Archive for the Imports Category

Top 100 GameBoy games #90-81

Posted in Editorials, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Hidden gems, Imports, Retro Gaming, Retrospectives, Top Games Lists with tags , , on September 2, 2012 by satoshimatrix

In 1989, Nintendo released the GameBoy Compact Portable Videogame system – a monochrome, non backlit interchangeable cartridge-based handheld with a low resolution screen and a less powerful processor than even their aging NES.

Thanks to brilliant marketing and the importance of the pack-in game Tetris, GameBoy would prove to be a massive success almost overnight. In the early 1990’s, everyone and their mother or father (often literally) needed to own a GameBoy.

As grand as the initial success of the platform was though, the real legacy of the GameBoy is it’s longevity. As Nintendo would prove to the world, flashy visuals and powerful hardware were not required to turn the so-called “inferior” GameBoy hardware into a roaring success when developers solely focused on simplicity and raw fun rather than expensive hardware.

The Lynx, GameGear, Game.com, Wonderswan, Neo-Geo Pocket – the GameBoy would endure and outlast all of them for over a decade until 1998 when the original design was replaced by a slightly upgraded model called the GameBoy Color, with a full color LCD and a slightly faster CPU.

Like the original monochrome model, the GameBoy Color would face competition from superior hardware such as the WonderSwan Crystal and Neo-Geo Pocket Color and outsell and outlast them both before it was finally retired in 2002 with the release of the 32-Bit GameBoy Advance – ending well over a decade of 8-bit portable titles from Nintendo.

This list is dedicated to the top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color games released between 1989 to 2002. It contains both original black-and-white and color titles. Placement was deemed after several hundred candidates had been evaluated in a number of ways including how well each holds up today in terms of playability and enjoyment.

Since many classic 8-bit games can be a real test of player’s patience and skill, I am ranking every game on its overall difficulty using a simple scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is brain dead easy and 10 is…well, Battletoads. A 5 on this scale means the game is average difficulty with perhaps some challenging elements, but nothing the average gamer should get stuck on for too long.

I’m also including many links to videos and other online information sources. Links are indicated by orange words. Please open these links in a new tab or window so you don’t have to navigate away from this article.

So without further ado, enjoy my picks for the top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color games that still matter!

Check out part 1, #100-91 if you missed it. Continue reading

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Top 100 GameBoy Games #100-91

Posted in Editorials, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Hidden gems, Imports, Retro Gaming, Retrospectives, Top Games Lists with tags , , on August 20, 2012 by satoshimatrix

In 1989, Nintendo released the GameBoy Compact Portable Videogame system – a monochrome, non backlit interchangeable cartridge-based handheld with a low resolution screen and a less powerful processor than even their aging NES.

Thanks to brilliant marketing and the importance of the pack-in game Tetris, GameBoy would prove to be a massive success almost overnight. In the early 90’s, everyone and their mother or father (often literally) needed to own a GameBoy.

As grand as the initial success of the platform was though, the real legacy of the GameBoy is it’s longevity. As Nintendo would prove to the world for the first time, flashy visuals and powerful hardware were not required to turn the so-called “inferior” GameBoy hardware into a roaring success when developers solely focused on simplicity and raw fun rather than expensive hardware.

The Lynx, GameGear, Game.com, Wonderswan, Neo-Geo Pocket – the GameBoy would endure and outlast all of them for over a decade until 1998 when the original design was replaced by a slightly upgraded model with a full color LCD and a slightly faster CPU called the GameBoy Color.

Like the original monochrome model, the GameBoy Color would face competition from superior hardware such as the WonderSwan Crystal and Neo-Geo Pocket Color and outsell and outlast them both before it was finally retired in 2002 with the release of the 32-Bit GameBoy Advance – ending well over a decade of 8-bit portable titles from Nintendo.

This list is dedicated to the top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color games released between 1989 to 2002. It contains both original black-and-white and color titles. Placement was deemed after several hundred candidates that been evaluated in a number of ways including how well each holds up today in terms of playability and enjoyment.

Since many classic 8-bit games can be a real test of player’s patience and skill, I am ranking every game on its overall difficulty using a simple scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is brain dead easy and 10 is…well, Battletoads. A 5 on this scale means it’s average difficulty with perhaps some challenging elements, but nothing the average gamer should get stuck on for too long.

I’m also including many links to videos and other online information sources. Links are indicated by orange words. Please open these links in a new tab or window so you don’t have to navigate away from this article.

So without further ado, enjoy my picks for the top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color games! Continue reading

Famicom Detective Club Part 2: The Girl in Back Review (Super Famicom)

Posted in Fan translation, Hidden gems, Imports, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on December 7, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Murder mystery, Nintendo style

Although I do review mainstream games like Fallout New Vegas and Pokemon, I like to think the goal of this site is to inform about wonderful hidden gems that most of us just haven’t played. In that light, this review is dedicated to the translation efforts of multi-talented ROM hacker Tomato and the rest of the staff at DemiForce for their pronominal translation of this forgotten Nintendo masterpiece. Wither you’ve heard vague details or know nothing of it, Famicom Detective Club Part 2 should be a game every serious Nintendo lover checks out. Why? Read on.

Story

Although the second game in the Famicom Detective Club series, The Girl in Back is actually a prequel to the first game and as such is a better place to start off with.

A 15 year old orphan (player named) in search of his parents meets a private detective named Shunsuke Utsugi and develops a bond, becoming his apprentice. Only a few months later, Utsugi puts the protagonist in charge a crime scene investigation.

Yuko Kojima, a 15 year old highschool girl attending Ushimitsu High, has been discovered dead floating in the local river. According to Yoko’s best friend and classmate Ayumi Tachibana, the two had formed a “detective club” and were investigating mysteries across town. Prior to her death, Yoko had been investigating an eerie ghost story turned urban legend in her highschool called “The tale of the girl in back”

Determined to find Yoko’s killer, the protagonist vows to solve the case and partners with Ayumi and sets out on his task. Little does he realize the truths that lay hidden and the true scope of the mystery…

Graphics

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a menu driven adventure game from several decades ago. As such, there’s not as much eye candy as you might hope, but nevertheless the Super Famicom remake of the game looks fantastic. For the most part, the game focuses on talking heads from the shoulders up againstg backdrops of their surroundings which can be investigated for greater information. If you’ve played any of the Phoenix Wright or countless other Adventure games you’ll know exactly what to expect.

At a few key moments in the plot however, the view will expand to show much more detailed, beautiful portraits. The use of transitions makes the game almost into an interactive anime at some points! These scenes are very cinematic, almost like cutscenes you can savor by choosing to advance at your own pace.

Audio

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was composed by Kenji Yamamoto, whose other works include Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, almost every Metroid game including Super Metroid, Fusion, Zero Mission, Prime 1, 2 and 3, Mario Kart Super Circuit and most recently, Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Much of the music in Famicom Detective Club Part 2 compliments and enhances the gameplay. There are songs for every situation from somber music that plays when Ayumi expresses the grief over her best friend’s death, calm and cool music that plays as the protagonist cruses around locations in search of clues, dramatic music that plays with there’s a critical situation and more.

A few of the tracks damn near give me goosebumps, such as this one.

The original game made excellent use of the Famicom Disk System’s expansion audio, but the Super Famicom soundtrack is even more remarkable.

Gameplay

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a point and click adventure game that focuses in large part on menus. The game is mostly told in first-person from the young protagonist’ perspective.

For most situations you can look around, speak to various people around you, present items to them, think about the situation and save. You do this by selecting the option you wish and pressing A. Think of the game as an evolution of a text only adventure game, but you can actually easily understand what’s going on.

As you play you’ll need to sometimes present items to characters, although doing so isn’t always such a good idea. Showing off Yoko’s photograph to Ayumi for instance usually results in the poor girl tearing up.

There are some situations where after you are told something, you’ll need to think about it. Thinking is the game’s way of allowing the player inside the protagonist’s mind.

The game is divided up into chapters like a novel, presenting the game in a manner best suited for play sessions that can last from anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. When you choose to save and quit the game, the next time you return to it you will have the ability to review all that has happened recently. This is is an excellent feature that is sorely missing from many modern RPG and adventure games.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful translation DemiForce and Tomato did. All conversations sound natural and with a script of I’d estimate of at least 20,000 words, there are only a handful of spelling or grammar errors. Like Mother 3 fan translation, it’s so well written you will find it hard to believe this is a fan translation!

Controls

Given it’s Famicom Disk System roots, the game doesn’t use most of the buttons on the Super Famicom controller. All you will pretty much ever use is the D-pad and the A button.

D-pad: Choose options in menus
A: Advance text, confirm
B: Cancel
Y: No function
X: No function
L: Close Scrapbook
R: Open scrapbook
Select: No function
Start: Pause

Frustration

There are some points in the game that demand arcachic trail and error gameplay in order to advance. For instance, there are literally several points in conversations which force you to ask everything you can possibly ask about, present everything you can possible present, then think about the situation, and then try every option again in search of a new response.

Newer games such as Phoenix Wright address this by having the word “new” appear next to a conversation path you have already had to give the player some way of knowing what to do next. Not here! This isn’t a constant problem, but you will find yourself scratching your head more often than you rightfully should.

Availability & Price

The original Famicom Disk games can be found relatively easy, but remember they were originally sold separately, and you’ll probably have to buy them separately, increasing your cost.  The Super Famicom version reviewed here was only available for the Nintendo Power Data Cartridge service in Japan, and Data Cartridges containing this title seem to be exceedingly rare, even in Japan. If I had to hazard a guess on price, based on other SFC Data Carts, expect to pay $70 or more for an original copy. The GBA port of the FDS disks can be found the easiest at around $30. In each of these cases though, you’ll be getting the Japanese versions.

I am currently inquiring into the possibility of a reproduction cartridge, but as of this writing, I’m not sure if that’s even possible. I don’t like to promote piracy, but the translated version does play perfectly on the Super Powerpak…

Audience

Fans of the Phoenix Wright series will eat this game up. The whole game feels like one giant Phoenix Wright case, complete with plot twists and more exciting dialogue than you can throw a novel at.

This game itself involves death, despair, the supernatural, has people smoking, drinking and soliciting sex and more; definitely not the typical child-friendly Nintendo game. In fact, Famicom Detective Club part 2 is the only Nintendo first party game that carries a parental warning and CERO rating of 15+!

History

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was originally released for the Famcom Disk System in 1989. the original version spanned two disks, and used each side to the maxim capacity. Detective Club Part 2 is a direct sequel to the previous year’s Famicom Detective Club which starred the same characters. In 1998, the game was re-released on the Nintendo Power data cartridge service.

The Super Famicom Data Cartridge Service, ran between 1996 and 1999 in Japan, allowed consumers to purchase special blank cartridges from vendors at a reduced rate and then either go to certain retailers or mail the cartridge to Nintendo through a service called “Nintendo Power” (had absolutely nothing to do with the American magazine).

The service offered a dozen or so titles, some of which had shown up as broadcast Stelleview games and were the only way of getting cartridge versions of these games. Some of these games included Super Picross, Super Wrecking Crew, Super Famicom Wars, and as mentioned, a remake of Famicom Detective Club Part II.

The Super Famicom remake of Detective Club Part 2 offered vastly improved graphics and sound and slight tweaks to the gameplay and story, as well as add in the dating sim element with Ayumi. Review’s advice: although randomly grabbing Ayumi’s chest is fun, its not the best way to win her affections.

For the third wave of titles marking the 20th anniversary of the Famicom in Japan, the FDS version of Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was released on the GBA. This version is the most readily available version and is probably also the cheapest.

Overall

Good

-Extremely well written

-Beautiful portraits and art style. As the protagonist states early on, Ayumi is cute

-The entire translation feels natural, keeps the Japanese names intact and through hours and hours of scrolling text, there are only a couple of spelling or grammar errors. That’s better than my track record to be sure!

Bad

-Trial-and-error gameplay; sometimes  you literally have to scan through EVERY option you have to advance the game.

-No SNES mouse support. Why the hell not?

-Occasionally confusing

-Finding a way to play it can be difficult

Conclusion

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is an amazing experience and is much darker than you would expect a Nintendo game to be. It’s a shame that the series never really continued, but if you are looking for an engaging adventure game to sink your teeth into, look no further. There are some noticeable flaws regarding the trial and error gameplay of some situations, but this is indicative of the genre itself.

Data

Platform: Famicom Disk System, Super Famicom, Gameboy Advance

Genre: Text-based Adventure

Original Release Dates: May 23, 1989 and June 30 1989 (FDS), April 1 1998 (SFC), August 10, 2004 (GBA)

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: There’s not much out there from Nintendo in terms of games like this. Not in English, at least.

Similar games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Game Length: ~10 hours

CERO: B

Buy, rent or skip: Buy if you can, emulate if you must, but damnit, just play it!

Pocket Monsters Black Import Review (DS)

Posted in DS, From Japan, Imports, Reviews on October 19, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

The fifth generation of Pokémon arrives on the DS

 

Last year, I imported Pocket Monsters HeartGold and reviewed it far before it was localized. This year I continue the trend with the newly released Pocket Monsters Black version. Keep in mind I am not completely fluent in Japanese, so some errors may spring up. This is the impressions and opinions of a long time western fan of the series and nothing else. While I am covering the Black version, all that I state here should apply to the White version as well.

Fifteen years ago, the first pair of Pokémon games, Red and Green, were released in Japan and became massive hits. Since then, Pokemon had grown into a huge fad that has subsided somewhat since the turn of the millennium. Nevertheless, those who have stuck with the games for the long haul have continually found many reasons to return to the new titles again and again even though the fundamental basics of each new game remain untouched since the days of the black-and-white Gameboy.

Last year, Game Freak gave us fantastic remakes of the two best games in the series, Gold and Silver, with Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver. These updates featured many incredible enhancements, most notably vastly superior audio and visuals to any game in the series before it.

This year, Game Freak gives us a brand new pair of Pokémon games, the first two in what is being called Generation 5, as it is the fifth time new, never before seen Pokemon had been added and await eager trainers worldwide.

By now, it’s an absolute foregone conclusion that these games will receive fantastic reviews and sell boatloads when they are localized. The question for the moment however, is if you should import one of these Japanese text-heavy RPGs or wait for the western release. Read on to find out.

Story

Black and White have just as much story (or lack thereof) as any previous games. You start out in your small village and receive a beginner Pokémon and set out on a journey to become a Pokémon Master by challenging and defeating other trainers, gym leaders and eventually the elite four and current champion.

Along the way, you will encounter yet another evil organization, Team Plasma, whose goals involve “freeing” Pokémon from their human trainers. Of course, you being a lone beginning trainer will eventually defeat and disband the evil PETA wannabes, but let’s pretend for now that they’re imposing and mysterious. Seriously. Their leader is a guy named “N”! I wonder what his name in the English version will be? Ah well. Did someone say smooth criminal?

Graphics

At first glance, the graphical upgrades for Black and White over those from previous games are minor. By and large, the game still basically looks the same it always has as far back as generation 1 on the original Gameboy.

The game is still has a square title based overworld where everyone moves like chess pieces and cannot travel on angles. Pokémon still face off in battle as they always have with yours in the lower left and the foe’s in the upper right.

That said, this is without a doubt the best looking set of Pokémon games ever. The overworld is now rendered completely in 3D, making every location look as the special 3D areas from Platinum and HeartGold/SoulSilver. On the overworld, there are many new effects, such as light shimmering on the surface of water, leaves flying through the air, water dripping from walls and ceilings of caves, and much more. In addition to those changes, many areas now feature fully three dimensional spaces and do some interesting camera angles as you twist up a large bridge, the interior of builds or climb a spiral staircase.

Pokémon are still sprite based, but are no longer static. In battle, all Pokemon now animate as they did in Pokemon Crystal, but to a much greater degree. Now, Pokemon has no idle sprites whatsoever. Even in battle, the screen will pan around when no input is made, making the battle seem much more alive and in tune with battle scenes in other modern RPGs.

Something else I feel I should point out is for the first time, the games now make full use of Japanese Kanji. In every previous game, Hiragana and Katakana were used exclusively, allowing Japanese children who had not learned many Kanji characters to easily play the game. As a student of the language myself, this change is very off-putting as the game doesn’t sublimate the Kanji with the Furigana aid. You can change this off in the options, but by default, expect to see many Kanji characters this time around in the import versions.

On a technical note, for those who were hoping it would be fixed from HeartGold/SoulSilver, I’m sorry to have to inform you Black and White operate in 30 frames per second as the previous Gen 4 games did. As such, expect occasional jerkiness and slowdown when accessing areas with high polygon counts.

Audio

For the most part, the audio this time around is quite strong. The bump in quality isn’t as pronounced as it was in HeartGold/SoulSilver, but I’m still really enjoying the score thus far. That said, many of the early tracks remind me of Diamond & Pearl’s somewhat forgettable tracks. Nothing is standing out overly bad, but as of the writing of this review, I have not encountered any tracks that have compelled me enough to wear headphones as HeartGold and SoulSilver’s tracks did.

Even with gen 5’s visual updates, the sound effects still seem primitive. As always, Pokémon shout their 8-bit cries rather than scream their names as in the anime. Considering what an amazing job GameFreak did arranging the music, it’s sad to hear the 8-bit screeches that play during it. I still hope that someday this changes. New cries sound just as primitive as those of the first 151. Ouch Game Freak!

Gameplay

The heart and soul of every Pokémon game is the gameplay, and Black & White are no different.

Part of what makes Pokemon so good is that there are layers and layers of depth if you choose to explore.

Among the new changes, you can now encounter two wild Pokemon at once. However, you still can’t catch a Pokémon until one of the two wild Pokemon have fainted. This works like any other double battle, but it’s a cool concept that shakes things up a bit. There’s even a three on three battle which is quite speedier than multiple one-on-one battles.

Unfortunately, there’s only a handful of triple battles in the entire game and double battles seem to be missing entirely. Expect to see the same ol’ one-on-one encounters as always.

The Battle Menu is arranged in the same manner HeartGold and SoulSilver’s was, with a large fight option up top with the items bag, run and switch Pokemon options below. Game Freak even went to the effort to label them in English. How swell.

Control

Very little has changed from the Gen 4 games:

D-pad: Movement

Touchscreen: c-gear menu, options

A: Confirm selections
B: Cancel selections
Y: Item shortcut
X: Menu
L: Cycle menus left
R: Cycle menus right
Start: No function
Select: Reorganize items

The only real difference from HeartGold and SoulSilver is this time around, the touch screen is used to run the c-gear, which, from what I can tell, is a mode that allow other players to be able to see you’re online and offer trades and battles at any time, no matter if  you’re in a Pokemon Center or not. Of course, having Wifi enabled all the time severely hampers battery life, so I play with c-gear off. In the top left corner, there is a digital 12-hour clock, even in battles!

Outside of battle, the  Y button can now be used to cycle through several shortcuts for everything from using items to checking the Pokedex. When deep in menus, the X button acts as a “cancel all” command, equivalent to pressing B several times.

Frustration

The game’s frustration depends largely on your proficiency with reading Japanese and ability to solve simple logic problems. I have read many comments for people getting stuck in the third town early on. The game tells you perfectly clearly where to proceed, but for those who cannot read Japanese, expect to get lost without the aid of a walkthrough. As you progress, you will find the gyms all have their leaders missing and you will have to go off and find them before you can even enter their gym!

Also point of frustration is that none of the previous Pokemon appear at all until you’ve beaten the elite four, meaning you will have to use new Pokemon and expose yourself to the risks involved of raising creates you don’t know.

Availability & Price

Pocket Monsters Black and White are only available in Japan right now. Import prices vary, but don’t expect to pay less than at least $50 USD for a copy. Pokemon games usually sell for more than other imports.

Keep in mind that the original DS and the DS Lite are region-free, but Black and White will only play on the Japanese DSi and DSi LL.

Import Friendliness

As the games are completely in Japanese, they are for the most part easy to figure out. Being able to read and understand basic Japanese kana definitely helps, but is not absolutely necessary to enjoy the game. Remember these are children’s games, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out even if you can’t read a word of Japanese.

History

As these games are brand new in Japan, there isn’t too much for me to put here. What I can say is that these games are evolutions of Diamond and Pearl – they look basically the same, but are greatly expanded. If Diamond & Pearl were remade with Black and White’s engine, you’d see some pretty crazy stuff. I can only hope Game Freak will use this engine for Gen III remakes of Ruby and Sapphire, but something tells me they won’t. Bastards.

Overall

Good

-It’s Pokemon!

-Highly impressive Visuals…in a Pokemon game!

-TMs can be used infinitely

-Incredibly lengthy game at around….500 hours? No joke.

Bad

-You will occasionally still need to carry around an HM slave. C’mon GameFreak, this this flaw already. HM use out of battle should be done with key items, not moves!

-You won’t see any of your favorites until after you beat the game for the first time.

Conclusion

The Legacy of Pokémon stretches back nearly two decades, back on the original Gameboy. Since then, the turn based strategy games with unbelievable personalization, hidden depth and replay value have continued to evolve, offering many slight changes to better the experience. The resulting games in Black and White are every bit as much finely crafted works of art as they are entertaining videogames. The legacy of Pokemon is grand indeed. I can’t recommend these games enough. They are easily better than even HeartGold and SoulSilver. If you had asked me last year, I wouldn’t have said such a thing was even possible. I’m still shocked, in fact. Black and White are just that incredible. Import one of these. Now.

Data

Platform: Nintendo DS, DSi

Genre: Turn Based RPG

Release Date: September 19, 2010

Developer: GameFreak

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: Pokémon HeartGold/Soul Silver, Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Game Length: ~500 hours+

CERO Rating: A

Import or wait: Import

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

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

Monster Attack Review (PS2)

Posted in Hidden gems, Imports, PS2, Reviews on June 14, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

The first in the Earth Defense Force Trilogy

 

Time again for a great game most in the west haven’t hard of. Introducing Monster Attack, a budget PS2 third person action game released only in Japan and Europe.

Monster Attack is the first game in a series known in Japan semi-unofficially as The Chikyū Bōeigun, or “Earth Defense Force”.

In Japan, The Chikyū Bōeigun was an early entry in D3 Publisher’s Simple 2000 series of budget titles all retailing for 2000 yen each.

Thought obscure and somewhat hard to find, The Chikyū Bōeigun was translated and brought to Europe until the new title Monster Attack, completely dropping the Earth Defense Force name for whatever reason.

Apparently, Monster Attack did well enough in Europe to warrant it’s sequel to be localized for the European gamer, but that game is for another review.

Most gamers in the west will recognize this as it looks very similar to an early Xbox 360 action game called Earth Defense Force 2017, and it should look similar: 2017 is a rather extensive remake of this game.

Being an obscure PS2 budget title with only a PAL localized version, you might be asking yourself if this simple action game is worth your time and money. Let me assure you that it is on both accounts.

Story

In the year 2017, Earth is invaded by an alien force made up of almost every ’50s monster movie clechés you can think of. Giant ants, giant spiders, robots, UFOs and yes, even Godzilla. To combat these invaders, the nations of the world band together to form a united army called the Earth Defense Force. As a lone EDF Soldier, presumably the sole survivor of a platoon, you are tasked with defending Japanese soil from the alien threat.
It’s cheesy 50’s horror movie fare. If you like classics like THEM! then you’ll fall in love with this game.

Graphics

Graphically, the game ranges from slightly below average to slightly above. Cityscapes and the monsters look decent enough, but some of the environments look bland and effects are mostly awful. The arenas for each stage are fairly large and take some time to travel across, but there are only a handful of different stages across the game’s 50 missions. To give the illusion there are more the Developers change the starting locations for each mission. However, this too soon repeats and the novelty wears off. The environments also have a lot of pop in due to the short draw distance, but I mostly fault the limited PS2 hardware for this and not the developer. Keep in mind this is a budget game afterall.

LOOKIT DAT Draw Distance!

Weapon effects look good, as do explosions. The cityscapres are fully destructible as well, but destroying buildings is rendered like throwing a bowling ball at a paper machete cutout of a building. It leaves a lot to be desired. Worst of all, Monster Attack has a real hard time maintaining a steady framerate as the action heats up in some stages. It can literally drop down to single digits at times, making the game almost unplayable during these segments. They do clear up though, so its not an ongoing issue. All this said, Monster Attack is a budget title and it sure looks like one.

Audio

The game’s audio serves to enhance the overly cheesy monster there even further. Broody horror movie-like scores fill the game’s track. I love it. The main theme is as techno sci-fi track that is just plain awesome. The rest of the background music is your typical Monster themes and they totally fit in.

Gameplay

Almost as if to apologize for the lackluster graphics, Monster Attack’s gameplay is just short of being excellent. Once you go into options and change the controls to “tactical,”  this game becomes one of the best third person shooters you’ll play on the PS2 outside Resident Evil 4.

For each mission you can carry two sets of weapons. Weapons range from machine rifles to shotguns to rocket launchers to bazaar particle cannons. Your soldier travels on foot by tilting the left stick or by using the d-pad. You aim as you would in an FPS by tilting the right stick. The shoulder buttons are used for jumping, barrel rolling, changing weapons and of course, firing. All the weapons you have have unlimited ammo and are only restricted by their reload times. You can’t attack at all while reloading so its a good idea to leave some ammo for your second weapon in case you need to quickly attack to defend yourself.

When you defeat enemies, they sometimes drop items. Items consist of small health packs that instantly restore some lost HP, armor packs, which increase your overall HP by 1 and new weapon packs. Armor isn’t added to your inventory until you successfully complete a mission, making failure even more unpleasant.

Likewise, you can’t tell what new weapons you picked up until after you complete the mission and check the gear you picked up. The weapons are pretty random, so it’s got a candy grab-bag sort of fun to seeing what you got.

The game teases you with a unique risk/reward system. There are five difficulties to play the game in, and the game will reward players with more powerful items the higher the difficulty they attempt. The most powerful weapons only appear in the hardest stages on the hardest mode called Inferno, appropriately enough.

Although the game has you mostly on foot, there are also three vehicles you can use as well – a tank, a speed bike and a helicopter. Unfortunately, you’ll soon discover these all control awful, lack power and are generally best simply ignored.

Lasting Appeal

As you play and collect armor, you increase your overall HP and gain access to stronger weapons, making the game very RPG like in a lot of ways. Knowing your actually accomplishing something every time you play goes a long way to making you want to pick up the controller again.

Availability and Price

Monster Attack can be found for around 5 Euro making it rather cheap. Only problem is finding anyone who does have it. Check around: check ebay, amazon, European friends or family. You’ll find it.

Audience

Everyone – Despite the violence, the only blood or gore to found is that of the monsters, which is a comical green spray that quickly vanishes. This game can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

History

In Japan, The Chikyū Bōeigun quickly became one of the most popular and successful games in the Simple 2000 series, allowing D3 Publish and Sandlot to develop a sequel which did even better.

Shortly after D3 was finished with Chikyū Bōeigun 2, they began to work on another title called Chikyū Bōeigun X, surprisingly for the Xbox 360.

Even more shocking was the fact that this game would not be a new game, but a complete remake of the first.

In 2007, The Chikyū Bōeigun X was finally released for the Xbox 360 in North American rentitled Earth Defense Force 2017, to help distinguish itself from the SNES Super Earth Defense Force game that bares nothing but the common name. Despite being a Monster Attack remake, EDF2017  made many changes including new enemies, weapons, NPC soldiers and a vastly expanded game length.

That said, Monster Attack is different enough to warrant a purchase and a place in anyone’s PS2 library.

It may be PAL only, but many new TVs can accept PAL signals and even if they can’t, you can rip the game to an .iso and then run PAL to NTSC converter software “forcing” the game into NTSC. Ah, the joys of technology.

Overall scores

Graphics 7.0 – Monster Attack is a budget game and it shows. Nothing really looks excellent but the graphics do their job well enough that the less than stunning graphics won’t bother you after a few minutes.

Audio – 8.0 A broody excellent 50’s horror movie type sound. Sound effects are used well. I just love the main menu music.

Gameplay – 8.0 – Where the game truly shines. It’s simple but fun.

Control – 8.0 – In Technical mode, the controls work like a charm.

Value – 8.0 – True, Earth Defense Force 2017 is this game, and 2017 is much more refined, but this game can be found very cheaply and is a blast to play with a friend.

Lasting Appeal 8.0 – Not the longest game nor the deepest, but Monster Attack is a great experience on the PS2. Grab a buddy and have at it with giant ants, spiders, robots and more.

Overall 8.0

Data

Platform: Playstation 2

Genre: Third Person Action Shooter

Release Date: 2004

Devoloper: D3 Publisher

Publisher: Agetec

PEGI: 12+

Buy or skip: Buy