Friday, July 30, 2010
With the loathsome banality that is EGM, GameFAN behind schedule, EDGE too god-damned crap, GamesTM not posted to me freely, and the WAHP podcast overdue and seemingly cancelled, there's a whole bunch of Japanese games which I nearly missed out on. Here's a rundown of Japanese games which are on my mind. Several of these are my posts from forums, but it's worth seeing the screen art and making a mental not of the game.
I should warn you, there are probably at least 36 other Japanese games I've not even had time to mention here. But this will have to do.
NEO GEO HEROES: ULTIMATE SHOOTING - PSP
Available now on UMD or Japanese PSN if you’re impatient, this is apparently a follow-up to KOF Sky Stage. I’ve had no prior experience with KOF:SS, but Neo-Geo Heroes Ultimate Shooting is ace.
The shooting system I thought was really cool. You’ve got main attack (which is different for each character, either spread out, concentrated, or homing), and secondary attack which uses up a constantly recharging triple-bar. You’ve also got 3 bombs, which for some characters seems to have limited range, and a taunt button.
The taunt adds a very interesting dynamic to the game, since activating it cancels out all enemy projectiles. Which is great in a tight spot. But subsequent enemy attacks appear to be more powerful, so you need to gear yourself up for some quick dodging afterwards. Also, activating taunt causes all enemy score drops (tiny NeoGeo logos) to increase in rank. So if an enemy normally drops a small NeoGeo score item, using taunt will increase it to a medium or big score item. After a while the taunt wears off. I’ve found it most useful to save for tight spots or just before big enemies (like the gunships on stage 1), since they’ll then haemorrhage major points. If I get in trouble during taunt, it’s time to rely on bombs or pray you’ve got some energy saved.
There’s an energy bar for each character, which might annoy some, but there’s no lives. Die and it’s Game Over, or Continue time. I’ve been playing it 1CC fashion, and the diversity of characters and stages is keeping it interesting. It’s taken the Darius route for stages, with branching paths at the end of each one.
Speaking of Darius, I thought Darius Burst on PSP was probably the worst in the series. For me it was devoid of charm and reward, and after clocking it once I wasn’t given much incentive to play again. Apparently you can unlock other modes, but I couldn’t be bothered to try again. I will concede that Darius had the better soundtrack though!
In NGHUS, there’s loads of modes available right from the get go, and the 10 characters encourage experimentation. Once a stage has been reached it can be replayed at leisure, but be warned, starting from any stage other than 1 makes the game not count any of your NeoGeo score picks-ups at the end of the stage. Which is good. Because if you’re playing for score it encourages you to start from the beginning. But if you just want to play to the end, you can pick up where you left off really easily. It’s worth noting that after each stage your health and bombs do not recharge, meaning a 1CC of the entire game is going to take some work!
It also appears there’s a unique set of dialogue depending on which character faces which boss, and it’s kinda cool to have someone like Marco Rossi act as the boss of stage 1, and call on his tank, Metal Slug, or those POWs, to aid him in battle. The fact that everyone is flying around is kinda weird, but I love it.
There’s also plenty of artwork and so on to unlock, if that’s your bag.
I’ve spent most of my time just experimenting with all the characters, but this feels like a much deeper game, with more variety, more rewards, more modes and just more of everything than Darius Burst. Admittedly it’s vertical rather than hori like Darius, but if you really want a hori shmup just change the screen settings and control it as such (I tested this briefly, and it kinda works, apart from the odd background angle).
STORY MODE – 15 stages, 10 characters
Syd III – spaceship, fast, decent main attack, secondary is shield which is great, really fun to use
Kyo Kusanagi – fast, good main, poor secondary shield which is too slow
Terry Bogard – worst character. Slow. Lousy main. Ridiculously crap secondary which leaves him wide open.
Iori Yagami -
Akari Ichijo – seemingly non-existent secondary?
Marco Rossi – difficult to use. Main attack has 100 HEAVY MACHINEGUN bullets which when depleted leaves him with only a handgun, but the machinegun will recharge. Powerful secondary. Interesting from a conceptual point of view - not seen anything quite like it in other shmups.
Kula Diamond -
Mai Shiranui – excellent character. Great main which is semi-homing (well, the fans cover a wide area at least), strong secondary. Weak bomb.
Iroha – biggest breasts in the game, and the most powerful character. Powerful main, with homing, epic secondary that is both shield and rebound attack which absolutely drains a boss’ energy bar (so fucking cool), plus her bomb targets the boss area and is super powerful.
Subject – specific tasks earn medals. Tricky, since objectives are in Japanese. This could offer tremendous replay value. I only played the first stage, and achieved 4 of the 13 tasks, but I’ve no idea what the others are. Reckon I’ll try this once I’ve clocked main mode a few times.
Survival - basically boss rush mode.
Multiplayer – not tested.
Sky Stage – port of the arcade game? Regardless, it sucks. Why play this when you have other modes? Still, awful nice of them to include it as a bonus.
Museum – unlock artwork and music.
Change the screen to be vertical or horizontal. Buttons are fully customisable (default setting sucks). I couldn’t get on with tate mode, but holding the PSP horizontal doesn’t prove too problematic.
DARIUS BURST - PSP
I thought Darius Burst sucked. As in it was really pretty damn awful, like 4/10. And that's coming from a hardcore shmup fan. It's probably the worst in the Darius series. I spent a few hours with it, and found the whole thing repetitive and over-recycled. They re-used bosses for goodness sake!
Also, there's not much replay. I clocked it, got another ship, and thought bugger this. I never went back. It felt half-finished, whereas Neo Geo Heroes feels like a game and a half it's so substantial. Honestly I don't know what the **** Taito was thinking when it made Darius Burst. Ran out of budget? Bleurgh!
I didn't unlock any modes. Just the one ship, after a fair amount of effort and practice. I much prefer NGHUS because it provides a whole lot more to play with, and the reward/practice ratio is much more indulgent. It's instantly gratifying for a newcomer, and continues to gratify as your skills improve. Stage 1 now offers no challenge, and I'm working my way through the others. In Darius, I felt no need to improve my skill, it just wasn't in any way rewarding.
Maybe I'm lazy, maybe it's because I seldom put more than 10-20 hours on any game these days. But after a couple of hours it felt like I'd seen everything Darius had to offer. Maybe Darius Burst had some good stuff after unlocking, but that's a poor way to design a game. It's like a book that's absolutely crap until half way through. If I'm not hooked by the end of chapter 1 I put it down and read another.
Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu 2010 - PS3
There's a demo of this up on the Japanese PSN, for the PS3, so you better grab it quick before they take it down!
I just grabbed it as part of my "grab everything that goes up" mentality, but having played it today, I think it's rather fun.
I haven't played a baseball game since some on the Super Famicom, though I've always liked the kind with Super Deformed characters.
The demo is extremely short, with a preset team for you and the computer, and one chance to bat and one chance to pitch. Three strikes and you're out, three outs and it's change over time. What I like about this is how casual it looks - it's really meant to be fun rather than serious baseball. I watched some videos of Konami's other more serious baseball game on PS3, and it looks pretty grim, with sweaty players all sitting in the horrific uncanny valley.
Here though, the little dudes without arms or legs look really cool.
After a few goes I really got the hang of pitching, and managed three straight outs rather quickly. Batting will probably need some practice. You need to move a virtual icon of your bat and the timing to swing it pretty difficult.
There's a whole bunch of greyed out options in the demo, implying some depth in the final game. Online sources say you can create your own player, and manage a team to stardom, so all the usual baseball stuff.
To be honest, I'd absolutely love to own the full retail copy of this, but at $70 on import, it's a bit steep. The cheapest I've seen it on eBay is £40.
A.C.E.: Another Century's Episode R - PS3
Why have I not been hearing about this? Why has this gone under my radar despite being released on August 19th? This appears to be another Japan-exclusive action game, by the master FROM SOFTWARE, and no one is talking about it. This is what Wikipedia says:
A new dynamic shooting mode called Chase Mode has been added to the game. This mode is similar to arcade shooters wherein the player's machine moves on rails and leaves the targeting weapons for the player to control. Each chase mode section precedes a boss battle; the examples released so far include the battle against the Behemoth from Full Metal Panic! and the battle against Nora Polyansky from Macross Zero. It is currently unknown if the player can change the unit which participates in chase mode.
Man, that sounds ****ing awesome. Are you psyched? Because you should be. I'm gonna need $80 for importing... Quick, to the ebaymobile!
More to the point, why is no magazine talking about this? Why aren't there huge previews? Why aren't the import boys salivating over this? Why do I even need to talk about this, when it should be generating its own publicity?
Super Dimensional Game Neptune - PS3
Silicon Era preview.
The game takes place in the world of Geimugyokai, which means "Game Industry" in Japanese, the world is split into four different regions namely Platetume, Rinbox, Lasidition and Ruwii which are in turn protected by four goddesses. Players take the role of Neptune, a goddess who must defend the world against the attack of the evil goddess Majikonne. In order to do so Neptune must seek out Histoire, the book that contains the secrets to the world.
So basically it's a metagame ala Segagaga set in a world based on the world of videogames, with consoles based on the current big three? Where you need to fight the 360, PS3 and Wii? How is that not an awesome concept? The only downside is it's by Idea **** as the Japanese like to call them, who have a reputation for making some fairly awful, obfuscated RPGs. Still, I like the idea enough to be interest in a localisation. Will we ever see it? Not if no one talks about it!
END OF COVERAGE
Now, would everyone please email and pester EGM's editors for more Japanese coverage? I've got 5 subs issues which are looking less appealing with each blog post I make.
As the above wall of text proves to me: Japan is still rockin' it hot with a whole bunch of crazy awesome exciting games and concepts, but the west just doesn't want to know. Japan might as well give up on us and focus on herself, because no matter what gets announced, what she's working on, we in the west seem content with the mediocrity peddled bby triple-A studios like Activision.
In the west there appears to be a stoic defiant resistance to anything Japanese these days, and I find it frustrating. To hell with the idiots who bandy around derogatory terms for those who still like Japanese games. I will stand on this hill single handed if I have to, manning the ramparts like the last remaining knight against the barbarian Western hordes. Neo Tokyo shall not burn as long as I draw breath! Keep your Call of Duties, the only shooting I will do is in the skies. And as for RPGs, no Mass Effect, since I'm going to be taking on the virtual avatar of the 360 in a fictionalised gaming world which perhaps only exists in my mind.