After an impulse purchase on the Japanese PSN, I reveal why Mad Stalker on PS1 is one big fat turkey. It went up about a week ago, but whatever you do, don’t waste your 600 yen on it.
Actually, Mad Stalker is a great game, if you get the correct version. For you see it was available on the X68000, Turbo Duo (or PCE CD-ROM2 if you’re a semantics pedant), FM Towns and PS1. I recalled THIS TOPIC on InsertCredit, where people sang the game’s praises and after which I dabbled in emulating the Duo version. What I forgot was the description of the PS1 game, which said it was a complete remake of the original. If I had remembered this, or looked it up before buying, I would have known to utterly avoid this turkey.
The word demake would be more appropriate, since they took most of what was cool in the earlier versions, stripped it, broke the combat mechanics, and generally changed it for the worse in the PS1 game. To bullet point the changes:
* Combat is slightly more sluggish. Some might argue it’s meant to be like this because you’re controlling huge robots, but things were definitely a bit more nimble in the earlier games. And that’s saying something, because the original wasn’t exactly fast.
* You can’t choose your character. You can unlock more robots by typing in a code, but in the Duo version you had a choice by default. This is unforgivable – why is it the older games allow choice but this doesn’t? I mean, I tried selecting a different character, but it forced me to use the blue guy by default.
* The graphics now suck. The main sprites are pretty cool, I will admit, but gone are the detailed pixel-art backgrounds, instead replaced with large static images that look like they were drawn in MS Paint. They have some nice sprites overlaid on to them, but behind these the far backgrounds are ugly and the whole effect is ruined. I also don’t like the zooming effects it uses. Some people say they prefer how the PS1 version looks, I can’t even begin to comprehend such an opinion. I mean, I like chocolate ice cream, but I guess some people might like raw pork-mince flavoured ice-cream, because hey, it takes all sorts. The earlier versions look gorgeous though (compare the above to below).
* Gone are the voiced cut-scenes and stage intros. The Duo version had a voiced intro and some dialogue intros before the levels, whereas on the PS1 you get none of this. There are cut-scenes but they aren’t voiced and they aren’t properly animated, making the thing appear like a poor man’s Axelay. A lot of people say a story is irrelevant in an action game, but I like them and, more to the point, their existence adds to overall production value of a game. The PS1 is just cheap in every regard.
* The earlier games had a much cooler attitude. You get a portrait of your pilots with stats and you decide who to choose, then you get some intro chatter and suddenly you’re dropped into a cyberpunk-styled night city to fight off other robots. I mean the whole was bad-ass and awesome. In the PS1 game you get nothing – you just start the game and there you are, in the daylight. During the day. A sunny day in a peaceful town. Why would anyone remove a night city stage? Night city stages are always awesome, plus in the earlier games there was a cameo of the bike used by Kaneda in Akira (very cool).
There’s an easy to prove all this to you. Here are two videos, one of the Duo game and the other of the PS1. Keep an eye on the far background for the PS1 version to spot the static bitmap they use. Yuck. Hands down the earlier games are better, and it’s sad that any company would drop the ball with such a cheap update for the PS1. What the hell were they thinking?!
Well, I’ve wasted 600 on this crap, which I won’t be playing again, and I advise that you stay away from it too. Get the PC-Engine CD-ROM2 version though if you can, it’s pretty good. The PS1 version though is just awful and nothing at all like the original versions - in fact it's more like cheap nasty sequel which is best avoided.