If you’ve played one beat ‘em up, you’ve played them all, right? I mean how many Double Dragon clones can you tackle in one lifetime? I don’t know about you, but I can only take so much Bimmy and Jimmy in my lifetime. But this is different.
The flurry of Sega ports (the Saturn in particular), to grace XBLA this fall, including Sega Bass Fishing and Space Channel 5, continues with October’s release of Guardian Heroes. Combining RPG elements such as leveling up and divvying statistic points, a control scheme as deep as any fighter, and the narrative of a short novel, Guardian Heroes remains one of the deepest beat ‘em ups today, despite being initially released 15 years ago. I mean here we have not one, but TWO Treasure games being re-released within one month of one another, and this one certainly deserves to be part of the trove.
Tower defense is a genre that had an odd evolution. Similar to the MOBA, it began in RTS games as custom maps but because of its popularity grew into much more. Orcs Must Die! is a glowing example that tower defense has every right to be its own genre and not just a mode thrown in to an otherwise good game.
After your master is killed due to an unfortunate accident, you leave the title of apprentice behind you and become a full-fledged War Mage, but apparently the one that nobody wanted. This tone is conveyed throughout the game in the sparse narrations between levels. “If only it had been any other apprentice,” the old master dictates posthumously. It seems like an odd setup, but it works, with your character mostly filling that role with a very “dude-bro” attitude behind him. The only reason it feels out of place is a result of the sheer number of orcs you ceaselessly eradicate. Especially in the early levels, taking out the orcs is pretty easy, making it all the more satisfying. But it makes you wonder, “Why are all the other War Mages having so much trouble? This orc killing thing seems pretty straightforward.”
If Dance Dance Revolution and PaRapper the Rapper had a lovechild, Space Channel 5: Part 2 would be the end result. It bears semblance to beloved Playstation title PaRappa the Rapper, with its funky rhythms, entrancing beats, and follow-the-leader style gameplay. Throughout my time with this gem I was waiting for the moment when Austin Powers would pop out with a “Yeah baby!” comment, but alas, it never came. Instead, I was greeted by Michael Jackson’s digital avatar dancing the day away after I saved him from a group of intergalactic hipster space pirates.
Space Channel 5: Part 2 is a port of the 2002 Dreamcast / PS2 title, which was a sequel to 2000’s hit Space Channel 5. It’s the same title, albeit at a higher resolution, and while it hasn’t received any other updates, the game as a whole holds up just as well today as it did then. SC5: Part 2 is heavily inspired by the 1960’s music and dance culture, and will take you back to a time where you can’t help but want to move to the rhythm.
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In 1997, a lot of things happened in the game industry. Video game legend, Gunpei Yokoi, passed away in a car accident, Final Fantasy VII redefined the RPG genre, and Sega Bass Fishing was released in Japanese arcades. Shortly after the launch of the Dreamcast in 1999, the fishing simulation title found its way to Sega’s ill-fated console. Here in 2011, Sega Bass Fishing has been released once again on XBLA and PSN for $10.
Sega Bass Fishing features an Arcade Mode and an Original Mode, both having online leaderboards. In case you’ve got fish bait for brains, the game is about catching bass. The player has a limited window of time to catch as many bass as possible, but the number of fish is not important since the collective weight of all the caught fish is what will win you competitions. The game sports tournaments, unlockable lures, and a number of different locations to put your fishing prowess to the test.
At Armless Octopus, we’re no strangers to a good shmup. What I believe turns most people off from the genre are two factors: 1) the absurd difficulty, and 2) how similar each title in the genre is. I mean it’s really just a ship shooting directly at things on screen, right? Wrong. Radiant Silvergun takes a few of the standard conventions you’ve come to expect from the genre and adds a twist. Originally released in 1998 in Japan for both the Sega Saturn and in what was then a thriving Japanese arcade scene, Radiant Silvergun has managed to stand the test of time.
That’s not to say that the steep difficulty curve gamers faced back then isn’t still present in this release, because it most certainly is. While enemies relentlessly fire upon your lightly armored vessel, you come to expect that you will die, and quite a bit at that. Your time is not spent in vain however, thanks to Radiant Silvergun’s persistent upgrade system, which carries over the experience and levels that you acquire with each progressive Story Mode playthrough. This comes as both the title’s greatest strength, but also its greatest weakness.
Few of the things that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (ITSP for short) does as a game are original; the design embodies the Metroidvania stereotype. But when you play the game, even as you’re seeing all the tenants of that tried and true style – the squared map, the areas that are off limits until later, the inevitable upgrades to your arsenal – you are overwhelmed with novelty. While on one hand you can’t shake the feeling that this is an experience similar to that of games past, one absolute that takes hold early is that it’s an excellent game in its own right.
The main characteristic of ITSP that sets it apart is the art style and the game’s presentation. To put it simply, ITSP is a very, very beautiful game. I could likely spend the rest of the review just talking about the art and how wonderfully engaging and playful it is and I would still leave it underappreciated. The juxtaposition of the musical score with the art only enhances the experience. The game is broken up into clearly defined zones, each exhibiting its own style. The main elements are really the environments and the enemies and for each zone, with a unique approach taken to both for every area. In some cases they are one and the same, the environment being the enemy itself. Sometimes the relationship is covert, with polyps that emerge from what was just a desolate façade, but that are nevertheless bound to the walls of the planet. In other sections, the danger is mechanical: spinning saw blades and giant corkscrews looking to spear you. Over time, as you’ll realize, the whole planet is your enemy.
Things I learned from playing The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile
a) Living organisms are really just sacs of blood and guts waiting to erupt
b) Ninjas may be cool, but cybernetic ninjas are way cooler
c) Cinder blocks wrapped in barbed wire are the best way to dispatch swarms of zombies
d) Sometimes, the second time is the charm
The original Dishwasher was one of those games I really wanted to love, but just didn’t enjoy nearly as much as I hoped. It was gory and it was stylish, but I just didn’t find it to be much fun. Now, the pallid samurai has returned for a sequel, and Ska Studios stripped the game down and made some bold, but welcome augmentations. Vampire Smile is an improvement over Dead Samurai in every possible way. Purists may label it selling out; I call it making a fantastic sequel.
As I booted up Swarm, there were two options laid out to me on the right hand portion of the screen: “Press A to select” and “Do not press Y.” Naturally, I chose the latter and watched the death of my first Swarmite. Up close on the welcome screen, the slaughtering of the Swarmites is actually kind of disturbing. Normally in the game, you have an isometric view that makes the Swarmites look more like ants and their deaths more like you focusing a magnifying glass on them. But here, the Swarmite in full screen, it killed the whimsical detachment I hoped I would achieve while playing the main game.
The setup is pretty basic. “Momma” needs a new hat, and the “Hat Boss” is the one who’s got it. Before you can get to the hat boss, you’re going to have to collect some DNA first. Each level available, excluding boss levels, has 5 pieces of said DNA. That’s about all the explanation I could find. The name of the Hat Boss was descriptive enough, I suppose, but why collecting DNA is what allowed me to face the hat-wielding boss was without explanation.