Friday, April 25, 2014

My new Wii playlist

I just wanted to write a very quick post to let blog readers who aren't subscribed to my YouTube channel know about the new playlist I created for Wii coverage.  So far I have made video versions of the three Wii Hidden Gems articles that I've written, but soon I will be adding new ones and finally getting around to making some for Wii Essentials as well.

I've just recently picked up a whole bunch of Wii games - here's the complete list: Another Code R, Back to the Future: The Game, Batallion Wars 2, Cursed Mountain, Dewy's Adventure, Eledees, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time, Heatseeker, Mushroom Men, Nights: Journey Into Dreams, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and Punch Out!  You can expect reviews of some of these to start appearing fairly soon!  As well as retail games, I would also like to start reviewing eShop and Virtual Console titles as well, for both the original Wii and the Wii U.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Xyanide Resurrection | PlayStation 2 Tuesdays #12

Here we are with the final episode in the current run of PS2 Tuesdays.  I will be taking a break from this series for a little while - probably a month or two.  They will be coming back though, and in the meantime I have plenty more ideas for content on the channel.

This time I'm taking a look at a shoot em up by the name of Xyanide Resurrection. About a month ago, I traded in my copy of Skylanders along with the portal and all the figures I had collected, which was worth £33 in store credit.  Instead of blowing the whole lot on one new game, I decided to buy PS2 and PSP games with it instead.  While I was browsing their selection, I spotted this game.  I was a bit unsure of the quality, but it was only £2, so I decided to take the risk.  I'm quite satisfied with my purchase, with a few minor reservations.

Xyanide Ressurection has a lot of cool things going for it - the graphics are decent, with the background comprising of high quality video streaming from the disc, givig you the illusion of travelling down a tunnel, through an asteroid belt, or flying over a city for example.  It reminds me of games that used a similar technique when CD video was in fashion - stuff like Creature Shock or Sewer Shark.  My only real gripe about the graphics is the fact that every level uses the same orange colour scheme, which can get a bit monotonous after a while.  It can also be a little difficult to see enemy ships and bullets against the background, though thankfully the game does give you a warning when a missile is incoming.

The missiles can still be quite hard to avoid though, as you have to worry about enemies coming from all sides of the level, and spin around to face the threat.  Weapons wise, you start of with a rather puny cannon, a lock on attack, and a small supply of bombs.  By picking up "Xyanide" from downed enemies, you earn currency to spend in the shop between missions.  They sell various upgrades such as a magnet that makes it easier to draw in Xyanide, a shield that recharges after a while (incredibly useful) and improved weaponry.  Another cool thing is that between each level you get to choose which of two branching paths to go down, ala Outrun or Darius.  Taking the upper route is easier, and the lower route harder.

The game is quite pretty, just a little too orange.
The levels play out against some pumping techno tracks which helps to increase the excitement, but like the backgrounds does get a little repetitive by the end of a level.  As for difficulty, I was playing on the lowest setting to try and get used to the game, and I still found things rather tough.  As I was trying in vain to work out how to harm the boss of level 3-1, the game crashed on me. The other cool thing about the game that I must mention before I wrap things up are the motion comics.  These are very well done, and help set up the back story of the game.  It's a bit of a strange tale about a witch called Aguira, and a pilot who breaks the rules a few too many times and ends up getting punished.

All things considered, if you see a copy of this game nice and cheap like I did, I would say that it is worth adding to your PS2 collection.  It's not the greatest game out there, but it's decent enough. Taking a look at Amazon and eBay, it can easily be found for less than £5.  It would appear that there was also a PSP version released, which is going for roughly the same price. OK then, that's it for this season, stay tuned for the new, improved season 2 in a few months time!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wacky Races | PlayStation 2 Tuesdays #11

I have long been a fan of the kart racing genre, ever since the very first game in the Mario Kart series was released on the SNES and I spent many hours playing against friends and my brother in both the Grand Prix and battle modes. There have been many games since then that have all attempted their own variations on the formula, and the Mario Kart series has remained far ahead of the competition in my opinion. A couple of games have come close to beating it over the years - namely Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong Racing, and then there are dozens of mid tier kart racers that are decent enough but not strong enough to be included in the A list.

Wacky Races starring Dastardly and Muttley is one such game, which was originally released for the Dreamcast before being ported over to the PS2. I used to love the old cartoon that the game is based on, and the developers have done a great job of converting the 2D cartoon into a cel shaded 3D world. All of the old favourite characters such as the Ant Hill Mob, Penelope Pitstop, the Slag Brothers and more are all present and correct, though some like Professor Pat Pending and Dick Dastardly himself have to be unlocked by progressing through the Adventure mode.

Speaking of which, the adventure mode is basically a copy of the one found in Diddy Kong Racing, with individual races awarding you a star for winning them, and more advanced racers locked away until you earn a certain number of stars. After a while boss challenges will also open up - beating the first one in a world will unlock another attack for your character to choose from, and then beating the second will open up that character. After all the individual races is an environment are dealt with, you can then choose the Wacky Cup Challenge - which is a five race tournament. Beating that then unlocks the Golden Muttley Challenge, where you have to win all the individual races and must collect the hidden golden muttleys around each track while you do so. Beating those then allows you to take part in the Battle Arena Challenge, which is similar to the battle mode found in the Mario Kart games - drive around for a fixed amount of time, hit your opponents with weapons, earn points, win. Aside from all those modes there are also time trials for you to beat.

Brrr, this looks rather chilly!
Unlike other games in the genre, there isn't a fixed range of items for all characters to use - instead each character has their own unique items. You start with three unlocked, and earn more by progressing through adventure mode. The items themselves fit into the usual types: ones that you can shoot your opponents with, speed boosts, shields and the like. As for the different tracks you'll be tearing around, there are four different environments in the game: a wild west style area, a snowy mountain, a big city and a forest. Each of these have five tracks within, which to a pretty good job of distinguishing themselves from each other. A few of the tracks can be quite annoying to beat, especially when you're still getting used to the layout.

I'm not sure whether the guy narrating the game is the same one who used to voice the Wacky Races cartoon many years ago, but it sounds remarkably close. In fact, the game has nailed the style of the cartoon all around, and is a pretty fun game all around. It even features a multiplayer mode that supports four players, though I can't really comment on how good this is as I have not had the chance to try it, sadly. In terms of cost, Wacky Races will likely set you back less than £5. At that price it's worth a look, though it's not the best kart racer money can buy by any means!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Katamari Damacy | PlayStation 2 Tuesdays #10

About 7 or so years ago now, I bought a second NTSC PlayStation 2 so that I could play imported games without having to go through the hassle of having my console chipped or using any other tricks to run US games.  I don't regret doing this as it allowed me to enjoy many RPG's that either never made it over here in Europe or took their sweet time getting a release.  The initial impetus behind this decision was not made to play an RPG however, it was so that I could play Katamari Damacy.

The King of All Cosmos has gone on a bit of a bender and in his drunken state has accidentally knocked all of the stars out of the night sky, so it's up to you as the pint sized Prince to roll up all sorts of junk into a ball until it's large enough to become a star and return things to their previous state.  During the early levels you will find yourself rolling up tiny items like paper clips, mice and the like, as as the game grows on the contents of your ball of crap slowly increase until your picking up cars, people, and entire buildings!

The controls take a bit of getting used to at first, as manipulating your ball is like driving a tank.  You push both analogue sticks up to go forwards, both back to go in reverse, and one forward / one backwards to turn.  After a little while this will become second nature though, and you will have a huge grin on your face as you careen around the place hoovering up kitties and all manner of other stuff.  Trying to roll over items that are too big will knock parts off your Katamari, so you have to build up gradually.

The gameplay is fun, and the graphics while a bit basic are nice and colourful and stylised - however probably the absolute best thing about the game is the soundtrack.  The music is absolutely amazing and comprises of some extremely catchy J-pop. I bet you won't be able to get the music playing in the background of this video out of your head after it's finished! In a addition to the standard single player "make a star" mode there is also a multiplayer mode which is quite good fun.  The idea here is simply to pick up more stuff than the other player within a three minute time limit.

That's an impressive ball o' shite you've got there!
There were quite a few sequels to the original Katamari that were released over the years following it's release, some of which came out on other systems like the PSP and Xbox 360.  I haven't enjoyed any of them as much as the first though - partly because the basic gameplay can start to get a bit repetitive after a while, and also because they have never quite matched the brilliance of the music found in that very first game.

Picking up a copy of the game today will likely set you back around £10. If you've never experienced a game in the series before, then maybe the original and arguably the best is a good place to start. Now, let's enjoy some more of that soundtrack!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

R-Type Final: PlayStation 2 Tuesdays #9

In the mid to late 80's shoot 'em ups were all the rage, but since then their popularity has waned. Recently however, the arrival of download services from all three console manufacturer's has seen a revival of classic arcade style games that can be picked up and put down quickly and easily, and we've started to see shoot 'em ups come back into fashion. Even the holy grail of vertical shooters, Radiant Silvergun, can be experienced by the the masses for a low cost thanks to it's release on Xbox Live.

As the name suggests, R-Type Final was supposed to be the very last game in this series developed by Irem.  It was followed up by two more games on the PSP though: the Tactics games. If it was the swansong of the series, it would have gone out on a fairly high note, as R-Type Final delivers an atmospheric trip down memory lane and features dozens of different ships for the enthusiast to collect, as well as a branching route through the stages. Fans of the old games will see familiar bosses such as Dobkeratops (the one that looks like H.R. Giger's Alien) in new surroundings, and stage three is another huge enemy dreadnought as is traditional with the series.

Even on the absolute lowest difficulty setting of Baby, R-Type Final can be an absolute bitch. Don't expect to get very far into the game on your first try. Luckily however, each time you see the game over screen the game gives you slightly more credits than the last time, and your skill should also have improved a bit so you should get slightly further in. I'm not really a fan of the modern day bullet hell shooters myself, I prefer the old style games where the enemies attack in exactly the same way each time so you can learn and adapt through trial and error. This is the category that R-Type Final falls into.

Each of the many many different ships that are gradually unlocked as you play feature their own style of weaponry, so it's worth trying each one out as you get access to it to see which one suits you best.  The all still use the Force though, the little bolt on shield thingy that has been a hallmark of most of the games in the R-Type series since its inception. More than ever before, the difficulty and the level design will force you to detach your Force pod from the front of your ship and move it to the back, as enemies swarm at your from both sides.  On the lower difficulties at least, dying doesn't mean you lose all the power ups you've picked up along the way, you return in the state you left in. The game is still tough, even like this!

There are 100 ships to unlock in R-Type Final, making it a completionists dream!
R-Type Final is not my favourite game in the series by any means (that would be R-Type Delta for the PS1) but it does have it's charms and it holds infinitely more charm to me than whatever me-too FPS is currently in vogue at the moment. The game can be found for as little as £5 used and about £15 for like new copies.  Irem still apparently functions as a company, though their output has dwindled in recent years, which is quite sad.  Maybe they could licence out some of their properties to other developers like Capcom did recently with Strider.  I would love to see new versions of R-Type, Dragon Breed, Ninja Spirit and Steambot Chronicles!