer, and so on.

Each character always has certain strengths and weaknesses; for instance, Rydia and Rosa can cast powerful magic spells but have rather weak physical attacks and low physical defenses. Yang is a very powerful melee fighter, but cannot cast magic at all.  Like other Final Fantasy games, characters gain new, more powerful abilities with battle experience. Magic is classified as either “White” for healing and support; “Black” for offense; or “Gray” for summoning monsters. Those who can wield magic learn new spells at fixed levels or certain plot points.

Although the cast of playable characters eventually swells to a total of twelve, the game is structured to only allow players to have up to five characters at any one time. Final Fantasy IV accomplishes this through key plot points where something happens to one or more of your current party members to allow for a gap when a new one shows up. This occurs fairly frequently throughout the game, meaning the characters you’ve grown attached to, spent hours leveling up and spend exorbitant amounts of money on equipment for will just up and leave when the plot dictates. The replacement characters are often as good if not better,  but I still feel this is a slight blemish on an otherwise fantastic game. The only other major flaw I have with IV is as  you play, your next goals are occasionally left vague or may even be downright confusing. A player’s guide is highly recommended to get the most enjoyment out of the title. The excellent guide for Final Fantasy IV Advance is particularly useful, as nearly everything  in the PSP version is the same as the GBA version.

Control

The controls work wonders here. the analog stick can be completely ignored if you choose and everything else is laid out in logical manner.

Analog nub: Movement, scroll through menus advance text box
D-pad: Movement, Scroll through menus, advance text box
□: Unused
Δ: Open menu
O: Cancel
X: Confirm
L: Switch visible character, hold with R to run from battles
R: Switch visible character, hold with L to run from battles
Start: Pause
Select: In battle, trigger auto-battle mode

Availability & Price

Final Fantasy IV The Complete Collection is available both on UMD and on the PSN. Expect to pay between $30-40 for it, which is a steal considering you’re getting three RPGs for less than the price of one.

History

By the beginning of 1991, Squaresoft, once in danger of bankruptcy before pinning all their hope on the success of Final Fantasy, was flourishing. Final Fantasy II had sold well and Final Fantasy III proved to be even more popular. Even the western world had shown interest in Square’s games when Final Fantasy 1 became fairly popular outside of Japan.  Square soon announced two more Final Fantasy titles – one for the flagship Famicom and another for the highly anticipated forthcoming Super Famicom.

Final Fantasy IV was announced and teased in Japanese gaming magazines with preview articles that promised the much beloved job system from Final Fantasy III would return, this time with even more classes such as Cook, Priest, Carpenter and more. A single screenshot accompanied the articles. Years later, it was revealed this screenshot was simply a mock-up and the project had been canceled early in development before graphic tiles were even created. Squaresoft had decided to focus all their attention on only one new Final Fantasy and make it for the launch of the hotly anticipated Super Famicom.

Upon its release, Final Fantasy IV quickly became one of the most popular launch titles and best-selling RPGs ever, beating out even the Dragon Quest titles. The decision to localize the game in time for the North American system launch was issued, and the colossal task of translation and localization began.

Due to the late arrival of Final Fantasy 1 on the NES in America, coupled with the fact that RPGs were not popular in the west at the time, Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III would not be released outside of Japan until many many years later. Final Fantasy IV was to become the new Final Fantasy II.

After the Super Famicom/Super NES release, Final Fantasy IV would see ports on the PS1 coupled with Chrono Trigger, the Japan-only handheld the Wonderswan Crystal,the Gameboy Advance, and finally the 3D remake on the Nintendo DS. The PSP version most closely resembles the GBA version, complete with its bug-fixes, new translation and bonus post-game dungeon.

In 2009 a pirated Famicom conversion of Final Fantasy IV surfaced out of China, thus bringing the 1991 magazine article’s prediction of Final Fantasy IV on the Famicom bizarrely true.  I can’t imagine why it was made now, but hey, gotta love pirates.

I haven’t played the pirate myself yet, but from what I’ve seen, it looks like it’s actually playable and might be half-decent. Considering the limitations of the Famicom coupled with spotty programming, and the obvious fact that the game is completely in simplified Chinese, I don’t think I’ll be picking up a copy anytime soon though. Still, you have to admit it looks interesting!

Overall

Good

  • The definitive version of Final Fantasy IV offering the best visuals and the most touch-ups of any version of the classic to date.
  • An extremely emotional, detailed fantasy story. RPG plotlines don’t get much better than this.
  • The most beautiful arrangement of the classic score yet
  • By far the best looking version of the game. The game’s still almost entirely 2D, but all sprites have been redrawn and look absolutely stunning.
  • The battle system has been tweaked to me more in line with the battle systems of Final Fantasy V and VI
  • Short, nearly non-existent load times
  • Interlude and After Years is the icing on top of an already delicious cake.
  • At $30 for three exceptional RPGs in one, this is one of the best deals of the year

Bad

  • On occasion, you will be left wondering where to go next. Use a player’s guide.
  • Some difficulty spikes that require level grinding to surmount
  • Far too many random battles
  • The plot of the game dictates when party members come and go, so characters that are holding expensive gear or you spent a good deal of time leveling up may simply up and leave. This has always been a thorn in the game’s side in my view.
  • When new characters are introduced, they are almost always under leveled compared to the rest of your party, requiring you to level grind enough to make them useful in battle

Conclusion

The first modern Final Fantasy game fits the PSP to a “T”. I can only hope that Square-Enix will remake Final Fantasy V and especially Final Fantasy VI on the PSP with the same beautiful attention to detail as they’ve done with Final Fantasy IV before PSP support dies. This is easily one of the best games on the PSP. Even if you’ve experienced Final Fantasy IV in another version, the Complete Collection is still worth buying for Interlude and the After Years. I would even go as far to say this is a game worth buying the handheld for. There aren’t many other RPGs that even come close to matching the brilliance of this collection.

Given how late Final Fantasy IV The Complete Collection was released into the PSP’s life, I fear history will forget about it and it may soon turn into a hidden gem on the system. Don’t let that happen. Go out and get it today before it becomes rare and overpriced on ebay!

Data

Platform: Sony Playstation Portable

Genre: RPG

Release Date: April 19, 2011

Developer: Square-Enix

Publisher: Square-Enix

Also from the developer: Final Fantasy VI, VII, Chrono Trigger…I mean c’mon..it’s Square.

Also try: Final Fantasy VI, V, Dragon Quest, most other old school RPGs

Game Length: ~30-40 hours

ESRB: E

Buy/Skip: Buy! It’s a fantastic deal.

Power Blade Review (NES)

Posted in Hidden gems, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews on May 10, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Megaman + Metroid = Win

Quick, name some of the best NES games ever made. Sure, there’s Super Mario Bros. 3, Contra, Zelda, Tetris and loads more. Now think of the best NES games released post 1990. If Power Blade wasn’t among the games you listed, consider the rest of this review mandatory reading. Power Blade may not have been very original in it’s design, but it’s late 1991 arrival on the NES gave it the benefit of polish. It is without a doubt one of the best NES games and among my personal favorites. Why? Read on.

Story

After years of war that devastated the planet, Earth was beginning to recover. In 2191, the New Earth government established a single Master Computer that would be in charge of governing all major cities and robot-police forces.

One day, aliens attack the Master Computer, making the Master control program malfunction. When all hope of stopping the Master Computer fails, the New Earth government sends in the mysterious man known as Nova, wielder of a unique energy boomerang known as the Power Blade with the ability to take down the Master Computer’s forces.

In order to access the Master Computer’s Control Center, Nova first has to obtain tape units from the six sectors surrounding the Master Computer. Each sector is heavily guarded by robots controlled by the aliens, and Nova has to locate and contact an agent first to receive an ID card used to access the security room located at the same sector. After defeating the security room guards, Nova can obtain the sector’s tape unit and use it to disarm the sector. After the six sectors have been disarmed, Nova must fight his way through the Control Center, destroy the Master Computer and restore order to society.

Graphics

To say Power Blade is an okay looking game would be too modest. Power Blade is among the top tier best looking games on the system. Like other late NES games, the visuals are detailed, colorful and varied. Think of games like Sunsoft’s Batman or Natsume’s Shadow of the Ninja to get an idea of what to expect. Backgrounds often feature animation and the sprites themselves are very well animated and spring to life in ways few other NES sprites do. Nothing feels half-done in Power Blade.

Audio

In my opinion, the background music in  Power Blade is among the very best on the system, rivaling any of the Megaman soundtracks or any Koji Kondo arrangement you can think of.Composed by the talented Kinuyo Yamashita, composer of the classic Konami masterpiece Castlevania Power Blade brings many catchy, memorable, and remix worthy tunes to an already great looking game.  In particular I’m quite fond of sector 3, 5 and the final area themes.

Here’s Area 3’s theme for your listening pleasure.

Gameplay

Power Blade borrows a lot of ideas from Capcom’s Megaman franchise. When you start up the game, you are greeted with a level select screen that allows you to tackle any area in any order you want. Most of the areas are inhabited by robotic animals very much in the Megaman style, and there’s even vanishing tiles in some area that require careful timed jumps! One key difference is bosses do not bestow new weapons nor do they have any weaknesses or resistances, so the order one takes through the Power Blade’s stages is less critical than the average Megaman title.

As you defeat enemies, they will occasionally drop boomerang power ups which allow Nova to throw multiple boomerangs at once, and each power up fills up the power meter.  When the meter is full, your boomerangs will travel across the screen with full force, but when the meter is depleted your boomerangs will only travel a short distance. Nova can throw up to three boomerangs at once in any direction when fully powered up.

Each of the six stages are vast labyrinths reminiscent of the Zebes’ caverns of Metroid. When you enter each new area, you’re primary goal is to scout out the informant hidden somewhere in the level. Each informant possesses a keycard necessary to gain access to the area’s boss chamber. This mechanic means that players need to fully explore each area rather than simply rushing to face the boss as soon as they can, again reminiscent of Metroid.

There’s also a password system should you want to play through the game in multiple sittings, but given how addictive the game is chances are  you’ll want to beat the whole game in 0ne go.

Control

Power Blade has perfect controls. Nova runs at a decent clip and can jump fairly high, and best of all, can attack in any direction.

B: Throw Boomerang. To throw in a specific direction, hold the d-pad in that direction and then press B.

A: Jump

Select: Use Grenade (screenwide explosion)

Start: Pause

Frustration

Although it borrows heavily from NES action platformers like Megaman, Power Blade isn’t quite as polished in a few respects. Jumping off of ladders any distance will instantly kill Nova. Consumable items only remain on screen for about 5 seconds before vanishing. Nova has a single movement speed which is somewhere between a run and a walk and it can be sometimes difficult to line up precise platforming. Still, Power Blade is much easier than its Famicom counterpart – so much so that if you play Power Blazer first, Power Blade will seem like a cakewalk and Nova will seem to be actually overpowered.

Availability & Price

Power Blade was released well into the NES’s golden years and isn’t nearly as common as many other NES games. I’ve personally never once seen it for sale in any gaming store I’ve been in, so your best bet is with ebay or other online sources. Expect to pay between $10-15 for a cart-only copy.

History

Power Blade started off life under the title Power Blazer in Japan. Power Blazer, created by Taito, is a comical platformer starring a blue suited little man who throws a boomerang to attack enemies. It is rife with some of the most difficult platforming to be found in any Famicom title, and also suffers from fairly poor control and technical issues such as slow movement and a very short jump height. All in all, Power Blazer was a typical, completely unremarkable release that stood out like a sore thumb compared to the usual extremely high quality Natsume releases in the late Famicom era.

When the game was to be released for the NES, many localization changes were made to vastly improve the game in ways almost unheard of at the time or even now. First, the blue clad little man was replaced with an Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike named Nova. Nova would behave much like the little blue man from Power Blazer, but the differences went far beyond sprite swaps. Nova could run faster, jump higher, take more damage, throw his boomerang in any direction and even throw multiple boomerangs at once while the little blue man from Power Blazer was limited to just one boomerang at any given time. In addition to all the other improvements, the idea of the Power Blade suit was added, which would allow Nova to throw energy waves and act as armor, protecting him from damage three times.

All the tweaks to the main character would have already made Power Blade vastly superior to Power Blazer,  but the localization team wasn’t done yet. Power Blazer received a total overhaul in level design that expanded on the slightly Metroid feel of Power Blazer’s stages. While maintaining the same overall theme (a bio-mechanical jungle, a shuttle launchpad, a furnace, etc) all of Power Blazer’s levels were redesigned to incorporate multiple paths with much better and much less repetitive platforming. To encourage players to explore the entire level, the idea of the informent with the keycards was introduced, and a timer was added to give player’s a gentle reminder that they should not linger in one area for too long.

Given all of the tweaks and changes made to the original, Power Blade could nearly be considered a completely new game. I can’t honestly think of another game where localization changes so vastly improved its overseas counterpart. Such changes are almost always detrimental. Power Blade stands alone in yet another regard.

Overall

Good

  • A ton of fun to play
  • Great, late NES era graphics that pushed the system
  • Great music
  • Decent challenge
  • Numerous improvements compared to its Famicom counterpart

Bad

  • Nova can’t jump nearly as high or as far as many other NES heroes, so there’s a bit of a learning curve involved
  • It’s a pretty uncommon game
  • The game is so spectacular it seems it’s over far too quickly
  • Might seem too easy for some experienced gamers

Conclusion

While the various tweaks made to Power Blade didn’t result in a game forumla that was groundbreaking in any way, the mere fact alone that such changes were made to improve Power Blazer so dramatically for its western release make it very unique not only among games in the NES era, but even today.

Power Blade, even given its silly and underdeveloped localized plot, is one of the best localizations in gaming history. The game offers solid, functional an fun gameplay, varied and detailed late NES-era graphics and among the very best music on the system. It’s a bit uncommon, but tracking down a copy is well worth it for NES collectors everywhere. This is a true NES hidden gem.

Data
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Genre: Action Platformer
Release Date: March 1991
Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Taito
Also from the developer: Shadow of the Ninja, Pocky and Rocky
Also try: Megaman 2
Game Length: ~1-2 hours
ESRB: N/A, would be E
Buy/Skip: Buy it for sure.

Little Red RidingHood’s Zombie BBQ Review (DS)

Posted in DS, Hidden gems, Reviews on May 3, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Proof positive that adding zombies makes everything better


With the countless tens of thousands of video games in existence,  even the most diligent gamers may constantly miss some really good games that simply go under the radar.

By now, the Nintendo DS has one of the most expansive game library in history, making the task of finding diamonds in the rough in its library even more difficult. Let me save you some trouble – Little Red Ridinghood’s Zombie BBQ is just such a diamond in the rough. Produced by a small Spanish developer with very little to their name, this gem went largely unnoticed, so let’s correct that here and now – this is hands down one of the best shooters on the DS.

Premise

Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ is an Ikari Warriors style vertical scrolling shooter where you play as an overly busty-for-really-no-reason Little Red Riding Hood or her equally oddly placed Asian friend, Momotaro [who is now a ninja] and progress through classic children fairy tale lands that have become infested with the living dead and their evil overlords, the big bad wolf, the three little pigs, santa and more. Seriously, if that last sentence alone isn’t convincing you that this game is awesome, I don’t think anything will. Without a doubt, best. Premise. Ever.

Story

Once upon a time, zombies invaded fairy tale land, so two extreme zombie killing heroes, Little Red Ridinghood and her Asian friend, peach-boy Momotaru (yes, that Momotaru), joined forces to put an end to the zombie threat. I wish I could blame this plot line on some weird localization, but not this time.

Graphics

The visuals are a mixed bag. Yet another 3D-pusher on the DS, Zombie BBQ sometimes bites off more than it can chew and suffers slowdown because of it. Despite the 3D engine, there’s still quite a few completely 2D sprites involved which can look downright awful up close. There are many nice looking particle effects and character sprites are large enough to be distinctive and instantly recognizable, an important trait in any game of this type. There’s constantly things going on on both screens, which act together to form one tall screen. Like other DS games to take this approach, there occasionally can be enemies and projectiles that are hidden in the “dead zone” between the two screens, but it’s not nearly as big of a problem as it might have been had the game not been auto scrolling.

Audio

There really isn’t anything that pops out about the audio in game. There’s a small pool of voice samples thrown in that are cheesy, goofy and wildly inappropriate, like Riding Hood’s voice being that of a submissive sounding french-maid as she wields a machine gun to mow down zombies.

The music tracks are all rock riffs that sound pleasant to listen to, even if they are slightly uninspired and almost generic in nature. The best track in the game is the titlescreen/intro theme, posted below for your listening pleasure.

Gameplay

From the get-go, it’s pretty obvious that the development team over at EnjoyUp are fans of oldschool virtual scrolling shooters like Commando and Ikari Warriors. Zombie BBQ feels like a spiritual successor to those classic titles.

Gameplay consists of blasting hordes of zombies in an on-rails, auto scrolling shooter. Your character reminds at the very bottom of the touch screen while enemies advance towards you starting at the top screen. You cannot move forwards of backwards, but the game does allow you to switch between any of the seven grid points on the very bottom of the screen. As the game advances, some grids become filled with moving enemies, obstucting your movement and making the game much more challenging than you might think this kind of game might be.

Although your default weapon, either a machine gun or throwing stars have an endless ammo supply, as you play, you will gain sub-weapon powerups like a shotgun, flamethrower and powerful piercing laser that will help you get out of sticky situations. Bosses often take up almost both screens entirely and require quite a bit of skill to defeat.

Control

Touch screen action games are made or broken based on how well they control, and I’m happy to report that Little Red Ridinghood’s Zombie BBQ  has excellent controls.

The game requires you to use the stylus and the d-pad at once, but luckily there’s a left-handed configuration that allows the stylus and the Y and A buttons to be used instead for left-handed gamers such as myself. It really works great.

Touch Screen: Fire in the direction of the touch, double tap to launch gernade, touch tap on character to duck, swipe at enemies to preform melee attack
D-pad: Movement left/right
Y: Move left
A: Move right
Start: Pause
All other buttons: unused
Start: Pause
Back: Unused

Frustration

Even on the easiest difficulty setting, Zombie BBQ is no cakewalk. This game is oldschool hard in every sense of the term. You can’t take many hits, you loose weapons gained after you do die, and the bosses get to be brutally difficult. The third stage boss is particularly annoying as you have to fight him in three different forms, and should you die you have to restart back at the first form again. I normally would shy away from such a suggestion, but you might want to consider investing in an Action Replay or other cheat device for your DS just so you can see the ending of this one. It really is that tough.

Availability & Price

The game is a little uncommon, but you should be able to find it if you look hard enough. I paid just $8 for my copy, which is a perfect price for a game of this nature. It can also be found on the DSiWare service for DSi and 3DS for around the same price. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to use the Action Replay should you buy a digital copy.

History

Developed by small Spanish developer EnjoyUp who at present, only have four game titles to their name, Zombie BBQ was only the second game the developer produced.

Heavily influenced by classic shooters such as Ikari Warriors and to some extent Super C, Little Red Ridinghood’s Zombie BBQ received mixed reviews for it’s oldschool, arcade style approach.

Two years after it’s North American debut, the title was planned to be released in Europe under the new simpler title Zombi BBQ, and the boxart as you can see, looked nothing short of amazing.

Sadly, it was decided by the powers to be that the physical European cartridge version be canceled and released in Europe only as a digital download on the DSiWare service.

A short time later, the digital copy would appear in the North American DSiWare store as well.

Original Advertising

Original trailer for Zombie BBQ, just it is as ridiculously fun as it looks.

Overall

Good

  • A story so completely absurd you can’t help but love it
  • Just look what they did to Little Red Riding Hood!
  • Fairly impressive graphics considering the hardware
  • Simple, effective controls that mostly work for left handed gamers as well as right

Bad

  • Incredibly difficult and unforgiving
  • Some minor slowdown and very ugly sprite/3D polygon mixing in some parts of the game
  • Most special weapons have very little ammo
  • Left handed players are at a slight disadvantage. The Y & A buttons just don’t feel as natural as left & right on the d-pad

Conclusion

With three difficulties, two playable characters, and 21 stages, Zombie BBQ should last any shooter fan for quite a while. The game is punishingly difficult, but a helluva lotta fun.

Zombie BBQ is a fun, interesting and downright sexy revival of the classic shooter genre on the DS. Everything about the game works, from the touch controls to the duel-screen gameplay. Efforts such as this should be wholeheartedly applauded in order to keep this dying genre alive. Go out and pick this one up. As bad as the visuals get though, all is forgiven once you look again at what EnjoyUp did to “little” red ridinghood! As the image above proves, awesome cosplay makes everything better.

Data

Platform: Nintendo DS, DSiWare

Genre: Virtual Shoot ‘em Up

Release Date: October 21, 2008, sometime in 2010 (Europe)

Developer: EnjoyUp

Publisher: Destineer

Also from the developer: Not much else noteworthy

Also try: Ikari Warriors (Arcade), Commando, Super C

Game Length: ~3-4 hours

ESRB: T, evidently for tits.

Buy/Skip: Buy